Moving the Crib


Yesterday I found myself with a severely cranky baby who desperately needed a nap, but I couldn’t put him down because a pest control guy was coming (we live in a forest) and the attic access is in my closet/Oliver’s bedroom.  Thinking only of my sanity, I dismantled and moved Oliver’s crib into Adelaide’s room.  It’s something we had planned on doing at some point after the reunion, and then well, I just did it.

He was confused by the whole process and took awhile to settle down for his nap, but he eventually did.  After the pest guy came and went, I cleaned up my closet and moved Ben’s shoes back in there.  It was kind of exciting to think about being able to get dressed without sneaking past a sleeping baby like ninja, or flushing the toilet whenever I wanted.

Then as I was getting ready for bed and I walked past the previously never open door of my closet I suddenly wanted to cry.

Now I haven’t cried over any of Oliver’s milestones thus far.  I’ve celebrated each and every one and felt my heart soar with joy and relief as we hit each step, but this was different.  This was too much.  I was hit with the very real knowledge that this is our last baby.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want any more babies.  My body and my mind cannot handle anymore babies.  But my heart?  In my heart there is room for hundreds.  I swear I’ve never felt as old as I did last night, realizing that my baby days are over.  You can’t help but feel young when you have a baby in the house.  The difference between 25 and 35 was nothing.  The difference between babies and no babies is forever.  I feel like I’m going to wake up tomorrow and realize I’m 50.

The moving of the crib tugged at Ben’s heart too, which makes me love him all the more.  If I have to get old, then I’m glad that I get to do it with him.

Now I’m going to go have myself a good cry.

Johnson Family Reunion 2014


Every two years, the entire Johnson clan get together for a family reunion.  Everyone takes turns planning/hosting and this was our year in charge.  We’ve been talking, planning, buying, fixing, scheduling and rescheduling for so long that we hardly know what to do with ourselves now that’s it’s over.  The weeks prior to the reunion were a nightmare as Ben was working super long days (11pm or later) trying to get his work done so he could take the week of the reunion off and I was trying desperately to reach some sort of agreement with the kids to please stop trashing the house as I cleaned it.  Things seemed to be stacked against us as the washing machine tried to break (we fixed it), the vacuum did break (bought a new one), the invisible fencing for the dog had to be completely redone, and the dog peed all over our bed late the night before our guests arrived, most likely in protest of the new invisible fence.  We made it though, and 49 Costco trips and 1,000 loads of laundry later, we were ready.

To accommodate a few last minute scheduling snafus, we went with a different format for this reunion and all of the out-of-state guests were deposited into four host family homes.  We then found activities that centered around each of the homes so that each family would get a break from driving at least one of the days.

Our opening activity was a dinner and smores roast at Matt and Joy’s house.  She made a great pasta bar that pleased everyone, adults and kids alike and aside from a frightening near death experience with Axel running down a hill towards a cement wall, everything turned out wonderfully.  I’m so impressed that she was able to host everyone and throw together such a great dinner while being pregnant.  Joy, you rock.

On Wednesday, Molly turned 12 and I brought her a special breakfast in bed.  We had already celebrated her birthday on Monday, but I wanted to recognize her actual birthday too.  Turning 12 is a big deal.

Everyone came up to our house for what was supposed to be a family carnival.  However a huge rain storm ruined our plans, so Ben switched gears and found us a fun trampoline place to go to.  We still met up at our house for lunch and a few fun activities including decorating backpacks and writing letters to David who is on his mission, and then after the trampoline place we came back to our house for dinner.  Dinner was a little late because I tried to run Molly to her soccer practice (her birthday wish) and I got lost in the process without my phone to navigate for me.  I eventually made it to the right place (after a bunch of prayers and a near panic attack) and we served up the delicious meats Ben had spent all day smoking in the smoker.  When Molly got back from practice we sang to her and she blew out the candles on her birthday cake.

We weren’t sure the weather was going to clear up enough for the family pictures that we had planned Thursday morning, so we decided to rearrange the schedule yet again and move them to Friday.  Instead, on Thursday we met at a park near Mandy and Joe’s house for lunch.  It was a beautiful park and the kids had fun running around.

After lunch we all headed over to NW Trek for what turned out to be one of my favorite activities of the reunion.  Even considering that at one point I lost Adelaide and was sternly called to the office to come retrieve her… having no idea that she was ever lost.  Not one of my best parenting moments, but good job Adelaide for knowing what to do.

The tram ride was so much fun and we were able to see plenty of animals.  Animals are one of Oliver’s very favorite things and he was in heaven.

We stopped for a little cotton candy and kettle corn to revive our spirits.  This picture was taken before I lost Adelaide and traumatized her for life.

 

After NW Trek we stopped and picked up pizzas for dinner.  This stack is only half of the pizzas we ordered.  I’ve never seen so many pizzas!

After pizza at the park, Joy and Sandy organized a few pioneer games for the kids in honor of pioneer day.  The kids all looked super cute in their bandannas and bonnets.

To close the night, we met at Joe and Mandy’s house which was only a few minutes away for the park to celebrate Grandma Johnson’s birthday with cake and a fun African wishing ceremony Joy put together.  It was really sweet and Mandy was so nice to put together the party.  She has the most beautifully decorated home.

Friday was the day we spent down in Federal Way by Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  We started off with the baptism of Audrey and Anna.  It was very special to have all the family in town for the baptism even though the littlest of the Johnsons were quite squirly from nap deprivation.  At one point in the program all the cousins got up and sang “I’m a Child of God.”  It was beautiful.  Grandma put together an amazing luncheon afterwards and then we headed over to a nearby park for pictures.

This is how Ollie felt about heading over for pictures and he wasn’t alone.  The nap deprivation had turned all the littlest ones into crying blobs.  I don’t know how Ashley did it, but she managed to take beautiful pictures of each of the families and one gigantic group shot.  It took her over two hours and I never saw her lose her temper once and she’s pregnant on top it!  Goodness.  She might just be an angel.  She showed us a peek at the pictures and they are amazing.  I’m so excited to get copies.

After pictures we turned the kids loose in the park.  They continued their meltdowns but at least we didn’t have to worry about them keeping their picture clothes clean anymore.  We then had a couple hours of free time to decompress.  Ben got us slurpees and then drove around trying to get Ollie to fall asleep, but Ollie wouldn’t give in.

We met back up at Grandma and Grandpa’s house to feed the kids dinner and then something glorious happened.  Grandma hired babysitters (a lot of babysitters) and then we left all the children and went out for an adult dinner.  It was fabulous.  The adults were laughing and talking and there wasn’t any crying children.  Grandpa gave each family a book he had been working on for several years that told the story of his life through music and included his favorite pieces and the stories behind them.  It is such a treasure and I can’t believe the amount of time and love that went into putting it together.  I want to put together all the music he mentions in it and play them for the kids so that they can become familiar with them too.

Saturday was our last official day of the reunion.  We all wore the shirts I screen-printed to a Mariner’s game.  I was so proud of those shirts because I learned a new skill in making them.  In hindsight, I probably should have only made them for the kids, because I don’t think Adults are that into being matchy matchy.

The weather was beautiful and the game was great because the Mariners won.  :)  Ben and I left a little early so that we could get dinner ready for everyone after the game.  Just as I was putting food on the table, Henry threw up all over the kitchen floor.  The stomach flu had been quietly creeping through the reunion and Saturday proved to be the day that it all hit the fan and people started dropping like flies.  But I didn’t know that yet.  I cleaned Henry up and quarantined him in my bedroom.

Poor Henry had to watch our epic marshmallow fight from my bedroom window.  Grandpa had made marshmallow guns for everyone and quite a battle followed.  I think Grandpa had visions of an organized sporting event, but once the adults got hold of the guns all chaos ensued.  It was so much fun.  I think I used my entire bag of marshmallows trying to get Ben back for shooting me in the eye.

After the marshmallows were picked up, we surprised Grandpa with a retirement party.  He retired this year from teaching music at the high school after a very long career.  Joy put together a touching tribute and Ashley made a slideshow and book that included an entry from each of the 8 kids.  I haven’t had a chance to read every entry, but I read Ben’s when he wrote it and it made me sob.  It was so tender and full of love.  That Grandpa Johnson is a very good man and he has touched a lot of lives.

At this point, things started to fall apart.  Ashley made a slideshow of all the pictures she had taken over the course of the reunion, but while we were getting ready to start, Wesley threw up all over himself, LeGrand and the carpet.  We got them cleaned up and started the slideshow, but everyone was feeling nervous by that point.  As soon as it was over, Molly ran upstairs and threw up.  I had made a bunch of pies for dessert (not from scratch, I’m not crazy) but everyone pretty much ran for the doors.  By the following day, I think half of the 45 people ended up getting hit by the flu and as of today (Tuesday) the count is still rising.

On Sunday we had to forgo church because both Ollie and Adelaide came down sick.  I pretty much walked around in a haze all day, cleaning up barf as I went.  I feel so bad because Sandy and Perry, and Lance and Mandi all had to pack up and go without much help from me.  They were just amazing house guests and I feel so grateful for all the work they put in.  Sandy cleaned my kitchen more times than I can count and her children helped me clean and sweep.  Mandi cleaned the schoolroom Saturday night after it looked like a bomb went off and then cleaned out the whole apartment before she left.  It brings tears to my eyes when I think about all they did for me.

I am so grateful for this family I married into.  I wouldn’t wish for any other family in the world.  It is filled with so much love and kindness and so many good people.  I love each and every one of them and I am so grateful for these reunions that bring us all together and strengthen those family bonds.  Sure it gets tough, to plan activities for such a large group, especially with so many young children, but my kids know and love their cousins, their aunts and their uncles, all because of these reunions.

Birthday Celebrations


We celebrated Molly’s birthday today (2 days early) with something that she loves: shopping.  She and I took a nearly 6 hour venture to the mall so she could spend her birthday and back-to-school clothes shopping money.  I haven’t taken a shopping trip like that in a very long time and it was so much fun.  Molly is growing into such a good young woman and I have so much fun spending time with her.

For all that Molly enjoys shopping, she does not enjoy having her picture taken.  Can you tell?  She is such a beautiful girl, even when she is scowling.

After shopping, I picked up Molly’s dinner request (a salad from Wendy’s) and then she got ready for soccer practice.  When she got home we lit the candles on her pink lemonade confetti cake.  I realized after the fact that it could also be a Seahawks cake.

I hope all of Molly’s birthday wishes come true.  I can’t believe that she is turning twelve!  On Sunday, she gave her last talk in Primary and it made both Ben and I tear up and we weren’t the only ones.  She graduates to Young Women’s (our church youth group for girls age 12-18) this week and she is so excited.  The Young Women already welcomed her in with a swimming/ice cream party at the lake.  They really are a great group of girls.

Molly is such a good girl and such an important part of our family.  I really feel lost when she’s not home.  She worked so hard at school this last year (all on her own accord) and I know she will do great at Junior High.  She joined a new select soccer team and has been working her tush off.  Her conditioning and training at practices is no  joke.  Her first tournament is coming up and she is so excited.

Molly is sensitive, kind and loving.  I catch her doing little thoughtful acts of kindness all the time, always without being asked and always without wanting recognition for them.  She is still a voracious reader and reads all kinds of books.  I love that if she finds something she thinks I’ll like, she passes it along to me to read next.  Molly is also still a lover of animals.  She loves anything and everything with fur.  Toby and little Pixie are in good hands.

I love that Molly thinks through decisions really well and tries to always follow the rules.   She is responsible, dependable, a great big sister, and a loyal friend.  I am so lucky to have her as a daughter and as a friend.

Molly we love you!

Plums


This has been a great year for our plum trees.  I’ve never seen a tree this overloaded with fruit.

The branches are so heavy that several of them have split right in half.  I’m not sure if we’ll have to chop all the broken branches off at the end of the season.  It seems to me like the split branches would be a magnet for disease.  I guess I need a book on fruit trees.

The plums are small and sweet.  We picked a whole box full and we barely made a dent in the tree.  The kids have been eating them, but I’m not sure what to do with the rest.  I feel awful wasting any of the fruit, but we also have a family reunion coming up in two days and we are hosting so it’s not like I have a lot of time to be canning jam.  I tried to make dried plums in the oven last night, but it didn’t go so well.

I was supposed to turn the oven on for a few hours and then shut it off and let the plums sit in the warm oven overnight.  Instead I forgot about them and never turned the oven off so they burned to a complete crisp.  I woke up to the beeping of the oven shutting itself off because it had been on too long.  I’m lucky it was such a low temperature that it didn’t start a fire.

I decided to skip the oven drying and use the food dehydrator for the next batch.  It takes longer, but it’s also safer considering my forgetfulness.

Meet Pixie


This is Pixie.  She is a Winter White Dwarf hamster.  Molly’s 12th birthday falls in the middle of our family reunion and so we are celebrating early.  Last night we took our family birthday outing to the pet store so Molly could pick out her new friend.  It was a decision that we didn’t make lightly and that took a lot of time to think over.  Molly has been asking for a hamster for at least the last year and she stepped up the intensity of her pleas recently.

Molly has worked hard and proven herself responsible enough to handle the care of a hamster.  Grandma and Grandpa Johnson gave Molly the cage and necessary hamster accessories for her birthday which was such a blessing and Molly was so appreciative.  Little Pixie has settled in nicely.

All of the kids are completely infatuated with Pixie and Molly patiently gives each of them their turn saying hello/goodnight/good afternoon to little Pixie.  I never thought I’d allow a pet rodent in my house, but I’ll admit she is rather sweet.

 

Scout Camp


At the opening ceremony for Cub Scout day camp, William turned to me and said, “It’s like they made this camp just for me.”  What followed was a fantastic 3 days filled with more fun than William could have hoped for.  I helped out on the last day and was able to tag along and snap a few pictures of camp life.  The seven large groups of boys moved through seven different activity stations each day, including BB gun shooting, archery, wood working, experience, games, music/den life and cooking.

We don’t own any kind of guns (mostly light sabers around here) so it took William a couple of days to get a hang of the BB guns, but by the end he was able to hit the target with many of his shots.  I think I can see a BB gun in our future.

Archery turned out to be one of his favorites, though he said he wished the instructor used a softer voice.  The instructor was very nice, he was just making sure that boys armed with weapons didn’t cause any mortal wounds.

During the first two days, William worked on making a pinball machine at the wood working station.  He put a lot of effort into machine and ended up making a fun game that he could be very proud of.  On the day I came to camp, they were working on stamping leather with tools to make medallions and learning about different types of carpentry tools.  It was right up William’s alley.

At the experience station they build rain makers by pounding nails into cardboard tubes that they then filled with dry macaroni and capped with foil.  The previous day they learned about making knots.

At the game station they played all sorts of games involving water to try and cool the boys off a little bit.  It was incredibly hot all week at camp and they staff did their best to provide shade and lots of water to keep the boys cool.

I was surprised at how much the boys calmed down for music time.  Music has a wonderful way of influencing people.  Most of the boys happily sang along to all the corny songs and those that didn’t sat quietly and listened.  William was a non-singer and when I asked him why, he told me that Addy and Henry had ruined singing for him by singing, “Let it Go” from Frozen too many times.

At the cooking station the boys cooked over fires.  Over the course of camp, they made smores, popcorn, quesadillas, and camper cones.

At the end of the last day, the boys were all given water cannons and turned loose into the field for a gigantic water fight.  It was incredible and I watched the spectacle from the safety of the registration tent.

William had so much fun and was happy with all the things he got to make and bring home.  I was so happy that I was able to be there with him.  He is a great kid and his enthusiasm for doing things is one of my favorite things about him.  I’m so grateful that Grandma and Grandpa Johnson were able to watch the kids so that I could go.  By the end of camp, after all the chanting, yelling, singing, air horn blowing, excessive heat, and endless head counting, I had nothing left and felt like a walking zombie.  Some how I made dinner before we headed back to camp with the whole family to watch the closing camp ceremony.  All the boys performed little skits that they had worked on in camp during the week.  It was really fun.  We snuck out a few minutes early (after the skits were done) and hit the drive-through for ice cream on our way home.  It was a perfect end to a great camp week.