Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I was born to do this

What I'm about to share is something I posted on Instagram just a few short minutes ago. Admittedly, I texted my husband and a few close friends with the words "the day I blew up my IG account.

I was shaking a little as I hit "post" when my daughter Abigail walked in the room... "Why are you shaking ??" she asked with a worried look in her eyes.

The truth is, I do not like confrontation. Ask my friends. I am the last person on the planet to look someone squarely in the eye and say "this is not okay." If Sam has been known by some of our family members as "Confrontational Conrad", I should probably be called "Get Along Gertrude." I don't do controversy well.


Lily's t-shirt inspired me today.

So here we go. 

Someone directed me to an article on Yahoo the other day entitled "Why I Terminated My Pregnancy After Learning My Baby Had Down Syndrome." The article was filled with all kinds of matter-of-fact justifications for why someone chose to make the "difficult decision" to end her child's life.

If someone wants to explain that they are not comfortable with raising a child with challenges because to do so would be a burden to THEM, that's their choice. I don't agree with it and I will never agree with it, but it is their choice.

However – don't try to tell me that you were doing the "best thing for your child" by terminating their life. And don't try to justify your actions by saying that there is such a broad scope of functionality when it comes to people with Down syndrome – that not knowing where your unborn child would fall on that scope means your decision to end their life is reasonable. Or selfless. Let's be real.

"Typical" people have various levels of functionality. I know people with the "right amount of chromosomes" who struggle every day of their lives. So which one of them is not worthy of life? Which one of them should have been terminated ? Because after all, we don't want to burden them with such a heavy thing as life.

If I sound passionate – I am.

 Because I live every day with a little girl who is anything but a burden. Every single day I bear witness to the fact that different does not automatically mean difficult. And the longer we let others boldly proclaim that an unborn baby with Down syndrome was justifiably terminated, the longer my little girl faces a world that is hostile at worst and ignorant at best.

Any one of us at any point in our lives could become a burden to others. We have no guarantees. At what point do we stop saying that life is only valuable when it is not a (perceived) burden? When do we stop playing God and stop making ourselves the sole arbitrators of who is worthy of life and who is not?

I can't sit quietly by and listen to or read that message - that a baby with special needs is better off dead - and not lift my voice in protest. If that offends some, so be it.

Come look into my little girl's eyes and tell me she isn't worthy of life. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bringing Harper Home

It's Tuesday morning, and I'm typing to the background music of a humming dryer, punctuated by bursts of giggles from my littlest ones.  Lily and Hayden spent Saturday and Sunday sick in bed, and yesterday they were still fighting whatever bug they had. Today they are fever free, and although I've wiped their noses at least fifty times since eight a.m., I am confident they are on the mend.

Several readers here, as well as friends on Instagram, have shared a recent news article with me. Have you read about the baby boy born with Down syndrome in Armenia? His mother was unwilling to keep him, and because his daddy refused to give him up, he has now been served divorce papers.

It's a tragic and beautiful story, all mixed into one - I'm not going to pass judgement on the mom, who must have been very misinformed about what life with Down syndrome looks like. She lives in a culture where giving up a child with special needs is a typical practice - babies with Down syndrome and other similar issues are often placed in institutions at birth.

So no judgement here, just sadness for what she missed out on- and praise for a dad who decided packing up everything and moving back to his homeland of New Zealand to raise his child alone was the best decision he could make for Baby Leo. And props to the THOUSANDS of kind hearted people who contributed to the Bringing Baby Leo Home go fund me account that was set up for him shortly before the story ran. My son Jason texted me the link to the article with the words "I donated to this dad!" and made this mama's heart swell ... I know how tight things are for Jason and Naomi as he works full time at the hospital while attending college to earn his nursing degree - I'm sure countless others set some personal needs aside to help this brave daddy raise his little boy alone.

Having said all that ... I just wish things could have been different for that little mommy in Armenia. 

Leo and his daddy will undoubtably be okay. They will face challenges together, just like any other family, special needs or not. But I'm sure the love that has already written their story will carry them through whatever they face - it already is.

And yet ... how different that story could have been .

I can't fully imagine what that mom is feeling right now. I'm sure there is a vast range of emotions she must be going through : loneliness, uncertainty, grief ... and I have to think that if fear was one of the main motivating factors in her decision to reject her baby, there must also now be some measure of relief.

There were probably many family members and medical staff encouraging her that an institution was the best place for her baby boy. And although no one who has carried a baby for nine months makes that decision lightly,  I'm sure that mother honestly felt she was "just doing the right thing."

And yet - I wonder.

I wonder if amidst all the swirling feelings and whispered encouragements and perhaps even prayers - if this mama feels something else ...

.... regret.

I wonder if this unnamed Armenian mama strokes her empty belly at night, remembering the gentle kicks and slow steady movements of the month before, and aches for the baby she'll never know.

I wonder if she returns home to an empty bassinet, little unworn sleepers and perhaps a homemade blanket or two and thinks : where is he now ?

I wonder if she wakes in the morning, alone in her bed, staring at the ceiling and breathing in the emptiness and contemplates what might have been.

I wonder if - in the future, as she puts the past behind her and "picks up the pieces' to start over again - she will come face to face with what could have been her child

I wonder if - when she startles in recognition at those star-studded almond eyes, at features that must certainly mirror those of the child she never raised - she catches a glimpse of the beauty she missed out on ... and feels the sting of regret.

We all have moments of regret in our lives - things we wished we'd said, places we never went to, friendships that dissolved and we never made the effort to get them back - but I can't imagine the regret of refusing your own child. I can't imagine what a weight that would be to carry, and how a mommy would process life from that moment on. My heart just breaks for what I can only imagine as a giant hole in her heart, wondering about the child she'll never enjoy.

I know pictures don't tell the whole story of what life with Down syndrome entails, and I'm not trying to simplify things by sharing them in this message today. I've been accused of "disney-fying Down syndrome" on my blog in the past - painting a picture that is only beautiful and colorful and bright.

But all of life holds challenges - from the cradle to the grave we are going to face things that seem too difficult for us, whether that is in the area of careers or marriage or the ministry or parenting or just our average day-to-day.

There are difficulties for every single one of us, and choosing to embrace the challenges of special needs and focus on the joy that Lily brings to our lives every day is what I do both in-real-life and here on the blog.

So no sugar coating here, just the truth : life is a gift, whether that arrives as a "perfect" newborn baby or a perfect little Lily.

We are so grateful for that gift, and all that I can feel for someone who chose otherwise is sympathy and deep, deep sadness - because Leo's mommy missed out on so much.

Leo's daddy was overwhelmed by the support of strangers all around the world ... so much so that he is donating back the excess to orphanages in Armenia to help care for the forgotten treasures there.

Would Lily's readers help me rally around - and spread the word for - some other forgotten treasures across the ocean ?

My sweet friend Julia Nalle and her husband are adopting a beautiful little girl with special needs named Harper from overseas, and there is an auction going on to assist them in the costs of doing so.

I'm going to be honest here - I have backed off in the past year or more from asking you all to donate to adoptions. I've had many inquiries as to why I have done so - in the past, Lily's readers have raised multiplied thousand of dollars to help bring orphans home to their new families. Although I truly believe that we should not withhold giving to strangers because we can't "guarantee" the outcome of what will happen when we do... I felt it best to take a time away from fundraising to think and pray about what I was asking people to do.

Here is my thinking on this- and it is going to sound oversimplified, because I don't want to hurt anyone in a lengthy explanation. There are going to be times when Sam and I give to something where we don't absolutely 100% know how the funds are being handled. We believe that God blesses our gift, and we give when we feel directed by Him to give, and we leave the rest to Him.

However... it is another thing when I am asking others to give.

I've seen some amazing and miraculous and truly wonderful things happen when people band together and give until it hurts to help another family adopt an orphan.

I've also seen some truly sucky and outrageous and unfair and I-can't-believe-they-just-said-or-did-that things happen with a family or two - when I did everything in my power to rally people to someone's adoption. I'm talking absolutely lying, unfair, thanks for the money, stick-a-knife-in-my-back kind of stuff. When my family sacrificed so hard to bless a stranger. And I can handle that - and I do believe God honors our giving even when others blow it and are unrighteous. But I'm not going to ask Lily's readers to do the same. I'm not going to ask you to risk and give and possibly get burned, because I am willing to do so. That's just not something I'm willing to do anymore. Cast stones if you like, but until you've walked a mile in my shoes...

Having said all that (aren't you glad I reduced it to a "simple" explanation ??:))  ...

I trust Julia Nalle. This is a family I believe in, and that I know is doing every single thing they can to raise their OWN money for an adoption, and giving to probably every other adoption on the planet they possibly could have given to as well.

The Nalles are stellar. They've been down this road before, and I have zero qualms about asking readers to go check out the auction being held to help them raise funds for the last portion of their adoption.

I don't - and I won't - say that about everybody. But I know Julia Nalle. She is a trustworthy woman of God, and she is completely deserving of whatever blessings come her way financially.

Will you go help Julia and her husband bring their little treasure home ?

Thank you from the bottom of my heart .


Wednesday, February 4, 2015


I flipped through a magazine this morning and saw: pretty faces with no wrinkles or age spots, toned and tanned bodies that never knew a stretch mark, carefully planned outfits, stain and spit-up free... 

I peeked in on Pinterest and observed : fifty ways to (re)decorate my house, how to plan the perfect dinner party, strategies for getting sexy legs in sixty days, dozens of exotic places I've never had the chance to see.

I gazed out my window just now and noticed: my neighbor's perfectly manicured lawns, flower beds without a hint of weeds, trimmed bushes and tidy trees and not a stray toy to be found anywhere in sight. 

And I thought about my crazy, messy, slightly-un-trendy, definitely-not-sexy, stretched-out, stained, spit-up-on, far-from-exotic little life ... and I looked across the room and smiled.... 

...because I wouldn't change a thing :)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Winter Walk

Yesterday the sun came out ... and if you live in a state where this is a daily occurrence during the winter, you probably won't appreciate the weight of those words. 

I'm normally one who loves the rain. 

Cold, gray, overcast days are some of my favorites ... we start a fire in our fireplace, put on extra layers of warm clothes, turn on cheerful music and enjoy our cozy home, while the rain keeps a steady drumbeat on the skylights above. 

During the summertime, if we go a week or more without rain, I am moody. I crave rain like an addict - I get twitchy without it. 

But usually by the end of January, when the days are short and the nights are long and the sky seems to be permanently gray ... I start longing for the sun. 

And by longing, I mean a physical ache that is triggered by anything related to sunshine :

a photo on my camera roll of Lily swinging outside, the light of the afternoon sun breaking through the trees

a picture on Pinterest of a tropical island -the sun reflecting off the warm inviting sand

an image of a sunset in a magazine, rays of light reaching across a vibrant sky

... whatever the source, the effect is immediate. Almost instantly I feel that inward gnawing, an aching for light and warmth and sun. 

So yesterday morning, I opened up the weather app on my phone, as is my daily routine - and can I tell you my heart leapt at what I saw ? Not one, not two, but THREE days here in Oregon that promised sunshine and not a spot of rain. 

I vowed to my children that we were going to soak up as much of that liquid gold as humanly possible before the weather shifted back to typical soggy winter fare. 

And we have.

We took an hour long walk yesterday afternoon, leisurely strolling through the walking trails that twist through our neighborhood, marveling at the beauty we beheld. 

Birds chirped merrily as we waved to passersby - it seemed our entire town was on the same mission to get outside and enjoy the sun. 

And even though I know we are at least six long weeks away, it was encouraging to see promises of springtime everywhere I turned....

According to my trusty weather app, we now have just one more day left to marvel at that mysterious golden ball in the sky before the rains roll in again; one more day to soak up its goodness and store it away, reminding us of good things to come ...

"Winter, slumbering in the open air, wears on its smiling face ... a dream of spring."

~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge 

Monday, January 26, 2015

little minutes

My older kids just left for an hour, and I am home with our two littlest ones. Sam is on his way home from working in the next town over, and dinner is in the crockpot - which means I have a few minutes to blog...

Yay for little minutes !

Years ago I took a home economics class in eighth grade ... I needed an elective to fill my schedule, and I had already taken as many art classes as were available. "Home Ec", as it was called, was my least favorite class. Among other boring things, we learned : how to sew a potholder, how to scrub a porcelain sink, how to make eggs benedict (I hate them to this day) and why good dental hygiene was important in life. I'm sure there were many other how-to's discussed in that half-semester elective, but those are the ones that I recall 33 years later. 

not my actual home-ec classroom... but pretty dang close

I vividly remember panicking during the "demonstration" portion of our grade for the term. We were expected to show our teacher and classmates what we had learned by cooking a small meal and cleaning up the kitchen afterwards. Our classroom was divided into two halves, one of which was filled with tables and chairs and our instructor's desk. The other half consisted of a miniature kitchen, complete with a fake window over the sink and curtains, a refrigerator, oven, sink, and gadgets of every size and shape filling all of the sturdy white cabinets. I was paranoid that I would forget a step in the assigned recipe, or leave a gray "scratch" in the sparkling white sink for my teacher to discover. (Mrs. Smith was adamant that no good homemaker ever leave the kitchen with a scuffed sink - to do so would be a disgrace to herself, her family, and the entire female portion of the human race. Or at least the homemakers in that bunch.) 

I did end up passing the cleaning and culinary demonstration with flying colors... sewing, however, was an entirely different matter. 

That test, as I remember, involved nine fabric squares of various patterns which were to be hand-sewn quickly and tidily into a little grid. I don't remember all the details of that painful day (actually I've probably subconsciously blocked it from my memory on purpose) ... 

What I do recall is all of my classmates proudly turning in their little "quilts" while - humiliated -  I handed my pathetic attempt of a project to our teacher. Drops of sweat fell from my frustrated brow : the fronts of some of my squares of fabric had been stitched to the backs of others, and I'm pretty sure the shape came closer to a swastika than a square. 

I think Mrs. Smith said something along the lines of "all of us have our strengths, Patti," but her patronizing smile said that perhaps homemaking was not in the cards for me any time soon. 

At least not if sewing was involved.

adorable Minion beanie knit by my talented sister-in-law... certainly not by me 

I am quite sure Mrs. Smith would be shocked and amazed to know that 33 years later I have been happily employed (by the bank of Sam) as a homemaker, and as far as I know, have not disgraced my entire breed yet.

I am still a pathetic seamstress - unless you count sewing buttons onto clothing - but I have discovered that a hot glue gun can often "do" in a pinch. I have scads of projects including curtains, halloween costumes, and crib sheets as proof - even if I can't sew a three-by-three quilt sampler to save my life.

Sewing skills notwithstanding, one of the lessons I did take with me from that class was the idea that successful homemaking not only meant making the most of your home, but also making the most of your time. Keepers of the home have a lot on their collective plates - and if we were to enter that noble profession, Mrs. Smith forewarned us, we should continually be looking for opportunities to seize the "little minutes" of our day.

What are "little minutes", you say ??

Glad you asked.

Little minutes are the moments in between the big minutes ... that make up our days.

If big minutes are the chunks of time we spend each day devoted to the big tasks : washing the dishes, folding the laundry, cooking dinner, mopping floors .... then little minutes are the moments we have in-between these things : straightening a bookshelf as we return a book to its place, grabbing all the pencils in the junk drawer and securing them with a rubber band as we answer a phone call, wiping the spots off the mirror with a paper towel as we brush our teeth - so many little ways to redeem the time.

Mrs. Smith taught us that there were untold little minutes in every day - and if we paid attention and made room for them, they would be one of our greatest keys to success in the art of homemaking.

home ec class for Lily... she aced the cooking portion as well !

Looking back over my career as a homemaker, I can see that there was a wealth of wisdom in that simple lesson on the value of little minutes. 

As mommies (especially of little ones) it's easy to feel like we are behind the eight-ball all day long. 

Problems can arise hourly it seems, and sometimes the enormous effort we put into one big task can come unraveled in just a few short moments ... like the toddler who decides that a huge pile of nicely folded laundry on the couch makes an awesome fort to hide under during a game of hide-and-seek. Or the middle-schooler who feels compelled to spend an hour "baking up a storm" ... resulting in something that rivals El Nino in our freshly cleaned kitchen.

If we don't take advantage of all those little minutes in our day, we can easily become overwhelmed.

Here are some examples of little minutes that have helped me keep my sanity over the years- some helpful hints in my history of homemaking :)

* Sorting through the mail immediately after it's brought in from the mailbox. Coupons are cut and placed in my wallet (if they are for the grocery store) or the glovebox in the van (if they are for a restaurant in town). Important papers are filed right away, either in an envelope in a filing cabinet for that purpose, or in the cabinet above the kitchen desk. Junk mail is trashed, and only things that need immediate attention by Sam (bills etc.) are left on the desktop for him to retrieve when he comes home at night. No piles of random papers or mail are left to accumulate anywhere in the house- if at all possible we have a place for everything and everything in its place.

* Wiping down the top of the washer  (and under the lid) just before placing laundry inside - using a washcloth or towel that was going inside anyway, and wiping the dryer down as well. It's amazing how much nicer it is to do laundry (one of my least favorite tasks!) when my appliances look clean. 

* Wiping down the baseboards and windowsills, and cleaning the ceiling dust bunnies in one room a day. It's a little overwhelming for me to go throughout the whole house doing every room - rotating rooms every or every other day means these areas (for the most part) stay clean on a regular basis instead of just once every few weeks. 

* Cleaning out just one shelf in the refrigerator at a time whenever I'm in the kitchen and get the chance. Attacking the entire fridge in one fell swoop sometimes feels like a gigantic task I just never have/make time for ... taking little minutes to assault just one shelf at a time is a much easier approach (both physical and emotionally ;))

* I've mentioned this in a previous blogpost, but calling all the kids together for a "ten minute clean-up" at random times throughout the day has been extremely effective for us. It's amazing what can get done in a short amount of time when all the troops are called in for a quick pick-me-up. We set a timer, crank some motivational music, and BAM! - Operation Restore Order to The Rice Ranch is in full swing. Often we will promise ourselves a nice reward if we complete the task in time- a round of fruit smoothies or a trip to the library or a family game ... but sometimes the simple satisfaction of a tidied-up house is all the motivation we need to get the job done.

Well, the older kids are all home now, and Daddy (our fearless leader) has designated tonight as Operation Restore Order to The Rice Ranch Closets . All of our children are going through every item of clothing they own to determine whether it is something they want to keep or give away. 
Christmastime brought some new outfits for everyone, and I'm sure there are at least several dozen items that either don't fit or have too many stains or just aren't wanted by anyone anymore ... Goodwill is going to love us come morning time, but our closets and dressers will no longer be a source of frustration for parents and children alike !

I'm sure many of you have wonderful examples of time-tested "little minutes" to share... I'd love to read your helpful hints in the comment section below :)

Until next time...

Bonne Nuit !

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

sleep deprived mom blogger problems, and a book review

Before I share a few pictures from the past few weeks, I want to to tell you about a very exciting bit of news ...

My good friend, Deanna Smith, has written an incredible novel : Motherhood Unexpected. I was privileged to read this book before it even went to press, and I was captivated from page one. I've always loved Deanna's style of writing- I've been reading her blog Everything and Nothing From Essex for almost five years now. Motherhood Unexpected is both funny and moving, and it answers questions all of us ask at some point in life : how can God be good when life hits hardest ? 

Intrigued ? Here's a  little teaser from Amazon.com ....

All Claire wants is to be a mother, but her perfectly planned birth ends with a surprise. Forced to question everything that she has ever believed, she struggles through new motherhood. How can God still be good when nothing about this is even remotely good?
Meanwhile, Claire's teenage sister Felicity goes too far with the wrong kind of guy. Faced with a life-altering decision, she can't help but wonder, "why me?"
Julie counsels her daughters as they deal with the complications of sex, disability, broken expectations, and jealousy. However, a deeply buried secret won't leave her alone, causing her to have her own doubts.
Three women face circumstances that leave them broken and desperate. Will they find peace with the unexpected before it's too late?

Motherhood Unexpected is available on Amazon.com for $12.57 right now - and on kindle for half that price. If you are looking for an excellent read that digs deep into life's hardest issues, look no further. Drop what you're doing and head over to Amazon.com today to order your copy of Motherhood Unexpected - you won't be disappointed !


So it's now one minute until ten at night, and I am determined to get to bed on time.

I always have this list of profound things I think of during the day - things about which I think , "I need to put that in a blogpost today!" 

And then I get here and my brain goes - huh ?? 


or maybe I should say 


I'm sure I will think of all the things I wanted to say somewhere around the time my head is hitting my pillow, but for now I'll just say this :

"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." 
~ C.S. Lewis

And I will add to that : enough sleeping baby photos ....

Five more photos from the camera roll on my phone, and then I'm saying good night- my pillow is calling my name ......


Sleep tight :)