Saturday, January 20, 2007

Home Alone

Philip took the oldest four children to 4-H, the grocery store, and CiCi's pizza. They've been gone for HOURS! Mari has a cold again and needed to stay in today. She's miserable, it seems. I have been soaking up the silence and filing my piles away in my new file drawers. This is good for the soul!

Yesterday Philip took off work after lunch to be with the kids. James and I were asked to "share" with a group of trustee wives at ETBU. He "shared" about his mission trip last summer. I "shared" thoughts and music. It went well. He has an amazing way with people. The ladies were all tripping over one another to give him the names of their daughters and granddaughters. Man, he's got that 50+ demographic locked in!

Philip and I met 6 other couples at Olive Garden last night for a big, group datenite. Yes, James had the kids. He did a great job. He had some "reinforcements" come over, but that's ok....whatever you have to do to get the job done, right? He served frozen pizza, though you can't tell anything was done in that tidy kitchen! The kids had been on restriction from electronics for the week, so when he offered a DVD, that's the last he saw of the older 4. Mari just needed to be held. He met that need until we returned. What a good night!

Mattresses across the house wait patiently for the clean, dry sheets that keep beeping in the laundry room. Bagged groceries and dirty children shall arrive any moment. Plus I've got to brush my teeth....Philip is SO getting kissed when he gets home!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Datenite Duo

We had our first datenite of the semester the other evening. We left Uncle James in charge as usual. Last semester was a little irregular in terms of Mother's Day Out and Datenite. I had a newborn and didn't feel like going "out" whether by day or by night. When I did stray from the nest, the littlest one was in tow. As a result, James grew accustomed to caring for children who were generally self-sufficient in bath'n'body works....if you know what I mean.

So, last Tuesday, we left him with all 5 Johnsons. On the way out the door I mentioned that Mari Alice had not soiled a diaper in a day or so. It was sort of a passing thought that caught my attention as I was rattling off instructions for our time away. James was busily griddling quesadillas. He raised a spatula in our direction, gave a confident smile and instructed us to enjoy ourselves.

We were doing just that as the waiter brought us chips and salsa. We remembered a phone call we needed to make, but didn't have the number with us. We called home and Luke answered. He seemed distracted as he searched for the phonebook. Philip inquired. Luke reported that Mari had "pooped her brains out" and that Uncle James was handling it.

After gathering statements from all verbal parties involved, I am able to piece together the details of calamity and distress.

Mari was in her exer-saucer (Uncle James calls it her "alka-seltzer") when she decided to let loose. A sibling passerby soon realized that she seemed giggly in a relieved way, and yet fidgity and uncomfortable. "I think she pooped" was the verdict. James left his post at the dish sink. As he lifted her out, children gasped. She was carried in the "stiff-arm" formation to the kitchen for further investigation. Yes, people, the stuff had made it into her socks! He quickly barked out warnings to the other kids concerning their proximity to the crisis, followed by a brief supply list for rectifying the situation: "Watch out! Stay back! Get me two old towels, some diapers, some wipes, and ....oh gosh...." He proceeded to lay my darling in the middle of the kitchen floor where she was disrobed, and literally hosed off.

We tried to check back a little later, but James would not take our call....something about needing to get his heart right. The evening continued to take a toll on him as the "wardrobe malfunction" caused Mari to miss her nap. So instead of sleeping peacefully until I came to nurse her, she paced the floor frantically (perched in James' arms) awaiting my return.

When we walked in, James was holding Mari Alice in one hand and with the other he was stabilizing the lid of a bottle in her mouth. That's right: the lid. A nipple in a rim. No bottle. My baby was sucking air out of a lid. First, the unorthodox diaper change, and now, nobody knows that God made pacifiers!

James was swaying slightly, and humming softly. Mari seemed content - in an "I look ridiculous", "Who checked this guy's references?" sort of way. James seemed calm - in an "I resent you for pooping on me, but I'm committed to meet your needs unconditionally" sort of way.
Philip caught one glance of that pair and got so tickled he had to leave the room. He ducked back into the hallway, lowered his head, and did that bobbing shoulder, wheezy laugh. A couple times he tried to interject the words "James" or "Dude" or "What were you..." but ultimately he just kept laughing. James kept humming. Mari kept sucking.

We all got a good giggle out of the evening. And as for James and Mari....they've since reconciled. He's a little nervous about next week's datenite, and she's a little freaky about the kitchen spray nozzle! Tune in next week...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Johnson Christmas Brunch

Back in 2006 (3 weeks ago) we hosted the Johnson Christmas Gathering at our place. I would have posted a blog about our fun day then, but I was busy getting ready, and then I was busy sitting on the couch with my feet up. I absolutely enjoyed the cooking part of preparations -- the cleaning I could have done without :) We ended up with quite a "spread". We were missing a few folks due to some last minute stuff, so my large batches soon became enormous surplus. My sweet father-in-law made my day as he entered the kitchen and said "OOOH, would ya look at all them groceries!" He continued stroking my culinary ego as he continued, "You just never know what Cari's gonna have cooked, but you can bet it's gonna taste good, that's for sure!" I know in my heart I've become a better cook over the last 13 years -- motivated by Fred's constant flow of affirming words....and his cleanly-licked plates.

All the cousins opened presents from Nonnie and Papaw....well, we all know Nonnie picked them the Toys'R'Us helper-lady picked them out, but Nonnie wrapped them. Papaw enjoys sharing the surprise with the grandkids. People drank coffee on the patio. Several kids (and a couple adults) made bead art together. We made great use of the swingset Papaw built, and a chosen few received shoulder-rubs from Aunt Tammi. Wowwie, wow, wow! I don't normally like the whole touchy-feely bonding stuff, but that girl....hands of steel and a heart of gold. As the kids played with their loot, adults snoozed in recliners (the man of the house led the way on that one), while the dining table and kitchen counter received a steady flow of "grazers" throughout the afternoon. Thank you to everyone who came to visit...we definitely missed the ones who couldn't make it. Merry Christmas everybody!

Someone asked me a while back for some of the recipes used that day. Sorry about the wait.

Baked Spinach-and-Artichoke Dip
2 (6oz)pkg fresh baby spinach
1 Tbs butter
1 pkg 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 (14oz)can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
Fresh pita wedges or baked pita chips

1. Microwave spinach in a large, microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 3 minutes or until wilted. Drain spinach well, pressing between paper towels. Chop spinach.
2. Melt butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add cream cheese, and garlic; cook 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly, until cream cheese melts. Fold in spinach, artichokes, sour cream, and 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese; stir until cheese melts.
3. Transfer mixture to a 1-qt, shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese.
4. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve immediately with fresh pita wedges or baked pita chips.

(Published in Southern Living 11/2006; submitted by Fran Rifkin, CA)

Sopapilla Cheesecake

2 cans crescent rolls
2 pkg 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1/2 cup cinnamon/sugar mixture

1. Spray a 9x13 dish and line it with one can of rolls(unrolled into a big rectangle)
2. Mix softened cream cheese and sugar until creamy then spread it over the rectangle.
3. Lay second can of dough over cream cheese.
4. Sprinkle the cin/sug mixture over the rectangle and then pour melted butter over the whole darn thing.
5. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until it's golden (you'll smell it!)
6. Eat some when it comes out of the oven, then save some for coffee in the morning. YUM-MEEEE!

Celina gave me this recipe after she made it for my birthday dinner....I'm too lazy to hunt down the actual-factual, so this is my best recollection and a new, jazzy title! This is one of many attempts to copy-cat and convince my family that I'm almost as good a cook as "Mrs. Celina".

Thursday, January 04, 2007


My brother, Tim, called from Washington this morning to announce the birth of his baby girl. As in all previous notifications, he confidently declared that she is "perfect". And I share his confidence. I'm sure she is perfect. Her mother seems to be darn close! Rebecca skated through the holidays...canning homemade gifts for everyone, hosting the collegiate brother-in-law for weeks, taking roadtrips with the family...even last night!

Her mobile flexibility seems to have allowed her to dodge the snowstorm that fell on her own roof last night. And instead of returning home this morning, she arrived at the midwife's office with 22 minutes to spare. She quickly found her peaceful place, offered the infant one gentle push of persuasion and ta-da! Larah Mikal weighing in at 8 lb 12 oz, measured 22 inches long. And in true form, mother and child are (even now as I type) going for breakfast and traveling to reunite with the other 5 children. What an amazing woman! Of course she is....she lives with Tim! Ok, joking aside, I admit that he has always been one of the greatest brothers on the planet, and now it seems he's got this "daddy-hood" thing down, too!
Congratulations to the Walker tribe! And Rebecca--have a seat, honey, you're making the rest of us look bad.

Thank You, God for tiny babies. Thank You for looking past our current struggles and seeing the "perfection" that is possible through Your Son. Thank you for loving us and calling us Your children. Thank you for abundant Life!

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year Happiness

Well, I'm still too busy to blog. That's not good. I was lying in bed reading a book called "Margin" as 2007 arrived...praying for balance and perspective. I arose six hours later to nourish an infant, brew some coffee (that does not taste good without sugar) and undecorate the tree. The guys initiated the new year with "Star Wars" and Blue Bell, and the girls dozed in recovery. This afforded me a few hours of quiet productivity.

So far, I have spent this year active, hydrated, and cheerful.....10 hours! I'm amazing!

More later-

Happy Days!