Sunday, December 23, 2007

100th Post!

Philip is still working. There's no Sunday School tomorrow. I've already laid out clothes. So I'm here in Bloggerville. I've been trying to add ads...say that ten times real quick...so that if anyone needs to search or visit other sites, I might generate a little spending moo-lah. Yeah, so that took like FOREVER. But then on one of my trips back through my blogger dashboard, I noticed that I have posted 99 times. Meaning....

Happy 100th Post to ME!
and YOU!

I guess I've averaged twice a week for over a year now. Very fun.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Out in the Open

I've been itching to blog for 3 days. Philip is HOME! He wanted to surprise his mom today by just driving up in her driveway as she assumed he was still in Oklahoma. Since she's my biggest blog fan, I had to keep my homecoming celebrations on the down-low.

Merry Christmas, Becki, your boy made it home!

Philip is REALLY into surprises. This frustrates me. I am a lover of information. Surprises....not so much. I felt a spirit of allusiveness as we spoke on Wednesday night. I said, "Don't do anything stupid like just showing up in our kitchen, ok?" There was a long pause. He WAS planning a drop in. I stated in my most serious voice: "I'm a little stressed. I need to know what you know." He surrendered the truth that his truck was packed and he was headed home Thursday morning. We agreed to keep it from the kids. They were so thrilled to see him later that evening. They shrieked, and screamed, and then there was a 7 minute group hug. Very nice. I waited my turn then I kissed that guy 'cause he'd been gone too long, and it was very wonderful to have him showing up in my kitchen!

When my oldest brother went on a two-week mission trip last month, he was given wise counsel on the flight home. "Do you have your 9 dimes?" the wise guy asked. "Huh?" (Tim was confused) "I know you miss your wife, so when you get home take your 9 dimes out of your pocket and throw them into the front yard. Tell your kids as soon as they find all 10 dimes, they can come in the house...."

Well, I took 9 dimes, added a twenty dollar bill, and handed it all to James. I told him to take the suburban filled with kids to a movie. He was confused. I've never commissioned such a field trip -- especially on a school night. I raised my eye brows and gave him that goofy grin that grosses him out, and he took the kids and the money and ran. Woo-hoo! When everyone returned, we were able to spend the rest of the evening together as a family without all the goofy grinning....well, I guess there was a little goofy grinning.... I can't help it.

Philip got to hunt a little yesterday and has been called out to work twice today....poor guy. We had a great time with the J's today. I have the cutest nieces in the world!

Tomorrow there is only one worship service ALL day. I'm looking forward to taking it easy in the morning -- not having to rush off to early service and gear up for evening activities. Family Day!

Thank You, God for loving us and taking care of us. Thank You for teaching me to live with anticipation...waiting for a return. I know You're sending Your Son again. Help me live deliberately with Hope and Peace. Thank You for Jesus.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tricks and the Trade

Saturday morning at breakfast, I walked into the dining room to offer seconds. I held out the pan, and with my spatula, I polled: "Who wants another cinnamon roll?" Around the table like the wave at a Rangers game, children's hands went up one by one. My eyes tracked the response until I got around to the high chair. There was Mari. Smiling. Hand raised. And the crowd roared. (she's never even had a cinnamon roll)

We've been showing off her new trick all week. "Who wants another cinnamon roll?" is her Pavlov trigger. That fat little hand shoots high into the sky. We all just laugh. A couple times I'd swear she muttered "I do". She laughs too because she loves a good laugh.

Tonight our neighbors treated us to CiCi's (Yes, that's twice within a week -gag me) Aside from my personal, and solitary, aversion to cheap, scantily-topped pizza, we REALLY enjoyed the friendship and fun. The boys had done some jobs this afternoon that were "paying jobs" read: Mommy is lazy and loaded when it comes to filing bills and scraping dead bananas out from under the high chair cushion, so they had money to spend in the game room. We all had fun as it was thoughtfully sweet of our friends to pry us away from our lonely, Philip-less house. Anyhoo-- Cici's has cinnamon rolls..... I know...we really must stop. She's not a puppy for heaven's sake.

In other news...last night I wrapped all the kids' gifts. I kept in mind that Luke, our future CIA operative would be hand delivering each gift to the tree (No, we don't play the Santa game at our house...sue me...I just want the pretty packages under the tree and out of my closet, ok?) He would be inspecting the loot for verification of granted requests and any misrepresentation in packaging. I didn't fall off the sleigh yesterday... I hid the wrist watches in cereal boxes before wrapping. I printed the location of a large item on a piece of paper and wrapped it in a file box. I did my best. But in the end, I realized the main thing he wished for was not at all cleverly disguised. So I swapped labels! The only gift that is shaped in any way like the item of his dreams has "Ashlin" printed on the front. sneaky, sneaky.

This morning he came in and asked to transport the pile of gifts. I watched in awe as he scanned each parcel for a name....forming piles for each recipient...keeping a running total....prepared to balk at any hint of inequity. After he had subtly shaken every present, he looked at me with great disappointment.
"Is this all the presents?"
"Yep"
"Are we doing a treasure hunt this year?"
(he's referring to my tactic for the larger item)
With minimal truthfulness, I replied, "Oh, honey, I wasn't thinking"
His face lowered. His shoulders sank. He moped out of my room believing his dreams had been dashed. I can't wait until we open presents and I get to stop Ash as she's about to open the gift marked with a cross. I'll have her trade gifts with Luke and hopefully he'll trade his self-centered sorrow for a grateful dance. In a strange way, isn't that what Christmas is about?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Just Boring Details of the last 24 hours

Last night James and Megan and I were up late finishing up some Christmas gifts we've been working on together. The kids had been in bed for a while. Around 11:30, Ashlin emerged from her room. She leaned her head against the door frame and said, "I woked up and now my birthday is in my heart." I couldn't send her back to bed to face the dawning of her new year alone. We dug out the video of the day she was born and had a little party. On December 12, 2002, Tim surprised me by flying to Texas from Washington just in time for Ashlin's birth. My hormone enhanced super-emotional reaction was caught on tape. Very embarrassing. It was fun to see the kids...all so little, it seems. Ashli saw her daddy holding her in the hospital and started crying. "I miss my daaaaaad!" I asked her if we needed to stop watching. She said no and we dried our eyes and watched the excitement of her first Christmas. After Megan left, midnight stroked, and Ashlin needed a cupcake. James believes cupcakes go really well with nachos. My husband's gone, so I busted out crab meat and peanuts. It was a disgusting little festival...all milling around the kitchen...talking about how we all needed to be in our respective beds. Ashlin suggested that she be invited to sleep with me in honor of her birthday and to help me cope with the loneliness. I agreed.

I got her settled shortly after 1am. (Cue: Baby cry) I then spent the next couple hours with Mari. We tried my bed. We tried the recliner. I guess her teeth were bothering her. I thought she might need a dose of crab meat or cupcake, but decided on children's pain reliever instead. Around 4am I put her back in her bed and she slept until morning. I struggled and strained to get as much rest jammed into those next few hours.

Ashli's party had been postponed until Friday (Thank You Lord for ordering my steps). We got up and around then met some friends down at the visual arts center. We made pottery bowls. They will be sold at a fundraiser in the Spring and all the proceeds will go to the local food pantry. It was big fun. Kathy and Sean went with us and we all took Ash to CiCi's for lunch. After we came home, we all camped out in the living room to watch the Cosby show. I snoozed. Kathy kept all the kids quiet and even unloaded my dishwasher and sink....just 'cause she loves me so. Tomorrow we MUST do school lessons! Remind me!

Just when I was thinking, "Wednesday....we're half-way through the week...Philip will be home soon...." HE CALLED. He sounded good. He was eating and said it was a "mess". He got to talk to Ash and then told me he would be shocked if he were home before the 23rd. Do you know what day comes after the day after the 23rd? I got real sad real quick. We'll just have to see. But for now, I need to extend my mental scope and sequence for surviving single parenthood a little longer :)

Adult choir had dress rehearsal tonight for our Christmas Concert this Sunday. The kids wanted to watch a movie when we got home, so I said 'sure' and Mari and I wrestled and giggled on my bed until she was good and sleepy. I dosed her up, and laid her down. She was tuckered out....I pray she sleeps well. I let the girls sleep on the floor in the boys' room so that if Mari does need to cry she will have all the privacy she needs (wink).

I'm making a list and checking it twice for things to start/finish/mail by Friday. I plan to use datenight (sniff sniff) as Christmas shopping night for the kids. James can hang out with the kids and I can check off all my lists....one of my favorite things to do.

More later....eew....perhaps less later?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Well Since My Baby Left Me..."

Philip was called out yesterday to go up to Tulsa to help some of the 300,000 folks who are without power. We will miss him, but he loves adventures and he is well compensated for "Ice Storm 2007". We already miss him and he only left this morning. He called tonight to say that he is in a hotel WITH power.... a couple notches up from the army tent in South Louisiana. The news said it would take several days to get power restored...one more storm in the forecast.

Ardyn was able to travel to Abby's birthday party over the weekend. Those two are mutually convinced they will be best friends forever...despite the miles. You go girls! Then tonight Ardyn had her first basketball practice. Uncle James and Ashlin escorted her to the gym so the rest of us could go shopping for Ash's B-day present. When we came to pick Ardyn up, she ran to the car and exclaimed, "It was incredible! It was so fun....It was awesome....I just need to use the word 'incredible'!" I'm so happy for her.

Ashli is planning a girlie get-together Wednesday for her birthday. She is so excited. Kathy and Sean are coming this week for a visit as well. Tonight, she was trying to get the week's schedule all straight in her head. "So I'm having my friends over for cupcakes and Sean is coming to my house too? Wow! It IS my birthday! How many minutes until my birthday?"

A friend gave Mari some squeaker shoes. I've been in a fashion cave apparently, 'cause I've never even heard of them. They gather air in the soles and then squeak like a rubber duckie with each step. She is at the perfect age to enjoy such accessories. We put them on her, and at first, she was mildly alarmed. She kept looking down at the floor, as if to ask, "Who left all these ducks on the floor....Where ARE they? I keep stepping on them!" We were all giggling. Then she realized it was in fact her own footwear. She's already established herself as quite a dancer, but today she took it to an all new level. She stomped, and skipped, and double-stepped with glee. The kids and I were cracking up! At one point, she did an Elvis thing by bending her knees and raising up on her tip-toes. Then she just bobbed up and down on both heels in rhythm. Squeak. Grin. Squeak. Grin. Squeak.

"...down at the end of 'Lonely Street'..."

Yeah, I'm "so lonely, baby, I'm just so lonely, I could cry".
James predicts I'll be a blog-o-maniac this week. I did buy a Sudoku game. I'll divide my time wisely. Who are we kidding? There are still 7 folks all up in this house...and my number one helper is state-side. We'll see.

Dear Father, please keep Philip safe and alert. Thank You for NEVER leaving! Thank you for Your good and perfect gifts!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Home Sweet Home

We're back. Branson was fun, but we are happy to be home, sweet, home.

Let's see.....
On Wednesday, it took us an hour and a half to travel 13 miles around Little Rock. Barely Fun. Then the Johnsons slept in my grandparents' vacant townhouse next door to Mom. Huge Fun.

On Thursday, we ate with my grandparents and aunt and uncle and mom and a couple brothers and a sister-in-law. It was very, very nice. We enjoyed "togetherness" around my mom's new table. The kids were at the bar, and James was in a kiddie chair...all was well. Turkey, veggies, crescent rolls, tabooli, cranberry salad, pumpkin dessert, and chocolate yummy. Yee-ha!

On Friday, we awoke to 19 degree sunshine and we worked together to get my grandparents moved into their new digs. Halfway through the move, the guys were tossing the football in the road. Landen caught the ball, but landed on the curb....knee first. 3 hours and 9 stitches later, he was watching football on tv while we finished the move. Poor guy. While the others were at the emergency room, Luke was able to get some great photos of some deer in the woods behind Mom's house. The girls watched Disney channel way too much, but I think we all needed a break from our regular one hour of PBS per day routine. We got Papa and Grandma settled before the day was through, and bedtime brought "togetherness" to an all new level since they had instant house guests...lots and lots of Johnsons. Philip and I have decided that if --in order to live to be 85, you have to keep the thermostat on 85--we'll never make it. :) Papa and Grandma were so sweet to let us invade their space. The kids thought it was loads of great fun. They loved seeing Grammy and hanging out with Josh/Kathy. Grammy even painted the girls' nails....very thrilling. Oh, Mari....no one knows how she spent her time, because nobody ever knew where she was. She enjoyed the fellowship and laughter but made a run for it every time the door opened. (And when folks are unloading a household, the door opens a lot!) If I had a quarter for each time I asked/heard: "Who sees Mari?"....

This morning we got up and packed up and loaded up and headed out....but not before a wild boar (Philip says it was "just" a pot-bellied pig) tried to enter Mom's home through the garage. Cameras started flashing while James and Luke made a new friend. Eventually, we were on the road. Since Landen needed to keep his bandaged leg outstretched, he rode in James' backseat on the way home. Luke went along for conversation maintenance. Philip and I enjoyed all but the first and last hour of our ride with the girls. (crying, cramping, sobbing, puking, and more crying were the opening/closing backdrops for our drive) The sleeping, smiling, reading, listening, sleeping part in the middle was great!

I'm thankful for my Mom and Grandparents. Their hospitality is a blessing.
I'm thankful for tabooli. (Mom has the recipe)
I'm thankful for my AWESOME 1992 Suburban. It did great....thanks to everyone who prayed her through the Ozarks.
I'm thankful for my very fun family who make road trips relaxing (for the most part).
I'm thankful that "Mary Poppins" is available on CD....positively grateful, indeed.
I'm thankful that my home was neat and tidy when we walked in....that's just good for the soul.
I'm thankful that my family will help me clean up that mess we brought in with us sometime soon....surely.
I'm thankful to God for being so faithful, so loving, so protective, and so generous.

Night-Night.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

All Aboard

5 books on CD
39 gallons of gas
1 playpen
7 coats, 12 gloves, & 2 mittens
56 socks of all sizes
25 diapers
2 dozen changes of clothes
3 loaves of pumpkin bread
1 happy family headin' north for holiday!

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rest Stops

I've been frustrated for weeks... years really, that Sundays "never go right". They're always stressful. When will I get a break? Consequently, I have been reading a book entitled "The REST of God" by Mark Buchanan. It has challenged my thoughts and actions toward Sabbath...not just a day, but an attitude. While preparing a Bible Study on manna, I realized I was totally missing "it". I knew the story of the children of Israel griping in the dessert. I knew the structure of the manna provision: little heavenly frosted flakes would be available each morning like dew. But as the sun dries the dew, the manna would disappear in the first warmth of sunshine. The manna lasted one day. No hoarding. No planning ahead. No leftovers. But I still missed it.

Exodus 16:4-5 "Then the lord said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days."

In my constant quest for supreme rest, I realized that I don't do Sabbath right because I don't do my other six days right...on two levels: spiritually and physically. Spiritually, God did all this to teach the Israelites that "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Deuteronomy 8) So there is a picture for me to live out where I go daily, probably in the morning, and gather the words God would have me live by. Six mornings of gathering. Sabbath is an overflow day. Our day of corporate worship should not be the ONE time I try to gather truth to sustain me. Then, even if I'm convicted on Sunday, and repent and rise early on Monday to taste and see that the Lord is good, it's only meant for that day. By Tuesday it will be stale with maggots.....(I don't make this stuff up). So I pray I would discipline myself to receive daily bread.

Then in the physical sense. God set the example of working six days and resting on the seventh. It recently occurred to me that I tend to start grabbing "down-time" on Friday night and Saturday because I'm so scared that there won't be any rest on Sunday. Culture? And in the end, there is always work to be done on Sunday. So I tried a different approach this week. I worked each day...Monday through Saturday...dawn to dusk. On Saturday I ran some errands and shopped by myself during the afternoon and then came home and purposefully attempted to finish the week able to say "every thing is good". I worked my little capunkus off. I sweat, and I huffed, and I ached, and I sweat. (It was 85 and muggy here yesterday) When I went to bed (and as Tim would say "began my day") my heart and mind were set on things above, my house was clean, clothes were laid out, food was prepared, and all my responsibilities for church were solidified. I rested well. And today was restful. The morning was busy, but I had a different attitude. This afternoon I fought the urge to get a jump on laundry duties for tomorrow. I fought the urge to do anything but rest. I finally put productivity on the back burner for ONE day. Whoopie! I feel like a struggling, stubborn child, to whom God asks, "How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?" (Ex 16:28) To quote my father-in-law: "The Good Lord ain't a stupid man".

Philip has been so busy working two jobs with little bouts of hunting and football, then trying to keep healthy relationships afloat, that I think he's wading through his own journey of learning Sabbath Rest. We talked tonight for a long while. We're strained. I think we miss our old lifestyle....our silent slavery where we were blinded to our financial bondage, but we hung out together all the time and shared our oblivion gaily. Our eyes are opened now, there is freedom of knowledge and will, but we seem to be shackled in this debtors' prison across the cell from one another. We want the freedom that God is providing through grace and obedience, and we don't want to go back to "Egypt". It's just hard. It was more fun --foolish fun -- we would be fools to go back. God wants his children to rest in Him and remember all that He has freed us from. We need a break from our work, or our work will lead us right back to where we don't want to be. It's late, and this is making more sense in my heart than it is on the screen. Good thing a new day is dawning. Perhaps we'll take another run at it another day.

As far as this week, everyone is completely looking forward to getting away for a few days and enjoying the holidays with my extended family. I pray the Lord will continue to teach us His ways and give us strength to walk in them....DAILY. And as we pass the signs for "Rest Stop" and have to explain to the kids that "back in the olden day..." we'll be quick to thank the Lord for His goodness and mercy...and His rest.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cool and Delicious

I was making my grocery list this morning and came across this recipe. Back in August my friend, Jessica, inspired me to cook a turkey with all the fixin's. Because it was still 1oo degrees outside, this cranberry dish caught my eye. I made this treat for the first time then, and it was a refreshing hit. So, before you head to the store for next week, I thought you might want to consider adding it to the menu.

Frozen Cranberry Sauce

6 oz cream cheese
2 T. Mayo
2 T. sugar
1 (16oz) can of whole cranberry sauce
1 (9oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup cool whip

Soften cream cheese and blend in mayo and sugar. Add fruits and nuts. Fold in cool whip. Pour in loaf or bundt pan and freeze 6 hours. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

**I lined my loaf pans with a long piece of saran wrap so after it thawed a bit, I pulled on the wrap and lifted the "brick" right out of there! I used "lite" ingredients and it worked fine. I prefer to thaw it enough to get it out, then slice it and place around a platter. Cover and pop in the freezer until time to serve. My kitchen is a zoo in those last few minutes before dinner, so whatever can be done ahead gets done ahead.

ENJOY!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

PTL

Procrastinated Too Long.
I've been avoiding blogging because I feel like I simultaneously have too much and yet not enough to write. My thoughts are fully flowing but with no striking theme or direction. I've been blessed in so many ways over the last few days, I'm overwhelmed. I haven't earned any of it. I'm humbled. In a warped way, I might feel better if I had earned it, but I haven't, God is just plain ol' GOOD.
God has answered my prayers-just straight up, straight away, answered 'em. He has given good gifts--several really good gifts. He has healed diseases and forgiven sin. He has blessed me with friendship--fun, honest, encouraging friends. And my family....my beautiful, precious children; my tall, dark, and handsome brother who is just a kick to have around; and a hardworking, fun-loving, eye-twinkling husband/friend who loves me so well.. Ok, now that I've listed it out....I guess I could have never earned any of that. Too bad, girl scout.
Praise The Lord.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Probably Not

I am mildly embarrassed to admit that my daughters and I frequently enjoy viewing reality-talent programming. We're really into it. It's awful. We don't let the boys watch dancing because in Ashli's words: "Man, doze ladies are un-modest!" However, there seems to be one tiny little fruit of encouragement from American idol. Almost daily, as I sing (be it : the national anthem while washing dishes, a lyrical aria --the lyrics to which have escaped me, or Amazing Grace - gospel style) one child or another boasts, "Mom, you would totally not get voted off American Idol!" A few oblivious folks who think you rock....priceless.

Anyhoo. Saturday evening the girls and I were hanging out and we turned on PBS. They were broadcasting re-runs of Lawrence Welk. The girls delighted in the colorful, frilly costumes (for men & women alike). They mimicked the dancing, twirling, conducting, and bowing. As one blond bouffant finished her "lovely number", Ardyn probed, "Do you think anyone will call in to vote for her?"

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Midday Ramblings

Today I went to church to record a demo CD for the ladies in choir to listen to in order to learn the Christmas music. I sang Christmas songs for 3 hours straight. Big fun. Now I can't get the melodies and lyrics out of my head. What a nice way to approach the day. It's hard to bark at someone when you have "Glo-o-o-o-o-o-riah" circling your brain.

I have to take the boys to (what I hope will be their last) football practice. They should have their last game on Saturday night. I'm in total denial about dinner. Breaded chicken sandwiches from the freezer sounds like a great idea to me. How 'bout you? The girls and I will head to WalMart during practice and hopefully be checked-out in time to pick up the stinky boys. Philip is moonlighting tonight, so we'll meet up with him later towards bedtime.

I want to say "hey" to Jill. Hey. Thanks for sharing encouragement. Plus on making up new words. love it.

And a special "Howdy" to my 90210-watchin' roommate from a hundred years ago...my sister-in-law-in-law, AMY. Philip asked who Jenny Garth on Dancing with the Stars was.....puh-leeze! Please send pix of your kids....and an email.

About the whole "love abounds" thing. I believe we've stumbled onto a touchpoint, or hotspot...however you wish to perceive. Conversations are buzzing all around. I think it's cool that people are discussing. Probes, intrigues, and passionate invitations to look at life from a fresh perspective: very cool.

I've been told I need to site my "child psychologists", and the biggest hurdle is the comparative word "more" in stead of "differently". Obviously, it's a different kind of love, but I still feel like there is an increasing quality about it which requires the term "more". I'll keep working on it, we'll keep listening to one another and hopefully everyone will be sharpened. Praise the Lord.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fall Festivities

Landen and Luke: "Rake'n'Leaves"
Ardyn: "I'm a little teapot..."


Ashlin: "Just a teaspoonful of sugar..."

Mari Alice was hittin' the road as a tea bag!



And for those who would be interested, total cost for materials: $8.92

Boo-yah!

Thank You, God, for helping us be creative and resourceful this year. You must have had so much fun creating the universe. Thanks for sharing your joy with us. We love You and give You all the Glory!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Love Abounds

I love my husband more than my kids.

Does that bother you? It bothers some. I was recently challenged to "pray through that" by someone whom it bothers. As I continue to pray, I need to get some of my thoughts out, and this seemed like the place for it.

Concerning Capacity:
I love my husband more than I love my kids.
I have never used the term "less than" in some warped reciprocal rephrasing.
I love my kids.
I love them with everything in me.
I love my husband with everything in me.
There just seems to be more of "me" aligned with the task of loving him.

Concerning Commitment:
Philip and I are "one". [Gen 1:23-24]
And though my children began as "part of me", their birth was the first step down a path of separation that will ultimately end with each of them becoming "one" with their spouse.
One day Landen will love his wife more than he loves me. [Gen 1:23-24]
Today I love my husband more than I love Landen.
Is that unreasonable?

Concerning Confidence:
Each night (except for some date nights) Philip kisses the girls good night and sweetly offers questions. The answers to which repetitively and consistently solidify security.
"Who loves you the most?"
"God" [1 John 3:1]
"And who else?"
"Jesus"
"And who else?"
"You and Mommy"
They KNOW we love them. They feel it. They see it. They know it. But we've given them a glimpse of a wonderful mystery. They've been told that we love each other even more than THAT.
Our deep love for one another does not diminish the love they receive from us. They know our love for them to be true and marvel that a relationship exists where there is more. It's in their future.
Psychologists say a child's security is directly linked to the extent to which he is confident that his parents love each other.

Concerning Core:
Creation begins with a garden, a man, and a helper-girl. (Zero kiddos in the garden) God created Eve for Adam and at the end of the day, said "It is very good". He told them to be fruitful and multiply, but didn't wait for kids to be around for it to be "good". [Gen 1:27-31] He didn't tell them to add to their family. He said multiply. To me, that means "raise children who will leave you, cleave to another, and raise more children. Philip and I ARE the core family. All these little blessings will be leaving at some point, and our core family will still be intact. I hear people say to newlyweds, "When are you going to start a family?" That ship has sailed, people!
Children are gifts from God and we welcome and treasure those gifts.
There is a difference between getting special attention and being the center of attention. We try to show each of our children special attention: special activities, special words, special days, special gifts. But to give them the idea that they are/will ever be the center of attention is misleading (and I think, cruel).
Christ is at the center of our family. Our world revolves around HIM. No one else can take that spot....no matter how cute they are.

Concerning Communication:
I asked Ashli this morning if she knew I loved her daddy more than I loved her. She smiled and said, " oh yeah." I asked her if that bothered her. She said, "nah". I asked her if anybody in the world loved her more than I did, and she smiled and said, "only God and Jesus...that's it."
None of my children seem to have difficulties with this issue. I've polled them all this morning. They're cool with it.

I'd welcome any review or rebuttal. My mind is open, and I'm praying through it.

CDJ

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tonight's Top Ten

Top Ten Quotes to Prove We Need to Go to WalMart Immediately

#10 "Where's the cheese?"
#9 "There's no cereal that's my kind."
#8 "There are only 2 apples and no bananas...I call one of the apples!"
#7 "The ketchup tooted!"
#6 "The mustard tooted!"
#5 "Babe, I'm outa deoderant."
#4 "No, just wipe her bottom with a wet paper towel and put the new diaper on."
#3 "The ranch dressing tooted!"
#2 "Why did I get a heel?...me too!...I did too!.....I didn't! (turns sandwich over) HEY--I did too!

And the number one quote to prove we NEED to go to the store ASAP:

#1 "Hey Sis, you wanna know what I just had for breakfast? That really old, left-over chicken sprinkled over brown lettuce in a tortilla that snapped in half when I tried to fold it. It wasn't too bad, but I couldn't find any ranch, so I just poured the rest of the Italian dressing on it. "

Monday, October 15, 2007

Never A Dull Moment

I will not bore you with the details of this past weekend. All I want you to know is that from Friday at 6pm until last night at 10, there were back-to-back activities for ALL the Johnsons....I'm not exaggerating. (Wedding rehearsal, double-datenite, garage sale, wedding, football game, Daddy/Daughter Datenite, Sunday School, Pumpkin Patch "Unload", Cowboy game, MP3 rehearsal, and college fellowship at our house.) Eight wardrobe changes but only one meal eaten "out"...and that was at the Wendy's drive-thru dollar menu. Ramsey would be so proud.

Today it rained. Bless the Lord, it rained. We stayed in and chilled all day. We had to begin discussions about Fall Festival costumes, so we shared ideas at breakfast. By lunch we had pretty much settled into our top choices, and by dinner I had sketched all five and had a supply list. Listen up, Dave...I intend to produce 5 darling, yet witty costumes for $10 total. I sewed for an hour or so tonight and finished the first one. I had all the notions, so I've spent $0....and she looks adorable! Four to go, and the entire budget is intact! I'm aching to share what we're doing, but I just know I have to wait for the pictures. If I get them done early, we'll just take pictures and post them BEFORE the Fall Festival. Wouldn't that be sneaky?

What else? I don't know, but I got an incredible night's rest last night, and I'd like to publicly thank God, the creator and initiator of perfect rest. Hallelujah!

Oh, gosh, now I have to confess. When I'm stressed (a condition I've mis-managed for a week or two, now) my language and the roughness thereof is the central indicator of my anxiety. So, I have a hard time editing my remarks concerning the house and it's clutter. ok, here goes. Today, the girls and I were going to their room to let Mari play and finish up the patterns and sketches for the FF Costumes. Ashli entered the room ahead of the rest of us and apparently stumbled onto a pile of her sister's clothes. Her first response: "What is all this crap?" I would have cried if I hadn't been giggling. Luke overheard her exclamation from the other room and soon allowed his giggle to swell into a full-on guffaw. Then we were all rolling. Bless her heart, her mom is a stressed-out hag. oh well. I'm gonna put a band-aid over my lips and give parent/child modeling another go tomorrow. Lord, help me please.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Adding a Link

I'm adding a link over there at the side. It's for my wonderful cousin, Leslie, who just began her battle against breast cancer. She is bright and articulate and she makes me laugh. She's gonna beat this thing, and she's keeping a journal so we can be there with her as she does! Thank You, God, for Leslie and for having her entire life in Your mighty, loving hands. Thank You for Your perfect strength.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Busy Beavers & Lucky Ducks

We're good. Busy, but good. The margin of life has become a very thin, fragile line. I hold football primarily at fault for monopolizing all our available evenings and Saturdays. This is the last week of regular season. Playoffs? No thank you...don't tell the boys.

Thursday, James, the kids, and I drove to Arkansas to be with my grandmother during the memorial service of her dear husband. It was so good to visit with relatives, and I was glad we made the trip.

We had a garage sale yesterday. Dave Ramsey says we need to get some cash flowing, or logs moving, or something. Philip Johnson says we need to get rid of some of this junk and make some money. I was entirely unimpressed with the vast amount of energy it took to get one sorry ol' log rollin down the river. It put me straight up in a bad mood. Philip was grumpy because I was not giddy. I was offended by his expectation for my giddiness, and discouraged by his grumpiness. I believe James' quote was "Garage Sales are from hell". He may be right. The weather was hellish for sure....92 degrees on the first Saturday in October....whatever!

After the sale, I made lunch and dinner, then did the prep stuff for Sunday's lunch AND made the platters for the sun evening fellowship. By our 8pm post-game dinnertime I was shaking I was so tired. Philip seemed rested and doing pretty good. I said, "I'm about to dub you 'Knight of the Kitchen" for the next 24 hours". He stared at me....reading my eyes for resolute sincerity. He attempted to jest: "I decline". I continued to offer my wide-eyed stare. He studied my gaze, realized the desperation with which I had given my decree and wisely chose to raise one eyebrow and smile. "I mean I accept, of course, I accept, 'My Love". Good deal. I was outa there.

I showered and studied for Sunday School. After some good, good sleep (Thank You, Lord) I awoke, printed off some stuff and laid out clothes for everyone; but after a glass of water and a granola bar, I NEVER stepped foot in the kitchen again. As I stayed at church to sing with the choir for the second service, he came home and made quesadillas, rice, and beans for everyone. WHAT A STUD! The boys had a friend over for the afternoon and some of our friends came for a visit too. (plus on having the platter already done). We all loaded up and enjoyed dinner with our church family.

Now it's late. Philip has already gone to bed. He's been moonlighting (another Dave Ramsey idea) everyday after his real job. It's only for a season. He basically does the same stuff he would normally do here in our yard after work.....he just gets paid for "piddlin". It's a great set-up. He's such a hard worker...seriously. He isn't as easily tuckered as I am, and he keeps such a positive outlook. I'm so lucky to be his girl.

Thank You, Father God, for Your many blessings. Thank You for extra income. Thank You for health and energy to do what You've called us to do. Thank You for friends and family. Thank You for Grandma Billie. Thank You for Leslie. Thank You for Rhonda. Thank You for Papa Hank and Grandma Iona. Thank You for working Your will for our good. We certainly discover joy in Your presence. Thank You for never changing. Great is Your faithfulness!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Strolling Sisters

The weather is finally cooling off a bit. We have been taking lots of walks, and the girls love it.



Today Ashli helped me in the flowerbeds while Mari looked on. Ash is an excellent helper. She digs neatly, waters generously, and giggles when the soaker hose "spits at her". That girl is all about the bugs, I tell ya. We had a good time talking about how/why God made all the things he did. "For His own glory" was not cutting it for her. Fire ant bites do not bring anyone glory in her estimation. Traveling on.



Ardyn loves rocks. She has been gathering them and "collecting" them for some time, now. She took it a step too far yesterday when she wheeled the Coleman ice chest out to the road and set up shop. Literally---the sign said "Welcome to my rock shop". I was still unaware of her little enterprise, when she burst into the house rejoicing, "I made a dollar from the guy in the grey truck!" After intense interrogation, I discovered that she had indeed spoken with a stranger, taken money from a stranger, and shaken hands with a stranger....but she "did let him keep a rock."



Our little road has 15 houses on it and we know everyone. Our "lane" is really a "court" that leads nowhere. Only those 15 families are represented in our usual traffic flow. That's why my kids play in the driveway. But somehow, Ardyn found the one stranger in a 10-mile radius. Thank You, Lord, for mercy! Gracie-Girl is closed for business. I did agree that she can have a snack stand at our garage sale next month. She would rather sell rocks. (I'll teach her the system of supply and demand later)



Mari loves to be outside. It's just better than inside. Period. The End

Are Ya Ready For Some Football?

Landen and Luke are playing pee-wee football this year. They play hard on Saturdays and love to practice with their team 3 nights a week. It is technically a team of 10-12 yr olds, but evidently, if you're 9 and outweigh your older brother by 15 pounds, they let you be on the same team. Landen is a kicker and plays tight-end, Luke plays defensive tackle and offensive tackle too. They have bruises all over their arms and legs from being so darn tough. So do they like it better than baseball? The jury is still out...

"Five-Alive"

"7-9-is the line"

Go Lil' Mavs!

Sweets for the "Sweetie"

Almost a month ago, we served Mari Alice her 1st Birthday cake. Here are the pics.
As Jack Bowers on 24 would say, "The following takes place between"... 6:14 and 6:19 pm.



Yeah, Baby!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday-Funday

Our church began it's new year today. The morning began REALLY early since the adult choir was scheduled to sing in both the reinstated 8:30 service and the 11:00. All the Johnsons made it onto church premises by 8:20. woo-hoo! The choir sang powerfully. So fun to be a part of that kind of energy. We worshipped together then the kids promoted into new SS classes. Philip and I taught the "young adults" and then he headed home with the kids to get lunch ready while I joined the choir for round two...(ding,ding). The family had not only "gotten lunch ready" but they had all eaten by the time I got home. ok, then.

Tonight was the first rehearsal for Kid's Choir. ooh! we decided on a name. Wanna hear? MP3 yep, that's it. MP3: Made to Praise - Father,Son, and Holy Spirit. Do you like it? I came up with it all by my little self. Just in case you were wondering: no one in the country has a cool name for their kid's choir. I googled the heck out of big churches and their choirs. Since I could find no name worthy of swiping, I was forced to settle for whatever I could come up with. The kids love it. At the end of rehearsal we even did a huddle-hand-pile thingie that sports teams do, and on three we yelled, "MP3"!

Lucky for me, choir meets DURING evening worship, so after rehearsal, it was time to fellowship with the college folks...ehrrr, "young adults". (It's hard for me because I think Philip and I are young adults and etbu students are college kids.) If I call THEM "adults", and the math says I could be their mom, then that makes us "old" and I'm just not comfy with those semantics.) We have a fun group this year. It's still small but I'm sure it will grow throughout the semester... much like last year.

The Cowboys played on TV tonight so Philip was high-tailin' it home. The boys enjoy watching football now that they've played a couple games. They better understand all the positions and really have a good time watching. Mari went to bed immediately upon our arrival home. The girls finished their afternoon paintings until bedtime, and I came back to make some sense of this pit I call a bedroom. I need a maid....but she wouldn't know where all these papers go. I'll be the maid....I'm always the maid....I love to be the maid.

That's it. Oh, my! Have you seen "Becoming Jane"???? Kathy and I went last weekend. Excellent Flick! I'd see it again. I think it left all the local (within 40 minutes) theaters. Blockbuster online can hook me up in a few months, I hope.

Thank You, God, for Sunday!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Then and Now

(Labor Day 2006)
Little babies need their beauty sleep...
So they can grow up and play dress up with the big girls.



Mari Alice turned ONE last week!
She is walking and talking and singing and dancing all around the house.
Thank You, God, for our littlest "lovely".

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Farther Along

I woke up early yesterday morning. So many things on my mind. Every mental path leading to the same clearing where there's a huge sign that reads "You're Old". It's so weird...I'm at this age where I look in the mirror and behold gray hairs AND pimples. Shouldn't there be some sort of trade-off if I'm really growing up?

Thirty-six years ago my young mother held me for the first time. The photographs indicate that I was born on a bad hair day with jet black, four-inch strands of newborn glory headed in every direction. Apparently bad hair days are passed through the umbilical cord, because the photos of mom seem to verify that one beehive hairdo plus one night of labor equals two "whoa-hey"s and a "wow".

Ok, so about my consuming thoughts on aging....they pressed on late into the night. I was struck with mid-life insomnia. I was wide awake until 3 something this morning. Like my body wouldn't allow itself to embark upon the 37th year. I finally settled down and before long, everyone in the house was starting their day.

I must brag on my husband who after a mere 14 years of intense training achieved gift-giving greatness this year. He splurged not. (Which means there was no budget-associated guilt accompanying my celebration) At first, things looked bleak as he broke rule #1: Don't blow your money on sending flowers, when he called the florist. But he thought it through, took it slow, and ordered a silk arrangement for the dining room table. Plus! It matches PERFECTLY and won't die next week.

The children worshipped my trodden tile all day long. They kissed and hugged; sang and danced; wrote love notes, and obeyed. Nothin' but love, love, love.

Mari went with me to take the boys to football practice. We toodled about town waiting for practice to conclude. We walked around Lowe's and talked about all the cool stuff. Then we went to Big Lots where I found the most perfect creme-colored planter in the shape of an elephant. She said she totally wanted to buy it for my birthday. I bought her some crackers and a Playschool toy to return the favor.

James and Luke teamed up to make some special dreams come true as they cleaned out all the kitchen drawers and lined them with ....drawer liners. Sounds drab, but oh, the love, love, love.

Thank You, Father God, for another day to praise You. Help me keep Your perspective for my days. Thank You for loving me through friends and family. Thank You for my centerpiece and all that it represents. Thank You for being patient with us as we try to better serve you with the resources You've provided. Thank You for my children. You give good gifts! When I think about Your love and all You've done and all You've given ...I have to say "Hallelujah! Thank You, Jesus!"

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bruh-thuz and Sistas

During these summer days, the view from my patio window is fabulous.
Here's a glimpse...
Ashli and Ardyn

Anna-Banana and Nannen-Pah

Luke x 2


and....Baby Girl!



Friday, August 10, 2007

Fresh Friendship

































Last Monday Rachel came to visit with her two boys. It didn't occur to us to get a camera out until they were about to leave. I had bed-head and refused to be photographed, Mari was napping, but we got the older ones together for a couple pics. The kids played really well with each other. I was surprised at how much Rachel and I were able to visit. Philip and James insured that we would have quality time, when they watched all the kiddos so Rachel and I could go eat Mexican food alone. Chips and chatting...it's an art form!

It was a kick to have her around again. She has been my friend longer than anyone else on earth. Back in the summer of '71 she warmed up the the crowd in the church nursery two months before I made it onto the scene. We would challenge and delight Sunday school teachers, GA leaders, and choir directors for decades to come! (Not to mention our poor parents)

She really hasn't changed. She's still as beautiful and comical as she was when we were teens. I absolutely cherish her honest, straight-forward conversational style and her unconditional acceptance of who I am. I'm confident that besides my dad, she's the first person to ever think I was a very fun girl! Apparently she also thought I was a very wild girl. Can you believe? Yes, she just casually shared it over enchilada's like everybody knew I was a wild child. Something about kissing too many boys... We'll keep that little historical assessment where it belongs: in the past. I've completely cleaned up my act and I only kiss one boy now, 'cause he's simply the best!

I wish Patrick could have made the trip with her. I'm sad that the four of us can't go to dinner....well, Philip invited himself to dinner in Montana. I believe his quote was: "Yeah, that'll be great! You can hang out with Cari so I can go hunt!" Isn't it sweet that he has to pawn me off before he can get to the real fun?

After a pancake brunch, we helped Rachel and the boys get loaded up to leave. The kids were all asking, "When are we/y'all coming back?" It was heart-breaking to admit to them that it would probably be another 3 years. Sad day! At that point her youngest announced that the current set-up was a bummer because "that boy with the blue shirt is my best friend!" We'll nail down details like names later...

Monday, August 06, 2007

Internet Poll

I'm heading up the children's choir for church this year. (Yes, Mother, I have time, and it won't be "too much")
I'm really excited about the opportunity to be a worship leader again. We're changing up the format and so I'd like to introduce a shnazzy new name. I think in the past the 4 & 5 yr olds were "Wee Praise" while the 1st-6th grade were "X-treme Praise" or something like that. In the bulletin they have just been "Kid's Choir". So I need your help:

#1. What are kid's choirs called at your church/in your area?
#2. Do you have a great idea for the naming either one of these choirs?
(Music Makers and Young Musicians are the only names from my very Baptist past)

Please send along all your ideas. I need help!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Top Five

Some very exciting things that happened today:
#1 Mari took 5 steps from me to Philip
#2 Meg and Lauren came over and we hurried real quick to learn the harmonies to a song and then drove real quick to sing it at church. Big fun!
#3 James cleaned the hall bathroom. PLUUUUUUUS!
#4 Ardyn and Ashlin rocked the world singing a duet in church tonight. Completely cute!
#5 (this one is really tomorrow) My BFF Rachel is coming to visit in the morning. She's bringing her 2 boys and we should have nothin' but fun. James and Philip agreed to watch all the kids tomorrow evening so we can go have dinner and actually carry on a complete conversation. I'm so glad she's coming. As Ardyn would say about Abby, "I've been her friend my whole life."

Make a great day!
CDJ

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Two Decades of J-Dub

James is no longer a teenager. He's 20 years old. Based on the Luke's time frame for meaningful milestones, he can officially date girls now. That ship has sailed, buddy. Twenty...it doesn't seem possible. I can remember being on a youth mission trip in Mexico the day he was born. I called home to check on mom about 9pm and there was no answer...I knew my parents had no late-night social life, so I assumed they had gone to the hospital to give birth to my new Home-Ec project! I cried when I realized I missed his birth. I missed him...and I didn't even know him yet.

He was such a pretty baby. Dark, plump, and smiley. His first year of life was my first year with a driver's licence. One day I was running an errand in the "good times van" with James harnessed into his new, plush car seat. His seat faced forward, positioned on the captain's chair closest to the big sliding brown door. I say "positioned" because "secured" would be inaccurate. As I came to an abrupt stop at a red light, the car seat tipped forward until it rested on the front passenger seat. I saw it lunge forward in my peripheral. I panicked, thinking James had been thrown to the floor. I quickly pulled into the next parking lot available. I threw open my door, darted around the van, and frantically opened the sliding door. There he was. Safely suspended over the walkway between the two seats. He dangled his feet over the expanse as though he were seeking thrills at a theme park. With his chubby fist clinched around the straps of his 5-point harness system, he giggled. I set the car seat back into position and tightened the seat belt strap. Then as he looked at me with those innocent ebony eyes, I couldn't take it. I just started bawling. I unstrapped him, held him close and pledged my undying devotion to his health, well-being, and life-long pursuit of happiness.

His second year was our family's first year in Washington State....which turned out to be my only year in the Northwest. I have sweet memories of coming home early in the afternoon from my lightly-loaded senior year to share ice cream and silly stories with "Jamey". There is a photograph of him and me on my first day at OBU. Mom was behind me and as James hugged my neck, she captured his saddening sobs. She was so thoughtful to keep us in close communication despite the 2000 mile gap. Mom would send pictures, artwork, and even tape-recorded messages from James to me at college. All the girls on my hall anxiously waited to hear the next "adorable thing my baby brother said".

By the time he entered Kindergarten, we were all living in Texas again. It was that year that he announced his name would then be "James"...not the babyish name "Jamey". It tickled me that he thought he was so grown up. That wasn't the last time I'd be tickled in such a way ;) He proudly served as the ring bearer in our wedding. During the rehearsal he was sorely offended when he found out the rings tied to his silk pillow were from the aisles of Hobby Lobby. "You can trust me!" he pleaded with me at the back of the church. Philip and I looked at each other and as we looked into James' eyes, we recognized the resolve in his countenance. We cautiously tied a couple thousand dollars worth of jewelry to a beautifully embroidered pillow and offered what would be the first of many opportunities to successfully handle responsibility. He came through like a pro!

The next year, I remember looking across the funeral home to see a little 7-year-old perched on one of the sofas near a lamp. He was dressed like a little man. He was calm. He listened patiently as people shared memories and stories. He would have to wait a lifetime to see his dad again. He was smiling as he chatted with folks, but the brightness in his eyes to which I'd grown accustomed had darkened a bit.

He was able to come with mom to stay with us after Landen's birth. His famous quote concerning my culinary technique: "I love to eat Cari's food...you can really tell she uses her brain when she cooks." He held baby Landen with great confidence. It's amazing that he and Landen share the same age span as Luke and Mari Alice. The rest of his school years were spent in B-town. We were limited to phone calls, the occasional letter, and seasonal visits. Ranger games every summer, Cowboy games in the winter, Spring Breaks and family fall vacations to Missouri. I missed a lot of his everyday life. But by most accounts, those were the "punk" years...Lord bless my mother!

It's been two years since he moved his stuff into our dining room and started sleeping in the bay window. Though he was committed to those drafty accommodations indefinitely, the Lord saw fit for him to have his own room. James was such an encouragement during that transition. Philip was working hurricanes when he wasn't ironing out the details for a new job. I was house hunting, and packing, and trying to remain calm. I remember James said to me one day, "God knows where we're gonna live. He's not gonna hide it from us. He's not worried." Well stated! The week before we moved into this house, Philip and I found out we were expecting Johnson #7. James' enthusiastic involvement over the next several months kept the morale high, and childcare costs low.

We are so blessed to have him in our lives. He's so awesome with our kids. In so many ways he is helping to shape their lives. Mari is apparently musical because James sang to her played the guitar to settle her down on datenites. From her time spent with James, Ashlin has learned the discipline of truthfulness and the value of a vigorous laugh. Ardyn never tires of James' presence, though she is quick to take advantage of his overnight travels as she camps out in his "comfy, cozy bed". With James, Luke finds comfort in his genetic potential and basks in the reciprocity of quality time. Landen has discovered the secret to being completely cool: start with a limitless wardrobe, establish a personalized gesture of greeting, and ultimately don't worry about what anybody else thinks about you. Together, James and Philip have agreed upon the importance of focused attention during conversation and the peaceful, easy feeling of a good, growly, bear hug. I'm not big on the hugs, but I know that he brings tears to my eyes. Sometimes 'cause we're laughing so hard....other times because his sensitivity to God's Love is sincerely sweet. Thank You, God, for James.

There you go, a whole, entire blog about James.....Happy Birthday!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lookin' Up

This week has been emotionally challenging. Not because of any outside stressor, probably due to hormonal imbalances that tend to wrap up the end of each month. (I see the pattern in my blog, too) Anyway, yesterday morning I actually cried out to God for help....literally cried. The straw that broke the camel's back? Brown stuff smeared onto the "looker-ation" towels in the hall bathroom. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world who apparently know that I have a lot of emotions riding on the tidiness of one towel rack. So I CRIED out for relief. pitiful. But God heard my cries. Even when I don't make sense, when I'm irrational and my priorities are out of whack.....God cares for me. He showered me with mercy then wrapped me in His peace. (The smudge was verified non-organic when the cocoa-pebbles culprit confessed, and with Tide and God, all things are made beautiful in due time) Pooey on the powers of this dark world.

We swam yesterday afternoon. Huge fun. I taught the "American Crawl" to some, then just motor-boated around with Mari. She LOVES water. Ashli swam without floaties and by her own estimations only drowned twice. Ardyn's proficiency is allowing her to brave the deep end with the big kids. She joined Landen, Anna, Luke, and Luke as they perfected their implementation of the dreaded "Simultaneous Cannonball". Every time they surfaced, they wanted me to describe how high the splash towered. "Incredible! But I think you can get it higher!" was my repetitious answer. (There was no tower to speak of, but I wanted them to keep themselves occupied) After a couple hours, we came back inside and collectively munched down a 212 oz. bag of animal crackers and 7 or 8 bottles of water. Season 1 of Brady Bunch had arrived by mail so we officially chilled until Luke and Anna's dad came for them and it was time for me to start dinner.

Datenite is this evening. PLUS! I think we'll do our ol' standby: Dinner and Browsing in Longview. James hasn't been home much in the past couple weeks, so the kids will really enjoy making up for it. We are so blessed to have him here. I think he's gonna get kicked out of his room at least two nights next week in order to accommodate out-of-town guests. He's cool like that and it will be fun to visit with visitors!

Thank You, Lord for hearing my cries for help. Your omnipresence is one of my favorite things about You. Thank You for being near and I pray that you will bind (you-know-who) from my house and my life. You have won the victory! Help me live victoriously. I want to stand firm.
Thank You for all the little children in Thy tender care. Thank You for the sunshine and swimming pools. Thank You for family and friends.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Blogger Phobia

Last night, I suggested that Philip and I drive over to Shreveport for datenite. He still had a Bass Pro Shop gift certificate from Christmas to spend, and I needed to get out of Dodge-- so to speak. As we left the driveway, he asked, "Are you sure you want to drive all the way over there? We can do it another time." I smiled and assured him it was fine. Over the next hour as we ran some pre-date errands, he asked three more times if I was SURE I wanted to go to Bass Pro Shop. Finally, it dawned on me. I asked him point blank: "Why? Are you afraid I'll blog it?" He gave me a playful grin and reluctantly replied, "Yes, yes I am!"

For the record: We had a great time walking through Bass Pro Shop. We ran into some friends and visited for quite a while, then he found some fun gadgets that totalled 19 cents less than his gift card. PLUS!

Monday, July 16, 2007

What would you suggest?

I want to receive a digital camera for my birthday. Actually, I want the camera to go on the financial record as my birthday gift, but I wish to receive it ASAP. Many of you seem to own digital equipment. I am interested to know what features you deem most useful and therefore important, or what hassles you encounter as you upload or get prints made. I don't want to spend a ton of money a: there is no ton to spend, b: Our country dial-up may not be conducive to fancy bells and whistles.

Any wisdom?
Thanks.

Jennifer who?

I guess I know too many Jennifers....I went to your profile and there was nothing. Are you the friend of my cousin, or the sister of my friend, or the friend of my friend, the sister of my other friend, my friend from out of town, or a new friend in town? We're going to the library tomorrow and I'll check their collection of billiard books, and perhaps I can bring resolution to this mysterious metaphor. Thanks for thinking about it. You're cool.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Conversation Starter

A while back a friend gave me a sourdough starter. Once every week or two I feed the starter, mix the dough, then bake the bread. It involves a consecutive three-day commitment, and unless I'm baking to give away, I allow the kids to participate. They seem thrilled by the anticipation and inspired by the culinary freedom to create. Last week Luke rolled out his dough and added, garlic butter, shaved turkey, grated cheese, Parmesan cheese, and crushed red pepper flakes. He rolled it all up, placed it in a dish, and called it "Spicy Italian Sub Bread". He has inherited my firm belief that a snazzy name can improve your creation by 40-50%. I restrained myself from offering the more accurate title: "Lunch meat plus what the Domino's delivery guy left". Landen then began to search out a snazzier title. He opened the cupboard doors and started listing potential ingredients..."Honey, raisins, cinnamon, peanuts...chocolate chips! He decided to create "Trail Mix Wheat Bread". Both flavors turned out YUMMEE!

This week, I baked on my own, but the girls watched on. I rolled the first batch out and spread out butter, honey, slivered almonds, and dried cranberries. When I had that roll sliced and in a pan, I started rolling out the next batch. It was intended to be plain ol' cinnamon rolls. I spread the butter, scattered the clumps of brown sugar and then sprinkled the two shakes of cinnamon that were left in the container. I grunted and opened the cabinet with my floury pinkie finger. The girls asked, "What's wrong, Mom?"

I muttered,"I'm out of cinnamon...I think I bought a new one....oh, I did! Praise the Lord!" I sprinkled the spice vigorously. In the same moment, the girls and I noticed that this "new" cinnamon was a couple shades lighter than the old stuff. Ardyn offered a theory: "I don't think that is cinnamon." I assure her it is as I read the label...oh heaven's to Myrtle! I just put Ground Cumin all over my brown sugared bread dough! They didn't believe me. I let them sniff the container. EEEW! I said that cumin is for salsa and other mexican stuff. I start scraping everything off. I had invested two days and a bag of flour, I was not willing for the dough to be wasted. As I got the surface back to it's beginning stage, I asked the girls to smell it and tell me if they could detect any of the nasty stuff. They sniffed as I turned the board around, then they agreed that it smelled fine. I tried again with another helping of butter and brown sugar then let the rolls rise again before baking.

As I was cleaning up the mess and decompressing after the spice crisis, the girls shared commentary. "I've never seen you mess up cooking, Mom, you should have read the bottle." "Yeah, that was your first 'miscake' in the kitchen." If they only knew.... All they need to do is remember back..."Fantabulous Potatoes", "Confetti Spaghetti", "Peanut Butter, Banana Fudge Bombs"....the list goes on. Basically, if I offered a snazzy name, then there's a good chance the dish needed a 40-50% upgrade for one reason or another. And by all accounts, my strategy works: it's been 24 hours, and there are only 2 "Sensational Sweet Rolls" left.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Catching Up

We had a great day of worship today! Good stuff shared in College SS, then lively family praise. I had charge of 4year olds during "overtime". Summer vacations left us running a little low on teachers, so I took the 3's and 4's and sent word to Philip to "come help". James sat with our oldest kids during the sermon, and Philip and I loved on Ashli and all her buddies. Plus on Philip! Plus on James! Minus all you vacationing overtime AWOL's.....casiekilgore..ahem!

Missing the sermon was not a problem because Luke put his keen listening skills to good use. He rattled off the synopsis including scripture references on the ride home. We were officially up to date.

The menfolk raced the rainclouds as they frantically tried to mow before the anticipated daily downpour. Our neighbors are out of town for a while, so Philip told the boys to push mow their lot next to ours. Our other neighbors apparently thought we were exploiting child labor practices and rode over on their respective John Deere's to rescue and relieve our poor, mistreated children. I looked out the window and watched as 3 riders and a walker mowed along in staggered, congruent paths....like one of those cingular commercials with the 4 bars in every shot. They knocked out an acre in no time at all. Impressive!

The girls and I listened to music and read books and played cards in the air conditioned house ALL afternoon. We wore ourselves out and needed a 30 minute snooze there at the end. It's not easy being cute AND entertaining.

Let's see....last week....
Yesterday: Haircuts, Football sign-up, luncheon date, and Sunday school fellowship
Friday: School, Grocery run then Mom's Night Out....yipee!
Thursday: School day then went swimming. Huge fun.
Wednesday: Hooray for family day
Tuesday: School day then went to Longview to eat, shop, and see fireworks
Monday: don't remember, I'm sure it was great


Tomorrow will be fun. We'll have our "extra's" and we have a "walk-around-the-block" date at 10 am with even more friends. Philip is chilling out in front of the TV waiting for me to stop blogging. More later...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Perhaps Together Too Much

After Monday's very busy pace, I decided to try to get "ahead of the eight ball". (I'm not really sure what that means, but I've been saying it for years....help, anyone?) Philip continued to work storms like he did most of the weekend, and so I did all my Tuesday chores Monday night. Pretty sneaky, huh? Then I cleaned my desk. I went through all my piles and found quite a few items that needed attention....dentist appointments to make, invitations to RSVP, forms to return, and bills to pay. Just as I had found my sorting groove, the power went out. The girls were in bed asleep, but "Davey and Daniel" (Crockett and Boone--you know my two wild, woodsmen who wish to protect and serve in the face of certain danger) were VERY awake. They used a flashlight to gather candles and find matches. Soon our home was dimly lit, and heavily fragranced. They wanted me to read a book to them. I declined but encouraged them to tell stories from their beds. I collected several candles and placed them at varying heights around my desk. Despite the total fire hazard, I was surprised at the amount of light I was able to achieve. I finished sorting but realized paying bills online would be virtually impossible. My mind was whirling with thoughts, plans, and ideas, so I began jotting notes into a spiral. It was wonderful. Quiet, still, a little stuffy after a while, but really wonderful. By the time I was sleepy the power had been restored and I was able to sleep wonderfully under my ceiling fan.

Tuesday was super. (New job/activity chart: everyone raved) Wednesday was equally efficient until I got sicker than a dog! James was a few hours behind me, and the boys brought up the rear (no pun intended) by the middle of the night. Nasty! I think all that Clorox last week must have killed the good stuff too, 'cause this virus barged right in and knocked us out. Poor Philip--he was in such denial, that he actually got up and put on his clothes for work Thursday morning. I'm laying in bed unable to move, comforted only by the damp rag on my brow. I hear him buckling his belt. I faintly inquire, "You're not going to work, are you?" His honest, yet unrealistic response: "I'm sure as heck not stayin' here!" I thought to myself, "This man has lost his mind...I'll just give him a sec, and he'll realize he's about to leave an infant, a preschooler and a 1st grader home alone with 4 pukers....yes, It'll only take a minute, I'm sure....." Nope, he's still headin' for the door. I try sarcasm. "You go on, I'll just get up and get dressed and give it my girl scout try." His bitter reply: "You don't have one!" Well, I never! I guess he just forgot that I earned a busy bee baking patch in 1979, I'm sure I had more, but that's the only one coming to mind with a fever and all. I knew deep down that he wouldn't leave. I knew how badly he wanted to, but surely.... A few moments after he huffed out of our room, I overheard him calling his boss. I slept all day (when I wasn't in the bathroom) and he and the girls had what they later referred to as "The greatest day ever"....uninterrupted Daddy-time. Who can beat it? Later that evening he admitted that I have SEVERAL badges of courage, valor, and general greatness to my name. See, he knows. And despite his brief flirtation with going AWOL, he certainly deserves a "laundry in the middle of the night" merit badge, don't you think?

Today, everyone was back to good health. We washed everything anyone had touched or breathed on, and ate toast and applesauce at all three meals. Philip is fishing an overnight tournament tonight and has a softball tournament scheduled for tomorrow....we'll see. Regardless, we're on our own until Saturday evening. I plan to read with each child, cook ahead for the next several days, and study for Sunday School. We may load up and go watch a softball game, or we may just have to go swimming....I 'd better get some rest.

Buh-Bye

Monday, June 25, 2007

Togetherness

This morning my house is full again. All my blessings plus our two buddies are here enjoying life. Mari Alice turned 10 months old Saturday. She is EVERYWHERE! Ashlin enjoyed her time in Dub-town. There was a brief sore throat scare, but Kindermusik was a blast and her favorite part was jumpin' into the pool like Mr. Lee (cannon ball). On her first night back, as she peered into our crowded refrigerator, she announced, "I really like Mrs. Kathy's cheese better than yours". Well then...

I want to write more, but as I said, my house is full. I'll be back...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Check it out

Just wanted to encourage you to share in my joy of long-distance friendships by visiting my neighbors in Bloggerville. By all accounts, my only pre-requisite for providing a link is cute kids. I'm telling you, these gals have gorgeous children! As my great-grandmother is quoted: "I know a pretty baby when I see one...whether I birthed it or not!"

Rebecca's blog is a delight. We have been roomates, friends, and sisters-in-law. She is possibly the sweetest, most generous person I know. If you know her, you'll love keeping up with the kids and "life in the valley". If you've never met her, you'll love getting to know her through her sensitive and down-to-earth posts.

Lisa's blog is inspiring. I have always been intrigued by her...she is a Jacquline of all trades. She wins the "cool-techno-marvy-mom" award. There's even a video of her learning a backdive. I'm telling you she rocks.

Jessica's blog is pure entertainment! No matter her mood, her writings are impressive. She is a "tell it like it is" kind of gal...and has THE best vocabulary! Some of her posts have left me laughing out loud.

Rachel's blog is sporatic to say the least, but she's a very busy girl. She and I have been friends since the nursery, yet miles and decades separate us from those glory days of banana-seat bikes and bean nachos. Speaking of bean nachos, her post explaining her ruptured appendix may have indeed saved my life.

Enjoy!

Back on Track

Phew! The past couple weeks have been a booger. Week before last, I had extra kiddos each day. Some were expected, others - not so much. Ardyn was visiting her "best friend, Abby" for the week. We enjoyed the reciprocal visit of Abby's older, less talkative, very cool, brother. I also had the first of two June weddings to play for. But we survived, and had a pretty good time. This past week was Vacation Bible School. In the three-year-old room, it seemed neither a vacation, nor much Bible School. My bad. I had a good friend assisting, and a teen aged toddler-magnet, so I was well supported, I just wasn't on my game....not enough prayer, I think.

Our theme for the week was "Be a Hero for Jesus". On the first day, I shared a Bible story of Mary and Joseph. I explained several times that Mary and Joseph each believed and obeyed God when it was not easy. I repeated the catch phrase: "Real Heroes Obey God!" about a kazillion times. As I wrapped up circle time, I held up the painting of Mary and Joseph. I asked, "Who are these people?" "MARY AND JOSEPH!!!" they all shouted with confidence. And leading them to sprout forth in the fruit of knowledge, I baited, "And we KNOW they are heroes, because 'Real ...Heroes........"
wait for it....
"HAVE BABIES!!!!!" was their unanimous response.

Yes, well. So much for "that lady with all the kids" ever being invited to indoctrinate the youth of tomorrow with her radical procreation agenda.

This week Ashlin is in Weatherford. Our two school-aged friends who are staying with us during the day this summer are at their grandparents'. James has been out of town, and Ardyn has a bug. So I'm down to two boys doing school and one very mobile 9-month old. Ardyn is resting on her pallet, the boys are on their lunch break, and I have Mari's barricade installed next to the patio door in my room. I'm blogging in the middle of the day! Woo-hoo!

Thank you, Lord, for Heroes. I want to be a Hero for You...help me. Thank you for allowing sickness and stress to come into our routine to point our eyes and hearts toward You. Thank You for Clorox Clean-up....Seriously. You are wonderfully merciful and Your kindness never comes to an end. Thank You for Philip and all the opportunities You give him to shine for You. Thank You for all the resources You provide for our family through him. Please bless Landen in school this year. Give him a heart for You. Heal Luke's wound, and give him strength and passion in You. Please heal Ardyn. Thank You for the beauty You show through her. Bless Ashli as she spends some quality time in her home away from home. Thank You for Mari Alice...Thank You. Thank You, Father, for James. Our home would not be the same if we could not share the life he lives through You. Bless him with Your purpose and Your power to run a good race. Thank You, God, for loving me. I know I am most unlovable most of the time. Thank You for Your patience and promises to complete the good work You have begun in me. I think it's AMAZING that You never change. I put my trust in You alone because You are good. I totally love You.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Sing Along

Yesterday on our trip to Sunday School, Mari was fussing. Huge shocker! Everyone was doing their part to quiet her down. Landen chanted in a high-pitched coo: "Maaaaariiiiiii, Maaaaaariiiiiii". Ashli was singing her repetitious song (in the tune of Nanny, Nanny, Boo-Boo)called "Mari Alice Johnson". Luke offered occasional syncopation with: "Hey! (clap) Mari! (clap) Why-you-fussin?"

Preparing her heart for worship, Ardyn contemplated aloud: "I bet it makes God sad when everyone just sings about Mari."

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Very Fine Day, Indeed

Philip and I decided to spice things up a bit, and instead of dating on Friday evening, we made a date for Saturday morning. We had high hopes of leaving James in charge of listening for Mari and sneaking out for some pre-dawn garage sales. Our Friday night was filled with dinner guests and spontaneous fellowship lasting almost until midnight. So we slept in. I cannot remember the last time we were both in bed after 7am....1995? James was still on the high hope plan and rose dutifully to give Mari her morning bottle. He just rocks, doesn't he? We leisurely readied ourselves and were out the door before 9. We hit all the big sales. We drove by some that certainly did not deserve the title "Garage Sale". One house had two old stereo speakers, a plastic tub of toys, and some Christmas decorations. Philip muttered, "That ain't a garage sale, folks!" The garage sales were just intermittent destinations for our morning spent driving and smiling. We shared a late lunch and headed to the house.

While the big kids hosted a neighborhood football game in the backyard, Philip and Ashli caught a couple snoozes in the recliner to the relaxing commotion of televised baseball. Mari and I headed to my "Queen" bed (That's another blog) to start "The Queen" DVD that I've had for days. I've had it so long that not only is it due back, but it has ceased existing as a form of entertainment and now tops my "Gotta git this done" list. Aggravating....because as I sit and type the little blue circle saving my TV screen is traveling around and around Prince Charles' face.

Just as Philip was packing up to take the kids fishing, the neighbors rang our doorbell to invite us to come swimming. There was a vote. The poles were put away and everybody just started stripping.....not me, you understand.....everyone but me. Mari Alice donned her pale pink swimsuit with lavender shoulder straps and skirt trim for her summer debut. We walked across the street and enjoyed the last few moments of direct sunshine, and the first few moments of Mari's life as a swimmer. She had a grand time bobbing around with her dad. I sat comfortably in my t-shirt and jeans and watched. Landen dove off the board and swam the length of the pool with one breath. Luke led a division of secret operatives around the edge of the pool seeking sunken treasure and enemy torpedoes. Ardyn advanced to jumping off the board and swimming to the ladder (sans la floaties). Ashlin is still VERY attached to her floaties, but still accomplished feats of courage on both the slide and the board. Once I dried and dressed Mari, Philip was free to "encourage" the kids in their aquatic skills. There were a few tears, but similar tactics keep our military up and running, so what can you say? I learned to swim in a completely structured manner through my local YMCA/Red Cross. I'm waiting to hear the story of how someone threw Philip over a bridge and hollered, "Swim, boy!"

The GREATEST thing about swimming is its significant simplification of bedtime. If you can get through the ultra-emotional bath time and snack, then bedtime is followed by deep sleep almost instantaneously. That worked for 4/5 of the kids. Luke needed some quality time (plus, navy spies don't burn as much energy as Olympic divers) So I read Chapter One of "Princess Bride" to him. I bought it today at the library sale for 20 cents. We giggled and he finally went to bed.

And there you have it. One enormously fun-filled day and a lovely little blog on which to share it. What more does a girl need? A kiss....see ya!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

To Top It All

Ok, so I'm driving home from our local discount superstore, and I glance over at the lady driving the neighboring SUV. She held a jar in one hand while bracing the steering wheel with that elbow. I watched as she used her other hand to untwist the jar's lid while steering with her other elbow! My thoughts were mainly focused on how dangerous that seemed....and I began to look for an opportunity to change lanes. As I looked over again, she was gulping from the jar. I leaned across my center console to gawk....It was a jar of Maraschino Cherries! She was chugging cherry juice, people! Now my mind was a blur....did she just buy those at Wal-Mart? What difference does it make--she's slurping straight sucrose! I regained composure, placed my hands at 10 and 2, and checked all my mirrors. Now, back to "Sweet Swiggin' Sue"...I peered one last time to see if it's customary to totally drain the cherries before tightening the lid, or if good humor would allow for the chomping of a couple, there, toward the end. We'll never know....she had put the jar away, and was continuing to drive with an elbow and a hand while she talked on the phone! I'm writing my congressman to see if the cell phone law could be extended to include the impulsive consumption of sundae toppings.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorable Day

What a wonderful day! The kids and I made a special breakfast for Philip, then greeted him in bed with an energetic rendition of "Happy Birthday". He spent the day exactly as he wished. Saturday was honorary Birthday Fishing Day, so he piddled outdoors with the mower, the boat, and a couple of the bikes. His absence from the house afforded me plenty of time to cook and bake a cake. We surprised him this evening by inviting some friends over for dinner, cake, and games. After dinner, there were about 15-20 people in every direction playing baseball in the backyard....I mean they were literally playing baseball (with tennis balls) in every direction. It was a good time.

Textbooks should arrive this week! Ready, set, learn!

Thank you, God, for big back yards and air-conditioned dining rooms, and for good friends to fill them up.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bogged Down

Man, am I glad to see this week come to an end! It wasn't horrible. No tragedies. No drama. But not great, either. I've been very pensive...contemplative...trying to figure things out. Nothing specific...just wondering as I'm wandering. My thoughts are always crowded this time every year. Crowded: like I completely forgot my dear friend's birthday. It has fallen between Mother's day and Philip's birthday every May since I met her 7 years ago...and I mean REALLY FALLEN since I can't pull my brain together for two consecutive moments to make it remotely special for her. I'm a dork. Philip will turn thirty-something-else on Monday. Luckily, there's no gift to buy. He seems to have everything he wants, not so much from contentment, but more from a sort of self-provisional lifestyle. His day was my dad's birthday, too, so when Phil is fishing, I'll spend the day missing my dad. Also, it's time to start our new school year, and amidst the excitement, there is a very real sense of overwhelming responsibility. SO, perhaps after this post, I can leave most of these thoughts here in this week...enjoy tomorrow, and start fresh on this Lord's Day!

Thank You, Lord, for friends who forgive. Thank You for a very handsome, low-maintenance husband. Thank You for my dad and all the love he shared with me. Please stay VERY near the Johnson "Academy" this year. We want to honor You in all we do and say. Allow me to rest in Your peace and renew me with Your strength. I cast all my cares upon You for great is Your Faithfulness! When nothing else could help Your love lifted me...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Can I Get This For You?

Question of the decade: If I wait on my kids "hand and foot", won't they be spoiled? And yet, if I deny them service, won't I be modeling indifference and selfishness, and won't they grow up to be spoiled?

I consider the two sides of this proverbial coin almost daily. I see my kids gaining independence, learning teamwork, and embracing responsibility as I require them to do things for themselves. And I consider that a victory. But they seem to imitate my unhelpfulness --purposeful as it may be-- when dealing with each other. They echo my words to their siblings: "I didn't put that there, YOU pick it up." "I loaded the dishwasher, you can UNload it." Today, when they quoted me, I quoted Jesus. With extreme self-righteousness, I explained: "In the Bible, Jesus tells the people that whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me." I continued with phase two: "Now, honey, if Jesus needed a drink, would you get it for him?" And then I lost concentration. To the best of my memory, the kids learned the lesson I assumed I was teaching them, and everyone got their juice refills. My mind was rushing to analyze the text from my little lunchtime sermonette.

Matthew 25:34-40 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of theses brothers of mine, you did for me."

Wow! Except for the prison part (but for grace), this sounds like what I do all day long to these little "least of these's"...Folks are hungry; I feed 'em. Folks get thirsty; I give 'em juice. Folks are actin' strange; I still let 'em stick around. Folks need clothes; I get 'em clothes. Folks get sick; I hang out with them anyhoo. Sometimes I lose perspective to such an extent, that I approach our days together like a bitter maid. Here's the truth that can set me free: Christ died so that I could live His life: a loving servant.

I still don't know the answer to my question: to spoil, or not spoil (Feel free to chime in) But I feel my heart changing. Lord, let me see those around me the way You see them...and respond in the same Spirit.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Great Outdoors

I got the picnic table painted today. I've placed an order for sunny, breezy weather to try it out, and the "storm team 3 forecast" gives every indication I'll get my wish.

Mari may be following in her siblings' footsteps...in more ways than one. She's pulling up into a standing position every chance she gets and is loving her view from two feet off the ground. So as we monitor her first steps around couches and coffee tables, we're noticing that she may be an "outside girl". She has been so fussy indoors lately, but outside in the stroller or exersaucer, she's good to go. We bought her a swing today to attach to the set Papaw built. She LOVED it! At one point, she was giggling so hard, her eyes rolled back in her head. We all got a big laugh.

I'd love to write more, but Philip wants to go to sleep.....
More later