Saturday, February 28, 2009

No longer Home Alone!

Last Sunday morning, Wesley and his dad headed out for a week of skiing. Usually, when Wesley is away, I travel to Knoxville or Nashville to be with family. Because of Jackson's swimming lesson commitment, this time we needed to stay home. At first I was a little nervous. Not scared or worried but nervous about how I was going to entertain Jackson for an entire week by myself! Well, Wesley's plane lands in about 10 minutes and I will say, Jackson and I had a great week!!

Monday, we went and got his hair cut. Tuesday, we ventured out to Catch Air, an indoor playground, with our friends Kate and Sam. After Catch Air, Kate and I braved Chick-fil-a's Kid's night and enjoyed dinner together too!

Jackson loved the big slide.
What a workout carrying a 25 lb boy up an inflatable slide :)

This was our attempt to get the boys together.
Jackson was not in the mood to stop for a picture - too much to do!

Sam, on the other hand, stopped playing to pose for an adorable picture with his Mom!

Wednesday night we went to church and Thursday we spent time at my neighbors. They are about to have a little girl and I wanted to see her nursery - adorable! Friday morning we ran some errands and after swim lessons and a nap, we headed over to Tucker and Addie's house to play. Playing around with those two wore Jackson out, and he was in bed by 7:00!

This morning, we headed to the church for a meeting at 8:00. Unfortunately, Jackson wasn't keen on the idea of sitting through a brainstorming meeting. He had other plans, so we left shortly after they served breakfast :)

Now, we are just waiting on Wesley and Jack to get home! Though I have loved this time with my little man, I am ready to see Wesley! There is only so much Facebook you can take in a week until you are ready for some real conversation with someone at night!

Wesley and his Dad, Jack
Wesley, Jack, and Dan
Dan is a long time family friend of the Benders and was the minister at our wedding.
Dan and Jack
These two are so much fun!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Jackson's first real haircut

A few days ago, my friend Kate posted that her little boy got his first haircut. After seeing pictures of how adorable Sam looked with his stylish new do, I realized it was time for Jackson to head somewhere for his first real haircut. Back last fall, I snipped Jackson's baby curls off, and earlier this year, Wesley and I attempted to clean up his look. Though we did an okay job, he didn't have a "style" and I figured it was about time he had a little boy haircut.

This morning at swim lessons, I asked Kim where she takes her two little girls. She recommended Snip-Its and gave me a coupon (WhooHoo!) With coupon in hand, we headed out after lunch. 

Snip-Its was awesome! I highly recommend taking a child - especially a wiggle worm like Jackson - to a place that specializes in kids. There were toys everywhere and movies going constantly. The nice lady who cut Jackson's hair even let me request a movie to help distract him from the scissors. 

Though he was upset at first, the movie, snacks, and books helped calm him down and we left with an adorable little boy! It was worth the few extra dollars to make the experience more enjoyable.

Classic First Haircut Picture!

Jackson calmed down after a lollipop...

a Tigger and Pooh book...

and a little Elmo!



Though you can't really appreciate the haircut in this picture, I thought it was a cute. I asked Jackson to say "cheese" and he did!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Birthday Celebration

Back in January, three of my friends and I decided to celebrate each other's birthdays with a night out. Priscilla's birthday was in November. Ashley and Katey celebrated in January, and my big day is in March. We made plans for a Girls Night Out at Nava, a nice restaurant in Buckhead. They husbands took the kids - that's when Wesley and Jackson went to the circus - and we were able to enjoy some girl conversation!

It really was a special treat to be with these girls. Though we are together all the time at church and play dates, it is always good to take a break from the family responsibilities and just be girlfriends for a night! I had a great time and can't wait until we head out again!

Katey, Leanne, Ashley, and Priscilla
(sorry the picture is blurry...we forgot our cameras so we had to make do with a camera phone!)

It pays to know a juggler :)

Last week, Wesley attended a retreat for the full-time YMCA staff. As part of the retreat they talked about how to juggle all that goes on within a non-profit organization especially in this economic time. To drive home the point, they had a juggling contest, and Wesley won!! His prize: tickets to the Ringling Brothers circus! 

The circus was last night and since I had a previous commitment with 3 of my girlfriends, Wesley, Jackson, and my father-in law Jack headed to the circus with our friend Todd and his son Tucker. 

We didn’t know how the two little ones would do, but turns out, they both loved it! We all thought the boys would be downtown for a little while. There was no way they would stay for the entire show – WRONG! Wesley, Jack and Jackson didn’t get home until 10:30.  My Girls-Night-Out was even over before then! Kinda sad when your 19-month old stays out later than you!!!

Anyways, they had a great time and it was so fun to see all the pictures from Jackson’s first circus! 


Jackson and Dad

Jackson and KD

Three generations of Bender Boys!

I love my friend, Tucker!

Look at those smiles!

Jackson clapping - Even though you can't see his face, I can tell he is smiling! (a mother just knows!)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

What not to wear!

Neither Wesley nor I are really in-the-know when it comes to fashion. Obviously, our son isn't either!  Since he is only 19 months, I have final say on what he wears out, but take a look at what he has been sporting around the house.

He used to hate wearing his cros, but on this day, he wanted them on all day - even with his PJs! The hat was so he could look like Daddy. It didn't stay on very long.

Jackson's vocabulary is finally picking up steam. 
Two words he knows very well are "Car" and "Shoe." You should have seen his face when I told him his cars were shoes! He put them on and had to run and show Dad!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chuck E. Cheese

I find it fascinating that at a young age, Jackson has already started developing friendships. Two of his favorite playmates are Addie and Tucker. That works out great for Wesley and me because Addie and Tucker's parents are some of our closest friends!  

Tonight we decided to make a family play-date and go to Chuck E. Cheese. We had a blast. It wasn't crowded so we were able to relax, enjoy some pizza and lots of laughs with friends! 

Jackson loved the carousel

Jackson and Tucker riding their first roller coaster!

"No wait, Addie. You do it like this..."

It is easier to go down the slide with your tongue out

"Hey wait, guys! There has to be room for me in there!"

No room inside - that's okay. I will just stand out here. 

How many people does it take to play Skee Ball?

Wesley and Todd with their boys

It wasn't all fun with the family tonight 
Wesley got creamed by Todd in the shoot-out game!

Tired little boy

Not a lot has been going on around here lately except for swim lessons. These daily lessons have been amazing to watch. I have enjoyed watching Jackson develop learning skills and how to process things. Jackson has already learned to roll over on his back in the water and today, he and Kim tackled getting to the side and pulling up to get out of the water.

Usually, he is worn out after the lessons but we are able to come home, eat lunch, play, take a bath and then go down for a nap. Today, though, he just went straight from lunch to nap without even leaving his highchair! In 18 months, this is the first time he has ever fallen asleep at the table! I guess he worked extra hard today!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

25 Things About Wesley

Ever since I composed my "25 Things About Me" list, I have been on Wesley to do the same. I wanted to see what 25 things from his life he would select to highlight. After countless requests and a little begging, Wesley finally sent his list to me. Of course, it couldn't just stay with me...I had to share!


25 Things about Wesley:

1. There are 4 things in life that can take me away from thinking about my job: snowboarding, wakeboarding, going to the movies, and my most favorite – playing with Leanne and Jackson. 

2. I would absolutely love to own a very large pickup truck. I am not sure this will ever happen, but I think it is good to have a “big dream.”

3. I have a dog named Flash who also wants me to own a truck so that he can hang his long floppy ears out the window (like Flash from Dukes of Hazzard, the original, not the one with Jessica Simpson)

4. I own a lot of movies. I can watch many movies over and over again. I love Disney movies and as long as I can get a large popcorn layered with butter and a large cherry coke, I am happy to go to any girly movie with Leanne.

5. I listen to all types of music – country, Christian, hip-hop, and have even gotten into a little bit of rock music since starting concerts at the YMCA. Lately, I have been jamming to some old school sugar hill gang, run-dmc, and beastie boys

6. I am incredibly blessed because one of my favorite things to do is eat new, creative food and Leanne loves trying new recipes (she is the only person I know who can see a dish on the Food Network and then recreate it in our own kitchen)

7. I love creativity, the arts, musicals, and anything else that displays talented people. I would love to see a competitive teen program in the YMCA in Atlanta that demonstrates the creativity of teenagers

8. I can count on one hand the number of guy friends my age that I really spend a great deal of time with and talk to about life (if you are reading this and are my age, you are one of them).

9. One day I hope to get involved in whatever it is that Jackson really loves to do. If it happens to be something that I already am familiar with (like basketball or computers), all the better. But I want to spend lots of time with him doing things that he really enjoys.

10. I like to consider myself a man of patience, but I get mad on occasion. It takes a lot and typically has to do with something with my job.

11. I do consider my job a ministry. It is not a 9 to 5, and my schedule is different every week. I think I would drive myself and the rest of my family crazy if I had to sit at a desk on a routine basis.

12. I love trucks, computers, and gadgets. I have a large drawer at my house that is simply full of all kinds of wires, connectors, and chargers. I like to say that I can hook anything up to anything else if need be.

13. I like to edit video and make funny videos for different occasions. I think it this really allows me to “practice” my creativity.

14. I was a groomsman in my sister’s wedding and fainted in front of everyone

15. By the end of this summer, I will have married my wife, her sister, and her best friend

16. My first job was cutting grass in Knoxville, TN and every once in a while I wish I could go back to the simplicity of that job.

17. No one makes me laugh more than my wife. She only lets her family see how funny she is, which makes me appreciate her humor all the more.

18. I have little “fashion sense." So little that I could not even describe what that term really means. My favorite outfit is a ratty pair of house shoes, jeans that are much too big for me,  a collared shirt, and a ball cap. If I could put that on, go get in a huge Dodge Mega Cab diesel truck, have my dog Flash laying beside me, Jackson in the back seat, and Leanne singing in the passenger seat the song “She’s Country” . . . . . I think my life would be complete.

19. I drink lots of coffee and really enjoy all different types. I can drink it black or real sweet with lots of creamer. Just love sippin’ it. I also enjoy McDonald’s iced coffees – especially when I can’t pony up the dough to go to Starbucks.

20. I hope to one day write a book on my own, perhaps even a series of books about all the great stuff that happens to us every day that sometimes we pay little attention to.

21. My favorite part of the day has become giving Jackson a bath and putting him to bed. We always turn on the train in his room, then he sits in my lap and we play until Leanne hollers from downstairs that he needs to go to bed.

22. Not sure how this is going to happen, but I want to move up in my career and yet not lose weekly contact with the people I serve.

23. I love to teach and I love to motivate people to serve others.

24. I strive to be genuine in everything I do so that no one can ever question my motives or intentions. Somehow. . . people still find a way

25. The reason I am who I am and why I do what I do is directly related to my parents and the family I grew up with. I believe every child should have an atmosphere of family like I did growing up. Nothing perfect by any means, but a sense of love, joy, laughter, and openness that no one does everything right, we all make mistakes, but it sure can be a heck of a lot of fun! Bender Family Reunions are full of good ‘ole fashion fellowship.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


On a beach trip last May, some of my girlfriends showed me a video about ISR - Infant Swim Rescue. The video showed how children (6 months old and older) can learn the skills to survive in the water. Though it was hard to watch, I found it very intriguing. Since my in-laws have a pool, I loved the idea of Jackson being trained in what to do if he accidentally found himself in trouble. I told Wesley about it, but he wasn't as convinced.

Later that summer, a couple at church enrolled their two youngest in the program. One night we were swimming with them, and Wesley and I watched as their 14-month old went into the water, rolled over on his back and floated until his parents picked him up. It was amazing. Barely able to walk, this little guy was able to swim. That's all it took for Wesley to get on board and we looked into ISR lessons for Jackson.

Because of the financial commitment, we decided to wait until our local ISR trainer was offering a small discount. We registered Jackson to start his swim classes this week. The lessons last 15 minutes a day, everyday for 6 weeks. Today was his first day in the water.

I knew that his first day would be taxing on me because to get him accustomed to the water, his instructor, Kim, would have to let him go under, something he hadn't done yet. When we walked into the facility, my heart started beating so fast and it was a little hard to hand him over to the teacher. Kim is wonderful though. She took him into the pool and explained all that she was about to do.

Five minutes and 10 "dunks" later, Jackson - though visible upset - was able to find her hand under water and use it to pull himself up. WOW! Kim kept this first lesson very short for many reasons. When she handed him back to me, I laid him on his side and told him how proud I was of him. He really did such a good job!

Kim was also proud of Jackson and said he did great. She did warn me that tomorrow he won't come into the pool very easily! He will remember what happened today, but that he will slowly start to get accustomed to this daily routine.

So for the next 6 weeks, my life will revolve around our 15 minute lessons. By mid-March, Jackson will be able to swim. He will be able to go into the water fully clothed and find a way out.

It's not going to be easy. Already, I have cried - it's hard to see your baby under the water! - and he has cried, but I know at the end, we will both have a better respect for pools. We will both be able to enjoy this summer at the pool knowing that he has the skills he needs to be safe in the water.

-- To learn more about ISR, check out this Today Show report:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Trader Joe's and Whole Foods

Jackson and Wesley -dinner at Whole Foods

I have to take a moment to brag on my husband. Hands down, I believe he is the best hubby out there! There are many reasons that I would grant him "World's Best", but tonight, I will focus on one. He not only puts up with my infatuation with cooking- I subscribe to two food magazines; have more cookbooks than even I care to admit; am obsessed with all things Rachel-Ray; and have an weird love for grocery stores - but he also encourages me to explore this hobby.

Take for instance tonight: He heard that one of the Ys in town was doing a special field trip to Trader Joe's (a farmer's market type store). He knew I would love learning about the different and unusual foods they had there so he arranged for all three of us to tag along! It was so much fun!

A trained chef went around the store with the group to introduce ways to cook with new, unusual ingredients. It was all quite fainting. I enjoyed the tour of the store but was more interested in purchasing a few tasty treats! Rachel Ray had voted Trader Joe's hummus the "Best All Around" so I had to find and purchase a container of that!

After the tour of Trader Joe's was finished, I asked Wesley if we could stop into Whole Foods, another large, upscale fresh market. He was all for it and pushed Jackson around for almost an hour while we looked at all the produce and meats. Everything looked so fresh and I would have loved to take home one of everything!

Though we only ended up leaving with a few pieces of produce, I had the greatest time. I know Wesley strongly dislikes going to the grocery store, but he never once complained. Since these stores are a few miles away from our house, I never get out to them and he wanted me to enjoy our little tour. He even commented that it would be fun to go back!

Thanks, Wesley, for indulging me in my hobby tonight. You know I love to cook, but even more I love to just be with you and Jackson!!

Jackson enjoyed the tour too! Actually, I think he just enjoyed the samples

"Give me another piece of Grapefruit, please!"

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Playdates for Mommy, Daddy, and Jackson

The past few days have been full of play dates for the Bender family! All three of us enjoyed some special time with friends, and I had to share pictures of all our "get-togethers."

Thursday, Jackson and I enjoyed a morning with Ashley, Addie and Tucker. After playing around at the house, we headed to Chick-fil-a for lunch and some time in the kid's area. Jackson was a little daring Friday and climbed up to the top. He and Tucker had so much fun. And I had so much fun catching up with Ash!

In a few years, these two are going to be trouble :-)

Look at me Mommy!

Friday, after Jackson's 18-month check-up (All's good!) we headed over to Kate and Sam's house for a play date. Wesley and I went to Lipscomb with Kate. She and her husband Ben recently moved to the Cumming area, and we have been able to reconnect. Kate invited us over for play time and a delicious lunch - taco soup and Green Hills Grille Iced Tea! Yummo!

Jackson's favorite part of Sam's house was a new toy - Sam's diaper box. We put one of the boys in the box while the other pushed it around. They thought it was hilarious. I stole these pictures from Kate's blog:

Saturday started with a Girl's Day. The Encouragement ministry at the church had a card making session to make Valentines for the Jail Ministry. I joined a few of my friends at the building for the morning and then we headed off for lunch. A big thanks to Wesley for watching Jackson for the day. It is so nice to be able to get away every now and then for a little girl-time!
Meredith, Kate, Cory, and Misty at Lunch

Saturday night we joined our friends the Wyatts for play time at the park. It was a beautiful night and we all enjoyed watching the boys play around on the playground.

Jackson loved the swings!

Wesley and Rocky played "Frogger" with the boys. Rocky tried to see if he could get across without being hit by the moving swings. They all loved this game. Can you see all the smiles?

Though it looks like he is scared, Jackson is actually smiling all the way down this slide.
He is fearless and went down all the slides - no matter how big!
Camp and Jackson going down the slide together
Even baby Shepherd enjoyed the time at the park - isn't he adorable!