Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Home Firsts

One of the best parts about a new home are the first moments.

Today the bears and I watered our first lawn.  We were up early!
G-Bear held the sprinkler, E-Bear carried the hose, Buddy Bear toddled around in the showering water.


This afternoon we enjoyed our first playtime in our new playroom.
It isn't up to my standards quite yet, but it holds great potential.
Buddy Bear was especially grateful to find a room with familiar favorites.
He has been missing our toys.


Tonight we officially opened the kitchen up for dinner.
It wasn't a home cooked meal, but it was close. 
The best part was sharing peaches and ice cream with the whole family on the patio,
a sweet blessing of making our home in Minnesota.

Moving the Johnsons is like moving the Titanic: it's slow going at first, but then we really settle in.  
 Soon, we'll be hitting our stride. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Boxes, boxes everywhere....

....but at least they're off the truck!

Our moving truck came yesterday, and we are now swimming in boxes to unpack.  The movers make moving look so easy!  After doing it ourselves five times, I know how hard their work really is.  We were so thankful for their help and expertise this time around.  After only three hours, the truck was unpacked!

Now it is our turn to do the heavy lifting.  Our first job was to make up the kids's room, so that E-Bear and G-Bear would feel right at home for their first night in our new house.  And wouldn't you know, there are plenty of closets big enough for Buddy Bear's bed.  He'll feel right at home!

There are more pictures and tales from our journey to come.  For now, it's back to unpacking these boxes!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

The Wild Things have nothing on us.

The Bears are delighting in MN visits from their Boston and Seattle cousins.

We have seven kids, five years and under, to keep busy around here.

Hopefully the Cabin can hold all of us for the weekend, and its walls will still be standing on Monday!

We'll keep you posted :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We Made It to Minnesota!

Safe and sound, we are here in Minnesota!

We made it

crossing six states,
five Johnsons in tow
four plants stowed
(shuttled to the car roof for each pit stop!)
three days of driving,
two nights of resting,
(one in Louisville and one in Wisconsin Dells!)
one jam-packed car of fun!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Fruits of the Spirit Summer Project

This time of year, the hard work of summer begins to pay off.  Summer's bounty is at it's peak.

Yummy tomatoes at the North Carolina Farmer's Market

Here in Happily Ever Johnson Land, we've been hard at work too, and we're excited about our bounty.
We're celebrating a different kind of garden harvest, though.
 Behold, our Fruits of the Spirit Garden!

Our Fruits of the Spirit Garden

Our Fruits of the Spirit Garden has been a summer-long project for us.  I am really excited to be able to share our progress over the summer.  The inspiration for our project centered around Mandy Groce's free, online "Fruits of the Spirit" coloring book, found at Ministry to Children.  Ministry to Children is a wonderful, free children't ministry resource website.  We love their coloring pages, Bible story lessons and craft ideas.  I was also inspired by the fun learning lapbooks that Jessica of Shower of Roses makes with her children.  Finally, thanks to our little herb garden for inspiring us to create another out of the "spiritual fruits."

Part I.
After Pentecost last June, we started talking about the Fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  Against these there is no law."

We talked about how, just like soil, water and sunlight help tiny seeds turn in to a garden of beautiful flowers, fruits and vegetables, the Holy Spirit helps the seeds of faith in our hearts turn into visible "fruits" in our daily actions and interactions.  These visible, spiritual fruits don't appear as cherries and bananas and apples, but instead show up as things like love and joy and goodness and kindness in our daily lives.

Our conversations were a great way to personalize the meaning of Pentecost and the visible work of the Spirit in our family life.  I used Mandy Groce's Fruits of the Spirit coloring page as a visual aid for E-Bear and G-Bear.  
G-Bear's Fruit of the Spirit folder

After the kids colored their pages, we used them to make covers for our Fruits of the Spirit folders. 

E-Bear's Fruit of the Spirit folder

Part II.
For the second part of our project, we took a few weeks to focus only on the first fruit of the spirit.  To help us do this, we made "Love Charts."  I printed off Mandy Groce's "Love" coloring page for each of the kids.  As they colored, we spent an afternoon talking about ways that the Holy Spirit can help us be more loving people.  We made a list of examples of things that the kids could do that would be loving.  Then, we hung the Love Charts on our wall along with a bag of special stickers.  For the next several weeks, every time the kids made a choice or did something that was loving, I tried hard to recognize it by thanking them and asking them to put a sticker on their Love Chart.  Pretty soon, the kids were recognizing loving behaviors both for themselves and for each other.  Before we knew it, their charts were full, and we added them to our folders. 

G-Bear and E-Bear's Love Charts

Part III.
Next, it was time to give attention to the other eight fruits.  Thanks to Nana, we found a great song to help us memorize them: Fruit of the Spirit by Brentwood Kids   My kids love this song!

To help us cultivate all these fruits, we painted an empty egg carton to represent our "garden."  We had work to do.  It looked pretty barren!  I carefully sliced holes into the top of each egg basket.

Our Fruit of the Spirit Garden
Then, I helped the kids assemble little "fruits" that I had cut out of construction paper.  They got to glue the pieces together, decorate them with leaves, and decide which spiritual fruit each stick would represent.

We wrote the name of the spiritual fruit on the fruit sticks and inserted them into slits that I had cut into their folder pockets.

Over the next several weeks, when the kids did something that represented one of the spiritual fruits, they were allowed to get their fruit stick out of their folder and put it in the garden.   This was a great way for me to reinforce examples of each of the spiritual fruits in their actions.  They were also able to look at our garden at the end of the day, recognize the fruits they had "grown," and focus on the fruits they had yet to display.  On our harder days, I could point to our barren garden and show them a visual example of how we needed to 'grow' more spiritual fruit for our family.

Part IV
To reinforce our ongoing gardening project, we made mini Fruits of the Spirit "Gardener Coloring Books" out of Mandy Groce's online coloring book.  We spent several afternoons coloring in the coloring books, talking about the pictures and how they represented particular spiritual fruits.  Then, we added them to our folders.

I also gave the kids a new page of special stickers, so that if they displayed a fruit of the Spirit during the day, and had already put the fruit stick in their "garden," then they could add a sticker to the corresponding fruit page in their coloring book.  

This brings us to the end of our summer and the completion of our Fruits of the Spirit project.  

Our finished Fruits of the Spirit folders

Overall, I am happy with the things we have learned and the ways we have grown together.  In focusing on the Fruits of the Spirit, I grew just as much as my kids, if not more.

I can't wait to get to our new home and set up our garden in another prominent spot.  After all, you can never have too much spiritual fruit!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Moving Day

Tomorrow is moving day.
The truck has been packed.  It left us yesterday.
Our home here in North Carolina is barren and quiet.
It is strange that a place which has been so full of life can look so empty.

Our living room the evening before the movers arrived

As we say our goodbyes with misty eyes,
I am finding great comfort in the things the movers haven't packed, can't take away.
The heart of a home is not the couches, the toys, the dishes, the chairs.
The heart of the home is something we make ourselves, together.

Our apartment mantel
 No many how many moves, 
to the ends of the earth,
He is with us,
and I'm coming with you.

I love you, T.

Thank you, Lord, for our year in Winston Salem.

Friday, August 17, 2012

What I'll Miss About NC: T-3 Days Until Moving Day

It's time to say goodbye to our North Carolina favorites.  There is so much that we will miss about living here!

Our Favorite Places to Eat:
Chick-fil-a for special lunches, dinners, date nights

Our Favorites Sights & Sounds:
Singing birds in the morning
Chirping crickets at night
The flowering trees all times of the year

Our Favorite Outings:
Mr. Gary and Miss Paula's office to get a mint
Miss Carolyn's Music and Movement Class at the Central Library
Walking up to the park while wearing shorts in March

Our Favorite Visitors:
Our neighbors
Our friends
Miss Emily
O and EB
Friar Bill
The Maintenance Superheros

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Rich G-Ville Memories

Our final stay with the G Family in G-Ville was truly a treat.

The G's and the J's, great buddies one and all.

 It is always hard to say goodbye to dear friends. We did our best to have a great time in the process.
Can you believe that we decided to brave Busch Gardens with eight kids in tow? 
We were so glad that we did!
We had a great time!

The Sesame Street Forest of Fun was our first stop.  

We were lucky enough to meet Elmo, Zoe, Grover, and Abby before tackling the rides.

The roller coaster was our favorite ride.  We couldn't get enough. 
If you look closely, you'll see we all have our hands in the air--even E-Bear and G-Bear!

Buddy Bear and MG took in the sights from the stroller.

Buddy Bear and his friend MG.

These two were quite the cute duo!

Stormy weather sent us running to the cars before the adults could do any of the big coasters.  I guess that's just another reason why we'll need to plan a return trip (as if the G's friendship and awesome hospitality aren't reason enough)!

On Sunday we joined the G's for Mass at their church and then enjoyed their tradition of donuts with Sunday Brunch.  The G's involvement in their church and community has paid dividends of friendship and wonderful relationships, which was special for us to see as we anticipate our new life in Minnesota.   They are great examples to us!

Thank you, Lord, for good friends and great times in G-Ville!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Popcorn Balls

We have a new favorite pantry clean-out snack:
Popcorn Balls!

Who knew pantry clean-out could be so yummy?
Who knew these little buggers would be so easy to make?

It only took us fifteen minutes, start to finish, to whip these up,
with lots of delicious snacking to follow.

The super-easy recipe is from Martha Stewart, and you can find it here.  


What I'll Miss About NC: T-6 Days Until Moving Day

During our training years in Minnesota, we almost never traveled.  All that changed when we moved to North Carolina last summer.  Suddenly, the world was our oyster, and we had new found freedom and free time to explore it.  Our travels have been many this year and have made for some spectacular memories.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Before our first month was over, we had traveled to Chapel Hill three times to visit the cousins.
It was the beginning of a great year together.
We hightailed it to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a weekend of relaxation away from the heat.
Blowing Rock, NC was our family's first vacation alone together.
The trains at Tweetsie Railroad and the views from Grandfather Mountain stole the show.

The kids started preschool, but that didn't stop us!
We traveled to Chapel Hill for football game days with the cousins.
Our first (but not our last!) working trip brought us to Boston, where we enjoyed a visit with Aunt K, Uncle T and the crew while T attended a conference.  What fun!

October quickly became our month of reunions, each one so sweet. It had been years since we had been able to see many of our dear college friends and roommates, and we soaked up the time to reconnect and refresh together.
We traveled to DC for a mom's Girls' weekend and a wedding.  In her characteristic style of flair, MoMo took the kids on a whirlwind tour of our capital city, and they still talk about it today.
We traveled to Virginia for T's Guys' Weekend as well as family time with the G-Ville crew and best college buddies.
The kids and I finished the month by traveling to MN for Halloween and the beginning of my interview gauntlet.

Let the interviews and holidays begin!
The interview week in Minnesota allowed us to soak up the crisp fall weather and time with Minnesota family and friends.  Papa's pumpkin never looked so good, and MoMo's hospitality reigned supreme.
We celebrated Thanksgiving North Carolina-style in Chapel Hill with the cousins.  T traveled by his lonesome to Disney for the basketball team.  Don't worry, we saved him a plate! :)
I finished off the month by traveling to St. Louis with Buddy Bear for another interview.
We slept on the floor of the Cincinnati airport for most of the night due to flight delays.
I think I learned a lesson or two, but I loved the interview all the same.

The kids and I made our epic drive alone to Alabama for another week of interviews.  We survived!  Thankfully, Nana, Aunt A and Uncle B were there to catch us and save us when we arrived in a fluster.    We saw family and friends in Birmingham, Florence, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa.  What a tour!
From Alabama we drove up to meet all of T's family in Blue Ridge, GA for a family Christmas weekend.  It was our first Christmas gathering all together in over five years, and it was spectacular in so many ways.  We're hoping for many more in the future.
We barely had time to repack before we were off to Minnesota for a Christmas visit!
MoMo & Papa's house was busting at the seams, and that is just how we like it :)

Sure, most travels drop off in the new year, but not for us!
We just couldn't miss 'Bama's Big Game in New Orleans.  We made the pilgrimage to the Big Easy in true Roll Tide style and we all had a blast in the process.
The kids and I hung around Alabama to finish off my interviews.
By the time we got home, we were ready to stay a while :)

Our magical Disney vacation was everything that we had hoped for and more--a true dream come true.  I cried as we left, I had so much fun.  With MoMo, Nana and Papa along, we had the time of our lives.
Just as we got home, T's travel schedule heated up with the basketball team.  
He handled it like a champion.

Could it be that we went a full month without traveling?  As long as you don't count T's cross country jaunts with the basketball team, it was true.  We braved march from the comforts of home.

With spring in the air, we traveled to Alabama for another visit and interview weekend.  Our family of 'Bama fans was quite content to spend the A-Day game  together in Tuscaloosa.

Easter weekend with the cousins in was yet another holiday treat.  

We celebrated our anniversary and Mother's Day early with an impromptu trip to Hilton Head.
What a dream to park the car upon arrival and bike for the rest of the weekend!  The kids still beam when they spy people wearing t-shirts from the Salty Dog Cafe: "Mommy, look, that's the Salty Shirt!"

We traveled to Houston to be with our friends for their daughter Annie's birth.  It was a time of sadness, strength, love and hope.
We headed north for a Rockport reunion with MoMo, Papa, Aunt K, Uncle T & the cousins.  What food!  What fun!  What fellowship together!
Back to Alabama, this time to Florence, we made time for fun at Nana's house with the cousins.  We got out the race car, splashed at the splashpad, rode the boat on the river and soaked up all things Florence. 
Back to Minnesota for a big interview weekend, we made the most of the pool, time with baseball buddies, and gathered info to make a decision for the coming year.  

We travled to G-Ville for another rocketing rendezvous!
We took in the sights and fun of Baltimore while T attended his last conference of the year.  We had so much fun while T was hard at work :) We even saved a little fun to share with him in the evenings when he was done.
Our last few trips to Chapel Hill for cousin time and birthday celebrations have been bittersweet, because we know they are coming to an end, for now.  We have loved the I-40 trek this year.

We couldn't leave NC without one final trip to G-Ville.  Gosh, we love having time with good friends, especially friends that are such wonderful hosts!  We have been so grateful for the fellowship of this year.
Our move is coming up!  After all our travels, we'll be ready for our cross-country trek.  

Whew, I am exhausted, excited and extremely grateful just remembering our travels this year.  What spectacular blessings each trip has offered, thank you, Lord.  We may never see another year like this one, which is just one more reason why we'll treasure these memories.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Grocery Bag

Here we are, beginning the last week before our move.  The bareness of my pantry rival's that of Old Mother Hubbard!  Thankfully, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve and a few pantry staples to use up.  Here are my ideas for the week.

Day One
Fettuccine with bacon from Cooking Light Magazine
with spinach salad and berries
Photo and recipe from

Day Two
with carrot sticks and peaches

Day Three
Veggie fried rice from Cooking Light Magazine
with spinach salad and orange slices
Photo and recipe from

Day Four
Tortilla soup with black beans  from Everyday Food Magazine
with chips and salsa
Photo and recipe from

Day Five
Tomato bacon linguini from Tasty Kitchen
with spinach salad and apple slices
Photo and recipe from Tasty Kitchen

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What I'll miss about NC: T-10 Days Until Moving Day

There is so much I am going to miss about our sweet little apartment here in North Carolina. 

Before the burgeoning piles and moving boxes drive me crazy, 
I'd better record a few of my favorite things.

I'll miss...

The cherry tree outside our bedroom window, the way it makes me feel like I sleep in a tree house

Mom and Dad's room.

The walk to Mr. Gary's office every afternoon to get the mail and a mint with my kids

The way I can pass dishes from the kitchen across the counter to the dinner table

The kids room, where G-Bear and E-Bear slept.

The quiet of the carpeted floors

The kids room and E-Bear's bed.

Learning time, reading time, art time, dinner time, or any other time out on our porch

Our view out over the parking lot and playground, because we always know who is coming and going

Buddy Bear's crib in our hall bathroom (because it won't fit anywhere else!)

Shhhh...don't wake Buddy Bear in the hall bathroom!

The gathering of our neighbors on the stoop every afternoon, in a way that never happened when we first moved here

Washing dishes, watching the kids play on the porch

Our playroom window, filled with our crafts

The playroom in action.

Our playroom, and the hours of fun we've had there together

Cooking breakfast pancakes on the porch because it's already too hot to cook in the kitchen

Swimming in the pool, especially with our friends