Saturday, November 29, 2008

Unpacking with Help

After seven days of intense labor we can report that the kitchen is in good shape. How can it take seven days to unpack one room?! It's no easy feat to combine three kitchens into one. What do we keep? What do we delete? Three toasters, five crock pots, two food processors, three blenders, five spritz presses (all Mirro!), nine large aluminum cookie sheets, etc. We had over a hundred bottles of spices to sort through. That seemed like a lot of work, but it was nothing compared to combining our utensil collections.

The endless decisions that have to made are difficult and when one is sleep deprived and not functioning at optimal level, it's that much more difficult. And then we have three little helpers. While they are truly awesome, they seriously impede our ability to accomplish our goals of unpacking boxes and rearranging furniture.

Even though there are baby gates at the base of the stairs going up to the bedrooms and at the top of the stairs going down to the family room, we still spend a lot of time trying to keep track of the kids and trying to keep them out of trouble. They add toys to boxes we are unpacking, they scale the stacks of boxes, and they pull stuff out of boxes and run off with it. They are not an asset to our unpacking.

Here's Viva and Jake hanging out with me in while I unpack book boxes in the library:

Viva discovers the fax machine, a favorite "toy" of hers.

Jake playing with the door knobs, a favorite "toy" of his.

Viva and Jake helping great-grandma sort through her cookbooks. She has three and half file boxes of cookbooks. I have three. Kara has two and half. We have LOTS of cook books in our library.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Give Us a Break, Jake!

Jake has ruled the morning so far--and it's been a long one. It started in the wee hours when he was screaming and I took pity on him (and not on his grandfather) and brought him to our bed. At first he was good and slept peacefully, but then he started thrashing his way down the middle of the bed and eventually he tumbled off the end of the bed. This upset him (duh!) and his howls woke me up (again). He quieted quickly when I rescued him from the floor (so I assume he wasn't hurt by his fall) and we both dozed off. For a while. Then he was a real pain. He flailed this way and that way and made loud grunts of unhappiness and discomfort--which ensured all of us were kept awake and aware of his travails.

Finally I'd had enough. I considered putting him back in his crib, but I didn't think Viva deserved to be woken up by him. So I put up the play pen in our bedroom closet (which is huge) and sent opa downstairs for a bottle (Jake's second of the night). Opa brought back half rations. (What was with that?) Jake was placed in the play pen in the closet with the bottle and in short order peace reigned.

After a couple of hours Opa got up. Jake got up. (Or was it Jake and then Opa?) Bentley (who also spent the night in our bed, but was a very charming guest) slept on. Eventually I got up. Before I was completely dressed (but after a nice shower!), Jake burst into my room. He was in a very good mood. Even though he'd not slept well, he'd gotten plenty of food for energy during the night. He was gleefully running around in his diaper with no clothes on.

I took him to his room where his mom was looking for clothes for him. Viva was just getting up. She had spent the night sleeping in her room never waking for a moment. Bliss! Joy! Nirvana!

I ended up sitting in the hallway sorting baby socks with Kara. Why is it that the cutest socks end up unpaired while the ugly ones manage to make it through the washing process in pairs? SO ANNOYING. While Kara and I were diligently doing this most important task, Jake disappeared into my bedroom. Bentley tried to keep him out, but I told Bentley that Jake has the same rights as he does. If Bentley can come and go as he likes, so can Jake. A grandma must be fair.

Do you know how Jake rewarded my defense of him?! When I finished with the socks and went to check on him he was sitting on the floor next to the bed trying to remove the flash from opa's camera. Thanks Jake.

I went back into his room to try once again to find some clothes for the boy to wear. While I was trying to get Kara on track and keep her there--find clothes for today!--Jake disappeared downstairs. I heard a thumping noise, but it wasn't glass breaking and there were no shrieks so I didn't rush down to investigate.

When I went down a few minutes later, Jake was happily pounding away on his mom's computer. Big no-no. Like he cares. The thump was mom's water glass going down, but Jake had righted it. However there was water on the desk top right in between Kara's two computers. She has a new little Dell mini which fortunately was closed. Most of the water ended up on the desk chair seat. Jake tracked little wet foot prints all over the kitchen area.

That's my morning with Jake so far and it's only 10AM. How much more fun can we have?!

Friday, November 21, 2008

They're Home! P.S. We're Moving Today

The travelers arrived home last night at midnight. !!! If I could plan my perfect day it would consist of spending all day with the grandchildren. I've missed them the past eight days. However, life doesn't always (usually!?) conform to my plans. (Why is that? Do I need to perfect my visualization technique?)

Instead of spending the day with Bentley, Jake, and Viva, I'm engaged in a massive moving project. Although we have not yet posted on the blog about our big move, I'm sure everyone who reads the blog knows about it.

We are setting up a four generational household. My mother, Mark & I, and Kara & Matt have purchased a home together. The goal is to sell our three homes (1 is sold, 2 to go) and use those funds to finance a large home that we can all live in happily together--i.e. one with enough space for everyone to be together or apart as they please. (We've determined that to be about 750 square feet/person.)

Originally we had planned to live with my dad, too, but over the past few months his Alzheimer's progressed to a new stage and we decided that it would be better for him and for my mom, if he were placed in an assisted living facility. We found a beautiful, quiet home on Campbell Lake with caring staff that serves no more than five residents at one time.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to let you know that today and tomorrow we are moving three households into one. Doesn't that sound like FUN?

Are you crazy?! It's not in the least fun. It's a massive headache and far too much work. Do you have any idea how many boxes of books I've packed?! 75-80! At this rate we'll be moving 1000 boxes (from our three households) to the new house. I do not want to know the actual count. It's probably higher. I better go check our supply of analgesics.

Back on topic--I'm giving you fair warning that the blog post on Mexico may not be posted immediately. (Unless Kara wrote it on the long plane trip home.) Kara has a lot left to pack up. She hasn't packed a box in a week--not since she got on that plane to Mexico. Even when she was at home, it was slow going packing with three toddlers to keep track of. And, I haven't helped her pack a single box because I have my own house to pack up. I hope she rested up in Mexico. It's going to be a loooooooong weekend.

Time for me to sign off and go pack more boxes while I figure out how I can squeeze in some fun with the grandchildren during the next two days. The good news is that after Saturday, I'll have very easy access to them. I'm a lucky grandma.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Boys & Cars

What is it with boys and toy cars? Bentley has been an avid fan of anything with wheels for a long, long time. As soon as he could move (crawl and then walk) toys with wheels were a top pick for him. Jake is just like his older brother.

Viva couldn't care less. Sure, she might pick up a car, but keep it? race it? fight over it? Why? (She has been known to hold tightly onto a toy car, if her brothers are trying to take it from her, but not because it's a car.)

Jake and Bentley love Match Box cars. You know those little cars for age three and up? (Yeah, we know the kids aren't three yet.) When the twins were younger, we told Bentley not to let the twins play with them. This caused a problem when Jake was old enough to get around and find the cars wherever Bentley had stashed them. Bentley was then told to share with Jake. It took a while, but now he's pretty good about sharing the cars with Jake.

Now the problem is convincing Jake to share with Bentley. Jake loves those little cars. He gathers them up and hoards them. He gets furious if Bentley or Viva try to take one. Sometimes just looking at them will set him off. No joke!

One afternoon Kara was laughing at me (or was it Jake she was laughing at?) when I stole a car from Jake to give to Bentley. First I distracted Jake and then I quickly grabbed one of the cars. Jake was very suspicious, but he hadn't seen the theft so he gave me a distrustful look and played on happily enough. (Perhaps his mom's snickering is what clued him to that fact that something improper had occurred.)

He and Bentley both like to fill up the dump truck with the smaller cars. What could be finer than a vehicle filled with vehicles?

Huh? What is Viva doing playing with boy toys? Very odd. It's only minutes until she's tackled by her twin, that's for sure. Maybe that's the reason I seldom see her with toy cars and trucks. Who wants to be knocked down over a dump truck? (Another boy!)

Did you know that most planes have wheels?! Even if they didn't, they'd still be a hit with the boys because planes move fast--and these planes have room in them to store toy cars!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Book Mangler

Even before Bentley was born the family (mom, dad, I, & Grandma Vicki to be exact) started purchasing books for his library. By the time he was a year old the libraries (at his house and at our house) contained over 100 books, by his second birthday that number had doubled, and by his third birthday I'm sure the number of children's books will top 300. Can you have too many books?!

Bentley spends time reading with any adult he can corral. At bedtime he tries to sneak as many books into the bedtime pile as possible. (I tell him three, but he pretends that he doesn't know how many three is. I think he does. He knows it's the number after two and not the number closest to ten.)

Bentley has always treated his books well. Even as an infant he wasn't given to chewing on them. He just instinctively knew that was inappropriate. I thought his good habits with books were because of our example to him.

Turns out I was wrong. Viva, who has also had our good example to show her the correct way to treat books, is a book defiler. She folds the front and back cover together and then sits on the book--to ensure the spine is broken. She carefully inspects the outside for any rips and then attacks at the weak spot. She mangles pages. She has even bent the thick pages in board books! There is no limit to what she will do to a book.

As I struggle to understand this horrific behavior I have come up with this explanation. She is a kinesthetic learner. She isn't interested in the visual appeal of a children's book. She isn't interested in the audio delight of being read to. She wants to play with the book--to manipulate it, to bend it, rip it, tear it, chew it, and just plain experience it physically. To her a book is a toy and she enjoys seeing how it moves.

So, the big question is--should I let her enjoy books in her own way? Should I turn a blind eye to her destructive ways or should I try to teach her to love books for the words and images, not for their play potential?

Despite my tendency to overindulge my grandchildren, I'm thinking that some lines need to be drawn and maintained. If Viva wants to play with something, there are plenty of toys in the toy bins. Books are for reading.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Twice As Old

Today, November 18, 2008, Bentley is twice as old as the twins. Or put another way, the twins are the same age as Bentley was when they were born. He was 511 days old on their birth date. Now he is 1022 days old and Jake and Viva are 511 days old. Where has the time gone?!

It's a Tuesday which is the same day of the week that all three munchkins were born. Aren't these fascinating facts?

I would, of course, post photos of this great event, but the grandbabies are in Mexico and so not within reach of my camera guy. Hopefully their parents will take a great photo of the trio today that we can add to this post at a later date.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Bruiser

Jake is our toddler that always looks like he has lost a fight, a fight with the wall or corner or floor or toy or sibling. He's not clumsy, but he takes an awful lot of falls. Sometimes he is helped along by Bentley, but more often he has encounters without outside assistance. OUCH!

Perhaps part of the problem is that he bruises easily? For sure his fine white skin highlights his bruises beautifully. When he was into the doctor's office this week (for a suspected ear infection), the doctor asked Kara how long he'd been walking. Kara was startled by the question because at sixteen and half months, Jake has been walking for four months. Turns out it was the bruised forehead that led the doctor to conclude that Jake was a newbie walker. Jake, Jake, Jake! Do we need to buy you a helmet?

If you look carefully at the above photo, there are at least three fading bruises on his forehead under his hair. (His new, shorter haircut showcases his forehead even better than before. Great.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tough Enough to be a Big Brother

Sometimes being the big brother isn't always what it is cracked up to be. For starters, Bentley not only has two siblings, but he has twin siblings and he is only two years old!

Despite the the challenge of two, he puts up a good effort to play the role. Bentley loves to play with cars, and while usually somewhat possessive of his toys, he will occasionally play with both Viva and Jake at the play table, whether his siblings want his company or not:

He will also roll around on the floor with his siblings and keep them entertained with his antics and cheerful disposition:

Even though his play activities frequently involve running around, he is content to try out more sedate play time activities -- like playing with Viva's doll (despite Viva's protests):

Bentley also has shared his fascination with train videos on the Internet with his younger brother, all the while trying to teach Jake to watch and learn how to control the computer:

Bentley is tough enough to handle the role of big brother.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tantrum Queen

Viva can throw a mighty fine tantrum. She throws herself onto the floor (she chooses carpet, if it's close by) and then she arches her back and kicks her feet and really gets into it. She's loud and mad and--this is important when throwing a good tantrum--she sticks to her guns. Or as her mother says, she stays in the zone. If you try and comfort her, she pushes you away and carries on loudly.

Yes, Viva is good at tantrums.

Jake...well, he prefers to be held and cuddled and is much too easily pacified to throw a good tantrum. He can shriek pretty well and sometimes continues to do so even after you pick him up, but he doesn't ever try to push you away. That boy likes to be held.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Not Tough Enough To Be a Twin

It takes a special person to be a twin. No wimps need apply. You have to be willing and able to wait your turn from the get go. From the moment of your birth you are negotiating with your twin as to who goes first, who goes second. Sometimes you can do things together, but often one has to be in the lead.

This is not always the position to take, I might add. When I was nine I insisted on going down the sledding hill first and I ended up with two cracked wrists. To this day I think about how my life would have been different if I had let my twin go first. (She insists that my handwriting has never been as good since the accident. Because I broke both wrists, I didn't even benefit by becoming ambidextrous. It was a lousy decision I made that day.)

Well, back to the present... I was thinking about twinship recently when I was spending time with Bentley. I realized that he was not tough enough to be a twin. He's too impatient, he loathes sharing, and he insists on being first all the time. This is pretty much what you'd expect from a first born male. It is not behavior that works well for twins.

Jake and Viva are always waiting their turn. They know that even when they're first they will spend time waiting while number two is being helped. It's how life works for twins. Twins are models of patience. Just ask Jake's mom...well, ask Viva's mom. Jake, while a great twin, is still perfecting some of the twinly attributes. (Is learning to shriek loudly when you want to be first a necessary twin trait?)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fun in the Sun

We're on our way warm Mexico! Don't worry, the blog will continue to have new posts, courtesy of Grandma. Stay tuned for pictures of sun & sand & cute kids when we get home in one week.

I've been busy checking out pictures online so that we will have the fortitude to make it through the 3 flights there (Anchorage -> Seattle, Seattle -> L.A., L.A -> Puerto Vallarta). Yikes!

So, with that said, here's a preview of what awaits us if we survive the plane trips, wish us luck...

Firstly, as Bentley calls it, "a playground in the water":

The lazy river:

Some views from the rooms:

We'll be back with pictures of us on location!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jake's First Haircut

Jake had his first haircut today. He is almost 16 1/2 months old, so he was overdue according to his mother. His opa and I thought Jake was perfect just as he was.

Before (six days ago):


Do you think he looks older or younger with his new haircut?

Bentley had his first haircut just after his first birthday. Kara wanted to cut it much earlier, but we begged her not to. We, like with Jake, thought he was perfect just as he was.

Some days he looked like a Raphael cherub (incredibly adorable):

Other days he look like Elvis in his last years (not so fine):

After his first haircut he looked soooo cute:

His mom was right. He did need a haircut much earlier than we allowed. He was even more adorable with his hair trimmed--we just didn't think that was possible. We were concerned about messing with perfection. It just doesn't sound like a good idea, does it?

A First for Bentley, Too

Bentley did not have his first haircut yesterday, but he did have his first nontraumatic haircut!

For whatever reason, Bentley has hated (until yesterday) getting his haircut. He found the experience very disturbing. Kara was lucky to have a friend, Natalie, who does haircuts in her home. The woman has nerves of steel. It's incredible what she can put up while still giving a good cut.

For the first few haircuts Kara tried bribing Bentley with chocolate chips or even M&Ms. That worked to distract him for a few haircuts, but after a year or so, he refused the chocolate. He didn't want to be distracted. He felt the need to pay close attention to the lady with the scissors. Needless to say haircuts started stretching further and further apart.

Yesterday, before Kara went to Natalie's for the boys' haircuts, she asked Bentley to be nice to Natalie. And he was. It was that simple. Right--a number of factors had to come together first. The moon was almost full, it was a military holiday, and (most importantly) Jake came along to share the trauma. Share? Heck, Jake was the sacrificial lamb. Bentley suggested to his mom that Jake go first. That's what brothers are for.

Viva Avoids the Scissors

What about Viva you are probably thinking? Now that girl needs a haircut (much more than her twin):

Unfortunately, she's a girl, so we can't (won't!) go for a boy cut and therefore the only thing we can do is let her hair grow longer. Eventually it will be long enough to push behind her ears and keep out of her eyes. Kara puts barrettes in Viva's hair to keep it out of her eyes, but Viva (or Jake sometimes) pulls them out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Triple Trouble

Do you have any idea how much trouble three little toddlers can get into?

At home they like to throw their balls through the banister and down to the entryway below. Dozens and dozens of balls. They are much better at tossing them than they are at cleaning up the chaos. It's easier to collect all the balls yourself than to have them involved in the cleanup. If you don't keep a tight grip on the toy bin at all times, Jake or Bentley will turn the bin over. You'll have to chase after all those rolling balls--again. They think it's fun. I don't.

At our home they like to turn the light switches on and off. On our lower staircase there is a switch at the top and another one at the bottom of the stairs. This means that the boys can work as a team to burn out the light bulbs even quicker. Again, they think it's great fun. Opa doesn't.

A few weeks ago I showed Bentley how the release button on the recliner couches work. If you lift it up, the seat reclines. Pretty cool. I then explained to him that we couldn't do it when the twins were around because they might get hurt crawling under the opened recliner. He was good about this instruction for a couple of weeks, but then he not only opened the recliner when they were around, but he taught them how to do it themselves. Who would have thought a sixteen month old could do it? Opa and Mommy were not amused.

Sometimes the triple trouble combination isn't the twins and Bentley, but grandma and the twins. One of the games that I like to play with Jake (in particular) and Viva (sometimes) is to lift them up high and let them play with the crystals on the chandelier. Kara doesn't approve at all.

Monday, November 10, 2008

We Love Toast

For months now Mark and I have been hearing that one of Bentley's favorite foods is toast. He asks for it every Sunday evening when his dad takes him and the twins to visit Grandpa Tim & Grandma Karen. Not only does he love toast, but he likes it dry. Yummy! (Not!)

Yesterday evening Matt didn't take the kids to visit the grandparents because they are out of town. Bentley must have realized it was a Sunday, though, because he requested toast for dinner when his mom offered him noodles.

Toast was served to all three children (Jake and Viva had eaten other foods earlier for dinner, but not Bentley) and as you will see, they all LOVED it.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Bentley, Grandma & A Fall Festival

I sent Bentley out with his Grandma yesterday to check out a local toddler fall craft festival. We gave it a try last year, and I figured this year Bentley might "get" a little more out of it!  It was nap time for the twins so they had to stay home, but that's okay.  They're still a little young to always play nicely with others in public. 

Anyway, Grandma was convinced to brave the cold and head out for adventure time with Mr. B.  They watched a magician show, checked out some vendor booths, and Bentley participated in multiple (yes, more than one!) craft activities.  Wow!

Bentley made me some blue bath salts, he supervised Grandma's construction of 2 necklaces for his siblings, and he put together a lovely bracelet that he is still sporting (with his pajamas now, mind you - and he already asked if he can take it to bed).  He even has a cool sun tattoo from the event.  Lucky kid!

Bentley showing the twins his bracelet, after handing out the necklaces to them:

Showing off his bracelet and stamp:

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Green It Is!

Recently Kara told me that Jake insists on the green bottle when he's given milk. He refuses pink, purple, blue and red bottles. He wants green.

On their next evening visit I verified this color preference. I heated up bottles for the threesome. I had a green, a red, and a purple bottle. I held out the purple bottle and Jake shunned it. He stepped back wanting no part of it. The same thing happened when I held out the red bottle. He held firm for the bottle with the green screw band.

The following night when I was at Kara's I decided to do an experiment. She has bottles with lids in different shades of blue-green. I filled up three bottles and put a pastel green, a turquoise, and a teal lid on them. I heated them up in the microwave and by the time they were warm enough I had a crowd at my feet waiting for the bottles.

Bentley asked for the green bottle, so I gave it to him. (Jake can't speak clearly yet so he was at a distinct disadvantage.) I gave Viva the turquoise bottle and then handed Jake the teal one. He took it willingly and shoved it in his mouth. Okay, I thought, green/teal he doesn't care.

Then he saw that Bentley had the pastel green bottle and he started protesting. He kept sucking on the teal bottle, but he made it clear he was UNHAPPY. He wanted the green bottle that his brother had possession of. Fortunately there was a second green band, so I switched the teal for the green and averted a wrestling match


Below is an older photo from before the green period.

(Last night Matt heated up three bottles, none of which were green. Jake was okay with a blue bottle. His preference only surfaces if the green is in sight.)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Time Out

What's a grandparent to do when a grandchild insists on misbehaving? Sometimes I'm required to participate in the nonsensical practice of time outs.

Kara has decreed that when Bentley is put in time out at their home he should be placed on the other side of the baby gate. The reasoning is that he will be despondent over being separated from the fun. (Prior to this he was put in the back room (office), but he always played when sent there.) It is true that he puts on a very impressive act of being heart broken when he is exiled to the Other Side of the Gate. He wails and sobs (no tears) and makes sure that everyone in the house knows he is unhappy.

Let me give you an example of how a time out works. Tuesday night while I was at his home he was having a very hard time sharing his little cars. He refused to let his brother have a single one. He has over twelve of them, so sharing one or two is not an outrageous request.

I tried to work with him to help him see his way to letting his brother have just one vehicle. He was not willing to work with me. I told him that if he attacked his brother and reclaimed the single car that Jake had, then he would have to go into time out and that I would give ALL the little cars and trucks to Jake.

He thought about my edict for about a half a second and then attacked Jake. *sigh* I promptly (like any strict disciplinarian...wait, I'm the indulgent grandparent...well, I had to keep my word) put him in time out on the other side of the gate. He proceeded to assault our ears with his cries of outrage. I dutifully ignored him as did his mother.

Viva could not handle the sounds of distress. She found his blanket and took it to him. Then she climbed on the gate and shook it as if to say "Bro, I'm here for you!". Next she collected a couple of the little cars and took them to him. Soon Jake was taking vehicles to him, too.

The time out was a total wash. Again.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Oh no, no, no

please say it ain't so
the children react
to Election Day woe

A prescient Jake on the eve before the big day:

Bentley reacting as we watch the results roll in on election day:

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Homedics PM-QUAD

Does your household own one of these?

The kidlets love this hand held massager. When turned on it lights up, vibrates, and makes a humming noise. So much fun in one little package!

Viva likes to chew on it and use it to stimulate hair growth.

Jake likes to turn it on and off.

Bentley likes to put it on the rim of the play table. (I thought I had a photo of that, but the photo meister says no.) The twins like to place it on the hard wood floor and let it vibrate itself to a new location. Truly, this toy is hours of entertainment.

And, if your creativity lags, you can always use it for its intended purpose--massages. I believe Kara originally gave it to Matt as a Christmas present. Bentley will sometimes give his father massages with it.

If your toy box doesn't include a Homedics PM-QUAD, think about purchasing one next time you're placing an order at They're only $10.

P.S. If you have more than one child, you might think about purchasing one for each child so they don't have to fight for possession of it.