Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our Little Builder

So it is so fun to watch Ben develop his imagination more and more.  He does some really fun things these days.  He is very curious and never stops talking.  He has also officially entered the “why” phase.  Which means of course that he asks ‘why’ about 1,000 times a day.  It was cute at first, but quickly has become wearing.  On the plus side, I try to use this opportunity to teach the little guy some things.  Previously, he lost interest really quickly when I try to teach him things.  Now, when he asks about something I try to give him as real of answers as I can.  I have made a resolution to try and give him accurate answers for his questions.  I have a strong feeling that this will lead to me either having to research a lot of things I didn’t previously know, or giving up and making things up like any good parent does.

In related news, Ben has become quite the little builder.  He loves Legos, and he has lots of little sets to build things (mostly cars and trucks, he has kind of a one-track mind).  However, those toys only really come down off the shelf when Penny is asleep so Ben has rediscovered his bristle blocks that my sister gave the kids for Christmas last year.  They are great because they are big enough to not worry about Penny eating them, but offer enough variety for him to explore and really build.  Today he built an awesome set of machines.  I had to give him a chance to show them off, so here is a video of him explaining all about them.  Excuse the messy basement.  I am pregnant and cleaning is very low on my priority list.

Ben showing off his awesome machines that he built.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


So, the kids had a great time this year for Halloween.  They are both at really fun ages for it.  I made both of their costumes this year and I think they turned out pretty well, which was pretty rewarding.  We got lots of compliments on Ben’s.  He was a monster truck and Penny was a butterfly.  More importantly, Ben loved his which made it worth it for sure.
Here are some pictures of Ben’s truck up close before I put it on him for his preschool costume parade.  I know the wheels aren’t really big enough to be a monster truck, but I was sort of out of time and cardboard, and I couldn’t come up with a good way of attaching giant wheels to the truck without covering up my awesome paint job.  I was particularly proud of the flames on the hood, which I did by hand without a stencil.
And here is Ben in his costume.  I could not get him to look at the camera.  But you can see the little black smudge on his jaw from the paint when he helped me paint the wheels.  He got a kick out of helping.
I took a couple of videos of him at his parade and while they sang songs, but I haven’t uploaded those yet.  It was pretty cute.
The kids got a Halloween warm-up run with the trunk or treat at our church.  They had a great time and Penny caught on really quickly and only tried to stop and eat her first piece of candy.  She was great about saying “trick-or-treat” and “thank you” when she got her candy.  It was kind of hilarious because all of the little boys at the party were following Ben around, trying to ride in his truck.  He was a very popular boy.
Here are some pictures of the kids just before the real thing.
And a picture of the bag I rigged into the bed of Ben’s truck, so he didn’t have to carry one.
And the back of Penny’s wings:
She kept those antennae on for about 10 seconds.
And a video of the first couple of houses on our little cul-de-sac.  Penny is pretty adorable, and she got even cuter throughout the night.  She probably would have kept going all night, and she carried her own bag the whole time  She didn’t want anyone else to touch it (which led to a pretty cool melt down when we had to take it away from her to put her to bed).  I took more videos of a few of her later houses, but I haven’t even watched it yet, so I don’t know if it is as good as this one.
Ben and Penny trick-or-treating

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Various and Sundry etc. . .

It’s redundant, I know.  But there is a story behind it.  I just got back from a trip to Utah.  I went out for Labor Day weekend to see my college roomies and help my parents move.  My sister, Courtney, also came into town and she and I were tasked with packing up the kitchen.  My kids were with Geri so we had plenty of time without interruption or fear of little hands breaking things.  I’d been helping pack up for a couple of days and my parents have a lot of things in their kitchen.  We were trying very hard to be exact in our labels on the boxes because my parents were hiring movers and needed it to be clear where everything went.  Also, my mom is very organized and labeling well makes unpacking so much easier.  As packing often goes, random things often ended up in boxes, so I frequently added labels like etc.  I started to get bored with that and started labeling every box with words like “etc, various, sundry, et al, misc.”  It should be noted that I had labeled dozens of boxes at this point and the permanent markers my parents had were fume-tastic (read, I may have been a bit high).  Courtney and I were very amused with ourselves and I even used some painter’s tape to label myself at one point, and, yes, I included etc or et al.  I don’t recall. 

All in all, it was fun and exhausting and I LOVE my parents’ new place.  So do my kids.
I didn’t take many pictures, but my mom did, so I will have to get them from her, including the pictures of me with Paige.  I think Dani has the pictures of us at her grandparents’ place.  It should be noted that Ben and Dani’s little boy James had the greatest time together.  Seriously, I have never seen two kids take so quickly to each other.  They were thick as thieves and spent most of their time trying to vanquish aliens.  It was all very exciting and loud.

We had a great time in Utah, in fact, we had such a great time that we extended our stay twice.  Eventually, I decided it was past time to get back to my husband and get into real life.  So I braved myself to make the 18 hour drive again and we came back.  I have more pictures from when we got back because my mom gave me her old camera (you may recall that Penny broke ours).  It is an awesome DSLR.  The smaller lens has a cracked casing, but it’s still a huge step up from the camera Penny broke and puts my college camera I’ve been using to shame.

We made it back in time for Ben to start preschool.  Actually, he missed the first week of preschool, but since he only goes two days a week, it wasn’t a huge deal.  Still, I had to take pictures of the first day he went.  The lighting wasn’t great and I am still learning the ways of the DSLR, so they didn’t turn out great, but Ben is still adorable.
What a cutie! He had a great time and his teacher said he did great.  I also have to say I am rather proud of his little messenger bag that I made.  I have some better pictures of just the bag somewhere, but you get the idea.  I embroidered his name on the back, too.  I used to tutorial here, so I don’t pretend to be awesome enough to come up with this.

I also put Penny’s hair in pigtails for the first time.  I know she is nearing two, so it’s silly that it’s taken this long to do  it.  In my defense, her hair was very slow in coming in.  Plus, her little curls are so adorable on their own and I never have the energy to wrangle a very lively toddler to do her hair.  I finally broke down and did it, here are the results:

Last but not least, in honor of today’s BYU game against Utah, I dressed the kids in their new Cougar duds that Geri bought for them while we were in Provo visiting Robert and Michelle.  And all I can say is, oh man, they looked cute.  We just took these in our backyard, and yes, it is that crazy wild and overgrown at the moment.  Also, it was super overcast all day so I was still struggling with the lighting on the new camera. The kids were being really cute with each other, too.  I have to say that I definitely stole the dress from Dani and Mat who had already gotten one for their little Allie.  Can you blame me though?  Check it out:
Off to the races.  These two love being outside and it was rainy all week so they were pumped to be set free.  Penny insisted on wearing the hat and Ben did not want to take his hood down even though it really wasn’t cold out.
Penny is entering her “cheesy smile for the camera” phase.  Also, note the adorable pink high top Converse.  Our friend Marca gave those to us when Penny was born and I am so pumped that she can finally wear them.  Although, if memory serves, Marca is a U of U girl, so she may not be pleased with the rest of the ensemble.
I am normally not a huge fan of from behind shots, but I love this picture and the next one.
I just love those cute little behinds.
Again, I am still working on better focus, but, seriously, does it get any cute than this?  It should also be noted that as soon as you put a dress or skirt on Penny, the first thing she does is twirl around and watch it flare out.
Finally got Ben to take the hood off.
It was impossible to pick a picture of these two being adorable together, they kept chasing each other and then giving huge hugs.  A lot of the pictures were really blurry because they never stopped moving, but I turned one series into a little video slideshow.
Just a slideshow of my kids being adorable together
And my favorite pictures out of that series:

Just melts my heart.  That is all for now, although there were definitely more pictures.  But it’s time to watch the game!

Edited: Apparently this didn't post last night when I told it to.  Alls I have to say is I am no fairweather fan and I still love the Cougs, but YIPES!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Great Cookie Experiment

So, to make up for my silly “Hunger Games” blog post I am posting this video of Ben that I’ve been meaning to post for two months.  It is a very long video and I had to post it in 2 parts.  I didn’t cut it down because it’s kind of an experience but I definitely won’t be offended if people don’t watch it in its entirety.

Basically, I don’t remember why, but I was thinking about the experiments that sociologists and psychologists have done about delayed reward with kids.  President Uchtdorf, a leader in the LDS church, gave a talk mentioning it, so I looked into it.  Basically, they put small kids (most of the studies had kids between 4 and 5) in a room with some treat (a cookie, marshmallows) and told them not to eat it until they came back.  If the kids did not eat it, they were given twice as much of the treat.  They followed the kids in the study and found that the children who had waited tended to be more successful, better test scores, etc. . . Anyway, it sparked my curiosity.  Does Ben understand delayed reward well enough to resist a treat right in front of him?  I decided to put it to the test.

I put Ben at the kitchen table with a cookie and told him that if he didn’t eat it until I was done putting Penny to bed that he would get two cookies.  My little experiment differed from the studies in a couple of important ways, but I wasn’t looking to prove anything other than Ben’s understanding of a principle so I wasn’t too meticulous about following experimental protocol.  First, Ben was kind of stuck in his seat with the cookie right in front of him.  It is my understanding that the kids in the study could roam the room.  Also, I am his mom and he probably trusts me more than he would trust a stranger.  I was in ear shot of him as well and responded to him a couple of times when he called for me.  I even came back into the kitchen for a bit.  So for those of you scientists out there, I know that my little case study doesn’t prove anything in relationship to the other studies.

Still, it did make for a pretty cute video.  I set up our camera to capture the whole thing.  It’s a hoot watching him try to resist a delicious cookie for 15 whole minutes.

The first 9 minutes of my experiment with Ben
The second half of Ben’s cookie experiment

So there you have it, Ben didn’t eat the cookie and got the two cookies.  Way to go little dude!

Call me Crazy

No, really, it’s OK.  I'm crazy and I’ve come to terms with that.

Disclaimer:  This post has nothing to do with my cute kids and is my very silly musings on Hunger Games related material while I wait for a cute, but long video of Ben to upload.  Also, there will be shirtless pictures of hunky Hollywood guys, so if that offends you, turn back now.

So, I recently re-read/skimmed the first two books in the Hunger Games series.  I know, it’s silly to re-read books when there are so many good books out there that I haven’t ever read.  Even the second time through, the first book is a very fast read.  I knew everything that was going to happen, but it was still a page-turner.   Anyway, I know they are making movies of the series (or at least the first two books as the first one is already in production and they announced a release date for the second).  When they were casting Hunger Games,  I didn’t have that much of an opinion, which is actually surprising.  I don’t know what it is about how Suzanne Collins writes her books, but that world and its characters are the most vivid in my mind of pretty much any book I’ve ever read.  Usually, when I read a book, I don’t put very real faces with the characters, I identify them more by their personalities.  But I had vivid pictures of these characters in my head.  Unlike a lot of people, I don’t really put faces that I already know with them, I just built them in my head. 

In spite of this, I didn’t have any real ideas of actors who would play them when they started casting.  I thought it was much more important for them to get solid actors as they will have to portray some pretty heavy stuff.  I do have to say I was a bit surprised by who they cast as the main trio, but at least Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson have proven they can act and Liam Hemsworth was at least tall and doesn’t have as much to do.  The only person I kind of cast in my head was Cillian Murphy as Cinna, so I was really surprised when they cast Lenny Kravitz.  Crazy.  Anyway, I’m sure I’ll see the movie when it comes out, but I’m not counting down to it like Harry Potter or anything.

Still, when I read the second book, I realized there are a lot of important characters that aren’t introduced until this book that will need to be cast as well.  The one that I was most interested in thinking about is Finnick Odair, who is probably my favorite character in the books.  He is described physically as: “Tall, athletic, with golden skin and bronze-colored hair and those incredible [sea green] eyes”.  He comes off as a shallow, promiscuous hottie, but turns out to be a lot more than that.  It’s difficult casting as even Katniss admits that “I can’t argue that Finnick isn’t one of the most stunning, sensuous people on the planet”.  But this guy also has some depth and plays an important role, so they can’t just find a model.  Also, he is supposed to be 24-25 years old.

I am only mildly ashamed to admit that one of the first people I thought of was Zac Efron.  He’s definitely pretty enough and has the body for it and I think he is a better actor than he gets credit for.  Still he’s only 5’10”.  I’ve realized that 90% of the guys in Hollywood could not be described as tall.  I think that I have a different definition of ‘tall’ than most people since I grew up in a family where all of the men are over 6’3”.  Still, I think it’s safe to say that someone who is given a key physical description of being tall should be at least 6’ tall.  I don’t think Zac Efron should be eliminated outright, but I’d like to see someone taller.  Anyway, after some careful (read, the first people that popped into my head) thought, here are my top four, from least to most favorite:  **Be forewarned, it is important that Finnick has an athletic build, so there will likely be some shirtless pictures**

4.  Armie Hammer – Social Network  (and yes, his real name is Armand Hammer and he is, in fact, the heir to the Arm and Hammer fortune):

I put this guy lowest because while I think he’s attractive, I don’t think he’s super pretty, and I’m not convinced of his acting abilities.  While I’m sure he can evince the cocky guy, I’m not so sure about the more vulnerable moments.  On the other hand, I actually liked him (in double) in “The Social Network”.  Also, at 6’5”, he is by far the tallest of my choices.  Also, even though he will only be 25 this month, for some reason he looks older than that to me.  Nitpicking.

3. Chord Overstreet – Glee.  He gets 2 pictures because this one is too perfect/funny:


Right?  Definitely can pull of bronzed and blonde.  Also, he can be lean instead of hulking muscles, which I didn’t picture on Finnick.  He’s 6’ tall and adorable.  I have to put in another picture to show the cockiness we need since he looks so unsure in the Glee pic:

Chord overstreet shirtless

Chord is definitely hot and built enough, and I think he’s a pretty decent actor.  But, he didn’t get to show much range on Glee (I know, scoff now. Range? On Glee?  Unlikely).  I think he considers himself more of a musician than an actor, but I could see it working.  He’s actually currently a little young for the job at 22, which could be problematic since he’s the same age as Jennifer Lawrence but should be several years older than her.  Not insurmountable though.

2.  Zac Efron

zac efron -shirtless

I’m sorry guys, but this is almost exactly how I pictured Finnick.  Zefron definitely has that dreamy quality.  Also, he is lean enough to pull off a swimmer’s bod without just being huge, and he has already played a sailor (Finnick is from the seafaring district). Again, he’s too short for my fancy, but I would still be pleased if he was cast.  I don’t see it happening because he hasn’t quite eluded his High School Musical rep and people won’t want to see Troy Bolton as Fnnick.  Maybe by the time this movie releases and his next few movies have released, but not likely.

1.  Taylor Kitsch – Friday Night Lights

Once I thought of this, nobody else fit.  He’s a very good actor.  Riggins on “Friday Night Lights” was a fan favorite for his subtle layers that Taylor showed off very well.  He can be very cocky and self-assured while still seeming somehow vulnerable.  The guy just oozes a painful past.  He’s 6’ tall.  He’s actually older than the other people I listed at 30, but that doesn’t seem like a big problem since he was playing a high schooler a couple of years ago.  He would have to dye his hair blonde and possibly wear contacts, but really, how many people have sea green eyes?

There you have it, my pointless musings (as if anyone cares who I think should be cast)on a pointless subject.  I have to feed the kids now, but that video is almost finished loading, so hopefully I can post it while Penny takes her nap.  It’s pretty hilarious.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A few more things

So the last post was all about pictures and our adventures, but I wanted to catch everyone up on what the kids are up to.  Ben is still his adorable self.  He never stops talking, and he says the funniest things.  For example, here is a fairly accurate transcript of one of our recent conversations:

Ben: You’re my mommy, Penny’s my sister, That’s my bug friend (pointing to a fly).  He teaches me tricks.

Me: What? Tricks?

Ben:  Yeah, tricks, that’s what bug friends do.  They teach big boys how to do tricks, like changing batteries in my new train toy.

What can I say, the kid has a thing for bugs.  Also, pretty much every living thing on the planet is his friend, except for spiders, he doesn’t like spiders.  Other than that, he’s a very friendly kid, including with bugs.  The other day, I tried to kill a really annoying fly in our kitchen and Ben got upset.  He told me very seriously that we do not hurt our friends.  When we went to the park last week, an older girl (than he is, she was probably about 8) that we have never met walked over from her house and he said, “Mommy, there’s my friend.  I’m going to go say hi.”  He proceeded to go and play with her until she left.

Penny is also very friendly.  She flirts with everyone.  She’s starting to say a lot of things.  She’s in that phase where she’ll say something perfectly clear and then doesn’t say it again, so you think you’re crazy.  Sometimes she even says complete sentences.  The other night I made homemade rolls and she wanted one.  Jon was making her say please, which she can say.  He had Ben show her how, and Ben asked nicely for a roll.  It took Penny a while to catch on but she eventually said “Daddy, ca I haa roll eeese”  She said it twice but hasn’t said it again, of course.  As far as words she says consistently, this is the most comprehensive list I can think of, though I’m sure I’m missing some:

Mama, Dada, baby, ball, bear, booboo, poopoo, dog, cat, meow, ow, no (also she says uh-uh), yes, yay, eat, apple, strawberry (although I can’t really even transcribe this one, I just know it in context), bubble, teeth/toothbrush, bottle (although this is said, “lah-ble”), water, diaper, she also says A,B, and I and she calls all of the letters one of these three.  She calls Ben “ba” or “boo”.  Boo is another word she says (you may notice that she says a lot of ‘b’ words.  That does seem to be the consonant she has down the best).  Shoe is probably her favorite word, as it means she gets to go outside.  That’s all I can think of now, although she seems to learn at least one word every day, so I’m sure I’m forgetting some.

And now that you suffered through all that here are some pictures.  First, Penny all ready to go outside.  She is super happy to put shows and a hat and hurries to the door as soon as she has them on:



And a picture of the kids all ready for church.  That is the dress Rachael made for Penny.  I always get compliments on it.  But seriously, these kids are so stinking cute.



Friday, July 29, 2011

Adventures in Iowa City

So, I thought I would give an update on what we’ve been up to this summer.  Jon started his residency last month and he loves being a pediatrician.  His schedule on his first rotation was pretty crazy.  He was working 13-14 hours most days and only getting one day weekends.  He went long periods of time without seeing Penny as she was usually asleep by the time he got home.  He’s got a bit of an easier schedule now being on clinic duty, but he doesn’t like it as much.

The kids and I just try to find ways to amuse ourselves.  We’ve been taking advantage of some of the great things in Iowa City.  Be warned, this will be a very long post (I know, I know, when are they not?).  But, there will be LOTS of pictures.  Even though my college camera is not as nice as the one Penny destroyed, it is much more compact and goes on all of our adventures with us. 

Firstly, the parks.  There are tons of great parks here.  There is one about a half mile from our house that has a little splash pad that the kids can run around in and get wet.  I’m not going to lie, I’ve started to avoid this park because it’s always more crowded and wet kids are a lot of work.  There are at least five parks within two miles of our house, and probably more.  Most of them have pretty easy bike access, too.  Which is good because we are pretty much exclusive bikers now.  Jon’s parents were kind enough to help us buy a bike trailer (you guys have no idea how great it has been), and we use it to get everywhere.


Here the kids are modeling it, and their helmets.  They seem to enjoy it for the most part, but there have been some incidents of hitting, biting, and ear/hair pulling.  It is a fairly small space for two young kids to coexist in happily.  It’s a really good workout for me, but I actually enjoy it quite a bit. 

Here we are on the Iowa River Corridor trail.  It is a very pleasant place to ride.



Especially because there is a great park at one end that the kids love:


Penny ready to go down the slide at the park.


And a wider shot of the park with Ben running across the bridge.

Another park we go to I love because it has a bunch of trees that provide shade.  We went for a little ward play date, but only one other kid from the ward was there.  It was one of the few boys Ben’s age in our ward.  Seriously, his nursery group is like 15 girls and 3 boys.  He and Adam got along great:



Penny, of course, enjoyed the slide.


Another great thing about Iowa City is the Ped Mall downtown.  It is a super pleasant pedestrian mall with a bunch of great stores and restaurants.  Also, the library is right in the heart of the things.  And right outside the library is this great park:





The park is right next to a little fountain/water spout thingy that the kids like to run through.  Usually, I manage to skip this, but one of the last times we were downtown, Penny ran right into the water, so I went with it.  The kids loved it, Penny kept trying to drink the water.

Our next adventure was probably our biggest and my craziest.  There is a great mall on the opposite side of town in our neighboring city, Coralville.  It has a fantastic Children’s Museum that we got season passes for.  I decided to bike myself and the kids out there.  In the car, it’s probably about 7 miles.  When I’m biking with the kids, I usually try to find paths that don’t have me riding on streets.  I mapped out a path that I thought would take me mostly on bike trails and away from too many cars.  I accomplished that pretty well, but it ended up being about 9 miles.  The way to the mall is almost entirely uphill (I’m not exaggerating on this) and it was grueling with the trailer.  It took me just over an hour and I thought I was going to die when we got there and couldn’t believe I was going to have to make the trip again.  Still, I settled in and enjoyed the museum with the kiddos.  It is a great place.  There is a room full of Legos, which, needless to say, Ben loves:


And a little grocery store where the kids can shop and check each other out at the cash register (I only got pictures of Penny, and they were all so cute I couldn’t pick one):

And an ambulance attached to a hospital/dentist’s office:

There is also a cute little farm with plastic vegetables to plant and harvest and a little farm house and a barn with a slide.  And a room to build pinewood derby cars and race them, as well as golf balls down different tracks.  And an aviation room with slides and little pedal planes, and half a Cessna for the kids to play in, and a place to build stomp rockets and paper airplanes.  They even have little flight simulations.  I don’t think we’ve even been everywhere in there yet.  I intend to make the most of it, especially in the winter when we can’t go outside as much.

Anyway, it was quite the adventure.  I survived the return trip, as it was mostly downhill and I found a shorter way home (although the one hill almost did me in).  It was much hotter on the way home and Penny was ready for a nap, as evidenced by how she looked when we got home:


She never even falls asleep in the car, so I really wore her out.

One other thing we’ve done this summer is the Summer Reading Program at the library.  One of the things we had to do was read a book and have Ben draw a picture of it.  The book we read was Moon Plane and this is the picture he drew (I labeled it on the computer, if you click and enlarge it, you may be able to see it):


I know I’m his mother, but I think it’s pretty impressive and adorable.  He was so cute when he was drawing it because he narrated the whole thing.  When we finished all of the items on his reading list, he got a certificate and a bookmark and a new book and some stickers and a pencil and eraser and a tattoo.  He was super pumped.  We’re working on it for Penny too.  It is such a cool program.

That’s pretty much all for now.  We are keeping busy and having fun, even if it is ridiculously hot and humid out most days.  The truth is, riding your bike everywhere isn’t so bad, as long as you can get used to being sweaty all the time.