Day 195: Shrimp Quesadilla at El Charro in Carthage

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What a busy day today, meeting with clients and making phone calls and getting mulch down in the newest part of the garden. In between meeting my last two clients for the day, I had the opportunity to have dinner with my son Nate, his fiancé Megan, and their three delightful children at El Charro in Carthage. I had not eaten at this El Charro before, and to really make it a good first, I tried a new dish there, shrimp quesadilla.

I was missing my son and his family. With their busy schedules and mine, it had been too long since I’d seen them and hugged on the kids. It was great to get to be with them, and fun to go to dinner together. I don’t believe I’ve had dinner with this little group by myself before. We often have family dinners for someone’s birthday, where the whole group gathers. But this was special, too, having an intimate dinner.

I rode with the family in the car to El Charro and Joey, Oliver, Aubrey and I sat in the back and chatted. I loved hearing the kids’ news and stories and listening to what’s important to them. We settled in at the restaurant and ordered dinner. These are precious times. I remember what it is like as a parent. Someone needs to use the bathroom, everyone has something special that they want for dinner, each child has something to say. Like Nate and Megan, I had three kids and they can keep you busy!

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The wonderful thing about being the grandparent, the Yaya in this case, is that having a boisterous, everyone telling stories at once kind of dinner is great fun for me. It brings back memories of my own young family. And having raised those kids and knowing how fast the time goes by, it reminds me that these children will grow up just as fast. All too soon, they won’t discuss who gets to sit by Yaya in the car or at the restaurant. They won’t be so eager to tell me their stories and they will be embarrassed to hold my hand. And I definitely won’t be able to pick up each one for a hug and a kiss.

Tonight, I didn’t mind escorting the kids to the restrooms, twice each. Or sharing my rice. Or wiping up drips of queso. These children with their bright little faces, curious minds and their open, loving hearts bring me great joy. Nate and Megan are amazing parents and they have every right to be proud of their offspring. I’m proud of them, as parents.

And, the shrimp quesadilla was excellent! Plump shrimp and sautéed onions and green peppers made a delicious and healthy dinner. I’d have this unusual quesadilla again. The restaurant offered friendly service and our meals arrived promptly. We had a fun, engaging meal with lots of interesting conversations and no one, not even me, spilled a drink or even dropped a fork!

Before heading back to Joplin and meeting with my last client, I drew pictures on the driveway with colored chalk, traced around each child as they lay on the driveway, and participated in car races with Hot Wheels. Oh, the incredible joys of summer and childhood. When I’m with my grandchildren, I get to experience both.

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Day 171: Pick Up Aubrey From School

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Sometimes, it is the little things that brighten my day and bring joy to my heart. Although seemingly small, these experiences are nonetheless memorable. For my first today, I had the privilege of picking up my granddaughter, Aubrey, from school.

Five year old Aubrey starts kindergarten in the fall. One part of me recognizes that this bright young lady is fully ready to embark on this next adventure on her journey. And another part of me can’t believe she’s already old enough to be in school! Aubrey did not attend preschool, so she is taking part in the Jump Start program. It is designed to give incoming kindergarten students a chance to become familiar with school routines and expectations while enriching their education through fun and engaging activities.

This, then, is Aubrey’s first experience with school and she has embraced it. It is a long day for her, and yet she remains positive and excited about it, except for the mandatory nap time. She loves recess and learning. She is proud of the work she brings home. And, she was happy to report after her first day, that she had made five new friends. That’s not surprising. Aubrey values friendships and engages others easily.

When my son asked if I could pick up Aubrey today, while he picked up Joey and Oliver, I was happy to help out! I wanted to see this sweet child with her classmates and friends and enjoy some girl chat time while we waited for her dad and the boys to meet us at the house. Aubrey was watching for me to arrive as I parked the car. She clutched her school work and waited patiently with her classmates as I crossed the street. The wind was blowing her long hair and she gave me a happy smile as I snapped a picture to capture today’s first.

What fun, as we drove away from school, to get to ask her about her day. It was party day at school, she was pleased to tell me. The kids watched a movie and ate snow cones. When she asked me to guess what color of snow cone she had, I only had to glance at her face in the rear view mirror to guess correctly. Her lips were blue! She shared about the letter “L”, and how the words Love, Leaf and Lollipop all begin with that letter. We talked about her best friends. And I learned what she ate for lunch. Even though it was a party day, that nap time was still observed, but I suspect Aubrey, who has been arising very early on school days, appreciated it more than she let on.

At home, we sat in the porch swing and watched for the guys. I admired her drawing of hearts and a rainbow. Her blue eyes would sparkle and her mouth curve into a broad smile as we talked more about what she was learning in school and about her friends and the upcoming weekend. I treasured this first. All too quickly, Aubrey will be in middle school and then junior high and then….graduating from high school and leaving for college. For those precious moments though, she was a happy five year old, full of stories and wonder and joy, sharing with me, her Yaya, about her day. What a beautiful time.

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Day 144: Girls Outing to Andy’s Custard

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My planned first for today didn’t involve family or food. However, when the day shifted and an opportunity presented itself for me to get together with my granddaughter, Aubrey, sister Linda, and her granddaughter, London, I seized it. Aubrey, 5 years old, and London, 4 years old, adore each other and treat each other more like sisters than second cousins. Aubrey misses London, and vice versa, when too much times passes without a play date.

We had a fun lunch at Chuck E Cheese. The girls chowed down on pizza, played games and danced with the mouse, Mr. Cheese himself. Since we’ve all eaten at this place many times, I considered dancing with him also, as a first. But that didn’t seem appropriate somehow.

As the girls used up their tokens, we discussed what we could all do, for my first today, that could involve the girls. We decided as we were leaving Chuck E Cheese to go to Andy’s for frozen custard. The little girls weren’t sure if they had eaten there before. Linda and I knew we had been there, and  frozen custard isn’t on my list of acceptable foods, but off we went.

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As we arrived in the parking lot, the girls recognized Andy’s. Everyone was agreeable to trying something new that they had not eaten before. London and Aubrey got children’s sundaes with rainbow sprinkles, Linda tried a new vanilla – chocolate concrete and I had Andy’s special for the month of May, a strawberry shortcake sundae. I did get the smallest size available!

The four of us had fun trying new treats. We chatted as we ate and snapped pictures to post with my blog and to capture a visual reminder of our special outing. The girls got to play at Linda’s house afterwards. These young ladies know how to get all the joy and fun possible out of spending time together. Watching them, listening to their animated conversations, clapping as they danced from their hearts, brought the assurance that all was well in my world. Children are wonderful teachers, showing by example how to live in the moment and find the happiness and perfection there. Thank you, Aubrey and London.

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Day 137: Jasper County Sheriff’s Office Community Safety Day

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Today’s first was special, and actually a double first, as my mom, sister and I took Aubrey, Oliver and Joey on a first family outing! We attended a fun event sponsored by the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department. Located just off the square in Carthage, MO, Community Safety Day was geared toward children but had plenty of fun and interesting activities for the whole family.

I often do things with my grandchildren and always enjoy being with them. It is fresh and magical, seeing the world through a child’s eyes. For the first time today, I enjoyed taking not only Aubrey out for some fun, but also got to include the boys of my son’s fiancé. It was great having my mom and sister with us as well. With the crowd and lots of booths to visit, we each paired up with a child and could give the kids the freedom to participate in the activity that they wanted to, without trying to keep everyone together.

Immediately after we arrived, we watched a demonstration by the county’s attack and drug sniffing dog. Later we watched the bomb detecting dog do her thing, alerting her trainer to the presence of an explosive. The kids got to get up close and pet the bomb detection dog, although the attack dog was strictly off limits. Each child also tossed a ball for the bomb dog to fetch. Even working dogs need to have some downtime!

There was also a demo by the county’s swat team and a booth set up with all their gear on display. Aubrey headed a different direction, with me in tow, but Joey and Oliver were fascinated with all the equipment and asked the officers great question. They got to stand behind a protective shield and each one tried on a safety vest, which weighed a hefty 40 pounds.

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The kids visited the face painting booth and left with painted characters on their faces or hands. The balloon animal man created two monkeys and a sword for our little group and we munched on popcorn, hotdogs and shaved ice! The big hit at the event was the bounce house that looked like a giant police car. The kids were quick to shed their shoes and crawl inside. Fortunately for us, there was a tent nearby with chairs and tables so we could unload our arms of balloons, bags and food and rest for a little bit.

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Sheriff Randee Kaiser and his deputies did a great job creating a fun and educational event. They were on site to mingle and visit and answer questions. I think it is important to be very visible, in a positive way, in the community in which they serve. The kids just knew they had fun playing and eating and learning about safety and being protected. And that made our day, knowing they had a great time. On the way back to their house, we also stopped for ice cream cones at Braum’s. That finished off a perfect outing!

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Day 34: Disney’s Frozen Sing-A-Long with Aubrey

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This wasn’t my first viewing of Disney’s newest animated film, Frozen. It was, however, the first time I have participated in a sing-a-long at the theater. My granddaughter, Aubrey, graciously agreed to go with me, and oh, what fun we had!

In its tenth week in theaters, Disney made an unprecedented decision to release a sing-a-long version of this wildly popular movie. Lyrics appear on the screen during the film’s songs along with a bouncing snowflake. It’s an invitation to join in, and audiences are accepting, with gusto.

I understand the appeal. This movie connects with me, deeply. The song, “Let It Go”, nominated for an Oscar, is my theme song for 2014. Aubrey and I both identify with the character, Elsa, who has a gift that she fears and therefore, hides. Something stirs in our hearts as Elsa embraces who she is and uses her ability to create beauty and bring joy to others. A couple of weeks ago, when my mom, sisters, niece and I slipped away to a late night showing of Frozen, sans kids, we hoped we would be the only patrons in the theater, so we could belt out the songs. Alas, there were a lot of other late night movie goers!

When I found out Disney was releasing the sing-a-long version, I knew I’d be attending. Because of the time of day for the movie, there was only a handful of adults and kids in attendance. As the first song began and the bouncing snowflake appeared, we all tentatively joined in. In a few moments, though, led by the children in the room, we were singing heartily. What an amazing experience. I loved watching Aubrey sing, dance and act out scenes from the movie, as only a five year old can. I loved hearing the man down the row from me singing in his deeper baritone, shyly at first and then with more confidence. After one song ended, we glanced at each other and smiled. And I loved singing each song, from my heart, and seeing this powerful movie for the third time.

Aubrey and I left the theater humming and singing our favorite Frozen songs, delighted by the experience. It was a good warm up for another first that I have on my list….karaoke.