Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Four years of BIG

Me: Are you going to be a new person when you are four tomorrow?

Her: Oh yes, a whole new person!

Me: Well, why?  What can you do when you are four?

Her: Oh, almost drive a car or van or anything that moves.  And go to the city, but not work.  I’m too young to work.  And I can chop down trees.  Tomorrow though.  Not today.

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Slow down, my little love.

Before she was born, I sat in my sister-in-law’s living room, watching my nephew Jack run around in circles and thought that I wasn’t quite sure if I could handle being a mom.  She assured me that the baby wouldn’t come out of the womb quite as energetic as her lively two-year-old…  slowly but surely, she would grow into toddlerhood and I would be ready for it because I would grow with her.

She was right.  Baby Ellie crammed herself right into our little life – never snuggling in, but making her presence known in every moment with coos and smiles and belly chuckles.

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By the time she was one, we referred to the Ellie that appeared between 5 and 7 PM each night as Tornado Ellie.  And while I would never call her rambunctious or wild (well, maybe a little wild), Ellie’s infectious energy has kept us melting onto the couch after bedtime for 1,460 days now.  Her first word was cuckoo.  From there, the other words poured out… tee-coo (thank you), hello, tree, papa, amen, beer…  Ellie innocently delivers a well-timed punchline to every moment.  She is a pint-sized comedienne.

By two, “clumsy” had become her middle name.  Even now, as I watch her sprawl across our living room floor, I can’t believe how, for as many scrapes and bumps and bruises she has, there have been no broken bones.

Knock on wood.

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As a three-year-old, we have grown into parenting her big personality.  There is nothing meek about anything that Ellie does.  She LOVES and she’s ANGRY and she’s THRILLED and she’s BIG emotion in every moment.  Life with her is vivid and bold and full.

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We love you, Ellie Bean!  Happy fourth birthday.  I can’t wait to keep growing with you this year.

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3 Decades

A very special kind of countdown has started and I’m super excited about it!

(No, Mom and Mom-in-Law, I’m not pregnant.)

Today, I am celebrating the beginning of my 144-day “make fun of John because he is 30” extravaganza.  I only get 144 days because of course, then I will be 30 also.  But for now…. let the fun begin.  🙂

As I’m sitting here, he is telling me that he does not want a post in celebration of his birthday… which is fine, because this isn’t about that…. it’s just about him.  I have done exactly what he told me.  😉

I had to laugh today, going through old pictures of him, because I was trying to find just one to share here in celebration of him.  it’s impossible.  I don’t know if there is just one picture that can really embody his accomplishments, his determination to provide for his family, his devotion to us and to the girls and to God.  This is a remarkable man.  And for all of the amazing things that he has worked so hard to provide for us, these are the things that I love the most:

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Reflections from Oma

There are people in this world who find joy in all circumstances, who rejoice in every day simply because.  This is Judy, my mother-in-law.  You would be hard-pressed to find another person who loves fun more than she does.  She feels everything so very deeply, her love for all of us is bold and strong and faithful.  That love is given freely to any and all who cross her path – it is an inspiration.  

 This is how I got Judy’s entry:

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There is something so beautiful about the written word… we miss that in the blog world sometimes.  Especially with handwriting like hers, it is just lovely.  This is her story, (mostly) transcribed by me.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –

I can’t remember how I knew Maggie was in labor.  Johnny must have phoned.  I do recall wondering why it was taking so long.  I recall the “mom” in me starting to worry… I recall checking the clock… and I recall saying a prayer.

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think I stayed strong for him and said all the “right” things, but honestly, my heart hurt for Maggie, Ellie, and Johnny!  It hurt bad.  On the drive to the hospital, my mind and emotions flew.  Question after question….  Will she need surgeries?  Will she ride a bike?  Will she be in school?  Boyfriends?  “Regular” friends?  Will people hurt her?

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I had myself knotted up in a wad and told God, “this is not fair!  It’s not right!  How can you do this to this strong and loving family!?”  In my heart, God answered me, saying it was because of this exact reason that he sent Tessa Lynn to them.  OK.

So, we arrived at the hospital just as Johnny and Maggie were headed down to the NICU, where Tessa was.  We had a brief hug fest and went to wait in Maggie’s room.  Mags’ mom was there.  She was calm and “normal” and I was anything but!  She quietly shared information, some she knew and some she researched, with Larry and I.  Then she smiled and said, “this is not Tessa with Down syndrome.  This baby is just Tessa Lay.”  It was a comment that made my complicated simple.  Her gentle perspective was not lost on me. (Thanks, Mimi!)

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When the parents came back, Mags was just like her mom and I chuckle because Johnny was just like me.  We had calm and crazy times two!  John seemed to flit in all directions and was unable to stay still.  I hurt for my kids, but tried hard to focus on my earlier conversation with God back in the car.  They are a very strong and loving couple who can do this, and they will do this well!

At some point, Johnny, his father-in-law Tony, and I  went to the NICU to meet our girl.  As John and I walked, I reminded him to live by the words that are tattooed on his arm: Be strong and courageous, do not be discouraged, for the Lord will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

We entered the NICU room.  Lots of tubes and beeps and equipment.  Under the blue light for jaundice lay our girl!

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In checking her out further, I saw her open hand (I, personally, love childrens’ hands! 🙂 ).  Hers was open, just like baby Jesus in every Nativity that you see.  Not a tight fist… open.  I took that as my invitation and placed my index finger in her palm and I smiled as the little fingers closed snugly around mine.

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I love her, and her mom and dad, and her big sister always and forever, no matter what!  I thank God for His wisdom daily in sending her to us.  She is a fabulous addition to our family.  Perfect.

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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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Happy birthday, Love!

(This is my second post in a month dedicated to my husband.  My apologies.  He’s embarrassed, which is kind of why I do this.)

The past weekend was so incredibly busy for our family, but also so joyful!  We celebrated my husband John’s 29th birthday.  I love his birthday because every year, I am reminded of how wonderful our friends and family are.  We are so blessed!!!  We always celebrate with a night out at a favorite bar that serves a variety of craft beers (as well as vodka cranberries…. which is why I’m still tired today).  So many of John’s friends come out to have a drink with us.  We were even joined this year by one of his best friends and his girlfriend, Aaron and Kim, who flew in from Kansas as a surprise!!  So cool!  I love Kim because she’s in a PhD program for child psychology and even when I tell her the craziest of stories about my children, she assures me that they are just fine.  🙂

As for the birthday boy…. for whatever reason, it seems that his birthday, March 10th, tends to bring great weather to the Chicago area each year.  It’s probably very coincidental, but for as many years as I’ve known him, his birthday has been a take-off-your-coat-for-the-first-time kind of Spring day and today is no different.  Tessa and I are soaking in some great Vitamin D today!!  I think I pay such close attention to the weather today because of the story that John’s mom tells us every year about his birth…

When Judy was pregnant with John, he was quite a surprise.  She did not even know she was pregnant until about four months into the pregnancy.  As is common practice, they had an ultrasound to check on John’s development.  At that visit, doctors could not detect any arms or legs on their precious little baby.  When the doctor shared with them that John would have no limbs, he encouraged them to consider terminating the pregnancy.  My in-laws were astounded, but took no time to decide that this was their child and that he would be born as God intended.  Whatever he was at birth, he would be loved and cared for by his parents.

John’s birthday was weeks earlier than expected.  It was a cloudy, cool day when Judy went into the hospital.  After laboring for only a couple of hours, John was born weighing 5 and a half pounds, with arms, legs, 10 fingers, and 10 toes.  Literally, when he was born, the sun came out, the temperature soared to 62 degrees (20 degrees above normal) and, as she tells us, all the nurses were taking off their sweaters and going outside to soak in the warm sunshine.  This may be cheesy, but he has been bringing sunshine to all of our lives ever since!!  I am forever grateful to my in-laws for their faith in God and in each other, that they would trust in Him and His plan for their family.        

So to my wonderful husband, happy birthday.  Thanks for being such a light in my life.

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