A Veritable Smorgasbord (or the time the Gore Family went to the fair)

My mom asked me a couple of weeks ago if I’m ready for the baby to get here.

“I am…” I said, instinctively placing my hand to my belly.

“Has it really even sunk in yet?” she asked, guessing the direction of my thoughts.

“It HASN’T!” I exclaimed, glad to know she understood. I went on to explain to her how numb and dumb I have felt this entire year. “It’s like nothing in sinking in anymore,” I said. “And I don’t just mean the baby. I mean NOTHING. And it all feels so funny, like I’ve found myself in a story and I’m just watching it all happen with no real comprehension of what’s going on…”

And I have the perfect example to help display what I’m talking about.

We went to the fair the other day.

All of us.

My mom.

My dad.

My husband.

Our four kids.

Our wagon and our trusty insulated food hamper.

And, most notably, ME.

At the time, almost 8 months pregnant.

Going to the FAIR.

Did you know that, with my heightened senses and a proneness to anxiety attacks, I have been mostly avoiding crowded places during this pregnancy? And I’ve tried to not put myself in situations where there is a lot of speed and a lot of traffic? And I’ve tried to stay away from venues that are very, very noisy?

Until the day we decided to go to the FAIR.

During rush hour.

In the middle of downtown Tulsa.

With all the people and all the animals and all the noise IN Tulsa.

In all honesty, I only said ‘yes’, at all, because my dad is the one who first brought it up. Even more of a homebody than I am, it is a rarity for him to want to go anywhere besides church or work or the farm; however, about once a decade, he has this inexplicable itch to go to the fair…of all places!…and though the “why” is beyond us, we wouldn’t miss going with him for anything.

For when he is at the fair, the man transforms into a totally different person. Mr. Hates Crowds, Mr. Hates Loud Restaurants, Mr. Grumbles at the Prices and Just Wants to Go Back Home and Eat my Mom’s Good Cookin’ turns into this dollar-dropping, fun-having, food-tasting phenomenon that just cracks. us. up.

What’s that? Chocolate-covered cheesecake on a stick? Let’s try it! Who wants a footlong corndog? Here, have two! The FERRIS WHEEL?? I’ve got to get in on that action, pronto!

It’s like landing in some sort of bizarro land, and when Mr. Gore and I accompanied him…seriously, almost a decade ago!…with our little firstborn in tow and watched in shock as he morphed into this fair-loving eccentric, we knew we’d stumbled upon something truly remarkable, something that should be observed and remembered and nurtured.

So, yeah, there really was no question about going or not.

I mean, who CARES if I’m starting to waddle and I have to take bathroom breaks every fifteen minutes? My dad’s going to the FAIR and I need to be there to watch him eat cotton candy like it’s his last day on earth!!!!

And then there’s my mom, who loves to go to places other than church or the farm, and is always up for a trip to well…anywhere! The more noise, the more people to watch, the more excitement, the more music, the better!

I wanted to go to the fair with her, too!

And then, of course, there’s that thing I already told you about where things just aren’t sinking in quite so much. I’m numb. I’m dumb. I have absolutely lost control of all the thinking and the reasoning and the logic-ing, not that I ever had much of any of those to begin with.

So, yes, from all possible sides, my reaction was just…

Sure thing! Let’s go to the fair! Thumbs UP!

Mostly because I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE I AM, ANYWAY.

WHY, by the way, is my belly so big??

Where did all my normal pants go?…

Why am I going to the doctor every month and peeing in a cup?

WHAT is HAPPENING, you guys?!?!

I don’t even KNOW.

Anyhow, our kids were 100% super duper excited about this news.

Still at a young enough age where things are awesomely fresh and new, they’re mostly unspoiled about outings, and our house was completely abuzz for days leading up to our fair trip.

And I have to admit, I was a tiny bit abuzz, too. This is what happens when you’re a mom…even if something is out of your wheelhouse, even if you would rather stay home and watch British crime dramas, even if you could think of a hundred things you’d personally rather do than go to the fair…you’re happy. Because they’re happy.

Well, Fair Day arrived before we knew it, and to make the trip extra fun and memorable, we decided we should all ride together in the minivan. It felt like a real slice of Americana, loading up with all my kids and my husband and my parents to drive to the big city and see all the latest inventions from big cities like Chicag-y and Kansas City and Paree. I couldn’t WAIT to taste all the homemade pies and pickles and take a picture with a real bearded lady!

(Or…something like that…)

But it was about twenty minutes into our drive when something deep inside of me started shaking its head most vehemently about this whole adventure and saying “no…no…no…this is not a good idea…go HOME, Mrs. Gore. Go home to your chair! Go home to your silence! Go home to your air conditioning!”

But…then again…there were all those smiling faces in the seats behind me…I could see them in the rearview mirror looking like a smiling scene out of “Meet Me in St. Louis”!…and we’d already packed the kids’ sandwiches and insulated water bottles…

it was really “Fair or Bust” by this point.

And so I did what is totally normal and acceptable and run-of-the-mill in our car these days, I put my fingers in my ears, slumped down in my seat, and squeezed my eyes shut so I could pretend like we weren’t on a busy highway with a bunch of insane city people who were either desperate to get home after a long work day or were, like us, desperate to get to the fair. So they could trample us in line and shock us with their immodesty and make us remember why we only leave our house for places like Silver Dollar City and Colonial Williamsburg.

Do I sound grumpy? I do, don’t I? I’m sorry. The fair will do that to ya when you’re almost eight months pregnant.

But THEN, my friends, we saw it…

The World’s Exposition.

Or, as most folks call it, the Tulsa State Fair.

Wow. There IS something kind of magical about it, is there not? That giant ferris wheel…the carnival music…the smell of a thousand unhealthy foods??

I couldn’t help myself. I started grinning like the rest of them.

And then we got out of our van.

What’s that noise?!” our four-year old whimpered from his wagon, his hands over his ears as he took in the distant screams of fair-goers on carnival rides.

“That’s the sound of people dying, Shep,” his big brother soberly replied.

Ah, I do so love taking my little morbid family to town.

Now, before we really get started with the night’s activities, I have to show you the man who squired us about during our evening at the fair.

Mr. Gore bought this shirt especially FOR the fair a few years ago when he was going to attend with friends, and he wears it to most ‘Merica-type gatherings. We are a patriotic family, no doubt, but this was a tongue-in-cheek purchase what with the George Washington and the gun and the eagle with laser eyes and the fire and the whatnot. It’s just a true spectacle. That doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t receive loads of compliments on it…

especially when he wears it to the fair.

I have no words.

For our first stop of the evening, we went straight to the animal birthing center.

Of all the things we saw and did, I think this attraction was the most amazing. There was this long row of animals who had either given birth since the fair began, or who were “due” any minute. Our kids loved seeing the fresh-out-of-the-oven farm babies with their mamas, and I used the opportunity to share lots of commiserating glances with the poor dears who were still waiting for their labor and delivery to happen, while also thanking God that I wasn’t in a pen at the fair for educational research. How embarrassing.

But look at these cute babies!!

After getting our fill of farm life and petting zoos, we exited that building and starting immediately scoping out the food.

Want to see my dad in action?

The signs boasted popcorn, cotton candy, and chocolate-covered cheesecake-on-a-stick, and we had all three of them. And this was only the first stop in what would be dozens. I realized in this moment how fortuitous it truly is to bring a big group of people to the fair, because you really can try everything, and everyone can get a taste or two of the goodness.

Shep decided right off the bat that he really likes the fair. Almost as much as Granddaddy.

This girl liked it, too.

And look at these two being darling.

Oh! Here goes Dad again…

Foot long corndogs for everybody!

And indulge me for a sec while I share a great picture of my parents. I love these two. I’ve told my mom that they both look so eternally young that it has tricked me into thinking they’re still in their fifties and that, when they die of old age, I will be totally shocked. “What happened???” I’ll ask, assuming it was a terrible tragedy. “They were 99 years old, dear,” the doctor will tell me.

And this is when things got serious.

Introducing the bacon bomb burger, this year’s #1 new food at the Tulsa State Fair.

It was good.

It was really, really good.

We all liked that burger.

See? It made us happy.

We also all shared some fries, since we were sitting there with nothin’ else to do.

And a $6 Coca-Cola with $3 refills.

The fair is evil.

So after getting our tummies a little bit full (HA!), we moved on to the things the kids had been asking about since we pulled into the parking lot.

Shep was dead-set on doing this “jumping thing”.

Seven dollars.

Evil.

But he got a ten-cent medal from Oriental Trading Company for participating, so that’s good.

Next up…

THE FERRIS WHEEL!!!!

How beautiful.

But also HOW TERRIFYING!!

Let me ask you fair fans a question about fair rides…

ARE YOU INSANE?!?!

I spent most of our time in this section of the fair ducking, flinching, and feeling responsible for the lives of all you crazies who were loading up into sky-high instruments of death that had just been set up yesterday.

These feelings only intensified when my most precious loved ones were in a creaking metal basket at the top of that monstrosity of a ferris wheel.

It was at this point in our fair excursion that I felt most inclined to have one of those anxiety attacks. The walls…even though there WERE no walls…started closing in on me and the noises got noisier and the people were bumping into my pregnancy girth and the ferris wheel started growing taller and taller in my imagination and…I just had to get out of dodge.

Retreating quickly to a picnic table far away from the rides, I took deep breaths and looked down at the concrete while telling myself that my dad and my husband and my two eldest children and my dearest, darlingest four-year old were not about to crash to their untimely deaths on the concrete floor of the Tulsa State Fair.

Gulp.

But they were so high up in the air!!!

OH the horror!!!

Thankfully, I had one child too afraid to ride this ride.

At least I’d still have her.

Two nice ladies had asked if they could give her this blue dog thing that they had won and didn’t want, and, being so distracted and sickened by the ferris wheel, I said “Sure!”, not even giving myself time to worry if it had drugs or needles in it.

That stuffed animal was the highlight of her night!

And THAT, my friends, is why you shouldn’t ride ferris wheels.

You get free stuffed animals, and you get to live.

By the way, my mom had also chosen survival over the ferris wheel, and that brought me another bit of comfort.

Once the funerals were over, the three of us would move to Nantucket and start a new life. Nantucket probably doesn’t have fairs, and if they do, their rides probably wouldn’t break because Martha Stewart would have designed them, so…we’d be safe there. And maybe eventually happy.

Ahhh!! Look! They’re all waving at me! And they’re close to the ground again! PHEW!!

Maybe my life as I knew it could go on, after all.

And here they are! The brave (reckless) five!

I asked my firstborn (usually a landlubber, himself) how he liked it, and this was his response.

That last picture means “not a thumbs down, totally, but NOT a thumbs up.”

I’m glad at least one of that group had some sense!

And now comes my very favorite memory from our night at the fair.

While my husband rode the merry-go-round with the little ones (this was little sister’s much safer ride of choice)…

my mom said “Hey, why don’t you let me take the big kids walking around for just a little bit so they don’t have to stand here and wait?”

“That would be great!” I said, thankful they’d have a diversion.

And the next thing I heard, slicing through the thousands of fair sounds that were surrounding us, were the familiar happy shrieks of my eldest daughter when she is about-to-lose-her-mind excited.

I wheeled around in curiosity and…

this is what I saw.

I stared at my mom in disbelief.

“How did?…What did you?…Who dee what?…IS THAT A GOLDFISH???”

She flashed her most endearing shrug/smile combo and had to stop right there to put her hands on her knees and start helplessly laughing.

“I never thought she’d WIN!” she explained. “Her ping pong ball just went straight into the first cup!”

I stared at this fishy new family member, wreathed all around by the smiles and exclamations of our oldest kids, and I just tried to imagine how my husband would react to this…er…turn of events. With our two bunnies, our two dogs, and our rescue cat under his delegation, I couldn’t imagine him being thrilled to add another animal to the line-up.

Yeah, I was right.

He was initially not the happiest, and the kids knew it.

I feel like the events and emotions summed up in the following photo are a true rite of passage in the life of an American family…

“Of ALL the games?…” he laughed to my mom, “with ALL the prizes you could win…you picked the GOLDFISH game??”

She shrugged/smiled/laughed again in response.

“But it’s really okay, Papa!” our eldest daughter assured him, “the man said we could buy a bowl for him right here, and it’s only $12!!!”

The fair.

It’s EVIL!

“That fish isn’t even going to survive the drive HOME!” Mr. Gore informed our children.

But then…

being the major softy that he is…

and seeing the dejected looks on our children’s faces…

he quickly changed his tune…

and said, “You know what guys? It’ll be fine! We’ll make it work. This will be FUN! WE WON A GOLDFISH!!!!”

And just like that, the fair was a magical place once more.

A goldfish. You just never know what a day is going to bring, do you? After this most amazing and chortle-worthy experience, we took in a few more attractions…

enjoyed one more “ride”…

and did one last round of fooding.

You’ve got yer Dip n Dots…

You’ve got yer funnel cake parfaits…

You’ve got your…succotash?!…(Weird, right? But actually my favorite food of the night!)…

And then you’ve got ONE more corndog, for everyone to share…

and then…

the GRAND finale…

you’ve got yer deep-fried bacon-wrapped pecan pie.

Yeah.

I feel the same way as my daughter there.

Not because it wasn’t delicious…it was!…but because I’M FULL!!!

My stomach’s full of food, my feet are full of walkin’, my ears are full of noises, my senses are full of total overload, my heart is full of family and fair and fun, and, yes, my fish tank is very full of a FISH.

A goldfish.

The kids named him Zac after our other pastor.

Would you BELIEVE that crazy fish has lived for a full two weeks?

Well, it WAS living…

More on that soon. Stay tuned!

The Rescue Cat that Rescued Us (from getting a Dog) – Part Two

Continued from Part One

~

It was just a random weekday.

I doubt I had any plans for even our meals that day, let alone rescuing someone.

But that’s the thing about rescues.

They’re not really planned.

It’s just that someone needs saving and…whatdoyaknow?…you’re nearby.

Early that afternoon, our neighbor shared a photo on Facebook of the tiniest kitten that had stumbled its way onto her back porch. “Anyone know whose kitten this is?” she asked. It was starving and scared and, since she is very allergic to cats, she was hoping to find its home quickly or get it to a place where someone could care for it without sneezing all the way to their death.

Seeing that tiny little furball on my screen, I dashed out of my chair like a lunatic, thinking…

what?

What WAS I thinking?

I don’t even know.

It was something like…

“KITTEN!!!”

Looking back, it’s like the 6-year old girl in me took over, even though, if you had me in an interrogating room with a lie-detector test today, it would probably come out that I don’t reallllly like cats.

That 6-year old girl in me, however?

KITTENS!!!

She loves them.

And so, if you’ll remember, does my 6-year old daughter.

And speaking of her, I immediately called out her name…again, I don’t know WHY…with a mixture of panic and excitement in my voice.

“Get your shoes on!!” I urged her.

“Why?” she asked.

“I just need you!!” I said. “Hurry!!!!

Frantically throwing shoes on our feet, we dashed onto the front porch where my husband was visiting with a friend. Leaning down to where he was sitting in the rocking chair, I murmured something in his ear, explaining where we were going and why.

Do you know what I said?

I said “KITTEN!!!”

I just wanted to see it, really. To let my kitten-loving daughter see it. We’d just look at it and maybe…well, there was no maybe, because there was no PLAN. We were just going, blindingly, toward KITTEN.

My husband seemed to interpret my thoughts…he’s really good at that…and gave me to the go-ahead to see what we could do to help. At the very least, we could bring the little baby over to our non-cat-allergic house and take care of it until its owner could be found.

We were quickly met with a big problem, though.

When our neighbor went out onto the back porch with us to show us the kitten…

the kitten was no longer there.

“KITTEN!” I inwardly yelled. “Where are you??”

“I can’t believe this,” she said. “It’s been meowing back here since 6:00 this morning! I mean, it was just here! But it was extremely skittish, it might be hiding somewhere…”

We started snooping around the porch and backyard, but to no avail.

“Kitten” was GONE.

My girl and I shrugged in disappointment and had just picked up the turtle we found on our way over to head back home (did I forget to mention a turtle? We also brought home a turtle that day…) when our neighbor, miracle of miracles, spotted a flash of fur in one of their ricks of wood.

Putting the turtle back down, the three of us surrounded the wood pile, trying to coax the kitten to come out.

And our brave friend was just sticking her hand into the wood pile to snatch it when her husband yelled at us from the garage across the yard, “Hey!!! The cat’s over here!!!”

We all slowly looked at each other with wide eyes.

We STILL don’t know what sort of animal she was about to drag out of the woodpile, but we don’t really care to know!

Leaving that mystery critter behind, we high-tailed it to the garage only to discover that the kitten was…oh the drama and excitement!!…in the hood of their car!!

Now we were in a real predicament.

I had to call in the troops.

I waved down my husband and his friend, and soon, our entire family was over there. Have you ever been surrounded by five adults and four children who are about to save a kitten? It is VERY exciting. And also very loud, what with all the ideas and opinions about how to save the kitten and “can we keep the kitten??” and so on and so forth.

Carefully, so as not to frighten the skittish kitten away, the menfolk opened the hood of the SUV, and there she was. The most frightened little kitten you ever did see.

SO frightened, in fact, that when my husband tried to slowly reach for her, she lunged deeper into the engine.

But quick as a whip, our visiting friend caught her by one paw.

The surrounding congregation broke out into cheers! We had a foot!

He dragged her gently out, and soon she was clawing onto his hand like…

well, like a scaredy-cat.

The rest, my friends, is a TOTAL blur.

I don’t know how…

I don’t know when…

I don’t know WHY…

I don’t know what was said and who agreed to what…

but by nightfall…

this was pretty much OUR cat.

Well, HER cat.

Said cat lives in our house now.

Her name is Chloe.

And she has a giant litter box in our tiny laundry room.

And a special, magical trashcan for cat poo.

And toys and jingly balls and tiny stuffed animals and all KINDS of stuff that I never really planned on having in my house.

But our kids are obsessed with her. And she’s insanely weird and hilarious. And, somehow, even though she drives me mad when I’m trying to clean the house, she reminds me of this beautiful picture of being helpless and marching hopelessly toward death and having someone big and kind and powerful reach down and pluck you up and give you a home where you are safe and loved. It’s kind of really, really beautiful to behold.

But mostly…

she’s not a dog.

So that’s really, really good.

~

Ah, cats. I have more Chloe stories to tell, and hope to do so soon. Until then, find us on Facebook and Instagram!

The Rescue Cat that Rescued Us (from getting a dog)

When our firstborn son turned six years old, we got him a dog.

It was a sentimental affair, for sure. I was pregnant and I was emotional and I ended up making it into a “moment” like no other. Sniffle sniffle. (See for yourself by clicking on the picture below.)

 

Then when our eldest daughter was six years old, for Christmas, we got her a dog.

Because we obviously weren’t thinking.

“Not thinking” is what happens when you are in love with tiny people who grow up so fast. All you know…all you can manage to think about, sometimes…is that time is flying by and you’ve got this window of life to do all the things that you want to do for them. Like, FOR INSTANCE, surprising them with a puppy on Christmas morning even though you just GOT a puppy two years ago.

Our little girl is a true dog fanatic, and a Basset Hound had been the dream of her little heart “for her whole LIFE”, she’d been telling us.

So I turned off my brain for the months of November and December and I made and sold buckets of granola to make sure we had that dog under the tree on the 25th.

I’m not gonna lie. It was a “moment”, too, also like no other.

I love it. “Can I sleep with it??” and then my favorite line from little sister, “Aww, why didn’t I get one?!” Precious, sweet, darling memories, even if we had to deal with a puppy after the moment had passed.

Well, as you know, we have four kids (outside of the womb, that is), and when two of those kids got a dog when they were six years old, rumors started swirling ’round these parts, namely, in the upstairs nursery.

For example, that getting a DOG when you’re SIX is the way we DO things, for all time, for every person.

Gulp.

Well, guess what?

Our third child turned six in May.

Did you know that, as you have more and more children, they turn six faster and faster? It’s true.

And for the entire year leading up to this most recent 6th birthday, the sibling group had been discussing what kind of dog the soon-to-be-six-year-old would be getting.

Not “if”.

“When”.

They’d even poured over books about dogs, researching the perfect breed.

And all the while, I quietly listened…

and also I inwardly panicked.

We can’t have THREE dogs!!!

Where are we going to put another dog?!

How much dog food are we committing to here??

We don’t have a three dog yard!!! And I don’t even think I have a three dog heart!!

Sometimes, when I wasn’t panicking, I was just a’thinkin’…

WHY are we even talking about dogs when her favorite animal is a CAT?

Does she even LIKE dogs?

Why don’t we get a kitten?

She has a kitten purse, kitten stuffed animals, kitten t-shirts…

She has no dogs!!! Just cats!

Finally, I broached the subject to my eldest daughter, earlier in the year.

“Can we talk about something and keep it a secret?” I asked her. “How do you think your sister would feel if we surprised her with a kitten and not a dog sometime this year?”

“Well…” she replied, “kittens ARE her favorite animal. But we’ve been talking about a dog so much that I don’t know…”

Ha! MY PROBLEM EXACTLY!!!!

Since that day, we whispered about this possibility behind the birthday girl’s back, mostly because my then 7-year old loves to whisper about secret things.

I wasn’t too worried about it yet, honestly. We’d had some major events on the horizon that had consumed my thought life (like a pregnancy and a husband going to Africa) and I figured that, once those upcoming hurdles were crossed, we’d get to the pet issue.

After all, the big kids didn’t get their first pet ON their sixth birthday, just sometime during their sixth year.

In other words, we had pleeeeenty time to figure it all out.

Or so I thought…

~

Stay tuned for Part Two, coming soon!!! 🙂

Mrs. Gore’s Hot-off-the-Press Guide to Silver Dollar City

After spending four days at Branson’s Silver Dollar City a couple of weeks ago, I feel the need, not only to jot down some things for us to remember next time we go, but to pass on my newfound expertise for those of you who have never been before.

These sorts of blog posts make all the difference when you’re planning for a trip. I know so because the blogs I read beforehand about how to navigate Silver Dollar City made a HUGE difference in the success of ours!

Thus, without further wordage, I present to you Mrs. Gore’s Hot-off-the-Press Guide to Silver Dollar City (as written in June 2017):

The packing and planning stages:

  • Call ahead (or swing by the day before you go) to talk to someone about all your options during the week of your trip, or ask for an up-to-date newspaper. You need to be armed with all the available info about special deals that might apply to your stay!
  • Likewise, order your tickets ahead of time and look into whether or not getting season passes will be a good deal for you. More on that later.
  • Download the Silver Dollar City app, where you can easily pull up a map, check showtimes, and find special attractions.
  • Study the map the night before and have a game plan. We circled ALL the things we wanted to do on the newspaper map before we went. You don’t want to be standing around trying to figure out where you want to go while everyone else is zipping by you to the fun. Be ready! This is game day, baby!
  • Take your packing really seriously so you’ll have everything you need. If you’re going to be at the park for a long amount of time and have small children…I’d even say children aged 6 and under…some sort of stroller or wagon is essential. There are some crazy hills at SDC and LOTS of walking. This is the collapsible wagon we have and we are superfans. It folds up so easily, it converts into a bench, and we love it. Click on any of the pictures of products below to be taken to the affiliated link at Amazon!
  • If you’re going during the warm months and plan on riding water rides (which you SHOULD, they were our favorite!), make sure everyone has quick-drying clothes and shoes. Our boys wore trunks and short-sleeved rash guards, our girls wore swim dresses from Hanna Andersson, and everyone had a sturdy pair of swim shoes like these. (cheaper versions of this sort of perforated tennis shoe can be found at Gap and other stores).

  • Speaking of shoes, many rides don’t allow flip flops! We took extra flip flops with us in case anyone got blisters, but we were so glad those weren’t the only shoes we brought.
  • Pack your own food and drinks. SDC can become a budget buster if you don’t plan ahead in this department. We saved so much money by taking our own!
  • So you want to pack well, but you also want to pack succinctly. We took two bags with us, both of which stacked perfectly in our wagon, leaving room for two little kids to sit side-by-side. Everyone’s hands were free, except for my husband who was pulling the wagon like an ox.
  • Bag #1 was a small cooler-on-wheels, like this (ours was a red-and-white gingham version of this same bag, but the print is no longer available at Amazon!) 
  • We filled up Bag #1 with frozen Capri Suns (that kept our other drinks cold, but thawed by afternoon for the kids to enjoy), lots of bottles of water, and little cans of Sprite. This bag had mesh pockets on the side that we could quickly slip our electronics into when we weren’t taking pictures.
  • Bag #2 was this medium-size insulated picnic hamper (also red-and-white gingham, also no longer available, but I love this blue version, too!):
  • We put ALL of our other essentials in Bag #2, including a Ziploc of various sunscreens, a Ziploc with hairties and a brush, a small first aid pouch filled with Band-aids (in the case of blisters or any falls and scrapes on the concrete), a Ziploc of medicine for motion sickness or headaches, a small bottle of baby powder (because after four days of water rides and walking, some of our family members had chapping problems, ouch!), my wrist purse, my husband’s wallet, and our kids’ lunch, which included apple juice pouches, Clementine oranges, apples, boxes of raisins, boxes of yogurt raisins, packets of peanut butter crackers (both plain and cheddar crackers), granola bars, and a variety of small bags of chips. Nothing squishy and nothing spillable. Every night before we left, I lined all these goodies up on the counter and let each kid choose which kind of flavors they wanted of everything so we didn’t have any confusion or sadness at lunchtime, plus I’d throw in a couple more of each item just in case.
  • So that was the KID’S lunch. The adults…because we’re adults and we have such fancy tastebuds…got to sample the fare at SDC. Not that we were totally stingy, the kids got to taste pretty much everything we bought without us having to spend our life savings on meals in the park. It worked perfectly, everyone was happy, and it left us with some spending money for afternoon treats like Dippin’ Dots or funnel cakes.
  • Other than that, I packed each of our insulated water bottles, stocked with fresh ice water every morning. When we’d stop for a bathroom break or lunch, I’d refill everyone’s bottle with the extra water we packed in our cooler. This is my own water bottle I bought for the trip. I have the white enamel and I got my mom the copper version because she loves copper and I love her. Another plus, our wagon had two cupholders that held our bottles perfectly! The rest of our family’s insulated bottles snuggled in nicely between our bags and the edge of the wagon.

  • Lay everything out…including the kids clothes and shoes…the night before, pack your hamper, and have all drinks ready in the fridge. Every good pastor’s wife knows that if you want to make it to church on time, you’ve got to start getting ready the night before. The same is true at SDC, people!

Getting to the park:

  • We had heard about the magic of the season pass before we went, but now we’re believers. If you are planning on going to SDC for more than one day, a season pass is a must. With it, we went to the park for two full days of our trip, and then we decided to go ahead and go every morning the rest of the week until the park got busy. It was season pass early hours week (SCORE!), so we would be IN line by 8:30 each morning, ride all the rides we wanted (with no lines!), go and enjoy one of the little children’s sections for about an hour (with hardly any other people there), and be pretty full up on fun before the park started getting even the slightest bit busy. Then we’d be on our way out by noon, just when the lines were started to get long. It was…AMAZING!!! We’d go every single day if we lived closer, and with a season pass, you could actually DO that. If you purchase your passes before a new season starts in March, you can also get free guest vouchers! We missed that deal, but it is ON our radar for next time! Season passes are just a great deal, all around.
  • If you have a season pass, you can also purchase preferred parking for $7/day. Worth it. My husband would drop us and our stuff off at the door (anything to save little feet and pregnant feet from more walking), then park the car in the adjoining lot nearby. It made the trip that much more dreamy, and we never had to wait on the trolley to pick us up from the more remote parking areas.

IN the park:

  • If you get there early…and it’s a thousand times worth it to do that (even if that means you all wake up at 6:30 every day of your trip to start getting ready!)…do all of the popular roller coasters that you want first. The lines will be minimal to nonexistent.
  • After that, do the water rides, *especially* the Lost River of the Ozarks. This ride will have a HUGE line by lunchtime, sometimes over 45 minutes. By following our routine, we rode this ride (our family favorite) four or five times in a ROW without ever waiting in a line. We usually didn’t even have to get out of our boat! After you’ve had your fill of Lost River, hit the American Plunge (a classic log ride) a few times. Family members can watch from a viewing stand, which is fun, and this ride has pretty fun pictures available for purchase at a hut nearby. If you’re going to buy a souvenir at SDC, I think this is  a pretty good one. This is our little guy, Shep, and his friend, Daniel, who also happened to be at the park that day. They loved it, I promise: 
  • After enjoying the big roller coasters and those two water rides, if you have little kids (ours range in age from 3 to 10), go to either The Grand Exposition or Fireman’s Landing. These are both very large kid-friendly areas that have a ton of fun little rides. Our family especially liked Fireman’s Landing which, aside from a collection of rides that our children loved most, also had a little splash pad and one of the most amazing playhouses ever. I liked to sit on a rock in the sun to dry off after getting drenched at Lost River and just let my kids run amok. The playhouse alone kept them busy and thrilled for nearly an hour every day. And it’s all so clean! And beautiful!
  • Now that you’ve gotten your fill of rides and play areas, let the rest of the folks deal with the growing lines while you go catch some shows! We got to watch an amazing Dog Tricks show one day, the Harlem Globetrotters the next day, a couple of good concerts, etc…it’s a nice way to rest, usually in an air-conditioned room, after racing up and down those hills to get to your favorite rides all morning. These shows change with the different festivals of the year, so be sure to check your paper or the app to find out what’s available to you!
  • Scope out a perfect spot for your lunch as you meander around. We found a little bench outside of The Opera House where we ate our lunch every day. It was covered in shade, very private, and gave the kids room to mill around while they ate. An added bonus to that Radio Flyer wagon is that the side zips down to convert the wagon into a little bench, giving us two places for kids to comfortably sit.
  • SDC has clean restrooms (and several nursing stations!) in every major area of the park. Be smart about your bathroom breaks! Make everyone go when you get to the park, make everyone go when you stop for lunch, make everyone go before you go into a show…otherwise, you’ll be taking someone to the bathroom all day, every day. It’s all about coordination. 😉
  • If you have big kids and little kids, it’s just a good idea to split up, at times. My mom and I would take the two littles to one of the kid-friendly areas while my husband did rides with the big kids, and if you need a place to take your littles in the afternoon when The Grand Exposition and Fireman’s Landing are packed with people, I can’t recommend Half Dollar Holler enough. Our littles went through this play area on repeat, for a good hour, while my mom and I sat and rested in the shade. 
  • You cannot go to SDC and miss out on Grandpa’s Mansion!! It’s a classic staple that must be enjoyed by the whole family.
  • The train is a neat feature that should also be enjoyed once (and once is enough, I recommend going in the afternoon), but be warned that there is a little show in the middle of it that could get long for tiny kids. Ours did okay with it, and so I’m glad we went. It’s especially neat to see the outskirts of the park and get an idea of the land that SDC was built on. It’s in the woods, basically! Amazing!
  • The BEST things we ate all week…the hot dog wrapped in a long spiral of fried potatoes, the funnel cakes (one a day, baby! Sometimes two…), the kids loved the Dippin’ Dots, and NOTHING BEAT the warm cinnamon bread. I thought it sounded good, but it was REALLY GOOD. If you go early, get you some coffee and a loaf of this bread and think of me.
  • Before you leave, have some fun at Tom and Huck’s River Blast, either riding on the boats or shooting at the riders from the sidelines. It was one of my son’s favorite things to do there, and the lines aren’t long here, even during the busier parts of the day. You will get pretty wet on the other rides, you will get DRENCHED on this one. It’s the perfect way to cool off at the end of your day.
  • If you’re a mom of littles and your little park-goers fall asleep in the wagon (ours did, every day), there is a great seating area in the shade near the front of the park. I got to sit in a big Adirondack chair under an umbrella every afternoon and make friends with elderly people while my family enjoyed the park. Being pregnant, this was a dream come true for me. And sometimes a loving family member would deliver a funnel cake to me, so, hallelujah.
  • Finally, as you are meandering your way out of the park, take some time to check our the artisan booths and houses, which are full of educational opportunities for your family. You could even pick a few a day to focus on. We didn’t do so great in this department this go round, but if we went to the park during a time of year when the water rides weren’t open, I think we’d take better advantage of them.
  • Oops, I have one more “finally” to your meandering…Marvel Cave. You’ll need to get the whole scoop on this experience from someone who works at the park, but we heard this hour-long walking tour through a REAL CAVE underneath SDC was a great way to cool off in the afternoons. It never worked out for us timing-wise, but this would be a perfect afternoon activity for the big kids while babies and toddlers nap. We have a raincheck with Marvel Cave.
  • Let your memories be your souvenirs. You could easily spend a thousand dollars on stuff at SDC…there’s even a toy store there!…but you don’t need to. The park is enough. If you don’t believe me, ask my very happy kids. They didn’t come home with a SDC shirt, or a toy, or a craft, or *anything*…but their hearts are bursting with memories.

So, by the way, is mine.

One last word of encouragement before you leave, while there are so many fun things to do in Branson, if you are on a budget like most young families, let your tickets to Silver Dollar City be your vacation. It has everything that the whole of Branson does…food, shows, crafts, music…so get your money’s worth and stay from opening to closing. I guarantee you won’t run out of things to do, though I can’t promise you won’t run out of energy. They even have an amazing concert at closing time!

Ah, it is easy to underestimate Silver Dollar City if you’ve never been there, but it is a beyond fabulous place to take your family. My husband has been to some of the biggest parks in the U.S., and this place is his all-time favorite. I second that, 100%.

I hope you love it as much as we do! If you have any questions, shout them out in the comments section! And if you have any fun or helpful tips to add to this list, please share! I might just need your advice for my next trip to SDC, which I hope will be sooner rather than later…

I mean, we have season tickets! Maybe we’ll go today!!

With this Nail Polish, I Thee Love

I feel like I have walked through every emotion known to woman – or at least most of them – since becoming a mom, but my very lowest points, when closely examined, all seem to be centered around one common theme:

to be a mom is to be a servant.

You always hear these funny sentiments – probably penned by women whose children are grown and can help with the laundry – about the mom being the “queen of the house” and, while I WILL admit that my children do gaze at me with worshipful eyes some of the time, especially when they are under the age of 6, when I look around our house, I don’t see a throne.

I see a mop and a broom and a line-up of hungry kids who want me to make food out of the ragtag ingredients in our pantry.

Now, I don’t love making the following known, but it’s just a fact: being a servant isn’t something that I came into this world naturally equipped to handle in a gracious and joyful manner.

In fact, I daresay that being a servant goes directly against every fiber of my sin-natured being.

You would quickly figure that out if you could see me on my worst days, in my favorite cry spot on the floor of the master bathroom toilet closet, sobbing my eyes out because…

well, because I spent this entire day doing what I did ALL day yesterday, cleaning up messes I didn’t make, wiping bottoms, changing diapers, making meals and cleaning up the kitchen so we could do it all over again, answering questions, finding lost toys-shoes-socks-pencils-books-notebooks-YOU NAME IT, and what I’ve realized that it all comes down to is not so much the cleaning and the wiping and the changing and the making and the answering and the finding, but the deep-down, crushing weight that a lady can feel when she simply doesn’t want to be a servant today.

My ability to handle it all with ease and optimism comes to a screeching halt when I start resenting my calling and pining for that throne.

But that’s one of the most beneficial things about being a wife and a mother…

it pushes you to be something that might have taken you much longer to become.

You see, when you go from being the star of your own story, a person who can go to Starbucks if she wants and stop by the shoe store to try on some new sandals and then come home and watch girly shows on Netflix, to having your life bound up in another’s…and then another’s…and then another’s…until your life is tied directly to, say, five other people, people who need you, people you are called to love and serve, people you are inextricably yoked to, well, it will CHANGE you from the inside out and back again.

Whether you thought you needed changing or not!

And here is one of the most important things I’ve learned about serving, and it continues to surprise me to this day…

the want-to of serving and the JOY of serving come not before you serve, but AS you serve.

This point came up recently, and it was eye-opening for me.

My little girls had been begging me for days to do their nails.

But here’s the thing. I don’t LIKE doing nails. Especially when they are the size of a tiny button. Painting little girls’ miniature toenails is like being the detail artist for the fine china company!

And…I’m busy!! Did you not just read about the cleaning and the wiping and the changing and the making and the answering and the finding?!

Therefore, my first internal instinct when they ask me to paint their nails is usually something akin to “I don’t WANNA!”

But late Saturday evening, after they came in from the little swimming pool in the front yard (and after I stain-treated their swimming clothes and towels and put them in the washer and then bathed the kids and then clipped their nails and brushed their hair, but who is keeping track?) I got them sat down with their supper at the kitchen island and…

I just did it.

I sat myself down on the floor, I gathered a foot at a time in my hands, and I applied the nail polish to their tiny, little nails.

Did I really want to do this? Not necessarily. Did I have time to do this? It never feels like it. But how God manages to bring reverence and awe in such a moment is proof of how amazing He is and, as I sat there, bringing such simple happiness to the little hearts that love me so, a sort of resounding joy began to well up inside me.

You see, I didn’t necessarily go into the act of service with joy, but AS I served, joy most certainly followed.

It’s another of those incredible paradoxical principles in the Kingdom of God.

We have these opportunities to push ourselves every day of our lives, chances to serve and to not only meet the basic needs of our family, but to nurture them. To show them sacred dignity. To prefer them over ourselves.

It might be painting toenails.

It might be changing that diaper right away rather than putting it off until it’s about to explode.

It might be brushing the tangles out of a little girl’s bed hair and gathering it into braids at first light.

It might be ironing the wrinkles out of a pretty dress for church.

It might be whipping out a favorite recipe for the boy who is hungrier by the day, a recipe that only he likes.

These are the kind of above-and-beyond things my own mom has built an entire life upon.

The kids and I stayed at her house while Mr. Gore was in Africa last month, and I noticed when I went to tuck the kids in every night that she had turned down each of their covers and put a special book and stuffed animal on their pillow.

Do you know who else noticed this simple little gesture?

My 3-year old.

“A BOOK!!!” he would exclaim, every single night, looking in wonder at his neat little bed with the unexpected treasure at its head.

It sank in deep as I watched this display that our acts of kindness and servitude are not at all lost on the littlest among us and that, yes, the time and the effort are absolutely worth it.

And when you are like my mom and have daily practiced this sort of loving service, it just starts to come naturally.

Her ministry oozes out of her rather than being forced, and oh my goodness, it gives me so much hope. Because it’s exactly who and what I want to be for the Kingdom of God.

And so my prayer today is that I’ll just keep choosing to serve, whether the joy is there at the forefront or whether it comes in the act.

Maybe someday, if I keep practicing…if I keep painting those toenails…I’ll find myself at the beds of my grandchildren with a special book and a stuffed animal to leave on their pillow…

~

Thank you for reading today! If you want to hear more stories about childhood, marriage, pastor’s wifery, family, homemaking, homeschooling and other important things like shopping and British television dramas, find us on Facebook! Or Instagram

The Day Small Elephant Came Out of Retirement

We shared a video on Facebook this week that explained a lot of things like, 1. why I haven’t been writing a lot, 2. why I’ve been tired, hungry and emotional for the past three months, 3. why my kids are so in love with me right now, and 4. why I’m suddenly wearing tents and leggings every day.

Here, if you’re not on social media, you might want to watch it…

 

Um, WOW, right??

I have to admit, it feels so good to have this news out in the open.

At the same time, though, it has been nice to experience the first trimester of my pregnancy in the old-fashioned way. This secret was between me and my husband for the first month, and then we told the kids, not because I was really ready to let the cat out of the bag, but because I simply couldn’t hide it from them any longer. I was tired all the time, I was crying almost daily, I was sleeping late in the mornings, and I was under this constant cloud of nausea. “It will be better for the whole WORLD to know than to leave them in the dark about what is wrong with me,” I thought. Because I really felt that, once my kids knew, the whole world WOULD know, probably by nightfall.

We’re kind of a boisterous family.

Thus, on a total whim, we decided to tell them one by one, as you saw in the video. I had mentally pictured all the different ways we could break the news to them, but the minute I entertained the thought of telling them individually and really savoring their reaction, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

So I grabbed my camera, got settled on my bed, and Mr. Gore started calling them in, oldest to youngest, locking our bedroom door behind each one as they entered.

Then, after they’d been told the great secret, they had to go hide in our neighboring bathroom until everyone was caught up to speed.

It was so much fun, and I gotta say, the resulting video is one of the greatest treasures I have in my possession. I had no idea how they’d react (although I did assume they’d be happy, they all love babies and have been hoping for one for a long time), but a truer representation of each of their personalities could not have been captured if I’d scripted it.

For instance, our firstborn, who thought for sure he was in trouble, but then hopped straight up to tell the WHOLE WORLD our secret!! (Told ya!) Once we caught him and sent him to the bathroom to wait, I could hear him clapping his hands and just giggling in sheer excitement. It was so dear. I said all of our kids love babies, but no one has a softer spot for the little critters than he does.

And then our eldest daughter, with that pure gaze of hers that melts me, who was so beside herself she could barely contain it. When I get to the part of the video where she says “oh, Mama!” as she stops to hug me on her way to the bathroom, I get a huge lump in my throat, every time.

And then there’s Oh Honey who processes the news with her signature “blink blinks” before fainting in the floor…before getting back up and bouncing like Tigger. So spot on.

And then there’s our little man, be still my heart.

You can hear the poor guy pounding on the door, demanding to be let in, during his sister’s portion of the video. And when we finally sit him in the chair and his papa informs him that I’m going to have a baby, he reacts in his quintessential way that, roughly translated, means “Hi. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’ve never heard of anyone having a baby. But…I love you…and you’re smiling at me…so…THUMBS UP. I support you 100%.”

I love that kid SO stinkin’ much, and I love all the thumbs up that he has given me over the past year, and I LOVE that he gave me a thumbs up in this video. My husband and I just looked at each other (after I finished laughing my head off) and said something like “did that really just happen?!”

Anyhow, I didn’t really mean to review the video that you literally just watched, but…what can I say? I love my chiddlers.

But there’s actually more to it than that, I think.

You see, by the day we shot this video, I had been walking very silently through some pretty major things. First, the shock of a positive pregnancy test. All the emotions…both high and low…that followed it. The vivid memories of what I was about to go through and how real and raw and hard and beautiful it all is. The understanding that any momentum I had recently gained (such as…we had just put the high chair in the attic, we’d bought our last box of diapers or Pull-ups for the first time in TEN YEARS, our house was staying very tidy, we were killing it at homeschool, and I was waking up at 6:00 a.m. every morning like a BOSS!!) was flying out the window, all of it.

And then, of course, there was the realization that I am ten years older now than when I first began having babies. A lot can happen to a body in ten years! I mean, I have a friend whose hips start hurting when a thunderstorm is coming. We’re getting OLD, y’all!

And so I’ve just been a little more scared this time.

A little less sure of myself and my body’s abilities.

Add to that those long, trying weeks of nausea and fatigue where I had been pretending, even around my closest family and friends, that nothing had changed and that I was fine.

Phew! All that to say, I was SOUL TIRED by the day we made this video. I was lonely, with all kinds of pent up thoughts and emotions. And, again, I was truly scared. What if I couldn’t do this again? What if something bad happened? What if this changed our dynamic in drastic ways?

Enter, my children.

When I let them into my world once more and shared my great secret with them, what I found was such open arms.

Such love.

Such JOY!

Their reaction was a salve to me, and an immediate reminder that, yes, though this was going to be hard and though it might even be dangerous (did you know that being 35 years old makes this a “geriatric pregnancy”?!), it was also such a GOOD THING. It was going to be fun!!

And it was most definitely a blessing.

They just made it obvious to me from the very first second — you can see it so clearly in the video! — that any difficulties I had endured in the weeks leading up to this announcement were 100% worth it, for not only were we housing a precious and sacred new creation in our midst, we had made ALL of our children so, so happy.

Sigh. The four little people in the above video have embraced me so wholly in my current weakness that it has totally blown me away. They check on me constantly. They have zero expectations from me and hold no grudges about my failings (for instance, our two-hours-later-than-normal breakfast). They have fed me and soothed me and petted me and…well, they’ve just WELCOMED me, just as I am.

Even more heart-warming? They seem proud of me.

What a difference their reaction has made for this tired ol’ mama.

This is the kind of world that babies are supposed to enter into. A place where they are greeted with smiles and excitement and wonder and enthusiasm.

Children have got it all figured out, don’t they?

So after we told our kids, we’ve had the joy of telling many of our family and friends the old-fashioned person-to-person way, not all at one time, but slowly, as time and circumstance allowed. First it was my mom. Then my daddy. Then my husband’s parents. Then our best buddy at the nursing home. Then a sibling here, a sibling there, a friend here, a friend there, our neighbors across the street, my manager friend at Anthropologie, the owner of my favorite antique store, our church body…

as the news has spread over the past three months, our secret has gotten smaller and smaller and smaller, and now that we’ve finally made our way back to the internets, it is no more.

You know what? This sits well with me, even though the temptation was to keep things quiet until the baby was actually IN my arms.

Life begins at conception, and I believe that with all my heart. And I can read about my higher risks and I can be scared about the future all the live-long day, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is a human being IN my tummy.

Right now!

Right this minute!

You guys!

WE HAVE A NEW FAMILY MEMBER…

and, yes, come what may, I want the whole world to know it!

~

Sad you missed out on the first trimester adventures of Small Elephant? Worry not, I’ve been jotting down stories as they happen and will round them all up for you soon. Stay tuned!

Are you new here and don’t know who “Small Elephant” is? Oh, boy. You stay tuned, too. This is going to be fun…

 

Stepping Heavenward with Hormones (and taking your family with you)

I’ve been putting this off and putting this off and I will put it off no more: let’s talk about hormones.

People warn you that marriage will be hard. They warn you that being in the workforce will be hard. They warn you that parenthood will be hard.

Few people warn you about hormones, really.

I mean, I always heard older women joking about them, but it was always this very, very far-away reality that I thought only happened to…well, those women.

Newsflash, Mrs. Gore: you are now one of those women.

I had this crazy urge the other day to gather my kids around me and march us all around the kitchen table whilst chanting (because we like to make big statements whilst marching around the kitchen table):

We’re marching toward the Kingdom, we’re marching toward the Kingdom, even though Mommy is CRAZY!!!!

Because I really want my family to know something…I’m DESPERATE, in fact, for them to know something…that we are still on our pilgrimage, we are still “stepping heavenward”…

even though there is no hiding the fact from these precious children of mine that, at times, their mother is a hot, holy mess.

“Holy” because, even in the midst of the hormonal messes, I am being sanctified, I am growing, I am learning self-control and God is preparing for me a weight of glory (see this message from John Piper). I believe that, and I’m clinging to it. These times are not wasted, these emotions are not wasted, this season is not wasted.

“Hot” because I am having HOT FLASHES.

Like, I’m standing there next to you on a Sunday morning and the day is perfectly normal and, out of nowhere, sweat beads begin to ooze first out of my mustache pores and then the rest of my pores follow suit until I am this clammy, panicking heatbag. I’m suddenly fanning myself with whatever papers I can find, usually a stack of church bulletins, and I’m grasping at my hair to lift if off my neck and I’m feeling a too-strong-for-church urge to shuck my cardigan and then whatever other layers it takes to relieve me from the Hades that has descended upon me.

I realize now that “I’m having a hot flash” doesn’t just mean we need to turn the air down. It means I need to be alone and in a muumuu and under a ceiling fan RIGHT. NOW!!!

And, lastly, “mess” because, at times…often, actually…I’m this huge, confused, dazed, angry MESS.

I’m not kidding. In the three years since my last baby was born, I will just be inexplicably fat all of a sudden. Like, I won’t be one day, and then the very next day, I’m a puffy marshmallow woman.

And don’t say I’m not because, though I might hide it well on most days, and though I might NOT be fat on some days (also inexplicably) I’m the one who buttons my jeans and…yeah. Some days they button. Some days they don’t. 

My brain feels so hopelessly broken, as well. In the thick of hormone-time, I just can’t think. I can’t spell. I can’t process. People will ask me what I have planned for the week and if such-and-such day would be a good day to do such-and-such, and I just stare at them and blink and say bright things like “uhhhhh…I’m not sure…” And they’re like, “you’re not sure what you’re doing tomorrow?” And I’m like “yeah…I think there will be breakfast?…and I will probably read a book to my kids, maybe?…ummm…is it hot in here?!…”

In fact, my brain is SO broken sometimes that I have committed to love my husband and kids and church body and to homeschool and, well, the rest is kind of up in the air. I have just come to grips with the fact that there is no room on my plate not just for more things to do, but even for more things to think about doing. The thinking is broken.

But worse than the hot flashes and the weight fluctuations and the brain slumps are, without a doubt, the mood swings.

I was having a high hormonal day a couple of weeks ago and, I kid you not, I cried for an HOUR and a HALF. Not at one time, mind you, but forty minutes and then a short break followed by forty more minutes (which is so much better).

“I can’t do this!!!” I wailed to my husband from the bathroom floor, trying to hide away from the kids. “I. can’t. do. this.”

“Do what?” he asked me concerned.

“THIS,” I said, gesturing to the air around me. “Clean. Cook. Homeschool. Nurture. I’m the WORST. I can’t do it. I’m not good at this!!!! I’m not good…”

“You are…” he said.

“I’m NOT!” I snotted. “I want to. But I can’t.

“You’ve been doing great, babe. What is it that you feel like you can’t do all of a sudden?…” he asked.

“Well…” I sobbed, “I can’t keep food in the pantry. I mean, I buy it but then it’s gone. And…well…I can’t pick out meat. Like, I have all these recipes I want to make but…there are so many meats and…I don’t know how to buy them!!!…”

“Yeah?…” he said, wearing my favorite bemused expression that tells me he’s trying to listen and trying to understand and REALLY trying not to laugh.

Now, lest you worry about me and begin offering remedies for what ails me, let me assure you that I have been proactive about these demon hormones and, after several visits to professionals, my doctors assure me that I am simply experiencing the fallout of four consecutive pregnancies over the course of 8 years. My body is simply out of whack and we’re doing what we can to whack it back into place through diet and exercise and, hallelujah, I actually feel like I’ve made a HUGE turn for the better in the last few months.

But the really bad thing about these days — and what I am determined to improve — is that I usually forget to plan for them, even though I could easily calculate when they’re coming and lock myself into a vault with Netflix and chips and queso, thereby saving myself — and my family — from these crash-and-burn episodes of frailty.

No, though, I let them sneak up on me and bring the whole lot of us down in sackcloth and agony.

Then, afterward, when I realize why I was in the deepest depths of despair, I go “ohhhhhh…so I’m NOT the worst…and I CAN do this…cool!…”

It’s a good feeling, when you realize that you actually can pick out meat.

But you know what?

Do you know why I am introducing the internet to my hormones? Do you know why I’m even writing this today? Because. Because I am done being bewildered and I am done being the victim, and I am figuring my new and unimproved body out and, most importantly, I’m finally coming to grips with this season of suffering – because, YES, it is suffering – and do you know what? 

I am learning that, simple enough, I can praise God in this.

And if you are suffering alongside me, guess what?

You can, too.

You can fight this. You can endure this. You can love and minister to your family through this. You can pursue holiness in this. You can go to church like this. Why? Because, if you have been called out, God WILL keep you through this. Hormones are not too big for Him. They never have been, and they never will be.

Mrs. Gore is marching to Zion, and I’m taking my hormones and my kids and my husband with me, and I hope you’ll go with us.

I’ll bring the box fan if you’ll bring the tissues.

Sing the Bible

I’ll never forget the first time I heard the music of Slugs & Bugs.

It was VBS time, 2016, and though there are few busier times for a pastor’s family, my mind was preoccupied with the “Story Warren” website, an online resource that helps parents foster a holy imagination in their children.

I felt I’d stumbled into a secret tunnel that led me to a magical like-hearted community where children are treasured and imaginations are nurtured and God is glorified, all at the same time. And just when I thought I’d discovered all the faces and facets of this movement, I’d find another…and another! Writers! Poets! Musicians! Artists! Each delightfully using their gifts for the Lord.

I was atwitter and, as time allowed, would come back to read more — sometimes even during my breaks between VBS music classes.

Arriving home that night, I pulled the website back up to check out more of the recommended links…

and that’s when I landed upon the site of Slugs & Bugs.

It was a love at first sight moment. The artwork reeled me in, I think. A lightning bug playing a bulbous bugle? I’M IN!

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And though I was clueless about who they were and where they’d been all my life, I just clicked on the first video I saw. It was called “God Made Me“, and I wish you could have seen my kids’ ears immediately perk up, all across our house. In seconds, I was surrounded by children, and their eyes were lit up in my favorite way, and they were giggling, and I turned to my husband and resolutely said, “No offense to Lifeway, but this has to be our new VBS theme song.” The whales and the sea and the green and blue…it was simple and funny and quirky and it fit perfectly with 2016’s “Submerged” theme.

The next night, before learning our Lifeway songs, we played that Slugs & Bugs video for each class, and a current went through the room every time, whether it was the 5th graders or the preschoolers. The kids sat up straighter, their eyes began to dance, they were cracking up…it was thrilling to behold.

“God Made Me” turned out to be the number one requested song of the week — in every class! — and what I loved most is that the kids actually SANG it. Loudly. Childishly. Smilingly! Every single word. Every single time.

That was last summer, and as the year has passed, our family has added more Slugs & Bugs songs to our library and, although we still have a couple albums to go, there is already no way to pick a favorite.

There are songs like “I Wanna Help” that have inspired our kids to work around the house (HALLELUJAH!).

Or “Tiger” that I’ve heard my girls singing together whilst pretending to run a zoo (be still my heart!).

Or “The Ten Commandments” that teach about God’s Law while also teaching about our inability to keep God’s Law while ALSO preaching the good news of Jesus while also teaching important vocabulary definitions like “covet” while ALSO teaching about the leading monsters of literature. Phew! Instant classic.

Or “Masterpiece” that fills my heart with praise (usually while my daughters do ballet across the schoolroom…the perfect twirly song!)

Or “It’s Sleepytime” that just slays me and causes me to shamelessly beg my 10-year old to let me rock him to sleep, just like old times.

Or “Tractor Tractor” that makes our entire family to smile, from age 3 to age 36.

Or “The Boy Who Was Bored” that is so epically cool and boyish it HURTS.

Or “You Can Always Come Home” that…sniffle sniffle…is so everything I want to say to my entire family, every day.

Or, yes, even “Mexican Rhapsody” that gets in my head SO BAD but that I can’t stop loving because…it is so stinking funny!!!

I could go on and on. Diverse musical styles. Humor. Ninjas. Bible memorization. Potty-training motivation. The Society of Extraordinary Raccoons Society. Biblical principles. Pirates. Monsters. Imaginative poems and rhymes…it’s all there, and it’s all fantastic.

There are people in this world who, just by being who they are and creating what they create, produce the keys to children’s hearts. They intuitively know exactly how to turn a phrase, to paint a picture, to make a rhyme, to sing a song…and in so doing, they unlock the magic of childhood in its fullness.

Slugs & Bugs has that ability in spades. There is so much music on the market that give children a knock-off version of what the pop world has to offer and, while it might make them feel cool and edgy (I know, I remember how it felt to sing with my Barbie cassette in Elementary school), Slugs & Bugs meets kids where they are and says, “You are free. Free to be little and silly and funny and adventurous and starry-eyed and exactly how God made you to be.”

You know what? I think that’s a message worth investing in, and that’s why I asked Slugs & Bugs if I could help spread the word about their new Kickstarter campaign that, if its goal is reached, will result in TWO new “Sing the Bible” albums being produced in 2017 (one of which is a Christmas album inspired by Charlie Brown, SWOON!). Listen, y’all…

the Gore family needs more Slugs & Bugs music in our life.

And I think yours does, too.

We have a lot going on in our house — as I type, we are simultaneously raising funds for a mission trip to Tanzania AND for our one-room schoolhouse in Oklahoma — but we believe in this music SO MUCH that we plan to sit down this week to determine what we can commit to the campaign.

I hope you’ll join us.

You can check out the Kickstarter page here:

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The reward packages are so fun, and you’d better believe if I had a spare $5,000, I’d drop it in an instant to get that free concert! I’ll be honest, though, the virtual high-five and free coloring pages sound pretty awesome. 🙂

You can also find sneak peeks of songs that will be on the albums and I’m already making major heart-eyes at  Galatians 4, it’s light and airy and leads me heavenward. I know you’ll love it, too.

If you’re a parent, a grandparent, or just a champion of children, PLEASE don’t miss this chance to be a part of an amazing project that will feed the hearts and souls of families all across the Kingdom of God.

Thanks for lending me your ears today, precious readers! Now…spit spot!…go lend your ears to some Slugs & Bugs. Pick an album, any album. You won’t be disappointed.

~

Any Slugs & Bugs fans out there? Tell us your favorite songs! And be sure to share the Kickstarter link with your friends and family: http://bit.ly/STBVol3

Want to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family? Subscribe at the top of this page, or find us on Facebook!

The Wassup Chronicles – Vol. 1

Welcome to “The Wassup Chronicles”, where I tell you what’s up in my world and…you listen. (but then you get a turn, too, so hang in there!)

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Good morning friends!

I have been working on and off for months — MONTHS!! — on a blog post titled “The Mission Statement of Mrs. Gore’s Diary”.

‘Twas one part funny and three parts dramatic and, oh, about five parts explanatory and I worked on it and I worked on it and I worked on it and I put other writings on the backburner and I let it clog up my idea queue and, last night, after pulling it up again for the 35th time since January and still finding it lacking or missing something (or more likely having too much!!), I said…

PHA-HOOEY!!!

I’m done with it.

Moving on.

I mean, all it was was my entire manifesto for living, so…whatevs, right? Sometimes writers write for themselves, and I suppose this was one of those instances. I know now what the mission statement of Mrs. Gore’s Diary is, so that’s cool. All 3000 words of it.

All that to say, I’m FREE this afternoon! And, rather than nail myself down to a specific topic (for instance, mission statements), I just want to blab.

So what do you want to talk about?

We could talk about Valentine’s Day. It was probably my least prepared holiday ever, and I’m trying to figure out why. Was it because my mom and Amy were out of town the week before and we didn’t have time to plan our annual party? Was it because I’m still trying to recover, somehow, from Christmas? Was it because my heart just wasn’t in it?

I don’t know, really. But I learned something: you can prepare for weeks to have a holiday or you can prepare the morning of, and chances are, your kids are going to have a blast. By the time they came to the breakfast table on the morn of the 14th, we had a pretty table set, and festive donuts, and a little gift at each place. Best of all, the kids got to pass out the cards they had made for each family member the day before, and it was so fun to see what sort of sweet nothings they came up with on their own.

Yesterday's Valentine breakfast. Donuts. Fruit. Strawberry milk. Lots of fun. Lots of love. ❤️😍❤️😍

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I’m always analyzing the purpose of education, and I discovered yet another reason we should be passionate about the schooling of our children…

so they can make their Valentine cards WITHOUT US!!!

I didn’t even have to make Shepherd’s cards, because his big brother transcribed them for me! (#manny)

All in all, it was a fun day, and the Mister and I even squeezed in a date last night!

Which leads me to the next thing we could talk about, if you’re in a talking mood…

La La Land.

Ohmuhgoodness.

Yesterday was my second viewing of this…this…this…CINEMATIC MASTERPIECE!!!…and I loved it even more the second time around. I so want to really talk to you about this movie but I abhor spoilers and so I can’t. All I can say is:

1. This is the coolest, most suck-your-breath-right-out-of-you-for-two-whole-hours movie.

2. Especially if you are well-acquainted with the old movies — SO many nods to the films of yesteryear, in major ways, but then in manifold subtle ways that just knocked my socks off.

3. Don’t expect a Christian worldview, duh, but this is actually a pretty clean movie. I was shocked by the utter lack of all the things that are routinely shoved down our gullets by Hollywood. THAT SAID, while there are not an immense number of expletives, the ones that are in the movie are like…BAM!!! The kind that make you flinch. I just didn’t want you to tell your hubby that “Mrs. Gore says this is a great movie! Let’s take the KIDS!”

4. I’ve seen the movie twice now and the second viewing was the best. I came away really understanding the film and letting it teach me something rather than trying to make it what I wanted it to be. I realize that’s vague but…just watch the movie. You’ll see.

5. I have a maternal sort of adoration for Emma Stone. I want to make her biscuits and jam for breakfast and tell her not to stay out too late and I also want her to know that she always has a place to come home to. I’m assuming she could afford to add a room on to our house because we don’t have a spare room, so that would just be an added bonus to the adoption.

Which leads me to the next thing we COULD talk about. If you wanna…

Some of my Facebook peeps already know about this, but GUESS. WHAT??

We have a special project in the works at Gore House.

(Doesn’t “Gore House” sound very Halloweeny? Ew. I mean, I like Halloween, you know that, but not the haunted house part of Halloween. Which is totally what “Gore House” sounds like, a haunted house, oooooooooooooooo!!!!)

Anyhow, special project.

The plans have been drawn up. The bids are about to come in. The fundraising has begun.

Ready?…

WE’RE BUILDING A SCHOOLHOUSE!!!!!!!!!

Oh, man, you know what, we can’t talk about this here. I’m gonna need a full blog post to talk about it. Just…consider this the official teaser trailer, with lots and lots more coming soon to a Gore House near you.

(ooooooooooooooooo!!!!)

Let’s see, what does that leave for us to discuss? Assuming you’re still listening…

Oh, how about this?

I got bangs in December.

I no longer have bangs in February.

I mean, I still have bangs, but they are long enough to pin back and, although my mom and my kids and my nieces REALLY loved them, and my husband really liked them, and even though I felt cool(ish) again, we have decided to part ways (literally, they’re parted down the middle and subtly pinned to the side).

Why? Because Mrs. Gore ain’t got time for THAT. Did you know that, when I don’t have bangs, I can wash and style my hair and it will last me for three whole days (and then maybe a half-day more with a lil’ dry shampoo, thank you Oscar Blandi)? And when I say “it will last me”, what I mean is that I don’t have to touch it, think about it, or even brush it in between. And did you know that I didn’t know how wonderful this was until I lopped off a whole section of hair atop my forehead and had to deal with it every. single. day.?!

All I had wanted, really, was to look as awesome as #ohhoney. (If you don’t know what all these hashtags mean, you’ve really got to join us at Facebook, pronto!). I’m mean, sure, she’s FIVE, but who cares? Her bangs are DIVINE. She looks like a miniature Jess from “New Girl”. Or a tiny Audrey Hepburn. When she wakes up, they are more or less perfect. And when she’s in the wind, they’re perfect. And when she’s wearing a hat, they’re PERFECT.

(See what I mean? This was after a windy and sweaty morning at Vintage Market Days…)

I'm always an #ohhoney fan. But after we take the sponge curlers out of her hair…😍

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My bangs, however, were little hair devils that stuck out in a million directions when I woke up in the morning. And when I was in the wind they stuck out in two million directions. And when I wore a hat…just no.

Even worse, somehow, when they weren’t being hair devils and were as en pointe as I needed them to be, they were making me feel vain in church and I seriously thought I was done with that, my sisters.

I’m not kidding, that’s when I really knew they needed to go. Preacher’s wife can’t be feeling vain on a Sunday morning, not when preacherman is bringing the Word to the flock. Get thee behind me, Bangstan.

So, do I regret getting bangs? No I don’t. I’m so glad I tried it. It was fun and exciting and I’m glad I got it out of my system.

Did I like my bangs? Not enough.

Maybe someday, when I have time to wake up and groom myself every morning instead of every third or third-and-a-half morning, I’ll give it another go.

If I’m no longer vain.

(But I probably will be. Even though I won’t know it until I get the bangs.)

Ah, this was a fun talk, and I’m going to try to do it more often. Thanks for listening.

Now tell me, wassup in YOUR life? What did you do for Valentine’s Day? Have you seen La La Land? DO YOU HAVE BANGS?? Are they perfect or are they hair devils? I’m all ears…

 

Dancing Hearts in Nantucket (Part Seven: You, Me & the Sea)

Hello beloved friends of Mrs. Gore’s Diary! Long time, no see! The holiday season has whisked me away, as usual, and I realize about every other day, with a start and a gasp, that I still have an important series over here, just waiting to be finished (if you’re new here, you can catch up! Here’s Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, and Part Six).

With that in mind, this will be the last installment of my Nantucket series for the time being. I still have a few fun stories to tell about our trip, but I am momentarily tabling them until I can write in the unhurried and inspired manner that this tale – and my mom’s ongoing birthday gift – deserves. As soon as inspiration strikes and my memories are burning a hole in me once more – and I feel SURE that will happen – I will be back with part EIGHT of our Nantucket tale!

One last time, let me thank you EVER so much for joining us in our memories in Nantucket. You have made this recollection that much sweeter with your kind words and excitement. Forever grateful I am. ❤

Now…to the sea!

~

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The first thing my mom did every morning at the Wauwinet was wake up, get ready for the day and, then, waking me up so I could follow suit, she’d slip downstairs to the gorgeously bedecked back patio with her Bible study materials so she could spend some time with the Lord.

I forced her to let me take a picture. 🙂

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It’s easy to have a daily quiet time when you’re in heaven but, then, my mom has a daily quiet time no matter what. She has notebooks and notebooks filled with her prayers and notes, she has Scripture memory cards scattered to high heaven, and that’s actually just another of the things I love about her: she is faithful to the Lord and His Word in season and out, not just when she’s luxuriating on the back patios of resorts.

I, on the other hand…well, daily-sanctified-work-in-progress, with high hopes of being just like Mama someday.

Quickly showering, slapping my make-up on and finger-combing last night’s washed and styled hair, I would scurry downstairs to find her as soon as I could, and it did my heart a thousand worlds of good to see her there, surrounded by the tranquility of this seaside respite.

She might faithfully study the Word every day, but what an awesome backdrop she had here, the rolling waves of the ocean bringing repeated crescendos to the excellent and holy Word of God that she has built her life upon. What a blessed pause in this topsy turvy life.

The Wauwinet had an adjoining restaurant where a full breakfast was available for diners, but in a small room next to the bar, complimentary coffee and pastries were available for the inn’s guests every morning.

We went complimentary.

A few mini muffiins and a tiny bear claw later, we’d hop upstairs to brush our teeth and we were OFF for the day!

My heart squeezes within me to recall our next adventure.

Donning slip-on sandals and flip flops, hands free of everything but mom’s tiny wristbag and my giant camera (that you KNOW went with us everywhere we went!), we set out on foot to explore the private beaches of the Wauwinet.

Now, when you are researching your Nantucket vacation and you first see the rates for the Wauwinet — especially if you are in the middlest of the classes as we are — your jaw might drop to the floor to imagine ANY room, no matter how luxurious, costing that many precious dollars.

But during our experience, I quickly discovered that it was not just a room we were paying forno, not at ALL. We were paying for the most serene room we’d ever been in. We were paying for a conscientious staff who was devoted to our comfort. And, more relevant to this blog post in particular, we were paying for a secluded and pristine piece of land that we had the freedom and the right to stroll upon, to skip upon, to run upon, to LIVE upon, for as long as we were renting that room.

We were nervous, to be sure, when we claimed our Wauwinet reservation from behind a computer screen in Oklahoma, and it was all definitely booked with blind faith and a lot of prayers, but after the property had been ours for three nights and four days, after we’d explored and relished every corner to our heart’s content, it had undeniably been worth every penny and maybe a couple more.

On my more dramatic days, I’m convinced that I would happily live in a lean-to if I could spend a week at the Wauwinet once a year, and you might agree with me after I share with you our seaside adventure!

A short walk down the paved drive that ran beside the inn, the instructions from the concierge being painstakingly followed by our easily-lost feet, Mama and I took a right turn on a pebbled path that mozied beside a small collection of beautiful seaside cottages, and…

there it was.

The fence.

Like, I’m talking THE fence.

What was “THE fence” you ask?

It’s funny that you ask, because…

I don’t know, really.

It was just an important fence, and I knew it when I saw it.

Also, it was beautiful.

I’ve never been one to swoon over fences, but this fence was different.

Promises that something special was ahead seemed to hover about its pickets. Were we about to find the end of the rainbow? The pirate’s hidden treasure? A pearl in an oyster?

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See what I mean?! What a FENCE, right??

And aside from all the magical skin-prickling it produced in me, it was also eerily familiar, and I can’t really put my finger on it even today. Had I seen this fence…or at least one like it…in a magazine, perhaps? In a movie? In my DREAMS?!

Who knows, but here it was, beckoning Mama and me to follow its slats and find the sea.

The pebbled path morphed quickly into a deep, immaculate sand and our shoes immediately had to be abandoned. Giggling, holding on to those glorious pickets, we adjusted ourselves to this new and challenging surface, and the two of us clumsily made our way, laughing like children, over the little hill that would deliver us to the attainment of all that the fence was promising.

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And THEN we reached the top, and we really and truly were at the end of the world.

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I know that your teachers told you that the world is round, but I’m telling you, it’s not.

It’s so totally flat.

And wherever you are, if you will just start walking (and then swimming a little) until you get to Nantucket, the world will come to an end and then there is nothing but sea and then heaven.

I know, because I saw it with my own eyes.

We didn’t have a sailing vessel at our disposal, or we most certainly could have drifted our way to Beulah Land that very afternoon!

As it was, we were content to play on its shores, toes dipped in its shadow, hearts full with the knowledge that eternity was just around the corner and that it was very beautiful, indeed.

Now, when I shared the following pictures on my Facebook page last year, I think the common assumption from friends and family was that my mom had never seen the ocean and her uncontainable joy was based on the realization of that dream.

But that’s not quite true. She has seen the ocean several times, in Texas, in Seattle, in Florida, and she has played in the sand and she has sat on the shore.

But this…

this Nantucketly view…

this was HER ocean.

We all have aspects of God’s handiwork that involuntarily set our hearts on fire…for some it’s mountains, for some it’s a newborn baby, for some it’s a certain type of animal, for some it’s the tropics, for me it’s the homeplace…

but Mama had lived all over the United States as a child and she had journeyed through 40+ years of serving her family and her church and the days had been full and busy and there had been triumphs and there had been disappointments, and this placethis unvisited but always-seen place in her imagination….had somehow been deep inside of her all along.

And now she was seeing it with her very own eyes for the very first time.

I, by the crazy, unbelievable grace of God, got to be there to witness it, and the tears stung my eyes as I watched her acquaint herself with the sea of her heart. Like the God she serves, it was big and mighty and unpredictable and awe-inspiring yet still gentle and wooing and soothing.

And beside it, so tiny in comparison, I saw the GIRL she was, not just a mom, not my dad’s wife, not a cook or a cleaning lady or a baby-sitter or a nursery worker but…a child, dearly loved, of the Most High God.

It was like watching a real-life interaction between Aslan and Lucy, alone in the world, and I will never, ever cease to be grateful for God’s sovereign plan that picked me up and transported me across the country so I could carry this memory for the rest of my days.

All girls should get to see their mom turned inside out like this, to behold her soul with sight, to catch a glimpse of her heart as it danced on the shores of Nantucket…

 

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Will we ever go back to this tucked-away place on the map, the place where our spirits communed so deeply and our friendship was cradled by sky and sea and sand?

We want to…

but we don’t have to.

We took a vote, and it was unanimous: when they are this powerful and sweet and point to endless days to come, memories are more than enough. ❤

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~

Anyone else need a tissue now? It doesn’t matter how many times I go back and relive this experience, it strikes me with holy wonder and gratitude and LOVE! How wonderful will eternity be, when all is made right and we are free to live in the beauty and unity that was intended for us. I’ll be back soon with other non-Nantucket blog posts I’ve been working on – in the meantime, you can keep up with Mrs. Gore and family on Facebook and…breaking news…Instagram! See you there!