Monday, November 14, 2016

Urgent need

Dearest Readers,

It has been a long time since I asked Lily's readers here to join with me to help a family in need. You have been so generous and kind whenever I have blogged about an urgent situation that I know of; whether that was an adopting family, an orphan in need, or a family facing a medical crisis, you have always responded in an outpouring of love. 

I'm asking you to take a minute of your time today to visit this page and consider helping this dear family, who lost everything they owned this morning in a house fire. Every piece of clothing, furniture, every family photo, every memory ... not to mention their home and their car.    I cannot imagine what this family is facing right now - I don't know how we would cope if The Rice Ranch and all of our belongings were gone in an instant of time. 

The father of this family is my brother's coworker - he works hard every day to serve and protect our nation. Neighbors organized this Go Fund Me site to help them this morning… our family did what we could to help, and I'm asking Lily's readers to consider helping as well. A little bit goes a long way, when multiplied by many kindhearted people giving what they can. Will you prayerfully consider helping the Sluszka family and sharing their Go Fund Me page on all your social media sites as well ?

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Patti xoxo

Friday, November 4, 2016

8 things bringing me JOY

It's Friday night at The Rice Ranch, and I am home alone with my two littlest ones. Sam and the rest of our gang are at a basketball game, and I opted to stay home and do laundry.

It's not that I don't love a good basketball game from time to time, but tonight is one of those nights where I just wanted to curl up by the fire with a good book. 

However, before I do that… My little bloggy here deserves some attention. The comment section has grown very quiet of late - because no doubt all of you have been doing what I have been doing: immersing yourself in the wonderfulness called Autumn. 

I can't tell you how many blog posts I have written in my head over the past few weeks. I wish that somehow there was an app that could translate what happens in your mind into a blogpost made up of neat and tidy paragraphs with colorful photos dispersed in between. Can somebody please invent that? 

Because most of my blog posts – the imaginary ones I mean - happen while I am taking our new puppy out for a morning walk, when my hands are preoccupied and not available for typing. I have all of these deep thoughts on life that come to me while I am trudging through leaves, a tiny ball of fur attached to a leash in front of me. And every time those thoughts come, I tell myself that later on that day I am going to sit down and put them into a post.

But then life happens… babies and toddlers need attention, children demand to be homeschooled (ha), laundry needs to be done and meals need to be made, and before I know it, it's bedtime ...and I can barely keep my eyes open to brush my teeth, let alone sit down at the computer to write.

And wouldn't you know it, now that I have a moment or two to write … all of those profound ponderings on life have escaped me. Never mind that every day this week I have mulled over topics in my mind and thought – I'm going to write about that. It's the same thing happens to me every time I go to our public library… I could have been thinking for months about the books I desperately wanted to check out, but the moment I walk through the library door, I can't remember even one of them.

So maybe it's that I'm getting older and more forgetful, or maybe I just have too many things on my plate ... but suffice it to say this will be a hodgepodge of a post, not a carefully thought out essay on some deep and meaningful subject. At some point in life maybe I will have the energy or time to say something coherent, but for now these random ramblings are the best I have to offer. 

Every week or so on Instagram I post a picture and call it my "three things" post. I list three things that are bringing me joy at that moment and I ask followers to do the same. Typically those three things are every day occurrences… the sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet, the weight of a baby sleeping on my chest, the smell of autumn in the air. I've had so much feedback over the years on those posts – so many strangers sharing their little joys - that I think I will take that theme and expand it here tonight.

Are you ready? Let's go...

1) This girl.

Lily will be seven in two months. SEVEN. Which means my blog just celebrated its seventh birthday, because I began writing my letters to Lily when I was still pregnant with her. I don't know how the time flew by so quickly, but it really seems like just yesterday that she was placed in my arms. And now here she is, a big sister to two more Rice babies, bossing everyone around like - well, like a boss - and learning to READ. And if you've been following this blog from the beginning, you know that was something I didn't even think was possible in the early days of her diagnosis. She has surprised me in so many other ways as well, and she brings us so much joy on a daily basis. 

I read something so disturbing on Instagram today, that I hardly even want to repeat it here in the middle of my "things that bring me joy" post ... but I'll mention it just to contrast what I wrote in the paragraph above.

Apparently there's a "Christian" woman online who claims her child was healed of Down syndrome, that her child no longer has Down syndrome ... and that Down syndrome is of the devil.

I wish I could say that I didn't believe that when I read it, but I have my own experience with ignorant people to back that up. I'm going to skip the details here because I don't know who exactly reads my blog .... but I will say that the story above reflects some of the advice I received during my pregnancy with Lily.

I could write an entire blogpost on this subject, but I'll try to condense my thoughts for the sake of time. As a Christian and a pastor's wife I don't cuss. Out loud anyway. But I almost did when I read that Instagram post. I wanted to find that misguided mother and tell her what I thought of her disgusting (and dishonest) claim. 

But after my initial reaction, I felt something else: pity.

Because if that person spent five minutes with my designer gened girls - she would know that they are gifts. I have yet to meet anyone who knows Lily who says she is anything less than that. You can't be around Lily and Madison and not feel joy. And if that is something that needs to be prayed or rebuked away - then I feel sorry for those who subscribe to that kind of theology. I pity those who are so wrapped up in their small-minded view of "perfection", because they will never know the joy I know.

Moving on ....

2) Homeschooling.

There have been any days in the past - and I'm sure there will be days in the future - when homeschooling did not bring me joy. In spite of my love for my kids and my love for learning, there are times... days... weeks... when I would rather just be left alone. Ha. But I'm being serious. I'm just not a super organized, motivated, passionate homeschooler by nature. I like slow paced mornings and laid back afternoons, and neither one of those things gel really well when you are homeschooling five children. 

But this year we changed things up a bit with our curriculum, and I am loving teaching again. 

We still use Teaching Textbooks for math, and I know we will always use that, forever and ever, world without end, amen. It's that good. We are now using Bob Jones English this year, and it's a good fit as well.

Up until this year we have always used ACE School of Tomorrow for all our other subjects, and it worked. We knew how to get everything done in a year, it was easy for the children to learn from, and it was affordable. But it just got old.

So this year we decided to try My Father's World for the bulk of our curriculum, and we are LOOOOVING it. It's perfect for teaching multiple grade levels at once, it's engaging and exciting and easy to teach, and I just can't say enough good things about it. My kids and I wake up eager to get our school day started, and there are few things that bring me joy more than seeing my children share a love for learning. I wish I could get paid for this little advertisement, because it is a bit on the spendy side, but it is well worth every penny we spent on it. If you are a homeschooling family with many different grade levels, you will love this curriculum !

3) The Dentist

If you know me at all in real life, you know I have three major phobias : flying in airplanes, bugs, and going to The Dentist. (in capitals, because he is that scary.)

Those three main phobias could be broken down into many minor phobias : fear of falling from the sky, fear of heights, claustrophobia, fear of spiders, fear of cockroaches, fear of large beetles and daddy long legs, fear of things that feel like bugs, fear of people sticking sharp things in my mouth, fear of needles, fear of someone being two inches from my face for a prolonged amount of time, fear of choking to death on my own saliva, and fear of swallowing a dental instrument. Just to name a few.

Which probably begs the question: why did I list The Dentist as the third thing bringing me joy in this post ?

Easy. It wasn't me who saw The Dentist. 

It was my children.

And with the exception of Caleb, who has some wisdom teeth that need to be removed next week, as well as a microscopic cavity needing a filling - they all received a clean bill of health. Or teeth. Can you receive a clean bill of teeth ? Whatever they received, it was good.

And in spite of missing two of their appointments because I am scatterbrained like that, we did manage to have allllll of them seen over the course of two weeks, and (I think) our dentist's office still likes us. No major meltdowns, no panic attacks in the chair, and no hysterical patients demanding xanax because laughing gas makes them feel like their skin is crawling with ants.

At least not this month, because it was only my children's turn at The Dentist, and not mine.

Which is why I could list JOY and The Dentist in the same sentence.

Okay, Sam is now home and my children are too, so I am going to have to type quickly and wrap this post up.

4) These two

I mean, how could I not list them ? They are joy times two, and they keep me smiling every day.

5) Our Pickleball Champion

Jonathan won Gold in men's doubles two weeks ago, during an area Pickleball tournament. He has won the gold the last several tournaments he has played, and next week he heads to Casa Grand, Arizona (where we used to pastor a church!) to play in the National Pickleball Championship. He is being sponsored by Selkirk, the leading producers of pickleball products (say that five times fast) and I have no doubt he will come home with some kind of medal. If you've never watched a pickleball match, it is fascinating and fun to watch HERE to see Jonathan and his partner take the gold two weeks ago.

6) Fall colors

The above photo is unedited, taken on my iPhone. Before we moved to Oregon 21 years ago, I thought photos like this were fake. It still amazes me that trees change colors every year like this, and I say all the time - if I believed in reincarnation (I don't) I would want to come back as a tree in my next life. They bring me that much joy.  I'm an unashamed tree hugger, and I mean that literally. I see trees like this, and it takes everything in me not to pull over to the side of the road and hug them. As long as they don't have any bugs hiding in them. Or Dentists.

7) These pictures

No explanation needed, just look at these pictures and see if you don't feel joy....

8) Our Baby Bunny

Miss Madison is nine months old now, and she is as healthy as can be. She weighs 13 and a half pounds, she eats constantly, she is doing so well physically since her heart surgery this summer, and she is such a JOY. I feel like pinching myself constantly to make sure I'm not dreaming, because I feel so so blessed to have this little jewel in my life. She is so prayed for, and she is a constant reminder that God will give us the desires of our hearts. What a treasure she is, our twelfth and final baby.

It's late now, and time for me to put our littlest ones to bed. Before I close though, I want to ask you, dear readers : what things are bringing you JOY right now?

Looking forward to reading your comments !!!

xoxo Patti

Thursday, October 13, 2016

If You’re Going to Read a Post About Down Syndrome, Read This One

October is Down syndrome awareness month. 

Unfortunately ... or shoud I say as usual ... things at the Rice Ranch have been pretty crazy this month – so I have not really had a chance to put a blog post together in honor of that fact. But today, while I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, I ran across a post that pretty much summed up everything I wanted to write. I asked my friend Heather Avis from @macymakesmyday on Instagram if she could send me a copy of that blog post to repost here. 

Like our family, Heather has two children with Down syndrome, and she has been a huge advocate for both adoption and kids with special needs for many years now. I love her passion for parenting, and I'm honored that she allowed me to repost her words here today.


If You’re Going to Read a Post About Down Syndrome, Read This One


My son and my daughter have Down syndrome and every year, for the past seven years I have used this month to share Down syndrome with others. Over the years, as I’ve parented my children and stood up as their most passionate advocate, I too have learned so much about Down syndrome. 


This month I thought about what it is I want the world to know about Down syndrome. This lead me to think about all the lies that have been disguised as truths and how those lies have conjured up unnecessary and unmerited fears and how those fears have led to the termination of countless lives, or unnecessarily stolen a parent’s joy (even if temporarily), all because of an extra chromosome.


I’ve thought about all the statistics and character traits and health issues complied in a Down syndrome diagnosis, and how I’ve shared a lot of that with my readers and Instagram family over the years. 


As I’ve sat down to write post after post in hopes of spreading awareness and answering many of your questions I’ve decided the one thing I want you to know about Down syndrome is this:


Down syndrome is not a problem. It never was. 

Down syndrome does not need a “cure” or a “solution” or to be fixed.


Every single “problem” my children with Down syndrome face, begins and ends with society discriminating against people with Down syndrome.


If we do not create space for people with Down syndrome to be, I don’t know… people with Down syndrome, then we will forever be trying to make them something they are not. Like good ol’ Einstein once said, “But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” 


As soon as our babies are given a Down syndrome diagnosis we are inundated with one million ways to make our who climb trees!


These services, often called “Early Intervention” have only been around since the 70’s. Since the 70’s people! It’s only been within the last 50 years that society can begin to see any kind of worth for people with Down syndrome…but really, just barely. In the beginning, this Early Intervention has helped to keep people with Down syndrome out of institutions by offering new parents hope that their child will in fact do, A-Z. And friends, who our kids with Down syndrome are today is a freaking miracle, largely thanks to things such are Early Intervention. 


And I’m so thankful. I really am. So often people will comment about how we’ve come so far with Down syndrome. And while I agree, I see the pendulum swinging in a direction I believe is continuing to strip people with Down syndrome of their worth.


Over the past eight years have met with so many parents who have a child with Down syndrome. So. Many. Parents. And I’veworked with so many therapists who believe in and adore my kids. So. Many. Therapists. And the thing I am recognizing more and more is the most difficult thing about having a child with Down syndrome is not the child with Down syndrome, it is this never ending pressure to make people with Down syndrome more like people without it. And I fear this is the unspoken goal of all the interventions and therapies offered to our kids.


And you know what, it took me eight years to recognize, it is not my goal!


Dear world, my children are not typical children.

Dear world, my children have Down syndrome.

Dear world, please, please, please stop trying to change that.


This month, as we set aside 31 days to spread the word about all things Down syndrome there is one thing I want to say, one thing stirring up in the deepest parts of me:


My children are who they are, please stop trying to change it and start making room for it in your life. 


If our goal for Early Intervention and all the therapies that follow is to help our child be the best dang fish they can be, then swim on good friends. But when to goal for all the early intervention and therapies and supplements and vitamins is to make a fish more like a bird, friends, we are missing it! 


Can we all just think about this for a minute? Can we all just enjoy our kids exactly as they are before we start therapizing and servicing away the very thing that makes them them? Can we just take a deep, accepting breath and rather than force our kids to fit into a world, let’s demand, and expect our world to create the space needed for people with Down syndrome to easily fit into it?


I am so sick and tired of making my daughter and son do things that she/he hates to do and that are too difficult for her/him, all in the name of “normalizing” them…ugh! 


The other day I was sitting across the table from my daughter, working on one of the hundreds of things that are difficult for her, and we both wanted to rip our hair out. The thing is though, my daughter is a freaking gem. She is kind and funny and easy to be around. She is so brave and so smart. As I sat there, both of us frustrated and discouraged I thought, “Why am I making her do this anyway? So she can be more like other kids and less like Down syndrome?”


It’s crazy guys! Without a doubt, one of Macyn’s greatest attributes is her extra chromosome (August’s too, of course!)


And we are missing it!

And It is not her fault that we are missing it. 


Guys, your child with Down syndrome; that kid in your class who has Down syndrome; your neighbor with Down syndrome;they are a freaking gift to this world. JUST. AS. THEY. ARE! 


Yes! Go to speech therapy and do TalkTools and get your toddlers feet fitted for braces and spend the hours in physical therapy and always, always, ALWAYS, maintain huge expectation for your child with Down syndrome. Friends, do all the things! 

But please, please, please let them have Down syndrome. 



Thursday, September 29, 2016

Announcing ...

... the newest member of our family ...

....Coconut !