I had a birthday

It was very pleasant and the day ended in lots of laughter. I don't always get presents that I can brag about, so I will gladly take this opportunity to do so. 

Favorite present #1
Steve took the day off and came to Logan with us. I'll admit, I had my doubts that he would actually leave the restaurant. He worked five hours in the morning, but then he came. We went to dinner at Hamiltons. We ate our favorite things: Potato Spring Rolls, Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Salad, and Steak Pasta. I did not get sick. 

Speaking of mozzarella, I have a really funny story involving Steve and a spelling bee at Utah State. M-O-T. . . and then the audience (and judge) erupted in laughter. 

Favorite present #2
There had been a lot of whispering and giggling at our house concerning the gift Steve and the girls were working on. I opened the box and thought I was being given red gym clothes. That would have been fitting, since Steve is concerned with the amount of meat and fatty foods I consumed this week. Then I read the book, written and illustrated by Steve and the girls. It goes a little like this:

Mama, Mama Red Pajama
You're the world's best pajama Mama. 
Doing laundry and cooking meals.
You always find the very best deals. 
When we're sick, you take care of us.
And drive us around like you're the bus. 
Mama, Mama Red Pajama
Thanks for loving us through all the drama. 

If you don't know why it's so funny, then you need to read this book (one of our favorites):

Favorite present #3
This is what I got from Derrick: 

The box contains Derrick's last two "wife beater" shirts. I don't approve of them and had been asking (or more likely nagging) him to stop wearing them. He had repeatedly declined. He even hid an iTunes gift card under the shirt scraps. What a great gift. Even if it did make me feel like my parents and their unconventional gift requests. 

Favorite present #4 
I haven't received this one yet, but we got the news on my birthday, so it counts. Steve won a three-day vacation to Las Vegas. I have spent the last twelve months confined to northern Utah and am very anxious to go on a trip. I am aware that Vegas is no tropical island, but you take what you can get when your husband works 80-hour weeks. 

I've already spent some time online day-dreaming about a couple of my favorite restaurants, with one disappointment. I've spent the last year planning to transport some Roasted Corn Soup from Mesa Grill to Chef Chris, in hopes that he could replicate it, but it has been removed from the menu. I will have to find a new love. 


Steve's turning 30

and he's celebrating by giving away


to all family and friends. If you haven’t been to the restaurant yet,

this is the perfect opportunity to come see what

Steve’s been up to. Drop in and say hello, or stay for dinner!

No purchase necessary. The big day is on

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

and Steve will be at Sonora Grill to see you from

2:00 PM to 10:00 PM.




Now I have a six-year old

and since most strangers assume I'm nineteen or twenty, that might create some issues. Since I am good at passing the blame, I will say that the real problem is that most girls who are nineteen and twenty dress like they're twenty-seven. I got my hair cut to make myself look older. I even got rid of some of my t-shirts, sweatshirts, jeans, and shoes. They made me look like "a babysitter", according to Rachel. And in case you're wondering, the outfits that get her nod of approval are the ones she says make me look like I work at a bank.

Rachel, my new six-year old, has plenty of opinions. Here are some funny ones I came across when looking through my notes-that-need-to-be-written-in-the-baby book from this year:

We were driving in the car and I told the kids they couldn't eat any more candy or else their teeth were going to turn brown. Then I heard Rachel in the back seat turn to Lucy and say, "Well, if your teeth turn brown, that's okay because then they get to be silver." (May 2008)

Rachel and Lucy were trying to figure out how the earth rotates and why the sun looks like it's moving. Lucy said, "Okay, okay, be quiet Rachel. Let me explain to you how it works. You know how when you're driving next to the Frontrunner and it makes it look like the ground is moving backward? It's the same as us looking at the sun because it's not moving." Rachel then insisted (at least five times) "No, Lucy, it doesn't work that way. The Frontrunner is not the sun." (July 2008)

After her new haircut, I asked, "Do you feel like a new Rachel?"
"No because my breath still stinks. I just need to change that and then I'll feel like a new Rachel." (July 2008)

Steve and I were arguing about something. Rachel quickly took my side and said to Steve, "Well, your Mom's not a teacher." (September 2008)

I was flipping through the channels towards The Brady Bunch and we ended up on the news. They were talking about the debates and Rachel said, "Hey, that's John McCain." I asked her how she knew that and she said she'd seen him on a commercial. And then she said, "But I like Barack Obama better. I think you should vote for him. But if John McCain's name was Candy Cane, then I would definitely vote for him." (September 2008)

We were reading the story about the birth of Jesus and I asked the girls where Jesus was born. Rachel answered, "In a condo." I corrected her and said, "No, Jesus was born in a stable." She quickly replied, "Well, what was a stable back then is a condo now." (December 2008)


Making History

Barack might be the first black president in the White House, but Derrick was the first black president at Mountain Crest.


By the Numbers

1 dysfunctional gallbladder
2 infiltrated IVs that left me with puffy wrists
3 hours under the HIDA Scan (unsuccessfully) waiting for the radioactive tracer to enter my gallbladder
4 separate trips to the hospital
5 small abdominal incisions from the laproscopic surgery
6 doses of morphine to help control the pain and six doses of zofran to help control the nausea
7 painful attempts to start IVs (I could never be a heroin user.)
8 events (funeral, committee meeting, parent-teacher conference, dentist appointment, birthday party, etc.) that were missed while in the hospital
9 million times I had to state my full name and birthdate
10 years of abdominal pain coming to an end


Grasshopper Video

Here's a link to the famous grasshopper-eating video(s) that were previously posted on Kacie's blog.

Oh how I wish we would have taken a video of Hunter eating his...

P.S. That first video really makes me miss Southgate.


Tubing at Snowbasin

The Birthday Girl

Rachel wanted to go tubing at Snowbasin for her birthday, so we decided to celebrate a little early while Dave and his family were still in town from Florida. Leslie and the kids had never seen snow before this Utah trip, so it was a pretty big deal.

Tubing at Snowbasin is a piece of cake for parents because there is a tow lift. It's really fun to go sledding with kids when you don't have to carry them up the hill. And Snowbasin's groomed tubing hill is steep enough to get some good speed, but controlled enough to avoid injuries.

Dave, Mike, Steve, Emily, Karen, Angie, Leslie

A good time was had by all (even Grandma Gloria!) but the sun goes down behind the mountain at about two-thirty in the afternoon, and it gets cold fast. The die-hard tubers (including Rachel, Jake, Ethan, and most of the adults; excluding myself) stayed until the hill closed. The rest of us are jealous of their stories about short lines, glorious snowball fights, and tubing crazy-high up the "brake check hill". I do believe the adults may have had more fun than the children with this activity.


He's got the skills to pay the bills

I should have anticipated the request for these videos. These are posted without Derrick's permission. As in, I'm not going to ask him, so he doesn't get the opportunity to say no.

The first video shows Derrick and his new All Stars. Rebecca's friend bought them for Derrick a few weeks after he arrived. He was elated with the gift and gleamed with delight every time he put them on. Derrick maintained his Chuck Taylor's with great care and kept wearing them, even when his feet grew to exceed the shoes by multiple sizes.

The second video exhibits Derrick's singing (and dancing) skills. We held an American Idol competition for our Family Home Evening activity. He was seriously disappointed when Steve voted for me and Rachel's performance. I still laugh every time I watch it.

Dancing with the All Stars. January 25, 2005.

FHE American Idol. March 30, 2005.


I'm on my way to the airport

to pick up Dave Ballard and his family. They live in Tampa, Florida, and we don't get to see them nearly enough. We are very excited for their visit. I am a little reminiscent about another trip to the airport exactly four years ago from today. It was the day Derrick joined our family.

Derrick, Rachel, Steve, Lucy and Emily. January 6, 2005

Here is his story, as written in March 2005, as requested by his 9th grade English teacher. It is a very personal story that was written in his words, edited by me for easier reading, and is posted with his permission.

My name is Derrick Graham Horner. I was born in East London, South Africa. My mother and I lived with eight other family members in Buffalo Flats. In one room there would be me and my mother. In another room was my aunt and her children. In the other room were my grandfather and my cousin who was an orphan. I never knew my father. My mother was a good lady who worked as a nurse. While she was at work, my grandmother looked after me. My mother had eleven brothers and sisters, and she was number nine.
When I was in grade three my mother passed away. I came home from school one day and my aunts were at my house. They said that my mother was not good at work and had gone to the private hospital. She was in the hospital for two weeks. I visited her every two days, but at the end they wouldn’t let me go in the room with her because they thought I was going to cry. She passed away in October of 1998. I knew she was going to die; something told me it would happen. But that didn’t make it any easier.
I remember her funeral. It was held in Coffee Bay in the Transkei, where she grew up. It was a four-hour drive from East London. The funeral was in a big tent and there were maybe a thousand people there: workers, friends, and family. I sat by myself during the funeral.
After the funeral we went back to Buffalo Flats. I stayed in the room all alone. I was scared to sleep in there by myself. So I went to go live with my Aunt Shirley. She was the eldest living of my mother’s siblings, so that is why I went to go stay with her. She lived in Southernwood with her three sons: Timothy, Tyrone, and John Paul and two of my other cousins: Eric and Gabriel. Her husband, Patrick, had lived in Quigney near the beach, but she had moved away from him because he smoked and drank. He was a good guy, even though he drank. He had passed away from cancer three months before my mother died.
I shared a room with my cousins Eric and Gabriel. Their families still lived in the Transkei, but they came to Southernwood to live with Shirley so they could get a better education in the city. Our room was fifteen feet back behind the house. We shared two beds. Eric and I slept in a double bed and Gabriel slept by himself. We used a candle for light.
In January 2002 I met the Ballards. They came to South Africa to teach at a college in East London called Border Technikon. The first time I saw them, they were sitting in the front right corner in church. They came over to Shirley’s house for Family Home Evening every week. They took turns giving everyone rides on their scooter.
One night Steve came over and asked Shirley if I could go with them on a backpacking trip to Capetown. I had never been away from East London, except for the Transkei, and I was very happy. They gave me a list of things to pack for the trip, but I was confused and didn’t understand everything like: tennis shoes, swimming suit, or what hiking was. (I thought they meant we were hitch-hiking to Capetown.)
The next morning we left with Linda, who was their supervisor, for Capetown. We first went backpacking with a group or Boers, or Dutchman. They sat around the campfire eating meat and singing songs. I learned what hiking was, and it was nice. I had never seen tall people like Steve and Emily before. They were different because they were kind to me. After the hike we kept driving towards Capetown. We ate at restaurants, went shopping, and went to an amusement park called Ratanga Junction. It was my first time riding a roller coaster. Steve and Emily gave me a journal on the trip. I asked them what a journal was and they told me. I wrote every night in my journal.
I was sitting in the car with Emily one night while Steve and Linda were in the store. I asked Emily how many children they wanted to have. She told me maybe six, but maybe they would adopt some. I asked Emily why they didn’t adopt me since I had no family. Emily said maybe they would try.
I became good friends with them and was so happy that they took me with them to Capetown. I went over to their flat often because I was on holiday from school. Then it was time for them to go home to Utah. I was sad and I thought that I would never see them again. Jason Flowerday took them to the airport and he asked me if I wanted to go with them to say goodbye. It was hard to see them leave. It rained a lot. And I cried.
I wrote letters to Steve and Emily and sometimes we would send messages over the computer. They sent me letters and packages. They tried to adopt me, but they couldn’t find anyone that would help them. They had a baby girl in 2003 and then another girl in 2004. They kept trying for me to come, but then there was a problem with the Hague Treaty so they couldn’t do adoptions through South Africa. I still hoped that they would find a way for me to come to the United States and live with them, but I thought it would never work. After so long, they thought it would never work too. They kept in contact with Stephen Flowerday, who was my bishop at church. He is a good man who has helped me a lot. He told them they should try again.
In June 2004, my bishop at church called me into a room and asked me if I would like to go stay in America with Steve and Emily. I told him yes, I was so surprised. He told me I must go home and think about it for three days and to tell him how I felt on Sunday. I couldn’t sleep all night because it was so exciting. I told him yes, for sure I would like to go.
Steve and Emily wanted me come to the United States on a visitor visa. I would go to Utah for six months. We started to get my passport and my visa. My passport was easy to get, and I had tickets to fly to Salt Lake City on December 7, 2004. But then it took long and was difficult to get my visa because my mother had passed away. I had an interview at the United States Embassy in Johannesburg. It was my first time on a plane. They asked me questions about my age, my family, and what I was going to do in the United States. I told them I was only going to visit the Ballards and that I would go back to my family and friends in South Africa. They denied my visa and told me that I had no family and no reason to return to South Africa. I was so upset that I cried. I didn’t enjoy the plane when I went home and I felt like killing myself. Then my bishop came and talked to me. He told me I shouldn’t worry and to stick to my books. Maybe I could come to America when I was older.
The Ballards read lots of things on the computer about getting a visa. They wrote letters to the senators and asked them for help to make it possible for me to come. They were sad to cancel the tickets they had for me to come. But they did not give up. I scheduled a second interview with the embassy for December 10. Emily got me new tickets to come December 12. Senator Hatch helped me and told the embassy to let me come over. The other senator told Emily that there was no use trying because I would never get a visa.
There was a man who interviewed me the second time. He seemed so good and was better than the woman who had been there the first time. We brought lots of papers with us. My aunt came and told them she owned two different properties and had money in the bank. She told them that she was my family and would not allow me to stay on in the United States. They asked me more questions. The man asked me if they gave me a million rand if I would stay in the United States with the Ballards. I said no. I thought I was going to get my visa, but it was denied again. This time they told me it needed administrative clearance. The man went and phoned the Ballards at five in the morning and spoke with Steve. He told Steve he had never phoned like this before. He could have denied my visa like the lady, but he thought I was nice. The man told Steve if I was not back in South Africa that he would call and notify Homeland Security that they were breaking the law. He was very rough on the phone and made a lot of threats to them. Steve and Emily were so excited because they thought I was flying out the next day.
The embassy told us they would phone us and not to bother them. They were very rude and made my Aunt Shirley cross. She sat by her phone the whole time we were in Johannesburg. It was time for us to go back to East London, but they still hadn’t called. We went back to the embassy on Sunday. They told us they were only open to Americans on Sunday and to come back on Monday. We could not stay in Johannesburg longer. But I had already packed up all of my clothes from East London and I didn’t want to have to go home and unpack again.
We went home to East London and I tried to forget about it because I knew I could never try again. My tickets were cancelled and I was cross, angry with the embassy, and upset for packing all my luggage for nothing. It was a Monday they called me in East London to say my visa was declared. They needed my passport. I sent it with a courier to Johannesburg. The bishop’s friend took the passport to the embassy and they were fussy to him about it. They asked why he had my passport because he was not Derrick Horner. They took it away and wouldn’t give him the visa. It was a few days after Christmas that I finally got my visa and my passport back.
Steve and Emily couldn’t figure out why my bishop wasn’t responding to their emails. They didn’t know what was happening. January 4, 2005 they finally phoned my bishop and he asked why they hadn’t responded. He had sent them lot of emails that they never got because they had been accidentally blocked from their email. My bishop had already given up and thought the Ballards must have changed their minds. I thought it wasn’t worth it and it wasn’t worth the use because the visa had to be used by January 9, 2005.
Emily found a new flight and made new arrangements. The man who gave me my new tickets in Johannesburg told me that my visa stamp meant that I had to be back to South Africa by January 9 and that they would not let me into the Untied States. I flew out on January 6, 2005. Steve met me at the airport in New York because he was worried about me getting through customs. The airplane ride was long and I was tired of flying. I was scared that I would not be able to get into America because of my stamp. But the people in New York let me in through immigration. Forty-four hours after I left East London, I finally arrived in Utah. And that is the story of how I met the Ballards and how I came to America.

Derrick Horner. January 2005

The next few weeks were extraordinary, despite the uncertainty of his situation. We didn't know how long Derrick would be able to stay with us, so we tried to fit in as many activities as we could. Derrick saw snow for the first time, went to Temple Square, and even went to Disneyland with Rebecca and Tyler. He was the recipient of much generosity and many acts of kindness, including the All-Star shoes shown in the picture above and a new pair of soccer cleats, given annonymously.

Four years later, and even in light of the difficult situations we have recently faced, I can confidentally say that we have been blessed to have Derrick in our family. It required much faith and many miracles for him to come to America. More miracles have taken place that have allowed him to stay and become a permanent member of the Ballard Family. Derrick, we love you and are proud to have you in our family.

Rachel, Steve, Lucy, Derrick and Emily at Temple Square. January 2005

Derrick and Goofy. January 2005


Mykaeleigh Grace Ballard

Here she is. At our house. She sure is a sweet little baby.
Your odds of seeing more Mykaeleigh pictures in the future are very good.


Happy New Year

Happy New Year from the Ballard Cousin Sleepover. All of the kids stayed up too see the ball drop at midnight except for Adam, who promptly woke up at midnight with all of the noise.

Concession Speech

My friends, we have come to the end of a long journey. I take this opportunity to announce that I have lost the campaign. In a contest as long and difficult as this has been, blogging commands my respect for its rampant pervasiveness. And that it has managed to inspire the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that their lives had little value and that they had no friends is something I deeply admire and commend blogs for achieving.

The blogging world and I have had and argued our differences, and it has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain. These are difficult times, and I pledge to do all in my power to help blogs lead us through the many challenges we face. I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in offering blogging our earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises, to bridge our differences, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better cyberspace than we inherited. Whatever our differences, we are now fellow bloggers.

I graciously thank my supporters for their valiant efforts. Though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours. But do not think all was lost; my evangelism against blogging has been valuable. I believe that I have brought attention to important issues including, but not limited to, online spousal nudity, public discussion of bathroom behaviors, and unnecessary pleas for attention. And please believe me when I say that I faithfully remain committed to the cause.

I don't know what more I could have done to try to win this crusade against blogging. Every person makes mistakes, and I'm sure I made my share of them. In attempt to avoid such losses in the future, I would like to identify some of my pitfalls. Maybe it was your blog that I became so fond of following. Maybe it was my introduction to facebook and the conclusion of my life as a social introvert. Maybe it was because I found Lucy’s baby book and saw that the last entry in it was from 2005. Maybe it was because I grew tired of sending out mass emails attached photographs. Maybe it was because my kids think I chit-chat on the phone too much (Is 2,530 minutes per month too much?) so instead of calling me to find out how I’m doing, you can just look online. I can hardly believe I just said that.

This is an historic day, and I recognize the special significance it has for the opposing party. So now I congratulate the blogging world for luring me in. But before I am called a hypocrite, let me invite you to think of me as a humble conceedor. My husband has often warned me that my strong opinions are sure to create quandaries for me. Thankfully, I do not have a problem admitting I am wrong. In fact, I have become quite proficient, as it has been required in regards to many statements I have made over the past few years.

As in, “I will not ever get pregnant again.” (Three pregnancies ago. And it was worth it.)

And “I will not ever drive a minivan.” (2003 Honda Odyssey. But never again.)

And “I will not ever move to Ogden.” (Here I am. In downtown Ogden. And I like it.)

Americans never hide from history, we make history. And that is exactly what I intend to do with this blog. Thank you all very much.