Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday Musings: Solving All the Problems


1. In a few weeks, I’m attending the Place Conference put on by The Mentoring Project in OKC. (There are still some tickets available, but the price goes up on September 1st, so get one now if you’re interested. The line-up of speakers is PHENOMENAL—plus you’ll get to hang out with me!) 

I have heard some of these speakers before and am familiar with several others on the list, but there was one I had never heard of. The organizers sent out a link to this 10-minute video of David M. Bailey speaking about the role of the Church and non-profits in racial reconciliation. Much of the conversation I’ve seen on the subject via social media quickly devolves into squabbling, and it’s just not productive. I really like the way he frames the conversation. Take a listen (and I CANNOT WAIT TO HEAR HIM SPEAK! Go buy your ticket now, OKC friends!)

2. I’ve had three separate conversations with moms over the last couple weeks about how tough mornings are as they are getting back into the swing of things for the new school year. I say this all the time, and I’ll say it a million more times: children need sleep. We’re pretty crazy about guarding our kids’ bedtimes during the week—it’s why we don’t over schedule night activities and why I volunteer to run things, so everyone else has to be on my schedule…wink wink (more on that below). In my mothering experience, I’ve learned there are really only three things kids need when they are falling apart: food, sleep, or attention. I have yet to face a parenting dilemma that hasn’t been solved with one or more of those things. 

A teacher friend of mine posted this from an elementary school, and it is spot on for my kids. Our mornings are genuinely pretty drama-free (as long as I don’t make Ben wear new shorts) WHEN MY KIDS HAVE HAD ENOUGH SLEEP. Now, I’m not telling you what to do. All kids are different, and if you’ve got a precious petal who only needs four hours of sleep and is still a tiny Mother Teresa, then stick with what you’re doing. But if the spawn of Satan crawls out from under the covers at your house, take a looky-loo and consider making adjustments.

For three years, Will has been a cub scout, and Ben has been tagging along. It has from the beginning been an activity that Scott was in charge of for reasons including but not limited to: his status as an Eagle scout, my extreme hatred of sleeping in sleeping bags, the general dorkiness male bonding.

This year, Ben enters the world of scouting as a scout for the first time, and when we signed up last week, there wasn’t a Tiger leader. Several men shuffled their feet and mumbled about how they would help, but no one really wanted to commit to leading. So I voluntold Scott that he’s the Tiger leader and promised to be his trusty sidekick. I did this for a couple of reasons. 

First, I look for ways to connect with Ben out of second child guilt (#realtalk), and secondly, I know it will come as a surprise, but sometimes an organization that is run primarily by old man volunteers who love making coffee over fire on purpose and wearing slightly too short shorts is not always all that organized*. We’ve been lucky to have female den leaders for Will who have kept the dens running smoothly, and I really want the same experience for Ben. Scott will do the scout stuff. I will keep us organized with calendars and contact info and lesson plans and general “classroom management” techniques. Because secretly, this is totally my wheelhouse. But don’t tell the scouts because I don’t want to be recruited for anything else. *I acknowledge the sexist nature of these comments, but I do not take them back.

Oh, also, we were worried that the den was going to be small, and then 13 kids showed up. Everyone has warned me that we should split the den because it’s going to be too hard. Will’s den leader said, “Your kids are well-behaved but not everyone else’s are.” I answered, “There’s a reason my kids are well-behaved.” MAMA J HAS GOT THIS. (Please feel free to mock me three months from now if I have to eat my words.)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday Musings: Technology and New Shorts


1. At any given time, I have like…twelve books going, which I’ve decided is too many, so I decided to try this thing where I finish all the books I’m currently reading, and I only read one at a time (I’ll keep you updated on how this goes). Except it’s really two at a time because I always have one I’m reading with my eyes and one that I listen to with my ears. I usually finish about three audio books to every one read with my eyes because I listen anytime I am doing anything but sleeping basically. (That, friends, is the answer to the question I get more than any other of “How do you read so many books?”) Does everyone know about Overdrive at the public library? If you have a library card, you can get ebooks and audiobooks for free (because that’s how the library works). This is the reason Scott Johnson has not divorced me on grounds of book-related bankruptcy.

Anyway, a long time ago I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows and LOVED it. Loved. It’s an epistolary novel (that’s a big word that means written in letter form), and I’ve recommended it hundreds of times. When I saw that Annie Barrows had a new book out, I put it on hold at the library immediately in both ebook and audiobook form. The audio came through first, so I started listening. First, the readers are DELIGHTFUL, and secondly, the book is exactly as good as I thought it would be.

So here’s your homework: get a library card, get on Overdrive, download this book. Or just check out the real version or go to a bookstore and buy it. You’ll love it.

2. You know how people talk about preteens clamming up because they’re too cool to talk to their parents. Well, we’re not quite there yet, but I see it on the horizon, and I refuse to accept this reality without a fight. The thing I’ve figured out is that sometimes you have to enact Operation Sneaky Parenting. WonderBox is how I am sneakily loving my eldest who turns TEN in 13 days and is starting to show the telltale signs of being too cool for me (see: eye rolls, sarcastic comebacks, huffing loudly). I don’t want to talk about it. 

Anyway, about the app—WonderBox is basically a collection of educational activities and videos. Example: Will watches a video from the art category about Leonardo DaVinci and then makes a talking Mona Lisa gif. He can choose to send it to his friends, and it shows up in their feeds. I am one of his friends, so I see it and can comment or click “Yay!” (like liking something on Facebook). It’s basically a way for us to talk without talking. When he woke up this morning, he asked where the iPad was. He wanted to check his Wonderbox (where he found a gif of me with my face painted like Groucho Marx saying Will and Ben are awesome). When I got home from walking the boys to school, I had an email of an environmentally friendly car he’d designed after watching a video about fuel efficiency. OH, DID I MENTION IT’S FREE!?!!! If your kids want to try it out, I can send you our friend codes, and we can share all of this ridiculousness with you, too.


1. Mornings in our house are pretty chill. Scott leaves before the rest of us wake up, and Will, Ben, and I have a serious understanding about our need for quiet. We don’t talk unless we have to, and this works for us. There’s a rhythm to what we do. 

My alarm goes off at 6:36, and I go downstairs to start making lunches. (If it’s a day when both boys are buying lunch, it goes off at 6:48.) I shower, and as I’m leaving the bathroom, Will enters. He wakes up at 7:00 on the dot like a robot. While he’s in the shower, I prep breakfast. Ben showers every other day (this is the compromise we came to because he would shower exactly NEVER if he didn’t have a mother). The boys come downstairs to eat breakfast at 7:20, while I go back upstairs to get dressed and/or take care of bills/start laundry/do other fun mom things. I pop back downstairs to brush hair, check backpacks one last time, and put the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher. We leave the house at 7:53.

Very rarely does this morning routine differ, which sounds glorious, right? It is. It really is. Unless I throw a wrench in the day like offering Ben new shorts that have never been worn. This results in fifteen minutes of crying while getting dressed because “shorts should never be touching my knees—that’s why they’re called shorts!” followed by a somewhat rushed breakfast, followed by more tears over the fact that I helped him with his shoes because Will is standing at the door, hair combed perfectly and shouting, “IT’S 7:54! WE ARE GOING TO BE LATE!”

So, yeah. That was Wednesday, and somehow we recovered on the walk to school. Ben even held my hand—the same hand of betrayal that tied his shoes.

2. We have a new development this week.

And this is how our dog, Bokonon, feels about it.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Musings: Goodbye, Summer!

I spent the last school year writing/trying to publish books. For anyone keeping track—no, none of them have been published, but I’m still working on that. The result of doing that for about nine months was one completed book, one 1/2 finished book, and one 1/4 finished book—not bad considering I was running a non-profit, substitute teaching, and functioning as COO of Johnson Garden Estate.

One thing I realized along the way was that I reeeeeeeeeally miss blogging. In the beginning, it was necessary to stop blogging to find my book voice(s) and stay focused, but writing books is a solitary pursuit, and I missed the interactive nature of blogging.


I’ve decided to allow myself one blog post a week—consider them my Monday musings if you will. In these posts, I’ll share recommendations for things you can’t miss if you’re attempting to live la vida awesome, tell stories about those two menchildren who sleep down the hall from me, and offer insight gained from my life lived in yoga pants. 

If my mom and dad are the only people who read these, fine. I’ll still have a record of all the things I don’t want to forget that happened during this blessed (please read that as a two syllable word) stage of life. I’m going to keep all of them under 1,000 words because that’s the average person’s threshold (AKA long enough to read while going to the bathroom).


My book club chose this, and I thought I was going to have to force myself to finish it because I’m anal and can’t stop reading a book I’ve started, but then I read the first page and was like WHOA. Hey there, sneaky non-fiction—high five to you for completely proving me wrong. I’m about halfway finished, and I can’t believe how much I love this book. (Here are the other books I’ve read in the past few weeks worth recommending: I Am Malala, For the Love, The Girl on the Train, and Go Set A Watchman.) 

My friend, Derrick, sent me a text that said something to the effect of “listen to this, or I won’t be your friend anymore.” So I did, and then I bought the whole album, and you should too. Also, Nathaniel Rateliffe and the Night Sweats release their first album on August 21st, and you should just take care of that right now, too. We saw them in Guthrie on the Gentlemen of the Road tour, and I’m pouting because there are no shows anywhere close to me anytime soon that aren’t sold out. If you can see them live, DO IT, for the love of all things holy.

(Click on the screenshot to link to this awesome course!)
My friend, Missy, put out an all call on Facebook asking if anyone would be interested in taking this course online with her. She lives in Pryor, OK, and I cannot make the weekly commute to her debriefing/gathering, but I jumped on board anyway. We’re not supposed to be doing the course until the beginning of September, but I already finished the first four lessons because BRENE BROWN IS EVERYTHING. (If you haven’t read her books, do yourself a favor and forget that everything else in life is happening and move them to the top of your list. Your boss and family will understand your absence when they see how you have become such a better person after reading these books.)

I found these popsicles at Costco (only the strawberry and mango), and I’m certifiably obsessed. Run, don’t walk. You’re welcome.


We took a vacation to Branson with my parents last week as a last hurrah before school started. One of the days was spent out on a pontoon on Table Rock Lake, fishing, tubing, and swimming. As happens on those sorts of outings, Will realized he needed to go to the bathroom. We told him it was time he learned how to eliminate waste like a hillbilly (pooing in the lake for those of you fancy people who aren’t smelling what I’m stepping in) to which he replied, “I’m sorry, Mom. I think I’m a land pooper.” Somehow my hillbilly roots have failed him. He did, however, pick up spitting sunflower seeds during the vacation, so we still have hope. (I included the above video because my mom took it thinking it would be embarrassing, but I have this new thing where I basically have no shame and don't care about stupid stuff like looking cool. It's working out really well, and I'm getting LOTS of practice.)

We worked on tying shoes all year last year with Ben. I mean, that’s kind of what kindergarten is for—learning how to read short vowel words and tying shoes. Right? Well, it was the only thing on his end of year report that got the dreaded needs improvement. My friend, Ashlie, posted a video on Facebook, and I decided I could still get a passing grade as kindergarten parent if we learned before first grade actually started. I sat down with my favorite little prince of do it myself, and WE DID IT! WE CAN TIE SHOES! The experience was made that much sweeter by the fact that Ben yelled “Yesssssssssssssssss” as he ran through the house in his tied shoes, whistling through the gap in his newly formed first grade teeth.

When Will’s friend, Jack, was over for a sleepover, I was informed that Jack was Abby’s boyfriend for like five minutes last year because as Jack explained, “I was held at mental gunpoint until I said I would be her boyfriend.” As Jack’s mom and I talked, I overheard Will say to Jack, “Yeah, I don’t think I’m a chick magnet like you because they all know I have a soulmate.” Oh, did I tell you that Will has decided "girlfriend" is too light a description of Becca (his girlfriend since 4K who lives in WA)? Later, he said, “I don’t know if soulmate is the right word either.” We consulted the thesaurus, and now Becca is his spirit kin. I die.

I could barely keep up with Ben as we walked home from school today—talking a mile a minute about how first grade is WAY, WAY better than kindergarten. I mean, they have real desks, and the gym/lunchroom is soOOOoooOooOOOoo close, and they get to rip pages out of their math books. What more could you want? 

Thanks for reading, friends. See you next week!