Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Faith's 1/2 Birthday!

This is a new thing for us this year, because Faith's birthday is December 26th, I decided to start celebrating her 1/2 birthday, this way her friends can come to celebrate with her!  
Unfortunately my camera cord was left in a hotel room and I could not buy a replacement, meaning that I can't charge my camera's battery, and since it is five years old, they aren't available anymore.  This is sad for me, because with a terrible phone camera on my "stupid phone", I had to resort to Grace's phone, which is fine for camp pics and messing around, but not so great in general. 
I am so sad, because the party turned out so great, and I didn't get nearly as many pictures of it as I wanted.
What was originally going to be a tea party, morphed into a dress-up party instead, which was really fun and dress up is one of Faith's favorite things to play right now!
I kept the food pretty simple, as in fruits and veggies cut up, but presented in cupcake papers, the little flower sandwiches were really easy and I thought they turned out cute.  Peanut butter petals and jelly centers with the exception of Zach's, he doesn't like jelly, he likes peanut butter only.
They played Bingo, which was a little hard to do, since most of the kids didn't know their numbers to 99 (Ooops!).  Then we also played Freeze Dance, which they LOVED!  
Since Dress Up was the theme, we laid out lots of things to dress up in, including...

These just cracked me up!  I mean, really, I could have died!  
There was also the decorating of the crowns for everyone!

While the camera was not the best, I think Grace did a great job as photographer, but I am looking forward to getting a new camera.

This was a successful start of a new tradition, I think, it was really nice to get to celebrate her birthday with her friends.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Father's Day Weekend

I was so happy that my mom and dad could be in town for Father's Day weekend!  I always love to be able to spend time with my daddy on Father's Day!  The weekend fun began with Nana and Papa coming over on Saturday to hang out with my little part of the clan.  The older ones were with their dad, so the younger two had a blast playing with them.  We went to lunch and then played some serious "Sorry" while Faith snoozed the afternoon away!

Side note:I am seriously getting upset with myself for not taking more pictures lately!  I don't know why I haven't gotten my act together! Anyways....

Papa and Nana have to spread the love, so they left to visit at Nick and Stacey's while I prepared for everyone to come over later.  We were going to be celebrating Father's Day and Mom's birthday that was the past week, and I guess we were also celebrating the new baby coming in February 2013 to Andrea and Josiah's house!  My little sister is preggers again!  WOO-HOO!!!!

Andrea and Josiah and the girls were driving back from Colorado all day and arrived just in time for the girls to finish up Nana's birthday gift (which was pretty much for Nana and Papa), 5x7 mats for the 4x6 pictures of the kids I took awhile back.  Since Mom already had frames for each of the kids, we had each of them paint in watercolor their own mats, so each one is special and individual, just like them!
For dad I used the pictures we took of the kids and did something kind of like the album cover I did for my mom except we changed the words and enlarged it.  I love how it turned out, and I found the most gorgeous frame to put it in (on sale!!!).

Dinner of spaghetti and meatballs (Dad's request), seriously you would think our family is Italian based on our diet, but no, apparently not.  We just love the food!  Then, for desert, this recipe I found on BabyGizmoBlog they consist of a layer of butter pretzels, a layer of peanut butter cookie dough, a layer of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (MY FAVE!), and then a layer of brownie batter, all baked into this amazing, yummy goodness that is now Rob's new favorite desert (YAY ME!).

It was a really great evening, Mom and Dad stayed late playing with my babies, which they loved!    While we were visiting I had Pandora playing and my dad asked if I had a Beach Boys station, as soon as I changed stations, my kids couldn't help but move, dancin like they can't stop, you would think that they had heard it in the womb.  I spent a great amount of my childhood listening to groups like The Beach Boys, I remember family vacations singing at the top of our lungs to all the great hits.

That era of music is so familiar to me, almost as familiar as the sound of Dad's voice.  When I hear that music, instead of the Wilson brothers, Johnny Nash or B.J. Thomas, in my mind I can only hear his voice singing those familiar lyrics, I love that.  That night the kids went to bed without a peep, exhausted from such a great day.

The next day (Father's Day) the kids got to give Rob their cards and gift.  We got him Ice Age 3-D, for us to all watch together on the 3-D feature of the TV that we had not used yet, and then Avatar for he and I to watch after bedtime.  He was very pleased.

After church Andrea, Josiah, Mom, Dad, Rob and I, with our kids went to Johnny Carinos (Italian again, I know, right?), which could be one of the better kept secrets (or forgotten) in Topeka apparently, there was no wait for 8 of us, on Father's Day, and the food was great.

What always strikes me is the choice of food that Faith makes when we eat out.  When given the choice at a restaurant, she chooses salad and bread, almost always.  It is so funny to see a 3 1/2 year old enjoying salad and bread so much.  And not just plain bread, please pass the oil and vinegar with roasted garlic, she'd like to dip her bread too!  Oh, and she'd like to have the virgin strawberry daiquiri that Papa had too, but settled for Papa sharing some whipped cream from his on her Italian soda.

Zach, who is always entertained by Uncle Josiah, was pleased as he could be to get to sit next to him and then proceeded to win at Tic-Tac-Toe, 4 out of 5 times, Josiah learned what a methodical thinker that almost six year old little man is.  Andrea even tried to stump him and failed!  Did I mention that said little man also beat us all in Sorry, two games in a row, call it luck if you want, but he will explain to you every move he makes, he's very clever.  I would love to take credit, but Rob taught him.

I am always so impressed with Rob's ability to teach our kids.  He is so good at explaining things in a way that they really understand.  I overheard him just tonight teaching Zach how to make tacos, I never would have explained how and why we brown meat the way we do.  I can tell how much Zach thinks like him, I have caught him explaining things to Faith the same way, she is more like me and has more of a "I'll figure it out" attitude and ignores him.

I really feel so blessed to have married a man that is such a great father and that loves them so much.  
After lunch...family nap time, well, at least for the Ball fam!  Followed by movie night.  It was really nice to end the day snuggling with these three.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Water Spot Drama

Tonight at dinner, I used paper plates for the hamburger pie and green beans we had for dinner, BIG mistake.  
Then I ended up with steam marks or something on my beautiful table in six places!  
This was the worst one...
But, all of them were VERY noticeable!  So, I Googled a solution.  
I tried a hair dryer that several people swore worked.  
It did not work at all, no change in my spots.  
I found another option, an iron over the top of a t-shirt. 
I started on low and figured out it needed to be on high, no steam.  
 I left it set on there for several seconds, maybe even a minute.  
I kept checking it, because I wasn't sure what it would do. 
But to my surprise and delight, it worked BEAUTIFULLY! 
As a matter of fact, you can't tell they were ever there!
So, now you know exactly how to remove 
water stains from wood tables!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Photo Bombing!

 So, this was a funny thing that started at the wedding.  The idea is to pop up in someone's picture...UNINVITED!
 The key to a good photo bomb is to be sneaky, my dad had not yet mastered this skill, but we had fun with it anyway!

 This, for example, here is a great photo bombing!

 Niagara Falls bombing.
It's okay, he's a slow learner!

 You can tell there was no lack of laughs with us.

Now he's getting the hang of it!

Ummmm...yeah.  Hahaha!

Ellis Island Ferry bombing.
Now, Josiah there, is a pro, he managed to be apart of a family photo that included about 25-30 people at Niagara! 
I wish I had a picture of that!
I wonder if they noticed?

We even got photo bombed!  
See the lady at the top, her's may have been innocent though.

Photo bombing in Times Square.  
Being a short person in my family, it was very hard to photo bomb, 
I had too jump up at just the right moment!  YESSSS! 

 Who invited her?  This was just too funny, she walked right up to the wedding party like she was going to join us in a wedding picture or two, I think she may be in the background of one or two.

Third (and final) Stop-NYC, Day 3

This morning the weather was agreeing with our plans and we headed to NBC Studios and found out the hard way that you needed to get tickets for this ahead of time, or at least call ahead for an appointment for the tour. 

So we got on the schedule, and then headed over to Ripley's Believe It Or Not Odditorium, which was really cool, it is quite the collection of the strange and unusual.
This is how Josiah stacks up to the tallest man...I thought it was funny how similar their hair is.  Parts of the Odditorium, I'll admit, turned my stomach a bit, the world's largest collection of shrunken heads was just a bit more than I could handle.  Afterwards (and after I had lost any appetite I might have had) we went across the street for lunch at Pax Pizza and Wholesome Foods, everyone else enjoyed the food though.

We then headed back to NBC for our tour.  It was a neat tour, the sets are so much smaller than they look on TV.  In the lobby, while waiting for the elevator, we saw the keyboard player and the guitarist from Roots, who shook Andrea and Josiah's hands.  Jimmy Falon was doing a live audience recording that we were invited to and couldn't go, because we had a show to go to.  Josiah was sad. 

Right after our tour we raced over (and by race, I mean, crazy speed walker-like) to see Memphis at the Shubert Theater, which is a beautiful theater.  The show was so great.  I was not expecting such a tear-jerker, I was holding it together, despite the tears rolling down my sister's cheeks, until the large older man in front of me started to shake a little with sobs.  THAT is when I couldn't contain those tears anymore.  It was a story from his era, something that probably hit closer to home for him than for me, but I was non the less still moved greatly by this show.

After the show we headed back to the hotel to get dressed for our dinner cruise, the finale of our trip!  And what a finale it was! 

We took a limo to the pier where the yacht was docked, which was fun and fancy in our fancy duds.  Once we boarded, and shoved off, we toasted with champagne to my parents for taking us on this amazing trip,
Window seats as a bonus!

All dressed up!

Watching the sunset with a NYC skyline and the Statue of Liberty, from the yacht, was just break-taking. 
Seriously, so romantic, even Josiah was inspired!

Look, Rob, that's where Titanic was supposed to dock in 1912.

Another glimpse of Lady Liberty at sunset.
A great dinner, and dancing, great views, a little romance, 
and did I mention dancing?  
We had a fabulous time!
After the cruise, we went back to the hotel to change, for some wild and crazy kissin at Time Square!  Well, I don't know about wild and crazy, but we kissed!  I finally got my wish and we all wandered around Times Square till late in the night, even stopping for a midnight snack at Roxy Delicatessen, who are known for their 1lb meat sandwiches, we only THOUGHT we were staying on the lighter side by ordering dessert!  That was the biggest slice of carrot cake, I've ever seen!  I did not finish the whole thing! 

This entire trip was just non stop packed with so much fun and excitement that I know I'm forgetting stories that I will wish I'd told, and then there are the ones that I'm not aloud to tell (wink wink), all and all, even with some weather disruptions, it was an amazing trip and I really wouldn't have done anything different.  Great memories were made with some of my very favorite people in my life!

Mom and Dad, you are THE BEST parents
that I could ever wish for!  
Thank you for this week of laughs and fun, 
you are amazing!
I love you both so very much!

Third (and final) Stop-NYC, Day 2

Well, today was a little wetter, we were hoping the rain would hold off for us, but, not so much.  Of course we made the best of it.  Today we had planned to do the Uptown Loop on our tour bus, but, with the rain, that was difficult. 
Our first stop was The Natural History Museum, I have to admit, Rob and I are museum junkies and could have done museums all day, but the rest of the family, well, I think they humored us with the one.  We usually have kids with us, making it difficult to stop and read things (yes, we are those people!), so this was a real treat!  By the way, is anyone noticing the trend of kissing pictures?  We did this in Paris too, it's kind of becoming our "thing".  Hopefully we're not grossing people out!
After making it through all the cool stuff my family could handle at the museum we headed out in some pretty heavy rain, to find lunch.  By sheer chance, really, we landed in another Italian restaurant, V & T's Pizzeria & Restaurant.  This was truly amazing pizza.  And these HUGE meatballs, that Josiah thought were pretty awesome!  This was not a quick trip in and out though, this was an experience, full of flavor.  We were there close to two hours.
After our lunch experience, Mom and Dad caught a cab back to the hotel to rest, because the rain was coming down pretty good.  The rest of us hopped on the bus again to finish out the Uptown Tour, arriving back at the hotel just in time to get ready for our evening.
THIS was our evening!  This was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, by far the best show I've seen.  Loved the music, and the story line, the performers were top notch.  It could be from growing up in Kansas that added to the greatness of this show for me, I definitely know my Oz, but I think anyone would love this show.
Dinner was at Virgil's Real Barbecue in Times Square, yes, after the show, eating dinner at 11:30 at night, we were not in Kansas anymore!  Sadly, this was not Kansas BBQ, I didn't remember liking it from the last time we were there, and somehow I even managed to order the same thing that i didn't like the first time.  I was not a fan, but then, I know good BBQ, right here at home in Kansas.  The only redeeming factor for me was Virgil's Ale, which was quite tasty.

Everyone was so tired that I couldn't talk them into staying out after dinner, so off to bed, more tomorrow!

Third (and final) Stop-NYC, Day 1

This is the post that I will try really hard not to forget anything, because everything was so amazing!  I am terrible at taking pictures on vacations, because I don't want to miss anything, and there is so much to see.  I did my best!  I completely admit to "cheating" off my Facebook posts to remember the order of everything too!  
I completely recommend getting a Grayline Bus Tour, first of all, this was my third experience with Grayline, and I just can't imagine going a different way.  I am really interested in all the history and architecture and just the what's what when I go to a new city, and the tour guides are just great.  Not to mention, with the hop-on hop-off, we didn't need taxis hardly at all.  I somehow felt safer up above all that traffic.
We tried out the subways on our last trip to NYC, and I felt like I missed parts of the city being down under it too.  When not on a bus, we walked, we actually walked a lot.  Josiah's favorite thing to say in NYC, "I'm walking here!", which was yelled at cabs passing in front of him!
We stayed at the Sheraton Towers in Times Square, which is totally swanky and beautiful, and we felt completely in the heart of it all.   And a block from our bus stop, we hoped on there right after we dropped our bags at the hotel, bright and early, Monday morning, we had sights to see!  First stop, The Empire State Building.  It was pretty overcast, so it's hard to see much, but the views were still pretty incredible.
Last time I was there, there was a lot of remodeling going on, so it was neat to see most of that completed now.
Next stops China Town and Little Italy...China Town, we more or less just walked through to get to Little Italy, but it never ceases to amaze me the amount of times I was asked if I wanted to buy *fill in the blank* designer labels.  My favorite was the guy who was saying, "Git yo Jimmy Choos before the police do!".
In Little Italy we came across a beautiful little restaurant "Casa Bella", situated on a corner, where there seemed to be four similar restaurants on each corner, this was a great choice on our part.  The food was AMAZING!

Seriously, good food!  Manicotti, and Fettucini Alfredo, both so fresh, homemade noodles, and fresh grated parmesan.
The atmosphere, which I see as a must, was great, beautiful chandeliers, huge flower arrangements, it felt like Italy.  Good company, also a must, was not scarce either, as you can see!
We were sat by the windows right on the corner and had a great view for people watching, where we saw, three men standing, really, in the street talking, it was the most bizarre thing.  Josiah insisted they were the Italian Mafia!
Our next stop was the 9/11 Memorial, which, just F.Y.I, you had to get tickets on-line, ahead of time, we were so glad to get that tip from my Cousin Keith who found out that the hard way.  It was really beautiful and I look forward to going back when everything is complete.  Really, my favorite part was the 9/11 Survivor Tree, I love that something so seemingly delicate could survive something like that.  I don't know why I didn't take a picture of it.

From the memorial we walked to Battery Park, on the way, the new shoes, that the sales lady assured me we be both comfortable and stylish, "the perfect shoes for NYC", I found to be horrible shoes for NYC!  I had blisters and a bleeding heel, and I desperately wanted a pair of socks!  I was about to take my shoes off and walk barefoot, when my sister, took off her socks and gave them to me!  Talk about sacrifice!  She saved the rest of the day for me!
At a quick stop at a public restroom in Battery Park, we met this little guy, who got VERY friendly with Rob on a bench.  Rob was just sitting there, minding his own business, waiting for us ladies, when this squirrel, literally just came over and sat on his lap!  When Andrea (who HATES squirrels) came out of the restroom, the guys tried to get her to sit down on the bench, just hoping for a similar result that Rob got.  So mean! 
This afternoon it rained a little, but we didn't let that stop us!  We hoped on the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty.
 Lady Liberty is currently under a lot of restoration, so we couldn't go inside or up, but it was still neat to see her standing tall and proud.
And we definitely got our photo ops here!

We actually rested for a little while after finishing the downtown loop on our bus, then went to dinner at Ellen's Stardust Diner on Broadway, it was seriously fun.  The wait staff all sing and dance, while serving, the atmosphere is so fun and the decor is this kichey-retro style.  The menu was so broad, pretty much whatever you felt like, they had it.  And it was all good!  My sister, dad and I were all singing (loudly) along with most of the songs, again, reminding Josiah and Rob how lucky they are (Hahaha!)

I couldn't talk anyone into going out on the town that night (something about being too tired, or something???), so off to bed to be ready for another full day!