26 December 2008


Shhhhhhh. Don't peek....

This year we were treated (by some still-secret family) to a wonderful Twelve Days of Christmas Secret Santa. I wish I had had my wits about me enough to take pictures, but, I did not. Our Secret Santa started with a great poem about how this was fun for them. They did not want to be caught - so no peeking out the windows. All twelve nights we found a different gift on our doorstep - sometimes by dark, sometimes very late at night. Sometimes they were for the whole family, sometimes it was for one person in the family, sometimes it was for the kids, sometimes just for James and me. Our secret Santa knew all our names, ages, favorite candy, and our sense of humor. The gifts were thoughtful, personal, whimsical and sweet. Our family feels very loved indeed. What a great example of service, and of the true Spirit of Christmas.
And to whom-ever-you-are: I saved all your poems and I intend to steal all your ideas to make another family feel that same love next Christmas. Thank you Secret Santa. Thank you.

Christmas 2008

Our day started under the tree - with gifts for everyone. Rachel is not in any pictures because she is behind her own camera this year. I'm sure we'll see more of that on her blog later.

After playing with new toys and games, we had a ladies only project (James was watching basketball and Jay was napping...men...) - the Gingerbread House!
All done. Beautiful.

Ten minutes later... :)

Next, a Ball Team tradition - Chinese takeout for dinner. They are usually Buddist, right? So they are open on Christmas Day and since I don't like to cook, James gets me this present every year - Takeout for Christmas Dinner ...

Christmas Eve 2008

For Christmas Eve, we went to see the lights in a town about twenty minutes south of us. I took a bunch of pictures that didn't turn out, and this is one of the train is the only one worth sharing. It was a nice display, about two miles long and Free! Merry Christmas to us, right? Plus, candy canes at the end...

20 December 2008

Day Off ?

We had a snow day here in Arkansas. Well, it was more of an ice day. The ladies ended up with two days out of school and no real snow to play in, just some ice on the roads.

Samantha vetured out early and made an amazing discovery - a piece of ice in the shape of Arkansas!

Other than that, we spent our time climbing the walls!

Surprise !!

Look what we found under our tree!
Samantha, December 2008 (nine years old)

19 December 2008

A Quarter from a Boy

I was out and about tonight. I'm sure I would not have turned heads; it was one of those days - kids home, friends over, plenty to do, wet dogs, you get the idea...So there I was, with two of my daughters (also looking mismatched and stained; they had been playing hard all day...) and we were waiting for a pizza to take home. Two other boys there with their mom were putting quarters in the little pinball machine and having fun. My daughters were watching with rapt attention. I had already told them no, I'm not giving you a quarter; the pizza will be ready soon and we'll go home. The boys played the machine twice each before their pizza was ready and their Mom said it was time to go. Without a blink, the older of the two boys turned to my five year old daughter and handed her two quarters. Here, he said. We have to go, it's your turn to play. I said to him, No, honey, your Mom would want that money back, and the Mom, not standing two feet away, heard her sons and my conversation and said, No, it's fine. Your girls can play, if it's okay with you. I didn't argue. I just said, Thank you, to the Mom and then Thank you to the boy. How sweet. How generous. How innocent. How Christ-like. Thank You.

18 December 2008

Christmas Spirit

I must admit that I am not one of those whole-hog Christmas people. I do not start playing Christmas music right after Thanksgiving; I do not decorate our house to the nines; I do not have treats for the bus drivers, mailmen, and veterinarians that make my life easier. What I do have, this time of year, is a deep respect for the traditions I remember from childhood and a hope that my kids will take from these innocent and golden years some wonderful memories of holiday cheer. We have a tree and a few bits of Christmas around the rest of the house. We are collecting special ornaments to celebrate talents and events. We make treats for our teachers and friends. We will go see the lights in the park and drive through some neighborhoods to take in the light displays. We read a Christmas book every night before bed and we will end this on Christmas Eve with the nativity story in Luke 2. We cleaned out our toy collection and donated to the local collections for needy kids. We shopped for James' angel tree at work and talked about how we have to help people and live our testimonies. Santa will still come, but, he is a kind, generous man who gives because he loves children. The holiday is still about the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the never-ending love and gifts that He gives to us. Merry Christmas, everyone.

16 December 2008

Wonder ....

This is Jay's first Christmas and he is so taken with the tree. He just stares at the lights and bats at the ornaments and hasn't pulled it down, yet. So full of wonder and innocence.

14 December 2008

James Rides Again ...

James just had a birthday. He says he turned 21, so we'll go with that number... The kids gave him a new set of wrenches and a tool box. He actually had the day off, so we let him have it - all day he played his games and was waited on by the ladies. We even went out to eat, James-style, which means I go get it and bring it back home to eat. The week before his birthday, James' Dad took just the two of us out to a great restuarant where the waiters bring huge hunks of meat to your table and carve it right there for you. Amazing stuff. They also brought around grilled pineapple that was like candy. This shot of James in the cowboy hat is great, isn't it? This is his western rough and ready look - the bearded outlaw - with the winning smile!


Rachel just finished the D.A.R.E. program at school (fifth grade). For more information on the program, go to www.dare.org. The whole fifth grade, which is about 400 kids total, assembled in the gymnasium for graduation. They sang a song to the parents, three kids read their essays and each student walked across the stage and received a certificate, shook hands with the Instructor/Police Officer, their Principal, and the Mayor of our town. It took a while, yes, but, the point was the commitment of the kids to themselves, their school and to their community. Rachel, and all the other kids, had to write an essay on what they learned in the class and compose a pledge for themselves. Rachel wrote, "I, Rachel, pledge that will never do drugs and I will live drug free." Amen.


Josephine is in HIPPY (a home-based preschool program that has group meetings once a month) and this month we had a Christmas Party. I must say that I am glad to see that some organizations are still willing to call this time of year Christmas. It wasn't a Winter Party, or something generic, it was a full blown Christmas party with Santa and all the trimmings. Sorry, to all my Jewish readers, but, I'm sure that if your party is meant to celebrate your Jewish traditions and culture, you would want it the same way, right? That's a Hanukkah party, not a Holiday Festival. Let's call an apple an apple. But, I digress...

Josephine is the first of our kids to actually sit on Santa's lap. She walked right up there and smiled for the camera and told Santa she wanted a "swim baby". What a big girl. December 2008

10 December 2008

Ten Month Check-Up

Jay actually only had one shot at his well-child check - the flu shot. The doctor says his lungs are clear and healthy. He is teething, crawling and using both hands equally well, just like he should. He eats anything & everything in his path (he weighs 22 lbs). The doctor did a play-time kind of test with him to see how well he gets around, how he holds objects and how he solves problems. He passed everything just fine. What a whiz-kid; and so handsome, too.

Snoozing in the big car seat - and a new trick - up on his knees - one step closer to climbing out of his crib!

09 December 2008

Our Festive Elven Children ....

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Before you hit play, scroll to the bottom of the page and turn off the blogmusic. Thanks for the link, Amy!

Another Cute Kid Quote....

This cute kid quote should be titled Cute Big Kid Quote, since she is now ten years old. The other day we needed to go "to town" and get some errands done, and one of the stops for the day was to Bath and Body Works to pick up something for our friend. When we got to the mall, Rachel said, "Mom, don't forget; we have to get that stuff from Bath and Body Wash."

02 December 2008


Cute Kid Quote of the Day goes to two of the little kids I babysit, we shall call them A* (almost 2) and M* (3 1/2).

A*: Sissy is right here.
Their Dad: Yes, she is A*. You are talking so much. M*, did you teach A* how to talk?
M*: I didn't mean to, Dad.

01 December 2008

Let's Dance!

James has started young with Jay in teaching him how to dance. This is definitely one of those talents we hope Jay gets from his Dad, along with so other great strengths of James', like athletic ability, perfect eyesight, ease with strangers, passion and fearlessness about those people and opinions he holds dear, sense of adventure and a playful nature. I love all these qualities in James, and I can't wait to see how much like his Dad Jay (and his sisters, the Ladies) will be.

29 November 2008

A Day Out!

In an on-going effort to separate the kids and have their days out with just parents, no siblings, I took Samantha to have her eyebrows waxed. This is something that had been bugging her. She had gotten some good hearted teasing at school about having a unibrow, but, was worried that waxing and plucking would hurt. So, I told her the truth - yes, it does hurt. But it only stings for a minute and then it's over. She was brave, though visibly nervous as she sat in the chair and tried so hard to make small talk. The lady was very nice and explained things as she went along. Samantha did just great and wants to keep trimmed now. These photos are not as dramatic as the transformation in person.

Samantha before and after - November 08

26 November 2008

Thankful ....

Okay, I know it's the tenth of November already, and I am already behind, but, I wanted to put out a challenge. I will list one thing I am thankful for every day until Thanksgiving. Let's all make a list and share our gratitude...
1. my family
2. James
3. the colors of fall
4. music
5. my friends (past, present and future)
6. living in the USA
7. Children's Hospital
8. taco salad
9. my testimony
10. sleep
11. cell phones, dishwashers, internet and modern conveniences
12. forgiveness
13. daughters who will change diapers
14. family dogs (and the lessons they teach the ladies)

15. Primary teachers
16. my brother's military service and all who protect our freedoms
17. James' patience and knock-out smile
18. Jay's sweet giggle and happy disposition
19. Samantha's competitive side (may she always use it for good...)
20. Rachel's constant questions
21. Charlotte's excitment in learning to read - it's a whole new world
22. Josephine's imagination and wonder at the details all around her
23. growing up with my Mom at home with us
24. daily family routines-meals together, scriptures, practice, prayer
25. my father's personal history - treasure now, priceless later
26. a kind smile from strangers day to day - southern hospitality

Pilgrim Hats

I have been trying lately to find 'joy in the journey' (President Monson, October 08 Conference talk) and while I sometimes take that as a reason to play with the kids and neglect the laundry, I have also taken it to mean that my time playing with the kids should be quality projects and games, not just SpongeBob reruns. So, in the spirit of the holidays, we made these: Pilgrim Hats. The ladies had fun, they taste great (we used mint choloclate chips...) and they made nice little treats for the families that James and I Home/Visit teach. Enjoy your journey.

Dip the large marshmallows in the chocolate and use a toothpick to set them on the chocolate side of a striped shortbread cookie.
Remember to paint your lips with chocolate and smile for the camera. It is also important to keep the little man of the house away from the chocolate mess because he can make a mess out of just the cookies. And look darn cute doing so, I might add... Add some icing for a buckle and there you have it - Pilgrim Hats!

25 November 2008

Two great things about today ...

Okay, these two pictures have one thing in common - they both made me so glad today!
First, the cereal. A local store was having a sale on Chex Cereals - buy two for $3. That's a good deal by itself, but, on some of the boxes there was a coupon for $3 off of three boxes. I love cheap cereal! Now if the price of milk would just go down...
Second, gas is only $1.55. Wow. I just knew that once it broke the $2 threshold that there would be no going back. Happy to say I was wrong. Think it'll go below $1 a gallon again?

24 November 2008

Any Ideas?

Okay Friends. I know you are out there. And, I know you are creative, innovative and cheap, uh, I mean frugal... What ideas do you have for gifts for the teacher this year? I am coming up with nothing. Last year we made crayon stacked ornaments and I thought they turned out great. I guess that was my highwater mark. What is teachery and Christmasy? Help!

21 November 2008

Dome Climbers

With a few days off of school (something about a big teacher's conference...) we let each of the big ladies invite a friend to spend the night. The more the merrier, right? We've had some great weather lately - just right for being outside in the crisp air.

19 November 2008

Frontier Festival

Last week Rachel's Middle School hosted an old-day "fair" called Frontier Festival. It was really quite educational, but, presented in a hands-on, fun way. The school was invaded by Arkansas Frontier Reinactors who stayed in character while explaining the details of frontier life to the kids. There were stations on log-sawing, soap making, firearms (it's weird that a gunshot at school was an educational thing...and welcomed), goat herding, dutch oven cooking, folktales, ropemaking...lots of good stuff. The students were encouraged to come in costume, too - girls in pioneer dresses and boys in overalls and cowboy hats. Out in front of the school is a cabin, a reproduction of a frontier homestead, and it made a great backdrop for the days activities. In the evening, there was a hoe-down, complete with a presentation of the square dances the students had learned. Yeee-ha!
The Frontier Girls - Rachel, Britney and Kayla

18 November 2008

Baby Jay, His Hat and a Triscuit

Baby Jay has one big thing in common with his sisters so far - food. Anything I give him is just the best stuff he has ever had. He finishes everything, and if you are eating, he pulls himself over to you and expects a bite. The ladies have never been shy about eating, either, and I am so glad for this. Their healthy appetites and eagerness to try new things make my life so much easier. Rachel is our only picky eater, but, that is disappearing as she gets older. In these shots Jay is having a triscuit while I make supper. Doesn't he look dashing in his hat? So handsome!

0 screams from the fans...

Mean Green Soccer Queens

The Mean Green Soccer Queens ended their season with a record of 4-5-1. At the end of the season party, each girl received a trophy from Coach Adrian who had wonderful things to say to each girl. It was a good season - a building season - and he asked each girl to come back and play for him in the spring. They all agreed, and at the end of the evening they were not saying goodnight, they all left saying, See you at practice! I think Samantha really enjoyed being a part of a team (with gymnastics she was on a team, but the practice and the events were so individual that it didn't always seem like a team). She even told her Coach - if front of the whole team - that she would return as goalie, as long as she could play on the field sometimes, too. Good season, Samantha. We are proud of you. Go Mean Green Soccer Queens!

11 November 2008


ALL musical credit goes to the a capella comedy group Moosebutter (from Provo, UT),... Enjoy - Pause the music on the background tunes (scroll to the bottom of the page and hit pause before you hit play) to hear this clearly...

08 November 2008

First Term Assemblies

Last week we had the award assemblies for the first nine week term of school and I was able to snap a few Star Photos.

Rachel's assembly was during Kiva, so I wasn't there, but, she did bring home ribbons for Honor Roll and Outstanding Conduct. Great job, fifth grader Rachel!

Samantha also made Honor Roll and a great photo op for her big fan, Baby Jay.

Charlotte had a great day, too, and made us proud. She made the Honor Roll, and was chosen as the Kindergarten Star. A star is a student chosen by the teacher, one per class, to be the ambassador for new students. The star is chosen based on good manners and outgoing personality. Way to go, Charlotte!

Scarf Braid

Charlotte is still my only daughter that actually enjoys having her hair all done up. At least, she let's me think that she enjoys it. Her sisters will let me play only occasionally with their hair, but, Charlotte is my one champion if I want to try something new.

This past Sunday, Charlie picked out a dress that has a matching scarf. Usually her older sisters would wear it around their necks, but I thought maybe Charlotte could wear it in her hair. So, instead of three sections to make a braid, I used two and the scarf was the third section. I thought it made her look very grown up.

07 November 2008

Like father, like son

I wish this picture weren't so dark, so the shadows wouldn't be so overwhelming, but, it's still a great photo. Everyone tells us that Jay looks like his Dad - so give him a beard and few years - the two handsome men in my life!
October 2008

Pumpkin Patch

Charlotte's kindergarten class went to the Pumpkin Patch last week and I got to tag along. The whole trip was really not as much about the pumpkins (and good thing, too, 'cause pickins' were slim...) as much as it was about lots of other activities and just getting to go on a field trip. There just something about matching shirts and riding the school bus together...

The kids also fed the horses, held the chickens, pet the rabbits, fed the goats, fed the catfish, played in the haybale maze, ate a picnic lunch and generally ran around in the fields with their friends. It was a fun day in Kindergarten!

Charlotte here sitting on the fallen haybales in the maze with her buddies - R* and K*. (Charlotte's friends are much cuter without the black over their eyes, but, just in case their parents' don't want the world to see them, I covered their eyes.)