Home Alone with Grandpa! Not a movie, but a real-life week in Texas with grandsons Jack, age 2 and George, age 3!

An active healthy lifestyle puts you in a position to be successful with full days, even 3:50 a.m.– 8:50 p.m., with grandchildren. Never forget that managing your health not only benefits yourself but your family, friends and those you serve.

Niche.com has named The Woodlands, Texas, as the No. 1 best city to live in America, much of it due to its parks, trails, recreation, natural resources and play. Families are more apt to be healthy and exercise if trails and green space are within walking distance of their home. It is a good lesson for all of us.

Neighborhoods easily connect to trails within walking distances of homes that lead to recreation destinations. An appreciative grandfather spends many outdoors hours with the boys.

On morning walks or runs, we warmed up by dancing to ‘Try Everything,” by Shakira, doing voice work for a gazelle on “Zootopia,” a Disney movie. There should be enough joy in all our lives to start the day with a dance.

There are ponds with beautiful ducks like black bellied whistling ducks. It is good to point out that birds have distinguishing features, like their long pink legs, chestnut caps and orange bills.

Large snowy white great egrets stalk the shorelines and poke their long yellow bills into shallow water for frogs, fish and reptiles. Red cardinals fly across trails and sing “birdie, birdie, birdie.” Turkey vultures with red heads ravaging a nearby roadkill perch high in branches above us. The circle of life gives different jobs to birds.

The trails have over-arching tunnels of trees that connect high above. The Loblolly pines prune themselves in the forest, removing all branches 40 feet high. Jack and Brandon feel the rough bark that looks like an alligator. Acorns are collected from live oak trees. Sweetgum trees drop seed pods that look like overgrown cockleburs. Clumps of mint-smelling pine needles are used like whisk brooms to brush the trail.

The boys are foragers, like Grandpa (Papa to Jack), noticing every beautyberry in sight. How can a runner who eats red currant, gooseberries, elderberries and buffalo berries along the trails not stop and pick clumps of gorgeous Viking purple clumps of beautyberries for the grandsons to munch on?

Running and pushing the boys in a double stroller for miles makes me feel like the luckiest 65 year-old on Earth. Many walkers, bikers and runners who use The Woodlands trails smile and give a thumbs up that the boys are safely sleeping in the fresh outdoors air. When the boys wake, they run sometimes, 5K, according to George. These are the best of times.

Young children are inquisitive and curious, something we should all do for a lifetime. One day, while playing in a shallow, slimy water-filled mud hole, three white-tailed deer, one a 4-by-4 buck walked across the trail half a football field away. Sportsmen know that every time outdoors gives you opportunities to witness something special. And clothes can be washed.

Orange, rust, red and yellow leaves fall to the ground and invite you to roll around in them. Shiny magnolia leaves reflect sunlight like green mirrors. Bald barked crepe myrtle adds landscape interest. Goldenrod is a dependable fall wildflower whose flumes wave in the wind.

Our destination is usually a playground. Play is the work of children and celebration of expression. Running around on playground decks and climbing teach balance and coordination. Jack and George love digging in nearby sand or dirt areas. They will be good gardeners.

Public parks, green space and playgrounds offer natural sanctuaries that are shared by people and critters. They positively impact all the people who use them.

Back home, we picked cucumbers, kale, green beans and tomatoes from the backyard garden. Young children and wrinkly-skinned elders learn together and are reminded about easy ways to munch on healthy snacks. Fruit and vegetables are tasty gifts from Mother Nature.

Can’t wait for the sequel of Home Alone with Grandpa!

Wayne Beyer is director for Wahpeton Parks and Recreation Dept.

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