Author Archives: Alison Allen

Ali’s Favorite Things 2017

Per the request of one of my friends, I put together an “Ali’s Favorite Things” list. I knew I had done this before but I didn’t realize it was three years ago already. It’s funny looking back on that list because every single one of those items I mentioned would be on my list today still. Definitely check out my original list – some goodies on there, for sure!

Big & Small Set of Kitchen Tongs

Silly, I know, but I absolutely love having a little pair of tongs around. We have four {or is it five?} pairs of tongs in our “gadgets” drawer and there are more days than I expected that all of the tongs are in the dishwasher. I guess you can never have too many tongs!

 

Fancy Measuring Cups & Spoons

Who doesn’t love a set of fancy measuring cups and spoons?

 

100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous

An update to my 2014 list – Lisa’s new cookbook focuses on weeknight meals. I have made so, so, so many of these recipes and they have become staples in my repertoire. Some favorites: chicken chili, veggie and bean burritos, snack bars and so many lunch ideas!

Speaking of food – here are a few of my favorite meals to make these days:

Killers of the Flower Moon

Ok, so, I really haven’t read nearly as many books this calendar year as I had hoped, but even if I had read a book a day, Killers of the Flower Moon would still be at the top of my list. This book is about the murders of the Osage Indians back in the 1920s and is so fascinating, disturbing and unbelievable.

 

Glassybabies

Glassybaby votive holders have become rather special in our home. We live just four blocks from the Glassybaby glass blowing studio and these little votives are a fixture in our neighborhood and now our home. They’re a signature Seattle item – most Seattleites have a vast collection. They are so beautiful, all hand made right here in Madrona and every Glassybaby supports a different cause.

 

Faux Sheepskin Throw

Pottery Barn does not disappoint with this super cozy throw. I got it as a throw but it ended up becoming a layer in our bedding because I love snuggling up with it. Our cat doesn’t seem to mind this either! 😉

 

Zella Keep It Cool Crop Leggings

Apparently these are everyone else’s favorite leggings too because they’re sold out at Nordstrom right now! These are my most favorite leggings I have ever had. Keep checking back!

 

Athleta Beyond Soft Pranayama Wrap

This is one of the coziest little sweater/wraps I’ve ever had. I love wrapping myself up in it in the morning or the evenings and being all cozy. It’s great to pair with leggings to go to the gym/studio or wear around the house or with your favorite athleisure combo out and about.

 

Lalicious Sugar Scrub

I use this incredible scrub on my feet every other day in the shower and it’s divine. I love the smell {brown sugar vanilla is my favorite}, the way it feels and the texture. Plus, it makes my feet so soft!

 

CND Vinylux Nail Polish

Vinylux nail polish has been my go-to for several years now. You have to get the top coat, too. I can get 7-10 days from a manicure with this nail polish and I’ve gotten as many as 7 days doing my own nails.

 

Arbonne Calm Daily Moisturizer

I tried to veer from this and only ended up disappointed. This moisturizer feels so light and calming on my sensitive skin. It’s really nice stuff!

Thanksgiving 2017

We certainly have a lot to be grateful for this year – and what a wonderful year it has been. One of the things I’m most thankful for is our family. I’m also so unbelievably grateful that we have had such an incredible nanny raising Ben alongside us for the last 14+ months who has become a part of our little family. I’m so grateful for the time we got to spend last week as a family. To me, the best part of the holidays is the immense time with family that comes with the season.

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Alex and I had quite a bit of time off of work to enjoy the holiday week together with Ben and Edina, as well as my mom, who came out for part of the week from Minnesota. We got to show my mom Ben’s school and one of the community centers he plays at, we all experienced the Seattle Gingerbread Village for the first time and we spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen preparing food for our Thanksgiving feast.

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Overall, it was a pretty low-key and relaxing holiday. The food turned out really well – my favorite was the sweet potato casserole, something I had never made before, nor was it a staple in my family’s Thanksgiving. I absolutely loved it. We tried some new recipes but stayed true to our turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing recipe. My mom and Edina were very helpful in the kitchen.

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On Saturday, Alex, Ben, Edina and I headed east over the mountains to Yakima to pick up some wine from our wine club before they close their doors for the winter. We bumped into our good friend Carrie and her family, including little Roslyn, at the winery, too!

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It felt really early according to the calendar, but after Alex did some major re-organizing, I pulled out my boxes of Christmas decorations and got our house ready for the season! Ben came with me to the garden store near us and helped me pick out a wreath and some pine boughs and I’ll pick up a garland this weekend. I think we’re ready!

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We ended the weekend with a really nice dinner over at my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Michael’s home, joined by my cousins and their families. It was so fun watching Ben and Henry {age 2.5} play together and see baby Claire {8 months} crawl around and join everyone at the table. We also walked down to the water to see the Christmas ships – there’s basically a boat parade with ships decked out in lights. We caught the tail end of it!

I was really sad to see all of our family time come to an end when we put Ben to bed on Sunday. I love our family time so much and it was extra special having so many days to spend together. Happy holidays!

Day Trip to Leavenworth

I have apparently fallen behind in keeping up our blog. Oopsies! In any case, a few weeks ago we took the opportunity to head out to Leavenworth to check on our property and see some snow. It was such a wonderful day – Edina joined us and we got to play in the snow, eat sausage and spend time together.

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We made an impromptu coffee/stretch stop at Stevens Pass. Alex and I were visualizing our future here – we’re so excited to get Ben started with ski lessons in a couple years {we’re thinking age 3 for lessons} and it’s so fun imagining family ski days up at Stevens.

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Our timing ended up coinciding with our land surveyor – we crossed paths with him while he was at our property marking off the lot lines. Alex got to help him out a bit and we learned that our lot lines were a little different than we expected, in a very good way. We were able to pick the spot on the property where our house will be built.

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It was pretty rainy when we were on our lot so the views weren’t anything like what they are on a crisp, clear day, but man, it is so gorgeous over there. I still feel like I need to pinch myself every time we go to our lot.

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We couldn’t go all the way to Leavenworth without going into town for some sausage. Plus, Edina had never been there before so we had to show her around. We strolled the town, enjoyed delicious sausages from our favorite spot, grabbed a coffee for the drive home, then packed up and headed west.

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It was a very quick trip and a lot of time for Ben to be in the car {thankfully he had his buddy in the back seat keeping him company} and we all had a really memorable time!

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**All of these photos are courtesy of Edina’s fancy new iPhone — part of my lack of keeping the blog updated this month is because my phone storage is full and I haven’t been taking many photos. Alex’s and my new iPhones are expected to arrive next week!

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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