Janet Sumner Johnson
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A Trip Downtown

Nov 06, 2009 Uncategorized 4 comments

Though there are a couple of downers (a.k.a. the cost of living), there are many (many, many, many) perks about living near DC. My favorite perk is the Smithsonian. If you drive into DC and get there right at 10:00 am, you can park on the street free for three hours. You have to get there right at 10:00 though.

London was out of school on Tuesday so we took a little drive downtown. Though I had gotten directions from a friend, and they seemed fairly easy, I was getting nervous about the parking aspect because it was 10:15 before we made it across the Potomac, and I had forgotten the GPS (which, for all of you west-coasters, can cause major anxiety out here for even the most directionally-inclined). Luckily, we got the last spot on the street (I kid you not), and I can tell you I breathed much easier after my flawless parallel parking job. That’s when the sheer joy of wandering the nation’s capitol with my kids kicked in.

Our parking spot was right in front of the Washington monument, the Lincoln monument was taunting us from the next block over, and the American History Museum (Smithsonian) was calling to us from across the street. And at that point, I didn’t even realize that the White House was a mere block-and-a-half away. Though it may not be my strongest subject, I am a history geek when it comes to our amazing country. In college I even flirted with the idea of majoring in it. The reason I didn’t is because there aren’t a lot of job prospects with such a degree. So I majored in English. Don’t quote me on my logic.
But I digress.

So after London and Brandt debated the finer points of where to go first (“This way!” “No!” “Yes!” “No!” “Yes!” “No!” “Yes!” “No!” “Yes!” “No!” Etc.), I opted to go to the Natural History Museum. On the way, we saw an advertisement for Night at the Museum: the Smithsonian, and to save time I’ll just say London tested all my history knowledge by asking about Napoleon, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, Betsy Ross, and well you get the picture. I must have passed the test because London finally said, “Wow, Mom, you even know more than me!”

In the museum, we went straight for the elevator, and after fighting a valiant fight to get to the 3rd floor, we finally settled for the 2nd. Turns out the 3rd is for employees only. Oops. But the 2nd floor was very cool.

There was an Egyptian mummy (“Mom, is the person still in there?”), Roman pottery, a Forensics section with buried bones and reconstructed skeletons. London wanted to know who each and every skeleton was (which of course was the point of the exhibit, that sometimes we can only guess using the clues that the bones leave behind). There was also an animal exhibit showing the bones of various animals. The Whale was pretty impressive (though London really liked the swordfish).
After talking about the two kinds of snake skeletons (poisonous vs. non-poisonous), Brandt turned to the next kid who had just come up with his mom and told him all about it.

The boys really enjoyed it. And I shouldn’t be so surprised about that.

We planned to go to the Aeronautical Museum next, but got sidetracked by “The Carousel on the Mall.” I gave London and Brandt the option: “We can get something to eat here, or we can ride the Carousel. But we can’t do both.” I’m sure it’s not hard to guess what they chose.

Even Khyah seemed to enjoy the ride. I suppose you have to splurge every now and again.

Our three hours were running out, so we headed toward the car and decided we had just enough time to go see the White House. London asked, “Is the President there?” I told him I didn’t know, but probably not. So he asked, “Where is he working then?” I told him I didn’t have the President’s schedule, so I didn’t know. London seemed rather disappointed.
When we got there, a bunch of people were playing football on the grass right next to the building (which is far enough away that we couldn’t make out faces). There were cameras and a couple of men in suits with the footballers. And based on “The Picture of the Day” for Nov. 3rd on the White House website, I feel fairly confident (not certain), that we saw Mr. President from a distance. London asked me: “Mom, will they be in trouble for playing there?” I told him they most likely had permission. London wanted to get permission, too. I told him I’d look into it for next time. Turns out you have to get permission from your state legislator. I’ll have to work on that. (So if any of you plan to visit [hint, hint, hint], and want to go there, plan ahead! It takes at least 30 days to get permission).

The drive home was smooth except that Khyah cried the entire time (seriously). She had been perfect all morning, so I guess this was payback. 😉 But it was a fun little day trip. Definitely on our docket for future daytrips. Though we’re far from family, DC is a great place to be.

Stories of Gratitude

Oct 29, 2009 Uncategorized 3 comments
I’m feeling especially grateful right now for the four pillars in my life, so here are some stories about why:

At Church, when a hymn starts, Brandt always wants to join in: “Me sing with you, Mommy!” And you’d better agree or he’ll keep asking till you do. And when you say “Okay!” Brandt opens a book and starts singing out. Nevermind that he doesn’t know the words. He just makes them up. Amazingly cute. And out of the blue, he’ll turn to me and say: “Mommy, do you know I love you?” Sweet boy.

London feels directly responsible for keeping Khyah happy. When we set her down and she starts to fuss, London will go lay down next to her and sing. He, too, makes up the words as he goes. Usually it’s something like this: ‘Khyah, don’t cryyy! Don’t CRyyyyyyyyy!!!! Don’t CRYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!! Cause we’ll keep you forever! Foreeeeeeever!!! FOREVER!!!!!!!!” And she loves it. Grandma and grandpa who could hear it over the phone thought it was pretty cute too.

We should have found the Hebrew word for “happy” to name Khyah. She is so happy. If she’s crying, it’s one of three things: dirty diaper, hungry, or tired. Of course she’ll squeal to let you know that she wants to be part of the family, too. She wants to be in the same room as the boys. And she’s just so pickin’ cute, that you have to pick her up when she throws her little smile at you. And she already has a favorite toy. Cute. Cute. Cute.

Rick had last Saturday off. Joyous occasion, since days off are so rare when on wards. The second time Khyah woke up that night, he zombied out of bed and offered to take her. I hedged, cause I know how tired he is, and that come morning, the boys are just as much a task master as his work. “Are you sure?” I asked. But he held out his arms, eyes squinting to stay open: “No! But you’d better take advantage while you can.” What a sweet man. And the big thing I really appreciate is that he never gets upset about the messy house when he gets home. I knew there was a good reason to be a sugar mama the first 8 months of London’s life. It has definitely paid off!

Okay, not the best picture of Rick, but it’s what I had. And it’s truthful . . . hand in the cheese . . . I don’t call him “mouse” for nothing.

Public Flogging!

Oct 19, 2009 Uncategorized 2 comments

A friend led me to Ray Rhamey who publicly flogs your first page for you. “Why not?” I thought, so I submitted mine, and today was the day. Feel free to check it out if you want. Weigh in, or simply read it if you prefer. Here’s the link.



Oct 04, 2009 Uncategorized 2 comments

Brandt begged to turn on the music, and London came running. I couldn’t help recording it. And for the record, these are their own moves. What crazy boys we have. But I love that they can let loose and bust-a-move! I hope you enjoy as much as I did. 🙂

The Good, the Bad, and the Mustard

Sep 16, 2009 Uncategorized 3 comments

The day was going swell. I had gone to bed before 10:00, and here it was 6:30 and Khyah was barely waking me up.

London wandered in to ask where daddy was. I told him “at work” and London was horrified: “In the nighttime?!”

Brandt wandered in crying, holding out a clean shirt to change him. I couldn’t hold Khyah’s bottle and change his shirt so I asked him to climb onto the bed, which he obligingly did. I pulled the shirt off – yep, definitely wet. Leaky diaper most likely, I thought. “Brandt, we’d better take that diaper off before we put your new shirt on.”

And that, my friends, is where my day took a sudden turn.

“Poopy?! No wait, Brandt, don’t . . . .” Too late. Poopy all over the bed.

In haste, I lay Khyah down and propped up her bottle, then ran for the wipes. Fortunately we contained it quickly. But the tone of the morning was set.

We couldn’t get everything done. London insisted on being helped to get dressed. Brandt really wasn’t feeling good. “There are bees in my tummy, mommy!” And I used poor judgment in deciding to fold the kids clothes while I got them dressed.

Took a quick shower, pulled Kyhah from bed to change her, and noticed the poopy on her blanket (happily, before I cuddled her close). Took care of my second poopy emergency of the day, and my good sense kicked in. “London, you get to buy lunch today! Lucky you!”

“I need to go potty, mommy!” Brandt and I ran, and we made it, but he jumped off the toilet before I could wipe. Diarrhea is not fun. I cleaned up my third poopy mess of the day.

We hurried down the stairs and tumbled into the car (because walking with a little boy who has diarrhea is surely a bad idea I told myself).

“Traffic is ALWAYS bad in the morning on this street,” London counseled me as we sat in the long line waiting to turn left (as though he’s ever been on that road in the morning). Note to self, don’t drive to school.

Back home, another long project at work arrived (which is a blessing, of course, but still, it adds to the chaos). Brandt spilled a glass of water all over his (newly made) bed. The mustard exploded on me when I opened it. London’s teacher informed me that today was a “rough day” for him. And to top it off, Count Dooku’s light saber snapped in two!

And as I was writing this blog in my mind, I thought, “Is it just me, or are all my blogs focused on the bad things that happen?” I must be the most negative person ever. And I wondered to myself if I might have any positive experiences from the day.

And there they were: Brandt holding my hand and saying, “I love you too much, mommy!” Him playing trains and narrating the story: “Bust my buffers!” Smiles and hugs from all my kids. And wouldn’t you know it, even the bad things I’d been through were pretty funny. In fact, they’re the stuff that memories are made of. They’re the spice of life, without which, I might be bored to tears (though a little boredom never hurt anyone, did it?)

And I wondered if maybe I’m not the only one who does this. We focus on the negative, never seeing the many positive things that surround us at the same time. Life weaves the good with the bad, and if we have the right eyes, life is more beautiful because of it.

In short, for all my whining, I love my life!


Sep 15, 2009 Uncategorized 1 comment
School started this past week. London did a month of summer Kindergarten in Missouri back in June, but now it’s official. He has been going to school a full week. We walk together and say goodbye at the door. He gives me a hug and a kiss, repeats it for Brandt. (By day 3, I had to remind him). Then he strides in the door with a big smile. Confident. Excited. Guess I can’t ask for much more.

He got new shoes, which he loves to tell people about. “Ta da! Look at my new yellow shoes!” (They’re blue and silver with a little bit of yellow lining).

And he got a few shirts. His star wars shirt is his favorite, though. I gave him the lecture: “No light saber fights at school! Got it?” “Ye-e-s, Mom. I got it,” he droned. Where’d that droopy kid voice come from? You’d think I lecture him all the time or something. And you all can just stop laughing! 😉

He brags that now he only has 2 days off a week, just like Daddy (which isn’t actually true, since Daddy only gets one, but that’s a different story).

When we head home at the end of the day, little girls call out to him, “London! Bye!” London barely notices because he’s so busy giving me a run down of the day. Yesterday (Monday), he told me, “I had art today, and guess what Mom, we go to art every Monday. Isn’t that exciting?!” (I heard his teacher repeat the word “exciting” several times at back-to-school night, so at least I know he’s listening.)

After the first day, he told me he had a new friend and wanted me to call him so they could play. “What’s his name?” I ask. “Umm, I don’t remember. But you could call him.” Ri-i-i-ight.

The next day he was more excited. “Remember that friend I was telling you about? His name is Solomon. Now can you call him?” “I need a phone number to call him, London, and I don’t know it.” London was very disappointed. “Why, mom? Why don’t you know it?” So I told him it’s because I’m not clairvoyant. That one took him awhile.

Happy day, though, we got his number at back-to-school night. Turns out his mom speaks very little English. Fortunately she is a Spanish speaker instead of something like Urdu. Sure, you laugh, but there are enough Urdu speakers at his school to warrant translation via head-set at back-to-school night. Lucky London!

Oh, and it turns out Monday is short day. Woops. Fortunately we didn’t go to the library like Brandt wanted.

London loves school!

Though one might guess he’s pointing at his teacher, he’s actually asking me which way to go. It’s the other way. 🙂

Ready to go! The Kindergarteners meet in the gym in the morning and walk to class as a group. Look at him stand at attention!


Aug 30, 2009 Uncategorized 3 comments

My friend suggested I put more Khyah on my blog, and I thought “Great suggestion!” So here we are.

There is not a lot to say about her, per se. She tends to do the same things day-in and day-out: eat, sleep,

cry (though she has pretty good reason here—Brandt is putting a diaper on her head. It’s clean, though!),

spit up,

poop, . . . well, you get the picture. She does, however, throw in a few well-timed smiles and coos to keep us all a captive audience.

London gets mad if I’m trying to rush us off someplace, and he’s not done admiring her: “Mom, Wait! I want to look at her!”

I gave her a bath in the big bathtub for the first time and she loved it! I let her float in the water (holding her head up, of course, lest any looks of horror have crossed your faces), and she just grinned and grinned. She loved it. I felt bad ending her first swimming session so quickly.

Unfortunately, since her first round of vaccinations, her sleep habits have gotten worse, but how do you complain when she looks up at you with those big, blue, tear-filled eyes, and then throws a smile at you? You can’t.

She has recently discovered the joys of hanging toys. She’s always surprised when she bumps one with her hand, but she stares in fascination and smiles wide when you shake them . . . especially if they make noise.

And we have long-since learned that Khyah is going to be a social butterfly like her brothers. She wants to be where the action is. Even if she’s in a bouncer, or on the floor . . . that doesn’t matter. As long as there are people around.

As I’ve said before, Khyah is a charmer. And boy do we love her!

Musings on a hectic life

Aug 22, 2009 Uncategorized 4 comments
This week has been a doozy. Rick has had two days of call (i.e. two 30-hour work days), and no days off. Brandt and Khyah have been sick with colds (i.e. uber-crabby in Brandt’s case, and waking up every 2 hours in Khyah’s), so we haven’t been able to get out and do much. Then, to add to the chaos, I received a mountain-load of work (i.e. a HUGE blessing, but blessings aren’t always easy, are they?).

And while I have been so sorely tempted to go hide in the bathroom and cry (or scream at the top of my lungs) more than once, all my wanna-be complaints were put into perspective when the 14-month old son of a family from church was scalded in the bathtub this week (3rd degree burns over 60% of his body), and shipped off to a distant hospital to undergo several surgeries over the course of the next few months.

Suddenly all my “overwhelming” challenges didn’t seem quite as hard as I thought they were. So in that light, I wanted to give my top ten things I love about my life this week.

10. Brandt singing “slippery fish” whenever he hears the word “fish.”

9. Sugar-free fudgsicles.

8. Khyah-smiles. She’s a little charmer.

7. Boys dancing to music in the living room.
6. London and Brandt showing me how they can dive off the diving board (i.e. couch) and do flips and twists just like they saw on TV.
5. London finding a large strawberry, and telling me to hurry and get the camera (he knows that pictures of him eating strawberries are worth something!).

4. Khyah getting a clean bill of health at her well-check this week. (And being told that she is an “exceptionally well-proportioned baby”).
3. Daddy leading the kids in a silly face-making contest.
2. Big hugs from my boys and London telling me: “You’re the best mama.”
1. Rick surprising us at the pool (even though we had left specifically so he could get some sleep).

Not a bad life.

A Day at the Beach

Aug 14, 2009 Uncategorized 2 comments

Let’s go to the beach! We’d been told it took 3.5 hours to get there, which sounded like a reasonable day-trip.

No one mentioned traffic.
We left at 9:30 am and arrived at 3:30 pm. We seriously considered turning around before we got there. But in the end, we’re glad we didn’t. We have two future beach bums on our hands.

On the boardwalk . . . [let song filter through your head]

First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The boys had a great time burying daddy. Did daddy mind? As London would say, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was his idea.

Rick and I had a great time, too.

Khyah even seemed to love it.

London and Brandt tried so hard to make a sand castle. London brought bucketfuls of “gravity” from the surf just for the job.

London loved sitting in the water, and letting the waves throw him back.

Brandt didn’t like going in very far, but found the moving water fascinating. Usually he would run back when a wave hit, with a big grin on his face.

Cicada Killer Wasps and a Trip to the Library

Jul 31, 2009 Uncategorized 9 comments

It was just a trip to the library:

30 minutes to get out of the house,
10 minutes there,
Then I was planning a leisurely 30 minutes to an hour choosing some books and movies, maybe reading one of them to the kids,
Then another 10 minute return trip.

Sounds so pleasant, doesn’t it?

Bad sign #1: Rain drops start falling the second we step out the door. I should have taken the hint, but no . . . we’re driving, I have an umbrella in the car . . . why should I let a little rain stop me?

So the kids jump in. Pop the car seat in, London buckles himself, but Brandt is our free spirit.

Me: Brandt, hurry and get in your car seat so we can get to the library.
Brandt: I don’t want to sit in that seat!

It starts to rain harder.

Me: You have to sit in that seat or we can’t go anywhere.
Brandt: I don’t want to sit in that seat!

It starts to pour.

Me: Please sit in that seat! Mama’s getting soaked!
Brandt: I don’t want to sit in that seat!

I’m soaked, Brandt’s crying, but the car is moving.

At the library, it’s raining pretty hard, so I pull out the umbrella, make London pinkie promise to share the umbrella with his brother and to wait right there while I get the stroller out.

Seriously, I looked the other way two seconds.

A quick search and I see them: the boys are having a total blast strolling through the parking lot, heads buried in the umbrella. After all, there are puddles to look down at. My heart stops, and I thank the heavens there are no cars or Child Services workers around.


The stroller’s out, I’m putting Khyah in. My two-year old tackles me.

Brandt: An ant! An ant! Mommy, save me!
Me: Silly boy, an ant can’t hurt . . .

Then I saw it. Not an ant. This was a Cicada Killer Wasp. Ever seen one? As long as my pointer finger. Striped like a bee. And they can apparently sting like one too. Eew!

London: [whimpering and holding the umbrella in front of him for protection] There’s two!

I noticed one crawl into a golf-ball-sized hole in the ground. Then I noticed all the other holes. There’s more than two! I wisely chose not to mention this to the kids.

Me: [struggling to keep my voice calm] Let’s hurry, boys!

I get Khyah in the stroller (sleeping sound as a rock), and usher the kids towards the entrance.

Brandt stops dead in his tracks behind the van.

Brandt: I need MY stroller.
Me: You’ll have to walk this time.
Brandt: I need my stroller!
Me: I’m sorry. I can only push one at a time.
Brandt: [at the top of his lungs] I NEED MY STROLLER!
Me: Let’s hurry before the bugs get us!

I know, low blow. I don’t usually like scare tactics, but eew! You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it didn’t work anyway.

I start to walk and Brandt grabs onto the stroller, pulling back with all his might, screaming at the top of his lungs. Fortunately I am still stronger than my 2-year old, so I kept moving, dragging him along, and pointedly ignoring all the stares of the other patrons. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of entering before he had stopped screaming. Tile entry. No second door. Very loud.

Brandt throws himself on the ground in a temper tantrum.

I’m starting to have second thoughts about this trip.

Me: Brandt! [in the most furious whisper I could muster] If you don’t stop screaming this instant we won’t choose any movies!

Amazingly, he stood up and stopped crying, but Murphy was not done yet: Khyah started crying. I still wonder how babies can cry so loudly.

Me: Let’s just return the books and go!

We rush to the book return, dump them in, and before I can make it out, London heads to the movies with Brandt in tow

I really should have insisted. But with the stroller moving, Khyah had stopped crying, and I thought, “Surely the worst is behind us. And we’re here . . .”

The library has a plethora of Thomas movies, and London is glibly looking at every one. Knowing Khyah won’t last long, I suggested one, which Brandt gladly took.

London: I wanted that one!
Brandt: [pulling the DVD in tight] Me have that one!
Me: Brandt already has it, so choose a different one.
London: But I want that one!
Me: If Brandt chooses it, you’ll get to see it too.
London: But I want to carry that one!

His voice is getting dangerously loud.

Me: Oh! Look at that! “The Best of Gordon”!
Brandt: Okay, London can have this.

He tosses the movie at London and snatches up Gordon.

Grab a few books on the way to the check-out, and we’re almost home free. London goes running toward the door . . . right through the unchecked-out-books alarm.

I held my breath, waiting for the alarm. . . . It didn’t go off. Finally! Something goes my way.

Just as the books are all checked out, Khyah starts to cry. I turn the stroller around, and Brandt pushed me out of the way.

Brandt: I want to push the stroller!

Khyah is quite loud by now, so I scootched Brandt to the side and hurried to leave.

Brandt: [throwing himself on the ground. Again.] I WANT TO PUSH THE STROLLER!
Me: Brandt, hurry! Let’s go home and watch the movie!

I push the stroller through the exit

Me: Hurry kiddo! Let’s go.
Khyah: Waaaaah!
Librarian: Excuse me ma’am, could you back away from the exit?
Me: sigh
Librarian: [slightly annoyed] Did you check out your books?
Other librarian (who checked me out): [also slightly annoyed] Yes!

After a quick check of my bag, the librarian sighs.

Librarian: I guess it’s not you [sounding disappointed]. The alarm must be broken. It will go off, just keep going.

Believe me I did.

Ten minutes later, we arrive home. I struggle up the stairs with the car seat, diaper bag, purse, and bag of books (all while London complains about how heavy the movie he checked out is). Stumble inside, set everything down, and notice there’s a message.

We never get messages. No one calls us since we’re so new here. Yay!

Message: This is the Library calling. Do your children own a copy of Polar Express? We believe you returned it to us with your library books. Would you like to come and get it?