Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Celebrations – A Photo Dump

You’ll have to excuse my long absence – I’ve been busy partying.

No, seriously. We can’t stop. It is bordering on over-the-top. I love it.

Two weeks ago, I (conveniently) enlisted my family members to write about Tessa’s birth. While they did that, I camped out in my kitchen and baked for 6 days straight. Cookies for neighbors who decorated our shared walkway with twinkly Christmas lights, goodie bags for my amazing department at school with some of the most dedicated, hardworking teachers around, pudding ‘cupcakes’ for Miss Tessa’s first birthday party… and then chicken chili and posole and black bean salsa for the party. My bakeware was tired. My oven was tired. My feet were tired. But the party was just getting started.

Saturday, we celebrated Tessa’s first birthday.

What the heck is this hat, Mom???


Oh, there’s cake involved?  Well, alright then.


Group pictures are a challenge… Especially when Mama Bear insists that all party-goers must wear hats.


And John insisted I take a picture of myself in the hat and “photoshop” myself in.  And since I don’t know anything about photoshop, I’m just sharing it here.


Sunday, we took a break. But only because I had a migraine (and John had to finish his Christmas shopping).

Monday, in the absence of snow, we celebrated rain.




Tessa and I stayed inside, where it was warm and dry. 🙂


Tuesday, there was a new addition to our family. Welcome, Baby Tony, and congrats to my brother and his lovely wife.




Wednesday, our Christmas Eve celebration with Oma and Papa (John’s parents) included a Happy Birthday Jesus cake, decorated by our own little cake boss.








We also got ready for Santa.  Ellie read some books and left cookies by the fireplace, which was actually an amazing feat because Ellie is terrified of the big guy in red.


The following pictures are blurry because our scared-y cat kept running away.  The idea of a creepy stranger breaking into the house to deliver anything, even a Mermaid Barbie, was horrifying. 


Get me outta here!!

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On Thursday, Christmas was just plain lovely…

Ellie says, “Ack!!  Santa made a mess on the fireplace!!”  Also, there was no snow in Chicago for Christmas,so I’m not sure how Santa left snowprints, but the little ones didn’t catch that little blunder.


Where is everyone??  I want to open presents!!

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Grapefruits with my dad – an annual tradition…




Until dinner, when all of the children had had enough and all of the adults had had enough. There were lots of (toddler) tears at the dinner table, so naturally, there were plenty of adult beverages to get us through as well.

On Friday, we ditched our kiddos at my parents’ house and celebrated the birthdays of John’s very best friends. It’s a big year for us… The Big Three Oh. You know we’re getting old when the main topic of conversation at the bar table is how the live band is too loud…. 😉



Saturday was the big, extended family celebration for Christmas and a little white elephant exchange. I came home with a little ice cream maker (which, for the record, doesn’t work. At. All.)

Group child pictures… there are 30 on my phone and these are the best two… crazy kids.


IMG_7205  White elephant fun…




Queen Ellie and King George


How we knew the night needed to be over…


Sunday’s celebration was the end of a painful Bears season. And because we have heard “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” far, far too many times (see Ellie’s video here), the Christmas decorations came down. It was a week earlier than usual, but really, we had to stop the madness. I have never been more thankful to hear my child sing Let it Go. It was that bad.

We let Ellie feed Tessa… they both loved it.


We wrapped up ten days of celebrating today with a visit from one of my dearest friends and her family.

So now, it’s December 30th and we’re just kind of lounging.  Tomorrow for New Years Eve, I think we’ll do…. nothing.

Happy Holidays!!

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Reflections from Mimi

My mom is the kind of person who knows the life stories of many strangers.  Though I cannot tell you what it is about her that make her this way, when she talks to you, you just want to tell her everything on your heart.  She has a kind face and a gentle smile.  She is an excellent listener.

Later in her life, she studied social work and was trained to work in hospice care with the terminally ill.  In a crisis, she is the one you want to help you process through your feelings.  She’ll “social-work” the heck outta ya and you won’t even know what hit you.

By chance, she was the first person in the room after Tessa was born and for that, I am eternally grateful.  This is her side of the story.

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The secret joy of Tessa hugs.  Those crunches that end with her cuddled into the crook of your neck that are extra special at 5:30 a.m.

The wonders of milestones met.  They don’t happen in the blink of an eye or suddenly.  We get to watch each painstaking step toward achievement.  Milestones that Tessa meets at her very own speed.

The strength of two dedicated, strong parents.  John and Maggie are two individuals, working as a team and meeting the needs of not one, but two special girls.

I have learned so much since Tessa was born.

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I have told everyone, any chance I get, that being a Grandparent is the BEST gig in the world.  When Ellie (our first grandchild) was born, I thought I’d met the most wonderful baby… ever!  When grandchild #2 came along, I secretly feared I wouldn’t love that child as much as Ellie.  Boy, was I wrong.  Tessa is #4.  And with her birth came an opportunity to learn a whole new meaning of love.

The moment I received the news that Maggie was in labor and headed to the hospital my heart was filled with excitement. As was pre-arranged, I would be available to meet her needs first by caring for Ellie, and then also to be moral support as John tends to get a little bored by labor.  So, when I got the text asking for re-enforcement and lunch (for John),  I settled Miss Ellie with her Papa and headed to the hospital.

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When I arrived, I phoned the nurses’ station to be allowed on to the floor.  My request was met with obvious hesitation.  I wondered what that was about.  I said, “She asked me to come.”  They let me in and told me which door to go to.  Then there were the huddled whispers that I didn’t understand… until I walked in the room and saw John holding the baby!  Oh, I thought, the baby is here! That was the reason for the looks.


Maggie (or John, I’m not absolutely sure) said, “The baby has Down Syndrome.”  Just like that, I knew our lives would be forever different.  I was blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with this young couple as they began to sort through their thoughts and feelings.  I did a lot of listening that day.  I listened as Maggie spoke of a fear of people “feeling sorry” for them.  I listened as John spoke of fears for the unknown future.  We talked about the shock of the news, which could have been broken with a little more finesse.  We talked about those fears and worries. We also talked about unexpected joy and strength that is granted just when it is needed.

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One truth in life is that NONE of us  has a guarantee to live the way we expect.  No parent can ever be sure that their child will grow up to be who or what that parent thinks they will or should be.  We do the best we can with what we have in front of us today.  We take each day by faith.  And we PRAY!!  We put our trust in Him that knows all.  And finally, we LOVE with all our hearts.

And, oh yes, I forgot to tell you the BEST part of that day.  It was the time I was able to spend holding my newest grandchild, Little Miss Tessa, with whom I fell in love at that very first touch.

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One year is almost upon us.  I continue to be thankful for the gift of Tessa in our lives.  She is AMAZING!  She is a sweet and funny girl!  I even see a bit of her Mommy’s sassy side from time to time.  John and Maggie have proven to be the perfect parents for this little girl.  That is what you said, Maggie, isn’t it?  “God gave this little girl to us.  Who are we to question??”  Ellie is clearly proud to be Tessa’s sister, as she tells any stranger.  I am excited to see what is in store for our sweet girl.  Happy Birthday Theresa Lynn Lay!

mom 1


It’s time to celebrate

365 days ago, this was my family.  It’s the last picture Before.

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We were celebrating my graduation with a Master’s degree.  We were celebrating an ease in the workload that we had put on ourselves.  We were celebrating a little break to prepare for our newest addition.

We did not know the surprise that was in store for our family just 4 days later.

Surprise from a baby who would arrive long before the crib was ready or the clothes were upacked into drawers.

Surprise from a baby girl that I was sure in my heart would be a boy.

Surprise from a baby girl that arrived after just 8 short hours and two quick pushes.

Surprise from a baby girl with one tiny extra chromosome that would turn our whole world upside down.

Shock. Hope. Fear. Joy. Pain. Excitement. Guilt. Devotion. Frustration. Reassurance. Confusion. LOVE.

This week is a celebration of our little girl Tessa.  We feel like we might have missed the party the first time around, so this year, we promise not to mess it up.  Through a series of posts this week, we celebrate her first birthday with reflections on the day from the perspective of others who were there.  My side of the story can be found here and here.  I hope you enjoy hearing what everyone else has to say for a change. 🙂