Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 11: Youts.

Field trip with 11-12th grades.
Youth movie night.
Today I am thankful for youth. I'm always amazed that the substitute list at the school is packed with people willing to teach and work with elementary school-aged kids, but only a very small group are willing to work with teens. It's completely backwards.

Babies and grade school aged kids stink. Like I mean literally stink. They have accidents. They throw up on you. They have snotty noses. They want to touch you all of the time and get in your lap. They are disgusting. (I've never one time had a teenager try to climb into my lap or snot on me.) Not to mention, little kids are needy in a way that only a new puppy can be. They can't communicate well and frequently meltdown when they can't get a point across. You cannot reason with them and mostly they only respond to direct threats. It's like Thunderdome or Blade Runner. It's loud, crazy, pandemonium punctuated by screaming and irrational behavior. I can't imagine that ANYONE thinks elementary school is easier than high school. You must all be crazy.

I'm a youth person all the way. So, today, day eleven of 30 Days of Thankful, I'm thankful for teenagers.

CCA Volleyball Girls
A) The teens I get to teach at school. 
Yes, they make me insane. (They can honestly respond 'likewise, Mrs. C'.) But it's all good. I wouldn't trade jobs with anyone on the entire planet. I am happy to get up in the morning and go to work, and not many people get to say that. I love the kids. I love their tedium--like what kinds of shoes they find popular and what movies they are going to see this weekend. I like hearing about their lives and dreams and fears.

I like it when they have a song they want to share with me or a story from the bonfire/bowling night/first date. I love it when a kid "gets it" and things click in English class and suddenly that hand is flying up in the air to identify the gerund or explain why Hester's situation was so jacked up. It's like magic. I'm thankful that they trust me. It's also some kind of awesome to put on the Shakespeare play every year. I look around sometimes and can't believe that this gets to be my life.

Entire High School on field trip to see a play.

B) The kids I get to be involved with through church. They sort of have to put up with me, since I'm the preacher's wife, but I'm glad that they do it so graciously. The Husband began his career in youth ministry, so we have a soft spot for that particular people group (although I'm not EVER going camping again as long a I live).

Having my girls involved in the youth for the first time is interesting. They are growing up so fast, and the fact that they still want me to go to youth movie night with them is something that I'm not taking for granted or wasting. Yes, I'll go anywhere you'll still let me for as long as you'll let me. I'll drive, make brownies, let everyone come to my house to sleep over, you name it, just please, daughters, let me be involved in your lives.

Spirit week 7th and 8th grade girls
I can't imagine everyone not rushing forward to volunteer to host D-NOW weekends (when you fill up your basement, rec room, living room floor with youth who stay two nights and do Bible Study and local activities)...the fact that we have to beg folks to open their homes is baffling to me.

The kids are polite and kind and funny and eager and excited to be there. They clean up after themselves and say "yes, ma'am" and "no, ma'am". Sure, they are throwing Cheetos at each other and jumping on the trampoline at midnight, but have we grown so old that we've forgotten the joy of midnight on a trampoline or flashlight tag or raiding the girl's/boy's camp? It's a sad state of affairs if you've never thrown food at someone either. You need to get out more.

C) The kids I get to know through my daughters' friendships and sports. My girls are involved in volleyball (Big E is on the Volleyball Team; Naynuh is the team manager), basketball (Naynuh), and cheer (both wondertwins), so we get to know a lot of different kids over the course of a season. Yes, it's exhausting driving all over the free world to see your kids participate in sports. It's also expensive (gas and food and uniforms and shoes, etc.) and draining, and the little ones miss you during that time, but what an amazing chance to give your kids! They get to learn about hard work and sacrifice. They get to practice teamwork and putting others first and serving a group. They get to run and sweat and be physical. They get to learn about winning and losing gracefully. I can't imagine not pushing my kids to participate in sports and activities. They round you out as a human being.

Working with young people is an honor and a privilege. More people should try it. You might be surprised at how rewarding it is.

Macbeth Cast 2012--entire high school CCA

Monday, November 5, 2012

Day Five: Vote

I hate election time.

1.) My husband's head might explode following the results. He is a news junkie and a political maniac. He'll be hopping around here tomorrow night like it's five seconds on the clock in the Alabama vs. Auburn game with Auburn on the one yard line, fourth down, down by six. Like that sort of spastic.

2.) I have absolutely uncompromising beliefs that I am hesitant to express, because it might alienate people we are trying to minister to (and it is FAR more important to win people to Christ than to win a political argument). See, I disagree with just about everyone, because the Bible is my yardstick and if it doesn't agree with Scripture, I'm against it. There's no room for compromise. But people have to get with the Holy Spirit before they understand all of that business, or else it's just white noise. So, better for salvation first, then politics later.

3.) The talking heads argue themselves purple back and forth without anything solid to back up opinion. Until  actual numbers are in tomorrow, it's anyone's game. No one knows until the fat lady sings.

But Steve Johnson said something powerful from the pulpit Sunday that puts this entire deal into perspective for me as a Christian: it doesn't really matter who wins tomorrow, because

God is still God, and He is on the Throne.

And with that said, Vote, because it is your privilege as an American, won through blood, sacrifice, and death.

Vote because it is the very least you can do to express your gratitude for living in a free nation.

Vote because it is the most pure expression of what it means to be an American.

Vote because you can.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

30 Days of Thankful Day Four: Funny Kids

This is what "fun" actually looks like
The Little Flower wanted to know if army ants wear helmets. When told that it was highly unlikely, she followed up with, "Well, how do they know they are in the Army then?"

She then asked me what "fun" is. I said she'd know it when she saw it. A few minutes later her brother slipped and fell over some of her toys. She laughed, looked up and me and said, still giggling, "Fun. I soooo get it now."

The Number One Son is still in wrist braces from his playground accident. He's on that line where he can take them off for most activities, but any kind of contact game/sport or activity where he might hurt his arms, and they have to go back on for the duration. So, I caught him riding his bike 400 mph down a huge hill behind our house--no helmet, no braces. As I'm screaming at him, he shakes his head at me and says, "But, Mom, bike riding isn't a 'contact sport'."

"Not until your body makes contact with the concrete," I yell back.

His response? "If I hit the concrete going that fast, I'm not sure that the braces are actually going to matter--I'm probably going to need 9-1-1 either way."


The Fashionista painted her nails in this really cool 'dripping paint' technique she learned off of Pinterest I mean You Tube. (I stand corrected.)  Everyone at school wanted to know how to do it, and several girls even copied the technique. E-2 immediately took that elaborate nail art off and did something else. When I asked her what was the point of all of that work and setting a trend only to take it off she responded, "Exactly. I am SETTING the trend, Mother, not following it."

For Halloween E2 went as Hair Girl--Saving the  world
from bad hair days one head at a time. She's wearing a sweater
cape and a belt with hair styling equipment hanging off of it.

Naynuh is participating in cheer and basketball this season. That's not so funny yet, but you just hang in there and I promise you, it will be.

30 Days of Thankful Day Three: Christmas Village

How could I not be thankful for Christmas Village? It's the perfect illustration of having enough of everything that you can pay $10.00 for a ticket to go browse a bunch of stuff you don't really need. (Does anyone really 'need' a door wreath or yard art or more jewelry? No. We want.) And God has blessed us enough that I can afford needs and wants during this season.

Not only that, but I got to spend a much needed day with a girlfriend eating and shopping and talking. It was blissful (even if my feet ached at the end). So, today I am thankful for friendships--those in the past, those in the present, and those in the future--and for abundance. My prayer is that I am able to be a good friend all of the time and not only when it's convenient for me. Love you!

I will now make some random observations from Christmas Village:

1.) Yukkon XL: I love it when I'm driving The Family Truckster on the freeway in traffic. (It's sort of comforting knowing I'm comandeering a tank through Malfunction Junction.) On the flip side, it's difficult parking the largest SUV on the road in a parking deck built two decades ago.

2.) I have crossed into that stage of Old where I look for bathrooms as we tour any facility, cause I'm going to have to pee in an hour.

3.) Not sure what this says about my ever changing personality, but I bought two separate outfits with animal prints on them. I guess it means I'm going to be one of THOSE Old Ladies.

4.) Taking kids in strollers to the Christmas Village is child abuse. I'm sorry, but it is. So is taking your husband.

5.) Next year, Tracy, we are buying the super expensive preview day tickets for No Stroller Day. I'm serious.

6.) I'm thankful for that new package check feature.

7.) I'm also thankful for a husband. He kept the two littlest shorties while I was off Holly Golightly Gallivanting around the city and took them to the park. He also instructed me to pick up Wing King on my way home so that I didn't have to cook. Did I mention he gave me his mad money out of his wallet as I cruised out the door so that I'd have "a little bit extra"? (Stay away from my husband or I'll cut you.)

All in all, there was a lot to be thankful for! :-) 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day Two: Thankful for Parenting Fails. It Means I'm the Mommy.

Parenting Fails. I've had my share. (So have you; shut up.)

1.) Lillian ate chocolate off of the floor in my classroom even after I told her to drop it. My response? I laughed. Okay, so maybe she needed a spanking, but seriously? I might eat chocolate off of the floor too. I also happen to know that it was her sister's from snack. (Not that it makes any difference, since it was ON THE FLOOR, but you see where I'm coming from.)

Making everyone comply
one photo at a time
2.) I "promised" to take my kids trick or treating this year. It just worked out in my favor that the Number One Son went to a friend's house on Halloween and forgot about it, then we had church and it just didn't come up. Lucky me, right? Well, he reminded me that "the Bible says don't make a promise you don't intend to keep". I can justify all I want, but I should have kept him home and gone trick or treating. What I counted a "lucky break" getting out of it he counted as the deepest kind of betrayal--a broken promise.
Lovely. Just lovely.
3.) My kids think that Chuck E. Cheese has been "closed for renovations" for a decade.

4.) I once spanked the wrong child and then blamed her for it. Loudly.

5.) The first thing I taught my girls to do independently in the kitchen was to make their own breakfast so that I could sleep later. My kids still think it's like a cardinal sin worthy of a Papal visit for absolution if they wake me up too early on Saturday morning. (I'm still not sure that I actually repent of this one.)

6.) If I can't figure out who did it, everyone is punish-ed.

Lillian dressed like a homeless person.

7.) My kids are obedient out of Big Fear. I threaten any sort of public humiliation to achieve total world domination. I will dance in the orthodontist's office. I will post Nekkid Bebe Photos if you hack my Facebook, so on and so forth. And they know I mean it. The threat of your mother throwing down in the dentist's office is powerful (and probably psychologically damaging), but rather effective at the same time.

8.) The Little Flower is wearing all of her brother's hand-me-downs. What? She doesn't know or care. Why do you?

9.) The Husband and I are thinking about going to Disney without the kids. I think that might be over the top even for me.

 10.) I'm still Mother of the Year in Johnsonville. Of course, I'm running unopposed, but whatever.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

If You Give a Kid a Pancake

I have smart kids.

It's true. They are quick on the uptake, good students, quality test takers, and all-around smarty pants. But the Number One Son has entered the fifth grade--notorious for being The Hardest Grade in our little school. It's not the teacher's fault--it's just the way it shakes down with more new material than review material. So, Junior has been struggling a little in spelling and penmanship.

Now, the spelling I understand personally. I have to really, really focus on my own spelling skills, which is probably why God invented the spell check device just for moi. And penmanship? (Yes, we still teach that.) I don't want to say it's not big whoop, because it's graded and an important character issue not to quit when things are difficult. (You still have to keeping going at your job sometimes when you think it's silly and not terribly important, right?) It's a life-lesson. So, press on toward the goal, Son.


Yesterday was elementary honor chapel where we recognize all of the honor students. My babies have always been honored at these sorts of events, being A-B kind of kids, until today when the Number One Son didn't make the A/B Honor Roll, because spelling and penmanship rode him around the room and left him for dead. And to make it worse, he was the only kid in his grade who didn't make the A/B Honor Roll.

So, we did the only thing there was to do.

We ditched school and went for pancakes. :-)

My beautiful boy carried the tray to the table, cleared up after we ate, held the door for me and two women coming into the the restaurant behind us. Then he walked with me to the driver's side where he opened the door for me before going around to the passenger side and climbing in himself.

(Don't tell anyone, but that whole spelling and penmanship thing is overrated in the grand scheme of things.)

And today, when he took his spelling practice test? Well, let's just say that he better have enjoyed that b'fast, since it'll be the last one like it. He'll be too busy to go with me during the next elementary honor chapel because he'll be getting his A/B Honor Roll Certificate.

I love you, Carter. You are my favorite son in the whole world.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wonderful. Just Wonderful.

I haven't blogged since May. This is because I haven't had anything wonderful to say.

It's not that stuff hasn't been happening, it's just that The Stuff has been sort of a downer, and I'm not feeling that on my blog. The Blog is supposed to be where The Magic Happens, like a place to escape and be silly and record my family happiness.

But when what's happening isn't so happy? Well, there's no blogging.

So, here are some random thoughts from May until now to catch us up, since I'm getting my groove back one day at a time:

*I hated starting school later this year. I'm feeling rushed and as one friend so aptly put it, "like I'm standing in front of a fire hose." Amen. I blame this solely on starting school two weeks later than normal this year.  So, I'm starting at the beginning of August next year. The rest of you can do what you want.

*Yeah, I said that the public school system stinks. And your counter point is? (And I'm not talking about the teachers, who are doing all that they can, I'm referring to a broken system of education.)

Elaina calling the ball.
*We had a very busy volleyball season. My daughters didn't actually play any volleyball, but we drove around a lot, and now I know where the schools are for next year.

*Our football team is tougher than a two-dollar steak. We might be small in stature, but we are lion-hearted.

*For the first time EVER that extended warranty fell on my side of the line, and we are enjoying our new transmission.

*My new washing machine gave up the ghost at the 13 month marker. They won that one.

*Naynuh is going to be in braces until she graduates college. The rest of the shorties are out of luck, because I'm not going to be able to afford another set on anyone ever. (SIX YEARS and counting!) And the orthodontist said that she will wear a retainer for the rest of her life. I snorted. Like that's gonna happen. Dude, you could have saved us a LOT of time and money by just telling us she's going to have crooked teeth and an overbite and to get used to it. I can't even get her to put away folded clothes. Retainer my bohonkus. Snort. That's a good one.

*Thanking God that I only had twins and not triplets, because I couldn't physically take anymore female hormone action in this house.

*Yes, we are doing something in class today, and if you ask me again I'm going to staple gun the Stupid Stick to your forehead. Do I look like I'm kidding?

*Dear God, I promise not to help another person ever again if you just get me out of the situations I already find myself neck-deep in. Really. I know, I know I've said it before, but I really mean it this time. Seriously. Why are You laughing?

*Bob Jones University should ALWAYS be said in word form and not abbreviated when giving a speech to high school kids. Someone needs to tell the folks at BJ-University this little factoid.

*I will never consume a milkshake again as long as I live, so help me God. (See: lactose intolerant)

*The Number One Son breaking both wrists means lots and lots of extra work for the parental units. I'm against it.

*I hate campaign/presidential season. I'm clearly right and everyone else is delusional. It's okay; I know you feel the same way about me too. I forgive you. 

*You know, telling me that you didn't read the book doesn't make you look clever; it makes you look foolish and like a lazy cheat. You are basically telling me that you weren't smart enough to read and comprehend. Way to go. What else do you intend to slide through in life? Your marriage? Parenting? Your career? Gotcha. That path to success is cleared up for some other folks, because you ain't on it, Sunshine.

*If you don't want me to fall asleep during your presentation, you should probably make it more interesting.

See what I mean? I'm a cranky pants. Wonderful, I tell you, wonderful. I'm back, Baby. ;-)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Because You Just Can't Be Too Careful

The day of The Incident
 I am like a sunblock-ing maniac. I love the sun--LOVE the sun. I love how it feels to lay out next to water until you sweat. I love being at the pool or on the beach for hours and hours. I love everything about summer, but I refuse to look like a piece of shoe leather when I'm "older", so, we limit our sun time, and I attack every available, exposed skin surface on myself, The Husband, and The Shorties to a liberal dose of high-octane 45+ sunblock every time I even think we might possibly be in close proximity to some sunlight.

Every moisturizer I own has an SPF of 15 or higher. The lowest SPF on sunblock in my cabinet is 45. We are serious about our sunblock at Casa Johnson. It's like wearing a seat belt. Only idiots don't wear seat belts and don't sunblock, therefore, we obviously sunblock.

I am especially diligent in this sun blocking protection post The Husband's encounter with Mr. Melanoma. There's something especially disturbing about knowing your spouse had cancer cut off of his face and looking at your son who is covered in the same quantity of moles that his daddy has. (In fact, it's making me itch to get out the sun sticks right now even though everyone is in bed, and we aren't anywhere near the outdoors.) So, we live to Sunblock and Sunblock Again.

The kids just lu-hu-hu-hu-uv that. It stinks, it's sticky, it's cold, and why-do-we-have-to accompanied by mucho moaning and groaning (as though they might actually talk me out of it this time). Lillian is the worst. She use to run from me, but now she just stands there, shoulders sagging, and berates the sunblock as though it were a person. And every single time she asks, "But WHYYYY do we have to use the sunblock??? I HATE it!"

Well, life lesson number 7,905 occurred on Memorial Day. I'd slathered half a gallon of the stuff on the kids, but somehow between the ribs and baked beans I neglected that Put More On Every Hour and After Swimming rule and let the kids go almost two hours without re-applying. (And I don't even have the Too Much Beer excuse to fall back on--I just flat out forgot, proving that even the most diligent mom out there can have a lapse.) Ahem.

And you know what that means: Sunburn.  And Lillian got the brunt of that party on her shoulders. I turned her around to let her view her crispy shoulder blades in the mirror and said, "Sweet Cake? THAT is why we sunblock."

She moaned and took the Tylenol and let me rub some of that aloa vera sunburn gel on her little toasty back. Bless her heart, she had two little raw strips of pink flesh that hurt me just looking at them. It's the only time she's ever been even remotely burned in her whole little life. It must have been quite the shock.

We're getting ready to go to Wal-Mart for groceries this morning, and Sugar said, "Wait! We have to sunblock my arms and face!" I explained that going into a store didn't really mandate a full-body sunblocking. She looked at me funny and said, "Yes, but we aren't taking any more chances."

I told her that she'd be fine. Twenty minutes later, armed with purse, sunglasses, coupons, I called for the Little Flower to come on so that we could go to the store. I can't say that I was surprised to smell her before she rounded the corner. I'm not sure if it was the entire bottle of sunblock she'd put head to toe on her body (even in her hair) or if the smell was emanating from the four stuffed animals that she'd also drenched before stuffing them into a drawstring bag.

I stared at her for a second or two, unable to figure out where to start, finally just saying, "So, the stuffed animals too?"

She nodded. "You just can't be too careful with the sun," she said over her shoulder as she marched out to buckle everyone into the Family Truckster.

Amen, Sister.

Okay then. Off to Wally World. You'll smell us before you see us. We'll be the family who took a bath in Eau de Sun Sport 50.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sticker Shock

Elise, Hannah the Bonus Child, and Elaina
I took the girl shorties shopping yesterday. Just for a change of pace, we drove to the fancy side of Birmingham to do some browsing.

I'd prepped the Wonder Twins (who were in desperate need of jeans as we've had a growth spurt changing us from size 14 children's to women's size 3/4 which is FREAKING ME OUT SINCE YOU OUGHT TO HAVE A LITTLE WARNING ABOUT THIS SORT OF THING) that we might have to just look on the Hwy 280 side of town and actually purchase on the Alabaster side of town. I was absolutely sure that the price tags would decrease exponentially as we drove south on I-65.

We needed jeans. Since the girls just moved from the kiddie section, I felt as though we ought to explore some Real Clothing Brands instead of Wal-Mart. (It's this sort of unbridled enthusiasm that keeps me in trouble.)

We drove to the fancy mall and ate a fancy lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. As we approached the enormous doors to the restaurant, Elise announced that we were going to freeze to death because, "Fancy restaurants are always too cold because rich people wear layers and blazers and stuff." Her companions nodded in agreement, so we wisely chose to eat on the patio, because the main dining room was like an Arctic zone. 
Then we started hunting.

I reiterated the three most important words that were to become our mantra for the shopping spree--SALE RACKS FIRST! And armed with our slogan, lip gloss, knock off Vera Bradley Lookalike Bags, and shorts that have become a midge too short (hence the shopping trip) we cruised into Belk like we owned the place.

First on the agenda--humiliate the Wonder Twins--so I found a sales lady and asked to see the "hot trend in junior jeans" so that we knew some brand names to start looking for (since Wrangler is evidently 'soooooo country, Mom'). The sales lady immediately moved me to the blindingly neon section of the store where most of the clothing actually appeared to be Lilly-sized and said, "We can't keep these on the shelves! They are the number one seller on the floor."

She handed me an ordinary-looking pair of blue jeans that were called "7 for All Mankind".  (What kind of stupid name is that for a blue jean? What does it even mean?) She simultaneously handed me another brand called "G-Star RAW" which sounds flat out obscene. (I don't want to know what that means.)

Can anyone tell these from Wranglers without the 7?
Elise flipped the tag over on the 7 Jeans, her eyes widened like saucers, she flipped a glance up at me, and said, "Well, back to Alabaster."

$189.00 for a pair of junior jeans. Jeans that a junior-sized person will wear for approximately six months, because said person isn't finished growing yet.


We did find two reduced items on the Sale Racks and purchased a pair of Red Rivet jeans for $10.00. That was a win, since they were originally priced at $90.00. We left a little depressed with only one dress and one pair of jeans total, but soldiered on to the cheap side of town. On the way through Hoover (half way to Alabaster, proving that the prices do indeed decrease dramatically as you drive south on I-65), I remembered a trendy little consignment shop that specializes in teen clothing called Plato's Closet. We detoured there and guess what, Folks. Five million pairs of cute jeans--those 7 kind and RAW pants and everything. $20.00 a pair. SOLD! We bought bags of clothing, bags, I tell you!

Lessons Learned: 

Inside of Plato's Closet
1) Even if you are able and can afford $189.00 jeans for an eleven year old, you have serious issues if you consider purchasing them. If you actually purchased them for that price, and this can't be said emphatically enough, you just aren't very bright. (Seriously, what life lesson are you teaching your pre-teen about  money? Stewardship? Frugality?)

2) I don't own one thing in my entire closet that cost $189.00. In fact, I don't think I have an outfit worth that much. (This is a point of pride, not a pity cry.) I am cheap, and we intend to keep on keeping on. I'd rather vacation big in my cheap jeans. Me and my completely debt free self will sleep well tonight.

3) There were racks of these jeans for $189.00 a pair. Who are these people?

4) Fancy lunch is overrated when dining with 11-yr-olds. Elaina announced that the cheese sticks at Arby's were better than The Cheesecake Factory. (She was right.) And about a third of the price with no tip.

5)  We sat across from two women who thought they were on the Kardashian reality show--shoes, hair, make up--all sorts of crazy going on. The over processed blonde talked on her cell phone (with Swarovski crystal studded Otter Box) to someone else the entire meal while her dining companion (and I use that term loosely) texted someone. Elise staged whispered, "Why did they go to lunch together if they aren't going to talk to each other?" That, My Dear, is the question, cause it sho' nuff weren't the conversation or the $12.99 salads they picked at and didn't actually eat.

6) Plato's Closet is across from the Galleria in the shopping center with 2nd and Charles/Toys R Us FYI.

7) My cousin waits tables at The Cheesecake Factory. Who knew?

8) My most proud moment of the day? When Elaina held up something she wanted to buy that had been marked down over and over with little red marks and stickers littering the tag from $190 to $7.99 and said, "SOLD!" You got that right. Now we can go to Dairy Queen and back to the woods, where we evidently belong.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Refusing to be Upstaged

Elise must have been feeling a little put out because her twin received an entire blog post to herself, so I'm pretty sure that she lost a fingertip in a door-slamming incident at school just for spite.

Fun times.

I was in the school office trying to buy some pants at the time of the incident. (I know, I know. Reading one of these things is like falling into the rabbit hole, isn't it, Folks?) I sent E-1 up to fetch E-2 from the classroom so that they could try on said pants when It happened.  Elise was standing in the doorway to the classroom when a student (in a bizarre attempt at humor), slammed the door to keep Elise out of the room.

Well, he kept all of her out except for the top joint of her right-hand ring finger. That part sort of flopped through the crack in the door while the rest of her body stood in the hallway, so the joke needs a little work on the execution.

She heard the popping sound of bone breaking and then ran to her teacher's desk for assistance. Elise, being Elise, simply announced that she was bleeding and got a tissue. Mrs. Jennifer held it together like a pro, especially after realizing that Elise's finger was actually lifting off in the tissue. They hustled down the hall and to the office where I was casually perusing through an amazing selection of Shortie-sized used jeans. When they rounded the corner, it was completely obvious that something was bad wrong by E's face.

She sees my face responding to her face and says, "Don't cry, Mommy, don't cry, but I think my finger fell off."

Huh. That's a new one.

Now, I'm really fantastic at multiple things. I can put an entire meal on the table for twelve people in 40 minutes flat. I can organize 63 high school kids and various adults and put on Macbeth in ten days. I can pack seven people into one vehicle for a two-week-long journey. I can make money magically stretch from have-to's into want-to's. I have degrees in Psychology and English. I'm really quite prolific.

But you present me with a severed finger, and it's Chicken With Head Cut Off Impression Hour at Casa Johnson. I turned into Prissy from Gone With the Wind.  I certainly don't know nothing 'bout reattaching no fingah.

So, I did the completely natural thing under the circumstances; I freaked out.

Thank God that He saw fit in His infinite wisdom to have three nurses standing in the office with me at that exact second. 1) The school secretary, 2) some random woman paying her school tuition, and 3) the woman I was buying the jeans from. They took one look at the hand and one look (listen) at me and sent me running for ice. No joke. Get the nutcake out of here so that we can accurately assess the situation. I know when I'm being dismissed, so I ran for it. I'm that chick who should be sent for towels and hot water, not standing at the birthing chute. I came back with a baggie of ice, the nurses shoved the finger/hand into the bag, and Part II of this nightmare began.

See, my other Achilles Heel is this...directions. I'm not just directionally challenged, I'm almost like a special needs person when it comes to finding my way. I'm not making light or joking either. I really can't find my way out of a paper sack with a flashlight and a GPS. Everyone who lives here will get this; the rest of you will just have to imagine, but the directions I was given to get to the local hospital (that is in the opposite direction from my house and the hospital I would be most likely to attend), involved the words, "turn left at the old Jack's". Now, where in the crap is that? I am not sure that I can find the new Jack's much less some old one that I've never eaten at.  It's just happenstance that I knew where they told me to go. I mean like a miracle.

Elise didn't shed a single tear in the school office, didn't freak, didn't scream, nothing. (In fact, I was the only person of like ten people who was actually screaming.) And this was a BAD cut. Her finger was severed straight through the center of the nail bed, like it had been hacked off with a butcher knife. (I will spare you the gory, disgusting photos.) It was only  hanging on by the pad of the fingerprint. But once we got in the car and away from that initial panic, she began to cry mostly out of fear more than pain.

Fortunately, once we got rolling, I was in the zone again. In charge. Focused. So, I began to do the natural Johnson thing--Distraction Through Laughter. It's our favorite Coping Technique.

Shall I demonstrate?

"Now, Elise, you  have to stop crying and calm down this instant, because if you puke everywhere that is going to add time to our little trip here. There is NO WAY you are going to be able to find your fingertip in that baggie of ice water if you drop it while you are heaving, and I'm certainly not digging it out of there for you. I have to draw the line somewhere."


"And furthermore, Young Lady, this really isn't altogether that big of a whoop. Seriously, it's your right hand, and you are left handed. And it's your ring finger--like the weakest finger on your hand--and you even kept the knuckle, so you can totally still wear a ring. So, worst case scenario you've made the entire High Five experience awkward for people, but you can always shift to a High Four like nothing ever happened. See? give me high four." At which point I literally held up my hand with the ring finger tucked into my palm and she actually high-four'd me with her left hand.

The Zone, I tell you.
By the time we hit the door to the emergency room (which I had to drive around the hospital twice to find in spite of the enormous red EMERGENCY ENTRANCE signs that were everywhere--I told you--I give new meaning to Directionally Challenged), we were giggling and laughing, no tears in sight.

Sitting there on the gurney, having viewed the absolutely grodie missing finger, waiting on the doctor to come in and stitch her up, still no pain medication having been delivered, Elise began a little Johnson Coping herself.

She said, "Man, I'm totally like the Soul Surfer girl."

Pause for effect.

I deadpanned, "Well, except there was a shark, and it was her whole arm."

She nodded, solemnly, "Yeah, but mine was the class clown and my finger is part of my arm, so, totally Soul Surfer. I mean, some people are even more scared of clowns than they are of sharks."

I nod, simmering in the joke.

"So, should we get you like a little tiny prosthetic fingertip?"

She cocked her head in thought for a second. "Nah, her dog chewed up her arm,  but like Mellie would totally eat my fingertip and then you'd make me dig through the dog poop to get it and I'm NOT wearing a dog poop finger."

"Well, you could always just go with your naturally deformed paint your nails all jacked and stuff. Paint a jagged edge like torn paper."

"Cool! or maybe an arrow with 'this way up'."

"Or 'oh no!'"


Now you're talking, Sister. We had the doctor looking at us like we were crazy. Well, if the prosthetic fingertip fits....

Because We Are Johnsons.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pearls of Parenting Wisdom Part II

"Just because I hate something, doesn't mean that I'm not going to do it. Part of becoming an adult is the ability to finish undesirable tasks in a timely manner. Whining doesn't make it taste better; fussing doesn't make it go faster. Just shut up and do it already."

“You aren’t hungry; you are bored. People in Africa are hungry.”

“The most irritating and disappointing thing in the world is someone who believes that the world revolves around him, when it clearly revolves around me.”

“Don’t be surprised when lost people act like lost people. Be surprised when they act like saved people.”

“I’ve stopped asking why my kids are doing something asinine and now only wonder why it took them so long to try it.”

“Sarcasm is often lost on anyone under fourth grade. This is why I don’t teach anyone under seventh grade.”

“Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t read for pleasure; something is wrong with these people.”

“I know this is shocking, but not everyone loves your kids. (You only love them that way because they are yours.) What you think is adorable might actually be repellent. Why? Sometimes your kids stink, are rude, have terrible manners, are unruly, and are hateful. What? So are mine. You’re not special.”

"The instant that your child entered the world, it stopped being about you and it became all about that baby. Your needs, wants, dreams, desires all get to take a back burner to the needs of that child. It’s about provision, love, nurture, and opportunity—these things have to be the driving force in your life as a parent. And I’ve got some more bad news: that child doesn’t give one rip about your happiness, your fulfillment, or your life journey. All they know is whether or not you show up."

“We don’t pay our children for grades at Casa Johnson. I expect A’s every time. An A on a report card warrants a hug and a ‘good job’, because it’s the standard. If you expect your kids to get less than As, that’s what you’ll get. Pay them, and they’ll get the idea that they deserve compensation for doing what’s expected.”

The Tortoise and the Hare

The Wonder Twins start seventh grade in the fall. This means that they are eligible for junior varsity sports for the first time. They don't automatically make the team anymore; they have to try out.

The twins couldn't be any more different--physically, emotionally, mentally--they have always been completely different personalities. We've always stressed that they shouldn't compare one to the other, but it is hard when you live in the same room as your primary competitor. Who walked first? Who talked first? Who had the first boyfriend? And so on and so forth. I mean, we live in a house where one daughter is always the Top Student in her class. It's hard not to compare yourself to that kid and come up a little wanting.

This enormous gulf fixed between the girls might be the most evident in any kind of physical challenge. Elise is solid. She's athletic. She's firm and strong. She's built like a goddess. She ought to be a pirate standing on deck shouting orders to her faithful followers or president of the sorority. She's a force of nature.

Elaina is tall and willowy. She's thin and lanky, built like a colt right out of the gate. She's clumsy. She's goofy. She's built like a supermodel. She's continually falling down while walking across flat surfaces. She's ethereal, fragile, and like the damsel in distress in a fairytale. You want to rescue her.

I knew in my heart that a position on the volleyball team probably wasn't happening for her, but that it was probable for her twin. So, when the roster was posted and we skimmed through it, just as expected, Elise was there as an alternate (this is a Big Whoop for a seventh grader); Elaina was not. Everyone held her breath for a second as we processed, staring at the screen in the pregnant silence.

Naynuh rocking the nerd fashion sense.
And Elaina finally said, "Well, that sucks."

We giggled awkwardly for a second, and then after a very long pause she added, "Mrs. Marilyn (coach) said that we could be involved in the team and support everyone in some way, and I want to do that. Can I apply to video tape the games or keep stats, Mom? I still want to go with everyone."

You know, I'm proud of Elise. She's smart and athletic, even her teeth came in straight and true, but she comes by those things without really having to apply herself. She's the hare in the Aesop fable. She's my daughter and that's enough to make me proud without her actually ever doing anything at all.

But Elaina? Elaina has to work a little bit harder for everything she achieves. And she does it with a smile and a good attitude. She's endured five years of orthodonture without a single temper tantrum (not saying that she hasn't cried and moaned some, but never has she refused or screamed or even pouted). She has never been Top Student or first in a race or first in anything, while her sister's side of the room is covered in awards. She knew realistically that she probably wouldn't make the team, but went and tried anyway. She hoped.

Elaina, Kaitlyn, Elise
Elaina, my tortoise, sort of sneaks up on you. No one has ever called her bossy or mean. She's funny and silly and laughs at herself daily. She wears nerd glasses as a fashion statement. She is just simply put, likable.

The girls got their weekly progress reports on Thursday, and Elaina was only a couple of points behind her sister in overall totals. She held up the grades, waived them at Elise and sang, "I'm comin' fo' ya, Sissy Poo!" I think that little taunting dancing song actually sums up what I'm trying to post here.

If I were giving advice to Elise it would be this: You'd better strap in and put the hammer down, because eventually, Elaina is going to smoke you just through hard work, good attitude, and Want To.

So, she didn't make the junior varsity volleyball team or make Top Student. Big Whoop. She's going to be tall and beautiful and unbearably thin, smart enough to be in the top third of her class, and she's able to laugh at herself, forgive people, take a joke, be friends with people two grades in either direction, and applies herself at everything like it's the Olympics. That, and she's a powerful Christian, able to empathize in a way that I only dream about. She's also going to be the greatest videographer the CCA volleyball team has ever had (perhaps the first one too, but still).

Eat your hearts out. And know that she's comin' fo' all y'all.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Parenting with Charlotte Part I

Here are the first set of musings in one easy to reach place. (Although, why anyone at all would actually seek parenting advice from me is a complete mystery, since I have no idea at all what I'm doing. What? You don't either.)

"I don't care if my kids are happy. (God said nothing at all in Scripture about wanting us to be happy.) I care that they are becoming Christ-like. And becoming Christ-like is often more painful than happy."

“Almost always in life, the best lessons are learned via our mistakes. How unfortunate that we don’t just listen when someone tells us not to touch the hot stove instead of checking it out on our own. It just confirms that none of us are as smart as we think we are.”

“What are you doing?” is almost always a rhetorical question. I can see what you are doing. I am indicating that you are an idiot and am waiting on you realize it and agree with me.

“I’m not sure why my kids don’t believe me when I answer a question with, “I don’t know.” I know they don’t believe me, because they keep asking the same question that I’ve already answered ‘I don’t know’ to. This may be shocking, but sometimes I really don’t know. It’s not a riddle. I’m not even being obstinate. Really, I just don’t know.”

“My most effective parenting tip is never under estimate the power of humiliation as an obedience tool.”

“Apologize more than you should and even sometimes when you don’t think you should have to. It’ll make up for the times that someone apologized to you even though you were the one who was wrong.”

“For every person you envy, there are two coveting your life. Be thankful.”

“Rule 1: Never put anything in print that you don’t want read aloud in a room of your peers. Rule 2: Never write something that you won’t sign your name to. Rule 3: Never write anything while intoxicated (see Rule 1 and Rule 2 for clarification).”

“Yes, ‘wonky-doo’ is a word. You use ‘catywompus’ and ‘thingy’, so I can use ‘wonky-doo’. What? You think your made up words are better than mine?”

“I have a dowel rod in my classroom with a purple barber pole stripe and the word ‘stupid’ painted on it. It’s called The Stupid Stick. You get to host it on your desk for asking stupid questions, because whoever said there are no stupid questions clearly never taught high school.”

“Saying ‘that’s just the way I am’ doesn’t excuse bad behavior on your part. You are just confirming that you are too crazy to be friends with and that people should avoid you. So, if anyone says, “that’s just the way I am” in the course of a conversation, you should thank them for the head’s up and then move away rapidly.”

“I don’t care about your Precious Angel’s self esteem. I care about her ability to differentiate between there/their/they’re, you’re/your, and it’s/its so that she doesn’t look like a moron on Facebook.”

“Giving anything less than your best—whether on the field, in the classroom, on stage, in relationships—is failure. And don’t tell me you tried unless I can see evidence of the blood, sweat, and tears that bear out the fruit of your best. Just showing up isn’t your best; it’s your least.”

"Some things you need to do just because you live in this house—like making your own bed or putting away your own laundry. Not making the bed is like telling the rest of your day that you just can’t be bothered. And coming home to an unmade bed, well, it’s insulting to your own person.”

“I’m a middle-aged fat woman. Obviously, I’m keeping my classroom like a meat locker. Not bringing a jacket doesn’t indicate that the room is too cold; it indicates that you aren’t very bright or need to work on your powers of discernment.”

“If I tell you that I can’t do something right now, it’s not a challenge to your powers of persuasion. Stop asking me.”

“I don’t cook breakfast. If you want breakfast, learn to cook it. No, I won’t teach you how to make breakfast—that would mean that I’d have to cook breakfast. Pay attention.”

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why We Will Watch The Hunger Games

One of my jobs as a parent, perhaps my most powerful responsibility after sharing the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, is to teach discernment.

Discernment is literally judgment, insight, perspicacity, and the ability to separate truth from fiction. Every single person and thing on the planet is pushing to alter your perception of whatever he/she/it believes to be true, but unless we measure against Scripture for truth, we will believe anything and everything.

These people and companies want to influence our behavior and are doing it purposefully. They have a plan, and we are under attack. The only real weapon against it is the ability to separate fact from fiction and DISCERN what you are being sold as truth.

"This diet will make me sexier, and is GUARANTEED to work or my MONEY BACK, therefore, I can and will try it with no risk to me. This car ad has a fantastic song from my youth and looks cool, and THEY SAY it’s the safest on the road, so if I buy it, I LOVE my family. This politician goes to church, therefore he MUST be the best choice as a leader."

Think this doesn’t work? (Snort. You’re an idiot. Please, stop reading my blog.)

I don't know how you do it, but personally? I check Consumer Reports to see what the safety rating of the vehicles I consider is, not the commercials. I check the diet instructions, and if it says anything about losing more than 1 pound a week or that I don’t have to change my diet or exercise level, I know it’s not the truth. And I see what the man or woman’s leadership record reflects, not who he/she has or hasn’t slept with. Then, I choose. That is discernment in action.

Which brings us to pop culture. I know that this is shocking, but I have never shielded my kids from unpleasant things. How will they know the truth if they never have the opportunity to hear a lie? How will they be able to make good decisions out on their own if I never give them safe opportunities now?
For example: the twins were three and Carter was 20 months old when I gave birth to Lillian, who was only 1lb 9oz and went down to 1lb 4oz. (This is the size of a 20 oz. soft drink. And that’s exactly how long she was—12 inches crown to toes.) She was covered in tubes, wires, IVs, bandages, hoses. Her eyes were wrapped. She looked like a science experiment. Steve and I never even hesitated or had to discuss what to do about telling the children the truth about her chances and her condition.

We took photos and brought them home in a brag book and explained that Lilly was sick, but that we were relying on God to make her whole again. We showed them the photos. We explained in great detail what everything on her body was, even though they couldn’t understand. Several (LOTS) of people criticized us for that decision. I never considered any other option.

How can they learn about the power of prayer and the healing nature of God if they never see sickness? How can they learn about the amazing restoration if we never let them fail? How can they learn to pray unless they pray urgently and see us modeling it? We prayed as a family every day. They didn’t understand everything, but knew when I had to leave for hours and hours that I was going to take care of Lilly. They asked about her, and drew pictures and sent her kisses. I regret nothing about that circumstance. And I can tell you right now that if God called that baby home, they would have seen parents who trust in God no matter what.

This brings me to The Hunger Games (you can insert any pop culture thing you want to in that slot, but this is what I’m talking about right now.)

Obviously, not for younger viewers. Everything has a time and a place (just like I won’t be having The Talk with The Little Flower today or tomorrow, I won’t be taking her to the film either). I was on the fence about how the violence would be portrayed, but the review by Plugged In cinched the deal. I will be taking the Wonder Twins to view the film. (I made reading the book a condition for considering taking them, too.)

After the film, we will have dessert and discuss:

1. Why The Bachelor is a million times more damaging to our culture than this movie. I will also explain how it's the forerunner, or how you numb a society, for something like The Games. (And if you find yourself watching The Bachelor, but are anti-gay marriage, something is wrong with your spiritual radar--you can't call one a mockery of marriage and financially support the other one, which actually IS a mockery of marriage.) (I’m not being sarcastic—you have a spiritual discernment problem.) (Am I judging you? Okay. Yeah. I am. By your own actions.) (Which is actually called discernment not judgment.) (See what I mean?)

2. We will discuss reality TV, and if it’s really “real” or not (see how Katniss and Peeta are portrayed verses their reality at the beginning of the book, which is far, far from the same thing). How does the media manipulate what we see and how we feel about people who are on “reality” television? On the news? In politics?

3. What does it say about our culture that we put children on these reality television shows like Dance Moms and allow their emotions and fears and highs and lows to be exploited by their parents? How is that different than a fight to the death in an arena? How will their lives be different as adults? How would you feel if everything you did and said and cried about was on national television for everyone to see? What kind of culture does that make ours—a better one or a worse one? Why? Would you do that your kids?

4. In what ways does the government in the book manipulate its citizen? How does our government do the same? (Political ads, different bias in news media, what is reported and what is left out.)

5. What does God’s Word teach about true love? Oh, yeah, that it’s laying your life down for your brother, sort of like Katniss does for her sister? Taking her place as a sacrifice. Hmmm… I can see we are going to need more cake over here.

Think they won’t be able to get it? That I’m talking or teaching above their heads? You get what you expect out of your children, and my expectations are through the roof. The Hunger Games is a YA novel written for grades 6-12. There are no words in it above a fourth grade reading level. They will understand. If you don’t teach them active discernment, guess where they will learn it? Their friends. The television. The media. The school. And forbidden fruit always tastes sweeter. Why not make it a family outing and discussion about what we believe and why?

Here is a link to the Plugged-In review:
May the odds be ever in your favor.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Random Birthday Observations

A Journey of Self Discovery on my Forty-Second Day of Birth:

I just turned 42. This suddenly doesn't seem so old. But then I realized that I'm sleeping with a 46-yr-old man. (This freaked me out a little.)

I have a crush on that Phillip Phillips guy from American Idol. (What a cutie!) So does my 11-yr-old daughter. This is like the Icky Factor times five million.

I hate making posters. The only thing I hate worse than making posters is keeping the children's church. Both are eerily similar: glue, cutting and pasting, screaming, hair pulling, snot wiping, and deep sighing when it's over.

I want to own an eggplant-colored sofa. No particular reason. I want a purple sofa just because. (Perhaps it was all of that Prince in the 80's.)

When all of these short people leave the house, I'm getting a convertible. A two seater. I might let The Husband ride with me sometimes, but only my music is playing on the radio.

A man who will bring you hot wings and cake for lunch, then make you homemade ravioli and marinara sauce for supper in the same day (even after being married to you for 18 years) is what is known as A Keeper. (Stay away from my husband, or I will kill you.) (I'm not joking.)

I am too stupid to understand anything my accountant says. I am too lazy to try to understand it and just pray to God that the accountant understands it; sometimes I'm not sure. I don't care either way.

I sleep just fine even if we have dirty dishes in the sink overnight.

Someone brought me a sweet tea before school on my birthday, waiting in the parking lot and handing it over before I went in to class. Someone else left me 6-oz Cokes in the glass bottle on my desk at the end of the day. These people know that I need caffeine in copious amounts, and they spread the love from start to finish. This is friendship at its finest!

I wore a party hat during lunch. You are never too old to appreciate a paper party hat. I'm glad that I'm older. It means that I made it another year.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Travel Adventures

What you think your honeymoon is going to look like.
I've been booking travel for almost two and a half years. I specialize in Disney World and destination travel, but I also book a ton of cruises, Sandals/Beaches, Mexico, and Ski vacations. And after fielding yet another honeymoon disaster call today, here is the sum total of what I have learned:

This is the first and most difficult test that God puts a married couple through. (I know this factually, because I am the only person honeymooning people call while on their honeymoons.) Your flight will be cancelled. Your room will leak. Someone will get a) sunburned b) food poisoning c) stung by jellyfish d) all of the above. The beach will be closed for a tsunami. The restaurant's world class chef will quit the day before you arrive and in a fit of anger, drop fifty mice into the kitchen before he vacates the premises. You will drop the camera into the pool, off of a cliff, or into the toilet. You will discover that she is a harpy, nagging complainer and that he is an overbearing controlling moron. Or, if you're lucky, you will laugh your way through it and make it out on the other side alive and intact. It's God bearing out that whole 'for better or for worse' thingy you promised earlier in the week. Call it irony, but you'd better be able to laugh about it. Oh, and I can't fix any of that stuff.

2011 Disney
 Disney World
Visiting the 'most magical place on earth' is indeed magical, but only if you do the proper amount of planning. At our first consultation, if the words 'relaxing' and 'possibly Disney' come out of your mouth in any kind of proximity, I will not work with you as a client. It's too risky. If you want to relax, go to the beach. If you want to have an experience, go to Disney. 'Nere the twain shall meet and all of that black magic. To make Disney a truly magical experience:
  • Don't take anyone who isn't potty trained. (Please, I beg you.)
  • Rent or bring the stroller for anyone under seven. (I'm not exaggerating.)
  • Be prepared to eat off schedule (like breakfast at 10:30 a.m., lunch at 2:00 p.m., and dinner at 8:00)
  • You cannot see everything in one day. (I know that this seems obvious, but you'd be surprised.)
  • Yes, you need sunblock every single day. And Rolaids. And wet wipes and Ziploc baggies.
  • Other people will be at the pool with you. I cannot stop them from having beer next to your table.
  • I also do not control who is in the hotel rooms next to yours. In fact, I control virtually nothing at The Magic Kingdom.
  • I do not control the bus system.
  • I do not control the weather.
  • I do not control the show schedule or what rides are closed for repairs.
    2011 NYC with WonderTwins
  • I also do not control your waiter, how much Cokes cost, or that the monorail shut down and you had to walk.
A Special Note About Gay Days: This event is a week in late May/early June where gay people have collectively decided it's good to go to Disney together. (Disney isn't sponsoring this deal, it's an Internet phenomenon.) If this is freaking you out, don't go at the end of May or the beginning of June. (If you're gay, that is obviously the best time to go and be the very most comfortable you can possibly be.) But neither group is allowed to complain. Families--the gay people want to go to the most magical place on earth too, and they have chosen only two weeks out of the year to collectively meet and go. It's only two weeks. If it's offensive to you, you have the whole rest of the year. Gay People--If you want to go and hold hands with your life partner, no one will care any day of the year. It's the most magical place on earth (and the families will be too busy cleaning up throw up and wrangling the infants they shouldn't have brought with them to bother with your sexual orientation). But if you want to be around other families that look like yours, book right after Memorial Day. Easy Peasy.

Traveling with Kids
  • Plan on throw up.
  • Take extra everything.
  • Every single restaurant in the world is fifteen degrees colder than it should be. (They are trying to get you out to make room for the next group.) Take a jacket.
  • Pack $300.00 more than you need.
  • Don't choose any restaurant that doesn't have chicken fingers on the menu.
  • Ziplock bags and wet wipes are the most valuable things in the whole world.
2010 Alaskan Cruise
There is a reason that Disney cruises are twice the price of other cruises: no gambling, no smoking. (They have to make up the revenue somewhere.) So, if you don't want to walk through casinos on your way to everywhere on the ship, or transverse a cloud of cancer on every floor, pay the extra money. I'm serious. Now, if you smoke and gamble, it's the exact opposite. Go for it. Just don't complain both ways. I can't fix gambling and smoking people. I can't fix people who complain about you smoking and gambling either.

And that's enough information for one blog. Tune in next time when I tell the Funniest Travel Calls Ever Fielded and other travel adventures! Happy Travels!