Tag Archives: Grandchildren

Standing Bear Pointe

February 5, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Sprawling and quiet in northwestern Omaha, Standing Bear Pointe is tucked a stone’s throw away from the intersection of 144th and Fort streets. Commuters undoubtedly pass by the neighborhood each day, likely giving little thought to the homes, the people, and the stories that live just beyond the stately stone entrance and large trees that open Standing Bear Pointe to the outside world.

It’s possible that many find their way to Standing Bear Pointe quite literally by accident, looking instead for the neighboring Saddlebrook or Hillsborough neighborhoods. That’s exactly how Shelley Callahan found her future home, nestled in a neighborhood that, some 10 years later, she says she and her husband could reside in forever.

“Even if we won the lottery, we probably wouldn’t leave the neighborhood,” she says.

As an image consultant, Callahan had traveled all around Omaha meeting with clients. A wrong turn one day brought her unexpectedly to Standing Bear Pointe. At the time, she and her husband, Ty, had been shopping for a new home; but even after a two-year search, nothing had felt quite right.
Until Standing Bear Pointe.


“I was drawn in by the size,” she recalls. “They were all custom-built homes, but with a uniqueness.”

The neighborhood’s approximately 125 completed homes (and its more than 480 residents) have easy access to the Standing Bear Lake Recreation Area: the water, the green space, the mature trees, and all that Mother Nature and her four seasons could offer within the boundaries of a suburban setting.

The couple returned to the neighborhood soon after their first visit, spending a mere 15 minutes walking through one of the homes for sale. It didn’t take long for them to decide that it would be the home where they would raise their future children.

“It was this feeling!” she says excitedly of their home. Something about the house itself and the nearby residences were all the confirmation they needed to stay for good.

In the 10 years since, the Callahans have welcomed two young sons—Montgomery and Marshall—and a 10-year-old fox terrier named Sam. But more than that, the family has developed deep connections with their fellow Standing Bear Pointe neighbors. Many of the residents moved into the neighborhood, raised their children, retired—and never left.

She cites the mixing of generations that has created such a strong sense of community among her neighbors. Unlike the stereotype of today’s subdivisions, where residents pull into their garages each night without paying much mind to their neighbors, Standing Bear Pointe, Callahan says, feels a lot like family.

The older families have bonded over the years, rearing children, retiring, and welcoming grandchildren—even great-grandchildren. The younger families also raise children together, often developing relationships through carpooling to school, walking the streets on Halloween, and visiting each other’s homes throughout the week simply to say hello. They have bonded during the annual block party and neighborhood garage sale, the impromptu backyard picnics that occur with little planning yet leave behind deepened friendships and fond memories.

“It takes time to develop that kind of neighborhood,” she says. “There is a culture of Standing Bear Pointe. It’s safe with a small-town feel.”

And while Callahan and her neighbors are a mere two minutes away from a Baker’s Grocery Store, Target, and the other modern conveniences that come with living in an urban environment, they find themselves routinely visited by wild turkeys, foxes, and even deer.

“Seeing the animals never gets old,” she says with a grin.

Homes in Standing Bear Pointe often sell fast, Callahan says. (Omaha annexed the area in 2015.)

New neighbors are routinely welcomed and join the family this community has created. Callahan points to a young man, a bachelor, who used to lived next door. He and the Callahans quickly became friends with a story to share: Shelley and Ty introduced their neighbor to his future wife. The couple eventually married.

“We truly feel blessed to have found this neighborhood,” she says.”

Visit standingbearpointe.org for more information.

standingbear3The Ponca Chief and the Area’s Name

Standing Bear Pointe and neighboring Standing Bear Lake are named for the Ponca leader Chief Standing Bear.

In Omaha in 1879, Standing Bear successfully argued that Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law.” The court decision came after Standing Bear and followers escaped from forced relocation to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).

Standing Bear had sought to bury his late 16-year-old son on their ancestral land, near Ponca Creek and the Niobrara River. The federal government’s removal of the Ponca (also known as “The Ponca Trail of Tears”) took place in 1877.

The 1879 case, Standing Bear v. Crook, lasted just 12 days. Judge Elmer S. Dundy in the U.S. District Court in Omaha ruled that Standing Bear and other Native people were lawfully allowed to enjoy the rights of other Americans. OmahaHome


Taking Off the Training Wheels

December 22, 2015 by

The old adage about never forgetting after learning how to ride a bike is pure hokum, and this grandpa is living proof.

On a camping trip this fall with grandsons Barrett (4) and Easton (5), I climbed aboard my daughter-in-law’s girlie bike—the robin’s egg blue cruiser outfitted with a cute basket that is perfect for holding…I dunno…kewpie dolls or friendship bracelets or other sugar-and-spice paraphernalia.

About three feet into my wobbly peddling it struck me that I could not remember the last time I had been on a bicycle. After giving it some thought, I pegged the year to be 1981. I won’t bore you with the comical, look-out-for-that-tree details of our ride over hill and over dale (poor Dale) through the campground that day.

The experience reminded me that Barrett and Easton are born-to-ride daredevils when it comes to two-wheeled action. Not 10 days after the training wheels came off Barrett’s bike he was already flying along the Wabash Trace Trail over in Iowa on one of the popular Taco Rides, and his family has since taken 10-mile jaunts along other, sometimes more challenging trails while crisscrossing the metro.

The thought of which is all absolutely horrifying to me.

And doubly so for my wife, Julie. When we let our imaginations get the best of us, life as grandparents can be a pins-and-needles game of waiting for that inevitable phone call from my son or daughter-in-law where we are informed, “Well, just thought we’d tell you that we’re on our way to the emergency room.”

That’s where this story was supposed to end. Sure, I would have yammered on for a paragraph or three on the terrors of being the grandpa of two young, adventurous boys who don’t know the meaning of fear…but that was going to be pretty much it. Column done. Over. See ya next issue.

Except that we did, in fact, get that phone call.

One week to the day after my tottering bike ride inspired this column, Barrett did a face-plant onto the pavement off his otherwise trusty steed. Yes, he was wearing a helmet, as always, but he knocked out three front teeth, and his bruised and bloodied face looked like a punch-drunk Robert Ne Niro in Raging Bull.

My son, Eric, was a BMX rebel in his teen years, and I recall holding my breath (thank goodness for a gold-plated medical plan) every time that starter gate dropped with a clang and a quartet of riders hurtled toward certain doom. That was at the bicycle track down in Lincoln but now, a generation later, Omaha has a BMX death trap of its own.

And Eric’s reaction to the events of last weekend? He plans to have Barrett fitted with a new mouthguard before going airborne for the first time in a gravity-defying ride on and over the dirt moguls of the local track. All before my grandson’s fat lip is even given a chance to recede to its former pretty-boy profile.

God help us all.


Move Along

August 24, 2015 by

This article appears in August 2015 Her Family.

The forbidden occupies a special place in the imaginations of young children, so it’s no surprise that a vital role in parenting (and grandparenting) resides in the task of setting clear boundaries—that process of delineating what is and isn’t allowed. That stove is hot. That knife is sharp. That street isn’t to be crossed.

But curiosity is the fuel that stokes childhood development, and the desire to explore and understand the unknown is at the very heart of learning. I was reminded of this fact on a recent outing to the zoo with my 4-year-old grandson, Barrett.

Like many frequent visitors, we have a specific circuit for navigating the sprawling zoo, one that invariably begins in the Lied Jungle. It’s a place of great adventure for Barrett, but perhaps not for the reason that one might expect.

The attention span of a 4-year-old is about as fleeting as the fame of most reality TV “stars” (Snooki, anyone?), and the trickiest part of any zoo excursion is to get my grandson to focus on the featured attractions—the animals.

Tapirs? Meh. Monkeys of every stripe? Ho hum. Exotic birds in a rainbow of colors? Save it for a box of Froot Loops.

No, what really turns him on are those emergency exits, utility closets, and entrances to hidden passageways situated along the path that wends its way through the dank environs of the jungle. You know the ones, those doors whose cleverly crafted facades are designed to blend seamlessly into the craggy, vine-draped space. They have the power to send Barrett into a frenzy of unquenchable, just-gotta-know-what’s-behind-there curiosity.

“Secret door!” he squeals with every new (and frequent) encounter with these camouflaged barriers. The magnificence of a planet’s flora and fauna is at his feet, but all Barrett seems to care about is imagining what double-super-secret wonders must lie just beyond those doors— those portals to the mysterious and the unknowable.

The same rang true in both “The Spooky Place” (Barrett’s name for the moonlit swamps of the Kingdom of the Night exhibit) and the shark-infested waters of what he calls “The Fishy Place.”

I’m glad that Barrett is curious. I’m happy that he has the ability to conjure visions of some alternate reality lurking just beyond his comprehension. Such inquisitiveness is a great asset and bodes well for a growing mind. And I also take comfort in knowing that the time will soon come when the zoo’s critters will take their rightful place as the center of his attention.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is on every list of the nation’s best zoos, and deservedly so. But I feel that the place is ready for a minor makeover, one where every door is…well, just a door. Remove those faux finishes. Paint them a boring green or black or beige. And please don’t stop there. Install one of those audio box thingies at every door to play a recorded message.

“Move along,” the gentle voice should drone in a continuous loop. “Nothing to see here. Move along.”

Grandpas everywhere will be grateful.


Duct Tape Dreams

February 19, 2015 by

The first years of a child’s life are jam-packed with an endless string of memorable “firsts.” The rite of passage that is climbing into your first “big boy bed” ranks right up there with such landmark moments as sitting up unassisted for the first time, learning to walk, or uttering your first words.

So it was with more than a little surprise that my wife, Julie, and I learned that it was going to be no easy task to get our grandchildren, Easton (5) and Barrett (3), into new, more age-appropriate bedtime arrangements during sleepovers in our home.

Easton sleeps on an inflatable mattress when he’s over at our place. Barrett, who was moved into his own bed at home some time ago, still sleeps in a crib when he’s with us. Now it’s time for Easton to graduate to a real bed while Barrett takes his brother’s place on the air mattress.

Which brings me to a point of puzzlement. Barrett would never accept sleeping in a crib in his own home these days, but he is reluctant to abandon his spot when it comes time to crash in our home. Compounding matters, Easton won’t budge from his air mattress.

The point is that habits, rituals, and traditions are organic. They are born of a certain set of specific circumstances, ones that may be nullified when the scenery, people, or time changes. Ritual exists to bring order among chaos. Our sleeping arrangements trump those of when they are home simply and solely because they are…well, ours. They are our way. Our tradition.

Easton associates his mattress with camping. He’s not merely on the floor at his grandparent’s house; he’s on a wilderness adventure. The latest addition to his little carpeted campsite is that he now insists on sleeping under the flickering glow of an electric candle that mirrors the dancing flames of a crackling campfire.

Understanding why Barrett persists in his desire to stick to his crib is less obvious to us, but we’re confident, nonetheless, that it has everything to do with the fact that things are just “different” at grandma and grandpa’s place.

All of which is, to me, an informative lesson in early childhood development. It seems counterintuitive on many levels, but I find it fascinating that their little brains are already so compartmentalized, so capable of receiving the very same stimuli (“It’s bedtime”) and processing that information in two diametrically opposing ways.

“Different” is okay, in this case, so long as it is supported by a framework that speaks to a child’s need to feel safe and secure when they are away from their parents.

Funny thing is, I managed to puncture Easton’s air mattress the last time we babysat, which I assumed would force the issue of moving him into a bed. But he still wouldn’t budge. Letting the air out of his mattress was like letting the air out of his sense of security…so it was time to get out the duct tape.


Of Sophocles, Mutants, and Warhol

August 11, 2014 by

My wife, Julie, and I have amassed a library of perhaps 75 children’s books for story time with our grandkids, Easton (4) and Barrett (3). I’m also augmenting the collection with titles that were my faves as a kid.

Hold on a sec. To describe them as mere “titles” doesn’t paint the whole picture. I’m now on a kick of haunting antique stores and used book shops in search of early ’60s editions of works like The Snow Treasure (Marie McSwigan, 1942), a tale of heroism that finds Norwegian schoolchildren devising an ingenious scheme to keep a hidden stash of gold out of Nazi hands, and Daybreak: 2250 A.D. (Andre Norton, 1952), a post-apocalyptic adventure where the mutant-battling protagonist stumbles upon the ruins of a place that was apparently once called “New York City.”

The Snow Treasure is still in print and could be acquired with a few clicks of a mouse. But I don’t want just any copy of this classic. I want to read from the exact same edition with the exact same cover art that I so cherished as a young boy. It is difficult to put into words, but I think there is something magical—almost transcendent—about the reading experience when connecting to the past through vintage books.

A love of old books, avid readers already understand, can sometimes lead to the most unexpected of discoveries. Did you know, for example, that Andy Warhol began his career as an illustrator? He gained fame in the ’50s for his ink drawings used in, of all things, shoe advertisements. And before executing his first soup can, the artist augmented his income by illustrating children’s books. He was also known for his cats. Lots and lots of cats, just like the ones from Warhol’s work shown on this page from “Sophocles and the Hyena” (Best in Children’s Books No. 33, 1960).

The grandkids don’t care about the provenance of the books we select, but their grandpa is treating the collection process as something akin to a sacred quest, a decidedly idiosyncratic one that speaks to the power of memory and the magic found in dusty, musty volumes of the printed word.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” begins an old adage. “The man who never reads lives only one.”

I want my grandsons, Easton (4) and Barrett (3), to live those thousand lives. Now with the addition of Andy Warhol, let’s make that 1,001.


Roughing It

July 11, 2014 by

Reality TV is increasingly crowded with all manner of woodsy survivalist fare. Most programs focus on the notion of “extreme” something-or-other, with life-or-death cliffhangers leading up to every commercial break. So I thought I’d take my elder grandson, 4-year-old Easton, into the wilds (of my back yard) to test our mettle against the forces of nature.

Turns out that nature had nothing to do with our survivability quotient, and roughing it was the least of our challenges. The entire adventure ended up being an object lesson in the foibles of urban camping in my Country Club-area neighborhood.

The dreamy, awestruck look on Easton’s face as the four of us trekked from the deck to our campground was one I had seen only on the rarest of occasions, situations that usually involved Santa, Star Wars, or sugar.

The four of us? Oh, I neglected to mention Easton’s constant pillow-time companions, a pair of plush toys named Bug (a lady bug) and Guy (a wiener dog). Our bare-bones shelter was a 30-some-year-old pup tent purchased from Sears that is now held together by a patchwork of duct tape and jagged stitches hastily sewn around a campfire over the decades. It was the same tent and same back yard in which Easton’s father, Eric, first braved the elements of a now distant, earlier millennia.

We were well-stocked in the reading department, with Easton choosing a couple of favorites—The Cat in the Hat and Caps for Sale—as the stories that would usher him into the land of nod.

So far, so good. The rest of the evening unfolded as follows:

9 p.m. sharp
Easton’s out like a light.

9:06 p.m.
Bug and Guy follow suit.

9:20 p.m.
The party on a neighboring deck is in full (and loud) swing.

Still awake as the beer flows freely next door. Worse yet? Country music.

12:33 a.m.
A staccato series of explosions off in the distance (Fireworks? Gunfire?) is followed by a symphony of sirens (definitely gunfire) and is later accompanied by a police helicopter strafing the ‘hood in pursuit of some midnight malcontents.

1:10 a.m.
The party over the fence mercifully fizzles out, but I am to the point where, now totally wired and checking my watch every ten seconds, all I can do is to think about how to think about getting to sleep.

2:00 a.m.
Surrender. I make if halfway to the house through the dewy, toe-tickling lawn carrying the dead weight of a sleeping child before a tiny voice murmuring the words, “Bug…Guy,” causes me to reverse course.

2:01 a.m.
Easton is nestled in a warm bed with his buddies and, again, completely comatose.

“Did you get tired of camping, Po-Po?” Easton asks the following morning using my nonsensical nickname, one of mysterious, unknowable etymology.

Yeah, I guess I kinda did. I had become tired of camping. The city had done what nature could not in terms of derailing our wilderness outing. Only Easton, Bug, and Guy came through the experience showing the resiliency of true outdoorsmen.

Po-Po? Not so much.