All Five Ballards

My nephew, Jake, got baptized last Saturday. My sister-in-laws, Karen and Angie, flew in from North Carolina and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho for the occasion. Talk about some dedicated aunts.

Actually, one was here for a scheduled trip, but the other one really did fly in, just for the baptism. She didn't want to be the only one left out. All five Ballard siblings were there:

I hurried and snapped one shot of each pose with my camera. Everyone was smiling and all eyes were open. That would take some sort of a miracle with my family, but the Ballards have it down. (Mike hurried and changed out of his church clothes because he was the grillman.)

Then I took thirteen shots of the kids. And this is the best I got. (The ones with Kaleigh didn't turn out so well.) This picture shows twelve of Richard and Gloria's fifteen grandchildren. Derrick isn't very eager (or willing) to be in the pictures with the little kids, so Kaleigh usually takes his place :)

Jake's baptism was really special and I loved hearing Jack's talk and Ethan's testimony. My kids have great cousins who make good decisions and are setting wonderful examples for them.

Steve's talk was good too. . . but since I haven't seen Star Wars, I didn't get it. I sure am missing out on a lot with all of these movie references.

It's too bad that Steve doesn't read my blog because that was supposed to be sarcastic.


Epic Fail?

I know it's been a while. . . and there are all sorts of fun things I need to post (I will. And soon.) But first, I will go ahead and share a few things that happened recently and let you pick which one wins the title of Epic Fail.

LG Customer Service: What problem are you experiencing with your washing machine?
Me: It is leaking water onto the floor.
LG Customer Service: Have you checked all of the hoses to see if they are wet or leaking?
Me: Yes, I think it's coming out of the bottom by the pump filter. If I turn the filter to the left, water comes out.
LG Customer Service: Have you opened the drain hose?
Me: What's that?
LG Customer Service: When is the last time you've drained the hose and cleaned the pump filter?
Me: Ummm. I'm not sure what you're talking about.
LG Customer Service: See that black tube? It's the drain hose. You need to pull the top off and let it drain out. You are supposed to be doing that and cleaning out the filter every month.
Me: Okay, I just pulled the top off of the hose. Only five or six drops of water came out, but it's really dirty.
LG Customer Service: Yeah, that's because you have something clogging up the filter. And that's why the water is leaking. How long have you had your washing machine?

I never told her the answer to that question. We have had our washing machine for exactly 47 months. Which means that I have failed to clean the filter exactly 47 times.

I drained out two quarts of water and found one popcorn kernel, one penny, two bobby pins, four plastic tags. And a pile of gunk.

Did anyone else know you were supposed to clean the pump filter out every month???

. . . . . . . . . .

We had another great neighborhood dinner on Sunday evening. I finally had the chance to meet one of my neighbors who lives on the next block, but rarely comes to neighborhood activities.

Me: So you are a doctor?
Her: No, I'm just a nurse practitioner.
Me: And you work in Salt Lake?
Her: Yes, I specialize in cardiology, so I work at a hospital called Intermountain Medical.
Me: Oh, I had surgery there this year.
Her: I'm sorry. I hope you're okay?
Me: Yes, I had a celiac artery bypass, but I'm doing really well now.
Her: Oh, wow, who was your surgeon.
Me: Dr. Steppacher and Dr. Galt.
Her: I don't know Dr. Steppacher, but Dr. Galt is a well-respected surgeon. I'm glad you were able to have your surgery down there because they are so much better equipped to handle a surgery like that.
Me: My doctor actually wanted to perform the surgery at McKay-Dee Hospital. He told me he only needed good surgeons for five hours, but that I would need good nurses for five days and the nurses are better at McKay-Dee.

What??? Why would I even say that? To a NURSE from the other hospital??? The most embarrassing part is that it didn't even occur to me that I had said something so dumb until later that night. I texted her an apology and she told me not to worry, she wasn't offended. And that she was known to appreciate brutal honesty.

Sometimes I wish I had a better filter on my mouth. I taught a Relief Society class on Basic (Very Basic) Photography Tips tonight and wonder what offensive things I'll later realize I said to the group.

. . . . . . . .

Chris and Paige, our new next door neighbors, bought the old Methodist church in June. Soon after moving in, Paige went to study at a university in Argentina, leaving Chris to fend for himself. I assured her we would keep an eye on him. . . and feed him every once in a while.

But then life happened.

I didn't think he was interested in fielding dinner invitations from a woman with four little kids. Oh yeah, and sometimes I don't really make dinner. So we brought him brownies. ONCE. It was kind of late at night. As in, we woke him up. He told me it was okay- it was worth getting up for brownies. (It wasn't that late. . . maybe 10:00 pm late.) I'm pretty sure he even texted me and told me how good they were. Last night it suddenly hit me. He's VEGAN. (And I clearly wasn't baking with vegan egg and butter substitutes. . . )

. . . . . . . . . .

Remember my goal for the new school year to wake up at 6:30 am every morning? Well, I'm two for twelve. That's less than seventeen percent.

And then I wrote on my blog and asked at what age I could start sending my kids to go to bed by themselves. . . and most people who left comments said that it was their favorite part of the day.

And then I checked my gmail account (for the first time in a couple of weeks) and found this message:


For the record, I know that I'm not the worst parent unfairtrout has ever seen. (Mostly because I'm confident that unfairtrout has ever actually seen me. . . ha ha.) And for the record, I've determined that my husband's work schedule is partly to blame for my aversion to putting my kids to bed. I am absolutely exhausted by bedtime. So I really ought to put them to bed earlier. Much, much earlier. (Thanks for the great responses to my question- they did give me hope!)

But I had to tell Rachel to quit talking to me so I could type my handout for the Relief Society activity. . . and it seems like I find myself telling her that fairly regularly these days. And I caught myself saying "yes" to things Adam was asking me that I wasn't actually processing, so I have no idea what I've committed myself to. . . I think my parenting could use some work.

But pretty soon, these will all probably be funny stories I can laugh about. Like how a piece of my clothing was stuck to Steve's shirt that went to the dry cleaner. Yep. . . that piece of clothing. . . .


Metal Mouth

Derrick and Kaleigh have easily been the most expensive kids in our family. But with teeth like these, Rachel might be back in the running:

Rachel was absolutely elated with her new braces until 6:00 pm, when she promptly broke down crying. (It had also been exactly four hours since her first dose of Tylenol.) A smoothie from Sonora Grill and more pain medication put a smile back on her face.

I should have been more prepared with these things yesterday, but I went to the grocery store this morning and bought fifty bucks worth of:

smoothie drinks
ice cream

On the way to school, she spilled her yogurt smoothie down the front of her shirt, so we went back home so she could change into a clean one. We had to turn around a second time when I asked her if she had brushed her teeth well and she told me she hadn't brushed this morning. Or last night. "But you didn't brush with us!" was her excuse.

Which leads me to a question I've been thinking about for a long time now:

At what age do you stop going through the whole going to bed routine with your kids and send them to do it on their own?

Rachel and Lucy still want me at their bedside to say prayers with them, tuck them in, and turn out the light. (And, apparently, supervise the brushing of the teeth too.) I know it doesn't seem like much, but once we've gotten through the homework, reading, piano practice, baths/showers, scriptures, and Adam's new list of physical therapy exercises for his foot, I'm eager to send a couple kids off to get ready for bed by themselves.

Will someone with older children please share their thoughts?


National Entitlement Awareness Day & A Giveaway

I started writing a blog post of my own for National Entitlement Awareness Day.

It began with a long background of how we have always been blessed with good neighbors. The Nunn Family. The Maurer Family. My brother's family. The Sanchez Family. The Wilkinsons. Jed Platt. David & Pam Linton.

And how less than a year ago, my sister-in-law put me in touch with a lady who was moving from St. George to Ogden. She was intrigued by a house down the street from us and skeptical of the neighborhood. (Fair enough.) Of course I helped convince her to move in; we love our neighborhood.

And, just like that, we added another name to our list of wonderful neighbors: The Loosli Family. Some of you already knew about Saren, her blog, and Power of Moms. Some of you already knew who Richard & Linda Eyre were and have read some of their famous books. I didn't and hadn't. (Based on my parenting over the last few weeks, I clearly need to.)

We quickly became friends with Saren, her five kids, and great husband who calls every once in a while to make sure my kids have a ride home from school. (We also had the fabulous opportunity of meeting their pet snake!)

The Looslis are one of those families that it seems like we've known forever. I guess we actually have done a lot of things together over the last nine months. Their timing moving here couldn't have been better. The Looslis were constantly offering to help while I was recovering from surgery. (And still do.)

I couldn't be happier about this friendship:

I'm pretty lucky that Kaleigh absolutely adores Ashton (and Isaac):

And it took a few days before I understood what Adam was saying, but he was asking if he could be a twin with Oliver and Silas. Can you blame him?

And then I was going to go on about how I've learned about Power of Moms, started a Learning Circle, and met Richard & Linda Eyre. And then somehow I was going to tie that all into the upcoming release of the Eyre's new book, The Entitlement Trap. I'm sure I would have come up with some other brilliant things to say, but then I looked at my sister's blog and she said it all
so perfectly.

So I am just going to copy Rebecca's unrivaled poetic post here:

Today is the day, (the Eyres had a say)

it's "National Entitlement Awareness Day"!

So push a few buttons, here and there

and you could win some prizes to share!

I have met the authors, and they're pretty great,

They are parents and teachers, nothing less than first rate.

They have authored many books, too many to name,

they have been on Oprah & have met many people of great fame.

Their purpose is simple, their goal is clear,

They want to help families and they want everyone to hear.

They have lots of practice, they have nine children of their own,

they generously share their knowledge of how they have grown.

I know one of their daughters, and she is quite nice,

You should definitely get this book, especially at this introductory price!

So don't worry, don't delay

if you order this book, help is on the way!

The secrets of success we all want to know

Of how to help our children to best learn & to grow.


to enter.

. . . . .

Did you catch what the grand prize of their giveaway is? Free registration for you and your spouse to attend the upcoming Power of Moms Couples Retreat, including free luxury accommodations AND AIRFARE. Awesome.

I can honestly say I don't know too many people with more purpose and dedication than the Eyre Family. And most impressively, they practice what they preach.

I am quite eager to read the Eyre's new book. I've spent the last nine months feeling guilty for expecting too much from my kids (especially Rachel- I've needed her help done lots and lots of things). Right now, I need to make sure I don't go too far the other direction.

And it turns out that I could benefit from some reminders of delayed gratification, appreciating what you've got, taking responsibility, and making choices myself. . .


Bonding with the Tomatoes

I think we are finally friends. Me and the tomatoes, that is.

We had some bonding issues. Bonding and attachment are supposed to happen instinctively. But I was separated from the garden for a while, due to medical reasons, and missed out on that intense attachment that develops within those first few weeks after planting.

I had been feeling guilty.

I know that it's normal to feel uncertain, scared, or disconnected at first. But I was a mess. I was ignoring my garden's needs, not noticing when it needed more water, or responding to its cues.

I decided to maximize the quality of the time that I still have, ensuring that my garden has a caregiver who also realizes the importance of bonding and attachment.

My feelings deepened.

The more responsive you are to a garden's needs, the less "spoiled" the garden will be as it grows. Bonding creates trust, and gardens with secure attachments tend to be more independent.

Attachment is a two-way interactive process where my garden reads my cues and I read hers.

And tonight, after picking 462 tomatoes, I think I am finally filled with joy and love for our garden. We have bonded.

Introducing "The Forest". (That's what Adam calls it.)

Other pretty things that I've bonded with as well.

And our very first edible corn. Ever.

Let the harvest begin.


Some Things You Should Know About My Daughter

Rachel came home from school last week with some homework for me. I should have scanned it, but at least I hurried and took a few pictures with my phone before she returned it to her teacher.

Your child's success if of the utmost importance to me as we begin the school year. Please lend me a hand by taking a few minutes to jot down some thoughts about the following items as they relate to your child.

Needs to know everything that is going on. Exhibits some anxiety. . . OCD.

Special Diet:
Will be getting braces next week. She should avoid chewy foods. (Can she chew a piece of gum for a few minutes after lunch?)

Special Talents:
Very good at teaching her peers how to do things. She can be patient, responsible, and very aware.

Academic Strengths/Weaknesses:
Detail-oriented. Fast and quick. Gets bored when things are too easy. Does not like to do things that are "too difficult" for her. Like Spanish.

Peer Relations:
Very sensitive to smells, like boys! Easily disgusted by nose-pickers. (She asked me to write that!)

Hiking, biking, swimming, playing outside, TALKING, asking questions, eavesdropping.

Discipline Strategies that Have/Haven't Worked:
Rachel is a good girl. Be very clear about your expectations, and she will behave. She is very sensitive. If you yell at her, she might cry.

Medical History/Medication(s):
Complains of stomach ache (often when nervous). I will send Tums or Children's Tylenol for her to keep in front office. Has fainted 3-4 times. When she faints, she seizes up. This is NOT a real seizure.

Work Habits:
Wants everything to be perfect. Gets frustrated if things are spelled incorrectly.

. . . . . .

I would love to be able to see how my mother would have filled out a worksheet like this when I was eight years old.

Or maybe I wouldn't?


An Update on the Fake Glasses

Rachel told me yesterday that halfway during the day, she asked her teacher if she could put her glasses in her backpack. Her teacher said yes, and asked what exactly she needed her glasses for: reading, nearsightedness, farsightedness, or fashion? It caught her a little off guard, and Rachel just sat there, "Ummmmmm."

"I think they're for fashion," her friend quietly responded for her.

"Yes, for fashion," Rachel affirmed.

"Well, they're very cute," her teacher replied.

Rachel forgot her glasses at home this morning.

Watching your kids go through things like this make being a mom fun.

Washing wet sheets, cleaning up poop (Kaleigh's first, and hopefully last, accident of that kind in her underwear) and sweeping up a pile of broken serving dishes that were knocked off the kitchen counter and shattered onto the floor do NOT make being a mom fun.

Good thing I got both on the same morning to balance things out.


While She Was Supposed to be Sleeping

Instead of taking a nap or going to bed when she is supposed to, Kaleigh tries on clothes.

Sometimes I find six or seven different outfits strewn across her bedroom floor.

And I wonder why I even bother putting on her pajamas.

P.S. I moved 5,000 photos over to my external hard drive. It's like I have a new computer!
P.P.S. I cleaned the wall next to Kaleigh's bed after I saw how dirty it was in this video.


An Uneventful First Day of School

After last year's fainting episode, I am happy to report that we had an uneventful first day of school. I woke up at 6:30 am and got dressed before Rachel and Lucy, which is my goal for the new school year. The girls got ready lightening fast and quickly posed for pictures on the front porch. (I will try to remember to clean it before the first day of school next year.) They were so anxious to get to school that they arrived about thirty minutes early.

I keep thinking Lucy is going to pass Rachel up in height, but Rachel maintains her advantage. Barely. The horizontal lines are a great measuring tool. Lucy, who reported that she is the tallest student in her second-grade class, has grown an entire slat since kindergarten.

Now let's talk about Rachel's fake glasses. Yes, they are fake. And now I am curious to know your thoughts about them. Her very best friends at school wear glasses, so, naturally, she wanted glasses too. She has been asking for fake glasses since her birthday, so when she found some at Claire's for $8.50, I had no problem with letting her get them. Steve thought it was funny, and when I questioned my friends at lunch yesterday, all three said they would not let their daughter wear fake glasses to school. I didn't think it was a big deal but would like to know your thoughts.

So. . . would YOU let your eight-year old daughter wear fake glasses to school? If it was the desire of her heart?

I know the frames are a bit large, but you know. . . they are likely to break in a couple of weeks, and then we can be done with glasses.

P.S. Rachel voluntarily wore a dress to school today!


Did you know that prayers really don't come true?

After Adam said the breakfast prayer this morning (he randomly prayed that he wouldn't get wet today, clarifying that he only likes getting wet from sprinklers, not the hose) he told me,

"Did you know that prayers really don't come true?"

"Heavenly Father answers all of our prayers, just not always the way we expect" I quickly responded.

"Nope. Because yesterday I please blessed that I would be good in church, but I wasn't."

I did my best to turn it into a little teaching moment. But mostly, I just tried to control my laughter. If you could have seen his facial expressions, you would have had a hard time too.


The New Ballards on the Block

After a year of planning and preparation (and an epic roadtrip from Florida) the David Ballard Family has officially moved to Ogden.

We must not completely be used to the idea that they are here to stay because we packed in lots of family activities last week. . . as if they were on vacation.

Ballard Family Sunday Dinner:

With a new total of eleven kids attending our monthly dinners, Mike and Angie offered their wonderful backyard as our venue.

It was perfect. . . and Adam even got to climb up on the roof. (He was retrieving a rocket balloon. And he was being supervised.)


Swimming at North Shore:

Family Reunion:

I actually forgot to take pictures at the reunion, but it looks like Adam took some for me :) I also need to get some photos from Jake. He brought a frog and made some money by charging fifty cents to have your picture taken with the frog. . . smart kid!

Somehow, we also fit in Rachel and Lucy's awesome five-day rock climbing camp at The Front, Rachel's second appointment at the orthodontist for spacers, the Tour of Utah, the first-ever Steve Ballard Family bike ride (how did we not get a picture of that???), Back-to-School Night (and back-to-school shopping), Steve and Rachel's hike to Wheeler Canyon, canning apricot jam and making fruit leather, a Sonora Grill cooking class at the Farmer's Market, a fun craft day activity (yet to be documented), and we just concluded our annual new-school-clothes fashion show.

(Now do you understand how we manage to do things like run out of gas on the way to Lagoon?)

Welcome to Utah, David and Leslie. And welcome to our crazy life. . .


School Uniform Shopping Guide: The Extras

When I took Rachel and Lucy to Back to School Night, I was quickly reminded that there are still quite a few things I need to get before school starts (on Monday!!)

Some of these products I can vouch for. Some are still on my wishlist.

1. Mini Boden Shaggy Lined Zip Through Jacket I love these jackets so much that all four kids have one. (And always will.) The shaggy lining gives them some serious substance (and warmth), but they are still soft and comfy. These jackets are some of the most well-used articles of clothing we own. Retail price is $56, but you can often find them on eBay for $30 (or wait for a buy two, get one for $1 promotion through Mini Boden).

2. Gymboree Uniform Bike Short A must-have for wearing under jumpers, skirts, and dresses. In addition to wearing underneath their uniform jumpers, Rachel and Lucy also wear these shorts under their skirts to church almost every Sunday. Comfortable, soft cotton rib with just enough stretch to make them fit for a long time; I think Rachel has been wearing the same size since kindergarten. These are on sale for $10 right now, but they should go cheaper. . . I buy them when they go down to $5 or $6.

3. Gap Rugby Knee Highs So, so sad that my girls won't be wearing these to school this year. My sister-in-law actually read her letter from the principal and pointed out the major change to our school's uniform policy this year: "All clothing must be in solid school colors. This includes socks, leggings, long sleeved shirts, and tights." If your school allows brightly colored, patterned socks, snag this 2-pack for $10.

4. Simple Take On Elastic Sneaker I've had these in my shopping cart on amazon.com for months. Rachel picked out the "Goat" color and Lucy chose "Snow White". In a paradox of sadness that we don't have an excuse to buy new shoes and thankfulness that we don't have to, (both girls have plenty of shoes right now) in the shopping cart these cute shoes remain. (It didn't help that the price went up from $22 to $36.)

5. Tom's Goldenrod Cord Youth Classics These shoes are on Rachel's wishlist; I wouldn't mind a pair myself. Do any of you have Tom's? Do you love them? Do they hold up well? Do they fit true to size? Are they worth the money? Still debating this purchase. . . $38 is mighty steep for kids' shoes.

6. The Children's Place Flower Hair Clip When I found this on sale for two bucks, I bought one for Rachel. She wore it for the first time tonight. It was funny watching her try to take it out of her hair. She had no idea how to get it open and had to ask for help. Are spring clips really that outdated?? I wish it fit closer to the head, but I do like the poplin flowers.

7. Hanna Andersson Classic Girls Unders Best underwear, period. Full coverage and incredibly comfortable. (So I've been told.) I first bought these beauties for Lucy. Rachel once needed to borrow a pair and never went back. On sale for $14 (3-pack). They run extremely large. Rachel and Lucy both still wear smalls, which are supposed to be sized for girls 3-6 years old. I could go on and on about these, but let me just say that whether your daughter has a large bum or a tiny bum, these are the best underwear on the market. And I love that they are called unders. (Also available in bright colors.)

8. Mini Boden Fun Wellies I was going to wait for a promotion to buy these cute rain boots for Lucy, but they are already sold out in five sizes, so I might need to fork out the $36 before they are all gone. I love rain boots, and so do my kids! (Please note: the only review left for these boots says they run one or two sizes too small.)

9. Gymboree Polka Dot Streamer Pony Holder I love how these ponytail holders with ribbons look in Lucy's hair. I keep thinking I am going to make my own, but since I have to go to Gymboree to get some plain, white knee high socks anyway, I'll probably just go ahead and buy one. Let's talk about Gymboree and their brilliant marketing tactics. Buy one (for $8) get one at 50% off . . . they sure know how to upsale. Don't even get me started on Gymbucks. Marketing geniuses.

10. Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Shoes I'm a big fan of All Stars. Love the simpleness. Love that they match everything. Love the colors. And because Derrick's first pair of new shoes in the U.S. was a pair of All Stars, they will always have a special meaning to me.

Happy Shopping. . .


Our First Trip to Cowabunga Bay

Last Wednesday, we dropped Adam off at Grandma's house, picked up my nephew, Jake, and took him with us to Salt Lake. I told the kids we needed to go to a few stores; Jake was coming with us to pick out his own birthday present.

We stopped at REI because I needed to return a couple of shirts. I let Jake look around and see if there was something he wanted to pick out for his birthday. Luckily, he couldn't decide on anything and said he'd wait until the next store.

I want you to know that I've had this dream for two years now. And my plan played out almost perfectly.

We kept driving south, and as expected, as soon as the gigantic water slides came into view, Rachel and Lucy yelled, in unison, "COWABUNGA BAY!"

Jake actually had the idea himself, although it came out as barely more than a mumble because it was soooo outlandish. "I know what I could do for my birthday. We could go to that water park. . . " Jake's voice trailed off and Rachel chuckled.

"Do you want to go to Cowabunga Bay?" I asked the kids, as if it were a spontaneous question.

There was lots of loud screaming.

Most of the clamor came from Rachel and Lucy. Jake was a bit more cautious because he needed to know what all of his options were. Rachel immediately asked if we could turn around and get our swimming suits. (Of course, I had already packed the swimming suits. And the towels.)

So we met up with my friend, Molly, and took this boy's birthday as an excuse to go play at Cowabunga Bay:

The water park is small enough that Rachel, Jake, and Lucy went off together and came back to check in with me every so often. There are nine water slides, and the only one I rode was plenty slow for a young toddler. I was content with just one ride down the slide because I was cold. I think you have to be 48 inches tall to be able to ride all of the slides by themselves. . . . If you're into being a sit and watch your kids play mom like I am these days, that might be the best time to take your kids. The weather was a bit on the chilly side, but I guess that also worked to our benefit because there weren't very many people there.

Kaleigh wasn't very interested in the slides, but she loved the lazy river. She also did some splashing around. And laying around. And, of course, she visited with all of the people who were sitting near us.

I must have really been going for coolest mom award because I also let the kids get those tubes full of flavored sugar for the first time. (They ask for them every time we go to the movie theater.) I told them I was taking their picture because it was the last time we were ever getting them.

I kept thinking it was going to rain, but the clouds blew over and the kids kept playing.

We went to In-N-Out for a late lunch before we drove back home. Since Adam wasn't there to run away, Kaleigh thought she should. Luckily, her poofy hair was big enough to spot her darting out into the parking lot.

Happy Birthday, Jake!