Big Changes Ahead

A few weeks ago we found out that our beloved nanny will be leaving us by the end of the calendar year. We had anticipated this was coming since she is graduating in December, but nonetheless it was pretty devastating to hear the final verdict. We all absolutely adore her and Ben will truly be heartbroken when she leaves us.

Edina moved in with us at the beginning of October and everything is going very well. Ben quickly realized that now Edina is just downstairs so he walks all over the house calling her name in the mornings, evenings or on the weekends when we haven’t seen her yet. He is crazy about Edina! It is so sweet but it’s going to be so, so sad when she leaves. Edina is constantly singing or talking to Ben – I swear she’s at least 75% of the reason he is talking so much. She literally is constantly talking to him. It’s incredible. We will be forever grateful to her.

We quickly realized we needed to figure out what we’re going to do to replace her position – we still need childcare after all. After mulling over some options, we’ve decided to hire an au pair. An au pair is someone who comes from another country to live with a host family and provide childcare in exchange for immersing herself in our culture. It is a government regulated program and is considered a cultural exchange.

I’m excited to report that we have been successfully “matched” with an au pair! She is from Panama and she speaks Spanish {as well as very good English}. We are really happy to be welcoming a Spanish-speaker to our family and look forward to Ben learning more Spanish. So, we’ll be ending 2017 by saying “see you later” to Edina and starting 2018 off transitioning to a brand new caregiver and housemate.

Ben’s Firstish Halloween

We had a big Halloween this year! Ben dressed up as an adorable little monkey and we went out on the town…

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Throughout the week of Halloween I think he wore his costume about 5 times, so it got plenty of use. Aside from the adorableness of his costume, it was super warm and toasty, too.

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Ben’s school had a costume day. Edina took Ben that day and said it was basically the cutest thing ever!MPCP Halloween

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Where we live the neighborhood business associations put on neighborhood trick-or-treats through the different downtown corridors. It’s more common to go trick-or-treating at the businesses, then residential trick-or-treating is pretty minimal. This evening, on Halloween, we started in our neighborhood to keep with tradition, and went to Bottlehouse. Hopefully next year Ben will be bobbing for apples!

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After trick-or-treating our way through Madrona, we headed north to Madison Park. Ben’s school has a little spot out in the downtown area where they set up a cute fall scene for families to have their photo taken. I was on the Halloween booth committee which meant I had to help staff the photo booth and tear it down.

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While one of us manned the booth, the other one joined Edina to take Ben trick-or-treating through Madison Park. It was so stinking cute.

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He started to really catch on quickly that he’d get to pick something that looked interesting from the candy bowl.

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Of course he doesn’t know what candy is yet, but he was proud to get to choose something and then hold onto it until the next stop.

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After every stop he signed “thank you” to the person handing out candy. It was so sweet!

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Our tired little monkey had a wonderful firstish Halloween! I think next year he’ll really get into it!

Ben is 17 Months Old!

Happy Halloween from our 17-month old monkey!

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Today, Ben is 17 months old! We can’t believe he’s a month away from being a year and a half. Ben has 7 teeth {top 4 + bottom 2 center + top left molar} and I just saw the makings of a new molar about to emerge.

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Ben has had a couple bouts of illness this last month {roseola and the stomach flu} and has lost a bit of weight. He dropped from the 15th percentile back down to the 4th. Ben hasn’t bounced back from his illnesses as quickly as we would have expected. We saw the doctor who encouraged us to try some probiotics and really bump up the calories and fat to boost his weight back up. Ben hasn’t had much of an appetite for dinner {probably partly due to a new molar coming in} so he has been waking up very early and very hungry.

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That reminds me – I’ve been getting asked a lot lately what size Ben is wearing these days. As mentioned above, he’s still a little peanut! Mostly he’s wearing 12-18 months, but still some 9-12 months. In particular, pants are very difficult to buy for Ben because his little legs are so thin. I think he’ll be in 12-18 month clothing for a while still!

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As I keep saying every month, Ben is getting more and more fun by the day. The biggest changes in the last month, I’d say, have been the vocabulary explosion and that Ben has started getting into climbing. He is still super sweet {getting sweeter?!}, very giggly and affectionate.

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Listening to Ben talk and learn to talk/figure out how to say new words has been really neat to see. I’m not sure how many words he can say – probably close to 50 by now. I’d say his actual vocabulary {knowing words in context} is between 25-30 words. Not all of the words sound like how an adult would say them – airplane is “ah pah” but they’re consistent and he knows what he’s saying.

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Some of his regularly used words are: ball, truck, bath time, nana {banana}, down, hat and applesauce. A big majority of his vocabulary is food words, though his most commonly used word right now is Edina, our nanny’s name. He has started to say words that he had previously only signed – like water and all done. He answers yes or no to simple questions, particularly around food. Ben can follow simple instructions, for example, he can pick out a story that he wants to read and then come sit in your lap.

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He’s also learning about animals and really loving animals lately! We went to the zoo recently and Ben was extremely engaged in seeing the animals and making animal sounds. It was adorable. He especially loved the river otters, the giraffe and the baby gorilla! He makes a ferocious lion impersonation too. 🙂

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New this last month – Ben has turned into quite the climber! At the start of October he had not figured out how to go backwards down a set of stairs or safely climb off of something on his own. About two weeks ago somehow he magically figured out how to go down things safely. He can climb off of our bed or down from a chair and he can scoot backwards down the stairs. This opened up a whole new arena for him to start climbing anything he possibly can.

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Ben has also started going to a tumbling class, which is perfect to get the climbing crazies out! He goes to a structured class one day a week and then we’re allowed to come in later in the week for unstructured time on the equipment. The class is for tots just his age and gives the kiddos the opportunity to safely climb up and over things, tumble around, jump into a ball pit, bounce on a trampoline and work on other gross motor skills.

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Preschool is still going well. We’ve gotten into more of a routine this month with taking Ben to his school program two afternoons a month. He’s starting to get into the groove there and knows what to expect and really is starting to learn the songs. Now that we’re into it, I’m seeing a lot of value {not just all the work that’s involved!} and we’re really enjoying it.

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We just got this fancy “tot clock” for Ben’s room. It’s a night light that changes colors when it’s okay for Ben to wake up {i.e. after 6 a.m.!}. This clock is really neat – we have it set to a soft orange hue for sleepy time, along with some light background noise {mostly to drown out the creaky floors!}, then it changes to a blue/green at 6 a.m. to signal that it’s a reasonable time to wake up.

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Because of his recent illnesses, lack of appetite for dinner and waking up starving, Ben has been waking for the day between 4 and 5 a.m. Right now, the tot clock is not going to solve the issue of him not waking up. Once we get him on the right track with eating again, I think it will be helpful to get him to stay in bed ultimately until 6:30, or better yet, 7!

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The weather this month has been absolutely fantastic. I can’t think of an October in the nine years we’ve lived in Seattle that has been anywhere near this nice. Usually it’s just pouring down rain in October. Not this year! We’ve gotten an extra long playground season for little Ben and he’s one happy camper about it.

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Here’s to another great month – I can’t wait to see what Ben is like a month from now!

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More Fall Fun!

In preparation for Halloween this week we decided to get Ben dressed up in his adorable monkey costume as many times as possible. We started the weekend at Alex’s work’s family Halloween festival on Friday and ended it at Remlinger Farms pumpkin patch/autumn festival today.

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Just getting used to his Halloween costume…

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We all seemed to come down with a little stomach bug this week. Thankfully it was fairly short-lived and rather mild. Unfortunately for me, it hit me about 7 minutes after this {above} photo was taken – live, right in the middle of Alex’s work campus. Ugh. We all bounced back quickly and are a-ok now.

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Sunday morning we were feeling better and drove out to Carnation, Washington to Remlinger Farms, with Edina, our nanny, to enjoy some fall fun.

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Ben ate a whole mini doughnut all in one bite…..

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We loved all that Remlinger Farms had to offer, especially this fantastic train! It was a real train that took us for a 15ish minute ride around the farm.

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Ben loved the hay bale maze!

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And got to try his first amusement park ride!

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Ben and Edina! He loves her so so much.

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I knew just how to get the giggles out! This little monkey is ready for Halloween! 🙂

*all of the good photos courtesy of Edina!

Sixth Annual Octoberfest Trip

Our sixth annual Octoberfest trip has now come and gone. This is a trip that Alex and I look forward to all year long. We take off for a weekend in the mountains outside of Leavenworth with several other families. We relax, drink wine, play adult board games, eat sausage and sauerbraten and enjoy our time in the mountains. This year was extra special because our little ones are all so close in age and they were playing together and were more on the same level now that they’re a bit older than last year.

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Altogether this year there were 8 adults, 5 toddlers and 3 dogs. The tots range in age from 16 months {Ben} to 22 months {August and Oliver}, with Roslyn at 17 months and Liam at 20 months. It’s pretty remarkable that all of our kids are so close in age. The adults in the group are Ryan and Mary, parents of August and Oliver; Dave and Trish, parents of Liam; and Carrie and Patrick, parents of Roslyn.

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The weather this year, like many other years, couldn’t have been more perfect. It was very crisp and clear and made our trip that much better.

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We kicked off the weekend by heading into the town of Leavenworth on Saturday morning for a stroll, some coffee and gingerbread cookies and, of course, sausage. Ben loved the parade that rolled through town and kept neighing at the horses. It was pretty cute!

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On Sunday morning the guys ventured off on their own to take advantage of their Father’s Day gifts — a fly fishing lesson! It sounds like they really enjoyed learning how to fish and I know at least one of them intends on returning and giving it another try.

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While the dads were off fishing the moms packed up the littles and drove to Lake Wenatchee State Park, a few miles up the road. We were most interested in the playground but ended up being captivated by the beach and the breathtaking views that we hardly spent any time on the jungle gym with the kids. Our trip, though, was pretty short lived, as it was extremely windy and very chilly.

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I think we all were really pleasantly surprised about a lot with the kids – they all got along really well and there weren’t any issues and the chaos was extremely minimal. Another big surprise was that they all went to sleep in the evenings very well which allowed for some adult time. The nap times for the kids were sort of well organized, too.

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It was so fun to see the kids playing together and having the opportunity for all of us to engage with the other tots and really get to know them a little better. All of our schedules are so busy and we don’t get together nearly as often as we used to or would like to. These weekends are extra special now that we’ve got kiddos.

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This year we stayed in a different house for Octoberfest than we had in the past. We stayed in the same house that our family rented for Ben’s birthday back in May. Conveniently, this house is located literally right next door to our piece of property. It was really fun being so close to our lot so we could walk over there and check out the view. Alex and I cannot wait to wake up to that!!

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Before heading back to Seattle on Monday, Alex and I, along with the Millers, stopped at Lake Wenatchee State Park. Alex was bummed he missed out on going the day before while he was fishing and wanted to enjoy the view. Luckily for us all, the wind was still and the weather was perfect.

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I’m pretty impressed with our group that we are still taking our annual trip to Leavenworth together. These trips have really changed over the years – it was so fun to look back on photos from last year’s Octoberfest trip, which was the first one where we all had kiddos! If you’re curious – here is the evolution of our trips {I hadn’t started our blog quite yet for our first annual trip}:

Ben is 16 Months Old!

Every day Ben continues to demonstrate how much he is learning right now – it is such an incredible thing to experience as a parent. Our little tyke is 16 months old now and his language and communication skills have exploded over the last few weeks. That has been one of the highlights of the last month.

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Because of our recent vacation, Ben only just had his 15-month check up last week. The doctor gave him a clean bill of health, along with four vaccines. We were excited to see Ben break through the 10th percentile in weight for the first time – he’s now in the 15th percentile! For height he’s around the 40th percentile. As of last week, Ben weighed 21 pounds, 14 ounces and was 30 3/4 inches tall.

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We have been having so much fun watching Ben learn to talk recently. He had been repeating words for a while and began to build up a vocabulary with proper association. Today he has a vocabulary close to 30 words, I bet. It seems like he’s learning a new word or two every day. I’m pretty blown away at how much he is able to communicate. His doctor let us know that his vocabulary is much more advanced than his age, which I had no idea.

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It’s hard to say what his favorite words are at any given point, but they definitely include:

  • Kitty
  • Truck
  • Yah (yes)
  • Lina (Auntie Alina)
  • Ceiling
  • All done
  • Bath time

Ben picked up on the baby sign language pretty quickly around 12 months. We taught him a few signs for things like “more” and “water” and “milk” – it’s really helped him figure out how to communicate with us. While we were on our recent trip Ben came up with his own sign for “hungry” or “eat” – he just started pointing to his mouth when he wanted some food. He’s very good at pointing at something and saying “that” which is super helpful so we know what he’s asking for.

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What’s possibly even more fun is the associations Ben is making. His nanny sings songs with him all the time and he’s learning random words from the songs. He can point to and say “ceiling.” “floor,” “window,” and “door” because of a silly song. He can identify his head, nose, mouth, tummy, feet and ears and can clap his hands. He is starting to be able to point out animals in books, in person or on the refrigerator magnets. There are a few animal sounds that he makes, but mostly just the name of the animal or he can point to the animal if you say its name. I just cannot believe how much his language skills are developing right now.

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In addition to communication, Ben’s physical skills are developing and he has become super stable on his feet. He’s beginning to pay attention to uneven surfaces and he’s falling a lot less {though he did just take a nasty tumble, nose first, into some concrete at the playground over the weekend}.

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Ben has taken to scurrying around the house these days. His “scurry” is somewhere between a walk and a run – he’s moving fast but not too fast. He loves to push his old school popcorn popper around the house and do laps through our circular main floor.

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One of Ben’s new favorite activities is somersaulting into Jackson’s bed. This all started with him running and jumping into Jackson’s bed and somewhere recently he figured out how to somersault. His somersaults are not quite on point but they are getting really close.

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Another highlight of the last month or so has been how focused Ben has become on something that is of interest to him. He has really taken to reading and right now his favorite books are those that have one big picture of something {i.e. a truck!} on it, or really interactive books like touch and feel books. The other day while I was making dinner he sat in Alex’s lap and they read stories and talked to each other for a good half an hour. It was so sweet to listen to.

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Ben’s personality is continuing to emerge. He is SUCH an entertainer. It is hilarious to watch – he has started blowing kisses as his way to say hello or goodbye and he does things to try to make people smile and laugh. He has begun laughing in appropriate situations – it is so funny. He is really starting to associate his actions with getting a smile from someone.

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Ben’s demeanor is so sweet. He’s a fun-loving kiddo. He is liberal with the hugs these days and if I’m sitting on the floor with him he’ll walk over and climb right into my lap for a story. He is fairly calm, but also very loud and dramatic at times. If he’s got an opinion about something he is sure to let you know. It is really hard not to laugh if he’s having a tantrum about something ridiculous!

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We are really finding that getting out for an active adventure every day is very important. Ben gets to a point where he gets bored if he is cooped up inside for too long. Most days for the last few months have been spent with at least one trip to the playground in the morning and another outing somewhere else. Now that the rainy season is looming over us {not here yet!!} we’re scouring the web to come up with an arsenal of tot activities. Ben tried out My Gym today and did a really cool gym class – I think that’s going to be a weekly thing now!

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I can only imagine that when I sit down at the end of October {let’s be real, the beginning of November} to write my next month post about Ben turning 17 months that he’ll be talking even more and maybe mastered his somersault. It’s hard to picture what he’ll be like in a month, but I can say for sure that he’s changing more and more every day. This little boy is a blast!

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Fall Family Fun!

Fall is one of Alex’s and my favorite seasons. I love, love, looooove fall cooking – come August I’m DONE with salads, grilling and light eating and ready to throw on a pot of chili, bake some pumpkin muffins and indulge in rich, hearty dinners. In any case, we’re enjoying the start of fall here in the Pacific Northwest.

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We returned from our Midwest trip, where we had perfect summer weather, to 52 degrees and rain! It was an abrupt end to warm days and we loved it. Since we’ve been back, the weather has been perfectly fallish. We’ve been loving the cooler mornings, cozying up in vests and flannel and hearing Ben run around in the crunchy leaves. Oh fall!

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Last weekend Alex and I left Ben with his nanny and headed to Gig Harbor to attend Ryan and Anne’s wedding. It was one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever been to. It was over-the-top in an absolutely perfect and sensational way. We were so happy to have been there!

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{cinnamon rolls + coffee the next morning!}

{cinnamon rolls + coffee the next morning!}

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Edina, our nanny, is such a great photographer. She took a ton of fabulous fall photos of Ben recently and I’m dying to share them with you!

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This morning was an absolutely perfect kick-start to our first weekend at home in a while – we headed north to Snohomish and took Ben, along with our friends, to The Farm at Swan’s Trail, a local apple orchard and pumpkin patch. It was awesome!! Alex and I were most excited for apple doughnuts, which were terrific, and we had such a great time.

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{August and Oliver, the twins, are behind Ben}

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Happy fall! 🙂

Ben’s First Day of “Preschool”

Ben had his first day of “preschool” this past week. As a way to get him more time with other kids his age and to get him out of the house we signed him up for a cooperative preschool near our house. He’ll go to school twice a week for the whole school year.

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A co-op preschool is one where the parents are very involved, and really in this case, run the operations of the school. There is a head teacher and a parent educator, and otherwise, everything is done by very involved parents. The parental involvement component is turning out to be significantly more than I expected, but I think there’s a great opportunity to build a nice little community.

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We missed the first two weeks of school because of our recent trip, nonetheless, Ben got started without a hitch and fit right in. The school sessions are 90 minutes and include an hour of free play, 20 minutes at the playground and 10 minutes of songs and circle time. Our first day went really well and Ben loved exploring the new space. It was really sweet to see all of the other kids playing and I am looking forward to watching them all grow up together this year!

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Midwest Tour

Our last big trip of the summer is now behind us. We just returned home from a whirlwind 12-day trip to the Midwest {and Mexico for Alex!}. We covered a lot of ground, including my hometown and family cabin, Alex’s family’s lake home, his parents home and Chicago. It was really nice to spend time with our families and for Ben to get to hang out with his grandparents, aunt, uncles and cousin, as well as quite a few of our friends.

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The trip started on a Thursday – Alex flew to San Diego as a staging area to head to Mexico the following day while Ben and I headed to Minnesota just 15 minutes ahead of Alex. Alex spent a long weekend down in Ensenada, Mexico, which is in Baja, to attend the wedding of our friends Justin and Tania. He said it was absolutely gorgeous!

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Our flight was a piece of cake, with the exception of a very rude Delta flight attendant {this was a good reminder of why we fly Alaska!}, and Ben was a rock star. He slept for about half of the flight and the other half he was completely content with snacking and doing some activities.

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For most of our time in Minnesota we stayed with my mom. Ben loved her “kitty cat” and the pool in her backyard, naturally. We spent a lot of time checking out different playgrounds, experiencing the farmers market and going to the beach. Ben and I enjoyed a nice dinner on the deck of my brother’s new house – it was really nice to get to see his new place and spend time with John and his girlfriend, Becky.

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I had some of my friends from high school and their families come over for an afternoon in the pool one day. It’s so fun to see all the kids together – between six of us we have 9 kids altogether with another on the way!

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Another highlight of our time in Minnesota was our trip up to my dad’s family cabin. The cabin has been in his family since the 1930s and holds a lot of memories! It was so fun taking Ben up there and watching him cruise around, explore and play with my brother’s old Tonka trucks. He even got to go for a dip in the lake and take a couple of paddle boat rides with me.

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After a really fun time in Mexico, Alex came and met us in Minnesota late Monday night, five days into our trip. We spent our last day in Minnesota together with my family before hitting the road for the 5-hour drive to Alex’s parents lake home in southern Wisconsin.

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It was so relaxing being at the lake – Ben loved some fun new toys that Grammy and Grandpa had for him to play with, and he loved seeing his cousin Nico, who is 6 months younger than he is. We went for boat rides, Ben played in the kiddie pool and we all enjoyed our time together. To top it off, it was absolutely perfect summer lake weather.

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Throughout the trip Ben continued to impress me with his ability to adapt to new situations and new people. While he didn’t sleep very well the whole trip {who can blame him!?}, he continued to remain his normal sweet, friendly self during the day and loved spending more time with his extended family. While we were on the trip his first molar started to poke through and he got a cold. Despite the recipe for disaster he managed to hold it together and was such a happy camper the whole trip.

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On Friday afternoon Alex and I headed to Chicago, leaving Ben in Wisconsin with Alex’s parents. We had a wedding in the city to attend, where Alex was a groomsman. We stayed right downtown in the Loop in a great location and a beautiful hotel and had a really nice time catching up with many of Alex’s friends from high school.

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Alex was occupied on Saturday with wedding stuff, so I met up with Alina and Nico for a leisurely stroll through Restoration Hardware, followed by a wonderful lunch in their courtyard restaurant. We took a nice walk through part of the city before I headed to the wedding.

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On Sunday morning Alex and I had a little time together to take a walk to Millennium Park and be tourists for a few minutes. Then we headed to his parents home to spend the afternoon with Alex’s family before we had to leave to get back to Seattle the next day. We got to see Nana, Alex’s grandma {and our only surviving grandparent}, and spend more time with his parents, Alina, Alberto and Nico, as well as Alex’s uncle Mike.

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All in all, our trip was really, really nice. We loved seeing our families and getting to spend so much time with them. It’s so fun watching Ben in new spaces and getting to know his grandparents and other family members. It’s such a fun time right now and it was so special sharing that with our family and friends.