Tuesday, February 7, 2017

snarky patti

Hello readers.

If you've been a visitor to my blog, A Perfect Lily, for any length of time, you have probably noticed something.

I am rarely the same blogger twice.

Some days you might come here and read some deep spiritual musings on the true meaning of life, complete with scripture verses and a Pinterest quote or two.

Other blogposts might discuss the complexity of raising children with special needs, the beauty of Down syndrome, and the challenges that accompany that "magical extra chromosome".

And still other days you might find a very practical post including family favorite recipes, tips for homeschooling, and ideas about a new beauty product my sister-in-law just sent me. No heavy revelations, just some fun facts with a few pictures of our daily shenanigans thrown in for good measure.

I wish I could say that this happens on purpose; that I am a blogger with a plan, a mom on a mission, artfully mixing things up in order to appeal to a vast array of readers and their preferences.

The truth is I am just a scatterbrained housewife, posting whatever random thoughts pop into my head at that moment. And the end result of that is a potpourri of posts all bound together in one very untidy little package called A Perfect Lily.

Just like the real-life me, my blog is a great number of things. Not a tidy little package, not a perfect little pastor's wife, not a one-dimensional character, but rather a cobbled-together story that has many different chapters and plot-twists and layers. To some that might look like chaos, but to me it just looks ... normal.

So today's post is going to reflect one tiny little aspect of my personality, and if you know the real me, you know that attribute well : Snarky Patti.

I try to hide Snarky Patti most of the time, because quite honestly I don't know if the world can handle too much of her at once. My dearest friends know her well ... maybe a little too well, at times  ... but there are occasions when the veil is lifted, so to speak .. and there she sits for all to gasp at in astonishment or horror. A few misplaced remarks and shocked expressions later, and  I can usually reign her back in ... but today is not one of those days.

Just a friendly heads-up, fair readers. The Gratitude Revolution had its place last week.

But there is a time for everything in its season, they say...  and today Snarky Patti needs a little outlet for her stress.

Consider yourselves warned.

"I feel my inner snark coming out, Hayden. You might want to run."

Five things

That Stress Me Out:

(Come back later to read about Three Things That Bring Me Joy.)

(Much later. Like maybe next week.)

Here we go:

1) Lack of sleep.

Especially when I feel exhausted to the bone...and then get woken up five or six times in the night for various reasons (crying baby, cranky toddler, teenager that forgets to call and say he won't be home til an ungodly hour, tossing and turning husband ...). I don't function well on lack of sleep. Does anyone? Not me.

I know it looks like these two can sleep anywhere. But don't be fooled.
would one of these responsible young men forget to tell me he was staying late at his friend's house ? never.

2) Children bickering 

...from the moment I wake up til I close my eyes at night. And then even afterwards. (see previous paragraph.) Some days it's average, and some days it's like... waking up in a ball pit filled with violent angry toddlers. With no escape door. And Ozzy Osborne blaring over the speakers. And the toddlers have water guns.

I'll stop.

"Who US ??? Bicker ????"

3) Critics. 

Whether online or in real life, they suck.me.dry. 

Also patronizing people.

Moving on ...

4) Messes. 

Unpacked suitcases with dirty smelly laundry, messy refrigerators with a week's worth of crusty smelly leftovers, dirty windows and mirrors that (if my religion allowed it) I SWEAR I just cleaned last week, and a garage that needs to be re-organized for the forty fifth hundredth time in three months.

thankfully this little Bunny only makes cute messes. But give her time...

5) Menstrual cycles.

 Sorry to my cousin Glenn and my brother Chris, who (I think) constitute the entire male population who read my blog, but that time of the month just sucks stinks. In my twenties and thirties I laughed at women who talked about PMSing, secretly chalking up their complaining to an excuse to blame some THING for the trials of life. But at (almost) 49 I am throwing up the white flag and acknowledging that maybe I hadn't yet experienced all the joys of Mother Nature that my older women friends were living through. Until now.

Side note : Yesterday my husband texted me apologizing for whatever it was I was ... stressed ... about. I texted back - it's not you, it's me.

And then followed up with - and these hormones.

And then followed up again with this - Everything is making me mad and it feels like if I open my mouth I will cuss , so it's better to just keep my mouth shut.

And then followed up AGAIN with - can you bring me home a kombucha.

Because for me, a bottle of kombucha (the virgin kind, in case you attend our church and are worried about your pastor's wife getting plastered in the pantry) equals instant stress relief. My husband, knowing this from experience, brought me home two.

And since I listed five things that stress me out, I will now offer up an antidote:

Five things that bring me relief from stress:


Synergy Trilogy and Synergy Strawberry Serenity to be precise. If Safeway is out of these, I will settle for Dr. Brew but don't even THINK of bringing me any flavor but Superberry, or there will be H to pay. Ask my husband.

2) Cleaning.

.. like intense deep cleaning - baseboards, light fixtures, faucets, doorframes, windowsills, the kitchen sink, the fridge. I have no idea why this helps me de-stress, other than the fact that it gives me a sense of control? I just feel so much better after a four hour stretch of serious deep cleaning. Yesterday was one of those days, and today it feels GLORIOUS to wake up to a sparkling clean house.

3) Good music. 

My current favorites : JJ Heller's The Well, the soundtrack to Miss Potter, and Pandora set to Disney (children's) radio.... especially the new songs from Moana. And don't laugh - anything from the musical Wicked. Don't ask me why music from Wicked makes me feel less ... Wicked ... but there you have it.

4) Good smells. 

I'm not a Scentsy consultant anymore sadly, because sometime last year Orville gave me the boot. (I don't miss "selling", because a saleswoman I will never be, but I do miss the hostess rewards !) Happily though, I have a box full of partially used bars that will probably last me until the spring.... Luna and Green Serene are currently filling my house with their de-stressing aromas and Welcome Home is waiting in the wings when those run out. I don't know why I have always enjoyed good smells so much, but they are the perfect antidote to raging hormones, tormenting toddlers, smelly refrigerators, you name it. (If you've seen me sniffing a bottle of room spray in the bathroom at church, now you know why.)

"Good smells do the mind and body good".  2 Patti 3:16 if you're wondering .

the smell of The Rice Ranch after the rain = Heaven

And last but not least :

5) Good friends.

The kind you can call or text and say "I need you to talk me off the ledge right now." And even if they are having an equally or perhaps even more stressful day than me, they will put their own stress on hold and talk me down. And by "talk me down" I don't mean offer me all kinds of well-meaning advice, because everyone knows that's what husbands are for :) But girlfriends ... are for listening . And occasionally offering a bit of their own snarky commentary on life, just to make me feel that I'm not the only Wicked Witch in the world on that particular day. 

"Good snarky friends are a balm to the soul".   2 Patti 3:17 if you're wondering about that one too.

"I do not have the emotional strength to handle the sound of a person chewing loudly today."
"I know what you mean."

So there you have it. A little dose of reality from The Rice Ranch, and if you can't relate, come back another day for a different view. I promise the stress level here has been dialed back a few notches, and if you show up on my doorstep you won't be greeted by this person today ....

Praise the powers of sound, smell and Strawberry Serenity, and a just little bit of snark from my friends.

Happy Tuesday !

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ordinary Miracle

I had another blog post in the queue ready to go… and then this morning something happened and we took a video of it and I'm putting the other post on hold to share this moment . 

But before I share it I just want to post a picture that still makes my heart hurt to look at. Because maybe with the backdrop of that picture you can share in the joy that I felt this morning. 

I know others have gone through far scarier things than we did. But for several frightening days last summer, I thought we might not be bringing our baby bunny home.

I remember calling Jason and Josiah and one of my best friends, during the pinnacle of that fear, imploring them to help me reel my mind back in. I can still see the look of compassion on Madison's heart doctor's face when I begged her to tell me our Bunny was going to be OK. She told me our baby was in the best place she possibly could be - and they were going to do everything they could to take care of her. I can still hear the anguish in my friend Kris's voice as she cried with me on the phone and assured me she and her family were praying for Madison. 

 I remember being alone in a little meditation room in the hospital on my face before God. Literally - on my face  - kneeling down on some bamboo floor, tears and snot everywhere. You could say I was in prayer ...but in reality it probably looked more like I had collapsed in a pile of anxiety/ exhaustion/hysteria to anyone walking into that room.  I wasn't praying...  I was begging. I don't even know that my words were distinguishable to an innocent observer, but thankfully I serve a God who speaks the language of Desperation. 

I remember trying to project myself into the future – to months down the line when our baby would be hitting milestones, learning to sit up, eating baby food for the first time, taking her first steps ... I made myself think of those images and told myself we were going to get there. By the grace of God and through the prayers of so many people, I told myself we were going to get to that day. 

If you've ever faced a panic attack, you know that one of the keys to getting through it is to get your mind out of that wickedly awful place. 

If you've never faced a panic attack, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about.

 But when you are on the brink of one, you know there are two options. One is to fall down that rabbit hole… And if you've never been there, I don't wish it on anyone. The other is to look up. 

And I remember it just like it was yesterday – I remember holding my hand up to God and saying Lord, give me something to hold onto. I can't take this fear and this torment. 

I. Can't. Take it. 

And whether it was the Holy Spirit or just the desperation of a broken mama, I fixed my mind on this image… the image of my Bunny, healthy and happy and THRIVING, and I held onto it. 

So maybe that's why there are tears mixed in with my laughter when our baby hit an ordinary milestone this morning. 

Maybe that's why I'm still crying tears of joy every time I watch this little clip or watch her in my arms again just now, clapping her hands and smiling at all of us as if she just accomplished the biggest thing in the world.

And maybe - if you're a parent of a child with special needs... or if you love someone who is - you can appreciate the depth of our joy this morning. 

She works so hard for every milestone she reaches. So hard. But the thing our designer gene girls have taught us is this:  the greater the struggle in life, the more powerful the joy when you get there. 

If you're going through something today, remember this :

Happy Tuesday, sweet friends. xoxo

Friday, January 27, 2017


Hello, friends!

If you haven't had a chance to read my post called It's Revolution Time, you can read it HERE. I started a little gratitude revolution here on A Perfect Lily, and so many of you joined me! I did the same thing on Instagram (psalm127.5) and had the same response... I absolutely loved reading all of the things you all are grateful for ! 

Here are a few :

Jennifer Foster said...
I'm grateful for 1. My current health (in remission with Crohn's disease) 2. I have 2 beautiful boys despite doctors saying I may never have babies 3. That my husband is staying home from work tomorrow just because. :)

Emmy O. said...
1] I'm grateful for the opportunity to go through college and be studying for my nursing boards - it is something I complain about frequently, but education is so valuable.
2] I'm grateful for friends & family that offer the most inspiring words of wisdom for the "not so fun" days.
3] I'm grateful for fresh flowers & a new wreath to brighten up this gloomy Iowa weather!

I'm now setting a journal by my bed to make this a nightly routine! Thanks for the inspiration!! :)

Rebecca Martin said...
I am grateful for: 1. A sovereign Lord. One who never abandons, one who is always there. 2. People. It has been five months since I tragically lost a huge piece of my heart and world, my brother. The oldest of ten. My people have rallied around me. I am strong because of them. 3. New days. I cry myself to sleep most nights missing the life I had and the future I had hoped for. But I know in the morning it's a new day, and a new chance to keep on keeping on. ❤

I read every one of your comments, and the ones on Instagram as well, and I was so inspired. So many of you have been through hard things .... HARD THINGS ... and yet you found the silver lining. You reframed your difficulties and saw the good that is there, in spite of the heartache.

And that made me think about something else : gratitude is not ignoring that sometimes life is very sucky, is it ? Sometimes crud happens. 

Gratitude is not pretending there is nothing hard or painful or downright ugly in life. 

And I'll even add something right now - I have a really hard time with phony gratitude. I've met people throughout my life that have such a simplistic view of trials and hardship it is almost painful to be around them. It's stomach turning, actually. And I hope my post didn't come across that way.

When we downplay others' grief we just look ... fake. For example, if you share with someone that you're about to have three root canals (me, two years ago !) and someone tells you to look on the bright side - you have teeth ! - you have my permission to slap them. That's not what I mean when I say that I am making a conscious effort to reframe my troubles to find the good ... and it's one thing to do this for ourselves, it's quite another to reframe someone else's pain for them ! 

So when I write about gratitude - true gratitude - I am NOT talking about slapping a bandaid on heartbreaking situations or glibly responding to real tragedy with a trite "look on the bright side!". There are things people are facing in life that will never be solved with a bumper sticker. My real aim here (and I'm sure the author of The Gratitude Diaries would feel the same) is not to make light of people's burdens. 

Having said alllll that ... there IS an attitude we can employ in life that acknowledges heartache and grief and hardship, and still seeks to find the silver lining for ourselves, no matter how small it may be. True gratitude says "this is hard - REALLY HARD - but I'm going to find something here that is good."

it's hard work learning how to sit up !!

Here's something I am grateful for: Down syndrome.

Would I pray for my girls to face challenges in life physically, cognitively or otherwise ? Of course not.

That "magical extra chromosome" also carries with it the potential for a host of very serious illnesses, and it also means my daughters will struggle to be able to do what most people don't even think about doing. While they might marry some day (google it, lots of sweet stories out there!) having children of their own is something they will never experience. They will always need help in life... they will never be completely independent. These are just the facts.

BUT ... my girls' diagnosis has changed all of our lives in such profound ways, that I am eternally grateful for the privilege of raising them. And I don't say that tritely or lightly.

If I had a magic wand and could wave away their extra chromosome, would I do it ? At one time I would have said no - they are who God created them to be. And I still feel that way - God didn't make a mistake when He created them.

But any mama - given the chance - would take away the possibility of her baby facing leukemia. Or early Alzheimers. Or heart surgery. I would be foolish to say I'm completely grateful for the fact that Lily and Madison were at a much greater risk for those things when they were born than their siblings with typical genes. And if you try to tell me to "just love them for who they are" then you missed the point. I love my girls more than anyone does (except their dad and siblings!) ... I consider them my greatest blessings in life. But no mommy wants her children to face disease or health issues. Talk to any mom whose child went through years of cancer treatment, or like Madison, heart surgery - nobody would wish that on their child. 

HOWEVER .... I am grateful that Down syndrome provides us all with an opportunity to appreciate the little things in life (like sitting up !!!). Things that were once taken for granted are now cause for celebration ! Every milestone, no matter how small, is cause for a party here. At any given moment you will hear one of my kids yelling, "COME LOOK WHAT LILY IS DOING !" and the entire Rice Ranch population comes running.

Down syndrome has given us greater compassion for individuals facing similar challenges and struggles in life.

Down syndrome has opened doors to friendships we never would have had before our girls were born. Some of my closest friends are now mommies of children with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome has opened our eyes to children born in other nations who need families .. babies who face life in an institution because of their diagnosis. We've been privileged to help adoptive families financially over the years, and I am grateful for that opportunity.

Down syndrome has brought our family closer together in so many ways- too many to list in one blogpost.

And despite all the medical and physical and cognitive challenges my girls face because of Down syndrome, there is no denying that their potential for love and joy and affection is just as magnified because of their diagnosis. For that I am GRATEFUL.

SO without further ado... this little video will announce the winner of The Gratitude Diaries. There were 63 entires between the comments left on Instagram and the blog, and I wrote all the names on paper and put them in a bowl. Miss Lily drew the winner ...

Congrats to Tori B. !! Email me your address and I will order you a copy of The Gratitude Diaries today :)

Thanks again to all who are joining me in the Gratitude Revolution ... if you want to leave three more things you are grateful for today, I'd love to keep this going ... happy Friday !

Monday, January 23, 2017

It's Revolution Time

I just finished going through all of Madison's baby clothes. She has finally graduated to six through nine month clothes, and until today I had drawers full of baby clothes I was unwilling to admit didn't fit her any longer. As a result I am in a bit of a thinky mood. Do you ever get in thinky moods?

miss bunny, in her thinky mood

hayden's thinky mood

I am not going to call this mood depressed… or morbid… but it is bordering on both of these feelings. I always border on these feelings when I am forced to put baby clothes away, but perhaps more so today because I am putting these away for the last time.

Many of these baby clothes are going to my daughter-in-law Monique, who just found out on Thursday that she is having another sweet baby girl.

Some of these clothes are just going in a box for memories' sake though... clothes that I just want to remember as uniquely Madison's. Her hospital cap – the familiar blue and pink striped stretchy one that is probably universal to all babies born in the United States.

posted this on my IG stories

 But even so, it's hers… and it still smells faintly of her sweet little newborn head (unless it's just my imagination because of all the thinky feelings swirling in my brain right now.) The soft white baby socks with the tiny hand drawn bunnies on them… it's so hard to believe they fit her feet at one time- they are maybe an inch long ? She came home from the hospital in them and wore them for the first six weeks of her life. I held them up to her foot while she was sleeping a little while ago, and a giant lump formed in my throat as I realized it's been a whole year since the day we brought her home.

So here I sit, in my thinky mood... and I want to keep myself from spiraling downwards. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it's that overthinking things can put me in a bad place.

But you know what can put me in a good place? Reading.

I'm reading a book right now that is really ministering to me. Which is a funny thing to say, because the author isn't even a Christian (as far as I know.) But it really is a motivational book, and I am not normally one who likes motivational books. Don't ask me why, because I have no idea. I'm the same way with forwarded emails - if the heading says "get out the tissues" or "guaranteed to make you laugh", I won't do either. I think it's just my rebellious nature or something.

ANYHOO, this book is inspiring me.

Here's a little excerpt from the book:

Researchers have found that people who write down three things they're grateful for every night (or even a few times a week) improve their well-being and lower their risk of depression. The results have been repeated over and over. Keeping a gratitude journal can even dramatically improve your ability to get a good night's sleep.

And maybe that's why I've been enjoying this book already, and I'm not even halfway through it. For several years on Instagram and a few times on my blog as well, I have posted what I call my "three things post".... I share three things that are bringing me joy right this minute, and I ask followers to do the same. The things that I list are not typically huge events, or even material things… usually they are just the little things in life: a nice cup of tea in my favorite mug, a walk outside with my children in the crisp morning air, the sunlight streaming through the window on my bedspread… just average every day things that are bringing me joy.

scrapbooking and tea = joy

baby rolls bring me joy

...as well as baby food beards !

It might sound simplistic or obvious, but focusing on our blessings is beneficial in so many ways. My husband preached an entire sermon yesterday on gratitude and I can't even begin to do that sermon justice.. but it paralleled what this book, The Gratitude Diaries, is saying (only with a spiritual twist, because after all, it was a sermon.) Being grateful improves our health, our marriages, the atmosphere in our homes, and our overall spiritual well-being.

I'm grateful for ice storms, because they make everything BEAUTIFUL

grateful for my husband who stops in the middle of his work day to play a game with hayden

grateful for teenagers who are gentle and affectionate

My Pinterest boards are filled with quotes on this subject that I have pinned over the years… Probably because I need to be reminded of these truths on a regular basis.

It goes against human nature to be grateful, doesn't it? If you ask someone how they are doing, they might tell you "fine" ... but two minutes later they proceed to fill you in on all of their not-so-fine moments. It's just human nature to mullygrub; to list the ten things going wrong in our lives, rather than three things we are grateful for. It takes work to be grateful ... and as humans, most of the time we default to complaining.

Another quote from The Gratitude Diaries :

One of the psychologists who has led this research (on gratitude), Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis, jumped into the field early, and quickly became one of the world's leading scientific experts on gratitude. One of his findings is that you don't need good events in your life in order to feel gratitude. Instead, grateful people reframe whatever happens to them. "They don't focus on what they're lacking; they make sure they see the good in what they have."

I could complain that I just organized the playroom - AGAIN -
or be thankful that my kids have a room filled with toys to enjoy

I could complain about these two always wanting to sleep in our bed...
 or rejoice that I still have kids young enough to "need me"

The Gratitude Diaries is inspiring me in so many ways to combat my human nature, and to make a conscious effort every day – throughout the day – to be grateful. To be intentionally grateful, to reframe bad events so that they are seen through the eyes of gratitude.

this puppy has chewed up 45 billion rolls of toilet paper since we got her - but Lily no longer has a major dog phobia !

these two drive each other crazy half the time

but are best friends the other half ;)

I don't have my Kewpie doll from when I was little anymore... but now I have a real life one

So here's how gratitude pulled me out of my thinky mood...

My baby is growing up, and I am being forced to put away newborn clothes ... for the last time.

However ... gratitude helps me reframe the sadness/anxiety/this-is-the-end-for-sure-this-time feelings into this :

I have the rest of my life to enjoy grandbabies who will wear her hand-me-downs. And I will have the pleasure of seeing my grandbabies in all of those adorable outfits, without having to do all that laundry. BOOM.

Or this:

My baby may be growing out of her newborn clothes, but that means she is THRIVING. Last summer we could not get her to gain weight, her heart was failing, and as a result she was less than ten pounds at six months old. Today she weighs over fifteen pounds and eats like a CHAMP, and that means her heart is healed ! Thank God for surgery and modern medicine, and thank God for piles of baby clothes that do not fit my Bunny anymore!

Or this:

I prayed for an entire year before Madison was born for "one last baby." God answered that prayer, and today I have my heart's desire. I may be a little (okay a LOT) sad about retiring her baby clothes, but two years ago I didn't even know if my prayer to get pregnant again would be answered. I HAVE A BABY AT AGE ALMOST 49 FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. (no pun intended, ha.)

Madison may have outgrown those adorable little bunny socks and will never fit into them again ...

...but she finally fits into these darling bunny slippers that her sister Abbi bought her when I was still pregnant !!!

I'm starting a Gratitude Revolution here on A Perfect Lily ... do you want to join me ??

To start this little revolution, I am giving away a copy of The Gratitude Diaries to one random commenter* on this post.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me three things you are grateful for. They can be big or small things - whatever you choose to express gratitude for. 

I will place everyone's names in a bowl and have Lily draw the winner on Thursday ... I'll post a little video here announcing the winner and then order that person a copy of The Gratitude Diaries immediately. 

(*I'm limiting entries to readers living in the United States because of shipping, but feel free to leave a comment for fun if you are outside the US !)

Are you ready to join the revolution ???