Sunday, May 31, 2015

Saying Goodbye to May

Its time to say good-bye to May.  
So, this weekend....

I went to the MN Catholic Homeschoolers conference.  It was like a huge shot of encouragement in the arm.  My kids love our parish school, but that doesn't change the fact that I am a homeschooler at heart.  As parents, we are our children's primary educators, and I love the encouragement of the speakers and the resources to make our home and family a place of learning, enrichment and witness of faith.


I said good-bye to my 4 and 5 year old Liturgy of the Word preschoolers during our last Sunday School.  I have loved participating in this ministry this year.  Young children have not always come naturally to me, but years of motherhood are paying off and bearing fruit.  My soul now finds great joy in being with toddlers and preschoolers, even if they still totally wear me out.  This ministry was also great for Buddy Bear this year, because although technically too young to participate, he could come with me to Liturgy of the Word on the Sundays when I was the teacher.  He loved every opportunity to leave Mass and join in with the older preschoolers.  Next fall, Buddy, you'll be off to Liturgy of the Word on your own each week!  Unless of course, I get to join in as a teacher again :)


We picked up a pizza, strapped our bikes onto the back of the car, and rode down to a bike path next to the Mississippi River.  After a picnic pizza dinner, we all hoped on our bikes for an evening ride.  G-Bear is doing great on her pink birthday bike, E-Bear is cool and confident on his, Buddy Bear is trying out the monkey bar seat on the Mundo and J-Bear is trying out the peanut shell in the back by Buddy Bear.  The evening was truly beautiful as we wound our way along the river bluffs.  

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Final Days of School

We are charging through the final days of school.
I can hardly wait.
I am ready to be done.

A homeschooler at heart, I look forward to the last day of school all year.  This is not because I don't like our parish school or because I dislike learning.  I just love having my kids home, teaching them myself and learning alongside them, soaking up a routine that works best for our family, beholden to fewer outside demands. Plus, by the end of the year, we are all in need of some School of the Home. We may have forgotten a few of our manners, we may need some time to focus on our treatment of others (hello, Fruits of the Spirit), our chores may need some brushing up, and we may just need a bit more space to explore other activities, other interests.  Yes, the Summer School of the Home is a blessing.

But before we get there, we have to get through these last two weeks, and let me tell you, I am sliding across the End-of-the-Year-Finishline on the fumes of Grace.  Recently, a friend sent me this archived blog piece by Jen Hatmaker entitled, "Worst End of School Year Mom Ever," and I found myself on the floor with laughter because it hit a little too close to home.  The school schedule is bursting with end of the year celebrations, field trips, out of uniform days, cold lunch demands, full days for E-Bear, special requests and chaos in general.  The normal routine is totally discarded, uniforms are out grown, and each day there are about a dozen out of the ordinary things that must be remembered for each child.  To top it all off, my body is just not able to keep it all together, currently gestating at 34 weeks.  So recently, when my sweet G-Bear came to me and confessed that her tennis shoes had holes in them and the laces had snapped so that she could no longer tie them, all I could muster was a pathetic, "Do you think you could get through 2 more days of gym with them?  I promise you can wear your sandals everyday in the summer."  Because really, holes or no holes, laces or no laces, when are we going to find time in this gauntlet schedule to buy new tennis shoes, which are sure to be outgrown when she puts them on again in the fall?  

Please, Lord, by a miracle, get us to the end of school!

But, be encouraged, time marches on.  The end of school is in sight.  No one stays pregnant forever.  Bring it on!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pentacost Celebrations 2015

Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!
~Psalm 104

Somehow, the Easter season always goes by faster than Lent.  We have feasted and celebrated for over 40 days now: five family birthdays, a First Communion, Divine Mercy Sunday, Mother's Day, Ascension Sunday and many more.  It is always hard to begin to put away the Easter season decorations and celebrations.  But today, we made sure to culminate the season with a grand Holy Spirit celebration to usher in the routine of Ordinary Time.

For breakfast, we enjoyed our traditional Pentecost fare: marshmallow cereal, yogurt and fruit smoothies.  This is the one morning each year when I buy marshmallow cereal, which I love, and it reminds us of the Fruits of the Spirit that the Holy Spirit  brings into our lives.  Then, we headed to a special Mass, met friends to hand out Pentecost roses at an Uptown bus stop, hosted friends for lunch and then celebrated dinner with MoMo and Papa.  Our joyful spirits and schedule were undeterred by the rainy day.

I made T's favorite Strawberry Pizza for dessert, a Grandma Johnson classic treat.  I left the frosting bare in the middle in the shape of a dove to remind us of the Spirit descending.  It was a wonderful way to finish a special day.

It is so fitting that we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit at the end of Easter and the return of Ordinary Time.  Ordinary Time isn't so much about days that are boring, but about finding or returning to an ordered routine for our lives after seasons of fasting and feasting.  During these weeks of Ordinary Time, we strive, with the help of the Spirit, to find a proper place for moments of fasting and feasting and to grow the Fruits of the Spirit in our daily lives.   All this is so that we might know and love God and our neighbor in a deeper, fuller way.

Christ our Lord said it was better for us that He should ascend and send the Spirit to descend into our lives.  So, we've replaced our family Easter prayer with one for the coming months:

Come, Holy Spirit!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Monday, May 18, 2015

Big sisters are the best

J-Bear doesn't always enjoy holding my hand these days.
She is on the move, she wants to explore, sometimes she feels like I hold her back.

But, thankfully, J-Bear has a big sister and two big brothers.
She loves them all; her eye is always watching them.

And when Mom's hand just won't cut it,
there is a big sister's or brother's hand that she is delighted to hold.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Friday, May 15, 2015

What Quiet Time Looks Like These Days

While the J-Bear sleeps,
Legos reign supreme.

Thank goodness for quiet time, folks.

We all crave it, 
we all need it, 
that is why I enforce it.
It might not always be as quiet as I would like,
we might not all be reading or resting or praying *everytime*.
After all, who doesn't need a little Lego time each day?

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Afternoon at the Arboretum

Spring sprung early in Minnesota this year.  So, we packed up our bikes and headed out for a day.  The Three Mile Trail at the Minnesota Arboretum sounded perfect for a Saturday ride.

Along the way, we found a field covered in dandelions.  The day was so lovely, so perfect, and  suddenly, the most formidable of weeds appeared like flowers of greatest treasure.  We couldn't resist.    
J-Bear in the dandelions.

G-Bear said she felt like Laura Ingalls running through the field.  
Pretty soon, she had gathered quite the bouquet. 

Even E-Bear and Buddy Bear were impressed.  
They were across the field and nearly out of sight in a minute.

Buddy Bear hunted endlessly for the still-rare white dandelions.  
When he found some, he put Dad in charge of blowing dandelion seeds.

J-Bear barely stopped long enough for a kiss from her dad.  She was just as delighted as her siblings.

G-Bear presented me with her bouquet as an early Mother's Day present. 
We had a to take a picture with it, because I knew it wouldn't last long.  
I was amazed by how a weed that gives me such trouble in our yard could bring me so much joy when presented as a gift from my kids.  

There is a lesson for me there somewhere.

Finally, bouquets picked, clothes covered in yellow pollen, tired from running and exploring, we loaded on the bikes and continued our trek.  We made sure not to miss the hedge maze, the kids' nature play yard or the plant sale.  

For lunch, we snacked on Chick-fil-a under a blooming cherry tree in the nature play yard.  I couldn't have imagined a more perfect, delightful afternoon.

I am all for clearing out the weeds in our lives.  
But today reminded me that even weeds can be turned into something wonderful.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers Day with the Bears

Could it be?

I am sleeping in

before a royal wake-up from my Bears,

who can't wait for the doughnuts

that Dad helped them procure,

which will make for the breakfast

where I will receive

cards with messages laden with love

and scribbles

and perhaps a paper airplane or two.

Yes, today is Mother's Day.

Today is a day for brunch at MoMo's,

a day for salt-dough gifts,

and hot dogs for dinner

so I don't have to cook.

Happy Mother's Day!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Friday, May 8, 2015

E-Bear's Mother's Day Paraliturgy

Wow, this Momma felt really special today thanks to E-Bear's hard work and preparation!
Today, E-Bear's class at school hosted all their moms for a "Mother's Day Paraliturgy."  This was a wonderful, prayerful, musical event with lots of arts and crafts gifts and a cake reception at the end.  

Highlights included:
hand-colored portraits of all the mothers that marked our assigned seats,
 the Kinders' entrance procession carrying handmade sunshines that they presented to each mother, 
the "Laundry Song," which made us all laugh, and other songs sung into handmade microphones,
each Kinder's personal reflection of why his or her mom is "The Sunshine of My Life..."
the cake reception, where we all received memory books of our Kinder's first year of school.

E-Bear had practiced his songs and worked on his crafts for weeks.  He was so proud and enthusiastic singing the songs and presenting me with his gifts.  I was impressed and moved by his strong singing,(his teacher could always depend on him to sing his best and loudest), his sincerity and his delight in making me feel special.  When it was his turn, E-Bear's reflection for me was, "My Mom is the Sunshine of my life because she plays baseball with me."  I had no idea that my backyard pitching sessions meant to much to him!  You can bet we will be doing a lot more of those over the summer.  "Did you like what I said, mom?" E-Bear asked me afterwards.  You better believe it, Buddy.  

We had so much fun together afterwards eating cake and reflecting on the morning.  
Thank you, E-Bear for making me feel so special, for making me a mom and for the many blessings that you bring to my life.  I consider being your mother one of the greatest gifts that God has ever given me, and I look forward to all the days ahead, getting to walk with you as you grow into the man that God has created you to be.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Jr. Great Books with G-Bear

This spring, I feel so fortunate to be able to lead a Junior Great Books group for G-Bear's class. Her classmates are enthusiastic readers, eager to participate and 25 minutes together flies by each week.  Each week, we read a story and then have some discussion time as well as a brief activity.  We've read the Red Balloon and talked about friendship, How the Elephant Became and created a skit with the kids as animals and myself as the narrator, The Velveteen Rabbit and did a word find together, Cinderella and made a Mad Lib re-telling, The Emperors New Clothes and did a crossword puzzle, and The Terrible Leak and created pictures of an imaginary monster.

My favorite activity that I did with these eager second graders was the Cinderella Mad Lib.  It was great to "re-tell" the story, just as many have done before us (this was a great way for me to point out the popular Disney retellings of the original Charles Perrault classic).  Plus, the students have been learning basic parts of speech this year in school, and a Mad Lib was an ideal academic exercise (albeit so cleverly disguised and fun).  I made up the Mad Lib myself, and I am posting it here so that it might someday be helpful to others.  I am certainly hoping to reuse it myself!

Mad Lib
Cinderella by Charles Perrault

Once there was a gentleman who married, for his second wife, a woman who was very ______________.  He also had a young daughter who was very ______________, like her mother before her.

No sooner had the couple married than the stepmother showed her true colors.  She made the young girl ______________ and __________________, while her own two daughters were given expensive ______________  and lovely ______________.

Each day, when the young girl finished her ____________, she would crawl into the __________, which is why her stepsisters gave her the name _____________ _____________.

It happened that the ______________ of the kingdom gave a _______________ and invited all the notable ______________.  The stepsisters were delighted and spent all day getting ready.  After they left, the poor girl was ____________ when suddenly her Fairy __________________ appeared.  Using a magic __________, the Fairy made a coach out of a ________________, footmen out of _____________, and the most ____________ gown ever seen, but warned the girl to be home by ________ o’clock.

Once at the ball, the girl spent all night ______________ with the Prince.  When the clock struck ____________, she remembered the fairy’s warning and immediately fled, leaving behind one of her _________    __________ (s).  Later, the Prince was able to use it to find her because it fit her ______________ perfectly.  She went to the _______________ to live with the Prince, but remained ________________ always.

1.  Negative adjective
2.  Positive adjective
3.  Horrible chore
4.  Horrible chore
5.  Noun
6.  Noun
7.  Plural noun
8.  Place
9.  Noun
10.  Name
11.  Person
12.  Event
13.  Plural noun
14.  Verb ending in –ing
15.  Person
16.  Noun
17.  Plural Noun
18.  Adjective
19.  Number
20.  Verb ending in –ing
21.  Number
22.  Adjective
23.  Noun
24.  Noun
25.  Place
26.  Adjective

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Special Second Birthday with Papa and Presents

Who can pass up a birthday with these two?

What a weekend we have enjoyed, celebrating a First Communion and two precious birthdays!
MoMo was nice enough to host an Elmo birthday fit for our two year old princess and her mystery-aged Papa.  What a treat for all of us!

Surrounded by her Papa and a few presents (and adoring family, of course), J-Bear was in fine, joyful form. For most of the day, when we tried to emphasize to her that today was HER birthday party, she would  just grin, shake her head of curls and squeal, "Noooooo," in a joyful voice.  She couldn't believe it!  By the time of the party, however, we had all taught her to say her new age, "two!"

Once at MoMo's, our terrific two year old had no problem stealing the show.  She ooooed over MoMo's decorations and the Elmo bubble blower that graced the table.  When it was time to open presents, she knew just what to do: rip, rip, rip!

A few wonderful new books from Aunty Cindy,

 new boots from Mom and Dad,

 a Duplo set from MoMo and Papa,

and a few new dolly clothes all made our dear girl smile.
"Tank oooo!" she would say.

Such a big girl!

 J-Bear got to blow out candles twice:  
once for Papa,

and once all by herself.

Then she got to grab the Elmo decoration that she had been admiring!
J-Bear, your joy is so contagious!

 Our girl humored us for a few pictures with her loving siblings, all of whom were so thrilled to celebrate their sister for a day.

Finally, she got her piece of cake.  YUM! 
Now that is more like it!
(I think she ate two pieces!)

Happy birthday, J-Bear!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Saturday, May 2, 2015

G-Bear First Communion

"This is my body, which will be given for you;
do this in memory of me."
~Luke 22:19

Today was G-Bear’s First Communion day.

G-Bear has been looking forward to this day for over a year.  Her class’ journey together during the school year has been truly special, and it has been a joy to watch G-Bear take on this step of faith on her own so intently.

Our celebration of G-Bear’s First Communion began the night before, when we were able to welcome four of our friends from the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus for dinner and dessert.  They were excited to give G-Bear their prayers and blessings.  The next morning, we welcomed MoMo and Papa and Aunty Cindy for a celebration lunch before the First Communion Mass.  G-Bear was bubbling over with excitement as I helped her into her clothes and helped her with her hair.  She wore her beautiful flower girl dress from the wedding last fall, a brand new ivory sash, her sparkle shoes, pearl stockings that she had been saving, and the fingertip veil that I wore for our wedding. 

Our parish does a beautiful ministry with first sacraments, and the First Communion Mass was no different.  Each family had a full pew, so we had plenty of space for all of us.  Uncle C and Miss K joined us at church just in time to see G-Bear process in with her class.  All of the children looked excited and radiant, and the families were filled with a joyfulness you could feel.  G-Bear also got to help with the procession of the gifts, carrying a book of Bible stories.  When it was time for communion, all of us got to go up to the front with her to watch and be with her as a family.  Back in the pew, I was so excited to get a big hug from a joyful G-Bear. 

Afterwards, we celebrated with cake in the lower church with family and friends.  We closed down the hall and were the last to leave.  At home, G-Bear opened a few gifts from family and friends: a beautiful silver box from MoMo and Papa with the date engraved on top, a lovely overnight bag from Nana with a subscription to MagnifiKids!, a book of saints from her godparents, and from T and me, an embroidered scapular necklace and the Bible that I was given in second grade that I read as a child. 

G-Bear seemed to truly treasure the whole day.  As we tucked everyone in for bed, she was already excited that in the morning it would be Sunday, and we would be going to Mass again.  I told her that the best part of First Communion is that it isn’t just one day, but a beginning to a new part of her life-long journey with Jesus. 

Lord, bless our G-Bear with a faith that continues to grow throughout her life!  We praise you and thank you for such a special First Communion Day.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Friday, May 1, 2015

Happy 2nd Birthday, J-Bear!

Dearest J-Bear,

You have made it!  Say good-bye to one.  Hello, two years old!  You have been eagerly anticipating the independence of two years for some time, J-Bear.  As we near a time with a new sibling, I am thankful, because you were never cut out to be the youngest in our family.  You have been one of the crew since the beginning, and after a mellow first year, your second year has been marked by your enthusiasm to join in in every way.  You are bold and courageous, joyful and adventurous.  You have significant managerial skills, and I am happy for you that you will get to exercise them soon as a very helpful big sister. You add spunk and fun to our lives and always keep us on our toes.  Here are some of the many happy memories I have from this past year.

May....Riding your iBert "froggy seat" for the first times.  You love to say "beep, beep" froggy with me each time you hop in.  No bows in your hair, thank you, you love to pull them out.  Furniture walking, wiggles at church, one nap time rather than two, blazing a trail in your kneekers, pushing the shopping cart, exploring our house and reminding me all the ways that we need to re-childproof.  Life with you is exhausting and exciting at the beginning of your second year.  You and Buddy Bear are best buds.  He is so fortunate to have an energetic sis like you, always up for anything that he can dream up.

June....You are waving to all of us whenever we leave, saying "bye!" at bedtime, happily sleeping through the night and always happy to see blankie and paci in your bed for naps.  It is hard to sit quietly during Mass these days, because you are so eager to walk.  By the end of the month, you have decided it's time!  Daddy gets to watch you get up and walk for the first time in the Cathedral during a  feast day Mass.  You are a treat, always teaching us lessons and reminding us about what is truly important.

July....You toddled around the deck with me during big kids swimming lessons, improving your walking in kneekers while your sibs improved at swimming.  You love sleeping in the bathroom in the little cabin and Papa's pontoon, but would prefer to go without your lifejacket.  You were a trooper at Catholic Kids Camp, along for the ride on my hip and by my side in the little kid class.  You are always up for a lick of ice cream from your generous sibs -- you recognize the icy treat by now.  Singing Happy Birthday to GG and helping to blow out her candles...pointing to airplanes in the sky, reading Brown Bear and Pat the Bunny....watching you give Daddy a kiss....snuggling with G-Bear as she reads you a story or watching you delight in morning smoothies...these are a few of my summer favorites with you.

August....Whether wading in the water with Nana, digging in the sand with Buddy Bear or sitting under an umbrella with your cousins, you loved the beach in Hilton Head.  You love to be one of the crew, on the bikes, performing Mr. Alligator with your siblings, or playing at the playground with the cousins.  Back at home, I have trouble keeping you busy long enough to get anything done!  You are constantly, relentlessly exploring your world: I often find you climbing onto a table, getting stuck up on the piano bench, or unpacking the cabinets.  You are always happy to show me your conquests, less desiring of my intervention.

September....Riding the tractor with G-Bear's help at the State Fair, watching the Midway excitement from the safety of Daddy's arms, playing in the sand at the natural playspace and enjoying a treat on the bus home from the State Fair, you enjoyed it all.  We get you a sleeping tent for an upcoming trip, and you happily take to it like a fish to water.  At the cabin with GG, you continue to cement a loving relationship with each other.  You are a trip with a pony on top of your head, eating corn on the cob and getting your licker ready for a DQ ice cream cone.  After G-Bear and E-Bear head to school, you enjoy focused time with Buddy Bear, ever eager to engage him in play.

October....You love the book aisle when we go shopping together, always eager to plop down on the floor with a carefully chosen book. On our CA adventure you are a true trooper: sleeping on buses, planes, long car trips, in the backpack and in your cute red tent.  As long as we have paci and blankie, you are good to go.  You are excited for all that Disney can dish out: watching parades, sitting through performance, smiling for every picture and character introduction and enjoying all the rides.  Every once in a while you will sleep in the backpack, but you never once let me take you back for a nap! You are a belle of the ball for Cousin B's wedding, delighted to be so elegantly dressed.  For Halloween, you were the cutest pumpkin:  sitting down to reach treats to your bucket, thanking treat-givers with a cheerful "bye!", and enjoying lollypop treats after a night of hard work.

November....Mondays and Wednesdays, you are always delighted to welcome MoMo or our babysitter friend for a morning of play.  You never fuss as I run out the door to teach.  You love to play "Where is J-Bear?" with us these days, as you are a willing performer.  You are good at asserting your needs, such as "more," and adorable with your 'eeeeeeeeeesse' pleases. I am thankful that you are a willing napper, easy to wake up, and eager to play with your brother and sister when they get home from school.  When the snow starts to fly, you love to hop in your snowsuit, but walking in the snow in boots is a challenge. You will sit in the snow on the sidelines for a bit, but soon you are frustrated to not be one of the crew.  You want so badly to be able to shovel like a pro.  At the cabin for Thanksgiving, you love to ride on the sled behind Daddy, and eat spice cake by the spoonful.

December....This year, we can count on you to respect the Christmas tree.  You loved making cookies with our neighbor during Advent, but it is hard to keep you from eating them!  These days, you love your baby doll, blowing out candles, ripping open presents, climbing up to the big kids' dinner table, and doing anything without my help.  

January....On our ice skating outings, you would love to be able to skate by yourself than rely on parents.  Riding between our legs or sitting on the skating sled don't quite satisfy you.  So, we'll settle for many indoor activities instead, including scribbling with chalk with Buddy Bear, dressing up in the playroom, or clandestinely sneaking time with your paci in your room.  Your vocabulary is rapidly expanding, and you finally add "NO" to your arsenal, to your great pleasure.

February....You love your spoon and fork and use both quite well.  You are also quite a speedy eater these days, not one to sit around in your highchair. Once you announce "all done", you are ready to be let out!  In restaurants, one of us usually gets to walk around with you after that, while at home you are eager to bring us books and toys while we finish our meal. At the swimming pool, while your siblings take lessons, you and I walk the deck.  I must have walked miles with you around the pool over the winter, but I was always thankful (and exhausted) to make it through that time together.  You love crafts, like coloring and play dough, and like to see any picture that is taken.  You embrace our Lenten activities with gusto, eager to put lot of beans in the basket :)

March....On longer days home, you love to watch a "show" with Buddy Bear.  Your favorites are Daniel Tiger and Sesame Street, and just like your older brother you get very excited when I agree to turn on the TV.  No matter what you are doing, you will stop, rush to the basement stairs and scoot down the stairs on your bum with shrieks of delight.  The days are cold, and I love to have you snuggle your head into my coat when you are cold and I carry you.  In the morning, it is a delight to look into your room (our closet), see you at the side of your crib with your mussed hair, a paci in your mouth, pink blankie in your hand and hear your happy "hi, mommy!"  You aren't yet skiing in Lutsen, but you will watch at the bottom of the hill, eagerly ride the gondola and eat lunch with me in the chalet, and throw rocks into the lake from shore.

April....We can count on you for full sentences now.  Your siblings are GiGi, GaGa, and Eeha.  You want to know where everyone is at all times: "Mommy, Daddy a go?" (where did Daddy go?)  or "Gi Gi? Ga Ga?" You love tickles but are good at saying "peese stop" when you are ready for a break.  You love to make spy glasses and often say 'I see you!' when you are spying.   You are thrilled to eat your weight in candy on Easter morning.  Now that jellybeans fill our Easter basket, I often catch you climbing on the buffet to sample a few.  After a few reprimands, you are careful to show me that you know the drill: "No bean, mommy, no bean," you will reassure me.  For G-Bear's Frozen birthday, you love to sing "Let It Go" with your sister, and you eagerly point out "Anna and Elsa" by name.  As the weather warms, you are always excited to ride your trike, wear your helmet, play in the sandbox, all good things.

J-Bear, I am so thankful for the way that you keep all of us young, reminding us of the importance of the simple joys in life.  You share your joyful giggle and laugh with us so readily, and your joy is contagious.  You are smart, a sweet hugger and kisser, and are always concerned if a sibling is sad or hurt.  You impress me with your ability to wait your turn, apologize when you are reprimanded, and share with others.  You hate timeouts and, even if reluctant, so often make the choice to follow my instructions by the time I count to three.  You are growing by leaps and bounds everyday.  Daddy and I are so proud of you, pray for your growth in faith and love, and we can't wait to watch you shine in the coming year as a big sister.

Happy Birthday, dear J-Bear, happy birthday to you!

Happily Ever,
Queen B