Chipped, Cracked, & Broken: A Song

Chipped, Cracked and Broken.

So, I don’t share many of my songs, but when I discovered this rough and vulnerable voice memo from last year, I felt nostalgic about when I was still living at home. 

**Forgive the glitches, okay? It’s from the heart, and sometimes the heart isn’t in tune . . . 

At that time, my family was going around and around the mulberry bush regarding the remodel for our house. Rebuild, add a kitchen, move the house,  build the Taj Mahale . . . the list goes on.

Meanwhile, while we were in “waiting” mode, our couch, carpet, and other household items have fallen in major disrepair. However, us kids were perfectly happy in our odd humpty-dumpty log cabin.

I was listening to our parents walk through the house with designers and architects, and my mother laughed:

“The counter is chipped, the oven is chipped, the plates are cracked . . . we need help!”

Daddy tagged on with a laugh, “Things are going to break, that’s just the way it’s going to be.”

Instantly, I began to see the tattered carpet, our dented van, and my rough and tumble kid-zone home with new eyes.

My living space was chipped, cracked, broken and beautiful. 

I love nice things. Daddy and Mother have given me a love of quality and pride in ownership, and I’m happy we renovated our home. But at the same time, kids are going to “mess stuff up.” They’re going to crack the expensive countertop and (if they’re like me) burn a whole in that lush carpet with the iron. They’re going to press their curious noses to the window panes and smudge their grubby fingers along the walls. You can clean (and clean we did) but no matter how hard we try, our surroundings aren’t going to be perfect . . . not perfect, but precious.

I wouldn’t trade my siblings for the world and I’m thankful my parents understand what really matters in life.

Yes, they invested into making our home beautiful, but they were somehow miraculously understanding when a sweet sister drove into their car with a quad, and a dear brother broke our window.

Let’s invest eternally in relationships! I cannot wait to teach my own little baby the value of people, not things. 

Let us remember what really matters.

Chipped Cracked and Broken 

I go over to the neighbors,
Their cars are new and clean,
There’s no dents in the bumper,
No peanut butter jelly squished in the back seat.
The windows are clear and sparkling,
The carpet’s not stained and torn.
The couch isn’t threadbare, the porch is organized,
Then I remember the love in my family’s eyes.

CHORUS:
Where the dishes are cracked and chipped, from lots and lots of use,

Muds tracked on the carpet, from little boy’s little shoes.
Laundry’s piling over, the electric heater broke,
These years will pass by all too fast, Chipped, Cracked and Broken’s where it’s at.

Daddy can’t to find his tools again,
They’ve been used to build a new fort,
Mama’s new necklace is missing,
’cause sister’s gone out with the boy next door.
Somebody broke the mower,
The keys got locked in the car.
Milk spilled on the floor,
Baby colored on the wall,
This house is a home to 13 people after all.

CHORUS:
Where the dishes are cracked and chipped, from lots and lots of use,

Muds tracked on the carpet, from little boy’s little shoes.
Laundry’s piling over, the electric heater broke,
These years will pass by all too fast, Chipped, Cracked and Broken’s where it’s at.

Other people’s flower beds aren’t dug up by treasure huntin’ kids,
Other people’s books, aren’t re-read and read and read, ’till their tattered and ripped,
But other people’s houses, don’t have the fun we do,
So I’ll take this mess, thank the Good Lord above,
That in the end we know that all that really matters is love.

CHORUS:
Where the dishes are cracked and chipped, from lots and lots of use,

Muds tracked on the carpet, from little boy’s little shoes.
Laundry’s piling over, the electric heater broke,
These years will pass by all too fast, Chipped, Cracked and Broken’s where it’s at.


The Kathryn Joy

Does the “Honeymoon Stage” Leave Us, or Do We Leave the “Honeymoon Stage?”

I’m a new wife. Very new.

So why am I writing about wife-hood, when there are so many more qualified women to share? Women who have stood by their husbands through storms and walked with their husbands through hell, women who have supported their men and made them great, women who have devoted their lives to service.

While here I am, still doting over my husbands smallest quirks, adoring every aspect of the way he cherishes me, eager to do the most menial tasks if it makes him happy . . . untempered, unweathered, inexperienced.

Just, in love.

Maybe because I want to discover, over time, if the “honeymoon stage” truly leaves us, or if we choose to leave the “honeymoon stage.”

What if I acted like I was newly married my entire marriage? What if I always focused on my husband’s strengths and overlooked his weaknesses? What if I always forgave the passing moments of hurt because he shows so much love? What if I always sought to serve him? What if I always built him up in public and private, and stay quick to apologize, because the future is so much bigger than pride?

Would I stay in the “honeymoon stage” if  I respected him forever, realizing he’s human, but honoring him because he is my human? What if I continued to make it a priority to look good for him . . . even on days when I would rather straight-up choose the bum-life?

What if, 40 years from now, I still heard him out, and listened to his opinion? What if I still allowed him to make the final decision and reverence his position as head of our home?

What if I continued to watch my words, because I care about his feelings. What would life be if I sought to build him up and remind him I love him.

What if I still told him he was “hott?”

What if his opinion always mattered more than anyone else’s in the world?

Would the “honeymoon stage” still leave, and turn into the dry, boring, painful, marriage many complain about, if I continued to apply the same amount of intentional effort into my marriage? Or would the fresh, innocent, “honeymoon stage” blossom into the rich, deep, surging “honeymoon stage” that is still ardent and joyfully-sacrificial, but stronger for the tests and trials?

Maybe the “honeymoon stage” just up and leaves us one day, but I have a hunch it’s the little decisions every day that force us to leave Eden. 

Let’s protect the passion,

The Kathryn Joy

 

What to do When Facebook Leaves you Hopeless: Call my Mom ;)

Jenise Johnson
This, is my Mother.

Twenty-five years later, her hair is a little less Farah Faucet, but everything else remains the same.

I want to mention her, because in this world a lot of darkness is going around. The human race has always struggled with discouragement, but in this day and age more and more Christians are battling the negativity of our government, our country, our world.

It’s hard to see our country spitting in Jesus’ face. It’s hard to see rights we once had floating away. It’s brutal to see standards and morals becoming nonexistent . . . to see society valuing sex more than life.

I admit, I have worried about someday bringing children into this confused and destroyed world. I’ve struggled focusing on the positive.

Other people must be feeling this way too, because for the past couple weeks, our phone has been ringing off the hook. Over and over I hear my Mother pick it up, and begin quoting scripture.

“He has not given us the Spirit of fear, but of hope!”

“In God we are more than Conquerors.”

“Trust in the Lord and wait patiently for him.”

“It doesn’t matter what happens in this world. The righteous won’t be moved! God has a remnent and he will NOT forsake us!”

“We were born for such a time as this.”

“In HIS presence there is fullness of joy.”

This is truth. This is supernatural strength. We have a reason to hope: Jesus.

To those of us who struggle with the temptation of one-way tickets to Costa Rica, let’s remember, we have a Savior. He can and will save us from ourselves. He can and will save us from our thoughts. He can and will save us from our circumstances.

No matter how dark the world gets, we have hope.

Share that hope.

Thank you Mommy, for yet another lesson learned from your example.

The Kathryn Joy

 

What REALLY Happens

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This is Kyla. And I’m going to tell you the TRUTH about my sister.

We’ll start with her blog posts on cooking. 

With a blogger in the family, more specifically,  The Kathryn Joy, we hear lots of talk about what kind of posts are the rage, what people need to hear, what is going viral ect.

And after all that, she just writes about life.

Turns out, this is what people crave. They love real. Katie is the most transparent person I know so this is right down her alley.

THM (Trim Healthy Mama) step aside; we have got a serious ectomorph on our hands . . . I created an acronym for her so she wouldn’t feel left out. She’s the only one in this club so far, but all three of you out there who share this uncommon gift can send me a 1,000 dollar membership fee and join. Steep? Let’s face it, you owe it to the rest of us regular people. The name is jazzy enough. HMEWYWASBFC: high-metabolism-eat-whatever-you-want-and-still-be-fit-club.

After reading her post and being throughly motivated, inspired, and encouraged a thought struck me. This was GREAT . . . but people ought to hear how IT REALLY HAPPENED. Not that Katie is telling made up stories, they are just from her point of view. And how it happens in her head is not how it APPEARS  to happen in “real life.”

Enter Guest Blogger.

Get cozy and listen to the first episode of how some of your favorite blogs come about. This is the story of How It Really Happens.

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It took going over to a friend’s house for me to realize that Katie was a world renown cook.

They were asking her for tips, showing her their treasured recipes and praising her works of art. I even heard terms such as chef, connoisseur, and foodie being thrown around. I focused, scanning my memory for the obvious signs I seemed to have missed on what must have been a miraculous journey from student and writer to chef.

I can faintly recall Katie spending a few days (I’m being generous with the plural there) and an occasional night in the kitchen but that was for like what, a week?

I definitely hadn’t seen her there recently. That is, with the exception of picking in the sala and trying to beg some lunch off of me while talking about her latest project.

Pause.

I take that back . . . since I’m writing the correct edition I’ve got to get the details right. I did see her smothering a bagel in cream cheese a couple of times when she couldn’t make it between meals. Even then the black burntness of the bagel contrasted nicely against the white of the cream cheese. I mean really, what world renown chef messes up with a good ol’ American-made twenty-nine dollar toaster?!

You see, Katie burnt everything . . . as she is typically quick to admit.

How does she come up with so many amazing ideas and creative ways to express them? I’ll tell you. Her mind is constantly in motion bouncing from one thing to the next. Only stopping long enough to share it with the rest of us, fire a boat-load of energy at it, and then she’s on to the next thing.

Cooking is no different.

I remember her once trying to defend her minimal cooking skills while her listener quietly watched an exemplary tortilla ‘n cheese go up in flames on the stove behind her.

As I searched deeper in my memory I recalled the messy hair, the furrowed brow, and all the antics mimicking Julia Child. But wasn’t that all just a show? Did she really know how to cook? If so, why hadn’t I noticed a weekly meal served a la Katie. I remember a 4 hr. shopping trip to buy 7 rare items (3 of which remain untouched to this day), a harrowing wine bottle explosion, pie grafts, journaling late into the night, lots of reading, and talk of a cooking school in France, and something about brûlée as I drifted off to sleep . . . but what did this all amount to?

I brought myself back to the present, I hadn’t come up with a lot of evidence to go off of, but in these disjointed random occurrences the mystery must’ve laid. 

Suddenly it hit me…

All these small things I had written off as strange experiments were actually a part of her journey to cook-dom. She took the most unconventional route, (think like the streets of San Fran vs. a highway through Kansas) but she had gotten there. Not uncommon for Katie. She does things diffferently.

While she still doesn’t spend copious amounts of time in the kitchen, the smoke alarm hasn’t gone off recently, and she has proven she CAN cook . . . if only to keep up her new found reputation ;).

Her newest project is our K’s in the Kitchen cooking show where you can actually see her cooking “skills” on camera . . . in all their glory. I think I’ll go milk an almond so I have something for breakfast . . . 

Love,

Thee Kyla Johnson as in THEEEE Kyla Cheri. No, no, no . . . like the one-and-only-forever-and-always~~Kyla Cheri.

Good day.

 

The Green Jacket Brigade

 Sometimes it’s great being associated with your big family. (Like when Kyla was Grinders star employee and people mistook me for her.) Sometimes it’s not as nice.  

Green Jacket Brigade
The Early Years

In honor of going to Squaw Valley in two weeks, here’s a little throwback to our skiing escapades of days gone by.

Disclaimer** I wrote this three years ago, and boy is it corny. 

“There was a good thought behind buying those green jackets. I mean, four beginning skiers could easily get lost on the mountain. Fluorescent coats would eliminate that problem…no one, could get lost in those. Although none of us got lost, those green jackets turned out to serve a much different purpose during our early skiing years. It all started with Kelsey.

From the very first, 7-year-old Kelsey was a heart attack skier; that is to say, she caused heart attacks. When Daddy took us up on the bunny hill for the first time, he expected us to learn how to turn—Kelsey expected to learn how to overcome “obstacles.” As Kyla and I patiently struggled to turn in Daddy’s tracks, Kelsey flew straight down the mountain in figure 11 formation. Those “Slow” signs didn’t apply to her!

I would come to the top of a snowy knoll, just in time to catch Kelsey come to an uncontrolled stop far below. Sometimes it resulted in skis and poles flying pell mell over the snow. Sometimes someone would yell. Sometimes she simply skidded in with the power pizza.

Either way, I always cringed.

A couple minutes later Daddy glided into the chairlift lines, Kyla, Baylor and I right behind him like a couple of obedient boxcars.

“Hurry up, you guys,” Kels grinned. “I’ve been waiting here for hours!”

Daddy sighed, “You really need to learn how to turn, Kelsey. Take it easy.”

Kelsey laughed back, her large goggles mushing her smile downwards. “Did you see how fast I went that time?”

When it was time to load the lift, Kyla and I lined up, our poles ready to shove off and Baylor stood patiently by Daddy’s side. I was tired of waiting in Mt. Bachelor’s long lines and began poking the slush that collected on my skis.

“Hold up!” My head shot up at the operator’s deep voice. As the lift slowed to a stop, it didn’t take long to realize who was the problem. Apparently someone else had gotten tired of waiting, for beside the operator stood a green jacket.

Kelsey!

Soon, our loud jackets were a glaring warning to every skier on the mountain, “Watch out!” they advised. “Hazardous skiers on the loose!”

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Green Jacket Brigade
The NEW Green Jacket Brigade

 This assumption was also given to 5-year-old Baylor. Although not wearing a green jacket, he associated with them and people rightly concurred that, “birds of a feather flock together.”

You see, we didn’t know that Baylor was an environmentalist before he started skiing, but after only a couple days on the mountain this belief became clear. Baylor just had to hug trees!

SMASH! BANG!

Baylor cared little for his own comfort so long as the trees felt loved. He didn’t seem to care much for the Green Jacket Brigade either, who repeatedly dug his fractured skiing equipment out of the tree’s deep drifts. Baylor’s convictions were hard on everybody and we all heaved a sigh of relief when we skied with him his second year—Bay’s display of affection turned out to be a mere mistake. Turns out, he had taken “going green” literally.

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We hadn’t been skiing for long, when the daredevils of our group decided to take on the jumps. Naturally, we only jumped off jumps our skill level. Seeing that there were no jumps worthy of me to launch off, due to my extremely rare skill level, I stayed off the minor bumps and allowed the other kids to knock themselves out.

Unfortunately, I mean this in a literal sense.

“Hey Katie,” Kelsey called. “Check out this jump!” I glanced over to where she was pointing and saw three guys sitting at the base of a good sized mound of snow.

“Kels, that jump is built in a ‘no ski zone.’ See the caution tape?”

Kelsey did see the bright orange caution tape–just in time to duck under it. She picked up speed as she zoomed toward the jump.

Then, she disappeared.

The guys at the base started laughing.

Bay disappeared over the ledge and Karaline (the newest member to the Green Jacket Brigade) followed. None of them re-appeared and I started to get frustrated.

“I bet they’re skiing down a different way, Ky,” I muttered. “Let’s catch them.”

As we skied past the mound, the base of the jump came into view. To my surprise it was dug out, and there, in a neat pile, lay Kelsey, Baylor, and Karaline! They made a cute sandwich with Baylor’s black coat in the middle.

Actually, they looked more like a lettuce wrap.

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The Originals
The Originals…New and Improved, but still matching (and sunburnt)

Kyla liked to wear her coat like a cape. This may or may not have been due to her zipper being broken, but either way, it was an unfair advantage when jumping. Eventually, I found some jumps that were big enough for me and I would follow Kyla down the mountain.

“Whee!” She would sail over the large flat tops.

“Umph.” My teeth would crack together and my knees would cram into my ankles.

Why couldn’t make the landing? Finally, I reached the answer.

The reason I knuckled out was NOT due to the fact that I “scrubbed” snow or that I went “slow” (like some people dared to suggest.) The truth was, Kyla’s open jacket was an extra source of gliding power! She had wings!

The downside to that special jacket was that you tended to freeze like an ice cube. Ky rarely mentioned it, but the icicles hanging off her chin were hard to ignore. So, I left flying for the birds and stayed nice and cozy in my working-zippered-green-machine.

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Team Johnson
Team Johnson (Squaw 2014)

Unfortunately, there is one last green jacket story to tell. Just as unfortunately, the star of this one is—me (I know, it’s hard to believe I could be haphazard, but stretch your imagination a little bit.)

Over the years, more green jackets have joined the original posse. We seasoned veterans could not give up our titles in the Brigade, and so we continued to buy green jackets as we grew. At 18-years-old I was still a proud bearer of our bright color.

Tragically, I was still in need of a warning blazer.

A few seasons ago a bunch of friends, some of my siblings, and myself were “rat packing” over a slick, icy track of snow. Our zippy lime coats looked smashing against the white as we sped in single file. It was the last run of the day and we were going to make it count. Flecks of snow from the leader’s tips peppered my goggles and we flew so fast my stomach dropped on each roller. It had been a wonderful day. I flew over the last packed knoll of snow with my poles in the air.

“That was awesome!” I grinned.

Then, disaster struck…or rather, I struck. I noticed a boarder on his knees, facing uphill, too late. My skis bit into the snow as I carved to a stop, but not before I sliced open my friend’s hand. The blood spurting everywhere was sickening, and I was hardly relieved to find no tendons were cut.

I had seen Mr. Unfortunate too late and he had seen my green jacket tardily. He should have known it meant “beware!”

Mother was right about those matching coats: we have never been lost. We also have never been forgotten. Everywhere the Green Jacket Brigade has gone, we have left our mark on fellow citizens and mountain goers—forever.”

Have you ever been associated with your family and cringed?

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An Open Letter to FATHERS of Teenage GIRLS

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Dear Fathers of Teenage Girls,

Emotional roller coasters, sensitivity, clothing disagreements, boys, growing-up bench marks…what a special challenge God placed in your life!

Think you have it hard? My Father has four teenage girls at this moment.

When people say he should write a book on raising girls (apparently we cross our legs and act intelligent in public), he just laughs.

“Oh no, not yet. I’m still learning.”

Most men struggle understanding the mind of a woman, and very few even dare to approach the mind of a teenage girl. Often, what we want and need is precisely what we push against. (I don’t even understand that part, so you aren’t the only one).

Although my father is still learning, and I am a far from being the perfect specimen of a daughter, I want to share some things I have found daughters want from their Fathers. This isn’t based off of scientific data or stat sheets.

These are boiled down observations. 

Some are from girlfriends who have good relationships with their fathers. Some who have bad. All from the perspective of a 19-year-old girl who has tested her father to the limits but tells him everything, respects him like no other man, and has given him her whole heart for safekeeping.

Fathers, this is what we teenage daughters need from you.

Be Humble

Girls want to know that you know you don’t know.

I have heard my Dad say countless times, “You know, Katie, this is the first time I’ve done this. I don’t know what I’m doing.” For some reason, this brings us daughters comfort. We know that you’re searching the Lord’s will, and you aren’t representing God in our lives. It is so much easier to respect a man who doesn’t know the answers, but searches until he does.

Trust me.

You fake that you know exactly what to do? That’s like telling your daughter you have three legs.

Pick Your Fights

You know already, arguments happen. They happen in every healthy relationship. In fact, I’d be more worried if I didn’t ever disagree with my Dad because it means either:

1.) He’s ignoring conflict

2.) I’m stuffing down resentment.

Try though I might, I have never been able to fully see from my Dad’s perspective on boys and clothes. Some of my other sisters have disagreed over schooling options or parties.

One thing to remember when you address your daughter, is that relationship is the most important. As much as we may hate it, girls want the security of being protected and guarded.

However, pick your fights!

If there’s 22 1/2 things that are bothering you, do NOT bring them all up. Your relationship with your daughter is more important than her music choices, those boots you don’t like, or her make-up. If it’s a big deal, address it, but don’t let the little disagreements get in the way of the big picture.

Protect Despite the Costs

“Protect” may bring to mind breaking out the shotgun and boldly attacking the guy who dare…

But the biggest fight you may encounter, is the fight with your daughter. Dads often tuck tail and hide rather than face this battle.

For some reason, girls have a love/hate relationship with protection. We love the feeling of security, trust, and love that results from protection. We crave it. If you don’t protect us, we’ll go looking for someone who will (and studies show we happen to be pretty bad at picking our own “father substitutes.”)

Still, we push against protection. The same way we sometimes feel the need to open our own door. We think we can protect ourselves. Our physical health. Our emotions. Our heart.

We want control.

Even if your daughter pushes against your protection, please, please, please PROTECT her. You know how guys think. We wish we did (and sometimes think we do), but the facts say otherwise.

I remember moments of my ignorant face glowing tomato-red at my Father’s “over-protective” verdict. I now thank The Lord for those moments of iron firmness (okay, so most of them).

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They grow up so fast!

Daddy had to fight me to protect me, but I am reaping abundant fruit because of his labor.

Answer her Questions: “Why?”

I’m not talking two-year-olds that are looking for an excuse to disobey. I’m talking girls that are nearly adults. If you don’t want your daughter to rebel, you need to tell her why you make the decisions you make. We may disagree, but we’ll compare your “why” with “whys” we collect from other people.

I had quite a few friends who were never told why they were expected to dress, behave, and act, certain ways. Once we hit our late teens and started making our own decisions, they had no reason to keep following the “restrictions” their parents placed on them, and dove headfirst into the cess-pit of the world.

In contrast, both of my parents explained over, and over, and over, why they agreed or disagreed with my opinion. The older I get, the more I realize the power of those “whys” and continue to accept many of them as my own “whys.”

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Daddy has his hands full with NINE girls to take care of!

SHOW Love

Girls LOVE love.

There’s a reason chick flicks and romance novels target women. We crave an emotional bond with other women, but ultimately, we desire masculine love.

Daughters that do not feel appropriately loved by their Fathers will go find it somewhere else. We need love to feel secure. Even when I have been maddest at my Father, I have never doubted his love.

“Katie, you look so fresh today,” Daddy offers.

“Oh yeah? You like the no-make-up-messy-hair-look?” I smirk.

“You don’t need make-up to look beautiful.”

As much as I may NOT believe Daddy’s comment at that moment, it warms my heart. Tell your daughter she’s beautiful. It takes practice, but it means more than you’ll ever know.

Hug your daughter. A few weeks ago, my Daddy, wrapped his arms around me in a protective, fatherly, hug as I sobbed like a baby. I knew he cared, and I knew he was there for me even though I was about to put Home Depot’s best-selling sprinkler out of business.

A simple hug can mean a lot.

Listen. A big way you can show love is by listening. I know, not every girl talks as much as I do, but every daughter wants to feel her father has truly listened. This means, no cell phone, no TV, no “you’re wasting my time” (okay, so my Dad did ignore me when I said I was flying to Paris for cooking school), and no distractions.

If life gets too busy, Daddy will take one of us out to breakfast where we can “really” talk.

Be Worthy of Respect

As daughters, we are instructed to respect you. In the flesh, daddies are not worthy, but in Christ, you are freed from besetting sins and worthy of leading, protecting, and loving, us daughters.

Don’t let Satan have the pleasure of attacking your daughter because he has bound the “strong man” of the house and made you feel unworthy.

When you’re surrendered to Christ, HE will make you worthy of respect and give us reason to trust you.

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To my own dearest Daddy,

I cannot fathom how much this questioning, curious, independent, girl has put you through. You have been so patient with me, and you have done what was in my best interest even when it meant a greater struggle for you. Still, we continue to grow and learn together as we work out new challenges and exciting opportunities life sends our way. 

I am so blessed to be your eldest daughter. And although I’m glad you don’t choose to write a book on child rearing yet (I don’t need everyone to know I got the most spankings as a kid) no one would be a more credible author.

I would never choose another Daddy.

I love you.

Your Kathryn Joy

The Toilet Paper Club

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“You should write a book on parenting,” numerous well-meaning people suggest to my parents.

Daddy and Mother laugh.

Raising eleven kids is no cake-walk, and it’s at moments like these I remember the Toilet Paper Club.

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The family was peacefully settled down in the cozy living room, lamp-light casting soft shadows, and Daddy’s deep voice calmly reading from the Bible. Most of us cuddled on the couch, but Punky crawled out of the sibling pile and squiggled into Daddy’s lap.

Abruptly, the reading stopped.

“You’re wet, hun,” Daddy looked warily down at the toothless grin and mischievous eyes staring back at him. “What’s the deal?”

“Oh, nothing,” Punky shrugged, “I’m a member of the Toilet Paper Club.”

Great……

After assuring himself that “The Toilet Paper Club” didn’t have to do with what we all associate with T.P., Daddy resumed reading, and anxious tension crawled back into the shadows.

That is, until Bentley (4) tried to brush Mother’s hair with a brush filled with wet, disintegrated, toilet paper.

“What is going on?” Daddy yelled. The freshly soiled brush dripped down on the carpet, and white particles flaked all over the sofa.

“The Toilet Paper Club!” We gasped in unison.

Daddy dubbed Mother the President of the Toilet Paper Club, as she went to investigate the mess. Two seconds later, she came marching back, her lips pinched into a thin line.

“Chad. You are President of the Toilet Paper Club.”

Eagerly, the remaining ten of us jumped up from our seats and began stampeding to the bathroom, only to be sent back to our seats. Punky was exiled to the backroom, and Mother and Daddy trudged to the riot scene.

Mountains of soaked, shredded, white goo, overflowed the clogged sink onto the bathroom counter and into land mines on the floor. The brushes had been used to card wool (with T.P. as the wool substitute.) Ribbons dripped off the drawer handles and rolls swirled unwrapped over the entire mess.

The club underwent a direct name-change to The Toilet Paper Gang.

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For Punky’s sake, we shall not give the leader a name, nor her little minions, but it’s times like these when even my parent’s 20-years of experience did not prepare them for this experience.

From what I’ve observed, parenting is a wild ride, and I’m so blessed to have parents that handle the angelic moments, as well as the trials.

Parents, just know you are not alone.

Were you that Kid who started Toilet Paper Clubs? (I may have been…)

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Brownies and Business

 “You go in first.” 

 “No you.”

 “You’re the oldest.”

I shot a glare at my two younger blond sisters. They stared defiantly back me in bright red polka dot dresses with giant green polka dot bows accenting their pigtails. I felt my hands—holding two cellophane-red-bowed-brownie plates—begin to shake as I stared up at the giant hi-rise building.

           “Okay, girls,” my voice wavered. “Follow me.”

           We pulled open the two glass doors that towered over our middle-school heads and walked into the lobby of “Smith & Son’s Real Estate offices.” A bright-faced receptionist beamed as we shuffled up to the counter.

           “What can I do for you today, sweeties?” She crooned.

           I gulped, feeling like an avocado seed was stuck in my throat, “We’re selling brownies for St. Patrick’s Day.”

           “They’re only five dollars,” Kelsey cut in. My eight-year-old sister’s pudgy freckled face crinkled into a smile as she looked up eagerly at the kind woman.

           “We’re earning money so we can go to a Mother-Daughter retreat,” Kyla piped up shyly, still white with fear.

           “Here honey’s,” the woman smiled and we opened our eyes wide with disbelief as she laid a ten dollar bill on the counter. “I’ll take two. You girls are so cute!”

           Kyla shoved the plates across the counter, and Kelsey’s pudgy fist snatched the crumpled bill before my skinny fingers could grab it.

           “Thank you!” We called back over our shoulders as we ran out the door.

           We were in business! Kyla, Kelsey and I danced around outside, completely unaware that we there were other people in that building. This was going to be fun!

           A couple hours later, we were liquidating brownies as fast as we could collect the cash exchange. We’d do anything to make a sale.

           “Sorry girls,” a portly man oozed over his chair and scratched behind his large ear. “I’d like to help, but I only have a fifty.”

           “That’s alright,” Kelsey’s eyes sparkled. “We have change!”

           The man took one look at the electrocuted-looking pigtails and animated grin staring up at him, and began digging through his desk drawer.

           “Hmmm,” He looked up, ten minutes later. Each of his desk drawers had been thoroughly searched, and beads of sweat accented his ample face. “I can’t seem to find it.”

           I figured we had waited too long to stop now. Kyla was staring out the windows counting the cars race by far below us, and Kelsey sat cross-legged, drawing circles on the carpet. I leaned over the desk confidentially, “No worries, sir. If you write Daddy’s name on it, we can take checks!”

           “Checks?” My client moaned and sank back into his chair . . . probably relieved we were so adaptable.

           I waited just long enough to see Mr. Sweaty un-wedge himself from between his chair’s arms and stumble into the next room. Then, I popped another candy from his desk in my mouth. Mmmmm. We could wait here as long as we needed.

           With the coveted check safe in Kyla’s money pouch, we marched across the street and entered Umpqua Bank in a bright burst of color and energy. Even Kyla was beginning to emit confidence. But as we threw open the heavy wood doors, my heart skipped a beat. There, at the far end of that vast expanse of marble and glass, sat a very narrow woman with a ramrod for a spine and stone for a heart.

           “No soliciting!” Her pinched lips opened just wide enough to send those staccato words ricocheting off the towering ceiling
and pelting into our eardrums.

           We continued advancing in a straight line toward the middle of her perfectly straight parted hair, with the Vulture’s beady eyes watching every step we took.

           “I said no soliciting!” The Vulture glared over her narrow spectacles, and I found myself shrinking down with my sisters until just our eyes were above the desk.

           “Ummm…” Kyla pushed her blond bangs from her eyes and spoke quietly, “we aren’t solicitating or whatever you said. We are just selling brownies so we can have girls time with our mommy.”

           The Vulture’s thin lips curled back in a sneer. “Humph. You girls should be in school developing your vocabulary instead of traipsing around being public nuisances. Besides,” she leaned over until her nose nearly touched mine. “I already baked brownies today.”

           “Well, if you already had brownies, we’ll just go to the other desks and ask them,” Kelsey turned and headed for the opening that led to the other offices. But our antagonist sat up like she had been shocked and barked, “I baked four pans of brownies and gave them to everyone in the office this morning. They are sick of brownies!”

           It only took one glance at her long pointed nails clicking impatiently on the glass desk, for me to take off after my sisters. Once more safely in the bright sunlight, we paused and gasped for breath.

           “Let’s go home,Kyla sighed.

           “I think she’s a witch, “Kelsey scowled. “I wanted to pinch her long ugly nose!”

           But when we arrived at where our Father waited in the van, he wouldn’t hear about us going home until we had sold every plate. I looked helplessly at the eight plates still siting demurely on the back seat and sank to the asphalt.

           “I’m tired of selling brownies!” I moaned.

           “Okay,” Daddy sighed. “I’ll make a deal. Go to one more stop, and we’ll go home. You girls got this! One more shot and I bet you’ll sell out.”

           Kelsey squinted into the sun at our eternal optimist and fellow entrepreneur, “but if we don’t sell ‘em all, we can still go home, right?”

           “Right.”

           Worn and bedraggled, we stumbled back over near Umpqua Bank.

           “Look at those black steps,” Kyla pointed to a long thread of steps climbing to the floors above the Vulture’s domain. “I bet there’s another business up there.”

           It didn’t look like any other entrance we had used, but eager to not walk anymore, we climbed the stairs and tried the solid white door. It was locked.

           Kylaaaaa….

           But just as we turned to leave, a thin, balding man poked his head out the door.

           “Why hey there, girlies,” he laughed. “We never know who’ll show up out here, do we?” He threw the door wide open and we raced inside to a sea of desks, giving our well-rehearsed sales pitch as we went. The balding man whispered to a colleague who laughed and passed on the apparently funny message. Soon the whole room quietly laughed at some secret joke, but we didn’t have time to join the giant game of telephone. Kyla sold three plates to the bald man and Kelsey and I raced up to the same buxom woman. Her large fluorescent shirt matched her bright pink lipstick and enormous boa. While Kelsey made the sale, I stared at the pink fuzzy bird pen that bobbed on her desk.

           “Sweetieeees!” My cross-eyed-stare-down with the flamingo was cut short as the pink lady squished Kelsey and me into her large arms. I just had time to see Kelsey’s beaming face before I was engulfed in perfume, soft silk, and darkness.
           “I cannot BELIEVE THIS!” A recognizable shrill voice sliced through the air. I was dumped out of a smothered embrace into blinding light. As I stared at the towering figure in the doorway, my jaw dropped.

           “Oh, Eva,” the pink lady gushed, “aren’t they cute!” I matched the Vulture’s glare with one of my own and burrowed next to my protector.

           “How did they get in?” Eva snapped waving the little gold sign from her desk that had the “S” word in black letters.

           “So you already saw ‘em?” The bald man laughed. “They came in through the fire escape. Glad they did too, I’ve been cravin’ brownies.”

           I arched my eyebrows at Eva smugly. So, she had lied to us, hmmm?

           “Here, Eva, we bought the kids out but we’ll share with you,” another deskman offered a plate.

           “I Don’t. Eat. Chocolate!” The Vulture spat each word with her steely eyes locked on mine. Then she turned on her heels and left.

           The room erupted in laughter, and we beamed.

           When we marched out through the marble and glass dome the second time, we flashed Eva a smile. Then, we paraded slowly through the glass doors, heads held high. Today, we were businesswomen.

—————–

P.S. $5 for two brownies (from Costco brownie mix) is a total rip off. You could start a “family” business and get paid for having cute kids. . .