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.


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.


Happy Summer!

I read a book yesterday. I did not quite get through the whole thing but I actually took time to read. My boys cleaned out there room yesterday, now my living room is covered with stuff they no longer need, but they actually took the time to do it. Jessie hung out with a friend at the river and did not have to worry about how late she would be up because of it. John is at a football camp. It must be Summer!

Summer, that glorious time when my life actually does move to the beat of a different drum. The time where my kids relax, and time seems to slow down. Now I know that some of you, in fact most of you, do not get a Summer Vacation anymore. Your jobs do not run on a school calendar. Yet, I know you remember. I bet you can picture yourself back in school and the incredible feeling of anticipation for that last school bell.

Summer for me means I get to go to my favorite place on earth, Mayne Island, BC. It means that though I miss them, I have only my four teenagers and not a little one to take care of. Summer means school is out, and the shuttling though it does not end, is less. Routines take on a new rhythm, and stress becomes a surprise visitor instead of the normal live in version. Summer is a gift of warm days and nights of campfires and star-gazing. I love Summer. Today, on a Tuesday, I will be taking off to see my husband in Eugene. I will have dinner with him spend the night in the trailer, enjoy an early lunch with him at the hospital and then come back. It’s Summer, I can do that!

I am so glad for Seasons. I have lived in places where the Seasons were not clearly marked by weather, it was lovely, but harder to fully immerse myself in the celebrations that were reflected by mother nature. Seasons in nature, seasons in life, and seasons of a family. It is good to remember that having four teenagers is a Season. It will not last. Scotty being away from us during the week is a Season, we will get through it. This is good to remember in hard times, for it will be over soon, and in good times, to savor each moment. If you feel like you are in the Winter, remind yourself of the Summer days and know they will come again. As the bible stated so well,”To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” For me and my family I am really thankful it is Summer!

Sometimes Harder Than Others

I have the best intentions of writing my blog earlier in the day. I even thought I might get it done while Lila was napping today. I got other things done but not my blog. The taxi service started this afternoon and the next thing I knew it was 7:30. I still needed to get my Kari’s Kitchen meal made and help with homework. It was all good and important stuff but it meant that my blog was put off once more. Now I sit with my apron still on, but a clean kitchen, and all fourteen of the meal orders for this week done. It is a good feeling.

Scotty and I had a hard conversation last night about our current affairs. He is feeling out of the loop with the daily parenting of our kids. He feels bad that he is not here to help me more, and hates that I have become a single parent in many ways. We both are making the best of a tough situation, but in that process there is pain. At what point, he asked me, is it too much? How do we know when the line has been crossed and other options need to be considered and taken seriously? Will we know before it is too late?

I do not have any clear answers for these questions. I just know it is messy and hard and real. The pros are still out weighing the cons but the questions need to be asked. Communication between Scotty and I has to be honest, brutally honest at times and that is not easy for either of us. Sometimes we want to protect the other from feeling guilty, or bad, or worse yet, not missed at all. We put on our happy face with each other to protect the other, and what we sometimes end up with is a false image.

When Scott and I were video chatting last night I was crying. I cry easily and I cry often just as I laugh loudly, often and easily. I try hard on a daily basis to look at the bright side, to find the good and be brave in this often difficult time. What I learned was that sometimes Scott needs to hear that it is really hard, that I hate being away from him, and I am making it, but I really wish it could be different. That kind of honesty with him and with myself does not say I want to give up, but validates our love and need for each other in the midst of our choices.

Christian asked me tonight if I was still in love with dad. He had seen me crying and knew I was struggling. I smiled at him, oh yes honey I love your dad now more than ever. He smiled and said “so its just hard to be away from each other?” Yes honey, it is really hard to be away from each other. Sometimes harder than others.

Managing Monday’s: The Last School Push

Managing Monday’s: The Last School Push

The kids have eleven and a half more days of school. They make it seems like a whole year. “I am so done with class, why do we even have to go?” “The last day of school is pointless, why bother” they say in voices of two-year olds. I smile a rueful smile. I remember these days. I remember feeling much the same way, but now I am the parent, and I am finding that I am going to need a cattle brander to get our kids through these last weeks.

Isaac, my junior who always skates the fine line between an A and B is once again bringing my stress level up to new heights. These are the grades that will make a big difference for his college choices. These are the grades that even in his weight lifting class he is borderline A or B. Really? At what point to I just let go? Hey all you wise parents out there, with kids that made it to college, is now the time to lay off or do I ride him for the next two weeks grounding him from everything but school and his basketball practices? Will it make a difference?

For John, my sophomore, it is about not adding anything to his plate. Excusing him from chores, saying as little as possible and making sure he has enough food. John will be up every night for the next two weeks until 3 AM to get his work done and finish strong. I added a orthodontist appointment and was yelled at. Keep the peace, stay out-of-the-way and let him sleep for a week when school is out.

The younger two, both freshman, the end is not as crucial. Jessie will finish strong and though a bit more moody, she will finish with a 4.0. Christian will do his best and complain mildly about it, but will be kept very busy with football and basketball practices starting tomorrow. If he is busy, and gets to play basketball he is happy.

As with all important matters pertaining to our children, remembering they are individuals who have different love languages and different motivators helps. I can not treat Isaac with the kid gloves I choose for John. Christian will not respond to negative reactions. With a bit of innovation, and energy, I can see a light at the end of yet another school year. The last school push, may the force be with us all.

Saturday Story Time: Sports, Traveling, and Family



I sit outside on the grass. Gus is with us this trip and so I want to give him as much time out of the car as possible. From where I sit I can hear the buzzers from the different courts going off, the squeak of the sneakers on the court and male voices indistinct but clearly coaching. I do not have to be in the gym to know the smell, the sweat, the emotion that is rising to the top of the building and leaking out the sides. This scene is going on all around the country, for our family it is basketball. For other families it may be gymnastics, volleyball, a chess tournament, or a jazz band concert. It is the life of any family that has kids that are involved in any extra curricular activity.

As I continue my time outside of the arena, kids of all ages come by. Dad’s and coaches always talking about the game that just finished. Discouraged, encouraged, heads low, big smiles, I see it all. Swaggering, man-child young men, with beards and tattoos, spinning the ball on a finger and swearing about a bad call. Little boys, holding on to their mom’s hand, as they excitedly relive the one shot they made.

This weekend was a short trip. Just a two and a half hour drive. Others, are much further. The ride to the tournament is always more exciting than the ride home and the car smells so much better on the way their than the way back. I put Gus in the car, walk to the entrance. I pay my five dollars and enter the gym. Today it is at a basketball facility called The Hoop, more often, it is at high school gyms. The format is the same, no matter where they play. It is either hot, or very cold. It is loud, and whistles are hard to distinguish from one court to another.

We watch our children compete, and yell at the Refs. We celebrate their victories, and complain about their losses. The ride back to the hotel or home is very quiet, or very animated depending on the outcome. Christian is always quick to thank you for coming to his game. He loves to have you there, and even though he rolls his eyes at my big mouth, he makes sure we know he is aware of the sacrifices we are making to give him the opportunity to play. Isaac is off with another team at a different tournament. In June “Summer ball” starts and they will be on the same team again. Jessie will play as well, so the juggling begins again.

These weekends are time-consuming, expensive, and at times, very stressful. These weekends are fun, the friendships made are special, and the competition and exposure for our kids is important. We are lucky because both Scott and I love the game of basketball and road trips are a way of life for us. I often get asked how we manage with four children involved in multiple sports. I guess we do not think about it that much, you just do it.

As a family we bond as we share in each others victories, and defeats. We have conversations on the trips that do not happen any other time. We share in the love for a game and our love for each other. We have made choices, and though it sometimes makes me crazy, and I think I hear basketballs bouncing in my sleep, our family is closer and stronger because of the sports involved life we have chosen.



That UPS, is true LOGISTICS

logistics [lɒˈdʒɪstɪks]
the detailed planning and organization of any large complex operation

Any parent, even if only to one child has some experience with logistics. If you have multiple children, the logistics of managing your daily life increase exponentially. Now if you add to your equation four teenagers involved in five different sporting teams, a husband out-of-town during the week, a dog, three-part time jobs, and I should have a doctorate in logistics.

Okay let me just say I am not a mathematician, that I used the word exponentially and equation in the same paragraph made me a little sick to my stomach. I did not finish college, if you have followed my blog even a little bit, you know that I am a clown, and although I did learn the art of juggling it did not prepare me for the crazy life I now love. The art of logistics within a family is probably the most under appreciated skill a busy parent has.

If I was teaching a class on parenting, After writing GRACE across the blackboard as big as I possibly could I would then write slightly smaller, LOGISTICS, your best friend. I was not taught this skill, I have learned by trial and many, many, many, errors. I have in my learning curve left a child at school, forgot to pick up a carpool from a soccer practice(it was of course raining) burned dinner, looked for my phone while I was talking on it and on and on. Those are just the ones I am willing to admit, if my kids were here right now I am sure they would be able to come up with a thousand more ways my lack of logistics has caused problem situations.

I see the UPS commercials with their catchy song and showing how they help you get things done with logistics and think they got nothing on us parents. This week as I have tried to plan for the upcoming weekend, it has been a logistical nightmare for me. Two out-of-town basketball tournaments in different towns, two children who want to stay home, a dog who likes attention and does not get it when it is just John in the house, our neighbors who usually take care of the dog and keep a watchful eye on the house are also going out-of-town, it is my anniversary weekend and I would really like some alone time with my husband. Now add working, and a normal week of kari’s khaos and well, you get the idea.

I did work it out finally, and here is a copy of the e-mail I sent to my parents and in-laws who will be assisting in the logistics.

Good Morning!
I think I have a plan for this weekend~!  It looks like Isaac and John will have the house to themselves on Friday night.  I will drive to Eugene and have a night with Scott for our anniversary.  We will get up very early on Saturday morning and drive to see Christian’s game in Portland at 9:00.  We will stay for a second game if time allows before we need to head back to Eugene to usher for a fund-raising concert.  Isaac will get a ride to Eugene for his games and we will meet up with him after the concert or before depending on what happens with CJ.  We will then spend the night in Eugene with a few extra’s from Isaac’s team and then go to both of his games on Sunday after-which Isaac and I will come back to Bend.  Cj will get a ride home with Greg Haugen, Ments’s dad, as well as get a ride to the games from him.  He will spend both nights @ the Johnson’s on the hill and rides to and from will be provided by Darrell.

John will enjoy the weekend to himself as I have Gus going to play with some of his furry friends.  Jessie will be spending the weekend with her friend Sophia.  I think that covers it for the most part.  Thanks for your help and hospitality.  Scott and I will look forward to seeing you on Saturday.
love and laughter, Kari

That UPS, is true LOGISTICS