Tag Archives: holidays

Marriages Aren’t Easy: The Fable of the Incense Burner

10 Sep

But if you’re lucky — and you work hard, yada yada yada — they’re good anyway.

The weekend of July 4th we got in a huge fight. It was one of the more difficult times in our marriage, with me being so sick and blaming David (I don’t get mad during labor, I get mad during first trimester!), David working all day and then going to work on the new house every night, us living with various parents and a 3 year old, all our stuff in boxes scattered around the house, and suddenly switching from battling 2-year infertility to dealing with medical bills and un-Godly nausea… Let’s just say it all came to a head that holiday weekend. Why is it that vacations are often good times to get sick or in a fight?

While we weren’t speaking to each other, and we had just moved back in to the house for the second time, I went to buy incense to try to get rid of the horrible, poisonous smell of the house that apparently no one else could smell (thank you first trimester). I came back home and mentioned to Dave that I didn’t have any way to burn it, and without comment he then went and made an incense burner for me.

This is how I know I married a good man.


I had no idea what he was sawing in the basement — I rarely force myself to go down there because it is very messy and dirty — prepping that 1,700 sq ft space for habitation will certainly be another fun, multi-weekend project! The loud noise made me curious (obviously), but I was patient (which is unlike me). He then came upstairs with a piece of wood with a hole cut at just the right angle and a groove for all the ash. It was hard not to feel loved, even if the fight wasn’t resolved yet.

Walter loves burning incense too since that’s one of the many fun things he learned to do at his Nini’s house. He also made me a burner later with this play-doh-like toy he has. Like father, like son, and I’m glad about that!


The Annual MamaJohnston Christmas Card

6 Jan


Every year I love sending out a Christmas card. I love picking out the photos to use (and the taking of the photos!), designing the card, hand addressing and stamping over 200 cards during a time of year when everything is hectic anyway — and joyful of course! And I really love how I spend all year reading books so I can create an annual recommended reading list, and I hear back from a lot of people about that idea!

This year, however, is a bit bittersweet for me after last year. In 2013 I sent out our cards and one of my friends sent back a very cute card about The 12 Southern Days of Christmas with a note inside and I thought, “Oh gosh I really should invite him over for dinner since we haven’t seen him since Walter was born and that’s way too long” but I didn’t get around to it for three weeks and then I got a call from a mutual friend saying that our professor had killed himself. And now he will never know how much I regret not turning around instantaneously to send him a quick email saying “Yes, I want to see you!”

At his funeral I heard another friend say that she had gotten a surprise Christmas card from him as well, and I can’t help thinking that he was saying goodbye or maybe even reaching out one last time and all of us failed him.

So I will continue sending out the yearly Johnston holiday card, because I love snail mail and take every opportunity to share a bit of paper now and again with friends, but I will always think of the professor when I do so. I hope he sees all my 2014 and beyond cards from that peaceful afterlife we call heaven.

Any old day.

2 Jan

I really enjoyed our celebration of the year’s birthday. We were invited to a party with dear friends, but because of our hectically wonderful Christmas season, I couldn’t bear the idea of leaving the house and staying out late.

Dave got off work early, thankfully, because Walter was in a wretched mood all day. He wanted his nap at the frightfully early hour of 9:15, slept a short hour and a half, then didn’t nap the rest of the day. I don’t know if it was his lack of nap the day before or our ten day stretch of constant partying (that boy sure does love his parties), but he was beat.

We went to dinner at Houston’s with Dave’s parents and Granny, and it was a lovely meal out. I’m not sure I’ve had a better dining experience in a while. The food was delicious, the service exquisite, and they were packed at 5pm and even more so when we left at 6:30. This was good because Walter had never acted worse at a restaurant before. He crashed as soon as we got home and Dave and I started our night immediately doing something we hadn’t been able to do at home for a long time: puzzling!

We love doing jigsaw puzzles. With the cats it was always a challenge, but we had a huge coffee table that we would cover any unfinished puzzle with aluminum foil, even though Petra would love to play with the foil. Strangest cat I’ve ever met. But with Walter, there was no way we could keep a puzzle at baby height and expect to keep all the pieces. Once we rearranged our furniture, though, one of the bonuses was being able to devote the entire dining room table to a puzzle if we wanted to, and it is right next to the fireplace and TV. Perfection!

We also had our traditional 12 grapes during the last minute of the old year. This was taught to me by a high school friend, and I’ve carried it on because it’s just fun. I usually buy the grapes, but this year I sent Dave to the store to grab some on the way home from work. I was shocked when he brought out the grapes.


Do you see how big those things are? I was getting anxious closer to midnight thinking I wouldn’t be able to eat all my grapes in time and have a fully lucky year next year (1 grape = 1 month of luck). I was able to pick out some small-ish ones for myself but still gave David mostly gigantic ones, of course. We were both able to finish them with a second or less to spare, but I might have been quicker if I hadn’t been laughing at him so much.

Today David made black eyed peas and collards like a good old Southern boy. He’s getting better at them every year, and they were delicious. Even Walt ate the beans and tried the collards. With a long walk and some playtime at the park, it was a great day with family and a perfect way to start off the new year. Puzzle is almost done too!

An hors d’oeuvres Christmas

28 Dec

This Christmas season was a whirlwind. Due to my entire family being in town (which doesn’t happen very often at all), we had several plans every day, and while it was wonderful, it was also exhausting. But there is always time to sleep later! The only “bad” part was that because we went to so many parties, we didn’t get a decent evening meal for almost a week (my cousin’s Christmas Eve meal was well worth the wait though!). Walt lived on bread and cheese, and of course he loved it! I think it’s so fun how much he loves flavorful cheese. For instance, the other night he was licking blue cheese off potato chips. What kind of 1yo likes blue cheese? Especially one who wrinkles his nose at spaghetti?

I was so happy he had his cousins here to play with. He gets to see his European cousin only once a year, and C is so good with Walt. And Walt is now the same size as his cousin M, who’s 4 months older than him. So much fun to see them all running around together!

Daddy teaching Walt to play piano on Christmas morning. We stayed with my in-laws on Christmas Eve so we could see Walt’s great-Granny a little bit while she is in town too! It was wonderful to relax and not run around so much.

This is what we did Christmas day, waiting for dinner. The Nerf gun was a very popular gift this year. So was the Darth Vader helmet that made your voice sound like James Earl Jones. We all wanted one. And yes, the boys are trying to catch the bullets. Harder to do than you think!

It was a very Merry Christmas indeed!

Christmas Stockings

18 Dec


I’ve always thought it would be cute to have stockings for our family, but before now I never wanted to spend the money to get matching, personalized ones. After seeing some cute ones at the Holiday Market, I thought to myself, why don’t I just sew some?

Google led me to Sew Like My Mom and I used her tutorial for Christmas stockings. Instead of doing applique letters I plan on cross stitching our names on the front. Maybe after our hectic holiday season. But they were really easy and fun to do! I got a Riley Blake fat quarter bundle from Etsy (for $16) like she suggested and in a night or two I was done!



Also, the Mantle Clip stocking holders we got are amazing. Those things aren’t going anywhere, and they’re not in the way or obnoxious. Everything turned out great!

And now we’re even closer to Christmas

1 Dec

With Thanksgiving fully eaten (though I didn’t get any leftovers so I’m ready for another holiday meal), we’re one step closer to another year. Days are flying by at lightning speed, and I’m enjoying every moment. Okay, not every single teeny tiny moment, but how can you not laugh at the sweet, funny baby? He usually delights most people he meets. He’s very friendly. Well, unless you want to pick him up. We went to a furniture store this weekend and he ran around feeling every texture and walking right up to all the other groups of people there just to interact. I’m pretty sure it was little boy heaven with so much to touch and potentially knock over!

We started off Thanksgiving right with a little bit of whine.

Beautiful decorations at my aunt’s house. The meal was absolutely delicious too.

Obligatory family holiday photo.

Walt loved running around his new terrain.

Happy Christmas Season Boy!
(gotta use those arms for balance when you’re moving fast!)

Don’t think you can escape Valentine’s Day.

12 Feb

Walt and I cruised through the grocery store today for some last minute Fat Tuesday items. They were chocolate glazed donuts and Hershey Kisses. I am giving up sweets for Lent but not before I fill my tummy to its sugary brim. And to test my skills at self-denial, I will be attending a cookie party on Thursday that promises to tempt me with dozens upon dozens of delicious delectables I won’t be able to eat. That is actually what the Hershey Kisses are for. The donuts are just because.

Kroger, since I was there a week ago, has become a gauntlet of Valentine’s propaganda. Even though I am happily married, I still don’t care for Valentine’s day. I try to show my love to my family and my sweet husband every day of our lives. I already give presents for our two anniversaries (wedding and the day we met), Christmas, birthdays… another day would be just too much. But Kroger makes you think otherwise. To get to the checkout line from the dairy aisle, you must pass through the eye of the needle! You must be swayed by the passionately colored items for sale!

The Gauntlet

I mean honestly, what do they do with all the leftovers after Thursday? Maybe I’ll buy Dave a half off balloon and we can celebrate the day after Valentine’s.

You can't resist this!

I was doing self-checkout like I always do, baby in one hand and the other trying to perform the function of both hands, when the checkout lady offered her assistance. I declined this time (I have learned to accept help occasionally!), but it is so nice how helpful people are when they see you with a baby. It has been pretty amazing how people react when you have a child. First, you get pregnant, and when people know they are very excited for you, ask you when you are due, talk about their children, tell you how much you are going to love having a [insert gender here]… and then you have the baby. People hold open doors, help you with bags, tell you how cute your child is (like the very sweet lady today who stopped me on my way out just to tell me I had the cutest baby)… and generally just have a smile on their face because they see the baby. They laugh when the baby makes a face or even tolerate it when the baby cries.

I wonder, however, when this all changes. At what age do they start giving you dirty looks when your child cries, and when do they not think you need extra help? Then, on my end, how old will my child be when I call the cops because some stranger stops me to tell me my little boy is oh so cute? Eventually that would be creepy.

But for now I am just awed at how society rallies around its children and their mothers. Every little bit is noticed, helps, and makes my day a lot better. I try to pass it forward, so the message of kindness will continue in this consumer-ravaged world.