Friday, May 30, 2014

Five on Friday

Um, hello? Is this thing on?

i know that was cheesy, but you'll have to indulge me today. I don't feel well. I don't like to complain about illness, yet here I am. Today was not the best start to summer break, and my poor kids were left to fend for themselves. I fed the baby and made lunch at one point, but mostly I asked them to grab the thermometer, hand me the remote, and practice their inside voices. However, today's state of mind does not excuse the fact that I haven't blogged in a week; so I'm here with a Five on Friday roundup. If you're a blogger and feel like emptying your brain of five random thoughts from the week, there's still time to link up with Darci at The Good Life Blog. Maybe it'll even make you feel better?

ONE: I'm crossing my fingers as tight as I can that whatever is plaguing me vacates overnight because I have a busy Saturday planned. After spending the morning at church with a bunch of my favorite Catholic kids, I'll be hanging out with a bunch of my favorite bloggers at a Southwest Arkansas Blogger meetup. We have big plans to get hands-on with our blogging questions, stuff our faces with food, and laugh as much as possible. Sounds like a good time to me!

TWO: School's out! Nathan has officially checked out of first-grade and I am so proud of the progress he's made since August. From reading comprehension to fractions to the terrifying bubble tests, this school year was much different than it was in 1991. He tackled everything with amazing skill, but I knew he was in need of a break. He's got a busy summer schedule, but I pray it goes by as slowly as possible. I don't know if I'm mentally prepared for second-grade homework.

THREE: Last Saturday a group of friends and I partied like we were 30. It was a co-birthday celebration for my BFF Abby and I that was basically an excuse to get together, eat cake, and let our children stay with grandparents. Our evening consisted of too many margaritas, a trip to our beloved Outback Steakhouse in a minivan, and a radio dial tuned to XM's 90s on 9 the entire way there and back. I loved spending the end of this decade with some of my favorite people, and I'm excited to see what the next one brings. {I'm assuming we'll continue to know all the words to Gangsta's Paradise.}

{Disclaimer: This is my most recent garden photo and not an accurate representation. Still cute.}

FOUR: I don't have updated pictures because this week has been full of glorious summer rain, but our backyard garden is doing great. Hopefully I can get out there next week and gather some proof. The boys' watermelon and squash plants are taking off, and you wouldn't believe the green beans were a packet of seeds less than a month ago. Other than one little sad tomato that's trying hard to catch up, everything is lush and green and healthy. Yeah, I better document that while I still can!

FIVE: Nana's pool was nicely broken in for Summer 2014 last weekend. Nathan jumped into the pool headfirst, and took to the water like he'd been swimming all his life, Owen moved from apprehensive to frighteningly fearless in the blink of an eye, and Nora was basically indifferent. It was her first dip in the pool, and she seemed okay as long as her brothers kept the face splashing to a minimum. I have a feeling she'll warm up to it the more often she goes, but for now she was happy to show off her swimsuit on the patio. PS: You better believe this is just the beginning when it comes to pool pictures. We have big plans this summer, and they revolve around this particular backyard.

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Friday, May 23, 2014


{Shout out to Dena for the awesome photos}

This weekend will be an important one for those two.

Saturday will mark the final day for me and my best friend of twenty-two glorious years to call ourselves twenty-somethings. My big 3-0 is still weeks away, but Abby's birthday is Sunday. That's why today I want to celebrate what's been one amazing decade. We have learned so many lessons in our twenties, some the easy way, and most the hard, but the best thing about going through these formative years was doing it together. I'd venture to say a couple of the best years of our lives took place, and most coincided with the legal purchase of alcohol. Go figure? Our twenties were about trading freedom for responsibility, childhood for adulthood, selfishness for selflessness, and starting to learn what to do with what we've been given. It's been a roller coaster of sad tears, happy tears, and countless tear-inducing laughs. There's been a state line between us for most of our twenties, but we still faced them together. Just like we always have.

This weekend will mark the last hurrah of our collective twenties with a joint birthday bash, and then I imagine we will easily transition to even better hurrahs as thirty-somethings. However, this will not be our first time to party. This weekend was the end to one of the hardest secrets I'd ever kept. Abby's Texas BFF contacted me about a month ago to invite me to a surprise party for the girl from whom I keep zero secrets. The girl who's on my speed dial anytime I hear something worth telling. I knew this was going to be complicated, but I'm proud to report success. If you don't believe me, here's proof:

Exhibit A: Her face is basically the face the party planners and the party goers had been waiting to see for weeks. This is the face of a girl who is realizing exactly how much she is loved and the lengths we go to in order to show her.
{Hey, not blabbing is hard work!}

Exhibit B: My face. Abby may be a good actress, but I am not. This is the face of pent up anxiety, relief, and happiness all balled together. Anyone who was there would be quick to laugh about how nervous this whole thing made me. I was on pins and needles waiting for this exact moment. Also, this would probably be a good time to let you know this party had a "Saved By the Bell" theme. Side ponies aren't a regular fashion staple for me.

This party was such a blast, y'all, and I can guarantee you that Abby loved it. A HUGE thank you to the crew who put it together, for not only celebrating her in this way, but for being such wonderful friends. Y'all are an important part of her life, and I love seeing it firsthand. She has a fantastic support group, and I know you guys are aware of what you have in Abby.

Prior to party time, we were asked to write a letter for the birthday girl. At some point in my rambling, I penned three important memories for each of the years we've known each other, starting with second-grade cheer camp. However, I think the best is yet to come. Thirty has a lot of promise, and although we have no idea what's to come, I know we'll be together. No number of miles can prevent that, and no twists in life's path will alter it. I am blessed to have Abby in my life. She's, like, totally radical, dude.

Today I will prepare for round two of dirty thirty celebrations by cleaning house, making a grocery list, and preparing to ship off my children. I'm sure I'll be back next week for a recap after recovery, but for now I will leave you with an early celebration of my favorite. Here are thirty of the best words to describe her:

Here's to the two last days of your twenties, Abby!
Hope y'all have one wonderful weekend.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Guest Blogging: Growing Together

I've taken my love for garden blogging all the way to a different page today, y'all.

I am honored to be featured as a guest writer for the lovely Arkansas Women Bloggers. In keeping with their May theme of Grow Your Garden, I wrote about what's growing on around here. {Get it? It's a pun...} My focus today goes a little further than the tomatoes and cucumbers that are moving slowly in my backyard and more to the point of making memories with the three most important seeds I've sown. I just wanted to pop in today to wish you and yours a very merry Thursday and direct you to the home of my favorite ladies on the Internet. Check out my post, then click around and I guarantee you'll find a whole collection of bloggers to add to your reading lists.

Now, if you're interested in reading my post about the lessons we learn while ankle-deep in compost, why don't you hop on over and check it out? I'd really appreciate it if you did. It would make me feel pretty special, really.

It's easy! Just click HERE

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Front Yard Fun

Look me in the eye and tell me those aren't the three happiest faces on the Internet today.

That's right, you cant. {Well, I'm sure you could if you looked hard enough, but allow me to make my point.} They aren't just happy because of their world-class mother, either. They have yet another fantastic reason to smile and a couple of dudes constructed it in my front yard yesterday:

Our tired old swing set left on the back of a truck last Friday, under the ruse that it was off to be repaired. In reality, the old thing was done and might not have lasted through another birthday party. Now, however, the Bauer Bunch and friends can swing in style. This is Christmas and birthday and all of 2014's other gift-giving holidays rolled into one, thanks to Nana and Grampa. Owen started to tear up when we introduced it as Nathan's early birthday present, so we quickly switched gears {with a wink and a nod in the direction of my oldest}. This mammoth of a playground has been creating lots of smiles over the past 24 hours, and we're just getting started. Obviously, it makes for pretty fantastic photos, as well. I think I've surpassed my limit on calling this post a Wordless Wednesday, but the photos, they are plentiful:

Owen had to get expert coaching before figuring out the rock wall.
He's got it now, y'all.

The first of many snackies.

We took a break to cool off on the couch, let Nora down a bottle, and let Mama load these photos. Now they're tugging my leg for round two and it appears Daddy has returned home from work and has turned on the hose. Who knows what shenanigans will abound, but I know this new playground will be a highlight, today and on many more sunny days to come. This is the time of year for family fun and wearing your kids out as much as possible. Bring it on, summer. And now, I'm off!

Happy Hump Day, y'all.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake

Gardening Phase 3: Pose in the garden in a sweet red outfit and bring joy and cheer to all.

Okay, maybe that's not an official step in the gardening process, but I'm sure you appreciate it. There wasn't enough Nora in yesterday's garden post and I'm here today to kick off your weekend by providing a remedy. This outfit was handcrafted by Nora's Nannie for her latest business venture, Butterfly Stitch. The first time I plopped that hat on her head, I knew sitting near the strawberry patch was in her immediate future. Too bad she'd rather pick grass than smile at the camera. Still, it made for some precious photos:

Although garden-inspired outfits don't necessarily lead to harvest, I can already report success. Nathan and I have been throwing back strawberry snacks for a few weeks, but my mom hit it big a few days ago. She asked if she could have some for a party she's throwing next week, so I handed her a metal bucket and told her to go for it. Being the nice daughter I am, I helped her push the green leaves aside and locate the hidden berries. We ended up filling the bucket and then sampling the top layer. I can't wait to see what she does with them:

TGIF and Happy Weekend, y'all!

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Get Growing

Dirt has been flying in the Bauer backyard, and, surprisingly, it's been on purpose.

I'm back today for the fifth year to recap the latest installment of the Bauer Family Garden. When we first moved to this house, it came with a sudden change of pace and I finally had time to dig into the idea of growing my own food. Many years and all sorts of children later, we're still going strong and learning something new every year. I am still a beginner, but I'm thankful to have had success with each attempt, and snagged some good family time in the process:

Once again I will report on dirty hands, plant varieties, and what goes where. That's fantastic if you enjoy this type of thing, but these posts are mostly for Future Jessica. This is my official garden journal for crop rotation, varieties, and planting dates. One year I went too early and had to cover everything in fear of frost, one year I grew the most delicious tomatoes I'd ever tasted, and one year I planted a zucchini type that was overrun with squash bugs. These are things I need to remember. If you are interested in what I've learned in my gardening journey, just go ahead and find the garden tab at the top of the page {or in the drop-down menu if you're on mobile}. Look out, y'all - I have tabs!

Back to the task at hand. This year we decided to stick with our four raised beds. Beneath the weeds we found dark, beautiful soil that only needed a bit of compost to reach perfection. Once it was tilled and ready, I asked Jonathan to move over {several} feet to tear up a new patch specifically for the boys. They had been asking to grow watermelons. The one time I attempted it, we learned that melon plants need much more room than the 4x4 space we gave them, so we decided to give them a patch all their own. Since the Bauer Boys' spot is distanced from my beloved garden, we threw a squash plant in to see what happens. Now, for some visual aids:

Cucumbers, Beans, and Strawberries

These 4x8 beds are the two closest to the house. On the left you will see the same old trellis that's been there since the start. Owen and Nathan were asked to carefully cover cucumber seeds with a thin layer of soil, and they've been pumped to see the sprouts pop up over the past few days. Green vines will wind around the metal in no time. The boys filled the rest of this bed with rows of bush bean seeds, which also germinated quickly. Owen is excited about this bed for two reasons: 1) cucumbers and 2) green beans. His favorites! On the right are our strawberry plants, planted April 2012. These beauties have taken over compared to last year, and the berries are bigger, juicier, and sweeter. Yum! Look closely at the picture and you may find one.

Peppers and Tomatoes,
with a peek at the new Watermelon/Squash patch in the back

These two 4x12 beds lie behind the smaller ones, and I've devoted them completely to peppers and tomatoes. We have two green bells, two red bells, and two jalapenos planted with marigolds for the pollinators. Over the years I've eaten small, misshapen, and disappointing ones and I say, "Mmm, homegrown!" but peppers just don't work for me. Our neighbors, who are much more advanced, gave us a few cups of fertilizer when we planted last week and promised different results. I'm cautiously optimistic. On the right are my babies {and some marigolds}. Tomatoes are the reason I got into gardening. The strawberries are a close second, but I cannot express the pure joy I get from biting into a bright red beauty. I have two Early Girl plants {this one produces early and often}, two Arkansas Traveler plants {grew this last year for the first time and loved the size and flavor}, and two Cherokee Purples {new to me, but it's an heirloom that gets rave reviews}.

And just like that, gardening season has begun. Planting is the easy part for me. What lies ahead reveals a lot about my personality: obsessing over every leaf spot, Googling every bug, fretting over too much heat, temperature dips, too much rain or too much wind, and mastering the art of knowing when to water. Before long I'll be searching for horn worm droppings on the tomato plants {this is not a joke}, looking up proper bean length, and deciphering the best method to determine watermelon ripeness.

It's a good thing I have extra help this year:

I dare you to tell me this is not the best Nora photo ever published.
Oh, this baby!

Cheers to the start of a new season! Cheers to the time of year that brings my family out of the house, puts fresh food on my table, and teaches us a little something in the meantime. Here's to hot days pulling weeds and picking beans, warm nights and cold drinks on the backyard swing, and a summer full of sweet babies in the green grass. I have a feeling this is going to be a good one, y'all.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Nora {Ten Months}

I seem to have lost track of the regularly scheduled programming, y'all.

Last week I remember glancing at the calendar and noticing Nora's ten-month mark was coming up soon. Better get that sticker ready, I thought to myself. I mentally circled Saturday, May 10 on the calendar, and knowing I'd be away at youth convention, I reminded myself to get it done early the following week. As I packed into an elevator with half a dozen yawning teenagers Saturday morning, I commented on the fact that my baby girl hit ten months. Then I realized I was wrong. So sue me. Apparently Nora was born July 8, making last Thursday the actual date in question. Honestly, though, I don't think she has changed too much in six days. Anyway, this was a big production to state the following: my daughter is in double digit months and still as cute as can be.

In the interest of not making you wait any longer, here is a brief rundown of all things Nora from the past 30 {plus} days:

  • Nora is the biggest pacifer lover I've ever had. Both boys spit theirs out for the last time around six months, and I've only heard about the trials of getting rid of it from close friends. At this point, I don't think she's obsessed with it. She just needs it to sleep, and to calm her, and when she's playing with her toys.... Uh oh.

  • This chunky monkey is still stationary. She looks like she's going to take off crawling, though. Despite her disgust for tummy time and being made to lift her heavy body from the carpet, she is one flexible babe. While sitting on her bottom {which she does like a boss} she reaches as far as she can with both hands, ready to go. I have a feeling her initial crawling will involve dragging her legs behind her, but whatever works, right?

  • Nora can't move on purpose yet, but she's a professional at moving on accident. When she reaches in the way described above, her little heinie is momentarily lifted toward the direction of her reach. When it lands once again, it's usually in a new spot. This scooting has gotten her clear across the living room, and into things like the DVD player, bags of chips, and crayons. Hmmm, seems like I'm using the word "accident" incorrectly here.

  • This little lady may be a bit slow on the physical tricks of babyhood, but that doesn't mean she can't put on a show. Pat-a-cake, peekaboo, and waving are a handful of the entertainment she'll dole out when she feels like it. All three make her giggle beyond belief, too. This girl's giggle starts deep, rises up and out, and is powerful enough to topple over her 25-pound frame. It is, hands down, the best.

  • More words are starting to come from those rosy lips, too. She's got mama down pat, though I'm not really sure she knows it's me as much as it's a sound we like for her to make. Her Nannie claims she knows her by name and I've heard "Nana" slip a few times, too. Another addition to Nora's vocabulary is "hi hi hi" which {if you're lucky} she will do with a wave. Owen always swears she can say her name, his name, his brother's name, and "Oh, Toodles!" I'm not sure whether to believe all that, but I'm going to err on the side of yes. Yes, she can.

  • Ten months in means we're only two months away from celebrating Nora's first birthday. How in the heck did that even happen!? I typically start the party planning process around two months prior. I begin by nailing down a general idea and a date. Our summer calendar is packed full of birthdays, vacation, and visiting friends, so I've known the date for a while. Now for the fun part! Girl parties will be a whole new world of pink streamers, bright flowers, and never-before-googled themes. Bring it on, Pinterest.

We hope you have a wonderful Wednesday, friends. Also, I assure you Nora isn't angry with me for forgetting her birthday, and then forgetting to write about how sweet she is for a few days.

See? Not mad at all...

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Missing My Manual

All three of these hands get into everything, make messes, and fit in mine perfectly.

Yesterday I spoke about how it can feel a bit unnecessary to be honored for performing the tricky song and dance that is motherhood. Then I came home to stepping stones featuring my three babies' tiny hand prints, a snowman drawn by my three-year-old, a poem written by my six-year-old, and a baby girl with arms high in the air after missing me all weekend. It wasn't half-bad, really.

Mother's Day weekend is an important time in the world of Arkansas Catholic youth, and as an Arkansas Catholic youth minister, I spend those three days chauffeuring, chaperoning, and spending quality time with some pretty fantastic teenagers. Apparently while I was being hip and relatable and fitting in with the cool kids {how much do you believe that one??}, my very own cool kids were spreading the love.

I was so happy to see my bunch after an extra-long weekend, and although these little stones mean more to me than they can imagine, I am the thankful one. This season of my life is crazy, but it's amazing. I'm watching three human beings that formed within my body grow into contributing citizens. Every day they learn something new - more often than not it's what not to do, but it's a lesson still the same. And every time they learn, I'm right there with them.

I don't know what I'm doing and I don't know if I ever will. I've read articles and blogs about the moments young mothers say they feel like they've finally gotten the hang of motherhood. That they are in full control of their children's lives and know exactly what to do in every situation presented. I don't disagree with these women and I applaud their confidence, but I'm not there. I'm nowhere near completely comfortable in my role as mother, and I don't know if I'll ever be. Like I've said, being a mama is part of who I am, but I can assure you that doesn't mean I came equipped for it. I'm a mama because I wanted to be, not because I knew what I was doing. And that's okay. I'm content to know that every day I get a little closer. Plus, all these new lessons keep me on my toes (and high alert most of the time).

I know to limit nostril-sized foods.
I know what allergic reactions look like.
I know precisely where Nora's best tickle spot is located.
I know the hug sequence for Nathan at bedtime.
I know how to decode Owen speak.
I know time away from my kids is just as important as time with them.

I am miles ahead of where I was when I became a mother almost seven years ago, but I'm not naive enough to say I'm done. This is the tip of the iceberg, my friends. I've figured out a bit, but in no way, shape, or form do I have this situation under control. It's a special kind of chaos and I'm learning the steps, but it seems a new one is thrown into the mix every day. As a mama, I think my best bet is to take each step (and each misstep) as they come and cherish the season that we're in, because I know everything will change in the next.

I'm thankful to have Nathan, Owen, Nora, and their guardian angel for giving me a reason to be celebrated on the second Sunday of May, and I'm even more thankful to have captured a snapshot of this time in our lives. Those hands won't fit the concrete blocks for long, but each one has the potential to do great things. I may not know exactly how to get them there, but I promise I will try as hard as it takes. I think that's what's printed on the one page of my mama manual.

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