Monday, August 31, 2009

The First Day!

Would you believe that MY son, who is always awake at 5:45 a.m. slept until I woke him at 6:20 this morning?!?!? Go figure.

Our preparations went smoothly; then we all trekked to the bus stop. This is the expression I captured when I asked Ben to stand still for just a minute. "But Mommyyyyyyy! We can't sto-op! We'll miss the bu-uuuuuus!"

LOVE this shot. What a big boy!

He gave me a pleasant smile once we were there - standing and waiting. Take note of The Tag. He is expected to wear this for the first three weeks! Each of the twelve (yep, 12!) kindergarten teachers has a different shaped tag. The string is color-coded to tell people "in the know" something important. His bus number and name are displayed prominently. And the smiley face sticker's color also means something to those with "top secret clearance."

And off he goes! Remember how he is assigned to Bus 10? Yeah....well, apparently it's Bus 53 masquerading as Bus 10. That teeny tiny white number painted on the window above the 53 is a 10. This should help greatly.

Three little boys in one bus seat. Cozy. Can you see his little bespectacled silhouette?

And this is the "other woman" in Ben's life these days - Miss Shufelt. I took this picture last Friday at our open house. I was inspired by my friend, Rob's, picture of his son last year on the first day of school with his teacher. Since we don't get to drop our kids off, I figured the open house was the next-best thing.

And look who returned in one piece!!!!! Miss Karen, the bus driver, drives Jim's percussion kids to almost all of their competitions. She was thrilled (as were we) when she found out that Mr. Weaver's son would be on her route! :-)

We're still piecing together tidbits from the big day. So far, we know that they sung (and Ben very much liked) the "Goin' on a Bear Hunt" song. We also know that he couldn't find Henry, his good buddy in a different class, on the play ground. And he also brought home a picture that he drew titled "What I did on my first day of Kindergarten:" He drew a picture of himself buying lunch. He explained it to me, "I know I didn't really buy lunch. I was just pretending."

Tomorrow he's going to buy lunch. :-)

One down. 179 to go...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Night Before Kindergarten

'Tis the night before Kindergarten
and all through the house,
Not a creature is stirring,
not even my spouse.

Then why is it
that I am still awake at this hour?
It's the thought that in the morning,
soon after my shower...

My son will be leaving
for his very first day,
of Kindergarten fun
- learn, lunch, and play.

I've been "fine" up 'til now,
not bothered by the thought.
I'm excited for him,
for the new things he'll be taught.

But as I tucked him into bed
just a few hours ago,
I was surprised by my own emotions,
suddenly aflow.

I wanted just to kneel there
next to my boy,
as he snuggled with "Cooper,"
his stuffed animal toy.

I wanted to hug him
so tight and so long,
and give him kisses
for any and all future wrongs.

It's not that I fear for him
tomorrow or the next,
But it's the speed with which 5 1/2 years have flown
that has me perplexed!

Wasn't it yesterday
that he was a babe in my arms?
That I was following a toddler,
keeping him away from harms?

Wasn't it yesterday
that I was coaxing him to speak?
That he was learning new words,
a handful each week?

How then is it possible
that Tomorrow is so near?
How can it be that to our corner,
the bus will steer?

Everyone always says
that Time really flies,
So I best compose myself
...and dry my eyes.

I wouldn't want to miss
all the adventures ahead.
Although I still wish
he could just stay 5, instead.

So in the morning
when Bus 10 pulls up to the curb,
I will smile and wave goodbye
and not say a word

About the mixture
of sadness and pride that I feel,
Knowing that this Next Step
is a pretty Big Deal.

I'm ready. Bring it on!
I can do this...I think.
I'll keep a stiff upper lip,
then come home and cry in the sink. (What?! It rhymes...)

I find comfort in the knowledge
that I have many friends that share,
My feelings of disbelief
and maybe just a bit of despair.

This "ride" is goin' fast,
so we'd better hold on tight.
Happy First Day of School to all,
and to all a good night!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Baby and BUGS!!!!

I was so excited to take pictures of Little Emma. We were very lucky to be able to take them just outside Megan and Brian's apartment in an area that backed up to the woods. The obvious downside to this location on a late Summer evening is the BUGS! I can't even begin to tell you how many bug bites I had all over my body!!!!! There were even numerous pictures out of which I had to edit bugs actively feeding on Megan or Brian. Luckily, Little Emma was completely untouched! Anyone know the science behind that?!?

Here's the new family!

Snuggling in Daddy's arms...

I absolutely love this shot. I think it may be because it reminds me of a picture of myself as an infant staring over my father's shoulder...

What's not to love about baby expressions?!?

This one looks to me like it needs the caption, "Look what we found!"

Can anyone tell how exactly we know Brian and Megan from this next shot? :-) Brian was super excited to try to get some pics of Emma on his drum. The only problem was that Emma was not very obliging. She did not sleep at all while I was there, and thus did not tolerate the cool, hard drum head very well. We got just a few, and we'll have to try again another time when she's sleeping. In the meantime, this shot seems to be keeping Daddy happy...

I just LOVE Brian's and Emma's expressions in this one! Too funny!!!

And finally, this is my FAVORITE from the session. Love it, love it, love it!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Megan and Brian...

So I conned some friends of ours into letting me practice my photography skills on them a few weeks ago. They were pregnant with their first child, and I was more than thrilled when they agreed to let me photograph them!

We met at Messiah College to take pictures. Megan was excited by the meaningfulness of the site, since they had their wedding pictures taken there just a few summers before.

When I called the afternoon of the shoot to confirm that we were still on, Megan informed me that she had been having contractions for 13 hours already! (Her due date wasn't for another 8 days.) But she was adamant that she wanted maternity pictures! Soooooo, we went ahead with the session, and Brian and I made her promise she'd let us know when she needed to stop or take a break.

Here are a few of my favorite shots...

See the Mommy-Daddy-hand-heart?!? :-) I love it!!!

I just had to take a picture of the Contraction Journal that Brian was carrying around. Not only does it have every contraction logged, but the elapsed time between contractions is also noted. Too cute!

Brian is an Apple technology guru. He lives and dies by his i-phone. (Sorry to be so blunt, Brian. But you know it's true!) This of course was posed, but I'm sure it's a pretty realistic impression of how things went in the birthing room!

LOVE this one of Megan! She was so agreeable (and flexible) for a woman 9 months pregnant AND in labor!!!

This pose is much like one of their favorites from their wedding prints...of course now with a bit more belly...

One of the phrases that I would say the most was, "Okay, now kiss." By the end, Brian would precede every kiss with some grand gesture or lunge. He's too funny. I have many pics of Megan half-smiling or laughing at him. So cute!

We finished up their session in a light rain. You'd never know it from this shot, though!

We shot for 45 minutes without a single contraction, and then she had another as soon as she got into the car to leave! She and Brian went from there to dinner, then directly to the hospital. Little Emma Elizabeth was born the next day! Talk about the ultimate in maternity photos. We captured some of the last few hours of maternity!

Infant pics to follow...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Entertainment, Benjamin Style!

Jim and I lived in Hanover, PA when we were first married. In fact, we lived so close to the two Utz Potato Chip factories, that we could smell warm potato chips most of the time, but especially in the mornings. Now, my parents live south of town, and we always pass the old factory on the way to their house. Benjamin has been asking for months to go on the potato chip factory tour. And last week, we finally made it!

He was thrilled when we first pulled in! The site of all of the trucks was just the type of thing that would have literally made him shiver all over with excitement when he was about one year old. Nowadays, he just glazes over with a half-smile on his face and becomes non-communicative. :-) We dragged him into the building to embark on our tour and found an even better vantage point of the loading dock goings-on at the top of the steps. He would have been happy if we had just let him stay right there for the day! But no. We dragged him on.

Then it was the kids' turn to do the dragging. I don't know what we were thinking. Of course they didn't let us stand still to watch the short historical/informational video! They just wanted to see the factory!

The tour is set up rather nicely. There are large windows through which you can see the entire two stories of machinery. Each window "station" has a button you can push to hear a description of what you are watching. Of course, the volume is not set to drown out excited pre-schoolers. And said pre-schoolers were not too interested in listening to a detailed explanation anyway. My mom and I tried to piece together the bits of narration that we could catch with the inferences we could make through visual clues. The machines were very impressive and the process was interesting to see.

I suppose I should share that there was a sign posted at the door stating that cameras were not allowed unless permission was granted. I contemplated leaving my camera in the van and then decided that I'd simply ask if I could take pictures. Why would they possibly care if some mommy took some snapshots (for her blog)? Well, the only man working along the tour route was busy giving a lecture to a group when we passed through. Thus, I snapped away, figuring I would explain that there had been no one to ask if I got confronted. The visit continued, confrontation free. I guess we're good...until all the Utz employees who read my blog report me to the potato chip police...

The process was very interesting to watch. It was neat to see all of the potatoes go in one end of a machine and come out skinned, then sliced, etc. Here, the chips are emerging from being "fried." Yum. 50,000 pounds of warm chips, anyone?!?

At the bottom of this long conveyor belt (below) were two women. Their job was to pick out the burned chips by hand. And this is a good reminder of why staying in school is so important, boys and girls! Of course, in today's economy, they're not hurting for a job...and they probably make good money! Hmmm...verdict is still out on that one. :-)

Those of you who know of Ben's Rokenbok toys: Don't those big bucket conveyors remind you of Rokenbok?!? Ellie was super excited about that! Those who don't know of Rokenbok and are intrigued, go to for a demonstration. The explanation I give people is that it's like Lego meets remote control. Just be careful, if you have a little boy. You may not want to view this for the first time with him in the room - initial viewing can lead to almost certain infatuation! Consider yourself warned...

I digress! Back to the tour. Ellie spent the whole tour running ahead to the next station, so she could be the first to climb up each little ramp in front of the windows. They were very handy for little guys and a nice source of entertainment for those not-quite-so-entranced by the factory, itself.

As we neared the end of the tour, we watched as the bagging and packing station had a machine malfunction. Mom and I were both impressed as one of the workers simply removed the large section of the machine that had gotten jammed and replaced it with another! Genius. Obviously, this makes perfect "assembly line sense." Time wasted trying to fix one part at the end of the line backs up everything else. Instead, mere seconds were lost by exchanging the piece for a new one. Ahh, the things that impress me...

And finally, the warehouse. Doesn't this picture remind you of the end shot of the Indiana Jones movie where they search for the Holy Grail?!? :-) Do you think the Holy Grail is there, buried deep in a box of chips? Both Ben and Ellie enjoyed watching the forklifts buzz around stacking and unstacking. Ellie was most excited to see a GIRL driving a forklift. :-)

And a nice cheesy shot in front of all the different snack chips Utz has to offer. Such choices! Did you know they even make chocolate-covered chips?!?

What a fun, educational, and tasty trip! Stay tuned for more fun family adventures. Next, Ben wants to see how electricity is made. Very logical. First potato chips, then electricity.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sensation of the Day..., raw banana bread batter oozing through my bare toes. I dunno what I expected when I allowed Ellie to play the role of Scraper Girl. Ben went to get me a rag (which was too wet) and then attempted to wipe off my foot for me. So sweet... My entire foot was then nicely covered in a thin film of batter. This led to him having banana bread batter on his shoulder and knee. Of course it did, right?!?

No wonder I carefully contemplate each and every baking activity with the kids before I even utter a word. Do I have ALL of the ingredients? Am I sure? Am I in the right frame of mind? Are the kids in the right mood? Do we have the TIME? Will I be able to let each child help equally? What did I ever do with all of this Brain Power before children???

All in all, the Banana Bread Episode was a positive one. I didn't yell (at all!), no one cried, and the bread turned out great! There is still a thin haze of flour on the kitchen floor, but hey...that just adds texture, right?!?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Alien at the Park

Last week, my mom and I took the kids to the Hershey Outlets to do some back-to-school shopping. We bribed the kids with a trip to Hershey's Chocolate World after the outlets if they were well-behaved. We bribed ourselves with a packed lunch to eat in the shade at the outlet playground while the kids ran off their pent up energy between stores.

My goals were modest. I wanted to make it to (and purchase things in) OshKosh and Carter's. That was it. We succeeded at both but only by the skin of our teeth. There were tears, stubborn attitudes, an emergency trip to the restroom (on the other side of the outlets!), way too much goofiness, and numerous idle threats made of "taking away" the trip to Chocolate World. All in all, a nice normal shopping trip with young children, right?!?

After finishing up at OshKosh, we tossed the bag in the van, grabbed the cooler, and headed for the playground. As we got nearer, Ellie was excited to see that below the slides, there were large molded plastic "boards" with characters drawn on them. Children could stand behind them and put their hands and faces through the holes to "be" either an alien or ...huh....whatever the other one was.

The cartoon-ish alien had spiky hair on its head. This prompted Ellie to repeatedly announce in a rather loud voice, "I wanna be the horny man. Can I be the horny man? I like the horny man!"

Snickers were audible from all adults within ear-shot. We made multiple efforts to correct her, but nothing stuck. Innocence is so adorable...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Final Days

On Tuesday evening, when we heard the wet forecast for Wednesday, Miss Dottie was put on red alert. (Miss Dottie is my sil's mom who vacations with us. She is also an elementary school teacher who comes with LOTS of crafty ideas. So over the years, she has been put in charge of any unplanned lengthy blocks of time. What a BLESSING! I highly recommend that everyone travel with a Craft Director! This could possibly be even better than a nanny...)

So. Back to Wednesday. It rained all morning and then miraculously cleared in the afternoon. So after a morning of craftiness, we were all able to salvage a beautiful few hours on the beach!

When rain struck again on Thursday and the forecast was for precipitation all day, we knew that even Miss Dottie's crafts wouldn't suffice. My other sil suggested a trip to the Atlantic City Aquarium, which ended up being just the diversion we needed! By departure time, Ellie was mid-meltdown. After 13 days away from home and normalcy, she was just plain done! Jim offered to stay back with her so I could go with Benjamin and the Czyzyks (my sil's family) to the aquarium. I think his rationale was something like, "You always enjoy those things more than I do..." In other words, "PLEASE! Don't make me go into a crowded, noisy, educational place with a child that I have to worry about losing!!!!!" :-) Yep. He actually chose staying home with Irrational Girl instead of going to see fish.

So off we went. Ben and Corey really enjoyed it! It was in fact crowded, noisy, and educational. But that didn't stop them. Since Ben is a Master Question-Asker, places such as this are right up his alley. He could've easily stood at each individual tank for 15-20 minutes if I had let him!

Louden was a bit taken aback by the larger fish and perhaps the noisy crowd. Amy (sil) pointed out that Ellie would never have lasted in that environment considering she wasn't "on her game" already. Point well-taken. 'Twas a Good Thing we left her with Daddy!

Don't you just love this smile?!? This is Ben's "I'm so proud of myself" smile. He had just touched a horseshoe crab and I missed it with my camera!!! Get a load of Corey's expression behind him! It's as if she's thinking, "I'm not puttin' my hand in there!"

Since I missed the first one, of course I had to ask him to do it again... Pretty cool!

All in all, the aquarium was a hit and definitely worth the trip.

We returned to the beach house and somehow managed to fill the rest of the rainy day. That evening, just after we put the kids to bed, we got The Phone Call. This put in motion our decision to leave in the morning and head home a day early to deal with the wet basement.

So Friday morning, Jim took the kids to the beach while I speed-packed. When I finished, I walked down to the beach to gather everyone up. I found Corey and Ellie practicing their cartwheels together. Too cute...

And I just love this one of Corey. Doesn't she have wonderful "beach hair?" :-)

We had to drag Ben off the beach sobbing, literally. Ellie was of course thrilled by the prospect of going HOME! We showered the kids together, then I fed them lunch while Jim showered and packed the remaining items. Here's another bird's eye view...Jim partaking in his absolute favorite vacation activity one last time. :-)

As we descended from the third floor kitchen, I just had to take a picture of everyone in the house elevator. Riding in it was easily one of the highlights of the week for the kids! The novelty never wore off. Lucky us.

Throughout the week, Jim really enjoyed sitting out on the third floor balcony to read, have his coffee, check e-mail, etc. He found it very calming. He said to me a few times, "You have to get a picture of this before we leave." I would always chuckle, because I knew that the view/feel would never translate in a picture. So here, dear. Here's your lovely view from our deck. Power lines, signs, trashcans, a transformer, oh and beyond is the lovely beach. :-)

Homeward Bound!! Ellie was asleep before were off the island.

And Ben succumbed to sleep soon after. Of course neither of them slept through the stop-n-go torture better known as the Schuylkill (not-so) "Expressway" in Phillie...

Goodbye, Brigantine! See you in 2010.

And we all lived happily ever after.

Monday, August 10, 2009

MORE Beach...

And now, on with the vacation!

My daughter is not...slender. Although she has thinned out QUITE a bit since her first year of life, she is still anything but slim. :-) And it seems that the two new bathing suits (and a pack of underwear) I bought this spring don't accommodate her "trunk" very well. Thankfully the various hands that sun-screened her throughout our vacation did a thorough job, or we could have had a crispy back side to deal with. The picture below pretty much depicts how she wore those two new suits day in and day out. ...and it was always the right side, too! Go figure.

Heh, in a few short years I'd die before I would post a picture of my daughter's back side on my blog. Now, it's just...cute. :-)

One afternoon we went miniature golfing on Brigantine. The course isn't much to look at, but it's perfect for us right now - close, not too crowded, inexpensive.

Here's a cute one of Corey awaiting her turn on a rock...

The last few holes on this course have stages...uh, I mean large rocks in the center of the greens. This is perfect for those of us who are accompanied by pre-schoolers who are totally DONE playing mini golf and would rather dance! The game can go on around them and they're not in the way in the least!!!

Benjamin has some foot problems stemming from his Psoriatic Arthritis. Mainly he just has serious foot pain after lots of activity. Of course, this is subdued when he wears good, supportive shoes. Try selling this to a five-year-old who is in LOVE with his flip-flops. :-)

After a round of mini golf (in flip-flops), apparently his feet required an immediate examination...

Huh. And go figure. Apparently, something hurts! I told you so! I told you so! I told you so... Oh! I'm such an unloving mother!

I just love this picture of the girls. Don't you feel like you're listening in on an intimate chat? So cute!

The new house that we stayed in this year has its living quarters on the third floor. The balcony off of the living room makes for terrific birds eye view shots! :-)

Pop-Pop was deemed the grillmeister (HA! Spell check suggested drillmaster! :-) for the week. A full grill, eh? By my count, there are 30 pieces of meat! ...and this is how you know that there is certainly no more room at the inn!

Finally, a picture of Lily! I don't tend to take many pictures around the house when we're at the beach. And as I mentioned before, we never got to see Lily on the beach. By all accounts, she liked it, but as a result I have only this picture of her from the entire week!!!!! Yikes!

On a positive note, she and I bonded while at the beach house. I think she learned quickly that she could get what she wanted through her Aunt Becky, so I became one of her "go-to" people. And I didn't mind one bit!!

Here's Little Miss Lily and her mommy smiling for Crazy Aunt Becky on the third floor balcony with her camera again. :-)

I think I'll be able to finish the beach tales in one more post. Stay tuned...

Friday, August 7, 2009

OC, NJ Boardwalk

THIS is my absolute favorite picture from Brigantine this year! Isn't it adorable?!? And it wasn't even posed! Of course, this was mere moments before Louden found himself precariously perched on the other side of the railing a breath away from serious injury, but hey. At least I captured this nice moment! :-)

Once all of the troops were rounded up - and back on the right side of the railing - we headed for the rides at Wonderland. Benjamin strolled ahead demonstrating his laid back nature. I can only imagine what teenage-dom will bring...

One of the kids' favorite rides at the boardwalk is the log flume. Back in "the day" I used to enjoy rides such as the log flume and roller coasters. Then I became a mother. Now, Pop-Pop goes in my place. Someone has to stay on the ground to care for the rest of the family in the event of serious injury...or worse. :-) Besides, this gives me a few minutes to exercise my Catholicism and say a few Hail Marys, an Our Father, and a Novena or two while watching my entire family plummet into a wall of water. Oh, how I love the log flume...

Thumbs up from Daddy and Ellie for a successful ride on the log flume! Now Mommy can breathe again.

This year, we took the kids on the humungo Ferris wheel. Now this surprisingly doesn't bother me. Height without high speed is okay in my book. Okay...I'm going to stop thinking about it now before I talk myself out of this one too.

Steve and LeAnn, I always think of you guys when I see this ride. (Where they got engaged.) :-) And on the exact same night, Dave was almost simultaneously proposing to Amy on the beach! AND these two proposals were made on the same date that Jim proposed to me!(3 years prior?) Pretty crazy, huh?!? Smiths, beware who you are with on July 24... :-)

Back to the pictures. Ellie's picking hair out of her mouth, I think...otherwise a cute shot.

LOVE this one of Corey!

Too cute. This one seems like a keeper too...maybe in a frame on Corey's dresser? Not that I'm trying to make decorating decisions for you, Amy! I just think it's a cute daddy/daughter moment. :-)

Ben's choice for his last ride - the bumper boats! Corey and Louden joined him. Only Corey was big enough to drive one by herself. Here's a shot that Nana took; look at me hammin' it up for the boys. No surprise there, eh? Who needs alcohol when you can be this embarrassing to your family sober?!? ...and I wonder why Benjamin walks so far ahead of me on the boardwalk already!

Just look at the joy on his face! This is pretty much his visage anytime he's driving anything.

Visiting with the hermit the colors and angle on this one.

This year, I finally remembered to have someone take a picture of the four of us on the boardwalk. So now when Ellie gets to pre-school in September and the teacher asks for a family picture, we don't have to decide between the one of us on the beach in bathing suits or one that's two years old. :-) Now all I have to do is actually get it printed before September...

More to come...