Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dirty Thirty Beach Bash

The crow's feet, the laugh lines, and the inability to get carded have all set in.

I am a few days into my thirties, and while the above is {somewhat} tongue-in-cheek, I am pleased to report I'm feeling fine. Aside from a few lessons learned in my twenties, thirty doesn't seem much different. I have to tell you, however, it does help to be typing this from a balcony that overlooks the Gulf Coast, and it didn't hurt that the decade started with a surprise party.

I knew we were headed to my parents' for birthday lunch and a dip in the pool, what I didn't know was that my parents, husband, and in-laws were in cahoots all week gathering decorations, naming food, and planning a fabulous beach-themed party. One of the first things I said after looking over each amazing detail was, "This is just like one of my kid's parties." Apparently this was precisely the intention. I am so honored that they put so much thought and effort into doing something to make me feel good. I may need to turn thirty more often {and that very well may happen}. Without further ado, let's check out the details:

From the cheese ball Beach Balls to the veggie straw Pool Noodles, the party food did not disappoint. Pitchers of margaritas were ready to roll by noon and it was hard to keep Owen's fingers out of the colorfully decorated funfetti cake. And these little snacks were just the beginning. After appetizers, my family and I enjoyed surf and turf in the form of steak and crab legs, with a side of roasted veggies, stuffed mushrooms, baked potatoes, grilled asparagus, and more. It makes me full just remembering the amount of food I consumed. No one left hungry, I'll tell you that.

This must be me praying over the cake and the fact that we lit thirty entire candles on it.

The decorations were just as wonderful as the food, too. Anchors and palm trees and beach balls, oh my! There was color everywhere and I continued to notice their little touches throughout the afternoon. I mean, there were gummy bears floating in life saver rings in jello waves. Come on! Don't tell my kids, but this might have been the cutest party I've attended.

Better step up my game for my July babies.

Thank you to everyone for the birthday wishes, and thank you to my family for knowing just how to make this girl feel spectacular. I wasn't too worried about staring a new chapter, and that's due to the excellent cast of characters by my side. My birthday started with Owen snuggles, Nathan kisses, and the best slobbers Nora has to offer. All the vacations, presents, parties, and Facebook posts can't top that {although all are much appreciated!}.

Shout out to this party-planning seester!

Have an extra happy Saturday, y'all.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

{snapped on our 2012 trip}

I spent the last thirty-seven minutes looking for a purple pacifier.

I've poured three cups of milk and one cup of Hawaiian Punch, I've used a thermometer two different ways and administered proper medicine, I've reheated my coffee and started a laundry load that did not smell good, I've separated a fight and saved a bracelet from the toilet, and it's only 7:30. Contrary to my introduction here, I'm not here to whine. I'm here to set up the fact that in the very, very near future I'm going on vacation. Today I'm here to talk about why.

I sat in my stylist's chair this week, sprucing up my locks and lightening the ends in true I-am-almost-thirty fashion, and I mentioned how excited I was about my upcoming trip. This year Jonathan and I decided to splurge. This is the year I'm turning 30, darn it, and we need to celebrate on a beach somewhere, with a fully stocked cooler and nary a sand toy in sight. So, we made it happen. For the first time in eight years, we are going on an extended vacation solo.

Back to the salon. Jaws dropped when they caught my drift. We were going on a beach vacation and the kids won the prize of staying at their grandparents' house. They questioned how in the world we were able to pull this off without a) our kids slashing the tires out of jealousy, b) leaving early because we missed them, and c) being able to enjoy ourselves sans guilt.

Sure, Nathan was a little bummed when he heard he wasn't getting to go this year, but that's okay. Disappointment doesn't ruin lives and I helped him get excited about a week of spoiling. Owen and Nora are fine with it, but even if they weren't, this time alone is important. I will miss them, I will worry about them, and I'll need to know exactly what they're doing at all hours of each day, but I am more than just a mother. And the other parts of me need a chance to shine.

I love my kids dearly, more than anything else in the world, but I need a break. I need time alone with my husband to reconnect, late mornings to recharge, and solo afternoons against the white sand. I was lucky enough to be presented with the opportunity, so I grabbed it.

You know what's hard to do as a mother? Admit what you want to do, and then actually do it. To many, this is exactly what becoming a parent means. The days of doing what we want are long gone... because, kids. You want to know a secret? I don't feel bad at all for doing this. Not even a tiny bit. Maybe this says something about my character, but there it is. This will be the longest I've ever been away from my kids and some serious Face Time will go down, but I'm going to have a blast.

Also, major shout out to the grandparents who are allowing this to happen. We can book the reservation and pack the sunscreen on our own but if the bunch didn't have a place to go, this wouldn't happen. Thanks to them, I will celebrate my thirtieth in style, and I will come back with a clear head, tan skin, and open arms.

Moral: It's okay to want a break from your kids and it's okay to actually take one. It won't hurt them to be away from you {so long as you have proper childcare and whatnot} and it won't hurt you to be more than a mother every once in a while. Your kids may even appreciate it. Lord knows mine might think I'm a different person when sunny Florida sends me home.

Whether it's a weekend getaway, a quick date night, or a full-fledged summer vacation, take time to take care of yourself.

{No babies were harmed in the taking of these photos. Sleepy, yes. Mocked, yes. Pitiful, yes. Harmed, no.}

Happy Saturday, y'all!

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Five on Friday: Lessons

Look at Twenty-Year-Old Jessica. So young. So carefree. So oblivious.

Today is the last Friday of my twenties.

I'm kicked back in a recliner with one kid as close to me as humanly possible, another on the couch, and another in the crib. Doc McStuffins is on the television, my coffee is cold in the cup, and my hamper is overflowing. This is how I'm going to close out the most exciting decade of my life, and I am 100% okay with it. Today I'm linking up at Hello! Happiness for the famous Five on Friday; however, I'm doing it differently. The topic of the weekend is birthday, so today I'm recapping five of the biggest lessons I've learned since 2004 made me a twenty-something:

ONE: Everyone's heard that comparison is the thief of joy, right? That's been a big lesson learned in the last ten years. If someone were smarter, or thinner, or funnier, I felt like I was doing something wrong. If I didn't meet the standards set by peers, I figured those peers looked down on me. If that were actually true, however, it didn't matter. All that should matter is whether I'm being the type of person I want to be. Life is easier this way.

TWO: Parenting is different than I thought it would be. I'm far from the June Cleaver meets Fun Mom I used to dream about, and that's okay. I didn't miraculously transform into a brand new woman when I gave birth, I was the same old Jessica who just had a long road of learning ahead of her. It's hard, it looks different, it can drive me absolutely crazy, but it's the best thing I've ever done. I thought motherhood was about imparting my worldly knowledge on a collection of children, but I have learned so much more from my kids.

THREE: Simple things are the best things. Being with my kids in the garden, lying on the grass and staring into the wide-open sky, rocking babies on the porch swing, and holding hands on the couch. These are the things that make my life sweet, and it turns out they're not even "things" at all. Easy enough.

FOUR: Maintaining relationships is important. Gone are the college days of being best friends with anyone who sits across from you in World Lit or lives across the hall in the dorm. In my {later} twenties I learned both the importance of friendship and the importance of making friendships happen. Phone calls must be made, schedules have to be matched, and time together is a precious gift. It keeps me sane.

FIVE: I know what I'm talking about. I've learned that if I listen to my conscience and trust my instinct, things typically turn out okay. Self-doubt is an ugly monster that has ruled a lot of my life, but it appears Thirties Jessica isn't going to take it. I am proud of the things I have accomplished thus far, and I trust myself. Do not mark my words here, because confidence comes and goes, but I'm happy to know I've found some. This goes hand-in-hand with the ability to make my own mistakes, learn from them, and move past.

For good measure, here are a few abbreviated extras in no particular order:
  • how to use a smartphone.
  • how to take a rectal temperature.
  • how to make a margarita.
  • how to get closer to God.
  • how to let my heart open.
  • how to let my heart break.
  • how to aerate garden soil.
  • how to make a spreadsheet.
  • how to fix boo-boos.
  • how to take care of myself.
  • how to drink coffee.
  • how to make unpopular choices.
  • how to love others.
  • how to love myself. for real.

This weekend I'll say goodbye to a decade of ups, downs, and in-betweens. The best days of my life {to date} and the worst days of my life {also to date, unfortunately} have happened in the last ten years. I know this is a lot of fanfare to move from one age to the next, but it's a big deal in my mind, so here I am, trumpets blaring. The best part of this farewell is that I'm not lamenting a thing. Bring it on, thirty. I'm ready.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Play Date

Do the Bauer Boys know how to party or what?

What my camera didn't capture was the look of relief on the mamas' faces when this scene appeared after these three went completely bananas for a good half hour. They are not technology zombies, scout's honor. Also, our babies were there somewhere, too, I think...

The Bauer Bunch, their tired mother, and their well-prepared Nana took a quick vacation to the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area last weekend. We had two goals: visit my brother and sister-in-law while taking on the Fort Worth Zoo, and attend our good friend Eva's Wild West birthday party. On the way there, however, the boys' focus narrowed. "Are we going to the hotel?" was asked approximately 53 times in the four hours it took us to get there. I am not exaggerating. Ask my mom. One bottle, two bathroom stops, and a viewing and a half of Frozen later, we made it. You would have thought we hit the lottery. There was a swimming pool, for goodness' sake, and complimentary breakfast you can eat in a cafeteria. And that's not all folks, there were TWO BEDS. We learned the downside quickly, and that was a room on the third floor. I'd like to offer an apology to anyone who stayed on floors one and two at the Lewisville Homewood Suites last weekend. I'll leave it at that.

Considering how psyched they were about a hotel stay, the kids were decent sleepers. Nora took a little more convincing than usual, but didn't wake once she gave in. Nathan went to sleep when I told him to {love that kid} and Owen drifted off while imitating baby animals. We headed to the zoo {aptly referred to as Tommy's Zoo - Owen lays claim to the one in Arkansas} bright and early. While I was busy wrangling my children in a mass of hundreds more, my camera stayed beneath the stroller. Lucky, Prepared Nana snapped a few shots between fawning over the baby elephants and taking relief from the heat in the reptile house. Thanks, Nana!

I promise Nora is in there. She's the one in the stroller beneath the blanket.

After the zoo we cooled down in the pool and Owen let loose. Jumping off the edge, asking me to dunk him, and kicking his legs like there was no tomorrow. His swim teacher would be in shock, but that's how it goes with this guy. In his own time is an understatement. Once we dried off, we invited our favorite girls over to play in the hotel. Shenanigans occurred, giggles filled the air, and Abby and I once again marveled at the fact that we made people. Blows my mind every time. Once we settled and passed out the cell phones {don't judge}, we said our goodbyes and rested up for a riding, roping party. I once again leaned on Abby's BFF Dena, who specializes in taking the best photographs at events {even ones she throws herself} and then sharing them. Thanks, Dena!

OH! There are those sweet babies.

Although Owen talked about pony rides for weeks, and kept talking as the ponies unloaded into Abby's suburban neighborhood, he did exactly what I figured he'd do. He panicked. I don't blame the kid, either. However, Nathan was happy to ride, Nora was happy to sit, and Owen was brave enough to pet:

He was pleased to find one that was more his speed in Abby's living room:

It's been so wonderful to see my best friend so often this summer. I think this has been the most time we've spent together in years and I have been soaking up every minute. This particular trip was awesome because despite the nerves severed and gray hairs sprouted from answering "Are we there yet?" one million times, I love seeing these little buddies together. Thankfully, we decided to have a lot of babies at the same time, so our summer of fun is far from over. These girls will be back our way for Nora's bash in a few weeks. Yay!

Now, I need a breather just from remembering all that. Happy Hump Day, friends!

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What's Growing?

"Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?"

If you redirect that question toward Jessica, the answer is like a weed. The weeds, too, for that matter, but that's another story. The 2014 Bauer Family Garden is well overdue for an update post. It seems this backyard garden just improves with age. The weather has been amazing {knock on wood} and thanks to these frequent summer storms, we haven't turned the hose on once. I took pictures last week with the intentions of writing, sat down to work on it this afternoon and realized the garden doubled in size. Figured it would be best to take it from the top.

Perfectly round fruits hang in the small tomato jungle that's as appealing to worms as it is to me. All but one plant boasts tons of blooms, and that one is catching up quickly. The pepper bed is filled with, dare I say it, the best pepper plants our backyard has ever seen. Our neighbor's fertilizer may have done the trick, because I've never seen them this tall and this leafy. They're still not as tall as those in the next yard over, but the long jalapenos and bitty bells tell me things are growing just fine.

The bed I let Owen seed is a different story. We're going to call this bed a lesson in thinning. I did thin the sprouts, perhaps not to seed packet specifications, but I did. Who knows where this unmanageable sea of green came from? They're gorgeous, though, and tiny beans are forming beneath the delicate white flowers. I'm unsure of which picking method to employ. My best bet may be to rip up the plants, harvest in the kitchen, and drop more seeds for another round. The cucumbers tell a similar tale. After attempting to rip the tendrils from the aforementioned bean plants and direct them to the trellis, I gave up. There are more vines than I can count, and they're tied in knots. Most are making their way up just fine, and bright blooms fill the fence. I'm going to let it bump and just hope I find all the hidden cucumbers in time.

Our newest patch, dug especially for the Bauer Boys, has provided our first summer harvest. Two straight-neck squash now live in our refrigerator, waiting for the perfect moment to be roasted, sauteed, or fried. You should have seen Nathan's face when he told me his garden grew quicker than mine. There are a few more waiting to be picked, and the watermelon vines are quickly filling the empty spots. Unfortunately, Owen learned this weekend that the plant he was most excited about growing makes him sick. We once again learned another food allergy the hard way, but thankfully the medicine knocked back the hives just as quickly as they sprang up. No more watermelon for this dude.

Tough break considering A) watermelon is his favorite, B) we live near the home of the world's largest watermelons, and C) his sister is having a watermelon-themed birthday party in two weeks. Let's all take a moment of silence for this poor fella and the loss of pictures like this:

Okay, are we good? He still has grapes, apples, and peaches, y'all. He'll be fine. :)

Back to the garden! Although we haven't been watering, we have still been working. Extra rain means extra grass and weeds, so our knees stay dirty. However, I am happy to pull weeds if it means basking in the prettiest part of our summer season. Everything is lush and green and strong and healthy. No scorching temps are causing damage, and no swarms of bugs have begun to dine. At this exact moment in time, life is good on the farm, y'all.

Happy Tuesday and happy gardening, friends!

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dad Lessons

I've written birth stories, mom confessions, and heart-pouring revelations about the incredible blessing of motherhood.

What I don't always point out, however, is my parenthood is a two-part situation. That guy shown cradling his sweet babies plays an enormous role in not only saving my sanity when it comes to raising three kids, but a very heavy hand in the raising itself. I know I have been mushy about this dude all week, but it's far from undeserving. He's a wonderful husband, but he is an incredible daddy. I'd make a list of all the awesome things he does, but I wouldn't know where to begin or end. From midnight feedings to blowout diapers, fixing bloody knees to pureeing butternut squash, and doling out lessons as often as hugs, he's first class, y'all.

Today I want to wish Jonathan a very Happy Father's Day, his first with three sidekicks. As much as I talk about how cool it is to be a mama, I couldn't be one without him {literally and figuratively}. He's taught me a ridiculous amount about caring for kids, and he surprises me a little more each day with how good he is at handling business. However, since he is not my Daddy, I thought I'd let the kids who call him that share a little about the lessons he's taught them. Here are the results:

Nathan: "He teaches me fractions and some other cool actions. He also taught me to swim underwater and beat the hard levels on video games. He makes me feel so good whenever he tells me he's proud of me and if I do good things he gives me treats like candy and little boxes of Legos. I think he's the best dad ever because he is very nice to me. He makes me feel safe when I'm outside in the dark and hear scary noises. He tells me how long I need to brush my teeth and that's good because I don't want to go to the dentist and have to get my cavities filled. I love him tons and tons and tons and tons and tons."

Owen: "He teaches me about swimming lessons and about playing outside lessons and about chicken nugget lessons. I like to play toys with him and he pushes me to the moon. He will do it tomorrow. I like him to cook little hot dogs. I like him to snuggle in the chair and watch cooking shows. He is the best daddy because he is just the best ever. He's not a meanie mama."

Nora: Obviously this one can't speak for herself, so I'll loosely translate. Nora would like to say her daddy has taught her to dance like no one's watching, kiss as hard as possible, and always steal an extra snuggle. He's changed countless diapers for this one, stayed up all hours of the night during a rather rough teething episode, and is still desperate for me to hand her over when he gets home from work. Heaven help anyone who ever gives a second look to this daddy's girl.

Good stuff, right? Jonathan has made a huge impact on our kids, and it's just the beginning. No matter how many timeout threats, lectures, and countdowns he shouts in their direction, he is number one to all three. They look to him for advice, for information, and most importantly, for love. Although he is a huge blessing in their lives, this guy had to learn it somewhere. I mean, dads don't just come pre-programmed with lessons:

Of course, Mama had to get it from somewhere, too:

Wonderful daddies run in our families, and we are thankful for every one of them. Happy Father's Day to all the rad dads out there. Thank you for holding hands during contractions, pushing swings for hours, and being there when we need you, no matter the distance.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

June Bug

When the ultrasound technician blew my mind and told me I had a daughter on the way, I was fully prepared to name her. In the interest of polite conversation as she printed our photos, the tech asked if sister had a name yet. I proudly proclaimed Nora June. After sharing the news and introducing the soon-to-arrive newest member of the bunch, about 80% of my friends and family raised an eyebrow at her middle name {and I think the other 20% were just humoring me}.

"Isn't she due in July?"

She was most definitely due in July with zero guarantee that she'd arrive early enough for her given name to make any sense. Still, I insisted. Her middle name was June. Today I'm here to talk about why.

Between June 1 and June 30 every single year, I come alive. June is my month. I celebrate the anniversary of my life, the anniversary of my family, and the time of year that Mother Nature gives me exactly what I want. The sky stays awake until well after bedtime, giving my husband and me time to sneak out to the garden and search for baby tomatoes, dig around the squash, or just sit on the backyard swing and listen to the crickets. She shows off with her extravagant colors, from the shocking blue hydrangea blooms to the bright yellow cucumber flowers that climb along the cattle panel trellis. The sky and clouds contrast like never before and boisterous thunderstorms give way to the most electric shade of green ever to grace the backyard. White skin freckles fast, watermelons take up too much room in the fridge, and you can smell the honeysuckle from a mile away. And this feeling is not something I wanted to keep to myself.

That's why my Nora is Nora June, and it seems as though this one is taking after her mom. She has fully embraced the joy of her first summer, happy to be outside every chance she gets. Her chubby legs kick wildly when her brothers push her swing higher than it should go, and her little nose scrunches into the picture of pure joy. She'll sit on the grass as long as you let her, picking it out blade by blade and taking a taste every so often. She'll reach out and pet the green bean plants if she's sitting close enough, and watch closely as my fingers disappear beneath the soil. Temper tantrums are quickly calmed by a rock on the front porch swing, and the breeze in the trees makes for the perfect lullaby. My family first began to grow on a sunny June day and it {more than likely, no promises yet} is going to end with June, as well. Maybe that helps her middle name make a little more sense.

Also, Nora July doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Happy Wednesday, y'all!

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Easy Eight

It's been eight years since I met my husband at the end of the aisle.

It's been seven years since we became parents for the first time, completely clueless and head over heels.
It's been six years since we faced difficult decisions about what we wanted for our future.
It's been five years since we picked up everything we built in central Arkansas and started over in our new home.
It's been four years since our faith was tested and our hearts were torn by the loss of a baby.
It's been three years since our family of three gained a spunky fourth with dark brown eyes and a wild hair.
It's been two years since half of our duo moved into a new decade {and the other half isn't far behind}.
It's been one year since this two of a kind reached a full house with the addition of Nora June.

Today is our eighth wedding anniversary, and it still feels like it happened yesterday. I can still feel the humid air threatening my perfectly curled hair and weighing heavy against my white, beaded gown. I can see the pews of friends and family, watching the very first moments of the Bauer Bunch. I can hear my sister-in-law reading the scripture that has served as the cornerstone for countless marriages. It highlighted exactly what kind of love God wanted for us, and it has been an absolute truth over the past eight years. "It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

We've been through a lot since that hot day in June. That was the day we signed the paper that legally joined us together, but one thing I've realized since fretting over the dress, the flowers, and every detail imaginable is that it is so much more than a piece of paper. It is so much more than calla lilies and jumbo shrimp, bridesmaid dresses and boutineers. It's so much more than just that one moment in time. While that day was an amazing celebration of the joining of two families and the beginning of a new one, it's about our love.

As you can read from the beginning of the post {and already know if you've read here for awhile}, our lives have not always been a walk in the park, but the best thing about everything we've been through is that we went through it together. Since that moment at my Mema's house when Jonathan asked me to be his girlfriend to the moment in the church nine months later to that moment this morning when he told me he loved me, we've been together. We've disagreed and fought, yelled and screamed, but we have always done it together. And together, we've always figured it out. More is coming, too. More heartbreak, more joy, and more uncertainty. I will never take for granted the fact that he's the one constant.

In the grand scheme of things, eight years is just a small part of my life, but what an eight years it's been. I know I sound cheesy and perhaps unbelievable to those who don't know me, but I love this dude a little more with every anniversary. Those kids who exchanged rings had no idea what was coming, and had no idea what their love would become. Love is absolutely not just something that I say or something that I'm in, it's something that I do. Every single day of the last eight years and every single day of the rest of my life. Life can be tough, complicated, overwhelming, and unforgiving, but this love? This love is easy. I thank God every day that I found it.

Eight years of wedded bliss and still working it.

Happy Anniversary, Jonathan! I am hands down the luckiest.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

One Little Word V {Distracted}

On my desk calendar beneath papers I need to file, numbers I need to enter, and information I need to sort, there's a yellow sun doodled onto one of the white squares.

Today I intended to write a belated recap on my One Little Word progress. I've done a good job so far of using the last day of the month to tell you how much closer I'm getting to finding my CALM. Read here to learn more about this one-word resolution, and click here to see my updates from the first four months of the year. I'm more than a week away from the close of May, and though I know for a fact the month was a busy one and I wasn't nearly as cool and collected as I should have been, I'm finding myself fast-forwarding. In trying to collect my thoughts from a busy month, my eyes keep wandering to that sunshine doodle that melts my troubles, eases my mind, and grants me the calm I desperately need.

I'm going on vacation in a few weeks, and although today is supposed to be my May update, I can guarantee you the month of June will be the calmest one yet. There will be no alarm clocks, no requests for more milk, no dirty diapers, and no piles of laundry. No places to be and no deadlines to meet. It's just going to be me, my husband, and the sand between my toes. Obviously more on this later, but I just wanted to give you an idea as to why I'm such a distracted blogger this month. Good enough reason, don't you think?

Okay, back to May. With regard to keeping calm, May was a month of highs and lows. The school year drew to an end which meant more people in my house to entertain {I love them, I really do} and a fully-stocked youth group program to signal the close of the season. My calendar has been jammed full and the to-do notes have runneth over. However, I'm conquering them one-by-one and countering the busyness with time in the garden and dips in the pool. And every task I accomplish, every program I complete, and every bored child I play with, I'm that much closer to complete and utter relaxation. I love my kids and I love volunteering at church and I love entertaining family, but the biggest lesson I've learned so far in attempting to take deep breaths and stay level-headed is that I need breaks. Nay, I deserve breaks. And according to my handy-dandy desk calendar, mama's got a big one coming.

What about you? How's your progress with One Little Word? If you didn't choose your own word, feel free to latch onto mine. I know I'm not the only one around here who would benefit from a calmer demeanor, and Lord knows you are probably just as in need of a break as I am. Today let's savor a quiet moment, slow down and actually pay attention to our kids, and just take life as it comes. It is my opinion that the opposite of calm lies in three words: overwhelmed, frustrated, and worried. These antonyms are basically my life when I let my focus slip. I'm working hard to kick that state of mind to the curb and just be. Harder than it sounds, but I'm getting there.

I have a feeling the salty air will help just a little bit. :)

Happy Monday, y'all!

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