Mother Hen’s Seventh Birthday

So…speaking of “spirit-led parenting“, I’m really excited to tell you all about Gideon’s 7th birthday!

You guys know how I feel about holidays, in general, and birthdays, in particular. It’s my thang.

I love a good party, almost more than I love Hostess donuts.

Gideon’s parties have been especially fun and adventurous; if you were with me last year, you might remember that the first part of March was spent crafting Red Cross backdrops and collecting WWII memorabilia for the soldier party of the (last) century.

But this year was different, for some reason.

Even though I had a really fun (REALLY FUN!) theme in mind, I just wasn’t feeling it. My mind was picturing the entire party, but my heart was definitely being led in a different direction.

And so, finally, I listened.

The end result was that, rather than our typical birthday bash, we completely scaled back and spent Gideon’s seventh birthday in a more contemplative and simplified frame of mind.

Does this mean that I’ll no longer be crafting grandiose vintage-inspired parties for the kiddos? Heavens, no. I’m already planning Rebekah’s June picnic party.

But was this the right thing to do this year for this child? Most certainly, yes!

It was a BLAST.

Wanna see what we did?

(You’re in luck! I took lotsa pictures!)

~

The day before Gideon’s birthday, my Mom borrowed him for a bit, freeing me and the girls up to make him some special surprises at home.

This is a new tradition I want to incorporate into our celebrations from now on, because it was a really special time of thinking and talking about the birthday boy and working together to convey our love to him. I can’t help but think this will foster sibling affection, for both the recipient and the party planners.

First, we made him all sorts of paintings (like this almost-completed ship on the sea)…

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Then, while Betsie slept, Rebekah and I baked a birthday cake and cupcakes.

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Once Betsie woke up and the cakes had cooled, I decorated Gideon’s…

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while the girls decorated the cupcakes. Rebekah used sprinkles. Betsie used her hacking cough. (What’s a birthday without a few germs?)

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and here is their handiwork. Sweet sisters! They were as excited as I was!

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Later that night, we made a switch, leaving the girls at Grandmother’s for the night and picking up Gideon.

His birthday celebration had officially begun!

First, he got to order whatever he wanted to eat from our local Drive-thru. Then, after supper, we moved our mattress into the living room where we watched a movie together and spent the night. Baby Shepherd was very pleased to join us, even donning his tie-dyed romper for the occasion. He is such a hippy.

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SAD NEWS. Mr. Gore got came down with a stomach virus in the night and started throwing up.

But please, tell me the planning of this day was not indeed Spirit-led! If I had been trying to put together a big party by myself, I would have been devastated. As it was, I was able to keep a cool head and continue with our plans, even though my husband wasn’t able to join us until later that evening. I am VERY grateful to God for helping us have a great day, regardless of viruses.(And I am super proud of my husband for still managing to make Gideon a personalized Star Wars t-shirt that day).

So. After waking up and getting everything ready, I loaded up the boys and surprised Gid by picking up his great friend, Isaiah, and taking them to breakfast at McDonald’s. Isaiah is one of our favorite people in the world, and it was too cute watching him tote his giant gifts for Gideon all over the place. My son is blessed to have him for a friend.

p.s. these two can put down the pancakes!

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After eating and taking Isaiah back home, we drove to Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house, where my Mom and the girls had been working hard all morning to surprise Gideon.

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Our paintings were lining the walls…

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and everything looked so clean, simple, and pretty.

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After putting Shep and Betsie down for naps, Gideon, Rebekah and I embarked on what might have been my favorite part of the day, driving down to the creek to spend the afternoon doing some of Gideon’s favorite things.

First, fishing…

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Then, a picnic. The preparation was too easy, simply a galvanized tub full of Gideon’s favorite foods. Whole fruits and veggies, granola, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and…Pringles. 

confession: The Pringles were for me.

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U.S. Grown apple juice (and kids).

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It was quite fun to sit in the sun with nothing to do but pop blackberries into our mouths and spit sunflower seed shells into the grass. 

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I think we should have days like this more often…

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The kids agree with me.

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Sidenote: have you ever seen anyone eat a bell pepper like this? He loves them.

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After lunch, we drove to the road near the lake and gathered up a bucket of rocks.

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Then we drove back to the creek and threw them in the water. Are you noticing yet that this is the easiest and cheapest party I’ve ever thrown?…

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Now, if you’ll indulge me, a series of pictures of my seven-year old boy.

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and, if you’ll indulge me a little further, a couple of my 4-year old country girl…

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and now I’d feel badly if I left out Betsie…

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(Sorry, Shepherd. If you wanted to be featured in this part of the post, you really should have woken up sooner. Snooze. Lose).

After several hours had passed, we loaded up and drove back to the house, where Granddaddy was waiting for us to give Gid a driving lesson. This was a pretty big deal! Sniffle, sniffle. My little boy, growing up and driving off into the sunset…

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just kidding. They just drove through the pasture for a bit. I guess I can handle that.

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Then (after switching spots) they drove to the lake for some more fishing. And what Gideon didn’t know is that his Grandpa, Grandma, and cousins were coming for his party. When they arrived, my niece, Abigail, and I tiptoed up to the lake to surprise him!

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The rest of the evening was spent relaxing, eating freshly-caught fried fish (Gid’s favorite), and just enjoying the gift of family…

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Lastly, to top off a day of favorite things, Gid got to do a little burning. If you find this strange and/or confusing, just trust me that it makes a lot more sense if you live in Oklahoma.

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When the sun went down, we mozied inside where we popped all the balloons, played with all the new toys and enjoyed a sleepover together…

~

I share all of the above not just for my memories and not just to celebrate the beauty of life (my son’s, in particular), but to encourage all my fellow mamas – big party, little party, expensive party, cheap party, lots-of-guests-party, intimate party…it doesn’t REALLY matter. Just love on your little one, follow your heart, and the day will be a major success.

By the end of Gideon’s birthday, my goals for the day were completed: friends, fish, picnic, throw rocks, drive, cousins, grandparents, eat, cake, presents, burn the pasture.

And Gideon…now SEVEN YEARS OLD!!!…went to bed flushed, dirty, smokey, sticky and 100% happy.

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And I went to bed even happier.

(and wayyyyyyy less tired than usual).

(with wayyyyyy less clean-up to do the next day).

(with wayyyyyyy more money in the bank).

A “Tea For Two” Birthday Party

On Saturday morning at 11:00, after working harder than I think I did for my own wedding, we welcomed guests into our completely-transformed house for a special “Tea for Two” birthday party for our little girls, one of whom was turning 4, one of whom was turning 2…

get it? Tea 4 2?…

How sad is it that I sprang out of bed late one night to write the name of this party down, and then clapped my hands with glee and dubbed myself a “genius”?…

Don’t answer that.

Anyhow, why was our house transformed? Where was our typical and expected party backdrop of the great outdoors?

Four words: Tornado watches. Rain. Oklahoma.

But after my initial disappointment over moving our par-tay indoors, I discovered that this was quite a blessed turn of events, and I was able to spend days setting everything up “just so”, rearranging our entire abode like it was a life-sized dollhouse, cleaning, scrubbing, baking, and decorating like there was no tomorrow. And, by the grace of God, I actually had fun doing it.

Little girls are some kind of magic, aren’t they? I’m still giddy over this entire party, full of sweets and treats and flowers and nostalgic sugar-and-spiceness. Take a look…

(but first, if you want a little background music while you peruse our party, just push play. We love you, Doris!)

I am sorely tempted to leave my living room set up this way…wouldn’t it be nice to wake up to a beautiful dessert table every morning?…

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I purchased the old screen at a vintage show in Tulsa a couple of weeks ago, and can’t wait to see how many ways I can use it. The wooden “Tea for Two” letters were purchased at Michael’s and spray-painted a light aqua color, and then hung with crocheted ribbon and twine.

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On the treats menu: strawberry cake and cupcakes (from a box) topped with Paula Deen’s delicious strawberry icing, mini Kentucky butter cakes, Paula Deen’s lemon blossoms, strawberry shortbread cookies, miniature buttermilk pies, raspberry tarts, Pepperidge Farm butterfly crackers, and fresh strawberries.

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To decorate, I used pink roses (of the regular and miniature variety) and baby’s breath, teapots and teacups, vintage handkerchiefs, doilies, and our typical collection of cake and treat stands. If you have any questions about where I purchased anything, please ask in the comments section and I’ll try to help you locate what you’re looking for.

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We came up with the raspberry tarts recipe “on the fly”, but as they seemed to receive more compliments than anything else, I thought I’d share the “recipe”: phyllo cups from the grocery store freezer section, instant vanilla pudding, canned whipped cream, and a raspberry. You are so welcome.

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Since the only tea we actually served was iced with lots of sugar in it and guzzled from huge glasses, we put the cupcakes in teacups to go with our party theme. So easy. And the cupcake toppers were made with toothpicks from Cracker Barrel (they have pretty tops), and red twine tied in a little bow. Also…so easy.

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We only have approximately 400 cupcakes left…

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Inspired by this party, I made bagged lunches for each child with a brown paper bag, craft paper from Michael’s (that somehow exactly matched my girls’ dresses), a white doily and red twine. Inside was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a little pouch of raisins.

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Simple and sweet!

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We set up a drink station on the vintage rolling cart we keep in our pantry and served raspberry lemonade, sweet tea, and water. The mason jar lids were purchased here (TOO cute!!), and the aqua-striped straws were purchased here.

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Any of the paper decorations you see are from the Martha Stewart line of party supplies and were also purchased at Michael’s.

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The old buffet in our dining room served as a nice gift table, and a wooden “2″ and “4″ indicated whose gifts belonged where (these numbers were also used in the girls’ birthday pictures)…

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This precious birthday-card-download was purchased here. All I had to do was print it on cardstock, cut it out, back it with our extra paper from Michael’s and frame it!

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Don’t you think gift tables look especially nice when they are full of GIFTS from loving family and friends?! Me too.

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The party schedule was pretty simple. While the girls were having their pictures taken (by my amazing sister-in-law, Amy), Mr. Gore took all the party guests upstairs to teach them a fun birthday song to sing for the birthday girls. When everyone was finished, we set the girls on our barstools and brought all their friends downstairs…

stoolsThe song was hilarious, and so much fun. Thanks a million, Mr. Gore!

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And the girls loved being serenaded by their friends!

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Then, before the girls got dirty and sticky like I knew they would, we blew out candles…

Betsie blowingFirst, Betsie Fair…

Betsie candlesthen Rebekah Sunday.

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Lunch was then served on the front porch…

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and it was good.

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After lunch, the kids were free to partake of the treat table and to play in the designated areas we set up for them, the girls in the super-girly sunroom, and the boys in the upstairs nursery…

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It was a beautiful day to celebrate two of the greatest gifts God has given us…

2 and 4

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Tea for two…

Rebekah and Betsie

and two for tea.

~

Want to remember this idea? Pin it!

a birthday tea party

~

To see more of my inspiration for this party from Pinterest, click here.

Gideon’s “War” Birthday Party, Part 3 – The Battle

Well, we’ve finally come to the end of this series featuring my 6-year old son’s “army” or “war” party, and I have to thank you all for sticking with me as I have revisited and celebrated this super-fun and special day in my family’s life…

you are literally the best. (said in my best Chris Traeger voice).

So as I told you before, I had the party part of this party down – the menu, the decorations, the vibe – they all came together quite nicely (and thankfully, with little expense). And I knew we were going to have a “war”…

in fact, if you’ll remember, that was how I sold this party to my son in the first place. And I had made  a big, big deal about it. We talked about it nearly every day.

But secretly…I was stumped.

How in the world were we going to actually have this so-called war? With a group of Preschoolers, Kindergarteners and an 8-year old, no less…

So I did what any self-respecting female would do.

I dumped this part of the party on my unsuspecting husband, nonchalantly mentioning that I needed help with this one teensy little bit of the planning.

He accepted the challenge…

but then stalled for weeks.

Secretly, he was stumped, too.

And then, in a stroke of last-minute genius, he called me up with a full list of party game ideas for me to choose from (including the paper airplane activity we also did), and the minute he mentioned the following idea, I knew he had struck gold:

Operation: Rescue Abigail

(Abigail is Gideon’s eldest cousin and beloved friend)

Two teams: bad guys and good guys.

Adults on each team to help the kids.

One prisoner in distress.

Bad guy weapons: big marshmallows dipped in all-purpose flour.

Mission: rescue Abigail (or other prisoner) from the bad guys. If you get hit with a marshmallow (which leaves a huge flour mark on your clothes), you  have to run to the field hospital and get bandaged. Then you can return to the battle.

Could we all just give a round of applause to Mr. Gore for coming up with this awesome game? We played 2 or 3 rounds of it, and it was too. much. fun. Kids this age (at least in my house) love nothing more than tying people up and saving them, playing “doctor”, pretending to be good guys defeating bad guys…my husband somehow incorporated all of Gideon’s favorite pastimes into one awesome party game that made his little 6-year old heart soar. I couldn’t have been more pleased.

For older kids, a capture-the-flag type game would have been ideal, but this game perfectly suited our younger crowd. If you are planning a “war” or “army” party of your own, and have any more questions about the details of this game, please do so in the comments section. I will make sure to get back with you as soon as I get the chance.

Now how about some pictures?…

Gid was in character long before the party began…

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Ready for battle, Katerbelle? Yes, SIR!

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Mr. Gore led the kids in a few pre-battle drills to start off, lining them up…

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and leading them in a rousing rendition of “I’m in the Lord’s Army”. This was a CHRISTIAN war party, mind you…

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Attention!

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jumping jacks…

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Let’s do this thing.

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Our pretty nurses had the hospital ready to go, eager to come to the aid of the wounded once the game commenced…

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First prisoner: Abigail. And the fact that we played several variations of this game with different prisoners was because this fun-loving girl wasn’t content to just be a prisoner. She wanted in on the battle action, too! Her Daddy – the baddest of the bad guys – led her to a tree in the nearby woods to tie her up.

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I now present to you…

Operation: Rescue Abigail, starring Mr. Gore – the goodest of the good guys – and his army of tiny soldiers!!!

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they’ve been spotted and attacked! Run to the hospital! Quick!

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our nurses sprang into action, doing their best to get the soldiers back to the front as soon as possible, giving each soldier a bandage and a candy pill…

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but, with a little teamwork and perseverance, they did it! Good prevailed, and Abigail was rescued.

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and the “good guys” felt like macho superstars.

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Next battle…

Operation: Rescue the Birthday Boy. Mr. Gore was probably very glad to add a quick-as-lighting 8-year old to his team. He rallied his troops, gave them a few tips, and the 2nd battle began…

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(sidenote: can anyone spot my Daddy in the next picture? This is why people use camouflage. It actually works!)

 

 

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and lickety-split, Gideon was saved.

Then, in the scariest and most melodramatic battle of the night (our soldiers and nurses were taking dramatic liberties with the game by this time), our two hospital nurses were taken prisoner by the scariest bad guy in the woods…

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Things got ugly for our soldiers during this battle…

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but our field nurses were so brave and helpful in the face of duty…

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reviving our soldiers on the spot so they could return to battle and save the hospital nurses!

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which they did, right as dusk set in. The hospital nurses were a bit shaken up, but a quick stay at the hospital fixed them right up…

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and I am happy to report that, by the end of all of our battles, every soldier was still accounted for, though they all looked a little more ragged than they had before…

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Our rescue operations…and thus, the biggest part of my son’s party…had been a huge success.

~

A few more notes on our war party:

1. It dawned upon me and Amy both (sometimes we share a brain!) that an activity like this doesn’t have to be saved for a birthday party. This was just a super fun night for all the kids and families involved, and it would have been even easier to throw together if we hadn’t been trying to do birthday cake and presents and spend as much time as possible with the birthday boy. You could do this with so many different themes: spy games, princes and princesses, cowboys and outlaws…the possibilities are extensive. Then, on birthday party days, you could just kick back with your family, have a cake and a few gifts and call it a night. I’ll be mulling this over…

2. I also wanted to tell you that, by the end of the battles, all the kids were congregated at the hospital, playing their little hearts out. It looked like an ant hill. Which means that I will probably be setting up the hospital sometime soon for a fun play day. I’ll share more on that in the future!

3. Thank you again for indulging me for this week-long series and for all the sweet words you’ve shared. I love your comments and encouragement so much and thank God for you, always.

And good news – I have some VERY unbirthday blog posts coming up next week – stay tuned!

~

To read about all the ideas and products that went into this party, click here.

Gideon’s “War” Birthday Party, Part 2 – The Party!

So enough with all my blither-blather and product-sharing (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here)…

let’s get to the PARTY!!

~

For starters, my Daddy loaded a bunch of the kids up at the house and brought them down to the party in his electric Gator. They were so excited…

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even though my Daddy looked like a scary freak. When he told me he was going to wear this camo facemask to the party, I was like ‘Cool! Gid will love it!”…but then when I saw him I was like “Dude. You have NO idea how scary you look…” Still yet…Gid DID love it, and it didn’t seem to traumatize any of the other children.

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Booya. See the girl on the left there? A REAL nurse from the 1940′s come to our party. Or at least that’s what the kids thought…

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And so this is the part of the blog where I need to stop for a minute to give HUGE props to Mackenzie, a beautiful, precious, sweet, kind, secretly hilarious (she’s so quiet but has the funniest dry wit in the world) young lady in our church. How many 16-year old’s would give up their Friday night to administer bandages and candy pills to a group of hyped-up little kids, faithfully wearing the nurse’s dress that you pulled out of your dress-up stash in the attic? Thankfully, I know at least one…

(and I thank God for her!)

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Speaking of dress-up clothes, Amy made the coolest shirts for her girls (and one for the birthday boy!), using bleach. I wish I could instruct you further, but…that’s all I know. And it’s too late to call her. Amy, if you’re reading this, could you leave a comment at the bottom of this post and tell us how you made these awesome black party shirts?…

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Once they arrived at the party site, we let the kids make and decorate paper airplanes. The plan was to then have a contest to see whose could fly the best, but it was wayyyyyy to windy…

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this was still good busywork, though, and kept them happily occupied while we finished setting everything up.

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My niece, Kate Belle just hanging out and…being Kate Belle. We love us some Kate Belle.

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As the kids finished up their airplanes, Amy started working on their camo face paint…

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I think this was probably Gid’s favorite part about the party. He is constantly donning costumes and playing different characters and to actually look like a soldier…

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well, he probably didn’t realize it until it actually took place, but this must have been like a dream come true for him.

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Which is what birthdays are all about, right?

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The girls were a little…creative…with their facepaint. Anna is the prettiest soldier-kitten I’ve ever seen…

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And please excuse me for a bit while I drown in some Rebekah Sunday cuteness.

My eldest daughter was born to be a nurse – she has been ministering to our family since before her 1st birthday (I’m not exaggerating), and when we decided to do the Red Cross field hospital, it was unanimous that she would help Mackenzie tend to our wounded soldiers. She ate it up! And I ate HER up! Please join me in a moment of appreciative silence as we observe the following series of pictures…

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Sigh. I love her.

And time for another shout-out, this time to my amazing Grandmother, Janice. It was so special to have her visiting us during Gideon’s birthday, and it was an honor to have her working in our chow line during his party. By the way, she is an actual nurse – the best in the world – and was actually around during actual WWII. Let me know if you would like her autograph.

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It is important to note that between the face painting and chow time, we had our first battle. I decided to share all of those pictures tomorrow in their own post, but you’ll notice that everyone is bandaged up and battle-worn now. And hungry!!!

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My soldier-boy. SIX years old. (but I’m still baby-talking to him with my mind right now…goochie goo).

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I interrupt the flow of this post to show you my wide-awake, always-happy, precious little nephew, Abel. If you want to pinch those little baby cheeks, you’re going to have to get in line…

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And here he is, fast asleep. “Fatigued”. Amy…after you share your shirt tutorial, could you also tell us where you found that onesie? And then tell us the truth…how does it really feel to be a Supermom/aunt/sister-in-law?

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Before we wrapped up, Amy took a couple of pictures of our dirty, tired, sticky, battle-weary family…

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And here’s one of me and my gal…

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As dusk approached, Gideon hauled his presents back up to the house for the last part of his party…

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He opened his gifts at the same table I used to open mine at…

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and I brought him his old-school-looking soldier cake (my eldest brother assured me this was an essential part of growing up for a little boy)…

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just like my Mama has always done for me.

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Happy Birthday, little soldier! I’ll always keep the home fires (or at least the birthday candles) burning for you…

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~

And finally…the 3rd and final installment…”The Battle”…coming up tomorrow!

Gideon’s “War” Birthday Party – The Components

I thought I would start this “war” party series (read the “prequel” here!) by sharing all of the decorations, ideas and products in one place so you can have easy access to links and inspiration, should you ever choose to host your own WWII party.

You know…cause lots of people have WWII parties.

(awkward silence).

Anyhow, let’s get started!

About an hour and a half before the party, Amy and I (but mostly Amy) painted this huge sign on the back porch at my parent’s house. We used brown craft paper, poster paint, and foam paint brushes. By the way, she free-handed this, my insanely talented sister-in-law.

Once it was dry, my Mom and I drove down to the party site by the creek to hang it up. There was only one problem: Oklahoma wind. Sweeeeeeepin’ down the plain. We couldn’t even hang this sign where we wanted to (it was so windy, we couldn’t even get it in the air, let alone fasten it!) and had to rearrange the entire pavilion area to accommodate it. Even then, it still tore (razzle frazzle…), but Amy saved the day with lots of tape and thumbtacks. She’s a genius, and my party sidekick for life.

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

Other than the torn poster, the “Mess Hall” was decorated with vintage-inspired patriotic elements, authentic WWII helmets and ammo boxes, our typical galvanized tubs and cake stands, old metal pans and colanders, and vintage recruiting posters. I will share links to many of the products we used at the end of this post.

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

We tried to keep things simple and to at least pay homage to the authentic. You could really go nuts and buy lots of disposable camo and/or army stuff for a party like this – but a roll of white paper towels, and some disposable baking pans from Wal-Mart absolutely did the trick. Our biggest conundrum, however, was HOW to hide Crock-pots. At our remote-ish location, Crock-pots were the only way to keep the food warm, but we just couldn’t bear the thought of them being on the serving table. Amy came up with the winning solution by wrapping diaper boxes in craft paper and cutting holes in the top – this is the stuff that just cracks me up about our parties…my Grandmother, visiting for the week, thought we were absolutely nuts! But I’m sure that Mess Halls in the ’40′s served ALL of their food out of paper-wrapped diaper boxes. Right? Right?…

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

Forks were kept handy in washed tin cans that had their labels removed…we were going to use these for drinking vessels, but my Mom kept cutting her fingers on them, so we scrapped that idea.

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

The menu was simple and easy and, again, at least payed homage to the authentic. We had to find a way to tip our caps to what a soldier might eat during WWII while still actually feeding our guests, many of whom were under the age of 6. We settled on little smokies, macaroni and cheese, biscuits, and a variety of cookies. And two days before the party, I discovered that there is such a thing as gummi army men – I had to throw them on the menu at the last minute (p.s. I love you Amazon Prime!). They looked like funny green beans in the colander I served them in, so I took one out to take a picture, just for you! (I just thought you should know that I’m thinking of you guys, even when I’m partying and windblown and frazzled).

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

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Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

Here are a few pictures of the other side of the “Mess Hall”. Gideon received this medic bag for Christmas, and it is such a nice bag for an extremely reasonable price. He stores all of his Nerf ammo in it on a normal day, but on WWII party day, it served as decor!

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

And these are some of the vintage recruiting posters I printed off from an image search online. I printed them on white cardstock and taped them to a red photo matte from Hobby Lobby. So cheap and easy, and now I’m not stuck with 5 red picture frames that I don’t need. Or 5 huge war posters, for that matter!

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And…my personal favorite part of the entire party…the part that I dreamed of at night and squealed about when it became a reality…was the Red Cross station, where wounded soldiers (during our “war” game – I’ll share more on that later this week) came to get bandaged before returning to the front lines…

Everything you need to know about throwing a vintage "army" or "war" party for a little boy - products, ideas, menu, playlist - its all here!

My husband and I (yes, he is a very selfless and amazing man) made the Red Cross backdrop the night before the party with a large canvas drop cloth, 2 yards of red felt fabric, and fabric adhesive. He used his math skills to perfectly measure and cut out the cross for me – I seriously could not have made this without him!

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And an old white rolling cart from our pantry held all of our medical supplies, including a first aid kit full of gauze bandages and bandaids, and 3 jars that (eventually) held candy “pills”. This station was a huge, huge hit. The kids loved it! (Which you’ll see in the days to come – I have lots of pictures to share).

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And here are some links to products that we used (all of which I highly endorse) for the party. Click on the pictures to be directed to these products at Amazon:

1. As our little guests first began to arrive, to fill in the time as we waited for everyone to get there, Amy painted faces for me with camo “make-up”. After doing a lot of research, this product seemed like the best choice, and I am SO glad we went with it. It went on so easily, dried fast (but not hard and crackly), stayed put, and was pretty easy to remove with wet wipes.

2. The gummy army men were too fun! Even the adults loved them and were happy to take some home. They are green apple flavored and very yummy. To purchase 5 lbs. of these at a local candy store, it would have cost me $45. When I bought them at Amazon, they cost less than $10.

3. The Red Cross medicine box I used for the “hospital” is one that we already owned and store all of our kids doctor toys and costumes in. I love it, and think it looks so cute in our nursery. I originally saw this at Land of Nod for $40, but did a little digging and found it at Amazon for about $25. Score!

4. We also used this metal First Aid kit for our field hospital, made by the same company as the Red Cross box – at home, it actually holds all of our medicine, kept pretty safe by the latches (the other box does not securely latch – that’s why we use it for toys!).

5. And the green striped paper straws were a must-have for our camo-faced soldiers to sip their lemonade with – these were nice and sturdy, and didn’t dissolve in liquid like some do.

6. And here’s a link to that pretty awesome medic bag I showed you above (or you can purchase it here at our favorite boy’s adventure store). It’s crazy how thick and sturdy it is, and it only costs about $12:

And here are just a couple of gift ideas…

1. Can you believe that there is a sticker book ALL about World War II? I was shocked. My son LOVED it, but be prepared…it led to a lot of questions. But those led to some pretty great discussions about war and sin and “bad guys”…

2. Gideon received this Ammo box full of army men for his birthday and has played with it nonstop. This is an awesome toy for a little boy!

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3. Just stop it with the cuteness already! I can’t handle anymore. Army men bookends. I don’t know what else to say.

If you have any questions about anything else you saw in the pictures, feel free to ask. I don’t get to respond to all my blog comments, but I do try to answer product questions, because I love to help you guys find what you are looking for!

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One last thing! I’m still trying to figure out how to share a playlist on here, but until then, here is just a typed-out list of the “vintage” soldier songs we had playing in the Mess Hall. These will also come in handy on the 4th of July and in our future homeschool classes:

  • “Over There” by Arthur Fields
  • “When Johnny Come Marching Home” by The Folksingers
  • “What Can You Do With a General?” by Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin
  • “Marines’ Hymn” by Johnny Desmond
  • “Yankee Doodle Dandy” by Gene Autry
  • “(There’s Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover” by Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra
  • “Keep the Homefires Burning” by Buddy Clark
  • “You’re a Grand Old Flag” by James Cagney, Walter Huston, Rosemary DeCamp and Jeanne Cagney
  • “G.I. Jive” by Johnny Mercer
  • “The Battle Cry of Freedom” by Tom Glazer
  • “The Old Man/Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army” by Bing Crosby, Irving Berlin, and Danny Kaye
  • “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra
  • “Song of Freedom” by Bing Crosby
  • “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by The Andrews Sisters
  • “Comin’ In on a Wing and a Prayer” by The Song Spinners
  • “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” by Johnny Desmond

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Phew! I know that was a LOT to share, but I’ll be so happy if it helps any of you along in the planning stages of your future parties. Thanks for sticking with me! Stay tuned for more “war” party pictures!

Gideon’s “War” Birthday Party – The Prequel

Warning: the following post might give you a startling glimpse inside the sickness that is in my head, and I hope you still love me after you read it. I am kind of a weirdo about birthday parties. Not yours – I never judge a party we attend, and am just happy to have free cake – but ours. It is how I show love and is one of the most utmost expressions of my heart toward my kids. We’ve all learned to deal with it, but I do always worry that my potential over-the-topness in this one area will discourage others who don’t “do” parties…

Therefore, it would make me so happy if you would read this post before continuing on. Thanks a million!

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Oh boy…

I always think the party we just had was my favorite party ever…

until the next one.

And so I can safely say, a couple weeks past my son’s 6th birthday, that his World War II-inspired “army” or “war” party was my favorite party ever.

And I really mean it this time. For reals.

(I think).

It doesn’t even matter that the planning stages for this party were a little different than normal…

Usually, the day after Christmas is over, I start involuntarily daydreaming about his March birthday party. I can’t help it. I love birthdays!!! Love them. It’s what I do, yo.

Therefore, I usually have two really good months to get a handle on what we’ll be doing and to start finding ideas and recipes and so on and so forth.

This year, however, I was unknowingly pregnant on the day after Christmas, and the month of January and most of February became a black hole on the calendar. I know I was alive, and I know we continued to do stuff like go to church and I think I brushed my teeth a couple of times, but…that’s about all I remember. ‘Twas the worst first trimester I’ve ever endured.

And once I emerged from this twilight zone of sorts, I had other important things to do, like pluck my giant, untamed eyebrow, and make food for my family (they were almost emaciated), and so, really, Gid’s birthday party had been pushed to the furthest back burner on the stove…you know, the one no one ever wants to use with leftover oats and and dried-up rice and the singed bits of paper from the tea bag…

(apparently, no one ever wants to clean that burner, either)…

Thankfully, we had at least settled on a theme earlier in the year, although even that took a little work this time, mostly because I made the mistake of asking my son what kind of party he wanted. Silly me.

“Ummmm…a Batman party!” he exclaimed.

“Well, Gid…we don’t really do parties like that…” I hedged, turning my nose up at the thought of all those paper party decorations I would probably have to buy – and then throw away – from Oriental Trading Company. If I’m going to buy party supplies I want to be able to use them again and again.

“How about a superhero party?” he asked.

“Well…Anna had a superhero party last year…” I said. I didn’t mind the idea of having the same theme as my niece, but Amy and I had already been there and done that, feverishly sewing capes and eyemasks in a Sunday School room at the church 24 hours before the party. I wanted to do something different.

“How about…a knight party?!” he said.

“Hmmm…a knight party…” I replied, as my mind started quickly cataloging all the things we could do with that. Lords and ladies. Big turkey legs for everyone to eat. Kid jousting?…

“We could maybe do that…” I said, the idea sort of intriguing me. But it wasn’t really hitting me in the heart like our birthday parties normally do. It wasn’t quite right…

and then I had a brain lightbulb, the really bright kind that turns my eyes all buggy and psychotic.

“How about a war party?!” I exclaimed. “We could have a REAL war with two teams, and you can wear camouflage and you can hide in the woods at Granddaddy and Grandmother’s house…

his face lit up, even more than my brain lightbulb, and I knew. This was our party. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

And right then and there, I determined that this would be our first full-out BOY party for my son since, you know, he is really and truly entering the realm of boyhood. No frills. No cutesy. No baby stuff. Just fun awesomeness for Gideon, in the hopes that he would feel like he was in paradise on the day of his birth.

But then I fell into that first trimester abyss I just told you about.

And when I came to in late February and realized that we only had a few weeks left until his party was here, I started that silly daydreaming process I usually start on December 26th.

And in the course of one of those daydreams, I accidentally injected some Mrs.-Gore-weirdness into his perfectly normal little-boy “war” party and turned it all vintage and whimsical, and before I knew it, his laid-back camo-heavy party had turned into a World War II-inspired affair, complete with a Red Cross station, a Mess Hall, a playlist full of nostalgic soldier songs, and lots of googling…

“What did soldiers eat during World War II?”…

“Vintage army recruiting posters”…

“Military songs from World War II”….

“Vintage mess hall plates”…

And I began to be truly grateful that I didn’t have much time to plan this party, because it became very obvious to me that I could have gone wayyyyy overboard with this one. I love me some 1940′s, and, if I had had my typical 2 1/2 months to plan this party, I am almost positive I would have had veterans from each of the armed forces there, and possibly a USO stage where I would have crooned song after song to the horror and embarrassment of my immediate family, especially my brothers.

As it was, thank God, we did a lot of “making do”, substituting the tin mess hall plates I found at Etsy with disposable cake pans from Wal-Mart, forgoing all the awesome WWII posters I could have purchased (again, at Etsy) by finding, printing, and matting free images online, and using our trusty ol’ Martinelli apple juice bottles for drinks rather than buying the canteens or enamel mugs I was dreaming off.

That first trimester saved us a LOT of money.

And when you are a collector of old things, and you have friends who are also collectors of old things, it is absolutely crazy how quickly you can throw a party together full of…old things.

That’s right, I’m talking about authentic WWII helmets, ammo boxes, and…wait for it…COTS that belonged to actual soldiers during the actual war (I think). I’m still over-the-moon about it, and I am so grateful, as always, to my friends and family for so generously pitching in and lending their hard work, their generosity, and mostly, their understanding; that I am surrounded by people who “get” me and love me, nonetheless, seriously humbles me to the core.

ALLLL that to say, I am pretty excited to share with you (if I haven’t already lost you with this blog post), in a 3-part series, Gideon’s “War” Birthday Party.

Here’s a sneak peek…

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Part 1…coming up tomorrow!!

A “Little Women” Breakfast

I so badly want to go into painstaking detail about my Mother’s invention of “the birthweek” and how she executes it year after year after year…

but I don’t have time! My 6th batch of granola is in the oven, a mountain of presents wait to be wrapped, and we have company coming to sup with us tomorrow night…

SO, I have to make this snappy, and just tell you, without going into specifics, that although my Mom and Mr. Gore had given me the birthweek of all birthweeks, my actual birthday was on the horizon and Mom wanted to know what kind of party I wanted.

Even though she had already given me a 12-12-12 party.

And even though she had already made me a cake.

And even though I had been opening presents throughout the entire week.

But people who are being spoiled rarely speak up about these things and decide, rather, to see how long the spoiling will continue before life goes back to unbirthday-like normality, and so, after much serious discussion (birthdays are obviously serious business around here, you guys), we settled upon a birthday BREAKFAST.

For, like my friend Leslie Knope, I heartily believe that breakfast is the very best meal of the day.

But…what kind of breakfast?

We had already had pancakes. We didn’t have time to pick up apple fritters from the bakery (we live far away from pretty much everything). Bacon and eggs didn’t seem very celebratory. We just couldn’t decide…

Then, suddenly, I gasped!

“What?” Mom asked, gasping in return.

“I want a ‘Little Women’ breakfast!!” I exclaimed.

Mom stared at me and blinked.

“You know…” I said, “popovers…oranges…sausage links…coffee!!…”

Mom stared at me and blinked.

“You know…” I said, “Colonial-like and beautiful and simple. That’s what I want!!!”

Then we both laughed, because I am a total nutcase who always does things like this to her while she blinks and tries to figure out how to create the weirdness that is in my head.

But boy…showing up at her house on the morning of my birthday, I was amazed to find that “Little Women” had been delivered with perfection. I honestly can’t imagine being more pleased with my (official) birthday meal. It was somehow a dream come true – the breakfast Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy sit down to on Christmas morning has always captured my fancy – and to have a near representation before my very eyes was just a real treat.

All that to say, I am most eager to share the following pictures with you so that, if you are wired like I am and like anything nostalgic or literary or whimsical, you can indulge in a “Little Women” Christmas breakfast of your own! There’s still time, yes?

Take a look…

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I thought the table was just so beautiful and and simple and reminiscent of yesteryear. The bananas might have been a modern twist, but hey…we like bananas.

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on the menu: Pioneer Woman’s Orange Mini-Muffins with Brown Sugar Glaze. Make them. NOW!!

(I make these specifically around Christmastime because I think they taste like Christmas-morning-in-a-breakfast-bread, and they have become, without contestation, my favorite muffin. Obviously, you can make them in regular muffin tins as well as mini – I like both versions, and thought they were especially scrumptious when my Mom made them for me).

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popovers!! (Here’s a good recipe from Paula Deen). Mom’s were especially “poppy” and we all ooohed and aahhhed when she pulled them out of the oven.

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And here they are all prettied up on the table…

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Along with bacon, sausage links, the orange muffins, scrambled eggs with ham and cheese, and breakfast potatoes (Mom’s budget isn’t as tight at the March’s).

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I think this will be my breakfast of choice every birthday (and/or Christmas) morning…

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And here is Mrs. Gore herself, happy, hungry and…happy. (I cropped out the back part of this picture, because muffin tops were not on the menu and are not welcome at my birthday party).

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I sincerely hope you plan your own “Little Women” breakfast, and as you partake of your meal, contemplate simpler times when a breakfast spread like the above was the stuff of dreams and very difficult to come by…

It really will make you count your blessings, especially when you realize that you don’t have to share your food with the Hummel’s.

As ever, special thanks to my Mama, who still strives to make my silly dreams come true, 31 years and counting.

Miss Sunday’s Third: The End.

Guess What?

This is it…

the FINAL post in Rebekah’s 3rd birthday extravaganza.

I, for one, am exhausted. And frankly, a bit ready to move on to other things. Even Birthday Queens can burn out on birthdays, I suppose.

But I just had to end this series with a collection of photographs that display many things…

1. Typical birthday highs and lows.

2. Girls are nuts.

3. Girls (and women), on their birthdays, are just not to be crossed. Tread lightly, my friends.

The following series of photos were all taken in the course of 30 minutes.

Happy.

Spittin’ mad.

Very sad.

Distraught and in the depths of despair.

Dreamy.

Asleep.

Is she bipolar?

Crazy?

Emotional?

Not completely…

She’s just the birthday girl.

And she is 100% related to her Mother.

Happy Birthday, my dearest darlingest Rebekah Sunday. I will love you to the end of time.

In other words…

Forever.

Even though you’re bossy and have a super mean mad face.

Miss Sunday’s Third: a Cornfield Photo Shoot

While I put the finishing touches on setting up Rebekah’s 3rd birthday party, Amy gave us a very special birthday present…

Sneaking Rebekah away to my Daddy’s beautiful cornfield, she took a few birthday portraits of my baby girl. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Amy need never buy me ANYTHING, for the time and care she pours into capturing memories for our family is a priceless gift that I will always cherish.

Thank you, Amy!!

3 years old is a precious age, is it not? Rebekah is learning to dress herself and write her letters and rinse her hair, but she is still encapsulated in a magical and innocent world. To her, anything is possible, and everything is exciting. I’m so glad that I will be able to look back at these photographs and remember how she was at this very special time in her life…

Oh, and while I’m thinking of it, here she was a little over a year ago in the same pasture…

Excuse me while I go bawl my eyes out.

Birthdays might be my favorite…

but they also really hurt my feelings.

Miss Sunday’s Third: a Farm Stand Birthday Party (Part 2)

Did I say 3 days ago that I would post Part 2 of Rebekah’s Farm Stand Party “tomorrow”? Silly me. I meant to say “I’ll post the rest of it when I get around to it.” 

Which, lucky for you, is today.

This post will be a tiny bit more random than the last, and there is only one reason…

Amy just took too many good pictures at Rebekah’s 3rd birthday party. And I adore them, every one.

And I’m trying to include them ALL!! 

But we’re almost done, and I think I can wrap all this birthday madness up in a couple more days. Until then, I hope you enjoy joining me for the rest of Miss Sunday’s Farm Stand Birthday, as we blow out candles and open gifts and swing and slide and swim and enjoy the sweetest parts of life to the fullest. Children are such a blessing, and I love nothing more than to make magic for them and then watch them enjoy it.

{Oh, and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should probably take a look at Part One. And if you really don’t know what I’m talking about…as in “Who’s Rebekah?”…well, then, you’ve got a LOT of reading to do, bless your heart. But, welcome! I hope you stick around…}.

Ready or not, here is part TWO!

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I actually took this picture before the party began, but it was important that I added it, because…I couldn’t have pulled off this party – or any party, really – without my Mom’s generosity and help. I told her just today that she has more stamina than any other person I’ve ever seen. She never. stops. working. And her work is most usually for others. She’s unreal. And unbelievably pretty, don’t you think? If I look anything like my Mom when I am 30 years older than I am today, I will be THRILLED…

One of the most random things that happened at the party had to do with this plastic swimming pool we had just brought home from Wal-Mart: we looked over at one point to notice that the kids were intensely playing in it…without any water. It kept them occupied for about 30 minutes. We didn’t realize all these years that we didn’t really need to fiddle with adding water to the pool! I wish we had known sooner…

and it wasn’t just the toddlers, either. The “big kids” played in it, too, including 8-year old Abigail.

Also funny: as the guests began enjoying the food, Amy gestured for me to take a look at Rebekah, who had assumed that the berries on the table were divvied up in individual serving baskets for the taking, and was stealing away with a full pint of her fruit of preference – and she wasn’t about to put down her soda, either. She had to put the berries back, but not until Amy took a picture.

A few more sweet party pictures: Baby Betsie inspects a strawberry with her wonderful Grandpa…

and Kate looks for a place to enjoy her lunch. She had obviously already been enjoying her soda…

and here is beautiful Anna with a cherry red mustache

But let me backtrack for a minute…

Before anyone had started eating lunch, we kicked off the party by singing “Happy Birthday” and blowing out the candles. I picked up this tip from Amy, who started Abigail’s party the same way. In so doing, the birthday girl is free to get dirty and messy while she eats her food and treats, something Rebekah Sunday is particularly gifted at doing.

A little sea of friends and family gathered in front of her to sing and watch her blow out her candles…

it took lots of blowing…

but she did it! I hope all her birthday wishes come true.

Now, I’ve shared this product before in Easier than Apple Pie, but in case you weren’t paying attention, I’ll share it again. This little apple peeler/corer/slicer (yes, it does all 3 at once!) is magical. Click on the picture to find it at Amazon.

Mr. Gore set up station near the food table and ensured that lots of little children got their “apple a day” – because I’ve noticed that even children that “don’t like apples” enjoy eating them this way…

although I’ve never seen one do this Slinky trick before…impressive, Henry…

While beautiful Izzy chose to eat hers like a sandwich!

After lunch, Anna gives Miss Sunday the best gift by taking time to push her on the swing. Her favorite pastime next to snacks.

a happy 3-year old

and a lady, through and through

Rebekah received so many wonderful gifts at her party, but this pink cowgirl hat from Grandpa and Grandma was special for many reasons: 1. keyword: PINK, one of her 3 favorite colors. 2. its from a real Western store and 3. it is just like the hat Rebekah’s character wears in the stories we tell the children at night about Sheriff Gid and his trusty Deputy Sunday. Gideon, of course, has all the things he needs to dress the part of Sheriff, but Rebekah had nuthin’…until today. If only she had some snazzy boots to wear as well…

done.

“Rebekah, tell everyone ‘thank you’ for your gifts!” I prodded. “THANK YOU FOR MY GIFTS!!!” she bellowed across the meadows and o’er the plains. Amy, showing me this picture, said “I don’t know where she gets it…”

And now came the time for our wardrobe change.

And now comes the time when I make some confessions to you…

I’ve been all “bad American Dream” and “no more paper plates” this year, but…I bought this swimsuit from Janie and Jack, full-price, in FEBRUARY for THIS PARTY. It looks like a strawberry, you guys. And it had Rebekah Sunday written all overrrrr it. Worth every penny. Would this be a good time to mention that I also bought her a birthday dress from Janie and Jack on the same day? And that she wore it in the Spring? And so I bought her another birthday dress from Janie and Jack, the blue one she actually wore to the party (that made my stomach hurt it was so precious)?…

Birthdays are so obviously my weakness.

But seriously, look at my birthday girl in her new swimsuit and dare to judge me.

HOW I love this strawberry girl

and her strawberry kisses, even though they are extremely messy and sticky!

After the wardrobe change, we moved the kids to the front yard for some swimming fun – I love the pools at my Mom’s house – they’re cheap (she buys a new one every summer), but the little slide on the side is ridiculously fun (and functional)! And the best part: they’re so shallow, I don’t have to suit up and join them. All the grown-ups can sit and watch from a safe and comfortable distance.

But mostly, I love the joy that is written on my girl’s face in the following pictures, and I can’t thank Amy enough for capturing them for me…

but then, swimming is fun for EVERYONE…

After an hour or more, we all drifted back to the backyard for a few more snacks…

and as the party finally wound down to a close, so did Rebekah Sunday. Crawling into my lap, she snuggled close, and before I knew it, she gave me the best gift of the day by falling asleep in my arms.

I live for these moments – no, really, I LIVE for them – and I must have kissed her forehead a thousand times before she woke up.

And it hit me with startling clarity…

these kid birthday parties are SO for the Mamas.