A Surprise Valentine Breakfast

I’m glad you guys seem to love me so much, because, after blogging for 3 years, one thing is very clear: there is no rhyme or reason to this blog.

And speaking of love, while I’m plugging away at writing up some memories from Gid’s 7th birthday, I thought it would be a good time to FINALLY share the pics from our Valentine celebration.

You know, the one from last month.

Pinterest is laughing at me right now, isn’t it? Valentine’s Day is so last season.

But that’s okay because, honestly, I’m behind in every area of my life right now, and this has actually led to something GREAT.

As I usually have the house decked out for V-day on February 1st, I felt pretty much like a miserable failure when the week of love arrived and my house was not dressed for the occasion.

Rebekah was throwing up all week long, and things just weren’t working out for me; there was no possible way I could have the house cleaned up and decorated by the 14th.

Something had to be done.

If only I had a completely empty room just sitting around that I could put ALL of our Valentine stuff in…

well, I did.

The sunroom!

Recently emptied of all of its furniture and cuteness to become Jake’s temporary dog-home, it was the perfect place to hold a little party for the kids.

The sunroom is separated from our kitchen by an antique door, and what excited me the most was that, by covering the door’s large window, I could completely deck out the room and have it ready without the kids ever seeing it.

The entire day before Valentine’s Day, they had NO idea that there was a party waiting for them just beyond that door.

But I knew. And I was pretty giddy about it.

There was nothing really spectacular about this party. I already owned all the decorations, the books, and the games, and the breakfast menu was our typical pancakes and bacon.

The fun was in the surprise and in taking a moment in our day to celebrate a holiday together.

Take a look!

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I hid out in the sunroom and took pictures of the kids when they saw the party table…

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Mr. Gore pretended to be surprised, too. Please notice the completely trashed-out, non-decorated room behind him that matched the entire first floor. But NOT the sunroom. :) Sigh. I love the sunroom. And Mr. Gore.

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I say this every time, but I think this was my favorite party ever…

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We ended up our breakfast by reading our little collection of Valentine books together. (The Day It Rained Hearts is our favorite!)

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And then we opened our valentines to each other. The night before, Mr. Gore and I made handmade cards for each kid with pictures of us and them, and they were a huge hit.

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I would show a picture of Rebekah with her valentine, but she threw up on it right after this, and all over our party table.

But, still. It was a great morning.

And best of all, it completely inspired me to keep the sunroom empty, so that, during these crazy years with little ones underfoot, I’ll always have a safe place to celebrate our holidays.

Did I mention that I love the sunroom?…

~

Coming next to a sunroom near you: a Nursery Rhyme party! (maybe).

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. ;)

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…

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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.

I Signed Up For This, Too

I Signed Up For This, Too: receiving the joys (and the triumphs) of motherhood

Last week, I shared a post on the common complaints I’ve been guilty of indulging in as a mom, along with my resolution to (try to) abstain from all the sighing and moaning and groaning that so easily accompanies this life with little ones…

but, thankfully, not every day calls for such resolved action, and, as a lady who truly loves being a stay-at-home wife/mom/homeschooler, I would be remiss to mention all the things I struggle with in the mommyhood department without mentioning the things that bless my slippers off.

Because, thankfully, when you “sign up” for the daily grind that comes with being a parent, you are also the natural beneficiary of a good that far, far, FAR outweighs any bad that might occasionally (daily) weigh you down.

Thus, the next time I find myself being a Debbie Downer about the seeming drudgery of my life, after I read through my handy dandy list of what I signed up for…and then after I thank God that I don’t have to attend two weeks of VBS and then go home to do the canning…I’m going to pop right over and read this list…

a list that will remind me of the beautiful gift I’ve been given, a gift that is better than much fine gold and more sparklier than diamonds.

Let us begin.

1. Children are a heritage and a blessing from the Lord.

This I know because the Bible tells me so (Psalm 127:3). And because I feel it in me bones, to the very depths of my soul.

(I feel like you should know that I just wrote that entire paragraph with a Scottish accent).

Holding my two boys, arms full of blessing…

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2. Children are forgiving.

Thanks to godly examples who have shared wisdom with me, I have made it a habit to easily apologize to my kids since I became a hormonal and emotional psychopath a mom.

And you know what? The minute I say “I’m sorry” or “I need to do a better job”, I am immediately met with kindness and reassurances from my little people.

“It’s okay, you didn’t mean to.”

Or “You don’t need to do a better job. You’re the best!”

Or “I didn’t think you were being grouchy. And I was being mean, anyway.”

It astounds me every time. Kids don’t even have to think twice about offering their heartfelt forgiveness.

I’m mad at you…

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Okay, I forgive you.

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3. Likewise, children don’t hold a grudge.

In my almost 7 years as a parent, I have never once heard one of my kids bring up a fault from my past.

(Scratch that…my son has sort of held it against me for 5 years that I sold some of his toys at a garage sale when he was a toddler…).

But, for the most part, on the important stuff, they not only forgive, they forget. Each day is a new day with them, and yesterday’s hurts and failures are literally forgotten.

Grudge? What’s a grudge?…

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4. Children are funny.

I am a huge fan of humor, and I used to think nothing was more fun than going to see the latest comedy at the movieplex…

until my first niece was born. Since that day almost 10 years ago, our family has been introduced to comedian after comedian; each one is unique, but each one has brought new waves of joy and laughter to us, whether it is in their facial expressions, the way they talk, their mannerisms…

And in my own home, not a day goes by that every single one of my kids doesn’t give me something to get tickled about.

Like this guy and his mustaches…

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Or this gal right here…

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Or this little freakshow…

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5. Children are little ministers.

This one actually really surprised me. I’ll never forget the first time it happened. My then 3- and 1-year old were sitting with me on the couch watching cartoons and I was mulling over some intense inner turmoil that had been eating me up for days when, out of nowhere, I felt a little hand on my shoulder.

I can’t aptly describe the peace that washed over me from that childish touch, one that had no idea my heart was so heavy, and I couldn’t get over how soothing it was to be sitting there quietly with them, feeling their love. Unbeknownst to my babies, they helped me through that day.

Since then, I have repeatedly been ministered to by my children. Whether I am sick and in need of a nurse, or crying from pregnancy hormones, or feeling overwhelmed or ugly or sad, they treat me gently, running to get me tissues, asking if I’m okay, smothering me with hugs and kisses…

yes, children drain you and they make messes and they test you to your limit, but they also give.

And I’m pretty sure it’s much more than they take.

We take lots of staged pictures around here, but this one was real. Rebekah and her Papa…

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5. Children are easy to please.

Oh my goodness. Give a kid a muffin tin and a pile of coins (or just the coins!) and they can stay occupied for an hour. Put a slice of cold cheese in a bun and they think you’re the best “cooker” ever. Wear a pair of sparkly earrings and they think you look like a princess…

I know now why people are constantly saying that “it doesn’t take much” when it comes to children: because it’s true!

You know what my two-year old nephew, Brett, told the mall Santa he wanted for Christmas? “Some candy”.

In a world that never stops wanting and buying and consuming, the simplicity of childhood is like a beautiful city on a hill.

2-year old Gid, playing with some coins…

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6. Children are accepting.

Little ones are just sweet. They don’t notice skin color. They don’t see clothing quality. They don’t care too much if someone is different from them. And if you nurture them in it, they will make friends of all ages.

Yes, they notice blemishes and facial hair and that your belly jiggles when you laugh, but they don’t hold it against you. And even when you are rolling around like a narwhal on the slip n’ slide, they just think you’re fun.

Gideon and our friend, Yoyo, who pushed him all over our church in one of the spare wheelchairs…

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Rebekah and our friend, Kenneth, blowing out his 90th birthday candles in Sunday School…

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7. Children are honest.

Sometimes their honesty is of the brutal variety (“why do you have a beard on your face, Mom?”), but it is so refreshing to daily be among a group of people who tell you what they’re thinking. If my kids are upset, they tell me. If they have a question, they ask it. If they have a compliment, they share it.

There aren’t many hidden thoughts and motives with children (unless they’re trying to pick their nose on the sly), and that is a lovely thing.

And sometimes even their nose-picking is honest…

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8. Children are loving.

I can’t count the number of unsolicited hugs and kisses I’ve received since becoming a mom.

And even though I find myself scorning the gift sometimes and longing for that elusive “me-time”, the fact of the matter is this: my kids love me and would spend every second of every day with me. And then they want to sleep in my bed at night. And stand by me when I take my bath. And hand me toilet paper when I go to the bathroom. And bump into me when I stop walking.

My gosh, we spend half our lives yearning for someone to love us and want to spend all their time with us…

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Children.

Where I go, they go (and when I’m away from them, I miss the little boogers)…

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9. Children make the world seem new.

This has been a surprise for me, as well. I had no idea what joy I would glean, not just from watching my kids experience great things, but from reliving childhood from a different perch.

It is like having the opportunity to start life all over again. The stories and fables, the nursery rhymes, the songs, the holidays, the wonder, the smell of crayons…

it is all back in your life again, and it is so much stinkin’ fun.

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10. Children make you holy.

I don’t think there is one single aspect of parenthood that has not brought me closer to the heart of God.

Whether it includes being at my wit’s end and crying out for grace…

or being so crippled by fear for my children’s salvation, safety, and general well-being that I find myself pleading at His feet and entrusting them to His care…

or being overwhelmed by a love that is so big and pure that it leads me straight to worship…

or digging deep for biblical answers to questions that lead to more questions like “who is God?” and “who made God?” and “why do people sin?” and “why did God create all these animals and not give me any?”…

And that’s just off the top of my head! Parenthood = sanctification. And even though sanctification hurts like the dickens sometimes, it is even more precious than children.

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11. Children are wonderful teachers.

And in all of the above, children teach us.

To forgive. To make grudges nonexistent. To laugh. To minister. To live simply. To accept others and withhold petty judgments. To share what’s on our mind. To love someone so much that we are happy just to sit by them and hold their hand. To live. To think about God…

and a lot of times, they can teach us all of this and more without even opening their mouths.

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~

Sisters and brothers, may we never lose sight of the treasures that pitter-patter through our houses.

And may we shed our complaints quickly, freeing our hearts to marvel at the joys, bask in the innocence and laugh at the antics that are only in our lives for a painfully short season…

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“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.”

Psalm 127:3-4

~

special thanks to Amy Jackson and Benjamin Grey Photography for photo contributions!

~

Do you have anything to add to this list? How have children (whether your own, your grandchildren, your nephews and nieces, or the children in your church) blessed you?  Share and celebrate with us!

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!

The Internet is Alive with the Sound of Critics (and it hurts my ears)

Last night, our family of six sat down in the living room, bowls of popcorn and leftover Halloween candy flanking us, to watch something rather extraordinary on our television set.

We were a day late, and so I had already seen the reviews. Most were positive and the show had been very well-received, especially by Oklahomans. But true to the cultural norm, the negative comments also abounded: “Panned” by critics (or the two critics listed in the article), repeatedly compared to the 1965 Julie Andrews film, and nit-picked on nearly every corner of the internet (I’m looking at you, facebook and Twitter); if you wanted to hear an opinion on The Sound of Music live television event, you didn’t have to look far.

Still yet, I remained unfazed in my determination to enjoy this night. I knew going in to this that Carrie Underwood was an unseasoned actress. I knew that this was a live musical, not a movie. I knew there would be possible hiccups, or lighting problems, or sound issues…

in fact, all of those things actually added to my excitement! Would one of the nun’s candles accidentally blow out? Would Carrie stumble? Would her voice break? Would one of the children forget their lines? Would a spotlight fall from the rafters and crash onto the stage?

Truth be told, I knew none of the above had happened or I would have read about it online before the movie had even ended. But still…I couldn’t help but be nervous.

But even greater than my nervousness was admiration.

Admiration for a television network planning something that the entire family could actually sit down and watch together; I have been a mom for 6 1/2 years and this is the first time we were able to sit with our kids in the living room and watch something on primetime television with no fear of profanity, adult humor, violence or lasciviousness.

Admiration for an entire cast and crew who were willing to stick out their necks to try something daring and different, knowing that the critics would be ready to pounce.

And most of all, admiration for an Oklahoma girl who must have bit down thousands and thousands of stomach butterflies, pushing herself in ways she had never done before, to bring the magic of Rodgers and Hammerstein to a new generation of viewers.

As I watched Carrie Underwood perform, I thought of all the little girls across the nation who would be tuning in to see their favorite country singer on air for 3 whole hours. And what brought tears to my eyes was imagining that they arrived to NBC that night for the name of Carrie Underwood…

but left with a beautiful redemptive story in their hearts and a new playlist of songs that will serve them for a lifetime.

Yes, indeed, the tears were flowing over here.

Several times.

And as the touching story of the Von Trapp family played in this new format before my eyes, I wasn’t thinking about Carrie’s acting, or shadows on the set, or who had the best singing voice. I wasn’t thinking about who could have played Maria or any of the other parts better. I wasn’t even thinking about Julie Andrews or the movie that first stole my heart many, many years ago.

I was swept away, thinking of my blessings, living in a land where I don’t have to kowtow to a dictator.

I was thinking of the beauty of music that brings families together.

I was praying that my daughters would have hearts like Maria.

I was thinking about Carrie Underwood’s mama and how proud she must be.

I was thinking about my children, and thanking God that, while it would be a huge deal for all six of us to scrape together enough money to attend a live musical, we had been given the opportunity to watch one of the best for free without ever leaving our home.

And I am convinced that, regardless of how much money they brought in or how good it was for ratings, NBC gave us a gift this first week of December.

Thus, today’s blog post isn’t really about my heartfelt endorsement of The Sound of Music. I don’t need for every person in America to love the same things I love. In fact, one of my favorite things about living here is that we are free to have an opinion and are free to talk about it on the corners of the street if we want to…

but what I do crave in our entertainment-saturated culture is a little more kindness.

A little more gratitude.

A little more wonder…

And I’m not just talking about the professional critics.

I’m talking about all of us, who have been blessed by so much culture and so many different venues of entertainment that we have become underwhelmed and critical about every. single. thing.

With great blessing comes great responsibility, and we would all do well to take a step back, to contemplate what life could be like, to remember what life used to be like, and to reclaim some of the more admirable attitudes that should surround events like this week’s live television event.

Thankfulness that great music and great stories are being passed down to our children.

Camaraderie with our countrymen that encourages one of our own for doing something incredibly brave and applauds them for their extraordinary talent.

Humility that abhors pretention and doesn’t even care if we know everything about everything.

Kindness that, if it cannot say something nice, says nothing.

Wisdom that discerns when opinions are needed and when they are superfluous and indulgent.

Simplicity that gets excited when entertainers put on a show for us to watch.

And awareness that those on the screens we glue our eyes to are real people, with real feelings and with mamas who have internet access.

Again, I don’t really care if you loved The Sound of Music and I don’t need for you to be a fan of Carrie Underwood.

I just want you to be nice.

You know, like Maria.

~

As ever, my first concern is for my readers. All comments will be read by me, but only those that are edifying and do not lead to further debate will be published. Thanks for understanding!

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.

Gabbie, Pioneer Woman and Ridiculous Me: a Trilogy (Part Two)

Part 2: Pioneer Woman

(Read part one here)

~

It isn’t every morning that you’re sitting there like a deadbeat in your bamboo lounging clothes and, in between your 14th and 15th sip of coffee, you get a facebook notification from Ree Drummond, THE Pioneer Woman.

That’s right. Ree had seen Gabbie’s photograph, and she had responded:

“Oh my gosh…absolutely adorable. I might want to borrow that wig sometime. ;)”

In the span of 4 seconds, our quiet house and our uneventful day erupted like a super-happy volcano. I felt like Anne Hathaway in the Princess Diaries when she finds out she is princess of Genovia and Julie Andrews is her Grandmother…

Ree had seen Gabbie’s picture?!!

Gabbie had received a message from Ree?!!

Shut. UP!

Things only escalated from there as something phenomenal happened; once Ree commented on the photo, her droves of fans began to see it, and the ‘likes’ and comments started flying. It reminded me of that scene from Harry Potter where the letters from Hogwarts start shooting into the Dursley’s house, and Harry is dancing around, trying to catch them…

But I was Harry, and I was only mentally dancing around the room (because you know I wasn’t getting out of bed), and the notifications weren’t for me, they were for a starry-eyed little girl who likes to cook with her Mama…

and I could only think one thing: Gabbie and her mom and dad (Megan and Brian) are going to DIE.

For the rest of the morning, my husband and I were held captive by our computer screen, watching the ‘likes’ on Gabbie’s photo rise, reading all the comments, feverishly messaging Brian and Megan (both of whom were at work) with updates….

we were atwitter and my goal to catch up on homeschool was kicked to the curb. Classes were cancelled!

And if I wasn’t thrilled enough for Gabbie, my joy tripled when Mr. Gore got this text from Megan: “Gabbie is going to be so excited. She was so distraught that she didn’t win the costume contest yesterday…”

I pictured our quiet little friend, dressing up as her hero; donning her PW costume, she probably expected to be recognized by every person she passed, and would have excitedly lined up for the contest, sure that she would win because, duh…she looked like Ree Drummond! How could she not win?

I well remember those types of bitter childhood disappointments, and it made me hurt for Gabbie.

But even for little girls with childish dreams, joy comes in the morning. Any disappoinment she had felt on Halloween night was sure to be forgotten once her Mama told her the good news!

And that alone would have been a very happy ending to Gabbie’s tale…

but as it turns out, her very special day was just beginning.

~

“You know what?” I asked my husband as we continued to hang out in bed, “I think Ree Drummond is doing a book signing in Tulsa in November…”

He immediately hopped online and started looking.

“She is!” he exclaimed. “For the release of her new cookbook…”

“When?” I asked.

“Tonight.” he replied, grinning. “5:00.”

Shut. UP!

Our texts with Megan went into sonic-speed, and Megan was thinking what we were thinking, and no, it wouldn’t be weird at all, and pretty soon it was official. We were going to the signing…

and mini-Ree was going with us, red, shiny wig and all.

This day was so bizarre it was beginning to seem providential!

I decided to take Rebekah Sunday along, who, though too young to be a superfan of PW, really, really likes her cooking show and all those horses she has.

When I broke the news to her, her face lit up and she exclaimed “Are we going to bake with her?”

“No, it won’t be like that…” I informed her.

“Well then can I play with the boys?” she asked, clapping her hands.

“I doubt if they’ll be there…” I replied.

But she decided to be excited anyway, and by 3:00 that afteroon, we were all on our way to Steve’s Books in Tulsa to purchase a cookbook and meet the Pioneer Woman, Megan and her three following behind me and my Mom, Baby Shep and Rebekah.

After a slight glitch upon our 4:00 arrival when Rebekah woke up from her nap, looked out her window and, seeing a Dollar Tree rather than a sprawling ranch, began to wail “I thought we were going to her house!!”, we began unloading and scurrying toward the bookstore to get in line.

And here’s how popular Ree Drummond is. Arriving an hour early, we were still in the 9th group of 25 people to meet her.

Let’s see…that meant we had approximately 16 more hours to wait. With 5 children between us.

Cool.

But we were determined to stay, and I assured my very sweet and docile friend, Megan, that I would storm the castle before Gabbie went home without meeting PW.

The next several hours were spent in various pursuits as I mentally kicked myself for not bringing one snack, drink or distraction. (As far as celebrity book signings go, we were definitely amateurs).

First, we sat on the curb and I played guessing games with the big kids while Megan wrangled her toddler boy and my Mom kept an eye on sleeping Shep.

Then we played some more games.

Then we took pictures of our shoes.

Then we flipped through Ree’s new cookbook.

Then Rebekah started getting hungry and begging me for food…

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then I told her I didn’t have any and she started hanging on my scarf and begging harder…

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Then I started fanning myself. It was 5:00 and an ever-growing crowd was starting to swell around us, hemming me and my hormones in.

We escaped to an empty portion of the sidewalk far from the bookstore and spread out a bit. Here’s me and my Mama and Rebekah, definitely loitering in front this boutique.

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Once we had some wiggling room though (and thanks to Megan’s amazing sister, Jill, who drove over straight from work to help us with the kids), time went by a little faster, and we stayed happy and amused…

mostly by the fact that we had a little Pioneer Woman with us. Similar to the costume contest, no one really knew who Gabbie was or why she was wearing a bright red wig; it was fairly obvious from the constant sympathetic glances she received that many assumed she had a serious illness. The entire situation reminded me of my night out with Peter Pan.

And I’m sure it didn’t hurt that our giddiness about all that had happened that day made everything reach a new level of hilarity…

especially when an elderly woman stopped by Gabbie and said “Oh, there you are! That girl with the beautiful red hair.” She reached down to finger Gabbie’s obviously fake tresses. “That color!” she exclaimed, “and it is just so thick!”

We were loathe to embarass her by explaining that it was a wig, plus the backstory would have been so long, so we just thanked her, all while Rebekah was piping up “It’s fake! Her hair is fake!”

I clamped my hand over her mouth and continued to beam at the effusive woman. “It’s fake!” her words muffled against my hand.

And speaking of Rebekah, it was pretty cute…

while Gabbie is the superfan of Ree, it soon became apparent that Rebekah was the superfan of Gabbie dressed as Ree.

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“I’m taking a picture with The Pioneer Woman!” she chirped, laughing.

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By 7:00, after the kids started running in circles and we were becoming far too bold with the food truck (PW had provided snacks from her new cookbook!), I knew something had to be done. Grabbing Rebekah’s hand, I decided to go ask if we could look at children’s books in the store where Ree was signing.

Surprisingly, the answer was ‘yes’ and I was reminded of why my husband always gets good deals and free shipping: he’s not afraid to ask.

I walked tentatively in to the small store carrying Rebekah on my hip, and I couldn’t help but feel like a trespasser. It was as quiet as a library in there!

And there, at a table near the cash register at the front of the store, in all her red-headed glory, sat Ree. I stopped for a minute to look at her and, in a whisper, pointed her out to Rebekah…

big mistake. I must have forgotten who I was holding and, before I could stop her, my little girl started waving frantically and broke the silence of the store by yelling “hi!!!” to Ree.

Like a ninja, I jumped forward and ducked behind a shelf before whisking her to the back of the store where she sat happily on a stool and perused the books. It was a good distraction for both of us, tucked away into the corner, right behind the snaking line of fans. But I was antsy and needed to converse with someone.

I made eye contact with one of the ladies waiting in line.

“Do you remember what group you are in?” I asked, probably a bit pathetically.

“575-600…” she replied.

“Oh…” I sighed, “Well, we’re getting closer…”

“What number are you?” a second woman asked.

“660,” I reponded, forlornly. “And we just have so many kids here! They’re so hungry…”

I couldn’t really comprehend what I was doing as this sob story involuntarily rolled off my tongue, but this, too, seemed providential as it apparently worked in my favor. The second lady held up a ticket. “I’m not using this one,” she said, “it will help you get in a little faster.”

610. Gasp! That was the next group!

I kissed her feet (in my mind) and Rebekah and I took off to get everyone packed up. Within minutes, our group was called into the store. T’was a gloriously fun and unexpected frenzy, and a blessed turn of events.

But even in our haste, my heart stopped to recognize that this was it: Gabbie was about to have the moment of a lifetime, one she would never forget.

The little girls entered the store on our heels and I watched with glee as Gabbie craned her neck to get her first glimpse…

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and although we were at the back of the line that wound through the store, it wasn’t long at all before our turn came up. Gabbie was next!

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Ree had been notified that Gabbie was coming (apparently some nutcase had tracked her Mom down on facebook and paid a dollar to send her a private message? People these days!), and was SO sweet and welcoming to her little twinkie.

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and Gabbie was precious to watch. So tongue-tied…

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so bashful…

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but so very happy.

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I was just taking it all in, snapping pictures for Megan when I heard Rebekah’s chirpy voice once more: “I saw you on TV!” It was at this moment that I realized Miss Sunday needed to take a hike so Gabbie could have her moment with Ree.

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and here they are, Ree Drummond and her mini-me…

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matching hair, matching tunics, matching earrings, and would you look at this, even matching cheeks, chins and smiles.

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The fondest dream of Gabbie’s young heart had come true…

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and you know who it really all comes back to?

Megan.

A loving mama who made mountains of Pioneer Woman food for a 6-year old’s birthday party…

who was running all over Tulsa with 3 kids the Tuesday before Halloween looking for a red wig and a tunic…

who scrambled home during her lunchbreak to get Gabbie’s costume to wear to the signing…

who left work at 3:00 with those same 3 kids and drove staight to Tulsa to stand in line for 4 hours…

who loves her daughter, with all her heart, and lays down her life for her happiness.

Pioneer Woman might be Gabbie’s hero…

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but Gabbie’s Mama is most definitely one of mine.

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~

and, as it turns out, Pioneer Woman is ALSO one of my heroes. Stay tuned to hear the spectacle that happened when Gabbie left the store and I realized it was MY turn to meet Ree. I promise to spare no details. Go ahead and kill me now.

Gabbie, Pioneer Woman and Ridiculous Me: a Trilogy

Part 1: Gabbie

~

When I woke up on the morning of November 1st, I had simple goals for the day:

1. Recover from Halloween by drinking my coffee in bed and keeping my pajamas on all day.

2. Catch up on homeschool.

3. That’s it.

But life takes awfully funny twists and turns, and few have been quite so twisty or turny as the ones mine took today…

It all started back in August. My friend, Megan, was planning her daughter, Gabbie’s, 6th birthday, and Gabbie had made an unusual request for one so young: the dearest, darlingest desire of her little heart was to have a Pioneer Woman party. And not like, Little-House-on-the-Prairie-cowboys-and-indians-pioneer-woman-party, but Gabbie’s-favorite-person-on-the-planet-Ree-Drummond-THE-Pioneer-Woman-party.

You don’t see a lot of those on Pinterest…

But here’s what I love about Megan. While I would have taken that theme and secretly planned all the details while my daughter slept, turning it into a sunflower and basset hound affair where all the boys had to wear ranch clothes and all the girls had to wear tunics, Megan actually sat down and planned this party with her little girl.

Flipping through cookbooks, Gabbie picked out several Pioneer Woman recipes that she wanted to make with her friends, and as usual, Megan set the stage for a genuinely lovely and laidback party wherein both her daughter and her guests (and their Mamas!) would leave feeling happy and appreciated.

For Gabbie’s present, I decided to aim really high and, sitting down one afternoon, I sent a long and gushing e-mail to The Pioneer Woman herself, telling her about Gabbie and her party theme, and asking rather pathetically if a small token might be procured in time for her birthday…nothing much, just an autograph, or a video shout-out, or a spatula…a Kitchenaid mixer perhaps (or two? One for me, one for Gabbie?)…anything, really, that the Pioneer Woman had signed, touched or breathed on.

Knowing it was a major shot in the dark, I worked hard to keep my expectations in the “it-never-hurts-to-try” category rather than the oh-my-gosh-I’m-going-to-become-BFF’s-with-PW-while-making-Gabbie’s-party-the-best-ever category…

for I knew it was very unlikely that PW would even see that message, and if she did, would have her hands tied; it is common blogging knowledge, is it not, that if you send a gift to one “biggest fan ever”, you leave out 1,158,935?

Yes, Ree Drummond has that many followers on facebook.

Still yet, it was worth an attempt for our Gabbie-girl.

But as her birthday party drew near, it became apparent that my message had probably been swallowed up into a sea of PW fanmail, perhaps read, perhaps even appreciated, but understandably unanswered. My disappointment was not too keenly felt, and I had to take a minute to feel sorry for Ree Drummond who probably receives thousands upon thousands of requests from people like me who just want this “one tiny thing” from her.

And it was great; even though my dreams of the present-of-a-lifetime didn’t materialize, Gabbie’s party was a precious affair.

The children arrived to a table stacked with miniature pizza boxes that they got to decorate with fun stickers and markers before moving to another table where they put together their own pizza using PW’s homemade crust recipe.

Then, while their pizzas baked in the oven, they moved to another table and put together a Pioneer Woman fruit pizza. There was also PW’s lasagna for the grownups, as well as her beautiful (and towering!) Chocolate Strawberry Nutella Cake that served as Gabbie’s birthday cake.

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I was just so touched by that sweet party, and left that day not only realizing what an amazing woman and mother Megan is, but that Gabbie is more than your typical fan of Pioneer Woman…

She’s a superfan!

All that to say, when my friends and I were sitting around in early October discussing Halloween costumes, and Megan mentioned that she had nothing planned, I offhandedly mentioned that Gabbie should dress as Pioneer Woman, remembering her birthday party and her unprecedented adoration for Ree Drummond.

I was joking.

But apparently Gabbie heard the idea and was like, YEAH, baby.

From that night on, she was determined to wear a Pioneer Woman costume for Halloween.

(You don’t see a lot of those on Pinterest, either…)

But over the next couple of weeks, I watched in wonder and amusement as Megan did it again. Where I would have said, “You know, sweetie, that doesn’t really match Mommy’s costume”, Megan found a way to make her little girl’s dream come true and, although she was still clueless on the Sunday before Halloween about how to make this costume materalize, by the time I saw Gabbie at our town’s Trunk or Treat on Halloween night, she had been transformed into none other than Ree Drummond…

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I cracked up.

The best part of all? When Gabbie approached our “trunk” to recieve her treats, she first handed ME a treat of prettily wrapped homemade cookies. Because that’s what Pioneer Woman would do.

(Let’s all take a moment to ponder the cute/sweet/preciousness of that idea and give Gabbie and her mama a round of applause).

When our troop returned home later that night and all the sugar-laced children had been strapped into their beds, I did what every American mother does on Halloween night, edited and uploaded photographs onto facebook. It was so much fun to peruse the snapshots of what had been a truly special evening (more on that next week), and I loved looking again at the different costumes our little churchkids had come up with this year. They were all so precious.

But when I came across Gabbie’s picture in the hundreds I had taken that night, I stopped for a minute.

I smiled.

I said “eureka!”

And I decided it was worth another shot.

Going straight to Pioneer Woman’s facebook page, I posted Gabbie’s photo and left Ree a quick caption: “At our town’s trunk-or-treat, I was so happy to be visited by a little Ree Drummond. This is 6-year old Gabbie, your biggest fan!”

It took no more than a minute and, assuming it, too, had been swallowed into the blackhole of internet posts, I gave it little thought and went on to tweak and edit some more of our photos before finally calling it a night and going to sleep…

And that leads us back to the morning of November the 1st.

When I woke up, I set out to accomplish my first post-Halloween goal of staying in bed with my caffeine and pajamas. Leisurely sipping on my first cup of coffee, I opened my laptop and was perusing facebook when I got a notification.

Clicking on it, I saw with bug-eyes that this was not my typical notification.

And that’s when our day went twisty…

~

Click here to read part 2!

(and here to read part 3).

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!