Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

Last year we went all out for Halloween. We decorated the house. We did Halloween arts & crafts. We made Halloween cookies and cup cakes. We had a Halloween party and invited guests. The children dressed up in their costumes and went to Trick or Treat Town and to a church Halloween event. Lincoln was too young to participate in the aforementioned activities, but he did get dressed up in a costume and have his picture taken.

This year we did not go all out for Halloween. Other than the eleven Lego Monster Fighter sets that I purchased, Kara and I did not engage in any Halloween activities with the children. Okay, that's not entirely true. I put out a few Halloween decorations on the fireplace ledge in the family room. The decorations inspired Bentley to make an eyeball and spider (yes, it only has six legs). Viva and I put together the Lego pumpkin and placed it on the ledge. The children read their collection of Halloween books that we keep stashed away the rest of the year. I played the Halloween CD and Lincoln and Bentley danced to it.

We did not have a party. We did not make cookies--the boys were sick with the flu during the week before they left for Mexico. We did not put up Kara's Halloween tree because we didn't want to have to police Lincoln. We did not buy the children Halloween costumes because they weren’t going to be here for Halloween. Since they left for Mexico on the 21st and won't return home until early Friday morning, they weren't here for Halloween parties, events, and trick or treating. Missing Halloween is a bummer, but spending twelve days in sunny Mexico more than makes up for it.

The Play Pen Arrives

Lincoln likes Evan.

I like that Lincoln likes Evan.

But, sometimes, it seems that maybe the exuberance is a bit much for Evan to handle.  He's just not quite big enough to handle the affection of a 15 month old brother yet!  And I'm not sure his brain should be accepting so many loving thumps!

An illustrated example...

Look Mom!  Evan's playing!  I'm going to play with him.  Maybe I'll pat him on the head:

Maybe with vigor!

What do you mean, I can't do that?!

So, finally, I have given in.  We brought up the play pen from downstairs so that Evan can get some quality time in with his play mat.  I didn't use a play pen at all with Lincoln - I like to say he was free range!  But, alas, having a younger older brother comes with some cons.  So off to the pen it is.

And thus, it seems, Lincoln will be the only of my 5 children to have the distinction of never being in a baby cage!  Congrats to you, kiddo!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Greetings from Mexico!

Once in a while Matt sends me photographic proof that he still has all 3 of the older kids with him and in good health.  I appreciate that!  They look to be having a grand time, AND he got all three of them to smile and look at the camera at the same time.  I am quite impressed.

What has the vacation included?  From reports I hear about pool time.  There is a pool on the deck in their suite.  And, of course, lots of big pools on the resort.  They go swim twice a day.  There is also beach time.  They walk down to the beach and play in the sand.  I'm glad they are starting to learn to appreciate sand. (It's an acquired taste for them - they have their father's genes/dislike of grit and sand!) They watch some TV.  Matt tells me Genevieve likes the Power Rangers and Jake has been watching coverage of the East Coast's big storm.  They play games.  They read books.  They paint.  They get to spend time with Grandpa Tim, Grandma Karen, and Uncle Shane!

Sounds fun, I can't wait to hear more from them when they get home.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Baby in Orange

Evan, doing what babies do so well - sleeping and resting up, to grow, grow, and grow!  
It has been 4 short (or long, depending on when you ask me) weeks.
It is amazing how quickly this little guy is turning into a big guy. 

Little Knight

Lincoln has missed his sibling entertainers while they're gone.  But on the plus side?  They aren't around to stop him from accessing the dress ups and playing with the normally untouchable stuff!  And Lincoln knows just what he likes:

He sometimes pulls the visor down over his face and walks around too.  We're not sure he can see where he's going, but he manfully continues forward anyway.  Why two swords?  Because you have two hands, of course!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mirror Buddy

Lately my little friend has been quite taken with the mirror on the coat unit in our mudroom.  He thinks the toddler we keep trapped in that mirror looks like someone he would enjoy hanging out with.

I agree, that kid stuck in the mirror is a darn cute little guy!

Like the hat?  Uncle Tyler bought it for Bentley when he was a baby and it has proven to be a good investment on his part.  It wears well and all of the boys have enjoyed wearing it.  Too cute!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dad and Babies

Super Dad hanging out with his favorite 1 yr old and 2 week old before heading off to Mexico:

And a shot of Dad and baby's favorite activity time together:

Matt claims the baby makes him fall asleep.  I feel the same way.  I wonder if Evan feels like we make HIM tired, always wrapping him up and cuddling?  Hmmm.... I will have to ponder this more.  In either case, babies are the best nap companions and we'll enjoy every minute we can with our new little man - he keeps getting bigger every day.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bunny Boy

Another belated post, Evan at 2 weeks 2 days!

I pulled out our favorite stuffed bunny for a shot with our new baby boy.  Cute, cute cute.  Look at those little toes.  And those cute little hands.  And the round little head that smells so good.

Babies are perfect.  :)  

Another perfect baby, a 1 month old Lincoln with bunny last year:

Toddler Tenders

In addition to making good caregivers for the newborn, those "old" children of mine are great with toddlers:

Bentley and Lincoln engaging in a dance party session.  The picture isn't quite the same without the music (thank goodness, in my opinion - I like QUIET!), but... you can see the glee!

Lincoln helping his brothers read their books.  He loves to be in the middle of the action.  They are (normally) good sports about this, which I appreciate.

Love this last picture!  Bentley was hanging out on the couch and Lincoln clambered up on top of him and laid down for a rest.  I love that they have so much time to spend together, one of the (many) benefits of home schooling.

Our little dude is a big fan of his big bros; he will be very happy to see them again next week.  So will Grandma and I - it is hard work to keep a busy, busy toddler entertained!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Baby Tenders

You might think we have more *free* time around the house with the olders off to Mexico, but you'd be wrong!  My little people are good baby tenders and their extra hands are missed!

Jake and Viva, admiring their baby.

Bentley, letting Evan hang out and read with him!

Bentley, baby gazing.  :)

Viva playing dolly with her doll and the live doll.

Is it possible to be over loved do you think?  3 children, 1 baby.  That's a lot of attention!!

Lego Event

 As has been mentioned (on just a few occasions), the majority of our household has a bad case of Lego love.  So when Opa learned about Toys R Us Lego events the kids said "Sign us up!"   Visit a toy store?  Get free legos?  Have a fun hour or two with Opa?  Check, check, and check!  This past weekend was another of these events, I think it is the 3rd that the kids and Opa have been to.

Looks like they had a grand time.  Thanks for the fun time, Opa!

Review: Samson's Classroom

Our newest review product is Samson's Classroom - an online learning environment that targets Kindergarten through fifth graders.  The program is focused on the reading area of education, and has content in three specific areas: site words, spelling, and reading comprehension.

When you log into Samson's Classroom this is what you see:

It's a nice, clear, easy to navigate interface.  Your three main class options are right in front of you.  

In the Sight Words area of the classroom there are a set of sequential exercises that the child completes for a set of words, and there are a number of lists (7) and levels (4) that the child works through.  First the words are introduced, then the word is narrated and secondly the child spells it using on screen letter choices. In the third step all of the words show up on the screen and when the child hears a word they click on it and it disappears (this was Viva's favorite part).  

In the fourth step the child again spells the word, with an on screen keyboard, but this time ALL of the letters are available as choices (instead of a small subset, as in level 2).   Finally, in step 5, sentences are displayed with one word missing and the child clicks on one of four word choices to fill in the blank.  As they complete sets of words, and levels, they gain karate "belts" for Samson the dog.

In the spelling arena you can put in your own spelling lists or choose from a large selection of lists that other teachers have created.  From there you can choose the study zone, which shows a list of the words, and lets you see them in a sentence and hear them spoken.  Or you can play "karate chop", where you help smash the wood blocks by choosing the right letter that's missing from the word.

There is a spelling scramble where Samson races around the screen, and you try to steer him towards the letter blocks needed for words while avoiding the spider chasing you.  This game moved too fast for my 5 year old!  She preferred the karate chop game, although she found it confusing sometimes to just fill in the blank on a word as opposed to spelling the whole word.  Lastly was the Wally the Walrus game,where you try to spell words before the icebergs under Samson's feet disappear (Wally is chomping on them).  We didn't use this game, because it involved hunting and pecking for letters on the keyboard - a practice I discourage.  I liked that the other games provided on screen letters for them to click.

 These activities are NOT sequential, so you child can choose which to play and what order to play them in.

Lastly is the reading arena, where you choose from a long list of stories, read one, and then answer a short series of questions about the story.  This is definitely the most challenging area of this program, as even the stories in level 1 are quite long and involve some bigger words.  Genevieve, who is 5, could read them, but the stories are more work than "see bob sit"!  That being said, I also had my 6 1/2 year old Bentley try out some of the stories from Level 4 (the top level in the program) and he whipped through them with no trouble.  You earn hammer points when you complete stories.  The points let you swing a hammer with Samson and based on how well you time the swing you get a higher or lower score.  Your score is cumulative, so over time you can see it go up up up.

Other thoughts and information:
  • In the Sight Words area Viva would get frustrated, because 100% mastery was required on each step before you could proceed.  She would consistently get a 7 out of 8 and need to repeat a step before moving on.  It would be nice if the parent could set a mastery level requirement to provide more leeway.
  • The Resource Center provides worksheets that correspond to the site material - this is a nice bonus!
  • Although there was not a ton of content, what there is available is laid out very nicely.  I think that often less is more, and I liked the scope of this site.
  •  Samson's classroom provides a nice teacher login, with stats about how many games your children have played, how they scored, and how long it takes them to complete the games.  I appreciated this resource!
  • The site was very child friendly to navigate.  I liked that it wasn't cluttered, the design was simple and clear.  
  • Samson's Classroom costs $30 for 1 child annually, or $50 for a family license that includes up to 4 children.  
  • Other than the spelling arena, the content on this site is more suited for the K-2 crowd than the K-5 group - in my opinion.
  • The lack of advertising on the site was refreshing and appreciated.
Did I like it?  Yes.  I liked the reading comprehension classroom, as this is an area that can be neglected.  I liked the ease of set up and the simple spelling games that the kids enjoyed playing.  I didn't love the site words arena, but I am not a huge fan of teaching site words so that may have me biased!

Go here to see thoughts from more of the TOS review crew about Samson's classroom!

I was provided with access to Samson's Classroom, for review purposes, free of charge.  That being said, all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

Alive and Well!

Yay!  More photographic proof from the husband that my children are still with him.  :)

The beach combers:

Looking good!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bentley's Packing List

The kids were, as might be expected, very excited about getting ready for their trip to Mexico.  Bentley was anxious to pack ALL WEEK long before they headed off!  I told him we weren't going to get started until Friday, so on Friday morning he sat down (this was his idea, not mine!) and made himself a packing list.  

I'm impressed at the detail, the wording, and, of course, his gorgeous handwriting!

My favorite part is the section he chose to title "things to put on my face and body."  Cute wording, right?  (We think that "things for the bottom" refers to the bottom pocket of his backpack.)

Love that kid!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Photo Assistant

And lastly... this picture was too cute to ignore.  This kid is a keeper!  Even with the big bruise he's now sporting due to an encounter with the china hutch.  But that's a different story.

Doesn't Opa have an awfully photogenic photo assistant?  :)  (Lincoln is holding the white balance cards that come out at every big photo shoot to properly adjust picture colors.)

Lincoln is very good with the camera.  He'll often strike a pose (or two or three), and normally pulls out smiles, too.  Now if only we could combine his good nature with the ability to sit still that (some) older children have... then we'd have the truly perfect child model!

Baby Lincoln and Baby Evan

Even though Lincoln has been walking for months (6 months!) I don't really think of him as a toddler yet - he's still our baby!  And up until a few weeks ago it wasn't at all confusing to call him baby.

Now we have a new baby.  But, of course, we don't wish for our *old* baby to feel displaced!  So now I make a point when talking to Lincoln of labeling Evan as "baby EVAN".  So Lincoln knows he is still our baby Lincoln.  Silly?  Maybe!  But harmless.  :)

How does the 15 month old like his late birthday present?  He's not big on words, so we have no direct quotes.  He *seems* pleased, however!  He wants to hold the baby, carry the baby, and play with the baby.  He brings blankets and pats his head.  He displays a *tad* more exuberance, perhaps, than Evan can yet handle!  That's okay though, because babies grow all too quickly; soon they will be running around together, and until then we'll be keeping a close eye on Lincoln when he's interacting with his little friend!

Baby Lincoln was awesome about taking some pictures with Baby Evan.

Aren't they adorable?  Evan could have pulled out some smiles, true, but he IS only 2 weeks old in these pictures.  So we will cut him a break.  I hope Evan and Lincoln will be best buddies forever.  I think it's off to a promising start!

8 of 10

A score of 8 out of 10 is usually a cause for celebration--unless, of course, you're a perfectionist and then you strive for 10 of 10. In this case however, even a perfectionist would agree that 8 of 10 is a very high score and no higher score would be wanted.

What did we score 8 of 10 on? The number of victims of the gastrointestinal flu in our home. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Jake had it first, but then two weeks passed before anyone else got sick. Jake probably did not pass it on to the rest of us. That honor goes to Bentley. He got sick (on or around) October 11th. I got sick the 14th. Jake got sick (round 2) the 18th. Lincoln got sick the 19th. My mother got sick the 20th. Viva got sick (on the last leg of the plane trip to Mexico) the 21st. Matt got sick (in Mexico) the 22nd. Opa got sick today, the 23rd. The only hold outs are Evan and Kara. It's a nasty, virulent bug.

We sure hope that Grandma Karen, Grandpa Tim, Shane, and the other guests with Matt and the trio in Mexico do not get sick. It's a waste of a great vacation to spend it being sick, but it'd be nicer to recover from a bug like this in Mexico than it would be to recover in cold, cold Alaska. There's a silver lining to most clouds.

Monday, October 22, 2012

He Rolls! He Rolls!

I didn't want to pressure Evan, even though his older bro Lincoln was a quite early roller (before 2  weeks).  So I haven't brought up his "competition" to him.  Each kid in their own time, right?

So this evening, to celebrate his 3rd week anniversary, he rolled over 3 times for me.  Twice to the right and once to the left, from his belly.  I tried getting out the camera after the 3rd time, to see if I could capture some good action.  But no such luck, Evan told me he was done.

It's all good, I'm sure we'll see plenty more in the tummy time gymnastics arena.  Way to go, strong baby!

Genevieve and Evan

I'm running out of clever blog post titles, but not out of gorgeous pictures.

Genevieve thinks her baby brother is pretty cool.  She complained to me last week that it isn't "fair" that I get to hold the baby more than she does.  Genevieve is the most likely of Evan's siblings to request to hold him.  She seeks him out to spend time cuddling every day and she will happily spend 20 minutes sitting on the couch with him.

By nature Genevieve isn't quite as prone to *excess* exuberance as Jake, but she does on occasion like to shower our baby Evan in kisses and she is always sure to give him a good night hug.  Evan (and Lincoln) are lucky to have such a great big sister!

Lincoln on His Own

What's Lincoln been up to while his older siblings are not here? He's been enjoying big kid activities. 

First he played with their Legos. 

Then he went for a short walk with opa. (It's quite cold outside. Compare his clothing to that worn by his siblings in the last photo in yesterday's post on Mexico.) 

Finally he took his first solo bath. He had a great time in the big tub all by himself. He even enjoyed the jets.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Off They Go to Mexico!

The brave Daddy and my 3 oldest are off on a grand adventure!

About a year ago we planned our every other year family trip to Mexico with Grandpa Tim and Grandma Karen.  With the addition of Evan's arrival to our fall calendar, I decided it would be most prudent to keep our newborn home.  4 kids and 1 Daddy traveling alone was maybe a bit too scary.  So we decided to send the three oldest, and Lincoln and Evan stayed home.  Lincoln's not old enough to know what he's missing.

Matt's not completely certain about traveling alone with 3 children, but on the plus side... Grandpa Tim and Grandma Karen are waiting for them in Mexico, so it's not like he's really "alone"!  I know they'll have a grand time, while we'll be busy pining away for them.

I know that sounds like jest.  And the "break" will be nice.  But I do love my little people and will be counting the days!

Here's the crew heading out:

Opa thinks this picture is funny.  I think it's a little scary.  But I will concede that it sums up their hyped up 11 pm excitement to be getting on the red eye!  They made it onto the plane:

I love Viva's look of intense interest while looking at the airline magazine!  This is a good shot, as it shows me that all my children (and husband, I assume) are sitting together.  We had some issues with the airline and Matt's MVP Gold status.  Despite multiple notes in his file (and linked reservations), Matt and Viva were bumped to first class and Matt then had quite the time getting BACK into coach with my other two children.  Grrrrr!

They made it to California:

Next stop?  The long flight.  Here's a lovely summary from Matt of this leg of the trip:

We flew
Viva spew
The kids are quite the crew
Jake made a friend 
Cash converted
Ride found us
Got to hotel
Been swimming
Chose noodles
Watching tv
Viva sleeps
Amazing rooms.

I told him it was cool how the first 3 lines flow/rhyme, but he needs to work on the rest of the poem.  :)

All's well that ends well, and from the picture he included it looks like they are off to a good start!

I will pray for patience for my husband and for sweet obedience for my children.  I hope it's a splendid trip!