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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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Living the Dream

8-4-17Welcome back to the world of Ben! Lately, his world has revolved around his little brother, Andrew. If you haven’t already, you can see some pics of the new brothers by clicking here.

I’ll admit that originally, I was a little concerned how Ben would adapt to sharing time with a newborn. For the past ten years, Ben has enjoyed being the center of attention, being an only child and with no cousins near his age on our side of the family. I wanted to make sure that he felt included and got plenty of one-on-one time once Andrew arrived.

Now, after three weeks, I feel kind of silly for worrying about it. Ben has been utterly obsessed with his new brother, wholeheartedly jumping into the role of the older sibling. Any concerns were erased when Ben told me, “You know, people were asking me if I was ready for my younger brother to get all the attention? I just told them, of course I’m ready, that’s how it should be! He should get all of the attention!” And that’s exactly how Ben has approached things as all of our schedules have been thrown into disarray these past several weeks. We have still made time to play video games and Minecraft, but Ben hasn’t complained one bit about all of the times we have had to stop what we are doing to tend to his baby brother. In fact, it’s been just the opposite, with Ben often times throwing out suggestions for things to do with his brother, or asking to just sit and hold him for a bit.

And apparently, Ben has been preparing for and thinking about this for awhile now. Months before Andrew’s arrival, Ben was already planning and shopping for him, picking out clothes and stuffed animals to give him. Just the other day, he was excited to bring over two new outfits that he had helped pick out for his little brother…he couldn’t wait to have him wear them! The dinosaur pajamas in this week’s photo was one of Ben’s picks. You could say that being a big brother has been on Ben’s bucket list for a long time now. Ben explained it to us a little the other night, saying” You know, when Andrew was born, I felt like I finally won the battle between being an only child, and having a little brother or sister that I have always dreamed of!”

You keep living that dream Ben. Andrew is lucky to have the best big brother around!

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Brothers

7-23-17
Welcome back! Finally, at long last, Ben can now say he is a big brother. Two weeks ago today, Ben’s little brother, Andrew, introduced himself to us. He was two weeks early, but I have a feeling that Ben didn’t mind at all, as he has been beyond excited to meet him. First things first we are starting a blog for Andrew that we invite you to read in addition to Ben’s. You can find it here. Also, in celebration of his arrival, and Ben’s new brother status, I have posted a new photo gallery of the two guys bonding for the first time, which you can see here.

Ben requested the photo above, of Andrew’s hand in his. Only two weeks in, its pretty clear that Ben is going to make the best big brother. The day of Andrew’s birth, Ben waited patiently for hours at the hospital. When plans changed, and Andrew came via c-section, Ben was able to see him in the special care nursery, but once again had to wait for his chance to hold him. When that moment finally came, words can’t describe the smile on Ben’s face as he held his brother for the first time.

In the day’s since, it has just been one sweet moment after another. We cam home to hand-made signs that Ben had created to welcome us and Andrew home. Ben has wanted to hold Andrew every chance that he can get, and is already stocking up books and toys that he wants to share with him. He has even gone back through some of his own baby items and hand-picked things that Andrew might like, such as bibs and slippers.

Now that all of the waiting is over, our house finally feels full when both Ben and Andrew are here together. Of course, a newborn baby demands constant attention and time, and through these last two weeks, Ben has been nothing but patient and caring. I know he hasn’t gotten as much time as he is accustomed to with us, which makes how he has handled himself all the more impressive. He is ready at a moment’s notice to lend a hand with his little brother, no matter what the ask is. Ben and I had a memorable adventure changing Andrew’s diaper together last weekend. He never once complained or got grossed out, even when he informed me “Dad, I think you have some poop on your wrist!”

I know I can’t wait to watch Ben grow into his big brother role over these next several years. He is already scoring goals in his soccer game dedicated to Andrew, and he has created several videos set to music of photos of himself and his brother. It warms my heart to see how Ben has taken to the little guy and how much he already cares for him. I will definitely want to capture every one of those moments here, so get ready as a brand new chapter in the Life and Times of Baby Ben is about to get underway!

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7-12-17Hi everyone, hope you are all enjoying the summer as much as Ben is. I don’t know where the time has gone, but somehow Ben’s cousin Eleanor has turned two months old since the last post! To be fair, we are stuck in our own weird sense of the passage of time here, as we await the arrival of Ben’s new little brother. For weeks we were rushing to get things ready, and now time seems to have slowed to a crawl as we are just weeks away from meeting him. Needless to say, Ben is getting just as impatient as the rest of us!

But in that time, life has gone on, and Ben has kept very busy. To weeks ago, we travelled to the beaches of Wildwood for a big beach soccer tournament with Ben’s coach and team. It was an awesome experience especially for Ben, but also for me. We spent several days down on the beach playing soccer, playing with friends at our hotel, on the boardwalk and in the water and amusement parks.

For me, it was a little bittersweet. In years past, Ben would have been asking me to swim in the pool or play games or go on rides. But this time, he spent the entire weekend glued to his friends and having fun with them. I suddenly had some free time to sit and relax on the motel balcony and just watch for the first time. It was a strange feeling, forcing me to realize he is really growing up. But it also made me smile, as I remembered all of the summer fun and memories that I had with my friends when I was his age.Besides a few of those mixed emotions for Dad, it was an awesome weekend. Ben’s team ended up going 1-1-1 for the weekend in some hard-fought games in the sand. We were already talking about next year as we packed up to head home. And the soccer continues, as Ben is now playing in a 3 vs. 3 league over the next several weeks.

Last week, we also celebrated one of my favorite days of the year, the 4th of July. You can go back through past year’s posts to read about what a family tradition this family is, and how much it means to me. This year was no different, and once again it started with the historic local parade. What was different, was that Ben and I got to ride in the back of a truck as part of a float for our church, dressed as super heroes! It lent a new perspective to the parade, and I had a blast with my little sidekick as we flexed and waved to the cheering crowd.

After the parade, it was on to the annual BBQ at my parents house. I was impressed with how Ben made the rounds. Every time I turned around, he seemed to be playing a different game with a different group of friends or family. He was non-stop, moving continuously from swimming, to badminton, to ladder ball, to bean bags, to ping-pong, to nerd gun wars. To top off the day, we had our very own fireworks display in the driveway. It wasn’t anything fantastic, but we laughed and impressed ourselves as we lit up our own show. As is true every year, it was another fun day filled with family and friends that Ben now looks forward to every year almost as much as I do.

And now, here we are, less than 3 weeks out from the big due date, and in a holding pattern. Ben has started practicing holding his baby brother, and moving him from a chair to a crib by using one of his stuffed animals as a stand-in. He excitedly got to feel his brother moving in Maggie’s belly the other night, and the look on his face was priceless. So as the summer floats on, we all are treading water, anxiously waiting to welcome the newest member to our family. In the meantime, we’ll just have to follow Ben’s lead, and keep trying to make the most of the summer!

 

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