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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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving Our Thanks

Today is not only the meager turkey's brightest spotlight, it's a great day to slow down.

When this post publishes, I'll probably be brushing Nora's bountiful curls and helping her decide between pink bow and blue bow. I'll be asking Owen to put on his shoes for the fifth time in a row, and reminding Nathan to brush his teeth. If all goes to plan, we will be well-rested and eager to load into the car and drive over the river and through the woods {read: down the highway} to my parents' house.

As I'm going through my mental checklist to make sure everyone's ready, it will feel like any other day. However, Thanksgiving Day gives us a fantastic reminder. I am so thankful to have life swirling around me, even if typically at rapid speed. The blessings in my life are immeasurable, but it's time to slow down and count them one by one.

Happy Thanksgiving, from me and my people to you and yours.

Speaking of my people, it wouldn't be a Bauer Family Thanksgiving post if I didn't do a bit of interviewing. Below are a few shots from this year's family photo session {Bright Images} along with everyone's word-for-word answer to the most appropriate of all holiday questions: "What are you thankful for?

Age: 33
Thankful For: "The love of the most beautiful woman in the world {awww!}. Ophthalmologists so I can see. Chicago Cubs for winning the World Series."

Age: 32
Thankful For: "I am thankful for my faith. Faith literally brought me to the love of my life by way of a youth convention circa 1998. Faith has carried me through my darkest times and celebrated my best. Faith has allowed me to stand with the next generation and taught me about both religion and relationship. I thank God for every second I've seen and every second to come.

And also Jonathan. And my kids. And wine..."

Age: 9
Thankful For: "I am thankful for my family because they’re really special to me. I am also thankful for everything that I have, like my house, my tablet, and clothes. I know I am lucky to have that stuff. I am also thankful for my books because I like to read them and picture things and places in my head while I’m reading. One more: I am thankful for my brother because he’s awesome."

Age: 5
Thankful For: "I am thankful for my Daddy because I like his snuggles. I am thankful for my Mom because I love her. I am thankful for my toys because I like playing with them, especially my big dinosaur because it’s really fun and loud. And also chocolate milk because it tastes really good."

Age: 3
Thankful For: "Thankful for Nana and Grampa because I love them. Thankful for hot dogs because I like to eat them. Ummmm... thankful for donuts because they are so yum and Mrs. Keri buys them for us when we are on the good list."

If you're still waiting on the turkey to come out of the oven or the last cousin to stroll through the door, how about a little more reading material?

In searching back, I'm noticing a trend in my daughter's answers... Check out last year's answers here, the post from 2014 here, the post from 2013 here, the post from 2012 here, and the post from 2011 here. It's fun to see how much my family has changed over the years {and how their thankful thoughts have grown}. Have a wonderful holiday, friends!

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Monday, November 21, 2016

The Halls are Decked

Christmas came early to the Bauer house this year. Really early.

I can recall one year in the history of our marriage that Christmas was unpacked in November, but having a home covered in cheer before Thanksgiving is unprecedented. Nevertheless, a glorious tree is softly glowing in the corner of our living room.

Friday night Jonathan and I stuffed our coat-clad kids in the car and hit the highway in search of the perfect Christmas tree. While this opening has Christmas Vacation written all over it, in all reality we pulled into Home Depot. Last year half of our pre-lit tree decided to no longer light. We needed an upgrade.

We unanimously decided on a high-tech number that can be either classic white lights or multi-colored {I will always and forever be in favor of rainbow trees}. It's the same height as our previous tree, but it sure does feature a larger width. More room for presents?

The giant box sat on our kitchen floor for 24 hours. We knew we weren't going to hide it away only to drag it out once the leftover turkey hit the fridge. I also knew the box that could easily house my family was causing my eye to twitch. Honestly, friends, we had no choice in the matter.

Jonathan started the process of getting the tree constructed and branches properly fluffed, and I helped by playing every song in my Christmas playbook. {This had nothing to do with getting out of fluffing duty. Promise.} I do enjoy looking at my house filled with holiday spirit, but getting from Point A to Point B isn't my happy place. Half-empty boxes tower precariously, glitter's spilling on the table, Nora's holding Owen's elf, and Nathan can't find his stocking. Madness.

The descent into Christmas madness is not a slow one.

Aside from failure to pose without laughing/falling, however, this year went rather smoothly.

Nora put all the ornaments in one eye-level glob. The boys had a fun time together, pulling out baby photos and preschool hand prints. Jonathan and I even got a little nostalgic with decor blasts from the past {those Our First Christmas snowmen had no idea what they were getting into}.

Now we plan to spend the post-Thanksgiving weekend with our feet propped up while the rest of you jokers rush through the holiday changeover. You should know that decorating is the only thing I have checked off my list, though. I haven't even thought about starting shopping, mailing cards, or getting with Santa on a game plan. As for right now, however, I'll put off that eventual procrastination and bask in the LED glow of productivity.

In hindsight, there was only one major issue with putting up the tree in mid-November. It arrived in the form of an eager three-year-old.

Only 33 more days of hearing, "So, is it gonna be Christmas tomorrow?!

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The {Almost} Champ

Owen's championship game ended in a loss, but you wouldn't have known it by his smile.

That's right, y'all, Owen Bauer's six-and-under soccer team made it to the final round of playoffs. They played an excellent game, but lost by two. Once the final whistle blew, kids from both teams rushed to the park employee who passed out their coveted trophies. Owen went straight to the snacks after that {priorities}, then found me to show off his major award. "It's made of metal, Mom!" He cheesed as I held up my phone next to the other soccer moms.

Owen tried soccer in the spring, but the league ended up falling apart before tournament time. That bummed him out, so he was ready to get kicking last month. He was placed with a wonderful coach and a fantastic squad of girls and boys. Sure, I had to yell for my kid to watch the ball more times than I could count in a single game, but Owen learned a lot. We learned a lot about him, too!

The most obvious factor is that Owen did not get my coordination nor speed. When his head in the game, he can beat his opponents to the goal, and he's quick to jump in front of it and kick it out. Most of the games I attended this season I got to see his defense skills in action, but every game I missed he scored goals. I don't think I'm a jinx, but don't put the idea in his head, okay?

Aunt B and Uncle P gave Owen a portable soccer goal for his birthday and he's been getting in some backyard practice. He already told Jonathan he wants to spend the winter working on his footwork and kicking it harder than ever before. His best friend was on another team, and while they were at odds at wanting to win over each other, they have vowed to practice together in the off-season.

This is the first sport Owen has tried, but he's also interested in tee ball. As long as schedules don't overlap, it seems like 2017 will be the year of sports for Owen. I want to always encourage my kids to try to do something new and every once in a while, it's something that brings them joy. Win or lose.

I don't know if Owen will keep up with soccer until he's on the high school team, but it will be interesting to find out. Before we skip ahead an entire decade, I'm looking forward to next fall when his curly-headed sister will stand on the white line beside him. I'm not sure how that will go, but she's chomping at the bit.

Whatever the case may be, it ought to result in amazing pictures. Happy Hump Day, y'all!

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

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.

"There are so many houses here." The sleepy southwest town we call home is the only place Owen has known, and the differences stuck out to him like a sore thumb.

When we saw familiar faces waiting at their front door, however, it was like time hadn't moved. We were right at home, and so were our kids. If there's one thing I miss about living in a town that can hold more than 5,000, it's our people. As the night wore on, we found ourselves around the kitchen table. The scene and the characters were the same, but the conversation was new. Between belly laughs over the memories that built us, a potty training conversation would pop up. After reliving the glory days, we talked kindergarten and swapped funny kid stories.

Every so often, we would watch an army of kids dart past us and exchange looks that said, "When did this happen!?" As much as time has preserved our friendship, it sure changed us.

While in Conway, we knew we had to drive down memory lane. Nathan grinned when we arrived at his first house. We pointed out his original day care and remembered the summer Saturday he made us parents. I showed my kids the corner building at the University of Central Arkansas where I fell deeper in love with writing and the parking lot where Jonathan proposed. I couldn't help but think about the current students whose stories are just starting. Which professor is changing a life today? Who else has gotten down on one knee on this campus? Where will they go? What will they do? Who will their children become?

After a whirlwind of memories, it was surreal to pull off the interstate and wind through the back roads home. Once we got the kids tucked in and the suit cases unloaded, Jonathan and I slipped into the hot tub to soak beneath the moon. In silence we looked across the land that stretches behind our house. We looked to the coop that held our hens. {Imagine if the Conway version of us knew we raised chickens??} We saw the barren garden waiting for spring. We saw sleepy cows in the neighboring pasture, brilliantly lit by the sky. Then we looked up.

I have vivid memories of my past in Conway and at UCA. I can tell you in detail every moment in that city that shaped my life. I can tell you where I sat in the classes that filled holes in the search for myself. I can also tell you that where I am now is my tiny place in the universe. I will always enjoy making new connections with people I love and showing my kids where we've been, but I will come home.

Visible from where we sat was the glow of Nora's night light in her window. It was such a strange feeling to compare where we started to the comfort of knowing our third child is safe in her bed.

I am thankful to Conway for setting the first chapters of our book, but I love where our story is headed.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Nathan's ABCs

Nathan was given an interesting assignment from his GT teacher a few weeks back.

It was simple enough... almost too simple. He was asked to write and illustrate his own ABC book. It didn't take long to realize that putting his life into 26 pages wasn't so simple, but the fourth-grade gears were turning.

For weeks, he toiled over what he would do for each letter. Piano or Painting? Chickens or Creativity? Mom or Minecraft? {If you're curious, my face is 100% on the M page.} Once he finalized the direction of his masterpiece, he enlisted my help. We took a trip down memory lane via Facebook photos, this blog, and the furthest recesses of my computer. On many of his letters, Nathan utilized his doodling skills and I filled in the blanks by helping him print old photographs. We saw his preschool graduation, the day we moved down south, and even a newborn Nathan {born four weeks Early}.

This may seem like just another grade, but I saw it as much more. We had a great time brainstorming the pieces of his life, and it's incredible to see what Nathan has become in just nine years. In case you're looking for a little break from politics today, I thought I would share a few pages from Nathan's ABC Book:

I loved the way he stylized the letters. The X was drawn into a tic-tac-toe grid and the R was pouring rain. The cover was colorful and funky, with block letters similar to the style of his book. For Nathan, this was just a project to finish, but for me it was a window into his creative mind.

This kid continues to impress me in all ways, from A to Z.

{See what I did there?} Happy Hump Day, y'all!

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Thankful for Him

{I almost titled this Thank You for Being A Friend. You're going to want to click that.}

It's not Thankful Thursday, but I'd like to give credit where it's due.

And believe me, it is due.

Last week wasn't my favorite week. Don't get me wrong, Halloween was a lot of fun and I had a blast watching my kids scoop up all candy in sight. Owen had a banner week with a lost tooth and a fantastic soccer game, and Nathan came home from his piano lesson with two songs to perform in the Christmas recital. Nobody broke a bone or too big of a rule, and we came out relatively unscathed. The bad part was that everyone was really just missing their Dad.

Jonathan was in New Orleans on business for a mere four days last week, and it was enough to make an impact on all of us. I know his job means more business trips and more meetings in the coming years. But that's later. Today I want to share why I was so thankful to hear that door unlock late Thursday night.

With my kids constantly yelling Mom! in any and all directions and my own Mom hanging out to save my sanity, it feels off to say I was lonely. However, I was lonely. It was more than just needing an extra body in the house, though. I missed the little things like laughing at Modern Family reruns and having him sneak in my coffee while I shower. I missed seeing his truck turn onto the gravel and slinging open the door before he could get to the handle. I missed his warmth in the bed {my feet are never not cold}. I missed him checking locks, and double-checking the kids each night. I even missed his clothes in the hamper. Lovesick, I tell you.

While Jonathan was away, I second-guessed everything I did. If you have ever heard me talk out loud, you will probably know I tend to lean toward self-doubt. This is a thing in my life that I work on, but Jonathan balances me. He builds me up and he holds me strong in all the places I need it.

Another big detail: Owen doesn't like the way I snuggle. He told me flat out. He also let me know I definitely didn't smell like his Dad. He still loves me and he slept like an angel, but it was made known I was second string.

I know how lucky I am to have this guy in my life. Jonathan is my clarity and his absence makes an impact, even if it's just four days. Time is promised for no one, so I want to thank him today and every day. His presence makes a huge difference, even in the smallest ways. I am so happy he's home.

Oh, and Owen is, too. Snuggle time is back to normal.

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dear November

It is 85 degrees in November, Garth Brooks is Entertainer of the Year, and the Cubs just won the freaking World Series.

I don't know what's happening, Universe, but I love it. If you were anywhere close to a television or the United States of America last night, you know that history was made just before the stroke of midnight. If you've known me in the last decade, you'll also know I didn't get much sleep. The Chicago Cubbies broke their century-long losing streak and likely caused thousands of grown men to cry. The worst part is that Jonathan has been in New Orleans on business, so I had to squeal to him via texted exclamation points. It wasn't the same, but it got the point across. We can pop the champagne when he gets home tonight. {I do have goggles if necessary.}

As I continue to try to lower my blood pressure, I thought I'd share a little insight into what has started as one amazing month. If the first three days of November can be this amazing, I am eager to see what the rest of them hold. Here are a few things I'm excited about...

This month my husband and I start yet another role at our church. Sunday will be our first lesson to teach as high school catechists, and I am pumped. We already know and love the kids in the class because of our youth group involvement, and they are fantastic. Lesson plans and notebooks and fresh pencils, oh my! I know there's a learning curve ahead of us, but I can't wait to jump into the material and see what we can figure out together.

Although I'm a big fan of the birth of our Lord/His resurrection, Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. I don't want to limit thankfulness to one block on the calendar, but the atmosphere on Turkey Day is hard to beat. Gathering with family and friends, despite differences, with the purpose of simply appreciating being together is huge. There is much to be thankful for, and this November I want to find thanks in everything.

Soccer season is just about over and before we know it Nathan and Owen will hang up their backpacks for a whole week. November means a decline in activities and a break from school. And that means more people in my crowded house. However, I want to actually use that. I want to spend more time with my kids this month, and I want them to spend more time with each other. I am claiming November as the month of togetherness... whether they like it or not.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to rummage through the $5.00 movie bin...

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Trick-or-Treat Trail

Monday afternoon we drove three excited kids to the park, each holding a plastic pumpkin.

The orange pumpkin belonged to one terrifying nine-year-old grim reaper, whose costume worked in both scare factor and hiding his identity. The green pumpkin was carried by Officer Owen, ready to arrest anyone who's not quick with the candy {and informing the people at McDonald's that cops eat free}. Finally, the hot pink pumpkin was clutched by the prettiest ballerina princess the city park has seen. Her curls tucked delicately under her Elsa crown, and chin held high.

Three Things:
1. Yes, Nora was a ballerina for Halloween 2015.
2. Yes, ballerinas and ballerina princesses are two different things.
3. Yes, she was supposed to be a skeleton.

Instead of braving the grandparents' neighborhood this year, my mom and I took the easy way out since Jonathan was away on business. Our town offers a trick-or-treat trail at the park, where various organizations line the sidewalk with buckets of candy {and that one dentist with the toothbrushes}. It was the way to go: minimum scares, maximum candy.

As for the story on Nora, this year she was dedicated to the idea that Halloween is for spooky costumes. She even scoffed at her friends' Disney get-ups and told them all about her skeleton suit. It even glows in the dark, for crying out loud.

Days leading up to the big show, I would ask her to try it on. "No, Mom! I can't put it on until Halloween!" I knew what was coming. She knew what was coming. The only question was... who would win?

Nora. Nora won this battle, thanks to my miraculous ability to locate her leotard, pink frilly skirt, and a princess crown to jazz it up. She was as happy as could be skipping along the trail. She enthusiastically shouted her trick-or-treat request to everyone {except that one guy dressed as the Joker}, and politely thanked them all. After the sugar high began to wane, she even asked to sleep in her beautiful, not-so-spooky costume.

Those Bauer boys had a great Halloween, too! Both saw kids they knew from school and had fun checking out everyone's costumes. A few favorites included a tiny baby dressed as an old lady, Velma from Scooby Doo, and one impressive Minecraft Steve. Once Nathan got too hot in his reaper hood, he pulled it off and heard shouts of "Oh, Nathan! I didn't know it was you!" He got a kick out of being completely unrecognizable {and I did a good job keeping up with which grim reaper was mine}.

Halloween is a wrap... time to put the tree up? I kid, I kid. Nora is still practicing her trick-or-treat skills, and I'm trying to stick to a one Kit Kat a day habit. We'll see how that goes...

Happy Hump Day, y'all! How spooky was your Halloween?

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