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Fill the Bookends with Beauty and Carry a Big Sword

“There’s a mean kid at recess,” she tells me matter-of-factly on our way home from school. It’s an afterthought really, not as important as the other things she’s already told me about her day, and she doesn’t seem frazzled one bit when this comes out.

“Oh yeah? Who?” She tells me his name, and I vaguely remember his sweet face from a couple years back when they shared the same class.

“He’s mean,” she says again. I wait for her to tell me about who he picked on, what he did, how it happened but wasn’t expecting what followed.

“I told some of my friends that Nella has Down syndrome,” she says–Nella just a car seat rim away from her–“and he heard me. He was laughing at me and telling these kids ‘Her sister has Down syndrome! Her sister has Down syndrome!’ He was making fun of her and laughing.”

Okay, so we’re here. I knew we’d get here eventually. And I know what to say because I’ve written and stashed these little scripts in my brain, waiting to pull them out. But yeah. For a second I feel a flutter in the abyssal zone of my stomach, where it’s dark and the sea creatures you never hear about live.

“How did that make you feel?” I ask.

“Like I wanted to cry. But I didn’t,” she answers.

Jesus. I remind myself that this is life, not near as dramatic as I pictured it would be five years ago. I thought about how this would go down when Nella was born. In my war-torn mind, it would happen all the time, plenty of times before Lainey hit third grade. I visualized what they’d say, how my kids would feel when they said it, and my stomach bottomed out with every imagined “Retard.” The world was a discriminate battlefield, and picturing my little soldiers getting emotionally pummeled out there was perhaps the greatest weight of sadness there was back then.

“We’ll raise them strong,” I told myself. “To withstand.”

We are five plus years in, this is the first time it happened, and it doesn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would. For a second it does, but for a second a lot of other stuff we’ve dealt with the past five years has hurt, and none of it had to do with Nella.

“You know why he laughed?” I explain. “Because he doesn’t know anything about Down syndrome and when you don’t know about something, it’s easy to make fun of it. I bet if he met Nella and knew her like you do, he’d feel really bad that he said that.”

“Yeah,” she answers right before she finds Nella’s school bag and digs through it to see what her sister brought home today—a picture of a Stegosaurus she colored for Dinosaur Week. We talk about the event more later, but to be honest, it bothers me a lot more than it did her.

The kid at recess? He’s a third grader who has a lot to learn, and it’s our responsibility to teach him and every other kid out there that there’s a whole world of syndromes, but they are overshadowed by the amazing people who house them. There’s a good chance this kid is feeling different himself.

As for my own kids? “We’ll raise them strong,” I used to tell myself, “to withstand.” But that’s not my focus anymore. We don’t raise our kids strong to withstand; we raise them strong so that they will change the world. We think less about the shield they’re walking out there with and more about the sword they’re carrying. How will you show them? What will you teach them? What sort of life are you living? What kind words are you speaking? How do you make people feel? Challenge them. Show them how good life can be when you create beauty. That is your shield.

I heard about her shield when she told me that her little friends ran to tell the recess attendant about the incident today, and how it was appropriately handled with a follow-through note home.

I felt her shield in the sweet words of my family today.

And her sword? Goodness, it’s beautiful.

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So it happened, this thing I knew would happen. What I didn’t realize is that it would be wedged so tightly between the other stuff—the UNO game we played on the bed last night and the dance party that erupted at the front door this afternoon—that it would barely have room to breathe.

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This is a small incident, and yes there’s a battlefield out there. But this is how we’ll do it: Fill the bookends with beauty so that those deep sea moments in between barely have room to breathe.

And carry a very big sword.

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Comments

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  1. Absolutely beautiful.

  2. Brought tears to my eyes! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I would love to share what exactly I witnessed on the playground today. I teach 3rd grade and on Tuesdays, we play at a different time than the rest of the week, so we are outside with classes that we are not usually out there with. As my class was filing out of the building, I noticed an interaction with a 3rd grade student and a student from the the self-contained class at my school. I saw a little boy from the self-contained class grab the ball out of the 3rd grader’s hand. I thought, “oh boy, this is going to get interesting…” However, the 3rd grade student didn’t grab back. Instead, he invited a new friend to play :) It was a beautiful sight!

  4. While some could misinterpret “carry a sword” to mean “retaliate” or “be sharper, be harder, ignore them” those who know how wonderfully you parent know that you, in fact, mean to be SOFTER, be kinder, be gentler. To walk around in that person’s shoes and then teach them a lesson about different, more beautiful shoes.

    I hope to one day raise a family half as beautifully as you do, and write about that time half as breathtakingly as you do. <3

  5. Shit. Kelly, the very first time I “met” you was when I came across Nella’s birthstory – you know how popular that was. I just happened to be pregnant with my second child and I felt so strongly connected and moved to and by you. About a month later I found out that my youngest (the guy in my belly) had T21.

    For whatever reason I haven’t been back here, and yet today here I am. This is so beautiful, and I cried. I wonder what life will be like for us, and then I realize it doesn’t matter at all. Thank you for having such beautiful words.

  6. mary jo fehl says:

    Your words brought tears to my eyes. You are wise to realize that the event you wrote about is only as significant as you allow it to be. God Bless that little boy that said hurtful things. The world can hope that he will someday regret them and grow from the feelings the “sea creatures” left in his belly. Your posts and book are beautiful and have been a significant inspiration to many. Thank you.

  7. This is a good one. I always wonder about the siblings… How their lives will be impacted as a result of my daughter. The good and the bad… It’ll all be there. The good thing is that they have compassion and empathy built in intrinsically, in heart-places the rest of us don’t. For that, I am grateful.

    • I agree. I am expecting a new little boy at the end of November. He has Trisomy 13. This Trisomy is very different than Trisomy 21 in that Trisomy 13 babies typically do not live long, and they have many more health issues than those with DS. I am hoping that our little boy stays with us a while, so that we can enjoy him and that his siblings can learn compassion and unconditional love. I can’t help but to think that he was sent into our family for a reason. It’s sad that most women abort these very special Trisomy babies (T13, T18 and T21) assuming that their lives won’t be meaningful. These special babies and children can bring our lives so much joy, and they can teach us so much. So many families are missing out on this. It’s sad.

      • This is beautiful. I love how you are looking at your situation. Best of luck to you and your wonderful boy, I hope you can enjoy him for a very long time!

  8. Perfectly written and handled! All of us need to take responsibility for teaching all of our kids how to change the world for the better!!

  9. Rose D'Angelo Designs says:

    Your words always make my heart skip a beat. Your Lainey is an amazing, beautiful & protective sister. This parenting thing is hard but you always seem to do it with such grace! Blessings to your beautiful family. ❤

  10. Such grace. You handled with such grace. Being just 9 months into this journey, I am grateful to read your emotions and read about the victory you are walking in. It’s still fresh and raw but am enouraged when I read your posts. Thank you for being real.

  11. This made me well up. You put it so beautifully.

  12. That was so beautifully said Kelle. The world is full of ‘mean’ people both young and old. I am so glad that you are all about how people see others.

  13. I have been following your blog for several years now and I must say, this entry touched me more deeply than any other. You should be so proud of the children you are raising and the lessons you have taught us all about the beauty of acceptance.

  14. I love this post, it is beautiful. I think kids sometimes react to things they don’t understand by being mean and making fun of whatever it is and you are right, they need us to teach them how to treat others with kindness always. I think you handled this so well Kelle. Good job! Your kids seem so happy, loving and confident.

  15. Jessica Minor says:

    I’m so greatful for you and all the other moms who are so open and honest about your experiences. Thank you for sharing your wisdom for those of us who follow behind.

  16. Such a wonderful sentiment and beautiful thoughts. Sometimes, I find, that the biggest moments as parents sneak up on us and we don’t even recognize them till we’ve moved on. This was a moment you prepared for but it surprised you anyway. I hope your daughter gets to enlighten the “mean kid” so he can grow and learn. BTW the photos of your girls are really great.

  17. MaryKelly Hucko says:

    ❤️❤️❤️
    This is absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing…

  18. I wish I had your wisdom

  19. beautiful. Changing the world, you are…you know that, right? I’ve been following your blog since Nella’s birth story…and then went back and read every single post you’d ever written. Your little blog has changed me in so many ways. So happy to read this and to know how well you’re ALL doing with such instances. I remember those gut-wrenching posts after Nella was born…you’ve come a long way and you’ve brought so many along with you.

    XOXO,
    Angie

  20. Wow, what a tough moment, but you handled it so well. I was going to say that your words (like your blog, stories, advocacy, etc.) are a really good sword, and I realized it’s the same letters, rearranged (words and sword) – how cool is that! Much love and hugs to you and the fam!

  21. Your words are beautiful. I think your daughter will handle these situations with grace and patience and teach others by her love. The last photo is so tender.

  22. This quote is so perfect, so beautiful. Thank you, Kelle!

    “We’ll raise them strong,” I used to tell myself, “to withstand.” But that’s not my focus anymore. We don’t raise our kids strong to withstand; we raise them strong so that they will change the world. We think less about the shield they’re walking out there with and more about the sword they’re carrying.

  23. I like the analogy of not just shield for protection but sword for education, making a difference. The anagram of sword for words is appropriate.

  24. How I feel right now: I need to never miss another one of your words. Never.
    Your warrior kids and your warrior heart make mine stronger. *pounds chest* XO

  25. Fill the bookends with beauty…

    Looooooooovvvvvve that!!!

  26. Margaret kirkpatrick says:

    Sounds like that mean boy needs some educating, and no one better to do it than you! I am sure he didn’t realize how mean he was being, and I suspect he doesn’t even know what downs syndrome is. Your words are so beautiful.

  27. I remember the first time this happened with my little girl, who has cerebral palsy. Raw pain and trying to protect her sister as well as her. Thankfully, the negative experiences have been ecplised by the positive. There will always be ignorance but the more people we reach out to and educate the better the outcome,not only for our kids, but the kids who come after them. We held a session with the class of the child in question, teaching them all about cerebral palsy. We took in splints and wheelchairs etc and the boy in question became a supporter instead of a tormentor.

  28. from worrier to warrior, all done in grace and beauty, helping others to see the unseen, the heart.

  29. Beautifully written.
    I have a question though . . . will you talk to the child’s parents? I don’t know if I would. But I KNOW if my child had done the teasing, I would want to know. Children (well, everyone . . .) make mistakes and I would want to know so I could read some books with my child and have some conversations with my child. This is really important to me. I am interested to see other people’s viewpoint.

    • Yes TALK TO THE PARENTS not just a note home. It may be tricky but it’s not just a note home. Try to find out more to set up a group play date or something. Schools SUCK at these tricky situations handling it organically getting the kids together is much better once it’s identified

  30. Oh my heart, Kelle!! I love the pics that you posted with this!

  31. Do you have any advice for parents (me) on how to help our children understand that there are lots of syndromes but wonderful people that house them, so they don’t become the mean kid at recess?

    • I’m expecting a baby with a syndrome – due at the end of November. I’ve been reading your blog since Nella was born, and here I am now expecting my own Trisomy baby. Although my little guy has Trisomy 13, not 21. But still. He will be born into our family, and hopefully he will stay a while. My kids are already learning that their new brother will have special needs, and they know his life is limited by his condition, and that we are going to love him and enjoy him while he is here. I’m not looking forward to the day we have to say good-bye to him, but I am looking forward to seeing what kind of an impact his life will have on his siblings. I can’t help but to think that he was sent to us for a reason, and that he has a lot of joy to bring us, and life lessons, too.

      • Oh sweet Katrina. Your heart shines through in this comment, and what an amazing perspective you have. I can imagine you’re in a whirlwind of feelings right now, and I’m sending all the love possibly transferable through a computer screen ;o) to you and your family as you wait, welcome and love. Thank you for sharing. xo

  32. New mama here! With 2 lovely bonus children and this rang wonderfully in my heart tonight. The shield/sword idea is perfect. Thank you!!

  33. Powerful and honest. Beautifully written. Thanks for sharing. We need more stories like this.

  34. Strong families 》 ignorance of a few

  35. Oh the tears. How life can be so beautiful yet so heartbreaking at the same time. How we can prepare ourselves for something yet when it hits us, feel the gut punch just as acutely as if we hadn’t prepared at all.

  36. This made me cry but I am reminded that for every test there is a testimony and oh how great Nella’s testimony is and what a champion Lainey is for her sweet sister. Your girls are warriors and they will break free some chains that bind other people. Just wait for it. What a precious relationship that they have, These joyful photos made my day! Sending love your way!

  37. Mt thRee faeRies says:

    I love your pictures on this post!
    Their happy smiles blur the other stuff.
    Our 4th grader was about to start school with her littlest sister who has DS. She is so proud of her and yet felt strong trepidation as she was worried a boy who she has been going to school with would start to make fun on Carly.
    As you say, we educate and spread goodness.
    Cheers to you and your family.

  38. i think this post summarizes what I hope to be as a parent. I was the picked on kid with rheumatoid arthritis. I don’t want my children to be picked on or pick on others. I teach them that they are God’s hands in this world.

  39. Christine Black says:

    LOVE

  40. You, Mama, are raising those girls right. Teaching them to love with every ounce of their beings, teaching them to stand-up for what they believe in, teaching them to tolerate those who are not as wise as they are.

  41. Great writing and advice. You are dead on about the Sheild and Sword.

    If neither of those work I have a 12, 5, and 4 year old boys that I will be glad to send to that recess to make sure that young man understands respect (although from the sound of him I think the 4 year old can take care of it)
    They deeply love their sister who has the extra magic like Nella and pretty much anyone who has it.

  42. This is beautiful. Raising our little ones stronger to change the world. Agreed.

  43. That was such a moving post. Thank you for sharing it. Such a blessing that it was appropriately handled by the others and school too. You must be so proud of your sweet and strong big sister. Love your blog!!!!

  44. Vivienne scott says:

    Beautiful and heart stirring!!
    Love covers a multitude of sins.

  45. You were meant to be Nella’s mom, and we’re all blessed because of it.

  46. Such beautifully written and with such love. Thank you for sharing this. Your blog is heartwarming and so inspirational.

    Morgan | theradwife.blogspot.com

  47. You and your husband are raising a sweet, tender and loving young lady. See how sweet she is with her siblings is truly heartwarming and speaks a lot of how you must model that for her. Bravo!

  48. Oh my. I love this. I love this I love this I love this.

  49. I love this so much. I have missed blogs like this in the go go go crazy make a living days I’ve been living through this year. But yes. I get it. My kid has Tourettes and just tonight I heard something from a kid about it. This particular kid was not unkind at all. But the comment stung, because I know other kids notice my son’s noises and quirks. Referring to another child in his class, he said, “He has the same case as your kid. You know, how your kid is in his own world at times.” It just hurt. And yet, my kid is so strong. He is not that Tourettes kid. He’s a kid who is funny, charming, smart and yes, he has Tourettes. Thanks for the reminder.

  50. Such a beautiful post. Nella is the book between those bookends and she will be just fine. She had Lainey to carry that sword and she has Dash’s hand to hold (oh, that photo!)…. so beautiful!

  51. This is so beautiful and I am so crying. I feel sad for kids who make fun of others and I believe they are at a loss. I hurt for mamas everywhere who worry about how the world will view their babies. But I also seriously cry when I read posts like this and the one on kids with DS in college because I truly believe you and so many others ARE changing the world, and educating people on the beauty and value of all human beings. I’m another mama standing with you and teaching my kids to value other people and treat them with dignity and respect.

  52. I’m expecting a baby with a syndrome – due at the end of November. I’ve been reading your blog since Nella was born, and here I am now expecting my own Trisomy baby. Although my little guy has Trisomy 13, not 21. But still. He will be born into our family, and hopefully he will stay a while. My kids are already learning that their new brother will have special needs, and they know his life is limited by his condition, and that we are going to love him and enjoy him while he is here. I’m not looking forward to the day we have to say good-bye to him, but I am looking forward to seeing what kind of an impact his life will have on his siblings. I can’t help but to think that he was sent to us for a reason, and that he has a lot of joy to bring us, and life lessons, too.

  53. heather Henricks says:

    Kelle = Strangely, I was thinking today about the exercise that we did at our Spark weekend, about writing “all the way through” something that we feared, beginning to end. That was a tough exercise for me (good but tough), writing myself through that “What if?” I was certain I couldn’t survive… a life-raft of words floating towards me as I allowed myself to drown in what I feared most. I remember the dialogue after the exercise, you sharing your heart and your strength as we all sat, shoulder-to-shoulder with our swords drawn against what the future would bring. It brings me such delight to read here of what you went through today, and how you faced it with wisdom and grace. Knowing that we as mom’s have the power to teach and train our kids to stand up in kindness and love makes this battlefield of life seem a lot less scary. Thank you for your example and your encouragement to make sure there is less “blood-shed” and more “love-spread”. Your compassion towards this little boy and what he doesn’t know, but could be taught, is beautiful. Nella, Lainey and Dash are blessed little beings to have you as their mama. XO, Heather

    • Oh Heather, I love “less blood-shed and more love-spread.” We can reinvent the sword. Was thinking of you the other day–how your mama instincts kicked in that last day of Spark when I was getting sick. We’ll miss you this weekend. Thank you for your sweet comment.

  54. you may not be able to change the entire mankind, but you’ve changed thousands and thousands with your words and with showing the world Nella. And through the thousands you’ve changed, they again change thousands. So the change is happening, – thanks to you.

  55. beautiful post! xxx

  56. Brava, Kelle!

  57. Our fifth grade class begins the school year reading WONDER by R.J. Palacio. If you haven’t read it – do. It follows the 5th grade life of a boy with facial differences – as the publisher describes him, “an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face.” This book has become the cornerstone of our 5th grade community building and our teaching about differences – all of our differences. The theme of kindness is dominant in our classroom as the author invites us all to “choose kind,” and offers J.M. Barrie’s quote: “Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always try to be a little kinder than is necessary?”Anyway … today … I plan on sharing some of this post with my students as well. They need to hear messages like this from real people living real lives – and more of them. They need to know that their teacher’s day began with tears of compassion and love and connection with a writer and mother I’ve never met … a writer who teaches us all and reaches so many. Thank you.

    • xo Thank you, Barbara, for those kind words. Wonder is one of my favorite books. I read it last year and couldn’t put it down. I’ve passed it on to many friends.

  58. Chelsea Eyler says:

    Love is beauty and your family represents this well. I can’t read your post with out crying or feeling inspired! Grateful.

  59. You have to wonder what they are being taught at home..I sound old fashioned..I guess I am..
    I know he is young..but even little we were taught to kind..

    As a mother..we cry inside for our children when someone is hurtful to them.
    We all need to learn..Metta~kindness,benevolence..a strong wish for the happiness of others..a friend sent me this “word” a few years back..and I have not forgotten it.
    Love your family..I learn from you and I am 61.

  60. I don’t comment often but I read all the time, ever since I first came across your blog when I started getting into photography… Your words just always touch something deep inside me. I can’t explain it. My 12 year old daughter started reading Bloom recently and I can tell it’s touched her just the same.
    I wouldn’t have it any other way…

  61. Agh! Your words! Unbelievable! Beautiful! Strong! Poignant! And that last photo, my heart is a puddle!

  62. This makes me want to cry. You are doing so good, mama. Those babies know they are loved and beautiful and safe and you are teaching them so well. That pit of the stomach feeling when they ask the hard questions… it gets me every time. Bravo to you for being prepared.

  63. Beautiful. What a great message to teach our children (and adults):
    “Because he doesn’t know anything about Down syndrome and when you don’t know about something, it’s easy to make fun of it. I bet if he met Nella and knew her like you do, he’d feel really bad that he said that.”

    Also I love the message that what we fear for our children in our minds can be so big and hurtful, but these amazing kids are so resilient and smart that the comments and hurt “barely have room to breathe”.

  64. Love the first word of your post, Jesus. God is good all the time. Your faith sustains you and all of us. I have read your faith story too and that root is deep. As a sibling of a brother with Down Syndrome, this story really touches home and my heart. I am sure my 47 year old brother still notices the stares, but he does not ever complain or mention it. The world is changing, just VERY slowly. Great heart felt post. Love it!

  65. Goosebumps :)

  66. I have a daughter, Martha Mae, who is in a mainstream Pre-K class and turns 5 next month. She has Down syndrome. We experienced our first incident of “teasing” or “bullying” last week. Two of her little classmates began taunting and teasing her about the way she talks. According to Martha’s teachers, in response to the teasing, Martha went to the corner, sat down, put her head in her hands and started to cry. The teachers handled it beautifully. They conducted a “sensitivity awareness” program in the afternoon and had the little boys make Martha very sweet apology cards. My husband and I, however, were a different story! We could not believe that little 4 and 5 year olds could be so cruel! We obviously need to strengthen our own shields if we are going to make it through the next 15 years of school!

    • I’m so sorry you all had to go through that. That image of your daughter in the corner? Heartbreaking. We learn together and grow strong together and yes–so hard to imagine kids being that cruel. I hope she felt all loved up by the end of the evening! xo

  67. Your children are beautiful inside and out. You can see the adoration in Lainey’s eyes and smile that she has toward Nella and Dash and vice versa…You and Brent are doing a fabulous job teaching these kiddos how to love fiercely.
    I love your blog ….

  68. I can never imagine what you go through with a DS child, so posts with lessons like these always make me tear up and feel for you all. You all (your family) have taught me things that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. Thank you for sharing your life with “Us” :) Your children are all beautiful!

  69. Tears for what our family will be facing in near future and thank you for the wisdom on how to prepare.

  70. This breaks my heart for several reasons. One, because your precious girls have to deal with negative, uneducated people and are forced to have to teach the children that do not know how to respond and welcome children with differences. But also, because unfortunately, my child doesn’t wear her disability on the outside and can be that mean child on the playground. I thank God that she is generally very accepting and often outwardly inviting to children with visible differences, but no one can see the turmoil that goes on inside her anxiety and depression ridden, bi-polar brain. As a result of this her interactions with other children often lead to arguments and her being left out and ostracized. I love the way that you responded to your daughter about how that mean boy just didn’t know and love your other daughter!!

    • Everyone’s fighting a battle. :o) xo I know the journey you are on is unique and presents many challenges. Thank you for sharing your perspective!

  71. Okay, this one made me cry! Lainey Love sure does hold to her name. The love just radiates from her and I know she learned it from her Mama.

    We’re all sending you big, virtual squeezes and hugs Kelle!

  72. My brain was filled with enormous Mom rage when I read what that boy said, and then my eyes were filled with tears as I finished. All we can do is teach love and how to react to these inevitable battles. I love this post.

  73. I’ve read and enjoyed your blog for years and have never felt the need to comment. I had to leave a comment on this post. It’s perfectly beautiful and brought tears to my eyes!

  74. Lovely!

  75. oh gosh! that was beautiful.

  76. Oh my goodness. This is the sweetest and most relatable post ever. My little brother has Down Syndrome, which we, like Rene Moreno, call Up Syndrome in our family. I remember the days of him getting picked on at school. I hated it, and you know what? Every time I said anything negative about those people, he defended them to me. Said beautiful things about people that had hurt him. He made me a better person through his difficult situations. I’d say that’s a pretty big sword.
    Thank you for sharing!

  77. Interesting he didn’t use the R word. Maybe even the bullies are learning. Great Caroline Hax column on that subject today by the way.

  78. I love the way you approach this what could be such a drama, but the way you handled it with grace instead. Kids are weird, man. Some one could have said, “my sister has polka dots” and some wiley little one would have gone to town on that. It’s the overall approach that we take to take a step back and recognize that we ARE all different and that does cause curiosity and sometimes misguided teasing. Lainey is lucky to have you as a teacher <3

  79. You have lovely & amazing gifts. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  80. This hurt me, too, but you are right on top of things in the very best way.

  81. Kelle, i just loved this. i know it must be hard, and you’re right – it’s fear that makes people ridicule something they don’t understand. Kids can be mean. Mean kids tend to turn into mean adults. I have to tell you that my son (age 11) had a new friend over the other day i’ll call him Danny. I asked “Danny” if he had any siblings and he was a little guarded & tough when he told me he had a twin, then with a little embarassment and a little bravity he said, “he’s my twin and he has down syndrome” and he kind of shrugged like he was sad. To my surprise (i had just read your book) i didn’t miss a beat, i said, “wow! how awesome…you are so lucky. God must have really trusted you and know that you had a super kind heart to give you such a special brother – i bet he’s magical”…his face lit up like he had never been told that. I hope we can teach our kids that different isn’t bad.

  82. Beautiful.

  83. Thank you. Simply, thank you from one Mom to another.

  84. So Beautifully Said <3

  85. Hi Kelle,
    What a beautiful post! Lainey is such an AWESOME big sister and it’s clear you guys are doing a wonderful job as parents. The kids have such a great bond.
    I hope the little boy’s parents can explain to him why it is wrong to make fun of people and that differences are to be valued!

  86. Thank you. I’ve been reading your blog for years and have never posted– even though so many times what you’ve written has really hit home. I just wanted to say thank you today. I needed to be reminded that there will be moments of pain and even despair, but if we shore ourselves up with beauty and strength and dance parties, we will get through. Thank you.

  87. We have an 8 yr old dtr who happens to have Ds. She also has an older brother and I’ve had some of the same concerns as you have. Hurts my heart ea time someone says something, but reality sets in and I can see the beauty of our life. For several yrs on 3/21, my son shared with his class and then his sisters regular ed class about Ds. Helped give them an opportunity to ask questions, but mainly I found that they told us fun stories about Ella. Education is key and all of your children will educate many with lots of love.

  88. I have been reading your blog for years, 2010 was a big year for us both, your blog helped me through it. You inspire me, as a mother, a writer, and a woman. Every family deals with their own struggles of how hurtful the world can be sometimes. And how we react is what it all boils down to.
    My kids have unfortunately had to deal with name calling and bullying for having a gay mother, and for that I hurt too. But on the other hand, having trials makes you a better person, a more loving person. A humanitarian.
    <3
    thank you for your beautiful words

  89. I LOVE this “Fill the bookends with beauty so that those deep sea moments in between barely have room to breathe”.

  90. What a sweet big sister! It’s so important to talk to kids about children and adults with all kinds of disabilities so that they’re not the mean ones. That little boy maybe didn’t even know what Down Syndrome was.

    We’ve talked with our children about all types of people we see–the homeless, the alcoholics, the mentally unstable, etc. It’s so imperative that we try to find compassion for them, to all of God’s creatures, especially those who are special, bent and broken.

  91. This was a wonderful story to read, thank you so much for sharing it. I have struggled greatly with this, knowing our time will come to have to deal with this as well…this was so beautiful to read.

  92. Lovely story, and I know your kids will grow to become amazing people, but I have to say the chest clip on Dash’s car seat is too low. It should be armpit height, and very snug. In the event of a collision, he could fly right out the top. Likely it won’t ever mater, but better safe than sorry…

  93. What a beautiful story! I’m only a 20 something year old.. Okkkk so I’m 25.. And your stories, your wisdom, your way of looking at the world and circumstances is something I admire the most about you! Often times we speak from our unwise egos… It is so quick to judge or be uncomfortable about something that we aren’t living. Thank you for your posts, I reflect on them often! I also have your book that needs to be finished but oh what a great book that is! Sending so much love and light your way. Your the ultimate supermom in my eyes and i applaud you for all that you do, not only for the Down Syndrome community, but also for moms, and 20 somethings like me that need to look on the brighter side of life when things get rough! xo

  94. Yesterday we took the kiddos to Chick Fil A for lunch and our 3 year old daughter played for the first time in the enclosed play area. My husband told me that a little boy kept calling her the “scary monster girl” and said he didn’t want to play with her and ran away pretending (I assume) to be scared. I have no clue if this kid was a weirdo and just doesn’t like girls, or if it was because our daughter has Ds. Either way, I had a lump in my throat and had to keep myself from socking the kid (mature, I know). I thought of your post this week and felt glad to not be alone in this journey.

  95. Raising kids is never simple, there is so much ignorance around us BUT I think the goodness far outweighs it. My son has a reading disability and he suffered the nastiness of ignorance. We raised our boys to be kind and be strong. We didn’t raise them to pound the crap out of others, instead we raised them to be the change. My son still has a reading disability but it didn’t stop him to follow his dream, to become a Naturopathic Doctor. It’s taking him longer to get that degree, but he’s doing it. And the ignorance, it’s still there in others and the difference is that he chooses to not to let it affect him because there’s a whole world of beautifulness out there to experience. And his little brother, who is now an adult, is and always has been his champion. Yes, it’s easier to fight hatred with anger but the other road where you become the change….well now, that has all kinds of special goodies attached to it. The only catch is, it’s the more challenging road. Be the change.

  96. I’m sorry your sweet little daughter had to deal with that. I do feel sorry for the little boy, though–what sort of things does he hear at home for him to react in that way? From my experience, children are accepting of everything, until you tell them not to be… I fear that his road will be much bumpier than that of your daughters. xo

  97. I can see the future.
    Mean boy grows up, falls in love with Lainey and becomes Nellas biggest advocate!
    Sweet justice, it abounds in the world!
    And I agree, all we can do is keep filling those bookends, keep the sword so sharp the light deflects any mean thoughts or behaviour before they can even manifest!
    Nice work.

  98. Way back in 1980 when I was 5 years old my aunt and uncle had a beautiful baby girl who happened to have Down Syndrome. This bundle of joy changed our family for the better in so many ways. She taught us about unconditional love and I was (and am) totally smitten with her. I clearly remember setting some of my friends in the neighborhood straight when they called her the “R” word. I was proud of my cousin and proud of my courage to defend her. The hardest things to endure were the judgmental looks from strangers. I always wanted to march up to them like I would with my friends and tell them what they were doing was wrong, but as a child I couldn’t do it. The world has come a long way towards acceptance and understanding, but we still have a long ways to go. It’s hard on little kids to see someone they love treated differently. Hugs to Lainey!

  99. I’m glad you’re willing to go out there with a big sword! Kids can be mean because they are still learning and often insecure themselves (as you pointed out). Hopefully as parents, we are being proactive in teaching our kids about differences in people — all kinds of differences.

  100. Kelle, I´ve been reading your blog for serveral years now.
    I was Lainey´s age when my DS sister was born. I´m also the oldest sibling. So I´ve been there. Exactly there, in 3rd grade, only telling some of my friends about my sister. I defended my sister against ignorance and hate. No one never ever called her a “retard” cause I decided not to hide her, I decided to be proud and also to teach others about her. If anybody who has crossed my path, has not liked my sister, then it has been because she wasn´t nice, not because she has DS.
    I know you´re doing a good job, her responde, was mine, 27 years ago. Trust me, Lainey will be fine. XO

  101. Julia Hoover says:

    Thank you for your beautiful words.

  102. Honestly, I love this because of the opportunity it presents. There’s absolutely no shame in us being different, and this gives your daughter the chance to stand for what’s really important in life. She gets to be a beacon for equality and compassion. It’s so easy for us to feel cry in a fit of rage or sadness, but this is also an opportunity to be empowered and to make a difference in the world.

    Rather than seeing things like Down’s Syndrome as handicaps, we can see respond to them like, “Yeah? And so what?” Who cares if it’s a matter of chromosomes, depression, pissiness, or reading abilities. We all have our quirks. What matters is that we’re doing our best to be our best. Who gives a shit about anything else? THAT is what really matters. And the “bullies” making all these mean comments? Well, they’re often living in a home that’s far from perfect, so they’ve have their own shit and even deserve some compassion too.

    I’m happy for how your daughter was able to handle this. Graceful and composed without ugly retaliation. Just beautiful. :-)

  103. Kelle, I felt the sea creatures too reading this! Beautifully said! Thanks for sharing!

    Shannon❤️

  104. Work in progress ..that’s where I’m at now… I shed tears as I read this…as I hold my five month only baby boy in my rocker…. I pray I can instill positive in him… But for that it needs to root in me first. My 7 and 5 year olds saw me cry daily every day so many times a day…I hated doing that but I could not control it. I do treasure my 3 children…. Probably at an even higher level now.

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  106. Hi Kelle. I just finished your book Bloom a few min ago. I’ve never read a memoir before, but I was shopping for a book to read, and the summary pulled me in. I have to say, it was the most beautiful book I have ever read. I have felt connected to books and characters before, but never like this. I was blown away by your blunt honesty. The things the rest of us all know we are thinking, but would never dare say out loud. You are so brave. It makes me feel less afraid of my ‘not so nice’ thoughts. Your family is beautiful. I have two boys, and having had them after the age of 30, I understand perfectly, the fear that they wouldn’t be perfect. Anyway, I was moved, I couldn’t put the book down! Thank you for your honesty and your strength. And PLEASE keep writing, it is your very special gift. Thank you!!!!

  107. What a lovely story and what a terrific job you’re doing for your kiddos. I’ve been working my way through some of your posts today and every single one has touched some emotional nerve. This one is so raw and touching it brought some tears.
    Nice work, Mama.

  108. Hi Kelle,

    I haven’t been reading your blog for awhile – just happened to check in today! I’m so glad I did! Besides admiring your living room – reimagined – I got teary from reading about the “not very nice boy”. This reminded me of when some high school boys made fun of my older brother with Down Syndrome. In my family we called it righteous anger that we felt. Fortunately, it did not happen often.
    Over the years I realize there are people all across the U.S. who know and love my brother. He loved and cared about each person he met and found his way into their hearts.
    Blessings as you raise your sweet family,
    Jean

  109. They are really fun and innocence. So cute. Thanks for sharing!

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