Tag Archives: Grandpa

The December Celebration Gauntlet

When Wendy and I married, December suddenly became much more than just a Christmas holiday. Wendy’s birthday is December 21, and we married on New Year’s Eve. That means that I have, arguably, the three most important gift-giving days of the year in an 11 day stretch. After 12 years (a number rife with Biblical significance) trying to find balance in this celestial conjunction of celebrations, our first grandchild unexpectedly, like the star of Bethlehem, appeared on the horizon last year and plotted his arrival on December 11th. An already crazy month just got crazier.

Milo and his parents (I state it this way because, let’s be honest, it’s all about the one-year-old) arrived home from the UK in early December. I picked up them up and drove them home from MSP. The kids made our house command central out of which “Operation Celebrations” would be conducted. Milo has four sets of grandparents, a full contingency of living great-grandparents, and at least one great-great-grandparent. Long story short: There’s a lot of people needing a Milo fix.

Our celebration of Milo’s first birthday happened the night of the 12th. We had a small cadre of family over for a relatively small affair. Ya-Ya Wendy made Milo both a chocolate cupcake and a white, funfetti cupcake. He seemed to prefer the funfetti cupcake, proving that his taste bud genes are inherited from his paternal DNA coding.

Walking is a lot easier with one of these things!

The rounds of family visitation continued on the 19th when Taylor, Milo, and I stopped by my folks retirement community to have lunch with the folks. Milo was, of course, a huge hit. Milo also had a fascination with all of the various walkers with wheels. As he is in training to get the whole “walking” thing down (we’re up to about six consecutive steps without falling at this point), it was a huge discovery for him that there are devices designed and manufactured to assist in this basic human motor skill (special “thanks” to Mary for letting Milo run free with her walker).

Skol! Vikings!

Wendy and I began celebration of her birthday on the 15th when we headed to the Twin Cities. On the 16th we went to our first Vikings game at their new “mother ship” stadium. An annual trip to see the Vikings had become a bit of a tradition for us until it was announced that the new stadium would be built. Wendy and cold get along like Hamilton and Burr, so we skipped the seasons they were playing at the U of M’s outdoor stadium. We finally decided to all the trigger on  our old tradition. It was a lot of fun. We’ll be back.

Wendy’s birthday was otherwise fairly quiet except for the doorbell ringing incessantly. She got a trifecta of flower bouquets on her big day. The florist here in Pella was grateful for the business, though they somehow couldn’t get the deliveries consolidated. On the following weekend our friends Kevin and Becky came to Pella to celebrate Wendy. A pint at the Cellar and a pizza from George’s was in order with the rest of the evening relaxing at Vander Well Pub.

Maddy Kate flew in from her home in South Carolina on Christmas Eve day. We visited Grandpa Dean and Grandma Jeanne before I drove her back to Pella. She joined Wendy and me at Christmas Eve services at church while Milo and his entourage were making an all day tour stop at Na-Na Brenda’s.

Christmas day, I’m happy to say, was an all-out, love-and-laughter, food-and fun, lazy lounge-fest with just the six of us. Wendy made her traditional Christmas morning cinnamon rolls, along with an awesome breakfast. I threw French Dip into the crock pot for the evening meal. Lunch was a charcuterie menagerie for all. We opened gifts together after breakfast, then moved a mattress into the family room next to the sectional for a blissful day of binge watching (This is Us took up the entire afternoon), eating, and napping together.

Our Week With Milo (Oh, and Taylor Too)

Last week was a special one for Wendy and me. Our daughter, Taylor, and new grandson, Milo, came for a week while Clayton was in Africa working on a research project. It was awesome to get tons of cuddle time and to be able to help Taylor out as she continues the three-hour feed n’ sleep regimen. Thankfully the Winter Olympics were on pretty much 24/7 so we got to enjoy that. Even Milo got in on the act thanks to his mommy’s amazing graphic art skills. Milo even came with us on Sunday morning and listened to Papa give the message.

I’ll admit that Papa Tom got a wee bit “misty” from time to time as I rocked, walked, cuddled, and sang a few rusty lullabies from 25 years ago.

I’ve had a lot of grandparents give me a steady stream of cliches about being a grandparent:

  • “It’s the greatest thing ever!”
  • “It’s so much fun!”
  • “Being a grandparent is more fun than being a parent!”
  • “You get to spoil them and then send them home!”

Last week proved that it’s definitely all true.

First Words to My Grandson

My dear grandson,

These are my first official words to you. The first of what I hope will be long and enjoyable correspondence between the two of us as you journey through this life.

This past Sunday our house was filled with women who had gathered to celebrate your mother and your impending arrival in three weeks time. I spent the day before helping Grandma Wendy cooking, cleaning, decorating, and running errands to make sure that the stage was set for the occasion. As the women began to arrive I sequestered myself in the basement to be at Grandma’s beck-and-call should she need help with anything.

I was originally going to entitle this blog post Estrogen Overload as I experienced the humor of being the only male in the house with 20 females. I even used that term as I joked with some of the ladies late in the afternoon. It’s something I’m familiar with having raised two daughters and no sons. I’m quite used to being alone in the company of women.

Suddenly, it struck me that I wasn’t the only male in the room for once. There you were comfortably nestled inside your mother’s womb. Nevertheless, you were very much present. You were the very reason for the celebration. You and me with all the ladies. I smiled to myself at the very thought of it.

So, here are my first words to you, my grandson. Take a good look at these women surrounding you (I only wish we’d gotten more photos of all the ladies who were there and a photo of the entire group). Look at your adorable mother. Grandma Wendy and Grandma Brenda were there. There were three great-grandmothers and a great-great-grandmother present to celebrate you. There’s your cousin Emma, your great-aunt Jody, and your great-aunts Suzanna and Brooke who, amazingly, are younger than your Aunt Madison (I’m going to have so much fun helping you sort out all of this loving, mixed-up mess of a wonderful family). Then there are all the wonderful friends that were there along with family. These are amazing women. They have stories to tell and lessons to teach.

Much of human history has not been kind to our female counterparts. They have been treated like objects, servants, property, and second-class citizens because males have dictated it, encouraged it, and allowed it to be so. It is one of many sad realities of life that you’ll see and experience as you make your own way on your own path. But you will have the opportunity to make a difference simply in your thoughts, your choices, your words, and your actions.

Listen to grandpa. Hear me. Honor these women and all they represent. As a male you will find that much about females will seem mysterious to the point of frustration. There will be moments you’ll  be tempted to be dismissive, patronizing, and demeaning. Along your life journey you will be tempted to place women into two separate buckets in your mind: women to love and honor and women to diminish and objectify. You can’t have it both ways. When you embrace the latter you negate the former. I pray you will have the wisdom to resist these temptations. Someday, I’ve got a few things to share with you about the tragic foolishness of not doing so.

Respect women, all women, in the fullness of their being: body, mind and spirit. Respect the girls you grow up with, the woman you meet in a bar, the woman you work with, the woman you date, and the woman who is a stranger.  Respect them just as you respect the women in these photos. Respect women for all the ways they are different from us guys. Respect their strength. Respect their knowledge. Respect their spirit, ability, courage, and their passion. Learn their stories.  Embrace their wisdom. Love them well.

These women will make you a better man. This, I know from experience.

Thanks for being with me on Sunday. I’m sure it’s the first of many afternoons that you and I will share surrounded and outnumbered in the company of amazing women. I’ll teach you how to groan about it in manly fashion (and then secretly enjoy the heck out of it). I’m overjoyed to have your company.

Love you, little man.

Grandpa Tom

The Latest 08-07-2017

They typically call August in Iowa the “dog days of summer,” but it definitely as not felt that way this year. We had the 100 degree August heat in July, and now nightly temps in the 50s have us thinking of football weather. And the Iowa State Fair hasn’t even begun.

It’s been terribly dry here in our little neck of the woods. Our lawn is dead. We’ve been watering to keep the landscaping alive, but that’s about the extent of it. It’s a little depressing to see nothing but weed in a sea of brown grass.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Wendy and me. July was full of business travel for me. I returned home to assist Wendy with running the box office for Union Street Players production of The Wizard of Oz and to helm meetings in preparation for our community theatre’s upcoming Board elections and Awards Night. Wendy and I are stepping down from leadership this year. It’s time for a new generation of leadership, and we’re ready for other things.

We also spent some time at the lake together. It was a working getaway. Having home offices, it affords us the opportunity to work from the Ozarks. While it’s hard sometimes to sit inside and work while the lake and sun are just out there waiting of us, it is nice to wake up in the morning and have a cup of coffee on the dock. It’s nice get done with work and enjoy dinner on the deck or go for a boat ride. We managed a few dates out in the boat, which is always a ton of fun.

Wendy’s key lime cheesecake.

Wendy has been busy making cheesecakes (and cupcakes) this summer. Not only has she made them for Grandma Vander Hart’s 90th birthday bash and her upcoming Cabi party, but she also has been getting fairly regular orders from people wanting cheesecake for this or that celebration. She loves baking, and I’m glad that she gets the opportunity to do it so regularly for others. If she satiated her desire to bake exclusively for the two of us I’d weigh 400 pounds.

I’ve also been busy on Sunday mornings. Three weeks straight I’ve been in the pulpit at our church here in Pella. That’s been really enjoyable despite the demands of preparation and delivery.

Taylor officially announced her pregnancy a few weeks ago and it’s been fun celebrating the good news with people. I can’t wait to be grandpa. It’s a fun new stage of the journey for us. Taylor is still in Des Moines and works for a digital marketing firm. Clayton is in Africa working on research for his doctorate degree. He’ll return in November and be with Taylor for the duration with baby’s arrival due mid January.

Wendy and I are pumped to make a fall road trip to see Madison. She’s been in South Carolina for so long and we’ve yet gotten down to see her in her community there. She’s still working for Laura Geller New York and is really enjoying her ever expanding community of friends there. She’s also enjoying being just a couple of hours from the Atlantic coast and the beach.

In a couple of weeks both Taylor and Madison are going to join Wendy and me for a trip to the lake together. It will be the last time that just the four of us will have family vacation time together. January begins a whole new chapter in life. We’re looking forward to marking the time together.

Increasingly Rare (and Priceless) Moments

Taylor Madison Gma Gpa VW

A couple of weeks ago we were blessed to have Madison home for Tulip Time. Taylor’s sudden bout of stomach crud meant that Wendy and I did not get to spend time together with the four of us, but before Madison flew back to South Carolina Taylor joined us at Grandpa and Grandma Vander Well’s apartment and I got to capture this lovely moment with my iPhone.

As our girls have left the next, it seems that these little family gatherings are increasingly rare. Therefore, I find them increasingly precious…priceless really.

Simple Habits Simply Exemplified

You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NRSV)

I remember as a child going to spend a week with my grandparents in Le Mars. Mom would take me to the Greyhound bus station in Des Moines and put me on a bus, telling me to sit right behind the driver (where he could keep an eye on me, no doubt) and I would make the long bus ride to Sioux City where my grandparents would be waiting to shuttle me back to their house.

Staying with grandpa and grandma in the small town of Le Mars was a treat. I got to walk “uptown” to explore the shops on Central Avenue. I would be grandpa’s guest at Lion’s Club and we would play Canasta for hours on end.

Once a day, after we ate our meal, Grandpa would get out his Bible and a devotional called The Upper Room. He would read the Bible verse for the day and then read the short devotional thought for that day before offering a short prayer. It did not take long, and to this day I can’t recall any of the actual words or thoughts that were shared. Nevertheless, the simple act of doing it made an indelible impression on me.

Today, I’m thinking about God’s command through Moses not only to ingest and embody His words but also to pass them along to your children. I remember Grandpa reading the upper room after lunch. I recall the daily experience of waking for school and descending the stairs to find my father sitting in his chair, Bible open on his lap as he read and prayed. These things weren’t rigid religious disciplines demanded of us like some kind of cruel and inhuman punishments. They were simple habits simply exemplified which made an indelible impression on a child’s impressionable heart.

I pray that I have been faithful in carrying on the example for our children. I hope for the day when our grandchildren come for the week to the small town of Pella to explore the square and to be Grandpa and Grandma’s special guest so that I may continue to make an impression passed through the generations.

TBT: Grandpa V and the Grill

Grandpa V and the Grill

I like going through old family photos. There’s a lot to wade through and a whole host of faces and events that have little relevance to me. Every once in a while, however, you come across a random photograph that strikes your fancy. For Throwback Thursday I’d like to share with you this little gem.

I have always loved this picture of my Grandpa Vander Well which was taken when he and my grandma drove my mother from Iowa out to Idaho where my folks were moving shortly after they got married. There was a whole series of photos that chronicle their multi-day journey including the retro travel motels where they stayed.

I laugh every time I see this photo. I have no idea why Grandpa wanted a photo of the grill in the park. He certainly does not look particularly excited about it. He’s not cooking lunch. With his pens clipped in his shirt pocket he looks like he could be the state grill inspector documenting that the camp stove meets the Iowa Code for proper grill standards and maintenance.

I imagine my Grandma V sharing their photos with friends: “Oh, and here’s a picture of Herman with a grill!

In a time when taking photos and having them developed cost money, why would you invest in a photograph of you with a charred park grill? Whatever the reason, I’m glad they took it. A half century later it continues to regularly make me smile.