Friday, June 19, 2015

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. My kids and I are very proud {and very lucky} to be able to say our experience is the exact opposite.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing this wrong; that my motherhood doesn't look right. Supposed gender roles are swapped all over our home. I can't cook much more than frozen waffles, but I sure spent half an hour shoveling chicken manure last night. I keep my house as clean as possible, but I haven't gone grocery shopping in months. I change diapers, he changes diapers. I give baths, he gives baths. I hide in the bathroom and count to ten, and I can only assume my husband does the same. I am not the flawless Lead Parent Mother of All Who Need Her. This is a partnership, and it's right for me.

I can remember almost eight years ago, standing over a five-pound baby wrapped like a burrito in his tiny hospital bed. I knew I needed to change his diaper. He had been born just a few hours ago, but it was time. I was paralyzed. I hadn't done it in years and didn't know where to begin. His legs were so little and he was so fragile. Then Jonathan gently touched my arm and asked if I needed help. I sat down and watched as tears started rolling down my cheeks. Not because I couldn't do it, but because he could. And because he would.

I know that's a weird memory to dredge up for Father's Day, but it was in that instance that I knew the three of us would be okay. Jonathan has taught me more about parenting than I could imagine. I wasn't ready, he wasn't ready, but I think that's how parenting goes, honestly. We help each other figure it out and we make it work. We aren't just a mother and a father, we're parents. Together.

In the years that followed, I saw my husband answer baby cries, sit on the edge of a toddler bed for hours, cook dinners, fix problems, mediate battles, help with homework, and brush the sweetest blonde curls. He doesn't do this because I ask him to, or because he loves me and thinks I need a babysitter. He does this because he's their dad.

Although being married to a man who bashes the Dad Stereotype has proven beneficial to my sanity, I think the best part is his example. Kids may learn to parent by watching their own {shout out to the in-laws!} and I love to think that mine are soaking this up. They see that dads aren't just second bananas. It can be easy for us to get caught up in the "I changed the last diaper!" trenches of parenthood, but it's more than that. It's not who does what and why. It's about helping new people grow because you love them. I thank Jonathan {a man of all things} for teaching me that.

Here's to the dads who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, so to speak.

I want to wish a Happy {Early} Father's Day to all the men who have spent countless hours raising, encouraging, and molding their children into good people. You are more important than you realize. Not just to the kids who look up to you, but to the partners who stand right beside you.

Now, grab a cold beer and turn on the tube. It's almost Father's Day, after all!

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Water Babies

Most of the photos I've taken this summer feature my kids in swimsuits. I see no issue here.

Last weekend we had our first family swim day at my parents' house. It's starting to get pretty sweltering down here, so the water is perfect. Nathan the Fish took right to darting across the pool and holding his breath as long as possible. Owen was thrilled to find out he could actually stand in the shallow end. Nora, however, was the one who surprised me. She liked the pool a lot more than she cared for the ocean.

At first she didn't want to move from her beloved steps and toys, but once I showed her that it was just like a giant bathtub, she was all in. Face down, bubbles up, and absolutely loving it. I think the best part was when I realized she wanted to do the back float. This photo may translate as paralyzing terror, but that's bliss, y'all. She let her mermaid hair flow in the water, closed her eyes, and completely relaxed. Floating is such an amazing feeling. I can't say for sure, but I think she enjoyed it.

When it comes to the actual art of swimming, however, Nathan takes the crown. He took three years of swim lessons and we decided it was time to graduate. Last year he and Owen went together, and let's just say I only ended up paying for one student. We persevere, however, and Monday marked Owen's second round at Mrs. Julie's. He spent the first half hour in tears. We sat and watched the other kids dive for toys and show off their Superman arms. Finally, once everyone stopped trying to get him to give in, he gave in {imagine that}. He was a different kid the second half of the lesson and doing cannonballs off the diving board by Day Four.

Miracles occur at swim lessons, y'all. I could tell my kids the same instructions and they'd look at me like I had three heads, but if a non-parent is directing, the concentration is unbreakable. {Maybe not unbreakable, there were a few times Owen stopped mid-swim to tell Mrs. Julie he saw a toy on the bottom or someone's foot in the distance, but I digress.}

I'm very proud of Owen for finding the courage to give in and jump in. It's absolutely worth it to build confidence around the water and I can't wait to watch him and Nathan continue to improve as the long days of summer wear on. And I'll start hitting the weights a little harder to support Baby Nora back floats.

Have you been splashing much yet this summer? If not, it's high time! Have a great weekend, y'all.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Garden 2015: Go Big or Go Home

About a month ago, I planted a vegetable garden in my backyard. Then came a great flood.

Usually I'm very quick on my freshly planted garden post, because you obviously love dirt photos and it lets me know what I planted where. It's proven helpful to have an online garden journal from the last five seasons {click the garden tab above to see what I mean}. I was a blogging slacker last month, but I can also blame this procrastination on the rain. Records were set, rivers were flooded, and my garden was a mud pit. It might not have been so bad in my raised beds, but this year, we went big.

We talked for a few years about abandoning my precious square-foot gardening system and tearing up a plot. This year, the IRS sent a refund and we cashed it in for a tiller and made it happen. We took out the raised beds that contained tomatoes and peppers last year, and replaced it with a 25x30-foot garden. My math isn't the best, but we now have something like 500 square feet more planting space. Veggies for all!

Since you've been waiting with bated breath for me to share the story of planting day, I'll wait no longer. Facebook tells me the tomato and pepper plants went in on May 14. We tried to wait for the ground to dry out, but ended up plopping the delicate stems in mud. The tomatoes are thriving beautifully now that the sun has arrived. This year we have 12 plants versus our usual 6 {I predict this gets overwhelming}. I stuck with tried-and-true varieties: Arkansas Traveler, Super Fantastic, Early Girl, and Cherokee Purple, and there are already baby tomatoes of every type. The peppers didn't like the cool, wet May and we lost a couple plants. Jonathan bought a few replacement bells and hopefully they'll fit right in now that the heat is on. We have three jalapenos, three yellow bells, and {fingers crossed} four green bells. Again, a bit of a bigger reach than my typical planting of six.

{Not Labeled: Weeds and grass. It's a work in progress, friends.}

A few days before we got those plants in the ground, we sowed seeds in long, semi-straight rows. The sunflowers, cucumbers, okra, and green beans popped right up in the rain and have exploded in the heat and sun. The 15 feet of cucumber plants are already blooming and climbing the trellis and the sunflowers {a new crop this year} are already taller than the tomatoes. This garden is full of promise. Promise for delicious summer meals, promise for a lot more work, promise for even more backyard beauty, and promise to keep friends and family fully stocked.

If the sun keeps shining and rain comes occasionally, there will be a ton of tomatoes, a basket of beans, and a crate of cucs for you. Hit me up if you want some! There's my belated planting post. How does your garden grow?

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Nine Years Better

I don't know if I've ever heard of National Best Friend Day until Monday {and believe me, I pay close attention to Facebook}.

I couldn't help but grin when I realized this day came a few days before the anniversary of legally telling my best friend I'd hang out with him forever. Yes, I married that Bauer boy on this day in 2006, less than a year after I told him I'd be his girlfriend. We planned for months, chose flowers, picked colors, and quickly learned just how overwhelming wedding planning could be. Despite it all, we tied that knot, slipped on those rings, and haven't looked back.

Nine years ago we partied like there was no tomorrow and had no clue what the next few thousand tomorrows would bring. As much as I like to wish my husband "Happy anniversary, can't wait to see what's next!" it's just as fun to look back and see how much we've grown since that hot June day.

In honor of the love that built this bunch, today I'm sharing nine memories that I will carry forever:
  1. Saying "yes" with a guarded heart when he asked me {again} to be his girlfriend.

  2. Saying "yes" before he could get onto his knee in the parking lot at UCA.

  3. Saying "yes" when one pink line became two in the bathroom of our first rent house in Conway.

  4. Looking for lightning bugs in the bottoms of Faulkner County.

  5. Looking for a beating heart on the ultrasound screen.

  6. Driving home at 6:00 in the morning after staying up all night talking about nothing.

  7. Going to bed at 6:00 in the morning after staying up all night soothing a colicky baby.

  8. Holding his hand and knowing what love and safety and friendship felt like.

  9. Loving him more today than on all the yesterdays combined. No joke.

Things have changed so much in nine years. There have been struggles, there have been fights, and there has been plenty of imperfection, but I can say with 100% certainty that we have steadily improved. This relationship gets better with time and understanding, trust and patience. My life is sweet because I know I can fall into him, and he knows the same. I can't wait to see just how good it can get.

Happy Anniversary, Jonathan. I sure do love you.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Summertime Slow

June is my favorite month for many reasons, but nothing beats the inspiration that creeps in as the signs of summer start to show.

Everything past the front door is green and bright and loud. A shock of blue lights the sky and draws me out to explore. Summer shoves me off the couch. It inspires a fresh awareness of what's beyond my four walls and begs me to slow down and bask in it. Fragrant hydrangea blooms have exploded on their deep green leaves, marigolds are singing toward the sky, yellow flowers are dotting the veggie plants, and children are asking to go out at dawn.

Summer is so close I can taste it {and paint it in an idyllic way after it rained for one month straight}. We have yet to reach triple-digit temps, so I know we're a few weeks out. However, I have plans. I'm here today with a summertime bucket list of sorts. Here's what I'd like to do:

  1. Go swimming frequently. Watch out, Nana, here we come!
  2. Cut more flowers to bring inside.
  3. Take a nap.
  4. Lie in the grass and soak up the sun.
  5. Eat a warm tomato straight off the vine.
  6. Don't waste anything from the garden this year. Work on canning, work on freezing, work on sharing.
  7. Make dinner from the backyard. Once the girls get to work, we'll have all the ingredients for a fresh frittata.
  8. Fire up the grill more often. I want pizza. Lots and lots of grilled pizza.
  9. Go to the zoo! Or to the water park! Or to a state park! A Bauer Bunch day trip is a must.
  10. Bring a pair of chairs and a pitcher of margaritas into the garden to watch the sun set.
  11. Say yes to muddy sprinkler runs, messy Popsicles, and tiring swing pushes {on that note: teach Owen to pump}.
  12. Turn off the TV and put down the phone.
  13. Take the kids fishing.
  14. Take the kids to someone else's house. We are overdue for a date night, y'all.
  15. Read a book on the porch swing.
  16. Count as many stars as we can.
  17. Spend mornings in the backyard watching the chickens play and the sunflowers stretch.
  18. Share all these plans with family and friends.
  19. Take deep breaths, count to ten, and send them outside when no-school-full-house syndrome kicks in.
  20. Relax and enjoy. This summer will only come once.

What's on your bucket list for the upcoming season? Do you want to slow down as much as I do? Or are you jumping in headfirst with travel and excitement? Let's chat in the comments, okay?

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Family Vacation

{This poor, neglected blog needs fresh air, doesn't it? May was full of busyness that pulled me away from the screen, but there's nothing like a little saltwater to revive it.}

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 in {almost} every moment. If you can gather from this that we took the kids to the beach this year as opposed to our solo vacay last year, then you get a prize!

Last week we took the bunch {plus my parents} to the Emerald Coast of Florida and though I was nervous about herding three kids around a hot, sandy beach, I can say now that it was wonderful. The kids hadn't been since Nathan was 4 and Owen was 1, so it was a new experience.

For weeks before, Owen told everyone who would listen that he wouldn't put his big toe into the ocean. There are fish in there! However, his mind quickly changed when he looked to the endless sea. I'll be darned if he didn't fling himself into it. He spent half his time begging someone to hold his hand and the other half jumping waves, getting knocked down, and coming up sputtering and laughing. Nathan, ever the beach bum, was enthralled by it - studying the shoreline and keeping an eye out for dolphins. The main difference this year was that he didn't need us to hold his hand.

{As you can see above, Owen Bauer still needed this service}

And Nora, well, Nora was content to sit beneath the umbrella, on the mat, sunglasses firmly in place, snack in hand. As long as you didn't disrupt this flow, she was happy. If you made any mention of bringing her close to the water or moving her hands into the sand, she was done:

The weather in Florida was gorgeous {my apologies to all we left in the wetlands of Arkansas}. It rained one night, but each morning was soaked in sunshine. The water was rough the first couple of days, but we finally saw yellow flags on our last venture out. We ran, we splashed, and we learned a few family-vacation-related lessons:

  • Beach wagons do not roll on the sand as described on the package.
  • Forty-pound babies with sandy diapers make for better workouts than Crossfit.
  • It's not all that bad to be seated in the "families with annoying kids" section. Especially if you eat dinner promptly at 4:00 PM each night. No wait, no worries, so many crab legs.
  • The wait for the beach bros to set up chairs is a more excruciating experience with three pairs of eagle eyes.
  • Kids are great at shell spotting, crab catching, and not whining about the saltwater taste.
  • The only thing better than experiencing the magic of where ocean meets land and water fades into sky is seeing it in your kids.

Sure, there were less fruity cocktails, less afternoon naps, and zero books read beneath the sun, but I brought home much more than darker skin and sandy floorboards. Until next time, Florida! Thanks for the memories.

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