Saturday, December 31, 2011

Skate N Fun(?) Zone

We wanted to plan some fun activities for the family this week while the kids are out of school, so when I saw a Groupon for the Skate-N-Fun Zone that we had never tried before, I jumped on it. I had wanted to go ice skating with the kids, but figured roller skating would be easier for the kids to do. We went Thursday night and after 5 minutes, I wanted to turn around and go home. None of them could even stand up on their skates! I was bound and determined to make it work and after a while we had it down to a system of taking one at a time around either holding their hand or having them use one of these walker type deals with wheels to help them keep their balance. Eventually they improved a little and all but Mason could go without Jeremy or I helping them. There were many falls and are now many bruises, but the kids gave it two thumbs up and want to go back! I think it was a good idea not to try ice skating (can you imagine?) and I also think it may be many more years before we try roller skating again...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

It seems like it was just December 1st and now poof, here it is Christmas day. Every year I think we will have the time to cram everything in with extra reflection time to boot, and every year I'm reminded that I'm not super woman and some things have slipped through the cracks. Even so, Christmas is always so filled with joy and excitement and this year was no exception. I wish the kids could stay their present ages forever, because this Christmas the anticipation was at it peak and it totally rubbed off on Jeremy and I. On Christmas Eve we continued our tradition of having Grandma and Jeff over for our appetizer buffet and exchanged gifts and read The Night Before Christmas and the story of Christ's birth. We set out our cookies and carrots, hung our stockings, and went to bed. This year the tooth fairy and Santa came on the same night since Cameron lost a molar chewing a meatball, and that only increased the excitement. At 4:50am two boys crawled into our room asking if they could go down and see what Santa brought. We had even tried to tie their door knobs together to deter sneaking or rising too early, but apparently it was in vain. They were sent to bed with instructions to GO BACK TO SLEEP at least until 6:30. That's when we saw them next, without a minute to spare and we could hold them off no longer. Cameron's big gift from Santa was a ipod touch, Gavin got a new bike, and Mason got a hot wheels car garage. There has been a load of play going on here, and it was torture to try to pull them away to go to church for an hour, but it was nice to bring the Spirit back into this hallowed day. We had a delicious turkey dinner and are now watching Mary Poppins. I wish today could never end because it sure has felt like heaven in the Johnson household. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011


Yesterday the baby that made me a mommy turned nine years old. I clearly remember like it was yesterday being in the hospital and holding this tiny infant for the first time. Cameron is my kind hearted, affectionate, and compassionate boy and I love how hard he loves others. His birthday was the last day of school before the break and I brought in mini brownies with mint frosting to give to his classmates. Then I sprung him and his brother out a bit early and we came home to play with his new legos and his new Yahtzee game. We put the finishing touches on his chocolate and ice cream baseball cake and then went to Cracker Barrel for dinner. That kid has a crazy love for that place and we've eaten there for his birthday dinner for years. Later we came home to have cake with Grandma and Jeff and play with some more new toys. His favorite would have to be the remote control helicopter he received that he has played all day today with as well. After a few tries he really got it going and is quite the little pilot now.

Nine years ago we brought our baby home on Christmas Eve in the snow and I thought about how he was the perfect Christmas gift. He still is.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Preschool and Piano

With the Christmas season comes all sorts of performances and this month we had Mason's preschool play first on the calendar. We've been practicing his little two line part every day for weeks now and it has been like pulling teeth to get him to do it. Mason only does something when he wants to do it so we had to be ready when he wanted to practice. I held my breath when it was his turn, but sure enough, he was in a great mood the night of the play and he did great. He sang all the songs, did the dances and even showed everyone that Santa has a white beard. It was so strange not having to entertain a little one while an older brother was performing but quite enjoyable for a change.

Then tonight Cameron had his first piano recital. He has been taking lessons since September and practicing really hard. He really enjoys piano and I think he is doing really well. He played, We Wish You a Merry Christmas and did it absolutely perfectly. He made no mistakes and he didn't rush it like he had been doing during practice. I was so proud of him! Another mother there couldn't believe he had only been taking lessons for 3 months. I am lucky that he really loves to practice and he took the initiative to get it right and ready. He was nervous before the program, but you couldn't tell when he was up there. Hopefully his enthusiasm continues.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Visiting the REAL Santa

Every year we take the kids to see Santa. We used to go to the Mall, but we will never go back because we found where the REAL Santa has been hiding. The past couple of years we have visited Merrifield Garden Center here in Gainesville where Santa lets the kids tug at his beard and he spends a good 10 minutes with each child. He asks the kids how they have been doing at home and at school and if they have been listening to their parents and getting along with their siblings. The extraordinary thing about this Santa is that he doesn't hesitate to tell the kids why we give gifts on Christmas- because of the gift that Jesus was to us. Good grief we don't hear that enough anymore. He always gives the kids a big hug at the end and asks them to leave out some chocolate chip cookies (his favorite) and carrots for him on Christmas eve. They also get a special ribbon to tie on the tree that he will tie to his gift for them which is a nice touch. To be honest, I almost believed he was the real Santa too. This year we went with the Tolers and Mason asked for a candy cane, Gavin asked for a bike, and Cameron asked for a DS. We'll see if Santa comes through for them!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Just a glimpse

The trains have been running and the kids are seen doing a lot of this:
I think they could sit for hours just watching them go by.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Countdown

There's no denying it, Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I love the month of December that builds up to this special day. Our decorations were up before Thanksgiving this year and Christmas music is playing constantly through the ipod speaker in the kitchen. Last year I downloaded all of my very favorite Christmas CD's and it is on perpetual shuffle. The kids are giddy with excitement each day to find our old friend Mr. Peeps who makes an appearance after Thanksgiving and moves each night to keep an eye on the kiddos until Santa comes. Through the years we have also acquired several count downs to Christmas that the kids fight over doing each morning. It adds so much to the anticipation of Christmas morning and I may love it as much as them.

Here is one of those block count downs I made at Enrichment last year. Cameron changes this one first thing in the morning before any of us even realize.
You stick an ornament on this tree every day and there are little saying on some of them and a star that plays Jingle Bells. (We have some Christmas cards already!)
We always had one of these old fashioned advent calendars growing up, sent by my Nana. I remember as a child always guessing what was behind each door. Who needs the chocolate ones? These are more fun and now it's my kids who do the guessing. Thanks mom, for finding it! See where Mr. Peeps is today?
Last year Grandma Johnson sent us these adorable mittens stuffed with candy, games, and other fun goodies to be opened each day until Christmas. I struggled with ideas to fill them this year, but we came up with activities to fill them with and each has some fun Christmasey thing to do. Some are as simple as reading a Christmas book or watching a movie, to making cookies, putting a gingerbread house together, visiting Santa, going to the temple lights, or making ornaments for our tree.
During this time of year I just want to hold my family close and sit under the tree and bask in the Spirit that Christmas brings. It seems it comes more quickly every year and parties and activities pull us away from that which is most important. Christmas is at the peak of magical for our kids right now and watching the glee on their faces as we celebrate together makes me want to pack up and move to the North Pole tomorrow. I'm trying to savor every moment before it's gone again until next year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Lodge

Just like last year, we headed to Great Wolf Lodge the Sunday following Thanksgiving. This year, we had some added company, as Kristin and her brood decided to come along. We were pleased to get some free upgraded rooms and our had a fireplace and loft and two bathrooms! Plenty of room to spread out. We come to GWL for the waterpark and that's pretty much all we did for two days straight. We gave Cameron some freedom this year and let him wander the park with a cousin-buddy and Gavin tried the BIG slide- the tornado! Even though he was a bit short, they still let him ride and he loved it! Mason was a little daredevil and went with one of us on the big slides and went by himself down some of the bigger kid ones. He really enjoyed the wave pool too. We went to story time Sunday night in our jammies and ate at Sonic for dinner. After a full night's sleep we woke up ready to do it all over again and we stayed at the park until 6:30! The kids were asleep in the car in no time and it was a quiet ride home. I think we have started a new tradition and it is one that the whole family can enjoy. What a great place and what luck that the cousins could come and play with us. We are already looking forward to next year.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cousin-palooza 2011

Thanksgiving last year was such a blast that we decided to have a do-over this year. Lisa and her family came up from Tennessee, Kristin and her family came from Richmond, Pop Pop, Mom, Jeff, Jim and Judy all came for round two. Last year we had learned a few things and so this year was even more seamless and relaxed. After our turkey feast we played a rousing game of basketball, or watched a movie and then at 4:30 we skyped with Becky in Australia and filed through wishing them a belated happy Thanksgiving (it was already Friday morning there). The kids probably had the most fun of all hanging out with cousins they haven't seen since last year.

Lisa's family stayed with us again this year (lucky us!) We went into DC and toured the White House and saw the National Archives and then on Friday, Kristin's family joined us and the girls headed to Old Town Alexandria and Georgetown while the boys went back to DC to catch a few museums. We gathered that evening for dinner and games that we've played since we were kids like Pit and Characters and we all laughed so hard we cried. I am convinced that our family may be funnier than any other. Kristin especially had us rolling the most. I don't think anyone wanted to leave or go to sleep that night. It really was so much fun and I am so thankful for sisters with children who love and play with mine. Family is the best!

Kendall and Brooke- beautiful nieces!
Brandon and Gavin- inseparable
Mason and Emory- his favorite cousin!

Skyping with Becky and fam
Four sisters