Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Survival of the Fittest

When the school year cranks up, certain sacrifices must be made.

The hours I spent slaving over the pristine, weed-free garden of June and July have been replaced with homework help, early bedtimes, and general post-learning chaos. Late August transforms my backyard paradise into a field of dying/dead plants, overrun with rambling weeds. A wasteland where only the fittest can survive.

Basically, may the odds be ever in their favor.

And that is fine with me. Our summer production was impressive, especially the millions of tomatoes I picked. There are a few green tomatoes that still cling to dying plants, but they're pretty much done. We did freeze some for the winter months and we have a jar of salsa that features our harvest. Good enough for me!

The cucumbers and peas are long gone. There may be some green beans smothered beneath the weeds, who knows. The bright yellow sunflowers that once stretched past my husband's head are now bent over and tired. Their sunny color is replaced by darkness and their faces look like they've seen some things...

This year Mother Nature reserved her hottest days just in time for my kids to sweat buckets in the car line. That means the two crops that live for the scorch of the sun, peppers and okra, are doing fine. The pepper plants look the worse for wear, but every time I peek there's a fully grown bell or jalapeno waiting to be picked. We have even frozen several this year to use for stew and chili. Our freezer finally looks like we have a working garden! As for okra, I think we've already chopped five quarts and it's still going strong.

PS: Last week we fried okra from September of last year that was processed in this way
{chopped into bite-sized pieces and thrown in a freezer bag} and it tasted like we'd just picked it.

In addition to the death and despair, there's a healthy amount of {horrifying} bugs in the garden, which helps my "may the best plant win" attitude. If I had a dollar for every foot-long grasshopper that landed on my shirt in recent days, I'd have a solid two dollars. And that is too much money.

I'm more cautious when entering the weedy garden these days, but I do make it out every so often to cut okra and see if my eyes catch anything else ready for harvest. My chickens have been enjoying all the forgotten tomatoes, too. Now if I can just convince them to go after the grasshoppers...

Any other growers develop this laissez-faire late-August attitude?
Have a lovely Wednesday, y'all.

Monday, August 21, 2017


{This is a stock photo, but I'm 100% sure this is what I would have seen today had I been prepared.}

This afternoon my Internet has been jammed with news articles and blog posts and 140-character opinions riddled with clever eclipse puns.

Not me, friends. Nothing I can say... total eclipse of the heart.

I'll admit that was weak, but I have been singing this song in the shower, in the car line, at my desk, to my kids, to my chickens, to my husband for days. Maybe now that the eclipse has come and gone, things will... turn around.

I'll stop now.

I recently posted on Facebook to see if I had invented my own school-age eclipse memory. I strongly remember sitting in my fourth-grade classroom poking a hole in a paper plate that would somehow protect my retinas from burning when I stared into the sun. I don't really recall having the fear of blindness drilled into me, but I sure remember putting a plate on my face.

Google tells me this happened on May 10, 1994 and several readers chimed in to validate my memory. Who knows if my mom had to sign a permission slip or sort through eclipse propaganda in my backpack, but I had a definite déjà vu moment when my kids woke up ready for a Monday at school.

Now that the moon has blocked the sun, rendering parts of the country {not this part} dusk-like, my kids have come home with their own opinions:

Nathan initially told me he was underwhelmed. However, his imagination had likely cooked up a sudden burst of pitch blackness with zooming comets and passing UFOs. He was excited that his class got to check it out three different times and it was cool to see the various positions of the moon. They even timed it perfectly and got to see only a teeny sliver of the sun. AND he said the crickets and cicadas starting singing then. Cool, right??

Owen said, and I do quote, "The solar eclipse was the most awesome thing I ever saw!" Owen's description was that the moon became the sun, while the sun, in fact, became the moon. Not sure if that'll fly in the world of science, but it works for me. He said it looked like the sun was eating the moon and he kept his glasses on the whole time. Success!

We'll see another round of sun-blocking in less than a decade, according to the Internet. In the spring of 2024, another total eclipse will occur AND southwest Arkansas will be in the exact path of totality. While this doesn't sound like a very long time from now, Nora will be Nathan's age, Nathan will be a junior in high school, and I will be months away from 40. Maybe I'll be able to drag my elderly body to actually snag some solar glasses and see it next time around...

How did your kids feel about being part of a pretty big day in history and science?
Are you still singing Bonnie Tyler? Everyone's pets okay? Anyone develop super powers??

These are things I wonder. Happy Monday, y'all!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Flashback Friday: School Stories

The first week of school brings up a lot of anxious feelings in my little students.

There's that initial worry of making it through the car line on time {which was not helped by this morning's forgotten backpack}. Once you make it over that hurdle, there's focusing on all your teacher's words, staying calm during tests, and trying to navigate a schedule that looks like HTML. Recent discussions about these worries have drummed up many memories for me. Today's post is a Flashback Friday, because I'm about to spin three different tales of my own school-time stress. Gather 'round and cringe, friends:

Story One: College
Let's start with the most recent story {a mere 13 years ago}. I was starting my third year at the University of Central Arkansas and at that point, my minor was Spanish. As my OCD led me to do, I made a dry run before the start of every semester. I needed to know building locations, floor layouts, and the quickest walking paths. I was usually the first person in class and I usually sat on the front row.

On this particular new year, I remember walking into my lower-level Spanish course and planting my backpack beside that coveted center seat. Once the other students filled in around me and the professor took his place, something weird happened. I understood his welcome and directions to speak no English at all, but everything after sounded like a foreign language... literally. I realized this was no cruel trick to ruin my GPA when my name was absent from the class list. I was red as a beet when I raised my hand to own my mistake and slid into a back-row seat next door ten minutes late. Oops.

Side Note: Even though my actual class was much easier, I switched my minor to creative writing that year.

Story Two: High School
I turned 16 in the summer of 2000 and I was fully licensed, ready to roll. My electric blue Mustang was clean as a whistle when I drove toward the first day of my junior year. I parked in the #35 spot on the Hope High School campus and walked in like I owned the place.

Back then the campus was open for lunch, so my best friend and I headed to Dairy Queen. It wasn't far from the school and we knew we could get back in time {my first-day anxiety took McDonald's out of the equation}. After we finished our meals with time to spare, I paused at the stop sign beside our school and cruised on. Notice I said paused? Yes, my friends, I got pulled over for the first time ever... during lunch period... on my first day driving to school... directly in front of campus. I can't recall the shade of red my face wore all afternoon or how many smirking classmates stopped me in the hallway, and I'd really rather not.

Side Note: I only got a verbal warning, but I didn't pull over for a solid minute because I didn't notice the flashing lights.

Story Three: Primary
Let's take it on back to 1992. I was in third grade at the brand-new Hope Primary School, later to be renamed after our 42nd president. I was in Mrs. Hesse's class and I sat on the front row right beside her desk {sensing a theme here?}. One morning she had to step out, and as teachers do, she asked a student to stand up front and take names.

I pulled a book from my backpack {I can only assume Sweet Valley Twins or Baby-Sitters Club} and started reading until I felt eyes. I looked around to find my instinct was right. Everyone was watching me until I turned to the blackboard and saw Jessica in powdery white letters. Rude, right?? My heart sank, my palms puddled up, and I burst into tears. Thankfully many of my allies were in that class with me and rectified the situation when the teacher walked in. Vindication! I don't know why that moment has stuck with me for so long, but there it is, folks.

Side Note: That was not the first time my name made it onto the board. The other times were, however, warranted.

I know these stories aren't super embarrassing, but a lot of the moments that may be deemed mortifying to others {dressing in a kangaroo costume for an entire fifth-grade day or performing a square dance routine at a junior high assembly} were things I chose to do. I think this post has revealed a bit of my character.

Maybe too much?

Did these memories bring up any of your own? If anything, you can share these tales with your kids in the effort of solidarity. Happy Friday, y'all!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Watermelon Queen

Sweaty curls, a hunk of juicy melon, and an expression of pure bliss...

We're expecting a call from the Hope Watermelon Festival any day now, because y'all know this kid is front-of-the-brochure worthy.

This weekend we participated in one of my favorite hot weather activities. This year's festival was the 41st of its kind, and I'm pretty sure my mom has pint-sized shirts of mine that date way back to 1992. I've gone every year for a long time, and even though the sticky humidity makes it hard to stay longer than an hour, it's tradition.

While we {obviously} hit up the foot-long corn dog stand and spent a lot of hard-earned dollars on lemonade, the most memorable stop this year was the watermelon tent. For a mere two bucks, my mom bought a quarter of a giant melon and plopped it down in front of Nora. Before we could dole out the forks to dig into this tasty late-summer treat, my daughter went in face first.

The only regret I had in this moment was not being near my real camera. However, I was quick with my phone and I think it did a decent job of capturing the moment.

While you're toiling away at your job on this hot midweek afternoon, I want to share a few photos just to make you smile. I even have a soundtrack for you to click before reading further. No, she was not entered in any watermelon pageant this year {because let's face it, it would have been unfair}, but Nora was unofficially crowned watermelon queen. And yes, she let both me and Nathan share. Her highness does have royal manners, after all. This photo shoot was full of shock at the wonders of watermelon, feats of strength, and one happy kid... Festival volunteers, be sure to hit me up if you're ever looking for a melon model!

Happy Hump Day, y'all! Have you bitten into a world-famous Hope watermelon lately?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Back-to-School Report

Three kids held three homemade signs in my carport as the thunder rolled and the rain ushered in a new school year.

All three of my kids stood in a row to cheese and shake off the nerves before walking into new classrooms. One kid was less enthused than the other two, as you can clearly see, but there were smiles all around when the day was done. The short story is: preschool was amazing, first grade was amazing, and fifth grade was amazing. I could leave it at that, but it wouldn't be very fun, would it? Read on to learn why these kids had such a wonderful first day:

It's always a little overwhelming to walk into a new situation, but Nathan was ready to see his friends and get started in a routine. This year he has three core teachers, a different activity teacher each day, and a GT class he attends three days a week. This schedule seems beyond elementary to me, but so far he's handling it well. Nathan is pleased to report that fifth grade is awesome so far because:

  • His class was allowed to choose desks in homeroom {#anarchy}. Naturally, he sat in a row of friends.
  • He tells me life is full of responsibility in fifth grade, instead of being lead to classes by teachers.
  • On that note, he is thrilled that lining up is a thing of the past. No more tripping over the kid in front of you.
  • He gets to carry his books and backpack from class to class.
  • All of his core teachers are super nice. So far the language arts teacher is the front-runner.
  • He's already jumping into the study of big words for vocabulary tests, which have turned out to be a favorite.

In the days leading up to school, Owen kept asking if he could stay in kindergarten. He was certain the older grades would be all work and no play. In spite of all his anxious feelings, he mustered the courage needed to walk through the doors. I met his anxiety throughout my workday, but I exhaled when he climbed into my back seat smiling. He said his first day in first grade was great, and here is why:

  • He sits beside Asher in the second row of desks and right in front of Kaylie.
  • The room is bigger and looks much cooler.
  • He got to play a game with play dough and didn't have to watch any boring movies.
  • His teacher has a loud voice, but she is very nice.
  • He gets to check out AND take home library books.
  • He gets to see kids who just started kindergarten and that makes him feel big.

This week isn't technically the first for Nora's preschool class, but Monday was their debut in kindergarten prep. Nora was so happy to show me her "homework" - an apple tree they painted to celebrate the beginning of the alphabet. She said her teacher came around and asked her to pick a finger to dip into the red paint, so she informed her she does not like having her nails painted. Once the process was explained, however, she was happy to create the masterpiece now hanging on our fridge. Following are a few more reasons why Nora thinks preschool rocks:

  • She gets to eat chicken nuggets and green beans that are better than Dad's {her words}.
  • She has a cubby with her name on it. And it's pink!
  • She gets to line up when she goes outside.
  • One of her best friends has yellow curly hair, just like her.
  • She sits on a purple square at rug time and they get to dance at school.
  • She gets to use GLUE and PAPER and "MARKERS BUT I DO NOT MAKE A MESS."

You should know I, too, rocked back to school. I remembered the exact placement in the elementary car line needed for an easy transition through both schools. I left no lunchbox unpacked. I even got out of bed on time! I'm sure there will be bumps along the way as fun first-day activities dissolve into actual work, but I know these kids can handle it.

Happy New School Year to all the parents and teachers out there.
I hope you had a fantastic fresh start, and if not... just a few days 'til Friday!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Stay in School

"Give me one reason to stay here... okay, make it ten!"

Yesterday my family made the classroom rounds for our district's open house. This was a day both boys were looking forward to, because Nathan needed to know who was in his homeroom and Owen's fear of the unknown was reaching what's-under-the-bed levels. They were happy to put a face with the name that topped their class lists, but phrases like "homework three times a week" and "we work bell to bell" made them realize there's no turning back. Hate to break it to them, but Monday's still going to come.

I know the kids will settle into their new school experiences once routine kicks in, but I've been steadily convincing them the first ringing bell doesn't signal a prison sentence. If your kids are dreading turning in lazy days for agenda books, maybe the following reasons could help.

Here are the Top Ten Reasons My Kids Should Be PUMPED About School:

  1. FRIENDS Nathan has seen a few of his buddies throughout the summer, but he is very eager to get to talk to his friends every single day. Owen is apprehensive about a bigger room with bigger desks, but he can't wait to share a class with two kids from his ball team. These kids get to spend their days with people who are not their mother. This reason alone should get them up with the sun on Monday.

  2. PLAYGROUNDS Owen's favorite part about kindergarten was racing his classmates to be the first on the swings and Nora finally gets to play outside in preschool! Fresh air and freedom!

  3. LUNCH I'm not afraid to admit that many a Lunchable will be packed this year, but when you're eating crackers and meat circles with friends at the lunch box table, they taste even better.

  4. LEARNING Oh right, there's a reason for spending half a day in a classroom. I've been telling Owen that first-grade was the most impressive of Nathan's primary school career. The kid entered that class starting to pick apart words, and left able to read the dictionary. The change at this age is unbelievable. And I will assume fifth-grade math questions will divert to Jonathan.

  5. BE BRAVE Another reason my kids will have an epic first day is because they get a chance to show their strength. Owen will gather his courage to walk down the first-grade hall alone. Nathan will exhale and walk into a cafeteria full of his peers before the bell rings. Nora will tell me goodbye without tears. It's hard, but it can sure boost that self confidence.

  6. PROVE YOURSELF Owen can read. Nathan can rattle off his multiplication facts. Nora can write her name. And now it's time to prove it. I know I'm looking forward to all the light bulbs that are going to click on this year, but more so, I'm looking forward to seeing it all over their faces.

  7. PEP RALLIES And field trips and class plays... anything that gets them out of the classroom and onto a bus, really. They get to go places without parents, and one of these places involves crazy dancing and really loud yelling. What more could a kid need?

  8. RAINY DAYS Although Owen tells me recess was his favorite part of kindergarten, there was a special place in his heart for rainy days. Inside recess meant cramming three classes full of kids the same age into one room to watch a movie and giggle. That sounds way better than watching movies on a couch while your siblings poke you.

  9. TEACHERS The teachers in our schools are awesome, and it seems all three kids hit the jackpot. It's important for kids to have a net of adults who know and truly love them. This school year will give my kids another set of adults they can trust and model their lives after. I think that's a pretty good reason to go.

  10. BE PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER While the five of us have had a great summer together, there is so much more beyond the walls of our home. The sense of community that often comes with the school year is something I envy myself {take me back to fifth-grade!}. Alma mater all together now...

After writing this post, I am excited to go back to school, but I'm not so lucky. It may take a few more rounds of convincing for my kids, but I know they'll be ready for what lies ahead. I can't wait to see them conquer it on their own.

{Although I could do without the inevitable first morning madness.}

Good luck to all the students, teachers, and nervous moms and dads. Remember to set those alarms a few minutes early and take deep breaths in the car line traffic jam. We can do it!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


As we were buckling up after a morning of shots and vision tests and blood pressure squeezes, my poor daughter burst into tears.

No, it wasn't from the poking and prodding, but because her dad mentioned a post-checkup ride through the car wash.

As a matter of fact, I think this morning might go down in history as one of the most impressive pediatric visits I have ever attended {and I've attended plenty}. There's a lot involved at the doctor's visit following a fourth birthday. And by four you've seen enough Doc McStuffins to know what's really going on. Babies cry from pain, but four-year-olds harbor resentment.

Despite it all, Nora was a champ. She happily covered each eye and identified the shapes in front of her {even though she had whispers of help from Owen on a few}. She gave her Daddy high fives each time she heard a beep and she opened and turned and breathed right on cue. Like most toddlers {I'm guessing}, Nora's past checkup experiences weren't much fun for anyone. But then again, she's just now four.

In sharing my parenting "expertise" with friends, I have often waved my hand and assured them that their terrorist three-year-olds would blossom into mature, understanding human beings at age four. I saw a drastic change with both my boys, but every time I share that statement, I always cringe a little inside knowing Nora would be the jinx to end all jinxes.

Car wash tantrum aside, by golly I think it worked.

When their names were finally called, all three kids took turns jumping on the scales to see how much they've grown. It's still strange to walk past the baby scale and straight to the big-kid section, but haunting memories of baby appointments quickly dismissed my nostalgia. Owen was so proud to be just half an inch away from the big slides at the water park, and Nathan clocked in at 4'8". It's only a matter of time until we're eye-to-eye. They all measured right where they were supposed to, and everybody checked out fine. Nora did have to add two marks to her shot record, but a red sucker and two Dory stickers made her immediately forget the incident.

I vividly remember the shots Nathan received at age four, but his pediatrician eased his mind by telling him his checkups would be smooth sailing until the ripe old age of 11. This morning, as the same doctor was going over the boys' charts, she casually mentioned that he'll need a couple vaccines next year. Nathan will be 11 next year. My head might have exploded a little bit.

It seems that with age comes responsibility and a higher tolerance for the not-so-fun parts of growing up.

We'll see if that theory holds true at an upcoming dental appointment...
Happy Hump Day!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Dear August... {thank you}

The calendar flipped on Tuesday morning and the groans began.

"It's August already?!" I do my best to spice up the idea of back-to-school with exciting backpack options and the return of recess, but it's not a positive topic around here. But while the boys dread the return of alarms, I just sip my tea and grin. If you have read here before, you know I love summer. The hot thick air, the garden chores, the pool days, and the blue skies sustain me in the cold. However. Though August means fewer opportunities for fun in the sun for my kids, it's a little different for me. Let me tell you why.

Last weekend Jonathan and I spent a glorious 48 hours in the Spa-ahhh City. We sat at restaurant tables for hours and spent afternoons in bed. We didn't turn the TV on once. I napped. I got an 85-minute massage. There were hot stones. I might have cried a little at the sheer relaxation of it all. While this was an incredible and much-needed escape, it was right back to reality. But now that August is here, my dream of frequent quiet is about to be realized.

In my last post I talked about how strange it feels for Nora to be starting preschool. The flip side of that is all three kids will have places to go on Fridays. And I will not. I don't work on Fridays, but for the past eight years we have lived here, I've spent the last weekday with whatever collection of children I had who were not in a full-time school situation. I cherish Fridays for catching up on laundry and cleaning and not technically having to get dressed, but I've never counted it as a true day off.

My ship has come in.

Beginning the week of August 14, I will be the only person in my house every Friday until 3:00. I'm going to just take a second and let that fully sink in. Especially since I've been trying to write this post since Wednesday afternoon. I haven't had guaranteed weekly alone time in 10 years. I am ready.

Other than reveling in the quiet of my home this month, we have some fun planned, too. Tonight we're going to see Clint Black in Hope. I love good country music and Something That We Do was the first song Jonathan and I danced to after our wedding. Next weekend we'll hit up the annual Watermelon Festival. Nothing makes me feel like a kid, as well as an official resident of South Arkansas, quite like this festival. My dollars are counted for crafts, corn dogs, and a hunk of melon. August will also bring a familiar sense of routine. While the return of normalcy does mean things like homework and soccer practice and youth group activities galore, there will {hopefully} be a rhythm to the madness not present during summer.

No matter what the busyness of the school year throws my way, though, I know I'll always have Fridays.
{insert sigh of utter bliss} Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Each of My Kids

Each of my kids can ride a bike.

One has a hot pink flower helmet and training wheels, but she can match her brothers' pace. All of my kids can open the refrigerator door, grab a juice box, and poke in the straw without help. All of my kids can write their names and identify numbers and sit still for a whole feature film.

Each of my kids can pretend to steer a pirate ship being tossed on a stormy sea while I sit and focus on my writing. They can take medicine without incident. They can eat lunch unassisted. None of my kids need diapers or strollers or carriers or formula. All of my kids can take care of themselves.

Yesterday I dropped Nora off at her day care for the last time. Her preschool is opening before the school district starts, so she'll be in a different environment next week. Although Nora will miss her day care teacher {whom she aspires to become}, she is okay with moving on. She is eager and looking forward to doing all the big girl stuff that comes with the territory, but this is a hard spot for me.

I have gone to day care drop-off for ten years. It wasn't always this particular house, but both Owen and Nora called it home for years. I have forgotten to bring diapers or shoes. I've stood on the door frame while giving my child a "last kiss" for the twelfth time. I've pried screaming kids from my leg and turned my face quickly to hide tears of my own.

I brought in sweet-smelling, round little babies and now I've left without any.

A lump rose in my throat as I watched Nora reverse course to run back inside and give one last hug goodbye. Reality hit while my daughter turned the last page on our family's plot-thickening chapter.

But Nora starts preschool next week. She's going to learn all of her letters, she's going to practice raising her hand and standing in line and navigating new experiences. She will prepare for the school years that lie ahead and she'll face it without fear. Because, as she tells me daily: "I'm four and I'm brave."

Each of my kids is old enough to be prepared for what's written next. Each of my kids is able to make a little more sense of the world without my influence. All of my kids can make decisions and choose right from wrong and allow me to take a step back from the hovering parts of parenthood.

On sunny summer afternoons, when the oppressive heat is balanced just right by the cool breeze that whips up from the pasture, I can pour myself a glass of tea and find a spot on the front porch. I watch the three babies I once dropped off at day care race around the yard, marking their course and dodging curious cats. I lean back in my chair, and I let them be.

Because, after all, each of my kids can ride a bike.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


You know how they always tell you to write what you know?

Well at this particular juncture in my life... I know tomatoes.

As the heat index dwindled from triple digits to still-sweltering doubles yesterday, I stepped outside wearing my pickin' apron. The weekend was full of fun away from home, so it had been a few days since I'd explored. I started picking. Once my pouch was full, I emptied my goodies and went back for more. I picked 73 tomatoes yesterday, y'all.


As I walked through the weedy ditches between rows, avoiding errant branches and cringing at the *POP* a green tomato made beneath my boot, I noticed the wear of late July. Entire plants were falling over, branches were yellowed and withering, and a lot of my picking was done directly on the soil. Still, they carry on. Blossoms fight the unavoidable heat exhaustion and new tomatoes are visible job security for my chores.

Every morning before work I ask my husband if there's anyone he'll see today who would be interested in a bag of homegrown goodness. My mom's peddling for me on Facebook and my out-of-state cousins are jokingly asking for Fedex packages {don't think I won't resort to it}.

Although this sounds like an official tomatoes-are-coming-out-of-my-ears rant, I love it. There is nothing, I will repeat, nothing that beats the flavor. My Arkansas Traveler plants are giving three-bite pink orbs and my Cherokee Purples are all bigger than my hand. The flavor profile {oh yeah, I'm going there} ranges from deep and smoky to extra sweet and they all have been perfect sliced and sprinkled with salt.

I dropped off a bag of treasures to my friend Alicia on my way into town today and she has big plans for sauce. My mom bought some fresh mozzarella and paired it with deep-red slices and a few leaves from my basil plant. It was delicious. These fruits I have waited for since late spring have topped sandwiches and burgers and seven layer dip. And best of all, they delight my soul.

That unmistakable scent mingles with the bright basil when I walk the rows and brush against a tomato plant. Spying a ripe one hidden by the gnarls and knots of old branches makes my day. The satisfying twist-and-pull on a day's harvest is the therapy I need after sitting at a desk all day, and it gives a clarity to my mind that has yet to be matched.

This afternoon I walked out to see if any green toms had turned over night. I picked 27 tomatoes, y'all. Twenty-seven.

In closing, if you or yours live in or near Howard or Hempstead county and you're looking to buy some homegrown tomatoes, find me on social media and let me know.
Have a lovely Tuesday evening!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Obsessions

Typical Friday roundup posts are paired with alliterated words like five or favorites.

But we don't do anything lightly around here.

On this lovely summer day, I am taking time to sit down and share a few of the things this bunch has been obsessing over lately. You could say these are a few of our favorite things, but for some of us the feeling is a little more intense. In the interest of giving you an opportunity to kill a few minutes as your weekend clock counts down, read on, my friends:

HIS OWN IPOD: Nathan has been asking for an iPod Touch for a long time. Obvious solutions were: {A} Say no, {B} Fork up the cash or encourage Santa Claus to do the same, OR {C} Just give him one of our old iPhones sans phone service. However, we ended up encouraging him to learn a lesson in saving. This was by far the toughest option, but nothing can beat the pride he felt when he saved up enough after a few years of good grades and birthdays. He bought his exact pick: a bright blue one with 32 GB, with a clear case and a matching pop socket. He's been jamming ever since.

BE OUR GUEST: I think we have watched the live version of Beauty and the Beast no less than ten times in the last two weeks. Nora is obsessed with every scene and trades her name for Belle most evenings. She can pronounce French words with the best of them and prefers Prince Adam in his beastly form {can't say I blame her}. She's pining for an actual Belle dress so she can fully envelop the role. Bonjour!

SUNNY DAYS: Y'all already know I'm obsessed with my garden, but one special area is the back row of sunflowers, where the average stalk is about 10 feet tall. They're not all open yet, but it will be an incredible sight when they do. To prove these towers aren't just a trick of the camera angle, I asked my 6'5" husband to stand beside them. Crazy, right?? I do believe they are Burpee's Mammoth variety.

WINE COUNTRY: Last week Jonathan went to a work meeting in Shreveport and upon return, he casually mentioned that we're going to Napa Valley for a weekend in October. I freaked out for a few moments, then started my Googling. I have never been to that part of the country before and I am thrilled for the new experiences. Have you ever been? What do I do? Where do I go? What do I drink? Most importantly, what do I wear? I think I need to go shopping.

THE EYES HAVE IT: It's odd to be obsessed with something I've never seen, but here we are. The Internet has been raving about the incredible pigment and creamy texture in the new Morphe x Jaclyn Hill eye shadow palette, so I was certain I needed it for my birthday. However, the dang thing sold in 30 minutes on its June launch date. They restocked it this Tuesday and I set an alarm. It should be here soon, and I can't wait to play with it. PS: If you don't know this brand, the brushes are amazing/affordable. I also have the Morphe 35R palette that's all golden sunset colors and I use it often. Not sponsored, simply obsessed.

Here's to a great weekend! What things are you obsessing over?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer Lovin'

There are just three and a half weeks until the First Day photos start rolling in.

Not that I'm counting by any means... but this summer has done some rolling itself. As is the tendency for summertime, the days have been long but the weeks have been blinks. Today I looked at the calendar and in realizing we're nearing the end of July, my brain is cranking up to switch gears. It's moving like molasses, but it's moving.

The encroaching school year not only means that my kids have to wake up earlier and pay attention for eight hours, it means I have a youth group and Sunday school class to teach. While I'm starting to look at lesson plans and event ideas and do my backpack shopping and class list stalking, it's still summer. I don't want to be behind when a new routine sneaks in, but I don't want to waste any time, either.

This summer has been amazing. It may even go on record as literally being the best ever for this bunch. We're trying to squeeze out every last drop and that means late evenings wandering the gorgeous garden with my husband, splashing in the cool of the pool, watching movies for hours on end, and just enjoying one another. Here are a few of my favorite summer things so far:

  • The taste of the year's first homegrown tomato {and knowing there are hundreds more where it came from}.
  • Seeing my husband dwarfed by the gargantuan sunflowers.
  • The love Owen has for Louis {the cat} and even more so the fact that it's mutual.
  • Nora's obsession with picking veggies.
  • Sitting on the couch and getting lost in Nathan's incredible musical talent.
  • Our week at the beach. Every kid said it was the highlight of our summer.
  • Our day at the lake. Every kid is asking when their dad is going to buy a boat.
  • Slow evenings of to-go dinners and snuggling on the couch.
  • That the kids have time with all of their grandparents {especially when it means a parental getaway}.
  • Saturday morning donuts and full-on pajama days.
  • Standing in the kitchen with my whole family, with every hand helping make dinner.
  • Frequent movie dates with just the five of us. Popcorn and sour straws for all!

While those are some memories that have made this summer one to remember, I do not want this to come across as an end to our days in the sun. In the spirit of list-making, here some things I'd like to add before that first early alarm:

  • Make homegrown garden salsa.
  • Spend more afternoons at my parents' pool.
  • Help my kids with summer projects. {go on and subscribe to B Brothers TV, won't you?}
  • Make it to a nearby water park one last time.
  • Slow down, stop worrying about August, and relax.

You may have guessed that last one is aimed at me. You're pretty smart. This morning kicked off my annual late summer scramble, paired with my brain reminding me that "Hey, there's A, B, C, D, and also probably E that you should've done by now." I wanted to exhale and remind myself that summer isn't over.

And also maybe push those nagging to-dos down the list a little further...

Happy Hump Day, y'all. I hope you are enjoying this summer to the fullest, and if not, you'd better get to cracking! Let's make the most of what we have left.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Picking & Grinning

We're in full harvest mode around here, my friends.

My kitchen table is covered in cucumbers, my counter-tops are decorated with tomatoes of all shapes, colors, and sizes, and my crisper drawer is full of green beans. The peppers horn their way in the nooks and crannies, and it looks like I'm ready to go to market... {and by that I mean force vegetables on everyone I see}.

The last time I posted about how wonderfully this year's garden is producing, I had little evidence. Today I am here to delight your Friday with photos. Last night Nora and I were on the hunt for two things requested by a friend: cucumbers and poblano peppers. Although Nora stopped to squeal at all of the teeny peppers, she let them be. She grabbed only the stems of only the largest specimens, twisted, pulled, and tossed them into my apron.

PSA: If you have a garden, you need a Roo Apron. This is in no way sponsored. I think Jonathan got it for my birthday a few years ago and it changed the game. I use it for my pickings, when I snip dead branches, when I weed, and anything else I'd otherwise pile up on the ground. You need it. Buy it.

This week our harvests have been overflowing. We've been delivering plastic bags to friends and family, but we're getting close to the preservation stage. We have never made our own salsa, but that's the direction Jonathan would like to go. We'll soon be searching for the best recipes, but let me know yours in the comments, please!

Aside from my snacks of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, we have cooked a bit of our backyard spoils. Jonathan's mom just moved south and he helped her break her new kitchen in Wednesday night. One of the sides to their amazing pork chop meal was a mess of green beans. After snapping them, they were roasted with garlic and onion and chicken broth and they tasted incredible.

We also gave her the first batch of purple hull peas, and she shelled them right away. Even though I know how this seed-to-table thing works, it's amazing to see new crops come to life. The perfect little peas were tucked inside the deep plum shells, and Grammy said they were perfect. When I walked in the other morning to leave the boys with her, the smell of peas and ham filled the air. She told me she froze the extras and I told her there's much more where that came from.

My favorite season is in full swing around here and the garden is peaking in its happiness properties. It's nice to literally enjoy the fruits {re: vegetables} of our labor. Have a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Nora's Moana Luau

I've been stirring at the edge of the water...

Okay, actually I've been staring at the edge of my kitchen, appreciating the beautiful Moana decorations from this weekend's party and also wishing they'd take themselves down. If you didn't gather from a couple of the answers on Nora's birthday interview, Moana is Nora's favorite. She can sing most of the songs word for word, and you should see her Maui eyebrow impersonation. Naturally, she knew just what to choose for her birthday party theme.

Nora invited family and friends to our house Saturday to celebrate luau-style. While I found zero Moana items at the party store, I cashed in on all things Hawaiian. I had a cart full of everything from palm tree toothpicks to a grass skirt perfect for our kitchen island. Honestly, I think they saw me coming. Bright colors washed the kitchen with accents of hot pink hibiscus flowers and ocean-colored tableware. I also bought this downloadable banner from Etsy and printed a few of the Moana characters to throw on the wall.

We stuck to the theme for our menu, too. The most... adventurous part was making the Heart of Te Fiti cookies. I stole the idea from this blog, though we didn't actually use the recipe. We did, however, follow the rolling methods. My mom and I held our breath as the knife sunk in the dough, and when we pulled the two sides apart we couldn't believe it... the Heart of Te Fiti! The cookies turned out so great that Nora {who cannot read the description card} knew what they were.

We also had a few standbys jazzed up with Moana names: Maui's meatballs, Hei Hei's Fresh Fruit, Fish + Chips, Moana's Boat Oars {pretzels}, and Tamatoa's Punch {Sprite and blue Hawaiian Punch and pineapple juice}. The snacks were a hit with the kids and you know I couldn't stay away from those meatballs. Nora also picked out the cake design after scanning through so many Google images. We ordered it from The Picket Fence in Hope and it turned out gorgeous:

No, Nora and company did not take a journey to find themselves, but they did make a splash! A small pool and slip-in-slide in the yard made for some easy entertainment and a great chance for the adults to sip punch and catch up in the shade. After cracking open the tiki piñata {that Owen would love for me to make sure you know he broke}, the party guests were sent home with leis and hopefully good memories of a fun party.

So far Age Four has been good to Nora. She spent the whole party interacting with her friends and enjoying her presents. She even got her first bike and didn't hesitate to take it for a spin. I can't wait to see what this year brings for our daughter, but I do think we kicked it off in style. Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Nora: Age 4

Although she swears she's still three until she blows out her candles, today is Nora's birthday!

Four years ago this tiny girl came into our lives and changed everything. She definitely proved to us that six years worth of parenting boys did not make us experts and continues to surprise us with new lessons. Nora's personality is as wild as her curls. We had no idea what we were getting into when the doctor handed us a sweet bundle with a bow on top.

I've loved watching the evolution of Nora for the four years she's graced us all with her presence. She proves she's no baby every day, whether it's fearlessly shooting down the big slide at the water park or attempting to write her name on everything. She marches headfirst into new experiences... just as long as a brother or parent is close behind. While she loves being fiercely independent {maybe even to a fault}, she's yet to turn down a snuggle. Nora encourages me to be braver and go for what I want.

Even though what I want and what she wants differs greatly half the time.

I am so proud of the kid Nora is becoming and the personality I see more and more every day. Today we will have a party themed around Moana, another of my favorite headstrong warriors, but for now, let's take a peek into Nora's mind. Here's what she had to say when I sat her down for a birthday interview...

Birthday Interview: 20 Questions
  1. What is your favorite color?
    Pink and purple and blue.

  2. What is your favorite toy?
    Blocks. I like to build castles and houses and stores and ummm.... villages.

  3. What is your favorite TV show?
    Paw Patrol and Puppy Dog Pals because puppies are so cute. Ones that don't bite.

  4. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?
    Macaroni because it's so sweet. {???}

  5. What is your favorite movie to watch?

  6. What is your favorite game?
    I love that car game at Chuck E. Cheese where you have to play and drive.

  7. What is your favorite animal?
    Cows. I think they're sweet.

  8. What is your favorite song?
    Moana. Make way, make way...

  9. Who is your best friend?
    Mama! She's so cute and fluffy and she calls me Jubbies.

  10. What is your favorite thing to do outside?
    Play on the playground and play with Lou {FYI: Luna is now Louis after further investigation}.

  11. What is your favorite drink?
    Sweet tea and apple juice and Capri Suns.

  12. Where is your favorite place to go?
    Chuck E. Cheese because it's so fun and there's a train, too.

  13. What do you want to be when you grow up?
    A job like Mrs. Keri {her day care teacher} because I like babies. But I won't listen to Mr. Gary.

  14. What is your favorite thing to play with Nathan?
    When he lets me go in his Minecraft world and I don't break his houses.

  15. What is your favorite thing about Owen?
    Silly stuff like wrestling and jumping.

  16. What do you like to do with Mommy?
    Watch TV and snuggle together and hug.

  17. What do you like to do with Daddy?
    I like when he swims with me and throws me.

  18. What makes you laugh?
    When Owen does something silly like talk in a crazy voice all the time.

  19. What's your favorite thing to do at day care?
    I like to play with Mrs. Keri. And I like when she tells me to eat lunch and I listen to her.

  20. What is the best thing about your birthday?
    We are going to go swimming on a SLIP-N-SLIDE!

Curious how these answers compare with the ones Nora gave when she was just a three-year-old baby? Click here to find out! Have a lovely Saturday, friends.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Nathan: Age 10

Today on the check for Nathan's piano lessons, I wrote 07-07-17.

I nudged my ten-year-old riding shotgun to point it out to him and a big grin spread across his face. Yesterday Nathan was nine, but this morning when I walked in to shake him from sleep and ask whether he wanted muffins or pancakes, he'd made his way into the double digits.

It's hard to fathom that my first, five-pound bundle of joy has been living under my roof for a decade. Two hands. Nathan and I have taught each other countless lessons over the years. I have done my best to raise him {through the age-old first kid method of trial and error} and he has changed me for the better.

Nathan is funny, extremely smart, talented and creative, helpful, and compassionate about the world around him. He marches to his own beat and is never afraid to change it up. On Day One of Age Ten, he is braver and stronger and more protective of his siblings than ever before. As crazy as they may drive him, he will always be there to turn on the bathroom light or help Owen hobble to the couch after suffering an unfortunate knee boo-boo. Nathan loves hard and shows us all how to do the same. Happy Birthday, Nathan!

Tonight Nathan will join some of his buddies at a local water park to make a celebratory splash, but for now he is happy to share his answers to the annual birthday questionnaire. Enjoy and have a fabulous Friday, y'all.

Birthday Interview: 20 Questions
  1. What's your favorite color?
    Blue, because I like how it looks.

  2. What is your favorite thing to do?
    Play with Owen and Nora because most of the time they are nice to me.

  3. What do you want to be when you grow up?
    A 3D game designer, because I would think that programming and designing games would be fun.

  4. What is your favorite food?
    Crab legs, shrimp, fish, any kind of seafood.

  5. What is your favorite TV show?
    Teen Titans Go. It's funny and weird.

  6. What is your favorite animal?
    I like Siberian huskies, they are really pretty.

  7. What is your favorite toy?
    Legoes because you build almost anything. And I love my fidget spinner because you can do tricks with it.

  8. What's your favorite thing to wear?
    Adidas, Nike, or Under Armour anything.

  9. What do you do really well?
    Play the piano, I'm pretty good at learning new songs and rhythms. I'm good at riding my bike, too.

  10. What makes you laugh?
    Funny YouTube videos, especially the FUNnel Vision channel.

  11. What are you afraid of?
    Spiders, big bugs, getting hurt.

  12. Who is your best friend?

  13. What's the best thing about your little brother?
  14. He plays with me a lot, especially on our iPads.

  15. What's the best thing about your little sister?
  16. She likes to play with me, too, if that's okay to say again. We play Shopkins {she makes me}.

  17. What do you like to do with your parents?
    We love watching movies together, we just got the live action of Beauty and the Beast and it was really good.

  18. What do you love to learn about?
    Science, especially plant and animal science. It's really cool to understand how other things in the world work.

  19. Where do you like to go?
    I like to go on sight-seeing trips, like when we go to the lake or the beach or other places with beautiful scenery.

  20. What is your favorite book?
    Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul.

  21. What is your favorite movie?
    Beauty and the Beast {not the cartoon}.

  22. If you had one wish, what would it be?
    That I had the power to do anything in the world and the first thing I would do is make my room a lot bigger, make a computer appear on my desk, and make a million dollars appear my wallet.

Past Birthday Interviews: Age Nine, Age Eight, Age Seven, Age Six