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

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

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

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

The packing and planning stages:

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

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

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

Getting to the park:

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

IN the park:

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

So, by the way, is mine.

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

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

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

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

Have Courage and Be Kind: 7 Spectacular Things about 2015’s Live-Action Cinderella

I grew up on Disney Princess movies. Sleeping Beauty and her pink (no, blue!) dress. Snow White and her terrifying journey through the woods (no, really…TERRIFYING). Belle with her precious lil’ nose stuck in a book. Ariel and her beautiful singing voice.

And then there was Cinderella.

One of my very favorites.

Even as a preschool-aged girl, I admired the rich timbre of her voice and I so desperately loved everything about her story. Her attic bedroom. Her bluebird and mouse friends. And don’t even get me started on the ballgown and glass slippers.

But, mostly, I think what I loved most about Cinderella was her dazzling rags-to-riches happy ending, and the message wound its way deep into my young heart that, no matter how my heart was grieving, if I’d simply keep on believing, the dream that I wished would come true.

Cinderella said it would.

And so did Jiminy Cricket.

And lots and lots of other animated friends.

Well, I’m 33 years old now, and I have slowly come to the realization that, in reality, most dreams DON’T come true.

And sometimes none of them do.

This news was initially quite distressing to me, but over time, I have begun to understand that, in truth, there’s something SO MUCH BETTER than getting all the things you want out of life and having every single one of your childhood dreams come true.

And the new live-action Cinderella movie told this sort of happily ever after, exactly.

It took my breath away to watch my beloved daughters, especially my 5-year old, being carried off by the INCREDIBLE message that this new Disney masterpiece brought to life in one of the most beautiful movies I have ever, ever seen.

Today’s Cinderella didn’t tell my little girls that all their dreams would come true.

She actually told them secrets FAR SUPERIOR to that, and as a huge believer in the power of story-telling, my greatest prayer is that the movie we watched together on Thursday last will inspire them in ways that I will never be able to measure.

Who am I kidding? I was inspired. And here I am, a mom in my 30’s and still wanting to be like Cinderella. But not for the reasons you’d think.

Here are just a few of those reasons, proof that really well-written fairytales are not just for children. They’re for grown-ups, too:

1. An innocent countenance.

First of all, can we just stop for a minute and talk about the breathtaking Lily James? She is a flawless flower, plucked straight from the meadow, and I am such a fan of her performance that I can’t even find room in my heart to be jealous of her. Just…bravo, you beautiful girl, and congratulations on the role of a lifetime. You lived up to Cinderella, in every possible way, and took her to a level beyond anything I ever could have imagined. You ARE Cinderella now, forever and ever. Thank you, for accepting this part, for all your hard work, and for giving the daughters of our country someone to emulate.

Obviously, I was dazzled!

But not simply by her outward beauty (of which there is a LOT).

You see, somewhere during my adolescent years, a role model emerged that took my eyes of the good and the wholesome, and I began to put more stock in that daring sort of beauty that immediately caught the eyes of men and weakened their knees. These vixens of the silver screen influenced me, and it really did seem like only these sorts were able to snag any real attention from the opposite sex. It pains my heart that I believed them and ever tried to imitate them.

In a culture full of bold women with bold eyes, it was so refreshing to see someone so gentle as Cinderella on the big-screen. Someone so good. Someone so modest and pure and, yes, KIND.

There were obviously no heaving bosoms in this movie, no damsels in distress, no challenging and lusty glances, just a sweet young woman who went about her work and who wasn’t a slave to her own interests and her own dreams.

A true heroine.

I want to raise girls like that.

Girls like Cinderella could change the world, if only they would believe they have value.

2. A simple and quiet ambition.

You guys know from past stories that I can get a little cray-cray around celebrities. Cough, cough…Pioneer Woman. But my husband, God bless him, has been a constant and needed voice of reason to remind me that celebrities are just people.

The new Cinderella movie brought this point to life, I think, when it repeatedly pointed out that the prince was “an apprentice to his father’s trade”.

I want to work very hard to see celebrities – and royalty – in this light, no more special than the lady next door, unless, of course, they are “brave and good and love their father” like the prince. That was what made him really special to Cinderella and what she valued about him. Not his crown. Not his charm. Not his looks.

That’s a happily-ever-after I can get behind.

I don’t want my girls to long for princes or titles or fame or fortune in their love stories, just a good, godly man who loves them well.

What more could any of us ask for than that?

3. An indwelling magic.

The Disney fairytales of yesteryear were stories of triumph, of some sort of magic getting you from a bad life to a good life and of helping you escape from where you are to where you want to be.

This sort of ideology, while lovely in a movie, is rather weak, in heart, and dissolves the great pillars of faithfulness and perseverance in the reality of daily life.

The new Cinderella, however, teaches that the best magic is found within, no matter your circumstance.

Cinderella wasn’t pursuing any life other than the one she was living, and the magic of her story was not saved for her triumphant escape from suffering and her elevation to the palace, but was actually what fueled her all along.

We are all probably familiar by now with the secret her mother imparted to her early in the film:

“Where there is kindness there is goodness and where there is goodness there is magic.” 

Hollywood can’t be all bad if there are people there writing lines like that, and I am thrilled to say that my daughter has memorized those words, of her own accord. If we can muster up this sort of magic in our homes and amongst our families, and even in our suffering, who knows what sort of real-life fairytales might ensue?

4. A contentment with memories.

When Cinderella’s mother died, the narrator says that her pain eventually lessened and her memories became her feast.

In fact, those memories of her “golden childhood” went on to sustain her during her darkest days as an orphan and servant, keeping bitterness, the true slayer of hearts, at bay.

I have often thought that, should something very tragic happen in my world – and, please, God, don’t let me practice this – I should never have any reason to question God’s goodness to me. There have been too many glimpses of Eden to ever be overshadowed by misery, and I would hope that my memories of God’s grace would carry me through any seasons of doubt.

This tenet was further expressed after Cinderella’s night at the ball in the fact that she wasn’t breaking her neck to make it back to the palace and see the prince again. She had her memory of that night and it was enough for her.

I found this sort of contentment very beautiful and terribly inspiring.

5. A beautiful determination: HAVE COURAGE AND BE KIND.

A week has gone by and I just can’t get over this mantra that dominated the entire film.

So simple, but those are the best lessons, aren’t they? The ones that you can easily repeat in times of need.

This message of “having courage” and “being kind” is mighty POWERFUL, and leaves the self-absorbed “every girl can be a princess” stories that I grew up with in the dust.

Let’s repeat it to our daughters, o’er and o’er again, and also to ourselves, until we are, by the grace of God, a people of kindness and courage.

6. A love for family.

As an avid fan of my parents and my family and my church, I found in Cinderella a kindred heart. When her step-sisters were asking for fripperies as souvenirs from her father’s journey and all she wanted was the branch that brushed his shoulder, I melted into a puddle of goo.

Then I looked intently at my daughter and hoped she was in some way understanding the level of beauty that was being offered to her young and absorbent heart.

Cinderella went on to endure years of hardship just to be true to her home and to her parents, and I was cheering her on every step of the way.

7. A freedom in forgiveness.

In case you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t expound on the “happy ending”, but you really HAVE to believe me that this was the best ending to any Disney Princess movie, ever. Go see it. Take a hankie. Or, if you’re like me and your tears start flowing during the “Frozen Fever” short before the movie, take two.

Three cheers to the screenwriters of this story who were brave and thoughtful enough to add dimensions to Cinderella’s tale that could be the foundation for a new generation of “princesses”, girls who have courage, who are kind, who are pure, who treasure the good guys, who love and honor their families…

girls who know what “happy endings” are all about.

~

If you are a Christian mama, I encourage you to talk with your littles about Cinderella’s story and take it a step further. We know from God’s Word that none of us are “good” or “kind” without the redemptive work of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I want my girls to understand that “being like Cinderella” is only something that will work if their “courage” and “kindness” is a direct result of the grace of God and is used as a vehicle for His glory. In our home, judging by her fruit, 2015’s Cinderella is obviously a Christ-follower. 😉

To read another great review on this movie, click here. And as always, you are CORDIALLY invited to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family on Facebook by clicking here. No glass slippers required.

Bath Poo. A True Story.

My baby had an “accident” in the bathtub yesterday, reminding me to finish this true life glimpse into the step-by-step process of recovering from bath poo. Proceed with caution, unless you have personally experienced the horror of bath poo, in which case, I offer you this piece of solidarity, with all my love.

~

When babies poop in the bathtub...

After missing your morning opportunity for a shower before your husband goes to work, you finally send the big kids upstairs to play at 10:00 a.m., you strip your rambunctious 1-year old down and start him a bath, and you quickly get in the walk-in shower right next to him.

During the first shampooing of your hair, right after your hair gets all sudsy and almost ready to rinse, you notice that the baby is being very still and that his face is slightly red.

Then you hear the grunting.

Oh, Lord,” you pray, “please let it be constipation. Just this one time? Just until later this afternoon, maybe? Pretty please??

Trusting that all will be well, you proceed with your sudsing, you begin to daydream a little about what needs to be done that day, and then you realize that your baby has stopped grunting and is playing in the water again.

Perfect,” you muse, happy that your constipation prayers have come true.

And that’s when you see the toy in his hands.

It’s brown.

Last time you checked, all of his bathtub toys were black-and-white penguins from McDonald’s Happy Meals.

“Ack!” you yell, throwing your hands up in panic, berating yourself for being so naively optimistic.

You venture closer to the bathtub and see that the little brown playtoy is one of many brown playtoys, some big, some small, some so exceedingly tiny that you know this is a code red situation. All bath-poops are bad, but some are REALLY bad.

You slick your shampoo-filled hair into a bun to give you a good headstart before the soap starts to drip into your eyes, you turn off your shower and you tiptoe as quickly-yet-carefully as you can to the side of the tub where you immediately grab the baby’s hands before surveying the nightmare.

Your attack plan presents itself without conscious thought and step one is definitely to get the baby out of the water. You grab him by the trunk and lift him out of the water…

now where are you supposed to put the little booger?

Standing right beside the tub will have to do.

“Stay here,” you say, pointing down at him like he is a puppy, knowing full well that he has no idea what you’re saying.

You berate yourself for only knowing how to say “more” and “milk” in baby sign language.

Step two is to go fishing. You grab the big, clear plastic cup that just happens to be nearby (thank you, Lord!) and start scooping the biggest pieces of poo out of the water so you can drain the tub, and the saddest thing, in your mind, is that you have done this before. Many, many times. With four children in your house, you’ve probably fished for poo at least twenty-five times in your life, which is funny because you didn’t know that poo fishing was a thing before you had kids.

Before long, the cup is getting too full of water to catch any more pieces. This is a real predicament.

Meanwhile, the baby has started wandering about on the tile floor behind you and you are so flustered by this and worried over his haphazard slipping and sliding that you just plunge into step three and start grabbing poo with your bare hands and tossing them quickly into the cup.

Now, with the added poo, the cup is really full of water and the only course of action is obviously to proceed to step four by quickly covering the top of the cup with one hand and draining all the excess water back into the tub, like you’re a human colander.

A bundle of poo is resting affectionately on your hand, which is just like you’d think it would be – SHOCKING AND SO GROSS – but soon the water is all gone and you can flip the cup back over.

The big cup of poo and nothing but poo.

(When you bought those pretty plastic cups at Target, you never dreamed they would be used for this purpose).

The shampoo has started to drip down onto your face now and is apparently running into your mouth because you can taste it. You sputter and spit into the tub and wipe the suds off of your forehead with your shoulder, all while holding a cup of poo.

The baby is still wobbling and falling and grinning his face off behind you. He hasn’t had this much fun since the day he emptied a giant bag of miniature M&M’s on the kitchen floor!

You finally get the last big piece of poo out of the water, and scrunching your nose, you plunge your arm into the littered water to pull the plug, sending any last tiny vestiges of ickiness down the drain.

Your baby has fallen on the tile now three times, but he’s still smiling, so you just go with it.

You dash to the cabinet above the bathroom toilet and grab the Lysol wipes.

You zip back to the tub, turn on the hand-held sprayer, and start washing down the sides and bottom of the tub before grabbing a huge wad of Lysol wipes and disinfecting the tub with the vigor of Rosie the Riveter.

During this cleaning frenzy, the baby has made his way to the toilet and is happily splashing in the water, but since you have one eye closed to block shampoo and you are freezing to death, and since you know he is about to receive the scrubbing of his life, and since you are SO close to being finished, you find this rather fortuitous as it is keeping him busy and he is no longer ice skating on the bathroom tile. But you still call out his name and tell him that “that is a no NO!“, just so he’ll know you heartily disapprove of his behavior.

You rinse off the disinfectant and you start a new bath for the baby.

While his bath fills up, you scrub his bottom with wet wipes and you vigorously wash his hands in the sink.

You return him to the bath before turning on the shower so you might rinse out the shampoo that has nearly dried into a meringue on top of your head.

Five seconds into your rinsing, however, the baby pulls the plug out of his bath and you have to hop over to put it back in place, scolding him while he blinks at you with his precious baby eyes.

This is clearly a fun game, and so he does it five more times, and your shower water gets less hot with every trip you make to the bathtub and back.

Finally, panting and frazzled, you finish your shower and while you are hurriedly drying off, you realize the big kids have wandered back downstairs and are hunting you down in the master bedroom.

Your oldest daughter is calling for you to tie the sash on her dress, your youngest daughter is jumping on your bed and you can hear your son’s voice drawing closer to the bathroom. You shriek at him not to come any closer because you’re drying off.

You frantically get dressed, and you realize there is still a big cup of poo sitting in the floor. You grab it, dump the offending contents in the potty, and flush it resolutely away.

Then, because the cup still looks rather disgusting, you rinse the cup in the toilet water to get the excess poo off so you can disinfect it in the sink and then put it in the dishwasher so you can throw it away and then burn it.

But first you have to get the baby out of the bathtub. He has drained the water again and keeps falling in the slippery tub and his lips are tinging blue from the cold. You set the cup down on the counter and turn to fetch him.

You wrap the little stinker in a towel, you take him to your bed, dry him, diaper him and dress him, all while chaos resumes in the master suite, with your entire litter present and talking and wiggling at one time.

And then, in the haze of the mayhem, you absentmindedly hear the sink water running, you hear one of your children say “ahhh…” in thirst-quenching relief, and you hear a plastic cup being set back down on the bathroom counter.

And…

scene. 

~

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Grey Photography

To keep up with Mrs. Gore and family, find us on Facebook!

 

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

You guys know that I have hermit tendencies.

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

One of those good people is my friend, Chrissy.

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

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

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

Last night, we decided to go see a movie…

and eat and gab…

And OH, did we ever cackle like hens!

The movie?

“Moms’ Night Out”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

so important.

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

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

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

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

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all of it.

Even this.

(God help me).

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

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

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

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

Go watch it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But even greater than my nervousness was admiration.

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, indeed, the tears were flowing over here.

Several times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little more gratitude.

A little more wonder…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just want you to be nice.

You know, like Maria.

~

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

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

Part 3: Ridiculous Me

(continued from parts one and two)

~

So what I had expected on our excursion to the Pioneer Woman’s holiday cookbook signing was for Gabbie to become shy and tongue-tied in front of her childhood hero. No surprises there.

What I hadn’t expected was that I would do the same thing.

In retrospect, it all makes sense…

1. In my excitement about Gabbie and her costume, and in the frenzied nature of our day, I had forgotten to dwell on the fact that I, too, am a huge fan of Ree Drummond’s.

I might have been a bit slow to the Pioneer Woman party, but once I arrived, I was a goner. I love her blog, her cookbooks, her show, and I am so proud of the way she represents Oklahoma. I genuinely admire her and…so what?…sometimes I pretend like I’m her sister.

2. It is just in my nature to get goofy around celebrities. It must be the Lucy Ricardo in me, and so it wouldn’t have really mattered whether I was a true fan of Ree’s or not; I am eternally doomed to act like a nut-job in front of anyone who has been on television or had a book published or even walked on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I think all of this probably reveals something about my spiritual life but I don’t want to identify it yet.

3. I just had a baby and am still nursing every three hours or so. I cannot be held responsible for anything I do or say until I get a note from my doctor and, by the way, it is nothing short of a miracle that I have been able to recount this story in anything close to intelligiblistical words.

All that to say, when it came to striking up a lifelong friendship with P-Dub that night, the odds were not in my favor a’tall.

And here’s how it all went down…

We walked into the bookstore to line up and, after I snapped some photos of the girls peering at Ree, a young and clean-shaven employee approached us and asked if we were having books signed. When we responded in the affirmative, he handed each of us a small piece of paper, instructing us to write down what we wanted Ree to sign in our books.

It was quite simple; we needed to write something like “Merry Christmas to Kelly!” or “Happy Cooking, Mee-Maw!” and any normal lady would have just done what she was supposed to do to make the signing run efficiently and to make sure that her name was spelled correctly in the cookbook she was giving herself for Christmas.

But no.

Ms. Funny-pants had a brilliant idea.

Instead of just writing a simple felicitation and my name on my piece of paper, I decided it would be so knee-slapping hilarious to compose a short letter; after all, the young man had TOLD me to write what I wanted Ree to say…

and I wanted Ree to say the following:

~

Dear sweet, Mrs. Gore,

I love you.

I love your pretty hair and your infinity scarf.

Your blog is my favoritest on the internets (www.mrsgoresdiary.com).

Your bestie,

Ree

~

I just crack myself up sometimes.

Especially when I’m in the back of a long line after standing outside with 5 children for 3 1/2 hours and am giddy about the prospect of meeting a red-headed national treasure.

My plan was to lay down the long note, have a laugh with PW (who would hug me and say “You DO have beautiful hair! Now what do you really want me to write in this cookbook, ya knucklehead?), and then show her the other side of my paper that said “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Gore!” (I thought it would be meaningful if Ree used my pen name since we were going to be best blogging friends after this night).

Sounds like a plan, right?

Riiiiiiight.

So after finishing my note and laughing about it with my Mom and Megan, I put it aside and went on to other things…tending to Rebekah, putting on lipgloss, getting my camera ready, picking out a coloring book for my son (who, though also a fan of PW, obligingly stayed home so his sister could accompany me to the signing)…

and before I knew it, I was standing in front of the cash register, snapping photo after photo of Gabbie meeting Ree. I was caught up in the moment, focused on getting good snapshots for Megan, and it was such a big, beautiful jumble of laughter and fun and excitement, but then…

abruptly…

it was over.

Gabbie was waving goodbye to Ree on her way out the door and Megan was saying one more “thank you” before following behind her and I was grinning at them and waving…

and sighing happily, I turned back around…

I fiddled with something on my camera…

I looked up…

I blinked…

And I realized that everyone was looking at me.

Including THE Pioneer Woman of THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

And this is where I mentally blacked out.

I only have a vague idea of what I said from this point forward and will be embellishing my responses to reflect what was going on in my head and what I might (or pray to God might not) have said:

“Did you have a book, too?” Ree’s assistant asked.

“Oh!” I exclaimed, making my way back to the side of the table, “Yes! A book. A bookcook…er, a cookbook. I bought a cookbook….”

“And do you know what you want Ree to write?…” the assistant asked.

“Oh!” I said, “I wrote on a paper thingy (followed by a nervous hahahahahahahahahaha)…”

My paper…I thought.

My PAPER

The paper with the stupid note on it!…

And although I was mentally vacant, I do remember realizing in this moment that I very much wished I had left my jokes at home with Mr. Gore and Gid and Betsie and Jake.

But I couldn’t.

I had just confessed that I had a piece of paper. It was too late to back out.

So, wearing the expression of a 5-year old, I pulled out my note…

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and handed it to Ree. “Here you go (nervous laughter)…uhhh…you don’t have to write all that…it’s just a…it’s a…I was…joke. Funny. It’s not. You don’t need to write all that. Just…other side. Merry Christmas.”

Poor The Pioneer Woman must be used to this sort of thing, for she never skipped a beat and, probably courtesy smiling, flipped the paper over and quickly scrawled the normal message onto my cookbook before signing her name.

I just thank God my little spitfire of a daughter was there beside me to cover over my awkwardness…

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“And how old are you?” Ree questioned her, probably sensing that I was about to expire on the spot and needed a distraction.

“Four,” she boldly replied, “but I’ll be five on my next birthday.”

“When is your birthday?” Ree asked.

“Ummm…” Rebekah replied, looking to me for the answer.

“Oh!” I said, brightly, crawling back out from under the rock where I was hiding, “ummmm…uhhhhh….hahahahahahaha…when IS your birthday?”

I stared at my daughter quizzically for what felt like 5 minutes while trying to will myself to remember the day of her birth. Was it January? July? Is Halloween a month? Halloween the 14th?

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“June!” I finally replied, exultantly. “June the 8th!”

“You have more than one child, don’t you?” Ree asked with a chuckle.

“Oh yes,” I replied, “I have four.” (Cha-ching! Look who got an answer right).

“Is the baby one of yours, too?” she asked, pointing at the stroller where Shep continued to sleep.

“Yes,” I answered, “He’s a…baby. Like you just said. Hahahahahahahaha…”

And then Ree asked me a question that made me want to die on the spot: “Do you mind if I hold on to this?” she asked, picking up my love-note paper once more. “For your blog address?”

My blog address…

Oh!

NO!

She thinks I’m self-promoting.

And maybe I WAS self-promoting!

And now I look like a self-promoter!

And she had to keep my paper so she wouldn’t hurt my feelings! She probably does that for all the pathetic self-promoting bloggers who slip her their address!!

Nooooooo!!!!!

And since I promised to spare no details in the retelling of this story, I have to admit that I very much remember this particular response better than the others and it went exactly like this: “Oh, no, no, no, no, you dont have to do that…I was just kidd-…or…I…actually that would…that’d be great, hahaha…I mean, if you want to, thanks…but…you don’t…hahahahahahaha…”

As I continued to stammer and babble like an idiot, she leaned down to put the paper in her bag and, looking back at the pictures, I…

think I might have tried to touch her hair?…

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I don’t even know.

When my husband saw this photo, he said “…Did you touch her??”

“I don’t know!!!” I wailed, laughing and hiding my face. Then I peeked at him through my fingers before confessing, “actually, I do know that I patted her on the arm.”

“You touched her arm?” he exclaimed, delighting in my misery.

“I did! I touched her arm!!” I squealed. “I don’t know why! I just wanted to pat her because I felt so bad for giving her my blog address! I was consoling her for having to meet me!”

It was awesome awful. But mostly awesome awful.

After posing for a quick photo with Ree, I gathered my cookbook and my daughter (who continued to talk loudly to her all the way out the door) and, hanging on to my giant, t00-big-for-this-store stroller for dear life, I attempted to bust out of there like a girl who was literally on fire…

but I was driving too fast and, hitting the threshold of the door, my stroller bounced and we kind of crashed into the doorjamb. I was trying to straighten up my wheels so I could exit when a lady on the other side of us, right outside the door, said “Oh! Something fell out of your stroller!”

Reaching down, she stood back up and handed me a book.

Oh no.

The coloring book I meant to buy for my son…

Licking my lips, I took in my surroundings.

I was standing IN the doorway of the bookstore, and approximately 200 waiting PW fans were facing me from the surrounding sidewalk and street, staring. These folks had been standing in line for hours and they were hungry for a spectacle.

Enter, me.

“Oopsie!” I said to the lady.

And then, for some reason beyond my comprehension, as I reached for the book, I took my eyes off of her and surveyed the entire crowd before loudly proclaiming, “I was going to buy that!”

It gets better.

Just in case they didn’t all hear me, I said (yelled) even louder, “I almost STOLE a coloring book! Hahahahahahahaha…”

We backed up out of the teensy doorway and I crawled back to the cash register, (you know, the one that was right in front of the Pioneer Woman), where I fumbled around for my wallet and continued to hem and haw and laugh like the dweeb-of-the-year. “I promise I’m not a klepto…” I assured the cashier, who probably could have cared less.

As far as endings go, it was a grand finale.

Do you want to know how I knew it was really bad? My Mom – who thinks I am perfect – was even like, “Yeah, um, what was that all about?…”

Coming down from this experience was like waking up from anesthesia; at first, I was so numb and giddy, I couldn’t grasp the depth of my ridiculousness, but with each ten or so minutes that passed, another memory would surface of my behavior and I would sink lower in my seat; it was somewhere between Tulsa and our home that I realized that I didn’t even introduce myself to her….

Nor did I tell her that I was the lady who posted Gabbie’s picture…

I told her nothing about our day or how excited we were to meet her…

I didn’t tell her how much I love her blog…

I didn’t inform her that hardly a gathering goes by that her name or one of her recipes is not mentioned by me or one of my friends….

I didn’t commend her for making a wholesome and educational television show that our entire family can watch together…

I didn’t mention that she has taught me so much about cooking and homeschooling and that her orange marmalade muffins have become one of my favorite things about Christmas…

I don’t think I even said “hi”…

I just blinked at her.

Then I sort-of-accidentally gave her my blog address.

And then I stole a coloring book.

I’d say I made an impression, don’t you, and that if she doesn’t invite me to her ranch, she’ll at least get me a restraining order.

But regardless, although it wasn’t my best moment, one thing is certain: I’ll never forget my five minutes with the Pioneer Woman…

I only pray that she has forgotten hers with “Mrs. Gore.”

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~

Delivered, as promised. And now it’s your turn! Ever acted a fool in front of a celebrity? Or just have an embarrassing moment to share?…

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

Part 2: Pioneer Woman

(Read part one here)

~

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

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

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

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

Ree had seen Gabbie’s picture?!!

Gabbie had received a message from Ree?!!

Shut. UP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~

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

He immediately hopped online and started looking.

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

“When?” I asked.

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

Shut. UP!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cool.

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

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

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

Then we played some more games.

Then we took pictures of our shoes.

Then we flipped through Ree’s new cookbook.

Then Rebekah started getting hungry and begging me for food…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And speaking of Rebekah, it was pretty cute…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“575-600…” she replied.

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

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

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

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

610. Gasp! That was the next group!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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so bashful…

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but so very happy.

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

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

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

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

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and you know who it really all comes back to?

Megan.

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

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

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

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

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

Pioneer Woman might be Gabbie’s hero…

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

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~

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

(Read Part Three here)

Gabbie, Pioneer Woman and Ridiculous Me: a Trilogy

Part 1: Gabbie

~

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

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

2. Catch up on homeschool.

3. That’s it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, Ree Drummond has that many followers on facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s a superfan!

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

I was joking.

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

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

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

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

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I cracked up.

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

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

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

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

I smiled.

I said “eureka!”

And I decided it was worth another shot.

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s when our day went twisty…

~

Click here to read part 2!

(and here to read part 3).

Christmas Christmas Time is Here

I was going through pictures and videos the other day and came across a little nugget of Christmas cheer to help you get in the holiday spirit.

Here’s Miss Sunday (last Christmas, 2 1/2 years old), singing her rendition of The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late). Please don’t miss the “Alvin!!!” part at the end.

And please, don’t let the cuteness slay you like it did me. Just kidding. No, I’m not. This is really cute.

Even if this child was not my offspring and did not inherit my amazing singing voice.

Anyhow. Christmas Time is here!!! I, too, can hardly stand the wait.

Halloween Magic

Well, its finally here…

The day of our year that most inspires our imagination.

The day where it is perfectly alright to eat candy for breakfast, lunch, supper and dessert.

The day when my kids actually look normal and have minions of other costumed children to blend in with.

Happy Halloween, everybody!!!

Thinking back over all of our past celebrations has left me a bit sentimental tonight, and I have a gut feeling that someday, I’ll painfully miss these days of playing dress-up with my kids. I have a deep affection for all holidays, but Halloween is truly special with its beautiful Fall backdrop and its cozy warmth and whimsy. And there is something so fulfilling about helping the innocent dreams of my children come true as I scour the internet and our closets to find costumes that will best help them look like their favorite characters.

This year is sure to be a special memory for all of us, and I’ll share more about that in the days and weeks to come…

But for now, I’d like to share with you the most special moment of last year’s Halloween. We had been busy, busy, busy, getting dressed in our pioneer costumes, meeting up with Jerry and Amy and the girls, taking lots of photographs, loading up into our covered wagon, trick-or-treating all over town, and I had been quite wrapped up in just keeping the festivities moving and keeping the children happy. We were at our last stop of the evening, a hustling and bustling Trunk-or-Treat at our town’s Assembly of God church, and we were stopping at each car to get candy, saying “hello!” and “how do you do?!” to townspeople we hadn’t seen in months, and the air was just positively thick with celebration and Halloweenish goodwill. That’s when I happened to look down and take notice of Miss Sunday, my fair-haired little Indian maiden.

She had reached up and taken my hand, and I noticed that her confident and bossy aura had been replaced by one that was subdued and watchful, and just for a couple breaths of a moment, I had the joy of seeing on her face one of the most beautiful facets of childhood. She was in awe. She was overwhelmed. She had slowed down in her running and gunning and had taken time to look around her and feel the wonder that a night of merriment with one’s family can bring. Halloween had captured her for a moment, and what I saw on her face and felt in her touch took me back to my own childhood, and the many similar moments I experienced growing up in our free and bountiful country. Moments so big and so over-the-top that the only thing I knew to do was sidle up close to my Mama and grab her hand, anchoring myself to what was normal and safe, even as my heart and my imagination were captured by what I saw taking place around me…

Trick-or-treating.

A hugely lit Christmas tree.

Musicians or actors on a stage.

Fireworks.

Sunday worship.

My heart would catch within me, and I would study the people and the scenery around me, trying to understand the mysteries of life and why we were doing what we were doing, sometimes unsure of how I felt about it, but mostly…happy. Especially with Mama by my side.

I can’t believe I’m the Mama now.

I can’t believe how wonderful it feels to anchor my little ones on their biggest days.

I can’t believe Halloween – and all the days in between – is even more magical now than it was then.

Life is beautiful. Enjoy celebrating it today!

And I’d love to hear from you…what are you dressing up as? What are your plans? Any special memories or funny stories to share?