nieces

Whether you are a die-hard football fan, or you just like to bet once in a while, many people find themselves in some kind of bet over the Super Bowl. Most bets are innocent enough, with everyone laying their money down to see if they can pick the winner, point spread, or just the right square on a grid. Lots of people even bet on the games leading up to the Super Bowl, to keep the fun going all season long. Normally the whole idea is to see who can come up with the most money won, but every once in a while, a bet takes place that has nothing to do with money, and in this case, that has made all the difference.

Mike and Ashley are two college students who have jumped on the tickle torture bandwagon. They read some of my tickle torture stories and the comments that followed, and Ashley decided that she wanted to “get” Mike when he could not defend himself. She solicited some assistance from her girlfriends, and one day, when Mike was taking a nap on her couch, he awoke to find that he was tied down, and his socks were being removed. He tried to fight the girls off, but they had him tied down tight. Thus began a series of bets to see who had to allow themselves to be tickle tortured. The ultimate winner was to win the torture session of a lifetime when the loser was tied down for the duration of the game.

The bet started out simple enough…between just the two of them, but it seems that Mike has made some “tickle enemies” over the years. That’s what happens when you have been the torturer to beat all torturers. Mike’s friends, cousins, parents, and even aunts and uncles wanted in on the fun. In the end, it was decided that there was to be one loser, and many winners. The tickle ideas began to run wild. Things like using a ball point pen to record the score changes on the bottoms of the loser’s feet, with a mandatory “scrubbing” of the feet to remove the old score changes…feathers between the toes, hair brushes, and a multitude of other tickle tools to round out the fun.

Unfortunately for Mike, he made so real poor team picks when it came to each week’s winning team picks. He lost to everyone, including nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, his parents, and all the girls. His goose was cooked…so to speak. When the Super Bowl rolled around, lots of plans had been made for our loser. Leading up to the torture session were plenty of pictures of stocking feet that would “not” be tickled in the days events. Everyone was in on this…and nobody was missing this Super Bowl Party.

On that fateful day, Mike had to allow himself to be restrained. The group had decided to wrap him up like a burrito so that he couldn’t move. The torture devises were put on display for Mike to get a good look at. He had thought to try keeping his socks on to protect his feet as much as possible, but you can’t keep your socks on when you are tied up like a burrito. You have no say. Of course, Mike was to be allowed breaks, but then his dad came up with the idea of making him win a bet in order to get his break. Things were not looking good for the guy who hadn’t won a week’s bets all season, and to top it off, Mike comes from a fun-loving tickle family. He was doomed. Everyone had their own ideas of the torture they would mete out…and since Mike was in his cocoon in the middle of the room, it was open season. There was even a finale that he had no idea was coming.

If you watched the Super Bowl, you have a good idea just how many score changes there were, and remember that the score changed for the touchdown, and for the conversion point. Mike said there were something like 12 score changes…and he would know. Mike had tortured all these people, and now it was payback time. Mike said that the worst part was the scrubbing off of the old score for the changes. That tickled worse than anything else. Mike told me that his feet were still feeling the tickle days later. He had never laughed so hard in his life. In fact he’s still recovering. He will never live this down. And as to the finale, well…it seems that at one time, Mike decided to prank his cousin by smashing a pie in her face. She has been waiting to just the right time to get even for that one, and so there was a cream pie just for the occasion. I wish I could have seen that one. Unfortunately, everyone was having so much fun, that the pictures were few, and far between. Nevertheless, the Super Bowl Tickle Torture was a grand success.

My nephew, Dave Chase is a good natured, and often funny guy. He likes a good joke and in general comedic situations. That is not what one would expect from him when you first meet him, however, because he seems a bit reserved…until you get to know him. Dave is the kind of man you like immediately, because he has a pleasing personality. He’s easy to talk to and intelligent, making conversations with him quite interesting. Dave has been a chief reservoir engineer, working for the Bureau of Land Management for a number of years, and in fact, knew my Aunt Sandy Pattan before he knew his future wife, my niece, Toni. Aunt Sandy was a little surprised when Dave told her who he was dating, and Dave was equally surprised when Aunt Sandy told him that Toni was her grandniece. They were both surprised.

Dave is all about family. From the moment he met Toni, he has worked hard at bonding with her son, James Renville, and these days they are good friends. James has a dad, but he also has a great step-dad, and they have a great time. When he married my niece, Dave inherited a large extended family. Toni has 4 siblings, and there are a number of nieces, nephews, grand nieces and a grand nephew. If you ask the kids about their Uncle Dave Chase, they will all tell you the same thing…”He loves his nieces and nephews.” Now to have one child say that is one thing, but when the consensus is in total agreement, you know that it is very true. Dave is generous and kind, and he is a lot of fun to be around. The kids all love him, and Dave feels the same way.

Dave is very athletic. He loves to play basketball, and I’m told that Dave runs circles around the younger crowd. Dave keeps himself in great shape, and you know that the work you are doing is working, when a kid says that you can run circles around the kids. Recently, Dave, like many government workers, spent a month on furlough because of the government shutdown, but Dave didn’t just sit around sulking, he took the opportunity to go skiing in Jackson. Dave loves to ski, and he had a great time. Nevertheless, he was glad to get back to work, because Dave isn’t the kind of guy to just sit around. He likes to stay busy. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I’ve never really thought of my Aunt Dixie Richards as being exactly shy, but maybe that’s because I’ve known her all my life. She never seemed shy to me, or to any of the other kids in the family. Nevertheless, when I watched her in an old home movie my parents shot when they got one of those “new fangled” movie cameras, she seemed very shy. Of course, none of the family really wanted to have a home movie taken of them…probably because it was such a new thing, but in watching Aunt Dixie, I saw a bit of shyness on her face. I think that maybe I’m like Aunt Dixie in some ways, because I’m a bit of a shy girl too…until I get to know people.

As one of the younger children in a family of nine children, Aunt Dixie saw her older siblings get married and head off to start families. I’m sure that also gave her the opportunity to babysit her nieces and nephews. In many ways, I think that babysitting the little ones probably prepared her for having children of her own, as well as, babysitting a number of children of nieces and nephews later on. I didn’t know that she babysat so many children. I found that out last year, and I just think that is really awesome. For parents, having a babysitter that you can trust is vital.

Aunt Dixie also has grandchildren now too. She has four grandsons, and one granddaughter. She wasn’t sure she was going to ever get a granddaughter, but the last one was finally a girl. The boys, being a little older, are often off doing their own things, so this summer, Aunt Dixie has spent a lot of time with her granddaughter, Mayme Williams. They have had a lot of fun, and now that school is ready to begin, Aunt Dixie told me that she is feeling pretty sad that her time with Mayme is ending, but at six years old, she has to go to first grade. At least Aunt Dixie will have time with the kids after school, and that always makes her feel better. Today is Aunt Dixie’s 74th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Since my grand niece, Katie Balcerzak was a little girl, she wanted to be a mommy, just like most little girls do. After her marriage to my nephew, Keifer, she and Keifer were doggie parents to their puppies, but now they have decided that the time has come to have a child of a different kind. So, in February, their new little bundle of joy will make his or her appearance. In the meantime, it’s always a good thing that parents-to-be have time to prepare for their little one, and all of the changes that come along with being parents, because life is about to get really interesting for them…and for their puppy girls…who will most likely ease right into being “sisters” without batting an eye, because dogs love kids…at least all the dogs I have ever known. And especially if they get to know the baby from birth. Dogs just seem to know that they have a new playmate coming soon.

I think for Katie, being a mom will not be something so new, because she has been an aunt for a number of years, and therefore, she knows how to take care of babies. Anytime a girl has an older sibling, who has kids, she finds herself babysitting at a young age. And when a girl babysits, she learns how to take care of children. For Katie, who has long wanted kids, working at the Montessori School has been another way to prepare for her new role as mommy. I think that in reality, Katie’s whole adult life has been an ongoing preparation for having children of her own, and I am so excited for her as she and Keifer embark on the new world of parenthood, and all the incredible joys that go along with it. Babies, while a lot of work, are a most rewarding part of life.

Katie is a fun loving girl with a beautiful smile, and I think Keifer loved her from the moment he first laid eyes on her. She has a goofy side that appeals to the kids she spends time around, and she is patient with them too, so that endears her to them very quickly. Kids love an adult who doesn’t mind playing kid games and acting silly sometimes, and Katie is willing to do that. I suppose that would make her a kid at heart, and that’s ok. Today is Katie’s birthday. Happy birthday Katie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When my nephew, Rob Masterson was a boy growing up in a house full of girls, he took it upon himself to pick on his mom, Cheryl Masterson, and his sisters, Chantel Balcerzak, Toni Chase, Elisabeth Masterson, and Jenny Spethman. For Rob, this was his chosen career. In fact, I would have to say that he has a Masters Degree in the field of Sister Teasing Torture…and he keeps up on his practice to this day, whether it is sisters, mom, daughters, Christina, Raelynn, and Anna, his nieces, and yes even his son, Matthew and his nephews. Even his aunts are not exempt. It’s all in good fun, of course, and the girls have to admit that they would wonder if he was mad at them, if he didn’t tease them, so we all just know that it is a fact of life.

While teasing has been a life-long career tor Rob, there is something else that he does, that is probably more on the unusual side. Rob’s wife, Dustie tells me that Rob has the unusual habit of being a person who would rather give than receive. Now we have all heard the saying, “It’s better to give than receive,” but few people can be said to live by that motto. Rob really does. Dustie tells me of a situation that unfolded after she began running the Fresh Cut Department at Albertson’s on the west side of Casper. Most of us know that with use a knife gets dull, but Dustie was really unprepared for just how often her knife would become dull. Most of us don’t use our knives in quite the way Dustie does. Needless to say, her knife seemed to be forever dull. Rob had been given an old stone knife sharpener by his dad, and suddenly, there seemed to be a real need for it. For the first six months that Dustie ran the Fresh Cut Department, Rob would spend half an hour to and hour, every other day, painstakingly sharpening Dustie’s knife. Then around Christmas time he decided to take the Christmas money he had received from his mom, Cheryl Masterson, to buy a diamond sharpening stone…as Dustie said, “For me! It was his Christmas present and instead of picking a gift for himself he bought a nice stone to sharpen my knives with. He is just that way. One of the most selfless and giving people I know. He even sharpens the knives of my co-workers, because he knows they can help me more effectively if they have a good sharp knife. I have never met someone who truly enjoys giving more than receiving. If you ask him to do something, and it’s within his power, he will go out of his way to do it.” Now, I could have tried to re-phrase that tribute to Rob from his loving wife, but I could never have said it as sweetly as she did.

Rob may tease his mom and sisters, but I know and have witnessed the fact that he will also bend over backward to help them with whatever the need help with, and I’m sure any one of them will tell you that his selfless acts of kindness, far outweigh any sister teasing torture them might have to endure. Today is Rob’s birthday. Happy birthday Rob!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

JD13876265_292781794411876_617624038936402311_nMy nephew, JD Parmely is a single guy who mostly just loves cars, working on cars, and driving cars. For the most part it’s all about the cars for JD. But there is one more…well, really two things that are even more important to JD than his cars. I never thought I would see the day that happened. I think anyone who knows the Parmely family can guess what is more important to JD than cars. Yes…his nieces Reagan and Hattie. JD has always loved kids, and had a great time playing with his younger cousins, but no cousin can hold his heart like his nieces do.

Any man who has kids knows how quickly those kids steal your heart, but girls have a tendency to wrap their daddies around their little finger pretty quickly. While JD doesn’t have kids of his own, he has found out how quickly two little girls can have a major effect on one uncle. A man spends his whole life learning to be a strong man. Nothing is supposed to have an effect on them…right? Wrong!! Enter two little girls, whose smiles can melt your heart in a second. Add to it the fact that these two little girls like some of the same things the uncle does, such as cars and motorcycles, and the fact that they don’t mind getting dirty on the trails they hike, and 13557692_272603193096403_6265197797856153303_n10387478_10203972189043974_3295763557144631040_nyou find yourself with every ingredient necessary to steal a heart. And that is exactly what those two little girls did.

JD still loves his cars, motorcycles, and mechanical work, and he loves working on the house he bought from his grandparents, but none of these things will ever take the place of those little nieces…and I think JD is totally ok with that. Being uncle to Reagan and Hattie is the highlight of his life. But then he always was a kid at heart. Today is JD’s birthday. Happy birthday JD!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Machelle Cook MooreMy nieces, Machelle Cook Moore and her sister, Susan Cook Griffith have both always been very sweet, loving girls. They have tender loving hearts. Machelle is the older sister, and there are five years between the girls, but they are just as close as they can be. Both of the girls love to go camping and to be outdoors in general, which is nice for their families. The summers are filled with trips to the Big Horn Mountains in northern Wyoming, which is where they live.

It is there, however that many of the similarities between the girls end. Machelle and her husband, Steve have two sons, Weston and Easton, while Susan and her husband, Josh have a blended family with two daughters. I have found that when a woman has just sons, her life is much different than when a woman has just daughters. That is an observation that I have made from my own life, because I also have two daughters and no sons. Boys tend to change a woman…even if Sisters (2)she is a girly girl. There is simply a culture shock that comes from having a house full of men. Maybe it is the same for the fathers of just daughters, and in reality, I’m sure that is true, but since I am a woman, I can’t speak to the culture shock a man of only daughters really feels, other than outnumbered. But then again, I’m sure that the mother of just sons, feels the same way. I know my own daughter, Corrie Petersen feels outnumbered a lot. I’m sure that Machelle has the same issues, and the older the boys get, the more they like to tease their mothers. That is a guy thing for sure.

Life with boys is rough and tumble, and in many ways a little bit gross. Because that is what boys do. It is filled with spiders, snakes, bats, and toads, or at least some kind of a mixture of these and more. The mother never really knows what she might find in the pockets of her little…angels. She can never be 100% sure that they won’t completely embarrass her with their noises, because to them that sort of thing is…well, funny. For most Kissing Mommygirls, these kinds of things would be more embarrassing to the girl than to her parents…not so with boys. With boys, all bets are off, and their mom had better expect the unexpected…at all times. I know that those who have boys know exactly what I’m talking about.

Machelle and Susan are alike in many ways, but their lives are very different. I know that they wouldn’t trade their lives for anything, but I’m sure that they’ve had a few conversations about just how different their lives are too. I don’t think either of them could fully believe the differences unless they see it for themselves, however. Today is Machelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Machelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Once In A While 1Once In A While 2When we think of soldiers, most of us picture the fighting machines that these men have been trained to be, and we would not be wrong in most respects, but what we sometimes fail to realize is the fact that a soldier is a person with a deep love of human life. They don’t go to war because they want to be trained killers, but rather they go to war because they want to preserve life, and a way of life. They see that there are people in this world who are being abused, beaten, and starved into submission…or worse yet killed for refusing to submit. There are evil people in this world, who somehow feel that they have the right to control other human lives. They want servants, or they want to sell people, or just own people. Soldiers go to war, because they see these evil actions for the wrong that they are, and they can’t stand by and let it just happen.

So yes, in that respect, our picture of the trained killer is exactly right, but what we so often miss is the human side of the soldier. We miss the man or woman who has left their own children, nieces, or nephews behind to go and fight for children in some other country, so that they might be able to live out their lives in the same safety that the children, nieces, and nephews of the soldier are able to live in back home. The problem is that we don’t often realize what things they do for those children in other nations. We don’t often see the moments of playing with the children. We don’t see the children who come up to the soldiers, because they feel safe around them…even with the possibility of gunfire at any moment. They still feel safer near the soldiers than they do on their own.

And for our soldiers, who are so lonely for their own children, nieces and nephews, it is a nice break from the reality of war, with all its ugliness, even if it is just once in a while, and even if it is just for a few moments. Maybe they can take a few moments and pretend that this child they are playing with is their own child at home. Maybe they can pretend that they are pushing their own child in a swing, on a merry-go-round, or just giving them a simple hug. Perhaps those few moments that they get once in a while, can take them away from Once In A While 3Once In A While 4the worry for their own safety, or the fact that in a little while they will be faced with an enemy, who they will have to kill, or they will be killed. War is a hard place to be, and a life event that no soldier can ever forget, so it is nice, for just a few moments, to be able to spend a little time with a child, to get away from the war and the ugliness that lies within it. Sometimes we, the people back home need to just consider the sacrifice our soldiers make, and be glad that they have a moment of relief, even if it is just once in a while.

Henriette Albertine SchumacherLetter from Henriette to MinaMy Uncle Bill Spencer always loved the handwritten letters that were written by his family. It didn’t matter to him if it was nieces or nephews, his siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. He saw in every word, great value…as if it were pure gold. The more I look at old letters, and search for information about my family online, the more I realize that Uncle Bill was really on to something. Seeing the handwriting of our ancestors…be it on a letter, draft card, or photograph always gets me excited. To think that my ancestor actually signed that card, or wrote that letter is very cool. I especially love finding things that were written in some other language. When my grandmother Anna Schumacher Spencer and her brother Albert Schumacher were in school, the teacher made fun of their language. When they came home and told their mother, my great grandmother, Henriette Hensel Schumacher, she decided that German would no longer be spoken in their home. I don’t know if she ever changed her mind on that issue, but if German was spoken, it was not often. So to find a letter written in German by my Great Grandmother Henriette Schumacher to her daughter, my Aunt Min Schumacher Spare is especially exciting. I Translation of letter from Henriette to MinaLetter from Henriette to Mina 2wish that I understood then, what I understand now about the handwriting of my ancestors. I am so excited about to find these great letters from people I have come to feel like I know well.

When I look at the handwriting of my great grandmother, I see a woman who, even in the face of much pain and adversity, prided herself on her handwriting. Of course, life happens, and we can’t always have the same control of our handwriting that we once might have, but at the time of this letter in May of 1911, her handwriting was pretty and delicate. My great grandmother suffered much with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and yet, I believe that she loved beautiful things, and that she was a delicate and beautiful woman. I know that she was so proud of her family. She would like to help them all she could, but with a large family, and tough times, it was not much. Nevertheless, it was her hope that all of her children would succeed in anything they chose to do…after all, America was the land of opportunity.

Mina Schumacher always wanted to be a teacher, but in the end, she became a bookkeeper. I think she was probably ok with that, but maybe always felt a bit of regret. Nevertheless, her hanwriting to me shows strong Mina Schumacherimg661woman who loved the pretty and delicate things in life. She often signed things using beautiful script or calligraphy. It was her own sense of style. Many people never give any thought to the impression their signature will make on another person, but she did, and I loved it since the first time I saw it in my dad’s photo album. It was just as beautiful and graceful as she was. She knew that the handwriting of our ancestors is important.

What a Special Person my Sister-in-law Caryn is!

Guest Writer BRCaryn became part of our family on March 1, 1975…40 years ago this year!!! Little did I know at that time that Caryn would become such an important part of the Schulenberg Family. I don’t really remember too much of my life without Caryn being a part of it. She has been a major part of our family for so many years now…and I would never want to imagine our family with her not a part of it.

In the early years, Caryn spent most of her time raising her two girls, my nieces, Corrie and Amy. Then, before we knew it along came her four grandchildren my great nieces and nephews, Chris, Shai, Caalab and Josh. All of them are true gifts to Caryn. She really enjoys being a Mother and Grandma….and maybe someday soon (I hope not too soon) a Great Grandma! In August, Caryn’s oldest Grandson Chris moved to Sheridan to go to Culinary School and boy that was a tough adjustment for all of his family. Luckily Sheridan is not too far away but it is still hard. Caryn’s youngest daughter Amy, husband Travis and son Caalab will be moving to Washington State very soon and this too is going to be very hard for Caryn and the rest of us. We know that it will be a great adventure for them….but it is so hard when someone we love moves so far away….but maybe someday they will be back to stay!

A few years back when Caryn’s dad, Al Spencer suddenly became very sick she became an instant caregiver to him. She had help from her mom, Collene and her sisters Cheryl, Caryl, Alena, and Allyn along with all of their children and grandchildren. It took all of them. They all then became caregivers for Caryn’s mom, Collene Spencer when she was ill during the years. On February 22, 2015 Caryn’s mom went to Heaven. While I know Caryn and her sisters are missing her, they know that Collene is truly in a better place now.

Caryn was the lead caregiver to my parents, Walt and Joann Schulenberg. She had help from myself and my siblings, Bob, Jennifer, Debbie, and Ron along with my nieces and nephews, Corrie, Amy, Machelle, Susan, Barry, JD, Eric, Riley, and Tucker, all of the great nieces and nephews and my Aunt Margee Kountz and her granddaughter Staci. Everyone helped when they could, in any way they could even if it was just to stop by or call for a visit…but we could not have kept either one of my parents at home as long as we did without Caryn. She was their primary caregiver and didn’t bat an eye about doing it. She is still helping with my Mom by checking on her out at Shepherd of the Valley Care Center, going to all of her doctor appointments with her and keeping all of us up to date as to how she is doing.

In October 2013 when I got sick…who did I call first? Of course, I called Caryn. She convinced me that I need to get checked out to see what was wrong. Little did I know then that Caryn saved my life. I truly believe that if she had not talked me into going to the hospital that I would have died very soon. She has been with me all the way…from going to the hospital, to my rehab at Elkhorn Rehabilitation Hospital and then once I was home she would do whatever I needed help with. She slept in a recliner chair the night that I had my sleep study done because I couldn’t get my legs up into the bed on my own. She stayed with me my first two nights home from Elkhorn because she didn’t think I should stay alone…I was grateful to have her there with me because I had nurses, aids and therapists with me 24/7 for almost a month. Caryn and my sister Jennifer…and my entire family, friends and coworkers have all been very supportive during my 18 month recovery and weight loss journey. I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Caryn will be traveling with me to Fort Collins next week to see a doctor about my skin removal surgery…and when I have it done in Fort Collins or even here in Casper she will be there with me through all of it and I know she will be very helpful to me during my recovery too.

Caryn - 12-02-2011_editedI don’t even want to think of what the past several years would have been like for either Caryn’s family or my family if it hadn’t been for Caryn and her dedication of her time and her heart to care for all four aging parents and myself. We couldn’t have and wouldn’t have wanted to go through any of this without Caryn.

Caryn is an amazing woman! She is one of the best Sisters-in-law (I consider her my Sister) that I could ever ask for and I know that my Parents felt the same way…she was and is one great Daughter-in-law.

Today is Caryn’s birthday and I just want to say Happy Birthday Caryn. We all love you and appreciate you very, very much!!!!

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