Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Slumber Parties

Family time is so precious to us. When everyone is spread out across the country and the globe, it makes spending real time together that much more special. When we have an opportunity to visit with family, we hit the pause button on normal life. In March, we were delighted to have Alan's brother's family visiting from Okinawa. This is a grand affair as all the Johnsons get together. 8 adults and 13 children make for one loud, crazy, exciting, not a dull moment adventure. We try to pack enough memories into 2 weeks to last us 3 years, although, I do not think this is possible. We were blessed with typical Maine weather (80 degrees one week and snow the next). We took advantage of the good days and ventured to the usual tourist spots: the old forts, Boston, ice cream stands, and candle pin bowling. And some of the lesser tourist spots like Ordway Grove and Mt. Apatite. We also enjoy some good old fashioned Johnson fun like racing Grandpa's Golf cart, Go Kart and Mini Bikes,

or target shooting in Grandpa's back yard,

jumping on the trampoline, playing duck duck goose, playing Lego games on Xbox, late night Minecraft fun, or hiding in Grandma Kay's closets (yes they even locked themselves in).

Then there were the Slumber Parties!

3 years ago, the kiddos were too young to enjoy slumber parties with their cousins, but this time we did not hold back! This was a special treat for my own children because we typically do not do slumber parties so to have the cousins stay over (and so many of them) was a dream come true (and I am not exaggerating)! Do you remember those moments as a kid? The times when sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag was exciting or when staying up later than 8:00 was actually desired, or when sharing clothes was like Christmas, or waking up next to "millions" of other children and giggling in bed while imagining out the "best day ever!"

The times when life was so simple. As simple as a mama saying, "Yes! Yes, you can stay over!" Then the whole crowd of children starts jumping up and down screaming with excitement! Yes, those were days I never want to forget and days that I was so happy to share with my children (and all the cousins).

Many of the cousins (those that were old enough) traveled as a pack from our house to Grandma's to Aunite's then back again to share in the sweetness of slumber parties. The childlike excitement never dying, only growing, as my children grew to love their cousins even more!

*Sigh* because then it had to end. We had to say goodbye to our family that lives so far away. We had to say goodbye to the many slumber parties and say "hello" once again to normal life. My dear, sensitive, oldest understood this year. She is beginning to understand what it means to say goodby. The realization that the next time she will see them she might be 12 years old was not easy for her. The tears and sadness were almost more than a mama could take. There are no words to comfort a little one who understands the reality of "goodbye; I won't see you for a long time." I remember when I was younger praying that my dad would lose the car keys so we wouldn't have to leave my cousin's house or praying that an intense snowstorm would come up suddenly overnight so we could stay at Grandma's. But the reality was that we always had to return. Now, I walk my children through this part of growing up with lots of hugs and encouragement until "normal" is okay again, and slumber parties are missed but something we can look forward to.

There were memories made, there were tears to dry, there were best friend bonds formed, and we look forward to when we can have everyone together again!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Traditions

Some days I feel like I preach spontaneity then other days I rest in the comfort of family traditions. I appreciate knowing that some things will remain consistent year after year. It gives me the freedom to set up moments of remembrance and gives me room for making new memories that are anchored.

Growing up, my parents introduced us to many holiday traditions like getting new pajamas every year on Christmas Eve OR buying strawberry and grape Shasta soda to drink on the truck bed while we watched the annual summer parade OR participating in annual Easter egg hunts with our church family. Since having children, we have kept some of these traditions and dismissed others (is Shasta soda even made anymore)? Some traditions we have altered to fit the dynamics of our family. And because this blog post is about EASTER traditions I suppose I should get around to talking a little bit about what we do as a family for Easter.

Here's the deal, though, I cannot share all the details with you or Easter eggs everywhere will cease to exist (have you ever wondered why it is an Easter bunny that delivers the eggs and not an Easter chicken). No, but seriously, I can tell you that our tradition requires stealth, speed, plastic eggs, the whole family, sharing our heart about Christ, and many other families. For 7 years we have carried on this special tradition without missing a beat. As we welcome each new child into the family, they just come alongside, and once they are old enough, they actually get special training and have to prove their stealth before given the freedom to participate.

Our Easter conversation usually goes something like this...."do you remember last year?" AND "Oh man! That was so crazy!" And on and on....with laughter filling the air sometimes until we are all crying. Then there is the conversation about why we celebrate Easter. AND year after year, at least on of our kiddos asks "Why do we celebrate Easter on this day if we don't really know when Jesus rose from the grave?" It is not about knowing the exact date, but it is about giving ourselves a time of remembrance. We use this time to remember Christ's sacrifice for us and His power over the grave. We mark this day every year and set it aside to reflect on the culmination of Christ's life (not to neglect it the rest of the year of course).

We decided 7 years ago that we would add our own family spin on Easter by loving others together, sharing the good news of why we celebrate Easter, and some major fun! Some day, I will reveal to you the top secret mission of the Johnson Family, but that will be far in the future....possibly when we are grandparents. Until then....if you are dying to know (and if you live more than 300 miles away and are super stealthy, you can send me an email or leave a comment, and I will reply via personal email). For the rest of you, what are some of your favorite family traditions?