Back to School

If I live to be 150 years old I won’t get over the fact that schools around here now begin the new school year the first week of August. And on a Friday. When I was in school… But that’s ancient history, and now is now.

Grandson Ben is now in 7th grade, the middle grade of middle school. He began school on Friday after spending a summer of fun and volunteer service as part of a group that not only did volunteer work locally but also made two out-of-state trips to perform volunteer service.

First day of 7th grade

Every summer, the group travels to the small town of Bayou Le Batre, Alabama, a fishing village that is located on the Gulf of Mexico and is known for its seafood processing and shipbuilding industries. There they engage in a number of community service and outreach projects to this community that has been greatly affected over the years by hurricanes and oil spills.

In Bayou Le Batre. Ben is on the left, leaning against the fence.

For the first time this summer, the group also volunteered for a week at Give Kids the World Village, an 89-acre resort in Central Florida for disabled and critically ill children and their families. Since its inception Give Kids the World has offered cost-free week-long vacations to over 177,000 families from all 50 states in the U.S. and from 76 countries.

A still image of Ben from a video produced after the group’s week of volunteer work was concluded.

I’m very proud of this young man (who now stands heads and shoulders above me), and I wish him well in school this year and in all that he does.

#BenStrong #Soli Deo Gloria

Beginning another school year: Ben is in middle school

Another school year began yesterday (on a Friday), and our miracle boy is now in a different school. Ben is now in grade six which, along with grades seven and eight, comprise what in my day was called junior high school but now is middle school.

Ben with his dad

Ben with his mom

His school day will be longer with fewer breaks during the day, and although one of his parents will be able to take him to school in the mornings, he will be riding the school bus home in the afternoons.

Ben wants to learn to play a musical instrument, and this year he will be able to learn at school and to play in the school band. He also will be able to further his interest in science by studying robotics.

Best wishes, Ben, for a great school year!

As always, many thanks to everyone who has kept Ben in your thoughts and prayers.

#BenStrong #Soli Deo Gloria

Our miracle boy won his school’s top honor!

Seven years after his first brain surgeries, grandson Ben has won his school’s top award. Last week, the day before school was out for the summer, Ben was named Mr. Westside in an awards ceremony in which he also received other recognitions. We are so very proud of him!

Ben’s school, Westside Elementary, includes Pre-K through 5th grade. He has attended school there since he was 4 years old in Pre-K, and this year he officially graduated from 5th grade. As part of the graduation ceremony, two students, one boy (Ben) and one girl, were named Mr. and Miss Westside, an honor awarded by the entire faculty and staff of the school. Criteria for the honor included: having been a student in the school since Kindergarten, academic excellence, involvement in extra curricular activities at the school and in the wider community, and excellence in character.

Mr. and Miss Westside

Fifth Grade Graduation

Proud Parents

Westside “Rockets” since Kindergarten

Ben is one of only a few students who have been at Westside (which has 660 students) from Kindergarten through 5th grade. (Miss Westside not pictured.)

Congratulations, Ben! And thanks again to all who have kept Ben in your thoughts and prayers.

#BenStrong #Soli Deo Gloria

Happy 11th birthday, Ben!

Our miracle boy turned 11 last week and had an outdoor party last Saturday, attended by family, friends and neighbors. I was able to drive the two and a half hours to be there for the entire weekend, but taking photos took a back seat to enjoying the day. I took a grand total of two good photos.

Ben loves the Atlanta Braves baseball team, and his party carried the Braves theme through even to the large chocolate chip cookie cake…

Ben (the tall one on the left) and his best friend J. were clowning around so much it was difficult to capture them both, but I did my best. The family is so grateful for the friendship between these young men. The night before the party, they built a tent in the family room, using dining room chairs and bed sheets, and they slept all night in sleeping bags on the floor under their indoor tent. Such fun!

Happy birthday, Ben!

#Ben Strong #Soli Deo Gloria

It’s baseball season

If it’s Spring it must be baseball season. Baseball is just one of the sports Ben plays, and our hind catcher of five years ago now plays first base and also is becoming a good pitcher. I was able to see one of his games last week when I drove over to help out after his mom had an operation. His baseball team had its last game of the regular season tonight, so I won’t get to see him play again until next year.

In two days our miracle boy will celebrate his 11th birthday. Thanks to everyone who has followed his story and all who have kept him in your thoughts and prayers.

Double Digits: Happy 10th birthday, Ben!

Brave Ben, our miracle boy, is celebrating his 10th birthday today. His grandfather and I were unable to be with him this year, but we hope he has had a wonderful day. It has been almost 6 years since his life-saving brain surgeries, and we thank God every day for this precious young man.

Even though we were not able to help him celebrate, we’ve enjoyed the photos his mother took this morning…

Here’s what his mom wrote about him today…

Happy 10th birthday to my miracle boy! You have a heart of gold, the size of Texas. You’re spunky and silly, and 💯 percent all boy! I’m over the moon proud of you and the young man you are becoming. The last 10 years have flown by and I’ve watched you grow in so many ways. You are brave, strong, fiercely patriotic, and love the Lord, not to mention almost looking me in the eyes now!! I love you to the moon and back Ben, and no matter how tall you grow, you will always be my little boy! 

As always, many thanks to everyone who has kept Ben in your thoughts and prayers over the past six years.

# BenStrong #Soli Deo Gloria

100 Days of School

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted an update about grandson Ben. He’s doing great! He played soccer in the Fall and now is playing basketball. He’s enjoying school and church activities. And it will be three more years before he has to return to New York to be checked out by Dr. B., his pediatric cerebrovascular specialist!

Speaking of school, today was the 100th day of school for this school year, and it has become something of a custom here for schoolkids to dress up as 100-year-old adults. Here’s Ben as a 100-year-old man with an aching back!

As you can see, Ben recently had his hair cut and is no longer wearing it long. His mom took before and after photos when he first got it cut.

We can hardly believe our miracle boy is over half-way through 4th grade. As always, many thanks to everyone who has kept Ben in your thoughts and prayers over the past five years.

# BenStrong #Soli Deo Gloria

Blue Angels, Bella, and Back to School

Another summer has flown past. Ben had a number of adventures, brought home a new puppy, and now is back to school.

While on vacation with his dad’s family at the beach, Ben was able to take an exciting side trip to see the Blue Angels, sit with his mom and dad on the flight line during their practice, and meet the pilots.

The second oldest formal aerobatic team in the world, the Blue Angels is the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron. They participate in over 60 air shows a year and are viewed by an estimated 11 million spectators. Ben was able to watch them and visit with the pilots at their home base in Pensacola, Florida.

A new puppy has joined the family, a French bulldog named Bella. Ben picked her out soon after she was born and chose her name, although he had to wait for several weeks until she was old enough to for him to take her home.

The new school year began on Thursday. (I still think that’s crazy, but no one asked me!) Ben, who is now 9 years old, is beginning grade 4. He is almost as tall as his grandmother (that’s me), and he is already wearing men’s size shoes. On his first day in grade 4, he posed for photos with his mom and dad.

We can hardly believe our miracle boy is beginning 4th grade. As always, many thanks to everyone who has kept Ben in your thoughts and prayers over the past five years.

# BenStrong #Soli Deo Gloria

A good friend to all, a problem solver, and a team player who works hard to achieve his goals and to help others

Ben wrapped up the school year with an award for academic achievement and the wonderful accolade noted in the title of this blog post. He also was chosen to represent all students in Grade 3 in making a special presentation to the school principal who is retiring now that the school year is over. Needless to say we are very proud of him.

A few other photos from his special day, including one with his teacher…

Waiting to receive his honors…

Recognition and a hug from the school principal (he’s as tall as she is!)…

And celebrating the end of the school year with his mom and with his friend B. who he has known since preschool…

As always, many thanks to all who have kept Ben in your thoughts and prayers since his surgeries five years ago.

# BenStrong #Soli Deo Gloria

Milestones for Our Miracle Boy


“Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead.”     (Nelson Mandela)

And boom! Just like that our miracle boy has turned 9, has just completed his first state-mandated round of end-of-grade standardized testing in school, and by the end of this week will have completed grade 3. But the most important milestone marks 5 years since his diagnosis and surgeries.

When he was only 3 years old, grandson Ben was diagnosed with dural arteriovenous fistula, a rare vascular malformation in the brain. Just after his 4th birthday he underwent two back-to-back brain surgeries to repair the fistula, and the following year was again in a life-threatening condition that required a third surgery. We view the medical care he received and his recovery as nothing short of miraculous.


He has become quite a young man: very bright and excelling academically, a baseball/soccer/basketball/ playing – rock climbing sportsman, a wonderful son to his parents, grandson to us and his paternal grandparents, and cousin to his multitude of cousins. But most of all he is a kind, compassionate, loving person. We couldn’t be prouder.

We were able to be with Ben to celebrate his actual birthday and attend one of his baseball games, although we weren’t able to return for the birthday party which was held the following weekend. 
Happy 9th birthday, Ben!  And never forget how far you’ve come in the 5 years since your surgeries.
Thank you to everyone for keeping Ben in your thoughts and prayers for the past 5 years.

# BenStrong #Soli Deo Gloria