20 July 2017

They are here....

Rachel and Evan are here in Maryland!  They arrived late tonight after a two day drive.  Whew!  All back under one roof.  Yay!!!  Now it's time to move them in and hit the beach!

12 July 2017

My salad

I was at work today and my family was at the grocery store.  They texted and asked if I wanted something for a lunch and I said, sure; I'd love a salad.  (Our local grocery store has a salad bar.)

A salad is a personal thing.  You can put on it what you like; and in the proportions that you like.  My family made me a perfect salad.  I am happy and proud to know that they know me so well that they made a salad that I would have made myself, with no direction from me other than, sure; I'd love a salad.

And on a side note, I'm so happy to live again near a town that has a salad bar in the grocery store!  My kids have never seen this concept in Arkansas, and it has been a hit with them, too!

10 July 2017

The little truck that could....

 There's a little town to the north of us, "up the shore" and as you come into town from the south, you pass a yard with piles of various types of dirt and gravel.  If you look closely, you can see in this picture that the owners have a sense of humor.  The next picture is a close up of the first.

Country living.  It makes me smile every time.

30 June 2017

Splash - June 2017

This splash was an easy pick.  Moving day is full of emotions and this photo catches the BallTeam as we head out of Arkansas - moving day to Maryland.  By the time we took this shot the van is fully loaded and we are about ready to head out.  What you cannot see in this picture are the friends and family that helped us load the van.  Each of the kids has a different level of enthusiasm, but, everyone is excited to start a new adventure.  How better to begin than by leaping off of a moving van?  June, 2017 - the BallTeam leaves Arkansas for Maryland.

26 June 2017

Girl's Camp 2017

Charlie, in the red sweatshirt, middle, went to girls camp this year.  This was her second year.  We have lived in Maryland for less than a month; she's met some of these girls maybe three times in that time, and with no hesitation she is off.  This girl does not know a stranger.  She is fearless.  And she had a great time.  My favorite story of hers after camp started like this:  Mom, guess what?  I am really good at archery.  That's how I had my chocolate at camp.  They gave out Reese's cups for bullseyes.  I had lots of Reese's cups.

24 June 2017

Mary's Graduation

Who is Mary?  Good question.  We are all still not sure.  One of the families in our new ward has a daughter named Mary who apparently graduated from high school.  They had a party, invited the ward, and we went.  You don't meet people if you stay home, right?  Plus, they were having crabs.  That's a game changer, I don't care who you are.  So we went to Mary's graduation party, even though, sorry Mary, I couldn't pick you out of a line up.  Thanks for the fun evening and good food.
We may live in Maryland now, but, we still take our Cabot and Arkansas gear with us proudly!

14 June 2017

Del-Mar Rocks

We went on a picnic - which is becoming a regular occurrence - in Betterton, a beach town about eight miles from our house.  While James fired up the grill, the ladies found this rock - Be a Helper, with a bee painted on it.  The note that was with it said that it was part of Del-Mar Rocks, a Facebook group that paints rocks with uplifting messages and hides them all over the Eastern Shore.  The instructions tell you to move the rock to a new location and post a picture on Facebook.  That is exactly what we did!

On a related note, this is precisely the activity that the Young Women were doing in our ward for the coming week' activity.  We just didn't know that it was already a "thing" and that there was a Facebook page.  Like us on Facebook at Del-Mar Rocks.

13 June 2017

Samantha's Hair

Once upon a time there was a lady named Samantha who spent lots of time on her super curly hair.  She would straighten it, then curl it.  She wears pony tails and messy buns and braids, all in an effort to tame her locks.
One day, Samantha decides she wants a hair cut, but, living in a rural town, there is no where to get a hair cut, short of driving "to town".  So, as she is not a child known for her patience, she cuts it herself.
It looks great.  Brave girl.

09 June 2017

Go East, BallTeam....

By way of background, I left my job at a law firm in Cabot in February, 2017.  We had a parting of the ways.  It ended fine, no hard feelings, but, I was on the job hunt for a few months, when James told me for the one-hundredth time, why are we still in Cabot?

Rachel has graduated.  Samantha has graduated.  Charlotte will be starting high school in the fall.  I have no job.  Now is the perfect time for a break.  Let' go.

But should we?  We have so many friends in Cabot that I found it so hard to imagine our family living anywhere else.  The kids had essentially grown up here.  We came to Cabot after Hurricane Katrina and we were welcomed like royalty.  The crime rate is low; we never lock our doors.  The doctors are good, and the big city of Little Rock is easily accessible.  Again, so many good friends to James and me, but, also to our kids.  Why move?  James loved his calling; his Dad was close by.  Why leave that?

Because we should.  Because it's time.  Because there's a whole world out there and we have only been in one corner of it.  So here we go. 

I looked on Craigslist and found a solo practitioner who was advertising for help.  I  knew the town where he practiced because I had gone to college there.  It was forty five minutes south of my mom's house and an hour north of my brother's house.  I applied.  They called and said, so I have your resume and I'm interested but there's one big elephant in the room - you are in Arkansas.  I said, yes, sir, I am.  But, I can be in Maryland, just give me two days.  That was a Monday, we set up an interview on Friday and on Wednesday, James and Charlotte, Josephine, JMichael and I all left for Maryland.  Samantha could not miss school (she couldn't even be late) and she had to work, so we left her home.  We arrived at Mom's, I interviewed on Friday and he said, you are great and I would hire you and you could start on Monday, but, again, you live in Arkansas.

I said here's what I think.  I think I drive back to Arkansas with my family.  I will fly back here alone on Wednesday.  I will work for you for two weeks and then I'll leave for my daughter's graduation, to pack a house and move my family, then I'll be back here by June fifth to start permanently.  The leave and come back was James' idea.  It also allowed me time here to look for a place to rent.  Win/win!

And my new boss said, that works for me.  You're hired.

Moving is work.  Samantha breaking down her room.

Our crew of magnificent loaders.  We had packed the house and filled the garage.  They had it all in the truck in about two hours.  Amazing teamwork.

the BallTeam - last photo in Arkansas!

And so, after having three of my first five weeks of work off, I am now working full time in Chestertown.  We are living a little north of here until we decide where we want to buy a house.

I'm making more money; the kids are excited about the new scenery.  JMichael is just excited.  He's a happy kid.  Charlotte left behind the horrible end of the year drama she had in Cabot, saying good riddance and I'm off to conquer new worlds.  Josephine was excited to get the GT placement letter in hand and leave town, though for her saying goodbye to friends was a lot harder than anyone saw coming.  Lots of tears from her and her sweet group of buds.  Samantha was excited to get here and is loving not working, just tanning and relaxing.  She misses JonBoy, her boyfriend, who plans to come see her for her eighteenth birthday next month.  Leaving was harder than she thought.  JonBoy was there for every stage of it and she had a group of about five friends there with her until we pulled away from the house.  She cried until we got to Tennessee, then, though still sad, she started to look into the adventure and move on.  She still misses AR.

Rachel, meanwhile, stayed in Arkansas.  She and her boyfriend, Evan, will be coming out here in mid-July, after they have all their loose ends wrapped up.  Out of respect for his parents, Evan wanted to give them more time to accept his decision to move east, and they have both given notice at their jobs and have started packing.  We miss them.  I understand how Evan's parents must feel, but, the kids are 22 and 19, so they can decide.  I'm just thrilled they will be here soon.

So now we live in Maryland.  It's coming home for me.  It's a new adventure for everyone else.  James lived very briefly in Maryland when we met, but, not in this part.  We are eight miles from the Chesapeake Bay, one hour from the Atlantic Ocean and surrounded by fields of corn and summer wheat.  We are about thirty five miles from Walmart, thirty miles from the church building and we have literally resigned ourselves to the fact that we will be in the car more than ever.  We are about an hour and a half from Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD or Philadelphia, PA.  I see lots of football games, museums, and concerts in the coming years.  The east is so full of history and beauty; I'm glad to be home to share it with my BallTeam.

Our neighbors.

our new place
our backyard

our beach
Please come see us!  We can hit the Smithsonian or the beach - y'all choose.  Or better yet - both!

01 June 2017

Splash - May 2017

This is the second of five pictures in this series - BallTeam graduates.  In May 2016 we had Rachel in her cap and gown.  Now it's 2017 and it's Samantha's turn.  Charlotte will be in the ninth grade next year, so we will have a gap until 2021.  I am so proud of how they can come together for each other.  They are all such different people, but, they are united when it comes to each other.  Graduation was a big deal to Samantha.  She cherished high school and she is reluctant to change, but, here she is - leaving behind what she loved and standing at the threshold of her future, all with a huge smile and a willing heart.  We are all about to head into change.  That's where the adventure is, right?

25 May 2017

Charlie at ALE

The Alternative Learning Environment, you may remember from Samantha's experience a few years ago, is a classroom setting for kids who are not surviving in the traditional school.  By not surviving, I mean that you can be sent to ALE for fighting, for being bullied, for being pregnant, for bringing drugs or alcohol to school, or for any behavior which the school believes qualifies you for direct one on one supervision all day, every day.  The kids at ALE are sometimes pretty troubled.  They are all there for a reason.  Samantha had her reasons for being sent to ALE and it turned out to be a positive experience.  Charlotte was sent to ALE this year, and she was sent for a different reason altogether.  Her experience was equally positive.

At ALE the kids have classes as computer worksheets.  They read, they test, they move at their own pace.  They have a teacher over their shoulder constantly and the student to teacher ratio is really low.  Lots of talking, lots of nurturing.  Charlotte was sent to ALE at a time when that was just what the doctor ordered.  She was the darling of her teachers, charming them with her sweet compliments and blunt comebacks.  She is not afraid of anyone and she shines with one on one attention.

Next time you have the pleasure of talking to Charlotte you can ask her yourself why she was sent to ALE.  She may or may not tell you and I will leave that to her.  As a matter of fact, she purposely did not tell any of the students she went to school with why she was sent to ALE, just to see on social media what would happen.  Rumors flew, and she had the sad satisfaction of watching the people she once called friends belittle her and tear her down.  It was sad to watch, but, she did it that way so that she could see how people would react.  She was disappointed in almost everyone.  Kids are very cruel.  Those who held her up are still her friends, and while that was a painful lesson, she has grown and she has learned. 

You wish so much for your kids.  You want to shelter them.  Then, when they are hurt, you want to heal them.  The beauty of it is, that they have to grow.  I am proud of Charlotte and how she has handled her trial.  She is a strong young lady.  She won and she will continue to shine.

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.