Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You.
Psalm 63:3

Friday, January 30, 2009

Dear Lord, help me...

The day began with a plumbing malfunction in our hotel room: clogged toilet - we're not pointing any fingers here. I spent about 30 minutes of my day dealing with that. No school, just exploring new books found at 1/2 Price Books, yesterday. Fairly uneventful. Then I almost burned the hotel down.....

We started to get things together to head for the park = 70 degrees today, thank  you very much. I called Sweet Man to get his lunch order and settle on a time to meet. All good. Then I made 2 fatal mistakes. I put something in the microwave to cook and I left the room. The kids were safe in the car when I walked up to our 2nd floor room and heard a beeping. I got closer to the room and realized the beeping was inside. Aaaack - smoke, not so thick I couldn't see, but smoke had set off the smoke alarm. I went to the microwave - sure enough I had scorched 3 potatoes - I saw embers. The display didn't work, so I think I ruined the microwave. I threw the dish in the sink and doused it, then tried to wave a blanket to get the alarm to stop wailing. Bathroom fan on...crazy hotel windows propped open with Matchbox tracks. Still wailing...good alarm. Satisfied that the potatoes would not combust again, I threw them into a trash bag and tied it up to throw in the dumpster. Got kids out of the car and went to the front desk in tears. Very gracious people here in Houston. The manager met us back at the room and they got some big honkin' blowers a'blowin. They wanted to make sure the kids were safe so they let us sit in a bigger room (yeah, 2 separate bedrooms - the point was not lost on me even in my crisis, but I digress) down the hall but lunch was in the car. So we shuffled back to the car and I called Kevin to cry some more and explain that we would be late. I was so upset and embarrassed that I had caused all this trouble. I worried that other guests would be bothered by the smell. And the other guests are all State Farm employees - Sweet Man's co-workers. The manager has already been to our room 3 other times to look at our faulty fridge gasket and to fix a cupboard door. We have become "those people in Room #210." Anyway, the assistant manager encouraged me to keep my lunch plans - they would take care of the smoke - just check back with the desk before we head to the room.

So we went to the park; a lovely one we discovered yesterday. Sweet Man came and talked me off the "proverbial ledge" of "I don't want to go back there. I'm so embarrassed. It's one thing to burn something in my own house (not going to pretend it hasn't happened,) but here all these others are affected." He was perfect, of course. Hugging me and softly chuckling. There was a moment that it occurred to us that we might be moved to a bigger room - yes, please - that's worth the cost of a microwave, right? 

Oh well, we're back and the smoke has cleared and they even sprayed some lovely smelling scent in here. My senses may be acclimated, but I can't really even smell it now. When I checked in at the desk, the night clerk mentioned, "Oh, yea, it usually only takes an hour to clear the room out." "So, it's happened before?" I said. Good. Someone explain to me why that makes it better....

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Before this new traveling adventure, we sold or gave away most of our worldly possessions - do you think it affected my babes? At this very moment, Bean is writing on post-it notes and sticking them to things around the hotel room. 

"This one says, 'No chairs selled away.'"
"This one say, 'This table not selled away.'"

Other phrases uttered by her today:
"Can I give this Shortcake nightgown dress away?" and "Momma, is this pony gonna be selled away?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mirror, mirror

*Some of you may have seen a version of this list in a past MOPS newsletter, but here it is again - with some changes. *
In no way do I want to sound self-righteous in this post. You who know me, know that I struggle with patience and control in my home, case in point last Saturday: when I lost it. The following is a way that God is communicating with me and challenging me to renew my mind. 

I have noticed that God holds my children's behavior up to me like a mirror. They display some unbecoming conduct and I think to myself, "Where did they learn that?" You seasoned parents already know the answer....of course, from me. My kids imitate my coping skills or lack thereof. In my more lucid (not livid) moments, I try to imagine what God says to when I act similarly with Him. God is so good and gentle with me - me, not so much in these moments. When I hear myself saying these things to Bug and Bean, (if I'm paying attention) I can hear the echo of God saying them to me.
10. It makes Me sad when you complain about what I've given to you. 
9. You should tell others when something they do bothers you - gently. And be gracious when you hear it from someone you have bothered.

8. It's not your job to tell Me what other people are doing wrong.
7. You can be mad, but you may not be mean. You can be sad, but don't try to make everyone around you sad.

6. Please obey when I call you. If I have to call you again, I will make it harder to ignore Me and there will be an unpleasant consequence.

5. When you know you've made a bad choice, come to Me; let's talk about it.
4. You made a mistake, but you'll get another chance to do better.

3. If you need help, just call Me. Lift your arms and I'll pick you up.

2. You are precious to Me.

 1. I love you always, no matter what.

Now I just need to learn how to respond patiently, gently, and consistently. Any ideas?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Attitude adjustment

Thank you for indulging me my biweekly whine session. Why doesn't someone cyber-slap me? As you wise people probably anticipated, it took some whispers from God and a pre-dawn conversation with Sweet Man to calm me. I think I have caught up with Him and him and can embrace this new chapter of life on the road.

Some of you know that most of 2008 I was praying for a way to engage in my life and not be distracted by cooking, cleaning, organizing, computer, TV, crafting, plain old zoning out, etc. I felt so often like I was missing the chances of each moment with Bug and Bean and Sweet Man because I had to/chose to concentrate on other things. Well, hello, God has answered that prayer - I recognized that when Sweet Man accepted this position, but periodically forget/ignore it. Here I am with limited household responsibilities, no social obligations, few belongings for which to care, and just my family close to me (I mean, within 160 sq. feet close... :). We are safe, dry, warm, healthy. What was I whining about? God is asking me to literally cut the dross loose so that I can see what is really important and participate fully in these moments. 

It may be no surprise to you that God is here, in Texas. I don't know why that keeps surprising me. But I knew God was here this morning in our suite, whispering to me before I was fully awake and reminding me that He gives me what I need, always. Sometime what I need is a challenge or an attitude adjustment. I also ask Him not to give me anything He doesn't want me to have. I can't close the my teensy drawers in this place - apparently He doesn't want me to have 13 T-shirts and 9 pairs of socks - and I can/will get on board with that.

We tried another church this morning - a Vineyard - very small, casual - with not one, but two opportunities to fill up my coffee cup during the service. Pretty good music, very touching and Jesus-filled message by one of the church members, kids had fun - superficially, their members were not ethnically diverse but I saw a one with a walker, several with dread locks and a couple with Gucci handbags - interesting. 

After church, we drove to Galveston Island to see where Hurricane Ike did most of its damage. It's 4 months later and there are still two-thirds of the businesses closed and boarded up. Lots of shingles, corrugated aluminum, and trash was strewn everywhere. It must be an interesting place even without storm damage. There are historical mansions on one side of the street and pawn shops across. We followed the interstate to the Beach Road, saw the Gulf and stopped for lunch. We plan to go back on a sunny day and spend more time exploring. Sweet Man had already scoped out a dollar movie theater showing Madagascar 2 back in Pasadena, so we drove back to the theater. Now Bug and Bean are napping. We're gonna be fine here. Thanks for your prayers and patience.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Hi, friends,

I'm asking for a little prayer. We moved into our new place - an extended stay Marriott. It's very nice and there will be extra perks like free breakfast and frequent housekeeping. But it is eensy, teensy, tiny, small. It is a fourth of the size of the apartment we just left, which was half the size of our house on Neal. Do the math. I need to purge even more if we are going to function here. And I won't relax until I find a place for everything. I can't see how we are going to do school, cook, eat, be, etc. So either I need to figure out how to do with less or how to change my expectations. Sweet Man has a great outlook as usual and I'm sure I'll catch up with him eventually. But I feel overwhelmed and anxious. I'm ready to explore the area, but feel like we won't be able to just chill out here, like we were able to at the last place - wow, we had it good the first time out of the gate. But we are together and Sweet Man's schedule will be a little lighter in this office. We will be here for 3 weeks, until the kids and I come home and then I meet him in Las Vegas for a week. Okay, wah, wah, wah - my life's so rough, and I did sign up for this, wah, but please pray for my attitude. 

And if anyone has recipes for easy (ie: just a few ingredients,) healthy, kid-friendly skillet or crock pot meals - pass them on, baby. Not too much to ask, right? Post here or email me.

Love to all.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Packing up


I've been packing our trunks to move across town to Pasadena, TX. I thought it might be fun for the kids to make suitcases and pack the things they wanted - with a few suggestions from me. So, they dictated what they wanted and I attempted to draw - hah. Let's make it an I Spy - can you find birthday cakes? toothbrushes? allowance wallets? phone? princess shoe and story? underwears - one pair drawn by Bug himself? and Sammycito, our mechanical hamster, who creeps me out daily?

Oh, and I threw in a pic from the castle yesterday. I'm not good at formatting pictures - sorry.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


So, ya know that post about a typical morning....not happening...yesterday or today....or many days last week come to think of it. Yesterday I couldn't get momentum or motivation to do much other than sit on the couch and watch the inauguration. We did manage a short outing. 

And today we play....we're going north to a mall that has a Playcastle and then we'll meet Sweet Man for lunch. Hope you're happy and healthy wherever you may be.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On motherhood

I feel like I may be catching something and have been trying to head it off at the pass, 'cuz who has time to be sick? I mixed up a little immunity drink,took a gulp, and put it on the coffee table. About 20 minutes later, I saw the cherry red mustaches on my babes. We'll either all be sick or all just fine, I guess.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Birthdays, Brazos, and Goodbyes

We had to say "goodbye for now" to Mimi today.  She is flying back to Ohio as I write. She arrived Wednesday night and stayed four days. Special outings were on the agenda each day and we kept busy - she was gracious enough to keep up, help corral kids, and even give Sweet Man and me an evening out. 

(He gets extra days off after a certain number on and these coincided with Mimi's visit.)

That first night, we all indulged in a dinner out, but with two kids who had been in the car most of the afternoon, we should have gone with a different plan. Oh well.

Thursday was Bean's 3rd birthday. It started with finding her birthday balloons as she woke up, then out to the table to find her birthday crown flanked by a banner on the wall. Mimi had presents at the ready - sweet bracelet and necklace with cupcake charms. Nothing like jewelry before breakfast. The celebration subsided as we continued a "normal" day - although this was the first day with Daddy where we didn't plan to hustle off to church. We packed up a lunch and walked to the playground. Bean had to wear her crown and her "new" pink cowgirl boots (Goodwill score!) 

After the playground, the girls headed to the mall for Bean's big gift - Build a Bear - I had no idea what we were getting into. She really wanted a Hannah Montana bear she had spotted in the window a week ago, even though her exposure to the teen phenom has been limited. She wanted "girl with the 2 'kitars' (guitars) and the 2 'der-esses' (dresses.)" As we walked down the wall to 

choose the doll "skin," Bean would point and tell us which she wanted and when we picked up the unstuffed animal, she didn't approve. She didn't quite understand that the stuffing was the next step. We whittled down the armsful of accessories she gathered and decided on a Hello Kitty with a tasteful sundress, matching shoes, and one Hannah Montana "kitar." After a dinner of quesadillas and cilantro rice  (and wine for Mimi and me,) we celebrated with more presents (a pink digital camera and Cinderella Polly Pocket thingy.) With cake and ice cream, we capped off a good birthday that left Bean very self-absorbed and Bug a bit forlorn that he has to wait 3 more weeks for his day.

Friday, we went to the Children's Museum of Houston. Our Works membership was good for all of us - another score! It was a very pleasant visit - we saw everything we wanted and left before exhaustion took hold - there was only a bit of crumpling and crying, mostly about who had the pink digital camera. It was sunny, but chilly, especially in the outdoor water area. Home for naps.  

Saturday was a trip back to Brazos Bend State Park - this time with Mimi and Sweet Man. We hiked a mile around a lake - saw a few gators, egrets, and turtles, then ate a picnic lunch next to the playground. It was chilly with the wind. Home for naps. Later, we ventured out for dinner at Nick's Italian Restaurant in Richmond - yum! And no catastrophes!

Today we took Mimi to River Pointe Church
- the church we've attended the last three weeks. We all really like it and may try to drive back to attend even after we move to the other side of Houston (next Saturday.) Then a tour of our favorite parks in Sugar Land (72 degrees!!!,) lunch at Panera, naps ( ; ) and off to the airport.  It did cross my mind to sneak Bean's Hannah Montana "kitar" into Mimi's suitcase - ugh!

Great four day weekend (with adult companions) - and tomorrow life is back to normal, except we'll be packing to move into an extended stay hotel in Pasadena, TX (closer to Galveston.)    

Monday, January 12, 2009

Follow the leader

Around the corner and wrapped behind our apartment complex is a big housing development. The other day I noticed it has a rec center with a pool and a playground. Today, our morning had moved along normally, but we made no plans to head to town. We needed to get out of this apartment after lunch, so taking a walk with the playground as our destination seemed like a great idea. Of course, there was the argument about who would be "line leader" - thank you, Thursday School - but once that was all settled we started. It certainly seemed closer when we were driving, but we arrived after about 20 minutes of racing, stopping, inspecting various sidewalk litter, getting mad at whoever had passed up the appointed line leader, crumpling and crying, etc. We talked about the creepy trees covered with Spanish moss - Bug says that if you eat it, you will be able to speak Spanish. I told him he will be greatly disappointed by Spanish moss.

We had the place to ourselves on this blue sky day. The kids played for about 10 minutes on their own as I stretched out on a bench and tried to soak up some sun. Soon they were calling for me. Okay, I thought, I know we've played "follow the leader" a few times in different settings - we should try that. However, the Johnson children were not on board with Momma Johnson. I asked Bug to be the leader, but some things he did, Bean didn't want to do on her own. I'd help her through the obstacle but then she wanted me to carry her the rest of the way. Nope - defeats the purpose of running them ragged. Bug would race off and be upset that we hadn't caught up. I appointed myself line leader - and had some good moves, I must say - zigzagging through the shrubbery, walking along the retaining wall and climbing over picnic tables. Good moves, but I looked back and Bean had wandered over to the swings and Bug was distracted by a drinking fountain - whhhaaaaatttt? "You're not following the leader? Come on!" I began to wonder - "Don't they know they are supposed to follow me? Aren't
I fun with my moves? Who's dropped the ball here?"
....and here's where I take the metaphorical liberties to attempt to justify this blog account   :p : "Am I a leader worth following? Don't they appreciate where I'm going and that I'm taking them with me (codependency, anyone?) Have I taught them the 'right way' to follow?" Hmmmm....we all need to work on following, I'd say.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Disclaimer: The following post is not witty nor cohesive; rather it's a look at this day with challenges and victories. And please do not be alarmed - the changes of the last 17 days are catching up with me, but all in all we are doing very well -to God be the glory. Just pray, as we do for you.

1. Hurried morning as we try to get to MOPS - lose my temper as we got ready to get out the door - that's when it always creeps up on me and before I know it we alternately frazzled/crying and far from fresh and sweet - in the midst of it, I say to Bean, "This is the one thing I've wanted to do all week and you're going to make me late for it." Poor momma - wah! Stellar moment....

2. MOPS meeting - big meeting; great speaker on Kids and Money, some sweet ladies - grow tired explaining my life situation (wah-wah), so I kind of stopped talking, but made some good connections

3. Change lunch plans - Sweet Man was busy for lunch, but his plans changed and he takes us to Subway! Veggie sub with pepper jack - yum!

4. Grocery shopping - I'll try to spend less than $100 today - I've fallen into a rhythm of shopping every 3 or 4 days. We think we might be moving to the other side of Houston soon, so I want to live like Old Mother Hubbard. Kids help with coupons - can't find tortillas - 42% Hispanic/Latino population here...where. are. the. tortillas? I give up - we're all sweating and tired. I did find 1/2 fat girl scout cookie ice cream - yes, please.

5. No park/playground today. We try to spend a couple hours each day doing outside fun stuff. But we (I) need nap.

6. Give up finding an open and accessible recycling center in a 15 mile radius - throw out the bags I've carried for a week in the back of the van.   :(  Apparently, it's not one of Houston's priorities.
7. Good naps.

8. As productive as our mornings usually are, once we get home from lunch things fall apart a little. Inevitably, the TV is comes on.  

9. Take frozen pizza out of the freezer. Fail to read the package (normal) so I don't know that I should not place it directly on the rack, but leave it in the little tray dealio. Minutes later, I hear hissing - open oven and find that the middle of the pizza is now on the bottom of the oven. Scrape what I can onto box. Discover that this oven does not have a self-clean feature (wah.) Call Kevin and ask him to bring home a pizza. At least I bought it with a coupon.

Are you seeing a theme? all my yay! moments have to do with food - which brings up the perennial problem - my weight. I haven't found a way to consistently exercise -I kick the soccer ball with the kids, or walk a bit at lunchtime - 2 or 3 times a week I get to the complex's  exercise room - but with indulging over Christmas and eating out as much as we are - ugh! I feel gross. I should go to the exercise room, now.....

10. Watch "Wall-E" with the snuggly family - cute movie. 

11. Find our house's listing on the web. Good picture - now a little homesick; email a few friends, now more homesick (wah.) (Mimi is coming next week - bringing a little bit of home with her.)

12. Off to bed - after this. No exercise, no ice cream.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It's a good morning, so far

Ideally, our mornings look like this:

1. Snuggle with my babes while watching Martha Speaks on PBS (Martha Peaks and Peaks and Peaks in Bean-ese)

2. Roust myself to go mash the "brew" button on the coffee maker - decaf, but I still have to have it

3. Start breakfast and feed rascals - fight the urge to open laptop - first things first

4. Take coffee and self into bathroom for Hot!!! longish shower - longish, partly because I am indulgent and partly because I add extra minutes for each time I am interrupted with a shriek, a child bursting in, or a toilet flush

5. Dress in whatever and encourage kids to do the same

6. Couch time - ideally 9ish - read Bible and assorted other books - Bug wants to read the whole Harcourt Phonics book (10 controlled reading stories) and Bean wants to hear the Max Lucado Collection (Christmas gift from Aunt Bethy) with the princess story

7. Free time - I get on laptop: check weather, email, and Facebook - maybe I clean up kitchen or fold laundry; kids play

8. Table time - Bug does letters, Bean draws - we do math under the guise of eating "ants on a log" - more laptop time for me

Incidentally - my "tennis elbow" has been killing me. What a misnomer, because the only tennis I've been playing is of the Wii variety and Bug beats me soundly. Sweet Man wisely suggested that my tennis elbow has flared because of all the Word Twist I play on this blasted computer - but I can't resist.

9. Whatever.....

10. Make lunch and gather to meet Sweet Man for lunch
What's missing? My Bible time - yes, my struggle with daily discipline continues here 

Today is going pretty much as planned...any minute now something will blow it to bits, I'm sure.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

God's Half Acre

Whew - we have had a day! Faced with a whole day without Sweet Man and no chance to go outside, I had an agenda of  pudding painting and a movie planned in my head. And I was worried about "Josephine Jumping Bean" thudding our way right out of this apartment - we are on the 3rd floor and all my scolding does not keep her feet on the ground. It was supposed to storm all day, but when it was 10:30 and there was not a cloud in the sky, I decided to chance it. 

My friend (see prior post) and I set out to explore - first destination - the Farmer's Market in Katy - about 30 minutes away. It takes me by surprise that I am even motivated to venture into the unknown surroundings with my kids. If I were here without kids, it might be different. When I lived North Carolina, I was fairly timid - so much so that I only made a few friends in the year that I lived there. But with these young ones, I don't want them to sit in a suburban apartment day after day. We need to get out and run and explore and spare our poor downstairs neighbor trying to enjoy a Saturday at home.

So, the Farmer's Market was small - and sort of posh, not like most Farmer's Markets I've seen. But it was in the plaza of an affluent outdoor shopping center - think Easton, but smaller. We found some bargains - oranges grown mere miles from our apartment and fresh eggs. We strolled through a few stores and spent a little money in Eddie Bauer, boring and sensible. I even bought the kids ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery - ugh - passing on the bad habits - but I am happy to report that I didn't eat any.

I wanted to find a park for them to use their new scooters and wasn't sure where the closest one was so I headed toward home. My friend had told me about Brazos Bend State Park (there is a Rio de los Brazos de Dios = River of the Arms of God.) Yay - I started seeing signs for it!!! And I followed them!!! And 20 min. later we pulled in to this lovely place. Lots of hiking, horseback riding, fishing, camping to be had - and a playground. Perfect!!!

My Newest Friend

Well, maybe not a friend, but at least an acquaintance. I think she is a woman, although, I've never seen my friend in bodily form. She has a pleasant enough voice as she speaks through my phone and gets me to my destinations. I have blind faith in her as I obey her commands, which surprises me. I have quite a rebellious spark - not in an overt way, but in a more subtle, seething,"don't tell me what to do" kinda way. But I'm fairly dependent on her to navigate my new surroundings, and so far, so good - she has directed me to the nearest YMCA, several Cracker Barrels (did you know they let you borrow audiobooks?,) and a fine church to attend this morning. And most essentially, she brought me safely to my love.

Conversations in the Car

We’re in the car a lot these days . And we have some memorable conversations. Today, Bean asked about birthdays which caused me to sigh because I anticipated some of the following conversation. God’s funny – He timed it all just right – Christmas/Jesus’ birthday, then 3 weeks later, Bean’s day, then 3 weeks later, Bug’s birthday. Those last three weeks become a bit unbearable with all the focus on presents and parties. Bug gets up each morning alert and looking for the sure sign that it is someone’s birthday – balloons. And he describes ad nauseum which cake and balloons he expects – ugh. Is God teaching Bug or me to be patient?

So the consummate big brother explains it to Bean often this time of year. “Now first (insert tongue cluck)’s Jesus’ birthday and then it’s your birthday and then….it’s my birthday.”

Well, she asked one god to “do” her birthday and a different god to "do" his birthday. And an explanation of the Trinity ensued – there is one God. He is so big and so great that we can call Him many different names. But yes, Jesus is Lord and he was the God who was a baby and grew up and died on the cross and now He’s everywhere, in believers’ hearts, and in heaven. Clear, right? To any preschool or fully-developed mind? To that she insisted, “God wants Ariel balloons for my birthday.”

My Little Solar System

I've heard the analogy that children are like satellites of parents - orbiting in their activity. My little satellite, Jellybean has been stretching the ellipse of her orbit. She runs fast and far away from me. And my heart pounds in the moment I have to decide whether to chase after her or stay where she last saw me, hoping she curves back to us.

Isn't it a principle that the more mass an object in space has, the stronger its gravitational pull (am I making that up?) It stands to reason then that the closer Sweet Man and I are (ahem...we are bigger together) the stronger the pull of our gravity. Her orbit and her brother's will continue to widen and accelerate, won't they? If we can continue to work on being unified (the really tricky, sticky part - ugh), then they will always arc back around to us. I pray.


The anonymity of not being known in the fourth largest U.S. city must give me courage when it comes to changing my appearance. My sweet man chuckled at lunchtime when I said I had an appointment to have my hair cut. He knows my history of proclaiming "I'm goin' short, this time" and then chickening out. When my behind is in that chair with gleaming scissors poised and mocking mirror, my hands can't seem to go above my shoulders as I demonstrate my desired length. But today with printed-out picture in hand, I proclaimed, "I want this haircut." Shelly seemed to know my history and asked me a few insightful questions and started cutting before I could change my mind. All of this was made a little more urgent because I had my rascals in tow. I made my appointment at this salon assuming it was "family friendly" - it wasn't "family hostile," but it was awkward to say the least. My hair was washed in the opposite corner of the building of the seating area where Bug and Bean were set up with books, paper, and pencils - oh, and stale candy canes - I thought I had packed Bug's gameboy, but found out in the salon that it was some other random black drawstring bag with electronic paraphenalia. I realized halfway through the appointment that my hands were gripping the vinyl armrests ready to leap up at the first Bean shriek. Shelly noticed and encouraged me to relax - that the kids were fine and not bothering anyone. One turbanned woman came over to my chair and complimented me on the kids' behavior - thank you...but get me out of here!
Anyway, here is the result. I like it. Sweet Man said, "I thought you were going short-short!" Baby steps, man.