I wrote a Christmas letter this year.  I never got around to printing it and sending it.  Part of me was too tired and part of me thought others would think I had lost my mind...maybe it was some of both. it is.

Growing up I had a mental image of family.  I guess you would say it was a traditional image.  In fact that image carried into my early adulthood.  Then God grabbed hold of my heart and family became something very different and something very wonderful.  This is us in 2014 and how we are blessed beyond measure.
Denise – I am the head of this crazy family.  I work full-time as a Commissioning Agent/Mechanical Engineer at LEO A DALY in Omaha.  I enjoy the work and they are so supportive of me.  I also volunteered at UNO in the Architectural Engineering department as a Freshman Professional Mentor and as a Mentor for the student competition project the master’s students are doing for their professional society.  This spring I watched the six girls from my small group graduate from high school.  I loved all four years of being their leader and miss them like crazy.  I continue to be a foster parent for the State of Nebraska and regularly get calls for placements.  In my “spare” time I am working on my dream of opening a trauma-informed charter school in Omaha.  The pieces are starting to become more real and I pray God will continue opening doors along the way.

Charlie (Middle Boy) – He started the year as a sophomore at Omaha Burke.  It quickly became apparent public high school was not for him.  After trying independent school through OPS we landed on online high school through the University of Nebraska.  I homeschool the math portion and anything else that comes up, but he is able to do the remainder of the work.  Charlie had a job as an assistant chef in an Alzheimer’s care facility and also as a camp counselor at the YMCA.  Right now he is not working in order to start devoting more time to school.  Charlie has started loving all things country, camoflauge, and anything having to do with big trucks.  His hobbies are working on the Dodge Dakota he bought and making music.

Will (Younger Boy) – Will is a freshman at Omaha Northwest.  He reportedly likes school.  He found his niche this year as part of JROTC.  He is part of both the drill team and the color guard.  He loved doing courtesy patrol at all of the home football games and proudly wears his uniform every Wednesday.  Will got braces this year and has grown over 6 inches.  He sings in the honor choir at school.  He loves youth group, playing with the dogs, and hanging out with Charlie and his friends.

Tyler (Boarder) – What started out as a month long “thing” has turned into over two years.  Tyler is our live-in “manny”.  He has been such a blessing to our family.  He is there when I travel out of town making it less stressful to travel for work.  Tyler recently quit college to join the management training program at QT.  He loves the boys and is like an older brother to them.  He is 25 years old and did I mention he is such a blessing?

Spencer, Aaron, and Cameron – All of these boys lived in our home for a couple of months this past year.  All for different reasons, but they were part of the family just the same. 

Donni (Older Boy) – I became the legal guardian of Will’s biological older brother in September.  He continues to live with the Johnson’s as his caregivers.  He will be 18 in January and is a junior at North Bend High School.  He works part time at Goodwill and is on the school show choir and bowling team.

Scott and Deb – The caregivers for three of Will’s biological siblings.  They have adopted Hayleigh and following some legal work in the spring I will become the legal guardian of the third sibling in their home, Paul.  Paul is medically fragile and there are a lot more details to work through than there were with Donni.  We are all a huge extended family.

Sophie - Sophie is a three-year old Dachshund.  We call her the diva, because she will not go outside if it is too hot, too cold, raining, or the grass touches her belly.  In all other circumstances she needs you to be outside with her and she only eats the light-colored pieces of dog food. 

Max – Max was a sixteen-month old Boxer Lab mix.  He died of a brain tumor this summer.  I miss that big guy every single day.

Si – Si is a 10-month old Westie.  He is quirky and funny.  Unfortunately he shreds and hides things.  He can jump on the counter from standing on the floor.  All qualities which are not becoming in a puppy.  Si loves us with everything he has and makes me smile every time I see him.

Sam – Sam joined the family about a month after Max passed away.  Sam is the calm to Si’s crazy.  He is a protector.  Sam is beautiful and we are anxiously awaiting the results of Sam’s DNA testing.  Right now the best guess is that he is an Australian Shepherd/Cattle Dog mix.  He is gentle and loves to be adored.

Josh – Charlie’s friend who is at our house about 75% of the waking hours he is not at work or in school.  His dad has actually asked for a child support bill.

My biological family – Everyone is well.  We are all getting together between Christmas and New Years.  As my parents wrote in their Christmas letter no one has changed jobs or moved this year.  No new kids either.  Just a pretty good year.

That’s us.  My family.  God has blessed me beyond measure.  We were able to have some great adventures this year.  We went to Chicago over spring break and met my sister and her family there.  We attended many KSU home football games.  I think one of the highlights was attending the Garth Brooks concert in Minneapolis this fall.  I have never seen “my fraternity” filled with so much joy.