Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Viva, I apologize!

For months now--ever since Viva became an expert walker--I've thought of her as the more difficult twin. She's hard to keep track of. She likes to wander from one end of the room to the other and then back again. You never know where she is or what she's up to. She often operates in stealth mode.

Jake, on the other hand, is more apt to sit down in one spot and play for a while. Sure, he'll get up and move regularly, but not constantly. Even after he became a good walker, he was still easier to keep track of. Or so I thought.

After spending some recent one-on-one time with both of them, I have to admit I was wrong. I apologize to Viva for labeling her as the problem child.

I learned that Viva is easier to keep track of than Jake is. Jake may not operate in stealth mode--he likes to make noise as he wreaks havoc--but he's faster. He runs from one location to the next. You think he's in the kitchen only to find out he's in the downstairs bathroom.

He loves the computer room. He will run in there if the baby gate is open and quickly climb up on my computer chair and then he will attack my keyboard. One time I found he had opened up FreeCell. I had to tell him that NO ONE is allowed to play FreeCell on my computer except me. I have a 96% win ratio and I don't take kindly to others messing it up.

So, Viva is not the problem child. At least not this month.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Choo! Choo! Donkey Kick!

Bentley continues to love the train set that we purchased for him last December. Every time he visits our home he plays with trains on the track. Until last week the track had been set up on the fireplace ledge. Once a month--more or less depending on Jake & Viva's deconstruction--we'd change the track layout, but usually train play involves running the trains on the track with no change in track layout.

As much as we all love the train set, last week (for reasons that will be revealed in an upcoming post) we took the train tracks apart and stored them away. We kept out a few trains, two bridges, a tunnel, and a small selection of track pieces.

Now when Bentley wants to play with the train set he first has to set up the track. It's a new way for him to play with the train set. Mark and I are having fun with him creating new track layouts.

On Sunday morning after setting up the track and playing with it for a while, Bentley started straddling the track and waiting for Lady, the battery operated engine, to run between his legs. If you look closely you can see her on the track.

Soon he convinced his grandpa to join the fun--although grandpa didn't do donkey kicks.

So far we haven't tried to set up the track when the twins are around. I don't think they'd allow us to get a continuous track set up. They'd be taking it apart faster than we could get it together.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What's New?

What new skills have the amazing trio acquired in the past month?

Bentley continues to explore different drawing and painting techniques. If you were to see a portfolio of his recent ink art, you'd see that his style has changed significantly. He's doing a lot more short, intense bursts of lines rather than sprawling, all over lines. He does a new artwork for me almost every Sunday (during sacrament), so I have a notebook to do comparisons from. You'd have to ask his mom about his latest painting strokes. I know that he likes to paint with both acrylic and water colors.

The twins are not given free reign with either pens or paint. Is it because they are too young? Or is it because there are two of them? I'll have to look back through our photos and see when Bentley first started his self-directed art training.

Viva is very good at stacking cups and blocks. It rather surprised me. Jake is the more focused twin. He's the one who sits and works on a project for a while. I thought he'd be the stacker, but it's Viva. She is very good at it. She gets the job done quickly--and then moves on. Jake likes to knock down stacks. I think deconstruction is a strongly ingrained male trait. (Not that I haven't met some young females who are masters at destruction...oops...deconstruction.)

Jake is the stretcher. He is always trying to get to the door knob or the light switch or whatever is just out-of-reach. He will get on his tippy-toes and stretch his little hand as far as he can.

Viva looks up at the out-of-reach object and doesn't even try to grab it. Why waste her time or energy?

Balls are still a major play item for the boys. Bentley is starting to catch the ball once in a while when you throw it to him. Jake throws balls with quite good aim and he delights in dumping the ball bin.

Viva isn't much interested in throwing or catching balls. She will on occasion carry one around and chew on it. She gets mad if Bentley takes it away, but I don't think she really cares much at all about balls. She's still The Wanderer, The Explorer, The Don't-Pen-Me-In Girl.

Bentley's doing 24 piece puzzles on his own! He's already mastered the African plains puzzle I purchased him a couple of weeks ago. I've ordered a 24 piece dinosaur puzzle. I purchased a 48 piece puzzle, too, but he's not interested in it yet. Whenever we start it, I end up doing almost all the work.

The trio are starting to play together more. Sure, they still have squabbles now and again, but they also have lots of good times together.

Friday, September 26, 2008

That's Not a Lake!

This year is the 10th Anniversary of the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, and to celebrate on the 10th of every month they offer free admission to Alaskans. This seemed like a good excuse to go check out the place, so Matt & Bentley went down 2 weeks ago. Here's the report back from Matt:

Bentley and I went to the Seward Sea Life Center on a get-in-free day a few weeks ago.  It's the first time Bentley's done a true car-trip in Alaska, and the first time he's seen anything south of Anchorage.  Our adventure began in Anchorage with a trip for breakfast and driving goodies at the grocery store.  To my dismay, Bentley passed up all the sugary goodness I offered him – donuts, cookies, fruity bagels, chocolate milk, and juice drinks.  Luckily, Bentley found himself a snack as we passed through the produce aisles – nothing like a good red pepper to eat on a long drive. 

Heading south to Seward, we saw lots of rain and very little wildlife.  We enjoyed songs like "Wheels on the Bus", the 7 song, and "No, No, I never go to work" from They Might Be Giants.  (That last one got stuck in my head and became a favorite to listen to on my way to work for  the following week.)  I started pointing out lakes along the drive, and Bentley caught on that they were getting bigger each time.  He passed out for twenty minutes (missing out on two trains and the boat harbor), and awoke as I parked at the SeaLife Center.  He looked out the window toward Resurrection Bay, and with wide eyes, asked me, "Daddy, is THAT a LAKE??", to which I had to explain that we were near the ocean.

The Sea Life Center was an extraordinary place.  Having never been there myself, we had the chance to explore the center together – 3 times through!  Bentley wasn't so sure the glass would hold in all the critters of the deep, and he was not a big fan of the larger crabs.  Nor was he highly interested in the "petting zoo" for creatures of the deep.  But the spawning salmon exhibit, the eel, and the large aquariums were a hit.  The three main attractions were really interesting to him – the birds were fun to watch, especially since they kept swimming up to us for food, then taking-off and dive bombing for food in their aquarium.  The seals at the zoo have been gone all summer, so Bentley enjoyed seeing his friends playing in Seward, but the "Seal Ion" (how Bentley says Sea Lion) kept us entertained for more than a half hour.  We watched him from upstairs outside.  We watched him from inside upstairs.  And we watched him swim in circles, waving to the kids downstairs.  I think there's something fascinating to kids who see an animal that weighs a couple of tons swimming through the water. 

We topped off our adventure with a walk through the small boat harbor and a stop for lunch of fries, dino-nuggets, and chowder.  All that learning made us really hungry!  It was a great adventure and I'm looking forward to doing something similar with all the kids next year!

P.S.  At about 5 hours of sitting in his car seat, Bentley decided he'd had ENOUGH DRIVING.   I'm not sure he's ready for a cross-country road trip.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Attack of the Killer Virus

I bet you didn't know that some viruses are quite large and have five appendages. Here's my proof:

For some odd reason I chose to grab the camera rather than immediately bringing a halt to the mayhem. Fortunately the computer went into protect mode and shut itself down. Smart machine. These grandbabies are fun, but they can be rather destructive.

After the shut down, I removed the keyboard from easy reach and let them play with the computer chair instead. I strapped the twins in with an elastic belt and Bentley took them for a ride--round and round and round.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Attack of the Killer Plant

One of my favorite house plants is Phil, my very large philodendron. I nurtured him from a very small plant to a seven foot giant. I love Phil. Kara thinks he's ugly, but she's WRONG.

This morning I was rearranging my living room and I moved Phil to a new location. The trip across the carpet--I pulled him rather than lifting--caused some swaying due to his height. The end result was that his trellis became less stable. I had Mark hold the trellis while I went to hunt down a new support board.

I found one and put it in. I walked away. Phil toppled over completely covering Bentley who was playing with the toy box which was (poor planning on my part!) located right next to Phil.

Boy did Bentley shriek. He did not like being buried by an oversized jungle plant. He was rather traumatized for a while. Luckily, no damage was done because Phil is quite light weight.

That's our adventure this morning!

***** ***** *****

That's a photo of Bentley from last night. He spent the night with us because yesterday evening I entertained the three kidlets on my own at our home and in the chaos of loading them up in the truck to take them home, I forgot to collect his blanket. My error, although in my defense, I think he might have hidden it in the couch cushions to protect it from his siblings. In any case, Mark and I brought Bentley back to our home with us so that he could be reunited with his blanket at bed time. (For a while he wasn't as attached to his blanket, but he's been using it more again.)

We've temporarily down-sized from our king bed to a queen futon, so it's a little bit of a crunch to fit all three of us in the bed. The twins are quite happy (they prefer it) to sleep in the play pen when they overnight, but Bentley expects to sleep in our bed. It's odd how different it is with each child. It's partly birth order, partly personality, and partly being a multiple.

It's easy to sleep with one baby, but two? There would be no peace at all. A lot of people think that twins are more dependent because they have a permanent side kick for the first five or so years of life. I disagree. In many ways they are more independent. They are not spoiled like singletons. They have to learn to pacify themselves much earlier because there is a shortage of adult attention. They have to wait their turn at meal time, at diapering time, at bath time, at any time they need adult help. That's my little twin insight for the day. (I consider myself somewhat of an expert since I am a twin and I've been observing my twin grandchildren for the past year.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

World Gratitude Day!

Did you know that today has been designated World Gratitude Day?

Yes, I know.  There are lots and lots of *new* holidays cropping up.  It's crazy!  Yesterday I realized we missed Talk Like a Pirate Day on Friday.  Oh well - there's always next year, right?  :-)

World Gratitude Day was created by the United Nations, and it is "to express apprecation for the great things that individuals and groups do".

I am grateful for my little imps, of course.  Jackson the flirt.  He was laughing and laughing and running in circles with a little girl he met in the hallway at church today.  Genevieve the ring leader.  Teaching her friends Patrick & Cassidy new ways to cause mayhem this weekend.  Bentley the music lover.  I've listend to "The Wheels on the Bus" probably 50 times (maybe more?!) in the last 24 hours.  :-)

More from the web: "The group (United Nations) also suggests that you find something to be grateful for, and remember the feeling.  Seek to give gratitude and apprecation to people in your life who have done good deeds."

And a quote:

"There are none so impoverished as those who do not acknowledge the abundance in their lives." - Richard Evans from The Sunflower

Go forth with gratitude!

Below, Bentley: grateful for chocolate!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Poor Mr. Potato Head

Do you remember Mr. Potato Head? Can you believe he's still around? Bentley received one for Christmas. It came with a much larger selection of pieces than the Potato Head of my youth.

Bentley quite likes to play it. Whenever he puts together Mr. Potato Head, I'm stymied for comments to make to him about his creation. What's with the foot on top of the head or out of the ear slot?! That just isn't right, but I know that I shouldn't stifle his creativity, so I don't tell him what I think. I just look at it and cringe...as I scramble for an appropriate comment to make. Something that's honest and complimentary. Like I said, it stymies me.

Do children who are allowed to play with Mr. Potato Head creatively fail kindergarten entrance exams? I've heard that one of the common tests is to give the child a piece of paper and ask them to draw a face. The child is then scored on how many facial features they put on the face. Did they include ears? Did they give the face eyebrows? More features equates to a higher score. What if Bentley decides to draw an arm where there ought to be a nose? Or what if he sticks the ear on the top of the head? Will he end up in pre-kindergarten for a year being taught culturally appropriate drawing?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cutie 1, Cutie 2

The other evening I was at the kidlets' home when it was bath time. When Jake came out of the tub I took advantage of his wet hair to give him a new hairstyle. Here it is:

What do you think--isn't he tres cute?!

Viva, though, can do him one better:

She's twice as cute. It's a girl thing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mini Glen? :-)

I was recently emailed a photo of Matt's Dad's Dad - Great Grandpa Glen. There are some whispers that Bentley might resemble him. What do you think?

I think there might be a resemblance!  Kids are odd little creatures, aren't they?  Some days I think Bentley looks just like me, some days he has Matt's face, and some days - it's Mini Glen!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Double Trouble

I have a feeling this is going to be a reoccurring blog title. The fact of the matter is that twins are double trouble. No, I take that back, they are more than double trouble. Sometimes you have to do a simple action four or five times before you finally accomplish it, not just twice.

For example, Bentley, the helpful older brother, sometimes opens the door to the supposed-to-be-off-limits back room. The twins rush into the room with glee. I remove Jake to the hallway outside the door and return for Viva. Before I can grab Viva and get her out of the room, Jake is back in the room. I repeat the procedure. Same results. This time when I take Jake out, I shut the door between us. He starts sobbing at the injustice of my action. When I open the door to remove Viva, Jake falls into the room. I have to scoop them both up in my arms to finally clear the room. This is only possible because they are small toddlers. If they were hefty toddlers, I would not be able to handle two of them at once. (Perhaps if they were hefty, they would not be more nimble than I am?)

If getting them out of the upstairs back room is difficult, try getting them to climb the stairs at the same time. Jake runs down the hallway to the family room while Viva climbs the first flight of stairs. By the time I return with him, Viva has changed her mind on going upstairs and is heading back down. If I want a quick resolution to the problem, I carry one upstairs and put him/her on the other side of the baby gate at the top of the stairs and then return for the other. It is possible--but not really safe--to carry them both up the stairs at the same time, but if the baby gate is closed, it becomes an even trickier situation. Of course, the baby gate shouldn't be closed if the inmates are located elsewhere, right?

Another situation when double trouble is multiplied to more than two is when you try to feed the dear little darlings. If Jake is not in the mood to eat and starts spitting his food out, then Viva starts spitting her food out, too. Lovely...NOT. If Viva throws her food on the floor, Jake joins the game.

Here's a few photos I had Mark take recently while I was trying to get Jake and Viva to eat lunch.

Viva prefers eating her bib to eating the food.

Jake sticks his hands in front of his face, making it very hard to get the spoon in his mouth.

Viva tries to take her bib off.

Viva tries harder.

Jake helps Viva take her bib off.

Do you see what I mean? TODDLER TWINS ARE EXHAUSTING. Fortunately they are also adorable, amusing, and extremely loveable.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bentley's Thoughts

I don't think I could list all of the words Bentley knows at this point. His vocabulary is expanding at quite the rapid rate. There is, of course, the expected vocabulary consisting of construction vehicles and animals. The typical fare for young males, right?

There are also the expressions he uses that I'm not sure how he's already learned. Such as:

"I"m king of the mountain!" (as he pushes Jackson off the couch). Or when his remote control car won't start he says to Opa: "It's out of juice!".

There are the big words he throws out once in a while. "Jake is misbehaving!". Luckily for Jake I'm so entranced by Bentley and his four syllable words that he got off the hook. :-)

There are the concepts he's starting to understand. "Mommy, are we on Dowling?". He loves street names and is always asking me about the names of the roads as we drive down them. I try to trick him into conversations on how some roads are parallel to each other and some are perpendicular and there are circular shaped round abouts... but for now he's more about the names than the math. That's okay, we still have time for math!

What's even more fun than the cute expressions is hearing him put all sorts of words together in funny ways I can get a kick out of. He talks, he sings, and he even reads some of his favorite books. (Yes, I know he's not reading - it's called memorization!). Fun times. :-)

I know I am probably a bit more intrigued by all his thoughts than most people would be, but I'm going to share them anyway. It's my blog right?

Viva's screaming, and I ask him why. "I pushed her over, Mommy. But only one time!" Admission of guilt, but with a disclaimer. I love it.

Bentley takes Jake's toy away and I tell him to give it back. He throws it at Jake and hits him in the head. I remind him not to throw, and prompt him to tell his brother he's sorry. "But I'm not sorry, Mommy!". Good point, good point - should you force an apology if they don't mean it? I'm still thinking on that one. Or rather - on how to make him see that he SHOULD be sorry.

Bentley wants help looking for something, but Grandma is on the phone. "You busy. I'll go look for my cement truck". Self initiative and awareness of others. Could I ask for more?!

We're driving down the road and pass a bus. "Is that public transportation?". Awareness that he listens to me as I ramble while we drive down the roads, and stores away the words I use to try out later. Even more? He uses them correctly!

We're outside picking raspberries together and the wind picks up. "Make the wind stop, Mommy!", he says to me. I tell him "That would be cool, but I can't control the weather". What does he say? "Then I will. STOP WIND!!!!". And does the wind stop? You betcha!

Sitting on the couch together, and Bentley tells me he's going to climb the walls. I say: "You're kind of goofy, Bentley!". How does Bentley reply? "I kind of love you, Mommy!". The kid is a hoot, that's all I can say about that one.

He also enjoys loudly exhorting the twins to make good choices. "NO Jake, Mommy said not to climb on the table". Or "Stop, Viva! Those are Mommy's cookbooks". You'd think with the extra voice of reason the twins would be more obedient, right? Unfortunately, not the case...

Often when I ask him questions, or prompt him to share a thought about his day with someone else, he's slow to answer. Too often I start prompting. As in: Bentley, tell Daddy what you saw this morning. A moment of silence... I rush to fill in - Bentley, tell Dad you saw the garbage truck. It's not really that he's slow, it's that he was working up this sentence which then came out in a fast explosion of words "Daddy I saw the garbage truck on the street and it came and picked up our trash". I'm asking for single words and he has complete thoughts to share. He's brilliant (and yes, I know I'm biased!).

I used to wonder what was going on in Bentley's head, and that was a fun activity. Knowing what he's thinking because he can express it? This I love!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

What about Viva?

What is with all these posts featuring Jake? Does being a quiet, well-mannered girl child mean you're pushed to the back of the stage totally out of the limelight? Is this Viva's future?

Well, not today. I'm here to tell you what's up with Viva. She's become a major charmer this past month. She's seen how Jake's antics garner him more attention and she's made an effort to put herself forward.

Jake climbs on tables? Well, so can she. (She finished off Bentley's dinner of dry toast.)

She now demands to be picked up. She makes sure when I come to visit that she's the first baby there to greet me. She holds her arms wide demanding to be held. So what if she doesn't talk much, her actions are quite eloquent.

Viva! Viva! She's Number One!

Monday, September 08, 2008

A Few Pictures I Like

Pictures I've been meaning to post but haven't gotten around to!  Quite the range of dates on them, but that makes it more fun, right?  

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Brotherly Love

Life has been getting a little more violent every day around our home. Jackson has had a light bulb moment of realization: if he doesn't like something Bentley does, he has the power to TAKE HIM OUT!

I'm afraid our Jake might be turning into a bit of bully. What's more - the kind of bully who not only pushes and tackles, but bites. Ouch!

The scene: a favorite toy, with fresh new batteries for toddler playing pleasure. Jackson wishes to monopolize the toy and Bentley wants to share with Jake. Note that word - he just wants to share, he's not trying to take the toy for his own. Viva wisely decided to stay far far out of the path of the violence occurring.

Jake says: "I see you looking at this toy I'm playing with. Back off!!"

"I warned you - stay away or I'll make you!"

After laughing a little too long and watching Jake repeatedly tackle his older brother we moved on to helping poor Bentley. Solution? A bigger toy, of course!