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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