A Sock-Hoppin’ Valentine Party

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and you know what that means…

party time!

If you’re new to Mrs. Gore’s Diary, let me fill you in on the past 10 years. Since becoming a grandmother, my mom has made it a practice to host fun “class parties” for her grandkids. It gives the kids – all of whom are homeschooled – a chance to celebrate with their cousins, and it is such a blessing to their mamas who usually just have one job: show up!

The parties vary. We’ve had Easter parties, Halloween parties, a Christmas baking party, a 12-12-12 party at 12:12 p.m….

but we always have a Valentine party.

I think it must be one of her favorites, and I can’t remember a Valentine’s Day growing up when my mom didn’t deck out the table with special candies and gifts; because of her, I’m a pretty big fan of February 14th myself! Especially now that I have children of my own.

Last year, she decided to give Valentine’s Day a twist and hosted a simple and fun 1950’s-inspired party. The celebration was at my house, and the children were instructed to dress in whatever 50’s-style clothes we could come up with in our closets. And Mom took care of the rest!

~

Before the party started, we took a few family pictures in the dining room. Gideon’s “costume” was easy: jeans and a white t-shirt. Rebekah (left) wore a shirtdress with a pink cardigan, and Betsie (in the middle) was the perfect size for her cousin Abigail’s poodle skirt from a Halloween long, long ago…

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I have to show this one, too, because when Rebekah saw it as I was going through pictures for this post, she laughed a little and said “Oh, my hair is always flowing like that…”

Confident, much?

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and Amy’s crew (Abel, Anna, Kate and Abigail) looked so precious with their neck- and hair-ties and cardigans!

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Anna and Gid, Valentines for life…or at least until they realize they’re too related to get hitched. 

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“Best fweinds” Kate and Rebekah.

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My mom (a child of the ’50’s) whisked Gideon to the back to give him a real 1950’s ‘do. Here’s the front…

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And here’s the back.

(I was already in love with this boy but this hairdo got me all shook up!)

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The kids congregated around the dining table…

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where Amy (playing waitress) came to take their burger orders.

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On the menu was heart-shaped hamburgers (you have to admire a woman who can make shapes out of raw meat), french fries…

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and yummy, beautiful strawberry milkshakes!

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 The meal was served ’50’s style in burger baskets lined with Valentine tissue paper.

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And now a few pictures of children happily eating and slurping…

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When lunch was over, it was time to play some games.

First, the limbo…

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then, a rockin’ rollin’ dance party…

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then a hilarious, knee-slappin’ game of spin the bottle…

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and then we played Valentine Bingo.

Each child was given a Bingo card (free printables here!) and a pile of mini marshmallows to mark their numbers…

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whoever won got to pick a toy from a prize table my mom set up. And, although this isn’t always our game-playing philosophy, each child won TWICE, until all the prizes were gone. It was, after all, a holiday!

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After Bingo, Amy gave a bubble-gum-blowing demonstration…

IMG_0025Then all the kids were given a piece of bubble gum to experiment with…

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after some perseverance (and maybe a few tears?), Abigail succeeded in blowing her first bubble! Obviously, my mom’s parties are as educational as they are fun.

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And then we wrapped the party up with some more fun pictures…

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Pinterest is full of breathtaking and professional parties, and while they are inspiring, they can also be kind of intimidating; I hope this encourages you to remember that laid-back and fuss-free parties still exist and that you don’t have to empty your college fund to celebrate with the children in your life. Come to think of it, I think I prefer my mom’s parties to the professionals’..

maybe because they remind me of growing up, safe and happy, under her nurturing wing.

Can’t WAIT to see what she comes up with this year!

~

For more Valentine inspiration, click on the Valentine tab in my blog’s menu or visit my Pinterest Valentine board.

The 13 Ways in which “Frozen” Melted My Heart

I have a million things I’d like to write about.

January would be a great month to tell a few more stories from 2013 that I never got to, I have some random nearly-completed posts I could polish up, and I’m feeling antsy to share last year’s Valentine party before Pinterest moves on to Easter (Pinterest moves FAST!)…

buuuuut then we went and saw “Frozen” this week.

And even though it was an inconsequential day and, initially, was never on my dorky blog radar (don’t defend me…anyone who uses the words “blog” and “radar” in the same sentence is a DORK), it turned out to be such a sweet and special occasion, I wanted to jot down a few memories.

Care to accompany me?

For starters, our family doesn’t get out much. I could probably count on one hand the public events we have attended as a complete unit. The reasons for this are manifold: 1. There’s a lot of us, 2. 66% of us are little people, 3. Events, even with little people, are ‘spensive, and, most importantly, 4. We’re homebodies – it takes something pretty special to entice us out-of-our-doors.

But from what I was hearing, “Frozen” was pretty special.

And the timing did happen to be perfect. Gideon loves any movie. Rebekah loves movies with girls in them. Betsie is just old enough to sit still for a bit, and Shepherd is just little enough to sit still for a bit. We had Christmas money to spare.

Honestly, it was go to the movies now, or maybe in two years. This was our chance!

So, after picking up my Grandmother (who is visiting from Texas), we loaded up in our funwagon and headed to Tulsa where we met my Mom at the theatre.

(Oh. I should probably tell you now that I like to spell theatre with an “re” instead of an “er”. It makes me feel fancy).

And, well, since there is a very intense OU game blaring on the television right now and my husband and father are literally dancing around the living room, I am going to have to share my highlights in numerical fashion rather than the flowing literary style that I would prefer. Que sera sera. Thanks for reading what I write, even when I am distracted by football chaos and sports enthusiasts.

Without further ado, I present to you our outing to the theatre (with an “re”)…

1. Is there anything more fun than watching your kids experience something new? This was Gideon’s 3rd movie, Rebekah’s 2nd and Betsie’s 1st, and I realized as we entered into the theatre that I should take note of their response to, well, everything. The arcade games and vending machines at the front. The ticket booth with long lines of customers. The concession area that smells like popcorn and fake butter. The bathrooms with sensor toilets and sinks and foam soap. The long hallways lined with numbered movie rooms. The giant movie screen. The purply, velvet chairs. It was ALL new to them. Looking back, I’m thinking that the theatre should have charged us grown-ups double, because we got to watch two shows today: the movie, and our kids watching the movie.

2. Just like I hoped, by waiting so long to see “Frozen” the theatre was nearly empty when we arrived, save for a few other groups scattered across the room. Slipping into our chosen row, I spoke to the two women in the row behind us: “I apologize in advance that we are here.” They assured me that they were in “kid mode” which completely put me at ease. This was my first time to bring a baby to a theatre. Sooooo taboo. Unless, of course, you are at a matinee showing of a popular Disney movie.

3. Well I’m a dummy. Apparently we had arrived to the movie early, because by preview time, there was not an empty seat in the house. Which was awesome because, you might remember this, I BROUGHT A BABY WITH ME. Still, I was pretty at ease; an attempt like this with my firstborn would have sent me into hysterics.

4. It is also noteworthy that my Mom, who is notorious for being cold in movie theatres, had heretofore avoided seeing this movie because it looked “so cold”. “It makes me cold to even see the previews!” she said. So, being a thoughtful daughter, I brought a few blankets along for her comfort. You know what’s funny about that? So did she. So between our pile of blankets, our cardigans, my giant bag, Shep’s carseat and all our snacks, there was NO ROOM for us to be “frozen”. I was as warm as a “happy” snowman in summer. ;)

And now, a word about each of my children as I watched them watch a movie…

5. Betise was killing me. She looked like a doll, perched on her booster seat next to her Papa, eating popcorn out of a little Coca-Cola cup. True to form, although she sat nicely through the entire movie, she was more about the snacks than the show. I lost track of how many times the root beer and popcorn was passed her way. And while I feigned jealousy that Mr. Gore got to sit by her, I was secretly thrilled to watch them together, especially during the “sca-wy” parts when she would hide beneath his arm. Be still, my heart.

6. Rebekah sat next to me, and provided the most amusing commentary. She inherited her Papa’s booming volume, and while the rest of us chuckled throughout the movie in moderate tones with only a few loud laughs here and there, her chirpy voice would slice through the entire room: “BAHAHAHAHAHA!!! LOOK AT THAT SNOWMAN SLIDING DOWN ON HIS BELLY! THAT LOOKS LIKE FUN! HE LOOKS LIKE A PING-WAN! HE LOOKS LIKE A PING-WAN!! Thankfully, I heard snickers all around us rather than hisses of “shhhh!!!” Folks truly were in kid-mode, thank you, Lord.

7. And Gideon. Complex of soul, his eyes are always telling a story; but when he is happy, they SPARKLE. It did my heart good to see lots and lots of sparkles everytime I glanced over at him during the movie. Flanked by his sisters, he would occasionally lean close to one or make a comment to the other, and he never groaned when he had to pass Betsie her drink again. Peaceful family times are a gift from God, and I loved seeing my son smack dab in the middle of this one.

8. So how did Baby Shepherd do? It was ironically funny, I suppose, that my baby boy who almost never cries decided to start crying two minutes into the movie. A helpless people pleaser, I lunged out of my seat and scurried to the darkened hallway of our theatre like my pants were on fire and stood watching the movie while I tried to rock him to sleep. The only problem was the little booger wanted to see the movie; he can barely hold up his head, but he was twisting his body around to stare at the screen, bobbing all over the place. I would finally get him cuddled back down when a noise or a song would interest him and he’d come bobbing back up. Finally, he gave in and I tiptoed back to my seat where he snoozed until the end of the movie. Phew! Good boy, Jake. I mean, Shep.

9. By the way, when I was rocking Shepherd in the aisle, I was also crying (not because I was frustrated, but because I have become a weeper, especially when I know my kids are having their hearts captured), which was quite inconvenient since I had no hands free. Tears and snot everywhere.

10. Another highlight of our experience was hearing my Mom and Grandmother giggling next to me. Actually, only my Grandmother was giggling. My Mom was cackling. (It’s okay for me to say that, because I’m a guffaw-er).

11. Where it was always such a treat to sit next to Mr. Gore at a movie in our courting days, it did something crazy to my heart to look to my left and see our little ducks all lined up in a row between us. Every once in awhile, we’d look at each other and laugh at a funny part. It was as close to brushing hands in the popcorn bucket as we could get.

12. Lastly, I can’t express how thrilled I am by the direction the Princess movies are going. I love almost every Disney movie there is and will eventually let my kids watch all that we own, but I am carefully meting out the princesses to my daughters for now; if they will be starry-eyed over a character in these formative years, I want it to be over someone very praiseworthy, like compassionate Belle. Thus, when we first saw “Brave” and I discovered that there wasn’t even a love interest and that Merida’s story was centered around her family, my heart did a jig. And now “Frozen”, the story of two sisters, one strong and golden-haired and one kind of ditsy (but loyal!) and brunette…hello, like Rebekah and Betsie?!…I just can’t. I don’t even know what to say. This is why I was weeping in the aisle of the theatre! Thank you, God, for this timely trend in story-telling!

I could obviously go on and on and on about everything I loved about the actual movie, but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it (plus, this football game is getting exciting!). So I’ll end with this…

Our van was full of sunbeams all the way home, and as the kids discussed their favorite parts and laughed all over again at what they had seen, I acknowledged once more how important it is to have good stories in your life, whatever their form; whether it is a tale we make up at bedtime, or a book we read out loud, or a new movie we watch at the theatre, story-telling gives us a common experience and memory, shared convictions, and in the case of “Frozen”, a kindred sense of humor. Which leads me to one last thing…

13. That snowman stole the show.

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?

A Halloween Party in the Woods

A Halloween Party in the Woods

Two years ago, probably a day after Halloween, I was struck with another of those impossible-to-ignore urges to throw a specific party for my favorite little kiddos.

A Halloween party.

In the woods.

And I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like…

I saw a spread in Country Living once (hey look! I found it: click here) featuring an outdoor Halloween party inspired by festivities of yore where costumes were less “dress-like-your-favorite-Disney-princess” and more festive and Halloweenish. Here’s an example of one of the antique costumes at the party:

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I was completely taken with the idea, and tucked it away in the back of my brain where it sat for years. Every Halloween, I would think about it and pine for such a party and costumage (you can go ahead and add that word to your handy-dandy-Mrs. Gore-Dictionary); and as Halloween 2011 drew to a close, I made a decision. We would have our old-school Halloween party next year, or I would die trying.

Only one problem.

Vintage Halloween clothes are ‘spensive. And rare. And just like there weren’t a lot of WWII-kids-party supplies out there when it was time for Gid’s 6th birthday, I had trouble finding any reproductions of old-school Halloween clothes on the market today. I know, right? Cray-cray.

So we did the next best thing and bought every Halloween dress and accessory that Cracker Barrel had to offer. Every year, they sell an assortment of black, orange, purple or gold dresses with lots of tulle, and by the time we bought them after Halloween, they cost about as much as an Arby’s value meal.

Thus, for a full year, my Mom had bags of poofy dresses and funny hats hidden in her closet, waiting to surprise the children on a beautiful October afternoon in 2012.

Oh, and there was one bright orange shirt for Gideon from the hunting section at Wal-Mart.

And here were the goals of our party: 1. The entire concept had to be a surprise – when the kids arrived at Grandmother’s house for the party, we wanted them to have NO IDEA where they would be going or what they would be wearing, 2. We wanted to allow them to walk through the woods to the party alone – with the oldest being 8, this would be a big and memorable deal for them (and Amy would shadow them with her camera, of course!), and 3. Have a festive and magical hole-in-the-wall-type party all set up when they arrived.

And shiver me broomstick, we did it! I will admit, I almost died of fatigue before this party even started, loading and unloading mountains of supplies, single-handedly arranging all those haybales and pumpkins, and then there were the three giant wasps nests we discovered above the party table about an hour before go-time (my Mom is a rockstar and slayed every single one of them without fear)…

but this afternoon will forever be cherished in my heart as one of my favorites. The kids loved it. And I loved watching them love it. Take a look…

Amy made these labels that we taped over vintage milk bottles and filled with assorted candies.

Amy made these labels that we taped over vintage milk bottles and filled with assorted candies. We placed one at each child’s seat and they passed them around so they could sample all of the different flavors.

Welcome to our Halloween party in the woods!

Welcome to our Halloween party in the woods!

A sparkly bat greeted our little guests.

A sparkly bat greeted our little guests.

I lined the pathway with pumpkins we borrowed from a nearby farm and filled in the path with crunchy leaves. Very fun!

The pathway was lined with pumpkins we borrowed from a nearby farm and was filled in with crunchy leaves. Very fun! And free!!

We made a simple sacklunch for each child and had it sitting on a real plate with real silverware - we wanted this party to have an authentic tea-partyish feel, but heavy on Halloween.

We made a simple sacklunch for each child and had it sitting on a real plate with real silverware – we wanted this party to have an authentic tea-partyish feel, with a heavy emphasis on Halloween.

The table was simple, but festive, and very easy to put together.

The table was simple, but festive, and very easy to put together.

Donuts from a Tulsa bakery - I considered for two seconds making some from scratch, but Mrs. Gore ain't got time for that.

Donuts from a Tulsa bakery – I considered for two seconds making some from scratch, but Mrs. Gore ain’t got time for that.

Very rustic caramel apples, speared through with a twig from the backyard.

Very rustic caramel apples, speared through with twigs from the backyard.

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You can’t see them very well, but we also hung black bats and festive lights from the ceiling.

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The kids LOVED their surprise costumes. Each one was different (but similar), and each girl had a funny hat to wear (Gideon got a black superhero mask). Anna’s hat had a giant spider on the top, but still looked very beautiful and fancy.

Funny...Amy and I dressed in all black and wore funny hats and accessories with absolutely NO intention of looking like witches. But we totally look like witches.

Funny…Amy and I dressed in all black and wore funny hats and accessories with absolutely NO intention of looking like witches. But…we totally look like witches.

Time to walk down the wooded path to the party! Everyone lined up, including our very uninvited guest, Batman the Cat.

Time to walk down the wooded path to the party! Everyone lined up, including our very uninvited guest, Batman the Cat. More on him later.

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Marching to Halloween! I was pretty giddy about this part of the party…

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Which way do we go?…

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That way!!

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They found us! And good thing, too, because I was about to eat all their candy.

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Ready to party.

I swear to you, just like our witch costumes were accidental, we did NOT invite my parents' cat, Batman, to our party. He followed the kids, and was by far our best Halloween decoration.

So. The cat. I swear to you, just like our witch costumes were accidental, we did NOT invite my parents’ cat, Batman, to our party. He appeared out of nowhere and followed the kids, but was by far the best Halloween decoration we had at our party. Way to go, Batman!

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I had to take a minute to get a picture of Amy and her girls (and the cat). They all looked so beautiful! (You too, Batman).

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And I have to brag on my party guests…

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they are used to their weird Mama/Auntie, so they gladly took a few “fake party pictures” for my blog before digging in to their treats.

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I’ve never been so proud. :)

Rebekah and Kate enjoy their party and some lively conversation.

Rebekah and Kate enjoy their candy and some lively BFF conversation.

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After their meal was consumed, Grandmother had a special game planned for them where they had to find special treats and surprises she had hidden in the woods.

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It took some earnest searching…

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but all the treasures were eventually found…

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and the rest of the evening was leisurely spent, playing, talking and daydreaming. One of my favorite things about children is that they need very little to entertain them. Just give them the great outdoors…

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and some playmates…

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and they’ll stay happily occupied for hours.

~

As a fittingly full moon began to shine through the trees…

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our Halloween party in the Woods mozied to an end and we made our way back to Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house…

tired?

Oh yes!

With a huge mess to clean up?

Indeed.

But our Halloween-lovin’ hearts were oh so full and happy…

especially Batman’s.

~

Happy Halloween, dear friends!

A Birthday for the Lady Who Has Everything

 Going through my long list of drafts, I found this completed (but never published) post cataloging my Mom’s 60th birthday celebration from exactly two years ago. It brought me such joy to read it and relive that special day. If it doesn’t bore you to tears, I’ll consider it successful…but I KNOW my Mom will love it as much as I did! Happy 62nd birthday, Mama!

~

What in the world was I doing up at 1:38 a.m. on Monday night? (Er…morning? You know what I mean).

And why in the world did I have cinnamon underneath my fingernails?

Who in the world had me so atwitter on that early September the twentieth morn?!

This one lady.

My Mommy.

Who turned 60 years old this week.

A couple of weeks ago, as I yet again scoured my brain trying to think up the perfect gift, it dawned on me most decisively that I had one distinct goal this year: make this woman know how much I love her.

But…how??

She has everything. Like books a’ million. And whozits and whatzits galore. And five gazillion comfy shirts from J. Crew.

And as far as birthdays go, she’s had 59 of them. We’ve surprised her with her sister from Texas. We’ve had surprise parties. We’ve taken her out to eat. We’ve had cook-outs. We’ve gone on out-of-state shopping trips. So what to do this year??

Then, one blessed brainstorming session with my sister-in-law produced a beautifully simple plan, one that sat so well in my heart, it was like the birthday peace that passes all understanding. I just knew it would work. It would do just the trick. She would feel loved!

We would give her a day full of memories, from morn till midnight.

And it went a little something like this:

At 9:00 a.m., a most winsome preacher/chauffer by the name of Mr. Gore arrived at the door of Mrs. Gore’s Mother. He was wearing a handsome suit, and his to-die-for curly red hair was perfectly in place. He fetched the birthday girl and escorted her down the sidewalk where birthday greetings had been written in chalk and showed her to the “Birthday Wagon,” a slightly decorated white Ford Taurus (woot woot!).

Showing her to her backseat place of honor, he shut the door, took his place in the driver’s seat, turned on the Birthday Girl’s favorite music (freshly purchased and uploaded that very morning) and drove her through the countryside and into town, slowing down in front of the preacher’s house. Standing in the street outside of the house were the preacher’s beautiful wife (with wet hair! Gasp!) and adorable children, all of them wearing real clothes and not their typical pajamas – a special occasion indeed. As the Birthday Wagon slowed and the windows lowered, they shouted felicitations and threw handfuls of birthday confetti at the Birthday Girl.

The chauffer continued slowly down the hill, and the Birthday Girl (who had wrongly assumed this would be her first stop) shouted out before her raising window snuffed out her words, “Where are we going?”

The preacher’s wife shrugged and smiled, reveling in the delight/horror on her Mother’s face, who happens to love/hate surprises.

Down the hill they drove to the home of a friend who met them at the car, pinned a pink “Birthday Girl” ribbon on the Birthday Girl’s shirt and presented a lovely handmade gift of friendship, a blue and grey rag rug that would go just perfectly in the Birthday Girl’s kitchen.

The Birthday Girl was beside herself already, and quite twitterpated.

Directly back up the hill they drove, back to the preacher’s house, parking in the driveway where more confetti was tossed and more birthday felicitations were shouted. Two sets of little hands led the Birthday Girl into the kitchen where a surprise breakfast party awaited her, all set up with fancy dishes, streamers, confetti, and several colorful birthday drawings.The buffet held a collection of prettily wrapped presents.

There were many surprises there, an antique wooden-handled screwdriver from young Gideon, a pretty candle from Miss Sunday, a package of sweet pencils from Betsie Fair, an interesting Norman Rockwell book from Mr. Gore, and two gifts from Mrs. Gore, a printed copy of Mrs. Gore’s Diary blog posts, and 4 pans of homemade cinnamon rolls.

For the Birthday Girl could live off of blog posts and cinnamon rolls.

{This, of course, is why Mrs. Gore had cinnamon underneath her fingernails on this birthday eve. She had stayed up quite late embarking on the most exciting and rather lengthy adventure of making cinnamon rolls from scratch. Many thanks to the Pioneer Woman and her easy-to-follow recipe for yeast-using novices.}

It should be noted that just as everyone sat down to eat, Betsie “Fair” had a blowout in the living room, soiling not only her pajamas, her sleepsack and her bassinet sheet, but her legs, her lower and upper back and the area just below her left ear. Happy Birthday.

When breakfast mozied to a close, Mr. Gore went off to work, sans chauffer jacket, and Mrs. Gore and her children sat with the Birthday Girl on the front porch enjoying the lovely day, a portable phone resting on the table beside them.

At 11:00 sharp, the Birthday Girl’s beloved sister called with birthday greetings, and the two enjoyed a leisurely talk on the front porch.

At 11:40, Mr. Gore came home, disappeared into the house, and then reappeared with his handsome suit coat on. The Birthday Girl literally groaned when she saw him. “Do I have to go?” she said, smiling again in horror/delight. He linked her arm through his and escorted her to the Birthday Wagon as Mrs. Gore’s little family shouted their goodbyes.

All through town they drove, twisting here and turning there, keeping the Birthday Girl in utter suspense.

{Meanwhile, Mrs. Gore RUNS into the house in a frenzy to make a cake and feed the baby before lunch is over.}

Finally, they pulled up to the house of the Birthday Girl’s third child, her youngest son, where she was led inside to find yet another mini party awaiting her, a grand lunch of chili dogs with all the fixin’s, a can of Coca Cola and a Snickers bar holding a special birthday candle.

For the Birthday Girl could live off of chili dogs, Coca Cola and Snickers.

Here she received a fancy tin of bath sugars and a beautiful collection of family photographs (taken by the talented family photographer) and had the pleasure of taking part in a homeschool lesson of crafting miniature teepees with her beautiful granddaughters. A fun time was most definitely had by all.

At 1:30, the Birthday Wagon honked its horn from outside, summoning the Birthday Girl that her birthday lunch was complete…

But alas! The winsome chauffer was gone, and in his place was none other than Mrs. Gore herself. She smiled and waved, gleeful with birthday joy and anticipation. Laughing, the Birthday Girl took her place in the passenger’s seat where a pillow, a stack of magazines and a bottle of water sat at her service, and off they drove to the next destination.

But it is difficult to house surprises when you live in a country town. Once you enter the highway, each road leads to a very specific destination, and so thirty minutes into their trip, the Birthday Girl correctly guessed where they were going.

And so Mrs. Gore lied in response….to her Mother….on her birthday. A bald-faced lie.

“No…(she hedged)…they weren’t going to meet the Birthday Girl’s 2nd son at Cracker Barrel in Shawnee! They were going…antique shopping. At a place…a friend…recommended.”

But the Birthday Girl is as gullible as she is curious, and she easily accepted the lie as truth. Thus when Mrs. Gore DID pull in to Cracker Barrel to “get a cup of coffee” and “go to the bathroom,” the Birthday Girl laid her seat down to catch a quick nap before their first antique shop.

Imagine her surprise when she heard a tap at her window and opened her eyes to find her 2nd son peeking through the window. She had been duped! After much laughter and many hugs, the Birthday Girl was seated at a table with her son and daughter-in-law and their 4-month old baby boy, along with, of course, Mrs. Gore and Betsie Fair (no longer with poop under her ear).

They shared a leisurely hour there, sipping on coffee, feasting on conversation.

For the Birthday Girl could live off of coffee and conversation.

Here she received two tickets to a Christmas symphony in December, one for her, one for her husband (who, although averse to anything in the city, actually enjoys live concerts) and a promise to be accompanied by her son and daughter-in-law.

At 4:00 sharp-ish, it was time to go, and by 5:30 the Birthday Girl was back at Mrs. Gore’s house, freshening up in the very untidy bathroom.

{Where was the birthday cake, you ask? Hiding in a kitchen drawer. Well done, Mr. Gore.}

Mrs. Gore and Betsie Fair got right back in the car and drove to a church women’s fellowship, and the Birthday Girl’s husband picked her up and squired her to Tulsa, to a fancy restaurant next to the river. A birthday date for just the two of them?

Not quite. Seated there at a table for four was the Birthday Girl’s eldest son and his wife, smiling a birthday greeting.

They enjoyed a delicious meal together, topped with key lime pie, and she was met with the last of her birthday surprises, money for a trip to her sister’s house in Texas, with extra cash for antiques and pastries.

For truly, the Birthday Girl could LIVE off of antique shopping and pastries. Especially when she is with her daughter and her sister and a couple of pots of coffee.

But I’m sorry…did I say that was the “last of her birthday surprises”? Except, of course, for her truly last surprise of a mini cake party back at Mrs. Gore’s house. There, 6 grandchildren hid in the powder bathroom and jumped out when the Birthday Girl stepped into the living room, yelling “Surprise!!! Happy Birthday!”

The birthday song was sang with gusto as the Birthday Girl and 5 little ones helped her blow out 60 candles. The “Sock-it-to-me Cake” was one of her late Mother’s most-used recipes, much-loved by the entire family for years and years…

And so it was complete. The Birthday Girl spent her entire day in the company of those who love her best.

Right before bed, a facebook video was sent of the grandchildren singing “Happy Birthday” one more time, and as the Birthday Girl tells it, she watched it over and over again…

If she didn’t go to bed that night feeling cherished, then by golly, I’ll eat my hat. Along with the three leftover pans of homemade cinnamon rolls sitting on my counter…

Happy Birthday to one amazing lady. This family just wouldn’t work right without you.

September 20, 2011

(see? told you my hair was wet…)

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

~

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

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

We had huge plans for Gideon’s 6th birthday.

I mean, aside from the awesomely vintage Word War II-inspired birthday party we hosted for him…

But as it turns out, building complicated backyard fences and finding the perfect puppy take a little bit of time.

A LOT of time, actually.

So the dog we intended to present to our firstborn on his 6th birthday in March didn’t actually join our family until two nights ago, the last Monday in July, at 7:00 p.m. I’ll tell  you all about it, but first I have to pose a couple of questions…

Do you believe in the sovereignty of God?

Do you believe that God cares about even the smallest details of our lives?

Call me crazy, but I really do.

And, even though this puppy is seemingly joining us at the worst possible time, one month before my due date, one month before homeschool starts and two months before Mr. Gore’s back surgery and 3-month recovery (I’ll explain later…), I can’t help but recognize the hand of God in this entire situation.

If you’ve been a reader at Mrs. Gore’s Diary for very long, you know that I am pretty big on “moments”. Few things are done around here without intention, and while most of our days at home are very simple and boring and nondescript and familiar, the big days are…well, BIG. I dream about them, I pray about them, I plan everything out with painstaking detail, and most importantly, I wait. One of my biggest fears is that I will introduce my kids to every good thing in life before they are cognizant enough to realize, remember, or appreciate it.

Thus, presenting Gideon with his first dog has been something we have anticipated for years. We wanted him to remember this day. We wanted him to be ready for it. We wanted his extremely tender little heart to be in exactly the right place to receive this monumental gift. And we have been praying for a long time that God would intentionally use his first dog to build something substantial in our son’s heart…a deeper love and compassion, a sense of responsibility, a wellspring of gratitude…

but I honestly never dreamed that God would make this moment even sweeter and use our first puppy to teach our son about the sanctity of life. Let me explain…

It has always sort of bugged my husband that mankind, in general, and Christians, in particular, only celebrate the BIRTHday of a baby. “If we really believe that life begins at conception,” he would say, “then why do we ignore those 9 months in the womb? Why do we say a child has been alive for only a year when they have been very much alive for a year and 9 months?”

He mentioned it often, and as these thoughts continued to ruminate in his mind, he finally came to me with a suggestion a few months ago. “Let’s start celebrating our kids ‘life day,'” he said. “Nothing big, and we don’t have to have a party or stop doing regular birthdays, but I just want them to know that we were celebrating and anticipating them from the very beginning…”

You know I loved the idea. Another day of the year for celebrating? Sign me up! And seriously, how amazing would it be for our kids to grow up with an awareness of the fact that, 9 months before they were born, God was already knitting them together, forming their specific features, crafting their unique (and whackadoo, in our case) personalities?

After a little bit of discussion we decided that we could commemorate their “life day” with a really special and thoughtful gift each year… something that would make them feel expressly cherished and special. So get this…

Gideon’s “life day” was in July.

Right about the time we finished our backyard fence.

A couple of weeks before the Golden Retriever puppy our friend found for us on Craigslist would be old enough to come home with us…

And as it began to dawn on me that the presentation of this HUGE surprise to our most beloved boy would coincide with his “life day” and would serve as a testimony to the graciousness of God in crafting his very existence, the tears started flowing.

I couldn’t even think about this day without breaking down, sometimes in the car, sometimes in bed, and one time talking to my husband in the backyard; I just laid my face down on our new fencepost and started sobbing.

But if I’m being completely honest, I think I would have been crying without the added bonus of “life day”. I love my son. I love his tender and complicated heart. And I’ve known for a long time that, while owning a pet would be a special thing for any of our kids, this was going to be a true rite-of-passage for Gideon. The thought of what this puppy would do for his heart did CRAZY things to my own…

And the most exciting thing of all is that Gideon had absolutely NO idea what was coming. Even though we built and painted a huge new fence for him. Even though Grandpa and Grandma delivered a giant kennel to our backyard. Even though there were cans of dog food hidden in the pantry…

he was in for the surprise of his young life!

And because I obviously have a sickness, I decided to just go ahead and make this into a bonafide event, complete with matching clothes, a photographer, and a 4th of July theme, so we would always remember that Gideon’s “life day” was in July. Life isn’t “all about the pictures”, but if you’re going to observe a monumental occasion, and one of your very favorite photographers goes to your church, you might as well take advantage of the blessing, right?…

And believe me, when you see the photos that Benjamin Grey Photography captured for us, you’ll be so glad that I’ve decided to keep my disease for at least the unforeseeable future. I can’t wait to share them with you…

Tomorrow! (Read Part Two here).

~

Want a sneak peek? Alright. You twisted my arm.

To help your children understand the sanctity of life, start celebrating the time of year that God starting knitting them together!  A VERY special family observance.

Miss Sunday’s Birthday Adventure

Our firecracker of a second child, Rebekah Sunday, turned 4 years old on Saturday…

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I honestly can’t believe it.

It is incomprehensible that the baby girl that completely stole my heart in 2009 has been in our possession for as many years as I was in high school. It doesn’t seem possible! And so, with much sighing and sulking, I continue to be convinced that the more ironically cruel twist in all of nature is that time seems to speed up just when you start wishing it would slow down a little…

But, as usual, I digress.

We had that killer tea party for both of our girls last week, which left us free to relax and enjoy Rebekah’s actual birthday to the fullest. Her entire day was jammed full of special family togetherness, so that, by the time we returned home, my husband and I literally fell on the floor into exhausted heaps of unusefulness. We turned on a movie, ate popcorn for supper, and I think it was a couple of hours before I realized that Betsie was still wearing a swim diaper and had probably been peeing and leaking all over the house…

But, in the midst of all the splash-parking and restauranting and bike-riding, there was definitely one part of our day that stood apart from the rest, and I am so excited to share it with you today.

A couple of months ago, our good friend and brother, Brian, shared a blog post with us. Brian is the music expert in our world and has introduced us to so many richly theological worship songs that have become foundational in our family’s life. One of his favorite artists is JJ Heller, and before you go any further, you really need to go and visit the blog post that he sent for us to read that day (click here).

Have you read it yet?

Shoo! Go read it! Spit spot.

Okay. Welcome back. I missed you.

So that blog and video blew me away.

Especially this part:

“When one woman asked Lucy why she was giving daisies away, Lucy replied, ‘Because you are special.’ I can’t tell you what a proud mama I am. The name Lucy means bringer of light, and from the moment she came into the world, she has lived up to her name. 

 I’m often tempted to stay in the safety of my minivan; to stay tucked away in my seemingly safe, non-confrontational life. I’m realizing that lives are changed when I have the courage to step into the unknown. The more I know that I am loved, REALLY loved by the Creator of the universe, the more I can share that love with others. Thank you, four-year-old Lucy Love, for showing me how to be brave. By God’s grace, I hope to be a bringer of light too. All it takes is getting out of the minivan.”

Not only did I identify so completely with JJ’s own anxieties and practices (I ALWAYS stay in the minivan), my heart absolutely mirrors her own in the way I feel about my own 4-year old daughter…

I am in awe of my little girl. Everything that I am, she is not, everything I am not, she is, and every area where I am weak, she is strong. Brave, unblinking, unafraid, uninhibited. She can go tinkle in the pasture standing up without getting a drop on her. She is the best wrestling buddy her big brother could ever ask for. And she doesn’t think twice about flagging down the waiter at a restaurant to ask for “more ketchup” or “some more Sprite”. I marvel over this aspect of her personhood, and thank God with all my heart for giving her a less timorous spirit than my own.

And I seriously cannot wait to see how He uses her gifts to bring light into to this dark world.

And this is why Brian sent us JJ’s blog post in the first place: “Saw this blog post and video and immediately thought of Miss Sunday in Lucy’s roll. She would have loved that!”

Which got me thinking, after I sopped up my tears from watching the beautiful video that JJ shared in her blog…

Why don’t we do this with Rebekah?

How about, on her birthday, we allow her to bring a little of her 4-year old light onto someone else’s path?

And that’s exactly what we did. On the way to her favorite store (“the baby store”, also known as Pottery Barn Kids), we stopped at Wal-Mart, bought two dozen roses, trimmed them, and placed them in her Easter basket. And once we arrived at Utica Square in Tulsa, we followed behind Rebekah as she passed out flowers to complete strangers, surprising them and blessing them in ways that we would probably never know…

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She did experience one moment of shyness when we were about to walk by a sidewalk restaurant. “We can stop now and go to the baby store…” we told her, wanting this to be a good experience for her and not something we pushed her into.

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But she squared those little shoulders back and carried on, giving out every last rose in her basket…

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Did Rebekah change the world with her roses and kind greetings?

Probably not. But as we walked around the corner on our way back to Pottery Barn Kids, I saw a woman at an outdoor Starbucks table looking at her pink rose, smelling it, deep in thought…

did she feel loved that morning? I hope so.

And when we returned to our van after playing at PBK, the security guard you saw pictured above was waiting for us on the sidewalk (our van was covered with shoe-polish birthday messages – hard to miss!). Rebekah’s light had reached his soul that morning, and he had been so deeply touched by her birthday flower that he wanted to treat her to some cotton candy ice cream at the Russell Stover store!

We drove to meet him across the Square, and after he purchased treats for our children, we conversed with him at a little seating area outside. “I’ve been working as a security guard for 5 years here,” he said, “and nothing like this has ever happened to me…”

Did he feel loved that morning? I know so.

And as I watched my beloved daughter lap up that pretty pink-and-blue ice cream, my heart swelled with love and pride and gratitude, and I prayed that, on her 4th birthday, she not only got a taste of how great it is to be loved and showered with gifts and attention and special treats and outings, but to love others and to bring the light of Christ into their world.

I’m pretty sure the ice cream helped seal the deal…

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Happy Birthday, Rebekah Sunday!

You are loved, indeed.

~

Special thanks to the amazing and beautiful JJ Heller for this lovely idea, and for Brian Barnes for sharing it with us. We are so grateful!

~

Want to read more about Rebekah? Here are some of my favorites:

her birth story: Small Elephant Remembers Rebekah (Part One) and (Part Two)

My Sunshine at Night

Sunday, Sweet Sunday and (part 2) Wake Up, Little Sunday

My Clothesline Companion

The Wrath of Miss Sunday

A Betsie Kind of Day

IMG_0114Today our family will celebrate the 2nd birthday of that doe-eyed little baby girl, our beloved Betsie Fair…

The sweetest and most docile baby I’ve ever known, I had dubbed her my “cricket”, my Beth March, my pet. But the above picture is one of my most cherished because that tiny piece of clover in her mouth, right underneath those huge, shining, innocent eyes, represents a major shift in our life, one that we are still dealing with and feeling the aftershocks from these many, many months later…

That was the day that the real Betsie began to emerge, and the clover I dug out of her mouth after this picture was taken was the first of countless – and I do mean countless – items I retrieved from her grasp, whether from her teeth, or her tightly-clenched fist. And that’s when I wasn’t retrieving Betsie herself from the back row of the church van, from the kitchen counter, from the middle of the table, from the church’s soundbooth, from toilet stalls, and, most notably, from the window display at Pottery Barn Kids…

She has become a babbling, singing, nonsensical lightning bolt that streaks past me these days, usually inexplicably naked, and more often that not, I have no idea what to do with her.

You know why?

No matter what kind of mischief she is in, she still looks at me with the same expression that she is wearing in that picture. Naive. Mostly innocent with a hint of impishness. Full of love and joy and wonder…

She may be a lightning bolt, but she is also a ray of sunshine, constantly bringing light and laughter to our household.

As far as birthdays go, she doesn’t really get it, and I shared the following post on my personal facebook page last week:

Rebekah and Betsie are almost exactly 2 years apart (June 8th and May 30th), and so I can’t help but compare them sometimes. By this age, Rebekah was speaking full paragraphs and singing complete hymns, and I felt like we could communicate perfectly. On the other hand, here’s the conversation I had with Betsie today:
Me: Did you know your birthday is next week, Betsie?
Betsie: (blank stare, blink, blink)
Me: You’re going to be TWO!
Betsie: Huh-uh.
Me: Yes, you’re going to be two!
Betsie, shaking her head: No.
Me: Yes…
Betsie: Pancakes.
Me: (blank stare, blink, blink).

None of us ever really know what she is thinking, but as far as we can tell, she is in no way grasping that this grand day of May 30th belongs to her. But I know, and I will be spending the day drinking in the blessing and the quirkiness of my Betsie Fair, counting our memories together and praying for many, many more. Even as I follow along behind her, trying to keep her alive and out of the dishwasher…

Happy Birthday, Pinky!

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p.s. You can stop eating clover now. Seriously.

~

Here are some of my favorite Betsie stories from the archives. And I promise to write more about her in the weeks to come!

Gideon Meets Baby Betsie

I Will Trust in Thee (Betsie’s birth story)

The Birthday Girls (because today is ANOTHER precious girl’s birthday, too! Love you, Abba!)

Following Baby Betsie

A Storybook Halloween (because I still can’t get enough of Granny)