Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Month Belated - Purple Belts!

Apparently Christmas time was a bit busy.  I've neglected to note how proud Matt and I are that Bentley and Jake have been working hard and passed their blue with purple stripe belt test AND their purple belt tests!  

The boys have been enjoying doing karate with their father, and also the chance to go to some of the more advanced classes that they have the opportunity to attend now that they're purple belts.  They have also started participating with the demo team at their karate school and are looking forward to performing at a Fur Rondy event next month!

There is more belt testing this week and they're sitting it out this round.  They tell me they need to study a bit more before they take on their purple with green stripe test.  I've been learning more about martial arts and belts myself and what I've learned is that different disciplines all use different belts/colors of belts/ranking systems.  So in order to compare between schools, students rank themselves as to how many belts AWAY from black they are - starting with white belts, who are 10th kyu (or grade) away.  Right now the boys are 5th kyu.  The belts are starting to get harder so they're slowing pace a bit, but not by too much.  They're doing very well (and I have it on other authority than simply my biased Mommy take!)!

Lincoln told me he'd like Bentley and Jake to teach him karate.  We'll see how that goes.  His attention span isn't quite there yet.  :)

Time Out Buddies!

Viva and Bentley are one of the more likely "trouble pairings" to be found around here.  Bentley delights in teasing his sister and she doesn't take it too well, and then it escalates from there.  Viva doesn't fight with her twin often, and as long as Evan and Lincoln don't destroy her property she's the sweetest sister around to the little guys.  But Viva and Bentley?  Here comes trouble!

(Not all the time, of course - but often enough!)

Check out Viva's super cute wrinkled face. (Jake can make that same face but he doesn't make it as often or as well.)  Not the best picture of her new and improved angry face - but in my defense she wipes it off her face if she catches me pulling out my camera!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2014 Crystal Gallery of Ice

Kara and I took the children ten days (or so) ago downtown to see the spectacular ice sculptures created during the 2014 Crystal Gallery of Ice. This is an annual ice sculpting event sponsored by the city. There are not many people skilled in this art form, so there were only ten entries, but every entry was incredible. Three teams of sculptors came from China! The sculptures were created during the first weekend of January and we didn't visit until almost two weeks later. The weather had been cold until then, so they were still in good shape, but snow decorated some of them preventing us from viewing their full beauty. Also, for the best views you need to go at night when they are lit up by colored lights. 

Evan was thrilled to be included on a big kid adventure, but he insisted on being held. The children found a small hill to slide down even though they weren't properly attired for sledding. It was a good time. 

If you want to see better pictures of the sculptures google 2014 Crystal Gallery of Ice. There are some nice photos online, but you have to hunt for them. I'm going to mark my calendar to check out the sculptures next year! (I think I said that two years ago. Does my iPhone have an appointment calendar thirteen months out?)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Viva's First Cheer Competition

Last Saturday Opa and I took Viva to her first cheer competition. It was in Soldotna which is almost three hours away. Winter roads are usually treacherous, but due to unusually warm winter temperatures last weekend the roads were mostly dry and traveling was easy. We left home at 8AM and returned at 7PM. 

Viva needed to join her team by 11:30AM and that's when we turned her over to her coach. She was dressed in her cheer outfit, but still needed to have her hair bow added and makeup put on. The older girls on the team do the makeup for the younger girls.

Viva sat with her team for the next two and half hours and watched while individual competitors did their routines. Opa sat by a couple of people from work who had daughters on the team. I snuck out and visited a fabric store in nearby Kenai which has an absolutely awesome selection of batiks. (I volunteered opa and I to take Viva to the competition in Soldotna so that I could visit this store!)

I got back to the gym during the break between individual and team routines. It was perfect timing because Viva's team was the third to perform after the break. Her team is a Level 1 youth team (11 years & younger). Before Viva's team we saw a Level 1 tiny team (5 years & younger--very cute, but no skills to of) and a Level 1 mini team (8 years & younger--also cute; they had a tiny girl who could do cartwheels who stole the show). Viva's team has only been practicing once a week for two months (less Christmas break), so I was impressed by their performance even though it wasn't perfect. 

There is a big difference in performance for every level that you go up. Higher level teams do more difficult tumbling moves and the team members movements are more in sync with each other. The stunts that they do with their flyers (the girl who stands on her teammates hands) get more and more difficult. High level teams meet for more hours of practice every week. Now you know as much about cheerleading competitions as I do! 

You might be asking yourself: Why is Viva on a cheer team? Viva loves tumbling and the cheer gym has the most awesome spring mats for the girls to tumble on. The mats actually have springs under them. So cool! So bouncy! At the gym the students can more safely and easily learn to do acrobatic stunts. Viva loves this. She also loves hanging out with the other girls. We have never seen her so involved with a group of girls as she has been at the gym. 

Viva's team took first place and she was granted the honor of bringing the trophy home with her. (Another little girl was left in tears, but was promised that at the next competition in two weeks if they received a trophy she could be in charge of it.) Viva has to take the trophy to her next cheer meeting and leave it on the trophy table. 

I don't want to tarnish the glitter of a first place trophy, but I feel I should inform readers of this blog post that only two cheer clubs (or whatever you call a gym that trains cheerleaders) attended this competition. It's difficult for athletes in an isolated, low population state to gain the experience they need to compete at a national level--which this team does--so sometimes it's necessary to hold competitions with only a few (or even two!) teams in attendance. Although there was only two teams in Soldotna there were close to two hundred girls (and a few boys) participating Saturday.

Check out Viva's team's cheer routine. She is the smallest one on the team. She is at the front in the center at the start of the routine and then she moves around, so you'll have to keep your eye on her. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

New Legos

Bentley and Jake each received three new Lego sets for Christmas. They immediately set to work building them. Bentley started with his largest set and built it within two days. Jake started with his smallest set worked his way up the largest. Santa brought the children three other Lego sets which they have not yet built.

Lincoln did not receive any Lego sets for Christmas, but that's okay because we have plenty of old Legos to play with. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Not Cold Enough

While most of the nation struggles under a blanket of too cold temperatures, we are experiencing a period of warm winter temperatures. January is typically our coldest month, but instead of normal (for Alaska!) winter temperatures we have had above freezing temperatures and rain. The ski resorts had to close, the parks have shut down access to snow machine trails, and any outdoor skating events have been canceled or moved indoors. The moose have returned to chow down on all the newly exposed shrubbery. Grass is becoming exposed. This type of weather in the dead of winter is not good. We'd welcome it in late March, but not earlier. We have two major sled dog events--The Fur Rondy World Championship Sled Dog Race and the Iditarod Race--yet to happen. The dogs need snow and cold temperatures.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Wiinter Ills

Our household has done much better this fall into winter season than last year when we had four cycles of the stomach flu go through the household. Nasty! We've seen very little stomach flu this last year. Yeah! This winter it's been the never ending cold. Runny noses, bad coughs, and hoarse voices are more common than not. 

It's not the flu. I checked out the CDC site for information. A cold and influenza are both respiratory illnesses caused by viruses and they share many similar symptoms, but they differ in two major ways. A runny or stuffy nose is a symptom of a cold much more often than it is a flu symptom. Secondly, cold symptoms usually aren't as severe as flu symptoms and they rarely turn into bronchitis or pneumonia. 

Given this information, I have to conclude that our household is suffering from a very strong cold virus. Everyone has had it at least for a short time. Great-grandma managed to shake it off fastest! (Her asthma medication helped.) A few of us haven't managed to shake it off completely for weeks. Others get better, but then catch it anew. Or relapse? We aren't so ill we need to stay in bed, but we suffer from a ongoing lack of vitality and short tempers.  

I could insert numerous photos of snotty nosed children here, but I am not going to. Yuck!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Jake's Drawings

Jake doesn't spend his free time drawing like his siblings sometimes do, so we don't often feature drawings by Jake. One time during the week when he does regularly draw is on Sundays during sacrament meeting. All of the children except Evan have their own drawing notebook and colored pencils that they pull out during sacrament to help them sit quietly and focus their attention. (I find that doodling helps me pay better attention. Seriously it does!

Recently opa noticed that Jake has produced some cool new artwork in his notebook:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Opa's Birthday

Opa had a birthday last Thursday. Kara made him a cake and I frosted it. Kara made him rouladen and I helped. In honor of the event the boys only did one hour of karate classes. We ate dinner, they went to karate, they came back and we had cake and ice cream. Bentley, Jake and Viva made opa birthday cards. Jake and Viva made gifts for opa.

Jake's gift--an awesome building:

Viva's gift--Lego children (Bentley, Jake, Viva, Lincoln & Evan):

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pillow Patrol

Our local Alaska Cooperative Extension Service office holds an annual event titled Pillow Patrol. They invite the public to come to their offices on a Saturday and sew pillow cases which are then donated to the foster care system. Children entering foster care can choose a pillow case that they can then take with them to use as both a pillow case and as a sack to carry their belongings in. 

When Viva and I did an extension service class last fall (making pajama bottoms) I learned about this event. When I saw posters at the quilt store reminding everyone that Pillow Patrol was coming up, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to use the flannel Kara and I stockpiled years ago to make baby blankets and burp cloths. We made quite a few burp cloths, but we never made flannel baby blankets to give away as gifts. Life was just too busy after the twins arrived! (We made two for the twins that were patterned on a blanket Bentley was given as a gift.)

Most people come to the Pillow Patrol event and make pillow cases there, but I knew it would not be very productive to take three young children to the event and try to work with them simultaneously. I opted to make pillow cases with them at home and take them to the event.

Viva and I learned how to make pillowcases when we attended an open sew night at the extension service, so we were ready to go into production. I cut the fabric into the required sizes (26-27"x40+" and 9-11"x40+"). I showed the children how to make a pillow burrito and pin it. This was the hardest step!

Then the children sewed the burrito of fabric. 

I pulled the inside of the burrito outside making a wrinkled mess of the nicely ironed fabric. I ironed the pillow case and trimmed off the sides. The children sewed the side and bottom of the pillowcase. 

I ironed the pillow case again and Voila! we had a finished product. The children each made 3-4 pillowcases and I made another dozen and a half. We ended up with 29 pillowcases to donate.

On Saturday January 11th Viva and I dropped the boys off at karate and then went over to the extension office to check out the Pillow Patrol event. We donated our pile of pillowcases. We sewed a couple of pillow cases. Viva was very excited because I allowed her to iron the pillow cases we made. 

Viva told me her mother would be surprised to hear I let her use an iron. She was right. Kara was quite skeptical of my decision. I very closely supervised the child! I recently burned myself while ironing, so I am quite aware of the danger. It took two weeks for the burn to heal! Nonetheless the children have to learn to iron sometime and are sewing machines any safer to use? We let them sew, why not let them iron?

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Tithing Discussion

The scene: allowance time.  I handed out the money and we talked about how 10% of $10 is $1.  So Genevieve should put $1 in her tithing envelope.

I look over, a moment later, and see her putting $2 in the envelope and she tells me she wants to pay extra:

"$1 for the fast offering... and $1 for the slow offering!"

In our church we pay fast offerings, which are used to fund our church's welfare program/provide food for those who need it.  We fast every month and donate the value of that meal (or much more, if possible) and so we call it a fast offering.  Tithing, on the other hand, I have not heard referred to as a slow offering before.  Viva's brain is a fascinating place to visit.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Ultimate Bookworm

Grandma and I were chatting earlier this week and she commented that it's a good thing Genevieve doesn't care to keep track of her books at Goodreads like her brothers do.  If she did they would probably feel more than a bit overwhelmed at her voracious appetite for books (and the speed with which she consumes them!) .

I think she gets it from me.  I'm a fast reader, which happens after you read a lot of books.  It also helps if you're not terribly concerned with minor details in the book.  Matt is, at times, a bit disgusted with the speed at which I can go through books.  He likes to read (savor, he would say) them a bit slower!  I am wiling to admit that I do, on occasion, finish a book without the ability to recall some of the characters names.  But I do know the plot and enjoy the story - that counts for something, I think!

I'm not meaning to imply Genevieve has this particular reading problem.  She does have an uncanny ability to summarize a sentence before reading it and change it slightly into words she prefers though.. but that's a skill, right?!  :)

I digress.  The point?  My Viva loves to read. And I love her a bookworm!

Sunday Wear

My younger two sons have an obscene amount of Sunday clothes.  (So does Genevieve, to be honest... !).  Bentley and Jake?  They wear suits and white shirts and have a few ties.  This is their choice; I would be happy to see some more color in their wardrobes but I *suppose* they deserve some say.  :)  Anyway I'm striving to pull out some of Evan/Lincoln's many outfits and provide some variety to my Sunday scenery.  Lincoln wanted to pose with his orange bean bag.  Which is very orange:

His sister jumped on the stool for a picture but he told her to GET OFF!

I made him let her sit for a minute:

And then he had a turn too.

Evan, you ask?  His Sunday photo shot was already posted!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Baby's Blankie

All of my kids have had a favorite blankie.  Bentley had a crochet blanket with a fringe, yellow and green, that Great-Grandma made him.  Jake and Viva and Lincoln all have favorite silkie blankies - soft on one side, silkie on the other.  Jake's is blue, Viva's is pink, and Lincoln has 2 green ones - he insists on carrying BOTH of them everywhere.  :)  I figured Evan would carry on the tradition of 3 of his siblings, so I found him a blue of his own.  But it turns out Evan has a mind of his own.  His favorite blankie is his giraffe head blankie.  Great-Grandma bought it for him when he was just a little guy:

(He was 1 week old in the above 2 pictures!)

Now he's a bit bigger:

  He hugs it at night and carries it around when given the choice during the day:

(If you are observant you probably notice that in the above picture baby Evan is, again, somewhere babies should not be.  On the swiveling office chair, banging on the keyboard, playing with the mouse, touching the shiny computer screen.... !)

Back to the blankie.

It's very cute.  It has a rattle in the giraffe head and sometimes we can hear him in there on the baby monitor shaking it at night.  Matt, being an observant parent, has known that it is the favorite for a while. I myself didn't figure it out until after our Mexico vacation.  When we came home Evan giggled and giggled and rolled around with this particular blankie.  He hugged it.  He shook it!  He hugged it again. And I finally clued in - and felt slightly guilty for not having taken it with us on vacation.  :)

And that is the story of the blankie. 

The end.  Almost...

P.S. - Blankie?  Blanky?  My spell checker tells me that neither are words.  So I went with blankie.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Date with Dad

I won tickets (on Facebook!) to the Anchorage Symphony's Silent Film feature this year.  I am trying to turn myself into a symphony lover but it's not going too well yet.  Luckily for me, however, I have many small children.  And they seem to like that sort of thing.  :)

This is actually the third year our family has attended this particular symphony event (the silent film feature).  The first year I went with Matt and last year I sent Jake and Bentley with him to see the original Zorro movie.  This year I had a brain lapse and forgot how much the boys had enjoyed it, so didn't get tickets.  Note to self: next year, remember!  Luckily for me, the universe provided tickets.  Not three, so Jake could go too, but that's ok.  A one on one date was fun for Matt and Bentley - and Jake had one earlier this winter when he saw Garrison Keillor live with Matt (another event which I was glad to have a child to send with my husband!).

Bentley agreed to go check it out with Matt and they had a grand time.  He (Bentley) even ventured outside of his comfort zone and tried a brownie with FROSTING *gasp* when they went for a treat afterwards!

Apparently it was a grand time.   That Bentley is getting too big too quickly!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Table Climber

Evan thinks that the top of the table is the place for him.  It's a little worrisome, but not terribly so when he's simply laying or sitting on the table.  I can't blame him.  He's right.  There are LOTS of cool things on the table, that he can't reach when he's not there.  


(With Evan, there is often a but!!!)

He isn't content to simply lay on my table or sit nicely on it.  He likes to dance on it.  And I'm afraid he's going to dance (or run) right off the edge!  I take him off and he climbs back up.  He can do that particular trick 10 times without getting bored.  I redirect him to another activity.  He comes back.  He's relentless!

My Mom says I was a table climber.  Apparently my parents put all the chairs on the table for a few months until I was over that stage.  I think we have a few too many chairs for that to work around here!  Maybe I should announce to the household that it will be standing only meals for the next few months? Hmmm.....

I suppose I'm lucky I haven't had any table top climbers before this one!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Viva and the Cat

 Don't tell the boys... but I'm thinking that Genevieve might be a favorite of Rameses right now.  He spends an awful lot of time on her bed with her:

He gives her kisses:

And the ultimate sign of love?  He lets her dress him up!

He is a very good natured cat.  Evan isn't always the kindest to kitty and although the kids are good in general it's not easy being the play-cat for 5 small children.  I'm glad we have such an even tempered (and friendly) pet!  It's nice to have a fuzzy, cuddly animal around for the kids (and me!) although I do at times complain about the maintenance.  He's certainly lower maintenance than a dog.  Or kids, for that matter... :)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Evan the Amazing

I know I'm getting older and my memory isn't what it used to be... but, nonetheless, I'm fairly confident that Evan is the craziest baby of my bunch.  I might even venture to say he is busier and gets into more trouble than two babies could at once.  And I should know.  :)

I love his cute cheeks.  His impish grin.  His sparkly eyes.  His mop of hair.


He never walks, he runs!  Don't try to get out a door/down the stairs without him!
He shrieks with great passion and has a bit of a temper. (I sometimes call him Jake 2.0!)  It's not good to mess with him.  If he gets his hand slapped, he'll chase you down to slap your hand back.
He is very inquisitive.  He likes to explore more than he ought.
He's full of zeal and zest.  When he's done eating he throws all his extra food on the floor.  When he's happy he climbs on my table and DANCES!
He's developing a great sense of drama.  I've seen a few hilarious tantrums on the floor that are providing flashbacks to his sister who threw one or two when she was little.  
He is very determined.  Remove him from what he's doing and he returns.  Over and over.

I'm sure that all of his passion and zeal will make him unstoppably great and they all fall in the "good to have" character trait list.  But they make for a bit of a high maintenance 15 month old!  Which brings me back to the cute, kissable cheeks and the sparkly eyes.  

Good thing he's so cute!  He's starting to talk more and when he gets excited he'll even string a few words together.  It will be fun to see what's going on in that little brain (little big brain, I mean!).

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Back to Work We Go

(Lincoln was still in bed or would, of course, be included in my lovely and amazing breakfast shots series here.)

This past week we got *serious* about getting back to school work.  It's nice to be able to set our own schedule since we homeschool.  We took a break for Christmas since Matt had some time off of work, and then we eased back into our schedule when we sent him back to work.  And this week?  We revolutionized it!  It's a New Year which means, of course, that the crazy Mom me thinks we should get working on some New Year's resolutions to do things better/faster/different.... !

We'll see how it all pans out, but week one of project "block schedule" was a success!  I'm trying to implement more of a structured schedule for the kids with slightly less freedom than we've had in the past.  Bentley is a dream student.  Give him a list and a pencil and he'll dutifully do it all and check it off without many prompts or reminders.  Jake and Viva?  Not so much.  I'd like to attribute it to their age but I have a feeling personality is the main cause.  I don't think that in a year and half they will have transformed into Bentleys, but that's ok!  

So we're trying something with a bit more structure, even though I like the idea of letting them do what they want when they want... with the twins I find that just means they procrastinate, waste time, and then find they have no time to do what they want because they took 3 hours to do 1 hour of work!  So I'm going with the philosophy that children crave structure and routine.  :)

No more procrastinating and time wasting!  Wish me luck.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Daisy Girl Scouts

Last fall after school started Viva's Daisy Girl Scout troop resumed meetings. We like the troop because it is very conveniently located at the grade school two blocks from our home, but the troop only meets every other week and the meetings are only one hour. Viva liked doing activities with the troop, but she never made any friends at the meetings. She was okay with going to meetings, but not enthused about it. Then Kara learned that the first grade class at the school (all the Daisies in this troop are first graders) had a major ongoing problem with lice. (Our school district changed its lice policy from you cannot attend school if you have lice to you can attend school with lice.) Kara decided to check out other nearby troops.

She found one that was taking new members. The first week we planned to attend the leader's daughter was sick and the meeting was canceled. The next week Anchorage had a major snow storm and the schools were closed, so the meeting was again canceled. We finally met with the new troop in the middle of December. 

The first meeting with the new troop was interesting. The leader was very enthusiastic, but also very unorganized. She showed up fifteen minutes late. She had recently attended cookie training so she brought all the cookie info and spent the entire meeting (over an hour) discussing cookie sales. She entertained me with her over-the-top commitment to cookie sales, but there were no activities for the girls. We learned the troop plans to use their cookie sale funds to go charter fishing in Valdez. When I asked Viva on the way home what she thought of that idea she surprised me and said she liked it. Really?

When Viva and I left we agreed we'd come to one more meeting before we made a decision about the new troop. Our second meeting started on time, but was still disorganized. Viva enjoyed the meeting because there were two craft activities. First the girls (with lots of help from the adults) made duct tape headbands to wear at the cookie sale booth and then they made a foam snowflake ornament. A major problem with this new troop was its size. There were only two other Daisy Scouts at the two meetings we attended plus another one or two Juniors.

We have decided to put Girl Scouts on the back burner for now. We will look in the fall for a troop.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Toys in Motion

All four of my grandsons love anything with wheels on it. We have bins and bins of vehicles, big and small: cars, trucks, fire trucks, hot wheels, construction vehicles, trains, remote controlled cars, Lego cars, Magformer cars, Zoob cars, ride-on cars--we have hundreds of toys with wheels on them in our home. The fascination with things that move starts very young:

Other toys that move that dominate our toy collection are balls. We don't have as many balls as we have vehicles, but we have quite a few and they are often in motion in our home. Swords are another type of motion toy. We have a lot of swords and still the boys want more. For Christmas opa and I gave light sabers to Lincoln and Evan because I was tired of hearing all the complaints when the little ones borrowed their older siblings' light sabers.

Boys like toys that are meant to be pushed, shoved, thrown, kicked, swung, or otherwise put in motion. It is better that they do this to a toy than to their brother!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Photos Post 2

This photo was taken a few months ago, but never posted. 
It's just too darn cute to not post!

Evan gets super cranky at nap time. 
Here he is sobbing while resting his weary head.

Great-grandma has a new spelling game on her iPhone.

Once in a while opa plays a game with the children.

Viva sure is fun to buy clothes for!

Yet one more final Christmas photo. lol