Kids and Pets and The Day Zac Died

I have a special Christmas post just about finished and ready to publish, but first I had to share this conclusion to a post I started writing in…oh my…October. What can I say? I’ve been busy cooking up a baby. If you need a refresher to Part One , click here.


I woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago to the sound of a normally chipper (albeit hungry) household in the throes of a great and raucous mourning.

And it was a mourning that seemed to be spreading with each pitter and each patter of newly awakened feet upon the staircase.

There was weeping.

There was wailing!!

And all of it was gradually mounting in both participation and volume.

It was like Jairus’s daughter all OVER again.

My husband opened up our bedroom door and sat gently on the bed beside me, a chagrined look upon his face.

“Well…” he said, “I want to preface this by first saying I am NOT talking about our friend, Zac, but the FISH, Zac…Zac died.

That husband of mine is a smart man, knowing instinctively that waking up his addle-brained, sleeps-like-the-dead wife with the words “Zac died” would probably send me into a true conniption.

“Oh no…” I croaked, tuning my ear to take in the specific words and lamentations of each of the children who were wailing in the next set of rooms.

I heard things like “Nooo!!!!” and “Why?!?” and “HE WAS THE BEST FISH EVER!!!!!”

Okay, so let me tell you a little something about the Gore children.

Someone…I don’t know who, but someone very morbid and sentimental…might have inordinately passed down a wee little character trait to each of the children in this house that manifests itself quite glowingly on days like this.

And really, I don’t know if I…er, that person…really passed it down to ALL of the children or just to the FIRST child, who then commenced to influence the siblings who have followed behind said first child.

But regardless of  who, what, or how, the Gore children are just insanely loyal to…

well, to pretty much everything.

For instance, to our house (we can never move). To the nursery upstairs (we can never insert a wall up there to divide it into its two intended rooms, never). To the tiny and completely unfunctioning and unused back porch that we will probably cover over when we build on our schoolroom (they sat on it and cried when they heard this news. “This is our favorite part of the entire house!!!” they bawled). To our former minivans (“If the van is going, I’m going with it! I’ll LIVE in it!” one of our more dramatic children wept). To old toys. To broken dishes. To drawings or crafts of any kind. To paper airplanes. To socks. To taco shells. To Frosted Mini-Wheats that are stuck together in interesting ways. To tiny blueberries. To “lucky sausages”. That’s right. I said lucky sausages.


And, most recently, to our new goldfish.

The goldfish that was now floating, dead, in a big jar of water in the kitchen.

God, be near.

“What happened to him??” I asked my husband.

“I told the kids that he died of old age,” he replied. “I mean, that stinking fish lived for two weeks! Who would have guessed that?…”

That much was true. We never thought he would survive the trip home from the fair.

But then he leaned in conspiratorially.

“But if I was really going to name what happened…”

I looked at him, wide-eyed.

“…I think it might have been Chloe.”


You mean this cat?

Yeah, that might have had something to do with it.

“I think she tortured him all night and he had a heart attack,” he whispered.

“Oh my…” I replied in matched tones.

What a dismal day at Gore House.

I put on my glasses, waddled to the bathroom, and joined my grieving family as quickly as I could. They initially fell into me, those sobbing children, longing for comfort, but in my arms they simply could not stay; they needed to pace, bless their little hearts, to put motion to their grief, and though it might seem silly to big persons to see these sorts of theatrics…

well, it’s not totally theatrics, is it?

It’s also true sadness.

A first taste of loss.

A slap-in-the-face reminder that death is real and that it takes something precious away from us.

There was a part of me that wanted to laugh at the entire scene…

this stupid goldfish from the stupid fair!!

But there was also a part of me that understood and that empathized and that throbbed a little at what my little ones were experiencing.

Which leads me to a real topic that I want to discuss today.

I would not consider myself a real animal-loving person, and each of our pets house specific characteristics that absolutely DRIVE ME CRAZY…

but it’s a headache that I have come to believe is completely worthwhile.

Animals and children go together quite well, don’t they? I mean, we have a bottle of “Kids and Pets” stain and odor remover in our laundry room. Because “kids” and “pets” are, without contest, a darling duo.

They’re messy. They’re stinky, without intervention. They are full of energy and playfulness and, in most cases, unconditional love. And, oh yes, we cannot forget their LOYALTY.

Our pets have taught our children, right here in the safety of our home, to look out for the little guy (or the Basset Hound who gets her head stuck in the picket fence). To rescue the perishing (or the tiny and starving kitten hiding out in the neighbor’s engine). To protect the weak (or the bunnies who need extra hay in winter and frozen water bottles in summer). To reward the good deeds of the deserving (or the Golden Retriever who learns and listens to commands).

And, obviously, they’ve taught them to love, till death do them part.

Our kids LOVE their animals. They dote upon them like a mother dotes upon her children. They want to take pictures of them anytime they’re doing something cute or funny. They call themselves “Chloe’s Mama” or “Grace’s Mama” or “Jake’s Papa” (consequently, I am “Chloe’s Grandmother” and Sheppy is “Chloe’s Uncle” and so on and so forth). They rush to see them the minute we walk through the door after being out, even for a short amount of time.

And you know what?

Love that big and pure comes at a cost.

For when it is lost, we feel lost.

And so I didn’t laugh at my kids during Zac’s toilet funeral, and I didn’t tell them to toughen up, even as I secretly rejoiced that we could get that giant fish bowl out of our too-small-for-giant-fish-bowls kitchen.

Which was stupid of me.

I should have known that my “loyal” kids would find a way to keep Zac’s memory alive.

You see, minutes after the conclusions of his funeral, grief still fresh, they replaced him with a plastic goldfish we had in the toy bin.

So now Zac can be with us, in our kitchen, FOREVER.

And ever.

And ever.

Yay for pets…


Thank you so much for reading today! If you’d like to hear our stories on an almost-daily basis, follow along on Facebook. And for more photos of plastic fish and childhood antics, join us on Instagram! Now, really, stay tuned for a Christmas story that has my heart all aglow. Coming up, this week!! (and I mean it this time…I think.)


Gideon’s “Life Day” and a Puppy Named Jake (Part Two)

To read more about “Life Day” and the backstory to these photos, see Part One


Should I go ahead and add this day to the “Top Ten Memories” file in my brain?

Yeah, I think so, too…

After spending Sunday night and all day Monday with his sisters at Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house, my parents dropped Gideon off at our shed and went driving around with the girls so we could have a moment alone with our son.

And our photographer friend.

(Told you I have a sickness).

It was a sweet reunion. Gideon was simply happy to be home. We, on the other hand, were about to burst with excitement!

Gid's Puppy 1786

“Why can’t we go inside the house?” he kept asking.

“Just because…” I kept hedging.

Finally, we sat down with him and Mr. Gore explained all about his “life day” and that we were celebrating the gift of Gideon with a special surprise.

Gid's Puppy 1788

Gideon likes surprises.

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We prayed and thanked God for our boy, and I somehow managed to keep from bawling like a baby…

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And then it was time for the blindfold. We wanted the puppy to be a secret until the very last minute…

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My  job was to keep him from peeking and to make SURE he couldn’t see!

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Almost there…

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Before we took his blindfold off, we let him feel his gift to see if he could guess what it was. Our calm little doggy kept so still and quiet. Good boy!

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Gideon told me later that he thought it was a stuffed animal. He still had no idea what was on the other side of that blindfold…

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When we took the blindfold off, he was, in a word, dazed. As a 4 -year-old, I distinctly remember him asking as he surveyed a pasture full of cattle, “Why did God make all these animals and not give me any?” This boy has been waiting a LONG time for a pet of his own…

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I noticed when I looked back at the pictures that his little cheeks were flushed with excitement (be still, my heart)…

Gid's Puppy 1804

and for sure his “eyes were waterin'”.

Gideon’s eyes water a lot. He gets that from me.

p.s. I love this picture. (and all the ones after it).

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“What do you want to name him?” we asked, gently recommending the name ‘Huckleberry’, the name of his first stuffed animal, a little white puppy from FAO Schwarz, or ‘Jake’, his most favorite name for as long as we can remember.

“Jake” he said, confidently.

Even though we were secretly rooting for Huckleberry, we were pretty happy with that, especially since “Thunderfire” is his second favorite name.

In retrospect, I don’t think I can fully express how fulfilling it was to watch my son receive this gift. What a joy it is to care for someone so deeply, to know their deepest wishes, to understand their heart like no one else, and to bless them accordingly…

and so I think that experiencing this day with Gideon brought me a little bit closer to the heart of God; how our Heavenly Father must love us! We don’t give Him enough credit in our crowded, complicated, grown-up worlds.

So that just left one last thing…

After giving Gideon a moment to get acquainted with new best friend, we called my parents and told them to come back to the house. Gideon and Jake hid in the shed so he could surprise his sisters with our newest family member.

Gid's Puppy 1820

Gid's Puppy 1821

“Close your eyes!” we told them, “Gideon has a surprise for you…”

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(Betsie ALWAYS peeks).

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I’ve never seen the whole lot of them so excited about something. It was a full-out dog party in our yard, and our household has consequently been abuzz for DAYS…

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I have so much more to talk about concerning pet ownership, about the similarities between puppies and babies, about how this little pup has stolen our hearts, but for now, I’ll just leave it at this…

Welcome to our family, Jake.

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We’ve been waiting for you for a very long time.

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I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge Benjamin Grey Photography once more for these precious, precious pictures. What a gift it is to have talented and generous friends who will wake up early to minister to your family before a long night working the late shift. You blessed our hearts, Ben and Leslie, more than you’ll ever know. Thank you.

And special thanks to the sweet family who sold us this puppy and took such good care of him for us. You were a joy to work with! (and our daughter has already put in a request for a GIRL puppy on her 6th “life day”…)


Remember or share it on Pinterest!

Surprising a boy

Gideon’s “Life Day” and a Puppy Named Jake (Part One)

We had huge plans for Gideon’s 6th birthday.

I mean, aside from the awesomely vintage Word War II-inspired birthday party we hosted for him…

But as it turns out, building complicated backyard fences and finding the perfect puppy take a little bit of time.

A LOT of time, actually.

So the dog we intended to present to our firstborn on his 6th birthday in March didn’t actually join our family until two nights ago, the last Monday in July, at 7:00 p.m. I’ll tell  you all about it, but first I have to pose a couple of questions…

Do you believe in the sovereignty of God?

Do you believe that God cares about even the smallest details of our lives?

Call me crazy, but I really do.

And, even though this puppy is seemingly joining us at the worst possible time, one month before my due date, one month before homeschool starts and two months before Mr. Gore’s back surgery and 3-month recovery (I’ll explain later…), I can’t help but recognize the hand of God in this entire situation.

If you’ve been a reader at Mrs. Gore’s Diary for very long, you know that I am pretty big on “moments”. Few things are done around here without intention, and while most of our days at home are very simple and boring and nondescript and familiar, the big days are…well, BIG. I dream about them, I pray about them, I plan everything out with painstaking detail, and most importantly, I wait. One of my biggest fears is that I will introduce my kids to every good thing in life before they are cognizant enough to realize, remember, or appreciate it.

Thus, presenting Gideon with his first dog has been something we have anticipated for years. We wanted him to remember this day. We wanted him to be ready for it. We wanted his extremely tender little heart to be in exactly the right place to receive this monumental gift. And we have been praying for a long time that God would intentionally use his first dog to build something substantial in our son’s heart…a deeper love and compassion, a sense of responsibility, a wellspring of gratitude…

but I honestly never dreamed that God would make this moment even sweeter and use our first puppy to teach our son about the sanctity of life. Let me explain…

It has always sort of bugged my husband that mankind, in general, and Christians, in particular, only celebrate the BIRTHday of a baby. “If we really believe that life begins at conception,” he would say, “then why do we ignore those 9 months in the womb? Why do we say a child has been alive for only a year when they have been very much alive for a year and 9 months?”

He mentioned it often, and as these thoughts continued to ruminate in his mind, he finally came to me with a suggestion a few months ago. “Let’s start celebrating our kids ‘life day,'” he said. “Nothing big, and we don’t have to have a party or stop doing regular birthdays, but I just want them to know that we were celebrating and anticipating them from the very beginning…”

You know I loved the idea. Another day of the year for celebrating? Sign me up! And seriously, how amazing would it be for our kids to grow up with an awareness of the fact that, 9 months before they were born, God was already knitting them together, forming their specific features, crafting their unique (and whackadoo, in our case) personalities?

After a little bit of discussion we decided that we could commemorate their “life day” with a really special and thoughtful gift each year… something that would make them feel expressly cherished and special. So get this…

Gideon’s “life day” was in July.

Right about the time we finished our backyard fence.

A couple of weeks before the Golden Retriever puppy our friend found for us on Craigslist would be old enough to come home with us…

And as it began to dawn on me that the presentation of this HUGE surprise to our most beloved boy would coincide with his “life day” and would serve as a testimony to the graciousness of God in crafting his very existence, the tears started flowing.

I couldn’t even think about this day without breaking down, sometimes in the car, sometimes in bed, and one time talking to my husband in the backyard; I just laid my face down on our new fencepost and started sobbing.

But if I’m being completely honest, I think I would have been crying without the added bonus of “life day”. I love my son. I love his tender and complicated heart. And I’ve known for a long time that, while owning a pet would be a special thing for any of our kids, this was going to be a true rite-of-passage for Gideon. The thought of what this puppy would do for his heart did CRAZY things to my own…

And the most exciting thing of all is that Gideon had absolutely NO idea what was coming. Even though we built and painted a huge new fence for him. Even though Grandpa and Grandma delivered a giant kennel to our backyard. Even though there were cans of dog food hidden in the pantry…

he was in for the surprise of his young life!

And because I obviously have a sickness, I decided to just go ahead and make this into a bonafide event, complete with matching clothes, a photographer, and a 4th of July theme, so we would always remember that Gideon’s “life day” was in July. Life isn’t “all about the pictures”, but if you’re going to observe a monumental occasion, and one of your very favorite photographers goes to your church, you might as well take advantage of the blessing, right?…

And believe me, when you see the photos that Benjamin Grey Photography captured for us, you’ll be so glad that I’ve decided to keep my disease for at least the unforeseeable future. I can’t wait to share them with you…

Tomorrow! (Read Part Two here).


Want a sneak peek? Alright. You twisted my arm.

To help your children understand the sanctity of life, start celebrating the time of year that God starting knitting them together!  A VERY special family observance.

Walk, Squishy, Walk!

I have lots of May Day photographs to share, but while I am still gathering and editing them, I’d love to share a sweet little moment we had on my Mom’s front porch this morning, waiting for our May Day party to begin.

My sister-in-law, Amy (do I talk about her enough?!) is so brave and has no problem screeching to a halt and backing up her pick-up truck to snatch a turtle out of the road, and so it really isn’t uncommon for her clan to show up with a new turtle pet.

But today’s turtle was special, carried up the sidewalk in a little clay pot.

My niece, Abigail, named him Squishy, and he caused quite a stir.

But then it got very quiet. I went to see what was amiss…

Seeing all the children gathered on the porch with Amy, everyone whispering, I grabbed my camera.

“What’s going on?” I whispered.

“Shhhh…” said Anna. “We’re waiting to see if Squishy will walk.”

And he did, a full audience behind him, a camera in front of him. What a brave little turtle he was. We were glad to add him to our May Day festivities…


off he goes!...

go Squishy, go!

walk Squishy, walk!

a brave little turtle is Squishy...

with a beautiful shell...

and a teeny tiny tail that made the children laugh.

Happy May Day, dear Squishy! You are our favorite turtle ever.