Category Archives: Life

Transitions

These last few weeks have been filled with transitions for our little family. It’s been a very busy time filled with “hellos” and “goodbyes” and lots of fun in between. Just before Christmas we said “see you later” to our beloved nanny, Edina, who moved across the country to the Big Apple.

{Edina became well-known in our group of friends and quickly got to know all of Ben's buddies in town.}

{Edina became well-known in our group of friends and quickly got to know all of Ben’s buddies in town.}

Edina had been Ben’s nanny since he was about 12 weeks old and was essentially his third parent. We were all devastated when she left. The same day that Edina moved, Alex’s family arrived for Christmas. That proved to be a very welcome distraction for us all! Since then, it’s been great to be able to keep in touch and we’ve loved FaceTime so that we can all still talk with Edina. We are all still adjusting to life after Edina.

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The holidays were filled with wonderful memories from Alex’s family’s trip, then my dad’s visit around New Years, a round of the stomach flu for Ben {ughhhhhh} and some time in the mountains. We had such a nice time with our family, though it was hard to say goodbye when their trips came to an end. More transitions!

{Sorry dad, I know you were not happy I took a picture with Ben using the iPad with you, but I think it's adorable!}

{Sorry dad, I know you were not happy I took a picture with Ben using the iPad with you, but I think it’s adorable!}

After everyone said their goodbyes we welcomed a babysitter to our house for our “in between” week. She had watched Ben before, so she was a familiar face, but another transition nonetheless.

{My dad with my cousin, Chris, and his son, Henry, who is 2 1/2.}

{My dad with my cousin, Chris, and his son, Henry, who is 2 1/2.}

Finally, at the end of last week we were preparing for the arrival of our new au pair, Gelys {it’s pronounced like “yell-ous”}, who was coming to live with us for at least a year from Panama.

Maybe you heard about the big snow storm on the east coast last week – well, the timing of Gelys’s arrival perfectly coincided with the mess out there. Gelys had to fly into New York for an au pair training through the agency. The problem was that she couldn’t get there! Her arrival was delayed, and then the day she was scheduled to leave New York, JFK flooded and her flight was delayed significantly. She was supposed to arrive in Seattle on Saturday but didn’t make it until 3 a.m. on Monday!

This week has been very, very hectic, exhausting and filled with new experiences for all of us as Gelys is learning about our family, about Ben, practicing English and figuring out how we do things both in our house but also in America, not to mention getting her bearings and learning what in the world there is to do with Ben around town {and how to get around town!}.

The challenges have been significant. Ben was/still is sick {he had a horrible cough and was a disaster for the first three days}, and Alex and I had to balance working and bringing Gelys up to speed at the same time, Ben is in a suuuper mama’s boy phase right now and it’s just plain difficult training a new caregiver.

There have been several logistical details we’ve been navigating, too. We are still working through our to do list – a new SIM card was in order so that her phone worked, as was a rain coat {!}, we’re working to add her to our car insurance, get her a bank account and social security number and make sure she has all of the personal items and clothing that she needs to be comfortable. We’re planning a little “touristy” Saturday to show her some of the hot spots in Seattle and practice taking the bus.

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Finally, on Thursday, Gelys had her first official day with Ben {Alex or I was with her all the time for her first three days, per the guidelines of the agency} and it went really well! They navigated the bus, went to Ben’s new music class, which he apparently loved, and had a fun time playing together. She’s doing great with him – he warmed up to her right away and she’s super sweet with him and is trying very, very hard. I love hearing her speak in Spanish with Ben {and Alex has been loving the practice, too!}. Whew!

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We chose to fill our childcare needs with an au pair because we loved the idea of learning about another culture and having Ben exposed not only to culture, but to a native Spanish-speaker from such an early age. We loved having Edina live with us and that made it very exciting to us to have an au pair.

2017 Recap… A Year in Review

About this time every year I am so glad that I take the time to keep our blog up-to-date with what’s going on in our little lives. It’s so fun to look back on what’s happened during the past year and put together a recap. 2017 has been a very special, joyful year for our family. It’s hard to believe that we started 2017 with an immobile baby and we’re ending the year with a walking, talking toddler! They say for parents of young kids that the days are long but the years are short. So far that holds true!

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We began the year by taking up a new hobby: cross country skiing. It fulfilled our love of being in the mountains and we could easily bring Ben along for the ride. The winter was filled with far less downhill skiing as Alex and I had hoped, but we made do with what we could. Ben took his first trip to the playground in our neighborhood and fell in love with the swings!

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Just after the turn of the new year, Ben learned how to sit up on his own. This, combined with beginning to eat solid foods, gave him a new lease on life. Now that he was a bit older, our nanny, Edina, became more able to take him to story time and other local kid-friendly attractions.

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Winter was met with a bit of travel – our first trip was to Arizona in conjunction with Alex’s family, including our new nephew, Nico!

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Somewhere along the line right around the time Ben began to crawl {8 months}, things got crazy. He started getting goofier, learned to pull himself up on things quite quickly and not taking our eyes off him for a second became the theme of the late winter/early spring.

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Our first-ever family trip was to Whistler last March. We cross country skied one day, spent some time in the village another day and Alex and I hired a babysitter to enjoy a day on the mountain another day. Our trip came to an abrupt end on the fifth morning when Ben woke up with a 105 temperature, only for us to quickly realize that he had contracted hand, foot and mouth disease. He was absolutely miserable for a solid week. It was rough. That was the middle of cold season, of which he had something like 9.

{Our family trip to Whistler!}

{Our family trip to Whistler!}

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Travel continued through the spring with a Ben and mama trip to Minnesota. It was really special to introduce Ben to his great aunt, my high school friends and their babies, meet little Madeline and spend time with other family and friends.

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{Meeting Madeline and having Ben meet Sarah was a real highlight this year!}

Before we knew it, it was time to celebrate Ben’s first birthday! We invited our families out to Leavenworth to mark the occasion.

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With summer in full-swing, Ben and I walked down to our neighborhood farmers market nearly every Friday. We sampled berries, picked beautiful flowers, bumped into neighbors and made quite a few memories.

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Edina quickly became a part of our family and she and Ben sported their matching t-shirts one day!

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Early last summer, Alex and I took a trip just the two of us down to San Francisco and Sonoma to enjoy a long weekend together. We loved touring SF, stopping by Yountville and enjoying lunch at Bouchon, tasting Napa and Sonoma wines, staying in a beautiful hotel in Sonoma and just spending time together. We didn’t expect to miss Ben so much, but next time maybe we’ll bring him along.

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To commemorate Ben’s first birthday we did a family photo shoot in our neighborhood. Ben loves ice cream so we thought it would be fun to include a little tasting.

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Seattle’s summer 2017 was long and beautiful. Our family enjoyed many trips to the beach, a quick trip up to Vancouver, touring the parks across the city, our summer family vacation to Seabrook and watching Ben learn how to walk. In late summer we celebrated the purchase of a 3 acre piece of land out in the mountains to build a vacation home on.

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Travel and busy times continued as summer turned to fall. While Alex headed south to Mexico for a friend’s wedding, Ben and I flew east to Minnesota to spend time with my family. Eventually Alex met up with us and the three of us drove to Wisconsin to see his family, then Alex and I went to Chicago for the weekend for another wedding. We loved seeing our family so much this year and getting the chance for Ben and Nico to play together.

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Fall seemed to last forever! We kicked off the new season by sending Ben to a twice-weekly cooperative preschool, which has been wonderful so far. The rest of the season was spent enjoying the local playgrounds, exploring our wonderful tot gyms at the community centers nearby and with our annual Leavenworth trip.

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Just as the snow started to fly we took a little day trip out to Leavenworth to see our property, sample sausages and play in the snow at Stevens Pass.

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Just like that and the holidays were upon us. My mom joined us in Seattle for Thanksgiving, then Alex’s family came out for Nico’s birthday and Christmas, followed by my dad’s trip out for a few days between Christmas and New Years. Alex and I managed to get some skiing in and we hosted our fourth annual holiday party.

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As 2017 has now come to a close we are looking forward to a new year that I have a feeling will be filled with firsts. Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2018!

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Fourth Annual Holiday Party

Hosting our holiday party has become quite a fun tradition we look forward to every year. We’ve learned a lot over the last few years and definitely had it dialed in this year. We tried a few new foods and continued our same laid-back approach to the soiree and it was wonderful.

{not our best family photo, but the best of the bunch!}

{not our best family photo, but the best of the bunch!}

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{this year's spread included: a beautiful and bountiful cheese board; crudite platter; chicken skewers; caramelized onion, mushroom and gruyere puffs; brie and apple puffs; Christmas pinwheels;  dips from our local Greek restaurant, paired with their pita; and a big plate of cookies.}

{This year’s spread included: a beautiful and bountiful cheese board; crudite platter; chicken skewers; caramelized onion, mushroom and gruyere puffs; brie and apple puffs; Christmas pinwheels; dips from our local Greek restaurant, paired with their pita; and a big plate of cookies.}

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{Having fun with the "portrait" mode on our new phone!}

{Having fun with the “portrait” mode on our new phone!}

{The chef!}

{The chef!}

{This year's signature drink was Bee Keeper Punch.}

{This year’s signature drink was Bee Keeper Punch.}

{Plenty of bubbly and sparkling rose to go around.}

{Plenty of bubbly and sparkling rose to go around.}

{The Millers arrived a little early to help taste-test :) }

{The Millers arrived a little early to help taste-test 🙂 }

I had so much fun looking back on the last three parties – my oh my how life has changed. We have a really great time putting together these parties and are so grateful to have so many friends in Seattle to enjoy the holidays with.

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New Craftsman Cabinets

We’ve known for months {read: a year} that our dining room’s open shelving, housing our wine, liquor, serving dishes and wine glasses, would need some childproofing. Parenting, life and whatnot got in the way and it took us a while to get on top of hiring a carpenter to build us some doors to close in the cabinets. I’m happy to report that they’re officially childproofed!

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We hired John of Evans Renovation to design and build some cabinet doors. He was wonderful to work with and we couldn’t be happier with our new doors. It’s such a little thing but it makes a significant difference in appearance, and most importantly, safety.

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Now that the project is complete we’re thrilled with how it looks. The doors look like they’re original to our 1909 house – it’s like they’ve been here all along! John picked out some beautiful skeleton keys to lock the cabinets and keep true with the style of our little craftsman. We absolutely love this new addition to our dining room!

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Ali’s Favorite Things 2017

Per the request of one of my friends, I put together an “Ali’s Favorite Things” list. I knew I had done this before but I didn’t realize it was three years ago already. It’s funny looking back on that list because every single one of those items I mentioned would be on my list today still. Definitely check out my original list – some goodies on there, for sure!

Big & Small Set of Kitchen Tongs

Silly, I know, but I absolutely love having a little pair of tongs around. We have four {or is it five?} pairs of tongs in our “gadgets” drawer and there are more days than I expected that all of the tongs are in the dishwasher. I guess you can never have too many tongs!

 

Fancy Measuring Cups & Spoons

Who doesn’t love a set of fancy measuring cups and spoons?

 

100 Days of Real Food: Fast and Fabulous

An update to my 2014 list – Lisa’s new cookbook focuses on weeknight meals. I have made so, so, so many of these recipes and they have become staples in my repertoire. Some favorites: chicken chili, veggie and bean burritos, snack bars and so many lunch ideas!

Speaking of food – here are a few of my favorite meals to make these days:

Killers of the Flower Moon

Ok, so, I really haven’t read nearly as many books this calendar year as I had hoped, but even if I had read a book a day, Killers of the Flower Moon would still be at the top of my list. This book is about the murders of the Osage Indians back in the 1920s and is so fascinating, disturbing and unbelievable.

 

Glassybabies

Glassybaby votive holders have become rather special in our home. We live just four blocks from the Glassybaby glass blowing studio and these little votives are a fixture in our neighborhood and now our home. They’re a signature Seattle item – most Seattleites have a vast collection. They are so beautiful, all hand made right here in Madrona and every Glassybaby supports a different cause.

 

Faux Sheepskin Throw

Pottery Barn does not disappoint with this super cozy throw. I got it as a throw but it ended up becoming a layer in our bedding because I love snuggling up with it. Our cat doesn’t seem to mind this either! 😉

 

Zella Keep It Cool Crop Leggings

Apparently these are everyone else’s favorite leggings too because they’re sold out at Nordstrom right now! These are my most favorite leggings I have ever had. Keep checking back!

 

Athleta Beyond Soft Pranayama Wrap

This is one of the coziest little sweater/wraps I’ve ever had. I love wrapping myself up in it in the morning or the evenings and being all cozy. It’s great to pair with leggings to go to the gym/studio or wear around the house or with your favorite athleisure combo out and about.

 

Lalicious Sugar Scrub

I use this incredible scrub on my feet every other day in the shower and it’s divine. I love the smell {brown sugar vanilla is my favorite}, the way it feels and the texture. Plus, it makes my feet so soft!

 

CND Vinylux Nail Polish

Vinylux nail polish has been my go-to for several years now. You have to get the top coat, too. I can get 7-10 days from a manicure with this nail polish and I’ve gotten as many as 7 days doing my own nails.

 

Arbonne Calm Daily Moisturizer

I tried to veer from this and only ended up disappointed. This moisturizer feels so light and calming on my sensitive skin. It’s really nice stuff!

Thanksgiving 2017

We certainly have a lot to be grateful for this year – and what a wonderful year it has been. One of the things I’m most thankful for is our family. I’m also so unbelievably grateful that we have had such an incredible nanny raising Ben alongside us for the last 14+ months who has become a part of our little family. I’m so grateful for the time we got to spend last week as a family. To me, the best part of the holidays is the immense time with family that comes with the season.

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Alex and I had quite a bit of time off of work to enjoy the holiday week together with Ben and Edina, as well as my mom, who came out for part of the week from Minnesota. We got to show my mom Ben’s school and one of the community centers he plays at, we all experienced the Seattle Gingerbread Village for the first time and we spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen preparing food for our Thanksgiving feast.

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Overall, it was a pretty low-key and relaxing holiday. The food turned out really well – my favorite was the sweet potato casserole, something I had never made before, nor was it a staple in my family’s Thanksgiving. I absolutely loved it. We tried some new recipes but stayed true to our turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing recipe. My mom and Edina were very helpful in the kitchen.

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On Saturday, Alex, Ben, Edina and I headed east over the mountains to Yakima to pick up some wine from our wine club before they close their doors for the winter. We bumped into our good friend Carrie and her family, including little Roslyn, at the winery, too!

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It felt really early according to the calendar, but after Alex did some major re-organizing, I pulled out my boxes of Christmas decorations and got our house ready for the season! Ben came with me to the garden store near us and helped me pick out a wreath and some pine boughs and I’ll pick up a garland this weekend. I think we’re ready!

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We ended the weekend with a really nice dinner over at my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Michael’s home, joined by my cousins and their families. It was so fun watching Ben and Henry {age 2.5} play together and see baby Claire {8 months} crawl around and join everyone at the table. We also walked down to the water to see the Christmas ships – there’s basically a boat parade with ships decked out in lights. We caught the tail end of it!

I was really sad to see all of our family time come to an end when we put Ben to bed on Sunday. I love our family time so much and it was extra special having so many days to spend together. Happy holidays!

Day Trip to Leavenworth

I have apparently fallen behind in keeping up our blog. Oopsies! In any case, a few weeks ago we took the opportunity to head out to Leavenworth to check on our property and see some snow. It was such a wonderful day – Edina joined us and we got to play in the snow, eat sausage and spend time together.

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We made an impromptu coffee/stretch stop at Stevens Pass. Alex and I were visualizing our future here – we’re so excited to get Ben started with ski lessons in a couple years {we’re thinking age 3 for lessons} and it’s so fun imagining family ski days up at Stevens.

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Our timing ended up coinciding with our land surveyor – we crossed paths with him while he was at our property marking off the lot lines. Alex got to help him out a bit and we learned that our lot lines were a little different than we expected, in a very good way. We were able to pick the spot on the property where our house will be built.

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It was pretty rainy when we were on our lot so the views weren’t anything like what they are on a crisp, clear day, but man, it is so gorgeous over there. I still feel like I need to pinch myself every time we go to our lot.

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We couldn’t go all the way to Leavenworth without going into town for some sausage. Plus, Edina had never been there before so we had to show her around. We strolled the town, enjoyed delicious sausages from our favorite spot, grabbed a coffee for the drive home, then packed up and headed west.

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It was a very quick trip and a lot of time for Ben to be in the car {thankfully he had his buddy in the back seat keeping him company} and we all had a really memorable time!

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**All of these photos are courtesy of Edina’s fancy new iPhone — part of my lack of keeping the blog updated this month is because my phone storage is full and I haven’t been taking many photos. Alex’s and my new iPhones are expected to arrive next week!

Big Changes Ahead

A few weeks ago we found out that our beloved nanny will be leaving us by the end of the calendar year. We had anticipated this was coming since she is graduating in December, but nonetheless it was pretty devastating to hear the final verdict. We all absolutely adore her and Ben will truly be heartbroken when she leaves us.

Edina moved in with us at the beginning of October and everything is going very well. Ben quickly realized that now Edina is just downstairs so he walks all over the house calling her name in the mornings, evenings or on the weekends when we haven’t seen her yet. He is crazy about Edina! It is so sweet but it’s going to be so, so sad when she leaves. Edina is constantly singing or talking to Ben – I swear she’s at least 75% of the reason he is talking so much. She literally is constantly talking to him. It’s incredible. We will be forever grateful to her.

We quickly realized we needed to figure out what we’re going to do to replace her position – we still need childcare after all. After mulling over some options, we’ve decided to hire an au pair. An au pair is someone who comes from another country to live with a host family and provide childcare in exchange for immersing herself in our culture. It is a government regulated program and is considered a cultural exchange.

I’m excited to report that we have been successfully “matched” with an au pair! She is from Panama and she speaks Spanish {as well as very good English}. We are really happy to be welcoming a Spanish-speaker to our family and look forward to Ben learning more Spanish. So, we’ll be ending 2017 by saying “see you later” to Edina and starting 2018 off transitioning to a brand new caregiver and housemate.

Ben is 17 Months Old!

Happy Halloween from our 17-month old monkey!

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Today, Ben is 17 months old! We can’t believe he’s a month away from being a year and a half. Ben has 7 teeth {top 4 + bottom 2 center + top left molar} and I just saw the makings of a new molar about to emerge.

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Ben has had a couple bouts of illness this last month {roseola and the stomach flu} and has lost a bit of weight. He dropped from the 15th percentile back down to the 4th. Ben hasn’t bounced back from his illnesses as quickly as we would have expected. We saw the doctor who encouraged us to try some probiotics and really bump up the calories and fat to boost his weight back up. Ben hasn’t had much of an appetite for dinner {probably partly due to a new molar coming in} so he has been waking up very early and very hungry.

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That reminds me – I’ve been getting asked a lot lately what size Ben is wearing these days. As mentioned above, he’s still a little peanut! Mostly he’s wearing 12-18 months, but still some 9-12 months. In particular, pants are very difficult to buy for Ben because his little legs are so thin. I think he’ll be in 12-18 month clothing for a while still!

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As I keep saying every month, Ben is getting more and more fun by the day. The biggest changes in the last month, I’d say, have been the vocabulary explosion and that Ben has started getting into climbing. He is still super sweet {getting sweeter?!}, very giggly and affectionate.

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Listening to Ben talk and learn to talk/figure out how to say new words has been really neat to see. I’m not sure how many words he can say – probably close to 50 by now. I’d say his actual vocabulary {knowing words in context} is between 25-30 words. Not all of the words sound like how an adult would say them – airplane is “ah pah” but they’re consistent and he knows what he’s saying.

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Some of his regularly used words are: ball, truck, bath time, nana {banana}, down, hat and applesauce. A big majority of his vocabulary is food words, though his most commonly used word right now is Edina, our nanny’s name. He has started to say words that he had previously only signed – like water and all done. He answers yes or no to simple questions, particularly around food. Ben can follow simple instructions, for example, he can pick out a story that he wants to read and then come sit in your lap.

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He’s also learning about animals and really loving animals lately! We went to the zoo recently and Ben was extremely engaged in seeing the animals and making animal sounds. It was adorable. He especially loved the river otters, the giraffe and the baby gorilla! He makes a ferocious lion impersonation too. 🙂

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New this last month – Ben has turned into quite the climber! At the start of October he had not figured out how to go backwards down a set of stairs or safely climb off of something on his own. About two weeks ago somehow he magically figured out how to go down things safely. He can climb off of our bed or down from a chair and he can scoot backwards down the stairs. This opened up a whole new arena for him to start climbing anything he possibly can.

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Ben has also started going to a tumbling class, which is perfect to get the climbing crazies out! He goes to a structured class one day a week and then we’re allowed to come in later in the week for unstructured time on the equipment. The class is for tots just his age and gives the kiddos the opportunity to safely climb up and over things, tumble around, jump into a ball pit, bounce on a trampoline and work on other gross motor skills.

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Preschool is still going well. We’ve gotten into more of a routine this month with taking Ben to his school program two afternoons a month. He’s starting to get into the groove there and knows what to expect and really is starting to learn the songs. Now that we’re into it, I’m seeing a lot of value {not just all the work that’s involved!} and we’re really enjoying it.

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We just got this fancy “tot clock” for Ben’s room. It’s a night light that changes colors when it’s okay for Ben to wake up {i.e. after 6 a.m.!}. This clock is really neat – we have it set to a soft orange hue for sleepy time, along with some light background noise {mostly to drown out the creaky floors!}, then it changes to a blue/green at 6 a.m. to signal that it’s a reasonable time to wake up.

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Because of his recent illnesses, lack of appetite for dinner and waking up starving, Ben has been waking for the day between 4 and 5 a.m. Right now, the tot clock is not going to solve the issue of him not waking up. Once we get him on the right track with eating again, I think it will be helpful to get him to stay in bed ultimately until 6:30, or better yet, 7!

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The weather this month has been absolutely fantastic. I can’t think of an October in the nine years we’ve lived in Seattle that has been anywhere near this nice. Usually it’s just pouring down rain in October. Not this year! We’ve gotten an extra long playground season for little Ben and he’s one happy camper about it.

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Here’s to another great month – I can’t wait to see what Ben is like a month from now!

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More Fall Fun!

In preparation for Halloween this week we decided to get Ben dressed up in his adorable monkey costume as many times as possible. We started the weekend at Alex’s work’s family Halloween festival on Friday and ended it at Remlinger Farms pumpkin patch/autumn festival today.

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Just getting used to his Halloween costume…

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We all seemed to come down with a little stomach bug this week. Thankfully it was fairly short-lived and rather mild. Unfortunately for me, it hit me about 7 minutes after this {above} photo was taken – live, right in the middle of Alex’s work campus. Ugh. We all bounced back quickly and are a-ok now.

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Sunday morning we were feeling better and drove out to Carnation, Washington to Remlinger Farms, with Edina, our nanny, to enjoy some fall fun.

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Ben ate a whole mini doughnut all in one bite…..

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We loved all that Remlinger Farms had to offer, especially this fantastic train! It was a real train that took us for a 15ish minute ride around the farm.

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Ben loved the hay bale maze!

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And got to try his first amusement park ride!

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Ben and Edina! He loves her so so much.

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I knew just how to get the giggles out! This little monkey is ready for Halloween! 🙂

*all of the good photos courtesy of Edina!