She Runs A Good Race

mothering is a marathon

The Million Definitions of a Mom


Inhaler of newborn smells

Sherpa of diaper bags, binkys, and strollers

Sleep expert

Milk factory

Baby food maker

Bottle cleaner

Soother of colicky babies

Toileting trainer

Rewarder of potty-ing performances

Hand holder

Safety monitor

Assembler of all toys and kid gadgets


Mama Bear Advocate

Kisser of boo-boos

Bandaid opener

Tooth-flosser and dirty foot scrubber


Protector of feelings

Stuffer of tissue up the bloody nose

Nose-blowing expert





Surprise giver

Repairer of broken hearts


Sock seeker

Laundry guru

Grocery shopper

Chef and nutritionist

Inventor of breakfast-for-dinner

Veggie Enforcer


Closer of all doors, cabinets, drawers & closets

Chair pusher-in-er

Fridge monitor

Jar opener

De-cluttering professional

Organizer of cupboards

Holder of scissors, glue, & scotch tape

Light bulb and battery changer

One who can make grilled-cheese with eyes shut

Chore chart creator

Iron-on goddess of Girl Scout patches

Crusty pee scraper

Cleaner-upper of all things for that matter

And the poo-on-the-shoe-wiper


Fashion Stylist


Maker of pony-tails, buns & braids



Terrific taxi driver

Minivan lover

Errand runner

Underwear buyer

Behavior Specialist

Referee of siblings

Volunteer extraordinaire



Teacher & tutor


Allowance giver

Time Police

Chore Police

Bedtime Nazi

Lice Picker

Appointment keeper



Project goddess

Homework specialist

Grammar Gestapo

Nagger to messy children

Road trip treasure box holder


Bubble bath starter

Bath toy scrubber

Back scratcher

Finder of all lost stuffed animals and blankees

Bedtime story teller


Cozy bed creator



The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus & the Easter Bunny

Valentine designer

Leprachaun trap maker

Jack-o-lantern carver

Creator of holiday and family traditions

Gift giver

Present wrapper

Birthday party thrower


Entertainment Coordinator

Dance Party maker


One who sets the household tone

Unconditional lover


Grace giver

Prayer warrior

Teacher of right and wrong

Sex talk expert

Music, tv, video game, & internet censor

Heart and soul giver

Innocence and purity protector

Smile distributor

Displayer of gratitude & thankfulness

Imparter of faith and belief system

Damage control of disappointments

Holder of secrets, stories, and 1st crushes


Lover of crazy, loud children

Lover of annoying children

Lover of smelly children

Lover of sleeping angelic children

Lover of bed-headed kids and morning breath

Lover of chaos

Lover of sweet moments and blissfully silent car rides

Lover of teaching moments & teachable children

Lover of the words, not often heard, “You are the BEST mommy in the whole world.”


Cigarette Girl

images-1It was summer.  1979.  I just finished 3rd grade with a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Finefield.  I was nine.  I wore the Rainbow Shirt. You know that shirt that had the rainbow splashed from left arm, across the chest and onto the right arm?  Super groovy.

I was a child.  And I smoked all summer long.  (You can gasp now.)

My mom was a smoker.  She had been smoking for decades.  She always had a carton of Merits in our laundry alcove.  Our house smelled like smoke but it was all we knew.  I didn’t even notice it.  I wonder if the nuns at school smelled it on our brown plaid uniforms? They must have.  But then again, it was the 70’s.

My older-by-11-months sister, Jennifer, and I played with neighborhood friends.  In those days you did, you could, and no one was overscheduled.  We were fancy free.  We swam, we walked to the candy store, AKA “the liquor deli,” on the corner in Rossmoor, and we made up skate routines to disco music.

It would be easy to blame the older neighbor girl for influencing Jennifer and I to steal my mom’s smokes and give it a try.  She was 11 after all, and so worldly.  It may have been a factor.  Maybe.

Or it could have just been childish, foolish curiosity.

I was  a ”good kid,” a people pleaser and a rule follower.  I kept my side of the bedroom neat and clean and organized.  I liked school and always got outstanding citizenship awards at St. Hedwig’s Catholic School.  I may have mouthed off once in a while to my mother’s dismay, but I was not an out of control 9 year-old.

However, in a whim or a dare or a thought, we stole my mom’s cigarettes for a whole summer and smoked in our playroom.  We played office or restaurant and had ashtrays nearby.  My mom was a single working mom and we had our little puff parties while our babysitter was downstairs watching tv or who knows what.   What was she doing?!  Because how did she NOT check on us and catch us?  We were three young girls, ages 9, 10, and 11.  Not needing constant supervision but A LITTLE MORE that we were getting obviously.  She could have protected us from our silly selves.

Again, I cannot really blame the sitter.  We made our choices.  And we liked looking like Farrah Fawcett with our feathery hair (or was it Dorothy Hamill bowl cuts?) and trying to blow smoke rings. So cool and sophisticated were we!  So grown up.  So we thought.

As a mother who worries about the choices my kids make, and WILL MAKE, I’m a little taken back with this childhood memory.  Not really proud of it.

Yet, the big take away from this trip down memory lane does leave some wisdom.  What I extract from this is that good kids make mistakes.  Really good kids make mistakes.  They do.  My kids will. Your kids will.  Even if I passed Parenting Perfectly 101.  They will have their own ideas, their own will, and their own immaturity to contend with.  Not to mention peer influences and unique opportunities that will be in front of them.

I never became a full-blown smoker.  It did not lead to pot addiction at age 10, 13 or 17, etc.  I did not turn into an uber rebellious teenager.  I absolutely made bad choices; I am not trying to sound pious or self-righteous in any way.  No.  But I did not go off the proverbial deep end because I tried cigarettes at age 9.

I share this story because it (strangely) comforts me as I begin a new chapter as Parent-To-A-Teenager-Boy.  He will make mistakes.  He will even be foolish or reckless. (Only once or twice, right?)  But I do not need to have a panic attack and imagine he is ruined forever if there is one or two or three bad choices made, even one BIG ONE.  It does not determine his whole identity and existence and future.

I still wonder if my mom knew what we were up to that summer….


Tales from the Toilet

I am literally sitting in my bathroom.  And yes, I do keep little notebooks EVERYWHERE for when “aha-writing-moments” appear.  Which is often, but I don’t always stop long enough to jot it all down.  But, I digress.

I am in here not due to tummy catastrophe but because a tantruming child is outside the door.  He or she (I won’t give it away) is pounding on the door and apparently did not read the Boundaries book.

I am giving myself a mommy time-out as they say.  Or I should really call it the “count-my-blessings-so-I-don’t-curse-at-you and-then-feel-eternally-guilty time-out.”  Now, I would NEVER actually curse at my children.  Never.  (Well, be careful to never say never…I’m not perfect and I make mistakes all the time.)  But I think about it and feel it in those moments.

You know.  THOSE MOMENTS.  All mothers have them.  All.

When your kids are unkindly fighting, or they are fighting with you, or having a tantrum of epic proportions, or having a major teen attitude, or when they are in egocentric, narcissistic me-me-me mode.  I know my kids are the only ones.  Yours are all perfectly behaved at all times.  And all you have to do is give THE LOOK and they back down from a potential bad choice in words or actions.

Well, if you live in my reality, you sometimes need to run to the toilet.  You stop, sit, collect yourself, and literally BY AN ACT OF YOUR WILL, tell God thank you for your life, your children, your home, and for being a mom, until…poof, the anger is gone.  Or mostly gone.  Then you can re-enter mom-life in the kitchen or wherever you are and not be unkind, or irrational or impatient.

It takes a decision, a will, and great intention to not act their age and lose my cool and say emotionally reactive words.  This is easier for some of you than me.  If you have less stress or pressure, or protect your schedules from total craziness,  it helps.  When you live with ongoing chronic stress from ____(you fill it in), that won’t go away (a disabled child, as in my story), its easy to find yourself in the “I’m going to lose my cool again” category of moms.

I will combat my stress and heated difficult parenting moments with trips to the toilet.

I read a really darling short story about a woman who locked herself in her master bathroom happily for the weekend.  It was her own special stay-cation, complete with Orangina and crackers.

I may have to try that.  Don’t tell my kids.


A Raw and Honest Love Letter

126018790Dear Sweet Mama,

You have been given an incredible, amazing, and heartbreaking gift.

You have been given a child with “special needs.”

The needs could range from severe allergies to severe handicaps and/or anything in between.  Not that there is a spectrum and your story is worse than another’s mom’s story.  Or her story is worse than your story.  You just each have a story.  And a journey that has been difficult.  It may get easier.  It may get harder.  BUT you are all “special mamas” together.  You are all in this TOGETHER.

And it’s not the road you asked to travel down.  You were hoping for the raod that leads to Italy, Fiji, or Santorini.  Yet instead your travel stop landed you in the middle of a war-torn country you’ve never been in.  There are landmines to baby step around.  There are well-meaning but insensitive people there.  And there are downright nasty, unjust humans there, too, who make your struggle to provide everything your child needs, all that more challenging.

It is TRUE, though, that in this distant land of life with disability there are angels.  There are lovely souls who care, and whose patience and compassion are as vast as the universe sky.  There are angels each step of the journey if you look for them, in the smallest cracks of your day. YES.

Sweet Special Mama, do not think for one second that your experiences in Motherhood are in any way on par with families who have not encountered disability.

Do not think for one second you should be like THAT MOM, wife or family.

Do not expect that you will cherish motherhood and parenting in the same way.

Do not expect that you will not need breaks.  Lots of them.

Do not expect to never fantasize what life would be like if your child was born perfectly healthy in every single possible way.

Do not condemn yourself for wishing, hoping, praying, and pleading for a re-do.

Do not condemn yourself for wondering if life would be easier for you, your husband, and your other children, if your child passed away.

You, Mama, carry heartache.

You carry loss.

You carry an on-again off-again grief.  And it comes in waves.  And in your everyday life, its there underneath the surface, threatening to come up.

It takes some of your joy.  It makes you tense.  It makes you more snappy and less carefree-and-happy.

You have become more tender and you have become tougher as a result of this terrific trial in caring for your disabled child.

And it’s ok.


You are ok.


You are very ok.


You can do hard.  You already have.

I know there are moments you absolutely want to curse and cry, “Why me?  Why us?”  You want to pull your hair out after a day of dealing with illness, or medical specialists, or anxiety or behavioral issues.  That is normal.  You are normal.

You need to vent.

You need to cry.

You need to share, with raw intensity and honesty, with other moms. Just be WITH.

You absolutely must exhale or your soul and spirit and body will implode.

That cannot happen because your precious child needs you, mama-bear-advocate-extraordinaire.  So find, seek, and chase after moments or days of respite.

In your brighter moments, you completely recognize that you are deeper, richer, more compassionate and more sensitive to the needs and crises of others because of what you have been through.  Because of what you go through every day.

Yet, it is VALID to wish that this unique opportunity for major emotional, spiritual, and intellectual growth was not given to you.  That personal growth could have come, should have come, in a different vehicle altogether.  No mother, however excellent and mature she is at having wise perspective, wishes for their child to be disabled.  No mother.

So again, do not place unrealistic expectations on yourself, your heart, your mind, and your day-to-day dealings with disability.  It is hard.  It is maddening.

And when the sweet moments and small victories come, inhale them, deep into your soul.  Because of these, you will survive.

Sweet Special-Needs Mama, you will survive, and the sun will still shine.

I love you,





Jen Hatmaker Is My New Imaginary Friend

I have a crush on Jen Hatmaker.

She is a new discovery to me.  Writer, blogger, speaker, mother to 5 (she wins!), including two she adopted from Africa, and wife to Brandon Hatmaker.  She lives in a city I would love to live in, Austin, Texas.

Anyway, after reading her blog post that went completely and insanely viral, “The Worst End of School Year Mom Ever,” I was hooked.

Because she’s my kind of girl.  With her unbridled and unfiltered way of writing, she engages you quickly.  She is hysterical on top of that.  She says how she thinks and feels.  REALLY thinks and feels, not what she wants you to think of her.  She’s not trying to win our approval or favor.  Yet, she is not abrasive.  Some people find sarcasm abrasive; I do not.

She’s not writing to make herself sound like The Perfect Mom, The Organized Mom, or The I Have It All Together All The Time Mom.

She’s honest.  And imperfect.  Honest about her imperfections.  So you relate to her, like her, love her, want to high-five her and buy her a drink.  (I actually tweeted that to her, but I’m so tech-challenged, it probably did not reach her.)

If you’ve followed my blog or me around long enough, you know I don’t mince words.  I’m painfully honest about life as both a mother and special needs mother, and totally full of a zillion imperfections.  I am not afraid to admit Major Mommy Failures.

Jen Hatmaker, if I had my wish, would be my next door neighbor.  And running partner.  (I don’t know if she runs.)  And prayer partner.  Oh, and of course, my writing coach.  I imagine us throwing back a glass of wine and sharing war stories and encouraging each other forward.  My stomach muscles would ache from all the laughter.  Did I already say she is hilarious?    She’s the type who would never judge me for pulling one of my kid’s hair (once!)   She would remind me to have new mercies each day for my kids and remind me how deep breaths and Twizzlers help when you are pushed to the brink in Mommy Land.  She would pray for me, in a caring humble way, not in a “Lawd, HELP HER!!” way.

My other pretend next-door neighbor would be Glennon Doyle Melton.  Because I know that if she heard me raise my voice at my kids, she would probably knock on my door, and give me a wink and a hug.  And again, not judge me, but say, “Carry on warrior mama.  You can do hard.”

Glennon, creator of, writer, speaker, blogger, is another new fave.  She is so gutfully honest about her own struggles, and is passionate about “making the unknown known.”  Her heart and vision is to help others unmask and take off their superhero capes they hide behind.  To help others be vulnerable and truthful about who they are.  She is so snarky and smoke-and-joke in her writing that I feel she gets me and the snarky way I sometimes feel.  Yet she is so sensitive and deeply profound, and writes provocative posts.  She was born an old soul.

One more shout out I must must give is to Rebekah Lyons, author of Freefall to Fly—A Breathtaking Journey Toward  A Life Of Meaning.  (I have actually met Rebekah in person and she is lovely, I might add.) She writes like Jen and Glennon, from her heart.  She writes her own story, authentically and transparently.  She blows open the topic of depression and anxiety women face.  She bares it all and in the meantime blesses us to our souls and we are changed for the better.

What all three women offer to us in their writing is validation, encouragement, wisdom and feeling completely understood.  They offer themselves.  And if we lived next door to them, I’m sure it would come out of their pores and smiles.

What is speaking to me these days in my life as a mother, is—IT IS HARD TO BE A MOTHER.  A GOOD ONE, that is.  It’s definitely easier to be unintentional, lazy, emotionally-reactive, and neglectful.  I don’t want to be that.  God, no.

It’s HARD to do it all, wear 17 hats, and keep the Pottery Barn plates spinning and do it gracefully without ever becoming frustrated, tired, or just unglued.  NOBODY CAN, I remind myself, but not enough.  As my friend Kristin says, “NO ONE lives the Pottery barn life, and its time we all started talking about it!”

If “they” say they do, and, with a smile on their face, then they are inauthentic. And I cannot be friends with them.

–I love being a mother and then I don’t.

–I try and I fail.

–I do good and I do bad.

–I hug and I holler.

–I cuddle and I cuss (not in front of them).

–I love-on my littles, and then I’m a total lame-ass.

–I’m emotionally present, and then I’m aloof.

–I’m all fun-goofy-and-dance-party mom, then I’m somber and


–Like Katy Perry sings, I’m hot and I’m cold.

–I embrace the chaos and clutter and a minute later I curse it.

–I question whether I should have become a mother—and then I have THE BEST MOMMY MOMENT EVER, and I recoil at the thought.

–I make special dates with my kids, and then I dream about special dates for me, all alone, in a beautiful hotel by the beach.  Alone.

I’m human.

I’m embracing my humanity, my feelings, my thoughts, my strengths, my weaknesses, my sins, and my angst.  I am trying to let go of the guilt I feel all of the time about the mistakes I make 23 times a day.  This is a real challenge…the mommy guilt.

I lay it all out for you to read and peer into.

And I do sometimes wonder what my mom or mother-in-law would say if they were alive and reading my blog.  Would they applaud me or be horrified at what I spill out?

It’s cathartic for me, and by the lovely and kind responses I’ve received, it’s cathartic for you.

The angst I feel in motherhood fuels my writing.  Maybe that is why God has not healed me or released me from it, nor has He slapped me up side the head with a new perspective. (Not that He, in His goodness and mercy, would actually do that.)

So, I embrace you, Mothers of All Littles out there.  I embrace your gifts and talents and courage as a mom.  Whether you are a SAHM, or a working mom, both lifestyles are taxing and wonderful.  I embrace your failures, your fears, and your anger, that you never even knew you had, till you had children.

I do not and will not judge you.  I wont judge you if you “have it all together” or if you pretend to, or if you can never, ever, ever seem to get out the door on time.  I won’t judge you if you pull up to school in a sippy-cup-laden, messy minivan, or a pristine Prius.  We all try so very HARD to get it right.  As my friend, Kristin says, “NO ONE has a Pottery Barn life, and its time we all started talking about it!”

I just lied. 

I would be a little bummed about your pretending (or just jealous of your incredible organizational skills!).  Actually really bummed.  I understand the appropriate game face at certain times and situations.  I took Social Skills 101 and 102.  But a lifestyle of pretending, denying, and hiding does not equal joy or growth. Does not.

My new mantra is:


I want to grow.  Desperately.  And I want you to grow, too.  Into the most beautiful, loving, giving, compassionate person you can be.  As mothers, as wives, as daughters, sisters, and girlfriends.  All these parts of us are gifted and to be shared.  For the good and blessing of the world.

Even though Jen Hatmaker and Glennon Doyle Melton are just my pretend BFFs, I am thankful I DO have women in my life (you know who you are dear girlfreinds) who accept me, who inspire me, and who push me (and sometimes) drag me towards a transformed life.


Just Unwrap

toyshop-pile-of-presentsA dear friend of mine says to her “special” daughter every morning as she looks into her chocolate eyes, “You are a gift.”  It’s her daily mantra.  Before the cares of the world set in, before the grind begins, before any reminders of the challenging journey she is on, before.  She has chosen to remind herself, despite the hardships of having a disabled child, that her daughter is a gift. Everyday. To her.  To her family.  To the world.

My friend’s beautiful way of facing every day of her daughter’s disability has had a profound impact on me. That I need to adopt an “attitude of gratitude” about Ryan before my day begins.  Armed with my morning coffee, I should clear my head of concerns and worries and to-do lists (so many of them!).  As my earliest riser Ryan comes down the hallway, I need to hug him, look into his watery blue eyes and say, “You are a gift to me.  You are a gift to our family.”

It sounds so sweet and syrupy and cliché sometimes.  It’s very hip and chic these days to throw around phrases of thanks and take on a no-complaining-no-whining rule.  We “say” we are grateful.  We keep gratitude journals. We say having a disabled child is a “blessing in disguise.”  We say it in our head.  It’s true in theory.  Yet when our hearts ache with the reality, and the on and off grieving we parents undergo, we quickly forget.  We can so easily get swallowed up in just how darn hard our journeys are.  And they are.

Therefore, in an effort to be proactively adopting a theme of gratitude in my head AND heart, I have compiled a list of things about Ryan that I am thankful for.  Here are some examples:

  1. Ryan is very polite and appreciative.
  2. Ryan never complains about any meal or snack I make for him.
  3. Ryan never complains about chore time.
  4. When I say its time for a bath, he says, “Can I play in there?” versus “But I am not dirty, and do I have to?”
  5. Ryan is very enthusiastic about family outings.
  6. Ryan has language and uses it.  (Yes, despite the 873 questions per day or per hour, I am thankful.)
  7. Ryan loves to go to school.
  8. Ryan never pops out of bed once tucked in. He’s asleep in 60 seconds.
  9. Ryan is fearless. (which leads to #10)
  10. Ryan loves roller-coasters, all sizes and speeds!
  11. Ryan is a go-getter at times and surprises us with great tenacity in physical tasks.
  12. Ryan is extremely thankful, for everything, even stickers from the Trader Joes clerk.
  13. Ryan hugs me and says, “I love you Mama” completely unprompted.  He says it often.

Have you ever NOT OPENED a package or present? Just left it in the closet?  By not listing, thinking about, and meditating on qualities and traits in Ryan I am thankful for, I am basically choosing to not unwrap a gift.  That would be foolish at best and detrimental at worst.  I owe it to Ryan.  I owe it to myself.  I am one of those people who, when receiving a birthday present in the mail, opens it immediately.  My husband will tease, “Can’t you wait till your actual birthday?” And I quickly and sheepishly say “No!”  I’m like a kid again on Christmas morning voraciously ripping through gifts with parents pleading me to slow down.  So how can I NOT unwrap Ryan?  He’s my sweet beautiful ocean-eyes blondie who is social, affectionate, and very complimentary.  Who, despite his many limitations and anxieties, has a true zest for life, and family, and holidays, and of course, food.  Ryan Bradley Patay is a gift, a gift I get to unwrap every single day.


Rainbow Poop

There it was. 

Gracie’s glorious puppy markings in the “potty spot.” 

The day before I had caught Gracie eating crayons in the boys’ room. And you know what?  She had rainbow poop.  I actually saw light blue and purple and orange wax remnants.  Yes, I know, too much detail.  You get the picture!  I’m a mom, so these things just don’t gross me out anymore.

It’s striking to me how, now that I am blogging, EVERYTHING becomes a potential post idea.  And right away, as I walked back in the house after this special viewing, I knew there was purpose and meaning to come out of rainbow poop.

Isn’t it so true that what we pour into our kids often gets reflected in what comes out of them? Certainly not identically, perfectly, or precisely–but the rainbow colors are there.

As a mother, I am the instiller and in-filler of thoughts, ideas, and hopefully some good wisdom and old-fashioned common sense.  I teach and I explain and I model and I answer all day long.  I look for teachable moments to share about things of faith and purpose and making good choices.  The topics are endless and vary in seriousness or simplicity.

Between my three kids, I could be asked anything from “where do babies come out?” to “why do I have to share?” to “is this a healthy dinner?” to “is it going to be sunny today and why?” to “what’s a condom machine?” (gulp!)

It’s my job to pour into them.  What goes in, comes out, or will come out as I raise them up.  In different ways.  And sometimes I feel so proud and puffed up inside, in a good mommy-proud-moment-way.  Like when I shared with Luke how another mom-friend at school was full of compliments towards him, (about his attitude, disposition and manners) after observing him on a field trip. I told him that it I was proud of him and his choices and behavior and most importantly, his heart.  Then he said to me, “Well, Mom, you should be proud of yourself, cuz you did that.”  Sniffle, sniffle. Kleenex, please.

The pendulum swings the other way, though, too.  One time Kate got in trouble and was sent to her room.  She was about 5 years old at the time.  As she stomped down the hall, I heard her whisper under her breath, “Damn.”  I was equally horrified and mortified.  Ok, and maybe I laughed a little, too, out of my shock.   Quietly, of course.

Was I modeling that? Did she hear me in the car when these words come out (to myself I thought!) in an almost-accident?  Or when I kluzt-ily stub my toe? I was so humbled and convicted in my heart about it.  I had to stop and pray that although my kids may hear THAT, may they please hear all the RIGHT STUFF I am desperately trying to model and teach and impart to their hearts.

If its true that “what people take in and treasure determines what will emerge in their lives,” then we are back to the Rainbow Poop.  So to speak.

However WIERD this may seem, it did make me think about WHAT GOES IN, GOES OUT.  There is a bible verse that both inspires and challenges me all the time:  “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. ” (Luke 6:45)  Another version goes like this: “What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

As I heard recently,  in an insightful and inspiring seminar on discipling children, “You can’t give what you don’t have.”  Meaning, it is of utmost importance what I put inside MY HEART, MIND AND SPIRIT, in order to pour what is true, noble, pure, good, wise, (the list goes on…) into my children.  Kind of makes me think about when you are on an airplane and the flight attendant goes through the usual emergency procedures.  How parents are to put the oxygen mask on THEMSELVES FIRST, and then on their kids’ mouths.  I cannot save or protect my child if I am not breathing!

The longer I am a mother, the more and more I realize how INTENTIONAL I must be about everything. That could be a blog post all its own. I know there are hours and days I cannot bring back that were not intentional, fruitful, or productive.  Time blitzes by so incredibly fast.  My firstborn just came out of my tummy yesterday and tomorrow he is graduating from 5th grade.  I hope I have used my time well and wisely and joyfully with him as he is only home in my nest a few more short years.

Thankfully he doesn’t eat crayons anymore, but sometimes I do wish he were still little and did.


When I Became A Grown-Up

I became a grown-up when I was 9 years old and tried cigarettes for the first time.  It was July of 1979, Southern California summertime.  My sister and I were enjoying our break from private school.  Apparently the babysitter was on vacation, too.  In my Ditto shorts and rainbow top I watched myself in the full-length mirror glued to my bedroom door.  I looked so chic as I tried to make rings of smoke come out of my mouth like I’d seen on Charlie’s Angels.   My sister and neighbor friend were in on this grown-up experimentation with the Merits stolen from my mom’s carton in the laundry room.  The three of us were quite taken with ourselves.  Thankfully my idea of what was chic changed each year and cigarettes didn’t stick.  Mom never knew.  Or at least she pretended not to notice heavy rose-scented perfume masking the smoky odors.


I became a grown-up when I bought my second car, a used 1986 black Honda Prelude.  (I knew I was not quite a grown–up with my first car.  I was 18 years old and learned the hard way that regular oil changes are not optional, and subsequently ruined the engine.)  My Honda had power steering, power windows, and can you believe it, a sunroof!  As I drove it to my first post-college job, I anticipated changing the world, one person at a time, with my shiny new psychology degree.  The shine soon lost its glare. As a “psychiatric assistant” in an unlocked psychiatric hospital and rehab facility in Orange County, I was required to transfer urine samples here and there and sit in during male doctors’ physical exams of female patients.  Patients who were either drunk or angry in their detoxification phase and not too thrilled to have a spring chicken sitting there.  However, it was not a completely fruitless position as my worldview opened up about the trials and sufferings others endured.  My little Honda took me back and forth to my first real job in Orange County, exposing me into the lives of women, men and young people in need of intervention, and who were humbly and bravely willing to seek it out.


I became a grown-up the moment I was wheeled to the parking lot curb of Little Company of Mary Hospital after my first child, Luke, was born.  It was time to leave the bubble of care and extraordinary help from wonderful nurses (and a few not quite so…), and go home.  Didn’t “they” know I wasn’t old enough, at age 30, to take care of this beautiful boy?  This newborn who had the cutest upturned nose and full lips, but who screamed a lot, peed on me, and had his days and nights mixed up?  This precious newborn who was kicked out of the hospital nursery because he was too loud?  Didn’t “they” know that I had never changed a diaper before this day and that I was scared to death of having poop on my hands?  At the same time that I rose from the wheelchair to get into my car, ever so slowly (ouch!) and with all those fears, I was in absolute mush over my Luke.  Luke Christopher, seven pounds of sweetness, and full of the intoxicating newborn scent only mothers love, and miss, after it is long gone.


The grown-up pendulum swung hard and far when my second child, Ryan, was born in the summer of 2003.  He was very weak at birth. He didn’t cry for food.  In fact, he didn’t cry at all.  I will never forget the night a few weeks later when we received THE PHONECALL from our very kind pediatrician.  He confirmed that Ryan has a rare genetic disorder, Prader-Willi syndrome, with a lifetime of challenges ahead.  I ran to my bedroom where Ryan lay peacefully asleep on my bed and scooped him up into my arms.  At that moment my world completely shifted on its axis.

I knew that Ryan had been given to us because we were able to love and care, and fight for him like warriors in a long battle.  We were grown-up enough.


The following year I became a grown-up when my mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.  It was summertime again.  With the help of my sisters, natural caregivers both, and the unwavering support of my husband, we moved Mom into our home to care for her.  The angelic nurses from hospice came to journey with us and make her comfortable.  My mom, or “Grammy” to her grandchildren, became Ryan’s roommate that summer.  Each morning they greeted me with sweet smiles, Ryan’s chubby hands on his crib, mom’s long bony fingers holding the hospital bed.  Having graciously accepted her prognosis, truly without anger and bitterness, she awaited Heaven.  We said goodbye to her September 12, 2004.  A professor in college once said to me, “You never fully grow up till you lose a parent.”  I understand that now.


With each year, each crisis, and each celebration I feel like I’ve finally become a grown up.  But then another life lesson comes along reminding me that I’m still learning, stretching, evolving, and becoming.  I’m not really a grown-up.  But I’ll finally become one someday.  Maybe next summer.


I Will NEVER Drive a Mini-Van, and Other Stupid Things I Said Before I Had 3 Kids

I will never yell at my kids.

I will never be one of those moms.

I will never bribe my kids to invite good behavior.

I will never let the TV be the babysitter.

I will never drive a mini-van.  (I’m too cool for that.) 

I will never let my kids eat at Taco Bell.

I will never let my kids talk back to me.

I will never have kids that jump on other people’s furniture.

I will never be one of those moms who doesn’t let their kids paint and do artsy stuff because I don’t want the house to get messy.

I will never yell at my kids.

I will never, ever give in to a tantrum. (This is mostly true.)

I will never care if they are dressed appropriately in matching clothes.

I will never allow my kids to watch Sponge Bob Square Pants or Power Rangers.

I will never fight with my husband in front of the kids.

I will never nag my husband in front of the kids.

I will never model slamming doors when I’m upset or frustrated.

I will never serve eggs or cereal for dinner.

I will never be the mom who is a germa-phobe and mess-a-phobe.  (I carry wipes in my purse and car at all times.)

My mother always said, “NEVER SAY NEVER.”  She was right. Again.






Ryan’s Birth Story (Part 1)

JUNE 27, 2003

It’s a girl

No, no ,no

It’s a boy

Ryan Bradley Patay

He doesn’t cry

Boy parts wrong

He doesn’t eat

He can’t suck

Mom, Dad happy

Mom, Dad worried

So many tests

Don’t have diagnosis

Transferred to “Peds”

Mom with Ryan

In walks Camille

Camille the OT

I break down

Tears, worries, tears

What is happening

Why why why

Something’s very wrong

My baby’s broken

No one knows

No answers yet

Poor Baby Ryan

And poor me

He didn’t cry.  Hardly at all. Ever.  Ryan didn’t cry pretty much his whole first year of life.

When Ryan first came out of my body after two pushes and a picture-perfect delivery, and a picture-perfect pregnancy, mind you, what struck me was he let out barely a cry.  I thought I won the lottery and got an “easy baby,” a mellow newborn.  This was quite a change from Luke,  who got kicked out of the nursery as a newborn because he had his days and nights mixed up, and my darn nurse was not too forgiving about that.

The other striking issue at the moment of birth was that his testicles were not descended.  Both. Not just one, which is very common, my mother reassured me. I thought, “hmm???”  but really was not freaked out.  His respiration rate was high but otherwise he seemed perfect and tiny and beautiful to me. I was in love with my second son. Ryan Bradley Patay, his middle name given to him from Chris’ twin brother and best friend.

The first 24 hours for me was a little bit of a blur of post partum joy and some concern but not all out worry about my newborn.  NOT until the doctors and nurses said a bunch of tests needed to be run.  They ordered an ultrasound of his abdomen “to rule out if he had a uterus,” (WHAT??) and a brain scan and lots of blood tests.  That was Day 2.

Ryan was not waking or crying for food, nor could he suck very well. Day 1 this didn’t stand out to me–again, I thought I had a mellow, sleepy newborn. But by Day 2, the nurses got more insistent I try waking him and stirring him,  try a bottle of formula and see if he could take an ounce, even a sip.  He could not.

Next they told me I would be discharged and Ryan would not. Because he was showing a “failure to thrive” ( a term new to me), he would go to the Pediatric Ward (“Peds”) for a few days.  He was to have some tube feedings, and work with an OT (occupational therapist) to wake up Ryan’s mouth. Just a few days, right? And then we could go home??

This was not the case I would soon discover…