play

CCI06282012_00029_editedc_editedThese days lots of parents set their kids up with play dates with the children of their friends, so the kids can have friends and the moms can visit while the kids play. It is a common practice, and sets the kids up in their first friendships. It’s rather a new practice, and not a bad one. Kids need friends, and stay at home moms need time to relate to other adults. The play date is a good answer. Nevertheless, the play date is a fairly new event.

When I was a child, we didn’t have play dates. Most moms didn’t work outside the home, but they didn’t do play dates either. They simply told us to go outside and play. And usually there were lots of other kids, right on our own block, whose moms had just told them the same thing. Times were different then, of course, and it was safer for kids to play outside, even after dark…not that we got to do that very often, especially on a school night. When I was a kid, we always had a bunch of kids on our block, and we all played together. I guess ours was more like a block party that a play date.

There were times when the cousins came over for a visit, and while the parents visited, the kids were told to go outside and play. That was ok with us, because really, who wants to listen to all that grown up talk anyway…boring!!! Besides, when the cousins came over, and you mixed them with the rest of the kids on the block, you had the makings of a great time. Of course, there could also be the normal fights when someone didn’t want to share you with your cousins, or vice versa, but those usually were resolved pretty quickly and the fun when on.

I understand why parents today want to have play dates for their kids, and I suppose we had them to, but it certainly didn’t involve parental planning, other than telling us to go outside. I guess either way works, and it’s hard to have the block party kind of play date without first letting your child get to know other kids, but when a play date is with a friend’s child, and the friend doesn’t live on your block, they still don’t get to meet the neighborhood kids. I suppose this is a bit safer, but I like the way I grew up, where kids weren’t worried about making friends with the neighborhood kids. Too bad we can’t still be living in those times.

Grandpa's GirlsIn the early years of being a grandpa, my father-in-law had just girls…three in a row to be exact. That didn’t bother him one bit. They were grandpa’s girls, and he thought that was just fine. He loves kids, and as I have seen in letters he wrote to my mother-in-law, before their marriage, he had a special place in his heart for those little girls. His future sister-in-law, Margee had been just a little over 5 months old, when he and my mother-in-law were married, and he thought Margee was just the sweetest thing. His thoughts on baby girls didn’t change much over the years.

The girls felt the same way about their grandpa as he felt about them. They just thought he was the greatest thing going too. He loved to get down on the floor and play with them, and even if they were having one of their drama filled moments, he just didn’t seem to mind…he just redirected the play, so the drama would end, and the fun would begin. It was always fun to watch him with the girls, because he just loved being a grandpa, and it showed. In fact, he had always loved kids, so maybe that’s where Bob got his way with the little ones…softies, both of them.

I sometimes wondered where my father-in-law got his patience with the girls when they were fighting or crying…usually in the form of screaming, both. He didn’t lose his patience, like I felt like doing, but rather just separated the two fighters, and hugged them when they had their little boo boos. The screaming and crying practically drove me up a wall. If they were in that kind of a mood, I was very happy to let them go visit their grandparents, so grandpa could settle them down some.

As the years went by, my father-in-law would get one more granddaughter, and three grandsons. While he was wonderful with all of them, and it was obvious that he was simply partial to babies and kids in general, I will always remember those early years fondly. Thoughts of him happily surrounded by his girls playing and laughing put a smile on my face. The girls were so blessed to have him for their grandpa, and I hope they know that. Not every child gets to live near their grandparents, and the fact that they did is very special. While my father-in-law is gone now, I’ll always see him surrounded by his loving family, and I’ll always hold a special memory in my memory files for him and Grandpa’s Girls.

imageKids these days don’t play the same games that kids of the past played. That is not such an unusual thing, because the times change, but it is sad to think that the kids today don’t know how to play games like Kick the Can, Red Rover, Jacks, or Marbles. When I was a kid, boys and girls alike played marbles, but there was a time, when marbles was pretty much considered a game for boys. Girls were supposed to be playing more ladylike games.

The little boy, who was my father-in-law, lived in such times, and he couldn’t wait to play marbles like the other boys around him. Then, one day, when he was in second grade, he found himself in possession of one marble. Now, it was a bit of a risky move to join in a game of marbles when you had just one marble, because if you lost it, you were done. Still, what good was one marble if you kept it in your pocket and never took a chance to win more. The thought of being afraid to play…well, it just never occurred to little Walt.

He got himself into the first game he came across, and played his little heart out. He didn’t lose the first marble he ever had, and began winning right away. I can just imagine how proud he was when he showed his mom his take that first day. And winning that first marble, probably got him immediately addicted to the game. I can picture him practicing at home, all by himself, so that he could get better and better at the game that he loved so much. And, get better, he most certainly did. Before long, he was the winningest marble player in the area, and by the time he got to be too old to play such kid games anymore, Dad Schulenberghe had won a good sized box of marbles. So many in fact, there was no way he could possibly take all of them to each match he played.

That little boy is gone now, as is the man who is my father-in-law, but his legend lives on, in his little brothers. While in town, for the funeral of his brother, Uncle Butch asked us about the box of marbles. None of us knew anything about it, as he had never mentioned it to us. As we went through the house, going through his things, we assumed that the box os marbles must have, long since, been given away…until yesterday, when we came across them again. They were in the same old box that had once held a lunch pail, safely tucked on the top shelve of the closet, because even though the little boy had outgrown the game of marbles, the little boy still lived in the memory files of the man who became my father-in-law.

Boys Night OutWhen a household has three boys, and one baby girl, and each of the boys have a friend spend the night on the same night, what do you have? Well, besides chaos and a severely outnumbered little girl, you have boys night out! For the boys who are staying the night with my grand nephews, it truly is boys night out. For Xander, Zack, and Isaac, it is boys night in, not that they mind that one bit. Now, as to my niece Jenny and her husband Steve, I have to think they might be just a little bit insane, but then they have been around boys for most of their married life, so I suppose they are used to the ways of little boys. I, on the other hand, having had girls, would most likely have gone insane…until I had my grandsons anyway. Being around boys does change a person.

Slumber parties…or boys night out, as my grand nephews informed me…like slumber party must be the closest thing to cooties on girls, and something they definitely would never be a part of…usually follow the same pattern. Lots of playing, loudness, wild and wound up kids, and little sleep. Nevertheless, do not call it a slumber party. I mean, what self respecting macho man would have a slumber party. There are differences between slumber parties and boys night out, however. Girls usually do things like make up, dancing, and of course gossip. Boys, on the other hand might play super hero, watch movies, or talk about their various weapons. I suppose when you think about it, the two events really are very different. And I suppose that calling this event a slumber party, could be thought to be insulting…a mistake I hope not to make in the future, because my grand nephews looked at me like I had kind of messed up in the great aunt department, and I’m supposed to be the cool great aunt, not the nerd. I guess that is something I’ll have to work to repair now, but that will have to happen in the future for now.

I didn’t ask Jenny and Steve how the boys night out went for them, but I guess it was ok, because they were both in church today, meaning that even if they feel little bit exhausted, or a little bit crazy, they did survive the event. I guess that is a good thing. And as for Aleesia, the lone little girl in the house that night, well, she was still smiling, so either they all had a good time playing with her too, or her parents kept her away from the boys so they could have their own space. Whatever the case may be, the boys told me that they had a great time at their boys night out.

Grandpa playing the violinOn the back of the violin is a name, Allen Spencer. I assumed that it was carved lovingly into the wood by my great great grandfather when he was young. I have no way of knowing just exactly when it was written, but it would seem like something a child would do. Grandpa was born in 1826, and died in 1883, and as near as I have been able to find, the violin might have been made in 1866, which would mean that my great great grandfather was 40 years old. No matter how old he was when he engraved his name into the violin, the length of time the violin has been in our family tells me that music to some degree has been in my family for several generations. That violin was handed down from my great great grandfather, to my great grandfather, William Malrose Spencer, to my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer, to my Uncle William Malrose Spencer II, who passed it on to my dad, Allen Lewis Spencer, with the request that we keep it in our family. We have had several violinists in our family, my sister Allyn, and my daughter Corrie, to name two. The violin is in great condition, and has been well used throughout the years.

My grandfather, Allen, enjoyed jamming with his brother-in-law, Albert, who was playing the accordion. I can imagine that their jam session was a lively time, as those two instruments don’t usually go together. Nevertheless, when a couple of brothers get together and try to outdo each other in their play, and from what I have seen of these two brothers, they liked to joke around. They always seem to have a twinkle in their eyes in the pictures I’ve seen. I have a feeling that the brothers could be…maybe a little mischievious.
Grandpa's Violin
When we received the violin, it occurred to me that this was a pearl of great price, so to speak. Maybe the name engraved on the back reduces the value in the eyes of an antique dealer, but it only increases the value to us. So often you have very little that belonged to your great great grandfather…especially when he died 73 years before you were born. That is the real thing that gives it value to me and my family. This was something that my great great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather, my uncle, and my dad all took pleasure in, and something my mom, my sisters, and our families will all take pleasure in for years to come…because it was my great great grandfather’s violin.

Kristin SpencerMy cousin’s daughter, Kristin has always been an amazing girl. Her parents, Bill and Maureen have kept us up to date on her activities through the years…mostly by pictures and letters, since they live in Wisconsin, and we are in Wyoming. Kristin has always seemed like the shy type, but that is mostly because knowing someone in letters and pictures isn’t quite the same as knowing them in person, and when you come and visit, and you are a kid, it’s hard to find things to talk about. Nevertheless, Kristin was very sweet, and we all enjoyed the visiting with her, when she and her family brought her grandpa, my Uncle Bill out for a visit in 2007. It was very nice to get to know both Kristin and our cousin, Cody, who is my cousin, Jimmy’s son, and we are so glad they all made that trip so that Uncle Bill and his brother, my dad could see each other one last time.

As I said, we had kept track of Kristin and her activities mostly through letters and pictures, but now that she is on Facebook, I expect that we will get to know her even better. Kristin has been in Karate since she was just a small child, and at this still young age, she is a black belt, so while she is not physically real big, she definitely carries a big stick, so anyone who gets in her way, might want to keep that in mind. Of course, like most kids who have taken Karate, her abilities would never be used to bully others, but only as protection for herself or for others. I have never had the pleasure of watching her compete, but I can imagine how great she must be since she is a black belt.

Now that Kristin is in middle school, she has begun to branch out into some new interests, one of which is drama. No, I don’t mean the kind that involves screaming insanely, but Spencer visitrather the kind that involves being in plays. Her drama group just finished performing “Once Upon A Mattress” and from what I’m told, the play went very well. I have never seen her act, but with Kristin’s ability to excel in all she does, I can imagine that she is an excellent actress.

Kristin has grown so quickly from the shy little girl who came to visit us in 2007, into a beautiful young lady who I am proud to call my cousin. I know that she will go on to make her parents and the rest of her family very proud. Today is Kristin’s birthday. Happy birthday Kristin!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

Getting a group of people together for pictures can be trying under the best of circumstances, and when you get a group of kids together…well, all bets are off. You don’t know if the kids will cooperate or if some will cry and some will laugh hysterically. You would expect that as the people get older, they might be able to control their emotions for just a second so the picture could turn out good, but, it seems there is always one in every crowd. In Bob’s dad’s family, that one that was a big cut up, was Bob. Maybe it was being the first boy in the bunch that drove him to goofiness, or maybe all those girls drove him crazy. Either way, he often ended up being the one with the funny face, because something struck him as funny at the most inopportune moment. When you think about it, it wasn’t such a bad thing…at least not this time, but I suppose that his mom wasn’t too amused at the look on his face.

Bob has always been one to laugh a lot, and most of the time it is very amusing…especially when he is laughing about a television show and you are not in the same room with him. When you hear that laughter from another part of the house, you have no idea what is so funny, but you laugh about it anyway. It was too hard not to. His laugh is a bit contagious. Still, the faces he often made as a child in pictures that were being taken, were probably irritating to his mom who wanted the pictures to be the best ever. Bob, like many little boys, just couldn’t keep a straight face, or sit still for that matter. It just wasn’t in him.

Looking at these pictures now from the viewpoint of having tried with my kids and grandkids, I can understand how she could be upset, but whether you wanted more serious pictures or not, you just have to admit that that one little funny face in that crowd of more serious ones did add a flavor to the picture that was all its own. He wasn’t trying to be bad, he was just wiggly, like boys are, and probably really wished they would just get this stuff done already so he could go back outside to play, because who wanted to sit still for pictures anyway. Yep, there is one in every crowd, and in that crowd, Bob was that one.

 

Isaac, who is the youngest son of my niece, Jenny and her husband, Steve, has always seemed like the quiet one. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that Isaac isn’t all boy. He and his brothers are very rough and tumble. They are always wrestling around, and playing all the tough boy games that boys love. Issac may be the youngest of the 3 boys, but he is no quitter. He will take on his big brothers in any game.

There is one area of Isaac’s life that requires a little bit of a softer touch, however. That is in the area of his little baby sister, Aleesia. You can’t play rough with babies, and Isaac is definitely up for that challenge. Isaac has been the baby of the family for a long time, and he wanted to be the big brother for quite a while now. His big brothers got to be big brothers and now…finally it was his turn. And, think Isaac is doing a wonderful job as big brother.

For now Isaac and his big brothers will have to be gentle with Aleesia, because she is just a little girl, but I think she might want to get busy and grown up tough, because I think the day will come when they will decide that she can handle their type of play. Girls with brothers do tend to be tomboys sometimes…at least until their teens. Then I think Isaac will find himself in charge of making sure nobody picks on her…self appointed in charge.

Isaac is an all around good brother and tough guy, because being the youngest of 3 boys demands that you be able to handle yourself. I remember when he was pretty little, and the older boys still wrestled around with him. I guess with brothers, it’s get tough or cry. Now, mind you, they weren’t mean. It’s just that boys will be boys, and Isaac needed to figure that out right away. And it worked out really well, because all the boys are good friends, and on one thing they all agree…their sister, Aleesia is the best sister a guy could ever ask for. And I think Isaac is the best big brother a girl could ever ask for too.

As a little girl, my mom was always on the go. She had long slender legs that she though were too skinny at the time. Don’t most of us wish we had such a problem these days.  Of course, most kids, especially back then were in pretty good shape. Kids didn’t sit in front of the television set…probably because they didn’t have one, but even if they had, they probably wouldn’t have watched it much. It just wasn’t what kids did back then.

Mom didn’t really change very much over the years. She was still slender even after having 5 children. I have looked at pictures of her over the years, and I always notice her tiny shoulders…which are so unlike my own, not huge, but square shoulders. She looked like a little kid in our family pictures while I was in high school. I just couldn’t believe just how tiny she was. She didn’t look like she could possibly be the mom.

One thing I will never forget about my mom is how fast she could walk. When she was working at Kmart, she was over a huge department. When we would go over to take her breaks with her, she was really hard to keep up with. She was walking, but we practically had to run to keep up with her. Talk about power walking, my mom was an expert at it. If we showed up for her break and she was getting something for a customer, or to stock the shelves…well, good luck trying to catch her.. She was a woman on a mission, and you were going to have to run to let her know you were there.

Of course, time, knee problems, and age have take their toll now, and mom can no longer walk so fast. She still gets around pretty well, but the days of the power walk are over for her. It’s funny that in our minds we still think we could do it…at least for a while, but in reality, we don’t realize the ability is gone until it is long gone, and then we can only look back sadly, and wish we could get those days back…somehow.

There is a country music song by Brad Paisley, called “He Didn’t Have To Be” about a step-dad who was more of a dad than a real dad ever was. After talking with my cousin, JeanAnn, I am convinced that those words describe my cousin Elmer, JeanAnn’s uncle very well too. JeanAnn was a little girl with a need, and Elmer became the dad to JeanAnn, that he didn’t have to be…he chose to be. JeanAnn tells me that Elmer raised her, like she was his own daughter, stepping in to fill a void that desperately needed filling, and not only helped a little girl who needed it, but filled her heart with so much joy and pride, that when she speaks of him, it all comes flowing out like a beautiful waterfall.

When JeanAnn was a very little girl, Elmer bought her a Tweety Bird that said “Hello Buddy!” He and JeanAnn always used to say that to each other, but JeanAnn was to little to say it right, so it came out “Hello Bud!” The name stuck, and Elmer became forever Uncle Bud, and I have a feeling he didn’t mind that, because his very special little niece gave that name to him. Rewards just don’t come sweeter than that!

Some of her fondest memories happened in the month of July. She tells me that she can’t remember one year, except the few that she didn’t live in Casper, that she didn’t spend July 4th with her uncle. Back when you could set off fireworks on your own, they shot off fireworks in Glenrock, along with the occasional hillside fire, of course. Sometimes, they watched the fireworks displays from Elmer’s shop, where she got to play with the various gadgets he had made or bought. Later, when he got a boat, they often spent July 4th at the lake, watching the displays, boating and playing in the water. JeanAnn never had to worry about missing out on the festivities, because she had an uncle who was so good to her, even though he didn’t have to be. When the fair rolled around, JeanAnn always got to go. At the fair, she and her Uncle Bud would ride all the rides. One year he had hurt his back, so JeanAnn was worried that he might not be able to go, but he still took her, and rode the rides with her. She was a teenager by then, and his giving nature meant so much to her. Elmer was always there when she needed him.

Now JeanAnn is grown, with children of her own, who need a man in their lives too. Uncle Bud stepped right in, without ever being asked, and did the same things for Mykenzie and Ethan. He took Kenzie to her first father/daughter dance, and was there for Ethan’s first play. He spent 2 hours last Christmas putting a Lego toy together for Ethan. He has done so many things for JeanAnn, Kenzie, and Ethan, that there simply isn’t enough room here. Just suffice it to say that when other men wouldn’t do for their children, Uncle Bud came to the rescue for at least 3 of them, and became the surrogate dad…he didn’t have to be.

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