Yo soy La Lay

adventures in family, faith, and Down syndrome

Dad Sabotage

It is an annual tradition of mine to kidnap John around Father’s Day and take him (and the girls) out to the Quad Cities, where we met and attended college.  He never really knows when it is coming and this year, we got him good.

We have quite a few trips coming up in September and October and, given that is it now practically August and we hadn’t gone yet, he thought it was going to be an off year.  This is why, when I told him that it was time to go shampoo the carpets at our townhouse and asked him to please let me drive so that he could call his mom, he didn’t bat an eye.  Then, I asked him to open the glove box for some gum and he found this:

He knew.  Inside the card, a terrible little poem that I wrote on a whim, telling him that we were off on a little journey:

It’s horribly written, I know.  You can only write so well in the grocery store parking lot with a four-year-old asking 47 questions a minute in the back seat.

In any case, he was over the moon excited.  And thus, our 36-hour whirlwind trip began.

I love this.

We ate dinner in one of our favorite QCA restaurants and went swimming in the hotel pool.  Tessa loved it, Ellie was totally freaked out by the depth of the water.

After swimming, Whitey’s Ice Cream, another must-have when we visit what feels like our second home…

Where the heck is my ice cream, Dad??

 After ice cream, it was time to get the children in bed, so back to the hotel we went.  It’s always a curious thing, finding a way to stay awake and chat as adults while sharing a hotel room with the children.  This year, John tried putting on episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond, but after a couple of references to testicles and a vampire commercial, we thought maybe we should try the quiet reading time method.  After about five minutes, we got a lecture from Ellie.

“Guys, no lights, no TV.  It’s time for bed.  Come on, let’s go, lights out.”

Alright then.

In the morning, we visited Jimmy’s Pancake House for the most delicious pancakes that we have ever eaten.  We come here every time we visit the QCA and are never disappointed.  This was the first time that we had brought the girls with us.  Tessa was hammin’ it up with everyone around her.  The waitresses all came over to say hello and at the end of the meal, our waitress asked if she could take her to meet some of the other staff.  It’s a small place and we have had this waitress a few times, so since Tessa was ok with it, we let her go.  She was high-fivin’ everyone she met!  Hilarious.  I asked Ellie (who was just a little bummed that she didn’t get paraded around) if she thought Tessa was being a ham and she said “No, she’s not a ham.  She’s a lover.  She just loves everyone!!”

Also, I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but if your kids are starving, jelly packets make a great appetizer.  Just FYI.

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No visit to the Quad Cities is complete without a visit to the Family Museum… as long as the kids are with us, that is.  🙂  It’s one of the best children’s museums that we have visited, mostly because it’s small enough to let the kids do their thing and they can actually interact with all of the exhibits without being overrun by 50,000 people.

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They have added a really neat area that is designed for crawlers and new walkers.  Tessa loved it and got a lot of PT practice that I’m sure her therapists would appreciate.  Personally, I appreciated the time to just sit and watch her safely crawl around and explore.

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The real reason that we love the Quad Cities is our emotional tie to Augustana.  It’s a small school – and graduates of Augie are sickeningly devoted to our alma mater.  We can’t help it, it’s just a lovely place to be.

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We also visited the John Deere Tractor Museum…

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And then Ellie let us know that it was time to go home.

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See you next time, Quad Cities.  We can’t wait to come back!

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Life, lately… June 2015

It’s been quite some time since I just posted cuteness…  so, here we go!

The girls rode in a cart together for the first time:

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My mom and Tessa are so photogenic…

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And I decided to join in the fun!

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This is our “Tiger Family.”

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Ellie got a new bike helmet so that she can ride her bike.  She insisted on wearing it around the store.

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Daddy has been practicing his hair combing skills.

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Ellie is so very excited to spend more time with her cousin this fall when my mom watches her. 🙂

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Don’t you just love gaggles of small children??

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Tessa is not impressed with most foods these days.  Who can blame her?  She just got FOUR teeth in at the same time!

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When there are a thousand boxes around the house, you have to have a little fun!

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Well, fun until it isn’t so much fun anymore…

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Tessa is getting so big!!!

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It’s been raining a TON, but we decided to brave the rain and take a little bike ride anyway!

IMG_8542These last three of Tessa are from today…  I can’t wait to print them to hang in my office.  She is so pretty!  🙂  
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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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Mom Kryptonite

I will just put this out there: I find it completely impossible to be an effective parent while wearing skinny jeans.

I don’t know, it might be just me, but hey, God has blessed me with a curvy figure, so those skinny little leg holes don’t have quite enough room to fit my calves (and let’s not even talk about the lack of support for my hips and leftover baby belly).  Sometimes, I get a little brave and throw them on when I’m hanging out with my kids.  It always seems to be on a day when I’m going somewhere in public and inevitably, as soon as I’m dressed, Ellie’s hands suddenly seem to be coated with a thin layer of butter and everything she touches falls to the ground.

Is it really possible to bend over and pick anything up gracefully while wearing skinny jeans??

I share this because when I put on the skinny jeans, it’s like kryptonite for my mom-ness (surely not a word, but yeah.) and while sometimes that’s ok, I feel like being a mom is so ingrained in me right now that losing any of the Mom Super Powers gets me totally off-kilter.

Case in point:  Last weekend, John and I hit the city with some childless friends of ours.  The girls were with my mom and dad over night, we were staying downtown… I decided to rock the skinny jeans.  And high heels.

Please understand that, for my entire life, I’ve been an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of girl.  This extends far beyond the years that I have had babies, but at least before the children, 10 pm didn’t seem like the middle of the night.  On this particular evening, we had dinner reservations at 8:00 (gulp.) and then tickets to a comedy show at 10:30 (people actually go out of their homes that late at night??).  “Have fun!” they said. “You need to get out and live it up!”  they said.

In my fresh, hip, and completely impractical outfit, hot dang, I was invincible.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a blast.  We had great conversation, I got to drink a glass of wine uninterrupted (but only one because Good Lord, I can buy two bottles at Meijer for that price) and have adult conversations… It was fabulous.  So fabulous that we decided to keep the evening going until the wee hours of the morning.  Irresponsible, but fabulous.

One week later, I am still tired.

And those jeans?  They have been banished to the back of my closet, hidden under a pile of more reasonable boot-cuts, until my next temporary lapse in sanity.

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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???

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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

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Grapefruits with my dad – an annual tradition…

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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…. 😉

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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.

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IMG_7205  White elephant fun…

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Queen Ellie and King George

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How we knew the night needed to be over…

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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.

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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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Team Tessa Rocks Chicago

The last week and a half was so busy and went so fast that I’m trying to figure out if it actually really happened or not.  I’m looking forward to sharing some pictures from our great vacation in Saugatuck, Michigan.  But first, we had the most amazing day on Sunday.  Team Tessa absolutely rocked the Chicago Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon and 5k!

We raised over $5,000 for our favorite parent support group, UPS for DownS and were the top fundraising team for our group.  When totaled, all of the runners who came out to race raised over $34,000!!!  Amazing!!

Team Tessa is ready to race!!

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While the day started a LOT earlier than any of us would have liked (especially me, as we were at a wedding the night before…), it was so cool to walk through the city early in the morning, watching the sun rise up over the buildings as 30,000 runners made their way to the starting line.  Ellie was very excited to see the skyscrapers and to wear her Team Tessa t-shirt.

Ellie can’t believe that she has her two favorite people, her grandmas, (almost) all to herself!

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As we waited for the race to start, Tessa managed to have her own little monumental moment… she held her bottle on her own for two full ounces!!  I was able to send this picture to John right before he started running:

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But apparently, that milestone really took it out of our little rock star, because she slept for most of the rest of the race…

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Ellie had a great day too, despite the fact that she got up at 5:00 in the morning.  She managed to be three-year-old-meltdown-free until we didn’t let her take off her shoes in Subway after the race.  She loved watching the race with her Papa.

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Somewhere between miles 4 and 5, we saw some of the racers.  Clearly, they weren’t too worried about their time, because they took a second to say hello!

Waiting for the finish, the Team Tessa supporters who were able to come to the race on Sunday gathered for a cute picture.

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While I hoped to catch all of our runners out on the course, three of them were just too fast for me.  But  here’s a picture of John and Uncle Mike crossing the finish line:

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It was such an awesome, inspiring day.  We met some great people, enjoyed the great city of Chicago, were blown away by the supporters of our group… and were amazed at the outpouring of love and support from our family and friends.  We can’t wait for next year’s event!!

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Let’s Clean House!

So today I am wondering if my house will ever (EVER.) not look like this:

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To the left, you will see our “therapy bins.” Think that sounds fun and interesting? It’s actually all the junk that accumulates in our downstairs living space week-after-week. We call them “therapy bins” because every time Tessa has a therapist coming over, we throw everything into a bin and shove it into our master bedroom.

We have seven very full bins.

Did you happen to notice my half-painted toenails? The ones that I have been planning to paint before every one of the three road trips we have taken since Father’s Day? Someday…

On the bed, there are stacks of clothes that will surely find themselves piled on the floor at bedtime tonight. And then, we won’t know what is clean or dirty anymore, so they’ll probably get thrown back into the wash just because.

On the plus side, I did manage to mop the bathroom floor for the first time in…. for the first time.

The strangest part of all of this is that we are not busy people right now.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband asked me if I wanted to spend two kid-free days cleaning our house in celebration of our five-year wedding anniversary. While I’m sure that the most practical answer to that question would have been “YES! What a fabulous idea,” my response was something along the lines of “only if you want this to be your last anniversary. Ha Ha Ha.” I just don’t want to give up quality time to clean! While I really do enjoy a sparkling home (I think… It’s been a long time so I’m not actually sure), I enjoy living with my family more.

When I took Tessa to have one of her first blood draws, there was an elderly lady in the waiting room who was totally drawn to her. She told me “Don’t go home and do your dishes. My kids are in their sixties now. I can’t hold them anymore. I don’t remember the days that I scrubbed my floor or vacuumed. I remember the times that we played games or went for walks. Do those things.”

And so I am.

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Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Do you know what is the worst experience ever post-baby? I bet you do!

Bathing suit shopping.

Ugh.

You know, I bounced back fairly well after Ellie was born, but pregnancy with Tessa really did a number on me… not to mention the hours spent hunched over a Boppy pillow feeding her in the sidelying position.

Wide hips, huge feet, stretch marks, worse eyesight, terrible posture, hunched shoulders… It’s not even the weight so much as the complete alteration of my entire shape.

OK, I’m done.

I know, I know, 9 months on, at least 9 months off, you grew a human, stretch marks remind us of the miracle of life that grew in our belly, blah blah blah, yadda yadda. I’m not there yet.

But last weekend, the pool looked so inviting and fun. And I want to be the one having fun rather than watching the fun. So bathing suit shopping happened. And now I have to suck it up… and suck it in… and remind myself that she was worth it. They were worth it.

(and so were the control-top bathing suit bottoms that cost double the price of the regular kind. Just sayin’.)

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