Sunday, January 3, 2016

Christmas & New Years

For Christmas this year, we decided to do something new. Kristin found a cabin out on the eastern shore of Maryland, so after extensive packing and planning, and a three hour car drive which ended with our arrival at the campground during a torrential downpour, we were at last saved by a mad dash through the thunderstorm to a cozy cabin, and we had Christmas out in the woods.
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I jokingly told Kristin that the real reason was so that we could be remote enough that no-one would be able to call and tell us how awful our christmas traditions were. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to escape cel-coverage completely. :-) But it was a lot of fun anyways. Basically like camping, but with lots of amenities. We got to have a fireplace, eat good food, play board games, and explore the cabin and the woods.
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Of course, add onto that a few more christmas related activities, like making gingerbread men
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And of course, as always, acting out the nativity.
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For those of you who don’t know, we’ve deviated from the typical Christmas mold over the last 3 or 4 years. The biggest change is that we don’t open our presents on Christmas - instead we use the day as a time to think of the Savior, and do nice things or service for others (in the past we went singing at a nursing home, and once we went delivering cookies to emergency response people who were on shift). We act out the nativity in the evening, and begin placing our gifts under the tree that day. Each day after Christmas we have a devotional in the evening and we each get to put another one of the gifts we’ve prepared under the tree. We finally open presents on King’s Day - a tradition we stole from our time in Madrid, when the three Wise Men supposedly arrived. All in all we’ve come to really enjoy it - Christmas is much less materialistic and Christ centered, and it gives us an opportunity to really focus more on the excitement of giving with the kids.
So usually a little bit before Christmas we take all the kids to the Dollar Store and they bring their money boxes (filled with money from chores for the last few weeks) to buy gifts to surprise their siblings. It’s sometimes challenging to divide the kids up between us and shuffle gifts in bags out to the car, so nobody sees anyone else’s gifts, but we manage. This year, we weren’t able to do it before Christmas due to planning and packing for the trip. So instead we had our first ever post-Christmas dollar store trip. It felt like a scene from the zombie-apocalypse:
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But despite it, we were still able to have our devotional in the evening. We saved the Three Wise Men part of the nativity and acted it out, complete with gold, frankincense, and myrrh (represented by the blocks in the manger). After putting presents under the tree, we also get to write down any acts of service we’ve done during the day and place them in the manger. That’s also fun - the manger is usually quite full by King’s Day.
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For New Year’s Eve, Kristin had her yearly holiday Tamalada (that means tamal-making party)! Two other sisters from the ward accepted the invitation to come make tamales - all together the activity yielded 9 doz. Yum!
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In the evening we had cheese, crackers, and snacks as a picnic while we watched movies and played games. We didn’t stay up until midnight, but we did go out in the dark and light sparklers.
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So now we’re counting down to King’s Day next week. I promise I won’t let it be another 2 months before my next post. :-)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cranberry Festival!

So since we had a 3-day weekend last week, we traveled back up to Boston for the local Cranberry Harvest Festival. We’ve done this twice before back when we were living in Massachusetts, and we figured that since we’re moving to El Paso, it might be the last chance we get. The last time we were out here we only had two little ones, so it was neat to have kids that were bigger now, who could explore and run around and just plain have more fun.
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Basically the Cranberry Festival is kindof like a small county fare, but which is run right on the cranberry bogs. You can go out and see them harvesting the cranberries and watch them sucking them up through the vacuum onto the truck.
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Of course, because it was a fair also, they had lots of other fun things to do. They had a huge sand-hill that the kids had fun playing on.
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The pony rides were also a lot of fun.
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As well as the train rides, which have come a long way from five years ago:
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And they also had an owl show, which was really neat. The kids liked that one at first, but got tired after a bit.
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But they did get to run around in a pumpkin maze:
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All in all it was a fun weekend. We stayed with good friends from our Boston days - Roger and Nieca. We spent a large part of the rest of the weekend helping them do a wood floor - I've never done a wood floor before!

We’re going to be a little sad to move back to the south, but it will be nice to be a day’s driving from family. It was a wonderful trip up here, and we'll fondly remember our last New England Autumn.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Back Together!

So this week we finally got the kids back, after 6 weeks at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Kristin is pretty much back up to 100% after the baby and the kidney problems, Dalinar is 1 mo old today, and life is slowly settling back down to something normal. :-)

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Grandpa flew back with them, and Grandma came out a few days later to work a little and to visit. Right now we’re all enjoying conference and canning applesauce.

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Well, everyone else is canning applesauce. Daddy’s been building cabinets and remodeling bathrooms. Almost done!

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An update on family news, though - it’s definite now that we are moving to El Paso this spring. I have a report date of May 1st, which means that I’ll probably have to start out processing here in mid-march. Plan for us to come out and see y’all sometime in late march or April!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Upcoming Changes

So this is just a really quick post to let everyone know that we got a little bit of news this week.  A few months ago we were informed that we would likely be moving this coming summer (2016).  This was a bit of a surprise, since we haven't been here in Aberdeen that long yet. There are various reasons why this is happening, but at this point it's pretty certain that we will be leaving Maryland next summer.

We still don't know exactly where we're going to be going - they had five spots open to chose from, which we ranked in order 1) WA, 2) TX, 3) LA, 4) NC, and 5) Korea. The assignment in Washington is at Ft. Lewis, just south of Seattle, and is our first choice since it's the closest to family. It's kind of a longshot, though, because everyone seems to want to go there. It's much more likely that we'll get sent back to Texas - El Paso this time (not San Antonio). This is still nice in that it's within a day's drive of family (granted, a very long day's drive, but still. . .). We submitted these choices a few weeks ago, and we probably won't know where we'll end up until November.

So the news that we got this week, though, is more to do with time-frame. Moving in the Army is a big deal - you have 10 days to process into the new post, and 10 days to process out of your old post, and travel time, and 10 days to setup your new house, and any personal leave you might want to take between the two assignments.  We heard from a second-hand source that we are currently listed to go to El Paso (again, not surprising). What we hadn't realized, however, is that the person who is currently there is going to have a set date of July 1st that he has to start at his new duty station.  So essentially, it means he's probably going to be leaving in mid-May.

What does that mean for us? If we do end up going to El Paso, Lee will need to get there before the other guy leaves, which means we might have to start out-processing from Aberdeen as early as March!  That means we have about 6 months left here in Maryland.  When we move we are hoping to go see family in Utah while en route to our new duty station.  While we thought that would be summer (July), it is now looking like spring (March or April).  It might still be later if they send us somewhere else, but since El Paso seems that most likely destination, we're going to plan for a springtime move!

We'll keep you all in the loop as we get more info, but we thought you all might like to have that for consideration.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Dalinar Michael Johnson

So this may be redundant, since I texted the whole world last night, but I know there are people out there that don’t get picture texts, and also some that I missed (please forgive me, it was late and both of us were VERY tired), so here you go!

For those of you not in on all the drama, Kristin has been having Kidney problems over the last month, which were bad enough that she was in the hospital for a few days and had to have a nephrostomy tube placed through her back. We had to fly all the kids out west to stay with her family for the last month of pregnancy, so she wouldn’t have to take care of four kids and risk overdoing it. We decided to induce because this last week she started having pains in her other kidney, and we finally decided that this wasn’t really a low-risk pregnancy anymore. We had hoped to do an out-of-hospital birth at the birthing center in Delaware (about an hour away), since we’d had such a wonderful experience with Gavin’s birth at the birthing center in Georgia, so Kristin was really sad to see that wish go, but we both accepted that it was for the best. We didn’t want her to start having kidney pains while in labor and not have anyone nearby who could help.

So Thursday we started making calls to transfer care to a different midwife group - we spoke with the midwifes that had taken care of her last month when she was in the hospital, and they said they would be willing to take her (transferring to a new provider in your last week of pregnancy is frowned upon ;-). We were squeezed in for a last-minute appointment Thursday afternoon right as they were closing, and they scheduled the induction for the very next morning. We figured we would do it as soon as could be scheduled, because waiting would only risk kidney pain coming back. It has been very strange telling people “we’re going to be induced and have a baby tomorrow”, and having “congratulations!” as a response. :-) Typically we don’t know the baby is coming until Kristin is in labor, so informing people that we’re going to go have a baby was very odd and a little surreal.

I swear nothing ever happens quickly in hospitals. Kristin got to the Hospital yesterday morning at 7:30am to be induced. She was checked in and put in her room very quickly (before 8am), but then we had to wait around for two hours before they finally got her hooked up to the IV Pitocin. Most of that time was spent waiting alone in long-intervals in the room, in-between very short visits from the nurse, who would check her temperature and then ask a million questions, clicking away check-boxes in the computer to document that she hasn’t been depressed in the last three weeks and doesn’t feel threatened at home. Paperwork <sigh> - a necessary evil anywhere.

Once she was on the Pitocin, she started having mild to moderate contractions, and they slowly increased the dosing every 30-45 min. After about six hours, Kristin was still happy and kindof bored, waiting for real labor to start. We finally said, “heck with this!” and asked them to break her water, since that has always been what really got her going with all the other kids. After deciding to do that, it took them another hour before the midwife actually made it in to oblige. Once the water was broken, the real work began. Kristin was amazing to watch - I turned on light music and she meditated through most of the contractions. She really seemed almost asleep through most of it. I tried to give her light back-rubs and do anything I could to help her, but there’s only so much anyone can do to help. The nurse and the midwife had never seen anyone deliver a baby like Kristin. The midwife, 40 years old and 8-months pregnant with her first baby, openly laughed at Kristin when she said she didn’t want to be asked her pain scale and wouldn’t need an epidural unless there was kidney pain, saying “I’ll ask you again once you’re on the Pitocin.” I told Kristin later that she really needs to take the instructor course in Hypnobirthing, since it’s made such a difference in her life, and she could really help a lot of people with her knowledge and experiences.

The nurse and midwife came in a few times to ask how things were going. Kristin didn’t speak with them - I told them in a very quiet voice that everything was fine, trying hard not to break Kristin’s focus. It was frustrating, since it’s the hospital and they have to at least come in every so often and check her blood pressure and temperature. I joked with Kristin that while it’s pretty easily to determine whether to check the “dead” vs “alive” checkbox with a simple visual inspection, in the hospital it’s actually the “sick” vs “not-sick” checkbox that requires a little data. They came back every so-often to check that “not-sick” box, and I tried to help Kristin to stay focused through it, and kindof chased them away a little. I know they mean well. Two hours after her water was broken, the nurse happened to be in the room checking to see if Kristin needed anything. She had changed position several times, and at the moment she was on her side with one-leg up on a birthing ball. She was in the middle of a very strong contraction at the moment, so we waited for it to finish, and she said “he’s coming”. Neither of us had noticed that the baby’s head had come out. I saw first, and said, “Baby!” to the nurse, who totally freaked out. I caught little Dalinar Michael at 7:01pm, our smallest baby so far at 8 lbs 1 oz, 20 inches, and laid him on mommy’s chest. I’ve never caught any of my other kids, and it was a profound and incredible experience.

Mom and baby are just fine. There was no kidney pain. We both went to sleep exhausted last night. Dalinar has nursed and pooped, so all of his plumbing is working, and he seems happy and healthy.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Kitchen Remodel, part 2

Ok, sorry this has taken too long. This is a continuation of the previous kitchen remodel post, Kitchen Remodel, part 1. When I left off, we’d just finished the floor, so today I’ll show off some cabinet construction. Below are pictures of Gavin and I assembling the cabinets. I decided to build a frameless style cabinet, because they’re a little easier to construct and they give you more space (the front face-frame on a cabinet actually makes you lose about 15-20% of your space, especially with drawers).

After we’d built the cabinets, we got to stain them. After that, we installed a bunch of really nifty feet onto the bottom that make it a million times easier to level the cabinets (the cabinets have to be level, especially with granite countertops, or they will crack). These feet just have a little screw in the front of the cabinet that adjusts the height of the foot up and down. Once they were stained, we got to put the cabinets in place:
And once they were in place, I got to play around with the level to make sure they were all aligned properly:
And then once the cabinets were in place and level, we had a bunch of burly guys come and carry in our slab of granite and put it into place. We then got to put in a stove and a sink!
Unfortunately, at this point we now had functional cabinets and drawers, and the urgency of the project then disappeared. It took me over a month past this point before I finally got the upper cabinets put up:
And once again, at this point there were several months of delay before we got the cabinet fronts installed. In part, this was because my toolkit needed some additions in order for me to tackle this project. Notably, in order to do the cabinet fronts, I built a bandsaw and a router table. That being done, we started putting doors together. I got to have fun creating a neat design for them in Sketchup and then cutting them out on the bandsaw. It was a frame and panel design, so there were lots of curved surfaces that had to line up fairly precisely, so I ended up cutting a template out of plywood in order to trace onto the pieces. I then did a rough cut with the bandsaw and got my final surface using a tracing bit on my router. Then I cut the groves for the rails and stiles and glued them all together, and Kristin and I stained and lacquered them all (she’s generally driving the camera, which is why she doesn’t show up in as many of the photos).
Then after etching some glass, glueing and staining a bunch of door/drawer fronts, and screwing a whole bunch of hardware on, we finally had (mostly) a finished kitchen! And Kristin will tell you, that summing that up in one sentence really doesn’t do that step justice, since it took several months. But hey, let’s be honest you all just want to see pictures:




That last photo, looking through the window at the dining room, is right where the ugly white fridge used to be. So at this point, feel free to go back to the beginning of the first post to see what it looked like before we started. It’s been a lot of fun, and a lot of patience, and there are still a few small things that need doing, but we’re enjoying our sense of accomplishment. I hope you all like it, and let us know what you think in the comments section!