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2-25-18If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, then you have probably read a good number of posts about our trips to the annual Auto Show. And if you have read all of those posts, then you know that it’s been a tradition long before Ben has been around, all the way back to when my dad would take me to look at the cars when I was even younger. So it’s a big deal, and when we get to add a new member to the group, it’s an even bigger deal.

This year’s auto show was a little different, as Ben got to bring along his little brother Andrew. Together with Poppop, the four of us piled into the car and headed into the city to check out some wheels. It’s been awhile since I have had to bring a stroller to the show, and it was also the first time that I brought a ten-year-old who just may know more about cars than I do now, so it promised to be a fun trip.

The biggest difference from last year’s show (besides Andrew, of course) was how much Ben has learned about cars. He has spent a good amount of time on YouTube, watching and listening about the latest sports cars. And when I say he knows them, I mean he knows all about them. Ben can recite the name and model numbers of all his favorite cars, talk about their top speed, how much they cost, what kind of engine they might have, how fast they can accelerate. So at the auto show, he was off and running to take photos of some of his favorites: The Nissan GTR, any Lamborghini, the Ford GT, the Bugattis, Ferraris, Porsches and the BMW i8. I think Ben may have taken more (and better) photos than I did!

For me, the Auto Show long ago ceased being about the cars, and more about the company. It has always been something my dad and I have shared. My mom has photo albums littered with pictures of little me and my dad standing next to the newest automobiles of the time. That was back when I used to lay in my room for hours and draw pages and pages of cars. Even then, I’m not sure I knew as much as Ben does. And when Ben came along, it was all about sharing it with my son, and watching my dad enjoy taking his grandson to the show. Each year we kept going, and soon Ben was out of his stroller and climbing through the cars, and then this year it came full circle again, with another stroller with another son. Double the grandson joy for my dad, me feeding Andrew his bottle in the middle of the Ford display, and the fun of watching Ben show his little brother around the show.

Since the beginning, I’ve been a big Camaro guy, always making sure to stop by the latest model for a photo at the show. Many of these posts have been accompanied by a picture of Ben kneeling in front of the latest, meanest looking Camaro. This year was no different, with Ben posing with Andrew for Poppop and I to snap some shots on our phones. We look forward to adding many more of these memories to the many years of memories captured in those photo albums on my mom’s shelf. And next year, Poppop and I will need Ben with us more than ever…because Andrew will be walking by then, and something tells me he is going to be hard to keep up with!


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Wrapping up the holidays

1-19-18Happy New Year! We are a little late for that, and even later for recapping the end of last year, but let’s do it anyway!

This was the first Christmas that Ben got to share with a sibling, and to say he enjoyed it would be an understatement (just look at the photo!) Ben got a lot of gifts that he was excited for this Christmas, but nothing put a bigger smile on his face than his little brother, Andrew.

As usual, Ben was looking forward to giving out his gifts to everyone, and he made sure to do that first. Then it was just a blur of wrapping paper and bows for the next hour or so. Ben was also game enough to go along with Maggie’s dream of matching Christmas pajamas for the family. Speaking of family, Ben got to celebrate Christmas with all of his relatives at a number of locations and parties. But I think he had the most fun with the two newest members of the family, his baby brother and cousin Eleanor.

Ben had just barely blew out the candle at the center of our advent wreath, and then suddenly New Year’s Eve was upon us. This year, Ben spent the night with his Mom at one of his friend’s house. They had a great time playing and running around until midnight, when they all did a toast of sparkling cider (they tried telling the kids it was champagne, but Ben refused to drink it until he was told it was non-alcoholic!) Not a bad way to close out a great 2017 for the little guy, and to move onto 2018.

First up in the new year, was a trip to Alabama to visit some of Maggie’s family and have them meet baby Andrew. What was supposed to be a long weekend plane trip turned into a mad dash road trip thanks to Mother Nature. The day we were supposed to fly out was a blizzard mess. With flights cancelled, we loaded up the new SUV and hit the road…for 15 hours overnight, non-stop to Alabama. I think Ben had the best set-up in the car, lounging in the 3rd row, with his iPad plugged in and pillows and blankets and snacks wedged in around him.

It was a long drive, but worth it for the fun family time that we got to experience down south. We stayed with Maggie’s aunt and uncle, and their daughter Veronica, who is close to Ben in age. She mentioned that she had waited 11 years to have another kid to play with in the house, and Ben said he knew how she feels! The two of them had a blast the whole time we were down there. It was a great trip, and definitely a memorable one for all of us.

We had barely gotten back, and then it was back to business for Ben. Soccer has started up again already, getting ready for sprain season. Back at school, Ben was taking tests and working on projects again. This past week, he had to give a report on, and dress up as Benjamin Franklin (photos to follow soon!) And just like that, the holidays were over, and we were back into our usual routines, trying to get through the rest of winter.

While the holidays are now in the rearview mirror, I think this past year was one that Ben will never forget. It was a magical Christmas, he got to party in the new year, and most of all he got to share it all with his brand new little brother. Life is good! Wishing everyone continued good health and good fortune as we journey into 2018!

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11-9-17Hard to believe that Halloween has already come and gone (and that there are now Christmas decorations out all over!), but as quickly as the day came and went, Ben made sure to have as much fun as possible. Read on to hear all about the festivities, and click here to see some new photos of everything!

To start things off, Ben was very excited to take his little brother to pick his first pumpkin. So one foggy weekend morning earlier int he month, we all piled onto the tractor hey ride to head out to the pumpkin patch. After some partially successful attempts to get pictures of the brothers sitting amongst the pumpkins, Ben carefully chose a pumpkin for himself and for Andrew, and a large one for us to carve. (It was also at this time that Daddy quickly realized he is going to need to go back to the gym, as carrying baby Andrew and three pumpkins back to the car almost resulted in a 911 call). But aside from some strained muscles, we all had a blast, and it was fun to watch Ben make sure that his little brother really got the full pumpkin picking experience!

This year, Ben decided that he wanted to be a secret agent (and looking at the pictures, you could also say Men In Black, or Agent Smith from the Matrix movies). This also happened to be the first year that Ben’s school class held a Halloween dance. I have to hand it to Ben, he figured out a way to wear a suit and shades to his first school dance! Besides looking super stylish, Ben had a blast at the dance with his friends. There was even some video of him whipping off his suit jacket and twirling it around his head on the dance floor. It sounds like it was a fun time, and made up for the fact that I was feeling a little sad that this year marks no more school Halloween parades. He’s growing up.

But that wasn’t Ben’s only costume. Each year, his soccer club has an event where each team decorates a tent and dresses up with a theme. This year, Ben’s travel team chose A Nightmare Before Christmas, and Ben went as Zero the ghost dog (with special thanks to Mommy’s last minute sewing). You definitely need to check out the photos (here) to see how all out Ben’s coaches and team mates went with the theme! In fact, they ended up winning the grand prize for their efforts.

And we still haven’t gotten to the actual trick or treating! Ben changed back into his suit for the night, and we met up with some of his friends and parents to hit the town. Maggie and I even put on our outfits and dressed up Andrew for the trip around town. Our first stop was Nana and Poppop’s for some photos. And as is tradition, we quickly stopped at the house down the street which we refer to as “The Smoke House”. Every year they out do themselves with smoke machines and new decorations. Since Ben was being pushed in a stroller we have stopped at that house, and this year was no different. Then it was off to hit as many houses as we could. In my mind, I always think that I stayed out trick or treating all hours when I was young, and that I went twice as fast as kids these days. In reality, I’m not sure that memory is accurate. Ben and his friends stayed out a couple hours and came back with a good amount of candy. Andrew even thought it would be fun to demand a bottle in the middle of it all, so me (dress as Thing 2) was left walking down the street holding the Cat in the Hat and feeding him a bottle. Quite the sight!

When it was all said and done, it felt like Halloween blew by pretty fast, but now that I look back at it, we had a lot of fun. Even thought he is getting older, I’m glad Ben still gets excited for Halloween (I know I still do!), and it was great to see him enjoy it with his friends, and for the first time, his little brother! Now, maybe its early enough to start working on him to agree to the idea of matching costumes for next year!

We hope everyone else had a great Halloween, and if ¬†you haven’t already, make sure to check out the new photos here!

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Someone stole my baby

10-9-17We recently got back Ben’s fifth grade class photos, so I brought one to work and pinned it up on my wall of pictures, dating back to when he was three and younger. I still wonder “How did we get here?” and “Who stole my baby!?”, but seeing all of those photos together in one place, you can see the progression and growth. It’s just a little scary to look at some of those older pictures and wonder where the time has gone.

Helping usher Ben into fifth grade has been especially daunting for me. Fifth grade is the year of school where I really can start to remember details of what my life was like at that age. I remember things I was into, events that happened, and a good number of experiences with pretty good clarity. All of which make it harder to understand how Ben can be at that age already?

We got a good dose of it last week when we went to back to school night. Things were intense. Gone were the happy go lucky days of first or second grade. We now had detailed schedules that involved moving from one classroom to the next throughout the day. We heard of curriculums of science, social studies, writing, math, computers (and I am sure some upcoming homework that I have no idea how to help him with). We have an earlier start time, and no more teachers smiling and waving and welcoming at drop off. This is fifth grade now.

And I can’t help thinking back to my own experiences at that age. As with me, so far Ben’s favorite teacher by far is his art teacher, and he has already been hard at work on an art project that will help him get into the art club. Ben also told me he had considered running for a student counsel spot, possible treasurer. My jaw dropped, as I was actually my class treasurer for 4 years, but I had never told Ben about it. He was amused to hear my old campaign stories. There are other similarities, like his love of cars and being able to name almost any one that drives past, or his avid reading and drawing, or learning to play the piano.

Those similarities are all fun to see, and make me really curious to see where things take him. But the truly crazy part is the differences. It’s a whole new world. For instance, I didn’t even know what a cell phone was when I was Ben’s age, but he carries one with him to school, giving him basically the world at his fingertips. We both seem to have a creative streak in us, but where I was drawing with pencil and paper, Ben is filming and editing his own videos (his newest idea is to save up for a Macbook!) I would watch cartoons after school, and Ben rarely watches TV, instead spending his time watching his favorite You Tube video channels. I was excited to listen to new music on cassette tapes that me and my buddy Ed bought at Wall to Wall Sound and Video, while Ben has an unlimited library of music available any time through Apple. I was just starting to learn tennis, while Ben is already 7 years into playing soccer and on the town’s travel team. The list goes on and on.

All of this adds up to plenty of mixed feelings. I think its equally both amazing and terrifying to see how advanced kids are these days when compared to ourselves at that age. On one hand I want to encourage all of his interests and passions, but on the other hand, I need to remember that he is only 10! I find myself constantly fighting the urge to step in and tell him how or what he should do based on my own past experiences (this is especially true with his art projects). But I need to let him make his own decisions and learn from his own mistakes. I feel proud of the little man he is growing into, and excited to watch him learn and try new things. But I also miss the cute little boy who would follow me around anywhere and didn’t yet know about all of the scary stuff going on in the world. I love watching Ben embrace the role of big brother, loving on Andrew and talking about all of the things that he wants to do with him. But in the next breadth I imagine Andrew at Ben’s age, and realize Ben will be out of high school by then! The mood swings for Daddy are never ending.

Most of all, I’m confused as to how we have gotten here. I look at that school picture, and its Ben. But then I look at a photo from when he was three, and I wonder “Where did that little guy go?” (or “where did that time go?”). I can accept that the world has changed, and his fifth grade experiences will be vastly different from mine, no matter how many similarities I might reminisce about. But what I can’t truly wrap my head around is that passage of time. I can’t even begin to imagine where Ben will be in another ten years. By then, that little baby boy will be even further back in our memories. For now, I try not to think that far ahead (or mourn too much for what has been left behind). Best to just focus on all of the fun and exciting things Ben is going through right now….and to try my hardest not to art direct that next art project!


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9-13-17And just like that, we have a fifth grader among us. Last week, it was back-to-school time for Ben, and morning drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups for us! Back to early mornings and remembering to pack lunches, and trying to find ways to squeeze in piano practice, home work, and a little bit of fun time before baths and bed time at night. Ben isn’t the only one who might be missing summer already. Add a 2-month old to the mix, and things are just south of nuts here in our house right now.

While we all figure out new schedules, Ben has been off to a great start, setting his alarm early and helping with breakfast and letting the dog out in the mornings. So far, we definitely have room for improvement in our routines, but I’m sure that will all get figured out….and by then I’ll have to return to work and it will throw the whole thing off again!

Regardless of the sometimes chaos going on under this roof, one constant has been the way Ben has embraced his new role as big brother to baby Andrew. You literally can’t keep him away from his new sibling (nor would I want to). Whether it’s helping with bath time, playing on the floor, reading to him, snuggling him, comforting him while he waits for a bottle, Ben is always right there at Andrew’s side. Being home from work has also allowed us to return the favor and bring Andrew along to greet Ben as he comes out of school in the afternoon. There have been countless special brother moments between these two, and it warms the heart to see how much Ben cares for him already.

Besides meeting his big brother at school, Andrew has also been out to the soccer field to watch Ben go to work. Nothing lets you know it’s Fall like sitting out under the sun with a cool breeze in the air and watching Ben play soccer. This past Sunday, Ben’s team opened the fall season with a big win. He was pumped up from the win, but also seemed just as proud to show off his little brother to his teammates and their families. He’s already telling Andrew all about how he will teach him to play when he gets old enough. I have a feeling Andrew will end up idolizing Ben, so I am expecting another soccer player in the family.

And so we move into Fall and say good-bye to summer. It’s been a long, crazy summer, to say the least. Ben finally got the little brother he has been hoping for. He played a lot of soccer, went fishing, hunted Pokemon with his friends, worked on his YouTube channel, hit the beach with Nana and Poppop, and again with his mom and aunts. We may have missed our annual beach vacation, but Ben still kept busy, and never complained, even when things really got hectic once his brother arrived.

To celebrate Ben’s last day of summer, we hopped in the car on a rainy day and drove to Ocean City to play some miniature golf indoors and grab some pizza on the boardwalk. It was a quick trip, but it was a nice way for the four of us (I’m still getting used to saying that) to spend some time together and have some fun. Ben and Maggie tied for the win during our round of indoor mini golf (Daddy was slightly hampered by carrying Andrew around strapped against my chest in his carrier, but still had a respectable showing!) As we emerged from the indoor, glow-in-the-dark course, we were even greeted by some sunshine and a break in the rain. We paused to take one last look at the ocean and beach, then it was back to the car to return home.

And with that, it was goodbye to summer, and hello to fall. Not only welcoming in a new school year, and a new baby brother, but also new adventures and memories yet to come for the four of us, together. I know Ben isn’t the only one who can’t wait to see what comes next!

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9-1-17Welcome back to the world of Ben! It’s been a couple of weeks, so lets dive right in.

Hard to believe, but Ben is heading off to fifth grade next week. This is horrifying for several reasons: one being that it means summer is already over, but more importantly, when did he get this old!? Ben being Ben, he is making the most of what is left of the summer.

Recently, we’ve had a few family adventures. Ben and his cousin Ryan went with us down to the Ocean City board walk for a quick little trip. I know one of Ben’s favorite things s our annual family beach trip, and due to the new babies in the family, we had to skip it this year. We thought at least we could head down for some rides, shopping, and snacks. Ben and Ryan had some fun in the arcade and on the amusement pier. They also did a little shopping in some of Ben’s favorite stores on the boardwalk. Ben was especially happy to have his little brother along for the trip. It wasn’t quite the same as being down at the beach for a whole week with the family, but it will have to hold us over until next year’s trip.

We also had a day trip to the zoo with baby Andrew and Nana. Ben enjoyed showing his brother around and checking out all of the animals. We got some good looks at some of the orangutans, gorilla babies, and the tiger. Even though Andrew slept through most of the fun, Ben was still doting over him and happily posing for plenty of pictures in front of the animals.

Yesterday, Ben got to go on a fishing adventure on his Uncle Charlie’s boat, along with Aunt Maryann, Mommy and cousin Ryan. It was a perfect sunny day, and it looked like a great day for fishing. Ben loves to be out on the water, and was excited for the boat ride. I haven’t yet heard how successful they were, but as you can see in this week’s photo, Ben looks like a natural.

In other news, Ben has been busy posting more videos to his YouTube channel, building some new creations in Minecraft, tending to his little brother, prepping for the fall soccer season,and basically packing as much as he can into the days before its back to school next week. As I type this, I think he is out playing some miniature golf with Nana and Poppop. It’s been a crazy, unusual summer, with the arrival of little brother Andrew. I’m thankful that I have had some time away from work to be home and spend time with Ben and the baby. Even though we haven’t gotten to take our usual summer vacation, or get out and about as much as we would like, Ben has kept busy and made the most of his summer time. It’s hard to keep up with him, but I like to think we have made some good memories. I guess there will be time to sit still once he is back in the classroom!


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The Summer of Ben

8-13-17Ben has been pretty busy lately being a big brother to his new sibling. He is glued to the little guy while he is over… always looking to help out with him, or hold him. We took the baby and the dog for a walk together the other day and Ben managed the stroller like a champ while I handled Shadow. And when Ben isn’t here, he is always asking for new pictures of his baby brother, and wants to know what Andrew is up to.

Of course, Ben has had a lot of other stuff going on, too. Recently, he got to spend a day with Nana and Poppop at the shore. With all of the babies in the family, we won’t be doing our usual vacation, so it was good for him to get down there and have some fun in the waves. It sounded like he wore out his grandparents, as the waves were a little rough that day. But they all had fun jumping and riding the waves, and then later hitting the boardwalk for a little shopping and fun. I think we all miss our annual time together at the beach this year (especially Poppop), but I’m sure next year will more than make up for it with the new little ones running around.

Ben also made another day trip to the beach with one of his friends, and also got down there on several other occasions to visit his aunts and cousins. Those trips, plus soccer explains why the kid is so tan. During the month of July, Ben played in a 3 on 3 soccer league in town to keep in shape for the fall season. Hard to believe that practices have already started, as we are a month out from the fall travel games.

Otherwise, Ben has been keeping himself busy playing with the kids next door over at Mommy’s house, getting into some new video games, and working on filming content for his YouTube channel. Before Andrew was born, we had bought a new racing game for the Xbox that we are now obsessed with it. In the game, you run a number of races to unlock different models of actual cars to use. Its been fun watching Ben learn all of the different kinds of cars and get excited when we unlock a new Lamborghini or Ferrari. He is also getting really good at picking out specific cars that he sees on the street (something I always took pride in since I was his age).

But at the end of the day, ben is really focused on his little brother. He is already making plans to knock a hole in the wall between their rooms so that they could have a secret door to each other, or better yet, just take out the wall entirely so that they can share a room. (That may sound good to him now, but just wait a few years for when he is in high school). Ben is always quick to lend a hand with the baby around the house, or even cooking up one of his special grilled cheese sandwiches for Maggie and I, if we are too busy with the baby to make lunch. Its been a big adjustment for all of us, but I’m so glad to see Ben get so excited about the new addition.

So it has been a different kind of summer, to say the least. I’m glad that Ben has kept busy and had so much fun. Even though we are starting to see back to school commercials, he still has plenty of more time to have fun and spend some extra time with his brother. Being on leave from work myself these past few weeks makes me wish we could spend every summer just having fun. I miss those days myself, and hope that Ben enjoys every minute of his summertime fun!

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