Author Archives: Alison Allen

2018 Recap…A Year in Review

The theme of 2018 for our family has been “change.” We had one big change after another all year long and they’re still coming at us hard. While it’s been overwhelming at times, we’ve weathered the changes just fine and have had such a special year. This is also the year we really felt like we were a real deal family now that we have two kids.

The year started out with the loathsome first trimester of my pregnancy with Hannah in combination with the arrival of our au pair, who didn’t end up working out. During this time Alex was interviewing for a new job, a process that is grueling to say the least. I had almost daily migraines because I was so stressed out about our undesirable childcare situation.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about the first portion of 2018, other than the challenges that went along with it.

The sun came out for us, both literally and figuratively, when we took a much needed family-of-three vacation to Arizona. It was undeniably a highlight of the year. We loved taking Ben swimming and watching the pure joy on his face when he’d jump in the pool over and over and over. He ate a 1/2 pound hot dog all on his own and shared a {virgin} strawberry daquiri with me. Just after we returned from Arizona, Alex started his new job and we switched au pairs.

Throughout the winter and spring Ben continued to go to his co-op preschool, which we all loved. We made wonderful friends from the preschool and I felt a comforting sense of community. It’s always nice to bump into friends from the co-op around town or at the park.

We spent the winter designing our mountain house in Leavenworth and broke ground ahead of schedule in April. The process has overall been wonderful. We are so pleased with our builder and the trades who have been building the house. We’ve taken as many trips out to the Lodge as we possibly can this year.

Ben turned two at the end of May and we invited his grandparents out to Leavenworth. It was fun to stay next door to our house and get to see the framing start to take shape.

Toddlerhood was another theme of our 2018. Alex and I have taken the positivity approach in parenting our toddler. While it is unbelievably challenging at times it is SO much fun. We love two! We are so enamored every day by the things that come out of our two-year old’s mouth, the associations he makes, how quickly he figures things out and his unbelievable vocabulary and ability to have a conversation. Raising a child from birth is undeniably the most magnificent learning opportunity.

The start of summer was also a bit of a blur for me. I was super pregnant and rather uncomfortable {as I was for most of the pregnancy} and trying to wrap up all of my work before the baby arrived.

As a birthday gift, Ben received some outdoor toys for our backyard and we loved watching him play independently outside at home, which was new for us. Every time he played outside in our postage stamp backyard in Seattle we’d envision him running and playing on our 3-acre property out in the mountains.

Soon after Ben’s second birthday we embarked on the unexpectedly long journey that is potty training. The latest rage with potty training books tells you that miraculously, even if you have a boy, he’ll magically be potty trained in three days with eight easy steps! So not the case! Why does everyone rave about this!? {They all have girls, that is why.} We’re very close to calling Ben potty trained during the day, but it’s been a life altering work in progress for the last seven months.

We managed to make several trips out to The Lodge over the summer, including one camping trip. My brother and his girlfriend came out to the Pacific Northwest/British Columbia and ended up meeting us out at Lake Wenatchee State Park to come camping with us. I have delightful memories from this two-night trip turned one-night; however it was extremely challenging going camping with a very active two-year old and being pregnant. While it was so, so wonderful I’m not in a hurry to do it again.

Hannah arrived just two weeks after our camping trip. It had been an extraordinarily busy week – I helped put on my organization’s annual golf tournament on Thursday, then Alex and I had an exhausting all afternoon affair at The Lodge with our electrician, and Saturday I spent nesting, thankfully, before my water broke that night while Alex was at a bachelor party.

Truly from the moment she was born she brought a calming sense to our family. Alex and I were overjoyed to meet our baby girl. It felt like Ben grew up overnight when Hannah was born. He had been promoted to big brother and knew just what to do. Some of my favorite moments from the year are the sweet sibling moments that I often witness. Ben and Hannah adore each other. While Ben occasionally gets jealous of Hannah’s attention he innately knows not to take it out on her. Instead, he’ll ask us to put Hannah down so he can have our attention instead. Lately, five months in, Ben is darn near the only person who can make Hannah giggle. She is already looking up to her big brother.

My maternity leave was a blessing in so many ways. My time with Hannah was so precious. I loved our daily walks and getting out and showing off my sweet baby girl. Hannah has been a dream of a baby and we are smitten.

All four of Ben and Hannah’s grandparents came out to meet their first granddaughter during my maternity leave.

I ended up spending several weeks of my maternity leave sorting through the profiles of hundreds of au pairs from around the world. Just four days before Hannah was born, Stacey, our au pair at the time, told us that she was, in fact, not going to stay on with our family another year. She had gone back and forth on extending her time with us for a while so it didn’t come as a complete shock. Stacey finished out her contract with us and went back to England in late November. Finding a new au pair was a time consuming, competitive and overwhelming process and in the end, we decided to contract with Stacey’s cousin, Anna, as our next au pair. She just arrived from England at the end of December.

In the midst of my maternity leave, Ben started Spanish immersion preschool at a spot near our house. We were delighted to be able to have him immersed in Spanish language from the early age of two. Unfortunately the school didn’t end up working out for us. I quickly scrambled and pulled together a backup plan.

In early October Ben started preschool for the second time – his Monday through Thursday is split between the same co-op he was at the previous school year and a different preschool. He was instantly comfortable and fell right back into his groove at the co-op with his old teacher.

Alex and I have loved the emotion coaching he has received, the music classes that enrich his school day and the time he’s spending away from his family as he’s getting closer and closer to kindergarten. He is developing so rapidly and comes home with new vocabulary and has really started to talk about and regulate his feelings.

Throughout the course of the summer and fall Alex and I made numerous trips out to The Lodge to make decisions or see the progress of our house. Occasionally we brought both kids with us and made a day out of it. We have so many wonderful memories from some of those day trips and we are all the more excited for our house to be finished just after the new year.

One of the on-going themes of our year has been a challenge with childcare. This was exacerbated during the holiday season as we said good bye to our second au pair, Stacey, and had a three-week lapse before Anna, our brand new au pair arrived a couple days ago. I got to play “stay-at-home-mom” for a few weeks and enjoyed a lot of quality time with the kiddos.

The holiday season this year was extra special with our little ones. Ben seemed to mostly understand the concept of Santa. Our Christmas holiday was spent in the snowy mountains surrounded by Alex’s family. We made so many new memories this season.

We are closing out 2018 together as a family of four plus our new au pair, Anna. Alex and I are giddy with anticipation and can hardly wait to move into our mountain house. We have no idea how it will change our lives this year and forever – we just know it will. Cheers to bidding adieu to a busy, chaotic and mementos 2018 and welcoming 2019 – a year I hope brings so much time with family and friends and making new memories and traditions.

Looking back…

2017

2016

2015

2014 

Building the Lodge: Interior Finishes Starting

At the beginning of Alex’s parents’ recent visit to Seattle we headed out for a quick day trip to The Lodge so they could check out the progress. While we had expected more to have been completed we were floored at how well The Lodge looked. It’s really starting to come together and some of the interior finishes are nearing completion.

For me, one of my favorite parts of the state of the house was looking down the hallway in the basement, where all the doors were hung, seeing a partially complete space. It really enabled me to picture what the house will look like when it’s all done.

And the doors! They took my breath away when I walked down the stairs. I didn’t imagine they would be nearly as stunning as they are in person. We chose a knotty Alder door.

A close second was the cedar ceiling! And the fireplace! I’m pretty sure they were wrapping up the ceiling the day we were there and the fireplace had already been completed. It is stunning. I can’t wait to sit on the sofa in front of a roaring fire watching the snow falling out the windows.

While we were out visiting the house we stopped by our cabinet makers wood shop. It’s always a treat to go there and we usually end up getting a sneak peek at something – this time it was our cabinets!

{This is the cabinet above the fridge. We are only doing two closed in upper cabinets – the rest will be open shelving.}

The purpose of our trip to the shop was to select the wood species for our dining room table and sideboard, which we did, and it was really fun to have the opportunity to see some of the cabinets before they got installed, which they now have been.

{Northwest Wild Cherry cabinets for our bathrooms – the wood is exquisite!}

The tile is getting close to being finished too! Most rooms have been completely tiled, except for the master bathroom. There is no grout and there are no curbs or shelves in yet.

{Basement bathroom}

{Main floor bathroom}

{Laundry room. The floor tile is the same as the basement bathroom and the front entry way. It reminded us of crushed stone and we absolutely love it.}

We’re getting so, so, so close. We’ve ordered quite a bit of furniture and are starting to really pull together the final details. Just another month to go!

Hannah is Five Months Old!

Our sweet little baby girl is five months old and has been so interactive, active and smiley. We are having so much fun with our Happy Hannah.

Hannah’s stats:

  • Weight: she was 15 pounds 10 ounces at her 4-month checkup (75th percentile)
  • Length: she was 25″ at her 4-month checkup (50th percentile!!)
  • Clothing size: 6-9 months

Hannah continues to be the sweetest baby I’ve ever met. She is always smiling and so, so happy. Her smile lights up the room.

Recently, Hannah started rolling over from her back to her tummy! She had been doing a lot of rolling onto her side for a while and then one day figured out that she could get all the way over. By the second time she rolled over it was already a graceful, swift move. Now she’s working on sitting up!

We pulled out Ben’s old high chair {he’s been in a booster seat for around 9 months now} and brought it up to the table. Hannah loves to be in the action and we thought it would be fun for her to be seated in the high chair for dinner so she can see everyone eating.

We got the green light from the pediatrician to go ahead and start trying some solid foods, so we’re planning on doing that around Christmas. I’m thinking we’ll start maybe with avocado or banana? Honestly, I haven’t given it much thought other than the fact that I’m really excited for her to start eating solid foods. I can’t wait to share my love of food with her!

Hannah has been a great sleeper since day two. She continues to sleep through the night, though this last week she woke up a couple times needing some love in the middle of the night due to a bad cold. Despite the cold and clearly feeling miserable she is still all smiles and somehow is powering right through.

There were a few weeks right around the turn from three months to four where Hannah hated being in her car seat in the car. That seems to mostly be a thing of the past at this point. I’m sure we’ll have a few more of these periods as she gets older, though now she mostly tolerates it just fine.

{I think she’d prefer to ride up front with me! – obviously she doesn’t ride in the front seat ;)}

Christmas came a few days early for Hannah – I gave her a couple of new teething toys and she absolutely LOVES them. These are probably the best teething/baby toys I’ve ever encountered, aside from or on par with the Wubbanub pacifiers.

Hannah has had the dexterity to put things into her mouth for several weeks now – maybe since 3 or 3.5 months and these new toys are so fun for her to hold onto, pass between her hands or chew on. The shape of them is perfect for her to actually be able to get into her mouth. These were recommended by my mom’s group leader who is an occupational therapist.

These days Hannah spends a lot of time playing on the floor. We’ve expanded her baby gym onto one of Ben’s quilts so that she has more space to roll over. I actually think I’m going to get rid of her official baby gym {any takers!?} because it takes up so much space.

Hannah has been so interactive lately with toys and people and is all smiles. She is smitten with her big brother and love, love, loves getting attention from him. He’ll often come over and give her a big hug or try to climb in her rock & play with her. Ben is so tolerant when Hannah grabs his hair out of excitement.

We are so excited for Hannah’s first Christmas in just a few days. We already got her out cross country skiing this week and I hope to do so again in the next few days. We have so, so much to look forward to this holiday season and new year.

Life These Days

Crazy has a whole new meaning to me right now. Alex’s and my plates are overflowing, it feels, with all that we have going on. I’m very, very thankful for the time between when the kids go to bed and when Alex and I go to bed so we can feel like we’re able to accomplish something during the day.

Our backup childcare plans didn’t work out for much of the lapse in childcare we had from our last au pair to when our new one arrives.

With no notice I dove head first into my new temporary role as a stay-at-home mom. We’ve enjoyed fun outings to the zoo, the children’s museum, a fun new bookstore, local toddler gyms and parks. Hannah got to test the waters of Ben’s co-op preschool {I’d love to send her there next year!}.

I also enjoyed a lot of down time with the kids at home. Since it’s getting dark out so early these days we were home by 4 or so most days. I put together some craft projects and some fun toddler activities, like turning a shoe box into a fine motor skills practice opportunity for Ben {he had to match the color of a pom pom to the color of a small hole then push the pom pom through – hello matching and fine motor skills!}.

Since I don’t have childcare, Hannah has been coming with me to my weekly Pilates lesson {luckily it happens to coincide with a time when Ben is at school}. Roxanne, my instructor, mentioned several times that Hannah just watches me and tries to mirror my moves. It’s been really sweet having her there. I wish I could bring her everywhere!

For the last 3 months I’ve been going to a weekly moms group called PEPS {Program for Early Parent Support}. It’s a group of local moms who just had their second child. We have a facilitator who leads our discussions on various parenting topics each week and we share our highs and lows, as well as learn something developmentally appropriate about our babies. I have come to really adore the group and look forward to my time with the other moms and babies. It’s been such a wonderful way to continue to boost our village and establish what I expect to be long-lasting friendships.

{Hannah is second from the right}

{Hannah won the award for “Most Sylish Baby” and “Most Likely to be a Movie Star”}

Poor sweet Ben was sick all of last week. He had a terrible cough. He needed lots of extra snuggles and love and enjoyed a lot of time on the couch with his friends Daniel Tiger and Peppa Pig.

Amidst the chaos it’s the holiday season. And we happen to be building a house and getting very near the finish line. And I also still have a job, which I’ve been trying to during spare moments. Somehow we’re managing just fine. It’s a little crazy, but Alex and I kind of like crazy. This is the season we’ve chosen for ourselves and I wouldn’t change it for anything.  I’m not going to get this time back and I’m sure enjoying these extra special moments.

Tis the Season!

We’ve been busy decking our halls, waiting patiently for Santa and decorating cookies and gingerbread houses galore. The Christmas season is SO much fun with a two year old who is just now at the age where he can truly grasp the concept and all of the activities that come along with.

The holiday season started with a really nice Thanksgiving. We wanted to have a very low-key Turkey Day, given we have a lot on our plate in December. At the last minute we ended up inviting some friends to enjoy our feast with us which ended up making the day all that more special.

Ben helped me decorate the tree and the house. He had his own ideas of how we should hang ornaments {not on the tree, that’s how!}. I ended up having a pile of ornaments to mend later on because they got dropped by an eager toddler. Oops!

Ben was so into decorating and loved seeing the transformation of the tree once it was lit. It is so endearing to watch the Christmas spirit and the magic of the season come alive through a young child’s eyes.

We turned Ben on to a few holiday movies {Elf and Polar Express} one dreary weekend. He loved sitting and watching a movie.

I hung up our advent calendar again this year and did a better job of planning our daily advent activities. Last year I didn’t keep track of planning or prep work that needed to go into a certain day’s activity, so when we pulled out the card I was unprepared. Thankfully this year I put a bit more thought and took good notes so I could keep up.

I think next year Ben will be more into it, though. There have been a few days where he just hasn’t remembered to get the activity out and then I remember when it’s too late. A few of our activities this year include: decorating gingerbread houses, writing a letter to Santa {there’s an adorable little mailbox in our neighborhood for mailing the letters!}, having eggnog as a special treat and going to play in the snow.

For the first time in a few years we’re adopting some families for Christmas. I intentionally requested young children and one of the families has two little boys that we asked Ben to help pick out toys for. I don’t think he quite got the concept {maybe I’m underestimating him} but he sure had fun picking out toys for them. I love the warm-fuzzy feeling of doing good in our community and spreading joy to others.

{I underestimated the amount of time it would take to wrap Christmas gifts for the children of three families.}

One of my holiday traditions is baking a boatload of cookies. I had a special helper in the kitchen this year. Ben was a stellar supervisor in the dough making process and he had a blast decorating the cookies a few days later. He had very strong preferences for sprinkle colors and then didn’t want to eat his creation!

Last weekend we also decorated our first gingerbread house together. Ben got to sample a lotttt of candy.

A major highlight for me from the holiday season thus far was our visit to Enchant, a holiday light festival down at Safeco Field, our baseball stadium. The whole field was turned into a Christmas light maze and ice skating rink. I had a blast!

The lights were magical and really unbelievable. I felt like I was ice skating along a river – it was a sweet, short little loop. The best part, though, was taking Ben ice skating for the first time. I grew up on a pond in Minnesota and have such fond memories of learning to skate as a very, very young child.

Alex just found out that there’s a skating rink about 5 minutes away from our mountain house. I hope we become regulars there – I’d love for our kids to grow up with that exposure, just like I had. Before this happens, though, I’m going to need to conjure up some new ice skates! My cousin’s hand-me-downs from age 12 took their last spin on the ice last weekend.

We have loads more to look forward to this holiday season. Our mountains just had a massive snowstorm and we’re considering going out to play in the powder one of these days. I can hardly wait to get Ben skiing this winter, and we’re counting down the days until Alex’s family arrives for Christmas.

 

Ben is 2 1/2!

Ben has been *just* two for half a year and now we can officially call him our little “two and a half year old.” There is a stark difference between two and two and a half. And let me tell you, we’re there.

Ben’s Stats:

  • Weight: 28.8 pounds as of early November {around 25%}
  • Height: 34.5″ {35-50%}
  • Number of teeth: 19 {FINALLY Ben’s canine teeth and three of his 2-year molars came in!}
  • Clothing size: mostly 2T, though there are a lot of brands of pants that are way too big on Ben. Cat & Jack pants fit the best.
  • Shoe size: size 7 toddler
  • Favorite foods: tuna, any type of cheese, crackers, mushrooms, sometimes broccoli, smoothies, chocolate, sometimes eggs, pork in any form
  • Favorite activities: listening to music, singing songs, running, watching Daniel Tiger, playing with “things that go,” spending time with dada, swimming

Some fun developmental things as of late are: Ben can spell his name out loud, he can count objects up to 10 {reliably up to 4 or 5}, he knows most shapes and he has started drawing circles instead of just lines. I’ve noticed that Ben has started more correctly saying personal pronouns {he used to say “you” instead of “me”}, which is really helpful. And singing! He can sing whole songs with multiple verses. So cool!

Language development has always been something Ben has excelled at. He is speaking in full sentences now. In the last 2 months or so we’ve noticed another significant leap in his verbal skills. He is inquisitive and strings together very complete sentences – often starting with “mom” or “dad” and ending with a question {sometimes an unprompted “please” gets thrown in there too!}.

It’s so fun to see him string together a whole thought or a very accurate sentence. I love hearing him ask questions – it’s so neat to hear that he just *gets* who/what/where/when/why and the difference and he knows when someone is asking him a question. Watching a kid develop is so darn neat.

A few new phrases or sentences he has been saying include:

  • “Dad, can you not help please?”
  • “Sure!”
  • “No way Jose!”
  • “I don’t want you to go.” {my least favorite thing he’s started saying when either parent has to go to work.}
  • “Mom, can you just go use the potty?” {this is usually when he’s up to no good and wants the adult to leave him alone.}

Potty training has been going on now since just after Ben turned two. It was slow and steady with limited noticeable progress for quite some time, partly due to all of the changes going on for Ben and I think partly due to his young age/lack of readiness. In the last month we’ve rounded the corner and are making great strides and by goodness I think he is almost considered potty trained during the day! He’s having significantly more “dry” days than not and has been resistant to diapers at nap/bedtime and we recently decided to eliminate diapers from naps.

About a month ago Ben started showing more signs of independence while using the potty – he’d initiate on his own and at home he can do everything by himself. This was a huge win for him. We started offering rewards if he could make it a certain amount of time without having an accident and that seemed to help pull everything together.

Benjamin is about as sweet as they come. He’s affectionate and caring and shows a lot of empathy. It has been so endearing watching his adoration for his baby sister. The moments when he comes up to her unprompted and says hi or starts rocking her or he’ll just stick his face in her face and then tickle her tummy. Sometimes when she’s crying he’ll tell me to feed “baby sister” or he’ll put her pacifier in her mouth. He got Hannah to giggle for the first time!

He has started really identifying emotions lately, as well. It’s been a fascinating learning experience for all of us to name emotions that Hannah is likely feeling and then next time she starts crying Ben will repeat back one of the possible emotions she might be feeling. We’ve been noticing how much emotional support and language he’s picked up from his new preschool and from Daniel Tiger. Sometimes he’ll go give Hannah a pacifier or rock her in her little seat. He’ll often go over and hug her and sing “rock-a-by-baby” to her too.

Lately Ben has been getting even more advanced physical moves. He has a natural athletic ability and has been working on his balance. climbing and jumping. He’s taken to climbing on top of a big box and jumping off of it, or, his new trick is climbing onto the coffee table and launching himself into the chair or onto the couch. Gymnastics is soon coming! And so is skiing!!

One of the very biggest changes for Ben in the last quarter has been the introduction of a drop-off preschool. Ben began the start of the year attending a Spanish-immersion preschool. Within about 3 weeks of starting school we determined it wasn’t the right fit for him. Shortly thereafter we pieced together a drop-off preschool two days a week in combination with the same co-op preschool he attended last year, which includes one drop-off per week.

Ben adores his teachers at both schools. He very quickly bonded with Teacher Emiko at his new drop-off school and she has been unbelievably supportive of him during his time there. He eased into the drop-off routine very quickly. He still gets a little sad at drop-off, especially when I’m the one bringing him, but I always get a positive report that he’s becoming more and more comfortable.

He is very comfortable at the co-op, which made the transition to dropping him off there very easy. It’s no big deal for me to leave. He love, love, loves Teacher Shannon and is familiar with the space and the toys. In fact, he is so comfortable that he’s started to be rather mischievous at co-op!

Interestingly, Teacher Emiko says Ben is most himself when he’s painting and doing sensory play. Ben has always been very into different arts – he absolutely loves music and he’s been a natural dancer. He really enjoys coloring and playing with play dough. I hadn’t painted with him very often at home {sometimes we’ll do it at co-op} but it looks like I’m going to have to now!

It’s been fun to watch his artwork change recently too. He definitely has a style. He loves to color in circles, mix paint to see how the different colors create new colors and he likes to use as much color as possible to “make it colorful.”

There are a lot of life skills Ben is learning right now. At co-op, he’s responsible for clearing his plate, cup and place mat and putting the plate and cup in the dishwasher {after dumping the water out of the cup and cleaning off any remaining food from the plate!}. I was shocked to see him do it all on his own the first time. Since seeing that, he’s been my helper setting the table at dinnertime.

Ben is a very independent kid. He loves to do things on his own and thrives on practicing new skills over and over again until he’s mastered them. He is very proud of himself that he can climb into his chair at the dinner table and buckle himself in all on his own {and we’re pretty proud of him too!}. He has been practicing using utensils and really has nailed the use of a spoon. He loves eating cereal with milk and practicing using a spoon. Very recently he’s wanted to be in charge of putting toothpaste on his toothbrush or picking a clean pair of underwear or deciding which jammies to wear. He loves being helpful and I can usually get his assistance in setting the table or taking the silverware out of the dishwasher when it needs to be emptied.

One of my favorite recent milestones has been pretend play. Ben has started to play by himself and act out different scenes, if you will. This just came out of the blue and happened completely naturally and it has been so, so very fun to see. He loves to give his cars and trucks baths/showers at night and he has been playing pretend with his baby doll.

Over the last several months Ben has developed an affinity for “things that go” and has accumulated quite a few toy trucks and trains. Garbage day is very exciting in our house – Ben has a step stool in front of the window so he can watch the garbage truck collect our trash. It’s always a special day when we get to see a firetruck or a digger or a big dump truck out on the street. Ben likes very small cars/trucks/trains – ones he can hold in his hand. While some kids have teddy bears or lovies as their security blanket, Ben has a digger or a toy train.

It has been really fun seeing the progression from two to two-and-a-half. I’m not sure what’s ahead but I bet it will be exciting! One thing I’m most looking forward to is getting Ben started skiing! Introducing him to winter sports will be a major highlight in parenting so far. Stay tuned…

My Favorite Toddler Boy Stuff

The holidays are upon us and now that I’ve done my favorite things + my favorite baby things I figured I’d throw tots in the mix too. Here are some things I’ve come to love for my tot {and he likes them too, depending on the day…}

Train set – just recently we got Ben his first train set and he’s having a blast with it. Most of the sets work well together.

Mini diggers – Ben LOVES small trucks/cars/things he can hold in his hand and carry around. These are among his favorites.

Green Toys trucks/cars – Ben’s favorite is the school bus. These are great for indoors or outdoors, though I personally like the size for indoors.

Picasso Tiles – Ben loves to connect the tiles {by magnets} together and build garages or train stations

Daniel Tiger Goes to the Potty book – no explanation needed if you have a toddler

Balance bike – watching Ben ride his balance bike is one of my favorite things. It has given him so much confidence and he’s nailing it! Remember the matching helmet!

Hanna Andersson jammies – these will last forever, I swear!

Cat & Jack joggers – Cat & Jack makes basically the only brand of pants that fits Ben and I love their pants! Since we’re just wrapping up potty training we’ve gone through a lottttttt of pants washing, and despite the low, low price of Cat & Jack pants, they really hold up.

Patagonia Retro-X Vest

Native shoes – these are an absolute must for moderate weather. They are so durable and easy to wash. I love them and they slip on so easily.

Hunter rain boots – I know, I know. They’re so cute and they’re SO easy for Ben to get on himself.

Pottery Barn Kids backpack – these are the cutest and Ben is so proud to be able to wear his own backpack like such a big kid.

Hanna Andersson undies – as I mentioned, we’ve done a lot of laundry and these undies hold their shape and their super soft feel. They’ll never wear out!

Bento Boxes for lunches and snacks

Favorite toddler books include:

My Favorite Baby Stuff

To complement my personal “favorite things” list, I thought I’d come up with a few more – one for babies and another one for tots. This list, for the most part, is meant for newborns or infants and some of the things listed can grow with kiddos.

Wubanub pacifiers

Ben was never really into the pacifier, but sometimes he’d like the Wubanub version. They are so sweet and you can pick from a variety of different animals. Someone told me that when you’re trying to wean off the pacifier you can cut the stuffed animal off so the child can keep it {also – there are similar stuffed animals made by Jelly Cat}. Hannah LOOOOVES her wubanub!

Zutano booties

These little booties are so cute and keep tiny toes warm in chilly weather. There are so many colors to choose from and you can’t go wrong with the matching bear hats. Hannah lives in these right now!

Baby Puff Ball Hat

I’ve gotten so many compliments about how darn cute Hannah looks in this hat – super bonus: it’s majorly on sale right now.

Baby Headbands

Swaddle Designs sleep sacks

These are my absolute favorite sleep sacks because of the quality and how the zipper works. It has two zippers and they’re both two way and they start/end on the bottom. I honestly don’t understand how the Halo sleep sacks are so popular – they’re so annoying to zip! Swaddle Designs were actually designed by parents who use sleep sacks.

Burt’s Bees Baby Burp Cloths

I mean, when you have a newborn {or a baby all the way up to age one in my case!} you go through a ton of burp cloths, or “milk scarves” as we dubbed them. These were my favorite – we have the big pack of plain white ones.

Hanna Andersson jammies

PJs get run through the wringer in the washing machine time and time again and Hanna Andersson jammies can live up to the test of time. They are so, so soft and the quality is unbeatable. Try to find them on sale, though. P.S. their socks are the absolute best for infants, too!

Patagonia outerwear

Patagonia lasts forever and is usually so cute! We love their little kids coats and buntings. Note: their sizing runs SO BIG, so be sure to size down at least one, if not two, sizes.

Honest Company Diaper Bundle

I love the Honest Company diapers – they are SO cute! They offer diaper bundles that include diapers and wipes that you can ship directly to the new mama. Their wipes are my favorite. A super, super nice gift! Note: these usually fit the more slender babies a bit better.

Jellycat Stuffed Animals & Toys

Jellycat’s plush toys are SO soft. I absolutely love their stuffed animals and lovies – and so does Ben. They also make some fun crinkle + interactive books and touch & feel books, which have all been hits in my house.

Musical Octopus

This was our go-to toy if Ben was upset – he LOVED hearing the music from this adorable bilingual octopus. If you squeeze the head it plays songs and something about it calmed  Ben right down.

Egg shakers

I’m not sure when Ben started to love these – maybe around 4 or 5 months? These little egg shakers are one of the best baby toys around!

Bright engaging toys

Lamaze makes some really fun, bright plush toys that have crinkle paper and teething elements. Ben loved some of these when he was a wee one.

Links

These are great stroller or car seat toys for little ones. They provide lengthy distractions!

EZPZ Silicone Food Mat

I loved this with Ben and can’t wait to get Hannah into solid foods. I like the divided plates for tots for the sole reason that they’re cute. This one is silicone and you can easily wash it.

Crinkle Book

Hannah is obsessed with her crinkle book. She has the “Tails” version and tries to eat the little animal tails.

Memory book

There are SO many memory books to choose from. I have the whale one for Ben for his first year and then I just got the toddler “little years” for him for the next few years. I liked how these were organized and they weren’t too “babyish” – I just liked the style. This is pretty personal, though, so I wouldn’t suggest this as a gift – more just hey, new moms, check this out.

Bestaroo swaddle blankets

These are soooo soft and cozy and stretchy and cute. I absolutely loved them when Hannah was a newborn.

Closet dividers

Ok, these are mostly boring and really practical, but they’re so nice to have when you’re organizing a brand new baby’s closet, if you opt to hang things. For the first year, they go through sizes so quickly and it’s nice to have clothes from the next size on hand. Enter closet dividers!

Personalized books

These make super sweet gifts – make sure, though, that you get an age-appropriate book. Most of the personalized books are for older kids. They do make some board books, which are perfect for babies.

Books {these were some of Ben’s favorites until age 1 – some still remain on the favorite list}

Ali’s Favorite Things 2018

I started doing a “favorite things” list a few years ago and thought I’d keep it going this year by adding some new stuff I’ve come to love recently.

Beauty Blender makeup sponge

LaVazza coffee

Costco Biscotti – ok, so my mornings start with a hope of 10 minutes to drink my cup of LaVazza coffee in my mama bear mug with a piece or two of biscotti on the side. I get up 10 minutes early just to enjoy my coffee and biscotti in peace. And I give this Costco biscotti two very big thumbs up.

Blendtec blender – I make smoothies every morning and this blender is top notch!! It has several settings depending on what you’re blending and the speeds and frequencies change throughout the blend period, resulting in perfection.

Eddie Bauer pajama bottoms + waffle knit top – can I please just not get dressed?!

LL Bean pullover – this one got me on an Instagram ad. I knew if I had it I’d live in it and that’s the darn truth!

Before We Were Yours book – this is by far my favorite book I read this year. It is an extremely emotional story that was created out of the kidnappings and child trafficking through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage.

I read a lot this year and another favorite was The Girl Who Smiled Beads. Another emotional story – this one of a gal who survived and recounted her journey through the Rwandan genocide. I highly recommend this book because it will help you understand refugees and how you can empathize with them.

Minnetonka Moccasins – I buy a pair of these every four months or so {since I work from home I wear mine basically all the time}. They’re durable and you can walk outside, plus they’re super cozy.

All Clad Pots & Pans – these are incredible pots & pans – I love how easy it is to clean stainless steel! They just shine right up. These will last forever!

The perfect “mom-on-the-go” slip on shoes – and they’re on sale! {I have these in gray}

And the perfect “mom-on-the-go” hat

Or the perfect “mountain mom” hat

Happy holidays!

Building the Lodge: Fireplace & Details

The countdown is really on now! Alex and I have shifted from thinking about big picture items and decisions at The Lodge to narrowing our focus on the finishing details and moving in. It is finally starting to feel like our move in date is approaching – and it really is! We’re within two months now.

Here’s what’s happening at The Lodge now:

We pulled up to the house on a snow-covered driveway! Chains were required on all vehicles {except all-wheel drive, which both of our cars are} to cross Stevens Pass on our drive up. It was beautiful. The snowflakes were huge and puffy and it was really coming down! We loved being up at our house for the first snowfall of the season.

The biggest update is the stone on the fireplace inside! We absolutely love it. The mantel is a chunk of local wood and our cabinet maker made it for us.

Much of the great room was taken up by a gigantic pile of cedar boards. This wood is hanging out inside the house adjusting to the climate and will soon become our ceiling. All of the second story ceilings will be cedar.

Another big update is that the bathrooms and front entry are prepped for tile! This is the main floor bathroom – the floors have the radiant heat coils laid and are ready for tiling to start.

We were surprised to see most of the light switches and outlet covers had been installed, along with some of the actual lights. We were able to turn on some lights in the house!

Alex and I made the trip just the two of us. Hannah is getting to the age where she’s not super thrilled to be strapped into a car seat all day, so we left both of our kids with Stacey and headed out to meet with our cabinet maker to decide on some stain colors. Here’s what we decided:

Our lower kitchen cabinets will be painted the gray/green color above. We’ll have mostly open shelving up on top of the counters except one corner cabinet to anchor the open shelves, as well as a cabinet around the refrigerator. The uppers will be stained the gray.brown on the sample above. We’ll have white subway tile as our back splash in the kitchen.

We also had the pleasure of seeing the raw wood cabinets before they got finished. They look so gorgeous!

{These are our lower cabinets in the kitchen – they’ll be painted the green/gray color. They are beech wood.}

{These are our Pacific Northwest Wild Cherry bathroom cabinets.}

We know we’re about two weeks out from interior doors getting installed, then comes trim. In between we’re hoping for some tile and maybe wood on the ceilings.

Hopefully next time we’re out at the house there will be even more snow on the ground – and hopefully we’re even closer to the finish line!