Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Costumes

Bentley, Jake, and Viva each chose their own Halloween costume. Their mom and dad spent some time with them online looking for something that they liked. Jake was the easiest, of course. He wanted to be a monkey. Kara found a really nice monkey costume on ebay. Doesn't Jake make a fantastic monkey?

Viva insisted that she wanted to be a bad witch. It wasn't difficult to find cute witch costumes. Some of the witch outfits are so cute you'd think they were princess costumes instead, but Viva is very adamant that she is a BAD WITCH.

The witch costume was 2-4T, but it was huge on our little Viva. Kara and I had to use a lot of safety pins to size it down. Maybe you will see this costume again in three years recycled as a Halloween Fairy or a Lady Pirate or a Renaissance-era Harajuku girl. (Great new word!)

Bentley was the most difficult to find a costume for. He and his mom looked and looked and finally Bentley decided that a green skeleton costume was cool. Kara ordered one at a great price. Unfortunately it was too small because there was no room for clothing under the costume and that does not work in Alaska at the end of October unless your costume is a bear skin. So Kara had to order a second costume in the next size up.

Here the children are posed in front of our Halloween tree. It's a really cool tree and the photo does not do it justice. Come to that, the photos don't do the children justice either--they were very, very, very cute. I told Kara this is probably the apex of their Halloween cuteness. Their cute little chubby cheek phase in life is quickly passing. *sigh*

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Activities 2

The children actually did this activity earlier in the month, but I forgot to post about it in my first Halloween Activities post, so I'm doing it now. Grandma Karen gave the children a nice set of Halloween stamps along with a black ink pad. The trio had a good time trying out all the different stamps. Jake really liked the stamp, stamp, stamp action. Can you guess which artwork is his?

The kidlets' father is a big time Lego fan, so Grandma Vicki sent him and the grandchildren a Halloween Lego kit. Bentley and Matt put it together recently. It's pretty cool.

Matt took Jake and Viva to the grocery store to pick out pumpkins. They came home with two fine pumpkins. That same evening Bentley visited the grocery store with Grandma Karen and chose a great pumpkin, too! Grandma Karen also found a really cool pumpkin decorating kit. It contained long plastic pins that the boys pounded into the pumpkin after daddy helped them scoop it out. Then a bright light is put inside the pumpkin and the pegs glow...a little. This pumpkin was fun for the boys to do, but doesn't look as fine as a traditional carved pumpkin

The following evening Matt again worked with the kidlets to produce a scary jack-o-lantern this time. First he drew a series of faces and Bentley picked his favorite one. Then the kids helped scoop out the pumpkin guts (as Matt calls them). Finally, Matt took a knife and under Bentley's direction carved out the face of the jack-o-lantern. I heard Bentley telling his dad that he deviated from the original design. Geeze! We'll see how B does when he's old enough to handle a knife.

Matt took the guts from the pumpkin and created a game. You know how in haunted houses they always have those stations where you are encouraged to stick your hands in something gross? Well, that's what Matt did. He put the pumpkin guts in a container and threw in some coins to encourage the reluctant to dig in. As you can probably guess if you are a regular blog reader, Viva had a lot of fun and Jake and Bentley refused to get their hands dirty. Live a little guys!

Kara and Matt took the trio on Saturday to a 40 minute play for young children. Kara said the kids really enjoyed it. I quizzed Bentley on the adventure, but it was really difficult to get information out of him. We played 20 questions. There was a ghost, a witch, a vampire, a cat, and...a spider in the play. They sang songs that I don't know--or so Bentley told me.

Since Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, we did not take the kids out door to door to trick or treat. Fortunately our church ward held a Saturday Halloween event that we attended. Members came to the church building, parked their cars, opened their trunks, and handed out candy. It was very cold out. After filling up his small bag, Jake said he was done. Bentley and Viva wanted to continue on. Soon after Viva quit and went inside to eat chili with her dad. Bentley stuck it out to the bitter end. (It's not like he was interested in eating chili!) Bentley is going to be a two pillow case kid in a few years. When we got home he immediately insisted on counting his haul. He brought home 98 pieces of candy--well 93 pieces plus two bags of pretzels, an orange spider ring, a small tub of play dough, and a deck of Disney cards. I asked him if he was going to share his candy with great-grandma. There was a long pause and then he said..."Yeah, the part I don't want."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Indoor Playground Piece

One of the best pieces of play equipment in the house.  Sometimes they like it a little TOO much, but their giggles make it all good!

Halloween Activities

Halloween is fast approaching. Kara has been scrambling to fit in some Halloween activities before the 31st has come and gone.

Last week she pulled out the foam art pieces left over from last year. Jake, Viva, and Bentley each put together a collage. Jake stuck with this activity for longer than Viva. Viva was a little miffed that her brothers confiscated all the "good" ghosts before she got focused on the activity. The kidlets asked to make foam collages again this week. Jake made two collages to Viva and Bentley's one each. I asked the children to pose with their first collage. They were not entirely cooperative.

Yesterday Kara made chocolate sugar cookie dough and then left to take great-grandma to a doctor's appointment while I had the fun (?!) of rolling out the dough and supervising the decorations. The trio ate more decorations than they used on the cookies. Here is a plate of their finely decorated cookies. Bentley did the bats, Jake did the cat and top pumpkin, and Viva did the ghost and the other two pumpkins.

In addition to collages and cookies, the trio has listened to Halloween music and read Halloween books.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ipad Art Day

Today Opa & Bentley did art on the Ipad!

Here's Bentley's contribution:

and here is Opa's!

2 more points for the Ipad as a creative tool and not just a game machine?  :-)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Books, Books, & More Books!

Can a home have too many books? What a silly question. That's like asking if you can learn too much. Of course not.

A few months ago Kara was filling out a survey addressed to Viva. It asked about different activities in the home. One of the questions was how many children's books do you have in your home? The choices given as responses were very limited. They ranged from none to 25 or more. HUH? 25 is the threshold of sufficient books to launch your preschooler into the world of reading? Seriously?

I know that public libraries exist--and we visit our local one regularly--but you still should have a sufficient library of your own, don't you think? Of course, the question is--what is sufficient?

I decided to take an inventory of the children's books in our home. There are three different primary locations where children's books are found.

First there's the children's bedroom where bedtime stories take place. There are two bookshelves in their bedroom. There aren't any toy bins in the bedroom, just books and stuffed animals. There were 333 books on the shelves in the children's bedroom. Do you see why I find 25 a ludicrous answer?

Second there's my bedroom where I keep many of the books I've purchased for the trio. The children's books inhabit three of the lower shelves of the double bookcase in our bedroom. I counted 135 books on the shelves. A miserly collection compared to their bedroom, but it's still more than 25 books!

The third location for children's books in our home is the formal dining room/children's library. We only eat in there once a month when the missionaries come to dinner, so we needed a more useful purpose for the room. We moved a bookcase in and a small child-sized couch. Viva hangs out there for an hour or more most days. (She also reads in her bedroom during nap time.) There are currently 210 books in that bookcase.

In addition there a few other books floating around the house. I found 11 Halloween themed books in the main floor family room, 18 books in the upstairs family room, and I know there's a couple dozen hidden in holiday décor boxes. I've some in my Sunday bag and some in my truck and some in a box in the TV room. I personally think there is no finer piece of wall décor than a bookcase. Paintings, photos, and quilts are nice, but a bookcase is essential to make room look inviting.

The children's library of books has been growing for almost five years. Grandma Vicki sends packages to the kidlets throughout the year that contain books. Kara buys children's books. Matt buys children's books. I buy children's books. The children are on the mailing list for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.

Do you know what is most amazing to me? Despite the multiple contributors to the children's library, they seldom receive a duplicate title. (Other than the duplicate titles sent to Jake and Viva by Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.) Every contributor has their own idea of what a good child's book is and we seldom overlap because there are so many wonderful children's books.

Over the next week or two, I'll add posts telling more about the children's book collection. Which books are the children's favorites? Which authors are best represented in the collection? What is their oldest book? Their newest book? Where do we go to find a good deal on a good book? Where do we go to find a good suggestion for a book?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bentley's Crayon Drawings

here is a man watering an ocean:

and here is a guy fishing in the ocean:

Very nice, right?!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Red Bell Pepper

Yesterday afternoon I asked Mark to stop by the grocery store on his way from work and pick up a needed item for dinner. He asked if we needed anything else, so I asked Kara. Bentley immediately piped in "I want a pepper!". Peppers are a lot cheaper at Costco, but for a special treat we could buy one at the grocery store. B specified no green ones.

Mark brought the pepper home. Kara prepped it and cut it into slices. Bentley grabbed the bowl filled with pepper slices and commenced chowing down. The twins somehow got a couple slices, but then Bentley said he wouldn't share. It was HIS pepper. Jake and Viva protested loudly, so I went over and negotiated for them.

I'm not a good negotiator because I only got them two very thin slices. It didn't seem worth the hassle to force him to give up more. Bentley kept close watch on the rest of the slices. He didn't eat them all, but he didn't share any more either.

This morning Viva had a P&J sandwich for breakfast and Jake had a Belgium waffle. B-Boy grabbed the rest of the red pepper. Jake once again protested, so I told him (in hind sight, I see this was unwise of me) that I would buy him his own pepper next time we went to Costco. Jake, who knows we buy bags of peppers, not just a single pepper at Costco, immediately laid claim to ALL the peppers. They were all to be his and he wasn't sharing.

I tried to reason with him. I told him that there would be a pepper for him, one for Viva, and one for Bentley. No, he wanted them all. He was quite emphatic about it.

At this point Bentley decided to join in our conversation. "Jake, you have to share." (This from the child who refused to share his red pepper?) Bentley's comment made Jake livid. "NO!" he shouted. "Oh yes, you do, you have to share.", responded Bentley.

Back and forth the boys argued. Jake got more and more furious. I sent Bentley to time out for aggravating his brother. (Kara says Jake should have been sent to time out, too.) Bentley kept on jabbing at Jake even from time out. Jake at one point became rigid with anger. His fists were clenched, his backbone rigid, and he let loose a very loud, long, hoarse shriek. It was quite the sight to see and to hear. WOW! Those boys sure do like their bell peppers.

What did I do at this point? What any sane adult would have done. I left and went to my club to exercise.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mexico Report 5

Here it is the final report from Mexico. The kids are headed home this afternoon--back to cold Alaska. Are they ready to return? They have had a fantastic time, that is for sure, but there is no place like home and I know they miss me dreadfully by now, surely?!

Here are some last bits of intel about their trip passed on to us by Kara.

"We walked over by the Grand Mayan area today. I loved all the signs they have up near the lake areas warning of crocodiles. Makes you walk faster on the paths. LOL"

Matt said: You have a very nice tan, Viva.
Viva said: Yes! I'm gold all over!

During our one phone conversation with the kids, Bentley wanted to tell me that he saw a gecko and an iguana. He was very precise with his pronunciation of these words. He said the gecko was small and the iguana was big. He also saw a big, black, hairy spider. Better him than me.

Jake asked his mom why they weren't going to church on Sunday. He told her he misses church. Uh-huh...given the hassle he gives us at church, we aren't sure what to make out of his comment. Was he joking or serious?

"The kids watched some kids' movie in Spanish tonight. The fact they can't understand it doesn't seem to phase them at all. Weirdoes!"

"Viva & Jake are both in the full bed waiting for me (yippee?! LOL). The ability to "fight" over me is even more enticing than the bed in G&G's room, apparently. :-)"

"I can't say I'm not excited that tomorrow (or Wed morning?!) is the last big sunscreen application. The kids shriek when you do their faces. They shriek when you spray it on them and say "too cold, too cold!"."

"Bentley has been living on corn flakes and noodles and white bread with butter and a few apples with peanut butter. The twins really like all the juice boxes I bought them to trick them into drinking more here. The day after we got here Viva said: "Mommy, this water is not as good as our water at home!". And that's the truth; she's right! Jake and Viva have been eating bananas like crazy, and cheerios, and peanut butter and jelly!"

"Bentley did the wave pool on his "own" today. Pretty funny to see that little kid on the huge inner tube - he does it belly side down, clinging to the tube while the waves bounce it all over. Jake wouldn't go in the waves, even holding onto me. Viva likes them with Matt."

"People keep telling me how adorable and precious and cute the kids are. I think it's because most of them are elderly and must be half deaf? If I had a mute button for them, I'd find them twice as charming as I already do! It's not very busy here, so there are some kids but not a whole lot."

"The kids really like it here in Mexico! Although one of them did tell me this is a nice place to visit, but they'd rather be cold than hot, and home is good! :-)"

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bentley the Leader

If you want to be leader of the pack, get yourself a pair of siblings. Twins about a year and half younger than you are perfect. People will sometimes mistake you for triplets, but it'll be obvious you're the advanced one.

Seventeen months might not seem like much, but when you're part of the under five crowd, it's a big deal. Even now that the twins are three and can pretty much do anything that Bentley can, he can do it better. When the trio recently took swim lessons, it was obvious from the very beginning of the first lesson that Bentley had a big edge over Jake and Viva even though his prior pool time was no greater than theirs.

When it comes to games, puzzles, and outdoor activities, Bentley is far more advanced. He's faster, he's stronger, and he's more adept. This edge will shift as the kids age and acquire special interests, but at this point in time, The Big Brother is The Leader.

It's amazing how quickly Bentley learns new games and figures out the strategy needed to win a game. He usually doesn't mind losing games, as long he wins some of the time. After his dad won Princess Monopoly three times in a row, Bentley said he and I were going to have play ALL DAY until he won. Fortunately the dice and cards were with me and I lost the first game we played.

Bentley has a lot of patience and focus, so he's good at acquiring new skills. He quickly masters games on the iPad even though he can't read any instructions. His drawing skills are improving by leaps and bounds. He can draw better than I can. Maybe he'll give me some pointers?

What does Bentley get sent to time out most often for doing? Knocking Jake over. Sometimes Bentley is retaliating for something Jake did to him, but sometimes he knocks Jake over for no reason at all. I've read online that four year old males have an excess of energy and they don't always use it wisely.

We do wonder where he gets his energy from since he's a poor eater. He has a few favorite foods (bagels, wild rice, fresh bread with butter, pasta, peppers, rare steak, cornflakes), but he refuses to eat the vast majority of foods. It's seldom that he'll try a new food and definitely nothing with a sauce on it or a combination food. We have to sneak butter onto his pasta to add calories. He's a trial when it comes to eating.

He's a joy when it comes to most other things. I adore his mischievous smile and the low, gruff voice that he affects occasionally. It makes Kara and I grin when he uses it. His current favorite things are his Darth Vader t-shirt, snakes, and his blankie (always a favorite!). He loves to play Wii with his father. He likes to watch Dr. Who with his opa. He likes to draw. He likes dinosaurs, dragons, pirates, knights, super heroes, and cars. He likes his Sunbeam class at church which is a relief because he did not like the church nursery all that much.

Kara insists that Bentley take a daily nap, but he usually doesn't sleep; it's more a quiet time. He has to "try to nap." He's very particular that you use those words. Here is the usual nap-time routine. First he and I (or he and great-grandma) play a game together. Next he creates a fort of pillows on the large chair in my room. He then lounges in the fort until I say it's okay to get up. I usually tell him he has to try for 20 minutes to nap. He keeps a close on the digital clock so he knows when his sentence is up. Then he plays a game or two on my iPad or works with pattern blocks or tangrams. Sometimes we read a book or two. He might do a puzzle. A little later he might ask to check out what great-grandma is up to. He sometimes helps her play mahjong on the computer. Bentley is an easy kid to keep occupied because he has lots of interests.

Bentley likes to tease Jake and Viva. Sometimes this produces giggles and other times it produces tears. Four year old humor can be pretty odd. Kara said they were at the zoo one day with friends and Bentley was yelling silly things at the tigers and bears like "You're a pig!". The younger kids were all laughing like it was the funniest thing ever. Evidently, having a live-in audience helps to develop one's comedic style. Maybe we should do a YouTube video of his routine? Market it to other preschoolers? The kids often spend a while talking at bedtime after the lights are shut off and the door is closed. We could slip a recorder into their room.

B-boy is very active--jumping, leaping, tumbling, fighting, running, biking, and playing badminton. He loves to go outside. I think we'll be spending more time outside this winter than we have in the past.

Bentley is a very awesome four year old.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fishing Report from Mexico

Kara says everyone had a grand adventure on their fishing trip. Grandpa Tim rented a charter boat and he, Matt, Kara, Bentley and Jake arrived at the marina at 8AM--on vacation! When the captain asked what they wanted to go fishing for Bentley quickly filled him in: "Blue marlin, sail fish, and sword fish."

I asked Kara what the Captain thought about a four year old being so knowledge about deep sea fish. Bentley's love of fishing and knowledge about different types of fish (names, sizes, where to find them) comes from a fishing game app on the iPad (i Fishing--downloaded 6.3 million times). Bentley was even able to give his Grandpa Tim some advice on how to land his fish. He told Grandpa Tim he needed to do more reeling. LOL But I skip ahead.

The group decided to chase after Bentley's first choice, the elusive blue marlin. (FYI: "Unquestionably the king of the sport-fishing world, the blue marlin is the hardest to find and catch of all.") Bentley wasn't going to waste any time with lesser prize fish, go for the king.

What Bentley didn't learn from his fishing game is that fishing boats rock and roll with the waves and very often make you seasick. Jake and Bentley had a rough time of it for a while. *sigh* Fortunately they hadn't eaten breakfast, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Jake then decided that the best way to spend the boat trip would be to sleep, so that's what he did. He slept on--you guessed it--his mom.

Kara was a little sketchy on the rest of the details of the trip. It was hot. It was long--seven hours on the boat. Matt enjoyed the adventure. Bentley gave Grandpa Tim advice. Grandpa Tim caught an 8-foot Blue Marlin.

Yup, that's right. Grandpa Tim hooked into one of the most sought after trophy fish. It took him an hour to land it--and some advice from B-boy. Once the fish was landed Bentley asked his Grandpa "What are we going to do with this HUGE fish?" Grandpa Tim decided to bring it home, although Bentley told me (during a phone conversation) that it's not coming home with them, but that a big cargo jet is bringing it. He was pretty impressed with the size of the fish and kept telling me that it was bigger than I was.

Jake's take on the fishing trip? After getting off the boat he downed a carton of apple juice and told his mom "The Monkey REALLY liked the boat." Huh? He liked being seasick? Or did he just really like hanging out with his mom all day long with nothing to distract her?

Bentley was so excited about the trip that Kara let him call us and give us a report. I asked him if he tried to hook a fish himself, but I didn't get a clear answer. In any case he was very thrilled with Grandpa Tim's fish.

You might want to invite Bentley on your next fishing trip. He might be too little to do a good job of fishing himself, but with the knowledge he's gleaned from the i Fishing game, he's a valuable resource.

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

P.S. Viva spent the day with Grandma Karen. When I asked her what they did she replied--in typical Viva fashion--we ate lots. Food is always at the top of her list. It appears that strawberry lemonade and chocolate ice cream top a fishing charter any day. Kara would agree.

Both boys are ready for their next fishing trip. Bentley told Grandpa Tim that next up they need to find a barracuda. Jake asked to go back out on the boat the next day. Really?! Are they serious? I've met a number of avid fishermen, but they were all a lot older and more skilled.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jake the Uber Cutie

I posted the above photo before, but it is worth a second posting, don't you think? Check this kid out: He's an uber cutie!

Can a kid be too cute for his own good? For the good of his siblings? I think any child that has lived with a super cute sibling will tell you it's just not fair. Cuteness does matter. Adults respond differently to a uber cute kid than to a standard issue cute kid. Oh, adults will tell you it doesn't matter, but they are lying.

Jake gets more than his fair share of time and attention from the adults around him because he ALWAYS looks cute. He never has a down day. His hair is oh so soft and straight--no bad hair days for him. His cheeks are sublime. His big, brown eyes are framed by thick, long lashes. They are, as I discussed recently in another post, incredible tear factories. Jake is the best hugger which earns him big points with us adults. He's polite, too. His overuse of the words "No, thank you!" is way adorable. He's 100% boy and that's uber cute, too. There's nothing quite like a three year old male. Such focus! Such energy!

What is to be found under that cute exterior? Lots of good things--Jake is a fun kid. He's quick to smile. He's usually happy, but he can turn the tears on at a minute's notice. He has a piercing shriek, too, that signals his unhappiness. It is very unpleasant and nearly impossible to ignore. Sometimes he gets sent to timeout for noise violation.

Jake is a very good brother. He likes to play with Bentley, but he also likes to play with his twin Viva. He splits his time pretty evenly between the two of them. He also likes to hang out with his mom and grandma and his great-grandma. He likes his dad and opa, but he's something of a ladies' boy right now. Maybe it's because he instinctively knows that the cute factor plays better with women than men?

Jake LOVES, LOVES, LOVES monkeys. He sometimes calls himself Monkey. He has a couple of stuffed animal monkeys that he sleeps with. His very favorite sleeper is a monkey sleeper. (I recently purchased monkey socks for him.) Jake is more dedicated to his monkeys than Viva is to her princesses. For Halloween he asked for a monkey costume.

Jake is a good eater. Some days he has thirds and even fourths! He's the biggest eater of the trio. His favorite food is peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I cut the crusts off for him, but his mom makes them with crusts. (I think he likes my sandwiches better.)

Jake is a mega hoarder. It's a problem. He currently has at least four stashes going--his treasure box under his bed, a pile on the floor at the end of his bed, his backpack, and a pile on the toy shelf. Once he adds something to his treasure piles, he doesn't like giving it up. By the time he's 18, he'll need a spare bedroom to contain all his loot. Perhaps we should get him counseling? Bribe him to downsize? Yeah, like that's going to Jake, we'll give you one car, if you give us ten. Counseling it is!

Jake likes books, cars, trains, bikes, swords, puzzles, his memory tiles, his treasure piles (!), and being with the people he loves. He likes familiar places and faces. He'll go on adventures with his parents or grandparents, but he really likes returning home.

Jake likes and needs naps. He's by far the best napper of the three. His head hits the pillow and he's out. We often have to wake him so he doesn't sleep too late and not want to go to bed at night. He doesn't like being woke up. If you wake him up, you have to be prepared to cuddle him for a while which is no hardship...unless you're trying to make dinner. He's not such good sleeper at bedtime or during the night.

Jake is a restless night-time sleeper. He usually wakes up more than once during the night, often with pains in his legs or hands or knees. He likes to have his back rubbed or his aches massaged. Sometimes he has a screaming fit at night and no one (not even him!) knows why. This doesn't happen very often. Which is good. We adults need all the sleep we can get. It's not easy keeping up with three preschoolers.

Jake is very sincere. It's one of his best attributes. Whatever he's telling you, he's very sincere and earnest about it. He's just so darn CUTE! Did I mention that yet?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

300 Pieces?!

Bentley continues to love jigsaw puzzles and to excel at them. One afternoon he did four 100 piece puzzles one after another. He lined them up on our little used dining room table.

Three weeks ago Bentley went to the toy store with his mom and he picked out a 300 piece puzzle. Kara and the clerk at the store tried to talk him out of it. 300 pieces? (I don't know that I would bought him a 300 piece puzzle and I'm his biggest puzzle fan.) B told the clerk he could do it because he was good at puzzles. He is. There's no debating that. Kara decided to use the puzzle as a bribe. She told him that if she slept in his bed all night for five nights, he could have the puzzle. He did. (Then he went back to invading other beds.)

300 pieces is a lot of work, so Kara and he worked together. (I was out-of-town or I would have helped him, too.) It only took them a few days. Bentley wanted to finish it sooner, but his mom gets distracted by other things...making meals, cleaning the kitchen, reading books to Viva and Jake, etc.

This is his 100 piece dinosaur puzzle. Although B loves puzzles, he refuses to put together the 100 piece glittery, pink unicorn puzzle I got on sale at Borders. Dinosaurs are cool. Pink unicorns are not. Even for a puzzle aficionado theme matters.

This is B's new 300 piece dinosaur puzzle. Can you do 300 piece jigsaw puzzles?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mexico Report 3

Kara wrote us about their Thursday adventures:

"The open air restaurant we were at last night had some cats there that would jump up and sit on the seats of the tables no one was at. Jake thought that was hilarious, he liked the tail poking out from under the tablecloth. He gave the cat a pat. I discouraged further attention as who knows how friendly the cat really is?! The place we ate had a playground in the courtyard in the middle of the dining area. The kids really liked that. It had taller ladders than American playgrounds-- a little heart pounding excitement? Grandpa Tim had some type of Spanish coffee. The servers put on quite the show for the kids with two metal pots and flaming liquor (a "rope" of it) back and forth between the cups...and then they set the whole cup on fire! (They'd coated it in sugar.) Jake was QUITE captivated. Bentley was concerned about Grandpa Tim drinking fire. Oh yes - I almost forgot the music. They came and stood behind Bentley and played a song (singing, guitar... there were 4 of them). Jake kept saying "This is NOT good! The kitty does NOT like this. I don't like this!!" Bentley kept repeating "Too loud! Too loud! We should NEVER do this again!" LOL They're charming."

But the fun wasn't over then. When they got back to their condo at 10PM, the room keys didn't work. Kara wrote: "We had to walk back to main building to get the keys reset. It didn't work; we had to walk back again. The maid tried. Her key didn't work. The security guy tried and his key didn't work. He disappeared. We had to walk back to main building to find out where he went. He tried again with a "special" device. It didn't work, apparently it had a crack. The resort only has two of them (???), so they start trying to track down the other one. Meanwhile we're trying to keep the kids quiet (it was HOT yesterday) because everyone was sleeping. Karen complained to management. They decide to give us new rooms (without ANY of our stuff) until the morning. We are in the new room for 20 minutes - trying to convince the kids they can sleep in their clothes and without their blankies and stories and teeth brushed when finally the phone rings and our room was open, at which point it was hard to get the kids to sleep because they were over tired."

So the Altmans are enjoying lots of adventures in Mexico. Be sure and check back Sunday or Monday by which time we should have a report on Jake and Bentley's first fishing experience--a six hour deep sea charter. Should be an interesting report.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More from Mexico

The kidlets are thoroughly enjoying their time in Mexico. What's not to like? Lots of water, lots of sun, and four adults to cater to their every need. Monday the kids tried out the big water slide with their parents. Tuesday they played in the wave pool. So far they have not played on the beach. Kara says it's too hot (no shade) and the children have all stated they are not going into the ocean. (I think they'd love playing in the surf, if they just gave it a try--especially Viva.)

The only downside to their vacation is bedtime. The little ones tell their parents that they find the pull-out beds scary, so Bentley has been sleeping with Matt while Jake sleeps with Kara and Viva (brave girl that she is), sleeps on the couch in her grandparents' room. Bentley volunteered to take the couch last night when Viva asked to be someone's bed partner. That was a nice big brother.

Jake has been very clingy, keeping his mom close by at all times. Vacation is fun and all, but when in a strange environment it's always a good idea to keep one's mum in close range. Jake has taken this attitude to an extreme (he tends to be an extreme kind of guy) and he won't even share mom with Viva.

Here's Kara's report on this subject: "Viva would LIKE to be a little clingy, but Jake is pre-empting her with more flare than she can manage. She wanted to sit next to me on the plane - she never got to at all because Jake was going to throw a bigger fit. She had tears! She wants to sleep in bed with me, but Jake insists on sharing with me so that probably won't happen either. She'll cry when she wakes up, but she'll get over it. She's practical! Poor Viva!"

Jake has been a clinger since birth and Viva has more or less gracefully acceded to his superior dramatics. Jake does a beautiful job of crying. It wrenches your heart. The tears roll off his fat little cheeks or, when in deep distress, they actually leap off his cheeks. It's truly impressive what he can do with a tear or two or ten. Sometimes the tears pool in his eyes before cascading down. I give the boy an A++ for his crying technique, performance, and style. He's that good.

We've labeled Jake the sensitive one, but maybe it's Viva who's the sensitive one--letting Jake hog mom? Viva deserves more. She's the same age as Jake!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Genevieve the Enigma

Who is Genevieve? When I try to start a list of Genevieve's favorite things, her likes, her main interests, what she chooses to do in her free time, etc. I find myself thinking more about she doesn't prefer, what she doesn't choose, than what she does.

Viva is not a hoarder like her two brothers. She has a small Princess box that is stashed under bed, but she never adds anything to it. She forgets she has it there. When all three kidlets received new backpacks, the boys immediately stuffed theirs to overflowing. Viva put a few items in, stored the back pack away on the coat rack, and that was that.

Viva doesn't collect anything. She talks about princesses and we buy her princess stuff like pajamas, puzzles, and books, and she likes them, but not obsessively like her siblings.

She has very little interest in cars, although she is give one now and again by us or her brothers. She quickly loses interest and I doubt she can even find a single one of "her" cars. Boring! The train set doesn't hold her attention for long either. If the boys are playing she might join them for five or even ten minutes, but that's it.

Viva doesn't care much for ball playing (in any form), for running, or for sword play. She will do a puzzle if you ask her to, but she doesn't chose that activity on her own. She doesn't currently have a favorite game.

So what does Viva prefer, like, and choose? Viva loves to swing and enjoys the playground every bit as much as her brothers. She's as likely to sit at the top of the slide than to go down the slide, but she has a good time sitting there surveying her world.

Viva loves to shop or maybe just get out of the house? She's up for any adventure that involves new sights. She's a good companion, too. She will keep you entertained with her comments. She's an upbeat kid.

Viva loves books. She likes to be read to, but she is equally content to look at books. At nap time she usually does not nap, but she does stay quietly in her bedroom looking at books in the darkened room. She will flip through ten or twenty or even forty books. She has to be reminded to put them back on the bookshelf when nap time is over, but she's a good sport about doing it. Maybe we need to move a bookshelf next to her bed?

Viva likes to build forts with her brothers. She likes to play in them.

Viva does not spend a lot of time in time out. She seldom goes there for hitting, although she will hit her brothers if they annoy her enough or if she's in a bad mood. Viva keeps a low profile when the boys are sparring. She's a smart girl.

When Viva is sent to time out it is almost always for defiance. When she defies us, it's not usually just to be contrary. She's not taking a stand against authority like the typical three year old--saying no just say no. She defies us because she's more interested in completing her mission than she is listening to us. If we tell her to stop doing something, but she really wants to do it, she will. She completes her task despite that fact that it's going to land her in time out. Whatever. She'll pay the price.

Viva can really wail when she's hurt or upset. Her wail is loud and obnoxious. Because it's so off putting, it's not particularly effective. We do not rush over to her aid. To tell the truth, it makes me want to flee in the opposite direction. Of course, I don't. But I want to.

Viva likes food. If someone is eating something in the same room she is, she will ask for a bite no matter what it is. She's a nibbler, she doesn't usually eat a lot of one food. Her favorite foods? Cheese. Whatever you're eating!

Viva likes dresses. She doesn't like socks. She sometimes picks her own outfits, but she's a good sport (usually) about us picking outfits for her. We love dressing her up. She's so CUTE!

Viva likes to draw. She likes to paint. On the iPad she likes the drawing programs. She tries the different games that the boys like, but she doesn't stick with them for long. The boys like to give her advice on how to do it. She's usually a good sport about their unsolicited advice.

Why do I call her an enigma? The boys are very obvious about their likes and dislikes. It's easy to find an activity that they like doing. Viva is a happy child and she doesn't demand attention, but we find ourselves asking--what does she do all day?! The boys ask to go outside and ride bikes or to play a game with you or for you to get a particular toy out for them. Viva is low profile. She's off doing her own thing using her own resources. We need to follow her around and find out what she does all day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

B is for Badminton

Kara touched briefly on the topic of badminton (and stole the good photos!) in an earlier post, but considering the amount of time we spend playing, I think the topic of badminton deserves its own post.

B-boy loves badminton. Every day he asks to play. He'll ask his dad or his mom or his opa or me. He'll finish up with one partner and move on to another, if he can find one. Jake readily volunteers to play with Bentley, but Bentley says Jake is not good enough, although if Bentley is desperate for a partner he will play with Jake. Viva has shown no interest in badminton.

It's cold outside now, but that does not deter Bentley. He puts on gloves and the game goes on. The other day while we were playing I told him that while he is gone to Mexico, I'm going to practice and become really good. (This was my idea of intimidating the opposition.) His take on my comment? "Good, then you can get the birdie to me better." Huh?

When I first introduced him to badminton he had a hard time remembering the name for the birdie. His brain filed away "duck" instead of birdie. He would ask me if we could play the game with the duck. I'd look at him completely baffled--"Game with a duck? What game with a duck?"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Report from Mexico

Kara has sent a couple of emails letting us know how they are doing. Her first email was sent from her iPad while still at the airport. She reports that the TSA agent helping them through security took a look at Matt and she with three small children and said " Good luck, you're going to need it!" And then as they were walking on: "You're crazy..."

They flew from Anchorage to Seattle and then from Seattle to Puerta Vallarta with a stop in San Francisco. While in San Francisco they could have volunteered to take a later flight (the flight was oversold) and earned five $400 airline coupons. Kara told Matt "No!". What is the going price for sanity? $2000!

Kara wrote that while riding the taxi to the resort, Viva commented "I bet Grandma misses us now. She went away and we missed her. And now we're gone and she'll miss us lots." That girl understands her grandma.

Kara's other report on their vacation so far: "We went out to dinner for Grandma Karen's birthday, we didn't get home until almost 11 pm (although it's 3 hours ahead here so that's just 8 pm at home). The children ate lots of steak and brownies, and then didn't want to sleep. One day down, no sunburns - except for Matt!"

And lastly: "Jake likes papaya. Bentley is turning into a swim pro (with his shark kickboard Grandpa Tim found). Viva? Busy charming people with her assertive, loud self."

Sunday, October 10, 2010


The trio and their parents have gone on vacation to Mexico with Grandpa Tim and Grandma Karen who have a time share in Nuevo Vallarta. This is their second trip to sunny Mexico although I doubt the twins remember much of their first trip since it happened two years ago when they were just sixteen months old. Bentley, however, remembers his first Mexican vacation. It was filled with fun and adventure and a trip in an ambulance when he cut his head open on the marble floor trim. OUCH! This trip he plans to just settle for fun in the sun, sand, and water. No souvenir scars. (I have a souvenir scar from my last trip to Hawaii and it's just not the thing to bring home.)

While the trio are away I told Kara that I'd write a few blog posts. How hard can it be to write about my favorite subject?! They are always entertaining me and I hope I can convey to you some of the fun I have with them.

I'm going to start by back dating a few posts to fill in for last week when the blog was neglected.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


Isn't she pretty? Doesn't she look totally girly? Girls who like dresses are not supposed to like bugs. Bugs are a boy thing.

Not in our home. In an unusual role reversal, it's the girl who likes (or at least tolerates) bugs and it's the boys who need to be rescued. The other day the boys were shrieking about a bug on the carpet. Viva went and got a Kleenex and took care of it.

She's told us that she'd like to eat bugs. We discouraged that idea. I know that eating bugs is done in other parts of the world, but we live in the USA, where it is not done. Not in our house. TOTAL YUCK!

Thursday, October 07, 2010


Last night Jake came into our bedroom at 3AMish hauling his two favorite blankets. He trekked on over to his bed (he usually prefers to sleep on a thick blanket on the floor so he has more personal space), he dropped his blankets at his feet, and he reached up for his glass of water on the window ledge. Somehow he dropped the glass and 4 ounces (or so!) of water fell onto his blankets.

He was very upset. He started howling.

He insisted I fix the problem. I went and located a small, dry hand towel and proceeded to attempt to soak up the excess water. The towel became quite damp, but Jake's two blankets did not become dry.

He continued howling.

I tried reasoning with him. It was only water; his blankies would quickly dry. I thought about putting them in the dryer, but I had no idea how clean they were and didn't want to heat set any dirt, so I didn't offer that solution. No matter what I said or what comfort I offered...

He continued howling, quite loudly. He was sad. I was sad. (Opa was sleeping--how does he do that?)

I finally took Jake to his mother since he kept repeating Momma, Momma, Momma. It seemed the perfect solution since mothers can fix anything, right? She told him to be quiet or she'd kick him out of her bed. He was quiet.

Problem solved.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Viva Sketch

I think it's interesting how different Viva looks turned into a black and white sketch!  Isn't technology fun?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Stump the Dummy

The 4 year old can already stump me.  I guess I better work on upping my game?!

A few days ago we were reading about holidays.  We were discussing the 4th of July, and I told the kids that on the 4th of July we celebrate our independence - that a little more than 200 years ago, we went to war with the country we were a part of, to become our own country.

I was patting myself on the back for my simple explanation, when Bentley asked:

"Mom, what is war?"

I wasn't really sure how to answer.  I wish it was a concept that we didn't have to understand and that it didn't exist.  But I am not a pacifist - I believe good and evil do exist and that there will be conflict and that's necessary and "right" sometimes.  I'm also not an idealist, and I don't believe all wars are that black and white.  So I wasn't even sure where to start with the question!

But an even better question came up today.  We were looking at postcards that Grandma has sent the kids (she and Opa are currently on vacation in the sunny south).  Bentley received a postcard with a rattlesnake on it.  Grandma made some comment on the back of it that she was glad they hadn't seen any real snakes.

Bentley: "I'm disappointed that Grandma and Opa didn't see any real snakes"!
Me: "Why?!  I'm not!  Rattle snakes are dangerous!  They could hurt Grandma and Opa"!
Bentley: "How?  They're in cages".
Me: "No, not all snakes are in cages.  These ones are out and about just like people are.  They could hurt us".
Bentley: "Why would God do that"?!

I love that he recognizes God's hand in everything.  But, again, why these thought provoking questions?!  I thought about just telling him snakes aren't all "bad", but I do have a natural bias against them.  Slimy cold creatures.  And I thought about telling him that sometimes God lets bad things happen.  But that doesn't make God sound too warm and cuddly.  So I settled for telling him that God provides us with a beautiful planet, some of which is dangerous.

Which may have dodged the question.  I need to go work on my answer skills!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Ballerina for a Day

Viva had a chance to go to Cassidy's ballet class with her yesterday, it was "Bring your Friend" day.  She was quite excited about it.

A few weeks ago she came home from Grandma Karen's and told me that she had seen some ballerines on TV, and that she thought they could do some pretty funny things.  It was cute the way she brought it up and said it... she seemed intrigued.  :-)

On Wednsday night she was grilling me about a tutu.  I told her she could wear her pink skirt.  But then she said: "And do we have any pink lace up slippers with ribbons"?  I had to tell her no on that count.  Where do they come up with this stuff?  I'm pretty sure it wasn't me, must be one of her books!

Anyway.  Thursday morning we did her hair up in a bun (Cassidy's request, she wanted them to match!) and sent her off with Amrita.  The girls did leaping and twirling and hopping and an A plus version of the splits (according to Amrita).  The boys?  Patrick, Bentley, and Jake spent an hour chasing eachother around with axes and swords and ending up in pile after pile of shrieking gleeful toddler boy.

All the kids had a great time, but Geneveieve cried when she ended up back at home after dance class.  She wanted to go home with Cassidy and Amrita!!

Last night she tried batting her eyes at me and telling me that she would like to be a ballerina.  We'll see... !