Saturday, December 31, 2016

Bauer Bunch Best Of {2016}

It's been real, 2016, but it's time to throw away our calendars and not look back.

Okay... maybe we'll look just a little bit.

Today I am sharing my favorite blog posts published over the last 365 days. I know this does not reflect the most visited posts or the most shared posts, but this list is important to me. I carefully clicked through every month and searched the thousands of words I've thrown into cyber space. I sifted through until I had a collection of the ones that meant the most to me. Below are my Top Ten posts about parenting, about gardening, about growing older, and about life being more than what is seen on Facebook. It's a veritable collection of topics, arranged in no particular order.

While my family and I drive a few counties over to up our New Year's Eve drink game from one bottle of sparkling grape juice, why not take a peek? There are many, many hours until the ball drops and I figured you could use some reading material until then. Let me know which post was your favorite in the comments, and I'll see y'all next year!

{Click the title or the photo to link to each full post.}

Nora Today
My little Nora is a creature of habit. Each day when the sun is peeking through the eastern treeline, I carefully open Nora's bedroom door. With a freshly popped waffle in hand, my first step is to open her blinds and let the light find mounds of toys and discarded dresses. I peer into the crib that holds four fake babies and one real one. When the smile spreads across her face and her blanket covers the rest of it, I know it's showtime.

Don't Apologize
Today I'm here with a handful of parenting advice you didn't ask for. You're welcome. Don't push that red X in the corner just yet, though. I'm not touting the miracles of breast/bottle feeding or ticking off a list of ways you've probably screwed up your kid. I'm here to do the opposite. I have a simple message I've been led to share after perusing my Facebook news feed: please don't apologize.

Spring Chickens
Sure signs spring is around the corner: there are boots by the door, seeds on the counter, and chickens in the kitchen. Allow me to to introduce you to the newest members of the Bauer Bunch. Wearing springtime yellow are Sunshine, Lemon, Popcorn, and Hobby Pig {see Owen's birthday post}. The fabulously stylish girls in stripes are Cinderella, Beyonce, and Sofia the Second.

Picture-Perfect Vacation
A picture's worth a thousand words, right? If you kept an eye on my Instagram this weekend, you witnessed copious amounts of beachfront posts. The wispy clouds framed Owen standing patiently by the shore. You saw Nora, pink sunglasses in place, at bliss inches from the gorgeous sand. There were no signs of jellyfish sting remedy vigorously rubbed on thighs nor a single midnight meltdown.

No One Else
Today marks a decade since Jonathan and I shared our first kiss as man and wife. There was a unity candle, a white train that trailed behind my fidgety body, calla lilies that filled the church with perfume, and age-old chords blasting from a piano. It was a gorgeous wedding, but a wedding does not a marriage make. I loved that day, but sitting down to write about our tenth anniversary, white gowns and gold bands do not come to mind.

Backyard Beauty
The garden in our back yard is getting good, y'all. The long row of cucumbers has each of my kids pacing, lifting all the leaves to see if they can spy the biggest one. The sunflowers are opening up and turning their faces toward the light. The tomato rows are full and we've already sliced up a few to enjoy that first homegrown bite {though the cherry tomatoes can't seem to make it indoors}. It's a gorgeous garden year at the Bauer House.

Life Lessons at 32
Today is not just any June Wednesday hot enough to melt thighs on leather seats. It's my birthday! *cue falling confetti and balloons* I have been part of my parents' lives for 32 years as of noon today. While doing in-depth research for this post, I found some startling facts. Exactly half my life ago, I drove my sweet, blue Mustang around as a 16-year-old, free to travel where I pleased and play Backstreet Boys CDs as loud as I wanted.

Brothers Back To School
A lump rose in my throat as I waited in a car line that felt more like a parking lot. Yesterday marked the start of school for the Bauer boys and my first afternoon stop was fourth-grade. As my car crawled beside the school, I saw a sea of students. Some seemed much taller and more mature than I expected {I guess sixth grade does that to a kid?}. Then I saw Nathan's wide smile.

Memory Lane
When we took the first exit into Conway Saturday morning, I was lost. New businesses, new restaurants, and more churches rose from places that used to be grass. Many areas felt unfamiliar, but that happens when you leave a growing town for seven years. We now toted kids instead of dorm room essentials through streets we traveled a thousand times. Once we made it to our friends' neighborhood, Owen spoke up.

Be Nice
"Say you're sorry for yelling at me, Mom. No, say it nicely this time." Through gritted teeth and at the sake of both mine and my loving three-year-old's sanity, I apologize once again while we wait parked in the car line. There's nowhere to run. There's nowhere to hide. Who knows what brought my sweet, motherly demeanor to its breaking point.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

The Week Between

The final six days of the year can be a strange place to exist.

The week between two holidays filled with rich food and hordes of people can get lost. For us, this time is spent dreading Christmas tree removal and finding homes for new toys. It's spent wondering what day it is and juggling where the kids will go as winter break drags on {and on}. It's spent deciding whether to eat or toss the last of the cookies and whether that one shirt should be returned. It's slow, it's boring, and sometimes it can be depressing.

Not this year.

I am happy to report our space between has been more than waiting for 2017 to just start already. Once I picked myself up after the Christmas rush, my family has enjoyed the unseasonable weather and I have enjoyed quality time with a handful of people I love. Here's how we have spent the final days of 2016:

Nora was gifted an Elsa Big Wheel for Christmas and this speed demon doesn't mess around. She has been drifting like a pro and racing her brothers up and down my parents' driveway. She also received this dress for Christmas. It has pockets. She keeps cookie-flavored Shopkins lipstick in them. She parks her Elsa Big Wheel when she needs to reapply her lipstick. All of my dreams, really.

Owen's been working on his riding skills, too, and he is officially down a notch on the wheel count {on a tiny bike}:

The afternoons outside are the shortest of the year, but we've done our best to use them wisely. While the chickens roamed free and safely out of the way, Jonathan brought out the BB gun. It was the first attempt for both boys, and both expertly hit the soda can. Owen, age 5, hit his mark the first try. And the second try. I missed. Twice.

One personal high point of this week was getting to spend time with two people I have loved for decades. Abby, Zach, and I have been very close since our high school band days and even further back. We've been there for each other in all the good and bad that comes with growing up. Although we each live in different states, nothing changes. It's usually a year between our face-to-face visits and the love comes flooding back every time. We had lunch Thursday to catch up and fill our hearts until next time. I can officially say my heart is full.

Bring it on, 2017. While 2016 might not win the Most Popular Year competition, I am proud of how we're ending it. My family is safe and happy and ready to see where our next chapter takes us.
How are you ending this chapter? Happy Friday, y'all!

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Our Christmas Story

'Twas the day after Christmas... and I am exhausted.

This weekend was a whirlwind of fun and merriment, but today I am relishing the quiet. I am inhaling and exhaling and remembering. Last night as the boys were nestled in their beds, we noticed Nora passed out on the couch. The colors on the Christmas tree bounced around the room, and there wasn't a sound in our home. After Jonathan carried her to bed, we sat close on the couch. We were warm and cozy, happy and healthy, and thankful to celebrate another round of holidays with our family. We are tired, but we are blessed.

Christmas Recap: We drove to North Little Rock on Christmas Eve to see the in-laws. We unveiled the Secret Santa mystery and I was actually gifted my beloved chicken socks! We shared a delicious ham dinner and spent the afternoon giggling with word games. We left there and made it to Hope in time for Mass. Owen lasted the whole service {unlike his sister} and joined in singing his favorite Spanish Christmas tune, Feliz Navidad, sending parishioners into the sticky Arkansas air to try to catch a glimpse of Santa.

We didn't see him through the fog, but my kids knew he was there. Nathan estimated the sleigh was crossing Canada as we pulled into our driveway at 9:30 pm. Nora picked out the cookies, Nathan wrote the letter, and Owen already had visions of sugar plums dancing in his head. The kids were ready, and sleep found them fast.

Christmas morning started before dawn. I assume this was the case for many families across the world. Once all three kids were awake and I was coherent enough to operate my phone, we told them to take a peek in the living room.

"He ate the cookies! Is that really what that is?! Oh my goodness, this thing is huge! HE BROUGHT ME MASH 'EMS!"

Every few minutes Owen reminded us this was his favorite day, and Nathan passed out hugs like there was no tomorrow. One of my favorite parts of the morning was how excited each kid was to see their siblings open their presents. Owen told Nora she looked so good in her new house shoes and Nathan was one proud big brother when Owen got to his Nerf gun. Heck, they even liked watching me unwrap makeup. {Thanks, Jonathan!}

After our carpet was hidden by wrapping paper, we moved to the kitchen for Christmas pancakes, then slowly got ourselves together to drive to my parents' house. Many more gifts were opened, another feast was eaten, and the exhaustion I'm still carrying quickly set in. When we filled the back of the car to capacity, it was done. Just like that, Christmas was over.

We arrived home late last night and cleaned up before our kids dozed off as described above. Peace, love, joy, and hope filled the silent night. But it's not just because we have a fantastic family. Christmas isn't really over. It's just getting started. While the kids' faces on Christmas morning are my favorite, we know Christmas is more than a pretty package. We are blessed because of what Christmas means. We are blessed because Christ was born. We are blessed because of the gifts he brought to make this world new again and again. Merry Christmas, y'all.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let Earth receive her King!

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Quiz

The cards are in the mail, the presents are under the tree, and Santa Claus is sitting on go.

It's Christmas Eve Eve, y'all! Today our final holiday preparations are underway. My helpers and I are attempting to keep the kitchen intact while baking four different types of cookies. We'll box them up and head to central Arkansas bright and early tomorrow for our first festivities, then make it back down for Christmas Vigil Mass. Fingers crossed we'll all be snug in bed before Santa flies in. While I'm checking my list twice, I thought you might enjoy a little Christmas Q&A. I sat down with each member of the bunch for some yuletide entertainment. Read on and enjoy:

PS: Can you name each of the reindeer without singing the song? I'll give you a cookie if you can.

What is on your Christmas list?
Nathan: "An iPod Touch, some new headphones, new Nike or Under Armour clothes, a case for the iPod, a hover board, Converse shoes, and that should be it."
Owen: "A remote control four-wheeler and a dirt bike. I really want a dirt bike because I'm practicing to go on two wheels, and this is kind of like a motorcycle, I think. It probably goes fast."
Nora: "Mash 'Ems and toys because I love them. There are already presents for meeee. On the treee. And I'm singiiiiiing. I'm like that big elf, Mom." {I can't make this stuff up.}

What is the best thing about Christmas?
Nathan: "Opening presents and being with family."
Owen: "Santa's coming, and I really love Santa."
Nora: "Presents! And brownies that are like Santa!"

Where does Santa live?
Nathan: "The North Pole, duh!"
Owen: "In the North Pole."
Nora: "His house."

What are the names of Santa's reindeer?
Nathan: "Dasher, Donner, Dixon, Blitzen, Comet, Cupid... oh yeah, Rudolph! Prancer! Okay, I guess that's all."
Owen: "Comet and Cupit and Doncer and Spencer and Rudolph annnnnnd Dixon... and Cupit... and I think that's it."
Nora: "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and I can't remember their names, really."

What is Santa's favorite food?
Nathan: "Milk and cookies!"
Owen: "Hot chocolate and cookies. I think he likes to eat cake while he's delivering presents, too."
Nora: "Cookies! He likes cookies because he has a big belly."

What will Santa bring me and Dad for Christmas?
Nathan: "He will bring Mom makeup and Dad an iPhone 7 because he really wants one."
Owen: "A new gun for Dad and makeup and lipstick for my Mom."
Nora: "Santa will give Mommy a reindeer. Maybe Daddy will get a Nerf gun."

Merry Christmas to one and all!
Enjoy your weekend, love your people, and rejoice in the reason for the season.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ornament Exchange 2016

The most wonderful time of the year sure brings the best mail days.

From Christmas cards featuring smiling friends and family {and cats} to packages that must be expertly hidden, my mailbox and front porch stay full. One particular package I look forward to every year arrived a few days ago. The Arkansas Women Bloggers is a community full of women writers I adore, and I love participating in their annual handmade ornament swap. I'm not the most crafty blogger, but it's fun to send Christmas spirit across the state.

Bonus: I love getting a little handmade cheer in return! One of the most colorful characters in the ARWB group is Kellee Mayfield, aka Delta Moxie. I met her at my first conference in 2014, but in the last year I've enjoyed watching her grow as both a blogger and an artist. She does gorgeous work with various paint mediums, and I am a huge fan of her style.

I knew when I saw Kellee's name on a package in my mail box that this ornament swap was working in my favor. I had zero clue, however, that inside was an original painting!

I am absolutely honored to have Kellee's work hanging on my tree. The colors in this gorgeous landscape are perfection, and I can't stop staring at it. I long for days of golden fields and clear blue skies, and I think this is the perfect way to tide me over. This ornament may end up being a year-round decoration.

Although the recipient of my handiwork was not matched with an artist, I held up my end of the deal. Julie Kohl, who actually heads up the ornament exchange and the creative content on the Arkansas Women Bloggers site, gave me her name. I knew it had to be good. While Julie's a super foodie and a great craft maker, one of my favorite things about her is her love for the open water. She's a fantastic paddle boarder and feels at home on the beach, just like me! I ran with that theme and produced the following ornament:

The sand actually came from a recent trip to Florida and I hope this ornament brings memories to keep her warm during the freezing winter days. I had a great time reading through Julie's blog to get a feel for what she would like. I think you would probably enjoy reading both Delta Moxie and Julie Kohl, so check them out while you count down to Christmas. Just four days left, y'all!

Have a great Wednesday, friends, and happy 34th birthday to my old man!

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Jackpot Jessie

Sometimes you have to live a little.

It's good to snag any chance to let loose of the stress that often accompanies the Christmas countdown. This weekend was that exactly. When my husband came home with a dozen roses and started packing weekend bags {one for us, one for the kids}, I knew I was in for a treat! He swept me away to Hot Springs for pre-holiday rest and relaxation. It was a delightful weekend of solo dining, quality time, and crossing off our shopping list.

One of the weekend's high points begins with the following fun fact: In all of my 32 years, I have never legally participated in the goings-on of a casino. That changed late Saturday when the rainbow lights of Oaklawn Racing and Gaming called to us. Apparently there's more to do in the off-season than wait for the ponies.

We rode the escalator arm-in-arm and found a huge room filled with lights, sounds, people, and free drinks {I had no idea this was a thing}. After walking past countless rows of machines and watching the more serious players line the poker tables, it was time to start. We grabbed one bill apiece and tested our luck.

Jonathan chose a few different machines for me, but I was quick to cash out when the feeling wasn't right. Then I found it. A machine adorned with flame graphics and a Hot Roll Bonus drew me in, and with good reason. I placed dollar bet after dollar bet. Often I'd hit a couple quarters, but then a $40 bonus or a $25 hit would keep me rolling. My dear husband sat beside me and was quickly cleared out of cash. I was determined to get his money back.

I explored a few more exciting options, like the bright, shiny Wheel of Fortune, but my fortune dwindled to a sliver of what I pulled from the ATM. I knew I had to go back to that coveted machine before someone else discovered my secret. I grabbed a free Coke, put in my ticket, and I was on a roll. A hot roll, if you will.

I punched the cash out button when I had earned back my original total, plus Jonathan's original total, plus six bucks. We walked out of Oaklawn like royalty, and pulled into Sonic to turn our extra dollars into drinkable winnings. Who knows if my lucky streak was a one-time thing or if we need to make this a standing date. In hindsight, however, I think I should leave professional gambling to those with more self-control. All Sunday morning while we were helping Santa get our kids hooked up, I kept reminding my husband how much more we could buy had he just given me another hour at the slots.

Yeah, maybe it shouldn't be a regular thing.

Happy Monday, y'all! I hope your weekend was wonderful, too.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Chicken Gifts

I'm not talking about pint-sized presents for your flock, but I don't mean a 20-piece nugget, either.

This gift guide lies somewhere between, although I wouldn't turn down either of the above. Today's post is for those with a chicken enthusiast on your list, or those who need to pass along shopping ideas for your own poultry obsession. When searching the Internet to add ideas to my own wish list, I clicked into a world of amazing gifts for people who have a few too many feathered friends. Now, I'm sharing! If you're fretting over a last-minute gift for the backyard farmer in your life, here are a few fun ideas:

  1. I have these boots. I love these boots. Anyone who has to walk through mud and/or poop daily will love them, too. They are made by Sloggers and super comfortable. They're also surprisingly easy to slip off when the contents on the bottom don't need to track through the kitchen. There is a cute cow print, too, if you're into that.

  2. This is the first item I added to my Secret Santa wish list, and I 100% endorse it for yours. These are literally chicken fitness socks. You can run like a chicken. You can lift like a chicken. You can lie on the couch like a chicken, munching on popcorn and watching reruns. The possibilities are endless when it comes to chicken legs.

  3. My heart skipped a beat the first time I saw this Barbie on Facebook. And again when three different friends sent it to me {they know me well}. She's not especially blonde, wears plaid, and has a chicken under her arm. She is the Barbie Farmer Career Fashion Doll. I'd imagine the goal of this doll line is to encourage young girls to shoot for their dreams, and this particular one is all my aspirations in a little plastic box. I'm getting close, right?

  4. I have never watched Game of Thrones, but I'd wear this shirt. And also any other funny chicken-themed shirt. I'm not picky, honest.

  5. For your friends who already have their backyard flock under control, I assume they have ample reading time. One of my favorite chicken mamas {I know how this makes me sound} writes the blog Fresh Eggs Daily. She recently released Gardening with Chickens. I'm already in it for the gorgeous photography, but if this book can teach me how my garden and my chickens can live together in harmony and not mass destruction, I'm sold.

We have 10 shopping days left until Christmas and if you're desperate for the perfect gift for your best friend, your mother-in-law, or your middle child who still has an empty present stash {oops}, I can't help you. However, you now have a game plan for anyone who lives for that first fresh egg. You're welcome.

This concludes one bizarre Thursday post. Have a great one, friends!

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Favorites: Dry Skin

The heavy frost crunched under my boots as I walked out to give my hens some non-frozen water.

The temperature at 8:00 this morning read 24 and the wind chill read 19. You'll imagine my surprise when I got to the coop and saw Jonathan had already given them water before he left for work... but that's beside the point. The moral of this story is that it is cold. It is too cold if you ask me, but winter is just beginning.

Today I thought I'd whip up a Friday favorites post to share a few of the products I have been using to reverse what the bitter cold and dry wind does to my skin. If you're like me and have dry-combination skin {leaning more toward dry}, things can get itchy and painful in December. Here are a few finds I have been loving:

Sidenote: These are not affiliate links and they do nothing for me. I just wanted to help you shop!

NUMBER ONE I have to start with this miracle find: Eucerin Eczema Relief. This time of year my eczema arrives in the form of dry, scaly patches on my arms and legs {and does the same to my kids}. It's more of a rich cream than a lotion and the silky feeling lasts. My dry patches were completely soothed and almost gone after a few days of use.

NUMBER TWO Another find I started using earlier this year has proven extremely beneficial since the temperatures dropped. I use Clinique's Redness Solutions Daily Relief Cream as my moisturizer night and day and I can't say enough about how soothing it is to my highly reactive face. Other moisturizers just kind of sit on my skin, but this sinks in immediately to comfort and do the work I need. This is pricey, but worth every dollar to me.

NUMBER THREE My favorite solution for dry feet comes from Bath and Body Works in their True Blue line. It's the Shea It Isn't So Super Rich Foot Cream. When applied at night, my feet are transformed by morning. It softens like crazy and eases the cracks that can come this time of year. I would bet you $5 that throwing socks on top of it would make it even more magical.

NUMBER FOUR Perhaps I should slap a TMI warning on the following itchy armpit talk? It's a thing that comes with dry skin in the winter, and the deodorant I was using wasn't helping. I switched to Dove Advanced Care Clear Tone to ease my sensitive skin and repair any damage done by harsher products. And it works!

Have you used any of these products? Do you also find yourself desperate for the most soothing, comforting skin care this time of year? Do you have any suggestions for me that would blow the above products out of the water? Well, what are you waiting for?! Jump in the comments and let me know. Have a great weekend and stay warm today!

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Advent Needs

At CYM last night, the youth focused on readying their hearts. 'Tis the season, after all.

{Background: Jonathan and I lead the Catholic Youth Ministry at our church. We have been part of this ministry since 2010. We love these kids, and we enjoy getting to know them and getting to know Christ through them. Carry on.}

We're halfway through Advent, so discussion centered around awaiting the precious 8-pound, 6-ounce Baby Jesus, as well as staying awake for His return. One of my favorite ways to encourage these kids to get closer to Christ is through creative prayer stations. Last night's areas were called preparation stations, because I do enjoy a good rhyme. The one that stuck out the most to me {and ended up being the most well-received} was the simplest.

This station was located in a dark room with a long table. On the table were several unlit tealight candles and four words: Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. The kids were asked to think about which of these four gifts they need most. Once they landed on one, they were to light a candle, place it next to the word, and pray for guidance. They were also asked to notice where the other youth placed candles to visualize the needs of others.

As I approached the table and made my way between the kids, I picked up a candle without hesitation. I know what my heart needs this Advent. I need peace.

I have so much love from the people around me, I rejoice in the coming of our Savior, and I'm hopeful when I think about where my life will go from here. What I don't have in my heart, my head, and often my faith is peace.

Reasoning: I have kids. I have three kids. I have three kids who can't go for two minutes without requesting my presence. I have three kids whose needs I constantly juggle, often to the detriment of my brain. "If he says 'chocolate milk' one more time I'm going to snap..." I know this is the norm for parents, but I crave peace.

I need peace in the constant worry that sticks in the back of my mind. I need peace in knowing I do the right thing. I need peace in knowing I am good enough. Most importantly, though, I need peace in knowing God is with me.

One point of note is the most popular need among the teens: love. When I saw the light emanating in front of the word Jesus Himself said was His greatest commandment, I saw how easy it is to make a difference. We just have to love. We have to love all of our neighbors, and we have to love others as sacrificially as Jesus loves us.

This post is all over the place, but I think I can carve out a moral for you. This Advent season, focus on preparing your own heart, but don't forget about your fellow man {and woman and child}. Love one another, celebrate others' joy, make peace, and provide hope. Jesus brings light to the world, but you could be the light for someone else.

Now it's your turn. Which of these four gifts do you think you need most?

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Seeing Santa

As Nora sat down with her marshmallow-topped pancakes, she saw him.

Across the activity center was an armchair, flanked by wrapped gift boxes and a tall tree. In that chair sat the man himself. Santa Claus. Her eyes grew as she tapped me on the shoulder to show me. She's spent weeks belting out her favorite Christmas tune about this guy coming to town, but she had yet to come face to face with him. However, Saturday morning Nora was one happy plate away from victory.

You get the gist that taking my kids to meet Santa this weekend was a big deal, right? Each December the local Junior Auxiliary hosts Breakfast with Santa, which features an all-you-can-eat pancake feast and photos with the man in red. I stated in my last post {and shocked the nations} that this was our first year to attend. I had not been avoiding seeing Santa, we just never made time for it. When my kids learned it was an option, though, they were psyched.

Even Nathan, nine years old, stepped to the pancake bar as a kid living the dream. He returned to our table to show his pancakes topped with chocolate chips {white and dark}, mini marshmallows, sprinkles, and doused in syrup. Buddy the Elf would have been proud. Nora devoured her pancakes to jump in the Santa line, and Owen morphed into a social butterfly as soon as he recognized faces from school.

Nora spun in circles, repeating her toy order to herself. "Paw Patrol toys and Paw Patrol Mash 'Ems. Paw Patrol toys and Paw Patrol Mash 'Ems." She wasn't going to forget.

My kids can be shy with new people, so I half-expected one or two to scram mid-line. Let the record show I'm not about to make my child sit on the lap of someone who makes him or her nervous {sort of weird if you think about it too hard}. That being said, the Bauer kids were ready. They cheesed at the camera and thanked him for the candy canes. While walking away, however, Nora realized she and Santa forgot to have a chat. In the midst of cameras flashing, no one asked her what she wanted this year.

Once the next group of kids were settled in Santa's lap, my curly-headed ninny muggins barged in on their photo and got Santa's attention. "Santa, Santa! I would like to have Paw Patrol toys and Paw Patrol Mash 'Ems!"

Sweet Christmas success, y'all.

Nora asked during the ride home if we could see him again. At first I thought it was endearing... then she explained she had a few more requests to whisper in his ear. We settled on mailing him a letter.

Happy Monday, friends! Have your kids met Santa yet this season? Love him or hate him?

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Dear December

Thursday morning we woke to find everything in our yard covered in frosty sparkles.

We had to convince Nora it wasn't snow, but all three kids were happy to see this chilly start to December. I could go on about how 2016 was a blink {which is accurate}, but this Scrooge is turning over a new leaf. Most of my recent posts are holiday related, and today is no different. I would apologize, but that wouldn't be in line with my merry demeanor. December is here, it's already too cold, but Christmas is just around the bend.

That's why today I want to share my #XmasGoals with you. Below are a few things I'm looking forward to/already enjoying this month, along with the traditions I'm ready to relive. Dig in, y'all!

  • Yesterday marked the start of December. It also marked my first holiday Amazon order, which included gifts for my kids and... other family members {no secret Santa snitches here}. I don't know that I have ever started Christmas shopping this early. This elf is on a roll, friends.

  • Bring on the Bauer Bunch traditions! From the themed pancakes on Christmas morning to driving in search of the best lights in our pajamas, I love creating these memories for our kids. I'll always enjoy reminiscing on the traditions my parents gave me, but forming them as a parent myself takes it up a notch.

  • Let's back up the Christmas train a little and talk Advent. The feeling of preparing our hearts and waiting patiently for the coming of Jesus Christ really makes me slow down and refocus. Every year our youth group hosts Mass on the third Sunday, and we celebrate the joy that Mary's yes brought to the universe. In my very biased opinion - it's awesome.

  • Looking at my planner between today and December 25, there's not much white space. While a lot of those days are filled with scrambling to finish the semester, most squares are marked for togetherness. Tonight I'm celebrating the holidays with two friends at dinner. In a few weeks we'll head to the company Christmas party, and Owen and Nathan have class parties not long after that. We'll also fit birthday celebrations for both my brother and my husband in there. We'll be busy, but it's the good kind.

  • Santa Claus is coming to town... tomorrow. None of my children have properly met Santa Claus. Tiny Nathan sat on his lap in Conway once, but that's it. However, that will change in the morning when we join the bearded man in red for pancakes. I'm very eager to see what happens. Stay tuned.

  • Finally, my biggest Christmas goal of 2016 is soaking up as much love as I possibly can. Together with my family I want to share the hope, peace, joy, and love that Jesus brought to a cold, unforgiving world the night He was born. This year I want to remember to love others as hard as Jesus loves me, and to focus on what Christmas truly means. What's your biggest goal this season?

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Light It Up

I spent many hours of my youth climbing across my parents' roof like a spider monkey, staple gun and string of lights at the ready.

So who was I to be surprised when my daughter spent her weekend at the top of a ladder, passing plastic clips to her Daddy? The kids had been looking forward to putting up the outside lights as soon as the tree came out of the box. We utilized the dry {although cold} weather to turn our house into an explosion of Christmas color. That is, if stringing lights along the front of the house and across the swing set counts. Still, every child bravely contributed to the project's success.

I can't remember when my family traded colored bulbs for classic white, but seeing my kids decorate our house in complete gingerbread style takes me back. Two decades ago I would pair my sturdiest tennis shoes with my best sweatshirt and pajama pants {probably not the most slip-proof outfit, but I managed}. When my lines were decent enough to pass inspection, I'd sit on the roof and admire my handiwork. I'd feel the chill in the air as it made its way through the tops of the pines, and snag all the extra minutes I could. No one has scurried across our roof {not yet, at least}, but I loved watching my kids remake the memories that have stuck with me for so long.

We were so pumped about lighting up the night with Christmas, these kids didn't bat an eye when their Grammy enlisted their help while we were visiting Saturday afternoon. Last year Grammy and Poppy swept the competition in their apartment complex's decoration contest. Owen said if they don't take home the win again, it's fixed. Now, this is a Christmas explosion:

The kids stayed on their Christmas high, and capped the weekend by hanging ornaments on my parents' tree. We saw everything from a 35-year-old "First Christmas" ornament to my eight-year-old face on a glittered pine cone {seriously}. Once Nora had her favorite ornaments at eye-level, we went home to see our lights in all their glory and snuggled up on the couch with hot bowls of potato soup.

It was a darn good start to the season, if I do say so myself. How was your weekend?

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Turkey Day Memories

We left fully stuffed and extra thankful, and made it home by 7:00 on a chilly Thanksgiving night.

Nora June was snoozing in bed by 7:15. {I think I want to rewrite my thankful list.}

Yesterday was an incredible day full of laughter, food, and family, and it was capped off with pajamas and movies. Today is most likely a continuation of last night, as we are in the process of finding Dory for the fifth time. However, the turkey memories from yesterday still swirl in my head {and in my mouth thanks to doggie bags}.

{Shout-out to all the family members who shared these photos on social media while I stuffed my face.}

Before I completely switch gears and yell "Naughty List!" for the 118th time, I want to recap yesterday. Nathan said his favorite part was playing WoW with Uncle Tommy, Owen said his was drawing on the tablecloth with his sister {yes, this was supposed to happen}, and Nora said hers was a tie between the cinnamon cookies and the mac and cheese.

Although the fourth Thursday of November is a square on the calendar that dictates we give thanks, any reason to bring family together is a good one. Through differences and distances and no matter if you've been part of the crew for one year or eighty, this family is full of love. That's Thanksgiving to me, and I am thankful for every face I saw around the table yesterday, as well as the ones we were missing. I have narrowed my highlights to a top three:

  • Kids and adults alike would agree a holiday high point was the tiniest Nintendo. We had been excited about this itty-bitty childhood relic since we first heard about it, but my kids were clueless. On Thanksgiving Day we learned Nora is obsessed with Bubble Bobble and my Mario skills have atrophied in 25 years.

  • The roast turkey was good, but the fried turkey was INCREDIBLE. If you have never tried it, get with Alton Brown and follow his recipe exactly. It takes less time, there's a thrilling chance of explosion {just kidding - be careful}, and it's better. You have 362 days to prepare, so go ahead and jot that in your planner.

    {It's worth a turkey selfie. I promise.}

  • We had a smaller Thanksgiving crew this year, but it's rare that the four OG members of the Montgomery family are together. We even snagged a pic this time. We also had so much fun getting to spend the day with Jonathan's sister and brother-in-law and my own Aunt Sandy. Whenever any pieces of this family puzzle get together, it's a great time.

The best part of this year's Thanksgiving, however, is that it's not over. And I'm not just talking about that bag of leftover turkey I sampled for breakfast. Thankfully Jonathan has more Saturdays off work now, and tomorrow happens to be one of them. Once he comes home tonight, togetherness resumes. I hear outdoor Christmas lights will be involved, so maybe look for a Griswold-style post next week?

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all. Hope your Turkey Day was great!

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