Friday, October 13, 2017

Halloween This or That?

I've been in a bit of a funk this week.

It has nothing to do with Friday the 13th or the fact that I don't look nearly as cool as I did in 1992. No, it's a much whinier reason. Remember my upcoming trip to wine country? Remember that a lot of California is on fire? The resort we booked remains unaffected, but many of the areas around it have been evacuated and the air quality is poor. We have officially cancelled and I've rewritten it on my bucket list. I absolutely know this is trivial compared to the lives and homes and livelihoods lost, but in the interest of being honest, I'm bummed.

However, my husband made a smaller scale Plan B, and we're celebrating some fantastic work news that came out of our last trip {when I went to the ER}. Things are looking up. Therefore, in celebration of Halloween creeping up, I've answered 13 spooky questions for your entertainment. Happy Weekend!

1. Chocolate candy or fruity?
The fact that all the bite-sized Snickers and Milky Ways are missing from the work bowl should answer that.

2. Witches or Vampires?
You may think I'll say vampires since I watched all the Twilight movies on their release weekends {let's keep that between us}, but I'm going to go with witches on this one. I spent many hours of my youth cackling.

3. Trick or Treat?
Treat. I'm not the biggest fan of tricks, unless the trick is something like: "Just kidding, California isn't really on fire."

4. Halloween Party or Scary Movie?
This is an odd post for me to write, because I'm not the biggest fan of scary things. I love the cutesy ghosts and goblins and the fun aspects of the holiday, but you'll never catch me watching a movie character get disemboweled. That's a long way of answering Halloween party, hands down.

5. Skeletons or Zombies?
All I can think of here is Minecraft, which tells you something about my home life. I like the fact that Skeletons can be attacked by dogs because they are made of bones. And when Nora notices a pixelated skeleton wandering in the dark, she yells "Ahh!! A skele-TONE!" Thus, my answer is skele-tones.

6. Trick-or-Treat or Hand Out Candy?
After my brother and cousin and I collected buckets of candy from grandma's neighborhood, we raced back to her house. We would dump our candy onto the big wooden table and start sorting as the parents tried to sneak their share. When the doorbell rang, though, we sprang into action. Now I prefer the actual trick-or-treating. I'd rather leave the door answering to my kids.

7. Hay Ride or Corn Maze?
Never been to a corn maze, but I once face-kicked a person dressed as Jason while on a hay ride. That doesn't really answer the question, does it?

8. Scary Costume or Funny Costume?
While my oldest is set on being someone dead or someone who leaves others that way, I'm steadily trying to get Owen to dress up as a stabbed box of Fruit Loops {serial killer's victim}.

9. Pumpkin Seeds or Pumpkin Pie?
I don't know that I've ever met another person whose family roasted pumpkin seeds after carving. Tell me I'm not alone here! My husband had never heard of this, so in recent years we've just given them to the chickens. So, seeds. Pumpkin pie is smelly orange goop.

10. Bottle Feed A Baby Zombie or Walk Alone Through A Dark Forest?
What even is this question? I don't want to see a baby zombie. I'll take on the dark forest at my full-force mall walk.

11. Bats or Black Cats?
While I only lay claim to one cat, there are four who pretty much live on our property full-time. Two of them are black and if Louis likes them, so do I.

12. Pumpkin Spice or Hot Chocolate?
The most basic of all questions! Hot chocolate, for sure, it reminds me that Christmas and Polar Express are right around the corner.

13. Celebrate in Your Neighborhood or at the Mall?
We did the neighborhood thing when I was young, but my kids have options. We either go to the trick-or-treat trail at our local city park or travel to Hope to hit up the grandparents' neighborhood. We live in the middle of nowhere and don't have a neighborhood to speak of, so that's our best bet. Last year we did the trail and the kids had a blast seeing friends from school all dressed up, but there's something special about ringing a doorbell, not knowing what's on the other side. We'll see where Halloween night takes us...

Monday, October 9, 2017

Ball is Life

Before this school year, Nora had never been part of organized anything {chaos withheld}.

With the start of preschool, however, came the proof of her ability to listen carefully and take direction. Who knew? Four is the golden age for extracurricular activities around here, and we like our kids to try them one at a time to learn what they like. I'm sure hamming it up at a dance recital is in Nora's future, but this year she wanted to be a baller. We signed her up for soccer, she picked out the pinkest cleats, and the rest is adorable history.

The season started in September and it's been a fun one. Yes, it's hot and involves more running than my daughter is accustomed to, but she tries hard. Her kicks are strong and she hustles like a pro. She listens carefully to her coach's instructions and takes her time to do it right. Nora will gladly reveal that her favorite part is the pregame hands in and "Team McDonald's!" followed by the multiple rounds of high-five and "Good game!" afterward. I'd say that earns her some sportsmanship notoriety?

She doesn't care if she and her fellow McDonald's nuggets win,
as long as there's a cold Gatorade waiting beside somebody's mom.

Before this season began, we thought Owen and Nora would get to wear the same jerseys, but the park shook things up this year. Nora's team consists of only four- and five-year-olds. As you could guess, it's basically them running in groups, wildly kicking and hoping to make contact. Owen has moved up a league where things get a little more serious {and they actually keep score!}. My son has even gotten to play goalie for a period or two each game, and he's doing great.

{This is the face of a kid with a goal assist.}

It really depends on if his desire to be a good player is there, but the ability is present. He played an incredible game last Thursday, outrunning the other team, turning the ball toward the goal, and even diving to block shots while playing goalie. His tournament starts this week, and I'm one eager fan.

He, too, likes the hand-slapping and good gaming. I mean, do you ever outgrow that?

The most hilarious thing that's been born from two kids on two soccer fields {often at the same time} is that this season has cemented my status. I've had the mom wagon for a while and I've stored folding chairs in the back of it since Nathan was four, but I've just now become a Soccer Mom. I can pack-mule it with the best of them while my husband helps coach whichever team needs him that night. I have cold drinks at the ready, dollars for Nathan to get some nachos, and an eagle eye that jumps from field to field. I have probably received an eye roll for the sheer volume of my cheering {or my "GET BACK IN THE GOAL AND WATCH THE BALL, OWEN!!"}.

I am unapologetic. Ball, apparently, is life.

Happy Monday, y'all! Make it a good one. :)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Fair to Remember

All last week Nora asked me when it was time to ride a roller coaster.

"I hope it goes so fast!" "I hope it goes upside down!" "I hope I can ride it a hundred times!"
Then she developed a fever.

The Hempstead County District Fair comes for a solid week, and as Nora kept a thermometer under her arm, the days passed by. The fever stayed until the weekend arrived and she woke up ravenous and cool as a cucumber. She downed her donuts and we rolled out on the final day of the fair.

Nora was stuck in a stroller the last time time we went to this fair, so she was ready to make up for lost time. Our first stop was the dragon coaster she had been dreaming of all week. Nathan sat by her so she wouldn't be scared {or at least that's what he told us}. We watched her eyes widen to saucers as the dragon began crawling around the course. Then it stopped. Then it quickly rushed backward. Then it stopped for good. We got our tickets back, but that taste of the carnival ride rush had Nora hooked.

This was the first year we actually used up all of our tickets. The boys were boosted by Nora's courage and they both tested out new rides. Nora and Owen waved at us on every loop of the car ride and Nathan tried to suppress his laughter at each chicken joke I shouted from beside the carousel. He was riding a chicken, and I am hilarious. It was a winning combination.

As much as I am into adrenaline-inducing activities, such activities can only go in a straight line. I typically keep the lame title of popcorn holder at amusement parks, but when my daughter asked me to ride the Ferris Wheel, I rode the Ferris Wheel. She had to remove my grip at one point, but we had a blast. She loved seeing the whole fair and her tiny daddy down below.

After the rides we followed the booming call of people who wanted to trade our dollars for junk prizes. We may have played a certain game many times to obtain three fidget spinners. Nora also picked a winning duck for an inflatable princess hammer {a quick regret} and the boys popped balloons like professionals. After a little boys-versus-girls bumper cars, we were walking out of the midway to call an end to the fun. Until we heard a voice...

"Hey Burger Head!"

We looked over to see a clown sitting in a dunking booth, directing her jeers at us. We laughed and kept walking, all except Nora who continued to stare. "What are you looking at?!" Owen smack-talked the clown under his breath and we explained it was part of the act. Then Jonathan decided to show him the rest of the act. After two close throws at the longest-distance fair target I've ever seen, he hit it and down she splashed. She surfaced laughing and thanking us because it was unusually hot for the close of September.

Not only did our kids throw their arms up and cheer, so did everyone close enough to know what happened. You better believe my husband walked out of that fair with his day made. I was too into the action to photograph it, but there are plenty of witnesses who will vouch for him.

Even though this is my second fair post in a month, this was one had more excitement and less animal poop!
Have you ridden any fair rides lately? Which is your favorite? Have a great Thursday, y,all.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Dear October

Dear October,

Welcome! Your thirty-one days bring a crisp freshness not found in the month before you {at least not around these parts}. Sure, I might have changed into a tank top after church on the day you showed up, but I know you'll make things more comfortable before too long.

October, you are the follow-up to one of my least-favorite months. Personally, I believe September ranks second, only after the dreary, grey January days that drag winter long past Christmas. September, with its summer-ending tendencies, but still soaring temperatures... If you're going to to use one of your calendar squares to replace summer with fall, at least let us wear pants?! But, I digress.

My dear October, I am glad you are here. The deep orange and burgundy and golden accents set against a forest green backdrop will soon usher in revival to my soul. My summer skin will fade to its natural shade and my senses will no longer be smothered beneath the oppressive heat. While September brings summer in and out {and in and out again}, October replaces it with something new. I may not be of the PSL, scarf-slinging, furry boot variety, but change is good.

Change is inevitable, so why not let it come in the form of leaf-hidden highways and pumpkins on the porch?

October, you bring about a time of year that forces my attention. I sit up a little straighter than in the lazy days of summer and I notice all that whirls around me. October is a personal reminder that life is so much faster than we realize. As the colors change and humanity {re: Hobby Lobby} starts hurdling through the holidays at lightning speed, sometimes you feel rushed. But in this quick descent toward a new year, I'd like to take a second look.

Each year I've lived has been faster than the one before, but I intend to stretch your days, October.
I want to be awake as the seasons change.

As for this particular round, you are going to show me some new things, October. Soon I will board an airplane for the first time since Owen was board and fly to California for the first time in my life. I'm going to see the hills covered in grapevines and I'm going to soak in a new piece of God's creation. {I may drink more than enough wine for the both of us, so bear with me.}

Adventures await, October, and I'm looking forward to it. I have a feeling that when the cool breezes start blowing and you urge me to grab the flannel shirts from the back of my closet, we're going to get along just fine.

Staying present is the name of the game this October, and from the early days when we're still sweating at soccer games to the last day filled with tricks and treats, I hope to reconnect in a new way. With nature, with time, and with myself.

Happy October, y'all. Let's open our eyes and enjoy it!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

B Brothers TV

If you haven't heard of this new YouTube channel, you're probably living under a rock.

{Or maybe you're just not my Facebook friend...}

As is likely the case for most kids their age, my boys have a strong desire to be launched into Internet fame. They sit around after school watching other kids pull millions of dollars from opening toys or eating spicy food in front of a camera. It sounds simple enough, so why can't we stack up some cash around here?

For a very long time now, Owen and Nathan have expressed a desire for their own YouTube channel. They're funny, they're cute, and they have done a ridiculous amount of research. I've put their antics on my not-so-publicized channel, and I've shared several of Owen's vlog attempts, but I never let them take over... until now.

My one stipulation for creating content for mass consumption was a desire to take it seriously. I told Nathan I would not edit, I would not come up with video ideas, and I would not tolerate fighting while filming. As you may imagine, it took years for them both to come to terms with this. Over the summer, though, they got it together. They only have five videos up right now, but they have plenty of kooky ideas for more content.

While I am obviously their No. One fan, I think the video they published last night is my favorite. It is a jelly bean challenge that dissolves into them simply eating jelly beans on camera. It doesn't sound like very riveting content, but trust me, it's worth a watch. I lost it in the first few seconds of the video when Nathan noticed his brother looked a mess. Attempt a "try not to laugh" challenge for your own channel using this video. I bet you three dollars you crack.

Yes, Owen and Nathan are the brains behind B Brothers TV. Nathan does all the editing, even coming up with the slick intros and theme music, and Owen provides that comic relief. My only role is uploading {and getting the word out}.

While Owen's already booked his one-way ticket to a two-story mansion in California, "All the famous Youtubers live in two-story houses!" I don't see fame on the horizon just yet. There sure is a lot of fun, though. To help these boys on their quest for stardom, why don't you go visit their channel and subscribe? Aside from the video I've embedded here, there's an informative Q&A and you can watch Owen fail at bottle flipping. This material is pure gold, friends.

I know my kids aren't the only ones out there who want "YouTube Star" on their résumés one day. Does anyone else have kids with their own channel or a habit of bugging you for one? Link up in the comments and we'll rocket these kids to the top of the charts. ;)

Happy Thursday, y'all, and "we'll see you in the next video."

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Down at the County Fair

This year's walk around the county fair taught our family three important lessons:
  1. Nora is terrified of enormous pigs.
  2. Owen and Nathan have played enough Goat Simulator that they now speak the language.
  3. If there's only one small cow patty in the walking path at the time of our browsing, someone will step in it.
The first week of September brings the county fair to town, but amusement is not the main focus of this event. We are all about prize-winning sheep, ribbon-bearing jelly jars, and wonderful paintings from locals hoping to be recognized. This year I actually took two trips to the exhibit hall because for the first in my life I was a Field Trip Mom.

When Nora's teacher asked me if I was available to help her cart four-year-olds to look at the animals, I could not think of a reason to get out of it {kidding, I promise}. Now that I'm sans children on Fridays, I can finally help in classrooms. Trust me, it's never fun to be in charge of passing out valentines with a one-year-old attached to your leg. I showed up last Friday morning to load four little girls into four little booster seats. Since it's a Friday in football season, most of them were dressed like this:

I obviously helped herd cats, but I also got to eavesdrop on Nora talking to her buddies like some kind of big girl. Weird, right? Highlights of the morning included all of the squeals when we made it to the bunnies and the kids' realization that every preschool entry got a first-place ribbon. Nora was thrown off when a gigantic pig tried to escape over his enclosure {who wouldn't?}, but she recovered.

I was doing my best to help round up the wild gang, so I didn't get a chance to see whether the boys' art entries placed. Naturally, after school we loaded back up and went out again. This time, however, we skipped the pig row.

The elementary school drawings were themed "Wildflowers of Arkansas" and their awesome art teacher said they could take that direction. Nathan decided to go the anime route and weave in a floral pattern. When the art teacher stopped me in the car line to tell me I needed to check it out, I knew it would be good. Comparing Nathan's first-place fair win to the one he got a mere two years ago shows amazing progress. I can't wait to see what he does with this talent.

Owen told me the first-grade artists were asked to draw whatever they wanted, and to him that meant a neighborhood. His quaint little houses dotted with flowers and a bright blue sky earned him a bright blue first-place ribbon as well. Yes that makes three top spot wins at this year's fair. Now I'm kicking myself for not entering a giant tomato or a jar of sweet pickled peppers or at least a photograph of my kids being cute. Surely that last one would be a shoe-in.

There's always next year!

Have you been to the 2017 county fair? Are your kids scared of pigs? Have you ever heard of Goat Simulator? Join me in the comments and let's get these burning questions answered!
Happy Tuesday, y'all.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Get to Know Me

{Yes, this photo was snapped pre-accident...}

Remember scrambling to be the first to answer the latest MySpace survey?

If you actually do, there's a good chance you're old like me and you haven't thought about your Top 8 in a while. Today we're going to do some reminiscing with a random questionnaire designed to let readers know about the blogger behind the screen. Plus it's Friday afternoon and there is literally no one else in my house, what else am I to do? {There are lots of answers to that actually, but I'm burying them under the pile of laundry I'm ignoring}. So get comfy and read on, you might just learn something about me you did not know:

  1. Are you named after anyone?
    Yes! My great-grandfather. His name was Jess Queen {also maybe a Days of Our Lives character}.

  2. When was the last time you cried?
    It was a painful Tuesday night with my swollen forehead and pitiful stitches. Also I told Jonathan I looked more Beast than Beauty and that probably added to it.

  3. If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?
    Sure! We have so many of the same interests...

  4. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
    Never. {did that translate?}

  5. What’s the first thing you notice about people?
    I'm pretty sure it's the smile. Noticing someone else's happiness can really change my tune.

  6. Favorite smells?
    The ocean, tomato plants, crisp morning air, clean baby hair, the grass after it rains, and fire.

  7. What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
    I went on a cruise to the Bahamas right after high school graduation. We traveled to Nassau and Freeport and I only got a little seasick. I also won $200 playing slot machines under open-water laws. I've also been to Alberta, Canada during trips to visit my family in Montana. You Google which is further. I'll give you a cookie.

  8. Where were you born?
    At the hospital in Blytheville, but my parents drove me in my '80s edition car seat to our home in Osceola.

  9. How tall are you?
    My brain and my license say 5'6" but I have no idea when I measured last. I could've grown, you never know.

  10. What was your favorite/worst subject in High School?
    I am not lying when I say I really enjoyed high school and the learning that went with it. I don't know if band counts as a subject, so I will say English was my favorite and I'll down-vote geometry. I don't mind math, but I'm better at algebra. Ask Nathan, he would probably pick geometry for me, too.

  11. What's your favorite restaurant?
    My husband would call me out if I didn't say Subway, because I love sandwiches and I eat there 2-3 times a week. I also love Chick-Fil-A, McAlister's Deli, Outback, Longhorn, and Park Place in Texarkana.

  12. What sports do you play/have you played?
    You wouldn't know it by my photo albums filled with me holding a flute or twirling a flag or posing with the band, but I dabbled in other extracurricular activities. I did play and enjoy softball for several years before high school. I was the catcher and my favorite part was dramatically throwing my helmet to catch {or miss} pop-up hits.

  13. What did you want to be when you grow up?
    I was torn between professional cheerleader and princess in my early years, then my aspirations changed when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came on the scene. I wanted more than anything to be a television broadcaster like that jumpsuit-wearing April O'Neil. I stuck with that idea so long that my degree is, in fact, in television broadcasting. However, I found journalism a more attractive {and slightly less anxiety-inducing} career, so outside of the UCA campus no one has seen my on-screen skills.

  14. Are you a morning or night person?
    Morning. It's hard for me to wake up sometimes, but once I get going in the early hours, I'm glad I did.

  15. Which do you prefer, sweet or salty foods?
    Obviously cravings dictate this one, but I'm much more salty than sweet.

  16. What is the last thing you bought?
    Other than food {which is a boring answer}, it was a few packages of bulletin board borders from Oriental Trading Company {also still kind of boring}.

  17. What's your go-to drink at a bar?
    Depends on where I am, but it's usually Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio or Riesling if I'm feeling fancy. And all the other times it's a margarita.

  18. What are you afraid of?
    Frogs, toads, and any other related amphibious creature. I do not play.

  19. Can you cook?
    Not really, no. #Blessed to have a husband who can, though!

  20. What's one thing you'll never eat or drink?
    For some reason this is a hard question for me. I don't know, bugs? The idea of oysters grosses me out, but I bet you a dollar I'll at least try it one day.

Friends, I hope that satisfied whatever end-of-work-week curiosity you may be feeling, and I wish you a wonderful weekend. Get out and enjoy that incredible weather!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Walkin' in Memphis

1.lack of good sense; foolishness.

Jonathan and I were dressed to the nines Friday as we cruised into a fancy joint called Folk's Folly.

It wasn't until much, much later that night that I Googled the second half of that odd Memphis eatery name to reveal perfect irony. This makes no sense right now, but bear with me, I have suffered head trauma. This post was supposed to be a review of an amazing dining experience, so I'll start there.

Dressed in one of my favorite LBDs with a face full of makeup that took more focus than normal, I waltzed in beside my husband like we owned the place. We had a 6:30 reservation and our bellies were empty. The restaurant was a fascinating place: full of cozy little rooms that separated groups of diners and white cloths on every table. We ordered wine and heard the specials, and understand me when I say we went for it. The actual reason for our weekend in Memphis was a business meeting Jonathan had nailed earlier that afternoon. This was a sort of celebration, after all, so I went for both the surf and the turf.

I've had lobster in lobster dip. I've had lobster on lobster pizza. I've had lobster in seafood bisque. And probably all of those dishes were from Red Lobster. That's it. Jonathan could see the relief on my face when our waiter Kevin asked if he could remove it from the shell for me. Lord yes, Kevin. It was absolutely delicious. The petite filet that accompanied it was topped with parsley butter and cooked to perfection. Every bite melted in my mouth and it's a contender for best steak of my life. Jonathan was much more certain that his steak was hands down the best he's ever had. It was a Frenched prime rib-eye that had been aged for no more and no less than 60 days.

We also shared a blueberry cheesecake that would top our best desserts list. It was not cloyingly sweet and it almost had a salty kick. I'm no food critic, but it was yummy. We left an amount of money at the table that matched our experience {read: a lot of dollars}, and we sauntered hand-in-hand into the parking lot, making more than enough "walking in Memphis" jokes. Too bad the best one was yet to come...

Now this story is going to take an interesting turn, so hold on to your hats. I could tell you about the bar fight I got into on Beale Street, a brawl that landed me in the ER {you should see the other guy and all that jazz}, but that would be a lie. At least the bar part. Because we didn't make it to the bar. We did make it to the emergency room, though.

I'm not going to paint a picture of what happened, because it's gross. I fell in the hotel room when we stopped by after dinner and my forehead caught the nightstand on my way down. What followed was an impressive reaction on my husband's part, and the destruction of about three hotel towels. We raced to the nearest hospital where I got the all-clear on brain damage and two stitches.

I don't want to take away from the image above, but I will say I look a little different. I have a lovely cut and swelling that has found its way to my eyes. It doesn't hurt nearly as bad as it did a few days ago, but I'm already counting down to stitch-removal Friday. Perhaps I'll look a little less like Frankenstein at that point.

As it turns out, the folly from Folk's did not come until after the meal. I will now kick back with another round of Advil and try not to make too many facial expressions. Maybe the next time we make the trek to Tennessee, I'll do a better job of walkin' in Memphis...

Happy Tuesday, my friends. I sure hope your long weekend was well-spent!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Dear September

Hello, September! Bring on the breathable air, cool breeze, and fresh pace.

The calendar page turned, Arkansas already won a football game, and hallways are brimming with school colors and spirit. Heck, last night Jonathan and I traveled to Memphis and when we arrived at the hotel, it was 64 degrees. My husband thought I was crazy for asking if sleet was mixed with the rain, but anything other than summer weather is frigid to me. I know it's not fall yet, but it's in the air.

We are three weeks into the school year and minutes from the first three-day weekend. The kids have all settled into new routines with ease. They're getting their homework done when we walk through the door and they've even aced a few tests already. I know things will start to drag when the novelty wears off, but you can color me impressed today.

Enough about those kids, though, today I'm here to answer a few questions about my current state of life now that September has arrived. Read on to see what's up:

  1. Favorite Thing: I love the routine that comes with school. I don't know if I would call myself a trademarked "Morning Person" but there's something magical about waking up early enough to enjoy coffee while your older kids dress themselves.

  2. Planning: Right now I'm deep in planning for our first full year of teaching high school religious education. Class doesn't start until September 17, but I'm lesson planning and vision making and Googling nonstop.

  3. Eating: It's not often I use the phrase fine dining, but I sure enjoy it. Tonight my husband and I will try famed Memphis restaurant Folk's Folly. There are white tablecloths and foods I've never seen. I can't wait!

  4. Drinking: A large unsweetened tea with lemon from McAlister's. I know this doesn't count as "what I'm drinking in September" but it's what I'm drinking right now and it's amazing. The actual answer is probably wine, to be frank.

  5. Wearing: Most of you know my wardrobe is jeans and/or gym shorts and t-shirts, so I'm the last person to give fashion advice. I will say one makeup item I've been enjoying is the Morphe 9N Blush Palette. I've never been a pink blush girl because I have a lot of redness, but the colors in this are lovely. There are great neutral peach and mauve tones, and they blend beautifully with my go-to bronzer.

  6. Listening to: Nothing! I have enjoyed two of those all-by-myself Fridays I told you about a month ago, and it was weird at first. What am I supposed to do when I'm completely alone? The answer has been a little cleaning, a little writing, and spontaneous naps. I ain't mad at it.

  7. Enjoying: My little corner of Arkansas. Our September calendar is full of local events, including the county fair and a movie in the park {would you believe they chose Nora's beloved Beauty and the Beast!?}. I love the feeling that comes with small-town football season.

  8. Current Project: Our classroom! This year we'll be teaching in the same room we hold youth events, so we get to make it ours. I have bulletin board supplies, laminated letters, and a head full of ideas. We've decided the theme of the year is becoming a saint {anyone can do it!} and we're starting on the room this Sunday.

  9. Hoping for: Health and happiness? If we can keep those on lock, we're golden.

  10. Doing: Tearing out the summer garden. There are a few plants still clinging to life, as I wrote about last week, but soon we will demolish and get the soil ready for next year. I also have plans to renovate two raised beds and fill them with strawberry plants and I have my eye on adding berry bushes, too. Maybe we'll get into the jam and jelly business!

That's a good sample of our to-do list for September. What are you looking forward to this month?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Adventures with Cupcake

{The day Nora discovered that Snapchat picks up doll faces was a good one.}

Everybody at preschool knows Nora's favorite baby doll by name.

When we walk through the door in the mornings, we're met with "Hey Nora! Hey Cupcake!" Nora just grins and cradles her doll closer, grasping for the strength to hold back her goodbye tears. At pickup time, I have found a crowd of preschoolers glued to a movie with none other than Cupcake sitting smack in the middle, just as captivated by the cartoon of the day. I'm surprised Cupcake doesn't have a cubby of her own yet.

With the help of her sweet-faced sidekick, Nora June's imagination has been going 90 to nothing lately. Just the other night, she was fixing my hair and with a syrup-thick Southern accent she was telling me about her children's amazing dance recital. In the middle of coloring my hair rainbow and pink, her phone rang. She looked at the plastic screen and let out one dramatic sigh. "It's my kid, I've gotta answer. I'm a mom too, you know." I knew, obviously, so I urged her to take the call. Her daughter, Cupcake Cake Strawberry Jeff Bauer, needed her home ASAP because she broke the microwave and her dad was busy at the fire station. That's life.

Sometimes Cupcake is a sassy teen, sometimes Cupcake is a newborn baby, but every time Cupcake is by her mother's side. I've watched them dodge killer sharks during a beach vacation. I've seen them help the patriarch of the family when the dance studio caught fire and he called for back up. I've even seen Nora work her weekend job as a nurse while she administered Cupcake's shots and fixed her broken hand... and arm... and leg... and other leg.

Although at this point you can only take Nora's wild tales with a grain of salt, it's fun to watch the wheels turn toward her next big plot twist. Whether she and Cupcake are famous pop stars ready to take the stage or a mild-mannered family enjoying dinner at the table, I happily accept my invitation into her world. The boys and I get front-row seats into the depths of my daughter's mind and you know we're always ready to pop that popcorn and settle in for the show.

Nora's imagination is a good sign she knows she can do anything.
I can't wait to be front row, center when I find out which of these dreams she turns into reality.

{You know... except that shark thing.}

Happy Thursday, y'all!

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?