Monday, November 22, 2010

NOT Enjoying the Small Things

A rant:

I know this is going to make me sound bitter and jealous and petty and a plethora of other not-so-pretty things, and maybe it's true, maybe I am those things sometimes. Image be damned, I must purge.

It's that blog. You know the one. Everyone seems to know it. And almost a year after the birth story that went viral, people are still freaking forwarding it to me and telling me "You have to check out this blog! It's amazing!" And now all over Facebook, everyone (well, not everyone, but a lot of people!) in the Down syndrome parenting community are encouraging everyone to vote that blog as The Best Blog (of what, I'm not sure).

Gah. I'm weary of her and her blog and all the attention it gets. Or really, whatever. I don't care. But why do people keep encouraging me to get sucked into her vortex of Beauty and Perfectness and Positivity?

Kelle Hampton and I have exactly ONE thing in common: we both have a child with Down syndrome. That's it. I can't relate to her. I read her birth story when it first made its way around the internet early this year, and I could not relate to it at all. Who wears full makeup while giving birth? Who has tasteful, handmade parting gifts (or was it party favors?) for her room full of birth attendees? Who has a professional (or at least extremely skilled) photographer capturing her in all her contracting and pushing glory with just the right lens and lighting? It looked like something out of a high-end magazine for crap's sake. And on every sporadic occasion that I have visited her blog just to see if I could find something - anything - to identify with, that's what I saw: perfect, glossy, magazine-worthy.

Maybe that really is her reality. Maybe her life really does look like that. I have no idea, but I do know that I just can't relate.

And how did she become the Poster Child for parents of children with Down syndrome anyway? She's been on Oprah for crying out loud! And in Parenting magazine! And I believe she has a book deal in the works. Seriously? The truth is, while I think that her portrayal of a beautiful, photogenic life has probably served the general population well by showing that having a child with Down syndrome isn't the horrible, ugly burdensome thing so many people believe it to be (if anyone outside the Down syndrome community is even following her - again, I have no idea), I actually think she's doing a disservice to a lot of parents who have children with Ds, because the truth is, the vast majority of us don't find instant nirvana like she apparently did. For most of us, coming to terms involves a somewhat lengthy process, during which there is much crying, ranting and fist-shaking. I think for a lot of parents with kids with Ds - especially new parents who are still in the throes of getting a grip - Kelle's portrayal of her recent life has the potential to make them feel like, well, shit, actually. That's kind of how it makes me feel when I occasionally visit her blog, just to see. It's like looking at an issue of House Beautiful, knowing you're never going to have a gorgeous, immaculate, well-appointed, tastefully decorated house like that. Or it's like looking at super models, knowing you just can't compete.

I have nothing against Kelle. Obviously, I don't even know her, and I'm sure if I met her, I'd think her a perfectly delightful person. I don't know if her blog is an honest portrayal of her experiences, or if it's all (or mostly, or somewhat) staged, or if she fell into internet superstardom completely unintentionally but now has an Image to maintain. All I know is I can't relate! Her perfect life spread out on her perfect blog doesn't resonate with me, and it kind of makes me feel crappy.

So, uh, yeah. That's it I guess.


Stephanie said...

I read her blog with mixed emotions. Mostly I leave there with an inferiority complex and dammit I'm pretty spectacular.

Anyway, I've been annoyed also by the recent solicitations to vote for her "special needs" blog. It's nothing of the sort! That's fine, my blog isn't either and I would never claim otherwise. I just feel like the parents who have been true advocates from the beginning who share things I can actually use in raising my son, experiences with IEP, therapy, speech, feeding issues, etc, should be getting recognition. People like you Lisa and blogs like FJ.

heather said...
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heather said...
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The Sanchez Family said...

I'm one of her followers and I do really enjoy her blog but I also REALLY enjoy yours and so many others for all the different perspectives and takes...much like I LOVE to read People and Us magazine but also love Martha Stewart and Vogue on occasion. Neither of which I will EVER relate to personally...just like to enjoy the pretty pictures and words in those fancy magazines sometimes. Kelle does have great writing skills in addition to her ability to take great photos and I read most all of her posts and I am touched by her posts often even if it is wrapped in an amazingly perfect box and bow. I don't know...I guess I'm a fan of Kelle but I LOVE LOVE LOVE you too for your courage, honesty and straightforward approach :) xo

Cindy said...

Lisa, I totally understand what you mean. Don't feel shit about what u are feeling. The reason why I love your blog is the fact that you are so real. Not everyday in our lives is rainbows and sunshine. I used to follow a really popular blog from Australia but I got sick of reading her "perfect" life all the time. Who has 3 young kids and still has the time to attend fashion shows all the time?? and wear ridiculously high heels and dress like someone out of streetstyle fashion blogs? It isn't that I need to read negative stuff to feel better about myself. But I strongly believe that life is not picture perfect. Nobody lives in neverland. i like to read real stuff. Real people and real lives. And u know what? i recently visited her blog and she came clean about the fact that she actually has been suffering from depression after her 2nd child was born! So wat's all the BS about the perfect life on her blog that she has been writing about??

Alex and Kristi said...

I love your blog Lisa! It is real life and to the point! Nothing is sugar coated and I so appreciate that. Your opinions are real. I cannot relate at all to Kelle's blog but I do read because I love looking at the pictures. But then again, I love pictures!!

Erin said...

I don't actually read her blog but always look at her pictures. I am a photography nut and enjoy looking for inspiration. With that being said I don't think her blog is a "special needs" blog nor a blog about Ds. I'm not sure why so many people think it is? I think she puts too much emphasis on beauty and material things and to be perfectly honest with you I don't think she has completely accepted the diagnosis of her daughter. Otherwise why keep her daughter's daily life such a secret and only post about the perfect stuff?

Anna Alexandrova said...

My outsider's perspective:

I rank good writing above good images, and hence pick your blog over hers. And by good writing I mean more than just good captions for your pictures. You know, the primacy of written word! Not that you don't have good images. But they just don't dominate your blog.

I also like blogs that combine the two in a cool way, like Stephanie's. But writing still comes first for me.

...and yes, I can't relate to the picture-perfect view of life. It doesn't turn me on, and in fact annoys the geek inside me. But I am clearly in minority in this regard...

Your solid fan-base.

Jaida said...

I have to respectfully disagree with some of your comments here (while realizing you are, of course, entitled to your opinion about this blog).

I believe that Kelle Hampton IS still coming to terms with her daughter's diagnosis, and this is evident in the way she chooses to portray her life. She posted recently about the pain she feels when considering that there is a good chance she will outlive Nella. Yes, she posts beautiful pictures and chooses not to post about the minutiae of daily life (therapy, etc) but this is true of her blog in its entirety. I don't believe she is hiding anything in her choice to try to face life's challenges positively.

I really do respect your honesty and forthrightness in posting this, but I have a problem with your comments about how she chose to give birth...full face of make-up, photographer, whatever. That's how SHE CHOSE to make her birth experience special. You chose a home birth, something I personally can't wrap my head around. That's doesn't make me feel like we have nothing in common beyond a child with Down syndrome, it just highlights for me that we are different people experiencing the journey of raising a child with Ds.

For what it's worth, I think you have much in common with Kelle. You both love your kids, visibly and completely. You both choose to put words to page in order to share your experiences and possibly help another in your situation. And at least in my view, you also approach the diagnosis of Down syndrome with positivity and optimism.

I will say this, I agree her blog does not fit the bill for a 'Special Needs' blog and as such, despite my love for her blog I have chosen not to vote.

christina said...

i agree. i was completely turned off by her blog the second i saw the pictures. the makeup while giving birth thing was just..... weird.

FogCityNews said...

I have to admit that I went seeking the afore-mentioned blog after reading this post. IMHO, it's little more than a beautiful ad for her photography business. The kids, the activities, the holiday dinners, are just things for her to take photos of & display so that others will want her to take such pretty pictures of them.

And Lisa, I don't read your blog because of the DS angle, I read it because I love hearing about you & your family. Finn was born on my birthday so he'll always have a special place in my heart. And I love how you're so honest about the shit that life gives you along with the roses.

Steph Hamilton said...

Hi there,

I have just stumbled across your blog and find your post very interesting. I, like you, have a child with Down Syndrome. Ruby is 4 and life today is completely different from life when she was born. I can relate to Kelle's birth story on some fronts and I must admit I was drawn to her photography as I have been learning to improve my photographic skills. I admire her honesty in the birth story but I do feel that there is a sense of some posts being contrived. I have just recently started a blog ( and I really do feel that I owe it to myself to be completely honest with how I am feeling or what I am experiencing at the time. I guess I look at Kelle's writing and through it all I see a girl who is hurting and trying to use outward appearances as therapy. The first year of having a baby with DS is the easiest IMHO. It is only really the past year that I have really had to dig deep and pull all my reserves into surviving the daily struggles of making sure my children are looked after and safe. I struggle from day to day wondering if Ruby is going to escape (she likes to wander), pick up a dangerous utensil in the kitchen when my back is turned, or injure her sister by mistake as she is just that damn strong and sometimes will pick up a toy she doesn't like and hurl it at full force across the room (hoping it doesn't connect with anything!). I guess we are all unique and cope with things differently. Kelle does not have the experience yet to know what it's really like to have a child with special needs. That first year is so damn easy now that I look back. Yes, you have worries and fears but nothing compares to when they get older and things get more complicated. Even I cannot speak too quickly yet as my daughter is still only 4. Your blog seems to be very real and I like that. Keep up the good work, and don't feel bad for saying how you really feel. I hope that Kelle will share hardships as raw and as real as they are as she reaches those difficult times. By not doing so she really is doing a disservice to her readers and in particular to those new mothers faced with the challenge of a new baby with DS. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!!!! Steph

lizzy said...

Hi Lisa, I was one of the people that forwarded Kelle's blog to you all those months ago when a cyber friend introduced me to it.

I have been following your blog since Finn was born and look forward each day to reading a new post from you.

I have to admit that while I was initially enamored with Kelle's blog and the pictures and the rosey outlook on life, it has since become something of a train wreck for me. I am not a crafty person, or skilled photographer or someone who "drinks it all in". I am a mother of four who gets pissed off about life and all it's short-comings.

Her blog for me has become some kind of competition at this point and I think the true meaning of it has been lost in all the sponsors, giveaways and eternal optimism she's spewing. While I don't have a child with DS, I do have a son who struggles on a daily basis with ADHD and as much as I love to say how easy it is to treat with medication it is still something he will struggle with all his life. And it's not easy, and it makes me sad and I hope it doesn't hold him back from doing what he really loves later in life. No it's not DS but it is something that affects my family on a daily basis and I couldn't have a blog singing the praises of ADHD...I'm just not built that way.

Good for Kelle for being such a wonderful mother, wife, daughter and friend. It appears that her life is full of parties, trips to the beach and perfect days at home. That's just not me. I can't relate to all the rainbows and butterflies her life is blessed with. Honestly, I think the whole thing has become a bit self indulgent.

Rik said...

1. Kelle was never on Oprah nor did she ever suggest she was or wanted to may want to check your sources. Did you see the episode?
2. The majority of Kelle's readers are not from the Ds community, but from a broader audience who so need to see Down syndrome through something other than a tragic lens. She doesn't claim to have a "special needs blog" and, strangely paralleling your own, chooses to present Ds as just one thread in life's broader tapesty.
3. You write powerfully, when you tell your story. When you talk about others, not quite so. I am sure this post is not really representative of your best work--I read previous posts. I liked what I read.
4. Women's greatest threats are...other women. When women unite--incredible things can happen. When they carp on each other, each are diminished and called away from a nobler focus.
5. You are most right in this post when you say, "I don't know her." She could put into print every tear, every fear and be another echo to simply resonate with. I think she wants to continue trying to enjoy the small things in a world sometimes filled with big things that cast dark shadows. She is far more vulnerable than you think. She has read your words...these words. Yes, someone sent your post to her as well, with something less than the excited energy of "you have to check out this blog! It's amazing.". You don't need to post this comment. Enough has been said. I just wanted to respond. I am sorry you are weary of her and so sorry others seem to invite you to her place. I seriously wish you could meet. I know you would feel differently. You are more alike than different.

Lisa said...

Rik, I'm not sure why I wouldn't post your comment. I generally post every comment left unless it is especially offensive and/or non-productive.

I stand corrected if Kelle was never on Oprah, and I admit it's just something I heard and didn't see for myself.

I'm sure there are a lot of people out there who completely agree with you on this one. I admit that perhaps I've been overly critical of Kelle on a personal level when the truth is, I don't know her. However, she does portray herself and her life in a certain way on her blog for the world to see, and that leaves her open to people's feelings and opinions about her portrayal. And I know it can hurt - I've certainly been the target of criticism on my blog before by people who don't even know me. Unfortunately, it's part of the deal for those of us who choose to put ourselves out there in a public forum.

Despite what you say, Kelle's blog does not parallel mine. While the topic of Down syndrome is a very minor thread running through this, my motherhood blog, I've blogged about Finn specifically, and my experiences as a parent of a child with Ds, on my other blog, Finnian's Journey, since the day he was born.

Maybe Kelle isn't trying to be the poster child for Special Needs parenting, but she seems to have become that nonetheless, and I guess that's what bugs me. She has a HUGE fanbase, so obviously there is a niche for what she's putting out there - good for her. It's just not anything I can relate to. And I guess that's my main beef with the whole thing - that so many people seem convinced that just because she and I both have a child with Ds, I should be able to relate to her, and I just don't.

You are obviously someone who knows and loves Kelle; she's fortunate to have you in her corner.


Rik said...

We are familiar with both your blogs, have loved your Finn longer than you know and tracing the steps of his journey have encouraged and inspired. We're all on that same journey...and it isn't a race or a contest. Some walk, some run. Some have stylish outfits and some have old and comfortable sweats. Some have a swagger in their step and some just plod along. But the path is broad enough to contain us all. And these wonderful children sometimes need to whisper to us their own mantra..."We're more alike than different." Peace and wonder in this season. Thank you for your kind response...I meant no criticism of YOU.

Yaya said...

Here goes...

Bravo for an honest post about Kelle Hampton.

People are talking offline and they echo your thoughts.

Personally, I think Kelle uses Nella to sell her blog. It may have started as something different but the media attention has swollen her head a bit.

As a Mom of a little girl with Down syndrome, it offends me that she doesn't talk openly and honestly about having a child with Down syndrome and claims her blog isn't about special needs...until she wants votes for a blogger award, or wants people to tune-in to a show, or eventually buy her book.

She does a disservice to parents, both expectant and new parents, of children with DS by suggesting you can just 'put a bow on it'.

She promoted the Buddy Walk but chose not to attend another local walk. In fact, walked through a corn maze in the shape of the words "Buddy Walk" but chose not to mention that 'other' walk because it wasn't focused on her.

She dumped on her local support group at one point. Talk about women sticking together and people being supportive of other ways of doing things at your own pace...yikes!

And how about giving back? Who is going to profit from her book? Who gets the free gifts is she wins a 'special needs' blog award?

It seems, if she is not the star of the show, if her voice is not the only one, if the stage is not set and the make-up perfect, it's not worth participating.

I alternatively want to scream at her and hug her knowing that life as a mother of a child with DS is not always pretty or easy or of interest to the general public. Her 15 minutes of fame may end, will end, at some point and I hope she has more than lipstick and new shoes to carry her through.

And...I know you are not the only one who feels the way you do. People all over the DS community are talking about this 'offline'.

You were brave enough to say it online.

Roo's Mom said...

My daughter is almost 8 years old. Her first year was filled with 2 months in the NICU and then more doctor/hospital/therapist visits than I can count. She is a bright, charming, loving, full of life child; who also happens to have some pretty significant behavioral challenges that I have been at a loss as to how to correct. I love Kelle's blog. My life is absolutely not perfect, and often times nowhere near
pretty, but I still love how she presents Nella to the world. Although we all know about the wide range of where our kids fall in terms of life skills and "abilities," I believe that seeing Nella and her family's love for her could help towards reducing the number of pre-natally diagnosed babies with DS being aborted. I love the thought that a blog that shows a little one with DS being included in all aspects of family life might be viewed by a wide audience. It is only in getting our kids out there to be seen that others will develop the zeal for inclusion. Kelle is still in a honeymoon stage with Nella since she hasn't had to fight for her rights with a school district yet, or as far as I can tell do much advocating one on one for her own child. She also got lucky because Nella seems to have been very healthy from the start. I'll be watching to see how her journey evolves as she works through the same struggles we all have experienced or will go through in dealing with others who want to work with our children and think they know what is best for them.

janell said...

I have to be honest and say that I do follow enjoying the small things..I love her pictures. However, talk about selling out. I agree with one of the other comments..yes, I feel that she is using her daughter. Her blog turned into.."let's make a deal" with all the sponsors and give aways.

Kelle is eighter blessed to have such a perfect life or she is dishonest.

I admire you for speaking out and maybe if Kelle does read your blog she will knock off all that fake shit and get real.

Talk about a messy room and leaving to grab coffee alone..what? BTW..does her husband work or is he able to stay home due to her "freebies"?

Guerrilla Wedding said...

I am a huge fan of Kelle Hampton's blog - for the pictures, the stories, the great children and the great joy. Above all, I love how she never disrespects or judges anyone else's blog, life or journey.

You have a very important story to tell - your story is what will inspire others, not your negative thoughts towards someone else.

Inspiration knows no negativity

Lise said...

Kelle's blog looks like a catalogue selling kids' clothing and kitchen accessories. I think she is an intelligent woman who writes well but honestly, her style is not for me. After several pages the words began to mash together into a sticky, cloying mess and I lost interest.