In August, our family said goodbye to Pop Pop, so named by his first grandchild. He was the patriarch of our family. He was a grandparent to our sons, and a great grandparent to our Riley, Jack and Campbell. He and Campbell never met but they knew each other from the pictures and stories sent back and forth over the last year. He was a beloved member of our family.
Our celebration of his life, when almost all of our family gathered in St. Louis, allowed us to share memories and stories of this big man who had a huge smile, an abundance of Irish wit, a lifelong love of singing, and a heart that had time and love for all of us. He loved to laugh, and truly his eyes twinkled when he did!
I actually met Jim’s Dad in 1965, when Jim and I started dating. I must admit I was a little intimidated by him…he was a respected business man who loved to read and talk about interesting books and current affairs. He also loved cards and games and any activity that brought family and friends together.
Well, he and I got to know each other pretty well over the next 50 years! To watch his joy and pride in our children and grandchildren was something else! He stood in the rain to watch high school football, sat in the cold at 11:00 at night to watch high school hockey, these after many years of elementary school baseball and soccer games – always so happy to be there, wherever “there” was.
He was at both our sons’ weddings – the last one just 2 years ago, when he was using a walker but still his determined self. He got to Dallas, led all the Kerley men in “The Ball and Chain Song” (a possibly politically incorrect Kerley family tradition!) It was his last time to fly anywhere so we were aware of just how precious that weekend was.
He was proud of each of us and gave 3 generations of Kerleys a lesson in how to be a gentleman, how to work hard but enjoy life away from work, how to carry joy in your heart and share it with those around you.
I am sure we’ll find ourselves sharing Pop-Pop stories and memories this holiday season. And we will miss him so during one of his favorite times of the year!
Here are some wonderful “grandparent” stories along with some holiday stories, both tried-and-true and new. Enjoy, and happy holidays!
38 Ways to Entertain Your Grandparents by Dette Hunter
The essential home entertainment guide for kids and grandparents!
Sarah doesn’t want her grandparents to get bored during their visit, so she and her brother and sister make sure they are always entertained with fun games, creative crafts, delicious food, and lots more!
More than a clever survival guide for grown-ups, this assortment of simple and fun activities, from card games and cooking projects to bedtime rituals, offers up the stuff of childhood memories.
Hanukkah Hop! by Erica Silverman
It’s Hanukkah! It’s a time to celebrate family and enjoy festive traditions. As Rachel and her parents prepare the house, grandparents, cousins, and friends travel from near and far to sing and tell stories. Together, they will light candles, play games, and eat scrumptuous holiday foods… and, of course, dance the Hanukkah Hop. The stamping, the hopping, and the bim-bim-bopping is sure to go on all night!
The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas by Laura Murray
Everyone in class is busy practicing songs and making goodies for their trip to town to thank community helpers, and the Gingerbread Man has made a card for someone extra sweet. But before he can deliver his gift, whipping wind and swirling snow come to town, too. Slushy sidewalks are no place for a cookie, but this Gingerbread Man won’t let a little bad weather stop him!
“I’ll search on my own, as fast as I can! I’ll dash through this snow. I’m the Gingerbread Man!”
With all the flavors of the season and generous dashes of kindness and gratitude, the Gingerbread Man’s newest adventure makes for a perfect read-aloud throughout the holidays.
Latke, the Lucky Dog by Ellen Fischer
A rescued dog chosen as a Hanukkah present at an animal shelter relates his good luck as he learns to adapt to his new family and home. Zoe and Zach welcome their new pet, a playful, medium-sized, golden-brown dog, and name him Latke (he’s exactly the color of one). The newest member of the family assumes all the celebratory aspects of the eight-day Hanukkah holiday are just for him and innocently creates a mild disturbance on each night. Latke eats the sufganiyot and latkes, rips open presents, chews up the dreidels and candles, slobbers all over the chocolate gelt and knocks the bowl of applesauce over. With each mishap, Zoe and Zach find a way to forgive, letting the curious new dog know he is very fortunate indeed. Ever remorseful, Latke finally accepts his own gift of a chew toy and understands he is one lucky dog to be part of a great family.
How To Babysit a Grandpa by Jean Reagan
Written in a how-to style, the narrator gives important tips for “babysitting” a grandpa, including what to eat for snack (anything dipped in ketchup, ice cream topped with cookies, cookies topped with ice cream) what to do on a walk (find lizards and dandelion puffs, be on the lookout for puddles and sprinklers), and how to play with a grandpa (build a pirate cave, put on a scary play).
Filled with humor, energy, and warmth, this is a perfect story for lap reading when Grandpa comes to visit!
Jackie’s Gift: A True Story of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Jackie Robinson by Sharon Robinson
Jackie Robinson’s daughter tells a story that takes place during the family’s first Christmas in Brooklyn. Not everyone was happy to see a black family move in to the neighborhood. Young Steve Satlow, an avid Dodger fan, and his parents are exceptions; they welcome the Robinsons and become friends. On Christmas Eve, Steve is helping the Robinsons decorate their tree when Jackie learns that the Satlows don’t have one. He shows up at their home with a tree for Steve, and his wife comes later with extra ornaments. They then learn that the Satlows are Jewish. What could have been an awkward moment becomes a lesson in tolerance and friendship.
Sleepover at Gramma’s House by Barbara Joosse
Going to Gramma’s takes plenty of preparation. Granddaughter packs her overnighty trunk and says goodbye to Mom, Dad, little fish and baby in the bed. She can’t wait to see her silly millie gramma! Together at last, the two spend a day full of dancing, painting each other and partying with a razzle and a dazzle before, finally, resting together in a ricky rocky swing. What a day!
Winter Candle by Jeron Ashford
A “lumpy stick of wax” lights the way in this story of diverse celebrations held at an apartment house on Juniper Court. While it is neither tall, twisted, or the right color, the unassuming candle manages to save the day for Nana’s Thanksgiving meal, the Danzigers’s Sabbath two weeks later, one family’s St. Lucia observance, and another’s Kwanzaa, before finally guiding a new tenant home during a raging snowstorm. The friendly neighbors help one another without hesitation and come together at the end for a combined celebration lit by the same gnarled but brightly shining candle.
Because Your Grandparents Love You by Andrew Clemens
Of the many things grandparents excel at, unfailing patience and kindness top the list as two children visit their elder relatives’ idyllic farm. Writing in second person, Clements poses theoretical scenarios about how the grandparents might react as the children’s enthusiasms get the best of them: “When you want to help feed the cow but can’t lift the hay, your grandmother could say, Hold on there—that’s way too much!”
This story captures the joy of making memories with grandparents.
The Animal’s Santa by Jan Brett
When Big Snowshoe tells Little Snow that the animals’ Santa is coming with presents for everyone, Little Snow wants to know who he is. The animals say they have never seen him. Maybe he’s a badger, a moose, a polar bear, or a wolf, they tell him. But this spunky little rabbit thinks they are just fooling him.
On Christmas Eve, Big Snowshoe finds a way to see the animals’ Santa when a Snowy Owl in a red cap swoops down with a pack full of presents. Never again will an excited Little Snow doubt that there is an animals’ Santa.
Bea in the Nutcracker by Rachel Isadora
Young Bea loves ballet, and the only thing better than watching The Nutcracker is dancing in it! Bea’s dance class will be performing The Nutcracker, and she has the starring role of Clara. The mood is festive as the young dancers dress in their colorful costumes. Soon, the performance has begun, and the chubby preschoolers transform into the cast of a magical fairy tale. When it ends, the dancers gather for a celebration, and Bea gives a special message to the smallest member of the cast.
By embedding the plot of The Nutcracker in the larger story, the book celebrates the world of performing arts while introducing young readers to the classic holiday story.
Hanukkah Bear by Eric Kimmel
One winter night Old Bear wakes up from hibernation to a delicious smell. Bubba Brayna has been making “the best potato latkes in the village,” despite her age and her poor eyesight and hearing. She has cooked twice as many as usual because she expects the rabbi this Hanukkah night. When Old Bear knocks on her door, she thinks it is the rabbi and welcomes him. As the bear makes various sounds, hard of hearing Bubba Brayna interprets them as best she can. After she lights the candles on the menorah and says the blessing, Old Bear gobbles down all the latkes. She sends him home with a muffler she has knitted. When her friends arrive, she tells them that the rabbi has eaten all the latkes. Of course he denies it. Seeing bear tracks, they decide that it was “…a very clever bear…or a very foolish Bubba Brayna.” As Old Bear sleeps content in his den, the villagers all work together to make more latkes for the holiday.
Me and My Dragon: Christmas Spirit By David Biedzrycki
A boy and his dragon discover the true meaning of Christmas. In droll, matter-of-fact text, an unnamed hero explains all the ways that his pet dragon doesn’t understand the spirit of Christmas (belied by the hysterically funny illustrations, which show the dragon making donations, singing carols, and helping strangers, while his oblivious human dreams of holiday gifts). The boy comes up with the perfect gift for dragon, but when he strikes out on the parental front for financial assistance, he realizes that he’d better find a way to earn some money. Fortunately, his pet dragon is there to help. They try out a number of jobs and are surprisingly successful-so much so that they have time to do a little free babysitting for Mrs. Jones, who has a large family. In the end, it turns out both boy and dragon had a very good understanding of the true meaning of Christmas, right from the start.
When Santa Was a Baby by Linda Bailey
Santa’s parents think their little one is absolutely wonderful, even though he has a booming voice instead of a baby’s gurgle, loves to stand in front of the refrigerator, gives his birthday presents away, trains his hamsters to pull a matchbox sleigh … and has an unusual interest in chimneys. The adorably funny portrait of an oddball kid who fulfills his destiny – and two very proud parents.
The Miracle Jar: A Hanukkah Story by Audrey Penn
Sophie and her brother are excited by the arrival of Hanukkah, and they happily clean the cottage and shine the Menorah as their gift to the family. But when their mother shares her worry that they do not have enough cooking oil to last eight days, their father tells them the story behind the holiday celebration and the miracle of the oil. Inspired by the story, the family creates its own Miracle Jar and watches the oil disappear as they enjoy the special food that each day brings. The family’s hope and faith is confirmed when a last wipe of the cloth produces enough oil to prepare the eight day’s treat.
A Homemade Together Christmas by Maryann Cocoa-Leffler
A family of adorable pigs decides that this year they will make their gifts to each other for Christmas rather than buy gifts. Each family member is excited to try. Momma makes breakfast, Dad makes a blanket, and sister Rosie sings a song. But the littlest pig struggles to come up with an idea. What can he make?
Turkey Claus by Wendi Silvano
Turkey is in trouble. Again. He made it through Thanksgiving without becoming a turkey dinner, but now it’s almost Christmas, and guess what’s on the menu? Turkey decides the only thing to do is to ask Santa for help. He sets off for the North Pole, but getting in to see Santa at Christmastime isn’t as easy as Turkey expected. It’s going to take all his ideas—and his clever disguises—to find a way into Santa’s house. After many hilarious attempts, Turkey comes up with the perfect disguise, and Santa has the perfect solution!
See Santa Nap by David Milgrim
See Santa deliver his last present. See Santa yawn. See Santa nap. See Flop bang his new drum. See Santa wake up!
Poor Santa is exhausted from delivering presents all night, but he can’t find anywhere that’s quiet enough to take a nap. Fortunately for him, Otto knows just the place….
Hope you find “just the place” for a nap sometime over the holidays!