30 December 2013

Photo Shoots

Maybe I'm a weird Mom, but every now and then I believe I'm doing something right.  Yesterday we went out for our monthly photo shoot (by the by, if you are new here, I change the splash photo of this blog every month and I keep the pictures as a journal of the growth of these precious people I am happy to call my children).  I used one, but, I just wanted to share how much fun these times are.  Rachel even said to me (and this really threw me) Mom, when I get married will my husband be in the splash pictures?  Whoa.  First, who is getting married?  And second, Awwww, you think this is a continually good idea and want it to include your future family.  Wow.
 Duck faces, even though all the smart ducks flew south months ago.
Presenting...who knows?  Doesn't JMichael look cute?  He's surrounded by girls.
Josephine's rockin' air guitar moves on the dock.
You choose the pose.  What a gang of personalities. 
Sweet grafitti on the dock.  Anyone know what 9:13 is?

28 December 2013


I was out with the big ladies recently at WalMart.  We stopped for a bathroom break.  Rachel came out of the bathroom stall first and immediately upon seeing the short sink, she drops to her knees and washes her hands.  As soon as she leaves to dry off, Samantha walks out of the stall and looks at the short sink.  What does she do, too?  Yup.  What a bunch of GoofBalls.  They make my life so fun.

27 December 2013

Happy Birthday, Charlotte

 Wow.  Times really does fly.  This curly headed tot in North Carolina is now ELEVEN.  Charlotte is in the fifth grade; she is the tallest of her sisters (who are currently in the 10th and 9th grades...).  Charlotte loves to sing and swim.  She is full of ideas, full of life and never shy.  Charlotte has recently discovered the stage, and I think this will stick.  She's not afraid of anything.
While the kids are out on break from school, the school still serves lunch - through donations from local businesses.  We go down there and eat, cause it's fun, it's free and we live only a block away....  Yesterday, we mentioned that Charlotte was having a birthday, and today, when we arrived, the ladies sang to her and presented her with cupcakes.  I love living in a small town.  So Charlotte had Chipotle and cupcakes for her birthday. Happy Birthday, Charlie.  We love you.

Christmas 2013

One of the kids' favorite Christmas traditions is Japanese food with James' Dad and Jean.  We do this every year and it's so much fun to have them cook right in front of you.  This year we snapped this picture of our whole group - plus the friendly waiter, to James' right.

The little two celebrated Christmas at school with a school wide sing-along.  That picture is the student body of their elementary school.  They sang and the teacher did reindeer games and it was sweet and fun.  J. Michael was in his jammers, because his class was riding on the Polar Express that afternoon.  Josephine's class made a present for their parents and decorated "gingerbread" houses.  Christmas at school is fun.
Back at home, we were ready for the holiday.  Why didn't I turn on the Christmas lights before I took this picture?  Ugh.  You can see our sleigh of Christmas books in the front and cookies and a letter to Kris Kringle.  No carrots this year, sorry reindeer.
We had a great Christmas.  Everyone enjoyed their surprises - I took no pictures.  I did get a picture of my annual gift - Chinese food for dinner.  We had goodies delivered from friends, carolers stopping by to sing and lots of time to hang out together and relax.  Merry Christmas everyone.
And Rachel.  She had an ugly Christmas sweater party for her forensics class.  But did she wear this sweater and matching headpiece just for fifth period?  No.  What fun is that?  She wore this jingle bell sweater all day.  All day.  I took this picture as she got in the car after early morning seminary.  But never fear - she won the contest.  She was also the only one to wear an ugly Christmas sweater.  Way to go, Rae.  Jingle all the way....

20 December 2013

Bah Humbug

Last weekend Charlotte, Josephine, Rachel and I appeared in A Christmas Carol.  I enjoyed myself, met some new friends and loved seeing the ladies shine.  Charlotte is in the back in this picture - she played Fan, Ebenezer's little sister who comes to see him and bring him home from school.  Her scene was in the Christmas Past portion of the play.  She did a great job - she only had three lines, but, one of them was a paragraph long and she nailed it.  Charlotte also played the part of a dancer at the Fezziwig party in Christmas Past.

Josephine, in the front, played a caroler.  She stood, center stage, and sang We Wish You A Merry Christmas until Scrooge stands and yells at her, calls her an imbecile and she shrinks away sadly.  The audience was always sympathetic to this pretty little girl being berated by the play's bully.  Later in the play Josephine also appears as Belle's (Scrooge's ex-fiance) daughter. She was unintimidated with her solo.  She also nailed it.

Rachel, in green here, had three roles.  Her main role was Belinda Crachit.  She has a bunch of lines in three different scenes (Christmas Past and Christmas Future), as she comforts her mother, supports her brother Tiny Tim, plays with her Crachit siblings and prepares the Christmas Pudding.  Rachel also appeared as a dancer at Fezziwig's party, and she played the role of Belle's friend, who meets Belle in the street in Christmas Past and they talk about Scrooge and how he is all alone in the world.

I played the role of Mrs. Dilber.  She is the laundress who picks over Ebenezer's dead body in Christmas Future and then sells his personal effects to make a little fast cash.  I wore rags and had dirt on my face.  It was fun.  The dress I'm wearing above is my other part - a party guest at Fred's party, in Christmas Present.  I didn't dance.  Whew.
I'm not itching to do another play.  All three ladies say they want to do the next one - CSI: Fairy Tales.  I'm glad they have found a great outlet and they enjoy the stage.  I say they can have it.  I love to watch.

Sorry the picture above of our family is so dark.  We only had candlelight in 1847, you know.  The picture to the right is Rachel (in green), with her Crachit family.  Mr. and Mrs. Crachit are actually Sgt. and Mrs. Shumway.  Becka, the blonde seated in front of her mom, and Alex, in the hat, are also Shumways.  The other siblings were loaners.  So sweet.  Aren't they a cute 19th century English family?

16 December 2013

Cute Kid Quote

We have lots of trains running through our rural Arkansas town.  We are frequently stopped by a train.  We were stopped by a long northbound coal train earlier this week and Charlotte had an observation.    "Look Mom, that's a long train.  All those people north of here have been really naughty this year."  (Cute Kid Charlotte, age 10)

12 December 2013

Pre-lit rocks!

We finally put up our tree.  Each year I wait until after James' birthday (December 5), but, the truth of the matter is that this year we didn't have a tree.  We had been given a white tree after the hurricane (now 8 years ago) and it was used when it came to us.  Last year was its last.  This year we have a new tree - 6 feet, prelit, and snaps together.  Easy to assemble.  The ladies and JMichael decorated it in no time and we now love to play a new game - we call it "speak for the ornament."  At night we get in jammers, brush teeth, put homework away, pick out clothes for tomorrow and assemble by the tree.  We read a Christmas story - not pictured, but all our Christmas books are in a "sleigh" under the tree - and then we take turns picking an ornament.  Each ornament has a story - where did it come from?  who does it represent?  who is that cute baby?  who made this ornament?  We talk about the ornament and then it's time for prayers and bed.  We are learning a lot, remembering a lot and enjoying our Christmas holiday.  We hope you are too.

10 December 2013

Ice=no school/bread

This is what the bread section of Kroger looks like the night before Arkansas is supposed to get an ice storm.  That one piece of stale, forgotten bread is all that remained.  Wow.  School was cancelled for two days - Friday and Monday.  We had a full weekend planned with a state championship football game, the opening of A Christmas Carol and it was all put on hold for ice.  Instead we enjoyed putting up our tree, sleeping late and playing with friends.  No sandwiches, but plenty of down time.

02 December 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

This is the only picture I took this year for Thanksgiving.  We had a very quiet holiday, with a twist - we went to a local church for Thanksgiving dinner.  We went to the Church of Christ, which offered a free dinner to anyone who showed up and you could take to-go trays, too.  So we all ate the usual homemade fare of turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn fritters and green beans.  We took it all home to James, too.  The only thing missing was the pie.  I do love pie....

We also had the annual Thanksgiving chess tournament, this year Rachel was the winner.  Next year I hope JMichael will participate.  The kids had a week off of school, so I had a week off of substituting.  We did almost nothing; lots of sleeping late, playing with friends and laundry.  One afternoon I literally sat on the couch for HOURS - there was a Hitchcock marathon.  The kids and I watched Rear Window, Psycho and the Birds.  Well, the kids came in and out; I was glued.  It was like a brief summertime in November.  The weather cooperated, too.  Days in the 60s, no rain.  Awesome.

I am thankful for these people in my family.  I love Rachel's imagination and optimism.  I love Samantha's independence and serious nature.  I love Charlotte's confidence and sweetness.  I love Josephine's curiosity and persistence.  I love JMichael's boundless energy and innocence.  And James?  I just love him.  I love his faith in me and his ability to dream in face of what seems like an insurmountable obstacle.  They are each so different and I can't imagine life without them.  I am also thankful for the family that brought me here - Dad and Ma, Eric and David.  You all are also so different, yet crucial to who I am today.  Thank you.

26 November 2013

The Lady In The Pink Sweater

I was out the other day with my little ladies - Charlotte, age 10 and Josephine, age 9. We had been running errands and the last one of the day was to stop at Kroger for a few essentials - milk, bananas, etc.  So I sent them into the store with a short list and some cash, because I was honestly still sore from my mountain climbing adventure the day before.  Pathetic, I know, but, they are old enough and quite capable of getting a few groceries all on their own.  Then returned to the car with groceries in hand and ALL the money I had given them.  The receipt read VISA, and they were both brimming to tell me the story...
They told me that they went to the self check out and the clerk noticed that a ravioli had fallen out of the bag.  Charlotte went back to get a different ravioli bag and Josephine stayed with the groceries.  While Charlotte was gone, a lady in a pink sweater came up to Josephine and said, dear, did you walk here?  Do you need a ride?  Did you get all the groceries you need?  Josephine said she was shy, but, she gave the lady in the pink sweater one word answers.  With that, the lady swiped her card and said, at least I can pay for your groceries.  Charlotte came back and they left the store.  The lady in the pink sweater, who apparently had a cartful of groceries herself, had not been in line with them, she had just come over to them.  She continued her shopping in the store.

My dilemma was this:  do I chase this nice lady down in the store and insists she accept my money in payment?  Or, do I allow her kind deed to continue and let her have the blessings she will certainly receive as a result of her kindness?

I chose let her continue her shopping and count myself blessed to have been the recipient of her thoughtful gesture.  Her kind deed will be remembered at our house and I hope it will inspire others to "pay it forward" as well.  Thank you, lady in the pink sweater, for our groceries and your selfless example to us all.

Editor's Note:  My children have the habit and reputation for not wearing shoes.  Yes, even in Kroger, and yes, even in November.  For the record, during this particular incident, both Charlie and Joey were wearing shoes and were appropriately dressed for both November and Kroger.  (The little ladies were worried that they looked homeless, and that's why the lady in the pink sweater paid for their groceries.)

25 November 2013

BallTeam Pinnacle

I come from flat land and beaches.  Here in Arkansas, however, we have the Ozark Mountains and the Ouachita (pronounced Wash-i-taw) Mountains, which provide everything from white water rafting to caves to mountain hiking trails.  I have not really participated in all this outdoor goodness, but, I was persuaded yesterday to hike to the top of a mountain.  And I caved.  (Sorry; I couldn't resist....)  Pinnacle Mountain is 1,011 feet at its summit.  That is, based on a 10 foot ceiling height, 101.1 stories high.  Whoa.  We hiked the West Summit Trail.  The views were amazing.  It was 39 degrees outside.  The autumnal colors were just breathtaking.  The other hikers - and yes, there were a few - were pleasant and encouraging.  A few pictures of this great afternoon with my kids and their friends....

At the base - ready to climb.
On the back row we see Samantha and Rachel - white hat.  Josephine is in the red sparkly sweatshirt between them and next to her is Hunter - Rachel's best friend.  In front we have Charlotte, then JMichael on the rock and Ashley, Samantha's best friend.
The views were amazing, though I tried not to look back too much.  This shot is from the beginning of the trail and it's about as steep as climbing a flight of stairs.  Lots of stairs.  There are benches placed in scenic spots with dedications to the people who love this mountain.  One bench was dedicated to a guy who hiked this trail 9,000 times.  Respect.
A little higher up you come to what I called the rockslide area.  There is no trail, just rocks.  You climb the rocks with the yellow trailmarkers.  I crawled part of the way.  Trail-swag. 
Doing this in the late fall was really beautiful.  I didn't mind the cold so much, I guess that's because I was working hard the whole way.  The trail is listed as strenuous.  Yup.  JMichael bounded up the whole way and loved it all. 
Rachel fit us all in this mountain selfie at the top.  Chilly and proud of ourselves.
And in my first-ever selfie - me on the mountain.  I may never do this again, so indulge me a bit.  Thanks.
 Let me tell you a few things I learned on the mountain.  I have amazing kids.  Amazing.  They tackled this natural obstacle just like they do everything - with confidence and enthusiasm.  They naturally divided up:  Samantha and Ashley went on ahead - sometimes out of sight - with JMichael Charlotte and Josephine.  They held their hands, carried them in places and watched out for their safety.  I was so touched.  They waited for us at the top and they beat us getting back down to the bottom.  Samantha was texting me status reports of where they were and asking how I was doing.  They took the little three to the park playground and waited patiently for turtle-paced mom to climb down.  Meanwhile, Rachel and Hunter stayed back, with me.  I was slow and clumsy.  I kept telling them to go on ahead, but, they said no, you are doing this and we are staying with you to the top.  And so they did.  I wanted to quit in about six places - wherever there was a conveniently placed bench - but they pushed me ahead with the promise that the view was worth it and I better not quit.  I'm grateful I didn't quit.  The view was spectacular, but, my kids are more impressive.  What a great afternoon.

22 November 2013

Third Grade Rocks the Weather

Josephine's third grade program was on the weather.  She had a speaking line in the autumn section.  She was last, the one with the football jersey, number 1.  (Her line was: Owls in trees and a harvest moon so clear, that's why autumn is my favorite time of year.)  She is not suddenly a Sooner's fan; she was just supposed to wear something fall-ish.  Most of the boys in her class wore their camo...  Later in the program they did a special effect and asked the audience to be quiet.  First, they rubbed their hands together, then they slowly started to snap their fingers, randomly.  Their music teacher was directing them the whole time.  They moved from random snapping to quick snapping, to patting their knees.  Occasionally someone would clap loudly and flash a flashlight.  See where this is going?  It was so cool to listen to the class make a storm.  Once the thunder clapped a few times, their teacher brought them back down to raindrops, then down to sprinkles and finally back to rubbing their hands together to imitate the wind picking up.  It was very impressive.  They got a standing ovation.  When they sang about winter, they made a snowman out of one boy in the class; it was adorable.  Then he danced with the girls who created him.  After a fun song about snow days, all the kids reached into their pockets and pulled out a "snowball" (wadded up lined paper) and threw snowballs at the audience.  Fun program.  They did this song by Owl City:
Very clever.  The last song, which I also videoed, but, it's too long to add here, was about how Arkansas is their home.  It was so sweet.  Joey was thrilled with the program and very excited to be chosen for a speaking role.  They also sang the Arkansas State Song:  Arkansas, You Run Deep In Me.  The lyrics can be found here.  A very nice night and a sweet girl!

Let's Eat, Y'all....

JMichael's kindergarten presented the cutest thanksgiving program ever.  EVER!  JMichael is an ear of corn, the one on the top riser, all the way on the left.  His teacher, Mrs. Hardage, is the narrorator.  The children are either pilgrim men (bang, bang), pilgrim women (oh mercy me), indian braves (brave and strong), indian squaws (shhhh, they were cradling dolls and from my seat I couldn't get them in the frame, sorry....), turkeys (gobble gobble) or corn (pop pop).  As Mrs. Hardage read the Thanksgiving story, the children chimed in with their parts.  I didn't get the first part because I was giggling too much.  The preacher had the last line, but it's hard to understand on my awful video - he says, Let's eat, y'all !  Oh, don't you wish they could stay in kindergarten forever?

18 November 2013

Dentists Rock

I am one of those weird moms that takes pictures at weird places, like the dentist's office. Our dentist has televisions that hang on the ceiling just above the chair and you wear sunglasses and headphones to listen to TV while you are getting a cleaning. My kids love visiting the dentist. I guess they get that from James, because I am NOT that mom. Anyway, our next dental adventure will be braces for Rachel and Samantha. They are excited about that, too! What is up with these kids?

13 November 2013

Reffing, 102

At 14 and 15, Rachel and Samantha can make about $14 per hour reffing soccer games.  They had to complete an 8 hour class and their certification lasts a year.  This season they did games almost every Saturday, and a couple of weeknight games.  Are they loaded?  Nope.  They buy their own make up, pay for their tournaments at school, they even took the family out dinner - Rachel took us to Arby's and Samantha took us to Burger King.  They went to the movies with friends and they bought their favorite food - candy.  These two burn up calories as fast as they consume them!

The guy on the left is Spencer Hazeslip - family friend and Samantha's future husband (running Hazeslip/Ball joke - except that I'm serious, I think they would have smart, beautiful children...but I don't get to pick husbands.)  Then Rachel in the middle and Samantha on the right.
Same gang, showing more personality.  This is more what they are really like - striking poses, playing around and enjoying their job.  Ahh, youth....

Firecrackers, Fall 2013

JMichael has finished another season of soccer.  This year he played U6, with Coach Larry Cross - the Firecrackers!  See the flames on the trophy?  Cute.  The team of 10 kids was a little lopsided - 8 girls and 2 boys.  They were a spunky group - Coach Larry and Coach Craig kept everyone busy with drills at practice and lots of encouragement at games.  JMichael loved it, again.  Even at the trophy party he was asking Coach Larry when the next game will be.  Next year JMichael will move up to U8 - which means a bigger team, a bigger field and more defined skills.  He sure seems to love anything athletic.  His asthma doesn't slow him down and he is always ready to get out there and play.  JMichael had a great season - lots of goals, lots of great passes and his big foot (kicking the ball for long distance) was his specialty.  He loved to do the corner kicks and he is great at it!  Keep up the hard work!  Go Firecrackers!

Before and After

What do you think of Josephine's (9 years old) new do?
She can't lose, right?  With long curly locks or short spunky whisps - she's a beautiful girl.

Seussical, the Musical

Rachel's high school drama department produced Seussical, the Musical this fall.  It was a huge hit.  JMichael and Josephine's classes had field trips to go watch the show and they both loved it.  I went with Charlotte and my friend Anissa to see the show on Saturday.  It was wonderful -colorful, bright, busy and a little on the weird side - just like I think Dr. Seuss would have wanted it.  The high school has so many talented vocalists and actors.  Rachel is in a great program to feed her need for the stage.  She is pictured below with her friend Natalie, who played a bird.  Rachel was a Who.  If you remember last year she was in Seussical, and she played JoJo, the Mayor's son.  That's a big role and she had a duet with Horton the Elephant.  But, that was junior high.  Now that she's in high school she has quickly learned that she is the low man on the totem pole and she is looking forward to the day - which is coming SO quickly - when she is the junior or senior and she can get the big roles.

The spring show is Beauty and the Beast - Rachel tried out for Mrs. Potts, but, it went to a senior.  Rachel will play the entrantress, a villager (which means she has solo lines in a song) and a piece of silverware (more solo lines).  That show will be in March.

04 November 2013

A Christmas Carol

So Rachel likes the theater.  If you really know our family, you already know that.  She sings show tunes in the shower.  The community theater had a sign up for Christmas auditions, and so I said sure, I'll take you down there.  Charlotte thought it would be fun, too, so she came along.  Never wanting to miss out on anything, Josephine decided to tag along.  All I did was drive and sit politely and sign the parent's consent form for underage participation in a Charles Dickens production.  The director had each of the ladies read some lines and he asked me to help.  Sure, I said, I can read for you.  Well, don't you know it, I am now in my first ever stage production.  I tried to tell him that I had NEVER been in a play in my life, but, he was insistent, and desperate.  I play Mrs. Dilber - the theif that picks over Scrooge's dead body in the ghost of Christmas future.  I'm a little nervous but the ladies are all about it.  Mom gets to be on stage!  Their enthusiasm is much more pronounced than mine.  Rachel has two parts - Belinda Cratchit in the ghost of Christmas Present scenes and a minor character on the street.  Charlotte is Fan, Scrooge's little sister (in the ghost of Christmas Past scenes) and Josephine plays a caroller, who gets yelled at by Scrooge because she shares the Christmas spirit.  Bah Humbug!  I couldn't get Samantha to go anywhere near a stage, and they already had a little guy to play Tiny Tim, or I would have offered up J. Michael.  Stay tuned for more details.  Our shows are the the second week of December!  God bless us, every one!

01 November 2013

A Beautiful Day - For a Kite

James has many hobbies - he plays guitar, he plays video games, he loves sports.  Since his injury, he can't do most of anything he enjoys anymore.  But, some days the weather is just so amazingly beautiful that it just calls your name.  Today was just that day.  Blue skies, perfect gusty wind, kids to play with - and his kite.  James has a stunt kite we bought years ago and when the conditions are just right, he loves to take it out to play. 
We set up his chair so he can be comfortable while he flies - 'cause believe me; he will pay for all this activity tomorrow with a sore back and tight muscles all over.  Isn't this picture cool?  The clound behind the kite makes it look like the kite is a jet with a wake in the sky.  The kite has two strings which allow James to steer it and do tricks.  It's fun to watch.
This is literally how we spent our days on our honeymoon.  We bought him a kite (we were in Ocean City, Maryland, staying at a beach condo....) and I laid in the infield of a local ball field reading a book, while James flew his kite for hours.  He lost control of it at one point one day and it landed in some trees out side of right field.  We had to chase it down, untangle it all and get it back up in the air again.  All was well and I went back to my book.  I remember falling asleep in the sun and he was zipping all around the outfield with his kite.  Ahh, carefree days....
On the playground that you see in the background of the kite picture, we have Joey and J. Michael, climbing the rock wall.  Josephine is demonstating with her hair just how windy it was outside.

Balloween 2013

Boo.  It's Halloween.  Not my favorite holiday.  Dressing up as something you are not for one night of selfish candy gathering.  But, hey, the kids think it's fun, and so did I once upon a time, long, long ago....  So this year, the big ladies went to a church dance all dressed up as Alice, from the book by Lewis Carroll (Rachel) and Waldo, from the book by Martin Handford (Samantha).
The little three went door to door treat or treating AND we went car to car trunk or treating. We have a poodle skirt 50's girl (Charlotte), a gymnast (Josephine) and a Sooners football star quarterback (J. Michael).

31 October 2013

Lunch dates

Josephine (3rd grade) and J.Michael (kindergarten),
then me with Charlotte (5th grade)

I have been a substitute teacher now for about three months and while the cut in pay has been a huge hurdle, one of the big benefits is that I am so much more available for my ladies and JMichael.  I have been able to eat lunch with them at school and I am humbled and delighted that they still want to be seen with dear old Mom.  Dag, I look grey in that picture with Charlotte....

Josephine is 9!

Josephine Lisette Ball was born on a warm October day in 2004.  I specifically remember telling our surgeon that our newest daughter's name would be Josephine Lisette and she was thrilled.  Her name was also French -Simone - and she was excited to welcome another Francophile into the world.

For Joey's birthday, we invited two of her friends over to paint her name, which will hang on her wall once we get them painted - long term project.  Pitured below we have Keira, J. Michael, Korell, and the birthday girl. 
At nine, Josephine is still quite the gymnast (self taught, 100%, we have to get this girl on a team) and she loves to create her monster high house - a whole house of furniture for her monster high dolls, which she has made herself from stuff she finds around the house.  Literally, finds.  For example, the bunk beds for the warewolf twin sisters are made out of a stepstool.  It's pretty amazing.

Josephine likes school; she's a great reader; she's a K-Kid (service organization at school for kids who demonstrate leadership qualities).  She hates to fix her own food and will do your chores if you make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She has an imagination a mile wide, but, no desire to cook.  Josephine's stand out quality is curiosity.  She asks questions constantly.  Con.  Stant.  Ly.  She can't get enough.  Never stop Josephine - we love you.