The Greatest Generation, Indeed

On the Sunday before Christmas, Mr. Gore and I sat down after  lunch to watch “White Christmas”. I had been terribly behind in my holiday movie viewing and was determined to catch up before Christmas Day.

But five minutes into the movie, I was silently crying. And not the kind of cry where one tear leaks out during the sentimental scene of a movie, but the kind where your shoulders are shaking and you’re working really hard to get a grip before your husband notices. “What’s wrong me with me?!” I thought…

Is it the story of the demoted general that set me off?…

or the nostalgia of watching one of my favorite movies one day before Christmas Eve, our beautifully lit Christmas tree in my peripheral vision?…

No.

Turns out I was pregnant and didn’t know it.

But, hormonal fluctuations aside, my tears were actually stemming from something else entirely, and it only took a few seconds of introspection to figure it out.

I have a longtime love for classic movies, dating back to my 12th year when I first saw June Allyson in the 1949 version of “Little Women” at my Aunt Myrtle’s house. Until that day, I knew very little about the treasure trove of “old” movies available for our viewing pleasure today, but five minutes into that sweet little version of one of my favorite books, I was a goner, and silly as it sounds, my life was forever changed.

As soon as we returned home from our trip, my Mom and I hunted down my own copy of the movie, a VHS tape that I still have today, and my home collection of classic films has consistently grown since that time, as has my appreciation for an era that I had previously had very little knowledge of. Nearly 20 years later, our musical playlists are full of tunes from Bing, Doris, Frank, Gene, and Judy (but my favorites are Bing and Doris), my clothes are almost always a nod to my vintage sisters, our life is often a throwback to another era, and you’ll more likely find my children watching “Yankee Doodle Dandy” than any show on Disney Jr. (mostly because we don’t have cable…).

And I think I might be in love with Gary Cooper (via Seargent York). Sighhh…

When the calendar hits 1960 is when Mrs. Gore and all of her love for nostalgia dies, but until that cultural shift takes place, you’ll find my heart. I love the clothes. I love the tunes. I love the backdrops and the technicolor and the “special” effects. I love the time.

But the reason I was crying today had very little to do with my love for old movies…

and everything to do with my love for the people those old movies bring to mind.

You see, part of the reason I love a classic film is that, when I watch it, there is something so familiar about it…

I know these people.

I recognize the cadence of their voices…

the way they hold themselves…

their manners…

their humor…

their little bitty waists…

their houses and their furnishings and their wardrobes…

and guess what? Many of them are still among us.

Their hair is grey now and more wiry than before, their eyes are hidden behind thick glasses, and their gait is measured where it once was spry, but there is no denying the fact that the era that those classic films represents is still very much alive today.

And these are my people.

I see many of them every week at church.

They are gentle and kind.

They aren’t vulgar.

They dress like ladies and gentleman, and their actions match their clothes.

And, like the soldiers singing “We’ll Follow the Old Man” in White Christmas, many of them were off being heroes during WWII, fighting one of the greatest villains the world has ever known, spending Christmases away from their families, and writing love letters to the same spouses they are with today.

And it just hits me every once in awhile (like it did that day watching “White Christmas”) that we are still rubbing shoulders with the “greatest generation”. We sit among heroes. The very thought of it will make a lady put her head in her hands and weep, whether she is pregnant or not.

Many of these precious people don’t understand our culture today, and if they seem quiet or stand-offish, I think they are probably just at a complete loss as to how they can engage such a foreign group of young folks. Or perhaps many of them think we don’t need or want them in our lives…

That’s why I want to encourage you today to take the first step and reach out to the elderly in your churches and in your community. Ask them questions about their past. Listen to them talk. Seek their guidance and advice. Pick up on their gentle humor.

I guarantee you that, in the course of your conversation, you’ll recognize the voices of Bing and Doris and Gary and Judy…

but you might also gain a wealth of wisdom, and perhaps some of the best friends you’ve ever had.

~

Me with one of my best friends in the world, Ms. Annette. Her friendship and wisdom enrich my life…

And it just hits me every once in awhile (like it did that day watching “White Christmas”) that we are still rubbing shoulders with the “greatest generation”. We sit among heroes. The very thought of it will make a lady put her head in her hands and weep, whether she is pregnant or not.

My Night with the Emporer

I’m going through this year’s pictures and came across a funny story I forgot to tell you…

~

It was past 1:00 a.m. and I was sitting up late in bed, reading what I am sure was the latest ground-breaking historical Christian fiction book on the market, when I heard Baby Betsie crying. My gracious husband – who, unlike me, does NOT sleep like a giant, inanimate boulder from the Rocky Mountains – usually handles the middle-of-the-night stuff, and so I was happy to hop up and handle this situation for him while he slept.

I ran up the stairs and tiptoed through our large, dark nursery, and, arriving at Betsie’s crib, gave her her pacifier and was covering her back up when I heard a sound behind me.

Turning around, I couldn’t believe what I saw…

I blinked.

I squinted.

I blinked three more times.

Yes, this was really happening…

A robed figure, unaware that I was in the room, was rising from the twin bed by the window. Standing up next to his bed, he pulled his hood up over his head, and bending down, quietly retrieved his lightsaber from the floor beside him. Standing back up, lightsaber held high, he shuffled noiselessly out of the room.

And I, snapping out of my open-mouthed, fascinated gaze, took off like a flash of lightning, and, running past him, fled down the stairs and to the office to retrieve my camera. By the time I made it back to the stairs, he was sitting there near the bottom, apparently waiting for me.

“Can I take your picture?” I whispered, in the dark.

He nodded, keeping his head down.

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Then he stood up…

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and shuffled into our bed, where we all spent the rest of the night snuggled close together, him, me, his Papa, and his lightsaber.

It was the first time I’ve ever slept with Emperor Palpatine…or anyone from Star Wars, for that matter.

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It wasn’t as creepy as I thought it would be.

But one thing is sure. If it weren’t for these pictures, I would be certain this had all been a dream…

Holy Week (3).

On Easter Sunday morning, our church congregated a bit early to share breakfast together, forgoing our regular Sunday School classes for one joint class following our potluck meal.

Brother Ralph, our retried missionary from Tanzania, led us in study, and opened the class with a question: “Would anyone like to share a memorable Easter?”

A few shared funny stories, and sweet memories of years gone by, and then Ralph told us what Easter had been like in Tanzania…

It was the biggest holiday of the year, he said, and the celebration lasted for FOUR days.

“Wow…” I thought to myself, “four days! That would be amazing…”

But then I started doing a little mental calculating, and realized that WE had spent four days celebrating Easter this year, and I had to thank God on the spot for working in us, even when we aren’t being intentionally…well, intentional.

Because, Easter, in the past 3 years alone, has been transformed into one of the most substantive weeks of our year, and I kid you not when I confess that I had little to do with it. We’ve just kind of naturally followed the Spirit’s leading, and the result has been eye-opening and all kinds of wonderful, to say the least. I love that about the Spirit of God, condescending to work in you when you never would have changed a thing in the first place!

And so, very quickly and with few words (and lots of pictures), I thought I would share how our 4-day celebration is starting to look. I do so mostly for those of you just starting out in this whole family living stuff, in the hopes that you will glean inspiration for shaping your traditions sooner rather than later…

but with the following disclaimer: I am in no way an expert and none of my parenting endeavors have been proven successful – my oldest child is 6! My kids are mostly still heathens, I am still learning to fall out of love with materialism, and I have no reason to believe that in the next 3 years, our Easter “traditions” will not change as much as they have in these past 3 years. For all I know, in 2016, we will no longer be doing any of the things we are doing now!

But this is where God has us now, and this is working for us now, and we are so pleased with it. For now.

Now…let’s get started.

{Oh, and up there when I said I would do this very quickly and with few words? I changed my mind. I can’t do anything on the blogosphere with few words…but then, you already knew that, didn’t you?}

Day 1: As I’ve shared in the past, to commemorate Good Friday, we all dress in black and spend the day together, cooking, reading, playing, singing hymns…it is a solemn and sweet day, and to try to express the joint gravity and joy of this holy day to our very young children, I had them take a happy picture (Gideon was supposed to be smiling!)…

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and a sad picture…

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Miss Sunday took hers a little far, though, and wept and mourned…

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but…you get the point. We rejoice in the sacrifice that was made on our behalf! But we cry over our sin and that we would choose death and destruction everytime without the work of Christ.

And to further instill these truths into my children’s hearts, I put away all their toys and only allowed them to play with the bones of dead animals.

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Just kidding. That just happened, and I thought it was funny and ironic so I took a picture. All the toys are still on the porch.

And we don’t usually play with skulls.

Just sometimes.

Moooo-ving on, that night, we met with our church family for a Good Friday service and communion. Rebekah so longingly gazed at “the Lord’s feast” (as she has dubbed it) and said “why is it taking me so long to grow up?! Can I take the Lord’s feast when I am 26?!” To which Gideon replied, “You can’t take the feast until your heart’s fixed! Your heart’s not fixed.” To which Rebekah cried and cried.

(This story was topped by Amy’s, whose 3-year old daughter, Kate, yelled out during their Good Friday service, “I want to drink Jesus’ blood!!”)

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We followed this service by a churchwide meal at our friends Zac and Chrissy’s house. What a sweet, sweet night, enjoying the bounty of brotherhood and fellowship on the day our sin was atoned for.

Day 2: The next day  (Saturday) was spent making Hot Cross buns and, after naptime, the children made “good news” pictures saying “Jesus is alive!” Once everything was finished, we strolled down our street and delivered the buns and pictures to our neighbors. This sort of just happened at the last minute, but it will definitely be something we do every year now.

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When we came home, we sat in the living room floor and ate as many Hot Cross buns as our tummies could hold and read the Easter story together before singing some of our favorite hymns. This was one of the best days I’ve ever spent with my little family. I had been wondering what to do on this empty day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and God so graciously took care of that for me, in a sweet and simple way that just bowled me over.

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Day 3: Like I mentioned earlier, the next morning – HAPPY EASTER! – we met with our church family for a potluck breakfast, followed by a group Sunday School class, followed by worship. I’m speechless when it comes to this morning spent with this group of people I would have little in common with were it not for the blood of Jesus that binds us together…for eternity! Because of Him, we can be one, and we can point the world around us to the cross by our love for one another. That’s too beautiful, don’t you think?

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After that, we went to an amazing Easter picnic and egg hunt at my Mama’s house (I will share more on this in the future) where we spent the day with family and friends, enjoying love, delicious food, our freedom, our hope, and some truly beautiful Spring weather…

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This picture that I snapped of Rebekah on our egg hunt in the woods says it all…she was just sitting there by a tree with a happy little smile on her face. My heart felt exactly the same way.

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oh, and we finally colored some eggs, just for fun!

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Day 4: And the next morning (Monday), we finished up our week with a “Life Abundant” party. This party is my way of utilizing those fun Easter traditions I grew up with, but in a way that doesn’t interfere with our Holy Week observations, rather, that works with them fluidly and comprehensively.

It was a really fun morning with our children, eating a special breakfast as a family, giving them Spring gifts and candy, reading Spring and Easter books, and hunting eggs in our backyard. And it’s funny…I’ve struggled over how to  fit “the Easter Bunny” (a truly special old friend of mine) into our celebration…but guess what? He didn’t even come up in our conversation this year. The baskets were set out, just like normal, but the kids rightly assumed they were from us. And, in accordance with all we told our kids that week, we shared with them that the purpose of this party was to celebrate our new life, and that Jesus truly is ALIVE! We also told them that, just because we follow Jesus, doesn’t mean life will always be easy and that we will get “stuff” like Easter baskets full of candy…but that if we do receive any blessings, they are from Him, and that we are free to celebrate and enjoy life as a family because of what He did on the cross. This was a day of rejoicing. Of living. Of enjoying life and life abundant.

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As an adult, it has bugged me that I always gave Christmas all of my time and thought and, by my actions, made it out to be so much more awesome and important than Easter, but, by the grace of God, that is beginning to change for us, and Easter is becoming the crowning week of our year.

God is truly good.

Easter is the BEST.

Oh…and Jesus IS alive!

~

Do you have any traditions to share with our expectant mothers, young families, or anyone looking to make their Easter more meaningful? Even if you have shared over at the facebook page, please share again. We’d all love to hear from you!

Mother Hen Goes to Neverland – Part Three

continued from Part Two: “Finally, we reached the main entrance to the PAC. “Here we go…” I thought, ready to greet a roomful of identically dressed children hanging on the arms of their loving and indulgent mother. But boy, was I was wrong…

~

Well, there were lots of children there, but they were dressed to the nines in…real clothes.

Not one Tinkerbell.

Not one Wendy.

Only one Peter Pan.

That’s right, ONE.

And he happened to be attached to my hip.

All of a sudden, I was faced with a new and unexpected conundrum, the reality that a veritable spotlight was placed upon us as we made our way through the extremely crowded room, inside the ladies restroom and eventually back out, and up the stairs and across the mezzanine, accepting the compliments and the delighted stares of every. single. person. we. passed. The children and senior adults we walked by were especially taken by my little lost boy, and Gideon received lots of waves from little ones even younger than he was, their mouths slightly hanging open to see Peter Pan right in their midst.

You know, I always think I will enjoy the spotlight…until I’m in it. To say my cheeks were burning would be a bit of an understatement.

“Why is everyone looking at me and waving at me?” Gideon asked me, and I wondered if, for the first time, my sheltered son might be realizing that not everyone goes everywhere dressed in costume.

“Oh, I don’t know, Gid…” I responded with a small smirk on my face.

“My name’s not Gid. It’s Peter.” he replied matter-of-factly.

“Well…that’s why everyone is looking at you and waving at you. You’re Peter Pan!” I muttered.

And then something even more unexpected happened to poor Mrs. Gore.

Right there, standing in line to have our tickets scanned so we could enter the theater, with absolutely no warning whatsoever, Small Elephant decided to make an uninvited appearance.

In other words, the impact of this meaningful night with my son hit me with full force, and a huge, dramatic, hormonally-charged lump began to form in my throat. I’m always sentimental. But when I’m pregnant…I’m a basketcase.

And when it was Gideon’s turn to hand the attendant his ticket, and he stepped up like a big boy and held up his paper, a shy and excited expression on his precious little face, the lump in my throat grew unswallowable as tears began to burn at the back of my eyes.

Good grief, get a grip!” I furiously said to myself as I tried to take deep breaths and refrain from breaking down in front of an entire roomful of folks…folks who were already looking at us because of the bright green costume and matching cap (topped with a yellow felt feather).

But then the elderly attendant looked down and saw that Peter Pan himself was handing her a ticket for the show and she smiled so big and said “Well, hello, Peter Pan!” before looking at me and beaming at the cuteness that was before her.

Gideon smiled. My Mom chuckled. And I…Small Elephant…released some sort of manic, breathy laugh that was two seconds away from being a sob. Looking down, I pasted a smile on my face and continued to nervously giggle as I rapidly blinked away my tears, wishing that we could all just have a moment of silence to take in this moment without having the entire waiting audience watch Peter Pan’s pregnant mother have a meltdown in the mezzanine.

It was one of the most wonderful and awful moments of my life.

Lord, have mercy.

Well, somehow, we finally made it inside the theater, gasping at the amazing scene set up on the stage, and, finding our seats, I was able to fan myself for a minute with my program and get control of myself once more. “I’m a little emotional right now,” I confided to the man and woman to my left, “so if I start weeping, just ignore me. I’m fine.”

“Oh, I’m assistant to an OBGYN, so I see crying women all the time. We won’t even mention it.” the woman replied, leaning over her husband to get a better look at the pregnant spectacle next to him.

Before too long, the lights thankfully dimmed, and the magic that is Peter Pan played out before our very eyes, and for the next two hours I was caught between the beauty of the story, the set, the costumes and the music, and the pure pleasure of watching my baby watch all of the above. Peter Pan is the perfect tale, is it not, for a little boy with an imagination and a heart as big as the sky, and I could kiss J.M. Barrie (or at least give him a thimble) for crafting a timeless story of boyhood that continues to resonate so deeply today, while beautifully paying homage to motherhood and family at the same time.

Gideon belly laughed at every funny scene. He clapped enthusiastically after every musical number. And when he reached out and held my hand during the mother’s lullaby, those pesky tears gathered in my eyes once more as I meditated on the past 6 years, on all we’d been through together, and on how gracious is the God of the universe to give him to me and me to him.

And, while it was a real treat to see the amazing Cathy Rigby in action (seriously…she cannot be 60 years old! AMAZING, and I told my husband that what she is able to do on the stage is much more impressive than if Peter Pan was actually real and could actually fly!), I was very grateful that we were just far back enough that Gideon couldn’t see that she was, in fact, a woman. That just wouldn’t have gone over well a’tall.

I could go into great detail about all of my favorite scenes, about the graceful and lovely Tigerlilly, about the fabulous and glittery pixie dust that was thrown all over the place, but I’ll just say that, of the many theatrical performances I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying over the years, this play was, by far, my favorite. Magical. Hilarious. Entertaining from start to finish. If you ever get the chance to see it, please do…and tell them that Mrs. Gore sent you. (I’m a favorite in Neverland, you know).

At the show’s conclusion, my Mom and I took turns hefting Gideon up to see each of the cast members run out to take a bow and wave at the audience, and the huge grin on my son’s face and his wide-awake eyes at such a late hour told me that his first trip to the theater had been a roaring success.

But the show wasn’t quite over yet…

Holding up her hands to quiet the crowd, Cathy Rigby herself made an announcement, that the cast would be in the lobby to help raise funds for AIDS victims and breast cancer survivors, and that, for $5, you could get your picture taken with Captain Hook…

(I inwardly gasped. What a perfect way to end our night, and how fun for my little Peter Pan to have a real picture with the Cap’n as opposed to his Mama in a mustache).

…OR, for $500 you could have your name entered into a raffle to win an opportunity to come back later in the week and fly with Peter Pan on stage.

(I inwardly guffawed. $500. Ha!).

And then I heard a little voice beside me yell out “I wanna fly!! I wanna fly with Peter Pan!”

(And I inwardly groaned. Thanks a lot, “Peter Pan”…you are now dead to me).

After some final applause, as the crowd began to disperse, we sat back down in our seats to get Gideon’s boots put back in place and to find all of our stuff (my big bag of Red Vines, included). “Hey Gid…” I breeched, “we don’t have enough money to fly with Peter Pan. But we could get your picture with Captain Hook!”

“But I want to fly!” he pleaded, looking at the stage with longing.

“We just can’t,” I said. “It’s too expensive.”

“Ohhhh…” he whimpered, and I hoped that the night hadn’t just lost some of its magic for him.

As we made our way back down to the main lobby, Gid’s hand in mine, he said, hopefully, “Do you think you could just tell Peter Pan that we don’t have that much money, and maybe he’ll let us come fly with him anyway?…”

I laughed at his innocence, and Mom and I directed him to the line where Captain Hook was already taking pictures with his fans. “There’s Peter Pan!” I heard the Captain yell out as we walked by, pointing at us and waving.

“Yep…” I thought, waving back, “we’re still here! Peter Pan and his Mom and Grandmother…” We continued to receive stares and waves as the lobby eventually thinned out, and my cheeks hurt from receiving and returning smile after smile. It was like prom night all over again.

But the most difficult part of the entire night wasn’t trying to convince Gideon that we didn’t have $500 or finding the willpower to smile at passersby, but to keep my son from seeing Cathy Rigby as she autographed posters right across the room.

“Where’s Peter Pan?” he asked as we continued to wait in line.

“I don’t know…” I bald-face-lied, as Mom and I shuffled around to block his view of her. We had made it this far – he couldn’t find out that Peter Pan was played by a…a girl!…when we were so close to our departure!

“Hey! There he is!” he said, slipping around me and spotting Cathy Rigby at the table right beyond me. I held my breath as, immediately, a puzzled expression crossed his face and he asked, confused, “Hey…what happened to Peter Pan?!”

“Ummm…” I responded, before blurting that “the little boy who played Peter must have had to get to bed – it’s so late! – and that’s just another Peter Pan saying ‘hi’ to everyone.”

We all know that one lie always leads to another. But believe me when I say my hands were tied.

Gideon just nodded. “Oh. Yeah.” Made perfect sense to him.

But when it was all said and done, we had our picture with Captain Hook…

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we left without Gideon figuring out that Peter Pan was played by a woman…

and we decided that, someday, he might get another chance to fly with Peter, and that, for now, seeing his first play was a pretty big treat. Before leaving, he gathered up and threw some pixie dust that was left on the ground…

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and we flew back home to our nursery on the second floor where my little boy belongs.

I hugged him tight.

I tucked him in.

And I kissed his forehead and cupped his soft still-a-5-year-old cheek in my hand, memorizing his face, and this night, for safekeeping.

“Sweet dreams…” I said, knowing that, tonight, they were almost guaranteed.

~

“So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land.”

Peter Pan

Mother Hen Goes to Neverland – Part Two

So enough about my parenting philosophies and my 1500-word glowing endorsement of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan…let’s get to the actual show!

~

On Thursday morning last, I whispered to Gideon that he would not be taking a nap with his sisters that afternoon, but would be going somewhere very special with me and his Grandmother to receive an early birthday gift. His eyes lit up and he leaned in closely to whisper back excited nothings and to make sure I knew that he could keep a secret, and he spent the rest of the morning making exaggerated conspiratorial faces at me and patting Rebekah consolingly, even though she had no idea that when she woke up from her nap, we would have flown to Neverland without her. Our poor little Wendy girl…

But for that matter, Gideon had no idea we were going to Neverland, although I did divulge that his early gift was that we were taking him to his very first play…just so he wouldn’t spend the day conjuring up unrealistic birthday surprises of like, I don’t know, a helicopter ride or his very own living T-Rex.

“A play?” he asked, intrigued, “Like the one at Gabbie’s Kindergarten?!”

“Ummmm…it will be a little bit bigger than that.” I told him, my excitement growing into a fluttery little pit in my stomach.

By 1:00 p.m., the girls were asleep under Papa’s care, and we were on our way, an afternoon of relaxation and shopping – and food! – on the horizon, followed by our big night at the Performing Arts Center. I was kind of beside myself.

Gideon was such a good sport, sitting through a couple of hours at Anthropologie and A Pea in the Pod as his Mama got outfitted in a new maternity wardrobe: a week before, I had retrieved my maternity clothes from the attic to find that what remained was something they might dress a P.O.W in during a long Russian winter, and I nearly cried on the spot. The next day, my Mom offered to have mercy on me and take me for a little shopping spree if I could manage to get away early. I managed, and although I suppose we normally wouldn’t celebrate a little boy’s birthday by going shopping for maternity clothes, sometimes, necessity just calls with an urgency.

We broke up the monotony for him, though, with a short trip to Pottery Barn Kids, and then a 3:00 dessert at our favorite eatery in Tulsa, Queenie’s Plus. And please excuse me while I chase a rabbit…

Gideon was a curmudgeon of a baby (click here for more). He was claustrophobic, and grumpy and shackled by his own infancy, and I honestly couldn’t take him anywhere. Except for Queenie’s. They have an outdoor seating area on the sidewalk, and it became a refuge for us those first two years of his life – Mom and I could eat in peace, and he would happily watch the birds hopping around as he took in unlimited fresh air and solitude. It was the first public place I took him after he was born, and it was nearly THE only place we ate out until he was just past 2 years old.

And so there was something extremely touching about returning to that sidewalk table with him on this very monumental day as we sipped on coffee (and milk for him) and munched on our favorite desserts. I kept looking at him, trying to reconcile the little boy before me with the little baby I had brought here so frequently in years past, and I had to ask myself once more, “How is it possible that you can watch nearly every moment of their growth but not see it take place? Where did my baby go, dagnabit?!”

Anyhow, I am so grateful to have a place like Queenie’s to celebrate our special occasions, and the staff made such a big ado over Gideon’s upcoming birthday, even sending home some complimentary muffins to help him further celebrate the next morning. My heart was just overwhelmed to have this moment, at this place that had become like a second home to us over the years…

And it was here that my Mom handed Gideon a long, rectangular box wrapped in green and brown tissue paper and tied up with green string.

“Open it,” she said, “and it will help you guess which play we’ll be seeing tonight.”

Grinning, he tore into the box, eyes shining with that beautiful expression of innocent joy that children seem to have exclusive rights to.

Inside the package lay a brand new, size 7 Peter Pan costume, one that would actually fit! And one that would probably ensure that everyone we pass while Gideon is still wearing it to Wal-Mart as an 11-year old will know that he is homeschooled. His coolness will know no bounds…and it was as if Mom and I both realized at the same moment that we had not carried out this idea to it’s conclusion as it sunk in that we would be seeing this new costume for many, many years…well past the “cute” stage and more into the “sad” stage. Oh, well. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

“We’re going to see ‘Peter Pan’?!” he exclaimed.

Mom and I, leaning down at his eye level, hanging on his every word and reaction, laughed and giggled and clapped until I’m sure that everyone nearby either wanted to cry tears of sentimentality or maybe disgust at our obvious and overdone doting. Sorry, onlookers. We’re in love with the boy.

“Can I wear my new costume to the play?!” he asked.

“Uhhhhh…” I said, conflicted, for as eager as I was for him to get to wear his new costume and to match Peter Pan, you might remember that I had sworn when we saw Beauty and the Beast with my nieces that I would refrain from ever dressing my kid to match the star of the show we were seeing…unless we would be the only ones in costume, at a show like, say “Fiddler on the Roof”.

I was slightly joking when I said it, but not really, and now, as usual, my words were coming back to haunt me, and I cringed at the idea that I would look like an overindulgent mother as I toted around my own miniature Peter Pan among a sea of little boys and girls in Peter Pan and Tinkerbell costumes…

But later that night, after some more shopping and a fantastic supper at The Olive Garden, in the parking lot of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Gideon excitedly tore off his clothes and donned his brand new true-to-size costume, taking meticulous care in tucking his pants into his boots and securing his waist belt just so. As we made our way across the street and down the sidewalk, we had to stop every 5 steps or so to allow him to adjust his pants, his boots, his hat…

But finally, we reached the main entrance to the PAC. “Here we go…” I thought, ready to greet a roomful of identically dressed children hanging on the arms of their loving and indulgent mothers…

But boy, was I was wrong…

~

Did I say we would actually get to the play today? My mistake! But tune in tomorrow…the Grand Finale is coming up next!

(Read Part Three here).

A Letter To My Children (to read in the year 2030)

Dear children…

Did you know that before you were born all I thought about was myself and my beautiful hair, but after you were born I would have shaved my head if you needed me to?

Did you know that when you asked me questions and I answered them, I usually had no idea what I was talking about?

Did you know that when I made you eat your green beans against your will and seemed mean and strict and unfeeling, I was just desperate for your body to get any amount of nutrients because you hadn’t eaten a vegetable in 8 days?

Did you know that, even though I was your Mama, I was afraid of the dark, too? And tornadoes. And scorpions. And…lots of stuff, really. But I tried to be brave for you.

Did you know that a very large piece of my heart sits on top of your head and walks around with you wherever you go? Even in this grand year of 2030?

Did you know that I liked to watch you when you didn’t know I was looking and study every curve and line of your face, sometimes while you were sleeping, sometimes while you were watching TV, sometimes when you were coloring? The Bible is right. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. I know it full well.

Did you know that I kissed your clothes as I folded them? (when I wasn’t cursing the laundry…)

Did you know I always cried when I put your outgrown clothes in the attic? Every time.

Did you  know I always cried the night before your birthday? Every year.

Did you know that I really didn’t care if you played sports or knew lots of poems or had the longest eyelashes…I just loved you and my favorite thing about you was that you were mine. You didn’t have to do anything to earn my love. It was your birthright, from Day 1.

Did you know that it made me pray and sometimes cry when you didn’t get along because I didn’t want you to waste precious years being selfish when you could be happier being nice?

Did you know that when I was grouchy with you I always felt conflicted on the inside? I couldn’t be happy in my grouchiness against you…it didn’t sit right with me, and so I worked really hard to get over it and enjoy you.

Did you know that I often prayed that you would never become a ventriloquist? But mostly, I prayed that you would follow hard after God, that you would love Him more than I did, and that you would sin less than I did. And that you would never be a ventriloquist. I feel like this cannot be said enough.

Did you know that I rarely let you walk by me without at least trying to reach out and pull you into my lap? I lived for the times you consented and breathed in your scent and covered your hair with kisses as long as you would let me.

Did you know that I don’t know how I’m going to survive having you grow up? Seriously. If you go to college or get married and leave me, I’ll probably be dead by the time you read this.

Did you know that, in caring for you, I have found more fulfillment than I ever thought possible? Diamonds and fame and wealth are nothing with you under my wings. Nothing.

Did you have any idea that, when I said silly things like “I love you to the moon and back and all the way to heaven” that words were actually failing me? Words don’t exist when it comes to my love for you.

Did you know that God has used you to help me grow? I have never needed Him more or prayed to Him more or praised Him more or thanked Him more or confessed my failings more. He knew I needed you in order to know Him better.

Did you ever stop to consider how many times you got poop on my hand? Too many times to count. Just thought you should know.

Did you know that, when I lectured you and made long speeches about your behavior, I was kind of making it up as I went along and sometimes I thought I sounded ridiculous but had to keep going so you would think I was scary? It was all an act. I was just trying to sound like a Mom.

Did you also know that everytime I lectured you, I felt like such a hypocrite, because everything you did on the outside was something I still struggled with on the inside?

Did you know that, even though you were tiny and young, you ministered to me so many times, and that when my heart was sad, your sweet hugs and your childish ways lifted me up?

And did you know that you made me feel like the most beautiful and talented and beloved woman in the world? When I made your eyes light up, I felt like a success. And you made me feel like a success almost every day.

I just wanted to say thank you, for all of it.

I love you forever,

Mama

~

To my beloved readers, if there are any ventriloquists in the house, my apologies. I meant no offense. But I’m glad you’re not my kid. Your puppets scare me.

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a mother's love for her children

Seeing is My Favorite.

I love – seriously, love – those moments when I SEE my children and marvel at them for a bit.

You know what I mean, don’t you?

Most of our days are spent doing what families do, and my mind is just on autopilot and I love and hug and kiss my kids without dwelling on or digesting the emotions that I feel for them.

But then some days, I see them. My mind, even for a matter of minutes, belongs to them. I meditate on them, and who they are, and how God made them, and my heart consequently sings with gratitude and praise.

I don’t know if you can plan clarity like that, or if it just a gift of grace that lands unexpectedly in your lap; regardless, I’m a pretty big fan.

It happened to me just yesterday.

Gid and Rebekah were upstairs playing (they’ve been thick as thieves lately), and it was just me and Betsie on the first floor.

She toddled over to where I sat in our large wingback chair and, resting her chin on my knee, peered up at me through her ever-scraggly bangs. Her hair has good intentions right after bathtime and curls so lovelylike all over her head, but then her orneriness eventually comes eeking back out and takes her curls and her neatness right out of her system, leaving a wild ‘do that actually suits her perfectly.

“I love your face.” I said to her, in my mind.

“Boo’?” she asked me.

“Yes, I’ll read you a book!” I answered, glad to feel free for the moment to do that very thing.

I watched her toddle resolutely through the living room and to the office/schoolroom, stopping in front of the iron and wood bookshelf that holds most of our children’s collection of books. She squatted down into her typical aborigine pose and began rifling through the Little Golden Books that are stored in a basket under the lowest rack of the bookshelf.

I enjoyed two things about this moment:

1. She was enjoying the very books that I laid out for her in a spot that was accessible to her; it is just kind of fulfilling to see your children living in their own house, in the way you intended for them to live. “I put those there for you!” I thought to myself, happy, for the moment, to be a homemaker, and

2. I still consider Betsie my eternal baby – something about the way she moves and speaks and acts is so…baby…but I had to admire her pluck and maturity as she flipped through the scads of books to find the ones she wanted. Not just any book would suit her fancy, and this surprised me. Even Baby Betsie’s grow up, I suppose.

You may or may not care, but her book selections were almost all centered around farm life and/or dogs. “How interesting…” I thought, “Baby Betsie is a fan of farms! I had no idea.”

Anyhow, she would find the perfect book, stand quickly back up, pitter-patter back to where I was sitting in my chair, hold her arms up to be brought into my lap, and, once situated, would gesture for the covers next to us. I would cover us both up, and set in to “read” (a.k.a condense…some of those Little Golden Books are loooong. I’m looking at you “Poky Little Puppy”), and I was so delighted by her frequent interjections. I would say the animal’s names and she would make whatever noises she decided they made, and although she did well for most of the animals, “mooing” for the cows and “oinking” for the pigs, she tapered off near the end, giving a “chick chick” for the chicks and a “duck duck” for the ducks.

You know, typical precious/hilarious baby stuff that just cracks us Mamas up while our friends and family humor us with sympathy smiles and laughs.

But I swear, it was hilarious. And utterly precious. Don’t you think so, too? I knew you did.

But the best thing is, while the world whirled on outside of our walls with all of its business and entertainment and who-knows-what, Betsie and I were sitting still in a chair in our living room, and our were hearts bonding and, for that sweet half hour in the uninterrupted quiet of our home, our life was as perfect as it could be…

I saw her.

And I can’t be sure, but…I think she saw me, too.

Sunshine.

She was heartbroken.

Because, even though her 5-year old Cousin Anna was still downstairs playing with Gideon, it was naptime, and 3-year old girls simply must have their rest.

It’s funny, isn’t it, that the ears of a mother can discern the different tunes and chords of their children’s cries? And while Miss Sunday is notorious for her loud, fake cry that she can turn off and on like a switch, this cry was real and deep, and I felt her pain in my own heart.

How tempting it was to give her the afternoon off and allow her to indulge in her heart’s desire, but we had a long night ahead, and I knew that she and I would both pay if I allowed her that luxury.

And so I held her, instead.

Sitting on her brother’s twin-sized bed, she straddled my waist and buried her head on my shoulder where I could feel her tears sinking into my shirt. We rocked, together, riding out the storm of her hurt, and I absent-mindedly mused over what a blessed invention the rocking chair was, created, I am sure, for moments such as these.

Still yet, mamas can rock just about anywhere, even without a special chair.

“Can I sing to you?” I asked her, searching for any means with which to ease her sadness.

She nodded, and her wails of despair immediately calmed down in both decibel and frequency.

First it was her standard favorite, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. And then the old standby “Rock-a-bye Baby”. With each word I sang, her tears ebbed a little more, and she began to relax on my chest.

And then I heard her muffled voice from my shoulder: “Just one more?…”.

I breathed in the smell of her long, golden hair and relished the feel of her warm body cuddled into mine as I perused my musical index for the perfect song to describe the way she makes me feel…

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine

You make me happy when skies are grey.

You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you,

Oh please don’t take my sunshine away…

I sang the song to her, the words flowing directly from my heart to her ears, and as I sang, I praised God for the gift of children, especially, at the moment, for my beloved Miss Sunday.

There were times in my young life when I thought that motherhood would be a stifling road, one that would ruin my body and strip me of my dreams, one that would leave me haggard and old and washed up and…lost. At that egotistical time in my life, nothing scared me more than the thought of forgetting who I was and losing my “identity.”

I understand now that I had a sinful aversion to self-denial and living for others, and that I had digested the lies of my culture, hook, line and sinker…

But God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, knew so much better, and He weaved a sanctifying tale of motherhood into the story of my life, one that has changed me and challenged me and humbled me and taught me first-hand that great paradox of Christianity, that “losing ourselves” is where we are actually found, and that in dying is discovered the road to life and life abundant.

And now I have these little gifts running helter-skelter all over my house, keeping me on my feet from the minute theirs hit the floor in the morning and until their eyes close in sleep, and I am training myself daily to live for Christ by living for them…

but sometimes, like today, it hits me that it’s not all dying and losing, is it? And it’s not all exhaustion and training…

for as boisterous and energetic and sinful, even, as these little ones are, they are sunshine.

And I have seen over and over again that, when times have been especially dark and confusing, and when the outside world seems unbearably cruel and unjust, God uses my children to bring moments of happiness that transcend words and reason: a small hand on my shoulder radiates peace and comfort, a mispronounced words pops a giggle out of my mouth, an unscripted and unplanned moment of togetherness drops down like a gift of grace from the sky…

and I fall in love with God’s plan for my life over and over and over again as I heave a great sigh of contentment and see with clear vision that children are a blessing and a heritage from the Lord, and are, at times, great little ministers of peace and hope and love. Not burdens. Not exhausting little monsters. Not roadblocks to personal success or achievement…

if only we would always see them so clearly and bask in the sunshine that they bring into our homes during these precious and fleeting years.

As I finished the song, Miss Sunday asked me to sing it just one more time.

And so I did. For her and for me. She needed the extra comfort and time, and I needed to say the words – and the accompanying prayer of my heart – again and again and again…

~

I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in Christ’s name, I make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other darlings had left me. Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother’s heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, to her lifelong prayers! Oh, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!

Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward

A Storybook Halloween – Outtakes and Info

 Did I say in my last post (a week ago) that I would share this post “tomorrow”? Silly me. Little Red Riding Hood’s Mother has been super busy taking care of Granny and hasn’t had too much time for blogging… 

~

First of all, I am so thrilled with your feedback from our Little Red Riding Hood “storybook”. Thank you for all the encouragement and kind words and ‘likes’ and shares…I’m a lifetime fan of compliments, which is probably why I run a blog that shares posts about every 5 minutes or so.

And if you’ll indulge me for a bit, I’d love to share a little about the day we had this “photo shoot”.

When I have big ideas, I get all atwitter, but if I’m not careful, my excitement can turn into tension, especially if the idea I had is not translated into real life with all of its spontaneity and childish behavior and, sometimes, weather complications (welcome to Oklahoma!).

And the Thursday of our scheduled shoot, as I was ironing dresses, and pulling props from all the nooks of our house, and sweeping the shed, and willing the children to take good naps, I could feel that tension hovering in the distance, enticing me to leap in and see my joy obliterated.

I desperately wanted to refrain from taking that leap.

So, silly as it sounds, I took a moment to pray. It went something like this…

“God, I know there are people starving somewhere in the world today, and that it is of little consequence whether or not we successfully capture the story of Little Red Riding Hood. But I DO want to glorify you today, so please…please…let this be fun for everyone. Let Ben get good photography practice, and let the kids enjoy themselves, and help me to relax and keep things in perspective…(and if this doesn’t work I will try not to throw myself in a lake). Amen.”

And it was amazing. My prayer was answered so graciously, and about 45 minutes after Ben arrived at our house, our entire storybook had been acted out and captured with no crying, no stress, and no whispered threats on my end. I think that was definitely the favorite part of my day. I had fun! The kids obviously had a blast. And Betsie…oh, Betsie. Who knew that my unpredictable little whirlwind would play the part of Granny like a pro?! I still haven’t stopped kissing her for it.

So, as thrilled as I am that the finished product turned out how I had envisioned it, I am even happier that our day was memorable and laidback and that, at the end of it, I had no regrets for acting like a b-hole. Thank you, God, for hearing even the silliest prayers of your silliest children.

Moving on, some of you have mentioned that you might try making your own storybook – I hope you do! And because I love you, I would like to humbly offer a little advice to help your project run smoothly…

1. Photography has become so accessible in our culture, and there are usually amateur or budding photographers in every community. When I heard Ben mention that he would like to add to his portfolio and was eager to practice, I nearly tackled him and said “What day can you come?!” And photographers who are just growing their business are usually very reasonable in their prices. All that to say, the thought of having a real photographer with a real camera capture your “storybook” for you isn’t nearly as far-fetched as it might have been even 5 years ago. And supporting your local photographers is a win-win, for they grow in expertise while you receive a finished product that is both affordable and WAY better than anything you could do on your own.

2. Go outside! Even with your own point-and-shoot camera, outdoor lighting (especially on overcast days) is the best and will do wonders for…well, everything.

3. In my opinion, the more homespun your costumes and set are, the more authentic your storybook will be. Thus, we didn’t purchase much for this project – Granny’s “room” was pieced together from all the stuff in my house that looks like it belongs to a little old lady (I’m an old soul…) and most of our costumes were pulled straight out of our closets. In fact, the only things I bought this year for our Halloween “theme” were…

  • Gideon’s fur booties and wristlets (he got the hat last Christmas), both purchased from Restoration Hardware during their 20% off sale. Click here to see their collection of faux fur gifts. Very warm and very “cool”, these would make great Christmas gifts.
  • The little lace mobcap that the Wolf wore came from Amazon (click here).
  • And Ben’s amazing wife, Leslie (who also edited the photos like a champ!), made Rebekah’s cape for me – and a wonderful job she did!.

4. I like 2-for-1’s…shampoo+conditioner, Swiffer Sweepers, turducken…and so I recommend photographing your storybook around the time of Halloween. By the night of October 31st, we had already taken all of these pictures in our costumes, and I wasn’t worried about them getting dirty, resulting in the most laidback Halloween we’ve had yet. I even thought, “Meh. I might not even dress up tonight…” (But you know I did).

5. Conduct your “photo shoot” after nap time and have supper waiting on the stove as a reward to your cast and crew. It felt rather like a cast party as we all sat around the table and talked about our storybook adventure and slurped up bowls and bowls of potato soup.

6. Speaking of food, have a few snacks hidden amongst your props in case you need to resort to bribery or distractions for your little actors and actresses.

7. And most importantly, be prepared and ready for showtime. When Ben arrived at our house, we were dressed, every scene was set up, and I had a detailed list of every shot I could possibly need to properly tell our story. I had also thoroughly gone over that list with Mr. Gore so he could “be in my head”, and help Ben know what to do should I have to tend to the children or run back to the house for props. Children don’t do well when adults stand around and discuss what to do next, and so we did everything we could to have none of that.

8. After you make your list of needed shots, go back and schedule them in the best possible order. For example, we did the scenes of me and Rebekah first, followed by our group pictures, so I could run back into the house and change into comfortable clothes, leaving me free to help Ben with whatever he needed. Betsie (the loose cannon), was next, before being buckled into her wagon with a box of raisins and some fruit snacks. And then we filled in the middle parts. I am positive that if we hadn’t had this planned out in detail, our day would have been a disaster.

9. One last thing. If you are using a 1-year old as one of your main characters, do not put her in place or put on the final details of her costume until you are truly ready to take your shots. Ben was in place with his camera ready before we sat “Granny” on her bed. We handed her a handkerchief to keep her hands busy, perched her glasses quickly on her nose and then we all stood behind Ben clapping and jumping around like idiots to keep her from fleeing the scene or yanking her hat and glasses off. And what do you know? Heavens to Betsie, it actually worked.

And now, for your further entertainment…

~ Outtakes and deleted scenes ~

We’re so used to looking AT the camera…

One oversight: I forgot to clean all the junk up out of our yard. I am quite sure that Little Red Riding Hood’s mother did not have a big, ugly, green waterhose next to her little cottage house, and had certainly never even heard of a Spiderman bicycle or a Radio Flyer tricycle.

In many shots, our “Wolf” was less than vicious…

and had a little bit of trouble with freeze-frame “running”.

And I can’t get enough of the Granny pictures. Dressing my baby up like an old lady was one of the best parenting moves I’ve ever made.

A few times, my “actors” took dramatic liberties.

For example, the script does not call for Red Riding Hood to hand Granny the flowers that were already sitting on her bedside table (but that’s a great “sick Granny” face, Gid the Kid!)…

and the Wolf is supposed to be afraid of the Woodsman, not bite him!

Sheesh. Thesbians.

A few times, near the end, we had sheer chaos on the set…

but Ben caught some awesome photographs, nonetheless. This one looks like a new twist on “American Gothic” and might have to go on my wall…

~

Again, thank you, dear readers, for taking a trip with us into the land of fairy tales and make-believe. Oh, to stay there forever…

and if you do happen to make your own storybook someday, please come back and let me know. I can’t wait to hear all about it!

~

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A Storybook Halloween

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

~

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

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

But what part could I play?

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

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

Prima donna.

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

Perfect!

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

Because I had an idea.

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

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

Would you like to hear our story?

~

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

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

handed her the basket of goodies…

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

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

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

Hooowwwwwwwl…

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

And he was very…very…hungry.

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

when suddenly, she heard a noise!

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

But as he approached her, he looked very friendly.

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

“Hello…” she replied.

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

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

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

“That way!” answered silly Red Riding Hood.

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

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

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

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

He was going to…t0…Granny’s house!!

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

But she wasn’t expecting a wolf.

~

to be continued…

(Part Two).

~

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