I Love Your Face.

There is no doubt that our fourth child, Shepherd, is my main squeeze.

I obviously, like any good mother, love all of my children equally, but that doesn’t mean I love them all “the same.”

I love Gid the Kid because he is my firstborn and he’s quirky and he’s vintage and he’s hilarious and he loves me madly and he is Gideon.

I love Rebekah because she is a normal and brilliant and a songbird and my helper and she keeps me sane and she is Rebekah.

I love Betsie because she is a NUTCASE and she entertains me endlessly and she is tender and generous and oh so gloriously ditzy and she is Betsie.

And I love Shepherd because he is, well, perfect.

Not perfect as in sinless.

Perfect as in the EXACT person that I needed in my life at the exact moment in which he joined us.

He has been by my side for almost two years now, and when I say “by my side”, I mean, literally, by my side.

He sits by me.

He sits with me.

He sits near me.

He sits at my feet.

He sits ON me.

Where I go, he goes, and where he goes, I soon follow because when I’m not with him, I miss him.

So the other day, the three big kids were playing upstairs, and Sheppy came and joined me where I was writing in my room. As usual, he gestured for me to hoist him onto the bed (he’s still not talking much), and I hauled his 30 pounds of girth next to my side.

We played tickle fight and made googly faces at each other and gave each other eskimo kisses and were just hanging out like normal, but when I looked over at my open laptop, I had an idea.

Shep has been making faces at himself in the mirror lately, and I thought it might be fun for him to see himself on my laptop’s camera.

I pulled it up, and the next thing I knew, we were having a face-making PARTY, where my little boy was copying every single thing I did. It was an unexpected, unscripted and hilarious surprise in my day, and…

it sort of made my day!

~

Happy face…

cheese

Mean face…

mean face

Super mean face…

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Laughing face…

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Now, quick! Hide!

hide

Touch your nose!

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Stick out your tongue!

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Gimme a kiss!

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Now, turn your head this way…

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Turn your head that way…

headsright

Turn your head the other way…

headsaway

We’re singing!!!!

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Surprised face…

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Super surprised face…

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I tell you what, I love me some Shepherd.

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and I think he loves him some me, too.

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<3 <3 <3

The Day I Took a Walk – Our Tenth Anniversary Celebration

If you are just now joining us for this week’s very special anniversary series and have a hankering to hear all the details, you can catch up by reading Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

However, here is a nutshell recap of what I’ve shared this week that will explain the pictures you are about to see…

Following a strong conviction, my husband and I decided to shelve any ideas of celebrating our 10th anniversary in a distant location and to spend the day, instead, at the homeplace, with our children.

With a heart to make much of our marriage and to celebrate what God has wrought in our family, we each took two of our children that morning – the girls with me and the boys with him – and spent the entire day talking to them about marriage and walking them through the details of the wedding we had shared ten years earlier.

The girls accompanied me on a complete bridal experience in the big city, getting my hair put up, getting my make-up applied and then coming home to hide in the very same room where I had awaited my wedding ceremony.

And as afternoon turned to evening, we left that room and walked down the path my daddy led me down on my wedding day, meeting our boys in our fancy clothes in the EXACT same spot on the back porch where their papa and I said “I do”.

As I stated in one of the above previous posts, this was not a vow renewal, really, but “a meditation of vows already made, a proclamation to our little family that Papa and Mama spoke sacred words of promise to each other ten years ago, words of promise that God designed for men and women to flesh out, words of promise that God alone has helped us to keep, and words of promise that we intend to fulfill, by the grace of God, till death do us part.”

And then, of course, we would have a PARTY!

~

To everyone who has read so faithfully and with such encouraging words all week, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You inspire and motivate me every day of my life, and knowing that you all would be on the receiving end of this experience gave me the courage to proceed when I wanted to chicken out.

I also have to give MAJOR CREDIT to Champagne & Blush Photography for capturing this momentous day for me in perfect fashion. I couldn’t possibly be happier with the finished product – I sincerely cannot stop marveling over Becky’s talent! – and I would love it so much if you would go and ‘like’ her Facebook page here and then check out her other work here.

Now…

FINALLY…

it brings me great pleasure to invite you to join us on the walk we took, as a family, on June 11, 2015, to commemorate the covenantal vows that Mr. Gore and I made on June 11, 2005.

If you’re on board, just say “I do!”

~

After almost two hours of holing ourselves up in my mama and daddy’s room, the girls and I began to get dressed.

Here is Rebekah in her Boden Christmas dress from two years ago. Still gettin’ our money’s worth, and Betsie hasn’t even started wearing it yet!

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And Betsie chose to wear her precious floral-printed birthday dress that was custom-made for her by my beloved friend, Leslie, at My Dear Poppy. A PERFECT choice, if I do say so myself.

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Because most of my dearest friends are family members, including my mama, I chose not to have “official” bridesmaids on my wedding day and to let everyone have a seat and enjoy the wedding from the front row.

I didn’t know then that, in ten short years, I’d have the perfect girls to fill my bridesmaids role, for life.

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After making purchases online and returning purchases online and then finally making a desperate trip to the mall (NOOOOO!!!!), I found the perfect dress for me.

It was pink and shimmery and ladylike and…

I liked it a whole lot.

I scraped a lot of pennies together for this dress, and so I will be wearing it to every wedding I attend for the next decade or two. Just don’t mention it if you see me in it.

“New dress?” you’ll ask.

And I’ll nod and wink at you.

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The bedroom was full of mementos from our wedding day. First, here are my “engagement shoes”, the Jimmy Choo pumps that my husband surprised me with on the night he proposed.

It was a big deal and I want to tell you ALL about it, but you’ll have to wait until my book is finished and then possibly published.

Give me about eight years, mkay?

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Here are my wedding shoes, a pair of beaded, sparkly flats that were perfect for our outdoor wedding. Heels were not an option, unless, of course, I wanted to sink into the dirt with every step I took.

These shoes were just the ticket.

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This is a little letterpress card that I keep in our bedroom next to our wedding portrait.

“Forever thine” is a true sentiment for me, because I frequently ask God to let me be married to Mr. Gore in heaven, or, at the very least, share a duplex with him.

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This floral handkerchief was one of six different prints that were passed out to the female guests as a wedding favor, and on top of it is the silver tussie mussie that my mama carried down the aisle, featuring, not surprisingly, a rose.

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Obviously, we were in a bridal haven, and it was so much fun to spend time with my daughters and my mama, mulling over my memories and getting dolled up.

I had seriously considered getting my girls’ hair fixed at the salon or by one of my talented friends but, in the end, we settled on sponge rollers and curling irons and pretty hair accessories that we had in our collection.

The metal headband and hair comb that the girls wore came from Anthropologie.

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My darling Betsie.

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And OH how sweet it was to still have my mama here to tie my sash for me.

(p.s. On the television in the background is the series of old movie clips that we played on a big-screen at our wedding reception!)

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By the way, Mama was very proud of the bow she tied.

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As the girls and I continued to primp, Becky ran to the other side of the U-shaped house to get some pictures of the boys in the guest bathroom.

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Gideon was given the very important task of holding onto my wedding bands, put back into the box that held them in 2005.

His vest and hat, if you’re wondering, came from Janie and Jack.

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Ring-bearer or best man?

Maybe both.

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I love that Gid took time to explain what was going on to his baby brother, Shepherd. I might have cried just a little when I got to these pictures.

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My handsome menfolk. I’m so proud and so grateful to have them in my home.

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And…

brace yourselves…

Shep is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen or held in my life, and when you put suspenders on something that cute, be prepared to keel over.

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Mr. Gore’s last task of the day was to set up our wedding music, most of which were selections from my favorite movie, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”.

The “June Bride” song was actually the theme for our entire wedding, and it still makes me feel all mushy and gushy when I hear it today.

You can listen to the song and read more marital musings here.

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And here is the spot where it all started, the married life of Mr. and Mrs. Gore.

There were little mason jars of roses hanging all down the fenceline on our wedding day, and garlands of greenery and roses were draping these porch rails.

Thus, at the last minute, I threw a few of our extra roses from Stem’s into some jars to pay homage to our floral arrangements of yesteryear.

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“Ceremony” time!!

When Mr. Gore was a bridegroom, he walked out of this front door with my brother, Jerry, and his mentor, Mat, both of whom were speaking during the service.

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They stepped into the yard, took a right turn, and my beloved waited for me at the bottom of the back porch steps in front of all of our family and friends.

On that day, I did not yet belong to this man.

Today, I have been his for a decade, and I have relished the privilege, with all my heart.

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And the sun was shining through the trees…

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“It’s time!” my mom told us, back in our part of the house, and the girls and I gathered up our flowers and began our walk.

Sometimes I wonder, if there weren’t photographs documenting my wedding day, would I really remember this walk? Would I have a blank spot in my memory from where my nerves took over and the glory of my wedding day blinded my comprehension?

Perhaps.

But there are lots of pictures and so I DO remember it, very well.

My daddy was smiling at me in his handsome suit, and I was smiling back.

The grass was greener than it had ever been before.

The breeze was filled with songs and love and, for a rare and beautiful moment, what felt like utter perfection.

Had Eden come down to visit, just to feed us on our pilgrimage?

I think it did. It felt like sin was gone for just a minute, and suffering, and sadness, and brokenness.

It felt like heaven…

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With the memories of that day assailing me and the sameness of our surroundings flanking me, I tell you for a FACT that my breath was taken right out of me as I stepped through those doors once more with my daughters by my side.

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And as we rounded the corner and saw them – our men! – a lump rose up in my throat the size of Texas.

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They were whistling and clapping and making a grand fuss over us, and I was glad all over again that I had kept this day simple and small.

Now, it won’t surprise any of our Facebook readers that Betsie got a little lost on our walk – she was VERY excited and just took off like a bullet when we walked out the door – but we’re used to our “oh honey” girl and we lassoed her back to where she needed to be.

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And Rebekah, basking in every aspect of this event, performed like a pro. She’s hiring out for weddings now, so if you need a bridesmaid…

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And, um…

here’s me.

Sing along with me, why don’t you, so I don’t feel embarrassed.

♬ Here comes the wife

married for life 

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My family.

When I said “I do” to Mr. Gore, I was a delusional young woman with big dreams that centered around yours truly.

God has used these five people here to change me, through and through, and to teach me what it means to die to myself.

I would be nowhere without them, and I could care less about the stretchmarks that it took to get me to this point.

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Husbands are a blessing and a gift and a treasure.

Children are a heritage from the Lord.

Let’s shout all of the above from our rooftops, yes?!

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I mentioned my ridiculously idyllic imagination yesterday, and in the months leading up to our anniversary, I grew some big ideas about what the following “ceremony” would be like.

We would read our vows aloud to the children, we’d exchange rings, we’d all cry and gaze at one another in devotion, and then we’d pray as a family, hands clasped in heartfelt pleading.

As it turned out, we just had time to exchange rings, quickly.

Silly me, I had completely forgotten about our less-than-two year old and that he doesn’t know how to gaze OR pray yet.

But do you know what?

This was enough.

As Mr. Gore reminded me, we talked to our children about marriage all day, we had dedicated our day and all the details to God, and now it was time to rest and enjoy, wherever the evening (and our circus of a family) led us.

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Funny sidenote: we had a LOT more trouble getting those little rings on each other’s fingers on our 10th anniversary than we did on our wedding day.

Oh, well. That just means we’ve enjoyed a jolly and bountiful decade, don’t you agree?

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And then, because my husband was both bridegroom and minister, he demanded that I kiss him.

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Twice.

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Kissing still makes me happy, even though I’m 33.

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But a word of caution to all you young ones out there. Kissing is the BEST…

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but it tends to multiply.

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which is the only kind of math that I like. ;)

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Ladies and gentlemen of the internet…

it is my TRUE honor and pleasure to present to you…

Mr. and Mrs. Gore!!!

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till death do us part

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Sweet story, when I was preparing for my wedding day, I had gathered up clips from my favorite movie weddings to use as inspiration.

The candles hanging in the trees came from “Anne of Green Gables”.

The hymn singing came from June Allyson’s “Little Women”.

However, the one detail I was never able to mimic was a scene from the American Girl “Samantha” movie where, after Uncle Gard and Cordelia kiss as man and wife, Samantha pulls on a sash that releases hundreds of rose petals from a contraption above them, surrounding them in a shower of, well, flowers.

I did NOT plan this next picture, but when Gideon told us to kiss ONE more time because he had a surprise for us in his hands, Becky had her camera ready.

Sigh. My falling rose petals.

My life is now complete.

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After the ceremony, we took some family pictures in the various pastures surrounding the house.

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And then, just like on our wedding day, we strolled down the path that led to our reception by the creek.

Ten years ago, my daddy and his friends built an open-air wooden pavilion for the wedding, and we decided we’d end our anniversary party by going there to enjoy some cake together.

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Ten years ago…

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Today…

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What God has joined together, let no man put asunder, and the next picture displays one of the most important reasons why.

Friends, let us fight for our marriages for the glory of God, and for our children.

They deserve to see us dying to ourselves and choosing to love one another, for life.

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Denying myself and living for this crew of people has brought me more happiness than I have ever known, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

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During our “ceremony”, my mom, without whom ANY of my blog or fun parties or peace of mind would exist, ran down to the pavilion to set out all the supplies we had gathered.

She did a beautiful job, and it was a feast for my eyes.

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This strawberry cake, from Queenie’s Cafe in Tulsa, was the most beautiful and delicious wedding cake, and we order one almost every anniversary.

The Fred and Ginger figurines were our “cake-toppers” and they dance all their days away on the dresser in our bedroom.

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Now that I’m a grown-up, I can cut cake. This is what all that “dying to myself” has resulted in.

I used to make someone else cut my cake for me.

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Before digging in, we showed the kids how we had crossed arms in the tradition of newlyweds and drank some much-needed ice water on our wedding day.

Whether it is 2005 or 2015, the same is true: Oklahoma is HOT.

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then we fed each other cake…

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and then we partied, relaxing as a family and enjoying the sweetest fruits of creation:

life.

love.

laughter.

strawberry cake.

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Before we headed back to the house, Becky, a TRUE honorer of details, took some more photographs for us.

These are the earrings that I wore on my wedding day, and I hope my daughters will enjoy them when they marry.

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This blue ribbon holding my bouquet of roses together was used on so many of our wedding details, including the mason jars, the invitations, and the choir songbooks.

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And I don’t know if Becky planned this or not, but I couldn’t believe it when I saw this picture.

Here’s my daddy on the day of my wedding in 2005, shuttling guests around the farm in his Kawasaki Mule…

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and here he is in 2015, stopping by after fishing to steal a piece of cake!

That’s a pretty trusty Mule, ain’t it?!

And the vehicle’s not so bad either!

(thank you, thank you very much – my mom really got a kick out of that joke.)

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As my mama began packing up our party, we sat down for just a few more family pictures…

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and then we called it a night and returned to the house, the same house we slowly walked to after being the last guests to leave our own wedding ten years ago.

But this time…

we RAN.

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Cinderella reportedly said “One shoe can change your life.”

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I, after ten years of wedded bliss, am much inclined to agree.

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~

Thank you, again, for joining our family for this very special occasion! My greatest prayer is that God would have used our celebration to draw your hearts back home.

Marriage and family have become disposable in our world and it is time, Christians, that we claim them back for the glory of God, for the health of His Church, and for the spread of the Kingdom.

Marriage belongs to God. May we treat it right, cover it in prayer, and maybe, just maybe, throw it a great big party every once in awhile.

~

And now I invite you to share! Join me in spreading the word that marriage is worth fighting for and that being a wife can be even sweeter than being a bride. Pick a pin, any pin! 

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The Day I Took a Walk – Part Three

New to this week’s anniversary series? Read Part One and Part Two

~

The morning of our anniversary dawned as beautifully as our wedding day did ten years ago, but this time, of course, there were children in my bed.

Funny how that works.

Having already delivered all of the necessary supplies to my parent’s house two nights before, the girls and I were free to wake up leisurely and get our day started before being picked up by my mama for our fun bridal-esque day on the town.

Mom and I giggled a bit to recall our identical drive a decade past, leaving my capable sister-in-law, Amy, in charge of all of the wedding chaos back at the house while we enjoyed our last day together sharing the same home and last name. (Thanks again, Amy – you were awesome! I will owe you FOREVER!)

As my mama’s baby and only girl following three sons, the two of us had really savored every possible second of the entire bridal experience, and while I would maybe do a few things differently in retrospect (i.e. save my parents some money by toning things down a notch), we were feeling absolutely on top of the world that day.

And so it was fun to see a similar glee on my daughter’s faces as we loaded up into my mom’s SUV. I’m sure you know this already, but one of the crowning joys of life is having girls in your life to do girly stuff with.

And can I just say that I was so proud of Betsie for being brave enough to wear her sponge rollers all over Tulsa, although I am sure she soon realized that it was a wise choice, as every woman we passed stopped in her tracks to fawn over the cuteness and nostalgia that her ‘do evoked.

Maybe I’ll try to wear sponge rollers to Tulsa someday. Do you think people will think I’m cute?

Yeah, okay, maybe I won’t.

So our first stop was to the donut shop to get donut holes because donuts are important, whether it is your anniversary or not.

Next, we drove to the flower shop to pick out our flowers. We didn’t actually get our wedding flowers from Stem’s in 2005, but we did have roses at our wedding and Stem’s has roses, so there you go. Plus it was in the same shopping center we would be in all day.

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Did you know that The Pioneer Woman has shopped here before? I could feel her lingering presence. That’s why I’m really smiling in this picture, not because it is my anniversary and I’m about to get my hair did.

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Stem’s always has a gorgeous selection of flowers. It was hard to leave without buying the whole room!

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Next, because we were a little bit early for my first appointment, we stopped in at Pottery Barn Kids to waste some money…er, time.

I wonder, sometimes, if Pottery Barn Kids recognizes our family as the people who come and play with toys but never buy anything?

I hope not.

We make up for it at Christmastime.

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And then it was time for my hair appointment at Ihloff Salon and Day Spa, the magical place where I spent many hours in the months leading up to my wedding getting groomed and scrubbed and polished, and where I had my hair done for bridal portraits and our wedding.

I touched on this already in Part Two of this series, but it felt so strange to be having an updo as an old washed-up woman in her thirties.

At least, that’s how we allow ourselves to think sometimes, isn’t it?

Which leads me to the second part of the lesson I told you about yesterday.

If I’m being quite transparent, and I thank you for allowing me to do so, I would have to confess that this was not an ideal time in my mind to be focusing an entire day and photo shoot around myself.

Shepherd’s pregnancy – and my ruthless craving for hamburgers that accompanied that pregnancy, I am sure – was hard on my body, and almost two years later, I have yet to return to my favorite weight range and the size of clothing that I feel most comfortable with.

It doesn’t help much, of course, that Sheppy is a devoted cuddlebug who hypnotizes me with his preciousness at least five times a day. While Betsie had me on my feet every second of her awake-time trying to keep her alive, therefore causing the pounds to just fall off of me, Sheppy is more like, “Hey, Mom, you want to sit here on the couch with me and let everything that we just ate turn into fat?”

It’s cute.

And I always say “Why, yes, Sheppy, I DO.”

And I say all that not to fish for compliments and not to give the impression that I am unhappy with the way I look – on most days, I feel perfectly fine and passably attractive for a mom of four kids in her early thirties.

But a photo shoot?! Where I’m the star? And where there isn’t a baby on my hip, camouflaging my midsection, at all times?

Awkward.

Therefore, this surprisingly painful practice of forging ahead and being the “woman of the hour” was good for me, not only to battle the self-consciousness that can so easily hold dominion over a woman’s spirit – even a woman who holds to all the right theologies! – but to display to my daughters that this earthly shell of mine isn’t something that I will shrink under.

We have bigger fish to fry, do we not?

And do you know what?

I totally went for it. And, please, feel free to go ahead and applaud for me because I didn’t even wear a SHAWL. Sleeveless, baby, for maybe the first time in public in I don’t even KNOW when.

Okay, it was a cap sleeve, but now you’re just being picky.

And the moral of this section of my anniversary series is as follows…

most husbands don’t want perfect-looking wives, they just want confident wives who aren’t so obsessed with their bodies that they keep them under lock and key both in and out of the bedroom.

On this day and on this anniversary weekend, I chose to be confident for my man, and believe you me, he was a fan. ;) ;) ;)

Moving on, before we get to the fun of our outing, there is one last secret that I’d like to pass along, a secret that applies to all family gatherings, especially when children are involved, and it this: though beautiful and touching in theory, this momentous day of ours was no more perfect than any other day outside of the gates of Eden.

Let me explain.

I was telling my friend, Kodi, that I am the queen of dreaming up these idyllic scenarios about the special moments I will share with my family.

In my imagination, there is always laughter and frolicking and I’m never sweating or feeling like I could wring someone’s neck.

And, in my projections for this day, in particular, my impressionable daughters would most assuredly be sitting on the edge of their seats, watching their beloved mother being transformed into a vision of timeless beauty. Their eyes would sparkle as they would watch my hair being pinned up, and they would meditate on how happy they are to have landed in my nest.

HA.

Fake, boooooooored smiles.

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Five minutes into my updo, Rebekah chirped, “How long do we have to be here? Can we go back to Pottery Barn Kids?”

Betsie, who was hanging like a monkey from the neighboring stylist’s chair, dropped to the floor and nodded her head in agreement.

And I realized again, in that moment, that my children are humans – especially on holidays! – and that I should just sit back and enjoy my day in a realistic manner. No pressure on anyone, just love and humor, and this attitude would most certainly serve me well the entire day, and really, my entire life.

I hope you’ll remember this at your next Easter Egg hunt when everyone is crying, your kids have changed into sweatpants without your permission, your hair is wind-blown and stuck to your lipgloss and your underarms have leaked sweat onto your blouse for all the world to see.

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My mom, ever the astute helper, soon whisked the girls off for about an hour, leaving me and my stylist, Whitney, to chat and relax…

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and they returned just in time to see the last pin being slipped into my fifty pounds of hair. (I sincerely felt sorry for this sweet lady who had to figure out how to arrange that mess!)

Before leaving, she put on the finishing touch, the crystal brooch that was pinned in my hair ten years earlier, and then we moved down the street to my make-up session at Saks Fifth Avenue, which was, you guessed it, exactly where I went on my wedding day.

The girls felt a little perkier about this portion of our day – they love make-up! – and Debra at the Trish McEvoy counter was so accommodating to our little party.

How nice it felt to sit at my leisure and have a professional gussy me up. The only problem was, this make-up application felt SO good and relaxing, I just wanted to go night-night when it was all over.

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And now I’d like to display to you for just a second what it is like to sit with Betsie during church…

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Oh! And have I mentioned yet that girls are fun?!

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Before we left for the day, Rebekah and Betsie got to join in the pampering, and they were giddy with excitement.

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I share my lipgloss with them faithfully, but this was another level, entirely.

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On our way out of Utica Square, we picked up the cake at Queenie’s Cafe — the same strawberry cake that was featured on the dessert table at our wedding — the flowers that had been put back for us at Stem’s, and supper for all of us to eat after the celebration.

And then?

We were off!

While the drive to Tulsa had been almost identical to the one I took on my wedding day – heart full of excitement to luxuriate in a bridal transformation – the drive home was much different.

There were no nerves this time.

No fears or doubts.

No somberness about the life I was leaving behind.

Only praise and gratitude from mulling over how good God has been, pure excitement about spending the evening with my favorite people, and, honestly, relief that this entire shenanigan was almost successfully concluded!

Turning onto my parent’s country road from the highway, we stopped and pointed out to the girls where, ten years earlier, their Papa had been standing in the bar-ditch with my brother, Pete, propping up an antique door that told wedding guests where to turn.

As mom and I had slowed down to greet them that late afternoon, Mr. Gore had turned his back to me so he wouldn’t see me before the wedding, and I felt like I was going to burst. I’d had butterflies galore in that moment, and I had them again, just thinking about my bridegroom who has stood by my side for a beautiful decade.

When we finally pulled up into the driveway, Rebekah, Betise and I scurried to my mom and dad’s room through the back door while Mama went through the front door to deliver strict orders to the boys not to come back there.

It was a full-out GIRLS ONLY moment, and the next hour or so was spent thumbing through our wedding album, watching our wedding ceremony on DVD (Rebekah could not BELIEVE how “adorable” her papa was!) and watching the collection of old movie clips that had played on a big projector screen at our wedding reception.

And then, just like on my wedding day, the evening swung into full gear, Becky arrived with all of her camera equipment, we began to get dressed in our fancy clothes, and then, well…

then we took a walk.

~

I vow to you that you’ll see EVERY BIT of that walk, tomorrow!

The Day I Took a Walk – Part Two

Read Part One here

~

As the day of our 10th anniversary drew closer, the details of the special celebration we’d decided upon began to take shape, bit by bit.

I bought a dress.

I gathered up some prospective outfits for the Mister and our four small children.

I made a couple of appointments.

And as everything fell slowly into place, I began to feel that this day that had been capturing my dreams really might have been Spirit-led. This plan was burning inside of me and the very thought of it frequently brought tears to my eyes.

However, there was still one major component lacking, and it was pretty imperative, as far as I was concerned. Forgive me, please, if I bumble in the paragraphs to come, for I’m afraid that I don’t even have the words for this part…

As you might remember, our default photographer of all special family occasions, Benjamin Grey Photography, moved to Kentucky last year.

I was devastated, not just to see two of my favorite people on the planet leave our hometown, but also to lose some of my most dependable and enthusiastic blog cohorts. Teamwork is an important factor in creative endeavors, and I had grown so accustomed to having someone just down the street who could help me get the pictures out of my head and into reality.

Thus, when it came to hiring someone to capture our special day for us, I didn’t even know where to start. My taste runs high but my budget runs short, and homemade granola, blog exposure and maybe a Benjamin Franklin or less had always been enough to satisfy our very talented photography buddies.

Pardon me, but how was I even supposed to approach someone new with those terms about joining the Mrs. Gore’s Diary team without sounding like a beggar or a lunatic?

Especially because the “Mrs. Gore’s Diary team” isn’t even a real thing, unless, of course, you travel through the delusional and/or egotistical regions of my own brain.

To say I was stumped was an understatement.

Finally, just grasping for straws one day, I contacted a young woman on Facebook who grew up in my church.

She lives quite far from us, but she is a beyond talented wedding photographer who seemed to be in a creative network, of sorts, and I thought she might have some connections in the Tulsa area and could at least make a recommendation for us to begin a conversation with someone…anyone! I was growing less picky by the minute!

Thus – and I’m getting to the good part, I promise – you can only imagine my delight and shock when she, right off the bat, volunteered for the job.

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

I couldn’t believe it, and I still can’t, really.

Praise the Lord for his sovereignty and kindness, she would actually be in a neighboring town on THE night of our anniversary, and the two of us proceeded with excited and giggly plans from there.

Now, I could try most vehemently not to gush about this girl’s talent and generosity, but it would be of no use.

Becky, of Champagne and Blush Photography, was on board from the very beginning of our correspondence, she caught the exhaustive vision of what I wanted this day to be, and she completely captured every single thing on camera (which I’ll be sharing with you so soon!) that I could possibly have dreamed of: the history of our wedding day ten years ago, my parent’s homeplace where I grew up and got married, our crazy-but-beautiful life with four children, and, basically, every single detail that would deeply minister to my heart as I looked back on this tangible portrait of what God has wrought in the life of a woman who, a decade ago, had no inkling of what lay ahead for her.

In other words, Becky captured the “then” of our life together and she captured the “now”, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for on the evening of our 10th anniversary, a “marrying”, if you will, of our wedding day to our present life as mother and father.

Obviously, there had been no Gideon in 2005. No Rebekah. No Betsie. No Shepherd.

The people who, for the most part, completely make up our world today were years from even being formed! It might have just been the two of us a decade ago, but today we are six, and since they are basically our best friends and constant companions, neither Mr. Gore nor myself could even begin to think of commemorating this day without our children. We are a family, and if one of us celebrates, by golly, we ALL celebrate.

And so here, finally, is the outline of our grand plan.

On the morning of our anniversary, Mr. Gore would take the boys for the day, and the girls and I would go with my mom through a full repeat of all the things that I did on my wedding day.

I and the girls would not lay eyes on the boys all day long.

I would get my hair swept up into something fancy at a salon.

I would get my make-up professionally applied.

We would drive home from Tulsa and hide in my parent’s bedroom where I hid on the day of my wedding.

And then, as afternoon turned to evening, we would exit the french doors that my daddy and I stepped through on June 11, 2005, to begin that momentous walk that changed my life in ways I never saw coming.

With my little girls beside me, I would revisit that exact path — out the little gate to the pasture, down the fenceline, through the big gate that enters the yard, and down the grass-covered aisle that was flanked by white folding chairs — but this time, rather than being met by a waiting crowd of guests, a choir, a minister, and most importantly, my fiance, it would simply be our boys, my husband and my sons, standing on the exact spot on the porch where I said “I do” to Mr. Gore and became his wife.

This was not a vow renewal, really.

It was a meditation of vows already made, a proclamation to our little family that Papa and Mama spoke sacred words of promise to each other ten years ago, words of promise that God designed for men and women to flesh out, words of promise that God alone has helped us to keep, and words of promise that we intend to fulfill, by the grace of God, till death do us part.

And, oh my goodness, what a surreal experience this turned out to be, from start to finish, and I do believe I could write up an essay comparing the mentality of brides versus that of wives and mothers.

It’s funny, the crystal earrings I had worn on my wedding day and pulled out of hiding had not changed a bit.

The yard had not changed, except, of course, for the playset my parents set up for the grandkids.

The music we played on our ipod was identical, note for note, to the music we enjoyed during our ceremony and reception.

But I, the blushing bride of yesteryear, have CHANGED, and I’m not just talking physically!

For starters, I was so very tired by the time this event arrived.

Granted, there had been a pretty important Cinderella birthday party for our daughters only six days before this anniversary celebration, but still. Where did all of that energy come from when I was a soon-to-be newlywed?! How was I able to plan an event – that included a full supper, mind you! – for 400 guests in the middle of nowhere at the age of 23, yet barely manage to pull off a simple dessert party for our six family members in that same location a mere ten years later?

There had, indeed, been a lot of shopping to do, including my dress. There were clothes to gather up and iron for all four kids and my husband. There was wedding day memorabilia to dig out of storage and transport to my mom and dad’s house. There were hair and make-up appointments to schedule, after extensive research with all of my peeps on the Mrs. Gore’s Diary team. There were photography details to discuss with Becky. There was music to purchase and download. There was a cake to order and pick up. There was an outdoor pavilion to clean and decorate.

Not to mention, of course, a thorough scrubbing of my own house, where my husband and I would stay, alone, for two nights after leaving the kids with my parents.

I kid you not, by the time our anniversary finally arrived, I was almost too pooped to party!

But, even more noticeable than the exhaustion I was feeling in my body were the surprising changes that have occurred in my attitude after ten years of being a wife and eight years of being a mother.

When I was a bride, I felt pretty much entitled to all that was being done for me. This was my wedding, after all, and while I was no bridezilla, I didn’t shrink from a sliver of the attention or the pampering that was consistently coming my way throughout my entire season of betrothal.

Therefore, it truly took me off guard, about halfway through the planning stage for this anniversary celebration, to find that I am just no longer fully comfortable with splurging on myself, an art that I formerly excelled in!

The expense of this simple celebration made me positively squirm, I tell you, especially when it came to my own dress and appointments.

“This is such a waste of money…” I thought to myself as I made the call to schedule my updo. “And for what? To only be seen by a handful of people, most of whom are under the age of 9? To just go home after we eat cake and call it a night? WHY did I decide to do this??

Frankly, I was embarrassed. I had made all of these appointments and I had spent all this money and I had done all this work and I had hired a photographer, and it just all seemed so goofy and indulgent and unnecessary for a minute.

But then do you know what I did, and I sometimes wonder if this, too, was inspired by the Spirit?

I considered my prom nights as a junior and senior in high school, and therein found a new and confident resolve: if a girl can spend hundreds of dollars and take all sorts of pains to look amazing and special for a guy or a group of friends that she, for the most part, will only see on Facebook in the years to come, why on earth should she not do the same for her beloved and faithful husband, the person with whom she intends to spend a lifetime?

She should, by jing!

And she should do so with giddiness and gladness.

Which leads me to the biggest lesson I learned through this entire anniversary experience, a lesson I knew before, but whose resolve has been more deeply etched onto my heart than EVER before…

Marriage is worth fighting for.

It is worth our time.

It is worth our exhaustion.

It is worth our discomfort.

It is worth our money.

It is worth pampering and spoiling and getting fixed up for.

It is worth everything we can give it.

And this night of celebrating and luxuriating, though definitely out of the ordinary for Mr. and Mrs. Gore, was a cradling of our vows that I will never, ever forget…

and never, no, NEVER regret.

~

Thank you for joining us for this anniversary series! Stay tuned for more, tomorrow!

The Day I Took a Walk

On June 11, 2005, I took a walk.

My daddy’s arm was intertwined with mine and, as we passed by the long rows of white chairs holding our lifelong family members and friends in the backyard of our country home, my white satin gown was dragging the ground behind me, and I thought that I must be the happiest girl in the world.

Mr. Gore met me at the end of that early evening stroll, and he took my hand and he made me a promise.

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Ten years have passed since that beautiful day in June and, as the months were drawing nearer to the day of our anniversary, my husband and I began to discuss how we might celebrate. Our anniversary, bringing up the rear in a string of family birthdays, always seems to take the back burner, and the last time we actually appropriately celebrated our special day had been about five years and counting.

We wanted to do things right this time.

There were talks of returning to the seminary in Louisville, KY, where we spent our first years as man and wife.

There were dreams — okay, maybe just on my part — of taking a road trip through Texas’s Hill Country during bluebonnet season.

We even volleyed about the idea of traveling to Colorado with the kids, a state we’ve wanted to introduce them to for years.

But none of the ideas we came up with, fabulous as they sounded, seemed to match up with the weightiness I was feeling in my heart concerning this important milestone we were about to celebrate.

My heart was deeply stirred, drenched in sentimentality, and I couldn’t shake the persistent yearning to partake in an anniversary celebration that would satisfy all of the thoughts and emotions that were welling up within me concerning my husband, our life together, and the ten years we have traveled through as man and wife.

Fast forward to last week, the week after our anniversary, when a friend at church asked me how I had come up with the idea for the celebration we ended up settling on.

I was speechless for a minute, but finally, I responded with the only answer that seemed truthful.

“I think it was actually the Holy Spirit,” I laughed.

And I really mean that.

~

Marriage is under attack on a worldwide level.

And I’m not talking about the political agenda of the democratic party, or the recent Supreme Court decision.

I’m talking about within the Church.

Every day, it seems, there is news of another divorce amongst professing believers, another scandalous affair, another set of vows crumbling under the weight of our culture’s wooing. It breaks my heart.

And, believe me, it’s not as if I think I am better.

I’m terrified, actually, and when I hear these stories, I am driven to my knees, not because I’m sad on a purely sympathetic level, but because I’m scared.

That could be me, you know.

That could be Mr. Gore.

That could be us.

Because, if I’ve learned one thing in the last ten years about the union of marriage, it is that a lifelong agreement between two sinners is in most desperate need of a divine Helper.

I didn’t understand marriage when I first got married, no, not at all.

When we first said our “I do’s” I, like so many brides, was dizzy under the fog of romance and fairy tales and happily-ever-afters. Yes, I tried to agree somewhere in my brain with all the Christian platitudes that we were proclaiming about marriage being a picture of Christ and the Church and so on and so forth and whatever else the preacher said that day, but…

secretly, I knew we were going to “make it” in this business of marriage because we were in LOVE! Mr. Gore was my Prince Charming and I was his dream wife. We were PERFECT for each other!

However, as the pixie dust fell slowly to the ground in the wake of years and babies and surgeries and budgets, my love underwent a steady transformation, morphing into something a little less fluffy and naive and more realistic and grounded.

But here’s the good part, and the part that I am most passionate to proclaim to anyone reading today…

it has been a love no less beautiful.

In fact, I truly believe the love I have for my husband today is even more beautiful than it was the day I became a bride, and I am sure that many wives of Christian husbands who are eager to love them in grace and truth, would agree.

I love my husband now not simply because he makes my heart flitter around like a thousand butterflies, but because God helps me to love him.

I die for him not just because he fills up my mind and my heart on a 24-hour a day basis, but because God enables me to lay down my life for his sake, even, incredibly, when I don’t want to.

And would you believe that these sorts of binding matrimonial chains are incredibly freeing?

In fact, I daresay they taketh my breath away!

The world is an expert in downplaying the beauty of marital love. They make it look ugly and fat and boring and like something that is only worth celebrating on day one.

The bridal industry is booming, while years and sometimes only months down the road, marriages are unraveling like the Berber carpet on our stairs. In other words, everyone wants to be a bride, but few people want to be a wife.

We need help.

Love that is easy and without blemish is sweet to look at. I’d be lying if I said the moony eyes of a young couple in love didn’t soften my heart and lead me to all kinds of goose-bumpy nostalgia.

But love that has learned to endure, love that has found triumph and joy after seasons of busyness, of coldness, of exhaustion, of stress…

it is a city on a hill.

Because that sort of love, while admittedly more gritty than the newlywed version, points back to a loving Savior who makes the broken whole, who can enable men and women to die to themselves daily, and who can cause the naturally faithless to cling to one another in an oath that causes them to soar.

The glory of it all makes me desperate.

I want my kids to witness this truthful and biblical beauty of marriage, on a daily basis. The after-the-happily-ever-after. The romance of “true love”, but mixed with a little bit of life and proof.

And do you know what? I want the Church and the world to see it, too.

Thus, it soon became clear that I didn’t want to go to Texas or Colorado or Kentucky for our 10-year anniversary.

I wanted to take a walk, and I wanted my kids to be there with me.

~

I am beyond excited to share this anniversary series with you! Please stay tuned for Part Two, coming up tomorrow!

To the Little Pipsqueaks

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To the little pipsqueaks who try to run my house,

You try to fool me.

You, with your loud crying that blocks out my sensory abilities and causes my confidence to shrink to the size of a popcorn kernel.

I can’t think of what to do for you because you know what? I CAN’T THINK!!!

You older ones pepper me with enough rapid-fire questions that I forget all of the knowledge about all of the things. I’m not just unconfident now, I’m also dumb!

Sure, I might have a college degree gathering dust on top of the filing cabinet, but your unanswerable questions have caused me to wonder if I got my money’s worth.

Sometimes,  especially during the dreaded witching hour, you peck at me as a unit until I am a shell of a woman, hunkered down and shoveling snacks into my mouth like a starving goblin. My favorite is your puffy Cheetoh’s because they pile up in my teeth and I can feel something again.

You know what? This is called bullying, and it is really looked down upon on the internet.

When the phone rings, I dive under the table in horror. Phones were scary to me before, but now? With the clamor of your childhood in the background? The thought of trying to talk to a medical professional or an insurance person whilst peeling your ten thousand fingers off of my clothes and getting away from you is enough to break me out in hives!

I have gone through three sets of shut and locked doors before to flee from your presence and ended up having a phone conversation in the toilet room of the bathroom with my finger in my free ear SO I COULD HEAR! Anxiety. So much anxiety.

And even though you are a pipsqueak, do you know what I do?

I let you grow bigger than ME! And I hurry to cut the crust off your sandwich and I surf Netflix for two-and-a-half hours trying to find a show that will please the highnesses and I let you squeeze me into the middle of my king-sized bed with just enough breathing room to keep me alive for the night.

But you know what I realize sometimes as I’m slathering shampoo on your scrawny heads and you’re standing, naked, in the shower and you don’t even reach my belly-button?

I’m taller than you!

And you don’t even know how to get this shampoo out of your hair!

And the ways that I am bigger and older and smarter than you are COUNTLESS, my minions.

I can write in cursive. You can’t even write.

I can cook foods of various sorts. You’re not allowed to touch the toaster. Even the simplest of all the breakfast foods – dry toast! – is out of your grasp.

I have lots of important numbers and passwords memorized. I know your grandma’s telephone number and who to call in case of an emergency and how to order pizza. You don’t even know how to SPELL pizza and if you tried, you would leave out one of the z’s because you don’t know the RULES. I know all the rules.

I have big girl panties and you don’t. Like, seriously, they’re really, really big.

I have bras and lipstick and high heels and slips and keys and flashdrives and all of the grown-up stuff, and I’ve had it for YEARS.

I haven’t wet the bed since my last pregnancy.

I can chew gum anytime I want because you know what? I am responsible. I know what to do with gum. I don’t swallow it. I don’t stick it under the bed. I don’t play with it. I chew it and I throw it away when I’m done and I have THREE packs of it in my purse in three different flavors because why? I’m an adult. With fresh breath! Your breath smells like a gutwagon all day long. I’m not kidding. It stinks so bad.

And so it’s obvious. I’m the grown-up here. I have 5 feet and 8 inches of mommy girth in my favor and enough leftover baby weight to make a small human.

If it weren’t for me, this house would be an infested germ pool of filth and nastiness and you would be eating string cheese and dry Cheerio’s for supper.

Okay, so that’s what I actually just fed you for supper, but you get my point.

I can just see it so clearly sometimes. Not often, but sometimes.

You’re little.

I’m big.

I’m capable.

You’re dependent.

I’m the grown-up in this house and I will ALWAYS be the grown-up in your life, even when you have gum and passwords of your own.

I’m going to try to have more confidence in myself and more patience with you.

You don’t know what you’re doing here, do you?

I don’t either, really, but the good thing for both of us is that I at least know more than you, you precious, darling, “spirited” little pipsqueak.

Now get out of my bathroom, please. I need to make a phone call.

~

Thank you for reading this all-in-good-fun post! Kids are the best, especially when we see them as they are: LITTLE. Join us for more fun and inspiration at our Facebook page!

Have Courage and Be Kind – a Cinderella Birthday Party

If I recall correctly, I have already spent thousands of words discussing in detail how passionately I adored the new live-action Cinderella movie. You can read all about it here.

But what you may not know is that another one of the reasons I loved the movie was…

ahem (materialism alert)…

this dress.

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The one on the left, not the one on the right.

I mean, I love the one on the right, too, it’s just that I’m personally still too postpartum to wear an ankle-length all-over floral fabric, even if it was broken up in the midsection with a darling pink apron.

Nevermind the fact that my “baby” is almost 2 years old.

ANYHOW, where was I?

Oh, yes, the dress on the left.

It just basically sent me into sentimental hysterics before I was ten minutes into the movie. Don’t judge, mkay? Wardrobes speak to me. Always have. Always will. Even if I joined a nunnery!

Therefore, well after the movie had concluded – all the way home, in fact – my mind was sort of racing, daydreaming intently about how I could find such a dress for Rebekah.

It is, after all, one of my favorite ways to celebrate girlhood, this adorning of my daughters in frocks that pay homage to the timelessness and beauty of being little and free and pure. It’s such a short season. Let’s frame it in a floral print and a bit of lace, yes?

And, just like that, before I could really consciously make the decision, the “Rebekah of Sunnybrook Farm” birthday party I had been planning for my soon-to-be 6-year old was kicked resolutely to the curb and a new vignette was replacing it.

Goodbye, gingham and haybales and overalls and teacup pigs.

Helloooooo, Cinderella!!!

~

First things first, where in the world was I going to find a dress like Ella’s for this party?

I could hardly sleep that night, I was so excited, and well after my family had dozed off, after perusing all my favorite stores for a suitable dress, I withdrew to Facebook and shared the above photo with my little friend, Leslie (“little” as in much younger than me, much smaller, and much like a tiny, beloved pixie that I would keep in my cupboard, if I could).

Leslie has always shared my love for nostalgia and vintage, and I have long felt that she, young whippersnapper though she be, might rival me in her ability to find all the stuff that must be bought on the internets. Thus, if anyone could help me out or, at the very least, sympathize with my plight, it would be her.

And, on this night, she totally won the title of Internet Shopping Queen. In one fell swoop, she dethroned me and I now will forever bow in reverence to my successor.

Because, before the night was up, Leslie had somehow miraculously found THE EXACT FABRIC of the dress in the movie and had promised to sew up a dress for me.

(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Yes, sure, the fabric was in Great Britain, and, okay, it was $36 per yard (more than I even paid for my couch upholstery!), and, granted, Leslie lives in Kentucky and this entire project would have to be done through the mail, but…

still…

how often does a girl get the chance to have the exact same dress as the actress portraying the younger version of Cinderella in a blockbuster movie???

(Leave me alone. I know I’m a weirdo).

Obviously, I was giddy with my peculiar brand of excitement, and the following Cinderella party sprang forth from that first night of scheming on the internet.

The following week, I proceeded to purchase a “Have Courage and Be Kind” print at Etsy.

I next bought a ceramic goose at Hobby Lobby. (Because…duh…have you seen the movie??)

I then began to pressure my amazing friend, Tammy, who HATES making cake balls, into making thirty cake ball pumpkins.

And it was sometime after purchasing the goose, I think, that I realized I had better get more bang for my buck and make this another SISTER party (like this one that we did two years ago!).

Betsie and Rebekah celebrate birthdays only nine days apart, and it just seemed crazy this year to invest in two separate girl parties when we could do this one big shindig together.

Leslie quickly began scouring the internet for another fabric that would coordinate with Rebekah’s dress and soon added another Cinderella-inspired frock to her sewing line-up and…

well, the rest is most definitely history.

Wanna see?

 

~

First, I obviously have to show you the dresses.

Leslie mailed them to us by post in this gorgeous packaging that may or may not have made me cry, a personalized garment bag for each girl, along with two little mice boasting ears made of matching dress fabric (I know, right?!)…

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And the actual dresses are everything I hoped they would be, lightweight and gorgeous and comfy and perfect.

I paid for the fabric and supplies and shipping and Leslie wrote the rest off as “an experimental prototype” (a.k.a. the sweetest and most generous birthday gift ever), but if you have wealth of any sort and would like to have a Cinderella dress custom-made for your little girl, Leslie is offering a very limited number of these in her new Etsy shop, My Dear Poppy.

I cannot praise my friend’s work highly enough and I am SO VERY proud of her. You can find her – and the dresses! (and lots of cute vintage-inspired baby clothes!) – by clicking here.

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Here’s a picture of just Rebekah in her dress. You’ll see more of Betsie’s dress in the weeks to come! She’s a wiggly little thing and hard to get a picture of. :)

This picture is a little fuzzy, but you get the gist.

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Now, backtracking just a bit, before the party started, I had several hours to myself to set everything up.

If you watch the show “Fixer Upper”, this was my JoJo moment, where I had time to myself to create and use my noggin. Many thanks to my sweet friend, Kodi, for understanding a mama’s need for quiet on birthday days by offering to watch my children all afternoon!

First up is the food table, bedecked with pretty flowers from Sprout’s. The butterfly clips were purchased at the $1 bin at Michael’s (and were on sale for 15 cents apiece!), and found a perfect home on a branch that was winding its way around this tree. The “One Shoe Can Change Your Life” sign is from my bedroom, given to me when Mr. Gore proposed to me with a pair of engagement shoes in 2004.

Whoopsie, I’ve never told you that story, have I?…

Someday, I promise.

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Here’s some plates and whatnot. This tuh-die-fer chair was my Christmas gift from my mama. You can find it in an assortment of colors here. The little pink table is from my favorite antiques store in the state, The Pink Lily, in Jenks, Oklahoma. You can find the shop on Facebook by clicking here.

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The party was set up in front of an old grape arbor that is currently holding up our climbing roses, which, by the way, were blooming brilliantly the week BEFORE this party.

Not so much anymore.

Whatevs.

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Here’s the dessert table, our antique buffet, dragged outside and heavy-laden with treats and sweets. Tiny cupcakes, mini bundt cakes, raspberry cookies, and lots of chocolates!

One thing I couldn’t really capture on camera were the wooden butterflies tied all along the arbor. They were purchased at Michael’s, spray-painted pink, drilled with a tiny hole and tied up with twine in various lengths. The end result, in our famous Oklahoma wind, was what looked like a dozen pink butterflies fluttering all around the dessert table.

Rebekah was atwitter. “They look like REAL butterflies, flying!!!” she laughed.

“I know!” I cried, daubing my eyes with a hankie.

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And here is another of my favorite parts of the party, this precious “Have Courage and Be Kind” print from You Doll Design on Etsy. I framed it with this lovely piece from the Studio Decor Savannah collection at Michael’s (I’m kind of nuts about these frames!), and it will soon be hanging between Betsie and Rebekah’s beds.

A true party keepsake, touting my favorite quotation of the year. Buy one of your own (and see MANY other beautiful prints) by clicking here!

(p.s. I can’t wait to do more business with this company – in fact, I’ve already put in a custom order for August that you guys are sure to love! Stay tuned!)

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This little wooden birdy was also purchased at Michael’s. I believe it cost a dollar, and I felt all kinds of crafty when I painted it blue.

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Now, I don’t really even want to THINK about the fun I could have had if this birthday party had landed in the fall — it kind of hurts my tummy to consider it — with pumpkins out the wazoo.

I tried to find pumpkins in June, I really did, but alas, even the Asian Supermarket had none. (It’s a long story).

As it was, I grabbed some fake pumpkins from our church’s decorating stash at the very last minute, and they did just the trick.

Again, could we all just applaud Leslie for adding the little mice with Cinderella fabric ears to our birthday package? I can’t even.

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Lastly, these floral paper straws that I bought at the last minute were a lovely touch to the party. Thank goodness for Prime shipping! The girls absolutely loved these straws. It’s the little things, truly. To find them at Amazon, click here.

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On the menu for the evening was a big plate of chicken salad croissants…

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berry-centric fruit salad…

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Pepperidge Farm butterfly crackers (a no-brainer, that one!)

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along with pimento cheese sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a plate of cheese slices, for Jacques and Gus Gus, of course.

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But real-people food is kinda boring, isn’t it? Let’s take a closer look at the desserts.

I made these mini cupcakes from a box and Wilton’s icing mix, but my friend, Tammy, made the fondant bluebirds for me. You can find some like these on Etsy (click here), or if you live in the Tulsa area, you could just ask me to contact Tammy for you. ;) She can make crazy things out of cakes and sugar and such. CRAZY, I tell you!

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And here are the little pumpkin cake balls she made, too cute for words.

(And tasty, too! I will never tell you how many of these pumpkins were in my tummy by the time the clock struck midnight).

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My mom made miniature versions of her famous “Kentucky Butter Cake” with my mini bundt pan from Williams Sonoma. Find a similar pan by clicking here. And the “Eat Cake” cake server can be found here.

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This is my favoritest cookie ever, raspberry rugelach from Merrit’s Bakery in Tulsa. So pretty and perfect with a cup o’ coffee.

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At 6:00 p.m., as I was putting the finishing touches on the set-up, our guests began to trickle in, and I was just so tickled when my nieces showed up in costumes.

The children in our family are growing up and are really beginning to get into the spirit of things. I think our fun must just be beginning around here!

Here’s Anna in a darling Cinderella maid costume that she bought with her own money for the party. (You can find it at Etsy here).

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And Abigail used her own money to procure these “ugly stepsister” aprons for her and her friend, Katy. HOW CUTE IS THIS?? You can find your own here, and my sister-in-law, Amy, reports that this shop was great to do business with, ensuring that they got their last-minute orders in super-speed time.

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By the way, Abigail and Katy are the sweetest girls on the planet and had a really hard time pretending to be mean and ugly. Here they are just being them:

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So now that you’ve seen the basic set-up of things…

let’s party!!!

One thing I love about the young Ella in the movie (you know, the one with that FANTASTIC dress!) is that she was not a princess, but just a girl who loved her family and loved her life.

My daughters are not princesses, either, and neither are their friends, but they are little girls, and little girls are DIVINE!

Especially when they’re sitting on old quilts on the lawn, sipping tea and pink lemonade.

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The dessert table was, as usual, a big hit…

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Betsie was a fan of being allowed to help herself to her own treats. That doesn’t happen every day, you know.

Only every other day.

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Here’s my niece, Kate, in a beautiful floral dress, just being her awesome self…

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We were also so happy to have Rebekah’s music teacher, Christy, join us for this party.

Not many young ladies would give up a Friday night to party with a group of younglings, and that’s just one of the thousand reasons we love Christy.

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And here are my little birthday girls! Eating cake balls and feeling pretty!

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So after the girls had snacked and guzzled to their heart’s content, we pulled out our new favorite party trick, led by my eldest niece, Abigail.

Last year at their church, Abigail and her sisters were introduced to the fun of barn-dancing, and it is catching like wildfire ’round here.

These girls can’t get enough of the Virginia Reel!

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This dance is so easy and SO much fun!!! These little ones get absolutely dreamy-eyed when they are Virginia Reeling.

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And what would a dance be without some boys watching standoffishly from the sideline?

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Grandpa wasn’t afraid to join in, though, but he had to have two partners, Shepherd, and my cutie-pie niece, Harper.

Harper, by the way, came dressed in a Disney Cinderella dress, carrying a doll dressed like Cinderella. I was impressed by her thoroughness.

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After a couple of dances, we took a break and moved on to cake and presents (and refills of lemonade – it was hot out there!)

I couldn’t find a link for these, but I nearly did a jig when I glanced over during a shopping trip and saw these magic wand candles at Wal-mart. How fortuitous! They were still there, in the baking section, last time I checked.

(psst! If you are reading this from the future, this is June of 2015. I’d hate for you to make a special trip to Wal-mart only to realize that this blog post was written six years ago and that candles are now digital instead of wax. I’m thoughtful like that).

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Okay, the following isn’t the BEST picture of Betsie, but…

her dress matches everything in this picture!

It makes my eyes happy!

Doesn’t it make your eyes happy, too? All those pastels…

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Rebekah blows out her candles…

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Betsie blows out hers…

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And then we tossed the cakes over our shoulders so we could move on to the PRESENTS!

I do love a big pile of presents, don’t you? Our daughters were so blessed by many thoughtful and fun gifts from our friends and family.

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Rebekah was especially thrilled by this photo album from her dearly beloved cousin, Kate. We call them “You and Me” because they have made up a theme song about themselves and they sing it together whilst skipping through meadows.

“You and me…

“And me and you…”

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This is mayhap my favorite picture of Betsie from the night. A present as big as she is!

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Have I ever mentioned that I love this crew of kids?

I do.

I really, really do.

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There were lots of fun Cinderella gifts at this party. Like this picture book.

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I’ll post some Cinderella gift ideas at the end of this blog post.

I’d hate for this blog post to be too short and not have enough shopping links in it, you know?

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After the presents were devoured, we just spent some time together, talking, cleaning, dancing and making general merriment.

I love this next picture because I adore my boy Shep and his BFF, Daniel, but also because these hats were NOT set out for the party.

Shep reportedly found them in the sunroom, and next thing you know, he and his friends were birthdaying it up, all on their own.

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Well, sweet friends and party lovers, as you can hopefully see for yourself, even though I almost truly DIED from party exhaustion, this turned out to be a great night for all of us, being with friends…

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being with family…

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and doing it all in the dress of my…er, OUR…dreams.

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Happy birthday, Rebekah and Betsie, and many, MANY more.

Oh! And we all lived happily ever after.

The end.

~

And now, for anyone who is interested, I present to you four fun Cinderella gifts. To find any of these products, just click on the picture:

1. We bought this book for the girls to share. It is a thick, hardcover volume with a soft, velvety feel to it and I think it is really beautiful.

2. Our girls were really excited to receive this small paperback book with images from the movie. Especially when they received two of them!

3. And this “Cinderella Day Dress” by my favorite dress-up clothes company is just the CUTEST. Both girls received one, and they have lived in them since. Little Adventures dress-up clothes are great because they are very comfortable. No scratchy fabrics, no glitter falling all over the house. I’m a huge fan. And this little dress might be my favorite of all that we’ve brought home!

p.s. Here’s a picture of Rebekah in her “day dress”:

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4. Lastly, the following product is not one I actually used, but OH how I wanted to! My deepest heart’s desire was to buy this necklace for each of our little guests but, by the end of this party’s planning, I barely had a penny left to my NAME.

However, this would be such a great gift with a great message for any little – or big! – girl in your life. Find them by clicking here.

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~

And that’s REALLY the end. Thanks for partying with us today! I hope this gives you plenty of ideas and inspiration for a Cinderella party of your own. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below or find me on Facebook. Happy endings to you all!

Want to remember or share this party? Pin it!

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Updates and Such

It has been so long since I have regularly blogged that I feel like I should introduce myself.

Hi.

I’m Mrs. Gore.

This is my diary.

My kids, who are just learning to read, think the name of my blog is “Mrs. Gore’s Diarrhea”.

(It’s not. If I ever had such an ailment, which I’m going to say I haven’t, because, ew, I would NEVER blog about it. Talk about it on Facebook? Maybe. But not here).

When I first began sharing my thoughts and stories on the internets over four years ago, I was just a stay-at-home mom of two little children, looking for something to do during naptime. I had been a writer, of sorts, my entire life — whether it was tinkering around with children’s books, writing the first pages of short stories, journaling, corresponding — but I had never before found an outlet for my excessive wordage that so perfectly suited my heart and my writing style.

In fact, I distinctly remember sitting down with my older brother, Pete, over lunch in my early college days and telling him that, if I could only find an audience for my personal journal, I could possibly settle on writing as a career.

We laughed and dove into our appetizers because that was obviously ridiculous and would never happen. I was using dial-up internet at the time and Ree Drummond was still four years away from breaking the internet with her fantasticness; in other words, I’d never even heard of a blog.

Thus, once I sat down almost a decade later and published the handful of blog posts I had been secretly working on and discovered that my friends and family actually enjoyed reading them, I was hooked.

Blogging has helped and blessed me in so many ways. It has given me the consistent writing practice I’ve always needed. It has helped me to hold onto memories that I never want to forget. It has introduced me to the loveliest of audiences (that’s you!). It has given me a way to share the good news of Jesus with folks all over the world. It has soothed any of the loneliness that comes with parenting young children.

But what I’m wanting to focus on today, and this is the point I’ve been wanting to get to since I said “hi”, is that this blog has been a springboard into a project that I doubt I ever would have been brave or motivated enough to tackle on my own.

If you keep up with me on Facebook (where I make almost daily updates and drown the web with pictures of my children), you already know that, last summer, I began working in earnest on a book I had begun early in the year.

I wish I could give you more details on its origin, but I was postpartum and nursing and I honestly have NO RECOLLECTION of how or why I started writing it. For all I know, my husband wrote all those chapters and saved them on my computer and I went and stole them as my own!

Regardless, though, of how it all started, my goal was to finish the entire book by the end of summer before our homeschool year began on the day after Labor Day.

HA!

Hahahahahahaha.

HuhHAhaHAhaHAhoohee.

I am delirious with laughter.

Mostly because, almost one year later, I am still trudging along through one of the most heart-wrenching and exhausting projects that I have ever set my mind to, with several difficult and stubborn chapters of final revision still blocking my way to the finish line.

It would have been difficult to write this book if I were a single woman living alone.

It would have been difficult to write this book if I were a mom who sent her kids to school every day.

But writing this book with four little children under my roof, two of whom I HOMESCHOOL has been…

well, pure and utter and constantly interrupted madness.

(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I wish I could fully express to you, without sounding like a whiner, the journey this manuscript and I have been on, but I can’t. So I’ll just go ahead and whine.

There have been days of triumph, of feeling like I have written something really important and publishable. There have been days of absolute despair, feeling SURE that I have spent a year of my life penning the most unnecessary and unneeded book ever written. There have been spiritual battles, of fighting against my ambition and the temptation to write something for the masses instead of my Lord. There have been hot days, full of passion for the words I was sharing, desperate to help someone who is walking down paths that I have trod. There have been cold days, trying to connect to those passionate words already written and wondering how the girl who could write those words yesterday could feel so lukewarm today.

And then there has been the biggest battle of all, of daily fighting to be true to my God-given priorities over this tertiary desire of my heart.

Like all women and wives and mothers, my life is no longer my own. If it were, I feel quite sure I could be perfectly happy to sit at my writing work in a tiny house, typing away and eating my chocolate-covered almonds and sharing my heart all the live-long day.

But what, then, would I have to write about?

This family, this calling, this husband, these children…

they are my story.

Like, literally. My book is about them. How we met. How they’ve changed me. How God has sanctified me through each of them.

Thus, I have learned that, the most important key to my writing has been that I keep it where it belongs. Not first. Not second. Not third. Probably not even fourth.

Just somewhere far down the line, eked out during stolen moments in afternoons or evenings, in infrequent getaways to my mom’s house in the country, during Sunday afternoon naptimes…

whenever the Spirit leads and whenever I am free to enjoy this favorite craft and hobby.

This probably isn’t the most effective way to become a successful author who gets paid for her words, but during this season of my life, it’s the only way I know how to do it, and my sweet husband assures me o’er and o’er that God has used this this book for my growth and my good, whether it ever makes it beyond this Chromebook of mine.

At this point in the process, I am just over halfway finished with the FINAL revision of my book that has now reached 218 pages, 89,990 words, and probably many more to go.

Some chapters I finish in a day (those are my favorite).

Others take weeks (like the two chapters I stuck my tongue out at tonight).

But I have made it this far and I am pressing on with determination, and who knows? Maybe by the end of THIS summer, I’ll finally have finished this book that, for reasons unbeknownst to me, God has directed me to write and is teaching me to balance through His daily leading.

And then we shall see where she flies!

Until then, I’ll be here, blogging, whenever I can steal a moment, but mostly over at the Facebook page. Thank you for hanging in there with me and continuing to be the nicest and most encouraging readership on the web.

I am beyond grateful for all of you, my Mrs. Gore’s Diary readers.

(Unless you’d rather go by “Mrs. Gore’s Diarrheaders”? No? Anybody?…)

~

Writing books makes me happy.

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Writing books makes me sad.

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Writing books makes me wonder why I’m wearing sunglasses on my head.

At 12:35 a.m.

On a rainy day.

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I’m going to bed.

Have Courage and Be Kind: 7 Spectacular Things about 2015’s Live-Action Cinderella

I grew up on Disney Princess movies. Sleeping Beauty and her pink (no, blue!) dress. Snow White and her terrifying journey through the woods (no, really…TERRIFYING). Belle with her precious lil’ nose stuck in a book. Ariel and her beautiful singing voice.

And then there was Cinderella.

One of my very favorites.

Even as a preschool-aged girl, I admired the rich timbre of her voice and I so desperately loved everything about her story. Her attic bedroom. Her bluebird and mouse friends. And don’t even get me started on the ballgown and glass slippers.

But, mostly, I think what I loved most about Cinderella was her dazzling rags-to-riches happy ending, and the message wound its way deep into my young heart that, no matter how my heart was grieving, if I’d simply keep on believing, the dream that I wished would come true.

Cinderella said it would.

And so did Jiminy Cricket.

And lots and lots of other animated friends.

Well, I’m 33 years old now, and I have slowly come to the realization that, in reality, most dreams DON’T come true.

And sometimes none of them do.

This news was initially quite distressing to me, but over time, I have begun to understand that, in truth, there’s something SO MUCH BETTER than getting all the things you want out of life and having every single one of your childhood dreams come true.

And the new live-action Cinderella movie told this sort of happily ever after, exactly.

It took my breath away to watch my beloved daughters, especially my 5-year old, being carried off by the INCREDIBLE message that this new Disney masterpiece brought to life in one of the most beautiful movies I have ever, ever seen.

Today’s Cinderella didn’t tell my little girls that all their dreams would come true.

She actually told them secrets FAR SUPERIOR to that, and as a huge believer in the power of story-telling, my greatest prayer is that the movie we watched together on Thursday last will inspire them in ways that I will never be able to measure.

Who am I kidding? I was inspired. And here I am, a mom in my 30’s and still wanting to be like Cinderella. But not for the reasons you’d think.

Here are just a few of those reasons, proof that really well-written fairytales are not just for children. They’re for grown-ups, too:

1. An innocent countenance.

First of all, can we just stop for a minute and talk about the breathtaking Lily James? She is a flawless flower, plucked straight from the meadow, and I am such a fan of her performance that I can’t even find room in my heart to be jealous of her. Just…bravo, you beautiful girl, and congratulations on the role of a lifetime. You lived up to Cinderella, in every possible way, and took her to a level beyond anything I ever could have imagined. You ARE Cinderella now, forever and ever. Thank you, for accepting this part, for all your hard work, and for giving the daughters of our country someone to emulate.

Obviously, I was dazzled!

But not simply by her outward beauty (of which there is a LOT).

You see, somewhere during my adolescent years, a role model emerged that took my eyes of the good and the wholesome, and I began to put more stock in that daring sort of beauty that immediately caught the eyes of men and weakened their knees. These vixens of the silver screen influenced me, and it really did seem like only these sorts were able to snag any real attention from the opposite sex. It pains my heart that I believed them and ever tried to imitate them.

In a culture full of bold women with bold eyes, it was so refreshing to see someone so gentle as Cinderella on the big-screen. Someone so good. Someone so modest and pure and, yes, KIND.

There were obviously no heaving bosoms in this movie, no damsels in distress, no challenging and lusty glances, just a sweet young woman who went about her work and who wasn’t a slave to her own interests and her own dreams.

A true heroine.

I want to raise girls like that.

Girls like Cinderella could change the world, if only they would believe they have value.

2. A simple and quiet ambition.

You guys know from past stories that I can get a little cray-cray around celebrities. Cough, cough…Pioneer Woman. But my husband, God bless him, has been a constant and needed voice of reason to remind me that celebrities are just people.

The new Cinderella movie brought this point to life, I think, when it repeatedly pointed out that the prince was “an apprentice to his father’s trade”.

I want to work very hard to see celebrities – and royalty – in this light, no more special than the lady next door, unless, of course, they are “brave and good and love their father” like the prince. That was what made him really special to Cinderella and what she valued about him. Not his crown. Not his charm. Not his looks.

That’s a happily-ever-after I can get behind.

I don’t want my girls to long for princes or titles or fame or fortune in their love stories, just a good, godly man who loves them well.

What more could any of us ask for than that?

3. An indwelling magic.

The Disney fairytales of yesteryear were stories of triumph, of some sort of magic getting you from a bad life to a good life and of helping you escape from where you are to where you want to be.

This sort of ideology, while lovely in a movie, is rather weak, in heart, and dissolves the great pillars of faithfulness and perseverance in the reality of daily life.

The new Cinderella, however, teaches that the best magic is found within, no matter your circumstance.

Cinderella wasn’t pursuing any life other than the one she was living, and the magic of her story was not saved for her triumphant escape from suffering and her elevation to the palace, but was actually what fueled her all along.

We are all probably familiar by now with the secret her mother imparted to her early in the film:

“Where there is kindness there is goodness and where there is goodness there is magic.” 

Hollywood can’t be all bad if there are people there writing lines like that, and I am thrilled to say that my daughter has memorized those words, of her own accord. If we can muster up this sort of magic in our homes and amongst our families, and even in our suffering, who knows what sort of real-life fairytales might ensue?

4. A contentment with memories.

When Cinderella’s mother died, the narrator says that her pain eventually lessened and her memories became her feast.

In fact, those memories of her “golden childhood” went on to sustain her during her darkest days as an orphan and servant, keeping bitterness, the true slayer of hearts, at bay.

I have often thought that, should something very tragic happen in my world – and, please, God, don’t let me practice this – I should never have any reason to question God’s goodness to me. There have been too many glimpses of Eden to ever be overshadowed by misery, and I would hope that my memories of God’s grace would carry me through any seasons of doubt.

This tenet was further expressed after Cinderella’s night at the ball in the fact that she wasn’t breaking her neck to make it back to the palace and see the prince again. She had her memory of that night and it was enough for her.

I found this sort of contentment very beautiful and terribly inspiring.

5. A beautiful determination: HAVE COURAGE AND BE KIND.

A week has gone by and I just can’t get over this mantra that dominated the entire film.

So simple, but those are the best lessons, aren’t they? The ones that you can easily repeat in times of need.

This message of “having courage” and “being kind” is mighty POWERFUL, and leaves the self-absorbed “every girl can be a princess” stories that I grew up with in the dust.

Let’s repeat it to our daughters, o’er and o’er again, and also to ourselves, until we are, by the grace of God, a people of kindness and courage.

6. A love for family.

As an avid fan of my parents and my family and my church, I found in Cinderella a kindred heart. When her step-sisters were asking for fripperies as souvenirs from her father’s journey and all she wanted was the branch that brushed his shoulder, I melted into a puddle of goo.

Then I looked intently at my daughter and hoped she was in some way understanding the level of beauty that was being offered to her young and absorbent heart.

Cinderella went on to endure years of hardship just to be true to her home and to her parents, and I was cheering her on every step of the way.

7. A freedom in forgiveness.

In case you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t expound on the “happy ending”, but you really HAVE to believe me that this was the best ending to any Disney Princess movie, ever. Go see it. Take a hankie. Or, if you’re like me and your tears start flowing during the “Frozen Fever” short before the movie, take two.

Three cheers to the screenwriters of this story who were brave and thoughtful enough to add dimensions to Cinderella’s tale that could be the foundation for a new generation of “princesses”, girls who have courage, who are kind, who are pure, who treasure the good guys, who love and honor their families…

girls who know what “happy endings” are all about.

~

If you are a Christian mama, I encourage you to talk with your littles about Cinderella’s story and take it a step further. We know from God’s Word that none of us are “good” or “kind” without the redemptive work of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I want my girls to understand that “being like Cinderella” is only something that will work if their “courage” and “kindness” is a direct result of the grace of God and is used as a vehicle for His glory. In our home, judging by her fruit, 2015’s Cinderella is obviously a Christ-follower. ;)

To read another great review on this movie, click here. And as always, you are CORDIALLY invited to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family on Facebook by clicking here. No glass slippers required.

Ode to a Cardboard Box

Mr. Gore took the big kids “on a date” yesterday afternoon (i.e. lunch and grocery shopping), and while Shep took his long, afternoon nap, my mom and I were going to attempt Day 2 of spring cleaning by tackling my master bedroom.

That only left one person with nothin’ much to do.

Betsie.

She had been such a trooper by staying behind, and her unspoiled nature was gloriously on display after her siblings departed.

“We’re having a ‘HOME date’!” she giggled to me and her grandmother as we sat around the table eating tacos. Excited by her day as an only child, she was chattering a hundred words a minute, and it was so fun to just look at her and delight in who she is.

I should buy her something,” I thought to myself, wanting to reward her for being a good sport and making the best out a day that might seem kind of lame to other kids.

But then the wiser voice within me spoke up: “Why would you do that? Are you crazy??

Truly. What better way to spoil an unspoiled child than to buy her toys every time she acts unspoiled? Silly me.

So I just smiled at her instead and gazed into her eyes, even as my heart longed to shower her with blessings.

And that’s why I’m so very thankful that a perfect reward presented itself about thirty minutes later.

I was unloading a box that had been sitting in my room since Christmas, preparing to break it down and send it out the door, when that wise voice piped up again.

“What are you throwing that away for, you big dumb-dumb?”

Betsie, meet box.

The two were inseparable for the rest of the afternoon.

Now, any of you who keep up with us on Facebook know that this beloved 3rd child of mine, though brilliant in many regards, can be a bit of a dingaling. I shared the following story on Facebook yesterday:

It was just Betsie this afternoon, so I hauled out a big cardboard box to keep her busy while I worked on my bedroom.

Her goal was to design a very beautiful house, so before I left her to it with a bucket of markers, glue and construction paper, I got a big, sharp knife and sawed some windows on the side.

“Now stay WAY back, Bets,” I warned her. “This knife is very dangerous.”

“Okay,” she said, agreeably, “I’ll just get inside the box.”

Sigh. I love that girl. We call her “Oh, honey” (from “How I Met Your Mother”) in her ditzier moments, which is approximately 2.5 times a day.

Anyhow, after the windows were finished, I moved on to my work and left her to hers, occasionally checking in and snapping a few photos.

I had to laugh when I noticed that she was busy working in her default Smeagol position.

Betsie has crouched like Smeagol from “Lord of the Rings” since she was just a tiny thing. One day, I had her in the walk-in shower while I cleaned the bathroom, and I looked over to see her crouching and trying to pick up a bar of soap.

She looked over her shoulder at me, and with her wet hair plastered down on her head and her giant eyes gleaming seriously at me, she sort of looked exactly like this…

375068_10152751167490464_1530719967_n On days like that, instead of calling her “Oh, honey” we call her “my precious”.

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Moving on, can I just say that, while I ADORE having a big family, there is something really special about having some one-on-one time with each of your children?

These sorts of simple activities like making houses out of boxes COMPLETELY frazzle me when we’re all home together – maybe because there are four people asking me for things at one time while I’m trying to divvy up markers and supplies!!! – thus, I was kind of blown away by how EASY it was to enjoy this sort of homemade fun with just one of my stinkers.

It reminded me that I can be FUN and spontaneous, even on spring cleaning days.

So long as half of our kids are out of the house and one is asleep.

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Tisn’t a Pinterest-worthy box, but…

it’s OUR box.

And we love it.

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That’s chocolate ice cream on her face. Life is good.

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By the way, Betsie’s my favorite poser in the family.

That girl is cray.

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When it came to her house-box, her very favorite part was the “welcome” mat I drew for her.

“A RUG???!!!!” she squealed when I finished.

I want to be like Betsie when I grow up.

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The window and curtains (decorated by Betsie) were a big hit, too.

After she colored them in, she gave her box a kiss.

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I think this ragamuffin has finally found a home.

She wants to live her forever.

And sleep here.

And eat popcorn here whilst watching “Sleeping Beauty”.

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Turns out, she was also very territorial of her box. (Being an only child for the day will do that to ya).

About an hour into box-time, she asked me to add a few words (sentences) to her “welcome” mat.

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“Don’t come in. In a minute, Betsie’s going to go to sleep.”

Not very welcoming.

But when Sheppy woke up from his nap and backed in to her box until he kerplunked right down in her lap, she didn’t kick him out.

So maybe she’s hospitable, after all.

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The moral of this story is: we KNOW the best things in life are free, and we KNOW that boxes make the best toys, but sometimes we forget.

It’s good to be reminded.