Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bauer Bunch Best Of {2015}

Oh, hey there! I thought I'd pop in one last time before 2015 became yesterday's news.

How have the holidays been treating you? We had a wonderful Christmas that ended in the same house with a much larger toy collection. Santa showed up and Baby Jesus made his way into the Nativity. We burned the highway across Arkansas to celebrate family growth and dream about the future. We laughed and ate to capacity and enjoyed our time together; however, I'll find relief when the tree is packed away.

I'm shifting focus to a fresh year and I have big plans. While it's still December, though, I thought it would be fun to look back at where we've been. Instead of grabbing a post per month, as I've done in the past, I've gone through 2015 and snagged my favorite stories. While you're waiting for the kids to give in and the champagne to chill, here's a bit of reading material. I've added the first few lines of each post for browsing, but click the photo or title for the real deal. Drum roll, please. It's the Bauer Bunch Best Of {2015}:

And You're So Much Like Me
I had a parenting revelation a while ago that stopped me cold in my tracks. It was a conversation with Nathan {and then one later with his father} that brought me straight back to second-grade. It was like watching seven-year-old Jessica go through the motions from an outside perspective. I know what's on the other side, but I can't intervene.

Chicken Chat
A few new girls moved into the house this week. For years we've talked about chickens. A flock of pets that live outside and give us free food sounded like a sweet deal. As I continued to have babies of my own, though, we decided adding a box of chirping chicks to care for wasn't going to work. Every year we found a reason not to do it, but I never stopped bringing it up.

On Being Seven
This week my oldest son graced the stage and nailed his line in the second-grade musical. They sang loud and clear, they hit their marks like professionals, and they grooved like nobody was watching. The odd thing about it, though, was that several people watching. The wooden auditorium seats were filled with parents, grandparents, and siblings who were being shushed with graham crackers.

Still Standing
I've been watching the Japanese maple in my front yard for five years. Armed with a shovel and a tiny little tree, two-year-old Nathan helped me and Jonathan plunk those roots into the dark soil. It was such a sad-looking tree. It was the same height as the green support we planted next to it, and it drooped for days while we watered it back to health.

To My Rotten Kid
Parenting isn't always fun. Sometimes I get the urge to close up shop. Pack my bags, jump in the car, and leave a pile of waffles in the living room. Although we both know this isn't a possibility, the feelings are real. Between two-hour bedtime battles, backseat wrestle mania, and various forms of the word "mom" hurled at me relentlessly, I get tired.

Here's to the Dads
I don't know about you, but I cringe when someone insinuates that I have four children, husband included {har, har}. It's not that I don't understand the joke that grown men may sometimes act like children, I just don't think it's particularly funny. It seems odd to imply that fathers are needy and less involved.

Family Vacation
There was quite a bit more on this year's beach trip, friends. There were more 6:30 AM wake-up calls, more requests for chocolate milk, more fights in the condo, more dirty diapers, and a lot more to carry down the boardwalk. Coincidentally, there was more laughter, more sand castles, more squealing every time a wave surprised us, and more joy.

My Wildflower
I think I have written about the precise moment the ultrasound tech told me Nora was a girl a dozen times on this blog. Nathan danced a happy jig, Owen's eyes widened, and tears let loose from my mine. It keeps cropping up because it marked a distinct turning point in the flow of the Bunch. Not because this baby was of a different sex than the two before, but because of what that little girl would mean for us.

Backseat Buddy
For as long as Owen can remember, he has spent an hour of his day in a car seat. Thirty minutes there, thirty minutes back. He's always accompanied me down the highway to my work town, where he's then dropped off at day care. On these drives we have counted cows in the pastures and laughed at the ones that wander into ponds. We've sung Uptown Funk and "Keri" Perry until our voices cracked.

Truth + Pumpkin Carving
I'd like to know the history behind carving pumpkins. I'm sure a Google search would direct me to a perfectly reasonable explanation of using these decorative gourds as lanterns on chilly autumn nights or something, but I want to know the turning point that made it parental torture.

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas Concerto

Nathan checked to make sure the music was in order, stretched his fingers, and blew us away.

Mrs. Becky's cast of characters had been preparing their holiday pieces for weeks, and I watched as each brave musician showed us what happens when brain meets music. Songs ranged from The First Noel on the violin, to a beautifully sung version of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, to my firstborn playing I'll Be Home For Christmas like he could have done it with his eyes closed. If the audience wasn't in the Christmas spirit by that point, a few Grinchs turned.

Because Jonathan had to hurry back to work, Nathan was first in line. He wished his audience a Merry Christmas, shared his name, grade, and occupation, then sat down at the ivory keys. His rhythm was spot-on and he didn't miss a single note. He stood up to a round of applause and I caught a proud smile as he bowed like a gentleman. Nailed it.

There was even an encore for Nathan, whose teacher decided he could handle two pieces at his second recital. This one featured accompaniment. It might have been like pulling teeth to get me to agree to it, but I'm glad I did. He and I played What Child is This on the piano and flute and I can't tell you what it felt like to share that moment with my son. As the crowd listened, I was washed with a feeling of pride in having passed this talent on. It's been 25 years since my mom and I played Away in a Manager together, but it was overwhelming to make this connection.

Music lasts. Learning music, sharing music, enjoying music all leave a mark. It means something to people of all ages, and encouraging your kids to embrace that is a fantastic idea. It will never leave me, and it will never leave Nathan {even if he does groan at practice time}.

You didn't think I'd skip the pieces, did you? In case you missed the show, below are the complete versions of Nathan's songs. Have a wondeful weekend, y'all!

BONUS MATERIAL: If you thought that was good, do yourself a favor and CLICK HERE to see a similar video post from six years ago. You're welcome.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Good, The Bad & The Bunny

Fact: Today is December 10.
Fact: It's very close to 70 degrees as I'm typing.
Fact: I am 100% okay with this.

There's no real normal Arkansas weather, but it's still fall around here. The colors in the south are vibrant as ever and many trees show no signs of letting go. Adding more color to my December backyard are the dots of green still growing, thriving, and doing their best in my garden. A couple months ago I told you about the promise of a fall garden. I'm here to report that {some} of it grew! Let's discuss.

The GOOD: I planted broccoli for the first time this September. One night dropped into the 20s and left frost damage on the beautiful forest green leaves, but they're growing! Last week I was pleased to find perfect little broccoli bouquets sprouting from the middle of my plants. The Bauer girls are notorious for their love of broccoli and we hope to be feasting soon.

Another new crop we're looking forward to harvesting are the carrots. We have tried to germinate carrot seed three or four times in our short lives as gardeners and much to Owen's disappointment, they've never popped up. We must have held the seeds just right this year, though. Owen's already asking for ranch dip.

We're waiting patiently for carrots, but we have already pulled something else from the ground. We are pleased to report perfectly shaped, bright-red radishes! They pack a peppery punch and more flavor than the sad ones left on restaurant salad bars. The Internet told me to dip them in butter, and the Internet was right. Tasty little snacks straight from the dirt.

The BAD: I have photographic evidence of Nathan and Owen planting two rows of lettuce and spinach, both specially chosen for their vigorous growth and cold weather tolerance. That's all I have, though. Blame it on the weather, bad seed, or hungry birds, but I'll be buying my greens at the grocery store. Can't win 'em all.

The UGLY: The ugly comes in the form of floppy ears and a fluffy cotton tail. And I need him dead. Back when the young plants were stretching up and out and every way, a rabbit stepped up to the buffet. Day after day we found damage, but never caught him in the act. I ended up shaking cayenne pepper all over the leaves of my precious veggies. One completely nibbled cabbage plant became a treat for the chickens, but the remainders are recovering. Bunnies dislike cayenne pepper as much as lead poisoning. The more you know?

While I kick back with ranch dressing at the ready and wait for our food to go from farm to table, why don't you tell me about your fall garden? There has to be a better success rate out there. What fresh veggies are you munching? Meet you in the comments!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Dear December

Let me join the rest of the world with an opening of I can't believe December's here!

This year has flown by and while we have had our share of ups and downs, I'm happy to start December with a happy home, a healthy family, and the promise of a fresh tomorrow. But we'll have time to say things like "blank slate" once the calendars have been changed. Today I'm talking about the last month of the year and my hopes for it:

Magic: This December I need to find the magic of the season. I need to push back the grumpiness that comes from strewn-about ornaments and glittery carpet. I need to see it in the eyes of my children who cherish hot cocoa and Polar Express, making cookies solely for Santa, and being unable to close their eyes on Christmas Eve. I need to get lost in that.

Love: I will remember the reason for the season. I will wait patiently full of hope, peace, joy, and love and prepare my heart for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ. I will stretch beyond my comfort zone and expect more than family, food, and gifts this holiday season. I will listen so I can hear Him. I will open my eyes so I can find Him.

Slow: My planner is jam-packed with things to do this month and it's only December 1. Parties and plays, recitals and parades, and not much room for free time. However, I need to create that free time. I want to sit by the tree with my children and spend hours looking at Christmas lights. I want the five of us to make new traditions and simply enjoy each other.

Peace: December isn't my favorite month when it comes to savoring the great outdoors, but this year I vow to make it different. I will wrap up in blankets and look at the stars. I will notice the Earth's changes as it fades in order to start again. I will diligently tend to my wintering carrots and broccoli and play with my kids no matter the temperature. Honestly, this year's big present will help in this area {thank goodness for second-hand hot tubs}.

My list for the month is a bit different than those in the past, but I have my fingers crossed and my heart full that 2016 is going to be incredible. December is the perfect time to ready myself for that.

What are you wanting from December?

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Puddle Jumpers

Rain, rain, go away. The chickens did not choose the above-ground pool option.

It started raining on Thanksgiving and has just now begun to slow. In that time, my yard has been replaced by a series of ponds, the creek has evolved into a fast-paced river, and there's no dry land to be found. Steady rain made for a soothing holiday backdrop and the grey skies let the autumn colors shine, but enough's enough. Cabin fever with three kids escalates quickly. That's why we snagged the first opportunity to pull on our boots and go for a swim.

As you can see by the bottom picture, Nora bravely ventured into deep water. We went right up to our boot tops, and carefully waded back out. However, Nora decided to navigate a new puddle on her own. A puddle that hid an armadillo hole. Still, we had to drag her inside, kicking and screaming and sopping wet, to a hot bath and dry PJs. She takes puddle jumping seriously.

The chickens were not nearly as pleased as the kids {wet diaper aside}. They'd prefer their run not be under several inches of water, but what can you do? I tried to encourage them to swim out and find the grass, but they preferred to just sit in the coop. Every so often a couple would fly out to survey the land and report back. I gave them a tomato for entertainment. Hopefully that helped?

How's the weather at your place? Are you expecting an ark any time soon? Happy Monday, y'all.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Blessings From My Table

Misshapen turkeys deck the table, the family's at the door, and it's almost time to serve the one meal that warrants a countdown.

You've marked your list, made last-minute touches, and probably popped the wine a little early. Your kitchen could be covered in lace tablecloths, fine China and a five-course gourmet meal, or maybe your Turkey Day is take-out and paper plates. Either way, it's here. Thanksgiving Day is indeed a holiday of green bean casserole and a menagerie of pies, but be sure to look up. The people at your table are the reason for the season. Count them one by one. Each person sitting with me today is a blessing, and I appreciate them more than the peanut butter haystacks.

In Bauer Bunch tradition, I'm providing a bit of light reading today as you sleep off your third plate and pretend to watch football in the living room. Following is a brief description of what each member of my family is thankful for this year. None of it is scripted. Some of it is funny. All of it is love. Happy Thanksgiving, from my bunch to yours!

Age: 32
Thankful For: "Eye surgery for repairing my vision, church for allowing me to serve my community and family, Jessica for being there with me as our lives keep changing, Dad for tools and teaching me how to use them, and God for giving me the life I have and the crosses I carry while trying to follow in His footsteps."

Age: 31
Thankful For: "I'm thankful for the beautiful serenity of my home, the wild and loving kids who live inside, and the man who tries hard to hold us all together. I'm thankful for the ability to love and be loved, to forgive and be forgiven, and to take new steps every day."

Age: 8
Thankful For: "Jesus because He died on the cross for us. I am also thankful for my DS because I get entertainment from it. And finally I'm thankful for my brother because I get to play with him and he's funny when he makes weird sounds."

Age: 4
Thankful For: "Daddy because he gives me chocolate milk and plays the phone in bed with me. And I'm thankful for my chickens because I like to let them out and play with them. Sometimes they make good cheese eggs. Also you and Nathan and Nora. But that's it."

Age: 2
Thankful For: "A SANDWICH! And chicken nuggets and Capri Suns and MY BABIES. And I need a dollar."

Hungry for more? Click around below for the Bauer Bunch thanks from years past.
Check out the post from 2014 here, the post from 2013 here, the post from 2012 here, and the post from 2011 here. Have a lovely holiday, y'all.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Frozen Football Weekend

Sometimes you have to get away from it all. Even if that means wearing three pairs of pants.

My weekend was full of friends, football, and frozen toes. Despite the last one {and the final scores of both games we attended}, this weekend was incredible. Let me share a few reasons that contributed to its success:

Friday afternoon my husband and I hastily packed separate weekend bags - one for us and one for the kids. We grabbed every piece of warm hunting gear we could find and dropped off the kids without looking back {okay, maybe once}. We pointed the car north and headed to Little Rock to watch my hometown high school football team in their second round of playoffs. When the score was ugly at halftime, we sat down to margaritas and tacos at 9:00 BECAUSE WE COULD.

We started the second leg of our trip that took us all the way to Fayetteville once dinner was finished, which ended with us checking into our hotel well after midnight. The road trip was spent belting out college music with no thought of the morning.

It sleeted in northwest Arkansas early Saturday, but I didn't see it. I didn't see it because I slept until 10:00 AM.

Bundled in the fashion you see above, we went to the Arkansas/Mississippi State game with a couple close friends after an early dinner that involved zero kid menus, no spilled drinks, and a minimal amount of trips to the restroom. I had nothing to be responsible for other than my game ticket. I screamed and cheered and gasped as the Hogs broke every heart in the stadium with the blocked kick heard 'round the world.

Still yet, we drug our frozen and disappointed selves out of the stadium and warmed up on the epic trek up the Hill. We returned to a hotel with grown-up friendly beverages and family-friendly board games and the four of us reminisced well into Sunday. We did that because we could.

I love my kids dearly, but it's fun to remember who I was before I became Mom. It's refreshing to take advantage of freedom and it's important to connect with the guy who's the reason for those kids waiting at home. Alone time with Jonathan will always be something I'm struggling to find, so I want to soak up every second I get.

I was happy to see my bunch and start looking forward to our family Thanksgiving, but I also started planning our tenth anniversary escape vacation immediately upon arrival.

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Eye Eye, Matey

I understand this is an old picture, but it fits today's theme. Also, I don't think Jonathan would appreciate my sharing actual eye-patch footage. Keep reading. This will make sense.

Last week was a bit of a bummer.

Bad news seemed to pile on with a flat tire, a light pole that popped up out of nowhere, and a blanket of living room Goldfish as far as the eye could see. I began to toss around ideas for a post about how things go wrong, but we shouldn't lose sight of the blessings we see before us. Then my husband's vision began to disappear.

{bonus points for each eye reference}

Being thankful is still a theme I'm working toward, but our bad week took an unexpected turn. It started as dots and flashes in his right eye that developed into a dark line, beneath which he saw nothing. He booked it to the eye doctor and that eye doctor promptly called a retina specialist in Little Rock.

We saw the specialist Friday morning and he cancelled all his special tests the moment he put on his fancy head instrument and peered into my poor husband's dilated pupil. He said words like "several tears" and "retinal detachment" and "atrophy" and other things I couldn't even try to comprehend. As soon as he left the room I leaned toward my patient and whispered, "Oooh, Jonathan, your eye is messed UP." If you haven't noticed, I probably wouldn't make a very good nurse.

To make a long story short, there were lasers in his eyeball for about an hour and a half Friday afternoon and I was well-equipped with pirate jokes for the ride home. Apparently it was a traumatizing experience, as it turns out he was awake during surgery. I basically learned everything I know about eyeballs over the last five days, so this was crazy and new information. Thankfully, surgery was a success and now we wait for his vision to return.

This recovery has meant no driving, no bending down, and no lifting over 10 pounds. I've been hauling chicken feed and Nora, trying to avoid excessive tardiness at school, and cooking lots of hot dogs for dinner. Believe me we will all be happy when Jonathan is back to normal, but until then Nora will enjoy playing swords with her Daddy she now calls Jake.

Hope your weekend was better. Keep smiling even if it wasn't, and have a great Wednesday!

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Halloween Night!

The rain stopped before night fell, each kid suited up with minimal crying, and there were zero candy-induced allergic reactions.

Halloween 2015 is one for the record books. We couldn't have asked for a better night to parade our cast of characters about my parents' neighborhood, politely asking for candy and keeping a side-eye out for the serious spooks. Owen was even brave enough to suggest that we start at the local "scary house" - though that may have had something to do with the daylight.

At this particular house, the scariest ghoul answers the door with a blood-curdling cackle. Nora was the only one who didn't immediately turn around when the door opened, and she just stared for several seconds. When the fear hit her, I'm pretty sure every person within a mile heard her scream. Poor baby wouldn't even take her candy. With that under their belts {and a vow to never return}, the neighborhood was theirs. We borrowed Grampa's golf cart and made the rounds.

As for costumes, this was the first year the trio skipped a theme. Green Lantern {who ended up having to use a Ring Pop to summon his powers} bravely defended the graceful ballerina while a zombie/deer hunter kept his gun at the ready. Owen later told us the man at the "scary house" was lucky he left his gun in the golf cart.

After we stopped at every glowing porch light, we went back to the grandparents' house to watch for trick-or-treaters and examine the goods. I'm pretty sure word spread fast that Owen was in charge of treat-giving, because his handfuls of chocolate bars were a hit.

Fast-forward to today and we're muddling in the aftermath. There are literally buckets of candy on my kitchen table and an entire family adjusting to the time change/sugar rush. We've been working hard to stay awake past 5:30. As we ease into the month of November and allow the Kit Kat high to wear off, I'm glad we have memories of a great Halloween.

How was your weekend? Did you eat miniature-sized candy for breakfast today?
Let me know in the comments and have a terrific Tuesday!

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Monday, November 2, 2015

Dear November

Broccoli's grown a bit since Dear October, huh?

As much as I try to prove my disdain for the cold, blustery days of fall, there's something special about November.

This year is tumbling closer to its end. November is here and I am thankful. I know it's going to be cold and I know I'm going to have to actually walk in the cold every day to see the chickens, but good things are coming, too. I'm not just talking about the green bean casserole, either.

Here are a handful of reasons why November 2015 and I will get along just fine:
  1. The most exciting thing in my planner is a weekend in Fayetteville. It's been years since I've gotten to go to a Razorbacks game, and this time it's serving as a date night weekend. Two glorious kid-free nights and kid-free mornings. You understand why this inches its way above Thanksgiving, right?

  2. It's almost harvest time! My fall garden has been growing and as long as the dang rabbits don't devour it by then, this month will bring a bounty of fresh backyard food. This is the biggest garden we've ever done this time of year, and it seems we'll soon reap what we've sown.

  3. I sure love a November wardrobe. If you know me at all you'll know I'm no fashionista {I felt silly typing that}, but I can appreciate plaid shirts, tall boots, and thick-knit sweaters. Call me basic all you want, but November clothes are comfy and flattering. You can keep the pumpkin spice latte, though.

  4. Obviously this list is not complete without one of my favorite holidays: Thanksgiving! Fact: I love eating. Fact: I love family. Throw these two together and it's perfect. Take away all gift-giving stress and turn the focus to counting our blessings, and I am sold. I have much to be thankful for this year.

  5. Maybe my husband has called me a grinch in the past when I've insisted he turn off Bing Crosby in September, but it's about time for the holiday bug to bite. Once the turkey's in the fridge, I'll be ready for the tree. This holiday season is approaching too quickly, but I'm buckling in for the ride.

What are you looking forward to this November? Have a great Monday, y'all.

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Costume Countdown

I've walked with a parade of characters over the last nine years.

It started with dressing a three-month-old monkey and expanded to the major players in the Star Wars franchise. Halloween has been a fun holiday as a parent, and one of the best parts has been *ahem* influencing costume choices. I know such power ends at a certain age, so I enjoyed myself during the early years. It's Halloween Eve and while you're taking a break from preparing outfits for your own ghouls and boys, I thought we'd take a trip down memory lane. I'm here with a Bauer Top Five: Halloween Costume Edition.

5) I couldn't help but remember when Nathan commanded that the the wild rumpus start. In 2009 Nathan knew "Where the Wild Things Are" cover to cover and he had to be Max for Halloween. This DIY masterpiece included over-sized footie pajamas, a plastic crown, and a fur hat that absolutely came from Spencer's.

4 + 3) I understand that using one photo for two costumes is probably cheating, but I make the rules here. These two are like peanut butter and jelly, pumpkin and pie, light side and dark side. Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker made for some adorable battle scenes in 2012. Also, Nathan's Ace bandage boots were on point.

2) Nora's Halloween debut was Leia to Nathan's Luke, but she stole the show last year as Wonder Woman. She ate her candy at lightning speed, stole the hearts of all who opened their door, and traded her invisible jet for a visible stroller. We know who holds the power in our trick-or-treating trio.

1) You knew it would be the carrot. There was no doubt in your mind that Number One would be Owen dressed as a carrot. Paired with an overalls-sporting big brother, this little veggie was a hit in 2011. It was a bumper crop that resulted in pictures that will come back to haunt him for years.

Honorable Mentions: Tiny Skeleton Man and Eyeliner Lion

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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Truth + Pumpkin Carving

I'd like to know the history behind carving pumpkins.

I'm sure a Google search would direct me to a perfectly reasonable explanation of using these decorative gourds as lanterns on chilly autumn nights or something, but I want to know the turning point that made it parental torture.

Every October my brother and I each carved a pumpkin. Newspaper was spread across the kitchen table and we flipped through our books {the exact same designs still there 20 years later} and landed on a favorite. My parents would tape our patterns to our pumpkins and we would meticulously choose our orange-handled weapons. We poked around the pattern for approximately five minutes until it proved too much on our tiny hands. We proceeded to watch television as our parents brought our creations to life, then we delighted as the spooky faces glowed on our porch.

What a fun tradition, right? Wrong.

It's not all fun and games when you can't give up after five minutes. It's a different world when you're trying to avoid piercing your hand with a tiny saw while your daughter screams "HAPPY FACE" directly into your ear. Carver's elbow is a legitimate problem, and I am nursing it today. Last night was spent sloshing pumpkin goop onto our kitchen floor.

Nora requested a happy face {as you might have guessed}, Owen requested an angry face, and Nathan chose an owl from the wondrous pattern book. Nora said the "goopies" were too much, Owen got bored waiting, and Nathan had more pressing matters on Minecraft. Armed with itty-bitty tools and a few cold cans, Jonathan and I carved our pumpkins. They turned out lovely, don't you think?

These cute kids were excited to hold their parents' pumpkins and give the impression that they were involved. Honestly, I still say it's worth the carver's elbow. Once lit, we turned the pumpkins toward the glass doors so the kids could sit inside, mesmerized by our handiwork. They were in love and we exchanged back pats.

However, painting pumpkins sounds like an excellent alternative...

Be honest. Do you actually enjoy carving pumpkins? Are you one of the lucky ones whose kids do all the work? Do you know the pain that comes with carver's elbow? Leave it all in the comments, friends. Have a great Thursday!

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