Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Ellie turns nine

The thing about Nine is that it feels like “childhood” is fading into the dark, like the last little rays of sunshine are dipping low into the water at sunset, soon to be gone.

That’s a rather melancholy analogy. Enough of that nonsense.

(It does feel like that though.)

Our Ellie Bean is now nine and a force to be reckoned with, there’s no doubt about that. She’s brilliant. She’s mercurial. She loves big, feels big, dreams bigs, plans big.

I think I maybe wrote that same sentence when she was four, five, six, seven, and eight.

We have learned so much about this sweet girl as she has grown into herself. We used to think of her as a little comic. She was (and is) hilarious. Don’t you dare laugh though – when it’s not a joke (which is always), she doesn’t appreciate not being taken seriously. And Lord help anyone who gets in her way when she’s got any kind of plan up her sleeve. This will serve her well as she grows.

(It is not really serving me well, per say, but eyes on the prize.)

She has a gorgeous singing voice and loves to cook. She’s been known to take time on the weekend to do a self-directed research project or two. Her Spanish is beautiful and she is way better at math than her dad. She tells us sometimes that she wants to be a teacher when she’s older, but when I tried to get her most recent vision for adulthood, she said it “isn’t time to talk about that right now.”

At nine, she’s 100 feet tall and totally adored by her sisters. She’s every bit the tornado that earned her the nickname. She is never seen without a book or something to write on. She packs a backpack full of supplies for every car trip, even when we’re just going to Target. Once John told her it wasn’t fun to read at a holiday celebration and she reminded him that “we all have different kinds of fun.”

You do you, Tornado Ellie. You are rockin’ it. Happy Ninth Birthday! 🌪❤️

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Lauren La Loca, Age 3

When the grandkids are being particularly energetic (read: unruly), my mom sends them outside to run laps around the house. She’s been doing this since I was a kid (I definitely ran a few laps in my day 😬), as a way to tire the children and probably to give herself a mental break.

Lauren has been desperately awaiting her birthday for one reason: when she’s three, she finally gets the chance to run with the kids. Her first words this morning after bursting out of her room at 5:23 AM were, “I’m fwee, and now I getta run!!!”

Something tells me that this is a foreshadowing of the adventures to come with this child….

When she was born, we wondered if Lauren would ever get lost in the shuffle of life with three kids. Her sisters have some big personalities to contend with, after all.

Not a chance.

The child has no fear.

Well, that’s probably a little exaggeration. She has some fears. Two, actually.

Bergens:

And bugs.

She’s also been known to ask John to “vacuum the scurls (squirrels) into little pieces” when they get too close to the house.

She talks loud, acts big, loves to make people laugh, pushes the limits, spends a significant amount of time in time-out.

Her favorite things to carry around the house are her Frozen blanket (stolen from Ellie), her Daniel Tiger pillow (stolen from Tessa), her two Uneecorns (at least one stolen from an older sibling) and her puppy.

She climbs things that she shouldn’t, and jumps off things that she shouldn’t, and is naked approximately 73% of the time.

Also, it should be noted that she is OBSESSED with John.

Literally obsessed. 😂

(Note: he loves this and is also totally exhausted by it.)

Happy third birthday to the crazy beautiful little girl. We are so happy that God sent you to us, and are also thankful that you were the third or we may not have had any other kiddos. 🤣 You are exactly what this family needed, and you have brought so much joy to our days.

We love you, Lauren Ann!! ❤️

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A Facebook Memory

I haven’t written in ages, yes I know. Let’s get that out of the way first. Hi, I’m here.

I’m here because Facebook reminded me that six years ago, this little girl got very very sick.

My memory of that day is vivid, far more so than the day she was born, or any other day for that matter. It’s funny how the mind works like that – like how some really big scary days get blocked out, and some others are hazy, but some are clear as day.

Sitting on the couch with her, watching her gray little face trying to gather any energy to take a bottle.

The nurse insisting that the pulse ox machine probably was broken because 77 doesn’t seem believable and rushing to get another. And Dr. Nash coming in to tell us that he had called 911.

The paramedics loading her and I onto the stretcher, holding a little oxygen mask to her face, while Ellie danced and sang and played with the firemen in the hallway.

People watching as we were wheeled out of the office and out the door. It was a beautiful, sunny day. The grass was really green.

In the emergency room, when John and Ellie arrived, and Ellie looked up at me and Tessa in the bed, and suddenly it struck me – Ellie had pink eye.

When they transferred us to our preferred hospital, I rode in the front of the ambulance, and sat in awe watching the cars that completely ignored the lights and sirens blaring, not moving out of the way for my little baby.

The respiratory specialists who met us at the ambulance and hooked her up to the little isolette. The woman had gone to church with me when I was younger. I don’t think she recognized me.

I remember walking through the underbelly of the hospital – gray concrete walls, bland beige hallways, and then to the PICU.

The smell…. does anyone who has ever spent time in a NICU or PICU ever not have a visceral reaction to that smell? The soap, the cleaners…

The constant beeping.

These things haven’t left my mind.

The common cold had caused a pneumonia so severe, a lung so saturated, that the doctors couldn’t hear it on their stethoscopes. Seven days later, we brought her home. We don’t talk about what could have happened if we didn’t have an appointment that day. There are some places that the mind just shouldn’t go. Instead, we count our blessing every day with this little girl. God let us keep her. Six years later, we are so grateful for that.

❤️

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Welcome 2020

It’s time to start a year fresh. Last year, I documented almost nothing in written word. It was just that kind of year – the word I focused on last year was “go,” and boy, did we ever! We committed to experiences, not things, and as I created our family photo album for 2019, I am calling it a win. We did all the things. It was great. I wrote none of it down, but yes, it was great.

This year, we build. That’s the word I chose – build. I have a few things in mind – some actual physical structures, others not. One very specific piece of building that I want to do is right here in this space, stockpiling the words and memories of our life in a way that I just didn’t do last year.

Onward.

Our cast of characters:

John: Age at this writing, 34. “Rebuilding” his fantasy football team, exploring other mid-thirties life changes (suddenly a bourbon connoisseur, what??), managing the household much better than I at this time.

Ellie: Age at this writing, 8.5. Really desperately wants to be a teenager; loves scrunchies and nail polish. Reads and writes all the time. Self-described “emotional” person (we concur).

Tessa: Age at this writing, 6. Obsessed with movies and Pete the Cat. Hates dogs. Eats “airplane” oatmeal for breakfast. Loves to play pretend with her figurines.

Lauren: Age at this writing, 2.5. A beast. John’s shadow. Does what she wants. Eats what she wants. Tells you exactly how she feels and what she’s going to do about it.

Me: Age at this writing, 34. Busy. Blonde again. Still with a serious travel bug. Completely engrossed in the chaos of wife-ing and mom-ing and administrator-ing and friend-ing and all the other -ings.

Let’s get building…..

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Six

Let me tell you a little something about this sweet face: behind those precious features is the mind of a very determined little girl.

Every morning when I leave for work, she stands in my way until I have hugged and kissed each member of our family goodbye (generally twice). Her favorite part is when I kiss Daddy, so that she can exclaim, “ewww, that’s disgusting.”

And every afternoon when I see her after school, she has prepared a mental list of which movies we will watch that night. Now, we generally don’t watch TV during the week, but I’m telling you, this child is persistent.

Occasionally, ok maybe sometimes… ok fine often, she gets her Beauty and the Beast. Or Anastasia. Or Shrek. Or whatever.

It’s fine.

She’s a bit grumpy in the morning and loves a good bear hug to get her day going. She’s a little particular about what she’ll wear – it’s not a sensory thing or anything like that, she just wants to make sure her t-shirt and underwear have the right picture on it to capture her interests for the day. Most days, the underwear must feature a Disney Princess or forget it.

She still can’t help herself from exclaiming “Jesus Christ, what the hell?!” when she’s annoyed or mad. She loves to shrug her shoulders to say “I don’t know.” Sometimes, she’s starting to blurt things out in Spanish and when she does, it knocks me off my feet a little bit.

She could absolutely live on chicken patties, cheese sticks, and pretzels.

Our little sunshine girl is growing into a great big kid. She’s often a little more soft spoken, but kind hearted and thoughtful with her peers. Her teacher says she has the best manners, even when she’s running gleefully across the outside field away from the line that she is supposed to be in. She apologizes when she’s made us sad and just can’t pull herself away from comforting anyone who is looking a little forlorn.

She’s a trouble maker with her sister. Lord, are they trouble.

Six brings a new world to us – elementary school: reading logs, school lunch, math… she’s loving it. We’re loving it. We’ve watched her blossom bit by bit this year and can’t believe that this little baby, who caused such a massive overhaul in our hearts about everything we “knew” to be true, has started to stretch her wings. She’s warming up to fly along in the world and she is so happy. We are so happy.

Happy sixth birthday, sweet Tessa Lynn! We love you so much!

❤️

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The Eve of Six

On the eve of her 6th birthday, I’m stuck thinking about the night Before. It was sort of a shit show (much like tonight was). Just before Christmas, on the eve of final exams, I rushed out of school, picked up Ellie from Miss Julie, and made the long trek to drop her off with my mom so that John and I could go to my 37 week appointment together. There was a lot of traffic, and I distinctly remember being frustrated at how the world seemed to be at a standstill while I was very much in a rush to get where I needed to be. Ellie sat buckled in her little car seat, paging through the book A Charlie Brown Christmas, we had the tunes going, and I was freaking tired.

At the time, my doctor’s office was going through a transition from paper records to computer and it created these exceptionally long waiting times. There were appointments where we had to wait over an hour to be seen – and this night was no different. John and I sat, hungry and tired, in the waiting room together, and tried to sort out our gift plans for Ellie. We just wanted to move the appointment along so that we could get to our dinner. When we finally got to see the doctor, I asked her if there was any sign that I might get to have this baby before January 1, and she laughed and said no, everything seems to be just where it should be, and that I should mentally prepare myself to wait for my January due date.

So then I drowned my sorrows in a giant plate of nachos with extra jalapeños and about 13 hours later, we had a brand new baby in our arms.

Funny how that works out.

Ooooh, the waiting. The waiting, the waiting. I hate it and love it in the same breath. I want to see the future, and want to hold on tight to the now… and let’s not even talk about the nostalgia that I have for this squishy little face:

Six tomorrow. SIX.

So much waiting has just flown by in the blink of an eye.

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Ellie turns 8

Every birthday for these love bugs feels like too much, but Eight feels like closing a chapter and opening a brand new one.

I bought Ellie books for her present. BOOKS!!!! Not toys! Do you know what this means? I’ll tell you what it means. It means my little girl is really becoming a big girl.

To be honest, I am kind of enjoying this big girl.

At eight, Ellie is tall. Let’s just start there. She’s a beautiful little girl who loves dresses and sandals. She spends hours outside coasting around on her scooter on the driveway or reading books on the patio. She thinks of herself as a “junior adult” and delights in any opportunity to move closer to her ideal age (which, if you are wondering, is 19). Recently, she told me that she is ready to start using adult toothpaste.

We have a rule in the summer that kids stay in bed until their clock says 7:00. At 6:07 AM today, Ellie burst out of her room in her pink party dress. She got a look from John, but told him, “it’s MY birthday, so I decided to come out early.” And that’s Ellie. She’s smart, that one. She’s a rule follower, but also not concerned about making her own when she feels it is appropriate to do so.

She desperately wants her fairy garden to attract a real fairy, but is teetering on the edge of understanding that the fairy will never come.

She is, by her own description, emotional. Just as she has been since she was a child, she feels things BIG. We’ve called her “Tornado Ellie” for quite some time, not because she is wild and destructive, but because of how she can whip up, push through, and move on before you can catch a breath. Then you’re left wondering what the heck just happened.

She’s covered in scraped knees and scratches from her adventures in the yard. Once I got a call from the nurse that she managed to fall and knee herself in the nose. 🤦‍♀️ But goodness is she graceful when she twirls around on stage in her ballet costume.

She does not like sushi.

She has a life plan that involves going to college where John and I did, studying “biology and all the biggest hardest words in Spanish so I can say everything I want.” She thinks she would like to be a teacher because she is “already working on teaching Tessa.”

I just want to bottle up all of who she is and keep it on a shelf to show her when she is older. It’s not that I’m sad to see her grow. I’m not – I love it. I love to see each stage. But it’s hard to know you can’t go back. Back to this….

Or this…

Or this….

Our precious girl is eight today, and we are so grateful for every nook and cranny of who she is. We love you so much, Ellie Bean!!

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Two… so she won’t resent me.

My baby is two now and friends, I cannot handle it. Not even a little bit.

There’s something about watching the last baby cross off her milestones that is simultaneously relieving and heartbreaking. Goodbye bottle parts, goodbye baby coos, goodbye spit up, goodbye toothless grins. Be still my heart!

There’s no baby left in Two.

I didn’t write a word about her first birthday because I couldn’t bring myself to do it. At two (now that we see that little temper coming through), I think about how she’s going to resent me in 10 years if I don’t write this down. 😬

Lauren is 90% comic relief, 10% get the heck out of the way. She is the queen… the absolute queen of funny faces. She knows how to make people laugh, and doesn’t hold back from doing so. Some of the first words she learned were “let go” and “stop it.” You can try to be mad at her, but be careful, because her anger will bite you right back.

Lauren’s big sisters are part siblings, part extra parents. They love to baby her. Just this week, she got her first time out and as she sobbed on the living room chair, Ellie came it to let us know that “time out is probably not very age-appropriate” for her sister…. and Tessa followed quickly behind with her hands on her hips, reminding us, “be nice to my Wauren.”

We have our work cut out for us.

She’s a blessing, this crazy little girl…. a little bookend that holds up the other two, and maybe all of us, when life gets hectic. She’s the child that curls up in your lap to look at pictures of her family and friends, the one who waves at strangers in the store, who got my sweet tooth and John’s sense of humor. She loves dogs and trucks and sliding down great big slides made for children much older than she.

She is fearless.

Happy birthday, Lauren Ann! Slow down just a little bit, would you?? I just want to hold on to this baby for a little while longer. ❤️

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Five

My little sunshine girl is five.

Let the annual birthday crying commence.

As I sent her off to bed tonight, I gave her a great big hug and told her to sleep good for her last night of being four. We’ve been practicing her new age all weekend. She is excited to be five because darn it, it is hard to make that thumb go down when you’re trying to make the number four with your fingers. Five is easier – a whole hand.

Her stubby little wiggly fingers are one of my favorite parts of Tessa. Her hands always make me smile. I hold them often to keep her from running, and she has easily learned to wriggle herself away from my grip so she can run fast and free.

Golly, I just want to bottle her up and keep her exactly the way she is!

Since having Lauren, and knowing that unless God somehow gets a little cray cray on us, we’re done, I find my breath catching in my chest when I think about all these sweet girls catapulting toward adulthood. Oh Tessa… her heart is bursting with joy for the tiniest of delights – a sprinkle of “dust” (Parmesan cheese) on top of her pizza, some 80s Hair Band music on Daddy’s phone, the tiniest piece of chocolate after dinner. I don’t want to lose this.

I don’t ever want to lose this.

I will take the stubborn refusals and the belligerent No’s if I can just keep the joy in her. Because for all the frustrating moments that raising any child can bring, with her, the happiness is so much more.

To my dear sweet girl on your birthday, I love you so much. From tiny little NICU baby, to headstrong little girl, every day is an adventure that we could never have predicted. You filled a hole in me that I didn’t know was there. I’m so grateful for every little piece of you. ❤️

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Presenting: A Recipe for Fall

Rainy Fall Night Chili

1 pack sweet Italian turkey sausage

1 lb. lean ground beef (I use 90/10)

1 purple onion, chopped

2-ish stalks of celery, chopped

A lot of garlic (as much as you think is good and then double it)

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 16 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 can light kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 packet low-sodium chili seasoning

Pepper, to taste

1-2 tablespoons paprika

1-2 tablespoons Adobo seasoning (can be found in pretty much any grocery store, even Aldi)

Barbecue sauce (I dunno, maybe a quarter cup??)

Push sauté on the Instant Pot and throw in the meat. Cook until it’s pretty much brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and throw in the chopped onion, celery, and garlic. Once the veggies are soft, add all the spices and stir it up so it looks thick and delicious. Stir in the meat, tomatoes, beans, and barbecue sauce. Cook on high pressure for 25 minutes, then quick release.

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, well, you’re missing out. You can probably make this in a crock pot or on the stove top with much more effort, but seriously, jump on the IP bandwagon.

And yes, that’s InSTANT pot, not InSTApot. Please and thanks.

Serve with your favorite toppings, crusty bread, good wine, and a classic movie.

Welcome, Fall. ❤️

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