Thursday, May 28, 2009

Missing Miss Phyllis

I remember the day all too well...exhausted from lack of sleep, yet deliriously happy with the two new little men in my life. Brad and I determined that we were simply overwhelmed and we needed help. This was not an easy conclusion for us to arrive at. You see, we are proud people from the Midwest - when times get tough, you buck up and get it done. However, the reality of 4 little boys who were 4 and under and a husband who was a student, a full-time employee, and also had a part-time job on the weekend was just too much. We were crying, "Uncle!" God was peeling away another layer in the "self-sufficiency" costume we were wearing...and teaching us once again what it means to live in "community" with other believers. So, we finally gave in and asked for help. We talked and prayed...and then prayed some more...and then posted an e-mail on the seminary's website to hire someone to help us.

Only two people responded to our "want ad" - and I was honestly a little disappointed. I really thought we needed to have a few more options...ha! God knows just what I need and I am so thankful that He doesn't take my opinion into consideration when caring for me. I don't know what I need as well as He does! :) Turns out that we only had one option (the other person was looking for more hours per week)...the God-chosen option for our family. Brad and I invited Phyllis to our home for a learn some more about her and to let her see our family "in action" so she could learn some more about us! She came, she saw, and we were shocked when she agreed to take the job! She was exactly who we prayed for...a wise woman who was older than us and had more parenting experience than us, a woman filled with the "joy" of the Lord, and a woman who was "at home" in our madness - nearly impossible to "ruffle her feathers." {grin} God knew just what we needed...and He provided.

The twins were just a few months old, Luke was a baby himself having just turned 2, and Sam was an eager-to-learn 4 year old. It was a madhouse. We were feeding and changing Caleb and Matthew around the clock and getting very little sleep...and trying to keep up with Sam and Luke during the day. Enter Phyllis....she never laughed when I answered the door in my pajama's and my hair uncombed. I loved her immediately. {grin} Over the next year, she would change many diapers, clean my kitchen more times than I can count, love my kids, play CandyLand until Sam didn't want to play anymore, encourage me in my mothering, share God's promises just when I needed it most, pick up toys, encourage me to take a nap, send me out the door to shop for groceries alone while she cared for all 4 of my kids. Phyllis became our "breath of fresh air" during those early months of having 4 kids ages 4 and under. When she arrived - we all sort of breathed a little easier. She was only at our house a few hours a week, but it was just enough to make everything seem better. {grin}

Miss Phyllis graduated with her Masters in Pastoral Counseling a few weeks ago and move back to her home and her family in Georgia. We all knew the day was coming...but, just didn't have the courage to face it. I cried like a know, the ugly cry where your face gets all twisted up and you have to wipe your nose a lot. I think I was so emotional because I was going to miss my friend...but, even moreso because I was so overwhelmed at God's goodness to me. He saw my need...and sent a gentle, loving friend to help me out. Miss Phyllis will forever have a special place in my heart.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What a whirlwind of a week!

My husband, Brad, was away for a few days last week. Off to enjoy a well-deserved "mancation" with some of his dear friends from our home church in Indiana. These men love the Lord, love their families, love each other, and love to fish for SHARKS! That's right, they actually search out these large sea creatures with many teeth to chomp them with...I just don't get it. I don't think this kind of thrill-seeking is for a woman to understand, no matter how many times I read the book "Wild at Heart." {grin} Nonetheless, I am grateful that God has provided faithful men to encourage, challenge, and care for my a real "manly" way, of course. {bigger grin}

So, while Brad was away, my parents came to stay (what a fun little rhyme). My dad is retired, but my mom still works a demanding full-time (and then some) job. I love that my mom considers coming to my rowdy house the best way to use her vacation time. We accomplished so much during their ten day stay.
  • We painted the front/back doors RED (posh red, to be exact), we planted some fun flowers in the pots on our front porch, my mom bought me a gorgeous hanging basket full of beautiful flowers to hang out front as well. I even bought a new welcome mat...our porch looks really inviting now.
  • We planted day lilies along the fence row in our back yard...they are going to be beautiful as the mature.
  • We washed the curtains in the kitchen, living room, and the boys rooms. We also washed the windows. It felt so good to get this done!
  • We switched out the last of the winter clothes in exchange for some fun summer clothes. Matthew looked so cute in his little camo shorts!
  • We went shopping for groceries, bought a blow-up pool for the boys, searched a neighborhood garage sale for bunk beds for Sam & Luke, and my mom even bought me a new pair of sandals! {grin}
  • My Dad travelled nearly 40 minutes one way to look at some bunk beds that we found on Craigslist. We had to go to the owner's barn several miles away in a remote area, I was so glad that my dad was with me. We ended up not buying them, they were in terrible condition. My dad didn't even complain. {grin}
  • We took the boys on a picnic at the park. It was such a blessing to be able to play with them and not be stressed out. It is anxiety-producing to try to watch all four of them and keep them safe in an environment like that. We had a great time...lots of giggling, running, swinging, and sliding.
  • We found an answer to prayer, at our church, of all places. {grin} More on this later. It truly deserves a post of it's own.
  • I bought a Bissel "Little Green Machine" and used it to clean our couch, love seat, and ottoman with my dad's help. I felt so good about this investment. The cost of the cleaner was less than one professional cleaning, and I will use it often. You can't even imagine how dirty it was and how lovely it looked afterward!
  • My parents generously agreed to watch all four of the boys while I spent the day with my dear friend, Jodie. She is celebrating her 40th birthday this week, and her dear husband planned a very special day for her. I was her "host" as I drove her to shop for a dress & jewelry, took her out to lunch, enjoyed a "spa afternoon" with her - complete with a one hour massage and manicure. I had such a good time watching her get a haircut and style afterward - she looked amazing! Then, I delivered her to her home to her husband and took her 2 sweet girls home with me. Jodie and her sweet hubby went out to dinner at an amazing restaurant. Jodie is a really giving, selfless, it was so fun to see her cared for and pampered. I was blessed to see her overwhelmed by her husband's extravagant love for her.
It was so nice to have my mom and dad here while Brad was away. I really enjoy their company and the truly helped to lighten the load in Brad's absence. It was a great week of memories made and relationships deepened. Today, we were all really sad after they left. I guess that is a good thing, right? {grin} Here are a few photos from our Memorial Day celebration.

Matthew really enjoyed the frog-shaped inflatable pool. He was so eager to get into the water, he wouldn't wait to take off his shirt! Matthew would have slept in the pool, had we allowed him. He was not happy about getting out.

Caleb feel in while waiting to get into the bathtub last week...earning him his second black eye. Poor little guy hardly complained at all. Hopefully, it looks worse than it hurt.
He thoroughly enjoyed his first Popsicle.

Brad blew bubbles for the boys...Sam and Luke never seem to grow tired of chasing them and popping them. Cheap entertainment for our entire tribe! Don't you love sweet tummies spilling over the waistband of their little swimming trunks? Too cute!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Favorite Foto Friday

Sweet baby Caleb just a few days before his first birthday. This picture was taken the day of his first haircut...just after he'd had a bath. I love these pajamas he is wearing...and I love this baby boy. {grin}

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Playing "Catch-Up"...not to be confused with "Ketchup"

So much has been happening around the Johnson house these past few weeks...and the activity has left little time to blog about it all.

Matthew has been channeling his "inner rock star" the past few weeks - wearing the Elmo sunglasses whenever he finds them. You'll notice his slobber-soaked shirt ...evidence of the teething happening in our house for both Matthew and Caleb. It has been a little messy and sometimes painful. Praise God, the teeth finally broke through a couple of days ago.

There have also been a few messes to clean up around the house. I returned home from the grocery store ( I had the left the many little men in the care of our good friend, Miss Phyllis - more on this precious saint in another post) with a refreshed heart and a few bags full of food. The boys were helping me put things away (well, actually rummaging through the bags to find something yummy), and Matthew's curiosity got the best of him. He opened a 16 oz. box of spaghetti - notice he still has the box in his hand in the photo. You can see that Sam and Luke are mortified by this mess - they look shocked! Matthew and Caleb had a grand time picking it up and distributing it all over the kitchen floor. It's such a good thing that God made them adorable. {grin}

We've been enjoying the warmer weather. Luke especially enjoys creating roads for his cars to travel on in the sand table on our deck...his little brothers just enjoy eating the sand. It's nearly impossible for me to get all four little men out to play by myself. It is simply not safe - the three littlest ones go running in opposite directions. It has been a humbling thing to realize that I can't do what seems a most natural "mom thing" to do. Sam, Luke, and I are able to sneak out from time to time while the twins are down for a morning nap. We normally have to wait until Brad comes home to go out to play for any length of time. However, we're making the most of our time outside - riding bikes, playing basketball, running around, creating masterpieces with sidewalk chalk, petting the neighbor's dog, and with the boys on our cul de sac. I am praying madly for a fenced in yard...and a swing set will be added in just a few weeks. We are so excited!

Brad and I have always been intentional about creating Spiritual Community wherever we've lived - really "living life" with a the people who live near us. Being part of a seminary community has really provided rich blessings for our family in this regard. We've had people from nearly every tribe and nation in our home over the past few years - students, professors, visiting faculty members, international students, etc... Last week, we invited Brad's professor who commutes to campus weekly and another friend (see photo above) over for dinner. The man in the picture above was at Asbury for a sabbatical from his normal ministry duties. Keith and his wife have been called to minister to the poor in rural Ohio. This type of ministry is all-consuming...and I think he is so wise to take time out to reflect, pray, study, listen for God's voice and direction, and renew his heart. Our friend brought his Kermit the frog puppet along to entertain our kids. The boys all loved it! Sam ran to get our Elmo puppet so he could join in the puppet conversation. It was entertaining, for sure! I am sometimes frustrated by this long educational journey we have been on...but, it also brings some amazing blessings. I am so grateful that my boys see Godly people who are answering God's call on their lives in very real ways.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Favorite Foto Friday

I just uploaded several pictures from my digital camera...604 of them, to be exact! I have mentioned it on my blog before, I can't seem to find time to upload photos. It seems to be at the very bottom of my very long to-do list. So, I finally got around to it. Choosing a picture for "Favorite Foto Friday" this week was a bit of a challenge - so many to choose from. {grin}

After perusing the recently added photos, I decided that this little gem warmed my heart the most. It's not an especially attractive photo - the lighting isn't great and the angle of Sam's neck is a little odd. However, I think it captures the sweet relationship that Sam shares with his littlest brothers. Sam loves, loves, loves his little baby brothers! He loves to tickle them, chase them, help them read books, to carry them (although his mom thinks this is a bad idea and discourages it greatly!), he loves for them to sit on his lap, he loves to be the first to go into their room when he hears them waking, and he loves to sing to them. He really is a terrific big brother...I have to wonder if all of this "baby loving" isn't going to make him a better daddy one day.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Favorite Foto Friday...on Monday!

No need to adjust your computer screen, Luke really is upside down in this photo. At the tender age of three, he can do a headstand...with pretty good form, in my opinion. It was a little shocking when he first began "practicing" this skill in his crib after he awakened from his afternoon nap. In no time, he had perfected this move - and now he can be found on his head all over the place. Luke even did a headstand for our pediatrician at his 3 year old well-check. The pediatrician suggested we get Luke involved in a "high energy organized sport." {grin} He really is amazing little boy...very physically advanced. At one year old, he could do a somersault. At two, he could wink each eye independently. Now, at three he has mastered the headstand. Who knows what year four will bring?