Friday, June 23, 2017

This is Summer

It's the day after my birthday {and I'll blog if I want to}.

Doesn't have the same ring to it, but it's still true. Yesterday marked 33 years of my being on this planet, and I spent the day doing as little as possible. It was glorious. Today I have cleaned messes, taken all my children to piano lessons, and made sure my chickens didn't suffer heat exhaustion. We are nearing the stroke of Jonathan being home, so I thought I'd sit down and catch you up on our week. It's been a hectic one, and I am looking forward to a chill weekend. Read on for a rundown of this crazy summer week:

BABY CAT: While we were in Florida, a tiny cat decided to join our family. Now we have a furry pet in addition to our feathered ones. She's a sweet grey kitten and she's becoming more comfortable around us every day. Her {his?} name is Luna, also known as Lulu, and most commonly referred to as Baby Lu. Owen is our resident kitten whisperer, and I'm sure I'll have more on that later.

SWIMMING: Nora took swim lessons this week. By that I mean she smashed all expectations on Day One, bobbing beneath the surface to grab toys and attempting to swim in the deep end. Day Two she wouldn't even get in the water. Day Three the stubborn kid didn't decide to try until the last five minutes. She's not anti-water, but she's certainly anti-authority. She has to make up a rained out session next week, and who knows what she'll do. It's a start?

GROWING: Our garden is still killing it. It's almost time to pick cucumbers, and I've never seen such healthy tomato plants. The sunflower forest towers over all of my kids, and I know the blooms will make their way to the surface before long. When the sun is gone and the temperatures are more tolerable, I find myself pulling a chair between the pepper rows to simply stare at it all. It's not weird, I promise.

COLLEGE: This week marked Owen's first time to attend Kids College at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana. Although he tells me the extra-messy science lab was his favorite class of the week, college employees told me he was known campus-wide for his dance skills. Y'all know that makes a mama proud! Nathan attends his classes next week, and after that I'll fill you in on all the details.

DADDY: We started the week by celebrating this blog's patriarch. On Sunday Jonathan woke up to a stack of pancakes and a rather loud singing squirrel card. We also gave him a key chain that features his dad's handwriting. I wanted to connect Poppy to Jonathan's Father's Day present and this ended up being perfect. It was a tough holiday for my husband, but I think we succeeded in making him feel special.

Each of our kids look at their dad like he hung the moon. He's not perfect, and they don't think he is, but they still want to be just like him. He is their protector, their provider, and their greatest comfort. No stack of Father's Day pancakes can thank him enough.

There it is in a nutshell. What have you been doing during this first official summer week?

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Friday, June 16, 2017

The Garden Grind

I have a tough "Would you rather?" question for you this afternoon.

Would you rather... stand in your veggie garden in the thick evening heat, bending to scoop uprooted weeds to hoist into the wheelbarrow as buzzing mosquitoes surround you? Or walk toward the house to check on your children who are fighting in the A/C, their screams rising enough to permeate the walls of your home?

If the bite cream currently slathered on my body is any indication, you know my choice.

Mid-June is not harvest season here, but it's time to get the work horses going. Since we don't have any horses, that means my husband and I sweating in the garden. We have been pulling up the awful Bermuda grass that took root while we were in Florida, cultivating the base of each plant to give it breathing room, and checking every tiny fruit for signs of infiltration. We're not playing with bugs this year.

At this point, everything is growing beautifully and I think this year's garden is our best rowed version yet. I have seen itty bitty cucumbers, pint-sized peppers, and teeny tomatoes of all shapes and sizes. We even have thriving bean plants full of white flowers, something we haven't seen in years due to rude rabbits. This year we put the beans on the other side of the cucumber fence to see if it would confuse them. Maybe it did?

Eventually Nora decided to join and get her hands {and face} a little dirty:

She talked to all twenty tomato plants and helped pick weeds until she spotted an ant on her hand. After that she hightailed it back to her boisterous brothers, leaving behind her parents, her chickens, and a quiet, sweltering garden. The chickens were being so well behaved, I might have asked Lemon if she had room for one more in the coop. You may think I'm saying crazy things just to sound quirky.

I can assure you I am not.

Once I decided dealing with my children was better than sleeping near chicken manure, we wrapped up the evening and promised our return. Weekend plans include tilling the pathways, adding a thick layer of compost, and doing a little every day so it doesn't get out of hand {like it has every year before this one}.

We obviously have some work to do, but for now we are pretty proud of our garden.
How are things growing in your yard?

Happy weekend and happy gardening, y'all.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Beach Week

I still feel like I could jinx this trip by talking about it, but here we go.

We returned home from vacation late Sunday with beach hair and tired, happy campers. Every one of my children enjoyed being both in and beside the ocean this year, and they traveled like angels. While typing that sentence, I felt I should duck lightning strikes, but every word is truth.

This was our best family vacation to date, hands down. There were no diapers nor strollers {!!!}, no epic sibling battles and no major meltdowns. Owen did leave a front tooth with the beach tooth fairy, and Nora did fall out of her bed, bringing home an impressive forehead knot, but these kids had a blast. Owen ate calamari and shrimp for the first time, and Nathan was brave enough to carry live fish with his bare hands.

Who are these kids?

We stayed at the Sandestin Resort in Destin, Florida, which is basically my favorite place. This trip included our bunch, my parents, and Jonathan's mom. We spent most mornings beach-side, and I actually got to relax in my chair and suck down my strawberry daiquiri while the kids played in the sand. Seriously.

Last year Nora would not put one toe in the water at Gulf Shores, and she hated the sand. She was an absolute different kid this year. She let the waves carry her ring any way they wanted while belting every line from "How Far I'll Go."

I think Owen spent more time underwater than above, diving under every wave and exploring with his goggles. Nathan followed suit, and together they chased the swimming fish and tried to collect the most intact shells. These kids were total beach bums, and I am so pleased that more time was spent in the ocean than in the hotel pool.

While we went to our regular restaurant haunts {plus one for anniversary date night}, a new place we explored in the Fort Walton area was the Gulfarium. We woke up to rain on our first morning, so we decided to see some animals up close and personal. The kids had their first touch pool experience and never wanted to leave. {Hands! HANDS!} We also saw an enormous turtle, a pool of stingrays, and we found both Nemo and Dory fairly quickly. We returned to the condo with a sea of stuffed animals and a newfound dolphin obsession.

I loved this vacation because we were finally able to simply enjoy each other. Of course there was whining and bickering and drawn-out groans, but the kids are getting older and things are getting easier. We can relax a little more and stress a little less. Hats off to my kids for making this trip great, and a big thanks to our parents for helping keep up with them. I'll stop talking now and share a few more highlights:

Now it's back to reality and back to dreaming of surf, sand, and crab legs. Happy Hump Day!

Have you been to the beach this year? Do you have a trip scheduled?
Let me know where you are taking your family in the comments!

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Monday, June 12, 2017

After Eleven Years

The night of our eleventh wedding anniversary was spent together beside the ocean.

My husband and I drew long breaths of salty air and reminisced about our fresh start. As we stared into the distant shades of blue, not knowing where sky dissolved into water, our concentration was broken by a splash on the shore. It was our six-year-old son with his siblings close behind, scrambling to catch a sand crab before it buried into hiding.

This was followed by an inspired performance of Moana songs from Nora, who stood on a self-made sand stage, and keeping up with Nathan, who was schooling strangers on crab-catching techniques.

The waves continued to lap onto the shore, always moving, but never the same.

Last Friday, June 9, Jonathan treated me to a romantic date during our family Florida vacation. First, we cruised into the sunset on a catamaran. We spotted dolphins and sat as close as is allowed in public while the red sun sank beneath the horizon. Then it was on to a night of fine dining {we’re talking white tablecloths and French words}. I ate the best meal of my life while the breeze whipped my hair and the love of my life winked at me. It was heaven on the beach, and I treasured every minute.

The night of June 10, our actual anniversary, was the last of our trip. Deciding we needed one last look at the waves, we took the kids crabbing. We walked behind them as they darted in and out of the water, filling buckets and making memories. While date nights are vital to my soul and our relationship, this look at what our wedding made was surreal.

We’ve come a long way in eleven years, and the five of us standing on the beach while Saturday night fireworks boomed overhead made it clear. This is the result of our marriage.

Beneath the greens and purples flashing above the water, Nora danced around us. She crooned a sweet anniversary song, and one of my favorite lines was “Good job, Mom and Dad!”

Eleven years ago, my sister-in-law read from the New Testament during our wedding ceremony. This reading included the age-old words lining out exactly what love is. Love is patient and kind, it doesn’t boast or anger. It protects and trusts and hopes. In closing, I’d like to tack onto that page in Corinthians.

Love is hard. Love is scary. Love requires insurmountable bravery and the ability to step without looking. Love can come as natural as breathing, but love takes white-knuckled work. Love can bend and break, heal and save, lead and follow. Love is two people clueless as to how the universe will treat them, but going forward anyway. Love is building and growing, changing and moving, adjusting and readjusting. Love is going where the wind blows. Together.

Today and always I thank my lucky stars that the wind blew me his way. We have built a beautiful life together and like the tide, it’s always changing. No day is ever the same, and I love it.

Happy Anniversary, Jonathan. You make life an adventure and I love being along for the ride.
Good job. 😊

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Other Artist

This special Hump Day edition of my blog is brought to you by our family's budding artist!

No, no... the other one.

When it became clear that Owen was blessed with the coordination gene that skipped both his mother and his big brother, everyone was so happy to tack the "sporty" moniker onto him. Can you imagine if he didn't have something to compete with his brother who's amazing at everything else? The horror! "Owen the Sporty" proved 'em wrong though, and you can imagine the smug grin resting on my face. Just because Nathan set the bar high doesn't mean his siblings won't reach it.

As it turns out, Owen is quite the artist. PE Mondays took precedence over art Thursdays, but I was amazed by the kindergarten art portfolio he lugged home. He grinned as I paged through his work, and he was quick to answer my questions about mediums and style. Nathan loved looking through it, too, not seeing his brother as a threat, but as a protégé.

Today, as a treat to you, I thought I would share a few of those pages. Yes, this is a blog post that features my kid's artwork. There's no life lesson nor deep thinking involved, unless the Pete the Cat and cupcake piece shown above speaks to you. If you're not here for a mom post, click around the tabs above for other topics. If you are here for the mom posts, and of course you are, enjoy!

He's even a vibrant story-teller, too! ;) Happy Wednesday, friends.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Dear June

Ahh, June. The garden is growing, the temps are rising, and the kids are asking for lunch at 10:00.

This month is my favorite month, for reasons that include but are not limited to: my birthday. However, I already wrote a post on why I loved June enough to make it Nora's middle name. Today, I want to wish you and yours a happy month of sunshine and happiness and give you insight as to why I'm glad the 2017 edition is here. I even tossed in a thumbs-down just to make things interesting. Read on to see what this month holds for me, and let me know what you're planning with your own June bugs.

BEACH: The main reason a smile has been plastered on my face since I ripped off the May page and tossed it in the trash is the word "vacation" that's brightly highlighted. My family is headed to the Emerald Coast of Florida real soon and I am real overdue for a break. I've had a hectic few weeks ticking off my to-do list to wrap up the school year, and I think I have it covered. I'm ready for a week of no worries and the Moana soundtrack on loop.

BIRTHDAY: You may have remembered there's a special day coming up. Aren't you sweet?! I turn 33 on June 22 and I honestly don't mind at all. I don't know how we'll celebrate, but I'm not ready to stop counting candles yet. I have made the formal decision that living out these 30s is going to be fantastic. I know who I am, I know what I want, and I know my priorities. Being an adult isn't too awful, really.

BETROTHED: For the sake of alliteration, the first word I chose for this paragraph was bae. Aren't you glad I kept thinking? This Saturday will mark 11 years that Jonathan and I have been married. Marriage is not for the faint of heart. It's not for the weak, and it's not for the cowardly. Marriage takes strength, and that's what we have. That's the thing that makes me proudest about our love - its strength.

BONKERS: I can't tell you all the delightful activities my kids and I have lined up to fill our summer free time. I also can't tell you that in our first full day together I didn't scream "STOP SAYING 'BUTT' TO YOUR SISTER!" and "DON'T TATTLE WHILE I'M ON THE TOILET!" However, the kids and I have paid close attention to our garden {which is flourishing, by the way}, we've snagged pool time, and they've been big help with household chores. There will never be a picture-perfect summer schedule here, but I think I can tolerate them for a few months... What does your June look like?

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Seedling

Since the moment I ripped open this year's seed packets, I have watched.

On a warm day when timing was right, we began. The seeds were put into place and watered, and our patience was tested. In the few weeks between that moment and today, I have noticed beauty in the waiting. I've also seen an incredible alignment between parenting and gardening. While I have about the same amount of experience in both areas, today's post will flesh out that metaphor a bit.

The life cycle of a plant begins in the dark depths of the Earth.

It's comforted by warm soil on every side and waits until the conditions are right to make the first move. Above the soil we stand, wondering when the seeds will become seedlings, whether they'll be successful, or if they'll even emerge at all.

After several days, I notice a shift. Something small and green is proving mighty enough to literally move earth. Everything around the tiny plant is disrupted as the soil continues to break and settle... and break and settle. As the small plant pulls itself into the sunshine, other things are pushed out of the way. Small rocks and grass and weeds that don't seem nearly as important make way for the star of the garden.

In the weeks following what I think is the most delicate part of my plant's life, reality strikes. The seedling is no longer the most important plant in the garden. Although it needs my attention, it becomes clear I need to also focus on weeding and watering in other areas.

Sometimes the best thing for this little plant is to let it be.

As the plant thrives on its own and practically doubles in size overnight, I come to realize it never is truly still. The leaves move and stretch daily and the stem shows strength with age. As soon as I think it's good where it is, it turns into something else I love even more. I love the way its foliage contrasts against the bright blue sky. I love the way its smell floats in my yard like a perfume. I love this sign of life in a once empty plot.

Flowers dot the vibrant plant and the seed I scraped from the bottom of the packet is a memory I struggle to remember.

When the scorching summer sun fades behind the trees in the hours after dinner, I pull on my gloves and wander outside. At this stage my plant is unruly. Heavy fruit weigh it down and I try to retrain the branches going the wrong way. However, that trick doesn't always work. This plant grows where it wants to, and I do my best to prune it and give as much direction as I can. It doesn't need as much care from me anymore, as it's becoming what it was born to be. Nature and nurture push and pull, and I pray my plant grows as tall as possible.

The plant bears the most beautiful fruit as a sign of my care and the outside forces that cooperated in harmony. I cherish the summer it was mine and I care for it as long as it lets me.

Until the plant itself goes to seed.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Into the Wild

All week Nora anxiously awaited her first venture into the jungle.

Her main concerns were vicious alligators, sharp-toothed lions, and towering elephants wandering throughout, ready to attack at any moment. However, she assured me she would risk life and limb and scary animals in order to meet a penguin. I reminded her daily that we were not planning to traverse the wild, just the Little Rock Zoo. Yes, all of the animals are behind glass and bars and unable to eat you. No, you probably won't get to take one of the cute ones home.

Both boys finished their school year with flying colors, and while they enjoyed their time in the classroom {okay, maybe Owen would say the lunch room}, they needed a break. We used their first summer Saturday to ride the zoo train and sweat profusely.

The boys had such fun jumping from exhibit to exhibit. Nathan told me the place was overwhelming, because when a sign for one animal caught his eye, he was distracted by another... and another and another! Highlights included watching two of the maned wolves fight and growl {it looked like an average day at my house} and seeing an elephant cool itself down.

This was Nora's first non-baby zoo experience and I was thrilled for her. While she was impressed by her beloved penguins and enjoyed chatting with many animals {especially every small monkey}, she had a definite answer when I asked for her favorite. She told me the best thing about the zoo was the slide. I pressed for more, and reminded her we had a slide at home. I asked her to name something we don't have at home. Her answer? The mini corn dogs. She's right, we do not have those at home. Nathan finally piped in to help. "No, Nora, what was your favorite animal you saw at the zoo?"

She thought for a few seconds, then the answer registered on her face... "THE DUCK!"

It was the duck. This duck:

Even though Nora did enjoy seeing animals from different parts of the world, I think the amenities won her over. If it wasn't the incredible playgrounds that were {much to my chagrin} at every corner, it was the cut-outs behind which Nora needed to pose. I'm not sure we hit every one of them, but the following collage does not feature my full gallery:

{I can't look at bottom center without cracking up.}

We had a fantastic Saturday and it served as the perfect start to summer... especially when Nora realized how much entertainment the jungle wilderness has to offer.

How did you start your summer break? Were animals involved? What about slides? Let me know down below!

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Racking Up Awards

{And you thought Monday's post was full of gushy proud mom stuff...}

After the elementary principal read a prestigious letter from the 45th president of the United States, he began to call up students to receive medals for outstanding performance.

I steadied my hand on my phone, trying not to look too eager, but I was certain Bauer was near the top. As the name Jonathan and I chose a decade ago was announced to the room, I watched my bespectacled kid walk calmly to the podium, careful to keep his smile from rising too far.

Fourth grade here is the first that features an awards assembly, so Jonathan and I had front row seats. The medal Nathan received was for being one of the few in his grade to make all As for the year. His dad hopped up to snap a picture of him, then we settled in for the remainder of the program.

Once the principal finished his list, the keyboarding teacher took the stage. The first name called was Nathan's. He told me he was a fast typer, but I didn't know he stayed on the leader board. He didn't even make it back to his seat when "Nathaniel Bauer" rang into the microphone again, this time from his music teacher. His grin widened as he changed direction and I caught the eye of a teacher who probably noticed the incredulous look on my face. If you read my post on Monday, you know Nathan has musical ability, but his piano teacher and family aren't the only ones to notice.

When Nathan's classroom teachers announced winners, he went up for honors in both social studies and math. When it was over, he had a stack of five certificates. We were gathering his winnings when the principal stopped by. He looked at the awards in front of Nathan and congratulated him and pointed out that he now knows where the bar is set.

As we walked out of the school, I remembered that afternoon would be his last pick-up until fifth grade. The school year is over, and it ended with a bang.

On my Time Hop app today there's a photo from ten years ago. It's Nathan's 4D ultrasound I proudly shared with Facebook. I have a son! With a face! Just a tiny face with features we could barely pick out, but full of potential. This morning my heart swelled {just like the lump in my throat} when I saw just how that potential is being realized. Nathan works so hard at school. I am happy that he's able to see the results of his efforts.

He is a dedicated student, an incredible person, and one amazing son.

Happy Hump Day, y'all. Cheers to summer break!

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Student Musician

This weekend my oldest son once again shook off his nerves and took the stage.

Nathan's had two and a half years learning major chords and allegro speeds and not to look at his fingers while stretching them to sixths. In the past I have written performance posts about how Nathan's anxiety melts through his fingers and comes out in impressive sound. While I could spin a tale about Nathan's experience at his fourth recital, that's his story. Today I have my own.

As his mom, there's a good chance I will always think Nathan is good at what he does, but what I want to share today has nothing to do with being his parent. I have played beside so many people, including several beginner band students in church. The thing about playing with someone who may not have as much experience is that you must let them set the pace. You obviously can't leave your partner in the dust. A duet is not two separate sounds, but a melding of noise that produces something better. That's how I approached our recital duet when Nathan asked me to accompany him.

When we first tried the song together, I was floored. While we were playing, Nathan kept one ear to the piano and another to me. He listened for my breath and struck the keys at the exact millisecond I exhaled. He held notes when I stumbled over mine, his sound rose with the emotion of the piece, and his fingers found every chord while his eyes scanned the notes. He asked me to play one section a different way, and we tweaked it until it felt right to him.

Once we got it down, I wandered into the kitchen and tried to explain what I felt to Jonathan. Nathan was no longer playing music, he was feeling music, and he was working with me to make our audience feel it, too.

I was discussing music with Nathan as a colleague, not a teacher.

At Friday night's performance, he played perfectly while I stumbled over a few notes. He also played a solo performance that sent chills down my arms, and a duet with another student a few years older than him.

The recital lasted two hours, but I still wanted an encore when it was over {it did help that Nora was asleep by then}. It was surreal to watch a fifth-grader belt Johnny Cash, then have a young girl take us to church while her fingers flew and her booming voice bounced off the back wall, followed by a preschooler who played classic nursery rhymes without thinking twice. Being in audience to this group had me floating on air.

I know these kids aren't just lesson-takers. They're all musicians, and I am so proud to say that Nathan has every right to hold that title.

It doesn't make sense to talk about the recital without sharing a little footage,
so click below to hear two of Nathan's songs. Enjoy and have a lovely Monday, friends!

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dirty Work

{and it's done dirt cheap!}

There seemed to be more dirt on Nora's face than in the garden, but summer planting is done!

We spent a long afternoon last week plunking seeds into the ground and patting soil at the base of tomato plants. Booms of thunder rang in our ears, so we hunkered over and worked quickly. We finished just in time and were left with hope in this little patch of land. I say little, but I don't think it's appropriate anymore. This year we stretched our growing area into 1,120 square feet... the size of a very nice home.

The idea to stretch our space was born when I couldn't decide between tomato varieties. I came home with 20 total, a pack each of Bradley, Cherokee Purple, Early Girl, Arkansas Traveler, and Celebrity. I knew I needed three rows to make this work, so we tacked a few feet onto the plan. We also needed another row for the four varieties of peppers I grabbed, so another few feet were penciled for that, too. Then I needed a couple more feet for the sack of purple hull peas Jonathan picked up at the farm store. We're adding this new crop for Jonathan's mom. She's looking forward to shelling them with the kids, and we'll try them to see if our tastes have changed... maybe.

When the tiller was shut off, more than a thousand square feet of turned soil lay waiting for work. We dug rows, filled them with compost, and got to planting. Nora and Owen happily took charge of the green bean row. I asked Owen to push two seeds into holes six inches apart. He somehow knew just what that meant, and told his sister to stay in front of him. Back and forth they went, leapfrogging down the row until it was done.

In honor of your curiosity and the fact that I can't remember anything, here's what's growing in my backyard: one row of cucumbers {two different types}, one row of bush beans, one row of Clemson Spineless okra seeds saved from last year's crop, poblano peppers, jalapeño peppers, and two colors of bell peppers, the aforementioned tomato forest, two rows of various sunflower types, and those gross unique-tasting purple hulls.

In past years April flooding meant planting in a straight-up mud pit, but this year was different. The soil was easy to work, and it smelled rich and full of life. Planting day also coincided with the full moon and was followed by a day of rain with nitrogen-heavy lightning. It's now one week post-planting and there's new life sprouting all over the place. I have a good feeling about this garden, y'all. Keep watching this space to see if my predictions come true.

{Yes, these are bean seeds and pea sprouts, but you still get the idea, right?}

If a fruitful season follows, you can have all the purple hulls peas you want!

Are you still considering what to plant for summer? If so, I have a handy-dandy suggestion list for you. If you've already planted, please jump in the comments and let me know what you've got growing. I love a good garden talk.

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