Lunch with Joey

I had the opportunity today, between morning and afternoon appointments and work, to have lunch with grandson Joey. I set the intention of having lunch with each grandchild within a week, and I successfully did that. I was even able to include my eldest grandchild, by driving to Columbia to visit him on the University of Missouri campus and take him to lunch.

Joey is in 6th grade this year. His school is new, with last year being its first year in operation. I love the openness of the cafeteria and the windows that let ample light in. I arrived a few minutes early and chatted with one of the teachers on lunch duty today while I waited for Joey. Two of my grandsons are 6th graders this year, although they attend different schools. I am grateful that even though they are approaching their teens, they still enjoy having lunch together at their schools.

The kids filed into the room and Joey joined me at a front table, a smile on his face. He requested a roast beef and cheddar sandwich meal from Arby’s. Joey’s friend Connor joined us, sitting across the table from us. Having friends with us is always okay! I love meeting my grandchildren’s friends, classmates and teachers. I just make sure that my focus is on my grandchild, although we include others in our conversations.

Connor, Joey and Yaya

Joey and I chatted about the new school year, his classes, football and my upcoming trip. He would love to have a ball cap from one of the countries I will be visiting, as a souvenir. I am happy to oblige. A counselor and two teachers stopped by our table to introduce themselves and my grandson informed one that I am plant based. I chatted for a few moments about health with the interested counselor, answering his questions. I appreciate that my grandkids understand that I eat differently so that I can be my healthiest self. They encourage me and ask questions as well.

I love the way this week of lunches worked out. It is very important to me to invest time and energy in the lives of my grandkids. They amaze me, inspire me, make me laugh and move me to tears. We are creating precious memories as we talk and play and learn together.

In the last seven days, I’ve had lunch with a Dragon, a Tiger, a Tiger, a Tiger…and a Tiger! Lunches don’t get any more interesting or fun than that!

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.

Lunch with a Dragon

The new school year has started for all of my grandchildren. The eldest, Dayan, is enjoying his first week at University of Missouri, living away from home for the first time. The four younger grandkids each began in a new grade and two started in new schools.

One of the things that I enjoy doing as a Yaya, is having lunch with each child at his or her school, several times during the school year. Today I kicked off the tradition by having lunch with grandson Jonathan.

The kids get to choose their lunches and Jonathan requested a sandwich from Subway. This was my first visit to his new school, home of the Purple Dragons. I had the honor of having lunch with a Dragon today, who happened to be dressed in orange, rather than purple.

I love these one on one times with the kids. Surrounded by the chatter and laughter of a hundred other children, the world closes in and that lunch becomes a time to give my attention solely to my grandchild. We talk. We laugh. I ask questions…and get asked questions in return. I don’t eat with the kids. I visit with them while they eat.

What clever, and colorful, lockers at Jonathan’s school, made to look like the spines of books.

Jonathan was happy to escort me to the cafeteria today. We talked about his new school and how he moves from classroom to classroom this year. His favorite class so far is science. We discussed the musical he just performed in and I got to hear his perspective as a performer while I shared mine as an audience member. Drama and music are areas this young man shines in.

We chatted about Dayan being away at the university and how he left behind some cool Doctor Who stuff. Jonathan’s face lit up when I told him I’m leaving next week to visit Ireland, Scotland and England. Ireland calls to Jonathan like Scotland has called to me my whole life. I’ll bring him back a souvenir from that Emerald Isle. And after he graduates from high school, I’ll take him there if he desires to go.

I’m looking forward to spending time with Jonathan in the months ahead, picking him up from school often and grabbing a snack, watching Doctor Who, or watching him play games or create YouTube videos. It was a tradition I began with Dayan, these after school hangouts, and I intend to continue with the other grandkids. As I have already experienced, they grow up so quickly.

Jonathan recently quipped to my daughter that he could be Dayan 2.0. He is a funny and clever boy, who knew Elissa was feeling the swirl of emotions that accompany having a child leave the nest.

I love this boy and his tender heart and his creative spirit. I just want him to be Jonathan, the beautiful, original version of himself. Because that is what the world…and his Yaya and family…needs. Jonathan being Jonathan is absolutely perfect.

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!

Aubrey’s Dragons

I had the pleasure of spending some time with my granddaughter Aubrey late this afternoon. It was too chilly to play outside, although she quickly scampered up her favorite climbing tree in my front yard, and somersaulted down. We settled indoors. She played while I finished some work and then we hung out together, chatting and drawing. 

All of my children and grandchildren are artistic. I used to be a fair artist, although I’ve never been great at sketching from my imagination. I have to have something to look at while I draw. Furthermore, years of not drawing regularly has eroded my confidence in wielding a pencil. I am working on coaxing my abilities back into existence. 

Aubrey's Dragons
Aubrey loves to draw. She told me last year that one of her goals was to become a better artist. And she is meeting that goal! Her drawings are wonderful and she is definitely developing her own style. 

Aubrey's DragonsAubrey’s adorable bob cat

Sometimes Aubrey is content to make requests and watch me sketch. I used to enjoy doing the same when I was a child. My creative mom drew many pictures at my request.

So for Aubrey, I drew fish. This was an easy enough request. I created a family of fish from my imagination. 

Aubrey's Dragons
Then my granddaughter asked for a cat, swimming underwater! That isn’t something one sees often. I didn’t think I could even find such a picture to look at while I sketched. However, amazingly, as I thought about what such a sight would look like, an image came to mind and I drew with ease. The sketch was simplistic , but the cat does appear to be swimming for the surface. I was pleased with it and so was Aubrey. 

Aubrey's Dragons
Lest I feel too accomplished, Aubrey made her last request. Dragons. She asked for two dragons, together, facing each other. Dear child, I thought, can’t we just stick with fish? 

I would not have attempted such a drawing without being sweetly asked by my grandchild. Oh, I like dragons too. And Smaug from the Hobbit films immediately came to mind. But to draw two of them, and have them come out actually looking like dragons, challenged me. I didn’t know if I could do it. 

You know what, though? Aubrey had no doubts about whether I could handle her request. Her belief in my abilities made me try. Once again, an image came to mind and I began to draw. This was a new phenomenon for me, to draw from my imagination. 

Aubrey's Dragons

In a few minutes, I had a rough sketch, of two dragons, wings stretching toward each other, tails intertwined. I was drawing on poster board, which is not the best surface for pencil work. But as I tilted my head and examined my work, I decided it wasn’t bad! Aubrey was very matter of fact, telling me yes, yes, that’s right. I didn’t surprise her. She knew I could draw dragons. And dragons I drew. 

I gain so much insight from my grandchildren. Today I learned the importance of belief…belief in myself and the bolstering empowerment that comes from someone else’s belief in me. It was good, too, to be reminded that challenges are excellent ways to grow beyond my comfort zones. 

As Aubrey prepared to go home, she gave me final instructions for her dragons. She wanted both of them to be teal colored. And holding up one of my coloring pages, she said, “And do this…make shading on them.” 

I can do that!

I am enjoying working on the finished drawing, coloring dragons as I layer on color. Coloring, I do well. Also, I can draw fish and a cat, swimming underwater. And I can draw dragons, thanks to Aubrey’s belief that I can. I believe now, too. 

Aubrey's Dragons

Christmas Shopping with Oliver

As Christmas approaches, it is time for a tradition that I initiated last December…taking each of my five grandchildren out for dinner and shopping. These outings allow me to have one-on-one time with the kids and the children have an opportunity to buy gifts for their family members. 



I picked up Oliver after school and off we went. The kids make the decisions about where to shop, what to buy, and where to eat for dinner. Oliver is the middle child in his family. He is used to his older brother or younger sister calling the shots. He politely asked me questions about what I thought we should do. However, when I returned the decision making back to him, he grinned and quickly picked out two stores to shop in. 


Oliver selected great gifts for his family, in a minimal amount of time. On the way to Freddy’s, his choice for dinner, we played a game of “What’s your favorite…”. We both like the color blue. My favorite movie is the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. His current favorite is the recent Middle School comedy. I like to vacation in Scotland. He enjoys Florida and Branson. 


We discussed school and Christmas and football over dinner. I was thrilled to discover that Freddy’s has a veggie burger on their menu. I tossed the bun. Oliver was brave and tried a bite of my unconventional burger. He not only picked up our meals when our number was called, he also cleared our table after we ate. 



Our fun evening concluded at my house, where Oliver wrapped his purchases. He likes all the plants that I have in my house. “You live in a greenhouse, Yaya!”. He’s right! 

I treasure these times with the grandchildren. Each child gets my full attention. I get to engage in lively conversations and hear that child’s unique thoughts about life and the world. Oliver bemoaned the fact that he still has seven years before he can drive. I am quite content for him to be a child for a while longer. I know how quickly the years will pass. All too soon he will be waving that driver’s license and heading off on new adventures. Even then, though, we will have dinner together and go Christmas shopping, Oliver and Yaya. He’s already offered to drive. 

Maple Leaf Parade & Olivers Superbowl

Family fun continued today, after a beautiful wedding celebration last night for my daughter Adriel and new son-in-law Nate. Early this morning a group of us gathered on the square in historic Carthage, MO for the 50th annual Maple Leaf Parade. 


On this unseasonably warm morning, I waited for the parade to begin with Greg, my sister Debbie, niece Ashley and her husband Jon and sons Ethan and Kaleb, my daughter-in-law Megan and granddaughter Aubrey, and my daughter Elissa and her husband Josh. We made a merry group! 

Leading the parade was my son Nate, with the police honor guard. This year, Nate carried the American flag. Standing tall and at attention, Nate made eye contact and gave me a small smile as I snapped a pic. We cheered as the parade got under way. Grandsons Joey, Oliver and Dayan were all participants this year in the parade. We settled in to enjoy the morning and watch for the boys. 



There were elephants in the parade, from the Tarzan Zerbini Circus. They winter in Carthage. 


Josh picked up a box of Hurt’s Donuts to share. These colorful dessert type donuts, known for their outlandish toppings, are the creations of a Springfield based store that is growing rapidly and expanding its franchise. Hurt’s will be opening a Joplin shop soon. 


I said “no thank you” to a donut. But Kaleb said a big yes! He snagged the Cookie Monster donut because blue is his favorite color. 


The kids scored big at the parade, collecting candy, pens and pencils, bead necklaces and coupons and advertisements of all kinds. 



The Tiger Football floats rolled past. Joey was seated on the opposite side of the float but his teammates got his attention and he waved to us. I captured the moment by snapping a pic of his arm as he waved. 

Oliver sat facing us on his float. We waved and clapped, as he smiled and darted his eyes toward his mom. He played it cool, but those big eyes shone. 


Joey’s arm and the bill of his ball cap!


Oliver and his charming smile. 



We enjoyed more floats and bands, and then the Carl Junction Marching Bulldogs appeared at the end of the block. The band, one of the largest there, looked and sounded great! They played Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones and wowed the crowd. Apparently they wowed the judges as well. The band took first place in their division. 

The Maple Leaf hosts a marching band competition after the parade, drawing participants from a wide region. The Bulldogs took third place overall today, a great accomplishment and a fantastic end to their marching season and Dayan’s time in band. 

Dayan, on the far right. 

Tonight I completed a day of family fun by attending Oliver’s final football game of the season, his Superbowl, held in Joplin. As a third grader, this was Ollie’s first year to play Tiger football. 



Greg and I watched, proud Papa and Yaya, as this boy moved with confidence on the field, playing on the defensive team. He assisted in several awesome tackles. What a change in the team, during one season of play. I was impressed with their skill level, acquired in such a short time. 



Oliver and the 3rd grade Tiger team won their superbowl game, 14-12. It was a great, close game, well played, and the win was well deserved. We got to visit with Joey during the game. Papa gifted him with money for an after game snack. 

As the clock ran out and victory was assured, we moved down onto the field to congratulate Oliver, get a hug, and slip him cash for his snack. And we took a selfie, of course. 

What a fun day, another to add to the weekend’s cherished moments. I wouldn’t trade this journey, full of these incredible moments spent with family and friends, for anything. 

Jump, Jump, JUMP

I enjoyed an afternoon and evening with grandsons Joey and Oliver. After picking them up from school, we discussed possible activities for our time together. Checking the movie theater, we didn’t find a film that we wanted to see. And the boys had recently played miniature golf. Our quest for fun ultimately took us to Northpark Mall, in Joplin. 



At the mall we visited the remote control shop, and watched the sales clerk fly a drone over our heads. The boys tried on masks at the recently opened Halloween store and discussed ideas for costumes. 

It was while we were leaving that store that the boys spied the jumping trampolines and harnesses at the end of the corridor. Their eyes lit up as they turned eager faces to me. 

It looked fun to me. Of course I said yes! 



It was fun! Joey and Oliver harnessed up and I snapped pics and shot video while Papa Greg held our stuff. We laughed as we watched our grandsons jumping, spinning and flipping, 30 feet up in the air. We were envious. Twenty five years ago, Greg and I would have harnessed up as well. I was impressed with the acrobatic maneuvers that the boys executed. 


After very entertaining performances from Joey and Oliver, our little group settled into a booth at Garfield’s off of the mall food court. The boys dined on quesadillas and nachos while I had a plain baked potato with a side of steamed broccoli and Greg enjoyed fish. Garfield’s, with their white paper tablecloths and cups of crayons, provided the perfect opportunity for a fun game that we play. 

Joey started us off by drawing a crackling fire. Each of us then took turns drawing more objects, contributing to the picture and expanding the story, round and round, until we were all giggling over the result. Our food arrived and in our excitement I failed to get a picture of our finished masterpiece. This activity is a great way to express creativity on several levels, laugh together and engage in conversation. 

I loved spending time with two of my grandkids. I listened to their stories, and laughed over their antics. My grandchildren are all adept at going with the flow and seeing what unfolds. And when a fun opportunity presents itself, well….they jump right in.

Watch Joey and Oliver JUMP


Does This Bring Me Joy?

I had the privilege this afternoon of picking up my granddaughter Aubrey from school, as she nears the end of her first full week of second grade. This precocious child always makes me laugh, and think, in turns, as she unabashedly shares her views about the world. 

Aubrey returned with me to the Keller Williams Realty office, after selecting a drink and a snack, while I completed the day’s work. She is a friendly girl, and she chatted easily with Doris Carlin, founder of our local Keller Williams market center, and with agents and staff, showing everyone her extremely loose front tooth. She asked questions and answered questions, and she was so considerate and thoughtful that I complimented Aubrey on her politeness. 

She leaned toward me and whispered, “Enjoy it, Yaya, because I can’t say how long this is going to last.” 

That’s Aubrey, ever forthright and authentic! 


My work completed, Aubrey requested that we participate in a tradition that we observe every year at this time…checking out potential gifts for her birthday in October. I allowed my granddaughter to take the lead at Toys R Us, wandering up and down the colorful, toy packed aisles, while I followed, snapping pics of the items that interested her. 

This is what I found insightful about watching Aubrey: when something caught her eye…and let’s face it, she’s seven years old…most everything caught her eye…she paused to pick up the toy or game and hold it. If the object was too large to hold, she touched it. After a few moments of careful consideration, she announced, “This rings my bell.”  And I took a picture of the toy. Or she said, “This doesn’t ring my bell.” And back on the shelf the item went, without a photo taken, and she moved on. 

Anyone who has read the best selling book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, will recognize what Aubrey is doing as she holds each item. She’s checking to see if the object brings her joy. Without being taught, and having never read the book, Aubrey is sensing whether the toy that she desires is in alignment with her, or not. Does it bring her joy? I take a pic of a potential gift. No joy, even if it looks appealing? Move on. 


Watching Aubrey, I realized that many people go through the same process. Finding something that we are drawn to, whether it is a scarf, a bottle of nail polish, or a book, we pick up the item to examine it more closely. Or are we, consciously or subconsciously, handling the object, checking to see if it brings us joy? 

I know now that I do what Aubrey does. I’m giving the item the joy test, and allowing what I feel to help me make a decision. She has enough openness and awareness to use this technique naturally and easily, stating her preferences as ringing…or not ringing…her bell. 

I enjoyed observing this soulful girl as she moved about the store. I captured her chosen toys with my phone’s camera. And I listened to her happy chatter. She’s reached an age where other factors are beginning to influence her final decisions, such as value. She’s more aware of the cost of what she desires, and she carefully weighs that cost against the perceived joy the toy will bring. 

I heard her mutter several times that the toy “wasn’t worth the cost”. And while that shift could be seen as maturity, a part of me was sad that she is already moving beyond letting simple joy guide her. Ah, sweet Aubrey, hold on to your ability to recognize what brings you joy, and what doesn’t. Keep trusting yourself and your instincts. They won’t lead you astray. 

And know this, Dear Heart, you ring my bell. You bring me joy.