Sunday, December 29, 2013

On the Fifth Day of Christmas 2013

On the second day of Christmas, a treasured memory:
Two egg nog slurps...

Two slurps was all it took Buddy Bear to finish his homemade egg nog on Christmas Eve.  
I tried to tell him to savor it, but no avail!  Uncle Scott's recipe is always our favorite! 

...and a J-Bear dressed as Mother Mary.

On the third day of Christmas, a treasured memory:
Three small teeth...

J-Bear's top tooth pushed through on Christmas!  Whoo hoo!  She has been working hard on that one, and now she is eager to use it.  She now loves a nice bowl of applesauce or other sweet fruit.  Sorry, rice cereal, your just too boring for J-Bear.

....Two egg nog slurps,
and a J-Bear dressed as Mother Mary.

On the fourth day of Christmas, a treasured memory:
Four darling Bears....

We give thanks to God this Christmas for each precious Bear.
Coming down the stairs with them on Christmas morning is a joy like no other.
G-Bear was thrilled to find a wished-for doll, E-Bear was delighted by a soccer goal, and Buddy Bear was overjoyed with a set of little trucks.  J-Bear couldn't be happier with the wrapping paper. 

...three small teeth,  two egg nog slurps,
and a J-Bear dressed as Mother Mary.

On the fifth day of Christmas, a treasured memory:
Five close-knit cousins!

It is such a blessing to have Aunt K, Uncle T and all the cousins here for Christmas.
It was hard to make all the big kids sit still long enough for a picture!
The movement and merriment is contagiousable moment together.

The movement and merriment is contagious and cheerfully chaotic.
We are thankful for each and every memorable moment together.

...four darling bears, three small teeth, two egg nog slurps,
and a J-Bear dressed as Mother Mary!

Thank goodness, we have seven more Christmas Days to come. :)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

On the first day of Christmas...

On the first day of Christmas, a treasured memory:

A J-Bear dressed as Mother Mary!

Me (to the Bears, from the kitchen):  
"What is J-Bear up to?"

"I dressed her as Mommy Mary.  I am the donkey, E-Bear is Joseph, and Buddy Bear is a shepherd. 
We're doing a Nativity show!"

I know Mother Mary was young when Jesus was born,
but this may be taking things a bit far ;).

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Wonder is upon us. 

At Christmas, 
the Transcendent became tangible, 
the Infinite became incarnate, 
the Creator became creation.

Joy to the world!

Merry Christmas!

The Happily Ever Johnsons

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Cookies 2013

Who doesn't love a good Christmas cookie? 
Here in Happily Ever Johnson land, we love Christmas cookies.
We also love to make and decorate them.

For me, making Christmas cookies with multiple young children is an annual exercise in 
planning, patience and letting go.  I work hard to achieve all three for our brief cookie-making extravaganza each year.  Provided that I do, we all have a wonderful time. 

I have detailed my Christmas cookie philosophy  in previous posts.  I make (or buy) the dough ahead of time, we roll it out together and the kids get to cut out the cookies themselves.  We have some ground rules, but then I try to let the kids do most of the decorating on their own.  

This year, T showed us how to decorate the cookies with sugar sprinkles before baking. He admitted that he likes the unfrosted cookies the best.

Luckily, we had a bag of cinnamon red hots left from Nana's visit last year.

The finished products looked pretty good. 

They tasted even better!

G-Bear wanted to make sure that we were going to save some to share with Santa.
"But not too many," she said.  "We don't want him to get stuck in the chimney!"

E-Bear was especially proud of his cookies and particularly eager to share.
"You can have one of mine, Mom," he offered.

We baked a second batch without sprinkles in order to decorate with frosting later.  The next day we ventured over to GG's house with cookies and sprinkles in tow.  After caroling together in her apartment, we broke out the decorating supplies!  GG loved it.  She even decorated a few cookies herself (and ate both of them!).  By the end of our afternoon, we had a second lovely batch of cookies to share with our family on Christmas.

G-Bear's favorite was her angel.  
"I can't believe we made FOUR trays of cookies!" She said.

Our cookie making days are always a lot of work, but they make for many sweet returns.  The cookies that we enjoy during Christmas are delicious.  The time we spend together and memories that we make along with the cookies are even sweeter.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Card Assembly Line

Here I sit at the head of our dining room table.  It is Christmas Card Day in Happily Ever Johnson Land.  But, for the first year ever, I have an army of "elves" by my side.  E-Bear is stuffing envelopes, G-Bear is sticking address labels, Buddy Bear is adding coloring touches to each card.

Who knew Christmas cards could be such a family affair? What a blessing.

Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Lego Land Birthday

Last weekend, our dining room was transformed into Lego Land 
for a very special 5th birthday party.

Our E-Bear was turning five! 

 Polka dots and Lego bricks were everywhere!

The birthday boy's table was especially festive.
He had been looking forward to this day for weeks.  

There were also lots of special touches, like a Duplo centerpiece (made by the kids)
E-Bear's name written in Duplos (made by Daddy)
and Lego candy pieces at everyone's place (thanks to Papa).

We woke early for a special breakfast of cereal, whipped cream and sprinkles.  Then it was time to get ready for the party!  E-Bear had chosen chicken fingers, shells and cheese, rolls and canned oranges for the lunch menu.  Gourmet, I know :).

After we enjoyed lunch, it was time to play "Pin the Lego Man on the Tower!"
For our pre-party birthday craft, the kids had colored little lego men cutouts and placed them at each guest's place at the table.  So, after the meal, we were all ready to play.

G-Bear was the first to attempt the feat.  E-Bear followed close behind. 

Next, Papa and MoMo, Uncle Carl and Auntie Cindy too!

Daddy and Mommy played too.  

Not bad for beginners!  Daddy and Auntie Cindy were the winners!

Then, it was time to open presents.  E-Bear was such a gentleman, so excited to open his presents and very kind to show and share them with Buddy Bear once he had opened them.

Our big five year old looked great in his soldier hat!

Of course, there were plenty of Legos and a fun Lego book.

Which brings us to the cake.
E-Bear loved it.  

It was a super day for a super kid.  
E-Bear, we love you.  
What a great day we had in Lego Land!

Happy birthday, dear E-Bear, happy birthday to you!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Happy 5th Birthday to you, E-Bear!

Dearest E-Bear,

You are five years old!  How is it possible that five years ago we were awaiting your arrival with bated breath?  E-Bear, you are now a shining light in our lives, a leader in our family, and a kind-hearted brother and friend.  This past year has been filled with many special memories.  These are a few of my favorites:

January:  You began your fifth year by learning how to ice skate.  I loved watching your persistence from the sidelines of your skating lessons.  At first you could barely stand up, and by the end you were scooting with confidence across the ice!  We spent many of the long winter days making puppet shows, play dough animals and reading stories on the couch.  You always have a great costume in mind for playtime...pteranodons with our fairy wings, pirates with bandanas, making rocketships out of mailing much so that Buddy Bear wants to be just like you in all he does.

February:  It is hard to scold you and G-Bear from making so much noise during rest time, even though I am tired with my big belly and trying to sleep myself.  You love playing make-believe together in your room while Buddy Bear sleeps.  No napping in your room!  Lents starts early this year, and we enjoy reading our "Jesus Stories" in the afternoon together.  Your favorite weekly activity is taking McDonalds lunch to GGs house.  When we venture outside, I marvel at the size of your big red coat and your big fleece hat -- you are swimming in them, so much so that it is hard to get in your carseat buckles by yourself.  I know you'll be grown into them soon, though.

March:  I am studying hard for my board exam, so each week you get a little extra time with our friend Miss Katie.  You love playing monster with her and Buddy Bear, building block towers, making snowmen in our yard and coloring pictures. At school, you have made so many good friends.  You are always looking forward to school days with Mrs. Rogers.  We have a wonderful Easter celebration as a family, and your favorites parts were "cross sandwiches" on Good Friday and making crowns of thorns out of play dough.  Nana makes a special visit and you get your first set of LEGOS!  The love affair has begun :)

April: We celebrated opening day at the baseball stadium by wearing our snow pants and snow coats! It was so cold that there could have been snow on the field!  But that didn't stop you from cheering on "Mr. Josh" and "Papa's Team" of Twins players.  You loved making cake pops with G-Bear on her birthday and celebrating her big day. The two of you are two peas in a pod.  You love to play with your Legos during rest time.  Even though you often get frustrated (it can be so hard for little hands!), your persistence amazes me.  You love to follow the instructions and become more independent everyday.

May: Baby J-Bear came home on the first day, and you love her from the first moment.  You are such a proud, loving brother, always ready to hold, hug and entertain "Baby JJ."  For Mother's Day you helped make and color paper flowers for all the moms at brunch, and Auntie Sharon still has hers on her cabinets. As spring arrived, you helped me cut the lawn with your scissors, helped Papa plant pansies, and toasted said a charming good-bye to Mrs. Rogers on your last day of preschool.  Buddy Bear was so excited to give you a big hug after you got your certificate!

June: Summer arrived and you braved cold mornings in the pool with "Gertie the Guppie" at swimming lessons.  You've always been a selective eater, but you definitely decided that your taco tastebuds had grown in after Dad made them one night for dinner (I think you ate 4 tacos).  When you weren't able to go to VBS with G-Bear, we read the stories and sang the songs together so that you would know every word when she got home.  You have such an impressive memory, always amazing me with what you remember.

July: We enjoyed Fourth of July with GG at her cabin.  You played with cousins Brett and Patty, bravely rode the jet ski, fished off the end of the dock, and slept out in the tent with Papa!  The next week you headed off to Sports Camp with G-Bear, loving every minute of it.  We headed to Rockport to visit your cousins, where you loved playing with Cousin H, playing at the beach, and climbing at the playgrounds.  You were especially impressed by Plymouth Plantation.  While badminton was frustrating, you sure loved trying to hit the shuttlecock!

August:  You've almost finished your pre-K summer workbook by the time August arrives.  You worked really hard on it every afternoon during learning time.  You're listening more closely now when we read Little House on the Prairie books, and you enjoy pretending to be Pa or Almonzo.  When we head to Hilton Head, you had a blast chumming with your cousins, riding in the bike cart, and burying Papa in the sand on the beach. Back at home you loved taking a dance class with G-Bear and eating protopups at the State Fair.  You couldn't wait to choose your Midway rides: the bouncy cars and flying glider were your favorites.

September:  You took one last ride on Papa's boat at the cabin before we headed back home for school.  You were so excited for school to start, especially since this year you knew the routine.  Your two favorite buddies are in your class, which makes for fun afternoons at school.  You got invited to your first friend birthday party -- a Karate class party.  You wiggle less during our mornings at Mass and always look forward to our after Mass treats and mornings at Trader Joe's.  You can hardly wait for the County Fair weekend and look forward to mornings with Miss Mary when I am teaching my class.

October:  You and Buddy Bear are better buddies than ever.  You like to play in the sandbox together, play knights fighting the dragon together, and wrestling on the floor.  Your favorite time of the day remains the afternoon when G-Bear returns home from school.  You can already write so well, and you are starting to sound out words.  You love numbers and the challenge of trying to add them together.  You still love building with your Legos during rest time.  This year for Halloween, you choose to be a black bat and make your own mask.  Halloween night is so fun, as you race from house to house and count your candy with G-Bear and Buddy Bear.  

November:   You are my big helper with J-Bear, as you are always able to keep her occupied, interested and laughing.  No one makes her laugh harder than you do.  You are such a good helper around the house, clearing dishes, putting away the laundry, making your bed, cleaning up toys and setting the table.  When you get frustrated with life, I've noticed how quickly you pull yourself together these days.  You're getting bigger by the day, hitting a growth spurt both physically and mentally.  You enjoy our family story nights celebrating family members and can't wait to travel to Chicago for a friend's wedding.  You are a real trooper on long car rides!

December:  You can't wait for your Lego birthday, because you are really hoping for some new Legos for your birthday.  You continue to have so much fun at school, as a leader and good friend to all your classmates.  You never bat an eye when I drop you off, and you are always thrilled to have me pick you up.  Leading up to your birthday, you were super excited to have an outing with MoMo to get a treat.  As Christmas approaches, you like to blow out our nightly Advent candles, read our Jesse Tree stories, and wear Dad's Santa hat.  Your artwork on our Christmas cards is impressive.  Your attention to detail, both in memory and in practice, continues to amaze me.

E-Bear, we are so thankful for the strength of your spirit and the sensitivity of your soul.  You are thoughtful toward Buddy Bear, remain best buddies with G-Bear, and are a loving protector for J-Bear.  We are so thankful for the ways we see you growing spiritually, physically, emotionally and pray for your continued growth in the coming year!  Dad and I love you so much.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Slowing Advent

Every year, I look for ways to slow down during the Advent season. 
There always seems to be so much to do.  It can be hard to prioritize.

Well this year, our Advent has slowed WAY down.
Thank you very much, stomach flu.

Nothing puts the Christmas craze on hold like the stomach flu.
No one wants to bake Christmas cookies when there is vomit going around.
No one ventures out to shop with all the piles of laundry to be done.
No one notices that the ornaments aren't on the tree yet.
Did I mention that our tree has been up for 2 weeks?

Instead, we've had lots of time for Christmas stories.
We have spent lots of time snuggling.
We've been lighting our Advent candles, 
reading our Jesse Tree stories,
and going to bed early.
We've been praying for each other and praying for others who don't feel well.

When we feel better, we'll really be ready to decorate, celebrate, and take on the season.

Let's just say there is a silver lining to every stormy cloud.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

First Bites

Over Thanksgiving, J-Bear took her first bites!

During Advent, our job has been to try to convince her to do it again ;)

I mean, how can you turn down sweet potatoes?

The first bites went over pretty well.

These days, J-Bear is not so sure.

 She's not shy about letting us know that she'd rather be drinking :)

Sweet girl!  We may just have to wait for table food!

Happily Ever,
Queen B