Monday, August 22, 2016

Got Eggs?


On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I pried myself from the couch and slipped on my chicken boots.

We spent Friday night and Saturday in central Arkansas with my in-laws, so we skipped the much-needed yard cleanup. After a morning of church and lunch at my parents' house, it was time. Jonathan approached the garden with shears in hand, and I brought my basket and trusty shovel to the hen house.

First I tossed a few cucumbers to the chickens and apologized for the lack of attention, then I went on an egg hunt. We grabbed them Friday afternoon, so this particular collection was only two days' worth. I was shocked to pull eight eggs out of the first nesting box. I was shocked to find seven more in another. I was further shocked that the golf ball decoy egg had been precariously placed on top of the real things {who knows what those chickens are doing}. Fifteen eggs wasn't half bad for two days.

Then I checked the smaller coop and pulled out five more.


Twenty eggs in two days from ten birds. Before this I wasn't sure whether all of our spring chicks were laying, but that find made it practically fact. A small part of me thinks Popcorn is an overachiever, but that's doubtful.

I don't know if they're just showing off or this cooler weather is making a difference, but those egg machines are rolling. They all have yet to figure out where they're supposed to lay, but they seem to have learned what comes out of them. Science!

Other chores revolved around pulling food out of the sad garden. It has rained for 40 days and 40 nights. I am wearing cardigans daily and I had the audacity to say it felt chilly this weekend. We are inching closer to fall, and my spring plants are feeling it. The brightest spot is the okra. We have already frozen a ton, and the two rows show no sign of stopping. I also used Sunday to pick a peck of pickling peppers. The ones we made last year turned out so tasty, we used the same method and got two pints.

Tomatoes still hang on the vine, bright red and ready to pick, but the leaf-footed bugs have created a force field around each one. I won't dare get close enough to touch them. Gross. Following is the game plan for my tomatoes at this point in time: let the bugs have them.

It's no big deal, though. No matter what the weather and our not-always-green thumbs do to the food growing in the yard, there will always and forevermore be scrambled eggs.


Happy Monday, y'all! Let me know if you need a dozen or three.


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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Nora-isms


If you ask Nora, she would say there's been a severe lack of curls in this space lately.

The start of school for Nathan and Owen has thrown a new routine onto the whole family, and she's starting to feel it. Nora doesn't mind waking up earlier to brave the car line {as long as I play music at the correct volume and hand her a cereal bar from the right, not the left}. She loves finding Owen on the kindergarten bench and she appreciates the after-school snacks. However, the shift of attention has my drama queen miffed.

With Owen and Nora being close in age, I've always lumped them together as the little ones, but that changed Monday. Now we have two students and their kid sister. Because we're only a few days into the school year, I have yet to curb my 3:00 enthusiasm. I immediately ask for details, and they are excited to share. Until they're interrupted...

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's not talk about days. We are TOO TIRED to talk about days, OKAY?"

That's a direct quote from Tuesday afternoon and a hint at who's running the show. Nora's crazy mess of hair comes with a personality to match, and being quiet while her brothers talk isn't on the agenda. However annoying that may be {and it is super annoying}, I keep reminding myself that I'll print three back-to-school signs next year.

I want to embrace her now, attitude and all. I want to remember the three-year-old sayings that get us all giggling. I may have August 2031 circled somewhere as the date of ultimate freedom, but I can't miss what's in front of me today. Here's a sampling of Nora-isms for you to enjoy on this drizzly Thursday morning.

  1. Nuggles: One day she'll stop asking to be covered in nuggles and we'll all be in mourning. Nuggles aren't just any blanket. This word only applies to the thickest, coziest blanket she can drag to her spot on the couch. And if it's not tucked up to her chin, it's not right.

  2. Women: For some reason the S and W sounds don't play together well for Nora. So when she says she wants to go women in the women pool, please note she just wants to make a splash.

  3. Weet: For reasons stated above, anything that involves "sweet" is hilarious. She'll tell me I'm a weetie pie, then quote one of her favorite Zootopia lines {"It's called a hustle, weet heart"}. My favorite use of this word, however, comes from Nora's favorite commercial. Thanks, Lil Sweet, for providing daily entertainment.

  4. Mac and Roni: Two different words, two completely different food items. Don't get it wrong.

  5. Fluffy: Every animal, no matter the species, color, and oddly enough fur consistency, is named Fluffy. I assume we'll have a chicken named Fluffy one day. When she asks me to locate Fluffy in the car, sorting through the menagerie gets complicated. Nathan recently compared her to Agnes in Despicable Me. Yep.

Have a lovely day, y'all. If you happen to see Nora, be sure to say I posted about her.


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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Brothers Back to School


A lump rose in my throat as I waited in a car line that felt more like a parking lot.

Yesterday marked the start of school for the Bauer boys and my first afternoon stop was fourth-grade. As my car crawled beside the school, I saw a sea of students. Some seemed much taller and more mature than I expected {I guess sixth grade does that to a kid?}. Then I saw Nathan's wide smile. His hand shot up in the air to alert a teacher to escort him over. As he climbed in the seat behind me and buckled, I let go of the only word I could muster: "So??"

To my utter relief, but not so much surprise, he said: "Elementary school is AMAZING!"

In the few minutes it took to get from his school to Owen's, I learned the chicken sandwich is incredible, there is a different mix of kids in his music class than in homeroom, and changing classes is a million times better than sitting in one room. This conversation was interrupted multiple times by Nora who couldn't fathom not being the center of attention, but I gathered that fourth-grade will be great.

We entered the familiar primary school lot and I noticed a collection of tiny backpack-clad kids. Then mine hopped up. I heard Owen shout "Mama!" as the car line teacher took him by the hand. I braced myself for the kindergarten report and all he gave me was: "I don't like learning."

You win some, you lose some?

The poor guy was almost snoozing by the time we got home. We parked and I asked all of my children to carry their own backpacks. {Yes, Nora, you can carry yours, too. Yes, I know you're a big girl.} Owen walked into the house, and I noticed a grin below his tired brown eyes. He opened his backpack and asked if he could show me something.

He pulled out coloring pages and showed me how he could stay in the lines. He told me about his teacher's behavior system, and said he was good today so he got to move to blue. He said he sat next to his best friends from preschool in the cafeteria, and he was brave enough to ask a teacher to open his Cheez-Its. He watched a movie at recess, and played a fun game in PE. Small snippets of kindergarten poured forth. "I think I did like my first day." Whew.

The rest of our Monday involved dinner, cleaning, baths, and preparation for the next day. Nathan had to give his class schedule to his teacher, so I frowned as I admitted I wasn't sure what specialty class he would attend next. He rolled his eyes and recited the full week to me. He's got this.

Knowing Owen would no longer be walked in by his Daddy, I went over directions to the kindergarten hall. He surprised me by describing landmarks I must have missed, and said he knows to find the Fox in Socks room. He's got this.

We'll hit bumps in the road we won't see coming, but at least my sons started on a good note. They were both willing to go back today, so I'd call that a success.


Happy New School Year, y'all! I hope your kids had a wonderful first day.


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Friday, August 12, 2016

Overdrive


I spent yesterday with a handful of patient teachers, talking about peanut allergies, navigating an eight-period class schedule, maneuvering the car line at two different schools, and how my baby will have homework twice a week.

We spent hours registering Nathan and Owen for school, and I left more scatterbrained than prepared.

I was so overwhelmed, I didn't even join the legion of Facebook moms who shared photos of their students in decorated hallways. The Lunchables are already waiting. I know the route to school and the teachers' names {at least Nathan's homeroom}, but the buck stops there. I went to bed with a fresh set of worries.

How will Nathan memorize his schedule? Does he remember how to get to the cafeteria? I don't remember how to get the cafeteria. Will Baby Owen, who I thought just turned two, bring his agenda book home? Will he gather the courage to tell the lunch ladies whether he wants nuggets or a burrito? He's not ready. I have to teach him how to be a real person over the weekend. Why don't I have any social security numbers memorized? Am I terrible parent? I have failed everyone.

I spiraled into oblivion, as you plainly read, and fell asleep before the wine could save me. This morning my brain is still in overdrive, but I'm starting to fit the new puzzle pieces.

Nathan admitted to his teachers he's as nervous as he is eager, and that's okay. He has a schedule to learn to read, new teachers, new classrooms, and a new school. On the bright side, he's familiar with most of his classmates and he found out he was selected for the fourth-grade Gifted and Talented program. Owen took a minute to warm up to his new teacher, but then she introduced him to Martin the guinea pig. He happily smiled for her in front of a sign that read "kindergarten kid" and couldn't contain his enthusiasm when he slid into a desk. As it turns out {and as my husband could have told you before}, it's not them we have to worry about.

I don't share this to give you a sneak peek of my crazy {but, hello, there it is}, I say this because maybe you, too, are feeling blindsided by the adjustments of a new school year. Maybe I'm not the only one whose mind is racing with lists to make and worries to extinguish. Just keep telling yourself the same thing I've been chanting since our whirlwind registration: It's going to be okay.

They're ready, whether we are or not.

On an extremely related note, I'm thankful for the two unopened bottles of wine in my fridge. Have a good weekend, y'all.


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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Picture-Perfect Vacation


A picture's worth a thousand words, right?

If you kept an eye on my Instagram this weekend, you witnessed copious amounts of beachfront posts. The wispy clouds framed Owen standing patiently by the shore. You saw Nora, pink sunglasses in place, at bliss inches from the gorgeous sand. There were no signs of jellyfish sting remedy vigorously rubbed on thighs nor a single midnight meltdown. Pictures paint a thousand words, and while I have plenty of beautiful Gulf Shores photos to share... I'm here to trade out some of those words.


Last weekend the Bauer Bunch {plus two grandparents} braved the eight-hour trek to southern Alabama to dip our toes before school starts. Once the kids were properly separated and Nora was handed a Capri Sun in the fashion she requested, it wasn't too bad of a drive.

We stayed in a condo right on the beach, which helped in the act of transporting two boogie boards, two beach mats, 47 towels, a bag of snacks and drinks, a bag of sand toys, first aid, sunscreen, flip flops, and three kids. It was especially nice the morning we made the return trip a mere 15 minutes after arrival. This was not the case on the first day, however. The Bauer Boys sprinted into the water, collecting dozens of shells and chasing seagulls. There was even a shallow river that somehow formed between the shore and our chairs. Naturally, Owen used it to master surfing.


This was the day Nora June decided to tolerate the beach. She even let her Daddy bury her wiggly toes. For the remainder of our stay, however, she denounced all surf and sand. She spent hours splashing in the condo pool. And if this was what it took to make her happy, I was splashing right beside her. {insert completely authentic grin}

Adventures that did not involve swim diapers included a dolphin cruise and exploration of local cuisine. The latter included a collection of mama-sized margaritas, obviously. The final night we ducked into Bahama Bob's, a small joint just a block or two from our condo. It ended up being the best! We chowed down on fried alligator, delicious scallops, and you know I had a round of crab legs.


The afternoons in the condo were incredible. Most members of our party were either snoozing or electronically occupied, and it was quiet. It was insanely quiet. I watched the waves lap onto the sand over and over, and I tried to let loose of the late-summer-the-kids-are-driving-me-insane tension. Unfortunately, it returned at bedtime in an unfamiliar location, but we managed.

We got home late Monday night, satisfied that we were no longer trapped like road trip rats and thankful for clean bathrooms. Family vacations aren't always just what you see in the wide-grinned photos. We had a lot of fun, we had a lot of stress, and I'm thankful for the memories made {props to my parents for putting up with us}.

The ocean air was nice for a weekend, but I am happy to be home and ready for new routines. Now I will flip through these wonderful images as I count down the seconds until school starts.

Happy Hump Day, y'all!


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Monday, August 1, 2016

Dear August


Today starts the end of summer, and we are holding on as tight as we can.

Happy August, y'all! Summer 2016 has been packed full of adventure and sweaty, sweaty children. While I do like the idea of routine returning to the Bauer house, there are exactly two weeks of summer break left. By golly, we're going to use them. Read on to see what we'll be up to as the summer fades into backpacks and alarm clocks. What are you most looking forward to this month?

  1. Favorite Thing: My favorite thing about August is the peak of summer. It's all downhill from here, so we have to make it count... in Gulf Shores. We will be beach-bound soon, and this time we're bringing the kids. Stay tuned!

  2. Loving: Rain in the forecast. Last week brought the first all-day rain I had seen this summer, and my garden rejoiced. Funny how August arrived under 100 degrees. It's a bit backward, but I won't question it.

  3. Eating: All I can think about this week is shrimp. Fried shrimp, boiled shrimp, shrimp kebabs, shrimp gumbo. All of the shrimp Alabama can provide. I'd wager you'll have good odds if you bet on seeing shellfish on my Instagram this week. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  4. Hoping: I'm hoping my chickens will be fine while we're away. Unfortunately, we lost sweet Nugget a few weeks ago, likely due to the insane heat. The new girls are starting to lay, and we've rigged up an intricate fan system to keep them all cool in the coop.

  5. Dreading: I'm excited about new starts for my boys. Owen will begin kindergarten and Nathan moves to the elementary school for fourth-grade. However, the one back-to-school requirement I'm dreading is the morning rush. The idea of forcing them to rise before 7:00 haunts me. We'll make it happen. Somehow.

  6. Wearing: If I can't gush about my new chicken boots to you, what kind of friends are we? I believe they suit me, and the chicken poop that's bound to cover them should blend right in.

  7. Watching: We have been flipping to HGTV any time we see "tiny house" in the title. Mostly we giggle at the buyers who ask for more dining space or a bigger tub, but we also discuss whether we could do it. The first order of business would be selling the kids.

  8. Hearing: There have been many summer work commutes that feature me and all three kids. They haven't been pleasant. Nora and Owen now reach one another. I think that should fill in the "hearing" blank.

  9. Preparing: My heart to send my baby to kindergarten. As I mentioned a few bullets up, I'm excited to see what the future holds, but I know the emotions involved. Owen already knows his teacher's name and is aware of a guinea pig class pet. He's more ready than I am.

  10. Doing: It may not be a job that earns real dollars, but this time of year I get wound up in youth ministry. I have been trying to force all the puzzle pieces into the calendar, and searching my brain {and the Internet} for fun kick-off ideas. Say a prayer for us as we get going?


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Friday, July 29, 2016

Foodie Friday // Garden Update


The lovely ladies at Arkansas Women Bloggers host a weekly feature called Foodie Friday, in which local writers share recipes.

And would you believe I was asked to participate?? Debbie is likely unaware of how little I know when it comes to the kitchen, and I doubt she wanted a recipe for thawing nuggets or stirring mac and cheese. She had a motive, though. July's Foodie Friday theme is "eating our gardens" and she knew my thumb is as green as my culinary skills. I accepted, then turned right to my husband for help. We decided to share his delicious homegrown stir-fry, and used a version that featured produce from all over our town. You can read my narrative and his recipe on their site today.

Click HERE to read the post, leave a nice comment, then give it a whirl for dinner tonight. If you have a bag of rice, soy sauce, and some form of veggies and protein on hand, you're good to go. Kids can pick around what they don't like, and they'll probably accidentally eat a vegetable or two. Bon appetit, y'all!


GARDEN UPDATE // This particular harvest season has come with plenty of help, even if the "help" consists of sprinkling dirt on everything. Nora loves searching the plants to fill her basket and counting how many sunflowers are open. The weeds are back with a vengeance and the excruciatingly hot afternoons don't exactly make garden labor inviting. She doesn't mind, though. She thinks her garden is beautiful, and so do I.

With late summer does come new trouble, though. We have hordes of stink bugs and leaf-footed bugs on the tomatoes and they're starting to invade the nearby cucumbers. We have tried various methods, but we are still knee-deep in battle. Trust me, I'd love to share these vegetables with whichever humans {and chickens} can appreciate them, but I hate sharing with bugs. We carry on, though. I'll shudder when I see them, ask Jonathan to remove them, and pick tomatoes like nothing happened. It's easiest this way.

That's your official garden update. Everything is overgrown, leggy, and maybe a bit past its prime, but the bounty keeps coming. How does your garden grow? More importantly, how are you using your garden this season? I showed you my recipe, now show me yours. Seriously, leave me tips in the comments. Share recipes to use up tomatoes, pickling ideas, and maybe even a salsa or two. Don't be shy, show me what you've got!

Have a great weekend, y'all. Get dirty!


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Friday, July 22, 2016

Take Care


When the idea behind parenting is taking care of new people so they can take care of themselves, it's easy to get lost.

Last week at Arkansas Women Bloggers, I talked about discovering your kids and mentioned the importance of looking in the mirror, too. While I focused on parenting in that post, today I am focusing on me and you. I hold the opinion that motherhood isn't about being the martyr who drowns while holding up her kids. You have to take care of yourself to be the best parent/person you can be.

Self-care options range from watching Netflix for six hours at a time to running a marathon. While every person's needs and rations of free time are different, I've been thinking about what I can do to keep my own wheels turning. In treating myself, though, I have learned a few things. My best care is something that leaves a positive impact. While watching TV for hours on end sounds like a good time {and maybe it is for you!}, it usually leaves me feeling worse. I'm bad about beating myself up over non-productivity, so I recharge by getting things done for myself. Some of you moms might be laughing at me thinking "time to yourself" is a mythical rainbow-colored unicorn, but it's not. It takes just a few seconds to refocus and renew, so look for opportunities. I know you need it.

These are just a few easy methods of self-care I grab on to when the world seems to spin faster. I felt like sharing them because I needed to remind myself, but maybe you could use a reminder, too.

  • TOGETHER As surrounded as I am by people in this house, sometimes parenting can be lonely. It is fulfilling heart and soul to connect on a personal level with other adults. It is imperative to spend time with friends who can empathize and swap stories or even wipe "kid talk" off the plate.

  • ALONE Date night isn't "alone" to many, but it's my favorite form of the word. A huge dose of self-care for me is calling a babysitter and being my husband's wife. Whether it's stealing TV time after the kids are asleep or a full-on black dress date night, time with Jonathan is good for my soul. He reminds me who I am.

  • STILL Sometimes the best treatment is a still moment. I use them to remember where I am and what's important. Sometimes this means taking a glass of tea to the porch swing or just folding towels on the couch while Nora's napping. Quiet moments are rare, so I try to notice and enjoy them.

  • SWEAT It's the opposite of warm blankets and hot coffee on the couch, but working out is therapeutic for me. My brain feels better, my body feels better, and I make better choices afterward. I don't just work out to look a certain way, I do it because I want to be strong and healthy. It does my body {and my mental state} good.

  • WRITE Moments of quiet at the keyboard {like the one I'm having now, for instance} fill my empty cup. Whether I'm sitting down to a fresh blog post, brainstorming ideas for youth group, or jotting plans on my calendar, this gives me a sense of organization and accomplishment.

  • GROW If you read last Friday's post, you know what my garden is to me. The sun on my shoulders and the dirt on my hands give me life. My thoughts wonder as I plant and prune and dig and harvest. I get to see the literal fruits of my labor. Just a few minutes in the back yard brings the calm I need. It keeps me... grounded.

I am in no way a medical professional. I am just a girl who gets very overwhelmed very easily, and these are a few of the things that bring me back. How do you help yourself?


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