Birthday Dinner & Shopping with Aubrey

This evening it was Aubrey’s turn to be treated to a birthday dinner and a shopping trip. She will be nine years old on Halloween day. I began this tradition several years ago, of taking each of my five grandchildren out for a special evening to celebrate their birth. It has become a wonderful time of sharing and listening and being together, one that the kids anticipate and that I do as well.

Aubrey selected Chicken Mary’s, in Pittsburg Kansas, as her dinner destination. Normally these outings just include the grandchild and me. Because of my knee slipping out of place yesterday, Greg volunteered to join us and drive. Aubrey was delighted.

I’ve never seen this child eat as much as she did at our early dinner. Chicken Mary’s was a good choice for her, with their home style meals and plenty of food. I was able to enjoy a salad with the chicken on the side, so that Aubrey could take it home for her lunch tomorrow.

Back in Joplin, Greg dropped Aubrey and me off at the mall for the birthday shopping, promising to pick us up when we were finished. This is the part of the celebration that the kids most look forward to. I give them a specific amount to spend, and they can use the cash to purchase what they want or they can save it. They typically spend most of it, and that is perfectly fine.

I can tell my granddaughter is getting older. This is the first time she has chosen the mall for her birthday shopping trip, rather than the toy store. She wanted girl stuff…jewelry, a billfold, a unicorn, small items for her school backpack. And an experienced shopper she is. I loved watching her examine items she was interested in, looking for the wow factor, weighing the cost of the item against the gratification. She kept up an amusing chatter the whole time.

This girl loves her fake fashion glasses!

What an almost nine year old girl’s shopping basket contains.

Aubrey settled on Claire’s Boutique, and struck gold here. A big sale meant her birthday cash went further. We visited several other stores in the mall, but this one drew her back. The young female clerk did an amazing job of assisting Aubrey, and every other customer who walked into the shop, with genuine warmth and obvious joy. She and Aubrey connected well over their discussion of animals.

This child, who is rapidly approaching her teens, has a big heart and such profound insights. In her I see echoes of myself, and Aubrey likes to discuss all the ways we are alike. In her I see a boldness and a fearlessness that has taken me years to cultivate. In me she sees a woman who tries new things and makes her dreams come true. She believes anything is possible, and that she can become whatever she wants to become. I agree with her.

At the girls’ clothing store, Justice, Aubrey discovered a writing table set up, with the question posted, What makes your family special? She carefully wrote her answer on the star shaped note and stuck it to the display.

LOVE she wrote. Love makes her family special. Love fills Aubrey’s heart and overflows to touch her family members and her friends and even the kind clerk she just met at Claire’s. Love is woven into her very soul. Aubrey receives it, accepts it and just as easily offers it to others.

Happy birthday, a few days early, sweet child. I appreciate the love that you so freely bestow upon me. Someday I hope you can understand how much healing you have brought into my heart and soul, just by being you. I love you!

Home of the Tigers

On this gorgeous Saturday, I enjoyed watching three of my grandchildren participate in sporting events. Because of work and my recent travels, this was my first opportunity to watch granddaughter Aubrey cheer and grandsons Joey and Oliver play Tiger football. This was also my first time to watch the kids play and cheer within the beautiful new stadium built recently near the Carthage High School.

Here are highlights from the fun day:

I was grateful for my son and daughter-in-law’s pop up canopy that provided shade from the bright sunshine!

A peek at the new scoreboard during Joey’s game…and a vibrant field.

Joey didn’t get to play today. That’s him, number 4, cheering his team on and helping out from the sidelines. He is wearing a brace on his left leg. And the boy on crutches at the other end? That boy and Joey collided during a game two weeks ago. Joey injured his knee. The other boy suffered a broken ankle. Ouch for both of them!

Joey stretching out his leg. I was proud of my grandson. Although he didn’t play, he was attentive and encouraging and helped out by carrying water and tossing the football out. Joey’s team didn’t win but they played earnestly and well.

Watching Joey’s game.

Game 2, and Oliver takes the field as one of the team captains. He is number 3. This is Oliver’s second year to play, and what a difference a year makes. His team plays very well together, under the direction of excellent coaches.

Most of the time, Oliver plays on the defensive line. He is scrappy, and defends very well, blocking players on the other team and tackling, as necessary. His team won their game, without allowing the other team to score.

I appreciate how my son and daughter-in-law show up for their kids, cheering them on and being witnesses to their lives. Nate, who is a sergeant with the police department, was working today. That didn’t prevent him from stopping by the stadium to watch a little bit of the boys’ games and see his daughter cheer.

This is Aubrey’s first year as a cheerleader, although she has been observing and practicing in the bleachers for the last two years. She cheered with her squad during Oliver’s game and it was fun to watch both of them.

At halftime, the girls took to the field to perform a special cheer. I videotaped it, being the first time I’ve had opportunity to watch this darling girl and her friends cheer. You can watch their performance HERE.

I know the kids keep their parents busy, with practices every evening, except Fridays, and games on Saturdays. Nate and Megan are investing in their kids, allowing them to pursue interests and develop skills, and also determine what engages and calls to them next.

I’m proud of all of my grandchildren, for going after the things that are important to them. And I’m proud of my children, for parenting well, with their hearts, with their time and energy, with their presence.

It was a good day for football. It was a good day to be with family.

Tiger…Tiger

My intention in the last six days, has been to have lunch with each grandchild at his or her school. I have two reasons. This is the start of a new academic year and I enjoy visiting the kids at their schools and bringing them the lunches of their choice. And, I leave this Thursday on my trip to Ireland, Scotland and England. I wanted to see each of the grandkids before I go.

Last year, the four younger grands were in four different schools, requiring four separate lunch dates. This year, the younger two, Oliver and Aubrey, are in the same school. Today I met them in their cafeteria.

I am a frequent visitor to this school. They know me here. The school principal is the most interactive elementary school principal I have ever met. As I waited for Aubrey, who had the earlier lunch time, I watched with appreciation as he led second graders in songs and games. Wearing a mic, he wandered among the kids as they ate, calling them by name, asking questions, instigating fun. This school is quite a contrast to most that I’ve visited. Kids are allowed to chat and laugh as long as the noise level is kept tolerable.

Aubrey arrived and joined me at the lunch table. She requested a Jr Cheeseburger meal from Wendy’s. I noted her pink cheeks. She started cheerleading this year and spent Saturday cheering at Oliver and Joey’s football games. This bright eyed girl chatted about her school year and her schedule, cheerleading, making new friends and her family. She asked me about my upcoming trip and made me laugh when she asked if Scottish people wear clothes! She thought perhaps I might be wearing just my “birthday suit”.

The lunch schedule changed this year to an overlapping one for the grades, and I like it! That meant I had 15 minutes with Aubrey alone, and then Oliver’s 4th grade class arrived. For 10 minutes I got to be with both kids, one on each side of me. And then I had 15 minutes alone with Oliver. How perfect!

It was fun to be sitting between two spirited Tigers, which is the school’s mascot. Their colors are blue and white. The kids not only chatted with me, they enjoyed chatting with each other. The conversation turned to Halloween and costumes. In my family, it is never too early to discuss Halloween…and that day is Aubrey’s birthday as well! The theme for the family Halloween party is Criminal Insane Asylum, which promises to be spooktacular! Aubrey, Oliver and I were whispering about costume ideas and got the giggles as kids turned to listen in on our conversation. The school cafeteria is probably not the best place to be talking about insane historical figures!

Aubrey left with her class, after multiple hugs. I am thrilled she is having a great start to third grade.

As Oliver ate a Taco Bell lunch, he asked me lots of questions about real estate: What houses have I shown this past week? Which was my favorite? What is the biggest house I’ve been in? What house was the scariest? Oliver is the businessman/idea creator among my grandkids. He likes to think about new adventures and creative ideas. We were looking at houses together on the MLS, seriously, when it was time for him to go. He gave me a big hug and then politely tidied up our eating space before joining his classmates.

I am equally thrilled that Oliver is having a great school year and enjoying his second season of Tiger football.

I have one more lunch with one more grandchild. Tomorrow I join Joey at his school. I am grateful for these opportunities to visit with the kids, hear about their big little lives and get to know their teachers and friends. I am honored to be a witness to their journeys and to walk alongside them.

The Art of Hiding…and Finding…Painted Rocks

Two days ago, my grandchildren Aubrey, Oliver and Joey, and my great niece London, spent the afternoon painting rocks. Rock painting, and hiding them and finding them, is a fun creative activity trending across the US. The humidity was high Wednesday, extending the drying time of the paint.

After thunderstorms rolled through the area last night and early this morning, the weather today was perfect for being outside…mild, sunny, and breezy with low humidity. Sadly, London could not join us this afternoon. The other children and I gathered up the painted rocks and drove to Cunningham Park in Joplin to hide them.

Hiding painted rocks is much like hiding Easter eggs. You want them to be found. Each child carried a bag of rocks to hide around the park, while I followed along, snapping pics. The kids are so used to me documenting everything we do that they often pause for a photo op. I love that!

Included in our stash were two painted rocks the kids had found previously. These were hidden again in this new location.

Found by Aubrey at the Carthage Police Department

Found by Joey in the Joplin Public Library.

Here are pics of the kids hiding rocks:

Aubrey, Oliver and Joey thoroughly enjoyed hiding rocks. Clever Joey even painted one to resemble dog poop. I would love to see that one discovered!

As they hid rocks, tucking them into rock walls, carvings and bushes, and dropping them in easily spotted locations on the ground and atop park benches, the kids also looked for painted rocks. That's part of the appeal of this hobby.

They hid fourteen rocks. They found, and rehid, five!

We had such fun with this creative project this week. From painting the rocks, to hiding them at the park, to finding painted rocks created by others, this was a good way for the kids to express themselves artistically, in a low pressure, non competitive way. The children encouraged each other, when they painted. And today they stayed near each other as they explored the park, looking for hiding places and for hidden rocks. I enjoyed their sense of teamwork and accomplishment.

I will post pics of the rocks we hid and the ones we found, on the Joplin Area Rocks Facebook page. Check out the group, for fun ideas and to catch a glimpse of the craze that is rock painting. And then paint up some river rocks and come find me and my grandchildren in a park. We will hide rocks, and look for rocks, together.

The Art of Rock Painting

Rock painting is a thing. Walking in the park, shopping at the mall, strolling down Main Street I can glance down and find a painted rock tucked into a corner or peeking out from beneath a flowering plant. This growing trend of painting, hiding and finding rocks, has swept across the US. Chapters have formed in many cities, including Joplin.

The concept is simple. Paint a rock. You can create a design, an elaborate picture, write out an inspiring quote or go with an abstract painting. On the back of the rock, you write the name of your city's rock painting club, which has a page on Facebook. Joplin Area Rocks is the local chapter. Add the Facebook symbol. And then hide your painted rocks. The rocks are supposed to be easily spotted. Imagine a four year old hunting for these treasures. When you find a painted rock, you hide it again, in a new location, after admiring the artwork.

A rock I found last week at Mercy Park.

Today I spent time with three of my grandchildren…Joey, Oliver and Aubrey…and my great niece London. On our agenda was a first for all of us. We had a pile of river rocks, large flat pieces of shale, tempera paints in vivid colors and an assortment of artists brushes. We created our first painted rocks.

I put tarps down in the garage (thanks Papa Greg) and set up art supplies. The kids selected rocks, squeezed out paint on makeshift artists' palettes, and grabbed a brush. I managed to paint a simple heart on one small rock. I was busy the rest of the time snapping pics, handing out damp paper towels and chasing Carl the dog away from the paint.

I love these kids. They are so willing to try new things and enter into fun adventures. I allowed them complete freedom to paint their rocks as they wished. They all chose different designs and colors and methods of expression.

The kids created works of art. I set the rocks aside to dry while the artists changed into swimsuits and escaped the heat of the day by jumping into the pool. I was proud of them for their enthusiasm and their creativity.

The higher humidity today prevented the paint from drying quickly. We decided not to rush the process. We will hide the rocks on a different day. And while we are hiding painted rocks we will look for those hidden by others before us.

Rock painting is a thing. It is a fun thing!

Doctor…Who?

I am a huge fan of the long running British television series, Doctor Who. This show, spanning decades, is so much more than a sci-fi or fantasy series. Doctor Who stretches my mind, touches my heart, engages my imagination and broadens my beliefs while delivering consistently good episodes about humanity.

At the heart of this show is an alien from the planet Gallifrey known simply as The Doctor. He serves as a protector and defender of peoples from across the universe, although he has a particular fondness for humans. What has made the longevity of this series possible is a unique characteristic of The Doctor. Rather than dying, he regenerates, taking on a new appearance and personality when he does so. This cleverness has allowed various actors to play The Doctor over a span of more than 50 years.

At the encouragement of my grandson Dayan, I began watching the episodes dubbed as "New Who", featuring the 9th Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston). I have faithfully followed along through the regenerations of three doctors, which is tough on me! I came to love Doctors 10, 11 and 12, as portrayed by different actors. Each brought fresh perspectives and charm to the character. I was sad when each one stepped away from the show so that another could fill the role…and yet I quickly came to appreciate the new actor and the new Doctor.

It is time for the 12th Doctor, played by the wonderful Peter Capaldi, to regenerate into Doctor 13. The Christmas special in December will be Twelve's last appearance as he becomes Thirteen. During the last few months there has been a great deal of secrecy and speculation about who the new Doctor will be.


Doctors 9, 10, 11 & 12.

Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor.

During the rampant speculations about Capaldi's successor, the rumors began that the next doctor could be female. This would be a first, as all the other incarnations have been male. Some felt it was time for a woman to play the lead role, rather than that of the Doctor's traveling companion. And some felt changing the Doctor's gender, even though other Time Lords have been shown to do so, should not be done. It has been a hotly debated topic.

Honestly, I had mixed feelings. I like the male actors who have played the heroic Time Lord. I was especially fond of Scottish actor David Tennant, who played the 10th Doctor. And I have grown quite fond of Capaldi's older, sassier version. I wasn't sure if a female actor could capture the essence of The Doctor as well as these fine male actors.

As the time for the reveal approached, scheduled for last Sunday afternoon, I was sure I didn't want 13 to be female. The BBC planned to release which actor was assuming the role by way of a brief video shown during Wimbledon. I found myself fervently thinking, Don't be a woman…please don't be a woman.

Actress Jodie Whittaker was selected as the 13th Doctor, amid a furor of reactions. She is a fine actress, best known for her current role in BBC's crime drama, Broadchurch. I like that series. I like Jodie. I embrace change in my own life. So why my strong reaction to this change?

I have thought about that question all week. I am still sorting through my feelings about it. This is my concise answer to a complicated assortment of realizations.

I discovered that I have an appreciation, and perhaps even a need, for a powerful male lead as a father figure. As a child of divorced parents and the resulting consequence of seeing my dad on weekends and then less and less frequently as I grew up, I have longed for that strong male presence in my life. I have been drawn to characters such as Captain Kirk in Star Trek and a whole hosts of super heroes such as Ironman and Batman for that reason. The Doctor, who comes across as very fatherly with his wisdom and deeper understanding of the universe, satisfies that need as well.

But my goodness…I am no longer a child. I stepped up into my identity years ago. I learned to fill in any self perceived gaps in the parenting I had, by becoming the mother and the father to my inner child that I wished I had had. I have understood this week that I no longer need to look outside of myself for anything that seems lacking.

And with those thoughts, my attitude about the new Doctor, about 13, completely shifted. I am excited to see what Jodie brings to the role. I am a loyal Whovian. And I accept this change, just as I ultimately have which each previous regeneration. Yeah, it is just a television show. I know that. And yeah, it is more than that as it helps me to grow and expand my awareness and see life in bigger ways.

If I needed any other persuasion on embracing the first female Doctor, I received it yesterday. I asked my granddaughter Aubrey, who is a Doctor Who fan as well, if she had heard about who the new Doctor was going to be. She had not. Aubrey's favorite Doctor is David Tennant as well, as Ten. I was curious to see her reaction to Thirteen.

Holding her on my lap, I pulled up the video on my phone that the BBC used for the reveal. I watched Aubrey, as she watched the short clip. As the 13th Doctor's eye and forehead were shown, Aubrey turned wide blue eyes to me and whispered, "Is it a girl?!" I just smiled. As Jodie removed the hood covering her head and her face was fully revealed, my granddaughter squealed with delight and yelled, "It IS a girl! The Doctor is a GIRL! She just became my new favorite Doctor."

I still tear up when I think about Aubrey's response. It means so much to her that the Doctor is at last a woman. What a strong role model Jodie is going to be, for girls and for boys…and for me. I can imagine how many little girls will be wielding sonic screw drivers and dressing as The Doctor for Halloween in the years to come. Aubrey could be among those pretending to be a Time Lady. I hope so.

Throughout the day, yesterday, Aubrey would turn shining eyes toward me and ask, "The new Doctor really is a girl?" I was proud to answer that she was. And touched to my core by Aubrey's happy grin.

Welcome to the Whoniverse, Jodie Whittaker. I am so glad you are here. Take us all to new places, in the show…and in time and space…and within our hearts.

Watch the reveal video HERE.

Girls’ Movie Night

I’m posting briefly this evening, and late, because I am at a party…a grandmothers and granddaughters sleepover! The night kicked off with Aubrey and I meeting my sister Linda and her granddaughters, London and Aralyn, for dinner at the mall food court. 

After Chick Fil A meals, we settled in with the girls at the nearby theater for a showing of Despicable Me 3. 

Girls' Night at the Movies
This third installment in the Despicable Me franchise stars Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Nev Scharrel. The animated adventure film was directed by Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin and Eric Guillon, and has a run time of 1 hour and 30 minutes. Despicable Me 3 carries a PG rating, for action sequences and some rude humor. 

Gru (Carell) is back in this humorous adventure, now a devoted family man with a crime fighting wife Lucy (Wiig), and adopted daughters Margo (Cosgrove), Edith (Gaier) and Agnes (Scharrel). While adjusting to marriage and parenthood, Gru and Lucy suddenly lose their secret agent jobs. 

Girls' Night at the Movies
As they consider career options, Gru receives a surprising summons from an unexpected source. Gru learns that he has a twin brother Dru (Carell), and that the boys were separated as infants when their parents divorced. 

Dru is a mirror twin to his long lost brother, with opposing characteristics. He is cheerful, optimistic, emotionally expressive…and  he has a full head of hair! Not all is at it seems, however. Gru discovers the family secret, and he and his brother set off on a wild escapade against an evil foe named Balthazar (Parker), who is definitely stuck in the past! 

Girls' Night at the Movies
We all enjoyed this charming and hilarious film, featuring familiar characters, a new villain and those oh so lovable yellow minions. Since this was a girls’ night out, I asked everyone what they enjoyed most about Despicable Me 3. 

 London (age 7): I liked the part where Gru and Dru stole the diamond from Balthazar.  

Aubrey (age 8): The whole movie was fun…and I liked the last diamond scene too. 

Aralyn (age 3): I liked the big robot who said, “I’ve been a bad boy!”

Gigi (Linda): I liked when Gru lost his clothes and ended up wearing pink bubble gum and he floated by the birthday party where everyone was singing. 

Yaya (Cindy): I enjoyed the family relationships as stronger connections were formed…Gru and Lucy as a couple, Lucy learning to be a mom to the girls, and especially Dru and Gru as they forged a brotherly bond. 

Girls' Night at the Movies
As fun as Despicable Me 3 was, that was just the beginning of our girls’ night. Snacks were secured and pjs donned. Gigi and Aralyn have gone to bed. As I write, Aubrey and London are curled up on an inflatable mattress in the living room, whispering together and watching a DVD. A Dog’s Purpose has just started. I’ll watch the movie with them. Mostly though, I’ll enjoy watching these two cousins interact with each other as they discuss the movie, giggle and chat. 

It is definitely a girls’ movie night!

Girls' Night at the Movies

Most Artistic

Unbelievably, today was the last day of school for Joplin. I picked up my granddaughter Aubrey after a half day at school completed her 2nd grade journey. Her eyes were bright as she climbed into the car. 

“I have something to show you,” she said with excitement. “Don’t look yet.” 

Most Artistic

As I maneuvered the car across the school parking lot, I heard her rummaging in her backpack. When I stopped at the exit to wait on traffic, she had me look at what she was holding in her hands. 

Each child in Ms. Compton’s 2nd grade classroom received an award today. From a wide range of categories, the students voted on which child would be honored with which award. Aubrey won the most votes for the “Most Artistic” Award. 

Most Artistic
Aubrey told me how pleased she was to be the recipient of this award. However, the significance was much greater than just receiving a certificate. This was an achievement that signified the realization of an intention Aubrey set in January 2015. 

Shortly after the second semester of kindergarten started for Aubrey, she brought me a goal she had written out in class. It accompanied an illustration and the printed words read: 

Most Artistic
Most Artistic

My goal is to be a betr rtist.” Aubrey

Six year old Aubrey entrusted me with her goal. She asked me to be the keeper of her intention, and I have done so…for more than two years. We’ve discussed her artwork frequently as she has gained more skill and developed her own creative style, often referring back to the goal she declared in 2015.

She understood today that this piece of paper she received at school represented two years of honing her abilities and allowing her creativity to shine forth. It represented Aubrey’s desire to be more artistic and succeeding at meeting her goal. And it encouraged her that her classmates view her as an artist. 

Most Artistic

I love Aubrey’s artistic style, which is playful and expressive. I appreciate her awareness of how life works and how everything connects together. Most of all, I love Aubrey and her creative heart. 

We had a wonderful conversation about setting intentions and seeing them realized. We discussed creativity and art and how everyone has gifts to offer to the world. Aubrey couldn’t wait to surprise the rest of her family with her award and to tell the story of how it came about.  

Most Artistic
Such a special moment deserves to be celebrated and commemorated. I asked Aubrey if she would like a frame for her certificate, so she could display it in her room. We drove to Michael’s, where Aubrey selected a simple white frame. 

I thought she might go with something more, well, artistic, but she had other ideas. 

At her house, she told me she knew exactly where the framed certificate could go. A spot was already prepared. Aubrey showed me a cleared corner on top of her bookcase. 

She carefully placed her award on the shelf and then Aubrey did her artistic thing. She added little creative touches to the plain frame, personalizing it and making it uniquely hers. My eyes filled with tears as I watched her. I learn so much from my grandchildren. 

Aubrey. From wanting to be a better artist in 2015…to Most Artistic in 2017. She shines. 

Most Artistic

Pickin’ on the Ranch

I love junk shows and I have been excited about a type of show new to the Joplin area that premiered this weekend. On this warm, gorgeous spring day, I collected my daughter-in-law Megan and grandchildren Joey, Oliver and Aubrey to check out the Pickin’ on the Ranch event in Carthage, MO. 

Pickin' on the Ranch
Picking is the act of selecting items for the purpose of reselling them. This profitable hobby has been made popular by the long running reality TV show, American Pickers. Picking is typically done among vast collections of junk and vintage items that people have stored in their houses, garages or barns. 

Today’s spring pickers market kicked off the first such event at the picturesque Civil War Ranch in Carthage. The barns, outbuildings and open grassy areas provided the perfect backdrop for vendors to display their pickings. 

Pickin' on the Ranch
Pickin' on the Ranch
This was a fun show to attend. And apparently we weren’t the only ones curious about a pickers market. The venue was packed. As we wandered through barns and booths I enjoyed looking at the many items for sale. These shows inspire my creativity and ignite my imagination. I am always impressed with how clever people are, as they repurpose vintage finds into new items. 

Pickin' on the Ranch
Pickin' on the Ranch

Pickin' on the Ranch
There was live music on site, food wagons to ease hunger and thirst, and celebrities from HGTV signing autographs. The atmosphere was friendly and casual. And there was even an animal adoption area where people could hold and pet dogs and puppies and perhaps take home a faithful companion as a found treasure. 

Pickin' on the Ranch
Pickin' on the Ranch
As much as I enjoyed looking at junk and vintage items and crafts, what I cherished most was watching my grandkids take in their first pickers market. They surprised me a couple of weeks ago by showing interest in the event when I mentioned it to them. As the spring pickers market approached, they continued to be excited about it and anticipated attending as well. I was delighted to take them and Megan along this morning. It was a fun outing. 

Pickin' on the Ranch
Pickin' on the Ranch
The kids were great shoppers. They each had an allotted amount to spend and made careful decisions about their purchases. I was proud of how polite they were to vendors and pleased with how interested they were in what was going on. 

Pickin' on the Ranch
Joey helped to keep an eye on his younger siblings, so we didn’t lose anyone in the crowds. He was called a “good man” by a vendor for retrieving an item that had fallen off of a display table and setting it up again correctly. 

Pickin' on the Ranch
Aubrey found lots to capture her interest, including these red lockers. I told her that her daddy had such a set of lockers when he was a boy, and that he stowed his police gear in them, items that he purchased or made in anticipation of his future career. Aubrey wanted to show that she could fit within those lockers too. 

Pickin' on the Ranch
Oliver made me laugh. The others were walking just a bit ahead of us when he asked to walk into a booth. “Sure, go ahead!” I said. “You’d better come in with me and keep an eye on me,” he quipped. “I think my mom would want you to keep an eye on me.” Amused by his honesty, I was happy to follow him around the booth, keeping an eye on him. He didn’t touch a thing! 

Pickin' on the Ranch
This first pickers market was a great success. I anticipate that the event will continue to grow and evolve into a highly anticipated yearly event. We didn’t make any huge purchases, but we all left with something special. I found a metal pendant and love the sentiment engraved on it…”the journey awakens the soul”. 

What a perfect expression of the day, and of my life. 

Pickin' on the Ranch

Wherever the Road May Lead

Kids are so inspiring. I picked up three of my grandchildren from school today, Joey, Oliver and Aubrey, and after our customary stop for drinks and snacks, the kids suggested a game. We would drive away from the house, and at every intersection, the kids would take turns choosing a direction. We would continue with this “pick a direction” game until time to head home, and then find our way back. 

It sounded like an adventure to me! 

Wherever the Road May Lead
After dropping off backpacks at their home, we loaded back into the car. The kids asked if they could each take their pet along. Carl the dog and the cats, Mittens and Nakoma, all well behaved when riding in the car, joined us. And off we went. 

Wherever the Road May Lead
Wherever the Road May Lead
Wherever the Road May Lead

Joey selected our direction at the first intersection…left. Aubrey chose the next course change…right. And Oliver’s choice was straight ahead. At each crossroad, the kids took turns deciding which way to go, and I drove accordingly. 

I added a requirement to the adventure. I asked each child to watch for something interesting, unusual or beautiful that caught their attention, and requested that they take a photo with my iPhone. They were willing participants. 

Wherever the Road May Lead
We drove on country roads, venturing out into areas unknown. The sky was overcast but the countryside, awakening with bursts of colors and tender shades of green, gave us plenty to talk about and ohhhh and ahhhh over. We quite unexpectedly ended up at the rustic gates of Camp Cyokamo. I’ve heard of this remote campground, but I’d never seen it before. I snapped a pic. The gates were open, an invitation to explore, and we circled the camp. 

Wherever the Road May Lead
This large glass greenhouse, beautifully lit up, caught the attention of all of us. I pulled over so Aubrey could capture this gorgeous surprise, which sparked our imaginations and initiated animated conversations. 

Wherever the Road May Lead
On one of the roads we wandered down, we came upon a property with row after row of old, rusty tractors. We all exclaimed over the site of so many farm vehicles and speculated about the collectors. Were they farmers? How long had they been buying old tractors? Joey took great photos. 

Wherever the Road May Lead
By now I had no idea where we were. We drove down gravel county roads, turned on paved lanes with names like Nutmeg and Redbud, and crisscrossed over rivers, or the same river many times, on concrete bridges. The pets had all curled up and fallen asleep. 

Wherever the Road May Lead

Wherever the Road May Lead
When my daughter-in-law texted to say she was headed home from work, we knew it was time to find our way back. I allowed each child to choose one more direction. And Oliver photographed an American flag rippling in the breeze. His grin alerted me that he had shifted his focus, sneaking in a close up of Yaya at the wheel!

Wherever the Road May Lead
I am grateful that my phone has a GPS! I not only didn’t know where we were, I didn’t know how to find my way back. As I now drove following Siri’s directions, I was surprised to realize how far north and west we had gone. In a few minutes, however, we crossed a familiar highway and I got my bearings. We arrived home just ahead of Megan. 

What a fun game we played, and what adventurous and innovative grandchildren I have. What I enjoyed the most was that the kids were engaged and we had fun chatting and laughing. There were no electronics going in the car…no YouTube videos playing, no electronic games in use, no apps being downloaded. We talked. And wondered about things. And let random directions guide us to new sights. 

It was fun. It was the adventures of Yaya and Joey and Oliver and Aubrey…and Carl and Nakoma and Mittens. I look forward to playing this game again!

Wherever the Road May Lead