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!

Ode to a Cardboard Box

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

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

Betsie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Betsie, meet box.

The two were inseparable for the rest of the afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tisn’t a Pinterest-worthy box, but…

it’s OUR box.

And we love it.

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

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

That girl is cray.

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

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

I want to be like Betsie when I grow up.

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

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

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I think this ragamuffin has finally found a home.

She wants to live her forever.

And sleep here.

And eat popcorn here whilst watching “Sleeping Beauty”.

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

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

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

Not very welcoming.

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

So maybe she’s hospitable, after all.

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

It’s good to be reminded.

Gideon’s “War” Birthday Party – The Prequel

Warning: the following post might give you a startling glimpse inside the sickness that is in my head, and I hope you still love me after you read it. I am kind of a weirdo about birthday parties. Not yours – I never judge a party we attend, and am just happy to have free cake – but ours. It is how I show love and is one of the most utmost expressions of my heart toward my kids. We’ve all learned to deal with it, but I do always worry that my potential over-the-topness in this one area will discourage others who don’t “do” parties…

Therefore, it would make me so happy if you would read this post before continuing on. Thanks a million!

~

Oh boy…

I always think the party we just had was my favorite party ever…

until the next one.

And so I can safely say, a couple weeks past my son’s 6th birthday, that his World War II-inspired “army” or “war” party was my favorite party ever.

And I really mean it this time. For reals.

(I think).

It doesn’t even matter that the planning stages for this party were a little different than normal…

Usually, the day after Christmas is over, I start involuntarily daydreaming about his March birthday party. I can’t help it. I love birthdays!!! Love them. It’s what I do, yo.

Therefore, I usually have two really good months to get a handle on what we’ll be doing and to start finding ideas and recipes and so on and so forth.

This year, however, I was unknowingly pregnant on the day after Christmas, and the month of January and most of February became a black hole on the calendar. I know I was alive, and I know we continued to do stuff like go to church and I think I brushed my teeth a couple of times, but…that’s about all I remember. ‘Twas the worst first trimester I’ve ever endured.

And once I emerged from this twilight zone of sorts, I had other important things to do, like pluck my giant, untamed eyebrow, and make food for my family (they were almost emaciated), and so, really, Gid’s birthday party had been pushed to the furthest back burner on the stove…you know, the one no one ever wants to use with leftover oats and and dried-up rice and the singed bits of paper from the tea bag…

(apparently, no one ever wants to clean that burner, either)…

Thankfully, we had at least settled on a theme earlier in the year, although even that took a little work this time, mostly because I made the mistake of asking my son what kind of party he wanted. Silly me.

“Ummmm…a Batman party!” he exclaimed.

“Well, Gid…we don’t really do parties like that…” I hedged, turning my nose up at the thought of all those paper party decorations I would probably have to buy – and then throw away – from Oriental Trading Company. If I’m going to buy party supplies I want to be able to use them again and again.

“How about a superhero party?” he asked.

“Well…Anna had a superhero party last year…” I said. I didn’t mind the idea of having the same theme as my niece, but Amy and I had already been there and done that, feverishly sewing capes and eyemasks in a Sunday School room at the church 24 hours before the party. I wanted to do something different.

“How about…a knight party?!” he said.

“Hmmm…a knight party…” I replied, as my mind started quickly cataloging all the things we could do with that. Lords and ladies. Big turkey legs for everyone to eat. Kid jousting?…

“We could maybe do that…” I said, the idea sort of intriguing me. But it wasn’t really hitting me in the heart like our birthday parties normally do. It wasn’t quite right…

and then I had a brain lightbulb, the really bright kind that turns my eyes all buggy and psychotic.

“How about a war party?!” I exclaimed. “We could have a REAL war with two teams, and you can wear camouflage and you can hide in the woods at Granddaddy and Grandmother’s house…

his face lit up, even more than my brain lightbulb, and I knew. This was our party. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

And right then and there, I determined that this would be our first full-out BOY party for my son since, you know, he is really and truly entering the realm of boyhood. No frills. No cutesy. No baby stuff. Just fun awesomeness for Gideon, in the hopes that he would feel like he was in paradise on the day of his birth.

But then I fell into that first trimester abyss I just told you about.

And when I came to in late February and realized that we only had a few weeks left until his party was here, I started that silly daydreaming process I usually start on December 26th.

And in the course of one of those daydreams, I accidentally injected some Mrs.-Gore-weirdness into his perfectly normal little-boy “war” party and turned it all vintage and whimsical, and before I knew it, his laid-back camo-heavy party had turned into a World War II-inspired affair, complete with a Red Cross station, a Mess Hall, a playlist full of nostalgic soldier songs, and lots of googling…

“What did soldiers eat during World War II?”…

“Vintage army recruiting posters”…

“Military songs from World War II”….

“Vintage mess hall plates”…

And I began to be truly grateful that I didn’t have much time to plan this party, because it became very obvious to me that I could have gone wayyyyy overboard with this one. I love me some 1940’s, and, if I had had my typical 2 1/2 months to plan this party, I am almost positive I would have had veterans from each of the armed forces there, and possibly a USO stage where I would have crooned song after song to the horror and embarrassment of my immediate family, especially my brothers.

As it was, thank God, we did a lot of “making do”, substituting the tin mess hall plates I found at Etsy with disposable cake pans from Wal-Mart, forgoing all the awesome WWII posters I could have purchased (again, at Etsy) by finding, printing, and matting free images online, and using our trusty ol’ Martinelli apple juice bottles for drinks rather than buying the canteens or enamel mugs I was dreaming off.

That first trimester saved us a LOT of money.

And when you are a collector of old things, and you have friends who are also collectors of old things, it is absolutely crazy how quickly you can throw a party together full of…old things.

That’s right, I’m talking about authentic WWII helmets, ammo boxes, and…wait for it…COTS that belonged to actual soldiers during the actual war (I think). I’m still over-the-moon about it, and I am so grateful, as always, to my friends and family for so generously pitching in and lending their hard work, their generosity, and mostly, their understanding; that I am surrounded by people who “get” me and love me, nonetheless, seriously humbles me to the core.

ALLLL that to say, I am pretty excited to share with you (if I haven’t already lost you with this blog post), in a 3-part series, Gideon’s “War” Birthday Party.

Here’s a sneak peek…

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Part 1…coming up tomorrow!!

Her Very Valentine Homeschool Party

She done it again.

My Mom just has a way of ministering to the ones she loves, and the Valentine party she hosted for our little ones was no exception. The funniest thing about the entire day was her apologetic stance when we first entered in. “You guys, I’m so sorry…” she said. “I just couldn’t get it together this time.”

I forced my level of expectation to lower to a reasonable level. And then she started pulling out the party food…

Spaghetti with “X” and “O” shaped garlic bread. Miniature cherry cream cheese parfaits. Chocolate dipped glasses filled with pink milk. Homemade heart-shaped pecan sandies rolled in powdered sugar. Chocolate covered strawberries. Gifts and handmade Valentines for everybody.

I can’t imagine what her parties would be like if she was able to “get it together”! Take a look…

Mail bags that the kids made at our Valentine-making party were lining my Mom's mantle. (Conveniently, her Christmas stocking holders were still up and provided a perfect means to display their goodies).

We were unsure of their relationship at first, but "Baby Kate" and Miss Sunday are becoming quite good friends. Especially on Valentine's Day!

Each child received a strawberry Crush soda, a treat box of Sixlets, a coloring book, a sticker book, a Valentine card and a cupcake liner filled with assorted treats.

A Valentine for each child - even Baby Betsie - from their doting Grandmother

My favorite thing about her parties is the table - it is always like a wonderland. For the kids AND me.

I made her take this picture - but I'm so glad I did. What a beautiful woman my Mother is!

her homemade Pecan Sandies - I kid you not, I could eat 10 of these a day and never grow tired of them. Maybe someday I'll add the recipe to Mrs. Gore's Book of Cookery.

3 years apart, but the best of friends. These two have too much fun together...

Me and Betsie Fair. (sidenote: Betsie is the 5th little girl in our family to wear that red hoodie with the heart-shaped pockets. We had no idea when Mom bought out Baby Gap when Abigail was born that the investment would pay off!)

Miss Sunday wasn't the fastest at the conversation heart stacking game, but she sure worked hard at it.

timberrrrr!

my little heartthrob since 2007 - love this kid like crazy.

chocolate dipped frosty glasses with pink milk - a treat for the eyes as well as the tummy!

and on Valentine's Day, slurping and/or bubble-blowing is most certainly allowed.

or guzzling. Whatever floats your boat. (and guzzling most definitely floats Miss Sunday's boat).

delicious spaghetti with hugs and kisses toast

it may have been messy, but they ate every bite!

especially this one. (that's my GIRL!)

cherry cream cheese pie in a little dessert glass

there are about 20 pictures of us in this chair trying to get one decent photograph together. I think this one is my favorite (poor Betsie).

Valentine party SUCCESS!

It feels so good to be loved, on Valentine’s Day and every day. Many thanks to our dearest Grandmother for another lovely and memorable day spent together at her house in the woods.

~

Personalized t-shirts and many of the photographs on this post were contributed by my generous and talented sister-in-law, Amy. Thank you, Amy for all the wonderful things you  do for our family!