Monday, March 31, 2014

One Little Word III {Refill}

{Yes, this picture of the Bauer Boys was dug from the 2011 catacombs,
but if this image doesn't say calm, I don't know what does.}

According to my calendar, today is the last square of March.

For me, this means two things: 1) I have to watch my back around my children tomorrow and 2) I'm supposed to give an official report on my One Little Word progress. You can click here to see what I'm talking about, and you can click here to read about my failures as February drew to a close. It's hard to believe the third month of 2014 is already ending, and honestly it seems like the year is slipping away. Regardless, here I am with an update, mostly for me, but if you're tuning in to check, I'll be happy to share.

I'm not going to use the word "fail" this month at all. I'm proud to state I have found my calm. March was a month of chaos. An entire week of birthday fun capped off with over half a dozen children squealing throughout my house and yard. Spring Break has come and gone and gave me an extra person to entertain in the daytime. Longer days mean more time awake, brighter skies mean more time chasing boys, the start to spring means a sudden burst of energy after a long winter's rest.

All good things, y'all. I look forward to gardening, nights on the front porch, swimming pools, and starry nights; however, I don't think the incoming spring did the trick for me. It was the me time. It was the knowledge that making myself a priority is an acceptable thing to do. It was realizing that I don't have to sacrifice myself. I don't have to be the martyred Saint Mom. Sometimes, I can be first.

It's odd how hard it is to admit that, isn't it? When we hold those tiny babies in our arms for the first time, we vow to make their time on this planet as easy and fun and successful and amazing as possible. A few months in {weeks? days?} we realize that our own needs are getting cold and stale on the back burner. We run on empty as long as we can.

I'm not always good at this, but knowing is half the battle. I know my calm is just as important for my kids as it is for me. This is why I can't be empty. Yesterday I read 157 pages of a new book before dinnertime. I drank two cups of coffee as my baby girl napped and my boys were encouraged to play together in their room. Every so often, I'll steal a long bath after the kids are in bed. I'll flip through magazines and study new summer veggie varieties. I'll close my bedroom door, settle into my soft pillows, and dial my best friend's number with no intention of moving until every detail is shared.

This chapter of my life revolves around the tiny people I'm attempting to turn into contributing members of society, but I can't forget who I am in that process, and I can't run on an empty tank. Every once in a while, I have to take time to myself to refill, and I have done a good job of that over the past few weeks. I have found a bit of calm in the chaos, and that, my friends, is a feat. Here's hoping I can hang onto it.

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring Broke

I don't think this Spring Break is one for the record books.

Although Nathan was thrilled to skip five days of school, his spirits drooped when he learned that meant he would accompany me to work. He drew on copy paper, he stapled things together, he removed said staples, he watched me type numbers, and he asked how many minutes were left. Thankfully, I have a grandma in town who loves company, so he spent most afternoons digging out old toys at her house. I also got smart and brought a copy of "Frozen" after his initial day of boredom and that did the trick. He did spend Tuesday with Jonathan, playing outside, visiting the John Deere store, and taking yours truly to lunch. It was no trip to the beach and I don't even think it counts as a stay-cation, but he says it still fits the "better than school" category.

Toward the end of the week, the weather turned cold and wet, so movies, video games, and inside toys won over frolicking in the flourishing weeds. On Friday, I was able to spend the day with all three of my babies. {I counted to ten. A lot.} There was fighting and mess-making, sure, but there was laughter and squealing and playtime, too. And that was just Nora! Owen had a wonderful time with his brother by his side and they did an excellent job of entertaining one another. I even got to curl up with a new book.

Today has been just as lazy, but the weather is a different story. Thankfully, temperatures jumped past 65 and house-shaking thunderstorms are yesterday's news. The sun is out, and so are we.

Nathan tells me he has enjoyed his break, despite all that, and that makes me glad. He absolutely deserves it. Before we pulled on our official Spring Break pajama uniform, he and I visited his class for a parent/teacher conference. We talked with his teacher for a total of four minutes, and all four involved her gushing about how smart, and cooperative, and polite he is. She said her job would be too easy if every kid was like him, and she has nothing but high hopes for his future in academics. He was handed his third straight-A report card for the year, and he had a skip in his step as we walked back to the car.

We didn't take an awesome trip - we barely went outside - but it was fun to spend time together {even at the office}. What did you and your family do for Spring Break? I hope your kiddos had a blast, no matter what. They deserve it!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Because I'm Happy

I don't know whether it's because Nathan keeps this song on repeat, or because Owen watches Despicable Me 2 constantly, but the word of the day is happy.

Life is full of frustrating moments, overwhelming days, and missed opportunities to count to ten. However, those things are a bit easier to handle when I force my brain to redirect its focus. Let's all say it together now: "Easier said than done!" Now that we have that out of the way, let's chat. Let's talk about how important it is to remember the things that make you happy when the storms of the world are threatening to tear down your door. No matter whether your life is in a phase of smooth sailing or you're at the point of not knowing which way is up, there is something that makes you happy.

I imagine I can't ask you to join me in an exercise without doing it myself, so I will now comb through my mind and craft an actual list of ten things that make me happy at this exact moment. Little things that have brought a smile to my face and reminded me that life is a pretty sweet deal. Here's the finished product:

  1. The sunny, yellow jonquils that line my commute.

  2. The fact that clouds have taken over the blue sky and the smell of rain is on the breeze.

  3. Owen hasn't cried at day care drop off in quite some time.

  4. Nathan was patient and polite this morning, despite having to sit in the boring office with me.

  5. It's officially less than three months until I dig my toes in the Florida sand {this should count for two happy points}.

  6. I get to listen to a handful of my youth kids practice reading the Stations of the Cross tonight.

  7. The way Nora's eyes light up when I toss her in the air {bonus arm workout!}

  8. That I've officially registered to attend my first Arkansas Women Bloggers conference. It's six months away, but I bet you'll be hearing more about it before then.

  9. The crisp, unopened issue of Better Homes and Gardens waiting on my kitchen table.

  10. A plan for a long phone call with my best friend.

To be perfectly honest with you, that was harder than I expected. But you know what? Seeing the things that make me happy would be number eleven on my list. Now, it's your turn. I'm more serious than you think. This isn't just me asking you to share something funny your kid did, I want you to put down your phone or stop clicking that mouse. I want you to grab a scratch piece of paper and some form of writing utensil. And I want you to make yourself write down ten things that make you happy right now. No matter how useless it may feel and no matter how deep you have to dig, just do it. If you're struggling, it may help to know that there are still things that make you happy.

Did you do it? Good. Now smile. Good.

Sorry for being bossy back there, I just think happy is one of the most important things a person can be. I also think it's something we don't allow for ourselves enough. This is something we all deserve, and it's up to us to choose our focus. Believe me when I say I know it's hard to find happiness sometimes, but no matter what, there is something. Find that something, friend, and hold on tight.

Just a friendly PSA to cap off your Hump Day. Don't forget to smile! :)

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Friday, March 21, 2014

A Welcome Season

How did you celebrate the first day of Spring?

Did put your face in the sunshine and your hands in the dirt? Did you take your crew to the park? Did you stay inside and curse the snow? Although that's not the case for us, I know several of my readers can commiserate. Also, if you're one of those readers and you tend toward jealousy, I'd stop reading here. You don't want to see pictures of my kids playing outside sans jackets. Kidding! I know you do. :)

Spring is always a welcome season around here and is tied with the sweet summertime for my favorite. I finally get to release my minions into our patch of grass. I get to put seeds in the ground and turn them to food. I get to smell honeysuckle along the creek, let the breeze blow through my kitchen window, and let the crickets and frogs sing me to sleep. It really is a magical time. This year, however, we are extra excited that spring has sprung. I know everyone who lives in the northern and central parts of Arkansas will say I have no clue what I'm talking about, but this winter was rough. Thankfully, it only snowed one time here, but I'm not sure I've ever seen the numbers on my thermometer stay so low for so long. There are still nights in the 30s and days in the 50s on my extended forecast {gross} but we rang in the spring with a sunny 70 degrees.

Once the four of us made it inside to figure out what we wanted for dinner, Nathan started voicing all the thoughts in my head. He talked about how much he loved playing outside and that we need to do it more often. This led to a plan to spend at least an hour outside every day {weather permitting} until the chill of winter chases us back in. That is one plan that's right up my alley.

Today it hit 65 by morning nap. This meant Owen and I got our hour in early. I followed him around the property as he drove his red Jeep through the purple clover. I stood in front of the worn-down swing set and pushed the soles of his shoes for as long as he wanted. I helped him move rocks from one part of the driveway to another via dump truck. In return, I got him to pull some of the straw from the strawberry patch. The cold winter means those will still be awhile, though, so that'll be a job for another day.

Keep watching for more photos of outside play and if you don't call the South home, I guarantee you'll be joining us before long. That snow has to melt sometime. Doesn't it? Happy Friday, y'all. I wish you a wonderful weekend!

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ahoy, Birthday Boy

shirt by Lightin Bug Kreations

Avast, ye matey! It's time to hoist ye sails and jump into a fun-filled recap of Captain Owen's Jake and the Neverland Pirates party.

{Too much? Just the perfect amount? Yeah, I thought so.}

Owen has been three for a little over a week now, and three has been good to him thus far. An entire week of birthday celebrations was capped off with his big shindig, where a whole herd of little buccaneers came to sing him a song, eat some jello, and play as long as his heart desired. When Owen first announced he wanted a party themed after his favorite cartoon, skulls, crossbones, and gold doubloons danced in my head. We went with a color scheme of red and blue to brighten up the pirate decor, and it turned out great. I would be lying if I told you the streamer backdrop was no big deal. My husband referred to it as "the best use of birthday streamers to date." I'd also be lying if I told you that didn't make me grin.

The food for this party was so fun! It should go without saying the credit is owed to Pinterest, but isn't that what Pinterest is for? To take other moms' amazing ideas and make them your own? Right? {I hope so, because that is how I roll.} Owen's guests chowed down on a wide variety of swashbuckling treats. We had potato chips sharing the same bowl as goldfish crackers, aptly named Fish 'N' Chips, there was a tasty pasta salad disguised as Mr. Smee's Seaweed Salad, orange slice boats sailed on blue jello seas, and party-goers chomped on pretzels named after Jake's trusty sword. Pirate Punch and Gold Doubloon Lemonade washed it all down, and of course, the Silly Squids were the stars of the show. I was surprised by how many kids chose to partake in this ridiculous form of sea creature hot dog, but whatever floats your boat. Kids are weird.

Silly Squid How-To: Cut bun-length hot dogs in half {two squids per weenie} and make three scissor snips about halfway up each of those lengthwise. This should leave six, dangling, cold hot dog legs. Yum! Place in boiling water for a few minutes and you'll see the legs start to curl to adorable proportions. Perhaps you could add sesame seeds or peppercorns for eyes if you're more adventurous than me. Serve with ketchup and mustard {or don't. It's a kid's party for Pete's sake}.

We can't forget about Owen's beloved Jake Cake! From the time he decided he wanted a Jake party until about five seconds before my mother walked in with the cake, he asked about it constantly. You'll be glad to know the anticipation was not wasted. It was decorated exactly as requested and tasted incredible, but the best thing about this cake was when my baby boy stood beside it and let everyone sing to him. Attention is not something Owen Bauer minds at all. Also, before he blew out his three candles, he asked for the "fast one," which is a clapping version of the birthday song our family adopted from a Mexican restaurant that's been closed for years. Some families have normal traditions, and then we have ours.

Games were also a big part of party prep with this kid. Once the guests arrived, Owen immediately asked to take a crack at his pirate ship pinata. There was about a 60% chance of rain all day, so I was happy to oblige. Candy and doubloons filled the air after Jonathan took his turn at bat {don't worry, this was after about four rounds of kid attempts}. We also played Pin the Patch on the Pirate, Captain Hook Toss, and Doubloon Dig. We all had such a fun time watching the kids play, and it's exciting that both boys' age groups are now old enough to stand in a somewhat-orderly line and participate in organized games.

Although the streamers, banners, and doubloons still accent my kitchen, Owen's birthday week has come to a close. He had such an awesome time, and I want to thank everyone who made that possible. Thank you for coming to his party and making him feel like a super star. The downside to all this merriment, however, came on Monday morning, at day care. During pickup his teacher told me he got a little bummed when she asked him if he was three now. He hung his head and told her he was only two, because "it's not my bursday anymore." Live and learn, Owen, four will be here before you know it!

Happy Thursday, y'all!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Silly Business

I'm back once again with my semi-regular semi-Wordless Wednesday. I snapped these during the weekend's post-party shenanigans. I had a front row seat to the madness, and I thought you might like one, too. Before we get to the photos, let me share a little conversation I overhead this morning that says a lot about the relationship between these two.

{SCENE: mom is in the bathroom, kids are in the living room}

Owen: MAMA!
Nathan: NO, don't go in there!
Owen: MAMA!
Nathan: PLEASE don't tell on me.
Owen: I NOT gonna tell on you. I just be RIGHT back.
Nathan: Okay, thank you.
Owen: {walks into bathroom} Mama, Nathan poked my eye.
Nathan: {rushing behind} OWEN! I told you not to tell.
Owen: Oh yeah! I just kidding, Mama. Just kidding. Just a little silly business.

{both return to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse}

{side note: This is what happened when I asked for bunny ears. We have work to do.}
Happy Hump Day, y'all!

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Weekend Wrap

Well, hello there!

I know it's a cloudy, cold Monday morning, but I'm still riding high from an awesome weekend. Since I'm unwinding from shivering my timbers and wrangling little mateys all over the place at Owen's birthday party, I figured a nice and easy post would suffice for today. Don't worry, though, I will be back soon with pictures and details galore. I loved this party so much and our little buccaneer did, too. For now, though, I'm just going to share a few lessons I learned over the weekend:

  • No matter how gross it looks on the Internet and in real life, you can cut and boil hot dogs to look like squids, and little children will devour them. Thanks, Pinterest.

  • Being a sibling during another sibling's birthday is complicated. Good thing my little guy is willing to share his haul and the two Jake and the Neverland pirates tents Owen was gifted with certainly help {as does a great-grandma who is quick with the dollars}.

  • Owen is a social butterfly. Buddies he sees every day, buddies he only sees every so often, and buddies he hasn't seen in months all joined together to celebrate his big day, and he stuck to each one like glue. It's so fun to watch these little people grow up together and it's wild to see my baby turn into a friend. Owen knows no stranger.

  • Cheeseballs are {and forever will be} amazing. There was a Sam's size barrel purchased for this party. About a quarter of it was served for the hungry bunch. Do not ask how much remains in the barrel.

  • A battery-operated dune buggy is substantially faster than a battery-operated birthday Jeep, much to Nathan's appreciation. I'm going to guess this theory will continue to be tested until the summer heat makes the swimming pool sound better than a backyard race.

  • Do not prematurely explain the dress code/consequences of St. Patrick's Day. Pinch fights will ensue. Side Note: there is not enough green in Nora June's wardrobe to protect those sweet cheeks.

  • Give a girl a handful of baby toys, she'll play for a little while and get bored. Give a girl an inflatable pirate sword, and she'll probably poke her brother in the eye with it.

  • Try as you may, one's skull-and-crossbones tattoo just isn't that intimating when you show it off in a bubble bath.

Thanks to everybody who had a hand in making our weekend fantastic, and I sure hope you were able to get out and do something fun yourself. Unfortunately we had to miss our favorite festival of the year because we were too busy partying on Saturday and the weather just wasn't right on Sunday. If you were able to make the Jonquil Festival, let me know how it was! The crafts and corn dogs will have to wait until summer, but it won't be long before I find a funnel cake with my name on it.

Don't forget your green today, and if it's too late, just tell people you're wearing green underwear. Hopefully no one will call your bluff. Happy Monday!

PS: Shout out to the Bauer kids' newest little friend who is well on his way to celebrating his first day in the world.
Happy Birthday, Baby Brother!

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Friday, March 14, 2014

The Bauer Five

It's Friday and my agenda for the weekend is a mile long, which means my to-do list for today is even longer. To wrap up my week, I'm here with a fairly brief {for me} Five on Friday, linked up with Chrstina at Carolina Charm. If you feel inclined, join in! It's a good way to meet other bloggers and clear your brain of thoughts roaming about. Both good things.

ONE: As you can see, Nora knows how to rock a headband, especially when her big brother puts it on. Today I'm happy to announce that the shop that provides these awesome styles is celebrating its first birthday! Marie at Sassy Sweet Pea Designs has an incredible day planned for her customers on her Facebook page today. You owe it to yourself to "like" and participate in all the fun she has up her sleeve. {TIP: The fun starts right after lunch.} Congratulations, Marie! I can't say enough about the quality of her work, and just look at how sweet Nora looks in her stuff. These have to encourage you to do a little shopping:

glitter bow headband here // anchor headband here

TWO: Are ye ready to parrrty? I felt you roll your eyes at my pirate pun, but this is only the beginning, matey. Owen's pirate party sets sail tomorrow afternoon, and there is still much to be done. I have to get the maps ready for the treasure hunt, stick tiny sails in orange slices, make seaweed salad, and artfully hang a skull-and-crossbones bunting. Shiver me timbers, y'all, this is going to be one awesome party. Check back for a recap next week!

THREE: While the boys and I were exploring outside yesterday, we stopped short at the garden. It looks sad. I would say empty, but the weeds make up for that. These spring-like temperatures mean we are that much closer to ripping weeds, turning soil, and planting for the summer. Gardening is hard, sweaty work, but it is amazing therapy. I already have big plans in my head {complete with an addition for the Bauer Boys}. Now is the time to start ordering seeds and actually mapping it out. Planting season is just around the corner!

FOUR: I don't know any details other than a place and a date, but I've already counted myself in for this year's Arkansas Women Bloggers conference, a gathering for local writers to get some actual face time and learn a few things. I wanted to go last year, but wasn't quite ready to leave a newborn baby. This year the calendar has been marked, and my regional group has already started forming a car pool. Hopefully this conference will inspire me to grow and that should result in a more exciting experience for you. I've already purchased my first business cards in preparation. This is the big time, y'all.

FIVE: You know what's the opposite of fun? Taking Owen to get a haircut. I think yesterday's experience is easily the worst to date. Screaming, punching, nearly tossing his cookies all over the salon floor {figuratively and also literally if he calmed down long enough to realize he had cookies}. We called it a day when the poor hairdresser was only halfway done. It's not the most stylish 'do our smallest son has ever sported, but he doesn't seem to mind. Just slap a pirate hat on the kid and he's good to go. Fingers crossed he grows out of it by the next time we take him, either that or his Daddy volunteers.

Have a great weekend, y'all!

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Life After Loss

Jonathan said something to me the other day, as Bauer Boys tend to do, that resonated deeply.

Even with all the excitement of party planning and teaching Owen to hold up another finger when asked his age, his birthday is an odd time for me. Don't get me wrong, I love celebrating the fact that this beautiful baby boy is here next to me. His very being was an answer to countless prayers, and one we weren't sure we would see. He is the calm after a storm in my parenting journey, but you can't help but think of the rain when you see a rainbow, right?

If you've been here a while, you know there was another baby between the Bauer Boys. I suffered a miscarriage before becoming pregnant with Owen and was told my child had passed away on the exact date he would be born a year later. As thrilled as I am that my three children are here, safe and sound and well, the ache is still there, too. It's a bittersweet time for us. I try to make Owen's birthday a fun day for everyone, but a piece of my heart is still grieving. When I finally let those emotions show through a few days ago, Jonathan asked me to remember.

He reminded me of what I said four years ago. He told me I stated that the most important thing anyone can do is not feel sorry for me and tiptoe around the situation, but remember. Remember that there was a life lost, and that life was my baby. As tiny and undeveloped as she was, she was knit together inside of my body. {note: we don't know, but my gut says girl.} She was my child when she was alive inside, she was my child when she wasn't, and she's my child in heaven watching over the five of us who aren't quite as lucky yet. It tears my heart to pieces to think about losing her, but I owe that to her. I owe it to my baby to remember that she was here, if only for a few weeks. That, my friends, is why I'm talking about her once again here on my little corner of the Internet.

If there's one thing I do not want as a mother, it's for the memory of my child to fade. Sure, I grieve the fact that she's gone, but I celebrate the life that was here, and the lives that came after.

It was not a coincidence that Owen was born on March 10. He was five days overdue, I was absolutely miserable, and I spent the morning of his birthday sobbing as I remembered where I was a year before. I believe with every ounce of my heart that this connection was meant to be. I was meant to have proof of what was in the form of what will be. After the storm of her loss, she sent me a rainbow I could hold. I am blessed beyond words.

A few months after we lost our baby, Jonathan and I planted a Japanese Maple tree in our front flower bed. We thought it an easy reminder of the memory of our child, and we loved the idea of having something we could actually watch grow year after year. Four years later it stretches far beyond the green metal pole that used to match its height. The trunk is strong and thick and the naked branches stretch upward. As I was reflecting this week, I sat on the front porch and looked at it. Tiny little buds were starting to form all over it. Life was beginning where a precious one ended.

Then, I continued noticing. Tiny shoots of green were forming on the pear trees at Nora's baby sitters' house, branches of oaks that were bare last week were dotted with hopeful leaves, dark purple blooms were peeking from their hiding places on the tulip tree beside my home. The sun is brighter, the air is fresher, and the sky is bluer. And I know why. I feel her presence in everything this time of year and I know it's because she wants to be remembered. Life after loss isn't always easy, but it's life. She helps me know that I am alive.

As much as I grieve the baby that only knew me from the inside, I am thankful for the ways she has taught me to love. And I'm thankful for the brother and sister she has sent along the way.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Owen in Photos

While searching photos for yesterday's post, I found a handful of the smallest Bauer Boy that melted me on the spot. In keeping with the week's theme, I figured a {sort of} Wordless Wednesday featuring a brown-eyed Baby Owen would fit nicely. I know it will help get me through my hump day, and maybe it will cause you to crack a smile, as well.
I hope your day is fantastic!


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