Smitten by a Tree

G & Tree watermarked

Beside our gorgeous Gaelyn stands a new friend who slid right into our family and left a permanent mark.

That beautiful woman is Tree.  That’s what her friends call her, and so we do.

Tree is a teacher by profession, so on her summer break this year she came to spend 6 weeks at the Hotel with her relatives.  But us Johnson’s got the best deal of all, I think.

As a talented teacher she connects with kids, and she has seemingly abundant energy and a burning desire to do activities with kids.  We supplied the kids and she did the activities.

What I love about Tree is she is intentional to connect with each of us.  Her and I had several impromptu chats that touched both our hearts, me thinks, and connected us.  We could have shared for hours upon hours…I think we’ll just have to book a weekend to chat!!

So while Tree was here, she totally unschooled our kids 🙂

  • taught the kids how to play Ultimate Frisbee,
  • did the Ice Block Slide,
  • marathoned thru Jane Austen movies
  • introduced us to Murder Mysteries, two completely different ones.
  • helped Gaelyn start a baking-cookies business,
  • took kids shopping at 2nd-hand stores,
  • did nighttime swims (or in the rain, and with a baby rattlesnake)
  • taught the kids to dance and choreograph
  • shared Pazookie with us multiple times
  • taught Gaelyn to play guitar
  • shared sunrises while she serenaded with her guitar

Last week we had a Farewell Party for her down at the terraza, led by her “Uncle Tommy” who manages Hotel Perico.  He asked each of us to share what we loved most (or will miss the most) of his niece.  And it was quite obvious that in those 6 weeks she was here, she touched many of our lives.

Everyone had kind words to express towards Tree.

Everyone had kind words to express towards Tree.

Her laughter, her sincerity, her exuberance in life.  All so admirable.  I know she will be sorely missed by all my kids.

I, of course, came to tears as I thanked her for her input into our children’s lives.  She says we touched her life….but I think we received the greatest gift of her touching us.

Tree, it was such an honor to not only meet you this summer, but to have intersected here at this moment in all of our lives.  Its not happenstance, it was meant to be.

We Love You.

Tree left us individual notes...her kindness is boundless.  What a kind soul.

Tree left us individual notes…her kindness is boundless. What a kind soul.

Shake Rattle n Roll

This is one of my favorite things the kids have done this year.  I could watch this over and over and over again.  And just one more time because it makes me happy 🙂

When we came to Hotel Perico virtually nobody in our family knew how to dance….because Everette and I were both raised with the belief that dancing (and the environment in which it took place) was sinful.  We’ve not passed that belief on to our children. However, because Everette and I don’t know how to dance (well, we did take some ballroom dance lessons back in 2007 but we suck, big time!!) we haven’t actively sought to change the absence of it.

Thankfully we’ve had some Leonard-Ladies full of spunk who’ve taken it upon themselves to give some instruction to our stiff offspring.  Tina started over (US) Thanksgiving last year and the young ones in particular were willing to get on the dance floor and wiggle their booties.  Then her cousin was here for the summer and she taught the kids some moves.

I think you’ll be surprised by who the dancers were, and the moves that they choreographed.  Enjoy it Here.

 

 

Jane Austen Murder Mystery

We’ve heard of Murder Mystery Dinners before as you probably have, but none of us had attended one.  Teresa/Tree made that all change when she convinced our kids to do a Pirate Murder Mystery on Mitchell’s 17th birthday.  We stumbled our way thru it not knowing how it should really play out but once we got one under our belt, well…the possibilities are endless.

It sounds like it wouldn’t be family friendly, but really neither of our Murder Mysteries were grousome in the least.  Not much detail nor focus is given to the actual murder.  Most of the script is about figuring out the relationships between all the characters and the motive they might have in committing the crime.  None of it is acted out so the subject matter may or may not be understood based on the auditory acquisition of the listeners.

Gaelyn, our 11 yr old daughter obviously thought it was fabulous and she quickly took it upon herself to be the hostess of another Murder Mystery.  A Jane Austen Murder Mystery.

CharactersBesides making costumes and antique looking paper props the girls invested time in refreshing themselves with Jane Austen movies.  Not at all a hardship since Pride & Prejudice is one of our girls’ all-time favorite books/movie.

The Story:

John Thorpe has been discovered nearly decapitated in the water closet near the breakfast room.  Lady Catherine is insistent that they discover who the murderer is before the police arrive.

Mr Thorpe had secrets on everybody, so nobody was beyond suspicion.IMG_1269

Of course everybody is surprised by the twists and turns that the plot takes…

  • jealousy,
  • secret and forbidden romances
  • illegitimate children,
  • unpaid debts.
  • theft….

And in the end….

well, I can’t tell you Who Done It…in case you want to play the game at your next dinner party!

 

The Perfect Family…That’s Us!

Perfect-FamilyI’m not exactly sure what those of you who have never met me & my family think we are really like.  The impersonal aspect of the online world is that we can make people believe (on purpose) whatever our agenda is.  At the same time, I think that by virtue of not sharing everything about ourselves and our families, a false impression might ensue.  Not on purpose, by any means, but because we don’t share all the nitty-gritty of our lives.  After all, who’s interested in the regular everyday events that take place behind our walls?  That would be boring, right?  And nobody wants to be Negative Nelly.

For years I was involved in a homeschooling support group which was predominantly moms who attended.  (Seems dads don’t attend them, much.)  No matter the topic for the evening, most people tended to share their successes rather than their failures.  They were looking for answers, and there was always people willing to dole out their perspective answers.  There wasn’t much negativity at these meetings (opposing views, yes, but not evenings of negativity).  What curriculum worked for particular learning styles? Who were great music instructors? How to get your kid to finish their math?

I didn’t think the women were being unrealistic, painting their lives as wonderful at home when they really weren’t.  I just think we focused on the positive.

Johnson-Tongue

Rude kids…of the perfect family.

I had a lady over just once shortly before our big family started to travel.  If I recall, there was some physical interaction between 2 of my kids, like somebody hit the other person in the head or something like that.  I think there was a burst of verbal abuse between siblings. This visiting woman visibly started to relax.  She was relieved to see that my kids weren’t the angels that she had envisioned!  And she excitedly told me so!!

I was quite shocked, actually, and gave a chuckle.  Having never socialized with this lady and her children she had no idea what my household was like until that day I invited her over.

She realized that she had taken all the good things all the women had shared over the months at the homeschool group, and concentrated them into one Perfect-Homeschooling-Mom (that has never ever existed).  She thought I was it…or at least one of a few.

The first winter we were living in our rooftop tents, Laars was still sleeping with Everette & I.  We weren’t aware of it yet, but he was having issues with certain things in his diet, affecting his behavior and probably his brain.  I just knew that some days were much longer and painful than others, and often we could tell the moment he woke up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed.

One of those mornings before we were even out of our tent Laars yelled out, “I HATE YOU!”  Ah, welcome to another long day.

A short while later Pat, a grandma lady who was tenting down by the lake with her hubby but whose car was parked next to our van & tents, said, “I was so happy to hear Laars say ‘I hate you!’ this morning.  Now I know you are just a normal family!

We all have ideas what somebody is like without really getting to know them.  Many people have ideas about what I/we might be like, without necessarily being aware of their own pre-conceived ideas.  How do I know this?  Because more times than I can count somebody has sized me up and down and then said, “I can’t believe you’ve had 9 kids!”  Why??? Because they subconsciously were expecting an obese woman (perhaps in a denim jumper).

So, today I got to thinking that maybe my blog makes it appear that I’m a put-together mama fully engaged in my children’s lives, and that every day my kiddos are abounding in their creativity, confidence and friendliness.

It ain’t so.

From comments over the years I surmise you think:

  • I’m overweight from all the pregnancies
  • I slave in the kitchen making nutritional & scrumptious meals
  • I am well organized (or sloppy as hell) and a hard worker
  • We have a strong marriage
  • Our kids’ clothes are neat and tidy and we have good hygiene
  • We do endless activities and crafts
  • I am well connected with my children’s needs
  • Our children never fight
  • I spend endless hours with my homeschooled children pouring over textbooks and marking their work
  • I am superwoman getting my housework and grocery shopping done
Brotherly Love

Brotherly Love

NOPE!  I mean, Yes I’ve got some extra weight on.  But most of the other statements….nope.

  • I don’t enjoy working in the kitchen most days; I feel accomplished if I make one good healthy meal per day.
  • I am decently organized but I am consistently lazy and a great procrastinator.
  • Everette and I have been together 30 years (end of Aug) but it certainly hasn’t been easy.  Worth it, yes.  Struggles, absolutely.  We have a strong commitment to keep working on it, so that’s worth a whole lot!!
  • Our kids might wear the same clothes for days and their feet might stink.  But they’re happy.
  • I imagine hanging out with the kids all day engaging in games and crafts and science experiments…but I rarely do.
  • The kids yell; some say “I Hate You!” and slam doors.
  • We are allergic to textbooks (just kidding, but we don’t use them on the whole since we find them boring & unengaging) and don’t do busy paperwork so there’s nothing to mark.
  • I’ve never been a duster of the home unless I know company is coming.
  • Everette is the main grocery-shopper for the family and has been for about 13 years or more.

Ok, so now that’s off my chest..I feel better.

Now you know I’m just another mom trying to do my best….well sometimes I don’t even think I’m honestly trying my best.  I’m just existing, making it thru another day.  Doing my own selfish thing while my kids fend for themselves.

But at least now you know what a Perfect Family really looks like!

Wedge of Lime and Robin Egg Blue

We’re settling in for a while.  We live Life on the Whim so we are never quite sure When, Where or How we will be living our lives from one week to the next.  But with my sister now here in the area we’ve decided to settle in a bit more, and we’re welcome to make improvements to our 2 hotel suites.

So we’ve taken the Liberty.

When we came to Hotel Perico the interior walls were ecru, with 2 bedrooms in baby blue.  The suites are naturally pretty dark so we wanted some spunk and color.  We had busied ourselves with sanding and repainting some wood furnishings we already had in our space, or salvaged from the excess of the hotel.

We were already incorporating Robin Egg Blue.  And Fire Engine Red.  Wedge of Lime just didn’t seem quite right for me.

Improvements is “in the eye of the beholder” and nine of us behold things quite differently from one another.  Why on earth I let the 15yo pick the paint…Gosh, I don’t really know.  Except that when I complained to Everette that the newly filled-in-doorway-become-wall in her room had left brown cement-mud all over the other wall making it look like splattered mold, he suggested we paint them before moving two of her sisters into the same room.  And to get a better deal on the paint he wanted me to use the same color elsewhere in the suites so he could buy a 5 gallon bucket.

Maret has artistic flare, and definite ideas of what works and what doesn’t.    As much as I admire her fashion, color-sense and creativity,  I now know that we don’t like the same greens.

Green is my FAVorite color, soothing and serene.

We’ve used greens in various tones in several of the houses we’ve built, and I’ve always been happy with them.  But, Wedge of Lime…a bit too yellow for me…over-powering on big spacious walls.Wedge of Lime

I thought it was a mistake after I sent Everette to the paint store to get that humungous bucket but I forewarned him not to judge.  To just get the paint and be quiet about the whole thing.  He’s had enough experience to know that at first paint on the wall can look atrocious but when its got flooring and fixtures and things put on the walls it can make a huge difference.

So he bought it.  “Does Shrek mean anything to you?” he said while he repeatedly wiped imaginary snot from his nose and flung it on the walls.

Support– Thanks Hon.

We started with the girls room…Danaka and I got the two walls done the first night, so we could move her bed in the next day.  I was getting tired of the renovations, the upheaval, the mess of displaced foodstuffs.  Not to mention I was stretched past my comfort zone:

  • I was working on a guest blog post that needed pics of our ‘home’ but I wanted the reno finished first so our place looked more colorful;
  • we were having a ‘1,000 Days of Travel’ party and I wanted to put together a montage of our travels but only had time to get the first video-of-many done;
  • the internet was a constant nemesis, saying it would take up to 111,050 minutes to load up my video to share with the world….do you realize that’s more than 77 days to load ONE 8 minute video???
  • the kids were doing their second Murder Mystery Dinner and I fell into last minute dinner-rescuer;
  • we were having a BBQ with another big traveling family in a few days;
  • and then the following day Everette and Mitchell were flying north for work.

So we needed the push on…or I would be insane by the time the guys returned from BC, having lived in disarray for an unnecessary month.

In the pic below you can see the wall where there used to be a doorway.  It was filled with brick, then mudded over.  The tiled step was hammered out of there, too.  That’s the room we first applied the Wedge of Lime, but in the pic it looks much more yellow than it really is.

Doorway bricked up, step removed, walls mudded then painted with Wedge of Lime.

Doorway bricked up, step removed, walls mudded then painted with Wedge of Lime.  Three girls and a big dog share the ‘upper patio’.

My sweet husband got a start on the big kitchen project Saturday morning along with Danaka, making it happen to please his slave-driving wife…who was once again suffering from sciatic pain.  And he sent her (ME) off for an hour-long body massage with hot stones while he painted love messages on the kitchen wall.

The long kitchen/bedroom area BEFORE

Two ends of the same space.  Our original kitchen that we added a cabinet to on the floor for more counter space.  But no oven/stove, and the fridge was in the other space which was really the teens bedroom (with no door).

Two ends of the same space. Our original kitchen that we added a cabinet to on the floor for more counter space. But no oven/stove, and the fridge was in the other space which was really the teens bedroom (with no door).

The kitchen (no more bedroom) is long and not the greatest functioning, but we are thrilled with the improvement and the addition of a full-size gas oven/stove!!  These pictures give a much better idea of what the Wedge of Lime really looks like.  Vibrant and Fun!

Our new colorful kitchen.

Our new colorful kitchen.

I LOVE the Robin Egg Blue cabinet and shelves.  We have a larger open space for baking now.  There’s a bit of space at the window we hope to add a narrow bar table and a couple of stools for sitting and looking out to the cobblestone driveway through the shrubs & trees outside our window.

The art, shelves and cabinetry have totally calmed down the Shrek-green and now we are all starting to love the fun of the colors.

Good choice on the color, Maret.  You did well.

What rooms next?  Not sure if we’ll do any more of the green.  We’ll have to think on that one.

We did, however, add some red to the main bathroom.  We had a difficult blue to work with, and I had drawn a blank as to what to do with it.  Until I saw a line-up of spray paint can lids in royal blue, that smokey blue (our fixtures) and bright red.  That gave me the idea and so I just painted the cabinet doors, and a towel rack with the red to add that apple-splash.  So the bathroom is red-white-and-(not navy)-blue.

I distressed the red doors and white boxes to make them look older so I didn't have to repaint the entire box.  Cheat, I know!!

I distressed the red doors and white boxes to make them look older so I didn’t have to repaint the entire box. Cheat, I know!!

Now we have to stay long enough to enjoy this rainbow of colors.  And maybe I can sneak in a bit more of that Robin Egg Blue somewhere.

1,000 Days of Travel

Hard to keep things straight.  Our big family has been traveling most of the time since Sept 2007, so that’s 2,866 days…

since 2007

but we did move to Sooke (south Vancouver Island) to start a business and stayed 23 months.  So take that off the grand total and…

1,000 Days!!

1,000 Days!!

We’ve made it to ONE THOUSAND DAYS of Travel.

Its been a hectic week, and all my good intentions of putting together a montage of our 1,000 days of travel thru western USA and Mexico didn’t materialize.  I’ve got a bright kitchen now (we’ve been renovating) but the montage didn’t happen until later this afternoon and I only covered the USA in 2012.

But I chuckled as I went over the pictures and videos from not-quite 3 years ago.  I have some pretty silly family members that make me laugh.

And so I hope you’ll get a laugh, too, and enjoy it.  It’s only eight minutes long….but like I said, its only the USA so there’s still all of Mexico yet to come.

Stay Tuned for Baja California, Mexico.

PS  Very Late in posting this since the internet has been atrocious this week/end, even notifying that it would take more than 111,050 minutes to upload.

Seriously Epic

That’s the dog’s full name.  Seriously Epic, but we call her Epic(a) for short.

Rescue-Dog-Mexico-Epic

Epic, our awesome dog.

Maret informed me that I hadn’t actually done a post about our new dog so here it is!

For decades our kids have asked for a family dog.  Back when we had just Layne and Rauchelle we did the dog thing for awhile.  We dog sat Banjo {that was a sorry excuse for a dog.  However, I give him more credit than I naturally do for chihuahuas that are more like overgrown rats than dogs (sorry to chihuahua lovers, but I’m free to have that opinion ….and I know I’m not alone!)} but Banjo was in a sorry state: old, nearly blind and deaf.  Before his owners had even left our acreage I thought that dog was going to die either from heat stroke or a seizure, especially when he rolled into a pot hole in the drive way and he couldn’t get up!  Like a turtle on its back Banjo yelped and yelped, and snapped ornery-like to anybody who offered help.

About the same time that we were dog-sitting Banjo we rescued Keisha from the SPCA. A beautiful Alaskan Malamute who easily fit Banjo’s head in her jaw.  Keisha thought we didn’t notice her slowly climbing on to our lap; first her chin, then a paw, then another one.  We would chuckle, knowing the back paw would claw at our lap, at which we put a stop to this 75 pound lug climbing right atop of us.

Keisha wasn’t with us for all that long.  But during the winter Everette created a harness to connect her to a sled to take the girls for a ride.  She LOVED to crouch down and pull….malamutes are made for that.  She was a wanderer, a chicken-stealer, a howl-er clearly related to wolves.  Eerily, she disappeared from our lives that summer.

We had better luck with our kittens, Gemana and Charlie (Chaplin) that lived long cat lives for about 18 years each, quite an accomplishment for outdoor cats on acreage with hungry bald eagles and such.

Traveling just doesn’t seem conducive to having a dog.  Maybe taking the four-legged family member with you when you Hit the Road, that’s understandable (and expected?).  But seriously, why get a dog when we’re already traveling?  Packing 9 of us in a 15- passenger van is bad enough, then to add a dog-breath creature?  Crazy.

Well, some people see a dog as protection (like a gun)…but still legal to cross international borders.  Sure, Epic might be a good guard-dog, alerting us to people approaching our abode.  But that isn’t the reason we got an intimidating black dog with a good bark (that jumps from fright if I toss an empty cookie box within earshot).

The real reason we got let Maret get a dog was because honestly…dogs are her forte.

Forte: a person’s strong suit, or most highly developed characteristic, talent, or skill; something that one excels in.

We weren’t absolutely positive this was going to be a smart move, to take on not only a dog for our big traveling family…but getting a BIG dog!!  Crazy!!  But we did.

“Dixie” was a rescue dog.  About the time that snowbirds headed north before Easter she showed up, abandoned at a construction site in a wealthier expat part of the Lakeside Community here at Ajijic-Chapala, Jalisco state, Mexico. The racquetball community of people took it upon themselves to make sure she had food and water every day while they posted pics online and FB to try and find her a home.  She was looking like she had been taken care of, so she wasn’t an actual street dog out supporting herself.  But two weeks passed; she was unsheltered and chilly in the unexpected heavy rains of early April (rainy season doesn’t start until about June 15th).  When it was apparent that “Dixie” had sustained a gash on her left back leg that needed attending, John coaxed her with food and she willingly hopped in his car for a ride down to the vet’s office.

Dr Louis stitched up “Dixie”s leg and housed her at the clinic for a few days while a notice went out for somebody to be able to foster her until a permanent home could be found for her.

In stepped Maret.  She had been monitoring the needs for fostering pets here in the Lakeside Community, had even offered to do some of the fostering but none of it had worked out for her.  Yet.

After spending usually 6 days a week last winter volunteering at the dog ranch, she was wanting something more hands on, so me-thinks, something she could have more positive effect on rather than just washing bowls and taking dogs for short walks.  Some entity to pour her love and knowledge into on a 24 hour basis.

Over the years Maret has invested hundreds of hours researching dog training and behavior mostly via YouTube.  Her and I often end up in discussion about the different philosophies behind dog training (Dominance Training  vs Positive Reinforcement) very much like the differences in child training of which I can totally relate.  So although I am typically not interested in dogs (and even afraid of them!  Yes, a slight phobia) this was something that united us.

We agreed to take “Dixie” as a foster dog, to help her mend back to health, put some weight on while we waited for her fur-ever family to show up.

"Dixie" the first day

“Dixie” the first day

She was somewhat timid, wary of her new place, the tight quarters to share with 9 humans.  She bonded with Maret almost instantly, following her throughout our suite.  Every time Maret got up to move “Dixie” was there immediately.  And of course, Maret was the one to feed her consistently so her attachment increased exponentially with just that gesture.

I didn’t feel (much) intimidation from this large black dog in our home.  She accepted petting and quickly revealed her silly bum-in-the-air-for-an-intense-rub idiocyncrosy.  At least half of her body sways in each excited wiggle, adding weight to that moving thick tail (ask Laars how that feels at his 8yo height!)

The vet figured she was about 1-1.5 yrs old, still very much puppy.  She showed her good side to us enough that we decided within 24 hours to change her name to Epic and make her ours.

Well, really she’s Maret’s.  She is responsible for all things pertaining to the dog (except paying the bill…she puts in what she earns but not being able to work here in Mexico is a bit limiting to a 15yo…but keep your eyes peeled regarding her incredible digital art for your 4-legged friends….coming soon).  And in just the 3 months we’ve had Epic Maret has done fantastic work with her.  Epic is quite a quick learner, and Maret has taught her many things (Gracias, Victoria Stilwell & your Youtube videos) in a short period of time.  They appear to have a great relationship.

I know there are times when Epic seems to go backwards in her training and Maret gets frustrated, but I equate it pretty much to parenting and homeschooling.  You think your kids have learned a new lesson in life only to discover a (temporary) set-back.  Such is life!

The hotel is full of dog owners, and many comment about the natural relationship and intuitiveness Maret seems to display with all the dogs.  No wonder she’s been getting dog-sitting jobs frequently now!  She picked up some ideas at the dog agility that was held here at Hotel Perico, and even received some individual training by some of the event organizers.  And she’s considering developing a career with dogs (possibly) in the future.  We didn’t let Maret get a dog just because she asked….we felt there was something erupting from within her, some talent trying to spring forth.  Seems like we were right.