Saturday, January 31, 2015

Twenty-Four Weeks (affectionately written by Brian)

What I'm Eating

Somehow Jenn finds a way to choke down this disgusting concoction of Apple Cider Vinegar, honey, and lemon every single morning. The smell alone runs me out of the bathroom, but she promises Pinterest boasts one hundred seventy-two thousand, four hundred fourteen reasons to be drinking the awful stuff.

She has started craving salads with cucumbers and avocados (no thanks), which amazes me, since anything green has had her turning green for the past 168 days.

Big Brother Baker

Baker is all about Baker.
"Hold me, Momma."
"Hold me, Dadda."

Barrett who?

He is soaking up these final weeks of being an only, and Jenn is more than eager to let him be her big baby.


What was that again?

Maybe Bake is prepping us for life with an infant again. Whatever it is, the old, "I'll sleep when I'm dead" phrase has never been truer.

Especially now that some little rascal has commandeered her maternity pillow.

Maternity Clothes

I'm steering clear of this one. Unsafe territory here, folks.

Size of Baby

This week he is supposed to be as long as an ear of corn, but I think he's as big around as two or three. In my expert, baby growing opinion, he's going to be a hoss who never stops.

Baby's Name 

I'm calling him "J Bear," but Jenn insists that is not his name and refuses to monogram one of those girl gowns with it. Bake and I are in cahoots and we're calling majority here. J Bear it is.


He's still a he; but I have this nagging fear that all that wiggling  during his picture taking just might have us seeing things. James Barrett may be dressed in pink and renamed Elizabeth Barrett come May.

What I Miss

Anything missed is not worth having in place of this.
Best Moment of the Week -

How does she come up with one?

I got to take Baker to school this week. It's so great seeing him in his element and following his daily routine. However, I don't envy Jenn's task of doing this daily because leaving that kid to go to work is a different kind of tough.

Last night, Jenn and I got to watch Gone Girl on the couch together. Two things:  One, how incredibly bizarre that movie is. If you like a movie that leaves you saying "Huh?", this one is for you. And two, how does Jennifer get anything done all day. That boy is all go all the time, much like his big brother. Maybe they'll wear each other least a dad can dream!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Challenging Blessing of Down Syndrome

Some days Down Syndrome is tough.
Is that one of those things taboo to say?
Like you don't like doughnuts with sprinkles.
Or hot chocolate has too many marshmallows.  
Even on days you feel it in your heart, you never utter it aloud.

I have written this post at least half a dozen times in my head, but impressing the words onto the screen has not come easily.

Most days of this journey are incredible.
Each is joy-filled.
All are miracles sopped with His blessings so syrupy I am sticky from its sweetness.
Few are difficult.

The past week has been one of combination days, like my favorite Starbucks concoction. A little of this, with a dollop of that, swirled and frothed to perfection. But there has been something about the past few days to leave me longing, like the days when I forgo a grande sized goodness and regretfully choose the tall. When I finished this day, bedtime prayers were whispered, lullabies were hummed, Baker tucked tightly in his bed, my momma heart hurt and I uttered the words I almost never utter, “sometimes Down Syndrome is tough.”

On this day, I am wishing I could fight his fight.

For 32 months, I have watched Baker overcome.
He is an overcomer.

He has painstakingly endured countless hours of therapy to train his muscles to do the tasks and activities he beautifully boasts with the clumsy elegance of a toddler.

As of today, he has added sitting and standing, walking and running, eating and drinking, and putting on his socks and shoes to his resume as things he can do without assistance. And for that, my heart overflows.

Baker communicates through signs, through his gestures, through his body language so sweet.
I wouldn’t trade the way he shows his love to those he loves for all of the I love yous in all of the world.
I wouldn't, but he would.

He wants so badly to talk. Baker has been in speech therapy since he was 3 months old. He has fought for the day that words would come naturally. He learned a second language to compensate when the words wouldn’t form.

I wish I could fight this fight for him. As his mama, his biggest cheerleader, his number one encourager, I wish I could let this one thing come easily.

My husband so perfectly describes this as the “challenging blessing" of him having Down Syndrome.

And it is.
This journey has been a challenging blessing, with the blessings always outnumbering the challenges.

God's grace is amazing like that.

In retrospect, Baker doesn’t fight for everything. Some things come very naturally for him. There are things for which he doesn’t have to train, or go to a therapist, or work a day to accomplish. Some things he does with ease. Some things he does with an incredibly admirable grace.

Finding Favor


Until the words come, we’ll give grace.
When I can’t give him the words to use, I’ll give him grace.

When he can’t make me understand his substitutions for words, I pray he’ll do the same.

We’ll give grace.

That’s part of the challenging blessing of raising a child with special needs.
Besides, there aren't words to convey happiness and joy like these dance moves!!
I was so encouraged by Kelle Hampton in a birthday post to her daughter Nella on her blog.
"It’s not that you can’t talk—you can. It’s that you understand one of the greatest secrets of the earth—that words aren’t as powerful as actions. You’ve learned to speak a dying language of deep emotion, and your fluency and expression is remarkable, something brilliance can’t come close to defining. The words you use are prefaced with looks and gestures that tell the world you not only see it but you love living in it. You listen with your eyes and your heart, and you respond—yes, with words—but more so with your grin, your little quick-step skip, and those arms thrown out beside you to hug the world while you swing your hair and twirl, twirl, twirl."
Source: Enjoying the Small Things

Maybe we're the ones getting it all wrong - trying to substitute words for actions and gestures.
Maybe Baker is doing it all right.
Dancing instead of talking. Showing instead of telling.
Maybe he knows the greatest secret in communicating is without words at all.

Here I am trying to teach him the world,
in reality,
I am learning life's greatest lessons from him.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Twenty-Three Weeks

See that sweet little handprint on the mirror?
I know it sounds like the most ridiculous thing in all the world, but I just cannot bring myself to Windex it away.
Some of my favorite moments each day with Baker are mere seconds.
The ones we carefully carve late in the evening, in between scrubbing until he's so clean he squeaks and the moment his incessant jabber finally stops and he succumbs so sweetly to sleep. 
He cocoons himself into a towel too big, plops down on our counter and lets me brush all of the sugar monsters away, comb his hair, lather him in lotion, and sing to the baby in the mirror.
Laughter bounces from each corner.
His little voice the perfect song.
Quite often, he reaches out.
His mind inquisitive as to how a mirror reflects his image so perfectly.
One day he'll know.
One day a mirror will no longer hold an adventure.
One day he won't have to touch the face smiling back at him.
One day his handprints will be larger, and he won't sit as easily on our counters.
One day, he'll brush his own teeth, and comb his own hair.
These are the moments I sometimes rush.
At the day's end when my feet ache and my belly is threatening to burst right out of my shirt.
When lunches need to be packed, the dryer needs to be started, the dishwasher emptied.
Today, he needs me. 
Today, he wants me in his memories.
Today, I'll save the handprint in case tomorrow is the day.
You're welcome. 
Introducing twenty-three weeks of hormones.
Here I am choosing the least awkward bump selfie, or "bumpie," as the cool kids are calling it.
And out of the blue, I lose it over a sticky handprint on the mirror.
Dirt, y'all, has made me a weepy mess.
Instead of obscuring it from view, or directing attention elsewhere, I wrote words about it.
Real words.
And not just a few. 
Two hundred sixty-two of them.
You can send your deepest sympathies to my husband.
I know he covets your prayers during this wildly unpredictable time.

What I'm Eating - The better question would be, what am I not eating? Hello appetite!
Apparently, Little Brother will double in size over the next four weeks. I am trying my best to make sure I do the same.
Big Brother Baker - 

Sleep - I love it. It hates me. We're at odds right about now.
Maternity Clothes - At this point, I could stand to buy a few pieces, but I am really trying to refrain. Early in the pregnancy, I bought a few key items, and I am trying my best to make them work for the next few months. Praise all things good and holy for Shop Riffraff Pikos, Old Navy maternity leggings, the Target clearance rack, and Gap skinnies.
Size of Baby - He's about 9 inches long, and just over a pound - the size of a papaya.
Baby Name - James Barrett
Gender - BOY!
What I Miss - Not a whole lot.
Best Moment of the Week - I had another ultrasound on Monday to follow up with my anatomy scan last month. Not only did I get to lay eyes on my baby boy again, I got to take my big boy and mom with me! Baker danced while Little Brother's heartbeat filled the room, then lifted up his shirt to bare his belly. Getting to see both of my boys at the same time was almost more than my mommy heart could stand.
Our sweet ultrasound technician even printed Baker his very own picture of Baby Barrett. He carried it around so proudly and shared it with everyone we saw on our way out the door.
One final thought and confession - I have stared at this little profile for countless hours. I cannot wait to kiss all over his face and memorize his every beautiful feature. Oh baby boy, you take my breath away.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights."
James 1:17

Friday, January 16, 2015

Twenty-Two Weeks

What I'm Eating - I'm loving cereal, especially for supper. And sliced apples with vanilla yogurt topped with crumbled Heath bits.
Big Brother Baker - This week, Baker has started calling Little Brother, "Bear Bear." My heart is a big ole pile of mushy gushy goodness. Brothers are going to be the best!

He's going to teach Barrett everything he knows...I know, because he's currently practicing on Elmo.
This went something like (a combination of signs and words),
"Elmo, Tee Tee? Potty? Yes? Yes. Ok."
"Mama, Elmo. Potty."
Runs to the bathroom. Hops on the toilet. Does intended business. Commences with Tee Tee Dance.
Brian taught him. I'm sure he'll teach you too. Be on the lookout for a YouTube video tutorial.

Sleep - Much better! In the words of Madea, "Praise da Lort!"
Maternity Clothes - Clothing is about the same this week. The hardest part about the past several days has been the shift from home for the holidays attire to heading back to work.
Size of Baby - Little Brother is the size of a spaghetti squash.
Baby Name - James Barrett (more on his sweet name here)
Gender - A baby boy!
What I Miss - Not much at all.
Best Moment of the Week - Announcing Little Brother's name. We had so much fun sharing his name with family and friends. It is a name that was chosen specially, with a lot of love, just for our baby boy.

And the kicking - it's out of control! I love each little jab and punch. Oh wild one, you are already so incredibly loved.

A time that's quickly becoming a daily must are early morning walks. I love this quiet time for me, while the rest of the world is still fast asleep. I am trying to walk around 15 miles a week to combat stiffness and swelling and some of the discomfort I felt while pregnant with Baker. Sometimes I take Harley, sometimes it's just James Barrett and me, alone with the Lord to reflect on life. I pray for my boys (all of them) and other prayer needs in our circle of family and friends, sing my favorite praises aloud, set goals for the future, and imagine big things for our growing family.

Workout clothes, especially ones suitable for sub-freezing temperatures are becoming increasingly more difficult to come by. Brian gave me some of his old Under Armour hunting shirts and they are perfect (for today, at least) for my growing belly.

It's finally sunny here today and we are headed to the Zoo! I cannot wait to be outside, and I always look forward to seeing Baker's face when he sees the animals.
See other Zoo posts here, here, and here.
What fun things are you doing for this long weekend?
I hope it's a wonderful one!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My Wish for You

I rarely watch Baker play.
That sounds awful, I know.
But I rarely watch him play, because I am usually playing with him.

Hand over hand, we put puzzles together.
Knee to knee, we stack blocks into mile high ceiling scrapers.
Side by side, we bring our favorite books to life.
We tackle life together.
Arm in arm.
Heart to heart.

Lately, however, I have made it a point to sit back and watch him.
And what I've found is no different than anything I already knew.
That boy of ours is positively spectacular.

As I watch Baker play, wishes for him swirl about my head and my heart.

I wish you to be little.

Days like today remind me to let you be little.

I wish you the creativity to color a beautiful mess in your Elmo sketch book.

I wish you time to splash around in the bathtub and pretend you're the swimmingest fish in an ocean so vast.

I wish you the playfulness to engage in hide and seek. (And selfishly, I wish for you not to fully understand that hiding means concealing all of you from my sight. When you cover your eyes and think you are hidden, then surprise me with a big "Boo!" my heart swells even bigger than your proud smile.)

I wish you to nap on my chest. I wish you to hold my hand.

This world will rush it. Calling you a big boy. Willing you to toughen up. Encouraging you to be a man.

Oh my sweet child, don't allow it. There will be plenty of days for that grown up stuff.

Today and tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that, and the day after that tomorrow, and for all the tomorrows for the rest of your little years, be just that.

Be silly and energetic.

Be wild and adventurous.

Sing too loud, run too fast, make a mess too big.

Be little

I wish for you to have the best of me.

I wish to be present.

When I forget that you won't always crawl into my lap to read "Love You Forever,"

When I forget you won't always pat the floor beside you for me to join in your play,

When I forget one day will be the last you'll sing about that baby bumblebee,

When I forget I won't always be the girl you want to join you for picnics in the playroom,

When I forget, remind me.

Remind me that these days with you are really the best days.

And you deserve to have the best of me.

I wish you friends.

Friends at church.

Friends at school.

Friends in your mommy and daddy.

Even friends in your stuffed animals.

There are few gifts greater than that of a true friend.

I wish you to be surrounded by the love and laughter, and the support and encouragement that comes only from friends.

I wish you time.

I wish for life to slow down for you.

I wish more time for you to swing all the way to the sky.

I wish for dance parties in the living room.

I wish for chocolate chip pancakes and homemade cookies. And some nights, I wish for takeout, so our time in is spent together.

I wish you grace.

As you are learning boundaries, and right and wrong, and good and bad, and which buttons to press, I wish you grace.

I hope you feel our love as we help you navigate your way through these wonderfully delicious toddler years.

I hope you learn the grace of your Heavenly Father through our example.

I wish you love.

I hope you feel it.

It pours from me.

It starts in my heart, but I love you with all of me.

I hope you feel it through my words.

I hope you feel it through my hugs too tight and my kisses too many.

I hope you feel it by my smile.

I hope you feel loved every day, in every thing you do.

Baker, you are never without love.

I wish you affirmation. I wish you big dreams and small fears. I wish you adventure. I wish you snuggles. I wish you days spent outside. I wish you parades from your daddy's shoulders. I wish you hiccups from laughing too big. I wish you days at the zoo. I wish you fun. I wish you boundaries. I wish you patience. I wish you silly songs. I wish you tickle fights. I wish you happiness.

My wishes for you are big. My wishes for you are many.
But only because you are special, because you are our dream come true.

I wish for you to always know you are my wish.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Little Brother has a Name

After much prayer, and baby name book page turning, and family tree climbing,
Little Brother has a name!

Brian and I debated again and again.
Discussing his name became a nightly ritual.

In true Jennifer Bell fashion, I made name lists and crossed out and added to as we called names aloud, scribbling them here and there, and running them through a myriad of name tests.

Being a teacher, I have a list of absolutely not, no way in h-e-double hockey sticks will this name ever cross the threshold of our home. This name must be cursed, only to be given to boys who go home on red every single day, and are never absent, not even tardy, or even called to the nurse's office for one minute's reprieve. Their immune system is as tough as their heads are hard. Boys that give their teachers nightmares every single night. None of those names would do.

Brian wanted a strong name for his boy.
A name that suited him through all walks of life.
This part was tough.
I had my work cut out for me.

Considering names that both suited a bitty baby to be loved and held and rocked,
but also exuded that rough, tough, don't mess with me, I'm a Bell boy air was a definite challenge.

We played the Rachel and Ross "veto" game so much that I was tempted to call him Little Brother every day for the rest of his days. Brian caught on and affectionately called him LB.

Then the right one came.
We couldn't get it off our minds, out of hearts.
We couldn't keep our tongues from uttering it aloud.
We cheered gleefully as his sweet name echoed about our home, bouncing off of the walls with unparalleled enthusiasm.
His name has been whispered across our pillows, sung in midnight lullabies, scripted on doodle pads.
It has been uttered prayerfully to our Lord, and excitedly shared with our families.
In perfectly articulated Bakerese, it has been called by his big brother time and again.

 Little Brother's name is:

James is my stepfather's first name.
He has been a part of my life for almost all of my life.
He is one of my favorite people in the whole entire world.
He unequivocally loves the Lord and loves his family.
There isn't a more special name our baby boy could carry.
He'll wear it well.
He'll wear it proud.

Barrett has been my top pick all along.
When writing my husband a love note in college, I included Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
It starts, "How do I love thee, let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth, and breadth, and height
my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight..."
I remember thinking, as a teenager, how much I loved that name for a little boy.
I quietly tucked it away, knowing it would one day be a perfect name for our boy.

Brian jumped on board when he read the name Barrett means strong like a bear.

His name is strong, born from love.
It's perfectly perfect.
I love him more each time I say his name.

It is etched right beside Baker's, all over my whole heart.

How do I love thee, my sweet Barrett, let me count the ways.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Top Ten Second Trimester Must Haves

These items easily earned a spot in my Top Ten Must Haves for this trimester of pregnancy.


Leachco Snoogle Mini Compact Side Sleeper, Sage/White dot

This is by far, hands down my number one must have. For me, there hasn't been much pleasant about sleeping in the second trimester, except for this pillow. I got it for Christmas when I was pregnant with Baker and fell head over heels, truly, madly, deeply, Savage Garden style, l-o-v-e. As soon as I found out we were expecting again, I immediately began counting down the days until I could welcome this down stuffed goodness back into our bed.

What To Expect When You're Expecting
This book is the book for all things pregnancy. I keep it on my bedside table for a quick reference as I reach new milestones, and love it as an easy go-to when I have a concern. I especially love reading about where my baby boy is in his development each week. This week, our little is the size of a cantaloupe and is opening his eyelids for the first time! They have a great website also.

Three. Belly Band

My wardrobe has been infinitely extended because of this fabulous find. I am able to wear many non-maternity pants unzipped with this over them with no one the wiser!
This may be the best $16 I've ever spent.
For the few male readers I have, I'll spare you the details. We all know things grow during pregnancy. Let's just say the baby isn't the only thing reaching the size of a small melons. I bought this bra in every color and haven't regretted it for a single day. I was stoked when I found them on clearance at Belk. The girls are pretty happy, too.
Ponte outside-zip leggings
My sister wore these leggings over Christmas, and my heart skipped a beat when I saw Gap had them in maternity sizes.
Six. Sour Patch Kids
Seven. Prenatal Vitamins
Gummy, of course.
Eight. Cetaphil
I was fortunate not to get stretch marks with Baker, but my skin did stay very dry. This stuff is liquid gold for keeping skin hydrated, especially during the winter months of pregnancy.
Nine. LaCroix
All day. Every day.

Mom's One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book
Because I want to remember every single everything.

Honorable Mentions

Chick fil A Diet Lemonade - it makes my whole being happy
Halo Mandarin Oranges - they exude gloriousness
Brooks Adrenaline GTS Running Shoes - for all of the exercising I keep intending to do
Starbucks Decaf Caffe Verona
Tums - berry flavored

Sunday, January 4, 2015

What if we have two children with Down Syndrome?

The question has been danced around,
tiptoed over,
skirted about.
What if Little Brother is born with Down Syndrome?
Few have asked;
 some flat out, others slightly more discreetly.
What are our chances of having two children with Down Syndrome?
The truth is, we don't know the answer.
We opted out of genetic testing after Baker was born.
The doctors pushed, insisting we know whether it was us that caused it.
It didn't matter.
Not to us.
Not even a little bit.
We knew, long before Baker arrived, there was a chance he would be born with Down Syndrome.
We knew, and we chose faith.
We knew, and we chose love.
We knew, and we chose him.
We knew if God made a way for us to have another child, the choice would be the same.
God has given us the exact family He desired to bring glory to His name.
That isn't just lip service.
I believe those words with every ounce of my being.
Just as He knows the grains of sand on all the beaches on all the earth,
as He knows the number of hairs on each of His children's heads,
He knows our family.
He knew Baker would be a boy.
He knew he would be born with Down Syndrome.
He knew he would have almond eyes, golden skin, rosy cheeks, and the most adorable knee dimples you ever did see.
He knew he would have different abilities.
He knew he would love easy and laugh hard.
He knew that twenty-seven months after we first laid eyes on Baker, we would joyously celebrate the news of Him loaning us another of His most precious.
He knew this child would also be a boy.
All of the other things we tend to question -
will he have his daddy's piercing green eyes and enviably olive skin,
will he have his mommy's right cheek dimple and freckle kissed nose,
will he and Baker have the same infectious personality -
He knows.
He has built our family with intention and with purpose.
He has intricately knit us together with unparalleled craftsmanship for our good and for His glory.
If Little Brother has Down Syndrome,
or if he is typically developing,
it matters not to us.
He will be loved.
He will be celebrated.
And God will receive all of the glory.
His works are wonderful, I know that full well.
He far exceeded anything we could have ever imagined with Baker. I cannot wait to see what He has in store for our family.
"I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
Psalms 139:14
"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28