Monday, November 16, 2015

Digital Hiatus

The time has come for Happily Ever Johnson to take a digital hiatus.

*Double Sigh*

A large part of my heart hopes that this hiatus doesn't last too long.  
Perhaps I'll renege on this decision by the New Year.
After all, I have many wonderful blessings and reflections from the Lord to celebrate here in Happily Ever Johnson Land. And, I am grateful and humbled by the way that our blog allows a window into our daily life and updates for beloved family members and friends.  


But, there are many demands on my time and attention these days, somehow, even more so now than during medical school, when I began our blog.  More than ever, I find I must give over my fleeting solitary time to sustaining prayer; a child who needs my attention; my adored, adoring husband; 
new responsibilities outside our home; or merciful sleep.  

Increasingly too, I feel convicted to observe that I model my computer and technology time well for my children.  I know that now, more than ever, technology is a temptation away from attentiveness to my children, our daily grind, duties and responsibilities.   I don't want to portray my attitude as one of anti-digitalism, but rather, in our increasingly technologically-obsessed culture, my attitude is pro-other things.  There are simply so many other, non-digital things that I want and need to be doing with my children.  I need to stop feeling guilty about that.  I need to stop feeling guilty about neglecting "the blog."

So, please forgive me that you won't find me on Facebook.


Forgive again that you can't text me on my phone.

*Guttural groan, plus eye roll*

And now, even a hiatus on the blog.

*Could I make myself any more remote?  Off the grid?  
Why not erect a wall around myself while I am at it??  Is this an outrage or what?!"

Forgive me again, even seventy times seven.

I will try to write it all down, what I would have written here.  But that reminds me of the final reason I am taking a break from the blog, one that I have seen more experienced parent friends wrestle with before me.  And that is this: increasingly I find that my reflections aren't appropriate for public domain.  They involve older children, private places in family life, wrestling reflections. There is still plenty that goes on in our Land that is fit to share!  But I can't write both stories.  I need to consolidate for the sake of time.

 Feel free to continue to leave comments here, as I will still receive and respond to them.  Thank you, Lord, for all the thoughts and prayers that have come our way from friends and family members who have checked in on us through this blog over the years.  Hopefully, we will be back soon.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Three months with Blue Bear

Our Blue Bear is three months old! 

Blue eyes, long hair, big smiles: 
these are three characteristics that everyone notices about our Littlest Bear.  

Blue Bear is not our easiest baby bear.  Many days, he is down right uncomfortable.  
I am thankful for all of the skills I have built up over the years with our other four bears. 
Sleep and peaceful evenings will come later.  For now, thanks be to God for the grace sufficient to enjoy these days with a baby in my arms or in the sling, a foot on the bouncy seat, 
and the precious hours of delicate, interrupted sleep.

If his award-winning smile is any indication, Blue Bear has many joyful days ahead.
I can't remember any of our children smiling so readily, so early in life!
And the ticklish giggle is delicious.

I reflect daily on the blessing that it is to have a healthy baby in our midst.  
Thank you, Lord, for three months with Blue Bear.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Welcome Pope Francis to the USA!

Pope Francis' coat of arms.  Read a beautiful explanation of the coat of arms here.

This week, we have been welcoming Pope Francis in our hearts during his visit to the United States.  Today, as he celebrates with pilgrims at the World Meeting of Families, we are especially joyful to join with him in prayer and solidarity.  The Holy Father is trying to share with the world the gospel of Christ, and we are trying to share that message with world too!

We're trying to make the most of this week's events as a family.   Lacy at Catholic Icing has some wonderful ideas for celebrating the Pope's visit and the World Meeting of Families with children. Each night this week after dinner, T and I have watched some of the online news highlights from Pope Francis' visit with our kids.  Watching the throngs of people waiting and clamoring to welcome the Pope has been moving in many respects.  Watching the Pope among all the cheering crowds, however, my heart felt a surprising Palm Sunday conviction.  I imagined the scene in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered the city to a large and jubilant crowd.  How amazing that must have been!  But, four days later, Christ was alone and abandoned; the only shouts we of condemnation.

The Holy Father's visit will end.  Each of us in the crowd will return home.  But, Pope Francis' message, the Gospel message, remains!  Will we abandon the Gospel as we reenter into our daily lives, as the crowds abandoned Jesus after Palm Sunday?  When there is no longer a cheering crowd, when the euphoria of celebrity has passed, will any of us be willing to take up the struggle of the cross?  Will we be willing to follow Christ in a life of love, casting off sin and walking with the Holy Spirit toward holiness?  This stuff can be hard.  Lord, help me to follow you tomorrow, not just today, in the moments of my daily life, into a life of conversion, not just when it feels convenient.

 Happily Ever,
Queen B

Friday, September 11, 2015

Boys Night Out

The same day that G-Bear and I got to go out for our Girls' Day Out, 
T was able to take E-Bear and Buddy Bear for a Boys' Night Out!   
It was a Friday night, and T was covering a local high school football game.  
The boys were over the moon with excitement to get to dress in their sports gear and join Dad on the sidelines for a game.  

T took the boys to McDonald's before the meal, for which the boys couldn't have been more excited.  They each got a monster truck in their Happy Meal, which only added to the euphoria.  During the game, the boys were so good for T.  They were mesmerized by the action and even memorized several of the players' names.  

 E-Bear and Buddy Bear are avid sports fans just like their Dad, and they felt so grown up being able to be on an outing just with him.  Even though it was late when the game finished, T decided to make the night extra special for the boys and capitalize on the fact that they hadn't yet had a treat.

So afterwards, T took the boys to Red Robin's for root beer floats.  Can you tell what the ultimate treat is for our family?!  Note the sign -- I love it!

The boys did tell me, though, as soon as they got home.  I am happy to say that I think they used sensible moderation and discretion and each had only float, but I was careful not to ask too many questions :)

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Girls Day Out

While we were on our family cross-country road trip this summer, G-Bear confided to me that she wished for a day just with me -- a Girls Day Out.  I told her that I would love that too and asked her to make a list of things that she would like to do together.  I'll treasure the list for a long time to come.

Together, we planned our day, and finally, just before school started, we were able to make it a reality.   Miss M, our awesome babysitter, came over to play with J-Bear and the boys.  Then I got to sneak out with this lovely lady:

G-Bear braided our hair for the occasion, and we both wore our pearls and pink dresses.  
We had a bag of goodies with us for our day together.

We were ready.

Our first stop was the Barnes & Noble in Mall of America.  G-Bear had said she wanted to read books together, so we headed straight for the kids' section.  We sat there reading and perusing books for an hour and a half.  What a wonderful luxury!  What a treat that we both love books so much! There were so many good books that we didn't even have time to look at all of our interests, so we made a promise to make a list of favorites and return sometime soon. 

Pretty soon, our tummies were rumbling, which was perfect because I admitted to G-Bear that I had made reservations for lunch.  She was surprised, amazed and full of smiles when we walked into the American Girls store and I told her we were having lunch there.  What an unbelievable treat!  Now G-Bear understood why I had suggested that we bring our American Girl dolls along.  G-Bear had dressed Molly and Samantha to the nines for the occasion.

 We had time to peruse the store together right before being seated for our reservation.  We giggled and bounced from display to display.  I loved seeing which ones she liked the best.  Then, who should meet us for our table?  Why, MoMo of course!  

It was so fitting that MoMo could join us for many reasons.  MoMo loved the original American Girls when they were still made by Pleasant Company way back when I was little.  There wasn't an American Girl store in Minnesota when I was young, so we never got to go to an American Girl store together.  But, MoMo pioneered the whole idea of a Mom-And-Me-Day for me when I was young, and as with all things, MoMo taught me well.  I have amazing, awe-inspiring memories of Mom and Me Days with MoMo at ValleyFair, eating mini doughnuts, getting sick on french silk pie, watching IMAX movies and eating lunch together during the show at the Red Saloon.  It is largely because of my wonderful memories with MoMo that I was so excited to make similar memories with G-Bear.  So, of course, MoMo had to be invited to lunch.

The American Girl Bistro is a wonderful treat.  The restaurant is full of details that make the experience special.  For instance, each place setting napkin was folded with a ribbon that was actually a hair tie and ours to keep.  Our table also boasted a cute pink box filled with thoughtful questions to ask each other to foster conversation during lunch.

The dolls were give seats of honor at the table in their very own highchair.  Should a guest forget to bring a doll, there are borrow dolls at the front desk ready to dine with you.  Samantha and Molly each received a cup and plate for their meal that they were allowed to take home, just another fun momento from the meal.  Our table also boasted a cute pink box filled with thoughtful questions to ask each other to foster conversation during lunch.

For all the special details, lunch was really very reasonably priced.  For fifteen dollars per person, we each got to choose an appetizer and a main course.  My appetizer was the fruit and yogurt plate, complete with mini muffins and a daisy hair accessory.  MoMo had the soup and G-Bear chose the soft pretzel bites.  For lunch, I had a delicious salad, MoMo had a lovely club sandwich and G-Bear choose a yummy pasta dish.  We were all impressed with our meals.

We did have one stowaway, but Blue Bear was very good.  He slept most of the time in the sling and only woke up long enough to eat, burp and look around.  G-Bear gave him an exemption to attend the girls'  day because he is so little.

 G-Bear choose a root beer float from the extensive and impressive dessert menu and drank the whole thing like a champ.  Then it was time for us to say good-bye to MoMo for the afternoon.  We had a wonderful time all together.

I saved my treat -- an afternoon coffee-- so that G-Bear and I could head to a coffee shop to finish off our afternoon.  We still had to paint nails and make friendship bracelets, and we were running out of time!  So, over my latte, we taught ourselves how to weave with G-Bear's friendship bracelet kit.  It was easier than I thought and G-Bear declared that it was her new favorite thing to do, "almost like sewing!"

When we ran out of time at the coffee shop, I promised that we would paint nails later that night because the boys were going to be away.  After we tucked J-Bear in bed, that is just what we did.  We got out our Migi nail pens and I painted blue and pink flowers for G-Bear and then taught her how to paint my nails with polish too.  It didn't take her long to figure it out.

We agreed that this had been a tremendously special day.  I thanked G-Bear for making me a mom.  I told her how blessed I felt to be able to spend a whole day with a wonderful eight year old like her.  If it weren't for G-Bear, I wouldn't get to spend a day giggling, holding hands, making friendship bracelets, painting nails and reading books on the floor of the bookstore.  I wouldn't be enjoying lunch at American Girl with MoMo and a darling girl who loves to read the conversation questions.  G-Bear is a tremendous friend and daughter, and my life is rich and full because of the energetic, enthusiastic, creative and eager girl that she is.  I am so thankful to enjoy so many of the things that she loves, and I love sharing in every moment with her.

"Mom, I can't wait for our next Girls Day Out," said G-Bear at the end of the day. 
Me either, sweetie.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Littlest Bear at Two Months

Littlest Bear, oh Littlest Bear,
we've had two glorious months with you.
Already, we can't imagine life without you.

Your eyes are blue and your hair looks red,
 and even with those surprises, you fit right in with the crew.

You sleep more soundly now in the bed,
yet I am treasuring your snuggles day and night. 
I know now that this stage goes by in a blink, and I want to savor every minute of it with you.
I love having a baby in our house again.

You don't like a car seat or being set down. Nothing makes you shriek more!  
Not even in Aunt K's fancy bouncer can make you happy for long.   
You are not afraid of making your preferences known, either.  Good for you.
As the fifth child, you need to learn early how to get a word in around here.

 I am thankful that you love being near Mom, on my shoulder carried around.
This is your favorite snuggle spot: held upright, nuzzled into my shoulder.

Your growing so fast, you are already such a big guy!
Keep up the good work, kiddo. 
At this rate, you won't be the Littlest for long.
Happy two months, Blue Bear.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Perfect Way to End the First Week of School.... with a four day weekend at MoMo's cabin.

The silver lining of an early school year start was a four day Labor Day weekend at the end of our first week of school.  I picked up the kids from school on Thursday, and we headed up with Papa early the next morning, leaving T to come up after the work day.  When we stopped at McDonalds for a speedy lunch, you would have thought I was granting the kids their greatest wish.

The weather was beautiful, and the fresh, northern lake country was just what we needed at the end of a long week.  

This was the Littlest Bear's second trip to the cabin (first trip was just two weeks before).  

He didn't mind the boat rides (the wind-swept look suited him well),

He enjoyed being out of the car and held all the time.

The kids played for hours on the beach,
collecting clams, shells, green lake blubs, and sticks.
Auntie Sharon and Uncle Carl treated us to steaks at their place on Saturday night so that T could watch the Alabama opener on their TV.  Yum.

On Sunday, we met friends for church, and then had them over for a morning of coffee and doughnuts, pontoon rides over the beach and swimming in the lake.  

What a treat!  
All the kids jumped off the pontoon to swim into shore together.  T and I were so excited to watch our tenderfooted Bears turn into hardened lake swimmer explorers over the course of the weekend.

On Monday, Papa took the Bears fishing off the end of the dock.  

When we only dug up 3 worms, leftover breakfast bacon proved to be ideal bait for sunnies.  Each of the kids caught a fish with each cast!  Everybody got to meet their fish before we released them back in the water.  Thank goodness Papa was there to take charge of getting the fish off the hook.  
That is something I just can not stomach.

 It was so hard to leave the cabin this time!  Thanks to MoMo, Papa, Auntie Sharon and Uncle Carl for making our time there so special and relaxing.

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Monday, August 31, 2015

First Day of School 2015

Pull out those uniforms, the pencils, the shoes,

give mom a kleenex, for she has the blues,

yet she will not show it, her smile will not crack,

Bears won't see her teary if they turn to look back.

For, "today is the first day of school!" they all cheer,

and I'm praying the Lord will give us all a good year.

E-Bear to First Grade,

G-Bear to Third,

Buddy Bear to Pre-K,

it feels quite absurd!

And we're off on another school year adventure.
MoMo and Papa joined us for morning pictures and the plaza send-off.
We were all holding our breath a bit as we walked to the plaza lines and waved to each other at the school bell.  MoMo saved the day by taking Buddy Bear, J-Bear and me out to coffee after drop-off.  She must have known that I wasn't ready to go home to an empty house and that her offer of treats would keep Buddy Bear and J-Bear distracted from the fact that their older siblings weren't around.  Her idea worked, thanks Super-MoMo!   We returned home highly sugared and caffeinated.  Then, MoMo offered to do the first day of school pick-up, and both E-Bear and G-Bear reported good days when they returned home.  

After our wonderful summer together, the new routine is sure to be an adjustment for all of us.  But, as we reminded each other, there are great things to learn and good work in store for us at school this year.  We are so blessed to be a part of and contribute to such a wonderful school community.  
But please, keep us in your prayers in the coming days!

Happily Ever,
Queen B

Sunday, August 30, 2015

State Fair 2015

School is coming,
and because Labor Day is arriving so late, school is coming early this year.
But before we surrender to the start of school, there is one last thing we must do:
tackle the Minnesota State Fair!

In true Johnson fashion, we made the trek twice this year.

Our first trip featured our favorite family-friendly activities.
Our second trip is always with MoMo and Papa, and features our favorite activities
to do with them (i.e. rides, animal barns, and milkshakes to name a few).

We had a great time perusing the docks and boat lifts on Machinery Hill:

The kids lent a hand at the Little Farm Hands Farm,
(note the height of the chickens: G-Bear is already too tall for the tractors,
and this was undoubtedly E-Bears final year.  At least the younger siblings will have
TWO helpers next year!)

and then they were rewarded with rocket pops for their hard work.

The Littlest Bear and I took note of a rather affirming sign,

and then we spent over an hour in the outdoor kids nature space next to the EcoExperience building, where the kids dug in the sand, played in the water, made buildings out of recycled boxes and made meatballs in the dirt.  They were dubbed "coyote kids" and each got a paw print stamp.
It was a highlight for sure.

Then, we watched the parade,

ate pronto pups and shared a jumbo root beer,
(yes, there really is a jumbo root beer in there somewhere, along with four straws)

which we easily finished!

And even after still more walking and perusing,

this crew remained in high spirits

or at least willing to go with the flow.

Undaunted, we managed construction projects at Home Depot,
(checkout the hammering by J-Bear!)

and spent more than a little time being treated to rides at the Kidway by Papa and MoMo,
which included the bumper boats,

the tractors,

and the fabulous Lady Bugs,

which were truly, delightfully fast.

We entered a coloring contest at the Moo Booth,
(Buddy Bear and E-Bear would later learn that they were chosen as winners!)

 and  ended our days in the Alphabet Forest, which has become our tradition.

It is the perfect place to rest tired legs and unwind after a big day.

This year, the kids took time to write several letters,

including one that E-Bear wrote all by himself to Uncle C, letting him know that he hoped Uncle C would come to the Fair soon, "and please bring Aunt K."

G-Bear worked hard on the Alphabet Challenge,

and won an Alphabet Forest Blue Ribbon for her efforts.

 We mustn't forget to acknowledge that the award for Littlest Trooper and First Time at the Fair
goes to the Littlest Bear, as it was his first year at the Fair and he was truly a super-trooper both days.
Consider yourself inaugurated, Littlest!

After so much fun, we returned home exhausted, 
just in time for school to start tomorrow.
Time to snuggle into bed.

Thanks, Minnesota, for another great year at the Fair.

Happily Ever,
Queen B