Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Do You Hear Me?

For weeks now Jake has been driving his mother and I crazy with his unrelenting need to be acknowledged. He feels that we don't always listen when he talks to us. Of course we do! What could possibly distract us from listening to Ever So Adorable Jake? Oh yeah...his big bro Bentley is quite distracting. And his ever present twin Ms Independent Viva occasionally demands our attention--but not nearly as often or as insistently as Jake does.

Because Jake is convinced that we don't listen to him, he has taken to asking us "Do you hear me? DO YOU hear me? DO YOU HEAR ME?!" He repeats his query so quickly we don't have time to respond.

I try to listen when Jake talks. I try to sincerely respond to his questions when he gives me a chance, but I'll admit it, sometimes I am distracted and I don't hear him. When the children are all together, there's a lot going on.

Jake, I'll try to do better.

Monday, March 28, 2011

It's Viva's Turn

As usual, we have multiple posts about Bentley. He's the oldest and leads the way in new skills and adventures. Jake gets quite a few posts about him, too. He's quirky and loud and in your face. We neglect Viva. Often we simply post photos of her in a cute dress.

I know this isn't right. There's more to the girl than her wardrobe. A lot more. But it's hard to put in words who Viva is or what Viva does or how Viva thinks. As I've written before, she's an enigma to me. What makes Viva tick? What fascinates Viva? What are Viva's favorite things? She keeps most of that info to herself.

Thursday at the toy store Viva played with the baby doll in the playpen. (Is this because she likes dolls or just because she doesn't have a baby doll playpen at home?) She also played a lot with the doll house built like a tree house. She rearranged the furniture and I had to drag her away when it was time to leave. We were late for their play date. It was Viva's fault. (Not really!)

Saturday at the museum she stuck her arm into the gap made by the rotating exit doors and got it pinched pretty hard. This is typical, unpredictable Viva behavior. She's hands on.

In some ways she's the easiest of the three kidlets to have around. She's the most independent. She likes doing things on her own. She enjoys time alone reading. She doesn't need company and she doesn't need entertaining.

But what motivates her? How can she be bribed, uh, incented to do what you want or need her to do? That's a tough question. I'll get back to you next week...or next year.

Since this is a post about Viva, here's the requisite Cute Dress Photo. Mark titled this collage "Old Time Actress Viva".

One thing I do know about Viva--she's a ham in front of the camera.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saturday Afternoon at the Museum

Kara recently purchased a museum membership and since we share a household (I think that's why) Mark and I were included on the pass. I have to admit I am a bit of a museum snob. When I travel to major cities I make a point of visiting a museum or two or five. I insist on it. However, I have not spent much time at our local museum. First, the museum owns no paintings by major artists and second, I'm not much into native history or anthropology.

However, the museum now houses a science center, the Imaginarium, and science is way cool, so when Kara invited me to go with her and the kidlets last week to meet cousin Anna and the little cousins, I went. Anna and her children and cousin Tiernan gave us a tour of the Imaginarium showing us their favorite stations. Anna bought a family pass a couple of months ago, so they've been a few times already. Jake and Bentley have been to the museum with Grandma Karen, but Viva had not yet been there.

Then this Saturday (just days later--not years as is my usual practice), I went again. I suggested to Mark that we take the children to view the school district's annual student art show. The children all thought it was a fine idea. Bentley thoughtfully viewed all the art. Viva was easily distracted after the first 20 pieces. Jake was distracted by Viva. (It matters who you keep company with!)

Nonetheless it was a good visit. We saw the artwork. We got some great ideas for artwork to do at home. We visited the science center (at Viva's suggestion) and opa took this great photo below:

The highlight of the adventure? It was walking to and from the truck to the museum. The sidewalk was lined with a short cement retaining wall and the children all thought it was great fun to walk on the wall.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Flower Art

Aren't these gorgeous flowers?!  Bentley felt inspired to create them in his sketch book during Sacrament meeting last week.  Lovely!

There was a small meltdown when he wanted me to "fix" his flowers - he drew one on the front of the paper and one on the back, and those were for two seperate people.  How to get them apart?!  Oops.... :-)

I told him we could copy it.  Crisis averted!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Box Fort

Back in January when we got a new dishwasher, the kids got their first box. I did a short blog on it titled The Big Box. Later in the month I purchased two nightstands and a small chest of drawers for the bathroom and they all came in boxes which were not as large as the dishwasher box, but still large enough to accommodate a preschooler and a foam chair.

Then in February we got a new fridge. When the delivery guys called to say they were on their way, Kara asked if they had extra boxes they could bring. They generously gave us two other large boxes, two stove boxes. I retired one of the nightstand boxes (it was pretty beat up) and then with the remaining six boxes and one play tent tunnel I created a beautiful box fort for the kidlets. Okay, it's not really beautiful, but it is fun.

I’m quite proud of my cobbled together boxes. I used 3/4" pink ribbon, packing tape, and a paring knife (our utility knife needs to be replaced!) to create my masterpiece. The trio first used it for airplane trips to Las Vegas and Arizona. Vegas and Arizona? I assume that’s because that’s where we in this household have vacationed most recently. Even at their young age they know Barrow is not a vacation destination.

Then they used the fort for playing in with the cat. The cat really likes the fort. He is the only one allowed to climb on top of it. When the cousins, Kolttan and Cheyenne, came over I encouraged them to place some cave drawings in the fort. Then the kidlets added more artwork.

I cut new holes in the fridge box and Jake, Viva, and I practiced tossing balls in the holes. Viva crept closer and closer to the box until she was reaching her hand in through the holes, so I put down a long piece of tape on the carpet and told them they had to stand behind it when throwing their balls. Viva wandered off and Jake and I kept at our throwing practice. The cat sat inside the box laughing at us. Sometimes he stuck his head out of one of the holes. He had no fear of being hit by ball, so bad was our aim. We need more practice. Here is a different use for the new holes:

Kara and Mark wanted to retire the fort because it takes up a lot of space and the children only play in it for a short time each day, but I convinced them to let us keep it for a few more days. It's true that most days the children don't spend hours in the fort, but they are busy kids. They've spent a lot of time lately reading and eating and napping and getting dressed and drawing and doing science projects and playing games and so how much time is left for playing in their fort?! They like it a lot. They want to keep it. It's going to have to go someday soon though because it really does take up the entire family room.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dragon Checkers

Opa downloaded an iPad ap called Dragon Checkers. It's a pretty standard checkers game, but you get to choose from eight different dragons to decorate your checkers. The dragons roar on command (a button) and at the end of the game the winning dragon not only roars, but spits fire. Jake is currently obsessed with the game.

Here's what Bentley told me about Jake and Dragon Checkers: "Jake's playing both sides himself because the computer is too easy to beat. I don't play with the computer because it's way too hard for me."

Are you surprised to learn that Jake is better at Dragon Checkers than Bentley? I was until I watched Jake play. He's taught himself how to play with the help of the computer. The computer will not let you make an illegal move--go backwards or jump sidewise--but it does not teach you the goal of the game. Jake thinks the goal of the game is to clear the board of pieces so you can see the dragon spit fire.

Technically the goal is to clear the board of pieces, however, most players try to clear off their opponent's pieces and they try to preserve their own pieces. Jake takes off all pieces. He clears the board until he gets to the final dragon screen. He always claims victory because he made the dragon spit fire.

Bentley has a much better grasp of the game (as commonly played!) and he knows that you pick one side as your own and then you must decimate the other player, usually while preserving as many of your pieces as possible. The computer has this same goal and so it can be a fierce competitor.

This morning Bentley begged Jake to play a game of checkers with him. At first Jake refused because he much prefers to play against the computer. Finally he gave in and played, but it did not go well since Jake clued in he was losing--because Bentley was winning.

Jake's version of Dragon Checkers is much nicer with every game a win.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bentley, his cat, and their bed time routine

I know, I know... he's not technically one of the kids.  But he is their cat!  So he deserves a cute picture or two on the blog!  Rameses (despite the idyllic picture) does not always have an peaceful life - it is not easy being adored by three small children.  Particularly when they are being rambunctious.  

All of the kids love their cat, but I'd say Bentley is the most enamored!  A few days ago he was wandering around the house singing to his cat all day: "Pussy cat, pussy cat, I love you, pussy cat pussy cat, yes I do... ".  Do you know that one?  You would if you heard it - it's a classic!  I'm just not sure where Bentley picked it up.

Every night the cat sleeps next to Bentley.  If he isn't there at story time he meows at the door to be let in soon after prayer, and the kids of course jump up and oblige him by opening the door!  Rameses and Bentley share a pillow, and in the last couple weeks it's been getting out of hand - I go in to check on my cherubs and find the cat has the whole pillow and Bentley has none!  

So I did what any reasonable person would do.  I tracked down another pillow, to put next to Bentley's, so he and his kitty cat could each have their own.  And still be together.  This worked well for a few nights, but they're back to sharing.  Bentley tells me his pillow (he took the new one I gave them!) is the softer one, so the cat likes to share it.  I think I'll have to track down a king size pillow for the buddies next.

The cat's only not so charming habit?  He licks Bentley!  I catch him grooming my child, while he is asleep (and sometimes when he is awake) - giving his hair and face a nice bath. Yuuuuuck!  Bentley tells me he licks the cat on his head, and that he likes it when the cat licks him.  I've tried telling him this is definitely not normal behavior, and doesn't the scratchy cat tongue bug him?  But no.. he says it tickles, but just a little.

Despite his buy in on the non conventional grooming I'm still trying to stop it.  I think it's weird!

That quirk aside, Rameses has been a brilliant addition to the house.  My kids are in love and so am I.  My husband?  He still claims he's not a cat person.  I know that's not true, but I let him say it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

3 Children & 3 Pictures

Bentley & Matt picked out some matching shirts for the kids in Vegas.  This, of course, simply cried for a photo opportunity!  The only problem with the plan?  It required 3 children (small ones, that is) to all behave at the SAME time.

Yeah right!

So here are 3 pictures, since there are 3 of them.  :-)

Goofy kids!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I've Gone Pro

(ha ha ha ha ha)

Yesterday the boys let me cut their hair.  A few months ago I tried the clippers & scissors out on Jake, but Bentley refused to let me near him.  :-)  That was okay with me, because Bentley has a lot more hair than Jake and I thought Jake would be easier to practice on.  It went okay, but I determined we needed a hair cape.

Amazon to the rescue, and a toy store hair cape later... I was ready for round 2!

Jake AND Bentley let me cut their hair yesterday!  It may not be GORGEOUS, but I am confident I'm well on my way to quality cuts that are not crooked or scary.  Perhaps in time speedy too?

$25 saved!  Or, as I told my husband, 1/6th of the amount of one of those gorgeous Le Creuset pans I'm in love with.  :-)

Here are some post hair cut pictures - not up close shots, but they prove they still look human, right?!?

Who knows.  Maybe Matt will beg me to cut his hair soon (or maybe not... !).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Big kids, big bed!

Before they were all lined up in a row, in their toddler beds.  But they're getting bigger!

So we went bed shopping, and picked out a nice big bunk bed with a pull out trundle.  No one is sleeping on the top yet, but Viva does get to sit up there and read books during her quiet time every day.  :-)  

The kids think the bed is fun, but were most excited about sheet shopping.  Bentley & Jake have Star Wars sheets on their full, and Viva has some tasteful stripes/florals on her new sheets (I purposefully didn't show her the gaudy  Princess ones - is that wrong of me?!).  :-)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bentley's Favorite Places in Las Vegas, Or, Daddy's Score on the Adventures

Everyday we tried to find some new adventure to go on while we were in Vegas.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Sharks seem to have been the number one adventure while we were there.  More than half of all the pictures Bentley took were at the Aquarium.  Of course, some of the places we went didn't allow pictures, so that might not be a fair assessment.

In any case, on Monday, we went to the Aquarium.  It was a hit. (+1)

On Tuesday, we went to Mystere - also well liked (+1), but the pirate show was a bust (-2)

Wednesday was kicked off with a long game of soccer, followed by a picnic at the park.  With that over, we made a trip to the Apple store to get my computer fixed.  This turned into an unexpected win for me, in that Bentley discovered the iMacs setup for kids to use, and really liked the Diego dinosaur learning game. (+1).  From the mall, it was a quick walk over to the Wynn to check out the waterfall

... and then on to the Ferrari showroom.  They were a little heavy on stock of the  f450, but that was ok for my sports car afficianado.  Bentley enjoyed the Ferraris, Ford Mustangs, and the exotic cars.  No pictures allowed, and I was told that ALL white cars are ugly - even if they are Ferraris - but it was still a fun time!  (+1)  It wasn't dark yet, so we headed over to the Bellagio to check out the Conservatory.  Bentley was impressed that they could fit a boat in their garden.  A very large boat.

And, of course, we had to check out the fountains.  Based on all the explaining Bentley did of the fountains to Jake and Viva, he seemed impressed.  (+2 for the Bellagio).

Thursday was the day of "unplanned adventures".  Bentley begged to go back to the Apple store, which worked out fine since we needed to pick up my repaired computer.  He spent nearly an hour at the Diego game!  (+1)  From there, we hopped over to the Secret Garden at the Mirage.  Bentley and I both really enjoyed the dolphins as they did their tricks for us, and the lions and tigers were totally ready for Bentley-the-photographer.  He took much better shots than I did.  For some reason, while we could barely see it, I think the black panther may have been his favorite animal there.  I dunno.  I had planned to take him out front to the Mirage's volcano, but he advocated against it, since it sounded hot.

Friday was a lay low day since it got cooler, plus we had some chores to finish up.  We raked up nearly 80 pounds of leaves (Bentley and I split that job evenly), fixed the timer for the watering system, and cleaned house.  We went out to the desert, but based on the pictures Bentley took from his seat in the car... I don't think he was very impressed.  (+0)

How well did Daddy score?  Looks pretty good!  We saved some great activities for the next trip, like going to Hoover Dam, checking out Red Rocks, going to the knights dinner, but we managed to fill our days!

And in case you're wondering if we ever had time to eat dinner with all of these activities.. yes, but it was normally sometime between 8:45 and 10PM.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bentley's Trip to the Desert

One of our adventure plans was to go out to the desert - and maybe drive up Kyle Canyon to go check out the Mount Charleston area.  In case you're not familiar with the area, that's a national forest that's just 20-30 minutes outside of Las Vegas.  Bentley had reservations about going to the desert, because to him, that meant scary snakes, spiders, scorpions, and other things that might get him.  There was no way he was going out there.

Well, our last day of the trip, Bentley decided it might be an ok adventure.  We could see Mt Charleston while playing soccer at the park, and could tell it wasn't as clear up in that area as it had been when we first arrived, but we headed out anyway.

Keep in mind that in Las Vegas, it was around 45 degrees.

About 15 minutes into the canyon, we found a great pullover to go check out the area rock formations, see the plain and the lower valley, and for picture taking.

We didn't count on the cold cold wind.  It was as cold as the January wind in Barrow.  I had neglected the whole heat loss problem of coming up 2000 feet in elevation, and neither of us had wintry gear with us.

I don't think we made it more than 100 paces from the car before we gave in and turn around... only to find that the 100 paces away from the car were easy because the wind was at our backs.  Getting back to the car took monumental effort.  I yelled at the wind, and Bentley yelled at me.  

Luckily we made it back to the much warmer car wherein we decided to take pictures of the desert from inside the car.  Bentley took some great shots of the scrub vegetation and rocks and his hand!

And that wind?  It was bringing down one furious snowstorm through the canyon.  We decided to turn around just before we hit it - there was nothing but dark gray swirling masses of doom in front of us.  

Bentley and I came up with a much better plan for the rest of the day: build with Legos, watch Superman, and eat red meat.  

The day was a success, but I think we're going to have to go to Red Rocks or Mt. Charleston on a much sunnier, warmer day next time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bentley Gets a Lesson and Gives Daddy One Too

Ok, so I'm not a huge fan of all the glitz and glamour of vegas.  I do like sunshine, some of the shows and attractions (like the sharks I wrote about earlier), and appreciate the opportunity to use Grandpa's house there.  When planning our adventures, I tried to think of stuff I would enjoy with Bentley - and he with me.  

On Tuesday, we played soccer for more than an hour, did more yard work and clean-up, hung out, and then headed to Treasure Island for the Cirque du Soleil show Mystere.  I figured we might get a chance to take in the pirate show out front, too.

What were our lessons that day?

Well, we went through the casino to get to the front with the pirate show.  Bentley wanted to know what everyone was doing.  I explained the concept that the people were paying to play different games.  He asked why they didn't look happy when they were all playing games.  I asked him if he heard what sounded like anyone winning... he thought for a moment, and said no - Right on kiddo.  So we talked about how the house always wins, and he wanted to know who the house was and if we could meet him since he was winning everything.  Hmmm.  Well, he got the basics.

We got outside just in time for the start of the pirate show - and even better - to get the up-front spot right next to where some of the pirates come through between the boats.  A SUPER position, I thought.  Bentley was excited.  The show started, and a pirate ran past us, jumped up and swung across to one of the boats.  Wow!  Then there was some dancing and the other pirate ship came around the corner.  Apparently 5 year olds have an instinct of what comes next.  "I don't like this."  "I don't want to be here."  (I too instinctively realize that being between two ships and next to the water might not be the best spot to be, and move away from the edge).  

(Fire is erupting everywhere)
It was at this point that I came to realize there is a fundamental difference between going to a show (fun time for father and son) and being in a show (not cool).
We made a hasty exit before the inferno ensued and one of the ships sank.  

Mystere, however, was an excellent treat.  Bentley was crazy about the snail (I don't know why), and thought that most of the tricks, gags, and super-human performances were a lot of fun.  Plus there was popcorn.  We enjoyed the drummers, and Bentley's only complaint/concern was that he couldn't take pictures at the show.  He was especially happy that there were no large fireballs.

Bentley Goes Shopping in Vegas

In the first post, I mentioned that Bentley likes to write up grocery lists.  He doesn't really like to do a lot of shopping, though.  I'm happy that he is normally very well mannered, so it's always fun to go with him.

However, this post is kudos to just how well mannered he is.

Had you tagged along with us, you would have found yourself at the local Wal-Mart 5 times, the Smith store, CVS, and almost at ACE hardware.  What could two guys happen to need that much?

Well, there was the trip to buy food.  And we got distracted and bought soccer stuff, too.  And then there was the trip because we needed to get the right toothpaste and nightlights.  Another trip to try to find cookware for the food we bought on the first trip, and a fourth trip to get the food mom would have gotten to go with the other food on the first trip (like chips to go with the hamburgers).  Then there was that other trip to get medicine when Bentley started to get sick (cold or allergies or both), and finally a reward trip to get a new Lego set since getting sick was not making adventures fun.

What food did Bentley pick for us to eat?  Steak.  Hamburgers.  Bread.  Grapes and strawberries and cutie oranges and milk.  And Bentley figured I needed peanut butter and jelly since everyone he knows likes it (except him - he won't touch it).  Noodles - lots of noodles.  That's not enough noodles, get more.  3 pounds of steak and 3 pounds of noodles?  Sure, we can eat that.  5 pounds of fruit too?  Ok.  Crescent rolls, hamburger buns, and a loaf of bread?  Guess I can freeze what we don't eat...

No, I don't normally do the shopping.  I pack food for me to eat in Barrow, and it somehow seemed reasonable to get twice as much food as I normally would for just myself.  

Bentley doesn't eat that much.  And he didn't really like the oranges.  Or the grapes.  Or the strawberries.  Grandpa does the steak better, and I forgot the straws needed to drink the milk.  That pretty much left him with bagels (he brought those in his backpack), and hamburgers.

I would have to conclude that our three successes in shopping was for the soccer set (used every day), the Lego set, and the cookware to bake chocolate chip cookies.

Next trip - we're living off of cookies, hamburgers, chips, and cereal.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bentley Goes to Vegas and Gets a Tattoo

The first in a "guest" series from Daddy, about his adventure with Bentley in Nevada!

So, Bentley and I called Great Grandma Altman about a week before we were going to fly south.  When Grandma asked him what we were going to do, he told her that he "was going to get a tattoo with daddy and play lots of games!"  It was an unexpected response from the 5 year old, I have to say.  

Nevertheless, he held true to that promise on the first day.  We flew overnight to Las Vegas - with the opportunity to arrive almost an hour early at SeaTac, sometime around 4AM, and get upgraded to first class for the Las Vegas flight (Bentley slept that flight).  Bentley really started his adventure to Las Vegas by picking the rental car.  "We can't get a white one.  I don't like white cars."  (This became important later).  "Dad, do you want the blue car?  It's not very fancy.  You might like it."  Eventually he settled on the red "sports car" (a dodge challenger), and we were on our way.

Apparently, he was a little photobug as we drove down the Strip.  I've never stopped to take a picture at the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign, and Bentley said we didn't need to.  Little did I know, he had snapped a great shot from inside the car.  

Just after the Welcome sign, I pointed out the Mandalay Bay hotel - where we would go to see the Sharks sometime during the week.  

We headed out to Grandpa Tim's house after checking out the monster buildings - and Bentley was quick on to the question of "what do we get to do now?" He had a lot of things to do in his head - and really was dwelling on the sharks - but got distracted.  How?

Yard work, of course!  (It was Bentley's idea, as soon as he saw the rake and broom in the garage).  
Of course, we were short on food and long on hungry, so we had to go to the grocery store.  You might not know this, but Bentley has a thing about grocery lists.  He loves to write them.  And he's really good!  But he needs a lot of help... so our writing and shopping experience took a little longer than the very-tired-and-hungry 5 year old thought it should take.

We got home, and Bentley was very worried that there would be no time for an adventure.  

Things started to go downhill fast.
  He became emphatic about wanting to go to the sharks.
      About not wanting to be with me.
          About wanting to see Mommy.
              Yelling for Mommy to come out of hiding.  (She had to be there somewhere)
          Realizing that Mommy was not going to rescue him, and calling her on the phone.
      And finally, breaking down.
How do you get a very sad kid to cheer up?  Ask him what he wants to do next AND DO IT.

So, what did he want to do?  For me to get him a tattoo and take him to the sharks.

Apparently, he had this all thought out before we left home.  Step 1 - grab Shark rub-on tattoos from Santa.  Step 2 - put on when we get to Las Vegas so they are there the whole trip.   Step 3 - Go see Sharks.  Step 4 - Sleep and Sleep some more.

Well then, we put on that Great White Shark tattoo and headed down to the aquarium!

It was AMAZING!  

Bentley got in free, went through the whole set of exhibits twice, and took probably more than 100 pictures.  We were probably there for 2 hours.  I'll let the pictures that Bentley took (a small fraction of them!) tell the rest of the story, but we did get to see lizards, a crocodile, a Komodo Dragon, and a lot of Sharks.

Scrap Arts Music Concert

Earlier this month we enjoyed a family outing to a concert!  The Alaska Junior Theater brought a group from Vancouver to Anchorage, they make instruments out of scrap metal pieces.  Because Vancouver is on the water, they had a lot of boat yard type materials.

They were part comedy, (playing music with balloons), and lots of good beats and music.  Jake tapped his legs along, and Viva was very good at clapping enthusiastically after every song.  I think they all had a good time, despite being a bit under the weather from colds - it was fun, and they sat still very nicely (with a brief Viva exception... !).

Postcard from Bentley

Our great lover of receiving postcards also enjoys sending them!  While on adventure with his Daddy he sent out a few notes, which he labored over with great love.  Too cute.  :-)

(Viva: I saw fancy cars and sharks.  From Bentley & Daddy)