Category Archives: Family

Building the Lodge: Framing!

The forecast for the weekend looked pretty chilly and wet. We decided to push potty training back a week {sunshine works better for us} and ultimately do a quick impromptu day trip out to Leavenworth to check out the progress on our house and seek out better weather.

We had a nice Saturday hanging out around our neighborhood and mostly staying dry, then Sunday morning, packed up the car after breakfast and headed towards the mountains. It’s pretty amazing how different the weather can be on one side of the mountains from the other – driving through Stevens Pass it was 39 degrees and pouring with a fresh snowline a bit above us, then as we descended {and nervously checked the weather because we were grossly unprepared for rain} the mountains the rain dried up and the skies cleared. It was a picture-perfect day in Leavenworth.

We scoped out the house, walked around the property and had a perfect picnic in our yard. It was a very memorable day, for sure.

Things over at The Lodge are really taking shape! Since we were there for Ben’s birthday two weeks ago, half of the first floor was framed and most of the second floor {a half story/loft} was framed. They need to frame the two-story great room on the main level and a few more things upstairs on the second level.

We’ve been making tremendous progress over the last few weeks with making decisions. It’s unbelievable the number of decisions we need to make. Thankfully it’s less overwhelming than I expected at this point.

Our builder broke ground and started framing about a month earlier than we expected so I feel like we’re still playing catch up with all of the decisions we need to make. It’s been so fun to see things come together and really start to imagine what the house will look like when it’s done.

The best part, though, is imagining our family and the memories we’ll be able to make at The Lodge.

Ben’s Second Birthday Celebration

For the second year in a row we headed out to Leavenworth for Memorial Day weekend with Ben’s grandparents to celebrate his birthday. It was such a special weekend for us and we’re so grateful that his grandparents were able to join us this year.

The whole weekend was all about Ben! We had a blast celebrating him and enjoying Ben-themed activities.

Just down the block from our house is the fire station and they were hosting a Memorial Day family open house again this year. Ben loved seeing the fire trucks and ambulances and even got to watch a medical helicopter land. Grammy dressed up as a fire fighter and Ben got to sit up in the fire truck.

We had a wonderful time exploring the beach at Lake Wenatchee State Park and shared a picnic and some time walking the beach and playing on the playground. Lake Wenatchee is absolutely stunning!

When we arrived to our rental house, which is conveniently located next door to our property, we couldn’t wait to run over to our lot to check on the construction progress. Framing has begun – they had just finished up framing the basement and were working on the first wall on the main floor. It was so special to see the house being built and get to share that with Ben. Grandpa Fred brought some sunflower seeds for us to plant over on the lot, so we found the perfect spot and will be excited to see them grow this summer.

There were a couple of times we went into town for a change of pace – we had some sausage and pretzels, took a stroll through Leavenworth and got to savor some mid-afternoon treats at the coffee shop.

We opted to celebrate Ben’s birthday on Sunday after Ben’s nap. He opened some really fun presents and we had birthday cake. For dinner, my dad made his famous burgers and potato salad again this year. I ordered the same Bavarian black forest cake for Ben again this year and thankfully he loved and devoured it. He hadn’t really experienced cake last year before his birthday but this year he was a pro.

Ben is very close to outgrowing the pack & play travel crib and made it clear that he was not happy to be sleeping in it while we were traveling. Similarly to when we were in Arizona a couple months ago, Ben woke up in the middle of the night {extremely unusual for him} each night and requested to come in bed with Alex and me. We happily cozied up with him and savored these rare middle-of-the-night cuddles.

Unsurprisingly, the sleeping change resulted in veeerrryyyyy early wakeups in the morning. Holy cow. Alex was nice enough to let me sleep in a bit later while he played with Ben and Jackson. Nap time was all over the place, given the early wake-ups and new environment. After the second day of no naps I decided to lay down and snooze with Ben with the hope that it would result in a longer nap for him. Thankfully it did!

There were so many sweet moments throughout the weekend. One of my favorites was seeing Ben recognize that there was a special celebration just for him – he sang “Happy Birthday to Ben” all weekend long.

Alex and I had the best time exploring the area we’ll soon be calling our second home and seeing Ben experience life out there. We’re so grateful that Ben has grandparents who adore him so much and who he can bond with, despite the distance. It was a very special weekend for us.

Happy 2nd Birthday Ben!

Our little boy is officially TWO! I want to say “I can’t believe it” but really, I can. He’s totally two. And terrific. We have been celebrating his birthday for about the last week – we took a very memorable trip to Leavenworth {post coming soon!} with Ben’s grandparents and we’ve been spoiling him all week long.

It is so remarkable all that Ben has learned, discovered and done in his short little life, and even just in the last year. Alex and I have absolutely loved watching his sweet personality grow and emerge. We adore how curious and inquisitive he is {“what is that?” “did you hear that?” are some of our favorite questions he has been asking lately.}, the natural independence he’s developing and how much of an entertainer he is.

Ben continues to be extremely active and loves to run and climb. He has surprisingly impressive balance – I think he’s got a lot of natural athleticism. Also, he’s going to give me a heart attack real, real soon.

Watching Ben figure out how to walk was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. It was a slow process because he skipped walking and went straight to running. I think it’s easier to master walking first?

Ben started talking around 14 months – by his 15 month checkup he was saying about 15 words. I remember he picked up on the baby sign language really quickly and still uses signs in addition to saying words like “please” and “more” – especially if he really wants something. Today it’s impossible to estimate Ben’s vocabulary, but I think it’s somewhere between 300-500 words and growing exponentially by the day. We just love having conversations with him and listening to him sing songs. It’s adorable knowing what’s going through his mind.

One of the most mementos events of the Ben’s second year was our land acquisition out in Leavenworth. Alex and I absolutely cannot wait to be able to raise our kids having the experience of spending their weekends in the mountains. We are working so hard to make this a reality and it’s so, so fun picturing Ben and his siblings running around on our beautiful property.

We had some really fun family vacations this last year where we got to spend quality time together with Ben – our trips to Seabrook and Vancouver last summer, just before Ben started to walk, and more recently, our trip down to Arizona. Family time is so important to Alex and me and at this point, it’s our number one choice over pretty much anything else. This little boy means the world to us.

Ben has come to love and regularly request steamed milk when we go to the coffee shop. If you know me very well, we go to the coffee shop a lot. Last fall sometime I got Ben his first “steamer” and it slowly became a little thing we do. I can’t help it – it’s just so cute watching him with his special little coffee cup. He loves it, I love it. It’s adorable.

Alex and I feel so very fortunate to have such an incredible park and playground just four blocks from our house. Spending the day up at the park is one of our favorite family activities. It has been an absolute blast to watch Ben grow up at the park and go from only being able to go in the swings at this time last year to graduating to playing with trucks in the sandbox, crawling around the woodchips, practicing walking in the grass, then quickly learning to climb the toddler play structure and go down the slide with help and then one day not long after, learning how to walk up the big kid steps and go down the big slide all by himself.

While we have so much on the horizon this year for our little Benjamin {becoming a big brother, finishing construction in the mountains, starting legit Spanish-immersion preschool, potty training…} it’s so much fun to look back on our memorable year with Ben. Here are some of my favorite photos or moments/memories from Ben’s second year… {Side note: I forgot how bald he was for sooo long!}

Happy birthday, Benjamin!

Mother’s Day Weekend

Everything lined up to make for a darn nice Mother’s Day weekend in our little house. The weather was absolutely perfect – the icing on the cake!

Ben and I kicked off the weekend with a day just the two of us on Friday. We had a date at the garden store and he alternated between riding in the wagon, running around the store and being slightly helpful {the most helpful was when he was riding in the wagon}.

He was adorable, though, and we picked out some cherry tomato plants, strawberry plants and some herbs. I managed to grab some blooming flowers when he was confined to the wagon. Needless to say, a second trip to the garden store was in order! Since the weather forecast was calling to be perfect Alex and I had grand plans of spending some quality time in our yard over the weekend.

One of my proudest moments as a parent soon followed our trip to the garden store. We went to the Arboretum park and were sitting on the sidewalk having a snack and a little girl took a very big tumble. I think Ben might have seen it happen {my attention was focused elsewhere} and then when she started crying Ben said “go give her a hug!” and got up and started walking towards her. Alex shared he had a similar encounter last weekend when he got a scratch on his arm and Ben kissed it, told him “it’s okay!” and rubbed his back. My heart melted. I’m not sure how he’s already learned empathy – we sure are trying! – and above anything and everything else, I want him to be empathetic and a nice kid. Smarts only get you so far, but being nice and empathizing with others, that’s the makings of a good person.

Alex had a similar moment on Sunday when we returned to the garden store. It had nothing to do with empathy, more just a proud parent moment. He and Ben were sitting down together and Alex took a moment to explain the importance of listening and following directions and holding mama and dada’s hand instead of running off. Immediately after their conversation Ben calmed down and held onto Alex’s hand and responded so sweetly to the directions. Moments like this validate that we’re doing something right!

In addition to the sweet moments, we had some downright adorable moments and firsts on Saturday at our neighborhood block party. The neighborhood association puts on this huge festival and parade, primarily for the kids, and it was so much fun to go to with Ben.

We bumped into other kids in our neighborhood, some of Ben’s classmates, one of the babies from the PEPS group I led and some random friends and acquaintances. It’s moments like these that remind us just how much we love our darling neighborhood – we feel so, so fortunate to live here.

Ben got to see his first parade, which was led by a firetruck {!}, he got to ride a pony, see a reptile show and read some books from the library. We all enjoyed a treat from the coffee shop – “warm milk” is apparently the best thing ever. We’ve spoiled him by getting him a little “steamer” {lightly steamed milk} when we go to the coffee shop now. It’s too cute and he loves it too much to stop!

Somehow we managed to sprinkle in some time with friends into the weekend – we had a really nice dinner over at Ryan and Anne’s on Saturday night, then my cousin, Chris, and his wife and their two kids came over for a backyard barbecue on Sunday evening.

It was a very lovely, special Mother’s Day weekend, indeed. I adored the time I got to spend with the two guys who made me a mama. We had lots of cuddles and giggles and enjoyed our time together.

The Hole

In the midst of a crazy week last week we got some unexpected news from our builder that he was breaking ground on our lot out in the mountains! We knew it was bound to happen sometime in the next month or two and were anxiously awaiting the news – it still caught us off guard and seemed to happen really fast!

In any case – Alex and I drove out to our property just outside the town of Leavenworth, about two hours east of Seattle, over the weekend to check out the “hole” in the ground and make sure the excavator put it in the right spot.

It is darn perfect. The house will be nestled in the evergreens, facing out on a bluff atop a river overlooking the valley. I’m not sure how it all came together so smoothly but seeing that hole made it feel all the more real to me. If everything comes together as expected we should be in the house before Christmas, which was what we were really hoping for.

{The view from our future deck – even on a rainy spring day it sure is nice to look at!}

This mountain home will be life changing for us and our little, growing family as well as our extended family and we are so grateful that things are coming together as well as they are. We can’t wait for Ben and his little sister to be able to grow up spending so much time in the mountains.

Baby #2 Update

Like many pregnancies, this one has been filled with ups and downs. I officially reached and passed the “halfway” point and am currently 22 weeks {or 5 months} pregnant.

So far, there have been a lot of similarities with my pregnancy with Ben and some definite differences. Neither pregnancy has involved food cravings, oddly enough. Both were filled with food aversions, particularly in the first trimester, some nausea and a whole lot of heartburn. This one includes some significant lower back pain {darn!!!!} and so far, especially in the second trimester, a “normal” amount of energy.

I remember loving the second trimester in my pregnancy with Ben. I felt almost normal, and that’s sort of the case with this one, aside from the back pain. I’ve been sleeping really well almost my whole pregnancy so far and surprisingly have had less sheer exhaustion than I remember having with Ben. I’m staying up until a reasonable adult time in the evenings and waking up feeling well-rested, which is a joyous feeling, especially since I know what’s coming once this baby girl arrives.

This pregnancy, though, is a little different. I’m more experienced and less naive. While I realized quickly in my first pregnancy that once you see that “yes” on the pregnancy test, you’re never “out of the woods” so to speak, on anything, forever, in the rest of your life.

Experiencing a serious pregnancy complication, as I did with Ben, and living through a month in the NICU is enough to change anyone’s perception of future pregnancies. My worries with the second pregnancy have nothing to do with the color of the walls, whether the theme for our nursery will be woodland creatures or airplanes, nor finding the best “organic, all-natural crib mattress” on the market.

My concerns with my second pregnancy include the hope of a healthy baby at the end of a full-term pregnancy, wondering what labor is like {I never labored before delivering Ben via c-section}, how we’ll adjust to life with two, whether I’ll still get my morning and evening cuddles with Ben, if I’ll be able to breastfeed this time, and hope hope hoping this baby will adjust to napping on-the-go so I can keep up with my toddler. And let’s be real, baby #2 is probably sleeping in a pack & play in our closet.

{19 weeks pregnant}

During the first half of the pregnancy my doctor’s appointments were fairly regular, though because it’s a high-risk pregnancy they included additional ultrasounds. In my mid-point ultrasound this week we got a big scare. The doctor told us after the ultrasound that the baby had a heart defect, which in it of itself could be just fine, but it could be an indicator of something more serious. Fast-forward two nail-biting days to our echocardiogram where the pediatric cardiologist tells us there is absolutely nothing wrong with our girl’s heart and that it’s perfectly normal. It seems as though the ultrasound was mis-read.

In any case, our babe’s little heart is not the only thing developing normally – she is too! We got a confirmation that she is indeed a she {a little doubt in the last ultrasound} – and she’s huge! According to the ultrasound she is in the 85th percentile for size {so that means if she was compared against 100 babies, she’d be bigger than 85 of them!}. Wowza! Our fingers are crossed that she keeps on growing normally and that we get to meet her in late July or early August.

~

Looking back on my pregnancy with Ben:

  • 20-week post
  • 24-week post {and for the record, I don’t think you’re technically 6 months pregnant until 26 weeks. Oopsies! First time mama mistake!}

Big Changes for the Allens

We’ve had kiiiiind of a lot going on since I last posted about our early-March trip to Arizona! Not only has spring come to Seattle, but it feels like we’re in a new season in our family, too.

Just after we returned from our vacation, Alex began his new job. He’s now three weeks in and is working at a very large tech company that is based here in Seattle. So far, he loves it. He really likes the autonomy, the increase in responsibility, and definitely the commute. His office is close to downtown Seattle and he has loved riding his bike almost every day {3 mile commute – hard to beat!} and he is enjoying being in a more vibrant environment.

The transition to his new job has been fairly easy so far in terms of its impact on our family. We’ve adjusted our morning routine a bit, and Alex is getting home only slightly later in the evening. So far, he’s been home almost every night for dinner, which is a goal we both have. Navigating a new benefits system and insurance policy has been pretty straightforward. I expected to feel the change a lot more. Ultimately, all that matters is that Alex is happy, and that definitely seems to be the case.

At the beginning of Alex’s second week of his new job we came to the realization that our childcare situation was not working out as well as we had hoped. Ultimately, we decided that we needed to move on from our au pair and find a replacement for her.

For about a minute we toyed with some alternate ideas that strayed from having an au pair. Then we realized the cost of having to pay for two separate childcare arrangements for our kiddos {once the baby is born this summer} and realized that an au pair fits very well with our family’s desires, as well as our budget.

Things happened very fast once we made the decision to enter the re-match process. We ended up finding Stacey, a lovely British au pair awaiting a re-match in New York. Stacey was available to begin almost immediately and we were able to work out the logistics so she arrived five days after our re-match process began.

We had a few days, though, where we had childcare gaps, so Alex’s mom “Grammy” came out to watch Ben last week. The two of them had such a special time. Grammy has unlimited energy, it seems, and kept Ben entertained and taught him new things all week long. We were so grateful for the time that they had together.

{Decorating cupcakes with Grammy!}

In the background while all this has been going on has been the final pre-construction process we’re managing to get our mountain house ready for building! A huge high five goes to Alex for navigating that. We’re SO SO close to breaking ground.

Now we’re about to start our first full week with Stacey as Ben’s solo caregiver. We’ve had several days of training and getting acclimated to our family and the city and I think she is ready. So far she is fitting in extremely well with our family and she and Ben bonded right away. Stacey is very sweet, comes with a ton of tot experience {baby too!} and is very conscientious and intuitive. I think we are in good hands!

We are very, very happy to be into a new month and a new season here in our little house. I have a feeling this season will be a great one and we are looking forward to it!

Arizona Family Vacation

We’ve had an unusually crazy winter this year – typical winters for us are filled with trips to the mountains, ski vacations and chasing the next snow storm. This winter threw us off with a difficult childcare transition, Alex’s job search and the intense preparations that went into getting ready for interviews, and me being pregnant. So! We made an impromptu decision to head to Arizona for what will probably be our last vacation as a family of three.

We packed our bags and headed to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area for four nights and five days to enjoy some time together just the three of us. We have been to Arizona several times before and we stayed at the same resort as we went to last winter with Alex’s family.

I put quite a lot of thought into airplane activities for our very active toddler. I found some awesome “things that go” gel stickers, washi tape, new Water Wow coloring books, fun new snacks and a couple new books. Turns out I really didn’t need to bring much to hold his attention. He snoozed for half of the flight down to Arizona, snacked for a bit, watched the people and then requested to watch his favorite Elmo video – “ABCs in Espanol” a few times, and then we were there!

We opted to buy Ben his own seat, which was a smart move, since he’s so active {you don’t have to buy a seat for a kid under age 2}. It was really nice to have the whole row to ourselves and allow him to spread out a bit. Just after takeoff Alex asked if Ben wanted to put his head down in Alex’s lap and take a nap and Ben said yes, laid his head down and fell asleep. It was a really precious moment, especially given that Ben is on-the-go about 93% of the time.

The timing of our flights allowed us to optimize the travel days quite a bit. We were checked into our room by 1:30 and I think we arrived at the pool by 1:45. We knew right away that Ben was going to love spending the next four days swimming.

The middle of most of our days were spent swimming. The resort we stayed at has a main pool with poolside dining and is perfectly heated. They also have a fantastic kiddie pool that is so perfect for toddlers – it’s a zero depth entry with a max water depth of 18 inches. The kiddie pool is the sole reason we selected this resort and our decision held strong when we saw how ideal it is for Ben right now.

Another thing we hadn’t considered is the stairs and ledge around the big pool offered Ben a great deal of independence, which is key for him right now. He loved walking around the edge of the pool and practicing going up and down the stairs. The first day he was content cruising around in his floatie but then he realized he could be more independent and the floatie was a thing of the past.

Later in the trip Ben discovered the joys of jumping in the pool. I’m positive if we would have let him he would have jumped to Alex a thousand times. He absolutely loved it and continued to request “more” jumping.

Somehow I forgot how chilly it can get in Arizona in the evenings/mornings. Our little toddler is an early riser – especially in an earlier time zone – so our days started before the sun rose. This meant we had several hours to fill in a hotel room with limited activities while we waited for it to warm up enough to head to the pool.

Much to Alex’s and my surprise, Ben entertained himself really well. He loved pushing the stroller around our unit, opening the kitchen drawers and putting things in his stroller, pushing the luggage rack through the room and watching out the window for golf carts.

We managed to remain pretty consistent with Ben’s nap times and keep to a regular meal schedule, too. Our first full day we enjoyed lounging by the pool while Ben napped next to us. After the first day, though, we decided he would get a better nap back in our room.

One new thing Ben got to experience was television. We had 2 TVs in our room – one in the living room and one in the bedroom. In our actual house our TV is down in the basement in my office and Ben almost never goes down there so he really hadn’t been exposed to TV before, and the few times he had, he was not interested. We randomly turned on the TV and he watched a cartoon about puppies and seemed to love it. I don’t anticipate him watching much TV at home, but it was sweet to see him engaged in the show for the first time.

Ben does get the occasional privilege of watching videos on the Sesame Street app on his iPad at home and he loved playing “ABCs in Espanol” over and over again. He’s starting to learn the ABCs in English and in Spanish.

While this was a very different trip than it would have been if just Alex and I traveled to Arizona together, we absolutely loved the dynamic that Ben added. We all had to be a little flexible and work with his early morning wake-ups {and the sweet, sweet snuggles that followed}, the need for a mid-day nap, the inability to have the patience to sit in a chair and eat at a restaurant three meals a day for five days, and the need to run around a LOT. It’s all a part of parenthood and we were happy to make accommodations for our little guy.

The memories we made on this trip will undoubtedly last a lifetime for Alex and me. It brought us so much joy to see our little boy so in his element and be exposed to so many fun childhood milestones. The best part, though, was the time we spent. For me, seeing Ben and his “dada” have five days together was priceless. We could have been hunkered down in an igloo for all we cared – the time we spent together was so special and I hope to remember the sweet little moments forever.

An {Extra}Ordinary Saturday

Saturday morning was coolddddd and wet and just plain dreary. Ben started the day by making us some coffee in the kitchen with his new coffee maker. This has been such a hit. He loves coffee and can feel helpful and included when we involve him in our coffee adventures. Adorable.

We planned a fun outing that could accommodate a damp Seattle day and included a trip to MyGym, Ben’s tumbling class, and a stop at a cool park on the way home.

Alex and I had so much fun watching how much confidence and coordination Ben had during his gym class. It was really neat to see him climbing so thoughtfully and also to see how comfortable he was in the class. {Photos are courtesy of my friend Ali from a different day’s class.}

After MyGym the clouds cleared and the sun was out!? We were expecting a rainy morning, which is why we picked a “rainy day” park to stop at on our way home. Alex had heard about the Dragon Park in Mercer Island a while ago and we thought it would be a perfect rainy Saturday stop.

It turned out, Ben seemed to have wished the rain had continued. All he wanted to do was jump in the puddles! We had the whole playground to ourselves and he had zero interest in it – just climbing the dragon and seeking out puddles. Too funny. Side note: Hunter rainboots for tots are AMAZING. They go on so easily and they stay on!!

{Naturally, jumping in puddles of mud results in falling in a puddle of mud…Thankfully we have a washing machine}

Ben took a very early nap, courtesy of the car ride home. When he woke up he became my little baking assistant and we whipped up some banana muffins. Yum!

Our family days tend to look pretty much like this – we love planning an outing in the morning, having some cozy time together at home, getting outside and doing things together, whether it’s sitting on the floor drinking “coffee” out of Ben’s wooden coffee mug or reading his “choo choo” book 17 times over and over in front of the fire, family time is the highlight of our weekends.