Category Archives: Benjamin

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.

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.

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

Ben’s Third Birthday Celebration

As with most birthdays in our family, Ben’s celebration lasted several days. This year we decided to introduce him to the concept of a friends birthday party – previously we had only had family birthdays.

Ben’s birthday celebration kicked off on Thursday, the day before his actual birthday. He got to celebrate at school with his friends. When asked what special treat he wanted to bring he picked the Late July cheese sandwich crackers. That is totally Ben – crackers are undeniably his favorite food.

Friday was Ben’s actual birthday. We decorated the house a bit for Ben and had him open up his family gifts right away that morning. Alex’s and my gift to Ben was a scooter, which is what he had been asking for.

I took Ben and Hannah to the zoo that morning, then after nap time we went to Madison Park to test out the new scooter. He’s a natural! All it took was one lap around and he had basically mastered it. He had an absolute BLAST. Alex met us at the park and then we had dinner at Cactus, Ben’s favorite restaurant, before heading back to the park for some more scootering.

On Sunday we had Ben’s birthday party! It was so much fun – he had a camping-themed party and invited all of his buddies from his two schools. We asked his friends to bring their favorite set of wheels, so Ben got to scoot around with his pals. He and his friend Olive love to toot around together and a few other friends joined in. He and Olive are quite the pair – they are on the same page energy-wise and they have so much fun together.

I just loved celebrating this sweet boy and all of his accomplishments in his three short years. Alex and I are over the moon about this kid and we were so delighted to have such a lovely celebration for Ben.

Happy 3rd Birthday Ben!

Today is Ben’s third birthday! We are so excited to be celebrating our three-year old this weekend. He is such a joy and it has been so fun watching him turn into such a big kid lately. I’ll do a big post about what’s going on with Ben after his 3-year well child checkup so I can include his up-to-date measurements. For now, I’m sending my sweet boy some big birthday hugs! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Ben in his fourth year.

Here are some of my favorite photos that tell the story of Ben’s first three years:

{Ben was born at 33 weeks 2 days and weighed 3 pounds 3 ounces. He was so tiny I could stick him down my shirt for Kangaroo Care while he was in the NICU.}

{One of the best moments of his life was when we took Ben home from the NICU after 26 days!}

{Six months in and Ben was sitting up on his own, eating all of the food and was showing us signs of his sweet, fun demeanor.}

{Ben has always been very physical and has excelled in gross motor skills. We noticed from a very early age that he would continuously practice new skills as a way to perfect them.}

{This is one of my all-time favorite pictures of Ben. It captures his sweet smile and joy. He’s always been such a happy kid!}

{We joke that Ben never learned to walk – he just learned to run. Honestly…}

{So dang cute!}

{Ben asked Alex to take a picture with him – Ben was 21 months here and his little personality was really starting to emerge on our family trip to Arizona.}

{This kid is an adrenaline junkie!}

{So full of giggles and this kid loves his milk. Gosh, his laugh is the best.}

{One of my favorites. Mr. Ben is the best big brother – even from the very beginning. He melts my heart how stinking sweet he is with his baby sister. It’s every mama’s dream.}

{We love our coffee dates!}

{We are so proud of this kid and his love for riding his bike. He has been working so hard to learn this skill.}

{Ben can be so, so serious and so carefree and entertaining. His personality tows both ends of the spectrum really nicely.}

{2 1/2 was a freaking blast. Ben in the snow as a 2.5 year old was basically the best thing ever. Watching the pure joy and enjoyment of him playing in the snow was a highlight of my life.}

{2 1/2 and skiing independently – gosh, this kid!}

{One of my favorites – these two melt my heart. I love when Ben comes and lies down and plays with his sister. They are the sweetest!}

{Such a cool kid!}

{In the middle of our photo shoot Ben launched himself off of the ottoman, being true to form. Our amazing photographer captured it, along with his shadow, in the most perfect and natural way. This is Ben.}

{This is also Ben. One of the other moms at our preschool calls him a rocket!}

{This kid. He couldn’t be more amazing if he tried! Happy birthday, buddy!}

Ben’s New Bedroom

We made it a whole three months with Ben and Hannah sharing a room. It just wasn’t working – no one was sleeping well and it was causing unnecessarily early wake ups in the morning so we decided to separate the kids and give them both their own rooms.

Now that we no longer have live-in childcare our guest room goes largely unused. It’s a funny long and skinny space, but it’s cozy and it makes for a great bedroom for an almost three-year old.

Alex worked really hard to pull this room together and make it special for Ben. Naturally, we opted for a car-themed bedroom. Alex painted the walls, built the cool shelves behind Ben’s bed, assembled all of the furniture and hung the curtains and frames. The furniture looks black in photos but it’s actually navy blue. We still need to decide what we’re going to do for toy storage so the room isn’t quite 100% complete, but it’ll do for now.

We’re about 10 days into Ben’s new “big kid” bedroom and he loves it! He’s so proud to have his own space and a big boy bed.

At the time of the move downstairs we re-instituted the “green light” policy where Ben has to stay in his room until his light turns green. This had been forgotten and he was waking for the day around 5 a.m. so we clearly needed a re-set. I’m happy to report that so far we’re on the right track. This week Ben has been waking up a little early, coming upstairs to get a snack and then going back down to his bed to read his new big kid books. He’s really comfortable in his new space and now both kids are sleeping better.

 

Chronicles of a Stay at Home Mom: The Beginning

Nearly two months ago I transitioned into my new full-time role as “mom.” So far I’m loving the new gig and I can already tell it’s a good fit for me and my family.

I’m really approaching this as if it were a “real” job {and let’s be real – it is most certainly a job!} – having goals, expectations, and really thinking through it. If it had been a job, though, I would have had a bit more prep time and maybe a job description to help with the adjustment. I’m improvising and still trying to figure out the ropes quickly, as I dove into this rather suddenly.

If I’m being honest, I have always envisioned myself as a stay-at-home-mom – or is it a career mom these days? I don’t even know. Once Ben was born, though, we found an incredible nanny and I loved my job, so I kept working part-time. That allowed me some adult time, challenged my brain and also enabled me to have some personal time to get a few things done while Ben was in the capable hands of our wonderful nanny. Sure, it was hard to balance everything, but having good childcare makes all the difference.

Even in retrospect, I don’t think I’d be as confident in my role as a career mom if we had made the decision any sooner than we did. I think we needed the challenges we experienced so I could feel certain I was making the right decision. Leaving my job was not something I took lightly – I loved my job and it was not easy to give it up. I knew I wanted to stay home with the kids eventually and thought maybe at the end of this calendar year, but when the writing was really big and bold on the wall, I finally saw it and things happened very fast. I had no time to plan or prepare for the transition – it took me a while to stop feeling like I was just winging it every day.

Being a full-time mom is a tremendous sacrifice and I’m still working on carving out time for myself. Our little family is so close-knit that it’s hard for me to want to step away from our family time during our precious little weekend time together as a foursome.

Having “me time” is an element that has been the hardest so far but I’m working on improving this. I’d get a big old check mark in the “needs improving” box of a performance evaluation. I think part of my failure here was that I dove in so suddenly that I really sacrificed myself in the turnover and as I’m coming up for air I’m discovering my needs.

We do have a few babysitters we can pull from for me to get a little time to myself or get a few things done. It’s just hard to stomach paying Seattle babysitting rates when I’m not bringing in any income.  In any case, I’m challenging myself to get together at least once a month with a girlfriend for a glass of wine after our littles are in bed. No babysitter needed! 😉 And! I’m dialing in on our routine/schedule throughout the day to make sure that I get a “nap time” break at some point.

Of course there are other challenges that I’m experiencing, though I have to say, our new arrangement is so much easier on our whole family than what we had going on before. The stress of our ever changing childcare was really wearing on us all.

In the limited time since I’ve become a career mom Alex and I, along with Ben’s teachers, have noticed significant changes, especially in Ben. His teachers have commented in particular how they’ve seen such a confidence boost in him recently. We attribute that to the continuity I’m providing and the simple fact that he feels secure.

At home, Alex and I have noticed a tremendous leap in his communication and expression, his happiness and how well he’s doing with potty training {well, most days!}. Ben has become so much more interested in Hannah and is showing signs of real empathy and compassion and has been making friends! 

Additionally, right from the onset, I made some adjustments to my parenting style. I realized right away I needed to tow a firmer line on some elements and establish clear boundaries on others. Those lines have been heavily tested recently and I’ve held steady!

We’re having the time of our little lives during the day. We go on nature walks, Ben has been practicing riding his balance bike, we’ve had picnics, we’re loving hopscotch and drawing with chalk, Ben has been playing catch and practicing hitting a baseball off of a tee, he’s been helping me cook and having some true chill time. We love reading books together with Hannah, putting on musical performances {usually for Hannah}, building tower houses with blocks, driving toy cars on the “road” {aka painters tape on the floor!}, doing art projects and taking Jackson for walks.

Ben occasionally still asks me if I’m going to work today, and I always remind him that my job is to take care of him and Hannah now, and that I have the best job in the whole world. And I sure do mean it when I say that. Being their mama is my dream job.

The Happenings

Gosh – it’s late March. Spring is here. We’ve been super sick. Our life is in four and three-day increments as we’re sharing our time between The Lodge. Ok – you’re caught up! Here are some photos to better tell the story…

{We’ve been loving sitting out on the stairs on our deck while we watch Ben play in the yard/driveway at The Lodge. He is such an outdoor kid!}

{Our friends Carrie and Patrick and their daughter Roslyn joined us up at The Lodge a few weeks ago. We loved seeing the two tots play together and sharing our home with our friends.}

{I didn’t get a single day of downhill skiing in this year, unfortunately. It feels less disappointing since we’ve been able to get so much cross county skiing in. I have really, really grown to love it! This is Ben and Roslyn.}

{The days have been sunny and glorious lately! My big helper is an expert at watering our new plants.}

{Time to pull out the picnic blankets! I am dreaming of summer right now and of all the fun things I can do with my littles. We’re going to have a blast!}

{These two! Loving life in Leavenworth.}

{Ben just jumped up to size 3T clothes! Loving his new dinosaur jammies!}

{Thanks for the ice cream cone, Nana! It was delicious!}

{We’ve had a rough March with illnesses plaguing our household. While Alex was out of town Ben got croup. He’s had it twice before and it wasn’t a big deal. This time it was and we ended up having a 911 call and a hospital visit because Ben was gasping for breath. It was a scary experience and we’re glad it’s behind us.}

{Once Ben seemed on the mend from Croup we all came down with the flu. Thank you, Emergency Room, for spreading your germs!}

{I’m not used to having Ben nap anymore but he’d go and climb into my bed and curl up with his choice of stuffed animal and fall asleep!}

{Sweet Hannah has entered the age of frustration. She wants to do so much more than she’s physically ready to do. I’m sure it’s especially hard having an older brother. She wants to do everything he is doing.}

{The Lodge is finally DONE. We have received the certificate of occupancy and it’s done!! Check out the new deck railings. I think they complete the look of the house so well. We have been up here basically every weekend and are really feeling settled.}

Ben is 2 3/4

We’ve really rounded the corner towards 3 and I know it’s going to come quickly. Since my last quarterly update on Ben we’ve gotten to see what it’s like having a 2 1/2 year old – I’ll tell you this much, it’s undeniably my new favorite age. So far in my 2 3/4 years of experience as a parent, every age has its highs {and lows, of course} but 2 1/2 is an age like no other.

Ben’s stats:

  • Weight: ?!
  • Height: 37″ – his head is now higher than the counter
  • Number of teeth: 20! All of Ben’s baby teeth are in!!! Finally!
  • Clothing size: 2 or 3T – he’s made the leap out of his 2T jammies and his 3T shirts are fitting him better. I was just noticing that his 2T winter coat is looking a tad bit short…
  • Shoe size: size 7 toddler
  • Favorite foods: tuna, any type of cheese, crackers, broccoli, yogurt, smoothies, cottage cheese, bananas, apple sauce, tomato soup, CHILI!
  • Favorite activities: make believing, pushing his cars/trucks around, painting, listening to music, riding his bike, gymnastics, swimming, reading books

I’ve been saying for a while that the biggest theme for Ben has been language development. While it’s true his language skills have really taken off and he’s able to have a full-on conversation where he asks and answers questions, makes inferences and connections, and uses transition words, this time I’m excited to report the new theme is pretend play.

I get so much joy out of watching Ben play pretend – or “make believe” as he says {thank you, Daniel Tiger!}. We go for lots of rides in firetrucks and school buses, we take his toy school bus to Costco to get its tire fixed after it gets a flat, we have lots and lots of picnics and we bake cookies. Pretend play has been one of my absolute favorite parts of the child development process.

Alex and I had the pleasure of attending our first conference at Ben’s school in the month of January. His preschool is so sweet – we love his teachers and so does he. We learned that in school some of his strengths are using kind words, engaging in sharing, following directions and speaking clearly. His teachers shared with us that he is very warm, reserved, realistic and knowledgeable and sensitive. They said they’ve started noticing how funny he is and that he has a natural affinity for art.

His teachers shared with us that they’ve noticed Ben feels things very deeply and can have a hard time adjusting to the school environment. He’s working on building his confidence in expressing himself. Alex and I have also been seeing just how big Ben’s emotions are – with Daniel Tiger’s help and encouragement he is working really hard on identifying and expressing his feelings. {Daniel Tiger is this generation’s version of Mr. Rogers – it’s the sweetest little PBS program.} His sensitive and naturally empathetic personality is really emerging and it is so sweet.

Some of the things that come out of Ben’s mouth are matter-of-fact, full of insight, funny, and sometimes nonsensical. Most of the things Ben says make perfect sense, occasionally he’ll surprise us with a memory he has from something completely random or from a long time ago.

A few of my favorite 2 1/2 year old phrases:

  • “I did” or “I do!” or “I can!” or “I don’t!” in response to a question instead of a simple “yes” or “no”
  • “My Hannah” when referring to his baby sister
  • “Holy buckets!”
  • “Can we talk about….?” asking to start a conversation about something
  • “How was your day?!” he often says excitedly upon seeing us after school or at the end of the day

Ben is super independent and is becoming quite self-sufficient. He loves being a helper and he takes pride in doing things himself. Recently he’s been known to go and grab a step stool all on his own so he can see something or reach something high up. He’s working really hard on getting dressed on his own {we’re a ways off from this one!} and he really wants to learn how to tie his own shoes.

One thing I noticed recently is Ben is experimenting in a different way with testing boundaries. He really wants to know what will happen when I tell him not to do something. So, one day when we were up at the lodge and he was pushing around Jackson’s big container of food, he decided to see what would happen when he pushed it down the stairs. I’m glad he opted to test that boundary, rather than the lets-see-what-happens-when-I-touch-the-hot-stove boundary.

I love how inquisitive Ben is becoming. He’ll either repeat something we say if we’re explaining it to him or he’ll ask “why?” or more specific questions. The connections and inferences he makes blow my mind sometimes. We haven’t hit the “why? why? why? why?” phase yet, though I know it’s coming. I’m looking forward to it, actually.

Recently Ben started gymnastics class. He’s only had a couple sessions, so he’s still getting comfortable. I have a feeling once he settles into his class that he’ll LOVE it. He gets SO into jumping on the trampoline. He was a little sweat ball after last week’s class because he was running around so much.

Some of my favorite moments for Ben this last quarter have been him starting to learn to ski. He is very physical and athletic and has picked it up really quickly so far. It has been an experience filled with pride to see him enjoy something his father and I love so much.

Lately Ben has been requesting to ride his bicycle more. He is getting really confident on his balance bike {a balance bike has no pedals or training wheels – Ben sits on the seat and uses his feet on the ground to push himself forward.}. He has been testing speed and balance.

Ben has started referring to Hannah as “my Hannah” or “my baby” which of course melts my heart. Sometimes he’ll come up to Hannah when she’s on the ground playing and try to engage with her – often by trying to lay on top of her and give her a big hug, or he’ll try to make her laugh. Alex and Hannah love chasing Ben around the house.

Ben is already proving to be quite a protective brother. He’s very concerned about Hannah if she cries and will often come to me and tell me that I need to feed her or give her her pacifier or that he thinks she’s sad. When family or friends come over and are connecting with Ben he becomes very jealous and upset when they try to hold Hannah. It seems like he’s gotten more used to me holding her and doesn’t get upset nearly as often with me.

Ben has figured out what family is and he loves when his extended family is around. He asks about his relatives on a daily basis and after his grandparents left recently he asked if more family was going to come visit. We love how much he loves his family. We had a wonderful family Christmas and enjoyed seeing most of Ben’s grandparents’ during their recent visits.

There have been so many moments over the last few months that I wish I could stop and freeze time. I wish 2 1/2 would last for such a much longer time, though I’ve heard from several people who told me if I love 2 1/2 that 3 will be even better. The sheer curiosity and inquisitive nature of a toddler is so precious and endearing. I just love watching Ben figure things out and take so much pleasure from the littlest things in life.