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Six Years

I went to pull the big red bow off the front of the green car the other day. It’s been several weeks since Christmas and—to be honest—I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen off yet, especially with the way Dash drives that thing. But here it is, late January, and the bow is still hanging on as the car turns another corner, rolls across another sidewalk groove, lands in the garage for another night of recharging, red glitter shedding all the way. It’s faded a bit in the sun, but the bow on the car still whispers “present.”

“Don’t take it off!” Lainey yelled, catching me just in time. “Leave it on. It reminds me of Christmas.”

 

It’s been six years today since Nella was born, and I guess you could say I still can’t take off the bow.

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Six years old seemed so far away when I could barely comprehend the length of space between “She has Down syndrome” and “You can take her home now,” but I’ve realized in parenting that nothing is far away and time is an elusive and magical concept. How else do you explain that yesterday I dropped off a clingy, crying shy girl to kindergarten, and today she was a third-grader who barely turned back to say goodbye?

I do know that six years old was something I didn’t want to think about when Nella was born because I thought it would be hard. So I told myself to take one day at a time, to love as much as I could love in one day. To take any sadness, any happiness, any worries and all celebrations–but only one day’s worth–and make that my daily job. Because I can handle one day.

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Truth is, it does get harder–for all kids. But that one day approach has served us well for every member of our family. I mean, look at us. We’re here. Alive! Frosting cupcakes!

I know how to handle one day. I wake up and listen to my kids and see what they need and get them to school and check their papers and show up for an appointment and give a pep talk and say I’m sorry and watch them play and hold their hands and tuck them in and end every day with Thank You and Onward and We Did It.

What I didn’t know though was how little I’d need to remind myself “One Day at a Time.” I’ve been a little preoccupied the past six years with this: (pssst: this is the part where I flood the post with my favorite pictures because birthday and sap.)

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You know what life does after unexpected things? It returns to its regularly scheduled program. Mine includes taking cupcakes up to a preschool class where friends will sing “Happy Birthday” to a girl in a yellow dress. She’s six. And she’s mine.

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As for what’s beyond six? Possibility and promise, one sweet sliver of a day at a time.

Happy Birthday, Nella. You are loved.

Comments

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  1. I feel so honored to have had this peek into your family and to have watched Nella grow these past 6 years. Happy Birthday!

  2. Beautiful pictures…she’s a little doll 💕

  3. 6 is perhaps one of my favorite years. Happy Birthday Nella, you will rock 6 !!

  4. I have so enjoyed watching her grow up. Happy Birthday Nella!!

  5. Happy birthday to my favorite little 6 year old! Like so many, I’ve been reading your journey and watching her grow since the beginning. We all love her so much! She has an army of love behind her at all times, as does Lainey and Dash. I hope your family has a wonderful day full of cake and joy.

  6. Caitlin Faith says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY NELLA!
    I love reading up on your family. You and Nella both Inspire me every day. Because of you, I no longer fear for the future of my daughter. You have given me so much hope, it’s incredible. I can’t wait for her to teach me how wonderful life can be. I hope you both have a fabulous Friday!

    Caitlin

  7. Lisa Hatton says:

    Beautiful! Happy Birthday Nella!

  8. I can’t believe I have been reading this blog for almost 6 years! Time really does fly! Nella is stunning inside and out. Love the pictures of Nella and Lainey together…their love for each other is so beautifully captured! Happiest of birthdays to Nella and the whole Hampton clan!

  9. Six years! It doesn’t seem possible! Happy birthday, Nella!

  10. Wow! 6 years! Where did that time go! Happy Happy Birthday Nella!!

  11. How can that be? How can Nella be 6? It seems like just yesterday that Lainey turned 6!!!

    Happy Happy Birthday Sweet Nella.

    xo

  12. Wow Kelle. What a beautiful post, and what a beautiful child!

  13. Diana Jean says:

    Happy Birthday Nella!!!!! You are such a beautiful girl. My girls and I love to see all your pictures.

  14. I agree, it’s been so cool to watch her grow. She is a cutie-pie, I feel like I know her so well from watching her grow up these past six years.

  15. Happy Birthday Nella!

  16. Beautiful photos and memories! Love reading your blogs and admiring your gorgeous photography…and even stealing a few tips on kids parties and fun! Happy Birthday Sweet Nella! :)

  17. Happy birthday sweet Nella!!!!

  18. Mary Ann Hoenke says:

    Happy 6th Birthday to sweet Nella!

  19. What a blessing it has been to watch her (and you) grow!! Happy 6th birthday beautiful girl!! You are destined for greatness!!

  20. She is Magic Kelle – I have tears because she is magic. xo

  21. I’ve been following you since her birth story, can’t believe 6 years has gone by already. Do you still do yearly photo books? If so, would you mind sharing the newest?

  22. Kelle,

    I have been reading your blog since Nella’s story went viral a few years back. I fell in love with your little girl–she’s just awesome and so are you! God bless and Happy Birthday, Nella! You rock!

  23. I’ve been a fierce fan of Nella since day 1. Happy birthday, sweet girl.

  24. Kelle,

    Six years ago, I sat in the lobby of a hotel reading Nella’s Birth Story. We were in a hotel in Arlington, VA and our power went out because of a snow storm. My Julian (who is also 6 and has DS) was 3 months old. A cousin had sent your blog post to me. I wept because someone (you) understood exactly what I’d just been through and how I felt. Your writing was so beautiful. Now Julian is in kindergarten and is the light of my life. I feel sad that I was so frightened back then. The road is tough but I can’t think of a path I’d rather walk. Your writing matters. Thank you for it. I hope that Julian gets to meet Nella some day.

    Allison

  25. Happy Birthday to my favorite palindrome birthday girl!! 😀 Hard to believe she is 6 years old! I hope Paquel and Poop behave themselves for Nella’s birthday, haha!
    xoxoxo from cold, frozen Michigan!

  26. Happy Birthday Nella. You are the reason I started following this blog. I google “what are the odds of having a baby with Down syndrome when dad has Down syndrome child”. And I found you. That was 5 years ago. Your mama has shown us what it’s like to be real. I love watching you and your siblings grow. I hope you have the best day!

  27. Kelle….
    “I told myself to take one day at a time, to love as much as I could love in one day. To take any sadness, any happiness, any worries and all celebrations–but only one day’s worth–and make that my daily job. Because I can handle one day.” That was beautiful!! 😉
    Happy, happy, happy birthday, Nella!! Here’s to many, many, many more!! ;-D
    Love you later, Raelyn

  28. The beauty in these pictures makes me laugh and cry because… All the feelings!

    PS May seem unrelated, but if you haven’t seen Room, you must. The bond between that mother and son was unbelievable. I think you are just as fierce.

  29. My daughter and I are in love w/ Nella..all your children are BEAUTIFUL..but it’s Nella’s birthday so I will focus on her♥
    I was in my neurologist’s office yesterday and a special needs young woman was there waiting with her dad..she was going in after me..I mentioned my niece that has hydrocephalacy..she is 42 now..to my neurologist..and she said she is a gift to her parents,,always showing love even through terrible teens..and older.. still an unconditional non confrontational love towards her parents etc.. they are a very great joy to the parents.
    I believe that.
    And yes..like an above commenter said..she IS magic.

  30. Some of those photos are so stunning that they stop you in your tracks. What a beautiful, average, exceptional family you have.
    Thank you for sharing them with us. :)
    Happy birthday sweet girl!

  31. Jill smith says:

    Beautiful! She is such a beautiful little girl!

  32. Happy brithday beautiful Nella!

  33. Heather Henricks says:

    Happy Birthday Nella! Thank you for sharing your heart and family with us, Kelle. May the celebration of your precious daughter bring you much joy!!

  34. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to a beautiful girl. I love this post. My new motto will be “one day’s worth”.
    Thank you.
    Susanne

  35. Happy 6th birthday Nella..enjoy your wonderful day. Eat lots of cupcakes…💜

  36. Such an honor to watch your babies grow. Thank you for sharing them and bringing such love into the world.
    xo

  37. I SOOO love reading your family updates and no, it doesn’t seem possible that she is 6. I feel like I have watched her grow up and what a lovely little girl. All of you are beautiful…

  38. I have enjoyed watching Nella grow up. I just love her little spirit. Happy birthday Nella.

  39. Happy birthday, sweet Nella. I’ve enjoyed watching you grow every step of the way.

  40. We had our babies around the same time. My son Tommy just turned 6 on the 16th. My daughter Vivian is his older sister who also has Ds. She’s such a joy and so is Nella. I have been keeping up with you and your fam since Nella was born. Happy Birthday sweet girl!!

  41. Happy Birthday beautiful girl!!

    You are both so enormously lucky to have each other.

    Thank you Kelle, for another year of letting us in to your lives to watch and see what this precious Nella does next!

  42. Claire McCallum says:

    Hi Kelle…I just love this! I have a little man with DS who is 3.5 and I think it’s his greatest lesson to me…to take one day at a time… I have enough strength for today…don’t look too far into the future…just to dal with today! I do enjoy your posts thank you….just beautiful…but this one resonated with me…even half a world away in .australia! Bless you x Claire

  43. So beautiful! Thank you Kelli of sharing Nella’s life. Happy 6th Birthday to sweet Nella!

  44. Rebecca Black says:

    Happy 6th Birthday to your precious Nella! I have enjoyed reading your blog and watching all of your littles grow! Have a fabulous day celebrating such an amazing girl! (So glad your dad and Gary made it safely, too!)

  45. Happy Birthday, sweet Nella!

  46. Rosemary S says:

    Wow! 6 years surely does fly by! Happy Birthday, sweet little Nella……….It’s so fun to see you growing and becoming such a big, full-of-fun girl!

  47. So much character, that gorgeous girl! Happy birthday, Nella dear!

  48. That pic of Nells and Lainey in their ballet shoes and leotards….so beautiful ! I hope that one is framed and hanging in your house ! Happy Birthday sweet Nella !!!

  49. Two years ago when my angel Claire was born with DS, a friend told me about your blog. I read your book and cried but was also inspired by your strength and love for Nella. I love your pictures because Nella inspires me too…such a beautiful girl!!! happy birthday beautiful, Nella! And thank you, Kelle, for your help two years ago in your book that touched my heart.

  50. Happy birthday, Nella! May you grow even healthier, happier, full of joy and energy! :-)

  51. Nella is so lucky to have landed in such an amazing family and you Kelle are so lucky to have been there to catch her. You’re all amazingly blessed.

  52. Cindy Cole says:

    She is beautiful inside and out…I’ve watched her grow since she was about 6 months old and it has been a lovely journey. Happy 6th Birthday Miss Nella! You make me smile. Miss Cindy

  53. They just grow up too fast. Way too fast.

    Happy birthday, Nella.

  54. I just randomly found your book today at a store and even though I a haven’t purchased or read a book in what seems like a thousands years, I bought yours. As I was reading it, it brought back so many memories for me. My daughter, just like yours was born in January of 2010, and just like you I was struck with the level of grief I haven’t experienced before. Even though the medical conditions your and my daughter have are completely different, the experience is very similar.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story Kelle!
    Happy Birthday Nella!

  55. Stacy Huelsman says:

    Happy Birthday to Sweet Nella!

  56. Happy 6th Birthday Nella! I hope you have a great day!!!!

  57. I love the way you have shared Nella’s story so transparently the past six years, all of it. I have shared with you before that while pregnant with our Rachel I had stumbled across you post sharing Nella’s birth story and I wanted to turn away, but felt like God was telling me to take it all in. Little did I know God was preparing me for my own out of body moment 9 months after yours and your honesty helped me in those lonly quiet moments when it was just Ray and I in the NICU facing THE WORDS. Nella is beutiful and I love watching her grow, we add our birthday wishes to the many others she will get this day!! God Bless!

  58. Wow! 6!

    This means I’ve been reading your words for six years too!

    Happy Birthday sweet girl and a special birthday squeeze for the mama too!

  59. Christine says:

    Happy Birthday Nella!!

    Kelle, thank you for sharing your life here – I know you were one of the first life rafts I found with my prenatal diagnosis – thank you!!

  60. Beautiful!!! Happy, happy 6th Birthday sweet Nella! My life in enriched because of you and your family.

  61. these pictures made me sob like a baby (I’m a little behind with your blog and trying to catch up). she’s amazing. and you’re amazing at celebrating her (and life in general)! thank you for sharing. always.

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