The Fam

Our family

Scott, Donna, and Ben

Yellowstone National Park August 2009

At the Continental Divide in Yellowstone National Park during August 2009. We loaded up the car and headed off for the grand ole family vacation. We’ve got a special blog post just for this trip so that you can see more.

We’ve had a lot happen during the past two years that the Ben Times has been offline. So, in order to quickly bring everyone up to date with the biggest changes, we present the following Top 10 List.

Top 10 Things You May Have Missed During the Past Two Years

10. Mom leaps over chair and gets new body part!

While watching Ben’s Lego Robotics competition in December 2007, Donna had a slight injury while stepping over a row of seats to get a better view. Of course, the accident had to occur while Scott was visiting New York and couldn’t get back due to a massive snow storm. Turns out that she had a complete tear of her ACL and had to have surgery in February ’08 over Valentine’s Day. To make matters worse, Scott ended up severely injurying his back during this same time period and now has chronic back pain. Donna’s knee is doing much better and she can now get around pretty well, though the knee is a little tricky from time to time.

Officially Licensed Knee Cartoon

9. President Obama recognizes Ben for academic achievement, appointment to Department of Education pending.

Ben wrapped up 5th grade with a bang, as he was honored with the Presidential Award for Academic Excellence. The award is given to the top students in each grade level and is based on exceptional academic ability and leadership qualities. Signatories include President Obama and the Secretary of Education. As as aside, if you can’t name the Secretary, then you are not smarter than a 5th grader. Based upon the recent success of other individuals, we plan on attending the next State Dinner at the White House, so long as the Secret Service agents at the front gate have not been fired.

Ben's Presidential Award for Academic Excellence

8. During a harrowing trip in July 2009, the family survives journey through the heart of a volcano.

During our time here in the Northwest we’ve managed to see a lot of the great wonders of the country that are close by, and we’re now starting to branch out a little bit for our family trips. Over the summer, we packed up Bob (the name we’ve given Donna’s car) and headed east toward Yellowstone and Grand Teton. We spent three days in Yellowstone seeing as much as we could possibly pack in before heading south to the Grand Teton Lodge for two days. Both places were magical and have very special places in our hearts for different reasons. What a trip!

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7. Last name no longer Cunningham: Changed to Griswold.

Remember that classic family Christmas-time video National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? A special highlight of the film was the continuing effort of poor Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, decorating the house with an abundance of holiday cheer and enough lights to be seen from outer space. Well, as you can see from the picture, we’ve now joined the legions of families running large electric bills in December not to heat the house, but to light up the outside. Yes, that is Santa Claus getting ready to take off on the specially built runway on the lawn. Ben was outside at 7:00 a.m. the morning after Thanksgiving to get started. Dad didn’t quite make it out that early. View more pictures.

Exterior Christmas Decorations 2009

6. Dad writes hit song, but it has yet to be discovered.

Dad has become quite enamored with music and has picked up the guitar again for the first time in over (gulp) 30 years. My, how time flies. On the upside, like so many things in adulthood, he has thrown himself into it and has made some significant progress in a very short time. He’s been writing his own lyrics for about two years, but is only just now getting to the point where he is composing the music as well. A big thanks is due to Tim Cook for planting the bug in his ear that he should write. The video below is small piano piece that he’s been working on. He’s been picking up some piano along the way and actually finds it easier to compose on the piano in certain situations.

5. Family gets stranded with Brett Favre in Seattle snowstorm.

December of 2008 was a very snowy month here in the Northwest. In a rarity, we had 10 inches of snow on the ground. During brief lull in the snow, we packed up and headed for Seattle to see the Seahawks take on the New York Jets for Ben’s first pro football game. It also happened to be Mike Holmgren’s last game as the Seattle head coach. Of course, Brett Favre was the QB for the Jets at the time. We had snow during the game and had to extend our stay an extra night because we couldn’t get out of Seattle due to the icy conditions. A great time was had by all, especially the trip to the Brooklyn Steakhouse and Oyster Bar for some great food. Oh, yeah, we had seats in the second row.

Ben and Donna at Quest Field

4. Ben morphs into Mr. Roboto.

For the last three years, Ben has participated in the First Lego League competition that involves programming Lego Mindstorm robots to perform a series of tasks. In addition to gaining points for each task completed, teams can earn points through teamwork and presenting their research to a panel of judges. This year’s theme involved transportation and his team researched ideas to improve pedestrian safety around an elementary school. The team was greatly elated (as were the parents) win they won the trophy for best junior team, where all team members are 11 years old and younger. More information.

Ben's Lego Robotics Team

3. Our Christmas Cards and The Ben Times.

OK, we admit it: we’ve been naughty. Very naughty and not in a good naughty kind of way. We’ve obviously had a lot happen over the past two years and it took its toll on us. Donna’s knee injury in December 2007 put a kibosh on the entire Holiday Season, then we moved, and, well, life got in the way of a lot of things. Please accept our apologies if you haven’t heard from us in a while and our first New Year’s resolution of the new decade will be to do a better job of keeping in touch. Actually, with The Ben Times now being fully online, it will be easy to keep in touch. Christmas cards have been mailed and we look forward to reconnecting with everyone. Be sure to leave us plenty of comments if you like what you see in this electronic edition. The software requires you to leave an email address to post a comment, but you shouldn’t worry: we promise not to sell your information to the lowest bidder. We’ve been buying our cards from the Air Safety Foundation and the card we went with this year is below.

2009 Christmas Card

2. Ben goes to Mars.

Well, not really, but he did attend the official NASA Space Camp at Huntsville, Alabama in July. In addition to simulating space missions and a Mars rover excursion through the Lego Robotics track, he got to participate in several different simulators including ones that simulated 4G’s of gravity. While Ben was lost in space, Dad headed to the white beaches of Pensacola, FL, for some serious laid back time alone. Mom didn’t mind staying home at all since she got the place all to herself for an entire week, which is an unheard of treat. In a special treat, Ben got to fly first class for the first time and now expects it whenever he flies. Oh, what have we done?

Space Camp graduation

1. We’ve moved, but we aren’t telling you where.

Actually, drop us a line if you need our new address or phone numbers. You can always drop us a line by sending an email to the editor.

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