Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pop Pop's Challenges

Question: What do the following items have in common?
A letter to a veteran
An apple pie
A handful of paperclips

We never know quite what to expect when Pop Pop comes to visit but we know it will be stimulating.  Pop Pop loves learning.  When I was growing up, we used to go to the library together.  As I browsed around for my own selections, I remember my dad checking out all sorts of biographies from the youth section to read for himself.  Now that he is a proud grandparent, Pop Pop loves to share his passion for learning with his grandchildren.  And thus began Pop Pop's Famous Challenges. 

Often Pop Pop's challenges begin with something to read.  Once he brought a bird identification book along with the challenge, "Identify five birds outside using the bird book as a reference."  Another time we read a book about a little girl with polio, after which Pop Pop administered a quiz.  One September he brought a book called How To Make An Apple Pie and See the World.  Guess what the challenge was that week?  Mmmm, I still have the recipe. 

When a newspaper article sparks his interest, Pop Pop brings it along.  Once we read an article about two World War II survivors from the 99th Infantry Division who became friends.  Pop Pop had tracked down the address of one, 93 years old, and the kids wrote a letter to thank the veteran for his service to our country.   They were thrilled when he responded! 

Other times, Pop Pop's Famous Challenges are more fun and games.  He will engage Jack in a round of chess or encourage Katherine to beat him playing Blokus.  He regularly brings jokes, riddles and logic puzzles to solve.  "Pretend these paper clips are gold links," he says as he pulls a handful from his shirt pocket.  "and you are the jeweler for the king."  Soon Jack and Katherine are busy manipulating the clips into a necklace, trying to figure out the best design.

Pop Pop's Famous Challenges are occasionally inspired by events in his own life, such as when his dog Nukie was treated by a veterinarian for scabies.  That week's challenge was to create a skit to teach the audience about sarcoptic mange. 

Pop Pop always has a reward for a completing a challenge successfully.  A piece of candy here, a dollar there.  Sometimes a Challenge can be completed in a day; other times it takes longer.  Currently he has challenged Jack and Katherine to read 365 Bible verses during the year and track their progress on a little calendar.  Each quarter he rewards them for their progress by contributing money to their college savings account. 

Pop Pop's graph explaining the merits of a good education

I think the real rewards are more intangible.  Pop Pop loves to share with his grandchildren his enthusiasm for learning.  He is teaching them the value and interest in topics they had never considered.   In this day and age, he is developing a relationship with two young kids that doesn't rely on TV or video games for entertainment.  Just puzzles such as this one:

You're the bus driver.  At the first stop, 4 people get on.  At the second stop, 8 people get on.  At the third stop, 2 people get off.  At the 4th stop, everyone got off.  The question is, What color are the bus driver's eyes?

Answer: Same as yours--you're the bus driver!


  1. Wow your have so many things to be Thankful for this Thanksgiving (the next holiday coming...since you pointed out to me that it is November now). Pop Pop is so amazing...

  2. I like Pop Pop's special grilled eggplant recipe! (And, it's 11:11 where I am.)