Thursday, January 31, 2013

Happy Birthday, Bentley Boy!

I can't believe my Bentley is already 7.  He's getting so big.  He's still little, yes.  But he's also almost 40% grown.  Which is a crazy thought.  The time flies.

With baby Evan and toddler Lincoln sick, and a Jake who felt miserable with a headache today, we weren't able to party the day away in quite the style we wanted to.  Bentley was a very good sport about it though, which I really appreciated (all the while feeling bad the day wasn't more fun!) We're planning a bowling or skating adventure with a sleep in tent movie night for next week when life "calms down." (Does life ever REALLY do that???  I keep hoping!!!)

What did we do?

We started the day with appropriate decorations.  Check.

We had chocolate chip cookies for breakfast!  Check.

We proceeded to make/decorate a cake.  Check.

We skipped school, because we can.  Check.

We did what we wanted to!  Lots of reading, math games on the computer, and board games with Grandma and Viva.  Check.

We got birthday balloons (which Lincoln ran off with... !).  Check.

We had pizza and chocolate cake with Reeses.  Check.

Was it a good "party"?  It was Evan approved!

We partied with the birthday-buddy, Great-Grandma.  Check.

We opened lots of great presents.  Check.

We played Wii with Daddy.  Check!

We love you, little man!  I'm lucky to have such a great oldest child.  I told Bentley that I adore him and will always be his number one fan, and that's 100% true.  :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

An Update on Sick-Os

It's been a crazy week around here!  My oldest is turning 7 tomorrow and children of all ages are dealing with different bugs.  I wish a can of Lysol could obliterate all the germs and illness from the house, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to be quite that easy!

Lincoln and Evan made a visit to the Dr. yesterday since their coughs have been sounding so scary and the wheezing isn't great.  Lincoln had a temperature of almost 105 during the night - yikes!  Turns out that my two youngest have the dubious distinction of first diagnosed ear infections among the siblings.  I think Jake and Bentley probably have/had mild ear infections last week, but they didn't go to the Dr. and seem to be doing better - so they don't win *bragging* rights.

I suppose I should just be happy we don't have chronic ear infections around here?!  So now the little guys are on antibiotics and hopefully will feel better soon.  To go with the ear infections (or rather, what CAUSED the ear infections) the Dr. diagnosed a couple cases of RSV too.  RSV is scary in little babies - but the Dr. tells me that our Evan isn't a little baby anymore.  News to me!  I suppose to a Dr. that sees newborns all the time he isn't little, but he's still my little baby!  My almost 15 lb 4 month little baby, that is.  :)

Fingers and toes crossed that good health across the home returns soon - and takes up permanent residence.  No germs, viruses, or colds allowed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Lincoln opened the train trunk yesterday evening and his siblings offered to build him a track to play on. Viva helped out for a while. Viva was using track pieces in nontraditional ways. It really aggravated Bentley when she created an unstable layout. He told her that he wouldn't hook up his end of the track to her end if she didn't conform. She ignored him. When she left we rearranged her track. Viva is not a team player.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Winter Flu

We have had a very lousy winter when it comes to the flu. Three times (October, November, January) we have had the gastro-intestinal flu go through the household. Evan somehow miraculously avoided getting sick. We are very thankful for that. Lincoln had a mild, mild case one time. Jake I believe had the gastro-intestinal flu four times. He was the first and last case one round. Anyway, it's been ridiculous how many times we've had the bug go through the house. The flu shot does not protect against gastro-intestinal flu.

Now a new virus has arrived: the winter flu bug. Even though a number of family members have had the flu shot, they were not protected from this particular flu variant. Bentley got the flu just days after being inoculated and he certainly did not have a mild case. He started out with a cough and then gained an earache. He was feeling better and then he relapsed and had an earache in his other ear. His cough has been going strong for at least two weeks. Jake acquired the virus next. He has a cough, a nasty runny nose, and an earache, too. 

Then Lincoln and Evan became sick. Lincoln has a fever (as high as 104.7), a horrible cough that interrupts his naps, and a nonstop runny nose. He wants to be held a lot especially by daddy. Evan has a very wet, rattley cough which is particularly worrisome given his young age. So far he has not had a high fever like Lincoln. Kara, Matt and the little ones have had three (or more) rough nights and tonight looks to be no different. 

So far Viva only has a mild cough. As usual she's the toughest one for a virus to attack. I'm not sure what the health status of us adults is. None of us are as hard hit as the four boys, that's for sure. Since flu germs are rampant in our house, I'm downing Airborne and hoping to stay healthy enough to continue helping take care of the little ones. All the children are quite pathetic and cranky in their illness. We adults need extra patience which is hard to come by when you don't get enough sleep.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Marble Fun

Last summer Kara picked up a wooden block marble run set at a garage sale. She brought it home and left it in the garage to be cleaned before we added it to the toy collection. Months went by. When our new carpet was laid I put new rugs in the garage and while doing that chore I saw the marble set and decided to move it inside. Viva helped me clean the blocks with Lysol wipes and then children began to build with them.

After a day of building with the new marble set, they remembered that they had another marble set and asked for it. So we put the first set away and pulled out the other set. The boys had a great time with it although I found their play a little disturbing because it involved a handful of marbles shooting off a ski jump like track. The marbles sailed through the air, landed on the floor, and rolled under the furniture. The boys used their bodies to block the marbles from going too far. It was a clever game, but I was concerned they would lose a marble or two and one of the babies would find it and swallow it. They told me they each had three marbles that they were keeping track of them. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Carpet!!!

After months of looking and testing and thinking and questioning we finally picked a new carpet and ordered it. In just two short weeks it arrived from the factory and the carpet layers came to our home and in two long days (for the carpet layers), our old carpet was ripped out and our new carpet was installed. 

Our new carpet is a multi-color short pile frieze made with Smartstrand. We think it will hide stains better than our old ivory carpet. Of course, we also hope that we will be able to easily remove stains from our new carpet and not need to hide them. Frieze style carpets create an informal look and they hold up well (so we are told!) in high traffic areas. Our entire home is a high traffic area with ten occupants, five of them young children. Our old carpet was patterned cut and pile. It was elegant, but very stained by the prior owners of the house who had three young children and an old dog. We added our own layer of dirt over the past four years. Stain-wise it was a lousy carpet, but its texture retention (does it show crushing from foot traffic?) was amazing. 

Our new carpet feels wonderfully soft on bare feet. Lincoln likes to roll on it and Evan likes to grab handfuls of it. Bentley and Jake tell us that when they throw themselves down on it (doing gymnastics stunts or wrestling) it is not as well-padded as our old carpet. Cut and pile has more strands per square inch than frieze.

Our new carpet looks great. We're thrilled to have it installed. We are not as thrilled with all the work we have yet to do to get the house back in order after the painting and recarpeting. Because we had to move all the furniture to paint and then again to get new carpet laid, Kara and I decided it was a good opportunity to make changes. We sold bed sets, tables, chairs, couches, and night stands. We're changing out desks, bookshelves, and curtains. It's a massive project which has not been easy to work on with a newborn and a one year old who both need a lot of attention. It's been crazy and tempers have frayed, but the end of the project is in sight--not this month, but soon.

Our old carpet:

Our new carpet:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Smile from Evan

and that is all.  What more could a sane person want?!

The 3 Rs: Arithmetic

I started a post on kindergarten math months ago. Since then I have started and deleted at least three more posts on the topic. It's a snarly subject. Kara has purchased at least three kindergarten math curriculums and four or more math curriculums in higher grades. With all those resources plus the Internet you'd think I'd be able to find something I like, but I haven't. The curriculum I tried with Bentley last year we sold because it wasn't very good. (I had picked that curriculum, but it didn't impress me when I used it.) I've tried two different ones with Jake and Viva this year and I don't like them any better.

How hard can it be to teach kindergarten math? If you stick to standard public school kindergarten math topics, it's easy. Count to 10. Show you know how many seven objects are. Identify a circle, square, rectangle, and triangle. Differentiate between one o'clock, two o'clock, and three o'clock. And the list goes on in this manner. Kindergarten math is way too basic, too simple, too boring. 

Jake and Viva are way beyond kindergarten math. Jake can write and read numbers to 1,000. He can add and subtract in his head. He can easily do two digit addition and subtraction. He understands and does carrying. Sometimes Viva struggles with identifying the numbers 11-19 and reading two digit numbers (29 becomes 92), but she, too, can add and subtract two digit numbers using the abacus for larger sums like 7+9. Most days she can do carrying. 

Both Jake and Viva can tell time...some of the time! Telling time is actually quite complicated. You have to read the little (hour) hand first using the big numbers on the clock. Then you have to read the minute (long) hand by counting by fives. At 2:57 the hour hand will point at the 3, but you still say 2. (Unless of course you want to say 3 minutes till three!) When the minute hand points at the twelve we say o'clock, not 0 or 60. If the minute hand points to the 1, it's four-oh-five, not four five even though it's four ten and four fifteen. It's complicated! (We moved the clock with Roman numerals on it to the office and got a clock with regular numbers!)

Jake knows the basic coins. Viva doesn't consistently know them. (Bentley struggled with coins last year. Young children do not see or use coins in their daily life.)  We play games with coins. We discussed how the dollar sign goes before the numbers, but the cent sign goes after. Dimes are smaller than pennies and nickels, but are worth more. A dollar and two quarters add up to $1.50, not $1.5. (We haven't studied decimals yet, but here we are using them.)

We practice saying the word sphere  because it's very hard for five year olds to pronounce. We talk about hexagons, octagons, and quadrilaterals. Jake and Viva play with tangrams and pattern blocks. They use the abacus. We draw graphs. They measure rice in half, quarter and third cups. We sort beads into bags of 10 and then put 10 bags of 10 into 100 bags. We read math story books.

The twins did pages in a workbook which I liked for its number writing practice. It's important to learn to write numbers neatly and efficiently. Working in a workbook gave the twins practice reading and interpreting written directions. Unfortunately some of the problems in the workbook were confusing, so we quit using the workbooks now that the twins can write their numbers correctly.

Kara has an online math program she subscribes to. Bentley did all of the kindergarten level math last year. Jake and Viva did a few lessons with it last week. One of the lessons (Venn diagrams) was interesting, but the other two (top, middle, bottom and inside vs outside) were feeble. I'll have to search out the good lessons and let the twins skip the lame ones.

Well, that's my review of what Jake, Viva and I have been doing for math this past semester. I'm still pondering what we'll work on this semester. Maybe it's time for Viva to nail down her addition and subtraction facts. Jake is probably ready to learn the times tables. 

Bentley is working on memorizing the times tables. Last semester he finished the Teaching Textbooks third grade course. He did it on the computer. Kara says the Teaching Textbook curriculum is not as rigorous as Saxon Math or Singapore Math, but that's okay. B liked the Teaching Textbook program and was able to do it on his own for the most part. Kara had to supervise and help him out if he got stuck. He's a perfectionist and when he misses a problem he gets upset. We have to tell him to chill out. Everyone misses a few problems when they are learning--that's why they are called practice problems. He's now working on the fourth grade level and working on learning his times tables. He'll finish the fourth grade level in a month or so and later this spring we will give him a very challenging third grade math course put out by the Joy of Problem Solving math site. I'm excited to see how he likes that course--finally some fun math!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spiderman Slippers

A careful observer of the blog might have noticed how often our little Lincoln is found wearing a pair of bright red Spiderman slippers. Santa gifted these slippers to Lincoln and he love, love, loves them. I had to steal them away to wash them because the slippers were starting to stink from so much little boy love. Not only does Lincoln wear them during the day, he wears them to bed at night. (I think it's a little odd myself, but his parents tell me that he insists on it.)

He will occasionally switch them out for other slippers. He received a pair of slipper socks for Christmas and he wore them one day. Another day he swapped out for his mom's slippers. (Notice how he is wearing one front facing and the other back facing. If your foot is small enough you can wear slippers backwards!)

Monday, January 21, 2013

The 3 Rs: Writing

The Three Rs are reading, writing and arithmetic. We blog quite often about reading. I've been working on a blog post about our math program, but what about writing?! What do kindergartners and first graders do for writing? First they learn to write!

Bentley has beautiful handwriting. I think it's his artistic skill coming to the foreground. He has very good fine motor skills because he likes to draw. Last year Kara had him do the BFH Fluent Handwriting program. He started out using large plastic sheets to practice correct letter formation. Then Kara printed out paper sheets with a couple of sentences on them about him and his daily activities and he copied over the letters on the sheets. Voila! He learned to write beautifully in a semester. 

Jake has been writing on his own (with no instruction) for a number of months. Viva hasn't done a lot of writing on her own. Just recently I've started the twins on the plastic handwriting sheets from the BFH program. They do two sheets every day. When they are finished with the sheets we will print out paper sheets for them to copy. I'm curious as to how nice their handwriting will be and how long it will take. 

Handwriting is as far as we take our kindergarten writing program. We want the twins to read a few more books before we study spelling, grammar, and creative writing skills. In a way reading is our writing program!

Since Bentley is in the first grade he has been doing spelling. Kara has worked with him and he's completed two of the three levels of the All About Spelling Program. Bentley is a good speller.

For writing Kara has used two programs with Bentley this year: Winning with Writing and Writing with Ease. For grammar she has used First Language Lessons and Growing with Grammar. I'll ask her to write a little more on how those programs are working. She has learned that first graders do not like to write creatively. If we ask B to write just one sentence on a favorite topic (Legos, the Warrior books series, whatever), he cannot do it. No biggie. We'll get back to creative writing in a year or two or three. We've got plenty of time. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pretty Baby

Do you agree? Isn't he a pretty baby?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Games & More Games

We've been playing more games the past two weeks. I took out the Dinosaur cards last week and Jake and Bentley have been playing the game a lot. I will play with them once a day, if they ask. My mind turns to mush on the second round of Dinosaur Memory. I actually prefer to play Go Dinosaur! (our version of Go Fish!) because it requires a lot less memory work.

We've also been playing Blink which is a very quick card game, hence the name. I like quick card games.

Another night I talked opa into playing Fish Stix with the trio and the game went on a long time. I don't think opa was managing the game very well! (It's important to keep the pace going by giving strategy advice if needed.).

Bentley and I played two games of Snap which is a tile game where you try to complete dragons. He won both games which made me rather grumpy. The first time he drew all three tiger tiles and the next game he completed a 20 point dragon (a very good score!) off my tiger tile. I just could not win! Jake wants to learn how to play Snap.

Jake played a game of Cars Monopoly with his cousin Tiernen. It's really nice when the five year olds can play games without any help from us adults.

Viva does not like games as much as the boys do. She will play some games with us, but Dinosaur Memory or Go Dinosaur are not on her list.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Library Books!

Wednesday afternoon I made a dash to the library to collect a book on hold and to get some books for Viva and Jake. Viva came home Wednesday morning from an overnighter at Grandma Karen's and asked me to get her the second book in the Secrets of Droon series because she had finished book one the night before. We owned the first book in the series, but it turns out there are 44 books in the series. We do not have enough bookshelf space, so to the library I went! While there I looked for more books in the Dragon Slayers' Academy series. We own the first ten, but I didn't want to buy more. The library did not have book 11 (it is not even in their catalog), but it did have the other eight books in the series so I got them. 

That evening Viva grabbed Droon 2 and climbed in my bed to read. Soon she was joined by Bentley who had DSA 12. Jake showed up with DSA 10. Don't you just love little readers?! They are so cute...and smart!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hula Hoops & Neon Rings

Last Friday evening I took Viva to the Girl Scout Cookie Sale Kick-Off Event which in our service unit is the PJ DJ Palooza Party--a dance party with a live DJ that you can attend in your pajamas. Viva was eager to go and asked to invite Cassidy, so we did. Although we arrived on time, the party was already in full swing. We checked out a few tables with cookie information, but as the girls are only five years old they were not very interested in cookie trivia. Viva already knew that if you sold 2013 boxes of cookies you earned a prize of an iPad. (No we are not selling 2013 boxes of cookies!) Viva and Cassidy got their nails painted. Then we hit the dance floor. The girls had a good time. They danced together for a while. They played with hula hoops. (I don't recommend letting a hundred girls loose on a dance floor with dozens of hula hoops!) They ate popcorn and cup cakes. They hooked up with four other girls from our troop who were at the dance. Cassidy stayed with the other girls and Viva wandered off on her own. I tried a few times to get her to hang out with the other girls, but she wasn't interested. (She's like her mother in this regard.) Instead she collected glow bracelets. The dance was in the gym with the lights off and the girls were given two glow bracelets when they arrived. A lot of bracelets came off while the girls danced and Viva collected lost bracelets.

When Viva got home she shared her bounty of bracelets with her brothers. They found that they spun quite well. They showed their tricks off to opa who took photos. A good time was had by all!

Bentley's Birthday Greetings

Bentley, on occasion, is a very sweet little guy.  I love this birthday "decoration" (one of many!) that he made and taped up to the wall in honor of Opa's birthday this year!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Opa's Birthday

Today was opa's birthday. The children each made him a gift. Viva made hers a few weeks ago. I showed a photo of it last week in my photo dump post. I forgot it was a birthday gift. Luckily for me, opa was appropriately surprised when he opened it. I posted before that it was a tree. I had forgotten the exact details. It was a eucalyptus tree with a koala bear in it. Jake made opa a Lego creation--a mail carrier truck. Kara and I laughed at his choice of vehicles. We see a lot of mail carrier trucks at our home because we get a lot of packages from or other mail order places. Bentley drew opa an awesome dragon with two heads (one with a horn) and a snake for a tail. I wouldn't want to encounter that dragon. Opa received a few other gifts, mainly accessories for his new computer.

 Bentley lights the candles. The twins are quite envious of his ability to do so. Their hands aren't strong enough yet to flick the lighter on.

Funny faces. They are still pretty good looking!

 Time to cut the cake. Lincoln is still trying to get the lighter to work. 

 The joy of Blue Velvet Cake!

No cake for Evan. :-(