Saturday, September 19, 2009

Palm Springs

The only thing better than the pool and the sun was the Pina-Coladas and Strawberry Daiquiris!!!

For Spring Break this year we headed off to venture in the wild, wild west. Ok, it was just Palm Springs (but with all the old people with eastern accents, openly gay people walking down the streets holding hands, and Europeans who insisted on stripping down and changing in front of you at the pool- it felt a bit WILD!!) Rodney had a convention and so we all piled in the car and headed out with him. While he worked we enjoyed many hours at the beautiful pool. The flowers everywhere were gorgeous, and the weather was WONDERFUL. One night Rodney said "The weather is wonderful here, we should move here". I cracked up and said "You would die living among all of the gays here". He almost died because we were in a restaurant surrounded by them. I could have cared less. They want to make out in public, I can voice my disgust in public. We enjoyed doing a little shopping, looking at art galleries, and even seeing Michael Maloney from Extreme Makeover Home Edition. To bad the food in Palm Springs is HORRIBLE (I am not kidding, every place we ate was bland, gross, and disgusting). You would think you could find ONE restaurant with 1/2 way decent food. I can see why people in California are so skinny- I would never want to eat either!!!!! We have always enjoyed our get aways to Palm Springs, and this time was no exception- but I think I will keep my home in Texas surrounded by good food, unsnooty people, and more heterosexuals per-capita!!

Agua Caliente

While in Palm Springs we decided to take a hike on the Agua Caliente Reservation. It was a hot day, but we were ready to stretch our legs & enjoy some beautiful views.

The hike was a beautiful 2 mile hike with a 350 foot incline to the top. We enjoyed seeing all kinds of neat rocks, landscape, and even ancient hieroglyphs.

The Tahquitz Falls were beautiful. The cold water was very refreshing after the hot rocky hike. Declan enjoyed trying to climb the large rock in front of the fall. I must admit that Rodney looked pretty dang hot, too!

It was a very enjoyable day, and the views were well worth the hike in the heat!

(PS- I really love the scrapblog of these pics- check it out!!)

Back again!

After some time off to get the whole school thing down- I'M BACK!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Greatest Gift

One of the greatest gifts I have ever received has been from my Papa and Nanny. This past Christmas we found out about a family in need. My extended family really rallied around us as we tried to lift some burdens and the hearts of 3 children. The experience was incredible, and it blessed the lives of my family so much. Then to make matters even better, my sweet Nanny and Papa sent us some more money in order to help the kids out with more things over the next couple months. It was a wonderful experience to be able to find needs every month, and help them through them. Every month we picked a theme and focused our efforts on that. I would then write the kids an inspirational note, with the theme included, and all of the gifts would match that theme. For example, in January our theme was "A new year brings a new start". We were able to stock them up on new personal hygiene items as well as new school supplies. We had so much fun with this project, and I think that in the end we gained way more than they ever could have. I am so appreciative of my sweet grandparents who have such tender hearts. They have truly given my family a gift that will last a lifetime!

Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo

Ever since we moved to Dallas we have said that we needed to go to the big rodeo in Fort Worth. Every year when we hear on the news that it is over Rodney always says "Another year has gone by without us going. I swear we never do anything to take advantage of the city." Well this year I decided to do something about it so I did not have to hear about how lame we were- so I bought tickets. We were very excited when Myra and Danny decided drive all the way down and join us. We started off leaving late (who us? -no way) so I was a bit irritated with Rodney. However, when we arrived we had a nice dinner (which chilled me out) and a pleasant stroll around the Fort Worth Stockyards. When it was time for the rodeo to start we made our way to the gate and handed them our tickets. Apparently I did not research everything as well as I thought because the Rodeo at the Stockyards was some rinky-dink rodeo, and we were at the wrong place. Now it was Rodney's turn to be irritated with me. We quickly loaded up in the car and drove across town to catch it at a huge venue. Unfortunately, because of our mix-up, we were not able to see the livestock. We did not miss too much of the Rodeo though- which is the best part anyway. I have not quite figured out why, but our family LOVES the rodeo. We have taken the kids ever since they were young to various rodeos. Rodney and I have watched the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas. We have joined the PBR. We even watch them on TV. I think we love the goofy comedy, the patriotism that is always brought to them, and the good ol' boy feeling you get when you are at them- plus the bull riding. We saw some great calf and goat roping, some funny wagon races, and some crazy bull riding. It was a lot of fun, but next time we will definitely give ourselves time to walk through the HUGE stock show (and maybe even hit the carnival)!!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Valentine's Day

This year was not only Cambria's last year to have an official class Valentine's Party, but mine and Rodney's also. We have been very fortunate that ever since Rodney has worked from home he has been able to attend most of the kids class parties. The kids always love it when he shows up to the school to be with them on their special days. This year we remorsefully remarked that this was our last year to fill out Valentine's from a class list and eat too many sweets that have been sitting out on a table touched by countless fingers. (I personally try to never eat anything that is not individually wrapped- however the occasional rice crispy treat has lured me the other way). This year the room was MASS CHAOS, hot, and full of crazy, sugared up kids. By the time we left the party we were kind of glad that it was the last Valentine's party, although I still think the kids are growing up way to fast.

As yo can see, Rodney has a hard time resisting the lure of the cupcake. Maybe he is willing to come to parties and eat questionable cupcakes because I HATE cupcakes and cakes and refuse to have them in my home except for special occasions. Poor Rodney, but he is a great sport!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cross Country

It has been so fun to watch Declan grow and develop as a runner. When he was little, Rodney and I used to laugh at his cute little clumsy run (although it was not as cute as he got older). His arms would pump across his body, his head would shake from side to side, and he looked like he was tripping over his own feet. If you would have told me that Declan would one day LOVE running and actually be pretty darn good at it, I probably would have thought you were crazy. I would have been wrong. Two years ago Declan decided that he wanted to run cross country in order to stay in shape during the winter. I actually asked him "what cute girl is running". He was a bit offended and said "None. I just want to stay in shape and learn to run". And learn he did. He loved his coach, Coach Tran. Declan would get up early 3 mornings a week and run for a couple hours before school, and then run for a couple hours after school four days a week- CRAZY. He listened to what his coach was teaching him about form, and took it to heart, and developed a beautiful stride. He worked very hard at becoming better and better, and surprised us with his ability to shave seconds off his time EVERY meet. Declan is not someone who was born with a lot of natural athletic ability. He has had to work twice as hard as most people when it come to athletics. Yet he always has- and has become a great athlete. His dedication and hard work has truly impressed me. I am so proud of his determination. We all know that everything he has accomplished he has accomplished through blood, sweat and tears; but he HAS accomplished them. I can not even explain the pride that I feel as I watch his beautiful new stride. It is truly a lesson to me what a GREAT attitude and hard work can accomplish.

Friday, July 31, 2009

My Girls (2)

I just posted the scrapbook pages I made of the girls on the blog (see below) because I think the girls look so pretty in them with the colors. Unfortunately, it is hard to read what they say unless you go to the web-site and do a full page view of them. Instead I thought I would just copy what they say here:

My Beautiful Decota!! You are such a wonderful young woman. You have one of the biggest, most beautiful smiles I have ever seen. When you smile it brightens the world and makes others happy. You are full of spunk and fun. You are constantly surrounded by friends because you are such a wonderful friend. Most importantly, you are as beautiful on the inside as you are on the out. What did I do right to get the privilege of being your mom? I love everything about you my sweet girl!

Cambria- oh how you have grown! You are not the little "tom-boy who knows how to act like a girly-girl " anymore. Instead you are becoming a beautiful young woman who knows how to play tough! It is so much fun to watch your personality grow. I love it when you spray on your perfume as you head out the door to "kick some bootie" at soccer. You are an amazing girl who knows who she is and is completely happy being herself. You have the drive and determination to do anything you want! When I look at you I can't help but smile. You add so much JOY to my life!
I don't know about you, but I truly think I am one lucky mom!!!!!

My Girls

Thursday, July 30, 2009


There is something about tetherball in the 5th grade here in Lake Dallas. It becomes more than a fun game at lunch, it becomes an obsession. Kids line up and wait their lunch break away to be able to have a chance to play tetherball. If you win the game, you continue on until you loose. I remember when Declan used to come home with bruised hands and arms, and the occasional swollen lip from a tetherball game. Then Decota started informing us on the state of the weather in terms of if the tetherball courts would be opened to play on or not. Tetherball just became a part of 5th grade everyday life with them. Yet we had no idea of how much of an obsession it would become for Cambria! As soon as she got out of school we would get the update on how many games she had won or who she had beaten that day. Her arm would often ache at night from playing so intensely. When she was at a friend's house that had a tetherball pole, she wanted to play it the whole time. She loved it so much that her friend Melissa gave her a ball and a rope for Christmas. Since we did not have a pole, and she did not want to wait for her parents to get one and figure out where to put it and how to get it up, she took it outside, climbed a tree, and hung it up in the tree tops. There was a tree in the way so when she would hit it right the other tree would hit it back. She thought it was wonderful because she did not have to have anyone in order to play, she could just play the tree. It did, however, cause a problem when others wanted to play against her, so one day daddy went out and cleared some limbs off another tree and moved it into a better location. The tree became our natural tetherball pole. When Cambria would come home after school her routine consisted of putting up her notebook, grabbing a snack, and heading straight out to the tetherball. She would practice for hours with no one but herself. She always loved it when Declan or Decota decided to go out and play with her. Her all time favorite challenges, however, were when dad would head out and play with her. I always knew when he was out there because I could hear them both laughing from inside the house. I think it became a great tension reliever for Rodney to be out there punching the ball and laughing. I think Cambria just loved to CRUSH her daddy. The teatherball became one of the best and most used gifts that anyone has ever given Cambria. Who would have known that a little yellow ball tied to a rope would become such an important part of her 5th grade year!


OK! I have completed my first scrapblog page- twice (I accidentally deleted it once- oops). Hopefully I will get a bit done here and there, so if you want to check it out got to or click here!!! :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Indoor Soccer

This winter Cambria decided she did not want to take a break from soccer and wanted to play indoor. We forced her to play basketball last winter and, even though she was good at it, she did not want to play it again. So what do you do when a child loves something so much she does not want to take a couple month break- SIGN HER UP!!!! So every week for 8 weeks we took her to Carrollton to play in the American Indoor facility. She played with the Ace's Soccer Club and loved it. Indoor is a whole other world of soccer. It is like soccer/hockey. You play for 20 min, take a 1minute half-time break, and then play 20 minutes more. There are no out of bounds, no off sides, and you don't stop to substitute players. It is VERY fast paced and exciting. Cambria played in a league that was a year older, so a couple of the teams were A LOT bigger (like Declan size bigger). In indoor you play really rough and push your opponents into the walls. The ball also comes very hard and very fast at you. The first time Cambria got hit in the face with the ball I thought she was going to cry (it was a HARD kick straight to the face); however, her face turned red, she got mad, and she played one heck of an aggressive game. It was nerve racking for me, I was sure one of the monstrous girls was going to hurt my little Cambria. Rodney, however, loved watching his feisty little girl ram the bigger girls into the wall. In the end, we got creamed by the 2 biggest teams, but took 3rd place overall. Cambria loved it and decided that she wanted to get on a club team and play year round. Thus one season of indoor soccer opens up a whole new chapter in our lives.......

Playing the catch up game

I am trying to play a bit of the catch up game. In order to do some of it I am going to post things in a not so chronological order. I have started to try a new thing called scrapblog, so as I create my pages I will also post about it here. There is some way to also share my Scrapblog posts- but I am not that advanced yet. Hopefully all this will help with 2 things- catching me up on my posts for my journal and catching up on my scrapbooks!!! Don't hold your breath though, you might pass out!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My not so Primary song moment

So Rodney is back in town after only one night away. Sometimes he gets so wound up on these short trips that it is a bit hard to be around him. He is on all of us like a fly on stink about everything. So after he just went on his 100th rampage of the night, this one because I asked him to take out the trash and when he did he discovered something "wet" in it, we were all feeling a little bit like pulling out our hair. I looked at the kids and you could see it in their faces that they were DONE with the lectures tonight. All of the sudden I started humming "I'm so glad when daddy comes home". Before I knew it I was singing my own little version:

I'm so glad when daddy comes home
Glad as I can be
Clap my hands and shout "OH NO!
Stay away from me!"

Wrap my hands around his thought
Squeeze it tight like this
Slap his cheek and give him what?
A great, big KICK!

I know it is mean, but everyone must have been feeling it because the kids started cracking up. When he walked in he had no idea why we were all smiling and our mood seemed to be a bit lighter, but we did not tell. It just felt good to have one under our belts after he has been such a nag all evening. Tomorrow will be better, and I know I am ornery, but OH WELL! Tonight I think I am pretty dang funny! And the kids think I should be on "Whose line is it Anyway".

I almost killed the dog

Poor puppy! He is one big, fat mutt, and so I decided he needed to start working out with me. I took him to the pond to run with me, and he thought it was great for about 3 min. His pace started to slow after that, but it was not until about 10 min into the run/walk that he started dropping back. I was pulling him by about 15 min, an added bonus of a workout on my right side. At 19 min I looked back at him and his tongue was nearly touching the ground, he was limping, and he looked like he was about to pass out. I decided I could stop for a minute to take him to the pond for a quick drink. He decided to just jump all the way in. I had to let him, or I was going in the stinky pond with him. After about 3 min I decided he was stinky and muddy enough, so I pulled him out and made him finish the last 11 minutes with me. He was not loving it. At one point he almost killed me when he just laid down right in the middle of full stride. The landscape crew that was working on the pond got a kick out of me literally dragging this huge dog behind me. By 30 min he was done, and I was a little afraid he might have a heart attack. I let him lie in the pond a bit more. After I finally pulled him out, walked him home, bathed him, and let him back in the house, it took him about 2 hours to stop panting. He just laid on the floor the whole rest of the day. The next day was a walking day, and I worried about taking him, but I did it any way. He got a little pooped at the end, but handled it a lot better. I really felt bad for the little, big guy- But at least I am in better shape than someone!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Still stinking- but in a better way!

Today is Monday, the day of renewal to me. I do not know why I have these weird rules for my life (like I can only get up at a minute that is divisible by five, thus pushing my eight minute snooze button 5 times before I can get up again) but Mondays are another one of them. I can only start trying a new thing if it is on Monday. Today was my Monday for change. Last week I was very frustrated as I watched my weight go up 2 more pounds, but could not make myself do anything about it until today. And today I did. First off I got up (unfortunately I pushed the snooze button so it was 40 min later than I had hoped) and got the kids off to school. After a bit of weekend house cleaning catch up I started back on my Wii fitness quest. (It kindly reminded me that I had not check in for 12 days). After an hour of Wii training, Wii aerobics, and Wii yoga I decided to make lunch and get ready for the day. I did my usual afternoon things and then picked up the kids from school, made and ate dinner by 5:00, got Rodney out the door with Declan and Cambria for goalie lessons and took Decota to her Ballet and Jazz classes. After everyone was gone I was off to a pre-tryout cheerleading meeting. When I arrived home at 7:00 I was pleasantly surprised that the meeting had taken far less time than I thought it would have. Because it rained today and Cambria's game was canceled for her rec team and her practice was canceled for her select team, Rodney drove in right behind me. We looked at eachother and said "Lets go for a walk". Well earlier today I had gotten on Runner's World and printed off an eight week training schedule for getting back to running again. I was bummed because I knew that I would have to wait a whole 2 weeks to try it because I could not start on Tuesday, and next week I would be at camp with Cambria and would not want to start it then. Little did I know that I would have a whole hour of free time tonight. I hurried upstairs, changed, grabbed my iPOD and some water and we headed to the pond. Thirty minutes of running a minute and walking two- and I feel great. This is the first time I have actually tried to run since my surgery, and I was shocked at how awkward I felt. I could tell a limp in my run and I also felt like my leg was not strong enough to support a big stride. It was a bit awkward, and I have NO endurance, but I did it. Rodney was going to quit at 18 minutes, but I talked him into keeping it up and he also did the whole thirty minutes. It has been a big mental hurdle to get over for me to actually get out there and see how bad my endurance has gotten, but I got over it and did it, and I feel positive that I can get it back as I work to get into shape again. I feel great right now and am very optimistic that I will make sure I schedule in time to work on this 8 week plan every day. So, I do have dried sweat on my back and face, and stinky sticky arm pits, but I stink the good kind of stink!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I totally stink, both at blogging and literally. It is 11:21 am and I still am not showered. I have spent all morning catching up on 2 months or reading blogs. I have felt like I am running at a snails pace in life lately as all of the cheetahs pass me by. I can not figure out why the days continue to get faster. Why is there never enough time? I have always stunk at journal writing. If you go back to my journals of my youth you will only find about 20 entries- and they all say something along the lines of "I hate my mom and dad. They are making me pooper scoop today!" Yep, that pretty much covers my childhood. I seriously rock at journals. I have had so many things on my plate lately, I have just needed to get them done. When I wrap it up for the night at about 11:00, the last thing I have wanted to do is write about my life; instead I have chosen to lose myself in at least 45 min of TV so I can relax before bed. I really need to start getting up at 5:30 to start exercising, but I am having a hard time dragging my butt out of bed at 6:30. Well, now I am feeling a bit more on top of things, thanks to the fact that I finally have my whole calender on my Blackberry. I think it is about to overload some days. I guess right now I should be off to hit the showers, make some lunch, and then work on some business e-mails until the kids get home. Then it is on to helping the kids review for tests, drum line try outs, dance, Cambria's soccer skills night, and Declan's game near Fort Worth. Hopefully we will be home by 9:30 and I can have a bit of extra relaxing time tonight so I can get some ironing done (yuck!). I hope to be able spend a bit more time recording some of the things I want to remember, because life is flying by way to fast. But who knows, unless mom and dad make me pooper scoop I may never get to much written in this journal!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What's Up!

I would really like to post about everything that has been going on lately, but who knows if it will happen. I figured a list of what I have been doing would #1 help me remember if I ever get a chance to blog it #2 help me remember if I never get a chance to blog about it. So here is what has gone on in the Johnson Home lately:

- After Christmas we spent a wonderful break at Rodney's parents and enjoyed hanging out and being lazy (like sitting on our rears all day and watching TV lazy)
-Cambria played indoor soccer and loved it. She became more aggressive and really improved over the season.
-Declan ran cross country and really improved on his times. I am amazed by his dedication to get up at 6:30 and run everyday, and then stay after school and run until 5:30 everyday. I have no clue where he got that drive from.
-Decota has had a rheumatology visit and is looking great.
-Decota has had an ophthalmology visit and has been completely removed off of her steroid eye drops after a year. Only 2 more drops to go! She is very excited about this news!
-Decota felt she might be loosing her hearing. Of course we had her checked and found out that she had a blockage in her ear, which they removed, and she can now hear again.
-Decota has hurt her ankle twice in the last month, the second time pretty bad. We had it x-rayed and found out she had only sprained it, which was a big relief to all of us.
-Cambria and Declan have both started out door soccer again. They have practice constantly, and LOVE it. During indoor we met a man who has classes at the indoor fields who was a professional soccer player in France (he is from Morocco). For some reason he really took to our kids (Declan and Cambria), and has been coming to our fields to work with them on their skills. The things that he is teaching them are amazing (Cambria is up to 31 juggles) and we see a difference in their playing already. Him and Rodney really get along, and the kids love him!
-Decota tried out and made it into the athletics class for next year. Now she HAS to participate in 2 school sports. Her choices, volleyball and cross country.
-We all got an Upper Respiratory Viral Infection (felt like the flu to me) and ran fevers for 5 days, all at the same time. It stunk, but how often do you get the chance to just sit in your house and watch TV for 5 days straight with your kids. Gotta figure out some way to make it seem better.
-All of the kids had talks in church within the last month. Decota 1st in Sacrament, Cambria next in Primary, and Declan last in Sacrament. Next week Declan also has to give a talk in Mutual Opening Exercises on reverence and respect for leaders.
-We got a new roof put on our house, and had it repainted- and insurance paid for it all!
-Decota had her first band concert- and they did a great job.
-All of the kids had to turn in their school schedules for next year (Crazy, it's too early)
-My sweet Nanny and Papa sent us some money to continue helping out our secret family. It has been so fun to be able to do a surprise for them each month. I love seeing them randomly at school with their new supplies and clothes.
-Decota had an orthodontics appointment. She doesn't need 2 stages of braces now, only one, but they will be on for 30-36 months. And the kicker -it will cost almost $6000 dollars. Luckily our orthodontist gave us some discounts because we do not have Otho insurance, so it will knock it down to $5000 (still insane). Thank goodness for flex spending, huh!
-I started my own business (but I already mentioned that in my last post)
-We went to the Fort Worth Rodeo and loved it. We have been saying we were going to go since we moved here, and finally we did. Our family LOVES rodeos, and Rodney's parents came down and joined us, so we had a great time.
-I went on my scrapbooking retreat that I got for Mother's Day last year. I almost missed it because we were all sick that week, but at the last second I felt better and went. It was fun, and I got to know women in my ward better- but the best part- I think I discovered how I will scrapbook. Go check out I don't think I like to scrap as much as I used to, but I love to have the finished product. Now I can use pre-made digital pages, add extra element that they provide, and print them into a 12x12 book cheaper than printing out 12x12 pages or creating my own. One girl did 4 whole books on the first day. Hello- I am in love!

That is all I can think of right now. Hopefully I will get some quick post about some of these up!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My New Adventure

Part of why I have been so behind is because I seem to be consumed with my new adventure in life. I have started my own business. What started out as a little repping idea for Rodney has now fully blossomed into my thing to try. First off- my company name is "Power Generation Resources". Right now I am representing a company that works on the mechanical side of the generator (Rodney's company works on the electrical side). Rodney was going to represent them as a "moonlighting" job, but as we pored over contracts and spoke with a lawyer, and then thought about ever angle of it, we decided that he did not want risk making his other mechanical customers angry, and so the best way to avoid it was to have him uninvolved. We then decided that I have met and gotten to know enough people throughout the years that I could rep the company and get the right people the info that needs to be out there. The company that wanted Rodney to rep them was totally happy to have me do it instead. I went ahead and got everything set up with the state, opened my business account, drafted a contract, and spoke with a lawyer. I am in the process of creating a logo and getting some business cards printed up for our trip to Palm Springs in the next couple of weeks. I meet so many people at these conferences that work for the utilities that I thought it would be great to be able to get them my info, and then take theirs for e-mailing them information about the company. We will see how it goes. We have won won job already that is in process right now, so it has cost me nothing yet. If I get more and it takes off - GREAT. If it never does anything- OH WELL, I TRIED. It has taken a lot of time to read up on information, look at accounting information and contracts, talk to lawyers, accountants and other small business owners, but it has been a lot of fun. Rodney has been so great- he really believe in me and my abilities, and that was definitely a shot of confidence that I need to take this on. Wish me luck, I am being told that Bladerunner (the company I rep) is ready for me to find the next project- whew!

Friday, February 13, 2009

So far behind!

I am so far behind on my blog, and everyday I seem to get further. We really have a lot going on right now, and I am very excited to write about it- but I will have to take it one day at a time. Expect a lot of posts over the next couple of days.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Christmas Morning

Declan is still just like a little kid. He set his alarm and woke us all up at 5:00 Christmas Morning. It always seems like Christmas morning is so anticipated, and then over so quickly, so Santa wised up this year and wrapped EVERYTHING! ( I mean eve the underwear!) It took us a couple hours to open it all up, and we took time to enjoy everything as we went. It was so much fun! (I think Santa's wrap job made everyone feel like they got so much more this year.)
Declan's big present from Santa was a Klipsch I-Home that he loves to blare as he goes to bed at night.

Decota was so excited to get her own digital camera. She is having a blast snapping pictures of everything. What can I say, like mother like daughter. Now maybe I can give her fake smiles and look at her like "Are you ever going to stop taking pictures". Ha, ha- This could be fun!

Cambria got an I-Pod Nano from Santa. She is rarely without it and is always singing. She LOVES to sing, and Rodney and I are constantly smiling at each other as we listen to her from the other room. The first order of business for her was to download Zoolander to it so she could watch it right away (some weird dream she has had this year about having an I-Pod with Zoolander).

Camryn loved his rope with the pigs hooves. He immediately tried to bury it in the house by finding things to pile on top of it. It was so funny, at first, when we would find it in random places, but then it got annoying when he started taking all of my folded laundry and moving it to cover his rope, or taking all of the pillows off of the bed and stuffing it between the mattress and the wall. Finally I had to put it up and tell him he could have it again when we go camping so he can really bury it.

After all of the gifts were opened, Rodney and I laid back down and fell asleep. I usually make a big breakfast, but this year I fell into a deep, long sleep. Luckily I had made a ton of yummy homemade cinnamon rolls, and they just helped themselves. They played all day with their gifts, and were so sweet and grateful. It was such a pleasant, relaxing day!

Christmas Eve

I love Christmas Trees and Christmas Lights. It makes everything seem so happy and alive. When you take them all down, the house just does not feel as warm.

The kids LOVED their Christmas PJ's this year!

I had a little bit of a creative bug, and so I decided to paint these hat boxes to look like peppermints and warp the kids Christmas Eve PJ's in them. The kids loved them so much that they were more excited about the packages than what was in them. They made me promise to keep them and use them again next year, plus think of another cool idea for another package. Any Ideas?

Our good friends, The Anderson's, spent Christmas Eve with us. It was so nice to have someone to share Christmas soups and sweets with. Lucky Amy received the famous "Black lay in the Tub" white elephant gift. It is sitting by their kitchen sink for the year, but don't worry, it will be back in the rotation next year!

I had to include a picture of the house in our neighborhood that won the Clark Griswold award. You just had to laugh every time you saw it. I love it!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Our Christmas Gift

All of the presents we were able to buy for our secret family!
(Things like an MP3 player, PJ's, Clothes, Shoes, and fun things to do)

The kids loved helping with all of the wrapping.

We made tags for each present, each on with a different encouraging message.

The jackpot of presents all wrapped and ready to deliver!

This year we had an incredible Christmas experience. Decota has been deeply touched by the hard life of a boy at her school. His story has made all of us evaluate our lives, and truly realize how fortunate and blessed we are.

This little boy had been placed in foster care last year along with his 16 year old and 8 year old sisters. They were removed from the home after CPS found out that the older sister had been caring for the children on her own for awhile. The mom had found the "love of her life" and had moved him in to their house. The boyfriend apparently abused all of the children, badly. When the police became involved he was given a restraining order to stay away from the house. The mom could not be without her true love, so she moved him back in and told the kids they had to stay in one part of the house to avoid him. They all stayed in one room, and the 16 year old slept sitting up against the door to try to block him from coming in. When the police found out he was back, he went on the run. The mom told the kids that they would one day leave her and so she needed to go with him because he would always be there for her- and then she left. The older sister was able to get a job at a local college's cafeteria so that she could bring in money and try to pay the bills. This also enabled her to bring home food for the kids. They tried to keep it quite and deal with it so that they would not be split up, but of course something had to be done when CPS found out. They were then placed in foster care with a Jehovah's Witness family (they are Jehovah's Witness). CPS later found out that the family was keeping the three kids in the garage, and that they were only allowed to come in to go to the bathroom. The police came by and told the family they could not keep them out there, so they were simply moved inside. The oldest sister is supposed to be an excellent student (she even received the award of Student of the Month while all of this was going on), she is a mentor to other kids with a program through the school, and is working to help pay her part for the family. She is working very hard to graduate early so that she can get emancipated, get a better job, and get custody of the kids. Teachers are trying to encourage her to find a way to go to college, but she is so devoted to trying to make a more stable life for her siblings that she can't see how it would be possible right now. The oldest sister gives all that she has to her younger siblings. The kids wear clothes that are too big or too small. They wear shoes that are 5 sizes big, or have holes in the soles. They have never been to a movie. They have never done most things that normal kids do. When we heard their story we knew we had to do something to lift their spirits and help them out.
I was very concerned as to how we were going to be able to do anything for this family, but we all knew we needed to. Because it was a very tight Christmas for us this year, the kids all decided that they would give up quite a bit of their presents in order to free up the funds to shop for this family. My parents and my sisters were sooooo sweet and pitched in, too. It seemed like everywhere I went I was able to get so much more for my money than I had imagined. There were deals to be found everywhere, local stores graciously giving me so much more than I had paid for, and blessings all around.
The pile of presents quickly piled up. These kids had never received a present in their lives, so we wanted it to be a big deal and wrapped everything individually. Because they are Jehovah's Witnesses I felt strongly that we should not make it all Christmasey, so I decided to wrap each kids gifts in their own brightly colored paper and make a special tag for each gift. On each tag I recognized some unique quality in them, or gave them words of encouragement. The gifts turned out wonderfully, and we all had such a great time preparing them.
When the presents were all ready, Rodney and I loaded up the car and snuck them into the councilor's office. She was overcome with emotion as we brought them in, and later called Declan and Decota in and cried as she thanked them for their participation. The little boy was brought in later and was shown the gifts. We were told that his eyes got huge as he saw the stack of presents, and that he kept saying it was a dream come true. He told the councilor that his sisters had made him homemade gifts before, and that his mom had given him her leftovers from a restaurant as a gift before, but that he had never had a real present. The councilor then had him read a couple of the tags and he started to cry. He was so touched that someone felt that way about him. He was then told that the next day after school he and his sisters would meet at the councilor's office and open the presents. Talk about a Christmas Eve- 12 years worth of anticipation all in one night. Decota said he was just beaming for the rest of that day and the next. She said by the end of the next day he was bouncing in his seat, hardly able to stand it any longer. I guess there were lots of smiles and tears as their Christmas surprises were opened.
The whole process was such a touching experience for our family. There was not a whole lot of "I want this" and "I want that" at our house this year. The day we dropped off the presents we were talking with the kids and they said that Christmas for them was already over, everything else was just icing on the cake. On Christmas morning the kids kept commenting on how this was the best Christmas ever. They kept commenting on how they thought they had received more than ever, even though in reality it was cut back to about 1/2. We all had such a happy, calm, peaceful feeling about us over the Christmas break. I feel so blessed by this experience. I am so grateful to my parents and Rodney's parents for teaching us about the benefits and blessings of service by showing us through their actions. I am so grateful for my children's sweet, tender spirits. I am so grateful for the support of my parents and sisters in helping us to achieve more. I am grateful for the Christmas holiday and for the wonderful spirit it brings into the people of the world. Mostly I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for prompting Decota to befriend this boy, for prompting me to talk to the right teacher to get it done, and for allowing us to be blessed by having this opportunity in our lives. This was truly our family's BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!!!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

All that Jazz!

Decota dances at a Christian dance studio called A Time To Dance where she takes Ballet, Jazz and Tap and LOVES to dance. She spends about 3 1/2 hours a week at the Dance Studio, and loves being there. Parents are not allowed to watch their kids during practice, so during Christmas they have "Parent Watch Week" where we are invited into their class to see their weekly warm ups, how a practice runs, and then watch a quick dance that they learned that month. I did not have my camera during her Ballet class, but I was able to catch her Jazz class and Tap class. The parent watch day is total informal, the room is very crowded, and the girls are pretty sloppy, but it is fun to watch them interact with each other during class. Decota bought all of the cute socks for the girls in her Jazz class. She is the oldest in her tap class this year, so she can get a bit annoyed in there at times, but they are advancing and have a great group of girls so e stick it out. Her and another girl are the youngest in her ballet class. All of the other girls are in High school and one is even in college. I just continue to remind her to be as patient with the little Jazz girls as the big ballet girls are with her. She really enjoys the friendships she makes in dance. Oh, by the way, Decota was going through a phase where she refused to smile for us because she does not have braces yet, so that is why she has the cheesy face.

A Night in Bethlehem

************** For our ward Christmas Party this year we had A Night in Bethlehem. When I told people what we were doing I had many people, from many different religions, tell me what a neat experience this kind of night is. They were right. I went up to the church that afternoon to help decorate, and was amazed at the transformation. The cultural center no longer looked like a gym, but like a market place in Jerusalem. My kids really enjoyed getting dressed up that night, and playing the role of ancient Jews. Decota had invited a non-member friend to go with us, and the girls were so cute as they made their rags look more "fashionable". When we walked in we were given a bag of money and were told to keep our family close as we made our way through the crowded marketplace. There were many things for us to buy, dreidels, pitas, cookies, hummus, honey; but the tax man was always close buy trying to collect taxes. Rodney would not let the kids spend a lot of the money because he was afraid there would be some repercussion if he did not have enough to pay the taxes, but he was wrong and we ended the night with a lot of extra coins (of course, the one time Rodney wants to save his money it is fake!) Declan decided he needed more money than Rodney was giving him, so he walked around with a can chanting "Money for the blind". Thanks to the gracious spirit of the people, he wound up with more money than he could spend. Suddenly music started, families gathered on blankets on the floor, and Mary, Joseph and Jesus appeared. For the remainder of the evening we enjoyed listening to, and singing carols. It was a WONDERFUL way to get into the spirit of Christmas. We all thoroughly enjoyed our night out. I look forward to doing this again one day, maybe as a family next Christmas!

The Oboe Concert

The first event to kick off the Christmas Season was a Beginning Band Preview for the parents of the 6th grade band students. This year Decota plays the oboe. She loves it. It is fun to see how quickly she has learned to play. Band is a big thing here in Texas, so they spend a lot of specialized time with the students to help them learn. Decota is in a class with bassoons, oboes, and flutes. There are only 3 oboe players. I am always amazed the 1st time I here the Beginning Bands play. (Also, because a mom is supposed to brag, Decota has been 1st chair most of the year! Way to go Decota!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Vacation is OVER!

OK, I have been horrible at posting over the holidays. They are just so hectic, and there is so much to do. Unfortunately, there are also so many memorable, blog worthy post during the holidays. I have made an executive decision and have decided to go back and post things I want to remember. I am sorry if you are sick of the holidays and all of their splendor, but this is my journal, so skip it if you want, or read and grin and bear it! The next few posts are all about what made Christmas, CHRISTMAS for me this year.