Friday, December 21, 2012


Hello, my name is Asia, and I can spell that out for you if you need, because I'm in kindergarten and I know how to read and write and do some arthmetic.
I homeschool, and I think that it's actually pretty cool. For school.
That's my baby sister, her name is Skye...She likes to go to school too, but I just don't tell her she can't start until she's 5. It's ok for her to pretend...She likes to play and listen, and she can already say the pledge of allegiance and sing lots of Bible verses.
And that's my brother Slater, he's in preschool too, he likes to make magnet dinosaurs, and mommy says they can learn by playing. If that's true, they must be learning a lot! 
And, that's my brother Leif. He is the class clown, but he's also a really good artist. I think he's trying to decide what color dinosaurs really were.
For the Christmas season, we've been making lots of Christmas crafts and learning about Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus.
I can't wait for Christmas! It's my favorite holiday!!
And, mommy says we might take a day off of school for Christmas...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Malaybalay Runners

Yes, that would be me, dancing...quite badly I might add. Why? Well, I went to the Christmas party for our local runners group...and this was one of the games. I missed the Videoke part, but still had a pretty good time with the rest of the party.
We actually had a pretty big party, with a lot of prizes and games and of course, lechon! And, since everybody knows I'm a missionary, I got asked to do the closing prayer. I did it...mostly in Visayan.
And, this is the whole group. Really is cool that the town we moved to has so many people who love running!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Family Day

So, it was family day at church....these two young men are my daughters bodyguards. They sometimes share snack too.
We got the back seat--best place to be when you have 4 noisy kiddos...that need to have their mouths perpetually stuffed with crackers to keep them quiet.
 Check out the new tin roof! It used to be palm thatch, but the old roof blew away in the big storm, so they put up a new one.
It was a pretty full house---Lots of Christmas songs...mostly in Visayan. Brooke make about 300 cookies for the celebration.
As per usual...we ended up in the "cry room" area with some kids who got fussy. Yes, that is a whitewater river 50 yards away from our church. 
And, even though the kids got fussy, they still ended up smiling again. And, I know Skye was trying to listen. The pastor was talking about today's date or, in the language here: "petsa" and the instant he said it Skye looked up at me and said..."Pizza?!?" Just goes to show...little pitchers have big ears...and you never know what they might hear.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

GTO Night Run

'Tis the season for...running! Last Saturday night, Brooke joined her Muay Thai friends for a night run 5-K.

Conditions? A dark and stormy night. The course? Really hilly, with the last kilometer one LOOONNG heartbreaking hill to the finish line...
Emotions?!? Let's go!! Brooke had a great time with her group. The race started about an hour late, so they also had some time to hang out and talk...and then finally...the Gun!
Apparently, my wife does awfully well for being the mother of 4 children 5 years old and under and only running once or twice a best. She got 1st place for her age category!
And, one of her friends from Muay Thai got second for the same category. That's a One-Two Muay Thai finish! Apparently, kick-boxing is good cross-training.
And, perhaps the best part...When she got home, there were some VERY excited young fans to greet her and check out the sweet medal. Great job Hon!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Muay Thai Xmas

So, the latest ad campaign by the Department of Tourism here is..."It's more fun in the Philippines!" And it really is true...Filipinos are always ready to have a party.  And they love to laugh and have a good time with friends. And since it's the holiday season...we find ourselves going to lots of Christmas parties. It's awesome for us, because we get to do three things: be with friends, have fun, and learn a lot more about Filipino culture!
Tis the season for...kickboxing! Well, it's time for a Muay Thai Christmas party anyway...I had a great time celebrating the season with my group. Rule #1. If you have a Christmas party here, you  really need a Videoke. And you just gotta sing with your whole heart...
I've had a great time this year getting to know my Muay Thai group-- And it was really nice to finish off the year with some holiday fun. Rule #2, every opportunity for a picture is an opportunity you should take! And, of course, Rule #3, if possible, a party really need a lechon. (Roast pig.) That always makes things more festive. (And our local lechon is usually REALLY good.)
The whole group. Fun to hang with friends!
See, Mom!?! At least in this picture, I'm the normal one!
And, after having a party, there's no rest for the weary. Rule #4, things happen EARLY here. Muay Thai normally starts at 6:00 on Saturday morning. When we run at 5:45 AM, there's still a lot of people out exercising. But if we go at about 6:20, almost everyone is already done. Life seems to start by 5 AM if you're not a morning person, you either become one, or you go crazy.
A Merry Muay Thai Christmas!!
See People...we're not just going to parties...we're learning culture.  :)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Xmas Abroad: Christmas @ RI

We got the first-class seats on the way to our 1st grade Religious Instruction Christmas party. Wendel and I enjoyed the wind...Air Conditioning is more fun in the Philippines...
And, our kids were all amped up to sing and have some fun! They seriously sing so loud that when I play my guitar, I can't even hear it. Having taught kids quite a bit over the years...I know this is a good problem to have.
After some songs and a short telling of the Christmas story, Wendel led some games. We have a rowdy class, and they didn't disappoint! A good time was definitely had by all.
And of course, we finished off with small gift bags for the kids, and a present for the first-grade teacher. Thanks first-graders for a great year! We'll see you in January.
Maayong Pasko sa inyong tanan!
Merry Christmas to all of you!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Xmas Abroad: "Wintery" Typhoon Weather

The months of December and January are the supposed to be the coolest months of the year here in the Philippines...some people refer to them as "cold season". (Of course, "Cold" is relative...mid 60's would be practically arctic around here..)

So...when "wintery" weather strikes around's not snowy, but it can be serious.

We have a monster typhoon heading into our area tonight and tomorrow, and it could do some real damage--
We live on the island right to the left of the storm. The eye of the storm is supposed to hit the northern tip. 
We live up in the, usually where we live, we just get a lot of rain and some wind. We should be fine. (At least we normally are fine when there is a typhoon in the area . We're praying that we just get wet and don't have the gale-force winds)

But people living by the coast could be in for a very rough ride. And, flooding is often a huge problem when a storm like this hits.

We are currently under Storm Signal #2 in our area, which normally means school closures here. But since we home such luck for Asia. :) 

Please be praying for safety for those in the path of the storm, and for those who will be leading rescue efforts.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Tree: Part II

Trimming the's all about teamwork. Mostly.
Wow, those ornaments are a lot more durable than I thought they would be.
And Slater, I totally understand how those icicle ornaments could look like a carrot to you...since you haven't seen too many icicles in your young life...
Good job decorating, team!
Merry Christmas season!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Xmas Abroad: The Tree

In all honesty, when family is an ocean away, and the temperature was in the 80's again today, it's easy to feel that it's not beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But, sometimes, we just have have to stop dreaming of a white Christmas, and realize, we really are home for the holidays, because this is our home.
And besides, the kids are already VERY ready for their "favorite holiday" we are slowly getting into the Christmas spirit.
 Today, we pulled out the plastic tree and put the kids to work decorating. They were, to put it mildly, reallyreally excited.  
Everybody got busy...they weren't too sure what the icicle and snowflake ornaments were though....not a lot of the cold white stuff where we live.
But they figured stuff out pretty quick!  
This was the first time for all four kids to decorate a Christmas tree.  Last year we had just moved into this house on December 23rd...and let's just say...we didn't exactly have our act together...and before that the kids were just too young.
Success!! Our Christmas-tree hugging bunch had an awesome time, and shockingly enough, they broke zero ornaments, and actually, had almost no bickering over who should decorate with what.
Good job Christmas crew! As of now, nobody's getting coal in their stocking.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 30: Highland Games Night Run

This is me...earlier this evening...getting ready to do a 5k run in the dark.
It had been a long day, kids are just getting over being sick and are still really grouchy...
I was not in a good mood, and not really feeling very thankful... 
I started running and it felt awesome. It was about 1/2 road, 1/2 trail run, and the trail was super dark. It's a good thing I had my headlamp! I ran hard...really hard because there was about 3 guys close to me and I couldn't see anyone behind me and we were in the middle of a forest...I didn't want to run solo out there.
I was running hard, trying to keep up, but while I ran, I literally was gasping for air and simultaneously thinking how thankful I was to be doing this. Between us, Brooke and I have had about 15 leg surgeries. Brooke ran a 10-K last week and I was in the middle of a night run 5-K ..I had a pitch-black-in-the-forest-thankful-run.
I sprinted through the finish...and the head of our local runners group called to me..."you got 11th!"  Missed the top ten (and the prizes) by 1 place! Oh was still awesome. 
And, I saw some of Brooke's Muay Thai friends there too!  They did a great job! 
To round out the night, they had the local fire-dancing team on hand-- pretty cool actually.
We are thankful that in the midst of a very stressful life...we have time to run, to run with friends, and to make new friends while we run. Oh....and we're thankful that our broken-down legs are holding up.

As we finish out our month of thankfulness....I realize....this month of blogging has been a very good reminder of all the things we have to be thankful for...and to have to think of something to be thankful for...even when we weren't feeling particularly thankful.
When we take the time to think about's amazing how blessed we truly are, in so many different ways.  Thanks, God!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day 29: Sidewalk Chalk

  1. Seriously, whoever invented sidewalks, and whoever invented chalk, and whoever decided they would go well together deserves some sort of medal from Parents magazine or a British knighthood or something.
When the day is nice, our four little Picassos get the chalk art going. This was our best one yet, or as Asia said, "The biggest painting in Johnson family history!"
And what better way to say, "I love you" than with a nice chalk heart. 
Hey, how many things can cause this kind of concentration and attention to detail in a 4-year old? Probably Legos, annoying older (and younger) sisters, and...Sidewalk Chalk!  'Aint it great?!?
Today, we are thankful. We are thankful for sidewalk chalk. And we are also thankful that we have a sidewalk. Without that, none of this would have been possible.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day 28: Biscuits & Gravy

Whenever you get a craving to eat something American over here...and it's not available, you can do two things.

1. Talk and think and reminisce about the longed-for beverage or dish...

2. Or,  you can figure out how to make it here.

When we wanted to have good Southern biscuits and gravy in the US, normally, the way we procured it was:
Step 1. Go to restaurant.
Step 2. Order and eat it.
Step 3. Pay and leave.  (Brooke loves to cook, but hey, we have four kids and not a lot of free time.)

Here, a few weeks ago we got the hankering for some down-home biscuits and gravy.

So...Step 1. Peruse the internet to find recipe. for: biscuits, gravy, and...oh yeah, sausage. No Jimmy Dean-ish sausage available.

Step 2. Go to market the week before by 6 AM to get the fresh ground meat. How do you know it's fresh? Easy. It's still warm.

Step 3. Make sausage ahead of time and freeze.

Step 4. When we finally get up the gumption, make homemade biscuits. No Pillsbury Doughboy around here.

Step 5. Thaw sausage, make gravy.

Skye girl's first biscuits 'n two years old.
She loved them. So did we. We'll make more. Next year.
Step 6. Put it all together, and ENJOY!!! Wow, I don't think Jimmy Dean has anything on my wife's sausage. That was some GOOD GRAVY!

Why are we thankful for this?!?

Well, frankly, we both currently weigh less that when we got married, and the fact that it is really tough to procure some of our favorite fatty foods probably has a lot to do with it. When you have to logistically plan out the ingredients and other necessities for making something a week in advance, you tend to eat it a lot less.

Thank you God for unavailable non-necessities! Our life is probably better without them, or maybe only having them once every two years.

And, our second Thank you....those biscuits and gravy were amazing. Thank you God that we can have Jimmy Dean-ish deliciousness at least once in a while!! We definitely appreciated them more than we used to.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Day 27: Health

4 not-so-happy little sick kids watching Charlie Brown Christmas earlier today.
Sometimes, it's the things you don't like that remind you to be thankful for the things you had.
Like Health.
We have been amazingly healthy over this whole crazy year
(our whole three years in the Philippines really)
But it's super easy to forget to be thankful for it...until you suddenly have all four kids sick at the same time. Today, as we dole out the acetominophen, refill water cups as often as possible so the kids stay hydrated, and discover the occasional evidence that someone's last meal didn't want to stay in their stomach, we are reminded...
Be thankful for Health when it's there!! When it's not, you are quickly reminded how much it's worth.
Thank you God, for Health! And please let our kids get healthy soon!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 26: New Christmas 'Jammies!

One of the best parts about having kids this age is....
The kiddos just got 'jammies from grampy and grammy, and they were excited out of their minds to wear them.

So, we're thankful for the new 'jammies---and we're also really thankful to God for the perspective to life that having 4 little munchkins around brings us.
Take JOY in the small things!! Like pajamas with stars and penguins on them!! or seeing the moon! Or a pretty flower! Or dirt! (Skye told the moon good night tonight...and we've never even read her the book.)
Sometimes we all need a little bit more child-like wonder in our lives....and hanging with our fab four reminds Brooke and I to look at things like a kid again. It's so much more fun to experience life through their eyes then let our jaded 3+ decades of life experience get in the way of WONDER!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Day 25: Milo 10-K Triumph!

Today, I ran my very first 10K...part of the Milo Marathon series...
If you had asked me 6 months ago if I thought I could do it...the answer would have been unequivocally "NO"!  Actually, before I started this morning that would have been my answer too. haha
But I did it...I finished and I ran every step of the way.  I had fantastic running partners...Dra. Briones and Ninyo...a friend and our trainer from Muay Thai.

All smiles...getting ready this morning for 10 kilometers of running fun. (mostly fun)
After the race with some of my Muay Thai friends.

The doctora, our Muay Thai trainer, and me after our 10-K triumph! :) We ran every step of the way, even while the doctora was answering phone calls from the hospital!
By the way...we represent 3 decades...20s, 30s and 40s. 

And, where else would you celebrate your first ever 10-K?
So, today...I'm super thankful that I was able to finish the Milo 10k. 
Thank you, God...for allowing my body to hold up.
Pictures stolen from Ninyo.  :)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Day 24: My Personal Wonder-Woman

So, Brooke is off with her Muay Thai friends doing a 10-K run this weekend...It's part of the Milo Marathon series, for those who know about that--

And, I am at home taking care of the Fantastic Four--they are asleep, the internet finally came back on, so I'm doing the Thankful post today all by myself.

And, I am thankful to God--for my wife. The mother to the Fantastic Four could be no less than a bona fide Wonder Woman. And, she is.

One of my super faves from our beach wedding...Hon, you looked 12 years old. Now that you've had 4 look 21. And more beautiful than ever.
Our marriage has been this: Together for 9 years, blessed with 4 kids, lived in 3 countries, studied 2 languages, and followed 1 God together, and He has kept us together through some pretty crazy times.

Brooke is kick-boxer strong, super-intelligent, awesome cook, great mom, and oh, did I mention....she's totally hot too.

Our life together is far from easy, full of stress, super busy, running after kids while working on the language program...and somehow with God's help she holds us all together.

Thank you God--- for this woman. (and thanks also to my in-laws--they apparently did a really good job) :) I am truly blessed

Love you hon.

Hope your race is great. The boys expect you to win a gold medal. They told me so.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 23: Mapleine

So, this morning, we used up the last of our maple flavoring.

That is something that we have never seen in stores here. (Maybe it exists...we just haven't found it yet.) But anyway, we ran out.

And, this afternoon, we got a text that a BIG box had just arrived for us! (That always gets the entire household very excited.)

We got it, opened it up, and...yup. Mapleine.

There was tons of other cool stuff in the box...everything from coffee to salted nut rolls to cheese, Christmas presents for the kids and lots more. 

But it was pretty special to run out of something that we all love....pancakes with maple syrup is the most highly requested meal in our house...and get it in a box from our loved ones at home that same day.

This Thanksgiving we really missed family, but something like that makes them feel a little closer.

Thanks to all the family members who contributed to our box!!

And Thank You, God...for working out the timing of that.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day 22: Pagpasalamat!

Maayong Adlaw sa Pagpasalamat!  Happy Thanksgiving Day!
Squanto, Miles Standish, an unidentified Pilgrim woman and a little turkey! :)
Thanksgiving day is almost over here....but for our family in America, it's just beginning.

We just finished celebrating our fourth thanksgiving in a row here in the Philippines--And we miss our family in the US, but we are very thankful for the chance to celebrate with friends here. And to teach them a little about our culture.

Some old family friends, Brooke's Muay Thai friends, our helper, and Wendel rounded out our Thanksgiving table. Welch's sparkling grape juice added some festiveness!

Pumkin and Pecan Pie are real treats....cuz we get them about twice a year. This also could be why we have both lost a considerable amount of weight while living here...

Skye has gotten pretty used to Kuya Wendel (our language helper) being around every day. He's gotten really used to American food.

Finishing it off with pie and homemade whipped cream....Brooke is an awesome cook. (Brian is writing this. Promise.)

Brooke and her Muay Thai friends-- Doctora Briones and Ninyo. They and other Muay Thai friends are doing a 10-K this weekend, they just started carbo-loading a little early.

And, Dave and Cora---they are friends of Brooke's parents and have known Brooke since she was a little kid.
We still miss family, but we are so thankful for friends, food, and fun. Sadly, no football, but the Vikings have given us little to be thankful for this year...