Sunday, October 23, 2011

One Week in 2007

"Out, out, brief candle. Life's but a walking shadow." ~macbeth
Happy 4th Birthday, Charles.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Molecules that Make up Eternity...

This is the kind of moment for which I posted those photos the other day. I looked up from the dishes, out the kitchen window, to see Jasper on the grass with the baby. I knew I had to pause, and drink it in. I saw the bookends of a decade of effort to build a family, and all the craziness disappeared for a moment. I felt peaceful. I felt grateful.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I'm having an affair.

Today, in the middle of the workday, my partner and I arrived in separate cars at our secret destination.

In-n-Out Burger.

That's right. My husband and I met at In-n-Out Burger in the middle of the day to cheat on our children. We had cheeseburgers, and fries, and shared a strawberry milkshake.

With each other--and no one else. No bites, no sips, no messes, no interruptions, and absolutely no leftovers taken home to share.

Not one morsel.

Yes, my husband and I are cheating on our children, and we're loving it.

Emily Mabey Swensen iPhone

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nobody Knows: the Untold Story of Black Mormons

If you have the documentary channel, make sure you catch "Nobody Knows: the Untold Story of Black Mormons," being rebroadcast September 25th.

It is really excellent--an honest telling of the story of the race issue in the LDS church as told by faithful black Mormons. It doesn't shy away from the hard truth of the past, but also does it with respect for the faith from those who live it, and with solid facts.

I don't get up on my soapbox very often. But for the sake of my three beautiful children who are growing up both black and Mormon, I hope people both inside and outside the LDS church watch this and put to rest all the myths--those about race and those about the church.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Blog Gone?

Greetings from planet . . . hmm. I can't even think of a funny planet name right now. That's how creative my once-writerly brain has become. Has anyone been wondering why I don't blog anymore? I'VE been wondering why I don't blog anymore. It's as if I used to think in Bloggish, and now I don't.

Here are a few classic Saffron quotes I forgot to post months ago--it's almost sad to have the girls' English get so good we can't enjoy as many of these moments any more.

"Mom, my room is cute I dead!" Translation: My room is so cute I could die.

"I'm going to save my money for laffy taffy for my birthday." Does she really think she must save up for her birthday to get a 25 cent Laffy Taffy? No. Laffy Taffy = walkie talkie.

"When is turkey turkey?" Translation: Trick-or-treating

"Ruby went to get the iron man." Translation: blow dryer

Once I sent her to tell Steve to get a razor blade. Knowing it was hard, I even practiced it with her several times first. A few minutes later I turned to see him bringing me a box of Raisin Bran. Saffron thinks these moments are hilarious.

"Mom, did you say put this in the freez, or freezer?" Translation: fridge or freezer

Saffron is an excellent soccer player, and is playing on the highest level team for her age group. I went to the first practice with her and quietly tried to translate several of the coaches words for her on a drink break. After that I thought, forget it. She'll figure it out, or he'll figure out that he can't haphazardly interchange words like "halfback" and "midfielder" and think she'll know she's going to the same position. In fact, it was only after the first few games she mentioned to me that she wished the girls wouldn't "choose" her so she could play the whole game. When substitutions came in, she thought they got to choose whom to replace. She must have thought the coach just told her who to go in for because she couldn't choose fast enough. Who knows how many other things are lost in translation and we don't even know it.

Doesn't matter much, though--she's still been game MVP the last two games in a row. I taught her the word "aggressive" and told her it has to be said with a big roar on the "ggr" part, and with fingers up next to your face like claws. She laughs in embarrassment when I yell it that way from the sidelines, but she definitely gets the meaning. She has no problem being aggressive. She even heard a mom yelling from the other team's side "That girl is mean!" I told her she wasn't doing anything wrong, just playing fierce. Once she knew she wasn't in trouble, she was pretty proud of that moment. We like to say that she's playing her Ethiopian ancestors proud. She tells me she's not as good as Little Brother. He must be quite the soccer star, then. I only wish I could see him play.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Hug Place

Saffron went many years without a hug.

Tonight she had a rough evening. When she gets in trouble of any kind, she struggles to forgive herself and move on. After we talked through it we had a hug.

As we hugged she said, "When I'm in your hug I feel like I'm in a special place. When I don't get a goodnight hug I can't fall asleep for a very long time."

I think of how quickly Cyrus stops crying if I pick him up and hug him tight to my chest.

And I think of what my friend Brittney said through her tears. She recently volunteered at a third-world orphanage. Volunteers in the baby wing were forbidden to pick up the babies and hug them. They were only allowed to stroke them in their cribs. Brittney said she'd never experienced anything so excruciating as looking into the eyes of a crying baby whose eyes begged you to hold her, and not being able to do it. The agony of this memory was so clear on Brittney's face that I cried just watching her retell it.

The Hug Place must be wired into us physiologically and spiritually. I guess it makes sense that in Saffron's mind it's a place--something to be inside of, and somewhere to feel safe.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Hilarious! The New "Who's on First"

This 2-minute piece featured today as part of a rerun of This American Life is one of the most hilarious things I've heard in a long time. Take a minute to listen--come on . . . you need a good laugh.

It's an excerpt from the show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, by the Chicago theater group The Neofuturists.

Cut and paste the link below (blogger's not in the mood to make it clickable), then go to minute 24:30:

Monday, August 15, 2011

We Love You, Mommie Dearest

Yesterday Steve got back from a ten-day trip to Japan where he was volunteering in the rebuilding effort. This overlapped with me and the kids joining my family at the ranch in Wyoming, so we were actually apart for two weeks. This separation culminated in one of the most uplifting periods of Steve's life (because of Japan, stupid--not because he had a break from me and the kids. Wait. Right? I mean, I am right about that. . . . I think.) Anyway, as I was saying, uplifting for him, not so much for me. I've been alone plenty and Steve works a lot of hours anyway so I'm used to captaining the ship. But this was some'um else. First, no one should ever leave me alone with my children at the end of the summer when I've already had them under foot for two months. It's not safe. I'm no Andrea Yeates, but I'm also no Emily Swensen anymore. No, that pretty awesome mom has been replaced by Mommie Dearest (see above).

So, the timing wasn't great. Then, throw in a major car accident the first day of the two weeks (and the resulting rental car/insurance headaches!), a sprinkler disaster, two remodeled rooms with their contents still not put away, two huge shipments for the shipping business, a family vacation with the necessary hours of whine-driving, a two-day soccer tournament 45 minutes away, several child-meltdowns, the hottest weather of the summer, and one 35th birthday with no husband, and you have the implosion of one formerly sane mother. I think Steve and I should start the kids' therapy fund now.

Any old way, yesterday Steve got home and it was all happy day. Today, we had no phone or internet. Refusing to deal with ONE MORE THING!!!!!, I did nothing about it but just wait till Steve got home late to deal with it. At approximately 11:45 pm, he got around to investigating and calling the phone company. Turns out, if you haven't paid your phone bill in months, they TURN OFF YOUR PHONE! Um...whoops. At least we were able to pay the back balance--there were many times in our marriage we would have been up a crick.

So, the moral of the story is, don't get to thinkin yer jist a leetle crazy the past couple weeks ciz yer husband's been gone. Naw--really YOU E BEEN INSANE FOR MONTHS!!!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


It's official. Thirty-five today. What do I wish for? own Alice from The Brady Bunch.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Little King Rex

Happy four-month birthday, Cyrus. At 11.5 lbs and 23.5 inches, you're barely even on the size charts, but you downed bananas and even started to hold your bottle a bit today. When it comes to tongue and finger dexterity, you are a pro--clearly finding a way to carve out your own talents in the family despite being the youngest and smallest. What a blessing! Thank you for joining our family. Thank you, Birthmom.

P.S. To all of you who commented on my last post--thank you thank you. Honestly, I had no idea that many people were still aware, or that your encouragement would mean so much to me. Someday I'll say more about what we've been through. But for now, know that things are getting better.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tell Your Husband You Weren't Wasting Time Reading a Blog--You Were Helping A Friend

Remember how I sometimes used to lament my insecurities about blogging? I wondered what the purpose was of it all, even as I continued to post? Well back then I was wondering what the purpose was for my readers, and worrying I was wasting their time. But recently I've realized what the benefit was for me.

We've had a really difficult few weeks, during which I found myself at one point in a small room with a doctor and social worker, there to discuss a child. They focused their attention on me for a moment, and observed that it seemed I was truly venting to absolutely no one about the emotional stress I was carrying. They were pretty adamant that I make this a higher priority in my life. I got thinking about my blog--what an outlet it used to be for me, and how much comfort I took from the support I got from my readers. I stopped blogging regularly for two reasons: the time it took, and the ever unsettling question of whether I was breaching my childrens' privacy. I didn't realize the benefit I'd be giving up.

So thank you!!, anyone who may still be out there, for reading, and supporting. I needed that.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


It's official: I'm overwhelmed--superwhelmed--extrawhelmed--uberwhelmed. Is there a cardinal rule against admitting that in the blogosphere? The baby I can handle. It's the other four sub-adult beings in the house, and their dishes, and their laundry, and their homework, and their lessons, and their subversion of my Great Plan of Domestic Bliss. Comrade Mother knows how to make you happy if you will just toe the line. She can force bliss into this home if you will only listen to her. She is not crazy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Where You At?

I love this song by Jennifer Hudson. Besides her amazing vocals, I am struck by how much it jives with the feeling of some of the birthmoms we came across in our adoption journey. They didn't want to talk much about birthfathers, but seemed to wonder if they would ever find a man willing to stick around. They are very strong, independent women, but it's not lost on them that they have to face raising children alone while I face it with a committed husband. A few times I felt them looking at me as if to say, "You don't realize how good you have it."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Welcome to the World, Baby Cy

Having grown in several different ways, our family was finally completed last Friday, March 11, with the birth of this beautiful baby boy, Cyrus Rex, weighing in at a mere 5 lbs 9 oz. Cy was officially adopted Saturday. We felt there was one last little boy out there for us, and we're so grateful finally to have him. His birthmom is a woman of great courage, love, conviction, belief in God, and selfless love for this baby boy. We will always make sure Cyrus knows how much she loves him, and how courageously she faced this heart-wrenching moment in her life. Words can't express our gratitude.

As I am a word person and our choice of names always surprises people, I might as well explain this one. We felt Cyrus would be the final little "King" needed to crown our family. Thus he is named for the great King Cyrus of the Bible, who was most famous for integrating different peoples peacefully. His middle name is the latin "Rex," for King, used for all the kings of England--"William Rex," "Henry Rex," etc., which I have loved ever since we lived there.

You can view a slideshow of Cyrus at Password: 0311cyrusswensen

Friday, February 25, 2011

I'm sitting at a local lunch counter with Willa. Minutes ago she was her normal giddy self, when one comment suddenly caused her eyes to fill with tears and that well-known cloud to descend over her face. She said something about when she used to speak Spanish. I chuckled and reminded her that it was Amharic. This was the wrong way to react, and there was no consoling her. "I should have never watched Dora!" she cried.

She can't remember a word of Amharic, and can only remember a fraction of what Saffron can remember about life in Ethiopia. Both girls feel somewhat helpless and scared about this inevitable loss of memory, but Willa rarely feels it so acutely. Pretty soon she was on my lap in tears. She said she doesn't wish she had never come to America--she just wishes she could have both Ethiopia and America in her mind. No matter what we've tried, the one seems to push out the other. We'll make some more video of them telling memories tomorrow, and watch some home videos of Ethiopia, but all we can do only slightly slows the flow. And I understand--if Jasper and Ruby had been adopted into an Ethiopian family I would want them to remember their old life here, too.

I'm so grateful we picked up the girls and saw their homeland with our own eyes. I can't imagine helping them through this without that perspective. I want to take them back to visit as soon as we can afford it, and get them an Amharic tutor as soon as they want it. Otherwise, they will have to deal with the loss of Ethiopia the way we all deal with all kinds of loss, and will be stronger for it.

Happy Willa is back now. But it was probably a good reminder for me to see the depth of feeling, of grieving, that a five-year-old can have. Ask anyone who's seen it--when she gets that look in her eyes, she could be a million years old.