Category Archives: Life

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.

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.