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A Birthday Post

A Birthday Post.

Upholding an annual tradition, I read two months’ worth of old blog posts from Nella’s birth last night, stopping at my sister’s entry from two days after she was born:

At 4:24 pm, January 22, 2010, six pound Nella Cordelia Hampton entered the world and our hearts.
Nella has Down’s Syndrome.

I never changed the incorrect spelling of Down syndrome because I like that it represents us then—we didn’t know anything about it. We didn’t know that “D” is capital and “s” is lowercase, we didn’t know that there’s no “apostrophe-s” in Down, and we sure as hell didn’t know that someday “has Down syndrome” would be one of the least defining predicates that follows the subject of our daughter’s name.

Four years later:

At 4:24 pm, January 22, 2010, six pound Nella Cordelia Hampton entered the world and our hearts.
  Nella has…
…this crazy infectious smile that takes but two seconds to extract from even the grumpiest moments.
Nella has…
…a determined little run, and when she’s tearing across the sidewalk to demonstrate her independence, she shakes her right arm in sync with her feet and looks backs and giggles at the distance between us.
Nella has…
…a special way of knowing when anyone needs love, and she never holds back from offering a pat on the back or a tight hug.
Nella has…
…the most impressive dance steps—twerking ain’t seen nothing on her signature “Go Low!” move.
Nella has…
…favorite books and colors and places, numerous ways of expressing herself, notable interests, repeated routines for getting into trouble, a growing repertoire of “naughty” words, the best laugh, remarkable qualities for facing challenges and an ocean of opportunities awaiting her future.

And I suppose I should tell you that Nella has Down syndrome.

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While her birthday will always hold deep sentiment for our family and raw memories of the day she was born, today’s no different than any other birthday for any other kid. It’s a celebration of life. Every day—no matter who our child is or how many chromosomes she has or what she may have to face in the future—is an opportunity to celebrate life. That’s what makes us all the same. ­­­­­­­­­

My personal notes to my daughter are written with pen in her keepsake book today, but the blog invites the eyes from many walks of life—some of whom share the journey of raising a child with special needs, many who don’t.  So I take this as an opportunity to talk about what has become second nature to us—a part of our lives that has woven its fibers so intricately with the others that it’s hard to make it out from the entire tapestry.

I think that Fear is the most cancerous and incapacitating emotion there is. It eats away at the good we have to offer, cripples us from exploring dreams and pulls our focus away from where it should be. Fear is Productivity’s Kryptonite and Gratitude’s Predator.

I’ve trained to be a Ninja Warrior against Future Fear, knowing that with every challenge we’ll ever be given in life, our job will never require more of us than to face one day at a time. Thinking about all the what-ifs for Nella at once—if she’ll be accepted, if she’ll get made fun of, if she’ll be sad or feel different, if she’ll be healthy, if she’ll find employment, if she’ll be taken care of after we’re gone—can feel like having the wind knocked out of me. But I’ll never have to face all of those things ever at once, so why worry about them all at once. One day at a time. We have more than what it takes to love and support our children for just today. And I can wake up and say that again tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that.

I do find it appropriate once in a while to give Fear limited visitation rights to challenge my hope and determination from ever sliding into that blind optimism realm or, simply put, to “keep it real.” Some sad people drink to feel happy. Me? I drink to feel sad. Beer and Bon Iver are the Mucinex for my sadness and fear, so that’s what I do to cough it up. I drink and listen to music and push the bruises of our challenges to feel them more deeply every once in a great while. I’ll cry and talk to Brett about how things will feel when, say, Nella understands more about her limitations, and we give ourselves a good night to feel the hurt.

Thank God the best things happen when we’re awake and sober though, and when you strip away a sappy playlist and a few beers, you find the clarity of hope. I choose hope over fear. I like to think of hope as the place where realism and optimism meet, and that’s where we begin each and every day.

I hope my children feel loved and accepted and yet face enough challenges in life to broaden their perspectives and transform the weaker “I feel happy with life” to a more powerful “I feel fulfilled by life.” I hope they take care of one another. I hope they have opportunities to contribute and loved ones with which to celebrate and share.

I hope this girl knows how exotic and beautiful almond eyes are; how valuable her abilities, her love, her mere existence is; how full these past four years have been with her.

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As my sister wrote with the announcement of Nella’s birth:

It’s as though the stars were aligned and all was and is exactly as it should be. Perfect. When really, God could not feel any closer.

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Happy Birthday to our Nella.
We’ll eat cake tonight. 

Comments

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  1. Nella, happy happy birthday from snowy cold Northern VA! Love you, sweetie! Thank your mama for sharing you with us when we needed her to, because you will never know how much hope you gave us for Ellie.

    She’d send birthday love, but she’s asleep on the living room floor right now.

  2. Happy birthday, Nella!

  3. That was beautiful. Happy Birthday Nella from Georgia

  4. Oh Kelle, this is absolutely beautiful.

  5. Really lovely post. I so appreciate your perspective on things, because sometimes the overwhelm of my own daughter’s special needs really eats away at me. I come here to be reminded of hope, and your beautiful pictures remind me about what I once wrote about why I take pictures of my beautiful daughter… So that others can also see that different can also be lovely…. So that they might see in her what I see.

    Thank you for the past four years of so generously giving of your perspective. Happy birthday to your gorgeous Nella!

  6. Happy Birthday to your precious girl! I work with a special needs population, and have shared excerpts from your blog numerous times. Thank you for sharing!

  7. How much do I love that line about the least-defining predicate?!? I feel the same way about my daughter. There’s so much more, better stuff to complete the sentence “Claire has” than just “spina bifida.”

  8. It’s crazy how many lives Nella has changed simply because you were willing to share. What a gorgeous girl.

  9. happiest of birthdays to you sweet nella. your smile never ceases to bring a smile to my face. may you enjoy your day and the many birthdays to come.

  10. I’m sitting at work, with mega crocodile tears rolling down my cheeks. Kelle, this was so beautifully written. I find it funny, how in the two years since my son was born, I’ve learnt more about life and love than I did in my 28 years before he was born. I’ve also learnt even more since I started following you 1 1/2 years ago. Nella, you are BEAUTIFUL girlfriend. Inside and out! Happy 4th birthday!!

  11. One of my favorite posts ever. Beautiful.

  12. So beautiful. We all face some struggle in life, all different than someone else’s, but you stated it right. We can’t let that realism take away hope or our gratefulness. Happy birthday to a sweet little soul that is impacting and changing lives and doesn’t even know it!

  13. Happy Birthday to Nella from a family of fans in Richmond, VA!
    (And please tell Lainey and Dash hello from us too!)

  14. Happy birthday Nella!! YOU ARE FANTASTIC!

  15. Happy birthday sweet girl!

  16. Happy birthday, Nella! What a beautiful birthday post, Kelle!

    I’ve been following you for 3 years now and honestly, most of the time, I forget that Nella has DS. She is so much like my Arya and does all of the same things. I don’t even see it in her pictures. She is a beautiful girl, filled with so much personality, which shines through our photography and stories.

    Enjoy your cake tonight!

    P.S. Thank you for everything you post. You have helped me become a better woman, mother and human.

  17. Happy birthday to the beautiful Nella!

  18. “But I’ll never have to face all of those things ever at once, so why worry about them all at once.” These words can apply to anyone, facing any challenge, in any walk of life. Thank you for sharing your beautiful perspective, and for continually helping us to stretch our hearts and minds. Much love to Nella on her special day :)

  19. I wish everyone could have a “Nella” in their lives. I have Cavan, my nephew. He’ll be 2 in February. Oh the transformation he has brought upon my family and me! Life is so much richer and more beautiful now. I like myself more. I’m more kind and forgiving, less judgmental. All because of Cavan. Happy birthday Nella! Kelle, you truly helped me during the months of finding out about Cavan and after he was born. You and Nella are helping people and making an impact in this world. Thank you.

  20. Beautiful….. Happy Birthday Nella!!! xo

  21. Happy Birthday sweet Nella. In addition to your family you have also been a blessing to many strangers who will never meet you. What a lucky little girl you are.

  22. Happy Birthday Nella!!! You are one amazing little girl who has brought so much hope and inspiration to so many!!! Thanks Kelle for sharing her with the world and showing people just how incredible our kids with a little extra can be!!! Enjoy that cake!!!

  23. she is just perfect!!! happy birthday lovely Nella!!

  24. Happy Birthday sweet Nella. Have a wonderful fun, love filled day

  25. From a special needs momma just a county north of you!!! Thank you, and happy birthday Nella!! I’ve loved watching you grow these last few years!

  26. HAPPY BIRTHDAY NELLA!

  27. Happy Birthday to Nella and a big fat squeezy hug to her Mama! Nella IS a gift from God, no doubt. You both have taught me so much! What a wonderful year lies ahead, what a wonderful life lies ahead, no doubt. xoxo

  28. What a lovely post! Made me tear up. Happy birthday to beautiful Nella!

  29. Happy birthday to your beautiful Nella! I have loved watching your family grow and blossom these last 4 years. There has been countless times your raw posts have made me cry and laugh at the same time.

  30. Happy birthday sweet Nella!

  31. Kellie, I have been following your blog for a little less than 4 years now. I love your honesty, humor and photography. I don’t remember how I found it, but so grateful that I did. I sent the link to my daughter-in-law who had a daughter just a month before Nella’s birth. We talked, laughed and cried together over your blog.
    I had just purchased your book and was reading it on a flight. Even though I have read Nella’s birth story many times, I found myself in a puddle of tears. Tears because of your unconditional love. Since I first read your story, I often wonder how my mother felt when she was told I was born with a severe heart defect and would probably not live into my 20’s. Medical discoveries did change that in my teens and I’m still here. I never appreciated what she had to deal with until I became a mother.
    Thank you again for sharing your life.

  32. I also completely forget there is anything “different” about Nella when reading your blog. So many things she does and her infectious smile remind me of my four year old Scarlet. She is such an awesome little person! Thank you for sharing her with us.

  33. Happy Birthday, sweet Nella. Your gleaming smile never ceases to brighten up my day. It’s been a pleasure to watch you grow & thrive & live each day, joyfully surrounded by so much love. The sky’s the limit for you, precious girl.
    P.S. Thanks, Mama for sharing her with us. Happy, happy Birth Day to you, too!

  34. Happy Birthday to Nella! Can’t believe I’ve been following this blog since L’s birth and now you have THREE!!

  35. Happy Birthday Nella! I hope that when you are older and “understand more about your limitations”, that you also understand what a positive impact you have made on so many people’s lives by just being who you are. Thank you for making me feel, and then think, and then see things differently. Thank you too, Kelle.

  36. Happy birthday, sweet Nella! You have brought me smiles and joy you may never know. My 44 year old big sister happens to also have DS, but man, oh man, she has so much more than just that! And I am loving this glimpse into what her first years must’ve been like for my own mother as she learned how to first be a mother, and then to learn to mother Karen where she was and how she needed. Hunk you so much for the way you are…just be. The world needs you so much! Happy birthday, babe!

  37. Happy Birthday, Nella!

  38. Happy Birthday, Nella!!!!!!! :)

    This space brings so much joy. Thanks for sharing with us, Kelle.

  39. Beautiful words. Happy birthday to Nella!!

  40. I find myself not even viewing Down syndrome as a disability since I have found your blog! And oh the things you have taught me!! Nella is so perfect and happy and thriving! Thank you for sharing your family with all of “us” =) And HAPPY 4TH BIRTHDAY to Nella Cordelia!!

  41. A person’t got to remember that there are what if’s for every child. One of your other children could just as easily grow up and be unemployed, or have some other unfavorable experience befall them. That is the heartwrenching thing about being a person who loves other people, or a Mom who loves their kids. There is risk, there is the chance of something going wrong, but fear doesn’t prevent it. Might as well not worry and make the most of every happy day you get.

  42. Happy Birthday to Nella! Today I needed to hear this: “I think that Fear is the most cancerous and incapacitating emotion there is. It eats away at the good we have to offer, cripples us from exploring dreams and pulls our focus away from where it should be. Fear is Productivity’s Kryptonite and Gratitude’s Predator.”
    It spoke to me and I know that I was led to this post today to see it and find comfort in it. Thank you!

  43. Happy Birthday to Nella!!!
    She also has a palindrome birthday – 01/22/10 (which I think is so cool because I “collect” palindromes, like “rise to vote, sir” or “go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog” – some of my favorites).
    I loved your birthday party post, too. Those spaghetti cupcakes were amazing!

  44. What pure and beautiful truth you write. My Maddex, 17 mths, brings the same clarity, joys and hope to our life. Thank you for your honesty and the hope you give those of us behind you on thise similar journey. Happy Birthday Nella!

  45. Kelle….
    “We sure as hell didn’t know that someday ‘has Down syndrome’ would be one of the least defining predicates that follows the subject of our daughter’s name.”. Mmmm…. 😉
    “Nella has… …this crazy infectious smile that takes but two seconds to extract from even the grumpiest moments.”. As does my Down syndrome brother!! ;-D
    “Nella has… …a special way of knowing when anyone needs love, and she never holds back from offering a pat on the back or a tight hug.”. I repeat. As does my Down syndrome brother!! 😉
    “While her birthday will always hold deep sentiment for our family and raw memories of the day she was born, today’s no different than any other birthday for any other kid. It’s a celebration of life. Every day—no matter who our child is or how many chromosomes she has or what she may have to face in the future—is an opportunity to celebrate life. That’s what makes us all the same.”. Very good!! ;-D
    “I think that Fear is the most cancerous and incapacitating emotion there is. It eats away at the good we have to offer, cripples us from exploring dreams and pulls our focus away from where it should be. Fear is Productivity’s Kryptonite and Gratitude’s Predator.”. Damn!! I needed to read that!! 😉
    “I’ll never have to face all of those things ever at once, so why worry about them all at once. One day at a time. We have more than what it takes to love and support our children for just today. And I can wake up and say that again tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that.”. Interesting!! My Mom’s motto after bringing her Down syndrome son into this world? One day at a time. That is all we are given to work with!! ;-D
    “I choose hope over fear. I like to think of hope as the place where realism and optimism meet, and that’s where we begin each and every day. I hope my children feel loved and accepted and yet face enough challenges in life to broaden their perspectives and transform the weaker ‘I feel happy with life’ to a more powerful ‘I feel fulfilled by life.’ I hope they take care of one another. I hope they have opportunities to contribute and loved ones with which to celebrate and share. I hope this girl knows how exotic and beautiful almond eyes are; how valuable her abilities, her love, her mere existence is; how full these past four years have been with her.”. Loving it, loving it!! 😉
    Happy, happy, happy birthday, Nella!! Here’s to many, many, many more!! My birthday is on Saturday…. I will be turning thirty…. Reluctantly….
    Sorry. Long comment!! ;-}
    –Raelyn

  46. Happy birthday, Nella! I “met” you (via the blog) just after your birth and it has been a delight to follow your adventures. Your family is beyond lucky to have you in their lives, and we are lucky that they are generous enough to share you (virtually) with the rest of us!

    Kelle, your blog continues to be a joy and your posts always make my day. Today, I opened your birthday post at the same time my iTunes started playing The Emotions’ “The Best of My Love.” Couldn’t think of a more fitting soundtrack for this entry, and I know someone as musically-minded and as sentimental as you will appreciate that!! 😀

    Enjoy your big day!

  47. Happy Birthday, Nella! I always look forward to post with her beautiful face. She has a smile that could light up the world.

  48. Happy birthday, sweet Nella! A beautiful post.

  49. Happy Birthday, Nella! I think you’re amazing.

  50. Absolutely beautiful. Happy Birthday sweet Nella. You are loved.

  51. Love that last photo especially 😀

  52. Just lovely. Happy birthday to sweet Nella! Hope she has a lovely day.

  53. Happiest of happy 4th birthdays, dearest, sweetest Nella. The world is a brighter place for having you in it.

  54. Love and joy sent to beautiful Nella Cordelia on her special day!!

  55. Today is my 37th birthday. I am so excited your beautiful child and I share a birthday together! Happy birthday, Nella!!!

  56. Happy birthday to a beautiful little girl who has changed the world with her existence. Because of Nella (and her Mama), the world is a little bit more educated and hopeful. Thank you for sharing your infectious smile with us Nella. You bring a lot of joy, even to people you don’t know (like us, the blog readers!).

  57. My Julian is also 4 and you perfectly captured my own joys and fears. I found your blog when J was just 3 months old. Reading Nella’s birth story and “Bloom” were like coming home. What a comfort to find another mom who understand exactly how I felt. Thank you thank you thank you. We read to know we’re not alone.

  58. Happy Happy Happy Birthday to the most precious little girl that I’ve never met!!! Your precious life has brought clarity to more people than just your own family and close friends. Your life has touched thousands of other’s lives. I hope you always know how important and loved you are by so many who don’t even have the pleasure of your company. I hope your day is full of sunshine and lots of yummy cake.

  59. I love this list. I hope Nella will one day get to read back over these things and readers’ comments and have an understanding of how loved she is by people far and wide and how much joy she has brought to the world … just by being her true giggling, sassy, mischievous, dancing, soulful, loving self.

    We attend the local university’s basketball games, and last week’s halftime entertainment was the Challenger league (people with mental and physical disabilities). They played a 5-minute basketball game, and it brought tears to my eyes. The look on their faces when they made a shot, when the crowd cheered, the fact that my 4-year-old didn’t seen anything “different” about these players, the fact that I heard no one around me say anything snarky or unkind.

    And I thought about your blog and how it’s opened so many eyes to inclusion and acceptance and respect and how alike we all are. And I imagined Nella one day … out there sinking baskets on the court (or turning flips or dancing or belting out songs or anything else she puts her mind to!)

    Happy Birthday, sweet Nella. Keep rockin’ out to your own rhythm and changing the world one beat at a time! We love ya!

  60. Happy birthday, Nella! May all your dreams come true.

  61. Thank you for your post today. I find your love for your children genuine and heartwarming. It feels good to see others verbalize their joys and fears of parenting. But But I’ll never have to face all of those things ever at once, so why worry about them all at once. One day at a time. We have more than what it takes to love and support our children for just today. And I can wake up and say that again tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that. this spoke to me so deeply today. I frequently struggle with what-ifs. Thank you for a very appreciated and needed reminder.

  62. My eyes are brimming up with tears over here, Kelle. Celebrating with you and the beautiful gift of Nella today! Happy birthday, sweet girl :)

  63. Happy 4th Birthday beautiful Nella! May you have a truly fabulous day.x

  64. Such a beautiful little girl and such a sweet birthday post.

  65. Such a beautiful little girl and such a sweet birthday post.

  66. Happy Birthday, sweet Nella! We ALL love you!!

  67. Happy Birthday Nella!

  68. I am touched by your story! My younger brother also has Down syndrome and he will be celebrating his 29th birthday this March. By the way – his birthday is one of his favorite days and he is already talking about what he wants to do for his party. You will find that your daughter will continue to surprise, bless and enrich your lives more and more every year. As a sibling to someone with Downs, I would not change anything about him. As he would say: he is my “favorite brother” – although he is my only brother!

  69. Happy Birthday sweet sweet Nella…as for you Kelle 😉 ..I haven’t commented in a very long time…don’t get me wrong..I’m still and always will be a fan. I don’t feel the need to comment on all your blog posts but this one jumped out @ me and I just want you to know again and again over and over how much I adore and admire you (millions love you) You are someone to look up to, to admire, a leader, a mentor, who gives others hope in certain areas of our own life that really have nothing to do you yours…. many things that you say really puts things into perspective. Thank you for always being you and “keeping things real” I always worry about the ones that “act” like they are fine and life is like a box of chocolates…because lets get real here..it’s not. You are an AMAZING mother & wife, inspirational, give great advise, share your knowledge, wisdom and talent. You Kelle….are one heck of a person..I just wish I had more ppl in my life like you. I hope this made sense because it hard for me to express myself in writing and sometimes even verbally haha. Thanks Kelle…have a beautiful day w/ the birthday girl and the rest of your family and friends.

  70. I love the list. I might try that for my children.

  71. Happy birthday Nella!

  72. Happy birthday, Nella Cordelia!

  73. You drink to feel sad? Don’t you find that concerning? Am I the only one that’s reading this and thinks that Kelle has an alcohol problem? I’ve actually had the feeling reading Bloom, along with a great deal of blog posts and instagram photos.
    I don’t know if you talk about drinking all the time because you think it’s “cool” or because you really have an issue. If you need booze to deal with your feelings it’s time to find some help. No one’s perfect, not even you, Kelle.

  74. Happy 4th Birthday Nella! Have lots of fun today. It’s been wonderful reading your blog Kelle since Nella was 6 months old. Thanks for sharing your story and thoughts with us. xo

  75. Thank you for sharing so honestly and beautifully. As always, erudite expressions of love and beautiful pictures.

  76. Psalm 112:7 “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”

    Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

    So thankful for God’s Word.

    Happy birthday, Nella!

  77. Oh good Lord Kelle that was beautiful! You were given many gifts ~ one of the most fabulous is your ability to express yourself.

    I love every word you put on this blog………

    you inspire me- Thank God for the gift sweet Nella is to the world!
    xo

  78. This is really really good.

  79. Happy birthday, Nella. Kelle, your comment about not having to solve every worry, but appreciate you have enough love for today was exactly what I had to realize to move forward. When our Juliet was born, I was consumed by the fear of what ridicule, harassment, abuse she would face. And, then I realized, by the time she got to those experiences, I would have been her father for thousands of days. Fortunately, those fears were unfounded so far, nine years into our journey. Thank you for sharing yours.

  80. “One day at a time.”…is there any other sound advice to offer in a time of need or a time of celebration?

    I’ve never commented but this post spoke to me. Your grace, strength, and optimism are admirable and addressing the skeptics without calling them out (I’ll do it), is the epitome of someone who is truly writing these posts from the heart.

    Happy birthday to sweet Nella, her spirit shines!

  81. Happy BIrthday Nella, and Happy Day Momma! When my beautiful Jillie was born 2+ years ago with DS, I too suffered from that deep soul wrenching pain, from the unknown. My deepest wish was to see my daughter’s future, and have “future me” tell me that it was going to be all okay, and calm down and enjoy. I was lucky to find your blog, when I googled “beautiful down sydrome children”, as I was tired of all the oppressive “this may happen to your child”, or “she is at higher risk for…” blah blah blah… You were 18 months ahead of me in your life story, and were raw, honest, and showed me what can happen when you choose to ride the unicorn, instead of wear those stupid clogs. I thank you for your candor, and how you share your ideas, and your beautiful children’s stories, and pictures. And, the beautiful photos that are touching and inspiring, and make me want to be a better Mom. Thank you and enjoy your cake! Melanie

  82. Dear Nella…Happy birthday from someone you don’t know and will probably never meet. Thank you for being a joyful reminder of God’s perfection on earth. We are all imperfectly perfect yet somehow you are indeed so beautifully perfect. You’ve been blessed with a soul-filled mama and family who I believe have been placed on earth to teach us what it means to love unconditionally, truthfully, imperfectly and perfectly. I thank you all and for this reason alone I am glad the internet exits. God bless and virtual hugs. Bonnie

  83. Happy birthday, sweet little girl. You are so very loved. *hugs*

  84. Happy Birthday, Nella! I praise God for the beautiful and joyful girl you are, and all of the love you have brought to so many people around the world. I have a friend who shares your birthday who has the same extra special blessing you do, as well as being autistic. Today is her 17th birthday. I have another little friend who turns four in a few days. She gives the best hugs. And I have a friend who shines like you do, and she’s only eight days old.
    You four ladies have opened my heart up to so much more love and joy than I ever could have imagined. Thank you, Nella, for your part in that.
    Happy Birthday!
    Love, Marina

  85. Happy Birthday, Nella! It is hard to believe that 4 years have passed since her birth. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Today’s post was beautiful. I love what you said about visitation rights. It’s ok and it’s allowed and fear will be back for more visits. I just show fear the door when it has worn out its welcome. Thank goodness for the hope that awaits each new day. Here’s hoping for many wonderful years ahead of celebrating Nella!

  86. Oh wow, such a wonderful post. Your insight about fear really speaks to me – “Fear is the most cancerous and incapacitating emotion there is. It eats away at the good we have to offer, cripples us from exploring dreams and pulls our focus away from where it should be. Fear is Productivity’s Kryptonite and Gratitude’s Predator.” I am keeping those words close to my heart. Thank your for sharing your beautiful spirit, Kelle. Your blog is delightful and never fails to inspire. Hope your family is having a wonderful celebration day. Happy birthday, Nella!

  87. Nella has
    A beautiful family and all the love a four old little girl could hope for. She is blessed. You are blessed. Happy 4th Birthday, Nella! :)

  88. Seriously one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read!!! Blessed are thee for sure!! :)

  89. The comment a few up from me about you having an alcohol problem? Seriously? I obviously don’t know you, but I definitely don’t think your comments were a blinking arrow pointing out your “alcoholism.”

    I can totally relate to the feeling. There are times when you want to feel down. Things are bothering you, you need to get them out, and dammit if a few rum and cokes and some sappy songs don’t help facilitate things! I get that. I have done that. Getting it out helps you cope. A good cry is just what you need sometimes. It helps you move on past the sad, bringin-ya-down crap to focus on the good stuff in life. Embracing a few moments of sadness along a hard journey doesn’t equate alcoholism or depression in my book. A real, honest life isn’t all roses – there are definitely some beer and Bon Iver moments thrown in there too.

    Happy 4th birthday to Nella!

  90. Really… Kerry Elliott? Do you really think she needs to justify her honesty to you or any of us? Cut the girl some slack.. …you haven’t walked even a mile in her shoes..stop being so judgmental…your not her mother or god…it’s none of your business….she’s as real as they get… most ppl won’t even admit to their ways because ppl like you feel the need to judge and mother. She has a mother….haven’t you been taught that if you have nothing nice to say…don’t say it @ all?

  91. Way to celebrate!!!! The best of birthday wishes to each of you.
    XO

  92. Happy Birthday sweet Nella! :-) sending you lots of love from all the way over in England x

  93. Happy birthday to your inspirational, besutiful, world changing Nella bean! Thank you to your whole family for welcoming us along on your fantastic journey.
    Tracie from NY

  94. Beautiful post Kelle, and happy birthday sweet Nella xxx

  95. happy birthday beautiful Nella! you truly are an angel on earth!
    Kelle, you are blessed! Have a wonderful day!

  96. Kelle,

    Your words are always perfect. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for sharing a little bit of your life and your beautiful children! You are one amazing momma! I hope you had a wonderful birthday Nella!!! Oh, and the yellow coat – love seeing Nella in it!

    hugs,
    Lisa Goddard

  97. Oh Happy Birthday Nella (all the way from South Africa). May all your dreams and wishes come true!

    In the last year you have helped me to see hope, to love life and when fear comes creeping closer for what the future holds for my own little almond-eye princess, I read your mommy’s blog and see your little face and then I start believing all over again that everything will be fine.

    Hope you had a fabulous birthday!

  98. What a beautiful, touching post! I´m here in Brazil, sending lots of love to Nella, this amazing little girl! Seeing this pictures makes me almost hear her laugh! Feliz Aniversário, Nella! Beijo!

  99. Thank you for always sharing your funny and insightful thoughts on parenting. I love “I’ll never have to face all of those things ever at once, so why worry about them all at once”- such a great reminder for every parent.

    …and Bon Iver will make even grown men cry

    Happy birthday Nella!!!

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  101. Every time I share one of your posts on FB (frequently) I think about how I “define” your blog…for sure that has changed. I love how your perception of life has changed my perception of life. My perception of persons with Down syndrome (uh, yeah, Down’s Syndrome) One of my sons HS football coaches has a son affected by Ds. And he is the most amazing little boy…and his joy at running onto the field with the players is one of my favorite things to capture. Or his joy at helping erect the helmet the boys run out of, or his joy at standing on the star at cowboy stadium.
    “Knowing” Nella through your blog and knowing Brady IRL has shown me what unmitigated joy looks like. Thanks for sharing your family with us. Happy birthday to Nella!

  102. Gorgeously said. Happy celebration of life to you all!

  103. As a fellow special needs mom, much of what I’ve read from you over the years since our kids’ birth (my twins are newly 4 too) has resonated with me. But I don’t think anything ever as much as “We have more than what it takes to love and support our children for just today. And I can wake up and say that again tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that.” I need to be reminded of that when the fear takes over.

    Thanks for sharing your words, and happy birthday beautiful Nella!

  104. Happy Birthday beautiful girl. You are so loved.

  105. Happy birthday Nella! Your such a beautiful little girl! Your Mommas a Rock star!!!

  106. If you need alcohol to feel, you have a problem. That’s just the truth. Kelle talks about drinking all the damn time. She’s like a 16 year old who talks about booze to feel cool. It isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with drinking, but there’s something wrong with drinking to have some sort of emotion.
    Kelle just wants you to think she’s cool, but really she’s just a poser suburban housewife. If you compare Kelle from 2007 to today it’s obvious that she not real at all.
    And i doubt she could sing one Bon Iver song.

  107. Kerry Elliott, do you police all blogs, or just Kelle’s?

  108. Kelle,

    I’ve never once thought about you as being “like a teenager” in any capacity. If you like to unwind with a couple of beers or some wine, that’s your business. I can relate to you on a lot of levels. You help me feel connected. You inspire me. You are a breath of fresh air. You are ridiculously cool and stylish to boot. Talented and creative? Yes and yes. A “poser”? Not sure what you’re posing as. Name calling is immature and disrespectful. Yikes.

    Nella? Forget abouttit. She’s awesomesauce. Happy Birthday, Babygirl!

  109. Happy Belated Birthday Nella! I hope the cake was wonderful and the day was full of awesome memories! Love the post, as always.

  110. Happy birthday beautiful Nella!! Kelle, thank you for sharing your life and family with us. Your posts are so relatable and inspiring, and I always look forward to reading them.
    With love,
    Jeni

  111. Beautiful reflections. Happy birthday, sweet Nella! So happy to “know” you and your incredible family.

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  113. *Kerry Elliott* Please do yourself and the rest of us a HUGE favor and GO AWAY! Thank you!

  114. Happy Birthday, Nella! Hope you enjoyed your day, sweet girl!

  115. Happy birthday Nella, hope you have had a wonderful day!! I’ve only recently come across your blog & Nella looks like one of the most sweetest girls ever :)

  116. Hard to believe it’s been 4 years since I began reading your journey. As a Mama of two little girls…now 7 and almost 6!… Nella’s sweet smile and your way of capturing your love for her still hugs my mama soul. We are all in this together, to make something better and to teach our children the best we can! Happy Birthday beautiful Nella!

  117. Happy 4th Birthday Nella!!
    Gorgeous photo of you both together. Nella has such a wonderfully huge smile. Just lovely.

  118. Your blog is such a blessing to me, Kelle. Happy Birthday to sweet Nella!

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  120. Beautiful! I’m teary and so happy for you and your Nella! Happy birthday!

  121. “I like to think of hope as the place where realism and optimism meet.” – This is such a great point, thank you. I think we will hope right along with you all. It’s the best thing to do to eliminate our fears & keep moving forward. “What if” freezes us and “hope” moves us forward. Thank you for writing about this. So very thankful to have found you 4 years ago. Nella is a God-send & so are you. Happy Birthday to her and you!
    Warm Tejas hugs,
    Melissa

  122. This is the most beautiful and inspirational birthday message I have ever (EVER!) read. A true celebration of life. Thank you for loving your girl with your whole heart and whole life and for sharing your (& her) journey with us. Her beautiful personality shines through and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to “watch” her grow up and celebrate all her incredible gains. I can’t wait for the exciting things this year will bring.

    Also, this post was a great reminder of my own worth and that I need to celebrate myself, my life, and my accomplishments as well (something we lose somewhere along the way…) – thank you for that needed reminder.

  123. Made me cry! That is beautiful!

  124. I am in love with the way you re-wrote that first blog entry by your sis. In.love.

    Happy 4th birthday, sweet Nella! (It’s surreal to type ‘4’)

  125. Today I had parent/teacher interview for my son who is in VPK (we live just outside of Orlando). He has high-funcitoning Aspergers/ASD, which I’ll only admit to depending on how I feel that day. Today I don’t feel so well, a parent/teacher interview will do that I suppose, when normal isn’t, well, normal. Or even when normal was actually not as good as you thought normal was.

    I needed this post today, so for that I’m so grateful. My son’s diagnosis is different from Nella’s but I have read many of your words and stored them in my heart as so many of them fit. I laugh at how I try to slow down and FURIOUSLY ENJOY ALL THE SMALL THINGS. Right? I have an older daughter and younger son born a few days before Dash (Feb 3, he was born in the van on the way to the hospital, but it was cool, because that’s exactly his personality).

    Your words about the future are striking to me. I worry so much about the future and what that means for Levi. If you spend a little time with him you’d have little idea that he has any issues at all but if you get a little closer it’s pretty obvious. As he moves towards school, real school, I worry about the other parents, the sideways glances, the whispers, the sympathy invites. I feel like, as a Mom, I am the only one who feels so much of the fear, the hope and the fear, but the fear, so intrinsic to how I even react to every social interaction that I”m privy to.

    I greatly appreciate every single one of your posts, and someday I would love to meet up with you and your girls and sweet boy, because I would desperately love to sit with someone and talk about optimism in light of fear without everyone telling me it’s just going to be fine. I’m so tired of hearing it’s just going to be fine. What IS fine? It can’t be how my Mother’s heart is feeling.

    Happy Birthday, sweet Nella. You are lovely and perfect. You and your smile remind me of light. I read your Mama’s words about you and I feel love for you and love for my own sweet children. Your Mama is a blessing.

  126. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings. It is written in such a wonderful way and it echos in my heart, as we know those moments, when the fear grips your heart and wants to squeeze out all life and joy. Our son is 10 months – so we are still very new on that road called DS.

    Wish you all the best for today and every day after with your wonderful Nella. Happy B-Day, sweet princess!!!

  127. Beautifully written. I have been reading your blog since Nella was born. Happy birthday to a precious girl and love to a family that inspires us all.

  128. Happy Happy Happy Birthday Nella. I read the entries often and never fail to smile when I see Nella and her happy face. I love that face. Thank you for sharing and allowing me to read. I love that I live in 2014 and the world and progress keeps changing.

  129. I send birthday blessings to Nella from snowy, cold Colorado. Kelle, you are so inspiring. Through every post and picture I learn a little more from you about how to enjoy parenting and life. You ROCK and Nella ROCKS!! Happy 4th year!! Your journey, your words, and your perspective influences so many people, mostly ME!. Thank you for sharing your life with all of “us”. Sincerely, Heather

  130. “One day at a time. We have more than what it takes to love and support our children for just today. And I can wake up and say that again tomorrow and the next day and the next day after that.”

    Thank you for saying these words – I want to read them for as long as I am a parent. And I hope that’s a long, long, forever.

  131. What kind of party are you throwing for Dash? I am planning a dinosaur party this spring and need some ideas.

  132. Oh — what a beautiful post. Happy birthday to Nella, who brings joy to so many.

  133. This post makes me happy. My uncle has Down syndrome and my grandparents have told me the crazy things doctors thought about it at the time he was born. I’m so glad they didn’t listen to them and that my family was given the chance to list a million different wonderful “Uncle Steve has…”

  134. Thanks for this post. Your blog has given us hope through a Ds diagnosis during pregnancy and now with our 11 day old who we named Audrey Hope. We have so much HOPE for her as any parent does for their child.

  135. Holy crap you’re an amazing writer. I wish I could express myself half as well. It’s what first drew me to you. I love this little girl of yours. I can’t wait to see that smile and low move in person some fateful day:) Happy birthday sweet one.

  136. Happy Birthday dear, sweet, Nella!! I just finished your book this morning and afterwards blasted some Sara Groves while in the shower washing away the sorrows from yesterday. Your book and Nella’s story is what I needed to break out of the thick fog of depression I have been facing while dealing with infertility. I am learning in life we all have struggles, and we can overcome them slowly but surely. Anything is possible and every day is a new day to start over. Thank you for your honesty in writing, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story. I truly am touched. Words cannot express how thankful I am for reading Nella’s birth story which someone posted on FB. It lead me to your blog and to your book and a world of healing that needed to take place for me. You’ve inspired me to start blogging again, and drag out my SLR again to capture the joyous moments in life that happen all around us. Thank you so very much for just being you.

  137. Beautiful, you and Nella :)

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