Tag Archives: grandchildren

Past and present meet at the strangest places

By Bruce Stambaugh

The past and present sometimes intersect in the strangest places.

I had lazily let scores of previously read email messages in my inbox pile up for much too long. Never mind how many there were. Let’s just say it was the equivalent of a very messy desk.

rainy day, Shenandoah Valley

Rainy day.

While waiting for the chilly rain to quit in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley, I took action to remedy the situation born of my procrastination. I spent several hours over parts of two days, but I finally cleared all the old emails away.

What took so long? Well, I had to read some of them of course.

The variety of clutter I discovered I had left shocked me. Messages from sales people, church folks, friends, family, businesses, and people I didn’t even remember tickled my brain cells.

I deleted most of the emails. A few were rather important, and I was surprised that I had just left them hanging there like those infamous Florida chads. Rereading several of the messages reawakened good and bad emotions long.

newborn baby

At the hospital.

When I reached the ones from early October 2009, I was pleasantly transported back in time. Long forgotten electronic correspondence between family members and myself got my old heart racing.

The birth of our granddaughter, Maren, was the main topic. How timely I thought. We were in the midst of preparing for her sixth birthday party. Reading those notes from friends and family brought back fond memories.

I found updates from my wife about how our daughter felt as she approached delivery, and what Nana was doing to entertain the grandsons in Texas, where they lived then. I was still in Ohio.

Now our daughter and her family live in this sprawling valley cradled between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Alleghenies to the west. They have settled in nicely. Texas is but a memory, much like my uncovering the orphaned emails.

Occasionally it’s good to look back, to remember, to recollect the past, to resurrect old feelings of joy. The birth of a baby is always a celebration, especially if it’s your granddaughter.

I was glad Nana was there to help with the grandsons, Evan and Davis. They were only five and three at the time. They needed her.

newborn baby

One week old.

I arrived a few days later to hold my newborn granddaughter. Maren was as beautiful as her name, a derivative of Marian, which was my mother’s name.

As I revisited those old emails, Maren’s birth seemed like yesterday. Here we were celebrating her sixth birthday. Where in the world had the time gone?

One day she is swaddled in diapers surrounded by stuffed animals and curious brothers. Today she is an active, self-assured kindergartner learning to speak Spanish.

I chuckle at her impressive English vocabulary alone. Maren rattles off words like “actually,” “random,” “responsibility,” and “unrecognizable” in the proper contexts. The days of cooing are long over.

Next thing you know, she’ll be going out on her first date. But let’s not rush it.

Nana and I enjoyed Maren’s little birthday party. She just reminds us of her mother when she was six, only Maren persists with all things pink.

For now, Nana and I enjoy watching our three grandchildren grow, mature, fight, play ball, do gymnastics, and interact with their peers, parents and friends.

I’ll cherish these moments as best I can. Keeping a clean inbox is a good way to start.

birthday presents

Ready for presents.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Watching the grandkids grow from afar

grandchildren, grandparents

The grandkids. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

We love our grandchildren. No headline news in that statement, I know.

But since the oldest of the three was born 11 years ago, Nana and Poppy have watched the trio, Evan, Davis and Maren, grow up from afar. All three of our grandchildren were born in Austin, Texas. Nana made sure she was on scene to help at each birth. Poppy arrived once the excitement had waned.

It wasn’t easy having your grandchildren 1,450 miles away. But we managed. We visited as often as we could.

We went for birthday parties at fire stations, helped carve pumpkins at Halloween, and any other time we could manage. The physical changes in the kids between visits were visible.

grandkids, grandchildren

The Texans. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

When our daughter announced five years ago that they were moving to Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley, we were elated. Now they were only 350 miles away. The overland trip still took six and a half hours.

We visit as often as we can, and we still marvel at how all three change, even if it has only been a few weeks since we last saw them. A recent visit drove home that stark reality for me.

Evan is now nearly as tall as Nana. As you might guess, he is as active as any 11-year-old can be. He is a sports fanatic, with baseball his first love. That should be no surprise. From little on up, Evan enjoyed anything that would roll, or he could throw.

Davis is a very inquisitive youngster. You can tell he’s left-handed. Now nine, Davis has a gift to explore and imagine. He’s as happy playing with a stick as he is with an electronic game. How can you not like a boy like that?

At five, Maren is our pink tomboy. She is a girly girl if there ever was one. She enjoys helping Nana bake cookies. She hustles at soccer and baseball, too, even if her long, golden locks occasionally block her vision.

I remember as a youngster how much I loved being around grandparents. Though he had little, Grandpa Merle often brought us candy. Our dentist loved him, too.

I can still hear the hint of that soft, lovely southern Virginia accent in my Grandma Frith’s voice. My lips still smack at the tart taste of her made from scratch lemon meringue pies.

memories with grandkids

Making memories. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Nana and I want to create those same memories with and for our grandkids, too. It’s just a bit harder with all those old age mountains between us. Still we do what we can.

I’ve always played a guessing game with all three of them. I hide an object in one of my fists, and the kids have to find which hand it’s in. During a recent visit, Maren guessed with such accuracy that I encouraged her to go buy a lottery ticket. Her response? “What’s that?”

It’s been a joy to see each gain confidence. Davis fearlessly dove off a swimming pool diving board. He asks more questions than even I have answers. To me, it seems just yesterday that he was poking holes in Texas fire ant hills.

As the oldest, Evan strives to ensure that he is not usurped of that position as if that were even possible. Still, he’s one smart kid when it comes to mathematics and board games.

It’s nice to see our grandkids progress from diapers to where they are today. I just wish those eight mountain passes weren’t in the way.

grandchildren on vacation

On vacation. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Farewell to the backyard garden pond

backyard garden pond

In its prime. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Our backyard looks and sounds a little different than it has in a long time.

We recently bid a fond farewell to our little backyard garden pond. She served us well all these years. It was time to let her go, and allow others to embrace her captivating charm.

I didn’t relish removing the little pond and all its accessories. The artificial pond brought us many genuine joys, far beyond any expectations we could have imagined.

When I retired as elementary principal in 1999, my faithful staff, amiable students and supportive parents presented me with a very special gift. They gave me a hand-hewn birdbath and a gift certificate for a garden pond, something I had wanted for a long time.

I brought the weighty birdbath home and plopped it where the sidewalk curves to the front porch. Surrounded by luscious bubblegum petunias, it enticed many a bird to sip and bathe in the summer sunshine.

I located the pond just steps away from our back porch. It was also easily visible from the windows at the rear of our home.

I’ve had two different ponds over the years. The first was a rubber lining placed in a shallow hole that I had dug out. I added a miniature waterfall constructed out of an assortment of rocks I collected from farm fields and local creeks.

I added goldfish, oxygenating plants, water lilies, snails and non-toxic chemicals to kill the algae and keep the water as clean as possible. Of course, I had to feed the fish and regularly clean the pond pump filters.

Unfortunately, destructive varmints also were drawn to the water feature. Several years ago, I awoke to find that the pond had been nearly drained.

I discovered that some ground moles had created shortcuts to quench their thirst. To prevent a reoccurrence, I switched to a hard plastic pond. In the end, it turned out to be a better option for everybody, pond critters included.

The waterfalls provided practical and esthetic pleasures. The birds loved it, bathing and drinking the refreshing water. The sound of water falling mesmerized anyone who graced our porch.

I enjoyed watching American Goldfinches bringing young to the pond for the first time. I added a heater to keep the falls going in the wintertime. A variety of birds took advantage of the much-needed water when their normal sources froze.

Birds weren’t the only animals attracted to the little pond. Over the years, raccoons, garter snakes, groundhogs, squirrels and even deer came to the pond.

The grandchildren loved the pond, too. They couldn’t wait to feed the fish and count the frogs hiding among the lily pads and their pure white blossoms each time the grandkids visited. My wife and I will always cherish those fine memories.

As much as we loved the pond and its amenities, we needed to give it up. Given our situation, we simply couldn’t maintain the pond properly. A friend’s family is already enjoying its alluring magical sounds. It’s nice to know that another generation will continue the gratification that we received from the little water feature.

To keep a water source for the animals and birds, I relocated the sandstone birdbath from the front to the back and added a couple of others to keep it company. We transplanted hostas and placed several of the rocks leftover from the falls for some natural texture.

The birds have already discovered the water. I only hope the snakes and groundhogs don’t find it as desirable.

garden pond, birth baths

The new “pond.” © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Pippi Longstocking comes to life on Amelia Island, Florida

Villa Vilekulla, Pippi Longstocking

The real Villa Villekulla. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

Art often imitates life. It’s more unusual to have it happen the other way around.

On Amelia Island, Florida, art and life have harmonized, especially for one particular children’s fictional character, Pippi Longstocking.

Pippi Longstocking was the brainchild of Swedish children’s author, Astrid Lindgren. She wrote a series of adventures about Pippi that have been read and reread by adoring youngsters around the world. The books have been translated into 64 languages.

Pippi books have been so popular that Hollywood had to join in the fun, too. Several versions of Pippi Longstocking movies have been made.

In 1988, an Americanized version of the original Swedish story was made into a movie, which was filmed entirely on Amelia Island. Island tour guides like to point out various locales where scenes from “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking” were shot.

Lighthouse cottage, Pippi Longstocking, Fernandina Beach FL

The lighthouse cottage where Pippi threw the bottle into the ocean.

Most of the scenes were filmed in or near Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island’s only city. The only seashore scene, which was very brief, was filmed just down the beach from where we have stayed on vacation.

When our three grandchildren visited us in Florida near the end of January, they wanted to see some of the locations as depicted in the movie. They had seen the movie, thanks to Nana, who had it on videotape from her teaching days.

Nana packed the tape so the kids could review the various locations in the movie. They watched the light-hearted film, and we were off on our Pippi tour.

Since the setting of much of the book and movie was in Pippi’s dilapidated house, the Villa Villekulla, we headed there first. In previous years, the house looked much the way it appeared in the movie, unkempt, disheveled, and badly in need of a fresh coat of white paint.

Imagine our surprise, and the grandkids’ disappointment, when we found the house being remodeled. A distasteful olive green siding replaced the weathered white clapboards so prominently featured in the film.

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It was evident that the remodeling project was a work in process. The owner had replaced some of the windows of the Victorian-style home. Others were boarded up.

We later learned that the beloved house had been vandalized, purchased, and was being restored with the purpose of giving tours. In the movie, the villain tried repeatedly to obtain the home by deceit so the old house could be demolished and replaced with a moneymaking scheme.

The grandkids were disappointed to learn that the big tree in the side yard where Pippi and her neighbor friends so often played was the convenience of the producer’s imagination. They discovered how movies are produced.

We visited Centre St. in the quaint downtown area, where most of the movie was filmed. The ice cream shop was actually the oldest saloon in Florida. The building Pippi flew her bicycle by just happens to house a toy store named “Villa Villekulla.”

One puzzle remained, however. Where were the orphanage scenes shot? I found the answer after the kids left. Those scenes were filmed at a private school just north of Centre St. Ironically the old brick building originally had been a home for orphans.

When the sun broke through, and the temperatures warmed, our grandchildren’s attention turned from fantasy to reality. They played on the seashore in front of the lighthouse-shaped home where Pippi threw the bottle with a message in it for her father.

Imagination and reality met on the beach. Our grandkids couldn’t have been happier.

Pippi Longstocking, pink sunset

A sunset just the way Pippi would have liked it. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Generation Next embraces a family vacation tradition

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The Lakeside pavilion, framed by holly hocks. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My parents took my brothers and sisters there. My wife and I took our daughter and son there. And now, our daughter and her husband have taken their three children there, too.

“There” is Lakeside, Ohio. Nurturing body, mind and spirit, it’s an ideal family vacation destination. Activities abound for youngsters through oldsters, all under the umbrella of the Chautauqua community’s four pillars, religion, recreation, arts and entertainment, and education.

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The fountain in front of historic Hotel Lakeside. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Of course, my wife and I were excited to have our daughter and her family, and her husband’s mother, too, join us for our annual Lakeside retreat. The last few years we had accompanied them to their beach vacations. I hoped the grandkids, ages 10, eight and four, would take to Lakeside the way they took to pounding waves on ocean beaches.

Located on the south shore of Lake Erie on the Marblehead Peninsula, there is plenty of water, just not much sand at the little Lakeside swimming area. There would be no challenging the waves this year, or so I thought.

Another concern was that Lakeside thrives on traditions of the past, when times and communication were both slower and life seemed simpler. I wondered if the kids would miss their high-tech toys in the quaint town, founded in 1873 as a Methodist Church camp.

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Even at their ages, our grandkids are no different than any others. They can run iPhones, iPads and iPods, and I can’t. I hoped they would embrace Lakeside’s wide variety of low-tech opportunities.

Boy did they ever, partly because some of the educational and recreational activities involved technology. Kids and their parents, or in come cases grandparents, built Lego robots. Faces flashed accomplishment when their robots responded to command.

The four-year old painted a beach bucket in an art class. She also easily made friends playing in the sand with little girls she had never met.

(Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

While adults attended classes and lectures, the boys each had more fun building toy boats. When completed, they held their maiden voyage in the children’s pool.

Under the abundant shade of the giant hardwoods, the kids wore out the miniature golf course. It was in the same grove of trees where I had picnicked with my family decades ago.

Our grandkids discovered a Lakeside treat. They downed fresh donuts, made daily at an iconic seasonal restaurant. However, what

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Flowers and rock sculptures brighten the shoreline in Lakeside. © Bruce Stambaugh

really got our daughter’s family’s attention were the shuffleboard courts. Too concerned with watching boats and birds, I had never paid much attention to the game even though national and international shuffleboard tournaments are held at Lakeside.

Thanks to my grandchildren, daughter and son-in-law, that changed. I learned more about shuffleboard in one morning than I had ever known before. They shuttled the disks down the well-maintained courts until it was time to head out. In other words, they had a blast.

No Lakeside vacation is complete without at least one round of dominoes. The grandkids learn to play that game, too. I have a feeling the dominoes will click the next time we gather.

I was wrong about the waves, too. When the northeast wind kicked up large whitecaps on the lake, the kids stood at dock’s edge hoping to get spritzed. At the famous Marblehead Lighthouse nearby, they successfully dashed from one rock ledge to the other, teasing the waves.

It was great to see our family’s next generation enjoy Lakeside so much and in so many ways. It truly was what Lakeside is all about.

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Dodging waves on the rocks at Marblehead Lighthouse. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Fun with the grandkids

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Trying to get three grandchildren to cooperative in the same picture can sometimes be a challenge. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Time was running out. We had already visited with our daughter and her family in Virginia’s scenic Shenandoah Valley a month earlier.

With sport seasons and the school year both winding down, it was time to return if we wanted to see our two grandsons and our granddaughter play some ball games. We got our wish and then some.

All three of our grandchildren enjoy sports. Evan the 10-year-old, Davis, almost eight, and Maren, four and a half, all play baseball, and Evan and Maren also participate in soccer.

Games and practices were held after school of course. The weekends were wide open. Oftentimes the games for all three were played back-to-back or sometimes they even overlapped. Fortunately, both sports generally used the same field complexes.

Nevertheless, it still took much planning and preparation to ready three youngsters for their games. Baseball required them to bring their own bat and batting helmet. Mom had to have their uniforms clean, too.

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When granddaughter Maren played, her team, the Buttercups, had all of three players. The boys’ team they played only had two show up. It was tee-ball after all. This late in the season the coaches did throw a few pitches for the hitters before having to resort to the batting tee.

The coaches kept the players on their toes, although with so few players, that really wasn’t necessary. There was no time for playing in the dirt or lounging on the outfield grass, which according to our daughter were not uncommon occurrences when the games dragged on. Young attention spans can be as short as the players.

I’m happy to report that Maren got a hit with her pink bat and her pink helmet, and she scored a run as well. Defensively, she literally had first base covered.

Lefty Davis usually jumped on the first pitch thrown to him. In one game, he batted four times and saw only five pitches in tallying four hits. It was fun watching both the youngsters field the balls that came their way, and the throws they made. Their play reminded me of a few Major League teams I’ve seen this year.

Evan is a real sports enthusiast. Tall and solid for his age, he did a fine job of pitching. I won’t mention that he hit the first batter in the head. Besides his competitive drive, Evan has excellent form both on the mound and at the plate, and often makes all-star teams.

We spent much of a Saturday morning watching Maren learn soccer skills at different stations using several creative interactive games, like Stuck in the Mud. Players had to stand with their legs wide apart and a soccer ball above their head. They could only move if another player kicked a ball through their leggy wicket.

The activities served their purpose well. Valuable and essential skills were taught without the kiddos going away winners or losers.

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Evan’s soccer game was more aggressive, and the older players’ skills were most evident. It’s nice to win, but it’s nicer still to see the emphasis based on the game’s fundamentals.

Of course, we didn’t spend all of our time at the kids’ sporting events. They played board games, and electronic games, too. I’m not sure where they were when we were pulling weeds around their house though.

Spending time with the grandkids is always special for us. For Nana and Poppy it was time splendidly spent, and always a win-win proposition.

nanaandmarenbybrucestambaugh

Maren took time out from a game on an iPad to explain to Nana a painting she had done for us.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Remembering Dad in the very best ways

bigmeadowsbybrucestambaugh

Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I was certain I could hear Dad, and see him, too.

My wife and I were making marvelous memories with our daughter and her family in Shenandoah National Park. We drove a section of the Skyline Drive, and stopped to hike a couple of trails.

As we motored along the twisting scenic highway that runs the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia’s mesmerizing Shenandoah Valley, I remembered I had been there before. I said out loud to no one in particular, “I haven’t been here since I was a kid.”

Indeed, it was the same stretch of road that I had ridden along with my parents and siblings nearly 60 years ago. On that trip, we were on our way to visit some of Mom’s relatives in southern Virginia. Dad, always up for an adventure, insisted we detour to experience the vistas, floral and fauna that the famous Skyline Drive offered. I think we stopped at every turn out to embrace the views.

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The excursion with our grandkids was a diversion from the hectic schedule of finishing the school year and rushing from soccer matches to baseball games. I couldn’t have anticipated the emotions it would evoke in me remembering that long ago family vacation.

I could hear my late father in the rustle of the leaves of the forest canopy, the call of the Eastern Towhees, the fragrance of wild blossoms. I could see him point, index finger to lips, at the grazing white tailed deer that casually ignored us. I heard him shout, “There’s a bear,” as a young black bear scampered across the road in front of our van.

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Family photo.

It seemed Dad was everywhere we went, in the woods, on the spiny rocks on which we climbed and rested, in the beauty of the Big Meadow where Tiger Swallowtails fluttered free from bloom to bloom, and the field sparrows called from thickets of scrawny locusts and carpets of heather.

I certainly felt Dad’s presence as the grandchildren hoofed it up the trails, scampered steep, craggy rocks, and posed for pictures atop ancient outcroppings with more wavy mountains as the backdrops. I saw Dad’s smile in the grandkids’ smiles.

Once we scrambled to a place where we had a 360-degree view, I corralled the grandkids and their parents to stand for a family photo. Dad carried his camera wherever he went, too, documenting family outings.

The grandkids energy and enthusiasm for exploits carried them past their Poppy onto the heels of their own father while their mother and I lingered to absorb the views and catch our breath. Echoes of the past mingled with those of the present from forested ridge to forested ridge.

When we all assembled on the next precipice, my daughter used my camera to capture me with her trio of trouble and orneriness. The shot joyfully reminded me of my father surrounded by his own youngsters.

I don’t remember stopping at Big Meadows south of Luray on the trip with my family so long ago. As I lovingly watched the grandkids romp along narrow trails that snaked through lush carpets of knee-high grasses and plants, their excitement hit home.

A cool mountain top breeze hurried white fluffy clouds through bluebird egg sky. Emerald forests perfectly framed the sentimental scene. Amid the children’s giddy laughter, I thought I heard my father say, “You were here when you were young, too.”

“I know,” I replied silently with a smile and a tear.

bigmeadowsbybrucestambaugh

© Bruce Stambaugh

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A detour of no inconvenience

snowonthemountainsbybrucestambaugh

Snow on the Appalachian Mountains.

By Bruce Stambaugh

This winter’s wicked weather altered many well-laid plans, especially for travelers. My wife and I were no exception.

We delayed our trip south by a day due to a winter storm in the Appalachian Mountains. The extreme cold air followed us all the way to northern Florida.

As we readied to return home at vacation’s end, yet another major winter storm was chugging up the Ohio Valley. We weighed our options about our return trip. It would have been delightful to remain in place. But we needed to return home. It was time.

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Game night.

South Carolina and North Carolina were still recovering from one-two punches of unusually extreme wintry weather that downed thousands of trees and caused massive power outages. We didn’t want to risk being stranded there either.

Fortunately, we had an attractive option that would take us well out of the way home. We decided to visit our grandchildren in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, a year-round scenic place. It was a big sacrifice, I know.

We hadn’t seen our grandkids since Christmas. It was only logical that we should avoid the storm by detouring to Harrisonburg. It didn’t quite turn out that way.

Oh, we had a lovely two-day drive to their hillside home near the university where their daddy, our son-in-law, works. But the storm detoured, too. The morning after we arrived we awakened to three inches of snow overtop a quarter inch of ice.

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The heavy snow even cancelled class at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA.

It snowed all day, doubling the snowy accumulation. Of course, schools were closed, giving us bonus time with our three grandchildren, Evan, Davis and Maren. It was a vacation within a vacation, like finding a diamond ring in a box of Cracker Jacks.

The backyard where our daughter and her family live is perfect for sled riding. The day we left Ohio a month earlier, it was 15 degrees below zero. So I had plenty of warm clothes to wear, including the pair of waterproof shoes I wore while walking on the beach.

We bundled up, grabbed the day glow orange toboggans, and went out into it. We had a riot. Little Maren, the daring four year-old, really isn’t so little anymore. She laid supine in one of the sleds and zipped down the gentle slope and slid right into the neighbor’s backyard.

The boys whooped, and Maren immediately recognized her amazing accomplishment. She jumped up and screeched with glee, “That was just like a rocket booster.”

That’s pretty much how our two and a half days with them went. We would play outside until the cold drove us inside. As soon as his jacket was off, Evan was setting up the game boards, or dealing the playing cards. He loves table games, not only because he is competitive, but mostly because he usually wins.

Davis was content to unwind and warm up on his own, playing his creative, imaginary games with his Lego people and assembled utilitarian pieces. I hope I’m alive when he is awarded the Noble prize in the sciences.

If she’s not playing with Davis, Maren knows all the buttons to touch on the screens of the iPad or laptop whichever is available to her. When I get over my pride, I’ll have to have her show me how to operate them.

My wife and I may have arrived home a week later than we expected. But in this case, the delay was no inconvenience at all.

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Deer at sunset.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Making an all too obvious discovery

germanvalleybybrucestambaugh

The overlook on U.S. 33 near Gap, WV, is one of our usual stretch stops on the way to VA from OH.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I don’t know why my wife and I couldn’t see it. It took the wisdom of our daughter to realize what was happening with her trio of kids, our three grandchildren.

My wife and I live in Ohio. Our grandchildren live in Virginia. We visit them when we can, and they return the favor when their schedule allows, which isn’t nearly often enough from Nana and Poppy’s point of view.

We understand their situation. At ages nine, seven and four, Evan, Davis and Maren are busy, busy, busy. This time of year, of course, their days are mostly filled with attending school.

Their summers are nearly as clogged, only with Little League baseball for the boys. The season seems to last and last, especially when it is extended with tournaments.

Along with their other grandmother, we did do a beach vacation with them in June, which we greatly enjoyed. But that’s not quite the same as being at their home or they being at ours.

Let’s just say that the ability to pile into the van with their parents and head northeast to visit us is rather limited. Which leaves us with one option. If we want to see our grandchildren other than in summer and at Christmas, we have to go visit them.

It only makes sense after all. Our schedules are much more flexible than theirs are. So we go when we can or when we are needed. Lately, it’s been more of the latter than the former.

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The grandkids’ home in VA.

What a year it has been for our daughter and her family, too. After a three-year search for a new home, they finally found a lovely place that mostly suited their family’s needs. It is located in the same general area of town as where they had rented.

What a plus that was for them, too. The boys didn’t have to change schools, and there was no major adjustment to a new neighborhood. The new neighbors might have to adjust to them, however. They are one of the few families with young children in their stable neighborhood.

The problem was that our arriving always seemed to signal a red flag for the grandkids. The sign was plain as day to them. When Nana and Poppy, or one or the other arrived, a new wind blew. Mom or Dad or both were about to exit the scene.

The kids saw the consequences and reacted as children do. For whatever reasons, we didn’t get it. We do now.

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Our grandkids watch most home volleyball games and few away games like this one at nearby Bridgewater College, Bridgewater, VA.

Our daughter and her husband are as busy as their children. Our son-in-law has his professional career with the nearby university, and our daughter helped coach the university women’s volleyball team, not to mention her many duties at church.

On top of all of that was the unexpected purchase and remodel of the house. Throw in the transition of the youngsters, and the arrival of the senior division of the Ohio cavalry for babysitting appearances, and you get the picture.

So there it was. When Nana and Poppy arrived, something drastic was in the works in the lives of our three grandchildren. Kids being kids, they each showed their youthful angst through various bold behaviors. Nothing serious, mind you, just disconcerting.

The solution is straightforward. Nana and Poppy simply need to visit and enjoy time with the entire family, no babysitting, no rule changing, just plain family fun.

That’s the ideal role for Nana and Poppy for which all can be thankful.

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Granddaughter Maren helped Nana make baked oatmeal for the volleyball team.


© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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Miss Maren doesn’t miss a beat in Amish country

summerfunbybrucestambaugh

Aunt Meena and Miss Maren playing a game of tag.

By Bruce Stambaugh

As we headed down the last of eight mountain passes toward her home in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, my three-year old granddaughter, Maren, asked a gem of a question.

We were listening to a child’s musical CD when she picked up on the words “miss you.” Typical of inquisitive three-year olds, Maren asked a profound question. “Does ‘miss you’ mean you will be glad to see him again?” she asked. As I glanced in the rearview mirror, her expressive eyes twinkled the answer. I smiled, and simply replied, “Exactly, Maren!”

That type of interaction had occurred several times in the four days my wife and I had hosted Maren. It was her first time away from her parents and her two older brothers. She passed the separation test with flying colors.

Neva and I had planned several activities that would keep her and her very active mind occupied while away from her familiar surroundings. As it turned out, we need not have worried about filling in the time.

It’s not that Maren didn’t miss her family. It was more like discovering the freedom of being an only child with no one to interrupt her magical control over Nana and Poppy.

From the time she left her home with Nana, Maren knew what she was doing and soaked up every minute of her trip. She was in such a hurry to get to our place that she preferred to snack instead of taking the time to stop for lunch.

When she arrived at our home, Maren insisted on getting her own suitcase out and rolling it into her bedroom. Maren smiled and laughed and played the entire time. There wasn’t a hint of homesickness.

Maren decided to sleep in her little bed with a multitude of stuffed animals. Now this is the same bed and room where Maren refuses to sleep when she visits with her parents. Maren has a reputation for not sleeping through the night. She did at our house, one night for nearly 12 hours.

Besides the various activities we had in mind for her, Maren had her own plans. She enjoyed several swinging sessions on the hammock sans her brothers, and helped Nana make apple sauce.

Maren’s favorite pastime was to feed the goldfish in our little garden pond and to look for the lone green frog. Maren equally relished filling the many birdfeeders I have hanging in the backyard.

While dining on the back porch one evening, Maren said, “You have a lot of bird feeders,” and proceeded to count the five that she saw. I reminded her of the small suet feeder on the other side of the porch. She said matter-of-factly, “Oh yes. That makes six.”

Maren also enjoyed her own private playtime. She did puzzles, rode her scooter and looked at books.

photobymarenbybrucestambaugh

Photo of our garden shed taken by Maren.

Maren was fascinated with my cameras, and asked if she could take some pictures. How could I say no? Most of her shots were spot on.

Like her brothers when they were her age, Maren loved the horse and buggies that clopped by our home. She especially enjoyed the one with the blaring boom box.

Too soon, however, it was time to head home. As much fun as she had had, Maren was glad to see her mommy and daddy, and her brothers again.

The lyrics of the song we had heard coming down that last mountain resonated. We miss you, Maren, very much.

arrivinghomebybrucestambaugh

Although she really enjoyed her stay with us, Maren was happy to be home.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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