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 piƱata {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

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

How's it Growing?

This morning I woke up with my entire family in my bed and bursts of thunder shaking the walls.

Lightning flashed and the early morning colors looked more like the dead of night. I did my best to roll everyone off my bed to get ready for a post-late-night-fireworks-show day. I downed as much coffee as I could handle and ushered the sleepy kids through the door. Since this morning's moody skies aren't doing much for my demeanor, let's talk about one topic that does: my garden!

Before I go on, please assist me in finding some wood to knock on. This year's garden is the best we've ever grown, and I'm about to make some claims that I don't want zapped by the next storm that rolls through.
Thank you for your cooperation.

This picture shows the back half of my garden, an area I like to refer to as tomato heaven. There are literally {literally} hundreds of green tomatoes dotting the twenty flourishing plants. Every plant has overtaken its cage, which is rare for us mid-season. Every plant is still a vibrant green and I've only cut one worm in half thus far. There's one tomato on my kitchen counter that is reddening as we speak, and so many more days from turning on the vine. I'm ready, and I hope everyone I know within a thirty-mile radius is, too.

Behind tomato heaven, as you can see, are the tallest sunflowers we have ever grown. Nora was thrilled when they outgrew her, then her brothers, then her mom, and now they're gaining on Jonathan. Once they open their faces to the sunlight, the view will be breathtaking.

Not shown in the picture, but making a grand appearance, are the cucumbers. On the first harvest day, I brought in ten. Then every day following that one, I brought in ten. We have eaten so many already and given even more to our family and our chickens. Last week we did a taste-test at my mom's house comparing our homegrown to a store-bought variety. There was no candle to hold, my friends. There is a huge difference in taste and I'll be happy to show you. Seriously. Hit me up. Bona Fide Bauer Backyard Cucumbers.

Green bean picking should start tomorrow and we're just waiting on the plentiful purple hull peas to get big enough. All of Jonathan's mom's porch shelling dreams will come true before too long! We also have okra starting to set in and the peppers... Oh my goodness, the peppers.

If you've read along with my garden saga over the years, you'll know peppers give us trouble. They usually don't start to grow until late July, and by September they consider giving us a little something. This year we've had to implement cages, as the plants are falling over because of all the fruit. We have about 10 bells needing to be picked, we're just waiting on a day we can be home to use them. We also planted poblano peppers for the first time and they have become the biggest pepper plants this hard has ever seen.

Even though it was too wet to snap photos this morning, just talking about the situation in my yard has lifted my mood. Maybe it even gave you a boost, too! This particular garden is my happy place. Every sense is filled with calm when I walk out there and the work feels less like labor and more like therapy. Gardening is my favorite. Here's to sunnier skies and more opportunity to get out and enjoy it.

Happy Hump Day, y'all!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Dear July

July started with a bang around here, and we haven't even made our fireworks purchase yet.

Early yesterday we loaded a playlist with all the country songs that reference lakes, boats, and/or the sweetness of summer. We gathered as much sandwich fixings and snacks as our SUV allowed and headed for the Iron Mountain Marina at DeGray Lake. This was the first lake day for Owen and Nora and Nathan hadn't been in six years, so we didn't know what they'd do. However, as soon as these kids got their sea legs on our pontoon rental, they became card-carrying members of the redneck yacht club.

Not one of them thought twice as they wiggled into the water for a swim. They were jumping off the side in no time, and once they learned the official lake rule of "Never open your mouth underwater," they were hooked. We also decided to try some tubing this time, and would you believe all three did it? The boys took a tumble on their first ride, but were brave enough to keep going. I even took a turn on the tube with my three-year-old baby, whose tiny thumb stayed up the whole time to signal an a-okay ride.

From lounging in the shade, munching Doritos to ramping waves across the lake, my children were initiated as lake kids. Growing up I had several friends whose parents fit the "lake people" description and I had my fill of weekends on the water. I love that these kids got a taste of it this weekend.

As of today, the kids are convinced we need to go every weekend and I'm finding boat shopping searches in my browser history. We'll see just how far this rides out...

The day was perfect and such a lovely slice of summertime. Sure, getting the boat loaded with supplies and every kid took a little work, but lying on the deck of the boat and letting the sunshine carry me was 100% worth it. I really hope our start to July 2017 is a prime example of the rest of it. We have big plans this month: celebrating the birth of our nation, throwing two birthday parties, reaping the harvest of an incredible garden season, and enjoying plenty of pool days. All of these things take work, but all of these things will be worth it.

We'll end July smelling like chlorine, bug spray, and tomato plants and I, for one, am first in line.