Tuesday, July 27, 2010

O Henry!

My best pal Lori was in town for a friend's wedding last weekend.  Lori's husband's family lives in McLean, VA which is just 20 minutes from us.  So when she told me she was coming to town, William and I jumped at the chance to see them!  

Lori's in laws have a wonderful house filled with toys for the boys and a great swimming pool.  I told William we were going to see Henry and meet his new little brother, Alexander.  William hasn't seen Henry in a year, but without hesitation he asked me, "do you think they will have tons of fire trucks for Henry at their house?  He loves fire trucks just I like I love airplanes.  Do you think there will be airplanes?"  Never underestimate a 3 year old and his memory!  - And for the record, Lori was able to find some Lego airplanes from 1970 in the basement! 

We had a super time catching up and I got to love on baby Alex.  William and Henry played with a million toys, swam in the pool, played with the pool table and shared a few intense games of pin ball.  

Thanks for having us Lors! 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

child. boy. son. father. man. hero.

 You don't raise heroes, you raise sons.  And if you treat them like sons, they'll turn out to be heroes, even if it's just in your own eyes.  ~Walter M. Schirra, Sr.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Saddle Up Partners! James 1:5

Last week was bible school at our church.  The theme this year was "Saddle Ridge Ranch," a western theme. Our church bible school is for children 4 years old and up, but since I signed up to teach a class, William got to attend bible school as an official "student" in the 3 year old room for volunteers' children.  

I have helped as a volunteer for the last 3 years which means William went to his first bible school when he was just a baby.  Even as a 1 year old, the teachers still enforce the lesson plan and did crafts with the kids (like footprints for Jesus, a hand print tree, stickers, etc.).  I remember being so impressed when I picked William up on Friday and was handed a huge tote bag of crafts he did in the 1 year old room.  I mean, it would be SO MUCH EASIER to just "watch" the babies.  But these teachers really do work hard to give the volunteer's children an official lesson.  That said, I was eager to volunteer in the 1 year old room this year so I could see just how the magic crafts evolve for 10 little babies.  I had a great time!

William was in the 3 year old classroom and absolutely love it!  I think it reminded him of preschool and he just loves being in a learning environment.  So, he was thrilled to wake up every morning and hit the Saddle Ridge Ranch with is friends from church.  He learned new songs, made TONS of really cute crafts and got the "best manners" award!  In fact, when Friday rolled around and it was over, William cried.  He was desperate to go back to bible school.  He even told me "Mom, I wish I could go to bible school next week!" in a pitiful voice about 10 times over the weekend.  

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cloud 9

You might have noticed the pictures of Pilot Barron visiting the cockpit on our recent trip to Oklahoma.  This was perhaps the highlight of William's summer.  I had a hunch William would ask to wear his pilot uniform once we got to the airport, so I packed it in my carry-on bag for "safe keeping."  Little did I know the pay off would be huge.

It begins with the outbound non-stop flight from BWI airport to OKC aboard Southwest Airlines.  As predicted, William wanted to suit up in his uniform after we made it thought security and got to our gate.  He was delighted to see our plane was already at the gate and gave a play by play to those around us regarding what was happening on the ground.  Several passengers admired Pilot Barron's uniform and asked him questions about his upcoming flight.  William never hesitated and spoke up with "I am going to fly for American Airlines and Delta" and then he'd give a salute.  I am sure the Southwest airlines employees got a chuckled when they heard that!

After awhile we boarded the plane and the flight crew LOVED his uniform.  William just marched onto the plane with his head held high and gave them a very happy "thank you!"  One flight attendant asked if he could take William's picture because "he was so cute" and I happily agreed with the condition that William could meet the pilots when we landed in OKC. 

Well, we landed around 10:30 at night.  William slept the entire flight so when he woke up to get off the plane, I told him the exciting news!  He was going to meet the pilots of our Southwest flight.  William grinned ear to ear and although he was thrilled, I could tell he was kinda nervous with anticipation.  We marched up to the cockpit and the flight crew was SO incredibly nice.  They asked William if he wanted to sit in the pilot's seat.  William was either overwhelmed or nervous, I couldn't decide.  Then I realized he was just taken back how small and tight the cockpit was and so I kept encouraging him to go inside by telling him how special this was and how long we've waited for the chance to see real dials and switches!  He took the bait and quietly asked me if I would take his picture when he got in the pilot seat.  OF COURSE! 

Our next "cloud 9" moment took place in the DFW airport on our return flight from Colorado.  Dan, William and I decided to hit the food court before boarding our flight from DFW to DCA (Washington National).  William was of course in full uniform from head to toe.  So we started eating and William glanced over to find an American Airlines pilot eating dinner several tables away.  "Mom Mom, where is that pilot's hat?"  I assured him that the pilot did indeed have a hat, but he was using good manners and took it off at the dinner table.  William just stared at him in wonder......"Mom Mom, do you think he'll put his hat back on after he is all finished?"  "Hey, Mom  who is that pilot eating with at that table?"  I told him those people were probably good friends of the pilot and that yes, he'd put his hat back on later.  

Well, next thing we know the Pilot gets up and comes straight over to William.  "Well, I just needed to come say hello to my fellow pilot before I head out on my next flight.  How are you doing sir?"  William about died.  He was SO EXCITED and spoke right up, "I am William.  Where are you flying today?"  The pilot told us he was going to fly to Albuquerque and that he was an American Airlines pilot.  "Oh, that is my favorite airplane too! I am going to fly for American Airlines and Delta.  Does your airplane have winglets?"  I think our new pilot friend was stunned that William knows so much about airplanes!  This moment was a HUGE highlight for William.  Have you ever seen a smile like that?
And finally, it was time to board our flight from DFW to DCA.  We were in boarding group 2, so we all got on the plane at the beginning of the boarding process.  We didn't even make it past the front door when the two pilots of our flight greeted William (still in full uniform) and invited him into the cockpit.  Having one cockpit visit under his belt, William immediately said "YES!" and jumped at the chance.   I fired up the camera and went to work documenting William's thrills. 

Pilots Rick and John showed William all the switches and dials and William asked millions of questions about which dial did what and where was the switch for the brakes, for the flight attendants, for the throttle, for the rudder, etc.  

Rick and John kept telling him how impressed they were that William knew all the flight terminology (if only they could live my life on the day to day) and William was delighted to finally know EXACTLY what switch did what.  William asked if he could sit on their laps.  From the front windows of the plane, William showed Rick and John what was happening on the ground.  He also noticed that Rick and John were not wearing their hats or sunglasses.  "Guys, are you going to wear your hats and your sunglasses when we take off because the sun is bright."  They laughed and told him that yes, they sometimes do wear their hats and sunglasses while flying.  William also noticed their uniform jackets and commented "your jackets are similar to mine because we both have gold stripes on the arms.  See?"  And then William let them know "I am going to get pilot shoes like yours because my dada has office shoes like pilot shoes that lace up."  William got a full 10 minutes in the cockpit while all the passengers boarded the plane.  

When we were getting ready to land, Rick and John came over the intercom and said, "we'd like to thank Pilot William for flying with us.  He's had 3 years of experience and looks forward to 20 more!"  

Now that is what you call being on Cloud 9.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Let the pictures tell the story

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs

So we made it to the Broadmoor without a hitch and settled into our plush room complete with a balcony.  We love this place, I mean LOVE.IT.  We use to come to the Broadmoor when we were little kids and I vividly remember those trips.  My family loves the mountains and Colorado was always a beloved vacation spot for us.  We would have so much fun running around the compound, swimming in the gorgeous swimming pool, cruising down the water slides, going to the kids camp, paddle boating and just being on the resort grounds.  The Broadmoor is simply exquisite and there is just no reason to want to leave!  You are surrounded by mountains and from any angle, the views are breath taking.

As my brother, sister and I got older, our school activities and interests multiplied and we slowly stopped taking our vacations there - life offers so many places to see!  However, now that we are all grown and some of us have children, the Broadmoor has proven to be the absolute best spot for all of us to reunite for a family vacation.  There is something for everyone!

With the exception of Dan, the guys are golfers and so they spent many an afternoon on the course while the rest of us partied hard in our cabana (#6) near the pool.  Since we have a 15 month old, a 3.5 year old, a couple with fair skin (guess who?), and the sunshine of Colorado, the cabana and beach umbrellas proved to be the best way for us to camp out as a group.  We could come and go from our central location and at the same time enjoy the landscape all day long.  William LOVED swimming in the huge pool and he got a real kick out watching the adults go down the water slides.   He'd rank the splashes for us and cheered us on as we came speeding down the slides.

Although we logged most of our vacation near the pool, we also managed to get out on the town.  One day Bebe and Pops took William, Elin and the adults to The North Pole, home of Santa's Workshop. It's a Christmas themed family amusement park that has been in existence since 1956.  In fact, Bebe remembers going there as a little girl.  The park includes more than 25 rides, gift shops, train rides and the opportunity to meet the jolly man himself (which we skipped).

At first William was not real keen on the rides.  He was very slow to warm up and studied the rocket ride and the twisty slide VERY closely before deciding that the old fashioned model T cars were more his speed.  Once he experienced his first amusement ride he realized there was a lot of fun to be discovered and he let down his guard.  He rode the boat ride about 20 times and rang the bell as he floated around and around.  He also liked the train ride around the park and the transportation ride where you pick a bus, taxi, motorcycle, etc. to ride around in a circle.  Of course, his airplane radar was in full swing and he managed to find Santa's workshop full of toys and you guessed it - airplanes.  Pops treated him to a few new fighter jets (aka tighter jets) and that just topped off his wonderful day!

Now you don't just vacation without eating yourself silly.  The Broadmoor has tons of delicious options for every age and kids eat free to boot!  So, the first two nights we went back to our favorite place, The Summit.  One night we all ate together.  As a side note, last year Bebe had the brilliant idea of bringing along surprise presents every night to dinner for each of the kids.  This tactic was well received by William and before we ever got to the Broadmoor, he was asking Bebe if she would have "surprise packs" for him.  I tell ya what, he has quite the memory!  Bebe assured him that she was well prepared with surprises and night after night she proved him right!  William's theme was airplanes (model planes, book, stickers, fan, etc) and Elin's theme was geared for the everyday toddler who loves Wonder Pets.   These "surprise packs" kept the kids entertained throughout dinner while the adults enjoyed each other's company.

The second night my parents kept the little people while us big kids had a night on the town.  We lingered over dinner, swapped stories and made complete idiots of ourselves by taking goofy pictures with the self timer on the camera.

We also dined on the Gulf Club terrace which was a big hit.  William made a few friends on the practice putting green while the rest of us enjoyed our meal.  We also spent every morning having breakfast as a big group at our favorite, Charles Court.  You could find us in the crowd because every morning Pilot Barron was in his uniform flying his toy planes at the table!

All in all, it was a wonderful, treasured vacation.  I covet the moments I get to spend with my family because we are more than just an original party of 5.  We are great friends who remain fiercely loyal to one another. When we are together it just feels "right" - almost like it was just yesterday that Ryan and I held Rachel for the first time as Big Brother and Big Sister or all the Christmases we spent huddled at the top of the stairs waiting to race down and see what Santa left us.  I can feel so many of those special moments and oh how the time flies!  We laugh ourselves silly, we support each other's dreams and are so grateful to God for giving us the best parents 3 Johnston kids could ever ask for!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Week Two OKC

Ok, so week two finds us post Meredith/Rand wedding and into a few more swim lessons with our buddy, Ransom.  William continued to made great strides in his confidence without the floaties.  His favorite achievement was learning to use the kick board without holding onto Ransom and without wearing his floaties.  He'll tell you all about it if you ask him.

We continued to log many hours at the swimming pool especially with our friends Nate and Georgia.  I am Georgia's godmother and her mom, Donna, is one of my best friends.  In fact, Bebe and Nay Nay (Donna's mom and Georgia's grandmother) were classmates from elementary through high school.....talk about serious memories!  Nate and Georgia are beyond adorable and William just loves to watch Georgia show off her tricks in the pool.   Georgia and I raced down the water slides at her pool and I lost.  I had to pay her 50 cents.  HISS BOO!

Then Thursday rolled around and we loaded up in Pop's red Tahoe and headed for Rocky Mountain High in Colorado.  We chose to caravan with baby Elin and her parents.  William is a champion car rider so I had no doubt he could handle the 10 hour trip to the Broadmoor.  To keep everyone sane and maintain the positive experience, Pops and Bebe planned to break the trip into two days.  So, the first day we headed out around 2:30 pm and stopped in Amarillo for dinner at the Big Texan.  It's a well known dining establishment out yonder.  The big thrill here is watching greasy fat people try and eat the 72 ounce steak, a.k.a. "the Big Texan."  Seriously. Gross.  To top off the challenge, the contender not only has to eat the 72 ounce steak, but they also have to finish ALL 4 side dishes in ONE HOUR!  B.A.R.F.     And, just our luck - there was a greasy dude on stage when we got there and by the time we left, his fork was moving in slow motion towards the first side dish.   NOT A CHANCE MAN! HURL!

We departed our dinner thrill and headed to Dumas where we settled in to the Hampton Inn for the night.  Mom Mom, Dada and William love a good Hampton Inn.  William was happy as a clam and just enjoyed the entire ride in Pop's big car.  He watched a few shows, took a nap, ate some grub, played I Spy, played a few games on my phone, and gave an endless play by play of the scenery around us - all while sporting his pilot uniform.   Shocker.

Friday morning we had a hearty breakfast that would put the greasy dude from the Big Texan to shame.  Yet another perk to why we like a Hampton Inn.  Great breakfast included with your stay.   William and Elin played together and then we rolled ourselves out to our cars and geared up for the last leg of the drive.  Our pilot was thrilled to be back in the ol' Tahoe and the journey continued.  We made it to Pueblo, Colorado home of Jessica's favorite pizza place, The Do Drop Inn.   We enjoyed some very delicious pizza and then headed for Colorado Springs.  

45 minutes later we pulled up to paradise!  The Broadmoor at Colorado Springs is our favorite family destination.  Spending time with my brother and my sister and parents is priceless.  We are all in life stages that are demanding of our time and energy not to mention the fact that we are in OKC, Washington D.C. and New Orleans.  However, none of us would ever miss the chance for all 5 Johnstons to be together again.  And let me tell you, it was F.U.N. F.U.N. F.U.N.!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Week One in OKC

William and I left for OKC on June 19th via BWI airport on Southwest Airlines.  Dada's plan was to fly in for the wedding weekend and return to DC (that trip got scrapped.  thank you BP oil spill. However, Dada was able to join us in Colorado).

We got to the airport with plenty of time to wander around.  I had a hunch William was going to ask to wear his pilot costume, so I packed it in my carry on.  Good call.  He put his uniform on right after we got through security and he kept it on the entire journey.  When we boarded the plane one of the flight attendants wanted to take his picture but I told him it was only allowed if my little pilot could see the cockpit once we landed.  Deal.   William slept the entire three hour flight in full pilot gear.  Once we landed William and I waited for everyone to unload and then we got to see the cockpit.  He was shy at first and then I told him it was something he has wanted to do for a long time and this was his chance.  He realized what I meant and quietly asked me to take his picture with the crew.  He was real excited and we are so thankful for the opportunity to be a real pilot for a few minutes.

Once we got to Bebe and Pops, William was wide awake and ready to party - even though it was 11pm.  He had to play with every single toy in their house and then he made sure the Hershey Kiss machine was fully stocked.  Once we'd checked all the boxes, I worked hard to get him to bed.   The next day William started swim lessons.  His teacher was a very nice high schooler nicknamed "Ransom."  William took to him right away and learned the basic swim skills sans floaties.  I am all about keeping things positive and since he LOVES to be in the swimming pool, I really just wanted him to get the feel for real swimming and how to use your body.  He did really, really well but prefers to keep his floaties on when he's with me.  I do make him take them off for awhile so we can practice what Ransom taught him and he is always proud to show me.  However, his confidence is short lived without the ol' engine wings.  Next year, I think we'll be a glider and leave the engine wings behind.

William also took part in a cute little nature camp at my parents' church.  It was only 3 days for 2 hours each day.  The kids did a craft, learned a song and had a snack.  It was a good way for William to be with other little kids since it was just too hot to hit a park during the day.

We also logged many hours at the swimming pool with old friends and our favorite niece, Elin.  William loved showing her the ropes and he even checked out the high dive with Uncle Ryan.  He also loved going to Quail Creek because the pool there is very similar to the toys at the VA spray parks.  
  Thank you Mac and Meme for letting William come to your club!  It was a great idea!

We also kicked off our first week home with a few wedding events for cousin Meredith.  My parents hosted a beautiful family dinner on Monday night to kick start the wedding extravaganza.  We ate Mexican food and wedding cookies and asked the 8 Ball various questions about the upcoming wedding.  The night was full of laughter and the little cousins had a great time playing together.  Thursday night we all went bowling at Red Pin with Meredith, Rand and their families.  I must say that my bowling attire was top notch, especially with the sweet bowling shoes.   Then Friday we celebrated with the bridesmaids' luncheon at Nona's and the rehearsal dinner at Red Prime.  Both events were fantastic and it was a treat to see old college friends and people I have grown up with but not seen in a long time.  

The whole time the wedding events were going on, William was either exploring the town with Pops or hanging out with Gram and Bubba.  Gram and Bubba really took one for the team when they kept William all weekend so I could enjoy the wedding events without a worry in the world.  William had THE BEST time at their house and Gram found all of Dada's old toys  for him to play with.  She also made him a special place on the floor where he could sleep in their room.  They went to McDonald's, played in the backyard fountain, took a shopping trip to Toys R Us for airplanes, played with the adding machine that "mom mom, it really makes receipts!", and pounded out a few tunes on the ol' key board.  It was reported that Gram can really sing a few bars herself!  I can't thank them enough for all their help.  I sure hope my pilot didn't wear them slick!

So that is week one in a nutshell.  We literally spent every single second of free time playing with family and catching up with friends. 

Pictures will come later as I have to move old photos to the hard drive to give me some space. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Miss us much?

Well, we are back from our super exciting vacation to Oklahoma and Colorado.  We spent 2 weeks with family and friends and celebrated cousin Meredith's wedding.  Then my whole family spent a week at the Broadmoor in Colorado  for a fabulous Fourth of July and relaxing vacation.  I have many pictures to post as well as a long narrative about our adventures.  But for now, I am digging us out of suitcases and working on 6 loads of laundry.  

Lets not forget about Pilot Barron.  He's frantically busy flying around the house and touching just about every toy he owns. He's been entertaining himself for the last 3 hours.   In fact, I just heard him introduce the new airplanes to the rest of the crew we left behind for 3 weeks.  "And everybody, this one is F-16 fighting falcon and you can see the flashing lights.  Here, watch."  

It might be awhile.  It might be a few days.  It might be tomorrow.   Soon enough I will be back to blogging with fun filled updates on our trip.
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