Kids

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It’s a strange thing to have something you have expected to last for a certain period of time, come to an abrupt end. You find yourself hanging in limbo, and it can become depressing, or I suppose it could become exhilarating, if it was something you didn’t really like anyway. Such has been the case with the 2020 school year, and the Covid-19 Pandemic that changed everything. Yes, the students are still in class, at least virtual class, but it really isn’t the same. I understand about homeschooling, but for parents who did not expect to make that commitment, it can be a daunting task. There is more to it than just the classwork too. Kids need structure, and having summer begin at Spring Break threw everyone into a tailspin. At first it just seemed like a really long Spring Break, then when the virtual classes started, they really started to miss the time spent with their friends and their teachers…even the tough ones. It seems that being in class with a teacher who makes you work for your grade, is preferable to being at home with your parents acting as your teacher, and you are in detention, even if you did nothing wrong.

At first, when it was just the extended Spring Break, and people were staying at home, no one really noticed that he kids were out of school. Then, as the weather got warmer, people got out on the trails and on the playgrounds, still “social distancing,” but getting a little bit of fresh air and removing themselves from the “cabin fever” that was quickly threatening their sanity. Suddenly, we became very aware that these kids should be in school. While the weather was warmer, it wasn’t summer yet. The school year of 2020 had only officially run for seven of the nine months it was supposed to. In fact, truth be told, school should still be in session…even now. And yet, while summer vacation is not here yet, the schools are closed. The 2020 school year hasn’t officially ended, and it isn’t officially in progress either. Parents are worried about the education their kids got this last quarter. Virtual classes were shorter that normal, and so the kids spent far less time in virtual class too. Nothing about the last quarter of school was normal. The kids didn’t always get to class, but did the homework, thinking it was enough, and for some of them, maybe it was, but what of the rest of them…the ones who needed that class time. Were they left hanging…time will tell, I guess.

The next school year is still up in the air too. There are schools who have said that they will open, and others who will continue the virtual program. That has parents up in arms too, because they are preparing to go back to work, and they will need someone to be home with their children while they work. A virtual teacher doesn’t really replace the safety of being in the classroom with a teacher in charge. All the “experts” have said that life is going to take on a “new normal,” and they may be right, but I think that if school doesn’t start back up next school year, there will be a lot of parents who might need to start taking Prozac or something similar. Most parents find themselves impatiently awaiting the end of summer so the kids can go back to school, but this year was like the summer that never ended. The kids are just as bored, and there was no place to send them. The pools aren’t going to open, the rec centers either, and there is only so much a kid can do at the school playground. The walking paths are frequented by kids on bicycles and longboards, and even kids walking their dogs, but the reality is, these kids need to go back to school. They are designed to be social beings, not socially distanced.

My sister, Cheryl Masterson has always been a part of my life, because she is two years older than I am. She was there when I came home from the hospital, eager to have a little sister, and ready to teach me the things she had learned in her, then short life. I don’t know what I would have done if she had not always been there, and I am forever grateful that I didn’t have to find out. Cheryl and I have always had the bond that can only the two oldest siblings can have, the elder because she was no longer the only child, all alone, and the younger because she never had to be alone. Of course, we both love our younger sisters the same as we do each other, but we have also known each other longer than we have known the younger ones. I think that we have almost felt like a slightly different generation than our younger sisters, probably from the fact than there were just two of us until I was three and Cheryl was five, instead of the two years between Cheryl and me.

Through the years, Cheryl and I remained close even through the tougher teen years, probably more my “bad” than hers. Of the two of us, I have no choice but to admit that I am a “stubborn mule” sometimes…something I believe as both served me well, and made things difficult too. Cheryl, on the other hand is a person who is of a pure heart, who actively strives to do what is good and right in the sight of God. I don’t say she isn’t somewhat stubborn too, but maybe not quite as stubborn as a mule. What I find most endearing though is her heart. She is able to look past the current situation, to the solution. I think she got that from our dad. He was always the kind of person who knew how to take charge of a situation and be the guide to take the rest of us forward. Many is the time that I just wanted to scream at someone, and Cheryl told me that screaming would not produce the best outcome. She was right, of course. Losing our temper is the fastest way to turn people against you. A soft word, and forgiveness reaches many more hearts. Don’t get me wrong, Cheryl is not a pushover, just wiser than many other people in certain matters.

During the years when we were taking of our parents, Cheryl carried such a heavy portion of the load. Being divorced with grown children, Cheryl lived with Mom and Dad, and the rest of us, sisters, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and I will be forever grateful to her for that. Cheryl, cooked and cleaned the house, helped them get to bed, gave them their meds, and kept them company…and so much more. She was an integral part of the team of people we had helping with their care. I was a show of the deep family love we had, taught to us by our parents, and carried out through our parents’ care and beyond. We are all very close and always will be. The bonds that are built during such a venture are strong and really unbreakable.

Cheryl loves her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren so much. They are her heart and soul. She is very devoted to them. She prays over them, helps them, babysits for them, hangs out with them. They are her best friends. Her youngest granddaughter, Aleesia especially likes to hang out with her grandma, and in fact, would love it if Cheryl lived with them, so she could see her all the time. Of course that’s not possible, so Aleesia often spends weekends and part of the evenings with Cheryl. They have a very special bond that not many grandchildren are blessed with. Many live too far away, or are not as close as Cheryl’s family, so they don’t have such a tight connection. Not that they are not loved, but just that they aren’t together as often. Cheryl’s connection is a beautiful thing to see, and I’m so happy that she has that connection. Today is Cheryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Cheryl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand-nephew, Jake Harman has always held a special place in my heart, probably because he was my first grand nephew…the first of this new generation. He has also, always made sure that I know that he loves me, his great aunt. Not every kid is the demonstrative type, but Jake always gives me a big hug, tells me he loves me, and even calls me beautiful. Now that’s a kid after my own heart…or maybe he is just a flatterer at heart. I like to think the former.

Jake is a grown man now, and has a family of his own. He has a bonus daughter named Alice, who loves him very much. He also has a daughter named Izabella, and a son named Jaxx. He and his wife, Melanie are very happy together, and life is good for them. Jake works hard to support his family, and they all love him very much. Of course, the fact that Jake is definitely a kid at heart, makes him the perfect guy to entertain the kids. From “attacking” Alice, with the help of Jaxx, to chasing the kids around the yard, Jake is up for it. He doesn’t mind getting goofy with them, and it shows in how the kids interact with their dad. The really cool thing is the memories the kids will have of their dad playing with them. So often, parents are too busy to play with the kids, and yet, it is so important. Jake grows more and more in love with his wife and kids everyday.

Jake spent a number of years working for FedEx, but now he is driving a bus for the school district. With Jake’s love of kids, and his easy way with them, he has the perfect personality for a bus driver. Jake is also the youth group leader at his church, and it is a calling that has been just wonderful for him. His walk with the Lord has grown by leaps and bounds. He also gets to go on outings with the youth, and they always have a wonderful time. Working in the church, and walking with the Lord has given Jake the ability to be an important support person for those who are hurting, most importantly right now, his sister, Siara and her husband Nick Olsen, who recently lost their son, Alec. Jake and Siara were always very close, and this loss has been heartbreaking. He is also trying to be a strong support for his mom, Chantel Balcerzak, and dad, Dave, who are hurting equally badly. It hasn’t been the happiest time leading up to his birthday, but I believe that God will strengthen and comfort them all. Today is Jake’s birthday. Happy birthday Jake!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My uncle, Wayne Byer is the younger of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer’s two sons, and the younger of the three middle siblings, of which my mom, College Spencer was one. Those three middle kids, Larry Byer, Collene, and Wayne, seemed to always be into some mischief. Mom told me it had to be because she was in the middle of the two boys…but I think she probably instigated as much as they did. She could be mischievous too.

Uncle Wayne has always loved kids, and especially making them laugh. Maybe that was why we all liked to gather around him. We knew he would do something to make us laugh, before long, and we were never disappointed. He had the ability to be a laugh a minute. I’m told that he loved telling jokes all his life, and from the part I saw, he did.

Of course, Uncle Wayne had a serious job too. Being a mechanic at the school bus garage, and later the head of the school bus garage, he was tasked with making sure that every bus was in good repair, so that the busses would all transport the children safely to their destination. My sisters and I didn’t have to ride the bus to school, but since my husband, Bob and I lived in the country when our girls were little, they took the bus to school every day. It was then that I began to really appreciate the work my uncle did, and my girls always liked the fact that their great uncle took care of the school buses they rode. I think they also liked it when they could tell people that it was their great uncle who headed up the garage. They were very proud of what he did, and they wanted other people to know that their great uncle had such an important job. The girls were trying to gain favor by telling people, they were just very proud of him.

We don’t get to see Uncle Wayne a much as we used to, now that he is retired, not that we saw him at work or anything. It just seemed like before he retired, we saw more of him. Nevertheless, Uncle Wayne hasn’t changed a bit. He is still the same funny guy who was always a laugh a minute, and I’m glad. Today is Uncle Wayne’s 82nd birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Becoming parents…it’s one of the greatest events in a person’s life. October 28, 2019, was that day for my grand-niece, Siara Olsen and her husband, Nick, as they welcomed their son, Alec Todd Olsen into the world. Alec, who arrived at 9:17am, weighed in at 8 pounds 1 ounce, and he was 20 inches long. He is a handsome little boy, who, after making his presence known quite vocally at first, settled down to nap, because he had had a completely exhausting day. After all, being born is a lot of work!!

Alec was born on the exact day that he was due, without being induced. I wondered just how often that happens, so I looked into it. Only 4.3% of babies arrive uninduced on their due date. Wow!! That make this little boy pretty unusual. For mom’s who go beyond their due date, that post-due date wait can be grueling. Friends and family start to ask when you are “going to have” that baby, like you have a say. If a baby comes too early, its worrisome, but the closer you get to the due date, the more excited and impatient the parents, and everyone else too, get. Nevertheless, the due date hasn’t passed yet, so they wait patiently. Not so when the due date passes without the birth. That’s when the real waiting begins…the waiting that feels like an eternity. I think Alec, being the sweetie he is, wanted to save his parents from that post-due date wait. Good job Alec!!

It is so hard to believe that these two “kids” are not kids anymore, but rather they have a child. It is something they have both looked forward to for a long time, and something that we have all been very excited about too. These two “kids” made such a beautiful baby boy, and he is a true miracle from God. Siara, at 4 foot 9 inches, always wanted to be taller. I remember telling her that she would need to get some heels for that. I think that her son will not have such a problem. At 8 pounds 1 ounce, and 20 inches long, I think he as a pretty good start, and since Nick is 6 foot 4 inches tall, I think Alec has a good chance to be tall. Welcome to the world, Alec Todd Olsen. We are so happy you are here.

For as long as I can remember, my Uncle Jim and Aunt Dixie have had a place on Squaw Creek Road on the western edge of Casper, Wyoming. Here they raised their kids, and had some chickens and such. Over the years they also ran a daycare, which took in mostly family members’ kids, giving the young parents in the family peace of mind. Of course, Uncle Jim worked outside of the daycare, but he made enough of an appearance, that the kids all knew and loved him. I can see that, because Uncle Jim is like a big teddy bear. I don’t know of a single person who doesn’t like my gentle uncle. He is a very loveable guy.

I think the greatest lesson Uncle Jim ever taught his kids, and any other kids around him is to have values and to live up to those values. Always do the right thing, and you will never have to live with regret. I think one of the greatest testaments to the nature of a man is the amount of respect given to them by those around them. Uncle Jim is a man of deep core values, and that is very likely why everyone has such great respect for him. He always makes sure that he does the right things. His core beliefs wouldn’t let him do otherwise.

Among those values, and probably at the top of the list…family comes first. Whether it was his family, his parents and siblings families, or his in-laws families, family is everything. If your family has a need, you do your best to help fill it…no matter what it is, from a place to live, to fixing something that is broken. Sometimes the greatest need someone has is simply a need for words of wisdom or kindness. Uncle Jim has always been quick to offer those words too…not in a pushy way, but rather just helpful words, when asked. Uncle Jim was and is a man people can count on, and that says a lot about a man. Today is Uncle Jim’s birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Jim!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Steve Spethman is a guy who can do just about any job you need him too. He has big shoulders and muscled arms, and is always willing to do the heavy lifting…something many in the family have learned to appreciate from time to time. He has helped with several building projects, including my sister, Caryl Reed and her husband, Mike’s garage/apartment/wild game room. He did an amazing job on all the projects Mike asked his help with. He also helped build the back deck for our mom, Collene Spencer’s house, and a number of projects at his own home.

Steve likes to work on cars, and he has recently been teaching his oldest son, Xander the ropes, as they worked on Xander’s girlfriend’s vehicle. Steve and his wife, Jenny, are working on getting used to having a son who is old enough to drive. That is a strange time in the life of a parent. Parents always feel like their kids will be little forever, even while they are watching the grow up before their eyes. They one day, when the aren’t looking, suddenly that child is driving on their own. It helps the family out, because their child can now help with driving the other children, but it’s hard to get used to.

Steve is a hard working man, but he is also a fun-loving guy. He like to take his family camping, and loves both the lake and the mountains. He is also a jokester. He likes to share funny memes from Facebook, and tell a good joke, something he is very good at doing. He loves to make people laugh, and is a “Tickle Torturer” from way back. I would know, because I have been his victim a time or two. I’m sure that many others have been a tickle victim of Steve’s because he just loves to pick on people…in a good way, of course. There are many sides to Steve, and our family likes them all, even the teasing ones. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

After spending most of his life driving trucks of some kind, and being out of town a lot, my brother-in-law, Lynn Cook, who goes by LJ, got a job in on of the mines in the Powell area. He didn’t want to be so far away from his family anymore. I think a lot of people realize that as our kids grow up, we start to realize just how quickly time passes. Before we know it our kids are adults and they are married with kids of their own. I think it is often at this point that we wish we could go back in time. It’s not that we would trade the grandchildren, for anything, but it seems to be at that point that it occurs you that you really feel the loss of the childhood years of your babies.

LJ has taken a hands on approach with his kids and grandchildren now, more than he could in the past. We all do it. Then we realize that if our kids hadn’t grown up, we wouldn’t have these precious grandchildren either…or our children’s spouses either. So, we accept that the kids are grown, and rejoice in the gift of grandchildren. That time happened for LJ a number of years ago, and now, the oldest of his four grandchildren has graduated for high school, with more to follow very soon.

Suddenly, just like it was with his kids, LJ realizes that soon the grandkids will be married and having children…his great grandchildren. Suddenly it seems, time is slipping away again. There will be times when the grandkids are away at college, and then you never really know if they will move back to your town, or relocate somewhere else, making it harder to see them as often, and suddenly you realize that you may never get to be as close to your great grandkids as you were with your kids. Still, you will always love those precious little ones, because they are a part of you…and they always will be. Today is LJ’s birthday. Happy birthday LJ!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Chelsea Hadlock, wife of my nephew, Ryan Hadlock, has spent a number of years being a great stay-at-home mom, raising their kids, Ethan and Aurora. She is a great mom and both of their kids are just as sweet as they can be and very well mannered. Chelsea and Ryan have done a wonderful job with the kids. Chelsea and the kids are hanging out this summer, gardening, going to the summer movies and making a couple of trips to Loveland to see their grandma, Debbie Moss. Chelsea and Ryan get together with the Hadlock family for barbecues and dinners at each other’s houses. It’s a great part of summer. Chelsea makes an excellent potato salad and a super yummy dip which the family always asks her to make always ask her to make. I know from experience Chelsea is an excellent cook, and we have all been treated to her cooking and believe me, it is excellent.

Now, Chelsea has decided to get her real estate license, so she is studying very hard for her test. She will make an excellent realtor. My sister, Allyn Hadlock thinks real estate may just end up being Chelsea’s niche! I can see that. Chelsea is a very social person, and she knows houses and decorating too. Chelsea and Ryan are going to buy my sister and brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock’s house when they move to their new home. Ryan and Chelsea are hoping she will be able to be the realtor when they sell their own house. This is going to be a really good thing for their family. Real estate is a great career move.

Chelsea is such an asset to our family. In the 11 years since Chelsea joined our family, she has shown a willingness to help out wherever she’s needed and she is a much loved member of the family. Chelsea has a beautiful smile, and always makes those around her feel good. She has always want to be a mom, and have a family, and so her own family has been a dream come true. For my sister and brother-in-law, they couldn’t have asked for a better person to be their only daughter-in-law. We all love Chelsea, and we couldn’t be happier to have her in our family. Today is Chelsea’s birthday. Happy birthday Chelsea!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My aunt, Virginia Beadle is a woman of resilience. There are still a few of those around. They are the people who face adversity head on and fight their way back to health with strength and courage. As people age, sometimes their health can suffer. Aunt Virginia is turning 89 years today. Her mind isn’t as sharp as it once was, and her body shows definite signs of weakening that comes with the years, but her spirit…her essence…the beautiful lady that her family has always loved is still there, and still just as beautiful as her sweet face.

There have been times in the last year or so that her body has betrayed her to a degree, and she has spent some time in the hospital and a nursing home, but she works hard to get her strength back with the hope of going home. It’s hard to say if the nursing home will become permanent, as it did for my mother-in-law in her final five years, but I can tell you that the love that Aunt Virginia’s kids have for her will never die, because they would give anything to keep her home. They have shown this in the care they have given her in the past few years. Aunt Virginia know that and feels the blessing of that love. They would give her the moon if they could, but all they can give her is their love, and that is what they have done. That is to be commended.

Aunt Virginia worked hard all her life to give her kids the best she could. Life wasn’t always easy, but she was resilient. She never gave up. If hard work could make a good life or her family…well, she worked hard. I remember how beautiful Aunt Virginia looked when she was getting off or going to work. She was always dressed up and she had style, but more than that, she was good at her job. These days her mind might not be as sharp, but when she worked, she “rocked” it. She has earned her retirement, and the love of her family. She may be older now, but she is still the beautiful lady we all know and love…inside and out. Today is Aunt Virginia’s 89th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Virginia!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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