24 January 2015

Josephine's Challenge

Josephine has taken on a challenge.  Actually, she began this challenge on August 16, 2014.  On August 16, 2014, she committed to no longer drink anything carbonated.  She drinks a lot of water, that's a given at our house, but her new favorites are lemonade and fruit smoothies, which are usually concocted by her sisters.   If she can last one full year without drinking anything carbonated, she will get a prize.  She thinks that prize should be an ipod.  Time will tell.  Her biggest hurdle to date came up at school.  In October, her reading group was reading Roald Dahl's book, The BFG, and as a project, they were going to make the Big Friendly Giant's favorite drink - frobscottle - which you can read more about by clicking here.  Josephine excels academically and she was worried that if she didn't participate she would get a failing grade.  The big life lesson came when she decided I should write a note to her teacher explaining that Josephine had made the decision to give up carbonated drinks.  It all ended perfectly, with her teacher praising her for her integrity and assigning her a food project instead.  Good job, Josephine.  Five months into her challenge she is still carbonation free.

22 January 2015

Useful Life Skill?

JMichael has a few mad skills.  Most of his skills involve a soccer ball but he has great eye hand coordination.  Case in point - Stick Hero.  Stick Hero is an app on our phones and it's a very simple game.  The player creates a length of stick, which is supposed to stretch across two given points.  With each successful stick, the points change.  Sometimes you need a long stick; sometimes you just need a short stick, but, if your stick is longer or shorter than required, the game is over.  My high score is 30 sticks.  The other day JMichael ran up to me - SO excited - and he said, MOM!  Guess my high score on Stick Hero.  I guessed 20.  Too low.  This six year old boy got a high score of 71!  I got a picture of him again to record his score.  Wow.  Way to go JMichael! 
You can play Stick Hero online - if you have a touch screen computer - by clicking here.  Or, put another game on your phone - it's free.

21 January 2015

Birthday Swim!

Charlotte's swim team has a "birthday swim" tradition.  The swimmer swims a full IM (one lap each of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle), while the team splashes you and taunts you.  It's lighthearted fun and Charlotte thoroughly enjoyed herself.  If you can catch it, you can see her smiling as she comes up to make her turn.  Water is her element.
Charlotte and Jessica - friends and competitors!

11 January 2015

Charlotte is TWELVE

Charlotte was looking forward to turning 12.  Huge.  At church, twelve is a big deal.  When you turn twelve you can leave the children's program (Primary) and go the to youth program (Young Women's).  Since Charlotte's birthday is December 27th, she was the last one left.  All her friends had moved on and left her with the younger kids.  She took it all in stride - the adult leaders all gave her a good natured teasing about STILL being here with us in Primary and she was usually the one we let do the special leadership type things - like hold the babies and narrate the Sacrament program.  When her birthday came, she was so excited to go.  When a girl turns twelve, she is "captured", in our Ward.  This means that she attends her regular meetings and the young women - all 17 of them - came in to the opening exercises and announced - We are here for Charlotte, but, we will sing for you all.  Charlotte then gets to choose her favorite Primary song - Charlie chose A Child's Prayer - and she joins the young women as they sing it.  Then they all file out of the room and Charlotte hugs her teacher and says goodbye.  I got a hug too.  It was sweet.  The twelve year old girls really look forward to it.

I asked Charlotte to share twelve things for her birthday:

1.  I love swimming.  Love it!
2.  My favorite color is teal.
3.  I love playing minecraft.
4.  I love to sing.
5.  I like to wear bows in my hair.
6.  I hate math class.
7.  When I grow up I want to be a photographer and a swim coach.
8.  My favorite food is watermelon.
9.  I love to hold babies and I love to babysit.
10.  I know a lot of twins.  It's weird how many sets of twins I know.
11.  I am the best and getting up in the morning and getting ready.
12.  My favorite season is winter.

Charlotte is the queen of selfies.  I once deleted 1,057 pictures off of my phone.  They were ALL of Charlotte.  True story.  Charlotte is sweet.  She is cheerful and polite.  She has a sassy streak when she wants to let it loose.  Charlotte is forgiving and does not know a stranger.  She is truly comfortable in her own skin and shares her smile as she goes.  Happy twelfth birthday, Charlotte!

10 January 2015

Christmas 2014 - Family

Warning:  Lots of pictures.  Lots.

My present this Christmas was to go to see Mom and Eric in Maryland.  It was fantastic.  I took pictures.  So did Ma, and James and Rachel and Samantha and Charlotte.  SO did Eric and Abbey.  Lots of pictures.  This is the highlight reel.
We went to Hershey Park.  It was fun.  It was crowded and still fun.
The BallTeam posing with the candy house at Hershey Park.  This house was about 8 feet tall and fully covered in candy.  Kisses, cups and chocolate everywhere.  Lollipops were hanging as the Christmas lights.  It was amazing.

At Eric's house on the bear stairs.  The BallTeam and Gavin.

Abbey, Eric and Gavin (14).

Christmas morning at Ma's house - Charlotte (11), JMichael (6) and Josephine (10).

Eric and Tina, or Beans.  Eric's wife is Tina.  When Eric and Tina started dating, and Tina and I worked at the same law firm, back a few years ago when we were in our twenties, we decided that I would be Beans and she would be Abbey, since her maiden name was Abbott.  Having two Tinas in the same office and same family is confusing.

Ma, enjoying game night.  Every night was game night.

Josephine (10) and Samantha (15) at game night.

Rachel (16), and Josephine and Samantha.  Rachel won a lot at game night.
James and JMichael braving the cold to test out the remote control truck.  Fun is more important than temperature, right?

Ma had not been back to the grave since Dad died.  She cried.  I think this was the first time that my kids had visited a grave of their relative.  They were respectful and asked questions and comforted Ma.  It was bittersweet.

The BallTeam and Ma with the Christmas tree.  We didn't put up a tree in Arkansas and the kids all liked seeing Ma's tree and letting her explain the ornaments.  Their favorite was finding their names.  I wish I had a picture, but, Ma "wrote" their names in pipe cleaners and placed them in the tree.  Better than finding a pickle.
James and me with the tree.

The kids table at Eric's house.

If we had a balcony at our house it looks like those phone cases would be getting an extra workload.

This is the house I used to live in in Salisbury, Maryland, on Camden Avenue.  It's divided into four apartments, two on top and two on bottom.  I lived on the top north.  It had an amazing porch and a tiny tiny kitchen.  I spent a few years here and this is where I was living when I met James.

This is our Goosley Road house in Yorktown, VA.  When we lived here there was no front porch, just a stoop.  The trees were bigger and the house was older and more run down.  It was good to come back and see it.  We did not notice the No Trespassing sign.  Oh well.  We just sat in the driveway and the big ladies remembered which window was their room.  Samantha remembered the tree she was in when she fell and dislocated her elbow.  They remembered the redbuds in the front yard and they thought the house looked smaller and sadder.  After this we headed straight to the beach, but, I already posted those pictures.

Merry Christmas from Samantha.

05 January 2015

Christmas 2014 - the Beach

Ahhh.   The beach.  Disclaimer:  the beaches of Maryland are COLD in December.  The sand is cold.  The breezes are cold.  The water is freezing cold.  The beach is COLD.
I had the kids all remove their shoes because, it's easier to walk in sand if you are barefoot.  Let me repeat.  The beach is cold.  The sand is cold.
James took a selfie with the ocean.  Do you see his photobomber?
Ahhh.  The cold Atlantic.  Have I mentioned it was cold?
The whole family and the ocean.  This is not your typical beach family portrait, but, hey, it was cold!
This is Rachel saying, why did we come to the ocean in winter?
Josephine posed in the tire at Ripley's Believe it or Not museum on the boardwalk.  The museum was closed.  'Cause it was cold!  Thrasher's was also closed.  Sad day.
Iconic Ocean City, Maryland landmark - the Sacramento sign.  This sign is on the highway as you leave the island.  In Sacramento there is a sign that reads Ocean City, MD - 3,073.  True story - I used to have a picture of it that my cousin sent me.  Craig - I need another picture, please.  But I googled it here, so you could see for yourself.
More of the ocean.  I don't know what the black is, but, I thought it looked cool.  I mean COLD.
Way down the beach look for a red spot and a shorter black spot.  Those spots are JMichael and Samantha, chasing seagulls.
It may be cold, but, you have to put your toes in, right?
 I love the beach.  But, I love these five amazing people even more.

04 January 2015

Christmas 2014 - the bridges

One big part of going home to Maryland for me is the water.  Water is everywhere in Maryland - lots of rivers and bays and the ocean.  What that means to the weary traveler is bridges.  I had told the kids about all the bridges we would cross and they lost count.  I got a few pictures:
This is the Shore side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  For more on this engineering marvel, click here.  I had told Josephine that you go under water twice and she was not thrilled.  After we crossed it, though, all the kids were glad they saw it.  Charlotte and Samantha even held their breath the whole time we were in the tunnels - both of them.

As we entered the first tunnel, this cargo ship was going over the tunnel.  These pictures do not do justice to how large these freight ships really are.

Going down!
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel has a northbound span and a southbound span.  This truck was headed north while we were headed south.  You can also tell from this picture how low the bridge is in areas.  It arches up for small watercraft and it stays low like this for most of the seventeen miles of bridge.  Then, of course, the tunnels take you under water twice.

Back on the Virginia mainland, we went through Hampton Roads to Yorktown, Virginia, where we lived three kids ago.  We stopped by the house where we used to live, and then headed to the beach again.  This is the York River bridge and we spent many hot summer days on these sands when Rachel and Samantha were little.  We left Virginia when Charlotte was four months old (Rachel was five and Samantha was four), so she doesn't remember this, but, the big ladies were full of memories of this area.
It was getting dark and it was cold - but, you gotta get a picture!

Our final bridge -over the mighty Mississippi - this is the sign you see crossing from Tennessee into Arkansas.  Two hours from home.
We also crossed the Dundalk, in the Port of Baltimore;  the Susquehanna River in Havre de Grace, the C&D canal in Chesapeake City, MD; the Bohemia River in Cecilton, MD; the Chester River, in Chestertown, MD, where I locked the keys in the car and the police had to break in to open our car for us....; the Dyer Creek in Georgetown, MD; the Choptank River in Denton, MD; then we headed through Bridgeville, DE, where ironically, there is no bridge.  Then to the Route 90 Bridge through the Isle of Wight Inlet and into Ocean City, MD.  Then Route 50 Bridge to get off of the island of Ocean City and back onto the Shore of Maryland.  We crossed all these bridges and didn't get pictures.  I bet you're kinda glad.

03 January 2015

Splash - an explanation

Every month I make my kids pose for a splash picture.  The splash is that first picture you see when you open the blog.  A lot of people get that one picture that they love and they keep it up always.  Some people have a design or a banner, instead of a picture.  I chose a more complicated way of doing it, but, I love the splash picture.  The kids all know it will happen every month, usually the last week of the month, and it will always be different.  This month, we just made it simple - this is exactly what my kids were wearing at the time I said, ok, everybody outside at the bricks; time for the splash.  Everyone in the Ball Team home knows what that means.

I had a hard time this month deciding on which picture to use.  In this digital age, you know you can take fifty pictures even though you only will ever use one.  Some of these others were so good, though, I just decided to include them here, as an intermission of sorts, during the Christmas-y blog posts.

Happy 2015, everyone.

02 January 2015

Splash - December 2014

The final splash of 2014 was taken in our hallway.  Very low key, but, I love it.  All five kids got new Christmas socks just for the occasion.  Even though you can only see them from the knees down, a little personality shines through each of them.  Can you guess which set of footers belongs to each BallTeam kid?  Charlotte has her feet all askew, Samantha is actually sitting down.  JMichael is fidgeting and Rachel is acting shy.  Josephine is perfectly aligned, and tan?  Merry Christmas everyone.