Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ordinary Miracle

I had another blog post in the queue ready to go… and then this morning something happened and we took a video of it and I'm putting the other post on hold to share this moment . 

But before I share it I just want to post a picture that still makes my heart hurt to look at. Because maybe with the backdrop of that picture you can share in the joy that I felt this morning. 

I know others have gone through far scarier things than we did. But for several frightening days last summer, I thought we might not be bringing our baby bunny home.

I remember calling Jason and Josiah and one of my best friends, during the pinnacle of that fear, imploring them to help me reel my mind back in. I can still see the look of compassion on Madison's heart doctor's face when I begged her to tell me our Bunny was going to be OK. She told me our baby was in the best place she possibly could be - and they were going to do everything they could to take care of her. I can still hear the anguish in my friend Kris's voice as she cried with me on the phone and assured me she and her family were praying for Madison. 

 I remember being alone in a little meditation room in the hospital on my face before God. Literally - on my face  - kneeling down on some bamboo floor, tears and snot everywhere. You could say I was in prayer ...but in reality it probably looked more like I had collapsed in a pile of anxiety/ exhaustion/hysteria to anyone walking into that room.  I wasn't praying...  I was begging. I don't even know that my words were distinguishable to an innocent observer, but thankfully I serve a God who speaks the language of Desperation. 

I remember trying to project myself into the future – to months down the line when our baby would be hitting milestones, learning to sit up, eating baby food for the first time, taking her first steps ... I made myself think of those images and told myself we were going to get there. By the grace of God and through the prayers of so many people, I told myself we were going to get to that day. 

If you've ever faced a panic attack, you know that one of the keys to getting through it is to get your mind out of that wickedly awful place. 

If you've never faced a panic attack, you probably have no idea what I'm talking about.

 But when you are on the brink of one, you know there are two options. One is to fall down that rabbit hole… And if you've never been there, I don't wish it on anyone. The other is to look up. 

And I remember it just like it was yesterday – I remember holding my hand up to God and saying Lord, give me something to hold onto. I can't take this fear and this torment. 

I. Can't. Take it. 

And whether it was the Holy Spirit or just the desperation of a broken mama, I fixed my mind on this image… the image of my Bunny, healthy and happy and THRIVING, and I held onto it. 

So maybe that's why there are tears mixed in with my laughter when our baby hit an ordinary milestone this morning. 

Maybe that's why I'm still crying tears of joy every time I watch this little clip or watch her in my arms again just now, clapping her hands and smiling at all of us as if she just accomplished the biggest thing in the world.

And maybe - if you're a parent of a child with special needs... or if you love someone who is - you can appreciate the depth of our joy this morning. 

She works so hard for every milestone she reaches. So hard. But the thing our designer gene girls have taught us is this:  the greater the struggle in life, the more powerful the joy when you get there. 

If you're going through something today, remember this :

Happy Tuesday, sweet friends. xoxo

Friday, January 27, 2017


Hello, friends!

If you haven't had a chance to read my post called It's Revolution Time, you can read it HERE. I started a little gratitude revolution here on A Perfect Lily, and so many of you joined me! I did the same thing on Instagram (psalm127.5) and had the same response... I absolutely loved reading all of the things you all are grateful for ! 

Here are a few :

Jennifer Foster said...
I'm grateful for 1. My current health (in remission with Crohn's disease) 2. I have 2 beautiful boys despite doctors saying I may never have babies 3. That my husband is staying home from work tomorrow just because. :)

Emmy O. said...
1] I'm grateful for the opportunity to go through college and be studying for my nursing boards - it is something I complain about frequently, but education is so valuable.
2] I'm grateful for friends & family that offer the most inspiring words of wisdom for the "not so fun" days.
3] I'm grateful for fresh flowers & a new wreath to brighten up this gloomy Iowa weather!

I'm now setting a journal by my bed to make this a nightly routine! Thanks for the inspiration!! :)

Rebecca Martin said...
I am grateful for: 1. A sovereign Lord. One who never abandons, one who is always there. 2. People. It has been five months since I tragically lost a huge piece of my heart and world, my brother. The oldest of ten. My people have rallied around me. I am strong because of them. 3. New days. I cry myself to sleep most nights missing the life I had and the future I had hoped for. But I know in the morning it's a new day, and a new chance to keep on keeping on. ❤

I read every one of your comments, and the ones on Instagram as well, and I was so inspired. So many of you have been through hard things .... HARD THINGS ... and yet you found the silver lining. You reframed your difficulties and saw the good that is there, in spite of the heartache.

And that made me think about something else : gratitude is not ignoring that sometimes life is very sucky, is it ? Sometimes crud happens. 

Gratitude is not pretending there is nothing hard or painful or downright ugly in life. 

And I'll even add something right now - I have a really hard time with phony gratitude. I've met people throughout my life that have such a simplistic view of trials and hardship it is almost painful to be around them. It's stomach turning, actually. And I hope my post didn't come across that way.

When we downplay others' grief we just look ... fake. For example, if you share with someone that you're about to have three root canals (me, two years ago !) and someone tells you to look on the bright side - you have teeth ! - you have my permission to slap them. That's not what I mean when I say that I am making a conscious effort to reframe my troubles to find the good ... and it's one thing to do this for ourselves, it's quite another to reframe someone else's pain for them ! 

So when I write about gratitude - true gratitude - I am NOT talking about slapping a bandaid on heartbreaking situations or glibly responding to real tragedy with a trite "look on the bright side!". There are things people are facing in life that will never be solved with a bumper sticker. My real aim here (and I'm sure the author of The Gratitude Diaries would feel the same) is not to make light of people's burdens. 

Having said alllll that ... there IS an attitude we can employ in life that acknowledges heartache and grief and hardship, and still seeks to find the silver lining for ourselves, no matter how small it may be. True gratitude says "this is hard - REALLY HARD - but I'm going to find something here that is good."

it's hard work learning how to sit up !!

Here's something I am grateful for: Down syndrome.

Would I pray for my girls to face challenges in life physically, cognitively or otherwise ? Of course not.

That "magical extra chromosome" also carries with it the potential for a host of very serious illnesses, and it also means my daughters will struggle to be able to do what most people don't even think about doing. While they might marry some day (google it, lots of sweet stories out there!) having children of their own is something they will never experience. They will always need help in life... they will never be completely independent. These are just the facts.

BUT ... my girls' diagnosis has changed all of our lives in such profound ways, that I am eternally grateful for the privilege of raising them. And I don't say that tritely or lightly.

If I had a magic wand and could wave away their extra chromosome, would I do it ? At one time I would have said no - they are who God created them to be. And I still feel that way - God didn't make a mistake when He created them.

But any mama - given the chance - would take away the possibility of her baby facing leukemia. Or early Alzheimers. Or heart surgery. I would be foolish to say I'm completely grateful for the fact that Lily and Madison were at a much greater risk for those things when they were born than their siblings with typical genes. And if you try to tell me to "just love them for who they are" then you missed the point. I love my girls more than anyone does (except their dad and siblings!) ... I consider them my greatest blessings in life. But no mommy wants her children to face disease or health issues. Talk to any mom whose child went through years of cancer treatment, or like Madison, heart surgery - nobody would wish that on their child. 

HOWEVER .... I am grateful that Down syndrome provides us all with an opportunity to appreciate the little things in life (like sitting up !!!). Things that were once taken for granted are now cause for celebration ! Every milestone, no matter how small, is cause for a party here. At any given moment you will hear one of my kids yelling, "COME LOOK WHAT LILY IS DOING !" and the entire Rice Ranch population comes running.

Down syndrome has given us greater compassion for individuals facing similar challenges and struggles in life.

Down syndrome has opened doors to friendships we never would have had before our girls were born. Some of my closest friends are now mommies of children with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome has opened our eyes to children born in other nations who need families .. babies who face life in an institution because of their diagnosis. We've been privileged to help adoptive families financially over the years, and I am grateful for that opportunity.

Down syndrome has brought our family closer together in so many ways- too many to list in one blogpost.

And despite all the medical and physical and cognitive challenges my girls face because of Down syndrome, there is no denying that their potential for love and joy and affection is just as magnified because of their diagnosis. For that I am GRATEFUL.

SO without further ado... this little video will announce the winner of The Gratitude Diaries. There were 63 entires between the comments left on Instagram and the blog, and I wrote all the names on paper and put them in a bowl. Miss Lily drew the winner ...

Congrats to Tori B. !! Email me your address and I will order you a copy of The Gratitude Diaries today :)

Thanks again to all who are joining me in the Gratitude Revolution ... if you want to leave three more things you are grateful for today, I'd love to keep this going ... happy Friday !

Monday, January 23, 2017

It's Revolution Time

I just finished going through all of Madison's baby clothes. She has finally graduated to six through nine month clothes, and until today I had drawers full of baby clothes I was unwilling to admit didn't fit her any longer. As a result I am in a bit of a thinky mood. Do you ever get in thinky moods?

miss bunny, in her thinky mood

hayden's thinky mood

I am not going to call this mood depressed… or morbid… but it is bordering on both of these feelings. I always border on these feelings when I am forced to put baby clothes away, but perhaps more so today because I am putting these away for the last time.

Many of these baby clothes are going to my daughter-in-law Monique, who just found out on Thursday that she is having another sweet baby girl.

Some of these clothes are just going in a box for memories' sake though... clothes that I just want to remember as uniquely Madison's. Her hospital cap – the familiar blue and pink striped stretchy one that is probably universal to all babies born in the United States.

posted this on my IG stories

 But even so, it's hers… and it still smells faintly of her sweet little newborn head (unless it's just my imagination because of all the thinky feelings swirling in my brain right now.) The soft white baby socks with the tiny hand drawn bunnies on them… it's so hard to believe they fit her feet at one time- they are maybe an inch long ? She came home from the hospital in them and wore them for the first six weeks of her life. I held them up to her foot while she was sleeping a little while ago, and a giant lump formed in my throat as I realized it's been a whole year since the day we brought her home.

So here I sit, in my thinky mood... and I want to keep myself from spiraling downwards. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it's that overthinking things can put me in a bad place.

But you know what can put me in a good place? Reading.

I'm reading a book right now that is really ministering to me. Which is a funny thing to say, because the author isn't even a Christian (as far as I know.) But it really is a motivational book, and I am not normally one who likes motivational books. Don't ask me why, because I have no idea. I'm the same way with forwarded emails - if the heading says "get out the tissues" or "guaranteed to make you laugh", I won't do either. I think it's just my rebellious nature or something.

ANYHOO, this book is inspiring me.

Here's a little excerpt from the book:

Researchers have found that people who write down three things they're grateful for every night (or even a few times a week) improve their well-being and lower their risk of depression. The results have been repeated over and over. Keeping a gratitude journal can even dramatically improve your ability to get a good night's sleep.

And maybe that's why I've been enjoying this book already, and I'm not even halfway through it. For several years on Instagram and a few times on my blog as well, I have posted what I call my "three things post".... I share three things that are bringing me joy right this minute, and I ask followers to do the same. The things that I list are not typically huge events, or even material things… usually they are just the little things in life: a nice cup of tea in my favorite mug, a walk outside with my children in the crisp morning air, the sunlight streaming through the window on my bedspread… just average every day things that are bringing me joy.

scrapbooking and tea = joy

baby rolls bring me joy

...as well as baby food beards !

It might sound simplistic or obvious, but focusing on our blessings is beneficial in so many ways. My husband preached an entire sermon yesterday on gratitude and I can't even begin to do that sermon justice.. but it paralleled what this book, The Gratitude Diaries, is saying (only with a spiritual twist, because after all, it was a sermon.) Being grateful improves our health, our marriages, the atmosphere in our homes, and our overall spiritual well-being.

I'm grateful for ice storms, because they make everything BEAUTIFUL

grateful for my husband who stops in the middle of his work day to play a game with hayden

grateful for teenagers who are gentle and affectionate

My Pinterest boards are filled with quotes on this subject that I have pinned over the years… Probably because I need to be reminded of these truths on a regular basis.

It goes against human nature to be grateful, doesn't it? If you ask someone how they are doing, they might tell you "fine" ... but two minutes later they proceed to fill you in on all of their not-so-fine moments. It's just human nature to mullygrub; to list the ten things going wrong in our lives, rather than three things we are grateful for. It takes work to be grateful ... and as humans, most of the time we default to complaining.

Another quote from The Gratitude Diaries :

One of the psychologists who has led this research (on gratitude), Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis, jumped into the field early, and quickly became one of the world's leading scientific experts on gratitude. One of his findings is that you don't need good events in your life in order to feel gratitude. Instead, grateful people reframe whatever happens to them. "They don't focus on what they're lacking; they make sure they see the good in what they have."

I could complain that I just organized the playroom - AGAIN -
or be thankful that my kids have a room filled with toys to enjoy

I could complain about these two always wanting to sleep in our bed...
 or rejoice that I still have kids young enough to "need me"

The Gratitude Diaries is inspiring me in so many ways to combat my human nature, and to make a conscious effort every day – throughout the day – to be grateful. To be intentionally grateful, to reframe bad events so that they are seen through the eyes of gratitude.

this puppy has chewed up 45 billion rolls of toilet paper since we got her - but Lily no longer has a major dog phobia !

these two drive each other crazy half the time

but are best friends the other half ;)

I don't have my Kewpie doll from when I was little anymore... but now I have a real life one

So here's how gratitude pulled me out of my thinky mood...

My baby is growing up, and I am being forced to put away newborn clothes ... for the last time.

However ... gratitude helps me reframe the sadness/anxiety/this-is-the-end-for-sure-this-time feelings into this :

I have the rest of my life to enjoy grandbabies who will wear her hand-me-downs. And I will have the pleasure of seeing my grandbabies in all of those adorable outfits, without having to do all that laundry. BOOM.

Or this:

My baby may be growing out of her newborn clothes, but that means she is THRIVING. Last summer we could not get her to gain weight, her heart was failing, and as a result she was less than ten pounds at six months old. Today she weighs over fifteen pounds and eats like a CHAMP, and that means her heart is healed ! Thank God for surgery and modern medicine, and thank God for piles of baby clothes that do not fit my Bunny anymore!

Or this:

I prayed for an entire year before Madison was born for "one last baby." God answered that prayer, and today I have my heart's desire. I may be a little (okay a LOT) sad about retiring her baby clothes, but two years ago I didn't even know if my prayer to get pregnant again would be answered. I HAVE A BABY AT AGE ALMOST 49 FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. (no pun intended, ha.)

Madison may have outgrown those adorable little bunny socks and will never fit into them again ...

...but she finally fits into these darling bunny slippers that her sister Abbi bought her when I was still pregnant !!!

I'm starting a Gratitude Revolution here on A Perfect Lily ... do you want to join me ??

To start this little revolution, I am giving away a copy of The Gratitude Diaries to one random commenter* on this post.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me three things you are grateful for. They can be big or small things - whatever you choose to express gratitude for. 

I will place everyone's names in a bowl and have Lily draw the winner on Thursday ... I'll post a little video here announcing the winner and then order that person a copy of The Gratitude Diaries immediately. 

(*I'm limiting entries to readers living in the United States because of shipping, but feel free to leave a comment for fun if you are outside the US !)

Are you ready to join the revolution ???

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Bunny Birthday

I'm in between two very special birthdays today… Yesterday Lily turned seven and tomorrow our Bunny turns one. In honor of those birthdays being so close together, we celebrated yesterday with one giant bunny themed party. Miss Lily has had princess parties, pink parties, ice cream sundae parties, you name it… so she was more than happy to share her party yesterday with her favorite little sister :)

I always go through a funny little after-Christmas-slump when I am forced to take down my tree and Christmas decor. I'm such a party gal that I don't do well with the "party's over" feelings sometimes. This year I decided to shift emotions during that time to party planning - so while I was physically dismantling decor, mentally I was redecorating in the future. Take that after Christmas let-down!

We decided to host the girls' party in the fellowship hall in our church. Lots of kids means lots of cleanup and this is a simple place to set everything up and not have to clean the rest of my house, before or afterwards. I spent the last week of December hunting down ideas on Pinterest and deals on Amazon, and while I am usually not the queen of Pinterest-like birthday parties, this one was easy to plan. I chose colors for my bunny theme – melon, mint, pink and gold - and found bunny-themed food that was easy and fun to make.

It helps that I have the world's greatest cake decorator as one of my best friends. I found the exact cake I wanted on Pinterest, sent her a picture, and voila. Her cake was aMAZEballs.

It had three layers with raspberry filling inside, and she even made a tiny bunny ears cake to go with it for Madison. I bought this darling little bunny cake stand on Amazon and told Sam it was the gift that keeps on giving… Every year Miss Bunny can use it on her birthday, and I can use it at Easter parties as well! Sam is always generous when you explain that you are actually saving him money instead of asking him to spend it. I've learned over the years to phrase my request this way, and the results have been splendid. (I wish the keyboard on Blogger had the tongue sticking out emoji for such a time as this, but alas you will have to imagine one in your head here.)

we brought madison's little cake home for tomorrow, so it is a little smudged ;)

Kenzie as usual was my photographer/videographer. The blessing about that is that I barely have time to take pictures because I am trying to keep things hopping along at a bunny party (insert cheesy grin emoji here please)...  and besides Kenzie is better at it anyway.

The sweetest part of the party for me is singing to the birthday girl or  boy. I don't know why I always get emotional about this. Actually I do – I am a sappy, emotional person anyway, so basically I am just waiting every day of my life for an excuse to cry, and birthday songs are about all it takes for the tears to start flowing.

Something about this year though… all week I kept telling Sam and the kids - I don't know what my problem is, why am I so emotional about Lily turning seven and Madison turning one? Maybe it's the double punch of my baby really truly transitioning into a little girl, as well as my last baby turning one. Mackenzie and I were looking at photos of Lily meeting Madison for the first time at the hospital last year, and both of us said the same thing – how did Lily grow up so much this year? Maybe it's because she is a big sister to not one sibling but two now? Whatever the cause, the transformation has been so stark. 

So here I go again, even looking at these pictures I'm a blubbering mess. I mean just LOOK at the smile on my girl's face. She absolutely, completely, totally adores being sung to. She just gets so proud and always has the biggest grin on her face… It is such a beautiful thing to behold.

And now as I hold my bunny in one arm and hold my phone in the other and voice text this blog post, I'm going to stop before I start sobbing again. 

Tomorrow my baby… my last baby… Turns one.

See you on the other side !