Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Zoo Day, Take 3

Sitting in my new writing space, I’m watching the last of our summer sunshine slip through the treetops.  I went back to work last week, but tomorrow, all of our teachers report.  The girls will go back to their Mimi Daycare.  John will be up and dressed in the morning.  Our routine will begin to settle in.

Our annual traditions have come and gone for the year, but as I wrap up the loose ends of a summer vacation, I realized that I didn’t write down enough of those moments.  After all, I write so that my girls can remember – when I don’t write, they have to rely on my poor photography skills and fuzzy memory to piece together their childhood.

So I write.

Ellie and I had our annual Zoo Day much earlier this summer.  Although, it’s worth noting that the traditional date, which is the day after I finish my school year, flew by without our normal outing.  At the end of the school year, I had a brief bout of food poisoning, and we moved, and I had to hire some positions unexpectedly… and soon it was mid-June with no Zoo trip.  So Ellie stomped into the kitchen, grabbed a permanent marker, and scrawled “ZOO DAY” on the calendar.

How does one argue with permanent marker in almost five-year-old handwriting?

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It’s funny, I don’t know if it is just because she has grown so much over the last year, or if it was timing, or just me, but this trip felt so different for me than in the past.  In year one, she was still in a stroller and pull-ups; year two brought an obsession with zebras and the bathrooms. This year, she wanted two things: Dippin’ Dots and a ride on the trolley.

She loves to get a zoo map and navigates through the zoo like any good tourist would do:

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By far, her favorite animal is still the zebra…

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But she also got a great kick out of the river otters this year.  She even picked out a river otter toy from the gift shop this year.  She lingered longer at each exhibit, too.  Since she can now read, she took great joy in examining the placards in front of each animal.  Things that she was once scared of, no longer made her panic.  I, the proud mother, happily snapped pictures of my brave girl, conquering the dreaded kangaroo pouch, the swamp, and that silly bird house.

We took our annual selfie on the trolley…

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And she made point to stand in every. single. one. of these look-through thingies (do they have a name???):

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I made her wait until the end of the day to get her Dippin’ Dots, even though she complained pretty much every five minutes until she got them.  We sat alongside the big fountain this year.  She enjoyed watching the people go by, and even made a new little friend with the girl sitting by her family eating Dippin’ Dots across the way.

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Our Zoo Days are usually long – with a breakfast and several hours wandering the familiar paths.  This year, she had her fill in about two hours.  After that, she asked to go back home to Daddy and Tessa.  Our stop at the gift shop this year though, was considerably more difficult.  She is a thoughtful little lady, and after much deliberation over which item Daddy would most like to display on his desk at school, she settled on this keeper of a mug that I know John can’t wait to show off to his colleagues:

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(She doesn’t need to know that I had to dig it out of the back of our tupperware cabinet just to take this picture.)

A little older, a little calmer, a lot of sweet memories made with my sweet-ish girl.  Who knows how many more years of zoo days I can talk her in to, so I will continue to soak in every one. 🙂

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Wait for it, wait for it…

I’m lounging in a little bucket chair, feet propped on a kitchen step stool.  I have placed a padded car seat headrest to support my throbbing feet.  There are boxes all over the living room, no furniture, but our TV is up and running on an old end table and I’ve got a tall glass of ice water keeping me (mostly) cool.  I have learned in the past few weeks that we are at a point in life where chaos does not suit us well.  Last week was an epic cluster of rushing around to do God-knows-what in preparation for 49 different line items that were a Very Big Deal.

In this very moment, I’m feeling like there’s no chance that we will catch a break and we’ll just keep barreling down the road toward losing it.

But.

In all of the crazy, there’s-so-much-I-can’t-even-make-a-list, what-the-heck-is-going-on???, there is also bright – a new, perfect home that is exactly what we need… two beautiful, healthy little ladies who, in the stress of all the change, still adore each other… our own, happy, loving marriage (about to celebrate seven years running).  Bright.


The days before my summer sets in are like this – this year more than years past simply because of the move (and the stomach flu, because why not?).  The long stretch is coming, the days of evening bonfires and the annual Mommy Ellie Zoo Trip and all the fun that is our favorite season will be here before I know it.  So for now, I’ll just seek out the small reminders of our blessings, knowing that the big, deep sigh of relief is just around the corner.

Summer….. Come on, summer!!

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Home.

Everything we do is an adventure.

The adventure of our new forever home is short and wild and sort of overwhelming, but in a good way. It’s all good.

About a week ago, we decided to start looking for a home casually. This is the last time I am moving (I swear) and we want to do this right.  We feel a strong need to find the right place.  I have been scouring Zillow for months, waiting and waiting for the right home to come up.

It’s been rough.  Our list is short, but crucial.  Must have two full baths and a main-floor potty.  Must have a basement for severe weather.  Must have a yard that can be fenced. No well water.

Do you know how hard it is to find houses with two full baths in our area??

On a whim Saturday, we visited an open house.  We wanted to get a feel for what 1,400 square feet might feel like.  It sounded small, smaller than our last town home, but the layout in our last home was as open as open can be.  I didn’t want to go down that road again either.

After 5 minutes in the house, we both knew it was “the one.”  That night, we joked about putting in an offer.  We both sort of agreed that it was crazy because we hadn’t seen anything else and who does that??

Well, we do.

By Monday night, especially when we heard another offer was coming in, I was pretty much desperate to make this home ours.  Quite hesitantly (because “people just don’t do this, Mag!”), John called in a offer.  He was not happy with me, but I’m a girl who knows what I like.

We got into a double-bidding situation.  After a meeting with our realtor, we had to put in our highest and best offer for the home.  As I grew more and more anxious, I decided to write a letter to the sellers to ask them (or beg them, really) to choose us.

(This has been edited for location privacy)

Dear Sellers,

We are writing to ask you to give us the privilege of purchasing your home. Our family is very early in our search. In fact, yours is the first and only home that we have visited. However, last Saturday, when we came to your Open House, we knew right away that your home is the perfect fit for our family. It is exactly what we need and want for our forever home.

We have been prayerfully waiting for the right home to be available in this neighborhood. As a child, I attended ______  and when our youngest daughter was born with special needs two years ago, we knew that we would be moving back from _______ so that she could attend _____ as well.  The school is well-equipped for her needs. We sold our previous house and have been living with my parents while we wait for the right place and the right timing.

Our four-year-old is very excited about the backyard and that we may be able to plant some vegetables in the summer. We envision cook-outs and family gatherings on the brick patio. The location is perfect – we frequently visit _______ and their proximity to the home cannot be topped.  We are in love with the kitchen space. I am not always excited about doing dishes, but when I think about doing them by that window in the kitchen while the kids play outside, it’s much more bearable. 🙂 My mother-in-law visits regularly to help us care for the girls and I know that she will appreciate her own bedroom space on the main level, rather than sleeping on an air mattress in the girls’ room. My husband has been mapping out plans for the basement “man cave” and I would love to use the other first-floor bedroom as a sensory play room for our youngest daughter.

We are ready to settle into our forever home. We can tell by the care that has been put into your home that you have kept it well and that it has been loved by your family.  We love it too, and would be proud to make it our own.

Many thanks for your consideration,

John, Maggie, Ellie, and Tessa

Long story short, after a nerve-wracking two-and-a-half hour wait, we received word that we had won the bidding war.  Even though our bid was slightly under that of the other party, our letter convinced the owners that we were the right family.  We are over the moon with excitement.  It has been a whirlwind week, but finally, finally, we are going home.

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Zoo Day, Take 2

There were three distinct differences between the zoo trip that Ellie and I took last year and ours today.

1. No more diapers.

2. No more stroller.

3. No more nap on the way home.

Because we no longer need diapers, I spent as much time checking out the potties as I did looking at animals.  Just sayin’.

We started with our usual breakfast:

During our meal, Ellie told me all about the animals that she would like to see.  We had been watching Wild Kratts in the moments before we left the house and by odd coincidence, it was all about an African Safari.  The last scene that we saw was a slide show of sorts that flashed pictures of at least half of the animals that we were going to see.  Because of this, I spent most of the morning explaining to Ellie how the zoo and Africa were two different places.   In any case, we beelined for the zebra and giraffes first, her two favorite animals.  Much to her dismay, the zebra did not pee while we were watching this year. The giraffes were so close to the fence though that the zebra was quickly forgotten.

We saw the Penguins eating their breakfast…

And, since this is the trip where we go crazy and do all the things that Daddy always says “no” to, we had our caricatures drawn by some high school kid saving money for a trip to Costa Rica.  Ellie was totally entranced by his work.

As usual, we saw the dolphin show and ate a really overpriced lunch.  We spent a good deal of time sitting by one of the fountains taking mommy/daughter selfies and debating whether the fake floating crocodile could eat the fake hippo on the other side of the pool.

We started at the zoo at 9:30 and by 1:00, I was exhausted.  Not Ellie!  Onward she lead me, to seals and rhinos and past the bears again.  We visited a little pet gift shop just because it looks like a dog house and she was desperate to go inside.  And of course, we had to cool down with some Dippin’ Dots!

Ellie took my picture outside of the Ape House:

By the end of the day, there was a lot of time spent on the trolley due to the tired legs (pros and cons to no stroller!).  Our last stop of the day was the gift shop, where she simply could not be swayed from the selection of this quality item for John:

Let me tell you, she was PUMPED to give it to him.  I gave him a heads up that he would need a good reaction prepared for this one!!  It really is cute, just not something that I’d ever pick out for the football loving, guitar playing guy’s guy that I married.  🙂  She was also desperate to give Tessa the exact same squeaky toy as she did last year, but I was able to convince her to pick out a little stuffed penguin.  Oh, to know what goes on in that kids’s head!!!!

Last year, on the way home, Ellie slept peacefully in the backseat and I had quiet time to reflect on our lovely day.  This year, she talked (and talked and talked) the whole way home about everything she saw and what she would tell her daddy about our day.  It was exhausting, but equally as lovely.  I can’t help but wonder how she be next year, as an almost five-year-old when we go again.  I don’t know if two years in a row counts as a tradition, but she is such a fun little girl… I can’t wait to go again!!

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Definition #3

 We re-did our little “office” nook in preparation for The Big Move.  It’s got a cute little bookshelf and cute little chair and it’s incredibly cozy.  While it is not ideal for blocking out the noises of the chaos in our home, it is a partial escape.  I’m still tuned in to what everyone is up to, but I just put my feet up and listen.

I find myself trying to spend a lot of time up here these days.

Somewhere in the mix of this…

and this…


 and this…

and this…

 
there needs to be peace.  
It is hard to come by right now.

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Pass the fluff, please

What I really need right now is a goofy little novel to read, a chick-flick-in-print, if you will.  A little Meg Ryan, a little Hugh Grant… nothing too heavy, no drama, no political nonsense, just some fluff to breeze on through.  Please, nothing thought-provoking and heaven forbid it be the least bit relevant or timely.  No thanks.  Not now.

Before the children, I gobbled up books on my Spring Break.  In the summer time, I would go through stacks and stacks.  Back then, I thought it was important to buy all the books that I read.  John and I would spend hours at Barnes and Noble on a Tuesday afternoon, each emerging from our own favorite area of the store with a pile of books under arm.  We’d talk briefly about what we found, both feigning interest in the others’ selections, without any actual intention of reading them.  

(The library gets a lot more of my business these days.  I’m the patron who uses up all her renewals and then ends up with a $2.00 fine because even after 6 weeks, I’m not done and to be honest, the book is lost somewhere at bottom of my diaper bag anyway.  But I digress…)

When Ellie was born, I took up crossword puzzles.  Baby Brain had taken its toll on me somethin’ fierce and I thought that maybe if the crosswords worked well for senior citizens, then they might help me stay sharp also.  Each night before bed, I set out to solve the puzzles in the Easy section of my books.  I don’t know how well they work for memory in the over-65 crowd, but I can tell you that my brain still requires a lot of post-it notes to function properly.

Then of course, After, the bookshelf was filled with books about Down syndrome.  It is fascinating and enriching and important, but sometimes, I get so saturated with Down syndrome and non-fiction and and life that I just need to take a step back.

Our Spring Break was full.  So full.  We are prepping the house for the big move.  I painted a lot.  John put down a floor.  We had the help of our tremendous family.  On the eve of a Monday back to work, I’m reeling a little bit – I’m not quite sure what happened or how it happened or when our actual ‘break’ might take place.  And this is why I just want light, fluffy, nonsense.  And maybe a glass of wine.  Please and thanks.

(Cuteness in photos coming soon…)

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Don’t be a cry baby. (Please?)

Anyone who thinks that people with Down syndrome are eternally happy should come spend some time with us from 6:45-7:15 on any given night.

Good. Lord.

The phrase “scream like a banshee” has taken on a whole new meaning since our sweet little booger has decided that bedtime simply isn’t her thing. With every wail, I can hear her cursing us for leaving her in the dark. The best part is that her timing is unsettlingly perfect – just as you breathe that sigh of relief because finally, she’s calm and reach to take a sip of your wine, BAM. Just kidding! If she had words, I can guarantee she’d be yelling the ones you wouldn’t say in front of Granny.

I can’t say that I blame her for being upset. When you live as thrilling a life as we do, it must be devastating to miss out on the fun. Between the crossword puzzles and episodes of House Hunters that have been on the DVR for about 2 years, I sure wouldn’t want to sleep through any of the awesomeness.

We’re just bustin’ down stereotypes, one bedtime routine at a time.

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Milestone madness

I swear to you, Tessa comprehends every single thing I say to her therapists. Just as soon as I tell them that she is struggling with anything, she masters the skill and I end up looking a little silly.

Tuesday, our PT and her supervisor came for her weekly session and I had an extensive list for them. I expressed that I was still concerned about her refusal to use her left hand. I shared that she was sort of sitting, and sort of getting into her sitting position from laying down, but that she would not lift her left hand.

As of Friday, we have a sitter. And she’s a sitter who can get herself into a sitting position all by herself. And while she is there, she can play with toys!

I also vented a little about how I have to change the way I laugh because every time I laugh loudly (which is often), she cries. She doesn’t cry when anyone else laughs and I’ve been starting to get more than a little dismayed at being the sole cause of my child’s tears.

Since Tuesday, we have not had even one meltdown.

And, the icing on the cake is that our Little Miss started clapping yesterday. I didn’t even complain about that one yet! 😉 It’s very quiet and sporadic, but it is really happening.

I wonder if I start complaining that she can’t change her own diapers, will she pick that up right away??

Needless to say, it has been a week full of Tessa milestones. This will be our first week of four-days-a-week therapy, along with John’s last day of grad school, his graduation, two evening service projects with my National Honor Society kids, and the usual chaos that comes with the end of the semester for two teachers. We’ll see you on the other side…

And now, cuteness:

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Happy birthday, Dad!

In honor of my dad’s 55th birthday, I present 55 things I’ve learned from the guy who (along with my mom) raised me.  He never reads this blog… but maybe this time, he will.

1. Learn everything you can.
2. Provide for your family. Work hard.
3. Get dressed every day.
4. And for heaven’s sake, wear shoes. (We grew up in an old home that was almost always under construction, so walking around without shoes was a safety hazard)
5. Serve others.
6. Go to church.
7. Take calculated risks.  When I was a little baby, we moved to Paraguay, South America for a little while.  Random, I know.  But sometimes, you have to do these kinds of things.
8. Eat healthy – food is fuel.  (Especially oatmeal) My dad eats oatmeal every day.  With raisins.  And he’ll offer you a bowl, too, if you come for a visit.  Only Ellie ever takes him up on it anymore.
9. When you go to a museum, read everything.
10. Exercise.  Like, every day.
11. Travel, but don’t be extravagant about it.
12. Read the newspaper.
13. Get all the juice out of the grapefruit.

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14. Use tape when painting.
15. Always find the best way to do things.
16. Change your own oil.
17. Cherish family and friends.


18. Give out the good candy on Halloween.
19. Take care of the ill and elderly.  Take them out to lunch.  Visit them when they are sick.  Listen to their stories.
20. Charleston chews taste best frozen.
21. Always have enough beer on hand for a small party.
22. Never mind the GPS, use an atlas.  Every car should have one.
23. When mom is gone, you can survive on tuna fish, hot dogs, and baked beans.
24. Falling asleep in front of the TV is in our genes.
25. Rinse out your recyclables before you put them in the bin.
26. Sometimes, it’s easiest to clean a baby’s poopy butt with a hose.
27. Braiding hair can be a three-man job My sister and I had excessively long hair as children and when my mom was gone, we would help Dad braid it.  Each of us took a chunk of the hair and away we went!
28. Self-propelled lawnmowers are for the weak.
29. Always be a good host (and throw one hell of a party while you’re at it).

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30. Don’t speed.  (Especially when driving a golf cart)
31. Invest in your community.  You’re never too young to join the historical society!
32. Make lists, on post-it notes if possible.
33. Go to the doctor on a regular basis. Get your cholesterol checked, have a physical, listen to your doctor, take your vitamins.
34. Give.  Give time, give money, give support.  
35. Do your best in school.
36. Save your money.
37. You’re never too old to enjoy a children’s museum.

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38. Save your salad dressing containers. They make excellent containers for nuts and bolts, as well as other random household objects.
39. Wear gloves. And a hat.  And boots.
40. When it snows, shovel often…
41.  But also stop to build a snowman.
42. Always seize the opportunity to see your favorite bands when they come to town (especially as they get old).
43. Speak little, but say lots.
44. Watch PBS.
45. Get down on the floor and play with the grandbabies!

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46. Save your receipts.  ALL of them.
47. Log your gas mileage.  (Full disclosure:  I’ve learned this, but I don’t do this.  However, I have at least one sibling who carries on the tradition.)
48. Eating the same meal for lunch every day is efficient.
49. Why buy an expensive picnic table when you can make one in your garage for less money??  And that goes for a lot of things.  Be handy, make your own stuff when possible.  Be a fixer.
50. If they knock down your mailbox,  just build another one.  A metaphor for life, perhaps?
51. Mustaches.  Not a good look.

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52. Write thank-you notes.
53. Insist that others do the right thing.
54. When the work is done and the time is right, take a break and let loose.


55. Practice makes perfect.

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November, in a nutshell

I cannot believe that we are almost to the end of John’s Master’s Degree program. He and I embarked on our journey of earning our degrees when Ellie was 6 months old. I finished 4 days before Tessa was born. In less than a week, John will join the club.  He tells me that, at 67 pages, he is done writing and that all he has left are some citations (which, at this point, I’d really like to just do for him so that it can just be done, but of course, I won’t, because playing with Tessa and Ellie is more fun than researching APA Style). Craziness (and crankiness) hit their highest point last week and we’re coasting into the finish line now… Here are some pictures of life lately…

Did I post this yet? I can’t remember, but it’s worth repeating anyway..

IMG_6659.JPG Trying to stay warm in our most recent snap of cold weather: IMG_6677.JPG     Tessa loves to play “sooooo big!” IMG_6706.JPG   We celebrated my nephew’s second birthday… this is my sister, sister-in-law, and I with our kiddos… IMG_6712.JPG   Sticking out our tongues in solidarity with Tessa 🙂 IMG_6766.JPG   So serious today…  IMG_6762.JPG   A little happier in this one.  🙂 IMG_6734.JPG   The media center at my school is having a “Shelfie” contest… Here’s our entry… IMG_6759.JPG   We put up our Christmas decorations a little early (sorry, Mom) and Ellie decided that Baby Jesus needed a check-up from our dear friend Doc McStuffins. IMG_6771.JPG   Holding her own bottle is super hard work!! IMG_6776.JPG  Sister love. ❤

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