Oliver Conquers the Mall

Yesterday’s Christmas shopping with Oliver was postponed, due to my grandson not feeling well. With Christmas fast approaching the time was limited for a future excursion. I was prepared to become Oliver’s personal shopper this afternoon, communicating via cell phones, and picking up his selections for him. However, Oliver rallied enough to venture out. The Yaya & Grandchild shopping trip was on!

It was obvious, after I picked up this normally energetic boy, that he was still recovering from sinus congestion and drainage. Minutes after we left his house, he was asleep in the car. Is there anything more precious than a sleeping child? It doesn’t matter how old they are, slumber surrounds the child with an aura of beautiful innocence.

I let Oliver sleep. When we arrived at the mall, I sat quietly with him and left the car running. I considered whether I should take him back home, pick up another adult to stay in the car with him as I did a quick shop, or wake him and see what he wanted to do.

I chose to wake him and ask his opinion. He is ten years old now, after all.

Although he was a bit groggy, and asked if he could sit if he needed to, he wanted to shop. I had to admire his spirit and his determination. The ibuprofen he took before leaving the house seemed to be kicking in.

Oliver accomplished his goal…shopping for Christmas gifts for his family…in record time. He made great decisions, in two stores, so that 30 minutes later, we were headed to my house to wrap. His talkative nature and wonderful curiosity had returned, and we chatted during the brief drive and while he wrapped the presents.

This young man always has a question or two for me about real estate. After we talked business, Oliver wondered which animal is my favorite and what song I liked best today.

My heart was full of compassion this afternoon for my grandson, knowing he wasn’t feeling his best. I enjoyed our time together, brief as it was. And when he feels 100% himself again, and has regained his appetite, we will have a Yaya & Grandchild meal together, to make up for the one he passed on today.

I learn so much from my grandchildren. Each one is unique, each has talents and gifts and delightful quirks, each one has much to offer to the world. I won’t see the four younger grandchildren until after Christmas. However, I am grateful that I got to spend one on one time with each of them, shopping, listening, sharing, and laughing.

It has been the merriest of Christmas seasons.

Christmas Dominoes

What do I do, in the midst of a busy week, when my washer stops working and there’s laundry to do? I call my mom and ask to come over and use her washer and dryer. And then I text my sister Linda and invite her to hang out with Mom and me and play games. I bring my clothes and laundry supplies and healthy snacks. What is normally a chore morphs into a family fun night.

One thing, of many, that I appreciate about my family is their adaptability and willingness to have fun. Mom and Linda were good sports about an impromptu game night as my clothes went through the magical process of becoming clean in the utility room. We cleared the dining room table and Mom brought out her set of Mexican Train Dominoes.

This game is easy to play, and yet requires some strategy. Each player builds upon her own “train” of dominoes, originating from a central hub, or station. The game begins with the double twelves domino being played, and progresses through to the double blanks. An additional train is created as well, that one can play on if you can’t play on your own train. Each round is over when the first player lays down all of her dominoes. The other players add up their points by counting the dots on their remaining dominoes. At the end of the game, the person with the lowest score wins.

This is a fun game to play. And best of all, the ease of play and pace of the game allows for time to chat and catch up on each other’s journeys. We laugh when my mom mutters, as she eyes her dominoes at the beginning of every round, “What a mess!” We tease Linda when she needs her glasses to distinguish between a domino with four dots or six.

We get caught up in our conversations and forget to play, or wonder whose turn it is. That’s expected and one of the things I love about game nights.

The photo above captures what happens when no one initially selects the double five to lead off the game. We took turns drawing dominoes from the boneyard, until at last Mom picked it up with only three tiles remaining. And note the laundry basket in the lower right corner, with clean, neatly folded clothes accumulating in it.

What a fun way to spend the evening. Had I been doing laundry at home, I would have been multi-tasking, working on other projects or doing housework while my clothes spun through the washer and dryer. It was a nice change of pace to spend family time talking and laughing and playing. Linda won the game. I left with clean clothes. Mom said she enjoyed having two of her girls present for the evening.

My washer will get repaired or I’ll purchase a new one. Whether I’m toting in a basket full of laundry or simply showing up, I want more family fun nights in my future.

Gifts of the Season

This afternoon I had the privilege of accompanying grandson Joey on his Christmas shopping trip. The day was overcast, chilly and dreary, however within our car there was joy and light and anticipation as we drove to Joplin.

We quickly established what our stops would be, and tossed around gift ideas for his family, calling in a little additional help from my daughter-in-law, Megan. By the time we had arrived in the first store’s parking lot, Joey had a clear game plan. From there this young man never wavered, finding each item on his mental gift list, and checking it off.

I give the kids an approximate budget, and two things amaze me as they shop. The kids are extremely fair in their purchases. They do their best to spend the same amount on each family member. This practice is the grandkids’ way of showing that they value the people in their lives and see their worth.

And, we find the items that the children have in mind, at the price they want to pay. This form of synchronicity happens over and over…getting an item on sale, finding the last such item at the exact right price. I love the delight that sparkles in their eyes as they exchange knowing looks with me. These shopping trips not only allow my grandchildren to give gifts to their loved ones, they teach them wonderful lessons about the incredible way life can flow.

Joey and I had such fun shopping and talking non-stop, that this Yaya totally failed to capture any of that part of the experience by way of photos! As we arrived at On the Border, the Mexican food restaurant that Joey selected for our meal, I lamented my lapse. Joey teased me about falling down on my one job today, and then laughed it off. He was gracious in allowing me to take extra photos in the restaurant and during our gift wrapping session.

Preparing to leave, after a delicious lunch, and I find my grandson settled in, watching football on a big screen tv.

Joey decided to actually wrap his gifts, rather than drop them into bags and stuff the tops with tissue paper. There is a knack to gift wrapping, and I let Joey experience cutting the paper to size and helped him learn to fold and tape up the ends. He did a great job. We talked about each family member as he wrapped their gifts and how surprised they would be by his selections.

These are special times, shopping with the grandkids. They enjoy selecting and giving the gifts. And they receive beyond getting a gift in return, perhaps without realizing it fully yet. They are learning the value of money, and more importantly, the value of their family members. They learn to make decisions, carry them out and adapt if necessary. There is a sense of accomplishment that each child feels over their little stack of gifts, and the delicious thrill of anticipation as they imagine the recipients opening their surprises.

There are sweet gifts to me also, watching the bright, earnest faces of my grandchildren as they make decisions and purchases. I receive the gifts of their conversations and laughter, their love and gratitude, and the joy of seeing their awareness and mindfulness grow.

It truly is the season of giving…and receiving…and I love sharing it all with these beautiful souls.

Joy Multiplied

I truly do love this time of year. From the big family Halloween party at the end of October, to the beginning of a shiny New Year, this is a season of incredible joy and special connections and marvelous fun. At the center of it all is family.

I spent the afternoon and evening with granddaughter Aubrey, on outing two of five of the annual Yaya and Grandchild Christmas shopping tradition.

I can tell my grandchildren are growing up, beyond my observations of how tall they are getting or how mature our conversations have become. Their shopping habits are changing.

As she did for her birthday shopping trip, Aubrey avoided the toy store for our Christmas outing, preferring the mall and a big box type store. She shopped wisely and with great care for her family members, not wanting to waste any time in shops that did not have what she was looking for.

She did pause to point out a cute outfit, in case I needed any gift ideas for her. However, her focus, for the most part, was on others and surprising them with thoughtful purchases.

I love these one on one excursions with each grandchild, following them as they browse, listening to their chatter and observing their gift selection process. Each child is unique and has his or her own way of making decisions.

Aubrey chose Popeye’s for dinner, hungry for their cajun chicken, mildly seasoned for her, mac & cheese and biscuits. We continued conversations we had started in the car, including one on the serious topic of bullying. I questioned her about bullying in her school, and was relieved by her answer. However, we discussed the importance of standing up for ourselves and for others who are being picked on, and that it is always okay to talk to an adult if she notices a child being treated unkindly.

After that conversation, Aubrey found a yellow wrist band on the sidewalk outside of a store, with “No bullying” written on it. She asked about the big word that describes when things connect unexpectedly, leading to a chat about synchronicities! I love the interesting flow of life, and I love Aubrey’s heart.

At my house Aubrey made quick work of wrapping her gifts, writing her own gift tags and selecting bags and tissue paper. And then it was time to take her home, after a successful and fun evening.

I thought again tonight about how magical this season is. For me there is deep gratitude, a recognition of blessings and Divine guidance, and appreciation for gifts that cannot be wrapped, only experienced and held in the heart.

I love the sights and sounds of Christmas, the crisp cold air, the warmth of home, the joy that surrounds me and overflows my heart. And, that joy is magnified and multiplied by these grandchildren who share shopping trips and stories and meals and dreams with me. This is my favorite part of the most wonderful time of the year.

The Heart of My Day

My day has been spent being Yaya to two of my grandchildren. As a grandmother, that is one of the best ways I can spend my time, investing in my grandkids and being loved by them.

Grandson Jonathan and I kicked off the yearly Christmas Shopping with Yaya tradition. I take each of the grandkids out to purchase gifts for their family members and treat them to the meal of their choice.

Jonathan is an excellent shopper who knows what he wants to buy for his family, and he wastes no time in accomplishing this task. We chatted as we made several stops, and Jonathan introduced me to Snapchat, creating a profile for me as I drove. This young man is my techie grandchild, and I laughed as he crafted a bitmoji to represent me.

Jonathan has such a tender heart as well. As we pulled into the Walmart parking lot, he noticed a family holding up a hand lettered sign, asking for gas money. We purchased Christmas gift bags and tissue paper in the store…and picked up a gift card to give to the family as we left. This was Jonathan’s idea, and I was happy to encourage and support his generosity.

We grabbed carry out lunches from Applebee’s and returned to the house to wrap gifts and watch an episode of Stranger Things together.

I appreciate Jonathan. He is smart, funny and easy to talk to. He has big ideas and he is working on being able to carry them out. Someday he will be creating apps that make life easier or more fun for people. In the meantime, he is expanding his compassionate heart by being mindful of others and making a difference where he can.

This evening my granddaughter Aubrey joined me for a sleep over. It’s been a while since she has spent the night and both of us were excited about this special treat. Her thoughts about it…”We are having a granddaughter and grandmother slumber party. Some might find that weird. I think it’s fun!” I agree, Aubrey.

This beautiful girl is growing up. As we dined together at Texas Roadhouse she kept up a very mature chatter about school, football, friends and movies. Her current favorite film is 47 Meters Down, a shark flick. Aubrey has interesting and refreshing views about life, people and situations and I always enjoy a conversation with her.

I left my phone unattended for a few minutes, and found this surprise as my new background!

Aubrey knows her way around a cell phone as well, and offered to further my education in Snapchat. After donning our pjs and getting ready for bed, Aubrey gave me some quick lessons in using this photo based app. We laughed over the special effects and she patiently led me through creating my first Snapchat pic.

These kids are precious to me. I enjoyed spending my day divided between two of the grandkids. This week I will set up times to take the rest of my group shopping for Christmas gifts. That’s a fun activity, watching how thoughtfully and carefully each child shops. The greater joy though is just spending time with them, hearing their thoughts, learning what’s important to them, and encouraging them to follow their hearts.

Yaya is a sacred title to me. I am blessed to bear that name in honor of these five adventurous souls.

First Thanksgiving

I have a pictorial post to share, of the first Thanksgiving. Not the one back in 1621, but the first one within my family this year. Because my son will work on Thanksgiving Day, and children will be with their other parents, Nate and Megan hosted an early celebration at their home today, when everyone could be present.

Members from Megan’s family and ours came together in a big, happy group to kick off this week that focuses on gratitude.

Lots of cooks in the kitchen…and one hopeful pug. Nate and Megan provided turkey and the fixings, and everyone else contributed side dishes, desserts, plastic ware and whatever else was needed. I brought plant food based options.

I love that Megan’s sign decor identifies what’s going on in several pics. There is a large KITCHEN sign in the photo above.

Adriel, Nate and Dayan. Our family has two Nates!

The very appropriate sign behind Nate says, Thank you for the food before us, the family and friends beside us, and the love between us.

Football crowd! Kansas City was playing.

The sign in this pic says it well. Eat. There was more food atop the adjacent counter.

Greg gave me a “What are you doing?” look just as I took the photo! He’s standing with child one and child two, also known as Elissa and Nate.

After our shared meal, it was outside into the sunshine, and slightly chilly air, for an annual tradition…the family kickball match.

Team One takes the field.

I caught a pic of the ball after it was kicked.

Team Two preparing to kick. Aubrey gets a bit of coaching from Megan.

Not all of us play…because someone needs to yell and cheer from the sidelines!

Although my family sometimes cringes or scatters, these photo opportunities are precious to me. All five of my grandkids were present. From the left, Joey, Aubrey, Jonathan, Oliver, and Dayan. I love these kids so much!

And the adult kids. I am grateful for each one, and I love and appreciate them. Back row…Josh, Elissa, Adriel. Front row…Megan, Nate, and Nate.

Family photo. What a beautiful group of people.

Big group family photo. What a wonderful blended family.

It was a fun day and it set the tone for the week. The love of family truly is one of life’s greatest blessings. When I list the things I am thankful for, family is always at the top.

Thursday will be Thanksgiving Two. It will be a more quiet day, with food and conversation and games. And it will be full of gratitude as well. May I be especially mindful this week, of all of my blessings, and pause each day to express my thanks.

Exeter Corn Maze

I’m getting in very late tonight, after an extremely fun evening with my son, Nate, daughter-in-law Megan, and grandkids Joey, Oliver and Aubrey. Greg and I joined this merry group in visiting Exeter Corn Maze, in Exeter, Missouri.

I have never been to this entertaining farm turned fall playground. I’ve been excited all week to experience it and to watch my grandkids enjoy the various activities Exeter Corn Maze offers.

Established 13 years ago, on an actual farm, this country place offers many activities for the entire family. There is a corn maze, a huge one full of creepy clowns and chainsaw wielding maniacs. The saws have the chains removed, so it is all good fun. We got lost in the dark cornfield, which seems to be my fate in corn mazes. And that’s part of the intended experience.

The kids bounced on giant inflated pillows, petted farm animals in the petting zoo and flew overhead on zip lines. These kids are fearless! They “swam” in the corn pit, filled with dried kernels. Joey and Oliver faced off with mock opponents in the archery maze, while Aubrey tried out the indoor swings and mini zip lines located inside a made over barn.

The adults joined in on the Spook House, which was scary fun, and the Zombie Shoot. We did the Zombie shoot late in the evening, and as a result, we were the only participants. A tractor pulled us on a trailer through more cornfields and another barn, where scenes were set up. Zombies inhabited those scenes. We shot them with paint ball guns. This was a first for me, both dealing with zombies and firing a paint ball gun. It was a blast, literally!

It was an incredible evening, with the highlight being watching Joey, Oliver and Aubrey exploring and playing and having new adventures. Exeter Corn Maze offers marvelous opportunities for all of those things and creates a fun environment for families to experience together.

I’m glad I got to experience it with part of my family tonight!

MIZ…ZOU

Today I enjoyed a road trip north to the beautiful city of Columbia, Missouri and the campus of the University of Missouri. It has been two weeks since I saw my grandson Dayan. I traveled to MU with Greg and our daughter Elissa to visit Dayan for the first time since he moved into the dorm, and I captured our trip in photos.

Photo by Elissa Adam

Crossing the Missouri River as we passed the state’s capital, Jefferson City. Columbia, which is 236 miles from Joplin, is not far from Jefferson City. It was a beautiful day for a drive and I enjoyed catching up with my daughter as we all chatted.

Dayan’s residence hall on the gorgeous campus of the University of Missouri. Mizzou is the affectionate nickname for this university. It is a form of clipping, or shortening, a longer name into a shorter one. In this case, Missouri to Mizzou. The first reference to the nickname was in a 1905 college publication. At games and events, it is customary for the fans on one side to shout MIZ…and the other side to answer ZOU! The university mascot is the tiger and the colors are gold and black.

And this is the young man we came to see! It was so good to hug him and talk to him and hang out for a few hours. We met Dayan’s roommate, Carlisle, who was kind and personable. I was impressed with the dorm room and with the hall’s casual meeting areas and laundry facilities.

On the way to lunch, Dayan guided us around campus. I loved the stone and brick buildings, the newer structures and the mature trees and many gardens. The campus is actually considered a botanical garden. I’ll be exploring the grounds on foot during my next visit.

Holding to a long established tradition between Dayan and me, we enjoyed Chinese food for lunch at a nearby Panda Express. I was able to select brown rice topped with mixed veggies, while Dayan had his usual orange chicken. Elissa and Greg both tried the kung pao chicken. We read our fortunes to each other. Mine said Important events are in your future. True!

After a trip to Walmart to get a few things Dayan needed, we wandered through downtown Columbia, on the way back to campus. I’ve been to Columbia several times, but this was my first time to the charming downtown. The city, which is about twice the size of Joplin, had a lively energy and the definite feel of a college town. Small shops and caf├ęs lined the streets and this time of year, bistro tables and chairs provided outdoor dining.

Dayan’s favorite Starbucks.

I enjoyed getting to know Mizzou’s campus. I’m impressed with the extensive grounds and the halls. I look forward to attending future events and activities here.

It did my heart good today, to see my grandson. I have missed him. And it brought me great joy to see that he is thriving. He is happy and having fun. His classes are interesting and challenging. Dayan has learned his way around campus and around the city and he is making new friends.

College life agrees with Dayan and it shows. He was confident and relaxed and excited to show us around and share about his classes and activities. I could drive away after our visit, knowing he’s not so very far away and that he is doing well and thoroughly enjoying this new adventure. And that brought peace to the hearts and smiles to the faces of his Papa, Yaya and Mom. The boy has become a man.