Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thoughts on "Bloom" and Ellie Photos.

Note: The photos of Ellie in this post have absolutely nothing to do with the book review.

("Mama, what's that thing under the bench?")


If you have a child with Down syndrome, the odds are high that you've read Kelle Hampton's blog.  Even if you don't have a child with Down syndrome, if you read mom blogs or craft blogs or photography blogs, at some point, you've probably encountered Kelle's "Enjoying the Small Things."  I heard of Kelle's blog twice in a short period of time while we were awaiting Ellie's arrival.  The first was in a note from another mom who has a daughter with DS.  The second time I heard of Kelle's daughter Nella was through our maternity photographer.

I read throughout my pregnancy, and while I was in the hospital being induced, I won a random drawing on "Enjoying the Small Things" for a baby dress.  I've encountered Kelle online only, via her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  And I like her. Therefore, I picked up her new book, "Bloom," expecting to enjoy it, and I did.  (The same thing happened when I read "A Good and Perfect Gift."  But I also tend to think my friends have good taste, and I would have enjoyed both books regardless of my interactions with the authors and their friends.)

("I got a pinecone!")


This review isn't sponsored.  I bought the book myself; Kelle is unaware that I'm writing this.  In fact, I pre-ordered "Bloom," but I guess I picked the slowest shipping option.  The day it was released, I saw it in a bookstore.  Instead of literacy books, I sat for an hour while Ellie napped and devoured "Bloom."  The next day, I purchased it.  I figured that an extra copy would make a good gift, a good loaner, or a good pick-me-up for a new mama to a little one with Down syndrome. 

First of all, I loved the book layout.  Because Kelle is a photographer, the book features plenty of full-color pictures of her girls, her family, Nella's birth, and most striking, a picture of Kelle's face as she realizes Nella has Down syndrome. That single photo explains the fear that accompanies a new diagnosis better than any words ever will.  Reading Kelle's blog now, life seems happy and enjoyable, but her detailed description of the grieving process reminded me that sometimes, we have to journey to happy.  I've read criticisms of Kelle, categorizing her writing as too "rainbows and unicorns," but her book contains rawness alongside the rainbows.

("What does this thing do, anyway?")

While reading Kelle's blog gives a window into her life, I enjoyed the greater detail the book can offer - on her beliefs, meeting her husband, and her family.  The descriptions of her dad during the initial days of Nella's life caused me to cry right into my coffee at Barnes and Noble.  His prayer for Nella is simply perfect.  "Poppa" is a chaplain in a hospital, and I cried because he would have been a comforting presence during Ellie's hospital stays.  I also cried remembering and appreciating those who stood alongside us - our pastor who baptized Ellie shortly after her arrival, our friends, our families, and even this online community. 

Rik, if for some reason you read this, (but you're such a proud dad, somehow I wouldn't be surprised) we could use you in DC.

("Tastes pretty good.")


Our experience with Ellie has been different than the Hampton's experience with Nella.  Ellie's extra chromosome was diagnosed before birth.  Nella was diagnosed in the delivery room.  Nella has an older sister and two big brothers.  Ellie's our first.  Ellie has been in and out of the hospital with a couple of major surgeries, whereas Nella has been fairly healthy.  Still, there is much of Kelle's story that I can relate to, to point at and say "I know that feeling!" As a memoir, this book is about Kelle's journey, and isn't a "how to" of raising a child with Down syndrome, nor does it pretend to be.

Some of Kelle's experiences are very "special needs" specific.  The uncertainty as a team of people arrive to evaluate your child for early intervention.  Meeting your child's therapist.  (Nella has a hot therapist who rides a motorcycle.  Ellie's therapists don't ride motorcycles that I'm aware of, and none are good-looking men, but she has a team of amazing women that I will thank publicly every chance I get.  So thanks again.)  Arriving at your first "Down syndrome" event and feeling scared, but meeting the parents who help make things better.  Meeting a child a bit older than yours who speaks clearly and can read, opening your heart to more possibilities than you dared hope.  (Thank you, Sammi.)

I don't think the "special needs" stuff is the best "Bloom" has to offer.  Aside from Poppa's prayer of thanks, my favorite portions of the book were about parenting and life.  Kelle writes, "But here's the thing: once you become a parent... once you start feeling a little funny and you buy the pregnancy test... once you see a pink plus sign... once you know that it's not just you anymore... well, you automatically carry around, for the rest of your life, an increased likelihood of having your heart broken."  That's true whether your kid has 47 chromosomes or 46, whether they're healthy or in the NICU.

("If I sign 'eat,' will you please give my pinecone back?")

I've written before about my love for John 10:10, where Jesus says, "The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have life, and life to the full."  Regardless of your beliefs, or Kelle's beliefs, or my beliefs, her book illustrates this verse beautifully.  Full life isn't always easy.  No one ever promised it would be.  But a good life is rich and full, with a range of emotions.

Since I know not everyone agrees with my taste, I'll add that if you are bothered by super-positive, optimistic types, you probably won't like "Bloom."  But I like optimism.  "Bloom" feels a bit like sitting down with a friend for a cup of coffee, telling stories, opening phones to share photos.

And there is absolutely no good transition into the final picture, other than to say, "Live fully!"

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23 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review...I expect my copy to arrive today and have to admit, I am skeptical...probably mostly because let's face it, Kelle is "the most popular girl in school" and I am not. Isn't that so immature...you're the only person I have expressed that to. But I want to support our DS community and that means our unofficial spokesperson. Thanks to your post however, I actually look forward to reading it now. Blessings!
    Krista

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    1. Let me know what you end up thinking of the book!

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  2. I agree wholeheartedly with Krista about the "popular girl" analogy. And while I'm not opposed to it, I usually have to be in the right mood to read Kelle's blog, but when I am, it's *perfect.* I think I would enjoy the book - thank you for this honest review (and the shout-out!)!

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    1. Becca, if you read the book, pay attention to the little girl Kelle meets at the convention. It reminded me SO much of the hope Sammi gave us.

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  3. You sure read that fast!!

    I can't justify buying it and I laugh to think "the popular girl" (good one, Krista!) would stop by my geeksome table, give me a copy and ask for a review!!

    So I will wait till it comes to the library.

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  4. I love that she is signing "eat" for the pinecone! That cracks me up!

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  5. This is a beautiful review, Megan. I've been waiting a bit, but I think I'll be hitting B&N today to pay full price for it (Shh, don't tell my husband!) And, oh the pictures of that girl with her tacos!! I think it is so flipping adorable that she falls asleep in her highchair! Cora has never done anything like that.

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  6. Hmmm ... this is a good review. Maybe I will get the book. I like her blog - it's beautiful - but I don't visit very often. Too many pictures! :) I've been planning to check it out from the library, but if you liked it enough to get two copies, maybe I will want to have one to keep.

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  7. Thanks for the review. I am waiting for mine to arrive! I love the taco pictures!

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  8. Oh my godness you read fast! Thanks for the review, we probably hit the same button during our amazon shoping because I haven't received mine either :{ But I can't just go buy another one so I'll just wait! Good thing I'm going to be on vacation next week so I'll have plenty of time to read!

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  9. Ok, and Ellie passed out with her pigtail full of taco sauce pictute is just so freaking cute! How in the world she can manage to fall asleep in the more weird places and positions?!?!?!

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  10. Wouldn't buy the book or even read it if handed to me. The woman is a complete narcissist and her children are just pawns in her attention getting exploits.

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    1. Anonymous, you are more than welcome to express negative viewpoints on my blog. However, please keep them respectful.

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    2. So what is not respectful? Anything other people don't agree with? Hampton is a narcissist and the mommies who follow are not any better than the people who follow the Kardashians. She's famous for nothing and her "fans" are simply lining her pockets. Do you think she cares about any of her readers except as a way to make money off the blog and book? Sorry, but the woman is a narcissist and I am not being disrespectful, just truthful. I alos could never get by those close ups of Hampton. You have to chuckle since this woman think she is so beautiful when in reality she is a clone of the actress Shelley Duvall.

      Diane

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  11. Why do the anonymous types always hide their negativity behind that name? Nice review. I bought the book but have not had a chance to read it yet. I love the photos of your precious girl in the sailor dress. I remember Sarah having one just like it.

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    1. Thank you - and JEllen, it's actually my outfit from when I was a baby!

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  12. I wonder which was better, the pine cone or the tacos??

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  13. I agree with anonymous (mostly), and I am proud to own my comments.
    She had a blog before Nella, but now she has a worshipping readership that is a pretty captive audience bc by and large the DS community sticks together. She claims he was thrust unwillingly into the position of DS community representative and advocate, but I'm not sure who did the shoving. How did she get on the Today show, and CNN? Did they just call her and say "We want to do a story on Nella?". And how did she become the center of a story about Nella having DS?
    Now she has a book, so we can all know more about her life than what she gives us for free on her blog. It's marketed to DS families, though as you say there is a lot of info about her upbringing and early life. General population readers have even less investment to read about her life with Nella, and really no need to know how she met her husband. Isn't it at least a *little* self-centered to think that people care about your life story when you're marginally famous for no other reason than that you're marginally famous (and bc your daughter has DS)?

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    1. Thank you for using your name, and for NOT name-calling :)

      (Oh, and I tried to email you to say thank you, and that I appreciate your tone, but your email wasn't linked?)

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  14. I enjoy Kelle's blog and would enjoy it even if Nella didn't have down syndrome just because I am a sucker for beautiful pictures. What strikes me about both her blog and her book is that she LOVES her children. Even if I can't relate to her "rainbows and unicorns" outlet I can definitely relate to that so I liked the book. And I am with Ellie....tacos...YUM!!!

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  15. I found your blog via the IHeartFaces Photo Challenge. I clicked on this because Enjoying the Small Things is one of my favorite blogs and this peaked my interest. I do not have any children with downs, but I love what I have seen of your blog so far. Your photography is beautiful (just as beautiful as Kelle's), and I love reading about other mamma's journeys, no matter what the details of that journey may be. I can't wait to read more, and I am your newest subscriber. Just thought I would share that. And by the way, I read the book in under two days because it was SO good! It helps that it was half pictures. If anyone has not read it yet- its amazing!

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  16. This isn't in regards to the book, but I have to say your daughter is hands down the most gorgeous baby I have ever seen. Seriously that pic where she is looking up at you...oh my, she would be way spoiled in my house:)

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