Tag Archives: Benjamin

Mother’s Day Weekend

Everything lined up to make for a darn nice Mother’s Day weekend in our little house. The weather was absolutely perfect – the icing on the cake!

Ben and I kicked off the weekend with a day just the two of us on Friday. We had a date at the garden store and he alternated between riding in the wagon, running around the store and being slightly helpful {the most helpful was when he was riding in the wagon}.

He was adorable, though, and we picked out some cherry tomato plants, strawberry plants and some herbs. I managed to grab some blooming flowers when he was confined to the wagon. Needless to say, a second trip to the garden store was in order! Since the weather forecast was calling to be perfect Alex and I had grand plans of spending some quality time in our yard over the weekend.

One of my proudest moments as a parent soon followed our trip to the garden store. We went to the Arboretum park and were sitting on the sidewalk having a snack and a little girl took a very big tumble. I think Ben might have seen it happen {my attention was focused elsewhere} and then when she started crying Ben said “go give her a hug!” and got up and started walking towards her. Alex shared he had a similar encounter last weekend when he got a scratch on his arm and Ben kissed it, told him “it’s okay!” and rubbed his back. My heart melted. I’m not sure how he’s already learned empathy – we sure are trying! – and above anything and everything else, I want him to be empathetic and a nice kid. Smarts only get you so far, but being nice and empathizing with others, that’s the makings of a good person.

Alex had a similar moment on Sunday when we returned to the garden store. It had nothing to do with empathy, more just a proud parent moment. He and Ben were sitting down together and Alex took a moment to explain the importance of listening and following directions and holding mama and dada’s hand instead of running off. Immediately after their conversation Ben calmed down and held onto Alex’s hand and responded so sweetly to the directions. Moments like this validate that we’re doing something right!

In addition to the sweet moments, we had some downright adorable moments and firsts on Saturday at our neighborhood block party. The neighborhood association puts on this huge festival and parade, primarily for the kids, and it was so much fun to go to with Ben.

We bumped into other kids in our neighborhood, some of Ben’s classmates, one of the babies from the PEPS group I led and some random friends and acquaintances. It’s moments like these that remind us just how much we love our darling neighborhood – we feel so, so fortunate to live here.

Ben got to see his first parade, which was led by a firetruck {!}, he got to ride a pony, see a reptile show and read some books from the library. We all enjoyed a treat from the coffee shop – “warm milk” is apparently the best thing ever. We’ve spoiled him by getting him a little “steamer” {lightly steamed milk} when we go to the coffee shop now. It’s too cute and he loves it too much to stop!

Somehow we managed to sprinkle in some time with friends into the weekend – we had a really nice dinner over at Ryan and Anne’s on Saturday night, then my cousin, Chris, and his wife and their two kids came over for a backyard barbecue on Sunday evening.

It was a very lovely, special Mother’s Day weekend, indeed. I adored the time I got to spend with the two guys who made me a mama. We had lots of cuddles and giggles and enjoyed our time together.

Ben is 22 Months Old!

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

Ben’s 22-month stats:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Changes for the Allens

We’ve had kiiiiind of a lot going on since I last posted about our early-March trip to Arizona! Not only has spring come to Seattle, but it feels like we’re in a new season in our family, too.

Just after we returned from our vacation, Alex began his new job. He’s now three weeks in and is working at a very large tech company that is based here in Seattle. So far, he loves it. He really likes the autonomy, the increase in responsibility, and definitely the commute. His office is close to downtown Seattle and he has loved riding his bike almost every day {3 mile commute – hard to beat!} and he is enjoying being in a more vibrant environment.

The transition to his new job has been fairly easy so far in terms of its impact on our family. We’ve adjusted our morning routine a bit, and Alex is getting home only slightly later in the evening. So far, he’s been home almost every night for dinner, which is a goal we both have. Navigating a new benefits system and insurance policy has been pretty straightforward. I expected to feel the change a lot more. Ultimately, all that matters is that Alex is happy, and that definitely seems to be the case.

At the beginning of Alex’s second week of his new job we came to the realization that our childcare situation was not working out as well as we had hoped. Ultimately, we decided that we needed to move on from our au pair and find a replacement for her.

For about a minute we toyed with some alternate ideas that strayed from having an au pair. Then we realized the cost of having to pay for two separate childcare arrangements for our kiddos {once the baby is born this summer} and realized that an au pair fits very well with our family’s desires, as well as our budget.

Things happened very fast once we made the decision to enter the re-match process. We ended up finding Stacey, a lovely British au pair awaiting a re-match in New York. Stacey was available to begin almost immediately and we were able to work out the logistics so she arrived five days after our re-match process began.

We had a few days, though, where we had childcare gaps, so Alex’s mom “Grammy” came out to watch Ben last week. The two of them had such a special time. Grammy has unlimited energy, it seems, and kept Ben entertained and taught him new things all week long. We were so grateful for the time that they had together.

{Decorating cupcakes with Grammy!}

In the background while all this has been going on has been the final pre-construction process we’re managing to get our mountain house ready for building! A huge high five goes to Alex for navigating that. We’re SO SO close to breaking ground.

Now we’re about to start our first full week with Stacey as Ben’s solo caregiver. We’ve had several days of training and getting acclimated to our family and the city and I think she is ready. So far she is fitting in extremely well with our family and she and Ben bonded right away. Stacey is very sweet, comes with a ton of tot experience {baby too!} and is very conscientious and intuitive. I think we are in good hands!

We are very, very happy to be into a new month and a new season here in our little house. I have a feeling this season will be a great one and we are looking forward to it!

Arizona Family Vacation

We’ve had an unusually crazy winter this year – typical winters for us are filled with trips to the mountains, ski vacations and chasing the next snow storm. This winter threw us off with a difficult childcare transition, Alex’s job search and the intense preparations that went into getting ready for interviews, and me being pregnant. So! We made an impromptu decision to head to Arizona for what will probably be our last vacation as a family of three.

We packed our bags and headed to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area for four nights and five days to enjoy some time together just the three of us. We have been to Arizona several times before and we stayed at the same resort as we went to last winter with Alex’s family.

I put quite a lot of thought into airplane activities for our very active toddler. I found some awesome “things that go” gel stickers, washi tape, new Water Wow coloring books, fun new snacks and a couple new books. Turns out I really didn’t need to bring much to hold his attention. He snoozed for half of the flight down to Arizona, snacked for a bit, watched the people and then requested to watch his favorite Elmo video – “ABCs in Espanol” a few times, and then we were there!

We opted to buy Ben his own seat, which was a smart move, since he’s so active {you don’t have to buy a seat for a kid under age 2}. It was really nice to have the whole row to ourselves and allow him to spread out a bit. Just after takeoff Alex asked if Ben wanted to put his head down in Alex’s lap and take a nap and Ben said yes, laid his head down and fell asleep. It was a really precious moment, especially given that Ben is on-the-go about 93% of the time.

The timing of our flights allowed us to optimize the travel days quite a bit. We were checked into our room by 1:30 and I think we arrived at the pool by 1:45. We knew right away that Ben was going to love spending the next four days swimming.

The middle of most of our days were spent swimming. The resort we stayed at has a main pool with poolside dining and is perfectly heated. They also have a fantastic kiddie pool that is so perfect for toddlers – it’s a zero depth entry with a max water depth of 18 inches. The kiddie pool is the sole reason we selected this resort and our decision held strong when we saw how ideal it is for Ben right now.

Another thing we hadn’t considered is the stairs and ledge around the big pool offered Ben a great deal of independence, which is key for him right now. He loved walking around the edge of the pool and practicing going up and down the stairs. The first day he was content cruising around in his floatie but then he realized he could be more independent and the floatie was a thing of the past.

Later in the trip Ben discovered the joys of jumping in the pool. I’m positive if we would have let him he would have jumped to Alex a thousand times. He absolutely loved it and continued to request “more” jumping.

Somehow I forgot how chilly it can get in Arizona in the evenings/mornings. Our little toddler is an early riser – especially in an earlier time zone – so our days started before the sun rose. This meant we had several hours to fill in a hotel room with limited activities while we waited for it to warm up enough to head to the pool.

Much to Alex’s and my surprise, Ben entertained himself really well. He loved pushing the stroller around our unit, opening the kitchen drawers and putting things in his stroller, pushing the luggage rack through the room and watching out the window for golf carts.

We managed to remain pretty consistent with Ben’s nap times and keep to a regular meal schedule, too. Our first full day we enjoyed lounging by the pool while Ben napped next to us. After the first day, though, we decided he would get a better nap back in our room.

One new thing Ben got to experience was television. We had 2 TVs in our room – one in the living room and one in the bedroom. In our actual house our TV is down in the basement in my office and Ben almost never goes down there so he really hadn’t been exposed to TV before, and the few times he had, he was not interested. We randomly turned on the TV and he watched a cartoon about puppies and seemed to love it. I don’t anticipate him watching much TV at home, but it was sweet to see him engaged in the show for the first time.

Ben does get the occasional privilege of watching videos on the Sesame Street app on his iPad at home and he loved playing “ABCs in Espanol” over and over again. He’s starting to learn the ABCs in English and in Spanish.

While this was a very different trip than it would have been if just Alex and I traveled to Arizona together, we absolutely loved the dynamic that Ben added. We all had to be a little flexible and work with his early morning wake-ups {and the sweet, sweet snuggles that followed}, the need for a mid-day nap, the inability to have the patience to sit in a chair and eat at a restaurant three meals a day for five days, and the need to run around a LOT. It’s all a part of parenthood and we were happy to make accommodations for our little guy.

The memories we made on this trip will undoubtedly last a lifetime for Alex and me. It brought us so much joy to see our little boy so in his element and be exposed to so many fun childhood milestones. The best part, though, was the time we spent. For me, seeing Ben and his “dada” have five days together was priceless. We could have been hunkered down in an igloo for all we cared – the time we spent together was so special and I hope to remember the sweet little moments forever.

Toddler Tips

As a way to help guide our au pair and make sure we’re on the same page I took some time to put together a little “toddler tips” basics/manual. Alex suggested sharing it on the blog since we have so many friends with tots, so, here it is, without much adjustment for other people.

Buuuuut, before reading it please know:

  • The purpose of this was for our family and stresses values and discipline models that are important to us. We realize not all of these tips and values align with every other family’s structure.
  • Of course there are hundreds more tips that I didn’t include/think to include. This list is relevant for our family right now and the needs we felt should be addressed. Surely as Ben gets a bit older we’ll add to the list.
  • Our au pair isn’t a fluent English speaker so instead of having her read a book or a bunch of websites I created this as an easy-to-read manual that was specific to our family. That’s the spirit by which this was written.
  • Most of the information, below, is from personal experience; however, some things I learned/tips I got are from The Danish Way of Parenting and parents.com.

Basic Info about Toddlers

Toddlers are trying to figure out the world and become independent little people. Their moods change very quickly as a result of developmental changes and limitations. Their brains are not as developed as adults and they have trouble reasoning, understanding consequences and danger. As their caregivers, we’re responsible for setting fair limits, loving them, keeping them safe and teaching them.

  • Toddlers (and children) are inherently good – they are supposed to push boundaries and test the rules. They’re not trying to misbehave or be manipulative. This is how they learn.
    • Embrace it with patience – it’s fascinating watching a toddler try to figure things out.
  • Toddlers can’t communicate their wants and needs as well as they want to.
    • It’s our job to remain calm and help him explain what he wants.
  • Toddlers don’t understand the concept of time and don’t have much patience.
    • Use this to your advantage and distract him – sing a song, read a book or fill the sink with bubbles.
  • Tots have trouble controlling their emotions. They have very strong emotions and don’t know how to deal with them.
    • Acknowledge that he was having fun in the sandbox and doesn’t want to go home and that it must make him angry. Help him learn label his emotions.
  • Toddlers have trouble switching from one task to the next.
    • Tell him what to expect next – “now we are going to get your hands wet, then we will put soap on them. After we put soap on your hands, we’ll rinse it off and then dry off your hands with a towel.” This teaches coping skills.
  • Toddlers test boundaries to see what they can get away with and what’s acceptable. He’s not trying to be manipulative – he just doesn’t know.
    • Teach him what is okay and what’s not. Be patient when he is testing the limits. It’s how he learns.
  • Tantrums are very normal for toddlers – it is part of how they are figuring out the world.
    • Help him calm down by remaining calm yourself, patting his back, and acknowledging that he must be very upset or disappointed. Don’t give into what he was upset about – talk him through the disappointment. Work through it together.

Our Family’s Philosophy

Above all, our parenting philosophy is pretty simple – we want to provide a nurturing, loving environment for our children to grow up in. We want our kiddos to value themselves and others, be empathetic and hard-working people. We want our children know it’s okay to fail – that’s how we learn.

Empathy: This is a concept that is extremely important to our family. In the US, shaming and judgment are more prevalent than empathy and we are working very hard to be a family that prioritizes empathy and compassion rather than pointing out the flaws in others.

  • See the good in others – pointing out positive traits in people helps us focus on the good and for it to become more natural. “Do you see Shoshana sharing her toy with her brother? She is so sweet. That’s so considerate of her.”
  • If another child is misbehaving or throwing a tantrum mention “maybe he was tired or hungry. Sometimes people get grumpy when they’re hungry or miss their nap.” This avoids negatively labeling another child.
  • Validate his feelings – his feelings may be different than yours. Acknowledge his feelings by saying “I can see that you’re really upset that it’s time to be done painting.”
    • Avoid telling him how he should feel – don’t say “you have nothing to be upset about – stop crying” and instead say “I can tell you’re upset. Can you try to tell me what’s wrong?”
  • Read books about feelings or notice the expressions on other children’s faces in stories or in real life. Talk to Ben about the emotions the characters might be feeling.

Encouragement versus praise: We want Ben to become resilient, strong and well-adjusted. It’s important to us that Ben have a growth mindset, which means that the way he thinks about things and himself can change. For example, if something is difficult, he should practice so he can improve, rather than thinking it’s too hard and he’ll never be able to get it. We also want him to realize that if he does something well it’s because he worked hard, not because he’s smart.

  • Encourage hard work, learning a new skill or trying something by himself.
  • Say, “Wow – you did that all by yourself!”
  • Get his validation: “Look at that painting you did! Do you like it?”
  • Instead of saying “you’re so smart!” (please never say this to Ben!) say “I can tell you have been working really hard at practicing counting. You’re really getting the hang of it!”
  • Avoid saying “Great job!” and instead, focus on the achievement.

Be a role model: model the behavior you want to see. If you want a toddler to calm down, be calm yourself (he’s definitely not going to calm down if you’re angry or worked up!) – crouch down, speak softly and this will show him that he is safe.

Positive attitude: remaining positive, even when your patience is being tested, is a skill that requires practice. This is also a life skill that leads to resilience and hard-work.

  • Be careful about what labels you give a child/toddler (what you say about a child) – labels can stick around forever. Choose positive labels. (Example: Say “he knows what he wants!” Instead of “he is so stubborn!”)

Hugging and affection: it is Ben’s choice if he wants to give someone a hug. Please ask him if it’s okay if you give him a hug. Respect him if he says no.

Basic Tips & Ideas

Provide choices: toddlers (and children of all ages) want to feel like they are in control. Allow them to make some of the choices during the day.

  • Instead of saying “do you want to brush your teeth?” Say, “it’s time to brush your teeth – do you want to use the green toothbrush or the blue toothbrush?”
  • When leaving the park (of course after a warning!) say, “it’s time to go home now. Would you like to carry the bubbles or the chalk?”

Anticipate transitions: changing from one activity to the next can be difficult for tots, especially if they might not like the transition.

  • Explain what is going on and what is going to happen next.
  • Give a warning – “it is almost time to clean up your blocks so we can go have lunch.”
  • He wants and needs to know what to expect will happen next.
  • If you’re taking him away from something fun, be prepared with distractions.
    • If it’s nap time and mom and dad are around, make sure Ben has the opportunity to say good night to mom and dad and that he knows it’s about to be nap time. This will help with the transition.

Set limits: the toddler years are spent figuring out boundaries. Tots need to know what is okay and what is not okay. It’s critical to set limits for them so they can learn.

  • Consistent routines help tots to know what to expect, which makes it easier on everyone.
  • Use “Freeze!” at the park or outside if Ben is running and won’t stop. Tell him to “freeze!”
  • Think of what is good for him, not what he wants/doesn’t want.
  • It is okay to make him wait – this teaches him delayed gratification, patience and that he doesn’t get what he wants when he wants it.

Involve him: getting Ben involved in regular chores, like laundry, selecting his plate for lunch or putting away toys teaches him valuable life skills, including responsibility.

  • Have Ben hand you the silverware when emptying the dishwasher. Bonus: count how many spoons he hands you, etc.
  • Ben can put away his pajamas in the drawer or help sort socks.
  • Have Ben put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket, or put all of his laundry in the washing machine.
  • Make it fun to put away toys – “can you find all of the blue blocks and put those away first?”

Always remain positive: tell him what you want him to do instead of telling him what not to do.

  • Say “please use your fork to eat your broccoli” instead of “stop banging on the table with your fork.”
  • Instead of simply saying “no” or “stop it” tell him what you want him to do.
  • Any attention to behavior is attention, even if it’s negative. Focus on the positive.

Creative play: one of the best ways for Ben to learn is by playing. It is our goal to provide new opportunities for him to explore the world.

  • Go outside! Jump in puddles, look for worms or ants on the sidewalk, play in the shade if it’s hot, wear mittens if it’s cold and warm up with some hot chocolate or steamed/warm milk. Play outside every single day.
  • Get messy – of course be smart about this and don’t ruin clothes/rugs/anything in the house, but it’s okay for Ben to stir flour into cookie dough and make a mess; it’s okay for his hands or his face to get muddy or covered in paint (washable paint, soap and washing machines were invented for a reason!).
  • Try something new:
    • Let Ben touch and feel different things – get a small empty box and fill it with sand or shaving cream or bubbles and water or dried pasta or ice.
    • Practice learning colors by getting different colored paper (example: red, yellow and blue paper) and corresponding toys (example: red, yellow and blue blocks) and having Ben put all of the blue toys onto the blue paper.
    • Paint with a fork or a cotton swab or your hands instead of a paintbrush.
    • Play sorting games – put all of the teddy bears in one pile and the stuffed dogs in another (group different animals, shapes, colors, sizes, etc.)
    • Trace shapes with cookie cutters.
    • Find creative ways to practice counting, the ABCs and learning colors and shapes.

Talk!: Explain everything and talk, talk, talk. Tell him what you’re doing, point out something on a walk, ask if he sees the bird flying out the window. This helps him build his vocabulary. Talk to him all day long. Especially in Spanish!

Read!: Read to Ben every single day. As much as you can. Tell him what’s going on in the pictures. Ask him to point to different things in the pictures. This helps him build his vocabulary.

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.

Ben is 19 Months Old!

Well, actually he’s already 19 1/2 months old… I’m a little late but I really wanted to document the milestone! I wish we could freeze this time with him. It is just so so fun. I say that every month, but he is getting sweeter and sweeter by the day and we just adore this little boy so much. I can’t bear to imagine him growing up and not being such a mama’s boy anymore.

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Ben’s stats:

  • Weight: 22 pounds 11 ounces {~ 7th percentile}
  • Height: won’t get an official height until he turns TWO but we think he went through a growth spurt recently
  • Number of teeth: 9 + 1/3 of his bottom front tooth is poking through FINALLY! {he has the top four, bottom two and three molars – so funny!}
  • Clothing size: 18-24 months in most brands on top + jammies! Still 12-18m in pants. I finally put away almost all of the 12-18 month stuff – he got too tall!
  • Shoe size: big kid has broken out and is now in tot size 5 and {sad mama tear} size 2T-4T socks!
  • Favorite foods: apple sauce, mac & cheese, cheese, crackers, sausage, egg nog
  • Favorite activities: climbing, getting into mischief, flushing the toilet, closing doors, turning on/off lights, taking his shirt off, climbing into his chair and reading a book, going down the slide, reading, watching whatever mom/dad are doing, chasing the cat, dancing, greeting people.

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The day-to-day differences have stopped being as significant as they were for probably the first 15 or so months. Now, it’s so fun watching him build on his skills. He practices things, like pronouncing words correctly, the proper way to use a fork, also the improper way to use a fork {drumstick or javelin}, the best way to climb up the ladder on his slide, how to take off his shirt, etc.

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Ben is a full-blown toddler these days. He’s becoming more independent all the time and he is so so curious. He wants to be involved and included in everything. Completely on his own he started helping Alex empty the dishwasher one morning – he walked over, grabbed a piece of silverware, handed it to Alex and repeated until he had emptied the whole silverware rack. He’s becoming an expert at loading the washing machine, too. Sometimes {this is still rare} he will help pick up his toys – we’re really working on that one! Another big one: he wants to WALK up and down the stairs!!!

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I have been having so much fun baking with Ben. He loves to stir and be involved however he can. Sometimes when I’m cooking dinner Alex will stand next to me, holding Ben, so he can watch. He’ll say “see” and point when he wants to be involved. It’s adorable and chaotic and messy, but it’s just the best. These memories….
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I’ve been saying for months how sweet Ben is becoming and he keeps getting sweeter and sweeter! He’s turned into quite the hugger and he’s actually a great hugger. He hugs nice big, tight, long hugs and it is precious! I can’t get enough of his hugs. He’s started kissing too – very, very rarely though.

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Ben is talking up a storm. It is so fun. He’s started stringing together two-word sentences. On a rare occasion he’ll say “please” or “thank you” without being asked! We’re estimating his vocabulary has exceeded 100 words at this point, so I’m done guessing how many words he knows. He’s repeating more and more parts of a sentence that we say – he used to pick out one word to repeat and now he’s trying to repeat the whole thing or a bigger chunk of it. We’ve started to work on colors and numbers – SO FUN!

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I think Ben made it 2.5 months without getting sick – that’s a huge deal to us, especially during the fall portion of cold/flu season. He went until the very end of December being healthy! Then he got the stomach flu, had a day where he was back to normal and eating again and then got a horrible cough, which he’s still getting over. He’s eating now, though, so that means he’s feeling better.

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One of my favorite memories from recently was taking Ben to run errands with me. Such a mundane, everyday task, but we had a blast. He is so fun to be out and about with. We started at Starbucks so mama could get some coffee and a breakfast sandwich, because why not? I got him a little chocolate milk, which he had never had before, and he loved it! Obviously. We were talking the whole time and he helped me pick out things at Target, then at Costco he helped push the cart through the entire store, we sampled all of the things and then shared a smoothie {PSA – the smoothies at Costco’s food court have my stamp of approval!} and he helped me load everything into the car. It was a really special day.

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We’ve started cross country skiing now that there’s enough snow in the mountains. Ben has his little chariot that he rides in and seems to really enjoy it! He’s gotten into “downhill” skiing too. I can’t WAIT to actually see him learn how to ski.

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Well, here’s to another great two and a half weeks before we’ve got a 20-month old tot! 🙂

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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.

Ben is 18 Months Old!

Our baby really isn’t a baby anymore. He’s a year and a half old!!! Lately he has been acting more and more like a toddler and frankly, a little boy. This last month’s theme is, without a doubt, communication. Ben’s vocabulary and comprehension is soaring in the most exciting way. He is such a little sponge and a parrot {realized we have to start being mindful of what we say!} and he has begun to really follow simple directions quite well.

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Ben just had his 18-month check-up and here are his stats:

  • Weight: 22 pounds 6 ounces (10th percentile – still a peanut!)
  • Height: 32 inches (50th percentile!)
  • Clothing size: he’s still in 12-18 months but he’s about to break into 18-24 in tops, definitely not bottoms {of course this is brand dependent}
  • Number of teeth: 7…. two molars are just starting to poke through though now, finally, so soon we’ll be at 9+
  • Favorite foods: sausage, broccoli{!}, applesauce, cottage cheese
  • New foods: artichokes!, finally likes brussels sprouts!
  • Favorite activities: pointing out airplanes, running, climbing, shaking his finger saying “uh uh uh”, dancing, making people laugh, playing peek-a-boo, reading stories

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At the time Ben turned 17 months he was just coming off of a little rough patch health-wise. He had lost quite a bit of weight and was not sleeping well. I’m so, so, so pleased to report that is a thing of the past. After a couple days of drinking protein shakes and eating a ton Ben’s weight started to bounce back. We introduced probiotics and vitamin d drops as a way to help improve his gut and immune system and it sure seems to be working. AND by some miracle he went the entire rest of the month without getting sick!

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One helpful thing we did to work on getting Ben’s sleep back on track was purchase a tot clock {AKA “ok to wake” clock}. We opted for the fancy Hatch Baby Rest “clock” which is more of a night light/sound machine. It is so cool and Ben picked up on it right away. How it works is that at 6:45 p.m. the orange sleep light comes on and it starts playing soothing lullabies. That’s our cue that it’s time for Ben to get into his sleep sack and have some cuddles, bedtime stories and milk. At 7:00 p.m. the lullabies change to white noise {our house is so loud we use white noise to drown out the creaky floor and noisy pets} and it’s time for bed.

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At 6:20 a.m. the light turns green and the white noise/green light stay on. The green light signals it’s okay to be awake. Really, I can’t believe how quickly he picked up on this. One night I was so exhausted from getting up with Ben and Alex having been sick all week that I just didn’t get out of Bed when Ben woke up in the middle of the night. Or was it 4 a.m. like he had been doing for weeks? I was so tired I can’t remember. He whined a bit and then put himself back to bed a short while bit later. We didn’t go in the next morning until the green light went on and I kid you not, that’s all he needed. From that night on, we haven’t gone in there and he hasn’t needed us in the middle of the night. Some mornings he’ll wake up too early and talk to himself or put himself back to sleep until the light turns green. Other mornings he won’t wake up until after the light turns green and then he lets us know it’s time to get up. Also, Ben started sleeping with a pillow!!

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Now that we’re all caught up on sleep, everything is wonderful. Ben’s vocabulary is growing by several words a day. Some new words he learned this last month are: Santa, Sarah, tree, artichoke {a new favorite food of his!}, fire and trash. We’re estimating his vocabulary is about 60 words right now {that’s only words he knows in context and can identify solely on his own – he’ll repeat pretty much anything you ask him to at this point}. We’re really working on names of people.

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About a month ago we had a revelation that we’d been holding Ben back from eating with utensils. It’s so so so much easier to spoon feed him when he’s eating something like applesauce, cottage cheese or oatmeal, so that’s what we did. After seeing a friend a month younger than Ben completely master using her spoon to eat mac & cheese we realized we needed to give Ben that freedom. Turns out, he was ready! Now if only he could quickly figure out how to drink from an open cup! 🙂

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It’s so neat to see Ben’s comprehension solidify in new ways. We’ve found that he’s able to follow so many simple instructions – “Ben, go sit on the mat and drink your milk” or when I was in the kitchen one day I said “Ben, go put your jammies in the laundry please” and I was shocked that he did. And he even takes the time to make sure they’re totally in the laundry and not hanging over the side. Type A like his mama!?

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As a baby, Ben was not into cuddling. Thank goodness he is now! He is really in a cuddle phase and loves to be picked up and snuggled. I had a really sweet moment one afternoon when I got to cuddle in my bed with him and take a little snooze together.

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Something I’ll never forget about this time in his life is how he repeats, over and over and over, the name of his nanny. He truly says her name around 100-150 times a day. “Edina!” “Edina!” “Edina, Edina, Edina!” It is so sweet how much he adores her. And I know the feeling is mutual!

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In addition to Ben’s vocabulary, another theme this month has been climbing. Holy climbing. Ben is currently trying to climb anything and everything. He just grew a smidge and it was enough to give him the height he needs to climb into a chair. That’s going to be interesting! In a very short period of time he figured out how to safely climb down the stairs or get off of something high up, like our bed. It seemed like overnight I stopped worrying about him going down the stairs.

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One thing I find so impressive about Ben is that he practices things so intentionally. I’m not sure if this is something all kids do, and either way, it is so impressive that when he’s learning a new skill he wants to do it over and over and over to build mastery. He’s been doing this a lot on random staircases or at the park. I can sit back at the playground and he’ll climb up the little tot steps and go down the slide safely all by himself. I’m really not sure when he became such a big kid.

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Ben continues to be quite the entertainer! He is definitely a Rossdeutcher {Alex’s mom’s side} and loves to be the center of attention. He loves making people smile and laugh and wants to be sure people know he’s there. He’s the master of blowing kisses, he loves dancing – especially to Outkast and Notorious BIG {seriously} or really anything if you tell him to dance. He has started repeating names of people and will say “hello” and “ta ta” and can say “ho ho ho” when you ask him what Santa says.

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Ben is such a happy little boy. He laughs a lot, smiles and plays peek-a-boo any chance he gets. There are days when he’s a little whiny and he is getting more advanced and dramatic at throwing tantrums, but overall, he’s a really easy-going, loving, sweet boy.

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Here we are – on to the next month and the next milestones. Our little Benjamin continues to amaze us and we are so grateful to be his parents.

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