What lesson can my grandkids learn from Lansing's Video To Go store?

This video store--Video To Go--has a deep history with our family.

My wife and I were just finishing lunch at Panera Bread in Lansing's Frandor Shopping Center when I looked out the window there and saw the Video To Go store.  When we rented a video tape for one of the first times more than 20 years ago, it was from this store.

With changes in the way movies and other videos are delivered with Netflix and other services, I have to wonder how much longer it will stay in business.

When I think about Video To Go and how much television watching has changed, I think of my three grandkids, one almost five, one who is two and one who is almost a year-old.  They will have never seen video tapes and the odds are that they will not see a whole lot more of DVDs.

Their lives will be much more affected by the pace of technological change than mine.  They are learning how to adapt to this rapid change.  They are also learning how to recognize truths that never change.  

How long will it be before one of them can call me on their later stage Apple Watch?  They have all had their dalliances with iPads and apps for kids.  They know about watching streamed movies over the web.  

Change is inevitable.  The pace of these changes seems to be running in high gear.

Letter to my Grandson Miles: You and I ate oatmeal together for breakfast during your weekend in Michigan


Grandson Miles eats oatmeal for breakfast.
My eight-month old grandson really likes oatmeal. He's a handson eater.



Dear Miles,

I really enjoyed eating breakfast with you yesterday morning.  We both had oatmeal.  It's one of my all time favorite breakfasts.  I usually eat it every morning.

Grandma Thorp usually makes me a bowl and then puts all kinds of fruit either on it or in it.  I love oatmeal with blueberries, cherries, banana slices and peaches.

For some reason, I've never cooked oatmeal myself.  I've made the instant kind, but I haven't made the cooked kind.  I've got to try that.  

There's a whole level of adventure out there with breakfast eating.  Pancakes in another one of my favorites.  We don't have them often, but when we do, there's a smile on my face.

Keep eating a good breakfast.


Grandpa Thorp

Letter to my Grandson Miles: Going to the sheep farm at Michigan State University with you was real fun

My grandson and a black sheep at MSU
My eight-month old Grandson Miles goes eyeball-to-eyeball with a sheep at Michigan State University.

Dear Miles,

You had your first official visit to Michigan State University yesterday when we went to the MSU sheep farm.  As your dad held you, the sheep came right to you.  They stuck their head through the fence and said hello.  They made a lot of noise.

Your eyes really sparkled as they ran back and forth in their pens and let everybody know they were there by bleating.  Isn't that the noise sheep make?  You can look it up in Google.

Sheep are really an important animal.  We get wool from sheep.  Lots of clothes are made from it.  Ask your mom and she'll show you some.

Look in the Bible and you'll see the word sheep often.  It has special meaning for us.  One Bible verse says, "We are all like sheep and gone astray."  That reminds me of the time I saw a whole herd of sheep going down the road in the country of Mali in West Africa.  There was one shepherd and he was busy trying to keep each sheep from going off in a different direction.

Most sports teams have nicknames from animals like Tigers or Diamondbacks or Gophers.  But you don't see any called sheep.  It could be that sheep are not good team players.

Well, next time you come, we can go back to Michigan State and see more animals like the chickens, the horses and the cows.  Animals are great.  I never stop learning about them and I'm always amazed by their variety.

When I come to your house, we can read about some animals.

Thank-you for coming this weekend.


Grandpa Thorp

Sheep pens at MSU.
You were all smiles around the MSU sheep.
One of the MSU sheep pens.
My grandson's eyes were wide-open at the MSU sheep farm.

Our weekend guests, grandson Miles and his dad and mother are getting ready to hit the road



Father and son, the apple tree and the apple.
Our grandson Miles and his best bud, our son Justin and mom Lauren are getting ready to head out to Michigan.


If you drive by our house this weekend, it will be the one that the sun is shining specially bright on and  that is smiling big time because of the visit of three special people, our youngest grandson Miles, his dad Justin and mom Lauren.  They will be here for the weekend.

Miles is eight months old.  He's smiley, chatty and has really bright eyes.  I can't wait to see him, spend some time reading, talking, playing on the floor and eating together.  

I remember countless experiences when his dad was that age and grew into toddlerhood.  One involves socks and where you take them off.  When he was a toddler and while we were eating supper around a circular table, I took my socks off and left them under the table.  I did that most days.  

One night after supper, we moved into the living room, Justin sat down, took his socks off and ambled into the kitchen and with socks in hand, he put them under the table.  Like father, like son.  What will Miles learn from his dad?  Will he pick up habits because he saw his dad doing them?

They should be here around suppertime, I guess.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Body piercing, Greek stir fry, gas for $3.99 per gallon, my grandkids play with Uncle Wes' doll house



This is the sign at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Lansing, Michigan exactly seven years ago today.  This tiny church changes its signs often with some pithy statement that matches the season or an emphasis in the ministry.  Have you seen any church signs in your area that got your attention?


Stir fry at the Athena Restaurant in Lansing.
One year ago today, my wife and I ate at the Athena Restaurant on the southside of Lansing, Michigan. Stir fry here was great.

My wife and I were out a year ago today and decided to have lunch at the Athena Restaurant in Lansing, the site of the old John's Restaurant where diners ordered by using phones at each booth.  When our kids were young, it was a novelty for them to use the phone.  The meal that we had a year ago was great.

Check the price for gas at this Lansing gas station.
Three years ago today this is what we were paying for gas in Lansing. This is on South Waverly and a station we go to frequently. The price was $3.99 per gallon.

There were months where I felt like I should be an investor in this Shell gas station.  We drive a small car, but filling a tank during this period could get us way too close to $40.

My grandkids play with a doll house made by my Uncle Wes.
Two of my grandkids play with a doll house made by my Uncle Wes Moll, a toymaker. This happened on a Thursday this past September.

My Uncle Wes who I was named after worked most of his life as a gas station operator.  When he retired he became a successful maker of wooden toys.  He made cars, trucks, planes, trains and doll houses.  At Christmas time this past year, two of my grandchildren played with one of his doll houses that he made before he passed away.

This guy is going to spend the weekend at our house and he's bringing his parents


Miles on FaceTime
If the weather cooperates, this little guy is coming to our house this weekend. This is from an FaceTime chat we had with him on Sunday.


I'm really looking forward to spending time this weekend with my youngest grandson who's nearing nine months old.  I can't wait to talk with him, read him some stories, glance at the newspaper and play with all his neat toys.

There are lots of stories I can tell him about our family, about his dad, his grandma and me.  If you're in our neighborhood, our house will be the one with the big smile, like the one we had this summer and at Christmas when our older grandson and our granddaughter, along with our daughter and son-in-law visited.

After I publish this, I'm going right over to Amazon to check on selfie poles for my iPhone.  I'd like to see if I can take some cool video of the visit.

A NOTE:  I just ordered a selfie pole from Amazon which extends to 50" and allows use of my iPhone camera through a bluetooth connection.  I paid for it with Discover Card bonus credit.

How can I use my iPhone5 and my point and shoot to tell stories?

My temptation is to say, "yeah, Casey Neistat is a pretty young guy who can use iPhone video to effectively tell a story.  And I am getting closer to crossing over to 70.  How much can I learn?"

I thrive on hearing stories and learning about other people.  I enjoy hearing them directly from other people and I love reading them.  And, I also feel that I have a few stories inside of me and some which are still happening.

I really need to kick the can down the road on this one with the visit of my grandson and his parents this weekend.  Miles is eight months old and I was just outside the delivery room door when he was born.  There have to be lots of little stories that can be told about their visit using words and visuals, both still and video.

Here's a couple of thought provoking YouTube videos from filmmaker Neistat that I viewed this morning.  They are helpful.


Unlike Zeek Braverman on Parenthood, I'm not our family patriarch, but the "Grand Dude"


This is my new job title. In my family, I'm the "Grand Dude"

Our family, my wife and I, our daughter and son-in-law and our son and daughter-in-law, were real fans of the television series Parenthood.  At one point, one of them described me as the family patriarch, a word I don't use.  

Then, as I understood what it meant I started to see the importance of the role as the family encourager in chief and the one who can dispense wisdom as asked for and needed.  

My role model was Zeek Braverman from the show.  He was far from perfect but acquired a knack for encouragement and an archive of wisdom  learned from decades of life.

The word patriarch sounds too much of biblical figures like Abraham.  But, my son Justin and his wife Lauren and my grandson Miles gave me the t-shirt in this picture which says, "I am the Grand Dude."  I like that better.  It's me.

My grandson Miles
My grandson Miles and his two cousins, Xavier and Gretchen, made me the "Grand Dude"

Every dad should read Clifford the dog to his kids


My son reads Clifford to my grandson. Just think of all the new neurons being fired up.


I love talking with my wife about children's literature.  As a senior citizen, I've gotten away from kids' books, but I'm moving back to them with my young grandkids.

My wife, a retired third grade teacher, this week told me about Patricia Polacco, a well-known children's author who hails from Lansing.  She showed me examples of her books which she had from her classroom days.  I'm intrigued by how these books can light fires of curiosity and learning with kids.

For Valentines Day this year, she sent a Clifford the dog book to our seven-month old grandson in St. Louis.  This lucky little guy has parents who love to read to him.  Check the look on his face in this picture.  He's really liking it.


Letter to my five-month old grandson about Brussels sprouts and baseball hats


Miles and food
Miles likes veggies


Dec. 1, 2014

Dear Miles,

It's Monday evening and I'm sitting at the kitchen table writing you a letter which you can read when you're older.  Grandma and I are still smiling from your visit last week for Thanksgiving and we are happy that you brought your parents along.

We had the excitement of watching you eat solid food for the first time when you were here.  You loved it.  You tried some vegetables, including squash in a squeeze tube.  You ate the whole thing.

A whole new world of tastes, smell and textures are opening up for you.  When your dad was your age, he loved vegetables of all types.  He loved almost all food.  However, he didn't like peanut butter or Cheerios.  

So, if you really like vegetables, you got some of that from him.  I'm not sure about your mom's food preferences.  


Brussels sprouts
These are the Brussels sprouts made by your mom on that Thanksgiving.

 I grew-up loving just about all vegetables, including red beets, peas, squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, corn and the list could go on.  But one vegetable I need to tell you about to make sure you try it is Brussels sprouts.  Put a little butter on them and it's like tasting pure heaven.

When your mom and dad lived in Washington, D.C., we visited for Thanksgiving and your mom made Brussels sprouts.  She can tell you how they were made, but they went 100 steps beyond delicious.  So, when you get old enough be sure to try them.  Let me know what you think.

About baseball caps, you, your dad and I were born with heads that are at the top of the size scale.  Not many hats fit him or me.  When I was in grade school I tried out for Little League where young guys played baseball.  I wanted the hat.

Every guy needs a baseball hat.  I can't wait to give you a Detroit Tigers cap.  Your dad and I have been to their games, as I'm sure you'll go with him to the St. Louis Cardinal games.  I can't wait to go with you.

Say hello to your cousins, Xavier and Gretchen.

You are a winner.


Grandpa Thorp

A letter to my five-month-old grandson Miles about stuff


Me and my grandson Miles
Me and Miles talk about stuff.


Monday, Dec. 1, 2014

Dear Miles,

We first met within an hour or so after you were born in June.  I remember proudly holding you with a big smile and thinking "Wow."  This is Justin's son.  All the while your mom was laying in her hospital bed looking really tired, but showing a smile that was so bright that it lit up the room.

Then we saw you in August when we came to St. Louis with your Aunt Krista and Uncle Adam and your two cousins, Xavier and Gretchen.  I forgot to mention that we were all there in July too.  

It was a chance for all of us to become better acquainted with you.  Your uncle also baptized you at your house in a gown that I wore, as well as your dad and your aunt.  The day was a very special occasion.  

This past week when you and your folks came to our house for Thanksgiving was very special.  

You and I had plenty of chances to talk and to read books.  I saw you eat your first solid food.  You devoured it.  You also sat on Santa's lap for the first time.  

Boy, I think about all the adventures ahead of you and I smile.  You've been to the St. Louis Zoo, but you were napping in your stroller.  The next time, you will be able to watch the elephants, the lions and all the other animals.  I can see your wide-eyes now.

You need to know that you have a whole cadre of people who love you and who are there for you when you need them.  Your mom and dad are really special.  You have two grandmas and a great grandma.  And I'm your grandpa on your father's side who can explain how all that works.

As you grow, there's one person who is above everybody else and that's Jesus.  He need's to be your focus.  Ask your parents about him, as well as your extended family, including me.

I am sending this to your own email address.  I invite you to read these when you get older.  

We will talk more later.

You are a winner!

I love you,

Grandpa Thorp


Have you taken a selfie with your grandkids?


We take a selfie with Miles before he leaves for St. Louis

Our son Justin and his wife Lauren left for St. Louis where they live a little more than a half hour ago.  They had been here for the Thanksgiving holiday.  The highlight, of course, was their five-month old son Miles, our youngest grandson.  We had lots of time to cuddle with him.  We talked.  We played and he ate his first solid food at our house.  Their visit was one of many high points in our year.  They are one of our ten million reasons to thank God.


Are we the only ones who live so far from their grandchildren?

My wife and I have three young grandchildren.  Two live in another country and one lives a few states away.  We hear plenty of stories from friends about how they see their grandkids several times a week. We can get a little envious and start to wonder if we are the only ones who live so far away.  

Let it be known that we have frequent FaceTime visits with our children and their kids and we have visited each in person.  

This infographic from Closertothekids.com shows that most grandparents live some appreciaable distance from their grandchildren.  It's just a fact of life.  What are the options?  As retirees, we are looking at moving near our kids in the states.  That raises a whole host of other issues that we are working through.  

Please include attribution to closertothekids.com with this graphic.American Grandparents and the Challenges of Distance


Split, Croatia airport
In this photo, we were saying goodbye to our daughter and family just before we get on a plane in Croatia.

How often do you share pictures of your grandchildren?


My three-month old grandson is a charmer. 

It's a ritual every morning when we swing over to get out of bed to check our individual mini iPads to check for overnight pictures of our grandkids who live in differents states and on different continents. Quite often you will hear one of us let out a loud "oh wow" and it's only because of new grandkids pictures on Instagram.

And there are those times when we are in the yard or at the supermarket and I check my Instagram on my cell and find more pictures.  Result is big smiles in the aisles while loading up on bananas, lettuce, apples and other stuff.

How do you share pictures of your kids to their grandparents?  Do you use your phone?  Do you send video clips?  How often?  

Did Promise Keepers make a difference in the spiritual lives of men?


Promise Keepers in Las Vegas
My son Justin and I attended Promise Keepers in Las Vegas 11 years ago this weekend. He's standing in front of the venue for the event. 

Promise Keepers (PK) is becoming a fuzzy memory for me.  I attended my first PK event back in the mid-nineties in Indianapolis.  At the time, it was an eye-opener for me to be in a stadium filled with guys for a Christian event to help them grow closer to Jesus Christ.

After that, my son Justin and I went to 10 more events, in various parts of the country.  They were all filled with men looking for spiritual growth.  

Eleven years ago this weekend, he and I went to PK in Las Vegas.  It was a great father-son weekend where we were able to listen, talk and hear great teaching from God's word.  It was an unlikely setting for a major Christian men's gathering.

This makes me wonder about PK and what effect it had on men.  Did it make a difference in their lives and in their relationship to Jesus?  The movement has pretty much fizzled out.  

What about my grandsons?  Will they ever have a chance to do that with their dads?  Will they see that there are thousands and thousands of men around the country who believe in Jesus?

I hope so.

Instagram can be a gift from God for long distance grandparents


Meet our youngest grandson Miles. We got this photo from our daughter-in-law this morning over Instagram.

We live a distance from our three grandkids.  They are in various developmental stages where they seem to get cuter everyday.

How do we keep up with this?  One way is with the web app Instagram.  It's for photo distribution to people you designate.  It's perfect for grandparents who have kids and grandkids who live miles away in another state or another country.  We have a grandson who lives in St. Louis and two more who live in Bosnia.

As part of our getting out of bed ritual everyday, we check either our iPad or iPhone for new Instagram pictures.  And during the day, we can be seen sharing the phone back and forth when a new picture is sent.  These photos produce smiles and connection and we love it.

As a dad and grandfather, I should be dancing through the streets right now

If the past month with our kids and grandkids is a hint of what heaven's going to be like then I think I'm going to like it there.  

My daughter and her husband and their two kids have been at our house for a month plus.  They live in Eastern Europe and are back in the United States for a few months.  We've had a chance for some serious grandparenting time and have seen firsthand how much our daughter that I used to call "super-pumpkin" has grown as a full-fledged adult.  Her husband is an amazing guy and one who I've forged a solid friendship with.

During this time, we all trekked down to St. Louis where our son and his wife live along with their newborn son.  There were so many special times where just enjoyed being with each other, including a special "father-son and son-in-law" time at the Urban Chestnut Brewery in the city.

I know that family routines have been toppled a little, but the time together has been magical for me.  I see more clearly than ever the importance of family and I see how much I have to thank God for.

I kind of feel like Zeke Braverman of the Parenthood television show who play the role of a patriarch in his family.  My response is simple.  As I would tell my four-year-old grandson, "super-cool, awesome, amazing."  You get the idea.  








With my grandkids, learning the old art of throwing water balloons


Have you ever thrown water balloons with your kids?



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.