little girl

My grand-niece, Adelaide Sawdon is her mother in just about every way. She looks a lot like her mother, my niece, Jessi Sawdon, and she definitely has a lot of Jessi’s personality. She is learning to be a little bit sassy, which is quite cute, since she usually has a very good sense of humor and is a well behaved little girl, who is quite loving. Nevertheless, like her mommy, Adelaide is quick to learn things, and it doesn’t take her very long to learn things like no-no, I’m the mommy and you are the kid, and other such boss phrases. Then she proceeds to use them on her parents. Of course, it doesn’t get her any further that the laughing of her parents, but I guess that is one way not to be in trouble. I think her parents would be hard pressed to be angry at Miss Adelaide very much, because she is just their favorite person on Earth, and I can’t blame them for that, because Adelaide can wrap you around her little finger pretty quickly,and she doesn’t even have to try hard to do it.

Of course, in Adelaide’s world, other than her parents, there is simply nobody that can compare to her Aunty Kellie Hadlock. I can understand that, because Kellie is very sweet, and lots of fun, but it still surprises Kellie to think that this sweet little niece has chosen her to be the favorite, but Adelaide is, nevertheless, a girl after Kellie’s heart. While Kellie is singing at church, Adelaide can hardly wait for her to come off the stage, so she can climb up on her lap and just enjoy her company. They love to send time together…laughing and giggling, and Adelaide would have Kellie live with her and her parents if she could. They are just that close.

Adelaide take her personality traits from both her mom, Jessi Sawdon, and her dad, Jason Sawdon, and that makes her a very special girl. Adelaide’s mommy and daddy are two fun loving people, who are very social, and they are passing that on to Adelaide too, although she isn’t always too quick to warm up to people she doesn’t know well. No matter, that will come in time, as she gets to know our large family better. In the meantime, we just keep talking to her so she will get more familiar with us. we look forward to watching Adelaide grow and become the wonderful little girl that we all know she will be. Today is Adelaide’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Adelaide!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

With each passing year, we imagine what Laila might have been like. Seven years ago today, my niece, Jenny Spethman and her husband, Steve welcomed their first daughter into the world. The birth was one of happiness and concern. Their daughter was not well. Her heart was not properly formed…a condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, had left her left ventricle underdeveloped. Little Laila would go to Heaven just 18 days later, and just like that, her little life on earth would be over…but not her memory. No, her memory will live forever in the hearts and minds of her parents, grandparents, siblings, and the rest of her family. It’s amazing to me that a child I never got to meet could continue to impress my mind, and the minds of the entire family, with pictures of who she might have become.

At 7 years of age, I can picture the little first grader she would be now. In my minds eye, I can picture her little face with the changes that seven years would bring. I can imagine her laughter, very much like her little sister, Aleesia’s, and a personality to match. I think that when a child is lost, the family tends to look at other children who are the same age that lost child would be, and it is so easy to place the lost child in the same activities, looks, and personalities. Of course, it’s not exact, how could it be, but it’s enough to truly imagine what the lost child would be like at each age. That’s how it is with Laila. It’s how we can imagine the little girl she would be.

Laila left us far too soon, but her memory will live in our hearts forever. From her, we learned not to take life for granted. We learned to take the pictures of even the littlest, most insignificant event, because it may end up being very important. We have learned to spend time with those we love, and to tell each other how much we love each other. We will see Laila again in Heaven, but for now, we all miss her very much. Today would have been Laila’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Princess Laila. We love you.

MichelleMy niece, Michelle is probably one of the most different people in our family, but I don’t mean that in a bad way. There is a gentleness about Michelle, and I think that comes from her artistic side. Michelle is in college in South Dakota, and that means we don’t get to see her very much. That makes me sad, because I think that the gentle quality that Michelle gives to our family is something that we need…doesn’t every family? There are many different personalities that make up a family, and each one is important to the family unit.

Through the years, I have watched Michelle grow as a person and as an artist. Her art is beautiful and anyone who has the privilege of seeing it or owning any of it knows Michelle-Stevens-drawingjust how talented she is. One of my favorites is a sketch of a bench. It has a simplicity to it, and yet you feel like you could sit right down on it…and you would like to. The bench is just that realistic. It looks like the perfect place to sit, relax, and read a book.

Michelle isn’t all about art though. She loves to travel, and like many of us, a cruise ship is one of her favorite forms of travel. I suppose those trips inspire her artistic mind to create new things. I personally love photography, and a cruise is a great way to take awesome pictures, which Michelle is very good at too. I’m sure that her photographic ability comes from her artistic eye. She has taken pictures of many places, and she has done some Photoshop enhancements to make them look simply amazing. I have watched her pictures and her art advance over the years, and they are amazing. I think Michelle didn’t choose to be an artist, but was rather born with the natural abilities she Michelle Kristine Stevens 6.5 years oldhas. Many people would love to have her talent.

Little girl Michelle was such a smiley girl. When she smiled, he whole face lit up with a smile. Some people are blessed with smiling eyes, and Michelle is definitely one of those people. It was one of the first things I noticed about her. I have always loved the way smiling eyes look, and they are something that makes people smile too. People are just drawn to people with a great smile, and smiling eyes. Maybe that is part of the reason why Michelle has always been loved by everyone who knows her. Michelle is such a special person, and I am very proud that she is my niece. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Young Aunt SandyWhen a little girl from a big family has brothers-in-law before she is even in elementary school, she has a tendency to look up to those brothers-in-law. That’s how it was for my Aunt Sandy Pattan. She was the youngest of nine children, and to her, the brothers-in-law were like her own brothers.

As a little girl, and knowing my uncles, I expect that she was often teased…good naturedly, of course, but she also watched the things that her brothers-in-law, and her brothers too, could do. They were, after all, grown ups, and therefore, considered cool. I’m sure that, if asked, Aunt Sandy could tell us all stories about the things she remembers about each of her brothers-in-law, sister-in-law, as well as her older siblings. In this case, however, it was me talking to Aunt Sandy when she told me about something that my dad could do, that while not something profound, was something that she, as a little girl, thought was very cool. The funny thing about it is that I don’t remember my dad doing it. Maybe it was just a passing trick, but it was one that Aunt Sandy has remembered all these years. Or maybe, my sisters remember it, even if I don’t.

A few weeks ago, when Aunt Sandy and I were completing a meeting to discuss the family stories that she remembered…a meeting that was meant to be about an hour or two, but turned into five hours, because we completely lost track of time…when she told me that one memory she had of my dad from when she was a little girl. It was a memory of my dad, Allen Spencer twirling a silver dollar through his fingers. Such a small thing, but something I could see my dad doing something like that. It would be a trick that quite possibly he and his brother, my Uncle Bill Spencer did. I’m sure they practiced it for hours to see who could do it better. I’m sure that soon it became second nature to him, and he probably did it without even thinking about it. Nevertheless, to my Aunt Sandy, it was something new and very cool. Cool enough, in fact that when she thinks of my dad, her brother-in-law, Dad at about 20she can still see that trick clearly in her mind.

I can relate to that. My sisters and I, as well as the grandchildren and great grandchildren, all have memories of some of the funny and cool things Dad used to do. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that, in thinking about things Dad used to do, I can picture them so clearly in my mind that it is as if he is right there in the room. Things like the whisker rub, the kitchen door game, and pretend boxing matches in the hallway, come to my mind instantly. If I think longer, more and more memories of Dad come to my mind. It is the funny, happy memories that will mean the most to us in our latter days. They are the cherished memories in the days after our loved one’s passing.

Shai and Me 1996It seems like just yesterday that our little Leap Day girl, Shai Royce was born, but it was really nineteen years and two months ago. Of course, you expect your kids and grandkids to grow up, but when they do, it still seems like the whole thing sneaked up on you…like you somehow didn’t really think it was going to happen. Then comes the time when they move out for the first time, and into an apartment of their own. Somehow it feels like Shai is about four years old, and living on her own…oh, wait, she sort of is. Being a Leap Day Baby is a unique situation, in that she only really gets a birthday every four years…making her oficially 4¾ years old. No wonder it seems like she is too young to be living on her own. Not only should she be a little girl, but officially she is a little girl. I’m not crazy., even though it might sound crazy. And to top it off, you know that no matter how grown up she, and my other grandchildren get, they will always be grandbabies to me, and I will always picture them in part, just like when they were little babies.
Shai's Kitchen
I think Shai’s apartment is going to be beautiful. She is a girl with very good taste, and a wonderful sense of style. She has some very nice things, and a good head on her shoulders, so, she will start to get things set up as time goes on. I don’t think a first timer to apartment living has everything they need to get started, but she seems to be doing better that most of them. She is organized and I know she will have everything in ship shape in no time.

I think the thing that I find the most interesting about Shai’s new apartment, is that in all reality it is the second time her first apartment is been in this particular apartment complex. I know that sounds odd, but when Shai was born, her parents lived in the same apartment complex, and so when she came home, it was to almost the same place. Of course, technically that apartment belonged to her parents, and this one belongs to Shai, but it is in a way, kind of like coming 993369_10201198433396466_1310255224_nahome for her. I don’t know how often something like that happens, but for her, that is exactly what happened.

I know that Shai has mixed feelings about making such a big move, especially since the rest of her family is moving to the Seattle, Washington area, but she will have her grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins, and other extended family members living here too, so she will get used to it. And of course, she has lots of friends as well, and I’m sure that she will be entertaining people before very long, so before she knows it this will feel like home to her. Congratulations Shai, on your first home. I know that you will be very happy there. Just don’t forget to visit your grandma and grandpa.

Hope ChestDiplomasSafely tucked away, in a closet in the basement of my home, sits a red box. It is a homemade hope chest, built by my dad, when I was a little girl. Dad built two of them, one for my sister, Cheryl and one for me. This was long before hope chests became popular again, or maybe they always were, and I just didn’t know it then. I loved that little hope chest. I suppose some people would have thought it plain, but it held a very special meaning to me. My daddy had made it for me, and told me that it was to keep my treasures in. The original paddle lock was lost long ago, and replaced with a new one. I have lost the key to that one, so now a bobby pin has to suffice. It really wouldn’t matter if it was unlocked, I suppose, because to most people it’s contents have no real value. It holds no gold, silver, or diamonds…just the treasures from my past.

When I opened it last night…the first time in a long time, I saw my girlhood treasures, like souvenirs from trips taken as a child, my first wrist watch, and cameo soaps I got from…who knows where. I saw my high school diploma, and my husband Bob’s, both in pristine condition. There were treasures from my children’s lives, like perfect attendance awards from church and preschool, pictures of our family at that time, cards sent to me on special occasions, and baby cigars from a number of different births…I don’t suppose anyone would want to smoke those now. There was a baby blanket I had been given, and high school pictures of my sisters and sisters-in-law. There are three model cars…remnants of Bob’s past, and a multitude of key chains from his years of collecting them. If you looked at these items, I suppose most people would think many of them to be worthless, but to me, they are treasures…they are my past.

I realize that I am a sentimental person, and that I save things with sentimental value. I have accepted this about myself. I know that many people don’t like to save things. They don’t like the clutter, and I do admit that it can create clutter. But, I don’t really want my world to be so free of my past, that it seems sterile. This isn’t an operating room, after all, it’s my life, and my memories. I like most of my past, not to mention, my family’s past, and I want to be able to see and remember it. That is simply who I am. I can think of so many fun times in my past…camping trips with my parents and sisters, hiking with Bob, vacations with our kids, just to mention a few. In my opinion, I have lead a very nice life, and I want to always remember that. As I looked through the contents of my hope chest, my mind drifted back to a time when my family was young. The years have gone by so fast. It made me feel a little bit sad.

The contents of my hope chest have changed over the years, as my hopes and dreams have changed. As a little girl, I had the trinkets of a little girl in there, and as I grew, the things in my hope chest grew to take in BlanketPerfect Attendancemy new self. Once I was married, the hope chest became a memory chest, instead of a hope chest. which was designed to collect the things a girl would need for her wedding and marriage. I think I like the latest job my hope chest has, because memories come from a life filled with good things. And maybe that is a fitting end for a hope chest, because it does start out as the hopes and dreams of a girl, and ends up with the memories of a life well lived.

Aunt Sandy's graduation pictureAs the youngest of my Grandma and Grandpa Byer’s family, my Aunt Sandy got to hear all the stories of her family’s lives, starting at a very young age. Her siblings were already out there doing things with their lives, and it all sounded so interesting to her. I suppose that is why she has been the one that was most interested in the family stories, and my go to person when I need information on this person or that person for a story I’m working on. I really need that kind of a person, because there are many stories I hadn’t heard before. I have enjoyed our talks so much, and look forward to the next one. It’s funny, that sometimes when I ask my mom about something to do with one of her siblings, she will say, “I was married by that time, but Sandy will know.” And mom is right.

Of course, eventually Aunt Sandy began to have stories of her own unique experiences, such as the traveling peddler of sorts, who was allowed to take a picture of Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Aunt Sandy and Grandma by bus for trip home from Superior, WI in the fall of 1957 or 1958Sandy Byer, Bonnie Byer, Dixie Byer, Susie HushmanSandy, or the trip she and grandma took to Wisconsin to visit my family, when we lived there. And as a little girl, she became an aunt at an early age when my cousin Susie was born. They would be almost like sisters in those younger years, and at  least, great playmates. Every life has a story to tell, and Aunt Sandy paid attention to all the stories, keeping them safe in her memory files…just waiting for someone to take an interest in all of those little treasures waiting there. Some people have a knack for remembering the really interesting stories of a family’s past, and Aunt Sandy is one of those people. She has an amazing memory for the details of situations that happened a long Sandra Nannette, Byer, George F Byer, Hattie Byertime ago, and she can relate them in such a way as to keep her audience spellbound throughout her story. That is a great skill to have.

These days, Aunt Sandy has retired from the job she held for many years, and she is taking life a little easier. She and my mom have been spending a little more time together, and that has been such a nice thing for my mom. She hasn’t gotten out as much is the last few years, so those get togethers with Aunt Sandy have become very special. Today is Aunt Sandy’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Sandy!! Have a great day!! We love you very much!!

For every grandparent, there is the first. The child that came along and changed everything. The child who changed them from parenthood to grandparenthood. For my parents, that child was my niece, Chantel. She was…shall we say, a shock to our systems…not just my parents, but to her aunts too. It was not about being, not ready for her to come, it was about the kind of girl she was. Chantel has a type of beauty queen style…or maybe it was actress style. No matter, we couldn’t help but be amused and surprised at the same time whenever she started posing.

It always amazed me that this little teeny girl could have so much style, when I at 15 years of age was still feeling quite awkward. But style was as much a part of who Chantel was as the hair on her head. And she was so quick. She never missed an opportunity to show her style. The camera came up, and Chantel immediately posed. And she was just a little girl, but she was just doing what came naturally to her.

As she grew up, she never lost that sense of style, although the posing did change some. She is so photogenic, and has a beautiful smile. And her sense of style doesn’t stop with photos. It has carried into her home, where she pours out her beautiful style. I think there must be an artist living inside the woman she has become, but that isn’t surprising really.

Yes, that first grandchild can be so surprising, because they are usually so different from your own children, and yet so like them…or at least the child your kids used to be. Chantel is much like her mother, my sister Cheryl. They both had the ability to take the most amazing pictures, and they both have the natural sense of style in decorating. I guess I have to wonder why Chantel seemed so different from the rest of us…at least to me, because she was maybe the kind of little girl like what I always wanted to be…like my sister, Cheryl. They both always had it all together, and I always wished I had been able to be like that.

Today that little girl…that first grandchild, is a wife and mother, and still a very beautiful person, inside and out. She will always hold a special place in our hearts and in our family. Happy birthday, Chantel!! We love you very much!!

Kaytlyn Machelle was born 4 years ago today, and gets her middle name from her Aunt Machelle. I remember that the first time I saw her, I thought she had very big eyes. Big eyes are always so amazing on a girl, if you ask me. I don’t get to see my grand niece very much, because she lives in a different town than we do. Kaytlyn is the younger of two girls…the granddaughters of my sister-in-law, Debbie and her husband, Lynn.

She is a bubbly little girl with a great imagination. She can create her own little world with her toys, and had a way of getting her sister and her cousins to jump right in and visit that little world too. She seems to think that her cousin, Tucker, who was her friend, before he became her cousin, is her boyfriend. She is a definite flirt, and I’m pretty sure she has her daddy wrapped around her little finger with her big eyes and sweet smile. In fact, I think her daddy has probably lived there from the moment he first saw her.

Most of my acquaintance with little miss Kaytlyn has been through the pictures I have received, which makes it a little harder to really know her, but I can tell from the pictures that she is the kind of child who lights up a room when she is in it. She is a princess, and very girly, choosing bright colors to wear when she has her say. I also think that she has been a sweet gift to her older sister, Jala, who had been an only child for 6 years before Kaytlyn’s arrival. It’s hard to be an only child, I think, but having never been one myself, I can’t really say. Still I think Jala thinks her little sister is just about the greatest. Jala shows a great love for Kaytlyn, and plays along with her little games, even though she is a big girl of almost 10 years.

Kaytlyn is curious, like most children, always wondering about the world around her, and perhaps about the face she sees in the mirror. That face in the mirror seems to be a first friend for so many chidren. They look in the mirror and the face that looks back always smiles when they do, and never looks away. The face in the mirror always pays attention to them, and is loyally waiting for them each time they approach. Can there possibly be a better friend than that baby who doesn’t leave them stuck in the house while the bigger kids get to go outside? No, I think that first friend is a cherished memory for most babies…as well as their parents, because really…who can resist the face in the mirror. Today, little Kaytlyn Machelle is 4 and a little princess with great big eyes. Happy birthday little birthday girl…say hello to the face in the mirror for me. We love you very much, sweetie!!

Every year on February 9th, a small group of friends gather for breakfast at Johnny J’s Diner to talk about a little girl who touched all our hearts deeply, and left us far too soon.  Brooke would have been 15 years old on December 24, 2011, but she passed away on February 9, 2004 from an acute asthma attack. I often wonder who she would have been today at 15 years old. She had such a bubbly personality and a smile and laugh that made it hard to ever tell her no…even if you should have. Her siblings knew how to get something they wanted, or do something they wanted to do…they just got Brooke to ask for it. The funny thing was, however, that she never seemed spoiled to me, or to anyone else that I know of. She was just sweet.

Now, 8 years later, we still gather to talk about the little girl who meant so much to all of us…and to console her mother, who still struggles with that day, as well as the month of February and even from December 24th through February 14th, which was the day Brooke was laid to rest…a fitting day for a girl who was born on a holiday, and very much loved.

Of course, Brooke was never a mother, but in her short little life, she practiced for that role she dreamed of having by mothering every baby she ever came across. Her mom, Dani babysat my grandchildren, but it was Brooke who babysat my youngest grandchild…Josh. Dani could help…a teeny little bit, but not very much, because Josh was Brooke’s baby, and everyone might just as well get that fact through their thick head, because that was the way it was.

Brooke touched the lives of young and old alike. She had her very favorites though, like my husband, Bob for example. Whenever Bob walked into a room Brooke was in, she ran over to him and gave him a big hug. She was almost like a little girlfriend, and I might have been jealous, had it not been for the difference in their ages. She loved him so much, and it was very hard to be jealous of such a sweet little girl, so I had to be content to share him whenever Brooke was in the room.

Now, 8 long years after her passing, we can each remember how she touched our lives, and I’m sure the stories will all be shared as we gather to look back on the life of a child that has been gone longer than she lived, and yet seems to still be so very much with us. Her memory is everywhere…every time we hear a child laugh, every time a little girl takes a shine to Bob, every time we see Madyson, Brooke’s little sister, who looks incredibly like her older sister…so much so, that I often call her Brooke. And so we gather to console her mother, and remember the little girl who touched our hearts.

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