Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Seriously!? Seriously.

{Optional Title: that one emoji with the line eyes and line mouth.}

My weekend started in the back of a law enforcement vehicle in Middle of Nowhere, Oklahoma.

You know if that is how today's story begins, you'd better buckle up. It's the law, after all.

Allow me to step back in time to paint the whole picture of our weekend debacle. Jonathan and I do whatever it takes to make room for breaks in the monotony and our parental pseudonyms. That's why we circled the weekend after Thanksgiving to spend some time in a luxurious cabin in eastern Oklahoma. It's just two hours from home, but completely hidden. The rental we chose this time was high-class, with a hot tub on the river, a state-of-the-art kitchen, and gorgeous decor that I pray magically transports to my living room.

Excitement brimmed as we made tracks west. Relaxation was so close we could taste it, but there was one more stop we needed to make. Our corner of the state does not believe in selling a fine wine to take on vacation, so we took the long way 'round to grab a couple of bottles. We made our purchase in Broken Bow and pressed forward. Shortly after that we arrived in an area of pure darkness between two towns I'd never heard of, and there was a situation.

It sounded like something exploded outside of the truck. But it also sounded like something exploded inside of the truck.


After realizing we were both intact, I quietly asked my husband what happened. A deer. A deer ran into us in the middle of nowhere. This was a much different scenario when that one deer ran me over in front of my house. Yes, friends, a buck took himself horns first into my husband's truck door as we were going 65 toward a dream weekend. It was my first experience with air bags. It turns out they produce a cloud that makes you think something's on fire. Neat.

When trying to locate help, we learned the counties in Oklahoma are enormous and the solo trooper was 60 miles away. Since we didn't need an ambulance, we simply waited for a wrecker. We weren't standing roadside looking dumbfounded too long before a game warden pulled up to check on us. Not only did he stay until the wrecker arrived, he offered a ride back into Broken Bow, where my parents came to pick us up. Hence the ride I alluded to at the beginning. I wasn't arrested, but I sure was seated beside a collection of seized materials.

Defeated and deflated, we were back home at 10:30, a smooth six hours after we left. It took all of sixty seconds for us to rally. We paid for this weekend. We deserved this weekend. We needed this weekend. We loaded up in our one vehicle that was not in a wrecker yard in Oklahoma, and pointed it back toward the state line. I'll be honest here, I'm not sure I blinked on that drive. I was on official high alert.

Nothing was going to stop us, and nothing did! We arrived after midnight and spent the next two days in total relaxation. Jonathan cooked gourmet meals, we talked for hours, we got our money's worth of the riverside hot tub, and we simply enjoyed each other. I promise you it was worth the trouble.

Sunday afternoon I was sad to close the door on luxury as we carried our bags down the front steps. We reloaded for the last time and climbed into our one working vehicle... and nothing happened when the key turned. Not a sputter, not a rumble, not even an old college try.

My battery was dead. Seriously.

We called the rental office, which was closed, and the call forwarded to the owner. Thankfully he had friends who lived close and they came and jumped it. We bought a new battery on the way home and arrived safe and sound. /End Story

The reason I've spun this tale of weekend woes is two-fold: you may be bored this morning and needed a little something to hold your attention, and there are approximately four lessons to be learned.

1) Thank God for the kindness of strangers.
2) Air bags smell weird.
3) Oklahoma deer are just as stupid as Arkansas deer.
4) I will make it through anything to relax.

Despite my moaning and groaning in this series of unfortunate events, I spent many post-wreck moments counting my blessings that we were safe, unharmed, and still able to get away. However, I once again hope your weekend was a little less eventful than ours.

Happy Tuesday, y'all!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Day of Thanks

It's a great day to be grateful, isn't it?

While thankfulness shouldn't be reserved for just one in 365, today is the official holiday of turkey and thanks. Dressing and blessings. Eating and warm greetings. Gratitude and platitudes. {Okay, I'll stop.} Today families across the country are joining together to celebrate Thanksgiving in their own ways. And no matter whether you're gathering around the table at grandma's or at Cracker Barrel, this day is earmarked for appreciating the togetherness.

We have big plans today and it's almost time to get to it, but first I'd like to focus on our reasons for the season. I am thankful that I get to spend my holiday with a table full of some of my favorite relatives, and I'm also thankful that you're taking the time today to read my words. I don't say it enough, so thank you for thinking I am interesting enough to hold your attention. Holiday high-fives all around.

Now, you and I both know it wouldn't be a proper Bauer Family Thanksgiving post if I didn't share a little Q&A session, along with more of this year's family photos from Bright Images. Following are directly quoted answers to the timely question: "What are you thankful for?

Age: 34
Thankful For: "I am thankful for a love that’s never ceasing. I am thankful for a slightly slower life this year that let me soak up a little more time with my family. I am thankful for friends to bow my head with in the morning darkness, thanking God for His grace in our lives."

Age: 33
Thankful For: "This year I am thankful for relationships. I am thankful to have beautiful relationships when it comes to my faith, both with God and with the people and places that deepen that connection. I am thankful to have an ever-changing relationship with my children. As they grow in what they need from me, they allow me room to do the same. Lastly I am thankful for the most important bond I have, with Jonathan. He gives me strength, courage, confidence, and purpose. And I sure do love him."

Age: 10
Thankful For: "I am thankful for God and family because they help me get through life. I am also thankful for my iPod touch because I get to play games on it and talk to my friends. I am mainly thankful for Owen, though, because he's my only brother so he likes boy stuff and he's the one who likes to play with me the most."

Age: 6
Thankful For: "I’m thankful for God because He made us. I am thankful for Louis because he attacks bad bugs like mosquitoes and he eats mice and likes to play on the trampoline. And he purrs when I pet him. And I’m thankful for life because nature is beautiful and my life is fun."

Age: 4
Thankful For: "I'm thank you for God because I love Him because I love His heart. I’m thank you for {points to Owen} and {points to me} because y’all are so cute! I'm thank you for Daddy and Nathan because Dad calls me Fluffy and Nathan jumps on the trampoline with me. And I like the Christmas tree because it’s almost Christmas."

Check out last year's answers here,
the post from 2015 here,
the post from 2014 here,
the post from 2013 here,
the post from 2012 here,
and the post from 2011 here.

Enjoy your holiday, friends. Notice the faces around your table and count your blessings.
Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Early Birds

Today I'm going to give a crash course in the apologetics of premature Christmas decorating.

After all, the Early Bird puts up the tree, right? Since Halloween wrapped and many went straight for the red and green, I have read some strong Facebook opinions. There are those who decked the halls on November 1, not thinking twice about what other people thought. Good on you, Christmas lovers. I've also seen many striving to maintain the sanctity of Thanksgiving. Stockings and garlands are for the day after the bird, and not a minute sooner. I can see this point, too.

I am typically a Grinch when it comes to most things, but last year I joined the early bandwagon. If you happen to stop by and peek in our windows, you'll see I'm still on it. The bunch spent Monday afternoon decking the halls and jamming to Christmas pop from the '80s, '90s, and today. Does that make you angry?

This jumping of the gun does not involve the reasons many are shouting from social media rooftops, however. I didn't decorate because I am on the same holly-jolly level as Buddy the Elf. That could not be further from the truth {ask Jonathan}. Therefore, in the effort of both explanation and perpetuating arguments, I am listing ten reasons it was wise for me to break out the Christmas lights before Thanksgiving.

Let the debate begin.
  1. Decorating for Christmas is an awful, cluttered, glittery, and chaotic event. Future Jessica is always thankful when Past Jessica takes care of business.

  2. Coming home from a Thanksgiving feast and seeing the new holiday ready to roll is a gift in itself.

  3. We do not have a ton of Christmas decor because my brain won't allow it, but it still packs many more items into my small house. Early decorating allows my OCD extra time to adjust.

  4. The closer it gets to December 25, the less I want to do it.

  5. I don't have babies anymore. No one is going to dangle from a tree nor rearrange the ornaments in a way that makes my eye twitch.

  6. The earlier Christmas cheer arrives, the more likely I am to make a list and check it twice. This is going to be the year I don't scramble last minute! Just, you know, putting it out there...

  7. There's something cozy about a living room lit by Christmas glow and knowing I can keep it for an entire month.

  8. It takes a solid week or so to vacuum and sweep the microscopic pieces of dropped ornaments.

  9. Having it up early gives us more time to look at the ornaments and remember the memories that go with them. Even the one from 2008 that Nathan hung on the tree and recalled a time he called "the good ol' days." {I was thinking that when I grabbed 2006's Our First Christmas ornament, but don't tell him that.}

  10. My kids love it. And they have much more of a propensity toward candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.

Also, as hardcore as I am in the belief that Epiphany is on January 6, our tree will be boxed on Boxing Day. {Hey, maybe the British have this figured out...} January starts a clean slate for me, and that is as figurative as it is literal. I shall celebrate those twelve days religiously, but not decoratively. For the record, I understand there are plenty of reasons to wait to decorate until after Thanksgiving. If I hosted the November feast at my house it would render the above points moot. But this year I am not, and you better believe that Christmas tree is already center stage.

Now, what about you?? Have I greatly offended you with this post, or are you reading it with your feet propped up on the couch, basking in the glow of Christmas? Be sure to claim your side in the comments and have a lovely Wednesday!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Dreaming of Leftovers

It's the Monday before Thanksgiving, and folks from sea to shining sea have one thing on the brain.


While obviously the actual thanks will be involved in our holiday {that post is coming soon}, today my thoughts surround an over-sized bird in a vat of oil. Is that so wrong?

Homes across the country are currently buzzing with warmth and family and tradition. Heavenly scents already permeate the air as well-rehearsed chefs have thawed the turkey and begun chopping nuts for pies and veggies for dressing. Grocery stores are packed with full carts, and the annual sale of can-shaped cranberry sauce has taken off. While I'm not the best cook, I'm a really good eater. As my taste buds tingle today, I am sharing the foods for which I am most ready:

My palate is not of the casserole-enjoying variety, which knocks off many Thanksgiving staples, but there is one that has my heart. The reasons being: A) I love green beans. B) I love crunchy onions. C) I love cheese. You put all these things in a dish with various creamy soups and the addition of mushrooms in a recipe I'm pretty sure Jonathan stole from the Pioneer Woman, and I'm going back for thirds. And also reheating days later.

When brainstorming desserts for a Thanksgiving feast, most people are thinking pumpkin or apple, right? Not me. My brain goes straight to Karo. Go big or go home. I know I've mentioned the holiday delicacy known in my family as haystacks, but it's worth another name drop. These tasty morsels rank up there with the headlining bird. It's just corn flakes and peanut butter and everyone's favorite corn syrup. My mom has been making these since I was little and each bite transports me to that cozy place of bulky sweaters, roaring fires, and absolute comfort. You know the one.

Last but certainly at the top of my list is the turkey. I don't know if having this gigantic bird on the table more than once or twice a year would lessen the excitement level, but mine is through the roof. Years ago Alton Brown taught my husband to safely fry a turkey and we haven't looked back. The delicious brown sugar brine and cooking method combine for a juicy main course. My mom cooks a second bird in a more traditional style in the oven and both get equal billing on my plate. I can already taste the tryptophan...

Honorable Mentions: All forms of bread, whole black olives, strips of extra pie crust sprinkled with cinnamon, homemade mashed potatoes, and many generous pours of wine.

Now that we're prepared to salivate through this three-day countdown, let's get to the real reason I wrote this post. I really want to know which dishes rank for y'all. When reading the foods I'm most ready to put in my mouth, what imagery and flavors popped into your head?

Please share in the comments the Thanksgiving dishes going on your plate this year, and maybe we'll add to the menu.... as long as it's still in stock at Walmart!

Happy Monday, friends.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Louis J. Bauer

A few days ago Jonathan mentioned picking up the monthly dose of flea medication for our cat.

Which is odd in itself, but then I asked what name it would be under. I let a small grin slip when I joked that he was listed under Louis Bauer. My husband deadpanned, "Of course! That's his name, isn't it?" Well, I suppose it is. {Also, ten points if you guess his middle name.}

I first mentioned this cat when he was just a feral kitty who moved in while we were in Florida this summer. We thought he was cute and tiny and fluffy, so we bought him food and let him stay. Eventually we took him to the vet, learned our feminine assumptions were off, and the rest is history. What we didn't know, however, is how quickly we'd fall in love with him. Don't tell the chickens, but I think Louis is our favorite pet.

I am no longer exaggerating when I say Owen Bauer and Louis Bauer are BEST. FRIENDS. Before school, they snag a few minutes to jump in the leaves before separating for the day. When we get home, Owen rushes through his homework {evidenced by his frequent "Be neater!" instructions...} to check on Lou. Through the kitchen window I see the pair lying on the trampoline, pondering life and enjoying each other's company. Louis is never more than a step behind Owen, so we don't worry about this one straying far from home.

One of Owen's favorite car-line games is guessing what his cat does all day. Often we'll pull into the driveway and he'll be lounging on the slowly moving porch swing. Louis knows how to live. At night he'll sleep as close to the door as possible {or the hot tub if it's chilly out}, and when he hears the morning hubbub, the scratching and meowing begins. Owen is super good about feeding Louis, but don't be late with the grub.

My husband, who is indeed allergic to cats, loves this guy so much he told me Louis is coming inside for the coldest winter nights. With regular vacuuming, of course. I'd never have guessed we would have a couch cat, but here we are.

I grew up in a house that always had cats, but the rest of my family lacks experience in the field. It's been fun to see my kids form a relationship with a pet that does more than squawk and lay eggs. You know I appreciate a pet that gives free food, but the snuggle quota is a little higher with Lou.

This, my friends, has been an entire blog post dedicated to our cat. A cat that started as a random wild animal that wouldn't leave and has become an actual member of our family. You can check his vet records for proof.

Have a happy Wednesday, y'all. Then pet a cat and make it even better!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Dear November

Last week October quietly rolled into November... when we stashed the leftover candy and started eyeing the Christmas decor.

I'm not one of the many who put their Christmas trees up the second they tossed their jack-o-lanterns, but I'm sure this month will see the Bauer halls decked. I love the holiday spirit that comes with the start of November. I'm not just talking about the commercials jam-packed with the latest and greatest toys, either. {Thanks a lot, Nick Jr.} I mean the feeling that the holidays bring. November marks a date that could easily be my favorite holiday, so we're going to kick this week off in style. Today I am going to tell the eleventh month of the year exactly how I feel about it.

Dear November,

I am thankful for you because you transform my commute. Our part of the world is at peak fall color and the splashes of orange and yellow hidden among the green is good for my soul.

I am thankful for the way your leaves show me it's good to let things go.

I am thankful for the way you bring people together, over turkey and football and memories and tradition.

I am thankful for the way you give pause to the year's end. The calendar is so close to winding down and starting over, but November asks us to stop and see the good.

I am thankful for the way you encourage us to consider the things we take for granted. There is so much I forget to count as blessings.

I am thankful for your days of cardigans, boots, and wind-swept hair.

I am thankful for your hot tub nights beneath the stars that remind us we are a tiny part of something incredible.

I am thankful for the fact that your air is often a cross between crackling fire and the crisp early signs of wintertime.

I am thankful for your early sunsets because it's a lot easier to trick kids into early bedtimes.

I am thankful for your call to appreciate what we have. While human nature is longing for what we miss, a good life is lived truly thankful for what we have. I know I have more than enough, and this month I want to steer all my focus into pouring out thanks.

To a season of both thanks and giving, here's to you, November.

May your month be filled with good food, good family, and a good focus on gratitude.
Happy Monday!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Guest Post: Being Rickie's Wife

In this little Internet space of mine, I like to give advice.

It's mostly unsolicited and always unprofessional, but sometimes I think you can relate. My advice is usually centered around parenting, but I've been known to dabble in relationships, too. I can't tell you what will work for you, but I can share the ways I'm getting things to work for me.

Someone recently approached me about offering her own words to my readers, and she has a little more experience under her belt. My mother-in-law Dianne lost her husband {you may know him as Poppy} to ALS in the spring, and since then she's been trying to translate feelings into words. She finished this piece and asked me if I could publish it on November 3, her husband's birthday. I am honored that she shared this with me and proud she wants to share it with you. This expression of love is raw and real and beautiful. Without any more backstory, these are her words:

Being Rickie's Wife

Friends and family have told me that I am spoiled.

I never really thought about it until Rickie got ALS. Things were just how they have always been since we met one January night in 1975. Our first date was at a restaurant named Sambo's, and we were married in less than six months on July 5, 1975. Rickie took care of everything, and I do mean everything. He hung pictures, did maintenance on the car, put gas in the car, and did all the yard work, even though he couldn't breathe afterward. Mostly though, he took care of me.

When he was diagnosed I had no idea what to do or how to do it, but I did know that I was not alone. God was with me. As his disease progressed and I'd think about what I would need to do for him, I would think that I'd never be able to handle it. But God said Yes, you can, and I did. I found out that I was a lot stronger than I knew.

When we were first married, I was not the person I am today and that is because of Rickie. His faith was strong, so mine was, too. We raised Bridget and Jonathan to have strong faith and to trust in Jesus. Jesus loves us so much and He shows me daily how much, just as He did when I was taking care of Rickie. He talks to me, sometimes through the children and sometimes the homily at church seems like it was written for me. As you can see, my faith is stronger and that is because I met and fell in love with Rickie.

We did not have a perfect marriage, there is no such thing, but when you pray together, go to church, raise your children in church, and work at it, a marriage is the greatest thing on Earth. I will cherish our time together and never forget how much he loved me. Now I rejoice in the knowledge that he is no longer sick and can walk and talk with anyone who has gone to Heaven ahead of him. I know for sure he has our angel grand baby in his arms every day.

I will never forget him and there is so much more to say. A lot happens in 42 years, but my job here is not done. I will listen to Jesus and let Him tell me how he wants me to live my life without Rickie. Right now there are good days and bad days and a lot of firsts that are very hard, but I will continue on. I have moved to Hope to start a new chapter in my life and it has been great.

I hope that you all know the love of a good person, but most of all I hope you know the love of Jesus.

I love each and every one of you!
- Mrs. Rickie Bauer

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Fright Night

I could tell you I didn't chase my breakfast with a Milky Way I found in the cup holder of my car...

But we would both know I'm lying.

It took more effort than normal for us to drag our feet to the floor this morning, and I know this is evidence of the dreaded Halloween hangover. While I did, in fact, treat mine with the hair of the {chocolate-covered} dog this morning, I'm already looking forward to spending the first night of November in a more low-key fashion. However, memories from the spookiest night of the year still dance in my head. Let's discuss, shall we?

The threat of Halloween rain loomed in the forecast so when the backpacks hit the floor yesterday afternoon, we rushed the kids into costume. This year's choices included everyone's favorite bookworm princess, Owen Bauer, star batter, and a throwback to the creepy masked murderer of my youth.

We started at both grandmas' houses and worked our way through the neighborhood between. Nora can be a bit timid, but I was impressed by how she opened up. With her yellow ballgown gathered in hand, she was the first to several doors. She eagerly shouted "Trick or Treat!" and was free with the manners and Halloween wishes. While we grinned back at all the little old ladies and young children smiling through their screen doors, the scary house was a different story. If you've read my Halloween posts in years past, you know the one. If not, I'll fill you in.

There's a doctor in my parents' neighborhood who can't end October without meeting his crying baby quota. He rigs up a sound system into which he shrieks and cackles and screams before opening the door. Figures dance in the windows, lights flicker on and off, and children head for the hills. My own kids have fallen victim, but not this year, my friends. Oh, not this year.

Sitting on the good doctor's stoop was a dark figure slumped forward, hidden behind his hanging deadlocks. When kids approached, his hair parted to reveal a horrifying zombie face, complete with a dangling eyeball. Nathan pulled his Scream mask into place and his brother walked up right beside him. They returned safe, proud, and richer in candy. Nora didn't want to even see this house, but her FOMO kicked in fast. She’d only go up if Jonathan would carry her, though. As she watched the scary guy fill her bucket, he looked at her and said:

”Whoa, that's a big dad you've got there!”

And that was one of my daughter's top Halloween moments: When she learned that spooks are completely powerless when she is in her Daddy's arms.

Once the damage was done and the pumpkins were heavy, we made it back to Nana and Grampa's house to check out the candy. This year's haul featured enough chocolate to make it my way and an emoji ring from the dentist down the street. We enjoyed homemade veggie soup and watched Nora scramble from the table with every doorbell ring. Still dressed like a princess, she floated across the kitchen screeching at my dad to detain the trick-or-treaters for her. I think she had just as much fun greeting as she did gathering.

We had a great night and we now have enough candy to last us all winter... or at least 'til Thanksgiving?

How was your Halloween? Do you have a trademarked Scary House in your 'hood?