30 December 2012


Happy 2013 everyone!  Make it count. 
As my daughters say - YOLO.
This is teen code for You Only Live Once.
In our day, the dark middle ages, we said
Carpe Diem - seize the day.  You dig?

28 December 2012

Charlotte Enters Double Digits!

Every birthday I wonder the same thing - where did the time go?  Seriously.  WHERE?  I haven't aged a bit.  I'm not getting any older - why do my kids insist on growing up?  It just amazes me.  One minute you are teaching a sweet little girl how to tie her shoes and sing her alphabet and then the next instant she is texting boys on a phone she bought with her babysitting money and driving me around town.  I just don't understand how it happens.  But it does happen.  This Thursday, it happened to Charlotte.

When I found out I was pregnant with Charlotte I was already five months along.  I was thrilled.  I was facing a four month pregnancy and I felt great!  Then, the doctor gave James and I the news.  It shook us to our core.  Charlotte was a high risk of being born with Downs Syndrome.  Her measurements just weren't coming out right and we should prepare ourselves for a child with special needs.  The doctor asked us if we wanted to abort.  Uhm, no?!

Charlotte was a scheduled c-section and even though she was actually due on January 5, James and I scheduled her birth for December 27 - we wanted the tax deduction in this year, not just next year.  All went well and she was born healthy and robust - the largest baby I delivered of our five - at 9 pounds, 14 ounces. 

Charlotte is the third girl in our family, and since James and I felt like we had met the family expectations in naming Charlotte's older sisters with the family names of James' mom and my mom, and we were at liberty to name Charlotte after anyone we pleased.  We chose the middle name of Lareine - which is wholly fabricated.  La reine is the French word for the Queen.  And so she is - Queen Charlotte of BallTeam.

Fun Charlie Facts:::::
Charlotte loves the water and in the background of the balloon picture you can see her fish tank - her fish all have names and personalities and she is diligent in caring for their every fishy desire.
Charlotte loves the water, and loves to swim.  She consistantly places in the top leaders for her age divisions in the state.  She wants to swim in the 2016 Olympics and meet Ryan Lochte.
Charlotte loves to sing.  The house is full of her voice.  She can wear her sisters clothes and my shoes are too small for her.
Charlotte will soon - very soon - join her older two sisters in being taller than Mom.
Charlotte loves math and science, and is not fond of reading.  She is constant motion and is never lacking for a friend to play with or the imagination to start a game.
Charlotte is our middle child and while she is anxious to join her sisters in babysitting and taking on reponsibility, she is excited to have a babysitter coming for New Years and play games with the little kids at our house.  She is truly a middle child in that she works well with her older sisters or her younger brother and sister.
Charlotte is our cook - she loves to be in the kitchen.  She thinks of others and is willing to learn new things.  Her favorite color is teal and she wants to own a Subway and coach a swim team after she wins the gold medals at the Olympics.
We love our Charlie girl!  Happy Birthday, Charlotte Lareine!

27 December 2012

Christmas, 2012

Christmas at the BallHouse was full of surprises.  First, my Mom made these super stockings for each of the ladies and JMichael.  Santa filled them and I'm sure he admired her handiwork just as much as we did.  Thanks, Ma.  (James and I have one, too!)
The faces behind the bags....
A white Christmas in Arkansas is crazy weird.  If it snows here (and it usually does maybe three times in a winter), it always seems to snow in January or February.  But Christmas 2012 was a white Christmas.  By the afternoon, the snow was coming down.  By nightfall, it was apparent that it would stick.  By morning, we had ten inches on the ground.  I had an extra day off of work......
....because we also had no electricity, but only for 15 hours.  Although I have lived without electricity more times than I can remember, I don't enjoy it in the winter.  Being without air conditioning is an inconvenience, but, being without heat is much more bothersome, and dangerous.  As a sidenote, the last time it snowed on Christmas Day in Arkansas - was 1926, and that was only 2.5 inches.
We also had a surprise that lasted 12 days - a secret santa.  We had lots of goodies and on Christmas Eve, we found a ham, ten pounds of potatoes and sugar cookies on our doorstep.  So wonderful!

20 December 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from the BallTeam!
Rachel, Samantha, Charlotte, Josephine and JMichael

17 December 2012

Another birthday

James in the Army - circa 1987
James had a birthday last week.  I feel like he gets left off of the blog a lot.  Partly that comes from the fact that most pictures I take seem to be of our kids.  Another part is that I think he wants it that way.  For those of you who don't know our family really well, or have moved away, James had a serious injury in January of  2010.  He hurt, or re-injured, his lower back.  The happy go lucky man who used to play basketball three days a week now walks with a cane and is a stay at home Dad.  It's hard when your body won't do what your mind tells it to do.  I can only imagine.  He lives it.  Some days he's down and full of frustration.  Some days he pushes through and accepts help from the rest of us who want him to still participate, as much as he is able, in our lives.  He will tell you he is broken, but, he's still here.  1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us nothing will happen to you that you can't handle.  Trials are tough.  If we come out stronger on the other end, we've learned and progressed.  James is one tough cookie.  Pain is a cruel partner, but life goes on.  The kids and I need him and he does as much as he can to keep up with us!  Happy Birthday, Beau. 
Nothing says Happy Birthday like Tastee Freeze!

16 December 2012

Excuse me?

Yesterday I was asking Josephine (8 years old) why it took her so long to get her shoes on.  She looked up at me, and let out a sigh, "Momma, come on.  Can't you see I'm having a struggle?"

Early today I asked her if she understood what I had asked her to do.  She looked at me with her big brown eyes and said, "No, Momma.  I'm still perplexed."

Ok, so maybe these are not huge vocabulary words, but, when you hear them used by your baby girl, they are amazing.  So is she.

15 December 2012

Kai Pan

Why are these children all smiling?  They are enjoying one of our newest BallTeam Christmas traditions - Kai Pan.  For the last two years, James' Dad has taken our family out to eat at a Japanese restaurant - Kai Pan.  It's one of those cool places that cooks on the grill right in front of you.  Our chef gave a running narrative of what he was doing, insulted American cooking, aka microwaving, and actually threw broccoli at three of us - asking me first to open my "sexy lips" and catch.  He was quite the entertainer.
Here he is in action shot.  The food was really good.  It was so good, in fact, that we brought home to go boxes with our leftovers and we ate it again for a late supper.  With five kids, it's hard to find one place that everyone likes.  Kai Pan is our family favorite.

Jim wasn't able to come this year because he caught an untimely stomach bug.  But we had pictures of him with us at Thanksgiving.  For Christmas Kai Pan, we get Jean, his wife of almost 30 years, James' step-mother.  Here she is with Samantha, who wasn't in the first picture.  Merrii Karisamasu.

07 December 2012

Central Christmas 2012

Charlotte and Josephine had their Christmas program this week.  One of the perqs of living in the Bible Belt is that a Christmas program REALLY IS a Christmas program.  It's not a holiday celebration.  Teachers use words like Jesus and Nativity.  I, for one, appreciate it.
The ladies sang with their classmates and each class did about three songs.  Charlotte, with the rest of the fourth grade, played Silent Night on the recorder while the audience sang.
I was able to get this energetic group of girls to stand still long enough to get this picture.  In order from left to right they are: Josephine, Drew, Kendall, KoryLynn, Charlotte and Ryan.
The interesting thing about this group of friends is that they are three pairs of sisters.  My two are Charlotte and Josephine.  Drew and Ryan are twins, and Kendall and KoryLynn are twins.  Charlotte has another set of twins - two boys - in her class at church.  Twice the fun!!!
My two beauties posing for the Momma.
Christmas, 2012
Charlotte, fourth grade, 9 years old
Josephine, second grade, 8 years old

06 December 2012

Wee Care Christmas 2012

Jay Michael attends a preschool class at a Baptist church three mornings a week.  He adores it.  Tonight was the Christmas program.  He was very excited.  His teacher, Ms. Teresa, is wonderful.  Jay Michael always says, while is playing at home and something interesting happens, I have to tell Ms. Teresa about that, Momma.  I also have her to thank for Jay Michael's newest favorite saying, "That is correct."  I know he's picking up lessons at school when he smiles at me and says, "Momma, that is correct."  Oh. My. Gosh. Cutie.
And here he is with his friends - the starstruck blonde to his left is Lane, his best bud.  The dark haired boy on his right is Luca.  These three boys are in a class with nine girls.  Ms. Teresa says they stick together.
His class, with three other four-year-old classes, sang three Christmas songs - all religious.  And, they recited Luke 2:11 - For unto you is born this day in the City of David, A Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  Yes, they recited it.  I melted.  It was a very nice presentation, with cookies after.  We had skipped supper to be there on time and so we let Jay Michael pick where he wanted to get supper.  While he was eating is hamburger, he said, Momma, do I get a hamburger because I was so good at singing?  Yes, baby boy.  You did great!

04 December 2012

Local Celebrity

Salisbury, Maryland, the town where I grew up, held its Christmas parade last weekend.  And who is this jolly camouflaged elf?  It's my brother, Eric, and his lovely wife Abbey, riding on the float for the Veterans.  Everybody wave!

01 December 2012

Before and After

The transformation - only a few minutes with Dad and his clippers gives JMichael a much needed trim.  From mop-top cutie to monk.  He's growing so, so fast.
Four years old, November 2012.

30 November 2012

"Tis The Season

There are those of you, and you know who you are, who just can't wait to start the holiday season with music.  A few songs stand out to me as holiday classics.  They might not be the first ones you think of, but, they are icons for my generation.  Since I see this blog as my way of preserving our story for posterity, these have to be included!  Enjoy!

26 November 2012

Charlotte's fall find....

Charlotte picked up this massive leaf on her walk home from school.
Isn't it amazing?!
Charlotte, November 2012

25 November 2012

So Grateful ....

I am fascinated by how profoundly little snippets of life can expand my understanding.  Seriously.  Take one meal, for example.  Thanksgiving.  I was kidding with my brother and his wife, Dawn, about how they were coming to visit us during Thanksgiving break, but, since I'm no culinary artist, don't expect anything more than pizza.  Part of me was quite sincere.  Another part of me realized that pizza was a copout of the highest order.  And so, we did not have pizza.  We turned a meal into a weekend.  We lingered; we enjoyed doing little to nothing.  And I, at least, am grateful.
Jim, James' dad, came by to eat with us.  He brought a turkey, a casserole and a pecan pie.  Delicious.
David and Dawn brought food, too.  Dawn made a green bean casserole, stuffing, a whipped cream fruit concoction that everyone loved, and a crispy cabbage salad with vinegar that I really loved!  Awesome.
We took our honored guests to the Old Mill.  And we took pictures on a beautiful day.  We walked the trails and investigated all the rocks and climbed all over the mill.  Well, okay, the ladies and JMichael climbed and played.  David Dawn and I watched.  Lovely!

This is picture of Doctor Ball and her patient Ball.  Three of the kids also had strep throat for Thanksgiving. 
This last picture is not too Thanksgiving-ish (except for the two turkeys in it!  Sorry ladies.  I couldn't resist.)  Also over break the big ladies had a day job - covering books with dust jackets. 
We have so much to be thankful for - our health, our work, our family.  We are truly blessed.  We can find great meaning in the most simplistic of tasks.  We have plenty to eat; freedom of choice in a land that accepts our individuality;  and thankfully, we have each other.
Happy Thanksgiving.

12 November 2012

Lest We Forget

I don't know if this is a true story, but, I thought even if it isn't true, it could be.

07 November 2012

Junkyard Dogs

This sweet little man is the future soccer player - J. "The Leg" Ball.  This photo is from April of 2010, back before J. Michael had honed his skills....

This year, J. Michael had a great season - with the Junkyard Dogs!  He played with a sweet group of kids, had a fantastic coach and assistant coach, and we had to drag him off of the field after every practice.

Just look at the joy on this boy's face.  He LOVES soccer.

Thank you to our coaches (Erik Neville and Mike Harris) for voluteering so much time and devoting yourselves to our little man.  He enjoyed the game and learned a lot.  J. Michael is already begging to play again.  Spring season can't come quickly enough.

06 November 2012


Look at these two friends!  The beautiful blonde is Abbey - and every morning we have the pleasure of picking her up for pre-school.  It's amazing to me to listen to these two chatting in the back seat, talking and laughing and sharing stories.  They grow so fast.  Aren't they cute?  Abbey with her bows and big smile - J. Michael with his dinosaur shirt and goofy grin.  Adorable.

03 November 2012


Trains are a big part of life in our rural Arkansas town.  The track goes right through the middle of town and it's a busy thoroughfare.  Our track is on the line that connects New Orleans to Chicago, by way of St. Louis, and as I write this, I can hear the train whistle.  Truly.

Today I wanted to capture the fall colors for our November 2012 splash picture and the railroad track gave us a beautiful display.  As we played around with various poses and groupings for the photo, we heard a train coming.  We quickly got to a safe place to let the train pass.  And yes, Ma, I had gone over the ground rules of being so close to a working train track before we got out of the car.  I was so touched to see the big ladies reach for their little sisters and brother as they scampered away.

Here are a few shots of our adventure with the iron horse:
First, we tied Samantha to the rails....
Then Josephine and Charlotte danced on the rails.
Then, when a train really did come by, we hid behind the switch building.  Notice that we first untied Samantha...  Rachel is missing because she was slow.  I'm kidding.  She ran down the gravel embankment and took the pictures for us.  What we don't do for our monthly splash pictures.

01 November 2012

A Ball On A Roll....

We were enjoying a beautiful day at the park and Joey was practicing her front walkover, which takes up a lot of her time lately.
Count how many she does in a row!
Josephine, 8 years old

30 October 2012

Josephine's Baptism, Oct 2012

In our church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, children are baptized at eight years old.

Our friend,Elizabeth Butler had this great idea for a shot - placing Josephine right in this painting with Jesus.  At baptism, Josephine became a member of the church and gains a fresh start - a clean slate - and is now accountable for her own actions.  Choose the Right is a huge montra around our house.

We had lots of family for the event.  My Mom and Dad (Juanita and Wayne Brumbley) are on the left - what a cute couple.  In red in the back is Dawn - and the bearded one next to her is my brother - David.  They got married just a few months ago!  That sweet smile in the back, in white, on the right is Monica Matthews, Josephine's second grade teacher.  We just love that she joined us.

This is what we are really like.

22 October 2012

Josephine is EIGHT

Josephine is EIGHT!

We made treats for her class at school - rice crispie pumpkins.  Pinterest makes me look so good!  Joey is in second grade.  She can do a full split (left and right; for center she is almost there - and she practices every day.)  She is reading above grade level, loving school, and she is currently making a house for her monster high and barbie dolls.  All paper, boxes, strings and even socks have been recycled into couches, beds, rugs and closets for her dolls.  She even makes them little magazines and cell phones.  Give this girl some paper and let her go.  She has quite the imagination!
For Joey's birthday weekend we had some great visitors - Grandad and Grandmom (aka Wayne and Juanita Brumbley) and her Aunt Dawn and Uncle David.  We love it when family comes to see us! 

We had a chess tournament - family tradition - and another stample - scrapple!  YUM!  My parents brought this Maryland delicacy.  My taste of home!
Not only did we celebrate Joey's birthday - more on that later - but, J. Michael had a soccer game and showed his skills to his grandparents and Aunt Dawn and Uncle David!