Where I’m At!

A sweet reader, noticing that I hadn’t published a blog post SINCE JANUARY, checked in on me last week, and I realized that it was high time I popped over here to the blog to post an official update.

Mrs. Gore’s Diary has not been anywhere close to this quiet since its inception in January 2011. In fact, if you would have traveled from the future and told me a half a year ago that I would go THREE WHOLE MONTHS without blogging, I would have said, “What happened?? Am I dead?!?! WHO DUNNIT???”

Mostly because this space on the internet, since day one, has been pretty important to me.

I adore this jotting down of my memories and my moments, and it is so dear to me to have a place to share them both with like-hearted readers who have treated them so lovingly.

So…with all this blog fidelity in my heart, where in the world have I been??

First, do keep in mind that I write over at the Facebook page nearly every single day. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have a ball there, sharing funny stories, poignant moments, pictures, videos and product reviews – it’s the perfect format for my life right now, and I’m ALSO not exaggerating when I insist that I have the nicest Facebook readers on the whole internet! It’s as happy as Mayberry over there, which is exactly my sort of town, even if it has to be found online.

But if you’re NOT a Facebooker, I can see how you’d probably be worried that I might have fallen off the face of the earth.

Good news!!

I have not.

In fact, I’m here, right this minute, sharing these words! If you could stick your finger through your computer screen, you’d poke me right in the eye!

So here’s the dealio. (and I’ll try to keep this shortio.) (but we all know I won’tio.)

God willing, I have not left blogging behind for the long-haul, but there have, in fact, been several things contributing to my lengthy absence, small things that, whenst added all up together, turn into THREE MONTHS OF BLOGGITY NOTHINGNESS.

First of all, and this is such a piddly and ridiculous reason, my Mac has reached maximum storage capacity, so that I cannot upload any new pictures without finally being forced to go through the thousands and thousands of photographs and videos that we have on our desktop. In fact, I’m not only going through them, I’m editing them, I’m uploading them to Facebook and Shutterfly, I’m sending them to our external hard drive, and then I’m deleting them. The process is so mind-numbingly slow, and most of my holiday and party pictures from the last couple of months are still on my camera, which literally KEEPS ME UP AT NIGHT with photographic angst. Thus, when I have sit-down time, I am usually working on pictures instead of writing, which is just the opposite of “the berries”.

Now…have I slowed down with taking NEW pictures to keep this problem from continuing to escalate? No, I have not. I just keep snapping away, la dee da, and soon, our new camera will ALSO reach maximum capacity, and then we’re all really going to have A PROBLEM ON OUR HANDS!!!!! I think I have camera stress as evidenced by my excessive use of all caps. It might be a first-world problem, but it is a PROBLEM. OKAY?!?!

Secondly, and this is much less piddly and unimportant that my first reason, our family has been catapulted into a busier stage of life than ever before.

WHO knew that, when your daily napping infants and toddlers grew to school age and you decided to keep them home and act as their educator, you would no longer have as much freedom to sit in front of a computer for hours and hours and spill your guts to anyone who would listen?!

Call me naive, but I honestly didn’t see that coming. However, with our oldest now in the 3rd grade, our schooling has picked up significantly, to full-time-ish job hours (with a heavy emphasis on the “ish” part).

On TOP of that, our ministry life has also rapidly picked up, with more teaching and meeting opportunities than we previously had; I pinky promise that we are still being exceedingly careful with our schedule to make sure that we keep our family tight and whole, but I’m telling you, we went from about 10 miles per hour for the last 8 years to a cool 75 in 2016.

On top of THAT, with our kids more grown up and the matriarch of the house less pregnant/nursing/newborning than she previously has been, we are also having an unprecedented amount of people in our home, which means that I have another full-time job on my hands: keep this pit of our house picked up!!! Daily!!! And, unfortunately, there is no “ish” to this department of my life. It’s full-time, to the max. In fact, I’m sweeping right now! And boiling a chicken. (Just kidding, I’m sitting and helping Betsie with her school. But there are clothes in the dryer, so there!).

Which leads to the third thing. With the above point in mind, on the heels of this new season of life, I have found myself in a bit of a homemaking boot camp.

Can I tell you something about Mrs. Gore’s adolescence? I was the last child in our family – which we all know means I was very important and celebrated and tended to – and I had a very busy school and social life, to the point that I usually came home at night to eat and sleep. What that means, more or less, is that, when I got married, I didn’t know how to do NUTHIN’.

Mr. Gore and I moved into a tiny seminary apartment that was easy enough to keep picked up, and I began dabbling in cooking and tidying up. But just when I was finding my feet as a housewifey, I got pregnant and we moved back in with my parents for what turned out to be three years – I might have tried to help carry the housekeeping load during that time, but my mom was right there beside me, holding up the universe and making it look easy (while also making me feel like I was doing an AWESOME job at being alive). Looking back, I don’t know HOW much I really did then. Did I ever cook? Did I wash our sheets or did she? I don’t know. It’s all very fuzzy, in a hazy good sort of way, so I doubt that I was doing much, even if I felt like I did.

Anyhow, by the time we moved into our first real home – with two stories to take care of! – I had a toddler and a new baby and mountains of boxes to go through that had been in storage for years. And then I got pregnant again…and then AGAIN…and, well, 2015 was honestly the FIRST TIME I began to come up for air for a very very long time.

That said, this past year has felt like a brand new world where I sort of have these crazy things like, I don’t know, brain capacity and confidence and drive and a SPIRAL-BOUND PLANNER, for crying out loud and, as a result, I’m finally becoming the queen of this here domain.

And though I had performed somewhat decently in my homemaking capacity during those baby-growing-and-birthing-and-nurturing years, I am now intentionally pursuing rigorous cleaning routines and meal plans and laundry rituals for really the first time in my entire life. This is, of course, in between homeschooling.

Conclusion: Dang it, being a homemaker/homeschooler is HARD WORK!  (Even though I LOVE IT.) And you really can’t sit down very often, or the entire operation will come crumbling down on top of your head.

But!

But!

BUT!

Even more than all of the above, there are, in fact, deep and spiritual reasons that I have been away from my blog for such an extended period, and it’s some really good stuff. The Lord has been working very specifically on my heart since last Thanksgiving in ways that have completely changed my life and my practices. I would go on and spell it all out here, but I have actually been keeping a loose journal about it some of it and, if you don’t mind, I’ll let it do the talking.

How about tomorrow?!

And just like that, what do you know? I think I’m blogging again!

it’s good to be back.

Howdy Do, from Me to You

Do you ever bump into someone that you recognize and you might even know their name, but you don’t really know HOW you know them or much about them, really…

only that you know them and they know you?

And then you start talking and it becomes too late to ask them what their name is and where you met them and why you keep hugging each other?!

I have been blogging now for many a year, and I have, by the magic of the internet and the grace of God, gathered up a sweet little gaggle of readers.

My audience is in no way huge, mind you — I always remind my ego that I have significantly less Facebook followers than our local pumpkin patch! —  but since I assumed it would be my mom and my church friends and my aunts and Grandmother reading my writing, I am nothing less than amazed by any increase that comes my way and, consequently, very grateful.

Some of you found me through a search engine, some on Pinterest, some through WordPress, some through a friend, but lately, as I’ve had to keep my writing to a shorter format, most of you have found me on Facebook.

(Facebook is my jam, yo.)

And I realized this week that, however or wherever you found “Mrs. Gore’s Diary”, many of you might be reading my daily updates and have absolutely no idea who I am, what I stand for, what I like, what my policies are, and who the little people are in all my pictures.

Let me take away any of the awkwardness for you and introduce myself, from the very beginning.

(pssst! And if you’ve been reading for awhile and have an acquaintance with our life, let this just serve as an update!)

1. Hi. Obviously, my name is Mrs. Gore, and I am the primary writer, party-thrower, picture-taker, and product-sharer behind “Mrs. Gore’s Diary.” I am tall and sturdy and what I would describe as passingly attractive, thanks entirely to modern technology. I have often said that I would have been a very ugly Victorian with my beyond-awful vision, terrible teeth, fussy complexion, and hair as voluminous and frizzy as a horses’s tail. In fact, when I don’t tame my hair, my husband calls me “Hagrid’s Baby.” All that to say, I am so grateful for optometrists and contact lenses, good make-up, dentists (sort of), and dependable hair tools. Because, you know, it’s fun to be able to leave the house and get groceries every once in awhile.

2. Over the last two years, I have been writing a book about marriage and motherhood. In fact, there is a section in that book about WHY I go by the pen name “Mrs. Gore” (because there’s actually more to it than it simply being my last name! Did you know that??). But if I told you now, I’d have to kill you. And we can’t have that, because, a) I don’t want to go to jail and b) it is important that I eventually have more Facebook followers than the pumpkin patch! (Just kidding. The pumpkin patch is truly awesome – it deserves to be well-known and celebrated). Anyhow, I hope to finish this book soon and start sending it out for publication. I would say I’m “doing my best” to hurry up and complete it, but there’s this little thing at our house called “when the kids go to bed, we watch TV every night and eat ice cream.” I suppose I COULD work on my book after the kids’ bedtime, but…nah.

3. My husband is a Southern Baptist pastor, a gifted theologian and, more recently, a truth-bringer to the foreign land of Tanzania. If I could finish my long book, I’d love to write a short book about our experience with the global mission field – it was big doin’s, I assure you. I love Mr. Gore. Like, LOVE him. Our church is tiny and wonderful and incredible, and…fun fact!…I have actually been attending there my entire life! And speaking of writing short books and long books, I could pen an encyclopedia about our church’s story, but just trust me that I can’t believe I get to be a part of such a tale, a wretched sinner like me. God is good.

4. The Lord instilled in me, from a very young age, the importance of family and setting down roots. And now when I look at my life, I see that He obviously had a purpose for that! If God allows, my husband and I will be so happy to stay in our church forever, with the people who have heaped love and wisdom and care upon us for many, many years. My parents live ten miles from us, and my husband’s family and all three of my brothers and their families live within two hours of us. All of these people are written — nay, etched — on my heart, and if you stick around for long, you’ll see many of them in the posts I share, in the pictures I take, and in the traditions we practice. I am sort of passionate about spreading the word that the grass isn’t necessarily greener down the road, not when the unifying blood of Christ is available in your own backyard.

5. My husband and I have four children, ages 8, 6, 4 and 2. Boy, girl, girl, boy. We have been called to this mission field of hearth and home, and would love to maybe someday perhaps Lord-willing add at least one more pipsqueak to our line-up. We are pretty big fans of having the pittering and pattering of feet in our midst, even though our house is already the living embodiment of “The Family Circus.” The more madness, the merrier, we say. Well, my husband says. I agree wholeheartedly, when I’m not hiding in my room. Here’s a picture of our whole family, our first photo after Mr. Gore returned from Africa…

IMG_0993

6. I am not a perfect woman and, even though I am a professing believer of the Lord Jesus Christ, I struggle with many things, including-but-not-limited-to a weak faith, anxiety, hypochondria, introversion, materialism, idealism, people-pleasing, procrastination and self-loathing. Speaking of self-loathing, I desperately hate my weaknesses, but they do make me long for our forever Kingdom. I used to be terrified of “the end”, whether it came in the form of death or the Second Coming, but I finally understand now (on most days) that I’m not made for this world, and neither are you. And that changes EVERYTHING, does it not?

7. I love, love, love pretty things. White enamel, floral prints, old silver, piles of books, teapots and percolators, ticking stripes and buffalo checks, vintage signage, little pearls and petite gems, birthday candles, roses and peonies and wildflowers, pastoral scenes, church steeples, supple leather, and romantically chipped paint. I have a serious glassware problem, a cardigan addiction, and I have been known to spend entire afternoons in Anthropologie. I have learned in the last decade, though, the difference between enjoying pretty things with an open hand and being ruled by them, and I’m much happier for it.

8. I am a homeschooler. I have a homeschool blog that I update MAYBE once a year, if you’re lucky. It’s important to me.

9. One day I shop at the organic food market. The next day we eat Puffy Cheetoh’s and chicken bits from the gas station. One day I banish all screens from our lives. The next, the kids watch back-t0-back episodes of “Little Bear” while I search for the end of the internet. One week we are on a great schedule wherein the house remains clean, our homeschool boxes are checked off, I write ten chapters of a book, and all of our errands are run. The next we arrive at church shoeless with only a vague idea of whether it is Sunday or Wednesday. I don’t like to think of it as “inconsistent” so much as…moderate. Let’s all just keep it somewhere in the middle, everybody. Excellence is for spelling bee kids.

10. I have many Lucy moments. Like the time I got stuck in the back hatch of our van or the time I met the Pioneer Woman. I enjoy being laughed at, though. I consider it a ministry.

11. Other things I like, in no particular order: Sunday mornings. Coffee. Jane Austen. Classic movies. Doris Day. Bing Crosby. “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Chips and queso. Holidays. History. Country drives. Cold weather. Well-written hymns, old and new. Baby chimps at the zoo (my family has to drag me away). Clean scents. Harry Potter. Humor. Outdoor shopping centers. Aslan. Being waited upon. Being tended to. Having my food prepared for me. Winter coats. Disney Princess karaoke. Sitting at Panera Bread with my laptop and a cup of Hazelnut. “A Christmas Carol.” Kindness. Fat babies. Children’s stories. Cozy blankets. Redemption. Pebble paths. Dark chocolate. Antique shopping. Old quilts. Laying on my back and looking up at the trees. Farm animals. Music, in whatever form I fancy for the day.

12. Strange-but-true factoids: a) The first time I fasted was in college for G.W. to win his second term. I made it three hours. b) I went through a mini depression when Regis Philbin retired. He filled in for Steve Higgins on “The Tonight Show” about a month ago, and I cried like a baby. Seeing him with Jimmy Fallon – the only person who could possibly fill the Regis-sized hole in my heart – was just too much joy for one night. c) I have frequent daydreams about living in a senior retirement village. And I don’t mean in the future, I mean, like, now. Just me and the WWII vets, playing cards and drinking coffee, getting my hair done without having to leave the building, a piano for me and my pals to sing all the old hits…YES, PLEASE.

13. The older I get, the more committed I am to writing. It is my #1 pasttime and hobby. I write every day, in some capacity. Sometimes blog posts, sometimes children’s books, sometimes Facebook statuses, sometimes letters to friends. But the necessary free time for sitting in solitude and writing down your thoughts, I have found, is hard to come by, especially when one homeschools. You see, there are always children here. Always. Which I love. But, yes…children. Everywhere. At all times. Therefore, one of the HUGEST lessons I have learned since I started sharing my writings on the internet is that…

well, I guess I’ll tell you that part tomorrow. I don’t want you to get sick of me just when we’re getting to know each other!

~

Stay tuned, y’all!

Updates and Such

It has been so long since I have regularly blogged that I feel like I should introduce myself.

Hi.

I’m Mrs. Gore.

This is my diary.

My kids, who are just learning to read, think the name of my blog is “Mrs. Gore’s Diarrhea”.

(It’s not. If I ever had such an ailment, which I’m going to say I haven’t, because, ew, I would NEVER blog about it. Talk about it on Facebook? Maybe. But not here).

When I first began sharing my thoughts and stories on the internets over four years ago, I was just a stay-at-home mom of two little children, looking for something to do during naptime. I had been a writer, of sorts, my entire life — whether it was tinkering around with children’s books, writing the first pages of short stories, journaling, corresponding — but I had never before found an outlet for my excessive wordage that so perfectly suited my heart and my writing style.

In fact, I distinctly remember sitting down with my older brother, Pete, over lunch in my early college days and telling him that, if I could only find an audience for my personal journal, I could possibly settle on writing as a career.

We laughed and dove into our appetizers because that was obviously ridiculous and would never happen. I was using dial-up internet at the time and Ree Drummond was still four years away from breaking the internet with her fantasticness; in other words, I’d never even heard of a blog.

Thus, once I sat down almost a decade later and published the handful of blog posts I had been secretly working on and discovered that my friends and family actually enjoyed reading them, I was hooked.

Blogging has helped and blessed me in so many ways. It has given me the consistent writing practice I’ve always needed. It has helped me to hold onto memories that I never want to forget. It has introduced me to the loveliest of audiences (that’s you!). It has given me a way to share the good news of Jesus with folks all over the world. It has soothed any of the loneliness that comes with parenting young children.

But what I’m wanting to focus on today, and this is the point I’ve been wanting to get to since I said “hi”, is that this blog has been a springboard into a project that I doubt I ever would have been brave or motivated enough to tackle on my own.

If you keep up with me on Facebook (where I make almost daily updates and drown the web with pictures of my children), you already know that, last summer, I began working in earnest on a book I had begun early in the year.

I wish I could give you more details on its origin, but I was postpartum and nursing and I honestly have NO RECOLLECTION of how or why I started writing it. For all I know, my husband wrote all those chapters and saved them on my computer and I went and stole them as my own!

Regardless, though, of how it all started, my goal was to finish the entire book by the end of summer before our homeschool year began on the day after Labor Day.

HA!

Hahahahahahaha.

HuhHAhaHAhaHAhoohee.

I am delirious with laughter.

Mostly because, almost one year later, I am still trudging along through one of the most heart-wrenching and exhausting projects that I have ever set my mind to, with several difficult and stubborn chapters of final revision still blocking my way to the finish line.

It would have been difficult to write this book if I were a single woman living alone.

It would have been difficult to write this book if I were a mom who sent her kids to school every day.

But writing this book with four little children under my roof, two of whom I HOMESCHOOL has been…

well, pure and utter and constantly interrupted madness.

(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I wish I could fully express to you, without sounding like a whiner, the journey this manuscript and I have been on, but I can’t. So I’ll just go ahead and whine.

There have been days of triumph, of feeling like I have written something really important and publishable. There have been days of absolute despair, feeling SURE that I have spent a year of my life penning the most unnecessary and unneeded book ever written. There have been spiritual battles, of fighting against my ambition and the temptation to write something for the masses instead of my Lord. There have been hot days, full of passion for the words I was sharing, desperate to help someone who is walking down paths that I have trod. There have been cold days, trying to connect to those passionate words already written and wondering how the girl who could write those words yesterday could feel so lukewarm today.

And then there has been the biggest battle of all, of daily fighting to be true to my God-given priorities over this tertiary desire of my heart.

Like all women and wives and mothers, my life is no longer my own. If it were, I feel quite sure I could be perfectly happy to sit at my writing work in a tiny house, typing away and eating my chocolate-covered almonds and sharing my heart all the live-long day.

But what, then, would I have to write about?

This family, this calling, this husband, these children…

they are my story.

Like, literally. My book is about them. How we met. How they’ve changed me. How God has sanctified me through each of them.

Thus, I have learned that, the most important key to my writing has been that I keep it where it belongs. Not first. Not second. Not third. Probably not even fourth.

Just somewhere far down the line, eked out during stolen moments in afternoons or evenings, in infrequent getaways to my mom’s house in the country, during Sunday afternoon naptimes…

whenever the Spirit leads and whenever I am free to enjoy this favorite craft and hobby.

This probably isn’t the most effective way to become a successful author who gets paid for her words, but during this season of my life, it’s the only way I know how to do it, and my sweet husband assures me o’er and o’er that God has used this this book for my growth and my good, whether it ever makes it beyond this Chromebook of mine.

At this point in the process, I am just over halfway finished with the FINAL revision of my book that has now reached 218 pages, 89,990 words, and probably many more to go.

Some chapters I finish in a day (those are my favorite).

Others take weeks (like the two chapters I stuck my tongue out at tonight).

But I have made it this far and I am pressing on with determination, and who knows? Maybe by the end of THIS summer, I’ll finally have finished this book that, for reasons unbeknownst to me, God has directed me to write and is teaching me to balance through His daily leading.

And then we shall see where she flies!

Until then, I’ll be here, blogging, whenever I can steal a moment, but mostly over at the Facebook page. Thank you for hanging in there with me and continuing to be the nicest and most encouraging readership on the web.

I am beyond grateful for all of you, my Mrs. Gore’s Diary readers.

(Unless you’d rather go by “Mrs. Gore’s Diarrheaders”? No? Anybody?…)

~

Writing books makes me happy.

h

Writing books makes me sad.

sad

Writing books makes me wonder why I’m wearing sunglasses on my head.

At 12:35 a.m.

On a rainy day.

wonder2

I’m going to bed.

This and That and Lots of Nonsense

Greetings, bloglings.

This is Mrs Gore, coming to you LIVE today from, you guessed it, Panera Bread.

I can’t well remember the last time I spent a quiet hour at one of these tables, my husband sitting across from me with his Kindle and his juvenile drink (today he went with a smoothie, definitely a step up from the Horizon sippy milk he bought last time).

There is a steaming cup of Hazelnut situated a safe distance away from my new laptop, and…sighhhhhh…I feel so very relaxed.

I’m wearing REAL clothes.

I’m toting my beautiful, leather birthday purse that I never get to use because it is too tiny for diapers and wet wipes.

My make-up is on, and my hair is freshly washed, dried and curled, and I think I’ve already said this, but I’m sitting at a QUIET table. Very, very quiet.

Did I mention that there is coffee involved?

Yes, I think I did.

Anyhow, July is upon us and, as is usually the case, we are just now getting away to celebrate our June 11th wedding anniversary.

Because, you know, June 8th birthday parties always supercede June 11th wedding anniversaries; the day before our big day, we were celebrating Rebekah’s big day (5 years old? Are you kidding me??), and although we did pause for a few anniversary pictures at her party, we decided to table any observations of our marital union until a better time, i.e. when our babysitter wasn’t completely fried from the crazy schedules of her ten grandchildren, three of whom had birthday parties in the same week.

So. Here we are!

And if you didn’t know it already, you know it now. Me and Mr. Gore are, as the little girl in Sleepless in Seattle describes it, “mfeo”.

(Made for each other).

In our mind, nothing says “romantic” like sitting here in silence with our electronic devices. And after this, we’re going junk hunting at a few antique stores!

But before I sign off, I wanted to mention a few things…

1. It never dawned on me until this week that some of you who are subscribed here do not know about the “Mrs. Gore’s Diary FACEBOOK page“. I know, right? There’s MORE of me on the internet! If you haven’t joined us there yet, I do hope you will. It is without a doubt my happy place.

2. As such, many of you who are not following the Facebook page may not know why I’ve been blogging far less in the past couple of months: I’m writing a book! I have 76 completed pages thus far, and have been buckling down in hopes of finishing it before August, when my heart and mind really must be shifted back to homeschool. I am very excited about this project, although I really cannot objectively judge yet if it is the best book ever written or the absolute awfullest. 

3. I was so thrilled by your responses to “The Most Important Article You’ll Ever Read on Child Safety“. Without a doubt, that post was emblazoned on my heart, so that I simply had to take a one-night break from book-writing to spit it out, staying up FAR too late for a mama of four. It seemed more like a cathartic exercise than anything, and so imagine my surprise when it began to take off and gather almost as many hits as “I Signed Up For This“. But what thrilled me the most about the entire thing is that the Word of the Lord landed upon so many hearts with that post and momentarily replaced fear with truth and peace. Incredible. Not to mention that I am super happy to welcome a new gaggle of readers. Welcome, new friends!

4. But wait! My week got even MORE exciting when I noticed I was getting an uprecedented number of comments on a blog post I wrote a month ago, titled “Refusing to Blink“. It had been fairly well-received when I first wrote it, but nothing spectacular, so I could not for the life of me figure out what in the corn-Sam-hill-heck was going on. But then my eyeballs fell out of my head when I saw the tweet from “Freshly Pressed” and realized I had received the great honor of being featured by WordPress in their Parenting section! So NOW, I have another new group of readers to welcome from the blogging community! Hi, guys!! I’m so excited to have you along and am waving at you very energetically in my mind. Can you see me?

5. Which leads me to my last point, made for all readers of Mrs. Gore’s Diary, whether you are from WordPress or Facebook or if you are my Mom or Aunt B. I read a blog post last week about “blogging etiquette” that actually gave me trouble sleeping. It was about the common courtesy of responding to your blog comments, and the writer made it clear that it is kind of rude to fail in this area. I understand what she is saying: if someone in real life said “hi” to you it would be rude to not say “hi” back. If someone said they liked something you said, you would say “thank you”. And if someone asked you a question, you would most certainly answer it. The article didn’t sway me, so much: I remain confident in my conviction that, as a homeschooling mama, I can spare no extra time on this computer with my back to my kids. BUT, as a hopeless people-pleaser, it did distress me very much to even think that I might come across as rude by failing to respond and interact with you who have been so kind to find a home here. Thus, I just had to take a minute to say “thank you!” to each and every one of you. I didn’t set out to blog for an audience outside of my immediate circle, but I’ve received one, anyway, and therefore, you are a GIFT to me. Seriously. You have no idea. Every comment, every ‘like’, every reblog, every facebook message, every kind word…it is noted and appreciated to the tippy-toe bottom of my heart. You guys are the best! Thank you for receiving me when I have so little to offer in return. And I promise, someday when I’m a little old lady with no tiny people running about my house, I’ll be the most interactive blogger you ever did see.

Phew! I guess that’s about it…

I’ll be back soon with some really fun birthday party posts, including a Kit Kittredge “penny pincher” party and a Nanny McPhee inspired picnic. Until then, I’ll be plugging away at the ol’ bookaroo and making almost-daily updates at facebook.

Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I need to get a refill of Hazelnut and smile adoringly at my husband over the top of my computer.

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Gore!

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Mrs. Gore’s Hearty and Unsolicited Endorsement of “Moms’ Night Out”

You guys know that I have hermit tendencies.

If it weren’t for a few good people in my life, I would be tempted to hole up and become buried under the rubble of puzzle pieces and mismatched socks and stray Cheerio’s that is my house.

One of those good people is my friend, Chrissy.

Since moving to our town, she has made a faithful effort to plan a ladies’ night once a month where a group of us meet up to do something…anything…different than the stuff we do the other 29 days of the month (i.e. putting the puzzles back together, matching the socks and sweeping up those Cheerio’s).

One time we went out to eat and gab and cackle like hens.

One night we met at my Mom’s house to play board games (and eat and gab and cackle like hens).

Last night, we decided to go see a movie…

and eat and gab…

And OH, did we ever cackle like hens!

The movie?

“Moms’ Night Out”.

Since I live in a black hole, I had heard only a few things about it. Someone shared the trailer on facebook, but I never got around to watching it. I heard rumors that it was shown at a ladies’ retreat at Falls Creek which really intrigued me. My mom heard someone talking about it on the radio…

but the only thing I really knew about the movie going in to it was that it was apparently clean and that it was resonating with women.

And what I was completely unaware of when I took my seat in the theatre, flanked by my friends, a small cup of Dr. Pepper to my right, a pile of buttery popcorn in my lap, is that I was about to be taken on a two hour journey cataloguing MY LIFE.

You guys, it was like watching my every day activities, my secret frustrations, my rarely-expressed fears and the chaos and hilarity of raising my little children play out on a giant screen in front of my face.

The main character was even a homeschooling mommy blogger! You can’t get much more relatable than that.

And sure, the story took twists and turns that my life probably (and hopefully) never will, but throughout the entire story was a thread of spot-on humor, a glorification of motherhood, and a wellspring of encouragement for the tired mommy heart.

I don’t want to give too much away, but by the time the movie was over, my life seemed so normal. So sweet. And most importantly…

so important.

And silly things that at one time tempted me to lose my cool were all of a sudden typical and funny, even…

the day Betsie left hot pink nail polish footprints in the living room…

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the day that I sold my soul for a sandwich (read the AWFUL story behind this picture here)…

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the list of things I “signed up for” (read the life-changing blog post here)…

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all of it.

Even this.

(God help me).

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I came home renewed, refreshed, and eager to embrace this season of my life with a healthy and biblical and light-hearted perspective.

And as I sit here on my stairs with my laptop, a naked toddler next to me begging for nail polish, a baby asleep in the next room, and two always-hungry kids in the kitchen, I’m seeing it all with fresh eyes.

This mess is beautiful, and there is nowhere else I’d rather be.

And so it is official: “ladies’ night out” watching “Moms’ Night Out” was a night well spent.

Go watch it!

And be sure to eat, gab and cackle like a hen while you’re at it.

The 13 Ways in which “Frozen” Melted My Heart

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

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

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

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

Care to accompany me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. That snowman stole the show.

Banana Split For My Babies

My Mom is so much fun.

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

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

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

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

And we all said “aye!”

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

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

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

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she pinched him…

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

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

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(As usual, Betsie peeked).

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

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Okay…OPEN YOUR EYES!

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

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And we can’t forget Betsie…

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

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Betsie, too!

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

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

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

Pretty please?

With a cherry on top?

Home.

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

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

The one-hour drive home had never been longer.

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

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

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

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

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

Home.

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

And I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this picture was different.

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

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

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

Our Minivan of Megahorror

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~ a story of the day I almost died in the driveway, complete with italicized internal dialogue ~

Mr. Gore stuck his head back in the door after leaving for work.

“Haven’t you been wanting to clean out the van?” he called out, “It’s really nice out here this morning…if you clean out the inside, I’ll drive down to the carwash during my lunch break!”

“Okay!” I brightly responded. We had been watching loads of television during an otherwise uneventful summer week; it would be nice for all of us to get some fresh air.

Within 30 minutes time, the kids were all engaged in outdoor pursuits, and I was pulling our minivan into the shade, an arsenal of cleaning aids sitting expectantly beside me in the passenger seat: trashbags, Windex, paper towels, Lysol wipes, old rags, and a little bowl of hot, soapy water.

Let’s do this thingy…

I opened up both front doors. Not bad. I had gathered up most of the trash from our area while Mr. Gore ran inside the grocery store for me the day before.

I moved to the back of the van and opened up the hatch.

Geeze, Louise…

Boxes of toys and bags of old clothes intended for the storage unit (i.e. garage sale pile) hung in midair, threatening to fall out, and our folding chairs were sticking up at jagged angles on every side. Even though I knew all this stuff was back here, I sighed.

This is going to take awhile…

Moving on, I opened the next door, the big, heavy sliding one behind the passenger seat…

Oh, man. I forgot about this…

The giant plastic bowl of cereal trail mix Gideon had made for his Papa in Sunday School on Father’s Day lay opened, upside-down and empty, meaning the sticky cereal pieces were scattered in heaps all over the floor of the backseat. The kids had immediately spilled it on our way home from church that day, and, too exhuasted to deal with it, we left it there and just told them to tiptoe around it.

Turns out, every time we are pulling up into our driveway, we are always too exhausted to deal with it.

So there it still sat, partly melted into the carpet, mocking me with its sugary coating and voluminous girth. That was a big ol’ plastic bowl of trail mix!

Speaking of carpet, WHY do minivans have carpet?! How about some linoleum, or something we could hose down?…you might want to mull that over, Honda.

I sighed and frowned at the cereal with my mean, pregnant face.

I’ll deal with you last…

Moving on. I opened the last sliding door, and the fact that a decently cool breeze was blowing through the van gave me a fair amount of optimism.

I guess I should take out these carseats before I do anything else…

I unbuckled Betsie’s chair from the front row seat and pulled it out.

Oh, dear Lord…

erase this from my memory, please.

and forgive me for not taking care of our life.

The seat beneath her chair was littered with all manner of snacks and debris, and I quickly learned what had happened to all of her missing hairbows. It was horrifying. And I still had two booster seats to go, from the dreaded back row.

I quickly reached back and pulled them out, not daring to look at the aftermath.

And then I got right to cleaning, starting with my seat, passenger front. I windexed my window. I sprayed down my door and wiped it off. I polished the glovebox. Then I noticed the dust-covered dashboard, the end of which seemed very far away from my 8-months pregnant belly. I scooted myself up as far as my belly would allow, turned my face to the side, closed my eyes, and reached as far as I could, hoping I was eradicating all traces of dirt.

I opened my eyes. I did it! It was clean! But now there was a definite line showing how little I had accomplished. My little spot in the van might be very tidy, but the only thing that was doing for me at the moment was revealing how terribly filthy the rest of the crime-scene-on-wheels was.

Sheesh. This is going to take forever…

I decided to start removing all those floor mat thingys. For some reason, our van has like, 50. And all 50 of them were covered in grass and pebbles and goo and, I don’t know, probably poop. I made quick work of this part, dumping the stuff off of them and tossing them in a row in the sun. I’d hose them off later.

It was time to start gathering up all the trash from the rest of the van, and this is where things got super scary…

Please, oh PLEASE God, don’t let me find a Chicken McNugget.

If all those rumors are true that McDonald’s food doesn’t break down, I DON’T want to know it. Ignorance is bliss.

Oh, and please don’t let me find a sippy cup. I beg of you. No sippy cups.

And no dead mice. If I find a dead mouse…or a live one, for that matter…I am DONE here.

I timidly reached under the seats, digging out scraps of paper, empty containers, church crafts, and yes, finally, one McDonald’s box. I didn’t open it. If there was a McNugget in there, I’ll never know if it was moldy like it should be or freakishly well-preserved like it shouldn’t be.

Finally, all the trash from the inside was picked up and my Shop-Vac and I got to work. At this point, it actually looked like I had accomplished something, which is just the sort of results Shop-Vacs always bring to the table. Hallelujah.

Before I knew it, the driver and passenger area and the first row seat were looking decent and I could actually see the carpet on the floor of our minivan. Yes, it was covered with stains like someone had been murdered in our van and then decomposed there, too, but…you could see it. So that counts for something.

I wish I could shampoo this thing…

Like, the WHOLE thing…

Can you take a car through the carwash with the doors open? Is that allowed? Or maybe we could powerwash the inside?…

Sweating now, I decided to take a break from vacuuming and move to the back hatch.

So, yes, I knew there was a lot of junk back there, but I didn’t realize how long it had been there…

I have this bad habit of boxing things from the house up for our garage sale that never happens, sending it to the car, and then never touching it again. Thus, there was a hole-filled bag of clothes in the back from like, 2010, maybe? And they were covered with dust. If there was a mouse in our van, it was going to be in that bag.

I stuck my pinky out and gingerly began removing items of clothing to a heap under a nearby shade tree, shaking out dust, and continuing to pray for no critters or creatures to fall out.

When Mr. Gore comes home, we can put this stuff in the trunk of the car and I’ll deal with them when I decide to clean the car out…

I do believe this was the most terrifying part of my van-cleaning experience. There was stuff in that hatch that I had such little remembrance of, I knew it was very possible that there could be a small meal hiding out back there, if not a squirrel family or something truly terrifying, like a clown mask or a bloody knife.

Trashing items with little to no thought, I finally reached the bottom of this grime-mountain and was able to heave a sigh of relief…

That’s when I noticed a little storage door in the side of the hatch.

” What IS this? I’ve never seen this before…

Should I open it?

What if there is something weird in there? Like a human head?! What if the person who originally owned this van was a murderer and I’m about to find out???

What if Mr. Gore is the murderer? How will I ever provide for this family if he goes to jail?!

In my van-cleaning distress, I had obviously worked myself up into my typical “worst-case-scenario” mentality. But I HAD to know what was behind that door. Wincing, I slowly opened the door to that little container and it POPPED open…

it was empty.

Oh thank God!

That was terrifying.

But how nice that something in this van is actually CLEAN!

Heart beating, I made quick work of the empty hatch, scrubbing down the back of the seats, disinfecting the entire area and vaccumming the carpet.

That left one major area to tackle….

The backseat.

(excuse me while I take a deep, cleansing breath and perform a meditative exercise).

Okay, I’m back. So, like I was saying, the backseat

The den of the ragamuffins.

The lair of the hoydens.

In other words, Satan’s domain.

This is the seat we, as parents, NEVER visit. Ever.

Our eldest kids can crawl back there alone now and buckle themselves up, and the only time we see the trainwreck they’ve created is when we reach back to lift out one of their booster chairs for another vehicle and see showers of cereal and dirt and plastic toys come raining down.

But we act like we don’t see it.

Because then we’d have to clean it.

Like I was about to have to do, 8 months pregnant, in Ju-stinkin’-ly, in Okla-hot-homa.

After wedging myself through the allotted space, I scrunched myself into a half-standing/half-sitting position so I could inspect the seat. I wasn’t going to sit down until I could have a good look at it, see what I was getting myself into…

What is this? Bright green PAINT?…

hmmm…this is the same color as the stain on Rebekah’s 4th of July dress…

but where did it COME from?…

Ugh. Lucky Charms? Who had Lucky Charms back here?

Hey! A quarter…

I leaned to the left and then to the right in order to inspect the windows and side ledges.

Nope.

Can’t do this.

I need to get out of here!!! I’m about to hyperventilate.

Okay. I can do it.

I’ve given birth three times. I can CLEAN this.

It was like a dank and infected Zombie hideout back there. The windows were covered…no, really, COVERED…in sticky, smudgy fingerprints, the seatbelts were all twisted and somehow wilted-looking, and the cupholders…

heaven help me, the cupholders were not the same color as the rest of the van’s interior. Rather, they seemed to be coated in…tar, maybe? Mud and dried up Dr. Pepper? Chewing tobacco?

After swallowing the bile that had risen to my throat, I Shop-Vac’ed a place for me to sit so I could tackle this nightmare that lay before me.

Did I REALLY say I wanted to do this?

And WHY did I volunteer for this job when I am in the nesting phase of this pregnancy?!…

{For truly, on a normal day, “cleaning out the van” would have meant picking up the trash and hauling in the stuff that didn’t belong there. On a nesting day, however, it meant cleaning dirty quarters and scrubbing the carpet with a toothbrush. What was I thinking?!}

Windex. Scrubbing Bubbles. Dawn dish soap. And 4 Lysol wipes per cupholder (for a grand total of 16 Lysol wipes).

I scrubbed and cleaned and cleaned and scrubbed and shivered and shuddered and cleaned some more.

Then I scrubbed one more time.

Finally, after two hours and what felt like a walk to hell and back, I was finished.

I fell back into the clean seat and just sat there in the hot van, not only unable to move, but unable to process one complete thought.

Eventually, like a shell-shocked survivor of a post-apocalyptic event, I managed to squeeze myself back through the tiny seat hallway and stagger into the open air, blinking against the bright sunlight. My thoughts were scattered as I walked barefoot down our steaming, cobblestone sidewalk.

Who am I?…

Why is it so BRIGHT out here?

I bet my house is filthy.

I wonder if the kids are still here…

I walked back into my air-conditioned house and straight to the powder bathroom where I began vigorously scrubbing my hands with soap and the hottest water available. I looked into the mirror…

My hair was disheveled and sweaty.

My cheeks were flushed bright red.

But it was my eyes that had changed the most. They were wild…dazed…the bearers of secrets too horrific to fully express.

We wrestled in the driveway, my minivan and I, and though I came out the definite victor, I will never be quite right again…

I’ve seen too much.

And even though I didn’t actually find a Chicken McNugget under the seat, its gonna be a LONG while before I’m ready to eat one again… 

Disneyworld Who?

Those of you who follow my blog’s facebook page (because I obviously needed a place on the internet to share more words and pictures!!!…) know that I shared the following status update last Thursday night:

“I understand that places like Disneyworld are magical and memorable family destinations and if we had extra cash laying around, I would be the first in line…

but there’s something awfully fun about declaring a weekend “staycation” and going to the grocery store with your family to buy everyone their own pint of ice cream and their own box of sugary cereal.

I got Ben & Jerry’s Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream and a box of Cocoa Puffs…”

~

This is true, and I still have the tummy ache to prove it.

But let me backtrack for a minute…

When my parents announced that they would be going out of town with my brother and his family over Memorial Day weekend, my Mom offhandedly mentioned that Mr. Gore and I were welcome to crash with our brood at their cozy little home in the country. She is always and forever making generous offers like this, and so I just kind of brushed off the thought of it, initially.

But as a very hectic week progressed, and as Mr. Gore’s old back injury continued to flare up more and more with little relief, I began to really mull over her offer. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought, to “get away” for the weekend and truly relax, without really having to “get away”? For my parents happen to live 10 short miles away from us…

I finally mentioned the option to my husband, and before I knew it, our plans were set in stone: a 4-night family “staycation” to our home away from home.

And, as usual, I learned a few things on our “trip” concerning “staycations” in general, and ours, in particular, and I thought today would be a good day to pass them on to you. Because I really do love you, you know. You can thank me in heaven. Or, if you don’t want to wait that long, in the comments sections below. Or both. It’s up to you, really…

1. Seriously. The first night of your vacation, go to the grocery store as a family and buy whatever the heck kind of junk you want. Aside from each of us buying our own pint of ice cream and our own box of cereal, we bought potato skins, fried green beans and cheesecake from the freezer section, chocolate donuts, strawberry cookies (Betsie’s choice), special granola bars, loads of fresh berries, and the first can of Pringles I’ve bought in nearly a decade. I haven’t had that much fun at the grocery store since I was leeching off of my parents and writing checks like there was no tomorrow.

2. The whole point of a staycation is to STAY. So yeah, yeah, I know we broke the rules a little and stayed at our home-away-from-home, but we really had to and here’s why: at our home in town, the phone rings a lot, we have to wear clothes all the time, and our kids have to come inside to use the bathroom. Though my parent’s house is very close by, it is extremely remote, and all of our town rules can be broken. So if you can, staycate in the country, where your kids can swim in their undies and skitter across the pasture to go tinkle.

3. However, if you want to have a romantic getaway, do not sleep in your parent’s room. Or in your parent’s house, for that matter. My most heartfelt apologies, Mr. Gore. I was wrong. You were so right.

4. Keep in mind that staycations can bring with them a fair share of hard work. I told my Mom that I am forever blaming our messy house on all the stuff we own, and the types of floors we have that “show dirt”, but, I learned something during our 2nd day at her house without her there to help me manage everything: It’s not our stuff. It’s not our floors. It’s us. We’re a mess.

And while it was so nice to be away from all of the looming projects that I am constantly aware of in my own home, I still had to clean a lot, do lots of laundry, cook lots of food, shepherd lots of hearts, bathe lots of kids, and I still fell into bed, exhausted, by the end of each night. It put things in perspective for me, though, and helped me to better recognize and come to grips with the true nature of this season of our life, full of the fun and wonderment of childhood, yes, but also full of nonstop work. No matter where we go or where we are. Even on vacation. But especially on staycation.

5. You know what’s awesome? Packing light, wearing your clothes, getting them unbelievably dirty, washing them that night, folding them, and putting them on again the next day before repeating the entire process all over again. I could get used to that, especially for the kids…so this is me, declaring war on their closets the minute I finish this blog post. Or the next day. Next week. Well…just, soon. I mean it.

6. On a real vacation, you usually take your family to places they’ve never been, so on a staycation, it is only reasonable to invest in a few movies your kids have never seen, some games they’ve never played, and maybe some toys they’ve never played with. In our case that meant “Summer Magic”, Go Fish, and a huge box of sidewalk chalk that had vibrant colors the likes of which we have never sidewalk-chalked with.

7. Go on walks. Play outside. Read stories. Take naps. Play games. Watch movies. Dance in the rain. Take your first swim of the summer. Get muddy. And be prepared to bathe your kids no less than 8 times a day as a result.

8. But most of all, get ready to enjoy living and see with fresh eyes the simple pleasures that are available to you every day of the year if you could just take the time to notice and enjoy them. Nature, family, home, ice cream…

it doesn’t take much, does it?

Disneyworld is still on my list of wishes, and perhaps someday, I’ll be taking snapshots of my kids at the Magic Kingdom. But until then, I think we’ll survive just fine in our own neck of the woods…

staycation 1

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Gideon muddy face

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staycation 3

staycation 5

summer 1

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p.s. the Pringles were delicious.