Monday, April 30, 2012

window into the future

Last month I ran a series of posts about the new prenatal tests that detect Down syndrome in the first trimester of pregnancy. Towards the end of the series I asked Elizabeth, from Confessions of the Chromosomally Enhanced to guest post for me about her older sister, Leanne. If you missed that post, I encourage you to go back and read it. I absolutely love getting a window into Lily's future by reading blogs like Elizabeth's, or Sarah's at My Name is Sarah...perhaps more than any other blogs I read, they show me that Down syndrome is a life worth living.

On a personal level, I am blessed to know another family who gives us that same glimpse into Lily's future. Years before we began homeschooling, our children went to a small private Christian school. During one of the parent meetings my husband introduced himself to another dad. We knew we lived in a small town, but experiences like this one always bring that reality closer to home...it turned out Mike owns the house we live in, and that Sam knew him through the construction industry as well. Mike and Laurie's daughter, Megan, was well loved by all of our children, and looking back I know that attending school with her was a godsend. Megan, as well as other classmates who shared her extra chromosome, taught my children firsthand that children with Down syndrome are more alike than different. 
 
When I gave birth to Lily, Mike and Laurie were one of the first in our community to reach out to us and offer encouragement and support. Laurie, as well as another mama from our children's school, each came to our home bearing gifts for Lily and books and information regarding Down syndrome. And imagine my surprise when Laurie told me that she and her husband actually co-founded the Willamette Valley Down Syndrome Association, a local support group for Corvallis and the surrounding areas. 

I asked Laurie to guest post for me today... as advocates I think it's so important that we bring awareness to the multiplied thousands of adults living with Down syndrome who are contributing to society in meaningful ways, as well as enjoying their own fulfilling lives. I'm looking forward to featuring other guest bloggers in the future, and if you are the parent of an adult living with Down syndrome, please contact me via email- I would love to share your story as well.

**************************

By Laurie Moore

Laurie and her beautiful daughter, Megan

 
Megan's journey through life has closely paralleled the lives of our children born without Down syndrome...albeit Megan's experience has been more methodical, slightly unexpected and closely "measured."  She has used her strong internal motivation to work tirelessly for each milestone.  Using her God-given gifts, and the unconditional love of her family, she has built a beautiful life for herself.
 
She reminded me this morning that after this school year she will only have one year left in her post high school program.  Our school district provides a vocational, life skills classroom she can participate in until June of the year she turns 21.  As part of her schooling she's worked as a pre-school teaching assistant, at the USDA labeling plants and recording data, and at the local food bank organizing and shelving donations.  She volunteers at the humane society and also at a Day Center for the Elderly. Leaving the familiarity and safety of the classroom feels a bit intimidating for us but it energizes Megan.  In her words she looks forward to "having her own apartment....with a cat," "having a really good and fun job," and "having a boyfriend." 
 
 
 
Megan's life is busy and fulfilling.  She is an integral part of our family life and is responsible for all the same chores as her siblings (and complains occasionally....just like her siblings!).  She is extremely organized and tidy.  She remembers dates, names, places, and directions with precision.  Sometimes we call her our "walking calendar." 
 
Last Sunday we came home from church and I wasn't feeling well so I lay down to take a nap.  When I woke up I found the dishwasher unloaded, the dishes rinsed and put in the dishwasher, the table set for dinner, and a freshly made green salad.  She was sitting quietly in the living room reading a book when I exclaimed, "Wow, someone has been busy in the kitchen!"  She proudly replied, "It was me!  I'm the kitchen cleaning fairy!"
 
Megan loves all kinds of music (especially pop music on her iPod) and has been taking piano lessons for several years.  Right now she is preparing a hymn she plans to perform for our church's congregation.  She is the "Birthday Specialist" at church and announces the weekly birthdays and then sends each one a personalized card in the mail.
 
 
 
She is a member of a dance group for teens with special needs.  They perform at the county fair each summer and at various assisted living centers in our area.  She is a natural dancer and is proud of her "Hannah Montana moves!"  She started reading basic words in Kindergarten (using the Edmark program) and her love of reading continues.  She goes to the library each week and uses the online catalog to find her books, locates them and checks them out on her own. 
 
In her rare "free time" she loves all things Disney, manicures with friends, movies, and swimming.  She goes to a fitness class twice a week and swims twice a week.  Swimming is "her fave" and she's infamous for her fearless jumps off the high dive.
 
She dreams of the day when she can drive her own car, attend college, and be married.  We've had some tough, tearful discussions surrounding these dreams.  At her birth I questioned whether she'd know she had Down syndrome, or whether she'd recognize her differences.  By the time she was about 2 it was clear she would know, and by age 8 or 9 she'd describe a friend by saying, "he/she has Down syndrome like me."  Although this recognition can  sometimes feel like a "harsh reality" it has blessed all of our lives.  Some early "predictions" have come true for her; she has progressed through life with her own "unique spin," it does take longer for her to learn things, she will never be a math whiz or fly to the moon....However....she enhances the lives of all she meets. Every single accomplishment is an excuse for a celebration: she enjoys math and is a whiz with the calculator, and she loves flying in airplanes!
 
I still cry when I watch her baby videos or view her baby photos.  I see a young, apprehensive new mother who is trying to hide her pain with a smile.  I see a couple who is holding onto each other for dear life, wondering if they are in a bad dream.  The future is so uncertain.  There are so many unanswered questions.  How will we ever make it through this?  Can it really be 20 years later?  Yes, it can.  The positive changes that have occurred in us are nearly immeasurable. The beautiful dark haired healthy baby girl is now a beautiful blonde haired young woman.  She is strong, she is smart and most of all she is loved.
 
 
 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

new

Two items.


One: I have a new blog header...what do you think about it? I like to switch things up every few months, but I always get nervous doing so. I was tweaking it last night before I went to bed and wasn't satisfied, but today it's kind of growing on me...I think I just realized this morning that Lily looks like such a big girl in it. My baby is growing up!

Two: I have a new blog I follow. I first found out about it HERE. Warning: if you do not have a box of tissues next to you when you watch the slideshow, you'll be sorry. The actual blog is called I Will Carry You, and it's about a beautiful new baby born named Nora Rose, who has Trisomy 18. Nora is a fighter and she's already wrapping an army of prayer warriors across the nation around her tiny little finger. Will you join me in praying for her and for her family?

photo by www.cincinnatibirthphotography.com

Friday, April 27, 2012

the page turner

Have you ever read that book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? 


We had a week like that here at the Rice Ranch. We came home from a wonderful week at conference last Saturday, and in spite of mountains of resulting laundry, I felt refreshed and renewed.

Sam, however, had started coming down with the flu Friday night, and spent all of Saturday in bed. If you know my husband, this was a bad sign of things to come. Sam functions no matter what he's feeling like, and you pretty much have to hit him with a Mack truck for him to stop moving. Which must be what happened to him between Friday and Saturday night, because he was running a fever of 101.3 after Tylenol and Advil and could not move without groaning. He literally would not stop shaking all night long from the chills- I kept waking up feeling our bed vibrating and hearing him moaning in his sleep. Thankfully a friend came to preach for us the next day, and I gathered the troops for Sunday morning service while Sam stayed home shivering in bed...


I came home from church and gave Sam some more Tylenol, and within a few moments of starting lunch I realized I was coming down with the same thing...and as luck would have it the miscarriage I knew was coming all month began. I got the children lunch and crawled into bed with my husband, and sent out several texts asking friends to pray...turns out that would be the first in a series of SOS texts over the week- if you were on the receiving end, thank you so much for enduring all of my "please pray for us!!" texts and storming Heaven on our behalf.

The next two days were a blur...Sam was still very sick with the flu, and although mine didn't last as long, my emotions and miscarriage symptoms were taking a downturn. Tuesday night things went from bad to worse, and my poor sick husband insisted on taking me to ER...and all I will say about that experience is thank GOD for morphine and excellent doctors and nurses and friends and family who prayed us through it all. I'll spare you the details, but what seemed like an endless five weeks of waiting was finally over through a painless emergency surgical procedure...I don't know what women did centuries ago, but I am so thankful to be living in 2012.

 The last thing I remembered in OR was the wonderful anesthesiologist telling me he would make sure I didn't feel or remember a thing... I woke up in the maternity wing of our small town hospital, staring at the same walls I'd stared at years ago after delivering our 9th baby, Jackson. As kind as everyone was, I just wanted to be out of that room, where tiny newborn cries could be heard from just down the hall, the room I was supposed to be in six months from now....I don't know which one of us was more grateful for our own comfortable bed when we got home, but Sam and I crawled under our sheets and cranked up the rain on our faithful sound machine and slept like babies for the rest of the day.

And I wish I could say that sleep and home were the perfect ending to those nightmarish days, but sometimes when it rains it pours, you know?

Yesterday Sam woke up coughing so bad I thought he had pneumonia...a call to our doctor resulted in an appointment- next Wednesday. He agreed to go to urgent care if things got worse over the weekend. Typical man. When he came home for lunch (which was slim pickings thanks to neither one of us being able to get to the store after conference), Caleb noticed a few "caterpillars" on the wall. We had noticed a few before conference week...I just chalked it up to spring bringing forth new blooms and...bugs. But as Sam was eating his sandwich, Abigail looked up over his head to our kitchen's vaulted ceilings and gasped, "Something's moving up there." And I hope nobody is eating lunch whilst reading this post, but what was "moving" were dozens of...for lack of a nicer word...caterpillars, directly over Sam's lunch.

Upon further observation we noticed dozens more climbing up the walls beside our pantry cabinets....and upon opening said cabinets, noticed multiplied creeping friends. We quickly emptied multiplied hundreds (or so it seemed) of food containers: cereal boxes, pancake mix, partial bags of egg noodles and macaroni and rice and beans, in search of the culprit. Sam (still dragging and coughing) took the vacuum hose to every cabinet, wall and ceiling, while the kids and I threw out dozens of suspicious looking food items...the thought of one measly caterpillar appearing in a family dinner was too much to handle despite the loss of my carefully stocked pantry supplies. The very last item to be inspected was an unopened, sealed canister of Quaker Oats. And I am quite sure Quaker will never purchase a sponsorship spot on A Perfect Lily after today, but what we saw looked like something out of a horror movie...hundreds of tiny moths swarming and eating their way through the now hole-ridden sides of the canister, and equal amounts of our little slimy friends.

Can anyone tell me how a sealed container of oats produced such a plague in our pantry? I may never eat a bowl of homemade oatmeal again...

Anyhoot, our cabinets now bare, and trash bins full, Sam returned to work despite adding nausea to his list of physical woes...I had a meltdown on the couch, and not a little self-pity was probably mixed in with my tears.

Because on top of it all, there was fresh grief about losing my baby. I had honestly thought that a D&C and knowing that everything was really truly over, would bring an end to everything and ultimately bring relief. I thought I was done crying and grieving and that I would be ready to move on, and that Tuesday night was the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place- life would resume its normalcy with that final sentence written.

But I read once that grief is like a river, and although I'm sure the shore is in sight, sometime the waves try to suck me back under. I didn't expect to cry so much after this was over, I thought for sure I was past all that. And added to all the tears was guilt- so many people go through so much worse than me, and I have ten beautiful children to focus on. So why was this hurting so much? Maybe the finality of it all just took away that last little thread of hope that the doctors were wrong.. the one I didn't realize I was holding on so tightly to..

Sam called several hours later to say that his car broke down...it was pouring rain, we had no food in the house, I was in no physical condition to go to the store, and he was coughing and wheezing while telling me it would be a few hours til he got home. I texted a few friends (again!) and asked for prayer...and I may or may not have tacked on my sarcastic response to our week from hell: what's next, frogs and locusts???
Sometimes it helps me to try to keep a sense of humor through it all.

But you know what is amazing? Just when you think you can't take one more proverbial straw, because you're sure your camel's back already broke several days before, God turns the page.

And sometimes it's something as simple as a beloved sister-in-law living on the other side of the country calling Dominos and having 4 pizzas and several dozen wings sent to your doorstep...or your son and precious daughter-in-love coming over to laugh and cry with you through it all...or texts sent from loved ones stretched over several cities and states telling you they have your back, and will pray you through it all once again...or your precious chromosomally-enhanced daughter doing what she does best- bringing sunshine and joy to a home that has felt oppressed with dark clouds for what has seemed like forever.




I am so very thankful for the Page Turner. And I'm so grateful for a family who loves me and sticks with me even when I am at my lowest and will never win any Mother-of-the-Year award. And for friends who stay faithful and true even when I'm sure I've worn them out with my endless prayer requests.

I am so grateful that seasons in life are often just that- seasons.



“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:1-3)


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

small things

Dearest Lily,

So much has happened this month, so many "big" events and circumstances, that I'm finding myself  ...to borrow a friend's phrase ....enjoying the small things :)



Itty-Bitty Pedicures
 I haven't given you one since last summer! You sat absolutely mesmerized on the bathroom counter of the hotel last week as I brushed each toe with melon-colored polish and exclaimed, "pretty, Lily!" with each stroke. Afterwards you marched proudly over to your sister and wiggled piggies furiously while grinning and pointing down at them. The gold gladiator sandals I slipped onto your feet were gifts at your baby shower two years ago...there are perks to that extra chromosome, one of them being that we get to enjoy trying on new items for several years after receiving them instead of months.
Which brings me to...




New Outifts

I dug into a giant-sized rubbermaid container a week ago, in search of spring clothes for our trip. Expecting to find a few random items that would be a good start on a summer wardrobe, instead I found dozens of pastel-hued pants, floral blouses and matching hairbows, sundresses and sandals with the tags still on....it was like Christmas in April. As hard as it was to say goodbye to all those snuggly sweaters and knit leggings and crocheted caps, you now have a closetful of darling outfits (size 12-18 months!) waiting to be worn.


And speaking of new things, I am enjoying...


Pearly White Baby Teeth

They literally sprang up overnight. Last year we spent many tear-filled days walking the floor with teething troubles, but thankfully these new ones came in unannounced. I only caught a glimpse of them the other day during our impromptu photo shoot, and I'm sure they weren't there the day before! There is only one thing that comes close to rivaling their cuteness ...



Crinkly-Eyed Smiles

Somewhere in that stack of "What to Expect From Your Baby With Down Syndrome" pamphlets they sent home from the NICU, they forgot to include the fact that almond eyes are the cure-all for just about any type of blues. Your daddy and I could be stuck in bed with the flu for several days (ahem!) and yet one little princess pulls herself up onto our sickbed and flashes those pearly whites and half moons.... and we're both grinning ear to ear. You're a charmer for sure.




The Great Outdoors

Although officially spring began on March 21st, it's taken our little neck of the woods a whole month to wake up to the fact. I just told your daddy last week that I could not believe the kajillion leafless trees around our house were still looking very much like winter was here to stay...and as if in unison with your little chompers, they bloomed overnight. After spending half my life in a virtually seasonless state (actually there were seasons- hot and hotter), I am now convinced I never want to live any place where leaves don't change colors.

And I'm pretty sure you agree...you are obsessed with the great outdoors. It doesn't matter how grumpy or tired or hungry you are- if I say the magic words, "Lily, do you want to go OUTSIDE?" ...your entire face lights up, you start nodding your head frantically, and you race to the sliding glass door. Our deck surrounds the entire house, and you love to race from one end of the house to the other, laughing and tripping and waving through the windows to anyone who is watching from inside. You love to explore, you are oblivious to the wind or even sprinkling rain, you just want to stay and play outside as long as we'll let you. I've never seen any of our children love being outside as much as you do, and I would just love to know what is going on in your little head while you're enjoying it all.








Toddlerhood

I talked about this when you turned two, but now more than ever I am so aware of the fact that you're not a baby anymore. I realized it even more at conference last week, when everyone who hadn't seen you in a year kept exclaiming how much you've grown up. People couldn't believe you were walking - make that running - everywhere, even though you turned two in January. I'm sure they forgot your age because of how tiny you are, but you have also changed so much developmentally in the last six months as well.

You have definite preferences in everything...you shook your head "NO!" at me one day last week when I offered cheerios for breakfast in the hotel room. I asked if you wanted yogurt instead, and you signed it, then yelled "YO YO!" and ran around the corner of our family suite to the refrigerator. You banged wildly on the door until I opened it and got out the yogurt... you plopped yourself down on the floor and started clapping, then signing "please" as if your life depended on it. If I stopped feeding you for a moment to wipe your face you signed "more!" and yelled "muh-muh-muh" as if I'd forgotten you were hungry.

But if you decide you're not hungry, there's no convincing you it's time to eat! You shake your head no, push the spoon or food away with a scowl, duck your head and purse your lips, and if we persist in trying, you growwwwwl "NUH!" at us with a vengeance. I keep reminding myself that all of my toddlers were stubborn, but I am starting to wonder if that little sentence I tried to overlook in the What To Expect stack might actually be true... the one that says stubbornness is a common "trait" among children with Down syndrome.

Still, I am enjoying every aspect of your toddlerhood, and this budding independence really does do a mama's heart good. Someone last week remarked at the fact that you were not nervous at all around strangers. You kept darting away from me during our donut break each morning, and more than one conversation was cut off with a blurted out, "hold on while I go grab Lily!".  I'm not sure if it's because you were clingy for so long that people expected you to remain that way, or if maybe some people just don't know that toddlers with Down syndrome are still...toddlers. But I'm proud of your independence, and yes even your stubbornness...because it shows that you have a mind of your own. 






Home Sweet Home

We had a wonderful week away, and although we returned to piles of laundry, and a nasty unexpected flu bug, it is good to be home.

I love the view from my big picture windows: the budding branches and blossoming flowers, the grazing sheep and rusty red barn, and snow capped Mary's Peak in the distance...

I love the sound of my children's voices in the morning at the kitchen table, the scratching of pencils on workbooks, the hum of the dishwasher and the strains of Pandora a quiet backdrop to it all...

I love the familiar scent of our sheets, the fragrance of our now freshly cut grass, and yes, even the smell of the rain-soaked ground...because to me it all says home.

I'm grateful and mindful of blessings big and small, and as always, dearest Lily, I am so very thankful...



....for you.



Always yours,

Mama oxox

Monday, April 16, 2012

the sparrow

Dearest Lily,

It's late Sunday night and we're all packing the last of our things into suitcases, scrambling to find missing shoes or belts or hair-ties. You're wandering from room to room, watching the flurry of activity, and it's obvious you're curious what all the excitement is about.




Tomorrow we leave for a week of Bible conference, and as always, our home is buzzing with anticipation. Each night this week we'll enjoy different speakers and special music, and we'll listen to reports of what God's been doing in the churches in our fellowship spread throughout the Northwest. Each day we'll hear sermons as well, and spend time with friends we haven't seen since last year...your siblings' best friends will be there, and Mama and Daddy's too. This annual trip is in many ways like a big family reunion for us. It will be a time of refreshing, a week of renewing.




And I so need to be renewed, Lily.

It's been a long month for me, and in spite of the grace of God, and the love and encouragement of family and friends, I am longing for refreshing. I'm just being honest, sweet Lily...I am desperate for healing.



Is it weak to admit that I'm weary of the waiting, Lily? Does it mean my faith is less real because I'm worn down by the days that seem to pass like years, an endless cycle of praying that things pass quickly and wondering please when will this chapter be over?

Then so be it. I've tried pretending in the past that things don't hurt, and found that the result is worse than the pain of admitting...I'm not all that strong. So I'll say it here, and say it with both honesty and relief, and in so doing surrender the last desperate ounce of pride that remains: I'm broken.




And as strange as it may sound, dearest daughter-of-mine, that's a very good place to be. Because there's no room for haughtiness in a broken spirit, no place for self-righteousness or vanity or pride. There is no confidence in the flesh when the spirit is bruised and broken, and as humbling as it is to admit...in my weakness His strength is made perfect.



And maybe that's not inspiring in this day and age, when self-sufficiency is worn as a badge of honor, and reliance on God is often seen as a crutch. But I've lived life both ways, and if there's one thing the trials of life have taught me, and taught me well, it is this:



A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.   Isaiah 42:3




And this:


 My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  





There is peace in surrender. There is hope in knowing that the God who created the universe is not too big to see a bruised reed, a crushed spirit, my hurting heart...






For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. 




Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me.





To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

 A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.




A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.





A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away...





I'm going to soak up all I can this week, Lily. It's going to be a week of hope and renewal and refreshing, and although I'm entering into it all with a broken and hurting heart, it is a surrendered heart, and I do believe in a God who sees all, a Father whose eye is on the sparrow.






He has made everything beautiful in its time.




Love always,

Mama


Friday, April 13, 2012

special needs

This post is very special to me. As a blogger who focuses quite a bit on fundraising for orphan rescue, one of the biggest challenges I face is seeing so much need.

I receive emails weekly, sometimes daily, from people in need, and trying to discern how I can best help those needs is something I'm still trying to figure out. I wish so much that one little blog could meet every one of those needs, but the truth is that the needs far outweigh the donor base here. So much has been raised by Lily's readers towards orphan rescue- I lost count at $100,000 this past year alone. I know the hearts of my readers, and I know you would love to be able to financially help every family I blog about- but I'm sure your resources are just as "finite" as mine. I know personally there is so much more I would love to do but cannot.

In the months of February and March I focused on two families in great need of help- the Dirkes family and the Jolly family. We saw miracles happen for those families, and I am so thankful to every reader who helped make those miracles happen.

During those months I turned down many requests from people also in need of help, and I honestly have a very hard time doing that. So my answer was to take one post and focus on some needs that are dear to my heart...some of these families are in desperate need of help quickly, and even if you just chose one family to direct your help to, you would be doing a wonderful thing.

Please take the time to read through each need, and even if you are not able to contribute financially, I hope you will pray for and share these needs on your blogs or other social networks. Getting the word out there about needs is often just as important as donating- others in your sphere of influence may be able to meet needs you cannot, and you never know what one little blog post or FB share could do.


Quickly, I want to thank all of those who lovingly gave to the Willis family's adoption on Wednesday. I checked over on Jennifer's puzzle fundraiser page to see how things were faring, and read some of the recent comments...I gulped back tears to read my cousin Kate's words, "in honor of Patti's newest angel." Thank you, Kate, and thank you to all of you who donated to that adoption of two beautiful little girls with Down syndrome. $375 was added to the Willis family's adoption, and my friend Jennifer wanted me to tell readers how very thankful and encouraged she is...you all are truly the best.



So without further ado, here are some special needs that have been on my heart- I hope you will pray for and consider helping these wonderful families and causes...





********************


Amy Livingston
http://gracefulbutterflywings.blogspot.com/



It was Patti who sparked the flame for us.... sharing Lina on her FB wall asking, "Where is her mama??"  And it's been history ever since.  We've had many signs from God that this was our path and that she is OURS- beginning with very strict requirements for her adoption that we met- every single one.  We have had the smoothest adoption process, especially considering past drama from this particular region.  The stars have definitely been aligned!  The money has been flowing from our bank account just as smoothly ;) but it has always been a huge challenge for me to ask for donations.  When I saw Patti's post regarding families who still need funds I almost didn't reply.  But since there are only a matter of days left in our window of fundraising, I figured I'd take a chance.  When we first committed to Lina's adoption back in June, we were given the estimate of between $24,000-$28,000 for our total costs.  Just before leaving for our third and final trip we have now spent over $34,000 and still have more expenses left in country.  We are so grateful to the generosity shown to us this far- we have raised about $11,000 through this process and that was a huge help.  We leave on the 14th (this Saturday!!) and bring her home on the 21st- once she is home we can no longer fundraise.  Thank you, Patti, for leading us to our daughter, and for being a voice when I struggle with my own weaknesses.  xoxoxo







***********************

This next adoption is an amazing miracle in itself...my beautiful and inspiring friend Adeye blogged about an urgent need last December. I'm copying her words from that post here so that you can see a piece of how this miracle unfolded...


On December 31, 2011, Jonathan will turn sixteen.  A huge birthday for most teens.  But a dreaded day for this young man. Soon after the day of his sixteenth birthday Jonathan will be given the "gift" of his freedom.  Together with a small bag which contains all of his earthly possessions and about $30 in cash, he will be set free--no longer to be taken care of by a state orphanage.

Freedom? 


Sadly, not!


Unfortunately, most of the children like Jonathan who "age out" of the system literally have nowhere to go.  They are left on the streets to fend for themselves. With nowhere to turn, and no one to turn to, many end up in the trafficking industry. The majority never make it past their teen years. It is the sobering reality of most orphans who are forced to leave the only place of safety they know.  The statistics are staggering.  It is one of the many reasons adoption advocates fight so very hard to get children out of orphanages before it is too late. They know.


Here's the thing...


Jonathan has a matter of DAYS to find a family.  Mere DAYS!





Can you guess what happened??? A family came forward. Miraculously, everything fell into place for Jonathan to be rescued....

The Mickschl Family has seven beautiful children, four biological, one adopted from Russia, and two children with Down syndrome adopted from Ukraine. They are currently in the process of adopting Jonathan, a 16 year old, from Eastern Europe.




They are in need of $13K by the end of the month. The prices for this adoption continue to increase due to a delay in submission, adopting a healthy, older child, and the fact that the World Cup will be in Kiev this year when they will be traveling.

The Mickschl's are hosting an iPad Giveaway to raise funds to bring Jonathan home. You can go HERE to enter.


************************

*from my friend Stephanie Wilson

GiGi's Playhouses are Down syndrome awareness and educational centers that provide resources, specialized teaching, and support to individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the community. All programs are free to families, are therapeutic in nature, and range in age from pre-natal diagnosis thru adulthood. With multiple locations across the country, they seek to increase positive awareness of Down syndrome through national campaigns, educational programs, and by empowering individuals with Down syndrome, their families, and the community. We know that by helping individuals with Down syndrome reach their highest potential, we can change outdated perceptions that people may have. The end result is a world that is empowered with knowledge, compassion, and inspiration – what a better place for all of us!








GiGi's Playhouse Bradley/Bourbonnais IL needs your help! For every Facebook "like" the Brown & Brown Chevrolet Hyundai RV Center page gets in the month of April they will donate $1 to our Playhouse up to $3,000. Thank you for supporting GiGi's Playhouse Bradley/Bourbonnais!


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We are the Bowser Family, and we are currently in the process of adopting two girls, a 4 year old from India and a 15 year old from Latv*a, named Kit*ja.

 Kit*ja is precariously close to aging out in September. Aging out is a finality in an orphan's life. No longer available for adoption, Kit*ja will be given the equivalent to $90 American dollars and will walk away from everything she has ever known to face the reality of life on her own, alone. Forced to find shelter, she will find it with whomever and wherever she can. Because her skills are limited, she will turn to either a life of crime, drug abuse, selling drugs or selling her young body to support herself.

Statistics are against her: 85% of orphans who have aged out have a life expectancy of less than two years. Why? Because she will have either been murdered, overdosed or committed suicide because she had no family to offer her the love, support, affirmation, encouragement that she is important and destined for better things.

But this is not to be Kit*ja's fate... she has us.
Her family!

But, we need you...
We need your help to bring our daughter home!


picture of our Kit*ja during her time with us via the orphan host program

Please go HERE to donate to the Bowser family's adoption fund to help rescue Kit*ja.


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(thank you to my amazing friend, Elissa Lindsey, for sharing this need with me.)  


There is an amazing giveaway going on over at The Stars Aligned to rescue this little princess....


 This beautiful little face alone is enough to motivate me to give, but Lyla's story is just as beautiful. Please go HERE to read about the miracle that is taking place right now, and how you can help give this story a happy ending.




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My sweet friend, Katrina Morriss is hosting a Fun Photo Fundraiser over on her blog...



Go HERE to find out how you can help the Morriss family bring home their beautiful daughter Carlene.


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Thank you again for your hearts for orphans and for children with Down syndrome...

 "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." Matthew 25:40


Lots of love,

Patti

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

from my heart

I almost posted this yesterday, but I hit delete after drafting it...because I dread sounding like a drama queen, or like life is all about me.

But today I am feeling in great need of prayer, so I'm going to put this out there and hope people know my heart.

I took misoprostol this morning to start this miscarriage. I'm 9 weeks and 3 days, and we've known for weeks our baby died. Unfortunately my body doesn't know it yet. This medicine will bring this scary and sad chapter to an end, which although hard right now, in the long run is for the best.

I wish I was a little bit more brave...but truthfully I'm scared. I've had several big crying jags in the last 24 hours leading up to this, and the worst isn't over yet. I really could use the prayers of my friends and family right now, so I'm putting my pride aside to ask.

I have a post I'm working on for Friday- I have had many requests from readers who need help with their adoptions, and I had to turn so many down the past few months in order to focus on the Jolly's adoption. One of the things that really helps me when I'm worried or upset is to take my eyes off my own problems and put them on someone else's need. The post I'm working on is very therapeutic for me, and I am praying it helps these families get some of the help they need.

I was going to feature one of these families in Friday's post, but I heard a little rumor that they could really use some encouragement today. I met Jennifer Willis through blogging last year- Jennifer actually found out about Reece's Rainbow through Lily's blog and is now in the process of adopting two beautiful little girls with Down syndrome as a result. And if that isn't encouraging enough, she lives 45 minutes away from me...which means some day I actually get to meet some of these precious orphans I've been blogging for. Talk about rewarding !

Emilie and Abigail


So I have two favors to ask readers today...and I know I'm always asking for favors, so I hope I haven't worn out my welcome with you. The first is that you pray that this medicine works speedily and as pain-free and complication-free as possible. Pray that I can recover quickly and be the mama I need to be to my children. And pray for my emotions...because I'm pretty much a wreck today. I hate admitting that, but this isn't fun.

And secondly, will you help Jennifer and her husband today? They're doing a puzzle fundraiser, and it's so easy to help....just $5 to buy a puzzle piece to help bring their girls home. I know how easy it is to throw $5 away...a latte and a tip, a magazine, a burger and fries...and we wouldn't think anything of it. Will you take the time to bless this family? It would really brighten my day too...it probably sounds very selfish, but if I saw that chip-in go up it would go a long way to helping my emotions as well:)

Thank you as always for your incredible hearts for orphans, and thank you ahead of time for your prayers.

Lots of love,

Patti

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My Big Fat Easter Post

Before I share My Big Fat Easter Post, I wanted to ask readers to make sure to check back in at the end of the week. I have a very special post that I've been working on, and you don't want to miss it!

And next I just want to say...I can't believe how many Easter posts I saw in blogland on Sunday night. All I can say is- wow. You ladies are on top of it. One blog I read even had Easter pictures posted the day before Easter. But these are probably the people who shop for all their Easter goodies and plastic grass and egg dyeing kits the day after Christmas. Whereas I...had to wedge my shopping cart carefully between 500 other last-minute shoppers on Saturday morning at the grocery store, and then dive bomb between two hesitating moms for the last four bags of pink plastic grass. (For the record: I won.)

Someone was glad I did...


But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Saturday evening I carefully lined the kitchen counter with triple layered paper towels and multiple glasses filled with foaming vinegar and Paas tablets. I strictly instructed my children that there would be no elbowing siblings out of the way to grab their favorite color, explaining that bright blue dye does not come out of a white formica countertop easily. "Pretend you're the Duggars just for tonight," I said with a hopeful smile, and five minutes later I was applying baking soda and elbow grease to a decidedly turquoise countertop.

*pre-spilled-dye-nightmare



Poor Lily didn't understand that we were trying to keep the egg in the glass and kept trying to fish it out...





I gave her the copper dipper, and she successfully sloshed it around in kool-aid colored dye before flinging red droplets across the freshly scrubbed countertop....


...so we switched gears and had her color an Easter picture instead....




I really do love this tradition, despite the messiness of it all. I know it's the kid in me, but I love the smell of vinegar and hard-boiled eggs, the trial-and-error of little ones creating that "perfect striped egg" only to decide that gray-green is actually a marvelous shade for an Easter egg, the cuteness of stained fingers sticking out of suit coat sleeves on Easter morning...I love it all.





And although I did have to throw myself at the mercy of hundreds of other last-minute-shoppers Saturday morning, I was able to successfully fill 4 dozen plastic eggs and assemble 12 Easter baskets before dinner Saturday evening, which is no small feat. Mainly because I have this weird mommy-phobia that one of the baskets is going to end up with 16 jellybeans and 4 peeps, and someone else's is going to have 17 jellybeans and 5 peeps, and that just wouldn't be fair. And if you have more than one child, you know what I'm talking about- someone is bound to count plastic eggs on Easter morning and declare that the Easter bunny ripped him off. Rest assured all Easter baskets at the Rice Ranch are created equal...


*reading Peter Cottontail's note. "Yes, Jackson and Noah and Abbi- there is an Easter Bunny."


Peter Cottontail informed the children that he hid "Forty-four plastic eggs, twenty-six dyed eggs, and one-hundred-and-ninety-nine foil-wrapped chocolate eggs" for them to find. Which translated means that he and Mrs. Cottontail had to get up at 4:45 a.m. to facilitate this mother-of-all-Easter-egg-hunts and that one of them (apparently) had a chocolate egg for breakfast. Ahem.





cutest Easter Lily ever



I promise you Mr. Cottontail hid the hard-boiled egg in the dirty shoe bucket...Mrs. Cottontail has better taste than that.





After the morning festivities, we ate a hearty breakfast of boiled eggs (doesn't that sound yummy after that ^^^^ photo ??) and Captain Crunch. My afternoon Easter Feast makes up for the lack of a better Easter breakfast tradition. Plus, Mrs. Cottontail can only juggle so many tasks, and rising at 4:45 a.m. to hide hundreds of eggs takes priority over Pioneer Woman's Hot Cross Buns. 

Besides, I bet Pioneer Woman doesn't painstakingly divide 5 dozen peeps and 200 jellybeans between a dozen Easter baskets evenly. She probably throws everything in baskets the night before and calls it good. At least that's what I tell myself on Easter morning as we're slurping down our crunchy golden nuggets of seven essential vitamins and minerals.

the little boys: Noah and Jackson



My little Easter Lily

my three girls...Lily, Abigail and Mackenzie

the middle boys: Tyler, Jonathan and Caleb

the gang...well, eight of them

Sunday morning church..my beautiful daughter-in-loves, Naomi and Monique, and my lovely daughter Mackenzie




After church Jason, Naomi, Baby K, Josiah and Monique all came over for our traditional Easter lunch: honey-glazed ham, potatoes and corn, baked beans and salad, rolls, and Mountain Dew. Yeah, we're classy like that.



All in all it was a lovely Easter, and more than anything else I am grateful for a Risen Savior who is what our Resurrection Day is all about. We love our family traditions, and we enjoy all the little extras that make this holiday special, but most of all we are so thankful for God sending His Son to die for us. It's a glorious thing to put your life in the hands of the One who paid the price for your sins, knowing that He is Risen...


He is Risen, indeed !!