Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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Paper Cutout Kiddos


Hey, did you know I’m a mom? I have three sons. And all of them have made it to adulthood! 🙂

I learned most of what I know about parenting from my mom and her friends. Without knowing I was learning, of course. My parents were both really young when they first created their family. They got married when they were 18 and 19.

mom, dad and lindy

I was born two years later, so they were 20 and 21.

mom, dad and me

One day, I heard my mom say, “The first child should be made out of paper so you could throw them away.”

My mom wanted to throw me away?

Okay, that might not be everything she said, but it’s what I heard. My feelings were h-u-r-t. Mama didn’t like me. She wanted to put me in the dumpster. Waaaah!

Many years later I had kids of my own, and finally understood what she meant. She wished she’d had a disposable kid to make her mistakes on so she didn’t have to make them on her own kids. (I understand that now because I felt the same way.)

happy boys

I’m the mom who spanked the bed one time when she was supposed to give her son a spanking because I just didn’t have the heart to whip him. (Then I told him to cry.)

I’m the mom who told her son to cry LOUD the time she got pulled over by the highway patrol for speeding. (He didn’t, and I got a ticket.)

gotta feed the baby

And when my oldest son misbehaved in preschool, he strolled to the youth minister’s office (supposed to be like the principal’s office) crawled up in a chair and said, “So, what should we talk about?”

I didn’t make my kids take naps. (Send the nap police!)

My kids didn’t have bedtimes until they started school.

And when my cousin and his wife stayed with us for a few weeks, one son (2 or 3 years old at the time) stayed right up with every conversation. “So, what should we talk about now?”

And when he started school, he talked with the teachers just like he did his classmates.

I made lots of mistakes, and not only with the first one.

Maybe they all should have been made of paper, but they weren’t. Now they’re adults with beautiful wives, and I’m very proud to be their mom.


I just wonder where they learned to be the men they are.

Must have been from their dad.




A Nightmare for Christmas

Christmas in the post-War United States

There’s something that terrifies me, and I have nightmares about it every Christmas.

It stems from my childhood, back when I was tender and vulnerable. Back when things impressed me and made a big difference in my life.

I think I’ve mentioned that I have four sisters and a brother. Each Christmas, Mama turned herself inside out, doing her best to figure out what we really wanted for Christmas. (I might have said I wanted ice skates, but with not so cold weather and no place to skate, she knew I wouldn’t be happy.)

So she’d shop from can’t see to can’t see, getting just the right gifts for all of us.

On Christmas morning, we’d rush to the living room to see what we had under the tree.

This particular Christmas morning, we all looked at our gifts and were giddy with joy. All of us, except one.

Now if you know my sibs, you know we’re very individual people. Debbie’s sweet and loves to have people at her house, Jeffrey’s a caretaker/outdoorsman, Lisa’s a ton of fun, I’m weird, Omega’s a baby (well, she’s THE baby, anyway) and Cindy is quiet, plays well with others. (Well, we all play well with others, but she doesn’t a really good job of it.)

I don’t remember what I got that holiday morning or what any of the others got. I only remember Cindy’s response.

When we’d all finished and were admiring our take, Mom noticed Cindy was crying. When she asked what was wrong, Cindy answered.

Her answer is the stuff nightmares are made of . . . for me, anyway. She said, “I didn’t get anything I wanted for Christmas.”


Mama was devastated. I was devastated for her. In fact, I think the entire family nearly bawled when Cindy said those eight words. The very next day, though, Mama made up for it. She took Cindy to Tulsa and let her pick out just exactly what she wanted.

She got to keep all the gifts she’d been given that she didn’t want, and get new ones, too. (Maybe that’s when the rest of us bawled.)

So a few days before Christmas, I’ve always worried that come Christmas morning, when we’re all sitting around the tree unwrapping the presents I’ve so lovingly wrapped, I’d hear those horrible words.

I don’t think I could handle it.

Do you have a nightmare for Christmas?





Time Out

I had a surprise time out with my little friend yesterday.

My cousin had a phone call from a government agency, so I ran outside to get him. He’d taken our buddy out and was letting him play in the back of his pickup. Like the nice person I am (clears throat) I agreed to stay and play while Cousin Rick talked on the phone.

The ice cream truck had come buy, and Rick had ponied up–so I also was put in charge of an ice cream cone, with chocolate cookie crumbles and a dry napkin.

Deegers picked up the few tools in the back of the truck and told me their names as well as which ones were heavy. We wore cabled wire like a necklace and he let me hold a big stick–for a moment or two. Then he wanted to go see the “horse”.

Don’t forget, I’m still holding a melting ice cream cone. Every now and then, he’d take a little sip. (Usually when I wanted to throw it away.)

So we walked across the street

to the front of the Merchant’s Hotel, which is owned by a very nice lady. She has some things decorating the sidewalk in front of her building. Our favorite is a little concrete donkey, which my buddy calls Horse. He’s just the right height for Deegan to get on, all by himself. He holds on to the tall ears and acts like he’s riding him.

Behind the donkey is a concrete cart full of silk flowers. Deegan wanted me to let him ride in the cart, and even went so far as to take out one of the fifty or sixty flowers. (He put it back when instructed.)

Then we walked down the sidewalk while he named other items out there. “Shovel. Baby. Deer. Frog.” And because I knew what they were, I could understand him! 🙂

There’s a garden gnome on a low window sill, and he calls something I can’t understand. I’ll bet Rick knows, though.

He calls me Woo-Woo. Most of the kids (and some of the secretaries) call me Su-Su, so he’s close.

He says hat very clearly. LOL.

I told Granddaddy (Deegan says that fairly clearly) that we need to buy him a real horse, and I was hoping for a cart, too.

Dad answered, “What he needs is a pita-patay.”

Somehow, I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing.


Games We Played

English: Youths playing the Red Rover game.

English: Youths playing the Red Rover game. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember the days when the gang of kids in your neighborhood played outside together all summer long? We had so much fun, running, laughing and screaming our heads off until the sun went down and our parents flashed the porch light. (Time to go in.)

I found a button on the floor at work yesterday, so I went from room to room. When I got to the M & M office (Mallory and Mendy) I said,

Button, button–who’s got the button?

I got a strange–Do what?–look from M#1.

“Didn’t you play Button, Button when you were a kid?” I asked.

“I’ve never heard of it. How did you play?”

Surprise. “How about Drop the handkerchief?”


“I’ll bet you never played Good Egg, Rotten Egg either.” I’ve never heard of anyone who played Good Egg except the crew at Bible School in Old Ford one year before we moved to C-Town. (I don’t remember the Bible School lessons, treats or crafts but I loved the games!)

After I demonstrated the position for Good Egg, Rotten Egg (squatting with your hands clasped under your hiney and elbows used for handles) and explained that two larger kids picked you up by your elbows/handles and swung you (if your hands slip loose, you’re a rotten egg) she recognized it.

Different name, same game. And even young M#2 played it on the trampoline.

Since I had work to do, I didn’t ask if they’d played Farmer In the Dell. Besides, it wasn’t my favorite game.

My absolute favorite gaggle of kids game was Red Rover. “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Susan come over.”

(Does anyone know what a Red Rover is?)

Remember how we played it? The other side tried to pick the littlest, weakest kid because they shouldn’t be able to break through the wall of hands-holding kids.

I loved that game, because I was tougher than I looked. I liked being a surprise. 🙂

Tag was always fun for a while as was Hide and Seek. But another one of my favorites was The Ghost Don’t Pop. (Ignore the grammar–we were kids.)

Friend, next-door-neighbor and Monopoly player extraordinaire Susie Lunsford introduced us to that game. You couldn’t play until almost dark because, after all, it was a ghost game. And everyone knows ghosts don’t come out during the day.

A base was chosen, one person was it, and the rest scattered but had to hide in a specified area. (In one person’s yard and around their house.)

After “It” counted to a hundred while all the “ghosts” hid, she started walking around the house, always keeping an eye open for lurking “ghosts.”

Using a scary voice–“It’s one o’clock and the Ghost Don’t Pop. Two o’clock and the Ghost Don’t Pop. Three o’clock and . . . “

At “Twelve o’clock and the Ghost Don’t Pop,” all the ghosts popped and ran for base. “It” ran for base, too. I’m not sure how anyone was the winner or how somebody became “It”, but it sure was fun!

I don’t remember my kids playing a lot of big group games when they were little. Oh, they played Duck, Duck, Goose as preschoolers as well as Tag and Hide and Seek, but once they outgrew those games, organized sports such as T-Ball and Soccer are the only ones I remember.

So I have three questions for you today.

  1. Did you play gaggle-of-kids games when you were young?
  2. What was your favorite?
  3. How did The Ghost Don’t Pop end? (Susie Lunsford, are you there???)

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Get the Roar

The first time I Roared was a long, long time ago. I was in college, and the drama group went to the Branson area to see the play, “Shepherd of the Hills.” If you haven’t seen it when you were visiting Branson, check it out. It’s great.

But before we got to the play, we stopped near Cassville, Missouri, at Roaring River State Park.

I love fishing, so when I found myself at a fish hatchery, I was in heaven. We didn’t stay long enough for me to wet a line, but I promised myself I’d go back someday.

I did. 🙂

The next time I went, I was MWOC. (Married Without Chrildren.)

We stopped by on our way someplace else. When we pulled up, they were moving the fish. They graduate by size from one pool to another.

The graduation ceremony was in a pickup. No kidding. They lined a pickup bed with a tarp, filled it with water, caught a bunch of fingerlings in a net and tossed them up and over, right into the bed of that truck.

It gave a whole new meaning to flying fish. 🙂

They drove to another cement pond, opened the tailgate and let them out.

I was amazed by the process. When they finished, we walked along the trails and found out way into a cave the river went into. You could see huge rainbow trout deep in the water.

No fishing allowed in that area.

Then several years later when we were MWC, we went again. This time we rented a cabin and stayed a couple of days. Nothing fancy, just a safe, clean place to stay.

The hatchery released fish early in the morning, and fishermen lined the river banks, trying to catch them.

Because our littlest boys were only about two and four, Gary, Danny and I did most of the fishing. Well, Gary and Danny did. I couldn’t get much fishing in because I couldn’t pay attention to my line and my kiddos.

And my kiddos were way more important to me than catching fish.

Matt, Gary and in the striped shorts, Danny.

Fishing probably isn’t the best vaca plan if you have fairly small kids, unless they’re like I was when I was little.

Grandma said she’d fix me a pole with just a weight and no hook when I was that small, and I’d sit and fish for hours. Made her feel guilty. 😉

Anyway, the little boys played way more than they fished. The weeds and wildflowers were about waist high on them, but they plowed right through and had a great time.

The only other people I remember fishing that day were Amish. I could tell by their dress and lack of buttons.  A very cute teenaged Amish girl with a man I figured was her new husband, because she flirted like nothing I’d seen in a religious girl. I figured they were on their honeymoon.

We didn’t catch any fish. No one near us caught a fish. In fact, I’ve never seen a fish caught there.

Why? I’m not sure. Maybe trout don’t bite on the days when I’m there. Or maybe the hatchery feeds those babies just before they release them.

Or maybe the trout are so smart, they’re making tracks for Kansas and don’t have time to stop for a nibble.

We caught something else that day, though. The world’s smallest ticks. Smaller than seed ticks. Smaller than flakes of pepper. So small, you couldn’t grab them with a pair of tweezers. They only way to get them off was by scraping with your fingernail.

And you know a tick’s favorite place to bite? Your tenderest parts.

Please, don’t visit Roaring River if you need to catch enough fish to feed you for the winter. Probably won’t happen.

Only go there if you want a laid back, easy time away from home. The area is beautiful. Hiking trails plentiful. There’s even a swimming area, although we didn’t use it.

You can see more pictures on their website. Some of these pictures came from there.

The one of my fam is mine. 🙂