Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Score!...or NOT?

Lincoln's crawling skills improve daily. He's much faster than great-grandma. Every morning when she comes upstairs he makes a beeline for her walker and pretty much immobilizes her. She can't move because she might cause the baby to tumble backwards. If she were faster, she might keep ahead of him, but she's not.

He's constantly checking out everything in the room he's in. And he leaves that room and investigates other rooms he shouldn't be in on his own. We keep the doors shut on the bathroom and the mudroom.

The bathroom for obvious reasons and the mudroom because the cat food is stored in there. Needless to say if anyone screws up and leaves one of those doors open, Lincoln is sure to notice and take advantage.

He's been trying for the best part of two weeks now to get some cat munchies. We've been doing a good job of keeping him away or catching him in the grab. To our knowledge he has not scored a bite...until this evening when his mom thought he was with his siblings in the front of the house, but he wasn't. He was all alone in the mudroom playing with and eating cat food. EW!

So is that a score or not?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Genevieve & Lincoln

Adorable. Beautiful. These photos are worth every penny we spent on lights and backdrops.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fur Rondy Sled Dog Races

Our annual Fur Rondy celebration started this weekend. One of the big events is the World Championship Sled Dog Races. It's a three day event in which teams race 25 miles every day. They combine their three times and the lowest time is the winner.

Last year Jake really enjoyed going downtown and watching the races, so I made sure when I planned our Florida vacation that we would back in time to attend the races. On Friday I took the trio to watch. My goal was to be there at noon when the races started. By the time I got all three in their coats, mittens and boots and drove downtown it was well past noon. In fact we arrived in time to see the hind ends of the last team racing down the street.

Fortunately the dogs travel out and back down that same street, so we just had to wait a half hour for the first teams to come back in. While we waited the children played in the snow bank. It was a nice, sunny afternoon.

Finally the dog teams started returning. Every time a team came through the trio would race over to get a good look at them as they ran by. Then the trio would return to the their snow games until another team came by.

I purchased Viva a sausage to eat. She shared it with Jake. Everyone shared a muffin. The last team came in. We went home. Another Fur Rondy tradition successfully completed!

The trio playing on the snow bank. You can see the top of Viva's light pink hood if you look very carefully.

What are Jake and Viva looking at? Not dogs. Not me (with the camera).

A sled dog team comes by!

Another sled dog team races by--although they aren't always moving fast when we see them because we are at the top of a very steep hill and they've run 23+ miles by this point. The dogs are tired.

My best photo of the day. *sigh* The racing dogs, bouncing children, and winter cold didn't make for easy photos.

After the last team came in then the snowplows arrived to take the snow off the roads. Sometimes the Fur Rondy races are canceled because there is insufficient snow on the trail. That is not a problem this year.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lego Fever

After visiting Legoland and seeing all their awesome Lego sculptures and then visiting the Lego store in Downtown Disney twice, we were all pretty hyped on Legos. We came home with a few small kits. The children built the really small kits while still in Florida. Then they built their other kits when we got home. Then they helped opa build his two kits. Then opa ordered more kits online. They haven't arrived yet.

Viva is building the Lego Friends set she picked out at the Lego store in Downtown Disney in Orlando.

Bentley and Jake are helping opa build his set. Lincoln is trying to get his hands on a Lego piece or two, but Bentley is holding him back. Lincoln is not happy.

The boys are working on more of opa's kit.

After finishing opa's two kits Bentley and Jake took apart a few of the Lego creations sitting on their Nilo table. After making room for new creations Bentley opened up one of his birthday gifts--Lego Cars Big Bentley Bust Out. It had 743 pieces in it. It only took B two days to build everything. Viva helped him with some of the work. I wasn't allowed to help him except for a time or two when he needed stronger fingers. Jake and I built a plane from one of Matt's old sets.

When we got home from Florida we had Lego minifigures waiting for us. We purchased them on eBay the day before we left for Florida. Mark and I got a few to add to our collection and the boys picked out some they wanted. What did they pick? Bentley chose his usual theme of warriors or villains. He got a Viking, a Spartan, a Space Villain, a Sailor, and a Deep Sea Diver. (Okay the last two do not fit the theme. He ran out of warrior and villain choices.) Jake chose a Ninja, a Fisherman, a Skier, a Spaceman, and a Magician. Viva only requested one, a Figure Skater.

Why do we collect minifigures? It's an interest we can share with our grandchildren. It's a relatively cheap hobby. Jake claims to have conversations with his minifigures. Bentley was rather skeptical, but Jake told him that his minifigure only talks to him when he's alone. "It's magic." he told his brother. The next day he told us that he has an Invisible Black Batman minifigure. Since then he's had quite a few conversations with Invisible Black Batman.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Big Guy Little Guy

Viva and Jake LIKE Lincoln, and play with him, but Bentley is definitely the one who engages the baby the most.  Maybe it's personality and maybe it's his age, I'm not sure.  I am sure, however, that Lincoln thinks Bentley is pretty awesome!  And so do I.  He reads to Lincoln, walks him around, engages him in conversation, plays ball with him, picks him up and lugs him around.... he is everything a little brother could ask for!  What a lucky Lincoln to have Bentley (and the entertaining Jake and Viva!)!

I used to think Bentley, as a baby, had it made.  All the attention was his.  I felt a bit sorry for him when the twins arrived... rightly so, I'm sure, as twins are a lot of work.   But now, seeing Lincoln with Bentley and his siblings, I'm thinking maybe Lincoln is the one who has it made.  All the action, interaction, and love - he has a good life!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Visit Florida: Swap Souvenirs

At Legoland it was minifigures that cast members (a fancy term for employees at Disney World or Legoland) would swap with guests. I supplied the trio with one each. Jake and Bentley did a few swaps, but Viva refused to even consider swapping the one I gave her.

After the warm-up at Legoland, Bentley was ready to do some serious Disney pin swapping at Disney World. Some Disney cast members wore lanyards around their neck with Disney pins on them. Other cast members had a small square of black felt attached to their belt. Once in a while there would be a board or notebook filled with lots of pins. The rule is that if a guest wants to trade with a cast member, the guest can trade any pin they own (as long as the cast member doesn't already have that pin) for any pin of the cast member's collection. That's a pretty good deal!

At Animal Kingdom it took us half a day to locate cast members with pins to swap, but once Bentley figured it out, he was able to find more. Bentley made some great trades, as did Jake.

Viva wasn't as interested in pin swapping as her brothers, but occasionally she would bestir herself to take a look at whatever was available. I told her brothers to let her know if there were any good princess pins on the cast lanyards they checked out. When they found one, then Viva would go take a look.

In the next three Disney parks the children found many more cast members to swap with. Jake and Bentley were quite good at spotting possibilities. Viva continued to swap only when encouraged to do so. She liked collecting sets of princesses even going so far as to have two of the same pin. She called them twins.

Jake also had two of the same pin. Maybe it is a twin thing? Bentley was the most discerning trader often opting not to trade after looking over a cast member's pin collection. Jake was unpredictable. He'd swap for a pin and then trade the new pin out just a few minutes later.

Pin trading was fun. I'm glad we purchased some pins on eBay for children to swap. The pins for sale at Disney are $7+ per pin. On eBay we bought 50 pins and three lanyards for $40.

Here are the pins the children brought home.

Did you figure out who collected which set of pins? Bentley's was the first set, Viva's the second (tough guess!), and Jake's the last set.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Visit Florida: Smash Pennies

Bentley has a small collection of smashed pennies. Most of them are from Anchorage locations. Mark and I brought him one home from our trip to the American Southwest a year and half ago. However, it's much more fun to go places and smash your own pennies than is to be gifted them as souvenirs of other people's vacations.

So this time we took the children along with us to collect a few smashed pennies. The first penny was from Legoland. The boys chose the same design--a dragon penny. Viva waited until we found a different machine and chose one with minifigure heads on it. Opa tried to talk her into the carousel horse imprint, but she wouldn't go for it. Was that because opa suggested it? Had he picked the heads, would she have picked the horse? I'm never sure with that girl.

I was going to smash a penny at Legoland for my collection (a small and sporadic collection), but I got distracted somehow...something to do with three young children with me? Of course, I would never have visited Legoland without the children. I asked Viva if I could have her penny and she said yes. She's not a collector like her brothers are. (I'm not going to take her penny.)

At the Animal Kingdom we searched out penny smashing machines and found one with great imprints, but it was out-of-order. Viva and Bentley liked the next one we found--a lion, but Jake was holding out for an alligator. We finally located that machine on our way out of the park. The machine wasn't a Disney Animal Kingdom imprint, but just Orlando. I don't think it mattered to Jake.

At the Magic Kingdom penny machines were hard to find. We didn't spend much time actively looking and we only stumbled across one that didn't interest us. We had to settle for what we found on our way out of the park at closing time.

At Hollywood Studios we had to hunt again. I had a list I brought from home where some machines were, but it still took some work to find them. We all found a penny stamp we liked. Hurray!

At Epcot we saw a few machines, but not a lot. However, we knew that it was best to just settle on what you find and call it good. So we did.

I wasn't expecting to find penny machines at Downtown Disney so, of course, we did. One of the machines had some great Disney Princesses so I had Viva stamp all four imprints.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Visit Florida: Eat at McDonalds

How does McDonalds rate a post during a Disney World vacation? This was no ordinary Golden Arches. This McDonalds was in a class all its own with a bistro menu, pizza, gourmet ice cream, arcade games, and an awesome playland. They advertise their McDonalds as having "The World's Largest PlayPlace!" How could we pass up visiting such a landmark? (Coincidentally it was just two blocks from our hotel.)

There were over 100 arcade games including shuffle board and a two lane bowling alley. The noise level was constant and loud and obnoxious. Although I had read online about their incredible play fort for younger children and had seen pictures, we just about gave up before locating it. It was tucked away upstairs in the back with a small gated entrance. We looked. I asked. We looked some more. Finally Mark saw the entrance.

B, J, and V loved it. They raced in and climbed up and were gone from our sight. Next time they appeared I grabbed them and gave them a lecture on sticking together. The boys are faster and wilder than V and she likes going off on her own. Not okay. It was impossible to see or hear the children, so I had to insist they stay together.

We dragged them away to eat a Happy Meal and then they went back for another round of wild play. On the way out we stopped for a few minutes to allow V to have her requested ice cream--red, blue, and yellow colored vanilla (!) ice cream. J and opa helped her eat it which was good because it was a large two scoops.

We never made it back to McDonalds for another visit. Once we started visiting Disney's parks we were gone all day and most of the evening, too; there just wasn't time to go again. It was a crazy, busy time in Orlando.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Visit Florida: Shop at Downtown Disney

Of course there are a myriad of shopping opportunities throughout the Disney empire, but we didn't want to waste our limited time in the parks shopping. We picked up only a few souvenirs: swords & shields and small Lego kits at Legoland, spyglasses in the Magic Kingdom, light sabers at Hollywood Studios, and a Christmas ornament & small souvenir at Epcot. We didn't bring home any gifts. (Mark says our gift to Kara and Matt was giving them a vacation from the trio.)

On our last day in Florida we had a few hours to squander before we needed to be at the airport. Unfortunately we had to check out of the hotel by noon, so swimming was out. Besides, Mark and I couldn't handle another session of applying sunscreen.

We decided to go to Downtown Disney. We had gone there Monday night on our way home from The Animal Kingdom. That night we ate dinner, swapped a few pins, indulged in ice cream, and drooled over Legos at the Lego store. We made a few small Lego purchases--small kits for B & V, a watch for J, and a cup of Legos for us.

On Friday we decided to look for t-shirts for the children and then visit the Lego store one last time. We started at the big Disney store first. I had fun playing dress up with the children and asked Mark to take a few photos.

We had the boys look at all the t-shirts in the boys' section. They were most interested in Star Wars or pirate shirts. Bentley found a pirate shirt he liked, but then they didn’t have it in his size. Jake wanted whatever Bentley was getting. We went back to the Star Wars section for a second look. Bentley couldn’t find a t-shirt he really liked, but then we found these unusual Jedi robes. Bentley liked them. Jake wasn't as enthused, but he still insisted on getting what Bentley got. We purchased two of them. (They were very overpriced because they were both Disney and Star Wars branded. OUCH!)

Meanwhile Viva wanted a Princess Leia miniature doll set. I asked her if she wanted to go check out the girls' section, but she said no. She wanted the doll set. Okay, that made it easy.

We went to the Lego store. The children built small cars and raced them. Jake's was the fastest. Mark picked up two Lego sets for himself. The children built two minifigures each. I filled up another cup with Legos. We paid for our selections and headed to the airport.

Photos taken in Downtown Disney:

The boys wanted a photo of them with the dinosaur.

A Lego sculpture near the Lego store.

An really awesome Lego dragon. So cool!

The trio in Mickey ears--I think Bentley is demonstrating a ballet move which is something I told Viva NOT to do.

Mark and I really liked this t-shirt, but both boys said no.

This is an ugly t-shirt but so perfect for our angry princess.

Bentley the pirate showing us his mean look.

Mickey mouse eared (look closely) Jedi robes is what Bentley picked, so Jake got one, too.

B & J making Lego cars to race.

V making a Lego car to race.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Visit Florida: Adventure at Disney's Epcot

Today was day four of our four day pass. It was time to visit Epcot. I was there 20 years ago and I remembered that they had pavilions around a lake that showcased different countries. I knew there was another part to Epcot, but I could not recall anything more about the second part.

I didn't research Epcot before we left home because I ran out of time, but I did buy a great guide book, so I relied on it today to help us decide what to do. Good decision making is important because you cannot do it all.

In Future World there are nine buildings. Each area features one to three exhibits, rides, or shows. In the World Showcase area there are eleven different countries with exhibits, restaurants, and/or shops. If you are at the park when it opens and you stay until it closes, that only gives you twelve hours to explore and experience the 20 locations. You have to pick and choose.

We arrived at the park just a half hour after it opened. We were in the first parking area, so we walked into the park. We headed straight to Soarin' and punched our FastPasses. Then we stayed in the Land Pavilion and took a ride "Living with the Land." It was a boat ride through displays that illustrated the history of farming past, present and future. It was not a thrill ride.

Bentley loved the ride and wanted to go again right away. Viva said she didn't like it, but I don't know if she was just being contrary. When I pushed her to explain what she didn't like she said "Plants are boring." Jake said the ride was great.

Next we went over to The Seas Pavilion and attended Turtle Talk with Crush. It's an interactive theater show starring the surfer turtle from Finding Nemo. Young children were invited to sit up front on the floor and the turtle interviewed a few of them. Bentley was the first child chosen. He was asked his name, where he was from, and who he came to Disney World with. He answered the first two questions, but froze on the last one, so the turtle sought us out and interviewed Mark instead. The show was fun and humorous. The kids enjoyed it.

After the show we checked out the aquariums.

Before the show we had tried to go on the ride The Seas with Nemo & Friends, but it was temporarily closed. We trekked back to the Land Pavilion and saw a film on man's relationship with his environment. It featured characters from the Lion King. The children watched it attentively. I had a hard time staying awake. It's been a busy week.

We used our FastPasses and went on Soarin'. Soarin' is a ride that recreates the feeling of hang gliding over California. It was super cool. Definitely my favorite ride that I went on in all four Disney Parks. All three children liked it a lot. Bentley asked if there were other places Soarin' went. Jake and Viva said "Do it again!" Our FastPasses were available again, so we went to the machine and got new FastPasses to do Soarin' a second time later in the day.

The time stamped on our FastPasses for the Test Track had passed, so we headed over there. On the way we stopped in the Innovation Pavilion and tried out the free international soda flavors. Bentley, of course, refused to try any of them. Jake and Viva took a few sips. Viva really liked the watermelon flavored drink.

At the Test Track we tried out the automobile test track simulator ride. The boys loved it. It was fast. It was bumpy. It was swervy. Viva said she did not like it.

It was already 2PM and we hadn't visited half the pavilions in Future World, but we decided to go over the bridge to the World Showcase. We stopped at Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the USA, Japan and France.

Mexico was the children's favorite. They had a boat ride that traveled through Mexican landscapes. They wanted to go again as soon as we got off the boat, but since there were still 10 other countries to check out, we didn't.

Norway was a big disappointment because our guidebook said there was a Viking ship playground at Norway. It's gone. We all shared a few items from the bakery.

China had a 360 degree film to watch. The children were not impressed. I fell asleep standing up and almost fell over. There was also an exhibit hall with terracotta warriors in it, but we forgot to look at them after the film. Arg! I really wanted to check them out--were they just replicas or the real thing?

Germany had gummy bears, chocolate, and a beautiful blown glass Mickey shaped ornament that I purchased as a souvenir. Near the Germany pavilion was a Snow White photo op. We waited in line for ten to fifteen minutes, so Viva could get her photo taken with Snow White and her Prince. Bentley opted out and therefore Jake did, too. I tried to coax Jake into doing it, but he said "I don't like pretty girls." He then added "I don't want to take a picture with beautiful princesses."

Italy had gelato. Mark and I love gelato. The Italian gelato at Epcot was $6 for two scoops--rather spendy, but you do what you have to do. I bought one for the twins and us to share.

The twins didn't share with us. I bought another one for Mark and I; we ate most of it, but shared some with the twins. There was a juggler in Italy that the children liked.

At the half-way point was the USA pavilion. We had a meal there. The children ate huge Mickey shaped pretzels. Mark and I had sandwiches.

Time was flying by, so we picked up our pace. In Japan I purchased a small lucky cat. (It was made in China!) We fast tracked it past Morocco and stopped in France to eat dessert, play in the fountain, and take character photos with an Aristocat.

We walked right by Great Britain and Canada.

Once back in Future World we stopped to check out the really fun fountains outside the Imagination Pavilion. Viva wanted to play in them and get wet, but Bentley cut the fun short with an urgent request that we find a bathroom.

It was past time for our second Soarin' FastPass, so we went there. It was as good the second time as it was the first. We decided to see if The Seas with Nemo and Friends ride was working. It was with no wait time. The children liked the ride.

Our final ride was Spaceship Earth. On the way to it we passed the Epcot character Spot. Mickey and Minnie were in attendance with a number of their friends. Bentley wanted to go in and get his photo taken, but the line was too long. Bummer, it would have been a great photo.

On we went to Spaceship Earth where riders spiral around the inside of the big Epcot sphere. Riders go by scenes depicting the history of communication from cave paintings to the alphabet to the printing press to home computers. Mark did not find this ride as instructive as I did because Viva beat him to the computer screen when you were supposed to pick your preferred language. She chose Chinese, so they heard the entire presentation in Chinese. That's our Viva--doing it her way.

It was 8:15PM when we finished with Spaceship Earth. (The children all liked the ride. B later said that the liked all the rides we did at Epcot.) It was time for us to head back to World Showcase to stake out a place to watch the finale show, IllumiNations.

We found a few feet of prime territory near Norway. Mark stayed with the strollers and twins while I took Bentley to find popcorn. We had to walk all the way to the US Pavilion before we found any. B told me that it was a good thing I took him along because of his eagle eye. He added then that I could just call him Eagle Eye Bentley. (He does have an eagle eye which I've mentioned to him. He's quite proud of that descriptor.)

IllumiNations is an 18 minute show over the water featuring music, fireworks, fountains, lasers, and special lighting. It's a good show. I liked it much better than Fantasmic, but the fireworks were not as awesome as those at the Magic Kingdom.

The children enjoyed the spectacle. Afterwards we had to walk out with the thousands of guests leaving Epcot. It was nearly 10PM when we got to our car.

We came back to the hotel and let the trio use the pool until 11PM when it closed.

This was our last night in Florida. It's been a wonderful time with them. I highly recommend taking your grandchildren to Disney World and Legoland. They will love it and you will love spending time with them.