Monday, July 21, 2008

What a Character

You never know how a child is going to react to a costumed character. It is usually pretty cut and dry - either they absolutely LOVE it or they HATE it. The last experience I had with Benjamin was with a crazy eyed Easter bunny. Wally, Ben and I waited in line for what seemed like hours to get a photo with Easter Benny and Easter Bunny. I had my suspicions but we waited anyway. As we got closer to the beginning of the line, I saw other children run away/scream/ kick/cry in horror over this over sized hopping, egg distributing machine but I thought Ben loved Santa and he is a pretty brave soul (when it comes to strangers) so we should get the cherished photo in without a scene. Boy was I wrong! Wally stood back - I tried to put him on the Bunny's lap but he clung to me for dear life with a look on his face that said, "what are you crazy lady?!?!" The sixteen year old photographer said, "I got a shot do you want to see it he looks cute." I controlled myself and remembered I was a mother and simply said, "I do not want a photo with my son looking like someone is about to murder him but thank you anyway."

Flash forward four months later and I have signed my son up for a lunch with the Sesame Street characters (no I am not trying to torture my son). I was a bit nervous and thought this could be the worst decision I have made this year -- I might have spent 50 bucks for no good reason. As you can already tell from the photos, I would have spent a million dollars and more to capture one of the best afternoons I have ever had in my life. To say Benjamin was excited is an understatement, I thought at one point he might explode with excitement. From the moment we walked in the door and he saw Big Bird, he was in love. He went around to each and every Sesame Street character to have his picture taken with them and really just to spend some time with them. He laughed with them. He slapped their hands/wings five. He gave a few of them a kiss. And even "beeped" their noses.
Since Elmo is the most popular character of this generation, you could actually got a professional (once again by a sixteen year old so I use the term "professional" loosely) photo taken with him and take a few of your own. I let Benjamin walk up to Elmo and he hugged him and turned around and ran back to me with the BIGGEST smile on his face. He then went right back to his beloved character to poise for a few pictures and share more hugs. However, the best moment came after Ben woofed down a cupcake and was on a serious sugar high that I thought he might spontaneously combust. Ernie and Big Bird had come out to the center of the dance floor and were getting down. Ben was sitting in his highchair wanting to get out and hit the dance floor and perform his chicken dance. I got him out and he ran to Ernie then noticed Big Bird and started yelling to me and pointing at Big Bird and ran to him then realized Ernie was still there and he started yelling my name again and pointing out Ernie. He had no idea who he wanted to go to next so just started running around in a circle screaming with joy. I wish, wish, wish I had a video camera to capture that moment. My description doesn't do it justice but imagine being caught between your two favorite celebrities that you have ALWAYS wanted to meet that's how Ben was - beside himself. He definitely didn't take the "play it cool route" but the cool route wouldn't have brought me as much joy as it did. My mother looked on and had tears in her eyes (she probably didn't think I noticed that) and I knew she shared the same thought as I did - I will never forget this moment as long as I live.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Coming Full Circle

It seems the Galasso family have always been a part of my family -- we've vacationed together, gone on day trips together and celebrated holidays together. So last Thursday, when I put the car in reverse to head to Sesame Place with my Mom riding shotgun and Mrs. G in the backseat entertaining Benjamin it was like my life was going in reverse. The last time I had been to Sesame Place I was in the back of the "Vern" van with the entire Baker and Galasso clan. Need I mention there were a few pair of gym socks pulled up to knees and fluorescent accessories all around. A flood of memories came back to me as we headed to Langhorne, PA. I think my Mom was feeling nostalgic too because she pulled out a pair of fluorescent sunglasses for the occasion (no really she did).
This time around I was the parent and I was meeting Richie Galasso and his wife and daughter. First of all, sometimes I find it hard to believe I am old enough to be a parent and I'm 35 but Richie little Richie how can he be the father of a little girl who is older than Benjamin with number two on the way. As we continued down the highway, I began to think how did I get here? Where did the time go? I've gone from being a twelve year old girl at Sesame Place to a mother at Sesame Place. Being a Mom, I find myself reflecting often on how quickly life goes by. Like a blink of an eye. I rembered the trip being longer (and so did Mom and Mrs. G - could it be because we were in a van that only went 50?) and there being more lights and a giant Big Bird head we walked through. Rich and I remembered there being more water slides and less wading pools. However, the cargo nets were still there and the punching bag maze -- something always remain the same.
We had the time of our lives. Ben and Rosie had a blast and I had even more fun watching them have fun. Like my first trip to Sesame Place my memories were wrapped up with my family and the Galasso family. The only thing that is different this time around is that we added two more players to the picture - Benjamin and Rosie and what a beautiful picture they make.
I think we will all agree while the last time we were all here it was a lot of fun this time around it was AMAZING. As we said our goodbyes and drove away (while threatening to leave my Mom and Mrs. G behind), I, how life has come full circle.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


As I am the eldest child, I often looked to my tribe of cousins (there are approximately 25-30 first cousins on my Dad's side alone!) to play the role of older sibling. In particular, I looked to my cousin Albert, and more so, my cousin Michelle to be my big brother and big sister. While for the most part, I thought they adored me and the best little cousin a person could ever ask for, I later found out that they thought I was cute (of course) but still kind of a pain -- like a true little sister.

Benjamin is blessed with cousins as well. Certainly, not the overwhelming number I have, (I would be hard pressed to recall all of their names) but he does have three older boy cousins on Wally's side (I do know all of their names - Andrew, Peter and Timmy). However, as compared to a number of my cousins being so close in age, with Benjamin there is approximately 11 years difference with the youngest of our nephews. While I have the age ratio in my favor, Benjamin is blessed with three very special relationships with his cousins. This weekend, I got an opportunity to see first hand how incredible my nephews are with Benjamin, in particular, Timmy. Timmy has a natural gift for being with children. He knows how to relate to them and knows what they like. If Benjamin was belly laughing, it most probably had to do with something Timmy was showing or doing with him. Midway through the weekend, he was saying Timmy's name and looking for him when he wasn't there -- a true sign that Benjamin is very fond of someone. Wherever Timmy was Ben followed and unlike my cousins Timmy was always patient with Ben -- Timmy actually enjoyed the time they spent together. Andrew and Peter were incredibly dotting as well and were always on the look out for where Ben was making sure he remained safe and sound like great big brothers do.

As I know and Ben will know too, if you're lucky enough, a cousin could be the older sibling you will never have.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Little Reminder

Everyone needs a little reminder every now and then. Sometimes when you have been friends with someone for so long you forget or maybe the better wording is you take for granted why your friends are your friends. Often it is some sort of tragedy or heartache that reminds you of why you are friends with a particular person. Last night I had one of those experiences that makes you sit back and say I'm so glad we are friends. It wasn't tragic in any sense of the word. In fact, anyone looking in on the situation would think it was just an ordinary night. But that is the thing about ordinary - it can be extraordinary!
One of my dearest friends in the world stopped by for an unexpected visit (truth be told - we kind of planned it - but very last minute and loosey-goosey). She played with Benjamin and he was so enamored by his Auntie. I have to say she has an incredible way with children and I just really appreciated her taking the time to just "be" with Ben. Wally convinced her to stay for dinner. We laughed a lot and this scene happened above (see picture). Benjamin showed her a toy then he wanted to show her another, then another and another until it became a game of how many things we can balance on Auntie Jennifer. He was so proud of himself and Auntie Jennifer was an ACE balance-r! In fact, she might consider it as a second career. Not only was she comfortable hanging out with my son, but she has a great rapport with my husband as well. It is one of those things that makes you happy and think "thank GOD my husband likes my friend!' and vice versa.
We also had an opportunity to spend some time alone. While Wally got Benjamin ready for bed, she helped me clear the table and we talked. I washed the dishes and she told me a story about people we knew. I added in my color commentary and it was just easy and natural. When it was time to see her go, I really didn't want to see her leave - not in a crazy psycho single white female way, but just a "I wish I spent more time with her way."
When I woke up this morning, I thought about what a great friend Jennifer is in my life and all the many things she has brought to it. Everyone needs a little reminder now and then. Thanks for the reminder Jennifer - let's remind each other more often.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy Fifth of July!

The fourth just isn't the fourth without fireworks. Fear not! While we tried to view fireworks on the fourth, only to find they had been canceled and had to settle for watching the Macy's fireworks on TV, I was determined this family was seeing fireworks this weekend. And boy did we ever! On Saturday of July Fourth Weekend, we drove only about 4 miles away to see an incredible display at Lewis-Morris Park. While Benjamin, didn't know what to make of it at first. He clapped his hands and cheered at the first BOOM. When the fireworks started coming fast and furious, he clung on tight to Dad's neck and then Mom's neck but still with his mouth agape not able to take his eyes off the technicolor show. When it was over, we cheered and boogied back to the car (forgot to mention with Kelty in tow). As we waited to leave the park in a boat-load of traffic, I sat back and said, "now, I feel like this is a Fourth of July Weekend."

The Kelty Rides Again

In our very first blog, we talked about the purchase of a baby carrier (a quite expensive baby carrier). Because of its cost, we are determined (more Wally than me) to get our money's worth. The Kelty (the baby carrier) was back on another adventure this weekend. This time the Kelty took the Kamienskis up the NY Thruway to Cragsmoore, NY. What's in Cragsmoore I questioned the Kelty? Sam's Point of course! I have to admit I was skeptical at first. The weatherman on Channel 4 called for periodic thunderstorms throughout the day. I had an image of hiking and trying to find shelter for my one year old, husband and myself in an open field as the lightening began to strike but I was convinced to give it a go.
It took us about an hour and a half to get there and the weather didn't look very promising but we forged on. While on the hike up to Sam's Point, we were swarmed by gnats. Ben didn't complain one bit about the bug situation, but he did start harassing me for "crack-ers" in his southern gentleman accent (not sure where or when he spent time down south). When got to the scenic overlook with our new buggy friends (I think we even took some home in the Tahoe), we asked a gentleman to take our picture. He told us to wait he was trying to figure out if the birds circling in the distance where turkey vultures or something else (didn't catch what the something else was) but we found out they were turkey vultures because they had white tipped wings. While we sat there for about five minutes and I said forget it and started to head away, he turned around and said, "don't you want your picture taken?" We then had to hear several times our camera wasn't in focus. Finally, I said "it's okay just take the picture." By some miracle, it actually was a pretty decent picture of the Kamienski clan and Kelty.
We then decided to hit the ice caverns but got half-way down a very treacherous incline and I asked the team if we could abort the mission. Wally, Kelty and Benjamin agreed. We headed back to the parking area and went around a serene lake (or pond - I can never tell the difference) and walked along a path lined with wildflowers that Wally and I stopped and picked along the way.
Once we got back to the conservatory, we knew we had to let Benjamin roam free before putting him back in his car seat. I think I liked the conservatory best because it was bug free and because Benjamin actually got a chance to hang out with a few new friends - a lady bug, bear and eagle. What can I say the kid is a nature lover.
We headed back to the car all with more memories to share and loaded the Kelty back in truck to await another adventure with the Kamienskis.

Indoor Camping

Newsflash...I'm not the camping-type. Not much of a shocker there. My idea of "roughing it" consists of staying at a hotel that doesn't end in Seasons or Carlton. However, I do have a deep, passionate love for tents. Yes, I love tents! I know what you are thinking, "hmmm if Jennifer likes tents how can she not like camping?" Well, wonder no more. My love of tents is of the indoor variety. If you haven't experienced the indoor tent - you seriously don't know what you are missing. I became a fan of the indoor tent when I was kid and my Grandmother (the unofficial queen of tent-making) made my brother, my cousin Keith and myself a tent indoors. The first tent she constructed, while primitive compared to the later tents she would make, was the best thing since the Barbie Dream House. How could a sheet, two chairs and a few clothespins become an outdoor campsite complete with heating and plumbing? AMAZING! Our campsite was free of bugs, bears and even had cable TV!
As the years went on and my brother, cousin and myself pushed my Grandmother for bigger and better, it was then that Granny was in the zone and her whole house was transformed into the K.O.A. site, but better. Every sheet, book, chair, table and clothespin available in the house was used to create her tent masterpieces. They were breathtaking and without a doubt some of my favorite childhood memories were had in an indoor tent.
Now with Benjamin in the mix, my love of the indoor tent is resurrected and can be enjoyed once again. This weekend, Wally and I put together a store-bought (not sure Granny would approve) Giraffe tent. While I do plan on pulling out all the bed sheets in the house one day, the Giraffe is a good start for now to ease Ben into the joy of indoor camping. Once Wally and tamed the beast (after one try by myself and two tries together), I crawled right in the tent and called Ben to join me. He came running and crawled right in and sat next to me with a big Ben smile on his face. Instantly, I knew he shared my love of the indoor tent. I couldn't have been prouder.