Thursday, December 18, 2014

Benisms Vol 456 and other tales from the family

Today our neighborhood learned that skunks do, indeed, live in seattle. The entire block reeks. Bailey is thrilled. The rest of us would like a pass on the olfactory assault. 

Emma is a stair-climbing machine. She is delighted with her new trick. Her parents are not. 

A few nights ago I blew a fuse in the kitchen and was enveloped in complete darkness. Before I could even think about  searching for a light source, Ben raced into the kitchen wielding his trusty flashlight and shouting: "Superman TO THE RESCUE!!!!!" It made his night. He's pretty handy to have around. I think I'll keep him. 

A few days ago he came into my room and said: "Hey Mom. You know that window in the living room that I cracked?"

"Uh huh"

"Well, GREAT NEWS! I fixed it for you!"

And then, as an afterthought: "Mom, can you say 'thank you' to me for fixing it?"

Like I said, he's a handy little fellow. Never underestimate the power of tape. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Planes, Trains, and Shower Demo

How was our weekend?

Pretty darn good. 

We went on the Santa Train, saw some friends, and demolished our shower. 

Randomly, Chris and I also flew down to Sacramento for a day to check out truck campers. We're going to be road tripping warriors next summer. 

Can we come visit you? ;)



Thursday, December 04, 2014

And That’s [not] A Wrap!

Our mini holiday photo-shoot?

It went well. Got some real winners.

Why do you ask?

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Holiday Gifts for Toddlers

[Note: I was going to title this post Holiday Gifts for Toddler Boys but then I realized that I love (and loved) many of these items as a kid and I am not of the male persuasion. A kid at heart? Yes. I’ll wear that badge proudly]. 

So, without further ado: Holiday Gifts for Toddlers (and the adults that would like to re-live their childhoods)

I always hesitate a bit when writing these gift posts. The primary reason is that we’re trying hard to have the focus of the holiday not be centered around getting piles and piles of (admittedly wonderful) new things.

So there are perhaps one or two toys from the below lists that our son is actually receiving.  Of course, in ferreting out the things we’re going to purchase, we discovered lots of other great gadgets. But sadly those lovely items will have to entertain another child as they won’t be coming down our chimney come Christmas Eve.

First, let’s talk about what Ben’s list looks like.

It can be summed up simply as: duplos.

I know this because he has me rewrite his Christmas list on a daily basis. There is never anything besides duplos; but he’s worked himself into a tizzy deciding which sets he really, truly needs.

He tells me, most sincerely, that he has to have them all. I try not to roll my eyes within his view but I find myself exiting both the conversation and the room several times an hour. It’s going to be a long time until Christmas, let me tell you.

The kid goes through obsessions like he changes clothes (frequently). But at least he stays true to his toy genre for the duration of the crush.

Here is today’s list. Tomorrow’s will, I’m sure, be different.

Duplo Garbage Truck
Duplo Jake and the Neverland Pirates Hideout
Duplo Big Farm
Duplo Town Treasure Attack

Is your child not duple obsessed? Here are a few other items that caught our eye:

Learning Resources Pretend and Play Doctor Set $34 What kid doesn’t love giving his mom an injection? It’ll only hurt for a little while, Mommy! Plus, I like games that let me lay on the ground and pretend to be dead. Weirdly enough, it’s relaxing.
Whoopee Cushion $4 This one never gets old. Ever.
Learning Resources Science Kit $26 Mini evil scientists unite! I was a big fan of ‘potions’ when I was a kid. Mostly it involved mixing the shampoo, conditioner, and body soap all together in a big puddle on the shower floor.
Peaceable Kingdom Funny Faces Sticker Fun $10 [for another option see below] Pirates with mascara and hair bows? YES.
Magnatiles 32 pc Set $52 Parents rave about these magnetic toys. Personally, I like that they’re lovely jewel tones, not the god-awful primary colors that most toys sport these days.
Ikea Fundera Building Blocks $10* We like towers in our house. Because you can knock ‘em down. Destruction is a winning theme ‘round here.
Builder Color and Activity Book $4 Great for road and plane trips. We have another one by the same author and it’s fantastic. Comes in several themes.
Duplo Royal Castle $90. He’s been begging and begging for this one. But $90(!) for a few pieces of colored plastic. I’m not sure I can drink that kool aid.

*Speaking of Ikea: One thing that didn’t make our list is a tent or teepee. Ben has one and has little campouts in his room every night. His own personal reading nook. Ikea has a pretty nifty version here.

Here are a few things that are quite popular around our house:
Preschool Sticker Activity Book $6 We love this thing, as evidenced by the fact that it’s looking pretty sorry these days. The pages are drawn-upon, the stickers have been stuck, and we’re ready for a new version.
Tape Player. Price varies. So admittedly this one is only good if you have tapes. My in-laws gifted Ben a tape player and about 20 tapes that were leftover from my husband’s early years. Ben adores this thing and it goes to bed with him every single night. All the goodies are obtainable: Peter and the Wold, Sesame Street, Joe Scruggs. Plus it’s (knock on wood) indestructible. Our best recommendation: Seek out the temple of Ebay.
Melissa and Doug Make-a-Face Sticker Pad $5 Ok so we don’t actually have this one but I think we may spring for it in the near (cough Christmas cough) future. Comes in the typical variety: crazies, animals, and princesses.
Mind Ware Marble Run $34 It’s hard not to buy all the awesome toys from my childhood. This one was (and continues to be) a winner in our house. Just don’t let the baby vacuum up the marbles with her mouth.
Melissa and Doug Reusable Sticker Pad $5 Another road trip winner. This one comes in a ton of versions: Habitats, City, Princess! Does a cheetah live underwater? It does in Ben-Land.

Lest you be concerned that Ben only has a one-track mind, feast your eyes upon his little side obsession: Pirates.

My mom has the book Tough Boris by Mem Fox, who happens to be one of our favorite authors. Tough Boris is a gem: it has pirates (argh!!), beautiful illustrations, and is a good lesson in compassion and empathy. It’s Ben’s #1 book choice over at her casa.

He also recently sold a bunch of old toys and obtained for himself a mighty pirate ship, courtesy of (you guessed it), Duplo. He loves the fact that it has a cannon that fires a plastic projectile. I hate the fact that it has a cannon that fires a plastic projectile.

Tough Boris by Mem Fox
Duplo Jake’s Pirate Ship Bucky $32
Pirates Match Up Game & Puzzle $9
Melissa and Doug Pirate Finery $24
Melissa and Doug Puffy Pirate Stickers $5

We have a book list coming tomorrow night.

Anything we missed, darlings? What is your kiddo jonesing for these days?



Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Day of Thanks

“For each new morning with its light, for rest and shelter of the night, for health and food, for love and friends, for everything thy goodness sends. I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy Thanksgiving, Darlings!

May you have a day filled with good food, dear friends, and loving family. And if your family is more prone to squabbles than to hugging, I hope the wine is plentiful. :)

Much love, 
Sonja, Chris, Ben & Emma

Photo from the Library of Congress, under the Creative Commons License agreement. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Benisms vol 38

Ben thought all his Christmases had come at once this morning when a fire truck pulled into the parking lot at preschool.

"HELLOOOO FIREMEN!” he yelled, holding up his duplo fire jeep in solidarity.

Fire folk and garbage collectors must be used to the adoration bestowed by the under-six set.

It wasn’t until five minutes later as he was proudly leading the men down the stairs to the building that he turned around to ask them where the fire was located.

They solemnly informed him that it was just an inspection; otherwise "we’d probably be moving a wee bit faster”.


On the way to preschool, Ben noticed that they’d put up lights in the trees on Lake City Way in preparation for the holiday season.

“Mom, look!”, pointing to a group of homeless folks hanging out in the city park, "those guys are having a CHRISTMAS PARTY!!”

Given that one of the guys was twirling a shovel like he was a baton-thrower in the Macy’s Day Parade, I declined Ben’s idea of joining the festive celebrations.


In other news, Chris and I spent the weekend working on our laundry room. Here’s what we’re going for:

Dirty laundry comes out of the ceiling chute on the upper left and falls onto the counter where it’s loaded into the washer and dryer. Clean clothes can be folded on the lower counter and delicate items can be washed in the sink.

The goal is to also have a mini fridge (to the left of the sink) for when we begin our kitchen remodel. The microwave will also be temporarily relocated down here.

Here is where we’re at:

Cabinets frames have been installed.

Emma is on the quality control team; her speciality is checking products for durability.

The cabinet counters are installed, the sink hole is cut, and the machines are in place.

I solemnly swear never to make fun of Chris’ long gorilla arms ever again. Thanks to his extra long appendages, the dryer venting is now connected.

Next up: counters over the washer and dryer. But not until after Thanksgiving. We’re ready for a break.

Have a great, hopefully short, work week!



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Space Explorer DIY Costume

I’ve fielded a bunch of questions on constructing a space costume so here is a quick tutorial. 

The Helmet

Balloon anchor (see below)
Paper strips (we used strips that were approx. 1.5” x 10”)
Glue or flour paste
1 - 2L bottle (visor)
White spray paint
Foam (inside padding) (optional)

We started with a ballon that was significantly larger than Ben’s head. Roomy is good! You don’t want a claustrophobic astronaut.  Don’t worry that the balloon tapers down at the bottom; it’ll get cut off later in the process.

We do a lot of paper mache in our house and this time around decided to use a flour paste (flour + water), instead of our typical glue paste (elmers glue + water). Don’t do it! Stick with glue. The flour was lumpy and smelled gross. Plus it took an extra long time to dry. Add enough water to your glue to make it moderately runny. I know that’s not terribly helpful but we never measure anymore.

Before you begin pasting: tape your balloon down to a base (anchor). Make it as heavy as possible. Your balloon, once coated in paper and paste, is going to be quite top heavy and you’ll want a firm foundation. We used a few jars of clams and would have preferred a heavier base. 

With a sharpie, draw a basic outline of your visor area. Dip the paper strips in the paste, squeegee off the extra with your fingers, and slap onto the balloon. I start by placing the strips in slightly overlapping parallel strips and then lay the next layer perpendicular to the first layers. Make sure you have strong layers around the base (where the head hole will be) and around the visor. 

This is definitely the part where your kids can join in. Mine loves the messy process; he’ll do the dipping and I’d place the strips on the balloon. 

It’ll look ugly and be a horrible mess but don’t lose faith!

And now you have to wait for it to dry. Which can take days. We left it in a warm spot and forgot about it for a week. Not a project you can do the night before halloween.

When it’s dry, enlarge the head hole with scissors. We also elected to paint the inside of our helmet (green) and to line the head opening with white duct tape so there were no rough edges that rested on the wearer’s shoulders. 

Cut your visor: empty the 2 L bottle and cut off the top and bottom, and then vertically so that it’s one big rectangle. Lay over your helmet. 

If you have white duct tape, it’s nice to tape it down, otherwise simply do more layers of paper and paste over the edges. Do several layers; you want the visor attachments to be sturdy. 

Blow up another balloon into the helmet and presto! A good way to dry your helmet. 

Again, forget about it for a few days while it dries. 

Last step: Use painter’s tape to cover the visor. Spray paint the outside and add foam inside for a good fit.

Again, we waited a week after this step to give the helmet plenty of time to off-gas... spray painting can be pretty fume-y.

Helmet is done!

Space Suit

White duct tape (lots!)
Snow suit or body suit

I was originally looking for a snow suit to use for the base of Ben’s space explorer costume but I could only find the bib style at our local thrift shop. The ideal garment would have both puffy arms and legs. Instead we settled for a $4 race car driver suit.

Important note: Buy up a size or two. The duct tape is quite restricting and the form-fitting suit required a little shimmy to get into, thanks to the constrictive nature of the tape.

The suit before:

And after. The magic of white duct tape!

You could also cover ski gloves and boots in tape, if you’re really going all-out.

Finally, I printed off a NASA label and an American flag and used clear packing tape to attach them to the suit.

The Rocket Pack

2 - 2L bottles
Cardboard base (approximate size: 9”x9”)
Red felt
White Spray Paint
White ribbon
Hot glue gun
Optional: light sandpaper (100 grit)

I still can’t get over the fact that the root beer I bought was $0.78 for a 2L bottle. I pay $5.60 for a gallon of milk! We were sick of root beer by the time this project was over.

Empty your bottles. Thread the ribbon through your flat piece of cardboard, making a harness that you can tie in the front. We did it from all four corners so a ribbon went under and over each arm. We simply tied all four ribbons in a big bow in front. A little goofy, but you could do it under the armpits if you’re particular.

Here’s a front shot:

Glue your bottles side-by-side on the cardboard base. Use a fine sandpaper to slightly rough up the slippery plastic so the paint can adhere.

Spray paint the whole shebang.

Cut out flames and glue them onto the bottom of the rockets.




From The Blog-O-Sphere

Not my day, Darlings.

This morning I ran out of gas on the way to preschool.

Today I learned that my prius will shut down the engine and then has the ability to putter along on battery power for a while before dying completely. Half a mile short of the gas station. With two kids in the car. Or, as Ben put it: “two starving kids”. I scrounged a pack of Halloween smarties from the bottom of my purse and he happily munched away while we waited for backup. Candy at 9 am? Why yes.

My awesome mama came to the rescue with a jerry can of petrol and we happily went on our way. Goes to show that even when you’re an adult with kids of your own those mamas are still looking out for you. Or as Ben has been saying lately: “She’s a super mama!!”  Yes she is.

The day is looking up, however. Ben had an awesome day at preschool and we’re getting together with a good pal tomorrow for a long-overdue adventure.

This afternoon Ben and I are going to make some Thanksgiving place cards for our shindig next week.

Here are a few other articles that caught my attention:

Why divers in Bonaire are killing lion fish

The unpalatable truth about quinoa

The Dutch village where everyone has dementia

Thanksgiving meals across the United States (what’s your meal?)

The time the Columbia River froze. My Nana used to talk about ice skating one year on Lake Washington but I never really believed her. Maybe I should have.

Made me laugh. Introverts Unite!

I’m adding this book to my reading list: The Wild Truth, by Carine McCandless

In California, That MRI Will Cost You $255 — Or Maybe $6,221

Bullying is ageless: conflict and violence in nursing homes. I believe it. Especially as my grandfather became known for the incident in which he dumped a glass of milk on his dining companion’s head.

We’re in the midst of finishing up the laundry room. Check out my packing job from a trip to Ikea last week. What you can’t see: Little Em, hidden away in her car seat. Ikea jenga at its finest!

Have a great (almost) weekend!



Friday, November 07, 2014

From the Blog-O-Sphere

Have a great weekend, lovelies. We’re doing some house tasks tomorrow and then having the fam over for dinner. This has been a complicated season for us and our extended family dinners have fallen by the wayside. Time to remedy that.

Our little Em is a crawling & climbing master. Yesterday she was on a mission for food and decided to hike up our stairs in an effort to find me. Slow down, wee little pumpkin, I’m not really for a super-mobile baby.

Here are a few articles from around the internet:

Build A Bear....for millennial women? Why is the child’s store suddenly so popular with the 25-35 set?

Daylight Saving Time seriously sucks. 

Car Talk on NPR. What memories! For me it’s sitting in the kitchen with my dad flipping swedish pancakes, with Click and Clap chatting away on the radio. RIP Tom Magliozzi.

The hilarious [parody] twitter account every parent needs to follow.

Why my grandma never had a pap smear. An article about the work of a friend at PATH, which in conjunction with other non-profits, developed CareHPV, a take-home cervical screening test for rural women in developing countries.

Picture this: A bird lands on a page about itself. Of course it would be a chickadee.

A natural fix for ADHD?

Women with PhDs review Amazon’s ‘sexy PhD’ costume.  "Wow, I think her tenure track is showing," snarked Biochemistry Prof.

Career burnout.

The anti-vaccine movement is forgetting polio. 

Have a great weekend, peeps!



Saturday, November 01, 2014

Halloween 2014

 Halloween began on a rather rough note for Ben as we started out with a trip to Urgent Care for a scratched cornea.

We learned that it takes three adults to physically restrain a three year old when it comes to administering (painless) eyedrops. But he was able to regroup a few minutes later and turn into a model patient for the doctor-in-training that swung by to observe the examination.

After that we zipped downtown for a visit to Chris’ office and then back home for a much needed nap (for the entire family).

And then....Halloween!

He and I have been working on his costume for a while. It finally came together last night after adding the patches to the bodysuit.

May I present:


The helmet is my favorite: paper mache with plastic from a 2-L bottle as the face shield.

Ben’s favorite part is the rocket pack: two 2-L bottles painted white with red felt flames.


I was going to do white shoes.. but ran out of time. I hear blue crocs are also pretty speedy in space.

As for the bodysuit, we took an old jumpsuit from goodwill and wrapped it in white duct tape. 

Never ever underestimate the power of duct tape.

Slap on a few printed logos and presto! DIY Space Explorer.

We’ve been running around the house all morning shouting To Infinity! And Beyond!

After our rough day, I considered bailing on trick or treating. But Ben, true to form, was having none of that. He rallied on a spectacular scale. Ironically, we opted not to wear the space explorer costume, as we were running late and I was mentally maxed out. He was wearing jeans so we added a hat, vest, and plaid shirt. Our little cowboy was now ready for the festivities.

We got to stop by Grandma’s house and then Uncle E’s house to practice our ‘trick or treating’ (and only selecting one candy) before heading over to a friend’s house for the main festivities.

Ben quickly adopted a new buddy and the two of them linked arms and ran house to house, collecting their goodies.

Spending time with friends and watching our kid have a fantastic time was great end to a hectic day. And, even better, corneas heal pretty quickly. He’s good as new today. Candy does a body good, evidently. :)