Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lincoln's First Easter Photo Shoot

Today Lincoln tried on his Easter outfit. It did not fit well at all, but Lincoln is so cute that he carried it off anyway!

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Job Wheel

I haven't ever had a chore chart, set job assignments, or anything like that for the kids.  I've read too many philosophical books about intrinsic desire and drive.  I don't want to kill their "drive" by bribing them to do chores and then having kids that don't understand the *intrinsic* joy of contributing and helping out.  I also don't want them arguing "I'm not doing that, it's not MY job!".  I want helpful children that I can ask to do something and they'll jump up and do it just because I asked.  That has been my general "philosophy" on the topic of helping out around the house.  And it works OKAY... but... it's a lot of work to always be asking those kids to do things!

Maybe it would be good if they just knew to do it, and did it.  Self-initiated and all that!  Maybe a bit of a lofty goal for the 6 and under crowd, but there it is.

So I revisited chores and charts.  I read a good book called "Raising Independent Kids".  And I had a inspiring thought!  Well, maybe not that inspiring.  But it was to me!  Although I love the idea of never squelching the internal drive to work and achieve and please, through the use of carrots and sticks, it's just not realistic.  And I don't believe that all household chores make me HAPPY to do!  I feel good when they're done, yes, but: there is nothing wrong with work, and kids knowing work is work.

That's my new theory.  Maybe brought on by seeing those able bodied youngsters with so much energy (and so much mess making ability) running around with too much free time?!

So I decided to make a chore chart.  Or a job wheel, as we're calling it.  Jobs sounds better than chores, right?

Bentley loves it.  He says "can we have MORE jobs to do?!  I can help come up with a list!".  He was the first one downstairs a few weeks back when I put it up and he studied it with excitement.  He then explained how it would all work to Jake and Viva.  They have a morning assignment, an afternoon assignment, and an evening assignment.  They have the same assignments for a week then we rotate.

Bentley does his jobs without being asked, and often goes above and beyond.  The other day he was vacuuming the kitchen after lunch (I really really like clean wood floors, so they clean the floor twice a day... !).   He asked me if there was another outlet nearby because he noticed the front foyer looked like it could use some work.  I told him not to worry about it, as he'd already done a great job with the kitchen and that was his job!  He told ME that it needed to be done, so he was going to do it.

I love it!

Viva... well, Viva was picking up Lincoln's toys the other evening in the family room.  She asked me when was she was going to be done doing it.  I reminded her that we have assignments set for a week at a time, and then she'll get a new set of assignments.  She said: "No!  I don't mean that.  I mean when will we be DONE with this job thing?".   Poor kid.  Guess she doesn't get it yet.  To be fair, she does do a great job with her jobs.  She is very detail oriented and out of all three she does the most thorough work.

Jake... he does his jobs quickly, when asked.  He was a bit stressed the first week because he didn't think he knew HOW to do the jobs, but Bentley was a great big brother and walked him through it.  So now he's all good.

And me?  I'm liking this.  A few less things for me to do, even if I do spend 3 minutes a day reminding them it's time for them to put their grunt labor into the smooth running of the household...!

On with more jobs!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March Photo Shoot

Mark hasn't done a photo shoot in a few weeks, so I requested one last Friday. Lincoln was wearing his blue striped OshKosh overalls that Kara wore when she was a baby and I wanted a good photo of him in them. Viva was wearing a dress in the same blue tones, so I thought that I would request a photo of the two of them, but then the boys wandered by and they were wearing blue t-shirts and I unwisely took that as a sign that I should try to get a photo of all four grandchildren.

Mark tried, but none of the photos of all four of them were good enough to show off. Lincoln wasn't cooperative. We did get two decent (not great) shots of the threesome.

Then I tried for one last photo with Lincoln in it.

He wasn't in the mood.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lincoln's Walking Aides

Lincoln prefers walking to crawling. Whenever possible he gets his family members to lend him a couple of fingers so he can walk upright. If you don't willingly help him out, he just attaches himself to your clothing. Viva was laughing when he did this the other day, but after a while she was trying to get rid of her hanger-on.

Bentley loves to entertain Lincoln, so he plays all kinds of silly games with him.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reading Progress

Jake and Viva are making progress learning to read. We have had to work around trips to Florida and Nevada. It seems like we've been doing the Headsprout program for months--and we have!--but it hasn't been that many months (three and a half). Learning to read well takes time and practice and patience. All those are in shorter supply when you have two children learning to read at the same time.

At first I thought Jake was clearly the better student, but Viva holds her own. When I do flash cards with both of them at the same time, she's as likely as he is to sound the word out first. However, when we switch to reading stories, she's slower because she doesn't recognize duplicate words on the same page and he does.

If a particular word or name appears ten times during a two page story, Viva will usually sound it out every time. That's good and bad. She's not learning to be a sight reader which is good. The bad part is the amount of patience it takes to sit through a reading lesson where almost every word is sounded out. (Although practicing patience is something all of us need!)

It definitely takes more work to teach four year olds to read than it does to teach five years old to read. A few times we've repeated a lesson. Some days we take a break from new lessons and do only flash cards and phonograms and stories from the Headsprout notebook. Throughout the process the twins have stayed committed with only an occasional whine. I'm impressed with their dedication.

What is the perfect age to learn to read? Bentley had to be coaxed into reading lessons last May. The twins were eager to start last December. It is what it is.

And it is good. Both Jake and Viva are making good progress.

***** ***** ***** *****

Since I am reporting on reading progress, I will include an update on Bentley's reading as well. Kara purchased an online reading assessment program last month. Bentley did fantastic scoring well above grade level in all areas except for sight reading. It was the first area tested so we aren't sure if he was a little hesitant and so didn't score as well since speed was essential to prove you were sight reading.

It's possible his sight reading (memorized words!) is just at first grade level because we used a phonics based reading program to teach him to read, not a sight reading program. He's not behind in this skill since he's only in kindergarten, but he did much better in all other reading skills. It's not a big deal. The more he reads, the faster he'll get at sight words.

Bentley started learning to read just ten months ago, so he has made excellent progress in his reading skills. He reads short chapter books on his own. Kara has him read to her every day, too, so that she can make sure he's reading every word and not skipping those he doesn't know.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Opa's Legos

I thought that we had purchased enough Legos during February, but the more Mark has investigated Lego sets, the more sets he has found that he likes. In addition to all the fun play sets, there are different Lego educational sets. There are the Lego Master Builder Academy sets. Bentley and opa have started, but not finished the level 1 set. Sets 2 to 5 are scheduled to arrive one every two months. I think you are supposed to practice the skills they teach you before you move on to the next level. The two months between sets will give opa time to do the level individually with the three older children, if they are all interested.

Wanting to investigate other Lego educational sets, opa borrowed a Lego Mindstorms robot from Bentley's school. He and Bentley built and programmed the little robot. Bentley wrote his own program for the robot. Opa liked the robot so much, he bought his own Lego Mindstorms set. (Kara contributed funds.) I thought they bought the set with the robot, but it turns out that there are introductory Mindstorms sets to buy before the set with the robot. The Mindstorms robot set is still on opa's list of items to purchase. Great.

Opa told me that Legos are better than a vacation. I think he's trying to get me to approve a transfer of funds from the vacation account to the toy account. That's very clever on his part. Even though we just returned from vacation that account is still healthy because we've skipped taking vacations for a few years. (I won't leave the grandchildren.)

Two weeks ago the Lego site had their double VIP points with free shipping sale. How could we resist that deal?! (By avoiding the Lego site? By limiting the toy budget?)

What did opa buy during the Lego site sale? He chose a motorized excavator because it’s the only kit with treads and they can be used with the Mindstorms robot (when he gets it!). He also picked up a backhoe (for the technics parts), an Alien Conquest set (the boys like this line and it was discounted before VIP points), and sets 7-9 in the Master Builder Academy series.

What did I buy during the Lego site sale? I picked out some individual bricks from the pick-a-brick wall to fill in some holes in Matt's collection. I wanted to add some color to inspire Viva and I. I purchased two of this brick and eight of that brick in pink, orange, lime and medium blue. I also purchased stairs, windows, fences, heads, spiders, dynamite, jewels, and globes. I only bought 1-10/item. It's hard to know what you will really use until you start an actual project.

Matt told opa that Lego Friends were on sale at Fred Meyer's last week, so opa went to Fred's and bought Viva two new Friends sets. She builds Star Was sets with opa and her brothers, but she prefers pink and purple projects. Star Wars sets are predominantly gray.

You'd think that'd be enough Lego sets for March, wouldn't you? It wasn't. Opa picked up four more Star Wars sets on sale on and at ToysRUs. He also purchased a selection of small poly bag sets on

I asked for (and Mark gifted me) a Star Wars set which I will discuss in a later post. It's the most awesome Star Wars set ever.

The new Lego sets will give the children something to do while they are waiting for the snow to melt away and outdoor activities like biking, basketball, badminton, and soccer to recommence. It truly will be a vacation away from the snow!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lincoln & Rameses

Lincoln and Rameses have daily encounters. Lincoln often chases Rameses, but at other times Rameses approaches Lincoln. As fast as Lincoln is, he's no match for a young cat. If Rameses wanted to keep out of Lincoln's reach he easily could. Instead he sits there and lets Lincoln grab his ear, his fur, or even his tail. Rameses never seems to get super annoyed. Sure he looks a little unhappy in the photo above, but he didn't nip at Lincoln with his teeth or try to scratch him.

Sometimes they butt heads. It's quite adorable. Kara has caught Rameses licking Lincoln's head. That's Bentley's fault because Bentley allows Rameses to lick his head even though we've told him that it not a good idea.

We keep an eye on any encounter between Lincoln and Rameses because Lincoln is unpredictable. Sometimes Lincoln looks like he's going to take a bite out of Rameses!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

It Is Good ...

to have an older brother who can read!  And one who likes to read:

Thanks, Bentley!  (he says he's not taking over ALL of reading time... but that's cool.  30 minutes here, 30 minutes there... it all adds up!).

Boba Fett

We've mentioned a time or two that Jake can be a little obsessive about the objects of his affection. Boba Fett is one such object. He's a Star Wars character. Jake obtained a Lego minifigure of Boba Fett with his Stars Wars watch. He was quite attached to Boba Fett until he figured out that he was missing some accessory that he came with.

We think it was left in the hotel room in Orlando. Jake opened up the watch set and the tiny piece must have gotten lost on the bedspread. We didn't know it even existed, so we didn't know to look for it until we got home and Jake clued in that it was gone.

He had a meltdown. He wanted us to promise to book the same hotel when we next go back to Florida. I told him the piece would have been suck up by the maid's vacuum long before we returned to Florida.

Because Boba Fett was missing one of his accessories, Jake gifted him to Bentley. That didn't work out too well. I like the idea of children being generous, so at first I didn't interfere when Jake gave Boba Fett away. But then Jake decided he didn't give him away, but that he and Bentley had joint custody and from there it went downhill. Bentley graciously returned Boba Fett to Jake and Boba went to time out for a week or so. Oh the drama of living with Jake!

Now Boba is back in action and Jake is carrying him everywhere. While in Vegas Matt purchased Jake a number of books and one of them was a Star Wars book. Jake asked opa to take the following picture of his Boba Fett next to the "real" Boba Fett.

I think Jake's Boba Fett is much more attractive than the original. He's more colorful, too. I really like the name Boba Fett. It's got rhythm.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Photo Gallery: Lincoln and the Bear Attack

Help!!  I've been attacked by a huge fuzzy bear and I can't get up!

Big Boxes

As we discussed in an earlier post in January Bentley got a fun cardboard space shuttle from Greta, a family friend. The children had a great fun playing in it and coloring on it. However, it's quite large and it took up a good deal of space in the main floor family room, so last week Kara said it had to go. The children helped take it down. Deconstruction is always more fun than construction. Why is that?

Just a couple of hours after taking the space shuttle down, the children decided to go downstairs and play with the large boxes down there. Huh? We took down the space shuttle because it wasn't being used and suddenly the children had to go play with other large boxes?

We had two large boxes downstairs because last month we got a new washer. When it was delivered Kara asked the delivery men if they had other large boxes not yet crushed in their delivery van. We scored a second box. We threw the boxes in the downstairs family room. Then we left on vacation and the boxes were forgotten. When we took down the space shuttle the children suddenly remembered the big boxes downstairs.

The trio have some kind of game going on. They create challenges (their word, not mine). I think (I don't want to know too much or I might have to put a stop to these games!) the goal is to climb into the boxes from various places--the sofa, the chairs, the counter, who knows. The boxes are filled with sofa cushions and soft chairs and whatever else the children have found to cushion their fall. The boxes are taller than the children.

During session one of the challenges one of the boxes was destroyed. The trio turned it into a slide. They put the slide on the stairs and had a great time. They don't always observe good safety rules, so there were a few bumps.

They asked me to come downstairs and help them set up one of their challenges. The flattened box was on the lower flight of stairs. They wanted to slide down the stairs and into the second box. The problem was the second box was too tall. I suggested they put the box on its side and slide into it that way. They informed me that that wasn't enough of a challenge.

As I left I heard Bentley going on about Level 2 challenges. I stopped to ask a few questions. It appears there were 15 challenges to Level 1. Now it was time to make more difficult challenges--hence the attempt to add a steep incline using the stairs. Maybe I should sabotage the second box before someone gets hurt? Is there an OSHA for homes?

After dinner Mark and I went down to observe what exactly they were up to. It turns out the challenge wasn't getting into the box, it was getting out of the box. The pillows and foam chairs were thrown into the box not to cushion their fall, but to aid in climbing out. Bentley said that he and Viva were good at getting out, but Jake sometimes needed help. (Help was your siblings pushing the box over with you in it.)

The trio were also building a bridge from the back of the couch to the box a few feet away. They used the broken down box as a bridge. Two would stand under the box holding it up with their heads while the other one would crawl across. It was a fairly good plan except that they tended to crawl on the crease which was the weakest part of the bridge.

We gave them a few safety tips and left. I think we'll have to steal the boxes away during the next recycling day before someone gets hurt.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lego Exhibit

This month a local toy store is having a Lego Exhibit. If you take in one of your Lego creations (original design or from a kit), the store will give you a $5 gift certificate. You must allow them to keep your creation on display for at least 7 days.

When we told Bentley about the exhibit he immediately sat down and drew a diagram of the building he wanted to build.

That afternoon he built his masterpiece--an awesome three story building with lots of interior details like a toilet (his idea!), staircases, and office spaces. He had no help except for finding certain pieces like windows or slopes.

Viva entered her car built from odd parts and a movie theater (!) she built.

Jake took his space shuttle that he built from one of his dad's old sets.

More Fun

Here are a few shots from the past six weeks of the children doing whatever they want during their abundant free time. (I've not included any Lego photos because that activity is well covered in other posts.)

Bentley doing a 300 piece puzzle.

Lincoln joining the twins for the last few minutes of their bath.

Bentley and Matt drawing dragons and castles.

Lincoln pushing his piano around. That boy will push anything!

The twins using the story cards to create a story

Lincoln playing in the plastic dishes drawer.

Lincoln checking out Bentley in a box.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ridiculous Fun

When big bro did his typing lesson last Tuesday, Jake and Viva stopped what they were doing to pull up a chair and watch Bentley type. They brought their foam chairs up from downstairs so they could be really comfortable and get a better view. Here's a photo I snapped of the super fun event.

I don't really understand the lure of watching a beginner typer type. Sure, Bentley is good at typing usually getting 99% accuracy,'s dull. There's a little bit of show going on on the computer screen, but not that much since the goal is to type, not get distracted by an action video.

Life is always exciting at our house. Just ask the children!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Swim Time

The kids are taking swim lessons again.  So far, after day 1, lessons are a big hit!  I looked at a number of options, and we finally settled on trying out lessons with Northern Lights Swim Club.  I like that they meet twice a week, gives the kids a bit more time in the water than just once a week.

Yesterday was day one and we showed up very early so we could figure out parking at UAA.  What fun!  $4 for 2 hours.  Yuck.  In any case, we made it to the pool with plenty of time to spare.  So of course I pulled out my phone and told the kids to say cheese:

They look excited, right?!

There were somewhere between 20 and 30 little kids (too many for me to count!), and probably 10 different instructors.  They divide the kids out into groups by age and skill level and go from there.  Because mine were among the only who've had SOME lessons, they got one-on-one evaluation time for their first lesson to determine which groups they should be in.

This first session is 7 weeks, I am excited to see what type of progress my little fish can make!  Bentley asked me, after class, how long class is.  I informed it is twice a week for 7 weeks.  He almost had a breakdown, he told me he doesn't want it to end.  After 1 lesson he seems adamant that he intends to swim every week all year long.  This would be the group to do that with, they are a swim team that offers swim lessons and not just a group that offers swim lessons!

But.... I told him we'd have to think on that one.  There are only so many hours in the day, after all!  But I'm glad we're off to a good start.

The Pressure!

Jake and I had this discussion last Friday morning.

Jake: Is there anything for me to do today?

Me: No. Not that I can think of. (I didn't recall any special activities scheduled for Friday.)

Jake: Can I finish my Lego truck?

Me: Sure.

Jake: After breakfast. I have to have breakfast first.

Me: Yeah. We should eat first.

Jake: After reading.

Me: Reading first is good.

Jake: After my chores. I have to sweep the floor first.

Wow. How did the morning go from Lego playtime, to eating, reading, and doing chores? We are a stay-at-home family so that the children can have plenty of time to follow their interests.

Three things to accomplish before playtime should not be too much to do, but lately Jake sometimes takes more than an hour to finish a meal. Thursday he was lamenting to his mother that he had no time to play in the morning. (If you spend two hours eating a small plate of food, you take up all your free time before noon.) Jake had a bad day that day. He made too many poor choices and spent a lot time in time out. Maybe he was overwhelmed by the new chore chart? He could not see the end in sight and so he quit trying?

Bentley has more school type activities to accomplish in the morning than Jake does, but he knocks them out quickly and gets his chore done first thing and even manages to eat his breakfast (not his favorite meal) in a timely manner. Then he's free to do what he likes. Legos. Box games downstairs. Puzzles. (He did a 300 piece on his own Tuesday afternoon.) Typing. (B thinks it's a fun computer game so he does it in his free time.) Whatever he wants to do. Skating? Reading? Drawing? Playing with Lincoln? Free time!

Lego Score

Last month opa purchased a few sets of Legos from the Lego site when we got back from Florida. I posted earlier this month about those Lego sets.

At the time opa purchased a set each for the children, he also picked up yet another firetruck set that was on sale. It was regularly $40 and he got it for $24. When the box was delivered to us by FedEx the outer box was accordioned--like it had been put in a trash compactor for a short time. The Lego box inside was also in sad shape.

Mark called to complain because you expect new products to That's not unreasonable, right? Sometimes the boys like to cut the boxes up and put them on their walls. (Their mother doesn't like it when they do this, but nonetheless she allows it.)

The customer service rep said she'd send a new Lego set out the next day and that we could keep the first set. Okay--now we had two sets. We couldn't sell one because that really wouldn't be appropriate when the Lego folks had been so good about giving us a new set. So we gave one set to each boy and they had a great time over a two day period making their new Lego firetrucks. It was a lot of fun for one low price!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Almost There

This isn't the best snow shot we could post, but the boys are cute! Jake wanted his photo with Bentley on Sunday, but then he decided it was too cold out and so only let opa take a couple of shots.

The snow bank behind them is where our terraced perennial garden is hidden beneath a huge pile of snow. The snowblower throws snow from the driveway onto the terrace. Where the snowblower isn't adding height to the snow layer and the yard isn't terraced to start with we only have a little more than a foot of snow on the ground. That's surprisingly little for a snow season where we've had 129.4 inches at the airport--our house has seen considerably more than that. 3.4 more inches at the airport and we tie the record set in the winter of 1954-55.

3.4 inches is totally doable. Anchorage's average seasonal snowfall is 74.5 inches and by March 19th we've seen 66.5 of those inches. So Anchorage averages another 8 inches of snow after March 19th. We only need 3.4 inches and this is not an average year. We probably won't bust the record out of the snowbank, but we should definitely top it by a few inches.

Hard to believe that spring officially starts Wednesday. I predict that we will not be doing an egg hunt in the yard this year.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Girl Scout Cookie Time!

It's a good time of year.  The time when we find Girl Scout cookies at the grocery store!  I think Lincoln was pretty pleased about it all.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lincoln - 67% of the way to 1!

Lincoln is 8 months old today!  It's hard to believe, but that's what the calendar says.  

Lincoln is:

vocal!  he has quite the jabber box on him.  when he's in the mood he likes to talk talk talk (and not quietly either!).

happy happy happy!  except for when he's not, of course.  but he's generally cheerful with big toothless grins for whomever says hi to him.

a joy to have around.  who knows if he's thrilled to be the 4th child, but he is a great 4th addition to the home!  his siblings think he is great, and he returns the love.

a voracious (and open to new foods) eater!  if you're holding him and eating at the same time he'll either a) reach out to try and grab your food right out of your hand, or b) lean forward with his mouth open, fully expecting and hoping that you'll send the next spoonful his way!  the only food so far he's been so uninspired by that he couldn't take more than a few bites?  carrots!  foods on the yum list?  everything else! the more exotic likes include chicken coconut curry and lime sorbet.

close to walking!  well, we think so.  he could surprise us all and take months to "get" there.  he has the balance but doesn't trust himself yet!  he's always running the chairs around the kitchen, using them as walkers.  he can cruise along the furniture with ease.  and he can crawl FAST!  definitely faster than Great-Grandma can walk... :)

last, and obviously, he is cute cute cute!  love those squishy cheeks and the hair that's starting to show some body and personality.

Can't wait to see how our little guy develops in the next few months on the road to 1!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Viva and *The* Look

Yesterday I was looking at a picture of baby Viva on the wall and I suddenly saw it - her trademark angry eyes look, on her baby face!  Check it out:

Granted, it wasn't really hard core.  But she was only six months old and still working on developing the look, so I give her full credit..  

Proof that *the* look is something you either have, or you don't.

For comparison, here she is showing us those pretty eyes at Disney World:

I know, a repeat picture.  I'm embarrassed.  But it's hard to capture her trademark eye look that she gives on a daily basis.  She makes it twice as intense and turns around (with a growl!) before I can get the camera to the on button.  So not a team player!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Tastiest Treats are the Forbidden

Since getting his first mouthful, Lincoln's obsession with cat food has grown.  I console myself that at least Rameses is an indoor cat and that surely limits germs to SOME degree, right?!

Everytime the mudroom door gets left open (and with 3 small children and 5 adults around that does happen on occasion!) Lincoln makes like a speeding bullet and zooms on in.  He knows he doesn't have time to mess around and heads straight for the tasty treats in the far corner of the room.

On this particular occasion I had just fed him.  Oatmeal and TONS of Cheerios.  Not even a full belly can deter him from this special treat.  

I love the kid, but I'm not willing to try the cat food myself and see why it's so appealing.  Is it salty?  I know it's crunch and hard!  I'll have to ask the cat.

We're thinking we need a) a cat door going out to the mudroom (but if the door's left open that still won't help!), or b) a bowl of cheerios next to the cat food.  Although I'm not convinced he'd pick the Cheerios.  Hopefully this is a phase that will pass quickly.  Cat food breath on a baby?  So not good!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Klepto Easter Bunny?

This past week Genevieve stopped at Pier 1 with me after dance class.  I had some Pier 1 "cash" that was expiring and needed to use it up!

I found a lovely "Easter tree" - it is very sparkly and has glitter all over it.  Genevieve thinks that it is perfectly gorgeous.

So gorgeous, in fact, that she commented:

"This is SO pretty!  I sure hope the Easter Bunny doesn't decide to take it home with him when he stops at our house!".

I love how her mind works.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

More Pictures from Vegas

My trip narrator is a bit behind on the rest of his trip, but here are some pictures that tell part of the story for him.  :)

The weather got sunnier, and more soccer was enjoyed:

Jake partied hard until he couldn't party anymore:

Jake met Chris, Sam, Dan, & Carol.  He dressed up in Chris's head gear:

Tyler & Un showed to celebrate Ty's birthday with everyone!  Jake shared reading time, soccer, and some Rat a Tat Cat with them.

The trip ended with some good food at the airport and a easy plane ride home!