January 2014 Photo Album

There’s sixty more photos online in the January 2014 album. I’m amazed at how many photos we captured of Jonas climbing on things. He’s still just as active today (if not more).

I can also tell that a lot of these were taken with my old iPhone 3GS that has much poorer quality than my current iPhone 5S.

Looking at this particular picture makes me long for another trip to Minnesota and a big family breakfast at the pancake house. Yum.
Pancake Kids

WHERE HAVE I BEEN? December 2013 Photos

For whatever reason, the site has gone without update for 6+ months, and I am almost a year behind on photo albums.

December 2013 seems like ages ago. Jonas was walking and exploring, but he was nowhere near as interactive as he is now.

We celebrated Eliana’s third birthday. Back then, an afternoon nap was the norm for her. Today, it’s the exception.

Thankfully, I’ve been quite regular in updating the kids’ mailing list pages (though sometimes a day or two late), so you can use those to watch the kids grow up until I get caught up on photos.
Eliana’s Mailing List (messages every month from 2010-2012 and every three months after that)
Jonas’ Mailing List (messages every month so far)
FamilyPicture_Dec2013

Adventures in Fatherhood, Part 4

My adventure was done two weeks ago, and just now I’m posting details of the final day. That’s how it goes.

It was a beautiful day. The kids were up in plenty of time for me to get them dressed and fed before Eliana had to go to preschool. Jonas refused to sit in his chair at the kitchen table, but he did okay sitting in my lap.

Aunt Sue came over and watched Jonas for the morning. She also brought lunch for all of us, which was much appreciated. We made it to preschool with time to spare, so Eliana and I walked around, looked at the fishies in the fish tank, and had exploring-type fun for a few minutes until the teacher arrived.

I headed over to the company fitness center, right next to the child care center, for a few miles on the treadmill. In hindsight, I could have run outside on the available trails, but I didn’t think of it until I was done. In any case, I managed to go running all four days during which Jenelle was in Mexico. Yay.

My original post-run plan was to go to Panera for a bagel before grocery shopping. I simplified things a bit by going straight to Pick N Save and buying just a muffin. I sat on the bench outside the store, ate the muffin, and then went back in for more groceries. Yeah, that worked. And I probably saved a little money, too. 🙂

For whatever reason, Eliana was very happy to see me after preschool. I don’t think she had a lousy time at preschool — she really enjoys it — but I got quite a big hug when I arrived to pick her up.

Back home, Jonas was also happy to see me. He was crying when I left. Aunt Sue said that he was pretty tired, so as soon as Sue left, I quickly got Eliana set up with some lunch and a TV show before heading upstairs to put Jonas to bed. Sue gave him most of the bottle, so I gave him just a few more ounces in the hopes that would speed along the process.

Jonas did not want to sleep. Despite calming him down and laying him gently in his crib, he popped back up, and he cried / screamed for 20-30 minutes before I went back up and got him, made one more try, and had no success. Eliana had been patiently waiting for me to take her outside, so I decided that Jonas would be coming along. One nice thing is that I was able to eat lunch while Jonas was upstairs sleeping.

I am writing this next sentence specifically for Jenelle. I let the kids play in the dirt and get all messy. I tend to hover and be a lot more hands-on when I am watching the kids outside, attempting to minimize any potential injuries / spills / post-playtime clean-up needs. Jenelle would probably just open the back patio door and let them do whatever while she attended to important housework. I actually like that we are very different in our approaches, as we can learn from each other.

Playing in the dirt

Playing in the dirt

We got another playhouse recently, because our neighbors three doors down put it on the curb. Yay for free stuff. Now there’s no hurry to get the other one up from the basement.

Eliana in the new playhouse

Eliana in the new playhouse

Jonas loving it outside

Jonas loving it outside

After approximately an hour of outdoor fun, we headed back in and got cleaned up. I also tidied up the house as best I could, because I had company coming that evening in the form of our small group Bible study. While we took it easy in the late afternoon, nobody got any naps. The kids were still pretty happy, though I could tell Jonas was fussier than usual.

Next up, a trip to Papa Murphy’s to pick up pizzas for the group. It’s only a five-minute drive, so I had no concerns about anyone falling asleep on the way. The pizzas were ready when we arrived. I set the kids down, paid for them, and was about to head out, but then I noticed Eliana and Jonas sitting calmly on the bench, both super-smiley. Rather then rush them back to the car, I sat next to them. Jonas would occasionally stand on the bench and look out the windows. I was engaged in a conversation with Eliana, but I don’t recall what it was about. This moment of relaxation lasted so long that the store employees asked what I was waiting for. “Oh, nothing, just hanging out for a bit. Thanks, though.” We left a minute or two later, and I still had lots of time to get ready for the evening group gathering.

Relaxing at Papa Murphy's

Relaxing at Papa Murphy’s

Thanks to Jeni, who came a bit early to help watch the kids and do some other preparatory tasks before the cavalry arrived. I made one of the three pizzas so that the kids could have dinner ahead of time, and they also enjoyed the kettle corn that Jeni brought. Jonas still wouldn’t sit in his chair, but once again I managed.

With the house in good shape and plenty of adults to cover the kids, the meeting went very well. The two moments I remember the most:
1) Kristin successfully keeping Jonas away from me for a little while so that I could tend to the pizzas in the oven. He was especially clingy because of not having a nap, so this was not an easy task — thanks!
2) The arrival of Rich and Maryke. For whatever reason, Eliana does not like Rich. She was playing in the family room having a wonderful time when she suddenly scurried up to me and requested in a quiet voice, “Daddy, hold me.” She seemed really scared. I held her as I queried the group, “Did anyone see what happened?” The voice of Rich from the family room — “Uh, I think I can explain that” — made it clear. Eliana must have bolted once she caught a glimpse of Rich as he came in the front door. To Eliana’s credit, she did sit in my lap for a while later that evening while Rich was sitting ten feet away from me.

Putting the kids to bed was very easy, since they didn’t get any sleep earlier in the day. Everyone in the small group was gone by 9, and I had plenty of time to clean the house up before I left to pick up Jenelle at the airport. Thanks to my friend, Mark, for coming over late on Tuesday night just in case the kids woke up while I was gone. They didn’t.

I was ready for Jenelle just outside security at the Milwaukee airport. She had a huge smile on her face as she approached me. It reminded me of when we were dating, and I’d pick her up when she flew back from Oregon in late summer / early fall for her upcoming year at Northwestern.

We had to wait a while for our bags, but that gave us more time to chat and catch up. She had a wonderful time in Mexico, and I had a wonderful time with the kids.

So, that sums up my four-day adventure. I would be more than happy to have another adventure like this in the near future.

Adventures in Fatherhood, Part 3

The first two days of my ‘single father’ experience were a warm-up for the last two days. While I had plenty of family support on Saturday and Sunday, it would be limited on Monday and Tuesday. This was by design; while I could have leaned more on Bubba and GrandPat, I really wanted to build my own self-confidence as a parent.

My plan for Monday, April 7 was pretty simple. Find things to do with the kids (besides sit around the house), and take it slowly.

It’s taken me a while to find the time to write these recaps, so I don’t recall exactly when the kids got up or what I gave them for breakfast. It was most likely an average wake-up time (around 7:00 a.m.) followed by cereal, pancakes, waffles, yogurt, fruit, or some combination of those. With no serious morning issues, I set out on my task to take the kids swimming at the company pool, which is about a 25-minute drive to the north.

I did some packing the night before, and I verified on the company web site that the pool was open on Monday morning. I was a bit worried that our visit would coincide with a group from the child care center, but I figured I could manage with just two little ones. How can I handle two non-swimmers by myself in a pool, you ask? Well, there’s both a typical swimming pool and a wading pool for kids. It’s no more than two feet deep, so I would be able to comfortably monitor both kids.

I had no trouble loading up the car with the kids and all the stuff needed for swimming (suits, towels, clothes, swim diaper for J, snacks/drinks for after). I did forget the kids’ ID cards, but that was no issue since I had my ID. I used the family restroom, and we had a calm environment in which to get changed at a leisurely pace. We made our way through the locker room and into the pool area. I was carrying Jonas, and Eliana was walking beside me. It was at that point that I was hit with the biggest setback of the day.

WADING POOL CLOSED FOR CLEANING

A combination of anger and sadness welled up in me, as Eliana was already trying to open the gate to get in to the half-drained wading pool. With relatively few people around on a Monday morning, a lifeguard (probably late teens / early 20s) quickly noticed my predicament and walked toward me. While keeping Eliana near me, I asked the lifeguard why the wading pool was closed, and he said that they periodically clean and drain it if the ‘chemical balance’ is off. I knew that the situation was beyond his control, but that didn’t really ease my frustration. Attempting to stay calm, I explained that I had no other option — I couldn’t support both kids in the regular pool, which is four feet deep on the shallow side — and asked if there was anything he could do to help. His answer was an apologetic no.

Had this been an issue where a kid did something in the wading pool that requires an immediate cleaning (which has happened before), I probably would have been more understanding, but the fact that the wading pool was closed for a non-urgent matter when it was supposed to be open really ticked me off.

I contemplated asking the lifeguard or one of his colleagues to carry one of the kids. Some of the other staff on hand became aware of the situation, and one of them came to the rescue and brought out a foam noodle and a swimming aid that Eliana could wear on her back. For those not familiar, it is four foam blocks, each about eight inches by ten inches by one inch thick, that are connected with a strap that fastens to the child’s mid-section. If I could get Eliana to wear it, I would just have to hold her hand in the water, as the foam blocks would support most of her weight.

The amazing thing about this whole ordeal is how Eliana remained calm and even-tempered. I was fully expecting her to have a tantrum or break out in tears (or both) at the thought of no kiddie pool. She was willing to go in the big pool, despite how excited we all were about the kiddie pool; we had been talking about it Sunday night and all morning. She wore the swimming aid without a single complaint. While I held Jonas, she could still jump in from the side, swim next to me, and have all kinds of fun. There were some toys typically reserved for the kiddie pool that we used in the big pool. There were no other kids around — just some retirees using the jacuzzi and a few ladies doing aquacise — so the three of us had a very large area all to ourselves.

Jonas was having a great time too. He liked kicking his feet, splashing around, and sharing the toys with Eliana. When he got tired and wanted out, Eliana played by the stairs in the pool so that I didn’t have to be right next to her. I still watched her closely, but I was thrilled how she was making the best of an unfortunate situation. I gave as much time as she wanted (no rush, remember?), and she eventually decided that she’d had enough swimming, and we headed back to the family restroom.

While Eliana took a hot shower (which is available in the family restroom), I took my time getting Jonas and me dressed. After that, it was easy to get Eliana ready to go. Before we left, we spent more time at the indoor playground near the pool. We once again had the place to ourselves. It was great for them to have so much space to run around. Jonas could do one of slides all by himself, and Eliana was doing a great job of helping him climb and being a wonderful big sister.

So, what could have been a disaster turned out very, very well. I’m going to call ahead about the kiddie pool the next time I plan a trip like this.

Jonas quickly fell asleep on the car ride home. While he napped, Eliana stayed awake listening to the Frozen soundtrack and munching on snacks. I stopped for gasoline, picked up a package at a nearby post office, and made it home without Jonas waking up, and without Eliana falling asleep. My string of successes continued when I was able to transfer Jonas to his crib and keep him in ‘nap mode’. This allowed me to focus on lunch for Eliana and me, and it gave us some quality father-daughter time. Jonas continued to sleep while Eliana and I relaxed on the couch watching her favorite shows. Soon enough, Eliana was ready for a nap herself. For roughly half an hour, all three of us were asleep. That’s what an active Monday morning will do for you. 🙂

Eliana resting after plenty of morning pool time

Eliana resting after plenty of morning pool and play time


Soon after our naps were over, my dad called asking if I needed any help. I happily responded that I was doing great. The only other challenge I recall from Monday is that Jonas would not sit in his chair at the kitchen table, which meant that I had to hold him while I fed him, or just give him some finger food on a plate or in a bowl and set it on one of the tables in the family room. No big deal.

Before she left, Jenelle recorded some videos of her reading books. These were a great help — not just at bedtime — as the kids still got face time with Mommy. Eliana and Jonas enjoyed watching these a few times over. I’m thankful that the kids were not missing Mommy too much.

After the kids went to sleep, I successfully completed four miles on the basement treadmill, tidied up the house a bit, and went to bed at a fairly reasonable time. Three days down, one to go!

Adventures in Fatherhood, Part 2

Both kids were up around 6:30 on Sunday morning, April 6. Too early for me, but I managed. With a clean house, I was able to get through the morning routines fairly quickly (get dressed, eat breakfast, pack up stuff for church), with a little help from Fireman Sam, a British kids cartoon that Eliana has been watching a lot lately.

With everyone ready to go a bit earlier than expected, I kept things moving by heading for the early (9:00 a.m.) service at church. I missed the first song and the announcements, but I successfully dropped each child off in their respective child care rooms. Jonas always gets pretty upset, but there was only one other kid in the nursery, so I had a feeling he’d calm down fairly easily. Eliana was already playing with toys in the 2-4 year-olds room before I could say ‘bye’. It was nice to relax and enjoy the service. I missed Jenelle, but I was happy for some kid-free time.

Eliana's church outfit (she picked it out)

Eliana’s church outfit (she picked it out)

Jonas' church outfit

Jonas’ church outfit

About ten minutes into the message (sermon), I got a text to come and pick up Jonas. This had never happened before. The basic response from the nursery staff was that they were unable to calm him down. While I was hoping they would have kept trying, given that I provided a bag full of diapers, water, snacks, etc., perhaps he was a bit out of sorts from a mommy-free weekend. So, I took him and walked around the building with him for a while. He seemed to enjoy that. I didn’t pick up Eliana until the service was over, so that she got the full amount of playtime with her friends.

On the way home, the much-hyped trip to the bakery was a success. Eliana had her purse and her money, so she treated us all to donuts. She did a great job telling the clerk what she wanted, handing her the money, and saying ‘thank you’. So cute.

With the weather fairly decent, my parents invited us over for a cookout for dinner. When I mentioned this to Eliana, she was ready to head over to Bubba and GrandPat’s house right away. I think it had something to do with the fact that they have a pink Power Wheels jeep that she can drive around their yard. The kids stuff was already packed for a trip. I added enough to get us through the whole day — including toothbrushes, pajamas, and an overnight diaper for Jonas — and we made our way over. I also packed my bag with running clothes, as the neighborhood where my parents live is pretty nice for a relaxing jog.

I include the next paragraph in an effort to be a bit more transparent about the daily challenges of parenting. I did pretty well while Jenelle was away, but here’s an example of where I have room for improvement.

When we got there, for a reason I can’t explain, Eliana ran away from my parents’ house and toward a small hill that we sometimes use for sledding in the winter. It was strange and confusing, because nobody was over there, and she moved rather quickly. I was in the process of getting Jonas out of the car, so I handed him off quickly to my dad. I sprinted after Eliana so that she wouldn’t get too far past the hill. I eventually caught up to her and scolded her in a typical freaked-out parent voice — you know, ‘What were you doing’ ‘You scared me!’ ‘Don’t run away like that.’ — which of course, made her upset, because she didn’t see the big deal with playing over there. It’s pretty far from the road, and she’s gone over there before. Anyway, I think I could have done a better job of talking to her about it more calmly, so that I could learn why she darted away.

Anyway, Eliana was still ready to drive around in the jeep, so I chased her around the house a few times. She still hasn’t quite gotten the hang of steering this or any other vehicle, but we’re hoping to make great progress in the weeks ahead. Jonas tagged along for a while. My dad made french toast and bacon for lunch, which the kids enjoyed.

Cruising around in the jeep

Cruising around in the jeep

Getting Jonas to nap in the crib at my parents’ house is no easy task. I think it took 90 minutes or so of on-and-off holding him, leaving him to cry in the crib, consoling him a little more, leave him again, etc. before he finally fell asleep. As you can imagine, we were close to giving up, but with the beneficial 3:2 adult-to-kids ratio, we were not overly frustrated.

Eliana was having fun both inside and out, so we didn’t even bother to get her to nap. While Jonas slept, I got out for a nice ten-mile run. It was a bit windy, but otherwise conditions were near-perfect. I had planned for twelve miles, but Eliana was starting to miss me and went walking with Bubba to find me in the subdivision. So, I stopped and walked back to the house with the two of them. This gave Eliana the opportunity for a “swing” ride where she holds one hand of each adult so she can be lifted up in the air and swung back and forth. Fun times.

Dinner was wonderful — hot dogs, chicken, and plenty of other things to make sure the kids get their fill. Again, the presence of two other adults makes meal time much simpler. Before heading back home, I made all preparations for the kids to fall asleep (pajamas, brush teeth, all that). However, Jonas’ nap ended up a bit late, so I was not surprised when he remained awake. I was surprised, though, that Eliana did not fall asleep, since she was up early and didn’t nap at all.

Jonas' Sunday night pajamas (a gift from Gail & Mike)

Jonas’ Sunday night pajamas (a gift from Gail & Mike)

Bedtime was pretty easy. Jonas took a bit of extra consoling, but Eliana was out in moments after her books, prayers, and songs. I went to bed fairly early, ready to take on Monday, which would be a more challenging test of my abilities, since there were no plans to visit my parents or any other helpers. Two days down, two to go!

Funny conversation from Sunday:
My mom: “Do you think you’ll be okay tomorrow?”
Me: “Sure, Jenelle does it all the time.”
My mom: “You know, if you need to go to the bathroom or something, Dad can stop by your place after work.”
Me: “Um… nah, I’m just going to hold it all day. Thanks, though.”

Adventures in Fatherhood, Part 1

I had the special blessing of spending four days as the primary caregiver for Eliana and Jonas while Jenelle took a much-deserved vacation to Mexico with a friend.

The fun started early on Saturday morning, April 5. My dad stayed with the kids while I took Jenelle to O’Hare. When I got home, Jonas had just woken up, and Eliana was still asleep. After a quick shower, my dad left for a Saturday morning work responsbility, and I was officially ‘on my own’ with the kids.

Saturday’s plan was pretty straight-forward. Aunt Gail and Uncle Mike, who live near Madison, invited the whole family over for a late lunch to visit them and their daughter (my cousin), Laura, who was making a visit to Wisconsin from her home in Canada. My parents joined me on the two-hour trip, which made things easier for me.

I packed the kids into the Highlander with plenty of rations for the day. Two backup sets of clothes, pajamas, enough milk for two bottles for Jonas, plenty of snacks and drinks, and plenty of miscellaneous supplies. Also critical was the soundtrack from Frozen in the CD player. I think every girl between the ages of 2 and 7 is really into this movie right now. After a quick stop to pick up my parents and one last potty break for Eliana, we were on our way!

The kids were pretty good in the car. My mom kept Jonas occupied, and Eliana was full of smiles. The biggest challenge came about an hour and 15 minutes into the trip when E needed another potty break. As you might expect, this came up right after we passed a major exit (the Lake Mills area), so a minor detour was necessary. Here’s the conversation between me (Ben) and Eliana:

E: I have to go potty.
B: Okay, it will be a little while before the next exit, but we’ll stop as soon as we can. Can you hold it?
E: Yeah.
B: Do you want to listen to something until we get there?
E: I want ‘Let it Go’.
B: ‘Let it Go’? Are you sure?
E: Yeah.

See, that song would not be my first choice if I had to go to the bathroom. But it worked out fine for Eliana. We had to go five miles out of our way, but we made it without any issues, and the kids remained in good spirits for the rest of the journey. Jonas got a short nap in as well.

Gail & Mike live in a giant house that was built in the 1890s. Eliana and Jonas explored just about everywhere they could, including an attic full of old toys. Eliana also really liked to play with an old spinning wheel that belonged to her great great great grandmother (per what Gail said). I’m glad my parents came along, because there are a number of hazards where it’s helpful to have one or more adults ‘guarding’ each kid. Meal time was also a lot easier, with my dad handling Jonas and me helping Eliana.

Aunt Gail plays with Jonas in the attic.

Aunt Gail plays with Jonas in the attic.

Eliana plays with the spinning wheel.

Eliana plays with the spinning wheel.

Besides quality time with family, Gail made this trip special for Eliana and Jonas by hiding presents and easter eggs for them. Jonas got some cute pajamas. Eliana’s favorite gift was a purse, which she used to store the two dollars that were inside the eggs she found. I asked her where she wanted to spend her money, and she suggested the bakery, where we often stop after church on Sunday mornings. Sounds great to me!

Eliana, Aunt Gail, and cousin Laura

Eliana, Aunt Gail, and cousin Laura


We left Gail & Mike’s house around 4:00 that evening. As I expected, Eliana was asleep before we reached the freeway. Jonas took a little bit longer to conk out. The kids slept until about 5:40, so the trip back to my parents’ house was very smooth.

Knowing that I was in for a late night, I stayed for dinner at my parents’ house. I think the kids appreciated some more play time in a slightly quieter setting.

I don’t recall exactly when I left my parents’ house, but it was after 7. I would normally get Jonas’ bedtime routine (brush teeth, start bottle, diaper change, cetaphil cream, pajamas, one book, prayer, song, finish bottle, sleep) started around 7:15, but I waited until 8:30 because of his late nap. He still cried a fair amount after I put him in his crib, but he was quiet and asleep by 9:15.

Eliana’s bedtime routine (brush teeth, potty, pajamas, 2-3 books, prayer, song, lights out, another song, sleep) started around 9, about an hour later than usual. I was worried that, at some point, she would demand that Mommy provide assistance, but she didn’t. I think we did a good job of preparing her and telling her that Mommy was on a trip and would be back in a few days.

I probably should have gone to bed at 9:45, which is when Eliana finally fell asleep, but instead I went for a four-mile run on the treadmill in the basement. After a shower and some quick house-cleaning, I was done for the night.

Parts 2-4 coming soon.

2013 Christmas Letter

It’s tough to sum up a year in a few paragraphs, but I tried anyway.

Isaacson Family Christmas Letter – 2013

Fun fact: If you change the year in the URL from 2013 to an earlier year, you can read past letters all the way back to 2003. Wow. I’m getting old. And so are the internets.

Back on the air!

Eliana Daddy Jonas Mommy
Hi, everyone!

Yes, Ben, Jenelle, Eliana, and Jonas are still around and doing great!

As with the last time I posted here, my hope is to have more frequent updates in the weeks ahead. For now, here’s links to TONS of photo albums. All of these are accessible via the “Photos” link above or by heading straight to ibenj.shutterfly.com.

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

Wisconsin Marathon 2013 – Ben sets a personal best!

Our Trip to Kauai – a wonderful vacation.

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

Pumpkin Farm (early October 2013)

October 2013

November 2013

Jonas’ First Birthday — if you blinked, you may have missed it. Our little guy is a year old. In fact, he’s 13 months old as I type this. I may share more about this event in a separate post.

January and February 2013

We’re getting caught up!

By the way, the easiest way to see the latest photos is to go to http://ibenj.shutterfly.com.

The January album has 50 pictures. Be sure to check out Jonas in his Oregon Ducks shirt and Eliana digging in the back yard wearing her awesome purple coat, which was a gift from Cousin Addie.
Eliana Backyard 2 Jan12

The February album has 72 pictures. I love the shots of Eliana ‘helping’ Daddy and Bubba put a new microwave in the kitchen. There’s plenty from our trip to Oregon. I wish we could go there more often. There’s lots of family and friends there, and the time goes by so fast that we don’t usually get a chance to see everyone. There’s plenty of smiles from Jonas throughout the album, and I got a cute shot of Eliana wearing my visor from the Masters golf tournament.
Jonas Feb6 7

More November and December Photos

That’s right. April is almost over, and I just put up a bunch of pictures from November and December. There were already lots of pics from the arrival of Jonas, but the new November album has more, chronicling all the times I took Eliana to a nearby park while Jenelle was with Jonas at the hospital.

The December album is massive, but I wanted to include the work holiday party, Eliana’s second birthday, Christmas, and several of Jonas that show you how quickly he is growing.

I hope to blog on a much more regular basis in the days and weeks ahead, but I can’t make any promises. When your kids are this little, you can miss something if you blink. Anyway, enjoy the pics!

November 2012 Photo Album (separate from the Jonas newborn album)
IMG_1777

December 2012 Photo Album
Jonas Christmas Eve 2Eliana Silent Night