Monday, May 30, 2016

A Tale of Two Flocks

I know all of you are wondering how flock integration is going at the Bauer House.

And by "all of you," I mean my mom. Listen up, Mom, this one's for you. For those keeping score at home, there are 11 chickens living in my backyard and zero living in my house {Hallelujah!}. In my last chicken update, I showed you the coop Jonathan expertly put together to house the growing chicks, and recently we thought it would be a great idea to let them play with their feathered friends.

We did run into one slight snag, though: pure, unadulterated rage. I, um, forgot to factor that in.

The four laying hens were in heaven a few days before the great battle. Jonathan bought two fence panels to double the length of the run. There hasn't been much free ranging since the garden was planted, so they were thrilled to roam a square of grass. Then we had the audacity to cut a hole in the little coop.

{Elsa rules the roost... no, really.}

There were angry, guttural squawks from the big girls and eager advances from the little ones, then Elsa attacked. Queen Elsa, biggest chicken in the coop and the one with the least peck marks on her bright red comb, is really the only offending party. She will pin one to pluck a few feathers, then retreat. Then the small chickens get curious and it starts all over. While I do understand that this is how pecking order is established, and I do think brave little Beyonce is trying to climb it faster than she should, I don't want to babysit.

Enter the separation fence. We drew a line down the middle and prayed no one was brave enough to fly over enemy lines {Spoiler: It happened}. We made the fortress a little more impenetrable and they're good to just look at their neighbors for a while. Unfortunately, the little girls get to live where the grass is greener, so I've been generous with the strawberries and worms on the other side. Perhaps this arrangement will ease tensions.

Maybe I should build a separation fence in the boys' room?

{Note in the middle photo the look of terror on the hen who jumped the fence alone.}

Honestly I have no idea what's going to happen, but there it is. Since chicken chat is all I have today, refer back to the top of this post and enjoy the photo of Nora attempting to keep the peace. She is certain the little chickens love her because they nip at her dress through the fencing. Love at first peck? You decide.

Happy Monday, friends! Grab a burger, thank the troops, and enjoy the fresh air with family and friends.
Make it a great one, y'all.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ode to Summer

It's all over, y'all.

This includes, but is not limited to: the rush to begin the morning loading process at precisely 7:35, the last-minute signing of agenda books and finding of Ninja Turtle shoes, and the endless debate over pink bow or blue bow. It's over. School days are behind us and this mama is welcoming summer with arms wide open and covered in sunscreen.

While Nathan brought home the contents of his third-grade desk last week, his last official day of school was Monday. Owen is still going to preschool but assures me repeatedly he is no longer learning , it's strictly fun the next few days. Jonathan and I finished our sixth school year of leading our church's youth group and celebrated the graduation of six seniors last Sunday. While things like laundry and feeding my kids/chickens are responsibilities that just won't go away, we have shortened our to-do list for the next few months. Naturally, we celebrated the best way we know how.

The Bauer Bunch took its first dip last weekend. I will count myself in attendance, but not so much in the pool. Daddy was lucky enough to draw the short straw and jump into the icy water beside kids who tried to convince him it gets warmer. Words they uttered through purple, chattering teeth:

Nathan immediately jumped into the deep end and asked me to make epic slow-motion videos. Owen is scheduled to take another round of swim lessons mid-June, but I have a feeling this will be the year he graduates. Nora doesn't seem to have the reservations her brothers did at this age, which does not surprise me considering her headstrong independence {nice way of saying stubborn}. She kept telling her dad to "LET GO OF ME" and he kept reminding her she would sink. Luckily neither of those things happened, and she enjoyed splashing until her fingers were raisins.

The Bauer Bunch has christened the grandparents' swimming pool {okay, the Bunch majority...}. We are ready for a summer of bare feet in the grass and sno cones drips on our T-shirts, how about you?

Friday starts a long weekend and our first official weekend of summer break. How will you spend it?

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Art Show

The best part of wrapping up a school year is the day of the 30-pound backpack.

No, I'm not training Nathan for weight lifting, I just know inside lies all sorts of secrets he's been keeping. I open journal after journal to creative writing pieces, impressive margin doodles, and a page of long division that I probably couldn't do myself. It's fun to see what he's been up to in the privacy of his third-grade classroom and it's amazing to page through his progress. For this kid, however, my favorite thing to pull out of his end-of-year bag is the art portfolio.

Last week the whole third-grade bused to the campus they'll be attending next year, and Nathan was sure to let me know he met the art teacher. I don't know where this talent will take him, but I look forward to the classes that will become available to help hone it. For your Monday entertainment {slash proud mom oversharing}, I thought we'd do a little art show. From the pages of the portfolio...

Superhero Self-Portrait in paint and marker {he has the ability to transform into any animal}:

Rainbow Chameleon in oil pastel:

Mountain Sunset in paint:

Razorback in marker, paint, and color pencil {I assumed this was a coloring piece, but apparently he drew it?}:

Just a couple of doodles he did in his free art class minutes:

Today is Nathan's last day of third grade, and I can't wait to see what works of art he brings home next year. What have you found in your kid's backpack lately?

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Owen the Preschool Grad

When the nurse hands you a just-born baby and calls him by name, reality can hit like a brick wall.

This name you and your husband discussed for months were just two words attached to the baby inside. You grinned when you saw his name written on hospital forms and blinked in disbelief when the letters came together over his crib. It was surreal to hear your doctor ask about him and even crazier when you looked into your baby's eyes for the first time and let his name roll off your tongue.

Over the years, hearing my son's name sent chills down my spine with a quick thought of "Who am I to name a person?!" Eventually I grew used to screaming it when I spied a puddle of chocolate milk or an entire roll of toilet paper bobbing in the water. Stringing those letters together had become commonplace. That is, until Owen Bauer was called across the stage at preschool graduation.

In his tiny white cap and gown, the kid I called Owen shyly walked over and listened as his teacher shared his accolades. She told the crowd my son wants to be a police officer when he grows up. She said he was a stickler for the rules who kept his buds in line and would be sure to do the same for whatever community he protects. She also said that although this was his only year of preschool, he's a social butterfly and a great friend. You couldn't exactly tell by the way he hesitated to receive this honor, but he lit up when he donned a dog costume and joined his friends to sing "Who Let the Dogs Out" - yes, it was as glorious as it sounds.

He's a real person. I know I have been a mom for almost nine years, but the idea that I brought a real person into this world still floors me. The fact that someone other than his mom knows how awesome he is and sees the potential he's bringing to kindergarten is astounding. Hearing someone lovingly say his name still gets to me.

After we packed up the dog suit and let Nora take the stage post-program {because, of course}, Owen climbed into the car next to his brother. He told me he was proud of himself for being brave enough to stand in front of a large crowd and let his light shine. He beamed when he got to pick cheese tots for supper, then announced he was ready to start kindergarten the next day...

While he still has a few more days before I send him to primary, I know this kid is ready, thanks to his village. Owen's preschool teacher is one of a kind, full of patience, contagious enthusiasm, and constant protection. This particular teacher is one of the first people who took my bunch in when we made the move south. She took two-year-old Nathan under her wing, and has been loving my kids ever since. I can hear it in her voice when she says their names.

The names I helped choose now hold special meaning for someone else. Who knew?

Congratulations to my Baby O for rocking his first graduation garb. I know in just a blink, he'll be a high school senior in a similar getup. Maybe I'll control my blinking in the coming years. Happy Friday, friends, and a special shout out to the Preschool Class of 2016!

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Guest Blogging: Hometown

A few weeks ago, the Arkansas Women Bloggers put out a call for guest submissions with the only guide word being hometown.

That little word in small black letters surrounded by a sea of social media grabbed my attention. Just the mention of the word hometown floods my senses with memories of a place to which I'll always belong. Thankfully I was able to snag a spot, and I am honored to have my piece published on their site today. While my hometown is now a source of comfort, the winding roads and watermelon patches I grew up beside didn't always seem like heaven. Today's post is about realizing what I had when I left it. Interested? You should be!

You could probably take a small piece of your busy Thursday to jump over there and give it a read.
I'll like you even more if you give it a comment!

Just click HERE and check it out. Have a great day, y'all.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Summer Planting

"Our backyard smells like honeysuckle with a hint of cow poop."

There's no better opener for this post than the words Nathan muttered as he was spreading compost and poking seed holes. The weather was clear and warm last week, and we finally got our plant purchases into the ground. With Jonathan at the tiller and me leading a three-man team of child laborers, our work went fast. Team work makes the dream work, even if there are a handful of sunflower seeds planted in every row {see background of middle photo}.

{Nora wants you to notice her pea plants are now bigger than her. Be proud.}

We started late Wednesday with knees in the dirt and a plan in my hand. I planted two rows that held seven well-spaced tomatoes each and a row with ten pepper plants. This isn't much different than what we did last year, and if all goes well I will be happy to share. To give me a little more room to work with, Jonathan grew the garden to a 25x30-foot space. After a bit of back-breaking grass pulling, the rows were ready.

Nora, ever excited, grabbed the first packet she saw and began tearing at them with her pearly whites. "MOM! I want to plant my sunshine seeds!" She learned a lesson in patience, but I eventually showed her how to push the seeds into place. {I simply went behind her to fix the holes that held 15 extra.} Once she had the sunflower seeds patted in, her brothers joined the fun. I lined all three up and had them choose one veggie to plant. Owen jumped on his beloved cucumbers, Nathan grabbed the one and only vegetable he likes {okra}, and Nora rifled through the packets until she proudly exclaimed: "I WANT THE BEANS!"

One by one I took a kid and delivered instructions. I used my hands to show Nathan how far apart to plant the okra, and he answered, "Oh, so about a foot and a half." I looked at him sideways, wondered when he became an adult, and moved on to the son who was forming a mountain of seeds. Once I got Owen straightened out, his brother told him what compost was made of and I lost him. We carried on. Nora June, standing at the back of the garden in her rainbow dress, asked for her turn approximately 65 times. She clutched the seed packet tightly until it was bean time. She carefully placed each seed and told it to do a good job becoming a bean. I think we'll have a bumper crop this year, y'all. A lot of love {and a little bit of cow poop} went into this garden.

There you have it folks, summer planting is a wrap and now we kick back and watch it grow. Once things get moving, I'll be back with an update. Have you done your summer planting yet? Tell me what's growing in your garden and we'll chat in the comments. Happy Monday, y'all!

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Friday, May 13, 2016

An Afternoon with Elsa

Last weekend I was at a youth conference with hundreds of teens saying words I didn't understand and squealing on a regular basis.

After that I spent two hours with Queen Elsa's biggest under-five fans.
I'll let you take a stab at which group was louder.

Like many other Arkansas moms, I attended Disney's Frozen on Ice in Little Rock Sunday. Though I may have been dreading wading past pint-sized princesses with giant buckets of popcorn, I will officially state the show was great. I liked the special effects and the excellent skating, but the most fun was watching my kids. They were glued. All of them. I might have rushed out of the arena toward my Mother's Day margaritas, but it was a good time. Here are seven random things I enjoyed about the show:

  1. There were Olaf hats. My sons wore an Olaf hat. My daughter wore an Olaf hat. My brother-in-law wore an Olaf hat. It was a magical time all around.

  2. Owen has never lasted through a movie in all his five years. It's either been too loud, too scary, or too boring. However, he sat in his seat for two whole hours as the history of Arendelle unfolded before him. There was only one bathroom break.

  3. Nathan, age 8, was the first to admit he didn't think Frozen on Ice would give him much street cred, but he was also the first to admit his shock at how cool it was. The wolf scene was even intense enough to get him on the edge of his seat {thankfully this was when Owen took his aforementioned potty break}.

  4. Nora did not hit the man in front of her with her wand, as far as I know. She did not lose her wand and she has yet to use her wand as a light saber. She gets mad props for handling her show merch so well.

  5. No kid choked on the popcorn.

  6. In the complicated sea of parents chasing their children and tripping over other children's princess skirts, Nora June decided she was done and threw both a fit and her shoes. This is not something I enjoyed, but hats off to the guy who retrieved both pink Crocs and handed them to me with a sympathetic smile.

  7. My bunch was the only party that included children and our group totaled 18. That in itself is a pretty delightful fact. I think the grownups had just as much fun as the kids.

Thanks to Nana and Grampa for the awesome Christmas present and ensuing countdown, and thank you Disney for surprising even the coolest third-grader with a great show. Nora wants to know if we can see Elsa again this weekend, but I'm doing my best to get her to let that go. Have a great weekend, y'all!

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Motherhood: Best & Worst

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the day someone decided to sell last-minute cards and grocery store bouquets.

Sure, Mother's Day is important, but as I've said before, I'm not expecting a head pat for being given the chance to do something I've always wanted to do. I appreciate the attention, but I'd rather high-five the man who helped me get there and hug the reasons I fall into this category. However, since this is my blog, I want to use the day after to share a little insight on being a mom. It ain't all chocolates and roses. For some light Monday reading, here are my opinions on the best and the worst in motherhood. I'll let you decide which list came easier.

  • The Noise. We've come a long way from the first cries that jolted us awake in the wee hours. Even colicky Baby Owen couldn't hold a candle to the cringe-inducing screams, squeals, whines, demands, sass, and otherworldly sounds in my home today. The walls aren't thick enough.

  • The Smell. Have you ever discovered a sippy cup under the couch? Or walked upon a puke-filled crib? You know.

  • The Company. Sometimes I feel my sanity slipping away with every shuffle of feet behind me or turn of the bathroom doorknob. All I can do is tell myself: One day. One day, Jessica, they'll all be in school.

  • The Questions. No, I can't open your seventh Capri Sun. No, I don't know where your headphones are. No, I won't put the chickens on the trampoline. If they would just assume my answer is no, it would save us all a lot of breath.

  • The Repetition. One can only watch the Golden Boots episode of Peppa Pig so many times without garnering a few homicidal tendencies.

  • The Memory. I worked hard to convince my kids that stupid was the s-word, but all it takes is a few four-letter slips to have your two-year-old cussing like a sailor.

  • The Nights. From the zombie stage that ushers in new parents to the discovery of monsters under the bed, it's a nightmare. It starts with the battle of getting them into the bed, then it's the extra cups of water, the bathroom breaks, the game of twenty questions, and the pitter patter of little feet when you think you've won. *Shudder*

  • The Noise. The moment I sink into the couch at my wit's end {see all entries above}, Nora sidles up next to me, locks my hand into hers, and tells me she loves me. That sort of thing has a way of bringing it back around.

  • The Smell. Have you ever sniffed a newborn's head? You know.

  • The Company. This mother-of-three gig paired with my out-of-the-house gigs doesn't leave much room for a social life. When Jonathan is working late, it's nice to have someone to cuddle on the couch and share the popcorn.

  • The Questions. These three still think I know it all {though I'm afraid they're figuring me out}. I am happy to listen and steer them toward their truth as long as they will let me.

  • The Repetition. One of the best feelings in the world was slipping into that insane new mom routine. Of course it does a number on you, but it's incredible when your new life starts to feel familiar. Whether it's the same book, the same bedtime routine, or the same kiss-hug-bye at day care, there's comfort in the expected.

  • The Memory. Owen's first taste of saltwater, Nora's first bite of butternut squash, and Baby Nathan's first gasps of air when he greeted the world a few weeks early. My kids make my favorite memories.

  • The Nights. There's a moment that often creeps in after the sun goes down. When Nathan's nestled into the top bunk, Owen is in the bed below, and Nora's hugging her babies in the crib, my husband looks at me. Once again we survived a day as a family of five. We managed to get each child up and out the door. We solved problems, refereed fights, poured milk, and found blankies. We noticed when things seemed off and we kept them safe. When I'm replaying the day that was most likely overwhelming, he looks me in the eye and tells me I'm a good mom.

    That gives me the strength to do it again the next day. That and a glass of wine. Happy Monday!

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  • Friday, May 6, 2016

    Registered & Ready

    I feel like I just tucked Owen's birth certificate beside our marriage license and car title.

    Now I'm rummaging through the lock box to grab it for kindergarten registration.

    That brown-eyed boy will soon be my second kindergarten kid. I hadn't thought about it much until his preschool teacher told me school reps would be dropping in to assess the five-year-olds. As odd as it sounds to put assessment and Owen in the same sentence, I was excited to see where this kid fell on the scale.

    After testing, he didn't make it into the car before spilling all the beans. He told me how he grouped bears of the same color and then counted each grouping aloud. He had to identify every letter the teacher touched. He said he wrote his name as perfectly as he could and proudly answered questions about his family. He knew he did a great job and his preschool teacher was quick to back that up. I have no worries about Owen's intelligence as he begins his public school career. My only worry is me.

    The feelings that bubble up thinking about first-time kindergartners are old hat, but it's different this time. With Nathan, we were both terrified, but we were both excited. The first day was tough {and probably always will be}, but I was eager to see what classroom life was like. It was a new adventure for both of us and now I'm well-versed in primary school. Since I already know what's going on, do I have to give up my baby boy?

    At the moment, however, the baby boy himself is ready to run. He yearns for a bigger playground with tall swings and more friends, and he can't wait to dig into what's waiting in the classroom. I'm not the only one who's had a taste of the primary life. Owen's paid a few visits to Nathan's school and he knows it won't be boring.

    The kid in question is currently at my side, waiting to play Minecraft, so I'll let you hear it from the horse's mouth. His eyes lit up when I told him I was writing about getting ready for kindergarten. When asked what he's looking forward to most, he said: "Playing outside and eating French fries in the big lunch room and playing in the cool areas and doing a bunch of math tests. Four plus five is nine, do you know that?"

    Owen's name is officially on the paperwork and will be placed on his teacher's roster this summer. I know he has more growing/growing up to do over the next three months, but I know those months will fly by. Soon we'll be school supply shopping and shaking off nerves. The countdown to kindergarten is on!

    Is anyone else out there getting a kindergartner registered?
    How are you holding up?

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    Wednesday, May 4, 2016

    Shopping Spree

    I'm not much for stacking shoe boxes at the register, but give me cash and a row of greenhouses and I'll be good to go.

    I've shared repeatedly that my favorite kind of shopping leaves me smelling like tomato plants, and that day arrived on a sunny Saturday. We loaded the kids and I tried to contain my giddiness. The local nursery is conveniently located about one mile from my house and greets its visitors with beautifully kept flowers, veggies, trees, baskets, and anything else your green thumb desires. My wandering eyes could devote days to each section, but I was on a mission.

    I was so proud when Owen rushed ahead and stopped at the peppers to ID them. Good man, that Owen. I grabbed a couple of bell packs, my tried-and-true jalapenos, and a giant jalapeno type Jonathan wants to use for stuffing. I filled a portion of my flat and turned to the tomatoes. As I ran my fingers delicately across their leafy tops, their scent filled the air and took me to my happy place. Hey, you have handbags. I have vegetables. I chose four varieties, my favorite Early Girl and Super Fantastic, plus a cherry and a new-to-me heirloom called Homestead. My current garden sketch has room for 8-10 tomato plants. That sketch may grow.

    While I could idle away hours sniffing plants and whatnot, the best part of this trip is enjoying it with my family. We're only there for a half hour, but it signals the start of a season in the dirt and opportunity to talk about where our food begins. They may not always ask me to read the tomato tags, so I'll do my best to educate them while I can. I caught Nathan reading to his brother about the herbs, explaining the process of using dill to pickle. I'm telling you, the summer plant shopping spree is an experience.

    As for my daughter, who had big plans for pink flowers, she changed her mind when she spotted a play house. This house, decked with overflowing window boxes, came with a full kitchen and plenty of plastic food. We didn't have to worry about Nora while shopping, and we didn't have to buy any additional pink flowers.

    We did, however, have to physically remove her to go home.

    So ends another trip to the nursery to give me the tomato high I crave each spring. Have you gotten plants for your garden yet? If so, jump in the comments to let me know what varieties you have sitting on your kitchen table, or share your wish list. If you ever need a shopping buddy, I'm available. Happy Hump Day, y'all!

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    Monday, May 2, 2016

    Dear May

    April ended with showers that paved the way for allergy-inducing flowers.

    Hey, May! Being the least susceptible member of the bunch, I am happy to see you. Early last week, I felt the first slap of hot air perfumed with honeysuckle. It stopped me in my tracks and I realized spring will soon be summer. That strong scent marks the time to bury tomato plants, switch pansies for petunias, and spend evening hours outside. Early spring can be tricky in Arkansas, but May and I are close. Let's chat about why.

    GARDEN Maybe you're sensing a theme when I talk about my favorite things, but gardening is pretty much the best. May marks the big one. This month I'll do my summer planting and fill up that empty swath of dirt, freshly tilled and waiting for roots. I've been drawing rows and figuring out where it all goes and the plants are waiting patiently in the kitchen.

    WEATHER Aside from today, we have been steady in the mid-80s. As long as no tornadoes blow through, this weather is the best. It's not too hot to breathe, but it's the perfect amount of heat to prickle your skin and evoke memories of cold pools and fresh watermelon. Storms will nourish the growing plants and the sun will send blossoms into action.

    SCHOOL Since zero snowflakes fell this winter {thank you, Jesus!}, the kids don't have to spend any June days in school. As a matter of fact, they'll be done before Memorial Day this year. While that means having to find new ways to entertain them, it makes me excited on their behalf. I loved the wash of sweet relief brought on by that one final bell. Also, a break from the gridlocked car line is always nice.

    SHOWTIME While the actual vacation part of summer doesn't start until June, we have some fun up our sleeves this month. This weekend Nora June will meet her idol: the one, the only Queen Elsa. We're going to see Frozen on Ice and Nora's been asking daily when it will finally be time for her to let it go. There will be pictures. There will probably be even more merchandise. Wish us luck.

    What about you? Are you dreading the approach of blazing days or are you ready to sweat? Are you cranking up the air conditioner or digging in the dirt? What's your favorite thing about May?

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