Two Weeks of Potty Training

toilet-1552924We started potty training Ben, our 3 year old, on New Year’s Day. I had avoided starting for longer than I should have because I had zero experience with potty training kids and was really overwhelmed by the whole process (plus I hated the idea of cleaning up pee). It wasn’t going to happen without our involvement, however, so we picked a book, picked a day, and took away the diapers.

I’ve collected a few random thoughts about the process thus far as a way of remembering how to do this the next time around

  • Both Brian and I read Oh Crap Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki to give ourselves a baseline idea of how to start the process and deal with any problems that might arise. The book is more of how small kids learn and what their physical limits are at the age when they train than a tried and true method.
  • Like most parenting philosophies, there’s no one way to potty train that will work for every child. Ben is incredibly stubborn and we’ve had to come up with a small handful of tactics to work around that.
  • This little potty chair is pretty great
  • The first week sucked because it is so dang exhausting to be that vigilant for that long. I mourned the sudden loss of my tiny bit of free time during the day because Ben was always right there.
  • At two weeks in, we’ve got a handle on his rhythms and I can trust him to have quiet play time or a nap in his room after lunch without fear of accident
  • Our kid just doesn’t get that there are times that one has to try to pee, even if one doesn’t think one needs to (such as before leaving the house or getting ready for bed)
  • Even though the author strongly encouraged skipping pull ups entirely, we learned that it was worth the drop in stress level and not having to wash bedding 2 or more times per night to give him a pull up. We called them “nighttime undies” and he doesn’t consider them as diapers so it works for us.
  • At two weeks, night time success is only about 30% but he’s about 90% during the day, especially if I’m able to pay enough attention. The weather has been cold and snowy for the last week so we haven’t experienced having to use a public bathroom yet. Ben has always been terrified of them (they’re too loud!) so will be a challenge, especially with a not-yet-walking 1 year old tagging along

 

A Look Back at 2015

A bunch of my friends have been writing blog posts or business updates that focused on what they accomplished in 2015. I didn’t get a chance to write a “year in review” for our family Christmas cards this year so you all are the luck recipients!

January

When I asked Brian what we did last January, his response was, “Survived!” I couldn’t agree more! Teddy turned 3 months at the beginning of the year and we were still a sleep-deprived state, learning to juggle the very different needs of our small infant and toddler. Brian attended PressNomics 2015 in Phoenix at the end of the month. I accidentally gave my computer a bath, lost a bunch of data, but had help from wonderful friends replacing the dead laptop with the one I am using to this day.

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Teddy was the smilest, happiest, most contented baby I’ve ever known

We were able to fill our empty rental house at the beginning of the year with fantastic tenants who have treated the house well over the year. The house had been vacant for a few months and our family and the renters were happy to have found each other.

Of note, I learned to make roasted chickpeas to trick our 2 year old into eating something healthy. He randomly stopped eating anything at dinner so I upped my healthy snack game in attempts to give him something with nutritional value.

February

We went to a wedding, the boys got bigger (Teddy started adoring Ben, which was so much fun to watch), stripped wallpaper in our kitchen, dining room, and hallway in preparation for painting, which was completed during our Florida trip, and we left for our annual Disney trip. This was Teddy’s first trip and even though it took him a day of travel to get used to being in the car, he adapted very well and we really enjoyed ourselves.

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Brothers!
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Meeting one of Ben’s heroes. He’s ben saying for the last 11 months that on the next trip, he’s going to meet Woody.
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Happy Teddy along for the ride
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Brian and Mini-Brian

March

We met up with the spring break group from His House Christian Fellowship from Grand Valley in Fort Myers after our Disney vacation. Brian helped lead the trip while the boys and I helped cook for everyone. The boys enjoyed the attention from all their “Grand Valley friends” and we all enjoyed the extended Florida weather with our students, even if it was colder than normal.

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(L) Ben at 5 months in 2013, (R) Teddy at 5 months in 2015

Our big painting project was completed while we were gone, thanks to the work of the talented Becky. It was such a blessing to not have to worry about Ben ruining all her work by running his hands through wet paint.

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Clean slate!

Brian and I experienced a “first” by attending WordCamp San Diego together at the very end of March. Teddy was too young to be left behind but Ben spent a week with Grammy and Papa. WPSessions sponsored and Teddy was the youngest and quietest attendee. We squeezed in a day trip to Disneyland, which only made us want to go again soon!

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Napping during WCSD 2015
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Radiator Springs Racers at Disney’s California Adventure

April

We returned home and readjusted to being responsible for chores again. The weather got warm enough that I was able to start spring clean up a bit earlier than I have in years past. Teddy started eating solid foods and we geared up to have lots of fun around our house during the summer. We also took what is possibly the best set of photos of our boys together.

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Bananas!
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I <3 matching outfits
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*dies*

We got a new water heater, so exciting, but since we haven’t had any issues with out hot water since, I think it was a significant event!

May

Brian had his 29th birthday, we celebrated our 7th anniversary, and Brian attended LoopConf in Vegas during the first few weeks of May. The whole family participated in the Civil War reenactment at Greenfield Village in Dearborn over Memorial Day weekend.

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May is the beginning of the months that, for me, redeem living through winter in Michigan. It is so beautiful and we spent as much time enjoying our new neighborhood as possible. We have an established asparagus patch in our garden and ate asparagus every two days all month long. It was great!

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June

One day in June I woke up and didn’t feel completely overwhelmed by being outnumbered by my two tiny tornado children. It took almost 8 months to feel like I could take on anything and, naturally, to celebrate, I went out and got a job. I started working for poststatus.com at the beginning of the June and even seven months later am still surprised how much I enjoy doing something that exercises a completely different set of skills than raising children.

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We bought our Chrysler minivan with cash at the beginning of June. This was one of the goals we set at the beginning of 2015 and I’m still pleased and proud we accomplished it. Our van, Van-essa, has taken us on many trips in the last 7 months, the first of which was to a retirement celebration in Iowa for my uncle at the end of June.

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Van-essa

The two most significant home improvement tasks we took on were cleaning and rearranging our breezeway to be a quasi-outdoor play and hangout space for our family when the weather wasn’t quite nice enough to be outside and hiring a landscaper to remove the remnants of a spruce tree (and about a million weeds) out of the north side of our lawn.

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Hi Baby Teds!
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We love playing in the grass!

We spent Father’s Day with friends from out of town and took the boys to play on the playground behind our house. Everyone had a lot of fun!

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Family slide time
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Happy Father’s Day!

July

We kicked off July by hosting my extended family for brunch on the 4th. Our city’s 4th of July parade is spectacular and goes right past the end of our street so back when my grandparents lived here, it became a family tradition to have brunch and walk to the parade together. Now it is our turn to host!

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Most of our photos from July are of our boys at the playground. We live very close to two elementary schools and within walking or biking distance from one of our city’s biggest parks and playgrounds so our spare minutes were spent feeding ducks, eating ice cream outside, and playing on all the play equipment.

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Aggressive ducks
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Ben’s favorite ice cream is “white” aka vanilla
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At the playground
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Exploring
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Dino ride
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Teddy loves swinging as much as his big brother
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Home Depot!!!!!!

In the last week of July, our family left on a 2 week camping road trip to Colorado. The boys were really excited to play in our popup camper!

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Chunky baby in the camper
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Snack time in the camper!

August

We spent the last few days of July and the first 10 days of August on vacation in Colorado. We camped in Moraine Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park for 5 nights before driving to Breckenridge, Colorado for the rest of our trip. We hiked, played on almost every playground we found, and didn’t sleep a whole lot.

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Ben never walks when he can run
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Without a doubt, this photo sums up what life with Ben, age 2, was like
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Our Teddy is a multitasker: snuggling and hiking at the same time

During the rest of the month we had one day trip to a reenactment and a trip to the zoo but mostly spent time near home. We love to travel but being able to recharge at home is really important to us.

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September

September was abnormally busy for us. We took the boys camping near Ludington for a long weekend. Our family celebrated Ben’s 3rd birthday on the 19th (sniff!). Brian had a great time at CaboPress, a business mastermind event put on by our friend Chris. I started running using a couch to 5k app but ended up with terrible pain in my knees from unsupportive shoes and had to bench myself for the remainder of the nice weather last fall. I’m hoping to take it up again (with new shoes) in the spring.

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We spent a ton of time at the campground playground, naturally
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Very happy Teds
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Bobble-headed babies in a buggy
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Big boy Benny turns 3!
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He’s still my buddy, even though he often thinks he knows more than I

October

Teddy turned one year old at the beginning of October. I still have so many feels about my baby being older than a year old but we have no immediate plans to force him into being a middle child. He’s so good at being the baby that we’ll let him keep the title for a while.

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CAKE!

 

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Our birthday baby

We explored ArtPrize in Grand Rapids and had a blast trick or treating at both my dad’s office and in our neighborhood. This was the first year that Ben knew what was going on and wanted to be part of every minute of such a fun day.

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Wreck-it-Ralph and Fix-it-Felix

November

The month of November is a giant blurry spot in my mental calendar. The boys and I all got our first colds of the winter, I finished up 5 weeks of doing yoga at church on Monday nights, and we celebrated Thanksgiving with my parents, siblings, grandma, cousins, and aunt and uncle.

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Because we were all sick, we set up our own “campground” in the basement. So far, it has provided the boys with nearly 2 months of enjoyment
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Short sleeves in November? Craziness!

I purged several trash bags worth of clothes, toys, and household items before Thanksgiving so we could enter the Christmas season without feeling bogged down in stuff. Ben and Brian made a large snowman from our first snowfall and Ben is still asking when it’s going to snow enough for him to do it again.

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Benny’s snowman was nearly twice his height
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So many heart eyes! ????

December

Brian and I experienced a first at the beginning of December: Traveling without kids! We flew to Philadelphia to participate in the inaugural WordCamp US. Brian has been working with WordPress for longer than we’ve been married so I finally got to meet so many people face-to-face I’ve heard of and chatted with online. We also took the opportunity to spend a day exploring Philadelphia together and were able to see lots of the notable historic sites.I’ve meant to do a post devoted to that trip but face it, at this point, it’s probably not going to happen. Suffice it to say that I think I’ve found my people.

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Oldest continuously live in neighborhood in the US
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Date day in Philly
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Liberty Bell

You can’t talk about December without also talking about Christmas. We spread out festivities as much as we could this year so the boys didn’t completely fall apart. We had a ton of fun with extended family and were thrilled that Brian was able to take the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day off of work. We played, watched lots of movies, ate lots of junk, and had fun being together as a family.

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Play structures: Fun for small kids and cats alike!
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Playing with their new Christmas toys
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Reading time with the best daddy ever

Other small notable events from December: Ben had his first dental cleaning (and did great!), unseasonably warm weather prompted us to spend extra time outside,, Ben really got into decorating the house for Christmas, Brian and I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and we discovered and eliminated a mouse in the basement.

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Ben loved watching what was going on in his mouth with the mirror
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Ben created a story for every ornament he put on the tree

So heres to 2016! May it be full of as many memorable moments!

December Update of All The Things

Happy (almost) Christmas! I’m busy hiding from most of the internet this weekend due to the recent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Brian and I have a babysitter scheduled Monday afternoon so we can see it and are trying very hard to avoid spoilers until then.

The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas has flown by, like it usually does. Brian and I went to WordCamp US in Philadelphia at the beginning of the month and it seems to have taken the two weeks between our return from that trip and today for me to fully grasp being at home again. I’ll write more about that trip in another post.

It has been chilly but without any snow so we’ve been spending lots of time inside at home, avoiding all stores unless absolutely necessary. We’ve bought all gifts, planned all gatherings, and are excited to celebrate Christmas with our boys. Each Christmas season is more thrilling than the last as our boys grow and understand more about what is going on around them. Ben was nearly beside himself when we let him decorate the big Christmas tree one evening after Teddy went to bed.

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This is our first year having a full-size tree in this house and I love it!
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Ben made up so many stories about the ornaments he hung on the tree. “Grammy gave me this one.” “This one is mine.”
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So many of our family activities happen around the Christmas tree during December
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This guy is growing so much but still isn’t walking! He’s just over 14 months, growing more steady on his feet every day, loves to get into his brother’s stuff, and chatters a ton about “E-I,” kitties, Dada, Mama, snacks, and more. He signs often and has picked up several on his own from watching Baby Einstein
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Every. Single. Day
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Ben had his first dentist appointment and did an incredible job! We’re very proud of who he is growing up to be
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Fuzzy babies are the snuggliest babies
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60 degrees in December means we walk to the playground and spent lots of time outside (until it gets cold again, of course)
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Teddy caught another cold and passed it along to me. I don’t mind the snuggles though

November Catch-Up

I hadn’t intended for there to be nearly a month of radio silence around here. November ended up being a fairly chaotic month since all 4 of us spent some time being sick, Teddy got new teeth, and we worked around the house. Here’s what we’ve done since Halloween:

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I’ve attempted to dress Teddy up in costumes and cute outfits as often as possible
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Being sick is hard on everyone!
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Baby McFly is cheesin’ (also saying “chee” because he knows a few words now!)
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We worked on fall crafts in our casual in-home preschool lessons
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We walked grumpy babies until they fell asleep
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And fed them snacks. Nothing makes this boy happier than a full water bottle and a post-nap snack
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Science experiment with baking soda and colored vinegar
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Ben loves to hop on stage after church and play with the drum kit
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We enjoyed a week of incredibly gorgeous weather and played outside as much as we could (until the sun went down at 5 pm, of course)
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We went “camping” in the basement
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Camping made being stuck at home while dealing with colds a little easier on everyone
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Teddy’s favorite activities are putting the top back on an empty bottle and poking plastic milk tops into the opening of a wipes box. We’re working on those motor skills!
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???? Brothers!
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We had our first snowfall
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Ben built his first snowman (with Brian’s help)
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We have intentionally set aside time to play as a family because we know it’s all too easy to let work and other obligations take over

 

Wreck it, wreck it Ralph, just as fast as you can

Earlier this year, Ben fell in love with the movie Wreck-it-Ralph, which was ok with us because we love it too! If you haven’t seen it, we definitely recommend you check it out.

There was no contest when it came to picking Halloween costumes this year. Ben had to be Wreck-it-Ralph and that meant Teddy had to be Fix-it-Felix. I like costumes for small kids that are as close to normal clothes as possible (to minimize potential issues with my strong-willed 3 year old) and am really pleased how well the costumes came together. We even figured out how to fit Ben’s raincoat under his plaid shirt!

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You’d be as surprised as I am when I tell you that he kept his hat on both times he wore his costume!
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Ben told me that he needed “a Wreck-it-Ralph medal but I have to find it myself.” Ben did find it (at a party store)
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All photos by Brian

The Richards Family Takes on ArtPrize

Every fall for the last seven years, Grand Rapids, MI, the next-door, big sister city to our little hometown, holds a city-wide art competition called ArtPrize. Paintings, sculptures, photos, and live installations are exhibited on the sides of buildings, on street corners, in the museums, and in parking lots. We’ve made it a point to check it out at least once every year, even when we had a 3 day old Ben and overdue with Teddy.

I didn’t get any photos of the art but we did get some of our family!

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Happy Number 1, Teddy Bear!

It has already been a year since our Theodore John aka Teddy aka The Teds aka Teddy Bear aka Tedders aka Little Baby aka Ted-er-ino arrived to make our family four. First birthday posts are hard for me to write because almost everything changes about that baby in the course of a year and I get so nostalgic (and emotional) thinking about his sweet turned up nose and little newborn squeaks and grunts.

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While official weight and height stats are coming next week, I know he’s about the same as Ben was at one year at 20ish lbs and 30ish inches since they’re wearing the same clothes. If anything, Teddy is a bit shorter. He has 6 teeth with no signs of adding more anytime soon (although I’ve been mistaken before!). He is down to nursing only in the morning and eats everything we put in front of him. It’s not uncommon for him to polish off his whole plate of food and finish what Ben won’t touch. He can sign eat, milk, more, all done, and chew and doesn’t hesitate to let me know at 5:15 every night that he is ready for dinner.

UPDATE: Teddy’s 12 month checkup was today and he’s such a little peanut! He was only 18lb 9.5oz (11th %) and 29 inches tall (18th %). His head was 18.5″ (76th %) so we’re continuing the trend of large headed babies. I knew he felt smaller than Ben but that big of a difference surprised me. At 3 years, Ben is more or less average at 31 lb (42nd %) and 3 ft 1.5 inches (49th %).

Ben was so, so excited to meet Teddy at the hospital and our favorite thing has been watching the relationship of the two brothers grow along with Teddy. Ben was quick to shower attention and kisses on unsuspecting baby Theodore but now Teddy is big enough to give them right back! They don’t share toys well and have a hard time waiting for their parents’ undivided attention but play and wrestle so much more with every passing week. Opening Ben’s door in the morning and after naps (when he inevitably wakes first) is one of Teddy’s favorite times of the day.

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“Hi Baby Teddy”
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I can’t get over the fact that T looks a bit like a large mushroom with that giant helmet on his head
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Driving a Home Depot car cart is a huge hit with both the 3 and 1 year old crowds
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I’ve lost track of how many times the words “don’t squish your brother” have come out of my mouth in the last 12 months

Teddy loves his family, the kitties, his grandparents, his baabaa (burp cloth) and boppy (pacifier), eating everything ever, playing with his brother’s toys, any vehicle with wheels, wrestling, putting his hands and other small objects into Ben’s potty chair, singing songs, taking baths, reading books, trying to shove his boppy in Mommy’s mouth, giving kisses, and snuggling.

Teddy dislikes diaper changes, not being allowed to eat right this instant, green beans, thinking he has been left out of something fun, having to get naked instead of jumping in the bath with his clothes on, being denied access to the potty chair, and when Ben takes away toys he wants to play with. It was much harder to think of dislikes because The Teds is truly a naturally happy child and is content to do almost anything as long as he can be with his people.

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I love having a baby who likes being worn as much as I like wearing
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Photo cred: Meghan Mace Photography

Teddy can army crawl with an incredible amount of speed and it starting to pull himself up on anything he can reach. He’s been slower to learn new skills than Ben was because he’s just so content to sit where he was put and play with whatever he can reach. He’s caught on to the fact that there’s just so much more mischief he can get into if he can get himself from point A to B so I don’t think it will be too much longer before he starts walking.

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Hmmm, what have we here?

Happy birthday, my littlest little man!

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Teddy vs. Cake

We had a first birthday cake smash photoshoot with Teddy earlier this week. While Ben, at the same age, gingerly dipped one finger into the frosting and barely got messy, Teddy barreled across the room when he saw the cupcake on the floor and eagerly dove into it with both hands. He didn’t even let me put it down in front of him before he attacked. It was a lot of fun to watch! teddy-cake-smash-8492 teddy-cake-smash-8494 teddy-cake-smash-8495 teddy-cake-smash-8500 teddy-cake-smash-8518 teddy-cake-smash-8530 teddy-cake-smash-8531

Discipline

I’ll be the first to admit that my preferred state of activity is inactivity. I am, by nature, a lazy person. I figured if I was supposed to be active, the discipline to do so would be inherit.

I’ve come to realize after dwelling on the subject for some time that gaining discipline is like gaining patience. Not easy, usually trial-by-fire, and a lot of effort involved. I want to be a good example for my boys and to prove to myself that I can improve in this one area of my life.

So, I went for a run yesterday and didn’t die (although getting out of bed was a little difficult today).  

Ben is 3!

benny-3Today our Benjamin turns 3 years old. It’s cliché to say that time flies but I’m certain that this year went even faster than from 1 to 2. There is an activity floating around the internet where you ask your child the same set of questions every year to see how their answers change over time. I though this year would be a great year to start with Ben but I hadn’t counted on the fact that his attention span is similar in length to a goldfish! Over the course of a week, he’s given me enough answers (and pointed UN-answers) to fill out a post.

What is your name?
Benny! B-E-N spells me!

How old are you?
I got some sprinkles!

What is your favorite color?
I don’t know my favorite color is

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Cake! Birthday cake!

What is your favorite food?
Peanut butter and jelly

Who do you like to play with?
Emily

What is your favorite book?
*skillful evasion*

What is your favorite animal?
This! *holds out a snowman cookie cutter*

What is your favorite song?
*runs away*

What makes you laugh?
I laughed in my room. I shut the door

What do you like to do with your family?
Go for a drive and we go to the vacation house

What does Daddy do for work?
Daddy has a meeting and I have a pretend meeting

What does Mommy do for work?
Works inside

What is your favorite movie?
I don’t know. I like Toy Story!

What is your favorite show?
Um, Finding Nemo?

What is your favorite thing to do outside?
Play with Emily!

Where do you like to go on vacation?
The vacation house!

Happy birthday, my best big boy!