Category Archives: Benjamin

Ben is 3 1/2!

More and more each day this sweet boy is becoming a big kid. He’s growing so tall and he’s so confident and so articulate. Sometimes I’m taken aback by how big he seems. We’re having such a blast with so much about three and love the boy Ben is turning into.

Ben’s stats:

  • Weight: about 31 pounds {as of about a month ago}
  • Height: over 40 inches {75th++ percentile!!!}
  • Clothing size: mostly still 3T except 4T in PJs and some tops
  • Shoe size: size 8 toddler
  • Favorite foods: crackers, pasta, any type of cheese, yogurt, smoothies, cottage cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, most meats – especially slow cooked, roasted chickpeas
  • Favorite activities: make believing, pushing his cars/trucks around, lining his cars up, doing puzzles, listening to music, playing outside, riding his bike, reading books together or looking at books independently

As a 3 1/2 year old Ben is still super sweet. Sometimes I find my heart swelling because of his sweetness. He is a world class cuddler and loves to get cozy on the couch with his stuffies and a blanket. He is so thoughtful, typically quick to apologize or check on someone and so genuine in his random notions of appreciation. “Thank you for building this house for our family, dada!”

One of my favorite moments with Ben this last quarter was taking him for a bike ride while I ran around the 2.2 mile loop at Seward Park. Seward Park is a peninsula that juts out into Lake Washington. The day of our activity was very chilly but it was a picture-perfect fall day. Ben kept stopping every 25 feet, it felt like, either to wait for me or to take in his surroundings. He kept pointing things out and saying “look, mama! It’s so beautiful!” Ben sure loves nature and he is extremely observant.

Ben started a new preschool this quarter and I’ve seen some remarkable growth in his independence and willingness to help and take on responsibility. Ben loves being in charge of feeding Jackson, especially at the mountain house. He’s careful to properly measure Jackson’s food for him and also loves to throw Jackson’s ball. Ben has been very interested in selecting and serving himself a snack and pouring anything he can get his hands on.

Fairly recently Ben figured out how to ride his pedal bike. This was an unexpected challenge for us all. It took a lot of practice and ultimately finding a tricycle at the park helped him put the pieces together. He’s definitely ready for the training wheels to come off, but now that winter is coming we have decided to hold off on that {we’re keeping that bike at our mountain house}.

Ben has so much confidence on his balance bike. He’s been going back and forth between his two bikes and it’s so impressive watching him at the pump track as a little 3-year old skirting past the big kids and flying over the little hills. Parents and older kids are quick to comment how comfortable he is there.

Very recently Ben had the opportunity to try skateboarding. He was very insistent upon giving it a shot and he loved it!

Puzzles, playing games and looking at books have become big parts of Ben’s life these days. He loves to sit down on the floor and put together a puzzle all by himself. We’ve really gotten into some games, particularly at the mountain house, and Ben loves to play Sequence for Kids.

This fall Ben had his first experience with soccer. I signed him up for a soccer program for 3-5 year olds at the park in our neighborhood. It was adorable but in my experience and in talking to the other parents it seems like 4-5 would be a more appropriate age. Ben had a very difficult time becoming engaged in the drills the coach put together. He absolutely LOVES to kick the soccer ball, and he’s really good at it, but when it came time to listen and follow directions he was off doing his own thing. We’ll try again next year…

As a 3-1/2 year old Ben is very inquisitive, observant and curious about his surroundings. He’s such a terrific car rider because he loves to look out the window and take it all in. He is now typically awake for most of our drive through the mountains and he does so well entertaining himself with his surroundings or reading a book in his car seat.

Ben asks a lot of questions and makes a lot of connections. He comes up with the sweetest things to say, like “mama, I think I want to bring Elephant with me just in case I need something to hold” when he was getting ready to go to the park with a babysitter. Or “dada, you look great!” It makes me smile every time he says something is “great!” – his typical response to our inquiries about how he slept or how his day at school was.

Ben’s teacher at school mentioned he is one of the happiest kids in the class. She found it fascinating and sweet that he regularly comments on how beautiful the day is or that it’s so nice the sun is shining. He has a very positive attitude. It is rare to hear him complain about anything.

The challenges we see Ben facing these days are fairly minimal. He is quite a sensitive kid and he feels his emotions very strongly. Depending on his mood, this can be tough and he can have a harder time calming down when upset. He also is very compassionate and empathetic. When we came upon a homeless person one day {I had always wondered when he’d start to ask…} and I told him about homelessness his response was “that is so terrible! Can we go say hello to him?”

Lately Ben’s friendships are starting to really take shape. He will talk more and more about friends and he has started asking to have friends over. At the park he loves to ride bikes with friends and it seems like that’s a really great tool for him to connect with other kids.

We’ve had a lot of friends come to stay with us at The Lodge and most/all of them have kids near Ben’s age. It was especially fun seeing him with Liam, the only other boy who came up, who is slightly older than Ben. Those two hit it off and had a blast running around, riding bikes and playing cars together. For whatever reason he seems to gravitate towards girls, but he relates to and plays better with slightly older boys.

As we officially round the corner towards four I’m so curious what this next quarter will look like – what will the major developmental milestones be? What challenges will come with it? What is on the horizon for Mr. Ben? All good things I expect.

Halloween 2019

Halloween has come and gone now, but I still wanted to share some pictures from the day. Both kids had a great time dressing up and going trick-or-treating.

Ben enjoyed a Halloween party at his school that day and got to dress up in his costume with his friends.

We had several last-minute costume changes this year from our three-year old. First, Ben wanted to be a dinosaur. Then he wanted to be a doggie, just like Hannah. Then, on Monday of Halloween week he changed his mind and wanted to be a “super alien” {an alien super hero} so we actually put a lot of time and thought into this costume and I ended up making the embelishments {thanks to Primary.com for the solid color clothing!}. Come Halloween morning Ben had no interest in wearing the adorable cape or the alien eyes I made, so he would have just gone to school in a green sweatshirt and green pants. Back to the doggie costume {I had a hunch I shouldn’t return it!}….

Both kids hated the dog head/ears but I managed to get Hannah to tolerate it for trick-or-treating. Ben’s came off after our picture. Maybe next year I’ll opt for a costume without a head piece…

Our area does a big neighborhood trick-or-treat in the downtown corridor of the business districts, as well as door-to-door in residential areas. We opted to do the Madison Park neighborhood trick-or-treat. Next year I’d like to do our block, too. I had some neighbors tell us they missed seeing us come around!

The candy experience this year was different now that Ben is three. I had seen a nutritionist mom on Instagram share how she deals with Halloween and her approach resonated with me. Halloween has become a holiday centered around candy, so why not let the kids indulge for a day? Candy is absolutely not a part of our normal life so it really was a special treat.

We let Ben go nuts on Halloween night – he got to try whatever he wanted {after I removed anything unsafe – i.e. choking hazard}, and that he did! I was very surprised to not see a sugar rush or the candy crazies come out. He was totally calm about everything. Prior to trick-or-treating I did my best to fill up both kids’ bellies with as protein-heavy snack as I could think – maybe that did the trick!?

Since Halloween, he’s completely forgotten about the candy!

Chronicles of a Stay at Home Mom: Two Toddlers

We are in the thick of it over here. That’s what everyone keeps saying and it sure feels like it. Life is nuts. There’s the occasional quiet moment when both kids are engaged in play, there are oodles of sweet moments I want to remember forever, and then there are usually around five tantrums and 20 fits per day. That’s life these days with my two toddlers!

These really are the days, though. Many of them are rough and leave me feeling like I got knocked down by a snow plow by the end of it. I live for the sweet, special moments with my two energetic, spirited toddlers. I just don’t know how long they’re going to want me around or be open to a hug. I am pushing the crazy aside and embracing these two sweet little ones while I can.

{Hannah is getting so heavy I now carry her on my back. It’s WAY too much for me to walk up the hill in our neighborhood with her on my front. The kids are also getting too heavy for me to push them up the hill in the double stroller, but Ben isn’t at the point where he’s regularly interested in walking when we go to the park or school.}

There is so much love pouring out from Ben and Hannah and so, so many cuddles and hugs and requests to be carried throughout the day. Even though they are both getting so heavy, I rarely deny their request to be picked up. How much longer are they going to want me to pick them up for a mama hug?

We’ve had our fair share of ups and downs with toddler mood swings over the last four months or so. Some days leave me defeated and wondering how I could have handled the situation better when Ben crawled into the drivers seat instead of his car seat for the millionth time in a row. Or when he just won’t get freaking dressed in the morning. Or when he completely ignores me and I have my hands full and am ready to walk out the door and we’re already running late. I don’t have the energy or the patience to always be lighthearted and funny.

Most of the time, though, I am patient. My patience often astounds me. Until I became a parent I had no idea how patient I can be. And dang, these kids test that every. single. day.

Our outings right now are vital to the success of most days. We’ve got to get out of the house at some point, especially if it’s a full day home with no school for Ben. My kids are at their best when they’re outside. Something about fresh air and open skies, perhaps.

Most days we wind up at our neighborhood park, 4 blocks up the street. On full days home with no school I like to plan a bigger outing to the zoo, the children’s museum, a park that’s farther away or the beach during the summer. There is so much to do in Seattle with kids.

It’s a lot to take two toddlers on big outings on my own but I’m getting pretty good at it. And I’m not afraid to pack up and head home if the eldest decides to run off on me or not listen. That’s the most overwhelming part of any outing is it’s a roll of the dice if Ben will be a listener or if he’ll be off in his own world.

You never know what’s going to come up. The need for a bathroom to appear out of thin air for my 3-year old, Ben refusing to walk and only wanting to be carried when I’m already carrying Hannah and our backpack, Hannah getting upset that I had to quickly pick her up and leave what she was doing because Ben decided he was done with that and ran off, the inevitable fit or tantrum in public, and the list goes on and on and on.

When they go well, which they usually do, our outings end up being a highlight for all of us for days and days. I love to expose my kids to new things, especially when it provides an opportunity for them to experience different people and cultures or to see parts of town we don’t frequent.

I have to throw this in there – I’ve been complemented in public by strangers for how patient I was or how I handled a tantrum and if you’re reading this and you see a parent in public with a toddler throwing a tantrum – tell her she did a good job. Tell her what a great parent she is. Tell her you admire her patience. I can’t tell you how much it will mean to her. I want to do a good job for myself and for my kids and for a complete and total stranger to notice and have the courage to comment on that is so empowering and uplifting. It will give her the strength to handle the next one.

It feels like things are going to start to get a little easier and a little less crazy, of course only for new challenges to arise. Now that Hannah is walking she’s been a lot more independent and more willing to go off and play by herself when I need to get something done.

Ben is super independent and can do most things on his own. The most challenging aspect of where he is developmentally is the 3-year old defiance. He’s in the midst of figuring out the concept of free will. Taking a step back, it really is so wonderful and so important that he challenges the boundaries and stands up for himself but dang it’s exhausting!

{I came up with a few “quiet stations” for Ben to do while Hannah naps. He’s no longer napping but definitely needs some quiet time after school/mid-afternoon.}

I’ve given Ben permission to argue with me if he disagrees with what I say. If he is really passionate about something I told him he can make a case for himself and his request, but he has to do it nicely and with no whining. Sometimes this is an effective way for him to take a deep breath and find his big kid voice and other times it’s a 25 minute whine fest until I can find a way to get through to him.

{Turning a box into a car turned out to be a perfect rainy day activity for my car loving tots.}

When it’s just Hannah and me and Ben is away at school, things are so calm and quiet. It’s really interesting to see how different Hannah is when it’s the two of us. She’s the chaos causer and she’s the loudest of the loud when Ben is around, but when it’s just us, she’s so cuddly and calm. She doesn’t have to compete for my attention then.

Life with two toddlers at different developmental stages is absolutely insane {I’m sure two tots at the same developmental stage is insane too! I can not imagine having TWO three-year olds!} but gosh, it is such a blessing to be the one to endure the noisy chaos all day long. My children are happy and it brings me so much joy to experience these wonderful moments and navigate the challenging ones. These stages and these years we’re in now are so precious to me and before we know it, we’ll be sending Ben off to Kindergarten.

Preschool Update

We’re about six weeks into the school year here and Ben couldn’t be happier in his new Montessori school. He is so calm and comfortable there and he absolutely loves it. I’m blown away by some of the things he is doing and learning about there. He is picking up so many life skills and I’ve been so pleased with his enhanced “I can do it” attitude.

Ben is going to school three mornings a week. This schedule is perfect for us right now. It allows me some extra time with him during the week while still providing a bit of structure.

{I love making Ben’s school lunches. It’s so fun to come up with creative ideas on how to make a cold lunch more fun.}

The Montessori mantra is “teach me to do it myself” and I have seen that ringing loudly through Ben’s attitude these days. He wants to do everything himself and he is starting to take on more responsibility at home. He has been enjoying feeding Jackson, clearing his plate after meals, serving himself snack, getting Jackson water and helping make dinner most nights. While I think some of that is his age and personality, I do attribute an increase in independence to the start of his new school.

Every day when I put Ben to bed I always ask him two questions: what the best part of his day was and what he was most proud of himself for doing. On school days his answer to the former question is “school” or something he did at school. Recently he started taking piano lessons once a week at school and that is now at the top of the “best” list.

Since I don’t attend school with Ben I can’t really comment on all of the things that he does while he’s there, but I can say I know he’s well-cared for and happy. It is so reassuring to me to see how confident and comfortable he is there.

Walking to school in the mornings is such a pleasure. I love strapping Hannah to my back and either walking with Ben or pushing him in the stroller, walking through the neighborhood on our way to school. Urban life at its finest! We are so grateful to have this fantastic school so closeby.

Wisconsin Family Trip

For our last family hurrah of the summer we packed our suitcases, headed to the airport and flew east to Wisconsin to spend time with Alex’s family and some long-time friends.

Our trip took us to Lake Delavan, located in the southern part of the state, where Alex’s parents have a condo. This visit was long overdue and we were thrilled to finally introduce Hannah to her extended family and meet our new nephew, Marco.

Taking two toddlers on a plane is no small feat. We expected chaos. We expected screaming. We expected a very frustrated Hannah, not being old enough to understand just why she was trapped in a metal tube flying in the air for more than 4 hours. We did not expect harmony or peace or frankly much enjoyment from her at all. But! Enjoyment and harmony is what we got!

We knew Ben would be just fine but we didn’t expect Hannah to be, too! Hannah is obsessed with airplanes flying in the sky – I honestly didn’t think that interest would carry over into actually flying in an airplane. She was giddy with excitement with all the people in the airport, standing in front of the big windows watching the planes and then once we boarded the plane she connected all of the dots and realized she’d get to fly, too!

She did so, so well – on both flights, even. It really was a dream scenario. I hardly had to pull out any of the toys and activities I brought for either kid. Our flight {to Wisconsin especially} actually ended up being a highlight of our trip.

Enough about our travel day!

While we were on the ground in Wisconsin we filled our days with family. We so enjoyed a big family gathering with Alex’s relatives. It was fun to meet some of his cousins I hadn’t met yet, see how many great grandchildren Nana has {a lot! and probably only half of them were there!} and catch up with his aunts and their family friends, The Baileys. I loved sneaking away to go for a run with Alex’s uncle, a marathoner, and I even got to spend time with one of my college roommates, Julie, and her family too.

One of the major highlights of the trip for us, and one of the biggest reasons for taking the trip, was spending time with Nico and Marco, Alex’s and my nephews. Nico is 2 1/2 and Marco was 3 weeks old when we were there.

Ben and Nico got along famously. It was the sweetest thing watching the two of them pal around. It fills my heart with forward-looking joy and anticipation of the cousin love that’s starting to form.

We absolutely loved the time with the kids.

Another big highlight of the trip was when Alex and Alina took the littlest ones {Marco and Hannah} to visit Nana one afternoon. It was so special for them to have that time together.

The weather wasn’t really working in our favor for much of the trip. We had a few nice days but it was so windy! I really couldn’t believe it. It was too windy and cool to comfortably boat or go to the pool most days. Thankfully Grammy and Papa were well-prepared for us and had stocked the condo full of toddler toys and they acquired quite the slew of toddler vehicles for the kids to roll around in.

Alex and I had planned to spend one night in Chicago while we were there. We took the train into the city and made it just in time to have lunch and see a Cubs baseball game with some of Alex’s long-time friends. I had never been to Wrigley Field before and he was eager to show me around.

We loved staying in the Wicker Park neighborhood and had a really nice, leisurely morning being tourists. We found a great brunch spot and just enjoyed adulting and taking a really long walk through a fun urban neighborhood.

One of the highlights for me was early morning cuddles with Hannah. We’re probably still paying for this a bit now, but when she’d wake up early in the morning I didn’t want her to rouse the whole house so I just brought her into bed with us. It’s not something we really ever do so I was happy to “break the rules” a bit. It was very special time with my girl.

Our trip quickly came to an end after we returned from Chicago. We were lucky that Grammy and Papa had planned a trip of their own to come to Seattle the following week, so that made saying goodbye a little easier. Until next time!

Ben’s First Day of School

Fall is here and school is back in session here in Seattle. We are so happy to be at the start of having a routine in our life again. While our summer was so fantastic it really lacked any predictability or consistency for the kids or me, so now that fall is here I’m embracing it.

Ben is in his second year of preschool this year, though attending a new school. He is going to a Montessori school in our neighborhood, just four blocks from our house. So far the transition to his new school has been seamless. He is really enjoying it and drop-off is a breeze!

Already on the first day of school I saw notable changes in Ben’s independence, one of the pillars of the Montessori philosophy. I’m eager to see how the new school environment influences him and promotes independence and executive functioning skills.

Here’s to a wonderful school year ahead!

For nostalgia sake: 2018 first day / 2017 first day

Ben is 3 1/4!

It is so much fun to do quarterly updates for my oldest toddler, but SO much happens and changes in a quarter it is so hard to keep up with. My goodness gracious, though, my Benjamin has never been sweeter or more fun. That said, with the exception of Ben’s first quarter of life, this last quarter has undoubtedly been the most challenging. Three is no joke.

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, spaghetti and meatballs, most meats – especially slow cooked
  • 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

Two weeks before Ben turned three we started to see some major changes. The tantrums were mounting, the defiance was abundant, the screaming was persistent, the mischief was constant and the simplest tasks took an eternity and was like pulling teeth to just get Ben to brush his teeth. Every part of every day was extremely taxing. We knew “three” had arrived!

These unpleasant changes lasted a solid two months and then one day we had this mature little three-year old. I’m well aware that misbehavior is a sign either of needing/wanting attention, another need not being met {i.e. tired/hungry, etc.} or a big period of brain development. I’m pretty sure with this particular season it was largely a developmental milestone, but also a major transition – Ben’s routine and schedule totally changed and we began our summer schedule right around this time, too.

Our little threenager is just that – a mini teenager. He wants to do his own thing, But at least he still likes us!

Even as a very young toddler Ben has always been quite independent. He loves getting himself dressed, helping in the kitchen, playing on his own, reading books to himself and doing things for himself.

Ben is extremely curious right now. Alex and I are doing whatever we can to foster that. I love when he asks “why” or for more information about what something is or how it works. He amazes me sometimes with his ability to recall or repeat what I say.

Alex and I have been loving the progression that our conversations with Ben are taking these days. He asks such thoughtful and insightful questions. He’s starting to understand the concept of time a little more, though this has been a tough one to get.

As a 3 1/4 year old, Ben is sleeping around 10-10.5 hours overnight and most days takes a 2-3 hour nap. He usually goes to sleep around 8 or 8:30 and wakes up somewhere around 6:30. About once a week he’ll wake in the night – usually because he dropped a stuffie or pillow and can’t find it, though he does have the occasional bad dream.

Socially Ben has made some big changes in the last quarter or so. He has several friends and there are some friendships that seem to be stronger than others. There are some kids from his school last year who he seems to miss and asks about often. At this point he prefers playing on his own. We’ve had some friends up to The Lodge and it’s been really neat to see him playing so well with the other kids.

One of Ben’s favorite activities has been riding his balance bike. He LOVED his week of bike camp with his balance bike in early July. He really mastered the balance bike and it brought him tremendous confidence.

Because he mastered the balance bike we felt he was ready for a pedal bike. While we still feel like he’s ready – he is having a really hard time figuring out how to actually pedal. We popped the training wheels on so it would be a little easier, but this has been a source of tremendous frustration for him. He had a terrible time in his second week of bike camp with the pedal bike and I ended up pulling him out halfway through the session because he was so upset about it. He’s just not getting how to pedal. We’re going to lay off of this for a bit and pick it back up after he has the opportunity to ride a tricycle or just take a break.

Ben has always had a natural athleticism and has become very interested in soccer and baseball {well, t-ball} recently. It’s impressive watching him hit the ball on the tee, play catch and kick a soccer ball. He is really looking forward to his first experience playing soccer this fall.

At home, Ben loves to be helpful, particularly in the kitchen. He really enjoys cooking with me and will often come put his step stool next to me and ask to help make dinner or if we can bake something together.

Ben’s personality is staying mostly constant at this point. He is as sweet as they come. He loves to be surrounded by family and people who care about him. Close relationships are very important to him. Ben is compassionate, sensitive and empathetic and is very, very loving. He is really impacted by how other people feel. His sense of humor continues to emerge and he loves to make people laugh.

It’s really timely that my quarterly updates seem to largely coincide with the changing of the seasons. We are rounding the corner to fall and Ben has some really big transitions ahead. He’s starting a Montessori preschool after Labor Day where he’ll go 3 days per week, he’ll be joining a soccer team and getting back into gymnastics. We always have so much to look forward to and this fall is no different.

Ben & Hannah

Now that Hannah is one I thought it would be fun to do a little comparison of Ben and Hannah. In my month-by-month or quarterly update posts I try to keep it focused on each kiddo and avoid comparing the two kids. They have a ton of similarities in their personalities but there are some really big differences in how they have developed.

One of the biggest similarities in Ben and Hannah is that they are both extremely loud. They crave being the center of attention. Neither one is afraid to make their presence known or request additional attention if they’re not getting enough.

If you spend much time with Ben you’ll notice how naturally athletic he is. As a baby and early toddler he really excelled in gross motor development. When he was learning a new skill he would really challenge himself and try things maybe a little before he was ready, then he’d practice his new skill over and over again.

{Ben – 13 months old – days away from walking}

Hannah, on the other hand, has really excelled in her fine motor skills. She’s been slower to hit her gross motor skills milestones, but when she does hit them she’s mastered them. She waits until she knows she’s nailed it.

{Hannah – 12 months old and standing up unsupported.}

As a baby, Ben was a sympathy crier. If there was another baby crying he would start crying too. Hannah did not get that gene. If Ben is doing something inappropriate she thinks it’s hilarious. If someone gets hurt and is crying she is the first to laugh.

Both of our sweet kids absolutely love music. They both enjoy playing musical instruments and they love listening to music.

When Ben was a baby it took him a while to really get into solid foods, especially feeding himself finger foods. He was fine with purees – still loves them in fact – but when it came to finger foods it took until about 10 months for him to get comfortable and show an interest. We started Hannah on solid foods when she was 5 months old and she couldn’t get enough! She took to solid foods immediately and hasn’t looked back. She’s been known to scoop up a handful of fruit and shovel it into her mouth.

{Ben – almost 11 months}

{Hannah – 11 months}

Ben and Hannah are both pretty easy-going kids. They’re able to go with the flow and adjust well in new surroundings. Ben in particular is so happy to spend time and connect with anyone who he feels comfortable with and who shows him love and care. Hannah is a little slower to warm up to new people and is more connected to me as a baby than Ben was.

In terms of energy and activity levels, we’ll have to see how this goes as Hannah gets a little older. I think Ben will have her beat a bit here. She’s super wiggly but in a different way than Ben was, I think. He just seems like he needs to burn off excess energy by running and climbing and jumping. Hannah just doesn’t like to be confined it seems.

{Ben – 22 months – ever the athlete}

{Hannah – 11 months}

A big physical difference is their size. Ben has always been very thin and Hannah has been on the opposite end of the spectrum. Currently both of them can fit into the same size shorts – 18-month! Ben is hard to buy pants for because they won’t stay up on his waist, whereas I have to pay attention to pants for Hannah to make sure the legs aren’t too tight!

{Legs for days!}

Both kiddos are very independent and prefer to do things themselves without help. Some of Ben’s latest phrases include “No mama! I can do it myself!” Once Hannah has the vocabulary I’m sure I’ll hear that from her too. From an early age with both of them, though, they are content playing on their own and don’t always need to be entertained.

As an itty bitty infant Ben was not into cuddling but now is an all-star cuddle bug. Hannah has always been into snuggles. I can’t wait to see the two of them curled up on the couch sharing a blanket, snuggling up with their stuffies one day in the not-too-distant future.

Lately the consensus seems to be that Hannah looks just like her brother. I definitely agree they have some significant similarities in their appearances, especially their mouths. It’s tough because Ben was so bald at the age Hannah is now, so it makes it harder to compare.

{Hannah – 6 months}

{Ben – 6 months}

I’m not sure how Alex and I turned out two blonde hair, blue eyed cuties, but we managed! Ben and Hannah both have blue eyes but the color of their eyes are completely different and SO beautiful. Ben’s eyes are stunning – they are so captivating. Strangers will occasionally stop to comment on his eyes. They are a deep blue/gray with an incredible luster to them. Almost like broken glass. And Hannah’s eyes look like an alpine lake – a beautiful, rich tealy blue that pulls out the colors of whatever is surrounding her.

It has been really fun when I’ve done my monthly Hannah updates to look back on my Ben posts from that same age. I always wait until I’ve written Hannah’s update to re-read Ben’s update from that time and it’s uncanny sometimes how similar the updates are. These two littles have so much in common but their personalities are definitely their own. It will be so fun to see their personas continue to come out as they get older.

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….}

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.