Author Archives: Alison Allen

Hannah’s First Birthday Celebration

Hannah’s first birthday was so special. We were out in the mountains, per our birthday tradition, and had a fun-filled day centered around our birthday girl.

{Well, this was Hannah’s big birthday gift from us – a ridiculous battery-operated musical activity table. It’s off-the-wall for us but she loves it and we knew she would!}

{We took a fun walk down by the Wenatchee River which runs next to downtown Leavenworth.}

{Hannah LOVES her time in the pool!}

{The birthday girl made it all the way until 3:30 without a nap! She was having too much birthday fun.}

{Time for cake! Hannah’s favorite food is strawberries and Ben thought she would love a strawberry cake. He is so thoughtful!}

{Hannah got her very own smash cake!}

{Unsurprisingly she loved the cake!}

{…..aaaaand crash!}

Hannah’s birthday was all about her. I think she had a blast! So far she is loving being one and is completely and totally a toddler! Happy birthday sweet girl!

Alex’s Belated Paternity Leave

After Hannah’s birth we were so fortunate that Alex was able to stay home for two weeks to bond with her and help out with the transition to having two kiddos. At that time he wasn’t eligible for his company’s paternity leave because he had only worked there for a few months. Thankfully, though, he was able to take the leave later on and we just wrapped up nearly 3 weeks of precious family time.

The time we had with Alex was about as good as it gets. We were able to spend so very much time together as a little family of four and make memories that will stay with me forever – I sure hope at least Ben remembers this time.

Alex’s vacation started on the 4th of July and ended the day after Hannah’s birthday and included a visit from Alex’s parents. We split our time between the mountains and Seattle.

At the start of Alex’s leave both of us were rattling off things we really wanted to do with the time and I’m so glad we had the foresight to come up with a plan for his leave. It would have been so disappointing to near the end and look back and think about all the things we hadn’t gotten to. Because of that, we were able to get to nearly everything we had hoped to.

Our time in the mountains felt like it lasted so, so long. Time passes so much slower out there and the pace of life is more manageable, it feels. We are able to fit so much into a single day, let alone the nearly two weeks we were there for.

Despite the unseasonably cool days in the Pacific Northwest earlier in the month we made it to the fabulous Leavenworth pool several times, took countless trips to Enchantment Park in town, walked the trail from the park into town, went to the beach at Lake Wenatchee State Park,fell in love with the Leavenworth Farmers Market, went hiking several times and relaxed at The Lodge. Alex even pulled both kiddos in the bike trailer. Our “vacation” ended with Hannah’s birthday celebration.

The time we spent in Seattle was just as special as it was in the mountains, though we were only there for five of the 18 days. Ben had bike camp every morning and I think Alex got a kick out of helping Ben ride his bike up there each day then coming back early to pick him up so he could watch Ben on his bike.

We had a really fun trip to the zoo, lots of park time, Alex took a nice bike ride and we enjoyed a few nice meals out and I was able to take some time to get a few things accomplished on my own.

Another highlight of our trip was Alex’s and my overnight in Seattle while the kids stayed at The Lodge with Grammy and Papa. The adult time was much needed. We were gone around 24 hours and enjoyed some patio time at Bottlehouse, a fabulous dinner at our favorite restaurant, Vendemmia, and a little more flexibility in our time.

{Side note: the following are the only two pictures we took during our time away. It’s funny how few pictures I take when the kids aren’t the focus!}

The best part for me, though, was seeing how much family bonding took place, in particular while we were in the mountains. Our time was so special. It was precious. It was perfect. We all knew that Alex’s increased presence was a treat and we indulged and just so enjoyed it. Hannah and Alex had some really, really special time, too, which is what it was all about.

We feel so grateful for this family time and have made so many memories and hopefully started a tradition that will last for years to come. We’re hoping to have a longer “staycation” every year where we can stay put in Seattle and/or Leavenworth and enjoy time together. I’m so, so glad that companies and our country are starting to offer paternity leave to new dads. There’s still a lot of work to do, in my opinion, to improve paid parental leave across the board, but I’m seeing progress and am so thankful for that.

{Waving bye bye to dada as he leaves for work….}

Hannah is Twelve Months Old!

Hip hip hooray! Hannah is ONE! My goodness gracious – she is a ball of fun and a barrel of energy – more so every day it feels like. Hannah is living her best life and she sure knows how to have a good time {hint: it usually involves food or destroying something!}. {Hannah turned one on July 22nd and I was waiting until her 12-month checkup to publish this post so I’d have up-to-date measurements.}

Hannah’s stats:

  • Weight: 23 pounds 3 ounces {90th percentile}
  • Length: around 29 inches – measurement wasn’t super accurate {typically 50th percentile}
  • Clothing size: 12-18 month
  • Shoe size: baby size 2 or 3, depends on brand
  • Number of teeth: two
  • Eye color: bluish turquoise – it totally depends on the light and her surroundings
  • Words: dada, Ben, mama, yeah, hello, banana, uh oh, no, water {wa wa wa wa}
  • Favorite foods: strawberries, watermelon, pasta, smoothies, ham, bananas, bread, blueberries, Bambas {peanut butter puffs from Israel}
  • Least favorite foods: depends on the moment – this is where we’re seeing her toddler brain coming out 🙂

As a one-year old Hannah is constantly on-the-go. She’s an extremely fast crawler and she has been pulling herself up on anything she possibly can.

It’s really hard to make a prediction as to when Hannah might possibly start walking. Alex and I keep saying she’ll just stand up on her own one day and start walking or she’ll be a really late walker. Just in the last week or so she’s started testing the waters on standing unsupported. Once she feels ready she’ll be unstoppable!

Hannah has a huge personality. Her little cackle can put a smile on anyone’s face. She’s really good at laughing at her brother when he’s doing something inappropriate. These two are already on the same team.

As an infant, Hannah has never been too shy to request attention. From anyone. I can only imagine that’ll keep up as a toddler! In a public space she is happy to make noise and let everyone know she’s there. If there’s someone she wants to say hello to she’ll just get this huge smile on her face and start shouting at them then wave or clap when they look her way. Most of the time it results in a big smile from the other person.

Hannah has been talking a lot lately. It is so fun to hear her call for her “Nen Nen” {Ben} or say “hello” to a stranger as she waves to them. Alex has been making funny sounds when talking to her and she loves to mimic him. It is so cute.

Independence is something I’ve notice came very early to Hannah. I’m not sure if it’s a product of being a second child but she is very content to be playing on the floor by herself, pushing one of Ben’s cars around or cruising around the house exploring. She wants to do everything herself.

Generally Hannah’s demeanor is very happy and pleasant. And loud. She is super smiley and very friendly. She loves waving hello or clapping her hands with excitement. She’s content and really easy-going. She loves moving around, making music and playing on the floor.

We’ve nicknamed Hannah the “wrecking ball” because when she comes near anything she can throw or destroy that’s what she does! She is very much in a destructive phase right now. She loves to dump things out, throw things or pull the contents out of a bag or laundry basket.

There are some big changes coming up on the horizon for Miss Hannah. We’re nearing the very end of our breastfeeding journey and the beginning of our transition to cow’s milk. We have been starting to introduce cow’s milk to Hannah and it seems like she’s starting to show a little more interest in it. She has been almost exclusively breastfed for her entire life so it’s hard to say how the transition will go.

Hannah’s bedtime routine will be affected by the end of nursing. We’re hoping she will enjoy having cow’s milk, cuddles and story time together with Ben and then going to bed, ultimately on her own. We are also planning on merging her two naps into one afternoon nap sometime soon.

Sleep has been intermittent for Hannah for a while. Typically she’s a really solid sleeper, though occasionally she’ll have a few days where she wakes up in the middle of the night, struggles to fall asleep or wakes up early {and sometimes all of the above!}. Generally, though, Hannah takes one shorter nap, one longer nap and sleeps around 10-11 hours per night.

Since about age 4 months Hannah has not been a huge fan of riding in the car. We got her a bigger convertible car seat around 9 months and that helped tremendously. Also not being sick constantly helped out. She does really well during the day in her car seat but she haaatteessss when we drive home from The Lodge at night and she has to fall asleep in the car. She also hates the elevation change when we go through the mountain pass, it seems. These days, though, she loves getting into her car seat, reaching for Ben’s sunglasses and then putting them on her face and entertaining herself with them during the drive.

Hannah loves anything her big brother does. Their sibling love has only been growing recently. It’s been really fun for both of them, it seems, now that Hannah is becoming more able to involve herself in things Ben is doing. It’s also a great source of frustration for them both. The moments where they’re playing together are always the sweetest of the day.

Food is a very big part of Hannah’s life. New this month she tried crackers! Unsurprisingly she loves them! I’ve started giving her little snack cups with bigger graham crackers or her Bamba peanut butter puffs. Smaller foods like O’s cereal or small crackers end up getting dumped on the floor within 4 seconds. Hannah is obsessed with fruit and crackers and everything else she seems to feel lukewarm about these days.

Lately Hannah has mastered the art of wiping her tray clean with her arm in one big swoop – typically when I’m watching. Then she laughs. She also loves spitting her food across the room. Always followed by a big smile and a cackle. Have I mentioned how big of a personality this girl has?

Gosh this girl brings us so, so, so much joy. She is an absolute delight to be around. Even when she’s crabby or being mischievous she is so dang funny. It’s so hard not to laugh when she’s “misbehaving” {as though a 12-month old can do that}. Her little personality is so much fun and we just adore our sweet Hannah girl.

Ben is Twelve Months Old

Happy First Birthday Hannah!

Happy, happy birthday to our sweet Hannah girl! Alex and I have been so nostalgic these last few weeks as Hannah’s first birthday had been on the horizon. Our littlest baby isn’t a baby anymore and man is it showing. Hannah has an enormous personality and makes us laugh all day long. We can’t get enough of her. We were smitten from the moment she was born and we’ve only grown more in love with our sweet girl as the days have gone by.

This sweet girl sure knows how to live her best life! Happy birthday Hannah Maxine!

Chronicles of a Stay at Home Mom: Feeling Settled

I’m finally feeling pretty settled in my newish role as “mom” and it’s feeling very natural for me to be with the kids all day. I love it.

Now that I’m past the honeymoon phase I have gotten into a groove and have had a chance to figure out a routine and think through some #momgoals.

As a stay-at-home-mom, I want to make sure that I’m carving out time for myself. I can’t take care of my kids or my family if I don’t take care of myself first. It’s my goal to schedule a little “me” time each week and make sure I’m keeping up with exercising. I’m training for a half marathon this fall, so that will help keep me on track and have something personal I’m working towards.

Another goal I have is to make sure I am spending one-on-one time with both kids. I don’t necessarily want to quantify that, I want to create an awareness. There are natural times most days when I can have that time, whether it’s reading a few books with Ben while Hannah naps or playing peek-a-boo and singing songs with Hannah while Ben is at school.

I can see how quickly a trying day can turn into a meltdown from all parties involved and one of my goals is to use strategies I’m trying to teach Ben if I’m frustrated or losing my patience with his threenager behavior. They work so well! There’s magic in taking a deep breath or giving myself a time out.

Finally, a goal I have is to stay true to myself as a mom. I’m not an aspiring Pinterest mom – I’d rather just bake plain Jane chocolate chip cookies or play outside in the backyard than put together an elaborate craft or Pinterest-perfect birthday party. I am a mom who aspires to be present with her kids, who loves sitting on the floor building tower houses and who is totally a-ok singing “Skinamarinky dinky dink” in public.

I am really in the thick of it now with the ages of my kiddos. Three is no two, that’s for sure. Anyone who says “terrible twos” is delusional in my experience {and no, I’m not saying “terrible threes” more just emphasizing that three is wayyyy harder than two}. Having a threenager and a non-walking, very heavy 12-month old is extremely challenging both physically and mentally.

I’m hopeful I can take some pauses and evaluate how things are going. Since I won’t have regular performance reviews I need to rely on myself to provide constructive feedback and identify areas of improvement. Thankfully the internet exists and I have a world of resources and mom friends at my fingertips so I’m constantly learning and improving as a mom.

{Note to self: Hannah is not a fan of the splash pad!}

It’s my hope that my kiddos feel loved and cared for and that they grow up to be independent, well-adjusted members of society who can make their own decisions and pursue their passions. So far Ben seems like he’s on track.

Hannah is Eleven Months Old!

And just like that we have an “almost one year old”! Dang that went fast! Hannah sure is acting like an almost one year old these days. From month-to-month her development keeps changing more and more rapidly, it seems. This girl is turning into quite the little spitfire!

Hannah’s stats:

  • Weight: heavy!
  • Length: not sure!
  • Clothing size: 12-18 month
  • Shoe size: baby size 2
  • Number of teeth: TWO!
  • Eye color: bluish turquoise – it totally depends on the light and her surroundings
  • Words: dada, Ben, mama, yeah, hello, banana
  • Favorite foods: cheese, strawberries, smoothies, ham, bananas, bread, blueberries, watermelon
  • Least favorite foods: jalepeno, sadly – egg 🙁

Hannah’s BIG personality comes out more and more as the days go on. She is a spitfire! Hannah knows just how to get what she wants {we’re going to have to work on this as she gets more into signing!} and is not afraid to ask for it. She’s becoming quite adept at communicating.

Lately, Hannah has been talking more, which is the sweetest thing. She’s been saying “Ben” but it sounds more like “Nen” and she started saying “mama” which, naturally, melts my heart. I swear she’s trying to say “water” – she gets out the “w” sound and looks at her water bottle. I’ll take that to the alternative, which is a bit more demanding. Yesterday when she was eating a banana she pointed to it and said “banana” – her communication seems to be taking off lately.

Just like her big brother, Hannah seems to be rather independent, especially for a baby. She’s cool just cruising around the house, finding her own thing to do. She’ll happily go to a toy basket and find something to do and entertain herself. I will say, though, just like her brother, she’s turning into a wrecking ball knocking things off the table, pulling books off the bookshelf, dumping out toy baskets. Oofta! That sure happened quickly.

Of course there are times throughout the day, usually when she’s hungry or tired, when she’d prefer to be carried around. Lately when she wants some love she’s come up and clung to my legs like a little baby koala bear, which is so stinking sweet. She has also started raising her arms up when she wants to be picked up.

When we’re out and about and she wants the attention of a stranger she’s not afraid to let them know she’s there. She will squak and make her presence known! Occasionally she will wave at people – it’s about 50/50 at this point, but she will clap on command. I love watching her clap her hands – she gets so excited.

New this month – Hannah is pulling herself up to stand! It’s SUCH a big milestone. She has had the lower body strength to stand up for quite a while and now put it all together and can push or pull herself up on things. She’s super sturdy and is able to push off and land on her bum when she’s ready to crawl around again.

I’m so excited for this milestone because it gets her closer to walking. I can’t wait to hold her little hands and help her take practice steps and watch her do some furniture cruising and be able to have a different perspective on the world.

The first day Hannah figured out how to stand up on her own she’d keep practicing standing, then plopping down and laughing hysterically at her new trick. She has the funniest little cackle when she’s just being silly, but her giggle is the sweetest sound in the world.

This is our last month before we can introduce cow’s milk to Hannah. This is going to be such a big change to start transitioning away from breastfeeding. I think both of us have enjoyed that journey tremendously and it will be hard for both of us to say goodbye to those sweet moments we have together every day.

We’ve recently started working on having Hannah put herself to bed. We’re not using any particular methodology or strategy – sometimes she’ll fall asleep nursing, other times she won’t. The times when I put her in her crib when she’s awake I stay in for moral support until she falls asleep. I think it’s our goal pretty soon to remove my presence for the most part. We’ll see how that goes…

Hannah is sleeping really well – the nights she puts herself to bed she typically stays asleep until morning, but when she falls asleep nursing she’ll usually wake up briefly within 30-45 minutes. Very occasionally at home she’ll wake up in the middle of the night. When we’re at the mountain house it’s much more common for her to wake up once in the night. Hannah is typically taking a short nap at some point in the day and then a long two to two-and-a-half hour nap at some point in the day. I’m working on getting her long nap to take place in the afternoon and have her take a short cat nap in the morning.

Hannah is the proud owner of her first two teeth! Her bottom front two teeth are mostly all the way up. She handled teething like a champ!

Hopefully having a couple of teeth will come in handy with eating; however, I don’t really think Hannah needs any support in that area. She is such a good eater and loves to feed herself. She will try anything I put in front of her; however, as she gets older, she’s really beginning to develop preferences.

Hannah typically has 3 meals a day plus at least one snack. These days she is very much into fruit. I have to hold out on giving her fruit until the end of her meal, otherwise she wouldn’t eat anything else. She really does like most things, though I’ve noticed recently she is starting to really develop preferences. Her preference is always for fruit! She’s got a sweet tooth, I think!

For the last couple months Hannah has really mastered using her water bottle. It’s been really fun to watch her drink water. I realize that seems like such a trivial thing, but it’s such an important life skill that takes a lot of practice. She loves water, too, which is just icing on the cake.

Lately Hannah has been so, so into her big brother. The other day we were having family story time and cuddles on the couch and Hannah launched over, grabbed Ben’s arm and gave him a big raspberry! It was so funny and adorable and perfectly Hannah. She sure has a big personality.

Jackson is another pal to Hannah. She LOVES our dog, Jackson! He’s not always so sure about her, mainly because she’s working on being gentle still.

We are going to thoroughly enjoy this last month with our baby girl before she’s not really a baby anymore. It has gone by so unbelievably fast and we’ve had such a wonderful year with sweet baby Hannah here in our family.

Ben is Eleven Months Old

Summer in the City

We’ve spent a couple weekends at home in Seattle over the last month. It’s been really tricky keeping up with two houses in the spring. There is so much to do on both houses and not nearly enough time. This last weekend was spent in Seattle and we had the best time!

Ben is out of school now for the summer and we’ve been loving the warmer weather and our late afternoon park trips, popsicles and trips to the ice cream shop {thanks for the ice cream money, Nana!}.

During the week Ben will mostly spend the first half of the day at summer camp. He’s doing camp sessions at the preschool he went to this last school year, as well as a bike camp called Pedalheads. We also have some weeks with nothing planned – can’t wait to get to the beach once the water warms up a bit more – and we’re planning on spending an extended period out in the mountains.

For now, though, we’ve been enjoying the first tastes of the sunny summer weather we are blessed with here in Seattle. And, I have to say, I’m crossing my fingers we don’t get another smoky summer from nearby wildfires.

{Ben made whipped cream to go along with our farmers market strawberries!}

Last weekend, in honor of Father’s Day, Alex and Ben did a big bike ride down on Lake Washington. The street that parallels Lake Washington near us closes every once in a while for Bike Sundays. It was the perfect day to take advantage of the road closure to get out and cruise. We wrapped up the afternoon with a trip to Madison Beach near our house.

We pulled out the grill, Alex and Ben did some weeding and hosed off Ben’s outdoor toys and gear and had a really nice time in the backyard.

Seattle is a gorgeous city year-round but there is nowhere quite like it in the summer. I swear the sky is a different color blue here – it is so deep and the sun is so bright. We absolutely love living here, especially with kids. There’s so much to look forward to — the beach, al fresco dining, our Friday afternoon farmers markets, the amazing food we have here and the glorious sunshine. It’s going to be a great summer!

Swimming Lessons

Ben recently completed an intense two-week swimming lessons program. His lessons were Monday through Thursday for two weeks. Spoiler alert: he loved it and made tremendous progress from start to finish.

Teacher Susie has her own pool at her house and has made quite the business of teaching swimming lessons to area kids. I believe her business is completely word of mouth and all of her classes fill up completely. She has quite a reputation and everyone seems to know about her program and the results she gets.

Her approach is a bit different than anything I’ve seen before, and it works. She has it all down pat. Her class sizes are unusually large and mixed age and ability but she’s got it figured out. Her pool shape has this little one-foot deep section and a two-and-a-half-foot shallow end so it’s great for tots.

Teacher Susie is no-nonsense and has very, very high expectations of the kids, which I appreciate. Her approach worked very well for Ben and I appreciated her firm boundaries and how much she pushed him. He responded really well to her style and progressed significantly.

By the second week Ben was jumping off the diving board and swimming {struggling!} to the side of the pool. Honestly, I don’t need Ben to be a beautiful swimmer – I need to feel confident that if when he jumps in without anyone there to catch him {oh wait – that happened on day one of swimming lessons} that he can safely make it to the side. And he can! He is capable.

At this point Ben needs to practice, practice, practice more to build up strength in the water but goodness gracious he’s getting there! He’s so comfortable and confident in the water and he is really starting to learn how to swim.

It was SO fun to watch him at swimming lessons these last two weeks. He loved it so much and it was undeniably the highlight of every single day for both of us. We’re signed up for another session later on this summer, so hopefully we’ll get a lot of practice in in the meantime.

Lodge Life: Outdoor Projects

This spring at The Lodge has been a busy one! We’ve been out in the mountains nearly every weekend since we moved in. There’s always something to do; however, with our two littles, we have been very grateful for Alex’s parents’ long stay last month to help coordinate things and get some outdoor projects taken care of. They were extremely busy and oh so helpful!

Donna and Stan spent around a month out here and they sure can get a lot done. Here’s a photo dump of what they/we have been up to!

{We have a circular turnaround in our driveway and it circles around a large cluster of trees and decades of pine needles. Stan cleared out the brush and trimmed up the trees.}

{Stan was a big help to my dad and brother in building the swing set.}

{After my dad and brother left, Stan and Donna created the wood chip base and framing around it.}

{Ben loved palling around with his grandparents, especially now that he has his very own wheelbarrow!}

{Woohoo! Thanks to Donna and Stan we have outdoor furniture and a grill!}

{One of the biggest projects they did was to spread rock around the perimeter of the house. We’re in wildfire country out in Leavenworth and one of the fire safe recommendations is to have a 4-foot rock border around the house. We hauled in a massive dump truck full of rock and Stan took on the task of laying it. Thankfully he eventually agreed to rent a bobcat to make it a little easier!}

{In addition to spreading the rock, we cleaned up some of the brush near the house and trimmed up the trees – the guidance is to remove any branches 10-feet off the ground or below.}

{They shared some sweet moments with their grandchildren too!}

{Our most recent project has been getting blinds installed! We have 40 windows in the house and we ordered blinds for 14 of them – mainly the bedrooms that are commonly used and some of the windows in the great room. We opted for motorized blinds for the middle row of windows in the great room and they’re super slick. I only have a video of them going up and down, no photos. This is the kids room.}

{We went with blackout shades in the kids room and the other bedroom on the main floor, but chose a light filtering shade for our room. Personally, I would rather sleep with the curtains open so I can wake up and see the sun and the outdoors. It gets very sunny and very hot out in Leavenworth during the summer months so we figured we should try to block out a bit of the mid-day heat.}

{There is still a lot we want to do outside on the property; however, I think most of it is going to have to wait until next year. We’re hoping to get some plants and trees planted on the berm to start softening our view of the barn next door, otherwise it’s looking like our irrigation, grass and patio will wait until next year, and the garage will come when we win the lottery.}

Ben is Three

The toddler years are in full force over here — our little Benjamin Ames is THREE! He sure is acting like a bigger kid these days – he is becoming so independent, opinionated and chatty. Ben is so much fun to be around and dang, he is the sweetest.

Ben’s stats:

  • Weight: 29 pounds 12 ounces {25th percentile}
  • Height: 37 1/4 inches {35th percentile}
  • Clothing size: 3T except for pants and shorts – he’s still 18m, 24m or 2T in bottoms!
  • Shoe size: size 7 toddler
  • Favorite foods: crackers, pasta, any type of cheese, yogurt, smoothies, cottage cheese, apple sauce, olives, tomato soup {don’t worry, he eats veggies too, these are just his faves!}
  • Favorite activities: make believing, playing independently, pushing his cars/trucks around, painting, listening to music, playing outside, watching Daniel Tiger, riding his bike, the pump track, gymnastics, swimming, reading books together or looking at books independently

So many of the little nuances we’ve seen along the way in Ben’s personality are really starting to shine. Ben is a blast! He is such a fun kid and I feel like his personality is really infectious. He is just the absolute sweetest boy – I just love his innocence and his confidence – the combination is so endearing. Ben is both extremely goofy and gets a kick out of making people laugh and he’s also really serious.

Ben has a lot of leadership qualities and loves to be in charge. He likes to tell us the exact order of how and when we do things or where to put things – fair warning: don’t put something in the wrong spot or you’ll have to answer to Mr. Ben!

As a three year old, Ben is still extremely active, as he has been his entire life. He is very, very physical and needs big body movements every day. He loves to run, ride his bike and climb on things. While he’s super active he is very capable and happy playing quietly pushing his cars and trucks around the house, reading books and coloring. Following directions; however, is not currently one of Ben’s strong suits. I find he has very selective hearing these days.

One of my favorite things about Ben is how athletic he is. His confidence has been beaming lately because he has been so successful in new physical activities. Now that he’s a little older I love watching him climb at the park, challenge his body at gymnastics and fly around the sidewalk on his bike. He got a scooter for his birthday and that has been a source of tremendous pride for him and joy for me. Swimming lessons started recently and that, in addition to the scooter, has been so heartwarming to watch. I so enjoy sitting back and watching him learn a new skill.

Ben is very friendly and rarely seems shy. He is quick to offer a greeting to an adult we pass by, tell a story to his teacher at the start of the day or go introduce himself to a kid of any age at the park. He is quite the chatty Cathy! Sadly, though, he’s started to notice when adults don’t say “hi” back – so, if you’re reading this, pay attention to the little ones waving at you and don’t crush their spirit by not saying hello – or better yet, just be friendly and say hi to everyone you pass along the way – be like Ben.

As with most toddlers, Ben’s emotions run strong and can change at the drop of a hat, especially when tired or hungry. We’ve been so impressed with how well Ben does most of the time at regulating his emotions if they’re getting out of control {unless of course he’s hungry or tired}. He loves reading books by himself or pushing his cars around and finds these activities very calming. Thanks to the show Daniel Tiger, he has learned some songs that he can sing when he needs to settle down, or even when he needs to remember how to be patient while waiting.

Lately we’ve noticed a big uptick in Ben’s emotional intelligence. He has been labeling his feelings so much recently. It is so, so cool to hear him say “I’m SO FRUSTRATED!” or tell us when he’s feeling a little upset because of something that happened, or nervous about something that’s about to happen.

Very recently we noticed a change with his compassion and empathy. Instead of jumping to say “sorry” after an offense, we’ve been coaching Ben to come over, pat the person on the shoulder and ask if they are ok and if there’s anything he can do to help/make them feel better. It actually is so much better than a quick “sorry” {or worse, “sorry, not sorry”} then back to playing and it truly creates a special moment. He’s begun to do this on his own and also in situations he’s not even involved in.

The other day Jackson ate some of Hannah’s food while we were having a picnic and I was trying to model for Ben how I would deal with that. I told Jackson that I was really upset with him for eating Hannah’s pasta and very frustrated that happened. Ben came over and gave me a kiss and asked if he could help. It’s the sweetest darn thing!

Speaking of Jackson, oh my goodness, Ben and Jackson are becoming such great pals! Ben is SO good with Jackson. He’s learning how to use our commands and hand signals with Jackson and when we’re out at The Lodge he will throw the ball for Jackson. A few weeks ago Jackson ran out the front door in our Seattle house and Ben was the one who got him to come inside, easy peasy.

In addition to being a super sweet brother to his dog, Ben is nailing it in the big brother department to his baby sister. He’s starting to figure out how to play independently near her without her trying to grab his toys and he’s also beginning to engage with her in a toy he’s playing with.

I continue to be amazed that most often he can hold it together and stay patient and calm when Hannah is driving him crazy and trying to steal his toys. The moments when he comes up and tickles her, makes her laugh or helps her absolutely melt my heart. I’m so excited about the sibling dynamic and I coach him a lot about how to help Hannah and teach her how to do things and how to talk to her or give her a different toy to play with when she wants to play with what he has. Sometimes I’ll catch him say “Hannah, you’re still learning! I know it’s frustrating!” and gosh that makes me feel like I’m doing something right!

One of Ben’s biggest recent accomplishments is that he has become potty trained! It was a long road getting to that point and we are so proud of him for figuring it out. We spent 8 months trying to rely on intrinsic motivators with limited success and honestly within the first few days of using gummy bears as a motivator he nailed it. We haven’t started tackling overnight potty training but recently Ben has started to protest wearing a diaper at night so I think we’re probably close…

The other day I asked Ben if he could help me and he stared blankly at me and said “No, I can’t. I’m too busy standing here.” There are days when I swear he’s training to be a stand-up comedian with a dry sense of humor – he keeps me on my toes with the things that come out of his mouth. He’s really starting to understand one-liners and more mature responses. “Yeah right, I don’t think so!”

Favorite phrases:

  • “what the heck?”
  • “what’s going on with….?”
  • “I sure can!”
  • “No. I can’t.”

Ben is becoming so independent. Sometimes it’s hard to remember to let him do things on his own since I’m so accustomed to doing them for him or for Hannah. Recently Ben has started to say “please don’t” when we’re providing help unnecessarily. Just the other day he unwrapped a little Babybel package of cheese completely on his own from start to finish, and the day before that he grabbed a little cup and filled it up with water from a big Gatorade water jug at a mountain resort after a hike. These little reminders keep me in check with how big he’s becoming.

{Practicing getting dressed on his own}

Somewhere around 2 1/2 we noticed how dang observant Ben is – holy cow, the things he notices are shocking sometimes. While on a walk he noticed a Tesla and asked how you open the doors because the handles were different. Ben is very detail-oriented and he appreciates things in order, always knows where things belong and, not surprisingly, appreciates some predictability and routine.

We have absolutely entered the “why?” phase and I LOVE it. Sometimes I’m at a loss for words as to how to explain why something is the way it is and it makes me really have to think. It is so much fun seeing how curious he is and hearing him engage in something enough to ask questions. Sometimes Ben will ask me to “say that again” I think because he is cataloging it in his little brain. His memory also blows me away – some of the experiences or minute details he can recall are so surprising for someone so little.

Ben is about to finish out his first year of preschool {he already finished co-op}. It’s been a big deal having him comfortable being dropped off at school without us, after having spent nearly his first two and a half years at home during the day. Ben loved his two schools and has made some really nice friends and become a part of two sweet communities. It brings me so much joy hearing him talk about his friends from school.

From preschool to gymnastics to swimming lessons to riding his balance bike, Ben has been working really hard at becoming a big, independent kid. He’s had such a confidence boost recently and seems to be starting to figure out who he is.

It’s been so heartwarming to see the transformation from playing alongside other kids to playing with them. This really has started happening over the last three months or so. Occasionally at the park he’ll go up to some other kids and they’ll play together – he’s usually comfortable going up, unprompted, and introducing himself to them. He seems to prefer to play by himself most days at the park. He loves push around the dump trucks or ride his bike. He loves the days when I coordinate with his friend Olive’s mama and Olive can come ride her scooter with Ben.

Ben loves his new big boy room – he even calls it “my big boy room.” The transition to his new room and bed has {so far} been much easier than I expected. I think that’s also been a big confidence boost for him to have that space that is *just* his. He also had the opportunity to weigh in on the room – he helped pick some of the decor and the furniture and it seems like he appreciated that we went with a car theme for his bedroom.

I could go on for a really long time about what Ben is up to these days. He is a ball of fun and energy and he’s just an all-around great kid. Three hit him like a ton of bricks – we’ve seen so many changes in the last week or two and it’s been really fun to see the development.  Ben is acting like such a big kid these days. I am so excited for summer with a three-year old!

Ben is Two

Ben is One

Ben’s Birth Story