Saturday, June 29, 2013

God's Intervention in Our Lives

Yesterday morning, all the Bears and I attended Mass as part of G-Bear's VBS finale.  This was a feat that should not be overlooked.  It is quite worthy of its own post.  I was so thankful, we made it through  the whole Mass!  J-Bear slept, Buddy Bear sat quietly (!!), E-Bear and G-Bear even joined in on a few of the prayers and knelt once or twice.  But, I am digressing.

The readings for today were taken from Genesis 17 and Matthew 8.  The first reading recounts God's promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah while the Gospel recounted Jesus' curing of a leper.  This afternoon, I read part of a beautiful homily that Pope Francis offered, reflecting on the protagonists of the two readings and the way that God acts in our lives:

“The Lord slowly enters the life of Abraham, who is 99 years old when He promises him a son. Instead He immediately enters the life of the leper; Jesus listens to his prayer, touches him and performs a miracle...
..."When the Lord intervenes, He does not always do so in the same way. There is no ‘set protocol’ of action of God in our life. Once he intervenes in one way, another time in a different way but He always intervenes. There is always this meeting between us and the Lord....
..."Life’s troubles at times become so dark that it makes us want to come down from the cross.  This is the precise moment: the night is at its darkest, when dawn is about to break. And when we come down from the Cross, we always do so just five minutes before our liberation comes, at the very moment when our impatience is greatest.....
....“He tells us exactly what He told Abraham: 'Walk in my presence and be blameless', be above reproach, this is exactly the right word. Walk in my presence and try to be above reproach. This is the journey with the Lord and He intervenes, but we have to wait, wait for the moment, walking always in His presence and trying to be beyond reproach. We ask this grace from the Lord, to always walk in His presence, trying to be blameless'.”
~Pope Francis, June 28, 2013
Homily at the chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae

I have been so slow to learn this lesson in my life.  I have needed to hear this message so many times.  I will likely need to be reminded of it again.  Today, I'll start by thanking God for intervening in my life, according to His perfect timing rather than mine.

Friday, June 28, 2013

This Day in Happily Ever Johnson History: Splash pad!

Remember this?

Little G-Bear checks out the splash pad.

Three summers ago, we ventured to our first Minnesota splash pad. 

This year, we're back and bigger than ever!

On a hot day, there is still nothing better for us than a splash pad.  J-Bear and I can sit on the side or wade into the water, Buddy Bear can explore on his own, and G-Bear and E-Bear love running through the fountains just as much now as they ever did.

E-Bear then...

E-Bear now

 Pretty awesome.  
Also, look who's wearing the shark suit now!
We're growing in so many ways! 

Thank you, Lord, for summer.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Daybook for June 2013

It is officially summer and time for a Daybook entry.  This is my first Daybook since J-Bear joined us, since school ended, and, well, there is quite a bit to catching up to do.  As always, thanks to the Simple Woman's Daybook for the inspiration.

Outside my window...Our garden is blooming.  Peonies, pansies, lettuces, jasmine, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and herbs are a beautiful sight to wake up to each morning.  The cool, rainy weather has been good to our plants.  We haven't watered the lawn once yet this season, but it is lush and green.  

I am thinking...About the
many Minnesotans who have been living without power this weekend.   'Tis the season for Midwestern storms, and we have had our share the past few days.  Trees are down everywhere in our neighborhood.  We are blessed to have power and a snug, safe home.  On Friday, we barely made it home from the park as 60mph winds hit our neighborhood.  T stayed with our kids in the garage as I carried them one by one through pounding rain to our house.  At times, the wind and rain were so strong that I had to wait to make another trip!  I think it was the first time our children appreciated how dangerous and unpredictable weather can be.  

I am thankful...For our community's commitment to being good stewards of the Earth.  Following the storms this weekend, we spent some time cleaning up our yard.  We ended up with 6 bags full of branches and yard debris!  We are so fortunate that
 our city offers several free, yard-waste composting sites not far from our house.  It was time for  us to make a trip to the compost pile.  We were not alone!  When we arrived at the site, there was a line of cars waiting to get in that stretched several blocks.  Inside the compost site, the brush pile was already impressive, and there were many, many cars waiting to add to it.  Check out the size of the pile: 

The best part is that all the brush and organic yard waste is converted into soil and mulch that is offered free of charge in the spring and fall.  This service and our neighbors' commitment to using it is such an encouraging example to us.  

In the kitchen...It is time to start cooking again.  J-Bear is 7 weeks old already, and we are just now getting to the end of all the generous meals that other families delivered to help us.  I am so grateful for so many generous friends and family members!  The break from meal planning and cooking dinner was a tremendous blessing, especially given that our first weeks of adjustment corresponded with end-of-school-year craziness.  This weekend, we finally had to restock our fridge and freezer a bit, and it is about time for me to start some summer meal planning.  Anyone up for a picnic?

I am wearing...J-Bear on my chest, which is her favorite place to be.  The closer she is, the happier she'll be, whether she's in my sling or just lying in my arms.  It's true--our sweet girl doesn't get set down very often, and that is just fine with me.

I am creating...Our summer schedule.  I love the rhythm of our days in the summer.  The routine is predictable: breakfast, playtime or outing, clean-up, lunch time, story time, learning time, rest time, chores/make dinner, dinner time, bath time or outside time, story time, bed time.  The kids really enjoy being all together.  I am thankful for the way that summer time brings out their friendships and love for one another.

The summer crew
I am my 6-week postpartum appointment with J-Bear tomorrow.  My experience giving birth at a birth center this time around was a tremendous blessing.  I am excited to see the midwives who helped me bring J-Bear into the world and thank them for the experience.   

I am pondering...The pros and cons of homeschooling, whether to accept a part-time teaching position for the fall semester, and our housing situation (our lease is up in September!).  Just a few tidbits for T and me to discuss in those few moments after our kids are in bed.....

I am reading...A lot of stories these days.  Buddy Bear and I are working on his words, E-Bear and I love to get lost in a good Disney adventure or Bible Story, and G-Bear is reading to me!  Between these three, we can't get enough of our local library.  This week we have learned about bugs and the vegetables we eat, flower fairies and adjectives that describe butterflies.  Next week, we'll be reading books about our country and the 50 states in honor of our country's birthday.  Nothing beats our time snuggled together on the couch, reading.  I love waking up to Buddy Bear's requests for a story, and I adore G-Bear's willingness to read to her brothers.  

I am hoping...that we'll all make progress on our bikes this summer:  G-Bear is trying her's without training wheels, E-Bear is trying his big kid bike with trainers, Buddy Bear is trying to learn to petal, J-Bear is slowing growing into a helmet (so she can ride in the bike carriage!), and I am hoping to get a bike by the end of the summer.  T and I have looked at this one a few times.  Two kids really can fit on the back seat!

I am looking forward to...lunch tomorrow with a friend and four of her kids, which will make eight kids between the two of us.  Last week we enjoyed an afternoon playdate with another friend and her five kids.  The week before that we had another family of six over for dinner.  We are noticing a trend:  new friends, big families, lots of kids and tons of fun.  These friendships are a blessing!   We are so thankful that our kids are able to enjoy the blessing as much as T and I do.

I am learning...More each day about parenting with four in the house.  We're doing pretty well so far.  Each addition has been gentler on me than the one before.  I am so thankful for my older helpers, the routine we have been establishing, and the summer days that give us a gentle reprieve as we adjust.  I am also finding more everyday that I want to teach my children.  Our afternoon learning time has been packed with activity.  But even more than that, I realize (more and more) that each moment with them is a teachable moment.  I am praying daily for the patient persistence to take advantage of each one.  

Our Jasmine vine from NC.  It survived the winter inside and it's now flourishing on our deck.
What a sweet reminder of our friends in Carolina land.

Around the house...the playroom is picked up, the kitchen dishes are put away, but that laundry, oh that silly laundry, it never quite makes it out of the hallway.  

I am wondering...How to help my children, and one in particular, grow in self-control.  As I reflect on each of their temperaments, I realize how different they are from each other.  Each temperament offers perks as well as parenting challenges.  Sometimes I feel like I am starting from scratch, even after years of parenting.  When one of my babes and I have a hard day, I need to remember that we're both likely to rebound by morning.  God's grace is sufficient, and love covers a multitude of sins.

A favorite quote for today...

"Mommy, Bobby Hoop (basketball hoop) outside, peeeeeeeeese?"
~Buddy Bear, begging so politely to have our Fischer Price basketball hoop 
brought outside from the basement so that he can shoot hoops with his ball.

One of my favorite things...
My new "31 Days of Prayer" guide, a new gift from a friend.  Each day focuses on a different prayer, personalized for my kids.  It is a great way to be more intentional in my prayer life.  Thanks to my friend C!  I love it, friend.

A few plans for the rest of the week....We'll finish up VBS for G-Bear with a family program on Friday and then start preparing for the Fourth of July.

A peek into my day...
"Mommy, Mommy!  Wook me!  Wook me!"

Thank you, Lord.  These days are the best.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Swimming into Summer

Our session of swim lessons ended yesterday, just in time for summer's arrival.

The temperatures were chilly. 
On several mornings, we emerged from the water vying for the honor of "Bluest Lips."  
But don't feel too bad for us.  This crew didn't just survive.  
They thrived!

Every morning, the kids have jumped out of bed, excited for another day at the pool.  Trooper MoMo made the drive each day to hold J-Bear while the rest of us were in the water.  MoMo looked quite at home watching the Bears from the pool deck.  No doubt, these mornings were reminiscent of days when she watched her own kids freeze their tootsies in the pool on chilly Minnesota mornings.

Our favorite new friend is Gertie the Guppy.
Gertie is the star of her very own song, which our whole family sings with great gusto.
Her song has taught many a young swimmer how to blow bubbles in the pool.

Good 'ole Gertie.

Now, we're onto summer, ready to show off our new swimming skills
(hopefully, in slightly warmer temperatures :).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Silly Face

Wheeeeeeeeere's J-Bear?? 

There she is!

As part of our routine each morning, 
J-Bear likes to remind me that there are lots of funny ways to make a face.

Like this:

or this:

or this:

or this:

 Oh, me!  It is hard for me to choose a favorite, J-Bear.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Happy Father's Day

"Our feet are small,
our eyes are wide,
we make a mess,
we like to hide;
And when our busy day is done,
we thank the Lord there is someone
named Daddy who is here to teach
and help us, life and dreams, to reach."
~Happy Father's Day, 2013
Happily Ever Johnson

This Father's Day, 
Baby J-Bear is thankful for her Daddy's safe arms,
Buddy Bear is thankful for Daddy's love of basketball,
E-Bear is thankful for Daddy's love of Superman,
and G-Bear is thankful for Daddy's jokes and hugs.
I am thankful for the love of my life,
the father of our children,
a great protector and leader for our family.

Happy Father's Day to dads everywhere!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Truck Tunes

Our kids love trucks.  

A very generous friend recently gave us this DVD called "Truck Tunes" by Twenty Trucks.
It is a twenty minute video featuring "Ten cool songs about ten cool trucks!"
My kids can sing all ten songs almost by heart. 
They can do the truck dances too,  like the "Forklift Boogie:"

"Lift it up,
 put it down,
back it up,
turn around."

Sheer genius, I tell you.

Today, we hit the jackpot.

A nearby school is remaking it's baseball fields.
Today, while driving home from swim lessons, we drove by the once verdant fields to find them full of mud and ......TRUCKS!!!!

Excavators, front end loaders, pavers, scrapers, bulldozers, dump trucks!!!!

My kids almost bubbled out of the car with excitement.

So, for the rest of the week, you can find us behind the fences at the ballfields. 
We'll be watching the beloved trucks in real-time action.  
The construction crew is going to feel like a crowd of celebrities when we're done with them.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Just when you think we celebrated allllll our birthdays,
June rolls around and it's time to celebrate T!

Happy birthday, Super Dad!

This year, the Bears and I decided to throw T a "firefly" birthday party.

When T was a little boy, Nana used to tell him that his birthday would be "after the fireflies come out."
T and I still take great delight in watching for fireflies as his birthday approaches.
This year, the spring has been so cold and snowy that we still haven't seen any fireflies!
We decided to fix that for T's birthday.

Our blinking Christmas lights did the trick!

There is no celebration like a birthday celebration with our crew.  Buddy Bear gets so excited to sing "Happy Birthday" and blow out the candles.

He had been practicing throughout the day!

Thankfully, between an early birthday dinner with Nana last week,

and our family celebration this weekend (Chicken fingers! Ice cream cake! Hooray!),
there have been plenty of candles to blow out. :)

Happy birthday, T.
You really do light up our lives.  
I am so thankful to celebrate another year with you.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Swimming in the Arctic

Would someone please tell me why I thought it would be a good idea to sign my kids up for swimming lessons in an outdoor pool during Minnesota's Arctic spring?

We start swim school today.  
It has been raining for two weeks with temperatures in the sixties.
I don't think the pool is heated.
I have to get in the water for Buddy Bear's lesson.
Oh my.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Last Days of School!

We've made it, folks.
Tomorrow, when wake up, we won't have to go to school.
Congratulations to G-Bear and E-Bear, who have finished another great school year!
E-Bear and G-Bear with adoring fans in tow during last week of school festivities.

Last week, we enjoyed the traditional end-of-school festivities.  E-Bear's Preschool Sing-Along was definitely a highlight.  E-Bear and his classmates enjoyed their "5-minutes-of-fame," as described by his teachers.  E-Bear had a whole section of adoring fans in attendance:
E-Bear's fan club

Even G-Bear chose to leave school early to watch her brother perform.
E-Bear was so proud to receive his diploma.
Proud preschool graduate

 He got lots of hugs from his fan club after the show.  Buddy Bear was an especially enthusiastic fan.

A big hug from Buddy Bear!

Everyone wanted a picture with Mrs R and Mrs G after the sing-along.  We are so blessed that two Bears have had them for preschool teachers.  When we left for North Carolina two years ago, I was really disappointed that E-Bear would never get to be a part of Mrs. R's class. This year has been an amazing gift for E-Bear in many ways!

The Bears with Teachers Mrs. R and Mrs. G

We are proud of the compliments E-Bear received from his teachers and his friends.  
"I can't wait to go to Kindergarten, Mom," said E-Bear.  
"But I can't quite decide, because I don't want to leave Mrs. R and Mrs. G yet."

Speaking of loving our teachers, we are all going to miss G-Bear's teacher as well.  G-Bear has loved her Kinder experience, and for that we have to thank Mrs. C.  G-Bear got a big hug on her way out of school the last day.  No longer a Kinder, G-Bear is onto first grade!

G-Bear with Teacher Mrs. C

We are tremendously blessed by the teachers, friends and overall school experience of this past year.  Nonetheless, I am surely the happiest person on the plaza on the last day of school.  Before us, the summer stretches, full of opportunity and (hopefully) time together.  I couldn't be more delighted to have all the Bears home.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hip, Hip....Let's hear it for the Tenth!

Old Nassau looked good this weekend.

It has been along time for many of us,

but some friendships stand the test of time.

While some things stay the same,

many things have changed.

One of the highlights is always the P-rade.
It is like taking a few steps back in time

 with a few thousand best friends.

After an arch sing, several brunches, many catch-up sessions, a fireworks show, and about a million steps around campus, we arrived home exhausted, yet also exhilarated and encouraged.  Thank you, dear friends who made the trip this year!  We treasure the time to catch up and reconnect.

Guess what greeted me at the airport?

"Mommy, Mommy!  RAAAAAAhhhh!"

Reunions is sweet, but Goin' Back can't compare to what we have here at home.