kariskhaos


Alone?

Sitting by the window I find myself itching to write. Out the small oval portal of my seat I can find nothing but blue ocean and fluffy white clouds. I am alone, actually the flight is full, I have a couple from Australia next to me but for all intense and purposes I am alone. I have no husband here, none of my four teenagers, no sisters or other family, I am alone. It is almost a foreign feeling to me, a novel concept, a dream/nightmare where I am not quite sure how to behave. I can not remember the last time I traveled by myself. This is not a trip to see anybody, not because I am needed anywhere, not for an anniversary, birthday or another worthy occasion. This outing is a designed vacation to a beautiful destination just because.

I think I am in shock, I have not eagerly anticipated this trip, I have been almost embarrassed to tell people what I was doing. “Who are you going with?” “Whats the occasion?” “What will you do?” Alone? You are going alone? Well, not completely, my parents will be there when I arrive, they are generously giving me a couch to sleep on in the condo of their resort for five nights. I have not been alone with them for five days since I was last living with them twenty plus years ago.

I am going to a familiar place, a fabulous resort in Ixtapa, Mexico where my parents bought into a time share about 14 years ago. I have come every other year for Thanksgiving week with my whole family- my kids, my sister and her kid, my other sister and her husband, and my parents. This is the off year, the year my parents go by themselves. I have never been here alone. I do not know Ixtapa without my kids, and husband, and sisters. I have no experience, no memory, nothing to anticipate doing because I have never done it by myself.

I have been told that I do not take care of myself, that I do too much, that I push myself too hard and need to be better at self care. These are wise words from good friends and family. An opportunity came for me to go to Mexico, by myself and I actually did it. My amazing husband encouraged me to go, my kids said why not? My parents actually seemed pleased at the opportunity to have me alone.

The turbulence of the plane brings me back to reality, I hear the flight attendant droning on about the mileage program. I look out the window, see the ocean, the blue sky and I take a big breath in, exhaling slowly; letting the stress, the hurried chaotic life I live on a regular basis leave. I am here by myself but in reality far from alone.

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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.



Saturday Story Time: Dear Tooth Fairy

Me at age 7, 1974

Saturday Story Time: Dear Tooth Fairy

In honor of my birthday coming up my mother gave me a file of things she had kept about me since I was a little girl. I have always complained that since I was the third child there are very few pictures of me as a baby, and even less information remembered. From my earliest memory I was always doing things to be seen. Please notice me. Kristi the middle child would always try to fade into the background and Kathi had her place by being the first born. Is It any wonder I ended up being a clown?

In the file I found many wonderful things, but today I share with you my early manipulation skills that clearly show the brilliant negotiator I would become. Isaac is good, but even he did not challenge the tooth fairy.

Dear Tooth fairy

This is a very special tooth to me. It is my last molar. I plan on putting it in a special case. Maby you don’t think it is very special but it is to me. Look you don’t give much moeny and it only happens once in a life time for I will always have the same mouth. I love you. Just remember it’s important to me And it happened at school so everybody’s going to ask how much money did you get and I say “I got $.35. Every body would think you were a cheep stake and I know youre not.

think about that
I love you
Love Kari

my letter from 1977



Day eighteen, the last night

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Sunshine warms my face, and Gus sleeps at my feet as I enjoy the breakfast/ lunch that Christian made for me. I slept in for the first morning of my time here, and had no agenda for the day. Christian had asked that we go to a beach since we have spent all our time working on the cabin. John wanted to work a few more hours on the property so the rest us took off for Bennett Bay. The boys and Gus venture down the beach to rock hop and climb to the end of the bay. Jessie, her friend Jas, and I sat down to soak up the sun.

It was hard to believe that this is my last full day on the island. I am so thankful for the time here, and the house is looking great. I created a little vignette of my grandmothers hats, purses, gloves and jewelry in honor of her amazing collection. I have loved seeing my children invest in the house that was built by their great grandparents. I am so proud of their hard work, and how their investment will pay off for future generations of our family.

We ventured down to jump off the dock, and even though Isaac and John did not jump, we all walked together down the hill and onto the dock. It is moments like this that I treasure. I etch the moment in my heart, and know that I will be able to recall this feeling, this smell, this special time in the future.

We end the night at the lighthouse. A beautiful sunset, a baby seal barking out to his mamma, and the waves slapping the shore. This is a perfect day, a beautiful night and fitting end to my special time on my special island.

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Saturday Story Time: a love from the distance

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Saturday Story Time:

I wandered through the gardens, meandering through the quilts and flowers. A quilt show of over two hundred quilts artistically placed throughout the Japanese Garden’s. I came by myself as the kids were not interested. I was happy to be alone, needed the space and the quiet. My mind was scattered and I was struggling to find my peace. I was in my favorite place, it was a beautiful day and I had even had my lemon tarts this morning. I sat down in the sun, on a bench in the garden,and searched my heart for the source of my discontent.

The answer came fast and sure like a splash of ice-cold water. I miss my husband. It has been two weeks without seeing him. Spotty Internet connections have made it difficult to Skype and texting is wonderful but not quite the same. It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and this year has been a testament to the truth of that. We have chosen a life that puts us away from each other for most weekdays. Scott spends his weekdays working in Eugene, so the kids and I can stay at our home in Bend. It has been a sacrifice for all of us, but certainly the hardest for him.

When I am at home, in my routine, and busy with the life we lead in sports, jobs, and the chaos of four teenagers it seems a bit easier to be away from Scott. It is never easy and we both hate it, but time goes by quickly during the week. Now being here on the island, with time and stress on the slow side, my heart feels his absence in new ways. There is so much I want to share with him, so many little moments when I look up to catch his eye and realize he is not there. I reach for him at night and get a moan of surprise from my daughter.

This island holds amazing memories for the two of us. Scott has fallen in love with it as much as me, and together we have explored the beaches, water ways, and hikes as a couple, a family of three, four and six. We bought our canoe, arrived by boat, ferry and hopefully someday by sea plane. It is here we have dreamed together, walked together, and swam in the cold waters with eagles soaring over our heads. The island is my true north but the compass is useless without the magnetic force, my husband.

Sometimes just naming the issue is comforting. I text Scott, let him know my heart is hurting for his presence and remind us both it is just one more week. I get up from the bench and once again engage fully with my island. It truly is a beautiful day and I am loved. What a blessed woman I am.

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Managing Monday’s: Home Alone

Managing Monday’s: Home Alone

A couple of Fridays ago I wanted to do my fill in the blank Friday on what happens when the kids stay at home overnight alone. My kids told me that it was a stupid thing to do because everything is the same. They do the do the same stuff whether we are their or not. They watch movies, play video games, and hang with friends. The major difference according to Isaac is that no one is nagging.

This has been the first year we have felt comfortable leaving the kids by themselves and not farming them out to other families. Isaac is seventeen, John is sixteen, Christian and Jessie are fifteen. We still would not leave them more than a couple nights and of course I have friends, neighbors and other spies,I mean loving people who are keeping an eye out for them. We trust them and the space away from each other is rejuvenating for us all.

The timing for this is a very personal, and familial decision. As parents we need to be comfortable with their maturity level and responsibility so as to set them up for success, and make it a winning combination for all involved. This is a different age for every kid and every family. Even this two night trip, Jessie decided to spend with a friend instead of kicking it with her brothers. John could probably go weeks without us around and thrive and Christian does not like us to be gone for more than two nights at a time.

For me the break is especially nice because it gives me much needed time alone with Scott. We are blessed to have four teenagers we trust with our home, and each other. I think it is important for their independence and maturity to know that they can eat, play, and get a list of things done without us setting the time frame. The time is coming very soon when they will be on there own and not have the safety net of us coming home to save the day, or bring down the hammer.

I know there are some parents who would never leave their kids un supervised and I honor that choice as well. As for Scott and I we will take this time away and enjoy being together, knowing our kids are capable and willing to take care of themselves. We have all earned it.

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A Hair Cut Towards Maturity

Christian left this morning at 6:15 for basketball camp. He looked alert and somehow older. He wanted to drive to the school. He did a very good job. Last Thursday, he got his permit after a number of attempts. On Friday we went to Portland for a basketball tournament with his high school team, we rode with my friend Denette, and her five kids. Her oldest, Jaylin is on the team with Christian and they have become good friends. He and his sister Savanna are from a prior relationship and their dad is African-American. We have bonded being white parents of ethnic children, and in Bend, there are very few of us.

Bend though I love it, is not known for its diversity. I always make the joke that when we moved here in 2001 we doubled the black population. This is actually not far from the truth. It has improved dramatically over the years we have been here but they do stand out. One of the draw backs of this, is the lack of barbers who know how to cut black hair. I know this seems trivial but it is a big deal. Scott has been cutting the boy’s hair for years and if they want a close shave he is perfect. They are however, getting to the point where looks matter a bit more, and style has become a major issue.

This being said we have tried a couple of places in Bend to get their hair cut. It has not been very successful, and ended in us paying for what Scott could do at home. Denette used to live in Portland and knew where in Portland to take us to a black barber shop . I was excited, Christian was less than thrilled. “I do not need a hair cut, mom, I like it fine” he tells me. This of course is no surprise because anything that draws attention to himself makes him uncomfortable. I smile, and say too bad, you are getting a hair cut. This is an opportunity to have it done right and so you will get it done. This is not a battle I will lose. Big sigh, a roll of the eyes and a pouty face.

I of course am undeterred. I am excited to be down town in Portland, and I have wanted to get him to a african american barber for a long time. With Denette driving and knowing where to go I am just enjoying myself. The place she is taking us to is called “The Terrell Brandon Barber Shop” and he was a past NBA player. We arrive, and Christian does not want to get out, Jaylin is not getting his hair cut so CJ looks at me pleadingly to not make him do this.

Needless to say, I was right and Christian loves his haircut. He admitted that there were definite differences between this haircut, and others he has had before. He really liked his barber, and mentioned that black men do know how to cut black hair. Christian looks older, the cut is clean, and very “swag”. He joked about his hair cut making him a better basketball player and there was a bit more confidence in his walk. That was a battle worth fighting and money well spent.