A few minutes with the Johnson family


July 2011: Summer Fun

An Outing To Lake Oswego For Haircuts And Fun:

After we got home from the 4th of July festivities on Whidbey Island, we decided it was time for some summer haircuts!

After they were done, they changed into swimsuits so they could walk around and explore Lake Oswego a little bit, on their way to a fountain.

Daddy did a great job of getting them to pose for photos along the way.

Best buds.

Interpretive poses inspired by the sculpture.

Goofy girls with cute short hair! Thanks for the haircuts, Auntie Katie!

Hard To Believe, But Ryder Is ONE Already:

Ryder’s birthday was the same day as the girls’ haircuts… and although I have looked many times, I can’t find any photos of his party. I know we were there, I know cameras were being used, and I am pretty sure I even saw some photos at one point or another. But it could easily be that we forgot our camera, Annie was using hers, and I saw the photos on her computer where they still live to this day. I suppose I can add a few if I ever track them down. Instead, here are a few of my favorite photos of Ryder from June – pretty close to his July 9 birthday!

That’s our happy boy!

He LOVES an audience. This was the end of the crawling/pulling up on furniture phase. He got a lot of applause out of that act, but pretty soon he was getting everywhere on those cute little feet!

His expressions keep us laughing. Being around him just makes you feel happy.

Even our little ball of sunshine gets worn out sometimes. Happy birthday, buddy! Your adoring fans can’t wait to see next year’s performances!

Rope Tricks and Kids’ Books:

On one legitimately hot and sunny July day, we saw an outdoor performance by “Leapin’ Louie Lichtenstein” at one of the local libraries:

He does all different kinds of rope tricks and magic tricks and tells jokes, and somehow in the middle of it all, he manages to keep books and reading as the underlying theme of his act. He was great! Thanks to Anne-Marie and Nick for the invite!

A Few Random Things That We Took Pictures Of:

I do like to take photos of our garden and the things it produces… for example…

… these gorgeous golden and red beets. They were delicious roasted. Too bad our efforts at re-planting failed utterly after this first harvest. We are determined to figure out a better spot to grow beets next year. Yummmmmm.

I have known for years that Keith can find all sorts of ways to occupy himself at Lowe’s…

…having two sidekicks only expands the time! Thankfully, I was not on this trip, so it didn’t matter to me how long they stayed, and they had a great time. They might even have come home with some of the items on the list.πŸ™‚

This photo just plain amuses me. It is also a good reminder of the girl’s first time attending VBS – Leah is wearing the “Panda-Mania” shirt that everyone received during Riverwest’s ninja-themed week. Cade and Callum attended as well, and all four of them loved it, they were playing ninja games non-stop and constantly saying, “Remember when…” and “That was so funny when…” The skits that involved “Nin-Jo” were a definite highlight – I even stayed to watch a few of them because the kids were raving about them so much. They were right, Nin-Jo was hilarious. Besides a great week of fun, games, and getting completely tired, they learned a lot of cool new worship songs and Bible verses, and it was obvious to me that everyone who volunteered really cared about the kids in their group. I have great memories of attending VBS as a kid, and also of volunteering, so it was fun to see that carried on for my kiddos. They are already excited for next year!

Another Fun Trip To The Farm In Scholls:

The Smiths made their annual trek to Oregon from Alaska again, and we were happy to join them for an evening of fun out at her grandparents’ farm in Scholls. It’s another one of those same-and-different outings every year. This time…

…the littlest girl was a lot more interested in the biggest girl…

…the henhouse and chickens were still a main attraction…

…Nea was still the “baby” of the group, but more than capable of keeping up with the big kids in every possible way!

It’s still hard to tell who has more fun on the tractor rides – the kids or Papa!

Hmm… do you think these two are related?

What about these two?

There is still no way to escape from Grammy’s without some sweet treats being handed out.

Maybe that’s okay – since we use dessert time as an excuse to line them up and take photos.

Serious about those last delicious licks at the bottom of the bowl.

There is a great berry farm across the road from Jessica’s grandparents’ place… and it just happens to be owned by a friend of my dad’s. It’s a small fruit-growin’ world, I tell ya.

Time for the ride in the trailer – being pulled by the BIG tractor. Thanks, Great-Grandpa!

They love it!

The one thing we did not do at Grandpa and Grammy’s was swim. It was a bummer to the kids, but the pool is not heated and neither was our weather. NO THANKS. Swimming in cold water on a hot day – maybe. Swimming in cold water on a cool day is not something any of the parents were willing to do, the children’s disappointment notwithstanding. Grammy always keeps the invitation open for us to come out “anytime,” and I told her we would be happy to – after a couple of weeks of warm enough weather to heat the water a bit! Sadly, during the almost-summer of 2011, that never happened. But hopefully the tradition will continue next year and we can swim to our hearts’ content.

Time Away, Just For Me:

Although I don’t have any photos of it, a personal highlight of my July was the chance to have a mini-retreat, just to get away and have some unhurried God-and-me time. Kristi and I both went – we stayed overnight at a wonderful bed and breakfast place out in the country, and had a quiet, reflective day hosted by Paula Gamble. Her ministry isΒ  my soul reFresh, and I am thrilled that she is doing what she’s doing. She hosts different types of retreats throughout the year, among other things. Definitely worth checking out if you are a person who ever feels stressed and/or disconnected from yourself or God.

Beautiful Photos Of Other People’s Memories That I Enjoy, Too:

I very much like these next two photos – from a raft trip that (thankfully) did not even include me!

Our friend Tracey of dragon boat fame, and of course, our Serena. Love.

Serena with someone who resembles the adorable little 8-year-old Serena started mentoring (what feels like) a few years ago. But since this photo was taken in the summer between her freshman and sophomore years of high school, I apparently lost track of a few years in there somewhere!

Mommy And Girls On A Fun Little Date:

One of the final fun events of July was the girls’ first ever trip to a movie theater! They were showing the Ramona and Beezus movie, which we watched at home on dvd for Leah’s Ramona-themed 7th birthday. The girls really enjoyed seeing it on the big screen. I wanted a little photo to document this fun “first,” which doesn’t seem like too much to ask, right? Right, uncooperative older sister? I wish she would have re-enacted the “happy ending” part of the movie, not the sisters-being-disagreeable-with-each-other part!πŸ˜›

There we go!

One of my favorite memories from our movie theater trip was the discussion we had about “theater snacks.” I have always been one to bend the rules a bit and sneak candy in, which I was actually perfectly willing to do with the girls as well. I gave them the whole run-down about how snacks at the theater are super expensive and they really don’t want you to bring your own snacks in, but it’s kind of sneaky/fun. My little Leah Just and True could not quite wrap her mind around this whole idea of sneaking snacks. Final decision: “I don’t think we should do that, Mom. It’s like lying. It will feel too guilty. We can just eat our candy at home after the movie.” Of course we can.

So we did!

More of Whidbey Island


The guys’ brunch was a highlight of last year’s trip, and they surpassed it this year. Their efficient plan got brunch on the table amazingly quickly, and of course everything was delicious.

Plus, it was just fun to watch them all crammed into the kitchen.


A relaxed morning of hanging out, since the guys were in charge of the meal.

Ky even ended up with cute hair – I probably did their hair more often on this trip than I usually do at home.


He’s a pro.


Kaya re-enacting some gymnastics moves at the park.

Allison loving the swing!

Ky up high.

Looks like a nice quiet spot.

I was noticing at the park that with matching dresses and pigtails, it was a little tricky to tell my girls apart from the back. This photo proves my point – I thought this was Ky at first… but it’s Leah. The hands give it away, but that’s about it!

Asher on a (supervised) adventure. Love the babysitters.

I dig dirt.

Hug it out.


You can tell what Asher thought of this idea!

The only downside was the smoke in the eyes.

The marshmallows were sticky enough to hold the Reynolds family all in one place long enough for a picture!

Leah has her system down – a little smoke in the eyes won’t stop her.

Mmmm, so worth it.

Mouth full of melty marshmallow yumminess.

Our idealistic plan to attempt a group photo was quickly revised to “just get cute photos of anyone who is nearby and willing to participate.” Like Cami and Asher.

And Ky.

And Leah, complete with sticky marshmallow face!

And the babysitters.

Asher could have gone on all night with the silly faces. Possibly related to marshmallow-graham cracker-chocolate consumption.


It was so much fun having Garrett’s sister, Dana, with us on the trip. We adopted her as soon as she moved to Oregon – she has been “Auntie Dana” to my girls for a long time now. I just enjoy her relaxed, completely authentic presence… and her late-night campfire stories.

Cami and Garrett

Stacy and Kasey

Keith and Jen

Brent and Kristi

Hope and Chad

Matthew and Aimee (and baby #4 on the way)

These little island restaurants can be hard to find… you know, if your GPS fails you, but with persistence (and the help of some random guy with a British accent?) we managed to pull off a lovely dinner out for the second year in a row.

The seven girls (Liz is with us in spirit), and it makes me giggle that Cami is suddenly 4 inches taller than Kristi, Stacy, and Hope. Gorgeous background, uneven foreground, and we are more beautiful than ever. I love us!

Back to Whidbey Island

We spent last 4th of July weekend on Whidbey Island with these amazing people, and thanks to Garrett’s persistence in the 11th hour, we were able to go back again this year. We were super bummed that Elizabeth, Joseph, and Noah couldn’t join us, and super happy that Garrett’s sister, Dana, could! Plus – two new babysitters that we fell in love with just like the girls who came last year. They were amazing.

All the kiddos being a year older changed the dynamic and the activity level quite a bit. Little ones who were happy to play on the floor in the house last year were much more interested in doing stuff like this:

Left to right around the circle: Peyton, Isaac, Allison, Matthew (dad to Isaac, Allison, and Eli), Eli, and Leah. Serious digging getting underway.

These two were crawling babies last year. This year they were ready to explore the beach! Allison was hesitant at first, but it didn’t take her long to embrace the whole experience. Once her shoes were off, everything was great. Who wants sand in their shoes, anyway?

The binky helps, too, when you’re navigating a brand new sensory experience.

Isaac, Peyton, and Asher. I love how Asher is holding his hand, as if he hasn’t quite decided about being all the way dirty yet. I seem to remember that he had sand covering every inch of his body, hair included, by the time we left the beach.

The parents wanted to play in the sand, too!

Isaac is on a great adventure. Well, that’s true all the time. A great beach adventure in this case.

Peyton is on the move, most likely…

…to find Kaya! It’s fun to see my girls as “the big girls,” taking the littler ones under their wings.

A beautiful day in Useless Bay.

Kaya on a mission. And I kind of want my mission to be squeezing those little buns. Come on. So cute.

Rock stars in the sand? Something like that?

This was a fun walk for Leah and I. The tide was out so far that we probably could have walked all the way across the bay. It was such a strange feeling, to be right out in the middle of what is usually deep water. Other people were doing the same thing, coming from the other side. We never quite met in the middle – maybe we all got too nervous that the tide would come in quickly! Leah was having a great time, and even wanted to call Daubin from my cell phone to tell her, “We’re standing in the middle of the ocean!”

I took this from the spot where we stopped our walk and turned back. I don’t even know how to explain what’s in the photo… we’re looking “out” the “in” of the bay – from a very different angle than we ever have before!

There were several eagles in the trees around the property. Sometimes one at a time…

… sometimes two at a time!

These next several shots are all taken with Keith’s phone, and he was experimenting with some different effects. To me, they all look kind of 70’s. Which, I suppose, is retro-cool.

Keith and the girls and I took an early evening walk for some family time on the beach.

It’s a short walk down from the big house toward the beach house (far left), and there are usually lots of fun things to notice along the way. Slugs, bunnies, flowers, or in this case, a mud puddle.

Treasure hunting – gotta show the parents what they’re finding!

Writing in the sand is always fun.

Even for the older sister.

And even for the mom! Notice that I am wearing jeans and a sweater, they are running around in their bathing suits. THEY are the crazy ones. The sun was hiding behind the clouds at times, it was after 5:00, and we are in northern Washington. Oh well. To them, beach in the summer = swimsuits. Ok, then.

Watching for good stuff to pick up…

… so they can throw it in the water!

Why is that always so much fun?

And, honestly, how are they not cold?

Good job, Daddy, catching the splash in the picture!

We stopped quietly in the little meadow on the walk back, to watch the bunnies. The phone’s camera wasn’t quite powerful enough for the bunnies to show up in the pictures. They do a good job of hiding in the shadows and blending in with the brush. But we’re pretty sure that this bunny meadow is the reason the eagles and owls tend to hang out in the nearby trees. Be careful, little bunnies!

These photos of Leah are more Daddy-camera-phone experiments, on the morning of the 4th of July:

Great day to wear her USA swimsuit. Of course that was planned!

Something else for the bucket…

… she had quite a few ocean treasures in there. Some alive, some not.

All knees and elbows, and pure concentration.

One of her tiny crabs. The girls love catching and holding those quick, snappy, little things! It was one of the favorite memories from last year that they were excited to re-enact.

Actually, the girls wanted to re-live everything about last year’s trip. They had so much fun and remembered so many details about it that I was almost concerned this year’s trip wouldn’t live up to their expectations.πŸ™‚ But it did, and then some, which didn’t surprise me a bit.

They did get to do a lot of the same things, and some different things, too. There was a slip-and-slide this year, a contribution from Isaac, Allison, and Eli’s “Grandpa Glen.” He just thought that would be a lot of fun for the kids. He was right. Another new thing for the girls was having so many more playmates. All the same kids were there (except for Noah), but last year our girls were on their own when it came to interactive play. Not so this year! It was fun to watch them all be “friends.” In fact, Isaac has continued to refer to Leah and Kaya as his “new friends” ever since.

I like things that are the same and different. For however long we get to repeat this trip, I look forward to the same-and-different-ness every year. Isn’t that the great thing about traditions? (And yes, Kristi, after two years, a tradition it is!)

Next post: pictures from Whidbey that are not taken on the beach.πŸ™‚

Summer on the way…

Getting around to these photos at the time of year when the Portland forecast is rain, rain, rain, rain, rain for the rest of the week brings back a lot of happy memories…

…working in the yard…

…making the most of the moments when the sun peeks through…

…riding bikes…

…and still taking some time for hugs and snuggles…

It wasn’t a particularly hot summer, but it was summer. Summer schedule, summer activities, summer fun. Lots more fun photos coming up, to remind us of sunnier times!

June 2011: Art Date for Leah and Daddy

While I took Kaya to her dance recital, Leah and Daddy had a special date at the C.H.A.P. art space – basically a huge warehouse space with tons of open art options for kids of all ages. I think you can tell from the picture that Leah liked it… at least a little bit.πŸ™‚

She got to do some smaller, more contained activities, like masks.

And some crazy, big, free-form activities, like painting a couch…

… and a huge mattress!

These are a few samples of pieces that actually made it home:

by Leah

by Leah

by Daddy

They had such a great time creating, getting dirty, thinking of ideas, and just hanging out together. I love it that Keith found this place and did all the research beforehand, really loving Leah in a way that suits her perfectly. They could have done “anything” and it would have been fun, but making it about art was such a sweet way to speak her language. A Daddy Date to remember, for sure. Love these two.

June 2011: Kaya Takes the Stage

We chased home from the dragon boat races to put Kaya’s hair in a nice tight ponytail and get her dressed up in…

…this! The mini-olympics outfit she had been waiting SO LONG to wear!

It’s mini-olympics time!!!

It was hard to get good, focused pictures in the gym. I don’t know if it was the lighting, the distance, or just operator error, but we did the best we could. This is the “March In” with the Olympic theme music playing, and the older kids made a big tunnel for the littler ones to walk through in single file.

Here comes Ky!

Then they had to sit and wait patiently with their group while the other kids finished marching in. Easier said than done!

Her class was divided into two groups to perform their floor routine. Kaya’s group went first.

Caught a couple of her moves in mid-air.

She did a great job following the choreography with her friends!

And she didn’t mind standing there for the applause.πŸ™‚

Then her group sat on the side while the other group performed. At this point in the day, she was still paying attention to the other kids and cheering them on pretty well. These are two of her best buddies from her class.

After floor routine, they did a rotation through several different stations, starting with rings…

… a balance move… (Kaya’s best bud)

… the bar…

… and yes, the teacher lifted them up high!

They also got to do a few of the moves they had learned to do by themselves…

…then cartwheels on the mats…

…balance beam…

…great job! They also did some trampoline work and tumble track, but those pictures came out even worse. Basically these little peanuts were on the move almost non-stop for the duration of the event. It was pretty amazing. There were all different groups going at different times, so they had to listen closely and follow their leaders. There were some awesome exhibition performances by some of the older gymnasts as well. The younger kids loved watching them, and so did we!

And at the end – trophy time! Kaya’s teacher had to come and get her off the mat – she would have paraded around and let people clap for her all day long.

“I did it!”

A couple weeks later, it was time for the dance recital. That was quite the formal affair at the Newmark Theater downtown. No photography allowed inside the theater, so we took a picture outside. (In purple crocs – before she changed into her tap shoes.) There were THIRTY-FIVE performances – groups of all ages and skill levels, and I really would have been fine to just see Kaya’s class. They did a tap routine to “Great Balls of Fire,” believe it or not, and it was pretty cute. Better than the baby ballerinas… or the big ballerinas… I don’t know if I have “Dance Mom” in me long term.

But it was sure lots of fun for preschool! Beautiful job, Sweetie-Ky!

June 2011: Dragon Boat Races!

Our friend, Tracey (far right, gorgeous smile), has paddled with dragon boat teams for years. The main annual event for dragon boats in Portland is the Rose Festival at the beginning of June. This year, the weather looked promising, so we decided to check it out! We had never been to dragon boat races before!

The girls had front row seats for a while. (Not actually as close to the water as it looks.) The flags in the water are the finish line for each lane.

Four boats race at a time, starting off in the distance and paddling toward the crowd. Tracey says they really can hear all the cheering as they get closer and closer! We were glad there were several heats before Tracey’s boat, as there was a bit of a learning curve for us. Leah and Kaya, do you know what’s going on?

No… not really.

Is Tracey on any of those boats?

Or is that her team getting ready to board and paddle out to the starting line?

We’re a little confused. The poorly-timed announcements over the PA system were not helping.

Great shot of boats, bridge, river… but we still have no idea what’s going on.

Hesitant clapping…

We spotted Tracey!!!

Go, Tracey’s Team!

They race in heats, so even if you don’t win your heat, you can still advance based on time. The flag-grabber (not sure that’s the technical term) leans out over the front of the boat to snatch the flag at the finish. If they miss, DQ.Β  Tracey was the steerer in the back (…she actually did tell us the technical term for that… tilling?) Anyway, paddling is her favorite job, but she’s good at this job, too. It sounds super stressful – she has to get the boat exactly lined up with the flag so it can be easily grabbed at the finish. We saw one team (not Tracey’s) miss their flag and they were pretty devastated. Instantly disqualified.😦

We finally know who to cheer for, but they didn’t grab their flag first in their heat. Therefore, our group is a little divided about how much enthusiasm to show.

Post-race photo – they did a cheer together to stay pumped up for their next race.

And of course, win or lose, they still have to paddle their boat back to the dock. Way to go, Tracey’s Team!

We had a lot of fun and wished we could stay for more heats, but we had to pile back in the car for the next event of the day…