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.

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.

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.