Saturday, February 25, 2017

snowflakes, social media, and secrets from the dollar tree

It's practically March and I forgot to post my Valentine's pictures.

I had them sitting in a draft folder on Blogger and just never added words.

And now I'm on my computer, pulling up the photos and... they looked much better on my phone.

I rarely use a real camera anymore because a) the only camera in this house is Mackenzie's and I have to go up to her apartment to borrow it, as well as text her for permission to use it because b) it's expensive and the last time I used it someone that rhymes with Shmayden knocked it off the desk and broke the $400 lens, and also c) I'm lazy. 

So unless Sammy wants to surprise me with an iPhone7 plus - or whatever it is that my son Jason has that has an EXTREMELY nice camera - I am just going to have to post grainy, sometimes out of focus photos here. Sigh. #firstworldproblems

In spite of these phone photos, our Valentine's celebration was delightful. We had pink heart pancakes and our traditional table of treats, and this year Sammy surprised me with chocolate dipped strawberries as well as chocolate dipped heart shaped shortbread cookies ....sooooo yummy.

Madison wore Hayden's first Valentine's outfit (minus the beanie, she wore a bow instead) and was the cutest cupid I've ever seen.

The day before Valentine's Day I asked Hayden if he remembered how we celebrate the holiday. He said yes - everyone gets a new toothbrush and their own tiny toothpaste !

I have never, to my knowledge, given our kids new toothbrushes or tiny toothpastes for Valentine's Day. Heart shaped pancakes, a table decorated with doilies and candy, sticky notes with promises for dates with Mommy - these are all things our children typically look forward to on February 14th every year. 

But I did not want Hayden to be disappointed (he was SO excited when he told me what he was expecting)... and also The Dollar Tree had spiderman toothbrushes when I went to pick up balloons and streamers. So it wasn't too hard to make his wildest dreams come true.

Lily got into the chocolate chips that were waiting in little red and white dishes on the dining room table before everyone else came down for breakfast. 

side note: I started sprinkling chocolate chips on our kids' pancakes mannnnny years ago and now they actually believe pancakes are naked without them. I'm not even kidding, we were out of them one morning when I made pancakes and nobody would eat them.  #pancakesnobs

Anyhoot, I have a really cute video of Lily with chocolate chips on her face just before everyone came down for pancakes, but I didn't have enough video footage to fill the whole song up. I'll post it  later if I can find it, but like my blurry photos, it's ... less than perfect. 

But it is real life. Which is pretty much how we roll here on A Perfect Lily. 

And that reminds me of something I was pondering the other day.

I was looking at some photo galleries on Instagram- lovely, color coordinating photos that were never out of focus, all forming a coherent display of that user's "brand" - and then I looked at mine. And the contrast was... stark.

And then I peeked in on some well-polished, well-read blogs I visit occasionally, and I noticed the same obvious difference.

And then I read an article on Pinterest about "how to increase traffic to your social media sites" (gain followers on Instagram, boost readership on your blog, get more retweets on Twitter, etc.) and I was like... who has time for this ???

I do understand that some people actually make money off these things, so I'm not saying there's something inherently evil about sprucing things up if you need to ... but sometimes - because I can tend to be a perfectionist - I need to remind myself that comparisons are odious.

Or the thief of life.

Or something .... that I really need to avoid.

In both real life and "online life", I don't really have time for the comparison game, you know?

It's like when my neighbor, many years ago, made a comment about the state of my rosebushes outside. (I should note that his yard looked like something out of Better Homes & Gardens, whereas mine ... was lucky to have the grass mowed each week.) I just smiled, blinked back a few embarrassing tears, and told him, "I'm just trying to keep people alive over here. Some day I hope my yard will look as lovely as yours."

So as I looked at those other impressive blogs and beautiful IG galleries the other day, I (again) smiled and blinked back a few embarrassing tears and gave myself that same little speech. "I'm just trying to keep people alive over here. Some day maybe my (photos, blog, house, wardrobe,whatever) will look like theirs."

Or maybe not.

Because when you are doing important things .... like growing children, and not a readership ... those other things really do need to take a backseat to what's important, yes ?

I also reminded myself that the reason the comparison game fails so miserably for the most part, is that the dynamics of my life are far different than the ones I might view through the (very tiny) lens of social media.

This same principle applies to other areas of life as well - gazing across the lawn at my neighbor's yard, flipping through a magazine and coveting the wardrobe I wish I had, perusing Pinterest and realizing there are a thousand places I've never been, or even just hanging up the phone with a friend and yearning for a simpler life.

I can't keep holding up someone else's apples to my oranges and expecting them to be the same.

And neither can you.

I say this, because lately I have been on the receiving end of a number of emails or texts or direct messages asking me the age old question : how do you do it all?

And I'm absolutely not opposed to offering a little insight into how things operate at The Rice Ranch. If I can help other moms to learn from my mistakes, or share some of the things God has helped me with over the years, I am more than happy to do so. I still reach out to women older and more experienced than I am for wisdom on a host of issues - parenting, cooking, cleaning, you name it - and I'm honored that others would do the same to me.

But I never want to give the impression that we've got this whole thing figured out around here. I don't post pictures of rotting vegetables in my refrigerator drawer, spilled milk/dog pee on my dining room carpet, dirty laundry, bickering children, or overgrown weeds in my backyard. What you see here and on Instagram are just tiny snippets of our lives, and not the whole picture of who we are. And they are the snippets I allow you to see... because honestly, who wants to show the world their dirty laundry?

My family is so different than yours, and even if we shared a few similarities, on any given day we are each going to be functioning under a completely unique set of circumstances ... just as no two snowflakes are the same, so are no two families, in my humble opinion.

I can share some things that have worked for us, but I also hope that when people ask me - how do you do it all ? - they realize that "this" isn't the whole picture.

We have good days and bad days here, days when I managed to keep everyone alive and got the laundry (somewhat) caught up, and I put dinner on the table.... and days when it feels like it's all falling apart.

I'm posting pictures of our Valentine's Day morning because it was fun and sweet, and my children and Sam and I love any excuse to put everything else on hold and celebrate. We are really into holidays here at The Rice Ranch - but if that's not your "thing" there's no rule that says it has to be. 

What I'm really trying to say is:  I'm just running in my own lane here. 

I take average blurry photos on my cell phone, my blog looks homemade because it is, my wardrobe consists of whatever-was-on-sale that random afternoon I had time to run to the mall, my home decorating style could be described as "practical" and "well loved", my Instagram "gallery" is really just a hodgepodge of happy moments in my life....

... and all of that holds true for pretty much everything else going on around here. 

To quote a tagline from a show I've heard before : it might not be a perfect life... but it's our life.

So here's to keeping it real, ditching the comparison game, embracing the life that is ours, and realizing that sometimes The Dollar Tree sells the greatest gifts of all.

took this with my little ole cell phone, no filter. take THAT, Canon 70d !!

Amen, and Happy Saturday.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

snarky patti

Hello readers.

If you've been a visitor to my blog, A Perfect Lily, for any length of time, you have probably noticed something.

I am rarely the same blogger twice.

Some days you might come here and read some deep spiritual musings on the true meaning of life, complete with scripture verses and a Pinterest quote or two.

Other blogposts might discuss the complexity of raising children with special needs, the beauty of Down syndrome, and the challenges that accompany that "magical extra chromosome".

And still other days you might find a very practical post including family favorite recipes, tips for homeschooling, and ideas about a new beauty product my sister-in-law just sent me. No heavy revelations, just some fun facts with a few pictures of our daily shenanigans thrown in for good measure.

I wish I could say that this happens on purpose; that I am a blogger with a plan, a mom on a mission, artfully mixing things up in order to appeal to a vast array of readers and their preferences.

The truth is I am just a scatterbrained housewife, posting whatever random thoughts pop into my head at that moment. And the end result of that is a potpourri of posts all bound together in one very untidy little package called A Perfect Lily.

Just like the real-life me, my blog is a great number of things. Not a tidy little package, not a perfect little pastor's wife, not a one-dimensional character, but rather a cobbled-together story that has many different chapters and plot-twists and layers. To some that might look like chaos, but to me it just looks ... normal.

So today's post is going to reflect one tiny little aspect of my personality, and if you know the real me, you know that attribute well : Snarky Patti.

I try to hide Snarky Patti most of the time, because quite honestly I don't know if the world can handle too much of her at once. My dearest friends know her well ... maybe a little too well, at times  ... but there are occasions when the veil is lifted, so to speak .. and there she sits for all to gasp at in astonishment or horror. A few misplaced remarks and shocked expressions later, and  I can usually reign her back in ... but today is not one of those days.

Just a friendly heads-up, fair readers. The Gratitude Revolution had its place last week.

But there is a time for everything in its season, they say...  and today Snarky Patti needs a little outlet for her stress.

Consider yourselves warned.

"I feel my inner snark coming out, Hayden. You might want to run."

Five things

That Stress Me Out:

(Come back later to read about Three Things That Bring Me Joy.)

(Much later. Like maybe next week.)

Here we go:

1) Lack of sleep.

Especially when I feel exhausted to the bone...and then get woken up five or six times in the night for various reasons (crying baby, cranky toddler, teenager that forgets to call and say he won't be home til an ungodly hour, tossing and turning husband ...). I don't function well on lack of sleep. Does anyone? Not me.

I know it looks like these two can sleep anywhere. But don't be fooled.
would one of these responsible young men forget to tell me he was staying late at his friend's house ? never.

2) Children bickering 

...from the moment I wake up til I close my eyes at night. And then even afterwards. (see previous paragraph.) Some days it's average, and some days it's like... waking up in a ball pit filled with violent angry toddlers. With no escape door. And Ozzy Osborne blaring over the speakers. And the toddlers have water guns.

I'll stop.

"Who US ??? Bicker ????"

3) Critics. 

Whether online or in real life, they 

Also patronizing people.

Moving on ...

4) Messes. 

Unpacked suitcases with dirty smelly laundry, messy refrigerators with a week's worth of crusty smelly leftovers, dirty windows and mirrors that (if my religion allowed it) I SWEAR I just cleaned last week, and a garage that needs to be re-organized for the forty fifth hundredth time in three months.

thankfully this little Bunny only makes cute messes. But give her time...

5) Menstrual cycles.

 Sorry to my cousin Glenn and my brother Chris, who (I think) constitute the entire male population who read my blog, but that time of the month just sucks stinks. In my twenties and thirties I laughed at women who talked about PMSing, secretly chalking up their complaining to an excuse to blame some THING for the trials of life. But at (almost) 49 I am throwing up the white flag and acknowledging that maybe I hadn't yet experienced all the joys of Mother Nature that my older women friends were living through. Until now.

Side note : Yesterday my husband texted me apologizing for whatever it was I was ... stressed ... about. I texted back - it's not you, it's me.

And then followed up with - and these hormones.

And then followed up again with this - Everything is making me mad and it feels like if I open my mouth I will cuss , so it's better to just keep my mouth shut.

And then followed up AGAIN with - can you bring me home a kombucha.

Because for me, a bottle of kombucha (the virgin kind, in case you attend our church and are worried about your pastor's wife getting plastered in the pantry) equals instant stress relief. My husband, knowing this from experience, brought me home two.

And since I listed five things that stress me out, I will now offer up an antidote:

Five things that bring me relief from stress:


Synergy Trilogy and Synergy Strawberry Serenity to be precise. If Safeway is out of these, I will settle for Dr. Brew but don't even THINK of bringing me any flavor but Superberry, or there will be H to pay. Ask my husband.

2) Cleaning.

.. like intense deep cleaning - baseboards, light fixtures, faucets, doorframes, windowsills, the kitchen sink, the fridge. I have no idea why this helps me de-stress, other than the fact that it gives me a sense of control? I just feel so much better after a four hour stretch of serious deep cleaning. Yesterday was one of those days, and today it feels GLORIOUS to wake up to a sparkling clean house.

3) Good music. 

My current favorites : JJ Heller's The Well, the soundtrack to Miss Potter, and Pandora set to Disney (children's) radio.... especially the new songs from Moana. And don't laugh - anything from the musical Wicked. Don't ask me why music from Wicked makes me feel less ... Wicked ... but there you have it.

4) Good smells. 

I'm not a Scentsy consultant anymore sadly, because sometime last year Orville gave me the boot. (I don't miss "selling", because a saleswoman I will never be, but I do miss the hostess rewards !) Happily though, I have a box full of partially used bars that will probably last me until the spring.... Luna and Green Serene are currently filling my house with their de-stressing aromas and Welcome Home is waiting in the wings when those run out. I don't know why I have always enjoyed good smells so much, but they are the perfect antidote to raging hormones, tormenting toddlers, smelly refrigerators, you name it. (If you've seen me sniffing a bottle of room spray in the bathroom at church, now you know why.)

"Good smells do the mind and body good".  2 Patti 3:16 if you're wondering .

the smell of The Rice Ranch after the rain = Heaven

And last but not least :

5) Good friends.

The kind you can call or text and say "I need you to talk me off the ledge right now." And even if they are having an equally or perhaps even more stressful day than me, they will put their own stress on hold and talk me down. And by "talk me down" I don't mean offer me all kinds of well-meaning advice, because everyone knows that's what husbands are for :) But girlfriends ... are for listening . And occasionally offering a bit of their own snarky commentary on life, just to make me feel that I'm not the only Wicked Witch in the world on that particular day. 

"Good snarky friends are a balm to the soul".   2 Patti 3:17 if you're wondering about that one too.

"I do not have the emotional strength to handle the sound of a person chewing loudly today."
"I know what you mean."

So there you have it. A little dose of reality from The Rice Ranch, and if you can't relate, come back another day for a different view. I promise the stress level here has been dialed back a few notches, and if you show up on my doorstep you won't be greeted by this person today ....

Praise the powers of sound, smell and Strawberry Serenity, and a just little bit of snark from my friends.

Happy Tuesday !