Monday, December 29, 2014

My New Lamp

Made with love by Jimmy

Jimmy told me before Christmas that he was making my gift this year.  He spent a lot of time in his workshop, and I had no idea what he was building!

The first thing I opened from him on Christmas morning was a light bulb with a picture of Hoka running shoes taped on the front.  HMMMM…..a light bulb?  I just thought it was something he found lying around to tape the picture to.  His intention was for me to try on and pick out the shoes myself, and we actually did that today!  I plan to try running in them tomorrow morning.  Even if they don't work out for running, they are comfortable shoes to wear when I am going to be on my feet for most of the day.

Back to the light bulb.  I really didn't think another thing about it.  Then, my second gift was the lamp in the picture above!  And the light bulb was to go inside.  Jimmy designed and built this lamp.  I love it!  Coke is my favorite beverage, he knew that I would appreciate such a unique gift.

I am proudly displaying it on a table in our den.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

First Run Since The Marathon

This morning I ran for the first time since my marathon.
Three slow miles on the treadmill while watching an episode of The Biggest Loser.
I am still battered!  I thought my soreness was gone, but I was wrong.  My thighs and legs ached at the beginning, but by the end I think I worked all the soreness out.  I plan to attempt five miles tomorrow.  And then ten on Friday.  I have the Disney Half Marathon coming up, and so I need to stay somewhat in shape in order to finish that and still be able to go to the park that day.

After that race, I don't have any more races on my calendar.  My plan is to exercise for up to one hour each morning, 4-5 days a week.  Once a week I plan to meet Leanna (and hopefully Lynn sometimes too) for a 10 mile run.  I may do some of my Shaun T workout videos on some mornings to mix things up.  That's my plan.

Do you have an exercise plan for 2015?  Make one.  :)  Schedule at least 30 minutes of your day for brisk walking or maybe even an exercise video.  Find a friend to join you at least once a week for even more motivation and fun!  My weekly runs with friends are as much about mental therapy as they are about physical exercise.  We solve all our problems while pounding the pavement!

We are busy, busy enjoying our December/January holiday season.  We celebrated Christmas with my extended family last Saturday, and we will celebrate with Jimmy's family on this coming Saturday.

Here is one picture that captured the delight of the day.

And here is the family photo that I am trying to upload as the header of this blog.  I can't figure it out… is too huge no matter what I do.  Anyway, here are the Johnsons:  December 2014.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Our Johnson Christmas Party

Last night we hosted our annual Johnson Christmas Party, which includes Jimmy's extended family and honorary Johnsons as well (Kelly and Lynn and their family).

 The young children played legos and dolls.
The teens and pre-teens played card games and chess.

I prepared Taco Soup, Vegetarian Chili, and Chicken Vegetable Soup.  Everyone else brought either an appetizer or dessert (or both!), and we ate and visited and generally just had fun with each other.
Lots of laughter could be heard throughout the house.

It really was a nice evening!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Junior Olympics National Championship XC Meet

On the same day that I left for Huntsville for my marathon, Jimmy and Julie left bright and early for the Memphis airport.  They flew to Charleston, South Carolina, and then drove a rental car on to Myrtle Beach so Julie could compete in the Junior Olympics National Cross Country Meet on Saturday. The opportunity for Julie to run in this meet came about after Jimmy and I had signed up for the Rocket City Marathon, and both events were on the same day.  We decided to split up.  Jimmy took Julie to her meet, and I took the rest of the children with me to Huntsville.

Julie had an amazing weekend with her daddy!  They enjoyed some quality time together, and Julie ran a fabulous race.  She set her personal record in the 5K distance with a finishing time of 19:34!  We are all so proud of her!  She has worked so hard this cross country season (really the work began early in the summer), and all of that hard work paid off in her last XC meet of her high school career.
She finished 18th out of 83 girls (in the ages 17-18 female group) from across the country.  She was awarded a medal and a hat, and Jimmy also bought her a cool shirt with all of the participants' names (from her age group) listed on the back.

They were able to make a trip to the beach and do a little bit of sightseeing before returning home on Sunday.  I was so happy to have our entire family together Sunday afternoon.  And we will all be together until Olivia leaves to go back to college the first week of January.

Would you like to know the logistics of that running weekend?  It took some planning and figuring, but with the help of some special friends, we got it all worked out.

1.  Jimmy and Julie left at 5:00 AM for the Memphis airport.
2.  Clay, Leah, Sam, and I left about noon to pick up Leanna and make the three hour drive to Huntsville.
3.  We dropped Leanna off at her hotel, and then the children and I walked to the race expo to pick up my race number and do a little bit of shopping.
4.  At 4:00 PM, our special friends, Ben and Stacy, picked up Olivia from the Birmingham airport.  She was flying home for Christmas break.
5.  We drove about 40 minutes to Hartselle to meet Ben, Stacy, and Olivia! at their home.  We were so happy to see Olivia!
6. We spent the night at the Walkers' home, and enjoyed a delicious supper with them and their friends, David and Maggie.
7.  At 5:45 AM Saturday morning, David drove me to the race.  Thank you David!
8.  Later that morning Ben drove my car with my four children to the race to see me finish.
9.  At 1:00 PM our time, Julie ran her fantastic race!
10. We said goodbye to Ben, Stacy, and David, and after eating and a visit to Target, the children and I drove back home.  I think we got home around 7:00 PM
11.  Jimmy and Julie attended the awards ceremony for the meet Saturday night.

Thanks to cell phones, we were able to keep up with each other all weekend.  We talked, texted, and shared pictures, and Jimmy and Julie were able to track me during my marathon.

It was not the best set-up…..our family being divided during the weekend, but it all worked out!
Julie had a wonderful race, and I was happy with my race too.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rocket City Marathon

Well.  On Saturday, I ran my LAST marathon.  It turned out to be both a tortuous and wonderful experience!

Leanna and I have trained for the last few months for this marathon.  It was my 5th official and her first.  We were joined by Stacee and two of her friends, Doug and Tracy.  We all started out together.  My original goal was to run the marathon in 4 hours and 28 minutes.  That would be a PR (personal record) for me, and I felt like Leanna, Stacee, and I could do that.  But towards the end of our training, I was tired, and I had my doubts!  Just before the race began Stacee stated that she felt sure we could do a 4:25.  Alright! I was ready!

Around mile 5, Doug and I were chatting away about Disney World, and I think we must have picked up the pace a little bit.  I figured Leanna, Stacy, and Tracy were right behind us.  At the next water stop, I walked the length of it and drank water, while Doug continued running.  I looked behind and didn't see Leanna…..I looked ahead and didn't see Doug.  I panicked a little bit.  Then I sped up, hoping to catch up with Doug.  I looked and looked for him, but never saw him.  I looked behind periodically for Leanna and Stacee, but to no avail.  I turned back to look every now and then when we turned a corner…..I kept on scanning the runners ahead of me…..but I never saw any of my group!

By mile 10, I gave up finding them, and resigned myself to running the marathon alone! There were people calling out the time at every mile marker, and I could tell that I had a pretty good pace.  Hmmmmm, I thought…...maybe I can run a PR and really, really be done with running marathons and also be happy with my time.  I decided that if I had to run this race alone, I was determined to push myself and post a good finish time.

So I kept on running and running and running, and I thought the race would never end! At mile 18, I began to get a little crazy, and by mile 20 I was really crazy.  It was cold.  The wind was blowing.  I was ready to be done.  But I kept on running.  At times I was having a conversation with myself like Rapunzel from Tangled when she first escapes the castle.  "I'm going to die!…..Best. Day. Ever……..Why am I doing this?……I am going to be so happy with my finish time……I'm going to die!….I can't wait to tell Jimmy about my race…..and so it went.

I really about lost my mind.  Miles 23-26 were the worst.  I walked a little bit between water stops, but walking actually was more painful than running at this point.  My pace was slowing, but I was determined by this point to finish under 4:20.  Near the finish line I saw four of my children and some dear friends (It's another story why Jimmy and Julie were not there), and I was encouraged to smile and keep going.

And then the finish line.  Woo! Hoo!

The clock said 4:19:06, but, my official finish time was 4:18:30!  I was soooo happy!

And then I crashed.  It was miserable.  Three people asked me if I needed the medical tent.  Ha!  I just needed for my whole body to stop hurting.  It took me about an hour to recover.  I got a massage and ate some post-race food.

Then I loaded up the kids, we had some lunch and then we went to Target.

After shopping for a while we drove three hours home.  I was exhausted.

But I am so happy with my marathon time!

And that was the last. marathon. ever.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My Christmas Card Tree

Last year I started a new tradition…..hanging our Christmas cards on this little artificial tree.  I saw this idea on someone's blog, and I thought it was such a great idea.  We had this unused tree, leftover from when it used to be on display in one of my dormer windows.  We replaced it with a different (and much prettier) kind of tree, and so this tree needed a home.

It is a small, not-so-full tree, but the lights really give it sparkle, and it is a fun way to display the cards.  I hang them with plain brown clothespins, but if you were really creative, you could paint them red and green, or decoupage them, or cover them with cute scrapbooking paper, etc.  Or you could just leave them natural!

I think I had some red and green fabric to serve as a tree skirt for this tree last year.  I have not come across it this year…..but I plan to cover the bottom with presents that will go to our Simmons Christmas party as soon as I get them wrapped, so that will make it look better.

Speaking of Christmas cards, ours came in yesterday!  And with the help of my elves named Clay, Leah, and Sam, we got them all stuffed, addressed, and stamped, and ready to go last night.  I will mail them today!  Hooray!

Today's Holiday Hint:
Make a list of what special Christmas treats/cookies/goodies/etc. that you plan to make.  Are you going to share them with others?  Do you need something to take to a party?  Plan the quantity that you need and make a master shopping list for all of the ingredients.  I am going to buy my special ingredients over the next few days.  We plan to begin our holiday baking next Monday.  Fun!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Holiday Hints

Create a December Calendar of Events
Last week I printed out a December calendar and wrote down all of the month's events.  Places to be, parties to host, activities to do with the children, etc.  It helps to see the big picture of the month.  After listing all of the items that are assigned a particular date, I then filled in the gaps with things I want to do with the children this month. Doing this made me realize that I really prefer not doing any school after Thanksgiving!  I plan to budget this month off in our school calendar next year.  We are planning a trip to Disney early next year, and since I needed a chunk of time off for that I did not schedule us much time off before Christmas Day this year. So here we are doing school for most of the day and then squeezing in the Christmas fun.

Create a Plan For Sibling Gifts
For many years now I have hosted a sibling store.  When my children were younger, it was just too stressful to take them one at a time to a store for them to buy their siblings a gift with their own money.  Throughout the years they have made handmade gifts for one another (and they are continuing to do that), but they also like a "store bought" gift for each other sometimes too.  So I created a sibling store.  Basically I bought 4 gifts for each of my children to be placed in our store.  These were items that I felt were educational or fun, or things that they had asked for.  Sometimes I put more than 4 items in the store, and what no one chose ended up being a gift from Mama and Daddy.

One at a time the children would come into the room and "shop".  I charged each of them a flat fee for all four gifts….based on their age.  Very young children would pay $2-3 (total) for their gifts, and older children would pay $10-20.  Then they would wrap their gifts and place them under the tree.  

This year, however, I am not having the sibling store.  I have two children with a driver's license, and it is really no trouble to take any of the them to the store to shop.  I scheduled shopping for your siblings on our December calendar this week.  Today I will take Sam shopping.  He wants to buy some supplies to make Leah a gift, and then he has a short list of gifts that he needs to buy.  He will spend his own money on his siblings.  I will take the other children, one at a time to town this week.

However it's done, I think it is special and fun for my children to give one another gifts.  They take a lot of time planning what they want to make and buy each other.  Then they eagerly anticipate their siblings opening and enjoying their gifts.  

Friday, December 5, 2014

Today's Christmas Tip

About a month ago, while I was reading my friend Lori's blog (not a we've met in real life friend, but an internet friend and a sister in Christ, and we would so be in person friends if we lived in the same area! friend) I saw the greatest idea that she had done. And I immediately did it for my family.

You can read the complete post here, and I highly recommend it.
Christmas is Coming: the Sane, Serene, and the Satisfying Holiday Plan.

Here is the nitty gritty though…….
All you have to do is ask each family member this question: What three things make the holiday happy for you?
So I cut red paper into squares and gave a piece to each child.  Then I taped a large piece of paper on our marker board where I had previously listed all of the normal Christmas activities that we did each year or most years.  Some of these things were non-negotiable (like buying and decorating a live Christmas tree), and others were traditions that we had started in years past which may or may not still be meaningful to everyone. I listed 18 holiday happenings.
Then I explained to the children that I wanted them to look over the list and write down their top 3, not to be skipped under any circumstances Christmas holidays activities.  At first they were so sad!  They asked me if we were really going to drop some of our beloved traditions?  I texted a photo of the list to Olivia and asked her to do the same.  She was a little shocked too!  Then Sam had a bright idea….."Let's each list three different things and then we can keep almost all of them!"  (What a smart idea!).  But I asked them to not discuss it with each other, but to please just list what they really wanted to do.  I assured them that we would continue to do all 18, if it was going to crush them to drop something, but let's just make our lists and see what happens.  
I was interested to see what was important to them.  I wanted to see if anything that I spent a great deal of time and effort on meant nothing to them, or if there was an activity or event that didn't require that much of me, but they LOVED it.  
In the end, almost every single activity was listed by at least one person, and many things were listed by two or more children.  Leah could not limit herself to just 3 (she listed 5), and Sam had an even harder time---he listed 8 things!
In all, this was an eye-opening experience.  I loved seeing what each child listed.  We did drop a few activities, and I am making sure that what they listed will be done with great fun and fanfare. 
So, we bought and decorated a live tree.  We are exchanging gifts. We are making goodies to share with friends and family.  And we are doing a whole lot of other things too. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

Happy December!

I have been alternating between distress and delight this December……how about you?

Here are some pictures of my delight.  Keep in mind that I am not a good photographer.  I just focus (or try to!) and click.  I don't edit the pictures before I post….sometimes I do crop them, but that's about all.  

On Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the other Kelly (that's what my children started calling our college friend, Kelly--to keep from mixing him up with our friend Kelly who is the husband of my friend Lynn) came over to decorate our house for the Christmas season.  Kelly as been doing this for me for 10 years now, and my house would not look nearly as pretty without his help.  He does all the arranging on the mantle, the dining room table, on a couple of other tables, my Santas, my light fixtures, and lots and lots of garland.  While he works his magic, the children and I put out other holiday whatnots, and try to help him when possible.  Mostly we just stay out of his way!

We bought our (live) tree that same day, but we waited to decorate it until Olivia came home from college for her Thanksgiving break.  I picked her up from the airport about lunch time on Wednesday, and we were home by about 2:00 (lots of traffic!).  I took a couple of hours to put the lights on the tree, and then the children decorated it while I prepared supper.  Olivia took a nap during this time which is why I do not have a picture of her.  But she was there!  And it was a happy time.  

 Beginning to place the ornaments

 Since Clay is the tallest, he has ladder duty.

 Our pretty tree

 One of the table arrangements Kelly did.
The cross-stitched Santa was made by my Meme (who passed away last February). The Johnsons pottery platter was made by Jimmy's sister, Jenny.

 My collection of Santa Clauses.  This is at the top of our TV cabinet.

 The finished tree

 Another table arrangement by Kelly.
This is the welded tree that Clay made me for Mother's Day.  I hung salt dough ornaments made and painted by Julie along with our purchased and dated family ornaments that I have collected through the years.  I have not hung this year's ornament on this tree yet. The tree topper was made by Leah--out of duct tape.

 My dining room

On top of the chest in my dining room

 Decorating the tree

 More decorating

The last table that Kelly did.  Jimmy bought me those three cute trees several years ago after I admired them in our local florist's window.  I love those tree!

So, that's some of my December delight.

My December distress includes the fact that I am training for a marathon, we are still doing school, I have not completed my Christmas shopping or even list making, and I have not made any handmade gifts.

I did get our Christmas cards ordered at 1:00 AM Tuesday morning!

I already know several changes that I plan to make for the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day to be more enjoyable next year.  Live and learn. You can't do it all.  More posts to come concerning ways I have simplified (a little) this Christmas season, and what I plan to do differently in the future. 

P.S. I am trying to put a family picture at the top of my blog like I used to have, but I cannot figure out how to keep it from being so huge.  And my blog title disappears when I include the picture.  Any words of wisdom?