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All Heart

8 Jul

Barrow County 7U All-Stars

They went out there and never gave up. Never. Two games played. Two games lost. Two games full of heart.

This was the first year for Barrow County to have a 7 and under All-Star team. The first year for the 7U to place in the district tournament. The first year for the 7U to make it to the Dizzy Dean State Tournament.

No, they didn’t win. In fact, they didn’t score a single run in either game. What they did though was keep playing with all their heart. They kept that heart in the pouring rain and after a two-hour mid-game rain delay where they had their concession stand hot dogs and french fries passed to them through the dugout fence. They kept that heart as their side of the board still glowed “0” inning after inning. Diving for catches, hustling for hits to outfield, swinging away, earning each base they ran or slid to claim. In the end, Nate didn’t cry because the team lost. He cried at dinner, hours after the game, because “I don’t want my season to be over” and “I won’t get to see my friends for a long time now.”

I’m beyond proud of these boys. They had so much fun playing the sport they love and hanging out as a team. They became that team within days after playing against each other in the regular spring season. Watching them on and off the field, you would never think they were ever opponents. They swam and laughed together, hunted slugs together until way past their bedtime, enjoyed a funny movie together, ate meal after meal together … On the field, they cheered each other on during the games and always showed support and concern for each other.

Nate can’t tie his shoes. He needs help cutting his steak. He can’t reach the hotel sink to brush his teeth. He can, however, track a hit baseball in the air and know exactly how to move to make the catch. They all know what they need to do to try to stay on that dirt for just one inning more. These little boys are so remarkable. Sure, they will lose games – but I have a feeling they will never lose their heart.

He Caught That

He Caught That?!

A Backpack, Boyfriend(?), and Other Back-to-School Stuff

13 Aug

As Nia and Nate made their way up the hill to the bus stop for the first day of school, my mind flashed back to last year. Sweet siblings. Kindergartener brother and Third Grader sister, holding hands as they made the walk together for the first time.

Sibling Sweetness – 2011

It’s funny to think what a difference a school year can make. Right after I took the photo below, now First Grader Nate darted across the street, making sure he’d beat us all to the corner of the street.


School Siblings, See ya! 2012

The kids were very excited to start this new year. Nate is digging the thought of getting bigger (and maybe getting to stay up later like Nia gets to sometimes). Nia, meanwhile, had been hoping for the teacher she got. When the letter arrived a week ago, she repeated over and over as Andrew opened it, “I hope it’s Mrs. Ballard. I hope it’s Mrs. Ballard.” Andrew tricked her and acted like it wasn’t but just as soon as he saw her face turn to disappointment, he gave her the announcement she wanted. Her face beamed. She then wanted to trick me like her daddy did to her. When I got home, she had a sad face and handed me the letter, “I really wanted Mrs. Ballard.” “Oh, I’m sorry Bean.” I looked at the letter and then looked up to her giggly, happy self. Apparently, she and Andrew rehearsed the trick.

She was so happy to be headed back to school that she didn’t even let a little girl get her down at the bus stop when she turned Nia around to see her back and then sneered, “That’s last year’s bag!” Nia told me she replied, “So? Actually, I’ve had it for three years. It’s a really sturdy bag.” I am always amazed at how she manages to be so cool against cruelty. Even more impressive? Nia was playing with the little girl, along with Nate and another friend, in our front yard when I got home after work. I need to take lessons from Bean’s heart and attitude.

Bean also had some discussions with a boy today about if she still had a “boyfriend.” Her response to this also cracks me up, “I don’t know. You should ask him. Why do you want to know anyways?” We gave her the talk that she doesn’t need to worry about any of that business. Just have friends. Something she insists is all she is with this other boy. “We’re just friends!” she says with animation and giggles. Sigh.

Nate was rewarded for good behavior with silver sticks next to his name and didn’t get any warning sticks. (Phew.) I’m hoping him “winning” the good deed sticks will help him keep his eye on the prize. You know, learning and all – while staying out of trouble, of course. Now, if he would just eat the fruit and veggies I pack for him …

I hope this year brings them fond memories and expands their brains enough to be able to play Apples to Apples with us without much explanation. After all, that’s why I had kids – breeding adorable, capable board game opponents is tough.


First and Fourth Graders!

It Was Fun

14 Apr

My employee badge is turned in, my desk is cleared out (I think … please let me know if I forgot something) and my see-you-laters were said through tears.

My time at Children’s has come to an end but the memories and friendships I made there will stay with me. I will keep them safe and hold them dear for always.

Best "Bye" Card Ever

Buddies, Baseball and Bulldogs

2 Apr

Bulldog Baseball Fans

We met through a love of baseball – cheering on our three boys and their t-ball team. Now, a season or so later, I’m happy we were all able to get together again – this time to cheer on the Bulldog baseball team.

Georgia didn’t win but we all had a great time in the stands and watching all of our kids run the bases (twice) after the game. (Andrew may or may not have timed Nate. He was trying so hard to pass a much taller kid in front of him and was pretty McSpeedy. The girls did great in their flip-flops and fashion wear.)

Our boys aren’t on the same t-ball team this season (in fact, we have to play against each other in a few weeks!) but I have a feeling they will be rooting for each other from across the field. All three of them love the sport so purely and intently. They watched the entire game, wearing their gloves and talking stats.

Baseball buds.

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Me vs. Dancing

1 Mar

I am not much of a dancer. I love to dance, but it doesn’t love me very much. I took dancing lessons when I was a child, but I had happy blinders on back then and only felt the joy of it, not the embarrassment. I dance in the kitchen when I’m cooking. I dance in front of the kids who only laugh when I really exaggerate my skills. (Their laughs make me happy so I actually exaggerate a lot around them. Plus, I don’t want them to ever be afraid to break it down like their mom.) I can’t even dance with my husband. (One of the reasons I was so happy my wedding dress covered my feet.) I’ve tried to dance in a dance-exercise class, but the other adult students, the instructors and the mirrors all made me feel self-conscious. It was all on me though. No one was being mean to me to make me feel that way. I was not being kind to myself and I never really felt encouraged. Then, my friend, Leigh, invited me to go to a Zumba class with her at a local church. I had attended another Zumba class once before because everyone talked about how fun it was. I ended up feeling like I always do. Well, that was a downer.

I remember the way I felt before meeting Leigh for the class. I didn’t want to go. I told myself, go to see Leigh and burn some calories. It was going to help my health. I’m so glad I convinced myself.

This Zumba class is special because of its instructor. Her name is Debbie and she has a refreshing spirit and uplifting smile. When I’m there, my mind doesn’t tell me I’m not good at it. Sure, it helps that there aren’t any mirrors, but I believe it comes down to Debbie’s personality and the friendly faces I see there each time I go. Leigh is a huge fan of Debbie’s and told me I should write a post about her for the Barrow Patch because her story may inspire others. Interviewing her made me feel like a journalist again. It was wonderful. I did get nervous before writing the post because I’m so used to writing all about me, me, me, but once I sat down to do it, I felt great.

Dancing did that. Maybe it likes me more than I thought it did. And even if it doesn’t, I don’t care. It’s impossible for me to hip shake or do the Running Man move without smiling.

Thankful for Lady Gaga

24 Jan

She is nice to him and he bashfully describes her as pretty. She stole his heart on a day near Halloween when she walked in his class dressed up as a Kindergarten (G-rated) Lady Gaga.

Nate was so enamored with Little Gaga that he announced to the class during a Thanksgiving lesson that he is most thankful for her. (His teacher emailed me about the sweetness.)

Turns out, the feeling is mutual. Her mom tells me that she “just loves Nate” and that she recently put him as no. 89 in her “Favorite 100 Things” book because there are 89 different reasons she likes him. She also saves every drawing Nate gives her and has them hanging in her room. This one was the first:


Nate will reassure us that they are not boyfriend and girlfriend. “I’m too young for that,” he maturely states and then turns his head down to the side to hide his grin.

I smile too, remembering a note to her that said, “I love you because you are nice to me.” So pure. So important. Such a beautiful reason to love someone. I hope he always thinks about that when it comes to his future “real” girlfriends. Loving the inside as much as the Lady Gaga.

A Dawg Day

18 Sep

I’m so glad our good friends and University of Georgia graduates asked us to attend a football game at their Alma Mater. We’ve lived just 30 minutes from Sanford Stadium for the last five years and we are big football fans (even attending our hometown’s high school games) but never made any effort to enjoy a game in Athens. We finally did on Saturday as UGA took on Coastal Carolina and it made for a great memory.


Go Dawgs!

The day began with a healthy amount of tailgating with some bring-your-own-portable-satellite-dish-and-tv pros. They even had a skillet plugged into a generator to make eggs and sausage and a margarita maker ready to serve. Andrew and Nate couldn’t be there for this part of it because Nate’s first t-ball game of the fall season happened that morning (they won 17 to 3!) but Nia and Camille made the most of it by exploring the wooded area near our tent, playing cards and propping their feet up while eating some pre-football fixins.


Pepperoni Rolls & Propped Feet


Go Fish on Football Saturday

The adults had our own dose of relaxin’ and fixins, including a tasty blue alcoholic beverage that Ginger concocted.


Happy Ginger


Blue Drink Cheers

The weather was beautiful for football but the sun and heat during the game made Nia and Nate duck for cover under our bleacher seats.


Hiding from the Heat & Sun


Nate Still Wants to Watch

True and tiny Dawg fan, Camille, didn’t want to miss any of the excitement and stayed above the seats to see the sights with her mom and dad.


Mommy-Daughter Fans!


Daddy-Daughter Dawg Watchers

The Dawgs went on to win 59-0 and Nate wanted the action to continue even after we left. Touchdown!


Still Playing

Beach, Boogie Boards, Brew and Buddies!

6 Sep

Our trip to Tybee Beach is now a week behind us but the memories are still as bright as our smiles were while we were there.

The Beach
Bean has always been our brave one when it comes to battling the waves. Nate, well, let’s just put it this way, when we told him we were going back to the beach, we didn’t get excitement and joy like we did from Nia – no – Nate actually started to cry a bit and said, “I don’t want to go!” We calmed him, assuring him that he could just chill on the sand.

As we walked out to the ocean for the first time this trip, we were prepared for the freak out fest – but he didn’t. In fact, the next day, he was running and playing in the calm low tide salt water pools – checking out a ton of tiny hermit crabs and throwing his Spiderman Scuba guy all over the water. All that helped him face the waves. He pumped himself up as he headed farther and farther out, “Natey, McNatey, you’re goin’ far now. Natey, McNatey, you’re doin’ it now.” And he did. By the time we were ready to leave for home, he was cruisin’ his newly purchased boogie board, just like his big sis.

Boogie Boards
Bean is a boogie boarding princess. She seriously could not get enough of surfing the waves. That also meant Andrew was exhausted because he was the one who helped her fight her way farther than Nate – or even I – would venture. (This all made my mom very nervous. Nate and I as well. Peas in a stress pod, us three.) Nia looked so grown up, smiling the whole time, as each wave she caught carried her closer to shore. She didn’t want to stop. I love her spirit, energy and bravery. Last year, a jellyfish got her good but you would never know it. I hope she always holds that strength – and carefree beach attitude – with her.

Brew Fest
During our time near Savannah, we also got to very much enjoy the annual Savannah Craft Brew Fest. We had tickets numbered 30 and 31. That’s how excited we were for this fest. Since Andrew’s been brewing his own beer and always appreciates a good brew, this was something he was really looking forward to. I was just ear to ear happy to be there with him on a date and with good friends and his sis surrounding us while we all sipped and laughed. (Thanks to Honey for spending the afternoon solo at the beach with the kiddos!)

As for Andrew’s favorite flavor, he says Cigar City’s Cubano Espresso and the Wild Heaven Brewing Co.’s Invocation Belgian Ale were at the top. He said the taste for both was unexpectedly good. He also enjoyed a cigar – that I actually kind of forced him to buy because he mentioned that one might be nice to have but then did his whole “neither here nor there” stance. Why not? It’s just one brew fest afternoon, after all.

My favorite sips would have to be either the Woodchuck Fall Limited Release Hard Cider or the Lagunitas Brewing Co.’s IPA. I mostly enjoyed just being there with some of my favorite people, across from beautiful downtown Savannah. A gorgeous view, brew and, yes, buds.

It made my heart so happy to see former co-workers and my old boss at WSAV. I’m not going to lie – I teared up a little seeing that newsroom that I spent so much of my life in. Heck, both of my babies were nurtured in my belly in that place – complete with the food from the fast food joints nearby it. It was so great getting to see them and they made me feel right at home. Great memories there. Where I grew up.

Our trip to Tybee wouldn’t be complete without our fix of seeing our dear friends, the Heidels. I wish we could have spent more time together but I’m so very thankful to have the brew fest hours and Sunday beach time with them. Miss Camille is such a sweetie and it was so fun watching her bury her dinosaurs in the sand. We were also spoiled to share in Ginger’s leftover football fixins. Can you say stuffed mushrooms? Buffalo chicken awesomeness? Even without that food and the constant great conversation we share, they are all always loved and missed like family.

We also got super lucky to see our good friend Paul and Matt, Shirley and Avery Fischer. We always cherish our time with Paul and my mom loved to have him as a porch buddy, enjoying an ocean view and excellent conversation. Meanwhile, Nia and Avery were picking up right where they left off a year ago. They were born to be buds and it’s even more awesome that we parents like each other too!

Beach time near Savannah also means getting to hug and squeeze our nieces, Ellanor and Magdalene. They got to sleep over and it was a blast! I love how the four cousins play so well together. They had some short beach time and spent a lot of condo time drawing pictures and chomping on popcorn. They couldn’t be happier!

I’m also so thankful my mom said yes to the stress-inducing layover flights (in rough weather no less). She loved sitting on the porch and watching the kids enjoy the ocean from her beach chair under the umbrella (when she wasn’t worried about their safety!). She also knows how to souvenir shop and braved a plate of crusty critters with me. (We laughed and gagged the whole way through.) I couldn’t ask for a cooler, more caring mom. Thanks, Lady. I love you lots.

Hope to see you next year, Tybee – with all the perks!

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Out of My Shell

14 Jun

Hi there.

I like to think of myself as a friendly person. I think I’m pretty nice to people and seem to be able to carry on conversations fairly easy with acquaintances. What I often have a difficult time with is follow-up. Continuing the connection. Letting new people in.

For example, I will often exchange phone numbers with other moms I meet. Moms who seem like nice, fun ladies but I’ll never know for sure because I never dial their digits. It’s often awkward to run into them down the road – both of us knowing I basically stood them up but never speaking of it. There is usually a repeat mention of trying again to get together. That doesn’t happen.

It’s not because I don’t want it to, because I do. I’ve had maybe two super close girl friends since we moved here. Sadly, one moved away with her fun family (thank goodness for facebook) and the other is still, thankfully, living next door to us with her wonderful family. I just miss having a few good friends to hang out with, rely on and share stories not suitable for PG-rated blogs or Facebook. I just don’t go there either because I’m not very trusting or something is just off…until now.

I’ve met some ladies who make it impossible for me to stay in my shell. They are so welcoming and we have so much in common that it’s impossible for me to be a lazy mommy loner. Our families have bonded over tee-ball, baseball camp, the Gwinnett Braves, swimming, ice cream, some church and many email/facebook chats.

I’m so thankful for them and the comfort and fun they’ve brought to our lives. I say all of our lives because what’s even more great about these mom friendships is that our husbands and children like each other too. When that happens, you put their phone numbers on speed dial and buy extra snacks/adult beverages to have in the house – just in case of spontaneous play-dates.

In Memory

30 May

Capt. Mike MacKinnon - Photo courtesy: USMA

I met him as we were checking out at the Target near our home in Savannah. He had his children with him and Andrew was really happy to see him. Andrew had served in Iraq with him in 2003 and they were members of The Long Gray Line (they both shared the experience of attending and graduating from West Point – he graduated in 1997, Andrew in 1998).

His name is Mike MacKinnon. Andrew told me how Mike would always watch “The Simpsons” with his children. That it was a special thing. Now, it’s hard for Andrew to watch the show and not think about Mike – and how he can no longer watch it with his kids.

Captain Mike MacKinnon was 30 years old when he was killed during his second tour of duty in Iraq. He died due to an IED. He died the year after I met him in that Target aisle. He left a legacy behind him with the people he met, led and served with – Andrew was just one of them. He took the picture below of Andrew. So very true to Andrew and I’m sure they all had a good laugh about it.

It is captioned: "Andy asleep"

Andrew doesn’t like to talk about Mike’s death – or the deaths of his other friends from the Army. But there are days – like Memorial Day – when he will share a memory with me or share that he’s thinking about them with others. I didn’t know them well at all – but I know that they – and those who miss them the most – will always be remembered.

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