Saturday, January 31, 2015

Birthday Festivitites

Another set of birthdays to celebrate! Unfortunately for Bentley, our home managed to find some nasty colds this week.  Since everyone (including the birthday boy) was feeling a bit under the weather we decided to keep things low key for the day.

We stayed in our PJs.  Bentley helped me taste test his rainbow cupcakes:

In the evening Grandma Vicki and Ty and Marjory came over to have cake with us.  There were noise makers, which were a BIG hit!

I wonder what Bentley was thinking before he blew out his candle...

Our 85 year old is looking good!

There were presents, of course.  9 plus a few for our 9 year old.  :)

Movie time (The Clone Wars, in case you were wondering.... !) and then the older kiddos worked on Bentley's new dragon puzzle together:

Finished it!

And that was that!  Happy Birthday to my favorite 9 year old!

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Brown Stripe for Bentley!

Bentley is very excited (and we're very proud of him) - he now has a brown stripe on his green belt, which means he is just one test away from a BROWN BELT!  Wow.  He's been working very hard and we can tell.

Jake hasn't tested for his stripe yet, he plans to in the next few months when he feels ready.  In the mean time, he tells me that Wednesday (when his brother received his stripe) was the *worst* day of his young life.  Poor kid.  I'm afraid I didn't validate his feelings as my parenting books tell me I should.... :)

Way to go, Bentley!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Gymnastics Update

The competition season for gymnastics is in full swing now!  We've had two meets over the past two weekends, and Genevieve thoroughly enjoyed each of them.  I'm starting to get to know some of the parents so it's fun to hang out with them and cheer our team of girls on.  Viva is happy to have improved her overall score from the first meet, in December by just about 2.5 points!  That's a big deal!  Now we have another month (or 5 weeks, but who's counting... ?!) until the next meet, so it's back to practice-practice-practice.

I wish I'd captured a good picture or two of her, but it's mostly blurry shots and videos (of the same routines!) - next time we'll get some good pictures.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Drawing Time!

The kids and I are working through a drawing cartoons book by Mark Kistler. We may not be ready for the big time, but considering we've only done 3 lessons I think we're doing great! Bentley is really loving it, Viva is enjoying it, and Jake would claim he is only begrudgingly along for the ride - but I think he's having more fun that he'll admit to!

My lovely comic fish picture:


Viva's (she favors SMALL!):

and Jake's!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cub Scout Service Project

Last weekend Bentley did a service project at the Catholic Food Pantry with his Cub Scout troop. They got up bright and early on a Saturday and headed downtown to learn about how the food pantry worked, then they helped with some sorting and organizing. His leaders tell me he was very helpful and stayed on task - that sounds like my little man! Although, as you can see, on occasion he does have a touch of silly:

But don't worry - then they got to work!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Folk Festival Performance

Bentley and Jake had a chance to perform in the Anchorage Folk Festival last weekend with their ukulele group!  Opa was in Hawaii, otherwise he would have been there with them, too.

It was fun.  Matt and I and the other three children went to watch them, and both Grandma Vicki and Grandma Karen came to check it out, too.  The boys were very excited about it and did a great job.  Jake gave us four or five extra waves from the stage when they were done before relinquishing the spotlight.  The group organizer sent out an email with some notes from the comment cards people leave at the event:

"Best large group."
"Loved the arrangements!"
"You guys sounded great."
"The little boys were so cute I wanted to run up and hug them!"

(She also  made a point to note that none of these comments came from friends and family - LOL - I thought that was funny!).

I am hoping to get the videos of their songs uploaded to YouTube and then I'll add them to this post.

Monday, January 19, 2015

…But WHAT Do You Like about It?

 Lincoln has been really cracking me up lately.  He's very creative - he loves to play with his kinetic sand, build huge and elaborate structures with his magformers, and create crayon art scenes that have quite the narrative behind them.  He is always bringing us something to admire or asking us to come and look at something he's created.  It goes something like this:

Lincoln: "Mommy, do you like my ______?"
Me: "Why yes!  I can see you've worked hard on it!"
Lincoln:  "... but WHAT exactly do you like about it?"

At which point I describe how the sides are all so crazy and wonderful, or how the use of bold colors is particularly cheerful, or.... !

I think it's hilarious that he goes after this type of specific praise.  He isn't going to settle for some type of blanket comment on the overall structure or creation.  He wants details!  I guess I shouldn't be too surprised as it's a common theme of parenting books - find specific things to praise!  Luckily for me I have a three year old to help me keep honing my work-in-progress parenting skills.  :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Lincoln is a great kid. He's enjoyable to be with. He's pretty low key and even-tempered. He doesn’t get angry easily. (He will hold a grudge for a few hours to a day if you make him mad, but then he moves on.) He can be very chatty and he expects you to listen and respond intelligently. He's a good kid and easy to (grand)parent.

L is usually obedient and follows the house rules. Like his oldest brother B (who monitors all his younger siblings), L will enforce the rules when E breaks them. Such enforcement usually ends in a wrestling match. We have asked that he not police E, but L's instincts for rule following are too strong.

L likes hanging out with B, J, & V and he joins them in some of their activities like dress-ups, but mostly he plays with his best buddy, E. They play together while the older three do schoolwork. They watch out for each other especially at night, offering comfort if needed. (Kara hears them on the baby monitor.)

L is very independent. He insists on dressing himself. If you inadvertently help him, he gets quite upset going so far as to take his clothes off and put them back on himself just to make sure you understand that he does not need or want your help. L can be stubborn if he doesn't want to do something. He's really clever and comes up with counter arguments to your reasons why he should do it. 

L is persistent if he wants something. He will ask for it again and again and again. He will remember any promise you make to him. On the other hand, he is quite patient and is willing to wait while you finish a chore before helping him. He's even a good sport if you forget and he has to remind you. He's a gem, he really is.

Some of L's favorite things/activities are: 
books & more books
building Legos
Lego minifigures
Rat-a-Tat Cat (game)
Busytown (game)
iPad time
bath time
Looney Tunes

Friday, January 16, 2015


B is quite self-disciplined. When he finds a new interest he pursues it ardently. He sets goals and works hard to accomplish them. He usually has a plan and he tells us what it is and how we can help him accomplish it. He can be a little bossy at such times, but his enthusiasm for his goals is admirable and impressive. (Quite frankly, sometimes I want to slow him down! He can be over zealous!) 

B is usually up and reading or playing chess when his siblings arrive downstairs in the morning. Sometimes he has already started on his schoolwork for the day. He is always the first one finished with his schoolwork and it's not just because he's the oldest. (I don't think he'd like a 15 minute break every hour!)

B is a picky eater and that is an issue for him and us. We encourage him to try new foods and he refuses. Maybe his taste buds are super sensitive? 

B is a great big brother. He is very patient with and kind to E. He plays well with L when asked to. He's not as nice to J, but they are good friends most of the time. 

B can be a worrier. He worries about being late to karate. He really dislikes wind storms and scary movies. He's cautious about new adventures, but once he feels comfortable, he's a very confident kid. B likes leading. He asks his karate sensei to let him lead classes which is something most students his age avoid. 

Some of B's favorite things/activities that I have noticed are: 
board games (strategy games)
Cub Scouts

I asked B to tell me a few more of his favorite things/activities:
taking hot, hot showers
weapons class (karate)

Thursday, January 15, 2015


V continues to be quirky and contradictive. On one hand she is all girl. She loves dresses, long hair, crafting, and gymnastics. On the other hand she's a tom boy. She competes with her brothers, reads their books, plays with Legos, and wrestles with them. She is convinced she is stronger than her brothers because of her 12 hours/week of gymnastics training. (She is definitely more flexible than they are!)

V is quite creative. She likes to craft items of her own design from duct tape. She is always busy working on a project or reading. She likes to sew and although she is a beginner sewer, she isn't afraid to make up her own pattern. She likes to spend time alone in the mudroom working on her projects. She doesn't like to show off a project until she is finished with it. She generously gifts away her projects. She is not a hoarder....well, except of craft supplies!

V is a good student, but not always attentive. She would rather do her own activities than schoolwork. Sometimes additional supervision is needed to keep her on task. V and J can be a bad influence on each other.

V is usually in a good mood. When she isn't we are often clueless as to why she is upset because she doesn't like sharing her feelings with others. She prefers to sulk in private which makes it easier on us, but if we don't know why she's mad we can't help her solve the problem. She likes to puzzle things out on her own.

V is very observant of the people around her. Her comments on life and people are very insightful. She loves to read the comics and seems to understand them. V is a loyal twin to J. She is a fantastic playmate to L. She is a great helper, although she hates to vacuum. She likes to bake.

Some of V's favorite things/activities that I have noticed are: 
duct tape
the comics
fairy tales

I asked V to tell me a few more of her favorite things/activities:
bubble baths
soap making

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Countdown to Valentine's Day!

Earlier this week Genevieve and I picked up some Valentine's Day M&Ms at the store, and they've been sitting in the cupboard taunting us to eat them.  So we used them to make pre-Valentine's Day celebration cookies today.  It's 1/14 - only one month until the big day!

Ok.  Seriously.  I know that the fact that it's exactly one month until Valentine's Day is not REALLY a reason to celebrate.  I just needed to reassure Grandma, who's busy lounging around in Hawaii, that I am being kind to the children and keeping my cool while home *alone*.  :)

 Plus every new day together is a good enough reason for celebration and cookies!

(Evan was napping and Genevieve was away at gymnastics, or we would have included them in our cookie creation fest.  Rest assured, they helped us eat them!)


E is the youngest, but he's no baby. He is 2 going on 10. By his next birthday he plans to be top dog of the pack. (Kara read a book about athletes and it reported that the fastest runners were often youngest children.) E is a quick learner and he is eager to try out all the activities that the older children participate in. 

E is super inquisitive. He gets into things that his older four siblings left alone. He insists on plugging in any dangling cord, which is not good because his little fingers easily fit between the two metal prongs. Kara removed the carbon monoxide detector on the main floor rather than fight with him.

E has lots of energy. From the time his feet hit the carpet in the morning until we put him back in his crib at nap time, he is going, going, going. He almost always naps because he needs to refresh his battery for the afternoon and evening shift. Evan has a hard time finishing a meal if something is going on in his line of sight. He leaves the table and joins the action.

E really likes things to be orderly. He puts things away--not only his stuff, but other people's stuff. If he find my iPhone laying around, he brings it to me. He likes helping to clear out the dishwasher. 

E is adorable. He's got a great smile and he will use it to get and keep your attention. At church on Sunday he flirts with whoever is in the pew behind us. Of course, he'd never go sit with them because he's a momma's boy, but he will flirt with them.

E knows his ABCs and numbers because of an iPad app, not because we have taught them to him. (iPads were not out yet out when B, J, and V were his age, so they didn't get a chance to learn their ABCs via apps!) He knows his colors, too. Great-grandma quizzes him on them while he helps her set up her Colorku game.

Some of E's favorite things/activities are: 
stuffed animals
books about vehicles
iPad time
hot wheels
bath time
Chima key chain

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


J is very affectionate and loving. He likes to be singled out with one-on-one attention. He likes to give gifts and receive gifts and he wants you to like his gifts. He notices all these things. They are important to him. 

J is passionate, intense, and sensitive. He feels strongly about a lot of life's events, big and small. He is an energizer when he is enthused about something. Sometimes he overwhelms his younger brothers when he's just trying to be friendly. Sometimes he overwhelms the adults, too! 

J's usually a happy kid. When he is angry it's over life's injustices--like when adults don't bother to learn the full story before handing out demerits. When he is unhappy we all know it.

J learns new concepts quickly. He doesn't always stay on task while doing schoolwork which means it takes him longer to finish his schoolwork for the day. (In Finland by law students get 15 minutes of downtime every hour. J and V follow that regime, even though it's not in our homeschool bylaws.)

J thinks he should be able to keep up with B in all areas which is not reasonable when B is a year and half older. Brothers close  in age are going to compete regardless of whatever rules the adults make. We encourage B and J to keep it friendly and most of the time they do. They are good friends. They share a lot of interests. 

J's a dreamer. When a vacation is on the horizon, he will talk about it a lot. He asks questions and wants to make plans. He likes visiting just about as much as he likes building Legos.

Some of J's favorite things/activities that I have noticed are: 
music (ukulele & piano)
Minecraft (game)

I asked J to tell me a few more of his favorite things/activities:
Lego Fusion (iPad game)
costumes (dress ups)
the blog post (Isn't he sweet?!)
holidays vacations (He said he LOVES vacations.)
sais (karate weapons)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Vocab Smarts

The kids are doing a vocabulary/analogy program this fall.  It has been an interesting experience and I think we're learning a lot from it.  Most importantly, it provides me with humor.   The workpages give you sets of three words and you have to decide which two are related and what type of relationship the two words have (antonyms, homophones, etc).  Then the fun part - you have to write a sentence using two of the words.  This is where the humor comes in.  Up until this point I haven't had any "writing" component to our curriculum.  I'm more of the classical mindset which believes that requiring creative writing of children before they have 1) the framework, and 2) the experiences to draw from just isn't all that successful.  When we started our Vocab Smarts program it was a bit stressful for certain kids (i.e. Bentley) - they just weren't sure what to write.  But now they have the hang of it. They amuse me on a regular basis. Here are some of their more humorous sentences:

Bentley:  His face felt like a rock had fallen on it.

Viva: My house was almost destroyed by a wolf but I called animal control.

Jake: I couldn't have disabled the thousands of robots without your help.

Aren't they creative?!

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Recently Bentley was working on his last requirement to become a wolf in Cub Scouts. He needed to prepare a healthy meal for his family. Bentley suggested making waffles for the family. Waffles are currently one of his favorite meals. Since the waffles he loves are Eggo toaster waffles, we nixed that idea asking that he prepare something a little more difficult. His next idea was pasta, but again, not a difficult meal: boil water, add noodles, set timer, and then drain water (not something he can safely do).

I suggested he make ham and bean soup because we had a ham bone from our New Year's Evan ham. Great-grandma loves bean soup and we don't make it very often. After ensuring that he did not have to eat it himself, he agreed with my suggestion. I supervised while he rinsed the beans and put them on to boil. (Turns out we were suppose to boil the water and then add the beans, but who follows recipes exactly?!) 

He chopped celery and carrots and measured out spices. He used a mincing tool to cut the onion. After the beans had simmered in hot water for an hour, he added the other ingredients, including the ham bone. After all the ingredients simmered for another couple of hours, it was time to remove the ham bone and add the final ingredient, diced ham. When we lifted the lid off the soup pot to take the ham bone out, Bentley, our chef, commented: "That looks disgusting. Are people really going to eat it?"

He was totally serious. 

The soup was delicious and looked wonderful (once the disgusting ham bone was removed). 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Everyday Life: December

I recently posted eight photos of Evan followed by a post with five photos of Evan with Lincoln, so there are no photos of Evan in this post.

The Twins!

The Karate Kids in their new gis.
(B insisted on this "fierce" expression for the photo.)

A very high snow hill in the parking lot where the kids took swim lessons. 
They asked to climb it and since snow has been scarce this year, I let them.

Opa got a new iPad last month.
It arrived via UPS while Opa was at work. 
The older kids created a scavenger hunt with clues that led to his iPad.

Viva's new bar
There will be another post on our home gym.

Jake's necklace that he really, really wanted.
His dad and his Opa were a little puzzled by his taste.

Lincoln's unusual arrangement of beads on poles.
Who knew you could angle one pole off another like this?

Jake practicing piano…again.

This kid is SOOO cute!

Friday, January 09, 2015


Opa and I are off to Hawaii today. We carefully timed our vacation to be when Matt was between business trips. Matt arrived home late last night and we fly out at noon. We will return in ten days, a few hours after he leaves on his next business trip. It's always hard to decide when exactly to go and how long to stay, so having these parameters helped motivate us to book our trip--that and our expiring companion fare coupon.

The children tell us that we never go on vacation, but that's not true. Fifteen months ago we went to a different Hawaiian island (Kauai) and that's what started the ukulele craze in our home. Three years ago we went on a cruise in the Mediterranean. Now that the two youngest are not babies any longer, maybe I will plan more trips.

On our trip we plan to sleep in as late as we want, walk on the beach daily, visit a volcano, collect a few rocks (!!), and check out the local quilt and ukulele stores. Maybe we will go to a movie. Definitely we will read a book or two.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Clothes Line

The other day we had a minor laundry disaster. When you have ten people in a home, it is necessary that your washer and dryer remain in good repair. Earlier this year I asked Mark to replace one of the dryer thermostats because the dryer seemed to dry hot no matter what setting you put it on. This is not a good thing if you have finer fabrics...or brand new quilt fabric you are prewashing. Mark changed out the thermostat and it seemed to have more heat settings.

On New Year's Day Bentley was doing his laundry. He had to take Lincoln and Evan's laundry out of the washer and put it in the dryer and then put his laundry in the washer. All went well until Kara checked on the load in the dryer. It was not really dry and it should have been. Mark went upstairs to check it out and discovered the no one had been cleaning the lint filter for a while...or some super linty load had been done recently? There was no way air was flowing out the vent hole behind the lint filter. He determined the thermostat fuse blew to protect the dryer from overheating and starting a fire. Hooray for fuses!

Since it was New Year's Day, it wasn't easy to get a new fuse immediately, so all the clothes in the dryer had to be hung. I took out my ancient, wooden, clothes rack and we crammed the entire load of little boy clothes on it. Then we realized the washer was filled with a second load of boy clothes. We started hanging those up--there were 47 hangars filled with Bentley's jeans, shirts, and pajamas! 47!!? There was not room enough in the laundry room to hang them all, so I used the staircase. 

When we had a discussion about cleaning the lint filter after EVERY load, Bentley was surprised to learn there was a lint filter, but Jake and Viva showed some foreknowledge of it. In any case, it wasn't just one skipped cleaning that caused this problem. It's a wonder we haven't blown the fuse before. (I wonder what left that super thick layer of gray lint? Since questions like this only bother people like me, if I start asking around it will not go well. Seriously, don't you want to KNOW?) 

In a home this size with ten people, there's always something in need of fixing. The good news is with ten people, no one has to do all the repair work. We have even hired a fix-it guy a few times when nobody was willing or knowledgeable enough to do the job.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015


Last month on our first visit to a rock store each of the older three children chose a small geode to crack open. Bentley chose one that had a small hole in it so he could see inside and be sure that it was hollow. Jake and Viva chose closed geodes. We had read online that you should put your geode in a sock and then smash it with a hammer. When we mentioned this approach to the lady at the rock store, she looked appalled. She said if we did that we would get shards and not larger geode pieces (ideally two halves). She suggested we use a chisel to etch a line around the geode before hitting the geode hard with a chisel and hammer.

Bentley asked a few times when we were going to crack the geodes open, but I didn't have a clear plan in mind. I looked at some YouTube videos of people cracking geodes and they did not make it look easy...or safe! Finally, on Christmas Day we had some free time and Opa was home to help find the right tools, so we went out to the garage and tried our skill at geode cracking.

We got out a chisel. We got out a very heavy hammer. Opa put on leather gloves. He held the chisel in place on the geode (on a crack if he could find one) and then the children (after putting on safety glasses!) hammered away at their geodes.

Because Viva isn't as strong as her brothers (she will argue otherwise, but her muscle mass just isn't as large), she wasn't able to control the larger hammer very well and after hitting opa's hands a few times, he switched the heavy hammer for a regular hammer and put on thicker gloves! The small hammer wasn't as effective, so she had to hammer her way around the entire geode (just like the lady at the store advised!) before it finally cracked into two beautiful halves.

Jake and Viva's geodes weren't very hollow (i.e. they had very little empty space in the middle), but they were gorgeous--stuffed with beautiful white crystals. Bentley's geode was hollow, but the inside wasn't nearly as pretty as Jake and Viva's geodes were, so he was rather disappointed and asked if we could back to the rock store for more geodes.

We did. I was surprised to find that the rock store had sold most of the geodes that looked like the ones we opened and had different looking small geodes. We picked out seven new geodes and went home and cracked them open.

This time because Opa was at work, I held the chisel while the children hammered. I even let the two littlest hammer away--I was quite anxious for my arthritic thumbs! Lincoln was a little dismayed when his geode cracked in half after he gave it a good whack. (He went first and he didn't seem to know that we were hammering on them to crack them open.) Some of the new geodes we bought had thin sides making it possible for a toddler to crack open. Score!

The children really enjoyed cracking open geodes. We will definitely do it again. Bentley would like to go geode hunting and we will if we hear of a good spot to find them.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

#1 with #2

The next largest collection of photos was of Evan with Lincoln. I am puzzled as to why I don't have photos from the past month of Lincoln only. Obviously he doesn't spend all his time with Evan or I wouldn't have been able to take photos of Evan alone!

Here are my youngest two grandsons hanging out together.

train time

bath time

box time

puzzle time

iPad time