Tuesday, November 18, 2014

the donuts made them do it ... and other parenting myths

Welcome back to post number three in my series on parenting. If you missed posts one and two you can find them here and here.


I am currently voice texting as I clean my bathroom, wiping circles of Glass Plus on the mirror with one hand and holding a cell phone right in front of my lips with the other. I will probably have 4000 spelling errors to correct when this is all said and done, but hopefully no bad words to edit out ... (if I were cleaning out my refrigerator that might be a different story. Mwuaahahaha.)

So today's post is going to be about ... drumroll, please ....  toddler tantrums and why they happen.

Quite a deep subject to address in one little blog post, but I'm going to attempt it nonetheless.

This post was inspired (in part) by scenes I have watched play out over the years in many venues :  in grocery stores, in parks, in department stores, in libraries, on playgrounds, you name it. The backdrop may change, but the scene remains the same : Little Johnny or Little Susie is not getting his/her way, and Mommy is trying to quietly intervene. Gentle warnings are issued and perhaps some bribery, but within mere moments it seems, Johnny/Suzie has morphed into a monster. Where previously a small wisp of a child was playing or shopping or reading nicely, a demon now appears to have taken over -one whose screams of rage can be heard for miles around. Despite every effort of Mommy to gain control, Johnny/Suzie must now be physically removed kicking and screaming from the premises, while onlookers look awkwardly away ... or perhaps stare in disbelief.

I hope this does not sound like I have no sympathy for these situations, or that my children have been completely exempt from such behavior.

Quite the opposite is true.

While I am not saying we should accept these situations as parents, I am saying we should - in the toddler years - expect them.




You read that right.


We as parents should expect that our children are going to misbehave.

We should expect that our children are going to : push the limits, push our buttons, push their siblings, push against the guardrails of life.


Because contrary to what popular psychobabble might tell you, children do not arrive in life untainted little angels, halos perched firmly in place, only ruined incrementally by all the little demons they come into contact with upon leaving the thresholds of our homes.


Our children ... brace yourselves ... are born sinners.


Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, a very wise person once said several thousand years ago... and not a lot has changed since those words were penned.

Oh, you don't believe me?

Have a baby.

Watch that baby grow.

Soak in every blessed moment of innocence you see in those first fleeting newborn moments, and then watch in wonder as that sweet little bundle of joy turns into a toddler with a mouth. We've had eleven children, and I've witnessed it eleven times - without exception - one of their very first and favorite words in life was ....




NO !


Before that child ever entered a preschool classroom, before he/she ever came into contact with another human being outside his/her immediate family members, he/she knew how to push and shove and scream and throw fits, in an attempt to get his or her way.


Nobody had to teach our children to be bad – it came naturally.


Now I know there are some new moms reading this right now, who would say "oh no, not my little Johnny ! My sweet innocent little baby never ever hit anyone until he saw someone else hit. He was as pure as the wind driven snow, until I sent him out into the big bad world."


I would submit to you that either little Johnny was storing up all of that sin nature for the moment he could best put it to use ... or that you are not being quite honest with yourself. (Kids aren't the only ones prone to lying!)


Because no matter how angelic or sweet natured our little ones start out to be, eventually human nature catches up with all of us. Blame it on Adam and Eve if you like, but it's there.



We've got issues. All of us .



No No no Nonanona no Hayden



Okay, I kid you not - just as I was waxing eloquent on the sin nature in all of us, Hayden decided to prove my point. The above sentence somehow made it into my voice text, just as I was simultaneously reaching for tiny fingers attempting to grab the contents out of the toilet bowl...  so if my previous paragraphs are not proof enough of the nature of kids, perhaps the devilish grin on this face will do it for you.




Any hoot, where was I? Ahhhh, yes - the demons within.


This post is not going to be fraught with easy answers for how to make your children mind.

Rather, my aim today is to maybe get the wheels turning for moms who possibly want to blame their children's bad behavior on any of the following:

other bad children

lack of sleep

too much sleep

a recent sickness

gluten, sugar, preservatives, wheat, Twinkies, lack of vegetables, too many vegetables

immunizations

ill fitting clothes

a "phase"

or any other combination of the above.




Perhaps you think I'm joking. I wish that were true.

I mentioned earlier, that my real life experiences were part of the inspiration for this post. The final trigger came not from something I personally witnessed, but rather from the testimony of someone else.

A picture on Instagram last year, and the words that accompanied it, were probably the biggest factor in my thinking when it came to this message.

A young mommy of several small children had posted a picture of her child passed out in bed, exhausted from a day of "fit throwing, temper tantrums, etc." And the reason for this bad behavior, according to this very sincere mama - was that he had had too much gluten that day.

According to her, he "knew he shouldn't have eaten those donuts," but he had tasted the poisoned apple so to speak ... or rather the poisoned donut… and as a result his little system was overwhelmed and he had zero control. It was not his fault, you see, that he displayed such horrible temper tantrums, causing great grief to his family and those around him. It was those derned donuts!




I'm taking a big risk here on A Perfect Lily... I do know that.

In today's post modern society, where actions and accountability are lightyears apart, where words like sin and disobedience and choices and discipline and standards are ancient and archaic and old fashioned and just so last-century ... this little post is going to probably offend some.

Because we are SO MUCH SMARTER these days, donthca know ? We've figured this whole human nature thing out after all these years, and it is not our kids' fault that they are misbehaving, it is the derned donuts.

or preschool.

or teachers.

or playmates.

or candy.

or bedtime (too early).

or bedtime (too late).

or the babysitter.

or the other parent.

or the nintendo.

or the dog. (he ate the homework, so why not blame the other stuff on him too ??)


But guess what ?

You could fix every single one of those things I just mentioned - and then some - and you are still going to have a child who lies. Who throws temper tantrums. Who says no. Who refuses to leave the library when it's time to go.

Why ???

Because we are sinners.

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.



Nobody had to teach them to be that way, nobody had to demonstrate it for them, they didn't learn it on the playground- they were born with it.

And until we as parents recognize that it's there without any outside help, we will not deal with it correctly.

We will keep playing the blame game until they leave our homes one day - and we may even keep playing it after that.

But as a seasoned mama to eleven sin-prone people, I am here to tell you that the problem isn't without ---- it's within.

And until we as parents are willing to face that truth, we will continue to look for the demon in the toy box. Or the refrigerator. Or the playground. Instead of recognizing the sometimes difficult truth, that our children have an incredible capacity to do wrong.

ALL BY THEIR LITTLE LONESOMES !




I remember 26 years ago when I had to face this truth with my firstborn son.

Somehow my blond haired, blue eyed little angel of an infant had - practically overnight - morphed into a child I hardly recognized. He went from being our sweet little cherub, to a fit-throwing monster, whose ultimate goal in life (it appeared) was to cross every boundary we put in front of him.

If we said it was black, it was white. If we said don't touch that, he touched it. If we said stay in your carseat, he wanted out. If we said it's time to get out of the car, he refused to budge. If we went to a store to shop, he wanted to run and hide. If it was time for dinner, he wanted to play. If it was time to play, he wanted to eat. If it was time to get up for church, he wanted to sleep in. If it was a day when I could sleep in, he wanted to get up and play at the crack of dawn. LOUDLY.

I kid you not, I started looking for demons in our toy box. I read a book on that subject (pretty sure it was called that very thing) and I blamed his behavior on the Ninja Turtles. We threw them out with a vengeance. Someone else told me about the evils of sugar, and we stopped spooning it onto his Cheerios. If the Gluten Police had been around back then, I am absolutely 100% certain I would have dumped every box of cereal and pasta and bag of bread in our house faster than you can say Paleo Solved All My Problems. I was that desperate for a cure.

It took a trip to Costco with a very straight-forward friend to wake me up to the fact that my child had not somehow mysteriously become infected with a demon overnight ... he had simply turned two.

We were leaving the store and headed back to our car, when my darling boy stood up in the shopping cart with a twinkle in his eye and an I-dare-you-to-stop-me grin on his face. I told him to sit down nicely, because he might fall out if he didn't (just speak softly and reason with your child was my motto), when he very loudly and defiantly told me NO !!!

I smiled at my little cherub, who quite honestly still managed to look adorable with that wicked smile on his face (don't ALL firstborn children look adorable to their star-struck parents???) and looked at my friend for affirmation. She was a mommy of three, so surely she could relate. Surely she thought my little boy was every bit as darling as I did, and this little display of rebellion was just as innocent as the little cherub who was displaying it.

But the words that came out of her mouth were not the ones I expected to hear.

"You better deal with that right now Patti, because what you think is so cute at two is NOT going to be cute at sixteen."

Dear friends - her words hit me upside the head like a sledgehammer.

They were not pleasant to hear.

What I had been downplaying and accepting and blaming on other things for so many weeks (maybe months) was not cute to someone else. And had I let that bad behavior continue unchecked for the duration of several years, had I continued down the path of "he's tired" or "he had too much sugar today" or "he's picking that up from the playground" or "it's just a phase he's going through" ... I shudder to think what that very strong-willed little boy would be like today.

That wake-up call caused me to sort through all the parenting philosophies that were floating around in my twenty-two year old brain, and forced me to seek out wisdom from those around me who had been down this path before. I began to read books on parenting and boundaries, and started to implement strategies to help my strong-willed child by helping to mold his will (not break it, but shape it) so that one day he would be just as driven to do good as he was to push the limits as a toddler. I prayed and asked God to give me grace and help and wisdom in parenting, and I asked Sam to pray with me as well. I watched families around me who had well-behaved children, and I talked to those moms and gleaned from their experience. I was careful what I listened to and who I listened to, and I made up my mind that even if being a strict parent was not popular, I was going to stick to my guns. I read the Bible. Shocking, I know. But there I found profound and time-tested wisdom on training up a child in the way he should go, and I determined that no matter what Dr. Sears or Oprah or the latest child psychology books said - if it contradicted the word of God, I was not going to embrace it.

I made up my mind that I was going to stop playing the blame game, and face the facts that the perfect little person God had entrusted me with was just as flawed as the rest of us. I stopped looking for someone or something to blame for the sin nature that resided within my child, and I began to trust that time and loving, consistent discipline - along with lots and lots of prayer - was going to help my son blossom into a kind and generous and well behaved young man.

Which, I might add, it did ....


jason today, with his wonderful family :)


And now it is nighttime, and a new generation of little people are calling me over to a rousing game of Boggle . Tune in next time when we discuss How To Play a Family Game and Still Remain Friends.







Lots of love,

Patti xoxo


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How to keep your house clean while living with children ... and other life mysteries revealed





This is the second post in a series I am doing on parenting. You can read my first post here. 


I'd like to submit my written excuse as to why I am late on publishing this second post … I had such a great post in my head all week but it never quite made it to the keyboard. You're never gonna believe this, but I was actually… parenting . I hope you agree with me, that parenting well should take priority over writing about how to parent well (if I had to choose ... which I did ...)

And lest you think I've gotten to the place this week where I could do both the parenting thing AND write about parenting ... I'm actually voice texting this post as I watch my two youngest take a bath.

And you don't even want to know what I accidentally just voice texted into this post. It sounded nothing "are you kidding me, who is freaking pooping in the bathtub?!".  I promise. 





Anyhoot ... This post is going to be about keeping your house clean in spite of the fact that you have children living in it. I've read some funny quotes about how difficult that can be ... something like "keeping your house clean while raising kids is like making a smoothie with the lid off". Or something like that . And honestly, the statement is a little too accurate to be funny to me.


hayden, doing what hayden does best



However , the cold harsh reality is this : we really don't have a choice. I mean, what's the alternative? Never clean your house ?

I have met people who have chosen this route, and as you can imagine, the results were disastrous. Sure, you might be able to function (as long as there is a clear path between the piles of laundry and toys and garbage leading to the front door) .. but what a chaotic way to live . I'm not saying you should have floors so clean you can eat off of them - but isn't it a nice feeling to know where clean underwear can be located? Or where your kids' homework can be found ? Or that a friend stopping by doesn't feel they have to spray the toilet seat with Lysol before sitting down ? I rest my case . 

Let's get this cleaning post started.





GET IN THE ZONE


This is my first strategy when it comes to keeping The Rice Ranch clean - in spite of the fact that we have eleven people living here. 

This method is based on the phrase "divide and conquer", and it was motivated by the knowledge that one person (namely me) cannot possibly run this ship myself . I probably just totally mixed my metaphors there, but you get the idea : many hands make light work. And also keep Mommy from turning to liquor.

Here is our strategy in a nutshell : The Rice Ranch is divided up into "zones", and each member of the family is in charge of a zone. Smaller children might team up to take on a zone, whereas our teenagers can each handle a zone themselves. And because a lot of effort is needed to keep the kitchen clean, three teens are assigned to that zone.  

We have a dry erase board hanging in our laundry room that details who is in charge of each zone, and what is expected to be done in each particular zone. We have tweaked and tweaked and tweaked again to make sure that too much work isn't falling on one or two children ... because we have a large age span amongst our kids, we try hard to make sure the tasks are age appropriate. But you would be surprised what small children can do, if given instruction. 

Here's an example of a few zones, and who does them, and what they do....

Downstairs Bathroom : Noah (age ten)

Clean every morning after breakfast. Make sure there is toilet paper, wipe down the sink and countertop with cleaning spray and clean the mirror with windex. Clean the toilet bowl with a scrub brush and wipe down the rest with lysol and a paper towel. Sweep the floor. Keep tidy during the day.


Kitchen : (Abigail, Jonathan and Tyler)

Rinse dishes. Empty and load dishwasher in the morning and at night as needed. Wipe down counters and put food away. Sweep floors. Help clean up at breakfast, lunch, and after dinner. (Mom deep cleans the fridge, but be willing to help.)




And so on, throughout the house.

Every morning after breakfast, our children do their zones. Each child has a zone they are responsible for vacuuming or sweeping - that way our whole house is vacuumed and swept every day, making for beautiful wood floors and clean carpets on a regular basis. It takes each child maybe five to ten minutes max to do this, and we save a ton on carpet cleaning. The carpets in our house are cream colored, and they look brand new. (Downstairs are all wood floors.) We have a "no food or drinks" in the carpeted rooms policy, and absolutely no shoes allowed on the carpets. Violators will be tarred and feathered. Just kidding. Sort of.




I realize many of my readers have small children, as opposed to teenagers AND small children.

I'm going to use this space to vent for one teeeeeeny tiny second if you will allow.

I have people tell me all the time that "things are probably way easier for you because you have teenagers."

I have never actually laughed in anyone's face when they said this. But I have been sorely tempted.

I have also noticed that the people who say these things.... have never had teenagers.

What I am about to say is in no way meant to be a slam against my teens - they do soooo much to help around the house, and I do realize what a blessing it is to have built in babysitters when I need them . And I also realize I have some of the BEST teens on the planet. They are kind and courteous and thoughtful, and they love our family and love Jesus with all their hearts. I couldn't ask for better kids.


However ..........




Teenagers are bigger.

I don't know if everyone realizes this.

And bigger means .... they wear bigger clothes. Three teenagers living in the house wearing bigger clothes, means exponentially I have a lot more laundry. And while they may not burp up their food onto their clothes (well, not daily), they are still messy. AND (I have found) they like to change outfits often. (Yes, even boys do this as teenagers.) AND I wish I could say that the outfits they wore until twelve o'clock, when they decided to go play basketball and get all sweaty and smelly, could be folded up nicely and placed back in the drawer for future use ... but that ain't happening here. Teenagers make a LOT of laundry.

Bigger also means teenagers eat more. A lot more. Now I know that we grow 'em skinny at The Rice Ranch, and I know our teens do not eat what, say - gigantic sized teens - eat. However, they do eat more than they did when they were 7, 9 and 10 ... and that means Mom makes a lot more food.

Bigger also means .... dare I say it ? ... bigger problems. When our kids are little, they can be told "no" and given consequences immediately if they disobey. But teenagers (can I get an amen??) have bigger mouths. This is NOT to say we allow backtalk or sassiness here in our home. But still -teenagers can reason ... and "discuss" ... and defend ... and excuse ... and all of this takes up a lot more time than it did at age five. For example, I've never stayed up til midnight talking to my five year old about the deeper things of life. Like what having a good attitude and a servant's heart truly means, and how to avoid pitfalls on the internet, and how to keep yourself pure in a very ungodly and unpure world. Those conversations just don't go down (yet) with my 5 and 7 and 10 and 12 year olds. But they are a regular occurrence here with my older kids.

So I said all of that to say ---- please think again before you talk to a mom with teenagers about how "easy" her life is. I'm beyond grateful for my hard working, wonderful teens, and I realize they do SO MUCH when it comes to helping out. But "easy" is not a word I would ever use in the same sentence as teenagers. Unless I was talking about how easy it is for three hungry teenagers to demolish a plate  of cookies in one setting.


OKAY, rant over :)



FIVE MINUTE CLEAN-UPS

This practical idea, gleaned from one of my favorite large families, has helped me SO much.

I have lots of friends who can function in chaos. There can be dishes piled on the counter and laundry piled on the couch and they can plop down comfortably on the couch to read a magazine without a second thought. I'm not one of those people. I am totally an out-of-sight-out-of-mind person, and unfortunately that also means that if everything is in sight, I am losing my mind. I can't think when there is clutter all around me.

To combat this (because if Mama aint happy, nobody is happy), we have regular "five minute clean-up" sessions in our house. No matter what everyone is doing (well, except maybe using the bathroom), if Mom calls out "five minute clean-up", we all drop everything and straighten things up.

This goes beyond assigned zones - we just all pitch in for five minutes to bring our house back to order, and then we resume what we were doing.

You would be amazed how much can happen in five minutes, when lots of people are pitching in to help. Toys get gathered up quickly and placed in their proper baskets, dishes get tossed into the dishwasher, pillows on couches are plumped (is that a word?) and chairs and barstools are straightened. Order is restored.

This is not a deep cleaning job, but rather a "tidy things up" effort, and we don't prolong it. We may have three of these a day, or we may have one, but these quick bursts of energy really go a long way to keeping order and sanity in our home.





A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE

This is pretty self-explanatory, but I'm going to explain it anyway. Because maybe you are like me : without a plan, I default to messy. I am not a natural organizer, and I have a hard time remembering where I put things on a regular basis. (This is why I have a Caleb : he keeps a running inventory of every single item that ever entered The Rice Ranch in his head. No joke.)

I like things tidy. (Did I mention this ?) But if I am not careful, I will "tidy things up" by stuffing important things into soon-to-be-forgotten crevices, keeping them virtually hidden for years. Things like, oh, I don't know : keys, wallets, credit cards, library cards, checks, bills, iPads, cameras, you-name-it. This may or may not have caused significant "discussions" to take place between the owners of said items over the years.

I have to stop for a second and confess something here : I'm still working on this one. It helps that we have built-in cubby holes over a little counter top desk in the kitchen. This is the place I generally "stuff" stuff. If anyone is looking for something valuable that can fit into one of the cubby holes, chances are Mom put it there. However ... sigh ... I still have lots of hiding spots (apparently) for all the things people leave lying on counter tops. Probably not a day goes by that someone isn't calling out "Mom, where did you put my (fill in the blank)", sending me scurrying frantically around the house, opening drawers and searching through cabinets for whatever is missing.

The upside of this, is that I've been forced to organize things, so that the number of potential "hiding spots" in our house could be reduced to less than a dozen. For the most part, our cabinets and closets and garage have been designated for specific uses, and if something is lying on the floor or counter top we can say "put this where it belongs" and it has meaning.

Mail that comes into the house either gets trashed (if it's junk mail) or filed in the cubby hole (if it's something we will need during the next week, like a coupon) or given to Sam immediately when he comes home (if it's a bill.)

Toys go into specific clear plastic tubs that are stored on shelves in the garage ... action figures in one box, dollhouse furniture and barbies in another box, legos in another, and so on. Sports equipment is stored in several large rubbermade containers in the garage, stuffed animals all make their home in a large tub in Abigail's room, as well as a toy box with a lid in the garage, and all miscellaneous toys go into one small basket in the family room.

When the children are done playing with one type of toy (like legos), they have to clean those up before getting down a new set of toys. This not only keeps the house (relatively) clean, but it makes playtime fun for our kids. They don't have to sort through a big pile of things shoved into random buckets to play with all the Rescue Heroes - they're all in one box on a shelf.

(By the way, if you've never read "The Messy Room" by Stan and Jan Berenstain, I encourage you to do so. That simple children's book changed my life over 25 years ago, and I am still using the wisdom found there today :))




Okay, well it's nearing dinner time here, so time to wrap this cleaning post up.

I'm sure many of you have time-proven tips on keeping a tidy home while raising children... I would love to hear your ideas in the comment section !

Stay tuned for part three, where I discuss How To Stop Small Children From Destroying All The Pretty Things in Your House. 





See you soon !!

Friday, October 31, 2014

let it go ....

We interrupt this series on parenting to bring you a little sneak preview from today - more to come soon ...






... Happy Halloween ! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hold their hearts

This is the first in a series of blog posts on parenting that I'll be doing for the next few weeks.

As I said in my previous post, I don't consider myself to be the perfect parent. Sam and I have had our share of mistakes made, trials we've gone through with our children, lessons learned, what have you.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I'm not an expert, but I do have experience.

And quite honestly, sometimes I've found that experience can be a better teacher than a textbook. I personally find that I am helped so much more when I ask somebody for help who's actually been through something -- rather than just reading something written by "an expert." In fact, if you've ever talked to somebody who just recently majored in child psychology or child development or any other child-related course of studies ... it's almost comical the disconnect between parenting philosophies or how-to's ... and what actually happens in real life parenting.

It's like that funny old saying :


“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories."


Parenting has a way of throwing all of our previous ideas abut "how everyone should parent" right out the window, doesn't it ?

Thank God for His grace !

Anyway what I'm trying to say is this : I hope that the school of experience will serve as my credentials in this little series, even if I don't have several initials following my name. But if not - maybe just pretend my name is Patti Rice, MRS. and read with an open heart ;)




In the posts ahead I want to talk about some of the brass tacks of parenting : how to make children mind without losing yours, how to maintain a (somewhat) tidy home with many small children, why food is not the real reason your child is a demoniac (you think I'm joking), how to survive the teen years without killing anyone, why it IS important to sweat the small stuff, and why prearranged marriages are in everybody's best interest.

(Okay, just checkin' to make sure y'all were still really reading the words in this post.)

But for now I just want to talk about one principal that I will refer to again and again when I'm talking parenting stuff ... and maybe you could say this is my guiding philosophy in regards to raising children. Are you ready ? 

This is, as my smart husband often says - a heavy revvy. (heavy revelation, for all you generation x-ers.) 

Duh-duh-duh DUUUUUHHHH .... (that's a trumpet sound) .....


Always aim for your child's heart.


This may sound overly simplistic. It may sound trite and completely obvious. But what I have found in parenting eleven children, is that all the rules and how-to's in the world, will not produce the kind of children you hope for, if you do not have their hearts. 

We can demand that our children adhere to a list of rules in our home.

And while they are little, that might work.

We can make sure our kids know how to walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk, so to speak. 

But before we know it, those little people turn into teenagers, with ideas of their own, and opinions of their own, and very strong wills of their own ... and it's been my personal experience that every child suddenly knows everything there is to know in life at about age 14. At least they think they do. 

And suddenly, as hormones and puberty and this newfound omniscience collide ... rules don't hold as much sway as they once did for our children. Almost overnight it seems, our children are able to defend and justify and debate and excuse, and if we don't have a firm grasp on their hearts, those years of parenting miniature lawyers can overwhelm even the best of us. 

But you and I can make it through, if we will keep this principal in mind :


Always aim for your child's heart.




A few years ago we had to deal with a situation with one of our children... for privacy sake I won't go into details here as far as who and what the situation was. I remember feeling so completely dependent on God during that time- because without His help and wisdom and grace our child could have made some very bad decisions. Sam and I prayed and sought God for wisdom, and through several lengthy and emotional conversations with our child, we were able to work through some things that had been brewing for some time. It was a very difficult time for us emotionally, wondering if the things we had instilled in our child all those years were going to bring good fruit or not. Better parents than us have watched their prodigal children go through some very hard seasons before returning to what they knew was right. 

A few months ago I asked that child what was the thing that held them in check ... why it was that they made the decisions they did to stay on track with God and keep themselves from a potentially bad situation. What this child told me reinforced the guiding principal I mentioned above : I couldn't take the thought of disappointing you and Dad. I can't bear the look on Dad's face when he says "you have no idea how deeply this will hurt me."  

That desire to stay in right relationship with us - and ultimately God - is the thing that kept our child tethered to sanity. Our relationship with our child was the rope they held onto, until reason and the grace of God reeled them back in. 

Does this mean we are supposed to be our kids' best friends ? I don't think so. There is a place for being a friend to our children, and certainly we feel that our adult children are some of our very best friends in life. But we aren't called to be our kids' buddies - we are called to be their parents. And as such, we have to be the bad guys many times. There are situations in life that will arise that will require us to say the hard things, and make the tough calls that go beyond "friendship parenting".

So when I say the following :


Always aim for your child's heart -


I am not talking about being such a great friend to your kids that they'll never want to let you down.

But I am talking about maintaining a relationship with your children. Aiming for your child's heart means going beyond establishing house rules and do's and don't's - and investing everything you can into building a solid, loving relationship with the children God has entrusted you with. It means making that relationship one of the priorities of your life - above your career, your hobbies, your other friendships, and anything else in life besides your spouse and your relationship with Jesus. 

Our kids know what is important to us, and if we will take the time to invest in them and love them and nurture our relationship with them, we will reap incredible rewards. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am not the perfect mom. I make mistakes, I lose my temper, I sometimes make bad judgment calls, I mess up. Badly sometimes. But my children know where they can turn when life hits hard. They know we love them more than anything else in life, and their hearts are knitted with ours. I may not get everything right as far as Parenting Academics go, but I am aiming for holding their hearts. If I have their heart - the rest will all fall into place.

This doesn't come easily. This comes through praying, praying, praying, and when everything is going wrong, praying some more. This requires diligence and intent and determination and resolve and patience and the grace of God ... this means a lifetime of investment and love. Or at least 18 years :) 

But the dividends are awesome.

Taking the time to build that relationship with my kids is worth it. Those midnight discussions - even when I'm exhausted and weary and emotionally drained myself - are worth it. Those moments where I drop everything for the day, because one of my kids just needs time alone with mom - even if it means adding a dozen things to my to-do list for tomorrow - are worth it. The years that I've given to my children, even when it meant laying aside some of my own personal hopes and dreams - they are paying me back today with rewards far greater than anything I could have imagined. 


Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!





Stay tuned for part two ;)

Friday, October 24, 2014

parenting, pumpkins, and bear butts, oh my !

Before I forget- my sweet friend and fellow blogger, Krista Ewert, is hosting a giveaway for the doll A Special Joy that I blogged about last week. Go HERE to enter :)

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It's Friday and I have a stack of schoolwork to score. This week has been filled with errands- mainly running all over town picking up various components to our Halloween costumes for next week. I can't wait to post pictures... but I'll give you a hint .... Let it go... Let it go ... (wish I could just apply that song to this stack of workbooks, but alas... someone has to be the grown-up here.)

Anyhow, I have so much to say, but very little time to do it. I hate when that happens !

I've had about six parenting posts in my brain for the past few weeks, just floating around and begging to be spilled out onto my keyboard. Lots of readers here, as well as followers on Instagram, have asked me to share specific ideas and thoughts on parenting ... and I would love to do that. I'm always nervous to do so however, because we here at The Rice Ranch are a work in progress. I would hate for anyone reading to think that WE think we have it all together. Because we don't. We know there is always room for improvement. And also - one of my kids could rob a bank tomorrow and then everyone could point and say- SEE. Toldja so. They don't know anything about parenting.

But then I look around and I think  - well then, who could ever give any parenting advice ?

We're all human.

We're all flawed.

And none of us are absolutely guaranteed success in the realm of parenting, because we are raising HUMANS here. Not machines or robots that will turn out like x, y, z if you just do a, b, c. These little people have minds of their owns, and I've seen the best parents in the world end up with some strange results ... and vice versa. I mean, look at Adam and Eve. They had the perfect parent (hello, GOD !?!) and they still ate the thing they weren't supposed to even touch. Can anybody say free will ?

So I could come on here and spout all of my personal beliefs about child training, but there are still no guarantees in life.

But having said all of that ... I would still like to do a few blogposts on parenting.

I may not be perfect, but I have been parenting for over 26 years now. And I've seen a lot of different parenting methods over the course of almost three decades. And based on our own experience and watching others' experiences too... I have some strong convictions about some things. And if sharing my heart and writing about the mistakes we've learned from can help other families... I'm willing to try.

I'll post more on Monday, but in the mean time- if you are one of the readers in the past who has asked me to blog about this subject, maybe remind me in the comment section what you are hoping to  read about ? I'd love to hear your thoughts..

Until Monday, I'll leave you with a little happiness from the past month ...












his new thing ..points his finger at us to tell us we are in trouble !










annual tree hugging photo





sorry for posting a bear butt pic on my blog ...I couldn't resist











Happy Friday !!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

a baby for Lily

From time to time I am contacted to do a product review on A Perfect Lily. I don't do these often, because ... well, I don't think you all are anxious to hear whether I consider a line of casserole dishes to be a worthy investment or not. Or a set of encyclopedias or .. what have you. I'm not interested in turning my blog into a big sales pitch, but there are certain products I love and am happy to endorse. (Hello Moccs, Scentsy, and Jude & Fi hair clips for example !)

So last month, someone from The Ashton-Drake Galleries emailed me and asked if they could send me a doll from their company to review. I took a peek at the doll online and agreed to do the review - because there are few things in life that Lily loves more than her baby dolls. She may have 4,392 of them, but she is never one to turn down a new one, if offered :)

Shortly there after, a package arrived at our door ... and you would have thought the UPS guy just delivered a pony to The Rice Ranch. It was that exciting. One of the kids brought this ginormous box into the living room and announced that it was for Lily. She beamed as only she can beam, and then yelled, "OOOOOH, YES !" as if she had been expecting that package all week. She ran over to the couch and started assisting her siblings in opening the box... a few minutes later the kids handed Lily this doll, and I promise you, it was as if you just placed a live baby in her arms. SHE WAS IN HEAVEN.



For the record- this isn't the exact moment I just referred to. On the afternoon of the doll's arrival, Lily was still wearing wrinkly pajamas from the night before, her hair was a ratty mess, and she probably had eye boogers from that morning as well. Safe to say, it was not a Kodak moment. But it was still priceless.

And Lily was over the moon happy, eye boogers notwithstanding.




She immediately began undressing her new doll.... I have no idea why, but this seems to be some sort of rite of passage for all new baby dolls being placed in Lily's care. Maybe it's that maternal instinct that kicks in - just like every new mommy who is presented her baby, fresh from the womb: we want to count fingers and toes and make sure all body parts are accounted for. (At least I do, anyway. Even when I've known four out of eleven times what my baby's gender is ahead of time, I still have to rip off the blanket and see for myself ... just checkin', doc. Carry on.)

Anyhoot, Lily inspected that dollie within an inch of its life, and when she was done removing anything attached to her (diaper, hair bow, onesie) she proudly proclaimed her "CUUUUUUTE."

Five seconds later she was running across the house, baby in tow, to a corner where she could nurse discreetly. Little Mama wanted that bonding time dontcha know, and skin to skin contact to boot. She spent the rest of the day cuddling, shooshing, swaddling, diapering, feeding, and playing with her new baby, who - as far as I can tell - is named LaLa Baby. Same as all her other babies, just for simplicity sake, I'm sure.



I'm going to be honest here, since this is a review- I don't think Lily cared about the fact that this doll is meant to represent a newborn with Down syndrome. I didn't see her face light up in recognition at the slightly upturned eyes, or flattened nasal bridge. She didn't gasp in wonder at the sandal gap between her new doll's toes, or shriek in excitement at the single crease in her baby's palm.

But I WILL say that my other kids absolutely went ballistic at the sight of this doll's bent pinkie. For some reason they had never noticed Lily's crooked pinkie until a few days before... Abigail came running to me after getting Lily dressed one morning, asking if I had ever noticed how cute her pinkie was.... I told her yes, that was one of the first things I noticed when Lily was born, and I had loved it ever since. The fact that Lily's new baby had an equally adorable little finger was for some reason the funniest and coolest thing ever, as far as the rest of my kids go. But Lily didn't even notice it.

However - she is absolutely in love with this doll. She dotes on it, plays with it, changes its clothes (the dress she is wearing in the pictures is not the one she came with) and has not lost interest in her since the day she came into our home.

I think the thing she likes most about it, is its size - she is larger than most of Lily's other dolls, and "feels" as heavy as a real baby. She is very life-like, and posable, and her skin is super soft, just like their website states.

I really like the fact that a portion of the proceeds from this doll will benefit Down syndrome charities. I do have to say that I would not normally spend the amount she is sold for, on a doll... even if she is as cute and lifelike as A Special Joy Baby Doll. With eleven kids to buy toys for, we have more of a WalMart Baby Doll Budget .... but maybe I'm being a little too transparent here ?? (Where is the "YIKES" emoticon face when I need one on Blogger ?!)

But cost aside - this doll is extremely sweet. I would absolutely give her two thumbs up, and as far as Lily is concerned, she is a definite keeper.




 The Ashton-Drake Galleries offers a wide variety of unique and collective dolls... visit them online today :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

tiny dancer, season two

We are well into the month of October and crossing off things daily on our Fall Bucket List.

Fall Food Fellowship for our church at The Rice Ranch ? Check. Sign the boys up for flag football and Abbi for cooking classes ? Check.  Make pumpkin bread, banana bread, cinnamon rolls ? Check, check, check.

Enroll Lily in ballet and tap classes, just like last fall  ?





CHECK !


I can't even tell you how psyched I was to put Lily in this class again this year. Last year was a struggle- the first class consisted of Lily sitting on my lap and sucking her thumb furiously while I repeatedly tried to coax her to sit with the other girls. She was painfully shy and did not want to even TRY to take part in that first lesson. The next session was a bit better, and by the end of the classes we had turned a big corner for sure. But it was work. She was obviously out of her comfort zone, taking part with a group of kids she didn't know.

Honestly, I really didn't think it had as much to do with her having Down syndrome as it did her age- she was three, almost four, and I don't know how many of my other kids would have willingly taken part in a class at that age without some coaxing. I enrolled her in the class last year knowing that she would have trouble joining in... I wasn't shocked at Lily's reaction to the class. We kept going each week, and some sessions were better than others. We pushed through, and I knew at the end of the term we would come back to the same class again - there was so much that she took from it, despite her hesitance to engage fully in every aspect of the class.


But can I tell you what a difference a year makes ?

Just as with my typically developing children - the difference between an almost-four year old and an almost-five year old is like night and day. Because this year, when we told Lily she was going to ballet class, she shot her two little fists up in the air and squealed BAAAAALLLET! with the biggest grin on her face - and promptly danced a jig. This year, when we walked into the building where classes are held, she confidently pranced down the hall in her ballet slippers as if she owned the place. Yes, there were still some shyness issues- she spent the first five minutes sucking her thumb and begging Abbi to stay in the group circle with her. She had to be prodded to run across the room and leap over the little carpet like the other girls. She still hesitated a bit when asked to hold hands with another little girl in the circle. But each little moment of hesitation was quickly overcome with the tiniest bit of encouragement.

And 500 reminders that she would get a cookie at the end of class if she hung in there.

But still.


She rocked it.

Behold, our tiny dancer ...









That little video above is pieced together with clips from week one and week two... we had even more success with week two, so I can't wait to see how she does in the last class. I can't tell you how proud I am of how well Lily is doing following directions and listening to her teacher and modeling what she and the other dancers are doing. I've watched these videos again and again with the biggest lump in my throat- I am seriously amazed at how far Lily has come in one year.

She certainly deserved a trip to Trader Joe's afterwards for the promised cookies :)








Halfway through this post I did a little phone interview with the sweetest graduate student from the University of Connecticut.  We talked for almost an hour about disabilities, parenthood, and a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome ... and intertwined in that conversation was the part that my faith plays in those topics.

I knew I was going to be sharing our story this morning, but honestly- I didn't expect to cry. It's been a long time since I cried about anything related to Down syndrome, other than happy tears in regards to Lily's accomplishments or things of that nature. But just going back to the first few weeks of knowing our life might be changed by the words Down syndrome .... had me a bit emotional.

And in keeping with this being Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I just want to say this : we fear what we do not understand.

I read that somewhere on Pinterest yesterday and it really hit me - we fear what we do not understand.

I didn't understand Down syndrome before I had Lily.

I had plenty of opportunity to understand it - my mom was a "special ed" teacher for many years while I was growing up. My children had many classmates with Down syndrome when they went to a private school. I knew people with Down syndrome. I was familiar with what it was... to a point.

But living with a child with Down syndrome these past four years has given me such a great appreciation- and a wonderful understanding - of what Down syndrome is. And today I can honestly say the fear is gone. Raising Lily has its challenges to be sure. And we haven't experienced all of them yet. There will be struggles in the road ahead and challenges and setbacks- but the same holds true for ALL of my children. For all of humanity. None of us are perfect - we all have special needs, if you think about it. Our needs might not be as obvious as a crease in our palm or the shape of our eyes... but we all have needs. And the awesome thing about being needy is, there is Someone who can meet us right where our need is. There is a Father in Heaven who designed us and created us to need Him. We don't have to live in fear, we don't have to stumble through life without hope or answers. We can turn to the One who created us to have relationship with Him, through his son Jesus Christ. He is the answer to all of life's special needs.




So there you have it. From fall bucket lists to ballet to special needs to Jesus. We cover it all here on Perfect Lily ... yer welcome ;)

Happy Wednesday !