Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hard Habit to Break

During the past several weeks preparing for our big move, Eric and I have found ourselves allowing some bad habits to develop in our daughter. We discovered that keeping a toddler occupied while her parents- paint trim, run power tools, pack china dishes, stack high towers of book boxes- is a difficult feat.

To keep her safely out of the way and happy, we have found ourselves bringing her high chair into the living room, turning on some PBS "edu-tainment", and plopping her down with a bowl of cheese crackers and orange juice. (I may also have been seen on more than one occasion, plying my child with a second and third tempting snack just to buy us a little more time...and a toy-free floor.)

We have also become prone to passing out cookies and other sweets. Oh my!! This is something we determined never to do. "Our child's lips and sugar? Never the twain shall meet! Only broccoli and apples shall pass through her shiny, cavity-free white teeth!" And especially not after she has just gorged herself on McDonald's french fries.

Speaking of McDonald's. You know you are headed for trouble when your child can spot a McD's paper sack from a 100 paces, and she screams, "Foo!! Foo!! Foo!! (food)" with the excitement of scoring a game-winning touchdown. Watch it, Noelle. People might begin to get the wrong impression. That your parents never cook. That we've never heard of cavities or high cholesterol or The Food Pyramid.

Incidentally, Noelle has now learned to say the name of her favorite restaurant. As soon as she spies the familiar sign, she shouts, "Donald's! Donald's!" with such complete happiness, you'd think she was passing through the pearly gates, not the golden arches.

Teenaged Drivers-- Heaven Help Us!

Eric and I had already decided that 16 would not be the automatic age for our children to get behind the wheel alone for the first time. 30 sounds like a nice age to us, though waiting until after our children have professional jobs, or are married with children, or some such thing might not be the most practical way to go.

On our way to the realtor's office this morning, we got stuck in a long string of traffic. The cause for our delay? A single car accident. We could clearly see what had happened, and fortunately no one was hurt. Two young ladies (Is the legal age still 16? These girls looked mighty young to be possessors of a driving license!) had driven their car into a ditch. It appears that they had been driving down the hill too quickly in the rain and had been unable to stop, so a ditch was a better option than entering cross traffic.

The dented vehicle was currently perched at a very awkward angle, nose down and rear end flying high. Two tow trucks were working from opposite ends to get the car righted. Meanwhile, the teens giggled and smiled and pranced about the accident scene. What struck me as "interesting" was the fact that one girl was wandering around taking photos with her cell phone. She got the damaged car from all angles, the hill, the ditch, the police officer asking questions, the tow trucks and their drivers, and even us. Yes, she took pictures of all of us cars unfortunate enough to be caught in the long traffic jam. When it was all said and done, the car sustained fairly minor damage (broken headlight, dented bumper), and the girls drove away.

Up to this point, Eric and I had still been negotiating the 'Johnson Family Legal Driving Age'. I believe 18 was the most mentioned number. Though after what we witnessed today - the obvious calm and level headed *maturity* possessed by these 2 young women - I'm feeling "35" is a better place to start.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What's going on with the Johnsons?

After our friends Sonia and her son Isaiah came for a visit and to help pack, the "kids" needed to burn off some pent up energy - Here they are doing the splits

Life is wild around here, as you can well imagine, so I will attempt to get right to the point.

Noelle Stuff...

-Noelle is doing much better this week. She hasn't been as clingy, whiny or insecure as in the past month. She actually seems at peace in the midst of all the chaos. Weird, hu? Well, not when God's involved -Praise the Lord! Yours and our prayers are being answered! (Tho' keep on prayin'...)

-She has also been going down to sleep much better. She understands more and more each day what we are saying to her. We are making a concerted effort to reassure her of our return every time we leave her room. We say, "Close your eyes and go to sleep and when you wake up we will be here to get you / play with you / feed you a snack, etc. Mommy (or Daddy) will see you after you go nite-nite. We will see you in just a little while." We have been amazed how well this is working. She smiles really big and says, "A while! A while!" in a happy squeal. We leave the room and she is out for the count. She has even been sleeping in some days. Thank you God!

-She has acquired 2 very fun new words just in the past couple days:

She received a package in the mail (thanks Tonya!) and we let her rip it open. To this she said, "Wow!"

Daddy let her help him put up some colored flags on our "For Sale" sign out front. With raised eyebrows she said, "Cool!"

Having noticed our amused and 'delighted' (?) reactions, Noelle appears to have now made them an official part of her vocabulary. And she sounds like she's thirteen or something. She's got the 'tude!! :)

Moving & Miscellaneous Stuff...

-We are almost finished packing the first floor of the house. We've worked a little bit on the upstairs, though tomorrow we begin that task in earnest. This part should go a whole lot quicker, or so my husband assures me. Some sweet and thoughtful gals from church / community (and one friend even drove 1 1/2 hours to help out) have been helping me pack the house and will be helping with some final projects this week. Eric has had some strapping young and not-so-young fellows move items at the karate school to our garage, and several more guys are expected for our official "Load-the-Truck Day" on Saturday.

-We are planning a Moving Sale for this Thursday, Friday, Saturday (if we can finish the packing and house cleaning projects by, oh, say...Wednesday?!?!????). To the Ray County folks reading this I say, "Ya'll come on out now! And bring your pick-up trucks!"

-Thursday evening is our community farewell party (Ray County folks, you are all invited to the karate building at 6pm). Sunday morning is our final service and farewell potluck-- I sense some waterworks and 'raccoon eyes' ahead (translation for the guys reading this post: 'running mascara'). Good thing I haven't packed our Kleenex boxes yet!

-We sold our karate school to some wonderful friends of ours, the Mayberry's. We actually went through the ranks together. They are talented and skilled martial artists who have a heart for ministry in the community and will do a great job continuing what we started back in 2005. We both feel we are leaving the business, and our students (boy will we ever miss 'em!), in good hands.

-Eric has put his heart and soul into ministering to / with the Richmond Church of the Nazarene and community and is facing the difficult task of saying goodbye. He is completing his responsibilities for the church district, wrapping up community projects, and finalizing the details for transitioning in the next pastor of Richmond Naz.

-I played piano with the Richmond Naz Praise Band for the last time today. It was wonderful fun to rejoin the group (I haven't been on the platform very much since Noelle has been with us), but also very sad. I will miss our times of jammin' as we praise our Heavenly Father. BTW, Noelle did quite well watching me from the front pew. She sat with her buddies Morgan, Dawn and Sandy and seemed content to "sing along" a few feet away from mommy.

A recent visit to Independence Center Mall with our friends, the Wellman's

Monday, July 14, 2008

Our sick much better

**UPDATE 7/20/07**
Just so no one worries, I thought I should quickly let you know that Noelle is doing much better. Her antibiotics kicked in and her energy has come back. And so far neither Eric nor I have caught her throat 'buggies'. None of us are getting much sleep during these frantic last days of finishing house projects and packing, but we are hanging in there!
We just got back from the pediatrician's office. We've got a sick baby at home. Noelle has been pulling at her ears the past couple days and then yesterday afternoon / evening became listless (quite unusual for our energetic child) and disinterested in eating (also unusual). The biggest concern was the 103 degree fever. We called our folks and several friends in the medical profession for advice. The cool bath and Baby Tylenol helped her feel more like herself. She did finally eat her dinner and watched her favorite "Singing Babies" video (BTW, if you've ever seen this, it's a bit creepy looking, but Noelle adores it!). We put her in a pack-n-play in our room for the night and checked on her often.

This morning her fever was better, praise the Lord, but the doctor confirmed the ear infection...AND strep throat. Our poor baby! No wonder she doesn't feel happy! She'll be on an antibiotic for 10 days. Hopefully this will clear up the problem and she will feel great when we board the plane to Chattanooga in 3 weeks. Also please pray that Eric and I do not catch her strep. Needless to say, this would be a super inconvenient time to get sick.

Thanks everyone!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Standing 'O' for the person who created the "Child Leash"

More on that below.

First, a moving update...

We are still working on various house projects to make the house more saleable. Everything is much slower with a toddler. Saving Noelle her from mortal peril (i.e. ingesting paint or cutting off digits with the power saw) and keeping the cats from diving at the walls as I spackle has extended the length of several projects. (I can lock the cats up, but Noelle, not so much.) Fortunately we've had a couple neighbor gals come play with Noelle for an hour or two which helps tremendously. We hope to have everything complete by early next week.

No, we haven't started packing yet. We have to finish the house first for potential buyers to take a walk-through and to get the nice shots and video of each room for the Internet. Then we can start boxing up knick-knacks, wall art, and the like.

We will be traveling down to Chattanooga on Monday and Tuesday August 4 & 5. Eric will be either driving a U-Haul with our belongings and our VW chugging along behind, or he'll drive our car down while someone else handles that particular headache.

Noelle and I will be flying. Our relationship with our little munchkin and each other are worth more to us than attempting a 12?, 13?, 14? hour journey in the car. (Noelle doesn't do long trips in her car seat. The last 2 hour trip we took was filled with tears, kicking, screams, 2 extra stops to run around outside, and still more tears. We figure since she was introduced to a car seat only 4 months ago, we'll cut her some slack and she'll catch up eventually.)

But back to the flying thing-- me alone, without my husband, in a large unfamiliar airport and time on our hands (2 1/2 hr layover in Charlotte), with a short little kid who runs fast in airline terminals (and elsewhere) and hates the plane seat belts...yikes! Rather than give in to my tendency to be a worry-wart though, I'm working on viewing this journey as an adventure and an opportunity for further bonding with my daughter. (I would love to hear your ideas for keeping a toddler safe and happy while flying. Feel free to post a comment -click below on "Comments".)

This is where I ask everyone reading this post for PRAYER:
-for Eric's safety while driving
-for our belongings to arrive in one piece
-for Noelle and I to have a happy and uneventful journey
-for a smooth, healthy transition into our new home and life
-for our house to sell, soon and very soon!
-for our new church family in Chattanooga
-for our friends we leave behind in Richmond
(Please feel free to post your prayers here on the blog.)

Now about that blog title...

Since I won't have Eric's help in corralling Noelle in the airports, I decided to take the suggestion of several moms and purchase a child-leash. I searched the Internet and found several great options, but ended up finding something great today at Target. It's actually a harness with a long looped strap for the parent to hold. I was afraid Noelle would hate it and hold a strike by laying on the floor refusing to move (this is what our cats did when we tried to put them in cat harnesses once...). But the fact that this harness is actually an incredibly cute and cuddly puppy dog (she loves dogs in a big way) won her over.

In fact, she couldn't be happier wearing the safety device. She hopped and skipped proudly from store to store as we ran our errands. Then when we turned the harness around so the doggy was on her tummy instead of her back...oh, the oo's and ah's and cuddles that ensued! It was truly a love fest with her "Rah-Rah" (that's what she calls dogs, 'cause that's the sound they make).

Oh, I wish you all could have seen her! She was so happy that her personality oozed out everywhere. Eric and I fell in love with our daughter all over again. She also drew quite a bit of attention at the restaurant and stores we visited. Folks stopped us several times to chat with Noelle...and sometimes even with us. With that furry dog strapped to our sweet munchkin, the 'cuteness factor' was at an all time high. What a fun evening we had as a family!

Several times this evening I whispered, "Thank you Jesus!" for finding a workable solution to our mommy-daughter trip (yay! for the inventor of this fabulous device!), but mostly for the precious gift of FAMILY.

Unfortunately I didn't have the camera with me this evening. So these photos were taken when we arrived home.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Special Day for Some Special Friends

Today is the one year anniversary of Miss Reagan's Gotcha Day in China. Reagan is the precious daughter of our dear friends, the Wellman's. She came into her new family quietly, a 10 month old attempting to understand her new situation. Today she is a happy, feisty, funny, healthy 22 month old who is a joy to her parents and the rest of us blessed to know her. We Johnson's say "Hooray!" and "Congratulations!" (It will be so awesome when I get to post the same news about Noelle next March!!!)

There He goes again. God, that is. Putting together more forever-families.

It's a real good thing.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Yay for Independence Day! (pictures added)

Here's our American Girl, all excited about what the day has in store. What joy it is to have this sweet child in our life! She came to us from half a world away and has turned our world upside down. I look into her beautiful olive-skinned face and lovely dark eyes and see a Chinese girl AND an American girl. Two cultures have been joined through the miracle of adoption. I often wonder what future God has in store for our family and our (His) Noelle JiaZhen.


I feel incredibly blessed to be living in a country where we can freely worship and serve our Lord, and I am deeply thankful for the men and women who have given their lives or are currently serving in the armed forces so we can keep that freedom. We are a truly fortunate people to be citizens of a nation founded by men who loved God and believed in personal freedoms. I pray that this country never looses sight of how good we have it and will do all we can to keep it that way. Go USA Go USA Go USA!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our happy, happy girl! Her enthusiasm is contagious! I love it when she squeals and jumps up and down with glee when we tell her something fun is 'afoot. Though sometimes we even get this response when calling her to dinner. (Yes, we do feed our child regularly, and no, neither one of us are great cooks. Go figure.)

Some All American Kids - Austin, Alyssa, Noelle and Morgan

Karaoke Divas, Noelle and Morgan, rehearse for their big break. We had hoped that they would be our evening's entertainment and sing along with "the rockets' red glare" but both begged off claiming scratchy throats.

Here's Noelle watching her first ever fireworks. We set off some aerials and spinners and various noise makers. Noelle did fairly well. She was only a little frightened of the loud percussions. She would cling to Eric or me, hide her face, and say "Ba-Boom!". As each firework was lit, however, she relaxed more and more and seemed fascinated by the bright sparkles and flashes of light.

Rainie and Stormie-too really wished they could be outside with all the 'humans'. Their sad furry faces tell quite a story. I was actually impressed that they stuck around for the entire show - the one occurring in our backyard and the more elabrate ones in the yards all around us. They alternated between sitting on the kitchen table (naughty kitties!) and peeking out the screen door.

Getting a close-up of Noelle is a difficult feat. A shiny silver digital device waving mere inches from her face is a temptation she cannot turn down. Getting her to "Hold still!" for a face shot is like saying "Don't move!" to a room full of hungry children, no adults, and a table loaded up with cookies and candy. Ain't gonna happen.
(I apologize for the cock-eyed photo. I didn't take the photo sideways, but no amount of 'computering' (just guesswork) on my part or Eric's (who knows lots more than me) will fix it. But because I thought it was dern cute, I included it here anyhoo.)

We're in trouble

Noelle loves going to the store, probably too much. Every outing is a big adventure to our tiny tot. Super WalMart is the most fun - shopping for household items and groceries. For several reasons...

-She looks forward to the snacks and drinks mommy packs (and before you say, "Jen, you'll spoil her," if I pack the right amount we can just about make it around the store and through the check-out before a meltdown occurs).

-She loves taking her Chinese doll baby on a field trip (or her Magna-Doodle or some musical toy or her sticker book).

-She loves imitating me by caring her own purse complete with keys, wallet, toy cell phone (thanks Grandma!), toy baby bottle, and a variety of odds and ends she has picked up back at the house.

-She is the proud 'Holder of the Shopping List', and sometimes even my pen, if she is quick enough. She also inspects each item entering and exiting the cart. Some items, when not meeting her approval, are unceremoniously dumped or tossed from said cart (usually in the path of a startled shopper).

-She is fond of the attention she receives wherever we go. At least, she fond of the attention if the visit is brief. She's a girl on the move. Her motto is, "Let's not stop for a chat, please. I require not words but ACTION!" But since she's still somewhat of a celebrity in our town of 6,000, these visits are frequent and sometimes lengthy. Eric and I can't go out without friends, acquaintances and complete strangers fussing and tickling and asking questions about Noelle.

-But probably her most favorite part of the whole adventure is the shopping carts. She loves riding in the shopping cart (I have been known to do cart pop-a-wheelies or run at top speed and stop suddenly) and gets excited when I settle her into her colorful fabric cart cover (germs, man, germs!). With her munchies, sippy cup and toys surrounding her, she is happy as a clam.

Now I know all this sounds like normal stuff for a 22 month old. You probably wonder what is there to be concerned about. The reason I say, "We're in trouble!" is this.

Today Noelle came with me to WalMart to pick up a few last items for the holiday. When we arrived at the light to turn into the parking lot I explained what we were up to. When the light turned green and we rounded the corner, recognition flickered in her eyes. She saw the giant WalMart sign, raised her arms high in a gesture of triumph and shouted gleefully, "Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!"

When we got close to the building, her eyes grew wide and she popped her fist into her mouth. She began chewing her knuckles in anticipation, all while chanting "oh oh oh oh oh oh".

See what I mean?

We're in trouble.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Boxes of Boxes!


Guess what the FedEx guy just delivered to our house?


Eight boxes of Boxes to be exact (and some packing materials in there too, somewhere).

The cleaning, packing and moving preparations have begun in the Johnson household. We received the call from Chattanooga on Sunday and as soon as Noelle was in bed we started working in earnest. It hit us that we had a mere 5 weeks before we were due to "set sail" for the beautiful state of Tennessee. So that first night we were up 'till after 2:30am.

It's amazing how a deadline will get a person moving. There's so much to do in such a short space of time, I find myself problem-solving rather than sleeping each night my head hits the pillow. We've been in our home for 4 years, I think. It's difficult to recall our exact moving date because we moved just 2 houses down and across the street (from the church parsonage where we had been living). We can still see the church and parsonage from our house. Nice arrangement. Very convenient. Saves on gas. And easy to find us. :-)

Oops. Got distracted. As I was saying, we've been in our home for a few years now and have acquired quite the To Do List of repairs, improvements, projects, etc. Our intentions have been good. We really wanted to finish restoring that beautiful old fireplace and finishing painting that guestroom and put in that backyard patio and add those trim pieces and and...

Well, NOW is the time. It's now or never.

Are you worried we won't get it all done? Let not your hearts be troubled. We Johnson's are determined to succeed. We shall truimph over that power sprayer washer thingee. We shall defeat the tub of spackle. We will find those missing knobs and install them in the proper location.

Whew! Makes me tired just thinking about it.

Side note: Can I just say one thing here? I know I may look strong with all my bulging muscles and everything - yeah right! - well my arms (especially my left arm) are stronger than they used to be from hauling around Noelle - but Mr. FedEx man, why'd you ask me to lift that large, awkward, heavy box off your head? It hurt and I have a bruise now. And don't you get paid to be a straping young fellow who delivers packages near and far? Where oh where has the chilvary gone? (Aww, just giving him a hard time. He did ask politely, after all.)