31 December 2018

Splash - December 2018

The December 2018 splash found us at my brother Eric's house for a Christmas picture, which, honestly, was taken at Thanksgiving while digesting our huge dinner and festooning Eric and Abbey's house with Christmas spirit.  They are five of my most cherished presents.  Merry Christmas to me.  Or, as we say at the BallTeam house, Mrree Khimush....

27 December 2018

Charlotte is Sixteen.....Wait, What?

Charlotte was born on December 27, 2002.  That may seem like yesterday to me, but, it was sixteen years ago.  Sixteen short, intense years of a willful, beautiful, stubborn, sweet, sensitive and precocious child feeling her way through this world - and making it her own.  She is an athlete, a tender-hearted sympathizer and she fiercely protects her own.  We have had many a sleepless night over this lady of ours - why?  Because she is a Queen - Charlotte Lareine.  We named her queen Charlotte and that was providence.  I remind her constantly how divine she is - how strong - how precious.  Sometimes she fights with us.  Sometimes she spurs us on.  Always she is Queen Charlotte.

She is pictured here on her sixteenth birthday - in DC - with Rachel, who took her out for the day.  On Rachel's right is Matt Barkley, her boyfriend.  On Charlotte's left is Markel Norfleet, her boyfriend.  Rachel took Charlotte to the Smithsonian and out to eat, with the "boys". 

Charlotte excels at making people feel at ease.  She is fearless and as at home on the stage as one-on-one.  Her laugh is contagious and she sings in the shower loudly enough for the cows to hear.  She is in the tenth grade and we are having issues with her grades, not turning in her work, not going to class, not caring about performance.  Her cutting resurfaced earlier this year, and is under control again, but, is still a constant worry.  We have investigated changing her schools, changing her medications, changing her schedule.  The only thing I would never change is Charlotte.  She is worth every struggle.  Happy Sixteenth, baby girl.  Your real sweet sixteen present will come in March - stay tuned!

30 November 2018

Splash - November 2018

November in Maryland is not predictable.  This year we had snow in late September and on the day we all head out to take the November Splash, it's a balmy 65 degrees with a beautiful blue sky.  But do you know what is predicable?  The fact that these five completely different souls come together each month and smile for me.  It's honestly one of my favorite family traditions and these photos are priceless to me.  This splash was just the five of them, in the tall tall grass of our yard on a mild fall day.  I love them.

31 October 2018

Splash - October 2018

We live in a cornfield.  Truly.  We are surrounded by crops and farming.  It's very beautiful.  Every season brings its own colors and patterns and even in the cold of winter there is something comforting in the visual simplicity of a farm.  In the fall, the corn and beans turn brown and ready to harvest.  Before the combine could take this field down, I stuck my kids out there to become - the children of the corn.  They are the Ball Team of the Corn.

Halloween 2018

....not my favorite holiday.  We did get a few pictures, though.

See, all candy is bad for you.  Eat an apple.

Josephine as Theodore.  Her friends are Simon and Alvin.  This getup got them about a half a pillowcase of candy.

JMichael went to his school's trunk or treat with teachers as a devil who hangs out with wicked clown monsters.  This is his art teacher dressed as Pennywise.  Disturbing.  JMichael also wore this outfit to school, minus the mask.  He also has been sleeping in it, again, minus the mask.

A few gems from past years - this one about 2016.  JMichael is a vampire soccer player; Charlotte is a rabid cat; Samantha is a victim of domestic violence; and Josephine is a scarecrow.

This one is circa 2013, or so.  JMichael as a teenage mutant ninja turtle; Josephine the ladybug; Rachel the convict; LaUra (Samantha's buddy from down the street and our sixth child) a zebra; Samantha the drummer and Charlotte the vampire queen.

2018 - Samantha the Corn Monster.

Oh the cuteness - 2009 - so adorable.

And finally, this gem from North Carolina - 2004 - Samantha, Charlotte and Rachel painted their pumpkins.  Sweet faces.

12 October 2018

Fish Whistle

Samantha takes a fine selfie, huh?  This photo is in the dark of the deck, because we - James and I - were being treated to supper out.  James and Samantha picked me up from work, stopped by McDonald's and Samantha got supper for the little ladies and JMichael; we delivered it, then she took us out to eat.  We went to the Fish Whistle, a local bar and seafood place, and we had a fantastic dinner.  Good food, great company and cheesecake.

The tradition comes from the principle of the First Check.  Samantha has been working for a while now, but, the rule is that when you get a new job, you take the family out to eat.  Samantha just decided tonight is the night and it was a wonderful surprise.

08 October 2018

Oh deer.....

This is what happens when a deer decides to cross the road directly in your path.  These animals are wild.  They roam in herds.  They just jump out in the road.  In my lifetime, I've hit four deer.  I don't know where they are now.  Some did enough damage to my car that I'm sure they had to be injured or killed.  This time it was Rachel's turn to take out one of the locals.  She's fine but her car was in the shop for over two weeks - $1,500 in damages.  Lessons learned - drive with high beams at night whenever possible and always be looking for deer!

02 October 2018

PersonalBlocks - JB Items

Mom and I have always enjoyed a good craft.  I thought we might try to make some money at it, so I approached a local shop owner about carrying us in her store.  And you know what?  She said yes.  So here we are - JB Items, also known on Etsy as PersonalBlocks. 

These are a few of our offerings.  In our first month, we broke even (on rent to the generous shop keep), paid for supplies and bought a tank of gas.  Not quite killing it, but, it's a good start!
What do y'all think?

01 October 2018

Josephine is Fourteen

Josephine is fourteen.  I worry a lot about my ladies as teenagers.  I worry about their friends, their grades, their friends' grades....I worry about their self esteem, their confidence and their sense of well being.  We are not a wealthy family.  We shop at thrift stores and we live paycheck to paycheck.  In this world of peer pressure and validation, it is troubling to know that your daughter is out there, everyday, fighting for herself in a world that would sooner trample her down.

Not this one.  Not Josephine.  Our fourth daughter is a feisty thing.  She has matured over the past year from a quiet little homebody to an opinionated, keep-up-or-get-out-of-my-way force.  She used to always need a hobby at home to keep her bright mind occupied.  These days she is planning with friends, talking on the phone with boys and constantly interrogating me on our plans for three weeks from now.  She tries to stay one step ahead of me as much as she can.  Recently she told me not just what she wanted for Christmas (a platform bed), but, also how to build it, where to find the materials and a few websites I might find helpful.  This lady of ours is on the move.

Her grades are outstanding - all STEM, all As, all the time.  Her teachers have sent me notes about how she is a joy in class because she thinks independently (English) and that she helps others in class and explains concepts patiently and accurately (algebra).  She studies; she reads; she questions.  I can count on her to wake up with just a text from Mom and an alarm on her phone, then be out the door and catch her bus on time.  She can draw; she loves school and she never stops.  She is kind to her little brother while trying to keep up with her older sisters.

Josephine wants to go to college and be either an interior designer or an oceanographer - depends on her mood.  She may just do both.

30 September 2018

Splash - September 2018

The September Splash was a re-creation of a picture from the fall of 2012 - just laying in the leaves.  In a few short years their faces have changed; their smiles are still genuine.  I just love them.
Fall 2012

18 September 2018

November Rain In September

If you look closely at this picture, you will see that the name of the candle scent is November Rain.  Josephine, always the curious one, smelled the candle and proclaimed, Maybe.  Could be August Rain, or January Rain.  Mom, why does the Yankee Candle Company think rain smells different in different months?

I have no idea, Josephine.  But, I do know that you should never stop asking questions.

17 September 2018

JMichael on two wheels

JMichael had a bike in Arkansas, but, he never learned to ride it without training wheels.  On our street in Arkansas, he had neighborhood friends who saw him at six or seven still trying to master his bike with training wheels and that was the end of that - he didn't want to hear about it from them, so he never learned.  When we moved, we gave away his bike because it was too small for him.

Now in Maryland, Eric and Abbey had Gavin's old bike and graciously gave it to the now ten year old who can't ride a bike.  It took about twenty minutes before he was racing up and down our long driveway with no trouble at all.  Charlotte and Samantha were out there, yelling pointers and pushing him to get started.  Success.

When I get home from work now, and JMichael's bike is not in its parking spot, then he's off in our little community at his friends' houses and riding around.  The rule - be home before dark and if mom or dad has to come looking for you, the bike is off limits for a while.  So far, he has loved his little taste of freedom and we can count on him to burst through the door at the setting sun and say, what's for supper?!

04 September 2018

First Day of School 2018-19

Our bunch is up this morning and ready for an early start.  School begins at seven thirty in the morning here in Maryland, and you can see by the fog behind them that the sun is not even up all the way yet.

Charlotte is at Kent County High School and starting tenth grade.  She is excited about her electives this year because they begin a "career path". Charlotte chose nursing and her class is ten girls and one boy.  They will have hands on labs and field trips all related to nursing.
Josephine is at the top of the middle school this year in eighth grade.  She is still in the STEM program and for an added challenge she has qualified (because her grades are amazing) to start Spanish.  Most kids get to start in ninth grade, but, she and a few other eighth graders get to start now.  She is ready for a new challenge.

JMichael is also at the top of his school - in the fifth grade.  He has many of the kids from his baseball and soccer teams in his class and he is excited to get back into a routine.  He still gets a little help at school with reading/language for his dyslexia, but, he loves math.  JMichael is coming out of his shell a little too.  He loves to play the clown.
Yes, Charlotte wore those shoes all day.
Love these three.  2018-19

31 August 2018

Splash - August 2018

The August 2018 splash was taken on a dock.  Turner's Creek is a 1812 American landing spot on the Chesapeake Bay tributary - the Sassafras River.  It was home to a Granary and Mill, which still stands but has been idle for about a hundred years.  Once a thriving port, it now holds canoeing and kayaking day-trippers who explore the Chesapeake and its tributaries.  We took some shots of the kids on the piers but I like this one of them by the old mill house.  Bright sun and smiles all around.

16 August 2018


These two - Samantha (19) and Charlotte (15) - are pretty excited here.  You know why?  They are holding paychecks!  This is Charlotte's first ever paycheck from a real job with taxes withheld and everything.  Samantha is on her third job, so she's a pro, but, it's still exciting.  This is her highest paying job to date.  Minimum wage in Maryland is $9.50 and these two started at Aquafit at higher than minimum!  My first job paid $2.25 an hour and I thought I was rich!

They started at Aquafit, which is a physical therapy gym, with classes and yoga and personal trainers.  Samantha and Charlotte run the front desk, making appointments, taking money, renting lockers, checking in clients and answering the phone.  They plan to work up through the ladder - Samantha moving into the accounting side and Charlotte wants to be a certified life guard - both get the benefit of the whole facility, which includes a heated pool, sauna, hot tub, all the classes....what a deal.

And as an aside - do you know what these two did with some of the money from their first paycheck?  They hired someone to mow our two acres.  Dang sweet.  I mean, they win too, because they won't have to mow, but, they did it for all of us.  Mowing two acres with a push mower in summer is no joke.  Thank you ladies!

07 August 2018

Kent County AllStars 2018 Go Public

 We live in the least populated county in Maryland.  The least.  There are fewer people here in Kent County than in any other Maryland County, no matter the physical size of the County.  So here, instead of worrying about crime or environmental issues (both of which we still have, just lots less), our County Commissioners can take time from their weekly meeting to recognize this fine group of young men.  The Commissioners spoke to the boys about their baseball experience, praised them on their skills and dedication, and presented them with certificates bearing their names and position on the team.  All this took place in the public forum, with the public invited and the press there, too.
William Pickrum, President; Ron Fithian, Commissioner, then three coaches, and William Short, Commissioner, plus our team of All Stars.  All the boys live in Kent County and represented our district (including Dorchester, Talbot, Caroline, Queen Anne's and Kent Counties) in the Maryland State Tournament.  JMichael is standing in the second row, just in front of Commissioner Short.

03 August 2018


This beautiful sunset is part of what makes living out in the country so amazing.  We are surrounded by beauty.  The sign in silhouette is Welcome to Kennedyville.

31 July 2018

Rachel - July 2018

Rachel headed back to Arkansas after leaving us in June at David and Dawn's house.  She took Samantha with her and Samantha was able to visit her friends and work at Tasty Freez again.  She stayed with Rachel about three weeks.  Rachel drove back here to Maryland in mid July, to bring Samantha home and she stayed a few short days - visiting her friends here and resting up for her return drive to Arkansas.  While she was here, we all went down to Eric and Abbey's house to hang out with them, too.  Abbey talked to Rachel about a possible job, and, if everything goes well, Rachel may be moving to Maryland on her own in a few weeks.  Ah, the life of the young and single!

Rachel has always been her own person - ready to leap, to try and to explore.  She wants to get her education and pay her bills - all while hiking trails and meeting new people.  She's a dreamer, with a conscience.  She's a planner - with big ideas.   For my part, I would love to see her move to Maryland and finish her degree here.  But again, this is Rachel.  She will do it her way - I just try to make the path easier.
Rachel and Samantha, from the top of Mt. Pinnacle, Arkansas.  July, 2018

Splash - July 2018

Our splash for July was taken in Kansas, while visiting David and Dawn.  All five are together for this trip, so we have another group shot this time.  It struck me recently that the fact that Rachel lives in Arkansas and we live in Maryland is not the only reason that I can't always have all five in a splash picture.  In about a year, Samantha will be finished with her second year of college and will have to transfer away to a university to finish her Bachelor's.  The year after that, Charlotte will graduate high school and she could join the peace corps or head to college on a swim scholarship, who knows?  Two years after Charlotte, Josephine graduates, and will surely leave us for college.  By then, her sisters may be married and living wherever.  It's all going to happen in an instant.  But, today, right here, they are all together and that's a lot.

26 July 2018

Samantha is Nineteen

It's still  happening.  Samantha had another birthday, even though she will tell you she doesn't want to get any older.  Recently she had to contact her bank because she needed to know about a deposit she had made while she was in Arkansas.  She was asking me if she was calling the right place and asking the right questions.  I told her she was handling it all just right.  Her response?  Ugh, mom.  I don't like this adulting thing.  Growing older is no fun.  I'm not doing it.

Instead, she is growing into an ever more responsible adult.  She handles her own financial aid forms and registrations for college.  She worked at tasty Freez while she was visiting Arkansas this summer and she is job hunting now that she's back in Maryland.  She is quite capable of this adulting thing, whether she wants to do it or not.

Samantha is single, and after her breakup with long time love Jonboy, she is having trouble finding a friend.  She doesn't want a boyfriend, she says.  She just wants friends, and boys just want girlfriends.  Samantha is attending Chesapeake College and finishing her general education requirements while deciding what she wants to be if she ever grows up.  At this point she's an accounting major, but, that is subject to change.

This year her watermelon/birthday cake was a seedless yellow melon - fruit as always, and with a twist for our nineteen year old.  We watched "NI'm Inteen" on the Frog Prince - a nineteenth birthday tradition my mom started when I turned Nineteen.  And we played Dice - more family game night.  A birthday settled in at home, with netflix, games and fruit - yup, that's our Samantha Marie.

20 July 2018

Volleyball, KCHS 2018

Charlotte is an active young lady.  She likes her netflix, don't get me wrong, but, if there's something going on, you can bet she will want to be in the midst of it.  Since school is about six weeks away, she is getting ready for volleyball season.  The team seniors sponsor unofficial 'practices', which are really just work out sessions, to prepare for the season.  These work outs are from 7 am to 9 am and they run the bleachers, stretch, sprint and work the free weights.  I can tell you that they are working hard.  Charlotte is sore, and then, this happens.

Charlotte, seven thirty on a Thursday night - I'll watch Jeopardy with you, Momma.  And then, before we even find the first Daily Double, ZZZZZZZZZ.  Yeah for volleyball season.

16 July 2018

Maryland State Tournament

The 2018 Maryland State Little League Tournament was held in Baltimore, at the South Baltimore Little League fields, right up the street from Ft. McHenry.  Kent County was there representing District Six - which comprises Kent, Queen Anne's Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester Counties.  There were eight teams there and the tournament was double elimination, round robin. 

Play Ball!
Our first game was against the team from Hagerstown - they called themselves Big C.  We lost.  We lost big.  This was the very first defeat JMichael ever had on the baseball diamond.  They had to invoke the slaughter rule - it was 21 to nothing.  The boys rallied to win their next game, and then, lost their third game, ending their tournament for this year.

Wow.  What a season.  Twleve undefeated regular season games for the Galena Lions.  Four undefeated games for the District Six tournament as the Kent County All Stars.  Then one win, two losses in the Maryland State Tournament.  Great season!

JMichael consistently played first base.  This picture was taken by Noah's mom, since he is pitching, but, there's JMichael - ready and eye on the batter - the play may go to first.  He really enjoyed his teammates, his position and everything about baseball.  He loves being out in the yard and throwing the ball with his Dad.  We are already training for next season.
The 2018 District Six Maryland Championship team.  JMichael is standing, dead center.  Coach Chris said that he made a name for himself as a first baseman to watch.  He will keep playing soccer now that baseball is over, but, he's hooked now on baseball, too, so we will be back in the spring.

11 July 2018

Kent County All Stars

Baseball, so far, has been quite a ride.  Loyal readers may notice that JMichael is now wearing a different uniform - he was selected for the Kent County All Star Team.  As an All Star, he represents the whole of Kent County.  About seven of the Galena Lions are also now all-stars, so JMichael is in good company.  He is the all-star first base man.

One double elimination round robin tournament later, the Kent County All Stars are the District 6 Champions!  Maryland is divided into 8 Districts and District 6 is comprised of Kent, Queen Anne's, Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester Counties.  Winning that tournament was great, but, even greater than that?  The team is STILL undefeated.  Crazy.  JMichael is pictured here, second from the left, standing.

He is pictured here in the Kent County News.  Front page of the sports section, too.

JMichael said, Mom, our story went on the front page, and the World Cup was on the third page!  He was pretty impressed by the fact that his team's win was considered more newsworthy that the World Cup, but, one day we will talk about this and he will realize that soccer just doesn't hold water with everyone as much as it does with him.  For now, though, we will give him his victory.

Baseball is continuing now, with the Maryland State Tournament - which will be in Baltimore.  If the boys can win the State, we move on to a tournament in Rhode Island.  So far Kent County has been very generous and proud of the boys - the County has bought all the uniforms and gives the team manager a budget for trophies and water for the games.  If we have to travel to Rhode Island, let's hope the State can help out with travel vouchers.  Go get 'em boys!

James is loving this adventure with JMichael and his team.  He's reliving his younger days as a boy of summer, plus, he's getting to help out with coaching.  Don't they look happy?  On to State!!!