Sunday, May 25, 2008

Saturday is a Special Day...

After a morning of WORKING HARD in the house for three hours - the kids were mopping floors, dusting, vacuuming, doing laundry & dishes, and watering ALL the plants. The kids and I decided to go and have some fun!

We visited a children's play area and the kids enjoyed the bumper boats and the swinging ball (as pictured). The children ALL got dizzy playing so hard - but we stayed for three hours and played and played! (Today they have blisters on their hands from too much fun!) 'Daddy' was able to come and visit with us for a couple of hours during the lunch period - it was nice to see him because he has been SO busy lately.

After a day of cleaning, playing, and a fiesta for a friend's birthday our little ones fell into bed after their showers and had a HARD time waking up for our 8am sacrament meeting!

Friday, May 23, 2008

National Masters Swimming Competition in Mexico!

Well, today was the big Mexican National Swimming Competition - and am I ever glad that I approached it as a fun activity to enhance my exercising schedule BECAUSE there were 2,200 swimmers competing! It was great fun. I didn't come in either first or last in my heat... somewhere in the middle - which was a success, I thought, considering there were swimmers there with official Beijing 2008 training gear... they were going to the Olympics and they were there at the National Competition! Granted, that shouldn't be surprising considering they will be representing their country in a few months... but, when you are a mother of four children just in it for the experience and exercise it definitely is an EXPERIENCE to be in a competition with Olympians! (Just for the record I was not in their category or anywhere close!) So amazing - they cut the water so quickly... it was really amazing to watch them in person!

I performed the breast stroke which is nearly my weakest competitive stroke. (My butterfly still looks like a fish with one fin cut off flailing through the water...) I did 50m in 1:05 minutes (which is REALLY SLOW for those of you who have no idea how long a minute can actually feel). I am attributing my time to the fact that I was competing with a jammed toe... but, more likely I was just slower than the other swimmers in my heat... oh well! In the spirit of fun and experience it was well worth it! "Viva"!

UPDATE: When I was commenting on the Olympic swimmers at the National Competition my trainer informed me that although there were great swimmers at the tournament there were no Olympic swimmers - when I told her about the shirts she replied that they were selling those shirts outside of the complex! So, don't believe every tee-shirt you see!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Congratulations Dr. Smith

This past weekend my brother graduated with his doctorate degree! He and his amazing wife have attended school for the last eight years. They have three beautiful children and are a wonderful example to many who wonder whether or not it is possible to have a family while going through graduate school! (Please note that I did mention that my sister-in-law is amazing - that is much of the reason why my brother was able to balance school and family!)

My brother has worked diligently to receive his education, serve in church and be a wonderful husband and father. He has stood as an incredible example to his family, friends and all who come in contact with him! It is amazing to me that my little brother who I played with in the sandbox, pushed around in a wagon (once which fell over and he broke his arm... which none of us believed for a time) and who would kindly help grab hair pins or make-up for me when I was getting ready to go out has completed such a fantastic goal and will now have the privilege of shaping the minds of students and contributing to the knowledge of the world through his reasearch. Both his colleagues and students could not ask to know a better person - for they will learn not only from his words but also from his life.

I am so grateful for my family and for the fact that their lives are exemplary both privately and publically! I, for one, wish to thank them each for who they are because they have made a difference in my life as well as have impacted all those around them.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

I don't quite know the answer to this age old question... but this week while taking the kids to school I have had to literally stop the car twice to let 'the chicken' cross the road! Lucky for the chicken I wasn't running late getting the kids to school this morning!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

OUCHes and Hairspray!

OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! I apologize sincerely to my brothers, sister and my cute husband for all the times I told them to toughen up and handle a jammed body part! I have told my husband on one particular occasion when he was in similar (or worse) pain to 'be a man' and handle his injured foot. In my defense I didn't think it was a real injury - it turned out that he had to have surgery under sedation to fix that problem! I obviously judged that one wrong...

Yesterday, after playing a rousing game of water soccer (soccer on an inflatable soccer field with water dousing the entire plastic field - see !Dia de Familia!) I realized that when I catapulted my body into a sprawl of people while I was kicking at a ball I definitely hit something other than the ball... I hit, full force, the heel of another person!

Normally I have cute, little feet - but now, one toe on my right foot is SO swollen and SORE! OUCH! I was SO SURE I broke my toe... but of course my husband who has actually broken parts of his body before examined my toe and declared that I had only 'jammed' it. OUCH! So, today, I hobbled around church in my most protective, least restrictive high heels! I have to say, I am exhausted from walking around in pain! NO FUN! Of course tonight there are the mandatory 'extra' meetings! I may just wear a sneaker to it...

Then after church I made lunch for our little ones and our son walks in with plastered hair. At first I thought it was just water... then I touched it! You could drop an anvil on my son's head and I don't think it would crack the layer of hairspray on this child. I asked how much hairspray he used and he replied, "TONS, Mom, TONS!" At least he has good aim and his eyes aren't permanently damaged!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

You Know you've been in Mexico too long when...

My husband's Top 3 Encounters that have helped him realize we have been in Mexico for a while...

1) Your daughter while playing Star Wars on the PS3 says:
"Dad, go play Juan!"
"Who, do you mean HAN Solo?"
"Oh... yeah, yeah!"

2) Another daughter after bringing the new cat, Suess, food says:
"Here Jesus!"
"Who, isn't the cat's name Suess?"
"Oh, yeah Suess."

3) After our little Strawberry was using her Spanish at dinner Jimmy turned to me and said, "I think she speaks Spanish best - because I didn't understand what she was saying!"

Have I Done any Good in the World Today?...

Over the last few months I have pondered about what I can do to make a difference while we are here in Mexico! (Having all the kids in school for half the day makes me feel that I need to do more in my day now!)

English Classes:
I was reading in "Preach My Gospel" and in the section regarding learning your language it stated that all people, if given the opportunity should learn English. I then realized that I could teach English while I was here... so, for the last month I have been pulling together the curriculum, making handouts for the public, scheduling the missionaries to attend as translators, working with our ward and preparing to teach these classes.

This last week was our first class and we had four Spanish speakers - we were communicating back and forth about everything from English verbs to how to speak about hydraulic systems and marketing! We had a great time and the two hours flew by! The students all took handouts and were excited to share this free service with friends and family. (So the next class promises to be larger!)

I had a warm, tingly experience after class...a young man approached me and asked why I would do this for the people. I shared my testimony of service and that we are all here to help one another; I could tell that he was grateful for the opportunity to learn; for him it will open doors otherwise closed in the business world. I hope for those who come to the classes that their lives will be better because they are able to communicate with more of our Father in Heaven's children.

As I was preparing these classes I expressed my surprise to a friend that of all the languages in the world the church would request that as many people as possible learn English; the sister to whom I expressed this thought stated, "Andrea, English is the language of the Restoration."

I had not considered English in that manner until she made the comment. I have not before realized HOW GRATEFUL I AM TO SPEAK ENGLISH! In all the world, no matter which country I have traveled into I have always been able to communicate and I have not realized what a blessing that has been in my life! In fact, I have never considered not being able to communicate - granted, I have worked HARD here to learn and communicate in the Spanish language but it was never a worry for me.

But of course, talking has never really been a problem...

Parent In-School Volunteer Program:
The second endeavor that I have undertaken to begin here is a Parent Volunteer Program in my children's school during school hours. In the U.S.A. I would volunteer weekly in the children's schools - but here when we visited all the schools and I asked about the volunteer programs they looked at me as though they didn't understand English (which they all did). They do not have parent volunteers in school here although they do have groups similar to the PTA - and they weren't quite sure what to do with me. So, I began working with the principal of the Pre-School and Elementary levels and I have begun working in the classrooms (I have been working in our children's classrooms which is COMPLETELY UNHEARD of here because the administration believed that with a mother in the classroom that children will not listen to the teacher - so they have been assessing my children's reactions while I am in the classroom as well). I have also been providing the school with example handbooks of instructions for volunteers, badges, sign-in sheets, etc. This year the program will be by invitation only and will serve as a pilot program. We hope everything will succeed and that parents will be excited about being more involved in the lives of their children in the schoolroom!

Our own Dr. Suess...

A little gray and white cat found our home and we have 'adopted' this little cutie. She is strictly an outdoor cat and she fits in well with the ducks and rabbits - we are rapidly becoming the Granja de Ballard - Ballard Farm! She is a friendly, little cat and we have enjoyed having her or him around (we haven't gotten close enough to distinguish). Our little man named the cat, "Suess" - we all thought it fit perfectly!

!Dia de La Familia!

When you put together families, food and tons of water you get a day of wet, crazy, fun! Our family had a fantastic time at the Family Fun day sponsored by our chlidren's school! There was four types of games that were played by differnt 'teams' in a rotation style! We played water balloon volleyball; submarine (a pair of people stand one behind the other the head of the 'submarine' is supposed to pull bandanas from the 'tail' of other submarines and the tail is supposed to protect the team's bandana from being pulled); water soccer on an inflatable, wet, soccer field and traditional Mexican games! The families had a great time together and we learned some traditional Mexican games - one was a mix of duck, duck goose and Red Rover and the other was a type of 'freeze' game.

The children enjoyed the water games the best, of course! The water volleyball game was a big hit and the water soccer game was mother's and children against fathers (hmmm... wonder whose idea that was?) probably the father's! Sufficed to say the father's team won - the women and children's team had plenty of goal attempts but my dear husband was the goalie and did his job extremely well - so well that other mother's were telling me to go and distract my husband! We had tons of wet fun!

The school mascot was walking around and posed with the children for one of our pictures! We had fun with all the other students and their families.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Happy Mother's Day!"

The Creation of a Mother
Andrea L. Ballard

A mother is a miracle; A special gift from heaven –
When our Father chose to send us here it is to her whom we are given.

Her covenants promise she will try to do as He would ask.
Little does a mother know of the magnitude of her task.

The first time she holds her baby close, she feels the mantle fall.
Eternity has it’s beginning - and she is ready for the call.

She cradles in her arms this special gift and shares her hopes in prayer.
She comes to realize more of family and the joys in which they’ll share.

Then comes the tests -
The sleepless nights, diapers, drool and more…
The bottles, toys and little clothes all strewn across the floor.

She Listens, Loves, Cares, Nurtures and gives discipline.
Her example is the schoolroom into which this child was given.

She loves, serves and gives her all as the years pass on.
Her family comprises her closest friends for this life and beyond.

After the trials and tests of life she reflects and understands…
That as she grew and overcame by faith,
she’s become a miracle at the Master’s hand.

Tip of the Day!

I was doing my visiting teaching this month and the lesson's focus was on eternal families. The entire family had gathered to hear the lesson and my companion hadn't showed up yet. So, as I began teaching the lesson I was attempting to make the comment that joy comes from our families and that Satan is miserable partially due to the fact that he cannot partake in the joy of family. That is what I MEANT to say... this is what I said, "Satanas tiene mucho misercordia porque el no tiene una familia." - at this point the family started looking at me strangely and because I am learning this language and I am a foreigner here I could read that expression in a minute! I knew I had said something incorrect. But, I had NO idea what. Then, the sweet sister asked in halting English if I meant "miserables" (misery) and I realized what I had done; "misercordia" is mercy and "miserable" is misery.

So, the tip of the day is when teaching a religious lesson in another language it is always wise to make sure you have your adjectives correct and don't speak a word until your companion is there to correct major errors regarding gospel principles!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dia de Las Madres!

This morning the children woke Jimmy and I up at 7:15 am with my breakfast in bed! They had made me oatmeal, yogurt and water to drink. This was the first year that they have arisen on their own and made a special breakfast without the help of their Dad! They brought in presents that they had made and we had a wonderful breakfast! What a great way to start my Mother's Day Weekend - with the best kids in the world!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Happy Mother's Day! ... Early!

Our little man jumped in the car when I picked him up from school today just bubbling with excitement. He started talking about Mother's Day and told me he had made me something; all while quickly opening his backpack. Then he pulled out this handpainted, handmade, beautiful picture frame with a picture of my single favorite little boy in this world! He announced, "Happy Mother's Day Mommy" and gave me this sweet gift - a couple of days early for the 'official' Mother's Day... but in reality, isn't every day a celebration of motherhood and family?

Tip of the Day!

Here in Mexico it is customary when people greet that they kiss on one cheek. (French foreigners share a kiss on each cheek.) So, we are kissed multiple times daily by numerous friends. Thus, when I recently attended a Stake Meeting there were numerous friends around and there was tons of kissing going on... so, when the Stake President came up to greet me he shook my hand and I gave him a kiss on the cheek. He froze for a second and I said, "Este es apropiado?" (Is this appropriate?) To which he replied, "Ummmm, normalmente, no." (Normally, No.) So, the next time I saw him I stood three feet away and stretched my hand out across the divide - which made President Garcia just laugh out loud! (Lucky for me he has a great sense of humor.)

So, the tip of the day is don't kiss your ecclesiastical leaders - they are off limits!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Puerto Vallarta! Sand, Sun and Sea...

Although the sea was wonderful and the company couldn't have been better - what will be forever seared into the mind of my husband will be the driving nightmares we experienced on this trip! Yes, this past weekend our family traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico! We drove, and drove, and drove - little did we realize that we would be driving through the Sierra Madre Mountains! The winding, curvy roads were fun to drive although harrowing at times! We saw tons of Blue Agave plantations (the Blue Agave cactus is used to make Tequila) we also saw signs for festivities hosted by the "Jose Cuervo Foundation"! We saw many burning wildfires that were charring the Mexican mountainside and the smell permeated our car - the landscape is already very dry and the fires were burning and smoldering over much of the mountainside.

At one point as we approached a highway tollbooth we noticed lots of people gathered at the toll booth with no cars nearby, interesting, you say... well, we found that we were driving into a migrant worker uprising - the workers were taking a stance against the Mexican government and they had seized the toll booths along highways! We were grateful that we were waved through for free with only a leaflet to tell us what exactly was happening! (After the drive my husband probably wished he had a 'few rounds of Jose Cuervo'...) But, after all the craziness; We made it!

The ocean was beautiful, the sunsets perfect and our hotel room (although decorated in what must be described as 'rustic Mexican')had a lovely terrace overlooking the ocean and "La Playa Conchas Chinas" - located just a bit south of the city center! Once we checked in the kids couldn't wait to get down to the beach and I was a bit hesitant to throw on a bathing suit that my husband bought for me in the U.S.A. but, after reminding myself that I knew noone here our family trekked down to the beach! We went down at high tide and waded around, played in the sand (built a HUGE sand castle with three security walls - engineered by our own dear "Daddy") and our family stood together on the beach as we watched a beautiful sunset together!

Also while in Puerto Vallarta we walked the world famous Malecon - the Mexican version of the Boardwalk. The statues pictured are some of those on the Malecon. We watched sand sculptures being made, went down and threw rocks into the ocean and heard some great Mexican music being played on the stage at "Los Arcos". While in town we were able to visit the square and see the main cathedral. The kids loved feeding the pigeons - they were so comfortable with humans that they would eat right off your hands!

We had a wonderful time and my husband surprised us all with a room service dinner out on our terrace overlooking the ocean! He made sure to order me fresh Lobster! Our family had a wonderful time! We loved the ocean, the little town and the ocean! It was an experience not to be forgotten!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Día de Niños!

Here in Mexico there is a day dedicated to celebrating children and how wonderful they are... Dia de Ninos! so, I would like to share a bit about how great my children are! (Of course this will be a bit biased!)

"Sunshine", our eldest daughter got this nickname because when she was a baby she was very happy and a wonderful child - I would often find myself singing 'You are my Sunshine, my only Sunshine...' and the nickname came from her happy temperament and her willingnes to take life as it comes. She is a great help to her siblings - and she is a great little mother as well! If school didn't interfere she and I would be joined at the hip! Whenever she is at home she is talking with me, helping cook dinners, sitting with me at the computer or just hanging out while I get some work done. She is a great daughter, friend and sister! We love having her in our family!

Ladybug is next! She is our catalyst for games, physical activities and fun. She has an independent side and has a special gift for making friends and setting a wonderful example for them. She is also a complete neat freak (which Mom LOVES) and when I need something done just the right way I know that she will get it done! She does very well in school and just found out that she is getting glasses next week! So exciting... she picked out some 'fashionable' frames and is looking forward to a new 'look'! She is a wonderful addition to our family!

Our little 'Strawberry' loves to emulate her mom and sisters! She is a ball of energy and loves to put on make-up, dress up, sing and dance! She is often found dancing around with her sisters. This year is her first year in school and she has done exceptionally well - learning in English and Spanish! Which is great because she just was prescribed glasses as well and we have found that she couldn't see much of what was happening on the board at school! She adapts so well and is intent on helping others and making sure that everyone feels good. She shares so much with our family!

Our little man is next and he can hold his own for a young boy with three sisters! He is at the stage where he can be the cutest, moost helpful young man one minute and the next minute he is flooding the bathroom while his 'Star Wars Galactic Heroes' are taking a bath - or swimming - or drowning in galactic goo or some such thing! He has a great imagination and a ton of energy - he stopped taking naps at about two years old! He gives the best hugs in the world and loves to 'snuggle'! He adds so much love to our family and we are grateful to have him here with us!

Primary Acitivity Day

We had our first Primary Activity Day this past week! What a bunch of fun... the Primary Presidency had made paper-mache piggy banks for all of the children and they each got to paint and decorate their own! All of the piggy banks were pink - except our little man who doesn't mind being differnt - his was a bright blue! All the kids had a great time - although some of our shirts will never be the same and we had to do some major scrubbing to get off the paint - we had fun and made piggy banks to help the children learn to save money!

While Dad's Away...

This is what our Master Bedroom looks like when my cute husband is away on business - if you can see them all there are five beds in the Master Bedroom! When he is away every night is a sleep over! (In truth it makes the nights easier. I don't have to run around the house when I am called and whenever I am concerned if someone is all right I just open my eyes and look around!) We sure miss 'Daddy' but we are having fun!