Monday, April 29, 2013

saving penny

Have you ever looked at the world and all the tragedies taking place and your heart just hurt so much you felt completely and totally overwhelmed?

Have you ever read or watched the news for the day and felt so helpless to do something to change things that you almost just turned away in apathy or denial ?

Have you ever heard stories of famine or poverty or war or injustice and felt powerless to do anything about it all ?

I have. I watched the adoption situation in Russia crumble this winter, and although so many were praying and hoping that things would shift in favor of orphan rescue, the government there had other plans. And they prevailed. Over 250 mid-process adoptions were shut down because of a law that now denies Americans the chance to rescue Russia's forgotten children.

Those aren't just numbers...they are children with names.

Names that will forever be etched in my heart, representing children I will never stop praying for.

Olga. Artem. Albina. Kacey. Nanette. Lera. And the list goes on....

I asked my friend Kelly Dirkes, Charlotte's mama, if I could share a recent blogpost she wrote, in regards to these children who are now left behind. Each one of the faces you see were waiting for families to come rescue them. They had mamas and papas who wanted to bring them home and raise them and show them the love of a family.

They were wanted.


(from the director of Charlotte's Baby House)

I am glad that every child leaving our baby home takes with them kindness and knowledge that they were loved and spoiled there…


…and that their childhood was happy despite any circumstances.


Every person deserves a good present and past…


…a place to call home and people who love them.


After we took some of the children to the institution and saw how they were welcomed, I do not believe there is kindness, warmth, or compassion there.


But the memories of our love and kindness should warm them for now.


And we will pray for them.  We will pray they remember love.


I knew this day would most likely come after negotiations stalled, but that didn’t make the reality of it any less wrenching.  There is nothing left that can be done for them. Charlotte’s friends have been sentenced to life in a place referred to as “the House of Invalids”.

Please pray they remember love.  It is not enough…but right now, it is everything.


If you're a new reader and are unfamiliar with special needs adoption in Russia, here's a crash course in reality.

These children have no place in their society. Children like Lily, and those with other special needs, are not taken home from the hospital by their parents in Russia...they are deemed unfit, and they are left in orphanages or "Baby Houses" to spend the first four to five years of their lives. They are raised by caretakers, and when they graduate from their Baby Houses, they are transferred to adult mental institutions. There they will spend the rest of their lives secluded from society.

What do you do with children who are too small to contain in an adult mental institution ? With limited workers and inadequate facilities, how do you keep small wandering children from roaming halls or mingling with the "adults".

You tie them to cribs. Apparently.

You prop bottles filled with mush, you leave them for hours on end in soiled diapers, you ignore crying and screaming and eyes pleading for help, you leave them to fend for themselves, you pretend they aren't human.

Because one day they will grow out of that stage, and realize there is nobody coming to help. They will self-soothe, chew their hands, rock themselves to sleep in boredom, bang their heads against the bars of their cribs for stimulation, soil themselves without caring, stop living...and just exist.

This is Russia's answer to those who in America are called children with "special" needs. 

Forget about them.

Albina...her family traveled to see her and named her Haley. They were waiting on a court date in December. 

My heart is broken for these children. So many of you helped raise funds for them before they had committed families, and so many continued to give to the families adopting them.

My heart is broken for the families who spent months and years and finances and energy in an effort to rescue their children.

And yes, I feel helpless.

I will never stop praying for these children or their families, because that is all the hope they have left now.

So what do you do when you read stories like these?

Do you decide that your efforts were wasted, that it's better to leave these situations to themselves, to turn a blind eye, pretend they don't exist, give up, because it's all a lesson in futility ?

Or do you decide it's time to act.

Do you take that righteous anger - because I AM angry - and decide to do something good.

Because that's the only way I know to combat this feeling of hopelessness and helplessness.

I will pray.

And I will never forget.

And I will ACT.

This is Penny. She lives in B******* , a nation that also secludes children with special needs from society. However, B******* does not deny Americans the right to rescue their children.

Penny has lived in this orphanage for all of her twelve years.

Twelve years.

She weighs 21 pounds (Lily's weight) and is 36 inches tall.

This is not because of her condition- cerebral palsy - but because of starvation and neglect.

Penny has a family committed to her, who will be adopting her this year.  They have worked tirelessly to do all the necessary paperwork required to bring her home, and they have scrimped and saved for all of the expenses involved in her adoption.

They need roughly $3,000 to complete Penny's amount I KNOW Lily's readers will meet.

You've done it so many times before - you've helped raise $10,000 in two days before.

You've helped raise over $150,000 over the past two years towards special needs adoptions.

Are you willing to do it again?

Are you willing to put your heart on the line and risk and sacrifice and give, to rescue one fragile and forgotten and beautiful and deserving child ?

Will you help save Penny?

An anonymous family is donating a brand new iPad for our Saving Penny Giveaway.

Here's how the giveaway works.

Donate ANY amount to Penny's grant fund on Reece's Rainbow to be entered to win. You can donate via the Paypal button at the top right hand corner of this blog. This will take you directly to Penny's grant fund on Reece's Rainbow. All donations go directly to Penny's grant fund account. You do not need to tell me the amount you donated, but you DO need to leave a comment in the comment section here saying you donated to be entered to win.

You may receive an additional entry by facebooking, posting on Instagram with a link, tweeting, or blogging about this giveaway. Just leave a comment here telling me what you did to receive an extra entry.

When we have raised $3,000 - and I know we will, because I know the heartbeat of this readership - we will draw a winner from the comment section through The Paypal gadget needs to read $8,463 for us to reach our goal.

The winner of the iPad will be announced that day, and it will be shipped immediately.

Are you ready to do something powerful in the face of all the injustice in the world ?

Are you ready to ACT ?

Spread the word, readers.


Monday, April 22, 2013

We're back and Monday Miscellany

We're back.

After a week of Bible conference I am refreshed, encouraged, and ready to take on Monday.

Which will include tackling about ten loads of laundry and unpacking as many suitcases. But I'm up for it. That last-month-nesting-instinct is kicking in, and although I'm not sure I have the energy to match it, I do have loooots of helpers here. And I fully intend to employ their services. #Springcleaning and #momsabouttohaveababy are going to have a wedding this week, and the results will be painted walls, scrubbed baseboards and lots of Pine-Sol in the air.

Yippee !!

So onto Monday Miscellany...

These photos are an odd assortment of iPhone pics...because I didn't bring my camera to conference, and they're all I have. If you follow us on Instagram you've probably seen most of them already. But not everybody has an IG account, so bare with me. Or is it bear with me? I never know. But I have Mount Vesuvius waiting for me in the laundry room, so I'm not gonna look it up right now.

Lily is obsessed with make-up. Putting it on herself, her brothers, her dolls. Praise the Lord for this fake mini-lipstick someone gave her (I think Grammi) as it has saved clothes and walls and brothers from her um...skills. 

Jackson is a willing subject, and usually her partner in crime in all areas of life. I love the friendship between these two. It's one of those love-hate relationships, because half the time he wants to be in her face kissing her and asking her questions, and girlfriend just wants her space, ya know ? She's learned the word NOOOO and uses it with gusto. And occasionally a slap to the face. Ahem. But the other half of the time they are running all over the house plotting mischief together, and their infectious giggles make up for the typical sibling rivalry that preceded their fun.

It's all good.


I love her bedhead look. And she almost always wakes up with this cute grin on her face. Like- helllooo world, I'm ready to share my cuteness with you. After she's spent five or ten minutes of snuggling, she starts signing and saying "cereal" furiously, as if she hasn't eaten in years.

She sings the whole way down to breakfast, and as soon as she's done she resumes singing and runs off to find her dollies and toys. She is always singing. Always. 


I love having a little girl.

I never get tired of dressing her up and doing her hair and asking her to pose for pictures. Several readers have asked or commented on the amount of clothes Lily has. I admit it- she's a hoarder. Okay, I'm a hoarder. But I would guess that 90% of Lily's wardrobe comes from hand-me-downs...we have lots of friends and relatives (hello Aunt Hopie, Aunt Lori, Danielle, Cassie...) who have little girls that they dress to the nines. So Lily is the happy recipient of all those clothes...and occasionally I splurge and go shopping for her.

We also have a fantastic resale shop one town away called Jack and Jill. They know our family well there. I seriously could do a commercial for that place. They mostly sell clothes for younger children, and we still have 4 of those at The Rice their wardrobes generally come from Jack and Jill.

Just before our trip to California last month I bought Lily five shirts, a pair of shorts, and a pair of capris for less than $25. And they were all Old Navy, Gap, Children's Place and Osh Kosh, and in perfect condition. Buy used and save the difference. (Name that family ;))

Oh, and Lily's oldest sister shops for her constantly. This is the benefit of having children from the time you're in your twenties til you reach your some point you have adults for children who spoil your younger kids worse than grandparents do. Just a little plug for large families there.

Old Navy shirt: Jack and Jill, $4. Jeggings bought by big sissy. Shoes from our neighbor. Bow from Cassie.

Sweater from Danielle, bow from Cassie

Dress from Danielle, tights from Aunt Hopie

White Old Navy blouse from Jack and Jill $3, sweater and jeans from Danielle, bow made by Cassie, biggest splurge ever on Lily's wardobe: Minnetonka Mocs, $25 on Amazon. Worth every penny I paid, as they go with everything !!!

So there you have a mini tutorial on how to dress your girl on a dime. Make lots of friends, shop resale, have kids early AND late in life.

Patti's Helpful Hints.

You're welcome.

I posted this pic on Instagram, and waited for the reprimands to fly. Is that a hot tub? Where is her bathing suit ? Is she in there alone? Fortunately there was only one, and I already predicted it. From Grammi : This makes me nervous.

I'm going to poke fun at Grammis for a minute here. Because I am a Nana, and I just know within a few years I will be doing the same thing- watching out for my grandbabies even though I know their parents are adults. It's just what grandparents do to show their love.

My brother once stepped out of our station wagon in the midst of moving traffic. He looked out the window and decided he wanted to go home, so while my mom was driving he just opened the door and jumped out onto Granite Reef Road in Scottsdale, Arizona. (He did survive. The jump, I mean. The spanking was a different story.)  I think he was three or four. Because back in the olden days we didn't sit in carseats. Or wear seatbelts. Ever.

In fact, most of my childhood was spent lounging in a bean bag chair in the back of my parents' Ford Travel-all. With my brother and sister and our two bassett hounds...we drove back and forth to our cabin in the mountains like this, around windy roads, while my mom yelled "STEVE!" every twenty minutes or so because he was a little drowsy and she was afraid he would miss a curve and send us all plummeting wildly over the tiny guardrail into the canyon below. I have fond memories of dog hair flying in the air, and sticky sweaty arms and legs being stuck to those vinyl beanbag chairs, while we sang songs and played the license plate game for hours.

And then when we got to the cabin we would spend days playing in the forest, walking alone to the tiny general store a mile or so away, collecting pine cones and exploring old run-down empty campers all unsupervised. Sometimes we would sneak out in the early morning hours alone, before my parents woke up, to look for deer or the Mogollon Monster who was said to inhabit our mountains.

But today Grammi sees a picture of Lily standing less than a foot away from me in a hot tub set to pool temperatures and she is nervous :)

Mom- I love you. I promise Lily was safe in this photo, and I'm taking good care of your grandbabies for you.  oxoxox

And Jason and Josiah, when I start asking you to call me at midnight to let me know you got back from a long road trip, even though you are grown married men, please know it's because we just never stop being mothers, okay?

(okay, so maybe I just did that last month. And the month before. And the month before. That's what moms are for !)


This is me a week and a half ago. I'm 34 and a half weeks now, and counting the days til this baby arrives. I am so convinced it's a boy that I have bought multiple blue coming home outfits and a new baby blanket in pale blue and white. If this baby is a girl, I have a TON of shower gifts for my friends having boys this year.


There's this cool app for iPhones called AfterLight, and I use it on almost all my pics. I love the ones that add texture, like the one below. And it's free. More helpful hints here on A Perfect Lily, just for you.


And finally, Lily the posing queen.

Last night before church I told her we were going to take a picture before we got in the van. She walked out the front door, marched over to the spot against the wall I always have her stand, and posed like this. Hands behind her back, cute grin on her face - I took the picture and said "TOO CUTE, LILY!"  and she marched over to get into the van like a big girl. My baby is growing up.

p.s. Mom, I promise that's an empty m&m container in her hands, and not a firecracker about to explode. Just so you know.

Happy Monday !!!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

We're here

... At Bible conference for the week. Be back soon !

Saturday, April 13, 2013

God nods

Just popping in here over the weekend to express my thanks for all the sweet comments the past two weeks. I've been reading and re-reading each one, and they have encouraged me so much. I readily admit I am at that emotional at-least-one-meltdown-per-day stage of pregnancy, and I haven't been the most pleasant person to live with. Nobody in my family (okay, maybe Mackenzie) would admit this is true, but it is. I feel huge, I'm having a hard time walking, sleeping, and breathing, and somehow this baby brought with it fifty times the hormonal mood swings than my previous ten did. Or at least it feels like it.

So thank you, thank you, thank you for your kind words, and for always coming back to read even when I express frustration here. I absolutely LOVE being pregnant, and I am so grateful for a baby this late in life. Please don't ever think I'm taking this for granted...I know I am a blessed, blessed Mama.

Today I feel especially blessed, and I wanted to share a few reasons why. If you read here often you know that I am a Christian...and I'm not ashamed to say that I am what some might consider a Bible thumping Christian. I don't believe God is "out there" somewhere just watching life here on earth, and I don't believe He's whoever we want Him to be. I believe in the literal, very personal, very present God of the Bible, and it isn't just because I heard about Him in church one day. It's because I talk to Him every day. And He moves in my life and answers prayers and meets needs and breaks habits and fills me up and speaks to my heart - He is a real and present and tangible and living God who I have a personal relationship with. You could not convince me that He does not exist or that He is just a figment of my imagination anymore than you could convince me I don't have a relationship with my husband or kids. He's that real to me.

And sometimes - like today - He goes out of His way to show me how much He loves me and cares for me and is here for me. Even when I'm at my grumpiest and hormonal-est. Even when I'm the least lovable...He cares for me.

One of my favoritest scriptures - and I know I say that a lot - is "Cast your cares on Him, for He careth for you." That means when we're worried, grieving, anxious, mad, anti-social, sad, lonely, frustrated, whatever- we can take it to God. We can be honest and say, "Dear God, I suck at this." Okay, I know I probably have readers offended by those words. Sorry. "Dear God, I'm a sinner. Please help me. Please take all this mess and help me." And He can take it. He can handle it. Because He cares for us. He's not only willing, He is waiting for us to hand it to Him. 

Yesterday I was having my third meltdown of the day... and feeling incredible guilt on top of the meltdown. Because I know I am so blessed, and somehow that makes me feel like I'm never allowed to be human and have meltdowns. After all there are women who lose babies, women who can't have babies, babies who don't have families, and the list goes on and on and on. And here I go again, calling my husband on the phone so I can cry and go on and on about very trivial things, and everything is upsetting me and on top of that I am upsetting me, because why can I not rise above these raging hormones and get things under control? Why can't I be Michelle Duggar for crying out loud (literally !!!). She has twice as many kids and I bet she never has daily meltdowns at the end of her pregnancies !!

So right after my third meltdown of the day I went into the bathroom to wipe the mascara off my face -again - and just poured out my heart to God. I told Him how cruddy I feel physically, said I was sorry for being frustrated with everyone, told Him how large and un-in-charge I feel, told Him I feel physically unable to take care of everybody right now, and asked Him to just help me. Help me to be a better mom, better wife, better friend, sister, daughter, etc.etc.etc. And on top of all that could He help me find an affordable carseat for this baby, because I just priced them at Target and is it just me or did carseats suddenly triple in price over the last three years?

See how random my mind has been lately?! While asking God to basically give my brain an overhaul, I throw in a request for an infant carseat. Because that's right up there with fix-my-life kind of prayers, dontcha know ?

Anyhoot, fast forward to this morning. Mackenzie had asked me to go get a pedicure with her, as we're leaving this Monday for a week of Bible conference out of town. I'm going to be wearing sandals all week, and I can't even put on my own shoes right now, let alone paint my toenails. So I gladly agreed. I spent a glorious hour relaxing in the salon and talking to the kind Vietnamese salon owner while he painted my toes with pink glitter. (Hellooooo, midlife crisis ?) I asked him all about his life- how he came here, why he came here, how he started his business, etc.

What I heard just touched my heart in such a profound way... he told me about his family coming to America by boat when he was ten years old. They traveled three nights and three days in a little boat to Malaysia. They stayed there for months living off what food they could find - fish, fruit, whatever was edible and free. Eventually they sailed to Hawaii, where he lived for twenty years. Life was work- he and his family ran a kitchen cart, basically cooking out of a van all day and selling meals. The work was hard- getting up at five to prepare the food and working all day til six or seven. In a hot, humid little kitchen cart, just serving people all day. He said they had no days off - when they weren't open they were buying supplies for the next week. But they were free and they were together and they were happy.

Eventually he traveled back to Vietnam and met his wife...they returned to Hawaii to start their own family and then later moved here to give their children a better life. Things are very expensive in Hawaii, and he wanted his kids to have better opportunities here in school and when it came time to go to college or find employment. So they started all over again here- studied and learned and began a new business, and for the first time they work normal hours and have time to relax a bit.

And the whole time he was talking, I just kept thinking about how very easy I have it. Not a "how dare I have meltdowns" kind of thinking, but just an appreciation for what I have, and what I've been given. And it inspired me to be that kind of a parent- the kind who is willing to sacrifice personal comfort to make a better life for my kids. I was so impressed with this man and his kind and smiling wife working beside him... there was not a hint of bitterness for all they have gone through, or what their families went through. Just appreciation for where they are now.

I left there feeling so refreshed and inspired. Kenzie and I went to lunch together and I just sat there talking with her and soaking it all up....just being out of the house for a little bit, enjoying time with my adult daughter, and feeling like myself again. I texted Sam thanking him for watching the kids and encouraging me to go take some time for myself - I didn't realize how much I needed it.

When I got home I walked in the door and looked around- instead of the usual chaos of Saturday mornings, I found everything sparkling clean and vacuumed. The kitchen was swept and morning dishes put away, the laundry was folded and put away, the beds were all made and rooms cleaned, and the kids were getting ready to leave to get haircuts before conference next week. Caleb had been working feverishly to do the last few loads of laundry, so that all I had to do today was pack us up for next week. My older three boys had packed themselves, and Abigail had made an impressive start on her packing as well. I was in awe of all that had transpired while I was gone for the morning.

Later today, while I was putting the last of Lily's outfits into a suitcase, Abigail came upstairs and into the room. She placed a beautiful, expensive carseat on the floor- the exact one I had been eyeing at Target the other day. "Our neighbor wants to know if you want this. Her baby outgrew it and she doesn't need it anymore."

Do you ever have moments where you say- God, You are really real. I mean - I know I'm basing my whole life on that belief, and I'm a pastor's wife for Pete's sake, but when little things like this happen, just complete answers to prayer when I least deserve or expect it ? I say things like that to God. You are really real. And I'm so thankful.

And the icing on the cake came just after that...Jason and Naomi and Baby K came over to pick up a bed we were giving them. When they were getting ready to go they asked if they could take all the kids home to spend the night, and they would bring them back in the morning to get ready for church. I all but threw myself at Jason and Naomi's feet to worship them, and then shoved my kids out the door kissed each of my sweet children goodnight.

So here I sit in my quiet, clean house, enjoying these moments of peace, and I just feel so very spoiled. And relaxed. And blessed.

And I just realized I made it through the ENTIRE day without one meltdown.

If you only knew what a miracle that is.

So there you have it. My little.......okay long testimony.... to what God did for me today. You can call it coincidence, or just a good day, but I believe - no I know - it was a loving and merciful and personal Savior who hears my prayers and forgives and gives, because He careth for me.

Happy weekend.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

life unscripted

 I went to upload some photos yesterday and discovered these little gems on the camera. Apparently while I was taking a nap the other day my kids had a tea party and a photo shoot. And Lily was doing some cleaning in a Santa hat.

 Enjoy these candid moments from the Rice Ranch.

The End.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lily Anne...the movie

I'm just a little freaking excited right now.

Okay, a lot.

I have wanted forever to be able to consolidate our photos and video clips into mini-movies for our family to enjoy as keepsakes. I tried onetruemedia for awhile, but it has limitations. I bought a cheesy video maker thingy right after my North Pole Party...they charged my account three times, and the charges went to some town in France. I did get the thing downloaded, but I had no option to stop or start the video or music- so if I posted it here people started hearing music and watching the movie whether they wanted to or not. Lame-o.

We have a Mac and for weeks I've been begging Sam to find the cd from Apple he had hidden somewhere in his office so we could install iMovie...dontcha just love how you can't just upgrade to the best version of whatever you need for your computer? You have to make sure you have Kitten or Cat or something, then Lion, then Snow Leopard, then Snow Leopard 3797x I think, then Raging Cougar, then FINALLLLLLY you can upgrade to Mountain Lion. And then you can install iMovie and take four hours to figure out how it works.

And then prepare the movie for exporting, which takes an hour and then upload to youtube which takes half an hour.

And after all of that you have this beautiful little video which lasts a total of 3 minutes and 44 seconds. is the sweetest thing I've ever made and it was worth every minute I invested. And now that I know how to do it all and have the software to do it, I will be overwhelming my blogs with video collages from The Rice Ranch. Consider yourself warned.

For now, here is a little flashback of Lily when she was between 20 and 24 months old. I miss my baby !!

p.s. you can click on expand to make it full screen. You can also grab some popcorn and turn off the lights so you can feel like it's a real movie if you want.

Monday, April 8, 2013

monday miscellany

It's Monday.

Which means I have a pile of weekend laundry waiting for me and a pile of children to teach.

So this post will be short sweet and hard to beat. Although there will be just a few words to read, it is full of photos of Lily...which is what you came to see anyway, right??

Kenz snapped two pics of us before church last night, and I look as exhausted as I felt in both of them. And Lily is looking away from the camera in one and the other is blurry. BUT ....

...I still think they're sweet. We're not a professional blog here, so who cares. Think of us as a kid-friendly restaurant, no fancy waiters or linens, and you can throw peanuts on the floor if you like. Make yourself at home.

Don't let that little baby above fool you ^^^^.   He/she is a Monster Baby. Able to kick ribs and pelvic bones into pieces and force Mommy to the ground with one punch. Either I have a boy who is all boy or a girl who will keep her seven brothers in line from birth.

And here's an iPhone pic that turned out nicely...crazy how sometimes iPhones can take better pics than Kenzie's very expensive camera. Next year I'm hoping they come out with an iPhone that folds your laundry and cleans your toilet. Where is Bill Gates when I need him ???

Or was it Steve Jobs? Sorry iPhone snobs. I'm not up on all the details of technology and who invented it all. But if you could let one of the CEO's know they could make bank on an iPhone that folds your laundry, I would greatly appreciate it.

Another iPhone photo Mackenzie took....

Look at those eyes. WOULD YOU LOOK AT HER ??? I wuv her.

And if you haven't been following us on Instagram, you are missing out on some really cute pictures...

Lastly, my friend Katrina sent me an email asking for readers for prayer. Katrina and I met through blogging several years ago - she and her husband were in the process of adopting Natasha from Russia and were so close to bringing her home. They had already met her and were preparing to travel again when the ban on Russian adoptions became law. I have so many friends in the adoption community who faced the same situation- my heart breaks for theses families who spent months and sometimes years, not to mention multiplied thousands of dollars to bring their children home.

Here is Katrina's email- please join with us in prayer and fasting for these families and children...

Please join our family next Sunday to fast/pray for a meeting that will be discussing the adoption ban between the US and Russian Governments. Please share this event. I would love for at least 2,000 people to be fasting/praying for these children on that day. Our Family Needs a Miracle.

And really lastly...a little video to brighten your day.

Our future drummer...

Have a wonderful Monday,


Sunday, April 7, 2013

lilybird photography

Lily's oldest sister, Mackenzie, has a photography business named in her honor...LilyBird Photography.  She is taking reservations for spring photo sessions, and you can contact her for pricing at the link above. You can see some of her work on on her website above, as well as her blog. She does family, individual, and senior portraits, as well as wedding, maternity and childbirth packages. She is reasonably priced and works closely with her customers to capture exactly what they are looking LilyBird Photography today to book your portrait session.