Category Archives: Life

Spring is Here!

Spring is really in the air here in Seattle. The cherry blossoms already peaked, the daffodils have come and mostly gone and now it’s tulip time! The weather is showing signs that it’s starting to turn into “spring” – which means still chilly temperatures and a lot of rain with a few nice days interspersed throughout the week. I’ve been loving watching the buds quickly turn into leaves and less so the weeds starting to multiply on our gravel driveway. Time to get out my gardening gloves, I guess!

In any case, it is truly spring here. Ben celebrated his first Easter {I don’t think we even acknowledged it last year?!} this year. It was fun to use Easter as an opportunity to welcome spring, eat some ham and freshen up some of his toys.

{No candy in this Easter basket! A cuddly lamb, some books, dot markers and sidewalk chalk for our tot this year.}

We’ve gotten the spring cleaning bug in more of an organizational and out with the old in with the new kind of a way this season.

{Traded in my “Let it Snow” mug for this one! And then we tossed out our sub-par coffee maker and traded it in for a less fancy, better quality producing Bonativa coffee maker.}

I did a major pantry overhaul and completely re-arranged the shelving in our black hole closet under the stairs. It’s amazing how making a few tiny adjustments can go so far! I also re-arranged just one shelf in my baking cabinet and it has made it so much more organized and easy to find things {I already had the containers on the bottom two shelves}. Now we just need to re-design Ben’s closet to make room for his sister. It’s so overwhelming even contemplating how we’re going to hold another child’s wardrobe in our little house!

Some of my favorite organizational things have been little clear organizational bins for food {you can see them sort of up on the third shelf above}, along with adding baskets and a big canned organizational system. My absolute favorite change, though, was being able to stand up my baking sheets vertically instead of stacking them on top of each other. These changes have made a world of a difference in our house!

There’s always a never-ending list of things to do, especially as the seasons change, and we are happy to welcome the warmer weather, birds chirping and the thought of sunshine. Oh, and thank goodness the window washers come this week!

{Even when it rains, though, it’s ok… we’ve got rain boots and raincoats to keep us dry as we go out to count the worms….}

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!}

Ben is 22 Months Old!

We are rounding the corner towards age 2! It’s sort of funny – for about the first time ever, people are accurately guessing Ben’s age. Parents at the park or random strangers will say “oh, is he almost two?” Typically when someone guesses how old Ben is they are wildly off, but lately it seems like he’s started “looking his age” I guess!?

Ben’s 22-month stats:

  • Weight: 24 pounds + some ounces {~ 10th percentile}
  • Number of teeth: 12
  • Clothing size: all over the board – anything new I’m sizing up to 2T for tops. Bottoms are so funny – he’s still in 12-18m at the very largest, but still fits into some 9-12m bottoms. He’s very difficult to buy clothes for!
  • Shoe size: 5 {toddler size}
  • Favorite foods: cottage cheese, smoothies, crackers, any kind of pork, broccoli
  • Favorite activities: dancing, climbing, singing songs, cuddling his stuffed animals, reading, watching ABCs in Espanol {Elmo video}, going to the playground, running, going to school.

I feel like the theme of Ben’s last month has been fun and talking, talking, talking. Maybe talking will be the theme for all of toddlerhood!? Boundary testing is most definitely another theme lately. We’ve employed the “ok I’m going to count to 5 and then we’re going to be all done with xyz” which has been surprisingly effective so far.

During the last month Ben spent the better part of a week on vacation with Alex and me – we had such a fantastic time just the three of us. Ben has been a dada’s boy a lot more in the last couple of months – it’s been so sweet to see. I just love watching those two together. There are few things more endearing than seeing a dad and his kid having fun and living in the moment. It melts my heart.

We signed Ben up for swimming lessons, so he’s been able to be a little fish a ton in the last month. He loves jumping in the pool and is working on blowing bubbles, kicking his feet and scooping his hands. Aside from when he’s jumping in the pool he is suuuuper calm in the water. It’s so funny to see that part of his personality come out since he’s basically never calm or sitting still. I think he loves swimming lessons and will regularly talk about “swimming in water” throughout the week. I only wish the water and locker rooms were a tad bit warmer! Brrrrrrr.

Ben was an early talker, for sure, and in the last month we’ve seen another major leap in his vocabulary, speech and general language development. He’s more forward in talking to strangers and he is stringing together much longer sentences and his overall vocabulary and understanding has exploded. He’s asking questions now, which is basically the coolest thing ever! I can’t get enough of hearing him talk. Some of my favorite things he has started saying are:

  • What is that?
  • Good morning!
  • What are you doing?
  • Pee-yew! {while plugging his nose}
  • Ouchie! Mama kiss it.

Additionally, Ben has started singing songs – multiple verses, too. He sings the Wheels on the Bus, parts of pat-a-cake, parts of Old McDonald. He loooooves music. He’s starting to string together the Spanish ABCs and he’s working on counting to 10 in Spanish {and English, though his Spanish counting is oddly better!}. Colors are basically a lost cause for now.

In addition to singing, Ben has become quite the dancer. He’s been a little entertainer for quite a while now, but his new show includes dancing. The other day we were at Starbucks and there was some upbeat music playing and he went over to some girls, said hi and then started dancing for them. It was hysterical! He is such a flirt and really loves to be the center of attention.

I love watching the associations he makes with things. We were talking about an alligator recently and he “snapped” his arms like an alligator and associated that with a song he sings at school. It’s been interesting seeing him make the association from his three caregivers – we can tell he’s connected some type of parallel between them.

We’re preparing to say “bye bye” to Ben’s high chair. He is protesting it like none other. So far in his 22 months he’s been receptive to our rule that he needs to remain in his chair until everyone is finished eating {trying to instill good manners!}, soooo… we’re working on coming up with some new ideas, likely including a booster or a cool kids chair of some sort.

Another thing we are working on is re-setting Ben’s naps. The last three months Ben has been a terribly inconsistent napper. Two hours is an ideal naptime for Ben – lately, he’s been waking up very upset, clearly not ready to be awake, after exactly an hour. We’re establishing some new naptime habits and using our handy dandy Hatch light to help Ben to know when it’s okay to wake up from his nap {hint: the light turns green!}. So far the first week is going well and he’s been much more calm when he wakes up.

We are so excited about the recent change we’ve made to our childcare situation – we are feeling very positive about Ben’s new au pair and the care he is receiving throughout the day. We’re hoping Ben will continue to make leaps and bounds as we move closer and closer to his second birthday.

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!

Ben is 21 Months Old!

We’ve reached the end of another month and this time it means that Ben is 21 months old! We’ve begun preparing for his second birthday already and this little boy is a full-fledged toddler on the move. I just can’t believe it.

Ben’s 21-month stats:

  • Weight: 23 pounds 11 ounces {10th percentile}
  • Number of teeth: 12 {he has finally been catching up and getting more teeth! I think there are two more on their way in.}
  • Clothing size: all over the board – he officially broke out of 18-24m pajamas, and anything new I’m sizing up to 2T for tops. Bottoms are so funny – he’s still in 12-18m at the very largest. I bought him 9-12m shorts for our upcoming trip. He’s very difficult to buy clothes for!
  • Shoe size: 5 {toddler size}
  • Favorite foods: cheese, cottage cheese, oatmeal {a new favorite}, crackers, getting a “steamer” {steamed milk from the coffee shop}, pork in any form. He still likes broccoli but is back to being “over” bananas and virtually all other types of fruit, though he can’t get enough smoothies or applesauce.
  • Favorite activities: running, climbing, singing songs, reading, making coffee with his new {toy} coffee maker, playing with his toy train, digging through his backpack to find snacks, dumping things out, jumping in puddles.

Over the last few months Ben has been practicing using a fork and a spoon to eat with. I think he’s officially gotten to the point where he prefers utensils instead of his hands. His dexterity is getting quite impressive the more he practices. He has been proving that he’s really ready for major eating independence on things like applesauce, yogurt and cottage cheese – all things we at one time spoon fed him. It’s been fun to see the progression and how proud of himself he is.

{Homemade toddler pizzas were a hit one night when mom & dad went out for dinner.}

Ben’s morning wake-ups have been a little funny for a few weeks. Most days he’s been waking up quiiiiite early. We use a fantastic tot clock so he knows that he has to wait for the light to turn green before we’ll come in. Recently he started singing to himself in the mornings as he awaits our arrival. It is the sweetest thing listening to him in his room singing songs. I love that he’s actually starting to sing songs – he will occasionally request some of his favorites or just start singing the words.

“Getting cozy” is one of Ben’s favorite morning activities. We put him up on our bed, pull my big cozy blanket up over us and read stories while Ben drinks his milk. Sometimes he’ll get cozy in his chair in his room all by himself. He’s also figured out how to get Alex or me out of his chair if he wants to sit there by himself – he’ll put his hand out and say “walk” and then take a couple steps forward with us, let go and then go climb into the chair and take it over. Clever boy…

In keeping up with common developmental themes over the last few months I think language skills is again the biggest area where Ben has grown this last month. He’s putting together phrases and stringing together more dual/multi-word sentences and making noticeable connections. It is so fun to watch this take shape.

His communication skills are becoming more and more fun and helpful. He can point out an “ouchie” now, which of course is very helpful. He has begun to ask for more of something specific. He’s answering more questions and following more instructions. Very occasionally without prompting, he will say please or thank you. He has started to say “it’s okay!” to himself if he is scared of something. This is precious – seeing him connect emotions and how to deal with them all on his own is remarkable.

Some of his new {and adorable} phrases include:

  • “Come up Jackson!” {telling Jackson to come up on the bed}
  • “No way!” {has replaced plain old “no”}
  • “What is that?” {when he doesn’t know what something is}
  • “Come on!” {when he wants you to come with him}
  • “Want some”

Ben is definitely getting more and more into the toddler phase of testing boundaries as of the last couple weeks. It’s pretty amusing to see that as a parent. We approach it with a sense of humor and a whole lot of patience, as well as acknowledging that he’s trying to figure things out. It’s just really funny, though, watching him test, test, test the boundaries and hearing me tell him not to do something several times and watching the look in his eyes when he decides to do it again and again to figure out what he can get away with. We’re learning more and more about the toddler years and how quickly things change.

Some of my favorite moments of the last month have been snuggling with my sweet boy, hearing him say “love you” and “good night” and “morning” and getting more kisses. This little boy just melts my heart and his dada’s too.

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.

Fun Family Weekend

It was so nice to have a low-key, stress-free weekend together as a family. We so love our time together and we savored some special moments this last weekend, just the three of us.

Alex and I started the weekend with our Valentine’s dinner {a couple days late!} at Vendemmia, our favorite restaurant in our neighborhood. The food and the company was wonderful. We had a really, really nice night and are looking forward to our next date night.

The weather on Saturday morning left much to be desired and we had no agenda. Quick thinking led us to the Museum of Flight. We had been wanting to take Ben there because he’s obsessed with airplanes, so this weekend proved to be the perfect time.

He’s definitely at the minimum age where a kid would get much from the museum, and I think he really enjoyed it. He got to sit in a few retired airplanes, push a lot of buttons all over the place, color a picture of a rocket, run up the aisle of a passenger airplane and check out airplanes spanning all the decades since the Wright brothers brought us airplanes. And he got to pick out an airplane key chain for his special keys {no kidding – his favorite toy is his own set of keys}.

During the weekends it’s nice to take family walks with Jackson – it’s a bit more challenging for us all to do that during the week. Lately Ben has been less and less interested in spending much time in his stroller, so that’s interesting. He requested “walk” when we were at the turnaround point of our walk {i.e. the farthest point from home}. Alex decided to oblige and Ben walked the rest of the way home {ten blocks} and split the walk by helping mama push the stroller or running alongside dada.

Our evening on Saturday was really nice, too – we went over to our neighbor’s house for dinner. They have a four month-old boy and we really, really enjoy them. Ben was super sweet with their baby and was rocking him in his little chair, smiling at him and pointing out his body parts. It was so fun to see him interacting so sweetly with another baby. We’re so excited for him to be a big brother!

The weekend wrapped up with a little trip to the mountains to enjoy some crisp, sunny weather. We went cross country skiing and spent some time playing in the snow. Of course Ben had the opportunity to do some skiing of his own, too.

We stopped for lunch at a cute restaurant on the way home, then curled up in mama and dada’s bed with Jackson and Henry {!!!} for a family nap. Despite the fact that Ben woke up with a little fever it was a very wonderful weekend with our little family.

Meal Kit Delivery

On a whim I decided to try one of those meal kit delivery services. They’re all the rage and they seem kind of fun and provides a perfect opportunity to get outside my comfort zone and try something new, plus I wasn’t feeling particularly creative in the menu planning department, so, here we are…

I opted to give Sun Basket a try for my first attempt. There are SO many to choose from – I went with Sun Basket because they seem to specialize in more local, sustainable, fresh and organic ingredients, which are all really important to me. I’m still learning the differences between the other options, so please enlighten me if you have tried other boxes that you’ve liked {and feel free to send me your referral codes!}

My meal kits arrived on Wednesday {Valentine’s Day} – I was so excited to open the boxes and see what was in there. Sun Basket allows you to choose the meals you’d like to receive – so I knew ultimately what to expect but I was curious what the packaging and contents would be like. One of the perks of these kits is that all of the ingredients arrive and everything is pre-portioned and you only get what you need for the meal.

I ordered meals for four people for four days and it was a lot of food – I was overwhelmed unpacking the boxes. It took a while unpacking everything, breaking down the boxes and getting it organized. There are tons of individual packages {especially since I ordered meals for four people – I essentially got two kits each for two people – so twice the packaging} which really messes with my organizational system.

Our first meal that we made was chilaquiles! I was excited to add that to our menu – I had never tried it before, and Alex, having spent a lot of time in real Mexico, has tried and loves chilaquiles. It’s commonly served for breakfast in Mexico, but we opted to make it for dinner.

The meal prep itself was really straightforward – slightly easier than if I would have made it totally on my own since everything was already portioned out. I still had to chop the veggies, but everything else was done for me. The instructions were really clear and easy to follow and the cook times were accurate {which seems to seldom be the case}.

The final product was great, I thought! Alex said they definitely weren’t authentic, but he really liked them. Gelys didn’t share her opinion but I saw her adding a looooot of hot sauce to them. Ben seemed to love them – he loves black beans, tomatoes, chips, cheese and eggs, so it’s kind of the perfect dish for him.

We’ve got three more meals this week from Sun Basket, then I ordered another smaller delivery of only two meals {for four people} for later this week – I’m excited to see how they compare. In a couple weeks we’ll be trying Blue Apron, so it will be fun to see how the two kits differ.

Pregnancy Update: First Trimester Recap

In case you missed it – we just shared some big news: Ben is going to be a big brother this summer! His little brother or sister is due to arrive on August 8th. We are so excited to have another little one around and for Ben to have a sibling! If baby #2 arrives on time, Ben and his brother/sister will be 26 months apart.

Life has been a liiiiittle crazy lately – it turns out it’s rather exhausting being pregnant with a very active toddler, especially when it’s coupled with hosting the holidays and going through a major childcare transition.

I found out I was pregnant pretty early on and very quickly the pregnancy symptoms started to appear. I was probably only 5 or 5 and a half weeks before the nausea set in and by 8 weeks it was full-blown morning sickness combined with sheer exhaustion. There was about a week where I was completely out of commission, couldn’t eat and felt absolutely miserable. A quick call to the doctor turned it around, though. It seemed like all of the pregnancy symptoms peaked around 8-9 weeks and have sloooooowly subsided since then. This week {15} I feel almost normal – thank you second trimester!!

So far my food preferences have been all over the place. They were pretty regular until around 7 or 8 weeks and thankfully I made it through our prime rib feast on Christmas without feeling averse to anything I prepared. I didn’t have chicken for about two months because it grossed me out. Ice cream is heavenly. I’ve been really excited about feta cheese and plain sparkling water, as opposed to flavored. Coffee has been hit-or-miss {I went almost 2 weeks without having coffee during the rough part!}, and sweet things have been sounding very good. Cereal is great – I wake up in the morning and first thing, have a bowl of cereal with my vitamin B6 {anti-nausea}. Thanks to my new blender I’ve been making smoothies every morning – such a great way to start the day! No crazy cravings or anything like that {yet?}.

{Definitely showing a bit more at 14 weeks than I was with Ben! This photo also makes me look quite a bit more pregnant than I normally look…}

This pregnancy is still considered high-risk because of the complications I had with my pregnancy with Ben. I’m under the care of a group of perinatologists {high-risk pregnancy doctors}, and conveniently, their clinic is very close to our house. This is the same group that I received care from in the end of my pregnancy with Ben. I will have an ultrasound at least every 4 weeks for the whole pregnancy and it seems like an appointment with a doctor at least every 2 weeks. Per the recommendations of the doctors, I started taking baby Aspirin at 12 weeks, as it can help with the blood flow to the placenta.

{15 weeks – again this makes me look way more pregnant than I think I actually look. At 15 weeks I can still fit into my pre-pregnancy pants, though we’re definitely nearing the end of that. I’ve started wearing some maternity tops, mostly because they’re more flattering at this point than non-maternity fitted tops.}

I’ve had two great ultrasounds so far {8 and 12 weeks} and the baby looks great and even looks a little big! It would be so funny to have two kids on opposite ends of the size spectrum. My next ultrasound is at the end of the month and we expect we’ll be able to find out the gender of the baby.

We are very excited about the pregnancy and can’t wait to see Ben as a big brother. He is just the sweetest. Our fingers are crossed that the pregnancy goes full-term and is free of complications and without NICU time. Stay tuned for more updates along the way!