An All-American Halloween

A couple of years ago, I saw this precious costume in the Chasing Fireflies catalogue (click on the picture to be taken to the product page).

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Rebekah was singing by then, and I could just picture her in this vintage-inspired get-up with her chubby toddler body singing “God Bless Am-ayy-ica.” Here, I’ll help you to imagine it better.

So I added that costume to my (sorta sad) Halloween wishlist at Amazon with hopes to someday center our family costumes around it.

Is that normal for people to have Halloween wishlists for their family-themed costumes?

Don’t answer that.

But then, darn it, these kids ’round here started getting opinions.

We did “Red Riding Hood“. (Okay, which I was totally pumped about).

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Then Mr. Gore had his back surgery and I barely had time to throw this “Hospital” idea together (which actually won us the costume contest that year! BOOM. Mic drop.)

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Then it was “Star Wars“, all for the love of our then seven-year-old son, Gideon.

And I hope you’ve noticed the glaring omission of the Chasing Fireflies patriotic costume that had now been on my wishlist for THREE-AND-A-HALF YEARS.

Nope, no red-white-and-blue sequined number, just a slumping Darth Vader who doesn’t know how to hold a lightsaber.

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It’s like I’m in prison or something.

Thus, even as Rebekah and I conceded last year to what felt like maybe a Holy-Spirit-led Star Wars decision at our costume planning meeting (don’t judge), we both made it clear before we adjourned that NEXT year (meaning, this year) we would finally do it…

AMERICA.

No comments, no questions, no take-backs.

There was only one problem, however.

Rebekah wasn’t digging the costume I picked out for her all those years ago at Chasing Fireflies.

I’m sorry, WHAT????

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Rather, she fell madly in love with a random Betsy Ross costume that we somehow stumbled across at Amazon one day.

In fact, she loved it so very much that she put it on her Christmas wishlist, even though the smallest size was for 9-11 year olds (she was 5).

And…she got it.

Her Grandpa and Grandma, who have this uncanny ability to sense what their little ones will love the most off of their lists, bought it for her, and it’s true, when I asked Rebekah what her favorite gift was after Christmas, she got all dreamy-eyed and sighed “My Betsy Ross costume!”

So I decided to love it, too.

It was way too big, but she adored it so much, and I said “buh-bye” to my little 1940’s USO girl before 2014 was even over.

Maybe the next time I have a chubby and fabulous preschooler who voluntarily memorizes and sings patriotic songs, I’ll buy it for HER.

But, in all seriousness — if we’re allowed to “be serious” when we’re talking about Halloween costumes — it’s important for a mama to learn somewhere along the line that, if she will just GO with it and release her freakish control-freak tendencies, life can be great and maybe even better than it would have been if she had remained dictator-of-the-costumes-and-all-the-other-stuff.

(For instance, I wouldn’t trade the memories of our “Star Wars” Halloween for ANYTHING!)

But before we get to the costumes, there’s one more thing I want to tell you about.

You guys know me well enough by now to know that we wouldn’t just be dressing up on Halloween and then calling it a day. Everything has to have meaning around here and things that happened on this day need to line up with things that happened on that day and ALSO with things that will happen in the future and I couldn’t help myself…

sometime around two years ago, this costume theme began to grow into another complicated vision that I just couldn’t let go of.

You see, I love the 4th of July almost as much as I love October 31st, and most of the characters we would be portraying on Halloween had also, long, long ago, conveniently been featured in 20th Century wartime propaganda posters.

Well, guess what? I HAPPEN TO LOVE WARTIME PROPAGANDA POSTERS!!! Golly gee, who doesn’t?!?!

So here was the plan: as each person got dressed in their costume on Halloween Day, I dragged them out to our shed through the wet grass to try and replicate the posters that we had found of our characters. Soon, I’ll be sending the photos off to a graphic designer to be turned into posters – featuring us! – that I can hang up every July.

Do I exhaust you?

Because I certainly exhaust myself.

And definitely my husband and my mom.

ANYHOW, I look forward to showing you next summer the wartime posters we’ll hopefully have hanging all around our house!

But enough with the whys and the hows and the whats and the posters.

Are you ready to see this year’s costumes?!?!

~

First up, we have Uncle Sam, played by the best of good sports, Mr. Gore.

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What a hero. Not only does he play along with my photo shoots, he then scurries down the street to head up our town’s Trunk or Treat, never once acting embarrassed that he is wearing a taped-on goatee. I love that man.

(p.s. If you are looking for details and links to our costumes for a future Halloween, I have a follow-up post in the works!)

~

Next up! Rosie the Riveter, played by your truly.

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I spent a good amount of time on Halloween afternoon practicing Rosie’s pose in front of our computer camera:

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The pose was much harder to replicate when I was outside in the cold in front of the neighbors without a mirror image!

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Can I tell you, though, what I enjoyed most about my costume this year?

Most days, I feel the need to cover up my arms with a cardigan, but I was kinda unexpectedly proud on this day to show off my Mama guns as a tribute to the men and women of the Greatest Generation. There were so many vamped-up costume versions of Rosie out there, making her look all pin-up-y and such, but I ask you, fellow citizens, would the women that Rosie represented be trotting all over town trying to look sexy on Halloween night?

Nay, I say!

They’d be flexing their big ol’ arms from working hard and holding down the homefront and toting around old-fashioned, heavy babies, and they might be a little thick in the middle because they weren’t averse to a good piece of pie after supper. In that regard, the role of Rosie was created for me.

In fact, I mentally called my costume “paunchalicious” because the elastic band of my worksuit sat right on my biggest problem area. It was all good, though.

For this night, I embraced it.

I think it must all go back to the red lipstick. That stuff does something for a girl’s confidence, even when she’s wearing something akin to Carharts.

~

Next up, we have the amazing Captain America! I had never seen this particular poster before, but I LOVE it.

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And here’s our “Cap”, about as handsome and inspiring as the original, if I say so myself.

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Gid the Kid loved this costume, purchased for 40% off at the Disney Outlet in Branson, and my biggest struggle was keeping him from wearing it day and night before Halloween. He is still wearing the gloves every day, with every outfit.

I’m just personally thrilled that he’s still cool with wearing costumes. I don’t see Peter Pan much around here anymore, and I was afraid we’d lost him.

~

Next we have the beautiful and industrious Betsy Ross. I couldn’t find a Betsy war poster, but this artwork served as our inspiration.

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Here’s our Betsy. Not to be confused with our actual Betsie. This is really Rebekah, my co-heart behind this “America” theme, and the biggest fan ever of the costume she FINALLY got to wear. Special thanks to Grandmother for hauling a sewing machine over at the last minute to shorten the skirt to a wearable length!

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Next, we have the statuesque Lady Liberty!!!

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Played by our actual Betsie (not to be confused with our Rebekah Betsy). Betsie loved, loved, LOVED this costume, and I did, too! I can’t help but feel that it went on sale just for us, after years of being too expensive!!!

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We actually did two poses with the Statue of Liberty, and this second one just positively slays me. Betsie is shy in some scenarios, but on costume picture day, she’s our best actress!

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(#ohhoney)

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And, lastly, I present to you our majestic national bird…

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played by Shepherd Gore!

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I would have made him a nest, but everything was wet, and we had to hurry to get his photos before his 2-year-oldness started showing.

The funniest thing about Shepherd is that he HATED his costume SO BAD. We had tried to put it on him a couple of times, but he ran away from us screaming his head off. I had honestly assumed that he would be wearing his American flag shirt on Halloween night.

Thus, imagine my shock when I was finishing up Rebekah’s photos by the shed and this little eagle came running across the yard towards me, flapping his wings, so he could get his picture made.

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It made me want to say old-ladyish things like “Well, I never!” and “Will wonders never cease?!” It was the best surprise of my night.

So. Those are the official “poster” poses that will be made into our 4th of July decorations.

Now here are just some fun shots we got of each character in between takes.

First, Uncle Sam:

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Okay, so that was the only pose I had of him. I have, like, fifty of that same pose, and you’ll notice in the upcoming pictures that he holds this pose for the entire night. The sky could be falling in on our heads and he would never break character.

Here’s Rosie (these were taken by Gideon, my budding photographer!):

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Captain America:

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Betsy Ross:

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The Statue of Liberty:

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and our Eagle-boy:

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Finally, here’s the whole crew. I will cherish this picture forever!

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And these, too…

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Psst! Little known fact. Did you know that Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter fell in love and had patriotic babies? They live underneath the Lincoln Memorial.

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It may feel, sometimes, that our country is going berserk-o, but we’re still mighty proud to live here and call the U.S.A. our home. We’ll fight for her, we’ll pray for her, we’ll pay our taxes and we’ll love her. Until she takes away our right to homeschool, then we’re outta here. Haha. Just kidding. But totally serious.

AMERICA RULES!!!

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~

Thank you, DEAR readers, as ever, for making Halloween extra fun for me!! Our Facebook group is my favorite place to go to on Halloween night once the kids have eaten ungodly amounts of candy and passed out on the floor.

If you haven’t already, pop over to our page and share a picture of your costume! And ‘like’ our page to get frequent updates and stories from the Gore family. Happy Halloween 2015!!

The Day I Took a Walk – Our Tenth Anniversary Celebration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

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

Now…

FINALLY…

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

If you’re on board, just say “I do!”

~

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was pink and shimmery and ladylike and…

I liked it a whole lot.

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

“New dress?” you’ll ask.

And I’ll nod and wink at you.

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

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

Give me about eight years, mkay?

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

These shoes were just the ticket.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My darling Betsie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ring-bearer or best man?

Maybe both.

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

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

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And…

brace yourselves…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Ceremony” time!!

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

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

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

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

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And the sun was shining through the trees…

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

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

Perhaps.

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

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

The grass was greener than it had ever been before.

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

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

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

It felt like heaven…

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

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

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

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

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

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And, um…

here’s me.

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

♬ Here comes the wife

married for life 

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My family.

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

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

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

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Husbands are a blessing and a gift and a treasure.

Children are a heritage from the Lord.

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

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

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

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

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

But do you know what?

This was enough.

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

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

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

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

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Twice.

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

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

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but it tends to multiply.

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which is the only kind of math that I like. 😉

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Ladies and gentlemen of the internet…

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

Mr. and Mrs. Gore!!!

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till death do us part

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh. My falling rose petals.

My life is now complete.

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

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

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

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Ten years ago…

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Today…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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then we fed each other cake…

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

life.

love.

laughter.

strawberry cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the vehicle’s not so bad either!

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

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

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

But this time…

we RAN.

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

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

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~

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

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

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

~

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

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Have Courage and Be Kind – a Cinderella Birthday Party

If I recall correctly, I have already spent thousands of words discussing in detail how passionately I adored the new live-action Cinderella movie. You can read all about it here.

But what you may not know is that another one of the reasons I loved the movie was…

ahem (materialism alert)…

this dress.

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The one on the left, not the one on the right.

I mean, I love the one on the right, too, it’s just that I’m personally still too postpartum to wear an ankle-length all-over floral fabric, even if it was broken up in the midsection with a darling pink apron.

Nevermind the fact that my “baby” is almost 2 years old.

ANYHOW, where was I?

Oh, yes, the dress on the left.

It just basically sent me into sentimental hysterics before I was ten minutes into the movie. Don’t judge, mkay? Wardrobes speak to me. Always have. Always will. Even if I joined a nunnery!

Therefore, well after the movie had concluded – all the way home, in fact – my mind was sort of racing, daydreaming intently about how I could find such a dress for Rebekah.

It is, after all, one of my favorite ways to celebrate girlhood, this adorning of my daughters in frocks that pay homage to the timelessness and beauty of being little and free and pure. It’s such a short season. Let’s frame it in a floral print and a bit of lace, yes?

And, just like that, before I could really consciously make the decision, the “Rebekah of Sunnybrook Farm” birthday party I had been planning for my soon-to-be 6-year old was kicked resolutely to the curb and a new vignette was replacing it.

Goodbye, gingham and haybales and overalls and teacup pigs.

Helloooooo, Cinderella!!!

~

First things first, where in the world was I going to find a dress like Ella’s for this party?

I could hardly sleep that night, I was so excited, and well after my family had dozed off, after perusing all my favorite stores for a suitable dress, I withdrew to Facebook and shared the above photo with my little friend, Leslie (“little” as in much younger than me, much smaller, and much like a tiny, beloved pixie that I would keep in my cupboard, if I could).

Leslie has always shared my love for nostalgia and vintage, and I have long felt that she, young whippersnapper though she be, might rival me in her ability to find all the stuff that must be bought on the internets. Thus, if anyone could help me out or, at the very least, sympathize with my plight, it would be her.

And, on this night, she totally won the title of Internet Shopping Queen. In one fell swoop, she dethroned me and I now will forever bow in reverence to my successor.

Because, before the night was up, Leslie had somehow miraculously found THE EXACT FABRIC of the dress in the movie and had promised to sew up a dress for me.

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

Yes, sure, the fabric was in Great Britain, and, okay, it was $36 per yard (more than I even paid for my couch upholstery!), and, granted, Leslie lives in Kentucky and this entire project would have to be done through the mail, but…

still…

how often does a girl get the chance to have the exact same dress as the actress portraying the younger version of Cinderella in a blockbuster movie???

(Leave me alone. I know I’m a weirdo).

Obviously, I was giddy with my peculiar brand of excitement, and the following Cinderella party sprang forth from that first night of scheming on the internet.

The following week, I proceeded to purchase a “Have Courage and Be Kind” print at Etsy.

I next bought a ceramic goose at Hobby Lobby. (Because…duh…have you seen the movie??)

I then began to pressure my amazing friend, Tammy, who HATES making cake balls, into making thirty cake ball pumpkins.

And it was sometime after purchasing the goose, I think, that I realized I had better get more bang for my buck and make this another SISTER party (like this one that we did two years ago!).

Betsie and Rebekah celebrate birthdays only nine days apart, and it just seemed crazy this year to invest in two separate girl parties when we could do this one big shindig together.

Leslie quickly began scouring the internet for another fabric that would coordinate with Rebekah’s dress and soon added another Cinderella-inspired frock to her sewing line-up and…

well, the rest is most definitely history.

Wanna see?

 

~

First, I obviously have to show you the dresses.

Leslie mailed them to us by post in this gorgeous packaging that may or may not have made me cry, a personalized garment bag for each girl, along with two little mice boasting ears made of matching dress fabric (I know, right?!)…

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And the actual dresses are everything I hoped they would be, lightweight and gorgeous and comfy and perfect.

I paid for the fabric and supplies and shipping and Leslie wrote the rest off as “an experimental prototype” (a.k.a. the sweetest and most generous birthday gift ever), but if you have wealth of any sort and would like to have a Cinderella dress custom-made for your little girl, Leslie is offering a very limited number of these in her new Etsy shop, My Dear Poppy.

I cannot praise my friend’s work highly enough and I am SO VERY proud of her. You can find her – and the dresses! (and lots of cute vintage-inspired baby clothes!) – by clicking here.

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Here’s a picture of just Rebekah in her dress. You’ll see more of Betsie’s dress in the weeks to come! She’s a wiggly little thing and hard to get a picture of. 🙂

This picture is a little fuzzy, but you get the gist.

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Now, backtracking just a bit, before the party started, I had several hours to myself to set everything up.

If you watch the show “Fixer Upper”, this was my JoJo moment, where I had time to myself to create and use my noggin. Many thanks to my sweet friend, Kodi, for understanding a mama’s need for quiet on birthday days by offering to watch my children all afternoon!

First up is the food table, bedecked with pretty flowers from Sprout’s. The butterfly clips were purchased at the $1 bin at Michael’s (and were on sale for 15 cents apiece!), and found a perfect home on a branch that was winding its way around this tree. The “One Shoe Can Change Your Life” sign is from my bedroom, given to me when Mr. Gore proposed to me with a pair of engagement shoes in 2004.

Whoopsie, I’ve never told you that story, have I?…

Someday, I promise.

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Here’s some plates and whatnot. This tuh-die-fer chair was my Christmas gift from my mama. You can find it in an assortment of colors here. The little pink table is from my favorite antiques store in the state, The Pink Lily, in Jenks, Oklahoma. You can find the shop on Facebook by clicking here.

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The party was set up in front of an old grape arbor that is currently holding up our climbing roses, which, by the way, were blooming brilliantly the week BEFORE this party.

Not so much anymore.

Whatevs.

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Here’s the dessert table, our antique buffet, dragged outside and heavy-laden with treats and sweets. Tiny cupcakes, mini bundt cakes, raspberry cookies, and lots of chocolates!

One thing I couldn’t really capture on camera were the wooden butterflies tied all along the arbor. They were purchased at Michael’s, spray-painted pink, drilled with a tiny hole and tied up with twine in various lengths. The end result, in our famous Oklahoma wind, was what looked like a dozen pink butterflies fluttering all around the dessert table.

Rebekah was atwitter. “They look like REAL butterflies, flying!!!” she laughed.

“I know!” I cried, daubing my eyes with a hankie.

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And here is another of my favorite parts of the party, this precious “Have Courage and Be Kind” print from You Doll Design on Etsy. I framed it with this lovely piece from the Studio Decor Savannah collection at Michael’s (I’m kind of nuts about these frames!), and it will soon be hanging between Betsie and Rebekah’s beds.

A true party keepsake, touting my favorite quotation of the year. Buy one of your own (and see MANY other beautiful prints) by clicking here!

(p.s. I can’t wait to do more business with this company – in fact, I’ve already put in a custom order for August that you guys are sure to love! Stay tuned!)

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This little wooden birdy was also purchased at Michael’s. I believe it cost a dollar, and I felt all kinds of crafty when I painted it blue.

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Now, I don’t really even want to THINK about the fun I could have had if this birthday party had landed in the fall — it kind of hurts my tummy to consider it — with pumpkins out the wazoo.

I tried to find pumpkins in June, I really did, but alas, even the Asian Supermarket had none. (It’s a long story).

As it was, I grabbed some fake pumpkins from our church’s decorating stash at the very last minute, and they did just the trick.

Again, could we all just applaud Leslie for adding the little mice with Cinderella fabric ears to our birthday package? I can’t even.

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Lastly, these floral paper straws that I bought at the last minute were a lovely touch to the party. Thank goodness for Prime shipping! The girls absolutely loved these straws. It’s the little things, truly. To find them at Amazon, click here.

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On the menu for the evening was a big plate of chicken salad croissants…

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berry-centric fruit salad…

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Pepperidge Farm butterfly crackers (a no-brainer, that one!)

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along with pimento cheese sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a plate of cheese slices, for Jacques and Gus Gus, of course.

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But real-people food is kinda boring, isn’t it? Let’s take a closer look at the desserts.

I made these mini cupcakes from a box and Wilton’s icing mix, but my friend, Tammy, made the fondant bluebirds for me. You can find some like these on Etsy (click here), or if you live in the Tulsa area, you could just ask me to contact Tammy for you. 😉 She can make crazy things out of cakes and sugar and such. CRAZY, I tell you!

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And here are the little pumpkin cake balls she made, too cute for words.

(And tasty, too! I will never tell you how many of these pumpkins were in my tummy by the time the clock struck midnight).

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My mom made miniature versions of her famous “Kentucky Butter Cake” with my mini bundt pan from Williams Sonoma. Find a similar pan by clicking here. And the “Eat Cake” cake server can be found here.

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This is my favoritest cookie ever, raspberry rugelach from Merrit’s Bakery in Tulsa. So pretty and perfect with a cup o’ coffee.

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At 6:00 p.m., as I was putting the finishing touches on the set-up, our guests began to trickle in, and I was just so tickled when my nieces showed up in costumes.

The children in our family are growing up and are really beginning to get into the spirit of things. I think our fun must just be beginning around here!

Here’s Anna in a darling Cinderella maid costume that she bought with her own money for the party. (You can find it at Etsy here).

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And Abigail used her own money to procure these “ugly stepsister” aprons for her and her friend, Katy. HOW CUTE IS THIS?? You can find your own here, and my sister-in-law, Amy, reports that this shop was great to do business with, ensuring that they got their last-minute orders in super-speed time.

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By the way, Abigail and Katy are the sweetest girls on the planet and had a really hard time pretending to be mean and ugly. Here they are just being them:

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So now that you’ve seen the basic set-up of things…

let’s party!!!

One thing I love about the young Ella in the movie (you know, the one with that FANTASTIC dress!) is that she was not a princess, but just a girl who loved her family and loved her life.

My daughters are not princesses, either, and neither are their friends, but they are little girls, and little girls are DIVINE!

Especially when they’re sitting on old quilts on the lawn, sipping tea and pink lemonade.

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The dessert table was, as usual, a big hit…

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Betsie was a fan of being allowed to help herself to her own treats. That doesn’t happen every day, you know.

Only every other day.

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Here’s my niece, Kate, in a beautiful floral dress, just being her awesome self…

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We were also so happy to have Rebekah’s music teacher, Christy, join us for this party.

Not many young ladies would give up a Friday night to party with a group of younglings, and that’s just one of the thousand reasons we love Christy.

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And here are my little birthday girls! Eating cake balls and feeling pretty!

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So after the girls had snacked and guzzled to their heart’s content, we pulled out our new favorite party trick, led by my eldest niece, Abigail.

Last year at their church, Abigail and her sisters were introduced to the fun of barn-dancing, and it is catching like wildfire ’round here.

These girls can’t get enough of the Virginia Reel!

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This dance is so easy and SO much fun!!! These little ones get absolutely dreamy-eyed when they are Virginia Reeling.

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And what would a dance be without some boys watching standoffishly from the sideline?

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Grandpa wasn’t afraid to join in, though, but he had to have two partners, Shepherd, and my cutie-pie niece, Harper.

Harper, by the way, came dressed in a Disney Cinderella dress, carrying a doll dressed like Cinderella. I was impressed by her thoroughness.

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After a couple of dances, we took a break and moved on to cake and presents (and refills of lemonade – it was hot out there!)

I couldn’t find a link for these, but I nearly did a jig when I glanced over during a shopping trip and saw these magic wand candles at Wal-mart. How fortuitous! They were still there, in the baking section, last time I checked.

(psst! If you are reading this from the future, this is June of 2015. I’d hate for you to make a special trip to Wal-mart only to realize that this blog post was written six years ago and that candles are now digital instead of wax. I’m thoughtful like that).

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Okay, the following isn’t the BEST picture of Betsie, but…

her dress matches everything in this picture!

It makes my eyes happy!

Doesn’t it make your eyes happy, too? All those pastels…

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Rebekah blows out her candles…

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Betsie blows out hers…

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And then we tossed the cakes over our shoulders so we could move on to the PRESENTS!

I do love a big pile of presents, don’t you? Our daughters were so blessed by many thoughtful and fun gifts from our friends and family.

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Rebekah was especially thrilled by this photo album from her dearly beloved cousin, Kate. We call them “You and Me” because they have made up a theme song about themselves and they sing it together whilst skipping through meadows.

“You and me…

“And me and you…”

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This is mayhap my favorite picture of Betsie from the night. A present as big as she is!

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Have I ever mentioned that I love this crew of kids?

I do.

I really, really do.

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There were lots of fun Cinderella gifts at this party. Like this picture book.

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I’ll post some Cinderella gift ideas at the end of this blog post.

I’d hate for this blog post to be too short and not have enough shopping links in it, you know?

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After the presents were devoured, we just spent some time together, talking, cleaning, dancing and making general merriment.

I love this next picture because I adore my boy Shep and his BFF, Daniel, but also because these hats were NOT set out for the party.

Shep reportedly found them in the sunroom, and next thing you know, he and his friends were birthdaying it up, all on their own.

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Well, sweet friends and party lovers, as you can hopefully see for yourself, even though I almost truly DIED from party exhaustion, this turned out to be a great night for all of us, being with friends…

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being with family…

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and doing it all in the dress of my…er, OUR…dreams.

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Happy birthday, Rebekah and Betsie, and many, MANY more.

Oh! And we all lived happily ever after.

The end.

~

And now, for anyone who is interested, I present to you four fun Cinderella gifts. To find any of these products, just click on the picture:

1. We bought this book for the girls to share. It is a thick, hardcover volume with a soft, velvety feel to it and I think it is really beautiful.

2. Our girls were really excited to receive this small paperback book with images from the movie. Especially when they received two of them!

3. And this “Cinderella Day Dress” by my favorite dress-up clothes company is just the CUTEST. Both girls received one, and they have lived in them since. Little Adventures dress-up clothes are great because they are very comfortable. No scratchy fabrics, no glitter falling all over the house. I’m a huge fan. And this little dress might be my favorite of all that we’ve brought home!

p.s. Here’s a picture of Rebekah in her “day dress”:

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4. Lastly, the following product is not one I actually used, but OH how I wanted to! My deepest heart’s desire was to buy this necklace for each of our little guests but, by the end of this party’s planning, I barely had a penny left to my NAME.

However, this would be such a great gift with a great message for any little – or big! – girl in your life. Find them by clicking here.

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And that’s REALLY the end. Thanks for partying with us today! I hope this gives you plenty of ideas and inspiration for a Cinderella party of your own. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below or find me on Facebook. Happy endings to you all!

Want to remember or share this party? Pin it!

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Ode to a Cardboard Box

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

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

Betsie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Betsie, meet box.

The two were inseparable for the rest of the afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tisn’t a Pinterest-worthy box, but…

it’s OUR box.

And we love it.

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

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

That girl is cray.

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

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

I want to be like Betsie when I grow up.

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

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

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I think this ragamuffin has finally found a home.

She wants to live her forever.

And sleep here.

And eat popcorn here whilst watching “Sleeping Beauty”.

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

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

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

Not very welcoming.

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

So maybe she’s hospitable, after all.

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

It’s good to be reminded.

A Medieval Birthday Party

I don’t know what you did last weekend, but my son…

my firstborn…

my BABY!!!…

turned 8.

If you’ve been on the internet long, you know that it is a thing for moms to get on Facebook and bemoan the passing of another year of their child’s life and to say cliche things like “Where did the time go??” and “Time flies!!” but, do you know why this is so?

BECAUSE IT’S TRUE.

My baby was…a baby!…just yesterday and then I did ring-around-the-rosies with him three times and when I stood up from “we all fall down” and shook my head around a little bit (I dizzy very easily), he was EIGHT.

I can’t make sense of it, and so I do the only thing I can to help me process the phenomenon, and I throw a ridiculous party.

Birthday parties help my mind to stop for a week or two and memorialize what is passing by me so very quickly; in the blur of moments and days, I thrust my hand forward and I grab my child by the shirt collar and I plop them down at a party table with pictures and candles and all the love my heart can manage to serve up in one measly day.

My kids love their parties, but someday they are going to realize that these parties were actually for ME! 

And although this year’s theme wasn’t my first choice, it turned out to be really special and left me full of all kinds of warm and happy feelings.

You see, Gid has wanted a “knight” party for a couple of years now, and after my husband gave me a little bit of guidance on the subject (I was pulling for a different theme and Gideon was obviously trying to make me happy), I decided to go for it, regardless of the fact that the medieval wasn’t really calling to me.

But that’s okay, because moms are in the business of dying-to-themselves, and I eventually found GREAT JOY in giving Gid this party of his dreams.

Of course, it really helped that he and his cousin, Anna (who will turn 8 on April 2) requested to have this party together, adding a fun “princess” factor to the affair, and more importantly, ensuring that the most important element to ANY party would be by my side, and I speak, of course, of my sister-in-law, Amy.

In one of our many back-and-forth e-mails about this shared celebration, I declared to her that “I am never doing a party without you again” and I’m going to do my best to stand by that statement. Amy did her thing an hour away, I did mine and, as usual, it all merged together at my mom’s house in perfect unison.

And since my “thing” was to brainstorm, make the Pinterest board, and gather up decorations and food, I stopped in at Reasor’s the day before the party and let the grocery store tell me what I needed to buy.

“Speak to me, grocery store,” I said. “Present to me the medieval…”

This was a bad idea, because as we all know, grocery stores just want to make money – they don’t really care about you! – and spend money I did. Not a ton of money, mind you, but enough to make me start sweating just a little.

My list grew bigger and bigger as I shopped, but the GOOD thing about this is that, by the time I left Reasor’s, the majority of our party’s food AND decor had been procured, and it had only taken me about thirty minutes.

When you stick with the rustic side of party-throwing and stay away from birthday party companies where paper products and decorations abound, your party finds a way to come to life through the beauty of simple and timeless components.

Like pewter and radishes.

(Radishes were not initially on my list, but they sort of MADE the party. You’ll see for yourself soon).

Anyhow, I might have gotten a little carried away in the produce aisle, but HOW PRETTY are these colors?

Bam.

Medieval. IMG_3280 Now, before we move on, I feel like it is important for you to see the party site before the party. Which, sorry, leads me to a long story…

Our plan was to have our medieval celebration down at the pavilion by the creek where we have most of our parties. It’s in the woods, it’s beautiful, it makes the perfect backdrop to just about everything, and we all love it there.

But I have VERY BAD BREAKING NEWS.

It was pouring down rain from morning till night on the day of our party.

And it was chilly.

And here’s yet another reason I love Amy: rather than encouraging me to move the party indoors as common sense would dictate, she supported me in my determination to squeeze our big outdoor party onto the only outdoor space that wasn’t wet, which was my parent’s tiny front porch.

“There’s stone and rock in the background,” I told her over the phone, “and more importantly…”

“…good lighting,” Amy finished for me.

Good lighting is everything, especially if you are like us and like to “go” to your own parties well after you’ve hosted them, when children are tucked into bed and your captured memories are waiting to be viewed and edited on your computer.

So here’s the new party site, and you’ll laugh when you see how we had to squish our 9 children into this area. Our five-year-olds, wedged between the table and the rock wall, barely had room to exhale.

Thankfully, they think we’re normal, so they just play right along, even if rain is pouring just past the edge of the porch that shelters them. Rain is quite medieval, you know. Children would have been wet and cold in a real medieval village. We’re just being accurate.

ALLLLL that to say, this is the porch the kids saw when they came to Grandmother’s house earlier that afternoon. IMG_3290 And, presto chango…

bippety boppety boo…

after a couple of movies in Grandmother’s bedroom…

the next time they came outside…

this is what the porch looked like!!! IMG_3310 Squeal! I love parties! I love surprises!

And finally? After a couple of years or snubbing them? I LOVE KNIGHT PARTIES!!! I’ll break down the menu and details in a bit, but here are a few pictures of the set-up… IMG_3314 IMG_3342 IMG_3317 IMG_3312 Now how about some details?

For the main course of our meal, our plan was to have a giant, roasted turkey. My brother, Jerry, is a master at smoking foods on his Big Green Egg, and he agreed to contribute the bird.

HOWEVER.

On the morning of the party, his smoker BROKE.

BEFORE he could cook the turkey.

We didn’t know what to do, but Jerry had the genius idea to pick up some rotisserie chickens at Wal-Mart. I would never have thought of that, and even though it pains me, I have to thank my brother for saving the party.

Even though his smoker was the one that almost ruined it.

Now that I think of it, this might have been his plan all along. IMG_3300 We boiled some little golden potatoes for this dish (some pricey little boogers that called to me at Reasor’s) and, after laying down a bed of radish greens next to the chicken, we surrounded the chicken with potatoes and (raw) radishes, not because this is actually a recipe and not because we actually ate all of it together, but because it looked AWESOME.

If you ever throw a medieval party, please, do yourself a favor and let this be your main course. Too easy! IMG_3293 Did I say that I got carried away in the produce aisle at Reasor’s? Because I also got carried away in the bakery, coming home with two round loaves of pumpernickle, two round loaves of sourdough, a loaf of cranberry walnut bread and twelve, giant wheat rolls. IMG_3294 And pears! Glorious pears!

No one ate the brown pears, but…sigh…don’t they look so medieval? Love. IMG_3299 I also got carried away in the cheese section of the grocery store, but that’s okay, because it all tasted so very Gouda. IMG_3298 Grapes. Lots and lots of grapes. We STILL have grapes. This was just 1/4 of the grapes I bought. IMG_3301 Now, another reason our parties come together easily and for little cost is because my mom has some surprisingly random things on hand, like the red goblets and the silver serving pieces and, I don’t know, six little pewter bowls, perfect for holding grapes!!!

Do you have little, pewter bowls hidden away in some forgotten cabinet?

I don’t.

Mom does. IMG_3296 And this is an idea I got off of Pinterest, Pepperidge Farm’s Chessmen cookies. Brilliant! IMG_3302 For the flowers, I spent a goodly amount of time amongst the selection at Reasor’s, finding a mix of bouquets that would draw all of our colors together. Hot pink, red, lavender and purple did just the trick, and made Anna’s seat of honor especially lovely and fit for a queen. IMG_3305 This next idea was also gathered from Pinterest. If I’m the grocery store part of the party, Amy is the craft part, and she whipped these awesome chair-backers up from felt she already had at her house. IMG_3306 She also made the portcullis you see here, fashioned out of duct tape.

I hate messing with duct tape almost as much as I hate doing crafts. I LOVE Amy, for happily taking on these aspects of party life. (I also love her new baby, Jude). IMG_3515 And now…

NOW…

I present to you the highlight of our party, the pièce de résistance, the “sword in the stone” birthday cake that our friend, Tammy, made IN HER HOME KITCHEN.

Tammy graduated high school with me and lives right down the street in a normal house that does not, as far as I know, have a magical kitchen, and so I can’t fathom how she can do this when I can barely get the icing on a cupcake. She amazes me. Check out this cake!!! IMG_3334 Aside from a couple of bottles of sparkling grape juice (with the labels torn off) and a pewter pitcher of water, this was it!

Easy.

Possibly cost-effective (if you don’t buy enough fruit for a vegetarian army and enough cheese for a ship full of mice).

FUN.

Now let’s send in the clowns! We let Gideon and Anna come outside first. I’ll share more on their costumes later, but right now I just need you to understand that, to get these pictures, Amy and I had to be in the yard, in the rain, sloshing through mud from one side of the porch to the other. I couldn’t stop laughing about the ridiculousness of the entire situation.

But the kids LOVED it and they couldn’t believe the new and improved porch. It was like stepping back in time! IMG_3323 IMG_3324 IMG_3325 IMG_3338 IMG_3340 Now. We couldn’t let Gid and Anna dress up in costumes and have the rest of us in jeans and sneakers, amiright?

There was a time a couple of weeks before the party when I was dreaming big and searching at Amazon for medieval costumes for all of us, but when it came down to it, everything we wore to this party was something we already owned or something the kids decided to buy with their own money.

I was especially proud of the wizard costume my husband came up with when he was at his office on the day of the party. He borrowed a baptism robe from the baptistry, he made a staff out of a big stick and a creepy animal skull that Gid’s Granddaddy gave him one day, he painted streaks on his face with shoe black, and he wore jewels on every finger that he bought himself at Dollar General.

This Papa loves his son, for sure, and I love him all the more for it. IMG_3304 When it came to my outfit for the party, I didn’t know WHAT I was going to wear and kept leaving my closet empty-handed…

until, that is, Gideon requested that I dress as a witch.

Done. If you remember, I happened to have a Darth Vader robe in the attic, and my hair is very bushy, especially in the rain. I took a special spooky picture just for Gid. IMG_3588 My niece, Abigail, used her own money to buy this super-cute wizard costume. IMG_3361 When the party was over, we sneaked outside for a more “organic” wizard picture. This girl is growing up so fast. We’re nearing preteen years, so it thrills me that she still likes our kiddy parties. IMG_3603 My daughter, Rebekah, completely balked on the costume I dug out of dress-up our box for her, the “Brave” Merida costume she got two Christmases ago and a snowy, white cape.

She wanted to wear her very favorite “pink dress”, the one that she has worn to almost every party and holiday since 2013, but I stood firm, and when she saw the pictures, she gasped and said “I DO look like a true princess!”

“And what can you learn from that?” I asked her.

“What?” she asked, confused.

“You need to ALWAYS TRUST MOMMY with your wardrobe” I said.

She laughed.

I wasn’t joking. IMG_3347 IMG_3351 And Betsie.

I can’t even.

She wore her “Frozen” Anna-inspired dress from Little Adventures, plus a velvet cloak that was given to us by a friend, and topped it with my own metal flower headband from Anthropologie.

Looking at the pictures, Rebekah said of her little sister, “She looks just like a little meadow princess!” I agree. IMG_3358

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All the girls felt especially beautiful because their Grandmother gave them LIPSTICK. Oh the glamour! IMG_3356 We failed to get a good picture of my niece, Kate, outside in her princess costume (she spent most of the party squished against a wall), but here’s one from before the party. I’m jealous because I ALWAYS wanted a hat like that when I was a little girl.

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Young Abel made the cutest little knight, donning a tunic that his mommy made out of a pillowcase! He is also wearing a fun dragon cloak that captured the fancy of everyone at the party.

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And then there was the squishiest, cutest dragon in all the kingdom, Little Shep. His costume belonged to Gideon many moons ago, from the after-Halloween sale at Pottery Barn Kids. IMG_3372 Now, let the party begin! You don’t expect me to caption all of the following photos, do you? Good. I knew I liked you. IMG_3365 IMG_3390 IMG_3392 IMG_3396

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IMG_3406 IMG_3411 After everyone had received their drink, my husband came outside to bless the meal. There were some theatrics involved… IMG_3415 but what I especially loved was noticing the little princesses to the right with their hands clasped in prayer.

Mayhap they are praying for the conversion of all of the wizards and witches at the party, which most assuredly happened. ‘Twas the beginning of a great revival. IMG_3422 IMG_3426   IMG_3423 Moving on, would you like to know a little trick I have?

At some point in every party, I tell the kids to laugh so we can take a happy picture. It’s not a FAKE picture, because there HAS been laughter all throughout the party. I’m just making sure that we can prove it! IMG_3443 The next hour or so was dedicated to a leisurely supper outside, pretending to be medieval.

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The young king here was obsessed with blowing this candle out. His mother was obsessed with keeping it lit. IMG_3471 Standing room only on this side of the porch, but Betsie managed to steal a barstool.

If she had tipped back her weight at all, she would have fallen completely off the porch. But the lighting was good, so, there’s that. IMG_3481 Here’s the birthday girl, glowing with girlhood and joy. Methinks she takes my breath away. IMG_3493   Wanna hear something funny?

The day after the party, when I asked Gideon what his favorite thing about the day was, he said, “the radishes”.

I had lost count of how many he ate, but when he burped in my face, I realized that it was exactly twelve.

Kings can be so boorish. IMG_3507 IMG_3517 My nephew, Abel, liked the pears. (I like Abel). IMG_3522 At some point, I got a scary picture of Gid holding his Papa’s weird staff. He thought it was awesome, and I guess I can see his point. If you’re a boy. IMG_3536 Here’s something else funny. Amy told me to peek into the kitchen to see how my daddy was eating. Poor guy.

We took his table.

His chairs.

His peace and quiet.

He’s used to it, I think. 🙂 IMG_3518 After playing around a bit…

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we took a few more staged pictures before moving into the warm house. Here is Gid with the magical cake… IMG_3542 And Anna and the cake… IMG_3551 And finally, the entire merry group. IMG_3576 When the house was fast asleep later that night and I was able to take the time to look at each face in the photo, my throbbing feet did a little happy dance… IMG_3582

I can’t imagine now why I ever had a problem with the idea of hosting a medieval party. Because they’re obviously the BEST.

Happy birthday, Anna and Gideon! I wish you both a future filled with joy and fellowship and feasting.

And lots and lots of radishes.

~

Stay tuned for Part Two, a blog post completely dedicated to the products and costumes featured in this party!

Halloween Costumes = Family Fun (Part Three)

Here it is, two days before Halloween, and I’m just getting around to posting pictures of last year’s costumes!

I had so much to share last year about our town’s Trunk or Treat and our little family celebration, but I guess I was too busy chasing down The Pioneer Woman (can you believe that was a YEAR ago?? If you don’t know what I’m referencing, click here, straightaway!) and then we moved on to Thanksgiving and Christmas, and now here we are, 365 days later. Time flies.

Anyhow, if you’ve been reading this blog for long, you’ll already know that I am a Halloween enthusiast – my family doesn’t travel much or spend a lot of money on extra-curricular activities – and so it is true that Halloween is one of our biggest days of the year. We spend money on it and everything. Mostly because I am not a maker of costumes, but an unapologetic buyer of them.

We had an awesome plan for last year’s costumes, plans that I have still tucked away for a future Halloween, but then I had a baby and, one month later, my husband had major back surgery, and then, three weeks later, it was the week of Halloween and we just had to scrap our “plan” and make do.

I have no memory of where this idea came from or who to credit it to…was it me? Mr. Gore? My mom? Rebekah? The Holy Spirit? The next-door neighbor? I honestly don’t know…but it turned out to be a super fun theme, and one that was actually quite meaningful and timely for our little family.

My husband’s back surgery (and the year leading up to it) was a huge deal, taking a major toll not just on him and me, but on our family and on our church. Thus, when 0ur small town’s Trunk or Treat turned out to be his very first post-surgery outing, my heart was just going nuts to see him up and walking again, pain-free, as he partook in one of our favorite family holidays.

When he was dealing with chronic pain, unable to sit at the supper table for meals, unable to drive without intense pain, unable to be at rest without heavy medication, I had wondered if our life would ever be normal again.

And now, on October 31st, 2013, it was.

It was a special Halloween, indeed, and I’ll never be able to look at these pictures and just see “Halloween”.

I see relief and victory and hope and love and joy and…

grace. Always grace.

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I was “Doc McFrazzled”, my husband was, you guessed it, a surgery patient, Rebekah was a nurse, Gideon was a medic and little Betsie was a “sick girl”.

We covered our car at the Trunk or Treat with the Red Cross flag we made for Gideon’s birthday party, and it was just so convenient to have Baby Shepherd nearby in his bassinet, portraying a newborn in our little hospital nursery.

Because, you know, he was one. I didn’t even have to dig that nursery tag out of storage – it was still in my bedroom!

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This was the most inexpensive Halloween we’ve ever celebrated! All we had to buy was a couple of rolls of gauze. 🙂

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The rest was found in our dress-up box and from family and friends who work in the medical field.

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And when we won the costume contest later that night, I almost went into cardiac arrest and had to be toted off to our makeshift hospital. I can’t tell you the last time I won anything, and this was a really great moment for our homeschooled children who don’t have many opportunities to compete or win rewards. They…actually, WE…couldn’t stop talking about our luck that night.

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It was the best Halloween EVER, but then, I’m pretty sure I say that every year. Halloween does that to me.

~

Want to see other Gore family costumes from years past? Click here to find Part One and here to find Part Two.

How to Iron Without Having to Iron

How to Iron

How many of you have little girls?

How many of you love to buy precious clothes for your little girls?

How many of you have been sad to realize that the most precious clothes usually need to be ironed?

And so how many of you let those precious clothes hang in the closet because you never have time to iron?

Yeah, me too.

Until my mom showed me this mind-numbingly simple tip that has completely changed all of the above.

It is so simple and so obvious, I just want to slap myself on the forehead everytime I realize that I never would have figured this out on my own, but would probably have kept hanging up those beautiful wrinkled-up dresses and looking at them forlornly every Saturday night when I laid out church clothes because I knew I didn’t have time to iron them.

“Next week…” I’d think.

But no longer!

Every single dress that hangs in my daughters’ closet is ready to wear and generally wrinkle-free, and in case you need a little boost like I did, here’s how that happens without ever plugging in the iron…

This is what a typical dress looks like when you pull it out of the dryer. Obviously, this is unacceptable.

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But ironing this tiny collar and bow just isn’t at the top of my priority list. Plus that’s a great way to burn my most important blogging fingers.

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That’s why my girls’ nice clothes (and some of my boys’ clothes!) never make it to the dryer anymore. Straight out of the washer, I place them on a thick, plastic hanger and, using my fingers, I smooth out the wrinkles and straighten out the collars and bows until they are ready to air dry.

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Here’s the bow before I “iron” it with my fingers…

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and here it is after…

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And, just like that, this sweet little sailor dress is basically ready to wear (minus the fact that it is still wet). Mind you, it isn’t perfectly pressed, but for this frazzled mama of four children, it’s like Proverbs 31 praiseworthy.

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Here’s another example of a tricky little girl’s romper that, if put in the dryer, would be a mess. Ruffles are the worst, are they not?

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But after hanging up the romper and smoothing out the ruffles with my fingers, they look tidy and spiffy!

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Here’s the bow on the romper’s pocket before I “ironed” it…

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and here it is after…

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Every little dress in our collection receives this exact same treatment, and believe me, it makes my laundry room very happy.

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I hope it makes your laundry room happy, too!

(But don’t thank me, thank my mom).

~

If you are like me and need to really have things spelled out for you, here are a few more tips, in detail:

  • Sometimes it helps to toss these clothes in the dryer for about five minutes on your lowest heat setting before you attack the wrinkles. It will get out a few of them for you!
  • Now, grab the top of the article of clothing with one hand and the bottom with the other and pull, firmly enough to beat the wrinkles, but gently enough to not rip anything. What are you, a backwoodsman? Do this all over the article of clothing, smoothing out all the fabric with your hand. Then, smooth out the bottom hem. Then, smooth out the panel and all buttoned areas, pull out pocket flaps and smooth them down, put your hand in the pockets to straighten them, smooth out any sashes and pull them taut, and fluff up any bows. Lastly, do the collars and, after placing your hanger on a hook or doorknob, give everything one last once-over. Basically, however the clothing looks when you walk away from it is how it will dry.
  • Don’t do all of your high-maintenance clothes in one load. I’ve done that a few times and it feels so overwhelming to see all of them lying in a heap that I have to “iron” before I can move on to another chore. I have instead started a habit of keeping these items in their own hamper and, with each load of laundry I wash, I throw in just a couple. Doing it this way is practically painless, and it ensures that clean dresses are being hung back in the closet almost every day.
  • And you know what that means, right? We are actually WEARING all the pretty clothes we have purchased instead of letting them go to waste! Hip hip hooray!!
  • If you aren’t too picky about perfectly ironed duds yourself, you can do this with your own clothes, as well. It gets the major wrinkles out around hems, collars, pockets and panels and allows you to look presentable enough. I do all of my button-ups this way, and it keeps me wearing them, even though they sort of look like I took a nap in them.
  • Go fix yourself a tall glass of sweet tea and congratulate yourself on being the QUEEN of the laundry room!!

~

If you have any questions or just want to tell us how brilliant we are or how we’ve saved your life, feel free to comment below!

My Sweet Home: A Wee Little Rocker

We had a little rocking chair when I was a little girl that I loved to sit in. It was wooden, and, true to the time, had an impossibly loud, orange, floral upholstered seat and back cushion.

The 80’s were awesome, weren’t they?

Case in point: my rocking chair. My outfit. My Mom’s rad couch design. Babies reading TV guide (???)…

And see how much fun I’m having in my chair??

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I outgrew the chair (probably about a month later, judging by my toddler thickness), and it eventually made its way to my parents’ garage where it gathered dust and cobwebs and a nice bit of weathering over the last couple of decades.

And then I kind of forgot about it.

And so imagine my surprise this Christmas when my Mom brought in an unexpected gift for my youngest daughter, Betsie…

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My little rocking chair, scrubbed clean, sanded, restained, and beautifully reupholstered.

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I couldn’t believe it!

One of the most beloved young ladies in my life, Leslie (of Benjamin Grey Photography fame), had been hired to do all the handiwork, which makes this chair even more special to me.

I love the details. The trim on the pillow…

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the dotted swiss fabric and the pretty satin ribbon…

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and my favorite part, a crocheted table runner that we used at our wedding reception, repurposed in the sweetest of ways…

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You guys know how I love pint-sized furniture, and I think it is important to have plenty of places in our home for our little ones to find rest and comfort.

And let’s face it, everytime we take something from the 80’s and reupholster it, we have done the world a huge favor…

Gideon’s “War” Birthday Party, Part 2 – The Party!

So enough with all my blither-blather and product-sharing (if you don’t know what I’m talking about and want to know more about this party, click here)…

let’s get to the PARTY!!

~

For starters, my Daddy loaded a bunch of the kids up at the house and brought them down to the party in his electric Gator. They were so excited…

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even though my Daddy looked like a scary freak. When he told me he was going to wear this camo facemask to the party, I was like ‘Cool! Gid will love it!”…but then when I saw him I was like “Dude. You have NO idea how scary you look…” Still yet…Gid DID love it, and it didn’t seem to traumatize any of the other children.

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Booya. See the girl on the left there? A REAL nurse from the 1940’s come to our party. Or at least that’s what the kids thought…

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And so this is the part of the blog where I need to stop for a minute to give HUGE props to Mackenzie, a beautiful, precious, sweet, kind, secretly hilarious (she’s so quiet but has the funniest dry wit in the world) young lady in our church. How many 16-year old’s would give up their Friday night to administer bandages and candy pills to a group of hyped-up little kids, faithfully wearing the nurse’s dress that you pulled out of your dress-up stash in the attic? Thankfully, I know at least one…

(and I thank God for her!)

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Speaking of dress-up clothes, Amy made the coolest shirts for her girls (and one for the birthday boy!), using bleach. I wish I could instruct you further, but…that’s all I know. And it’s too late to call her. Amy, if you’re reading this, could you leave a comment at the bottom of this post and tell us how you made these awesome black party shirts?…

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Once they arrived at the party site, we let the kids make and decorate paper airplanes. The plan was to then have a contest to see whose could fly the best, but it was wayyyyyy to windy…

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this was still good busywork, though, and kept them happily occupied while we finished setting everything up.

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My niece, Kate Belle just hanging out and…being Kate Belle. We love us some Kate Belle.

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As the kids finished up their airplanes, Amy started working on their camo face paint…

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I think this was probably Gid’s favorite part about the party. He is constantly donning costumes and playing different characters and to actually look like a soldier…

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well, he probably didn’t realize it until it actually took place, but this must have been like a dream come true for him.

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Which is what birthdays are all about, right?

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The girls were a little…creative…with their facepaint. Anna is the prettiest soldier-kitten I’ve ever seen…

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And please excuse me for a bit while I drown in some Rebekah Sunday cuteness.

My eldest daughter was born to be a nurse – she has been ministering to our family since before her 1st birthday (I’m not exaggerating), and when we decided to do the Red Cross field hospital, it was unanimous that she would help Mackenzie tend to our wounded soldiers. She ate it up! And I ate HER up! Please join me in a moment of appreciative silence as we observe the following series of pictures…

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Sigh. I love her.

And time for another shout-out, this time to my amazing Grandmother, Janice. It was so special to have her visiting us during Gideon’s birthday, and it was an honor to have her working in our chow line during his party. By the way, she is an actual nurse – the best in the world – and was actually around during actual WWII. Let me know if you would like her autograph.

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It is important to note that between the face painting and chow time, we had our first battle. I decided to share all of those pictures tomorrow in their own post, but you’ll notice that everyone is bandaged up and battle-worn now. And hungry!!!

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My soldier-boy. SIX years old. (but I’m still baby-talking to him with my mind right now…goochie goo).

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I interrupt the flow of this post to show you my wide-awake, always-happy, precious little nephew, Abel. If you want to pinch those little baby cheeks, you’re going to have to get in line…

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And here he is, fast asleep. “Fatigued”. Amy…after you share your shirt tutorial, could you also tell us where you found that onesie? And then tell us the truth…how does it really feel to be a Supermom/aunt/sister-in-law?

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Before we wrapped up, Amy took a couple of pictures of our dirty, tired, sticky, battle-weary family…

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And here’s one of me and my gal…

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As dusk approached, Gideon hauled his presents back up to the house for the last part of his party…

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He opened his gifts at the same table I used to open mine at…

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and I brought him his old-school-looking soldier cake (my eldest brother assured me this was an essential part of growing up for a little boy)…

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just like my Mama has always done for me.

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Happy Birthday, little soldier! I’ll always keep the home fires (or at least the birthday candles) burning for you…

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~

And finally…the 3rd and final installment…”The Battle”…coming up tomorrow!

(Read Part Three here)

A Storybook Halloween

I am beyond excited to share the following post with you, and have to give special thanks to our sweet friend and brother in Christ, Ben Williams (at Benjamin Grey Photography) for spending a fun afternoon with us behind his camera lens. I will never forget this day and will always cherish the photographs he took for us.

~

Our Halloween “theme” fell nicely and quickly into place this year, and it was unanimous: Little Red Riding Hood.

Rebekah would, of course, be Red Riding Hood, Gideon would be the Wolf, Papa would be the Woodsman, and Betsie would be poor ol’ Granny.

But what part could I play?

“I know!” Rebekah exclaimed with glee. “The closet that the Wolf puts Granny in!”

Great. I’ve always wanted to be a closet for Halloween. And its funny…my little pipsqueak doesn’t realize that, just a few years ago, I would have played the role of Red Riding Hood.

Prima donna.

But in the midst of our brainstorming, my Mom had a brilliant idea – there was one character we had forgotten: Little Red Riding Hood’s Mother!

Perfect!

And as I pictured all of us in our costumes, I got that excited feeling in my gut…

Because I had an idea.

Ben was more than willing to help me out, and a week before Halloween, we all dressed in our costumes and acted out the story of Little Red Riding Hood while he snapped away. We had a blast doing this, and the best part? The kids have no idea that I’ll be using these pictures to make a very special Christmas present for them: a storybook for each child starring…us!

I’ve always wanted to be in a book. And if I can’t be the star, at least I don’t have to be the closet.

Would you like to hear our story?

~

Once upon a time, Granny was very, very sick.

Little Red Riding Hood’s mother decided to send some goodies to her, and asked her daughter if she might deliver them. She put on her cape…

handed her the basket of goodies…

and kissed her goodbye, after warning her to be very careful on her walk through the woods.

Little Red Riding Hood took off on her adventure, and she felt very brave and important.

But what she didn’t know was that, lurking in the woods nearby, was a BIG…BAD…WOLF.

Hooowwwwwwwl…

He laid in wait on the path ahead, hoping someone would amble by.

And he was very…very…hungry.

Little Red Riding Hood was enjoying her walk and was getting very close  to Granny’s house…

when suddenly, she heard a noise!

It was a wolf, and Little Red Riding Hood was very afraid.

But as he approached her, he looked very friendly.

“Hello, Little Red Riding Hood!” he said with a sly smile on his face.

“Hello…” she replied.

“What are you doing out in the woods alone on this nice Fall day?” the Wolf asked.

“Oh, I am on my way to my Granny’s house,” she replied, “for she is very sick and my Mother asked me to deliver this basket of goodies to her.”

“Oh!” said the Wolf, “You…I mean, they…look delicious. Er…where does your Granny live?”

“That way!” answered silly Red Riding Hood.

“Perfect!” said the Wolf. “Gotta go!…”

And with that, he was off, running down the lane to return to the Woods.

Or at least that’s where Little Red Riding Hood thought he was going.

But gasp! He wasn’t going to the woods.

He was going to…t0…Granny’s house!!

Where poor Granny sat in her bed, feeling very under the weather and very lonesome. She had been waiting all day for someone to come and visit her.

But she wasn’t expecting a wolf.

~

to be continued…

(Part Two).

~

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