Friday, December 9, 2011

For my tech-savvy friends (especially the ones for whom I have no valid street address), here is our 2011 holiday letter, complete with charming pictures. :) 

There’s a first time for everything…
Swenson Family 2011
In February, I was inexplicably inspired to start running and started the Coach to 5K training program.  Subsequently, I ran my first 5K (April 23), my first 12K (Thanksgiving), my first half marathon (July 4th), and my first Ragnar relay (October).  I offer cheerful apologies to all the runners I have taunted in the past, as well as all the non-runners whom I now badger to run with me because “it’s just 3 miles, come on!” (Since we’re on the subject, you know you really want to run the Salt Lake Marathon with me next spring…!)
Anna has transformed into a dangerously charming young lady this year, earning nicknames like “bombshell” and “Miss America”, in part because of her cascading blonde hair.  She will stormily protest if you accidentally call her a “little” anything (“I am NOT a little lady.  I’m a BIG lady!”)  She has yet to experience her first haircut, as Liz is still remembers Charlotte’s own haircut from last year all too clearly. 
Charlotte started Kindergarten and Jack started first grade, and with those first days came hectic schedules and a flurry of other firsts.  For example, my first carpool, the first time I made a loaf’s worth peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and froze them, and the first time I fell asleep on top of my kids’ homework.
Jack signed up for his first organized sport --coach-pitch baseball.  Although it took some time to learn the rules (once, he got to second base then kept running straight into the outfield) he enjoyed it.  He also loved having Matt there to cheer him on, even when that meant Dad sacrificed sleep to be there. 
Do you remember the first time you read James and the Giant Peach or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?  Matt cuddles up with Jack and Charlotte each night and reads out loud from our old childhood favorites.  It’s been wonderful seeing our kids experience these classics for the first time!
Matt has always loved fish, but recently took his first steps into the complicated world of salt water reef aquariums.  He takes great joy in watching his new coral thrive and agonizes over unexplained fish deaths (Matt’s mom: “Honestly, Matt, you should know better than to name a fish!”). 
Ben’s first words so far have been “Yeah!” “Uh-oh!” and a fuzzy version of “Look at THAT!”  He hasn’t yet taken his first steps, but since he can make it from my lap to the open toilet bowl in 2.3 seconds, there’s no rush.  He is as charming, happy, and googly-eyed as ever.
While we’ve had plenty of new experiences this year, lots of things have stayed the same.  Matt enjoys his work and I thrive as a stay-at-home mom.  Jack continues to constantly hum his own theme music, Charlotte still gets lost in art projects, and Anna can still get out of trouble with a charming smile.  We still miss our scattered friends, and we still invite all of you to stop by our house if you ever come our way. 
Love, Liz, Matt, Jack (6), Charlotte (5), Anna (3) and Ben (1) Swenson 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween fun!

Halloween is one of my favorite times of year.  It's a wonderful combination of mischief, creativity, and neighborliness.  Sprinkled with liberal amounts of chocolate.  From the left:  Anna as Rapunzel, Ben as a dragon, Jack as Captain America, and Charlotte as a witch.
"Mom!  I have to have a green face so that I will be so spooky!  My friends will not even know who I am because I will be SO SCARY!"
"Mom, I'm not dressing up as Captain America.  I AM Captain America."

Anna got this Rapunzel dress for her birthday last week and was thrilled to use it as a Halloween costume.  Multi-tasking bonus!  :)

Ben actually looks like he has a healthy body weight in this picture.  Poor thing.  He got lots of candy from the adoring neighbors though!

Matt didn't go all out on the pumpkin carving this year--just three--but the kids were great helpers, scooping pumpkin sludge all over the kitchen, while Matt crafted his masterpieces.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

you did WHAT in Vegas!?!?

Reasons Why I am Going to Wear this Gray T-Shirt EVERY DAY for the next 2 weeks...

Reason #1:  After months of planning, recruiting, shuffling, and plenty of self doubt, Ragnar weekend came: 188 miles, 12 runners, 29 hours.  Here we all are at the finish line with our well-deserved medals (I would also wear the medal for the next two weeks, but Matt forbade that.  Probably a good thing...)
Reason #2:  No really, I promise, it was REALLY fun.  I know all you non-runners are rolling your eyes at the prospect.  It was 3 parts racing, one part slumber party, one part camping.  All through some of the most beautiful areas around.  
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 Reason #3:  We went pretty mellow in our costume choice--and yes, compared to many other teams, our brilliant neon tee shirts were very mellow.  Our favorites: a bunch of dudes running in red dresses and a group wearing togas.

Reason #4:  What better way to hang out with people than to meet them every mile of their race at the side of the road, hollering and cheering?  Also, nothing like knowing the van is waiting up ahead to keep you from walking up those nasty hills.  It was racing with a whole new level of support and camaraderie.

 Reason #5:  I took the car seats out of my van for the first time in months, and vacuumed up layers of accumulated crackers, stickers, and polly pocket shoes.  Then, we proceeded to load it with junk food, 6 smelly runners, window chalk, and by the end, a complete coating of dust.  I will get around to cleaning it, but I must say it was quite the spectacle in the church parking lot this morning.

Reason #5:  Matt came out to support me on my night run, because I wanted him to be part of the fun and because I had to run through a trail away from the van for a while.  He came along on his bike and chatted the whole time.  Also note the attractive reflective running gear we lived in from 5:00 pm to 7:00 am.  

Reason #6:  I am a killing machine. See the red blur?  That's a dude in a dress.  See that yellow blur?  That's me, leaving him behind to choke on my dust.  Not to say that worthy opponents didn't catch up to me plenty, but I did run like greased neon yellow lightening.  I made great--even PR beating--times on all three of my legs.  

Reason #7:  I even love the less glamorous aspects of the race--like wearing reflective vests, using porta-potties and sleeping clumped together in the back of a rank van.  Just added to the whole experience.

That's seven reasons.  It could have been 12 (as in 12 amazing team members), or 36 (number of legs we ran together) or even 188 (for the number of miles.  or the number of porta-potties).  But if I had to describe the whole thing in one word?  Epic.  :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ben!

Well, I've been the mother of four for a year now.  A long, hectic, wonderful year.  Something about this year changed me.  I'm not really a better mom, but I'm definitely a happier one.  I love being with these kids; I love watching them grow up and I've even found myself taking pictures of their messes so that I can remember them when my house is empty and clean someday.  

This new attitude may be the result of maturity or desperation but I think it mainly comes from looking at my little family and saying, "hey!  Everyone's here.  Now let's get this party started!"  Add to that the considerable joy I feel at the prospect of never being pregnant again, and it's been a party, for sure.  Ben is more delightful than I possibly could have hoped.  I mean, look at him.  If he were your kids, you'd be writing gushy blog entries about him too.  :)  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is it pick-up time yet??

My two oldest began school yesterday.  A brief timeline of the morning follows:

6:24 am: Charlotte wakes me with a plaintive knock on my door.  She waltzes in, dressed from hair bow to brown buckle shoes.  "Is it time to leave for school yet?!?"

6:45 am:  All my kids are up, dressed, and sitting around the table for breakfast.  "Hurry, we don't want to be late for school!"  Jack wears his backpack while he eats his waffles.

7:02 am:  Jack now insists it really is time to leave for school and carries his Spiderman lunch box everywhere he goes, including the bathroom when he brushes his teeth.

7:15 am:  I sit the kids down at the table to write their names.  Saw an adorable picture on pinterest where kids held up designer chalkboards with their names written on them.  I do not have designer chalkboards, so I gave the kids printer paper.

7:30 am:  Hustle kids out the door and take pictures in front of the house. See above.  In the market for a better camera and/or more cooperative children.

7:45 am:  Charlotte runs off into the Kindergarten yard to play while I drop Jack off at the first grade line.  He waves me off.

8:00 am:  I stand dutifully at the back of the Kindergarten classroom while Charlotte sits with docile obedience on the carpet.  Mrs. Borgos reads a sentimental good-bye story.  I feel a little smug as I watch the helpless parents of weepy children.  And then...

8:05 am:  Charlotte's eyes fill with silent tears, her lip quavers.  Then she starts emitting top of the audible spectrum shrieks and clutching to me wildly.

8:06 am: I flee the room as Mrs. Borgos pulls her away from my legs while singing "if you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!"  Charlotte does not clap.

8:06-10:15 am:  I spend the morning eating york peppermint patties and watching internet videos, trying to drown my panicked feeling that Charlotte just might still be screaming.  Straining my ears to listen for her, 3 blocks away.

10:30 am:  After being the very first mom to show up at Kindergarten pick up, I collect a daughter that is not crying nor frowning.  She seems fine. I'm the traumatized one.

**Update:  Now it's Tuesday.  After a snuggly pep-talk early this morning, I was able to drop Charlotte off with no tears.  (She even walked into the gate without me, but I hid behind the wall to watch her go in.)  And Jack?  Ran off into the first grade yard without a second glance.

I will probably get to the point eventually where I enjoy the quiet house and extra time with the little ones.  For now, I'm just taking it one day at a time and compulsively looking at the clock, waiting to get my houseful back!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

 Yesterday, I was speaking with some of the wonderful women I know that are one generation ahead of me, with kids grown and gone.  I was lamenting the age-old struggle of kids vs. clean house, and one of them quoted this:

Babies Don’t Keep (a.k.a "song for a fifth child")
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton
Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.
The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep. 
I'm sitting here getting all teary about this poem and Charlotte comes up to me and has this conversation:
"Mommy, why are you sad?"
"I'm not sad." 
"Well, then why are you dripping?"
"Because I'm reading something that reminds me that babies are more important than cleaning."
(with wild, hopeful joy) "Does this mean we don't have to clean up anymore?!?"
Be grateful for the messes in your life.  They mean you have people to make them and better things to do than clean them up.  
*note:  This poem was originally published in the Ladies Home Journal in 1958.  I reposted it from this blog:*

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Things I will NOT miss about summer

1.  Going to the grocery store with four children.
2.  Having lifeguards jumping into the water to save my son.  His style of swimming just happens to mimic a child in deep distress.  (this happened twice.)
3.  Getting burned thighs on carseats, burned toes on asphalt, and burned hands on door handles.
4.  Looking around in Sacrament meeting to discover 60% of the ward is on vacation.  And you are still there.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Things I will miss about summer

1.  Getting everyone piled into the car and heading for UT without school, ball games, or ballet lessons to miss.
2.  Letting the kids stay up late reading stories with Daddy.
3.  Waking up with a whole day to fill with adventures.  Or to stay in pajamas.
4.  The baking, broiling, blistering Vegas sun, drying us off seconds after we get wet.
5.  Doing everything together.  Everything.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A summer snapshot

So, looking at my blog you've probably guessed that as bad as I am at keeping it up to date, I'm even worse at posting pictures.  Life just goes too fast, and if I stop to take a picture, I feel like I'm missing it.  

However, these are a few pictures that remind me of this summer.  Below, Matt with Jack and Charlotte out on the kayak at Big Bear Lake.  Anna is in the foreground, pulling the kayak to shore.  I am taking the picture, being the fabulous kind of parent that will stand there and watch a 2 year old try to lug 200+ lbs onto the shore.  

Matt and I went with some of his family on a bike ride to go visit the "Largest Lodgepole Pine in the world!!!"  Despite sounding a little like a cheesy roadside attraction, it was an awesome sight, and a good introduction into the world of mountain biking.

This is Charlotte being cute in her carseat.  Most likely, she spent 10 minutes posing and asking us to take her picture.  Then, when she was not appeased by my pretend camera "click", I must have pulled out the cell phone.

Oh, and this.  I took this picture so that I could text it to a friend of mine.  She was about to send her son over to our house for a play date, and I wanted to be perfectly clear about what she was sending him into.  No children have catapulted out of the pool and into the barrel cactus, stage right.  Yet.

This was a view I couldn't resist while I was trail running, again at Big Bear Lake.  I wish I could describe the freedom and peace I felt, running by myself through the woods, stopping to watch wildlife, take a picture, or decide which fork in the trail to follow.  Well, the freedom and peace I felt until about mile 7, when Matt started texting me..  Good ole cell phone GPS.  Husband built in. :)

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

I'm grateful for Dr. Matt

I really am coming around to the idea of blogging as a form of personal history.  I have a goal to become more active and want to start posting every day about small, meaningful things in my life.

Today, I'm grateful to be married to the man who kicks into high gear when I am panicked and disoriented.  namely, when there's blood involved.  Charlotte had an unfortunate run-in with a dog in front of Petsmart today that ended up with her face scratched, blood streaming down her cheeks and into her eyes.  I was paralyzed by the horrifying thought that something may have happened to her sight.  Matt was sweeping her up in his arms, cleaning her off with stacks of napkins, and convincing the store manager not to call 911.

I ended up at home with the other three kids, helplessly wringing my hands, eating stress foods and playing dr. mario.  Matt was, well, playing Dr. Matt, getting Charlotte admitted to the ER, supervising her care, and cashing in on extra attention from a host of nurses he has treated with respect for the last two years.  Charlotte came home in Matt's arms with neatly bandaged stitches (a measly 4 in total, despite the waterfalls of blood), a stuffed puppy, a popsicle stained tongue and grand stories about cupcakes and cartoons.

I don't know how I would have made it through today without him.