I Love Your Face.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not perfect as in sinless.

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

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

He sits by me.

He sits with me.

He sits near me.

He sits at my feet.

He sits ON me.

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

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

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

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

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

it sort of made my day!

~

Happy face…

cheese

Mean face…

mean face

Super mean face…

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Laughing face…

laugh

Now, quick! Hide!

hide

Touch your nose!

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Stick out your tongue!

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Gimme a kiss!

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Now, turn your head this way…

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Turn your head that way…

headsright

Turn your head the other way…

headsaway

We’re singing!!!!

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Surprised face…

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Super surprised face…

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I tell you what, I love me some Shepherd.

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and I think he loves him some me, too.

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<3 <3 <3

The Day I Took a Walk – Our Tenth Anniversary Celebration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

Now…

FINALLY…

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

If you’re on board, just say “I do!”

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was pink and shimmery and ladylike and…

I liked it a whole lot.

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

“New dress?” you’ll ask.

And I’ll nod and wink at you.

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

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

Give me about eight years, mkay?

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

These shoes were just the ticket.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My darling Betsie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ring-bearer or best man?

Maybe both.

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

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

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And…

brace yourselves…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Ceremony” time!!

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

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

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

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

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And the sun was shining through the trees…

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

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

Perhaps.

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

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

The grass was greener than it had ever been before.

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

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

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

It felt like heaven…

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

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

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

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

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

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And, um…

here’s me.

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

♬ Here comes the wife

married for life 

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My family.

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

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

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

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Husbands are a blessing and a gift and a treasure.

Children are a heritage from the Lord.

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

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

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

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

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

But do you know what?

This was enough.

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

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

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

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

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Twice.

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

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

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but it tends to multiply.

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

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Ladies and gentlemen of the internet…

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

Mr. and Mrs. Gore!!!

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till death do us part

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh. My falling rose petals.

My life is now complete.

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

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

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

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Ten years ago…

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Today…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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then we fed each other cake…

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

life.

love.

laughter.

strawberry cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the vehicle’s not so bad either!

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

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

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

But this time…

we RAN.

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

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

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~

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

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

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

~

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

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Ode to a Cardboard Box

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

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

Betsie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Betsie, meet box.

The two were inseparable for the rest of the afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tisn’t a Pinterest-worthy box, but…

it’s OUR box.

And we love it.

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

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

That girl is cray.

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

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

I want to be like Betsie when I grow up.

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

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

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I think this ragamuffin has finally found a home.

She wants to live her forever.

And sleep here.

And eat popcorn here whilst watching “Sleeping Beauty”.

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

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

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

Not very welcoming.

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

So maybe she’s hospitable, after all.

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

It’s good to be reminded.

Christmas on Grandmother’s Porch

Special thanks to Benjamin Grey Photography for capturing this day for us!

~

Last year, as our Victorian Christmas photo shoot came to a close, I had this fleeting vision of our family tossing on some cozy and festive winter clothes and dragging a Christmas tree on a sled to the open-air pavilion next to the creek on my parent’s property where we would decorate it with strands of popcorn and cranberries, followed by a hot chocolate party next to the fire.

I already knew what coat I would wear and everything, and from that day on, I’ve been gunning for this year’s photo shoot.

(we won’t pause here to discuss that I have serious problems).

Thankfully for my entire family, there are 365 days in a year, and I had ample time to tone things down a notch so that, by the time our annual Christmas picture day arrived last week, I had settled on simply purchasing a small tree for my parent’s front porch and taking some fun pictures there, right next to the heated house. We could still have popcorn and cranberries and hot chocolate, but it would be the easier, quicker, less-involved and long-walky version.

And WOWZERS, did this turn out to be enjoyable!

If I’m being truthful, picture day used to throw me into hysterics, and it thrills me to the core to be able to measure God’s continued work in my heart by how much more relaxed and laid-back I am about this entire unnecessary-but-super-fun tradition. I had FUN this year. Lots and lots of fun. Even the day before when I was packing up half of my house, ironing tiny dresses and bathing kids on non-bath day!

Mostly because it was just a good time to think about my family, to enjoy the beautiful ambiance of the Christmas season and to meditate on all we would be celebrating together in the week to come.

The details of this “photo shoot” were pretty simple to throw together. Candy canes. Plaid. A simple tree with white lights. Leather shoes. Chocolate. Popcorn. Enamelware. Galvanized metal. Cranberries. Flannel.

You know…Christmas stuff!

And, even better, COUNTRY Christmas stuff!

And I’m so happy today, not only to have pictures of my little family at the ages of 33, 33, 7, 5, 3 and 1, but to have us all sitting on the porch where I grew up, attached to the house that contains my history. This is heart stuff, right here, and you guys know how much I love heart stuff.

Soooo…

ready to see the pictures?

Me too! I just wish I would shush already and show them to you!

But I’m feeling very talkative!

Because I love Christmas!!

Okay, seriously. Here are the pictures.

Up first…candy canes! I like candy canes. Always have. Teeth permitting, always will.

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 followed by a medley of marshmallows of traditional white, pink peppermint, and star-shaped-beauties from Williams Sonoma that cost roughly a thousand dollars.

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 First up, we took some group photos out in the pasture.

Can I tell you something? I think I look sassy in this picture, which is funny because I’m not a very sassy person. 

Who knows? Maybe I’m growing sassier in my old age.

I’ll keep you informed.

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 Little Shep, looking all grown up and slightly perplexed. He doesn’t know why his mommy is being sassy. He misses his old, non-sassy, obliging mommy.

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Gideon, shivering from the cold under the wing of his mother who drug him out in it, in the first place. He’s very loyal.

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And Poor Betsie. Those are goosies on her arm. But I couldn’t bear to put a shirt under that glorious puffed sleeve. I made it up to her later with cookies, fruit snacks and tickle fights.

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So, speaking of Betsie, we quickly moved out of the pasture and onto the porch, and here she is, doing a curtsy, in the to-DIE-for vintage baby dress I bought at Vintage Market Days in Tulsa.

Yes, I bought it in October with this photo shoot in mind, and yes, it was the last piece in my photo shoot wardrobe puzzle. Everything else had already been procured.

No, we’re STILL not going to pause to discuss my problem. Leave me alone, okay?

(Gasp! I AM getting sassy!)

p.s. Betsie makes me laugh.

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During this portion of the shoot, we took turns warming up in the house…

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Except for hot-natured Rebekah who had no problem on this outdoor picture day. I’m just really glad she kept her shoes on.

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And here is our crew of littles, the foursome that I get to do life with. I love them to pieces. Seriously. It’s popular these days to say that you should be your kid’s parent and not their friend, but when I’m not busy parenting them and teaching them to be civilized, these are my PEEPS, yo.

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During a brief intermission, Sheppy found some dirt to play in. Typical.

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I’m learning that it is a good idea to keep things hoppin’ when you are photographing littles. For our first porch activity, we strang… strung?…stringeded?…stringalingadingdonged?…some popcorn.

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Then we strang…strung…oh, forget it!…we did the same thing with some cranberries that we did with the popcorn.

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And then while Grandmother heated up some hot chocolate, we just hung out on the porch for a bit.

Sisters…sisters…there were never such (sort of) devoted sisters (they’re getting there, okay??).

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And, oh dear. I honestly, sincerely, really, truly, seriously CANNOT believe how old this child is. Months away from 8, and taller every day, it seems. Stop it, Gideon! Just stop it.

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I’m glad some of us are still 5. I can handle 5.

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3 is even better, especially when they get a boo-boo and need someone to hold them.

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and 1? 1 is PERFECT.

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Moving on.

Next we hung candy canes and our star ornaments on the tree. 

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and to wrap things up, we had hot chocolate and cookies and marshmallows for a treat.

At 9:30 in the morning.

The recipe for these pretty – and quite yummy! – cookies below can be found in Pioneer Woman’s new holiday cookbook. I love her. But you knew that already.

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And now comes my favorite picture of the entire shoot, THE picture of the century, really, wherein our friend, Ben, was able to capture the essence of my happy, hospitable, loving, generous, lovely, servant-hearted mama.

I will treasure this picture for the rest of my life.

She didn’t know she’d be having her picture made on this day OR in this moment. This is just who she is, what she always looks like, and what she always seems to be doing, delivering food or drinks to her family.

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I like it in black and white, too…

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But I REALLY like it in color.

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Finally! Hot chocolate time!

Now, I find the next picture humorous, for several reasons:

1. My husband and I never sit on the porch, just us.

2. My husband and I never sit on the porch, just us, in festive and complete outfits.

3. My husband and I never sit on the porch, just us, in festive and complete outfits and drink hot chocolate.

4. My husband and I never sit on the porch, just us, in festive and complete outfits and drink hot chocolate with a tray of holiday-themed Christmas cookies and treats nearby.

5. My husband and I, not surprisingly, do not look natural in this picture.

6. He looks pained.

7. I do not look sassy, but severe and cold-hearted.

8. But I’m sharing it anyway, because, honestly, my coat is FABULOUS here. We’ve been together for three years now and it still feels right, you know?…

(me and the coat, I mean, not me and Mr. Gore. We’ve been together for fifteen years. And it still feels right, too. Except for when we are having hot chocolate on the porch).

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and you’ll be happy to know that, after this, we just enjoyed our hot chocolate, standing, walking, or however we normally consume our hot beverages on a cold day.

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I hope that your Christmas, too, was full of family, joy, pretty Christmas colors, and maybe a couple of expensive star-shaped marshmallows from Williams Sonoma.

Merry (belated) Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Gore family!

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~

Thanks for stopping by! To keep up with Mrs. Gore and family and hear funny snippets from our days at home, find us on Facebook!

The Dark Side of Halloween (No, not THAT “dark side”. The “Star Wars” one).

I am very giggly and giddy tonight. Halloween is over, I ate a lot of candy, and really, I’m just pretty darn tickled about our costumes this year.

I suppose I should start at the very beginning…

Gideon, 7 years old, saw this random “Boba Fett” costume in the Chasing Fireflies catalog early in the summer, and he fell madly in love with it. So much that he got a job, worked for hours and saved up enough money to purchase it by himself. It was like he was Jacob of the Bible and that costume was Rachel.

Now, I must admit, I didn’t “get” it.

Mostly, I think, because I don’t “get” Star Wars. I’ve seen enough clips of the movies through the years to feel like I’ve seen it, but if I really sit down and think about it, I don’t really know what the story is about or what happens in the end. So I guess what I’m saying is, I’ve never seen Star Wars.

My husband, on the other hand, spent the first seven years of our firstborn’s life shielding him from the Star Wars storyline. He wanted the entire trilogy and any surprise twists to completely blow our son’s mind, and I’m pretty sure I almost saw him tackle someone when they were referencing the Luke/Vader relationship in front of Gideon before he’d see the movie.

And so it was a HUGE deal when, after his 7th birthday, he and Gideon went to the house of our friends, Zac and Chrissy, where a really awesome Star Wars watch party was laid out for them – I really should dedicate an entire blog post to that sweet party sometime – and the rest is history. Gideon has been a pretty big fan of the franchise ever since.

Still yet, this Boba Fett costume that Gid was so set on having really just boggled my mind. I don’t even know who Boba Fett is, and it was a lot of money to throw down for a costume of any sort, especially one that looked like it could fall apart if you looked at it funny…

but it was his money, and he worked really hard for it, and we honored his decision. The costume arrived, and true to his quirky nature, he was stoked to wear it at every possible opportunity.

Fast forward to an evening in September when we were having our first rousing family discussion on this year’s Halloween theme.

After a few ideas had been tossed about, Star Wars came up and I immediately started shaking my head “NO” because Star Wars is not a family costume theme I ever would have imagined myself partaking in. Because, you know, I’m not a trekkie. (Just kidding. I said that to my husband tonight to get under his skin).

But later that night, and this is proof of how much I love my boy, I started to think things over. If we DID go with Star Wars, Gideon already had this beloved costume he could wear. Boba Fett. One costume down is a BIG deal when you have a six-person family, you know?

And it had been a really big rite-of-passage for him and his Papa to watch those movies together earlier this year. If we were ever going to dress as Star Wars this really was the year to do it…

I couldn’t deny that it just seemed like it needed to happen. Then and there, I decided this was a year to take one for the team. Star Wars, it was!

And you know what? If you’re going to take one for the team, you might as well GO for it and surprise your son with a costume he would never expect you to wear. My costume this year was a gift for Gideon, a token of my love, a reminder that I see him and hear him and I “get” him, even if I don’t “get” who Boba Fett is.

All that said, the reason I’m so giggly is because our Halloween this year was full of humor – I found myself laughing at every turn, even now as I upload pictures.

For one, Betsie kept telling people we were dressed up as “Star Whores”.

For two, the pictures we snapped before our Trunk or Treat kind of crack me up, for numerous reasons.

For three, my husband kept making lewd jokes about the characters he and I were portraying (you’ll understand when you see the pictures).

For four, Rebekah’s wig.

For five, the feminine spin Betsie put on her boyish costume.

It was just, altogether, a funny, funny night. I am sure I will always get tickled when I see these photos, and I hope they bring you joy, as well.

Oh! And I have an idea for you to tuck away for next year. Plan an extra twenty or thirty minutes on Halloween to find a spot with good lighting for picture-taking, have an easy little photo shoot, and you can just relax the rest of the night and let your kids trick or treat without snapping a gazillion photos. I told the kids that, if they would cooperate and give me some good pictures at the start, we would be done with all formal photographs for the rest of the night. It was so nice to know when we departed for our Halloween fun that these pictures were already in my possession.

So. Up first, we have Princess Leia. When I ordered this costume (free for us with our Amazon reward points!), I assumed we’d chuck the wig and just do Rebekah’s own hair like Leia’s, but DUDE…this wig was hilarious. I couldn’t part with it. (p.s. and if you’re a Facebook reader, you’ll notice Rebekah’s faithful “lady smile”).

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Next we have Boba Fett. There is no doubt that this night was especially fun for Gideon. He is the most costume-oriented child in our family, and it was a treat to dedicate a family theme to him. (Rebekah has dibs on next year’s theme, by the way. She, too, took one for the team).

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And now, little Yoda. At least that’s who everyone thought she was. In actuality, her name was “Yodette” because she had a hairbow. Betsie made sure that she corrected everyone on this point at the Trunk or Treat. “I’m YodETTE”. I also really appreciate the posing skills Betsie employed tonight. She was in rare form.

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Then we had a little squishy Ewok. I die.

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Then…hubba hubba…Luke Skywalker. I don’t know who Luke Skywalker is, but I think I love him.

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And THEN…Lord, have mercy…Darth Vader.

Gideon about busted a gut when I came walking out of the master bathroom in this get-up.

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My husband, by the way, was APPALLED by the way I held my lightsaber. “You can’t touch the blade!” he exclaimed. “You will LOSE your hand!”

Whatever, man. I’m new here, okay?

He also wanted me to take a scary picture where it looked like I was trying to choke someone, but I don’t think I nailed it. I just look like a weirdo.

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Good guys.

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And (since Gideon wanted to be on my team), bad guys.

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Then, of course, my husband and son had to act out a fight scene, and I swear to you, when I saw the last picture in this series, I fell over laughing. That one is going in a frame to hang next to Gideon’s bed.

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Group fight!

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Luke and Vader, going at it. Tee hee. My husband titled this Halloween “A Freudian Star Wars”. I’ll let you mull all this over.

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And, finally, a few family pictures.

I mentioned this on Facebook already, but my husband noted that, in the first picture, I look like a sheepish Darth Vader or a teenager whose parents made her dress up for Halloween.

And again with the lightsaber. I need to take a lightsaber safety course or work on my villain acting skillz, I guess. I just don’t think I have it in me to be fierce.

Oh, and also take note of  a detail my cousin, Jeff, pointed out: “And the award for most congenial Yoda goes to…

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Action shot! Again, props to Betsie for really going for it.

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I know I say this ever year, but…

best. Halloween. EVER.

~

p.s. when time permits, I’ll come back and add links, reviews and info to our costumes!

Mud (and New Arrivals).

A couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law, Amy, was busy at the hospital bringing forth another nephew for me to love, and while we waited for the good news, we were living it up at my mom and dad’s house in the country, cousin style.

Mom and I have decided over the years that it is much easier to team up than to go it alone. Whether you are having a dinner party, or deep-cleaning your house, or keeping watch over a houseful of kids, two REALLY are better than one.

I could have kept my four kids at my house, alone, while she kept her four grandkids at her house, alone, and we could have talked to each other on the phone periodically, swapping stories about how bored the kids were and about how they were asking every five minutes when they were going to get to play with their cousins…

OR we could spend every waking moment together, sitting on the back porch, sipping coffee, while eight happy, nature-loving kiddos crawled, toddled, walked, ran, climbed, jumped and skipped all about us.

In fact, when this group of cousins are together, we hardly even SEE them – they speak their own cousin language, the fights are very few and very far between, and they play their little HEARTS out, from morning till night – leaving us to merely hold down the fort and brace ourselves for feeding and bathing time, because, as you well know, the payback for letting kids play hard all day is that they are hungry…nay, starving…and dirty…nay, filthy…by the end of the day.

And sometimes they’re REALLY filthy.

During the baby’s nap time, the littlest of the bunch disappeared to the front porch for a spell, and five minutes later when we went to check on them and make sure all was well, we discovered this…

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What can you do when you find a mess like this but to just let them GO for it? Their cleanliness was already beyond preserving, they were completely thrilled and occupied and we had a pot of coffee that needed drinking, so…

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we gave them a good scolding, we warned all the other children not to go NEAR that mess and we left them to it.

2-year old Abel, 3-year old Betsie and 5-year old Kate had the time of their life while the others seethed with jealousy that they hadn’t stumbled upon this muddy fun. But we had a new baby to meet that evening, and there was NO WAY we were going to administer eight post-mud baths before then.

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And every time I checked on their progress…

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they were a bit dirtier…

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and dirtier…

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and dirtier…

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and DIRTIER.

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And the porch? Lord, have mercy.

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But there are few things as precious in this life as children who are free at play.

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They can make the biggest, most colossal messes…

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but they’re so stinkin’ cute while they’re doing it.

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p.s. I totally left the cleaning of this ear to my mom. This was one of her kids for the week, after all, not mine. ;)

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And, in the meantime, Amy made us this:

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Welcome to our world, baby Jude. Can’t wait until you’re joining us in the mud.

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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.