When New Yorkers Michael and Lauren Schwartz welcomed their little bundle of joy, Ben, on Jan. 11, 2020, they had no idea that quarantining would alter the course of his first year.
Like any first-time parents, the couple wanted to document little Ben’s milestones.
“I’m by no means a social media hound,” Michael Schwartz told TODAY Parents. “I have my own little Instagram account with family and friends as followers, and I always see when my friends have babies, (they) put up a monthly photo.”
When Ben was nearing his first month milestone, Schwartz found himself watching “The Sandlot” one night.
“The scene came up where they talked about the Babe Ruth ball and I randomly started calling Ben ‘Ben-bino,’” he recalled. “When it was time for the first photo, I started playing with this and it was just something cute I thought would be funny to put on Instagram.”
As month two inched closer, the new dad decided to get pun-ny again for his son’s photo.
“I started to brainstorm other twists on Ben and landed on a bento box,” Schwartz said, adding that his props came Japanese takeout they had gotten at the time.
By month three, Schwartz was in it for the long haul.
“Some of our friends were literally in love with this and asked, ‘How will you top the first two?’” he said. “That’s when the fun ensued.”
For month four, baby Ben is seen dressed as a Benihana chef, an ode to the popular Teppanyaki restaurant.
“I tagged them on Instagram and they asked if they could re-post and put it on their website,” Schwartz said. “I was blown away that this little picture could get so much attention.”
As the months rolled on, Ben’s milestones became a highlight for everyone in the Schwartz family’s circle.
“People would text me on the ninth and tenth (of the month) saying they were so excited for the photo,” Schwartz shared.
And if the much-anticipated photo wasn’t up first thing on the 11th? “His grandfather would be calling me throughout the day saying, ‘Where's the picture?’” Schwartz said.
While Lauren Schwartz, who works in publicity for NBC, was an integral part in managing “the talent,” Michael Schwartz said he’s the creative guru behind the production.
“She’s my supportive co-producer, but I did a lot of the storyboarding and floating of ideas,” said Schwartz, who works in financial services and business development. “Being in quarantine, we had to plan in advance, scour the internet for props — it became a whole to-do, but it was fun.”
For month 10, Schwartz said he got some help from the costume supervisor for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
“We did get an assist from the SNL wardrobe department on the ‘Ben Commandments,’” Schwartz shared. “It’s the greatest Moses baby costume anyone has seen in their life.”
On Jan. 11, 2021, Ben celebrated his first birthday, aptly posting with “Big Ben.”
“I was happy we made it to 12 months,” Schwartz said, adding that it was fun, but a little stressful. “I hope when Ben is older, he appreciates this and doesn’t resent me for it.”
Watch TODAY All Day! Get the best news, information and inspiration from TODAY, all day long.