Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I love spring! I think I have enjoyed my morning exercise outside more this year than any other I remember. The smell of the flowers, the blooms in the trees, the wet grass... This time of year so much reminds me of how much I have to be grateful for, I really do. I've had a rough last few weeks, but spring is here! The brightness of spring after a long winter- reminds me of one of my favorite talks given by one of our church's leaders-- check it out, if you're interested:

A beautiful youtube video based on the talk

The talk itself

We have two bits of exciting news to share with those of you who don't know:

1- John was told by his advisor that he should be prepared to defend his dissertation in October. In retrospect, I can't believe we've been here in Maryland for 5 years now!

2- October looks to be a very busy month for us, as we are also expecting baby #4 at the beginning of October. We're excited, but a little unsure of the timing of all of this! :)

I've had a bit of a rough pregnancy this time around- in fact this one rivals my first pregnancy. I'm just glad to be feeling well enough to drink water again, and well enough to feed my kids without running to the bathroom whenever they needed to eat. I think John deserves a gold medal for all he's had to put up with the last three months. How many times did he come home to find me laying on the couch (whoever called it 'morning sickness' had it SO wrong- what about ALL DAY sickness?), completely unable to even THINK about dinner?? John's been so great- he's made dinner on many occasions, even after his long days at school, and he hasn't even complained about it! As a side note, the kids have been really good too.They've really tried to be so helpful! I am so lucky to have such a supportive family.

Now, we are looking forward to Adam's spring break next week- planning a short weekend camping trip, and trying to come up with some fun activities.

So, I guess an update on everyone in Swensen house:

John- keeping busy with getting papers finished for his tentative October finish date. He's busy with his responsibility in the church as the Scoutmaster, not to mention all his recent added responsibilities of late around the house. He recently finished his Iphone game- 'Found It,' and enjoys keeping up on how his game is doing. He's been playing basketball a little bit with some guys at the church.

Adam- loves kindergarten, and that's what takes up the majority of his time! When he's home, he likes to play computer games (like father, like son), play with his brothers, draw, and read. He's gotten to be a really good reader, and seems to read more and more words. It surprises me how fast kids pick it up once they start! He just started playing t-ball again, and seems to like being one of the more 'experienced' players on the team this year.

Jacob- creative and imaginative as ever. He's very much less rigid personality-wise than Adam, and is in his own little world. He is technically old enough for kindergarten this next fall, but we are debating whether or not to send him. We're not sure he's ready yet, but he is excited about the prospect. We registered him for school this past Friday, and I think a perfect example of Jacob's personality was when we sat down with the assistant principal to do the 'pre-screening' tests. On a sheet of paper, there was box with a circle, a box with a square, and a box with a triangle. Under these boxes were empty boxes where the kids were supposed to draw- a circle, a square and a triangle. Well, so the first one, Jacob drew a very crude circle, but it resembled a circle. The square- he just drew a scribble. Then, for the box that was supposed to draw a triangle- he started to draw something, and I said, "Jacob, you're supposed to draw a triangle."- to which Jacob responded- "But I don't want to draw a triangle- I want to draw a t-rex." I worry that school may not be easy for him, not because he's not smart enough, but because he gets bored, and wants to do something different. Any advice from parents who may have similar children?? Jacob is also playing t-ball this year- his first time doing this. He seems to enjoy it so far.

Aaron- talkative and playful. He's a fun, energetic and happy kid, and loves to do everything his brothers do. He surprises us every day with something new he's learned to say from his brothers. He loves taking baths, eating fruit and sweets, and loves to be outside. His favorite toys include trains, cars, and balls. He's an independent kid- and wants to do everything by himself. I wish he would potty train himself!!

I have been keeping busy trying to help in Adam's class at school, doing a preschool swap for Jacob with 2 other moms, and just keeping up with three kids. I still enjoy cooking, and any new cooking adventure, though that has been halted for the last couple of months... I enjoy being a mom, and being able to be home with my kids. It's not always easy to do, but I still love it.

Here are some favorite recent photos:



This was Halloween 2010.


One of the boys' favorite activities- horse rides from Daddy.


Another favorite activity: tickling and wrestling with Daddy.


Jacob sitting on Santa's lap. He kept asking Santa where his sleigh was- when told it was outside, he insisted on looking out the window or going outside so he could see it...


Aaron inside a spinning turtle at the Baltimore Zoo.


The boys eating ice cream cones-- don't they look so happy? It doesn't take much- just a little ice cream!


This is Aaron, and yes, he's actually asleep like this- standing against the couch. Must've really worn him out at church today!


This is Jacob with his very best friend - her name is Brooklynn. Isn't she cute?



This is Aaron and Jacob at an inflatable play gym. This is an awesome place to take the kids!


Aaron after drinking his Italian water ice- he couldn't wait to get home to get a spoon! Red might not be the best choice next time- he had a pink nose for a few days!


The boys at the B&O Railroad Museum...


The boys enjoying a single Fruit Loop necklace. So cute-- I love that they're happily sharing!

Happy spring to all of our friends and family!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Year in Review

One year later- and we're finally catching up on our blog...

Now, for the past year in review-
winter 2009-2010: we spent this past winter playing inside (Baltimore got 2 huge snowstorms), going to the local libraries, and going to museums.

This picture was taken at the B&O Railroad Museum- the boys love this one- too bad we can only go once a year (on their free admission day)...

We celebrated Adam's 5th birthday in December, and Aaron's 1st in February.

This past spring, we spent many days at the zoo and hiking on the nicer days.
This picture was taken at the zoo- in the spinning turtle shell section.

Adam popping wheelies - in the Barbie car at the playground.

This summer was very busy for our family: spending many days outside, spending especially warm days at the splash park, visiting with our family, and moving at the end of the summer.

Here are Adam and Jacob at the Orioles game this past summer. Every summer, our stake has an activity they call 'Mormon Night at Oriole Park,' where we get discounted tickets:

We had John's brother and family visit from Indiana at the end of May, then my sister and family from Idaho the following week. We spent those days seeing sights and museums in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

At the Maryland Science Center- in the Kids' Room.

the kids playing dress-up at our old house.

We love our cute girl cousins, on both sides of the family! Visit anytime. We need a little more on the female side in our house!

In June, we spent a week in Texas for the Swensen family reunion. The boys had a great time with cousins, aunts, uncles and Grandma Swensen. We first went to visit John's brother- and the boys ran crazy with their 5-year old twin cousins for a couple of days. They swam and played nonstop...
Here's Adam in their pool. He's not yet learned to swim, but enjoyed the security of the inflatable pelican.

For the reunion, we stayed at a ranch just outside of Boerne, Texas. While there, we were able to go to SeaWorld, hiked the Enchanted Rock (quite a hike- especially with a 3 year old who was not especially thrilled to have to walk UP a rock that big), visited the Alamo, had a family talent show, swam, fished, canoed, played games, and just caught up with each other.

at SeaWorld
These are pictures of our boys' very first fishing experience.

The two pictures above are of the pinata (Aaron can smell the candy I think- he's reaching for it)- and the other picture is of Adam and Jacob with a couple of prizes from the spoils of the pinata.

Needless to say, after our stay in Texas, they were not thrilled to come back to Baltimore.

John was gone much of July, between school conferences and scout camp. But, we did take a family trip to the beach for the first time since moving to Baltimore. Going to the ocean's shore is about a 3-hour excursion, so we decided instead to visit the bay shore. We went to a nice town called North Beach. The boys loved the water, the sand and could probably have stayed all day, but we decided to make our exit when we found ourselves within feet of a jellyfish.

Aaron on the boardwalk - without the shoes- typical of Aaron.

The boys- after the ice cream treat- with Jacob and his frowny face- typical of Jacob.

The end of the summer was consumed with getting ready to move, moving, unpacking and getting Adam registered and ready for kindergarten.

Now to present, I just celebrated the big 3-0. John made me a ring, after I accidentally lost my diamond ring down the garbage disposal about a year ago. The diamond was lost in the disposal, and the gold was scratched badly enough that I could not wear it. We obviously can't afford a new ring on our current budget, so John decided to try to make a wooden ring. Here is a picture of the finished product:
Other than his new hobby of making jewelry (just kidding), John doesn't have much spare time (not kidding). As Scoutmaster, he spends many hours with the scouts- on campouts, at activities, meetings, etc. He is working hard to finish his PhD program by December 2011 (date is flexible, but hopefully not too much :)).

I am busy keeping up with three crazy boys. It's been quite an adjustment into the school-age child world- but Adam is loving going to school, and it's nice to have some more focused time for Jacob. For the first week or two, I think I heard "When is Adam coming home" about 500 times a day, but now that is a lot less frequent. Jacob and Aaron are learning to play better together.

Here is a small sampling of things that happen several times a day, and when I look around at the end of the day and wonder to myself what I've done all day, I need to remember that just keeping the house even reasonably clean is a small miracle.

As you can see in the picture, Aaron's favorite hobby has got to be making messes. The bigger the better, I think. But when he smiles like that, who can be mad? His other hobbies of late include: eating, dart guns (he doesn't have an especially large vocabulary, but I'm proud (:)) to say that he can say both 'dart' and 'gun.'), cars, throwing balls, playing in the sandbox, drawing with markers - on himself and on furniture, mostly. He talks constantly, and much to my relief, has slowed down on saying 'mommy.' Up until recently, he would say 'mommy' whenever he wanted ANYTHING. I am surprised that some days I wasn't committed to a mental hospital. How many times can I say 'what?' And he wouldn't talk to me unless I said 'what?' I tried to break up the monotony a little by answering differently, but he would just repeat 'mommy' until I said 'what.' He could spend most of the day just walking around in everyone else's shoes. He loves shoes- which he calls 'socks.'

Adam spends much of his time now at school- he enjoys kindergarten and has made new friends there. He loves computers and playing games (any game- especially playing chess with dad). He also loves to be outside. Adam has really picked up on reading, and tries to read everything. He likes doing math- he is a John-in-training.

Jacob is in a preschool program a few hours a week, and likes it very much. The only thing that motivated him to go at the beginning was their giant bin of dinosaurs. But the last few sessions, he says he has 'forgotten to play with the dinosaurs.' His teachers have commented on how he knows the names of every dinosaur. Jacob is creative and imaginative. His hobbies are: bugs, worms (he keeps the dried up worms as pets), dinosaurs, and spooky things. He loves this time of year- with all of the stores filled with Halloween decorations and displays.

That's our year- in a nutshell. Sorry it's so long! We'll try to keep up better this year.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Catching Up

Okay, so I've been a slacker. So, what's been happening in good ol' Baltimore since the last time we posted (can't believe that was 4 months ago!)?

First of all, we moved. Our previous landlords were selling their home to their daughter, so we were pretty much forced to look for another place. That was quite a process- to find a house that we could afford- in a safe area of Baltimore. We ended up not having to go far, just a few streets away. It's almost harder to do it that way, as the move seemed to drag on forever. We just brought a carload here and there. But we're here, and getting used to our new place. We miss our old neighbors, but the boys like being around more kids.

John has been keeping busy with school and his calling in Young Mens. He has been working hard on a paper, and has barely missed submitting it twice. He doesn't quite have it polished enough. He is still working on his Ipod games, in his very sparse free time.

I am doing the same old things, trying to keep up with three very active boys, trying to keep the house decently together, and serving as Primary secretary. I started playing in a rec volleyball league with a friend from our ward. It's fun to play semi-competitive volleyball again! It's been several years.

I still can't believe it's October already! The summer seemed to fly by. We spent a lot of time outside at playgrounds, at the practically-free splash park, and exploring with friends.

Adam will be 5 in December. He's growing up so fast! He will be in kindergarten next year. He's a really good kid- very helpful and very aware of people around him. He is thoughtful and is so good with smaller kids (including his baby brother, Aaron, whom he likes to make laugh).

Adam started playing soccer a couple of weeks ago. He is having lots of fun. He just runs around, chasing the ball, and the other kids, but has a smile on his face the whole time!

One of Adam's very favorite pastimes lately is playing games- Memory, Uno, Mastermind, and his new favorite game (probably because he can play with dad) is chess.

Jacob is three now (just celebrated his third birthday a couple of months ago). I need to get a picture of Jacob's Lightning McQueen cake from Kelli! :) He gets more and more goofy every day. He loves his big brother, Adam, and follows him around everywhere.

He has started really liking to play with Aaron, which is fortunate, as Adam will be in kindergarten for a full day, and I think Jacob will have serious withdrawals without someone to play cars with.

We are doing a co-op preschool for kids Jacob's age this year, like the one we did last year with Adam's age group. Jacob is one of 6 kids in this group, and the only boy. He seems oblivious to that fact- his favorite thing is to chase the girls around, roaring like a lion, growling like a dinosaur, and whatever other boy noises he could possibly think up. I think Jacob is liking feeling grown-up!

The boys are looking forward to Halloween: I think more to wear costumes than to get candy. I don't even think they remember that they get candy at Halloween! We just found out that some schools in the area take candy that kids donate to the hospitals around, for kids who cannot go trick-or-treating. So, I'm going to have the boys take some of the candy they get and give it away-- is that mean? I just remember last year having their Halloween candy for months, and eventually just throwing some of it away.

Aaron is just growing fast. He's almost 8 months. He likes to sit up, is reaching for things, and trying to pull himself up on whatever he can grab. He isn't crawling yet, and I don't know if he ever will!! He doesn't like to be on his stomach at all, he'd much rather sit. He loves his brothers, and stays awake as much as he can- hates to miss a minute! He likes being held and he loves being tickled (didn't get that from me!) He smiles more than any other person I know. He's a really happy baby.

Let's see: some fun things we've done in the last couple of weeks:

1) Big Truck day at the Baltimore Public Works Museum- see the pictures. The boys got to sit in all sorts of trucks. We saw a fire truck, a backhoe, a sidewalk cleaner truck (don't remember the technical name for it), a boat that collects trash from the water (don't remember that technical name either), a helicopter, an excavator... I get some points for remembering the names of some trucks, right? The boys had so much fun and were very disappointed when we had to leave before they had the chance to sit in all of the trucks that they were displaying. But, that was the week of general conference...

Look what the excavator scooped up!!

2) Free day at Baltimore zoo- we met up with some girls in our ward. The girl in the pictures with Adam and Jacob is in Adam's Primary class.

3) One of the county libraries here has a pretend town, called Storyville, that is a real hit with the kids. It has a miniature grocery store, a lighthouse, a construction zone, a kitchen, a garden, a post office, a theater, etc. We've been there a few times, but a couple of weeks ago, the boys were so excited to take their dad with them.

Pilot Adam and construction worker Jacob...

Not in your mouth!! It's just pretend food (how many times did I tell him that?)

I want to end our blog posting with some funny things our kids have said that I have been wanting to record, so I can look back and remember these things that made me smile.

1) For the past couple of weeks, Jacob has prayed every day - 'please bless that we'll go camping.' Unfortunately, we didn't make it camping this summer. But he has been asking to go-- just seems like we're busy every weekend, or the weather was not good the weekends we could actually go...

2) Jacob told his Nursery teachers a couple of weeks ago that he got bit by a leopard at the zoo. Luckily, I don't think the nursery teachers believed him. He has quite an imagination. Last week, he was telling me about the time that I left him at the store. That's never happened, by the way. I think I'm going to get in trouble with social services someday, and for something that never happened.

3) Adam talks pretty much nonstop, everytime we get in the car. Jacob likes to ignore Adam sometimes- just to push his buttons. This time, Jacob was ignoring him. After a while of Adam trying to get him to respond, Jacob tells Adam that he can't talk; he can't move his mouth, because he's a statue. Quite the imagination our little three year old has.

4) Adam says everything is his 'greatest idea.' Let's see, what was his 'greatest idea' today? Oh, yeah, he wants to finish the pan of brownies, but for breakfast. He was trying to talk me into it, and thought maybe if he said it was a great idea, I'd go for it? Like he needs more sugar! These boys have enough energy and go nonstop!

5) My sisters and I grew up making wishes on dandelion seeds (we called them wishes), you know, those white things that float around in the air... Well, Adam made a wish on one recently and when John asked him what his wish was - he said, I wish our car was faster than a taxi.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Interesting story about Brittney's Grandfather

Brittney has never known much about her father's father, who is named Kenneth Parsons. Brittney's grandparents were divorced when Daris (Brittney's dad and the oldest child) was about 4 years old and the youngest child Dale wasn't yet born. Brittney's dad never talked much about his father and had not seen him since he was about 10 years old. His whole life, he had been under the impression that his father had essentially wanted nothing to do with him and his siblings, but since reuniting with him found that this wasn't the case. After his father had remarried and his mother had remarried, someone (either Daris' mother or his new stepfather) had communicated to Kenneth that Daris' new stepfather intended to adopt the children and that he wasn't wanted anymore.

Now for the interesting story about how they found their father. Daris had frequently mentioned his father in passing to Brittney's mother (Janean). Apparently this had been happening with increased frequency so Janean asked several times whether Daris was interesting in trying to find his father. Daris always said "no", but Janean took matters into her own hands. She started searching on the internet for his father's full name. A common result was a bio of a movie and TV star named Karyn Parsons who was born in Santa Monica after Kenneth had remarried. She is most notably known for playing the character for Will Smith's cousin Hilary Banks on the TV show "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air". They knew that Kenneth had married an African American woman and lived in Santa Monica during that time period, so thought that maybe she was their half sister. Several weeks later, Daris' youngest brother Dale sent a message through Facebook to her and received a response. They in fact did have the same father.

Karyn's parents, though divorced, both live near each other in the same area of Massachusetts and meet for lunch somewhat often. Karyn's mother-in-law also lives in the same area. For years, Karyn's mother Louise has often urged Kenneth to contact his other children but he has never done it because he thought they had been adopted and didn't even think of him as their father anymore. After Dale met with Karyn, Karyn's mother-in-law sent a lengthy email to Daris and Dale telling them a about their father and getting them in contact. A few weekends ago, Kenneth invited Daris and family up to Massachusetts and they went up. It was the first time Daris had seen his father in almost 50 years and they had a great time.

So, I guess that is the whole story. It is interesting that they never would have found their father if their sister hadn't been famous. I thought it was kindof a fun story and worth an entire blog post.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The past couple of weeks...

We've been busy trying to keep up with a house full of little boys!  It's hard to find the time to keep up with the blog, but I want to keep family and friends updated as to what we are doing... 

John is working hard on his first paper- at least the first one on which he is first author.  It's about a new way of moving a robot arm with a camera on the end-- it's very complex, and if I wanted to explain it here, I wouldn't be able to.  I honestly have no idea what he's studying, besides that it's related to robotics.  I understand very little of what he is doing.  I wonder if he knew he was marrying someone so clueless when it comes to computers, robots, and all of things he knows so much about... Too late now! :)

John spends his spare time making an ipod game and gardening.  He's pretty proud of his little garden, and it is actually producing this year.  We have gotten spinach, and need to get our lettuce out soon.  We have peas coming up, and tomatoes look promising.  The only thing that hasn't seemed to take at all is the broccoli.  John is also spending more time exercising, in fact, he's pretty proud of the fact that he's lost some weight.  He's been lifting weights and running pretty regularly.  I'm just happy that he's maintaining more healthy habits.  I want to keep him around for a while.  

I've been finishing up with this year of preschool for Adam.  I teach for the last time in 2 weeks. Then, we'll be free for the summer.  I look forward to unstructured time with the kids.  It'll be fun to just play, or go to the library, or whatever.  Adam does love his preschool, though, and likes to have things to do every day.  Every morning, when he's getting dressed, he asks 'What are we doing today, Mom?'  And he's often disappointed when I tell him we have no plans.  He's quick to suggest something we can do-- 
Here we are, getting ready to go to the playground, and the boys cannot go without their sunglasses!

Adam is also finishing up with teeball for the season.  He has really liked it.  Now we are thinking of starting him in soccer in the fall.  

Jacob is still crazy as ever.  He's the king of random comments, and is really good at saying things that are, well, random.  We have no idea where he comes up with some of the things he says!  He likes playing outside, playing with cars, and copying his big brother.  

Here they are- on the father/son campout a couple of weeks ago.  They had so much fun!  Mom had fun too- in fact, I told John they should do more of those!  Those are the weekends that I'm glad I have boys-- it gave me a chance to relax a little bit, even if only for one night!  Maybe I'm horrible for even saying that!  I love my boys, but it's nice to have a little peace and quiet every once in a while!  

Jacob's newest fascinations are bugs and worms, and anything that moves in the dirt.  He'll pick anything up, where his big brother doesn't do more than look at those wriggly things in the mud.  He loves to stomp mud puddles, and I think he has a sixth sense for smellling a puddle as far away as a half mile.   I've been successful in the last few days at convincing him that stomping in mud puddles is only fun in rain boots!  Thank goodness-- since it has rained about half of the time in the last month.  Jacob also loves kissing and holding his little brother.  

Aaron is growing so fast, and has become very talkative over the last couple of days!  But I guess that's understandable- he has two brothers who talk constantly (I think we have John to thank for that).  His favorite things have changed very little: eating, sleeping, and smiling at his brothers, mommy and daddy.  I guess we do have a couple of new ones to add to the list: he likes to roll on his side and suck on his hands (until he gags himself, at which point I have to extract his fist from his throat)--  

A couple of weeks ago we took a family trip to the zoo - we were able to get in for free, so we took advantage!  

Well, that's about all for now, but thought I should update, and add some recent pictures!