Welcome to our little corner of the world! I’m Heidi, I’m married to Kit, we have six little ones keeping us busy ranging in ages from 13 down through 4. They’re adorable and amazing and wild and wonderful!
In 2005 our third child decided to show up four months early at a whopping 22 ounces and give us a good scare. This blog was created to keep family and friends updated through our 4 months in the hospital. You can read a bit about his NICU story here.
We’ve since archived those years but last fall we started sharing again because of some new adventures. Ben’s eyesight has been slowly declining (this was expected due to complications from his premature arrival) and we learned he had far more visual field loss than we realized. He started a wish list of places he would like to see and things he would like to do before his eyesight changes further.
You can read some of those articles about his adventures here!
Through the last few months we’ve been working on that wish list and being blessed in countless ways by friends, family, our community, and complete strangers as Ben tackles this challenge with his typical passion. So thank you, whoever you may be! We’re glad you came by and we welcome your comments and messages. We recently set up a page on Facebook to share the wish list adventures, and you can follow it here. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail through Kit’s work:
Ben’s Wish List
PO Box 2107
Lake Dallas, TX 75065-2107
Ben and all the kids LOVE postcards so if you want to send one from your hometown or your vacation spot then they would be thrilled. It’s the next best thing to him getting to see those places in person.
Day Two was technically when we flew in and were greeted at the gate by my sister, Emily and her husband, Richy. They landed just before us and came from their terminal to greet us (with a sign, even, welcoming us to London!) I think my jet lagged kids were mostly confused as to why their aunt and uncle were in Europe, as some of them had asked specifically if we could beg Emily & Richy to join us and I simply said that getting off work & out of school isn’t that easy. It’s not – we had been planning this surprise for a year, coordinating schedules and budgeting and late night phone calls and I couldn’t believe we had really pulled it off! It was so, so good to see them and we were so grateful to have their help and company on this adventure – we really needed them!
So, last fall we were in Oklahoma when we got a call about bringing Ben to California to visit The Doctors show. It was pretty last minute and we had an appointment scheduled for Ben to head into Dallas and visit with the eSight folks, so I told The Doctors I wasn’t sure if we could make it or not – I needed to verify we could reschedule the eSight visit because we were NOT going to miss that! Thankfully the Dallas office said no problem, and we set up the flights to Los Angeles for Ben, me (Heidi/mom) and for our oldest son, Christopher. He was born in LA but hadn’t been there since he was 8 weeks old and we really wanted to make sure he had a chance to see where we lived for that year. Los Angeles was on Ben’s list because he had wanted to see where his brother was born, where his parents and grandparents were born, etc. Thankfully we were able to coordinate it and bring him along. Continue reading
We heard about the “magic” photos you could have taken around Disney, and I wasn’t sure if the kids would want to hold still for any pictures, let alone the extra magic shots. I was wrong – they LOVED them, and it was a blast to come home and download the pictures to see how they turned out. We’re so glad that Melissa with Trips to the Mouse advised us to include the photo pass – totally worth it! Rather than missing out on being in the pictures or not being able to capture shots while wrangling other little ones we could just watch the moments and smile at our kids’ reactions and then have them scan our wristband and be on our way.
The photographer forgot to include the magic. :)
While flipping through the Disney photos I realized that a significant portion of them are our #5 child and most devoted cuddler hugging various characters around the park. As he’ll happily tell everyone, “My love language is physical touch so I need LOTS of cuddles!” Disney delivered hugs to his little heart’s content.
Ben wanted to see Antarctica and I said not a chance. (I know, I shouldn’t rain on his parade, but I’m pretty anti-cold. I guess I could send Kit with him?)
Anyway, we joked that we could just put him somewhere cold for awhile and that would be similar, and a few people suggested we check out the ICE! exhibit. Someone sweetly offered to send us and you can’t tell by their cold expressions but they had a blast! We used all of our Alaska snow gear and bundled them up super warm, plus there are parkas to go over your own clothes. Because we went on a school day and first thing when they opened it wasn’t crowded, which meant the kids were able to enjoy multiple rides on the ice slides. (We heard on some days there was a long wait line to get a ride, but our kids had several rides each – it was great timing.) For family movie night we watched Frosty before we went, so they knew the whole story and recognized the characters. I’ve seen ice sculptures before several times, but these were really impressive and it was fun seeing the colored ice. Ben says it was awesome!
9F – NINE DEGREES!!
She was very warmly bundled, I promise.
We had just watched the movie, so that made it more fun.
My kids at the little red caboose.
When I was a girl living in Germany we had a community theater that also hosted the dance program, and they put on The Nutcracker. I was in the performance one year (coincidently the year that Desert Storm began and all of our dads deployed, which certainly put a damper on the holidays as they all left around Christmas.) But the performance was a wonderful thing to focus on in a stressful time for kids, and I’ve loved the music ever since. We’ve watched films of the ballet with the kids over the years, but they hadn’t seen a live performance.
The Eisemann Center in Richardson reached out to us and offered tickets for Ben to come see the ballet in November. I sent Kit with our older kids and they said it was magical and amazing and beautiful and they LOVED it! (I was very jealous, but we knew the younger kids may be too wiggly so I stayed home with them.) Then we received another message offering us tickets to another performance, though I let them know Ben had been able to see it. They said they were still happy to host us, so this time we packed up the entire family and headed down to Fort Worth to see it at the Bass Performance Hall (which was actual also on Ben’s list, to see the Bass itself.)
We were invited to come down a bit early and get a peek backstage. It was so neat for Ben and all of the kids to be able to see some of the props backstage that they would later see in the performance, and to walk onto the stage and see the beautiful set. During the ballet when the sleigh lifts up Ben leaned over to whisper that he had seen that up close – I think it helped him to visualize what he couldn’t see well from a distance. (Though we also had lovely seats, and it was magical when we got snowed on during the show!)
Little Miss O did get wiggly after all but we took a walk during intermission and got some selfies and she enjoyed the show, too. I’m so glad our family was able to have these wonderful experiences and allow Ben to fall even more in love with The Nutcracker. Now when he hears the music I know he’ll have the visual memories of these gorgeous sets and talented dancers.
Before the show downstairs.
With the giant nutcracker!
When writing up Ben’s wish list I tried to type exactly what he was saying. Some of his wishes I told him right off the bat we could do (the zoo, a bike shop, the Apple store) and others I told him NO WAY am I doing that (Antarctica, the Sahara.) Other wishes I knew weren’t realistic, despite how much I wished we could help make them happen – seeing the northern lights, or getting into the Food Network kitchens. (I actually told him the northern lights may be easier to see than the kitchens!) I tried looking into it and read that they don’t do tours and there’s not any way the public can just come peek into the their studios, which I told Ben. He was sad, and said maybe if we went to NYC someday that we could go by and see the outside of the studios? I wasn’t even sure where they are located (I knew the general area) but I told him maybe someday. Then I tried to redirect him to other wishes that I knew were more feasible.
This was all before Ben’s story began to be shared, and suddenly we were going to see the northern lights (I almost fell down when I got the call from Janet at WFAA telling us about that opportunity.) Dreams that I thought were not possible were happening – it was happening. But through all of these incredible adventures when Ben would comment on how much he loved this cooking show or that chef and wouldn’t it be nice if someday we could visit Food Network I would always remind him – Sweetie, I’m sorry but they don’t do tours.
Ben even began plotting how he could get onto the show Worst Cooks in America so he could visit. It became a family joke.
When we were at the Grand Canyon we weren’t sure when the story would air with On the Road, and The Doctors show hadn’t aired yet that revealed Ben had an eSight.
Here’s Steve’s clip:
So we filmed Ben’s initial reaction to the Grand Canyon before trying on his new tool.
He could see the canyon, he talked about how the colors were pretty and it seemed big. I helped him get the eSight on and he began adjusting the settings and then he yelled, “It’s HUGE!!! There’s a river down there!” He kept gasping and saying wow and zooming in and I was just bawling.
Seeing the Grand Canyon was amazing regardless, but seeing his response once he could really see everything was stunning. Ben challenged the other kids to a game of I Spy which he thoroughly won because he now has super zoom capabilities that us mere mortals do not have. His siblings were grinning ear to ear hearing what their brother could now describe for them.
I will never, ever forget seeing Ben’s face when realized how much he could see.
Adjusting his settings inside the geology museum.
“There’s a river down there!!”
Looking at his siblings.
We’ve read through some of the suggestions about things Ben should see, and while some made us laugh very hard (and aren’t appropriate for sharing on a family blog) we’ve had people mention Ben may be interested in seeing a birth.
Ben actually HAS seen a birth! Four years ago when his littlest sibling arrived we gave each of the kids the choice to attend the birth or not. There were two people here specifically to help the kids and to make sure those interested could be in the room and those wanting to be elsewhere could go play. We weren’t sure what the kids would decide but when it came time all five of the kids came into the room to watch their baby sister arrive. (This was made easier since we had the youngest two kids at home – so really it just meant walking from the living room where they were all playing games into the bedroom where I was laboring.)
I wondered how much Ben remembered so here goes – I’ll quote him:
So there was a party, and we had some cake. I think there was a strawberry cake with pink frosting, and it was white on the outside. (He’s remembering the gender reveal cake. The actual birth day cake was pumpkin.) Do you want to know about the actual birth? Or the after party? (I said both.) For the birth Dad was sitting next to you in the pool, and Jean was standing by, and somebody was standing by with a big rack of stuff. (They brought in all their birth supplies.) Then when Livy got born we all sat down and started hugging her and we were all really happy. Then we went and had the party!
So while Ben’s memories are focused more on the food than the miracle of birth, I’m glad that his overall impression of birth is positive.
Watching the newborn exam.
The first time Ben held his little sister.
The kids were quite fascinated by the little arrival.
Each of the kids designed a onesie for the new baby.
Keri Duckett was the birth photographer with our youngest. Yes, we hired a professional photographer to attend our birth and that’s actually in large part because of what happened at Ben’s birth. You can read about that here.