Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in Review

I've compiled a list of the highlights of 2011. It's not chronological. The first on the list is the most important, but after that it's jumbled order.

* Lincoln Henry Altman joined the family!
* Bentley started kindergarten--at home.
* Legos took over the upstairs family room.
* Jake & Viva mastered 100 piece puzzles.
* Matt traveled to Barrow 12+ times and D.C. 4 times.
* Jake played a lot of checkers.
* Bentley was introduced to chess.
* Kara started cutting the boys' hair.
* We built a spectacular play house from appliance boxes.
* Paper airplanes were a big hit.
* Bentley learned to read.
* Soccer, badminton, and basketball were the boys' summer fun.
* Viva biked, swung, and explored the yard.
* Lincoln, although a lousy eater, stayed near the top of the growth charts.
* Bentley traveled to Las Vegas with Matt.
* Viva visited the family in Idaho with Matt.
* Kara, Jake, and Lincoln happily stayed home all year.
* It was the year of dragons, knights, swords, and princesses.
* Bentley, Jake, and Viva watched Dr. Who with opa.
* The children cut, taped and drew a lot.
* Grandma Vicki came to visit twice!
* Daddy took the children on fun camping trips.
* We had a memorable Halloween party.
* Lincoln mastered sitting at a precocious age.
* The trio were introduced to books on tape.
* The boys joined opa on mushroom hunting expeditions.
* Kara spent days researching homeschool options.
* The children acquired lots of mittens and hats that great-grandma knit.
* The children had their first overnights at Grandma Karen and Grandpa Tim's.
* Viva started ballet.
* Bentley and Jake started gymnastics.
* The boys got a bunk bed; Viva got the trundle.
* The children had many adventures with Matt.
* Bentley joined a Lego club.
* Thousands of books were read aloud to the children.
* Bentley read hundreds of books to us or his siblings.
* Viva was the ringleader of hours of imaginative play.
* Mommy & grandma spent many, many enjoyable hours with the foursome.
* 2011 was awesome.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Grandma Vicki was here!

We had a great time with Grandma Vicki, and our resident photographer captured an awesome studio picture of her with the grandkids!  There was lots of reading, time for games, and time for art activities.  We even had mostly well behaved grandchildren involved in the endeavor!  :)  We all thoroughly enjoyed our Christmas break together (Matt had the week off) and can't wait for more fun next summer!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Eve Photos

When I and Mark were children, our families both opened gifts on Christmas Eve. We kept that tradition when we married and that's how Kara was brought up. Matt was a good sport when he married Kara and let us continue on in our tradition. It works well because Matt & Kara can spend Christmas Eve with us and Christmas Day with Matt's family.

On Christmas Eve we eat potato soup and hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls for dinner. We light the candles on our nativity carousel. We read the Christmas story.

We sing a few Christmas carols. We unwrap our gifts!

If you saw the photo I posted of the Christmas tree a few days ago, you will know there were lots of presents under the tree. There are nine people who live in our house, so the gifts were not all for the children.

We try not to overdo with gifts at Christmas. Kara and Matt gave the children a toy, a piece of clothing, and a book each. Mark and I gave them a toy and a book. Great-grandma gave them a toy. They each purchased one item for one sibling. Grandma Vicki sent them a toy. That's eight gifts each before Santa. And, they each got four or five more items at Grandpa Tim and Grandma Karen's. They did quite well despite our efforts to keep it reasonable.

Jake, Viva, and Bentley helped distribute the gifts. Lincoln only managed to open two gifts before he needed a break. Jake was a little disappointed that Bentley received a cool Lego watch and he didn't. It's not easy being the slightly younger brother. The older children all got awesome puzzles from great-grandma. They scored fun new tee-shirts from their parents.

Viva received a few dolls (a princess, a fairy, and a ballerina!), which is what she wanted, so that was great. She also got a stencil set, a mosaic set, and a Princess tote bag. The boys got Erector sets, zoomorphs, and cool science toys. Lincoln received a play table and some cool baby toys.

Santa brought the children (to share jointly) three games, a Lego set, cool colored Lego bricks, a marble run, a musical instrument, art supplies, and stockings overflowing with fun, small items. Santa also left for Bentley a shiny dragon, for Jake a sock monkey, and for Viva a doll. Lincoln scored a Skwish ball from Santa. Oddly enough, none of his siblings ever owned one.

It was a good holiday at our home. We hope yours was a good one, too!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Grandma Vicki Is Visiting

Grandma Vicki arrived yesterday evening for a short visit. The children showered her with lots of attention today. She helped Bentley build his dragon ball puzzle. Viva demonstrated how her new stencils work. She joined Jake and Bentley for a session with Legos. She watched Jake doing his reading lesson and Bentley read to her. She held Lincoln. She helped with the bedtime routine. Grandma Vicki integrated perfectly in our daily lives!

We hope to get a photo or two before she leaves--our proof she was here!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Wrap Up

Christmas is always a busy time of year. There's lots of extra activities to squish into a busy schedule. Here's a few activities that the children did during the past month.

In early December our church ward had its Christmas party themed "A Night in Bethlehem". We were encouraged to wear biblical attire. The children and Matt did, but Kara and I did not. There was lots of good food--that our picky trio liked! We were given "money" and we had to barter for food. The kids liked that, although they didn't haggle at all. It was an enjoyable time for all.

Viva went to see Pinkalicious with Grandma Karen in mid-December. She wore a pink dress and had a great time, although she told Grandma Karen that she prefered the movie they watched at home together later that afternoon. She always has a great time with Grandma Karen. I'm a little jealous because I can't always think up fun activities to do with Viva.

The week before Christmas Bentley and Jake had their second overnight with Grandma Karen and Grandpa Tim. They were very excited about it. Uncle Tyler had given them some Star Wars Legos sets and they wanted to go over and play with them. When Kara dropped them off she stopped to talk to Karen for a minute. Bentley came over and said "Mommy you are wasting our time with Grandma Karen--leave."

Later that week Viva had an overnight. I wondered if she was ever going to come home! She didn't go over until evening time on Thursday, but she didn't return until dinner time on Friday. She had a fun time as always. They made brownies and cake. She visited McDonald's. That's all she shared with me.

Bentley and I pieced together a Ravensburger puzzle ball that is meant to be a Christmas ornament, but he won't hang it on the tree. He says he doesn't want it put away with the ornaments, so he refused to put it on the tree. He carries it around the house in its storage box. That's not the vision I had when I purchased it, but for now that's what is.

Jake and I put together my Christmas Lego reindeer, sleigh, and santa set. Bentley did a small Santa. I wanted to find more Lego Christmas sets, but I went looking way too late in the season.

The children have enjoyed playing with the Playmobil nativity. We left it out on their play table. They rearranged it a number of times.

One afternoon I gave the trio sticker nativity sheets and they created their own nativity scenes on construction paper. It was easy to tell which one was Bentley's. He's very organized and everything was lined up nicely and in the places you'd expect. Jake and Viva were a little more free thinking. Viva had a flying camel.

I did not get to make very many ornaments with the children this year. The days flew by too fast and I was sick for some of them. I'm bummed. I had plans to make popsicle stick swords. The Christmas season is not long enough. Next year I'm starting to celebrate in early November, right after Halloween.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

An Extra Merry Christmas

This year with the addition of Lincoln to the family, we've had an Extra Merry Christmas.

Taking the annual Christmas photo is always a memorable event. The children, the adults, the's work, not play. That's okay. Not everything in life has to be fun. We had two photo shoots. The photo above came from the first shoot. I asked for a second shoot because I wanted to get a smiling Lincoln and a Santa cat in the Christmas Photo. That never happened, but we did get some more really great photos.

Here's what most photos of the trio, the baby, and the cat turned out like:

We almost had a good photo. This photo inspired me to do a second shoot--we were so close:

When we were buying the Santa hats, the boys talked me into reindeer horns, too:

Sometimes we let the kids make funny faces for a few shots:

And then they would smile nicely for one or two photos:

Lincoln was hard to work with:

The cat was easier to work with:

We're done with Christmas photos until next December!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is a very busy day at our home. We finish shopping, we wrap presents, we prepare our traditional Christmas Eve meal, we eat the meal...and we open gifts! We shall post some photos of the children unwrapping gifts in a day or two. But in the mean time, here's our photo of the day.

This photo was not photoshopped. Our skinny boy shimmied under the tree amongst the gifts. He was a good sport, but it got a little uncomfortable especially when I shined a flashlight on his face to make sure it wasn't lost in the gift packages.

Lincoln Loves the Sweet Potatoes!

Grandma fed Lincoln some rice cereal a few weeks ago, but other than that we haven't fed him any solids.  I figured that in the spirit of the season, we should introduce him to some *real* food flavors.  We settled on sweet potatoes, around 11 pm last night.  It was a big hit!  His one time practicing with the spoon has obviously turned him into a pro.  He learned forward, into the bites, big mouth... and he swallowed it all up!  He kept his eyes on the bowl, he was excited!  Yay!  I hope this good attitude continues.  I told him if he keeps it up I'll take up cooking gourmet baby food, and leave those three older non-good-eating children to fend for themselves at dinner time.  He smiled.  I think he likes the idea... ?  :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Puzzle

This was the puzzle that Bentley chose when we returned the first "girly" puzzle that I chose. His choice was better than mine because it was a 300 piecer and with three of them working on it, a 100 piecer would have been done in just minutes. What fun is there in that?

The children worked together really nicely. Everyone helped out until the puzzle was done. (Well, the twins weren't that helpful when Bentley and I were sorting the border pieces out at the start of the project!) I only got to put in a few pieces. Mostly I helped the children decide what to work on next and I'd sort pieces by color to help them out. Jake sorted all the reindeer pieces on his own and they were not easy to find. Working on puzzles together is fun and relaxing. It's a great family tradition.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

More Portraits

I like to have photos to accompany my blog posts, but the pickings aren't always what I hope for. Sometimes I ask Kara to a take a photo for me, but she usually uses her iPhone and those photos aren't very good because the iPhone lacks a decent flash. If she takes a photo on her good camera, sometimes it never gets transferred from her camera to my computer. Mark can only take photos for me if he is home which he often is not since he goes to work most days.

I myself don't have a good, easy-to-use, digital camera. I'm not sure one exists. The digital cameras we've owned over the years are either too complicated (SLRs) for my taste or they are too slow. I was pretty good with a film camera and digital cameras (reasonably priced ones!) are not their equal even yet when it comes to speed. I like to click a photo and capture the moment I clicked, not a few moments later. GRRR!

So sometimes I lack good action photos to illustrate my posts. However, I do not lack lots of really good portrait photos of the children thanks to Mark's new portrait studio. So here's another portrait post to make up for the lack of action photos lately.

As you can see Bentley has been particularly cooperative lately. Mark says Jake has been hard to work with, but his photos don't reflect that. Viva has been a willing model, but since she isn't as comfortable with Lincoln and Jake won't work with her, there is just the one photo. I told Mark we need some twin shots next! After the Christmas photos, of course. Time is running out to get those done. I'm not looking forward to trying to get a shot of all four children. Babies are not fun to work with in groups. You can't bribe them with chocolate. You can't reason with them. Wish us luck. (I wonder if we have a doll that is Lincoln size?)

Chess: Jake & Viva

I was sitting at the computer on Monday getting ready to place yet one more last minute online Christmas gift order when I overheard this conversation between Jake and Viva. Jake, as I mentioned a few posts ago, is learning chess from the iPad, Bentley, and opa. He has now taken on a (reluctant!) student of his own. I did not record the entire conversation between the two. I don't type fast enough. Here is what I did get:

J: I know exactly how to win
J: Viva move your horse to there.

J: No Viva! You are doing it wrong. I did not say to do that.
J: You are going to lose.
V: Just get away I want to win how I want to win.
J: You can't win.

J: Next time, I'll show you how to win.
J: Bishops can only go diagonally.
J: Next time I play chess you have to watch me.
V: I don't like to watch.

J: Viva, you need to move your rook right there.
V: Where?
J: Take his rook!
J: Take the queen.
J: Ha! I told you a good move.
J: Now get him right there. In check.

J: If you get a pawn all the way over without getting eaten, you get a queen.
V: We got less. They got more.
V: I want to take a king with a rook.
J: You can move that rook up to there.
V: I told you it doesn't work well.
J: Viva is not going to win. (Jake is talking to me now.)

V: That one is in line with his brother.
J: That is not his brother.
V: Mine turned black. (Huh?)

J: Viva you cannot get a queen with a rook.
J: Pawns only can get queens. (My interpretation: You cannot turn a rook into a queen like you can a pawn.)

Viva lost the game. Jake says she is never going to win a game--unless, of course, she takes advice from him. Viva isn't as teachable as her brothers. She prefers to do things herself in her own way. Once she does learn the game of chess I'm sure she will be a formidable opponent as she will be totally unpredictable.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Last week the children and I made some felt wreath ornaments. I purchased a kit from Oriental Trading Company (with Grandma Vicki's help) and then we fancied them up a little. Bentley likes to follow the instructions, if there are any. Jake follows Bentley. Viva does her own thing. The boys handed me their ornament and asked me to attach the bow. Viva did it herself without any guidance. She attached the bow on the bottom rather than the top like I did with the boys' wreaths. She likes to be contrary. She has her own sense of style. I like that. I copied her placement on Jake's second bow.

After Jake made one wreath he said he was done. I had to coax him back to the table to make a second one. I never know how long the twins will work with me. If I don't have everything ready or they have to wait too long for me to help them with the difficult parts, I lose my crafting buddies. The problem is that if they only make one ornament and we gift it away, we have nothing left for our tree!

Speaking of bows on wreaths, I hung up a wreath with a big bow on the wall. I hung the wreath so that the bow was in the four o'clock position because that's where I thought the bow's tales looked most natural. Bentley disagreed. When he saw the wreath on the wall he took it down and put it back up with the bow on top. Then he informed me that I had put the wreath up incorrectly and he had fixed it for me! I tried to explain my reasoning to him, but he was adamant that bows go on top.

Later that week we made cartwheel bead Christmas trees from a Michaels kit. It's always nice to get a kit because you have all the supplies without having to search and search for some odd sized bead that you're missing to finish your project. Kits are especially great if you can find them after Christmas at clearance prices. Of course, you might forget you bought them by the time Christmas comes again.

We made the bead trees. They all looked exactly alike until I located my bag of colored stars. This type of ornament doesn't give much room for creative expression, but they are still fun to make. The children enjoyed doing them and so did I.

Grandma Vicki sent scratch angels. The children have worked on them two different times and then Kara hung them up on the wall. The trio protested they weren't done yet. You never know what children are going like doing a lot and what they spend just a few minutes on. You have to try all kinds of new projects and keep an open mind. They also made foam gingerbread men from a kit that Grandma Vicki sent.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Hate Legos!

I'm not sure Kara will approve of this blog entry (she asks that I write positive posts and hate is not positive), but it really was amusing. Bentley and Jake were discussing when they would go upstairs and resume their Lego construction projects when Viva very loudly and with a lot of emotion announced: "I hate Legos!"

I totally understand where she is coming from. The boys spend lots and lots of hours doing Legos. Those are hours that they are not much fun to be with. Hours that they are not available for other activities. Legos are not that interesting. Even pink Legos. I wonder if they have Disney Princess Legos? I'm going to go check it out on

Nativity Bingo

Grandma Vicki sent a Christmas package that included some Christmas books, crafts, and a game along with their Christmas gifts. I decided to play the game with the kidlets. It was Nativity Bingo. The game started out well. Jake, Viva and Bentley all enjoyed it. They each had a win, I think. Viva didn't pay as close attention to her card as the boys, so she was inclined to miss her bingos, but she didn't care, so no biggie. After a few games she wandered off, but the boys still wanted to play.

Jake started winning every game. Bentley even had two cards to Jake's one, but still Jake won. Bentley started getting upset at his lack of wins. Jake started bragging about his wins: "I'm really good at this game." I tried to downplay Jake's victories by telling the boys that Jake had a lucky card.

Big mistake on my part. Bentley wanted Jake's card. Jake did not want to share. I tried to talk Jake into giving Bentley a turn with it. (What was I thinking? Do I really believe in lucky cards?!) Hands on violence was seconds away when I intervened. I told the boys to go put on their pjs and they could play a couple more rounds.

When they came back down I told them I'd shuffled the cards. Bentley was devastated. He wanted that lucky card. Jake was devastated. He wanted HIS lucky card. My second mistake. The boys were so upset it was comical. Sometimes when the kids start losing it over something trivial (to us adults), it's hard not to laugh at the absurdity. I didn't, but I wanted to.

I waited a few more days and brought the game out again. We had a good time without any trauma. No more talk of lucky cards.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Good Times Gone Bad

Here it is my favorite time of year, in fact, my favorite two weeks of the year: the two weeks before Christmas. And what happens?! The horrible, nasty, good-for-nothing, lousy, rotten stomach flu. It invaded the house and took out all the adults except great-grandma. (Her stomach is in great shape since she had that surgery last month!)

I went down on Thursday. I missed the boys gymnastics showcase. GRRR! Mark came home from work Friday and crashed with it. Matt and Kara held out until after Matt's work party Friday evening. Saturday was a sick day at the house. Matt picked his brother Tyler up at the airport and took the children up the hill and they had a great time at Grandpa Tim's & Grandma Karen's. Kara, who fortunately wasn't as ill, had to catch a ride up there to drive Matt and the boys home because Matt was too ill to drive. Viva stayed for hot tub time before reluctantly returning later in the evening. Sunday we all skipped church. Kara was feeling better, but not up to taking four children to church on her own. Kara drove the trio up the hill so they could keep their weekly Sunday evening date with Grandpa Tim & Grandma Karen.

Now it's Monday. Mark is recovered. Matt called in sick. I'm limping along (angrily!). Kara is working hard to keep everything going. She's feeling better, but not normal.

I am very glad to report that none of the children have taken ill. I'd think we had food poisoning, but we staggered our onsets too much. I want to be well again. I have activities I want to do with the children--more ornaments to make, more baking, and a 300 piece Christmas puzzle. Time is slipping away too fast.

The Twins' First Christmas

This was easy to find as it was published 4 years ago on this blog. I'll have to work a little harder to find Bentley's first Christmas. The blog didn't exist then and opa has taken those photos offline.

The twins were born on June 26th so they turned six months old the day after Christmas.

Lincoln was born July 15th so he is just three weeks younger than the twins were during their first Christmas. How do they compare? (Check out yesterday's photos!)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lincoln in Red: Take One

Last week Kara dressed Lincoln in one of his Christmas outfits and we tried to get some photos. He wasn't in a happy frame of mind, but the photos were still very cute. Here's Kara's top seven picks with my captions.

"I heard you bribe your photo models with chocolate--where's mine?"

Lights! Camera! Action! "I found my thumbs. Cool!"

Flying through the night with the greatest of ease.

"This prop is lame!"

"I have serious issues with that plan. Do you want me to list them?"


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Pretty, Pretty Princess

Pretty, Pretty Princess is a board game. Kara had it when she was young and she passed it on to Viva. The game is pretty lame, like lots of children's games. You spin a spinner, go that number of spaces, and then collect or return pieces of jewelry. Once you acquire all four pieces of jewelry in your color and have the crown, but do not have the black ring--you win! (Viva has nicknamed the black ring Ursula's ring.)

When Kara was young her cousins loved to play this game when they came over. Not just her girl cousins, but her boy cousins, too. They found it insanely absurd and therefore quite amusing to play. Bentley and Jake are likewise inclined. They insist on playing the game when Viva hauls it out. They find it quite hilarious.

Most odd of all--this game is still for sale. In fact you can get the original or Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella versions. The game looks almost exactly the same. How did this game become a time proven classic?! (I like it better than Candy Land or Shoots and Ladders. Those games are way too long.)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Big Brother

I've been wanting to use the photo below for weeks now. Finally I've figured out how to tie it in. Here's Jake and his big brother Bentley:

Bentley deserves kudos for being such a good big brother. Kara has posted on how he reads to Lincoln almost daily. Lincoln and Bentley enjoy the time together. More than that, though, he goes over to chat with Lincoln at random times during the day. He has a baby voice he uses when talking to him. It's pretty cute. B has intelligent conversations with his littlest brother, none of that goo-goo ga-ga stuff some people lapse into when talking to infants. Lincoln might be young, but he's quite capable of understanding complex ideas.

Bentley is also a good brother to Jake. He can be very nurturing. When Jake gets frustrated, Bentley gives him pep talks. The other day Bentley was helping Jake with a reading lesson. Jake asked Bentley to do it for him because he was having a hard time getting it right. Bentley told him he couldn't do it for him. Jake needed to do it himself. Wow. Bentley is pretty wise for a five year old.

Does Bentley still fight with Jake? Tease Jake? Yes. He does. Sometimes he frightens Lincoln by sneaking up on him and saying "Boo!" The boy isn't perfect yet, but he's a lot more good brother than bad.

P.S. You might be wondering why Viva isn't mentioned. Quite frankly, the girl is so independent she doesn't give anyone a chance to help her. She does allow Bentley to read books to her and Jake sometimes. That's going to end soon when she can read herself, so we won't be getting many more photos like this one.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

5 months Old!

Our Lincoln is 5 months old! He is...

a drooler! Everything goes into his mouth, and lots of drool comes out of his mouth. No teeth yet though

almost crawling! He can get up really high on his arms, and then push up on his tip toes in a yoga plank position. Then he teeters forward and backward before giving up on We predict crawling will come soon

very noisy! He grunts and grouses and growls. But he also laughs and talks on occasion. His Dad is one of his favorite people to have a conversation with

a jumper! The jumperoo is still one of his favorite places

becoming a better eater! After threatening him with some different brand formulas, he is now happy to return to the tried and true original. I think we're reaching an understanding

a 70% sitter! Once in a while he throws himself straight back, but who doesn't?!

very cute! and cuddly!

We can't wait to see what new tricks he learns as he heads towards 6 months, I think it's going to be a buy month for him!


Bentley continues to play chess with Matt, Kara and Mark. And now Jake has insisted that he be taught chess. Even before his first tutoring session, Jake knew something about chess because he plays WarChess on the iPad. However, he wanted to play against a real opponent. So Bentley took on the challenge and started teaching Jake chess.

It was really neat that Bentley was willing and able to do that, but since Bentley had been receiving special tutoring on chess via the game Science Wiz Chess Once A Pawn A Time we felt it was only fair that Jake also get to learn using Once a Pawn a Time. So opa introduced Jake to chess using their system.

Last Saturday both boys wanted to play chess with opa, so he got out two chess boards and played them both at the same time. He said it was a good challenge.

Jake asked Kara if she knew what stalemate was. She dutifully said no. He told her it meant both of you win! Kara found this amusing since she had been ready to tell him that it means both of you lose. Whose definition do you like better?

Lincoln Chews on Jesus

A good sensational title, right?!  I don't have much of a post, but I did have a picture and a title... and I figure that is 90% of what I need.

I love nativities, and the kids have a great time with them.  It's nice to have some Christmas items around that are a direct reminder of the reason for the season.

We pulled out the Little People Nativity for the littlest person in the house.  He had a good time chewing on the pieces, he did at least show a little respect and refrain from spitting up on Jesus/Mary/Joseph... :)  His brothers and sister enjoy playing with him and the nativity.  They still find Lincoln quite charming in a good way, and I hope that doesn't change once he starts to crawl... !

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lincoln and the Lights

Here are a few pictures of Lincoln (with his great sitting skills), helping Opa test out the new lights. Not only can he sit:

He can also sit AND smile:

Pretty clever, right?! I happen to think he has a gorgeous smile. And an even better laugh, although it's hard to capture that in a picture!

Besides sitting, Lincoln has been working on his rolling and scooting skills. He can push himself backwards, which he often finds frustrating as he's trying to move TOWARDS something, and not move farther from it. I'm sure that frustration will turn into a forward movement breakthrough at some point!