19 May 2017

Samantha's High School Graduation

Samantha is a high school graduate.  I never thought for a minute she would not graduate.  I know that she will have other days in her life that honor bigger accomplishments.  But today, she is thrilled to be a graduate and we are proud of her.  Samantha is not fond of change.  She likes to have a plan and she likes thrives on structure and routine.  Sometimes that routine is sleeping away a summer morning followed by a strict regimen of netfilx in the afternoon, but, she does have a plan.  The future is unplanned and whether or not she will say it out loud, she is intimidated by the future.  High school was safe and secure.  The future will be her adventure.  And she will rock it like she rocked high school.  No doubt.
The senior class - ready to do this.  The speeches by the valedictorian and two salutatorians were mainly about finding yourself in a troubled world; being the best person you can and helping those around you; also lots of don't forget these years and who got you here - remember your friends and your teachers.  Remember that your parents supported you.  And one sentiment that hit me was something the valedictorian said - he said remember how you feel right now.  This instant.  Are you proud?  A little scared?  A little sad?  A little apprehensive?  Really happy?  Mix all that together and use in your future.  Remember being happy and proud and a little scared - then go accomplish something that will make you feel like this all over again.  Go be someone.
I was too early to get the picture with Samantha and the superintendent of schools, Dr. Tony Thurman, but, there is Samantha walking toward him, in the blue cowl, to get her picture taken.  And the second picture is Samantha getting yet another picture taken with her fresh diploma.  I don't know where all these pictures are, I never got any of them, except from the arena seats!
Jonathan Pace, Samantha's boy/friend (sometimes that's true, sometimes it's not, but, they are always friends!) - also the happy graduate.  Then obligatory picture with Mom and Dad with our graduate.

The whole gang - in the front is Samantha, of course.  JMichael to the left with Juanita Brumbley, Grandmom, behind him.  Then we have me, Rachel, Charlotte and Josephine across the middle.  In the back on the left is Evan Haines, Rachel's boyfriend, and Dad, and then Jonathan, Samantha's boy/friend.
Congratulations, Samantha.  We love you and we are proud of you!

18 May 2017

Line 89

Line 89 is graduation tradition in Cabot.  The day that the senior class goes to Verizon Arena, in Little Rock, to practice for graduation is their last bus ride as students.  So to honor their accomplishment of graduation, the whole town lines the route that the buses take from the high school out of town - Route 89.  Hence the tradition - Line 89.  The elementary schools, the middle and junior high schools, all walk to the road to line 89 as the seniors take their last bus ride.  They make banners and wave and cheer.  It's a great tradition.  Since they load the class alphabetically, Samantha was on the first of the 13 buses it took to transport all 704 seniors to Little Rock.  They kids all waved with their classes at school, but, of course, all the parents, and happily in our case this year, grandparents, also go out and cheer for the graduates.
 We had a sign and balloons, too, and let Samantha know where on the route we were, so she could wave at us.

There she goes.  Off to graduation rehearsal.  Congratulations, Samantha!

05 May 2017

Real Panthers

 R.E.A.L. Panthers is a program sponsored by the police in Cabot. They have the teachers choose one student per quarter on their team (a team is a set of three to four classes of students, classes are about 25 kids each), who exemplifies the qualities of a R.E.A.L. panther - respect, explore, achieve and lead.  There's an assembly with accolades and the R.E.A.L. panther gets this cool shirt.  Josephine was happy to the R.E.A.L. panther for the third quarter of her sixth grade year and I snapped this photo of a R.E.A.L. panther on her way to school.  Go Panthers!  Go Josephine!

30 April 2017

Splash - April 2017

April Fools - Rachel is not really pulling a little Samantha out of a bag of cheese balls, held by a giant Charlotte while tiny little Josephine and JMichael sit quietly by.

Instead, Josephine is doing a handstand.  Happy April Fools from the Ball Team.

23 April 2017

Prom 2017

Prom was on Saturday, April 22, 2017.  It is Samantha's senior year.  Here she is, prom night, pictured with Rachel, whose prom was this time last year, and who did exactly what her sister did - she worked.

These two amazing young ladies are all about doing things their way.  I made sure to impress upon each of them, You will only get one senior prom.  One.  If you do not go, that's up to you.  But you will never be a high school senior on prom night again.

Neither of them went to prom.  They were both asked, actually by multiple people.  They both have a grandmother who sews and could have had a custom dress.  Nope.  Rachel had finished school in the December before prom in April and she just didn't hang out with high school kids anymore.  Samantha said it's all about getting dressed up for pictures only to go to the after party in shorts and a tshirt, so what's the point?

She's not wrong.  The school district throws a huge after-party with bouncy blow up trampolines, roly-poly suits, door prizes like laptops and dorm sized fridges, and tons of free food - the community donates it all and the students are encouraged to come - no admission.  This year they had a hypnotist and a DJ from the big pop station in Little Rock, Alice 107.7.  But were my kids there?  Nope.  Working.

Samantha did go hang out with a few friends after work that night, who did go to prom, but, true to her words, only stayed a little while and then chilled with a bonfire and movies until late.

Make your way ladies.  Make your way.

22 April 2017

Pinewood Derby 2017

Cub scouts is great fun for our little man.  He gets to hang out with all boys and build a race car.  I haven't told him yet about cub day camp this summer.  He will be in heaven.  Here he is - far right - sitting with Derek and Israel, before the racing began. 
And now here he is at the end of a fun evening - including a cub inspired dinner of hot dogs, chips and cookies - he didn't place.  But that's okay; he got best in show and had fun with his friends.  The racing was pretty intense.  JMichael's car actually won a few races by placing it backwards on the track.  I didn't get a picture of the track - quite a chore to assemble, but, wow, it's fast and the boys thought it was great.  Some older kids - the Murphey's boys (Shane and Ryan) ran the program which decided who races when and where and against whom.  It was a double elimination round robin tournament.  Every car in every lane, twice, and against every other car in the pack.  It sounded pretty complicated, but, they handled it all.  Some families brought cars from years past and afterward the cubs finished their cars, we had a few fun heats with now retired family cars.  It was a great activity and I think we learned a few tricks to apply to next year's car - like start working on the car earlier than the day before the race!

07 April 2017

Love notes?

As our kids have jobs and social lives, James and I are finding ourselves able to have a simple dinner out.  Yes.  I just said we go out when we can and more particularly when we can get away with going with only the two of us, or with JMichael.  This particular night Rachel and Samantha were working at Tasty Freeze, Charlotte and Josephine were staying at friends' houses for the night, and we went out with JMichael, to Tasty Freeze, of course.  Our meal came with these markings.  Gotta love having an "in" at the local burger joint.  Great personalized service.  Of course, they know we tip well, too.

05 April 2017

Mt. Magazine

Warning - Lots of pictures in this one!

So James and I have now been married for twenty years.  Twenty.  Wow.  We used to joke that if we made it to five years he would not be able to "deselect me", as he called it.  We flew past five and now we are working on our second set of twenty.  Then another.  Then another....

A few photos of the early days, and more recently:

Our engagement photo - January, 1997

Our selfie on our anniversary - 28 March 2017.

Wedding day - 28 March 1997

Snapchatted twenty years later - 28 March 2017

For this big occasion, Ma sent us away to Mt. Magazine, the highest point in the beautiful state of Arkansas.  The road was super windy and crazy scary.  James drove and I held on tight.  I'm a flatland kinda girl.

We stopped in Conway on the way up there at a place I've heard a lot about and wanted to try - Tacos 4 Life.  The food was amazing - cilantro rice with two tacos.  James and I got two different ones and split them.  He ordered fish - excellent - and I ordered Cuban - also excellent.  I highly recommend this place.  It was pricier than we would normally do (Ma also send a gift card for spending money, thank you!) but they also donate to charity for every taco they sell.

We started our climb up the mountain.  It was a beautiful spring day.

Stopping at the scenic overlook, you could literally see for miles.

The elevation reaches approximately 2,500 feet at the top of Mt. Magazine.

Our digs for the night - a hot tub and cable TV.  It was great.  We watched the North Carolina Tarheels defeat the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the college basketball championship while we ate room service appetizers and relaxed.  I was for NC and James wanted Gonzaga.  It was a great game.

Our view from the balcony in our room.  Spectacular.

The sunset from our balcony.

Twenty years.  I did have a life before I was married.  Some of my readers may remember me then.  It is strange to me that I don't really see myself except as a wife and mom.  I mean I am my own person, don't get me wrong, but, James is such an amazing part of my life that I would be a completely different person without him.  He is funny and smart, spiritual and playful.  He is a great Dad to our family and a leader both in our home and among his peers.  We work well together, because we are different people with the same goals.  For example, he thought the Zags could beat the Tarheels.  Sometimes he wins.  Sometimes I win.  Together, we both win.

30 March 2017

Splash - March 2017

March's splash picture is just a simple depiction of my kids with the naturalized daffodils which grow in a fallow field down the road from our house.  The blooms only last about a week and I made the kids go sit among them, and smile.  You can't really tell from this angle, but, the daffodil to Josephine's left is not on a stalk; it's tucked behind her ear.  Arkansas is a beautiful place to live and raise a family.  It still has its problems, but, the natural state is sure pretty.
Josephine, Samantha, JMichael
Rachel, Charlotte

Just as a sidebar - here they are in 2009 - eight years earlier, in the same field.  
Rachel, Charlotte
Samantha JMichael Josephine
Time flies.

27 March 2017

Huskies - Soccer 2017

Yes, it's that time again!  Soccer.  JMichael is playing for the same coach and has about half of his team as returning players.  We expect big things this season from the Huskies.  Coach James works hard on field shape, strong passes and footwork.  JMichael loves it and we love watching him love soccer.  Go Huskies!

14 March 2017

Rachel is Nineteen

 Rachel is nineteen now.  Nineteen.  Wow.  She is pictured here with her pecan pie for pi day, and for her birthday.  She is working full time at tasty freeze and going to school at Arkansas State University, Beebe.  She will finish her freshman year in May and so far her grades are outstanding.  She says every day that she wants to quit her job.  Working full time, especially at a shake and burger joint, is tough while going to school and attempting to have a social life, too.  Rachel may live in her own apartment and have her own way of doing things, but, I talk to her every day and she is always there for her family.  Independent, yes, but, still our little lady.

For Rachel's birthday, we took her to the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.  That's not too exciting, huh?  But the reason we took her is:  the Beatles exhibit. 

James played on Ringo's drum kit - he can hear it through the headphones.

We re-created Abby Road:
Rachel is George, I am Paul, James is Ringo and Evan is John.

 The instruments from the Fab Four:

 Evan and Rachel with the Beatles - walking on water.

 And James and me, too.  The library is cool the way it sticks out over the Arkansas River.

We didn't just see the Beatles exhibit; we also walked quickly through the Clinton exhibits - you kinda have to to get out of the building....anyway, we saw a recreation of Bill's oval office, lots of gifts from his travels and tons of letters and documents concerning his presidency.  I did learn something:  Chelsea Clinton, Bill and Hillary's daughter, was born in the gubernatorial mansion in Arkansas and then moved to the White House with her father's election to the presidency.  Wow.  Get that kid a double wide - she needs a little reality check.

James is pictured here with this seventh great uncle - George Washington.  They have the same nose.

 After the Beatles, pizza with these two.  Happy Nineteen, Rachel!

07 March 2017

Are YOU trippin?

This was Samantha's outfit for school today.  I had never seen this shirt before so I said, Hey, nice shirt.  Where did it come from?  She says, Funny story, Mom.

A guy in her first period class was wearing this shirt and she genuinely commented that she liked his shirt.  He said thanks and they went about their lives.  This guy was just described as a guy in her first period class.  Not someone she's known since third grade, not a friend, not even a friend of a friend.  Just a guy from her first period class.

Now the detail of first period is an important one.  Samantha does not attend her first period class on a regular basis.  We are have serious getting up and out the door on time issues and she says even her first period teacher is astonished on the off chance she is actually there, physically in the classroom before the bell rings.

So the next time she graced her first period peers with her presence, this "guy in her first period class" pulls from his backpack the very shirt Samantha commented on and is sporting today.  He said, here.  I bought you a shirt.  I carried it around until you came to class again.  He probably had big puppy dog eyes and a lost expression on his face.

On the way home from school today, she was telling her dad his story.  I said Samantha, repeat after me, "I like your car...."  Beware the big brown eyes, boys.  They will cast their spell.

03 March 2017

Bear Cub

 JMichael is now nine and has been a part of scouting for about a year.  He just recently had a Blue and Gold Banquet, with awards, and games and Hawaiian haystacks for supper.  Delicious.  He is in a great group of boys - seven in his pack.  In the bottom picture, of the four to the right who are looking at the camera, we have Derek, Israel, JMichael and Brigham.  The three looking away, on the left side, are Walker, Timothy and Hugh.  Big campouts and adventures are coming for this high energy group of bear cubs!

27 February 2017

Splash - February 2017

Yes, this was late January, 2017.  Rachel and Josephine are in short sleeves.  Rachel is even in shorts.  It was 70 degrees just after dark at Tasty Freeze.  Samantha was out with her friends and they had a flat tire, so we waited on her.  Rachel was at work and I was running out of time to get their picture taken for the February splash.  Charlotte cut these hearts out of red construction paper and Josephine taped them all to the red ribbon.  They are sitting on the picnic table at Tasty Freeze, with our car's high beams lighting their torsos.  Seriously last minute.  When you have five busy kids, plenty of life, a full time job, busy church callings, laundry, flat tires: sometimes you just throw it together and hope for the best, right?

This photo is still fantastic.  I hope they each realize I love them.  I would show my heart proudly like they are each doing here.  In this picture I see my sweet Ball Team showing love.  Hold your heart high; share it with your sisters and brother.  Smile; pose for mom - even if the customers in the parking lot laugh at us.

24 February 2017

Cute Kid Quote -Charlie

Our cute kid quote this time comes from Charlotte, age 14.  As she was getting dressed this morning, she opened the front door to test the air.  Mom, she says, it's February, right?  Cause outside it feels like May.  I guess Mother Nature is bi-polar.

North pole, south pole....warm and sunny, cold and breezy.  Mother Nature IS bi-polar, Charlotte.  Well said.

20 February 2017

JMichael is Nine!

Nine years old.  Nine.  JMichael was born on a cold winter day in 2008.  He was hospitalized for the first 15 days of his life in the NICU of Arkansas Children's Hospital.  I learned a lot in the NICU and I have an immense amount of respect for those angels that work there with those little souls.  Not a place for the faint of heart.

JMichael was born with "whimpy white boy" syndrome - basically his lungs were heavy with fluid and he could not breathe on his own.  He was on a breathing machine and intubated for weeks before he could breathe independently.  We couldn't hold him, and he didn't wear anything but a diaper under his own personal heat lamp.  James and I just sat and watched his numbers on the monitors.  It was hard, but, you would never know it now.  Just try to make him sit under a heat lamp in a diaper.

The obligatory fingers pose - nine years old.  Look at those freckles and curls.  Sweet!
These are light up shoes.  They can change colors and speeds in flashing.  This is ALL he wanted.  Funny story - I ordered these for Christmas, because they are also all he wanted for Christmas, but, they didn't come in.  They arrived just in time for his birthday, but, not after I had already ordered a second pair, thinking that the first pair would never arrive.  Shhh, I have two pairs of these!
We also went grass sledding at the Clinton Memorial Library in Little Rock.  The first picture is Samantha and JMichael sitting on a piece of cardboard.  The second picture is about ten seconds later - Samantha and JMichael at the bottom of the hill.  So much fun.

JMichael had the day off of school for his birthday; thank you Presidents of the US.  It was seventy degrees.  Amazing weather.

At nine, JMichael is the outdoorsy, always busy boy of the BallTeam.  He loves every sport that has a ball and now cardboard.  He loves math, but, his reading is taking some work.  His head of auburn curls catches all the girls' eyes and he is never at a loss for friends.  He is sweet, follows directions and loves mayonaise sandwiches.  And hot dogs.  This boy can eat some hot dogs.

One of JMichael's famous sayings at our house is, What if....  He is constantly questioning things around him.  Mom, what if fences were made out of spaghetti?  Mom, what if all the sand on the beach just turned into big rocks?  Mom, what if I eat this whole package of hot dogs without cooking them?

Oh, son, what if you could stay little forever?  Happy Birthday.

31 January 2017

Splash - January 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  January's splash was a result of a confetti bomb from WalMart.  Evan, Rachel's boyfriend, shot it at them and took the picture.  This is one of the few splashes that I did not capture myself.  They got together and they did it.  I love the closeup blue confetti piece in front of JMichael to add perspective.  We had confetti in our front yard, on our roof and all down our walk for days - til it rained again.  This image is also the ONLY snow we have gotten to date this year.  It's just a dusting, but, they were out of school.  Go figure, Arkansas.  Here's to a fantastic year, BallTeam.

23 January 2017

James Elmer Ball

This young sailor is James Elmer Ball, James' dad.  He joined the Navy at 17 and never graduated high school.  He was a welder, a truck driver and the man who taught James to fish and drive a boat.  Lately we see him on birthdays and this January he is turning 73.  James looks so much like him that the first time I met James' dad he was sitting in a restaurant with his wife, Jean.  I walked straight over to the table and introduced myself because as soon as I saw him, I knew he had to be James' dad.  Happy Birthday, Poppop Jim!