Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, 
from the 
Happily Ever Johnsons!

May the joy of the Father, the love of the Son, and the peace of the Spirit
be with you and your family this Christmas Season.

Happily Ever,
The Johnsons

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Joys of Our Advent

Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent!  Christmas is almost here!

As we light our fourth Advent candle today, I am tremendously thankful for the past week and all the blessings within it.

Gaudate Sunday

Gaudate Sunday was truly a joyful day for us.  Our dear Buddy Bear was baptized at our new parish!

Buddy Bear did a great job with all the attention he received.  We were so blessed to have all grandparents, Uncle C and Aunty Cindy present, as well as loving godparents praying for him from afar.  His siblings looked on with excitement, especially delighted that he was given a baptism candle like theirs.

Afterwards, MoMo and Papa hosted everyone to brunch to celebrate!  We toasted "our new creation," Nana's arrival and the wonderful Advent season so far.  It was a Gaudate Sunday we'll remember for a long time.

A Visit from Nana
Nana arrived last weekend in time for E-Bear's birthday.  We have been in heaven ever since.  I can't think of a better Christmas gift for our family.
Nana reading to the cousins during our Christmas reunion.
With Nana in town, I have been able to enjoy Mass alone each morning this week (after dropping G-Bear to school, and while the boys enjoy staying home).  The kids have enjoyed prolonged story times and afternoon games of Candy Land and Sequence.

We have gone ice skating, parade-watching, and T and I have even enjoyed a night out together.   Every meal is special, every moment more like Christmas with Nana in our house.

Christmas Cookie Baking Day
On Wednesday, the kids and I continued our annual tradition of baking Christmas cookies!  The traditional rules still applied, which made it sane and manageable for everyone involved.  

The kitchen was filled with fun and laughter as we rolled the dough, cut the shapes, baked the cookies, and finally frosted and decorated them.  Again this year, Smarties made an appearance on a few cookies,

 and if you look carefully you might see a Lightning McQueen cookie shape, although we agreed they were harder to identify once baked. :)  

Truly, this has become one of my favorite Advent afternoons.  The delicious cookie creations are always a nice reward, but the best part is watching the kids work so hard to make them.

Last School Days
E-Bear and G-Bear had a wonderful final week at school.  
G-Bear's class visited our parish's nativity to sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus as part of a school Birthday party they hosted in His honor.  
G-Bear with her kinder class, singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.
E-Bears preschool class impressed all the parents at their Christmas program. He and his buddies sang his heart out in renditions of Christmas songs, complete with jingle bell necklaces!  Afterwards, a surprise visitor made a special appearance, and we all enjoyed Christmas cookies.  

What more could we ask for?  We are ready for Christmas!  
May the blessing of these holy days be with you and your family.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday to you, E-Bear

Our Neverland boy is another year older today. 

Dearest E-Bear,

Happy Birthday to you, dear boy.  Today we have had a wonderful day celebrating you .  These days, amongst you and your siblings, birthdays are considered the pinnacle celebration.  So this morning when you woke up, I thought you might burst with joy as you leapt out of bed, so excited that your birthday had finally arrived.  After all, you have been talking about having a Peter Pan birthday for months now!  I knew you were enjoying yourself when you said this afternoon, "Mom, this is the best day EVER!"  Nothing could have made me happier.  You are so precious to us, sweet boy.  We are so proud of you.  You have a tender heart for others, a memory that routinely astounds, a love of saying your prayers and greeting the Lord, and an imagination that runs wild.  Your little brother looks up to you and loves to wrestle, your big sister adores you as her best buddy.  As we look back over the year, there are so many wonderful moments that we have enjoyed with you.  Here are just some of the highlights:

January: We started your fourth year with a trip to New Orleans for the BCS National Championship game.  You learned to say "Roll Tide!" to strangers walking by in Alabama gear.  LSU fans called you the "cutest tiger bait" they had ever seen, as you walked down the street in your Alabama sweatsuit.  During the game, you ran down the hotel hallway with Nana each time the team scored.  A true fan was born, both respectful of others and committed to your team.  

February:  You wowed us on our first trip to Disney.  You walked endless miles with excitement and no complaints.  You enjoyed a kiss from a princess (Ariel), shows with Nemo, Peter Pan, and Mickey, and every parade we could muster.  You would much rather wait in line for an autograph than a ride, and as a result, we got to meet just about every character.  For the rest of the month, we enjoyed rainy day tent play, endless hours coloring, making valentines and Lent crafts at the art table, and the only snow day of our year in North Carolina.  You and G-Bear were so excited to make a snowman in the morning, and thank goodness we did -- by the afternoon, he had melted.  

March:  You love to go to basketball games and cheer for the Deacons when Dad is working.  You are always so well behaved at the games, sitting riveted on the action, cheering enthusiastically, waving to Dad throughout the game.  You are a big helper around the house with your play tool box, you love to play with your "little toys" and play dress up to go visit Mr. Gary in the afternoons.  After a hesitant start to the preschool semester, you have really hit your stride.  You have great respect for your teacher, Mrs. Perkins.  It is always a treat to pick you up from school, because you have a big hug waiting for me each day.

April:  You helped G-Bear blow out her birthday candles and hunted for Easter eggs with your cousins for Easter weekend.  You can petal a bike by yourself now, unless we're on a big hill, and then you ask for a "boost."  We enjoyed watching the A-Day game together in Alabama, playing at playgrounds with Aunt A and Uncle B, and playing with Colby the puppy.  Your favorite day of the week is Thursday, because you love to go to "Bible School."  Your favorite lunch spot is Chick-fil-a, especially when Daddy can get away from work to meet us.  You almost always turn your toy in for an ice cream treat, unless the toy is a book, in which case you pass on dessert.  You aren't napping much these days, and your paci has been long gone since the winter months.  Both are sure signs of your growing up.

May:   We journeyed to Hilton Head together, where you and G-Bear toured on your bikes and in the bike carrier.  You two rode miles together!  We picnicked on the beach, ate at the Salty Dog, and admired the harbor boats.  We said sad good-byes to your preschool teachers at the end of school year picnic.  You loved Memorial Day weekend, playing pirates and Peter Pan at O & E.B's house.  

June:  You are quite the swimmer in the pool with your "floatie" life jacket!   We traveled to Rockport, where you learned to write your name on the beach and played for hours in the sand.  You loved surprising Daddy with a birthday party, welcoming him home from a work trip at the airport with screams of delight.  We make a joyful reunions with Momo & Papa in Minnesota (you and Papa remain best buddies) and Nana & cousins in Alabama.  

July: You were tired, but we managed to stay up late enough to watch fireworks with friends Matthew and Mea.  Each afternoon we do Learning Time on the porch, and it seems to be your favorite time of the day.  We finish our Fruits of the Spirit Garden, and you are excited to "grow" more of your fruits everyday.  With Daddy, we venture to Baltimore, where you love the dinosaurs at the science center, playing games at the Oriel's ballpark and visiting the train museum.  Amidst all the summer traveling, you and G-Bear never complain about sharing beds, long drives or plane trips.  You are quite the travelers, experienced in the security line, each carrying your own backpacks on your back.  Lots of people notice too, and you deserve all the compliments that you get.

August:  We make one last trip to see our friends in G-Ville.  You loved having so many boys to play with!  Come moving time, you handle the frenzy very well.  We soak up our last visits to Mr. Gary's, as well as birthday parties with Mr. Peter, Miss Jessica and other neighbor friends.  I know that I will miss eating lunch together out on the porch, watching friends walk by and hearing you greet them enthusiastically.  Your smile from the porch brought light to the lives of so many people.  At the end of the month, we say good-bye to Alabama, and you color, sing songs and read stories on the long car ride back to Minnesota.

September:  Welcome to our new home!  You and G-Bear make yourselves right at home.  You are so excited for your first day of preschool at G-Bear's old school.  You are right across the street from her school now!  We quickly settle into a new routine.  You love to wear your Batman & Superman shirts, any pants without buttons, and especially shorts.  You love playing the carnival games at the local church festivals, and you enjoy the stroller rides with Buddy Bear to pick up G-Bear from school.  You and Buddy Bear are growing closer now that he can chase and wrestle with you.  He admires you so much.

October:  We make our second trip to Disney, and this time you are ready to ride the rides!  You especially love the roller coasters and the Hula dancers at the dinner show.  Back home, you wear your Halloween costume for weeks, a super Spiderman outfit complete with mask.  You and G-Bear run from house to house on Halloween, collecting huge piles of candy.  Each night, you are delighted and grateful to get to choose one piece for a treat.  Your candy bag with last for months.  Your friend Charlie invites you for your first playdate, and you have a wonderful time.

November:   These days, you have become so good at explaining things about your day to us.  You have a big hug for me at the end of your school day.  You are intent on following the rules at school and learning the rules of our family.  The mornings are sometimes early, but you are always excited for school and excited to hear about G-Bear's day when we pick her up together.  We enjoy Thanksgiving up at the cabin, and the turkey is your favorite part of the meal.  

December: You are writing your name and lots of other words too. You love letters, numbers, saying our address, singing songs, doing art project with G-Bear in the kitchen, going to the library and helping me unload the cart at the grocery store.  You can buckle your car buckle, rake leaves, shovel snow and put on your boots all by yourself. 

E-Bear, you are so full of animation, so full of life.  You are our family superhero with your love of adventure and impulse to protect.  Although you are young, you have a strong faith in God, trusting Him to keep you safe when faced with something frightening.  I love our home mornings together, watching Daniel Tiger, eating snacks at the table, and watching you play trains with Buddy Bear.   You are a tender big brother to him and a best buddy to your sister.  Your snuggles and hugs make my day.  Thank goodness that you offer them often!  Today, as we enjoyed Neverland in the dining room, Peter Pan crafts, dinner, cake and presents, I couldn't have been more thankful for you.  Daddy and I love you so much, and we are so proud of you.  We pray that in the coming year, you will grow in both wisdom & stature, in favor with both God and men.   

Sunday, December 9, 2012

First Week of Advent

Our favorite Advent coloring pages are by Mandy Groce at

Here we are, a week into Advent already!  Where have we been?  What have we done?  
How can it be that we have no Christmas tree up yet??
I assure you, we have not been slouching around.  
In Advent, there is no time to waste, only time to prepare and celebrate.  

December 1st-2nd
First Sunday of Advent
Last weekend, we welcomed Advent in a truly special way: we joined four dear Princeton friends in Michigan!  We celebrated with an afternoon children's play, enjoyed an adults-only night of dinner and dancing, and finished with Advent Sunday at our friends' Coptic Orthodox Church service.  

December 3rd-4th
 Time to decorate! Our wreaths are hung, indoor lights glistening, mangers out, lanterns lit, guest room bed assembled and cozy, Advent wreaths and Advent Jesse Tree up!  Somehow, even without touching the thermostat, the house feels warmer.

December 5th
E-Bear and Buddy Bear had a final morning with our graduate student friend Miss Lauren, who has babysat several mornings this fall for us as we became acclimated.  We will miss her so much as she leaves to write her thesis!  The boys spent the morning in style, making a cardboard box sleigh, playing trains, coloring advent pictures and eating lunch.  Meanwhile, I shopped for shovels and guest room trimmings during my last morning free time!

December 6th
Feast of Saint Nicholas

We woke up early to leave for a trip to Georgia for Johnson Family Christmas.  What did we find in the kids' room, but a new snowglobe and gingerbread cookie treats to enjoy on the plane.  Usually we celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas by doing Giving Tree shopping, which had to be postponed this year due to our trip. Once in Georgia, we celebrated with Chick-fil-a nuggets and peppermint chocolate chip milkshakes with Nana.  Quite a feast day celebration, if you ask me.   

December 7-8th
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Thanks to Uncle L's generous invitation, we joined all the Johnson siblings and grandkids in Blue Ridge, GA for Johnson Family Christmas!  E-Bear and G-Bear went ice skating for the first time and loved it.  It was the highlight of the weekend, according to both Bears, followed closely behind by "the Robin Hood movie" (G-rated Disney version, I assure you) that they got to watch while the parents enjoyed a Christmas-quality dinner together on Saturday night.  The kids slept in the bunk room and did endless crafts and projects thanks to Aunt K and Aunt H.  We rode the Blue Ridge Mountain Railroad, singing Christmas carols and ringing jingle bells all the way.  And thanks to Aunt A and Uncle B, we all donned pink and light blue to find out the gender of their soon-to-be-first-born babe via a surprise, color coded baby cake!  We can't wait to meet our new *niece* this spring!  As Aunt K said, 'I have never been to a gender-revealing party before, but man, was that fun.'  I agree.  

December 9th
Second Sunday of Advent
After a wonderful weekend of family time, cabin relaxation and seventy-degree mountain weather, we returned home today to a snow storm!  Boy, were we glad that I bought those shovels last week!  The kids couldn't wait to put on their new snow weather gear, complete with new snowpants, snow boots and long-sleeved, waterproof mittens ordered by T.  After being horribly underprepared for our Thanksgiving snow, we were ready today.  We armed ourselves with our shovels and headed outside into a winter wonderland, nine snowy inches deep.  Buddy Bear could barely walk until T shoveled him a path.   He tickled me by pointing to the ground, yelling "no! no!", so proud that he could identify the new white stuff all around us.  The kids couldn't stop eating fistfuls of the fluffy white snow.  We barely shoveled our walkway in time to head to church, soaking wet and exhausted but so happy.    

So, as I attach a second paper flame to our paper Advent wreaths, I am thanking God for our first week of Advent and two fabulous weekends with dear family and friends.  This week we're preparing for a birthday (E-Bear!), a baptism (Buddy Bear!) and a Christmas visit from Nana (hooray!).   In keeping with my previous Advent resolution, the blog will be quiet this week, but you can believe we'll be trying to make the most of the extra time in quiet preparation for the Christ-child.

Happy Advent!