Our grandson and granddaughter from Bosnia are learning the basics of a fun life, like throwing water balloons where they burst on contact. It's something that every kids needs to know. They are having fun. Next year, we are going to recruit our St. Louis grandson Miles who will be one year old.
Super-wife and I are being full-time, hands-on grandparents this week as our daughter and her husband attend a conference.
We are loving it. We have learned a ton about our grandparent role and about ourselves. We are tired by 9 p.m.
I wouldn't pass up this experience for anything and I look forward to more, including those including our newest grandson Miles.
I've been practicing smiling the past couple of weeks, so my face doesn't hurt later this week from all the smiles that come from two of our grandkids being here for about a month. I know that I'll be using smile muscles that haven't been exercised in a while.
They live in Eastern Europe and are in this country for a few month with their parents, our daughter Krista and son-in-law Adam. We have all kinds of things on our to-do list, a backyard slip and slide, all kinds of books, the zoo and bunches of other stuff.
Super-wife and I have been working at getting in shape for an 18-month-old grandaugther and almost four year-old grandson. We are ready, we think.
This face-to-face visit will be special. We see them often, but it's usually over FaceTime on our computers. It's a wonderful way to visit from a distance.
For the next month, it will be hands-on grandparenting.
Yeah, we are getting more than a little excited by the upcoming visit from our two grandkids, one almost four and the other being nineteen months old. I'm sure we will be the only sixty-somethings around here with a slip and slide in the backyard.
We've been combing through our collection of toys and adding to it with purchases from neighborhood garage sales.
Our grandkids live in Bosnia where their parents work which means that they have travelled a lot. They are used to other countries and to getting around airports. Our older grandson soaks in every detail from his visits to Turkey, Croatia, Germany and the United States.
When they come, we will let him pick a Starbucks mug from our growing collection from cities around the world. We will let him pick a city, like Budapest, Vienna, St. Louis, Las Vegas and other places we've been or where others have been and purchased them for us. We have a beautiful Starbucks mug from Seoul where or son and daughter-in-law were last year.
When he picks his mug, then we will challenge him to find that country on our shower curtain which has a huge world map on it.
Indeed, we have toys for his younger sister. As we think about our pre-born grandson in St. Louis, our excitement grows. We will be ready.
We spent an hour today around the dinner table with four members of our family. Instead of sitting in chairs, they were on our computer where we had a Face Time visit with our Apple computers. Does this work when face-to-face in the skin visits are not possible?
Is this a viable alternative for baby-boomer grandparents like ourselves who have family living in another state or country? Can you fill that part of your heart where you really want to see your children and grandchildren?
I would recommend it for grandparents with kids who live in other states or countries. It's actually pretty easy technically.
Here's some pictures from our visit today with our daughter, son-in-law and grandkids this morning.
When your grandkids live far away you need to be inventive. I have three grandchildren, two live in Eastern Europe and one who is pre-born in Las Vegas. I made this with my iPhone after I blew snow on my sidewalk, driveway and that of some of the neighbors.
Do you see the dress that your sister Gretchen is wearing? You wore that when you were about the same age, three months old.World War II. I will write later about baptism and its importance. But, this dress, or gown as it is more accurately described for baptisms was worn by me, most of my cousins, by your mom and by you.
Sometime, you should ask me to talk about my Uncle Paul who was a navigator on a bomber that flew missions over Europe during the war. It's an amazing story about how his plane was shot at from German planes flying around them and from big guns on the ground.
During one of those missions, my uncle's plane was flying over Budapest, Hungary where you, your mom and dad and grandma and I visited almost two years ago. His plane was bombing targets on the ground when it was shot at by enemy planes. My uncle told about how the Nazi planes flew so close to him that he could see the fillings in the teeth of the pilots.
One of the engines on his plane was shot at and shut down and the plane had trouble staying in the air. To steady, it's flight my uncle took the nylon material from his parachute and threw it out a window with one end attached to the plane. It's flight was steadied and he and the crew made it back to Italy.
My Uncle Paul sent the parachute back to my aunt who used some of it to make the baptismal gown. The parachute saved all the lives on his plane including his. Just think of all the people baptized in it. Through the water and the Word of God in baptism, they were saved by God for all eternity.
When your mom was baptized in it, newspapers from around the country and other parts of the world had a story about the occasion. It was on the radio too during a national newscast. Newscaster Paul Harvey talked about "Little crying Krista Thorp."
I love you man,
I remember when your Uncle Justin was a young boy. Somebody asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. Without hesitation, he said he wanted to be Mickey Mouse. Everybody chuckled.
See the picture just above this letter? It's a shot of your mom in the Press Room at the Michigan State Capitol. She was sitting in the chair in my office. Your grandma dropped her off for me to watch her while she did some errands.
The pressroom was on the second floor of the Capitol Building just behind the House of Representatives. It was where the newspaper, television and radio reporters worked as they reported and wrote about state government. I was the pressroom manager.
Part of the pressroom was an area where we had news conferences where all kinds of politicians and groups would come to get the attention of the news media.
When the picture of your mom was taken, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin was getting ready to hold a news conference with television and radio crews and other reporters. The hot lights were on when he got my attention because he wanted to hold her. So, during the whole news conference, he held her. She didn't move a muscle.
On the days when the weather was warm, grandma would bring your mom and Uncle Justin to the front lawn of the Capitol where we would have lunch while sitting on a blanket.
I had lots of other jobs there. I will tell you more about them later.
What job do you want? Do you want to be one of the Veggie Tales characters?
I love you,
Their business is a pawn shop where people come in and try to sell stuff. Usually, it's stuff that they feel is really valuable. It could be anything. Old guns. Swords. Political campaign buttons and even old cars and motorcycles. The pawn shop guy will ask how much the seller wants and then they start to bargain. The seller wants a lot of money and the buyer wants to pay the least that he can.
And, while they are going back and forth with prices, the pawn shop guy usually gives a lot of history about the item. It's a fun way to learn about stuff that happened in the past.
Television seems to play a big role in everybody's lives these days. You can watch just about anything you want in a wide-variety of ways.
Radio was first for me
For the first seven or eight years of my life, my mom and I only had a big old radio. I would sit beside it listening to cowboy shows where you could only hear voices and sounds. It could get pretty exciting when I listened to the Lone Ranger who rode a horse named silver. He had a sidekick named Tonto, an American Indian. They would fight bad guys and they would always win.
There was a police show on the radio called Dragnet that I loved listening to. There were two police officers, one was Detective Joe Friday and they would solve crimes. I'd be riveted to the radio during this time, listening to every word.
During that time just about everybody listened to the radio for entertainment and information. The church that I grew up in and where I met your Grandma Thorp had its service on the radio every week.
Does your family have a radio? Have you ever listened to online radio through your computer?
I love you,
You are going to have a lot of important days in your life. So far, there's been the birth of your sister Gretchen. What about your visit last week to Legoland in Germany. You got a really cool bike for your birthday.
There will be plenty more as you get older. Ask your mom and dad about the important days in their lives. I already know what some of them will be.
When they got married
I was there for at least a couple of them. One was when your mom and dad got married and I walked
In my life there have been many others, especially the day I married your grandma. The day that your mom was born, as well as the day your Uncle Justin was born and the doctor asked me to cut his umbilical cord. Another big one for me was being the Best Man at your Uncle Justin's wedding. These are all extra special times.
Let me tell you about walking your mom down the aisle. It's a custom at weddings that the dad of the bride walk his daughter down the aisle to the altar where the groom is waiting. It's symbolic of the bride leaving the family she grew up with to start a new family with husband.
She was super-pumpkin
Your mom was always extra special to me. I called her pumpkin and then super-pumpkin. As a baby, she would often come to my office in the pressroom at the State Capitol. Grandma would leave her with me. In my office, I had a whole wall of pictures of her during her first year of life.
She got older and then she met your dad. They dated and then got engaged. There was a rehearsal the day before the wedding. Everybody in the wedding party practiced their parts.
Walking her down the aisle
When it came time for her to grab my arm to make the long walk to give her away, I couldn't look at her. It was an emotional moment. If I had looked in her eyes, she would have noticed the tears in mine.
The next day, at the wedding, I realized that my little girl, my super-pumpkin had a new main man in her life, your dad.
I hope that you can walk your daughter down the aisle someday. It's a major life moment. But when that time comes, watch two movies, Father of the Bride 1 and 2. It will help you understand what you're feeling at that moment.
I love you,
I remember the day that we drove to Hungary with you and your mom and dad.
You love trucks
On the way, we stopped to eat a snack and get a drink. Alongside a busy highway, .Grandma Thorp held you, so you could watch the trucks and the buses whiz by. Boy, did you get excited. You would holler and point in excitement.
You had the same reaction when we ate outdoors at a Sarajevo restaurant. We were real close to a tram line in the old part of the city. Every few minutes, they would roll by and you would squeal in delight.
It's really clear that you love cars, trucks, trains, cranes and, basically, anything that moves and that has a motor.
My boyhood home
You would have loved the house I grew up in. It was on the shores of the Saginaw River in Bay City, Michigan. Right across the street was a business where ships would come in and unload gravel. Cranes would load big dump trucks that would take the stones to all kinds of building projects. This took place all day long.
If I stood on the front steps of our house and looked left as I faced the river, I would see the old Belinda Street Bridge. It was old. Really old. To let boats go up the river, it's middle part, would swing around to create a big channel to let them through. Quite often, I would stand on it as it swung open.
The guy who operated that part of the bridge lived in a little house on top. I thought then that he had to have the most exciting job in the world.
Every once in a while, a big boat would get stuck in the opening and the bridge couldn't move. A tugboat would have to come and pull it through. I would watch the tugs do their thing.
Just up the river about a half mile was Defoe Shipbuilding Company. When I was growing up, they built many guided missle destoryers for the U.S. Navy. I would watch with fascination as they moved up and down the river.
As a boy, I would sit on my small front porch and watched everything. It was a small concrete throne where I created my own little world.
As you get older, pay good attention to the world around you. Take good mental notes and even write some down.
I love you,
I will never forget the day that grandma and I were in church with your mom and Uncle Justin. As the pastor was giving a sermon, I saw a big spider crawling on the pew. I grabbed it and dropped it on your mom's lap.
I knew she didn't like spiders. She hated them. They scared her. But, she didn't move a musle. Her eyes got really big and she gave me "the look," like I couldn't believe that
The church has always been very important to our family, both to our immediate family-members and our extended one of aunts, uncles and cousins. I grew up going to a big old church that also had a school that I attended and graduated from in eighth grade.
My mother and I went to church just about every Sunday. It was really important to her. I met Grandma Thorp at that church.
She also grew-up going to church. It's where we both got to know Jesus. One of the songs from those days that sticks in my memory is "Jesus Loves Me."
Ask your dad and mom about Jesus and why's important in their life. He needs to be important in your life and your sister's.
When you start reading, and that won't be long, pull your Children's Bible off your bookshelf. Read it by yourself and with your mom and dad. Read it to your sister. Most important, read it yourself and think about the words.
Get to know Jesus. He's real and he loves you and so do I.
I love you,
I'll never forget the day that I got a call from a nephew I never knew I had. He had been on a hunt for his grandfather, my dad, and found me on the web.
He was looking for information about the rest of his family. His mother was my sister, actually half sister, and somebody I never met.
I want my grandchildren to know their grandfather and what made him tick. There are plenty of stories that might shine a light on questions they could ask eventually. Maybe, I can help with that.
It's not a story where I'm expecting readers to get out their little finger violins and play them. No, not at all. But, can my grandson and granddaughter learn more about themselves by knowing their background, at least part of it?
There's plenty for them to be proud of. That includes both my side and my wife's sides of the family. I've been amassing information for awhile.
What do you know about your grandparents? Would you like to know more? Would it have made a difference?
It's hard to believe that one small app from the Apple App Store could bring such great joy to two baby-boomer grandparents in mid-Michigans who have a grandson in Bosnia and living on the edge of the Alps.
Using the app is simple and almost instant as we saw our two-year-old grandson showing off a fresh buzz cut. He was able to pick up his Curious George book and point to his favorit pages and we could see and interact. It was great. It works. Here's a pic from our conversation.
We are excited about our pre-born granddaughter who's expected to make her entry into this world either later this month or early November. Super-wife loves shopping for our grandson Xavier, but has a special twinkle in her eye when he shops for little girl stuff.
Our daughter Krista and her husband Adam live and work in Bosnia. My cellphone will never be far from my pocket when we leave home and it will have a full-charge.
When we were at Sam's Club this week, I bought my grandson a big full-color book with nothing but truck pictures. There's all kinds of big trucks. His two-year-old eyes really lit up every time he saw a big truck when we visted them last spring.