Friday, October 31, 2014

let it go ....

We interrupt this series on parenting to bring you a little sneak preview from today - more to come soon ...

... Happy Halloween ! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hold their hearts

This is the first in a series of blog posts on parenting that I'll be doing for the next few weeks.

As I said in my previous post, I don't consider myself to be the perfect parent. Sam and I have had our share of mistakes made, trials we've gone through with our children, lessons learned, what have you.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I'm not an expert, but I do have experience.

And quite honestly, sometimes I've found that experience can be a better teacher than a textbook. I personally find that I am helped so much more when I ask somebody for help who's actually been through something -- rather than just reading something written by "an expert." In fact, if you've ever talked to somebody who just recently majored in child psychology or child development or any other child-related course of studies ... it's almost comical the disconnect between parenting philosophies or how-to's ... and what actually happens in real life parenting.

It's like that funny old saying :

“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories."

Parenting has a way of throwing all of our previous ideas abut "how everyone should parent" right out the window, doesn't it ?

Thank God for His grace !

Anyway what I'm trying to say is this : I hope that the school of experience will serve as my credentials in this little series, even if I don't have several initials following my name. But if not - maybe just pretend my name is Patti Rice, MRS. and read with an open heart ;)

In the posts ahead I want to talk about some of the brass tacks of parenting : how to make children mind without losing yours, how to maintain a (somewhat) tidy home with many small children, why food is not the real reason your child is a demoniac (you think I'm joking), how to survive the teen years without killing anyone, why it IS important to sweat the small stuff, and why prearranged marriages are in everybody's best interest.

(Okay, just checkin' to make sure y'all were still really reading the words in this post.)

But for now I just want to talk about one principal that I will refer to again and again when I'm talking parenting stuff ... and maybe you could say this is my guiding philosophy in regards to raising children. Are you ready ? 

This is, as my smart husband often says - a heavy revvy. (heavy revelation, for all you generation x-ers.) 

Duh-duh-duh DUUUUUHHHH .... (that's a trumpet sound) .....

Always aim for your child's heart.

This may sound overly simplistic. It may sound trite and completely obvious. But what I have found in parenting eleven children, is that all the rules and how-to's in the world, will not produce the kind of children you hope for, if you do not have their hearts. 

We can demand that our children adhere to a list of rules in our home.

And while they are little, that might work.

We can make sure our kids know how to walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk, so to speak. 

But before we know it, those little people turn into teenagers, with ideas of their own, and opinions of their own, and very strong wills of their own ... and it's been my personal experience that every child suddenly knows everything there is to know in life at about age 14. At least they think they do. 

And suddenly, as hormones and puberty and this newfound omniscience collide ... rules don't hold as much sway as they once did for our children. Almost overnight it seems, our children are able to defend and justify and debate and excuse, and if we don't have a firm grasp on their hearts, those years of parenting miniature lawyers can overwhelm even the best of us. 

But you and I can make it through, if we will keep this principal in mind :

Always aim for your child's heart.

A few years ago we had to deal with a situation with one of our children... for privacy sake I won't go into details here as far as who and what the situation was. I remember feeling so completely dependent on God during that time- because without His help and wisdom and grace our child could have made some very bad decisions. Sam and I prayed and sought God for wisdom, and through several lengthy and emotional conversations with our child, we were able to work through some things that had been brewing for some time. It was a very difficult time for us emotionally, wondering if the things we had instilled in our child all those years were going to bring good fruit or not. Better parents than us have watched their prodigal children go through some very hard seasons before returning to what they knew was right. 

A few months ago I asked that child what was the thing that held them in check ... why it was that they made the decisions they did to stay on track with God and keep themselves from a potentially bad situation. What this child told me reinforced the guiding principal I mentioned above : I couldn't take the thought of disappointing you and Dad. I can't bear the look on Dad's face when he says "you have no idea how deeply this will hurt me."  

That desire to stay in right relationship with us - and ultimately God - is the thing that kept our child tethered to sanity. Our relationship with our child was the rope they held onto, until reason and the grace of God reeled them back in. 

Does this mean we are supposed to be our kids' best friends ? I don't think so. There is a place for being a friend to our children, and certainly we feel that our adult children are some of our very best friends in life. But we aren't called to be our kids' buddies - we are called to be their parents. And as such, we have to be the bad guys many times. There are situations in life that will arise that will require us to say the hard things, and make the tough calls that go beyond "friendship parenting".

So when I say the following :

Always aim for your child's heart -

I am not talking about being such a great friend to your kids that they'll never want to let you down.

But I am talking about maintaining a relationship with your children. Aiming for your child's heart means going beyond establishing house rules and do's and don't's - and investing everything you can into building a solid, loving relationship with the children God has entrusted you with. It means making that relationship one of the priorities of your life - above your career, your hobbies, your other friendships, and anything else in life besides your spouse and your relationship with Jesus. 

Our kids know what is important to us, and if we will take the time to invest in them and love them and nurture our relationship with them, we will reap incredible rewards. 

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am not the perfect mom. I make mistakes, I lose my temper, I sometimes make bad judgment calls, I mess up. Badly sometimes. But my children know where they can turn when life hits hard. They know we love them more than anything else in life, and their hearts are knitted with ours. I may not get everything right as far as Parenting Academics go, but I am aiming for holding their hearts. If I have their heart - the rest will all fall into place.

This doesn't come easily. This comes through praying, praying, praying, and when everything is going wrong, praying some more. This requires diligence and intent and determination and resolve and patience and the grace of God ... this means a lifetime of investment and love. Or at least 18 years :) 

But the dividends are awesome.

Taking the time to build that relationship with my kids is worth it. Those midnight discussions - even when I'm exhausted and weary and emotionally drained myself - are worth it. Those moments where I drop everything for the day, because one of my kids just needs time alone with mom - even if it means adding a dozen things to my to-do list for tomorrow - are worth it. The years that I've given to my children, even when it meant laying aside some of my own personal hopes and dreams - they are paying me back today with rewards far greater than anything I could have imagined. 

Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them!

Stay tuned for part two ;)

Friday, October 24, 2014

parenting, pumpkins, and bear butts, oh my !

Before I forget- my sweet friend and fellow blogger, Krista Ewert, is hosting a giveaway for the doll A Special Joy that I blogged about last week. Go HERE to enter :)


It's Friday and I have a stack of schoolwork to score. This week has been filled with errands- mainly running all over town picking up various components to our Halloween costumes for next week. I can't wait to post pictures... but I'll give you a hint .... Let it go... Let it go ... (wish I could just apply that song to this stack of workbooks, but alas... someone has to be the grown-up here.)

Anyhow, I have so much to say, but very little time to do it. I hate when that happens !

I've had about six parenting posts in my brain for the past few weeks, just floating around and begging to be spilled out onto my keyboard. Lots of readers here, as well as followers on Instagram, have asked me to share specific ideas and thoughts on parenting ... and I would love to do that. I'm always nervous to do so however, because we here at The Rice Ranch are a work in progress. I would hate for anyone reading to think that WE think we have it all together. Because we don't. We know there is always room for improvement. And also - one of my kids could rob a bank tomorrow and then everyone could point and say- SEE. Toldja so. They don't know anything about parenting.

But then I look around and I think  - well then, who could ever give any parenting advice ?

We're all human.

We're all flawed.

And none of us are absolutely guaranteed success in the realm of parenting, because we are raising HUMANS here. Not machines or robots that will turn out like x, y, z if you just do a, b, c. These little people have minds of their owns, and I've seen the best parents in the world end up with some strange results ... and vice versa. I mean, look at Adam and Eve. They had the perfect parent (hello, GOD !?!) and they still ate the thing they weren't supposed to even touch. Can anybody say free will ?

So I could come on here and spout all of my personal beliefs about child training, but there are still no guarantees in life.

But having said all of that ... I would still like to do a few blogposts on parenting.

I may not be perfect, but I have been parenting for over 26 years now. And I've seen a lot of different parenting methods over the course of almost three decades. And based on our own experience and watching others' experiences too... I have some strong convictions about some things. And if sharing my heart and writing about the mistakes we've learned from can help other families... I'm willing to try.

I'll post more on Monday, but in the mean time- if you are one of the readers in the past who has asked me to blog about this subject, maybe remind me in the comment section what you are hoping to  read about ? I'd love to hear your thoughts..

Until Monday, I'll leave you with a little happiness from the past month ...

his new thing ..points his finger at us to tell us we are in trouble !

annual tree hugging photo

sorry for posting a bear butt pic on my blog ...I couldn't resist

Happy Friday !!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

a baby for Lily

From time to time I am contacted to do a product review on A Perfect Lily. I don't do these often, because ... well, I don't think you all are anxious to hear whether I consider a line of casserole dishes to be a worthy investment or not. Or a set of encyclopedias or .. what have you. I'm not interested in turning my blog into a big sales pitch, but there are certain products I love and am happy to endorse. (Hello Moccs, Scentsy, and Jude & Fi hair clips for example !)

So last month, someone from The Ashton-Drake Galleries emailed me and asked if they could send me a doll from their company to review. I took a peek at the doll online and agreed to do the review - because there are few things in life that Lily loves more than her baby dolls. She may have 4,392 of them, but she is never one to turn down a new one, if offered :)

Shortly there after, a package arrived at our door ... and you would have thought the UPS guy just delivered a pony to The Rice Ranch. It was that exciting. One of the kids brought this ginormous box into the living room and announced that it was for Lily. She beamed as only she can beam, and then yelled, "OOOOOH, YES !" as if she had been expecting that package all week. She ran over to the couch and started assisting her siblings in opening the box... a few minutes later the kids handed Lily this doll, and I promise you, it was as if you just placed a live baby in her arms. SHE WAS IN HEAVEN.

For the record- this isn't the exact moment I just referred to. On the afternoon of the doll's arrival, Lily was still wearing wrinkly pajamas from the night before, her hair was a ratty mess, and she probably had eye boogers from that morning as well. Safe to say, it was not a Kodak moment. But it was still priceless.

And Lily was over the moon happy, eye boogers notwithstanding.

She immediately began undressing her new doll.... I have no idea why, but this seems to be some sort of rite of passage for all new baby dolls being placed in Lily's care. Maybe it's that maternal instinct that kicks in - just like every new mommy who is presented her baby, fresh from the womb: we want to count fingers and toes and make sure all body parts are accounted for. (At least I do, anyway. Even when I've known four out of eleven times what my baby's gender is ahead of time, I still have to rip off the blanket and see for myself ... just checkin', doc. Carry on.)

Anyhoot, Lily inspected that dollie within an inch of its life, and when she was done removing anything attached to her (diaper, hair bow, onesie) she proudly proclaimed her "CUUUUUUTE."

Five seconds later she was running across the house, baby in tow, to a corner where she could nurse discreetly. Little Mama wanted that bonding time dontcha know, and skin to skin contact to boot. She spent the rest of the day cuddling, shooshing, swaddling, diapering, feeding, and playing with her new baby, who - as far as I can tell - is named LaLa Baby. Same as all her other babies, just for simplicity sake, I'm sure.

I'm going to be honest here, since this is a review- I don't think Lily cared about the fact that this doll is meant to represent a newborn with Down syndrome. I didn't see her face light up in recognition at the slightly upturned eyes, or flattened nasal bridge. She didn't gasp in wonder at the sandal gap between her new doll's toes, or shriek in excitement at the single crease in her baby's palm.

But I WILL say that my other kids absolutely went ballistic at the sight of this doll's bent pinkie. For some reason they had never noticed Lily's crooked pinkie until a few days before... Abigail came running to me after getting Lily dressed one morning, asking if I had ever noticed how cute her pinkie was.... I told her yes, that was one of the first things I noticed when Lily was born, and I had loved it ever since. The fact that Lily's new baby had an equally adorable little finger was for some reason the funniest and coolest thing ever, as far as the rest of my kids go. But Lily didn't even notice it.

However - she is absolutely in love with this doll. She dotes on it, plays with it, changes its clothes (the dress she is wearing in the pictures is not the one she came with) and has not lost interest in her since the day she came into our home.

I think the thing she likes most about it, is its size - she is larger than most of Lily's other dolls, and "feels" as heavy as a real baby. She is very life-like, and posable, and her skin is super soft, just like their website states.

I really like the fact that a portion of the proceeds from this doll will benefit Down syndrome charities. I do have to say that I would not normally spend the amount she is sold for, on a doll... even if she is as cute and lifelike as A Special Joy Baby Doll. With eleven kids to buy toys for, we have more of a WalMart Baby Doll Budget .... but maybe I'm being a little too transparent here ?? (Where is the "YIKES" emoticon face when I need one on Blogger ?!)

But cost aside - this doll is extremely sweet. I would absolutely give her two thumbs up, and as far as Lily is concerned, she is a definite keeper.

 The Ashton-Drake Galleries offers a wide variety of unique and collective dolls... visit them online today :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

tiny dancer, season two

We are well into the month of October and crossing off things daily on our Fall Bucket List.

Fall Food Fellowship for our church at The Rice Ranch ? Check. Sign the boys up for flag football and Abbi for cooking classes ? Check.  Make pumpkin bread, banana bread, cinnamon rolls ? Check, check, check.

Enroll Lily in ballet and tap classes, just like last fall  ?


I can't even tell you how psyched I was to put Lily in this class again this year. Last year was a struggle- the first class consisted of Lily sitting on my lap and sucking her thumb furiously while I repeatedly tried to coax her to sit with the other girls. She was painfully shy and did not want to even TRY to take part in that first lesson. The next session was a bit better, and by the end of the classes we had turned a big corner for sure. But it was work. She was obviously out of her comfort zone, taking part with a group of kids she didn't know.

Honestly, I really didn't think it had as much to do with her having Down syndrome as it did her age- she was three, almost four, and I don't know how many of my other kids would have willingly taken part in a class at that age without some coaxing. I enrolled her in the class last year knowing that she would have trouble joining in... I wasn't shocked at Lily's reaction to the class. We kept going each week, and some sessions were better than others. We pushed through, and I knew at the end of the term we would come back to the same class again - there was so much that she took from it, despite her hesitance to engage fully in every aspect of the class.

But can I tell you what a difference a year makes ?

Just as with my typically developing children - the difference between an almost-four year old and an almost-five year old is like night and day. Because this year, when we told Lily she was going to ballet class, she shot her two little fists up in the air and squealed BAAAAALLLET! with the biggest grin on her face - and promptly danced a jig. This year, when we walked into the building where classes are held, she confidently pranced down the hall in her ballet slippers as if she owned the place. Yes, there were still some shyness issues- she spent the first five minutes sucking her thumb and begging Abbi to stay in the group circle with her. She had to be prodded to run across the room and leap over the little carpet like the other girls. She still hesitated a bit when asked to hold hands with another little girl in the circle. But each little moment of hesitation was quickly overcome with the tiniest bit of encouragement.

And 500 reminders that she would get a cookie at the end of class if she hung in there.

But still.

She rocked it.

Behold, our tiny dancer ...

That little video above is pieced together with clips from week one and week two... we had even more success with week two, so I can't wait to see how she does in the last class. I can't tell you how proud I am of how well Lily is doing following directions and listening to her teacher and modeling what she and the other dancers are doing. I've watched these videos again and again with the biggest lump in my throat- I am seriously amazed at how far Lily has come in one year.

She certainly deserved a trip to Trader Joe's afterwards for the promised cookies :)

Halfway through this post I did a little phone interview with the sweetest graduate student from the University of Connecticut.  We talked for almost an hour about disabilities, parenthood, and a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome ... and intertwined in that conversation was the part that my faith plays in those topics.

I knew I was going to be sharing our story this morning, but honestly- I didn't expect to cry. It's been a long time since I cried about anything related to Down syndrome, other than happy tears in regards to Lily's accomplishments or things of that nature. But just going back to the first few weeks of knowing our life might be changed by the words Down syndrome .... had me a bit emotional.

And in keeping with this being Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I just want to say this : we fear what we do not understand.

I read that somewhere on Pinterest yesterday and it really hit me - we fear what we do not understand.

I didn't understand Down syndrome before I had Lily.

I had plenty of opportunity to understand it - my mom was a "special ed" teacher for many years while I was growing up. My children had many classmates with Down syndrome when they went to a private school. I knew people with Down syndrome. I was familiar with what it was... to a point.

But living with a child with Down syndrome these past four years has given me such a great appreciation- and a wonderful understanding - of what Down syndrome is. And today I can honestly say the fear is gone. Raising Lily has its challenges to be sure. And we haven't experienced all of them yet. There will be struggles in the road ahead and challenges and setbacks- but the same holds true for ALL of my children. For all of humanity. None of us are perfect - we all have special needs, if you think about it. Our needs might not be as obvious as a crease in our palm or the shape of our eyes... but we all have needs. And the awesome thing about being needy is, there is Someone who can meet us right where our need is. There is a Father in Heaven who designed us and created us to need Him. We don't have to live in fear, we don't have to stumble through life without hope or answers. We can turn to the One who created us to have relationship with Him, through his son Jesus Christ. He is the answer to all of life's special needs.

So there you have it. From fall bucket lists to ballet to special needs to Jesus. We cover it all here on Perfect Lily ... yer welcome ;)

Happy Wednesday !