Monday, August 31, 2015

Challenge Completed



Rarely does the word "series" crop up in this space.

These typically last a post or two and then make a quiet exit. I quickly learned to stop making dramatic promises and shy away from accountability. After a summer-long blog hiatus, however, accountability seemed like a good kick in the pants. I publicly challenged myself on August 1. Today is August 31, and as soon as I hit the bright orange publish key, I'm calling this self-imposed challenge a major success.

One of my favorite pieces of blogging advice is this: don't write if you don't have anything to say. Don't feel pressured to put words on the screen only because you feel you owe it to your readers. Obviously I love y'all, but you do NOT want to read something I don't want to write. I still believe that, but I also believe you won't find good writing until you start. You have to start. I feel like I've told some good stories over the past four weeks {some harder to tell than others} and that's only because I promised myself I would start writing them. Thank you for reading, thank you for letting me clog your feeds, and thank you for sticking with me.

Not to become an after-school special on a Monday, but I think the start is the main reason for several of life's blocks, beyond throwing words into the greater reaches of the Internet. You will literally {yes, I'm using that correctly} never know what you can do until you start. If there's something you want to try or learn or improve or master, just start. Start today and see what you can do. I have never blogged this much in my life, and this is a virtual back pat for the world to see. I'm proud of myself and I'm inspired to continue.

As for post-challenge goals, I don't foresee an abrupt end. There could be a story to share every day in September, but I am fine with the chance there won't be. Stop by and check, though, won't you? I've told myself I will be here at least three days a week, and I think I need to keep listening.


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Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Five: AWBU Bound


This weekend my best friends/fellow bloggers will be taking on Hot Springs to talk sponsors and content and branding, oh my!

Since the fall of 2012, I have been an active member of Arkansas Women Bloggers. However, last year was my first time to meet most of these people in person at the group's annual conference. I made new connections and felt uplifted in ways I didn't think possible outside of youth group. It's a great feeling to have in a room filled with adult women you just met hours ago. Friendships blossomed, inspiration struck, and I put it on my calendar in ink for 2015.

Things have obviously gotten a little shaky this week with the passing of my dear Mema. Once arrangements were made, though, I learned the option to attend AWBU was still on the table. I wrestled with the idea for a while. Should I spend more time at home grieving over this loss or should I lean on my friends and celebrate the fact that I can? Mema was always a huge supporter of my writing {also a huge supporter of fun}, so I'd bet she's on board with my choice.

I can't exactly tell you what's going to happen this weekend, but I can tell you what I need:

  1. First and foremost, I need friendship. Now more than ever. I need a super-sized margarita, laughter that streams down my face, and as many hugs as I can get. I am looking forward to late-night chats that make new memories. This may not be the main point of a blogging conference, but this is what AWB means to me.

  2. I'd also like a dose of inspiration. While pushing myself to write every day in August has gotten me back in the blogging saddle, so to speak, I hope to latch onto new ideas for story-telling and post planning this weekend.

  3. One of the best parts about AWBU last year was the break {read more here}. From late Friday into Sunday afternoon, I am about 97% sure no one will call me Mom. No one will need me to pour chocolate milk, pick them up and put them on the couch, or let them watch videos on my phone. Score.

  4. I like to write, but I'm not great at sharing. I've got Facebook on lock, but I need to be more social media savvy. Unfortunately no one else seems to need a lesson in Twitter, so I'll have to figure that out on my own, but I'm interested to see what they say about Periscope.

  5. Aside from the camaraderie, I think the biggest reason I'm going is for the encouragement. It feels amazing to know that someone hears what I'm saying, and these women are amazing at feedback. I can't wait to receive it, and I am even more excited to give it. There are some wonderful writers in this state, y'all.

Safe travels to all the bloggers heading to the Spa City today. See you when I get there!


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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Nora + Owen


Early Wednesday morning, as teachers were helping students out of cars and into classrooms, Owen greeted one of the teachers with a growl.

There's nothing unusual about that, because Nathan has been climbing over Owen's seat for years and the little brother has always made it a point to mess with the teacher when the door swings open. After that, however, this particular teacher asked Owen when she'd be getting him out of the car. He quickly responded with "When I am five," and I let her know she'd be getting them both out next year.

I started to drive toward preschool when I realized that wasn't right. Nathan will be at a new campus for fourth-grade and Owen will be the sole Bauer at primary. In fact, Nathan and Owen will never be in the same school together. I don't know if that's a bad thing, honestly. Then I thought about how Nora and Owen will be getting out of the car together. He'll be in second-grade when she makes her kindergarten debut and while there will be off years, they'll spend a good portion of their school careers with a sibling.

We'll see how long the snuggling in the tree house lasts.

While it's been well documented that the Bauer Boys have a tight bond, the one between these two is also quite noticeable. The adjustment into preschool hasn't been hard for Owen, he makes friends wherever he goes, but I was worried about him leaving his sister behind. They'd been together at day care as long as she could remember and their teacher told me he'd always been her favorite playmate. Thankfully her transition was fine, too. As long as she gets her afternoon Pop Tart promptly, things are peachy in her world. Plus, there's a new baby there who is much more interesting than the Baby she wags around.

Time apart is healthy for each of the dynamics in my family, and it's great for these two who will be stuck together more often than not. It won't be long before I see these two sitting on the "sibling" bench in the car line.

Fingers crossed for no fistfights.



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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

No Good, Very Bad Mother


Do you ever feel like a terrible mom?

Like an honest-to-goodness, they'd-be-better-off-without-you type of failure? I'm just going to pretend you said yes because that'll make me feel better as I move forward. I feel like I've been making more mistakes than normal lately. Whether it's an errant four-letter-word, a blood-boiling marital squabble, or a disinterest in knowing exactly what's new in the latest Minecraft mod, I feel like I should slide my Mother of the Year trophy back under the table from whence it came.

It's not only hard for me to admit this, but to know how to get out from under it. I can see in every one of my children's faces that they are soaking up my every move. Why can't I snap out of it and be the mom they need? While I could fill this page with confessions of hiding chocolate in the medicine cabinet and pretending I don't smell a diaper until Dad gets home, my juiciest admission is that I get it wrong more than I get it right. I'm eight years in and I still don't know what I'm doing. I'm still not selfless enough, I'm not patient enough, and all the numbers in the world can't keep me calm in my time of need.

The one thing I know I have, however, is love. That's literally the only thing I can offer my kids when the life that's swirling around me starts to push back. I make bad decisions, I lose their best interests, but God, do I love them hard. I am so thankful to see the grace they give me. I'm not going to dismiss this feeling with "parenting is hard" because you and I both already know it's true {we've been over it a few times}. This is about the fact that my kids are so cool that even though I mess up, they love me through it.

I hope I'm the one who showed them how to do that.

More often than not, I am far from the mom I want to be, but I am and always will be the mom they need. No matter if it's the fourth Monday of the week or a frolic through the daises, I am the only mom they have. I think I need to look at it that way a little more often.

What do you do when you feel your parenting isn't up to snuff?
Also, have you ever let a dirty diaper lie? Tell the truth!



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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Heavenly Reunion


Today was a stellar day above the clouds, I'd imagine.

Obviously I don't have a front-row seat or anything, but I'd gather a chorus of angels was involved, beautiful light broke through every opening, and one proud husband was there to finally greet his wife after decades of being apart. That's just a hunch, but my Mema was a pretty cool lady.

Last week I told you about the health struggles my Mema was going through and took you on a little trip down memory lane to illustrate exactly what she means to me. This morning, however, she let go. While it's a sad time for my family, my faith is strengthened exponentially when I think about the kind of reunion that went on at heaven's gates. I was so blessed to get to talk to her on the phone last week, and for her to have been able to read the words I wrote. I won't go on much, as I've already highlighted our best times, but I will say I appreciate all who reached out and covered our family in prayer. We'll still need it in the coming days as we prepare to say goodbye, but we know this isn't the end.

One day, hopefully far from now, we'll all be eating quartered grilled cheese and watching birds with her once more. I'm thankful for the love my family has poured out to her in her final days, and I'm thankful for her, because she's the one who showed us how.


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Monday, August 24, 2015

Coop Tour


How about we take a little tour around the coop?

It's no poultry palace, but I bet my friend P. Allen would be mighty proud of this craftsmanship. As I said in my last chicken update, the girls moved out once the weather was warm enough and Jonathan got the urge to put hammer to nail. This is no mail-order chicken house. This is the result of planning, a trip {or two} to the hardware store, and several afternoons of hard work. You know, measure twice and cut once and all that jazz.

I love this finished product and in case you ever get a wild hair and want to start raising farm fresh breakfast of your own, this is a pretty good way to go about it. While I have no blueprints and can't say much about the building process, I can say the chickens navigate it just fine. It does have four walls, a floor, a roof, and four windows to allow as much air flow as possible {which is highly necessary, if you catch what I'm throwing}. It also has a full-sized people door with a critter-proof lock and a tiny door to allow the stretching of chicken legs.

The inside, however, is the best part. He made three small roosts for bedtime, and the girls used their pecking order to find their spots {poor Nugget is not allowed on top}. Once they started laying, Jonathan added three nesting boxes. We filled each with straw and one golf ball apiece and it didn't take long for them to stop laying on the floor and fluff up their nests. I've never seen two chickens in one at the same time, but there's always four eggs in the back box. One day I'll catch them sharing, I just know it.


Jonathan also crafted a PVC pipe feeder that eliminates daily feeding {unless they deserve a treat or a cucumber or something}. That's come in handy for our weekends away. He's also installed a small fan to cool things down and I am pleased to say all six chickens made it through their first Arkansas summer unscathed.

Their "run" is simply a dog pen. He cut a hole in the fencing to allow for their pop door to open up so they can come and go and lay and play as they please {until the boss chicken tells them it's bedtime}. Our little cousin Riley {age 13} was hanging out with us during construction. Slightly bored, he decided to grab a few planks, a couple branches, and crafted that sweet chicken playground. Other than that, their yard has all the grit and dirt their little hearts desire. Plus some empty buckets, shovels and rakes, and chicken-watchin' chairs for ambiance.


There you have it folks! Best seat in the house to lay an egg if you ask me.

Have you ever thought about raising chickens? They take a little work but I bet no dog has ever given you breakfast. If you can refute that claim, that's a story I need to hear immediately. Happy Monday!


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Friday, August 21, 2015

About Me Bag: Motherhood


When the bell rings at 3:05 this afternoon, Week One will be complete.

I am proud to say I've only forgotten to pick up Owen twice {Don't tell him - I remembered as soon as we hit the driveway}. The week has been good, but we will welcome the slower-paced weekend. Nathan hasn't been assigned any homework yet, but he did have a little something due on Day One. At registration, his teacher handed him a brown paper bag to fill with objects he'd use to describe himself. He came up with some good ones.

Sunday night he gathered his equipment: a music flashcard to talk about piano lessons, a Minecraft Spider for obvious reasons, a little plastic Saturn to tell the class about his love for studying outer space, a feather from the backyard to talk about his chicken adventures, and a red crayon because it's his favorite color. He said the assignment went great and he wasn't nervous emptying his bag and sharing his story. That got me thinking about what's in my bag. To narrow it even further, I started thinking of objects I would use to describe myself as a mother. Curious? Glad you asked!

  1. Battery: As a mom I try to be dependable, giving energy to my kids who may start to drag every now and again. Like a battery, however, I have to keep in mind that I need a frequent recharging.

  2. Seed Packet: I'm the one in charge of planting, nurturing, and waiting with bated breath for my seedlings to take off. The seeds are the ones in charge of growing as they may. I'll water when needed, but I will let them go.

  3. Eraser: I sure do make a lot of mistakes as a parent, but so far I don't think I've scarred any one child too much. Thankfully I'm always willing {maybe not always quick} to right my wrongs.

  4. Whistle: I narrowed this one down from a list that also contained "bull horn" and "broken record" and you can probably guess why. I'm a referee, I'm a coach, but more often than not I'm crowd control.

  5. Lime-A-Rita: I think this one explains itself?

  6. Balloon: Even when I feel like my heart is completely full and ready to burst, there's always room for more love {and also more Lime-A-Ritas}.

You're up! I bet you could think of all sorts of metaphors to stick in that bag {parenting-related or not}. You're pretty smart, you know. Do your homework and then toss it into the comments. We can chat as we relax through the weekend.


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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mema


I have been thinking a lot about my Mema lately.

I've written about her a few times, most recently when I talked how it feels to visit her as a parent instead of a kid {post here}. I talked about the memories that bubble up with those familiar turns that wind past trees right to her orange-bricked house. I talked about how fun it is to see my kids start to latch onto those turns and make memories of their own.

While I used that post to talk about my kids taking my place in the wooden kitchen chairs, today's post is about my own memories. My Mema is my mother's mother and has been an important part of my life for all of my 31 years. I'm sure all my cousins would say the same, but in all the time I spend with that lady, she makes me feel like the most special person in her life.

When I was young, she encouraged me to write and always had a clean notebook and fresh pencils waiting for me. For as long as I can remember, she's made the best grilled cheese {cut into four squares, of course} and let me slurp juice from a jelly jar and watch game shows while I ate. She's still skilled at the art of the sandwich, too, just ask my kids! We did crosswords, we went shopping, we fed ducks, and I talked. She listened. She always had a book she wanted me to read and never cared when I made a mess in her closet looking for old hats and shoes.

As I grew older, she kept listening. In my college years a trip to her house was easier to manage and I did it frequently. She knew every detail of my school experience and every sordid tale surrounding boy troubles. Eventually I started bringing a boy with me. One afternoon she told me he was her favorite and later that night he asked me to be his girlfriend. He even tells me he had big plans to propose at her house a few months later, but that darn ring was burning a hole in his pocket. Things seemed to have turned out fine, though.

So much has changed since those days, but not Mema. She still lives in that same orange house and still makes me feel pretty darn special when I get the chance to visit her. She celebrated her 85th birthday last Saturday, and unfortunately had to eat her cake and rock her party hat in the hospital. She's had a rough time with heart-related issues. She had one surgery last week and doctors are preparing to perform another. My mom and a few of her sisters have been with Mema in Memphis for weeks, trying to provide comic relief and keep her spirits high.

We would appreciate it if you kept this sweet lady in your prayers as she tries to overcome. I am thankful and I am lucky to have her in my life. She's been my grandma, she's been my pen pal, and she's been my friend. I know all my cousins, aunts, uncles, and extended family love her more than they can say and are rooting for her.


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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Wedding Dancers

{A bit of a before and after, naturally.}

Nora might look proper in her sweet dress, but when the DJ plays Meghan Trainor, clear that floor.

The whole family traveled to the Great Northwest {Arkansas} this weekend to watch my husband's cousin get married. The trip consisted of plenty of giggles among the little cousins, a one-room bunking party packed to the corners with air mattresses, and a front-row seat to one of the best-manned dance floors I've seen {also, the celebration of love and whatnot}. We got to see members of Jonathan's family we hadn't seen in years and it was so nice to catch up. The weather was gorgeous in the more idyllic, less sweaty corner of the state. An adorable white cottage served as the venue and was decorated in simple, country style. I fell in love with the natural colors and cornflower blue touches, and the whole thing was oozing with charm. I'd show you all this, but I forgot my camera.

I respectfully kept my phone to myself during the vows {read: it was held by Owen to keep him quiet}, but I did whip that bad boy out when I noticed my kids were the first to storm the floor when the house lights went down and the colorful ones started rolling. Note: All of these photos are blurry. Though it does have to do with a poor camera in low lighting, I think it captures each moment perfectly:


From Katy Perry and LMFAO to a sweet cousin two-step to old country classics, these kids tore it up. Nora party fouled her water cup all over herself while Owen tried to pull every kid he could out to join him. Eventually the bride and the rest of the grownups took notice and before long the floor was full.

It was so fun to watch the kids let loose and have a blast, and it was the perfect way to say goodbye to summer. We all woke up Sunday morning and piled around the newlyweds' kitchen table to bacon and pancakes and stories past and present. Congratulations to Robert and Jo Ann and their kids who are now officially a family! Your wedding was perfect, your hospitality was appreciated, and your love is obvious.

Also, your decision to spring for a DJ was spot-on. Happy Hump Day, friends!


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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

First Day for the Bauer Boys


No tears at the Bauer house yesterday {except Nora, who was bummed she didn't get a sign}.

My oldest was sent to third grade and my middle to the daily grind of preschool. Owen actually started his new place last week, but Monday was serious business. He drew a picture of two guys with mo-hawks. Said he may even feel up to bringing his backpack tomorrow. As for his adjustment, I don't think it could have gone any better. I could tell he was working through nerves on Day One, but he came home with a couple of new best friends and a desire to go back. They give him chicken nuggets AND they get to push monster trucks up the slide. Really, what could be better?

The third-grade report was equally good. Nathan takes after me in new situations and was feeling a bit uneasy Sunday night, but he had a new resolve when the alarm clock sounded. He grabbed a cinnamon bun, laced up his new kicks, and marched into the classroom - that is, after he and his daddy sat in the car line for half an hour. {The first few weeks are a JUNGLE around these parts!} I battled the cars in the afternoon. There he sat, right beneath the big number three with a grin on his face. He climbed into the way back, tossed his blue backpack aside, and before I could even ask, he said: "My day was GREAT!"

Highlights included seeing all of his friends at recess, finding out he's second on the teacher's helper list, a lack of homework, and the fact that he gets to go to music classes on Tuesdays. He was sent home with a list of spelling words to start with, and he easily rattled them off one by one. The only drawback was the pizza he was served at lunch, rather than the chicken patty on bun I thought I'd read on the menu. So far, so good, third-grade.


At the top I said there were no tears at the house, but one might have fallen in the Subway drive-through when Owen's teacher tagged me in the photo above. It's hard to believe that this year's first day report includes not one, but TWO Bauers. Thankfully there were two great days, and there were two little boys who woke up ready to go again today.

I hope your First Day went just as smoothly. Hugs to the kindergarten moms, high-fives to the college students, and cheers to the parents who have been counting down all summer!


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Monday, August 17, 2015

Dear Kindergarten Mom


Nathan starts third grade today, so I'm kind of an expert when it comes to first days. You put the backpack on the kid, double check that he knows which hall to walk down, and head straight for the quickest drop-off line. No tears on either side, and you get a full report eight hours later. Three years ago, however, the story wasn't so cut-and-dry. There are some mothers of kindergartners who don't require a single tissue to get through the first day. The following is not for them.

Dear Kindergarten Mom,

That backpack is so big isn't it? Filled to the brim with folders and glue, crayons and Germ-X. It looks even bigger resting on the tiny frame of the baby you carried for nine months, held for even longer, and picked up every time he reached. Your arms have always been available to him. Your face is the first one he remembered. Your eyes are where he looks for answers: safety, comfort, and reassurance. Today, however, after you help him hang that giant backpack on the hook with his name, you'll leave him. He won't find your eyes when the bell rings.

Terrifying, right? This is way scarier than potty training or first shots, and I give you all the permission you need to be emotional. It's hard to think about your child navigating halls on his own and introducing himself to kids he's never met. He'll have to raise his hand to ask for a fresh pencil and find a teacher on recess duty when his scraped knee requires a band-aid.

Here's the thing, though. Listen closely, too, because this was the only thought that got me out of the car after crying my entire work commute three years ago. The fact that you love him enough to worry so much is why he can do all of those things on his own. You created and carried, nursed and nurtured, held and helped a human being. You've encouraged him to take steps without holding your fingers and told him to dream as big as he wants. Now, you've let him. You've given him the markers and safety scissors and tools to succeed in school.

He's going to do big things, too. I know kindergarten is a far cry from leaving him to unpack his bed sheets in the dorm room, but there's always a first step. The assignments that come home marked with stickers and smiles will mean your five-year-old is soaking up knowledge like a sponge. You will be amazed at the progress he'll make from now through the end of the year. It's unbelievable. His social skills will escalate with reading and writing and he'll be a different person by Memorial Day.

Bad days will be peppered in among the exciting new changes. He will be confused by a math lesson and afraid to ask for direction. He will feel left out on the playground. He will, unfortunately, be sprayed by a ketchup packet that his lunchroom neighbor didn't know how to open. At the end of those days, when you can actually feel the disappointment radiating off of your child, he will drop that giant backpack on the floor and he will find your eyes. He will find your arms and he will find the reassurance he needs to navigate the halls the next day. You've helped him know how to help himself.

He's going to be okay today, mama. You have already made sure of that.


PS: Check back with me next year. I talk big game now, but I have a sneaking suspicion these feelings re-emerge for the second round of kindergarten first day, too.


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Friday, August 14, 2015

Chef Daddy: Roasted Okra


Today I might lose some of you.

Okra has been one of my favorite crops to grow in the backyard garden, because it grows in extreme heat and because it's extremely tasty. I've never been a fan of pickled okra, but I love those crispy little morsels the South is known for. I understand many people's okra issues: the slime. If you've ever chopped it up fresh you'll know it's not a figment of anyone's imagination. It's gross. That could be why most people have resolved to batter it and fry it to a crisp.

Today I'm here with an alternative. Though I will always and forever love fried okra {bags of it line my freezer, waiting to meet the oil}, we have found another way. And dare I say it: a better way. This may not be news to you, but it was the first time we gave this method a whirl. The cooking was easier, the cleanup was easier, and the end result was delicious. That's why we have found a favorite in roasted okra.


Now, this isn't a "Chef Daddy" recipe post like you've seen in the past. There are no rows of ingredients to photograph or processes to print and save. Basically, you chop up the okra {or slice it, or leave it completely whole}. You spread it out evenly on a foil-covered baking sheet {or some of other form of heat-safe dish} and you stick it in a 425-degree oven. Leave it in about 20-25 minutes and take it out when it's nicely browned. Salt and pepper it {go crazy and add some other herbs or garlic salt if you want}, and then you eat it. It's not as crunchy as its breaded cousin, but the slime is gone and there's nothing left but flavor. Flavor that goes beyond cornmeal.


I'm going to go out on a limb and assume most of you who are knee-deep in fresh okra already know this one, but for the few who don't, do me a favor and try it. You might be surprised!
Have a great weekend, y'all.



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Thursday, August 13, 2015

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.

Days after that I remember wondering what type of girl she would be. I thought about raising a dainty little rose: an image of beauty that can't survive without endless pampering, only for her petals to be blown off with the slightest push of the wind. I knew better than to let that thought linger, though. My daughter would be a wildflower.

If Nora ends up changing her name to Aurora and wearing a tutu and heels for the next three years, that's fine by me. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about what grows inside. I wanted my daughter to grow without ceasing in whatever direction she wants; wild and unruly and totally free. I wanted her to grow in the face of scorching heat and unrelenting rain. I wanted her path to twist and wind in ways she won't imagine. I wanted her to come back fighting when anything tried to drown her out. I wanted her strength and her joy and her persistence to be visible.

I guess sometimes we're lucky enough to get exactly what we want?

This blue-eyed beauty with tan lines in her arm creases and cotton candy hair is 100% a wildflower. Nora commands attention when she walks into a room. She can get anything she wants with a flash of the pearly whites and a well-placed please. She likes an order to her day, and she'll be the first to point out when someone isn't following it. She's also the first to rush over when someone is crying, the first to lean in for a good morning kiss, and the first to apologize when anger takes over {ahem, typically to Nathan}. Her attitude changes with the wind, and you can't help but grin when you see her. Nora will never let you forget she's there.

Yes, it's hard to remember I wanted this when my daughter is staring me down and threatening to pour juice on the carpet. She's only two and already driving me crazy, but I know it will be okay. I know exactly how much this strength will help her.

My kids won't always be who I want them to be, but I sure hope they're always themselves. I encourage them all, despite what the ultrasound tech announced at 20 weeks, to never lose that. Like my sons, my daughter can do anything she wants to do. I pray I can help her remember. I know she's little, I know she needs me, but boy, do I love the person she's becoming.

She's tough as nails, fiery as can be, and free as a wildflower. I am so proud to have her.


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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sweating at the Melon Fest


The Hope Watermelon Festival is a can't-miss for the Bauer Bunch, even on days when the sidewalk could cook an omelet.

I bet you could take a stab at the forecast last weekend as we talked about what we wanted to accomplish before we melted. To put it into actual digits, the heat index was 111 on my phone when we pulled onto the highway and headed south. Honestly, though, I wouldn't have it any other way. Every August since I was 7 years old I have sweated my way through watermelon eating, face painting, and rows of craft shopping. As a mother, however, I've narrowed my options. The boys were focused on two things: food and bounce houses. That, my friend, is exactly what we made happen.


Although Owen had been intrigued by ball pits, bounce castles, and blow-up obstacle courses for years, he had never been able to muster up the courage to actually step inside. This year was his year, though. He had a great time jumping around. I can see it in the sweaty brow and big grin. Filed under Item Two on our two-item festival list were super sugary lemonades, a couple of jumbo corn dogs, a snow cone, fried cheese, and of course, a nice dollar slab of fruit.


We almost lasted an entire hour in the relentless heat, which is pretty good for a gang of two adults and three wild children. Thankfully, we had the keys to the grandparents' place and decided the best post-festival stop was straight into the water:


Good choice, I think. Did any of y'all attend the Watermelon Festival last weekend? Did anyone last more than 45 minutes?? If so, high-fives to the troopers.


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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

School Prep



Backpacks and folders aren't the only things we need to get ready for school.

After the small happy dance that comes with the end of I'M BORED days of summer, we have work to do. It's time to kick our parenting skills into gear as school days draw near. Sure, the teachers that work hard all year have a bit more to do to prepare to educate our kids, but there are few changes our family should make this week to prepare for next. Let's jump in.

Bedtime
Probably the biggest change we're implementing this week is an earlier bedtime. I love letting Nathan stay up later during the summer. He'll watch TV, waste hours on Minecraft, and basically just be a kid. I'm okay with that, really. Usually by 9:00 or 9:30 we'd send him on his merry way to the top bunk, but we're scaling it back this week. School can wear a kid out, especially during the first days. Their brains go from zero-to-sixty and they need the energy. We are going to try to get every kid snoring by 8:00. Wish us luck.

Food
For some reason, when school starts I decide to desire to become a domestic goddess. Keyword is desire, y'all. If you know me or have read here for any period of time, you will know I cannot cook. Thankfully, I was blessed with a husband who can. The school year makes me want to organize an after-school snack drawer in the fridge, craft a color-coded meal plan for each weekday, and orchestrate weekly grocery trips complete with section-by-section lists. I'm living in a dream world here, but a girl needs goals, right?

Books
It's time to dial down the screen time around here. The Instant Gratification of the Internet seems to make it a little harder to focus on flipping actual pages in an actual book. Go figure, right? Nathan enjoys a good story, but he has trouble getting into it and I imagine the screens of summer may have something to do with that. Starting this week, I'm going to encourage him to shut it down and open a book. He needs to know that the journey can be more fun when the ending is further away.

Supplies
Aside from the lofty goals listed above, we do actually need the folders and backpacks. This year I let Nathan and his Daddy make the big trip. The list was a bit different. No markers and just one measly box of crayons. The kid even snagged his first package of loose-leaf paper! I'm very excited for third-grade. I feel like this is the year he will hone in on favorite topics, and maybe get a dose of new subjects. Also, Owen had to pull out Nathan's old preschool nap mat. That might be a little depressing. {See last week's post.}

What does your family do to get geared up for back-to-school? Also, what am I missing here??


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Monday, August 10, 2015

The Blessed Break


Five Bauers traveled to central Arkansas last Tuesday, but only three returned...

No, it's not the start of an unfortunate mystery plot, it was time for a visit with the grandparents! The Bauer Boys enjoyed three sleepovers at Grammy and Poppy's place, and their parents enjoyed hanging out with the one kid who goes to bed at 7:30. She's also the only one whose bed is surrounded by high bars from which she cannot escape. Three kids down to one was pure bliss, but we took it a bit further Wednesday night, when Nora packed her bags to stay the night with my parents. I love my kids. I feel as though it's unnecessary to interject these words here, but just know that I do. Please remember that as I move forward.

FREE. AT. LAST.

It had been a little while since Jonathan and I enjoyed a date night after which we didn't have to go round up the troops {bless you, all four grandparents}. We caught a movie, we broke in the new Texarkana Steak N' Shake, and we tried really hard not to talk about our kids. On the windy road home, my husband drove too fast with the sunroof open as I counted stars and let the hot summer breeze blow my hair however it wanted.

I felt like myself. I didn't feel like someone's mom. I didn't feel like someone's caretaker. I didn't feel responsible. I didn't feel apprehensive. It was just me and the guy I slipped into love with a decade ago. I forget I'm not that carefree girl sometimes, and I think that's okay. I definitely have all the bells and whistles that come with being 31 years old, but beneath all that is a spirit that is wild and free. Believe me, I am aware that dinner-and-a-movie is not skipping town to lay down my life's savings in Vegas, but hanging in the thick August air was something different. It's nice not to be Mom every now and then.

It sounds like a cop out, but being an adult is tough sometimes. There are piles of responsibilities on top of worries on top of attempting to know what's around every corner. It sure is lovely to let go of that whenever possible. Date nights for the OG Bauer Bunch are rare, but necessary. How often do you get to check out of real life and away from the people who call you Mom? If you hesitated to answer that one, do yourself a favor and get the grandparents on the phone. I can pretty much guarantee you need it. 

Have a lovely Monday, y'all!


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Friday, August 7, 2015

The Bauer Bounty


Summertime windowsills are the best windowsills.

The garden is a little crispy these days, but I'd bet you a dollar bill that at least 100 cucumbers were toted through my back door this year. It's been a tasty summer, y'all. As you may recall, this was the sixth year to plant a garden, but our first to abandon the square-foot method. Yes, we tore up a patch of lawn and didn't look back. Report: I like this way better. I can actually stand next to every plant and get exactly where I needed to be. It's not been fun to keep the grass and weeds out, but hopefully that will improve over the years. Onto the harvest!

{Looks wimpy now, but I assure you it didn't always. It'll be back}

We have eaten {and given away} quite a few tomatoes. We didn't have towering plants, but the fruits were delicious. There is nothing like biting into a juicy, homegrown tomato. Store-bought doesn't compare and I still have some left if you'd like to be proven wrong. This year I was torn between the classic, go-to Early Girl and the deep flavors of Cherokee Purple. I had several summer lunches that consisted of those two sliced up and served with nothing but salt and a napkin. The winter is really missing out when it can't provide such lunches. I'm not fretting, though. We have plans to rip out the tired tomatoes and put in a few more. Anyone have advice for the best Arkansas fall tomatoes?

The Bumper Crop Award goes to my 15 feet of cucumbers. These vines produced like crazy this year and the results were tasty. Nora June ate as many "cumbers" as I did, and I think we've given away even more. The chickens have enjoyed their fair share, too. We recently tore out some of the dying vines, and have plans of planting more. We're going to milk this cucumber crop for all it's worth.

{Jonathan took this one months ago of two days' harvests.}

Our spring beans fell victim to some bunnies who are now roaming {ahem} greener pastures, and our peppers fell victim to stunted growth. They're still in the ground in their neat little rows, and there are now little peppers on them, but they haven't seen much height difference in months. We gave them a good fertilizer feeding a few weeks ago, so we'll see what happens.


Despite a few crop failures, the one veggie in our garden that is loving this weather is the okra. We have cut so much recently {and I quickly remembered that I needed a long-sleeve shirt, even when it's 103}. It's your basic Clemson Spineless, but it's delicious and the plants are green, tall, and thriving. To save it, I just chop it into bite size pieces and toss it into bags to freeze. When needed, we'll pull them out, toss them in flour and fry them. However, this year we decided to try a different take on okra and roasted it. Oh my. Would it take away from my Southern charm if I said I liked that way better? Watch the blog over the next few weeks for a recipe post. Then make it. Trust me.

Jonathan and I have been in talks on things like lettuce, spinach, and broccoli to put in over the next few weeks. We haven't done a fall garden in a while, but with all this room {and a handy-dandy tiller}, it might be a good idea. Also, it turns out Nora is a huge fan of broccoli, so why deny the poor girl?

I will be back with an update to show you around the fall garden when/if the time comes.
Until then, how does your veggie garden grow?



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