Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Favorite Six Year Old

Here are six qualities that I admire in Bentley:

* He's always ready for an adventure, a game, or a chance to be active.

* He's interested in reading, Legos, drawing, math, art, chess, and history which makes it easy to homeschool him.

* He's fun to hang out with and interesting to talk to.

* He's excited to wake up every morning and get the day started.

* He's a great brother.

* He's a good planner.

Happy Birthday, Bentley!

Happy Happy Birthday Bentley & Great Grandma!

Today was a big birthday day at our place.  Bentley turned 6 (I can't believe it)! and Great Grandma turned 82 (she can't believe it!).  In honor of the big day, Bentley sat down a few days ahead of time and came up with a list of proposed activities and foods to celebrate:

He has lovely handwriting, doesn't he?! I like how the title of the list is "Bentley's & Johanna's desires".  Very cute.  And quite the list, given that there are only so many hours in a day.  Even one as special as this one was!

So we headed out after breakfast to get some racquetball in (Jake & Bentley & I).  We had fun!  Afterwards we stopped at a local bakery to pick up some cake pops and cupcakes to go with the chocolate cake I'd made at home.  The boys got some extra free chocolate cake pops from the owner while we were there, they thought that was pretty cool.

We zoomed home to pick up Great-Grandma, Uncle Jimmy, and Viva.  We then headed out across town to our state's first (and just opened) Olive Garden.  Bentley had heard about the endless breadsticks and thought it sounded like a great place to check out.  Daddy was able to join us there for lunch which was a fun surprise for the kids.

The wait was a bit long, but the kids were pretty well behaved.  The food was good and Bentley got to cross breadsticks off of his list of desired foods for the day.  :)  The wait and the food took a little while, so at that point Matt decided he'd head home with us instead of going back into the office.  Score for the birthday boy!

Back home it was time for the games part of the day's "requirements".  That was followed by dinner (yes, more food!).  Bentley wanted pizza bread and egg noodles, but I figured Great-Grandma might appreciate more than white carbs for her meal - so I made a beef stew.  It was delicious, if I do say so myself.

Grandpa Tim was able to join us (Grandma Karen is traveling), and that was very fun, too.

After dinner we had cake:

And next up was the exciting part for a 6 year old -  presents:

To be fair, he didn't really bring up the presents at all during the day.  He looked at the pile once or twice, but he was very patient which may have been easier because he had so many activities booked.  There were books, clothes, games, and, of course, legos.

Last, but not least, we set up a fort in our family room and had some movie time before reading.  Then the kids all slept in their fort together.

The verdict?  A delightful day with a delightful six year old who was quite charming all day.  We couldn't fit in the ice skating or music on the day's calendar.  But Grandma did take the kids ice skating the next day, and we're going to get the music in this week too!  As for the food list, we hit everything except the pretzels.  Which I made him for lunch the next day.

And we all lived happily ever after.  (Or, at least, we plan to!)

Happy Birthday, Bentley!  We love you so much.  I can't believe you're six, but that's what the calendar says. I can't wait to see what fun things we get to discover and do together this next year.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Gallery Week 2: Shirley Temple Style

It's taken us a few weeks to get back to our photo shoots, but we're back!  Viva asked me to curl her hair for her last night, and I was willing to oblige.  Here's what we got:

People at the mall kept poking eachother and pointing to her, then telling me how cute she is.  I heard the word Shirley Temple a few times.

I love having a little girl!  Dare I say, one who I can even call a girly girl.  She loves dresses and jewelry and hair bows and head bands and nail polish and dancing and twirling.  And that is fun!  Today we went clothing shopping together, and she helped me pick out clothes and then offered her opinion on them.  And that is fun too!  I'm glad you're around, Viva doll.  :)

P.S. - the backgrounds and lights sure do make a difference!  My iPhone photo just wasn't quite the same... 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pretzel Mania

Bentley is currently in love with fresh pretzels.   It makes sense, it goes along with his love of bread, bagels, pasta, pizza bread, bread sticks... all lovely white carbs.  I console myself that at least he likes vegetables, milk, and lots of types of protein too!  He probably has me to blame for his carb addiction, I love all those above mentioned foods too.

Recently Bentley and I picked up some pretzel sticks at the mall, and he devoured them.  He did share a FEW with me!  We played our racquetball, then on the way back out of the club Bentley said he wanted ANOTHER order of pretzel sticks.  I told him it's a fun treat to buy food when we're out and about, but that for $4 I was just going to stick with one order.  It's the principle of the thing, right?!  I told him we could try making our own at home.

So I googled some copycat recipes the next day and we got busy.  Bentley's verdict?  Perfect, he told me.  Even BETTER than the ones at the mall.  High compliment, I think!

My only complaint?  Sure, mixing the dough isn't hard.  And dipping them into some baking soda water, cooking, brushing with butter... I can handle all of that.  But the rolling out of all that dough into long long long thin pretzel ropes?  Got old after just a few minutes!  Enter brainstorming.  On our second batch I tried the spritz machine to squeeze the dough into lovely ropes for me.  Good results, but hard on the hands!  Next up?  Our third batch and the sausage stuffer on my Kitchen Aid.  Once I perfected my technique we were golden!  Long ropes and more ropes of pretzel dough, easy peasy!  I love it.  We're in business.

Here he is with his name in pretzel form.  All from one pretzel dough rope that came out of the Kitchen Aid.  Impressive, right?!

Now I need a good cheese sauce, maybe a mustard sauce... there are all sorts of possibilities.  For the rest of the household, that is.  Bentley likes them plain.  Drenched in butter.   Good choice too!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Racquetball Championships, Here We Come!

Do they have championship raqcuetball tournaments?  Who knows... I haven't yet googled it.  A project for another day!  Along with our adventures at the ice rink, we've been enjoying racquetball at my new gym.  We're by no means experts - but I am confident we will get better.  Actually, the boys are already better than I am.  Natural ability to hit a ball, comes from being a boy I guess...

Most importantly, I think, is that they ran around for an hour straight.  I'd like to say they have less energy now but it's not true.  I had to drag them out of there and they want to know when we get to go back - such enthusiasm!

P.S. - Viva is missing from the pictures.  Yes, I know.  Sadly she refused to come play with us.  She said the safety glasses I bought her were ugly and she wasn't going to play a game where she had to wear them.  I'm going to have to work on her.

P.S.S. - I think the safety glasses are quite a lovely look.  Okay, maybe not lovely.  But cute in a certain way, right?!    And they serve a purpose!  Notice Jake's bruised cheek?  A misunderstanding with the ball. A bruised cheek is better than a damaged eye! (The bruised forehead is where he hit his head on the bed yesterday. *sigh*)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Genevieve's Artistic Doings

Genevieve has been busy creating lately.  She is excited about her upcoming vacation, so excited she was inspired to write words (not typical for her!):

She also made Opa a quite lovely birthday card, using some leftover paper from hearts as a stencil for her design:

Lastly, she designed this lovely bead art earlier this week:

She has also been very into stencils lately.  We bought her a set for Christmas, and she's quite taken with them!  It's fun to see how different each of the kids are with their own particular artistic inclinations/interests.

Time with Dad

Matt is once again working away from home. On Sunday he flew to Barrow. On Monday he flew home arriving in the late evening. He spent the night and was up before the sun to catch a flight to D.C. Fortunately we live in wondrous times and he can still see and talk to his children even though he's 3300 miles away. Here are the boys talking to their father yesterday evening using Facetime on the iPhone. (The iPad wasn't cooperating.)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

He's Outta Here

Now that Lincoln is a master crawler, we have learned why it is he wanted to crawl - so he could crawl towards things he could use to become upright!

Great Grandma, here I come - in a tug of war I think I could take the walker from you - beware!

This train table is PERFECT for cruising along... as long as I concentrate and don't let go!

Hmmm... my baby *walker* isn't working so well.  I tipped over backwards and it landed on top of me.  But it's all good, I'm still having fun!

Maybe I'll try the couch out instead.  Nothing great to grab onto, but it will work!

Ahha!  My jumper!  I bet I can climb this pole.  As long as I don't slip and bump my face...

I'm not sure how long it will take him to master walking, he is only 6 months old, but he is definitely happiest when he is standing upright.  That's what happens when you have older siblings you want to keep up with I guess.  The pressure, the pressure... !

(I just hope his lovely face survives his experiments.  Yesterday he was trying to stand up using the door frame and bumped his forehead into it, then he proceeded to find a chair leg and tried to stand up UNDER it.... banged his head on the top... silly baby!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Bit about Bentley

The Primary at church does a little birthday celebration, and they send home a questionnaire for parents to fill out about their kids to go with it.  I would get a D on my responses, good thing I had the kid here to question so I could get accurate information!

Here's what I learned, from the expert himself:

Favorite color:  Green

Favorite food:  Steak

Favorite primary song:  Gethsemane

Pets:  Siamese Cat - Rameses

Favorite book:  Can Snakes Crawl Backwards?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Crib Time

Now that Lincoln is six months old I figured I better set up his crib... !  He has been sleeping in our bed and his bassinet in our room, but he's quite adept at pulling up/crawling/standing... and that little bassinet is no longer working for him.  So it's time to pull out the big guns.  The REAL baby bed.  We're going to start with nap time in his crib in his room, and go from there and see how it works.  

We dragged out the crib and the baby bumper and the sheets, and set to work.  The kids and I gave it a shot, then Grandma with the engineering mind helped out when we were stumped.  End product?  A success.  My old crib, used by Bentley, and now by Lincoln.

P.S.  Yes, yes.  I know.  Babies shouldn't have pillows.  It's a very flat one.  And he doesn't get it very often. But his nose was plugged up, and it was a short nap!  :)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Lego League Competition

Bentley, as mentioned, has been participating in a Lego group with his charter school. Today was their competition! Based on Bentley's input, the group decided to make a moving pizza oven for the competition. They've been working on it for a few weeks, and then today they had to show it to the judges, and talk to the judges about their presentation board. Bentley, Matt, Jake, Opa, and Grandma all headed over to take part in the festivities. By all accounts it was a good time. Bentley particularly enjoyed the high fivin' at the end!

The highlight? The medal, of course. Jake tells us he is going to enter the competition next year. He wants a medal too. :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ice Skating

Kara and I joined a gym together. I've been a member of the Alaska Club for years, but they won't let you share a membership with others in your household. Our new gym will. That's a big bonus. Kara and I share a membership (and so we both save money) and the children are all free.

The club has the usual work out machines (off limits to children) and two pools. One is small lap pool and the other is heated therapy pool. Even the baby can use the pools. In addition there is a racquet ball court at the club which the children can use. Bentley has tried it out and liked it quite a bit. We'll post more on that when Jake gives it a try.

The work out club is in a mall. The mall has a skating rink and bowling alley it in. The skating rink gives free ice time to gym members and the bowling alley gives half off bowling. So we took the trio over to the mall to skate this week.

The trio have never been on ice skates before. Kara is not a skater because of her bad hip. I can ice skate because when I grew up in Anchorage skating was what we did during recess in the winters. We all took lessons. We spent hours on the ice. I played a little intramural hockey in college. Although I hadn't been on the ice in over ten years (and only a handful of times the two decades before that), I could still skate. Amazing. It was like riding a bicycle. Skating is not a frightfully useful skill, but it is a skill nonetheless.

We met Kara's friend Amrita at the rink. Her son Patrick (Jake's age) is on a hockey team, so he can skate quite well for his age. Her daughter Cassidy (Viva's age) has taken two sets of skating lessons, but she hasn't had much time on the ice, so her skills are not as advanced as her twin's. I was impressed how unconcerned she was about falling down repeatedly. She fell and got up over and over.

How did our trio do their first time on ice? Bentley loved it. He went round and round the rink holding on to the sides of the rink. He got to be fairly fast at it. I took him out on the ice a few times and he showed promise. Jake had a good time, too. He enjoyed being on the ice and wants to go back. Viva was a little more adventurous (duh!) and so she left the safety of the rink side and went out on the ice and fell a few times. Consequently she isn't as eager to return to the rink. Kara showed her a video of a figure skater so she could catch the vision.

One of Mark's cousins has a daughter who was a very good figure skater. She competed into her high school years. His side of the family has a ballerina and a figure skater. I can't think of any impressive female athletes in my family. Hmmm....I'm going to go ponder this new train of thought.

Meanwhile, I think we will be scheduling ice skating lessons for the trio. Just in case they need to beef up their resume.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reading Update

Reading is a BIG THING in our household. Reading to the children has always been important, but since Bentley learned to read and the twins started reading lessons, reading has become the number one priority. Every day we must make time for reading with three different small children--time for them to read to us and time for us to read to them. Of course, time must also be made to read to the baby. Often we have Bentley help us out with that.

So how are our young readers doing? Bentley is doing awesome. He has gone from not reading a single word eight months ago to reading short chapter books. Last week B was reading a chapter a day to his mom from a Nate the Great book. One afternoon he asked to finish the book instead of waiting for the next day to read the next chapter. When he finished the book, he wanted to immediately read another one in the series. He read that book on his own in a single sitting. Occasionally he spelled out a word for us to help him with. The book had 47 pages. A few pages had no words, but some pages had more than a hundred words on the page. Truly Bentley's reading skills are awesome!

How is Jake doing? Jake is a natural at reading. He's picking it up easily. Sometimes he struggles a little with the Headsprout lesson--he needs extra encouragement--but he can easily read the small books and short stories that come with the program. He's a whiz at the flash cards. There are a few words that stump him, but most words he can sound out easily.

How is Viva doing? Well...Viva is a challenge for her reading support staff. It requires a lot of patience when working with her. She does nearly as well as Jake with the online Headsprout lesson, but put a book in front of her or do the flash cards with her and you need to have a lot of time and patience. Viva is a guesser. Her independent nature requires that she do things her way and she prefers to give a guess or two (or three!) before attempting to sound out the word using her newly acquired reading skills.

If the word is Lee, she might guess Scout. If you say "No, look at the word", she will look, but then give another guess, "Pip!". You must then practice more patience (as she bounces half on/half off her chair) and coax her to decode the word rather than make guesses. If the first card she reads is flip and the next card is flips, she will not see the connection.

Is she learning to read? Yes. Is it an exercise in long suffering for her helpers? For sure. Some of us are better at helping her than others. Oddly enough, I find her amusing. Her antics don't usually bother me--even the squirming. That's one reason we homeschool, so our little squirmers can squirm away. There are no rules about sitting still in our classroom.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Beauty & The Beast

Grandma Karen took Viva to see Beauty and the Beast last Friday evening at the performing arts center. Viva got to go out to dinner with Grandma Karen, Allie, and Ashley before the show. Grandma Karen told us they had steak bites. When Grandma Karen mentioned steak bites, Viva started fake gagging. (Viva can be a real ham.) It turns out the steak bites had a lot of pepper on them and if you got the wrong bite, it was pretty spicy. The steak bites were not a hit with Viva, but she liked the potatoes and ice cream.

We were told that the show was quite long, but really wonderful. There was an awesome trumpet number when ribbons were shot out over the audience. Viva came home with quite a long section of both gold and pink foil ribbon. She cut them up and made necklaces for everyone. I'm wearing mine now. Ashley purchased Viva a souvenir Beauty doll at the show and she even purchased the boys Beast souvenirs.

After the show Viva spent the night at Grandma Karen's. She did not come home until Saturday afternoon. She had the royal treatment.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cute Words They Say: Jake

Jake was really irked at me a week or two ago. I don't remember why, I often incur his wrath though... :)

He told me: I don't like you at ALL, and I am never going to hug you or come to your room at night and bring my blankets and pillows with me.

Me: Can I have that in writing?

Him: What does that mean?

Me: Well, it means we'll write out that you're never going to come to my room at night, and then you'll sign your name. It will be a promise.

Him: You write it, and I'll sign it. Write that I am never going to come to your room again. But not the part about how I don't like you at all.

Cute Words They Say: Bentley

At church Sunday the topic was choices and consequences. The teacher asked the kids what cheating is and Bentley's hand went straight up. Very high! There was no other takers (this is the Jr. primary, for kids 3 through 7).

Bentley's definition?

Cheating is like when you're playing chess and your pawn jumps over another piece. This is cheating because pawns can't jump.

Great definition!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mirror Baby

It was time for Lincoln and the mirror to meet!

Handsome dude, right?!

And, for the fun of it, here are Bentley, Jake, & Viva at the same age.  (and in that order)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jean & Sarah

My twin Jean and her daughter Sarah came to visit for the holiday weekend. Whenever Jean comes from out-of-town the rest of the extended family in the area rush over to see her. I think Jean sees more of them than we do! So because Jean and Sarah were staying with us the past four days, we had a lot of visitors. Karla came Friday evening with Koltan and Cheyenne. Koltan was a good sport and played chess with Bentley. That same evening cousin Anna and Ben came over. Ben played chess with Bentley, too. After the family left, Bentley coerced Sarah into helping him make birthday decorations. (It's opa's birthday on Monday.) I don't think Sarah had any idea of how hard Bentley would work her.

The next evening cousin Adam and Mel stopped by. Adam played two games simultaneously one against Jake and one against Bentley. I think I heard him say he made the same move on both boards to keep it simple. (Seems like you could get into trouble doing that?) Anyway, Bentley has totally enjoyed all the visitors. Lincoln, not so much. He's starting to be fearful of new faces.

This post was titled Jean and Sarah but I've written mostly about their visitors! My main point is that Jean and Sarah were here and we visited with them between their social engagements. *grin*

Opa's Birthday

It's January 16th again and that means opa adds one year to his age. This year he is 51. Bentley decorated the house for his birthday. Viva made him a really nice birthday card. On it she wished him happy birthday and asked if blue was his favorite color. She also supervised her mom when she made opa's blue velvet cake. Jake was rather busy today building with Legos, so I don't recall any special birthday activities that he engaged in. Lincoln gave opa a tie with his photo on it. Kara and I made opa his favorite birthday meal--red cabbage, potato dumplings, and rouladen. Opa had a good birthday.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Laughing Lincoln (Happy Six Months Old!)

Our Lincoln is six month olds today! He is a delight to have around, and we can't imagine not having him here with us. He has the best laugh. He's a bit of an easy sell, but that's okay with me as I'm not a world class comedian by any means... :)

Thanks for being here, Lincoln! We love you!

(Words by Kara, video by Opa)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Purple Lego Car

Recently Matt told me that Lego had just launched a new line, Lego Friends, aimed at girls. In an effort to win Viva over to the Lego Party, I purchased a small set of Legos from this new line.

I chose the convertible car and car wash. Viva was eager to put the set together. She did most of the piecing herself. She's not quite as good at following the instructions as the boys, but that's because she prefers to do her own thing. She looks at the instruction booklet and finds the pictured pieces. Then she places them wherever she thinks they fit on the model without referring back to the booklet. Sometimes her intuition is good. Sometimes not. Legos are great for creating your own design, but the first time around it's nice to build the set as pictured on the box--in case you lose pieces and are never after able to build the item you paid money for.

Viva enjoyed building the car and car wash. She played with it. She particularly liked that the minifigure included with the set had changeable hairbows. There was even a small dog on whom you could put a matching hairbow. (Is that a European custom?)

Viva showed off her new car to her brothers. They were impressed, but Jake did comment: "That's not a car wash." Viva replied "I told you it's not a normal car wash." The Lego car wash is a faucet and bucket, not a building you drive through. I'm sometimes surprised how many odd details about modern life young children know. They are always watching and filing away information.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Scootin' Lego Lovin' Toothy Boy

Just a quick update from the almost 6 month older!  Lincoln now has 2 bottom teeth!  They are tiny little stubs of teeth, but they are teeth.  I know because he has been quite tormented about them for the last few nights.  :)  He doesn't really like to flash them yet (and there's not much to see!), so no good picture.  Tooth stubs + gums + drool = not much of a picture anyway.

In other Lincoln news, he can move forward!  And he's quick!  He hasn't mastered a proper crawl, but he has a lunge forward, lift again, lunge forward approach that is working for him.  He is also proficient at sitting himself up from the crawl position.  He seems quite pleased with all his new skills, I imagine if he could talk he'd tell me he plans to be walking and running and keeping up with his brothers and sister any day now.

In the mornings Jake and Bentley often play with Legos - and Lincoln is happy to sit on his side of the room with his duplos and play along.  Not even quite 6 months and he already understands which toys are considered the *cool* ones by his brothers... :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Countdown to Florida

When I first decided to take the trio on vacation with Mark and I, I planned to visit Hawaii in the dead of winter. Escaping the dark, cold winter for a week in a tropical paradise is a common Alaskan fantasy. I wanted to take the children to play in the surf. I hoped to convince them that walking barefoot in warm sand is one of life's finer pleasures. The trio have been to Florida once and Mexico twice, but they haven't much liked the sand in either place. That is crazy. Kara tells me that Matt doesn’t like sand. That's just wrong. I hoped I could overcome their resistance and show them just how awesome warm beaches can be. Hawaii is the place to do that.

Unfortunately, while I was planning to go to Hawaii, I didn't make any air or hotel reservations. When I finally got around to doing so, the airfares and hotel rates were too high for me to willingly pay. I had to rethink my plan. My new plan was to go to Florida to visit Mark's parents and to visit Disney World. The air fares to Florida were cheaper than to Hawaii. The hotels in Orlando were a lot cheaper than the hotels in Maui. Of course, passes to Disney World are not cheap for five people, but overall a Florida trip would be less expensive than a Hawaii trip. And, there is a new Legoland near Orlando and the world's largest McDonald's PlayPlace is in Orlando, too. Try and top that!

So we are off to Florida in early February. It should be an exciting trip. We will be hunting for shark's teeth, visiting the great-grandparents, playing at a water park, checking out Legoland, and visiting four Disney theme parks to collect smashed pennies and take a ride or two.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bentley's Book

Bentley made this book back in November. It was stashed away in his paper bin, but it deserves a post on the blog, so I dug it out and had opa photograph it.

Bentley came up with the idea and the wording all on his own. He asked me for help with stapling the book together and with spelling. (I spelled armour the British way.)

Did you read his instructions? It's a fantastic book. Bentley has made a few different pieces of paper armour, so he's writing about what he knows. The only question I have is...isn't paper armour an oxymoron?

Here's a sample of some recent drawings B made:

And here's a recent watercolor he did:

When he gave the watercolor to opa, B explained that he had written each word in a different color so it was easier to read. We have been trying to educate him about blank spaces between words, but he's not taking our advice. His idea of changing colors is a good one, but rather time consuming.