Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Ben celebrated his 18th birthday WITHOUT ME! I missed his fifth birthday, too. But, I've been there for all the others, including the one that started it all, July 20, 1995. Standing in for me are Kathy (center front) and Rick (standing). Around the table from the left are Gerhardt and Karen (Kathy's sister and brother-in-law) Jim (Valery's friend) Ben, Geoff (Kathy's son) and hiding behind Kathy's hat is Gerhardt (son of Gerhardt and Karen). The bucolic setting is Toad Ranch, home of Rick and Kathy. Ben spent the two days leading up to this celebration visiting with Kathy and Rick.

Last year, I didn't get a birthday picture of Ben, but here's what I posted about the day:
Friday was Ben's seventeenth birthday. He seems so adult in many ways and yet so young in others. I guess that's what adolescence is all about. We celebrated quietly, he started the day with his traditional birthday batch of monkey bread and opening gifts from me -- a few nature and science books. I hope he likes them. And then ended the day with strawberry shortcake.

This picture was taken right around his 16th birthday when he was re-uniting with friends Trevor and Anna in El Dorado Hills.

And here's Ben at 15, blowing out birthday candles while great grandparents, Bernice and Arlan wait for their piece of the berry cobbler.
Here we are with 14 candles on the cake. Notice that both boys are taller than me by a few inches.

Just a year earlier when Ben was 13, we were all the same height.

So, what's Ben been doing lately, you ask. As near as I can tell, he's doing the same thing he did in Missouri, observing nature up close and personal. Here are a few of his photos I lifted from his Facebook page. The captions are his.
"I looked at a small patch of ground in the middle of a field and found lots and lots of dead insect parts! So I put most of them in this little collection. It is amazing how much of this stuff you can find anywhere!"
 "This ant on a plant was close to where I found those insect parts, so I like to think of this one as the custodian."

" Lots of black ants and black aphids, showing off the mutualism commonly found between these sorts of insects! These were near a river on the way to Lake Margaret in California."

"This is what California's Lake Margaret looks like."
And this is what Ben looks like when preparing to check out the hives kept by Bill, the husband of Amy Schulze, Ben's (and Logan's) second grade teacher. Ben spent the day with them exploring their property on the American River in Coloma. Several of the above pictures were taken by Ben that day.

When he's not staring at insects, he has been doing volunteer work at Pride Industries, a workplace for people with disabilities. His aunt Valery works there and Ben has been going to work with her three days a week. He's been writing safety procedures for the use of manufacturing equipment.

His STEP program at UC Davis begins August 17th and I'm going to be there to participate in the parent orientation. I can't wait to see Ben again. I can't believe how much I miss him, how much I love that boy, and how proud of him I am.

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