Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

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.


Nine Nine Bust a Rhyme

I am, in no way, shape, or form, a poet.  Truth be told, I don’t really even like poetry.  Shel Silverstein is great, but otherwise, poems are really above my level of brain power.


This morning I woke up on my ninth wedding anniversary and all I kept thinking was “Nine Nine Bust a Rhyme,” which is part of a game we used to play in college.  It was one of those earworm phrases that I could not get out.  So today I submit to you a poem, in honor of my hubs, along with my apologizes for bad rhymes and other poetic offenses.

Nine years ago today

In a church that’s not too far

We said our vows

And friends said Wow!

(They loved the open bar)


The wedding was so great

Our trip to Mexico too

But even better

Than that day

Is my marriage now to you



We were so very young that day

Had barely lived we thought

And here we are

Three kids two cars

And all the clothes that we have bought


Our children are so crazy

They make us laugh all day

But also though

Our hair of gold

Is turning now to gray


Most Fridays we eat pizza

Watch Shark Tank on the couch

Sometimes there’s wine

Red’s yours, white’s mine

And at Scrabble, you’re no slouch


You let me call you Jefe

Even though I am the boss

Though honestly

It seems to me

You get your point across

(when making choices)

(that is a terribly written verse)



I am so bad at poetry

I hope you can forgive

And when I fall asleep

At eight

Whatever dude, you’ll live.


I really need to end this poem

I can’t find a way to stop

But since you’ve brought

The Crazies home

They need their lollipops


(Dear God, this is the worst poem ever)


Ok that’s it, I’ve gone too far

I just want to share my love

You are the best

Man that I know

God sent you from above.


The end.

(Look as us.  We were BABIES!)

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Transition Time

I will set my alarm for 4:26 AM for the last time tonight. Wake-ups in my new job will be earlier than many, but not middle-of-the-wee-hours early. It feels weird.

It has been a slow fade, this goodbye. I knew in February that I would be moving to a new position in the next school year. It seems like the last two months or so have been a reminder of work that I will leave unfinished. Projects started and handed over, next steps left to someone besides me.

It’s quite sad, really.

But still.

I sat out on our patio this morning and watched the girls play on their new swing set. I listened as Ellie and Tessa chattered away, playing with their figurines together. I heard Tessa string together reasonable statements in their imaginary play, and smiled as Ellie slipped into Spanish for a brief moment, then back to English again.

I know why we did this. I have an inkling as to why God is pushing me in this direction, why He planted us here and now. My calling has been here, in this town, for as many years as I could have had a calling. It was just a matter of when and how I would land in this space. It doesn’t ease the trepidation, the heartache, the melancholy panic of transitioning to the unknown, but it reminds me that there is a place where I am needed.

I am grateful for that.

I am certain that I will not miss 4:26 AM, nor the afternoon traffic. The people, though, they are a different story. There is not much that compares to the people. 10 years of my Cougars… it’s difficult to say goodbye. It’s the right time, and a hard time all the same.

On to the next adventure….

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Running (Wo)man

About a month ago, Tessa escaped a very secure deck and was found meandering in the street by a particularly hazardous neighborhood intersection.

The little booger saw a moment of opportunity (a gate that was not fully latched by another child) and, quite literally, ran with it.

I can’t understand where the (fill in expletive) she thinks that she is going. I mean really truly, ????????? Running is not a new behavior for Tessa. I mean, I suppose that in the grand scheme of life, she’s only been walking for about 18 months, but even before she was running, she was a speed crawler. I remember bringing her to Family Friday with our local group, and chasing after her as she tore off on all fours toward any open space that she wasn’t supposed to be. And in her walker, well, we’ll never forget her little foray into the men’s washroom at the local mall.

(Dear Lord, thank you again for the non-creepy man who swiftly lead her back out to safety.)

For our recent Spring Break trip, we purchased a (amazing and super cheap) double stroller on Amazon, as a way to keep her corralled when needed. I have been anti-double stroller for a long time, because in my world if you can walk, you walk. However, with Lauren being at the age she is, we thought this particular stroller was a need for the trip. In any case, here is how the trip went:

Crowded and chaotic location: Out of the stroller, Tessa runs. In the stroller, buckled in, Tessa puts her feet on the ground, stands up, and tries to run, pulling the stroller and Lauren along with her.

Wide-freaking-open field with full permission to frolic at will: Tessa stops, and sometimes flops, then begs to be carried back to the car.

Our current strategy for managing this behavior is telling her to “stay close,” which works approximately 38% of the time.

I just want to figure out where she is going. It is probably a futile effort, but I feel like if I understood the antecedent of the behavior (yes, I’ve got some new lingo from all my reading on this 🙄), I might be able to stop it from happening.

There’s no freaking rhyme or reason!!!!!!!

In the meantime, I’m just investing lots of money in locks, door alarms, and maybe some new running shoes. For me. She doesn’t need any more motivation to get going.

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Family Care

Self-care – so important

Equally as important: Family care

If you remember back in January, my resolution for the year was to write once a week. In the blogging world, it was almost three months before I wrote again. I have taken to writing a quick, one-to-two sentence reflection on our day each night before bed (counts as writing?), but devoting the time and energy to words on the page has been a monumental task in recent months. And for once, it isn’t about self-care. It’s about family.

Self-care has become a ritual for me. I know when I need a break. And I know what helps me regroup, and thankfully, I have a support system to turn to when I am in need. My family is no different – sometimes, we just need to reconnect. Routines and busyness and homework and screens and commitments and budgets and errands and all of the things keep us from each other. This year, what I found in the this long and snowy winter, was that my family was in need of some refocusing. In late January, when emotions were running high and cabin fever was at its peak, I began hatching a plan in my head to get us out of the funk: a little Spring Break road trip to relearn to love and appreciate each other.

It’s funny, because I know that vacations can also bring out the worst in our families; the lack of routine, the rushing around to fit everything in… it can be unpleasant. So when we finally chose a destination (Kansas City), my mission became getting ready for the trip, but also holding myself back from overly preparing.

For me, that meant doing just two things: booking a hotel, and packing our suitcases. We had no prearranged plans. We had no tickets purchased or hopes for what we would do or see. People laughed when we said we were headed to Kansas City. “Why? Do you have family there?” I was often asked. I had no answer – no, no family, but I googled it once and they have a zoo, so worst case scenario, we would just end up there! Time for an adventure.

Friends, it was perfect.

Now don’t get me wrong here, it was not *actually* perfect. Tessa’s running was a real pain in the ass. Lauren did not appreciate the long hours in the car. There were no naps. And we definitely went over budget. But we had a blast. We followed our intuition and did what felt right in the moment. With no expectations and no time constraints, no one cared about sitting in the car for 15 minutes deciding on the next stop. There was no worry about inconveniencing anyone with our need to eat dinner at 4:30. And on our last night, as my three girls giggled themselves to sleep in a way that I haven’t heard…. well, frankly, ever, I knew we had gotten this right.

Kansas City, you were good to us. Thanks for the giggles.

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We hibernated through most of 2017. There was a lot of general illness in our family with two kiddos starting new schools with new germs. I was pregnant, we were tired, my gallbladder died… you know, typical life stuff.

(Insert eye roll here.)

In any case, here we are in 2018. Our cast of characters has expanded. We are ready with goals. Let’s go!

John (age at this writing, almost 33): No longer coaching (Praise The Lord!). Still Fantasy Football Commish Extraordinaire. Pretty much Dad of the Year for getting the girls ready and out the door on his own every day. Seriously questioning his decision not to purchase a second car that can fit three car seats so that we can share pick-up duty after work.

Ellie (age appears to be 16.5, but is actually only 6.5): First grade, dual language, Moana-obsessed, definitely type A. Very much like a tiny adult, but with impulse control issues and child-like enthusiasm for all things pink, princess, and McDonalds. Will only wear dresses that are “twirly.”

Tessa (4): A little chatterbox and television fanatic. Quite persistent with all of her demands. Loves old people and anyone who might be willing to give her a cookie.

Lauren (age is somewhere around 6.5 months maybe?): The best baby ever. No, seriously. That’s it. She rocks.

Me (age 32): Still Type A, but really trying to convince myself that I have fallen into the A- category by now. Trying to learn calligraphy, but failing. New Instant Pot user (the world has gone mad for pressure cooking!). Cutting back on wine and all the good foods in life, so please forgive any snarkiness.

I only have two goals for this year: to write at least once a week, and to vacuum at least once a week. I can tell you that last year, I wrote way more than I vacuumed, and you all know how often I actually wrote sooo….. yeah. There’s some work to do there.

Welcome, 2018! We’re ready for you!

Ellie’s first White Elephant win….

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Peace, not perfection

I never tire of the holidays.

I have no max input of twinkly lights.

Buying presents does not exhaust me.  I could wrap for days and days.

I love the endless onslaught of Christmas cookies.

I have no fear of the rush to move from house to house, visiting with family and friends, enjoying coziness and cheer and gingerbread house making and ALL OF THE HOLIDAY THINGS.

(I have probably grown tired of the Trolls Holiday Special but that is beside the point.  Those creatures are annoying.)

I am sure that much of my love of this season stems from the fact that I have two love languages: gifts and quality time.  The American Christmas Season was made for people like me.  I mean seriously – all we do from Thanksgiving through New Years Day is what I love – buy things and love on each other through endless holiday gatherings.

Sometimes where I falter is in reminding myself that the American Christmas Season was not made for all of the people I love.


For example, about a week ago, my parents took me and the rest of the ladies in the family to an afternoon performance of The Nutcracker.  I imagined a magical afternoon with my girls, their faces lit up with unbridled excitement at the costumes and the music and the dancing.  As the performance drew nearer though, I began to have some trepidation of how Tessa would respond to the theater environment.  In general she has struggled in concerts, performances, and other events where there is clapping and lots of sensory input.  In the name of including her, we forged ahead with the day, and I was hell-bent on making this a great experience.

Until it wasn’t.

Before the curtain even went up, it was apparent that she was going to sob her way through the performance (I suspect in fear of the moment that applause would break out).  It didn’t matter if I covered her ears or found some other way to block out the noise, she was not going to have it and my magical day with the girls suddenly felt heavy and sad.

I’ll be totally honest – when I ran out of the auditorium and into the bathroom with her, I cried in anger for about 15 seconds because this beautiful experience was so hard for her.  It felt really unfair.

And then, as I sat with her in the lobby and waited for John to take her home so that I could watch the show with Ellie, I thought through all of the hard things that people deal with in the holidays.  I gave myself an internal stern talking-to and reminded myself to calm the **** down.  Because seriously, this is a molehill compared to the hurt that people struggle through during what should be a sweet and festive time.

My struggle with perfection has come to head this season as I have seen my eldest start to navigate the very real irritation that I also feel when things do not go as planned.  She is as I am.  And to help her function in our world, I have to consciously choose peace in the imperfect, not in perfection.

It is not easy.  I have wanted desperately to rearrange ornaments, or people’s choices in meal times, or my child’s psychological brain function…. it’s not realistic.

Peace is not perfection.

Peace is not perfection.

There is still so much to be learned. ❤


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Four beautiful years of joy.

There is no other way to describe them really, not in a word. Certainly we experience fear, frustration, sadness, hope, exhaustion… but in every moment, also a great joy in her presence.

I always get emotional at this time of the year. It’s not the stress of the holidays, nor the deadlines that loom when wrapping up a semester grading period. My breath catches in my chest each and every time I think of her birth – of the moment when I finally held her in my arms, listening to my doctor calm our rattled brains… My mind travels to the mundane… helping our visitors to the hospital scrub into the NICU before seeing Tessa, eating our cake on the night before discharge, child-free, trying to hitch a ride to the hospital to see her, not able to drive quite yet after having an epidural.

I think about the emotions of having two children and not being fully present for either one. The crying quietly in the shower, desperate to be able to be all of the mom that Ellie needed through the holidays, and all of the mom that Tessa needed to heal enough to come home. The fear that we would not be enough for her, or for either of them really. And also being completely enamored with each little finger and toe of this little stranger… that feeling, above all else, I feel like it was yesterday this time of the year.

I have felt simultaneously like the years are flying past at breakneck speed, while also creeping along in blessed slow motion. With Tessa, there is time to savor, to drink in every phase for all of its good and all of its challenges. It feels peaceful.

It also feels wild.

She is high energy – walks fast talks fast dances and moves and runs fast. She can’t do some of the things that four-year-olds can do. But she can do some things that most people will never be able to do in their whole lives.

I don’t know precisely why Tessa was sent to us, but I know that we are more complete with her. Her presence has been a gift that our family needed… that I needed. In her life, there is purpose, there is hope, there is love – and joyfully, we celebrate four years with our sweet little girl.

Happy birthday, Wild Lady. We love you so much!