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  ?


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 !

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Have A Dream

On the evening before Down Syndrome Awareness month begins, I have a dream. 

I have a dream that my little girl will be seen for the person she is first - instead of the syndrome. 

I have a dream that when people meet my daughter, their first instinct is not to feel pity for our family - but shared joy for the gift we've been given. 

I have a dream that by sharing our hearts and our stories, we as parents of children with Down syndrome can help others to understand that a label can't define our children. They are unique and invaluable and special. Just like any other child. 

Lily isn't a syndrome, she's a child .... who has Down syndrome . She doesn't have a disease and she isn't suffering. She isn't always happy - she has highs and lows and a full range of emotions just like you and me. She isn't an angel or a messenger from Heaven ... she's a little girl who has opinions and throws tantrums and can be just as naughty as the next little girl ;)

She's just a child ... who has Down syndrome . 

I have a dream that when you meet Lily , or any other person with Down syndrome, you see what I see ... an individual. Someone who has hopes and dreams and preferences and feelings and potential - and was fearfully and wonderfully designed by their Creator... a person. 

Just like you and me ❤️

Monday, September 29, 2014

true confessions

Just in case you didn't know... 

I am an officially certified Scentsy consultant. And in case you've never ordered Scentsy, you can find the above products (and more!) on my personal website

And I am happy to say that I am only TWO DOLLARS away from my required sales to stay a Scentsy consultant this quarter. If you have been reading here previously, you know what an accomplishment that is on my part because A) I am the world's worst saleswoman. I freely admit it. and B) I am probably the only Scentsy consultant that actually replies to their no-reply emails begging them to just let me stay on, because I'm addicted to Scentsy products and I have eleven kids for crying out loud, cut a mom some slack. (They've never replied back, in case you wondered.)


Confession time ...

I have actually had customers email me asking me to do parties. And I am embarrassed to say ... I ignored their emails. Because I don't do parties. I just don't like to stand in front of people talking and selling things. Which is kind of funny, because that's pretty much what my husband does on a daily basis (he does credit card processing if you're an interested small business!). But that's not me. I can type things on a keyboard and put a link in a blogpost, but I just don't do in real life sales thingies. 

HEY - I just had a brilliant idea ! Maybe my husband can sell Scentsy for me !!!

I'm gonna go call him with that brilliantly helpful little suggestion, but in the mean time .... if you want to ... I mean if you don't have anything else to do with your hard earned money... and only if you really really love Scentsy like I do .... you can place an order on Lily's Basket Party.

But only if you want. 

No pressure .

(See why I'm the world worst saleswoman ?? Don't tell Orville.)

Friday, September 26, 2014

friday night at the rice ranch

It's Friday night and I'm wiped out.

We woke up this morning to a broken pipe on our water heater, which resulted in water being sprayed ALL over our garage. We keep pretty much everything in our garage- it is our kids' gigantic playroom, as well as the storage place for everything . So I called Sam after purveying the waterpark that was now our garage, and he raced home from work immediately... he turned the hot water off while the kids and I started soaking everything up with big sponges left over from Daddy's tile installing days. Dozens of books were soaked, and Tyler's electric drum set was sprayed... buckets filled with sports equipment and other items were saturated... but it could have been a lot worse.

The nice thing about this little mishap was that it motivated me to reorganize the garage and return it to the tidy state it was in when we first moved here. Three hours later, I emerged from a dry garage with a victorious smile on my face... but the thing about organizing one big area like that is -- it leads to organizing many other parts of the house, because of the overflow that results. Ahem. Sooo... three more hours later, I emerged from Abbi and Lily's room - I went through all the drawers and buckets and closets and got rid of everything that didn't fit or they didn't wear anymore... aaaaannnnd two hours later I emerged from MY closet victorious :) Hayden's clothes are kept in my closet, as well as various and sundry items that had made their way to the garage over the past nine months.... one thing led to another and all I can say is Goodwill scored off the Rice family today !!

Soooo..... all that to say- I'm ready to crawl in bed with a book and relax right now. However, I will probably be asleep before my head hits the pillow... hopefully I won't be organizing everyone else's closets in my sleep, because I am DONE with that for the day !

Monday I'll answer questions from the last post on homeschooling - tonight I'll dump some photos from the past few weeks and call it good :)

Ready ? Here we go !

Somebody starts ballet Monday ...

She may be a little bit excited ...

Homeschooling is going well ...

We like to take breaks for tea and toast . The perks of learning at home ...

abbi's fingers... not mine ;)

Hayden is learning to read ...

...okay, well he's learning to turn pages and smack books on his sister's head when she doesn't pay attention. Same thing, pretty much.

He really does adore her ...

And safe to say she adores him ...

Abigail got side bangs, courtesy of mama ...

Norah Jane turned one and I forgot to post this pic from the night of her birthday ...

Our grapes are ready !!! Grown right here at The Rice Ranch ...

The deer ate everything else... well, except our potatoes, onions and basil ... so sweet friends of ours kindly left fresh produce from their garden on our doorstep several Sundays in a row. And it was sooooooo yummy !!

Hayden got his first pair of Hello Moccs, so he can keep up with Lily ...

Sammy and I went on a date on the day that I thought I had a dentist appointment. It was actually the next day, so we went out for breakfast instead. Oh darn .


Random picture of Hayden.... because, CURLS !!

Jack and his twin ...

Koa spent the night a few weeks ago...

hello, mr photobomber enjoying your mcflurry !

It's Beaver season again !!!

Sam and Hayden and I went on a walk the other night.... stopped for a blurry pic, just because ...

We came home as it was getting dark, and I took this picture with my phone ... because I discovered that I LOVE how the back of my house looks at night :)

And I love the smell of chocolate chip banana bread waiting for us after a beautiful fall night stroll...

That's all for now, folks.

Nighty- night ...

....sleep tight !

Thursday, September 18, 2014

grandbabies and dental work and homeschooling, oh my

I have a baby sleeping in one bedroom (Hayden) and a grandbaby in the other (Macie) and a stack of schoolwork to score. I was gone all yesterday - six and a half hours in the dental chair and three root canals and crowns - and I lived to tell the story. Actually, I don't want to tell the story. The fact that I lived, and I am eating pain free today is enough. I'll spare you the picture of my face ... I could probably play the part of the Mayor from Whoville if I didn't have an ounce of pride. But I do. So much so, that I don't plan on going anywhere until my face recovers. Even if it takes three weeks.

So moving on to the fun stuff quickly - because I really do need to go score that schoolwork... Miss Macie is growing .

That little chunk-a-monk is five months old and weighs almost as much as Hayden. And she TALKS. Like nonstop, always shrieking and babbling and telling the world how excited she is to be in it. I get to keep her overnight for the first time, as Jo and Mo are moving to a different place. Josiah brought her into the house and immediately Hayden ran over (yes, he runs now) and started yelling May Mays !!! She is pretty popular around here :)

Other news :

We've settled in nicely to a new school routine. I am so thankful to have kids who are self-motivated to get their work done each day. This did not happen overnight. It took years of establishing that a) school work has to get done every day, and b) they have to stay on track without me constantly supervising them, if homeschooling is going to work. And I do mean yeeeeaaars. People ask me all the time how we are able to get our kids to do schoolwork ... how do they stay on task and get along and how do I not lose my mind daily?

I don't have quick fixes or simple solutions, rather the same principle that we apply to every area : lots of prayer and lots of structure and lots of love.

Sometimes things get totally crazy, and Sam calls a family meeting before bed, where rules are established and things brought back to center. We air our griefs, we come up with new strategies for handling the chaos that is sometimes The Rice Ranch, and we make a plan. We are not always 100% successful at mastering that plan, but at least we have one.

Also : we pray daily for our kids to have a love for learning and a willingness to cooperate. If they have a heart for those two things, we can overcome any challenge. I have kids who are not as good at staying focused as others, but if I see in them a love for learning, I can redirect them as many times as needed, until they get their work done. I have kids who struggle at math or don't enjoy reading like the others do, but if they have a willingness to cooperate, then we can find a way to plow through the challenges they face.

And what I have found is that my kids need a LOT of firmness (NO, you may not check your email real quick before getting on your math) and a LOT of love (I see that you are struggling at your writing assignment today, let's sit down together and help you catch up) to keep everything running smoothly. Praise and tenderness and understanding can go a long way with a child who is easily distracted. I can't tell you how many times I have seen one of my children turn around, as far as attitudes go, when I praise them in front of their siblings for doing well on an assignment, or studying quietly and nicely. Sometimes the children who seem the least "focused" are really the ones who just need a little extra love and attention to help them grow and mature. This doesn't always happen instantly, but over time I've seen my difficult children (yes, we do really have some of those) thrive under lots of encouragement and praise.

Okay, well Macie and Hayden both decided that Lily going down for her nap (don't you sleep in your apron ??) would be a great time to wake up from theirs. So my mini essay on homeschooling and what's new with my grand baby will end spontaneously right now... if you have any questions on homeschooling you'd like to see answered in a blogpost, leave them in the comment section.

Happy Thursday !!