Category Archives: Life

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!

Wintertime

This winter has been rather different than I expected. When I pictured the winter I imagined we’d be heading up to the mountains most weekends and spending a lot of time in the snow. I expected the winter to fly by, as it always seems to do for us. Oftentimes the winter months are the busiest of the whole year for Alex and me.

Winter is nearing the end and we’ve hardly been up to the mountains. We’ve gone cross country skiing twice {both times in the rain} and every other time we’ve wanted to go it was raining so we made other plans. It has been an exceptionally rainy January in Seattle so we have been a little cooped up. Thankfully now that we’re into February, the weather has started to turn.

We have been creative this season with getting out and doing things with friends, going to the pool, the zoo or the aquarium, or even embracing the rain and putting Ben’s rain boots on so he can go jump in the puddles. Puddle jumping brings Ben so much joy – and sadly, I don’t have any pictures to memorialize it! We’ve even been creative with our activities at home – Alex filled up the sink with water, bubbles and silicone muffin cup liners and Ben was entertained for quite a while. We’ve been doing art projects, baking and teaching Ben how to vacuum…

Most of our toddler parent friends are also going a little stir crazy, but we all enjoyed some reprieve from the rain this weekend when the sun finally came out! Alex and Ben spent Saturday with three other tots and their dads and enjoyed a tour of a fire station. We met my cousin and his family up at the playground this morning and camped out there, watching the three kids eat sand, play with trucks and giggle their way down the slide.

We are about to start week six with our au pair. It took us quite a while to get into a good rhythm amidst the childcare transition, but I think we’re about there. There ended up being a lot more hands-on training than we had anticipated, and the language barrier is quite prevalent. But! The other day, Ben was counting in Spanish. It was one of the coolest parenting experiences I’ve had yet – he was counting in Spanish. All by himself. I was floored. I still am floored!

All in all, we are having a very memorable winter and we are making the most of these rainy Seattle days with our rambunctious toddler {and looking forward to sunshine in the forecast this week!}.

Ben is 20 Months Old!

Where is the time going!?! Our kiddo is really turning into a little boy. It is so fun to watch and he is just the sweetest thing ever. He’s starting to really look and act like a little boy – I’m excited to share what he’s up to!

Ben’s 20-month stats:

  • Weight: 23 pounds, 5 ounces {10th percentile}
  • Number of teeth: 10 {seems like he’s getting at least 2 more right now}
  • Clothing size: 18-24 months in most tops, still 18m in bottoms for the most part – if he grows any taller he’ll jump to 2T
  • Shoe size: 5 {toddler size}
  • Favorite foods: B has been a carb hound lately and he always loves cheese. He got back on the banana bandwagon {finally! a fruit!} recently too. I’d say his favorite veggie right now is broccoli.
  • Favorite activities: peek-a-boo is turning into hide-and-seek, chasing Jackson or Henry around the house, being tickled, swimming, painting or coloring, closing doors, vacuuming and puddle jumping.

I wasn’t sure I’d have much of an update since my 19-month update was only two weeks ago. It’s amazing, though, how much Ben has changed in two weeks. His verbal skills are getting so much sharper – he’s really starting to string together 2-word sentences, like “more please” or “hi dada” and he’ll repeat common sentences we say, like “put it down” or “want some cheese.” Yesterday when Alex sneezed in the other room, he said “bless you!” Additionally, he is becoming more clear to understand.

One of my favorite things that we’ve noticed recently is that Ben is starting to share more what he’s thinking about. He’ll randomly say something and that will clue us into the fact that it’s on his mind. The other day after we had seen the pool at the YMCA he started talking about swimming and continued to talk about it for a few days. I took that to mean he wanted to go for a swim… so we did!

It’s really fun to start hearing the associations he’s making with different things, too. We were talking about My Gym and telling Alex about it {My Gym is his little tumbling program} and I asked if he did “see saw” {a song}, and then he said “Claire” and “Patrick” – one of the other kids and the teachers there. It’s pretty cool to see these developments emerge.

Earlier in the month, Alex took Ben to school and it happened to be our week for clean-up duty. The school has play vacuums that are available for the kids to play with while their parents are cleaning up. Alex realized how much Ben loved the vacuum and came home and ordered one for Ben. Now, Ben has a tot size version of the exact same vacuum that we have! He LOVES pushing it around the house and quickly figured out he needs to “turn it off…battery” {turn it off so the battery doesn’t die} when he’s done playing with it. This also makes it easier to vacuum the house because he can follow along and be a helper. It’s adorable!

Ben is becoming such an independent, mature eater! Really, he’s always been an independent eater, but now he has stepped up his game with a fork and spoon and prefers eating with utensils. He’s got the fork down pat and is working on transferring food from his plate to his mouth with a spoon while keeping the food on the spoon.

We’ve been working on counting and colors lately, and we sing the ABCs a lot. Ben actually seems to be getting the hang of counting, which is so cool, but colors are lost on him for the most part. Either that or he is color blind, which I actually expect him to be…. Everything is “yellow” no matter what color it is, but this morning he pointed to something pink and said “pink” – so maybe he’s figuring it out?

Our au pair, Gelys, has been speaking to Ben in Spanish a bit and I’m realizing he’s starting to pick up a few dual-language words. He knows “casa” {house}, “queso” {cheese} and “agua” {water} to my knowledge – probably a few more. We are hoping to send Ben to a Spanish language immersion preschool in the fall.

Our little guy is such a blast to be around. His personality is so super sweet and we absolutely adore him! I hope we can get a video one of these days of him saying “love you” so we can remember that sweet voice forever and ever.

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.