Aloha is... having children in your life who freely express love and kindness.
One of my most important missions of my trip back home was to connect with my nieces and nephew. Because I'm lucky if I get get back home even once per year, that time is usually hurried and spread thin seeing family and friends over a span of just a few days. But this year, I made it my mission to stay longer, see the kids in their element and spend some quality time with them.
Before I even arrived, my family kept telling me how excited they were to see me. To be honest, I didn't believe them. I mean, I live 3,000 miles away and see them MAYBE once per year. How could a young kid possibly be excited to see ME? I remember being that young and seeing family only on occasion and I didn't get excited about seeing them. So, why should they? So, while J.J. always says "You're always with us," I was flattered by my family's kindness, but it's just hard to take them seriously. I really felt that they just wanted to make me feel good. No biggie.
On the first day I arrived, when these kids came home separately from their weekend sports activities, they each ran across the room so fast I didn't even see their faces. I only felt the tight grips of their arms around my body. They suctioned to me like octopus! By the time I peeled away from their hugs, I saw smiles as bright as California sunshine.
Then, I was astonished at how comfortable they were around me. No shyness here. They couldn't wait to share and show me as much about their lives as possible. I was able to attend at least one activity for each child - from a school chorus performance and basketball skills clinic to a football passing league, basketball game and dodgeball tournament. I was able to shop and bake cookies and cupcakes with them. I was able to do a Random Act of Kindness project with them. I was able to drink coffee while they ate breakfast with them. I was able to do a fun photo shoot with them. I watched them paint a gift for Grandma and attended her birthday party with them. And never mind the countless games of indoor basketball, soccer, thumb war and magic acts (You heard me - magic) that went down!
From big girl chats with my "tween dream" Ella to co-texting bitmojis to my husband with Julia and ongoing shenanigans with Jace, I can honestly say I was able to successfully connect with them in ways I didn't think would be possible.
My family has done an amazing job raising these kids. Both the Hyland and McGee sides have a hand in teaching and coaching them in how to communicate and care for others and it shows! Not only do both sides of the family help care for the kids, but they are raised "Filipino style" as they have a Lola and Lolo around to help with their chores and teach manners. They also have a "Tito" Tom around daily to have fun with, but also to help reinforce those manners.
It has been my parents dream to come together like that to raise the next generation. I know they thoroughly enjoy this opportunity to be so close to the kids. And, I am so grateful J.J. and Erin have given it to them. These amazing kids not only give my parents purpose each day, but they make them laugh, proud and feel loved!
And, for two weeks, so did I.
Ella "My Bella," Jace "My Ace" and Julia "Pants" McGee!
Live, Love and Lead with Aloha!