Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Grade Two, Day One

Nathan went to second grade yesterday.

There was no wailing or gnashing of teeth {for either one of us}. There was zero hesitation as Nathan got dressed and munched on mini muffins. I reminded him to hand his new teacher the envelope full of lunch money and he double-checked with his dad about which door would get him to the right hall. I could tell he was anxious to see what would happen, but I knew he was telling the truth when he said he wasn't scared. He said he had it under control, and he did. He had a fantastic day and woke up willing to return.

Not too earth-shattering of a first day post, is it? Instead of telling you how I wept for my baby all day {further reading for kindergarten mamas here} or how Nathan came home a mess of tears {further reading for first-grade mamas here}, I'll let him paint you a picture. Here are five of the coolest things I learned about second grade from the car line to the driveway:

  • There's a poster of a skeleton on the wall, books about the Wild West on the shelf, and a pet turtle named Sheldon. Apparently, second-graders get to learn more than sight words. Nathan assured me that science and social studies were both on the menu, and asked if they'll start doing potions this year. I didn't have the heart to tell him he has to wait a few years before his Hogwarts letter arrives.

  • There's no bathroom in the classroom, unlike the kindergarten and first-grade days of yesteryear. Get this, you actually have to ask permission to go out into the hallway, and walk down to the boys' bathroom reserved for only the eldest of primary students. Also, sometimes there are people you know from other classes in the bathroom and you get to say hi to them.

  • In second-grade, not only do you move to another hall, you move to an entirely new playground. The one with the incredibly daunting metal slide. The height draws out your fear, but the feel of metal in August is the stuff of nightmares. However, there is a jungle gym over there that's "much higher" than the one on the "old playground" and Nathan said he quickly made it to the top.

  • There are assigned chores. Never in my life have I heard Nathan so excited about being asked to do a chore. "Today I got to carry the trash cans out to the janitor when he came by AND then put them back! And even better - tomorrow I get to WATER. THE. PLANTS. at the end of the day." He's going to lose his mind when it's his turn to feed the turtle.

  • The pizza is just as delicious as he remembered it. Naturally, the school will bust out the best of its lunches on Day One {they wait to introduce the Salisbury steak} and Nathan was happy to leave his new lunch box at home. Square pizza with grey sausage is his favorite. "I even opened my milk carton by myself on the first try!"

  • I hope all of the little {and big} Arkansas kids had an awesome first day at school. For those who didn't, however, I've been there and will probably be there again. I promise it gets better. For both of you. Happy Tuesday, y'all. And welcome back!

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    Saturday, August 16, 2014

    No Nonsense Nora

    I figured I'd have trouble with this one.

    It was easy six years ago. Too easy. I took away Nathan's bottle cold turkey and he didn't bat an eye. Two years ago it was a little harder, but I'll admit that was more about me and my emotions. I think I let that last about a week.

    However, Nora is my baby. She's the only one who has taken a pacifier and turned up her nose at anything other than a bottle. She's soothed by sucking and I knew she would give me trouble when the time came. We tried to trick her, but anything without a nipple was cast aside. Then she picked up a case of Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease.

    Have any of y'all dealt with this? Despite my seven years in parenting, this was a brand-new experience. I noticed she had a low fever on a Thursday, but I chalked it up to teething. When it didn't go away the next day, I remembered a mention of HFM at day care. I didn't really know what that was, so I pushed it to the back of my mind. Unfortunately, it moved its way to the front when I noticed spots forming on Nora Friday afternoon. I won't go into detail, but I will tell you the name is a misnomer. If it weren't for the lack of spots on her tummy and back, it could have been chicken pox. All the Baby Tylenol and snuggles in the world wouldn't soothe her, and neither would her paci.

    A common symptom of HFM is a sore mouth, so sucking on a pacifier was at the bottom of Nora's to-do list. That was two weeks ago, and she's officially done. This turn of events has led to her decision that sippy cups are okay, too.

    For about four seconds, I was sad. There are approximately 62 pacifiers hidden throughout my house and vehicle and every so often, I stumble across one. Nora will very likely be the last baby in my house, and her babyhood is fading with every pacifier I toss into a box piled with discarded bottles. Then {four seconds later}, I realized how awesome this is. There will be no paci fairy visits to this house, no "only at nighttime" demands, and no wheeling and dealing negotiations. Nora has taken care of that part herself. Probably not in the most comfortable way, but there you have it.

    We did visit the pediatrician this week for her 12-month checkup, and she was pleased with the news. Now, we just have to get her to start moving. One thing at a time, Nora June, one thing at a time.

    Moral of the Story: Sometimes you get lucky. Obviously I'm not suggesting your baby get HFM in order to move on from her beloved pacifier, but apparently blessings come in the disguise of polka dots? Or something like that? I don't know. Maybe I just thought these were cute pictures. Have a great weekend, y'all!

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    Friday, August 15, 2014

    In the Ice Bucket

    If you have a Facebook account and have been paying any attention to it, you've seen the ice bucket challenge.

    As you scroll along, you've seen friends, strangers, and celebrities stand there grinning as buckets of ice are dumped over their heads. They proceed to jump and squeal and challenge someone else to take on this pointless task. Sure, it's a hundred degrees outside and the ice probably feels good after the shock wears off, but how in the world does ice on someone's head help cure debilitating diseases? What does getting likes and comments do for those suffering from ALS? What is ALS?

    Hi! I'm here to help answer some questions.

    About a year ago, my father-in-law was diagnosed with ALS, but before that I'd never heard of it. You may recognize it as Lou Gehrig's disase, but you should know that it's a heavily under-researched neurodegenerative disease that has no cure at this time. Whoever started the ice bucket challenge started it not only to bring this disease to light, but to bring some dollars to the cause. It's more than a trendy hash tag and Facebook entertainment.

    For my family {and everyone else affected by this disease}, there's more than ice and water in that bucket. It's more than a quick thrill on a hot August day. It's hope. It's the idea that spreading awareness and raising funds will lead to the answers that are severely lacking in this puzzle. It's support. It's the idea that friends and family are willing to help, whether it's tossing in a twenty or reaching the call for donations a little further. It's change. If we can help, why don't we? Why not reconsider your spending today? That snow cone won't help your life as much as answers will help those affected by ALS.

    Just like posting the color of your bra won't cure breast cancer, and jumping into a lake in February won't help those with developmental diseases, the ice bucket challenge alone will do nothing for ALS.

    If the skeptics out there are still thinking, "Well this is a great way to feel warm and fuzzy, but is this even making a difference?" The answer is yes. According to this article, the ALS Association has received $9.5 million since the ice bucket challenge began in late July, compared to a mere $1.6 million raised in the same time period last year. That is unbelievable, and for people like my father-in-law, it's more than dollars, it's encouragement.

    I am not going to force you to dump ice on your head. I'm simply asking you not to roll your eyes as you page down past the dozens of ice bucket videos on Facebook. I'm asking you to stop, click on the link, and give. If you can't give, I'm asking you to spread it along to those who can. And, if you feel so inclined, start the challenge up with a bucket of your own and pass it through your friends list. You don't have to be tagged to help, and you don't have to be directly affected to donate:


    Thank you. You can make a difference.

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    Monday, August 11, 2014

    Second-Grade Supplies

    My child is going to be in second grade. He doesn't need a Ninja Turtles backpack.

    I would tell you this is not going to be a mushy parenting post about growing up, but you and I both know that would be a lie. Look away if you don't want to hear a coming-of-age story about a kid who just turned seven, and I promise those who keep reading that I'll keep it light. Deal?

    School starts one week from today, and Nathan will be in the upper echelons of his primary school. A top dog, if you will. Sure, the third-graders will still be the holders of seniority, but those kindergarten babies will look no different than his three-year-old brother. Because the bell will soon ring, we took a trip to Target for one of my favorite days of the year. I get downright giddy about this day. I know some of you feel the same way about pointy, fresh crayons and the smell of cap erasers, but some may not. C'est la vie. Luckily, my kid is into it. He and his Daddy took one side of the school section, I took the other, and we met at the backpacks. I took him to the small ones first, and pointed out an R2D2 bag that lights up and beeps, an Angry Birds bag, and one featuring Lightning McQueen. He denied all three. I even tried a Skylanders one, despite the fact that I don't know what that means. Nothing doing. At that point, I asked him to just find one himself.

    Then he pulled one from the hook, slipped it onto his small shoulders, and gave the thumbs up. It was the same size as the others, but no cartoons or licensed characters. Just black and blue camo and skulls.

    Granted, I did think it was a cool backpack, but Jonathan smirked when I tried to push the sweet R2D2 bag again. "Nathan, tell her you're a second-grader now and you know what you like."

    Let me clarify what bothered me here. I don't care what's on the kid's backpack as long as it's appropriate, it's the idea. It's the idea that I just loaded his tiny puppy backpack with his nap mat and a box of baby wipes and sent him off to preschool. It's the idea that he's realizing he's too old for certain things and he's developing his own preferences. I enjoy this kid so much and I'm thankful the three of us had this day to ourselves. We filled our cart with the supplies he chose, we bought him a fresh pair of kicks {in a size larger, of course}, and we shared polite dinner conversation with our child-person. I loved the one-on-one time, but it was undeniable proof that Baby Bauer #1 is actually doing this growing up thing.

    I push him to take care of himself and be more independent. I push him to grow and develop and learn and change. I push him to embrace what he likes and be proud of it. Funny how I grasp at straws when he goes for it. And people. PEOPLE. This is just the second grade. I'm in for a whirlwind over the next decade, aren't I? All I have to say about that is thank goodness for little siblings. I have a tiny puppy backpack tucked away in the boys' closet that will fit Owen just fine when he walks into preschool next year. NEXT YEAR?!

    Oh, heavens.

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    Saturday, August 9, 2014

    Festival Fun

    The Watermelon Festival is my jam.

    I don't know if eating a foot-long corn dog while wandering past homemade crafts, children covered in triple-digit-degree sweat, and melons by the truckload sounds like a good time to you, but it's been one of my favorites since 1993. This festival isn't just something I like to do, it's something I have to do. It's a part of me. It embodies the idea of small town community, it provides a sense of belonging, and it makes me feel seven years old.

    The cool thing about the 38th annual Watermelon Festival is that I actually got to take a seven-year-old of my own. This is no longer my hometown, nor does it belong to my children, but I love to share this part of my past. I love that so many years have passed, but the festival remains unchanged. Sure there are new activities and trendy crafts, but the overall feel is a constant. This may prove boring to many, but it's comforting to me. I see the old wooden tables where I feasted on dozens of 50-cent watermelon slabs. I see the lawn where I entered the seed spitting competition in 1995. I see the band booster hut where I doled out hamburgers with a smile for many years. I see the same face painting options that have always been there. And you know I plucked that baby of mine from her stroller and put the two dollars down. It may have taken several minutes, a bottle spiked with lemonade, and a handful of snacks, but she did it:

    This year's festival was delightful for many reasons. I will limit it to three. Number One: Even though the temperature was 88, feels like 102 {truth}, it was nice compared to most years. The humidity decided to creep back in just in time, but we were not drenched with sweat. Typically that takes about six minutes at the Watermelon Festival. Number Two: We went early. Most vendors hadn't opened when we arrived, and even though we had funnel cake for breakfast, it was worth it to miss the hottest part of the day. Number Three: There was a massive amount of good stuff. I don't know if the crafts are getting better or I'm getting older, but I was impressed with this year's offerings. I only came away with wooden toys for the boys and a burlap hanger for my front door, but my wish list was much longer.

    And, just for you, a bonus Number Four: My kids were there. This was the first year that we didn't eat/touch/look at the fruit for which the festival is famous {poor Owen discovered a watermelon allergy the hard way a few months ago}, but that was just fine. We still successfully and safely navigated the festival and we still reveled in a slice of my past:

    If you live in my neck of the woods, were you able to get out to this year's Watermelon Festival? If not, today is the last day. Wade through the rain and eat something on a stick for me. For the rest of you, does your hometown host an event that makes you feel like a kid again? Tell me all about it, then have yourself a happy little Saturday.

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    Monday, August 4, 2014

    Garden Glory

    The other day I posted a picture to Instagram, the hip little sister of my social media world.

    It was taken in the backyard between Nora's bedtime and sunset. Jonathan and I dug through the debris to find tomatoes in the plants that had fallen over in the last storm, we untangled weeds to pick dozens of jalapenos, and we sifted through the dead cucumber vines to find the hidden survivors. I was surprised to quickly fill a bowl with tomatoes ranging from pink to purple, and the pile of peppers grew higher and higher. I posted a portion of the harvest and said even though my garden looks more dead than alive, we're still trucking. It doesn't look like I wanted it to. Forces beyond my control {and also maybe within my control} were the cause of that. It's ugly, it's worn, it's tired, but it perseveres. We keep picking.

    Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to photograph my garden's lush, beautiful stage, but the bounty is still abundant. I'm not exaggerating when I say I haven't watered once this summer thanks to this insane Arkansas weather. The grass is still green and plants that should be cooked to a crisp are still producing. It's been cool, it's been wet, it's been wonderful. Although I don't have any garden growing pictures, I have a few photos that show July harvests. I also have photos to show where they came from.

    {Yes, those are new bean plants in the center. Their predecessors gave all they had, and then stopped. This particular variety was delicious and I'm looking forward to even more. New cucumber plants may be coming, too.}

    Branches have cracked in half, yards have been littered with debris, and tomato plants have been ripped from their cages in this summer's storms. We've had no serious damage, thank goodness, but it has contributed to the above photos. With three kids and rainy weather, my gardening motto has been to let it be and harvest when ready. For me, this has stripped my garden of its usual uniformity. Tomatoes left to ripen on the ground, plants sprawling horizontally, and bugs setting up shop. Success lies on my counter tops, which are covered by produce in various states of ripeness, but it hasn't done much for curb appeal. I'm learning that's okay. It's not always pretty, but it works. Sometimes you just have to let things go to see what will happen, and sometimes you might be surprised.

    So, this has been a garden update filled with metaphor. I hope it fills the quota for tomato pictures, deep thoughts, and excuses for the rambling wilderness spilling across my backyard. I wish you a very happy Monday and I encourage you to let things grow, even if things don't look the way you planned.

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    Friday, August 1, 2014

    Birthday Letter {My Daughter}

    {I am attempting to write a letter a year to each of my kids. Since this one coincides with Nora's first birthday, I don't have any backlog for you to read. If you're bored, however, find a letter to Nathan here and a letter to Owen here.}

    Dear Nora,

    I've been trying to figure out what to say to you for a while, my sweet baby. I have so much to tell you that I can't narrow it down. My brain is bubbling over with words and advice and perspectives about raising a baby who will become a woman. I want to tell you how incredible it is to have a daughter who can learn from my mistakes and grow. I want to tell you how terrifying it is to have a daughter who can repeat my mistakes {and grow}. I want to tell you not to worry about peer pressure, to disregard society's negative influence, and to face your fears with eyes wide open. I want to tell you you are more than the number on a scale, the money in your pocket, and the sum of your parts. But, as you know, we've only just begun.

    I have plenty of time to share these thoughts with you {lucky you!}, so today we will start with the basics. Today I am starting with five of the most important things I want for my daughter {and my sons, too}:
  • I want you to be brave. I'm not necessarily condoning skydiving {I am your mother}, but I want you to be unashamed. I want you to have the courage to be who you want to be, and to love who you are. Stand up for yourself, and stand up for others. Don't be scared when wrong is popular, and don't be scared when right is hard. Be brave enough to try, and be brave enough to fail.

  • I want you to figure it out. Find inspiration and lock into it, but make it your own. Spend time outside of your comfort zone and explore the world around you. Get in touch with nature, look deep into the eyes of your loved ones, and have frequent chats with Jesus. It will be hard, but you will find your purpose. You just have to try.

  • I want you to know you're beautiful. Not because of your piercing blue eyes, soft blonde hair, and gorgeous features. Not because of your designer clothes or your masterfully applied makeup or your number of dates {which will rest solidly at zero until 2044}. Know you're beautiful because you are wonderfully made. Know you are beautiful because you are loved more than you can imagine. Know you are beautiful because of what you see in the mirror, not in spite of it.

  • I want you to find happiness. And I want you to know that happiness will never, ever come from things. There is no amount of money that can make you happy, and there is no amount of attention that can make you satisfied. True, unadulterated happiness comes from within. It comes from relationships. It comes from love. Happiness is a choice and I want you to choose it as often as you can.

  • I want you to help. Be kind to others without thinking of how it will benefit you. Keep your heart open and your motives pure. We may not know the reason for this life until it is over, but the least we can do is help our brothers and sisters along the way. If you can make someone else's life a little better, trust me when I say it will help yours even more.
  • Today I can scoop you up off the nursery floor, get lost in your bright eyes, and know you're safe with me, but the second hand will always be ticking. This stage is one of my favorites, but it's fast. You are soaking up life like a little sponge, and your personality is blossoming. I can't wait to see what kind of person you become. I just hope I'm the kind of person who can help along the way.

    I love you, my daughter. You're a tiny, tiny part of a big, big world, but I hope you know you possess the ability to hold it all in the palm of your hand.

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