18 thoughts on your 18th birthday!


Today is the day my youngest boy turns eighteen. I did not know him as a baby, he did not come from my womb.  I missed his first smile, word, and step.  I did not get up with him in the middle of the night to calm him or to change his diaper.  I do not have a baby album to ooh and ahh over with him as I do two of my other children.   I cannot tell him what it felt like to have him inside me, or where I was for the moment of his birth.

Our story begins in a bombed out, pepto-bismo pink house where behind a broken half wall, Christian peeked over and looked directly at me trying to hide his smile as he ducked down again out of sight. His white teeth and rich, dark ebony skin in such contrast that he seemed almost larger than life.  I was done for, smitten, completely in love, head over heels and a bit dumbfounded at my immediate unconditional love for this stranger whom I would now call son.

ry=400-5This sweet miracle of a four-year old in front of me was now my son, and I his mother.  God did that. No less miraculous than when I gave birth, and just as awe-inspiring. Christian turns eighteen today.  Today I share with you my letter to him as he reaches for adulthood peeking over the tumbling  wall of adolescence and hiding his smile as he takes on this new adventure.

My dear and precious Christian,

Happy Birthday! Eighteen, I am not sure either of us thought you would make it to this day! I love you so very much and am so proud of the person you are, and still becoming.  Here on your 18th birthday  are my 18 bits of advice and reflections, ( you know it was hard to pick just 18)

  1. You are my son, being your mom is more than a bloodline, more than the same skin color and certainly more than the word adopted.
  2. Your birth mom loved you so much, she chose to give you life twice, once by birth and the second time by entrusting you to our care.  How lucky you are to have two moms that love you and always want the best for you.
  3. You are black, you are African, you are Liberian, you are beautiful, never be ashamed of where you came from or the rich heritage of your ancestors
  4. Keep asking questions, your curiosity is one of your greatest gifts.  Even if it annoys me keep asking until you understand.
  5. Remember to keep your hands off your penis and fingers out of your nose
  6. Life is not fair, keep going
  7. Your sister is not the base of all evil (some, but not all)
  8. Bacon is the answer to almost anything
  9. A man who cooks is more desired than a man who orders out
  10. You will encounter prejudice, racial profiling, and discrimination, acknowledge it and move on.
  11. Try to remember to look people in the eye, and speak clearly
  12. Look before you leap, think before you speak, don’t do it just because your brother is doing it.
  13. You have amazing tenderness and a heart of Gold
  14. ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, and ‘ I’m Sorry’ are three of the most important phrases you will ever learn, use them often
  15. Your smile is infectious and will open many doors, share it freely
  16. Find your passion and make a living doing it
  17. Take care of me when I am old-which is now.
  18. You are a child of God, dearly loved, alive and on the earth for a purpose, never doubt your worth

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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 fifteen, games


Day fifteen, games

The seven of us sat around the table. John has been talking loudly about his strategy, confident of his plan and then gets saddled with the Queen of Spades. Jessie, poor girl, can not win at Hearts if her life is on the line, and Isaac always wheedles his way in the top three. One of the highlights of being on the island is playing card games and board games with the family. As I type this at the dining room table, Jessie and her Granpa are playing cribbage. I learned to play cribbage at this very table with my grandpa.

We have broken the table playing “PIT”, and I have been in tears laughing as our family tried to explain “Apples to Apples” to a new friend. Isaac is the games master and loves to win. He has a very strategical mind that serves him well in most games. Our favorite in the past few years has been “Settlers of Catan” and night after night here you can find us at the table trading for brick and building roads. It has actually been one game that the winning is pretty evenly divided among us.

This year I bought a new game, “7 Wonders” a complicated game that has us all a bit perplexed as to how to win. It is very fun, and I think a new favorite, but it is yet to be decided. Throw in a game of Hearts or a few hands of Casino and this family is set. I love to play because it is multigenerational, and traditions passed from one generation to another. It is a fun way for all of us to connect and find more common ground. I know that this will be one of the memories painted on their hearts when they think of these summers on the island.

“Well Granpa we are even for the night, one win each” Jessie says with a smile. “I was just taking it easy on you” Granpa replies with a smile. Isaac comes back into the room and asks what game are we all playing tonight. I laugh and say well if last night was any indication it does not matter because I will win. This of course sets in motion a heated and animated discussion about who wins the most. The final word being Granpa because he has lived longer than anyone else and therefore has more accumulated wins. Not a bad argument, I will have to remember it for the future.




Day Eleven on my island, the roles we play.


Day Eleven on my island, the roles we play.

As I sit on the very clean deck tonight after dinner with the four kids, I hear the ferry blast three small honks. It means someone is in his way. It always makes me laugh because what vessel in their right mind would get in the way of a ferry. It’s like a tonka toy getting in the way of a real semi truck. Not smart!

It has been an interesting time as I observe how the three boys work together. It comes as no surprise that Isaac is the designated foreman. Any job that happens, is because he decided that it should. Isaac tells the other two what to do, how to do it, and will take over if he feels they are not doing it correctly(which of course is how he thinks it should be done.) Isaac has a brain that sees the problem, knows the most efficient way to fix it and has a hard time when others do not see it the same way.

Christian is the middle man. He works hard to make everyone happy. He admires Isaac but is annoyed with him at the same time. Isaac try’s to be a teacher but if you do not do it exactly as he says, he gets frustrated and wants to take over. He shows Christian what to do but in a way that is unintentionally demeaning. Christian tolerates Isaac very well, he knows he actually does have the best way to do it but to admit that makes Isaac too powerful so he purposefully does things a bit different. The power play between them is quite comical. Isaac dictates, shows how it should be done. Christian complies for a minute or two then spaces and does it his own way. Isaac then finishes the job, because he can not stand to have it done anyway but his.

John is definitely the grunt labor, and happy with his role. Tell him what to do, give him the heaviest load and he is pleased. He looks up to Isaac, counts on and trusts him to give him a task he can accomplish, and succeed at. John also adds the humor and intelligent conversation as he whistles while he works, asking the other two questions about the NBA and NFL and any other bits of information he wants to share from the pod casts he has been listening to. John has a great attitude, a strong body and a willingness to follow directions. Isaac loves working with him.

They are all so different, and they all have their positives and negatives. I have worked hard to stay out of it as much as possible. In some ways they each know their roles and play them very well. They do get quite a bit accomplished and I am so proud of them. At times, I can see Isaac tire of the in charge role, and he gets snippy with me when I question any of his choices. Christian escapes with his basketball workouts and his need to bug Jessica. John just rolls along, ignoring everyone else when he has has had enough, and retreating to his iPad and headphones.

All things considered they do amazingly well. We are a close family that works together, plays together, and for the most part get along. As they get older, and their relationships are defined less by being in the same household, and more by the relational ties that they have built, it will be interesting to see what the future holds. I am now off to the lighthouse to catch the sunset, and if I am lucky, whales.





Saturday Story Time: Bitter-Sweet

Saturday Story Time: Bitter-Sweet

The discussion has been on going for most of the year. The decision, though his to make was a family topic. While for Christian, basketball has always been a passion, Isaac’s take on it has been a bit more laid back. He loves the game, loves playing in games, enjoys the his teammates and is quite good. His height and natural talent lend him an ease of playing that is fun to watch.

It has been a frustrating journey for him at times. He has struggled with knee issues and this year he was diagnosed with Asthma. Isaac is willing to work hard, but he also needs lots of affirmation(who doesn’t.) He does not sit well, so sitting on the bench is more difficult for him just because of the way he is wired. This past season, his junior year was particularly difficult. Between being sick, figuring out the asthma thing, and his knee he had quite a bit of time on the bench.

I have written about my excitement about having two children on the same team. The fun of watching these boys who have been playing against each other in our back yard since they were five and seven. The pride I have in seeing them both succeed. I have also mentioned how hard it is for the younger brother to excel past the older and get more playing time, accolades, and respect. Their relationship has stayed strong and much to Isaac’s credit he has been nothing but supportive of Christian.

Isaac has always said he has no desire to play in college, he has no aspirations of NBA other than to get court side seats when he is rich. He plays for the love of the game. This year he lost most if not all of that joy. Playing became work, and he did not like it. He was frustrated with his lack of playing time, lack of energy, and what he felt was lack of respect for his abilities.

This became troublesome for all of us. It is never easy to see your child struggle, it is never easy to see both sides so clearly but no easy answer. It will be his senior year, do we need to make him play? Do we need to force him to finish what he started? Will he regret this decision later in life when he is looking back? Scotty and I have talked about it, worried about it, and argued both sides. We have tried to put our feelings aside, tried to not let our love of the game, and our joy at seeing him play taint our judgment. It has been much more painful than I thought it would be.

The three of us made the choice to have him play Summer ball and hold off on a final decision until the Fall. Go to camp, have fun, see if anything changes. Isaac was committed to this, and had every intention of following through. In a tournament with a pick-up team the weekend before Summer ball started he re-injured his knee. This was not the way we wanted to start. He went to the trainer and just started practicing and playing in games this week. On Wednesday he took himself out of the second half of the game, telling coach his knee was hurting and he wanted to be able to play in the tournament this weekend. I only came to the second half and was frustrated to see him riding the bench again.

It came to a head last night at nine o’clock when he said he had left his shoes and brace in the locker at school, so he would not be able to play this weekend. Scotty and I had been mentioning to each other that perhaps his sickness, his attitude, and his knee hurting, this might be a passive aggressive way to not make a decision. I was done with sitting on the fence. I forced the issue and called him on his crap. Isaac you need to make a choice, it is not fair to your team, yourself, or your family if you play this game any longer. Do you want to play or not, no more half way, no more complaining, you are in or you are out. Your dad and I are not investing any more time, energy or money into your something you clearly are done with.

To my great surprise he said, “Mom you are right, I want to quit. It is not fun, and I am done.” I looked at him, he was confident and sincere. Okay, well, you need to tell coach tomorrow. “What? Why? Can’t I call him? What if I text him or wait till Monday?” No Isaac, you need to step up and own your decision, this is a huge part of your growing up. More grumbling, whining and then finally a defeated “okay.”

Today Isaac stepped up to the plate, looked his coach in the eye and said he was done. I was so proud of him, and so sad at the same time. He made a choice, he did it the right way. Today we had the bitter-sweet joy of watching one of our sons play high school basketball, and one of our son’s take a giant step toward adulthood.

Fill In the Blank Friday With a Johnson Twist

A friend of mine started doing Fill In The Blank Friday’s. I have really enjoyed them, and thought maybe I would give it a try. My twist on it will be the blanks come from me and they will be filled in by family members. This week John and Christian graciously said yes to this new idea. It was actually really fun to hear their answers. Just another reflection of their unique personalities. Hey this might really catch on and become the new “thing” in communication and understanding your kids.

When I asked John who is 16 and my least communicative child, he was like okay, but don’t make the questions hard. I told him he did not have to think, just whatever came to his mind. Christian my 15-year-old who has alway been my “Curious George”, wanted me to ask more questions after the ten and then asked my answers for them. I wonder what Gus our faithful dog would say … hmmm not a bad idea!

John’s Fill in the Blank Friday:

The thing I like most about myself… No Idea

The thing I like least about myself… No Idea

The best part about being in the Johnson family… Its Complications

The worst part about being in the Johnson family… Its Complications

If I had to move to a different country I would choose… Jamaica or Brazil

Other than sleeping I spend the most time… Watching sports

When I need to relax I… Watch sports

My favorite part of our house is… The TV room and basketball court

The funniest person in our family is… Isaac

My mom’s blogs make me… I don’t know, I don’t read them much

Christian’s Fill in the Blank Friday:

The thing I like most about myself… I am a giving person

The thing I like least about myself… I am short

The best part about being in the Johnson family… Support and Love

The worst part about being in the Johnson family… The Arguments

If I had to move to a different country I would choose… Canada

Other than sleeping I spend the most time… Playing, watching, or reading about basketball

When I need to relax I… Read and listen to music

My favorite part of our house is… My bed and the basketball court

The funniest person in our family is… Isaac

My mom’s blogs make me… Happy, because they make her happy

A Brothers Love

“Are John and Christian really close?” This is a common question as people think that because they are blood brothers they should somehow be closer than they would be to Isaac or Jessica. I am not really sure where this thinking comes from but, my answer is no. John and Christian have a typical brother relationship where they all get along fairly well, fight when upset and pick on each other non stop. It is Isaac and John who have a special relationship.

From the beginning Isaac and John bonded. I could not tell you what it was, they are so very different from each other. John is quiet and a perfectionist. Isaac is outgoing and the only thing he wants perfect is his sandwich. John has struggled with interpersonal relationships. John has rebelled against the life fate has thrown him. Isaac has pretty much been spoiled in every way possible. He has never known hunger or hardship. Yet, Isaac has accepted both his brothers with unconditional love and a fierce loyalty that surprised even me.

When John would be having problems at home and would not talk to anyone, he talked to Isaac. When John was mad at the world because of his eyes and not able to connect emotionally with anyone, Isaac would be there. After a particularly heated argument which included him reacting violently to Scott and lots of language being thrown about he broke down, crawled up on his bunk bed and cried. Isaac just climbed up and laid next to him, saying nothing, but saying everything by being there.

Isaac does not coddle John, he teases him relentlessly like the rest of the family. He calls him out on his crappy attitude and they do piss each other off. Isaac has only said once he wished we had not adopted the boys and that was when he wanted his own room and figured he would probably have had it if we had not adopted John and Christian. He got over it pretty quick and moved on to more important things like begging for a PS3.

John has Reactive Attachment Disorder. John is legally blind. John has Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. John is brilliant. John is incredible strong physically, and mentally. John has never told me he loves me. He has told Isaac, and that has been a very dim light that keeps me thinking we will get through the tunnel. Isaac tells me he loves me all the time, offers hugs and love freely. Isaac loves me, and through his love for John, he has given me hope for John’s future attachment.

I will end with a poem Isaac wrote this year about his brother. I know for John there is no better gift than being accepted, and understood. That’s family. That’s a brothers love. That bond is not about who shares whose blood, but about what God created our family to be.


He waits
Strong and bulky
At the top of the
Hill he will stay

He blends in to
His surroundings
But as you get closer
His features stand out

He is darker than
Most of the world
Around him and
You will often find
Him by himself

But that is how
He prefers to be
Independent to the end