Death by giant pumpkin

Jamie may not have grown a record-breaking giant pumpkin this year but his friend Joe did. But here’s the thing with Joe: he grows for the sheer love of competing in the weigh-off and and immediately cuts up his pumpkin after to preserve the seeds. When I caught wind of this, I performed what might be the first ever Giant Pumpkin Rescue: I bribed him with my famous pumpkin bread to let us keep it. And that he did. It’s such a shame for him not to put it on display for all to see!

Joe generously donated his pumpkin to us yet again this year–a 1,404-pound whopper. He was disappointed it wasn’t a state record but it blew away the competition.  Our friends at 9News weren’t able to send a photojournalist to cover the weigh-off so they used Jamie’s footage in their news coverage. The man is practically famous!


They loaded the pumpkin with a forklift onto our neighbor’s trailer that was attached to my SUV and it will sit in front of our house for all to enjoy through Halloween.  Here’s the problem, though. The pumpkin was so  heavy that we couldn’t detach the trailer from my car, which is an awkward thing if you need to go somewhere and have to take a 1,400-pound beast along for the ride.

Jamie tried to raise up the hitch with the jack from his car and asked me to hold it, frequently criticizing me anytime I let it move.

Me: “Wasn’t there a recent story in the news about a husband killing his wife when the jack of his car failed and the car fell on her?”

Jamie: “Actually, it was the wife who killed the husband.”

Me: “Consider yourself warned.”

Only at our house

As I was preparing dinner, Jamie warned me:  ”I need to leave soon. My buddy Joe needs some help weighing his tomato.”

No amount of forewarning can ever prepare you for that.


Addendum. I posted his comment to Facebook and this was his response:

Allegedly a new state record tomato, thank you. This could be history in the making! A historic event. As a result a new strain of tomatoes could be developed that could feed nations!!! Tens of thousands of starving children in Africa saved from the small and simple sacrifice of time for weighing this tomato!!!! The humanity, the humanity. I don’t wish to be praised for my unselfish act however. Just knowing that some small child will be able to sleep tonight with a full belly is satisfaction enough. Thank you and God bless America!

Please pray he doesn’t add tomato to his giant vegetable/fruit growing obsession! :-)

What a Colorado State Record tomato looks like

Servitude in the pumpkin patch

I haven’t posted many updates on our giant pumpkin growing season because there’s not much to tell. We definitely won’t have any record-breaking 1,000+ pound pumpkins.

What a week of no water looks like

The season started great and the plants had never looked better prior to pollination despite a month of non-stop rain.  Then due to a plethora of reasons like cracked vines, dogs eating the pumpkins and other fun things, pollination on the plants was late, which means we’re really far behind on growth.

The first pollination (early July) was cranking along nicely and then one day, dropped off dramatically when Jamie figured out the sprinklers hadn’t been working for an entire week! The second pollination was super late (only two weeks ago) and the pumpkin is only the size of a volleyball right now–usually our plants should be gaining 35-40 pounds per day.

Oh, the heartbreak that is Giant Pumpkin Growing.

The kids’ plants aren’t faring much better. Bode’s pumpkin was pollinated a week before Hadley’s but her pumpkin is rapidly catching up due to good genetics and the fact she actually weeds her patch. Though Bode is diligent in watering, he was on vacation for the entire month of July so his patch is a jungle–there are literally weeds as tall as he is. I helped him weed this morning and it was nearly impossible because many of the weeds are actually wrapped around the pumpkin vines so I was nervous to pull anything that might be detrimental to the pumpkin’s growth.

Weeding was a tedious, thankless task. It’s a good thing Bode is smart because he was not made for manual labor.

“Mom, I want to have a butler like Aunt Lisa.

“Aunt Lisa has a butler?”

“No, I want Aunt Lisa to be my butler.”

While the cat’s away

My friend Stacey commented that I haven’t written much about giant pumpkins this year. There hasn’t been much to share. Jamie’s season started splendidly and then growth slowed significantly with all of Denver’s rain. When the deluge finally subsided, his pumpkins rebounded beautifully…until he moved the main vine a couple of weeks ago and it split. In Pumpkin Geek Speak, this mean he’ll have to designate another main vine and it will delay pollination a couple of weeks, which means two less weeks of growth before the weigh-off.

That was a sad, sad day.

I called him last week from Canada and couldn’t get a hold of him for 24 hours. It made me wonder if absence really does make the heart grow fonder but ultimately decided it’s more like “when the cat’s away, the mice will play.”

When I finally got a hold of him, I asked where he’d been at 10 p.m.

“I was at a pumpkin pollination party.”

Some questions are better left unanswered.

The Man. The Myth. The Legend

I’ve been working with the Cub Scouts for about six months. I’m still rather clueless and despise the record-keeping element of it but really enjoy hanging out with 9-year-old boys every week, probably because they’re around my same mentality.

On the way to Scouts the other day, Bode and his buddy Bryan were having a belching contest which, had it not been so disgusting, would have been impressive. Bryan observed, “Bode, your belches are louder but mine are juicier.”

I don’t even want to know what that means.

We’re in charge of a carnival for our entire Pack so we’ve spent the last few weeks preparing our carnival games. Because it seems like we’ve been working on these projects forever, I wanted to give the boys something else to look forward to so listed off some of our future activities.

“And then we’re going to the Majestic View Nature Center and also going on a one-mile hike. The week after, we have a very special field trip: We will be visiting with the Pumpkin Man who will teach us about composting.”

A new boy Jacob queried. “What the heck is the Pumpkin Man?”

Acting insulted, Seamus retorted, “YOU DON’T KNOW THE LEGEND OF THE PUMPKIN MAN?”

It won’t be for much longer.

And so it begins

The Johnson Family’s Sixth Annual Giant Pumpkin Season kicked off on April 15 with much excitement and fanfare.

Well, as much fanfare as you can muster when soaking a pumpkin seed in water, filing it down, placing it in a moistened paper towel and transferring it into a pot with bacteria-rich soil.

A few weeks ago Cheerleader Jamie sat the family down to watch Rise of the Giants, a (you guessed it), documentary about growing giant pumpkins.

One of the men in the video said something like, “Yep, my wife knows she’s played second best to my pumpkins for the last 20 years.”

I pointedly glared at Jamie.

“Look on the bright side, Amber. You only have 14 years to go.”

The Shower Shimmy Says “Good Morning America!”

Since Jamie and I agreed to help our rockstar friend Karla Call launch her invention the Shower Shimmy on Kickstarter last month, it has been one wild ride. From media coverage to blogger campaigns to wading through the deluge of potential distributors to meeting her fundraising goal on day 1, it is apparent people are ready for the world’s first 3-in-1 shower cleaning tool with environmentally-friendly cleaning solution.

And why wouldn’t they be? When I look at all the inventions out there, the Shower Shimmy is such a no-brainer, why has this not been invented before? I absolutely love mine and that is really saying something because I normally despise cleaning my shower.

Good Morning America contacted Karla last month about potentially appearing on their segment “Shark Tank Your Life” to pitch her product to one of Shark Tank’s investors. It was a frenzied few days as she submitted a video, which the producer loved but she was ultimately not chosen.

On Monday, she received the news from Good Morning America that they want her to appear on Friday morning! I’m crazy nervous for her but regardless of how the segment turns out, she is receiving millions of dollars worth of free exposure.

Ever the good friend, my best advice I gleaned from my own national TV experience with Jamie on NBC’s “The Marriage Ref?”

Don’t go up against the Great Pumpkin. You will always lose.



It ain’t over ’til it’s…wait. It’s never over.

Lest you think giant pumpkin growing season is over, you would be wrong. Jamie still gazes longingly at the pumpkin patch, obsesses about which seeds to grow and what names he’ll give his pumpkins.

I can guarantee he never put as much thought into naming our children.

Side note: Once upon a time, I had a co-worker with the two most darling kids named Hadley and Geoffry (Geo for short). I decided then and there I would swipe those names and informed Jamie of that fact shortly after we were married. His response:

“I’m fine with Hadley but no son of mine is being named after a crap car.”

OK, then.

(See how Bode got his name here).

Several months ago, I was bombarded with emails and Facebook alerts from friends informing me that Rise of the Giants, a feature documentary following the 2013 race to grow the world’s largest pumpkin, was being released in Utah. I’m sure Jamie had dreams of seeing it but alas, the movie commute was a bit long.

Enter last week: I heard his “whoop!” of delight as he raced in from the mailbox to show me this DVD that had arrived in the mail:

We’ll just call it “How the Pumpkin Man Survives the Off-season.”

Merry Christmas!

If you read my blog, our annual holiday newsletter is old news to you. But I assure you, Fat Kitty has never looked better.

Merry Christmas!

If 2014 could be summed up quickly, it would be non-stop travels for the first six months and the other six were spent recovering with little/no travels. We’re so grateful for both and most importantly that we have had minimal health crises this year and no hospital visits (wood is currently being knocked).

Our year was unprecedented for travel and will likely never be repeated but what a blast we had! I attended a media event in Denver for the Maui Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and was thrilled when I won a trip for two! The coincidence? The only other time I’ve been to Hawaii was when my dad won a trip for two to Hawaii through work. Fortunately for my siblings and our kids, we let them tag along and truly fell in love with that island paradise as it was our favorite trip ever (see all the fun here)and I’m now moderately obsessed with buying a cabin there someday.

Just as we were recovering from Maui, I was asked to attend the Disney Social Media Moms, an invite-only, highly-sought-after conference at Disneyland so we decided to splurge. And Disneyland isn’t the same without family so we surprised the kids by waking them up the morning of our departure. For once, they did not complain about being woken up early.

One of our favorite ways to play is skiing and this past year we’ve been to Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, Crested Butte, Copper Mountain and Park City Mountain Resort...and have many more ski trips planned for 2015. One of our favorite experiences was dog sledding for the first time in Breck!

And, of course, the kids and I spent our month-long vacation in Canada and the Western United States. Jamie joined us for a week at the lake with my family in Vernon, B.C. and we had a fantastic time boating. Usually our Canadian adventures are a reprieve from Denver’s searing heat so we won’t comment how it was actually cooler in Denver during our lake retreat.

Now, onto family matters.

Hadley (age 10, fifth grade)

Hadley grew leaps and bounds this year…literally. Her huge growth spurt over the summer launched her to the top of the class in height and continues to send us scrambling to replace all her clothes, which is challenging because she hates 99% of what she sees in the store. She has a wicked sense of humor and a large group of friends at church and school. She hates math and piano and enjoys handwork, travel, art, violin, pumpkin growing (hers weighed 401 pounds), Minecraft and crafts. Her favorite class trip ever was a three-day class camping trip to the Great Sand Dunes National Park where she was the second-fastest kid to summit the highest dune in North America (a bit perplexing because she’s always the first-slowest when it comes to leaving the house). For volleyball, we bumped her up to play with the 6-8 graders and she has had no problems keeping up the big girls. She’s a mountain goat hiker and is ready to be challenged on the big peaks (we just need to get our act together to take her), is moderately obsessed with bouldering and is constantly heckling the rest of us to keep up with her during her crazy traverses. She’s a great skier, is learning to tackle the moguls and we had a fabulous mother-daughter trip to the slopes in February during her school break. She loves the water and, despite her protests to try wakeboarding, popped up on her first try and now does it like a champ. Though she and Bode would never admit it, they’re besties and play wonderfully together 93 percent of the time; no comment on the other 7 percent nor who is the instigator for the fall-outs.

Bode (age 8, 3rd grade)

Bode’s big news is he got baptized in August surrounded by both sets of grandparents. He’s a happy, kind and thoughtful kid who has two emotions: joyful (most of the time) and sensitive (usually during the aforementioned fall-outs). He’s a whiz at math and a regular receiver of “Star Awards” at school yet has barely legible handwriting. He is recovering from an addiction to Calvin and Hobbes and Clash of Clans and he thrives on being responsible–he even sets his alarm early for school so he can be “extra-prepared.” For his eighth birthday, we threw him a surprise party where we hired Rolling Video Games Denver to come to the house and we invited all his friends for a two-hour video game marathon that was deemed “the best party ever.” He’s intrinsically more cautious than his sister but battled his fears and did an awesome job wakeboarding, cross-country skiing and a high-ropes course for the first time. Named after Bode Miller, he continues to rock the ski slopes and went on one of his first mogul run last week. When I asked him it was terrifying, he confessed, “A little bit,” and I can’t blame him because I sometimes feel the same way. He plays the piano non-stop, enjoyed growing his 325-pound pumpkin, loves Cub Scouts and is gearing up for his first Pinewood Derby where it will be revealed just how competitive his father really is. Bode went on his first six-day overnight camp to Camp Chief Ouray with Hadley last summer and had the time of his life. As smart as he is, he still puts his shirt on backwards but loves to snuggle up so I’m relieved he’s not growing up too fast, even if he sometimes acts like a responsible 40-year-old man in an 8-year-old body.


The Pumpkin Man had his his worst pumpkin-growing year ever and lost both of his plants to yellow vine disease in August. Despite that setback, he was able to preserve one of them long enough to make it to the scale and it topped 500 pounds. We were sad we wouldn’t have a real giant pumpkin to display so rescued his buddy Joe’s from being axed and it just happened to be the biggest grown in Colorado this year. Jamie had a blast taking the pumpkins around to the area schools and had a ton of media interviews–he was even featured front page on The Denver Post’s YourHub. But his most memorable pumpkin moment was when he decided it would be fun to dress up as The Pumpkin Man, hide inside the pumpkin, and terrorize trick-or-treaters on Halloween. Fortunately no law suits were filed and we only had one casualty when he made Spiderman cry (watch the hilarious video here). His web development business continues to add more people to the team and we’re grateful business is growing (unfortunately so do his stress levels). At church, he’s the Stake Technology Clerk and the Priest’s Quorum Adviser but most importantly, a wonderful husband, father and mortal enemy to superheroes.


As for me, I continue to juggle trips, kid’s activities and working from home. I’ve taken over the business/advertising side of Mile High Mamas, which has confirmed I’d much rather be writing. And traveling. And hiking or skiing. But unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to make much money from those exploits so in the interim I’ll just dream of more playtime. I’ve become more of a regular contributor on 9News and have done segments on everything from travel tips to Halloween treats to their ugly sweater Christmas party on Friday. I was released as the Primary pianist at church and am on my way out the door for Public Affairs as I’ve been called as an Akela of the Cub Scout Bear Den. I am also an aspiring dodgeball player and if this writing gig doesn’t work out, I hope to go pro in the future.

Fat Kitty

Fat Kitty is the only serious one in the family. In addition to napping for 23 hours a day, he enjoys decapitating the occasional mouse, eating grass until he pukes and annoying Jamie. He also decided to get in shape this year and his favorite exercise is a cross between a lunch and a crunch.

Some people call it lunch.

Christmas Wishes

This time of year, we’re especially grateful for our many friends, family and for our our Savior. Have the happiest of Christmases is our Christmas wish and gift to you!



The Johnsons

Woman Giant Pumpkin Growers: They’re Not All Murderers

Jamie recently had his Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers Group Christmas breakfast. He looks forward to their socials and is very secretive about what happens there.

“So, how was your meeting today?”


Did anything exciting happen?”


It’s like talking to a teenager.

He did, however come home with a nice token from the day–a gift box filled with homemade toffee and fudge.

“Who is Annmarie?”

“She’s one of the growers.”

I paused to contemplate this information. The giant pumpkin growing community is 98 percent male and some of the female growers I’ve seen on TV have been a bit on the sketchy side. Case in point: the sordid case of  giant pumpkin grower Debra Sundstrom who murdered her husband and they found his body three years later moldering inside a barrel 25 paces from the back door of their old farmhouse.

You can’t make this stuff up.

“So, this Annmarie was so thoughtful that she brought holidays treats to everyone in the grower’s group? Isn’t that nice.”


“So, did any of the male growers bring something to share?”

“We bring seeds. And we share them. That is what we do.”

Here’s for hoping Annmarie brings a touch of class and not craziness to them all.