Three Days. Three Movies.

I wouldn't consider myself much of a movie person, but I did just go to three movies in three days. Wow. Thanks to everyone who gave me gift cards to the Megaplex for Christmas. I guess I'm not one to let money (or gift cards) burn a hole in my pocket.

First was a date to Sherlock Holmes with Steve. And Tyler, Angie, Tyler, and Rebecca. It was Steve's pick. I hadn't seen any trailers for the movie and went in not knowing anything about it. It was kind of like an action/adventure movie version of the television show, Lie to Me. I was pleasantly surprised.

Next was The Princess and the Frog for Ellie's birthday party. If your boys are anti-princess, you can still take them to see this movie. They will actually spend most of the film watching frogs, not princesses. And yes, I think Disney went a little too far with the whole voodoo thing.

Adam sat perfectly still for the first half of the movie (it was a 7:50 pm showing) and spent the second half walking back and forth to opposite sides of the theater. But we were in good company, so we had a great time.

Yesterday, for Craft Day, we went to see Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel with Angie and gang. Those folks at Fox have figured out how to make kids laugh. Rachel walked out and exclaimed, fully animated, "That was awesome!" Gracie declared it the best movie she had ever seen. And lucky for me, my kids learned all of the lines, so it's like I'm listening to this movie over and over again all day long.

We are taking a break from the theater today (we spent all of our gift cards.) So, we're off to see the magic show at the Treehouse Museum.



Did anyone else get fooled yesterday by the Apple Education Store price for MacBooks?

It was a computer glitch.

They were listed for $728. Apparently, they were only supposed to be offered at that price to the University of Maryland, but it accidentally went on the website for everyone to see.

. . . . .

I was shocked to open one of these Christmas morning. Yes, my husband loves me. (It did come with some certain expectations. I was given my MacBook so I could do more work. . . And I may or may not be breaking the rules by using it for blogging purposes.)

So when I saw the lower, much lower, price posted on the Education Store, I was first a little upset that we had missed out on a good deal, and then very, very excited with what I was told.

I called Apple and told them my husband had given me a computer for Christmas without realizing I qualified for the Education Discount. (I am an elected board member of Ogden Preparatory Academy's Parent Organization.) He said no problem. Fax in proof of my position with the order number, and I would receive a credit within five business days.

I felt like I had earned a few hundred bucks.

Until tonight. When I found out about the mishap. Blast.


I just got the phone call. He loves it.

In August, my friend, Molly, of Molly Jones Photography, went up to Logan with me to capture my Grandpa's garden. The photos are absolutely beautiful. I put them together into a leather-bound book through MyPublisher and, with my parents, gave it to him for Christmas.

I think the finished product is amazing. And now, I am just thrilled to hear my Grandpa thinks so too. Here are some of my favorite pages:

Good news for you. Molly is offering a giveaway for a free photo session and the digital images on her blog. Hurry! The deadline is Sunday, December 27 at midnight.

Double good news for both of us. If you decide to make a book through MyPublisher, let me know. I can send you a referral email and you will receive a coupon and I will earn referral credit. (I decided that I am going to make a photo book every year for each of my kids for their birthday. Much easier than a scrapbook!)

Music Video



The Party

We had a little birthday party for Mykaeleigh on Saturday. Someday I will get the good pictures off of my father-in-law's camera, but this is what I got with mine.

Mykaeleigh opened her gifts (a big slide, a pass to the Treehouse Museum, some stuffed barnyard animals, bath toys, a toy teapot set, a photo book from her first year, bibs, and toddler utensils.) And then we ate cupcakes.

I made Luscious Lemon Cupcakes (usually made as a bundt cake.) And since Audrey will probably call and ask for the recipe again, I will just go ahead and post it here.

Luscious Lemon Bundt Cake
from the Essential Mormon Celebrations Cookbook

1 yellow cake mix
1 small (3-ounce) package vanilla instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Pour into a greased Bundt pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Serve topped with Lemon Sour Cream Sauce and fresh strawberries or raspberries.

I hadn't ever used the Lemon Sour Sauce recipe from the book, but I did this time, and it turned out more like a glaze, which worked out for the cupcake version. I usually mix up whipping cream, sour cream, tons of grated lemon peel, lemon juice, and powdered sugar and put a big spoonful on top of each slice of cake. It is so good you might want to double the recipe.

Then we took all of the kids to the Treehouse Museum. Thanks to everyone who came and a special thanks to those who hacked away at the ice on our stairs so nobody fell down them!


One year ago today

I was driving the kids to Salt Lake to go to Discovery Gateway for the afternoon. Until I got a phone call from Derrick saying that Mykaeleigh had been born.

We turned around and I dropped the kids off at Debra's house and went up to the hospital with a very apprehensive/nervous/sensitive Derrick.

Understandable. I shared many of the same emotions and I wasn't nineteen. Or the father.

(You can't tell from the pictures, but her lips were red enough that she definitely should have been named Ruby. I hope you can tell from the photo above that Derrick fell in love with her immediately.)

And today, on Mykaeleigh's birthday, we finally made it back to Discovery Gateway to play.

(After trying to eat all of the food, Mykaeleigh was very disappointed that none of it was real.)

I am pretty lucky. I have one of the cutest granddaughters in the world. And I am also lucky to have a very responsible son who is a wonderful father. As for myself, I have learned a lot over the past year. And that's all I am going to say about that.



Derrick had been counting down the days until the release date of the new movie, "Invictus." At the last minute, things fell into place, and we were able to take him to see it on Friday night. (Thank you, Angie!)

The movie is informative, inspiring, and, thankfully, much cleaner than any accurate depiction of South Africa would be. Here is the official description:

From director Clint Eastwood, "Invictus" tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) joined forces with the captain of South Africa's rugby team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), to help unite their country. Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of apartheid. Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa's underdog rugby team as they make an unlikely run to the 1995 World Cup Championship match.

Derrick also helped Lucy with her presentation on South Africa in her kindergarten class on Friday. (He even pulled out his dance moves!) With our memories fresh on our minds already, the movie left all three of us longing for a trip back. Mid-movie I asked Steve if he wished we lived in South Africa and he was the principal of Lilyfontein School (a plan, at one point in our life). I can hardly imagine how different we would be.

At any rate, we are recommitted to take our family on a trip back to South Africa. I think we decided 2014 is the target. If anyone is interested in joining us, start saving your pennies.


Living Scriptures DVD Deal

I think this is probably the best way to go if anyone is looking to buy the Living Scriptures Book of Mormon DVDs. And you can even get Christmas present credit for the first two. Here's the scoop:

Right now, you can buy this Ammon and Alma the Younger 2 Pack DVD Set from Deseret Book for $19.99. (The online price is actually currently listed at $17.99, and they will honor online prices in the store.) You get the cases for both DVDs, but only Ammon is inside. Open up the Alma the Younger case and call the 1-800 number inside to have your second DVD mailed to you (no shipping charge). That's a really good price for two Living Scriptures DVDs.

This whole promotion is available because Living Scriptures is in the process of "digitally remastering" their Book of Mormon DVDs. Ammon and Alma the Younger are the only two finished, and they will be adding about one dvd per month until the entire 13-DVD set is completed.

When I called to get my free Alma the Younger DVD, I was told that they were offering the first 3000 customers the new DVDs at half-price. That works out to $14.95 plus $5.50 per DVD. (Still kind of pricey.) But here's the cool part: you can pick and choose which DVDs you want, and there is no contract. So I went through and told her all of the DVDs from the Book of Mormon set that I already have (Nephi and the Brass Plates, Journey to the Promised Land, Abinadi and King Noah, and the Savior in America) and then she crossed them off the list of what they are going to send me.

So I will be receiving the other seven DVDs one-at-a-time as they are completed, sometime over the next year or so. And the cool part is, if I decide I have enough, there is NO contract so I can call and cancel.

Maybe Living Scriptures would have a better reputation if they conducted all of their transactions this way?

Free Christmas Album Download from iTunes UPDATED

Amy Grant, David Archuleta, Sarah McLachlan, Barry Manilow, Lady Antebellum, Toby Keith, Weezer, and more.

Click here.

UPDATE: The iTunes Christmas Album is not a normal download and won't let you play the songs consecutively. Still neat (because it's free) but not as good as I had hoped. There are also a bunch of free (regular) holiday music downloads available through amazon.com.



This little girl attracts a lot of attention, wherever she goes.
When Derrick and I go places with all four of the kids, we receive a lot of long stares, as people are trying to figure us out.
But it's when Derrick is out of sight, that the awkward (and sometimes inappropriate) questions start.

Stranger: What a cute baby!
Me: Thanks.
Stranger: Is she adopted?
Me: Ummmm, no. But her dad is.

Stranger: Your baby is so cute!
Me: Thanks.
Stranger: Is she your only child?
Me: Ummmm, no. I have four kids. And she is actually my granddaughter.

And a few times I have even been asked, "Where do you get a baby like that?" That's a hard (and kind of inappropriate) one to answer, don't you think?


NOT on Santa's List

It happened.

But there is no way. Absolutely no way.

Lucy told me she had found something she wanted to put in her letter to Santa, but didn't know what it was called. She pulled out the Bed Bath & Beyond ad and pointed to this:

I told her no. It was an easy answer.

Rachel was standing right there and said, "I don't know whose daughter she is."

Sometimes I don't either.


Best Gift Guide for Kids

I have had a few people ask me for suggestions on what to get their kids for Christmas, so I decided to post some ideas for everyone to see. But first, let me clarify: There are plenty of lists out there of gifts for kids that are really fun to give. If I were making a list like that, these cute mugs from Anthropologie would be my top recommendation. (They're only $6!) But this is not one of those lists.

I don't like clutter, and I don't like having a lot of toys that can clutter up my house. I am very picky with what toys I let my kids have, so I make sure the toys they get will get a lot of usage. This guide features toys that get played with the most at our house.
(Note: Lucy's much-adored L mug did get played with, and was, subsequently, broken. . . by Adam. I consoled her tears by promising her that I would replace the darling gift, given by her Aunt Rebecca. I still need to follow through.)

Most of these unisex toys are not super thoughtful, unique toys, but more along the lines of what I think the basics are. So if your kid is missing something off of this must-have list, get shopping ASAP. I broke them into categories, but the reason many of these toys made my list is because they can be used for so many different age categories. Adam (2) and Rachel (6) both like to ride around on their Plasma Cars, and sometimes I even ride them too.

Ages 0-2:

1. Oball ($5 Bed Bath & Beyond, Target): Amazingly, little infants can actually grasp this ball. Target just started selling a version with a rattle.
2. Playskool Busy Gears ($15 Wal-mart, Target): This has been the most-used toy at our house. Adam still plays with it every single day.
3. Little Tikes Toddler Swing ($20 ToysRUs, Amazon): Don't have room for a swing set outside? No worries. Screw two eye bolts into the ceiling of your garage, basement, or even in a doorway and. . . Voila!
4. LeapFrog Fridge Phonics ($15 Amazon, Target): The alphabet can get a little annoying after you've heard it for the hundredth time, but the repetition helps them learn.
5. Rocking Horse ($40 Walmart): Boys and girls alike need a rocking horse. My girls used to spend hours, styling the poor horse's hair with all of their clips and bows. Adam still feels the need to jump on it for a ride every night before he goes to bed.

Ages 3-5:

1. Razor Scooter ($20-30 ShopKo, Target...watch for sales) : Every kid needs one of these. The handlebars slide down low enough for a two-year old. And don't bother with the three-wheeled version for younger kids. They will figure out how to balance on two wheels after a little practice.
2. LeapFrog Tag Reading System ($40-50 LeapFrog, Amazon, Costco): I used to worry that we would rip the pages, but even with my destructible boy, we have only ruined one book. (He threw it in the bathtub.)
3. Plasma Car ($40-60 Overstock, Amazon, Target): Forget a tricycle or any other ride on toy. This one is so much more fun.
4. Heely's ($30-50 Amazon, Zappos): I actually resisted getting Heely's until I was finally forced into it. And now I love them. They just came out with this trimmer, less clunky model.
5. Marble Run: ($25-50 ToysRUs, Amazon): There are dozens of versions of this classic toy on the market today. My kids love going to Grandma's house to play with the same one I played with as a child.

Ages 6-8:

1. Melissa & Doug Travel Hangman ($13 Little Cherry Blossoms, Amazon): My kids bring this with us everywhere we go. Super cute and helps them learn how to spell.
2. Apple Ipod Shuffle ($39 Apple refurbished): I am a big fan of Ipods, and these shuffles are perfect for kids. Need more convincing? Click here.
3. CamelBak Better Bottle ($12 REI): Doesn't look like a sippy cup, but provides the same function. The perfect present for children and adults too!
4. Camera (free): No need to buy a new one, just give them your old 2-5 mp digital camera and buy yourself an upgrade.
5. Hyper Dash ($13 Target, Amazon): Suitable for kids as soon as they know their colors, this award-winning game will help keep your kids active. Perfect for rainy (any snowy) days. Challenges speed, skill, and memory.

Happy shopping.

Weekend Plans: Helium Comedy and Sarah's Songs

Because of Steve's occupation, I spend most of my Friday and Saturday nights doing really exciting things, like cleaning the house and doing laundry. Not this weekend.

Friday Night:
Fred Garbo Inflatable Theater Co.

My kids can't wait. I am strangely eager/curious myself.
For more information, click here.

Saturday Night:
Sarah Sample Concert
in Layton

Sarah used to work for Steve at Cafe Sabor. We haven't seen her for years.
For more information about the concert, (it's only five bucks!) click here.
Or to listen to her sweet tunes, click here.

And let me know if you are in for either of these events. I'll save you a seat.


Some new traditions

This Thanksgiving, in addition to the pre-existing traditions of:

Delicious turkey dinner, mostly prepared by Steve's mom and sister.

Fun games, played at the kitchen table. (Scattergories is still my favorite, even after a 15-year hiatus.)

Black Friday shopping trip with all of the girls. (9 hours long. We are hardcore.)

Ogden's Electric Light Parade and lighting of the Christmas Village. (This year we were smart and saved ourselves some seats. Please indicate whether you think saving seats along a parade route is acceptable. I am very curious to know what people think.)

We also added:

Scrooge at the Terrace Playhouse. (Very good. I even got to explain to my 6-year old what a "lady of the late afternoon" was.)


Drumroll, please. . . The First Annual Ballard Family Kickball Game!

Top row: Mike, Jack, Addy, Rio, Cameron, Karen, Tyson, Tyler
Bottom row: Angie, Jake, Derrick, Rachel, Steve
Not pictured: Gracie, Richard (the pitcher), me

Planned for months, and inspired by Lucy and Jake, we all enjoyed a rousing game of kickball at our Stake Gym. There were unbelievable dives (Tyler) and nobody (Derrick) held back from forcefully hurling the ball at the girls to get them out.

Addy is Angie's sister. She and her husband came and played with us because they wanted to. And when Addy wants to do something, (like run out onto the field after a RSL soccer game) it's pretty hard to stop her.

This year, we picked two teams and played against ourselves. Next year, we are thinking we should play together as "Team Ballard" and allow another family to challenge us. Any takers?



Steve broke up with Comcast on Monday when he very uncharacteristically yelled at them over the phone, "Get someone back over here to fix our cable tonight, or we are DONE!" And then he very uncharacteristically hung up on them.

I reconciled with Comcast today after I got sick of watching Wheel of Fortune and other lame shows.

Lucy's fever finally went away. After twelve days. Her lab results came back today and she was diagnosed with Cytomegalovirus (CMV), which is similar to mono. She is recovering slowly. Too slowly for my liking.

Rachel had perfect timing the night she secretly drew me this picture on Saturday night to cheer me up. I'm pretty lucky to have such a sweet daughter.


Bad timing, Comcast

We have now made 7 phone calls, 1 online live chat, 1 trip to Layton to pick up new equipment, and had 4 technicians come to our house.

Yes, our internet is working again.
Yes, we can now watch television on 25 television channels.
Yes, Comcast will be sending a 5th technician to our house on Monday to fix the other channels so we can get back to watching our favorite shows on the Disney Channel, the Food Network, and ESPN.
No, I am not impressed. Nor do I think I should have to pay my Comcast bill this month.

It's been bad timing, since I've been stuck at home with daughter #2 who has something other than strep, H1N1, the seasonal flu, or meningitis.


Dear Friends

I do not wish to offend anyone.

(Good thing my sister-in-law already did.)

I like to look at blogs late at night. When it's quiet. Sometimes I skip blogs that aren't.


Home Schooled at the Kitchen Counter

Much like other mornings, Rachel and Lucy begged me to let them add sugar to their pre-sweetened cereal. Since we weren't in a hurry to get to school, and there was no need to bribe them to eat fast, I denied their request.

They didn't believe that their MultiGrain Cheerios already had sugar in them, so I taught them how to read the the Nutrition Facts on the side of the box. We discovered their bowls of cereal already contained 6 grams (about 1.5 teaspoons) of sugar. They got really excited and proceeded to compare sugar measurements in different cereals. (Every single box we had in the pantry.)

Rachel put the boxes in ascending order from Cheerios (1 gram) to Frosted Mini Wheats (12 grams). And then she realized why her three favorite cereals are Frosted Flakes, Corn Pops, and Frosted Mini Wheats.

Rachel was enjoying her second day home from school (stomach ache) and Lucy was playing hooky (fake stomach ache), so I was happy to have contributed to their education.

Because then I sent them off to watch cartoons for the day.