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.


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.