Northward Ho!

We left Little Rock on Tuesday morning after tearful goodbyes in Searcy at Christie's parents. The boys were soon distracted by Tiny Toons Adventures on the DVD player. My parents decided to follow us up to Dickson, Tennessee, so they met us for lunch in Brownsville at Dairy Queen. Kind of significant since this was the same DQ we used to stop at when I was a kid. Several aunts, uncles and cousins came to my Aunt Vicky's house for dinner. We felt so loved and supported, and the kids played until we thought they would pass out. Everyone met for breakfast the next morning at Cracker Barrell and said more tearful goodbyes.

We drove almost ten hours to Raleigh, North Carolina and stopped at Applebees for dinner with Hugh and Mindy (Rene) Hollowell. Mindy is a fellow HCMer who I met 8 years ago at Calvary Chapel Saline County when I was the pastor there. She was the first person to use the term "HCM" which allowed us to find information online, eventually leading to our discovery of the Tufts HCM clinic in Boston. We became good friends with Mindy and she even lived with us for a bit right after Brennan was born. This was our first time to meet her husband Hugh and we immediately hit it off. Such a smart, sincere guy - I could have talked to him for hours, but we had another hour to drive before reaching our hotel in Rocky Mount -  read more about Hugh's work with the homeless of Raleigh at Love Wins

Hugh & Rene (Mindy) Hollowell

We spent the night in Rocky Mount, then went to Lynsey's for breakfast. Lynsey is our oldest niece, the oldest child of Christie's brother, Reggie. She's semi-newly married, a new mom, a full time college student, and works full time. Yes, she is all that and a bag of chips. We spent most of our time passing little Peyton around. He has a huge smile and we couldn't believe how much he's grown since October.

Hunter and Haley (our nephew and niece) joined us for a quick lunch and we were on the road. 

We hit Pennsylvania after dark, trying to make good time and get to the Foley's before midnight. We pulled in at 11:30 with very excited boys. It was SO GOOD to see the Foley's again after being apart for four months. We stayed up until almost 4 talking with the kids playing hard. I'm posting from their house in Anneville, where we've eaten tons of food, stayed up late, played games, laughed, and celebrated New Years. Tomorrow morning we leave for New Hampshire. Check for an update in a few days.


Thank You Everyone

We're headed north to Lebanon, New Hampshire in two days. Our time here in Arkansas has been rewarding and exhausting. It was so great to be near our families and see everyone so often - it reminded me of the old days before Bentonville and nursing school. The boys have loved being near their cousins and spending the night with Grandparents.

Much love to everyone who re-arranged their schedules to accommodate us. We felt so loved and welcome during our trips to Northwest Arkansas. Despite busy days, school, and even out-of-country trips, our friends made time to see us and welcome us into their homes. We will miss you all - you are always welcome to stay if you come New England way.

In Little Rock we were fortunate enough to not only spend time with old friends, but even some friends who visited from out of state during Thanksgiving. Some we've not seen in years, and it was refreshing to see your faces again, to hear your laughter, and just to sit and eat together. Thank you so much for making time for us.

In Dallas, thanks to Suzy Madden (BA, my big sis) and the T2X crew for your friendship over so many years. It was incredible to finally meet you and trash ISA in person. Nothing personal, Dave, you know we love you. It was an unforgettable trip and I'm so glad we made it all work out.

To all who have fed us - thanks for making us feel at home and cooking our favorite stuff. My mom kept a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake around and I've been steadily chipping away at it since early November. I bequeath any remaining pieces to non-Weight Watchers who happen by the Johnson house. Mom- sorry I didn't eat more birds nests, but the boys had a blast making candy.

Thanks to the Bostics for tolerating our mess and noise these last few weeks. Sorry we were gone so much, but thank you for your grace and hospitality. Our families have been so generous to us these last few months and there are no words to express how loved and supported we have felt.

I should also make special mention of everyone who helped us move our junk around at one point or another. When we started travelling, our plan to store our furniture in Little Rock was thwarted by a massive snow storm. We have spent way too much time in the last three months relocating all of our household furniture from Bentonville to Searcy, and there's no way we could have done it by ourselves. Thanks to the Johnsons, Sledges, and Ellis' for doing the hard labor. I should also mention by buddy Tim Koch who selflessly braved the snow with us last February so we could get on the road to begin with. Also thanks to Aly Comacho for not pawning all of our stuff while we were away.

I guess everyone knows by now that when we head north this time, we plan to stay for awhile. I plan to be tested and approved for a heart transplant list at both Tufts Medical Center and Massachusetts General by February if all goes well. This means we will need to live within four hours of the transplant centers until I receive a new heart. Obviously we don't know how soon that may be, or how long it will take once I'm urgent enough to go to the top of the list. For more details on this go to my health update blog. If my health doesn't change much in the near future, I will be able to travel occasionally outside of that 4 hour window, so hopefully we'll be able to return home for the holidays (or at least some of them) next year.

We're sad to go, but as the great George Harrison once said, "All Things Must Pass." We're very excited about the opportunities awaiting us, both for my health, Christie's career, and the boy's homeschool and life experiences. If anything, our time in Little Rock has helped the boys to understand and remember the strong ties and roots we have here. Rich has been amazed at how many of our friends knew him when he was a baby. It's been a good experience, but we're ready for the next chapter, to get back out there on the road, see the world, meet new people, try new food, and have a new adventure. To those we leave behind, we love you and thank you so much for all you have done for us these past few months. Your prayers, support, laughter, and hospitality mean more than you will ever know.


The Clinton Museum

(Meant to post this several weeks ago but I've been too busy)

Christie and I never got a chance to visit when we lived here and the boys have never really walked the streets of Little Rock, so we decided to hit the highlights before the holidays were upon us. Rich just finished a small project about the history of the Lego company and the museum had the Art of the Brick exhibit on loan, so it seemed like a good time.

Everyone used to joke about the Clinton Museum looking like
a giant house trailer. 

This was our first trip with two Flat Stanley's - they were
sent by our friends Max and Kate Foley.

The Clintonmobile. Rich though the bullet-proof glass was cool
and we learned quite a bit about the Secret Service.

Having never been to a Presidential Museum before, we weren't sure what to expect. There were a few cool Presidential things on the first floor, but the boys were anxious to get to the Lego display, so we hit that first, rather than forcing them through all the other stuff that was closer. I'm glad we did, because after seeing the Legos, they were able to slow down and take interest in the other displays. 


We tried to get Flat Stanley into as many pictures as we could.

The portraits were amazing to me. These are all made on Lego
plates with flat, smooth pieces. When you stand about 3-4 feet
away, they look like any normal painting. 

The whole exhibit was done by Nathan Sawaya and you can see his other works HERE. The story goes that he was a NY city attorney who played with Legos during his off-time to relieve stress, and it eventually grew into a full-time endeavor.

The Presidential displays were great, but we spent a lot of time looking at the Timeline display, which detailed events around the world each year of the Clinton Presidency. It was sobering to remember so many triumphs and tragedies from the 90's, before the internet age. We lingered a long time at both the Little Rock Nine memorial display, and the Matthew Shepherd display, reading and talking with the boys about the significance of these events. We normally rip through museums pretty quickly, letting them lead the way and not necessarily looking at every single thing. In this case, I think Rich at least understood the weight of these two events, and Christie and I both got choked up several times while talking about them.

Rich watching a video about the Little Rock Nine. This will be one
of my favorite pictures for a long time.

In the President's chair at the cabinet meeting table
Note Flat Stanely in both pics

We met another Flat Stanely who wanted his
picture made with our two guests.

And the security guard wanted to pose with them.

We rode the trolley (alone) over to Clinton Ave./Riverfront for lunch

A short walk from the trolley through the Rivermarket to...
Juanita's! Mine and Christie's favorite LR Mexican place.
We moved to Bentonville before the boys were old enough
to eat here much.
Fajitas, relenos, enchiladas, and Hornsby's Cider to boot. Love this place!

Quick trip to the State capitol to see the...

...giant Christmas tree, which wasn't quite as giant as I remembered it.

I don't think the Supreme Court was supposed to be left unlocked, but
the boys got a taste of the sitting in the jury box.

Nice to spend our last day in Little Rock visiting old haunts and taking our time at the museum. The next day, my parents came to help us pack for the move to Searcy (1 hour away) where we are staying with Christie's parents until after Christmas. Then my parents came back two days later and helped us clean the apartment, took us to lunch, and gave us a Kindle! Not a bad way to end our stay in Little Rock.


In Summary...

Okay, this is the first time I've sat down, like actually sat down, with a laptop and some shred of my sanity, in the last two months. Being home is great, but it's the busiest we've been in years. Homeschooling has been stripped back to a bare minimum of maths and reading and me screaming, "DO YOU WANT TO BE STUPID LIKE GLEN BECK WHEN YOU GROW UP? THEN FINISH BUNNY GOES TO TOWN AND GIVE ME MY LIFE BACK!!" My gentle, natural learning philosophy is buried under a moving van somewhere between here and Dardanelle. That's exactly right. You have no idea what a Dardanelle is, and for your sake I'm going to leave it that way.

The up-side is that we've been very fortunate that our friends and family love us enough to re-arrange their schedules when we come roaring into town, so we've spent plenty of time catching up and seeing familiar faces. There are tons of pictures, so I'm just going to bombard you with them in one big post. I thought about spreading these out but I can't guarantee I'll be sitting down again until after the new year and I'm not gonna lie to you - my digital camera is about to explode if I don't get clear some of these pictures off.

Gramsy and Pops got a chocolate fountain. This is probably the
main thing the kids will remember from Thanksgiving.

Bekah stops mid-chocolate to pose

The epic Nerts stand-off of '11

We have eaten out very little since we've been here - mainly because our parents keep cooking for us and sending food home. But we found a cool little shushi buffet in Little Rock that Christie fell in love with. Sushi isn't my favorite, but the volcano roll is pretty good and there's so much other stuff I haven't tried it all. I'm not sure how I feel about the word "sushi" and "buffet" in the same sentence, but the place works. (If you're in LR, it's in the old Tony Roma's building across from Cozy Mel's on Shakleford).

From our second trip to Fayetteville. This is our gang from the
Benton County Homeschool group.

Brennan & Sasha

Rich with braces

Rich without braces!

We met our friends Anna, Aura, and Lavender at the
Fayetteville Library since it was too cold to meet at a park.
The kids immediately started playing outside anyway.

I got a haircut

Brennan got a mohawk trim
Mike Brown and Bobby Wright of PG-13 at Cajun's Wharf.
This is my favorite venu to play in Little Rock.

My bud Smitty and his girlfriend awesome girlfriend Karen.

Mr. James Ballentine from the Buzz. Yes, he looks like this
all the time. 

The Foley's Flat Stanlys on a LR cable car - that
will get it's own post next week.

The boys starting the advent calendars from Gramsey and Pops

Opening a mini-Christmas tree with hand-made, hilarious
ornaments from the Foleys. Awesome.

The boys are enjoying having all their stuffed animals
around while they can. In a week, most all of these
go back into storage for the time being.

Hummus, Gyros, Babaganoush, and pizza at Layla's on
Rodney Parham. Our new favorite LR restaurant.

There is not enough room on the internet for me to explain
how ridiculous it was to get all this crap in one place.

We've lived without any of it for 8 months. I find our human
obsession with Stuff fascinating.
Me with John Petrucci, the guitarist/songwriter for
prog-metal band Dream Theater in Dallas. 20 year fan, first time meet.
Sweet guy, but looks way more metal than me.

Part of the T2X crew. We made an awesome and critically
acclaimed PC game years ago. Dunan Cooke, Me, Dave Reigel, Suzy Madden.
Great to finally meet these folks after 12 years of talking and working together online.

My brother Mike took us to a replica of one of Columbus' ships.

Couldn't believe how small it was onboard. Cool experience for the kids too.

Brennan is learning how to make Cheese Enchiladas, one of the boys favorites.

Hanging with more of the Old Gang. Joe & Robin Brislane, Tiffany Thomas,
and Spencer Watson. 

The boys had Jacob and Jonathan (2nd cousins) over to spend the night - the
first time in a long, long, long time. 

This chocolate desert from Market Place in Conway will kill you
before you leave the restaurant.

And their Johnson cousins spending the night - Emily and Connor.
Pizza, sundaes, soda, Raving Rabids and lots of sword fighting.

Swimming with cousins. It was cool having a heated pool
in November.