Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas, Etc.

Wow! It's Christmas Eve!

I am so excited! All of my children, their spouses, and my sweet grand baby are all here! Everyone arrived on December 22, and they will all be here until New Year's Eve. My house is so full and so is my heart.
Here are some random pictures of our last few days.

Sweet Baby Mae!
She is 4 months old today. This is her sitting in Aunt Leah's lap last night. She does so well with large crowds of lively people over here. She just lets people hold her while she smiles at everyone!

 Annual sugar cookie decorating.

 I set up my crib Saturday. Mae had been sleeping in a pack n play, but Julie needs that for an upcoming trip, so I got out the crib. It was stored behind my Christmas decorations, so I had planned on getting it out in December anyway. 
I could not find my baby bed bedding that I used for Leah. It is pink and green, and so pretty and girly. I cannot imagine where I put it or why it is not in a labeled box in my storage room. I did find this boy bedding that my mother made for Sam. However, the bedskirt and diaper holder that hangs on the crib were not in the's a mystery! I guess I am not as organized as I thought!

 Even though it is blue and not pink, I think Mae likes it! She has slept well in there the last two nights.

 Our Christmas tree, side 1

 and side 2
Ten people will be opening gifts here on Christmas morning, and we all have gifts for each other, so the tree is pretty full. I am so thankful for my large family. It is my greatest blessing on this earth. I thank God in my prayers to Him every day for giving me the privilege of being a wife, mother, and grandmother. I am so grateful.

 Benny the elf.
That elf. Sometimes he moves, sometimes he doesn't. 

 Sweet baby Mae!

 Our Christmas card tree

 Sweet baby Mae again

My favorite Christmas shirt this year.
I may wear it one more time today.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Love from the Joyful Johnsons!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Christmas Planning Binder

I wanted to share a little bit about my Christmas Binder. (I know I should have shared this much earlier, but maybe you can glean some ideas for your Christmas planning for next year.) 

***Also, I know that I blogged about my Christmas binder in 2016, but that was two years ago!

I first began keeping a notebook in the year 2001, and I switched to a binder in 2007. It's just a 3 ring binder with dividers that I made by typing the categories on cute Christmas paper and laminating them. My first binder is now completely full, so I made a new binder this year and titled it "Christmas Binder 2". The sections in my binder include:

I began keeping a spiral bound Christmas notebook in 2001. In 2007 I switched to a 3 ring binder with the following dividers:


  • This section is subdivided by year.
  • I create a document for each year in a table format with the following columns: ToGiftBought, Wrapped. I list the recipient's name and the gift. Then I put an x when I buy (or make the gift), and an x when I wrap the gift. On the pages that I create for my children, I make one page per child. I print this out to use as I shop and wrap, but when it's all done, I print out one final clean copy to include in my binder. I love looking back over the years at the gifts I have shared with my family and friends. This also prevents me from giving someone the same exact thing I gave them last year! I also love to look at what I gave my kids in years past, especially when they were younger.
  • I print out my Christmas cards address list each year and make any corrections or additions. Then I print out one more final copy for my binder. I am not sure why I feel the need to have a hard copy in my binder....I guess that's in case my computer crashes. 
  • I also make a list of addresses for any parties that I send invitations.

  • I keep copies of party invitations in this section.
  • I also keep guest lists for various parties here.

  • This section has recipes for all the Christmas goodies we make and share each year.
  • I include menus and recipes for Christmas meals and parties.
  • I make labels for the homemade treats we give to others, and I have the master copies of those labels in this section. I like to put who the goodies are for on these labels. This helps when distributing them.
  • A new addition to this section this year is I am going to list what foods I take to various gatherings. I think this will be fun and useful to review each year. 

I have included some pictures below, but first I must share my crazy idea from last year. I saw on Pinterest where some ladies were making their own super cute Christmas notebooks, and I thought, "I should totally do that! In all my spare time!"
And so I did. I ordered a personalized notebook from Erin Condren. I clicked on all my cute Christmas notebook pins on Pinterest, and I spent hours crafting this beautiful notebook. Complete with a table of contents, cute stickers, and red and green pens. It turned out great!

Except that I still used my binder as well. I could not resist having copies of everything I recorded in my cute Christmas notebook in my binder too. So, while I enjoyed the festive notebook, I went back to my trusty Christmas Binder this year. I did use the Christmas notebook this year for some list making, and it is good to carry around for that, but my binder is a keeper. 
The Erin Condren notebook I used last year

a divider in the notebook to keep me in place

from the notebook

I had a page for each person.

recipes for my binder

binder dividers

my original binder

my current binder

And that's it! That's how I organize my brain during the holiday season.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Our Thanksgiving Weekend

Our Thanksgiving week was overall just delightful! Our family (minus Olivia and Brian who stayed in Indiana to celebrate Thanksgiving with Brian's family) enjoyed each other's company so much! We  ate a lot of good food and were able to visit with much of our extended family. We put together a difficult nutcracker puzzle which I plan to frame. We have started another puzzle, but interest has waned since the holiday has ended. I keep a Christmas themed puzzle going on our dining room table during the holiday season. I think I am going to frame all the ones we put together this year and hang them during December each year.

Clay's friend, Lauren joined us for a couple of days at the end of their Thanksgiving break. Leah, Sam, and I took them to the airport in Memphis last Monday, and after dropping them off we did some Christmas shopping (mostly for Mae!) at Target. I had so much fun buying baby things!

Another highlight (or should I say lowlight) of our Thanksgiving break was that half of our family got sick! Big Sam, Julie, Leah and Sam all had some variation of a stomach virus, fever, and aches and pains. Thankfully, Jimmy, Clay, Lauren, nor I got sick! We watched several Christmas movies during the time while the sick people were feeling poorly. Clay and Lauren tried to stay away from everyone, so I gave them the task of preparing my Christmas cards! I was so grateful they did that for me. I got them in the mail last Friday.

After spending last Tuesday cleaning house all day, we got back to school. We will continue our schoolwork until December 14, and then Yay! Christmas Break!  We will resume our school on January 11. I am really looking forward to this extended break.

I wish we could be in full holiday mode right now! But I must stay strong and keep doing school until next Friday.

Here are a couple of pictures from my Thanksgiving Day table.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I hope you and your family enjoy your day today. I spent all day yesterday cooking after I made one last trip to Kroger and Hobby Lobby (I decided last minute to make some sort of table decoration for my Thanksgiving dinner--good thing I was last minute because most of the fall items were 80% off!)

This morning all I have left to do is cook the turkey (first time ever for me), finish decorating the table, and do all the things on my list. I am printing out some Thanksgiving themed conversation starters and activities. I hope everyone will be a good sport and play along! 

We plan to eat at 1:00 when Jimmy gets home from work. Tonight we are going to Kelly and Lynn's to eat leftovers with them and watch the Egg Bowl.

Enjoy your day! 

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Thanksgiving Celebrations Countdown

Whew! Yesterday afternoon I typed my to-do list and timeline for this week. This is my first time ever to prepare the Thanksgiving meal all by myself and serve it at my own house! My mother is unable to host this year, so I am using all her traditional recipes and hosting my immediate family. There will be eight  of us for Thanksgiving lunch: Jimmy, Me, Clay, Leah, Sam, Julie, Big Sam, and Mae.  I plan to serve the meal on my fine china that I have used only once or twice in our 27 years of marriage.

Thursday night we plan to take our leftovers over to Kelly and Lynn's house to eat with them and watch the Egg Bowl on TV. Friday night we are having a Thanksgiving dinner at Russ (Jimmy's brother) and Megan's house, and on Saturday we are going to Rhett (my brother) and Amanda's house. Lots of fun and food ahead!

Here is the timeline: As I just read over it, I realized that I forgot to list actually buying the Christmas tree! We will buy it sometime Wednesday and decorate it Friday.
Oh. And we will do some school today and tomorrow, and we also have CrossFit and piano lessons today.

  • clean upstairs
  • change Clay's sheets, guest sheets, and Julie's sheets
  • get out Christmas dishes
  • decorate for Christmas (after supper)
  • vacuum downstairs
  • clean guest bathroom
  • make dressing
  • make carrot salad
  • slice ham
  • freeze hambone
  • grocery store early for last minute ingredients
  • make sweet potatoes
  • make corn/rice casserole
  • make orange delight
  • make green beans x 2
  • thaw dressing
  • make chocolate and pumpkin pies
  • clean my bathroom/bedroom
8:00 AM
  • bake turkey
  • vacuum downstairs
  • vacuum stairs
  • set table—wash and dry tablecloth on quick cycle to remove wrinkles
  • set out all casseroles
  • boil eggs
  • make gravy
  • prepare cranberry sauce
  • bake dressing
  • bake green beans
  • slice turkey
  • put ham and turkey on platter

  • bake sweet potatoes
  • bake corn/rice casserole
  • set out butter
  • bake rolls
  • set out orange delight
  • set out carrot salad
  • white chili in crock pot on high (for lunch)
  • brown ground beef for tomorrow
  • decorate Christmas tree (hot chocolate and popcorn!)
  • make banana pudding
  • make chocolate pies
  • make chocolate chip pound cake 
  • bake green beans one hour before going to Megan's.

  • put 7 can soup in crock pot on low (for supper)
  • make strawberry spinach salad
  • take cake and salad
Happy Thanksgiving Week to you!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Podcasts and Books

A while back I shared which podcasts I listen to. My list today is pretty much the same with maybe one new addition.

  • The Lazy Genius. Kendra, the host of The Lazy Genius, would so be my friend in real life if she lived in my town! I love her ideas! She gives practical, doable tips about all areas of homemaking and personal care. Her topics range from how to cook chicken, to skin care, to planning your holidays without losing your mind. She always breaks down things into small, manageable steps, and I am always encouraged after listening to her. Her podcast is weekly, and it is fairly short, around 15 minutes an episode.
  • The Big Boo Cast. Sophie and Melanie are so much fun to listen to. It's really like listening in on their phone conversation. They discuss lighthearted topics such as college football (specifically Mississippi State and Texas A&M), make-up, skin care products, fashion, pets, TV shows, books, and a host of other topics. I love this podcast! They just released (just this morning!) their much anticipated holiday gift giving guide. I cannot wait to listen!
  • Happier With Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen and her sister Elizabeth discuss ways to be happier in your daily life. They include tips on improving your quality of life in areas like fitness, productivity, and relationships. Gretchen and Elizabeth live a life very unlike mine (Sophie and Melanie from the Big Boo Cast are certainly more relatable)--Gretchen is a former attorney and now she is a best selling author, and Elizabeth is a TV writer and producer, yet most of the time they have practical ideas. This is a very polished podcast. 

I am currently reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. I previously read his book Hannah Coulter, and it ranks up there with one of my all time favorite books! I highly recommend it. Most of his books are set in a fictional town called Port William. The books read like memoirs, but they are fiction. I hope to read all of Berry's works.

I will share more of my summer reading later. 

Friday, November 16, 2018


I had planned to blog last night about either books I am reading and podcasts I am listening to or about my Christmas planner and Thanksgiving plans, but instead my family invited me to watch Elf with them! I am not much of a TV or movie watcher unless I am on the treadmill, and when I do sit down to watch a movie with the family I am usually multitasking. However, last night I decided to sit on the couch with nothing extra to do and just watch the movie. I enjoyed it so much! I felt like I was in college.....just sitting on the couch with Jimmy, watching a movie.
After the movie I told everyone goodnight and put on a new set of sticker fingernails. Then I was too tired to think so I went to bed.

This morning I have to make my grocery list which will include all the non-perishable ingredients I will need to cook for our three Thanksgiving celebrations next week. I am off to the grocery store soon, and then I will do school with Leah and Sam for a little bit before it's time for Leah and I to go get our hair cut. After that, more school and then cooking for a Family Bible study and potluck dinner tonight (at Julie and Big Sam's house). Also Julie and Mae are coming over for the day! That's the most fun of all.

Later tonight I hope to get my thoughts together about all the books I have read over the summer and into the fall. I have a few good ones!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Facebook Shopping Parties

Here's something else I have been doing lately......Facebook shopping parties. In the past few months I have been introduced to Norwex (three parties), Younique, and Color Street Nails. I know there are many Facebook parties out there, but these are the three I have been invited to recently. Before these online parties, I knew nothing about these companies' products. In fact, when Lynn was showing me her sticker nails and was trying to tell me where she bought them, it took several tries before I understood what she was saying. Color Street Nails. I still don't know why they are called that.

Ok. Disclaimer. I am not selling any of these products. I am not hosting any online parties. I am getting no financial or other company benefit from telling you about this......I have just had so much fun, and I am sharing my life with you readers again! :)

1. Norwex. This is the only Facebook party that I have participated in live, and it was fun! I am sold on their enviro cloth, mirror cloth, and dusting mitt. I have enjoyed cleaning so much with them. The dusting mitt really attracts the dust, and my furniture stays dust free so much longer than before. I will not be using their body cloths to shower without soap or their kitchen cloths to wash dishes without soap, because, well, I like soap! I like the smell of soap! I do have their makeup removal cloths, which I love! I still use Mary Kay eye makeup remover to get my mascara off, but the Norwex cloths and hot water get my face clean. It's very easy. I have three of these cloths, and since I do laundry every. single. day. I always have one clean. 

2.  Younique.  Makeup. I am not high maintenance in the makeup department. I still wear some Cover Girl products just like I did in high school. I use several Mary Kay products, including my long time staple, tinted moisturizer, along with various other products all sold at Walmart. 
But, I watched several tutorial videos, spent a long time chatting with a consultant while I held Baby Mae late one night while Julie slept, and before you knew it, I had bought some new makeup! I am now using some sort of foundation, a fabulous foundation/powder/concealer brush, and mascara and a fiber lash set--all from Younique. This is the first time I have worn actual foundation in decades, and I really like it. It is very light and goes on effortlessly with the brush. (I don't wear the tinted moisturizer if I wear the foundation.) I also just bought some face primer, which I used for the first time today. The Epic mascara may be my new favorite mascara. I have used the fiber lashes a few times, but I really don't have time for too much extra in my daily "getting ready" routine. 

3. Color Street Nails. This is my favorite of all. I have painted my fingernails maybe three times since Olivia was born (she's 23), and I have had one manicure in my entire life. (last year). I have had some sort of fingernail infection on most of my fingernails (it comes and goes and alternates nails) for  almost 12 years. Yuk. It's not a fungus. I have taken many different medications over the years, and nothing helps. I am pretty sure I have chronic paronychia. (Google that. It's gross.) Anyway, I do not have pretty fingernails. But these Color Street Nails have changed my life! I bought four sets (because the party special was buy 3, get 1 free! :) With each set I am pretty sure I am getting two full manicures. I bought three sets of regular polish, and one set of glitter! I use the glitter stickers on my currently yucky nails, because I have found that they stick the best. 

The first time I applied them Lynn did most of it for me. She was concerned that I would not have the patience to do them, and she was right! If I had tried them all by myself the first time, I would have given up. But she showed me how to do it, and now I have done two more sets all by myself. I think the company advertises that each "manicure" lasts two weeks, but mine have lasted only six days each time. But wow! Six days. That's great to me! After 5-6 days they start cracking and coming off little bit on the tips. I am sure it's because I keep my hands in water so much washing and scrubbing dishes.
In case you are not familiar with Color Street Nails, they are nail shaped stickers made of actual nail polish. You apply the sticker and then gently shape it to your nail. I can do it in less than 30 minutes now. And no drying time!

I am done with Facebook parties for now, because I need to get onto online Christmas shopping.

But it has been lots of fun!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Countdown to Christmas: Part 1

No. I'm not "robbing the Pilgrims" as Kelly tries to tell us when we decorate for the Christmas Holidays well before Thanksgiving. It's just that Christmas decorations are so much fun. The tree, my Santa collection, the special ornaments, the greenery--I love it all, and I want to enjoy it a little bit longer than 3-4 weeks. 

I saw this sentiment somewhere on social media recently:

November 1-21:  Christmas
November 22:  Thanksgiving
November 23-December 25:  Christmas

I agree!  

My plan is for "the other Kelly" (Jimmy's college roommate who decorates for me each year--not be confused with "Uncle Kelly", my best friend, Lynn's husband) to come over next Monday night to work his magic. In about two hours he has the living areas of our home decked out in Christmas finery. It takes me way, way longer to take it down and pack it up each year than it does for him to make it all look so beautiful! 

But today's plan is to make a plan.
If you are beginning to think about the holiday season, now is time to make a list. Make lots of lists

Here is my plan for today:

  • Take inventory of the gifts I have bought so far this year. I try to pick up a few things here and there for people as I see things that I think would be perfect for someone. I create a word document on my computer each year of each family member and friend's name that I buy/make gifts for, the gift, and when I wrap it. Actually I delete all the previous year's information and use the same document template each year. I don't make a whole new document. I just save the new one with the current year in the title. I think they are all called "Christmas 2018", etc. 
  • Look in the various places I hide gifts and bring them all to a central location.
  • Type the gifts into my Christmas document.
  • Record the amount of money already spent on various Christmas items (gifts, cards, stamps, supplies etc.) in another document. I do set a Christmas Holidays budget each year, and I save money all throughout the year for this purpose. 
  • Rehide all the gifts, but this time begin grouping them for wrapping.
  • One more thing--when I am done shopping and wrapping, I print out all my gift lists and place them inside my Christmas binder. (More about my Christmas binder another day.)
I ran/walked again this morning! Today I did 2.5 miles, so now I have 4 miles for this week. My goal is 10, and I think I can do it!

Do you have any exercise goals?
Do you want to start your holiday planning fun with me?

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 12, 2018

I May Be Back

Well. It's been a long, long time since I blogged.

I have heard on social media more than once that blogging is dead. That podcasts are the new thing now, and many people just don't read blogs anymore. True. I listen to a few podcasts myself, and I don't read blogs like I used to. However part of that is because of the stage of life I am in, and part of that is because many of the bloggers I used to follow are no longer blogging!

But I miss my blogging community, and I miss writing. I like getting my thoughts down on "paper", and I like sharing a little bit of my life and hopefully some encouragement to my readers.

So here goes. Again. I am going to try to jump back in.

Here is some of what has been going on in my life:

  • Julie and Big Sam moved back to Mississippi (from Romania).
  • Julie and Big Sam had a baby in August!  A precious baby girl named Mae.
  • I am a grandmother! I love being a grandmother so much!
  • It is difficult being a grandmother, a mother to a married daughter 9.5 hours away, a mother to a college sophomore 12 hours away, and a homeschooling mother to a 12 and 14 year old. (Plus Julie who now lives only 15 minutes away! :) All of those roles together have been quite the task. But I love being a wife/mother/grandmother most of all. Even when it's hard.
  • Olivia and Brian have visited us twice--once in July and once over Labor Day weekend. I love having my children come home.
  • I hosted Clay's college cross county team for an overnight stay last week. All 18 of them. It was delightful!
  • Jimmy and I were able to travel and watch Clay's college end of season conference meet and also Leah and Sam's national meet over the last several days.
  • I have basically quit running. :( I sometimes meet Leanna once a week or so for a 4-6 mile run, but that's it. I am not sure how or why I lost my motivation to run, but it's gone. And I am working on getting my motivation back. I ran/walked 1.5 miles this morning. I have set a goal of 10 miles this week.  For the first time in probably 10 years, I am not running the St. Jude Half Marathon (I ran the full marathon back in 2011, and I skipped 2014 to run a full marathon the next weekend). I signed up for the 10K instead. Now I am sad that I will be getting in the line to pick up the 10K bib instead of the half or full marathon bib! That may motivate me to get back into running! (Not that there is any shame in running the 5K or 10K, it's just that for so long I was running 2-3 half marathons a year, and now.......nothing.)
  • I am still doing CrossFit once or twice a week. Our class meets three times a week, but going twice is always my weekly goal. 
  • I am beginning to work on my Christmas Holidays plans. That makes me happy! This is the topic I will probably blog about I get my thoughts and plans together I will share them.
  • I have read several good books over the last several months.
  • I stated an inductive Bible study. I have found a new groove in my personal Bible study that is working well in my life right now.
  • I love my church family. 
  • I love my best friends, Lynn and Leanna.
  • I love my family. 
  • I am so thankful for all of my blessings. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Back To School: 18th Edition

Well. Our summer came and went like a flash!

I began our 18th year of homeschooling on Tuesday. Thankfully, I had Julie here to help me with the fun, cute, and yummy special back to school snacks!

These are the adorable sugar cookies Julie made!

I did some simple decorating to make the first day of school special. No one (including me!) was really ready for school to begin again, so I was hoping that some fun decorations and special snacks would make the inevitable a little more bearable. 

 I reused this banner I found on the Target bargain aisles last year.

 I stayed up too late sewing seven cloth napkins and a table runner out of this fun school fabric. (I actually just cut and serged the edges.) I only had enough fabric to make seven napkins, but that worked out ok since I have only two students this year! Julie and I ate breakfast with Leah and Small Sam, and seven napkins were still enough when we all ate together at suppertime. (Jimmy, Me, Julie, Big Sam, Clay Leah, and Small Sam)

 My fiesta dishes matched the colors in the fabric perfectly!

I created 10 clues for our annual back to school treasure hunt. It gets harder and harder to think of new places to hide clues each year. I think I had some repeats this year, but maybe Leah and Sam were too young when I first used them to remember. 
The last clue led them to their school desks where I had their "treasures" displayed.
(It gets harder to be creative with the treasures each year too!)

 Sam's desk

Leah's desk

 Leah's treasures.....
new notebooks, a folder, pencils and lead, candy, and these super cute pretzel pencils lovingly made by Julie

Sam's treasures were the same---just different colors.

For the first day, we did only a Bible lesson, math, and science. I spent a good bit of time reviewing their daily checklists and what would be expected of them in each subject. I decided to ease them into a full day of school this year.  Yesterday and today we did only Bible, math, and science. Then we are off until next Wednesday, because some of our family will be attending a wedding in Virginia, and then Jimmy is off for a couple more days after that. When we start back next Wednesday, I plan to add English (reading and composition) and Sam's Sonlight. Then on the following Monday, August 13, they will begin doing their complete daily checklist of subjects. 

 Leah's Checklist

Sam's Checklist

The number beside each subject indicates the number of days each week they are to work on each subject. For most subjects they will complete one lesson per day. I asked Leah to set a timer when she is working in algebra, biology and literature for 45 minutes, and just stop after that. 

We started our school year earlier than normal because Julie is expecting her baby girl in about 5 weeks. I wanted to get as much school done before the baby comes.

Happy Back to School!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Back At Home

So I've been home for almost a week. I attended two weddings last weekend, unpacked and washed lots of clothes, and started back to school yesterday. No, we are not done with this school year yet. We will be done by next Friday, June 8. I am determined for Leah and Sam to both finish their math books, and they will by the end of next week. We will have a shorter than normal summer break, because I plan to start them back at the end of July. I want to get some school done before Julie's baby arrives, because I know I will need to take some time off for that. Our summer break is not actually shorter than normal, it is just broken up differently since we traveled to Florida and Romania in May.

I am almost in panic mode regarding what I have to accomplish the next two weeks....besides finishing up school, I am teaching VBS at our church next week, and the week after that I am teaching at RYC. I spent most of this afternoon preparing for my VBS class, and I hope to start on RYC planning tomorrow. I am teaching (with three other wonderful ladies) 3rd and 4th grade again this year. This is my fourth or fifth time teaching this age group.

My house is also super, super dirty! It has not been cleaned since the end of April. Sam's room and walk-in closet look like an episode of hoarders, and Clay's college stuff is filling up Olivia's room. Plus Julie's room is full of her wedding presents and five fully packed suitcases! I am not sure even where to begin! My plan is to just start cleaning my house today. I am just going to start in one room, and keep going, little by little until it is all done. It may take me a month! :)

I pulled out my master clean out list I made back in January. I have only checked off January's tasks so far. But I am determined. After I get my house cleaned from top to bottom, I plan to begin tackling that clean out list. We will see.

Life always gets in the way.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Romania Days 14-16

May 20-22

On Sunday, we slept in a little bit after our late night arrival the night before from the Transylvania 100 Race. Julie and Big Sam's church's worship service and Bible study begin at 5:00PM, so we had time to wash clothes and buy groceries before preparing for the service (which meets in their home).

Since we had so many clothes to wash (from the muddy race), Jimmy made Julie a clothesline on her balcony. I was able to wash many loads in one day because they dried so quickly on the balcony.

Here are a few pictures I took on our walk to and from the grocery store.

 I guess McDonald's is everywhere! However, I never saw a Chick Fil A over here.

 I'm not sure WHAT this is.....

 Romanian parking spot

 more examples of Romanian parking
Cars are parked everywhere you look here.

Monday was our last day before heading back home. We spent this day packing and visiting the city center one more time. Jimmy took the kids to the closest park to play while I did some packing before we went to the center.

 We bought this banner while shopping one last time in the center.
We are on Julie's balcony.

 The suitcases--packed and ready to go.
Yes, there are nine of them! Three and a half of them have our stuff in them, and the rest have Julie and Big Sam's belongings that we took home for them. 

 This is the stairway that leads to the top (4th floor) of Julie's apartment. (They live on the top floor.)

 in the city center

 in the city center

 the underground bathroom in the city center

 This is where we ordered our lunch. We got the wraps that they are known for, and they were delicious!

 I can't remember what this building is, but it is a focal point of the city center.

 This was a cool soccer ball in front of the mall in the city center.

 We enjoyed Starbucks one last time together.

Sam is taking a picture of his Gumby and Pokey.....he poses them in various places when we are traveling and takes pictures of them.

Monday night I completed our packing, and then began stressing a little bit over whether or not the suitcases would fit in the vehicles that were carrying us to the airport. Dan was taking some of us in his car, and Big Sam borrowed a minivan from an American evangelist he recently met in Craiova. That was so very kind of him to let us borrow his minivan! Since the minivan was parked four flights of stairs below, and since we did not want to leave all our luggage in the vehicles overnight, Clay and I measured the size of each suitcase, and then we measured the interior of the minivan and the luggage carrier on top to see if the luggage would actually fit. Based on our calculations, and if Dan's car could hold three suitcases, everything would fit.

We set our alarms for 3:45AM, and tried to sleep.

Tuesday morning, May 22, came early, and Jimmy carried all nine suitcases downstairs. Then Clay and Big Sam placed them in the two vehicles, and yay! They fit! We left for the Bucharest airport at 4:45AM.

We made it to the airport about 8:40, and thankfully, quickly made it through security and passport control and then found our gate. We left at 10:00AM for a short plane ride to Istanbul, Turkey. We had about a two hour layover there that passed by quickly. We sampled some Turkish delight, Jimmy and I got coffee, the kids got Turkish ice cream, and then we began the long walk to our gate. We had to go through security again before we could enter the seating area to wait to board our plane. I even had to take the cover off my off again, we were swabbed, inspected, etc. 

We boarded our plane bound for Atlanta, Georgia, USA at 1:30PM local time. We were on that airplane almost 14 hours before we deplaned in Atlanta! It was about 8:00PM EST in Atlanta when we landed. Somewhere up in the sky we gained/lost? seven hours, and on our way home to Mississippi we gained another hour (or lost an hour? I am not sure!) Anyway, once we finally arrived at our house, it was Wednesday, May 23, 2:30AM. We had been traveling about 29 hours, I think. 

Since our long flight was mostly during the daytime hours (for what our bodies were accustomed to), I slept only an hour, maybe. I watched three entire movies:  You've Got Mail, Gone With the Wind, and Wonder. We were served two full meals and had self-service to sandwiches, dessert, and beverages. 
Jimmy brought compressions socks for the whole family to wear on the trip back, and they made such a positive difference for me. My ankles did not swell at all, and my legs did not hurt like they did on the trip over. I also got up and walked around the airplane at least ten times on this trip. 

IT WAS SO GOOD TO BE BACK IN THE USA!  I could tell immediately that we were on American soil as soon as we entered the Atlanta airport! We had to go through passport control one more time and were briefly questioned one last time, and then we were released to gather our luggage and go to our car! 

We fit the suitcases in my vehicle....six in the back (I folded down two seats) and three on the back on a carrier on my trailer hitch.


I am gradually getting over the jet lag.  The first 2-3 days I was profoundly sleepy at 5:00PM, and was in bed by 9:30PM, but by midnight or 1AM, I was wide awake!

We left Thursday morning to go to Alabama for Parker's wedding (Lynn's son). We got back home from that late Friday more traveling for us for at least a couple of weeks!