My niece, Chantel Balcerzak says of her husband Dave Balcerzak, “Life isn’t necessarily exciting, but maybe that in itself is pretty exciting. I read once that contentment started in your 50s. At the time, about 20 years ago, I thought if it was true then it was rude!! Nevertheless, it is true. Dave and I are content, occasionally blissful, and far more confident than I ever imagined. He’s a genius, he diets until he’s done or not! Either way he’s a total stud!! He works on his car or plays video games, and we take walks. We are content…nowhere near finished…content.” What a beautiful sentiment. I think lots of us in our “beyond 50s years” feel the same way, but we have never really put it into words, and certainly never quite so eloquently.

Dave has been such a good role model for his kid and bonus kids, who never consider him their stepdad. He is just “Dad” to them, and he was there when he didn’t have to be, but he chose to be. My grandniece, Siara Kirk (his bonus daughter) tells me that if Dave has to be up early, before Chantel gets up, “He also leaves the cutest notes for my mom in the morning, when he wakes up and leaves before she wakes up.” It’s an endearing thing for Siara to see her mom so loved. And it’s such a beautiful thing for Chantel to wake up to.

Dave, Chris Kirk (Siara’s husband), and her brother, Jake Harman (Dave’s bonus son) all three-way call each other to play video games. It’s one of the ways they stay connected in a busy world. Dave is always so welcoming to everyone and so kind. Siara has multiple customers, at the banks where she works, who Dave helps to fix their computers…always for a good price, and they adore him. I can totally relate to that, because he is my computer guy too…and in fact really bailed me out when he managed to rescue all of my many photographs after my hard drive totally crashed. The photographs were irreplaceable. Needless to say, I cried when he saved them!!

Dave also helps all the older people in the neighborhood when they need help!! That is so sweet, because as we all know, it’s hard for the elderly population to get some of the things done that they need done around their houses every day. And while it can be a bit comical, such as the lady across the street who always puts the batteries in her television remote backwards, Dave never laughs at her. He just goes over and fixes the remote for her. Dave is always very supportive of Chantel’s endeavors. Chantel loves to paint. She is a great artist, and even like painting houses, which could become a new career. Currently she is planning to paint Siara and Chris’ home, and so in true Dave style, he surprised Chantel with a “fancy paint gun” so she would have what she needed to succeed. Siara says, “He is always so encouraging and believes in his loved ones more than they do at times.” Dave also loves to go on trips with Siara, Chris, and Chantel. They have such a great time. They have attended football games at the University of Wyoming, as well as, attending the “Hairball” concert. They all had a great time.

When it comes to his dogs, all bets are off. Dave is a “sucker” for those puppy faces. They can usually get away with just about anything…unless Chantel steps in to “make them” behave. Nevertheless, the dogs know that if they “smile” for “Daddy” they will get a treat, and Dave can never refuse. He is just too soft hearted, and the pups know it, but Dave isn’t the only one to ever find himself in that position. A dog lover is a dog lover, and those pups know it. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Motivating your child to get good grades is a difficult task sometimes. Let’s face it, a child who struggles in school, doesn’t see getting a dollar for each “A” grade, as being an achievable prize. Of course, the goal has to be something the child can do, or they will give up before they start, so for a child who struggles, the dollar might be for a “C” or something. Maybe the goal needs to be broken down by weeks to help the struggling student, or even by assignment. When you have a student who struggles with school, you will pretty much do anything…including treats to get them to try harder to get good grades, because as we all know, a student who excels in school, can almost write their own ticket in life. College and jobs even come easier for them.

With all that being said, I suppose that I will sound like my parents, who like most parents of people my age, walked ten miles to school, uphill both ways, but when I was in school, we didn’t get rewarded for our grades. Maybe it just wasn’t done then, but for us, that was the way it was. So when I hear of paying a child for grades, I have mixed feelings about it. I’m not exactly opposed to paying for grades, because it is the child’s job, after all, and I expect to be paid for my work. Still, by the same token, I would have to wonder if it shouldn’t also be that a poor grade costs the child then. I mean, if I am a great driver, and I get a speeding ticket, I have to pay the penalty too, even if I haven’t had one in ten years. And shouldn’t a child just naturally want to learn things. No, not really. When I was in grade school, history was the most boring subject in existence, and yet today, I research events in history for my stories. I guess that if it is something you really love, you don’t need any motivation, but if it isn’t something you really love, no matter how big the amount of motivation you are offered, it will not make you love that subject.

Still, some people take things a little be too far, in my opinion. Such was the case in a story I read the other day. It went like this: “My elder brother has a son. He has just started school. My brother buys him toys, different devices, and new clothes to motivate him. When I was in my first year in school, he promised me that if I finished school with excellent grades, I would be able to have a tooth made of gold. I was really enthusiastic for many years.” Now, I don’t know about you, but a gold tooth would not really motivate me to get better grades. Still, to each his own. I suppose that to a young boy, a gold tooth might sound like the coolest thing ever…at least for a time. As you read in the story, even that great motivator didn’t do the trick forever.

Like most things, as kids get older, that dollar isn’t quite the motivator it used to be either. Kids, these days, know how little a dollar can buy, and when you think about it, it’s really hard for a kid to stay motivated for nine weeks…just to make a dollar. I guess that if parents are going to use a reward system motivator, they are going to have to keep up with the times, and upgrade that motivator periodically so it will be the study aid they are hoping for. Or maybe my parents had the right idea after all, which was pretty much, get good grades…or else!! And I think I’ll leave that right there.

scan0033_editedscan0056 (2)When my daughter, Amy Royce and her family moved to Washington and bought a house, she found herself the proud owner of a walnut tree and an apple tree. Her husband, Travis is the only one who really likes walnuts, but they all like apples. I think most people do. When the apples ripened, they picked them…lots of them. Then came the decision about what to make with them. For Amy, it was really a non-decision, because she knew she wanted to make Apple Butter…mostly because it reminded her of her great grandma, Vina Hein.

Every summer of Amy and her sister, Corrie Petersen’s childhood, Bob and I took them to visit their Grandma and Grandpa Hein. It was there that the girls first tasted Apple Butter. Since that time, Amy thought of imageGrandma Hein every time she ate Apple Butter. Corrie doesn’t like apples, so I guess Apple Butter is nothing special to her, but Amy…like the rest of us does, and Apple Butter is a very special. Having it remind us of Grandma Hein is icing on the cake. It’s a memory treat because she comes to mind when we eat it.

Going to visit Grandma and Grandpa Hein was more than just real cream, cows milk, and Apple Butter, though. The time we spent with them was precious. They were such an important part of our lives and we loved visiting them. We played cards, and the kids played with the toys grandma had, but it was still more than that. Grandma told us about her childhood, and showed us pictures of the family. It gave us a sense of belonging. We did belong, of course, but we found out how we belonged. Our visits were so much fun and the girls got to know their grandparents, and that was the most important thing, after all. There were other family members there too, and the girls got to know them too, but there was just something special about being able to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa.
Her style of cooking was very much ranch style. They butchered their own beef, and Grandma made all kinds of beef sausage that was used for sandwiches. They canned fruit, and the fruit with real cream was the dessert. Eggs from their chickens and toast with Apple Butter, were staples for breakfast…and plenty of coffee with real cream, which has ruined regular cream from the store for me. But the biggest memory for Amy, was the Apple Butter, so to be able to make it at home now is the best memory treat there could ever be.

If you were ever a kid, you have played this one…the secret clubhouse.  Ours was located in the attic of my parents garage. It was enclosed so we could walk around, provided we were careful not to step between the rafters and thereby through the floor.  We spent a lot of time up there in the secret clubhouse…friends and sisters alike. It was just a great hangout. Of course, we had to have a president, vice president, and secretary/treasurer. Not that any of these positions really had any kind of an official job, except possibly the secretary part. She had to take the minutes of the meetings. Not that much ever happened at the meetings, besides maybe deciding on the treats for the next meeting. The main thing I remember about the offices of our secret meetings is that the names of the officers were written on the walls of the attic. They are probably still there to this day.

Secret club meetings can be held in a variety of places, because lets face it, not everyone can meet in the attic of their garage. Some are held in bedrooms, some outside…sometimes in a box, and some even in spare bathrooms…anywhere that kids can hide from the rest of the world and spend a little time in a fantasy world. They might pretend to be spies, which I know we did, or they might play school, which always strikes me as funny, since they don’t seem to want to go to school in real life. I’m not sure what makes it different in the world of make believe, except maybe the recess is a lot longer. Or they might even plan a play to be presented to their parents…or the neighborhood…for a fee, of course, since the dues weren’t ever really enough for the treats needed at the meetings. Thank goodness for mom or grandma for providing the necessary treats for the meetings, but our goal was always to be able to make that all important trip to the store to get special treats.

My girls had their secret club meetings, as did my grandchildren. It was always fun to watch them…from a distance, of course…no adults allowed you know, and remember when that was me, my sisters and friends holding our secret meetings and planning whatever it was that was on the agenda that day. I would love to show you pictures of those meetings, but everybody knows that there are no cameras allowed in the secret club meetings!! It just isn’t done. In fact the only evidence of secret club meetings is a few scattered and discarded notes, and maybe some empty dishes to point out the fact that the secret members were here. And once the cleaning lady came through, no evidence at all.

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