Ben, day one: Nine years ago today, at 8:46 p.m., I became a mom when I gave birth to an 8 pound,19 inch, baby boy named Ben. Nine years old, today. Nine. I blinked and he was eating solid foods. I went to bed and when I woke up he was a toddler. I took a shower and he was talking. I ran to the store and he was ready to start school. I went to tuck him in, to kiss him goodnight, to read to him, and he was eight, already in bed, reading silently to himself.
A quote I read recently in the book "The Happiness Project" keeps going through my mind today, "The days are long but the years pass quickly". So very true. But every little moment that isn't in my memory is written down somewhere, or jogged when I look at a piece of his tiny clothing, or come upon a baby photo, or uncover a long-forgotten toy. And more memories are going to be made.
Today I plan on remembering the little things, like the way his hair stands up in the back every morning, and how kind and patient he is with Emma, how he likes to read while he eats breakfast, how he will let me hold his hand momentarily as we cross a street until he remembers he doesn't really need to anymore, yet he always grabs Emma's hand when they walk together, how little he still looks when he is asleep, his quick laugh and smile, his joy in sharing his newest Lego creation with everyone, how he loves to check out "Wookie-pedia" for Star Wars information, how he would eat pizza-yogurt-fruit- and celery in his lunch every day and how he always feels the outside pouch to see if I put a treat inside, his disdain for finishing his homework followed by the joyous relief of actually finishing it, the way he still hugs us goodnight without looking too embarrassed, the way he says I love you freely and often.
Ben, age one: Ben, age three:Ben, age four:Ben, age five:Ben, age seven: Ben, age eight:Today I will cover the table with the birthday tablecloth, and for your birthday dinner we will have my "famous" spaghetti (by request), bread with dip (olive oil and balsamic), salad and confetti cake with chocolate frosting. I'm sure you will get a Lego or two along with books and clothes. There will be laughter and photos taken and a few tears from me, and several rounds of "Happy Birthday" sung- some from far away will remain on the answering machine for weeks to be replayed.
And tonight, after you are asleep, your dad and I will marvel at how quickly you have turned nine, and just so you know, in case you have forgotten, we want you to know that every day we feel so very lucky to be your mom and dad.
I'd really like someone to let me know how the time flies by so very quickly. Really. He was just a little baby, needing me for everything, then a toddler- trying new things but turning to me for reassurance, then off to preschool where he walked up the stairs without looking back but still wanted hugs when I picked him up at the end of the day, next came grade school where I would wake him up in the morning and walk him into his classroom and by 2nd grade he was ready to be dropped off out front but still willing to hold my hand as we crossed the parking lot. And now I have a boy who is up by himself every morning, dressed, ready to go, needing me to make his lunch but not to close his car door or tie his shoes. A boy who walks right into the classroom, hangs up his coat and backpack, goes directly to his desk and starts working without a glance back. And although I sometimes see the baby him in his smile I have to admit that he is big. And independent. He is funny. He is smart. He is kind. And he still gives me a hug and a kiss every morning and every night. He's my 3rd grader. But he's also his own person.
It is easier for me to see how much he has grown since he started going to school when I look at these 2 photos side by side- the image on the right is this week, the image on the left is 2007, the first day of kindergarten. And yes, those of you who know be best, rest assured, I am TOTALLY TEARING UP as I type this post.
And just in case you are under the misconception that I live in some perfect world where bad photos never happen check out some of the looks I had to endure to get a couple of good shots:
And I love every one of these silly faces. Here's to a great 3rd grade year Ben.
Shh, don't tell Ben but I think he is awfully sweet.
Lego has done it again. They have retired several of Ben's favorite sets and themes only to come out with something new to entice him with. This time it is the characters who make up "Hero Factory", a bionicle-type lego. I could go on and on about how the characters are robots with human names made in a factory, that some of them are female, that there are bad guys, that they are not the SAME as bionicles, but I digress.
The heart of this story is Ben. And how he was yearning for one of these new Heroes. And how we told him he would need to save his own money. And how his Papa kept slipping him a dollar bill here and there. And how Ben would count them, patiently waiting until he had accumulated the $8 necessary for this new Lego. And how last week, on Monday night, after finding out that he had hit the magic number, I told Ben that we would go to the store Wednesday morning and that he could buy his toy.
And how by 6 a.m. Ben was up, dressed and eating breakfast. How he wet his hair down, combed it, then brushed his teeth without being asked. How he waited patiently for me to eat, shower, and down some coffee all before the store even opened. And how after finding the only one on the shelf he carried the Lego through the store, paid with his own money, built it the minute he got home, and even let his little sister hold it for a minute. And that almost a week later he is still playing with it.
And the sweetest part? Yesterday, when going to a friends house, he told his friends mom that he was having "the best summer", and when asked why this little $8 toy that he had to save for and wait for was one of the reasons.
Today, according to Yahoo, the authority on all national holidays, is National Star Wars day. Why, you might ask (and I don't mean why a national Star Wars day because of course there should be a day devoted to Star Wars), but instead because it is May the 4th. As in "May the 4th be with you"- and yes I will wait as you utter this phrase out loud so that you can hear the corny movie tie-in.
So we celebrated in true Ackerman style by watching the very first movie in the 6 part series, the original "Star Wars", and no I will not add it's tag line, I dislike that #1 has become #4 and that it has a new name. Won't say it. You can't make me. True fans know which movie I am referring too. And while Ben has watched bits and pieces of the movies over the years he has been a bit hesitant to watch them all the way through. But last night he wanted to watch it, so watch it we did.
And while I do not have a photo of all of us scrunched together in the "big bed" (boy am I out of photo practice ever since the whole week in the life project came to an end...) , popcorn bowls in hand, eyes wide with excitement, Dave's a little teary every time he glanced my way with the pure joy of sharing this movie with Ben for the first time, I will instead share a photo of one of Ben's newest Lego Star Wars creations:
Since January Ben has been working on a school project about one of the 50 states. They were asked to choose 3 states they might want to do their report on so their would be no duplicates- Ben's Great-Grandpa Jones was born in Minot, North Dakota so he put that one down along with Washington (my mom was born there) and Utah (where Dave was born.) When he found out he had drawn North Dakota, in true to form, straight shooting Ben fashion he said "well, it's not like I got to choose my state it was chosen for me..." (thanks sweetheart for reminding mommy where you got your sarcasm from...) And yet despite his initial lack of enthusiasm for his chosen state he went on to find out some fun facts (including that famous Yankee Roger Maris was from North Dakota), learn a little more about his great-grandpa, and work on his public speaking skills. Last month both second grade classes paraded through the gym in front of the whole school and parents and siblings and grandparents and one by one they stepped in front of the microphone, said their name, their state and it's nickname, turned in a circle so everyone could see both side of their sandwich boards, then stood on risers to sing a song about all the states (and I do believe Ben actually sang out loud this time...)
My two favorite quotes from his speech are:
"Did you know that when you eat spaghetti there's probably North Dakota durum in it?"
"I had a lot of fun giving my speech, and had fun learning about it (North Dakota) too. I've had no experiences in North Dakota so I hope I can go there some day."
And just so you know Ben, I had fun listening to your speech all eight times. And I mean that. Because although I am not the world's best Lego builder the time we spend together working on your homework together, even when it's challenging or frustrating, or the times we laugh about a funny sentence you have written, or even when I have to look up some math concept that is not in my memory anymore, is time I get to spend with you and you with me.
And I would listen to your speech one hundred times just to spend a little time hanging out with you.
For the past couple of years Ben has drawn a picture for our family Christmas card. This is our family, if we were snowmen. Notice the close resemblances. We are all working together (just like on Sunday when we decorated our tree.) And everyone looks happy. Which in turn makes me happy. Because if the snowmen us are sad at Christmas what chance do the human us have at finding joy during the silly season?
Ben has always been our early riser. He is usually up before we are in the mornings, he's never one to have to be woken up on school days. And on the weekends, when most of us look forward to sleeping in a little, our Ben is up with the birds, quietly playing Legos or reading in his room. So imagine my surprise when he shared this little gem of a conversation with me this afternoon on the way to the bank:
Me: "(big yawn)... boy am I tired today."
Ben: "Me too, I had to get up early this morning and turn off my music again."
Me: "What do you mean, what music?"
Ben: "Every morning the clock on my desk goes off and I have to go turn it off."
Me: "How long has this been happening?"
Ben: "Oh a long time, since I was seven. The first time it happened I thought you and dad were playing loud music and I just kept thinking please won't you turn it off."
Me: "Ben, why didn't you say something?"
Ben: "By the time you and dad were awake I would forget to tell you."
And so goes another stellar parenting moment.
We had set his alarm clock back in August for a morning that he needed to get up early. We had never turned it off. His alarm has been going off for almost 3 months. Indeed, since he just turned 8 a couple of weeks ago, his alarm had been going off ever since he was 7.
It will be interesting to see what time our early riser gets up tomorrow morning...