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

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.

Baby’s First Road Trip / An Amazing Birthday Cake

In late August, we took Eliana for her first car ride longer than three hours. We drove to Minnesota to celebrate Ella’s 8th birthday and Lily’s 6th birthday. Jenelle made the cake, and I think it turned out wonderfully.
Be sure to check out the photo album from the trip. Also, here’s a video:

Independence Day in Oregon

We visited Jenelle’s family in Beaverton this year for the 4th of July. Eliana was a little bit fussy on the plane rides to and from Oregon, but it was well worth it.

Here’s the full photo album!

Highlights of this trip:
1) I ran my first ever July marathon — the Stars and Stripes Marathon — in a park just a few miles away from Dave & Pam’s house. I was hoping for a personal best, but it was a bit too hot. I still managed to finish under 3:49 and record my third fastest marathon ever.

2) The ladies (Jenelle, Erica, Josie, & Pam) went to see Mary Poppins while Dave and I watched Eliana. The show was great.

3) Eliana got to spend time with cousins Lucas and Addison during the day on the 4th. In the evening, Jenelle and I went with Jeff, Josie, and Lucas for a cruise and fireworks.

As always, I’m already looking forward to my next trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Serving as Senders

Last month, we went to Duncanville, Texas (just outside of Dallas) for a weekend to visit our friends, David and Amanda. They have a cute two year-old daughter named Adelaide. Eliana really enjoyed spending time with her.

Here’s some photos! Enjoy!

While our trip was pretty short, and the weather was quite warm, we did have lots of fun and get some important things done. David and Amanda are missionaries in transition with Pioneer Bible Translators, an organization working to get the Word of God into every language. If all goes well, David, Amanda, and Adelaide will be heading overseas next year.

Jenelle and I have a special role in their efforts. We serve as their forwarding agents, handling incoming funds and helping out with newsletters and a web site. While in Texas, David and I went to a PBT financial workshop to ensure we’re following all the procedures correctly.

If you are interested in partnering with David and Amanda, don’t hesitate to ask me for more details. Thanks!

Cottage Adventures 2010

Go straight to the photo album.

It was another fun trip up north.  Jenelle and I made the drive up on the afternoon of Friday, June 25. Janet & Jamie joined us on Saturday.  We spent a few days enjoying the crisp air of the northwoods before returning home on Tuesday.  If you want to know everything we did, you’ll have to drive up to the family cottage in Arbor Vitae, WI and read the log book in the desk drawer. However, I’m happy to post my favorite memories here.

Kayaking — Jenelle and I didn’t have the energy to lug our kayak all the way up north, so we rented a pretty fancy one on Saturday afternoon.  We spent a couple of hours on the water, as it was a very nice day.  Thankfully, we didn’t get too tired.

Celebrating My Birthday — After Janet & Jamie arrived, we all went to Monical’s Pizza for dinner.  I ate plenty of pizza and breadsticks.  After a round of mini-golf at Kastle Rock (which is in need of groundskeeping and other maintenance), I had just enough room for some ice cream.  I enjoyed a double-scoop of “birthday cake”-flavored ice cream, which was chocolate with bits of cake batter flavoring in it.  It was a fun night, but I was completely STUFFED when I went to sleep.

Freedom 5K — For the third year in a row, I ran the Freedom 5K in St. Germain.  I posted a short recap in the running log.  The race was on Sunday morning.  Thankfully, all the food from the night before didn’t slow me down.

Mike & Gail’s Cabin — For the first time, we visited Uncle Mike and Aunt Gail’s cabin in Mercer. They made lunch for us and took us out on a pontoon boat tour of Long Lake.  It was another beautiful day, so it was great to spend it with both family and friends.

St. Germain Fireworks — We ventured back to St. Germain in the evening for an amazing fireworks display.  Just like last year, we had great seats.

That about sums things up.  We look forward to another trip next year, when we’ll hopefully bring even more friends with us.

Welcome back from Grand Cayman

We got back from the Cayman Islands on Tuesday the 8th. When I arrived at work on Wednesday the 9th, I was delighted to discover that my colleagues had decorated my cube. It’s not easy to get a slightly-filled plastic wading pool and real sandcastles in an office environment, but they did it. Nice work! 🙂

The “Just Married” sign is left over from a colleague down the hall whose wedding was about a month ago.

Cayman Islands, Day 4

In case you missed the earlier entries:
Day 1     Day 2     Day 3

Here’s the photo album for our last full day in the Cayman Islands.

We once again started our day with free breakfast at the hotel. After that, it was off to the south for our kayaking/snorkeling adventure! There were a number of things that made this particular outing so great:
1) There were only six “customers” + the guide. Smaller groups make for a better time.
2) The guide was well-informed. He knew the best places to go, and he told us a lot about the history of the island and the various wildlife. He picked up different things off the sea floor and let us hold them (sea cucumbers, conch shells, and even a sea urchin — but I didn’t dare touch that!)
3) The underwater view was AMAZING — there was one bed of coral that had tons of fish and a couple of lobsters around it. We got plenty of photos, and even some video.

After lunch, we went to a beach on the northwest part of the island for more snorkeling. There weren’t that many fish at first, but then a whole group of them seemed to be following us around! As best we could tell, they must have thought the camera was food. The sequence of events progressed something like this:
1) Ben takes pictures.
2) Fish swarm around Ben.
3) Ben hands the camera to Jenelle to get a shot of the fish all around Ben.
4) Fish swarm around Jenelle.
5) Jenelle hands camera back to Ben.
6) Back to step one.
We did get some great shots!

After a quick stop back at the hotel, we went back to the beach to relax and watch the sun set. What a view.

In the evening, we visited a shopping mall. It looked very upscale, but to our surprise, a lot of the buildings were still vacant! It must be pretty new. In any case, the mall was well-decorated with Christmas lights, which made it fun to stroll around. We’re not big on souvenirs anyways. 🙂

We left Grand Cayman the next morning, and after a slight delay in Miami because of weather at O’Hare, we eventually took off, arrived in Chicago, and took a bus back home — just in time for all the snow.

Cayman Islands, Day 3

Not as many pictures from today, but here’s the album.

Sunday, December 6
I ran the marathon in the morning. I’ll eventually have a recap posted on the running log, but that’s not done yet. To summarize, it was a bit hot for running, but I still managed a solid finish in 4:04:28. The race started at 5 a.m., so my post-race meal was breakfast shortly after 9 a.m.! Jenelle got lots of video in addition to the photos that are in the album.

In the afternoon and evening, we drove around Grand Cayman, exploring the east and northern ends of the island. I had enough energy left to do a tiny bit of snorkeling, but it wasn’t nearly as awesome as our snorkeling adventures on Saturday (which I posted about earlier) and our kayaking/snorkeling adventures on Monday (which I’ll post about soon).

Cayman Islands, Day 2

You can browse the photo album in a new window while reading the recap.

Saturday, December 5

I got up a bit early (but not too early) on Saturday morning to run two miles. This is standard day-before-the-marathon practice for me, especially when traveling. Feeling how hot it was, even before 8 a.m., confirmed that I would need to make an extra effort to stay cool and hydrated at the race on Sunday. It also gave me a chance to check out the area near our hotel.

Later that morning, Jenelle and I went out for a walk after enjoying free continental breakfast. We ventured to the beach across the street as well as a nearby grocery store.

Here’s the perfect time to talk about money in the Cayman Islands. All prices are given in Cayman Island dollars (which I’ll abbreviate as $CI from now on). The exchange rate between $CI and the US dollar is fixed at $1 CI = $1.25 US. The prices of everything are elevated, which is what you’d expect for an island in the Caribbean, but because of the exchange rate, it’s more expensive than you realize. For example, a combo meal at a Wendy’s cost $6.70. That’s a little more that we’d pay in the states. However, that’s $6.70 CI, which works out to about $8.37 US. If I paid for this with a US $20 bill, I’d get $9.30 CI back. How’s that for heavy math? 🙂

After returning to the hotel with our groceries, we boarded a bus for the Marriott (a few miles to the south) to pick up my race number. More on that in tomorrow’s entry. After lunch at Wendy’s, we went back to the hotel to relax a little bit before our main activity of the day.

SNORKELING! We booked a boat tour at Captain Marvin’s Watersports. There were three separate stops on the tour. We left around 1 p.m. and made our way to Stingray City, about a half hour boat ride off shore. The water was not even shoulder-deep, and string rays swam all around us. We were scared at first, but when we noticed all the people mingling about with the rays, we were pretty sure it was safe. Thanks to our waterproof camera, we got some great shots of the rays and of us holding them. Guides instructed us to kiss the ray to get seven years good luck. 🙂

The next two stops were both snorkeling places — Barrier Reef and Coral Gardens. Both of these gave us ample opportunties to don our own snorkels (which I bought before our honeymoon six years ago) and swim with the fishies. It was pretty neat, but little did I know that more exciting snorkeling was in store for us later on the trip.

Between the boat trip and dinner, we decided to go rent a car for the remainder of our trip. It would make things a lot easier for us, as Jenelle would need to easily get around while I was running the race on Sunday. We took the car to Breezes by the Bay, a restaurant in George Town (the closest thing to “downtown” in Grand Cayman), for the pre-race pasta party. We ended up sitting with a couple from Chicago, both of whom were running the half marathon. Another interesting note was that the brand of butter was “Wisconsin Gold”. A little taste of home.

We took it easy the rest of the night, as we would be getting up very early the next day.

Our Cayman Islands Adventure

Yesterday, we returned from our vacation in the Cayman Islands. My hope is that, every few days, I will post about each big event that happened during our trip. Here we go!

Friday, December 4: Getting There
We used our frequent flier miles to book travel from O’Hare to Grand Cayman. The journey involved two intermediate stops — one in Nashville, and one in Miami. The first flight went perfectly. The second flight made us a bit anxious, as we had to wait on a somewhat hot and stuffy plane for several minutes while they got a ramp in place. Then we had to board a bus to the terminal. As if that wasn’t enough, we had to board a tram-type vehicle to go to another concourse to catch our flight to Grand Cayman. Boarding had just started when we arrived. Whew! Our third flight had no problems at all. Yay! We made it!

We boarded a bus to our hotel (Sunshine Suites Resort). Check-in was quick and easy. We got a GREAT deal on our hotel. For four nights, we paid $632, which included free breakfast, free internet access, and airport transportation. In addition, since we booked using an American Express card, we received two $100 gift checks — essentially the same as cash. That works out to about $108 a night. Had we stayed elsewhere, it would have probably cost us over $250 a night, and it might not have included all the amenities. Our room was beautiful — it certainly did not feel like we were skimping.

After dinner at the Sunshine Grill (on the resort property), we did some simple planning of the days ahead, and got a great night’s sleep.

This picture was actually taken on Saturday morning, but it’s from just outside our hotel room.