Tag Archives: Birthdays

Ben’s Second Birthday Celebration

For the second year in a row we headed out to Leavenworth for Memorial Day weekend with Ben’s grandparents to celebrate his birthday. It was such a special weekend for us and we’re so grateful that his grandparents were able to join us this year.

The whole weekend was all about Ben! We had a blast celebrating him and enjoying Ben-themed activities.

Just down the block from our house is the fire station and they were hosting a Memorial Day family open house again this year. Ben loved seeing the fire trucks and ambulances and even got to watch a medical helicopter land. Grammy dressed up as a fire fighter and Ben got to sit up in the fire truck.

We had a wonderful time exploring the beach at Lake Wenatchee State Park and shared a picnic and some time walking the beach and playing on the playground. Lake Wenatchee is absolutely stunning!

When we arrived to our rental house, which is conveniently located next door to our property, we couldn’t wait to run over to our lot to check on the construction progress. Framing has begun – they had just finished up framing the basement and were working on the first wall on the main floor. It was so special to see the house being built and get to share that with Ben. Grandpa Fred brought some sunflower seeds for us to plant over on the lot, so we found the perfect spot and will be excited to see them grow this summer.

There were a couple of times we went into town for a change of pace – we had some sausage and pretzels, took a stroll through Leavenworth and got to savor some mid-afternoon treats at the coffee shop.

We opted to celebrate Ben’s birthday on Sunday after Ben’s nap. He opened some really fun presents and we had birthday cake. For dinner, my dad made his famous burgers and potato salad again this year. I ordered the same Bavarian black forest cake for Ben again this year and thankfully he loved and devoured it. He hadn’t really experienced cake last year before his birthday but this year he was a pro.

Ben is very close to outgrowing the pack & play travel crib and made it clear that he was not happy to be sleeping in it while we were traveling. Similarly to when we were in Arizona a couple months ago, Ben woke up in the middle of the night {extremely unusual for him} each night and requested to come in bed with Alex and me. We happily cozied up with him and savored these rare middle-of-the-night cuddles.

Unsurprisingly, the sleeping change resulted in veeerrryyyyy early wakeups in the morning. Holy cow. Alex was nice enough to let me sleep in a bit later while he played with Ben and Jackson. Nap time was all over the place, given the early wake-ups and new environment. After the second day of no naps I decided to lay down and snooze with Ben with the hope that it would result in a longer nap for him. Thankfully it did!

There were so many sweet moments throughout the weekend. One of my favorites was seeing Ben recognize that there was a special celebration just for him – he sang “Happy Birthday to Ben” all weekend long.

Alex and I had the best time exploring the area we’ll soon be calling our second home and seeing Ben experience life out there. We’re so grateful that Ben has grandparents who adore him so much and who he can bond with, despite the distance. It was a very special weekend for us.

Happy Birthday Ben!

A year ago today we got to meet our little boy. It’s been the most incredible year of my life and it is such a privilege to be able to be Ben’s mom and watch him grow up. Every day is more fun than the last. I can’t even imagine what we’re in store for during Ben’s second year.


As a 12 month old, Ben is expressive, happy, wiggly, cuddly, giggly, curious and animated. He rarely sits still for long – Ben loves to be on the move, and boy is he fast! He is really close to being able to stand unsupported. He weighs 19 pounds 10 ounces and is juuuuust shy of the 10th percentile for weight.


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


{I’ll never forget the first time I saw this boy! Benjamin Ames Allen was born at 11:21 on Tuesday May 31st, 2016.}


{Being born 7 weeks early meant that Ben had to spend his first 26 days in the NICU. When he was in the NICU he always had his arms up and we joked that he looked like he was lounging at the beach. Here he is shown with heart monitors, temperature sensors, a temporary IV and a feeding tube. He had an oxygen and breathing monitor on his foot too. His diaper was so big here!}

{Ben was so tiny I could stick him down my shirt for Kangaroo Care}

{Ben was so tiny I could stick him down my shirt for Kangaroo Care}


{Proud dad from day one! Alex had to take the initiative to figure out Ben’s care right away since I was recovering from a c-section. He was so unbelievably supportive of both of us.}


{After 26 days in the NICU Ben got to come home with our family. We couldn’t wait to start our lives together.}


{Cuddle time!}


{After Ben came home we were chomping at the bit to get out of the house. Looking back, I’m really impressed that we took Ben on a 3 hour road trip to Yakima just two weeks after he came home from the hospital!}


{"Meeting" Madeline via FaceTime! She was due the day after Ben but was born on the 4th of July instead!}

{“Meeting” Madeline via FaceTime! She was due the day after Ben but was born on the 4th of July instead!}

Very early on Ben got to meet his grandparents and has seen them several times this year even though they all live in the Midwest. He met his Aunt Alina and then Uncle John shortly thereafter, too.








{This is one of my favorite photos summarizing Ben’s first year. Our greatest challenge with Ben was feeding him. It’s what kept him in the hospital so long and it remained a challenge for his first 9 months of life. I love the beauty behind this photo, but also the story behind it.}


{We created a beautiful nursery for Ben and spent hours upon hours feeding him in that chair.}


{One of my favorite parts of parenthood has been going through it with my husband, who I am lucky to call my partner. Some days were easier than others but at the end of the day we were always a team. It’s inspiring and heartwarming watching Alex as a father. He’s truly a natural and Ben is so unbelievably lucky to have Alex as his dada.}


{We took Ben swimming for the first time in Lake Chelan. Now, Ben kicks and splashes and screams with excitement every time we go for a swim!}


{We spent every Wednesday evening for 12 weeks this fall getting to know these babies and their parents. I’m so fortunate for the connection we have to our community thanks to our parents group, PEPS.}


{Being a preemie we expected Ben to develop at his “adjusted age” – so his actual age minus 7 weeks. So far, he’s developing right on target with his actual age. It was amazing watching him start to build strength from such an early point.}


{Right around 12 weeks of age Ben started packing on the pounds and looking much less like a teeny preemie. This photo was taken the morning I went back to work. The transition was much harder than I expected but I’ll always love this photo of his cute bald head to remind me of those times.}


{Every fall we take an annual trip to Leavenworth with our friends. This year we all brought babies along!}


{Smiles all around for this happy baby!}


{I spent the first year of Ben’s life pumping breast milk for him because he wasn’t able to breastfeed.}


{Watching these two together warms my heart!}


{Right around 5 months Ben started hitting some really fun milestones – he got to sit in the chair part of the stroller instead of the bassinet!}


{Ben’s first plane ride was a trip to Illinois for Thanksgiving.}


{He’s cute even when he cries! In reflecting back on the year we realized that he was fussier than we realized/more than normal in the beginning.}


{One of my all-time favorite photos of Ben! I think it captures how sweet and lovable he is.}


{We had so much fun getting out into the mountains last winter. I strapped Ben onto my back and we scooted along the trail on cross country skis.}

{This was the first morning that Ben and I had the same thing for breakfast. It was such a cool feeling getting to share a meal like that.}

{This was the first morning that Ben and I had the same thing for breakfast. It was such a cool feeling getting to share a meal like that.}


{This kid is all smiles! He learned to sit up on his own around 7 months.}

{Ben learned to crawl at 9 months. Once he started moving he never stopped! He quickly figured out how to pull himself up onto furniture.}

{Ben learned to crawl at 9 months. Once he started moving he never stopped! He quickly figured out how to pull himself up onto furniture.}


{Each week our nanny takes Ben to story time at the library. He loves hanging out with other babies and singing songs.}

{Each week our nanny takes Ben to story time at the library. He loves hanging out with other babies and singing songs.}

{Ben is checking out his cousin Nico! They got to meet for the first time in Arizona. The boys are about 7 months apart.}

{Ben is checking out his cousin Nico! They got to meet for the first time in Arizona. The boys are about 7 months apart.}

{Our family trip to Whistler!}

{Our family trip to Whistler was one for the memory books. We loved staying in the village and strolling around town with our little guy. Alex and I tried to get out skiing a few times but only managed one day and then cut our trip short after Ben came down with hand, foot and mouth disease.}


{I braved a flight and a weekend on my own with Ben when we went to visit my family in Minnesota in April. Ben got to meet my girlfriends from high school and his great aunt Sarah.}

{This boy and his dog are inseparable! Ben loves feeding Jackson, petting him and giggling at him. Somehow, Jackson remains amused!}

{This boy and his dog are inseparable! Ben loves feeding Jackson, petting him and giggling at him. Somehow, Jackson remains amused!}


{Ben was a little late to the game in getting his first teeth – these two popped through when he was about 10 months old. His top two teeth are emerging right now.}

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

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


{Leavenworth is such a special place for Alex and me. We were so happy to celebrate Ben’s first birthday there with his grandparents.}


{And now we have a one year-old! Thank you, Ben, for bringing us so much joy in this first year of your life. We are so proud of you and can’t wait to continue watching you grow up!}

Ben’s First Birthday Celebration

To celebrate Ben’s first birthday, his grandparents and great grandma joined us for a long weekend in the mountains. We rented a big house in Leavenworth and spent the whole weekend spoiling little Ben. It was the perfect way to celebrate our little boy’s first birthday.


Our families flew in from the Midwest then we drove about 2.5 hours through the Cascade Mountains to Leavenworth where we set up shop for Memorial Day weekend. Our trip was really low-key and we spent most of it hanging out at our home base.


My dad surprised us with some fun outdoor toys like this blob bed and a hammock. We had fun testing them out and relaxing in our new outdoor toys.




The house we stayed at was awesome. It had a great layout, expansive property and exceptional view. We really didn’t need to leave!








Jackson was in doggie paradise the whole weekend. He is a country dog at heart and loves to roam around off leash. In all honesty he behaves better off leash than on.


There was a family fire safety event taking place at the fire station, two blocks away, so we took a short stroll over there to check it out. Ben got fitted for a bike helmet {to wear in a bike trailer attached to Alex’s bike} and he got to sit in a fire engine!



One afternoon we headed into downtown Leavenworth for lunch and a little meandering. We ate at our favorite spot for sausages and did an olive oil/balsamic vinegar tasting. Ben loves sausage and had a great time pairing the sausage with the giant pretzel we got to share.







Saturday evening we had Ben’s birthday celebration. We had my dad’s famous burgers and potato salad, followed by a Bavarian black forest cake for dessert. Ben was hanging on by a thread through dinner and managed to hold it together while eating the burger and potato salad. By the time we brought out his cake, though, he was done…



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Oh well! We tried again the next day when he wasn’t quite so tired and he loved it.




We had a fantastic weekend with our families and are so grateful that they were able to make the trip out here to celebrate Ben’s birthday with us. It was a really special weekend.

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Birthday Weekend!

I recently celebrated my golden birthday {March 31st} and it was very golden and special, indeed. I waited as long as a person could wait to enjoy my golden birthday and it was surely worth the wait.

Lucky me – my birthday was on a Friday this year. The weather was really nice that day, too, as it often is in the beautiful city of Seattle. We had a relaxing morning at home before Alex headed to work, then I stayed home with Ben that day. One of the fun highlights was taking our new jogging stroller out for a spin!


That night we met our friends Mary and Ryan for dinner at Tilth, a terrific restaurant in Seattle. Their specialty is a five-course tasting menu with wine pairings. We were happy to sign up for that! The food was terrific – our favorites were the sunchoke soup {I know, right?!} and the albacore tuna. Yum!! We have so much fun with Mary and Ryan and it was extra special to have an adults-only birthday celebration {Mary’s birthday is two days before mine} for the two of us.


Saturday was my big birthday hurrah day. Alex and I had our first overnight away from Ben. We went out to Woodinville and stayed in our favorite hotel, Willows Lodge, and enjoyed an afternoon of wine tasting, which led into a fantastic dinner at Barking Frog and an overnight in a beautiful hotel.


Ben did great with his first night at home without us. The nanny kept us up-to-date with some adorable photos throughout the evening.


We finished off our rendezvous with a fabulous breakfast at Barking Frog and then headed home to hang out with our little guy.


It was such a terrific birthday!!

Birthday Celebrations!

We’ve had three birthdays in our house over the last two weeks – Henry’s, Jackson’s and mine! Henry turned 5 back in mid-March, then a couple days before my birthday Jackson turned 3. It’s hard to spoil Henry with birthday treats because he’s so temperamental and really doesn’t care, but food is the way to Jackson’s heart, so it’s a little easier with him. Either way, both boys are healthy and happy and absolutely loving the sunny spring weather – that’s the best birthday gift for them!


{Alex took a big scoop of peanut butter and formed it into the shape of a bone, then put bacon on the outside and that was Jackson’s special treat!}

Last week I turned 30! It’s hard to believe I’ve already been around for 3 decades. Being pregnant and turning 30 makes it feel like a bigger milestone, I think, since I’m naturally starting a new chapter. I am certainly looking forward to the road ahead – I have a feeling it will be full of excitement and new adventures.

One of the best birthday gifts for me, too, was the weather we were fortunate enough to have last week in Seattle. It was extraordinary! I enjoyed my birthday lunch on the front porch and had some time in the sun later that afternoon, too.

{Me and the belly getting some much needed sun!}

{Me and the belly getting some much needed sun!}

Alex and I are big on having experiences instead of tangible gifts, particularly for birthdays and anniversaries. We feel that experiences are more meaningful and memorable and we can look back and recall how we celebrated various occasions. For my birthday this year he took me to dinner at the chef’s counter at Vendemmia, a newer restaurant in our neighborhood.

We had a terrific time and a fantastic dinner. It was really fun to sit up at the counter next to the chef and watch him carefully assemble each piece of every dish he made for his guests. He is a really friendly guy and he spent a lot of time chatting with us and explained some of his processes. We had 4 appetizers, a pasta, a main dish and a dessert and everything tasted wonderful and probably 3/4 of the plates were things we would not have selected on our own, which was one of the best parts. We love trying new foods!

Over the weekend we met up with Mary and Ryan for lunch and a wine tasting in Woodinville. I’m counting this as part of my birthday celebration because sweet Alex tracked down a bakery that makes a particular kind of cake {Princess Torte Cake} that I loved having on my birthday as a late teen/in my early 20s and brought it to lunch with us. Mary’s birthday was also last week, so it was a nice way for us to celebrate both occasions. We had a really nice time with the Millers and it was an awesome weekend and birthday celebration all around!


Alex’s Big Birthday Weekend

We had a lot of plans leading into Alex’s big birthday weekend. The first was to celebrate my birthday with the cooking class Alex got me.


We ended up taking a Thai cooking class at Hipcooks on Friday night. The class was really neat and both of us agreed we probably wouldn’t have cooked much/anything on our own, so it was great to get us out of our comfort zone and trying new things.


On our menu was:

  • Tom Yum soup
  • Tom Kha Gai soup
  • Chiang Mai meatballs (pork meatballs with fresh curry)
  • Glass noodle salad with stir fried pork (our favorite!)
  • Massaman curry
  • Thai sweet rice with mango and coconut for dessert
  • Tamarind whiskey sour (cocktail)
  • Thai me up (cocktail)


The class was very hands-on and we got to play a role in a lot of different parts of the meal. I appreciated tasting the food frequently as we were cooking just to taste how things came together. We had a really nice time, though we had wished the other people in the class were a bit more fun. It’s such a shame that not everyone is as much fun as we are 😉


Saturday was Alex’s birthday! We woke up and had a little relaxing time at home before we made the two hour drive up to Whidbey Island for a quick day trip. The weather was quite cloudy, so it wasn’t the most ideal day for this trip, but we still had fun!


Our destination was Ebey’s Landing, which is a bluff overlooking a beach on Puget Sound. We stopped at a cute shop in Coupville, a little town nearby, and picked up the makings of a great picnic {two prosecco splits, some sandwiches, cornichons, chips and Mexican hot chocolate cookies} and headed down to the beach at Ebey’s Landing.


Jackson was along for the ride and he was in paradise. He had never swam in the ocean before – just lakes and rivers, so it was a little different for him with the waves. He was running back and forth, up and down the beach, stopping to shake off next to us while we were eating {delightful part of having a dog}, and running in and out of the water. Safe to say he had the best day ever.


We didn’t stay for too long because it was pretty chilly on the coast that day and we had evening plans we had to get back to! Thankfully we avoided traffic on our way home, which almost never happens.

{I can imagine this view is quite different when the sun is out!}

{I can imagine this view is quite different when the sun is out!}

Since about October last year I had been scheming up a big surprise party for Alex’s 29th birthday. His birthday was conveniently on a Saturday and I figured he wouldn’t suspect it as much on his 29th birthday as he would his 30th. So, last night about 20 of our friends gathered at Bottlehouse, our neighborhood wine bar, and royally surprised him! Alex didn’t suspect a thing.


We had a great evening catching up with everyone and it was so fun to share our favorite spot with our friends. It was fun that most people had met before, even if they were in different “groups” – but our holiday party this past year provided a great merger of our different groups of friends, which was really nice. We are lucky to have so many wonderful friends out here!




It was really hard for me to keep the secret of this surprise party, especially the last week or so as the party grew nearer, so I am glad to be done with that. I love hosting parties, but that’s the last surprise party I’m throwing!

{Alex's new high-tech watch... the Casio calculator!}

{Alex’s new high-tech watch… the Casio calculator!}


In other less exciting news, I got a FitBit this weekend. I’ve been putting it to the test to keep track of my steps, fitness activity, water consumption, food and sleep. It’s pretty handy. So far I’m really liking it!

{screenshot of the FitBit app on my phone - this was clearly at the beginning of the day :)}

{screenshot of the FitBit app on my phone – this was clearly at the beginning of the day :)}

The farmers market in our neighborhood opened up for the summer season on Friday. I absolutely love going down to the farmers market on Friday afternoons and stocking up on farm-fresh produce and flowers, so it’s something I look forward to each week. This year there are several new vendors at our neighborhood market – there’s a brick oven pizza food truck, a beer stand, a few wineries, a jam vendor, as well as a mustard vendor, and then the usual produce, meat and dairy vendors.



Between the farmers market and our CSA, I try to get as much food as I can as a way to support the local farmers and vendors. Plus, it’s fun to walk down to the market {about 6 or 8 blocks from our house} with Jackson and see the same vendors or neighbors down there each week.


Today we are taking it easy at home. I’m exhausted. I think that keeping the secret of Alex’s surprise party took a mental toll on me this week, so it’s nice to have a restful day at home.



Happy Birthday Alex!

Today is Alex’s 29th birthday! We’ve got a really fun day planned and I’m excited to celebrate Alex being born.

{the birthday boy!}

{the birthday boy!}

We’ve got a big year ahead of us now that we are both in the last year of our 20s. We have a lot to look forward to and I’m really excited to see what our 30s are like! For now, happy birthday, Alex!!

Twenty Nine

29 is an age I keep hearing people say they experienced for around three to five years or until they come to terms with embracing their 30s. I can’t say I’m particularly excited to leave my 20s as they have been such fantastic years, but the same people who told me that they were 29 for a few years also say that their 30s and 40s were some of the best years of their lives.

I see this next year as a year to spend wrapping up this phase of my life and I expect when I hit my 30s that a lot of things may start to change. But for now, just my hair is changing as a result of last weekend’s haircut!


From 20 to 29 I have changed and grown up quite a bit! Though I would have never admitted it then, I was so young and naive in my early 20s, and probably still am – I was a college student living in a $350/month apartment with three girlfriends, driving my cute little Alero and traveling back and forth from Minnesota and Iowa between Student Union Board meetings, journalism classes and babysitting obligations.

{at 20 I met one of my lifelong best friends, Julie, and am so honored to be standing up with her as she gets married this fall!}

{at 20 I met one of my lifelong best friends, Julie, and am so honored to be standing up with her as she gets married this fall! I only wish we could see each other more often.}


Now at 29 I am a married homeowner who runs a non-profit organization while taking as much time to travel the world as much as I can while I can. That sounds a lot more glamorous than it really is. While I have been exceptionally fortunate, I have also suffered from my fair share of challenges, including lay-offs, foot-in-the-mouth syndrome, rejection, financial limitations, loss and a whole lot of life lessons. It goes without saying that I have grown up an enormous amount in the last 9 years, but still have some growing up to do.

{me at 25 and freshly engaged!}

{me at 25 and freshly engaged!}

When I hit my 30s I am expecting a new set of life lessons to learn, challenges and experiences to face, and with any hope, an overwhelming amount of joy. As I wrap up my 20s I would like to do so with as much grace and as few gray hairs as possible. I hope to continue to have a good sense of humor, challenge myself mentally and physically, not take myself too seriously, donate some of my time to doing great things for others, write my personal mission statement {per the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People} and work towards being the best me I can be.

{so grateful to have been turned onto Pilates by my friend Mary!}

{so grateful to have been turned onto Pilates by my friend Mary!}

I’d like to savor my free time, maintain being in the best shape I’ve ever been in, take at least one impromptu trip to somewhere we’ve never been, have an enviable ski season next year {as opposed to one no one would envy like this year was!} and finally, celebrate the end of my 20s and my 5th anniversary with a big trip just the two of us next spring.

If your 30s are better than your 20s, as people say, I can hardly imagine what I am in store for once I hit my next decade… Stay tuned!

Weekend Parties & Projects

As the saying goes “work hard, play hard” – we definitely can succeed at both! This weekend was a nice mix of getting stuff done and having a good time. It was a gorgeous day on Friday {goodbye productivity during the workday… hello spring!} so we kicked off the weekend with burgers on the grill and an amazing wine, followed by a movie night.

{Henry cat enjoying the nice weather outside}

{Henry cat enjoying the nice weather outside}

Saturday was our big project day of the weekend. Alex tackled the backyard and I spent the day scouring the kitchen.

{our lovely backyard complete with some new topsoil, tons of grass seed, a fair amount of weeds and some new plants up in the retaining wall}

{our lovely backyard complete with some new topsoil, tons of grass seed, a fair amount of weeds and some new plants up in the retaining wall}

Alex’s main project is re-seeding the backyard. He and the weeds are united in the fight against mud right now. I really hope the new grass is the winner of this battle.

{the heavily trafficked area right off the patio needs the most love... check out the fancy sprinkler!}

{the heavily trafficked area right off the patio needs the most love… check out the fancy sprinkler!}

Last spring The last three springs you may recall we did basically the exact same thing we’re doing right now. I can only hope the outcome is more successful and long-term this time around. One thing that we are doing differently has to do with watering, which was our achilles heel last year. We get a bit lazy with watering and for some reason last spring it didn’t rain at all, so our grass seed didn’t come in strong. This year we’ve got a fancy sprinkler set up on a timer, so it automatically turns on and off twice a day. Hopefully that does the trick!

{sprinkler timer!}

{sprinkler timer!}

I was able to squeeze in a little time in the yard on Friday and did some weeding and also planted some new fun stuff in the containers we have on our front porch.

{loving the new plants!}

{loving the new plants!}

After Alex got the backyard squared away and I finished deep cleaning the kitchen we took an impromptu trip to Marymoor dog park since it was Jackson’s birthday. I think it’s safe to say he enjoyed the swim, walk and ball playing he got to do! We are extremely lucky to have such a magnificent dog park nearby.

{Jackson enjoying his birthday steak}

{Jackson enjoying his birthday steak}

The birthday celebrations continued on Sunday when we went out to Salty’s for brunch to celebrate my birthday and my friend Mary’s, as well. We had a great time and thoroughly stuffed ourselves.

{such great friends!}

{such great friends!}


Happy Birthday Jackson!

The birthday week continues as we celebrated Jackson’s second birthday yesterday! He enjoyed a day at the dog park, swimming and playing ball, along with extra special treats, then he finished off the day with his own steak. Henry made sure to give him extra head bumps and stole some of his treats when he wasn’t looking!


{no, he is NOT allowed on the sofa!}