Mother’s Day: The Shakedown

The entire week leading up to Mother’s Day was pretty crappy.  We are seeing how this season will never be the same for our family again and how each one of us feel the heaviness and loss of Everett ever near.  I thought a lot about how sometimes we’re told to “choose joy” and how sometimes it’s just not that simple.  Heck, I’ve said those words to myself and written them on key fobs and art pieces, but the truth is sometimes it’s not an option to just “choose joy”.  I can still be grateful and look for those bright spots, but sometimes grief is so absolutely thick that there is no just opting out by choosing joy.  Sometimes choosing joy is BS.  Grief and suffering and sadness are real and heavy and they aren’t wrong.  They’re every much a piece of this life as love, joy and peace are.  We’re not broken or messed up or in need of fixing because we’re grieving or sad.  We often send a message to those in the valleys as if they are “wrong” or need to be “fixed” when grief, suffering and sadness are not sins, but threads in life and they deserve their own time and space.

Some days are defeat and some days are wins.  Lately there is no dodging grief and I’m realizing this will forever be apart of my life because Everett is forever apart of my life.  There is nothing natural about burying your child so why do we think people who are missing their babes have this allotted amount of time to fix themselves up and move on.  I will never move on because suggesting that I even can makes Everett this “idea” and not a real live amazing little human who changed all our hearts forever.  He is lasting.  We will carry him forever with us, always.

Due to how wonky and weird and sad our weeks were leading up to Sunday, I took a lot of steps to make sure I was as prepared as possible for the day.  I knew I didn’t want to ball up all my pain and keep it to myself so I tried turning some of it out into the world in the form of art and words and small gifts.  The #1 thing I learned from my Mom’s death was that even when you have no idea what to do for yourself, you can still do for others.  I’ve lost my mom and my son and our family holds a lot of trauma and loss within first families, so all holidays ring in different now, but Mother’s Day weighs extra heavy on our group.  I knew I had to be very pro-active this year so the whole day wouldn’t burn to the ground.

^ Crazy kind gift from my friend Meg ^

Every year we let our kiddos who are adopted pick out flowers to honor and remember their birth mamas.  Winter gives her flowers to her birth mom and we plant all the boys’ flowers in our yard.  I will never forget crying when we thought Everett’s flowers he had picked out had died in a frost shortly after he had died.  The next morning I woke up to find the potted flowers in our warm bathroom.  Josh Kelley was determined to keep them alive and that winter we had coleus flowering in our bathroom floor.

This year we made our flower shopping a mid-week pick me up for our family instead of waiting until Mother’s Day.  We needed something special to do so we roamed around Lowe’s reading about flowers and plants and making special selections for each of our invaluable birth moms.  We picked up another coleus for Everett’s birth mom too.  I think about them all, but often wonder if some how, some way, she know’s he’s gone, but finally whole and healed.

After snagging our flowers, we grabbed icees and dinner at home.  Then we headed to the cemetery with bikes and scooters and footballs and some fresh white flags for Everett’s tree.

THINGS YOU NEVER SEE COMING IN GRIEF:

We try and put up and change out special things in a tree around Everett’s grave pretty often.  It’s this visual therapeutic thing for Josh Kelley and myself and also our kids.  It’s a reminder for us and a way to visually display Everett.  A stranger can’t look at us and know we are different people…know that our son is dead and buried down the street…know that our other children smile differently in pictures now.  These are things we know…no one can just look at us and know there are really 9 of us, instead of 8 now.  We’re often looking for ways to tell the world of Everett and how there is more to our family.

So when it appeared to us Everett’s colorful lanterns we’d last hung in his tree had been cut down, I felt a tad bit of, ummmm, what shall we call it…RAGE!  Hahahahaha.  I wanted to break something.  While there are all sorts of perfectly good, understandable reasons for why they were all gone, my mind immediately went to anger and assumed our cemetery cut them down.  This is how it shook out in my head:

It was a beautiful sunny day with Everett’s colorful lanterns blowing in the perfect April wind.  Then, from the cemetery office the doors swing open with a cloud of smoke and there emerges an old, tall crotchety business man with dark black hair and top hat scowling with full on angry eyebrows.  The beautiful lanterns catch his eye and immediately consume him with rage.  How dare someone love their little boy and display pretty things in his memory.  He hops in his golf cart from hell and rides over as quick as he can…fire shooting from the tail pipe. (Do golf carts even have tail pipes?!?! 🙂 )  Upon reaching the tree, we does Keanu Reeves moves from the matrix to scale the tree and slices each colorful lantern from it’s limb with a sinister, devilish “Muhuhahahahahahahaha” laugh as each lantern falls to the ground…in slow motion…no less.  It’s official, he may not be a real guy, but he hates us.  And Everett.  And love.  And I want to slash his golf cart tires.

Seriously. ^ THAT IS ME NOW. ^  After we hung up the recent white flags I’ve been back every day to make sure they are still up.  I even get nervous as we are approaching the exact point where we can see Everett’s tree from the road and breathe a long sigh of relief each time I see the flags are still there.  I’ve even created a whole verbal assault…which I’ve practiced out loud…alone…in my car…I want to let loose on the mythical old, crotchety man who surely cut down all of Everett’s lanterns out of his pure hatred for life and drive to make billions in the cemetery industry.  Once I can escape my crazy-capades, I laugh, but the feelings are still legit and real.  This is just a piece of my grief.

In preparation for Mother’s Day I also went ahead and made a few requests to my crew.  I didn’t want to set anyone up to be my blame for why my day went terribly awry, if it did.  I laid it out:

*Breakfast: Fruit Loops and sausage & biscuits.

*In between breakfast and lunch we must watch Beonce’s Homecoming.

Sidenote:  IT WAS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!  Like, I can’t even form all my words for it yet, but I cried and laughed and we talked all about Beonce and Jay-Z and their kiddos and black culture and Destiny’s Child and drum lines and step teams and cool-ass shoes and and and.  THE BEST.  THE END.

*Lunch:  Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with all the fixings and white cheddar Cheetos.

*Dessert:  Coke Floats.

*No Video Games, but I will gladly whip you all in a bunch of games of Gotcha basketball outside.

*Visit Everett’s grave.  You do not have to go.  I am totally fine with going alone.  (And that’s what I ended up doing.)

*Please don’t buy me flowers because I already purchased some flowers to share, but please give me all the sweet homemade cards and drawings.

Sidenote:  Big kids are killer.  I commented on how fun a big colorful round beach towel at Target was a few weeks ago and Harper, Hudson and Solomon all went in on it together for me as a Mother’s Day gift.  I was so surprised and really love they remembered I liked it.  Probably doesn’t hurt they have Wave Pool on the brain…especially Harper.

 Like I said, super clear.  I’m the only one who can read my mind, so I let them all know what was going down in it.  We also didn’t go to my Mom’s grave this year…first time since she died.  At first, I felt a little weird about it…almost guilty…but then I realized those were silly feelings to have.  I really wanted the day to be easy and chill and removing lots of moving pieces from it, made it just that.  Simple and chill.  And I still love my Mom. 🙂

We ended the day with leftovers and a few Shark Tank episodes and a new America’s Funniest Home Videos and me demanding everyone not make dumb faces in a photo with me.  Amon still made lots of dumb faces and I got mad at him.  #reallife  I salvaged 2 photos, but I suppose you only need one, so winning.

We remembered and talked of our amazing birth moms and celebrated each one in the ways we can.  I remembered my Mom and Everett and how motherhood looks different and means something different to each individual…even among our little tribe.  It ended up being a pretty decent day.  This morning Amon told me he had a Mother’s Day trick for me.  He had me stand in the kitchen with my eyes closed facing him and then he flung a big plastic snot rocket at my face knocking my glasses off.  I called him a jerk.  Josh leaned in for a kiss and said, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

It’s Been A Minute

It’s officially May and the last day of school is in exactly 15 days.  I started this blog post 6 days ago and that should attest to my head space right now. 🙂  Life is currently full of all the end of the year school things and soccer and Leo’s therapies and doctors’ appointments.  The wave pool has been mentioned approximately 47 times so far and NO ONE in our family can actually wait in a reasonably expected cool way for it to re-open.  Harper said and I quote, “I just keep thinking about the wave pool.  Sometimes it’s all I can think about.”  Hahahahahahahaha.

Speaking of the wave pool, I recently wrote a family favorites guide to Nashville for MommyShorts.  You can see all our real, legit Nashville favorites HERE.  I’ll let you guess what made the #1 slot.

 Wave Country ,

We can’t quit you.  See you soon summer lover.

Love, The Kelleys

Leo’s birthday was last last Tuesday…more on that later…and now we will not have another birthday until July.  I love celebrating my kiddo’s birthdays, but 5 celebrations in 3 months was hard this year, so we are welcoming the birthday break.  Plus, Leo is the only person who wants to see, let alone eat another donut for quite some time.

I let this small soap boxey rant fly on my Instagram feed after some really frustrating weeks dealing with IEP shenanigans.  Enjoy! 🙂

“Lately we’ve been swimming in IEP meetings and communication with our school district. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent trying to speak with and finally getting to speak with all the “right” people to get what’s best for our kiddos with special needs. I adore our public schooling, I adore our teachers, but I do not adore policies & procedures that make zero sense for our children. I do not adore policies & procedures that simply make things easier on our administration. I do not adore policies & procedures that are biased against lower income parents, guardians and whole families who are busting their asses just to provide the basics needs for their kids…who are not afforded the extra time, access & privilege that’s needed to fight these policies & procedures so their babies can receive the absolute best education which should be easily available to all. It makes my head spin and my heart ache. It’s overwhelming and disheartening, but we press on. We continue to raise our voices and love on our teachers and beat on those closed doors and remind all kids just how brilliant they are. This is currently the hill I’ll die on. 😂  There’s just so much work to be done. And for all you educators who are working relentlessly on behalf of ALL kids, Bravo!!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Thank you for fighting for what’s really best for our babes. Wish I could buy you all a drink.”

This season is our season of Everett.  It’s the time of the year that holds all our memories of him and so our family has been pretty off the charts in the emotions department.  So I’m doing what any normal mom does and busying myself with all the important things like tracking how many loads of laundry we’ve done this month, figuring out a good combo of oils for a legit insect repellant and working on my group journal project.  Sometimes I’ll do just about anything to avoid the hard right in front of me.

Sidenote:  I found the most amazing beachy hair wave spray.  I sprayed my freshly washed wet hair down with it this morning and I keep catching myself in any mirrory surface because I am loving my beachy wave hair.

Another sidenote:  I quit wearing deoderant about 5 months ago.  This proclamation makes me laugh.  I went through a pretty intense detox stage wear I smelled strongly of Taco Bell, but then my smell kind of neutralized out.  I can still totally stink at the gym, but I really don’t think I’ll ever go back.  Bonus:  I am loving THIS pit spray. 🙂

Josh Kelley and I went to the Mumford & Sons concert in March.  We had never seen them in concert despite our best efforts in the past.  This time it happened and I’ve never been to a better concert.  It felt holy and spiritual and special.  I cried a lot.  Their album Delta has deep undertones and so many of them remind me of Everett and his sweet life and death. Several of the songs fling me right back into that hospital room holding his whole body in my arms.  It’s moving and melodic and soothing to my heart.

My friend Meredith’s sweet little girl Ember is having surgery tonight in China.  I cannot get them off my mind and heart.  It’s big and it’s hard and it’s all the hope.  You can read Meredith’s words HERE.  Please think of them.  Please carry them close and pray and hope and love along side them.  Wish I could be there.  Wish I could squeeze her neck and buy her all the coffee.  Let’s go Ember girl.

So many things to pour over.  So many combinations or hard and good.  Leo is finally big enough to wear Everett’s clothes and it’s just that…hard and good.  It’s hard to think about the time that’s passed without him.  How he’ll forever be this amazing little 3…almost 4-year-old…and to think about how much he would have changed and grown by now.  And it’s good that Leo is growing bigger and stronger and that Leo is here.  That we’re together and he can wear these scared little clothes Everett lived life in.  Every morning Everett would go to his basket of clothes and pull out what he wanted to wear.  He was so great and we miss him more and more every single day.

 

I hate when I’m away from this space for too long.  I really miss it.  Trying to make the time to write…to keep up…to carry on.  One of my favorite things to do is to sit down and document these moments.  They are all valuable and I just don’t ever want to forget.  Hoping to be back more regularly.  Fingers crossed.

7 & 12 (Birthday Recaps…Again)

Before I dive into detailing Amon and Harper’s birthdays this year…for my own memories sake…I wanted to let you guys know that my “Contact Laura” button has been down for quite some time…years in fact.  I actually received 2 emails last week stating they had reached out prior through the contact form.  That dang form has been jacked for quite a long time.  Our life is full and busy, but I really do reply to emails as quickly as I can.  I will not not reply to an email.  Facebook is a different story because I do not have the app and I only hop on quickly to post blogs and then I’m off again.  FB got pretty toxic for me so I closed my personal account a while back and just manage my business page pretty lightly.  In general I could list quite the lengthy list of issues with my blog, but money is sparse for things of this nature and so I carry on documenting this wild life in a banged up wonky space.  Please know email is always the best method of communicating.  pitterpatterart at gmail dot com 

Alright, let’s get to it.  Amon and Harper’s birthday are just a few days apart at the end of March and we partied pretty hard this year.  We do not do parties every year and we actually didn’t do any parties for several years and just did a fun family activity with our little family.  This year Amon really wanted to have a party WITH Harper…a little joint party love.  Harper is a complete sucker for him…always has been…I imagine, always will be…so she kindly obliged to a Spiderman party with her 7-year-old brother.  They have had such a unique bond from the very beginning.  They are both smitten over one another.  The other day in the car Amon handed Harper a piece of candy and she smiled at him.  He smiled really big back and said, “Harper, I like when you smile.”  And that about wraps Harper & Amon up.

They each got their separate actual birthdays to pick and plan fun stuff.  For their birthday breakfasts Amon requested donuts and Harper requested waffles and sausage balls.  Sausage balls are seriously one of Harper’s most favorite foods.  One year I asked her what her favorite part of Christmas was and she replied with, “The sausage balls.”  Forget baby Jesus and presents and special time with family and give the girl some sausage.

There were morning surprise confetti cannons for each of them and I must say, Josh Kelley is getting quite good at the surprise factor.  He startled both of them and they never saw it coming even though they knew it was coming. 🙂  Amon asked for brownies to take to his classmates and Harper requested fun candy bags to share with her class.

Leo and I brought Amon McDonalds to school to surprise him on his birthday.  He was soooooooo excited and it was too fun eating lunch with him and his little friends.  He also requested Zabys’s for dinner and ice-cream sundaes for his birthday dessert and we 100% obliged.  Birthdays are their days when there’s seriously not much we’ll turn down…minus the requests for Disney World or a quick trip to Ethiopia. 🙂

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fact that Amon and Leo’s glasses are the most expensive headbands Josh Kelley and I have ever purchased.  EVER!!!!

Amon made random present requests for his birthday, but at the top of his list was a Miles Morales Spiderman suit.  Done & done.  Harper pulled her present card and asked for 12 presents on her 12th birthday.  I loved picking out all the fun little gifts and our leader girl felt so loved and seen.  So far Solomon and Harper are the only ones to cash this request in.  Amon said he’s waiting until he turns 32.  Smart boy.

Harper’s birthday fell on a Friday and their party was Saturday at lunch so Friday night cousins and two of Harper’s besties spent the night and then all just stayed for the party the next day.  There was a Chickfila dinner and ice-cream sundaes and all the treats and tween girl fun!!!!  A blast was had by all and we brought in the big 12 in true celebratory fashion.

And then we partied with family and friends.  Pizza and a candy bar and double cakes…funfetti with rainbow layers and a chocolate with cream cheese frosting.  I mean, we partied hard and it was a really sweet day.

 

(A funny family member turned Amon’s 7 and I never even noticed. Ha.)

My favorite part of the entire party was when we sang happy birthday to the both of them.  They beamed and after we finished Josh shot off another confetti cannon right behind them.  It was so funny and super sweet watching their reactions to the confetti and each other.  Just the literal BEST!!!

THESE TWO!!!!  All of our kids love each other really big and unique and they also fight really hard too and love to annoy one another.  We watch as certain special bonds are formed amongst them and it’s so interesting to watch those relationships grow and form.  Harper and Amon definitely have one of those special bonds.  It surprised us zero that Amon wanted a party with Harper and it surprised us zero that Harper was totally okay with it.  They love each other in a very unique-to-them way and it makes my heart melt into a puddle.

Happy birthday Amon & Harper.  The two of you are so special to our family.  You make us all better and you show us every day how to love and be loved.  We’re privileged to watch you both grow and change and we promise to always take this front row seat as such an honor and cheer you on forever.  We will always be on your team!  You two have made us the luckiest yet again.

Favorites {Round 2}

I hadn’t done a favorite post in a while and now I’m back with my second in just a few weeks.  When I really love something I must share and lately I’ve noticed me loving some more fun things.

#1 Ruby’s Rainbow Socks:

Winter’s favorite socks…hands down.  She wears them all the time and often multiple days in a row. 🙂  $5 from each pair of socks goes to help provide scholarships for students with Down Syndrome to attend college.  Win after win after win.

#2 Meg’s Rainbow Cups:

Come on now.  Meg just knew…she knew we needed this mug in our life.  I remember the text coming through with sample photos and Meg asking me my favorites.  It was like asking me to choose my favorite child. 🙂 All so gorgeous…all so perfectly rainbow perfect.  And while I do not like coffee…I do love ice-cream from a gorgeous mug.

#3 Wood & Oil’s Diffuser Ring:

I kind of want to buy all my friends one of these rings.  You simply drop a few drops of your favorite oils on the porous stone and it’s like carrying around a small diffuser with you all day.  My kids crack me up because they randomly grab my hand and take a good long whiff.

#4 Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds:

We were all stuck like glue to this read/listen.  We spent countless minutes sitting in our driveway waiting to get out of the car because we just had to hear what was going to happen next.  Seriously had us all on the edge of our seats.  Nearing the end of the last chapter, Hudson, Solomon and I all got out of the car walked straight into the house, grabbed the hard copy and read over each others’ shoulders the ending because we could not wait for the next car ride.  Giant GO GET THIS READ!

#5 McDonalds’ Chocolate Dip Cones:

Exactly what I need on some very emotional days.  Dare I say better than Dairy Queen’s…I dare.  So good.  My favorite dipped cone around.

#6 Winter’s Old Navy Scalloped Bathing Suit:

We wear bathing suits out and our kids won’t stop growing.  I snagged this Old Navy bathing suit for Winter and it’s my favorite bathing suit I’ve every purchased in 12 years of purchasing kiddo bathing suits.  Great quality.  Adorable.  And fits just right in all the areas.  Bonus:  Winter looks bomb in mustard yellow.

#7 KOKEBstudio Print:

This shop is full of amazing prints by an insanely talented Ethiopian artist.  Upon discovering her shop I took weeks to make my final selection.  Winter squealed with delight when she saw it…”She has brown skin and hair like mine.”  Double win.  Definitely will be adding more KOKEBstudio prints to our home.

#8 Jamielizabeth Art Earrings: 

Jaimie sent these as a gift and I love them.  Crazy cute.  Crazy light weight.  And the perfect length.  She also did the absolute kindest thing and etched Everett’s name into the back of them.  Cue all the tears and all the style.

#9 Versify Books:

We have snagged some amazing books including The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles …a fun and funny read and The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander …an incredibly important and valuable read for everyone.  Both are written by black authors and illustrated by black illustrators.  Love any books that allow Solomon, Amon and Winter to see themselves in the text.  Bonus:  We are super excited to go hear Kwame Alexander speak in Nashville soon.  He has several chapter books our big kids loved.

And while I’m sharing about some great books, let me thrown in When Charley Met Emma by Amy Webb .  So lovely. So purposefully beautiful.  Needed for everyone.

#10 Sleeping kid pics.

Ha!  Okay that’s not really a purchasable #10, but I will never get over taking photos of my kiddos sleeping.  Leo is our prime napper now, so I have to take them while I can.  Little sleeping beauties.

How We Spring Breaked

Longer school break holidays are always hard for me as a parent.  I’m home all day trying to work from home while also trying not to lose my ever loving mind while also trying to make spring break fun while also trying not the break the bank making spring break fun for 6 kiddos.  Sometimes I wish we could take our kids on amazing vacations and then other times I’m completely content with doing what we do here at home.  It’s this weird push and pull, but at the end of spring break every one was alive and okay and had fun and was ready for school to start back.

We burned through a ton of sidewalk chalk…which isn’t unusual for our crew.  We filled up every last empty spot of concrete and the spring sunshine and wind filled my heart up.  Everett was born in the year of the snake so we drew a big colorful snake along our sidewalk one day.  We weave him into everyday moments all the time.  He is apart of us always.

Some kind friends gifted us with a membership to our zoo last year so we hit up the zoo one day.  The kangaroos were out and about which makes the entire trip worth it.  Also Winter about lost her mind when the spotted leopard ran right in front of her.  And Leo, well, Leo LOVES the zoo.  He is 110% there for the animals.  Also big kids are my favorite.  Harper, Hudson and Solomon all brought their own money to purchase their own fun snacks because I had already said I would not be making those purchases…the zoo fun snacks = expensive for 6 kids.  Big kids forever!

There was time playing with friends and cousins.  Along with trips to the park and our community center for basketball and to our library for books and movies and computer time.  A few Target trips were in order as well to let birthday kids check out possible gift ideas.  Anything to get these smallish humans out of the house and we caught some pretty sweet Tennessee sunsets while we were at it.

There were also plenty of movies and video games and baking cookies and reading and looking for hearts.  There was loads of snuggling and loads of fighting.  Playing nicely and wanting to beat the snot out of one another.  There were moments of sweetness and moments of insanity.  Spring break is completely the best and completely the worst.

There were approximately 5,213 meals and snacks consumed.  Our kids get free breakfast and lunch at school so our weekly grocery budget quadruples on these long holiday breaks.  🙂

(Hudson & Solomon have mastered the breakfast in bed and Josh Kelley and I are not mad at it.)

And we ended spring break with our first family photos of 2019 with our beloved Cheyenne and then Sonic for dinner.  Family photos are actually something I deeply look forward to.  There are zero wardrobe changes, there are lots of bribes and Cheyenne gets done in 30 minutes or less.  I always tell her, “All I need is one good shot.” and yet in that small window of time she works her absolute magic and leaves me breathless and in awe of my people and her ridiculous talent.  When she sent me a preview she pointed out little rainbows that showed up in some of the pictures.  Made me cry and smile.  Gah I miss him.  He should be here.  Everett should be in these photos.  He should be in our arms.

So we made it.  We survived spring break and enjoyed spring break and were also thrilled to see spring break end.  Isn’t that just life?!?!  Until Summer.  See you…not too soon. 😉

Hi!

I started this post last week when we we’re in the middle of a double birthday week.  A friend recently text me and jokingly  asked who’s birthday we were celebrating because this is the time of the year where we have 5 birthdays in 3 months.  Birthday extravaganza.  I feel like I can’t solidify many thoughts lately with all that swirls through my brain on the daily, so, you know, I’m here to just write whatever.

Sundays are when we use up the last of the groceries left in our fridge.  This usually means the last of the weekly eggs and any browning bananas are turned into banana bread, waffles and egg muffins.  I can usually pull off 30-40 waffles and then we bag them up and toss them in the freezer.  The big kids pull them out, throw them on a cookie sheet and broil them in the oven to perfection.  There’s something weirdly satisfying about turning the last of food items into more food which will last us all week.

Watching Josh Kelley & Amon stretch kind of makes my day.  I just think they are the cutest things.  It doesn’t take much these days to make me feel all sappy about my people.

Everett’s Gotcha Day was at the end of February.  It was a pretty sucky day all around, but we did our best to celebrate as always.  Before we reminded the kids about the day being Everett’s special day Hudson came down early and said he felt sad.  I reminded him of how our minds might not remember specific dates, but our bodies do.  Harper was really sad and down so we let her stay home from school.  We pulled ourselves up with sunshine and lunch with Josh and our favorite chocolate caramel bars from Target.

That night we took the kids to see the new How To Train A Dragon movie.  It was FANTASTIC!!!!  To celebrate our special family days we pick something fun to do together as a family.  Everett’s gotcha day is no different…still so much to celebrate in this special boy who changed us all.  The movie was just incredible.  We got treats and popcorn and settled into our seats.  Winter sat by me and before the movie began she started to cry.  I leaned in close and pulled her in.  She said, “It doesn’t feel good without him.”  And then she and I cried together right there in that movie theater.  We held onto each other tight and felt Josh, Harper, Hudson and Solomon’s hands and arms sporadically wrap around us.  She puts into such simple and sweet words what we all are feeling.  None of this feels good without him.  We recovered after a good cry.  Winter snuggled on me during the whole movie and when the lights came up we discovered she’d made herself quite comfortable by raising two arms rests, stretching out, taking her shoes off and catching some Z’s.  Gah, I love her.

We finally got Everett’s colorful lanterns up about a month ago.  The cemetery is always a roll of the dice for our crew.  Sometimes it can be so so good for our hearts and some times it’s like we’ve been knocked 20 steps back.  This visit was a good one.  How can you deeply love and deeply hate a place simultaneously?  I hate that Everett’s life is now represented in things like the cemetery and rainbows and lanterns and Fiesta donkeys…and then I love we have things which are so symbolic of him.  He was such beauty and wisdom and bravery and heart wrapped up in the sweetest little boys body.  I hate this is how our life is now.  We just desperately want him back.

Our cardiologist appointments are always pretty hard days.  You just never know what news your will hear or how Leo will do with all the tests.  I also can never kick Everett from my brain and cry at some point Every.Single.Time.  I adore our cardiac staff.  They are kind and compassionate and love us really well.  At our last appointment I could not stop crying and I kept trying to explain my emotions and feelings away to our cardiologist.  She finally leaned in and said, “You don’t need to try and explain any of this.  You owe me no explanation.”  And then more tears came.  Over the moon thankful for compassionate and empathetic people who love our kids and fight for their little lives.

On a lighter note…will someone please stunt these two boys’ growth and throat punch time for me?!?!  Thanks!

PS:  143 forever.

Amon!  He’s our resident cat and the funniest kid.  He’s weird and quirky and seriously cracks us all up all the time.  And how can one little human have the cutest nose in the literal world!!!!!  Everyone needs an Amon.  Everyone.  Weird kids for president man!

Brothers at therapy make everything better right?!?!  We have been insanely lucky to have the best therapists on the block.  I could sing every single one of their praises.  They make us better.  They make our kids work hard.  They believe in our kids.  And they welcome, not just our child who needs the actual therapy, but our whole family into the process.  People who love their jobs and give so willingly of their talents to others amaze me and make me strive to be a better human.  Heroes are freakin’ everywhere.  We are friends with lots of them.

The sun is out today and I’m about to pick Leo up from speech therapy.  It feels good to have written random words, you can feel spring on your fingertips and I cannot wait to get that “after-speech-therapy-I’m-way-too-excited-to-see-you” hug/”I might bite your shoulder because of my excitement” from Leo.  I know people facing unreally big, hard things today.  Things I could only try and imagine, but there’s this weird wiry thing called hope.  It lingers.  It stays.  And it’s always there swirling around while also digging it’s heals into the ground on our behalf.  Today it feels fresh and real.  I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, but hope is ringing in my ears and heart today.  Some days I shove it deep into my pocket and call this whole thing shit, but not today.  Holding onto hope always.  Clinging to it like our lives depend on it…because they really do.  Here’s to it people.  We’re likely far stronger than we ever imagined.

8 Favorites

I love to share things I really legit love.  I’m not a sponsored blogger so if I share something on here you can bank on me actually using, eating, loving, etc it.  I only share things I really really enjoy.  I haven’t done a favorites post lately so thought this would be fun.

1.  The Pied Piper Creamery:  I adore ice-cream.  It’s easily one of my most favorite treats to eat.  The Pied Piper Creamery is a local ice-cream shop in Nashville.  They make all their ice creams in house and they are phenomenal.  I will never forget the first time I went YEARS ago.  My friend Alissa insisted we go and it was fantastic.  The shop is right down the street from Harper’s middle school and our kids freak when randomly I surprise them with ice-cream after school.  My favorite flavor consists of vanilla ice-cream and chunks of Twix, Butterfinger, Nestle Crunch, Snickers, M&Ms and Reece’s Pieces.  Yeah, it’s amazing!!!!!!!!  Hudson steers clear of dairy, but he loves their fruity sorbets.

2.  Twin Snakes:  These have been an on going candy obsession in our house for a while now.  Every single person LOVES them and I gift them to people all the time because they are so good.  One gummy snake is sweet flavored and the other is sour.  It’s the perfect combo and with flavors like blueberry & blackcurrant they are just so freakin’ tasty.  We get them at Target, Kroger and Walmart.

^ Harper tore her snakes apart and rainbowtized them. ^

3.  Thieves Laundry Soap:  I have always been very anti oils because I just thought there is no way they are really this cure-all people claim them to be.  About 6 months after Everett died I was desperate to try and lift the mood in our house.  DESPERATE, I tell you.  I ordered an oil kit and the rest is kind of history.  I still don’t think they are a cure-all…no way…but I have seen the positive affects of certain oils on our family.  I also don’t believe every oil works on every person.  Lavender didn’t help Amon or Leo sleep, but cedarwood was a different story.  Anyways, I still have meds on hand, but understand oils are just another tool in my toolbox.  So to cut to it I got a free container of Thieves Laundry Soap and I LOVE IT!!!!  I really didn’t think I’d like it better than the homemade kind I’ve been using, but after 2 weeks of laundry and 4 cases of the flu I’m sold.  I also diluted the original bottle turning 1 bottle into 3 so I’m anxious to see how long it lasts because as a family of 9 we do a ton of laundry.  I’ll keep you posted.

4.  Tiny Teardrop Cut Out Necklace:  You know I’m a Bottle of Tears fan…and a Lindsey fan…and when this showed up in our mailbox I gasped.  I LOVE IT!!!  Like haven’t taken it off since I received it.  Lindsey’s entire shop is insanely beautiful and makes walking with your hurting, grieving and sad people easy when you feel like you have no clue what to do.

 

5.  Advocate Like A Mother Tee:  Littlest Warrior is another awesome shop on the inter webs.  I love their IG and their podcast as well.  As a mom of 3 special needs kiddos their content is helpful and encouraging and a reminder we are not alone.  Josh Kelley got me their “Advocate like a mother” tee for my birthday and it’s perfection.  I wear it all the time!!!

 6.  Five Point Pizza:  If you are from Nashville or ever in Nashville please eat Five Points Pizza.  It is hands down our favorite pizza in Nashville.  Favorite, favorite, favorite.  The slices are huge!  Their lunch specials are killer!  Their Mediterranean salad is crazy good!  Their garlic knots…I can’t even!  And they bring the kids pizza dough to play with while we wait for our food!  Just the best pizza in Nashville.

7.  Not having the flu:  In our house anymore. 🙂

8.  And Five Daughter’s Maple Glaze Cronut:  This is not your average donut and therefore it does not have your average price tag.  Definitely a special splurge, but Five Daughter’s maple glaze cronut…croissant + donut…is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.  It’s true.  And while I’m at it let me just go ahead and say their Purist, Chocolate Sea Salt and Vanilla Cream are on that list as well, but if I had to, had to, had to pick just one it would be the maple.  Absolutely outstanding delicious treats and now it’s all I can think about.

FIVE

Winter turned the big 5 at the end of February and I’m just now getting around to documenting it.  Life has been crazy town with a whole bunch of sickness coupled with spring break.  We are all pretty thrilled school starts back today and we can settle back into our normal routine.

Winter turning five felt important and big and special.  We’ve celebrated every birthday with her, but this one was her first as a legal Kelley.  As always we let the birthday kid take the reigns and plan away.  I love letting their minds and imaginations run wild dreaming up their perfect day and Winter did not disappoint.  She has been making birthday requests for at least the last 6 months.  It became an on going joke among our family how Winter was making yet another birthday plan and we were all anxious to see what would make the final cut on her actual birthday.  Josh Kelley and I started taking bets. 🙂

The basics she covered quickly…donuts for breakfast, pizza for lunch and Arbys for dinner.  She was very excited about our new confetti cannon tradition, but we wouldn’t tell her when it would happen.  As soon as she blew out her candles that morning Josh shot it off and it was hysterical.  She didn’t see it coming at all.  We also brought back our birthday door tradition just for Winter.  A rainbow streamer door greeted her first thing on her birthday morning.

The details were much harder for her to nail down.  She chose 1000 different birthday party themes.  Several months ago I bought her a cute brown skinned mermaid at Target and she was smitten.  She’s never seen The Little Mermaid, but it was instant love with this mermaid.  Representation matters and Winter is the perfect example of why.  She notices skin color and hair color all the time.  When she sees a doll or toy or book that reflects her she always tells me in an excited tone, “They have brown skin just like me.”  She notices and I always want to make sure she finds herself in books and movies and toys and in her surroundings and everywhere.  All thanks to that beautiful brown skinned mermaid doll she finally decided on a mermaid party.

I wanted mermaid party supplies that reflected Winter too.  I was bummed to search and search the internet to find very little available.  And then Target went and did it again making the sweetest mermaid party supplies with a brown skinned mermaid.  Winter went crazy upon seeing the fun supplies.  We had a big mermaid balloon too, but it popped before it made it home.  Alas.

Our family gathered along with one of Winter’s favorite neighborhood friends and celebrated our girl.  Her birthmom was unable to make it this year, but we facetimed with her later and Winter spared her no detail and showed her all the fun things she was gifted.

There was pizza and veggies and fruit and candy and cookies and funfetti cake and ice-cream.  She opened presents and played her heart out.  All the laughter and all the fun.  And Josh Kelley stealthfully snuck another confetti cannon into the kitchen and when we finished singing happy birthday to Winter in our dining room he shot it off again scaring most of the adults and a good chunk of the children nearly to death.  I laughed so hard I cried.  He is my favorite dad around.

She was celebrated so well by all those who love her.  Despite yucky rainy weather our people showed up to love on our girl.  And she felt it.  One of Winter’s love languages is time and touch.  Her love tank was filled right up with all the time spent with her and all the snuggles and hugs she received.

For a special birthday snack for her class she asked for chocolate cupcakes and mermaid tale rings.  Thank you Amazon for always having those semi quirky items.  Mermaid tale rings it was.  Anything for the birthday girl.

After everyone left she played with all her fun new toys and we got Arbys for dinner.  As we all ate together Winter found a fry that looked just like a lower case “e” and we all breathed in a deep breath and talked about Everett.  No matter the occasion…no matter how joyful the day is…we are carrying him, missing him and longing for him.  Our grief is always there…maybe not at the forefront of every single special day, but at some point on these extra important days it will come out and we will all recognize it…see it…affirm it in each other.  No matter how alone we feel in our grief some days, we always know we understand each other in our little family.  “Me too.” is exchanged a lot among us and our sadness.

This kid.  I just don’t have all the words for her.  She is the fiercest child I have ever met.  She is strong and fiery and the most loving all rolled into one little human body.  She has experienced so much loss and heartache and yet lends her love to anyone who needs it.  She is loved by so many and I know some of the best parts of her come straight from her beautiful birthparents.  She lacks zero in the self-confidence department and I adore that about her.  She is beautiful and tough and she believes this about herself…I hope she never loses that.  Winter went and made our family better…yet again.

Gosh, we just love her to absolute pieces.  We celebrated the heck out of this kid because she is worth every ounce of celebrating.  Happy 5th birthday Winter Lee!  Thank you for making us the luckiest.