kid

As another of my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s birthday has arrived, I find myself unable to believe that he has been in Heaven for over six years now. Today, he would have been 90 years old. Somehow, I can’t imagine that he could have been that old…mostly, I suppose, because he never really acted like an old man. He always seemed young and full of life. He was busy and always working on some project. I know he slowed down some in the last year or so of his life, but it still didn’t strike me that he was growing older. Maybe because I saw him just about every day in those last few years. You somehow don’t see what is right in front of you when you are there every day. He always seemed the same vibrant workaholic that I had know all the years that he was my father-in-law.

He was a happy man, who had a great sense of humor and loved life. He cherished every grandchild and great grandchild as they came along, and I know he would have loved his great great granddaughter too. I wish they could have met. They would have gotten along splendidly. He was always a family man, and there was nothing that was more important to him than his kids and grandkids. He loved to make things for them, and was thrilled as they played with each new toy. His craftwork was in many ways, ahead of its time. He loved to tinker in the garage, and his craft barn, where he created his unique designs, and got them read to give to someone, or to sell at one of the craft fairs.

His crafts were great, but he was a great builder too. He built the family home in the country, in the late 70s, and dressed up the house they had in town, after they moved. He refurbished lawn chairs with a fresh new classic design, that made them more a showpiece than a lawn chair. And he also built puzzles for people to try their luck at. Some of them were quite difficult to solve. I think it was all a part of the kid in him and maybe that’s why he never seemed to age. I think you have to grow up to age…don’t you? I will never forget the years that I was blessed to have Walt Schulenberg as my father-in-law. He made life fun, and he always made a person feel loved. I always knew where I stood with him…and it was a great place to be. A place of honor and respect, and yes, a place of fun and laughter too. Today would have been my father-in-law’s 90th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad!! We love and miss you very much.

As a kid, I remember that whenever we were sitting at an intersection that was very busy, causing us to have to wait seemingly forever to be able to get across the intersection, one of my parents would say something like, “Wow!! Who opened the floodgates?” Of course, I didn’t know what a floodgate was then, and I just thought they were referring to a flood of vehicles, which they were, and they probably didn’t think about what a real floodgate was either. It was just a funny saying to us, but in reality, a floodgate is a very important flood preventative tool. I guess that our version of floodgates meant the same thing, except in vehicles and not in water.

On May 15, 2011, the United States Army Corps of Engineers opened the floodgates in the state of Louisiana along the Mississippi river. This was an effort to save larger cities located along the Mississippi, like Baton Rouge and New Orleans, from flooding. The Mississippi was already heading for critical stages, and it was only expected to get worse. The flooding was expected to cover up to three thousand square miles, and it had the potential to affect up to 25,000 people. This was the first time in forty years that the river levels have forced the opening of the floodgates. I don’t know how often floodgates are utilized in other areas to prevent flooding, but when people live in flood prone areas, they have to use whatever mean necessary to protect themselves and their property from damage and death.

The Mississippi River floods in April and May 2011 were among the largest and most damaging recorded along that river in the past century. The flood was comparable in extent to the major floods of 1927 and 1993. From April 14–16, the storm system that was responsible for one of the largest tornado outbreaks in US history also produced large amounts of rainfall across the southern and midwestern United States. Then two more storm systems, each with heavy rain and tornadoes, hit in the third week of April. In the fourth week of April, from April 25–28, another and even more extensive and deadly storm system passed through the Mississippi Valley dumping more rainfall resulting in deadly flash floods. The unprecedented extensive rainfall from these four storms, combined with springtime snow melt from the Upper Midwest, created the perfect conditions for a 500-year flood along the Mississippi.

The purpose of opening the floodgates was to take some of the pressure off of the levees, in the hope of preventing the breech of the levees. Most of the time, it works pretty well, like when the city of Casper, Wyoming, where I live opens up the gates at the area lakes and while the river runs high for a time, there are very few places where it spills over the bank. Unfortunately, the Mississippi river still spilled over its banks, and broke levees. I don’t think anyone could have really prevented the monster floods that hit the area in 2011, or even in 1927 or 1933, but they couldn’t focus on that right then, because they had to do whatever they could to prevent. In the end, the flood came and the damage was done.

Grandpa & Grandma Byer as a young coupleOne hundred and twenty three years ago yesterday, my grandfather, George Byer was born. His life would take many twists and turns. It would span two world wars, as well as other wars. He would live during two different centuries. He would see the transition from wagons to cars, and also the transition to airplanes. He would marry the love of his life, Hattie Pattan on Christmas Eve, and I think he always felt like she was the best Christmas present he ever received. He loved her so much. She and his family were the top priority to him. Grandpa loved kids, and they wanted a large family. They had nine children.

My best memories of Grandpa are of his gentle ways. He always called us kid. It was Grandpa Byer and 6 of the kidsnever meant in a generalizing way, it was his way of being endearing, and you always knew that. You always knew that Grandpa loved being a grandpa. He loved spending time around his grandkids. I remember him stopping by our house. My sisters and I were so excited to see him. He was fun to play games with, and never made us feel like we were in the way. He just loved kids, especially his grandkids.

As his life was coming to a close, there were times that he didn’t remember who we were. It’s strange when your grandfather recognizes your husband before he does you. Grandparent VisitThat was what happened though, he thought I was the nurse, but he knew my husband’s name. It was because of a trip we took him on. Bob was so good with Grandpa’s worries. He explained the map and showed Grandpa where we were and where we were going, on a trip we took to take them to Cascade, Idaho, where they had family. It was a trip that apparently meant a lot to Grandpa, and he was grateful to Bob for putting his mind at ease, in those later years. Yes, Grandpa’s life took many twists and turns, but I seriously doubt if he would have changed a thing. It was his life, and he loved it. It’s hard to believe that grandpa would have been 123 years old yesterday. I know you had a wonderful day Grandpa. We love you and miss you very much.

9913_10200970590682908_964160129_nBeing a big, muscular kid can have its advantages. You can be pretty sure no one is going to pick on you. That is the case with my grand nephew, Xander Spethman. Xander takes after his dad, Steve Spethman in many ways. He is very much built like his dad, and in so many ways, he has the same values, personality, and strong sense of right and wrong that his dad has…of course, he also gets that from his mom, my niece, Jenny Spethman. While they were the ones that trained Xander up in the way he should go, in reality, Xander already had within himself that protective instinct.

Xander is particularly protective of his little sister, Aleesia, as are her other brothers, Xander blocks for AleesiaZack and Isaac. They know about loss, having lost their other sister, Laila, and Xander, being the oldest, felt the sting of that loss deeply. Then God blessed this family with a second daughter, Aleesia, and the brothers have basically made her the princess. She rules the roost, and the brothers are just fine with that. One day a short time ago, they all decided to play football in the yard. Aleesia wanted to play too, so it was Xander and Aleesia against Zack and Isaac. Aleesia was basically made the quarterback, and Xander blocked his brothers so they couldn’t get to her. I’m sure you all know that Zack and Isaac were fully aware of the plan too, because they could have tackled Aleesia a couple of times. They just wouldn’t, because she is the princess, and that just isn’t done. Nevertheless, even in play, Xander is the protector of his little sister, and I’m sure that you all know that if anyone really tried to pick on his little sister, Xander would turn into a roaring lion, and they would wish they had never dared to bother Aleesia.
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Xander is a champion of protection for those around him who do not have his strength and size. He doesn’t like to see anyone picked on, and he has stood up for someone being bullied more than once. Often, it is the bigger kids who tend to be the bullies, but not in Xander’s case. He is the protector of those who need protection. He would never have it in his heart to bully anyone, because inside that big kid lives a tender, loving, and very kind heart. It really is such a blessing to see how Xander has matured as the years have passed. He never was a bully, but he has become more and more the guy that everyone knows they can count on for anything. Today is Xander’s 13th birthday. Happy birthday Xander!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Follow My LeaderDogs are such amazing animals. They sense things that we don’t. As a kid, I read a book called, “Follow My Leader” in which a boy, blinded by a firecracker finds a way to achieve independence with the help of a guide dog. I read that book as a child, but it has stayed with me throughout the years. In all reality, I am more of a cat person, and I know what all my dog loving friends would say to that, but that is the way I am. I had a dog as a child, and I can tell you that King was the best dog that ever lived, and I loved him very much. I just can’t say that I, personally, have ever seen a dog that I could feel that way about since. Neverthess, I have seen dogs that were truly amazing, and those would be the working dogs.

In the book I mentioned, a boy blinded by a firecracker, who thought his life was over, finds a true friend to be his eyes…and finds his way back to a full life again. Seeing-eye dogs are so amazing, and to me they are inspiring. Maybe it was the book I read, or maybe I could just envision how lives could be greatly improved by seeing-eye and other working dogs.

We have had two working dogs in our family. My husband Bob’s cousin, Sandy Kountz had a dog that was able to detect seizures before they occurred. That is one of the latest uses of working dogs, and one that in my opinion has been a huge help to a lot of people. Having been around seizures several times in my lifetime, I can tell you that if there is a way to stop them before they happen, that is by far the best plan. These dogs can bring peace of mind for people struggling with uncontrolled seizures.

All these dogs were amazing at what they were trained to do, and I don’t mean to discount any of them, but I know of another amazing dog, who had no training at all. This dog’s name was Brownie, and I don’t know if it was a male or female, because I never knew this dog. I only knew of Brownie. Brownie was a dog that belonged to my in-laws. They had Brownie when their oldest three children were little. My sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg was developmentally disabled, and she was the oldest child, so she didn’t have older siblings to watch over her when she was outside playing. That’s where Brownie came in. Nobody ever had to Marlyce & friendtell Brownie to keep an eye on Marlyce. Brownie instinctively knew that Marlyce needed someone to watch out for her, and Brownie decided to be that guardian.

The instant Marlyce was headed to the door to go outside, Brownie was right there, and that dog kept her out of more than one scrape according to my father-in-law. Brownie was her guardian angel. Marlyce was a little girl who wanted to be independent, just like her younger sister, Debbie and younger brother, Bob, but she was different than they were, and without Brownie, she would have felt that difference very much. I am so thankful to Brownie, who was instinctively the self appointed guardian for my sister-in-law, so her life could be as full of fun as her siblings’ lives.

Tiny Mom 2When I was a kid in grade school, our class in 3rd or 4th grade decided to have a tasting party. The idea was to bring a home-cooked recipe from the family home to share with the class. When my mom suggested that I bring her cornbread, I knew that was what I wanted to bring. When my teacher found out that I was bringing cornbread, she was a little bit apprehensive. She just didn’t think the other students would like it, and she thought I would be disappointed. Nevertheless, cornbread was what I was bringing, whether she liked it or not.

All the students were excited for the day of the tasting party to arrive. We were all planning what we would bring and trying to figure out what the others were bringing. Some people told, but most of us kept it a secret. Finally the big day arrived and all the food was brought in and placed on a table. At the appointed time, the party began. Our teacher said that we had to try a little bit of everything and then could go back for seconds of the things we liked. I have to wonder if she was worried that no one would try some of the things, if she set no requirement. Kids are picky eaters.
Caryn abt 3rd grade
The party went well. She cut my cornbread into small pieces…I’m sure she was thinking it would be rejected if the pieces were bigger. She needn’t have bothered. After their first helping, every student asked for more cornbread until there was none left. She was stunned, and asked me what my mother’s secret was. Well, it was simple. If you have ever eaten cornbread, you know that it is often dry and tasteless. My mom was always one to add a little sweet to things…even before all the manufacturers started doing it to things that normally wouldn’t have sugar in them. So Mom’s secret was a little sugar. Her cornbread wasn’t super sweet, like cake, but it had a hint of sweetness, and that brought out the corn flavor too. Then, when you add butter to it…oh my gosh!! It had a melt in your mouth flavor that was unsurpassed. I think my teacher learned a lesson that day too. Never assume that something won’t taste good, until you have tried it. You may be very surprised.

I have never forgotten that special day, when my food for the tasting party became the hit of Cornbreadthe day. Everyone kept telling me how good that cornbread was. I have to agree with them. Nobody makes cornbread like my mom. To this day, when cornbread is served, I always have some, but I am always disappointed at the taste. It never…ever stands up to the standard my mom set for it so many years ago. I suppose that is why I never have seconds either. My teacher knew that cornbread wasn’t her favorite thing…probably for the same reason most people don’t eat a lot of it, but then she had more than one helping of mine too, that day. It’s really hard to resist that melt in your mouth flavor, and it has spoiled me concerning cornbread that doesn’t have it. I’m just not very interested.

199325_10150121801297236_5242878_nOur nephew, Tucker has always been such a happy kid. He loves life and all that it has to offer. Tucker find humor in things that the rest of us might not see as humorous…a good trait to have when you think about it. Tucker gets very excited with he sees someone that he likes to be around, often running up to them like a streak to give them a hug!!

Tucker started Kindergarten this year, and he is quickly showing his parents what a smart little boy he is. He was coloring with my brother-in-law, Ron, his step-dad, and they started talking about the colors he was using. Tucker wanted to know how Ron knew the specific color of the crayon, like yellow orange. Ron showed him where the color 185930_10150121803742236_6668521_nis shown on the crayon, and Tucker immediately began checking out each crayon, and reading of the name. Reading seems to be one of the areas Tucker likes best, which is a good thing, because we all know that if you are a good reader, you can pretty much excel in any subject you are interested, and many that you aren’t.

I don’t know if Tucker has a girlfriend at the moment, but in the past, he has been totally smitten with his early life best friend, Kaytlyn, who has now become his cousin by marriage. I don’t know how that would work out, but since he is only 6 years old, I think we are safe…for 196457_10150121813422236_1356812_nnow. Of course, his all time best friend is his big brother, Riley. They do lots of things together, and Tucker knows that Riley is there for him, no matter what. A guy really needs a friend like that sometimes, and Tucker is very glad that his brother, Riley is that friend.

Tucker also loves the dogs, and they have some really great times together. I can’t tell you what joke the dog told Tucker, but it must have been a really good one, because Tucker had a really good laugh over that one. Today is Tucker’s 6th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Have a great time at Six Flags!! We love you!!

Caryn - about 5 years oldI was a little girl, when the original Kmart in Casper was built. We lived less than a block from the site, and very much enjoyed watching the construction as it progressed. It was very exciting for my sisters and me…at least the ones who were old enough to be able to play outside. Little did I know then, that the construction site was going to be a bit of a problem for me. It had been raining for a couple of days, but I still wanted to go over that weekend and see what had been accomplished. It so happened that I had just gotten a pair of penny loafers, a shoe which was very popular at that time, and one that I had wanted very badly. I was just a kid, and I never gave thought to the rain in relation to a construction site that we girls had been accessing through the alley at the end of the street. Since they had been doing a lot of digging, there were piles of dirt next to that alley…add rain to that dirt and…yes, you get mud.

A kid doesn’t think of boots…especially in the summer time. I simply waded through all that mud in my new penny loafers….and it was probably knee deep. As much as I dislike mud and dirt these days, I really have to wonder why that mud didn’t bother me. I guess I was on a quest to discover how the construction was going. Needless to say, I went bravely on my quest through the mud to see the new Kmart building. In my recollection, the building was coming along just fine, but my muddy legs were getting uncomfortable, so I headed Penny Loafershome…yes, back through the mud.

My mom was not particularly happy with me when I got home that day, and the day that followed was not better, but rather worse. After cleaning me up, she did the best she could with my new shoes, and while they looked pretty good, the next day would bring a problem that I will never forget as long as I live. My super cool, brand new, beautiful Penny Loafers had shrunk, and they no longer fit me. They were made of leather, and I had no idea that they would shrink. I was devastated to say the very least. I assume that my sister, Caryl had a super cool, brand new but slightly used, beautiful pair of Penny Loafers after that.

Chris flying a kiteI’m not a wind lover. In fact, most of the time the wind annoys me, but there are things that actually require the wind to accomplish their goal. I remember as a kid, trying to fly a kite a few times. I was never very good at it, which is probably why I didn’t do it very much. Nevertheless, I love watching someone, who knows how, fly a kite. There is just something about watching that kite floating effortlessly on air…provided I don’t necessarily have to be sitting outside in the wind when all that is going on. Watching from my car or my window works just fine for me. One of my favorite times to watch kite flying is when it is a little kid trying to do it. Their little legs just don’t go fast enough to get the kite in the air, but the have a really great time trying…at least for a while. Then they get frustrated, just like everyone else, and if you don’t help them get that kite in the air, they are pretty much over Birds in Flightthe whole thing.

I love watching the birds on a windy day. What we consider an annoyance, they look at as the perfect way to play. They spread their wings and head into the wind. The wind holds them in place, without even having to try to fly. And they can stay there like that for quite a while. It seems so effortless, and yet, it might be a lot of work for them for all we know. Nevertheless, to see a bird in hover mode is as cool as watching them soar into the wind in playful flight. Here in Casper, we have some pigeons that fly around in the downtown area. I know that the downtown merchants don’t really like them much, because of the mess they leave, but if you sit down for just a few minutes and watch them dip and soar, always in a group, always of one accord, always beautiful, you will find yourself having a hard time faulting them for the mess…or at least that’s how I feel.
Jacket Sailing
For me personally, a windy day is such an annoyance. It messes up my hair, and believe me, there is not enough hair spray on the planet, instant freeze or otherwise, to make your hair stay in place on a windy day. Still, the kid me remembers wearing a jacket out on a windy day, and lifting it above my head to make a sail, and letting the wind pull me out into it a little. It makes me feel just a little bit like a bird or maybe a kite, and reminds me that even the wind has its good points, few as they may be. Maybe I should give that whole jacket sailing thing a try again sometime…I mean, maybe floating on air would lend a little bit of freedom to an otherwise responsibility filled life.

Little RonWhen you are one of two brothers, in a family of six children, your life is spent with a whole lot of female influence, and with most sisters, that means being bossed around a lot. Now if you happen to be the youngest boy and the youngest child, you usually get a double dose from each sister. Such was the case for my brother-in-law, Ron. My in-laws essentially had to families, even though all the children have the same parents. Marlyce was the oldest, with Debbie following 3 years later. Bob is 17 months younger than Debbie. Then it would be 7 years before Jennifer came along. Brenda would follow 2 years later, and Ron was born 5 years after Brenda. So the older kids were like one family and the younger kids were like another, even though Ron is 5 years younger than Brenda. That put the two brothers 14 years apart.

Now, you would expect that so many years between them would have made it impossible to have a very close relationship, but you would be wrong. I think that by the time Ron came along, Bob had pretty much given up on the idea of having a brother, so when Ron was born, I think Bob decided that the brothers needed to stick together, since it was them against all the women in the family. Bob moved out of the house when he was 19, and Ron was almost 6. It was about this time that I met Bob.

Our dating days were different than some, I suppose, because often times we took Ron along. He was a happy little 6 year old boy, and who wouldn’t be, when his big brother and his brother’s girlfriend allowed him to go along to places like Dairy Queen. He was a Ron nowgood little boy, and the three of us always had a great time. Little kids can be so funny, and we enjoyed his joyful presence. I had never had a brother, so to me,  Ron has always been that brother I never had. And like most siblings, I could almost say that I have known him since birth…although not quite.

I know there may be other brothers who got to do the things Ron did because their big brother liked having them around, but I don’t know of any. Most big brothers just want their kid brother to leave them alone. For Bob and Ron, their relationship then, and now is a blessing to both of them, and therefore very cool. Today is Ron’s birthday. Happy birthday little…ok, big now…brother!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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