Friday, December 30, 2016

my last blogpost

It is the Thursday after Christmas, and things are moving pretty slowly here at the Rice Ranch. Madison was up before any of the other children this morning… Sam and I took her out to the living room to play, as her baby babbling is loud enough to wake up Hayden and Lily these days. We had been sandwiched in between the three of them in our bed, and as soon as Madison started chattering, we knew she wasn't going back to sleep. Baby bunny is loud.

We wedged ourselves together into the big armchair in our living room, Madison sitting on Sam's lap and me curled up beside him. For twenty minutes we sat there, in the quiet of the morning, listening to Madison talk and soaking up her sweetness.

 I know I've said this here before with Hayden, because I really did think he was our last baby… but knowing Madison is truly our last just makes us appreciate her all the more. 

I feel like I have to qualify this, by saying that every single baby we've had has been loved and appreciated and valued. Every single baby I have said to Sam – this might be our last baby, let's make sure to enjoy every little moment of their babyhood, OK? 

And yet I'm sure there have been moments I have missed… Because sometimes life just has a way of interfering with our desire for things to slow down, for busyness not to invade, you know? I'm sure that if I had the chance to do it all over again there are things I would intentionally push off my plate to make room for enjoying what is right in front of me. In hindsight there were many times when I could have been soaking up the moment rather than planning planning planning for what was ahead. 

But I am thankful for wiser, older moms who gave me wisdom years ago, when Jason was a newborn: enjoy these moments, because before you know it that baby will be a man. 

(Jason and his wife have some exciting news, and you can go HERE to read all about it!)

Don't let the day's troubles weigh you down so much that you don't savor these moments when your children are little. 

date with Jackson

miss bunny, enjoying the tree !!

Looking back, I am grateful that (for the most part) I heeded their advice, even if there were times when I forgot it. Although there were days when all I could think about was bedtime, counting down the hours till I had some moments to myself... I am thankful that the words of those moms were always at the back of my head. Those morsels of truth, spoken by moms who had experienced them theirselves, were there to remind me that life is like a vapor and before I knew it, my babies would be having babies of their own.
my babies and my grandbabies

I'm sure I'm not alone in this – the days after Christmas always make me a little nostalgic. 

Maybe it's because things have finally slowed down for the month... all the planning and shopping and anticipation and festivities and excitement have crescendoed, and now in this quiet space afterwards there is room to think and breathe and ponder.

 And maybe it's the prospect of a new year before me…goals for the days ahead swimming around in my brain, hopes and dreams of what I want this next year to look like... Madison turns one next month and I'm deep in the throes of planning a party for both her and Lily, as their birthdays are only two days apart. I've spent the last few days reflecting on how quickly this year has passed since she entered our lives, realizing that this is the last time we will celebrate a "first" birthday, at least for one of our own babies.

Or maybe it's a combination of all of the above . 

But whatever the reason, this time of the year always makes me a little sentimental. 

north pole party I did for the kids in our church

(video credit : Mackenzie)

I'm not going to call it after Christmas blues, because blue is not really the true color of what I'm feeling this week. It's not sadness, or let down… it's more a feeling of gratitude mixed with a desire to do it all over again. It's a feeling of wanting to make sure I'm doing all of this right… hoping I am living out the words of those wise moms before me by enjoying and appreciating this season of life when I have little ones in my home.

Hayden is three right now, which is just about my favorite age for children at Christmas. He was old enough to know what was coming this month  – constantly poking at his presents under the tree and counting down the days until he could open them… and young enough to have a sense of awe and wonder at the magic of it all. I lost count of how many times I said to Sam - wouldn't you love to be three at Christmas again? I want to go back and feel what he felt this month - because it was evident to all of us what he was feeling. The look of wonder in his eyes on Christmas morning… the grin on his face when he saw that Santa had filled his stocking and eaten the cookies we'd left out for him… The excitement in his voice every morning until Christmas when he asked what our elf Flannery had done the night before....

There are few things sweeter than experiencing the joy of Christmas through the eyes of your child. In a year and a few months I will be fifty ... FIFTY!! ... but watching my little boy's wonder through the holidays made me feel like a child again. 

church Christmas village we hosted 

(Christmas morning video, again created by Mackenzie)

And then there was Lily .. she is turning seven next month, two days before her sister turns one. It hardly seems possible that seven years have flown by as quickly as they did - our baby is a big girl now. And yet there is still such an innocence to her, such a sweet and tender spirit, and watching her joy throughout the month of December made me wish she would never grow out of that awe. 

So I guess what I'm trying to say – and as usual I am a bit rambling in saying it - is that I don't want to lose that either. I don't want to lose my sense of awe and wonder at what God is doing in my life right now. There is a place for reflecting on and pondering and appreciating the past. There is certainly a need to plan and set goals and strive for better things in the future.

But in the midst of all that – I want 2017 to be the year that I am intentionally present. 

first snow of the year at the rice ranch

I want to purpose in my heart to enjoy every day, whatever it brings me. I don't want any worries about the future or regrets about the past to rob me of all the miracles that are happening today. Let's be real – there are always going to be things we wish we did differently. There are always going to be things on our to do list for tomorrow… bills to pay, meals to plan, appointments to be made, parties to attend... I just don't want to be in a hurry to get there. I want to make sure that I am present for those I love. Present for my husband, present for my children, present for those I love... I want to be fully present and aware and appreciative of all the Lord is doing in my life today.

jackson's tenth birthday

And now it is Friday after Christmas. Tomorrow is the last day of 2016, and the future is bright with promise. I'm writing this scripture down as my motto for the new year, and writing it in my heart as well ...

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

It's my last blogpost for 2016, and I really would love to hear from you... what is your "word" for 2017 ? If you could choose just one little word, what would it be ?

Mine is "present"... what is yours ?

See you next year !!

Xo Patti 

Friday, November 4, 2016

8 things bringing me JOY

It's Friday night at The Rice Ranch, and I am home alone with my two littlest ones. Sam and the rest of our gang are at a basketball game, and I opted to stay home and do laundry.

It's not that I don't love a good basketball game from time to time, but tonight is one of those nights where I just wanted to curl up by the fire with a good book. 

However, before I do that… My little bloggy here deserves some attention. The comment section has grown very quiet of late - because no doubt all of you have been doing what I have been doing: immersing yourself in the wonderfulness called Autumn. 

I can't tell you how many blog posts I have written in my head over the past few weeks. I wish that somehow there was an app that could translate what happens in your mind into a blogpost made up of neat and tidy paragraphs with colorful photos dispersed in between. Can somebody please invent that? 

Because most of my blog posts – the imaginary ones I mean - happen while I am taking our new puppy out for a morning walk, when my hands are preoccupied and not available for typing. I have all of these deep thoughts on life that come to me while I am trudging through leaves, a tiny ball of fur attached to a leash in front of me. And every time those thoughts come, I tell myself that later on that day I am going to sit down and put them into a post.

But then life happens… babies and toddlers need attention, children demand to be homeschooled (ha), laundry needs to be done and meals need to be made, and before I know it, it's bedtime ...and I can barely keep my eyes open to brush my teeth, let alone sit down at the computer to write.

And wouldn't you know it, now that I have a moment or two to write … all of those profound ponderings on life have escaped me. Never mind that every day this week I have mulled over topics in my mind and thought – I'm going to write about that. It's the same thing happens to me every time I go to our public library… I could have been thinking for months about the books I desperately wanted to check out, but the moment I walk through the library door, I can't remember even one of them.

So maybe it's that I'm getting older and more forgetful, or maybe I just have too many things on my plate ... but suffice it to say this will be a hodgepodge of a post, not a carefully thought out essay on some deep and meaningful subject. At some point in life maybe I will have the energy or time to say something coherent, but for now these random ramblings are the best I have to offer. 

Every week or so on Instagram I post a picture and call it my "three things" post. I list three things that are bringing me joy at that moment and I ask followers to do the same. Typically those three things are every day occurrences… the sound of the leaves crunching beneath my feet, the weight of a baby sleeping on my chest, the smell of autumn in the air. I've had so much feedback over the years on those posts – so many strangers sharing their little joys - that I think I will take that theme and expand it here tonight.

Are you ready? Let's go...

1) This girl.

Lily will be seven in two months. SEVEN. Which means my blog just celebrated its seventh birthday, because I began writing my letters to Lily when I was still pregnant with her. I don't know how the time flew by so quickly, but it really seems like just yesterday that she was placed in my arms. And now here she is, a big sister to two more Rice babies, bossing everyone around like - well, like a boss - and learning to READ. And if you've been following this blog from the beginning, you know that was something I didn't even think was possible in the early days of her diagnosis. She has surprised me in so many other ways as well, and she brings us so much joy on a daily basis. 

I read something so disturbing on Instagram today, that I hardly even want to repeat it here in the middle of my "things that bring me joy" post ... but I'll mention it just to contrast what I wrote in the paragraph above.

Apparently there's a "Christian" woman online who claims her child was healed of Down syndrome, that her child no longer has Down syndrome ... and that Down syndrome is of the devil.

I wish I could say that I didn't believe that when I read it, but I have my own experience with ignorant people to back that up. I'm going to skip the details here because I don't know who exactly reads my blog .... but I will say that the story above reflects some of the advice I received during my pregnancy with Lily.

I could write an entire blogpost on this subject, but I'll try to condense my thoughts for the sake of time. As a Christian and a pastor's wife I don't cuss. Out loud anyway. But I almost did when I read that Instagram post. I wanted to find that misguided mother and tell her what I thought of her disgusting (and dishonest) claim. 

But after my initial reaction, I felt something else: pity.

Because if that person spent five minutes with my designer gened girls - she would know that they are gifts. I have yet to meet anyone who knows Lily who says she is anything less than that. You can't be around Lily and Madison and not feel joy. And if that is something that needs to be prayed or rebuked away - then I feel sorry for those who subscribe to that kind of theology. I pity those who are so wrapped up in their small-minded view of "perfection", because they will never know the joy I know.

Moving on ....

2) Homeschooling.

There have been any days in the past - and I'm sure there will be days in the future - when homeschooling did not bring me joy. In spite of my love for my kids and my love for learning, there are times... days... weeks... when I would rather just be left alone. Ha. But I'm being serious. I'm just not a super organized, motivated, passionate homeschooler by nature. I like slow paced mornings and laid back afternoons, and neither one of those things gel really well when you are homeschooling five children. 

But this year we changed things up a bit with our curriculum, and I am loving teaching again. 

We still use Teaching Textbooks for math, and I know we will always use that, forever and ever, world without end, amen. It's that good. We are now using Bob Jones English this year, and it's a good fit as well.

Up until this year we have always used ACE School of Tomorrow for all our other subjects, and it worked. We knew how to get everything done in a year, it was easy for the children to learn from, and it was affordable. But it just got old.

So this year we decided to try My Father's World for the bulk of our curriculum, and we are LOOOOVING it. It's perfect for teaching multiple grade levels at once, it's engaging and exciting and easy to teach, and I just can't say enough good things about it. My kids and I wake up eager to get our school day started, and there are few things that bring me joy more than seeing my children share a love for learning. I wish I could get paid for this little advertisement, because it is a bit on the spendy side, but it is well worth every penny we spent on it. If you are a homeschooling family with many different grade levels, you will love this curriculum !

3) The Dentist

If you know me at all in real life, you know I have three major phobias : flying in airplanes, bugs, and going to The Dentist. (in capitals, because he is that scary.)

Those three main phobias could be broken down into many minor phobias : fear of falling from the sky, fear of heights, claustrophobia, fear of spiders, fear of cockroaches, fear of large beetles and daddy long legs, fear of things that feel like bugs, fear of people sticking sharp things in my mouth, fear of needles, fear of someone being two inches from my face for a prolonged amount of time, fear of choking to death on my own saliva, and fear of swallowing a dental instrument. Just to name a few.

Which probably begs the question: why did I list The Dentist as the third thing bringing me joy in this post ?

Easy. It wasn't me who saw The Dentist. 

It was my children.

And with the exception of Caleb, who has some wisdom teeth that need to be removed next week, as well as a microscopic cavity needing a filling - they all received a clean bill of health. Or teeth. Can you receive a clean bill of teeth ? Whatever they received, it was good.

And in spite of missing two of their appointments because I am scatterbrained like that, we did manage to have allllll of them seen over the course of two weeks, and (I think) our dentist's office still likes us. No major meltdowns, no panic attacks in the chair, and no hysterical patients demanding xanax because laughing gas makes them feel like their skin is crawling with ants.

At least not this month, because it was only my children's turn at The Dentist, and not mine.

Which is why I could list JOY and The Dentist in the same sentence.

Okay, Sam is now home and my children are too, so I am going to have to type quickly and wrap this post up.

4) These two

I mean, how could I not list them ? They are joy times two, and they keep me smiling every day.

5) Our Pickleball Champion

Jonathan won Gold in men's doubles two weeks ago, during an area Pickleball tournament. He has won the gold the last several tournaments he has played, and next week he heads to Casa Grand, Arizona (where we used to pastor a church!) to play in the National Pickleball Championship. He is being sponsored by Selkirk, the leading producers of pickleball products (say that five times fast) and I have no doubt he will come home with some kind of medal. If you've never watched a pickleball match, it is fascinating and fun to watch HERE to see Jonathan and his partner take the gold two weeks ago.

6) Fall colors

The above photo is unedited, taken on my iPhone. Before we moved to Oregon 21 years ago, I thought photos like this were fake. It still amazes me that trees change colors every year like this, and I say all the time - if I believed in reincarnation (I don't) I would want to come back as a tree in my next life. They bring me that much joy.  I'm an unashamed tree hugger, and I mean that literally. I see trees like this, and it takes everything in me not to pull over to the side of the road and hug them. As long as they don't have any bugs hiding in them. Or Dentists.

7) These pictures

No explanation needed, just look at these pictures and see if you don't feel joy....

8) Our Baby Bunny

Miss Madison is nine months old now, and she is as healthy as can be. She weighs 13 and a half pounds, she eats constantly, she is doing so well physically since her heart surgery this summer, and she is such a JOY. I feel like pinching myself constantly to make sure I'm not dreaming, because I feel so so blessed to have this little jewel in my life. She is so prayed for, and she is a constant reminder that God will give us the desires of our hearts. What a treasure she is, our twelfth and final baby.

It's late now, and time for me to put our littlest ones to bed. Before I close though, I want to ask you, dear readers : what things are bringing you JOY right now?

Looking forward to reading your comments !!!

xoxo Patti