27 December 2014

Christmas 2014 - Amish and Chocolate

We took a trip to Amish Country today.  Ma only lives about an hour south of Lancaster, PA and we headed up to soak in the local culture.
Amish horse and buggy - lots of these were out and about town today.

Beautiful farms.  I know farming is hard work, but, it sure is pretty.
Wide open Pennsylvania low country.
These scenery pictures are curtesy of Charlotte.
Isn't Amish Country gorgeous?
And these gorgeous people - about to tour Hershey's Chocolate factory.  We had a great time and learned a little about chocolate.

We learned that even the streetlights in Hershey, PA are made of chocolate.
And the town center on our way home through Gap, PA.

25 December 2014

Christmas 2014 - Herr's Lights

I will now associate Herr's Potato Chips with Christmas - here's why.  The Herr's Potato Chip Company, Nottingham Chip Plant, in Nottingham, PA puts out a light show like nothing we had ever seen.  It was AMAZING.  These pictures do not do it justice.  The trees are literally wrapped and dense with lights.  It is simple and striking.  It's also free.  I really love free.
This tree must be four stories tall.  Just beautiful.
The Herr's plant.  All bedazzled for Christmas.
 A bush becomes a potato if you are an artist with Christmas lights.  What a great new tradition.  If you are anywhere near the metro Philadelphia/Wilmington area - make the drive.  It will be worth it.

21 December 2014

Cute Kid Quote

Our cute kids quote today is from Samantha, 15 years old.....

I asked how the laundry was going.  Without missing a beat Samantha says, We should be finished by Tuesday.

This is funny to me for two reasons, first, we have been sick at our house for over a week now.  Fevers, blah, run down, zero energy kinda sick.  So there's plenty of laundry to do. 

Secondly, Christmas is coming and we are preparing for the school break and holiday, Tuesday.

Laundry til Tuesday, Merry Christmas to me!

08 December 2014

James, 48

For James' birthday, I thought I would share 48 facts about James:

1.  James loves peanuts.
2.  His favorite color is purple.
3.  His football team is the Minnesota Vikings.
4.  His baseball team is the Texas Rangers.
5.  James plays the guitar.
6.  James has lived in 12 states.
7.  He attended three high schools.
8.  He attended six elementary schools.
7.  He graduated from Old Dominion University.
8.  He has been married three times.
9.  James loves to drive.
10.  He served a mini mission at 16 years old.
11.  He played the trombone and the drums in elementary school.
12.  James played sports as a kid.  Like all of them.
13.  James loves scary movies.
14.  He plays the piano.
15.  He plays the drums.
16.  James likes to sing in the ward choir.
17.  James once beat my Dad at chess.  Impressive.
18.  He likes to wear hats.
19.  His high school football number was 54.
20.  He loves Paydays and Heath bars.
21.  James speaks a little Polish (just enough to get his face slapped).
22.  James knows what time it is without a clock.  It's weird.
23.  He was in the Army and worked on Apache helicopters.
24.  He can flip a dime using a forklift.
25.  He is ticklish.  Very ticklish.
26.  James is wholly in charge of all electronic devices in our house.
27.  He is our kids' biggest cheerleader.
28.  He loves dogs and his favorite dog from his childhood was Missy, a Doberman/Rottweiler mix.
29.  James takes a great picture.
30.  He loves to play board games and never lets anyone win.
31.  He has super curly hair and he likes it short.  I like it long.
32.  He has visited all 50 states except North Dakota, Hawaii and Alaska.
33.  James' family used to live (briefly) in a travel trailer.
34.  He has one brother.
35.  He has two step brothers.
36.  He is the baby in his family.
37.  He wasn't named after his Dad, his mom just liked the combination of James and Michael.
38.  He loves to fish.  Loves it.
39.  James' favorite day is Wednesday because it's right in the middle.
40.  James is a veil worker in the Memphis, TN temple.
41.  Babies love James.  He holds other people's kids all the time.
42.  He loves the stars.  He will take his telescope outside and sit for hours.
43.  James loves kites and stunt kites.
44.  He wants to build a solar powered house and live off of the grid one day.
45.  He likes German chocolate cake.
46.  He loves seafood.
47.  He is not fond of talking on the telephone.
48.  James is interested in science of all kinds.

07 December 2014

Small Town Christmas Party

Our little town hosts a little Christmas party.  It's all free - hotdogs, chips, cookies, hot chocolate, carousel rides, and a visit with Santa.  The night's big event is the lighting of the official town Christmas tree.  These little get-togethers are low key, and lots of standing in line.  But in a town of only two McDonald's, you run into lots of people you know.  It's a nice hometown tradition.  I went with five kids, and I came home with only two.  Rachel and Charlotte had a babysitting job to go to and Samantha met up with some friends and ditched her family.  Ah, teenagers.  I didn't get pictures while we were all there standing in line, but, I did get a few of the little two left to ride the carousel.

The weather cooperated beautifully - it was 50 degrees.  That's plenty cold for me.

03 December 2014

Splash - November 2014

The November 2014 splash was taken across the street from Junior High South.  In our little town, we have eight elementary schools, which feed into two middle schools and two junior highs - middle north and south, junior north and south.  Junior North and Junior South both feed their ninth graders into the Freshman Academy and then to the High School.  So kids are divided north v. south, then combined for grades 9 through 12.  We live in the southern half of the town, so our kids all go to south schools. But, I digress.  This grove of trees sits on about five acres across the street from Junior South.  I told the kids to wear a fall colored shirt and we headed out.  I knew I wanted to use this acreage as a backdrop, but, the sun was giving me fits.  We solved the problem by having he kids stand in the shade, a good bit away from the grove behind them.  The sun is in the trees, bringing out all the beautiful colors and add five beautiful smiles - perfect fall splash.

27 November 2014

Gobble, gobble 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 got here too quickly.  Summer break feels like it was just yesterday.

Today we ate with James' Dad and family at the Holiday Inn in Little Rock.  The food was fantastic.  Lots and lots of turkey, ham, potatoes and stuffing.  Samantha was thrilled with the fresh fruit and Rachel was thrilled with the pecan pie.  Charlotte, Josephine and JMichael are all just happy with food in general.  We don't have picky eaters at our house.  I'm thankful for that.

We ate and then we took the scenic route home.  We live about thirty minutes north of the big city, so we meandered home along beautiful country backroads.  We took a pit stop at a little country church and the goof{Balls} let me do an impromptu photo shoot.  I do love these goofy kids of mine.

The quintessential kids table - the BallTeam is usually pretty well behaved in public, but when they see Dad pointing a camera their way, the poses and faces come pouring out.  I told Samantha that I would put this picture on the blog and one day her grandchildren would see it and she said, great!  They will see their grandmother was awesome! 
Josephine, 10, demonstrating her wings.

everyone smile!

This is the one that ended up on all their instagram accounts....Rachel added the text and posted it and then Samantha and Charlotte posted it on their accounts, too.  I'm so grateful that they are a close knit group of siblings.  They know how to push each others buttons and they look out for each other.  We are truly blessed.

Very thankful for them, and for James and for all the blessings we enjoy.  Happy Thanksgiving!

18 November 2014

Clean County Poster Contest

Our county, like lots of communities around the country, holds an art contest to sponsor its programs within the schools.  The Clean County Poster Contest was the most recent one that Josephine entered.  She drew a poster in art class, back in August, like every other student in her homeroom, and didn't think about it again.  This week we heard about her drawing.

Our story begins with another good call from the school principal.  This time it was from Josephine's principal and she was so excited to tell us that Josephine's drawing had been selected as a winner.  Out of all the kids in the county - that's about 15 elementary schools - Josephine was one of the winners.  Twelve were chosen - all girls - and the county will use the drawings for its county education district calendar.  Josephine is "Miss November, 2015".

She was presented with a gym bag full of goodies - she was particularly excited about the extensive collection of stickie notes.  The presentation was in front of the school board meeting and Josephine was the first one ask to address the board.  She said she was nervous, but, she was articulate and handled herself very well.  We are so proud of our artist, Josephine.

Her poster is a girl recycling - she's putting her bottles in the recycling bin - and behind her is the recycling center.  Click on the picture for a close up.  Way to go, Josephine!!!

Josephine with Ms. Nash (representing the school board and Mr. Noggins, representing the Clean County Coalition), then Josephine with her principal, Mrs. Hill.

The awarding winning artists, posing for the newspaper camera.
Josephine is front, far left.

17 November 2014

Cute Kid Quotes

Our Cute Kid Quote comes today from JMichael, aged 6.

Tonight, I asked Rachel to get the kids together for nightly prayers.  As the kids trickled in to our bedroom, one was clearly absent.  Where was JMichael?  James called for him again, and the answer came from the front room.  From the sound of his voice, we all knew he was playing a video game.  Go ahead!, he yelled.  I'm folding my arms in here.

Uhm?  No.  Good try, dude.  Now get in here.

This picture was taken by Charlotte while I ran in to pay the water bill.  This is the good stuff that happens when you leave your phone with your kids.

16 November 2014

Rockin At The Hop, 2014

"Rockin' At The Hop" is the musical show that the sixth grade presents for the parents each year.  Charlotte was SO very excited to participate.  She had been singing the songs all around the house for weeks.  The kids have a blast dressing up 50's style.  They all sang Rockin' Robin, Great Balls of Fire, and a few selections from "Grease".  They served the parents cold cokes in glass bottles and ice cream sundaes.  They did the hand motions to Rama Lama Ding Dong.  One of the boys crooned Houndog and Elvis would have been proud.  What a fun and upbeat evening.  Charlotte loved her poodle skirt, and had a great time with her friends - this one is Kamden Kuydendall, and the girls in the car with Charlotte - flying off like Sandy and Danny did in Grease - are her friends Abi and Anna.
To see Rachel Rockin At The Hop (she was in 6th grade in 2010) click here

08 November 2014

Sharks, Fall 2014

JMichael just finished his soccer season with the Sharks.  He scored goals, worked on his skills, and made some new friends.  Fresh air, sunshine lots of exercise - all the benefits of kids in sports are worth the expense, the time and the running around of the practices.
The following pictures are all from our friend, Crystal Rajatora.  She took pictures all season and gave the team all copies.  So wonderful.
Eye on the ball.

Listening to Coach at practice.

Action shot - teamwork.

A throw in.  Both feet have to stay on the ground so coach tells them to cross one behind.

I'm open!

A little showboating after a goal.

Dag he's adorable....his teammate in this shot is Lawson.

I love this shot because it showcases JMichael's signature mismatched socks and the sunlight is in his hair.

An action shot of JMichael and Kenneth, one of his buddies.

Thank you, thank you to Coach Seth Cooper.  Soccer is more fun with a coach that teaches and encourages and motivates.  He donated time, bought treats and shared his love of the game.  JMichael played hard because he wanted to please his coach, and because he loves the game.  We will be back next season!

06 November 2014

Charlotte, Sixth Grade Celebrity

I always cringe a little when I see the phone number of one of the kids' schools come up on my phone.  What happened to her?  What did she do?  Am I in trouble?

Today I got two calls from Charlotte's school.  The first was a recorded message which explained that the school had been on a ten minute lock down earlier in the day but that all was now back to normal.  The reason for the lock down was that a suspected gun had been discovered and the situation was investigated and dismissed by the police.

The second phone call was a personal call from the school principal.  She asked if I had received the automated message and I said that I had and I was glad all was well.  She then said, Well the hero of the day is your daughter, Charlotte.

What happened was that while Charlotte's class was outside after lunch, she noticed that a young kid - about 10 years old - was playing across the street in front of his apartment.  He had what Charlotte thought was a gun.  She said she watched him playing with it and he pointed it at the kids at school and pretended to shoot.  He was making sound effects and getting closer to the kids at recess.  The child also took the gun apart and loaded it.  Then he repeated his aiming and pointing.

By now Charlotte was worried that he actually loaded a gun.  She and four of her friends ran for the teacher and Charlotte arrived first.  The teacher promptly blew her whistle and all the kids headed straight in to the school.  The principal called the police and the investigation started.  Charlotte gave her statement and explained to the principal and the police what she saw.

In the end, the boy did have a loaded gun - a BB gun.  He was visiting family in the apartments and just playing.  He didn't mean any harm.  But he might have actually hurt someone if he had shot at the kids. 

The principal was very proud of Charlotte and was full of praise for her.  She also announced over the loud speaker at school that Charlotte Ball had been the eagle eye that spotted the gun.  That alone thrilled Charlotte more than anything.

Way to be there for your classmates, Charlotte.  We are so proud of you.

03 November 2014

Halloween 2014

Rachel went out with her friends to go trick or treating and then back to a friends house for a Halloween party.  They grow up so fast......  Eleventh grade.

Samantha had a football game to go to on Halloween, so she was dressed as a high school dancer.  They did have a special Halloween dance and this picture (captured from the School's twitter account) was their final move.  Samantha says she was at about 10 o'clock in the second "O".  Boo.  Tenth grade.
Charlotte also ditched good ole Mom for going out with friends.  From left to right we have Tatum, Josey, Charlotte the nerd, Bailey and Kayla.  They all spent the night at Tatum/Josey's house after trick or treating.  Great bunch of friends.  Sixth grade.

Last but not least we have the little two.  JMichael went as a soccer star and Josephine is Where's Waldo.  Both recycled costumes.  Both as cute as ever.  Let the sugar coma commence.  First and fourth grades.

01 November 2014

Splash - October 2014

The October 2014 Splash is an homage to the Beatles, in the spirit of Halloween.  This intersection is right in the middle of the "downtown" in our rural Arkansas town.  Rachel was all about the details in this one - please note that Charlotte is holding a "cigarette" like George Harrison was and Rachel is barefoot, like Paul McCartney.  Our own little Abbey Road. 

31 October 2014

The funeral week.....

Warning - this post has a lot of pictures.  They are all stuck at the end.   I warrant it does not have enough pictures, but, it does have lots.

The week I did not know I was going to have began on Sunday and I was sitting with my family in Sacrament meeting at church.  Sacrament is a place without phones.  They should be silenced and forgotten during church meetings.  This time, however, I answered a phone call and I quickly slipped out a side door.  It was Eric, my brother who had just visited with Dad.  Eric said, Dad won't last much longer, Beans; you need to call him.  So I called my Dad and spoke with him for what we both truly knew would be the last time.  He knows what we said, and I know what we said.  I will leave it here to tell posterity that my Dad, Wayne Norman Brumbley knows that his Savior lives and that he, on that day in October, was ready to make that leap.  Dad gave me a list of things to do - always organized - He told me that he loves my mom, Juanita, and his first direction to me was to make sure she is always taken care of.  I promised I would do everything she would let me do to take care of her.  He next made me promise to stay close to my brothers and be there as much as I could for them.  So Eric and David, if I bug you with text and calls, please blame Dad.  Third he told me to hold James tight and be a good mother to those wonderful and amazing grandchildren of his.  I promised my Dad I would.

He told me that he loved me from the first time he saw my picture (he was serving in the Air Force in Vietnam when I was born, so he just got a picture.)  And while we fought some days, he loved me every day.  Every day, Dad. 

So, I told James it was time to head east and we made some amazingly quick arrangements.  It was our plan to meet David in St. Louis and leave his car with our cousin David and his beautiful wife Amy.  We met there at about 11 pm that night and headed east.  About three hours into our drive, Eric called.  Dad had died just after midnight their time.  October 20, 2014.

We got a hotel room for the night, since we were no longer trying to race to Maryland, and we arrived at Mom's about 9:30 on Monday evening.

The next few days were busy with making arrangements, seeing the funeral director and organizing for family and friends who were coming in.  President John, of the Wilmington Delaware stake was at Mom's side the whole time to help with anything she needed.  Food poured in and people just stopped by the house to hug Ma and tell a story.

Ma decided that the viewing would be Thursday evening - Dad's 71st birthday.  That night almost 200 people filed through the line to greet family and share a story about Dad.  I was so excited to see my old seminary teachers, Miller and Sister Engle.  How nice of them to come.  So many people with such great things to say.

On Friday morning we had the funeral service - all open casket since Ma thought they made Dad look so good.  Some of the same people came, but, more come to the service and they had to open the overflow in the chapel and the gym to seat everyone.

Jimmy Dayton, Steve Walker and Ernie Matthews all spoke about Dad and each had a different take on his life - I think the consensus is that Dad was an honest caring man devoted to his God and his family.  Throw in some funny stories and the Vietnam war, the coin club, the Polar Bar, reunion committee meetings, the bowling alley, years of night school, and a love of Bonsai and mowing the grass.  And that doesn't begin to define the man.  We are all complicated.  But Dad was Dad, to me.

After the service we headed to the lower shore for the burial.  There we had a graveside service with a dedication of the grave and a flag ceremony from Dover AFB.  Bruce Williams spoke and more people came.   I understand there were approximately 100 people at the grave.

Afterwards, we went to the Salisbury building where the Relief Society provided lunch and tables to sit and chat.  More hours of talking about Dad and reconnecting with family and friends.

Friday was a long day.  Friday night we went back to Eric's house and crashed.  We had more food from Abby's family and the Hebron Volunteer Fire Department.  Food everywhere.  We were all up late talking and talking.

Saturday we headed to the beach.  I forgot to stop and get scrapple this trip, but, we did go to Thrasher's and Fisher's.  After the beach Eric and Abby went back home in Mardela.  David, Dawn, James and I drove mom back home in Elkton.  We had face reality - driving back to Arkansas and Kansas in one day's time.

We left Ma.  That's what she wants right now.  She is busy and secure and strong.  She could be all those things in Arkansas, but, I'll argue that with her later.

Losing a parent is hard.  Dad had fought cancer valiantly and he was ready to go.  I miss him.  Yesterday I called Ma, and my first thought, as it always was, was, what time is it?  Is Dad asleep?  I don't want to wake him.

Now, some pictures from the trip.  There are not many because I was busy.  Lucky you.....

I went to Red Robin with Jennifer Priesch and Janet McJilton went with us to the beach - old friends are still great friends being there for me.  Yes, I'm wearing the same shirt on two different days.  I packed in a hurry, ok?

Roadside election sign - Wayne Norman is running for senate.  Pretty funny, huh, Dad?  Rumors of my death have been highly exaggerated....

I sliced my finger wide open while attempting to make sandwiches.  I did not make sandwiches.  Wow it hurt.  As of the writing of this post I still don't have feeling in my fingertip.

Maryland's lower shore.  Just beautiful.

Ma's brother Kenneth and her sister Tammie came in to be with her.  They loved Dad, too.  The cutie in the back is Sam, Tammie's husband.

More family - Ma at front and center with James in red next to her and to her left are David and Dawn.  I am directly behind Ma and to my right are Eric and Abby.  Behind me is my cousin, Tara and next to her are her husband Jeff and their two boys - Quinn and Conner.  Tara is Dad's brother Robert's, oldest daughter.  They drove up from North Carolina.

Thrasher's on the boardwalk - David and Dawn - not a fan of the vinegar.

Ma, Eric and Abby - all for vinegar.

The beach.  Ahhh.

James and me on the boardwalk.

Ma.  She's strong and perfectly capable.  One day I hope to be this strong.  But, she does miss him.  I know she does.  She said to me something once that I have never forgotten.  Well, she does that a lot, but, this one is germane here.  She said, I know that everything will be alright when I hear your dad say, Hey babe, I'm home, as he walks in the door.  That's what I prepare for all day.

Cute picture of David and Dawn.
Cute picture of Eric and his favorite condiment.

Quick snapshot of the Arc as we drove through St. Louis.
Little three all dressed up and ready for trunk or treat at our church.

Rachel in her Lost Boy costume.  She was in the high school's production of Peter Pan and the week we were gone was crunch week with five performances.

Samantha dressed as a fawn for a sweet 16 costume party for her friend.  Nailed it.

And this is Krista Hazeslip.  She is actually all dressed in costume to teach kickboxing and step aerobics at the rec center.  But don't let the costume fool you.  She really is a superhero.  Without a moment's hesitation she took our little three in for just over a week and fed them, cared for them, dressed them in costume, ferried them around to practices and games and in all ways took amazing care of them.  I had not a worry in the world about the little three because Krista is my superhero.
The big ladies were home alone.  Rachel was at rehearsal til 8 almost every night and still working at Subway.  Samantha was at dance practice after school, but, home in time to get the little three after school, packed for the next day and ready for Batgirl to come get them for the night.  I left them, only slightly worried.  I told them to take care of each other.  That's exactly what they did.  And while they did not wash a single dish while we were gone, and they did miss seminary once, I am still proud of the way they handled themselves on the homefront.
Goodbye for now Dad.  I'll see you when I get there.