Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Playmobil Nativity

I went to the toy store on Saturday because I signed up for the American Express's Small Business Saturday. If you signed up online and visited a local small business and charged at least $25 on your credit card, then American Express gives you a $25 credit on your next statement. Kara and I did this last year. We visited the toy store together and picked up a few games for the children. This Saturday I went alone. That was probably a mistake.

When I entered the toy store, there at the front there was a display of Christmas advent calendars and nativity sets. There were some Lego products with Santa themes and a Playmobil nativity set. I love Playmobil products. Two years ago for Christmas Kara purchased some Playmobil knight sets. The children play with them a little, but they are much bigger Lego fans. *sigh* Not that the two products are the same. They aren't. Lego is a building toy. Playmobil is small figures and elaborate sets that encourage imaginative play. (Both companies are based in Germany as is my favorite puzzle company. What is the signficance of that? I'm going to think more on this.)

Anyway, the point of this post is that I purchased the children a Playmobil nativity set. It's quite elaborate. There was the usual Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherd, angel, three sheep, an oxe, a donkey. (I love Playmobil animals!), a manger and a stable. Then there were some less common items like two birds, a mouse, a stable light, a cooking pot, a campfire, a wood pile, and--my favorite--an axe. Joseph was a carpenter, so maybe the axe was part of his gear?

Playmobil sets require a little bit of assembling when you first get them. Bentley and I put together the manger. We had to redo parts of it a few times, but we eventually got it right. Viva meanwhile was putting the clothes on the figures without looking at the directions. This annoyed Bentley (and me a little, too), but she has a good eye for that kind of thing and did a great job. Her only "mistake" was putting the angel's halo on the shepherd and then tossing the shepherd's headband because she didn't need it.

The only real problem was when Bentley and Jake started fighting over the cooking pot chain. Bentley wanted to use it to put the pot over the campfire (like in the photo on the front of the box), but Jake was already using it on the oxe's horns and he would not give it up. Bentley had to wait until Jake was bored and left to get his hands on the chain.

If I had only purchased the nativity, my $25 credit would have meant I got the nativity for a great price. Unfortunately for my wallet, I also purchased the three kings set and some Ravensburger Christmas puzzles. The toy store had the Christmas ornament ball puzzles that I have looked at online for years. I've never found them in stock with good shipping, so when I saw them at the toy store, I was excited. I also purchased a 100 piece Christmas puzzle to do with the children. Bentley took one look at it and asked why I bought a girl puzzle. Huh?! The puzzle has a flock of angels decorating a tree and baking cookies. Do angels make it a girl puzzle? It looked more fun to put together than the Santa puzzle, but maybe I chose wrong. There were not any Christmas-themed dinosaur puzzles. Besides, Viva's a girl. She likes girl puzzles.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Tree Is Up!

I love having young children in the household. They love Christmas nearly as much as I do! They are eager to put up the tree, decorate the walls, bake cookies, and make ornaments. I find most adults are not very cooperative in these areas. They drag their feet. They try to put off holiday stuff as long as they can. Quite frankly, they hold me back. Not the children. They'd let me put the tree up in July!

Bentley was the best worker of the bunch. Of course, he is older than the twins, so it's not fair to compare them. Viva was a good worker, too. We pulled the children's dining room chairs up to the tree so they could put ornaments on more of the tree. Viva tended to put a lot of ornaments in one small area of the tree. She's not against hanging two ornaments on the same small branch. (I am!) Lincoln didn’t actually manage to hang an ornament, but he did chew on one. Jake would work for a while and then get distracted. Eventually he'd head back over and put a few more on. I moved one or two of the ones he placed on the tree (to make way for a different ornament), and he called me on it. We worked on the tree Friday, Sunday, and Monday. We still have to put the angel on top, but we need opa's help for that. He's the only one tall enough to reach that high using our household step stools. We could if we brought in the big ladder, but that's too much work.

Monday, November 28, 2011


It's time to blog again about Legos. Why? Because the blog is about how the children spend their time and Legos are a big time expenditure currently. I mentioned before that Matt started hauling his huge Lego collection out of storage. Legos took over the upstairs family room. When Kara couldn't handle it any more she purchased bins that roll under the toy table (two years ago she purchased reversible Lego/Duplo mats which cover the entire table surface). Did the new bins solve the problem? It's looking better, but the Legos have a tendency to sprawl if not ruthlessly corralled.

The boys drag Matt up to the family room as often as they can. It's no hardship since he, like B & J, thinks Legos are the best toy ever. He built a big castle for them. He told me how many hours it took and I hope he was exaggerating.

Both Bentley and Jake build models following the building instructions (visual diagrams) in Matt's old Lego booklets. Fortunately Matt kept a lot of the specialty sets in separate storage containers (they were not thrown into one container), so it's not totally impossible to find the needed pieces, just somewhat challenging. It's like putting together a large jig saw puzzle. Some people enjoy the search, some hate it.

B & J sometimes make up their own designs, too. The boys are building larger and larger items. They recruit everyone in the family to help them find the needed piece(s) or to figure out the diagrams. They can do most of it themselves, but they like a little help now and then. They like to show off their work, too, so periodically we are asked to go up and admire how much more they've completed.

Sometimes the help is not very good. One afternoon Jake wanted me to help him finish the boat he was building. He showed me a building diagram and asked for my help. I looked at the diagram and I looked at his boat in progress and I told him he had a piece placed wrong. He insisted he didn't. I was sure he did since he had a smooth flat piece where I needed to plug in the next piece. He was adamant that the smooth piece belonged there. He flipped through the diagram booklet to find the diagram showing the smooth flat piece. He was right. That smooth piece went there. I left him to ponder the next step. It was beyond my interest level. Opa came home for lunch and helped him piece it together. The window was supposed to be unplugged on the bottom so it could hinge out giving access to inside the cabin. I didn't expect that since I've never seen a boat with cabin access through the front window.

To redeem myself, later that afternoon I helped Jake locate a piece he wanted. It was a little green translucent square. I tried to talk him into using a green translucent column instead, but he said it had to be a square. Bentley is just as picky. He said he couldn’t use a white bench because it had Shell written on it. I thought about getting some remover to take the word Shell off, but then what would happen when he built the item that needed the Shell seat? He'd never find it. That'd be traumatic.

One day Jake played Legos for eight hours. It was last week when great-grandma was in the hospital and life was a little stressful for the adults. If the temperamental four year old wanted to quietly play Legos in the upstairs family room, we were happy that he was happy while we dealt with the current crises. Bentley was with him for most of the day, but took some time off to read to us. Occasionally we have tears or temper tantrums when we drag the boys away from their Lego projects. They insist they haven't had enough time--even if it's been hours and hours that day.

Here is a photo of the Lego table, graveyard for past Lego creations:

Here is Jake working on his boat. He's looking for pieces in the storage bin:

Here is Bentley working on his police station:

Lincoln is too little to play with Legos. He enjoys watching his brothers and playing with the Duplos.

We're going to have problems keeping Lincoln out of the Legos when he's more mobile. I hope he's a fast learner and decides to leave them alone and play with the duplos. Keeping Legos out of his reach would be very, very difficult. We'd pretty much have to ban him from the upstairs family room.

I finally managed to acquire a photo of Viva with one of her Lego creations. I don't see her play with Legos very often, but her mom said that she joins the boys maybe one out of four times when they play. She doesn't play as long as they do. Kara was not a big Lego fan growing up. She had a bin of Legos, but guests used it more than she did.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lincoln with a Halo!

I told Opa I wanted the light to look like it was shining down on Lincoln, like he has a halo. Because he is so sweet and angelic!

What did people do back before you could edit photos and give them cool effects, like halos?! :) It's no wonder all those pictures of our great-great relatives have them looking so sober and serious. They were scared about how the pictures were going to turn out.

Lincoln doesn't need to worry though. That's why he's always smiling and laughing for our pictures! My four month old wishes that he was four YEARS old. He spends a great portion of his time closely watching his brothers and sister. If he was only more interested in spending time on the ground he could figure out the crawling thing... and then his siblings will never be safe!

On a more serious note though, he is a very good baby. He does seem a TAD spoiled (as in gets quite angry if you put him down before he's ready to be put down... !), but is it REALLY possible to spoil a little guy? I say not.

The Nutcracker

Grandma Karen took the boys to see the Nutcracker on Friday afternoon. She took Viva last year and the boys were so envious that she offered to take them this year. They dressed up in their suits. This photo taken on Kara's iPhone does not do them justice, but it's what was offered to me.

Grandma Karen said both Bentley and Jake were riveted the first half of the performance. I haven't been to the Nutcracker in years, so I don't remember how it's staged, but she mentioned something about the first half being more a play and the second half was the ballet. The boys enjoyed the second half, but not as much as the first half. They won't be asking to join Viva's ballet class.

Grandma Karen purchased them souvenirs. Can you believe they found swords at the Nutcracker? They brought home swords and crowns. I think they told me the show had a Pirate Rat King? (I googled it and there is a Pirate Mouse King. It's easy enough to confuse rats and mice when they are people size.) Both boys were excited about their new swords, but Bentley managed to curb his enthusiasm and help start decorating the Christmas tree. Jake was hardly any help at all. He was wild. I'll post more on the tree decorating later.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Paper, Paper, Paper

Almost every day Jake and Bentley are busy with paper and scissors. Or paper and tape. Or paper and pencil. Their creativity is awesome to watch.

One week they created locks. Bentley was the designer; Jake copied his brother's design. Bentley directed me to cut a ring out of paper, then he attached a long strip to the ring. He put the ring over a door knob and taped the strip across the door jam. He called it a lock, but it was more of a tamper barrier--you'd know if anyone entered. It wouldn't really stop you from entering.

Then they moved on to what they called gates. They taped together thin strips of paper and taped them across the doorways and the staircase. Bentley created a thirty foot long strip. The boys use a lot of Scotch tape. I ordered ten 1000" rolls on early in the summer. The children go through one roll every month. It's cheap entertainment.

Jake continues to print money. Now he writes numbers on it. Bentley made some more bookmarks and he drew butterflies and flowers on them. They were really nice.

Bentley made a lot of hats. He made one for everyone in the household. I can't locate any right now. Jake made a watch.

The boys made multi-page books. They used a lot of tape on that project. Bentley had great-grandma help him (she spelled words for him) write stories in his book. Jake put a lot of random letters in his book and then asked me to read them to him. Sometimes the letters almost spelled a word, so I'd incorporate that into the story otherwise I had to make everything up. Viva made a book, too. Jake gave me one of his books to use for math. Periodically he'd inquire if I'd used it yet. I finally used it last Saturday when my math tutee was over.

I showed the children how to use a stapler to bind their books, but their fingers are too little and not strong enough to staple through multiple sheets of thicker paper. They are happy with the tape approach.

Last week the boys cut small rectangles of black paper and folded them in half (see photo). They threw them off the top landing and watched them float and twirl down to the floor. They called them super fliers and handed out a couple each to the adults in the house. They had a lot of fun with their little pieces of paper.

A couple of days later Kara gave the trio coffee filters and showed them how to cut out snowflakes. Again they threw them off the top landing to watch them float.

Bentley has been working on his knight costume again. Months ago he made a dragon shield and sword. This week he made another, smaller sword and a spear. He created a new helmet, too. Then he worked on a belt which wasn't so successful because paper belts don't flex at all. I gave him a fabric belt. Kara wants to buy the children some yards of felt to make costumes with. I think it's a great idea, but I'm not sure if their scissors will cut felt.

Needless to say sometimes the table surfaces in our home get covered with paper projects. Kara purchased a small shelf and I bought baskets to go on the shelves. (Kara says my baskets are ugly and she's looking around for something more attractive.) The children are encouraged to store their finished and ongoing projects in their baskets. The boys' baskets are nearly overflowing. Viva's not yet.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Viva had her first official overnight on Monday at Grandma Karen & Grandpa Tim's home. Kara helped Viva pack for her overnight visit. Kara asked Viva is she wanted to take a blanket. "No, Grandma Karen has blankets." Kara asked if Viva wanted to take a stuffed animal. "No, Grandma Karen has stuffed animals." Kara asked if Viva wanted to take a book. "No, Grandma Karen has books." I'm not too surprised that Viva had no favorite items she wanted to take. She's not a collector of things like her brothers. Viva packed some clothes and she was ready.

She sat by the door for over an hour waiting for Grandma Karen to pick her up. Kara told Viva numerous times that Grandma Karen wasn't arriving anytime soon and that she should go play, but Viva insisted on staying by the door. Finally Bentley clued us in--"Viva wants to make sure she gets to answer the door." We have had more than one fight over answering the door when Grandma Karen arrives.

Viva would not share with me many details of her overnight. She had too much fun teasing me by not answering my questions. Nonetheless I learned a little bit by talking to Kara who had talked to Karen and I talked to Matt who had been more successful than I at getting Viva to talk. Viva went shopping with Grandma Karen. They bought groceries and a new Barbie doll. You can color Barbie's hair pink, purple or blue and then rinse the color out. Grandma Karen had to get out the hair dryer so that Viva could try out all the colors. Grandpa Tim made steak for dinner. Grandma Karen and Viva baked brownies. Grandma Karen offered to read in Viva's bedroom until Viva fell asleep. Grandma Karen fell asleep first! Viva woke her up at 3AM when she needed to use the bathroom. Viva had cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Since she didn't get to watch a movie in the evening (they were too busy with other things), Viva talked Grandma Karen into letting her stay through the afternoon so she could watch a movie.

After resting up a night, Grandma Karen & Grandpa Tim had Jake and Bentley stay overnight with them on Wednesday night. Like Viva this was their first overnight stay up the hill. Grandma Karen was smart to ask both boys at once because Jake is a homebody and not as comfortable with new adventures as his twin Viva. It was good for him to have Bentley along.

I quizzed the boys when they arrived home. They were eager to share their adventures. They built a huge fort using chairs and blankets and almost all the cushions in the house. They hid in the fort when Grandpa Tim came home and surprised him. (I bet the surprise was seeing so much disarray in his house.) They got new nerf guns and shot at the refrigerator. At bedtime Grandma Karen offered to read as many books as they wanted--Bentley picked 3 and Jake 2. When Bentley said as many as they wanted I envisioned poor Grandma Karen reading 10 or 15 books. Grandma Karen reported that they fell asleep within 10 minutes after reading time ended. The next morning Bentley carried all the folding chairs up from downstairs. I was amazed to hear that because he's not tall compared to a folding chair, but he is a hard worker. He then dragged all the other chairs to the table. They enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner. Bentley played Connect 4 with one of the guests. He won 7 games and lost 7 games. I'm sorry I didn't get more details from Jake. Sometimes he's a talker. Sometimes not. Right now he's asleep so I can't quiz him more.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


I asked the children what they are thankful for:

new toys

warm fires
rocks that are cool

our planet
birds (they're pretty)

Picture Proof of Sitting

As mentioned last week, our baby is turning into a pro sitter.  Here's some picture proof of it!  Sure... he takes the occasional face dive, but he does it with good grace!  He uses his hands at his side to keep himself from tipping over.  Clever Lincoln, with those neurologically advanced skills (according to the Doctor!).  :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Viva's Ballet Class

Viva's been in a ballet/dance class for two months. And she's ready to move on. It turns out that her ballet class is not serious enough for her. Huh?! What does she know about ballet? Obviously more than we do, but how did she come by this knowledge?

Viva has been attending a ballet class at my workout club. I drop her off in her classroom and then race down the hall to the cardio workout room and put in 40 minutes and then race back and pick her up. What could be more convenient? No one had to do any extra driving.

Then Kara's friend Amrita told her that the class, though labeled ballet, wasn't really much of a ballet class. Amrita's daughter is also in the class and Amrita stayed and watched the class. The turn over in students was high and there's no barre in the classroom, so no real ballet moves were being taught. That didn't bother Kara and I much since our only agenda was for Viva to have fun. Nonetheless, Kara decided to check out other ballet classes in town.

Just a couple miles down the road is a dance school that teaches preschool ballet. Kara took Viva over for a trial class. Kara sat and watched and said it was rather boring. They spent a good portion of the class at the barre practicing plies and whatever else ballet students do at the barre. (Kara and I are clueless.)

After leaving the class, Kara quizzed Viva. "Which class do you like better?" "This one!" she replied, "We do more dancing. At the other class we play games and only do a little dancing at the end." Obviously her agenda is more serious than ours.

Kara decided to switch Viva to the new ballet class, but when double-checking costs and times she discovered that they have their recitals on Sunday. Not cool at all for us Mormons, so Kara looked into other dance schools.

I'm amazed how many dance schools are in town. Unfortunately, the two best ballet schools are mid-town. Not as convenient, but their recitals aren't on Sundays.

Kara and Viva hit the road to check out one of the schools. Viva attended a class and told her mom that she liked the first dance school better. This new school was "too hard." Kara told Viva that the new school had their recitals at the same theater as the Nutcracker Ballet. (Grandma Karen took Viva to see the Nutcracker Ballet last November.) Viva decided she'd give the new school a try.

Viva is only 4. Are we overthinking this issue? Probably...but then again, Mark's first cousin Suzanna was a ballerina. Maybe Viva acquired a dance gene from that part of the family and she really IS serious. We'll take it one semester at a time.

I asked Kara to add a note to this post because she's the one now taking Viva to ballet:

The ballet career was almost brought to screeching halt when Viva learned about the school uniforms. Apparently a mark of a *serious* program is a class uniform. No glitter and tutus and wispy skirts for serious little ballerinas. At our new school it's pink tights and pink leotards (a particular brand, no less) for the 4 and 5 year olds. They are exempt from the hair in a bun rule, that goes into effect with the 6 year old ballet class. Viva is taking it all in stride though (at first I thought it was light blue leotards - but I was wrong - good thing, as pink is MUCH cooler than blue). Here she is modeling the new look of "ballet pink" (which is a specific color, I am told):

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Bad November Tradition

This is the third November that great-grandma has been in the hospital. Generally she is very healthy and the past two Novembers she was there for elective surgery. She had her one knee replaced on 10/29/09 and her other knee replaced 11/4/10. Having no more knees to do, this year it was not knee surgery. Instead great-grandma's stomach slipped through her diaphragm and she started vomiting blood. I'm sure that's enough gory details; it was for me. Mark and I took her to the emergency room on Saturday afternoon. She had major surgery Sunday morning and she's doing great. She'll be home in a few days.

As I mentioned, the first two surgeries were elective (and she's glad she had them), but this new tradition of hanging out in the hospital needs to stop. There are much better ways to prepare for the holidays. I'm bringing the Christmas tree out this week. I and the kidlets are going to start making ornaments and baking holiday cookies and decorating the house, not just the tree. It's going to be a great holiday season. Great-grandma will be home and back to normal!


Here’s some drawings done by our young artists.

Viva drew this at church a few weeks ago. She said it was a fish pond with a bench next to it. And a swing...maybe? I’m guessing on that last one.

Jake drew at home a castle, knights, dragons and lots and lots of airplanes. I told him that airplanes and knights are not from the same time period, but between the Magic School Bus, the Magic Tree House, and shows like Dr. Who why do I bother with pointing out anachronisms in his drawings?

Bentley’s drawing was on the cover of the sacrament bulletin at church two Sundays past. At church months ago the primary children drew pictures for the bulletin. Bentley doesn’t remember doing it, so he denies that the artwork is his. We pointed out that his signature (in his hand writing) is on the drawing, but he said someone else put his name there. He doesn’t usually draw people or churches, so he’s skeptical that it’s his work. We adults are confident it’s his work.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Diva Viva

Yesterday at church it was the once a year children's sacrament meeting presentation--the children ages 3-12 are on the stand in the choir seats facing the congregation. They sing and give short comments on gospel topics. This is the twins first year in the primary and therefore their first year on the stand.

The youngest children are placed in the front row because of their size and their cute factor. They are cute, but not always well behaved. If I had placed a bet beforehand on who would misbehave, I would have bet on Jake. I was so wrong. Miss Viva was trouble and Jake was not only totally well-behaved, but long suffering, too.

The presentation took maybe 45 minutes. Viva attacked Jake at least three times. She was sitting next to him and leaned over and started bending and pulling on his ear. It looked painful, but he just sat there stoically. It was pretty impressive. Another time she poked her finger into his ear. Again, no reaction. Matt and I were both waiting for Jake to wallop her. He just ignored her. She tried a few games on the girl sitting on her other side, too. To give Viva credit there were times when she was well-behaved.

Usually when we sit together as a family at church Viva is very low key. She doesn’t act out hardly ever. I guess being in the spot light fried her ability to make good choices. On the plus side Viva and Jake and Bentley all did a great job with their lines during the presentation. Bentley and Jake sang, too. They were adorable.

After church Kara approached one of Viva's primary teachers and asked her if Viva was ever difficult during primary class. We learned that her two teachers have nicknamed her Diva Viva. The examples they gave of some of her behaviors were not good. We need to have some serious discussions with our little diva. When Kara told Viva they were going to have talk about her poor behavior, Viva said "You can talk, but I'm not going to listen." Our little diva needs an attitude adjustment. And she will get one.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Story Time!

Bentley and Lincoln are reading buddies. In the morning Bentley comes into my room and normally reads his brother a few books. In the evening he likes to read him a night time story. And during the day... sometimes they read more! I love it. Lincoln loves it. And so does Bentley. A win win win!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Buddy Cat's New Soft Claws

Here is the cat sleeping at night with Bentley. We snuck in and used a flash to show you how they buddy up. The cat used to always sleep on B's pillow, sometimes ousting B. Then he took to sleeping at the end of the bed.

That's when he started attacking Bentley's feet while he slept. And sometimes jumping right at B himself. We gave B a spray bottle of water to counter the attacks, but it was still a problem. The cat moved on to Jake! We had to lock the cat out of the children's bedroom.

Kara purchased cat claw covers. They are soft plastic covers that are superglued over the cat's claws. The first time we tried to put them on, it was a fiasco. I got superglue all over my fingers. To prevent my fingers from being glued together I wrapped Kleenex over the superglue. I had to file the adhered tissue from my skin.

And then half of the 8 caps I glued on fell off within hours. They are supposed to stay on for 4-6 weeks. My second attempt was much better. The caps all stayed on and I didn't get any glue on my fingers.

The only problem was I left the cat's dew claws uncapped. Turns out he does use them for scratching. Two days later Viva was sporting an ugly cat scratch near her eye. Back to the glue tube.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Faked Photo of Real Life

Not the best photo (taken on Kara's iPhone not opa's fancy camera), but it was a cool moment we tried to capture. Bentley got out a word game and the twins joined him in play. We scooted Lincoln over so he could watch. I told Kara to click a photo, but her iPhone was upstairs. By the time she retrieved it, Jake was in the bathroom and then he was belligerent about getting a photo taken. He sat on the game board. *sigh* So while this photo gives you some idea of the moment, it did not actually capture the true moment of sibling bonding.

It's not easy to convey what life is like living with four children five and under. There are many wonderful moments. And many loud moments. And many moments when we are just one step ahead of anarchy.

White Fun

Our latest snow fun photo (taken Monday):

It was Bentley and Viva out having fun. Jake wimped out after a short time.

Our latest bath fun photos (taken Tuesday):

We put Lincoln in the tub in his Bumbo seat. The seat with the baby in it floated, so I had to keep my foot on it. Lincoln was ambivalent (whimpers and smiles) about being in the tub until Viva poured water over his head. Then he wanted out, out, out.

The children hadn't taken a bath together in quite some time, so they had a great time and stayed in the tub for an hour and half. It was loud. It was wet. It was warm. It was white.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Balloon Photo Shoot

Last week Kara hosted a church event at our home. Part of the decorations included fourteen helium filled balloons. After the event we decided to use them in a photo shoot with the children. Jake was gone when we did the main shoot, so we only got a quick one of him when he came home.

After the photo shoot Bentley took possession of the bouquet. He took it apart and tied balloons to the chairs in the dining room, the bar stools, the fireplace doors, and great-grandma's walker. He had a grand time trying out different "knots".