Category Archives: Benjamin

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.

A New Chapter

We are at the beginning of a very new, big chapter in our lives. Our mountain house is {basically} done and we’re in the process of moving in. We’re planning on spending as much time out there as possible as we build a new life for our family. Additionally, I recently resigned from my job running a small non-profit and am changing careers – my new job title is: mom.

We’ve been in the process of beginning our mountain life now for more than a year and a half, since we bought our property in July 2017, and we’re over the moon to finally be moving in.

Alex and I have been dreaming about having a second home in the mountains ever since we moved out to Seattle. We have vivid memories from one winter early on in our time in Seattle with our very dear friends, Carrie and Patrick, where we rented a cabin near Crystal Mountain Resort one weekend a month for the whole ski season. We had a taste of cabin living and we were hooked.

Both of us, along with Alex’s parents, who we will share the house with, have worked tirelessly to pull our resources together and make it happen, both from a financial standpoint as well as a design and management position.

I don’t quite know how having The Lodge will change our lives, but I know there will be dramatic implications. We hope to spend most weekends out there and have Alex’s parents join us for extended stays, as well as my parents, the rest of our family and our friends, too. We hope this house will bring our families together more often and we hope to provide an opportunity for our friends across the country to come and see our little piece of paradise and spend time with us.

The timing for me to leave my job came up suddenly; however the time was right for a number of reasons. I think it’s perfect that it coincides with The Lodge being complete.

Our new au pair had started with us in late December and after a month we knew if just was never going to work. I had an extremely difficult transition back to work after my maternity leave with Hannah – our childcare situation was in a constant state of flux and I never felt like I re-entered my job or could give it the focus and dedication the organization deserved.

Finally, I got a crystal clear sign it was time to move on from our au pair. I had really hoped we could make it work with her – while I knew at some point in the future I wanted to stay home with the kids, I wasn’t quite ready to step down from a career I loved so much. We made the decision very quickly and we are very confident it was the right choice.

Over the last 14 or so months our childcare and school arrangements never felt consistent or long-term and caused Alex and me tremendous stress. There’s nothing quite like worrying about the care your child is receiving in your absence. I’m a very diligent and involved parent and there were several times over the last year that my mama bear instincts told me that things weren’t quite right. In the course of that time I’ve spoken up, been far more direct than I normally care to be and advocated for the well-being of my children. I finally reached the end of my rope and decided I’d rather take over myself.

Ben will remain in preschool four mornings a week this school year and then will transition to a Montessori preschool, four mornings a week, in the fall. I signed him up for gymnastics one afternoon a week and a few week-long morning camps this summer. The rest of the time we’ll spend bouncing around the city, playing at the park or the beach, going to the zoo and doing toddleriffic projects at home. I can’t wait to have more time with my kids to explore and check out new things in this beautiful area we call home. I also hope we’ll be able to spend more time up in the mountains together.

I’m truly overjoyed to be starting my new career as “mom” – I have been yearning for more time with my kiddos for quite a while. They’re growing up so fast I can’t stand it. They’re not going to be this little for much longer and I want to savor this sweet and special time with them.

It’s the beginning of a chapter with no end in sight. Alex and I can’t wait to finally feel settled in our lives, something we haven’t felt in years.

Kids Room

Well, it’s official, we have a “kids’ room” – not just Ben’s room anymore.

If you’ve been to our house before you know it’s on the small side of the size spectrum. Our main floor is around 1,000 square feet and is where all the action happens and where life is lived. Our little 1909 house has a circular floor plan with compartmentalized rooms and no insulation. That being said, it’s loud, creaky and closed off. What it lacks in modern day function for a family with two young kids, it makes up for in charm and character, thankfully.

Hannah spent her first six months in a pack & play {a portable crib} in our bedroom. You could draw a 10 foot line from the kitchen stove straight to Hannah’s pack & play. Not the most ideal place for baby Hannah to sleep in the evenings when Alex and I are trying to clean up the house, get coffee ready for the next morning or make Ben’s lunch for the next day.

We decided to take the band-aid approach to merging our two kiddos into the same room. We pressed “order” on the crib for Hannah and then shortly after it came we made the time to assemble it and re-arrange the spaces. That happened about 10 days ago.

It took Hannah a few nights to adjust to her new crib and surroundings. Her new room is much different – Ben sleeps with white noise to help drown out the sounds coming from throughout the house, as well as a night light and a heater that makes noise. It’s loud in a different way.

I’m happy to report that it seems like Hannah has fully transitioned to her new space. She’s been napping so much better in her crib than she did in the pack & play {honestly, I almost never had her nap in the pack & play because the naps were so short! Probably because it was so awful and uncomfortable… sorry Hannah!}.

It was an adjustment for Ben, too, and I think he really loves having Hannah in there with him. He is such a caring big brother. Ben woke up too during first few nights when Hannah would wake up upset. When I’d come in to comfort Hannah Ben would ask if I was going to rock her or feed her. If I’d say I was going to take her out and feed her he’d ask if I was bringing her back, then he’d wait up, quietly in his bed, for her to return safely before falling back to sleep.

My office just got cleaned out downstairs {more on that to come!} and I made a super quick turnaround to turn that into an alternate play space for Ben to use if Hannah is napping upstairs. So far his quiet time {usually on the couch} and afternoon play time has coincided nicely with Hannah’s naps and hasn’t been a big deal… yet!

I think that having Hannah move into Ben’s room has been one of the first big steps into the sweet sibling dynamic. Ben has been really interested in Hannah this last week. He makes sure to hug and kiss her goodnight and he’s been trying to play with her or help her lately. The sibling love is pretty much the sweetest thing ever.

Ben & Hannah

People ask me all the time if I think that Hannah looks like Ben, or if I think she looks more like her father or me. Some people think Hannah is a spitting image of Ben, others think she and Ben look nothing alike. To me, I see some resemblance but they have some very different features, I think, and it’s also tough because at this age they’re at opposite ends of the weight spectrum.

I’ve been having fun with Google Photos and their historical photos and collages they put together. It seems like Hannah is hitting her milestones at about the same date that Ben did, so Alex and I have been loving all of the “on this day in 2017…” photos of Ben learning to sit up.

I certainly think their eyes are similar – and, at least for now, Hannah has kept her blue eyes, just like her big brother. Alex and I aren’t convinced they’re here to stay, though.

Maybe I’ll dig up some old pictures of Alex and me and we can see if our kids look like us when we were babies? Stay tuned…

Toddler Skiing Adventures

Last winter we got Ben out on skis for the first time. We bought some little plastic skis that attached to his snow boots and pulled him around in the snow. He loved it! This winter we stepped up our game significantly and invested in a helmet, goggles, real deal skis and boots and even ski socks for our little learner.

Naturally since Alex and I are very much into skiing we’ve been eagerly awaiting the day when we could introduce Ben to one of our favorite pastimes. His first day on skis this year didn’t go quite as we had hoped.

The stars did not align for us on Ben’s first official ski day. It was just after Christmas and Ben fell asleep in the car on the way to the mountain. He woke up on the wrong side of the car seat when we arrived and it took a solid hour and a half for him to chill out. During the course of that 90 minutes when we were *those* people Alex and I were trying to be conscious to not push the whole concept of skiing too much so as to create negative feelings towards it.

Eventually we decided to bring our gear up to the ski lodge and go play in the snow and have some lunch. Lo and behold, apparently, despite having had a big breakfast, Ben was starving. He ate a gigantic hot dog, in addition to some chicken and fries. Our lunch lasted more than an hour because he wouldn’t stop eating. Finally he told us he wanted to go skiing, so off we went.

By that point we had been gone for quite a while and I hadn’t left enough milk for us to be away from Hannah for more than a handful of hours. We called it a day when we were on a high note and Ben wanted to keep skiing. Despite the rocky start, we chalked it up as a success!

Day two happened last weekend and it was SO much fun. Ben loved his first day on the magic carpet. Hannah and I were the official cheerleaders while Alex played ski instructor. For me, the best part of the day was watching the pure joy on Ben’s face as he and Alex sailed down the bunny hill.

I didn’t get many good photos because I wanted to take a video, plus it’s not super easy to capture a great picture on the bunny hill…

In any case, I think Ben is hooked. This time around he wasn’t interested in eating lunch, pushed it aside and said he wanted to go skiing. Alex happily obliged and they had a blast.

Sweet Hannah loved the fresh mountain air and had herself a lovely day, too.

We can’t wait for day 3 on skis for Ben! We’re hoping to be able to sneak out to the pass to get Ben on skis as often as possible this winter so he can continue to get comfortable with it. It’s our intention to get him started in ski school next winter! Hope that pans out 🙂

#Momlife

I’ve been moming real hard lately and it has been wonderful. We have had so much going on recently and I have really savored the time I spent with my littles, in particular the one-on-one time.

The one-on-one time I have been able to spend with Ben recently has been extra special. With all of the people around for the holidays and all of the change we had going on I was really missing my biggest little and I think the feeling was mutual. It’s so hard when there’s so much going on to be able to break away just the two of us and have some mama/Ben time. I was so grateful for more opportunities when December turned into January.

I have built-in time with Ben, just the two of us, four mornings a week when I take him to preschool. Once a week I stay for the two-hour class at his co-op and we get to play together. He absolutely loves co-op and that time is really special for both of us.

Usually co-op ends with a steamed milk or a hot chocolate – partly as a special treat for keeping his pants dry and partly because I’m a softie. I never thought I’d be a softie but I totally am. And I’m ok with that!

Ben has been growing up so fast and I can’t stand it. It’s hard to think how close we are to times when he’s not going to need us as much and when he’s going to be so independent he won’t want our help constantly, and, heartbreakingly, the time will come when he won’t want to cuddle or be picked up all the time.

Obviously I want my kids to grow up and be independent and self-sufficient but I love so much this beautiful season that we’re in right now. I know every milestone and every phase results in more and more fun but I’m getting so much joy from where we’re at that I want to relish it as long as I can. My babies aren’t going to be babies for much longer, after all.

My littlest is growing at warp speed. It did not go this fast with Ben as a baby, that’s for sure. I hope that life starts to slow down once our weekends will be spent together as a family in the mountains. Something tells me that’s naive.

I also savor the moments, though, when I can enjoy my coffee + biscotti in the morning, read my book {currently reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine}, cook and plan out the week. My time cooking is extremely limited these days, as is my computer and planning time. I have become much better at making the time to have some coffee and read in the mornings by purposefully waking up early. I absolutely love sitting in silence in the dark, enjoying the calm of the morning.

If I’m being honest, the part of #momlife I like the least right now is trying to schedule in time to pump. I’m constantly on the go for my job and it is really tricky some days to make the time. My work schedule is flexible but some days there is simply not enough time between appointments. Thankfully I’ve been able to have a low/no-stress approach to this so far and while I’m hoping to be able to keep up with Hannah’s needs with breast milk, I’m totally fine if we need to supplement with formula.

{cup of ice from the coffee shop to keep the milk cold!}

I’ve had a bit of an interesting go of things recently as a cat mom. Poor Henry got injured a few weeks ago and has required quite a lot of follow-up treatment as a result. We were at the vet every day last week and I’m happy to say Henry has made a complete recovery now. My sweet Ben melted everyone’s heart at the vet, though, when we had to drop Henry off and say good bye – Ben bent down in front of the door of Henry’s carrier and said “Bye Henry! I hope you feel better. Have a good day!” There’s nothing quite like a 2-year old.

The best moments as of late are the evenings, right around 7:00, when I’m sitting down to feed Hannah and Ben comes in to say goodnight to us. Hannah always takes precedent over me. He comes in, wraps his little arms around his baby sister and gives her a gentle squeeze then makes sure to give her a kiss – sometimes on the head, other times on the hand, and then, so sweetly, says “goodnight Hannah!” and then I look up at his father and we acknowledge that we know we’ve done something right.

In “#dadlife” news – Alex has also been dading pretty hard, too. He and Ben have had some really special time together over the last few weeks. They went rock climbing, swimming and to the gymnastics gym recently. Ben and Alex are two peas in a pod and Ben is so much like his dad. It melts my heart watching the two of them together.

While I have such limited time to myself right now, it’s so hard to imagine life before kids these days. These two little humans have made my heart {and life!} so full. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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…

Another Preschool Update

Our start to the school year has been a bit of a rocky one. A few weeks after Ben started his original preschool we realized it was not the right fit for him so we withdrew. Seattle has a very competitive preschool market and most preschools won’t accept kiddos until they’re 2.5, which Ben is not. Given that, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to find another spot for him.

Before I even decided to remove him from the original school I contacted his co-op preschool that he went to last year to see if they had space in either of their 2’s classes. They did!

I brought up our unfortunate preschool situation with my moms group and one of the moms said that her daughter’s preschool had an opening. Score! Another mom sent me her massive spreadsheet where she outlined every preschool in the area with her notes from her tours {interestingly, she toured the school we ended up sending Ben to originally and had unfavorable comments}.

I spent a couple weeks doing tours, contacting preschools and trying to use my “spare time” to find another school for Ben. As I was nearing the end of my maternity leave and the return to work I wanted to make sure to find another spot for him to be a big kid and give our au pair a break and some time with just Hannah. It is a LOT to manage Ben and Hannah alone.

My time, networking and connections have paid off. We have officially enrolled Ben in two schools to allow for him to be independent four mornings a week.

Two mornings a week he’ll be at the co-op. Parent involvement at a cooperative school is pretty high. One day the parent stays and “works” at the school and the other day the parent drops the child off for the morning and he’s under the care and instruction of the teacher and half of the other parents. There are jobs and meetings, too, naturally. I was assigned the role of class “sunshine chair” which is a very involved but fun role. Basically, I’ll help foster community among parents and families and arrange playdates and teacher thank you gifts.

The other two mornings a week he’ll be at a different preschool. The other school is in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, about a 10-minute drive at that time of day. It’s a super sweet, highly regarded preschool. Ben did a trial date there and we both loved it! He officially began at his new school this week.

It’s not a perfect solution, and both locations aren’t really walkable from our house, which is disappointing. I’ll end up being a lot more involved in drop-offs and attending co-op once a week so I’ll need to balance that with my work schedule. But! We found a workable solution and one where Ben is happy and can thrive.