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

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

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

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

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

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

We went to the fair the other day.

All of us.

My mom.

My dad.

My husband.

Our four kids.

Our wagon and our trusty insulated food hamper.

And, most notably, ME.

At the time, almost 8 months pregnant.

Going to the FAIR.

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

Until the day we decided to go to the FAIR.

During rush hour.

In the middle of downtown Tulsa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where did all my normal pants go?…

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

WHAT is HAPPENING, you guys?!?!

I don’t even KNOW.

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

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

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

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

(Or…something like that…)

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

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

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

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

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

But THEN, my friends, we saw it…

The World’s Exposition.

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

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

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

And then we got out of our van.

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

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

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

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

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

especially when he wears it to the fair.

I have no words.

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

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

But look at these cute babies!!

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

Want to see my dad in action?

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

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

This girl liked it, too.

And look at these two being darling.

Oh! Here goes Dad again…

Foot long corndogs for everybody!

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

And this is when things got serious.

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

It was good.

It was really, really good.

We all liked that burger.

See? It made us happy.

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

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

The fair is evil.

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

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

Seven dollars.

Evil.

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

Next up…

THE FERRIS WHEEL!!!!

How beautiful.

But also HOW TERRIFYING!!

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

ARE YOU INSANE?!?!

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

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

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

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

Gulp.

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

OH the horror!!!

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

At least I’d still have her.

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

That stuffed animal was the highlight of her night!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wheeled around in curiosity and…

this is what I saw.

I stared at my mom in disbelief.

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

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

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

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

Yeah, I was right.

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

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

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

She shrugged/smiled/laughed again in response.

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

The fair.

It’s EVIL!

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

But then…

being the major softy that he is…

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

he quickly changed his tune…

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

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

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

enjoyed one more “ride”…

and did one last round of fooding.

You’ve got yer Dip n Dots…

You’ve got yer funnel cake parfaits…

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

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

and then…

the GRAND finale…

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

Yeah.

I feel the same way as my daughter there.

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

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

A goldfish.

The kids named him Zac after our other pastor.

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

Well, it WAS living…

More on that soon. Stay tuned!

The Day Small Elephant Came Out of Retirement

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

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

 

Um, WOW, right??

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

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

We’re kind of a boisterous family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter, my children.

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

Such love.

Such JOY!

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

And it was most definitely a blessing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right now!

Right this minute!

You guys!

WE HAVE A NEW FAMILY MEMBER…

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

~

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

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

 

I Signed Up For This, Too

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us begin.

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

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

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

Holding my two boys, arms full of blessing…

blessing and heritage

2. Children are forgiving.

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

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

“It’s okay, you didn’t mean to.”

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

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

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

I’m mad at you…

mad

Okay, I forgive you.

forgive

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

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

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

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

Grudge? What’s a grudge?…

grudge

4. Children are funny.

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

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

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

Like this guy and his mustaches…

Gid stache

Or this gal right here…

1388122_10202399974547542_805681957_n

Or this little freakshow…

kids on glass

5. Children are little ministers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

children are little ministers

5. Children are easy to please.

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

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

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

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

2-year old Gid, playing with some coins…

easy to please 2

easy to please

6. Children are accepting.

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

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

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

Gid and Yoyo

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

accepting

7. Children are honest.

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

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

And sometimes even their nose-picking is honest…

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8. Children are loving.

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

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

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

voila!

Children.

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

loving

9. Children make the world seem new.

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

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

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

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10. Children make you holy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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11. Children are wonderful teachers.

And in all of the above, children teach us.

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

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

lots of kids

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

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

world seem new

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

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

Psalm 127:3-4

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

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

Home.

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

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

The one-hour drive home had never been longer.

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

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

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

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

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

Home.

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

And I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this picture was different.

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

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

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

Mrs. Gore Recovers from Magic Mike Madness 2012

As the words I wrote last Saturday afternoon made their journey across the illustrious internets, I was traveling with my husband to the state of Arkansas for his beloved Grandpa’s funeral.

I have much more to share on that in the days (or weeks) to come.

Thus, for two days of my sure-to-be short-lived blog “fame”, I had very limited internet access, and so, when we finally returned home late last night, I was most eager to spend a little time trying to soak in the explosion that had become my blog stats and comments (Ohhhhh, those comments), while the opportunity was still mine.

But we have these kids, you see.

And I make it a point to sit and watch nearly every minute of their growth and theatrics (that is, when I’m not escaping to the master bedroom to take deep breaths and beg God for patience).

And I had been away from them for two whole days…

In other words, my body was aching for them and my eyes were thirsty to drink in the sight of their ornery little faces. Even though I was positively dyin’ to get in here and watch my computer screen.

With the help of Mr. Gore, I was able to appease all of us, publishing the post I had written on our long drive home, occasionally checking stats and comments, and still somehow managing to play with the kids and read to them before tucking them into bed late that evening. It was something of a miracle, probably having much to do with the fact that my Mom had mopped all of my floors and tidied up the house while I was gone.

But today, I planned to indulge a bit and spend more time than usual on the computer, for, really…things like this (meaning, blog explosions) don’t happen everyday, especially here at Mrs. Gore’s Diary.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity…” I told myself, as I ignored the dishes during my kids nap time so I could sit here and refresh and refresh and refresh and refresh and refresh and refresh my page, continuing to shake my head in disbelief as the numbers continued to rise to nearly 100,000 visits today, to blink away tears at the hundreds of precious and humbling comments from my brothers and sisters in the faith, and, admittedly, to scratch my head at the criticisms and anger of those who could so grossly misread my heart and the words that I shared here about Biblical manliness (or who thought I was saying John Wayne is the epitome of a godly man. Believe me, if I had known the entire world was going to read this, I would have made that point a bit clearer!).

Nevertheless, it was a glorious afternoon, entertaining and eye-opening and exciting and so. much. FUN.

And it just didn’t last long enough…

Because we have these kids, you see.

Naptime can only last so long.

So I walked away once more from the computer for awhile, my eyes readjusting to reality and the family life that I am immersed in every day.

We played.

We read.

We ate.

We were grouchy with each other.

We laughed.

And then finally, while Mr. Gore was helping some friends move in down the street, and I just couldn’t stay away from the computer any longer, I made a swift decision and called it an early night, taking the portable DVD player upstairs for the “big kids”, loading a Baby Einstein movie into the downstairs DVD player, and I was just bending over to sit Betsie down to watch it so I could have some uninterrupted blog time…

when she reached up and grabbed my shoulder with one hand and my right arm with the other.

You should know that, although she was my cuddliest baby ever, this rarely happens anymore.

I sank down beside her on the floor, afraid to breath…

and she nestled her soft little head down on my shoulder.

Still standing, she remained flush against me as I sat Indian-style on the hard floor, enjoying her warmth even as I planned how I would slip away from her once the DVD started, hopefully sneaking back into the office to once more bask in the unprecedented fun and drama that waited for me on my computer.

But the words that I had repeated to myself all day – “this is a once in a lifetime opportunity” – fell across my heart with the undeniable conviction of the Spirit, and I realized that yes, THIS, too, doesn’t happen everyday…

I took a deep and decisive breath, hefted both of us into my favorite leather chair and pulled her into my lap where she remained cuddled up on my shoulder during her entire 30-minute movie. We just breathed together, my baby and me, on our unusually quiet 1st floor, and my heart proclaimed it again and again to the God who hears me…

Thank you…thank you…thank you…thank you…thank you…

for all of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that I have experienced this week….this day…this very hour. But especially for this one.”

Life and life abundant.

It was a good 30 minutes for me.

It gave me time to step away for a minute and dwell on the wise advice my husband gave me (back on Monday when we were shocked that I had had 5,000 visitors) about “where to go from here”, and with confidence and joy in my heart, I’ve settled upon a wonderful decision…

These moments are what life is about.

These are the moments that I have been writing about since I started journaling in high school and blogging in January 2011.

And these are the kind of moments that inspired “Magic Mike Who?”

Real moments. Family moments. God-ordained moments.

And so, ridiculously fun as this has been, I’m not going to put pressure on myself to write another viral post.

I’m not going to look for the next controversial topic so that I might weigh in and keep the ear of Facebook.

I’m not going to try to work the system while the time is right for that long-coveted book deal or for sponsors or for “a following”.

I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, drinking in this beautiful life, and sharing it with anyone who wants to listen, whether that is 200,000 people, or 140 people or…my Mom and Aunt Bea (who always call each other after I’ve published a post to discuss it. So long as they keep doing that, I most certainly will keep writing!).

“Magic Mike Who?” has literally been the surprise of my life…quite possibly the most bizarre thing that has EVER happened to me…and an unexpected blessing that I will cherish forever…

but the star of that post and of every post I write is not John Wayne or the men of the church or my family.

It is the God who makes our broken lives lovely and our sinful hearts holy…

The God who makes babies reach out for their Mamas at just the right time…

The God who uses our talents in sometimes very surprising ways…

The God who, through joy OR pain, makes life breathtakingly and heart wrenchingly beautiful.

One last time, before I move onto other things, and other posts that I have been working on well before “Magic Mike” came along, I want to thank each of you who shared my post on Facebook, who took the time to share your thoughts in the comments section (even knowing they would remain unseen), and who have found Mrs. Gore’s Diary on Facebook. (Oh! And I can’t forget Pinterest! We’re even pinning together now,  you and I!)

I feel so blessed to have helped any of my brothers or sisters who were struggling with this movie or who felt alone in their journey, I am broken for those who revile against God and His children, and I am hopeful, that the gospel of Christ has planted itself into the hearts of some who needed to hear it at this particular time.

I could, of course, go on forever, but…

I’ve got these kids, you see.

I would also like to add that I will be allowing comments* on non-Magic Mike posts from now on (including this one), although I can’t promise to always respond to them. (I’ve got these kids, you see…). I do LOVE hearing from you all, and can’t wait to get to know you better. God bless you.

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*As ever, I reserve the right to allow only edifying comments for those who visit my site. 

The Ordinary is Mrs. Gore’s Favorite

I have over 60 post drafts in my WordPress dashboard that I either haven’t finished or forgot to publish. Going through some of them this week, I came across this post written last September, and it made my heart happy. I hope it brings you a little joy, as well.

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I have found that my favorite days are when nothin’ much is going on. Well…if the house is clean. If the house is messy, I am a grump from sunup to sundown, whether we are hither or thither.

This week, I spotlesscized the house for a jewelry party I hosted, and so when I woke up on Friday morning to a truly spick and span home, I was lighter than air. And when I am lighter than air, I notice and take note and say “thank you, God” for the small stuff. I laugh at every comment my children make. I feel charitable and content and downright genteel. I take early morning showers and put on real clothes and make-up and fix my hair…

Of course, the first thing Rebekah said when she saw me was “Where are we going?” Apparently, Mama doesn’t “get ready” unless we are leaving the house. (The same thing happens when I change her out of her pajamas before lunchtime, without fail: “We go to Chick-fuh-ways?” she asks). I informed her that we weren’t going anywhere today, just outside to enjoy the beautiful day God made.

When I beckoned the children to come and join me and Baby Betsie on the front porch, however, I was met with a bit of resistance. I suppose, being cooped up all miserable summer, they’ve forgotten the simple delights of a day spent outside.

“Its cold!” Gideon said from his stance on the inside of the screen door.

“Its not cold.” I said. “You need to come outside…its too nice!”

“Yeah,” he said. “Its too nice. Let’s stay inside.”

Clever he is. But I’m the boss. So I said, in my mean voice, “Come outside right now, both of you.”

They did eventually join me, and after a short whining session, sauntered out into the yard where they were playing and laughing, the television and inside toys completely forgotten. I observed their every move from my rocking chair, delighting in their childish games.

“Let’s pway that game where you fro a ball at my bewwy and I fall down.” Gideon told Rebekah.

“Otay!” she said. She picked up the mid-sized Toy Story ball, came within inches of her brother and planted the ball right smack in the middle of his tummy.

“Ouch!” he feigned and dramatically fell down, sending her into a fit of giggles. (It should be noted that when I say “giggles,” I mean giggles. I wish you all could hear them. They should be bottled up and sold at Sephora they’re so beautiful).

But the best part of this game was that once Gideon stood back up, before Rebekah threw the ball at him again, she had to brush and then pick every piece of grass off of his shirt. My little Mother Hen, always tending to her family…

“Sanks!” Gideon told her when every last piece of grass had been removed. Then they went through the game again.

A bit later, as we gathered on the porch, I asked Gideon if he knew whose birthday was next week. His Grandmother would be turning 60 years old, and I realized all of a sudden that we had hardly discussed what a special day was on the horizon.

“I don’t know…” he said. “Tell me!”

“You have to guess!” I said.

“Abigail?” he said, naming his beloved 7-year old playmate/cousin.

“No…someone older than you.” I said.

“Ummm…me?” he asked.

??? “No,” I answered. “Someone OLD.”

“Oh…” he said, as if he understood perfectly. “Spiderman?”

Remember that great mood I was in? I just threw my head back and laughed…which slightly chagrined my ever-growing boy. “I was lookin’ at my bike.” he explained, gesturing towards his Spiderman bike. My heart melted at the fact that he is old enough to feel silly and embarrassed, and I made a mental note to tread a bit more carefully around him, lest I wound his little spirit.

And then later that day, Gideon and his Papa were in the backyard uprooting those devlilish sandburs that took over this summer. Rebekah, Betsie and I sauntered out to observe them, which made Gideon begin to fidget. Finally, he revealed what was on his mind: “Why don’t you guys go over there and pick some flowers or somethin’?”

Again, I laughed out loud at what seemed like an obvious display of male chauvenism, but he quickly redeemed himself by adding “I don’t want you and Rebekah to get hurt by the stickers.”

I rewarded him with a very proud smile, and to the wildflowers we drifted, picking purple and yellow beauties and putting them behind our ears.

It was a simple day, an ordinary day, a slow-paced day…

A perfect day.

My favorite.