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.