Author Archives: Alison Allen

Potty Training – 5 days in

A new milestone for our tot is upon us… we’re officially in the middle of potty training Ben! We’re five days in right now and I’m over the moon at how well it’s going.

We’re taking a very specific approach, as laid out in the newly famous “Oh Crap! Potty Training” book. This approach essentially makes you go from 100% diapers to 100% no diapers with the snap of a finger {and an enormous amount of subsequent effort and patience}. There’s no middle-ground of wearing diapers and then practicing going potty – it cuts straight to the chase and you’re just done with diapers, no ifs, ands or buts. Well, with one exception — sleeping.

It took a few weeks to read the book, get on board, mentally prepare ourselves and wait for the weather to cooperate. Once it did, we pulled the trigger and now we’re five days closer to having a potty trained child.

The first day was very challenging and I think overwhelming for us all. It was so new and it did not go quite how we expected {turns out Ben can hold it for a looooooooong time!}. Once we eased up on day two things started to fall into place. It was a very good learning opportunity for us all.

Right now, at the end of day five, we’re starting to get more comfortable with the idea of getting out for very short jaunts – i.e. a short walk around the block, mayyyybe a trip to the park. It’s still nerve-wracking for us to venture too far away, mainly because it’s so new and different and we haven’t done it yet. And full-size public toilets are wayyyy more intense and sparse than the little Baby Bjorn potty we can carry around the house/yard with us wherever we go.

So! The next steps in our process are to get out of the house and jump to the next level of communicating with Ben about using the potty. Right now we’re telling him to use it. We’d like to be able to ask if he’s got to go and trust his response. And, the end goal, of course is for him to be the one telling us he’s gotta go. I think that’s a few weeks away, though.

In any case, we’re on track and so proud of our little boy. It has been so endearing and makes our hearts overflow with pride and joy to watch Ben learning a new life skill. The best part, though, is seeing how proud of himself he is.

Building the Lodge: Framing!

The forecast for the weekend looked pretty chilly and wet. We decided to push potty training back a week {sunshine works better for us} and ultimately do a quick impromptu day trip out to Leavenworth to check out the progress on our house and seek out better weather.

We had a nice Saturday hanging out around our neighborhood and mostly staying dry, then Sunday morning, packed up the car after breakfast and headed towards the mountains. It’s pretty amazing how different the weather can be on one side of the mountains from the other – driving through Stevens Pass it was 39 degrees and pouring with a fresh snowline a bit above us, then as we descended {and nervously checked the weather because we were grossly unprepared for rain} the mountains the rain dried up and the skies cleared. It was a picture-perfect day in Leavenworth.

We scoped out the house, walked around the property and had a perfect picnic in our yard. It was a very memorable day, for sure.

Things over at The Lodge are really taking shape! Since we were there for Ben’s birthday two weeks ago, half of the first floor was framed and most of the second floor {a half story/loft} was framed. They need to frame the two-story great room on the main level and a few more things upstairs on the second level.

We’ve been making tremendous progress over the last few weeks with making decisions. It’s unbelievable the number of decisions we need to make. Thankfully it’s less overwhelming than I expected at this point.

Our builder broke ground and started framing about a month earlier than we expected so I feel like we’re still playing catch up with all of the decisions we need to make. It’s been so fun to see things come together and really start to imagine what the house will look like when it’s done.

The best part, though, is imagining our family and the memories we’ll be able to make at The Lodge.

Two Months and Counting!

I’m officially two months away from my due date with baby #2. It sure came up quickly! I’m over the moon to report that all is well with this little girl and that I really have nothing to report. It is a very refreshing feeling to have a boring, standard pregnancy and I hope that keeps up.

Baby girl is a mover and a grower! At my ultrasound early this week she weighed in at 4 pounds – already at almost 31 weeks, she’s nearly a pound heavier than Ben was when he was born at 33 weeks.

The ultrasound confirmed that she’s head down – head way down – and just hanging out, practicing breathing and doing a lot of moving. From about 28-30 weeks I was pretty uncomfortable while she settled in and then it seems like she re-positioned herself and since then, I’ve been feeling really well. Since she flipped to be head down I’ve hardly even had any heartburn, which has been so, so very appreciated!

Now that we’re getting to the homestretch we are starting to prepare our house for having a baby and get our ducks in a row with logistics. We just found out that our au pair will be staying with us for an additional nine months past her original contract date {until September 2019} so we’ve got childcare squared away for the next year.

We’re all set for the initial round of clothes for her and I’ve started the big task of organizing Ben’s closet, which will become the “kids closet” very shortly. I guess we just need some diapers and a place for her to sleep and we’ll be all set for her to arrive?!

 

Ben is 24 Months Old!

We celebrated Ben’s second birthday last week with a big family trip over the mountains to Leavenworth, followed by mini celebrations all week long to honor the sweet little life of our boy. It seems like he’s grown up and changed so much in the last week – he really turned two. We’ve had a lot of firsts and are so excited to see what the “terrific twos” are all about.

Ben’s 24-month stats:

  • Weight: 25 pounds, 2 ounces {15-25th percentile}
  • Height: 33 3/4 inches {25th-40th percentile}
  • Number of teeth: 12
  • Clothing size: no change here – all over the board – very, very brand dependent!  2T for tops. Bottoms are so funny – he’s still in 12-18m at the very largest, but still fits into some 9-12m bottoms. He’s very difficult to buy clothes for!
  • Shoe size: size 6 toddler!
  • Favorite foods: cottage cheese, smoothies, Grandpa Fred’s burgers, broccoli & rice casserole
  • Favorite activities: singing “Wheels on the Bus”, doing things himself, watching videos of diggers, pushing toys, playing with Jackson, reading books, dancing, running, climbing, being silly with dada.

In the last month Ben has turned into “Bossy Ben” which, for now, is hilarious. I love hearing his very strong opinion about certain things – for example, that it’s not okay for anyone but dada to sit in dada’s spot at the dining room table. Ben is very good at expressing his opinion and preference. He very freely says “no way” and we’re starting to work on that becoming “no thank you” though it’s still pretty funny hearing him say “no way” all the time.

The big themes we’ve been seeing for the last 6-8 months have been around communication and that’s no different right now. We’re working on pronouns {btw – I’m done referring to myself in third person – once I mostly stopped that I realized how ridiculous it is. I think all it does is confuse him!} and complete sentences that include please and thank you. Ben has been asking “did you hear that?” or “what is that?” alllllll the time, which is so fun to start to get a closer glimpse of what’s going on in his mind.

Definitely along with the bossiness and communication comes manipulation, ignoring us and tantrums. Ben’s doctor told us that with his vocabulary and communication abilities he’d start to try to manipulate us earlier than most kids – yeah, we’re already there. It’s really funny. Tantrums are mostly avoidable at this point but of course depending on the circumstances there’s no way around them. Ben is very strong-willed and stubborn and has clear preferences, so talking him through things in difficult-for-him situations is critical. Alex is really good about diffusing the tough moments – mostly through humor or doing something to annoy Ben {not sure how that works but it does!}. Naturally, as a toddler, Ben feels feelings very strongly, though it’s also very mood/sleep/hunger dependent.

Finally it seems like learning colors is starting to click with Ben! That’s been really fun – up until about the last week or so I didn’t think he had any understanding of what different colors were, but now it’s clear that he’s getting it. I’ve been really working on it, so it’s nice to see the concept sinking in.

We just ordered a little glider board for our stroller because Ben wants to be an independent walker and not always a rider. The glider board goes under the parent push handle and is like a little spot for him to stand and hold on, rather than sit in his chair. He frequently requests to to get out and walk, so this is sort of a happy medium if we are out on a longer walk and he needs a ride but doesn’t want to sit.

 

Over the weekend we went for our first family walk without the stroller. We took Jackson up to the park on Sunday morning and per Ben’s request, left the stroller at home. Ben was a stellar listener and stayed with us and asked to hold hands when we crossed the street. It was wayyyyy less exhausting and chaotic than I expected!

For the last month or so we have been sloooooowlyyyy pulling off the bandaid of providing way too much support to Ben when he goes to sleep at night. Last weekend we ripped that bandaid right off and Ben is officially putting himself to sleep unsupported. I was 100% the barrier and finally when he turned two I became ready to put him in his crib, say goodnight and then walk out and close the door. We had a lot of conversations with him about the change and he handled it so much better than I expected! When we left the room he just laid down, cuddled up with his stuffed animals and fell asleep. There was absolutely no issue whatsoever. I guess he’s been ready for a while!

We are approaching the end of diapers! Alex and I are pulling the plug and starting potty training this weekend. I’m pretty excited to see how it goes and how he grasps the concept. It is so fun to watch him learn a new skill and see how proud of himself he is. We’ll do a two-phase approach where wake-times are diaper-free effective immediately and forever, then sleep-time will still be with a diaper for the time being since Ben still sleeps in a crib. Wish us luck!

Our little mover has become quite the climber! Ben is so agile and athletic – I continue to be amazed by him at the playground. He’s getting stronger and able to climb and pull himself up on things, hang from bars and be more sturdy all the time. He tested out the “big kid” swing for the first time when we were in Leavenworth and while we’re not ready to push him very high, he’s totally got it.

I can’t believe all of the “big kid” things that Ben is doing now. He really, really turned into a two-year old.

I think this will probably be my last month-by-month update about Ben. Having this blog as a way to keep track of our family, watch Ben grow and help our family stay on top of what’s going on with us has been so wonderful. I sometimes use it as a journal, tracking things for myself, and other times use it as a way to spread the word about what’s going on in our little lives. Thank you for reading!

Ben’s Second Birthday Celebration

For the second year in a row we headed out to Leavenworth for Memorial Day weekend with Ben’s grandparents to celebrate his birthday. It was such a special weekend for us and we’re so grateful that his grandparents were able to join us this year.

The whole weekend was all about Ben! We had a blast celebrating him and enjoying Ben-themed activities.

Just down the block from our house is the fire station and they were hosting a Memorial Day family open house again this year. Ben loved seeing the fire trucks and ambulances and even got to watch a medical helicopter land. Grammy dressed up as a fire fighter and Ben got to sit up in the fire truck.

We had a wonderful time exploring the beach at Lake Wenatchee State Park and shared a picnic and some time walking the beach and playing on the playground. Lake Wenatchee is absolutely stunning!

When we arrived to our rental house, which is conveniently located next door to our property, we couldn’t wait to run over to our lot to check on the construction progress. Framing has begun – they had just finished up framing the basement and were working on the first wall on the main floor. It was so special to see the house being built and get to share that with Ben. Grandpa Fred brought some sunflower seeds for us to plant over on the lot, so we found the perfect spot and will be excited to see them grow this summer.

There were a couple of times we went into town for a change of pace – we had some sausage and pretzels, took a stroll through Leavenworth and got to savor some mid-afternoon treats at the coffee shop.

We opted to celebrate Ben’s birthday on Sunday after Ben’s nap. He opened some really fun presents and we had birthday cake. For dinner, my dad made his famous burgers and potato salad again this year. I ordered the same Bavarian black forest cake for Ben again this year and thankfully he loved and devoured it. He hadn’t really experienced cake last year before his birthday but this year he was a pro.

Ben is very close to outgrowing the pack & play travel crib and made it clear that he was not happy to be sleeping in it while we were traveling. Similarly to when we were in Arizona a couple months ago, Ben woke up in the middle of the night {extremely unusual for him} each night and requested to come in bed with Alex and me. We happily cozied up with him and savored these rare middle-of-the-night cuddles.

Unsurprisingly, the sleeping change resulted in veeerrryyyyy early wakeups in the morning. Holy cow. Alex was nice enough to let me sleep in a bit later while he played with Ben and Jackson. Nap time was all over the place, given the early wake-ups and new environment. After the second day of no naps I decided to lay down and snooze with Ben with the hope that it would result in a longer nap for him. Thankfully it did!

There were so many sweet moments throughout the weekend. One of my favorites was seeing Ben recognize that there was a special celebration just for him – he sang “Happy Birthday to Ben” all weekend long.

Alex and I had the best time exploring the area we’ll soon be calling our second home and seeing Ben experience life out there. We’re so grateful that Ben has grandparents who adore him so much and who he can bond with, despite the distance. It was a very special weekend for us.

Happy 2nd Birthday Ben!

Our little boy is officially TWO! I want to say “I can’t believe it” but really, I can. He’s totally two. And terrific. We have been celebrating his birthday for about the last week – we took a very memorable trip to Leavenworth {post coming soon!} with Ben’s grandparents and we’ve been spoiling him all week long.

It is so remarkable all that Ben has learned, discovered and done in his short little life, and even just in the last year. Alex and I have absolutely loved watching his sweet personality grow and emerge. We adore how curious and inquisitive he is {“what is that?” “did you hear that?” are some of our favorite questions he has been asking lately.}, the natural independence he’s developing and how much of an entertainer he is.

Ben continues to be extremely active and loves to run and climb. He has surprisingly impressive balance – I think he’s got a lot of natural athleticism. Also, he’s going to give me a heart attack real, real soon.

Watching Ben figure out how to walk was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. It was a slow process because he skipped walking and went straight to running. I think it’s easier to master walking first?

Ben started talking around 14 months – by his 15 month checkup he was saying about 15 words. I remember he picked up on the baby sign language really quickly and still uses signs in addition to saying words like “please” and “more” – especially if he really wants something. Today it’s impossible to estimate Ben’s vocabulary, but I think it’s somewhere between 300-500 words and growing exponentially by the day. We just love having conversations with him and listening to him sing songs. It’s adorable knowing what’s going through his mind.

One of the most mementos events of the Ben’s second year was our land acquisition out in Leavenworth. Alex and I absolutely cannot wait to be able to raise our kids having the experience of spending their weekends in the mountains. We are working so hard to make this a reality and it’s so, so fun picturing Ben and his siblings running around on our beautiful property.

We had some really fun family vacations this last year where we got to spend quality time together with Ben – our trips to Seabrook and Vancouver last summer, just before Ben started to walk, and more recently, our trip down to Arizona. Family time is so important to Alex and me and at this point, it’s our number one choice over pretty much anything else. This little boy means the world to us.

Ben has come to love and regularly request steamed milk when we go to the coffee shop. If you know me very well, we go to the coffee shop a lot. Last fall sometime I got Ben his first “steamer” and it slowly became a little thing we do. I can’t help it – it’s just so cute watching him with his special little coffee cup. He loves it, I love it. It’s adorable.

Alex and I feel so very fortunate to have such an incredible park and playground just four blocks from our house. Spending the day up at the park is one of our favorite family activities. It has been an absolute blast to watch Ben grow up at the park and go from only being able to go in the swings at this time last year to graduating to playing with trucks in the sandbox, crawling around the woodchips, practicing walking in the grass, then quickly learning to climb the toddler play structure and go down the slide with help and then one day not long after, learning how to walk up the big kid steps and go down the big slide all by himself.

While we have so much on the horizon this year for our little Benjamin {becoming a big brother, finishing construction in the mountains, starting legit Spanish-immersion preschool, potty training…} it’s so much fun to look back on our memorable year with Ben. Here are some of my favorite photos or moments/memories from Ben’s second year… {Side note: I forgot how bald he was for sooo long!}

Happy birthday, Benjamin!

Camano Island Getaway

Living in the Puget Sound area we are blessed to be a short drive away from some incredible spots, one of which is Camano Island. Some of our best friends, Carrie and Patrick, recently moved up there and invited us to come spend the day with them at their home. It’s also possible we invited ourselves up. I can’t remember. In any case, we spent the day on Camano Island on Saturday and it felt like such a getaway.

Our friends have a fantastic setup – a great open floor plan, perfect for the kids, with a sprawling and private 2+ acre backyard, plus a beautiful and sunny back deck overlooking the yard. They’ve got everything we needed for a kids play day and for the adults to kick back a little bit when we weren’t busy parenting.

{Grass for days! Ben LOVED pushing and riding in Roslyn’s little coupe.}

We loved spending the day up on the island and it was so fun to have Dave, Trish and little Liam up there, too. Liam, Roslyn and Ben were all born within 3.5 months of each other, so now, as 2-year olds {or almost 2!} they’re all moving at pretty much the same pace. I mean, except for Ben because he never slows down, but you get what I mean… The three tots played really well together and it was so fun to see how different their personalities and interests are.

{Liam turned 2 in February.}

{Roslyn just turned two at the end of April. She and Ben are almost exactly a month apart in age.}

{The youngest in the pack…. little Ben turns 2 in 10 days!}

Most of the day was spent at the house; however most of my photos were taken down at the beach, a 15 minute walk from their house. It’s a very rocky beach lined with driftwood and cooooold water with a nice view of Whidbey Island.

{“Dada take my picture!”}

We had such a nice day – wonderful company, a beautiful landscape, delicious food and so many memories! We can’t wait to invite ourselves/be invited back 😉

Hello Third Trimester!

Well that went by fast! I cannot believe I only have 12 weeks until my August 8th due date. {Alex, did you realize that!?} That really snuck up on me, and we’re so very happy to be starting the third trimester of my pregnancy.

So far the third trimester has come in like a lion. Does that mean it’s going to go out like a lamb with a super easy delivery!? I hope so!

Now that we’ve hit the last trimester I’ll be spending a lot more time at the doctor – my visits are up to biweekly. I have my next growth ultrasound in 2 weeks and that will help dictate the frequency from there on out.

I had an ultrasound two weeks ago, at 26 weeks, and all is well. Our doctor even went as far as saying the ultrasound was “perfect” – I looked at her like she was crazy. I’m just not used to having such short, boring, drama-free appointments! Alex and I were both waiting for the “but…….” and then it never happened.

So far in this pregnancy I’ve had 6 ultrasounds plus an echo cardiogram. Alex and I counted a while ago and by the end of my pregnancy with Ben I had more than 30 ultrasounds! Unbelievable. Here’s hoping that we’ve only got a handful more and that they’re all normal.

It was fun to read back on the start of my third trimester with my pregnancy with Ben. At that point we hadn’t quite found out yet about my complication and I was physically feeling really well. In both pregnancies by this time I’d begun to tire very easily. It’s a little different chasing around an almost 2-year old though! The biggest differences right now with this pregnancy are general discomfort and the fact that this baby is on the opposite end of the size spectrum. I’ll take the discomfort over the lengthy stay in antepartum and preemie baby!

In my most recent doctor’s appointment I learned that my due date is essentially the latest I would go in this pregnancy. If I don’t spontaneously go into labor or have an unforeseen complication earlier on they would schedule a c-section between weeks 39-40. Everyone is hoping for a VBAC though! Since I had a c-section previously, induction is not an option, they’d jump right to c-section if the time comes and she doesn’t arrive on her own. It’s nice to have an end point, though, and know that they won’t let it go much past my due date.

At this point we’re really trying to wrap our heads around what’s on the horizon. It cracks me up how different prep for baby #1 and baby #2 is. Until last week I had yet to buy a single thing for this little girl. I’m not sure what inspired me, but last week I ordered a ton of clothes for her. It’s fun to envision a style for a little girl and get excited for a girl. I’m definitely into pink but not at all into frilly anything. It’s fun to think back on the first few months with Ben and what we did and how we dressed him to try and imagine how those first few months will look like with our little girl. I’m definitely in favor of pink! 🙂

{I had fun opening this box from Burt’s Bees Baby and the one that followed it from Baby Gap. I hadn’t realized how sweet it is shopping for your baby girl. Alex got excited to see all the pink, too!}

I know now, too, not to take all of the tags off and wash everything right away because I have no idea how big she’ll be. Same with diapers – I’m not stocking up on one brand right away because who knows if she’ll fit into that brand well. Babies sizes are so all over the place you just never know!

Thankfully we barely need anything for this little girl, so we’re working on going through Ben’s old stuff and coming up with a good list. A lot is different this time around!

 

Mother’s Day Weekend

Everything lined up to make for a darn nice Mother’s Day weekend in our little house. The weather was absolutely perfect – the icing on the cake!

Ben and I kicked off the weekend with a day just the two of us on Friday. We had a date at the garden store and he alternated between riding in the wagon, running around the store and being slightly helpful {the most helpful was when he was riding in the wagon}.

He was adorable, though, and we picked out some cherry tomato plants, strawberry plants and some herbs. I managed to grab some blooming flowers when he was confined to the wagon. Needless to say, a second trip to the garden store was in order! Since the weather forecast was calling to be perfect Alex and I had grand plans of spending some quality time in our yard over the weekend.

One of my proudest moments as a parent soon followed our trip to the garden store. We went to the Arboretum park and were sitting on the sidewalk having a snack and a little girl took a very big tumble. I think Ben might have seen it happen {my attention was focused elsewhere} and then when she started crying Ben said “go give her a hug!” and got up and started walking towards her. Alex shared he had a similar encounter last weekend when he got a scratch on his arm and Ben kissed it, told him “it’s okay!” and rubbed his back. My heart melted. I’m not sure how he’s already learned empathy – we sure are trying! – and above anything and everything else, I want him to be empathetic and a nice kid. Smarts only get you so far, but being nice and empathizing with others, that’s the makings of a good person.

Alex had a similar moment on Sunday when we returned to the garden store. It had nothing to do with empathy, more just a proud parent moment. He and Ben were sitting down together and Alex took a moment to explain the importance of listening and following directions and holding mama and dada’s hand instead of running off. Immediately after their conversation Ben calmed down and held onto Alex’s hand and responded so sweetly to the directions. Moments like this validate that we’re doing something right!

In addition to the sweet moments, we had some downright adorable moments and firsts on Saturday at our neighborhood block party. The neighborhood association puts on this huge festival and parade, primarily for the kids, and it was so much fun to go to with Ben.

We bumped into other kids in our neighborhood, some of Ben’s classmates, one of the babies from the PEPS group I led and some random friends and acquaintances. It’s moments like these that remind us just how much we love our darling neighborhood – we feel so, so fortunate to live here.

Ben got to see his first parade, which was led by a firetruck {!}, he got to ride a pony, see a reptile show and read some books from the library. We all enjoyed a treat from the coffee shop – “warm milk” is apparently the best thing ever. We’ve spoiled him by getting him a little “steamer” {lightly steamed milk} when we go to the coffee shop now. It’s too cute and he loves it too much to stop!

Somehow we managed to sprinkle in some time with friends into the weekend – we had a really nice dinner over at Ryan and Anne’s on Saturday night, then my cousin, Chris, and his wife and their two kids came over for a backyard barbecue on Sunday evening.

It was a very lovely, special Mother’s Day weekend, indeed. I adored the time I got to spend with the two guys who made me a mama. We had lots of cuddles and giggles and enjoyed our time together.

Girls Weekend!

For the first time since Ben was born {let’s be real, I think it was since Sarah’s bachelorette party FIVE years ago!} I took off for a girls trip. I met my girlfriends from high school back in Minnesota for a weekend up north to catch up and enjoy some girl time.

My weekend away was super quick and entailed not much more than a weekend – I was in super late on Thursday and left on Sunday evening. The time in between was primarily spent up north at my friend Sarah’s parents cabin near Brainard. I managed to squeeze in a very fast morning split between my dad, mom and brother before the girls weekend kicked off.

I’ve been friends with this group of girls since middle school and some of them have been friends since very early elementary school. It is so remarkable that we’ve managed to stay connected through the ups and downs of life; going to college at different schools across several different states; going through various stages of life – marriage, life after college, having kids {I’m working on baby #10 for our group!}, the loss of a parent, divorce, starting our careers, all while living in different areas. All of the other girls still live in Minnesota but are pretty spread out across the Twin Cities.

I really enjoyed getting caught back up with the girls – normally when I’m in town for a visit, our get togethers are only a couple hours long and typically include husbands and/or children, which makes it a little harder for us to dive deep into conversation. We can easily pick back up where we left off though and we never run out of things to talk about.

Our weekend was super low-key and very enjoyable. We mixed in going out for meals with cooking back at the cabin, we did some shopping and played a couple games. Most of all, we relaxed and chatted. I thoroughly enjoyed flying by myself and was so very happy to return to my little family!