Shep’s First Day of School

I stayed up late one night last week to pin down some memories from Sheppy’s first day of school, and thought I’d share them with you today.

That’s right, I said Sheppy.

My little buddy who was born yesterday.

The one who still feels eternally toddlerish.

He started school last week.

We did our little rite-of-passage “walk” that morning after breakfast, where the new Kindergartner gets to put a first backpack ‘round the shoulders, says goodbye to Mom, walks out the backdoor with the other school-aged siblings, and comes to the front door where the doorbell is ceremoniously rang, and the door is opened by the homeschool teacher…who, by the way, is still Mom.

When my firstborn took his walk back in 2012, I said goodbye to him with my hair in a messy bun and my body wrapped up in a big, terrycloth robe and, as he made his way from the back door to the front door, I dropped the robe, slipped on some heels, and took down my hair, answering the door wearing the brand-new schoolmarmish dress I’d had hidden under the robe.

“So…how DID you do that?” he whispered to me as his little brother got ready for school. “I’ve never been able to figure that out. You looked one way when I went out the backdoor, and completely different when I came to the front door.”

He’s 11. Still stumped.

Sheppy had a similar look of stunned wonder on his face over the whole ordeal…before he’d even taken his “walk”!…and because I know him, I knew he had absolutely no idea what was going on, even as we tried to explain it. And so I just hugged him goodbye, handed him an apple for “his teacher”, and instructed him to follow his siblings.

I don’t have as much time for introspective sentimentality as I used to, and so there were no tears, but as I waved goodbye to him, the question did flit through my brain…

How are we here so quickly?

It took fifteen years for his big brother to grow to the Kindergarten stage.

How did it take Shep fifteen seconds?

I’d better start ordering Baby Jack’s school supplies, I guess.

With the last backpack disappearing around the corner of the house, I shut the door behind my precious little line of people, took down my hair and scrambled around to find a cardigan to throw on over my shirt as I walked to the front door. So my tradition has been adapted a little bit. Not a high heel in sight.

“Ding dong!” said the doorbell.

“Hellooooo!!” I smiled, throwing wide the door. “Welcome to your new year of school, children!!!”

I adore the following photo. Just ignore the sleepy lady with her hair under her cardigan in the shadows and focus on those dearhearts on the porch!! A man asked me last week, when he found out I have five children, “What’s wrong with you??”

“I’m just such a fan!” I told him.

I mean, he obviously hasn’t seen this crew. Then he wouldn’t think of asking such silly questions.

The expression on Shep’s face was exactly how it had been the last time I had seen him, wonder-filled and clueless, but he continued to follow the instructions of his siblings, coming inside and handing his apple to his new “teacher”.

“I like pretending!” he confided in me as I reached down to accept his gift.

“I do, too,” I confided back, feeling like the luckiest woman on the planet.

And just like that, the tradition was fulfilled, and we plunged straight into our first day of homeschooling four children. We’ve decided, with my so-not-Type-A personality and a proclivity for losing track of schedules, that Mr. Gore should take a more prominent role in our home academy, overseeing everyone’s daily schedule from a handy app on his phone and, more specifically, taking on the schooling of the big two while I school the little two and, of course, keep the baby from eating toilet paper and Legos.

I still teach the big kids history and grammar and whatnot, I still read aloud to them, I still run Poetry Teatime, and I still choose and order our curriculum, but he is their “homeroom teacher”, if you will.

And that leaves me free to pour as much attention on my 2nd grader and Kindergartner as I did on their big siblings, and I am SO GRATEFUL. The younger grades, I have found, delight me endlessly, and I think I could spend my whole life teaching different youngsters…one or two at a time, of course…to read and to count and to love Mother Goose as much as she deserves to be loved.

Anyhow, back to our first day of school. Baby Jack played along nicely, volunteering for his nap at 10:00 sharp, and as the big three holed up in the schoolroom with their papa for a science lesson, I sat down with my new Kindergartner for our first lesson together at our long dining table.

True to his precious nature, he called me “Teacher” with every sentence he spoke.

“Teacher, what book are we going to do next?”

“Can I open my new scissors, Teacher?”

“I like this room, Teacher!”

And as he cut out some snakes that he had immediately and spontaneously started coloring on a piece of white paper when he sat down…which shows you how much I’ve grown as a homeschooler! His big brother had to follow the curriculum and only the curriculum, haha!…he told me all about his morning thus far.

“I didn’t have to go very far to get to school today, Teacher,” he said. “I just went out my door, and went past the dogs, and then I was in this house right by my house, Teacher. I like your school, Teacher.”

Oh, my word. I LIKE MY SCHOOL, TOO, SHEPHERD!!! Especially with you in it! Delights every other second up in here, but then, that’s how life has been with this fourth-born. He’s like a children’s book come to life and, I feel like you know this by now, I really, really love children’s books!

The two of us sailed happily through all of our activities for the capital letter “A”, and then I had to swallow down a hundred giggles when our new Teacher’s Helper from the All About Reading program, a hand puppet named Ziggy the Zebra, came out to help Sheppy learn about rhyming.

A bit of backstory, when Shep was a very little guy, we discovered that he was really enamored with shadow puppets, and so every night when he was in his little bed next to ours, a shadow puppet shaped like a duck would appear on the wall beside him.

He named him “Guck Guck”, and the two of them had long conversations every night.

And over Shep’s shoulder, his papa and I would be melting into the floor because he had no idea that the puppet was really his papa’s hand. It was too sweet to be real, but…IT WAS SO REAL. Shep never looked our way, and only had eyes for Guck Guck as he told him all about his day. And this little bedtime preciousness went on for a couple of years. 

Cut to the first day of Kindergarten when Shep was staring straight into Ziggy’s face, talking to him about school.

Now, according to our curriculum instructions, Ziggy is a forgetful fellow who has trouble keeping his words straight, giving the student plenty of opportunities to correct him.

But where we ran into a problem right off the bat is that Shepherd ALSO has trouble keeping his words straight!

And as I followed Ziggy’s script in the teacher’s manual, pointing out different body parts on Shepherd to introduce the concept of rhyming, the following conversation unfolded:

“This is your holder,” Ziggy said, pointing at Shep’s shoulder.

“No, Ziggy!!!” he laughed. “That’s my SHIRT!”

“Uhhhh…” said Ziggy, immediately stumped. “No, the thing under your shirt, right here!”

Shep blinked at Ziggy.

“Shep!” I whispered, getting him to look at me. “I think he means your ‘shoulder’…”

“Oh!!” Shep said. “That’s my SHOULDER!”

“Then this is your land,” said Ziggy, pointing to Shep’s hand.

“Ziggy!!!” he belly laughed. “That’s my HAND!”

“Oh, your hand!” said Ziggy, moving on to point at Shep’s finger. “Then this is your linger?”

“That’s my finger, Ziggy!!!” he cracked up.

“But this is your south?” said Ziggy, pointing at Shep’s mouth.

“Ziggy!!! That’s my FACE!!”

“Your mouth…” I whispered. “Mouth rhymes with south, get it?”

Shep nodded, still staring a Ziggy like he was the best thing since Guck Guck.

“Well this is your farm?…” said Ziggy, pointing at his arm.

“No…” he laughed. “That’s my…uhhhh…I forget what that’s called!…”

“Your arm!” I whispered.

He also forgot the name of his toe. And the name of his chin. And when he and Ziggy started talking about Shep’s fidget spinner that he got at the dentist, things really went crazy. Ziggy called it a “finish spitter” and Shep laughed at him and said “ZIGGY!! It’s a SPINACH FINNER!!!”

Now tell me, how is a Kindergarten teacher supposed to keep a straight face as she navigates back and forth between two amnesiacs, one of whom is furry zebra puppet attached to her farm…I mean, her arm?

And that was just one little snippet of sweet hilarity from a day at homeschool that I pray I never forget.

“I loved pretend school…” Sheppy sighed when we were finished. “I wish I could do it forever.”

“That wasn’t pretend school, Shep,” I told him. “You are really in school now! And you do get to do it every day, for a long time!…”

“No,” he laughed, as if he were talking to Ziggy again. “It was pretend!”

“No, it really wasn’t,” I insisted. “It was really real.”

“No…” he laughed, absolutely positive that I was pulling his leg.

“It IS real!” I said, laughing in return and stopping down to cradle his face in my hands. “You just went to SCHOOL, Shep! You are really learning your letters and how to read! Like a big boy!”

“But I didn’t go anywhere,” he said.

“Because you are in homeschool, Buddy,” I explained. “Remember?…”

“OHHHH!!!!” he said. “Homeschool! I FORGOT!!! Because it starts with ‘home’!!!…”

Yes. It starts with home.

And home is exactly where I could stay, with this Kindergartner, at this table, for the rest of my life.

Ziggy is welcome to join us.

The Upstairs and Downstairs of Modern Housewifery

 

The Upstairs and Downstairs of Modern Housewifery: How to be the lady of the manor AND the scullery maid without going Edith on everybody

~

Every Sunday night when the season is right, you will find Mr. Gore and me, after banishing…er, tucking in…the children upstairs, settling down into our favorite living room chairs to catch up on the latest drama at Downton Abbey.

This historically-trenched soap opera thoroughly entertains me, and the characters are often referenced in our house.

A lover of history, it is just pure fun for me to see a page from the past come to life on my television screen, and the opportunity to visually become better acquainted with the practices and lifestyles of years gone by is a gift, of sorts, even though the propagation of modern beliefs can be laid on pretty thick, at times.

I can overlook that, though, for the pleasure of hearing Lady Violet’s latest display of side-splitting drollery.

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But as I was anticipating a new season of Downton this week, and daydreaming about the maids who work downstairs and the ladies of society that live upstairs, I realized, maybe for the first time ever, how many tasks I am personally responsible for as a homemaker, in general, and a homemaker with children, in particular, in my home.

The same is true for you, I’m quite sure of it.

Ignore the little fact that Downton is a vastly larger estate than many of us will probably ever even visit on this side of heaven and that our own houses are surely elfin in comparison, and just stay with me for a minute.

For starters, I literally go upstairs and downstairs a lot. We built a two-story house five years ago because I thought it would be “fun”, and when I’m not hauling baskets of stuff from the downstairs to the upstairs, I’m hauling baskets of stuff from the upstairs to the downstairs. And when I say “baskets”, I mean baskets.

But those aren’t the only “upstairs and downstairs” I’m talking about, the literal ones.

I’m talking about how, as homemakers and mothers, we juggle the upstairs and downstairs of an entire estate.

We are the “lady of the manor.” The event planner. The scullery maid. The chamber maid. The housekeeper. The chef. The nanny. The chauffeur. The lady’s maid. The butler. Add homeschooling to that, and we’re also the governess!

And I’m not pointing these things out to whine – puh-lease don’t get me wrong on that! – but, rather, to present a realistic picture of what we’re up against.

Mostly so I can get to this single question: Why in the WORLD are we continually heaping all this crazy guilt upon ourselves?!

What is with the insane, superhuman expectations?

Why do we continually feel like failures because we can’t “do it all”?

Tell me, if Mrs. Patmore was teaching George and Sybbie their lessons and giving them their baths and tucking them in at night and keeping the entire house clean and all the laundry done, do we sincerely think she would have time to make a fancy, gourmet meal even ONE time a day? No way! PB&J for lunch it would be, no problem.

Could Lady Grantham arrive at her nightly dinner party, perfectly coiffed and at ease after a hectic afternoon of cleaning out the automobiles, weeding the rose bushes and dusting the ceiling fan? I’m going to pretend like she couldn’t.

And so, while this silliest of blog posts is in no way grounds for entitlement or pity, it IS a light-hearted attempt to wake you up, woman.

In today’s culture, we ARE the upstairs and the downstairs of our life and we have a LOT on our plates, which calls for some very practical wisdom.

Namely, this: Pick a lane, m’lady.

We cannot “do it all”, every day. It’s impossible.

So instead of habitually trying, and then crashing and burning into sizzling heaps of frustration, why don’t we just start picking a few things to do really well in one day and call it good?

It’s simple, really, especially if you think of it in terms of the Downton staff…

Let’s see, who shall I be today? Will I be Mrs. Patmore, and make a really delicious and beautiful and painstaking meal for my family? And a homemade three-layer cake, perhaps, for dessert? Wonderful! But this means I can’t also try to pull a Mrs. Hughes and orchestrate a deep-cleaning of the house.

Or, if I DO want to be Mrs. Hughes and get all of my rooms tidied and oversee the organization of the entire house, I CAN’T be Mrs. Patmore. I will give myself and my family grace and order a pizza instead! (Or at the very least, pull out a Crock-pot.)

Shall I be Mr. Carson and get all of our affairs in order?

Shall I be Lady Grantham and host some friends for the evening?

Shall I be Tom (circa Season 1) and shuttle us hither and thither, running errands?

Shall I be Mrs. Crawley and fill up my day with good deeds toward the community?

Shall I be Lady Edith and…um…gaze worriedly into the distance? (Poor Edith. God bless her.)

Shall I be Anna and tend to the ones I’ve been entrusted with? Shall I gently brush their hair and groom their fingernails and see to their winter wardrobes?

Or who knows? Maybe I’ll be Mrs. Hughes on Saturdays, so we can start the week with a clean house. Then I can be Mrs. Patmore on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Or maybe I’ll be Mrs. Hughes in the mornings while the big kids do their independent schoolwork and be Mrs. Patmore from 3:00 – 5:00 in the afternoon. But then I can’t be Anna or Tom or Mr. Carson, too.

Or maybe…just MAYBE…I’ll be Lady Mary Crawly and I’ll put on my fancy clothes and I’ll go out to dinner.

Even better? Maybe I’ll be the Dowager Countess and sit in my favorite room with tea and scones and read a BOOK if I wanna!!!

(Okay, you’re right. There’s only ONE Dowager Countess. Forgive me for trying.)

Obviously, I could go on and on with this crazy string of mathematics, but you get the point.

How about we stop trying to be Downton-Abbey-in-the-flesh and simplify things a bit?

How about we work hard at whatever it is that we set our minds to, give it our very best, love the people we’re doing it for, commit the whole lot of it to our Creator, and then…

well, RELAX.

Mistress of the manor, why in the world would you shame yourself for the Mrs. Patmore meal that your friend just described cooking on Facebook??

You’ve been Mrs. Hughes-ing it all. day. long.

Dear lady, how could you possibly feel like a loser to come home to a messy house today? You got a houseful of kiddos ready and chauffered them around from morning till evening! And brought groceries home, to boot!

So here’s what I think you should do, and this is a gentle, Mrs. Hughes-esque order. (Because, really, why would ANYBODY, in their right mind, argue with Mrs. Hughes?)

You’re going to stop pretending like it is possible to be an entire household staff all day, every day. You’re going to put in your hours as one who is working for the Lord, and at the end of a long day, you’re going to focus on what you’ve DONE rather than what you HAVEN’T done and you’re going to feel good that, though things will never be as sparklingly perfect and well-run as Downton, you do a pretty bang-up job at manning the upstairs and the downstairs of your own personal estate.

And then, just for kicks, you’re going to fix yourself a treat, you’re going to set yourself down, you’re going to put up your feet, and you’re going to enjoy a couple of hours of mindless television.

May I kindly recommend PBS?

Sunday, 9:00 p.m., Eastern time.

~

Thanks for reading!

Special thanks to the blog Austenprose for helping me get my Downton titles right: A Downton Abbey Etiquette Primer: How to greet the Earl of Grantham and other British forms of address

If you’d like to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family, follow our page on Facebook!

 

 

Mrs. Gore’s Peace Treaty on Education

photo property of Amy Jackson

This is Mrs. Gore, coming to you today not as the preacher’s wife, or as Mother Hen, or as an opinionated (and unpaid) editorial writer.

For on September 6th, 2012, I will bear a new title, one that I have been looking forward to enjoying since I first felt the flutterings of human life in my womb.

On Setptember 6th, 2012, I will become…

Schoolmarmee.

Get it? Schoolmarm + Marmee (the famous mother from “Little Women”) = Schoolmarmee?…see, this is why I should never be a comedienne. My jokes take WAY too much explaining…

Even though that’s not really a joke. I’m really going to make my kids call me that when school is in session.

Anyhow, I digress.

On September 6th, 2012, I will put on my fake glasses, I will ring my giant school bell, and homeschool classes at Gore House will finally be in session.

To say I am beside myself would be the understatement of the school year. I LOVED Kindergarden and I’ve been trying to get back there for 25 loooong years.

The only thing that gives me pause in my excitement, however, is this little white elephant in the room. (I have the distinct feeling I didn’t get that cliche right…it’s just “elephant in the room” isn’t it? And a “white elephant party”…meh. Whatever.). And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed it…

Have you ever felt that little thread of tension that seems to be all wrapped up in discussions on education, especially among believers?

Anybody?

Let me explain: It seems at times that homeschoolers can’t mention anything that takes place in their school life without being met with unsolicited opinions and questions concerning homeschool in general, especially on the hot mess that is Facebook. On the other hand, I think many public schoolers feel judged by the homeschooling community for not keeping their kids at home, which might lead to a lot of these sometimes-heated-but-more-often-than-not-passive-agressive-in-nature discussions.

And so before our very special first day of school comes, I thought it might be nice to put together a little somethin’ that might bring a little peace between the home schools and the public schools and the private schools and the charter schools…

~

A Peace Treaty on Education, written by a Homeschooling Mother

Let us love one another and spur each other on to love and good works, even when it comes to our choice of schooling. I promise to cheer for your child to win the public school spelling bee if you promise to “like” the picture I share on Facebook of my child making a homemade bird feeder.

Let us be kind in our speech about the “other side” even when we are surrounded by our closest friends who happen to share our convictions about schooling.

Let us keepeth our opinion to ourselves, unless asked for it.

Let us not challenge or argue with one another on social media unless we are brave enough to have those same discussions or ask those same questions face-to-face. And if we are that brave, let’s just not do it, anyway.

Let us always assume the best, and refuse to jump to conclusions that we or our children are being judged when someone mentions “an advantage” to their particular choice of schooling.

Let us remember that how someone else chooses to raise their child is very personal and private and does not need to be dissected by someone else, nor is it deserving of even an offhand comment.

Let us remain involved in each other’s lives regardless of how we view education. Every parent has different convictions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate and support one another and show interest in the lives of each other’s children.

Let us be quick to listen and slow to speak, and keep an open mind whenever we do happen to engage in discussions concerning education; sometimes we might be surprised at how our convictions can change. This is, after all, what happened to me!

Let us pray for and encourage all schoolteachers, whether they are teaching a classroom full of 3rd graders or a daughter and a son in their kitchen.

Let us acknowledge that strange and socially awkward children come from home schools, public schools and private schools, as do the most influential and likable and sensible and charismatic in our society.

Let us refrain from turning an educational preference into a war of Christian faithfulness, and look at the entire scope of a person’s life before we decide whether they are or are not evangelistic or devout.

Let us not allow our personal convictions and opinions to prejudice us against children from any school, but determine to make them feel included and loved and encouraged, no matter what.

And most importantly, let us always bear in mind that the outside world will know we belong to God by our love for one another. If we lose that love and kindness over issues of education and parenting, we have also tragically lost the gospel.

~

Dost thou hereby pledge to adhere to this most peaceable treaty on education? Pass it on!

The Eve of May Day

So I’m just now getting around to our May Day celebration…

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As is her pattern, Grandmother had a holiday surprise for her homeschooling grandchildren, this time scheduled for May 1st. On the Sunday before May Day, invitations were handed out to the children bearing very mysterious instructions. The requests were simple, but vague: Be at Amy’s house in the morning at 10:00, be at Amy’s house the next morning at 9:00 and be at Grandmother’s house after that at 11:00.

As is our pattern, we obeyed.

And this is what she had up her sleeve…

She led the children across the street to “The Potting Shed”, an outstanding local business our small town has recently been blessed with. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to run down the street for our flowers rather than drive allllllll the way to Tulsa…

Miss Cindy opened shop just for us on this beautiful morning, which made our outing seem even more special and important. My Mom informed the children that we would be making May Day baskets for several of the widows in our church, and that they could each pick whatever flowers they thought were pretty.

Of course, Betsie is too young to participate, but she had fun, nonetheless…

And soon we were boxing up our purchases and toting them back to Amy’s house…

Then the real work began…

Finally, our May Day surprises were ready to go…

And only one sleep separated us from our first real May Day celebration…

~

Coming tomorrow…the delivery!

(Oh, and if you live in my town and have not visited The Potting Shed, you should go. Immediately! Time’s a’wastin’!)

The First Annual Cousin Show – Part 2

Before looking at these pictures, you really must read the preface! That’s an order! Click here to obey me.

~

So like I said yesterday, the night of our little homeschool play was one of the best of my entire life. I don’t know what it was, really…but the timing, the ambiance, the nostalgia, the simplicity…it all came together to create a beautiful night for our family. It took place just last weekend, but a sweet warmth already washes over my soul when I think about our show in the shed…

Take a look.

6:30 sharp. Gideon and Abigail brave the May shower to walk across the yard to our secret dress rehearsal in the shed.

No mud boots on the stage!

Twizzlers for our audience…

and lots of cookies…

Snickerdoodle, anyone?…

And a program listing our recitations, songs and nursery rhymes…

The guest table, safe from the rain, featured chocolate chip, oatmeal and snickerdoodle cookies, along with Twizzlers, paper bags of popcorn, and lemonade. Easy to prepare, and no napkins, forks or plates required.

My Daddy peruses his program. He doesn’t often come “to town”, but he’d do anything for these kids. Even postpone construction on his solar kiln so they could have a show! (If you read the preface to this post, you know what I’m talking about. If you didn’t, I really don’t know what I’m going to do with you. Rebels…).

Here is a photograph of the full program. All of our numbers were based off of the Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes CD that came with our Sonlight P 3/4 Curriculum. It was so easy to invent little skits to go along with the nursery rhymes, and it really  helped the children to understand what the nursery rhymes were about. I highly recommend this CD and accompanying booklet. Click here
to find it at Amazon!

Betsie enjoyed her program, too. Literally. She ate a good portion of the top left corner sometime during the show.

“Curtain” rising…

I seriously thought these kids were going to burst with excitement…

 

First up was Anna Ruth (5 years old), reciting “One Misty Moisty Morning”. Anna, our otherworldly little daydreamer, is especially gifted at theatrics and was a dream to “direct”.

And I loved seeing how proud her big sister, Abigail, was to watch her do well.

Gideon couldn’t contain himself. His recitation of “Peter Piper” was…interesting…

and precious.

And then the amazing Abigail recited “Betty Botter”, a tongue-twister that she memorized in TWO DAYS. Would you like to hear it?

Betty Botter bought some butter, “but,” she said, “the butter’s bitter; If I put it in my batter it will make my batter bitter, but a bit of better butter, that would make my batter better.” So she bought a bit of butter, better than her bitter butter, and she put it in her batter, and the batter was not bitter. So t’was better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter.

Twisty, yes? And she performed it to perfection.

As we do a quick set change to prepare for our nursery rhymes segment of the show, Gideon sneaks a peek at the audience…

We started with Mary (played by our very talented Miss Sunday who wanted ALL the leading parts), who had a Little Lamb with fleece white (oopsie…or black) as snow…

and everywhere that Mary went the Lamb was sure to go…

it followed her to school one day which was against the rules; it made the children laugh and play to see a lamb at school!

Next, Mother Abigail sang “Lazy Mary will you get up? Will you get up? Will you get up? Lazy Mary will you get up? Will you get up today?”

(When I told Anna she would be playing Mary, she exclaimed in delighted surprise “Oh good! Because I really AM lazy!!”)

“No, no, Mother, I won’t get up, I won’t get up today!” Anna sang in reply, before snuggling back down on her pillow to return to dreamland.

And then it was finally Baby Kate’s turn (At the end of every scene, she would jump up and say “My turn! It’s my turn!”). She practiced so hard all week and received rousing applause after her act. Seriously, how could she not?…

There was a Little Girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead…

When she was good, she was very, very good…

but when she was bad, she was HORRID!

a group singing of “6 Little Ducks” between our nursery rhymes…

followed by Jack and Jill…

then Miss Muffet (watch out for that spider!!)…

then Humpty Dumpty…

then Little Bo Peep and all her hiding sheep…

and finally (my personal favorite) Georgie Porgie, kissing the girls and making them cry!

And the super secret special finale, a performance of The Beatles’ “Love Me Do” for their Grandmother as a fun Mother’s Day surprise.They sang this one with gusto!

“Pleeeeeeeasssse?! Love me do!”

A dance party to end our First Annual Cousin Show!

~

It was so precious to watch the kids relax at their tables and chairs afterwards and enjoy their snacks. Their eyes were alight, their smiles were BIG, and well…my heart was bursting.

Brother (with a mouthful of Twizzlers) and Sister, proud of their accomplishment and happy to FINALLY raid that snack table!

I like to think that Kate and Rebekah were discussing their favorite part of the show, but who knows? They’re best friends, though, that’s for sure! (when they’re not duking it out…)

I am so very proud of my little actor and actresses. They made this Mama/Auntie one happy lady! (and everyone say ‘hi!’ to our friend Joe in the background!

I hope you’ll try putting on a special show in your backyard, whether you homeschool or not. Any way you slice it, this is good (and educational) old-fashioned fun.

The First Annual Cousin Show

I am in a directorial afterglow.

Let me explain…

Since we built our home 2…maybe 3…years ago, I’ve had this dream.

There would be a wooden stage in the side yard with heavy curtains on a pulley-system where the kids could don costumes and put on shows for us. We would laugh and applaud and they would bask in the beauty of growing up at home, where everyone gets a good part and stage fright is unheard of.

Well that dream partly came true this past weekend, and my heart has been singing since the final act.

There is a shed on my parents’ property that adjoins our little acre in town – you might have noticed that it shows up in lots of our gatherings and photographs, as it provides a perfect rustic backdrop for pretty near everything. A couple of months ago, my Dad poured concrete on one side of the shed, with future plans to convert it into a solar kiln for drying lumber. Seeing this open-on-one-side covered pavilion-like area, I fell in love and decided it would provide the perfect stage for our first homeschool play — until, of course, I get my real stage built.

I started planning our show with my children and my nieces, and we scheduled our first practice…

And then I found out my Dad was planning to enclose the concrete slab the next weekend with walls.

Gasp!

In dramatic Mrs. Gore fashion, I put in a desperate plea to postpone this enterprise, and by jinky, to my utter surprise…

it worked!

But Daddy gave me one week.

One week to prepare for and perform our first show.

I was initially skeptical, but then I got brave and we carried forth with our practices and our plans.

And then it started raining on the morning of the show and kind of continued all day and I became skeptical again (and maybe freaked out a little because I’m a super-geek).

And then I got brave again and said “You know what? We are going to do this thingy.”

Before I could change my mind, with the help of my husband and brother Jerry, we loaded all of our supplies and props up into the pick-up, drove them through the yard in the rain, unloaded everything in the shed, wiped all the rain off of the wood and then, in dramatic Mrs. Gore fashion, I asked to be left alone…

My eyes roamed the large slab of concrete surrounded by three walls. It wouldn’t be how I had envisioned it. The audience wouldn’t be sitting on haybales in the grass facing the shed. But they could sit under the roof with us in the farmhouse chairs Amy sent up the hill to me. The curtain wouldn’t be draped across the large beam at the front of the enclosure. But what luck! There is another beam right inside here that we could use! The snack table couldn’t sit on the outside of the shed, beckoning our guests. But there is a perfect little spot right inside the entry that is just the right size for the table…

Alone in the shed, light rain hitting the metal rooftop, a utility broom in one hand and a dream in my heart…magic happened. When the children arrived for their dress rehearsal, and their eyes landed on their performance area, their special props set neatly on wooden beams or hanging from rustic hooks, their feet screeched to a halt, their eyes lit up and their mouths dropped open in delight and wonder. And I remembered why I had set out to do this “play” in the first place.

It turned out to be one of the best nights of my life.

Wanna know why? Because sometimes us homeschooling mothers worry a little that our kids are going to miss out. That they won’t have moments like we did growing up where they will unexpectedly bloom a little and their chins will raise up a little higher and they will stand a little taller because they did something so brave and extraordinary.

But in our little shed in the backyard, four little girls and a little boy, surrounded by a tiny group of people who love them unconditionally, put on a show and made people laugh and applaud and…they bloomed. Right in front of my eyes.

Those same eyes are already filling with tears at the memory of our night. Perhaps I should have been a director.

Or perhaps I am right where I’m supposed to be, putting on plays in the backyard with a 7-year old, two 5-year olds and two 2-year olds…

waiting for the curtain to go up…

Tomorrow, I’ll share details and photographs! Stay tuned!!

Mrs. Gore Likes…Busytown

Today I am adding a new category called “Mrs. Gore Likes” where I’ll share products or books with you that I have personally purchased, and that have found a spot on my favorites list. I am an Amazon Associate, so if you decide to purchase anything at Amazon by following my links, I’ll get credit. That said, I hereby pledge to never share anything in this section that I do not 100% approve of, and I will always share photographs to prove that these items really do live in my home. 

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I have alway loved to make discoveries.

Not so much in the field of science or inventions or mathematics or cartography.

More like in the field of shopping.

Just ask my friends…if you spend too many minutes in my home, you’ll soon here me say “Wanna see what I got?”

So…wanna see what I got?!

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The other day whilst making Gideon’s birthday wish list at Target, I noticed a game in the toy section that I had never seen before. It looked like a load of fun, so I wrote the name down, came home, researched the reviews at Amazon, liked what I saw, and a couple weeks later, purchased it (with free Super Saver shipping).

Great choice.

Funnest game EVER.

My favorite things about it are:

1. The players work together to win the game rather than competing against each other. This is perfect for preschoolers, who easily grow frustrated and jealous when playing board games. This game really did bring my kids together in a fun and entertaining way.  That alone puts this game at the tippy-top of my favorite kids games!

2. The instruction are wonderfully easy to follow. I hate reading instructions, as a rule. I loved reading these.

3. I actually enjoy playing this with my kids. Honestly, as much as I love my children, playing Chutes and Ladders and Candyland is like a slow death for me. But this game? I have initiated playing it twice this week.

4. Richard Scarry. Nuff said.

Without further ado, I present to you Richard Scarry’s Busytown game:

The board is super long with so many pictures to look at!

Each player takes a turn with the spinner, starting with the youngest player. If you land on a number, you move forward that many spaces, if you land on Pigs Eat, you have to remove a food item from the picnic at the end of the game (if all the food is gone before you reach it, the pigs win! OH NO!!). And my favorite part of the game, if you land on the little bug with the magnifying glass, you get to choose a card…

and flip it over. Now turn over the timer and everyone scrambles to find as many of the featured picture – in this case, flowerpots – that you can on the board. When you find one…

place one of 10 orange magnifying glasses on top of it before looking for more. When the time runs out, count how many pictures you found and the whole team moves ahead that many spaces!

Near the end of the game, all the players hop onto a large ferry and move across the river to the picnic waiting for them. Unless, of course, those pigs beat you to it and eat all the food up!

Another favorite thing about this game? That has never happened.

Richard Scarry’s Busytown. Mrs. Gores likes.