Friday, December 26, 2008

our four santas video

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas letter 08

I wrote a Christmas letter but never got around to getting it printed.  I posted it on Facebook, and thought I'd post it here too.  Have a very Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!!! 2008

This has been quite a year of transition for our family! It started in February when little Judah Zion was born and completed our family of six. He is such a sweet and mellow little guy. He has recently learned to crawl and pulls himself up to stand and move along the furniture.

A few months after Judah was born, Joe made the tough decision to get out of law enforcement and pursue his real passion, tattooing. When we lived in Minnesota back in 1997-99, Joe had a co-worker who, after we moved back to California, opened his own tattoo shop in St. Cloud. They have stayed in touch over the years, and there’s always been an invitation for Joe to work at his shop, with the potential of taking it over when his friend retires. At the end of July we made the move here and settled in a little town called Rice. It was heart-wrenching leaving family, friends and church, but we knew that God would be with us and we had each other. Since we’ve been here, it’s been fun to reconnect with family, sharing holidays and special events with them. We’ve also actually come to like the little town we live in! The kids love playing outside (even in the sub-human temperatures we’ve been having lately!), and we are enjoying the slower pace of life.

What we didn’t expect to find so quickly here was a church where we all instantly felt at home. We had been here for a couple of weeks and tried a church that I’d found online before moving, and it just didn’t seem like the right fit for us. Then we found out that a friend Joe grew up with had started a church near us about a year ago. When we walked in the next morning, we immediately felt at home. They even had a coffee shop! They meet in a beautiful log building on a golf course, and the people have been so wonderful. One of the nice things about a new church is that everyone is new, so we just joined in as they’re all getting to know each other and developing friendships. Joe has been helping with set up once a month on Sunday mornings, I've been working in the coffee shop and helping with the women's ministry and Brooklyn and Zeke are taking part in a Christmas program this Sunday. We’ve made some really good connections that go way beyond “Minnesota nice” in such a short time.

Now as the year is coming to an end, we find ourselves in transition again. Joe was let go from the tattoo shop a couple of weeks ago. He’s been able to finish the month there, but he and his friend who owns the shop have had different ideas about marketing and ways to make money in the industry. The economy has affected everyone and business has been slow. Joe has decided he can’t just sit there day after day with no one walking through the doors, so he’s been working on a website, which is to be like an online tattoo magazine, with interviews and relevant articles. He’s also working on some seminars and books that he can sell from his site. He’ll keep working on these things as we’re praying about what to do next. At this point, it looks like we may be moving back to California. We’d appreciate your prayer support, as we really long to be where God wants us.

It seems crazy that we would move all the way out here just to go back. I’ve wondered if possibly the tattoo shop was just a way to get us here for something else, or if maybe this was just to be a respite for us for a time. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and even when it doesn’t make sense to us, we know He sees things that we don’t. A few things that have been great about this move… We have reconnected as a couple and as a family. That alone is worth the hassle and money it takes to move back and forth! Another thing is that we have never experienced the love of the body of Christ like we have in this last year. We had the most amazing goodbye with parties, potlucks, pictures and prayers in the months before we left Vallejo. When we got here, we were amazed that people we didn’t even know met us at our new house to help unload our u-haul, and one family even brought dinner for everyone. And our new church family… the great thing about being in the body of Christ is that when you go somewhere new, it’s like meeting relatives you’ve never met before. There’s been an instant connection.

So we don’t know exactly what our future holds at this point, but we know Who holds our future, and we are thankful for His peace that passes understanding! We are resting in the assurance that He knows what is best for us and He will lead us as we follow Him.

Quick updates on the kids...

Brooklyn turned 11 in September and has recently been given the nickname, "BrookWorm". She's always always reading and can't wait for the next trip to the library. She loves doing crafts as much as I do and we've been having fun trying new things together. She has been enjoying the girls group at church, CIA (Chicks in Action) and is in a girls' club through our homeschool group.

Zeke (9) wishes there was a club or weekly get-together for boys, but he has a few friends in our neighborhood that would come over everyday after school to skateboard before the snow came.. now they are having fun building snow forts and snowboarding down the snowdrifts. He also has a couple of friends at church that he's getting to know. He has his dad's talent for drawing and loves to be with him as much as possible.

Mercy is now three and finally going on the potty! She's our super-silly-all-the-time girl. She loves to color, read books, jump, hop, sing.. and cuddle. She brings a smile everywhere she goes. It's fun to watch the relationships between the different siblings. With Brooklyn, Mercy loves to read and do crafty things (Brooklyn has been her preschool teacher this year), with Zeke, she loves to wrestle and be silly, and with Judah... we have to watch her. She likes to hug him tight and carry him around. (He usually doesn't mind.)

I guess I already talked about Judah in the beginning of this letter.. I'll just add one thing. When I think about the calm, sweet baby he is, I'm reminded of Paul's words in Philippians 4:11, "...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances". We can learn a lot from a baby!

And the Baby who is the reason we celebrate next week... O come let us adore Him!

“Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory!” (Eph. 3:20-21)

Merry Christmas with lots of love,
Joe, Jenny, Brooklyn, Ezekiel, Mercy and Judah Swanson

Joe's website:

Jenny's blogs:

Friday, December 19, 2008

new blog!

I've started a new blog and got it up and running this morning!  I'd really like to play with the background and Joe is working on designing a header and buttons for me... but I wanted to get it going instead of waiting for it to be "perfect".  (I like the saying, "Done is better than perfect.")

And this will take you directly to the main page:

It's in the beginning stages, so bear with me... but please visit, come back often, leave comments, share ideas, let me know if there's something else you'd like to see, etc.  This is to be a cooperative blog, so I'd love to have as many contributors as possible.  If you'd like to share an idea or tip, please email me at

Thanks for visiting!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas card holder

Yesterday I saw a Christmas card holder at Crafts Direct that I just had to come home and try.  I started with a 12x36 inch canvas, a few spools of colorful ribbon, and these red thumbtacks.  (Theirs was left white, and they had simply added some red and green canvas snowflakes, which were available for an extra 16.99.)  I decided to skip the extra decorations and paint my background.  So I painted it brown, and then added some red dots here and there.
Next, I measured and marked down the sides at six inch intervals.  (I started at 3 1/2 inches from the top, so there'd be some of the canvas showing at the top and bottom once cards are hung.)  After measuring and marking on both sides, I stretched ribbon across and secured them into the sides of the canvas using red thumbtacks.
Next, I turned the canvas over and stapled the excess ribbon onto the frame in the back, and then trimmed off any extra ribbon that remained.
Here's the finished product, ready to be hung when little ones wake up from their naps.
First card hung.
Side detail.
Super easy!  You can do it too!  If you make one, take a photo and let me know!  Enjoy!

flashback friday

This was our family Christmas picture three years ago.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

keeping Christ in Christmas

Over on tipjunkie, I saw this post that I thought I'd participate in.  The topic for today's "Talk to me Tuesday" is Keeping Christ in Christmas.

I collect nativity sets.  I have a thing especially for toy sets of all kinds, that the kids can play with.  We talk about the birth of Jesus, read lots of books and sing the songs.  I love to watch them playing with the characters in the play sets, acting out the events of the Christmas story.

This first picture is of Mercy two years ago.  This set has a cardboard background and wooden people with magnets on the bottom.  It came with two wands, also with magnets on the ends, so you can maneuver the people around the scene without actually touching them.  (or just grab and play, like Mercy is doing here.)
This is one of my favorites.. not a play set, but beautiful.  Someday I'll add more to it.

This set is my most favorite of all.  It was the first in my collection.  I'm really sad that at the moment we can't find the cat.  Not that I'm a huge cat fan, but I thought it was pretty neat that a nativity set would come with a cat.  And it was a really cute cat.  For some reason it was in our window sill for a while in our old house, and I remember putting it somewhere when we moved so it wouldn't get lost.  You probably can relate.  

This one is a playmobil set, which is currently in Zeke's room.

This is another great one.  It looks like clay, but is actually rubbery something.  This one is actually an advent set, with a booklet telling you which piece to add to the story each day.  We aren't doing that part this year with this set, but Brooklyn has it in her room and at 11, still enjoys playing with the people and animals, acting it out.

Close up of the main characters.  Another thing I love about this one is that it has a little drummer boy.  I always wanted to make a nativity set out of clay, and have a drummer boy.  I also want a kneeling Santa in my set... someday.  But this one is so close to what I pictured making I just love it.

My mother-in-law gave me this set.  The donkey's ears are currently needing repair so he's not in the picture.  I let the kids move these around if they're careful, but it's not technically a play set.

So that's part of how we keep Christ in Christmas at our house.. through our talks, books, songs and play.

Another part is that we don't put much emphasis on gifts.  We try to keep talk of gifts focused on what they'd like to give instead of receive.  This year, Joe told the kids they could each pick a family, ministry or organization to donate a designated amount of money to.  They've been taking this seriously, really thinking about what to choose and are excited about it.  Also, we draw names and each of us make a gift for one other family member.  It's a nice way for each of us to spend some time thinking about that one person and focusing our time and creativity to make something special for them.

Friday, December 5, 2008

jenny needs...

I seriously laughed out loud for a few minutes when I did this, so I had to post... maybe you'll get a good laugh out of your results too.  I was blog browsing, and came across this post on Keeping up with the Chreste's.  You just type in "what (your name) needs" in a google search.  Here's mine:

Jenny needs...
1.  to find herself a baller (this one cracked me up.. especially given our current situation and how slow work has been for Joe.  I promised I won't go searching!   ... By the way, anyone need a tattoo?  I know a good artist!)
2.  a wee (wonder if they meant wii?)
3.  a road bike
4.  space!  (exclamation part of search result)
5.  to step it up
6.  to go on a spa weekend (I'm not making this up!)
7.  your help Forest Gump (makes me want to go eat at Bubba Gump)
8.  to quit caffeine (I'm obviously not making this up!)
9.  to play by the rules
10.  a break.

Go do a search for yourself and if you put up a post on it, leave a comment so I can read your list!  Have fun!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

cookie day!

A while back, I posted about a cookie party that my good friend Corliss does every year.  She did a special one in the summer before we moved, and contacted me when she set the date for the Christmas party so that we could participate from afar.  See, every year, she fills her home with friends and food, while everyone bakes, decorates, and eats while utilizing her amazing recipes and skill.  On Saturday, we got ready by making some sugar cookie dough (recipe found here), mixing up frosting, and gathering cookie cutters and sprinkles.  We listened to Christmas music and had fun cutting the shapes and then frosting our cookies. 

Mercy is a girl after my own heart... we both sampled our share of dough (the best part of baking!).
Here, the kids are rolling and cutting out their shapes.
A highlight was getting to join our friends back in California using Skype.  One of our friends there brought a laptop and called us so we could experience cookie day together.  The picture was a little blurry, and we couldn't hear them very well, but it was fun to see them and know we were taking part in one of our favorite traditions of the Christmas season with friends.
While on the call, Corliss opened the box I sent and passed out these coffee sleeves to all who were there.  
We had a great day and had (notice the past tense of this statement.. it was five days ago, after all!) some beautiful and delicious cookies to boot.
Here's a sampling of what was created.
Later, my Little Miss Claus got a ride in her sleigh by two fun and willing reindeer throughout the house!

camera of choice

Over the years, people consistently ask me what type of camera I use.  I've used several, from point and shoot to SLR to now digital SLR cameras.  The camera that I currently use and absolutely love is the Nikon D40.  I love photography and enjoy learning more about tricks and techniques.  Maybe I'll feature a section about photography in the new blog I'm ramping up (details and link available soon... stay tuned!).  For now, my favorite tips to share about taking good photos are simple.  1.)  The closer the better, and 2.) use natural light whenever possible instead of flash.  It's also fun to get off center and try different angles.  If you have tips you'd like to share, please comment or email me.  I love sharing and learning from others' experience!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

baby, it's cold outside!

Oh my goodness.  It is cold here!!!  I drove from my nice warm garage tonight (35 degrees) to take my kids to Royal Rangers and Missionettes and watched as the outside temperature thing on my car went descending below 20 degrees.  On our way home, the temperature registered at a whopping 12 degrees outside!  I also had a realization that three of our children have never been this cold before in their lives!  On the plus side, I learned something nice about the grocery store.  They have a drive up service.  Apparently, after you buy your groceries, you can leave your stuff in your cart and someone will meet you at the curb, where you can drive up, airport style, and have your groceries loaded.  I didn't take advantage of the service tonight.. but when it starts snowing, that will be pretty sweet!

anniversary and Thanksgiving

Last Wednesday Joe and I celebrated being married for 14 years in a row.  (I like to say "in a row" because it sounds so much more accomplished, don't you think?)  What a journey we've been on.  We had no idea 14 years ago the twists and turns this path of life would take us on.  But it's been a good road.  Reason numero uno:  God has been our tour guide.  He allows us to take detours here and there, learn some lessons, and then He leads us back to His perfect path.  Here we are, on our anniversary, driving up north to visit some of his relatives (our family) for Thanksgiving.

This was our first holiday (aside from birthdays) that we were away from our family and friends and usual traditions in the Bay Area.  It was sad thinking about all the fun we usually have with my sisters and their families, the kids being together and performing plays for us... but we are so thankful that we do have family here, too.  And it was fun celebrating with them.  Joe's cousins have kids near the same ages as ours.  They had fun running around the apartment building where Joe's aunt lives, and where we had our feast.  Some highlights of the day:  We woke up to snow...  (it's been super cold, but no real snow where we live yet).
Here's a shot of the glorious food that was feasted upon...  (which includes my semi-famous corn casserole that my sisters apparently boycotted.  One sister says it's because they just couldn't have it if I wasn't there to make it... the other said it's because they didn't have the recipe!  I'll post that soon, because it's oh-so-good, and usually a crowd pleaser.. and oh-so-easy, which is always a plus.)
After we ate, we had fun visiting with everyone, and the kids all did some more exploring and video taping who-knows-what.  Another highlight... they got stuck in the elevator!  Five kids, ages 11, 10, 9, and five-year-old twins.  All stuck in an elevator.  We were in a community room near the elevator and I heard a bunch of screaming.  At first I dismissed it, thinking the kids were upstairs in our room (there's a guest room there.. so nice!).. but when I heard it again, it sounded much more like panic than play.  I rushed to the elevator and assured them that we heard them and knew they were stuck, and that they should remain calm and we'd get help.  I actually thought they may be there a while and told Brooklyn to have everyone sit down and for her to tell them a story.  (I thought it was a good idea, to keep them calm and quiet.)  But Joe's uncle went upstairs, closer to where they were stuck, and gave much better instructions.  Turns out, there's plain as day instructions posted inside the elevator, telling a person exactly what to do if some such emergency should occur.  So the kids settled down and listened to him, made the phone call they needed to make, and were safely out in no time.  Quite scared, but safe.  The rest of the night, our kids didn't want to use the elevator, but we reminded them that everything worked out before, and now they knew just what to do if it ever happened again.  I'm sure that's part of this Thanksgiving they'll remember for a long time!

Later in the evening, we went to Joe's aunt's house and had a good time just hanging out, the kids playing with toys, us visiting, everyone stuffing popcorn and apples into our already overcrowded tummies.  We hadn't had a family picture taken in a long time, and no really good ones at all since the addition of Judah.. so we had a little photo shoot while there.  I really like this one, and it may be used as our Christmas card picture.. but Joe shaved his beard a few days later (yay!!!), so now this seems "so yesterday"!  If the opportunity arises, we may get a new picture taken.. if not, this one will suffice.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving also!  Now on to Christmas!!!