Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011

The kids could NOT wait to go trick-or-treating this year. We managed to get ONE measly picture of them in costume before they raced out the door. In fact, Isaac was ready to go in his underwear and made a beeline for outside. Jonathan had to catch him and remind him get into his tiger suit first, and he loves the tiger costume. He spent at least a half hour the first time he tried it on chasing his big brother and sister around the house and yelling ROAR!

Melissa wanted a cyclops this year so we worked together on it. Matthew scooped, designed, and carved his "alphabet face" pumpkin all by himself this year. Not bad at all!

Everyone had a good time going door to door for candy. Isaac figured out the drill pretty quickly and raced ahead of the big kids so he could be the one to knock and ring the doorbell. Pity the poor adult who didn't react on the first ring, because Isaac was not patient. "Wee wee wee!" [trick or treat!] Bang bang bang! "Wee wee wee!" Bang bang bang!

Isaac was thorough, too. I [Jonathan] would have to pull him away from the houses with no lights on; he wanted everyone to give him candy.

We did three cul de sacs on our way out. Then Isaac started to get tired at about the same time as Matthew's candy bag started to get full. (I emptied Isaac and Melissa's bags from the trunk or treat Saturday; I left Matthew's in the bottom. Heh heh heh.) So everyone was okay with heading back. Isaac faded quickly though, starting to drag after just one more street. "Tu veux retournez chez Mama?" (Do you want to go back to Mama?") "Yeh." He was still torn; houses not yet plundered beckoned, but he allowed me to lead him past the next street while Matthew and Melissa went down it.

Isaac and I stopped at a couple more houses on the way, going so slowly that his brother and sister caught up with us just as we turned into our driveway. And everyone feasted on candy, including yours, who exacted the traditional Daddy Candy Tax.

Game night with Brian and Chris

While the guys were here we played a cooperative game of Pandemic.  It's a fiendishly difficult game.  We tried to beat back the outbreaks that kept popping up around the globe, but alas we lost. 


Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Sinden Kids

Originally Jonathan was going to speak at a conference in Japan at the beginning of October.  We invited Brian to come out for a visit, and to help me with the kids during the week Jonathan would be gone.  Brian, being the great brother that he is, agreed.  Chris discovered he would have leave during the same time, so at the last minute he decided to fly out too and stay with Andrea.

Somehow during the move to Austin Jonathan's passport got misplaced or lost.  It's hard to say what happened, but he searched the box he thought it was in- and it wasn't!  Unfortunately he didn't discover this until Friday night and his flight was Sunday evening.  Instead of flying to Japan he arranged to give it over Skype with a Japanese interpreter at around 3 AM Austin time. It all worked out, and without the jet lag. 

It was SO much fun to have my brothers here.  Between Chris and Brian's missions, it's been years since the four of us have all been together, so we played, ate delicious things, and had fun.   

Due to the abundance of limestone, Texas is home to many really cool caverns.  While Brian and Chris were here we decided to pay a visit to Longhorn Caverns.  It's about an hour northwest of Austin.  It's unique since it is one of only a hand full of caves in the United States formed primarily by an underground river rather than acidic erosion.  Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is another famous river formed cave.  The cave is carved smooth and you don't see many stalactites or stalagmites.   Still it is beautiful in place, the crystal sections are incredible, and the history is quite colorful.

FDR's Civilian Conservation Corp cleared out the debris in the caves and discovered evidence of a Confederate stronghold.  Inside they found dynamite, weapons, and two uniformed soldiers' remains, likely from an unfortunate gunpowder accident.  Outlaw Sam Bass is rumored to have stashed his loot in the caverns, and legend has it that the Texas Rangers rescued a kidnapped woman from Indians in the caverns.  During Prohibition, the caverns served up bootleg whiskey.  Free drinks to the local sheriffs ensured the law turned a blind eye, and on Sundays the caverns hosted a church.  Patrons who passed out on the floors from the night before would awake to the service and join the congregation!  There is a long wide passageway know as the subterranean ballroom, and yes they did have a dance hall with wooden floors.

The caves are still used for entertainment.  Willie Nelson occasionally performs in the caverns, choirs come to sing, and every December they hold caroling.

Isaac with Uncle Brian.

Unfortunately he wasn't as entertained by the caves, the ipod, or being carried in the backpack as I thought he would be...  Still he made it, and mostly unscathed- just two skinned knees from tripping.  Er, Isaac that is.  Brian did fine.


Passageway dubbed "short man's revenge"  It is about 4 to 4.5 feet high and 7 wide.  Duck!

Smooth formations made by the quick-moving underground ancient river. 

Not a very good picture of them, but there were two passageways filled with enormous crystals.  Even Isaac was impressed.

The watch dog.  This is perhaps the most famous formation/sculpture in the caverns.  No tool marks have been found.

The four Sinden kids + 2 babies (and our tour guide) after the tour.  Isaac (not pictured) was DONE and climbing the stairs. 

On Friday night Andrea and Jeremy played host to an elaborate murder mystery dinner.  They even used the fine china!  Andrea set up Brian and Chris each with a date for the dinner and the eight of us busied ourselves in the sordid business of fame, love, Hollywood, and murder.  Watch your back, folks, because it turns out you don't want to double cross me.  Not that I'm confessing to anything...

Jonathan likes it when we have out of town guests, because it provides the perfect excuse to take them out to taste the local cuisine.  We took Brian to try some authentic Chinese, a Brazilian steakhouse, and good 'ol Texan barbeque, plus the world famous Round Rock doughnuts.  Yum!

Brian and Chris also watched the kids for us so we could go out on the town.  Come again anytime guys!  Or as they say here, "Y'all come back now!"  The kids LOVED having so much attention from their uncles.  Uncles are pretty awesome. So are brothers.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Conference Weekend

So I'm a few weeks behind...

The first weekend in October is the semi-annual conference weekend for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I love conference weekend.  I love listening to the uplifting talks, getting together with family, hearing the choirs, and just relaxing. I really appreciated President Monson's talk during the Sunday Morning session about standing in holy places.  Conference is a wonderful time for me to evaluate what I am doing in my life both good and bad, and hear words of encouragement for the things I could do better.

I wasn't always fond of conference though.  I can remember times as a little kid sitting in the stake center watching the broadcast on a hard metal chair.  The chair was too big and my feet dangled.  I had to swing my legs to prevent them from losing circulation and then one of my parents would tell me to quit fidgeting.  Impossible! 

Now conference is available to watch online  I can't remember what year they started doing this, but it is a wonderful thing for people with small children.  We catch part of conference with the children and listen or read the rest later.  8 hours is a lot for little ones!  Speaking of which, I still need to hear the Saturday morning session...

Matthew sewed while listening to the talks.  This year we promised M&M a treat if they could tell us three things they heard. Thus they were motivated to listen.

I think for next April I will build a tent in the living room and play conference bingo with M&M.  I bet they would like that.  

My lovely sister and oh so cute niece!

 Uncle Jeremy

This year Uncle Jeremy and Aunt Andrea joined us for dinner after conference.  Actually Andrea cooked the dinner and brought it to us.  She made lumpia and siopao- yep, she loves us!  I *slaved* away on the salad (but it was a good salad).  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Isaac and the webcam

Isaac and the webcam
Originally uploaded by jbellis

Thursday, October 13, 2011

9 on the 9th!

Matthew is growing is so many ways.  He has an insatiable curiosity about the world and many, many questions.  Many more questions than his parents have answers, in fact.  I've given him a blank notebook to write down his musings, so he can look up the answers himself and write them down.  Google is a great tool.

Matthew loves to create things with his hands.  He likes to fold origami, sew, build projects with wood and nails, make lego creations, and draw cartoons.

He is a kind big brother and looks out for his younger siblings.  If he gets a treat, he instinctively shares with his littler siblings.  Just today at the book fair he bought a book for himself, and one that he thought his sister would like.  He also delights in to teasing her though!  Matthew wrestles and tickles Isaac and puts up with a lot of the mischief Isaac causes with his stuff.  To be fair, Isaac would try the very patience of Job, and sometimes Matthew does get frustrated with him.  Matthew also dotes on his baby sister and loves to hold her.  He can't bear to hear her cry and if I don't get there first, he will pick her up and try to soothe her.  He is an gentle soul. 

Matthew is getting more independent and takes pride in doing things all by himself.  He rides his bike to and from the school which is about a mile away and he rides to his friends' houses.  He also likes to go into the store by himself and pay for things using his own money that he's earned. 

To our delight, our son is an avid reader and enjoys a broad selection of books ranging from mystery, science fiction, fantasy, science nonfiction, and general fiction.  Once he latches onto a good book, he will take and read it everywhere.  I've drawn the line at reading on the porcelain throne, however.  

Matthew is a good helper around the house and with his younger brother and sisters.  He can be a huge help and when things get crazy around the house, I know I can count on him.

It is hard to believe that nine years have passed since he made his debut.  It really doesn't seem very long ago!

This year Matthew celebrated his ninth birthday with lots of uncles. He had a blast playing with his Uncle Jeremy of course, and Uncles Chris and Brian who flew in town for the week to play with us. 

We celebrated Jonathan and Matthew's birthdays on Saturday.  We took family pictures in the park in the morning, and had world famous Round Rock donuts.  Later, Jonathan, the uncles, Matthew, and Melissa all went indoor rock wall climbing. 

While the guys + Melissa were out, Isaac, Corinna, and I stayed home to make the cake and decorate the house.  Isaac found a carton of strawberries and decided they looked tasty.  He took one or two bites out of every strawberry.  

 Fortunately Aunt Andrea and Uncle Jeremy saved the day and brought another carton of strawberries.  Thanks guys! 

The heavens opened up and it poured on that Saturday.  No one minded though, since it's been many months since this parched Texas ground had seen any rain.  In fact, I think the kids were initially puzzled by the wet stuff falling from the sky.  Not for long though.  Isaac wanted to go outside to play and Melissa changed to her swimsuit to frolic in it. 

 A nice picture...

...and a goofy picture.  Matthew kept acting silly in the pictures so I promised a goofy group shot if he'd just behave for one picture.  Matthew and Jonathan voted to have Five Guys burgers for dinner, so we did!

Matthew opening his loot.  He loved the origami calendar, hex bugs, magic kit, lego set, chemistry set, radio controlled car, air force hat, and airplane he received.  I say he did quite well!

Grandma sent Melissa some hair clips from her great Aunt Stephanie.  She immediately had to try them out- all of them! 

This year Matthew requested cheesecake.  Jonathan asked for banana cream pie on his birthday, so I didn't make any traditional birthday cakes this year. 

Hope your wishes come true, Matthew.  I am sure proud of you, my son, and look forward to many wonderful birthdays to come.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dancing with Dad

Daddy dancing with his girls to Squirrel Nut Zippers.