Sunday, January 24, 2021

December 2020 - Covid Christmas & New Years in NV

Todd and Melissa have officially moved back to the Western States and we were excited to have them stay with us for a few days right before Christmas.

Liam loves to play "I Spy." We played it at the dentist when he was scared and it was a great distraction. He always wants to play it in the car and while we're eating dinner. 

Tad insists on wearing mismatched jammies.  He will take the bottoms from one set and the top from another and mix them together, usually with very different patterns.  It drives me crazy!  But it's not a battle that's worth fighting, I have to save my energy with this kid.

Tad and Liam moved into their own room and baby Nathan moved in with Tyler.  Kyle and I are happy to have our room to ourselves, Tad and Liam think it's so cool to have their own room, and Tyler loves sharing with baby.  It's a win all around.  Alexa was excited to do a sleepover with all the boys on Christmas Eve.  

Baby Nathan (4 months old) is very comfortable in 12 month clothing.  We keep having to move up in size because the zippers and fabric on his pajamas are leaving indentations in his legs, and even the 12 month size are surprisingly cozy.  Kyle has been using yoga blocks under his baby swing since he was a couple of weeks old because otherwise it drags on the ground.  He's a fat, happy baby.  

Covid restrictions meant that large gatherings were cancelled and Christmas was simple and I absolutely loved it. We stayed home and played, and baby Nathaniel fell asleep in my arms at least 4 times a day.  It was the best ever.  Both sets of grandparents joined us on Zoom for our live nativity on Christmas Eve. 

Alexa asked Santa for a Barbie dream house for Christmas. Tyler asked for a chinchilla, giant dragon stuffed animal, and/or Pokemon cards. Tad asked for a phone. Santa brought a Barbie animal rescue house, a dragon stuffed animal, and Tad and Liam got Wild Kratts vests and creature discs. They love the show Wild Kratts and pretend to be the two brothers rescuing animals every day.

Other exciting gifts included remote control cars and a Barbie Jeep for Tad & Liam.  They think it's so cool that the jeep plays music.  We bought it off a neighbor and were cleaning it after the kids went to bed on Christmas Eve and kept accidentally setting off the music.  It was so loud!  Tyler got a fancy new bike from Grandma and Grandpa Sweeny, Alexa got an Echo to play music in her room, and the whole family got plane tickets to Hawaii in May!

We started a new tradition on Christmas Eve that I heard about from a coworker.  Everyone has a simple gift inside a wrapped container, attached to a string with their name on it.  You sing a song or do a Christmas poem and when it ends you all pull on your strings at the same time to launch your gift out of the box.  It was a lot of fun.

Tad and Liam wanted to make the cookies for Santa.  They are good little chefs.

Tyler turned all of the wrapping paper inside out so he could draw fun things on the gifts he wrapped--

Alexa saved up special class money at school so she could buy a "baby's first Christmas" bib for Nathaniel.  Sweet girl.

Alexa got lots of spa masks for Christmas.  Here she is trying one out.  Her brothers said it was super creepy :).

Alexa spoke in Sacrament meeting for the Christmas program.  She was asked to speak about Luke 2.  She read and re-read the chapter (4 times total) and wrote the talk all by herself.  She did a good job speaking in front of a lot of people, and the Bishop commented on how excited he was because it's the first time he had ever had a 9-year old speak. 

We took a little road trip to Nevada for New Years to visit Richard and Megan.  We played a lot with cousins, ate delicious food, introduced the kids to Mighty Ducks, and the boys had fun shooting targets.

Here's our Christmas update in place of Christmas cards:
Kyle stays busy remodeling the house and keeping the children alive.

COVID made Jenny's work at Thrive extra busy this year. Apparently, everyone wants freeze dried food when the world is ending. Go figure.

Alexa, 9, loves Minecraft, Legos, reading Harry Potter, and playing with friends. She is surrounded by boys all day every day.

Tyler, 7, also loves Minecraft and Legos and is a fantastic artist.

Tad, 4, is obsessed with blanket forts and makes them all over the house. He and Liam are best buds.

Liam, 3, loves puzzles, reading, wrestling, and pretending to play Wild Kratts and go on animal adventures with Tad.

Nathaniel, 4 months, is huge! He is a wonderful baby and he loves to eat, sleep, and laugh at his big brothers and sister.

2020 Highlights: Sweeny reunion in Indiana at a beautiful lake-side cabin (June), Yellowstone and Bear World (Sept), Glacier NP for Kirstan's wedding (Oct), surviving COVID and lots of time at home, and 2 litters of baby kittens (July/Nov). Do yourself a favor and visit Glacier if you haven't, it's breathtaking. Virtual hugs from our family to yours, and best wishes for a wonderful new year!

Funny Stories:
Tad asked if all brown cows were dairy cows.  I explained that not all brown cows are dairy cows, some are meat cows that give us meat like steak.  Alexa chimed in and said, “Yeah! And pork, too! ... Wait. That comes from pigs. Face palm.”

Tyler: "Baby is huge! He looks like he’s already one year old. I bet when he’s in second grade everybody’s going to think he’s actually in third grade."

This is what happens when your kids are stuck at home for too long:

November 2020 - Great Grandma Swingle

We lost our amazing Great Grandma Swingle this month. It was very sudden. She had dinner at our house on November 1, we brought her some soup November 15 because she wasn't feeling well, and she passed away November 21. She went to the hospital in early November because she had a cough and tested positive for pneumonia and COVID, but had not been feeling well for a week and a half. She may have also had some small strokes that caused her to pass so suddenly. Her passing was sudden, but bittersweet because she is able to be with Grandpa again. I personally feel that being healthy and enjoying life up to the end (able to be independent, socially active, close to family, etc.) and then passing suddenly (within a couple weeks of not feeling well) is a tender mercy and sweet blessing for a wonderful woman.

The funeral was held the following week in Arizona and all of her children and a few grandchildren were able to attend. The funeral itself was very uplifting. Time was made to share stories about her and the impact she had on everyone's life. The family gathered before and after the funeral at an Airbnb and enjoyed each other's company, it was nice to be together like old times growing up close to each other in California.

She had just moved out to Utah in July, so we were glad to have her close. In 2020 we started doing Swingle virtual church on Sundays where we gathered together via Google Hangouts to share gospel messages or discuss the scriptures. She was able to join several of our virtual gatherings and shared her testimony in September. She shared a couple of memorable stories in her testimony--

While in college, she and her roommates went for a drive and met some guys. The guys invited them to a party and they wanted to go but felt they shouldn't because they knew it wasn't safe to go with people they didn't know. They pushed aside the bad feeling and went home to get ready, but when they went to leave the car wouldn't start so they couldn't go. They tried for a while. To their surprise, the very next morning the car started without any issues.

Another time she was invited by friends from school to go swimming on a Sunday. She felt she shouldn't but did it anyway. They drove for a while to a swimming hole. All the other girls brought beer and were drinking pretty heavily, so the ride home was really scary because the girl driving was drunk and Grandma thought they would crash. She remembers saying sorry and praying the whole drive home and wishing that she hadn't gone.

I remember visiting Grandma in Arizona in 2017 when Grandpa was bed ridden. Life was hard and his health was poor, money was tight, etc. but I still remember her going in there to tuck him in and give him his medicine and hearing them laugh and laugh because Grandpa had cracked a joke. It was so cute. I remember being around them and they still flirted and made each other smile. They were so in love.  And she played hours and hours of Skip Bo with Alexa and would walk around the house with baby Tad.  I also remember she made us big fancy meals like ham with all of the fixings, despite her taking care of Grandpa and having her own health challenges.  I kept thinking we were there to help and serve her and she ran circles around us.

At recent family dinners here in Utah she made sure to serve everyone else first.  We would all try to get her to sit down and relax, but she wouldn't have it.  She would be up front scooping potatoes for everyone before she got her own.  And on November 1 she sat for a long time and played cards with Charlotte and Olivia, what a sweet and tender memory.

Grandma had a sleepover at our house last Thanksgiving and it was so nice to have one on one time. She helped us decorate the Christmas tree. She was in charge of the ornaments and would hand them out to the kids to put up on the tree. She also taught us how to make her famous tea rings.

Kyle remembers her making fresh fruit punch when they would go to visit. She had orange, lime, and lemon trees and would make fresh juice. The kids called it swamp juice and would drink 3 gallons of it every time they came to visit.

I'm glad she moved back to Utah so we could see more of her these past couple of months. And I'm glad she didn't suffer or have to be a widow for long. What a blessing. We sure love her and will miss her.

We had a Dia de los Muertos family party at our house on November 1. Alexa helped me decorate. We made an ofrenda, colored sugar skull coloring pages, dangled papel picado from the ceiling and walls, and made tissue paper flowers.  Everyone shared family stories after dinner.  Great Grandma shared that her mom would go to school on what she called a "bus," which was a horse-drawn wagon that would pick the kids up early in the morning.

Kyle has been playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends about once a month and the kids think it's awesome to play with his miniatures.

We got another litter of kittens on November 4. Only 4 this time, and one of them passed away.  We gave away 2 and kept 1 in the family. The one we kept is a tuxedo like her mom and we named her Jane Oreo Bond. She loves to come and sit on our feet while we're getting ready in the morning.

For Thanksgiving we hosted Richard and Megan from NV, Emily and Jered, and Marmie and Grandpa. Megan left NV at 5am to get here for Thanksgiving lunch and they only stayed one night and then headed back home. Lots of driving in a short amount of time! Kyle brined and smoked the turkey again and it was delicious.

President Nelson challenged us to #givethanks on social media for 7 days and it was very uplifting. In the middle of a challenging year with so much negativity on social media surrounding politics, health, violence, personal opinion, and an abundance of criticism for others, it was absolutely wonderful to go online and feel uplifted. And to focus every day on the many things to be grateful for in my life and in our home.

Here are some of my gratitude posts:
Tad and Liam making baby Nathan laugh and giggle.  They made lots of funny faces and used silly voices.

—Saturdays. For a clean house. For time to get things done. For time to play.
—The fact that the sun was shining all day.
—Good food. We had a big breakfast and a delicious dinner. We have an abundance of food and I’m grateful our kids are good eaters.
—Family time. Genuine smiles I saw on our kids’ faces today. For trying new things together. For being brave and excited. For just being together. We taught the kids to ice skate today—even tiny Liam—and they did so well!
—The fact that our kids are full of adventure and imagination. They worked together to build a huge blanket fort this afternoon :)
—Baby boy taking a nap on my shoulder this afternoon. Forcing me to stop for a minute and just be. To live in the moment. To slow down and enjoy.
—For big siblings who help little siblings. Who held baby so I could make dinner and do dishes. And who helped little brothers take baths tonight.
—Despite getting pulled into work today, I’m grateful to work with really good people. People who care. Who are honest, full of integrity, and who influence me for good.

Home Church. I felt such peace and strength sitting together with our small family and singing beautiful hymns together. We crowded into our little office because baby was asleep in the living room so it was extra cozy.  Alexa and Tyler even played songs on the violin for us.

I shared that there is a lot of heartache and sacrifice that comes with a global pandemic, but one thing I am grateful for is that it forces us to be home more as a family. Busy evenings and weekends are cancelled. We stay home instead of going to church on Sundays. It brought me a lot of peace this morning while our family sang one of my favorite hymns—

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise

That our kids have worked really hard the past couple of months to save up money so they could buy each other silly, thoughtful gifts for Christmas. They were so excited to pick stuff out tonight and wrap their gifts. The 3yo only smashed one snow globe in the process. And only pulled the entire tape roll out once.

For Kyle. That he stays home with the kids, knows everyone's tickle spots (even tiny little baby), cuddles and comforts, wants to do things the best way without cutting corners, is always willing to help, that we share the same goals and values, that he is strong and faithful, that he is true to himself, and so much more. 

Other things I'm thankful for:
Kids art. Everywhere. All the time
Good music - it calms, energizes, comforts, brings joy and comforts sorrow
Our rainbow baby
Loving parents and siblings 
Knowledge of truth and light
A Savior who loves unconditionally

And here are some videos of baby :)

Funny Stories:

We had our next door neighbors over for dinner and they have 3 girls. Liam loved playing with them and called them his sisters all night.

We had Caity Smith's kids over for a play date after they had a new baby. I asked her son, Xander, what his favorite animal is and he said "a robot!"

Liam says "cutesase" for "suitcase." I will never correct him.

Tad saw a Wild Kratts episode about whales and now he's obsessed with sperm whales. But when he talks about them he calls them sperms. Such as, "Mom, sperms are soooo big, did you know that? Have you seen sperms in real life? They are so cool. Sperms are even bigger than bears!" These questions are all from one afternoon, asked randomly while doing other things.

Tad walked out of school excitedly holding up a corn painting to show Kyle.  Right when he walked out the door a gust of wind hit the paper and it flew right onto the top of his head, full of fresh paint :).