Ben’s Third Birthday Celebration

As with most birthdays in our family, Ben’s celebration lasted several days. This year we decided to introduce him to the concept of a friends birthday party – previously we had only had family birthdays.

Ben’s birthday celebration kicked off on Thursday, the day before his actual birthday. He got to celebrate at school with his friends. When asked what special treat he wanted to bring he picked the Late July cheese sandwich crackers. That is totally Ben – crackers are undeniably his favorite food.

Friday was Ben’s actual birthday. We decorated the house a bit for Ben and had him open up his family gifts right away that morning. Alex’s and my gift to Ben was a scooter, which is what he had been asking for.

I took Ben and Hannah to the zoo that morning, then after nap time we went to Madison Park to test out the new scooter. He’s a natural! All it took was one lap around and he had basically mastered it. He had an absolute BLAST. Alex met us at the park and then we had dinner at Cactus, Ben’s favorite restaurant, before heading back to the park for some more scootering.

On Sunday we had Ben’s birthday party! It was so much fun – he had a camping-themed party and invited all of his buddies from his two schools. We asked his friends to bring their favorite set of wheels, so Ben got to scoot around with his pals. He and his friend Olive love to toot around together and a few other friends joined in. He and Olive are quite the pair – they are on the same page energy-wise and they have so much fun together.

I just loved celebrating this sweet boy and all of his accomplishments in his three short years. Alex and I are over the moon about this kid and we were so delighted to have such a lovely celebration for Ben.

Happy 3rd Birthday Ben!

Today is Ben’s third birthday! We are so excited to be celebrating our three-year old this weekend. He is such a joy and it has been so fun watching him turn into such a big kid lately. I’ll do a big post about what’s going on with Ben after his 3-year well child checkup so I can include his up-to-date measurements. For now, I’m sending my sweet boy some big birthday hugs! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Ben in his fourth year.

Here are some of my favorite photos that tell the story of Ben’s first three years:

{Ben was born at 33 weeks 2 days and weighed 3 pounds 3 ounces. He was so tiny I could stick him down my shirt for Kangaroo Care while he was in the NICU.}

{One of the best moments of his life was when we took Ben home from the NICU after 26 days!}

{Six months in and Ben was sitting up on his own, eating all of the food and was showing us signs of his sweet, fun demeanor.}

{Ben has always been very physical and has excelled in gross motor skills. We noticed from a very early age that he would continuously practice new skills as a way to perfect them.}

{This is one of my all-time favorite pictures of Ben. It captures his sweet smile and joy. He’s always been such a happy kid!}

{We joke that Ben never learned to walk – he just learned to run. Honestly…}

{So dang cute!}

{Ben asked Alex to take a picture with him – Ben was 21 months here and his little personality was really starting to emerge on our family trip to Arizona.}

{This kid is an adrenaline junkie!}

{So full of giggles and this kid loves his milk. Gosh, his laugh is the best.}

{One of my favorites. Mr. Ben is the best big brother – even from the very beginning. He melts my heart how stinking sweet he is with his baby sister. It’s every mama’s dream.}

{We love our coffee dates!}

{We are so proud of this kid and his love for riding his bike. He has been working so hard to learn this skill.}

{Ben can be so, so serious and so carefree and entertaining. His personality tows both ends of the spectrum really nicely.}

{2 1/2 was a freaking blast. Ben in the snow as a 2.5 year old was basically the best thing ever. Watching the pure joy and enjoyment of him playing in the snow was a highlight of my life.}

{2 1/2 and skiing independently – gosh, this kid!}

{One of my favorites – these two melt my heart. I love when Ben comes and lies down and plays with his sister. They are the sweetest!}

{Such a cool kid!}

{In the middle of our photo shoot Ben launched himself off of the ottoman, being true to form. Our amazing photographer captured it, along with his shadow, in the most perfect and natural way. This is Ben.}

{This is also Ben. One of the other moms at our preschool calls him a rocket!}

{This kid. He couldn’t be more amazing if he tried! Happy birthday, buddy!}

Ben’s New Bedroom

We made it a whole three months with Ben and Hannah sharing a room. It just wasn’t working – no one was sleeping well and it was causing unnecessarily early wake ups in the morning so we decided to separate the kids and give them both their own rooms.

Now that we no longer have live-in childcare our guest room goes largely unused. It’s a funny long and skinny space, but it’s cozy and it makes for a great bedroom for an almost three-year old.

Alex worked really hard to pull this room together and make it special for Ben. Naturally, we opted for a car-themed bedroom. Alex painted the walls, built the cool shelves behind Ben’s bed, assembled all of the furniture and hung the curtains and frames. The furniture looks black in photos but it’s actually navy blue. We still need to decide what we’re going to do for toy storage so the room isn’t quite 100% complete, but it’ll do for now.

We’re about 10 days into Ben’s new “big kid” bedroom and he loves it! He’s so proud to have his own space and a big boy bed.

At the time of the move downstairs we re-instituted the “green light” policy where Ben has to stay in his room until his light turns green. This had been forgotten and he was waking for the day around 5 a.m. so we clearly needed a re-set. I’m happy to report that so far we’re on the right track. This week Ben has been waking up a little early, coming upstairs to get a snack and then going back down to his bed to read his new big kid books. He’s really comfortable in his new space and now both kids are sleeping better.

 

Hannah is Ten Months Old!

In her tenth month, Hannah went through some major developmental milestones and has come out the other side officially as a mover! Now that she’s finally mostly healthy after a brutal cold/flu season she’s becoming an independent, on-the-go baby who is showing signs she is getting ready to turn into a toddler.

Hannah’s stats:

  • Weight: heavy!
  • Length: not sure!
  • Clothing size: 6-12 month or 12-18 month
  • Number of teeth: 0, though I can see at least two on their way up
  • Eye color: bluish turquoise – it totally depends on the light and her surroundings
  • Words: dada
  • Favorite foods: cheese, strawberries, smoothies, ham, bananas, bread
  • Least favorite foods: jalepeno

Hannah had a rough bout of all of the viruses this cold and flu season and has a fresh runny nose right now. I noticed during the last two months how much that was affecting her sleep and her disposition and now I’m happy to report she’s back to her normal chipper self, even with the runny nose! It also seemed like her health was working against her interest or ability to hit some developmental milestones.

Within the first two days of finally not being sick, last week she figured out crawling and pulling herself up to stand and both of those days she slept through the night for the first time in a while. These little babes sure do have a lot going on in their little bodies.

Hannah has been mobile for quite a while, she just wasn’t formally crawling. Now that she has figured out she can crawl all over the house and get Ben’s toys or come climb all over Jackson she is enamored with life. This last week has been nuts chasing her around but it’s been SO fun. She’s having a blast with this newfound skill of hers.

Last week we transitioned Hannah to a big kid car seat. It can also be used for infants, so it’s really not a big deal, it’s just significantly more plush and comfy. I’m not sure if the timing of this happened to coincide with her feeling better or if she’s just that much happier in the new car seat but I saw a significant difference in her disposition in the car after the switch.

{These two in their big car seats!!!!}

Hannah is extremely loud! She has an opinion and she’s not afraid to share it – her squeals of excitement or the enthusiastic full body wiggles when she sees food she likes are a day brightener, and then there’s the times when I swear she’s going to make me go deaf by expressing her displeasure in something, usually getting a non-baby toy taken away from her or getting laid down on the changing table. Or any time in the car {before her new car seat}.

This girl has a very big personality – and she has to in order to keep herself in the spotlight with her big brother. That said, she is very calm and easy-going. Hannah is becoming more independent and has been enjoying exploring on the floor on her own lately.

We’ve had some big changes this last month relating to sleep and eating. Hannah is really starting to transition to getting more calories from solid food as opposed to breast milk. We are down to nursing only 3 or maybe 4 times a day now and she really is showing less interest in nursing to sleep.

Speaking of sleep – Hannah had been pretty under the weather for a solid two months or so and her sleep was significantly impacted as a result. Since feeling better, her brother has moved into his own room and she’s been sleeping so well again! Hurrah! Our next mission is to get her to put herself to sleep… please wish us luck!

There are a lot of things that Hannah loves to do. Here are a few of her favorite things:

  • Eating!
  • Taking her brothers toys
  • Grabbing Jackson’s tail
  • Exploring
  • Reading books
  • The song Skina marinka dink
  • Bath time
  • Being included
  • When her big brother does anything even remotely funny

We are rounding the corner to this sweet baby’s first birthday in two short months. I’m so enjoying these days with Hannah Maxine. She has been the happiest, most content baby I’ve known. I adore her personality and her spunk. I can’t wait to see how she changes in her eleventh month.

Ben as a ten month old

Lodge Life: Swing Set & Projects

Life at The Lodge has been filled with sunshine, family, lots of progress on outdoor progress and so much joy and dreaming of what’s to come.

The weather this spring has been absolutely perfect with sun just about every day and each day being warmer than the previous. We’re gearing up for the summer heat and preparing for wildfire season. Yes, the threat of wildfires is very, very real out there!

Alex’s parents have been staying at The Lodge since late April and they have been busy taking care of several outdoor projects. They’ve made tremendous progress on the property and have been coordinating appointments, deliveries and vendors. It’s been so nice having them there! More on that in another post.

Recently, my dad and brother flew out from Minnesota to build Ben and Hannah their very own swing set! I have such fond memories playing in my yard on the swing set my dad built me when I was a child and I wanted him to be a part of creating those memories for my children. It was an added bonus to have Uncle John come out and help too.

I knew my dad and John would be the right guys for the job, being that they’re both builders, – they got the whole swing set put together in a little over half a day. Needless to say, Ben and Hannah already love it and the memories are starting to be made.

{Climbing structure marks the spot!}

We opted to purchase a swing set kit and here is the one we chose. So far, I’m very happy with our choice. We added monkey bars and a bucket swing for our littles. There was a lot of angst around the shipping of this swing set and we were on pins and needles the whole week leading up to it – we were uncertain whether it would make it in time. It turns out, it did not! My dad and brother flew in very early from Minnesota, rented a pickup truck, drove 2.5 hours southeast of the Seattle airport to Yakima, picked up the swing set at UPS, then drove another 2 hours northwest to Leavenworth. Whew!

{Wood chips complete the swing set! It’s a nice thick base to make for soft landings.}

There will always be a project list at The Lodge, but it’s been so wonderful to feel like we’re accomplishing things. We truly wouldn’t be able to get these things done without our family, so we’re extremely grateful for their help. Thank you!!!

{Ben absolutely adores his two grandfathers!}

Lodge Life: Spring is Here!

Spring is in full force out at The Lodge and it’s been really fun watching the seasons transition and the snow melt away. We have little yellow avalanche lilies blooming in the forest in our yard and some tree sparrows building a nest just outside of our dining room table. All of the trees have little fresh bright green leaves starting to pop out signaling the new season. The rivers are roaring with all the snow melting and it really feels like spring out in the Cascades.

We’re learning all sorts of fun things in our new setting – there are lots of new bugs and birds, everyone has a truck, everyone has a tractor, the sun feels SO much warmer out there, it gets really dark in the mountains at night and it’s rather pleasant to have a rooster across the street. So far we’ve met quite a few of our neighbors and unsurprisingly, I’ve become a “local” and am proudly known by name at the coffee shop and the hot dog stand.

It’s been about 10 weeks since we moved in and we’ve spent all but two weekends up there, which is what we had hoped for. When we are at The Lodge our life slows down tremendously. We can relax, focus on our little family and embrace our surroundings.

Hiking is something Alex and I have grown quite fond of since moving to Washington. We kicked off the start of spring with a couple of local hikes we hadn’t done before.

There’s something about having a baby on my back that I just love. Hannah rode on my back in our little Ergo carrier and was content as could be.

We have a more real-deal hiking backpack for Ben, and we’ll eventually get a duplicate for Hannah. Both kids LOVE the hiking backpack – I think they enjoy being so high up.

I’m already building up a memory bank of moments I hope I never forget. This is what we’ve been dreaming about for most of our adult life. I feel like all of us are in our element out in the mountains.

Alex will wake up early with me so we can sit and have coffee together and get a few minutes before inevitably one of our littles wakes up. Both of them are typically up by 6, soooooo yeah.

Ben has been impressing me lately with his confidence and work ethic around mastering the art of the balance bike. He blew people away at the Leavenworth Pump Track when he would cruise the hilly bike track alongside big kids and adults.

Another favorite memory I have, though it ended with one of the most difficult parenting evenings ever, is of going for a walk on our quiet mountain street while Ben rode his bike alongside me. He was so excited, such a good listener and so proud. He waved at the neighbors, we stopped to see Dan the horse, and he made sure I was safe when cars would pass. It was lovely.

Alex and I love sitting on the deck watching Ben play with his excavator, climb on his climbing structure or throw the ball for Jackson. I’m so excited to see what memories we make there with Hannah, too, as she grows up there.

I have a bucket list going for things I’d like to do out in Leavenworth/the area this summer. Alex and I can’t wait to spend more time out there exploring. Here are a few things on my bucket list:

  • Go stand up paddle boarding in Lake Wenatchee
  • Hike a new trail
  • Swim in the town pool
  • Have a picnic in a picture-perfect spot down by the river
  • Visit Plain Cellars, a winery just down the street from us
  • Do a family 5K or 10K {need to find one!}
  • Do a half marathon {signed up for one in October!}

For now, we have much to look forward to this spring – Alex’s parents are here for the next month and we’re all excited to have more Grammy and Papa time. My dad and brother are heading out in a few weeks to help us build a playground for the kids, which of course will be SO fun. The memories and our life out here are really starting to take shape.

Hannah is Nine Months Old!

What a big month for baby Hannah this has been! Hannah has hit so many fun developmental milestones during this last month. She loves playtime, especially if her brother or her dog shows an interest in her.

Hannah’s stats:

  • Weight: 20 pounds 9 ounces {84th percentile}
  • Length: 27.5 inches {40th percentile}
  • Clothing size: 6-12 month or 12-18 month
  • Number of teeth: 0
  • Eye color: bluish turquoise – they’re pretty striking. Her doctor said they’ll stay!
  • Words: dada
  • Favorite foods: mac & cheese!, banana, smoothies, cheese, broccoli!, carrots, raspberries!, pancakes… basically anything we give her….
  • Least favorite foods: jalepeno

One of my favorite things that happened during the last month has been that Hannah has started to feed herself. Watching a baby learn how to feed herself is one of my favorite parts of parenting an infant.

Hannah loves to eat whatever we’re eating and I love to share with her. I can tell she’s really proud of herself too. She has been working on her fine motor skills with picking up little bits of food I put on the tray of her high chair. Her accuracy rate is pretty high for getting the food in her mouth, though holy cow, we have to deep clean the high chair almost daily right now!

In big body movements Hannah has made tremendous growth over the last month. She is rolling and scooting and pivoting all over the house – part of me thinks she’ll skip crawling and go right to walking. I feel like she can get to whatever she wants so she doesn’t really think about a more efficient movement? We’ll see!

Just last week she started pulling herself up to kneel, all by herself, and she’s started pushing herself up into a sit, all by herself. I love watching the day-to-day progressions she’s making. It’s remarkable how much strength she can gain in a day.

Over the last month or six weeks I have been saying Hannah had been at the age of frustration. She just couldn’t quite get to what she wanted or do what she wanted. I sort of think that’s over {at least for now!}. She seems more content and while she hasn’t figured out crawling she can get herself across a room just fine.

One of Hannah’s favorite activities is reading books. I feel like I’m constantly reading to her and if she’s ever upset all I need to do is pull out a book. She especially likes the touch & feel books that are more interactive for babies.

One of Hannah’s least favorite activities is being in her car seat. There are some days during the week where I feel like we’re constantly on-the-go and those are her least favorite days, understandably. I try to balance the car time with lots of floor playtime for Hannah whenever I can during those days.

{I can’t believe HOW BIG she is in her car seat! And obviously I buckle her in…}

We’re in a funky sleep pattern right now. The only predictable part of Hannah’s sleep is that it’s unpredictable. I’d say at least 6 out of 7 nights a week she stays asleep during the times I am asleep; however, it’s been common lately for her to wake up several times between when I put her down and when I go to sleep. I have a feeling all of the major development going on with her {plus the fact that she’s been sick for more than 5 weeks} is just messing with her sleep. Is cold and flu season over yet!?

Hannah is still nursing to sleep at night and for most naps that happen in her crib. Until recently I haven’t cared much to change that habit – we’ve both really enjoyed our run with nursing. Now that Hannah is older she is getting SO distracted while eating and it’s become really difficult to fall asleep at night while nursing. Not to mention it makes it hard impossible for anyone else to put her to sleep. So that’s on the docket for the nearish future to work on changing.

One of my favorite parts about nine month-old Hannah is how LOUD she is! Her brother has always been noisy and it seems like Hannah tries to go a little louder to keep up with him. She squeals and shrieks and screams in the best way. Her smiles are full body wiggles from her toes all the way up to her head. She’s just the sweetest.

A couple weeks ago Hannah and I started attending a music class together. She has a BLAST. Not only does she love the music, she loves seeing the big kids. It’s so fun to have a mama and Hannah activity we can do together. She also loves attending co-op with Ben – they do music at co-op once a month, too, and it’s a hit with Miss Hannah.

Some other fun facts about Hannah are: she can wave, she gets SO excited when she figures out it’s bath time, she can bang two blocks or drumsticks together, and she adores her dog!

I’m so excited to see what is up ahead in the next month for Hannah. We’ll see if she ever starts crawling or just jumps ahead to walking.

Ben as a nine month old

Chronicles of a Stay at Home Mom: The Beginning

Nearly two months ago I transitioned into my new full-time role as “mom.” So far I’m loving the new gig and I can already tell it’s a good fit for me and my family.

I’m really approaching this as if it were a “real” job {and let’s be real – it is most certainly a job!} – having goals, expectations, and really thinking through it. If it had been a job, though, I would have had a bit more prep time and maybe a job description to help with the adjustment. I’m improvising and still trying to figure out the ropes quickly, as I dove into this rather suddenly.

If I’m being honest, I have always envisioned myself as a stay-at-home-mom – or is it a career mom these days? I don’t even know. Once Ben was born, though, we found an incredible nanny and I loved my job, so I kept working part-time. That allowed me some adult time, challenged my brain and also enabled me to have some personal time to get a few things done while Ben was in the capable hands of our wonderful nanny. Sure, it was hard to balance everything, but having good childcare makes all the difference.

Even in retrospect, I don’t think I’d be as confident in my role as a career mom if we had made the decision any sooner than we did. I think we needed the challenges we experienced so I could feel certain I was making the right decision. Leaving my job was not something I took lightly – I loved my job and it was not easy to give it up. I knew I wanted to stay home with the kids eventually and thought maybe at the end of this calendar year, but when the writing was really big and bold on the wall, I finally saw it and things happened very fast. I had no time to plan or prepare for the transition – it took me a while to stop feeling like I was just winging it every day.

Being a full-time mom is a tremendous sacrifice and I’m still working on carving out time for myself. Our little family is so close-knit that it’s hard for me to want to step away from our family time during our precious little weekend time together as a foursome.

Having “me time” is an element that has been the hardest so far but I’m working on improving this. I’d get a big old check mark in the “needs improving” box of a performance evaluation. I think part of my failure here was that I dove in so suddenly that I really sacrificed myself in the turnover and as I’m coming up for air I’m discovering my needs.

We do have a few babysitters we can pull from for me to get a little time to myself or get a few things done. It’s just hard to stomach paying Seattle babysitting rates when I’m not bringing in any income.  In any case, I’m challenging myself to get together at least once a month with a girlfriend for a glass of wine after our littles are in bed. No babysitter needed! 😉 And! I’m dialing in on our routine/schedule throughout the day to make sure that I get a “nap time” break at some point.

Of course there are other challenges that I’m experiencing, though I have to say, our new arrangement is so much easier on our whole family than what we had going on before. The stress of our ever changing childcare was really wearing on us all.

In the limited time since I’ve become a career mom Alex and I, along with Ben’s teachers, have noticed significant changes, especially in Ben. His teachers have commented in particular how they’ve seen such a confidence boost in him recently. We attribute that to the continuity I’m providing and the simple fact that he feels secure.

At home, Alex and I have noticed a tremendous leap in his communication and expression, his happiness and how well he’s doing with potty training {well, most days!}. Ben has become so much more interested in Hannah and is showing signs of real empathy and compassion and has been making friends! 

Additionally, right from the onset, I made some adjustments to my parenting style. I realized right away I needed to tow a firmer line on some elements and establish clear boundaries on others. Those lines have been heavily tested recently and I’ve held steady!

We’re having the time of our little lives during the day. We go on nature walks, Ben has been practicing riding his balance bike, we’ve had picnics, we’re loving hopscotch and drawing with chalk, Ben has been playing catch and practicing hitting a baseball off of a tee, he’s been helping me cook and having some true chill time. We love reading books together with Hannah, putting on musical performances {usually for Hannah}, building tower houses with blocks, driving toy cars on the “road” {aka painters tape on the floor!}, doing art projects and taking Jackson for walks.

Ben occasionally still asks me if I’m going to work today, and I always remind him that my job is to take care of him and Hannah now, and that I have the best job in the whole world. And I sure do mean it when I say that. Being their mama is my dream job.

The Lodge Photo Session

Valentine’s Day was extra special this year — Alex surprised me with a photo session at The Lodge! I was over-the-moon to find out that he had been coordinating with Kim Hildebrand, our family photographer, for her to come out and shoot The Lodge and some photos of our family.

Her pictures always take my breath away. She captures our family so perfectly and I’m crazy about her style. She is so talented and I’m so grateful for all of the photos she’s taken of our family since Ben was 6 weeks old. In any case, I really had trouble paring down the photos so here’s my gigantic photo dump from our amazing photo session.

The Happenings

Gosh – it’s late March. Spring is here. We’ve been super sick. Our life is in four and three-day increments as we’re sharing our time between The Lodge. Ok – you’re caught up! Here are some photos to better tell the story…

{We’ve been loving sitting out on the stairs on our deck while we watch Ben play in the yard/driveway at The Lodge. He is such an outdoor kid!}

{Our friends Carrie and Patrick and their daughter Roslyn joined us up at The Lodge a few weeks ago. We loved seeing the two tots play together and sharing our home with our friends.}

{I didn’t get a single day of downhill skiing in this year, unfortunately. It feels less disappointing since we’ve been able to get so much cross county skiing in. I have really, really grown to love it! This is Ben and Roslyn.}

{The days have been sunny and glorious lately! My big helper is an expert at watering our new plants.}

{Time to pull out the picnic blankets! I am dreaming of summer right now and of all the fun things I can do with my littles. We’re going to have a blast!}

{These two! Loving life in Leavenworth.}

{Ben just jumped up to size 3T clothes! Loving his new dinosaur jammies!}

{Thanks for the ice cream cone, Nana! It was delicious!}

{We’ve had a rough March with illnesses plaguing our household. While Alex was out of town Ben got croup. He’s had it twice before and it wasn’t a big deal. This time it was and we ended up having a 911 call and a hospital visit because Ben was gasping for breath. It was a scary experience and we’re glad it’s behind us.}

{Once Ben seemed on the mend from Croup we all came down with the flu. Thank you, Emergency Room, for spreading your germs!}

{I’m not used to having Ben nap anymore but he’d go and climb into my bed and curl up with his choice of stuffed animal and fall asleep!}

{Sweet Hannah has entered the age of frustration. She wants to do so much more than she’s physically ready to do. I’m sure it’s especially hard having an older brother. She wants to do everything he is doing.}

{The Lodge is finally DONE. We have received the certificate of occupancy and it’s done!! Check out the new deck railings. I think they complete the look of the house so well. We have been up here basically every weekend and are really feeling settled.}