On parenting...

I told you some time back that I was reading some new parenting books (Grace Based Parenting and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk) and that those books turned my parenting strategy on its head. 

I thought I would elaborate just a little in case it would be beneficial to anyone else out there. 

Grace Based Parenting is such an excellent read.  SO very good and wonderful.  It's like before reading this book, I had the right tools and ideas, but no idea how to use them and this book taught me how to do that. 

Some points that changed me the most:

Encouragement to parent my kids the way God parents us.  Are they any less worthy to be held to God's standards?  Should I be any less forgiving of wrongs or mess-ups than God is with me?   Think forgiveness over and over and over and over.  Or having to say the same things over and over and over and over...we aren't so different than our kids really.

It's helped us to aim the majority of our parenting energies on things that are of MORAL issue.  Allowing them to express themselves in ways that make them happy but have no moral wrongness is OK.  These actions include things like wearing what they want to church and school(thankfully I have boys otherwise this would be trickier), whatever random things they want to do with their hair, things they do that may be embarrassing to US or just plain weird to US but aren't morally BAD.  Allowing these things to take place in a safe, secure environment where they are loved, opens up doors of communication, sets them up to be secure in themselves and who they really are (NOT who we want them to be) and will hopefully help them to find their acceptance with the Lord rather than with people. 

In other words we pay more attention to the HEART issues and less on behavior.  With that said, our boys are not allowed to run crazy, there are standards of behavior in certain settings (NOT with certain PEOPLE-meaning I will not be teaching my kids that they have to act certain ways around certain people) but those issues are simply redirected in appropriate ways.  Being respectful and obedient is a HEART issue.  :)

My friend Aaron said something to me the last time I saw him.  Aaron and his wife Joanna are in the top ten of people I look up to, respect and admire and his words summed up the heart of the book and our new(ish) parenting direction: discipline ATTITUDES and not ACTIONS.  

Any issues that come up will brought to the Word.  If an action or behavior is in question we take it there and see what God says about it.  While the worlds standards of what is OK changes by the hour Gods word NEVER changes and we want that to be their rudder in life and NOT what the world tells us is acceptable.

For example, some may claim that dressing up for church is a Biblical and moral MUST but where in the Bible does it say that?  I say, God cares more that you are there than if you are wearing a suit and tie or dress.  Of course some occasions deem a dressy attire more appropriate and consideration should be shown to those who would be affected...therefore making it a HEART issue, in love, dressing in a way that may make grandma a little more happy on that special occasion is more important because you are showing love and respect for grandma.  Now if you went to church with grandma every week and she tried to insist it was necessary all the time...that would be a different issue.  (Also, not OUR grandma just "grandma" in general. :)   

In general we are teaching our kids to be loving, respectful, authentic, kind people who are NOT tolerant of moral issues but who from experience with their parents, can deal with those issues in a loving, godly way.  We are teaching them to be loving to all but not accepting of all sin.  We are teaching them to let others and themselves BE themselves but to love them in a way that can address sin if needed in an appropriate way.  We are teaching them to go to God if there is a question they don't know the answer to or a standard that has been presented as morally OK but the Bible says otherwise. 

I'm so glad to have found this book at this stage of our parenting, in a time where we are just past the baby stage and are really starting to see them become the people they will be.

Somehow this book has helped me to be more grace-FULL with my kids, more patient, more loving, less stressed and more focused on the important things. 

If your parenting goals are in the same range as mine I would highly recommend taking the time to read it. :) I would love to hear what you think!

mailing eggs.

For the boys sake, I pulled out some Easter decorations.  Not much, but enough to make them happy.
Aaron has been asking for "Easter egg hunting" for weeks now, both boys were delighted to see the little chicks and Easter grass and played for hours with the empty Easter eggs from last year. 
 Even our resident Wookie likes Easter decorating.
Do you love this cake carrier or what?  My husband is good to me.  Get your hubby to get you one from World Market.  It's made of tin, vintagey and the best shade of aqua.  
I've been in a serious creative funk lately.  Total blah. 
To conquer the road blocks I usually clean house and do things for others.  Works every time.
So I spent the majority of my afternoon writing to pen pals...
(yes!!! I have a few penpals...wanna be one?)
and filling and addressing Easter eggs to put in the mail. :)
I got the idea from Giverslog and since seeing it there, have been dying to try it AND keeping my eye out on other fun things to mail!
I can't wait to see the look on my mail lady's face when I hand her these! :) 

I used the larger Easter eggs...not the small ones.  Each one weighed about 2oz and required &1.95 in postage. I mailed them to kids and adults alike and will be looking forward to hearing about them arriving at their destinations. :)You can do this with almost anything that is 13oz or less!

How are you?  Doing well?  Say hello and tell me what YOU would like to get in the mail that is 13oz or less?

huggies num 2

I've been asked by BlogHer and Huggies to take some walks down memory lane and explore some (what I think will be) FUN subjects surrounding babies and having them and getting ready for them and all the fun stuff that goes with THEM! I volunteered for this series for selfish reasons...I think it will be a great way to document some thoughts and feelings that maybe I haven't before but should have. I hope you will enjoy them, too!
This week's topic is all about the week after delivery! My best piece of advice? Well, two pieces really...Number one: Have a really great mother-in-law. Honestly, my mother-in-law was the BEST for the week after we came home from the hospital with Aaron. She basically came home from the hospital with us and took care of our every need. If you need an example of how you should serve a postpartum household, she could teach you all you need to know. She selflessly served our family in the best of ways...practically. She did laundry, took out trash, fed us, played with Moses and then would disappear into her room for a while to give us time to just "be." She gave us the perfect amount of help and family time. We were so sad to see her go away. It was wonderful and something that we are still so grateful for to this day. Number two: Be part of a really great church or women's group. Obviously don't join one just for that, but because of those two things, we had meals to last us a MONTH. A month of no cooking, no planning meals and nearly no shopping. It was a huge blessing. If you know someone who just had a baby, a meal is huge. Pack it in throw-away containers. Include dessert. Trying to regain balance in a new life with a baby is tricky, and having one fewer crucial thing to think about is big. I was so thankful to our church family and my MOPS group for the countless meals they provided. These two things were the biggest factors contributing to our successful transition to a family of four. I'm convinced that if either of these were missing, there would have been serious struggles. While I don't think that this is something you can create non-organically, I do think you can be an example of this in your own circle by selflessly serving a new mom in ways that she might not ask you, and bring her a meal, too! These two things made the weeks after having Aaron great weeks, mostly stress free and definitely more enjoyable!

What is your best advice for surviving the week after baby? 

Be sure to check out my first post on this series HERE!!

Find more posts from bloggers sharing their experiences of motherhood on the Huggies page on BlogHer.com.

the sass i have to deal with.

Doug and I are both very sarcastic, quick witted people...you either get us or you don't.  All I know is that more often than not, not a day goes by without sore cheeks from laughing.  I also know that we have passed a certain amount of sass onto our kids...who seem to be able to toe the line in their quick wittedness as well...as seen in this conversation:
aaron: don't wook at me MOM!!
me: i can look at you if i want to, i made you.
aaron: no you didn't...JESUS did.
aaron whispers defiantly to his brother: mom didn't make us...Jesus did, right mimi ?
sigh...it will be a funny journey in this house. :)

huggies num 1

I've been asked by Blogher and Huggies to take some walks down memory lane and explore some (what I think will be) FUN subjects surrounding babies and having them and getting ready for them and all the fun stuff that goes with THEM! I volunteered for this series for selfish reasons...I think it will be a great way to document some thoughts and feelings that maybe I haven't before but should have. I hope you will enjoy them, too!

This week's topic is all about the week before delivery!

It was such a fun time with both of my boys but SO different with each one! When I was pregnant with Moses, I was working full-time as a social worker and, in fact, worked the day before he was born! A little-known-to-you nerd fact about me? We prayed that Moses would wait to come until AFTER the Lost season premiere! Seriously, we did. And guess what? Unbeknownst to me, I had contractions all through the premiere and my water broke later that night! He was born, involuntarily drug free, four hours later!
The week before Moses' birth is a little blurry. We were both working full time so our lives were busy. I do distinctly remember a NEED to re-caulk the tub at 9 months pregnant. I clearly remember enormous me in that tub, doing just that, thinking it HAD to be done and "I can't bring my baby home without doing this!" Crazy pregnant woman. I am a "get it done now!" kind of gal, so the nursery and all its accessories had been long done up and put away, car seats installed, bags packed and we were ready!
Aaron was a little different. With Moses' swift delivery, I started talking to my doctors about inducing from appointment number ONE! I wanted a slower, more controlled birth, AND my husband was working nights at the time so I didn't need to be going into labor in the middle of the night and giving birth in a bathtub! They say that your second birth takes about half the time as the first, so we are talking about TWO HOURS here. That would not have been enough time for my husband to get home and get me to the hospital to get my DRUGS! So the week before Aaron's birth was spent with me BEGGING the doctors to induce me. For days, all the beds were full at the hospital. We spent our time hanging out with Moses and doing our best to get him ready for a huge life change. It was a much more bittersweet time this time around because we were used to our lives as they were. With Moses' birth, we never really knew life without him since we got pregnant so early in our marriage.
Both times were precious, both different and both a time to reflect and spend time appreciating our current and future blessings. How about you? I would love to hear about the days before you gave birth. Were they what you expected? How were they different from those expectations?
Read more posts from bloggers sharing their experiences of motherhood on the Huggies page (http://www.blogher.com/huggies) on BlogHer.com.

what i made for monday-rolo stuffed cookies!

This week I made rolo stuffed cookies for Doug to take to work.  Sadly and tragically he forgot them at home...oh darn.  These taste best the next day.  Thanks for Six Sisters for the recipe! :)

rolo stuffed cookies!

3 dozen Rolo's 4-5 of the packages sold by the register
1 box Devils Food Cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 c. oil

Mix cake mix, oil, and eggs.

Take a small ball of dough and form a ball around the rolo. Use enough dough to cover the rolo.   About the size of a ping-pong ball!

Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes or until crinkly. Yields about 3 dozen.

That's it!  So easy and SO SO SO unexpectedly good!!

civilized couponing 101-Lesson 2

Did you guys think I gave up on couponing? 
Well I didn't!  I was out for a couple of weeks because of illness but I am in it more than ever and getting better every day!  I was so excited to hear that I got so many of you to at least try to get in the game and I am convinced that THIS post will get even more of you into it...are you ready for how awesome this will be?    

This week, I aim to convince you to at LEAST try CVS...or at least start there.  THIS is my best series of trips to date and I am excited to share the details with you!

Now these items were purchased on one trip...I honestly don't remember all the specifics but I'll share what I remember. 
All the razors and cartridges were on sale for $9.99 each.  For each one you got $4 in Extra Bucks (CVS money) and I had a coupon for $4 for each razor and set of cartridge.  In the end each item was $2 each...I do remember averaging the cost of each razor blade and it being .88c each.  Not too bad right? 
I know the Thermacare was free with Extra Bucks.  I think the Colgate was .50 each with coupons and Extra Bucks. 
What I DO remember...is that on my next trip to CVS...
using ONLY Extra Bucks, coupons and $3...I got ALL of this and $9 in Extra Bucks...so really CVS paid me $6 to buy this stuff. 

And if you notice, it's all normal stuff that we would normally use!

There are no tricks involved...I only used coupons, cash and CVS Extra Bucks.  I do now buy two newspapers because I learned that the bigger papers (I get the Washington Post) give you MORE coupons and higher value coupons. 

HERE is a great post on how to learn CVS and other drug stores. 

I would also encourage you to follow For the Mommas and Hip2Save for really great daily deals and heads up on hot coupon items!  I don't regularly visit their blogs but just follow them on Facebook.
For example...earlier this week Hip2Save posted about this great deal at Target that I was able to scoop up because of her heads up on Facebook.   Target had Mederma (think stretchmarks?) on sale for $2 (normally $17) and the Mederma website had $2 off coupons making the Mederma....FREE! :)

See?  Easy stuff.  (Nearly) effortlessly saving amazing amounts of money on NORMAL things! 

I've made it my goal to never pay full price for anything ever again...and I will work hard on getting all my toiletries for free or pennies!

So have I convinced any more of you to jump in?  WHY pay full price?   

no words needed.

 (for the scrap book)

When we were done I took a photo of him on my phone and then showed him...he gasped a little and reached up to touch his head with both hands like he had no idea what was going on up there.

Still handsome as ever.  

We're hoping for a Samson kind of effect...you know, like maybe his naughty was stored in his long blonde locks?

painting wooden spoons!

Yesterday was STRESSful for me.  I know I will sound like a complete wuss but it was.  Aaron had his first dentist visit and came out with SIX cavities.  :(  That completely bums me out for him.  Add to that the verbal scolding I feel like I got from the dentist and his helper and I was in the pits yesterday.  It completely baffles me...Moses and Aaron have the same diet essentially and one has perfect teeth and the other apparently inherited both my super soft teeth and Doug's close together teeth.  Not a nice combo for keeping cavities away.

I felt like the doctor didn't believe me when he asked...well does he drink a lot of juice? Does once every few days count?  Does he eat a lot of candy?  Does a couple times a month count? Don't give him food or drink after brushing teeth before bed.  Never done that.  Don't let him have soda.  Has never happened.  Does he eat a lot of those "kid" yogurts?  Never.  I swear they went down the whole list and I could say with conviction that my kids don't eat a bunch of junk.  It has to be genetics.  Were any of your kids that way?  

Anyway...I'm happy to have dental insurance and I am thankful that they are baby teeth.  And I am making Doug take him for the fillings.     
Yesterday seemed like a good day to tackle this project.  After seeing it on House of Earnest, I just knew my wooden utensils were meant for greater things.  I gathered them up, scuffed the shiny ones a little with sandpaper and painted myself a rainbow.   
Once they are dry they will be coated with a layer of food/baby/people safe shellac.  I used regular non-toxic craft paint and was sure to keep my painted area pretty far from where it would come in contact with food on a regular basis. 

And now to find the right way to display them in my kitchen....

marshmallows and toothpicks!

Last week I set out a big bowl of mini-marshmallows and toothpicks and declared that it was family time.
There was no arguing.
It was fun, easy and cheap!
Good for the littles, too! 

There was a lot of eating.  I was ok with that. :)
Then happy mayhem ensued. 

You should give it a go!  It was a hit here and I can't think of any age that wouldn't love this!

what i made for monday-salted caramel butter bars!

salted caramel.  butter.  yum!

Here's what I made for Monday!  They were delicious and decadent.  Not too much and not too little.  Easy and fairly quick to throw together.  Plus, you know, salted caramel and butter.  Yeah, that. 

Salted Caramel Butter Bars (recipe adapted from  Cookies and Cups)
Bottom layer ingredients:
1 lb. salted butter room temp
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbs vanilla
4 cups all purpose flour
Top layer ingredients:
1 bag (14 oz.) caramels (about 50 individual caramels), unwrapped
1/3 cup milk 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
coarse sea salt 
Preheat to 325F.
For the crust:
Using mixer on medium speed, beat together the butter and sugars until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. Sift the flour into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth soft dough forms.
Spray a 9×13 inch baking pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Press one-half of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust, and place the remainder of the dough in the fridge to chill.

Bake until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown approx 20-30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool about 15 minutes.

Prepare the filling:
Place the unwrapped caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the milk and vanilla.   Microwave on high for 1 minute. Remove from the microwave and stir until smooth. If caramels are not completely melted, microwave on high for 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until smooth.
Pour the caramel filling over the crust.  Give the caramel layer a good salting...same as you would salt your plate.

Crumble remaining chilled dough on top. 
Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden, about 25 – 40 minutes.
Let cool, cut and serve! 

Enjoy these! :)

unfathomable testimony.

Two amazing points of testimony I give you, especially to the people who say that the Bible is faulty, full of nice fable an written by mere men.  I give you this (YAY!):

And this bit of info that our pastor shared this morning:
If you take the probability of fulfilling eight of the most difficult to manipulate prophesies about Jesus that he fulfilled (there were over 300+ that he did fulfill) you get a number that is 1 x 10 to the 17th power.  That is the equivalent of covering Texas in stacks of silver dollars two feet deep, marking ONE of them, shuffling them completely up, blindly grabbing one it it being the ONE that you marked.  

WOW.  Just think about that.  Both of them.  Amazing, awesome testimony of who our God is.

Nothing from nothing can't produce that. :)

thank you and a cute video. :)


I wanted to thank each and every one of you for your kind words and emails on my last post.  Between you all, you showed me that indeed, I was supposed to share my thoughts and heart on a matter that it seems we all struggle with.  Your emails and comments sharing your same thoughts, struggles and doubts gave me assurance and confirmation that it was more than I that needed to share that last post.

I strongly believe that giving our struggles a voice, makes them less powerful.  Sharing something "out loud" this way somehow minimizes it (in a good way!) like saying to the enemy "I know what you are trying to do and you won't be keeping me in the dark". 

And really, since writing that post, I have gotten so much awesome confirmation about so many things, God has blessed me beyond my expectations.  It's like crying out has opened the flood gates. 

I can't wait to share with you all the awesome details He is working out. 

And for the record, Doug has ALWAYS supported me in staying at home.  I told him from date number two that that was my intention and he has always lovingly supported that.  He also thinks I'm a pretty hot mama. :)

To say a little thank you...enjoy this super sweet video of Aaron trying to say the Lords prayer. :)  

deep breaths and sighs.

This post sucks to write. 

But it feels like one of those posts I am supposed to share for reasons unknown to me.  It would be much easier to ignore it and pretend like it doesn't exist but the truth of the matter is that it does.  And if I ever feel like I am supposed to share something, I do.  Because even if I am wrong, at least I am learning to obey and that is key to me.   If this blog has taught me anything, it is that God can use me and my experiences in ways that amaze me if I only let him.  I want to be obedient to his will for me, even if it means looking foolish. 

We, the Johnsens, have a lot on our plate at the moment.  And like I have shared before, I can't quite share all of the details but you better believe I will as soon as I can because I believe God will continue to show up in amazing ways that MUST be told!  So while we are in the midst of an amazing God time, you wouldn't be surprised to know that it is also a major time for attack and negativity from the enemy.

Somehow and someway he finds the just right time and opportunity to build himself a little foothold in our lives and once it's there it's like chipping away at steel and concrete to get rid of it. 

(here comes the sucky part)...

And I'm ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I have given him, gift wrapped nearly, two strong footholds.  And I have let him stay there long enough that I am having a tough time getting rid of him.

I bet you can guess the areas.  They are actually two facets of the same issue that I think every woman deals with. 

And they are....

YOU are not a worth contributor to your family.  You NEED a REAL job already.  Because of YOU, your husband has all this pressure on him to provide.  Because of YOUR laziness (in not having a real job) he has to work harder and handle more pressure than he should.  YOU are a failure in society.  YOU are making worthless contributions.   

And the other one, also a classic, thrown in just for fun and jest I am sure...

YOU are also unattractive.  Overweight, out of shape,  unlovely and unlovable as you are.  YOU need to lose weight, tone up more, eat better, get rid of those stretch marks and make yourself more attractive. Everyone around you is working harder than you to be "beautiful" WHY AREN'T YOU?

Ugh.  That is what has been playing in my head since January.  And even if I KNOW they are lies, the enemy provides plenty of proof that they are not. 

I am surrounded by loads of wonderfully successful women who manage motherhood and careers beautifully.  I have no desire for a "real" job.  

Their accomplishments are neatly measured, countable and publicly praised.  My measurements include butts wiped and underwear washed.  Things sewed.  95% of what I do is never seen.

I've always been happy and content with my body until...I have loads of friends frantically dieting and exercising and the enemy has convinced me that I need it more than they do.  Even if they don't. 

This past year has been amazing for me in terms of discovering who God wants to me to be and accepting AND loving the roles he has set in place for me.  The enemy is convincing me that they are selfish and not worldly enough.   

I finally become comfortable enough to say I am an artist and a sewist.  And the enemy convinces me that no one takes that seriously.  

I'm on a hamster wheel and I don't know how to get off.   And that is where I am.  I have no resolution to share at the moment because like I said, this is something I am still dealing with on a daily basis. 

And I have no idea why I was supposed to share this...because I'm sure it sounds like a huge pity party, but that is honestly not my intent.  I KNOW who I am in God I'm just having a hard time making the Lord's voice the louder one at the moment.  I'm doing all I know how to do...I am in the Word, I am reading encouraging books, but at the moment, it's like I am throwing things at the wall and waiting for them to stick. 

On the other hand, God has been showing me beauty in the mundane tasks of my day.  Finding JOY in washing the dishes, doing laundry and taking care of our home.  I'm proud to be a stay at home mother and my business is doing better than ever before.  Things, in reality, are going very well. 

It's a weird place to be...knowing your place and having questions and doubt thrown at it constantly.  Maybe I should take that as a sign that I am doing what I should?  I don't know yet, but I won't be giving up anytime soon.  I just know there is a lesson to be gained in here some where...

I'll keep you posted. 
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