Wednesday, December 31, 2008


After a one week break from running, I began training again today. The children are in the middle of a two week break from running. They will begin next Monday when we start back to school.

On April 25, Jimmy is running a FULL MARATHON and Olivia is running another half marathon in Nashville. This is a huge race.....45,000 participants! Julie is too young to race (you must be 12), and I am going to keep the children myself, so Julie and I will not be participating. Our whole family is going to Nashville for the event. Julie, Clay, Leah, Sam, and I will be at the finish line to welcome Olivia and Jimmy.

Julie and I are going to train with Olivia. I began the program today, and they will begin the 16 week training schedule next Monday. We are following a different running schedule than the one we followed for the St. Jude Half in December. This one has about the same amount of weekly mileage (16-28), and it also increases the weekly mileage in very small increments, about 1-2 miles each week. The difference is in the division of the miles during the week. We will still run 4 days a week with optional cross training on a 5th day. Our previous schedule had us running basically 4-5 miles 3 times a week with a long run once a week. This new schedule has two short runs (2-3 miles each), one medium run (5-10 miles each), and one long run (7-12 miles each). So we will alternate--short, medium, short, long. This first week the runs are 2,5,2,7.

When I typed up the running schedule and taped it to the pantry door, anxiety set in. Just looking at all of those medium and long runs caused me significant stress! I started thinking about what will I do with Leah and Sam during those long runs? What about school? What about this new homeschool co op we are joining this semester? What if it is freezing rain, and I have to run 10 miles on the treadmill? Then I stopped and remembered how I did it last week at a time, one day at a time. The big picture is overwhelming, but day by day it seems manageable.

The Saturday after the marathon/half marathon in Nashville, Julie, Clay, and I (and also Jimmy and Olivia if they are up to it) are going to run the Corinth Coke Classic 10 K. I am hoping that training with Olivia will allow both Julie and me to run our personal best times in that race.

Happy Running!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bye Bye Ba Ba!

I took Sam's pacifiers (he calls them ba bas) away from him today. Last night, out of the blue, I decided that today would be the day. I know that most of you are rolling your eyes saying that it's about time! Especially since he will be three in less than a month! But those of you who know me personally, know that I am a very relaxed kind of mama......I usually don't take away my children's comfort items. There are more important things that matter to me than things such as how long my children nursed (4 out of 5 nursed passed their first birthday), how long they took a bottle (2 took a bottle for a long time after weaning from breastfeeding---one until 19 months, one until 30 months), or until now, how long they took a pacifier (the only other child who took a pacifier, used it until 26 months). In each case, the child gave up the comfort item on his own! However, Sam has shown absolutely no signs of ever giving up his beloved ba ba!
My main motivation for ending the pacifier addiction is that I didn't want to have to keep up with pacifiers at Disneyworld, where we are going in 3.5 weeks. So, today was the day.
He did super! This morning I hid all of the pacifiers except for the one he was sleeping with--before he woke up. While he was eating breakfast, I secretly snatched the last one. After breakfast, he asked, "Where is my ba ba?" I told him that they were all gone, he was a big boy, and he did not need them anymore. He went to the drawer where I previously had kept them, and to his dismay, they were all gone! He asked, "Where are my ba bas?" They are all gone!! I repeated what I had just said, then picked him up and loved on him. I distracted him, and he was fine. I spent the day making sure I held him more than usual (is that even possible?). I kept him busy close beside me. He only asked for his ba bas 4 or 5 times all day, and was for the most part satisfied with my answer. Twice, he whined for several minutes....before naptime and bedtime. He fell asleep in my lap as I was reading books to him for his nap, and at bedtime, he jumped, sang, rolled around, tossed, and turned for one hour before falling asleep. But he never cried! I am so proud of him. Now that we have made it through the first day, I think all will be fine.
What a big boy!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Menu Monday


Monday: shrimp spaghetti, salad

Tuesday: baked chicken, baked sweet potatoes, steamed broccoli

Wednesday: chicken strips, ranch dip, cream cheese with pepper jelly and crackers (New Year's party at Lynn's house after church service)

Thursday: poppy seed chicken, brown rice, green beans

Friday: out of town (Russ and Megan's house) Jimmy is running a half marathon in Jackson on Saturday morning.

Saturday: homemade pizza

Sunday: taco soup

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pleaning Day

Sam spent most of Christmas Day eating the entire contents of his stocking!!

Pleaning is a word that my children made up to describe the activity of clean a little, play a little. Today we are having a pleaning day. I set the timer for 30 minutes and we clean, then I set the timer for 30 minutes again, and we play. We will continue this cycle until the job is complete or the day is over, whichever comes first! Today's cleaning involves taking down, packing, and storing the Christmas decorations (we actually began this task last night) plus straightening all the rooms in the house. We are finding or making a place for every new toy, game, etc. Today's playing involves dolls, coloring and drawing, legos, stickers, and games.

Christmas Traditions

Leah, Julie, Olivia, Clay, and Sam
Christmas Eve

Each year on Christmas Eve, we give the children one gift to open. It is always new, matching pajamas. They look forward to this each year, and they all try to guess what they will look like.

We visit our extended families and exchange gifts with them before Christmas Day. (I forgot my camera when we celebrated Christmas with Jimmy's family!! Hopefully Russ and Megan will make me a disc of the pictures they took so I can scrapbook and blog!) Visit Megan's blog to see pictures of us at Granmomma's and Pop's.

On Christmas Day we spend the entire day at home in our pajamas! Jimmy and I do not get new pajamas each year, but we do have Christmas themed pjs that we wear for the occasion. The children awaken fairly early (this year we said, "Do not call us before 6:30 a.m.!"), and come down the stairs all together to see what Santa Claus brought them. At our house, Santa leaves one item for each child plus a stocking full of candy and small items......nail clippers, key chains, stickers, lotion, etc. The children, Jimmy, and I spend the next few hours opening presents (the gifts that we give each other) at a leisurely pace. I prepare the same breakfast each year: egg and sausage casserole and monkey bread. I fix the casserole on Christmas Eve, but usually have to prepare the monkey bread on Christmas morning. This year, however, my grandmother gave us homemade monkey bread for our Christmas gift. It was delicious, and all I had to do was reheat it in the oven. Yum! Our traditional Christmas lunch was grilled steak for many years. Last year I decided to do something different--soups. I also served two different soups this year (chicken gumbo and cheesy chicken stew), but Jimmy and the children very politely informed me that they really preferred the steak dinner instead! We rarely eat steak and often eat soup, so I agreed to reinstate the previous years' Christmas dinner. The rest of the day is spent enjoying our new gifts---playing lots of legos and games.

Now that this wonderful holiday season is over, I will be moving to my next project that I usually tackle this time of year: CLEANING OUT AND ORGANIZING. I will be offering regular tips about this subject.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Tip

This is a little late, but it is time to clean out your children's toys. I spent a few hours today and yesterday doing just that. I box up what I want to keep (for sentimental reasons or for future grandchildren), bag what I want to give away, and throw away all of those little broken bits and pieces. I also bought various sizes of clear plastic boxes to store new toys and games in. I will type and print labels for those boxes after Christmas. Plastic storage boxes are useful for storing things like legos, KNex, Little People sets, dollhouse furniture, jewelry making supplies, etc. Just be sure to label each box. In my boys' closet, almost every single item is in a labled box. This makes clean up easier, and the closet looks nice too.

Holiday Recipes

I have been cooking for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Tomorrow (or I guess today, since it is after midnight!), I am taking Hash Brown Potato Casserole, Pumpkin Cake, and Caramel Brownies to my in-laws house. Christmas Eve is also Jimmy's mother's birthday. I guess we will stick some candles in the pumpkin cake! The children are all excited about visiting with their aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, and exchanging gifts. I will include my Christmas Day recipes in a separate post.

Hash Brown Potato Casserole
1 32 oz bag or 2 20 oz. bags of frozen shredded hash browns with onions and peppers, thawed
1 stick butter, melted
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp. salt.

Mix all ingredients. Put into a 9 x 13 baking dish and bake for 1 hour at 350.

Pumpkin Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. groung nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 can solid pack pumpkin

Blend all ingredients using a mixer. Put into a greased bundt pan. Bake for one hour at 350.

Caramel Brownies
1 Pillsbury German Chocolate Cake mix (get Pillsbury, it does matter)
1/2 container caramel apple dip
1 & 1/2 sticks melted butter
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 cup (1/2 12 oz. bag) chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine cake mix, butter, milk, and pecans. Press 1/2 mixture into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake at 350 8 minutes. Microwave the caramel dip to soften. Sprinkle chocolate chips over cake. Drizzle apple dip on top. Use your fingers to blob the rest of the cake mixture in little blobs on top. Bake 20 minutes. Cool well before cutting.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Simmons Family Christmas

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas with my parents, my two grandmothers, and my two brothers and their families--Rhett and Amanda, Wesley (2) and Davis (2.5 months); Ryan (who was on call and could not attend) and Mary Margaret, Causey (5) and Bounds (2).
The celebration was at Southaven at Rhett and Amanda's house. It was beautifully decorated, and we enjoyed a delicious meal. After lunch we exchanged gifts. The children all enjoyed playing with their cousins and holding baby Davis. I got to hold the baby for a little while too!
Julie and my Daddy

My Mama and Rhett

Clay and Davis

Amanda and Davis

Meme and Julie

Olivia and Jimmy

Wesley and Causey wrestling! I could not get a picture of Wesley while he was sitting still!

Mama, Momo, and Mary Margaret

Sweet Brothers!

Leah--posing in front of the Christmas tree

Sam, eyeing all of his presents!

Causey and Bounds

Sam---still waiting to open those presents!
A big thank you to Rhett and Amanda for having all of us in your home. We had a fabulous time!

A Visit to Aunt Julie's

We visited Jimmy's Aunt Julie this weekend when all of her children and grandchildren were in town. Jimmy hadn't seen some of his cousins and their families in a few years. We all enjoyed a short visit and dessert.

Julie and Aunt Julie
Katie, Brett, Clay, Julie, and Olivia
Aunt Megan and Leah
The whole crew

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Johnson Christmas Party

What a party! The theme was "food and fellowship"! We ate lots of good food (everyone brought an appetizer or dessert) and spent the evening visiting. The younger children ran all over the house, and the older ones played outside in the barn. We haven't seen some of Jimmy's family since our Christmas party last year. It was fun to catch up and see how much the children had grown.

I tried to take a picture of every guest, but I didn't get around to everyone. As best I can tell, I don't have a picture of Olivia, Clay, and Jimmy from our family, and Myra, Jack, and Mary Kate from our extended family. Everyone else should be pictured below. Stacee, if I left anyone else out, please let me know!
Sam Johnson and Sam Johnson!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chicken Dip Recipe Correction

I made a correction to the Hot Chicken Dip recipe. In the original post I forgot to list 1/4 can of tomato soup.

Hot Chicken Dip

2 cans chicken
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 can tomato soup
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup Hellman's mayo
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp. garlic salt

Mix all ingredients using a mixer. Bake at 350 until hot throughout, about 30 minutes. Serve with wheat thins.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Menu Monday

Breakfast: eggs, bacon, toast
Lunch: leftover homemade pizza
Supper: tacos, nachos, Mexican rice

Breakfast: pigs in blankets
Lunch: leftover tacos, sandwiches
Supper: chicken and dumplings, peas

Breakfast: whole wheat waffles, bacon
Lunch: leftover chicken and dumplings, sandwiches
Supper: vegetable soup, breadsticks

Breakfast: eggs, bacon, biscuits
Lunch: leftover soup, grilled cheese
Supper: Johnson Christmas Party! (at my house) Everyone brings an appetizer or dessert. I am making Neiman Marcus cookies, bumpie cookies, rice krispie goodies, seasoned oyster crackers, peppermint cookies, and hot chicken dip

Breakfast: cereal, oatmeal
Lunch: chicken roll ups
Supper: spaghetti, salad

Breakfast: whole wheat waffles, bacon
Lunch: Simmons Christmas Dinner! (at my brother's house) I am bringing salad with crunchy romaine and walnut topping, Deeply Almond Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting, and bread
Supper: out

Breakfast: cereal, oatmeal
Lunch: pasta salad
Supper: leftovers, cereal

I serve fresh fruit and raw vegetables every day with our lunch. Our snacks include fruit, crackers, cheese, peanut butter, yogurt, cereal, and popcorn.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Tips, Pictures, and Glasses

What a title, what a week! We are in full December mode here at the Johnson house! Lots of errands, lots of gift wrapping, lots of crafting, but no baking yet! I plan to do our Christmas cookie and other goodies baking beginning next Monday. Over the past week we finally got our Christmas cards in the mail plus invitations to two other parties that I am hosting next week. Here are the pictures that I included on our Christmas card.

Sam, Leah, Clay, Julie, and Olivia sitting on the wall in our backyard.

Sitting on a fallen tree that partially spans the creek in our woods. Sam was frightened by this picture pose....up a little too high!

In the top part of our "fort" in the backyard.

The older children and I have been spending time each day crafting our handmade Christmas gifts for this year. I will post pictures of some of them after we give them away......don't want anyone reading this to see their gift before they get it! I think I have posted about this earlier, but every year the children and I make the gifts for their friends, teachers, elderly friends from our church, etc. I usually choose what next year's gift craft will be in January and begin stocking up on the supplies we will need throughout the year as I find them at a good price.

Earlier this week Julie got glasses! I took all three older children for an eye exam, and Julie was diagnosed as being near-sighted. This does not surprise me at all. I am practically blind, and have been since age 9. I am only surprised that one my children has not needed glasses before now. Julie is getting used to wearing the glasses, and I think she was amazed at what she was missing!

Doesn't she look like the journalist that she is?

Today's Christmas Tip:
While wrapping your gifts, use your master gift list that you made when shopping to check off each item as you wrap it. You don't want to wrap 10 gifts, then wonder what exactly did you wrap! Was that Aunt Sue's scarf, or Grandpaw's tie? Also, if you have more than one person wrapping gifts in your home (like I do), this list is a must! I keep the typed list on our gift wrap table. My girls know to check off each thing that they wrap.
When all of the gifts are bought and wrapped, retype your list, save it, print it out, and place it in your Christmas binder. Now you have a neat record of your holiday gifts for future referral.
If you host any parties during the holiday season, be sure to type up your guest list for your binder. This is very helpful for future don't want to leave anyone out!
Include any recipes for special holiday baking that you do in your binder.
I am closing this post with a cute picture of Sam. He is sitting inside the "puzzle shelf" (named because of its design) in his room. This shelf extends from floor to ceiling, and it covers one whole wall in his and Clay's room. One side holds Clay's things, and one side hold's Sam's. Sam had climbed in Clay's side......I just had to take a picture!

He jumped down after the picture!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Carrie Underwood!!!

Jimmy surprised Olivia, Julie, and me with tickets to the Carrie Underwood concert last night! What an amazing concert! Little Big Town opened for Carrie, and they were entertaining as well. Carrie put on quite a show! The girls and I enjoyed the night immensely!
Before the concert, we went out to eat supper. Jimmy took Clay, Leah, and Sam to Chuck E. Cheese's for pizza and games. He reported that Sam was so excited to be there, that he could hardly eat! When we got home at 11:00 last night, Jimmy and all 3 children were sound asleep.
What a fun night!

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Forrest, Olivia, me, Julie, and Jimmy after the race

I did it! I completed my first half marathon! I finished in 2 hours, 11 minutes! I was very pleased with my time. Everyone in our group did extremely well, all of us meeting our time goals. Here are the times: Jimmy--1:45; Forrest--1:33; Olivia--1:58; Julie--1:57.

Yes! It was absolutely freezing! 31 degrees at the start of the race. We stayed in the van and then inside the Peabody Place until the last possible moment. I got cold waiting for my wave to start the race (about 2 minutes per wave, I started in wave 9), but as soon as I began running, I was fine. In fact, I didn't get cold again until the race was over. Sitting outside in wet running clothes was pretty chilly!

Running with 11,000 other runners was exciting. I enjoyed reading the backs of everyone's shirts as well as the signs the spectators held on the side of the streets. Some signs were encouraging, and some were just plain funny! My favorite sign read, "You are all Crazy!"

We invited Forrest to join our family and run the race with us. He was a delight to have along. Forrest is a fellow homeschooler and member of the Spartan Homeschool Cross Country Team. We enjoyed each other's company throughout the weekend.

Forrest, me, Olivia, and Julie at the Spaghetti Warehouse

I am so happy that I have met this goal that I set for myself. Will I run another half-marathon? Sure, but not anytime soon. The time required to train, plus the logistics of arranging for child care for Leah, Sam, and Clay (who is not old enough to participate in a half marathon) for the weekend of the race, is a little too much for me to do on a regular basis. I would like to complete one or maybe two half marathons a year. Will I ever run a full marathon? Not any time soon (like in the next 10 years!) or ever! At mile 12.5, the marathoners split off from us half-marathoners. As they ran to the left, and we ran to the right, I was thinking how glad I was that I was almost through, not almost halfway through. At that point I said to myself that I would NEVER run a full marathon. But never say never! Who knows what I may do when all of my children are teenagers and older!

I am so grateful to my parents for driving to my home and keeping Clay, Leah, and Sam for the weekend. I was a little nervous about leaving Sam overnight again, but he did super. In fact, my mother said that he never once asked for me or his pacifier, and he never cried! That was great! As soon as I walked in the door however, he ran to me, took my ponytail out, and asked for his "ba-ba" (pacifier)! He hugged and kissed me, and he told me that he missed me. Then he layed his head on my shoulder and promptly went to sleep. He was worn out from all of the fun!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Christmas Book Basket

When Olivia was one, I started a tradition of wrapping 24 Christmas books and putting them in a basket. She opened one each morning in December for us to read together. The next year I bought and wrapped 24 more Christmas books, so Julie could join in the fun. By the time Clay was here to celebrate his first Christmas, I had increased my Christmas book supply even more. I didn't have quite enough for each child to open one book per day, but we still had plenty of Christmas books to unwrap and read.
When we moved to this house (Jan. 05), somehow the Christmas book storage container was misslabled and missplaced. The first Christmas in our new house was celebrated without our Christmas books! I was distraught! Where could those books be? I bought some new Christmas books that year, but not enough for the children to unwap one each day. Just enough for us to read and enjoy that December. For two Christmases we did not have our Christmas books. Then, one summer when I was cleaning out my storage containers, I found them! They had been misslabled! Hooray!
Somewhere along the way I have stopped wrapping those 60+ books. Now, on the first day of December, I just get them out of storage and put them in two large baskets in our den. The children love reading the books from those baskets each day. Leah and Sam choose from the Christmas book basket for books for me to read to them at bedtime. I choose longer ones to read aloud to the children each morning. And of course throughout the day I read whatever book is brought to me by Leah or Sam, Christmas book or not.
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving Week

What a week it was! We traveled to both sets of grandparents' homes (4 hours apart), we bought and decorated our Christmas tree, and in the middle of it all, I did a huge amount of cooking! We have 1 more day of school, and then it is Christmas break until January 5th! Hooray! Here are some pictures of the week's activities. Some are from my parents' house, some are from Jimmy's parents' house and some are here at our house. Unfortunately, at both houses, I failed to get a picture of everyone. I plan to pay more attention to my photography at our next family gathering. Enjoy!