Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas PJ's

Here are some pictures of the Swensen cousins in their Christmas Pajamas. This is our "Cousins in a Line" picture. We take one of these everytime we are all together. Some of my cousins may remember taking pictures just like this one. From oldest to youngest-Nathan, Danny, Madison, Ryan, Mitchell, Lydia, Wesley and Sydney
Cute Cousins!

Cousins in a big Wrestling Match!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My First Tag

I was tagged by my cousin:
Here's how to play:
1. Link your tagger (Jolinn) and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

It is funny that Jolinn tagged me because we were actually chatting about this very thing on our Twilight Tour.

1) Mike and I go on a date every weekend. Our evening usually includes dinner. I have this weird thing...when I sit down to dinner at a restaurant, the place that I am sitting has to "feel right." Usually as I approach the table or booth I can tell where I need to sit, but occasionally I choose wrong. If this happens, I wait for the waiter to take our drink order, and then I whisper to Mike that I need to switch him spots. When the waiter returns they are usually thrown off...but only for a second.

2) I am obsessive about how fast the windshield wipers are going when it rains. They can't be too fast, they can't be too slow. How is it possible that it can start raining...and keep raining for 5-6 minutes and Mike still hasn't turned on the wipers?

3) I Love Yoga. I'm no pro, but I go to Yoga three times a week. Namaste!

4) Now this one is a little crazy...but have you seen "Toy Story?" Well, how many times a day, in the process of putting your kids' toys away, are you concerned if the toy minds being placed upside-down?...or maybe that the toy won't be able to breathe if another stuffed animal is not placed "just so?" I've got to let that one go.

5) I am very particular about which fork I eat with. If for some reason my fork ends up sticky, or one of the tines is bent in the least, I will take it away immediately and retrieve a new fork. Also of utmost importance: Dinner Forks go with dinner and Dessert Forks go with dessert. I've never been known to actually turn down a dessert because it was served with the wrong silverware, but I do have to take some deep breaths and tell myself that "It really will be okay. It is okay that this person does not understand flatware etiquette.

6) I know every single word to the song "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio.--"As I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realize there's nothing left..."(as a side note, it was one of the things that made Mike fall in love with me).

7) I love drinking with a straw. Bendy straws are the best. I keep my pantry well stocked with straws at all times.

I tag Angie W., Natalie H., Kristen B., Chandy F., Amanda S., Jen W., and Chelsea T. (but only if your up for it--Thinking of you.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Seattle, Forks and So Much Fun!

This is the post that I made for our girl's trip. Before we left town I made "Twilight Music Mixes" for each car to listen to on our trip. I created the mixes from ITunes. If you are interested, I included all of the songs in my playlist at the very bottom of my blog. We left our homes at about 10:30 on Thursday morning and then the fun began. In this picture you can see my friend Leah Walker, her friend (now my friend, too) Trina Brough, my friend Amanda Stevens, Brooklyn (who is Kayla's friend), Kayla (my niece), my friends Tina Jones, and Kristen Baker and Me! We arrived in Seattle about 6 p.m. after encountering little skiffs of snow, torrential rain, and some mild traffic. We ate dinner at my mom's. It is a tradition in our family that on the first night you arrive from your travels, you have American Tacos. They are tacos made with Chili and Fritos--Delicious, Quick and Easy.

On Friday morning we got up early to drive over to Forks. We encountered more torrential down pour, and really did drive through forests that looked just like this one.

This is the first place that we took pictures when we arrived in Forks. This sign is just next to the main highway. We had lots of people honking at us and waving. The locals say that they are pretty used to this kind of thing by now and they love it. These books have breathed new life into this little logging community.

Jolinn and Amanda

Me, Amanda, Leah, Tina, Trina and Kristen


La Push is about a 10 minute drive from Forks. Once you make the turn to head to First Beach, you very quickly enter the Queilete Indian reservation. The drive to La Push was through some open spaces scattered with fallen trees, stumps and wildflower. Many of us could totally picture Bella making a run for the Reservation Border. We then entered some forest areas. Signs indicated lots of hiking trails, and roads to other beaches. We drove past the turn-off to Third Beach, and then Second Beach. Finally the view opened up to reveal the ocean. We followed the little road all the way through town. LaPush actually sits right next to the water. On the farthest edge of town (which is literally only 2-3 long stone throws away) lies First Beach:

Here are some of the pictures that we snapped at First Beach, in La Push. You can see the cliffs in the background, behind Trina and Leah. It was so windy!! I have been some windy places in my day...but this was definitely the most blustery. I parked my van directly facing the ocean and it took all of my strength to get my car door open. It really wasn't that cold, just windy and wet. The view took my breath away. The waves were huge and very rough. We met a lady at the Scrapbook/Floral store in town, and she said that during the summer Twilight Fans come hang out on the beach, build campfires and gaze up at the moon.

Amanda, Jolinn, and Lauren

Below: Kristen and Me---Can you get a feel for it? Check out my hair!

EVERY store and restaurant where we stopped had a guest book to sign. People are visiting Forks from all over the country! Before we started our Sight Seeing Tour we stopped a place called Sulley's Drive-In. When you walked in it was an older "hole-in-the-wall" type feeling. The people were so friendly and we had some great, greasy, hamburgers, fries and milk shakes. I couldn't resist ordering the "Bella Burger." It came complete with a plastic set of vampire teeth! So cute. This is Bella's house. I don't know about you, but this is exactly how I pictured it. The sign says, "Home of the Swan's."

When we got to the High School the kids were just getting out. It sounds like they are pretty used to people stopping and taking pictures.


This is the Forks Hospital. I think Bella is brought here a couple times in the Twilight Series. Dr. Cullen is a well known, and respected physician in these parts. He has a designated parking spot!

This is the Cullen's House. You can see that below their name is clearly on the mailbox. The whole town was exactly as you would have imagined it. At one point during the day I texted Mike: "It is raining cats and dogs!!!" He responded, "Doesn't it have to be for the Vampires to come out?" With all that rain it really was magical, like being part of the book.

Bella's Truck is parked outside the Forks Chamber of Commerce. The lady's in there were so much fun. They told us interesting stories and showed us the mail that people send them from all over the world (no-for real!). One was a love letter to Bella from a man in Africa, vowing to come and marry her some day (that's a little freaky). Another was a real acceptance letter from the college where Bella applied for school. The back window of the car was shot out (remember the book?)...and notice the licence plate. The rain just kept coming down in sheets. That didn't stop us. I just love this picture below. Just a goofy bunch of "Twilighter's," as they are know throughout the region.

Our last stop on our Twilight Tour was at Bella Italia, on our way back through Port Angeles. Maybe you remember it from the book. The food was great and the service was fantastic. The atmosphere was really quaint and we could all voted on which table we think Edward and Bella "sat." Kristen wondered if there were any of the Port Angeles scenes that we could re-enact. We all laughed at the idea someone came up with. "Maybe we could get that guy over there to chase us through the alleys of the ghetto part of town!"

We went to see a matinee show of "The Drowsy Chaperone," which was hysterical. We were laughing out loud. It was really a throw-back to the old 1920's musicals. One of the first numbers was a tap dance--now that is good stuff. I leaned over to Leah and said, "When was the last time you saw tap dancing?" What a treat! I included a little video below just in case you wanted to get a little taste of what we saw. The video depicts one of our favorite numbers which was called, "I Don't Wanna Show Off No More."

There is great shopping in Seattle! One of the mornings that we were all sitting around visiting with my mom we decided that there are 4 components to a positive shopping experience: Time, Money, No Kids, and Lots of Selection. In downtown Seattle there is definitely plenty of selection. A few of us found some really cute things. My good friend Chelsea and I were waiting for the monorail. Chelsea lives close to Seattle and joined us after the play. We were good, best friends when we were young married couples. Nathan was only 18 months old at the time. We figured it had been 7 or 8 years since we had gotten together. It was great to visit and catch up. The thing I love about really good friends is that when you are back together it is like you never missed a beat. You just pick up right where you left off.

Tina and the Space Needle: A few of us took a 4 minute monorail ride out there to snap some quick pictures.

This is me taking pictures of everyone and the Seattle Space Needle. I've been there enough to know that you get the best shot laying down. Luckily we didn't have rain that was a perfect day actually, so my back side didn't get wet at all.

We finally got a picture of Kristen with the Seattle Music Experience. We ran out of time to check out the museum inside. You can see it in the far background, behind the roller coaster. It is the big silver thing that looks like a mangled tin can. Pretty neat though.

Well, that was pretty much the trip. There were only 2 pictures that I didn't get on here. One was of us all doing Yoga on Saturday morning. The other was a picture of Natalie, Leah's younger sister, who spent the day with us in Seattle. She was so much fun. This was the picture we took on the balcony of my parent's house. This was right before we packed up to go home. Jolinn, Lauren and Amanda had already headed up to the airport. For me the funnest part of the trip?...late night dips in the hot tub, late night movies, and late night chats. Aren't friends great? I think the only picture I am missing is one of my mom. She was the perfect hostess. Thanks mom, for all you did. We all had a wonderful getaway!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Girl's Trip 2008!


Here is just one of the pictures I took on our awesome Girl's Trip to Seattle and Forks, Washington. This is right before we jumped in the car and headed to Forks. Top Row: Kristen Baker, Lauren Bradshaw, Jolinn Meier, Amanda, Leah Walker, Kayla Dildine. Bottom Row: Tina Jones, Trina Brough, Me, Amanda Stevens, Brooklyn.

What Great Memories! More pictures to come...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Here are the finished Pumpkins. All of the kids had a big say in how they each turned out artistically. Well, except for Lydia and I designed hers. (I do have to say I think the bow was a cute touch!)

And at Running Back..LaDainian Tomlinson

"Hau!" Me Chief Danny D.

Hey there Batman!

Little Lyddie Lindy Hop

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pumpkin Carving

Mike is usually the Mastermind behind the pumpkin carving project. He helps the kids design their pumpkins. This year he actually had an iphone application that gave ideas for pumpkin face designs. While the kids are drawing and he is carving, I am usually diligently collecting pumpkins seeds...and taking pictures.

These are the pumpkins that we used this year for carving. We just planted one little seedling in our garden and it went crazy, without any attention. (My kind of gardening!) The kids had a great time watching them grow and turn orange. Some of them didn't have a chance to turn orange before the first frost, but I think they still make great fall decorations.

Nathan and Danny were a lot of help in cleaning out the pumpkins, and sorting out all of the pumpkin seeds. They have been begging me to finish the pumpkin seeds ever since. We did finally get the seeds done last night. The recipe is a family favorite from Martha Stewart: Sweet and Spicy Pumpkins Seeds

Ryan wanted to make sure that his pumpkin was scary. He was the most excited to put the candles inside and light them.

Lydia was quite intested in what she found in her "apple." These days, pretty much everything that is round and has a stem is called an apple. She wasn't too sure about putting her hands in the goop, but got quite good at it in the end.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Good Old Fashioned School Carnival

After not having one for 15 years, our Elementary PTO brought back the School Carnival. The kids had so much fun. You could purchase chili and scones for dinner, watch the principal get hit with a cream pie, or try your luck at the Cake Walk. I've heard of other schools doing more "hip" carnivals with climbing walls, and bounce castles, but this was all about the fishing ponds and the face painting--in my opinion, Fabulous! The boys were all too nervous to go in the Spook Alley, but here are some of the things that they tried:

Doughnuts on a string...


and spooky bowling.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Go Wildcats!

Tonight we took all of the kids to the movie. I think the last one that we all saw together was "Kung-Fu Panda" which was a cute animated film we saw in June. It is always quite an adventure. We all share one huge tub of popcorn and a large Sprite. So, picture them being passed up and down, and up and down, AND up and down the row. Lydia was trying to give the lady in front of us a head massage with her greasy hands, and Ryan kept saying, "I'm Hungry! I'm Starvin'!" I guess we're not surprised. It is fun. I love taking my kids to do stuff like this. I remember one of the first movies I went to see in the theatre: "Annie" You know, not the lame 1990's version, but the original. Yep, I saw it on the big screen with my dad and Angie. Well, fast forward 26 years- why did we load up the silver Honda Odyssey and venture out to the theatre tonight?...
Yes, we are all definitely fans, and this one we had to see opening weekend. We all liked the 3rd. Nathan said that he was glad that it wasn't as emotional as HSM2. On the way home Nathan admitted that in HSM2 he cried when Gabriella left Troy. Both of the older boys liked the number that Troy and Chad do together: "The Boys are Back."


A couple of weeks ago Mike and I were watching TV long after all of the kids had gone to bed. We were flipping through channels...through the NBA games, and the late night shows. Finally we settled on a channel. After several minutes we were both glued to the action and yes, singing. When I realized what was going on I said to Mike: "Look at us--grown adults!" We both had a good laugh. What we were glued to was the Sing-a-Long Edition of High School Musical (the first one). "We're Soarin'. Flyin'. There's not a star in heaven that we can't reach!"

Friday, October 24, 2008

Our family had our traditional trip to the pumpkin patch last Saturday. Each of the kids had tokens to spend on homemade doughnuts, hay mazes, bounce castles and a little animal train. I snapped some pictures of the kids that I thought you might enjoy.

When did he grow up?

What a great kid!

The weather was so perfect that day. Handsome Dude!

Beautiful Blue Eyes.

What a fantastic group of kids!

Monday, October 20, 2008

See Ya in a While

A few weeks ago I lost my Grandpa Smith. To me he was Grandpa, and to my kids he was Grandpa-Great. I guess I didn't realize how much his passing would affect me. I do miss him, and have had many sad moments in recent weeks. In the week leading up to and during the weekend of the funeral, I spent a lot of time explaining things to my older boys. Through tears, they would often say to me, "I don't think I will be able to say good-bye." Mike and I would just tell them that they don't have to say good-bye, they can just say, "see ya in a while." That has helped me over these last few weeks. I feel like Grandpa is up there watching out for me and my family.

This is one of my favorite pictures from that weekend (thanks Susan). Nathan is being comforted by his Great-Grandma. Nathan is the oldest Great-Grandchild. The love that spans generations is so powerful and real.

Little Lyddie May

Ryan was really trying to figure everything out. He kept asking, "Is Grandpa sleeping now?"

This is my Grandma with all of her daughters. My mom, Debbie, is sitting on my Grandma Smith's left.

This is a picture of me with all of my first cousins that were in attendance. I am the oldest grandchild.

When you say "see ya in a while" to someone you love, family becomes so very, very important. I am so grateful for my family.