Friday, February 28, 2014

2014 Dog Sled Races

It is that time of year when Anchorage is visited by dozens of dog sled teams. Last weekend it was the Fur Rondy World Championship Race. The 17 teams ran 25 miles on Friday, another 25 on Saturday, and a final 25 on Sunday. This coming weekend it will be the Iditarod teams who race for 1000 miles.

Last Friday I took the older four children to see the Fur Rondy race. In the past we've gone downtown to see the dogs, but that means extra travel time so this year I decided to head over to our favorite spot for watching the Iditarod teams. Because the Rondy race runs three days, the trail isn't as crowded as when the Iditarod teams are out. 

In fact when we were there, there wasn't a crowd at all just a few spectators. I parked within in view of the trail. It was a cold day which the dogs like. The children had all dressed in their snowsuits. We got out and walked across a frozen pond to get to the trail. We saw three teams zip by--the last three. We then had to wait until all the teams looped around and came back. 

I took Lincoln to wait in the warm van while the older three goofed off in the snow. Since I could see the children from the van, I let the older three stay next to the trail and play. After twenty minutes or so the teams started racing by again. Lincoln and I rejoined the trio. After twelve or thirteen teams raced by we headed home to warm up.

I'm not sure if we will make it out to see the Iditarod teams this year. The boys have karate from 9:30am to 2:00pm. I will have to ask them if they want to skip the earlier classes to check out the teams. The Iditarod teams are not racing when they visit Anchorage, so the teams go slower and the musher greets spectators and hands out dog booties. The Fur Rondy teams were racing for a $50,000 purse, so the dogs and mushers were not interacting with the spectators.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cub Scouts: Dragon Cake

For the annual Blue and Gold Banquet last Wednesday the younger scouts were asked to bring a cake or cupcakes that they decorated themselves. Kara was not excited about this activity so I volunteered to help Bentley. I asked him how he wanted to decorate his cake.

B: "With a dragon!"

me: "How are you going to put a dragon on a cake?"

B: "I'll draw it on the top."

me: "That's going to be difficult. Frosting isn't easy to work with to show fine details like those in your dragon designs. I’m not sure how to do it."

I've never taken any cake decorating classes and as this conversation took place the day of the event, it was too late for me to enroll Bentley and I in a class. Instead I suggested that he make a dragon shaped cake. I googled dragon cakes and easily found a kid friendly one.

Bentley approved the cake design and we got working. First we made the cake. Box cakes are easy to make, so B was able to do most of the work. He does not like cracking eggs, but there were plenty to practice on because we needed six eggs. We made two boxes of cake mix to insure a fluffy cake. (It was a little too fluffy and we had to cut the domed top off!) While the cake was baking I went to the grocery store to buy the supplies needed to decorate it. 

When I returned the cake was out of the oven and cooled, so we got to work. I handed B a knife and showed him the diagram for cutting up the two nine-inch cakes to form the dragon. He did a good job and soon we had our dragon cake ready to decorate. 

The next step was the hardest. Kara took two containers of premade frosting and added green food coloring (lots!) and then heated them in the microwave to the right consistency for pouring. B poured them over the cake and I spread the frosting. We had to keep heating and pouring and spreading. There was a lot of cake to cover.

When we were finished with the frosting the real fun started. B had a little help from his siblings putting sprinkles on the dragon. This was not indicated in the online design, but sprinkles came with the frosting and they were a good match for our frosting color so the kids sprinkled them on. 

Then B added eyes (marshmallows and chocolate chips), claws (orange slices), and spikes (chocolate covered graham cracker cookies). We worked together on the flames out of the dragon's mouth (a fruit roll-up).

I made the wings because B ran out of time. B drew me a design on paper and helped me with the first one and then he left to get changed into his uniform. I had to finish the second wing and mount them on the plastic netting (Gutter Guard). The plastic netting was my idea. It wasn't clear how the original cake designer had attached the wings (made from fruit roll-ups), so when I saw the netting at the store I grabbed it. When B came back downstairs I had him put the wings on the dragon. We weren't sure where to attach them--to the dragon's sides or back? B told me I had the wings curved the wrong direction. He could be right...I am not an expert on dragons. 

B's dragon cake was the most elaborate design at the Blue and Gold Banquet. I'm sure a lot of the parents attending thought some adult had done most of the cake, but other than the wings and spreading the frosting, B did the work. Of course, it helps that we homeschool and had the entire afternoon to work on it! (Viva was quite jealous of B's project. I promised her she could make a bunny cake for Easter.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Gorgeous Imp

A picture is worth at least a thousand words, right?  So instead of more words to describe what an imp our youngest is I'll present a picture:

Evan crawled right into Bentley's photo shoot so, of course, we obliged him.  I love that little grin and the sparkle in his eyes!

And, because it's my blog and I can over indulge if I want.... three more  equally beautiful pictures of our babe.  Who is a toddler now and not a baby! Time flies!

I can't pick a favorite!  I love them all.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Careful readers of our blog will (maybe) know that Viva is currently enrolled in two dance classes (both are a combination of acrobatics and tap dance) and two cheer classes (one is a tumbling class and one is practice for a division one cheer team). She was in karate with her brothers, but dropped it to join cheer.

Is she busier than her brothers? Bentley and Jake currently attend karate on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Sometimes they take one class, sometimes two. On Saturdays they have their weapons class, demo team practice, and if they want they attend a regular class or even two. The boys call the shots. They tell us how much they want to do on any given day. Usually it's the maximum amount.
So are they busier than Viva? Bentley and Jake were spending more hours at their activities until Kara checked out the gymnastics club. Why did Kara do that? You remember how acro and tap class lead to cheer club? Well cheer club led to gymnastic club. Viva is on the division one cheer team and tryouts for next year's teams are in March. Kara was curious how close Viva was to making a division two team, so she asked the cheer coach. Viva is lacking a back hand spring. Rather than hiring a private coach Kara decided to check out other options for learning a back hand spring. (Yes, there's always YouTube instructional videos, but we wanted a safer learning experience.)

Kara called the gymnastics club last month to find out if they had tumbling classes. They had a tumbling only class that Viva could come in and try out. She did and she enjoyed it. The instructor was impressed with Viva's flexibility and strength. She said the combination of the two aren't often found in children Viva's age. She said Viva might like a different tumbling class that the gym had for more able students.

Viva went and tried that class out. It was filled with girls from the cheer gym. This set of girls (a few years older than Viva) are serious cheer athletes so, they take an 8-10AM class on Saturdays at the gymnastics club. They are more advanced than our Viva who has only been doing cheer for a few months. Viva enjoyed the class and asked to join it even though it is early on Saturday morning which is the only day she has to sleep in.

When checking out the advanced tumbling class that instructor suggested that Viva might like to try out their team level gymnastics classes. Viva was very interested because she had spotted the uneven parallel bars during the tumbling class and she wanted to try them out. Kara took her back to meet with that group. Most of the girls in the group have been with the gym for at least a couple of years so they have some skills on the balance beam and the uneven parallel bars that Viva does not have, but Viva was way more advanced than they were when it came to floor exercises (tumbling). 

Viva is now attending the gymnastic level one group practices which are twice a week and she's taking the Saturday morning advanced tumbling class with the older girls from cheer. She is definitely putting in as many hours of athletics as her brothers.

Of course Kara does not intend to keep Viva in three different programs. It's quite expensive! The boys' karate seems like a steal of a deal when compared to the fees from dance, cheer, and gymnastics combined! So why is Viva participating in three programs? Kara is looking ahead to next fall. She wanted Viva to experience the three different programs (dance, cheer, gymnastics) so she could choose which one she enjoys the most and then focus on that single program next year. Bentley and Jake love karate and Kara would like Viva to have an activity she is equally passionate about.

I asked Kara if she is trying to relive her childhood through Viva. Kara was enrolled in the same dance school when she was Viva's age. Then we discovered that she had Legg Perthes Disease which ended her involvement in any and all impact sports (which is pretty much every sport other than swimming and biking). Kara says she never wanted to be a gymnast, so that's not why she's checking it out with Viva. However, she is now totally fascinated by the world of gymnastics. She stays and observes all of Viva's classes at the gymnastics gym as do quite a few of the other parents. 

For me it's weird to make sports such a focus in our home when for the past twenty five years they have been deliberately down played due to Kara's disease. Life is crazy sometimes--you can't predict what paths you will end up exploring. For now we will take it one year a time--or in this case one very busy month at a time.

Phone Hog

Like many children of his generation Evan is an iPhone pro.  He knows how to turn on and unlock the iDevices and has been known to talk to Siri, start picture slideshows, and compose emails on the phone.  No kidding.

Great-Grandma is a particularly favorite target for iPhone abuse as she often has the phone on her walker while moving from one place to another.  It's almost too easy for our fleet footed toddler to track her and take off with his prize!  To be fair she's also an easy sell on cuddle time - and once Evan makes it to her lap he asks to share her phone.

I wonder if he's honestly fascinated with the bright colors and moving objects on the screen or if he's conditioned to think it must be fascinating because that's what he sees everyone else in the house using?  A scary thought, perhaps I won't dwell on it... !

Monday, February 24, 2014

Reading Time

A benefit of homeschooling - the extra hours at home means, obviously, that there are more hours to spend together!

(Please disregard the fact that outside of the frame of the picture I'm sure there was also siblings beating on others siblings and some shrieking and loud noises occurring!!)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bed Hogs!

Viva and her little buddy Lincoln have a great relationship.  Lincoln adores his sister and his sister is happy to spend hours playing made up games of all sorts with him.  They're best buds and I love it.  Here they are after too much partying:

It's a good thing I have a king sized bed - for being such little people, my children know how to spread out and take up some space in a bed!  We had a late night reading marathon and my little friends fell asleep in our room.  How could we move such cuteness?!  Matt conceded defeat and headed off to sleep in Viva's bed on this particular night. Which, as it turns out, was a good thing.  Because he sometimes complains that our bed is a bit too soft (we have different preferences!), but a night of sleeping in Viva's bed reminded him, I believe, that the grass is not always greener elsewhere.  :)

Saturday, February 22, 2014


I took the Magformers out the other day when we expected to have a couple of extra boys in the house. Only one instead of three showed up, but the Magformers were a big hit with Lincoln. Everyone has been using them, but Lincoln insists on playing with them almost every day. They are stored in a bin under the Nilo table, so he needs help getting them out. I prefer that he plays with them when Evan is napping because Evan tends to carry them off and toss them in random toy bins or leave a trail of them throughout the main floor. Little brothers are a bother!

Lincoln's architectural style is to build out rather than up.

Friday, February 21, 2014

My Evan and I

Do you think we look related?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bentley's 8th Bash

Bentley wanted to have a party this year, so we invited some friends from church to join us (Bentley, Jake, Viva, and me) for some fun at a local miniature golf place.  It went perfectly and a good time was had by all!

They had a welcome sign up for us:

Then the kids played some nerd ball blaster:

Getting suited up for 3D black light golfing:

Crazy times!

Cake and big smiles from the birthday boy!

Field Trips Update!

This school year we've made an effort to get out and about for some "culture", and I think we're doing well with that goal!  In the fall we went to see a fun show through the Junior Theater called "The Ugly Duckling".  It involved black lights and big costumes that glowed.

At Christmas time one of our local theater groups produced The Christmas Carol.  (Above picture, on the way back to the car - I thought the trees were awfully pretty that day with all their snow.)

This past week the kids went to a "experential theater experience" revolving around an African folk tale.  Although they didn't have much in the way of insightful musings to share I think they had a good time!

The kids have also been enjoying some arts experiences with their father.  Last week they all went to see The Piano Guys.  Earlier this year the boys went, for the 2nd year, to the Silent Film Feature put on by the Symphony.  Add in some Garrison Keillor and symphony performances and I'd say we keep busy enough.  On the "fun arts" side the kids saw a cool circus group at Christmas time with Grandma Karen and also enjoyed another trip to the Nutcracker.  Next week they're going to check out The Addams Family with Grandma Karen.

Sometimes it seems like we don't do much but when I look backwards and recap I always realize there's at least a bit more going on than I had thought!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Early Morning Fun

Viva has been taking an 8-10 am tumbling class at the gymnastics place, and I for one think it's quite early.  Genevieve, however, really wanted to do it.  And that's saying something since she's not awake that early during the week!

We've gone for three weeks, and the session we've currently paid for only has two weeks left - so I checked in with Viva this week and asked her how much longer she thinks she's going to want to go to this early morning Saturday commitment.  Her answer?

"Until I know everything that Coach Doug knows, of course!"

I enjoy her enthusiasm.  And clever wit.  :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Lauri Pegs

This is one of the toys that is sometimes taken out of circulation and stored in the toys and game closet downstairs. A few weeks ago I brought it up and it's been a big hit with Lincoln and Evan. Evan throws the pegs more often than he builds with them. One afternoon Jake and Viva even joined in the stacking fun. In the past the foam plates have been stored away, so the toy was new and interesting to them when they were added into the mix.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

2014 Olympics

We have been diligently watching the Olympics. There are too many events for us to watch them all, but we DVR the available footage and make an effort to check some of it out. Viva likes the figure skating; the boys do not. Everyone likes snowboarding. Jake and Bentley like speed skating, luge, and biathlon. Last night I checked out curling which is a very odd sport. Sweepers?! They would be very important if you were playing outdoors, but are they that critical when playing on an inside rink? After ten days of intense Olympic competition the children's enthusiasm, like mine, is waning and there is a full week more of sporting events to watch.

Addendum: The second week of Olympics was ignored by Viva--as was most of the first--she preferred to read. Bentley was the most enthusiastic watcher. He and Jake watched curling for quite some time. It's not a fast moving game, but when I suggested (repeatedly) that they fast forward, they insisted they wanted to see every minute (shown) of the Canada vs Russia match. Bentley then spent two evenings, one on his own (I was in the room sewing) and one with Jake watching the Canada vs USA women's gold medal hockey match. That game goes on for three hours and he fell asleep the first night he was watching. At the end of the second night, I fast forwarded so they could see the sad defeat of the USA team. We had Canada 2-0 until the last 4 minutes of the third period! Our team threw the game away.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Lego Happiness

The boys do love their Legos. Last time I posted about Legos I stated that they had not yet built their Lego sets from Santa. The day the post went live the boys were busy building the Lion Chi Temple. They work really well together. It's good to have an activity that's easily accessible that makes you happy! Do you have one?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

It has been a good Valentine's Day for the children because their mother let them sleep in and only do a minimum of school work. Valentine's Day isn't usually a holiday from school, but this year it was. I asked the older children what their favorite thing about Valentine's Day was and I received these answers:

V: Making the hearts [Valentine's cards] and giving them out.

J: The sugar cookies and the pretty stuff we hang up [decorations]. (Jake also likes the candy hearts with words on them.)

B: There isn't much schoolwork. 

Viva has been looking forward to Valentine's Day for a couple of weeks now. She has been busy making cards for everyone in the family including the cat. She makes them in private--her work station is on the bench in front of the fireplace in the master bathroom. She requested lace and rhinestones for her Valentines. The boys did not make any Valentines.

Grandma Vicki sent the children some cool crafts to make. They made paper bag puppets and paper chains.

Jake made the bear (least amount of decoration!), Bentley the giraffe, and Viva the tiger(?).

Viva is making a paper chain for the Valentine's tree, but it isn't yet long enough to use. The boys did a few links each for the chandelier.

We stay busy at our house!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Friend the Helper

Evan may be an imp, but he is also a brownie!  He loves to help and contribute in a meaningful way - and I'm constantly surprised at the the things that this 16 month old wants to do.  And CAN do - I guess having older siblings makes you more observant than the average toddler!

Evan runs to the stairs when he hears Great-Grandma coming and he helps her take off her leg brace when she makes it up:

(He's even willing to help her take it off on the way UP the stairs, before she even arrives - but perhaps we shouldn't dwell on that detail!)

He is also a big fan of helping out with the silverware when I unload the dishwasher.  I try to remember to save it for him!

Sometimes he hands it to me to put in the drawer, but if I'm not fast enough he takes matters into his own hands and puts the silverware away in the drawer!

I love watching him stand on his cute little tippy toes to reach.

Last but not least?  He's a fair hand at vacuuming.  He has great form when he holds the vacuum and he keeps it on the ground nicely!

We're lucky to have this sweet little man around!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Four Phone Boy

Last week Lincoln got a little crazy. He insisted on carrying around four play phones. He would not share with Evan. We talked to him about it, but he was adamant that he needed all four. We have a couple of other play phones, so we let the matter drop. One afternoon he took them with him when he went for his afternoon nap. He lined them up on the edge of mommy's nightstand and then climbed into her bed.

Is this neurotic behavior?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Our Monkeys

The children have been climbing the doorway for months, maybe even a year. Like most children they are showoffs and when we have guests they do their stunts. Our guests are usually amazed and puzzled.

"You allow the children to do that?"

"Uh...sure...they are good at it."

What's the harm? We do have a rule that they cannot do it when other children are visiting our home. We do not want anyone to get injured trying to imitate them.

(I see some potential in that last shot for a great Christmas photo next year. We'll have the tree in the background and we can put Santa hats or reindeer horns on the kids. It'll have to be this coming December before they get too big to all fit in one doorway.)