Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

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.


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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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!



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!!


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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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. ❤️


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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Take What You Need

At an absurdly early hour on Friday morning, I woke up in my hotel room in Phoenix with nothing to do, nowhere to be, and no one calling my name for help. It was not an acceptable time to start texting my fellow Rockin’ moms, nor was I quite awake enough to be social anyway.

The freedom in this moment was just slightly overwhelming, but came with such a tremendous sense of relief that I legitimately held a silent, 30-second dance party in the hotel bathroom. I pulled on my swimsuit, grabbed a water bottle, and ran out to find a shady spot by the pool. Whatever the day would bring, I was ready to embrace it.

What I have come to love the most about the DSDN Rockin’ Mom Retreat each year is the ability to take what I need for me in each moment. Now with my third retreat under my belt, I have a keen understanding of what my soul needs in order to walk away feeling wholly recharged – and the confidence to spend three days selfishly meeting those needs.

I choose the word selfishly intentionally here, because of the fabulous Brian Donovan and his pep talk for all of us on Saturday afternoon. When we talked about how hard it can be for us as moms to advocate for our own needs – to say to my family that you all need to just survive without me for a few days and by the way I’m taking a big ol’ chunk of the family budget just for me this month so good luck – it struck a cord with me. It is really freaking hard!!!! But, it’s either not selfish at all to do this, or selfish in the kind of heart-filling, love-growing, sanity-keeping way that is undeniably acceptable for all humans.

I want to reiterate that it took me three years to find my bearings in this experience. Three years to find the right balance of social and silence for my heart. Three years to recognize that it’s totally cool to lounge through breakfast or skip the bar for a bath and bed. Three years to find my niche, to develop my relationships with the mommas to whom I want to run and give a big bear hug when they walk into the room.

Three years to establish my tribe within the tribe.

Being in the room with 400 women who walk a similar journey is powerful. It’s complex, each of us bringing our own set of experiences and beliefs to the table, and at the Rockin’ Mom Retreat, there is room for all of us. So you go, party momma, Uber-ing back to the hotel at 3 AM. You rock, laid back momma, skipping all the scheduled events just to lounge by the pool. We’ve got you, new momma who doesn’t love Down syndrome and can’t figure out how she fits into this crazy room full of unicorn-obsessed wild ladies who all seem to know each other really well. You do you, first-timer who doesn’t want to miss a single experience on the agenda. This weekend is for you and if you listen to your heart, you will rock it.

Until Nashville, Mommas….. ⭐️⭐️⭐️



I had legitimately forgotten about my birthday until about an hour ago, when someone posted about it on Facebook. I suppose that’s what happens as you get older – your brain starts to fail you. 😂 I calculated, thanks to Google, that I will be 33 this year. I haven’t been paying much attention.

This year has brought a lot of transitions – new baby, new job, different time commitments, different relationships, different routines… With all the upheaval, I have been really internally reflective lately, on the kind of life we are building and where we are headed as a family (John has been very patient with my half-baked endeavors thus far, but has also cut me off from any self-help books for the next six months or so). Tonight, as I sat on our patio and listened to the neighborhood in peace, I laughed a little as I thought about some of the things that bring me great joy now that I never batted an eye at in years past… things that are beyond the obvious (because duh my husband and kids and family and all that jazz count too!)

1. Ice cream (I mean, ice cream has always brought me joy, let’s be honest. But now that I can’t eat as much as I want, whenever I want, I sure savor it more.)

2. Pandora Frank Sinatra Radio

3. Quiet

4. Listening to new words tumble out of the mouths of my children

5. Walking through my neighborhood

6. Filling a box for donation and getting said box out of my house and into my trunk

7. Feeding my family

8. Quiet

9. A really comfortable pair of flats

10. Bedtime stories that are not 45 pages long with an 18-sentence paragraph on each page (Yeah, I’m giving you the look, Bernstein Bears. Too. much.)

11. Old ladies who compliment the names of my girls (why this brings me joy, I have no idea)

12. A bonfire in the back yard

13. Scary Mommy

14. The Costco $1.50 hot dog and drink special

15. The way that Tessa starts each day asking for “French toast, eggs, makin (bacon), chickinuggets, fries, hot dog, ketchup, and mustard? Nooooooo mustard!” Every day, in that order.

16. Ordering in for a crowd instead of cooking for them

17. Sitting outside and listening to the neighborhood

18. Did I mention quiet?

19. Writing down one nice memory from each and every day

20. YouTube videos that teach us how to fix the stuff in our house that breaks (how did anyone live without this?!!??!)

21. Our neighbor, who is a total busybody and knows everything about everyone – and is also incredibly kind and wonderful and more than willing to call the police when semi trucks drive on our street even though there is a CLEARLY posted sign that labels this as prohibited.

22. GIFs

23. Especially the one of Judge Judy rolling her eyes.

24. Jen Hatmaker (because no other person speaks the words in my heart as well as she does. And because she inspires me to do things like eat only seven foods for one week and give all my clothes away to those in need because no one needs 43 pairs of flats… and then also to forgive myself when I go and buy new ones because I felt I was lacking the right color for my new pants 🙄)

25. Road trips!!!!!!!!!

25. Meeting my step goal for the day

26. Remembering how bright a room is when I finally change a burnt out lightbulb after like 3 months.

27. I feel the need to include ice cream again.

28. A glass of cool white wine

29. Air conditioning

30. Fresh flowers in my living room

31. Falling asleep while reading

32. People watching

33. The kindness of strangers who hold open doors, give me their cart at Aldi, or find other small ways to help life feel just a little less chaotic.

I am grateful for life as it is now, in this moment. As messy and chaotic as I feel most days, there is so much beauty in standing firm in faith, in family, and in loving all the details of our life. Lord knows it is not perfect, but gosh, is it good.