Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Vigil for GG Isabel

Our prayers and thanksgiving this Easter Vigil are dedicated in a special way to T's grandmother, 
our GG Isabel.

On Tuesday, GG Isabel went home to be with the Lord. 

As Aunt A wrote beautifully in memory of GG, "she will be remembered by many as a loyal friend, an avid bridge player, a dedicated member of her community, and a true embodiment of Christian love."  Though we have lived far from GG for the past 7 years, she sent us a loving card at each holiday and never missed an opportunity to encourage us over the phone.  T and I are both blessed with lifelong memories of her example as wife, mother, grandmother and friend.    

This year, as we celebrate Christ's Resurrection, it will take on special meaning for us.  GG is a powerful role model of faith in our lives.  In faith and hope, we look forward to praising God by her side in heaven forever.

"When I come before the judgment throne, I will plead the promise of God in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  I will not plead any work that I have done, although I will thank God that he has enabled me to do some good. I will plead no merits other than the merits of Christ, knowing that the merits of Mary and the saints are all from him; and for their company, their example, and their prayers throughout my earthly life I will give everlasting thanks. I will not plead that I had faith, for sometimes I was unsure of my faith, and in any event that would be to turn faith into a meritorious work of my own. I will not plead that I held the correct understanding of "justification by faith alone," although I will thank God that he led me to know ever more fully the great truth that much misunderstood formulation was intended to protect. Whatever little growth in holiness I have experienced, whatever strength I have received from the company of the saints, whatever understanding I have attained of God and his ways--these and all other gifts I have received I will bring gratefully to the throne. But in seeking entry to that heavenly kingdom, I will, with Dysmas, look to Christ and Christ alone.  Then I hope to hear him say, "Today you will be with me in paradise," as I hope with all my being--because, although looking to him alone, I am not alone--he will say to all." 
-- Richard John Neuhaus, Death on a Friday Afternoon

Friday, March 29, 2013

Images from our Good Friday

Our covered cross, cup from last night, red candle and "crown of thorns" made by the kids.

We finished our Stations of the Cross eggs tonight.  The kids have loved doing this evening activity with T and me for the past week.   It has been a wonderful way to introduce them to the Way of the Cross.

 G-Bear's plate at the end of the evening:  Poor thing has a stomach bug, was able to eat her noodles but couldn't finish her hot cross bun, even though she wanted to.  Talk about walking with Jesus on this Good Friday!  What a reminder that Easter preparations go on in the midst of real life.

The kids' Lent calendar, along with their bean basket:  They have worked so hard to add beans to their basket this season, offering to help clean up, assist each other, or follow instructions with greater attention.  We always hope for lots of jellybeans in place of the black beans on Easter morning, which as you can see from the calendar, is only one day away!

May God bless us all on this Good Friday.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mysterious Patience of God

"The patience of God is a mystery!  
How much patience he has with us! 
We do so many things, but He is patient." 
 ~Pope Francis, March 25th 2013

I once commented to a mentor, "patience is not my virtue."  I meant, of course, that I didn't consider the virtue of patience to be one of my personal strengths, but my mentor paused at my statement.  "Patience  is certainly your virtue.  God has called all of us to exhibit the virtue of patience.  Patience may not come easily to your temperament, but it is certainly your virtue."  

I certainly benefitted from the corrected perspective.  But, I still struggle to be patient on a daily basis.  Perhaps this is why Pope Francis' Gospel homily on Monday was particularly encouraging to me: 

"The emblem of the infinite patience that God has for man 
is reflected in the infinite patience that Jesus has for Judas.  

In today's Gospel (John 12:1-11),  Judas Iscariot criticizes Mary 
because she "took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard 
and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair." 

Jesus did not say: 'You are a thief.’ 
He was patient with Judas, trying to draw him closer through patience, his love. 

During Holy Week, we would do well to think of the patience of God,
 the patience that God has with each one of us, with our weaknesses, our sins.

"The patience of God is a mystery!  How much patience he has with us! 
We do so many things, but He is patient.

Let us think of our personal relationship, in this week: 
How patient has Jesus been with me in my life? 
Just this.  And then the words will rise from our hearts: 
'Thank you, Lord! Thank you for your patience.'"

~Pope Francis, Gospel Homily
March 25th, 2012
Holy Week

Thank you, Lord!  Thank you for your patience.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Monday, March 25, 2013

Holy Week 2013

Holy Week has arrived!  Our final days of Lenten observance and Easter preparation lie before us this week.

There are so many wonderful ways to make this week special and meaningful for our family.  I have had to make an effort to be realistic and narrow down my ideas to those that are most age appropriate for our crew and my (waning!) energy level (36th week of pregnancy this week!).  As I began my planning, I found a very helpful Holy Week Meal Plan Overview from Catholic Cuisine.

As for our Holy Week, this is my plan.  May the Lord bless us with a deeper understanding of His love and sacrifice for us!

Monday~Preparation Day
Braised Chicken and brussels sprouts from Everyday Food Magazine

Tuesday~Preparation Day
Lentils Tarka with basmati rice from Madhur Jaffrey

Wednesday~Preparation Day
Veggie fried rice from Southern Living Magazine with potstickers

~Maundy Thursday~
Remembering the Last Supper, Jesus' night in the Garden, Jesus' trial
Lunch: Praying Hands Pretzels from Catholic Icing
Dinner: Remembering the Last Supper
Meatloaf Muffins (remembering the roast lamb) from Cooking Light Magazine
Spanikopita (remembering the unleavened bread and bitter herbs for the adults)
Crackers and celery sticks (remembering unleavened bread and bitter herbs for the kids)
Juice in "chalices" (remembering the wine)
*Craft: Praying Hands from Sowing Mustard Seeds

~Good Friday~
Keeping Vigil at the Cross
Lunch: Cross Sandwiches from Catholic Icing
Dinner: Hot Cross Buns from Spoonful
Jam & Water (remembering the blood and water from Jesus' side)
*Craft: Making Crown of Thorns by Catholic Icing

~Holy Saturday~
Awaiting the Resurrection!
Breakfast: Resurrection Rolls from Eat at Allies
Lunch: Leftovers and salad
Dinner: Onion frittata from Martha Stewart Living
(I will be blowing out egg shells to decorate, so we'll need to use up the eggs!)
*Craft: Easter Story Cookies from Catholic Icing

~Easter Sunday!~
He is Risen!
Easter Story Cookies (from last night)
Peep pancakes from I.E. Ice Cream (too fun to pass up)
Ham & fruit
Easter Dinner with Family!

Blessings on your Holy Week!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cookies, cookies, everywhere

Our MoMo really outdid herself this time.

On Tuesday, while I was testing, MoMo helped us out by picking G-Bear up from school.

Our babysitter was a little concerned when G-Bear wasn't home for lunch 45 minutes after her class dismissal time.  After all, we only live a mile from the school.  

I had forgotten to warn our babysitter about MoMo.

To be sure, MoMo and G-Bear were foot-loose and fancy-free. They were driving around the neighborhood looking for their favorite treat spot.  

When MoMo finally dropped G-Bear back home for lunch, she left G-Bear with a giant bag of loot from the bakery.

"Just a few cookies for the Bears," said MoMo.

When I got home and examined G-Bear's haul, my jaw dropped.  
MoMo had sent G-Bear home with four types of cookies, filling two boxes,
 plus a third box filled with a half-dozen cupcakes!

MoMos do not give up sweets for Lent.
They make sure that their grandchildren don't either.

MoMo kindly called later in the evening to ask me how the test had been.
She also was kind enough to ask if the kids had come down from their cookie-induced sugar high.

T asked MoMo what prompted the massive purchase.
MoMo replied,
"Oh, well, G-Bear was standing at the glass counter admiring all the cookies for the longest time.  
When I asked her which one she wanted, she said 'MoMo, I need a minute, I am having such a hard time deciding.'  MOST kids her age would have said they wanted more than one, but not G-Bear!  She just needed another minute to decide.  She was just so sweet about it that I couldn't resist asking her which ones she liked and just getting them all."

I think G-Bear and MoMo have figured out each other.

Feel free to stop by our house for a cookie. ;)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Test Week

This week I am taking the last step of the board exam for medicine.   This Lenten season has required a lot of disciple on my part to study, as well as plenty of prayer to keep myself from worrying.  Finishing strong takes on a special meaning for me this week, as I look forward to completing the test right before  Holy Week.

We have been blessed by the support and prayers of Nana, MoMo, Papa and so many others.  Even G-Bear and E-Bear said prayers for the test last night.  When I come home exhausted at the end of each test day, I am extra thankful for T, who has been through this before me and has a hug at the ready.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Here, leprechaun, leprechaun....

I shouldn't have been so surprised last week when G-Bear came home with an assignment to make a "Leprechaun trap."  After all, our city is quite proud to celebrate Irish heritage in the days leading up to St. Patrick's day.  In spite of the fact that I have never seen a leprechaun trap, much less created one myself, I think we did a pretty good job.   E-Bear really didn't want to miss out on the craft, so he made one too.  In the end, this is what we concocted:

G-Bear's leprechaun house
Inside the tube, we glued popcorn kernels as pretend golden nuggets.  G-Bear was quite pleased.  To ensure the success of her trap, she even attached a note.  It read:

"Der LepRcon, thes es not A LepRcon trAp ths is A Hos For A Leprcon."
(Dear Leprechaun, this is not a leprechaun trap, this is a house for a leprechaun.")

When in doubt, make your prey feel at home, right?  Perhaps then he will be persuaded to stick around and play!  I liked her approach.

To my knowledge, no leprechauns were caught, hurt or maimed in this kindergarten class project.  G-Bear was a tad disappointed that she didn't catch a little green fellow, but she took solace in the golden chocolate coin that someone kindly left on her leprechaun house while her class was at library.  

When T saw G-Bear's project at the end of the week, he wondered why we didn't just print off a picture of Miami's Sun Life Stadium and send G-Bear to school in her 'Bama cheerleader outfit.  
Too bad he didn't make that suggestion earlier.

To balance out all the irreverence ;) we'll be sure to talk this weekend about St. Patrick's heroic life story and his efforts to teach others about God by using the Irish shamrocks to symbolize the trinity

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Too young for compassion? No way, says Aunt K!

Aunt K is an inspiration to our family for many reasons, but I think her recent Lenten efforts to encourage generosity and compassion in her young brood are worthy of special note.  You can read all the details about the Joyful Noise Family's Lent project here.  To summarize, for Lent this year the Joyful Noise Family is learning about one problem in the world every Sunday as well as one organization that is trying to help address the problem.  In addition to praying each week for people affected by the problem, the kids will get to help decide which organizations receive donations from their family at the end of Lent.

It is meaningful to me that the Joyful Noise Family is only slightly older than ours.  At this tender age, there is often a tension between protecting our children from the harms and sad realities of society and exposing them to the truth of a fallen world so that they might learn positive processing skills as well as virtues like compassion and generosity.  The encouraging part about this project is the positive effect it has had on the Joyful Noise Kids.  Thanks to their parents' planning and some careful thought over age-appropriate problems to introduce, the kids have embraced the project and are excited to help make the world a better place for others.

Thanks to Aunt K for sharing this project and the positive responses they have seen from their kids.  I am so thankful for examples like this as we strive to grow in generosity as a family.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Habemus Papam!

I hope that I am always able to remember this day with fondness.

T called me 15 minutes after the white smoke appeared to let me know that 
"Habemus Papam!"

Such sweet words during this season of Lent!

E-Bear, Buddy Bear and I were out running errands together before picking up G-Bear from school.
I was so eager to explain to them the great significance of today.

Pope Benedict was elected the same spring that I was confirmed into the Catholic Church.
We share a birthday.
He was the Pope to shepherd the Church during the first years of our marriage, our years of medical training and for the births of our first three children.  I trust his discernment and choice to step down,  yet I was still a bit sad to see him resign from his papal post.  We are so thankful and grateful to God for his leadership and example.

When we picked up G-Bear this afternoon, Pope Francis had JUST been introduced.
I gave her a big and asked her if she had heard the good news.
"Yes," she replied, "we have a new Pope."

We rushed home and watched videos together of the white smoke and Pope Francis' announcement.
The kids may not remember this day, but I am sure I will.  

May our new Pope, a man who seems to be known for his humility and compassion, inspire all of us to embrace and follow Christ with greater submission and resolution.  Pray for him that he may be an example of Christ to the world and lead the Church into greater love for God!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Grocery Bag

*Sigh.*  Nana had departed and another week is about to begin.  Time to get back into the meal planning groove!  This week is food shelf collection week at our church.   As we prepare our contribution, I am reminded to pray for families who hunger and to thank God for the blessing of having food to feed my family.  Thank you, Lord, for our daily bread.

Day One
Moroccan chicken and butternut squash soup from Cooking Light Magazine
with homemade rolls
Photo and recipe from

Day Two
Hamburger stroganoff from Cooking Light Magazine
with green salad
Photo and recipe from

Day Three
with basmati rice
Photo and recipe from

Day Four
Tortellini with broccoli and pesto
with mixed green salad and homemade bread

Day Five
Curried lentils in tomato sauce from Everyday Food Magazine
with basmati rice and steamed peas
Photo and recipe from

Blessings on your kitchen this week!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Day in the Life of Buddy Bear

What could be cuter than....

a little boy who sleeps face down with us bottom in the air?

What could be sweeter than.....

a little boy who can't wait to get out of bed to greet his big brother with a morning tackle?

What could be bolder than.....

a little boy wearing his big brother's red cape and Lightning McQueen suit, racing around
the living room with arms outstretched and a "WHOOOSHHHHHH!"


a little boy who lays the couch pillows on the floor, 
just so that he can jump head first off the couch onto them?

What could be more humorous than....

a little boy who sits up the giant stuffed bear, gets a running start from across the room,
and tackles the bear into the floor?

What could be more contented than....

a little boy who asked to take a break in his bed
with his paci, his blankie, his monkey and his baby?  

What could be angrier than......

a little boy brought inside from playing in the backyard snow,
even if he's soaked and has been out there for over an hour?

What could be more excited than....

a little boy invited to watch Sesame Street, or Daniel Tiger, 
or Thomas the Train with his beloved siblings.

What could be calmer than....

a little boy snuggled on the bed with Mommy
reading his bedtime story.

This little boy is our Buddy Bear.  He is closing in on two years, living everyday to the fullest.  He'll keep you on your toes and love you to your knees, and he's got all of us wrapped around his precious little fingers.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Song in the Snow

This week, we weathered another winter storm.  The snow plows have only now fully cleared our neighborhood streets, but that hasn't kept us from work, school or playtime with Nana.

On Tuesday, as I walked in the snow to the library to study, I noticed something strange.  The only sound to interrupt the silent snow fall was the sound of birds singing.  We don't hear many birds during the winter (most are smart enough to fly south!) and no one could mistake the inclement weather for an early spring thaw.  Yet, here were the birds chirping in the midst of our winter storm.  Their song was startling to me in a way that it wouldn't have been if the day had been warm and sunny.  After all, one expects to hear birds chirping in the loveliness of spring.  The joyfulness of the birds' song was quite out of place in the context of the winter storm, however, which is what made it so curious, so wonderfully noticeable, so irresistible.

A light shines brightest in the darkness, doesn't it?

There are so many storms in our world today.  The storms are personal, they might be within our families, they are certainly societal and global.   In spite of these storms, God has a song of Good News for each one of us to "sing" with our lives.  His song is a message of love and peace, of truth and hope and mercy, shown perfectly to us in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  When we live according to this message in spite of the hardships and storms of life, our lives can be just as striking to others as the birds' song was to my ears this week.  The true joy of the children of God is a stark contrast to the storminess of life.

Lord, make my life a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.   May it ring true and joyful for my family, my friends and everyone I meet.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Daybook for March 2013

As always, thanks to the Simple Woman's Daybook for providing the Daybook inspiration.

Outside my window...There is a full blanket of icy snow. Tonight we're bracing for another winter storm watch with more snow expected tomorrow. How different the month of March will be for us this year in Minnesota than last spring in North Carolina. If we can't enjoy the pleasantries of spring weather yet, at least we'll get to enjoy making a few more snowmen!

I am thankful...that Nana is here for a visit. A whole week with Nana stretches before us, and I couldn't be more thankful. The kids have already enjoyed a day at the museum, lunch at McDonald's and afternoon games of Sequence. Nana is like a warm blanket, someone you just can't wait to have around you.

In the kitchen...all is calm, quiet, clean and ready for a new week. Nana did the dishes tonight while T and I gave the kids their baths, and thanks to her, the kitchen is spotless. Maybe I'll mess it up again to make banana bread.....

I am college sweatshirt, but it barely covers my belly! With only 7 weeks to go until the baby's due date, maternity clothes are key.

I am creating...this wonderful Stations of the Cross Egg project from Catholic Icing for the kids to enjoy during the last 14 days before Easter weekend. Each day leading up to Good Friday we'll open an egg and read a Station of the Cross from the St. Joseph Coloring Book.  These will be a wonderful way to introduce the Stations of the Cross!

I am be studying a lot this week. I have scheduled my last medical board exam, and with Nana here, I'll take full advantage of the opportunity to study.

I am wondering...who this sweet baby is going to be.  There is a lot of activity in my belly these days, as this little one puts on a few pounds for the final stretch.  In true Happily Ever Johnson fashion, we have no gender suspicions and no names picked out, just great anticipation.  Buddy Bear already loves to give the baby hugs and kisses, and he routinely points out the "Baby" in my belly to me.  We can't wait to welcome this Little One.

I am reading...The Jesus Storybook Bible and By the Shores of Silver Lake with the kids.  This Laura Ingalls Wilder book is the fifth one we have read together, and we love them.  E-Bear pretends to build houses and ride horses like Pa, G-Bear can recount a chapter with impressive clarity, and I can't wait until bedtime to read another chapter.  We're all so impressed and inspired by the Ingalls family's daily discipline, intrepid resourcefulness and authentic cheerfulness despite the hardships of their life.  Hopefully, a little of the Ingalls family will rub off on each of us.

I am pass this last board exam.  It would be a tremendous blessing to bring closure to this last testing step before Easter, the onslaught of April birthdays, and the baby's arrival.

I am looking forward to...MoMo and Papa's safe return from their trip with friends.  Sundays are not the same without them!  The kids can't wait to tell Papa about all the flowers blooming on our Spring Garden that he gave to us.  G-Bear wanted to show MoMo the lovely dress that she wore to church today.  Since we couldn't enjoy Sunday dinner together, we took GG and Nana to brunch instead.  We want you to have a wonderful time, MoMo and Papa, but we can't wait for you to get home!

I am to sit and study for an exam again.  Normally I sit so little during my day, and my attention is re-directed so frequently.  Attempting to sit and focus for a few hours at a time is a very foreign pursuit, and it takes quite a bit of discipline!  Thank goodness it is Lent and self-discipline is part of the seasonal focus.  I am thankful and amazed that the material returns to memory more quickly than I expected.  After all, it has been some time since I thought about coagulation pathways, and managing diuretic side-effects is no longer part of my daily routine.  Thanks be to God, He meets us in our weakness.

Around the house...the boys' train set out on the floor in the playroom, a make-shift puppet theater is in the living room, our prayer chain is getting longer, the bean basket is filling up, and new paintings hang on the kids' art wall.

I am pondering...our priests' exhortation during his message today:  "Are we like the fig tree, delayed in bearing fruit for Our Lord?  Let's not procrastinate any longer!  Carpe diem!  Let us seek the Lord now and bear fruit for Him."

A favorite quote for today... 
Buddy Bear (at the top of his lungs): "MOMMA!  MOMMA!"
Me: "Yes, Buddy Bear?"
Buddy Bear (holding his finger up to his mouth and pointing to my belly): 

A few plans for the rest of the week:  We'll go to the grocery store to fill up bags of food for our food drive, attend our second-to-last ice skating lesson (what progress the Bears have made this season!), play with Nana, and hopefully, with a lot of encouragement from the Lord, press on in our Lenten disciplines.  The long march through March has begun.  May Jesus be our strength for the journey.

A peek into our days:

Buddy Bear's first attempt at skating was over President's Day Weekend.  We just couldn't keep him on the sidelines any longer.  He was thrilled.