kariskhaos


Shopping the Middle

imagesIt was a Tuesday night and Scott and I had just come from a local restaurant where we had enjoyed a happy hour special.  Just in case you did not get the significance of that statement let me repeat it to be clear.  My husband and I went out for happy hour during the week. It was not for a special occasion, not in-between running from one event to another, not because I had a meeting for a sport, school,volunteer, work, charity or committee of any kind.  We were at Costco to buy a land line phone.  As we are coming up the aisle we see a teacher, coach, parent and friend with his three little ones and his teacher, coach wife walking towards us.  She is pushing the flat bed cart, He is pushing the regular oversized Costco cart with two of his kids in the cart and one in the ‘front seat’.  The three kids are all eating slices of pizza with varying degrees of greasy mess and success.  They greet us with big smiles and “What are you doing here?” We laugh and say buying a phone and you know other unnecessary items.  His eyes get real big and he says “You are shopping the Middle! We avoid the Middle of Costco” He turned and looked at his wife and then laughed as his daughters cheese oozed off her slice of pizza dropping on her brothers lap.  “Someday we will shop the Middle too!”costco-is-the-perfect-example-of-why-the-minimum-wage-should-be-higher-1

I am still laughing at that revered look and comment. I, Kari Johnson am an empty nester and I get to shop the Middle!  We have downgraded our cable package and our internet usage.  We added a land line because we are “saving money” by bundling services so for the first time in many years we have a home phone.  We got rid of the land line to save money now we  got it back to save money.  I have not been grocery shopping in three weeks, if we go out to dinner and bring food home we actually get to eat it.  I put it in the fridge and low and behold the next day it is still there.  We bought a sleep number bed and it is fabulous.  We go to bed at 8:30 and nobody makes fun of us, needs a poster board or asks me to edit a paper at 10:00pm that is due the next day.  My family room has been transformed from an athletic shrine of four stellar athletes trophy’s, awards, uniforms, and varsity letters to a tribute to my love and obsession with Otters. My kitchen counter does not have water bottles, cups, shoe laces, mouth guards, or notes for me to sign from last  week.  I do not trip over the shoes, coats, or backpacks on my way to let the dog out in the night. I have not used the expressions “What do you live in a barn?” “You are gonna be late” or “Seriously??”IMG_8324

In my one month of experiencing life without kids in my home daily I have been questioned multiple times if I am really okay.  You seem to handle this so well, are you really celebrating and enjoying it? You were so involved at the school, in the sports, do you miss it? What do you do with all your time?  Are you bored? Have you been to any games or stopped by the school? These  questions are usually from parents still entrenched in the wonderful craziness of full-time at home mothering.  They ask with hope and a bit of incredulous disbelief that this will ever happen to them.  They are right.  I gave 100% to my kids, their school, sports, events, teachers and social life.  I was the first one to get there and the last to leave.  I screamed loud, passionately and was probably a bit over the top.  I honestly do not know how to do things any other way.  I juggled, organized, cooked for an army, took on way more than I should have, and loved every minute of it, well, not every minute. I was THAT mom so I understand the questions.

My answer is an unconditional, resounding, YES! I am loving it.  I do not miss the chaos and the crazy schedule.  I have not been back to a game, or even visited the school.  This is not because I do not care or don’t want to see people. I do like football but gosh sitting at home with a glass of wine and cuddling up with a book while my other friends are freezing, bundled, and screaming for the first down is pretty great. I absolutely loved being a part of it, I would do it again in a heart beat. Yet for me, the gift of life is in its many stages, and being able to embrace each stage and give myself 100% to the moment I am now living is truly a blessing.

That being said, I miss my kids.  I send Jessie a card every week.  I text and talk to them when they have time and sometimes when they don’t.  We just got back from a family weekend in Montana with Jessie, I have visited Isaac and Christian on separate weekends and will hopefully see John this Sunday when he has his first regatta with the novice crew team of Seattle University. IMG_8323 I wake up every day and on my way down my stairs I say good morning and touch each of my kids portraits and do the same in reverse when I go to bed at night. When I say my prayers at night I thank God for the honor of being their mom, that they survived being a Johnson kid and for the amazing husband and partner I get to enjoy these stages with.  It is different, but I really like shopping the Middle.

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Fail BIG

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Two weeks ago I said goodbye to the last of my four children as my husband and I dropped him off for his junior year in college.  That same weekend we dropped off our youngest boy at a different college.  The weekend before I dropped off my  middle son for his second year of college.  Seven weeks ago my husband and I journeyed to Montana to drop off our baby and only girl for her freshman year.  After 21 years, two births, adoption, four kids going through school with just two and half years between them, and now four kids in four different colleges I am an empty nester.

While I am just getting used to this wonderful new stage of life one of the many benefits is I have time to write.  I am very excited to see where this will lead and invite you to join me on this next step in Kari’s Khaos. Below is the letter I wrote to my daughter after leaving her to find her wings in the new, strange, scary wonderful world of college.

Jessie,

It is appropriate and ironic that I finally have time to write these word to you as I sit drinking coffee and watching the Ferry go by.  This island is so special to us and a place we both find rest from our crazy schedules. So as I write, I feel you here, I see your smile and your sleepy morning face after spending the night with Gus on the mattress outside on the deck.

I know that you know these things.  You have heard them and been shown them all your life. This is just a place you can go to remind yourself when it gets hard to remember.

YOU ARE LOVED

By God:

Before their were stars in the sky, our infinite and creative God knew you and loved you. He created you in his image and his plans for you are good. You have learned about him, worshipped him and continue to follow Him. God will always be your True North.  Trust Him.

By your family:

From the bottom your toe to the slope of your pierced nose you are loved. That my dear favorite daughter will never change. It can not be altered by anything you do or don’t do or is done to you.  You are a gift to our lives and we are always here for you. You Jessica Elaine Johnson are loved.

By Others:

Jessie you have more support and love than a leader of a small country.  You have invested well in kindness, loyalty and the true essence of friendship.  you are only a phone call, text, email, snap chat, or Facebook post away from anything you need. From a joke, money, a listening ear, a hug to cookie dough and ice cream it is available. Use it.

Go ahead and call what you are wearing an outfit!  you are so beautiful and no outfit, dress, pony tail, sweats, Berks or heels will change that. Look in the mirror and see the incredible woman you are. Your beauty comes from deep within your heart and soul. It shines out to the world through your contagious smile, goofy faces and the kindness that is always in those beautiful eyes.

FAIL, FAIL BIG. Make mistakes, fall on your face (not literally like your mom) take risks knowing you can always come to us, no judgement, just love and probably a congratulations because that is how you will learn and grow.

Try New Things

Play Hard

Study Hard

Go outside your box and surprise yourself

I know you will change the world for the better in small and big ways.  You are an amazing woman who makes the world a brighter place because you are alive. As always I wish you could see yourself the way I see you.  There has never been a time when you were not loved and cherished.

Laugh and cry often. Share both with someone safe.  Be you and everything else will fall into place.

I love you, Mom

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“Its not because I am black, its because I am a Johnson”

It is early in December, The basketball season is just beginning for my son Christian. He is a sophomore and is on the varsity team. As with most teenage boys, common sense is often out weighed by immediate desire. Immediate desire for Christian is almost always focused around food and sports.

At the high school he attends juniors and seniors are allowed off campus for lunch, freshman and sophomores are not. Most of his friends are juniors and can drive. On game days I have allowed him to come home with his brother and a couple of friends for lunch. Now in Christian’s mind I have just given him permission to go off campus to have lunch, in my mind I am avoiding him getting in trouble, giving him a home-made lunch on game days, and getting a chance to hang with his friends.

A couple of days later I get an email from his basketball class teacher (who happens to be my daughter Jessica’s JV basketball coach) informing me CJ was a half hour late for class because he went off campus for lunch and was late getting back. This was not the first time this had happened but because he was so late she questioned him further and he admitted to golifetouch_20120930113701ing off campus. She was letting the administration,and his coaches know of his rule infraction.

I calmly (read unbelief, anger, incredulous, sympathy, frustration) wait for Christian to come home from school. I ask how his day was and if he wants to tell me anything. He looks up at me, reads my body language and shrugs, “No not really. Did I do something wrong?” I bring him to the computer and show him the e-mail. He again shrugs, this is clearly not a big deal to him. “Christian, do you realize that the you broke school rules, could get suspended from school, and get benched from playing a game?” Now I have his attention.

Christian than babbled about how everybody does it mom, and its a stupid rule and I was not that late, and she over reacted and exaggerated the time and how many times I have been late. “Christian did you or did you not go off campus for lunch? Head nod, “Were you late for class because you went off campus for lunch?” Head nod. “Did you break a school rule?” Now I get a tirade of how nobody follows that rule, if he had not been late no one would ever have noticed, Nobody cares, mom seriously no body cares. As my blood pressure rises with his lack of concern, I not so calmly say “Somebody cares Christian, because I got an email and now you will be hearing from the principal.”

The next day I get a call from the vice principal and a friend of our family. So I have Christian in my office… he will have a in school suspension, his coaches will be notified and if he goes off campus again he will be suspended from school for two days. He informs me that Christian is a good kid, they love having him at school, kids are kids and if he is going to get in trouble this was the best way to do it. He thanks me and my husband for our continued involvement in the school, and knows he will not have any more problems with Christian in the future.
Christian comes home from school not contrite, but still adamant that the rule is dumb and he was un fairly singled out. Scott and I have now had enough of his denial of wrong doing. We want him to own up and take responsibility, so I try a different tack. “Hey Christian, who did you go out with to lunch?” Jaylin, Steffan and JJ, I am informed. Two of which are juniors and another sophomore on the basketball team. Now where we live is not exactly ethnically diverse. We can count the black, mixed race and Asians on two hands. Jaylin and Steffan are half black and JJ is half Asian. Christian is African, not African-American but very dark black beautiful African. I say well it must be a racial issue Christian. I will go to the principal and claim racial profiling and then… Christian’s face is mortified, he stares at me in un-belief. “MOM, it is not because I am black that I got caught it is because I am a ‘Johnson’.”

All I could respond with was laughter. Gee Christian, so sorry that you’re a part of a family that is involved in your school, and surrounded by people who are watching out for you and care about you. It’s tough being a Johnson, but I am really glad you are.135



The circle of life

Sitting at a small cafe, drinking my late after finishing the most delicious, buttery decadent croissant I have had in years, I am trying to find my bearings as I start this new day. I have traveled many miles to get here, both physically and emotionally. I am philosophical, and a bit pensive this morning. Isaac, my first born son and the miracle of my womb is still sleeping back at the motel. We are here to visit his number one college choice Cal Poly, in San Luis Obispo, California.

The bakery bustles with activity, the girls behind the counter are very peppy and seem to enjoy being here. Mom’s and babies, college kids, tourists, and an eclectic mix of older women ooh and awe over the delicious and beautiful choices displayed before them. An older gentleman sings his greeting in a deep and beautiful operatic voice and no one seems a bit surprised. I like it here.

I sip my coffee and reflect on the days when I was that college student, that mom of a toddler, and see my self in the funny old lady whose hat is jauntily sitting on her bed of grey hair. It is as the great writers of Disney put it “The circle of life”. I get up to leave and wake up my almost 18 year old son, and some of the butterfly’s in my stomach fly away.

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Managing Monday’s: Parent/Teacher communication

Managing Monday’s: Parent/Teacher communication

Tonight is open house for my four high schoolers. It is a time where you are invited to follow your child’s schedule, hear expectations and meet the teachers. It is an important opportunity because it is often very difficult to have any personal interaction with your kids teachers as they get into Jr. and Sr. high school. The only problem with this system is if you have more than one or two children you must choose who you will meet and who you will not.

With 4 kids, 28 classes, 25 different teachers, and my husband out of town, this task becomes a bit overwhelming. I ask the kids who they really want me to meet and I get “no-one” from the boys and “as many as you can” from Jessie. I print the four schedules and map out my best plan. Some of the teachers I know from previous years, some are for electives that I am not concerned about, and so the narrowing process begins. In the end I can get to two of John’s teachers, two of Christian’s, one for Isaac and three for Jessie. There is one teacher for Isaac that I would really like to meet but will have to do it on another night.

Now I could just leave it at that, but I have learned the more you show interest and communication with your child’s teacher, especially in high school, where class sizes are edging towards 40 kids, your interest makes a difference! I then wrote the following email to all the teachers explaining my dilemma and letting them know of my interest and appreciation for what they do.

Good Morning!
My name is Kari Johnson, and if you are receiving this e-mail you have one of my four wonderful kids.  Isaac, John, Christian or Jessica.  My amazing husband, Scott, works is Eugene as a hospital chaplain.  He is gone during the week days, and I am a single mom for that time.  This leads me to tonight open house,  with four kids in seven classes, I clearly can not make it to meet all of you in person.  Our kids have the honor of being in 25 different and unique classrooms.   With Isaac a senior, and three others following close behind, I have had the chance to meet many of you on this list and feel so blessed by the time, effort, and expertise you bring to our children’s education.

If we have not yet met, I look forward to having that opportunity. Please know that if it is not tonight, it is not a reflection of my lack of interest or investment in my children, or you.  I volunteer in the Future Center, I have three-part time jobs, four high schoolers with sports and activities, and am very organized.  I am also just one person, and sometimes things slip through the cracks of the chaos I have chosen for my life.  Your communication with me through Parent Assist and e-mails are invaluable.  If there is any concern, a funny story, or frustration with any of my kids please do not hesitate to communicate with me via e-mail or phone: 541-948-1746.  My role is to support you in any way I can.

We are so thankful for Bend High, and for your contribution to making it such an awesome place for kids to be challenged both in education, and personal character to reach their full potential.  We are well aware that your job is the least appreciated, under valued, and under paid positions for the importance of what you are doing.  If our family can do anything to support you, make your life a bit easier, or just bring you your favorite cookie let us know. Thank you for your time, your dedication and your investment in our future.

love and laughter, Kari and Scott Johnson

No matter how old your kids are, no matter how many you have, your involvement in their education from pre-school through high school is imperative. These wonderful public servants give and give and give. If nothing else they give you a break for 6-8 hours a day so you can be a better parent when you do have time with your children. Communication is vital, and can be done in a way that everyone feels good about investing in your child. One email, supportive phone call or act of kindness will help so that no child slips through the cracks and your child gets the best possible education.



Managing Mondays: Rhythm

Managing Mondays: Rhythm

I slowly sip my coffee and revel in the mornings stillness. It is the first Monday of the first full week of school. My two sophomores, junior and senior are out the door. Gus, our golden retriever, has been fed and is curled at my feet. The day is going to be full, and a bit crazy as I juggle appointments for Jessie’s knee, Lila, and the cooking for my kick off of Kari’s Kitchen. I am looking forward to it.

The Summer was terrific and I enjoyed myself immensely, but I am so thankful that school is back in session, and a new rhythm is establishing itself. I can only go for so long without a structure or schedule. My kids need it and so do I. It feels good to have a plan and to be able to quantify accomplishments. The tension in our home the last two weeks before school starts is palpable. They are fighting for every last moment of freedom, video time, tv time, sleeping in and staying up late. I am at my wit’s end with the house, the mess, the laundry, the bickering, and the physical presence of large teenagers, three of which are smelly boys clogging up the air and space.

“Rhythm, a procedure marked by the regular recurrence of particular elements, phases, etc.” Good coffee, kids out the door, a chance to write, then tackle the day. Find your rhythm. Be willing to change the beat. Dance through your day!



Managing Mondays: Thanks for Teaching our Dork

Managing Mondays:  Thanks for Teaching our Dork

It has definitely been a Monday.  It feels like it has been non stop since I woke up at 5:45 am.  It is now 11:04pm and I am finally sitting down to write this blog.  It was a good day, sunny and beautiful but busy.  The last three days of school and I have my Lila girl full days.  Kids have finals and so it goes.  Now a day and a half away from the end of this chapter of school and work and I am ready for the change.

Last week I gave some idea’s of things to do to appreciate teachers.  I mentioned that I would be making our 22 teachers a dinner.  Yesterday the kids and Scott all pitched in as we shredded over forty pounds of pork and packaged it up for the teachers.  I wanted to put a clever saying on it to thank the teachers.  Jessie and I were coming up with a few things about food and knowledge when Scott interrupted us.  You girls are thinking way too hard.  I got this.  “ Here is some pork, thanks for teaching our dork”  Jessie and I got quite a kick out of that and decided it must be used.  I added my clever saying and this is what we ended up with.

In appreciation for your feeding our child

 knowledge all year-long,

Here is a homemade dinner 

 to send you into the summer strong

~OR~

 as my husband so eloquently put it;

 “Here is some pork, thanks for teaching our dork”

 

Jessie and I were at the school by 7:15, after stopping at Safeway to get buns to go with the pulled pork.  I do not think I have ever seen quite so many surprised faces as when we delivered the meal and said our thanks.  It was very rewarding and also very sad as I think these high school teachers do not get thanked very often, at least not by parents.  It took about 45 minutes to deliver all of them across the school and I got home just in time to start my day with Lila.

Now as I sit in my quiet house, drinking my wine, I reflect on a day well spent.  It was busy, but the good, productive, kind of busy.  I think about the importance of education, the craziness of teaching high school students, and the wonderfully happy, and genuinely surprised  faces from a small act of kindness.  Thanks for teaching our dorks!