Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Aloha Weekend

This weekend we used a method to beat the heat one step short of flying north for the summer.

We went to Nana's pool, of course! Saturday afternoon my Aunt Sandy rounded up the family for a co-birthday bash for me and my cousin Diana. She and my mom did it up luau-style with delicious kalua pork, sweet-and-sour shrimp, ham sliders, and enough fruit to fill a stand. We even had a beautiful birthday cake with palm trees and maybe a few less candles than totaled our respective ages. Aside from eating too much and stretching our birthday celebrations as far as they could go, the best part of this party was making a splash!

The pool temperature read a delightful 91 degrees. Although that sounds like taking a bath, it provided much needed relief. The Bauer Bunch was ready as ever, even if they were a little too excited for the pre-swim group photo. Honestly, I do believe this a wonderful representation of my children:

Nora and Nathan stuck to what they know best: cannon balls and floating like a mermaid, but Owen was eager to wow the crowd with his new swimming skills. He graduated swimming lessons this year and showed his family members how he could swim the pool length-wise without help and even smile for a photo under water:

We stayed in the pool until the sunscreen started to wear off and fights over the squirt guns began to erupt. As hard as it is to convince this bunch to get out of the pool and into their towels, my mom made it easy work with the promise of bomb pops for all.

{As you can see, Owen is a big Popsicle fan.}

It was a great Saturday all around, and a birthday cake half-dedicated to me made it even sweeter. How are you keeping cool on this Hump Day?

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Monday, June 27, 2016

In The Garden: June

June at my house means extra chores, like keeping the grass out of the beans and the worms out of the tomatoes.

Unfortunately this June the fiery gates of Hell decided to open a little earlier than normal. This weekend was a scorcher, but if we want some veggies out of our backyard, we have to roll up our sleeves {and also maybe wait until the sun goes down each night}. Whatever works to pave the way for a July of tomato-covered counter tops.

The worst garden chore we've faced this season is keeping the weeds and grass off of everything. Last time I checked the grass stopped growing at triple-digits, but we are mowing on a less-than-weekly basis and I swear the weeds reproduce over night. As you can see in the image above, Jonathan spent his Saturday morning off work working even harder to fix this problem {he even made room to plant another row of beans and okra}. Unfortunately, I still haven't found a way to force convince my children weeding is fun.

I do have help in the work of tomato spotting, though. Every time Nora is released into the backyard, she heads to the tomato rows to see how many new babies she can find. She doesn't discriminate, either - from the teeny tiny green cherries to the hefty heirlooms. Every single find elicits a squeal and a quick pet. I constantly remind her that we don't pick tomatoes until they're red, and she constantly reminds me she's just hugging her buddy.

This hotter than normal summer will probably mean more watering than years past {only once or twice a summer}, but crops like the okra and peppers live for the days that could fry an egg in the chicken coop. As long as we keep water on the cucumbers and an eye out for spontaneously exploding tomatoes, I don't think this weather will be a big problem.

Time will tell, but in a few weeks I should be sharing my harvest photos and begging nearby readers to take some off my hands. Hopefully that will be the case rather than a square of scorched soil. So how does your garden grow? Have you picked anything yet? Have you touched metal gardening tools with your bare hands and lived to tell the tale?

Happy Monday, y'all. Be careful out there!

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer Friday Five

ONE: Did you know Nathan is a college student? As a matter of fact, he first enrolled at the tender age of six. He's been hitting the books for the past two weeks on the Hope campus of UAHT at their annual Kids' College. In a span of just four hours a day, he has created a model of the Mayan ruins, learned the mechanics of stage lighting and sound equipment, and studied binary code. Seriously.

TWO: Last Friday Nora was diagnosed with toxic synovitis. Thankfully, the word is scarier than the condition. Nora spent an afternoon at the doctor's office after days of hobbling and eventually being unable to use her left leg. She was tough through X-rays and a blood draw, with the help of magic Frozen stickers {apparently I need to stock up on stickers}. A combo of Motrin and stretching has resolved it and she's back to running at lightning speed. Whew!

THREE: June is almost over and my July babies are in birthday mode. Nora has requested a Minnie party, so we have been searching Pinterest for the cutest, pinkest ideas. I don't know the whole menu yet, but hot diggity dogs will be involved. Nathan just wants to hit the water park for his ninth birthday, but he did ask for a Minecraft cake. Not a cake decorated with Steve or Creepers, an actual cake from the Minecraft world. Clever, right?

FOUR: It's hot. It's already "feels like 110 degrees" hot. It's getting pretty close to "the chickens probably don't need to eat today because they're clear across the yard" hot. But we press on. We have sunscreen, aloe for the mistakes {sorry, Owen}, and a garden hose that works as well for children as it does for veggies. We have enough Popsicles to last at least a few days. Bring it on, dog days.

FIVE: I turned 32 this week, so my husband had me get dolled up and treated me to a fancy dinner. We sipped wine, ate fork-tender filet mignon, and watched a chef not set the ceiling on fire while cooking bananas foster. The atmopshere was relaxing and comfortable and the company made me feel like a million bucks. Jonathan snapped the above photo when we sat down, and though I don't do it often, I like to see myself the way he does. Thirty-two is off to a good start.

As for now, duty calls. One pile of laundry, one pile of dishes, and three wild kids are calling my name. I can't wait to sink my toes and worries into the pool tomorrow. What are your weekend plans?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

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. I turned 16 just months after Y2K threatened to wipe us all out. This means I have spent an equal amount of time in two different centuries and I still haven't been given the opportunity to time travel. Clock's ticking, McFly.

Today I am here to broadcast the knowledge I have picked up over the years. In the spirit of a theme, I split this list down the middle. The first group are lessons I learned back in the 1900s and the second half I learned after pulling onto the highway for the first time. Let's go!

  1. It's okay to be a band nerd.
  2. Stirrup pants are rarely a good idea.
  3. You're never too old to play.
  4. Stick with the first people who talk to you at a new school.
  5. It's okay to be proud of yourself.
  6. Forgive your imperfections and let them shape you.
  7. Brothers are the best options for thunderstorm sleepovers.
  8. Good friends hear, but the best friends listen.
  9. The most productive talks happen on the trampoline.
  10. Have friends who expect you to come over unannounced.
  11. Books are better read on the porch.
  12. Boys are rarely as important as friends, but when they are, they count as friends.
  13. The notes you pass in seventh-grade math will mean more than you can imagine.
  14. The best summer days involve your little brother, a homemade game of Wild & Crazy Kids, and chlorinated hair.
  15. Don't be afraid to stand out, even if that means dressing up as a kangaroo for an Australia report.
  16. Write as often as you can, even if no one will ever read it.

  17. Always stop at stop signs.
  18. Sometimes it's worth talking until 6:00 AM when you have an 8:00 AM class.
  19. Babies stop crying.
  20. Memories get better with each retelling.
  21. Grief never goes away, but love slowly slips back in.
  22. Patience is a virtue, but so is wine.
  23. Look closely at your kids every day or you'll miss something.
  24. Childbirth has a way of turning a woman into a superhero.
  25. Parenting is not as easy as it looks on TV.
  26. Everybody doesn't have to like you, but you ought to like yourself.
  27. Poop jokes will always be funny.
  28. Moms do not have all the answers, and "Ask Dad" will only go so far.
  29. They say age brings wisdom, but I think it just comes with more grace for mistakes.
  30. You only have this one body, take care of it.
  31. Your mom is probably right.
  32. Different isn't wrong, faith isn't blind, and love is every answer.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

We Love Dad!

Yesterday fathers everywhere were honored with neckties, grilling aprons, and golf balls.

We spent our day in North Little Rock to celebrate Jonathan's dad in person {after hanging out with mine the night before}. I'm sure we had a great Father's Day with our dads, but this post was written for the guy who shampoos Nora's curls and somehow makes Owen fall asleep. He helps Nathan with the math that goes beyond multiplication and with the life problems that go beyond the range of Mom. He's a big reason I claim the mommy blogger title and I want to share a few reasons why.

Jonathan is one of the best fathers I know and I can't fathom parenting without him, but let's save that mushy stuff. Today's appreciation comes not in the form of greeting cards, but straight from the mouths of babes. Without further ado, following are a few Father's Day thoughts from the Bauer Bunch:

Nathan: "I like my Dad because he's helpful, like when something makes me frustrated he helps me through it. He tells me to slow down and think about what's wrong and helps me find an answer. He's also nice when I feel sad. He makes me feel better by cheering me up all the time. He is also really good at cooking. I love his steak, grilled asparagus, and fried okra. It makes me hungry just thinking about it! He's my dad and he's my friend."

Owen: "He smells so good. I think it's his soap. I like him because he brings me chocolate milk in bed. At swimming lessons when I do something like jump or swim all the way to the ladder, I give him a high-five and he says something nice to me. He says I did a great job and he is proud of me. Also I love him because he knows how to make shell macaroni and cheese and cheese roll-ups. And he snuggles me in bed when I am being a nice boy."

Nora: "I like my Daddy because I love him. I love him because he takes me outside when it stops raining so much. He takes me to play with the baby chickens. We check them and throw worms together. Daddy gives me hugs because Daddy is my best friend because I love him so much. I like when Daddy holds my hand, but he doesn't need to because I can walk now."

Happy Father's Day to all the dads! Whether you're dealing with teens, comforting toddlers, or just waking up from a newborn all-nighter, you are awesome and you are appreciated. And for the dads whose kids are sending love from heaven, my heart is with you. You guys are incredible fathers, too. Please know that.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Summer {Dis}Order

Apparently Nora can cook now. If she could change her own diapers, we'd be in business.

The turquoise waters from my last post are a thing of the past. They've been replaced with waves of temper tantrums, cracker crumbs, and sass.

Welcome home, Mom!

Living without a schedule or children for a week has put a serious slant on reality. My poor husband and I have to change diapers and encourage dental hygiene and provide food. The HORROR! Bedtime whenever is no good, because waking the Nora Beast without a full night of beauty sleep is terrifying. Putting off laundry for one day results in piles that could hide my kids and eat-what-you-want lunch mostly consists of waffles.

Ahhh, it's summertime with kids. I love summer, but I'm not quite up on my game. I have been reading blog posts in which moms plan their kids' summer days to the minute, complete with zoo trips and splash pads and nature walks. They give their kids a television limit, earned only by completing chores, and they have a lunch menu taped to the refrigerator. I see photos of happy kids frolicking outside and moms getting to unwind with afternoon coffee and books on the couch. They're using their imaginations, they're folding laundry, and no one is bleeding.

What is this magic?

Let me assure you this is not meant as snark on these schedule-savvy mothers. I say this only to wonder whether A) anyone can teach me their secrets and B) there's anyone else whose kids may revolt if I tried. The real world can sting a little after vacation, but it's time to pull up the boot straps. I'm not with my kids all day every day {God bless the SAHMs}, but I have to bring a little order to the days we're at home. I simply need them to...

Be Cleaner: If I'd rather clean a chicken coop than walk into the kids' bathroom, something's wrong.
Live Offline: How do I get them to put down their screens when mine is in my hands just as often? Oh.
Go Outside: Sure, the heat index is already 100 degrees, but that's why God make Popsicles.
Labor in the Garden: Any idea on how to make weeding sound fun? Hey kids! Let's look for hidden garden treasure. I think it's buried under that grass!

Feel free to help a fellow parent. What are your suggestions to bring a bit of order to the chaos while convincing them that the real world is just as fun as the ones they create in Minecraft? It's time to snap back to reality, and maybe make it a little less messy.

Where do your summers fall on the chaos scale? Let's chat.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Escape to Paradise

My husband and I sat on the beach, watching parent after parent follow their child into the salty sea and out again like clockwork.

I took a long sip of my frozen strawberry daiquiri, hand-crafted by a bikini-clad bartender, and dug my toes into the sand a little deeper. My ears caught the sound every time a child called for his mom to "Come look at this fish! Bring me that shovel! Give me those Cheetos!" Then I settled back into my beach chair and picked up my book when I realized no, I am not Mom this week.

If you follow me on any social media, you know I was in Florida last week {I would apologize for over-gramming, but I believe vacation is the one exception to the rule}. Jonathan and I spent five wonderful days at Sandestin Resort and we packed zero swim diapers. We left our kids in the dust so we could celebrate ten years of wedded bliss. The ocean scent is still on my flip flops, so I thought I'd relive my memories via keyboard while they're still fresh.

The weather on this trip was insane. We arrived Sunday night, just before Tropical Storm Colin. Day One was full of rainy day shopping with the rest of the panhandle vacationers, but on Day Two the rain moved out and the red flags flew. The tide might have beat us up a little, but we weren't missing the action:

The red warning flags stuck around through Wednesday, but Thursday the clouds parted and the gods of the sea looked upon us. The yellow flags urged caution, but the crystal clear glassy waves invited us in. This was the prettiest water I have ever seen lap onto the shores of the Gulf Coast. Jonathan and I spent our remaining mornings and afternoons simply floating. No rings or goggles or hands to hold. It was just us and the ocean. A little slice of blue-green heaven.

Obviously, we also ate food. We ate really, really good food. I won't give you a play-by-play, but let's just say I left no crab leg uneaten. We did take our anniversary night up a notch by having our first experience at Ruth's Chris. This place offered no Florida-themed drinks with 12 kinds of rum, but there were forks aplenty and a wooden box held by a waiter named Jameson who asked us to choose the steak knife to our liking. It was fancy, y'all. Jameson even wished us a happy anniversary via dessert after we drank things called side cars and mojitos:

Escaping to paradise was the perfect way to celebrate ten years of building a life together, but once we crossed Arkansas borders and Nana's driveway, the bouncing hugs that greeted us weren't exactly terrible. After hearing words like Minecraft and blankie and Dad! for the first time in days, reality sunk in. Surprisingly, it wasn't half bad. Escaping is one thing, but coming home can be just as good.

On that note... when can we go again?!

Happy Monday, y'all. May your waves be salty, your drinks be strong, and your lives be good.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

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.

The last ten years haven't been easy, and in some aspects each one has been harder. We started our marriage in a fog, swept up in ideal futures, white picket fences, and baby names. Getting married and getting started was the easy part. We were obsessed with each other because that was all we had.

Years passed and we learned life was no picket fence. Money was scarce, jobs were demanding, and Nathan was preparing to flip it all upside down. We met our son and learned a new kind of love. Life changed, so we adjusted and continued. Then loss came and everything broke. We picked up, leaned on each other, and loved harder. Owen came, Nora came, jobs changed, and life threw curve balls we never saw coming. Our metaphoric camel is buried under a decade of straw. Sometimes it looks like his back is about to give, but we've gotten good at straightening his legs.

In the last ten years I have learned to love. I know forgiveness and I feel what unconditional means. I could write a novel about the ways Jonathan has helped me become the woman I am today, but when it comes down to it, the message is simple: there's no one else.

No one else can hold me tight enough to catch my breath when the world crashes at my feet.
No one else looks at me with the same intensity.
No one else can make me relax by his presence alone.
No one else could ever have my trust when it comes to backing decisions that scare me.
No one else would be the same sitting in the driver's seat while I roll the windows down and sing into the wind.
No one else can make me feel beautiful without saying a word.
No one else can unravel the worries that make life heavy.

Ten years is a long time, but the most important thing I have learned since that hot June day is that I am his and I can count on my husband, no matter what. {And also that we're still pretty obsessed with each other.}

Day after day, month after month, and year after year, I still get butterflies. I will be the first to tell you marriage is not the piece of white cake we shared on June 10, 2006, but I'll also be the first to tell you that marriage is so much better than the wedding. He started as my friend, he turned into my husband, and now he is more. Jonathan is my partner in life. He makes me whole. No one else could ever do that.

Jonathan: Thank you for giving me your love. Thank you for asking me to return it.
Thank you for holding my hand when I cry, high-fiving me when I get it right, and making my life lighter.
You have made me more than I ever thought I could be. Happy Anniversary.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bloggers in History

A handful of my favorite friends and I took a step back in time last Saturday at our blogging meetup.

{Don't worry, we took the kids, too.}

The Southwest Arkansas Bloggers gathered at Historic Washington State Park for a day of adventure that included everything from candle making to chicken chasing. We figured it would be okay to tack a history lesson onto that old-fashioned face-to-face contact we crave every now and then. Our kids have become fast friends over the years, and I think they were as happy to get together as we were. The group included Karen of Ting's Mom and her two kids, Alicia, who writes at Simple Words by A, and her family, and newlywed/new-to-the-south Keisha of Big Pitt Stop. Spend a few minutes checking out their blogs this morning. You might find something to add to your reading list.

Though the morning started out in a downpour, we were lucky enough to see the clouds part and Arkansas June turn it up to 11. We explored the lush gardens, we spotted a chicken that Owen attempted to catch {no luck}, and we toured a home and several museums. This bunch heads to Washington once a year for the Jonquil Festival for corn dogs and crafts, but that's just the surface of what this town has to offer.

Washington was full of life in the mid-1800s and a lot of that life is preserved today. Tour guides were waiting at doorsteps with endless facts about what waited inside. We got to see century-old printing presses jump into action and hear what was served for Sunday dinner by the generations before us. What amazed me the most, however, is how absolutely into it the kids were.

We had a group of kids whose ages ranged from two to nine, and each one was glued. Nathan's hand shot in the air every time a tour guide asked for questions, Nora was first in line to dip her candle in colorful wax, and Owen even asked the man at the weapons museum if he could make a small purchase {no luck there, either}. The kids all got along, they shared lunch at their own table at Williams Tavern. They made what could have been a whine-fest a rather delightful day for everyone. High-fives, kids!

Keisha just moved to our area from NWA and I hope we made her feel welcome! We're pleased to grow our posse by one and I can't wait until the next chance we get together. Blogging is a fun way to share your story online, but it turns out it's also an amazing way to make real-life connections and real-life friends.

Also, if you haven't take a trip back in time at Old Washington, do yourself and your kids a favor this summer. The atmosphere is different {and the streets are less crowded} when you pick a non-festival Saturday. You can take your time reading, chatting up the tour guides, and learning so much about the role this little corner of Arkansas played in history. Check it out and invite us to tag along while you're at it. There's so much more we haven't seen!

Have a terrific Tuesday, y'all.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Dear June

You know June is my favorite month of all the months the Romans squeezed into a calendar.

You know it's my birth month, the month my favorite hydrangeas spring to life, and the month when the world slows down enough to notice and the air warms enough to touch. I've shared metaphor after metaphor about the vibrant colors that come with the start of summer and drawing inspiration from God's brightest paint strokes. Heck, you know I love June so much I gave it to my daughter as a middle name.

Today, though, is no day for poetry. There is precisely one bullet point in my What I Love About June 2016 essay. This weekend I will kiss my kids goodbye while attempting to contain my giddiness. I will get into the car beside my dear husband, point it toward Florida, and not even think about looking back.

Sure, I still want to dance on the summer breeze and all that junk, but it's beach time. It is kid-free beach time. This month will be the best month of the whole year, and that's why. Jonathan and I booked this trip in February and I can't believe takeoff is in a matter of days. Six nights and seven days with no children, no responsibilities, and no sense of time. Adventure awaits! {And also naps. So. Many. Naps. -- insert a big thank you to the grandparents here.}

You may be thinking to yourself, "Jessica! How on Earth can you leave your children behind to splash in salt water and throw back bottomless fruity beach drinks?! Won't you miss them? Aren't they jealous? Won't you worry?" As luck would have it, I currently hear the word "mama" being thrown my direction in the most agonizing fashion followed by two of the worst words known to man: "Chocolate Miiiiilk!" Any more questions? I feel zero guilt for this much-needed and dare I say deserved vacation, and I promise no one can make me.

We're taking this trip to celebrate ten years of wedded bliss. We need this. I need this. I need to save whatever sanity I have left, I need to feel like more than someone's mom, and I need to give all my attention to my favorite family member {don't tell the children}. There's no one else I'd rather have balance me at home, and there's no one else I'd rather have drive my getaway car. June 10 marks our anniversary and we wanted to spend it our favorite way - alone.

That concludes the one-item list of things I'm most looking forward to this June. Do you have any fun trips on your calendar this summer? Jump in the comments and remind me of the joys of June I'm drowning out due to trip excitement.

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