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Big Ben

6-24-18It’s been too long, so let’s dive right in to all things Ben!

The big news is Ben is now officially a sixth grader! School ended just last week, and fifth grade is in the books. It took a little adjusting at the beginning of the year, but Ben did an awesome job finishing the school year strong. Ben spent the year learning math, science, and history. He kept up his love of reading, and especially enjoyed his art classes, where he created a pretty cool mosaic for Nana and Poppop. There were plenty of games of 4-square on the playground, and Ben continued to solidify his group of friends. Overall, it was a big year for Ben, but he is excited to get summer underway.

This time of year also brings Ben’s annual piano recital, and this year he stepped up to play two songs, one being one of the longer songs he has attempted to play, the Cantina Theme from Star Wars. He couldn’t have played both songs better, and even though getting him to practice can sometimes be difficult, we look forward to hearing some more great music from Ben.

The beginning of summer also brings with it a little break in the soccer season for Ben. He had a great spring season, scoring several goals, and growing in his confidence and skills. To finish the season, he just played in the Beach Blast tournament down on the beaches of Wildwood. While the team had a bit of a rough time in their games, Ben played hard, adding a goal, and even getting to play a little in goal. Now he gets a few weeks off before practice starts again to get ready for the fall.

Of all the things he is up to, one of the things that puts the biggest smile on Ben’s face is when he gets to play with his little brother and cousin. This past Father’s Day, the three of them got an afternoon together and it was fun to watch. For one thing, Andrew’s face lights up any time his big brother is around. And now that Andrew is more mobile, Ben gets a big kick out of having him chase him around the living room. When you had cousin Eleanor to the mix, its fun to watch the three of them play. Ben is definitely a great big brother and older cousin, and really enjoys the time he gets to spend with the little ones.

But now, Ben’s mind is on summer, and this will be his first full week without school. Time for the 4th of July, beach vacations, fireworks in town, playing with his friends, swimming with Nana and Poppop, and definitely some more time with his little brother and cousin. Life is good right now for Big Ben.

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Another year older

5-16-18Slacking again here, as we are a few weeks late on one of the biggest days of the year for Ben: his birthday!

A few weeks back, the not-so-little guy turned 11! And as further proof that he is growing up, it looks like we have moved on from the large-scale kid parties. This year, Ben opted to have a handful of his friends join him for a sleepover at Nana and Poppop’s house. As a little pre-game fun, we took them to the local trampoline park to jump around and work out some energy.

Back at he grandparent’s house, the guys had fun playing soccer and 4-square outside as Dad grilled up some burgers and dogs for everyone (per Ben’s request). One of the highlights for me, was when we brought out the cake after dinner. Ben and his buddies have been obsessed with a new online game called Fortnite (actually, I may be a bit obsessed myself). As part of the fun, I Photoshopped Ben’s face onto a scene from the game and had it primed on the cake. His and his friends’ reactions were priceless!

After some cake and presents, it was down into the basement, where we had set up two TVs and two Xboxes, so they could all play Fortnite until they passed out. Which is exactly what they did (which took until about 1 or so in the morning). The next morning, there was Dunkin Donuts, and some time for a little more 4-square out back before the parents arrived one by one to pick everyone up.

It was definitely a success, and Ben had a blast. Even more, it was fun for the adults as we got to watch Ben and his friends have a great time. For me personally, it brought back memories of a sleepover birthday party that I had at the same age, in the same room downstairs at my parent’s house. It also reminded me that Ben is getting older, and these little parties with his friends won’t go on forever.

To top things off, Ben had a soccer game later that next day, and ended up scoring his first goal of the year! He would follow it up a couple weeks later with another one on Mother’s Day, which he said was dedicated to all of the moms out there.

Besides birthdays and soccer, Ben has been keeping busy with school, his piano lessons, and spending time with his little brother Andrew. He is also excited to have his new room just about complete over at Mommy’s house, and he is looking forward to the local carnivals which will be coming up soon. And of course, summer and no school isn’t too far behind that. I would say life is good for the brand new 11-year-old!

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4-13-18Welcome back! We are well on our way into Spring (although you wouldn’t know it by the weather today), and once again Dad has been slacking with the updates, so lets dive in!

Ben has always been excited for Easter, and this year he got to spend it with a couple new little eggs for the first time! Brother Andrew and cousin Eleanor weren’t quite sure to make of all of the eggs, bunnies, baskets, crosses, church, candy and fake green grass, but Ben was more than happy to show them the ropes! Ben even got to help out with the children’s sermon at church (although he didn’t’ know it beforehand). Pastor Charlie tried to crack an egg on Ben’s head as part of the message. Luckily, it was just an empty shell, but enough to get a good reaction out of the little guy. Between going to church, opening Easter presents and spending some family time with the little ones, I think Ben would say it was a fun Easter.

Spring also means we are back out on the soccer field to watch Ben and his travel team. Mother Nature has had a few things to say about that, as we have had two games snowed-out already. This weekend was a great example, as we had beautiful (and hot) high 70’s weather on Saturday, but cold, wet and 40’s on Sunday for Ben’s soccer game. Nevertheless, Ben and the team were out there playing hard to another win, and are still undefeated on the season.

Ben has also found another video game obsession, in the online game Fortnite, where he can team up with his friends to take on dozens of other players in a battle royal where only one team or player can be left standing. Its a fun game that involves strategy, teamwork, choosing the correct weapons and building forts and protection as you battle the other players. Ben and his friends can play together from their own homes, and talk to each other as they play and strategize. It reminds me of exactly the kind of game I would have wanted to play with my friends when I was Ben’s age, if we had Xbox and online multi-player games like this! Needless to say, Ben slowly got me sucked into it, and now I may or may not stay up and play some games myself at night when I have the chance.

In the meantime, we also celebrated Aunt Devon and Nana’s birthdays, and next up is Ben’s birthday later this month. That starts a string of birthdays, leading up to his little brother’s big first birthday in July. Ben might be as excited for Andrew’s birthday as he is for his own. He is constantly hugging, holding and playing with his little brother. Its really sweet to see Ben in the role of big brother, and its already clear that as he gets older, Andrew is going to idolize him. We have already warned Ben to use his powers for good, because his little brother is going to do anything he says!

So Spring is off to a busy and fun start! We are just a couple weeks away from Ben’s birthday and he is excited to celebrate. The rest of us are left wondering when and how we suddenly will have an 11-year-old on our hands!? It seems like yesterday he was Andrew’s age and now he is just a couple years away from being a teenager. While the time has seemed to fly by, I have enjoyed every minute of watching him grow into the fun, intelligent kid that he is now, and I can’t wait to see what he gets up to next.

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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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