Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Preschool Orientation

That's right, friends.  We have been officially inducted into the sChOOL-kid club!  G-Bear had her preschool orientation tonight.  Glad we didn't forget it amongst all our fun activities this week, including cousin Sparky and Aunt K being in town.  G-Bear set right to work at the playdough table while the parents got oriented to the teachers and school schedule.  A WHOLE 2.5 hours 2 times a week?!  Am I going to be able to make it that long?

It is clear to me that G-Bear is going to love school.  She couldn't contain her excitement over the scissors bucket or the dress-up corner, complete with princess dresses and shoes.  E-Bear set right to work in the play kitchen.  Little guy will be morose when he figures out he doesn't get to go to school yet.  Sorry, bud, gotta be potty-trained.

In addition to playtime there will be daily story & craft time, show & tell, a letter of the week, a saint of the month and 2 snow days each winter.  What fun!  T asked G-Bear if she would go to work and let him go to school instead.  She replied politely, "No, daaaaaddy! But you can PRETEND to go to work!"  I think she has the right idea :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

State Fair Grocery Bag

Well in case you have missed my incessant mentions, the MN State Fair continues!  We are keep going back for more fun, and my meals for the week reflect that.  I promise I won't subjecting my children to State Fair food EVERY meal this week (although they certainly wouldn't complain!).  But here are some of our favorite foods that we will be sure to hit up at least once during our many trips to the Fair.

The list tops out at 83 foods on a stick this year. That's right.
(Image courtesy of the Kentucky State Fair)
For more great MN State Food ideas, check out MN Fair Food from A to Z at Tangled Noodle or the official MN State Fair Food Finder website.   I promise, everything you could ever dream of and more.

And now, onto some of the favorites!

Mashed Potatoes on a Stick
How do they do these?
(Photo at Twin

 MN Turkey Growers Juicy Turkey Sandwich
There is no passing this up.  Best turkey I have ever eaten.


Pronto Pup
No ordinary corn dog.  Once a year, baby!

Dairy Barn Milkshake

Yum!  Nothing like the State Fair.  If our traditional favorites sound too boring for you, perhaps you would like to try some of the more original food fare I saw offered again this year.  Like I said, something for everyone!

The Pickle Dog (pickle + cream cheese + pastrami)
Peanut butter hot dog (just like it sounds)
Spam curds
Deep fried Twinkie
Mocha on a Stick
Fudge Puppy (a chocolate covered waffle)
Fried Oreos
Hot Dish on a Stick

Too fun!  Blessing on your kitchen this week!  Mine may be eerily quiet.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

State Fair 2010

Wahoo!  Our Minnesota State Fair adventures begin today!  We're out the door early with daydreams of Pronto Pups, the Miracle of Birth Barn (all the baby farm animals you could ever want to see being born), Dairy Barn milk shakes, cheese curds, the Butter Busts of the Fair Royalty, BBQ MN turkey sandwiches, Machinery Hill, roasted corn, the Little Farm Hands kiddie farm, Unlimited milk for $1.00, the dog show and Sweet Martha's cookies.  Can you tell we like the food?  G-Bear has been talking about it all week.  E-Bear is going to be out of his mind.  Good thing we are going again with Aunt K and baby "Parkin" on Monday!

Many tales to share and tell when we return....

ps...In case you don't believe me how big the State Fair is around here, check out, in which native Minnesotans living in New York City strive to re-create the event of the Fair in the Big Apple since they can't make it home for the real thing.  Hilarious!  Their blog also has some great history about the MN State Fair and all its wonderful foods!

Thursday, August 26, 2010


E-Bear woke up early this morning, having had a bad dream.  Poor little guy was snuggling in my arms, just as our super-star nanny, Miss R arrived.  'Uh-oh,' I thought, 'he's not going to be happy when I leave in a few minutes.'  I usually leave the house before the kids wake up if I am working, so we rarely have to say good-bye when Miss R arrives.  I fully expected my sleepy E-Bear to bristle at the sight of me leaving him.  What a bummer way to start the day.

I sat E-Bear down for his breakfast and packed my bag, conspicuously, as I prepared to leave.

"Mommy?"  said E-Bear.
"Yes, sweetie."
"Yes, bud, I am getting ready to go to work.  I have to go to work today, but Miss R will be here and G-Bear will wake up soon to play.  I will be home a little later."

Wait for it....

"Ok," said E-Bear.

Excuse me?

"I love you, sweetie." I said as I kissed him good-bye.  "I will see you in a little bit."
"Ok!  Bye!"  And he went happily back to munching on his banana as I turned to leave.

"Cereal!"  I heard him exclaim with delight as I closed the door behind me.  We are full of little excitements here in Happily Ever Johnson Land.  And this was my excitement for the morning.  My little guy is growing up so fast.  This morning he was able to let me go without a fuss.  I am thankful for his trust in me that that represents, and his trust in Miss R, who has blessed our family so much.  Like I said, little excitements; sometimes the biggest blessings.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Where do you turn when your circumstances seem like too much to bear?  
When the future seems so uncertain?  
Too often I lay awake, sleepless and worried.  
Enough, I say.  

Take a few moments to take in these words from the Psalms and from missionary Sarah Young on Isaiah 43:1.  Give yourself a moment of quiet.  He who saw Philip under the fig tree is ready to show us "even greater things than this," (John 1:45-51).  Maybe take another moment.  Because, if you are like me, you might need to give these words a few minutes to marinate before your heart is ready to trust.  Amazing how we trust our worry so readily....and are so skeptical of our Help.  Remember that psalms like the one below aren't just reserved for those who are persecuted by visible enemies.  They are given to us to pray whenever life's troubles threaten to overwhelm us (right on. Thanks, Magnificat, Aug 19th).  If your problems are well under control today, come over and teach me your tricks! and then consider praying this for others who face problems that seem insuperable.

Psalm 142

St. Michael slew the dragon (Rev. 12:7-9).
  With Help, we can too.
With all my voice I cry to the Lord
with all my voice I entreat the Lord.
I pour out my trouble before Him
I tell Him all my distress
while my spirit faints within me.
But you, O Lord, know my path.

On the way where I shall walk
they have hidden a snare to entrap me.
Look on my right and see:
there is no one who takes my part.  
I have no means of escape,
 not one who cares for my soul.

I cry to you, O Lord.
I have said: "You are my refuge,
all I have in the land of the living."
Listen, then, to my cry 
for I am in the depths of distress.

Rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are stronger than I.
Bring my soul out of this prison
and then I shall praise your name.
Around me the just will assemble
because of your goodness to me.


"Accept each day as it comes to you.  Do not waste your time and energy wishing for a different set of circumstances.  Instead, trust Me enough to yield to My design and purposes.  Remember that nothing can separate you from My loving Presence.  You are Mine."
Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
based on Isaiah 43:1 and Philippians 2:9-11

Hang in there.  

Monday, August 23, 2010

Grocery Bag

We are back in the saddle this week being rather scattered the past 7 days.  I still have our Lasagna in the freezer from last week! This week calls for some of our favorites....and one new attempt.

Day One:

I bet you have never had Thai Larb before....but hallelujah, you are going to love it!  
Sometimes we eat it in lettuce wraps.
Larb recipe from My Recipes
Homemade Pitas from Fine Cooking Magazine

Day Two
Butter Chicken and basmati rice

Another favorite in our house...might try it with tofu this time
Butter Chicken recipe & photo at Tasty Kitchen

Day Three

We still love our grassfed cow ;) and our farmers market potatoes!
Remember to start the marinate 36-48 hours's worth it.
Smashed Potatoes recipe and photos by the Pioneer Woman
Marinade recipe at American Grass Fed

Day Four

A new attempt with black beans....
Veggie Burgers recipe & photo from The Design Girl

Day Five
Homemade Sourdough Pizza Crust

Another favorite! 
Don't pass this up just because you don't have a sourdough starter 
(just use the regular dough recipe above). But if you have a starter it is worth it!
Spinach, onion & bacon pizza recipe and photo from Cooking Light

Blessings on your kitchen!  And remember to keep a balanced perspective:

"Food is essential to life.  Therefore, make it good."
~S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A

....yet sometimes it's best just to... 

"Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can."
~Arthur Ashe

You can find this menu and many others submitted at Menu Planning Monday!

Daybook for August 2010

*Sigh* The last few days of August approach.  Guess it's time for my August Daybook reflection time.  (pssst! You can join in these reflections too at The Simple Woman's Daybook.)

Daybook Reflections for August 22, 2010

Outside my window...

It is dark and quiet.  Earlier there was a cloudless blue, 90 degree day shining through.  Gotta treasure these passing summer days.

I am thinking...
About how hard and overwhelming parenting can be sometimes.  How do I balance tenderness and discipline?  How can I maintain my parenting energy, even at the end of an exhausting day?  How do I remember to treasure each moment with my munchkins, even on days amidst tantrums aplenty and timeouts perpetual?

I am thankful for...
A husband who is my best friend.  Children who love my snuggles.  Parents who continue to show me what marriage really means.  Friends who pray, with me and for me.

From the learning rooms...
otherwise known as our bathroom.  Seriously.  It's where the kids get to watch Sesame Street Alphabet Podcasts on my iPod while they sit on the potty (E-Bear sits beside the potty).  

Not only is everyone more regular ;) G-Bear is crazy about them.  "Mommy!  You start with 'M'!  And 'G' makes TWO sounds!!  jah jah and gah gah.  Can you say that, Mommy?"
From the kitchen...

Baked Oatmeal is soaking for breakfast tomorrow morning.  I am so glad that I remembered to start it tonight.  It's a great way to start a morning.  I cut the leftovers into squares, wrap them in plastic and freeze them for crazy mornings when we need breakfast on the go.
I am wearing...
Now here we go again...I always do these reflections at night in pj' never mind.

I am creating...
My Boards study plan for the next three weeks.  Here we go again. But, this one shouldn't be as hard as the last one.  Fingers crossed :)
I am going...
to the Minnesota State Fair next week with my whole family.   Consider yourself warned.

Actually, we will probably go multiple times.  My sister is even flying in from Boston with my 1 year old niece to go to the Fair with us.  Yes, it is that big of a deal.  You should fly in for it too.  Or at least eat vicariously through us.    To make it extra fun for my letter-loving 3 year old, we are going to do the "Fabulous Fair Alphabet" this year, an game idea designed by author Debra Frasier.  Just print out the letter sheet and you are ready to go!
I am reading...
My Magnificant for the month of August.  Amazing reflections.  Awesome prayers. A mystery person sent me a free 6 month gift subscription in the mail.  If it was you, thank you, thank you, thank you.   You have no idea how it has blessed me.
I am hoping...
To make residency decisions soon.  We have many factors to consider, and things still feel clear as mud.  Still could use your prayers.
I am hearing...
T's Hem playlist.  One of our favorite artists.  Her music has a way of helping us unwind at the end of the day.
Around the house...
It's cleaner than its been for days.  Thanks to T who tidied up toys during nap time.  What a guy.
One of my favorite things...
A good, long night's sleep, somehow quite elusive lately.  Perhaps I should finish this post ....and go to bed.  
A few plans for the rest of the week...
Prayer Ortho convenes at my house this week for the first time.  I am really excited.  This is a group of orthopaedic residents' wives (and all our kiddos).  We are going to get together to pray for our husbands, their jobs, their department, the challenges we all face.  Because we can all relate.  And powerful things will happen when we pray.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...

This is a panorama that T took while working in Kenya.  Sort of helps me to keep everything in perspective:
 Life is vast, 
simple is beautiful, 
our dirt roads look alike whether we live in Minnesota or in Africa, 
and wherever we go, God is with us.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Feminists for Life, supporting families

Today some medical school peers and I met to finalize our plans to bring a speaker to our school from Feminists for Life.  If you aren't familiar with Feminists for Life, I hope you have time to have an encounter with this group sometime soon.  

Feminists for Life of America was founded in 1972 and is a nonsectarian, nonpartisan grassroots organization that seeks real solutions to the challenges women face.  The organization's efforts are shaped by core values of justice, nondiscrimination and nonviolence.  They aspire to continue the tradition of early American feminists like Susan B. Anthony, who opposed abortion.

I really appreciate that FFL recognizes that abortion is (at least in part) a reflection of the fact that the needs of many women go unmet in our society today.  Holding the conviction that women deserve better than abortion, FFL is dedicated to systematically eliminating the root causes that drive many women to abortion--especially lack of practical resources and support--through holistic, woman-centered solutions.

FFL recently released a great, practical resource to help support families.  It's called Raising Kids on a Shoestring, and it's fully downloadable and full of great, practical advice on how to thrive as a parent of young children, no matter your financial means.  It has great tips for any family--I gleaned a few ideas for myself!

Supporting a Culture of Life means supporting and affirming the lives of our fellow man, woman and child each moment of their lives--from the tiniest beginnings to the distant final days.  I love FFL's commitment to doing this.  It may ask more of us, it may cause us to stand for and with others in ways that draw us out of our comfort zone.  But as Jane Adams said in 1910,
"The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain...until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life."

Parents, thank you for all you do to preserve the hope that is the next generation.  Say a prayer for the women, men, and children who don't know the kind of support that you lavish on your loved ones everyday.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Clinical Competency Exam

Well, I made it through my exam today. While my kids were enjoying honey biscuits with fruity cheerio smiley faces for breakfast with my mom, I was tackling my senior Clinical Competency Exam.

Imagine a clinic full of patients waiting for you to see them....each ready to grade you on your attitude, medical interview questions and physical exam.  Not to mention the conspicuous digital clock on the computer screen counting down each precious second during your 15 minute time limit.  During that time we have to interview the actor-patient, perform a physical exam, counsel the patient and answer any questions they have.  Then you have 7 minutes to write your note on the encounter.  Whew.

Fortunately, by this point in my training, functioning in this environment is nothing new.  Still, the time pressure is unmistakable, and I am not used to examining actors.  I do my best to play my part and pretend I am really in clinic seeing patients.  Since I love being in clinic seeing patients, that usually puts me more at ease.  But then, there are always situations that catch you off guard.....

Like the scenarios outlined in my Clinical Skills review book, which I was skimming last night before my exam:

A patient may yell at you.  Just remain calm. Try to remember they are just actors.
A patient may ask you how she got her sexually transmitted disease when she has only one partner.
A patient may say to you, 'stop asking me these stupid questions and get me medicine for this pain!'
A patient needing surgery may ask you for a drink of water.  Don't be fooled!  They must have nothing to eat or drink before surgery.

These may sound like testing trickery, but I have actually encountered each of these situations in real life during my clinical years.  As jolting as they may be in a test, they can be even more significant in real life, so it is important to always be prepared.  Fortunately, our medical school doesn't try too much trickery and none of the actors yelled at me today.  Just good, solid patient scenarios to make sure we can function in the role of a physician.

Now onto the weekend!  And thanks be to God for one more test done.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Playing Hooky

There is nothing like playing hooky from life, especially when you are doing it with your mom.

My mom called me from the cabin on Monday morning.  She was calling to invite me and the kids to drop everything and come up to play at the cabin with her.  She didn't want to clean the cabin and come home after a weekend entertaining friends.  I didn't want to stay home worrying about my test on friday.  At first I thought it was crazy---I am not really the "leave-town-spontaneously" least not these days my two munchkins in tow.  But something told me it was meant to be when I was able to pack our bags, check email, clean the house, fold the laundry, make dinner to leave in the fridge for T, and get the kids in the car for a splash pool playdate--all before Sesame Street was over.  So, exhausted from splash pool fun, I turned our car northwest toward the cabin rather than northeast toward home.  Let the hookie begin.

No one plays hooky like GrandMo
As one would expect, we had a great time with GrandMo at the cabin.  She had plenty of left-overs from her weekend of entertaining, so there was no cooking to worry about.  The kids were delighted to play with the Yahtzee cups and dice, Checkers chips, Chess pieces and Sequence cards in place of their normal toys (ever noticed how kids turn the funniest items into toys?).  We enjoyed 70 degree weather in place of the 90 degree heat of the city.  And we managed multiple tours around the lake in Papa's new spectacular pontoon.

E-Bear taking it all in.
Yes, he is wearing a jacket.  It is still allegedly summer in MN.
Future hooky expert.  Papa, we love your boat.
We returned home find the dinner I had left for T still uncooked in the fridge.  Poor Prince had gotten home after 10pm both nights that we were gone.   Brutal.  So, it turned out that while we had missed him terribly while at the cabin, we had picked a good time to be gone.  As usual, GrandMo had the right idea.  I think she still hasn't made it back....

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gentleness and Patience

...Let them permeate my house today.

For my children, should sibling screaming ensue, after I have given warnings, counted to three, employed a time out, and employed it again.  Because perhaps there is frustration or hurt behind those sharp shrieks, and with gentleness and patience perhaps I can mend them.

For my labors, should the meals not turn out, or taste right but not be eaten because of youthful suspicion, or chores not go right, or plans not quite work despite great preparation.  Because perhaps there is a time to laugh at mistakes, and growth is in the work, the labor, the journey...not just in the product.

For myself, should frustration and worry creep in, about this or that, after I have tried to banish it, lest the mental frustration distract me from and overflow into my day.  Because frustration with myself will only lead to frustration with others, and afterall, perhaps the future is not known for a reason.

For my husband, should he get home late, or seem distracted, or have more work to do once he gets home. Because perhaps today was discouraging, or exhaustion unending, the world harsh and unforgiving. My patience can overcome the world's harshness, and my gentleness be his affirmation.

Please, Lord, let gentleness and patience govern my house today.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Grocery Bag

Flexibility is key this week, because the weather is beautiful and our schedule unpredictable! I am trying to use all this great summer produce yet keep things simple enough to maximize our time outside.  Here is what I came up with...

Day One:
"When nothing but the back of the Bisquick box will do"

(The kids devour this. I am even able to sneak extra veggies in by grating carrots or zucchini and cooking them with the beef and the onion)
Cheeseburger Pie recipe and photo at Betty

Day Two:
"Make ahead meal for the week"

(Yum.  The summer produce is prefect for this veggie lasagna!
This is already ready to go in my fridge for dinner tomorrow)

Lasagna Primavera recipe and photo from Everyday Food Magazine

Day Three
Marie's Picadillo with fresh pico de gallo and grilled pita bread
"Fresh and authentic"

(Marie is a long-time friend from Mexico.
She shared her picodillo recipe (to come) with me as a wedding gift.)
Fresh pico de gallo recipe and photo from The Pioneer Woman

Grilled pita bread recipe and photo from Fine Cooking Magazine

Day Four
Chicken Tostadas with cilantro lime rice
"Fresh and authentic, day two :)"
Chicken tostada recipe & photo from Everyday Food Magazine
Cilantro lime rice recipe and photo from Everyday Food Magazine

Day Five
Ham & beans with cornbread  
"Call nights call for easy, healthy, homestyle"
Beans & cornbread recipe and photo from Ree at The Pioneer Woman

Blessings upon your kitchen this week!  Remember, when you need extra inspiration:

"Food is essential to life.  Therefore, make it good."
~S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A

"Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can."
~Arthur Ashe

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Presenting...Kenya Safari

T presented today at Grand Rounds on his mission trip to Tenwek Hospital last spring.   He worked so hard on his presentation, and it really showed this morning.  He wowed us all and did an outstanding job. 

There are so many moments yet unshared from his trip, but I couldn't resist posting the video he compiled of highlights from his safari experience in the Masai Mara Game Reserve.  Truly an incredible country to behold and serve.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Praying for Daddy

With G-Bear tonight in her bed she prayed...

"...and please let all the people not get Daddy won't have to go to work anymore."

That's my sweetheart.  She's looking out for her daddy.

Our Camera

I have gotten a lot of emails and questions lately from friends asking what camera we are using these days. We are flattered, you guys, that you would ask us for recommendations!  I think I should give credit where credit is due, T is the photography mastermind in our family.  Most of the time I am just along for the ride or following his instructions. Anyone who has known T for the past few decades of his life knows how much he loves making memories with photos.   He won't claim to be a pro, but he is dedicated: back in college when I was still snapping away with a disposable camera he was wowing everyone with his amazing DIGITAL camera.

Today we are a Nikon D300 family.  We love our camera.  We are fiscally frugal in almost every area of our daily life, but when it comes to photos, we splurge. We have two lenses: our zoom lens, an AF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G and our 55mm f/1.8D.  As I said before, T is the mastermind behind the photography, but thankfully he and our friend Benjamin have taught me a few of their tricks to help me get by when one of my experts isn't around.

If you are looking for camera recommendations, camera tutorials or great photography tips, we recommend our favorite photography guru website:  Ken is amazing.  He puts incredible detail and user-friendly tips in his website, reviews and tutorials.  His advise is our go-to when we are looking to improve our photo shoots.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Latest Firsts

Its been a while since I indulged in a proud-parent post.  Feel free to move on with your day if you the sweetness is too much ;)
The Doodle-bug Bears

Presenting our latest firsts!
(drumroll, please!)

...E-Bear climbed to the top of the pirate ship slide ladder by himself this week. That's right.  Little gross motor maniac.  I think his sister just climbed to the top of the ladder by herself this week too (just kidding :)  Sort of).

...G-Bear asked to swim on her back *twice*!  That's two separate occasions, folks!  And put her head under the water all by herself!  Swim team olympian, here we come.

And while we're at it....

...E-Bear jumped off the side of the pool into my arms all by himself!  That's no hand holding.  His sister followed close behind ;)  Little gross motor maniac.

You wanna play?

...G-Bear and E-Bear have made up a new game.  Its called "Going on Vacation." It involved packing a large bucket or bag with all their toys, blankets, books and pillows and then dragging it around the rooms on their way to make a 'tent' while on their journey to a 'castle.'  You can tell who is the brains behind the operation, but E-Bear plays right along!  Amazing.  Lots of imaginary worlds to be discovered around here.

...E-Bear is talking up a blue streak.  The latest words to shine through are:
Ready to tell it like it is :)
'Pincess!' (that's right, as in Disney. Oh, you bet he has an older sister)
'Blankie?' (for his favorite green friend, in place of the previous 'happy?'....sort of sad to hear that one go)
'Caaaaaaay!' (for cake, can you tell we have been celebrating family birthdays lately?) and
'Hep pee, hep pee' (for help please. We're trying that instead of whining these days.  Good luck to me).
'Gabi!' (for G-Bear.  Super sweet to hear him finally call her by name.  Not what I call her, but that's the stuff nicknames are made of).

...G-Bear is right back at E-Bear with nicknaming.  'Bud' is her favorite pet name for E-Bear currently, followed closely by 'Buddy.'  Even sweeter because that is what T's dad, our dear Dee, was called by his sister.
This sister loves her 'Bud'

And last but not least?
Hard at work.  Concentrating.  
...G-Bear wrote her first letter yesterday!  Okay, okay, she TRACED her first letter.  But she did a great job.  We were both super proud of her work.

I drew the blue lines.  G-Bear traced in purple.

G-Bear's handiwork on the left. E-Bear's handiwork on the right.
A thousand thanks to Aunt K for her ideas on teaching letters while we were in NC.  G-Bear is having a great time with our chalk board!

Those are the highlights.  Thank you, Lord, for these wonderful days.