Saturday, October 31, 2009


*Make sure to turn up your volume...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


1. I love your hands

2. I love your endless sense of adventure

3. I love your need to surprise me...still

4. I love that you are strong where I am weak

5. I love your smell

6. I love that you make the little things special

7. I love your hugs

8. I love that you still tell me I'm beautiful

9. I love that you are a great dad

10. I love that you are smart, so smart

These are just 10 things I love about you... I hope you have a great birthday, you deserve it!

Love always,


Thursday, October 22, 2009


The seasons are turning around here...

Family dynamics change when your oldest turns 16. Mostly, I think, because they can drive, and they become so much more independent overnight! When I was pregnant with Brit I felt completely overwhelmed and ill-equiped to be a mom. I just didn't feel ready to take on the very real possibility that I could totally screw up another person's life! At my baby shower I received a card with this poem:

If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging.
~Diane Loomans, from "If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again"

That little poem seemed to have the answers I was looking for at the time, and I decided I didn't want to look back with regrets. After a rocky start, with a colicky newborn, parenting became my favorite thing in this world! I loved bedtime stories and blankies, writing on the walls, and hand written love notes, messy kisses, dirty faces, Legos, kiddie pools, gum in the hair. But kids grow up and bedtime stories are replaced by late night talks about anxieties, or fears, or what secrets the Universe holds. They leave Legos behind in favor of iPods, cell phones, and gym memberships. Kisses and hugs come fewer and farther between. At some point you start to realize that being a mom has become more about teaching your kids how to grow up. It becomes just as important to help them start making their own decisions, help them understand consequences, and to push them just a little toward more independence. That part is so much harder than scrubbing marker off the walls!

So when Brit told me he didn't want to go with us to Arizona this winter, I was hit with a slew of emotions. Pride. Sadness. Admiration. Panic. To name a few. Brit and Kaylee have been taking classes with other homeschoolers this year that he doesn't want to miss out on. He is really involved with a teen group and doesn't want to miss the activities. And since he already does his own laundry, knows how to shop for groceries, can take care of his meals and the animals, and can drive... Why not? Once I caught my breath, I felt like it could work, it would be okay. Kaylee still wanted to go, right? Right? She would never come out and say it, but Kaylee isn't ready to be without her brother and her dad at the same time. And Kaylee really didn't want to miss out on classes, and friends, and...her brother.

Yesterday I made the decision to NOT go to Arizona this winter. Although my son seems to think he can get along just fine without me, and my daughter is willing to suck it up and be my winter buddy, I still feel like being a good mom is my most important concern. And while I do agree that Brit is capable of taking care of himself just fine, I hold to the belief that there are still a few things I can do for him! Don't get me wrong, I have moments of fluttery excitement thinking about "someday" when I can spend entire days gardening, or sewing, or just laying around with a good book. My only concern will be to make it look like I'd gotten anything done by the time Jeff gets home from work. But I'm not ready for "someday" yet.

Now I am off to go shopping, for boots, and gloves, and hats, and scarves... And I can't forget a Snuggie... Or should I go with the Slanket?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


My beautiful,

baby girl,

is TWELVE!!!

And she is my favorite girl, my best friend, my "Angelfish." She told me this was her best birthday ever...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


So, what have I missed? I've been absent from the world of blogging for so long I feel like I'm starting over! It's kind of like when you don't go to church for a few weeks and you feel a little guilty... But then a few more weeks go by and at some point you're thinking it would be just plain embarrassing to go back at all! Yet here I stand, red-faced at the door, ready to do better.

It's not as if nothing has been goin' on 'round here! Brit turned 16 and got his driver' license.

His birthday gift from Grandma and Tim was a 1988, red, Toyota 4-runner! Yeesh! That kid lives a charmed life.

Jeff and I celebrated out 19th wedding anniversary. Seems like just yesterday... sniff, sniff, we were young and beautiful... and so naive! I wouldn't go back, not even for the skinny legs and smooth skin. I like where we are just fine!

My brother lost his house, place of business, and little dog in a terrible house fire!

I turned 40!!!

Jeff, yes Jeff! Brought another dog home!

And many, many weekends of camping and boating...

The summer came and went in a flash! I can't believe it's September already. My kids are growing up, becoming more independent, changing every day... It's a proud kind of sad to watch it all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

MY MOAB MEMORIAL (Day weekend)

For nine years we have been going to Moab, Ut. for some of the best times of our lives, and this year is no exception. Memorial Day weekend is a good time to go because of the long break from work and school. We have had all kinds of people come along with us to share in our enthusiasm for this part of the world... and we love sharing it. This year Jeff's entire family was able to make it along with my friend Elisa and her three kids. Elisa's decision to come was kind of last minute, and since it was one of THE busiest weekends of the year, they ended up in our trailer. It was fun to have a big group all together... it reminded me of the motorhome trips my family made when I was a kid. This year we didn't have Jeeps or bikes so we spent more time hiking and relaxing around camp. I was so sad to leave yesterday... but we do have our memories and pictures... until next time...

I said "cheese" not freeze!

There's some cheese...

Hiking buddies

Can't go wrong with a thumbs up!!!

Beauty on the beasts! I bent down to take this pic and that horrible plant bit me!

Cute Kelson Family

My babies... sniff, sniff... so grown up.

Corona Arch hiking group

Corona Arch


Aw... sweetness

...And a little nature lovin'

Oh, and a lot of exhaustion at the end of the day...

Good thing for good dogs! Thanks everyone who helped make my Moab Memorial Day weekend so memorable!

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Have you ever had to keep a really big secret? Do you remember how it felt to keep that secret? If it was a good secret, like the time Jeff and I wanted to surprise our kids with a trip to Disneyland, it feels like you could just burst before the big day arrives and you can reveal the great news! Or, like Christmas Eve when you know you’ve gotten the perfect gifts for your kids and can’t sleep in anticipation for their excitement in the morning. Even so, keeping those secrets takes energy and effort, doesn’t it? I’ve kept a few secrets in my lifetime. Some of those secrets have been terribly painful to keep. Lately I’ve been thinking it’s time to let them go…

This summer I will travel to the places where my childhood was cut short, innocence stolen, trust stripped away, to help me let go of these terrible secrets. I don’t know what I will feel, I don’t know how or if it will help me, and I am trying not to have expectations, but it feels like the right thing to do at this point. I‘ve been told many times, confronting your fears and losses is the best path to leading you out of them. It’s a path I know way more intimately than any person would ever want to, but the alternative is denial, and that was not getting me far. This summer I will take my mom back to these places, at her suggestion, and hope it will give us both a reason to let go of guilt or blame for things that ultimately, neither one of us could control. This summer I will take my kids to these places, to show them that we all have fears to face, that we all need to keep fighting, and that I am not afraid anymore. This summer I will re-visit a time and place where I was unable to protect myself, where I was vulnerable, afraid, confused, and damaged, but this time I will be strong. This summer I hope to leave parts of me there… The dark parts, the broken parts, the parts that died a long time ago, yet I’ve carried with me for all these years. It’s time for me to lay those parts down where they should have been left to begin with, and to leave a little lighter. One more step on my path to being whole.

Why blog about it? Because it is really no secret that 1 in 4 girls, and 1 in 6 boys, will be sexually abused by the age of 18. Look around you, look at your daughters, your sons, your nieces and nephews. Look at your grandchildren, your friends, your neighbors, look at how many people you know, then look long and hard at those statistics. 1 in 4 beautiful, innocent, undeserving, little girls, young ladies, or women may be struggling with the weight of this kind of terrible secret. 1 in 4. There shouldn’t be shame in what was stolen from the innocent. Keeping my secrets isn’t helping me, and is, in fact, a bad example to the 1 in 4 girls whose lives will be snatched by a greedy hand, shaken to pieces, then left to try to put things back together.

This summer I will turn 40. It’s about time I made this journey… there have been a few years where I wasn’t sure I would choose to keep fighting. I’m glad I did. There is still a long road ahead, but I believe that I will be miles farther on my journey, after this summer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Easter is a fun holiday, isn't it? It's food, family, fun, and did I already say food? This year we spread the love of Easter around for a few days. Friday was a fun egg hunt and dinner at my mom's... and I forgot to bring my camera, so we will all have to imagine what it looked like. Holidays on my side of the family are really fun now that more grand kids are cropping up. They remind me of years past with Jeff's family... loud, chaotic, and fabulous. Egg hunts are fun at any age though and I remember not too many years ago when Jeff's parents would hide money in some of the eggs and let the adults participate too. Some years, when we were all a little down on our luck financially, it was a a knock-down, drag-out affair trying to get those money eggs!
Good times.
Another tradition in Jeff's family is the Easter pinata, which is just a contest of cheating disaster, as little (and not so little) kids wield a long stick and swing wildly at a paper-mache animal.
But, so far, so good, and we've only seen a few minor injuries over the years.

As for our own traditions, we stopped doing the Easter basket thing a few years ago once the kids didn't "believe" anymore. At the time it was kind of a relief to let that go, but this year I have been feeling pretty uncomfortable with my kids growing up, and I hate that too soon they will be grown and gone! I know, I know, I have a few years left... but still. So I dragged Jeff out last week to do some Easter basket shopping... to make myself feel better about things. I confessed to him at K Mart that I was really doing the baskets for me, which he said he knew all along. Mr. Smarty Pants! I think the kids liked it too.
We had Easter Brunch at The Gathering Place in Gardner Village.
The food was yummy and we had a good time together. It was Jeff's suggestion to buy egg dye though, so we did, and the kids and I had fun dyeing the eggs Sunday afternoon.
We have chickens who lay brown and green eggs, so technically we don't really need to color our eggs... but where is the fun in that? I did buy a dozen white eggs at the store, somehow they dwindled down to just four by the time we were ready to dye them, so we used some of the colored ones as well.
Don't they look lovely?
Mine were the best... JMO.

Thanks everyone who shared in our Easter this year! Hope everyone else had a Happy, Happy, Holiday!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I haven't been able to blog lately, not since we got back from Arizona, and I haven't been really reading other bloggers either. There has been a mental block going on inside my head for several weeks that shows no signs of clearing itself out so I thought maybe I'd take a stab at breaking it apart myself. My time in Arizona was a great break from the cold, wet, winter, and it was just what I needed to stay a little healthier this year. It was also a break from the near constant drama that seems to come from being born with (or adopted into) the Swensen name. I really do try to steer clear of so called negative posting, but please bear in mind that I am trying to purge myself of this terrible "block" that is fixing to burrow in and stay a while.

I doubt life for the oldest of seven kids is a breeze for anyone lucky (or unlucky) enough to acquire the position. But I've managed to make the whole thing harder on myself by making myself "responsible" for the rest of my siblings early on. I took it upon my shoulders to worry about their well-being, protect them from pain and hardships, and rescue them when protection wasn't enough. Basically I took on a parental role and over time came to be counted on like a parent would be. I can't be sure why I did this since I can't completely remember when I started. I don't think my intentions were bad, and I hope I helped and did some good along the way. Another surprising aspect of taking upon yourself this responsibility is that your own parents will let you! And in a family with seven kids, who could blame them... if one child steps forward and says "I'll do that," who wouldn't say "Sweet!" So now I find myself feeling the aches and pains of my siblings sorrows the same way I would/do for my own kids. And I am trying to deal with the guilt of choosing my own little family first, and basically abandoning my siblings if I can't do both. Yes, I know they have a mom and a dad, and the responsibility of acting as a parent is theirs'. But it's not always so "black and white" in the deep folds of my psyche. My time in Arizona was a well needed break from this enormous responsibility.

The problems don't just disappear though. They wait. So last night when I got a late night call from my mom to let me know that my brother was served with papers to strip away his parental rights, and that my former sister-in-law is planning to sever all ties with our family because she has remarried and wants to start a new life, and that we will no longer be able to be a part of my nephew's life, it was just the last straw! And my mom thinks for some reason that if I could just call former sis-in-law and explain how much we love my nephew and how much better his life will be with us in it, and how much more love he would have with us around, that maybe she will change her mind. And I whole-heartedly believe that all those things are true. But I couldn't do it. After thinking about it all night, all I could do was tell her how much we love my nephew, and we love her, and I want both of them to be happy and be at peace. And I have no right to tell her what the best choices are for my nephew, just because I want her to choose something different. I don't know what she needs to do to make her new marriage work, and to feel like she is being a good mother. I couldn't be angry with her, I couldn't condemn her, I couldn't beg her to reconsider, even though that's what I wanted. This is a little boy that we took care of half of every week for nearly a year when my brother lost custody for a time. He became a part of our lives. I bathed him, dressed him, fed him, read stories to him, lay next to him at night till he fell asleep. My kids played with him, took care of him, taught him things, and loved him like a little brother. My heart is breaking to think we can't see him anymore.

So what is the cause of all this heartache? Drugs.

My brother, it seems, has a harder time making good decisions than most. I am not trying to judge. In fact I completely understand that for many people, real life is something they need to escape from, and self-medicating is a common way to accomplish this. It's not a rare condition. The world can be terribly unfair and downright cruel, believe me I know well how unfair things can get and we all have to try to cope with the consequences. But coping is different than escaping, and this is where I've got to take a stand. I've witnessed and endured some pretty horrible schtuff. I have burned in my brain the kind of material the writers for "SVU" or "Cold Case" might come looking for, so believe me when I say I wouldn't mind a little escaping once in a while. While I won't judge another for their methods, and won't blame them, I will give these words of caution. Drugs are not the answer! Unless more trouble and heartache is what you're after. Or you like mooching off of family and friends, transient living arrangements, burning bridges, and losing jobs. Drugs will eventually get you arrested and sent to jail. Maybe you will even have your three year old son with you at the time and then child protective services will get involved. Drugs will stunt your emotional maturity, make you a burden both physically and mentally on the people who love you, and make it nearly impossible for you to have meaningful relationships. Drugs will not only bring chaos and pain to your own life, but to the lives of everyone you know, to some level, and you will always let people down. Maybe you will lose your privilege to drive, have to rely on the kindness of others to get you to work, or be a slave to bus schedules. You will lie, cheat, steal, and eventually you will lose everything. If drugs don't kill you, you will likely spend the rest of your life trying to recover from all that has been laid to waste during the time that drugs ruled your life. We all want to find a way to deal with our personal pain, but it's wrong to think that what you choose won't affect the people who love you so just say NO to drugs!

Monday, March 16, 2009


And I may even start blogging again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Whenever Jeff is here on weekends we try to stay busy because of his ADD, or ADHD, or his low tolerance for boredom, or his 7-8 Cokes a day. It depends on which source you ask... but I am straying from the real topic... we go places. Sometimes we have a specific destination in mind and sometimes we just drive. Jeff wanted to get a closer look at the Superstition Mountains to our east so we DROVE in their direction. On roads. And later on dirt roads. We had lunch before leaving home and wouldn't you know it, Nature decided to place a call! And then we happened upon this tiny blessing...

And I fell in love with Arizona all over again! Can you see the Superstition Mountains in the background? This dirt road led to another paved road, which led us smack into Apacheland Movie Ranch and Superstition Mountain Museum. If I had known we were only five minutes from civilization, I wouldn't have used Ol' Blue, but that's all yellow water under the bridge now.

Apacheland has been the setting for many a Western movie set, and for many t.v. shows too. Who out there remembers Gunsmoke? You have to be pretty old like me to remember that television series... but to the point... Gunsmoke was filmed in Apacheland too. (Now who has ADD?) So we toured the place.

We saw this rusty rock crushing thing

And these big rusty buckets

And these old machines in a cage

And then this is where the kids decided that Apacheland was a place that Grandpa Ellis would love!

There's a church...

...where Elvis lives

And a windmill

And all the rest of this stuff

And then we got bored, so we left.

The End.