Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Date Your Spouse

A few days ago, Brian and I took advantage of a rare opportunity to take a day date.
What a perfect day!
We got to drop the boys off at school.
Such a little joy with such a big impact.
We drove over to one of our town's newest additions, Fresh Market.
I was in food heaven.
We ordered specialty coffee and planned meals for the next thousand meals.

Before we left, we made fresh peanut butter.

And then went to get bagels upon which to slather.
And then we needed more coffee.
If you give a mouse a cookie, my people; he's bound to ask for more milk!
I've added a peanut butter maker to my Christmas list.
Holy moly.
It's amazeballs.
Yes, Jennifer Bell just said amazeballs.
Go try it.
You will too.

Don't waste your time on dry roasted.
Go honey roasted every single time.
Every single time.

After eating all the things at Fresh Market, we moseyed over to Target.
Because even though you're on a date, sometimes the kids need diapers.
And $25 off $100 is just too good for this crew to miss.

DePalma's was calling our name.

It's a rare day to sit across from my groom at lunch.
What a treat.
The Greek salad and Chicken Pesto Panini were pretty good too.

We decided to end our day with a movie, but had some time to kill.
We drove around town, holding hands across the console.
Without kids to pacify and "Wheels on the Bus" to sing, we talked about everything.
We talked about nothing.
I basked in the goodness of that man I am so fortunate to call mine.

All too often, I give my boys my all.
I do the laundry and the dishes.
I make the bed and pack lunches.
 I prepare supper and piece together puzzles.
I dig in the sandbox.
I dry diapers and tears.
And I love every single minute.

On this day, he had all of my attention. All of my energy.
As it should be.
He was the first boy I loved.
And he'll be the one around after my other boys are grown and gone.

We finished the day with a movie
(Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro are positively brilliant in The Intern)
and I fell all over again in love with that man of mine.

Day dates, night dates, coffee dates, movie dates,
Special occasion dates, just because dates,
Regardless of the reason, or the occasion, or the time of day,
date your spouse.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Buddy Walk 2015

I first learned about Buddy Walks the summer Baker was born.
How sad, that for twenty-seven years, I didn't know such a wonderful event even existed.
I count it all joy to be able to participate and walk alongside my one and only Baker Boy!
Baker and Barrett holding hands.
Oh. My. Heart.
Baker entered our world in May, and we entered our first Buddy Walk in October.
Little did I know the big love and support surrounding our little family.
With a few little blog posts and some especially special people, we raised over three thousand dollars and took a team of over 70 people to walk with Team Baker.
It was seriously one of my best days ever.
I felt surrounded.

By family.
By friends.
By faith.
By complete strangers woven together in this beautiful tapestry by a common thread of love, acceptance, and advocacy.

See our Buddy Walk 2012 here.

When my friend Mollie asked if we would join her and Team More Alike than Different for this year's Walk, I couldn't respond quickly enough!


What a privilege to walk with Baker, Kirill, Gracie, Hanna, and Wren at the 2015 Buddy Walk.


Buddy walking with his favorite buddy!

Barrett is sporting his Team Baker shirt;
the same shirt Baker wore at our first Buddy Walk.
Talk about feeling all the feels.

Thumbs up for a perfectly perfect day!

Monday, September 21, 2015

I Never Knew I Wanted a Child with Down Syndrome Until I Had One

I had a dream this past week that Baker woke up without Down Syndrome.
Like his extra chromosome was absorbed into his plush minky sheets.
Or as if the sandman had carted it off in his knapsack and tucked it beside the lavender he used for lulling.
It was gone.
His beautiful eyes still boasted their autumn pools, but lacked the almond slant that never fails to draw me in and captivate my whole being.
His tongue remained tucked obediently inside his cheek, not once lagging like it does on occasion, especially when he is focusing so intently.
His hands hung by his side not in front of his face for signing, as words bounded from his lips articulate and coherent and utterly foreign.
As I reached in to hug him, his body did not collapse into mine, as is my very favorite thing about Baker - the way his low muscle tone makes him puddle into my eager embrace.
He was stiff.
His steps did not waiver, not once did his balance falter. He was sure footed and walked with a stability his little body has never known.
In that instant, he became a typical child.
Gone were the thoughts of IEPs.
Therapies were tossed into oblivion. 
His struggles became successes. 
The specialists on speed dial were no more.
I sat abruptly in bed. Tears streaming. Faint whimpers escaped my lips.
I navigated through the dark room and padded the familiar steps to Baker's bed.
I picked him up and felt his warm body fold sleepily into mine.
It was just a dream.
He was still the same Baker Boy I had read Let me Hold You Longer, while his little body relaxed and his eyes grew heavy.
He was still the same Baker Boy I had rocked and sang "This Little Light of Mine," and to seal the deal, "You are My Sunshine" only hours earlier. 
Nothing had changed.
Everything had changed.
I don't know who said it originally, but I believe it to the very depths of my being.
I never knew I wanted a child with Down Syndrome until I had one.
No truer words have ever been spoken.
He is loved exactly the way he is.
He is one of our Creator's greatest masterpieces.
He was crafted in love.
He was knit together wonderfully.
He is a joy spreader, a light brightener, a glad giver. 
Being his mother is the greatest blessing.
Watching his life bring glory to our Jesus is an incredible gift.
Just the way you are, sweet Baker, we love you just the way you are.
"For we know that in all things, Christ works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Barrett is Four Months Old!

Hey there my little sack of sugar!



Yesterday, you turned four months old!
You love to be held, and we are happy to oblige. Your little eyes light up when you see your mommy, daddy, and big brother. You are starting to recognize when you leave our arms to be passed to someone else, and you are not always extremely fond of the transition. I think we have a stage 5 clinger on our hands and I don’t totally hate it!

You love sitting up in your Bumbo, being swaddled, splashing in the bathtub, reading books, singing, your Baker Boy, babbling all the day long, lights, being outside, and watching the fan. We’ve even caught you trying to sneak a peek at the television and you are mesmerized!

Little Bear, you want to be a part of everything! You like to sit on the dinner table while we eat, play on the floor of the bathroom while we get ready, and would be perfectly content to spend the entire day in the baby carrier.
We think you're the greatest thing since sliced bread! You are rolling over and over and over, sleeping for 3 ½ hour stretches during the night (yes, this is a milestone at our house…maybe one day I’ll be able to forgive all of your friends who are sleeping through the night), grasping at objects, cooing, and clasping your sweet little hands together. Everything goes into your mouth and you drool like it's your Jay Oh Bee.
You take a bottle during the day at school and nurse at home. Thankfully, you have weathered the transition well. You are entirely too busy to sleep. You survive on little catnaps throughout the school day. Sunday afternoons are a different story! You’ll nap for a 2-3 hour stretch, which is glorious for all in the Bell residence. Hello naptime for Mommy and Daddy!

I think one of my very favorite things about you is how you are already adore your big brother. I never knew my heart could love in such a way. Watching you two together has me feeling all the feels!

It'll be a miracle if you ever learn your name. You are called everything under the sun. Right now, our favorite nicknames for you are Little Bear, Little Brother, LB, Bear Bear (that's what Baker calls you); but the very favorite name we call you is ours.

Little one, we love you so big! Each day with you is a little sweeter than the previous. Our love for you just grows and grows!
 We are so glad God chose you for us!
 Monthly Stats:
Weight: 17 pounds, 8 ounces (87th percentile)
Length: 26.5 inches long (99th percentile)
Size Clothes: 6-9 months
Size Diapers: threes

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Social Media - Why I Share

As I look around the cluttered room, baby swing draped with last night’s swaddle, blocks boasting letters and numbers scattered haphazardly across the floor ready to lay claim to their next night walking victim, a kernel of popcorn from yesterday’s afternoon snack, a sleepy grin emanates across my face. Instead of tidying the day’s mess of memories or resting my sleepier than sleepy eyes, I kick back in our rocker, breathe in the newborn (yes, Barrett is closer to four months than three – but I refuse to acknowledge him as anything older than a newborn) sleeping noisily on my chest, and succumb to the thoughts dancing in my head.

I pick up my laptop and mute the fifty-seventh rerun of Friday Night Lights (Hashtag Texas Forever. Hashtag Clear Eyes Full Hearts Can’t Lose. Hashtag Dillon Panther wannabe.)

Here goes.

My name is Jennifer Bell. I am covered by His grace so abundant and free. I am a thirty year old mother of two deliciously scrumptious little boys. I have been married for eight years to the love of my life (RollTide Romance, anybody?).


If you have read this blog, followed me on Instagram or Twitter, or have been my Facebook friend for any length of time, I haven’t told you anything new.

I am a sharer, but not by default.

I am a sharer, because that is what God has called me to be.

It started here.
With the birth of my first son, Baker, He called me out upon the waters in my walk and in my faith. Baker was born prematurely with Down Syndrome. The Lord took me to a place where I had to rely solely on Him. He didn’t leave me there and let me be. He asked me to share my journey. He called me to be a light for Him to share joy and faith in the uncertainty and in the struggle. In this life, on this journey, there has been a great deal of uncertainty and struggle. There has been grief and sorrow. There has been exhaustion and doubt.

Through the broken, light shines.

At my most broken, the light of my Jesus shines the brightest.

In my feeble attempt at blogging and posting to social media, I hope to point to the cross.

I know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.
Oh, how we love Jesus.

So I share, because I know God is working goodness in our lives for His glory.
So we give Him glory.

Nothing we do is of our own strength.
We are powerless as parents.
We are the most amateur of amateurs.

The Lord gifts some with a beautiful voice, others with an ability to speak life with their words, still others with especially special talents to bring Him glory.

Me, He gave me life.

He answered my prayer of becoming a wife to a godly man who is the hunkiest of hunks.

He made me a momma. He gave me Baker and Barrett for such a time as this.

He gave me a passion for Him and for sharing how He moves.

He gave me this little corner of the Internet to sing His praise.

So that’s what I will do.

Let me be singing when the evening comes.  

 “The sun comes up
It's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes”
10,000 Reasons
Matt Redman


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

'Round the Dinner Table

When my mind drifts back to my childhood, I can’t help but think about the experiences provided for me that I want for my boys.

Evening bike rides illuminated by the setting of the sun.

Puppy dog baths that turned into an outside sudsfest for all.

Sunday mornings spent worshipping.
Sunday afternoons spent breathing it all in – the aroma of lunch wafting through the air, the smell of all things child – sweat, dirt, cookies pilfered before dinner, and the tiniest of hint of baby soap lingering from the previous night’s bubbles, the heavy perfume from the nursery worker who couldn’t resist baby snuggles.
Sunday evenings spent sipping hot chocolate around a campfire as we try to squeeze the last few remnants out of the beloved weekend.

Warm cookies at the end of the school day.

Bedtime prayers and bedtime stories and bedtime giggles that always worked to delay the inevitable bedtime.

Dinners ‘round the table.


No matter the meal, no matter the day, no matter the schedule, our dinners were spent ‘round the table.

My mom was quite the cook; but it’s not the food I remember. I can recall only a few meals; but I can name every person who graced our table over the years.
The people, not the food, made the meal.
Made the memories.

We talked of playground crushes and mastered multiplication facts. We planned adventures. We schemed neighborhood scavenger hunts and slipping notes and sweet treats to our favorite teachers.

We talked about anything.
We talked about nothing.

We talked about everything.

And now, our little family of four does the same. Brian in his seat, me in mine. Baker situated strategically between the two, and Barrett perched happily on the table top. All together.

Dinner is carried to the table, where each serves their plate. Heads are bowed, four eyes are closed (Baker keeps his opened slightly to make sure no one takes his food and Barrett refuses to miss a thing). Prayers are uttered, and a collective amen is whispered.

Sweet tea is poured. Forks are drawn. No morsel is safe.
And then my favorite part, conversation.
The worries of the day are drowned in the chorus of our voices.

It looks slightly different than it looked in my childhood home. Two children instead of three. A table of four instead of a table of five.

It sounds different, too.

The sounds of Barrett cooing and ahhing sprinkle the air and add more flavor to our table than even the tastiest of seasonings.

Baker has begun to contribute to the conversation, adding emphasis and nodding along. Part of Down Syndrome means his speech is delayed and he has to work harder to make his mouth say what his brain thinks. In his own language, Baker tells about his day. My heart swells. In words mostly undiscernible words, he talks.

I can imagine he’s telling us how Harper’s mommy sent cheese puffs while his sent some measly veggie straws. I am convinced he’s reciting the song they sang at music and the instruments he got to play. From the smile on his face and the joy in his voice, I’m quite certain he was the class leader today. I bet he got to peek out the window and give the weather report, lead the days of the week song, and even clean up after play time. He gets uncharacteristically quiet and I imagine he’s reflecting on his day, deciding what detail to divulge next. He nods emphatically, his face growing increasingly more animated. He begins again. His words powdering the room. I listen intently, study his signs, desperate for a clue as to what he’s telling so excitedly. My heart, equally thrilled at how eagerly he communicates and so broken and torn that a barrier as vast as the Great Wall stands between me and my baby boy.

How desperately I long for the day I can understand his every word. The day I can celebrate along when he tells us something good. The day I can heal his hurt when he tells of something gone awry. The day I can praise him for successes at school.

Sitting ‘round the dinner table with Baker, the Lord has taught me many things.

The greatest,
we speak with more than mere words

In all the words, in all my life, I have not been able to say what Baker has said in his.

His mouth, his body, his being, his heart all speak love, joy, strength, and hope.

What a privilege to be Baker’s mother. In every way, it is a blessing to be his mother.

My prayer tonight,

Lord Jesus, give me eyes to see and ears to hear. God, in your infinite power, strengthen Baker's muscles so that the words flow articulately. You are bigger than hypotonia. You are greater than a disability.

I trust your timing; for while we wait, we grow. 

Your plan is perfect.

You are faithful and your promises are true. 

Thank you for making Baker so wonderfully. For forming Him in your image.

I pray that you cover him with grace so abundant for him to lavish freely on us as we learn to communicate with one another in a language of love.

You are not the author of worry. You are not the creator of doubt.

I trust you are using this also for your good. So we wait. We celebrate strides made along the way. We glorify you alone for how you are moving in our son. How you are growing our family to look only to you for wisdom.

Lord Jesus, you are good. Your mercies are new every morning. Thank you the privilege to be a mother. Even more, thank you for the honor of being Baker's mother. I am so unworthy, but eternally grateful you trusted one of your most precious to me.

In your most faithful name I pray.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Barrett is Three Months Old!

Hey There Little Bear,

Today, you are three months old.
I could say how sad I am for today.
How devastated I am that in two short days, someone other than your momma will be rocking you to sleep, feeding you your morning snack, soothing you with their songs, and stealing those sweet smiles you give so freely.
But I won't.
I have known your three month birthday would also coincide with the date you would begin a wonderful school (just a few doors down from your sweet Baker Boy) and I would return to a job I love. 
For the last three months, I have loved you intentionally.
I chose to snuggle you and leave dishes piled in the sink.
We dug socks out of the dryer and pieced outfits together so I could read your favorite books.
We spent our days singing and dancing around the living room,
and I don't regret one minute.
Sweet boy, you are such a joy!
You love us so easily and you are so easy for us to love.
You spend your days playing with Baker and your favorite toys.
You love music and you love people.
You have become so interactive and animated.
You love to take walks outside, and would spend all day on our back porch if we would let you.

I cannot wait to see what this next month with you brings!
I love you so big!
Monthly Stats
Weight: 16 pounds, 10 ounces
Height: 25.5 inches
Diaper Size: twos
Clothes: 3-6 (mostly 6) months




Monday, August 10, 2015

New Adventures - Glasses Wearing and Friends Fellowshipping

Last week, Baker and I moseyed up to Birmingham for a day of doctors.
The boys' BeBe stayed home with Barrett, so it was a day full of memories to be made for just me and my big boy!

And just when I thought my Baker Boy couldn't get any cuter, this happened.

I'll share more on our new adventure in glasses wearing in a few lines.
We stopped at Urban Cookhouse to meet some dear friends for lunch.
Praise all things good and holy for a kid-friendly place that doesn't make moms lose their religion.
Hashtag playplaces give me the willies.
Sally was one of the first to reach out to me after Baker was born. Her adorable boy, Walker, was born just two months before Baker and I have loved her (and her more precious than precious little boy) from the start of this joy-filled journey.
Baker and Walker acted like lifelong friends.
At some points, Sally and I attempted adult conversation.
IEPs. Fears. Dreams. Development. Therapists. School.
All were topics worthy of our words. 
Other times, our language was lulled and our speech was silenced by the mesmerizing sight of these
two boys.
Our boys.
Our hearts.
The ones we pray for and cry over.
Wish wishes and dream dreams.
They were doing it, right there in our midst.
Living out answered prayers.
 When Baker plays with typical children, there is a certain expectation.
Expectations involving play, language, personal space, among others.
I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago called The Talk that The Mighty published and the National Down Syndrome Network featured.
You can read it here
With Baker and Walker, there were no expectations.
There was just acceptance.
Whole hearted, unabbreviated, need nothing in return, acceptance.
There was little verbal talk, except in a language all their own,
a lot of laughs from two silly boys,
an equal love for macaroni and cheese,
and more hugs than can be squeezed into one day.
Could it be that these two big boys were once these two water-loving little babies?
Time, you are a cruel and wonderful thing.
After a scrumptious lunch date and promises to fellowship again soon,
 we headed to Baker's ophthalmologist.
What a gem of a woman and an answer to this worrying mama's prayers.
He has been seen since shortly after his first birthday for farsightedness and astigmatism;
however, nothing was serious enough to warrant glasses or corrective surgery.
We knew there was a strong possibility glasses were in our near future, and
a school eye exam earlier in the year hinted that his eye sight was worsening.
We went through all of the steps.
Dilating and drops and lights and lenses.
And lots of stickers and attaboys.
So. Many. Choices.

In the end, we walked away with a prescription for some suave spectacles,
and a little dude feeling more dapper than ever.
 Doing life with this sweet boy is my favorite way to do life.
You might also like:
Heart Burst - July 2013

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Giving Children a Choice (even when it's not the choice you'd choose)

Some things are non-negotiable.
There is no bargaining or bribery allowed.
You eat what's on the table.
You do not run out in the street.
You don't hit or pick up Little Bear
(Barrett is Baker's new baby brother, known around here as Little Bear, and Baker thinks every grunt or whimper is an excuse to hold him. Wrong my sweet child. Very, very no.).
But for all the others, we give a choice.
This shirt, or that shirt?
Mickey Mouse or Curious George?
Love You Forever for the millionth time or this wonderfully exciting new book?
A bath or a shower?
Swing or slide?
Oreo or Chocolate Chip?
Five minutes on the iPad or five minutes on mommy's phone?
Make your bed first or brush your teeth first?
A little trim or a funky new 'do?
After a few minutes browsing together on Pinterest, Baker made his choice.
It may not have been what I would have chosen.
How was I to know that a few minutes in the salon chair and a few snips from Mrs. Brittney's sharpest would age my toddler years and years?

With every mirror we passed, he checked his hair
(or begged to be lifted to check it out once again),
and gave this adorable little wink at himself.
Every morning, he waits for the routine to sit on the counter and helps me style it just right.
He is so proud of his new look.
He is so very proud of his choice.
And I'm pretty smitten with this handsome boy of mine who is growing in confidence with every choice he makes.

Well, almost every choice.
I have to pull the Mom card on some choices!

Controlled choices for children is key.
This one or that one.
Or which of these three?
Or which one first - knowing all the while every single tooth will be brushed
and every blasted truck tucked into the toy garage.
Even I am overwhelmed on the paint aisle at Lowes.
Forty-seven different variations of gray?
No thank you.
And don't even get me started on those Coke Freestyle machines.
Making choices is empowering.
It is confidence building.
Independence instilling.
It's toughest on mamas, when our children don't need us for everything.
But is so worth it when they proudly make a good choice,
or learn a lesson from a less than desirable one.
White eyeliner or butterfly clips, anyone?
What choices do you give your children, and at what age?
How have they responded?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Brown Sugar Kale Chips (a post about cooking with children and a tasty recipe)

One of my favorite things to do with my big boy while Little Brother is asleep is to play in the kitchen.

Baker is wild and active.
He embraces all things three.
And he embraces all things boy.
We can be found on any given day making and baking and stirring things up in the kitchen!
Involving children in the kitchen is mutually beneficial. You get an extra set of hands, and your child learns the importance of proper nutrition, how to follow directions, measure, listen to instructions, tell time, and to increase their fine motor skills, among so many others.
Baker's favorite things to whip up are pancakes, brownies, and banana faux fro-yo.
My all boy boy prefers anything that requires the use of a mixer, blender, or food processor.
He loves power, and machines (errr, small appliances), and noise!
More recently, we've expanded our menu to include foods for all times of the day.
Baker has a slight aversion to things with different textures (as do many children with Down Syndrome), but we continue to encourage him to try new things.
He is a great eater and rarely refuses any food.
His newest love, brown sugar kale chips.
Three year olds who request kale chips, who knew??
Here's what you need to make our favorite afternoon snack:
  • 4 cups fresh kale
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 cup of loosely packed light brown sugar
To make, combine first three ingredients in a large mixing bowl or plastic bag. Toss or shake lightly to ensure all leaves are coated with olive oil and garlic salt.
In our kitchen, we alternate between a zip-close gallon size plastic bag and a mixing bowl with tongs. Both promote the use of fine motor skills, which is especially important for Baker. He loves sliding the zipper to open and close the bag and shaking it all around. He also benefits greatly from manipulating tongs. Especially during the summer, when his therapies decrease, we try to make our time together meaningful - both fun and intentional. 
Here's how to cook:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Arrange kale chips in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet
  • Cook for 12-15 minutes (or until the edges begin to brown slightly)
  • Remove from oven and sprinkle with brown sugar
The sugar will melt and adhere to the chips giving them a wonderfully delicious flavor that appeals to both your salty and sweet cravings.
PS - they're healthy
PPS - and totally toddler approved

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Barrett's Birth Announcement

We have mad love around here for Tiny Prints.
They did Baker's birth announcement a few years ago and have done our
family's Christmas cards for several years.
Their templates are beautiful, and often allow for customization (which I love big time)!
I (very temporarily) considered not mailing birth announcements.
I know, all the gasps!
With social media, email, texts, and our family's blog,
 Barrett's picture was sent out within hours of his birth.
But even with technology being so readily available, I couldn't resist.
Consider me old fashioned, but I am partial to snail mail.
One of my favorite things to do is sit down with my favorite pens,
a fresh book of stamps, my beloved address book,
personalized stationery (or in this case, paper boasting the most beautiful pictures),
 a piping hot cup of coffee, and carefully script letters for my nearest and dearest.

Each announcement was pored over.
Prayed over.
I took great pleasure in addressing each envelope.
As I dotted i's and crossed t's, I considered each family and the role they have played in ours.
How grateful I am for this village.

I love the idea, that this week, across the street and across the states,
people are opening their mailboxes to our sweet boys' faces,
thinking prayerful thoughts for our family
and wishing us the sweetest wishes as a new family of four.



Yes, I quite love this.

And just for kicks, Baker's birth announcement, mailed out exactly 3 years ago today.

You might also like:
2012 Christmas Cards

ps - Zulily is featuring Tiny Prints for the next five days - $20 for $40 or $30 for $60 worth of fabulous goodies! See here

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Talk (not that talk, the special needs talk)

This summer is the first summer Baker has been three.

(Photo creds: Katie Thompson Photograpy)

Silliest of statements, I know.
Of course this summer is the first summer Baker has been three.
Hear me out.

Three year olds get to play with the big kids.
Three year olds are no longer considered babies and given the grace babies are given.

Babies are allowed to sit quietly.
Babies are allowed to keep to themselves.
Babies are allowed to play in their own safe area.

There are no expectations surrounding play with babies,
except that babies will be babies.
Babies do what babies do.

Last summer, and the summer before, and the summer before that, Baker was a baby.

This summer is the first summer Baker has been three.
This summer is the first summer Baker has gotten to play with the big kids.
This summer is the first summer Baker's play has been laden with expectations of looking and sounding a certain way.
This summer is the first summer Baker has been noticed as different.

Before, Baker could sit on the sidelines.
Before, Baker could bounce on my lap and giggle and coo to everyone's delight.
Before, Baker was a baby.
Before, it was okay that Baker could not talk, could not run as quickly, could not jump as high.

Before, none of the other kids saw Baker any differently than they saw their baby sister or little cousin. He was a baby (and a darn cute one). He did what babies did. Because of his different abilities, some of it came at a slower rate, and took much greater effort. His hypotonia caused his chubby little legs to frog out when he slept and his little body to collapse into mine winning him all the awards for world's greatest snuggler. He was a baby, and everybody loves a baby. Especially Baby Baker.

This summer is the first summer Baker has been three.
And because of that, this is the first summer our little sphere has been expanded.
And because of that, two things have happened to this momma's heart.

It has experienced both unspeakable joy and unspeakable ache.

My heart has threatened to overflow watching Baker create new friendships.
I have been so encouraged as I have listened to other mommas enlighten and empower their children with knowledge about Down Syndrome as questions have presented themselves about why Baker's play and talk differ from their own. I have loved watching the innocence of children, as they love with their whole heart, without judgment and with unhindered acceptance.

My heart has also threaten to shatter into pieces as I see other children notice Baker's different abilities. "Is he special ed?" one asked innocently. Others can't understand his fascination with perfectly folding all of our beach towels instead of bounding down the slide like all the other children. Why, when their conversations flowed as easily as lemonade on a summer day, did Baker prefer silence? Why, when he does speak, does he often do so first with his hands and then with words that sound so differently than our own? Why does he often drift to the perimeter when all of the action is in the center?

Why is he different than me?

Could you answer that question?

Little more than three years ago, I would have stuttered through it,
preferring to brush it under the doormat, or
opting to combat it with the eye that commanded silence
instead of opening doors to a conversation of acceptance.

As the mom of a seriously great kid, who happens to have unique needs, I beg you to have the talk.
The talk about alikes and differences, and how often we're more alike than different.

If you need a name, use Baker. If you need a face, I think his is pretty perfect. If you need words, use a picture book (spoken like a true teacher, ha!). I love "We'll Paint the Octopus Red."

Your children won't mind if the words aren't perfect or eloquent or include textbook terminology. They can be simple and succinct and from the heart.
From the bottom of mine, thank you.

More than you know, thank you.

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