Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012!

(Mama and Baby Liam)

Christmas was a whirlwind. Johnson house Christmas Eve, Shaw house Christmas morning, Birch house Christmas afternoon, and we're finally home. The babes are tucked in their beds with full bellies, hopefully dreaming of goodness and all the hugs and kisses they've received today.

(Baby Finn and Baby Liam are the stars of Christmas Morning.)

I watched my children today. They didn't understand opening gifts or the "Merry Christmas" wishes that were sent their way. They definitely didn't understand all the time in the car. But they smiled and cooed and brightened the day of those who held them. Today was a long day for mama and daddy, but they were our little troopers. There were meltdowns, but who can blame a little 5 month old for only wanting a clean diaper and a bottle?

(Liam and Grandma S taking a nap.)

Old traditions were kept, some were not, and new traditions were created with our new additions. Christmas Eve was spent with Grandma and Grandpa J and Uncle Shane. We ate dinner, read Luke 2, had a wonderful FHE on personal gifts, which was followed by beautiful presents made by Lori for each of us (Brandon, Shane, and me).  Afterwards, we opened the rest of our presents and ate some cream puffs. When we left, the world outside was covered with a blanket of white snow, but the air was clear. It was a perfect Christmas Eve night.

(Joey made this monkey bread for breakfast. Even if it did light the oven on fire, it was still yummy!)

Christmas morning, Liam was up at 5:30 am and he wouldn't go back to sleep. So I picked him up out of his crib and snuggled him in our bed. He fell back to sleep, but I was awake. So, I carried myself into the family room and laid on the couch, wrapped in a fuzzy blanket. I reminisced on Christmas past and remembered that it was at 5:30 am exactly 1 year ago that I went into the bathroom to take a pregnancy test. I was so nervous. Then I saw the (+) and I started to cry. B, thinking I was crying because it was negative, rushed in to comfort me. When he opened the door I showed him the test. And he started to cry. It was a wonderful, surreal moment.

Remember this?

(Mom and Dad's Christmas gift to us. I miss my brother.)

While we fed babies, B and I opened gifts to each other and the little Santa gifts for the babes. Then we packed up and headed to the Shaw's for Christmas breakfast and presents. Whit had just come off a night shift at the hospital and the rest of us were a little tired, including the babes. So, we packed up and went home. We laid the twins down, got ready, got the twins up, changed them, and fed them. Unfortunately, we were about 2 hours late to the Birch Christmas party- such is our life right now. We ate more food, exchanged gifts, and played games.  And the babes were marvelous. 

(Grandma Birch all dressed up in Christmas cheer!)

I love Christmas. But, in all the hustle and bustle of trying to get gifts wrapped, cards sent, and food made...I found myself stressed and grumpy. In the midst of loading crying babies in carseats and driving through stormy weather and/or icy roads to attend another family party, getting uptight with each other became easier for B and I. At the height of all the commotion, B expressed to me "I'm not annoyed with you. I'm annoyed with Christmas." As we talked, I realized that, sometimes, in trying to keep with the traditions of the holiday, we can loose perspective on the meaning behind our celebration. It was so ironic to me that the last thing I wanted to do was be Christ-like on the day we celebrate His birth, His life, and the gifts He offers us freely. Such a disappointment for me when I clued in that I was losing the "reason for the season".  

(Two loves of my life: Baby Liam and Baby Finn)

Then my little brother sent his email from the MTC. The last few sentences in his letter read  "I hope you all have such a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Just remember to keep Christ always in your heart, there in lies true happiness...This truly has been the best Christmas I have ever had!"  My heart warmed as I remembered my days as a missionary and I recognized that I am the happiest when I am closest to my Savior. When I spend more time giving thanks for my blessings instead of wasting energy on worrying about what I don't have. When I serve others instead of having expectations of what others "should" do for me. When I quickly forgive instead of being offended and holding on to hurt feelings. When I look for the best, not the worst in people. When I hope and not fear. When the Savior is the center of my home, my family, and my life.

Merry Christmas to all! Prayers for peace, joy, and gladness as we celebrate our Savior, Jesus Christ. I know He lives. I know He loves us. And I know, along with Elder Shaw, that true happiness comes from following Him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

6 real things I love about my real life RIGHT NOW.

(This is decorating the Christmas tree this year. Brandon did NOT like the tinsel, but I put it on anyway.
Then I agreed it looked a little cheap. So we took it off. He wasn't super happy about any of it.)

1. Brandon Johnson. What does a "perfect marriage" look like? Is it two people who always look, act, and feel their very best? Is it a union void of any trials, tests, or turns? I admit my ideas have evolved over the past couple of years. I have learned, even over the short time we have been married, that a successful marriage requires hardships, because that's when a husband and wife have the opportunity to give selflessly and buoy each other. Jesus Christ is perfect love. And when we follow His example, we feel that, especially in the sacred bonds of marriage. Faith, Hope, Charity. We hear about these things all the time, but do we act when it really counts- when it's really hard? Brandon Johnson is my husband. He is my best friend. He is my partner. He is the person I share my most intimate self with and he holds my very fragile heart. And now, he is the father of my children. I love my life with him.

(Liam and Finn)

2. Liam and Finn. I love to hear Liam talk. It is one of the loveliest sounds. The more he grows, the louder the chatter becomes. And I LOVE it. At night, after we feed the boys, we sit in the rocking chairs in the nursery and sing songs to our babies. I love watching Finn try to sing along. It melts my heart. It makes me laugh. It makes B laugh. I love that Finn is almost above 80th percentile in almost all his stats. I love that he is 17 lbs. I love that Liam is 14 lbs. Because that means they are growing. And there were weeks and months when that's all my heart wanted. I wanted big, healthy babies. And that's what I have.

 (Whitney and Joey Rino)

3. I love that I can text my sister at 8:30 am and ask if she watched last night's episode of "Parenthood". I love that we will text back and forth about how many tissues we needed to get through it and how our husbands cry too. Then, our conversation evolves into expressions of love for our family, for our lives, for the goodness that we have been given. I love that we can still laugh at our childhood and agree that we have a good life. I love that she will drop everything to drive to my house so I can sleep for a couple of hours, while she cleans, feeds my babies, and cooks us dinner. I love that our husbands can laugh together. I love that she shares her dreams with me and I with her. I love that she loves my babies.

(T. M. Shaw)

4. I love littlest Chee. She likes to come over and watch Project Runway and I offer her anything in my pantry to eat. Usually she prefers a banana with Nutella. I try and keep Nutella stocked for this very reason. I love that she will automatically go pick up a baby when they start crying. I love that she has similar aspirations that I had at her age and that she stresses about them as much as I did. But, she can do the splits. And is much more popular. And has the best legs and feet in the family. And is more strong-willed than my young 15-year-old self. And I love that.

(Elder saying goodbye.)

5. I love that Elder Shaw is in the MTC. He has been there since November 28th. I miss him, but I know he is in the right place. I received a letter from him yesterday and my heart burst. He is growing up so fast and his testimony of Jesus Christ is so strong. It makes me miss my days as a missionary. It has caused me to have dreams for the past week about being called on another mission. It's weird. I am sad that he won't get to hold my children again until they are about 2 years old, but I am so so happy that he is able to spread the Gospel to people in Mexico. There are few greater experiences than watching an individual or family literally change before your eyes as they accept the teachings of Jesus Christ. (here's a little video of our family saying goodbye.)

(Baby Liam playing with Aunt Diane.)

6. I love that B's Aunt Diane is in town. I could sit and listen to her talk for hours...mostly because I love that eastern accent. I also love hearing her and B's dad talk about their childhood in New York. And I love her love affair with cakes, cookies, and other forms of deliciousness. Last night we met up at City Creek and had dinner. Then we went to Temple Square. What do I love most about Diane? She can laugh. I LOVE laughing. In fact, there were a couple of comments B made to me last night that got me laughing so hard, I almost didn't make it through the door and into the bathroom before wetting my pants. I grew up with a mom who can gut-laugh 'til tears flow down her face.  Some of our greatest memories have to do with laughing. Feeling down? Try laughing. Especially at yourself.