Friday, August 30, 2013

Five on Friday

I haven't linked up with Five on Friday in a few weeks.
But here I am on a late Friday night joining the party!

In true Jennifer Bell form,
Fashionably Late.

One. Baker's One Year Pictures

I don't think I have shared these on the blog yet. I posted the preview for Baker's Newborn and Six Month Pictures by Amber's Photography, and these were just as wonderful.

This one may be one of my favorites.
So real life.


Two. Pic Tap Go

I'm obsessed with picture editing on my phone. I have recently downloaded this fabulous app that lets me pretend I am a photographer extraordinaire. I still have no photo editing software on my computer, but I am looking to remedy this problem like yesterday. Since May 2012 (Little Man's birth month), I am obviously in a race with myself to see if I can take more pictures than I did the previous month.
If you have a favorite photoshop, I would love to hear your recommendation.
Mission accomplished.

Three. Advocare

I have taken the plunge and purchased the Advocare 24 Day Challenge.
If you want to join me, I'd love someone to hold me accountable. I've heard numerous success stories and am excited about writing mine. I am most looking forward to the promise of increased energy. For whatever reason, surely not my rambunctious toddler, mine is zapped - bring on the Spark!

Four. It's Football Friday

Baker and I dressed in our Bama gear as we headed off to school today! I am so excited about the promise of Fall, Saturdays on the Quad, and wonderful tailgating recipes. Stephanie at Plain Chicken has the very best recipes for football season - dips, and sandwiches, and sweets galore.

My personal favorites:
You're welcome.
Five. Looking Back

I met my Brian Bell at the first football game of our freshman year at Bama. September 6, 2003.
Ten years ago this week.
He's always been the one.
The one that makes camo look good (and believe you me, he models it A LOT),
The one that makes me the best me,
The one I look forward to coming home to each day,
The one that leads our family in the Lord,
The one that makes anniversaries, and holidays, and random days the most special,
The one my soul loves,
The one I love to cheer on the Tide with, and parent Baker with, and cook dinners with, and enjoy Friday movie night with, and pray with, and do life with.
The one.
The only.
My one and only.

I love this man.

It's the Weekend!
Even better, it's Alabama Football Weekend and Labor Day Weekend!

Yippee skippy, friends!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Baker goes to the Dentist

I have this "Proactive Parents of Children with Down Syndrome" list
that I have compiled through reading, conversations, and personal knowledge.
Except for it's not nearly as fancy as it sounds.
It's pencilled notes jotted down in my spiffy Crystal Faye planner to remind me of things that are now a part of our everyday, just like trips to Target, writing thank you notes, and putting on deodorant (except for most days I can do that without a reminder).
The list includes annual visits to an audiologist and otolaryngologist, opthamologist, cardiologist, dentist, therapy evaluations, blood work, cue Charlie Brown voice here, wonk, wonk, wonk, and on it goes.
Today, we checked another off, but not before reading
The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist.
I don't know if Baker is going to love or hate having a Teacher Mom.
Corny, cheesy, book loving, song singing, Teacher Mom.
Product Details
 Baker with his new dentist, Dr. Turnipseed.
We had heard of him and his greatness,
but today we experienced it firsthand.
He was patient, and comforting, and my clingy-to-Mama little Baker Boy reached for him. And in his lap is where he completed the rest of the visit. 
Dr. Stan was very optimistic about Baker's oral development,
stating he was lagging only a few months behind,
encouraging us to eliminate feedings after teeth brushing,
and to come see him again in a year.
Baker blew kisses and waved goodbye to every single person in the office.
Baker, in his little bitty bundle of squishiness, spreads big joy.
I am honored to be a part of it.
And again, my worries were silenced and prayers were answered.
We got home and there were still hours of sunshine and lower than typical temperatures, so we took the party outside.
Baker played in his Cozy Coupe, and we had a picnic supper on the porch.

Then, in true Bama fashion, he took a bath right there in the backyard, in front of God and everybody.
That's how we do it in Dixie, y'all!

And tonight, we sang,
"This is the way we brush our teeth,
brush our teeth,
brush our teeth.
This is the way we brush our teeth,
before we go to sleep."
Teacher Mom strikes again.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Trading for Transparency - An answered prayer

This is for me.
This is for you.
For those of us who are waiting for a very desperate prayer to be answered.
But sometimes in the waiting, feel like God has forsaken us.
He has so many children, uttering so many prayers, praises.
Pleas for Him to intercede.
Groans for Him to be near.
Be encouraged friend,
He knows me,
He knows you.
He answers prayers.
Last year, on November 28, I wrote this post.
Choosing transparency and honesty about our struggles instead of feeling the need to consistently portray a sunny smile.
And in doing so, creating barriers, warding off encouragement, sending signals that all was well and we didn't have a need or worry in the world.
If you haven't read it, I would love to share it with you.
I finally let my guard down, choosing transparency,
and shared some very real needs with a friend.
She prayed with me, comforted me, loved me.
At the close of the post, I implored readers to find someone to confide in.
Someone with whom they could share their burdens.
I know the peace and rest that comes with sharing, but I also know the boldness it takes.
In response to my post, I received an email.
It is the only email I have received that has sent me straight to me knees.
You can read it here.
A sweet reader shared her heart that had been broken with the loss of her little girl with Down Syndrome.
Today, almost 9 months later, we still talk frequently.
Here is her latest email (names omitted to protect privacy).
Hi Jennifer,
Things are GREAT! We are growing beautifully! I am currently 27 weeks this Friday and start my 2 week check ups the first week of September. At our last visit she weighed in at around 1.2 pounds.
Words can't express how thankful I am for the continued support and prayer I know you've had for me. Life can really catch up with us and the business is overwhelming at times. And as I'm typing this, I am reading our last email. You didn't know boy or girl, but as you can see in the above sentence....IT'S A GIRL!
I still keep up with your blog often, and cannot believe how big Baker has gotten! He is adorable on every level imaginable and I know a true blessing to you.
Aside from having to endure the 3 hour glucose screen since my first was abnormal, I've had a smooth pregnancy. Aside from the slight pains and discomfort with a growing belly...I have no complaints at all...just thankfulness!
Thank you for checking in on me, and remembering us through this special time in our lives. You and your family hold a special place in my heart.
With love,
Faithful Blog Reader
Be encouraged.
You are His.

He is real.
He is faithful.
His timing is better.
His ways are greater.
His thoughts are higher.
"He knows my name,
He knows my every thought,
He sees each tear that falls,
and hears me when I call."
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
Matthew 10:29-31

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A barnyard birthday party and a playdate

We made it through our first full week of school and work.
Yippee skippy!
It was a wonderful week, but I am so, so, glad it's the weekend!
I love the weekends anytime, but I cherish them even more during the school year.
We were invited to a birthday party for Baker's friends,
Elijah and Reagen at The Barnyard.
 I donned Baker in his Carhartt overalls, threw one of his DD's red bandannas in his pocket, and off we went!
I had seen other people's pictures and heard plenty about this fabulous petting zoo,
but we had never visited.
I'm so glad we finally had the chance!
They have fish to feed, a boat to take  out on the water, llamas, goats, calves, horses, ponies, donkeys, pigs to bottle feed, chickens and bunnies to pet.
A child's paradise!
I was honestly a little unsure of how Baker would respond to it all.
Why I keep worrying about such petty things is beyond me.
He loved it!
The calf was moo-ing beside him, so Baker moo-ed back.
So precious!

Baker kept looking at these animals and back at me with the funniest expression.
I can only imagine he was saying,
"God sure did make those things silly looking,
and don't even get me started on how they talk."

At some point, one of Baker's overall straps came undone.
It was hot.
We were at a petting zoo in the middle of nowhere.
I had sweat dripping in places a lady like myself should not have sweat dripping.
In the words of Honey Boo Boo, "You better redneckonize."
There were things more important than an overall strap.  
And he looked pretty cute, if I do say so myself.
Redneck it up, baby boy.

I love this!
And to think I almost didn't put him on the pony because I didn't think he'd like it.
Thank you, Laura for encouraging me to "just try" and for this picture I will love forever!

The birthday kiddos!
Happy Birthday, Eli and Reagen!

And the party, we came home and crashed.
After our first week back, we were zonked!
Then we got ready for our playdate with Kristen and Dawson.
I had been looking forward to this all week!
And when Kristen suggested staying at home to play, I was giddy!
I love going, going, but being at home with friends was just right.
No bags to pack, or traffic to fight.
And air conditioning.
Enough said.
Goldfish were shared, songs were sung, days of the week were recited,
the entire cast of Thomas, Chuggington, and Cars were introduced,
memories were made, tight squeezes were shared, laughter filled the room.
I caught myself several times taking a deep breath, smiling a goofy smile, and offering a silent thank you for the blessing of these boys and for the precious friendship Kristen and I share.
 One more weekend day.
And somehow, as good as today was, I know tomorrow will be better.
As much as I love Saturdays, I LOVE Sundays!
"Better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

You is kind, you is smart, you is important

One of the famous, and my personal favorite,
lines in The Help does not occur in a single scene,
but presents itself throughout the movie.
I love hearing Aibileen instill self worth in Mae Mobley
again and again through the familiar,
"You is kind, you is smart, you is important."
This is what I want my baby boy to grow up hearing,
because this is what I want him to believe.
This is what I want him to know.
Have you seen the horrific letter written to the parents of the child with autism that has gone viral this week?
I can't post it here.
In fact, I haven't even made it through the entire letter.
About 15 words in, I had to stop.
I just can't stomach it. 
It physically hurts me to know that is what is waiting in the world.
If you want to read it, you can see it here.
Or, if your heart is especially tender like mine, don't read it.
One day, Baker will look into the mirror
(and not just kiss it and giggle because he sees a darling baby boy),
but he will really look into it and see himself.
I want him to see a person who is capable, who is believed in, who is supported, who is loved, who is respected.
I want him to see a boy who can dream any dream, wish any wish.
I want him to see his abilities, never his disability.
I want Baker to grow up hearing, "You is kind, you is smart, you is important."
While the world assigns different names to individuals with special needs,
words that are hurtful, words that are derogatory, words that contradict self worth,
I want Baker to hear the words of my mouth, the words my actions speak in volumes, and the words I speak through my heart. I want those words to tell him over and over and over you is kind, you is smart, you is important.

Baby Boy, you is kind, you is smart, you is important.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rise-ing to the Occasion - Baker's First Day

In this post, I shared our leap of faith.
Our decision to quit our jobs, sell our house,
and move to Tuscaloosa in hopes that Baker
would be accepted to The Johnny Stallings Center,
a world famous preschool designed to meet the needs of all students.

God was faithful.
And today, that prayer, those many prayers, were answered in a mighty way.

It's a pretty neat feeling to know that you are living out an answered prayer.
And that is kind of how I walked through today.
Knowing our actions today had been perfectly orchestrated by the works of our Father.

The bags were packed on the night before with care,
in hopes that tardiness, today, would be spared.

Inordinate amounts of coffee were consumed this morning.
By yours truly, not Baker.
Although he thinks he is big stuff drinking mommy's coffee.

And after bathing, breakfasting, and doing all of the things we do before finally making it to the car,
we were off.
We sang and prayed all the way there, so very excited today was the day!

Honestly, I was a wee bit terrified.
Baker does not like to leave his mommy.
And, quite truthfully, I'm not too terribly fond of the idea of leaving him either.

I warned the teachers that there might be a throw down.
Baker has been known to pitch quite the fit during departures.
I cautioned the teachers that they would have to pry him off of me and then pick me up off the floor, dry my tears, and usher me outside.
Well, as I predicted, there were tears.
But not a single one shed from Baker.

In the words of my most handsome husband, "Darlin, this ain't their first rodeo."
They had bubble machines and toys galore.
They even had a bus that sings, get this, "Wheels on the Bus."
Yep, definitely not their first rodeo. 

It really wasn't even a fair fight.
He was giddy.
And even though I was snubbed, I was elated to see him so comfortable in his new environment.

Before too long, he was handing me my keys and wishing me a good day.

And it was.
A really good day.

Baker has vocabulary words, and signs to practice at home this week.

We celebrated a wonderful first day with a quick dinner date to Iguana Grill.

Baker was different tonight.
A really good different.
A little more independent.
A little more assertive.
A little more confident.
A little more verbal.
A little more playful.

And as I type these words, I cannot help but get emotional.
Not in a bad way.
In the best way.

I want to go back and talk to the me of May 13, 2012, 
two days after Baker was born.
And tell her God is truly faithful. 
That all of this would be okay.
That God would hold our hands and guide our hearts, our steps, our actions. 
That there would be more celebration than heartache.
That there would be more laughter than tears.
That Baker Bell is a gift in every sense of the word and our lives are better because he is in them.
I'd love for her to see one of these pictures from today.
But I guess that's what faith is - trusting that God sees the future, and has a perfect plan, even we cannot.

You can visit the RISE website here
It is really an incredible place. 
I have a friend who says that she thinks the pearly gates will likely resemble that of the RISE School. 
I cannot say I much disagree.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An end and a beginning

Endings are difficult, but they allow for new beginnings.
And with those, come beautiful opportunities.

High school ends, college begins.
The rain shower ends, a rainbow begins.
An earthly life ends, a heavenly life begins.
Nine months of pregnancy ends, and life with a baby begins.
A summer ends, a school year begins.

Endings are difficult, but they allow for new beginnings.

For us, this is the week!
I return to work for my first full week and Baker begins his first year at RISE on Tuesday.
The ending of a perfect summer, the beginning of a fresh start, a new opportunity.
I have gotten to play Stay at Home Mom since June 26, and it has been glo-ri-ous!
I have worried all summer about what's to come this week,
but today I have a peace.
That we'll make it.
That God's faithfulness allowed for this move to Tuscaloosa for Baker to go to RISE and for me to return to work doing what I love.
And how thankful I am for peace so sweet.

I will miss being home with Baker throughout the day.
I have loved rocking him for naps,
and sharing picnic lunches by the river with Brian,
and playing outside,
and splashing in the water,
and doing things so terribly ordinary that I will terribly miss in an extraordinary way.
We have had the most incredible summer together.
It has been busy, and full of transitions.
But I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
I will really, really miss it.

If you think about us throughout the week, please offer a prayer for both Baker and me.

Here are three specific prayer requests:
1. Please pray that Baker settles in to RISE comfortably - that he becomes acclimated to the culture, the schedule, his teachers, and his classmates.
2. Please pray that Baker thrives in this new environment - that the therapists develop a plan to meet his developmental needs.
3. Please pray that the Lord gives me eyes and ears to see and hear personal and professional needs. Please pray that He opens doors to form relationships with my teachers, students, and their parents. Please pray that I take advantage of opportunities to provide others with His love.

I covet your prayers and your encouragement.

An end and a beginning.
A time for hopes, wishes, and dreams for the future.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Five on Friday

I am excited to link up with the lovely ladies of Five on Friday today.
You should read through the posts - they are fabulous-o!


I began the blogging journey in July 2012, shortly after Baker was born.
Cliche right?
A mom blogging about her journey in raising a baby with Down Syndrome.
Some might think.
I didn't feel like it was a cliche. 
Or something I had to do.
Rather, I felt like God had given me a platform.
To share our story.
Our God given blessing with others.
To live this life, this journey for His glory.
Maybe, through writing, He would be magnified.
Someone would be encouraged.
A mother facing a Down Syndrome diagnosis would choose life for her child.
So here I am.
Doing my thing.
Being a believer, a wife and a mommy.
I am reflecting on our journey by reading previous posts from this past year.
Reading the highs and lows.
The struggles and the joys.
The celebrations and setbacks.
The laughter and tears.
The faith and hope.
It has been a good year.
No, it hasn't.
It has been a great year.
As hard as it was, I have chosen my five favorite entries over the past four hundredish days.
I think it's only appropriate to start with Baker's Birth Story.
With his birth, my dreams of becoming a mommy came true. With him in my arms, breathing his scent, kissing his face, feeling his warmth, my heart grew. God's faithfulness was affirmed.
I was a mommy. I had a baby. My little Baker Bell.
Little did I know, but from this day forward, I would be forever changed.
I couldn't help but cry as I reread this. It brought back the raw emotions of his diagnosis. The fears. The tears. The worry. But it also brought back the joy of seeing his strength and determination. And the pride in walking in the NICU, seeing my name on him, and his all over me.
On the 11th day of May, I first held my dream come true.
The second is Perfect Day. It shows pictures of our first Buddy Walk supporting National Down Syndrome Society and Parent Advocates of Down Syndrome. It was absolutely a perfect day. One in which we felt so much love and support in this journey.

We set a modest goal - to raise eight hundred dollars and to take a team of 50 walkers to support our family. Our precious family, friends, and complete strangers sent donations, ordered t-shirts, and drove church vans to surround our family at this wonderful event. We far surpassed our goal, taking over 80 walkers to win the Spirit Award and raising over $3000!
Be on the lookout for information for this year's Buddy Walk. I hope you'll make plans to join us and support our team!
Go Team Baker!
A Day in the Life. I started doing Day in the Life posts occasionally just to document ordinary days that, to me, were extraordinary because they were ours. And I wanted to remember them forever.

This is one of my favorite Day in the Life posts. I think partly because it's a normal day for us - work, school, therapy, fun, love - memory making at it's finest.

No summary needed. Just read it.
For the fifth, here are some others that share landmarks on our trip. It's been a good trip. There's no map. We don't know the final destination for Baker. But we are trusting God with our path. Trusting that He will lead us and guide us. Road trips are the most fun - especially ones with unexpected twists and turns.
Waves - Such raw emotion.
Baby Giggles - Baker has always had such a great laugh. And a little "Baby Got Back."
Toes in the Sand - Our first beach trip featuring a mighty precious beach bum.
Peace, Love, and Green Beans - The faces. They're priceless.
A Word that should be a Word no More - Stop using the R word. For Baker. For me. I implore you.
As Long As - Never again, will I say, "It doesn't matter, as long as they're healthy." Because, I'll love them anyway.
His Letter - in response to an ESPN video featuring Heath and Jennifer White, and their precious little girl, Paisley.
Jesus Calling - Worry, Worry, Worry - I am always worrying about this or that with Baker. And it is exhausting.
First Day Jitters - New school, new teachers, new beginnings.
World Down Syndrome Day - I celebrate you.
Rainbows, Restoration, and Answered Prayers - A break from social media is good for the soul.
Rise-ing to the Occasion - Moving for Baker - because that's what parents do. They love big, they make decisions with their children in mind. They pray for, they hope for, the wish for - they do.
A Final Walk - For teachers here, there and everywhere.

I'd love to hear which ones you have enjoyed.
Ones that made you laugh?
Ones that provided inspiration? 
Ones that showcased pictures of a handsome Baker Bell?
Is it one of these five?
Or another?
I have loved sharing this journey with you!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A reunion, a failed test, and a fifteen month old

I celebrated my ten year high school reunion this weekend.
I feel like it was just yesterday that I was walking the halls of Hillcrest High School, building homecoming floats, dressing in ridiculous garb for Friday pep rallies.
I loved high school and I loved getting to visit with everyone and hear about where the past ten years had taken them.
I especially love these girls.
Best friends in 2003.
Best friends in 2013.
So thankful for friendship!

And even more grateful to carry this hunka hunka on my arm!

And while the hubs and I were reunioning, the grands took Baker for his
first Dreamland experience.
Rumor has it, he cleaned the bone.
That face, y'all.
Killing me.

I had to get a TB test to start work again.
I took one about seven years ago, and had a crazy bad reaction and had to get a chest x-ray to confirm that I did not, in fact, have tuberculosis.
Well, silly nurses stuck me again instead of proceeding with an x-ray.
My arm looks like I lost a fight with a black widow.
And again, I got a chest x-ray.
I smiled real pretty and got the "all clear" to start work as an Instructional Coach in a local school district on Tuesday.
I cannot tell you how badly it kills the perfectionist in me to fail a test.
Somehow, I blinked and I have a fifteen month old.
I'm not sure how it is even possible.
The down and dirty of  Mister William Baker Bell.
 24.3 pounds
31.5 inches
So crazy - Baker can wear 12 month to 3T. It just depends on the brand and the cut.
Size 5, although shoes have only graced his yummy tootsies a handful of times. That is fixing to change; starting next week he'll have to wear them everyday.
 Level 4. And with the move to T-town, we've discovered Target diapers.
Hello, Fabulous!
Things he loves
His mama and daddy the most, Silk, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, swimming, Harley, bathtime, reading, sweet summertime, singing, climbing all over on top of everything and giving me early wrinkles (Boys. Sheesh), on the mouth, open mouth kisses, but only for the lucky few.
Favorite Books
Baby Bunny, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Favorite Song
"If You're Happy and You Know It," "Mommy Loves her Baker," "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," "The Wheels on the Bus"
Baker Boy, Baker Man, Bake, Bake Bake, Shuga Baby, Drool Bucket, Mr. Personality, Booger Bear. I knew they were bad, but seeing the names in black and white.
I need to stop.  
Oh my sweet Baker,
Fifteen short months ago, my whole world changed when I first held you in my arms, kissed your angel soft skin, and for the first time, felt my heart beat outside of my own body.
I love you so much. I love your smile. I love your grit. I love your own little language - Bakerese. I love your sweet spirit. I love your knee dimples. I love your kisses. I love the way you sign "please" when I finish doing something just so we can do it one more time. I love that you break stereotypes. I love your stubborn streak. I love your company - in the car, at the grocery store, anywhere. I love being near you. I love the way you nestle into my shoulder when we rock. I love your "tight squeeze." I love your army crawl. I love your fearlessness. I love your bravery. I love your love. I love you.
Baby Boy, there is not one thing I would change. You are everything I ever imagined you would be, and then some. Being your mommy is one of my life's greatest gifts. Today, yesterday, tomorrow, I love you big.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Living the Life

I am living the life.
And enjoying every single minute.
Okay, most minutes are less than glamorous,
and my toddler is pitching more fits than I would like to admit,
and there is often food thrown,
and there are moments when I lose my patience much more quickly than I swore I ever would, but in the fit pitching, patience losing, food throwing moments, it's still a dream come true.
It really is.
As I was getting ready to put a sleeping Baker in his bed tonight, I paused at the edge of his crib and snuggled him one last time,
thanking the Lord for this precious gift who is too wonderful for words.
I even thanked Him for the fit pitching and food throwing and patience losing.
And then, I even thanked Him for the time I would wake up with my baby boy tonight for a small sip of milk, just to hear me sing one more chorus of "Mommy Loves Her Baker."
Because each of these minutes, the minutes of failure and the minutes of successes, are evidences of God's faithfulness.
Evidences that God answered my prayer of becoming a mommy.
Today was wonderful.
A day living the life.
I have to go back to work next week, so we are in full on savor summer mode.
Baker and I played too much.
His new favorite thing is to climb into the rocking chair and
rock-a-bye the baby.
Loved on, and were loved on by special friends.
And channeled Baker's inner Elvis for an afternoon outside with our favorite pup dog.
With my camera,
I capture the smiles.
And memories made with sweet friends.
And crazy hair.
Because that is what I want to remember.
But I also want to remember the less than perfect moments.
The poop in the bathtub (Baker's not mine),
the Ritz crackers littering my car that could most certainly feed a small child for a month,
the bumps and bruises that accompany my strong-willed child trying his darnedest to walk,
the red-faced, grunting, fists balled fits that comes when Baker doesn't get what he wants the exact second he wants it.
The real life.
Because this real life is my life.
And I really, really love it.