Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

We are going to ring in the New Year Johnson Style. This translates into four Shorties in the king-size bed on top of Mommy and Daddy. Little shortie faces covered in hot chocolate mustaches, sticky hands clutching half-eaten chocolate chip cookies, everyone snoring loudly through the ball drop in Times Square.

Thrilling, I tell you.

Beats the stew out of fighting a crowd of drunken strangers any day. Don’t underestimate sleeping through the New Year. Being able to snore and drool from 11:59 p.m. to 12:01 a.m. is a sure-fire sign that you’ve got a clear conscious and all is well in your universe. You aren’t hungry. You aren’t cold or hot. You are probably warm in a bed. You have a roof over your head. You have many, many reasons to be a) thankful and b) comfy enough to sleep through the revelry. So, yea for us! Boring is SOOO ROCKING AWESOME!

My Wishful Thinking List for the New Year:

Fewer 911 calls. (Wishing it is one thing; getting the Shorties to cooperate is quite another.)

No more cancer diagnoses anywhere in my vicinity. (Enough already.)

More quality time with my mother.

More quality time with the Shorties.

More time in general.

More quality ministry projects that honor the Lord.

More Big Vacations to enjoy The Husband, The Shorties, and The Nana.

I’m going to blog more regularly and keep up with the church website. (Stop laughing. It’s rude.)

My Hopefully, Maybe, We’ll See Resolutions for 2009:

Some remain the same. This one is a holdover from last year. If I buy a book a have to a) read it and b) apply something in it to my life. For example: if I buy a cookbook, I must actually prepare something from the cookbook. If I read a book on time management, I must apply some of the concepts to my daily routine. You get the idea.

I am also going to renew my effort to read equal parts Scripture to Fluff. In practice, this means that I have to spend equal amounts of time praying/reading the Bible as I do reading Stephen King. I’m not sure that God is totally good with this, but since He suffered through a long, dry spell while I was embroiled in the four-and-a-half-book Twilight Saga (which I read through something like, oh, five times), I’m sure He’s just relieved that I’m coming around again. :-)

I’ve committed to renew my walking program and to be serious about three times a week. I have no excuses; there’s a gym in my backyard, for goodness sake.

I’m joining the Scale Back Alabama program at work, and I am going to lose 10 lbs in 18 weeks so that my team gets a shot at the good prizes.

I’m actually going to develop the film and not just take the pictures.

I’m going to sit still long enough to watch some of the shows that I record on the DVR.

I’m going to see my friends more often. (Note to self: this probably needs to go under the Wishful Thinking Column.) Okay, I’m going to write, e-mail, and call my friends more often. That’ll be achievable.

I'd put some goofy stuff on here about trying to be a better mother (as if), trying to be a better person (again, stop laughing), and trying to be a better church member (what? There's something I'm not involved in yet?), but since I know that's just a bunch of talk, I think I'll just stick to the wish list and count my blessings!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Time Warp

So, I subscribed to one of these music download services for the kids and their new MP3 players. (Yeah, that's the ticket.) After I downloaded like the 20th 80's song onto the computer for my IPod, I finally heard Elaina over my right shoulder, "Are WE getting any songs, Mommy?"

Er, oh, yeah. Hannah Montana. Camp Rock soundtrack. High School Musical 3 Soundrack. Jonas Brothers. I almost forgot to download all of that over the smokin' guitar coming off of The Cult hammering out Fire Woman. (If you don't like that song, it's obvious we have nothing to discuss musically. It's sort of like a dividing line in politics; some things you just can't get past.)

I was completely head banging, singing at the top of my lungs, dancing around the office like some sort of heavy metal lunatic on the third chorus of Love and Rockets No New Tale to Tell when my 8-yr-old grabbed me by the upper arms, spun me around to face her and said, "Mother! You have GOT to get a hold of yourself. You are too old for this sort of thing."

As if. She thinks that dancing in the house is bad...wait until they are teenagers. Heh-heh-heh. It's going to be my complete honor and privilege to humiliate my offspring by rolling up in the Loser Cruiser (what we call the mini-van) to pick them up at the mall blasting The Smiths as loud as the factory jam will allow. I might even get me some Big 80's Hair just for that first time--like some sort of sick initiation ritual. I'm so down with that.

I have totally got to go. Warren Zevon is about to throw down some Werewolves of London all over this home office and so am I. Rock on.

I know those Duran Duran albums are in here somewhere...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ho, Ho, Ho


The Fat Man has come and gone and all is well in the Johnson Household. We had a big holiday. I had to come to work today to get some rest! I certainly don’t want to be at the house trying to wade through all of that wrapping paper and cardboard and toy splatter. It looks like Wal-Mart exploded in my living room. Sounds like a Daddy project to me. So, I’m at work today saving up those vacation days for something else this year. You know us—there’s a vacation somewhere in our future.

I can’t hide from this blog, though. I talked some smack a few posts ago about having a Mommy-Daddy trip this year, so, when I e-mailed my friend Sonja the Travel Agent to price out another Big Johnson Adventure to Disney World, she called me on it. (It’s good to have friends who keep you honest!)

You know perfectly well that Steve and Charlotte going off alone isn’t going to happen; there are too many Shorties counting on us. I must been having a My-God-We-Need-A-Break-From-Screaming-Children moment when I wrote that post. See, we always left the Shorties with my Mother when we wanted to go off for a Big People Vacation in the past. God seriously put a kink in my program with this cancer business. (What was He thinking?) The Rolling Stones are wise, wise men. You really can’t always get what you want.

Santa brought Elaina an IPod/MP3 player thingy. (Well, a knock off; he’s a smart shopper.) So that her little brother doesn’t steal it, Santa brought him one too. I kept asking the other half of the dynamic duo if she wanted an IPod too, but she kept insisting no, no, she wanted school supplies to play school with and clothes from Justice.

Since I am a wise woman, I asked Santa to please bring her a CD player just so she could listen to something on the way to Grandma’s house. I knew that the siblings would be dialed into their new MP3 players and she would be jealous. (It’s hard to drag a dry erase board and markers across town to show off.) So, we get to Grandma’s and everyone sees the chickens come in, two IPods and one CD player rocking it old school, and my cousin laughed and said, “Well, we can see who Cinderella is at your house.”

Lest you fret over my Unfortunate Child, Elise made up for it by getting more packages under the tree than anyone else in the whole house. (You can make $86.00 IPod dollars go a LONG way in the Parent/Teacher Store, my Friends.) Lily even got the bicycle that she started asking for four days before the Big Event. (Santa was on it this year.) It was a big day. I’m looking forward to a quiet new year (ever the optimist). Of course, I went nutso on the decorations this year, so I’ll have a week’s worth of hauling stuff to the basement, but other than that, it’s all good. Hope that your holidays were all wonderful and warm and full of family!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Real Santa likes Zapopan too. Huh.


We were eating Sunday lunch at our favorite Mexican joint, when my children noticed The Real Santa digging into a chicken quesadilla. (Who knew?) So, Carter asks to go over to him, but I announce that we've already seen The Mall Santa, and they probably don't have very good Mexican at the North Pole (just an assumption on my part), so let the man enjoy his salsa and spicy shrimp.

But Carter, like most little boys, wouldn't be turned away once the seed was planted. By God, that was Santa, The Real Santa, and that sort of opportunity simply can't be passed over without at least taking a shot at it.

My son finally outsmarted me by asking to go to the restroom and detoured around the restaurant to land right at Santa's table. He tugged gently on Santa's work shirt, and when he had the Jolly Old Elf's attention he whispered, "What kind of cookies do you really like us to leave out, Santa?"

Much to Santa's credit, he took the interruption all in stride. (I guess when you are The Real Santa, there are bound to be a few interruptions.) He leaned over to my child and whispered back through his frosty white beard, "Chocolate chip. Always chocolate chip." And he nodded and winked.

Carter made the Serious Face back at Santa, nodded and said, "I knew it. I just knew it." Then he marched straight back to our table and pointed at his daddy with an accusatory stare and finger point and said, "I TOLD you that Santa wanted chocolate chip cookies, NOT Reese's Cups."

Ahem.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ho, Ho, Ho. Merry Christmas!

Friday, Mr. Kacy, the church children’s choir director, loaded up the children’s choir as an extra special treat for all of their hard work and commitment in the Christmas Program and hauled them up to the McWane Science Center—-this amazing facility that we have in downtown B’ham. It’s about an hour drive there and an hour back. Somewhere between the trip organizing and the actually leaving, I lost my mind and volunteered to go and help.

(Sometimes I wonder what I'm thinking. Was I momentarily possessed by alien forces? Was I drifting off and just nodded 'yes' while blankly staring off into space? Did I actually MEAN to sign up for this? Gives one pause for thought.)

We stopped with 12 kids and 6 adults and ate at Chick-fil-a on the way to town, and then played in the museum for a few hours. The grand finale was to meet Santa and go see the Polar Express on the IMAX. I was exhausted at the end of all of that. The kids had a blast, though, which is what really counts. We left at 12:30 and got home around 9:00. Whew. That was enough of the screaming shorties for this Mother Bear.

Earlier that morning, I morphed into Super Mom and The Husband strapped on his Super Dad cape, and we ran to and fro to get to all three class parties, in three different classrooms, for three different children, all at the same time. I carried Lily on my back to Elise’s classroom. Steve started in Elaina’s room. Then, I hauled Lily to Elaina’s class and Steve moved to Carter’s class. Then, we passed in the hallway, and I monkey-passed Lily to Steve’s back and walked across the whole campus to Carter’s room while Steve finished in Elise’s room. Confused yet? Imagine how we felt!

And this doesn’t even touch on the classroom snack situation. Who-signed-up-to-bring-the-cheese-cubes-and-who-has-the-gallon-of-milk-and-who-has-the-pretzels-in-which-classroom. I needed an org chart and some highlighters to keep all of that together.

We got it all done though. I felt a little bad about not letting the kids participate in the gift-swapping games. We have a few rules around here about gift giving. I seriously limit the amount of money we spend on Christmas in our house. We just think that it would be shameful to spend more on the kids than we are willing to give away to the Lottie Moon International Mission fund or to other families in need during the holidays, so we are on a tight budget to put the focus where it really belongs—on Jesus Christ and His saving power—not on a new toy or gadget.

So, The Royal We decided that after tracking it a couple of years ago and discovering that we spent almost $400.00 in “nothing” like dirty Santa gifts and gift bags for the other students and teacher gifts (which were always crappy because who can afford something really nice for eight teachers???), it was officially over. No gift swaps. No ornament swaps. No gifts for people outside of our family. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. It just became overwhelming. We just stick to the $200.00 per child and they are either content or they aren’t. The end. I’m good with it either way, and I hope that they are too. I sleep just fine at night.

Of course, that idea in theory is one thing. Telling Carter to get out of the circle of his friends and gather his things because we have to leave the class party now and no, you can’t participate in the gift swap because Mommy can’t afford yet another $10.00 gift, is entirely another. The kids are used to it so much now that when Carter’s teacher gave him this pitiful look as we packed up his candy canes and snowman art to head out for the holidays, he smiled and shrugged, “It’s okay, Mrs. R. Lily would just take my gift and break it anyway.” We Johnson's are pragmatic, at the very least.

And today, me and Nana called the North Pole and checked on Santa’s elves and their gift wrapping assignments. Evidently, they wrapped the entire afternoon to get the list finished and everything ready for delivery to our house on Christmas Eve. The elves are TIRED. (I’m just about full up on Christmas Spirit myself. There's not enough egg nog in this house to make me feel better about it either.)

Oh, and of course, we made our annual trip to Christmas Fantasy Land on Thursday night. I’ll be posting some photos of that deal in a day or so when I recover from all of this cheer and good will to men. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What I'm Getting for Christmas.

I’ve confessed my deep-seeded and completely irrational fear for my kids being burned on this blog in numerous posts, so now it’s time to confess my own crazy fear that has absolutely nothing to do with the kids. The dentist. I am sure that a lot of you out there are afraid of the dentist. I sort of take it up a notch.
How bad is it? I have to take a Valium to get my teeth cleaned.

I’ve been determined that this fear not be transferred down the line to my kids, so we’ve been playing dentist and successfully going so well now that the kids don’t even want me to go back with them for teeth cleanings anymore. (Evidently, it’s not cool to have your mother hold your hand when there’s nothing more frightening than fluoride involved.) They are so comfortable going that they high five each other for getting checked out of school to go to the dentist (little freaks).

I, on the other hand, might be persuaded to sell my soul to the Devil never to set foot in the dentist’s office again. In fact, I told my dentist that if I were offered a straight up deal that if I ran stone naked through Macy’s during the day after thanksgiving sale, all three floors, and my little jog would be broadcast on the evening news at 5:00, 6:00, and 10:00 in order to never set foot in the dentist’s office again, I’d take that offer in one heartbeat. Don’t even have to think about it. Post my big rear all over YouTube so long as there’s never another root canal or filling in my future.

So, imagine the fun, fun, fun it’s been around my house when I cracked a tooth last week. I had one of those really old fillings from the 70’s that just finally gave it up. I had to go in and get and X-Ray of that. The next morning, I went across town to have a root canal. Two days later, I had to have part of that redone since it didn’t all get straightened out on my first visit. The next day, I had to have a small filling done where the crack had evidently been there awhile and had messed with the next-door-neighbor tooth.

And today I’m having the Icing on the Dental Cake--a two-hour appointment to build up the broken down tooth and install the temporary crown and make the mold for my new permanent crown (which will naturally require yet another visit). Holy Mother of God. That’s like two full weeks of the dentist and approximately 10 hours of chair time in five days. I’m sweating and breaking out into hives as I type this. I don’t think that a single Valium is going to cut it.

The other funny thing in this is that I am a hoot in the dentist’s chair. See, when they are doing their business in there, I squirm around making these terrible, I-think-I-swallowed-a-bug faces and moaning all of these little noises that sound like I’m in pain. Now, to be clear, I’m not in pain; I’m in terror. But still, between the grimacing and the little grunting, whimpering noises, the dentist or technician is obviously worried that he/she is causing me pain. Not so, I’m just freaking out from the noises and the weird grinding noises and the touching and the fingers in my mouth and the smells and bad tastes. (Breathe, breathe, breathe.)

So, the dentist keeps asking over and over during any procedure, “Are you okay?” “Everything fine, Mrs. Johnson?” “Are you in pain?” Bless their little hearts. They really want it to be okay, but it’s not okay. Not even a little bit okay. It’s not even in the same county as “okay”. But since I can’t scream, “Get your dadgum hand out of my mouth and put those instruments of torture far, far away from me, You Bad Mean Evil Doctor!” I just nod and say through the Novocain and cotton shoved in my mouth, “I’b opay” (translation: I’m okay).

Today I’m taking in my music so that I can (hopefully) bliss out during the two-hour long procedure. Hey, every good scary movie depends on a sound track. Of course, no matter what I choose to listen to during the visit, it’ll have to go straight in the trashcan on the way out of the door. Wouldn’t want to spark any weird flashback scenes later.

And since all I had to pay out of pocket for that entire party was $175.00, all I can say is Thank you, Jesus for insurance! Oh, and Merry Christmas to Me, since I'm probably putting a copy of the paid bill in a box and wrapping it for myself.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Party Time.

Because I am too stupid to live, I'm hosting an open house at the parsonage this weekend. Of course, I have hardly any Christmas shopping done, but I have time to invite 100 people through my house two weekends before Santa comes. (And I'm the brains of this operation around here???) Okay then. So, Shelley came and did her thing getting my house together, and now I'm running around here making party food like some sort of wild woman.

Oh, and did I mention that I had to have a ROOT CANAL yesterday? UGH. My whole mouth is on fire, throbbing and aching. Lily just dumped a whole bowl of popcorn on my previously clean living room floor. I'm high on Lortab. The Husband is working today. Every time I open my stuffed-to-the-gills refrigerator something flies out onto my feet. My mouth is hurting in a most serious way. I can't remember why I came into the office and got on the computer in the first place, but suddenly I find myself blogging. Lily just ran through here with the popcorn bowl on her head. (Is it almost time for more pain medication?) I really want to take a nap instead of making spinach dip and cheese ball and cut up veggies.

Okay, okay, time to stop the pity party and count my blessings.

1) I am blessed because I was able to go to the dentist where they repaired my tooth, and every charge was covered by insurance. (YEA FOR BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD! WHOO-HOO!)

2) I have access to PAIN MEDICATION, and although I'm not sure who I am or how I got here, it's helping me function. (Sort of. Mostly.)

3) The Husband is working--meaning he has a job. Major blessing.

4) I have a beautiful home to actually decorate and host a party in.

5) I have a WONDERFUL girlfriend who cleans my house. (I LOVE YOU SHELLEY!) (There is nothing more blessed than coming home to a house that smells like Lysol and Lemon Pledge.)

6) I have so much food in the house that it's attacking me when I open the fridge and cabinets (making me richer than most of the population of the planet).

7) I have enough friends that we'll have a full house tomorrow.

8) Did I mention the Pain Medication? That's a good one; it bears repeating.

9) I have loud, messy kids to foul up my clean house and throw popcorn everywhere. (I recall just a few short years ago that my house was always clean and popcorn free. I will always say 'thank you, Lord' for crayon on the wall and popcorn on the floor.)

Those are pretty good blessings. :-) I don't know about you, but feel better already.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Also Known As

This is an illustration in Personal Stupidity. Lest any of you mistakenly think I'm getting or have gotten a divorce, my name is still Charlotte N. Johnson. However, if you call my new place of business, you may find me listed under that name or under Charlotte Nelson. This is because I never changed my Social Security card. (Seriously. How stupid is this?)

So, when I arrived spit polished and shined for my first big day of work, I had all of my paperwork filled out and ready to go (naturally Suzie Overachiever and all of that) in my Real Name. When someone caught the mistake, I had to re-fill out all of that paperwork to register for everything as Charlotte Nelson. Lovely.

After 14 years of marital bliss, you think I'd have gotten around to that sometime in there, alas, no. They even had to reprint my handy dandy security badge to reflect my maiden name. (I'm going to be known as That Woman at work, and I've been there a whole week.) But other than my personal idiocy, it's been AWESOME! I'm going to like it very much there, I think. The people are friendly and welcoming and they like to laugh, so it's all good.

And in other news...Christmas is two weeks away, and I have a measly three things purchased for the kids. I also had some sort of brain aneurysm and decided to host an open house at the parsonage to let everyone in to see the Christmas decorations, so all of the shopping has been for decorations since I don't have any. This has impeded the children Christmas shopping program at my house. (Shameful.) I'm pretty sure I'm losing points on the 2008 Title. Although, I've petitioned Santa for kittens, and that would put me over the top in the contest.

Presenting kids with a pet on Christmas Day is a lock for top contention in the Perfect Mommy Title. (Ironically, it negatively impacts The Husband in the Super Dad contest under the column "Being an Idiot" cross referenced as "Bringing Things that Pee and Poop Into the House" and "Situations Where You Should Have Put the Man Foot Down".) I'd hate to cost him the top spot in his own competition, but it's Thunderdome, Baby.

He's threatened to counter my kittens with the introduction of a four-wheeler (clearly that's a bad thing in my own run for the title under the column "Potential 911 Calls" cross referenced under "Letting the Children Drive ANYTHING on Their Own" and "Toys the Husband Is Really Buying for Himself Under the Guise that They are for the Kids"). We'll see. My bet is that he doesn't have the stomach to carry through. That, and I have the check book. :-) Meow.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Home Again, Home Again Jiggity Jog

It's good to go away, but it's better to come home. (Although, I could do without the kids running crazy through the house after enduring a 7-1/2-hour van ride; that isn't my favorite way to be welcomed home.) We had a lovely time of it. 2008 was the Year of Too Many Family Vacations at our house. Steve and I have decided that instead of a family vacation this summer, we are going off by ourselves this time--it's enough already.

We stayed in an uber-fine cabin in a resort called Gatlinburg Falls. Really, really nice. One of the highlights of the trip was the hot tub. We enjoyed that almost as much as the amusement park-kiddie-land thingy (the kids might argue this point). Now, for those of you who might be confused, hot tub with just a couple vs. hot tub with four kids are entirely different experiences. With kids in tow, it's more like a boiling hot, really small, incredibly crowded swimming pool. There's screaming and splashing and 'swimming' which involves pushing off from one side to the other while dragging across everyone else in the 'pool' (with lots of commentary about how mommy needs to shave because her legs are prickly. Hey, thanks. Like I haven't had enough to do already.)

The funny story about the hot tub was one night we got in twice in the same day. The swim suits hadn't quite dried out, so I suggested that the kids just get in in their birthday suits. Carter and Lily shucked out of their clothes and into the water faster than you could say 'naked babies', but E Squared informed me that there was no way in the whole universe that they were going "skinny diving" under ANY circumstances. Especially not with Carter and his Joe the Plumber in there with them.

(Yes, my son calls his program "Joe the Plumber". And yes, I know where he gets it from--he's his father's child all the way.)

Let's see...Tuesday was in the road. We got to the cabin at around 4:00-ish, checked in, and I got everyone settled and went to the grocery store (which is a program unto itself--there is a subtle art to vacation shopping for meals).

On Wednesday, we rode into town and shopped at all of the little touristy shops. We bought various junk items, hot sauce, fudge, caramel apples, books, toys, and this and that. We enjoyed driving around looking at the Christmas lights (honestly, I probably enjoyed it because I wasn't the one driving in the insane traffic). Well, we enjoyed it until the screaming started from the back about what constitutes an actual "Christmas Song" vs. just a "Song That Sounds Christmasy".

Case in point: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer isn't a true "Christmas Song" according to the Shortie Handbook because only songs about Jesus are Christmas Songs, not songs about reindeer with hazard-flashing noses. Okay then. glad we cleared that up.

On Thursday, we traveled back into Knoxville to eat Thanksgiving dinner with Steve's older brother, Big Ed and his lovely wife, Teri. We enjoyed a huge spread and played Wii for a couple of hours. Kids running to and fro, dogs running to and fro, people stuffed full of smoked turkey and ham sleeping on sofas, time with family...it was a great Thanksgiving. We got back home in time for board games and the hot tub yet again (no skinny diving this time).

Friday, we spent the day riding the Big Woody Go-Karts and various amusement park rides. Even Lily rode with me in the go-karts like a Big Girl. She squealed and screamed and yelled "Faster! Faster!" and "We're gonna win, Mommy!" at every turn. She had more fun than anyone in the entire state of Tennessee.

The house we stayed in had one of these four-in-one arcade games with Frogger, Donkey Kong, Galaga, and Ms. Pac Man. The Husband and I enjoyed this more than the kids did for sure. Took me back to Friday nights at the Putt Putt Golf in Hoover, Alabama and cruising Hoover Square with my Big Hair going and the top down on the VW with a little Violent Femmes in the tape deck. Wicked.

We Johnsons are a competitive people, but perhaps we have finally settled the Great Gaming Debate (for 2008 anyway). I decisively waxed The Husband in air hockey. Won two out of three games 10/9 and 10/9. :-) (He would argue the use of 'decisive' in that sentence, but his team lost to my team today 36-to-0 and he called that a 'close call', so you be the judge.) And as if that weren't enough fabulousness for one long weekend, we rode home to the sounds of the Crimson Tide stomping the Auburn Tigers into the field. Perfect.

All-in-all, a good Johnson Trip. Well, for most of us.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

We are headed to the mountains on a little getaway over Thanksgiving weekend. Just the Four Shorties, me, and The Husband. I'm really looking forward to going off and doing a whole bunch of nothing. I'm baking a turkey breast on turkey day, because all we care about are the sandwiches. This is my kind of vacation. There's no theme park, no swimming pool, no agenda...just a cabin with a fire place, a hot tub, and a huge game room to keep the kids occupied. WHOO-HOO!

We're pulling the kids out of school one day early before they officially let out for Thanksgiving to give us a longer trip (since we have to be back for Sunday). One of the girls was freaking out about getting an unexcused absence on her permanent record. How sick is that? Since when do kids worry about that sort of thing? I'd have been thrilled to miss a day of school for no apparent reason with the blessing of my parents, but not my babies. They won't get a ribbon or some other wonderful prize if they miss a day without being sick. What is happening to our youth? When I'm the biggest rebel in the room, it's Houston, we have a problem.

Since we are going to be out of town for Thanksgiving, we went ahead and decorated the house for Christmas, just to get that out of the way before the busy month of December begins. We put out the colored icicle lights, the big yard art gingerbread house and people, outlined the doors and windows in colored lights, and I added something new this year. I made these huge candies out of Styrofoam and colored plastic wrap to look like lollipops and gumballs. Then I rigged them to the side of the shutters and walls to make the house look like, well, a gingerbread house.

At several points, The Husband had to hang precariously off of a ladder. (We borrowed it from a neighbor since we aren't tool savvy enough to even own our own ladder.) I had to balance the bottom by standing on it so that he wouldn't go flying off into the bushes. I grinned up at him on one particularly harry leaning-and-reaching moment, casually squinted up at him and said, "Your insurance is up to date, yes?"

He laughed and said, "Why? Thinking about cashing in? I can see it now, we're an edition of Forensic Files on TV. I can hear the voice-over now... Cue creepy dead music while rolling the reinactment video. Evidence suggests that Pastor Johnson was leaning precariously over the holly bushes when his wife either let the ladder go or pushed, you decide."

He thinks he's funny.

We finished this little production at around dusk and stepped back to the street to admire our handy work, when he smirked over at me and said, "So, if this is the gingerbread house, does this make you the witch in the woods who tried to fatten up and eat Hansel and Gretel?"

Hmph. I might not be THAT particular witch, but I guess that's more than a little ironic. (Of course, I then chased him through the yard beating him about the head and shoulders with an empty cardboard roll from the Mylar wrapping, giving more weight to his charge about the witch thingy.)

The kids have their big choir production tomorrow at church. We were so into the lighting design outside that we forgot to send them down the dress rehearsal and they were late for practice (figures, preacher's kids). I'm sure that little production will produce an anecdote or two (or three, knowing my kids). I'll be keeping that camera handy, I can tell you.

So, happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! It's really a good time to take stock of the many reasons you have to be thankful. I'm acutely aware of the amazing blessings in my life (they keep waking me up in the middle of the night wanting a drink of water or coloring on my favorite chair): My beautiful children who are insane, loud, difficult, demanding, mouthy, funny, crazy, silly, goofy, sweet, kind, great snugglers, smarty pants, and perfectly wonderful in every single way. I can't imagine what we did before them. I can't imagine what we'd do without them. (Well, maybe sleep later in the morning...but other than that, it's all good.)

I have a Husband who puts up a mile-and-a-half of icicle lights annually without a single complaint, eats whatever I put out for dinner even when it's Leftover Corndog Night at Casa Johnson, loves me when I'm foul (which is frequently), and endures my many mood swings, strange quirks, and idiosyncrasies with a grace that must be divine in nature. He is one of the best things that has ever happened to me; I don't deserve him for a second, but I'm smart enough that I'm not giving him up. (He IS my Edward. Hey, Twilight to you.)

My Mother has lived in good health longer than I ever imagined possible from February to now. She is such an amazing example of Christ in someone, that I don't know where to start. She has been strong, funny, considerate, and compassionate in her own illness. We've been given the most amazing gift of quality time together, and I'm so thankful. She's cracked so many jokes about her own circumstances, that there is no room for sadness. And we know that the Lord has a plan and is in control. Really, the rest is just conversation.

I'm thankful for my father, who has been a source of strength and council and help like I can't put into words. I love him; he is an amazing man and I am proud to call him Daddy. I have an extended family and friendship base that is parallel to none. I have more than I could have ever thought to ask for. I am rich in every way that a person can be. I am thankful for not just these things, but for the saving grace and power of Jesus Christ in my life, for without Him, all of this means nothing. I wish your homes the same blessings!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Unplugged--Johnson Style.

In one of the more surreal moments in my life, we experienced a sort of acoustic cafe in our bedroom this evening. Lily and Carter "performed" what I'd loosely term a breakdown of the rap song Low or, as we affectionately call it at our house, "The Apple Bottom Jeans" song. They used a JES team car flag and a shower curtain rod as guitars. It was...um...well, I guess some things just have to be seen to be believed.



Again, thank you so much to the cousins in Mississippi for the gift that just keeps on giving in teaching my kids this song. HA! I wonder if this footage will be on that VH1 show Behind the Music one day. Hmmm...gives one pause for thought.

The part that happened off camera a little later was Lily running through the house behind Carter, (evidently, the band had broken up over creative differences), and she was sing-songing the old standby, 'liar, liar, pants on fire'. Unfortunately, she didn't have that lyric quite on point and was singing, 'liar, liar, pants for hire'.

Okay then. That's it. BEDTIME!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Confessions of a Twilight Mom

It's completely confession time here. I'm addicted. Completely gone. Overboard. Sold out. My problem may require medication and some de-programming at some point.

I'm a Twilight fan.

Whew! It feels good to have that out there finally.

That group of books has been the most fun I've had reading in...well, I think maybe forever (which is saying something for a chick with an English Lit degree who finishes two or three books a week).

I feel like some sort of pervert skulking around the Teen Fiction section of the book store. I didn't go so far as to go to the Breaking Dawn release party, but I did make an entire bus load of women on a WMU outing stop at the book store on that Saturday morning to buy the book while they idled at the curb. When I casually asked if anyone would mind if I stopped at the Books-a-Million for a second, one other woman around my age came to full alert, sat straight up in her chair, and said in an overexcited voice, "Really??? Could we???" and I knew right then she was after the same fix I desperately needed...Twilight.

My friend, Tina, calls it Crack on Paper. How right she be.

So, how bad is this addiction? Well, I'm so crazy that I've already bought my tickets for the first showing of the movie at 1:00 next Friday afternoon. (I'm trying to avoid some of the screaming 13-yr-olds who will still be in school, unless their mother's have checked them out to use as cover for their own 40-yr-old obsessive selves. Drat that I don't have any teen age girls to hide behind!)

I own a T-Shirt (that I paid money for). I check the web daily for Twilight news. I bought the soundtrack the day it came out and have the stupid thing memorized. I have read through the five books (including the only on-line pirated version of Midnight Sun ) oh, something like four times. I even taped a show off of MTV just to watch the cast arrive at a premiere. Issues. I have ISSUES!

And I've loaned the books out to everyone I know, and everyone who has touched it has caught The Fever. So, maybe it's not us afterall. Maybe the people who haven't read the series yet are the ones with the problem...Yeah, yeah. That's the ticket. I have to go check the countdown widget on the official movie page to see how many more hours I have to wait to see it on the big screen now. YEA!!!!!

Hooray


Okay, so today, I'm taking E Squared to the movies with a friend to see High School Musical 3. It was inevitable, (I just can't believe I got out of it until now). Taking three screaming mimi's to the movie to swoon over Zac Ephron (he's so HOT) is seriously not at the top of my list of Saturday afternoon activities. However, I'm down some points in the Perfect Mommy Title (since napping has been at the top of my Saturday afternoon activities lately), and I need to make up some serious ground here. This should do it.

The son was going to load up and go with us then decided at the last minute that "it's just too much girls for me, Mommy." Yup. For me too, Son.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Nana Bear

Elaina, Elise, Lily, Nana, Carter

This is my Mother with the Shorties on Grandparent's Day. Mother is doing very well. She's still battling Stage IV Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma with a smile on her face. We're taking a break from now until the first of the year to let her body recover and let her try to put on some fighting weight. :-) It's going to be a great Christmas! (Although, it's hard to beat Disney World last year...Santa's going to have to step up.)

Speaking of Christmas shopping...I looked up at my calendar and almost passed out. We're going out of town for a week and I've not bought one single thing for the kids yet. This means that when we get back into town on November 29th, I will have three weeks to do everything for Christmas. AGH!!!

How does this sneak up on me every year? I mean, it's not like they move December 25th around--it's the same time every year. It just never fails to spring up out of the bushes at me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Flash Back


This is a blast from the past story that I found in an e-mail a few years back. Really laughed re-living this particular moment in Johnson History...

Elaina, who was five-years-old at the time, stepped in an ant bed about five minutes before church and was eaten up--I mean 20 to 30 ant bites on her legs. By the time she came running, screaming bloody murder into the house, she was covered in ants--all of the way up to her panties. I started brushing them off and wiping her down with a wet rag in the kitchen, found the Benadryl and First Aid cream, and put her on the sofa to doctor her up. While I was putting the cream on, she had a damp rag on her forehead (diva at its best) and was still sniffling and fanning herself. She peeked out from underneath the rag and looked down at me, Southern belle-style, and said, "Lordy God in Heaven have mercy, I am all tore up. Am I going to live, Mommy?"

That was pretty funny, but this is funnier.

A couple of days later at around 2:00 a.m., Carter, her 3-year-old brother, was in the bathroom peeing, his shorts around his knees, when he saw an ant go across his foot. In a complete flashback of the other day, my son went crazy, jumping around, arms flailing, and tried to crawl up onto the toilet (which is hard to do with the seat up and your shorts down) to get away from the stinging bug, I'm sure having a flashback of what Elaina's poor legs looked like after the ant bed incident.

In the process and panic, he fell knees-first into the toilet. His feet were stuck on the bowl rim, and he was holding the seat lid unable to move, screaming his head off. When I rounded the corner in a sleepy stupor, having no clue what on Earth was going on in the bathroom at two in the morning, Carter began yelling, "Ant! Ant! Ant! THEY ARE TRYING TO KILL ME TOO!!" pointing down at the floor.

When I reached to get him out the toilet, the boy screamed, "Don't flush! Don't flush! I might go down!" Which brings us to my latest project, a compilation called the Parental White Lie List.

No. 7: We aren't laughing AT you, we are laughing WITH you.

Apple for Teacher

Mrs. Cotter reads the blog, so here they are--Lily and her fabulous teacher from MES Eclipse last year! I credit that entire group of women for making Lillian tolerable at Big Girl School this year.

And, drum roll please, we have lift off on the potty training! WHOO-HOO! We've tried toys and new Dora underwear and we've read books and done the Poopy Party Dance and bought glitter to flush--all to no avail.

Completely exasperated, knowing that I'm going to have the only college student who is still using Pull Ups, I finally told my four-year-old daughter, "Honey, if you'll start using the potty like a big girl, we'll do whatever you want--you name it and Mommy will buy it for you."

She tilts her head and thinks on it for a second and says, "Okay, Disney World."

Eight hours later, she's refusing to put on a Pull Up and using the potty like a professional. Great, so that only cost us $4,000. Awesome.

It is totally worth it. :-)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ma'am, Just Remain Calm.

Those of you who know me well impatiently wait for the Annual Adventure that I have at the Christmas Village. This year did not disappoint in any way. I went with two girlfriends on Friday afternoon to downtown B'ham to the Civic Center for the annual arts and crafts show better known as Christmas Village.

We'd driven around in circles for 10 minutes or so looking for good parking without any success. It was about to rain, so we collectively decided to sit in the car at the entrance to the parking deck and wait a minute or two and see if someone else came out--it would beat walking back to the car in the pouring rain trying to carry our purchases.

Now, there were these orange cone things that the parking lady had come out and moved to let some cars in when spaces were available, and I just pulled the bumper right up to them, planning to idle there for a few minutes rather than sit in the turn lane waiting in the middle of the street. We weren't blocking the street or the entrance (already closed off by the traffic cones); we were just hoping for some folks to come out so that we could go in. No big deal.

Well, I guess that the parking attendant thought we were being aggressive just because we were sitting there (listening to the Carpenter's, incidentally--it's hard to be aggressive while singing along to Leaving on a Jet Plane).

Anyway, I guess she called the parking police, because after we'd been sitting there for a minute or so, a cop on a bike pulled up, a parking police woman blocked us in at the rear, and a security dude for the BJCC pulled up in a very big hurry on a golf cart and blocked our car at the front. It was like some sort of weird security guard SWAT attack.

They were all eyeing us and finally, (keep in mind that I've got both hands on the wheel, the stereo on, and the front windows rolled down--and visualize we are three white women dressed like the Gap exploded all over us in a 2007 vehicle about to go into the Christmas Village, not like we're in militia-wear headed into a gun and survivalist show) and the policeman riding the bicycle (carrying a GUN) gingerly approaches the car and says, "So, what's up?"

I look at him not having any clue what is going on and say, "Um...what? We're waiting on a parking place?"

I say it like a question, have both hands in sight, the music is on in the background and I'm smiling--we've been laughing and giggling and chatting about our kids and grand kids and what we hope to buy inside the BJCC this whole time--we haven't been plotting a terrorist-style overthrow of the government or Bourne-Identity thrill ride through the parking deck--just swapping recipes.

Now, this is the part that could sound like I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. Mr. Policeman raises both of his hands like I'm dangerous and he's trying to talk me down off of a ledge and he says, "Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to calm down."

I actually laughed out loud and said, "What? Calm down?"

Then I look at Shelley and at Wanda (the girls in the car with me) with my eyebrows raised, and I am still giggling and say, "What do you mean? I'm not upset in the least." I gesture to the parking deck, "We are just waiting here for the parking deck to open up a spot."

He backs away from me a full, exaggerated step, hands still palms out and up, and says, "Ma'am, we are just talking here."

I swear, I hadn't even raised my voice! (And you know that I'd completely admit it if I had gotten smart.) I was still smiling (at this point). So, now I realize that the security man who has blocked us in at the rear is taking down our license plate and is circling the back of the car. Those of you who know these women realize how terrifying Wanda and Shelley can be when they get their Mad On--I'm sure his taking down my tag number was because they were so scary. All 100 lbs of them in holiday wear is terrifying to behold.

The policeman says, "You are going to have to move your vehicle."

Okay then. I'm shaking my head yes, I'll move the car and say, "Okay, no problem, but I'm blocked in here, and I can't move."

"Again, ma'am just remain calm." (Maybe I was a little sarcastic about the being blocked in thing?? Who can tell at this point?)

I turn to Shelley and say, "Am I acting like I'm upset?"

She shook her head no and gave me this what-in-the-world-is-happening-here look. I certainly don't know.

So, at this exact moment, when I am in fact, about to get angry with this guy who keeps telling me to calm down, the parking attendant who'd been so scared that we were threatening her by sitting at the entrance to the parking deck, comes out of her booth and yells up at the cop, "HEY! I've got a space open for that car if they want to come in now."

It's clear that Deputy Dog here thinks we are causing a ruckus of some sort. We're getting the I'm-dealing-with-vermin once over for a second or two, then he nods slowly at the Parking Lady and turns to me and says, "I guess she's going to let you park in there now, even after all of this."

And because I can't help myself, I say, "Because of all WHAT? What is THIS exactly? Do you get a lot of angry, white, middle-aged women committing violent crime in the parking deck before entering the Christmas Village, an ARTS AND CRAFTS SHOW???"

Now, he should be telling me to calm down because I'm actually getting wound up, instead he moves the cones and lets us into park. HA!

So this confirms that I am indeed on some sort of list somewhere. Nothing else explains that weirdness. Who knew that the BJCC is profiling soccer moms?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Rolling of the Yard

Yard Rolling




For Pastor Appreciation Month, most pastors get a card or a love offering (we got both of those in spades), but the added bonus this year was from the youth department. In a show of love and support, they rolled our yard. Now, for those of you not from the South, you may not even know what “yard rolling” is, so I’ll define. It’s when you hurl mass quantities of toilet tissue all over the lawn and trees.

I’m not sure what the youth have against giving us a nice plant or say, maybe babysitting for us for free, but it seems that the traditional rolling of the yard in our part of the world is some sort of ritual indicating that we are Part of the Crew. It’s a high compliment. (Which we intend to repay in a mighty way at some future date. Hey, we didn’t go through the purgatory of youth ministry without learning a thing or two about the concept of retribution.)

We’d just gotten home from camp with the kids, and Ms. Shelley and her family loaded all of the Shorties and took them away from us on Saturday night (probably sensing through divine intervention that she was saving us from committing murder, because I’d had ENOUGH of screaming children at that point.) My mother went to stay at her sister’s house over the weekend. It was a glorious, child-free, mother-free evening at the Johnson house. I actually read a book, ate my dinner by myself with no one wanting to take a bite off of my plate, and got to spend some Quality Time with The Husband. (What? What do you call it at your house?) So, waking up to a yard full of toilet paper was a quick trip back into My Real Life.

It’s never a dull moment, folks.

And that morning, The Husband from the pulpit picked on the Yard Rollers by accusing them of not spelling "Roll Tide" correctly, so they came back again that night and did a repeat with the letters spelled in extra large font right there on the lawn. So, if you drive by and see a dude dressed like a tree in our bushes, don't panic. That would be The Husband on night patrol laying in wait for youth armed with Charmin sneaking around our house.

Halloween, er, I Mean The Fall Festival

We are a Dress Up For No Particular Reason sort of people at the Johnson household. We just like costumes. They are fun. Just because.

Here are the Shorties in their self-styled costumery

Lily in her cat suit.
Elise as a Movie Star (her Daddy was so proud of that outfit)

And Elaina as a boy. Carter as Anakin Skywalker. We are all about trick or treating and fall festivals and dressing up in costumes and just enjoying our community.

I don’t think that Lily really remembers the entire Halloween experience last year very clearly. She enjoyed it so much more this year. Every time they dropped a piece of candy in Lily’s bag, she gave this little maniacal laugh and shook all over with glee as if to say, “All I have to do is say ‘trick or treat’ and they GIVE me the CANDY???!!! Ha-ha-ha-ha!” It was hilarious. She also tore it up on the bobbing for apples deal.

Someone glancing through wanted to know why I didn't have more photos of Carter. Honestly, that Anakin Skywalker mask freaked me out. It was like taking photos of some midget, not my son. So, he only got one or two the whole night. Poor kid. I'm going to give him some sort of complex.

Why We Didn't Have Ten Kids

Fall Missions Camp at WorldSong

They say that moms get some sort of amnesia a year or so after giving birth, because if you really remembered how it was to be pregnant and deliver a baby you’d never again in your right mind voluntarily submit to that particular brand of torture. But some time passes after you give birth, and you find yourself ogling at babies, offering to hold them because you like the baby powder smell, and glancing longingly at the infant clothing as you wander through stores. It’s like God’s special little way of tricking us into procreating again; without this amnesia, one time on that ride would do most of us for a lifetime.

I guess that God does that same selective recollection modification thingy to former Youth Pastors too, because as though four years in youth ministry wasn’t enough torment, er, I mean to say wasn’t a source of great joy in our lives, we loaded up 12 elementary-school aged kids and headed to overnight Camp in Cook Springs, Alabama for a missions weekend learning about Venezuela.

Now, learning from the missionaries and eating the food and singing the songs were all very educational and enjoyable. But more than that, we had a brutal reminder about camp food and camp lodging. Let me tell you something. There is nothing to really bring you back to counting your blessings as quickly and as harshly as eating a camp hot dog and sleeping in a bunk bed in a large room full of squealing 8-yr-old girls. Those people at Gitmo better shut up or we’ll move them to summer camp in Alabama and see how they like that.

All in all, we had a great time, an uneventful trip, and learned a lot of information about missions in Venezuela. Yea!




The Fashionista Show

In no particular order, I’ll start with The Fashionista Show.

The girls’ mission group at church put on a fashion show in October to raise awareness and collect pajamas for the Pajama Program—a ministry that provides kids in shelter situations with new pjs and books. (www.pajamaprogram.org) Instead of just putting out collection boxes in the foyer (like sane people would have done), we put on this fashion show--the price of admission being a package of brand new pjs and books.

We had this elaborate stage put together by Ms. Summer and Ms. Bridgett (two highly talented women in our church). It was seriously a work of art. Summer had the idea to decorate the runway like a canopy bed, and boy, did that concept work out. The girls felt like princesses, and we raised a TON of pjs and books for the Pajama Program.

The categories were a little different than you might expect. We had “sportswear” where the girls actually wore the uniforms from the sports they play. And an entire grouping of pajamas, naturally. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun at the same time.

Here are my fashion divas on the runway. Victoria Beckam and Katie Holmes better move on over, because here come the Johnsons.





Daylight Savings my Ear

Wow. I can’t believe I started the month off like a blogging maniac and the let it fall away like that. No excuse, but it has been a crazy month. Where did the time go? I’m ready for the holidays so that I can rest (snickering while typing).

I survived all of the back-to-back events that I had scheduled (which is saying something). I had a woman at church this weekend, hustling to set up for the Fall Festival that we host, cut her eyes at me and say, "So, what will you have us doing next weekend, Charlotte? I think we have a free day or two that you’ll be wanting to fill up with another huge activity." Ahhh...they know me so well already! Well done!

So, I'll be working on some updates this week to get everyone caught up on the month of October.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It's Not What You Think

Lainy wandered into my room the other night and asked me what the initials for her GA missions study church group stood for again. I responded, not even looking up from my engrossing novel, "The initials G.A. stand for Girls in Action". She nodded and went on her merry way. A few minutes later, she flew back into the bedroom and hissed at me, eyes darting back and forth, "COME HELP ME RIGHT NOW!" Then she scurried off in a major hurry.

I thought to myself, great, she's clogged the toilet up or peed her pants or spilled an entire gallon of milk on the freshly mopped kitchen floor or something similar, so I jumped up and followed after her in an exasperated huff. If only any of that that had been the problem, Friends and Neighbors, but no, nothing can be that simple in Johnson Land.

See, the web address for the Southern Baptist-Sponsored Missions Study Group for Girls ages 1st through 6th grade is www.gapassport.com.

Elaina, who innocently asked me the name of her missions study group, typed into the search bar exactly what I told her: double U double U double U dot girls in action dot com. I assure you that nothing even remotely resembling the G.A. Missions Group was on the home page of that particular website.

I hit the escape key on the keyboard so fast that I might have broken some sort of world record for deleting. Then I had to have a very long and fascinating conversation about things my 38-year-old self was not prepared to discuss with my 8-year-old daughter. (It was a barrel full of laughs. I can't wait to do it again with the other three.)

And after that thrilling (nauseating) discussion, I ordered a web sense filter that promises we'll only get two websites--Fox News and Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family. If you want to access any other sites, you have to type in a 22-digit code, give your mother's mother's mother's maiden name, stare into an eyeball scanner for retina identification, and put your thumbprint on this little decoder thingy. I don't even think that the WMU is cleared for take off by this particular program because the word "women" is in the title and there might be women (even the fully clothed variety) on that site. We'll be having none of that.

Oh, and you can bet your last tithing envelope that the WMU is getting a Sister Sunshine Charlotte letter RIGHT NOW about the urgency of changing the GA name to something, anything else.

Someone wanted to know why in the world I'd put this story on the blog, The Husband being a pastor and all, and I responded, "Duh. You think my Precious Angel isn't going to tell this little gem in her Sunday School class during the prayer request time? Get real." Better to make a preemptive strike and just let it all hang out.

Maybe I could have phrased that better...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

All Panther!

The Husband and I were way overdue for a date night, so on Friday we went to see the Jemison Panthers tear it up on the football field. (Incidentally, it turned out to be probably the worst officiated game I have ever seen in my whole life. Seriously, it was criminal. It was so bad that when our female youth director came to her feet screaming something about grinding the other team in the dirt in retribution, I joined right in, loudly echoing the sentiment. Thank goodness we didn't have our "Come Worship at USBC" T-Shirts on. Whew.)

We ended up taking the whole Johnson Traveling Road Show to the game instead of it being a date night, because Elaina cheered at the pre-game with the other little girls who enrolled in the cheer clinic last week. She was so excited. She had her braces tightened before the game and changed out her rubber bands to blue and white. She told the orthodontist tech, "I am blue for Auburn (her father's fault), white for Alabama (ROLL TIDE!), and Blue and White because I am aaaaallllll panther." (ha-ha!)

She had a great time, but I'm pretty sure that 'professional cheerleader' is off of the Great Expectations List in her future even if she miraculously got good enough to do it, especially after her father saw some of those dance moves. Then the varsity cheerleaders topped that performance off by dancing to a song by the Pussycat Dolls called "When I Grow Up". (You can google the lyrics if you don't grasp the problem.) I thought that the Right Reverend was going to cut loose there for a second after I told him what the song was and who sang it and what the lyrics said, but then he wanted to know how I personally knew that data, so I bore the brunt of that exchange rather than the cheer leading squad. Hmph. (Note to self: shut mouth more often.)

One time when the girls were at gymnastics class I had a woman ask me if I was concerned because the girls hadn't yet mastered the art of the round off yet. I rolled my eyes and said something about not being worried because I'm not raising Nadia Comaneci at my house; we're in it for the fun part. She looked at me wide eyed and horrified and said in a breathy voice, "But they can't ever make a cheer squad if they don't learn those tumbling skills." I turned to make sure that I had her full attention and said, "From your mouth to God's ear because the last thing I want in the whole entire universe is for my daughters to have a desire to dance around half naked in front of the student body. I can't handle that sort of pressure." That mom doesn't sit next to me in gymnastics class anymore. Go figure.

Lily provided quite a bit of comic relief at the game. The second we finished our food, two minutes after kick off, she said that she was ready to go home. (The Parents all collectively said "uh-oh" after reading that sentence.) Then the half-time show involved some high-school girls in sequined gowns who did this little dance number with props. One of the girls on the squad was a very dark-skinned African American who was stunning in that bright white sequined dress--I mean she was striking. So, Lily turns to me and points at this young lady on the field and says, "But I want to be brown too!" I said, "That's not possible." She insisted again and I explained that I am white. Her daddy is white. She is white. That's how it works. She said, little lip pouted out in the Sad Voice, "But I don't want to be white. I want to be brown too. We use mate up?"(make up) (So, when she ends up in a Ben Stiller or Coen Brother's movie, you'll know how that happened.)

Not having any response to that, I simply offered her another drink of her "coke-a-mola", which she promptly back washed half of a hot dog into. So, in summary we paid something like $80.00 to get in the stands and buy snacks for six people, to scream at some referees (and I use that word loosely), and drink hot dog-infused cokamola while watching my eight-year-old shake it like a salt shaker. What kind of date is that? Oh yea, a Johnson one.

Palin/Johnson 2012

Stuck in a waiting room at the hospital while my mother had her scans done, I was subjected to what happened to be on the television, and for only the second time in my life, I was forced to watch The View. To set the record straight before I start this particular essay, I’m pretty sure that Oprah Winfrey and The View are instruments of Satan sent here to divide and conquer, pitting Evil Men against Defenseless, Pitiful Women.

So, the "Brain Trust" on The View was discussing whether or not Sarah Palin has too much on her plate as a mother of five, one child with special needs, one child pregnant with her grandchild, etc., to be an effective leader. Joy Behr actually said that she thought it was too much for a woman to do all of that and lead. On the other end of the table, Mrs. Hassleback said that was ridiculous—Barak Obama has elementary-school-aged children and no one was asking how he is going to do it. Then Ms. Behr, the feminist, said something to the effect of..., "That’s because he has a woman to do all of that—-his wife."

I actually stood up out of my chair in the waiting room with my jaw on my chest gasping for air. Are you KIDDING me??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME????? I am not what anyone would call a traditional feminist and what came out of that woman’s mouth made me physically sick to my stomach.

Here is my response to that nitwit, sexist, ignorant statement.

Quite frankly, Sarah Palin is overqualified for the job. In my personal experience, having dealt with an enormous number of volunteers and employees, the busiest women are always the most effective women.

You show me a chick who works full time and has kids, a husband, a household to run, and she’s my go-to girl on large church projects. It’s the stay-at-home moms who I can’t seem to get involved, and they have arguably half of the stuff to do that the working mother has. It makes no sense, but it’s true. And I can list at least 25 examples with names, dates, times, and places right now just off the top of my head without applying myself.

And if Joy-the-Idiot-Behr was in some way implying that men are more effective at getting things done than women are, she isn't just a nitwit. She clearly doesn’t know any men.

This is what I have going in my life right now:

•I am mother to four children, all elementary-school aged, one child who has special needs. All of these kids have homework, need lunches packed, laundry cleaned, clothes picked out, and can’t cook, clean, or cut up their own food alone yet. They are absolutely no help to me at all and drain my time and energy from dusk until dawn. (precious angels that they are). They have ball games and cheerleading practice and gymnastics. They are busy, thus their father and I are busy.

•I work outside of the home in a professional job where I am considered to be a subject matter expert. I am respected at work, and my skills are in demand.

•My mother, who has stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, lives in our guest room, and I am solely responsible for her care. I manage her healthcare, I pay for her expenses, I handle her medications, I make and take her to all of her doctor’s appointments, chemotherapy, scans, etc.

•My husband is a full-time pastor; I am his personal secretary. I write his correspondence. I make his fliers. I do his mailing. I coordinate his expense reports. I manage his income. I keep his calendar (which is a daunting task). I organize all of his major events.

•I am a volunteer special events coordinator at my church. Right now I’m helping with the following ministry events that take place in the next thirty days:

--Fashion Show for the girls department—Nametags, programs, stage building, costume mistress, coordinating mothers and daughters, hair and make up, reception following. We are expecting over 200 people to attend.
--Men’s Hunting Event—I made the advertising, nametags, programs, and coordinated the decorations. We expect 300 at this event.
--Fair Outreach Project—our church is coordinating with five others to hand out material at the county fair. Coordinate with other church leaders, assembled the fliers and giveaways, stuffed the goodie bags, organized workers, etc.
--Women’s Ministry Overall Coordinator—I schedule the bi-monthly meetings of our Women’s Missionary Union, organizing speakers, making prayer reminders, and hosted the meeting this month in my own home, which involved cooking and cleaning.
--I host an in-home Bible study every Friday morning with coffee and cake and a yet again, a clean house.
--I facilitate a Beth Moore Bible study on Monday nights complete with free dinner and childcare.
--I lead a support group for infertile couples that meets twice a month with speakers, handouts, new topics, etc.

This means that five or six nights a week I am at an event, volunteering, or working in some capacity outside of my home.

Here’s how I do all of that: I have an amazing support structure! My mother pitches in, The Husband does his share of housework and hauling kids to and fro and laundry and cooking and is an amazing resource. I couldn't do anything without his help and support and love. I have co-chairs on all of those events, so I’m not alone out there--I work in teams and am blessed to be surrounded by people who are far more talented than I am. I have a wonderful friend who helps me clean and people who help ferry the kids to and from the ball park and school house. It’s a team effort—just like it will be for the Vice President.

And you can bet your bohonkus that if they wanted me to run the country, you can just put that on the pile, and I’ll handle it between diapering rear ends, scheduling dentist appointments, taking four kids to the hairdressers, calling to remind The Husband about the hospital visits he has this afternoon, making sure my mother’s prescriptions are filled and reminding her every four hours to take her pills, calling to check on the door prizes for the upcoming women’s events, swinging by the gym to see how the new stage construction is coming along, grocery shopping and cooking for seven people, doing homework, keeping every single deadline at work on time with a high-degree of accuracy, going by the hospital to pray with some folks, and making spaghetti for pot luck. And that’s just today.

So, do I think Sarah Palin can effectively be second in command of the free world? Sister, she can do it in her spare time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pssst...Kid...I've Got Some Candy for You...

Now, some of you are going to think that I’m making this one up, but no such luck.

At the People’s Republic of JS (our little pet name for the elementary school), the Powers That Be have issued an edict this year that there shall be no candy in lunches brought from home. That's right, Friends and Neighbors, no chocolate, no candy. They’ve already banned sweets from school parties (although, you can bring in a cheese pizza if you don’t have time to make some no-oil-allowed-applesauce cupcakes from scratch. I know, I know. Clearly, fat and artery-clogging cheese on a pizza aren't as hazardous as some frosting on a cupcake—view my post on Government Cupcakes if you want to read that particular meltdown in its entirety).

How this is supposed to cure the obesity epidemic is beyond me. I know from personal experience that if you take treats away, it makes the offending item smell and taste and look oh so much more delicious than if it’s just lying around all the time. Anyone who ever went on one of those low-carb diets eventually fell off the wagon by shoving her face in a plate of pasta and inhaling (not that I would know anything about that). Everything in moderation, Sisters.

We already have a ban on fast food in the school. I’m not making this up either—if I forget to send lunch, I can race to the drive-through and bring my child some chicken nuggets, but they have to be in plain packaging (I guess thereby negating the fat and calories and increasing the nutritional value of the individual nuggets when we collectively pretend in DoubleThink that they didn’t come from McDonald’s).

I’m serious. I can’t take a McDonald’s bag into the school, even though the child is CLEARLY ingesting a cheeseburger wrapped in a paper sack instead of a McDonald’s wrapper. Are we delusional? Are we that muddy in our thinking that if we don’t see the word “McDonald’s” or “Chick-fil-a” that it magically alters the composition of the food and isn’t “really” fast food anymore?

And what life lesson are we teaching our children exactly? It’s okay if no one sees it? It’s okay if you hide it? It’s okay to eat in secret? It’s okay to lie about what you are doing because perception is more important than reality???? Say it ain't so.

Here’s another problem--how are you going to enforce this no candy rule? Will there be random lunch box searches for contraband? Will you be sent to the principal’s office for getting busted with a Butterfinger bar? Is there a more severe punishment scale based on the caloric content or chocolate-by-weight in said contraband?

Richard Matheson wrote a short story called The F Word. (It’s not THAT word, you dirty minds.) The F in question stood for the word “food”. The people in this clever little sci-fi tale were prevented from eating food because it was deemed too luxurious and decadent by the ruling class, so the people existed on protein replacement powders and vitamins, and real food became illegal. The story revolves around a father who takes his son to a back alley room to eat illegal pot roast with carrots and potatoes as a sort of coming of age metaphor. Dude might have been onto something there in that fictional work. I feel much the same when I smuggle Goobers into my child’s homemade trail mix. Big Brother is watching.

So, what’s the point of this little rant? Lest I get too far sidetracked, it’s time that I mention the latest school fund raiser.

The kids are raising money in their classrooms for various items that our tax dollars, the room donations, and the extensive supply lists didn’t adequately cover. And they are raising the funds by selling...drum roll please...candy bars and M&Ms.

Ahem.

So, to recap, I can’t send the M&Ms TO the school, but they can sell them to my kids and send them to my house. Of course they can. Least they could do is confuse me by putting the candy in a brown paper sack instead of leaving it in the original packages so that I can pretend this isn't really happening.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

You Lost What?

We’re always losing stuff, so this really shouldn’t be that shocking (especially in light of the last post about the television thingy that I just shared), but there’s like a big Black Hole of Stuff that hovers somewhere in the stratosphere over our house. Sure, we lose football flags and pompoms right before the game, and swim suits and floaties when we're headed to the pool, and hair bows and shoes five minutes before church, and all of that ordinary stuff.

As Johnsons, we’ve always been a misplacing sort of people, but today we have officially crossed into an entirely new competition grade category in the Lost Stuff Playoffs.

Today, somewhere between 8:00 and 8:30 in the a.m., my mother lost a bowl of cereal. A bowl of cereal with milk and a spoon in it.

So, The Husband starts thinking that maybe she dreamed that she made the bowl of cereal and just got distracted in there between the dreaming and the doing, but she insisted that she took a bite of it, set it down somewhere and can’t remember what she did with it. We searched high and low, but no bowl of cereal has manifested itself yet. I guess we’ll just have to wait for the smell. Lovely.

Chances are Elise will find it while she’s prowling the house tonight in between showings of Hannah Montana. Bonus.

But There's Nothing On at Two A.M.

This morning I was getting ready to leave for work at the crack of dawn, when Elise comes strolling into the kitchen, bright-eyed and bushy tailed and incredibly alert for it to be an entire hour before her usual wake up time. She casually sits down at the kitchen table and asks for some iced tea, to which I say, sure, I’ll be happy to make you a glass.

Then she looks me up and down and notices that I’m dressed and ready to leave in my spiffy-going-out clothes (as opposed to my icky-stay-at-home clothes) and says, obviously befuddled, “What are you doing back in your work clothes? Weren’t you just wearing a nightgown?”

I nod, getting the tea from the fridge and filling a glass, “Sure, I was at bedtime, but now I’m going to work.”

There’s a thick moment of silence, and this sickening look begins creeping across my daughter’s face.

“What time is it?” she whispers, eyes darting around the kitchen trying to get her bearings.

“You’ve got about an hour before it’s time to get up and get ready for school.”

She slowly shakes her head and looks at me like I’ve just announced that we’re shaving our heads and traveling to Pluto for a family outing this afternoon.

“What?! What?! That’s not possible!”

I stop too now, because I wouldn’t be the first idiot in the world to wake up at 2:00in the morning and start getting ready for work. I’ve had a shower and shaved my legs; if it’s the middle of the night I am going to be FOUL.

But, no, no, don't press the internal panic button just yet--the clock on the oven and the one on the wall both say that it’s 5:40 a.m.--time to boogie.

“Elise, what’s wrong?”

She shakes her head out again and says very quietly, in a tiny little voice, “I got scared when Daddy turned off my TV at bedtime, so I turned it back on for a few minutes after everyone was asleep. I liked the light and the noise. Mommy, I never went to bed. I never fell asleep. I didn't mean to. I’ve been awake this whole time—-this whole night—-watching television.”

There’s a second or two where I start this dialogue about not being silly, of course you went to bed, but suddenly my voice drifts off into nothingness as the evidence starts coming together...way too alert, way too friendly for Elise at 5:00 a.m., not a hair out of place, no little crusty drool line on the corner of her mouth, no sleep marks on her arms or face...the kid stayed awake all night on accident.

I’m not sure how many points you actually forfeit on the Perfect Mommy Title when your 8-yr-old stays up until dawn watching the Disney Channel on a school night, but you can bet it’s a wad of them.

So, I snatched back that glass of sugar and caffeine and put her back in the bed (television unplugged, natch). I told her to sleep until she woke up and we’d take her to school then. Although, I’m not sure that you can check your child into school with “stayed up all night watching TV while parent’s slept” on that little check-in slip and have it excused...drat. So, if I put down “upset stomach” it’s technically not a lie because my stomach was certainly upset when she fessed up. So was hers come to think of it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Praise and Worship All Over the Place

We took the Johnson Traveling Road Show out for dinner tonight--always an adventure. All eight of us (my seven plus a spend-the-night friend) descended on our favorite Mexican restaurant, which always causes some staring and whispering. Families eating in small booths with their 2.5 children always cringe and thank God that they aren't us, so we indirectly cause a lot more praise and worship just by existing. :-)

The kids were pretty good in general, so it was uneventful. Oh, except that on the way out the door the gumball machine in the eatery malfunctioned when three out of five children had gumballs in hand, which was a minor crisis, that I quickly averted by springing a bag of M&Ms I'd been hoarding, er, saving in my purse.

On the way home, the natives were a little restless, so we played some praise and worship music and sang along (loudly and mostly off key). When we finally reached the house and piled out of the van, Carter was still singing one of these praise songs quietly to himself.

He is exhausted,
yes, He is exhausted on high,
I will praise Him!

When I stopped laughing, I said, "Son, I'm pretty sure that the lyric is 'He is EXALTED' not 'He is exhausted'." Carter paused thoughtfully for a couple of seconds and said, "No, I'm pretty sure that being God is exhausting--it makes better sense." Then he marched off singing that exhausted song some more.

We are our own sitcom. Only we're funnier than what's on TV.

Who Knew Pirates Go to the Dentist?

I took the four Shorties to the dentist yesterday for their regular cleaning. That’s a surreal experience every single time. I may have the only kids in the history of the universe who like going to the dentist. Well, mostly.

Elise thinks she’s grown and is completely insulted that you might want to go back with her for a teeth cleaning. (insert dramatic eye roll here.) She huffs back with a, “NO, I do NOT want you to go back and hold my hand. Sheesh, Mom.”

Carter announces that he’s a big boy, but if I want to check on him later, that’s good with him. Big hug. Another big hug. Run back for a kiss. One more hug. If you want to come back, that’s okay, Mom. One more hug. Kiss. So, you’ll come back in a minute, right?

Elaina asks me to come and hold her hand because it makes her feel better. She’s sure it makes me feel better too, which is why she really allows it. So, I hold her hand and rub her arm and make the chit chat while they clean around her braces.

Lily has to be bribed out of the play room with the promise of a dip into the prize drawer. Then she reluctantly opens for the tooth counting, wearing her spiffy new hot pink sunglasses just for the occasion of her first real cleaning with the equipment. She opens for the look see, but snaps it shut when that cleaning brush starts whirring and spinning. We’ll be having none of that, thank you very much.

So, after about ten minutes of this being patient mess, I switch gears from Comforting-Reassuring-Be-A-Brave-Girl-Now-Mommy into Get-Your-Butt-In-That-Chair-And Open-Your-Dadgum-Mouth-Mommy and resort to half sitting on her, half holding her down, keeping her legs, arms, and head still while the dental tech pries her little mouth open to shove the fluoride in there on her brand spanking new Lightning McQueen toothbrush.

(Side note here: holding down a determined four-year-old could be an Olympic sport. By the time she’s finally done, I’m sweating and covered in hair and spit and tears and snot and she’s grunting and squirming and madder than a hornet, squalling like I don’t know what. They earn all four office fees in that one cleaning, since the others just lie there like it’s no big whoop.)

Then, when the torment is finally over (mine, not theirs), it’s time for a trip to the treasure box. Elise chooses a slinky (because it’s pink). Carter chooses a shark tooth necklace (do you think this is really a shark tooth? And isn’t it funny that they are giving away teeth at the dentist’s office?). Elaina chooses an Ashley Tisdale sticker (because she’s ‘fabulous’ and then breaks into an Ethel Merman-inspired rendition of the song, belting out Fabulous from the High School Musical soundtrack.).

And Lily? She makes the obvious choice as well. A white terrycloth tennis wrist sweatband with the Jolly Rogers skull and cross bones printed on it in black, which she then wore to church, naturally.

When you ask her what it is, she smiles her little sneaky-mouse grin and says, “It’s for pie-wits.”

Do you know what a pirate is, Lily?

“Oh, yes, dey say ‘Arg’.”

Okay then.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Sofa Saga

Well, we played our first Upward football game and cheered at our first game this weekend. The kids had a big time of it, although it was hotter than the surface of the sun for that 11:00 game. It was a lazy sort of weekend (for a change), and I am thankful! We spent Labor Day relaxing around the house.

We went to Grandbear’s house to see the big game Saturday night (ROLL TIDE!), and on our way over there, the Husband and I looked briefly at a new sofa, probably in reaction to all of the Labor Day sales being advertised on television, that and the sad state of our faithful old sofa.

The furniture sales people pounce when you hit the door wanting to know how they can help you. Short story here--they can’t help me. Essentially, there are only maybe three sofas in any given showroom (no matter how large) that meet my criteria: quasi-dark fabric, nubby material to hide stains, no gold earth tones (gross), nothing with loose cushions, and nothing that is pretending to be something it’s not (i.e., no animal prints, no faux leather), so I can go whipping through a furniture store in record time.

We’ve been thinking about it for awhile (translation: I’ve been thinking about it since the day I realized I couldn’t flip the cushions any other way to complete the stain-free illusion). We’ll probably do like everything else and will discuss it for six months before we make a decision about doing anything. Now, before you say ‘just do it and get it over with’ there are a lot of reasons for this procrastination and inability to commit to a sofa set.

First, the Royal We haven’t fully committed to the New Sofa Idea yet because of the Little Flower and her amazing destructive force of nature. We wonder if we shouldn’t wait another year until she’s completely torn the stuffing out of the current furniture and spilled her last sippy cup on the cushions until we commit to tormenting another sofa to death.

Second, we just don’t have time to get it done in a single day. Who has a whole day to do anything? I have to go an hour here, an hour there, an hour the next day, and then I can’t remember where I saw the sofa that I liked in the first place because it’s two or three weeks between these hour-long furniture shopping expeditions. (I’d fall over dead from shock if I had more than two consecutive hours to do anything that I wanted by myself without anyone in tow. And have you ever tried to furniture shop with four kids with you? Yeah, that’s happening.)

Third, there’s the sofa material discussion. Leather or fabric? The pros and cons are endless. Do we buy new tables? Lamps? Do we take advantage of the free delivery or no tax weekend? Do we buy something with loose cushions that are potential fort building materials (con) but can be flipped over after the first Kool-Aid spill (pro) or cushions that are attached forgoing the fort building (pro) and can’t ever be flipped over (con)?

Fourth, do we buy a sofa and chair like we have now or a sofa and love seat and chair or a sectional or a sofa and chair and use what we’ve already got to supplement...You see why I don’t have a new sofa yet? I can’t even keep which kid likes mayo on their ham sandwich straight much less make a decision about a sofa I’m going to have to keep in good shape until everyone graduates high school. My brain hurts.

It looks like we’ll be sitting on this sofa until I just flip out, pull up to the nearest furniture showroom (because I’ve got exactly three minutes between school and football practice and gymnastics and making something for pot luck and grocery shopping), stick my head in the door and throw my Visa card at the first salesman who is up, buying the leopard print, faux leather sectional with loose cushions because it’s the only one I can see from the front door of the showroom while keeping one eye on my kids in the van in the parking lot.

I'll keep you posted.