Friday, January 31, 2014

merry christmas in january

This year we sent out New Years cards instead of Christmas cards. So in keeping with that way of thinking (always put off tomorrow what can be put off til tomorrow. or something like that) I am now going to do my Christmas post in January. I just know there are readers out there longing for the Christmas season again, so here you go.

A note about the above photo. I know it looks like a lot of presents. But here's my disclaimer : we have 18 people in our family when my oldest kids and their wives and little ones come over. So if each person  - including little Macie, who will arrive in April - gets just 2 presents… do the math.

(That was your algebra problem for the day, kids. Do I have any readers who are kids? If so : you're welcome.)

Oh wait, that wasn't algebra.

Nevuh mind.


This is the moment of truth- when my children eye the stack of presents spread out on the living room floor, and the excitement on their faces reveals just how thrilled they are.

Lily is clearly impressed. Jack and Noah are eagerly anticipating  opening an Eagle Town Castle, and the size of the box in front of them is boding glad tidings. Abigail is searching the stash before her, desperately hoping to see a rainbow-loom-shaped box somewhere in the midst of it all. Caleb didn't see a girlfriend under the tree, so he's quietly grieving on the sofa…

….okay, I jest. He's only 13. He is still promising me that he'll live with me forever. Because if he leaves, who will find all the missing objects in the house for me ????

Okay, all kidding aside- this was the best moment of the morning ….

Sam and I scored this kitchen set and all the food and dishes to go with it, as well as a little apron, chef's hat and potholders, on Craisglist --  for $40.  

But the look on her face when she saw it -


She walked over to it and started turning knobs and opening doors as if she had owned a miniature wooden kitchen her whole life. She knew EXACTLY what to do with everything- she was in heaven.

And then we let her open the accessories that went with it…

Oh my heart. She played with it the entire day.

Today is the last day of January, and she is STILL playing with her kitchen for hours every day. Best investment ever, hands down.

Hayden loves her kitchen set too…

…well, he loves the food. Typical man.

He wasn't quite as thrilled with his presents (mostly clothes),  but he had fun eating the wrapping paper.  Which is traditional at this age, right ?

If I were on Instagram I would hashtag that last sentence #canigetanamen.

Abigail has become quite the baker these days, so pretty much every gift she received had to do with her newfound passion. She got: a book called Hello, Cupcake, piping bags and tips, flavors to add to frostings, a special pouring thingamabobby that helps her distribute the batter evenly into the cupcake pan, cupcake liners, cake mix, and this darling cupcake apron. We don't have a tv, but Abbi has watched a host of Cupcake Wars episodes on youtube in an effort to improve her culinary skills. She narrates her own show as she bakes, as a result. For reals. I'll walk past her doing her thing in the kitchen and overhear her explaining the process to an imaginary panel of judges … "So what we tried to do here, is combine savory and sweet into one fabulous cupcake by infusing the batter with essence of basil and a little agave, giving this dessert a lovely combination sure to wow your palates."

Or something like that.

Anyhoot, look for her on the covers of future baking magazines, I'm sure she'll be wowing palates nationwide in the days ahead.

That is my hunk of a husband. The Santa hat is a must every Christmas morning. It gives him the sense that he took part in all the preparations - the gift buying, the wrapping, the careful analysis of Christmas lists to make this all happen… not that I'm bitter or anything. Mrs. Claus has always been the force behind the scenes that makes everything come together, since time immemorial, hasn't she ?

But he did pay for it all.

So there's that.

hashtag #lololololololololol.

This rather flattering picture of Mackenzie flipping her hair around, Naomi hiding behind Jason, and Jason ripping into his packaged scrubs (wrong size, dangit!)  is only meant to demonstrate that our older children were present for the present opening ceremonies. They just aren't as cute to capture on film as Lily and Hayden, you know ? Wait a minute- did I just say film ??  #datingmyself

That's Caleb modeling his new sweatshirt from us, and his jammies from Grammi. Back off, ladies- he's mine for the next 45 years.

These next three photos are the epitome of Christmas morning for our little boys.. I think every one of our gang has some memory of "the year they got such and such for Christmas." As I mentioned before, this was the year of Eagle Town Castle. Not quite as cute and vintage-y as Lily's kitchen, but right up there with play-with-this-thing-every-day as far as longevity goes. Worth every penny of the $45 steal I got it for on Amazon's day-after-Thanksgiving-sales.

Can't you just hear the screams ?

Thank you Bank of Sam for funding this moment.

And lastly…the best Christmas present ever…

…knowing this little guy gets to stay in our family forever.

Although this post has been rather lighthearted, I am teary eyed typing this. Last Christmas we thought we were losing our grandson. Jason and Naomi brought him home from the hospital, and although his birth parents loved him very much, they were unable to care for him. If you haven't followed, it's a long story… but in a nutshell, if you are a foster parent, you forever have my utmost respect and awe. Knitting your heart with a child, investing love and time and tears into someone that you may have to say goodbye to forever, is an incredible act of sacrifice. I've watched my adult children pour their lives into the little ones who have come into their home, and I know for a fact I could not do that. I know I am not strong enough. I honestly don't know how we would have made it through losing Baby K if that had happened. Last Christmas was one of the hardest Christmases we've gone through, wondering if the little boy who called us Nana and Papa was going to move across the United States from us, probably never to be heard from again.

But God.

Don't you love those two little words ??

God moved on hearts, and in just a month or two Baby K will be a Rice forever. And the best part ? His birth parents are all for it. In fact, his birth daddy sent him gifts and a card for Christmas, as well as a text message to Jason and Naomi, sending them "a hug from a thousand miles away" for raising his son.

I'll stop here, because now I'm a big puddle of tears sitting at the computer desk.

Merry Christmas to all….. in January.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

For Maura and Luke

This morning I read a blogpost that impacted me in such a profound way… probably because of the similarities in this family's story and mine.

You can read about Maura HERE

 Many of you are already familiar with Reece's Rainbow… it is an organization dedicated to finding families for children with special needs. Today, as an act to honor Maura, I am donating to this little boy's grant fund on 

Right now little Luke has a family that is earnestly pursuing adopting him. They are fundraising privately for agency fees, homestudy fees, etc. I would love to help them adopt Luke by rallying Lily's readers to donate to Luke's grant fund today.

I can't imagine our family without Lily…reading Maura's story so touched my heart, and I want that to translate to action.

Will you help me honor Maura's memory today ? Whether that's donating to Luke or bringing a teacher flowers or paying for coffee for the person in line behind you at the drive-thru…will you find a way to honor Maura today ?

If you're on Instagram, take a photo of your small act of kindness and hashtag it #honoringmaura.

I'd also love to hear about your purposeful acts of generosity and love in the comment section below…

Happy Wednesday. xo

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

three things

Don't fall over, but I'm posting for the second time in two days.

It's raining out and my sweet husband just dropped off a soy decaf white mocha and I'm scrapbooking in between loads of laundry.

Those three things are bringing me joy right now.

Your turn … what three things are bringing you JOY right now ??

Monday, January 27, 2014

free smiles here

It's Monday…and things are moving verrrrry slowly at The Rice Ranch. I have one kid down with the yucky virus that has been sweeping through our household, and two kids on the mend. We have weekend laundry to catch up on... wait, who am I kidding- we never get our laundry all the way caught up. Okay, I have a lifetime of laundry to attend to…and five kids to homeschool (Tyler just left for work.)

So all of that to say - this will be a hodgepodge post. Meaning I'm throwing pictures up… well, not throwing them up, but throwing them up onto the blog …and adding some quick thoughts to go with them.

All of this is designed to bring a smile to your face, and alleviate any guilt I have about not blogging much lately. (Which is silly- I mean, nobody makes me feel guilty for that…but I still suffer from blogger-guilt if I leave this place unattended for awhile. Just ignore this little confession here, if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

Ahem. Where was I ?

Oh yes, a smile to your face …

…Lily was in a dance competition on Instagram. We submitted five 15 second videos of her dancing over the course of one week…and she won. The prizes have just started arriving - various items from the sweetest IG shops - and it's like Christmas every day here. The gorgeous mustard yellow cowl above was knit by @sunshinejlr on Instagram. Kenzie had a cowl that she bought from Target, and she decided to be Lily's twin for church yesterday - matching top-knots were the cherry on the proverbial ice cream, if you will. Or is that sugar on top ? Cherry on top…sugar on top of the cherry…. okay, clearly I have no idea how the saying goes. But they were DARN CUTE is what I'm trying to say.

More smile material….

… this is a family favorite. I got the recipe a few years ago from Heidi Darwish's blog, and we have had it approximately 547 times since then. My kids even prefer it over pepperoni, no joke. Since posting about this on Instagram, I have been informed that pizza stones take the level of pizza perfection up a few notches, but I have a secret phobia: scratchy feeling pizza stones. I cannot handle the feel of a pizza stone in my hands. It feels like nails on a chalkboard to me, and it give me the willies. This takes all the fun out of pizza making for me. Which is normally almost a spiritual experience- the stretching of the dough, and the smell of fresh basil, the sense of accomplishment as I layer fresh roma tomatoes and basil and mozzarella into a perfectly symmetrical pattern on my garlic and olive oil slathered dough. It's heavenly. So why would I want to ruin that experience with a scratchy feeling pizza stone ?

(Please don't tell my husband - I'm sure he paid good money for the aforementioned stone.)

Anyhooot… if you want to use a scratchy feeling pizza stone, I promise not to hold it against you next time I see you. But as for me and my house- we shall use a nonstick pizza pan.

World without end, amen.

See that beautiful vintage quilt right there ? The one with the delicious slobbery baby sleeping contentedly on it ? It was my great (I think) grandmother Kopp's.

She may be rolling over in her grave right now, knowing I am placing my slobbery babies to sleep on it.

But listen- vintage quilts were made to be enjoyed.

Trust me on this.

I was actually given this quilt by my aunt, with the instructions to never use it. I was supposed to keep this quilt carefully stored in my hope chest, so that it is preserved for future generations. Only…I just want to enjoy it myself. And if future generations keep storing it carefully in hope chests, only to be preserved for their future children and grandchildren - I mean, where does it end? Nobody will get to enjoy the loveliness of this heirloom quilt if we all just keep storing it, right ? And besides, my aunt has passed on into eternity, and so has my grandma, so what they don't know won't hurt them, right ?

(Does anyone else do this with their vintage heirloom quilts?? Obviously I have a little quilt-guilt mixed in with my blogger-guilt today. Oh dear, and my pizza-stone-guilt. Yikes.)

Two more items to bring a smile to your face today…

Seriously ?? I dare you not to smile after looking at that picture.

And last, but not least… Sunday morning giggles. Oh gosh.

Happy Monday !!

Now go take on the day.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

instagram meet-up

Back in December I had the opportunity to meet a friend from online…Instagram, actually… and it was one of those occasions when you feel like you've known someone all your life, rather than just less than a year. I don't know if you've had an experience like that, but it was pretty cool. And honestly, I don't know if this particular connection was felt more strongly because of our mutual love for all things Down syndrome, or because we share similar experiences (babies late in life, etc.) but meeting my friend Kelly from IG was just like I thought it would be - we laughed, we cried, and we vowed to make it all happen again soon.

Kelly's daughter, Nora, shares Lily's extra chromosome. She also shares : her love for dancing, her spunky personality, her passion for shopping and tea (see photos below) and her taste in fashion.

While Kelly and I embraced immediately, it took our shy girls just a tad longer to warm up to each other. In just a few minutes though, they were sharing shopping secrets and posing for photo shoots together like long lost sisters…

We met each other at AC Gilbert's Discovery Village in Salem ... this quaint children's museum was the perfect place for the kids to play and have fun while Mackenzie and Kelly and I chatted away. Kelly's kind husband got us a group rate (their boys and Abigail brought our total up to ten) and we joked that he and Sam would hit it off in real life as well… (anyone who knows my husband is familiar with his uncanny ability to never pay full price for anything. "I've got eleven kids here, what kinda deal can ya swing me??")

Lily comparing coupons with Nora

We moved through the museum slowly and leisurely, taking pictures and discussing everything from birth stories to mutual IG friends to our faith in Jesus - it was such a treat to talk to another mom in real life who went through a (somewhat) surprise diagnosis for Down syndrome. Although we both fell head over heels in love with our girls the moment they were placed in our arms, it took time for us to reconcile those feelings with worries that can accompany a diagnosis of special needs. We talked about how very normal things are today, and how we wished we could have known then what we know now.

 In spite of all the similarities between Kelly and I, we quickly realized how different our girls are. Lily is shy and very clingy, whereas Nora is outgoing and vocal and very independent. It was so interesting to watch these two little pixies together, with all their differences - Nora took center stage in the puppet show room, dancing and singing for all of us to enjoy, while Lily watched quietly from the sidelines. Lily primped and posed for photos, while Nora determinedly played the photographer, snapping and editing photos like a seasoned pro.

editing for Instagram

I was so thankful to have Mackenzie there to capture these moments on her camera - I could have talked for five more days with Kelly and still not gotten my fill.

One of my favorite rooms at AC Gilbert's is the "China"room. Our girls had so much fun pouring make-believe-tea and pretending to sip their soup from tiny bowls. Nora was the more spiritual of the two, saying grace before their meal, while Lily just slurped her soup noisily across the table.

The afternoon ended too soon, with Kelly and I making plans to get the rest of our families together in the future… she and her husband live just one state over, and we promised each other a longer visit the next time they come to Oregon.

Kelly, if you're reading - thank you for a lovely day of sweet conversation and friendship.

We're looking forward to many more moments like these in the days to come :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

coming soon

Hey, guess what ? I was just going through old pics in lightroom (editing software) and I found THE CUTEST photos, that I never had time to blog about. I mean THE CUTEST.

But I don't have time to blog about them tonight either, because Hayden was up crying the entire night last night, and I am going to bed now. And I'm praying we don't do a repeat of last night.

Apparently I didn't have a lingering sinus infection last week, I had the flu. Or some other nasty virus.
Because now Hayden has it, and he looks like I felt - only he gets to scream about it all night, whereas all I could do was wake Sam up 45 times throughout the night to tell him I "was dying" and could he "please get me tylenol, water and a back rub in that order, stat."

"It's almost morning and who is going to rub my legs and back when you go to work??" was what I told him last week.  He was laughing, but I wasn't kidding.

And poor little Hayden- I'm pretty sure that's what his pathetic crying all night could have been translated as - "Who is going to pace the floors with me if you guys fall asleep ? WAAAAHHHH!"

Anyhoot….I'm beat. So you don't get a post, you get a tease to a post.

Here it is….

See what I mean ???

Cuteness, coming soon….