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Ben and Eleanor

6-2-17I have been admittedly terrible about keeping up with the blog these past few months. So Ben (if you are reading this years from now), Im sorry if I missed any major milestones during this time, although, I’m fairly certain its been relatively smooth sailing and we’ve covered the big stuff.

However, there are some milestones that I simply can’t skip over, this being one of them: Ben (along with the rest of us) got to welcome his new baby cousin, Eleanor, into the world! Ben has been so excited for his new cousin (and soon, his new brother), and it has been really sweet watching him get to hold her and spend some time with her. I know he is anxious for when she can actually “play” with him, but in the meantime, Ben has made due by reading some of his old favorite books to her.

There is something that just feels ‘right’ about having an Eleanor in our family again, as her name comes from Ben’s great-grandmother (Mommom to me). Even more so, because Ben was named after Mommom’s husband, Bender (Poppop to me). So now, in a way, Ben and Eleanor are here again. I like to think that Mommom and Poppop are both looking down and smiling at that.

So Ben is getting some good practice in for when he will soon become a big brother. And in the meantime, he has been his usual busy self. Spring travel soccer season came to a close, and Ben went out with a bang, scoring goals in his final 3 games (one of them being a penalty kick). Despite a number of rained out games, it was a fun season, and we were all super proud at the improvement in Ben just from last fall. He is like a whole new player out there! And he was excited to have a large cheering section of family in the crowd for the last game. Next up, we travel to the shore for a weekend-long soccer tournament on the beach in late June, and then 3 vs 3 soccer in July. Like I said, he keeps busy!

Ben has also been hard at work creating his own YouTube channel (Please message me privately if you would like to check it out, as we are still being careful about what he puts out there publicly). Ben took it upon himself to create his own channel, where he films, edits, scores, and uploads his own videos (sometimes daily), about all the topics that are most important to him. Some days he will walk you through tutorials for his favorite game, Minecraft. Other days he will show you his newest Pokemon, or test how fast his new fidget spinner spin (if this all sounds like another language to you, don’t worry, I’m still trying to figure it all out myself!).

Through watching other on Youtube, and learning from videos, Ben has impressively taught himself how to edit clips together, use animations, and even create and add his own music (he told me he had to create his own so that he didn’t run into any copyright issues if he used someone else’s song!). And Ben has big goals, with millions of subscribers to his channel, and millions of dollars in mind. I encouraged him to keep having fun and more subscribers would come, but that it takes time and work to spread the word, thinking that maybe he didn’t get how you grow an audience on YouTube. In response he texted me a link to an article he had already found (and read) called “How to Make Money on YouTube”! Not only that, but he took a lunch meeting with one of his more artistic classmates at school to discuss a logo design for his channel. When I suggested that he might know someone who could do a professional logo for him, it took him a second for him to realize that maybe good old Dad could be of some help! No matter what, he is being super creative and having fun making his YouTube videos, and learning a lot along the way. So definitely shoot me a message or email if you would like to check him out?

All in all, life is good, Ben is busy, another school year is coming to an end, and most importantly, our family is growing! We all love getting to know baby Eleanor, and can’t wait to meet Ben’s new sibling in a couple short months. And it’s always nice to think, that while their names are carried on in these young members of our family, that the original Bender and Eleanor are watching and with us for all of the fun as well!

 

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4-24-17
Happy 10th birthday to Ben! Time just seems to be speeding up, and I’m not sure when that little baby on the left turned into that young man on the right. To me, Ben is just Ben, he seems to have always been as he is in the current moment. Its not until I look back through the old photos and movies that it really sinks in just how much he has grown, and just how fast that time has gone by.

These days, Ben is busy finishing up the fourth grade, working hard on the soccer field with his travel team, creating his own Youtube channel, randomly dressing “business casual”, learning to play piano, and writing his own stories. That little baby in the photo on the left has come a long way!

That picture is the first photos of Ben posted to this blog. At that time, I had no idea what kind of person he would become, what he would be into, what kind of personality he would have. He was brand new, and we were all just glad to finally meet him. It seems weird to think back to a time when I was still getting to know Ben.

Flash forward ten years, and it feels like I have known Ben all my life. He is this funny, smart, caring, silly, fun-loving little person. He lights up all of our lives, and its hard to remember a time when he wasn’t here, even though it was just a little over ten years ago. It’s also just as hard to imagine what he will be like in another ten years. What kind of adult will he grow into, where will he be, what will he be doing, what journey will he be on?

Its crazy enough to realize Ben is now ten….its down right scary to start picturing him at twenty! So for now, I choose to love and enjoy every minute with this little ten-year old. Don’t grow up too fast, Ben, but as you do, I can’t wait to be along for the ride every step of the way. Love you buddy, happy birthday!

Big Brother Prep

3-3-17So, we’ve been a little busy around here lately, there is a lot going on. For 2017, our family is growing, and Ben couldn’t be more excited by the news!

First, he can’t wait to gain yet another cousin. Aunt Devon and Uncle Richard will be welcoming baby ‘Sprout’ this spring, and Ben is excited to meet his younger cousin.

And following soon after, Ben will get to take on the role of big brother, when Daddy and Maggie welcome baby ‘Peanut’ later this summer. Ben has been asking for a little brother or sister for awhile now, so to say he is excited by the news would be an understatement.

Ben was happy to hear he would be welcoming a baby brother, but the best thing was he didn’t care if it would be a brother or sister. Ben was just looking forward to playing the role of big brother. He even helped us plan out how we would announce the baby’s gender to Nana and Poppop and Aunt Devon and Uncle Richard. As soon as he found out himself, he has immediately been planning for his baby sibling. To start, Ben went through some of his old books and toys and picked out things that baby Peanut might like. He also went through some of his old baby clothes to pick out some hand-me-downs for his little brother.

But Ben hasn’t stopped there. He recently picked out and purchased a stuffed animal for the baby, proudly presenting it to us as his first gift for the little guy. Ben even gave Maggie and I a couple of his stuffed animals that he deemed ‘baby-sized’ so that we could all practice the proper way to hold a baby! It’s so cute to hear him constantly asking how big the baby is now, or to say goodbye to Peanut when he leaves us.

I have no doubt that Ben will be the best big brother, and it warms my heart to see how excited and loving he already is towards his baby brother. Besides thinking of things to show and teach him, Ben talks about reading to him, or thinks of ways that he could help Maggie while she is busy caring for the baby. I think Ben has already gone around the house looking for possible hazards for baby Peanut, and telling me that we need to get those little outlet protector covers! This kid is too much! Ben has even looked way into the future and talked about how by the time his brother is his age, Ben could pick him up from school for us.It has all been really fun to watch and hear.

So the preparation for baby Peanut will probably continue to take up a good part of this blog, as it has become a big part of Ben’s life right now. But there is plenty of other stuff that Ben has going on, too, so check back for all the updates as spring soccer season is about to start, and Ben has plenty more adventures with his friends and families coming up!

Rolling into 2017

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Looking back through the blog, you start to see some of the same posts repeating each year, making fun to see how times change. Outside of holidays, birthdays and yearly vacations, there is one recurring post that I always look forward to each year. Realizing I have missed a few weeks to start 2017, there was no way that I could leave out the Car Show post!

If they had blogs 30-some years ago, you probably would have seen my dad posting about taking me to the Car Show. Every year, in the middle of winter, I always looked forward to that trip with my dad into the city to see and explore all of the cars. As I grew older, friends started making the trip with us, but it was always at its core a dad and son event. So of course, when Ben came along, we didn’t waste anytime introducing him to the tradition.

Its been quite a few years since Ben made his first trip to the show in his stroller. This year, he was on a mission to find his favorite car, the Nissan GT-R (shown above). He wasn’t disappointed, as he brought his phone along to snap a number of photos of his sporty favorite.I told Ben if he wanted one, he better keep doing well in school and get a good job, as this particular model had a sticker price of $112,000. Ben informed me that I shouldn’t worry, because two of his favorite YouTube stars each have a GT-R, so it was all part of his plan.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Ben’s curiosity with even the most mundane details of some of the cars. We were checking out a lot of SUVs, and while I was busy sitting in the driver’s seat, Ben was more concerned with figuring out how to open the tailgates so he could see how much storage space was available! He has also never lost his interest in opening every single cubby and hidden storage panel that he could find in each vehicle.

This year, we were also on a mission to find pop pop his Lexus SUV.It may have been those Christmas commercials where someone gets a Lexus with a big red bow as a surprise gift, but Poppop has really been focused on these luxury SUVs as of late. We found them at the show, and Poppop got a good look at his dream ride up close. For fun we even sent a picture to Nana and told her Poppop had made a purchase and was driving home in one. That wouldn’t be as much of a surprise as you think…as every time I have gone car shopping with Poppop, we have driven home in a new car!

But the real fun of the car show for us is the tradition. Without fail, I always get Ben to pose for a picture with a Camaro. And Poppop always finds a display of custom rims to have Ben pose in front of. You will see these same shots back through the previous Auto Show posts on here…all the way back to a few of Ben in his stroller checking out the cars. Between me and my dad, I’m not sure if we have missed a show in the last 35 years or so. But now, we mostly just let Ben lead the way, and enjoy watching him get excited and hear him talk about all of the different cars and features that he discovers.

This year was no different, as the three of us had a great night together, full of lots of memories, new and old.As we piled into my car for the ride home, we talked about our favorites and listened to Ben go on about the GT-R and how he was going to show the kids at school the photos he took on his phone. I couldn’t help thinking about how times have changed, and also how much they have stayed the same… just us guys checking out some cool cars. And then it occurred to me, that next year this annual trip will evolve a little more, as we will have a new little guy joining us for the Car Show. At this time next year, Ben will have a new  little brother to lead around the show…and the tradition continues. But more on that little bit of news next week!

 

A Magical Christmas

12-30-16With all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the rushing around shopping and trying to get things ready, sometimes, you just need a 9-year-old to help bring you back to the real spirit of things. I found myself doing that a lot this Christmas season, as there has just been a lot going on. When things got a little too crazy, all I had to do was check in with Ben on his Christmas countdown, and his excitement and anticipation was contagious. A lot of what we did these past few weeks was to make Christmas special for him, but I don’t think he realizes how special he made Christmas (and this whole yearn really) for us.

As with everything, Ben made the most of his time leading up to Christmas. Of course, his elf SnowWorld was back and up to all kinds of mischief. This year, Ben bought the elf a pet dog, to thank him for all the fun he brings.Among other activities, Ben went to his town’s Christmas celebration on main street, he also went to a nearby historical fort where they recreated “A Soldier’s Christmas”, showing what the holidays were like for those men and women who were in the battlefield.

There was also a trip to see Santa at the mall, and a night spent riding around with Nana and Poppop looking at Christmas lights. Ben did his own Christmas shopping as the special holiday store set up at school, taking great care to pick out gifts for his family members. As always, there was Christmas Eve dinner at our house, and then the annual party with Mommy and friends where Santa stops by to give out a few early presents. With each event, Ben had the countdown to the big day going in his head, even down to the hour as Christmas drew closer.

With all of the fun and excitement, there were several moments shared with Ben that really stood out to me. The first, was Ben, Maggie and I getting to light the advent wreath during church the last Sunday before Christmas. I remember at one point when I was younger being up there with my parents and sister, reading the scripture and lighting the candles. It was especially meaningful to now share that moment with my family, and to hear Ben do such an awesome job with his reading.

Another moment I’ll remember is Christmas Eve dinner, the first at our new house. With the tree lit, and the decorations all around, it felt really special to have our family together in this new space. Ben was all smiles, hanging hi stocking, preparing a plate of cookies and a note for Santa, and saying the prayer before dinner. Earlier in the day, he even accompanied us as we took Maggie’s parents to Catholic mass.

And finally, I think of Ben and his gifts. I don’t mean the ones he received, but the ones he gave out. He definitely did well this Christmas, with some of his favorites being a new phone of his own, a Nintendo 3DS, a mini pool table, a Gigaball, a keyboard, and too many Pokemon to count! But what really sticks in my mind is what happened when he first came over on Christmas morning. He came in the door and gave everyone a big hug, and then turned to find a huge pile of gifts in front of the tree. But instead of tearing into his presents, Ben went right to the pile of gifts that he had bought, and proceeded to hand them out to everyone. Not only that, but he then stood and waited so that he could watch everyone open their present. It really touched me that he was more excited to see people’s reactions to what he got them, then to find out what was in all of those boxes for him.

That moment in a nutshell pretty well sums up the impact that Ben has on our Christmas. You can’t help but smile and feel the spirit when he is going around doing things like that. All the shopping, preparation, the lights, the baking, the late nights wrapping….its all worth it to see the smile on his face and to share this special time of the year with our family. I hope everyone else was able to enjoy this magical time of year.

And with that, another year is soon coming to an end. In the next blog, we’ll recount Ben’s 2016, which was packed with memories and big events. But for now, Ben and all of us wish each of you a happy and healthy new year!

 

23 Days to go

12-2-16So a few things have happened since the last post, Daddy has been slacking on the blogging!

For one thing, there was the little issue of the presidential election. Ben didn’t back any certain candidate, in fact, I think he would have voted ‘none of the above’ if he was able. In fact, the day after the election, Ben’s class was having a discussion, and Ben told everyone that “he would be happy going the next four years with no president!” I’m thinking that he was on to something, as no president might be better than what we got, but this isn’t a political blog, so onto more fun things.

Ben’s travel soccer team wrapped up their season with a couple strong games, and Ben finally broke through with a couple of scores! In fact, in the last game, Ben came out on fire, racking up an assist and a goal in the first half, and earning some high fives from his coach as he ran down the sideline. It was a great end to what was an awesome first season in the travel league for Ben. The change in him has been unbelievable. When he used to complain about having to practice, now he seems to always have a soccer ball at his feet, even working on his footwork up in his bedroom. Next up is a winter indoor league, and before we know it the spring season. And even further off in the future, Ben was asked to play in a beach soccer tournament with the team next summer. We couldn’t be more proud!

We also just celebrated one of Ben’s favorite holidays, Thanksgiving. Ben gets excited because he gets to see a lot of relatives that w don’t get to hang out with throughout the year. This year, he helped Nana make table decorations filled with treats for everyone. He brought magic tricks to entertain everyone before and after dinner, and as always he was pumped up for the annual backyard football game after dinner. He even had a chance to show his cousin Eric some of the soccer moves he has been working on lately. Needless to say, it was a great day with family, and Ben was worn out by the end of the night.

And no sooner was all the turkey gone, then Ben’s focus turns to the Christmas countdown. He reminds us each day how much time is left. And just a few days ago, that crazy elf showed up again, and I’m sure will be up to all sorts of trouble in the coming weeks. Ben doesn’t waste any time, as he already went to see Santa Clause with Nana and Poppop yesterday and made sure to let him know of a few things at the top of his wish list. So let the countdown begin, and if you lose track, just ask Ben and he will tell you exactly how many days are left until his favorite day of the year!

Enter the Snorlax

11-4-16Since the last post, Halloween has come and gone and while no one was really getting tricked, Ben did have a lot of fun treats.

We tend to go all-in for Halloween, and this year was no different. We kicked things off a few weeks back by spending a day on the farm, taking a hayride, picking out our pumpkin, finding our way through the corn maze, and of course getting some apple cider and donuts!

Later hat same night, Ben decided he was ready to see what a haunted hayride was like, so he, Maggie and I took a little drive south to a place that sounded like it offered some family-friendly scares. Make no mistake, this was a real haunted hayride, with people in costume jumping out of nowhere to scare the crap out of you as the tractor pulls you through the dark woods from one set piece to the next. There were creatures, zombies, people with chainsaws… but Ben had a blast! I think we might have been laughing as much as screaming through the whole ride. I was worried that Ben’s imagination might run a little wild, but he had as much fun as us getting scared and watching the other people on the ride react to what was happening. Some of the actors would even give him a high five after they got us really good. Ben says he is ready to step up to something more intense next year, so we’ll see.

While Ben’s mom was hard at work sewing his official costume (more on that in a bit), we were invited to an 80’s Halloween party at my friend’s house. While I went as Prince and Maggie dressed up as an 80’s girl, we outfitted Ben in a red Devo hat and played the “Whip It” video to give him a little background. He loved it, and even suggested bringing along his toy guitar to complete the outfit.

Meanwhile, the finishing touches were being put on Ben’s request for his costume this year: The Snorlax. Snorlax is one of Ben’s favorite Pokemon (you should have seen his face the day he got one in Pokemon Go). So he was beyond excited to dress up as his favorite character. Also, in the spirit of Pokemon, we decided to carve out pumpkin in the likeness of another one of his favorites, Gangar. If all this is sounded like a foreign language to you, don’t worry, you aren’t alone!

With the costume completed, it was time for a sentimental moment this Halloween season: Ben’s last ever school Halloween parade. Since he was in preschool, Ben’s schools have always invited the parents over for an event as the kids would parade around outside in their costume, waving to the crowd that gathered and smiling for photos. I don’t think I have missed a single one. So there were a lot of thoughts crossing my mind as that Snorlax came walking down the sidewalk with his class this year. I don’t know where the time has gone. Next year, instead of a parade, they have a costume dance. Ben’s friend seemed a little concerned when he heard this, but it was funny to hear Ben lean in and assure him “Don’t worry, it’s not that kind of dance!”

Finally, the big night was here, and it was time to go get some candy! Like last year, Ben wanted to make the rounds with his friend Preston, so we headed over his way to fill our candy bags. Seeing the two of them going door to door, laughing and checking how heavy their bags were, it reminded me a lot of goring trick-or-treating with my friend Matt when we were younger. But I swear I remember us moving faster, staying out longer, refilling our bags several times. Maybe my memory is just embellishing things, but I kept coaching Ben and Preston to pick up the pace and keep going. At times I think they were more concerned with what Pokemon I was catching on my phone as we went along. But it was a fun night, Ben had a blast, and I realize that it won’t be long until they don’t even need me following them around out there. So I made sure to enjoy every moment myself.

And for all of us, that was pretty much the theme for this entire Halloween season: enjoy each and every moment. Ben made some great memories together this year. The Snorlax came and went, just like all of the other costumes that I can look back on in the years of photos and posts….the pirate, the ninja, the parrot, iron man, the little skunk. The costumes come and go, the parades may be over, but we’ll always have those memories…and a closet full of kids costumes if any one needs them!