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!

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. 

Surrender 127: Corn Dogs for Aubrey

I had the pleasure of having lunch with my granddaughter Aubrey today. Much to the chagrin of my grandsons, who will be in school about a week longer, today was her school’s last Friday of this school year. We celebrated the end of school and the beginning of summer with lunch from Sonic. 

Aubrey requested corn dogs and a grape slushie, a meal she wouldn’t normally have at school. The first words out of her mouth as we slid into our seats was the revelation that today, the school lunch was….a corn dog! She found that irony funny. At least the school wasn’t serving slushies too! 

Lunch times are very short for elementary school aged children. The kids have 20 minutes to get their lunches, eat and line up for recess. I understand the reasoning for the shortened time for eating. It just goes by so fast. I encouraged Aubrey to eat while we chatted about a variety of topics. 

No time to pose for a pic…I caught Aubrey as she was taking a bite! 

All of my grandchildren are great conversationalists. They share easily about their lives and ask questions about mine. Aubrey and I spoke about the end of school, summer vacation, friends, family, and how I know everyone! Aubrey thinks that because I know several of the teachers at her school. I love watching this bright girl’s eyes sparkle as she talks, and her expressive face. She makes me laugh and stirs my heart with her tender concern for others. 

That 20 minutes flew by. One of the teachers in the lunchroom gave Aubrey 5 extra minutes since I was there. As the other first graders were lining up to go outside, Aubrey slurped down the rest of her purple slushie and gathered up her trash to throw in the big bin. I had already hugged her and kissed her good bye and managed to capture a quick selfie of the two of us. 

Still seated at the table, I waved to her as she dusted off her hands over the trash bin and turned to trot across the cafeteria to join her classmates. Suddenly Aubrey swung around and ran back to me, a big grin on her face, her arms spread wide. I received the wonderful gift of another hug, a kiss and an “I love you” before she scampered off. 

I’ll be having lunch with my three younger grandsons next week, as their school years are concluding too. Dayan, at almost 17, is happy with Chinese food after school. These are precious times. I’m storing up treasures in my heart. I might have left Aubrey at recess with a smile on my face and a joyful tear in my eye. 

Surrender 112: Slowing Down the Moments

It’s been a full, and fun day, with many surrendered moments, and many reasons to celebrate. I stopped by the Webb City Farmer’s Market this morning, the first time it has opened on a Thursday. I love the market, and took home fresh produce and freshly baked wheat berry bread. I had intended to attend Third Thursday in downtown Joplin this evening, where all kinds of activities were underway. 

However, the moments that I surrendered to and chose to write about are the ones that made me laugh the most. 


I picked up granddaughter Aubrey from school. Rather than hang around Joplin as we normally do, until her dad or stepmom get home from work, we spent the afternoon at her house, where she had access to the backyard trampoline. Aubrey self-prescribed jumping and doing stunts as a way of moving energy after a long day at school. I respect and admire how Aubrey knows exactly what’s right for her in the moment. 

As the spectator to her acrobatic feats, I asked if I could take photos. That’s when the hilarity began. Aubrey requested that I take slo-mo pictures. My phone has that capability, but I’ve never used it. My seven old year granddaughter showed me how to use the app. I’m not surprised. Aubrey has been teaching me about functions on my various phones since she was 18 months old! The app was not difficult at all, and in moments, we were taking turns capturing slow motion videos. 

Check out my first slo-mo video here:

Aubrey does a cartwheel 

And the amazing flip here:
Aubrey does a hands-free flip

These little slo-mo clips, each under 20 seconds long, made us giggle so much. I’ll spare you the one Aubrey captured of me talking about the cloudy day. I’d much rather share Aubrey’s graceful moves on the trampoline. Here is a still of me though, gazing skyward, mid sentence, as I spoke soooo sloooowly. 

What a fun afternoon, spending time with my granddaughter, learning something new and engaging in joyous shared laughter. These moments with my grandchildren are going by so fast as the kids grow into young adults. For once, it was wonderful to slow time down. 


Surrender 106: Beautiful Reflections

After a busy morning and afternoon, it was with great joy that I picked up my granddaughter Aubrey from school. We got to hang out for a couple of hours before joining other family members for dinner at one of Aubrey’s favorite restaurants. 


Being with Aubrey is like being with a young version of myself. Watching her, listening to her ageless wisdom, I am reminded of my own childhood hopes and dreams, and of my own gifts and abilities. 

This afternoon we engaged in activities that are meaningful to both of us. We watched Doctor Who together. Like my grandson Dayan, Aubrey loves this amazing series and surprises me with her depth of understanding. We’ve adopted the 10th Doctor’s favorite word, allons-y, which is French for “let’s go”, as our own. We colored together, using Crayola colored pencils in my new Doctor Who coloring book. 

It was too nice of a day to spend the afternoon indoors. We wandered around the backyard garden together. I pointed out plants and flowers and told Aubrey the names. She listened attentively and repeated them back to me. At seven years old, she is already interested in planting flowers of her own. I’d like to allow each of my grandchildren to plant and tend to their own small garden patch, if he or she so desires. 

It was as I watched her scamper with ease up the redbud tree that I thought about how Aubrey holds up a mirror for me, allowing me glimpses of the child that I once was. Like me, Aubrey is intuitive and empathic, sensing energy and spirit, picking up on the emotions of others, especially those who are sad or in pain. Unlike the younger version of me, she is unafraid and matter of fact about her abilities, even if she doesn’t always understand why she does what she does. 


Where I hid who I was, in fear and confusion, Aubrey simply accepts who she is. She is yet too young to realize how much compassion and healing she has brought to the small child within me. That wee Cindy, bit by bit, has learned to offer her gifts shyly to me as an adult now willing to embrace my whole self. 

I am grateful that Aubrey doesn’t know the fearful, anxious person I once was. The greatest gift I can offer to my grandsons, to my granddaughter, is to model what a fearless, creative, comfortable in your own skin life looks like. It is my great privilege to walk alongside the boys and Aubrey, offering into their lives, accepting their offerings in return. 

As Aubrey is a beautiful reflection of my past, I am a reflection for her, of future possibilities. She reflects understanding and acceptance to my inner child. I reflect hope and promise to the woman she is growing into. I appreciate this lovely child so much. I may just surprise her one day, and climb up to join her in the tree. Oh, the things we could then see together from that vantage point.