Family Gatherings

Hitting the Links


Last Sunday, I joined Dad and my brother, Andrew, for nine holes of golf at Johnson Park. To make things more competitive, we set up the following handicap system:
1) Dad gets one stroke per hole.
2) I get one stroke on par 3 holes, two strokes on par 4s, and three strokes on par 5s.
A great time was had by all, even though it was a tad on the hot side. Here is how things turned out:

Awesome Family, Plumber Edition


Let’s hear it for my dad! He’s one of these guys who will do what it takes to get things done. In the past week, two of the three toilets in our house developed issues. The flush valve got stuck on one of them, and the fill valve starting leaking on the other. Thanks to about $20 worth of parts and a few hours of elbow grease, we once again have three operational facilities. The new fill valve on the downstairs toilet is both faster and quieter than the old one, that I’m wondering if it would be good to replace the other two noisy ones.

Grandpa Milt, my dad’s dad, who had an amazing work ethic, once said, “If you have a job to do, you do it.” My dad has clearly inherited that, and it is a blessing that he uses his skills and expertise to give me and my family some much needed help.

Awesome Family, North Racine Edition

This post is about my cousin Rachel, who turned ten years old last month.

She is a pretty amazing cousin. She is very smart for her age, and I think she understands way more than most people realize. She also has a variety of interests. She won a multi-school spelling bee a few months ago, and her butterfly photo is in the second round of the Journal Times photo contest.

I was also impressed when she drew this picture of the three of us at a recent family gathering.

It’s also great that she loves to spend time with all the little ones in the family — Ella, Lily, Kellan, and Eliana. I am also blessed to be Rachel’s godfather.

Thanks for being such a wonderful cousin, Rachel! Stay awesome!

Awesome Family, Minnesota Edition

This post is written with a big THANKS to my sister-in-law, Holly, who takes amazing photographs of us every time she comes to visit. We got this great shot yesterday afternoon:

I’ve already ordered a couple of 8x10s and some note cards.

Holly can take great photos of you and your family as well. Check out Lily Bella Photography for more information.

It’s been a wonderful weekend. Between the Italian Festival, swimming at Grandma & Grandpa’s place, nine holes of golf, we had lots of fun with Mom, Dad, Andrew, Holly, Ella, Lily, and Kellan.

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.

Birthday Fun Times

I’m 33 years old. Wow, I’m getting up there.

Anyway, here are a couple of videos. The first is from our party last night, and the second is from earlier this afternoon. Enjoy!

Baby’s First Christmas, Part 2

Lots more photos here!

Happy New Year!  If the past week is any indication, 2011 is going to be an eventful year for us.  Here’s the highlights of our holiday gatherings:

Christmas Day (Dec. 25): Jenelle, Eliana, and I went to the airport to pick up Jenelle’s parents, who flew in from Oregon.  We parked the car so that we could see Dave & Pam the moment they got past the security checkpoint.  This was Dave’s first opportunity to meet Eliana, and he was quite thrilled.  Eliana must also have been excited, as she had a “present” of her own to share.  Babies have incredible timing.  We spent the rest of the day at home relaxing.  We opened a few presents, but the big party was a few days later.

December 27: We spent most of the day planning and preparing for the big gathering that would happen the next day.  Andrew, Holly, Ella, and Lily came over in the evening for a short visit.  They all enjoyed meeting and holding Eliana.  I got at least one picture of each of them.

December 28: This was the big gathering with Jenelle’s parents, my parents, Andrew, Holly, Ella, Lily, and Kellan.  We had a wonderful time opening presents, which were plentiful.  We followed that up with a tasty Christmas dinner — thanks to Pam for all her hard work on that.

December 31: I took Dave & Pam to the airport in the early morning hours.  It was sad to see them go, but we were very thankful for the time they got to spend with us.  Our New Year’s Eve was not as exciting as in some years past, but we enjoyed the time to ourselves.  It was nice to have a break from all the family excitement.

Just in case you missed the photo album link above, here it is one more time.  Christmas photos with Ben, Jenelle, and Eliana (mostly Eliana).

Baby’s First Christmas, Part 1

Even more Eliana photos!

Shown above is the outfit that Eliana wore on Christmas Eve.  We all enjoyed the 3:00 service at Kenosha Bible Church.  Eliana barely made a peep — there were lots of other louder kids in attendance.  🙂  She also seemed to like it when Jill, the pastor’s wife, held her for a while.  We also passed her around to a few more friends who we haven’t seen lately.

That evening, we ventured north to Great Grandpa Nick & Great Grandma Iz’s place for family fun.  Eliana got way too many presents, including the first contribution to her college fund.  Thanks again, everyone!  It was great to be able to gather with everyone and share in the joy of Christmas.

Jenelle’s parents arrived from Oregon yesterday, so look for more Christmas news here soon!

Independence Eve Extravaganza

July 3rd Party Photos!

This year’s party was another success.

As usual, we had plenty of food, including an oreo-shaped cake with vanilla ice cream (see the photo album).

My friend, David, drove in from Ohio for the celebration.  I was thankful that he arrived a bit early because he helped me with some of the last-minute preparations. I’m also thankful for Pastor Rick, who pitched wiffle balls to all of the kids from the moment he arrived at the party until he and his family left that evening.

As usual, there were tons of kids in attendance, and we went though what seemed like hundreds of sparklers, which was the perfect kick-off to the fireworks extravaganza. As I lit off each item, the kids chanted, “Do it again, Uncle Ben!” as I got the next one ready.

The other highlight of this year’s party was the pre-meal prayer, during which I thanked God that Jenelle was pregnant, which caught most of the attendees by surprise.  I’ll have more on that in another post.  🙂

Place Your Bets

Twice a year, I go with my grandpa to Arlington Race Track in Illinois.  His neighbor, Dick, joined us on our most recent trip, which was this past Thursday, the 20th.  We always have a great time, even if we don’t win much betting on the horses.

Grandpa seems to do pretty well.  On most trips, he takes home a little bit more than he brought with him.  After one of his amazing victory streaks, I managed to learn one of his secrets to victory.  Check out this post in the movie blog for more details.