Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My Home

I am from piles of laundry and forgotten toys,

from discarded school papers gleaming with praise and little pink shoes left in the hallway.
I am from the ordinary house at the end of the row, nestled in the quiet cow pastures.
From the yellow door that welcomes visitors and chickens that do the same.
I am from the sunflowers that grow tall and mighty in the back yard,
the tomato plants whose scent slices through the sticky Arkansas summer.
I am from the unchanging pine trees whose branches remain steady,
keeping constant watch over my family.

I'm from my grandmother's lake and a line of round brown eyes,
from Steve and Celia, who forged the path for my family and my future.
I'm from Catholicism and music and a love for the great outdoors.
I'm from over-thinking and over-loving,
from a competitive streak and a desire to change the world.

I'm from Don't ride your bike into the highway! and Remember to bring your brother,
and the ever-present Golden Rule.
I'm from hours spent sitting on the piano bench and more spent splashing in the pool.
I'm from Blytheville and Osceola, from the poor, huddled masses and the first Americans.
I'm from Big Macs and McNuggets,
and from homemade pizzas and chicken legs sizzling on the grill.

I'm from a woman who watched her thoughts translate to words,
long, loopy letters inked onto blank paper.
I am from home movies hidden behind cabinet doors in my mother's house,
and poetry that hangs on my daughter's wall.
I am from photographs waiting patiently in boxes,
and memories that resuscitate each time I remove their dusty lids.

I am from the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi Delta.
I am from the Gateway Arch, the Washington Monument, and the dusty plains of Oklahoma.
I am from my family, spanning one coast to the other, and centuries before us.
I am from my home, and everything that word encompasses.

Happy Wednesday, my friends. Remember your roots, they hold up your branches.
{Try your hand at this writing exercise using these prompts. Be sure to send me the link if you do!}

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Family Fishing

Sunday afternoon we dodged cow pies and barbed wire and tried not to slide into the pond.

Yes, on purpose!

Late last week we asked the kids if they'd be interested in doing a bit of weekend fishing. Jonathan knows a guy up the road {yes, I mean that literally} who has a pond on his land he lets us borrow any time. All three kids enthusiastically agreed and we had our post-church plan ready to roll.

When I opened the door to Nora's room that morning and held my breath for her usual grumpiness, she surprised me with a smile. "Time to go fishing?!" This was her first trip to the pond and she was ready.

We parked the truck along the dusty highway, and piled out into the cold January air. After jumping some fences and dodging all the piles of cow manure, we made it to the water. Owen is a casting prodigy and Nathan has improved his skills so much since we last went. It was nice for the boys to wander down the banks and do their own thing while Jonathan and I helped Nora not tangle herself in line.

Despite the gloomy weather, we had a delightful afternoon casting and squealing each time someone felt a pull. We even got a laugh out of the old "limb bream" joke since our kids are newbies. It was refreshing to have a ripe audience for fish jokes. Owen was the first one to catch a fish and Nora was the last. She fished without a hook the whole time {don't tell her that}, but right before we called it a day, Jonathan handed her his pole to help Owen. Wouldn't you know it... a fish jumped on! It made her day, even if she wanted nothing to do with touching it.

Aside from a few too-big and too-little fish, we ended up with two crappies, a bass, and a random catfish in our bucket. Our fingertips and noses were starting to go a little numb, so we figured this was good enough. The kids climbed into the backseat of the truck chattering about the fun of an hour at the pond.

I love the kids being at an age where we can all go on this kind of adventure together. Sharing one of my and Jonathan's favorite pastimes with our own family made for some fun memories and a strong desire to get back out there.

Happy Monday, y'all! How was your weekend?

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Friday, January 13, 2017

She is More

She's not just the fluff of blonde curls slicing through the breeze on the front yard swing.

She's not just the comic relief when she hits her punch line just right. She's not just the stubborn mule who'd rather stand on the back porch from dusk to dawn than take her boots off outside. She's not just a pair of twinkly blue eyes that wash away the aforementioned scenario.

She's not just a round face, short fingers, and a high-voltage smile. She's not just an Instagram filler, a patience-tester, a snack-stealer, or a three-nager.

She is more.

She is Nora, hear her roar. Of course, if you've met her in person, then you probably already have. I'll admit "three-nager" isn't my favorite made-up compound word, but it is solid fact. In my parental expertise, I can assure you that terrible twos is simply a warning of what's to come. We are deep in those trenches parents love to discuss and *ahem* I have a habit of using as writing prompts. Seasons come and go {and some we'd like to kick on the way out}, but I have to remember these "trenches" feature some remarkable people.

While Nora is known by my Facebook friends for her adorable photos and witty quips, I feel drawn to flesh her out a little more. My daughter is cute, but she is mighty.

She is loyal. Nora will stand up for anyone without condition. If Nathan or Owen are in trouble, she's the first to plead their innocence and ask us to lower our voices. She's usually right about the second part, but not always the first.

She is understanding. She will say she's sorry and mean it, even if it takes hours. If either brother gets hurt, she will hit the ground running. By the time I get there, she already has her small arms wrapped around him. She can sense when I'm down and is quick to remind me she loves me, too.

She is independent. I'd rather not go into detail, but because Nora decided to take care of business herself last weekend, this bunch is no longer a slave to Pampers. Do not ask for tips. My past experiences prove I am no potty training aficionado. This was all her.

If Nora wants to read a book, she gets one. If she wants a juice box, she grabs it. If she wants to watch a movie, she turns it on. If she wants to stand outside in the snow with no pants... well, you know that story. She's not afraid to get what she wants and won't bat an eye at the obstacles.

She is brave. Nora marches into a dark room fearlessly and drifts off to dream after her nightly zombie check. She laughs as she careens around the yard on a too-big tricycle and chases chickens as fast as she can.

In the past I have written about who I want Nora to be, and how Nora looks up to me, but today the message is different: I want to be like Nora. I want to be free and wild and unruly and courageous. I want to laugh in the face of the enemy and walk straight into the storm. I want my love to be stronger than my grudges and my willingness to help greater than my urge to turn away.

Not unlike her brothers, Nora June is one fantastic human being.
I marvel at who she is and I am in awe of who she is becoming.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Winter Break {An Ode}

Back to life. Back to reality.

*insert Hallelujah chorus here*

Yesterday marked the final page in a rather long chapter. Today the children return back to the normal routine of regular school days and I no longer have to trail them around the house dust-busting Doritos and giving them not-always-pleasant alternatives for their constant boredom. Because Christmas and New Year's Day fell on Sundays this year, our district rewarded us by handing out the longest winter break ever. Thanks.

The kids had been home and/or at my mom's house and/or under my feet at work since they loaded up on sugar at their class parties December 20. That's right, December 20. Jonathan and I did have a delightful break when all kids and responsibilities left for two days when his parents invited them to North Little Rock. However, I was still giddy when I asked my kids if they were ready to return to the classroom. Both boys said they were eager to see friends, but not necessarily schoolwork. I'll take it. While counting down the hours yesterday, I penned a little tune:

On the last day of Winter Break, my children gave to me...

12 toys are missing.
11 Paw Patrol repeats.
10 rounds of sweeping.
9 wrestling matches.
8 loads of laundry.
7 snack requests.
6 grape juice spills.
5 sighs of "We're so booored!"
4 empty Play-Doughs.
3 whiners whining.
2 destroyed bedrooms.
and a Mom who is ready for school.

Obviously, I love my kids. I feel this disclaimer is unnecessary, but I'm leaving it in. This family of five shared plenty of fun togetherness over the break, and my kids accomplished so much! We celebrated Christmas and rang in a new year, we rode bikes and shot guns, we played in the snow and {hopefully} threw away the last of the pull-ups. This Winter Break was one to remember, but I'm looking forward to the return of normalcy.

And maybe my house being a bit cleaner.

Happy Monday, y'all! Did anyone else's kids stay out of school until today? Were you sad to see it end? Share all that wholesome parental honesty in the comments, won't you?

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Friday, January 6, 2017

A Snowy Day

Worst Snow Day scenario: being trapped with the one parent who isn't into it.

"What if the snow melts before Dad gets home?"
"Can you text him and see how much longer?"
"Does an hour and a half mean five minutes?"

While everyone was turning their pajamas inside out and praying for a blizzard last night, I was crossing my fingers the forecast was wrong. Much to my kids' delight, however, we woke up to a dusting. Being the kind mother I am, I literally pulled up my bootstraps and bundled my kids. We checked on the chickens who seemed to be very confused. We scrapped handfuls off the tractor and the hot tub cover. We watched Nora run in circles.

That was enough, right?

The answer was an obvious "no" from my small army of over-excited children. There were a few rounds of snow when Nora was baby, but I was never brave enough to get her in it. The poor girl had never let a snowflake land on her tongue, for crying out loud. She had some catching up to do. Eventually I ushered everyone inside with promises of a father who was willing to play in it after work.

Cue one long afternoon.

They were hanging off furniture, talking nonstop, and staring out the window while singing made-up songs about snow. One even slipped outside sans pants:

Snow continued to land at our house, and I continued to provide a firm no. By the time Jonathan made it home to save my sanity, the scene was a little different:

After a few snowball fights and frozen fingers, we called an end to this Snowy Day. Above is the last picture I snapped before darkness fell on the white grass. We ended up with more than an inch, which is pretty good for our corner of the state.

Now we are warm, dry, and cozy, just waiting on supper. If you can't tell from the rest of this post, that is my favorite part of a snow day. Happy weekend, friends! How much snow did y'all get today?

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Music Man

For years Nathan searched for that one "thing" he can claim.

He needed a passion, a talent he can nurture forever. He tried a few different sports, and while he had a blast playing and running with his friends, it never hit a spark. Almost two years ago, however, he sat down in front of a church piano for his first teacher-led lesson. The music and art and beauty that has come from him in those two short years has been astounding. Sure, I have to beg him to practice because video games will always be more appealing, but once his fingers hit the keys, he just fits.

Of course we're talking about my firstborn, so the next sentence shouldn't come as a shock: Nathan is very good at many things. He continues to impress me with his accomplishments at school and his drawing is reaching levels I didn't think I would see at age nine. He is a creative, colorful, driven child and while I love watching all of these talents grow, above all I enjoy connecting in his music. I think it's because aside from the whole growing in my womb thing, it's the one thing we have that's for the two of us alone.

We sit side-by-side at the piano to tackle his new pieces and we talk in terms that are like secret code to the rest of the family. I have the knowledge to see talent in him beyond the admiration of a doting parent.

This weekend Nathan participated in a belated Christmas recital. Though nerves showed in his voice and his eyes, they were nowhere to be found in his hands. They slid gracefully over the keys and my smile spread out into the sanctuary as I watched this little boy captivate the audience {except his two smallest fans who sang every word...}. As a matter of fact, I have his performances to share with you:

This is only Nathan's second Christmas recital, and I am eager to see where it takes him. He won't fall in love with practicing more as song selections become more complicated, but I hope music remains a passion. He has so much talent and I am thrilled that he has found this channel of release. I fully understand that the kid is nine and his "thing" has a good chance of changing, but the music is in him.

I know Nathan grows in new directions every day, but I hope he lets me accompany him for a while. Happy Wednesday, y'all!

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Monday, January 2, 2017

Dear 2017

We made it, y'all.

I think I read the phrase "dumpster fire" in reference to the year 2016 more than I have in my entire life. Nevertheless, we made it to the other side, with a new opportunity to focus on the forward. I love the feeling of wiping the slate clean {sans fire}, and today feels like a breath of fresh air. Breathe it in, y'all, we're starting over.

In the past I've made all sorts of promises about who I want to be in the months that follow the changing of calendars. Sometimes I keep them and smash the heck out of them, but often they leave my brain as soon as they leave my fingers. This year I'm shaking it up. This year I just want to keep going.

I want to keep going to the gym to strengthen my body and mind. I want to keep improving my marriage and loving Jonathan more every day. I want to keep raising my children and learning to be a better parent. I want to keep in touch with my people and make an effort to spend time with them. I want to keep taking care of myself and discovering who I am. I want to keep writing. I want to keep planting. I want to keep growing. I want to keep going.

This idea is more than a scribbled-down list to bury in the junk drawer. This is a promise to put one foot in front of the other and take things as they come. For me, 2017 is going to be a year about slashing expectations and living in the moment. Life will never look like I expect it to, but if I open my eyes to what's actually around me, sometimes it's surprisingly better.

Although there are zero bullet points on this New Year, New Me post, I do want to keep my tradition of a one-word focus for 2017. I refuse to commit to write a series on this {because let's be honest, I never do it}, but this word usually stays with me. This year's word should result from the go-with-the-flow attitude I desire. My One Little Word is...

Often the anxiety I carry manifests itself in the form of worrying how life will fit into a certain box. That constant worry can feel like literal weight on my shoulders. Focusing on what could go wrong tomorrow bogs me down today. This year I want to let go. I want to breathe in, breathe out, and let life happen. I will lighten my load in more ways than one and hopefully I can find a way to float through this year.

I have no clue what's to come in the days that follow, and that's okay. This year, I am ready to live. Let's go!

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bauer Bunch Best Of {2016}

It's been real, 2016, but it's time to throw away our calendars and not look back.

Okay... maybe we'll look just a little bit.

Today I am sharing my favorite blog posts published over the last 365 days. I know this does not reflect the most visited posts or the most shared posts, but this list is important to me. I carefully clicked through every month and searched the thousands of words I've thrown into cyber space. I sifted through until I had a collection of the ones that meant the most to me. Below are my Top Ten posts about parenting, about gardening, about growing older, and about life being more than what is seen on Facebook. It's a veritable collection of topics, arranged in no particular order.

While my family and I drive a few counties over to up our New Year's Eve drink game from one bottle of sparkling grape juice, why not take a peek? There are many, many hours until the ball drops and I figured you could use some reading material until then. Let me know which post was your favorite in the comments, and I'll see y'all next year!

{Click the title or the photo to link to each full post.}

Nora Today
My little Nora is a creature of habit. Each day when the sun is peeking through the eastern treeline, I carefully open Nora's bedroom door. With a freshly popped waffle in hand, my first step is to open her blinds and let the light find mounds of toys and discarded dresses. I peer into the crib that holds four fake babies and one real one. When the smile spreads across her face and her blanket covers the rest of it, I know it's showtime.

Don't Apologize
Today I'm here with a handful of parenting advice you didn't ask for. You're welcome. Don't push that red X in the corner just yet, though. I'm not touting the miracles of breast/bottle feeding or ticking off a list of ways you've probably screwed up your kid. I'm here to do the opposite. I have a simple message I've been led to share after perusing my Facebook news feed: please don't apologize.

Spring Chickens
Sure signs spring is around the corner: there are boots by the door, seeds on the counter, and chickens in the kitchen. Allow me to to introduce you to the newest members of the Bauer Bunch. Wearing springtime yellow are Sunshine, Lemon, Popcorn, and Hobby Pig {see Owen's birthday post}. The fabulously stylish girls in stripes are Cinderella, Beyonce, and Sofia the Second.

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.

No One Else
Today marks a decade since Jonathan and I shared our first kiss as man and wife. There was a unity candle, a white train that trailed behind my fidgety body, calla lilies that filled the church with perfume, and age-old chords blasting from a piano. It was a gorgeous wedding, but a wedding does not a marriage make. I loved that day, but sitting down to write about our tenth anniversary, white gowns and gold bands do not come to mind.

Backyard Beauty
The garden in our back yard is getting good, y'all. The long row of cucumbers has each of my kids pacing, lifting all the leaves to see if they can spy the biggest one. The sunflowers are opening up and turning their faces toward the light. The tomato rows are full and we've already sliced up a few to enjoy that first homegrown bite {though the cherry tomatoes can't seem to make it indoors}. It's a gorgeous garden year at the Bauer House.

Life Lessons at 32
Today is not just any June Wednesday hot enough to melt thighs on leather seats. It's my birthday! *cue falling confetti and balloons* I have been part of my parents' lives for 32 years as of noon today. While doing in-depth research for this post, I found some startling facts. Exactly half my life ago, I drove my sweet, blue Mustang around as a 16-year-old, free to travel where I pleased and play Backstreet Boys CDs as loud as I wanted.

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.

Memory Lane
When we took the first exit into Conway Saturday morning, I was lost. New businesses, new restaurants, and more churches rose from places that used to be grass. Many areas felt unfamiliar, but that happens when you leave a growing town for seven years. We now toted kids instead of dorm room essentials through streets we traveled a thousand times. Once we made it to our friends' neighborhood, Owen spoke up.

Be Nice
"Say you're sorry for yelling at me, Mom. No, say it nicely this time." Through gritted teeth and at the sake of both mine and my loving three-year-old's sanity, I apologize once again while we wait parked in the car line. There's nowhere to run. There's nowhere to hide. Who knows what brought my sweet, motherly demeanor to its breaking point.

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