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).

Our Faux Victorian Christmas

It all started with a dress.

But first, a bit of backtracking.

Every year, regardless of how scant or abundant our wardrobes are, we come up with Christmas and Easter clothes. Sometimes they’re casual. Sometimes they are built around a hair bow or an overcoat we already own. Sometimes they include a few hand-me-downs in the mix…

but every year, we get dressed in our new (or newish) duds and take some family pictures.

We don’t do this for Christmas postcards or even, believe it or not, for the blog…

we do it for me.

Because I wanna.

It might be silly, it might be unnecessary, it might be a TON of work, but…I love it.

Especially the outfits.

Last year’s Christmas clothes were hardy and festive, and even better, practical; thus, my intent this year was to find something similar, something that shouted “Christmas!” but, not exclusively. Something we could wear to church or to the library or even to play outside in, all winter and early-spring and late-fall long.

But then, scrolling through Boden’s summer sale, I saw a dress in the little girls’ section.

It was a satin party dress.

It was so impractical.

Even on sale, it was more expensive than any dress we’ve ever bought for one of our children.

And it was the LAST dress I needed, looking nothing like anything I had pictured for any of our Christmas clothes, ever.

So, obviously, I bought it.

Because the moment I pictured that dress on Rebekah Sunday, I was a goner. My sentimental brain went trotting along ahead of me, dreaming of beautiful Victorian Christmases, and simple and clean scenes of winter whites and creams, until I arrived (four months later) at this year’s “photo shoot” with two things in mind:

1. Memorializing all of our children in their various ages, but especially 4-year old Rebekah. On the cusp of girlhood, this was her year, and since her special dress was almost as beautiful as a wedding gown, I thought it would be fun to take some bridal-inspired photos that we might potentially use on her wedding day, like pictures of us getting ready, tying her sash and fixing her hair. I thought it would also be fun to get pictures of the boys getting ready, buttoning their vests and so on and so forth.

2. Memorializing our home. We all know that, unlike snapshots, professional pictures aren’t really a true representation of life. They are us at our best, with our clothes perfectly pressed and our hair expertly groomed. Well, I wanted pictures of my house like that, too, clean and shiny and all gussied up for picture day.

Alllll that to say, although these pictures almost didn’t happen (if Rebekah looks ethereal it is because she was throwing up for the five days leading up to this), we pulled it off, and I near about died when I saw the finished product…

it is everything I hoped for and more, and I have to brag on my friends Ben and Leslie at Benjamin Grey Photography for their truly amazing talent. I am so happy I paid them with real money this time instead of homemade granola.

I am also so grateful for my husband and my mom, without whom my schemes of whimsicality would never come to fruition.

~

First, the boys got ready…

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Then Rebekah, the belle of the ball…

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Then Betsie Fair, also the proud recipient of a Boden party dress (it is rare, indeed, for Betsie to get a non-hand-me-down dress, especially one made of velvet!)…

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Now I have to pause for a moment to prep you for the next pictures.

For the past year and a half, 2 1/2 year old Betsie has been obsessed…I mean it, obsessed…with lipstick. Before she could even talk, she would drag people’s purses to them and start puckering up her lips and grunting until they shared some lipgloss or lipstick or chapstick.

I have seen her perform this expression countless times, and I had no idea that Ben had caught it with his camera until I received our photographs.

Some photos are sweet, some are funny, and then some are just gifts.

These photographs are a gift to me. I have titled them “Betsie in a Nutshell”.

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Here’s a few more of Rebekah, sitting in my new favorite chair (more on that later)…

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and we can’t forget Baby Shep…

(goochie goo, you fat wittle bubbey baby!)

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Next, we all moved to the living room for a few photos…

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And we finished up outside…

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On a normal day, our life is anything but Victorian.

But it’s fun to pretend sometimes.

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Thanks for pretending with me. ;)

Santa’s Cutest Imposter

You guys know my sister-in-law, Amy. She’s the one who takes pictures of my kids’ birthday parties, who helps me make giant party signs at the last minute, and most importantly, who has a secret window into my brain; she is one of the only people in the world who can take the ideas that I have up there and make them happen in better-than-exact detail. I love her.

So creative, so talented, and so low-key about it, she can do near about anything!

But unlike me, when she does something neat, she doesn’t run straight to a blog and say “Hey world! Looky here at what I did!! Like me! Love me! Compliment me!!”

So I do it for her.

(I also nag her husband – my brother – for her so she doesn’t have to. My pleasure).

Anyhow, the other morning, during a free moment on a typical day at home, she set up a quick little photo session for her baby boy, Abel. He had recently taken his first sip from a real cup, and she wanted to get just one picture of him drinking milk in a little Santa get-up.

But not everything went as planned…

and what resulted is maybe the cutest series of pictures ever.

If you are feeling like a Scrooge today, these will most certainly get you in the Christmas spirit!…

or they’ll at least make you want an Oreo REAL bad.

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~

Nabisco…call us!

Kiss Me, Cousin

Thanksgiving week was so wonderful, and we spent every waking (and sometimes sleeping) hour at my Mama and Daddy’s house in the country with my brothers and their families, my Grandmother, and my cousin, Jon, his wife, Amanda, and their precious children. I couldn’t love that entire group of people more if I tried. Like-minded, like-hearted, we like each other. A lot.

But going through my pictures from our week together, one group of photographs stole the show, and I thought it might cheer your hearts to see them.

My brother, Pete, is a fastidious man, and he has fathered an even more fastidious son. Two-year old Brett is a model first child, clean-cut, particular, straight-laced, and very tidy.

And then there’s my Betsie. Also 2 years old, she is the polar opposite of Brett, messy, wild, free-spirited, and very sticky.

The two of them together provide endless entertainment, and while Betsie used to absolutely terrify all the firstborns in her life (she poked Brett right in the eye at his 1st birthday party), I’ve noticed that she is having a different effect on them these days, and that they find her more amusing than they do overwhelming.

But still maybe a tiny bit overwhelming…

Anyhow, we were sitting around the kitchen table one afternoon with the windows open when Betsie pushed a porch chair over to the window and started making faces at us.

Pretty soon, Brett came over to join her, and that’s when she, completely of her own inspiration, decided to try to kiss him.

Over and over and over and over and over again.

Brett would push her away, and then they’d both belly laugh before the next kiss attempt came.

We were in stitches, and I was so glad my camera happened to be sitting right there beside me when their game began.

And since they’ll probably hate these pictures someday, I thought I’d share them on the internet now while I have the opportunity…

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There is no moral to this blog post, really, only that 2-year olds are stinkin’ cute.

The world needs more of them.

And maybe a few kisses, too.

Banana Split For My Babies

My Mom is so much fun.

I heavily lean toward being a hermit, and I sometimes think if it weren’t for her, we would never leave our house. That woman’s got more energy than a spring colt.

(I agree. That analogy DID make me sound like an old lady).

Last week, after a couple of months of rarely leaving our house, she made a motion that we go to the local library and then surprise the kids with their very first banana split.

After hemming and hawing for a bit like an old curmudgeon, I seconded her motion.

And we all said “aye!”

I’m so glad I took my camera along, because the following photographs further support my theory that little kids are so easy to impress and that if you can’t afford to give them Disneyworld, no worries. You can always give them ice cream.

I snapped a few photos while Grandmother was ordering the top-secret surprise. The kids were excited and it was fun to watch the expressions on their faces as they talked and waited and tried to guess what was coming…

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Then, as always, they started getting antsy and wrestly. He pinched her…

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she pinched him…

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And I did my best to hold the fort down. Finally, it was time. Close your eyes, everybody!

(Not you, silly…the kids! You can keep your eyes open and keep reading).

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(As usual, Betsie peeked).

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Two banana splits and some french fries, coming our way! The fries were a surprise for me. :) Sneaky, sneaky Grandmother.

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Okay…OPEN YOUR EYES!

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Please indulge me as I take a closer look at those surprised faces…

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And we can’t forget Betsie…

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Rebekah is surpringly picky about her desserts and a banana split proved to be too much for her to handle, but Gid the Kid TORE into his…

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Betsie, too!

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In case you’re wondering, my Mom and I did help them eat those humongous treats, but since there is nothing cute about seeing pictures of grown women eat ice cream, I decided to spare you.

We had so much fun, we spent less than $15, and the best part was that the hermit got to return home before the afternoon was up.

If your kids have never been treated to a giant banana split, may I recommend an ice cream outing in the near future?

Pretty please?

With a cherry on top?

Home.

At approximately 1:30 on Friday afternoon, we pulled into our driveway…

They were waiting for us on the front porch, and my heart skipped a beat or two as they jumped up and clambered down the sidewalk to greet us, shouts of “Mama!” and “Papa!” causing tears to cloud my vision.

The one-hour drive home had never been longer.

The first to reach me was Gideon, freshly bathed and wearing my favorite shirt. My Mom said he was anxious to get cleaned up for us because he “smelled like a puppy”, which told me that he was as excited about seeing us as we were about seeing him. I gathered him into my arms before even leaving the passenger seat and we held on to each other for dear life. My son and I, perhaps more alike than any two people in our family, share the same struggles and the same strengths. This pregnancy has been hard on us, especially the last couple of weeks, and our reunion was what I had been living for that last day in the hospital. When we released each other, our eyes were definitely “waterin’”, our smiles almost too big for our faces.

After an extremely long journey, we were home. Both of us.

Rebekah was next, skipping towards me in the long, pink dress she never takes off, her hair in long, golden braids. She covered me with kisses and informed me that she was going to take care of me. Her cornflower blue eyes radiated happiness and contentment, warming me to my toes.

I’m always home when I’m with Rebekah Sunday.

And then came shirtless Betsie Fair, wearing nothing but pink, floral culottes and a spunky little ponytail, hopping joyfully across the cobblestones that lead to our driveway. “Mama! Mama!” she continued to exclaim, her happy little face causing me to melt into a puddle of mama goo in the floor of our minivan. Betsie was my MVP that last part of my pregnancy, keeping me entertained and distracted by her out-of-this-world cuteness and unbridled joy. Scooping her up, I hugged her tight while she manically patted me and giggled and squealed.

Home.

In a big jumble of bodies and beautiful chaos, we landed in the living room. There were presents of crayon drawings to be presented, everyone had important stories to tell all at one time, and Baby Shepherd had to be thoroughly inspected by three curious siblings.

And I?

I sat in my favorite chair and took in the blessed moment. Coming home with a new baby always brings with it a fresh perspective and for the time being, the noises weren’t grating, the responsibilities weren’t drudgerous, the to-do’s and expectations were nonexistent, and I was as happy as I have ever remembered being in my entire life.

“Mom?…” I asked, “would you mind taking a picture?”

It suddenly felt very important for me to capture this moment for my memories.

“Do you want me to put a shirt on Betsie?” she replied.

“No. I want them all just like they are…”

Like everyone else in America, sometimes our family photos are staged, and the preparation for them has left me breathless and sweaty and uptight. We might be wearing matching clothes and not a hair is out of place, but the smiles are probably not genuine and there is no story behind our photograph other than “we look nice today and our clothes are awesome“.

But this picture was different.

We stopped our reunion for the briefest of moments, we quickly gathered into a cluster, we looked at the camera, and our faces were already beaming before my Mom even had to tell us to “say cheese!”.

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The feelings I experienced at our homecoming will be impossible to hold onto. Life will eventually pick up speed and we’ll be back at the grindstone, going through our days, doing our chores, fighting negativity and frustration and cabin fever. This day was a gift, for all of us, and a sweet reminder that…

together, at home, is our very favorite place to be.

A Weekend Dance Camp

I love it so much when my friends pull awesome tricks out of their hats.

And my sweet friend, Megan, does so quite often, though she would insist that she has no such hat and certainly no tricks.

But that’s another reason I love her so much – a more humble and servant-hearted woman would be hard to find, and every “event” she plans and hosts with her children in mind has an extra heaping of thoughtfulness and tenderness and love…

thus, when she brought up the idea of employing two of her cousins for a two-day summer dance camp for all the little girls in our lives, I knew it would be special, for many reasons.

First of all, we live in a rural community. There are no dance studios in our town, and the closest one is quite far away. To enroll any of our daughters in a dance class would mean a lot of commitment, loading up and driving “to town” more often than any of us probably want to.

Secondly, we have a very like-minded group of mama’s in our church. We share similar thoughts on childhood, modesty, and worldview, not to mention the fact that most of us are working with pretty tiny budgets; thus, many of the more professional dance programs close to us wouldn’t necessarily be a good fit…but that doesn’t mean we don’t want our girls to experience the joy of dressing up in a tutu and twirling around like ballerinas!

And somehow, Megan was able to create the perfect scenario for all of us. Two days. Little commitment. Down the street from our houses. Laid-back. Experimental. Safe. Innocent. Inexpensive.

And the best part was, our daughters were surrounded by their best friends. What is sometimes a very uncomfortable situation for little girls (I was terrified when I took my first dance class full of strangers) became one of the sweetest bonding experiences they’ve had yet.

And at the end of the camp, all of their friends and family members joined in our church’s extension building to watch a very short – and sweet – recital. Anyone who has ever sat through a two-hour long recital to watch your child dance for 5 minutes would appreciate the 10 minutes we spent watching our own daughters dance, the entire time! And I can’t imagine what a confidence-booster this was for our girls, and all for the incredible and unheard-of price of $15.

After the recital, the girls walked down to the church’s parking lot where our friend, Kodi, treated them to free sno-cones from that morning’s Farmers Market. I hope they never forget that day, sitting with their pals after their first dance performance together, enjoying one of the best treats of summer.

And so I share ALL of the above not because I’m against a more professional dance scene – again, if we lived closer to a wholesome studio and money was no object, I would be the first in line – but because I know many of you are like us, living in small towns on small budgets. Take a cue from Megan, and find a way to bring a fun weekend of dance to all the little ballerinas in your life.

Take a look!

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~

A super special thanks to Megan for coordinating this camp, and for her sweet cousins, Katie and Kara, for being such amazing dance teachers and bringing their expertise to our small town at such an affordable price. You truly ministered to us, and to our daughters!

Gideon’s “Life Day” and a Puppy Named Jake (Part Two)

To read more about “Life Day” and the backstory to these photos, see Part One

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Should I go ahead and add this day to the “Top Ten Memories” file in my brain?

Yeah, I think so, too…

After spending Sunday night and all day Monday with his sisters at Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house, my parents dropped Gideon off at our shed and went driving around with the girls so we could have a moment alone with our son.

And our photographer friend.

(Told you I have a sickness).

It was a sweet reunion. Gideon was simply happy to be home. We, on the other hand, were about to burst with excitement!

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“Why can’t we go inside the house?” he kept asking.

“Just because…” I kept hedging.

Finally, we sat down with him and Mr. Gore explained all about his “life day” and that we were celebrating the gift of Gideon with a special surprise.

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Gideon likes surprises.

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We prayed and thanked God for our boy, and I somehow managed to keep from bawling like a baby…

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And then it was time for the blindfold. We wanted the puppy to be a secret until the very last minute…

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My  job was to keep him from peeking and to make SURE he couldn’t see!

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Almost there…

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Before we took his blindfold off, we let him feel his gift to see if he could guess what it was. Our calm little doggy kept so still and quiet. Good boy!

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Gideon told me later that he thought it was a stuffed animal. He still had no idea what was on the other side of that blindfold…

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When we took the blindfold off, he was, in a word, dazed. As a 4 -year-old, I distinctly remember him asking as he surveyed a pasture full of cattle, “Why did God make all these animals and not give me any?” This boy has been waiting a LONG time for a pet of his own…

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I noticed when I looked back at the pictures that his little cheeks were flushed with excitement (be still, my heart)…

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and for sure his “eyes were waterin’”.

Gideon’s eyes water a lot. He gets that from me.

p.s. I love this picture. (and all the ones after it).

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“What do you want to name him?” we asked, gently recommending the name ‘Huckleberry’, the name of his first stuffed animal, a little white puppy from FAO Schwarz, or ‘Jake’, his most favorite name for as long as we can remember.

“Jake” he said, confidently.

Even though we were secretly rooting for Huckleberry, we were pretty happy with that, especially since “Thunderfire” is his second favorite name.

In retrospect, I don’t think I can fully express how fulfilling it was to watch my son receive this gift. What a joy it is to care for someone so deeply, to know their deepest wishes, to understand their heart like no one else, and to bless them accordingly…

and so I think that experiencing this day with Gideon brought me a little bit closer to the heart of God; how our Heavenly Father must love us! We don’t give Him enough credit in our crowded, complicated, grown-up worlds.

So that just left one last thing…

After giving Gideon a moment to get acquainted with new best friend, we called my parents and told them to come back to the house. Gideon and Jake hid in the shed so he could surprise his sisters with our newest family member.

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“Close your eyes!” we told them, “Gideon has a surprise for you…”

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(Betsie ALWAYS peeks).

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I’ve never seen the whole lot of them so excited about something. It was a full-out dog party in our yard, and our household has consequently been abuzz for DAYS…

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I have so much more to talk about concerning pet ownership, about the similarities between puppies and babies, about how this little pup has stolen our hearts, but for now, I’ll just leave it at this…

Welcome to our family, Jake.

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We’ve been waiting for you for a very long time.

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~

I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge Benjamin Grey Photography once more for these precious, precious pictures. What a gift it is to have talented and generous friends who will wake up early to minister to your family before a long night working the late shift. You blessed our hearts, Ben and Leslie, more than you’ll ever know. Thank you.

And special thanks to the sweet family who sold us this puppy and took such good care of him for us. You were a joy to work with! (and our daughter has already put in a request for a GIRL puppy on her 6th “life day”…)

~

Remember or share it on Pinterest!

Surprising a boy

Morning Fawshee with Betsie

Our middle (or “medium”, according to her) child crawled into bed with us this morning at that perfect (NOT perfect) time where my eyes snap open, my brain switches on, and I immediately know that I won’t be returning back to sleep.

Sometimes this happens at 6:30 a.m.

Sometimes it happens at 4:30 a.m.

Today it happened at 5:45 a.m.

On the button.

But it was strange…

Usually this manner of being awakened leaves me a little grouchy and feeling robbed. Today, however, my heart seemed to know ahead of time that I was being given a gift, even though I was still too groggy to fully claim it.

I stumbled into the office, perused Facebook, shuffled around the house a bit, laid on the couch and tried to sleep, but the entire time, the front porch was just calling my name.

“I can’t come outside, Front Porch!” I said. “It will wake up the children and Mr. Gore.”

“Oh, come on…” said Front Porch. “It’s actually chilly out here. In JULY. When has that ever happened before?…”

“I know that, dummy. I want to come out there, but if I open the door, the alarm will beep and this entire house will clamor to life, asking for breakfast and handing me wet diapers. I’d rather sit quietly in the dark than risk it.” I hissed in reply.

“You’ll regret it…” Front Porch taunted me.

“Gaw-LEE, you’re pushy!” I said, rising from the couch. “But yeah. Let’s do this!”

With determination and excitement in my tread, I tiptoed to the master bedroom, retrieved my contacts, the phone and my trusty cardigan, and verrrrrrry quietly shut the door, leaving my husband and eldest children to their slumber.

Now was the tricky part.

Betsie.

It was already growing light outside. If she woke up now, she wouldn’t even think of falling back asleep, even though it was much too early for Betsies to be awake.

I looked at the long stairway separating me from my baby girl and the open nursery door that could foil my rendezvouz with Front Porch and my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (original blend). If I could hear the upstairs sound machine from where I was standing, Betsie would certainly hear me making my coffee and going outside.

“Please, God…” I breathed, and crouching down on all fours, me and my bulbous womb baby prowled up the stairs like a sneaky jungle cat. (Little known fact: Small Elephants are known to transform into lithe and nimble felines when it comes to caffeinated morning rituals. True story).

And by jing, we did it! The nursery door slid into place with the tiniest ‘click!’ and down the stairs I floated to do some percolating.

“Quick, Percolator!” I said, antsy. “We have to hurry before they wake up!!”

Percolator obeyed, and in a snap, I was doctoring up my first cup of coffee, retrieving a bakery cinnamon roll from the pantry, turning off the security alarm, and opening the front door.

“Welcome…” Front Porch enticingly whispered. “You did well, Padawan.”

An incredibly unseasonable chill atmosphere smacked me in the face. “You’ve got to be kidding me, July!” I squeaked. It felt like one of those early Spring days that is rife with deliciousness and will inspire you to write a sonnet rather than the typical misery that is an Oklahoma summer. I couldn’t believe it.

And I can’t believe I almost missed it, opting to stay in the dark and shut-up living room sans coffee. I’m glad my Front Porch persisted.

There in my Cracker Barrel rocking chair, I slowly enjoyed my breakfast, surrounded by birdsong, dew and the early morning activities of my small community. And eventually, my heart led me to my Maker.

“So beautiful, God…” I prayed.

I began to muse over my life and how I wanted to spend my day. “Please help me today,” I asked. “Show me how to live for my family.”

For sadly, I am getting to that very weary stage of this pregnancy, where I start getting annoyed by my own breathing and grow increasingly frustrated by the extended dry spell of my usually happy and optimistic soul; my patience has been threadbare, and it takes more self control than I sometimes have to savor those little moments that are usually like life and breath to me.

“I don’t want to cast the kids aside today…” I prayed. “I want to enjoy them…show them how much they mean to me…love them with the selfless love of Christ.”

My prayers became quiet meditations and wordless pleas, and as my first cup of coffee slowly dwindled to a close, I tiptoed quietly inside for a refill.

And that’s when I heard her.

7:00 a.m.

That’s still a little early for Betsie to be awake.

And with two shut doors between them, no one else would hear her crying…

“Maybe she’ll fall back asleep if I let her alone…” I thought.

I rinsed the leftover grounds out of my cup.

And then I felt an unmistakable nudge as I heard her cry “Mamaaaa!”

I don’t know if you know this, but it is an abominable sin to obey your Front Porch and then immediately ignore the Holy Spirit. I set my cup down, and up the stairs I went, this time on twos instead of fours.

She was still crying, sitting up with her little skinny legs and arms hanging through the rails of her crib, reaching for her pacifier that lay very far down on the ground.

I picked it up and handed it to her. “Do you want to lay back down and go night-night?” I asked.

“No.” she resolutely answered.

“You want to go outside with Mama?” I asked.

“Uh-huh!” she said.

“Do you want some fawshee?” I asked, leaning in to whisper conspiratorily to her.

“Uh-HUH!!!!” she exclaimed.

Anyone who knows Baby Betsie knows that she has a major thing for coffee. She calls it “fawshee” and she is seriously looney over the stuff.

She likes fawshee with milk and sugar, she likes it black, she likes it hot, she likes it cold. She likes to drink it at her little table on her little tray all by herself, and she loves to drink it with her Grandmother. And if the coffee is all gone, she asks to “smell it”. Taking a big whiff of our empty cups, she says “Mmmmm!!!”

So early in this day, while the rest of our household slept on, God answered my front porch prayer over morning fawshee with Betsie…

"Morning Fawshee with Betsie"...a short story on finding life and life abundant in the simplest of pleasures.

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I loved her. I enjoyed her. I talked to her about God. I rocked her and sang to her. I lived for her, and in doing so, I once again touched base with my very favorite thing in the world: life and life abundant.

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?…

new tea for two

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.

party table

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.

side view

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.

treats

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.

raspberry tarts

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.

cupcakes

We only have approximately 400 cupcakes left…

cupcakes 2

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.

lunchbags

Simple and sweet!

lunch and lemonade

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.

drinks

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

poofs

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)…

gift station

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.

gift table with gifts

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!

kids singing

And the girls loved being serenaded by their friends!

happy girls

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.

Rebekah candles

Lunch was then served on the front porch…

Boogie

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and it was good.

good eats

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…

tea party

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

2 and 4

Betsie

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.