Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Louis J. Bauer

A few days ago Jonathan mentioned picking up the monthly dose of flea medication for our cat.

Which is odd in itself, but then I asked what name it would be under. I let a small grin slip when I joked that he was listed under Louis Bauer. My husband deadpanned, "Of course! That's his name, isn't it?" Well, I suppose it is. {Also, ten points if you guess his middle name.}

I first mentioned this cat when he was just a feral kitty who moved in while we were in Florida this summer. We thought he was cute and tiny and fluffy, so we bought him food and let him stay. Eventually we took him to the vet, learned our feminine assumptions were off, and the rest is history. What we didn't know, however, is how quickly we'd fall in love with him. Don't tell the chickens, but I think Louis is our favorite pet.

I am no longer exaggerating when I say Owen Bauer and Louis Bauer are BEST. FRIENDS. Before school, they snag a few minutes to jump in the leaves before separating for the day. When we get home, Owen rushes through his homework {evidenced by his frequent "Be neater!" instructions...} to check on Lou. Through the kitchen window I see the pair lying on the trampoline, pondering life and enjoying each other's company. Louis is never more than a step behind Owen, so we don't worry about this one straying far from home.

One of Owen's favorite car-line games is guessing what his cat does all day. Often we'll pull into the driveway and he'll be lounging on the slowly moving porch swing. Louis knows how to live. At night he'll sleep as close to the door as possible {or the hot tub if it's chilly out}, and when he hears the morning hubbub, the scratching and meowing begins. Owen is super good about feeding Louis, but don't be late with the grub.

My husband, who is indeed allergic to cats, loves this guy so much he told me Louis is coming inside for the coldest winter nights. With regular vacuuming, of course. I'd never have guessed we would have a couch cat, but here we are.

I grew up in a house that always had cats, but the rest of my family lacks experience in the field. It's been fun to see my kids form a relationship with a pet that does more than squawk and lay eggs. You know I appreciate a pet that gives free food, but the snuggle quota is a little higher with Lou.

This, my friends, has been an entire blog post dedicated to our cat. A cat that started as a random wild animal that wouldn't leave and has become an actual member of our family. You can check his vet records for proof.

Have a happy Wednesday, y'all. Then pet a cat and make it even better!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dear November

Last week October quietly rolled into November... when we stashed the leftover candy and started eyeing the Christmas decor.

I'm not one of the many who put their Christmas trees up the second they tossed their jack-o-lanterns, but I'm sure this month will see the Bauer halls decked. I love the holiday spirit that comes with the start of November. I'm not just talking about the commercials jam-packed with the latest and greatest toys, either. {Thanks a lot, Nick Jr.} I mean the feeling that the holidays bring. November marks a date that could easily be my favorite holiday, so we're going to kick this week off in style. Today I am going to tell the eleventh month of the year exactly how I feel about it.

Dear November,

I am thankful for you because you transform my commute. Our part of the world is at peak fall color and the splashes of orange and yellow hidden among the green is good for my soul.

I am thankful for the way your leaves show me it's good to let things go.

I am thankful for the way you bring people together, over turkey and football and memories and tradition.

I am thankful for the way you give pause to the year's end. The calendar is so close to winding down and starting over, but November asks us to stop and see the good.

I am thankful for the way you encourage us to consider the things we take for granted. There is so much I forget to count as blessings.

I am thankful for your days of cardigans, boots, and wind-swept hair.

I am thankful for your hot tub nights beneath the stars that remind us we are a tiny part of something incredible.

I am thankful for the fact that your air is often a cross between crackling fire and the crisp early signs of wintertime.

I am thankful for your early sunsets because it's a lot easier to trick kids into early bedtimes.

I am thankful for your call to appreciate what we have. While human nature is longing for what we miss, a good life is lived truly thankful for what we have. I know I have more than enough, and this month I want to steer all my focus into pouring out thanks.

To a season of both thanks and giving, here's to you, November.

May your month be filled with good food, good family, and a good focus on gratitude.
Happy Monday!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Guest Post: Being Rickie's Wife

In this little Internet space of mine, I like to give advice.

It's mostly unsolicited and always unprofessional, but sometimes I think you can relate. My advice is usually centered around parenting, but I've been known to dabble in relationships, too. I can't tell you what will work for you, but I can share the ways I'm getting things to work for me.

Someone recently approached me about offering her own words to my readers, and she has a little more experience under her belt. My mother-in-law Dianne lost her husband {you may know him as Poppy} to ALS in the spring, and since then she's been trying to translate feelings into words. She finished this piece and asked me if I could publish it on November 3, her husband's birthday. I am honored that she shared this with me and proud she wants to share it with you. This expression of love is raw and real and beautiful. Without any more backstory, these are her words:

Being Rickie's Wife

Friends and family have told me that I am spoiled.

I never really thought about it until Rickie got ALS. Things were just how they have always been since we met one January night in 1975. Our first date was at a restaurant named Sambo's, and we were married in less than six months on July 5, 1975. Rickie took care of everything, and I do mean everything. He hung pictures, did maintenance on the car, put gas in the car, and did all the yard work, even though he couldn't breathe afterward. Mostly though, he took care of me.

When he was diagnosed I had no idea what to do or how to do it, but I did know that I was not alone. God was with me. As his disease progressed and I'd think about what I would need to do for him, I would think that I'd never be able to handle it. But God said Yes, you can, and I did. I found out that I was a lot stronger than I knew.

When we were first married, I was not the person I am today and that is because of Rickie. His faith was strong, so mine was, too. We raised Bridget and Jonathan to have strong faith and to trust in Jesus. Jesus loves us so much and He shows me daily how much, just as He did when I was taking care of Rickie. He talks to me, sometimes through the children and sometimes the homily at church seems like it was written for me. As you can see, my faith is stronger and that is because I met and fell in love with Rickie.

We did not have a perfect marriage, there is no such thing, but when you pray together, go to church, raise your children in church, and work at it, a marriage is the greatest thing on Earth. I will cherish our time together and never forget how much he loved me. Now I rejoice in the knowledge that he is no longer sick and can walk and talk with anyone who has gone to Heaven ahead of him. I know for sure he has our angel grand baby in his arms every day.

I will never forget him and there is so much more to say. A lot happens in 42 years, but my job here is not done. I will listen to Jesus and let Him tell me how he wants me to live my life without Rickie. Right now there are good days and bad days and a lot of firsts that are very hard, but I will continue on. I have moved to Hope to start a new chapter in my life and it has been great.

I hope that you all know the love of a good person, but most of all I hope you know the love of Jesus.

I love each and every one of you!
- Mrs. Rickie Bauer

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Fright Night

I could tell you I didn't chase my breakfast with a Milky Way I found in the cup holder of my car...

But we would both know I'm lying.

It took more effort than normal for us to drag our feet to the floor this morning, and I know this is evidence of the dreaded Halloween hangover. While I did, in fact, treat mine with the hair of the {chocolate-covered} dog this morning, I'm already looking forward to spending the first night of November in a more low-key fashion. However, memories from the spookiest night of the year still dance in my head. Let's discuss, shall we?

The threat of Halloween rain loomed in the forecast so when the backpacks hit the floor yesterday afternoon, we rushed the kids into costume. This year's choices included everyone's favorite bookworm princess, Owen Bauer, star batter, and a throwback to the creepy masked murderer of my youth.

We started at both grandmas' houses and worked our way through the neighborhood between. Nora can be a bit timid, but I was impressed by how she opened up. With her yellow ballgown gathered in hand, she was the first to several doors. She eagerly shouted "Trick or Treat!" and was free with the manners and Halloween wishes. While we grinned back at all the little old ladies and young children smiling through their screen doors, the scary house was a different story. If you've read my Halloween posts in years past, you know the one. If not, I'll fill you in.

There's a doctor in my parents' neighborhood who can't end October without meeting his crying baby quota. He rigs up a sound system into which he shrieks and cackles and screams before opening the door. Figures dance in the windows, lights flicker on and off, and children head for the hills. My own kids have fallen victim, but not this year, my friends. Oh, not this year.

Sitting on the good doctor's stoop was a dark figure slumped forward, hidden behind his hanging deadlocks. When kids approached, his hair parted to reveal a horrifying zombie face, complete with a dangling eyeball. Nathan pulled his Scream mask into place and his brother walked up right beside him. They returned safe, proud, and richer in candy. Nora didn't want to even see this house, but her FOMO kicked in fast. She’d only go up if Jonathan would carry her, though. As she watched the scary guy fill her bucket, he looked at her and said:

”Whoa, that's a big dad you've got there!”

And that was one of my daughter's top Halloween moments: When she learned that spooks are completely powerless when she is in her Daddy's arms.

Once the damage was done and the pumpkins were heavy, we made it back to Nana and Grampa's house to check out the candy. This year's haul featured enough chocolate to make it my way and an emoji ring from the dentist down the street. We enjoyed homemade veggie soup and watched Nora scramble from the table with every doorbell ring. Still dressed like a princess, she floated across the kitchen screeching at my dad to detain the trick-or-treaters for her. I think she had just as much fun greeting as she did gathering.

We had a great night and we now have enough candy to last us all winter... or at least 'til Thanksgiving?

How was your Halloween? Do you have a trademarked Scary House in your 'hood?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Fireside Chats

I saw no less than six Facebook photos and/or videos of crackling fires Friday night.

{My husband included.}

Arkansas decided to jump from summer to winter this weekend, so we marked Friday night as a good time to break in the fire pit. The weather was perfect and the kids were excited to bundle up and enjoy the crisp air {except for when that crisp air shifted and blew smoke into their faces}. Still, they persevered.

Once we finished our supper, Jonathan took the kids outside to gather sticks and teach fire safety to the chickens. The sun was setting and an eerie warm glow covered everything. I was watching the colors dance on my family through the kitchen window when Jonathan sent me a rather urgent "come here" signal. I went to see why they would possibly need my help, but I was stopped in my tracks by the sunset. Streaks of pink and blue created an alien sky and my children danced beneath it. I stared for a minute, then did my best to catch it:

The pink faded to night in a matter of minutes, so we loaded our marshmallow sticks. Although my family is very into the idea of s'mores, Nathan and I are the only ones who will actually consume them. That doesn't stop everyone from making them, though... and we dined like kings. Once we had our fill, we settled in for spooky stories. It was Hallo-Weekend, after all.

The moon peered through the dark clouds and the kids were quick to scan both sky and ground with every rustling noise. Although each story started once upon a time and ended happily every after, the distance between kids and parents shortened with every tale. After a particularly harrowing story that Nora herself told about sleeping in beds that came to life, she was ready to close up shop. We assured her the stories she knows she made up aren't real and we put the s'more ingredients away until next time.

We had a very busy weekend, but I'm so glad we kicked it off with a little family time. I love the traditions I see forming among our party of five. Even if we set up camp just ten steps behind our house and we don't all appreciate the gooey goodness of outside dessert, I wouldn't trade that night for the world. It was all about slowing down, enjoying each other, and welcoming the new season.

I'm looking forward to more of that as our seasons continue to turn.

{Three kids. Three marshmallows. Guess which one's on fire and win a prize!}

Happy Monday, y'all. What did you do this weekend?

Friday, October 27, 2017

Carver's Delight

I have to let y'all in on a little fall-time secret, so gather 'round.

If you don't buy the biggest carving pumpkins you can pull out of the pile, the carving process is enjoyable! Each year we've snagged three huge pumpkins for our kids, and each year they're done when they learn it takes hours to move from food to decoration. Last night we just let the kids carve the mini versions we picked up at the farm, and we were done before dark. And I don't have a case of carver's wrist today!

Perhaps the Jack-O-Lanterns' stature makes them less menacing, but the kids had time to pose for a picture, then chase each other around the backyard in costume. Common sense? Perhaps. Still a success. Pro tip: Get tiny pumpkins, get tiny orange saws, get a small bowl for the minimal pumpkin guts, and spend your evening with pizza and a movie.

Everyone designed their own: Nathan thought imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, Owen wanted his as goofy as possible, and Nora went with the old stand-by. Owen was the only one brave enough to touch the stringy guts, but everyone attempted a bit of the carving. This just meant Nora stabbing the pumpkin lid while I did the work, but she beamed with pride. We sat the jacks on the porch and gave the cat a stern lecture. To my surprise, they were in the same place this morning.

Our fall family merriment will continue into the weekend when we embrace the dropping temperatures in our backyard tonight, then send Nathan to his first costume party tomorrow {I won't make a big deal of it, promise}. After all that we'll be ready for a Trick-or-Treat Tuesday. You can see that two-thirds of my kids are ready, but Owen is still up in the air. He wouldn't commit to anything at the costume store, so he's going to make do with what we have. He could be anything from a cop to a skeleton to the ball player pictured above. Stay tuned!

Are you ready for Halloween or are you planning a last-minute scramble like Owen? Whatever you do, be careful. You never know what's lurking on the other side of the door...

{Please disregard the dirty windows and permanently glued Easter stickers. Yeah, mostly the Easter stickers.}

Happy Weekend, friends!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Behind the Grins

Warning: I'm going to do a bit of oversharing on today's blog post.

{Yes, even more than normal.}

For the second year in a row, Mandy with Bright Images corralled our bunch in a rustic setting and attempted to capture memories. We loved our family pictures last year, and we think this year's set is even better. Mandy is great with the kids and she can turn even the whiniest session into something you are proud to splatter across Facebook. Please reach out to her if you're in the southwest Arkansas area and tell her I sent you.

This particular "fall" photo shoot took place on a day that hit 90 degrees. Thankfully I knew this ahead of time so there was no sweater nor flannel involved. We also later learned that my poor daughter had a fever during the shoot, so if she looks a bit uncomfortable in the photos, there's a reason for it. Mom of the Year right here, folks.

Today's post does include a few sneaks from the completed session Mandy sent me the other day, but I thought I'd add an entertaining twist. I'm captioning a handful of photos with what we may have been thinking. Some of them were spoken word-for-word. I'll let you guess which.

Me: "Owen, stop trying to drag us down the path and try harder to pretend like you're full of joy!"
Jonathan: "I hope this is really the last one."
Nora: "I hate picture day."
Nathan: "I succeed at most things, including taking direction from photographers."

Boys: "Now, we're talking! Let's throw things!"
Nora: "I will not participate, but there's a very slight chance that I might think this is a little fun."
Arkansas: "The leaves sure are lovely fall shades of brown, dead, and crunchy this year."

Owen: "Is it time to play in the leaves yet?"

Nora: "I'll give you eyes, but you'll have to work a lot harder for smile."

Me: "I'm trying not to throw up and maintain an expression of marital bliss."
Jonathan: "Here, I'll spin you the other way to balance it."
Me: "Um... can we take some where I'm sitting now??"

Nathan: "We are hot."
Owen: "We are sweaty."
Jonathan: "And we still make it look good."


Happy Hump Day, y'all.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Hashtag Fall Goals

Roll up your flannel sleeves and settle in with your pumpkin spice latte, I'm about to recap the Saturday morning of your dreams.

Jonathan and I have been propping babies against pumpkins for years. We used to make it a point to stop by local piles of gourds that were just asking for the perfect pose. However, we'd never visited a real life, grown-on-site pumpkin patch. Miracle Farms Market is located in Bodcaw, about 20 minutes outside of Hope. I'd heard it associated with authentic farm fun and it seemed right up my autumnal alley, but their "fall fun days" are limited to October Saturday mornings. I simply did not make time for it in years past, but we had it scribbled into the 2017 planner.

It was a bit of a drive from our house, so we left in the stillness of the early weekend. The kids were excited to see a farm, and I was excited about quality time in the fresh air. When the highway turned to a winding country road and eventually a dirt trail, I knew we were close. We were greeted by the kindest owners and employees, who treated us like family and seemed genuinely excited that we were interested in their farm. The kids loved what was dubbed the country playground, darting in and out of round bales and making corn angels. They kicked up the dusty ground with every move and went from clean to dirty in record time.

They didn't think twice about it, though, and I loved watching them run wild and free.

The farm tour started with us climbing up a hay-lined trailer attached to an old John Deere. We rode past the huge chicken coop and picked out the breeds we recognized, and watched Nora's brain figure out how the cute sheep were "used for meat." Outside of our small-time operation, the kids had never seen a farm of this scale. They paid close attention and looked closely at every detail.

We enjoyed some locally grown and processed burgers, then made our way through the corn maze. It was a bit short because it hasn't rained in months, but we still managed to get lost. There were plenty of dead ends... and Nora was navigating. Finally each kid picked a small pumpkin with plans of painting it at home, and we loaded up in the car, covered in dust and completely satisfied.

We learned the market is open Saturday mornings from May to October and I'm already eager to see what it looks like stocked full of peak season produce.

I couldn't wipe the smile off my face the whole time I was there. It was all of my lifestyle dreams wrapped up in acreage that's been passed down for generations. It was as self-sufficient as it gets with a market boasting everything from homemade soap to raw milk. Do yourself a favor and head that way Saturday morning if you live close to me. This will be the final event of the year, and you don't want to miss it. Admission is just five bucks per person and that gets you on all the activities, plus the tour.

This has been Jessica's Stamp of Approval {tm} in helping you meet all your fall Instagram goals. You are welcome.

Happy Monday, y'all!