Babies are always so much fun, and that is what my great grand-niece, Reece Balcerzak is about to find out, as she gets ready to meet her new little brother, Aysa Bruce Bowen Balcerzak, who made his appearance on November 8, 2021. Aysa weighed 7 pounds 5 ounces, and he was 19 inches long. Aysa was a little more cooperative than his big sister, in that he only arrived Just over two weeks early, while his big sister arrived just over two months early, after her mom and dad stayed at Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Hospital in Denver for two weeks trying to buy a little bit of time for baby Reece. Then she had to be in the hospital in Denver for the next 60 days before she was big enough and healthy enough to go home. With the problems his big sister had, Aysa’s parents were a little apprehensive when they found out they were pregnant again. They had just about decided that they would a “one and done,” as little Aysa’s daddy, Keifer Balcerzak said, when Aysa’s mom, Katie Balcerzak told his daddy that she was pregnant. They were excited, but also a little worried that they would have a repeat of their daughter’s birth. In the end, Aysa wasn’t in quite as big a hurry to get here as his sister was…thankfully.

Aysa is a sweet little boy who is a joy to his parents, but in the beginning the early tests said that he was going to be a girl. His parents began preparing for a second daughter, and then…when the ultrasound was done, Aysa had pulled off a surprise of his own. I guess, that his surprise was a little easier to deal with that Reece’s had been, because hers was downright dangerous, while his was a few little changes. I mean, you can’t go around putting your little boy in little girl clothes. Well, I guess you could, but he might not appreciate it down the road when the family albums come out, and here he is in a frilly pink dress. No, that would just never do. Aysa would need boy clothes, so the baby shower gifts would have to be exchanged. Boy clothes these days, are just as cute as girl clothes, so it will be fun for his parents to dress him up too. It used to be that boys got plain pants and a plain shirt, but now they get trucks, puppies, and tractors on their clothes, along with other animals and vehicles too, so the clothes are cool, and Aysa’s parents will have lots of fun with his outfits too.

Aysa and his parents are still in the hospital at this point, because Katie had a C-section delivery, and with Covid restrictions, Reece has only seen her baby brother via video chat. At this point, she thinks he is pretty cool and she can’t wait to hold him. Her mom is hoping that stays that way. As we all know, when a baby comes home the older sibling is usually excited, until the baby starts crying or needs a stinky diaper changed. After that, they sometimes want to send that baby back. Hahahaha!! Nevertheless, even though the older siblings sometimes have a little “buyer’s remorse” initially, they usually find that they really love their new baby and being the big sister or big rother is really a very cool thing. Reece is such a smiley girl anyway, that I think she will have no trouble helping her little brother smile too. I’m so excited for the whole family, and I can’t wait to meet baby Aysa Bruce Bowen Balcerzak in the near future. Congratulations to Katie, Keifer, Reece, and the whole family!!

My uncle, Lester “Jim” Wolfe was always a crazy guy…in a good way, of course. He loved to play tricks on people, but always in good fun. Whenever he and my dad, Al Spencer got together, you knew that they were going to do the craziest of things. I don’t remember all the antics these brother-in-law pulled, not the crazy food they made, like onion and mustard sandwiches.

Uncle Jim and Aunt Ruth were always the kind of people who liked surprises. Often, they would show up at our house unannounced…from several states away, mind you. I suppose that it was a risky maneuver, from the aspect of making that long trip without getting to see the people they came to see. If we were out of town when they showed up, they never told us they had missed us. I’m not sure how they managed to find us home when they came, because our family often took trips too. My dad and his sister, Ruth had always loved to see the nation, and both did a lot of traveling in their day. When they showed up at our house, it was cause for celebration. It was just like coming home to a surprise party!! One surprise on Uncle Jim in his life was that his son-in-law, Wayne “Shorty” Cameron shared his birthday with him. I’m sure Uncle Jim liked that very much.

While they were here, we might go camping, have barbecues, or just hang out. It didn’t really matter what we did, because having them here made things more fun. We also loved seeing our cousins in the early years, but as they got older, it was often just Uncle Jim and Aunt Ruth that came. Our own lives got busier too, of course. Marriages and kids made it harder to spend as much time with them on those visits as we used to. Still, when they were in town, we spent as much time with them as we could. I miss those days. Today would have been Uncle Jim’s 99th birthday, and Shorty’s 79th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Jim and Shorty. We love and miss you both very much.

For my nephew, Shannon, Moore, life has taken some big route changes recently. Of course, he biggest change is that Shannon became a daddy to daughter, Mackenzie Rose, on September 12, 2017. Shannon is a great daddy, and I totally taken by his little girl. She is his little princess, and he is totally wrapped around her little finger. Of course, Mackenzie has an adorable face, and she is always smiling, so it’s not hard to get wrapped around her little finger. Shannon loves every part of dad life. Many men aren’t so sure about things like diapers and such, but He is incredibly hands on. Whatever Mackenzie needs, Shannon is ready to provide. He handles diapers, feedings, comforting, all with ease.

Shannon loves to do woodworking. He has spent a lot of time this summer on projects around their house. For about a month, Lindsay and Mackenzie came to Wyoming for a visit, and Shannon too that opportunity to create a surprise for Lindsay…and brand new deck. Lindsay was so surprised, and she says it’s just gorgeous!! He also built a some new chairs to go with it!! Shannon likes to keep busy with all the little woodworking projects he has going. Woodworking is a great hobby.

Shannon is a coach for the Eastern Carolina University Pirates football team, and is entering his third season. He has been the special teams coach, but this year he is the tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator. Coaching any area of football is something, Shannon has done, but Recruiting Coordinator is a new position for him. Nevertheless, like everything he does, Shannon will excel it too. Lindsay says that it really is his element! Organization and getting to know people! And that is something we all knew. Shannon is a very social person, and can strike up a conversation with just about anyone.

While Shannon loves his job and meeting people, his heart is always at home with his girls. The first time I met Shannon, I could see just how deep his love for Lindsay was,and now that they have their sweet little daughter, I can see that his life is complete…well, at least until the next baby comes along, down the road. Then, both he and Lindsay will wonder how they ever managed without that baby too…just like they have felt with Mackenzie. The great thing about being parents, is that with each new baby, the love just grows bigger and bigger. There is always room for more. Today is Shannon’s birthday. Happy birthday Shannon!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My son-in-law, Travis Royce is a man of many talents, who never brags on himself. He is really a very humble man. He loves do home improvement projects and make things in general. Last year, while his family was visiting us out in Wyoming, Travis was home building a beautiful patio area for Amy at home. Because Travis and Amy like to make wine, Travis wanted to incorporate wine into the design, so he used wine bottles as the spindles on the rail. It is such a cool, and unique idea, a one that is not surprising when Travis makes something. He has really unique ideas, and with his tendency to try to surprise people with his work, Travis is a man with a flair for the unexpected.

According to my granddaughter, Shai Royce, her dad “loves home improvement projects, reading, especially about history, comedy, Kung Foo, football, playing guitar, and the three of us.” The three of them being his family, my daughter, Amy, and their kids, Shai and Caalab. Most of Travis’ likes were things I knew about, but Kung Foo surprised me. Not sure what to make of that, I asked Shai is he was taking classes in Kung Foo, but she said no, almost laughing I’m sure, it’s Kung Foo movies he likes. In fact, he and Shai used to watch Kung Foo movies together when she was a little girl. Travis loves to barbecue and entertain. He is a great cook, often cooking breakfast for his family, but he is really in his element when he is barbecuing. He loves making wine to share with his family and friends, and what better time to share wine than when you have friends over to barbecue. With Travis sense of humor, it’s always great time.

The past couple of years, Travis has stepped out of his element to a degree, when the whole family decided to bowl on a bowling league. It was a lot of fun for all of them this year, and they were more than a little bit surprised to find that they had taken fist place. They have been invited to bowl in a county wide tournament for the county championship in Bellingham this Saturday and they are looking forward to that. Then, they found out that Travis had taken most improved bowler award…improving his average by 13 pins. I’d say that it has been a pretty good year for Travis, and we wish him many more great years in the future. Today is Travis’ birthday. Happy birthday Travis!! Have a great day! We love you!!

Aunt Ruth  for bookmarksCaryn PictureEvery time I think of my Aunt Ruth Wolfe, which is often, because I remind myself of her so much, I can easily see how much alike we are, and yet how very different. We were both passionate about a sport. For her it was horseback riding and racing. For me it was gymnastics. Aunt Ruth could handle horses as if they were an extension of herself. I never watched her ride or race, that I can recall, but I have seen pictures of her with her horses. It was so clear to me that she loved each and every one of them, and they loved her too. Her ability to ride was amazing. My Uncle Bill Spencer, her brother, told of the races she had won, and you could tell that he was so proud of his little sister, and her wonderful ability. I know he was, because of the number of pictures of her with her horses that graced the family history that Uncle Bill so lovingly put together.

Aunt Ruth could pick up any musical instrument and play like an expert, which is one of the areas she and I differ, because I can’t play any musical instrument. From what my cousin, Shirley Cameron has told me, her mom was able to play any instrument instinctively…and she played them beautifully. In my defense, I am more of a techy or geek, whichever you prefer. When it comes to computers, I can instinctively maneuver just about any area I need to. I don’t know if Aunt Ruth ever had a chance to use a computer, but my guess is that she didn’t. However, I have a feeling that she might have been quite capable too, at least she would have been if I’m right about how much we were alike.

The other ways that Aunt Ruth reminds me of me, is that we look a lot alike, and we laugh a lot alike. I have pictures Ruth on a horseAunt Ruth and her race horsethat really remind me of my aunt, and every time I laugh, it is like going back in time. I am reminded of all the times that my family did things with Aunt Ruth’s family. Everything from trips together, to picnics, to times at their home or at ours. We always loved to have them come. It was so exciting to see them, and since they often surprised us, in the later years, it was like having a surprise birthday party. I really miss that. Today would have been Aunt Ruth’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Ruth. We love and miss you very much, and we will see you again very soon.

Chris PetersenThis past week, my grandsons, Chris Petersen and Caalab Royce, both made flying trips into Casper. Chris drove from Sheridan to celebrate his birthday, by driving with his mom, my daughter, Corrie Petersen and his brother, Josh to Fort Collins the next morning because his dad, my son-in-law, Kevin Petersen had taken his dad there for surgery. Kevin hated missing Chris’ birthday, but there seemed to be no other way…until Chris made that flying trip down from Sheridan. Caalab made his flying trip because of a birthday to…his sister, Shai’s. Caalab couldn’t stand the thought of his sister having her birthday without someone in her immediate family there. I was so proud of both of these boys, because the both have such thoughtful hearts.

If there is one thing I don’t like about having grown children and grandchildren, it is that they get so busy, and sometimes move so far away that they can’t come and visit their mom/grandma quite as often, and those flying trips seem to become the normal course of events. Still, each one has to live their life in the way the choose. I’m learning that more and more, and I know it will become more and more the future, whether my family lives near me or not. For me now, the thing to do is to cherish each and every flying trip as it comes along…especially the surprise ones, like the trip my grandson, Caalab made this time.

In reality, I’m sure there will be a number of flying trips I will take to visit my kids and grandkids too. You can’t Caalab & Shai ago to another state for a week, see all the sights, spend time with your kids and grandkids, and not have it be a flying trip. Those trips are filled with running here and there moments, because you want to do everything you can in the time you have, so you can make memories of the events that will last until you see your loved one again.

My grandson, Chris had to head back to Sheridan on Tuesday, and my grandson Caalab flies back to Bellingham, Washington late today. I’m sad that they were such quick trips, but I am so thankful that I got to see my two precious grandsons, who don’t live in Casper. And every time those who live away, head back home, I find myself feeling thankful for those who still live here. It keeps loneliness at bay.

Spencer FamilyGrowing up, I recall that my sisters and I were often called, with a degree of surprise, the Spencer girls. I know that a lot of people would say that was simply our last name, but that didn’t really seem to be the reason. Even our boyfriends got that. People would say, “You are going out with one of the Spencer girls?” like they were shocked about it…or like they wondered how they had managed to live through meeting our dad…which couldn’t have been further from the truth about how our dad was. I know that some dads are the kind of guy who practically threatens any guy who wants to take out their daughters, with bodily harm if they break her heart. Now, don’t get me wrong, because our dad would have done whatever he needed to do to protect his daughters, but he was a man who would give a guy the benefit of the doubt…until they proved that they were trouble. Nevertheless, every guy we went out with was a Knot Head!! I suppose that was Dad’s way of saying that, in his opinion, no guy was good enough for his little girls…and believe me, most of them weren’t. The keepers were the ones who showed Dad that they weren’t Knot Heads.

We used to get…almost annoyed with Dad when he called guys Knot Heads, but deep inside, we knew that it was really his way of telling us that he wanted the very best for us, and this guy would have to prove himself before he would believe that he was worthy of our love. He wanted us to have men in our lives who would be good to us, treat us like ladies, protect us, and most of all, love us…until death we do part. How could we ever really be mad at him about that? It simply showed the love our dad had for his daughters…and down the road, granddaughters and grandsons, although the girlfriends weren’t Knot Heads.

Dad always had a way about him. He was able to tease us about boyfriends and yet, really mean that he wasn’t sure this guy was any good. Even while we protested at the name he gave them, we knew that it was more about us than the guy. He wanted us to know that his love for his daughters made him doubt most of the guys we went out with. He knew what most teenaged boys and even young men in their twenties were really like. Marriage and respect weren’t what they had in mind…unless they were the right guy, and that guy would endure the scrutiny and the doubt, and go on to prove to Dad and his daughters that they were the kind of men Dad wanted for his daughters…and not the Knot Head that he had thought them to be.

Looking back now, I am thankful for the scrutiny my dad used to view the men we dated, because it was through that scrutiny that I ended up with my husband, Bob. Yes, Bob was a Knot Head when we first started dating, just like every other guy I dated, but in later years, after he endured the scrutiny and passed the test, Dad often told me how proud he was of Bob. He liked him a lot, and respected him very much. Dad knew he could count on Bob to help out when anyone in the family needed help, but more importantly, he knew that Bob would be there for me throughout our lives. And he was right. Bob had proved himself, and in the last days of Dad’s life, Dad knew that he could count on Bob to help with the caregiving work that was needed in our family as well as in Bob’s, because Bob was definitely no longer a Knot Head.

scan0027Few things change your life more that the entrance of a child into it. Whether it is your own baby, or your grandbaby…it makes no difference. Each one changes everything, but the first…well, that is a different thing. When my first daughter, Corrie came into this world on June 30, 1975, it would change many lives. Parents who weren’t parents before, now were. Grandparents who weren’t grandparents before, now were. And aunts and an uncle who weren’t aunts or an uncle before, now were. Things would never be the same again. You simply have no idea how much a child changes things, until you have one.

Corrie’s entrance was exciting for so many people, in both of our families, but Bob’s family hadn’t had babies by any of the children yet, so she was a scan0098first, and that is why it was such a life changing event. Of course, Corrie’s great grandmother was probably the most excited, because Corrie was born on her birthday. Still,  there is just something about a grandpa’s first grandchild that makes that event very hard to top. My father-in-law was so excited to be a grandpa. In many ways he reminds me of how much I wanted to be a grandma…a fact to which my girls can attest. My father-in-law is so much like Bob with babies and little kids. Those little ones steal their heart, and they never get it back. They are gone on those babies, and I think that first one was quite a surprise. Men sometimes don’t realize how much they can be impacted by such a little teeny baby, but I think my father-in-law was just like me when my grandbabies arrived. He knew that he would be wrapped around  that little girl’s baby finger for the rest of his  life, and that…was just fine.

Bob was probably the one who surprised me the most, although I don’t know why. I guess Bob & Corriegoing from being my boyfriend to husband to the father of my children, was something that my mind couldn’t wrap itself around where he was concerned. Bob went from being a strong, tough guy, kind of person to being so totally gone on his daughter, that I couldn’t believe it. The look on his face when he held Corrie was so soft…so loving…so amazed. I knew in that moment that he, like me, was forever changed by the entrance of this little tiny girl. It truly was a life changing event. Today is Corrie’s birthday, and while she is a mom now herself, and has twice made us grandparents, she will always be our baby. Happy birthday Corrie!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you very much!!

When I was a little kid, we sometimes got to take our vacations with my Uncle Bill’s family. My dad and his brother were close, and while they unfortunately lived a long way from each other, they really enjoyed spending time together, and getting the families together too. It was always a wonderful treat for us to get to see Uncle Bill and Aunt Doris and the kids. Uncle Bill was always such a kidder, so between him and my dad, the vacations were filled with laughter. I think I would have loved to see the two of them as boys, pulling their little…or as was usually the case with those boys, big antics.

On this particular trip, we had stopped at Wall Drug in South Dakota. Now for those of you who have never been there, this is not your everyday drug store. It is practically an amusement park without the rides. There were all kinds of talking displays, dinosaurs, Indian artifacts, pottery, rocks, souvenirs, and it’s free, except the souvenirs and food. How much of that do you see these days?

We were pretty much free to browse around, and of course, like most kids, we looked for things we might like to talk our parents into buying for us. I’m sure to the adults, we must have looked quite funny. Running around from this item to that…finding each item more interesting than the last one. I guess the good news is that we were all occupied, and there was no fighting going on. And believe me, my sisters and I were pretty much professional souvenir shoppers. It could take hours to decide, unless our parents said to hurry up so we could go.

On this particular trip, Uncle Bill and Aunt Doris wanted to buy something special for their nieces, my sisters and me. We did not know this, however, so while we were making up our minds on a souvenir, they were watching us. I don’t recall if our parents just told us we could get something somewhere else, or just got us some little thing, but whatever it was, we didn’t leave there with the items we would have treasured most, because there was a bit of a conspiracy going on. And here I thought a person was supposed to be able to trust their parents, aunts, and uncles, but now, I know better!!

Later that night, my aunt and uncle surprised each of us with a gift…the very thing we had wanted the most. They secretly bought us those things, and my uncle took pictures of each of us opening the gift, so they could see what we thought of them. It was a wonderful surprise. Uncle Bill and Aunt Doris were always so good to us. They made us feel special whenever we were with them…and not just because they bought us something either. They were just always very sweet to us, and we loved them very much. These days we don’t get to see as much of them as we used to, but I want them both to know that we love both them very much!!

With boys, hugs and kissed usually stop in their toddler years…at least what we all know as PDA’s (public displays of affection). They are learning to be a man after all, and men don’t show emotion right?? I used to think that it was mostly boys whose dads were worried about them being wimps that caused their sons to act this way. Of course, this thought came from a woman who had 4 sisters and no brothers, and then 2 daughters and no sons. I know better now that I have 3 grandsons and only one granddaughter. Boys instinctively know that they have to be tough, and just like girls who are learning to be nurturing by playing with their dolls, boys learn toughness by pushing back their emotions…and the first thing to go is those good old PDA’s. I mean, “A guy could get beat up” right!!

The good news is that those things will come back into play when they get to the point where they actually like girls again, which must happen after the girls get over their case of the cooties, or the boys get vaccinated from them anyway, because as we all know cooties are the worst germ out there!! So as women, we either need to vaccinate our little boys against cooties…try convincing them that the shot is a good idea…or wait the whole thing out and plan on missing those kisses and hugs until we lose the cooties.

Sometimes, however, something a little boy does is so sweet and thoughtful, and it takes you so by surprise, that you can’t get it out of your mind. It’s almost as if they forget themselves for a moment and just let the emotions flow out of them. Last night I was having dinner at my mom’s house with Mom, my sister Cheryl, and her kids, Rob and his wife Dustie and their kids, Christina, Raelynn and her friend, Matthew, and Audrianna. I was sitting in the chair that was right in front of the door as you walked into the house. As they arrived, the girls all came in and said hello to me, as did their parents. But, when Matthew came in, he walked straight up to me and gave me a big hug!! Now, I am his great aunt, and I know he loves me, but most of the time when I see him, I either have to expect that there will be no kiss or hug coming, or I might get one after the wrestling match it takes to get him down long enough to steal one. Not so last night. That sweet little boy came right up to me and hugged me. I almost cried. It was a precious moment. Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that he will continue to do that, because he is only 6 years old, but it was such a loving and thoughtful gesture, that I think I can let the times when he doesn’t do it slide, because he is after all…only 6 years old.

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