10 Things

1. Amon, Everett and Leo sleeping will forever be one of my most favorite things.  They are my heart boys…their hearts work hard…and funny fall-asleepers and I’ll document it forever and ever and ever.

And now I present to you my most favorite sleeping photo.  All the little details in the photo just make me smile.  Miss our boy so much.

2. I adore any little reminder of Everett.  Every single one is never lost on me.  Colorful hearts for our colorful heart boy.

3.  When Hudson and Solomon were little they were always on top of one another.  I’m delighted it has yet to wear off.  I hope they are like this when they are 85 years old.  I hope they are always the best of friends and one another’s person.  They have the most unique bond and I adore watching them.

4.  We’ve shockingly had very little sickness this winter season…knock on wood, but when Hudson wasn’t feeling his best and had some sadness I gladly kept that boy at home.  Time with just two of them is so rare.  He ended up with a simple cold and we welcomed the chill time together and quick bounce back.

5.  Winter gets her hair done every two weeks and in between I touch up and tend to it with moisturizing.  She’s usually really amazing while her hair is being done and does not have a tender head at all.  I was looking through photos on my phone the other day and found these jewels she snapped while I was fixing her hair.  It is an absolute shame this girl has zero personality.

6.  Using scissors is in Leo’s Top 5 Favorite Things To Do.  🙂  He will spend such a long amount of time cutting and it’s crazy good for his fine motor skills.  When I create during the day he grabs his scissors and gets to snipping.

7.  I will have spent 96.3% of my life in a car rider line so I snag lots of pictures while we wait together.  On New Year’s Eve we totaled our van.  It was scary and gave our kids a touch of PTSD, but no one was seriously injured.  Currently we have to split everyone up to get them here and there while we wait to get a new vehicle.  I have been taking Harper to school which is normally Josh’s routine, but I have so enjoyed this time with her and Leo.  Carrider line pictures forever.

Again, please pray for Winter’s personality. 🙂

8.  Amon lost his first tooth and we all praised the Lord because the kid was driving us bonkers about it.  He had another tooth coming in already behind it before the first tooth was ever even out.  Then another tooth started coming in behind his second lose tooth.  We wiggled and jiggled and finally Hudson pulled Amon’s second tooth because the new tooth was already over half way in.  Oh the tooth drama, but he’s now two teeth down and cuter than ever.

   9.  Everyone loves selfies with Leo.

And 10.  Winter and Leo really embody my level of exhaustion.  Hahahahahahaha.  I get a good chuckle out of these pictures every time I see them.  May it give us the power to get to the weekend.

Ethiopian Christmas 2019

January 7th is Christmas in Ethiopia and other parts of the world.  Our family hasn’t always celebrated Ethiopian Christmas.  For years I was afraid of doing it wrong or not getting enough right or leaving out really important parts of the celebration.  I didn’t even know how to make Ethiopian food and still don’t.  Then 5 years ago I realized I was being really dumb by letting these things keep us from celebrating such a special holiday in Solomon and Amon’s culture.  We decided to go for it and just do our best.  Now it’s one of our most favorite holidays.

In Ethiopia, they start their celebration off at their places of worship by lighting candles and worshipping together.  We kicked ours off by gathering in our home, thanking everyone briefly for joining us for such a special celebration, lighting candles and then praying over our food and time together.  If I’m the one thanking the group, I always get choked up and fight back tears.  It’s just such an incredibly important and special time for our family and Solomon and Amon love it so much.

Josh Kelley has started trying to figure out some Ethiopian dishes to cook, but again, so shame in our game, so we ordered Ethiopian food from our go-to Ethiopian restaurant GoJo in Nashville.  It was delicious as always and did not disappoint.  We also had fruits and veggies along side our Chickfila nugget tray.  I was a very picky eater as a kiddo, so I always like to have some foods I know kiddos will definitely eat.  No crying over food at our parties!

We always let Solomon and Amon decide on our desserts.  Desserts are not a big piece of Ethiopian culture, but they totally are Kelley culture. 🙂  Solomon LOVES to think about dessert details and make his selections and Amon lended assistance this year.  They went with a rainbow cake…again…and a candy bar with all their favorites…mini Kit-Kats, Twin Snakes, sour gummi bears, mini Reeces, Airhead Bites & Extremes, M&Ms and Skittles.

We always have coffee and popcorn for our coffee ceremony.  I love watching all the kids try coffee and shovel handfuls of popcorn into their mouths.  I am not a coffee drinker, but once a year on Ethiopian Christmas I enjoy a small cup of coffee with my dessert.  This year I sat by Josh with my coffee and cake and we just looked over at each other and I started to cry.  We both knew how much we were missing Everett.  It’s just constant and sometimes it’s really hard to reign in the emotions.  We didn’t get to celebrate an Ethiopian Christmas with him and he would have loved it.  We added pieces of Everett all throughout our night.

A cooler sits in the floor of our kitchen filled with large glass bottle sodas as well.  This is not traditional at all, but it is for our family.  So many sweet and irreplaceable memories of being in Ethiopia with Josh, Solomon, Amon, Harper and Ashely have these glass bottle sodas peppered through out our time there together.  I have such specific memories I cherish so deeply, so we’ll always have them as a sweet reminder and everyone LOVES a big glass bottle soda.

The kids run wild playing and eating all the sweet treats.  We sit around talking and eating and enjoying each other’s company and playing games.  The more the merrier for sure and everyone knows they are more than welcome to bring a friend with them.  There will always be enough and we love sharing a piece of Ethiopian culture with those around us.

Our whole family looks forward to celebrating Solomon and Amon’s rich, beautiful culture on this special day.  We mix Ethiopian culture plus the Kelley spin and get authentic Ethiopian food catered, coffee ceremonies, Chick-fil-A & rainbow cake.  We do us and celebrate the fire out of our gorgeous boys. Traditions are what we make them to be and can be born whenever we’re ready.  Melkam Gena!

December Recap Pt. 2

Last year my friend Kaylyn made Everett the sweetest Fiesta donkey stocking.  This year a new sweet friend Lauren knit Everett a full rainbow stocking and you guys, when I opened it I gasped.  It’s just gorgeous and kind and so thoughtful.  We hung them together and they feel beyond special.  There is nothing quite like knowing others are thinking about him because he never leaves our minds.

Sibling gifts were a huge hit this year.  I know everyone likes their kids and I am no different.  I just really really like them!!!  They make my heart joyful and I adore the little humans they are becoming…not that they do not drive me full on crazy sometimes, but I take immense honor in being their mom…all seven of them.

(Leo wears compression shirts every day to help with his sensory issues and we usually put another shirt over them, but sometimes we just let his inner Steve Jobs run wild.  You’re welcome.)

Christmas Eve was super chill.  We went to Chris and Kim’s house for brunch and played a bunch of fun games.  We headed home to grab Leo’s prescriptions before Walgreens closed for Christmas and then Andy, Becky and the girls came over just to hang out on the random.  Our holiday season is actually really laid back which I completely love.

(It makes me so sad Winter and Amon have zero personality.)

Amon had to use the bathroom and missed the photo op.  We all laughed because technically he’s still in it, just behind that window doing his thing. 🙂

We got super fancy for Christmas Eve dinner and had hotdogs.  Hahahahahahaha.  It still makes me laugh, but it was crazy delish too.  Any other Nathan’s Hot Dog fans out there?!?!

Right after Everett died I told myself I’d only buy varieties of rainbow wrapping paper for the rest of my life. 🙂  This is grief.  It pushes me to make grand and weird proclamations like this all the time, but I’ve got a really good feeling this one is going to stick and I love it.  Christmas is no different.  We look for ways to remember Everett is everything we do and so this is the second Christmas I’ve hunted out rainbow paper for all our wrapping needs.

(Mini paper stockings fashioned from wrapping paper are the perfect cash or gift card holders.)

When Josh Kelley and I were putting out gifts we found the world’s smallest gift to us from Hudson.  It was teeny tiny.  We opened it Christmas morning and it was the funniest drawing of an elf chiseling Josh and I out of big rock.  I don’t even know!!!!!  He’s beyond quirky and I am madly in love with his quirk.  The picture was accompanied by some really kind words.  Made my Christmas.

In our family we do three gifts for each kiddo.  Our big kids don’t believe in Santa anymore, but our littles still fully believe and I love it.  Harper, Hudson and Solomon play along great and help spur on the magic.  We’ve done the 3 gifts thing since Harper was born and it just works for us.  Different strokes, for different folks.  Each kiddo’s presents are wrapped in their own paper and we stick a piece of their wrapping paper in their stocking so they know which three gifts belong to who.  They love going through their stockings and keeping an eye out for their wrapping paper piece.

After a Christmas morning of sausage balls and cinnamon rolls and Fruit Loops and chocolate milk and OJ we headed to Josh’s parents house.  We ate lunch and played games and opened gifts and ate some more and the kids played their ever loven’ hearts out and we played a few more games and ate a little bit more.

And that was that.  It was good and it was fun, but we were all ready to send this holiday season on it’s way.  We did our best.  We gave it what we could, but we miss Everett and sometimes all those feelings are really hard to work through and balance out…for kids and adults.  So until next time Christmas.  Peace out.

December Recap Pt.1

We all had our predictions on what Leo would do upon seeing Santa and Ms. Claus.  I was hoping for the screaming and crying “Get me out of here” moment because those pictures are top notch and bring all the laughs, but the kid loved Santa.  He walked right up, sat on his lap and gave his beard a tug.  Winter’s reaction to Santa coming in was my favorite though.  She squealed with absolute delight and kept asking me to remind her of what Santa’s wife’s name was. 🙂  There weren’t many Christmas requests this year, but Winter did ask for an ornament and I love that was her request to Santa.

We put out Everett’s Christmas tree again.  We pulled out the rainbow lights and all the ornaments we made together last year, decorated his tree and then took it to his grave all together.  This is our normal now.  Everyone knows we go to the cemetery.  They load up bikes and skateboards and scooters and the football and a blanket and they know this is just what we do.  It’s equal parts beautiful and heartbreaking.

Josh Kelley and I found mini gingerbread houses at Target and I never want to go back to the big ones again.  LOVED the little minis and so did the kids.  They all got their own and decorated their own and ate their own.  There was enough for Josh and I to make one too.  His was pretty legit, but we all know who won best gingerbread house award.  Wink, wink, nod.

Josh’s quote for our Christmas.  Hahahahahahaha.  It was so fitting.  We really wanted to add the explicits that follow, but figured we’d let it be a G rated board.  If I could sum up how the Kelley family felt about the holidays this year, this would be it.  Peace out Christmas.

There were approximately 43 spaceships or forts made out of delivery boxes in the month December.

Chalkboard art forever.  #revolvingchalkboard

Special little events here and there were lifters for the kids during this weird feeling season.  Our friend Bekah gave us tickets to the Marvel event and the kids were huge fans.  They had the best time.  Thanks so much Bekah!!!

We went to see the new Grinch movie and to our surprise, we were not big fans.  I think it’s hard to re-make such a classic…especially after Jim Carrey took on the roll of The Grinch.  The new one was not our favorite version.  It was sweet and cute and I teared up at one moment, but it was pretty meh!  Which made me sad because I adore Benedict Cumberbatch…Hello Sherlock and Dr. Strange!!

We Kindness Advented our way through December.  My favorite part is reading all the cards and kind words my kids share with others.  This was Amon’s card to Mr. Allen who helps clean and take care of their school.  I mean, the smile induced by his little words lasted for quite some time.

Hudson, Solomon, Amon and Winter were all in a Christmas play at Josh’s parents church.  Hudson was suppose to be a wiseman, but got sick so Amon left his role as an animal and took on the wiseman position.  Winter was some sort of animal and Solomon was Gabriel.  When I saw this photo of Sol it made my heart swoon.  This boy…geeze…there’s something about him and being caught in this in-between stage of still being a kiddo, but nearing pre-teeness.  He still gives me hugs at random and likes to snuggle and I just could eat his little face off.

Toby was constantly on our minds and hearts.  As we walked Target aisles picking up all our last-week-of-school-before-Christmas-break-and-everyone-has-a-party-and-ten-things-they-have-to-bring-in items we collected his name.  It’s beyond hard to be in the hospital with your child as the world carries on.  We always want them to know they are never far from our thoughts.

Candy canes all December long.  Candy canes from the Christmas parade and school and parties and random candy canes given to us at every single turn and the peppermint sticks I love to buy.  The kids ate peppermint before breakfast far too many mornings.  Merry Christmas indeed.

The kids all buy presents for one another with their own money each year.  This year we waited far too late for shopping, so they drew names and shopped for just one sibling and I hope we never go back.  I loved seeing what they had selected for one another and seeing how excited the giver was to watch the recipient open their gift.  Most of their packages had added rainbows and hearts and I love it so much!!! We talk about Everett every single day and I deeply hope that never changes.

PS: Amon’s “luf you”, well OH MY GAH!!!  We are absolutely the luckiest.

Hope

Hi!  It feels like the holidays kind of chewed us up and then spit us back out.  Ha.  Not exactly all candy canes and icicle lights, but just some gritty grief truth.  We all struggled to catch that joyous momentum and we’re pretty glad to see the holidays in our rear view mirror.  I struggled to put words to my feelings so I just stayed away.  Things are settling back down and I’m hoping to play catch up in this space.

In late November sweet Leo had another heart procedure to check out his special little heart and for his team to gain some more wisdom and knowledge on the best way to go about repairing his heart.  We were so hopeful his team would report some amazing new findings which would buy us even more time with our boy before having to send him in for surgery.  His procedure ended much sooner than expected which was a red flag for us and it turned out the work they had done before had not yielded the outcomes they were hoping for so now surgery is on the horizon.

We are disappointed and I felt all vomity in the moment about it all, but then Leo caught RSV, pneumonia and bronchiolitis which got him another visit to the ER right after they let him go home.  All the funk, despite being a bit scary, actually bought us a little more time because he has now proven his body will likely catch other wintery germs so they do not want to attempt his surgery during the winter months.  And we’ll take it.

He healed up and is now on the mend.  We spent the holidays soaking up our first Christmas as a family of 9 and Leo did not disappoint in the excitement department.  We watched our kids in awe, but noticed Everett’s absence at every turn.  It was hard and sad mixed with deep gratefulness.  I whispered in Leo’s ear over and over again, “I’m so glad you are here.”

So surgery is on the horizon and we’ll take every single day before the actual day comes.  I have 1 million feelings about it all and I’m still trying to sift through all my feelings in all the departments including the Jesus one.  It’s easy to look at someone’s story and heave words towards it.  It’s harder to look at someone’s story and just listen and be okay with them not being okay right now.  People who are grieving don’t need to be fixed, they simply need to be loved.  I’m learning more and more about what type of person I want and long to be to others who are suffering.  I’m tucking all the lessons pain and loss are teaching me within my own heart.

The day they released Leo from the hospital after his heart procedure I shared these words on Instagram:

“After a good night with no complications Leo is back at home.  Walking out of that hospital this morning with him in my arms was tear inducing…always will be.  All morning I’ve thought of Amanda and Meredith and sweet Toby and all the others who are fighting so hard along side their babes.  I thought about those who have walked out doors empty handed and I, of course, thought of Everett. 🌈❤️  We do not emerge from ashes unscathed, but deeply scarred.  What we do with our pain and brokenness is important and honestly I hope I never fully lose mine.  It creates compassion and empathy and love where it might not have been otherwise.  It reminds me daily that suffering is real and everywhere and one of the single greatest things I can do as a human is not to run away, but to simply show up the best way I know how and acknowledge others’ pain.  I want to remember my pain, tuck it away deep and learn from all that it has to teach me.”

And although I’d go back in time in an instant to be with Everett again and although I’d give just about anything to see his face, feel the weight of his body against mine and kiss his sweet cheeks again I stand by my words.  I stand by never taking for granted entering a hospital with my kid and walking out with them in my arms.  I stand by taking something from this whole suck ass situation.  We will hold onto hope as if our lives depend on it because it feels as if they really do.  You will find me white knuckling hope with all I’ve got because hope is real and it keeps us afloat.

 PS:  Toby is doing really well…still a long way to go, but the dude is killing it. 🙂

Kindness Advent Days 5-14

I used to do daily posts on our Kindness Advent for memories and reference for others, but, well, time is lacking these days.  We’ve been carrying on with our kindness advent as best we can.  We did have one rainy day that botched our surprise chalk art…you win some, you lose some and you carry on.

One of my favorite things about our kindness advent is watching and encouraging our kids to use their words to be kind.  Obviously our whole family doesn’t always use our words to build each other up, but instead we get pissed and use our words to bring each other down.  I like watching their little minds think and work and act to bring some kindness into the world.

One of our favorite soups Bacon Cheeseburger Soup…we adore this with tortilla chips…and it’s perfect to give to a friend.  Simply enough and definitely delicious enough.

We scored these ornaments 50% off at Michaels.

Heart explosion!!!!!

Donut Delivery Tip:  If you order 10 or more boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts a few days ahead of time they give you a 25% discount on your order.  Props.

People had a hard time believing me Kroger had peonies for our flower delivery. Hahahaha.  But alas, Kroger does sometimes carry peonies and I scored some just in time.  I also had a coupon for flowers…they come in the mail sometimes along with other personalized coupons for things I buy often from Kroger.

I always keep pickle and salsa jars just for flowers.  I spent about $20 on flowers and then divided them up into 5 jars so $4 a jar!

Our big kids wrote encouraging words on sticky notes and then put them on their classmates lockers at school.  In the past we have put them on public bathroom mirrors, so this was a new twist and they really enjoyed it.  It was funny hearing them talk about how their friends reacted.

Cookies have been our choice of baked good this holiday season.  We’ve been handing out chocolate chip, snickerdoodle and chocolate sea salt cookies like it’s our job.  Leo has been very happy about this. Ha.

And for our Redbox rental bag we bought Redbox codes online, printed them out and the kids picked out their favorite popcorn and treats to go with it.  We’ve left this at the Redbox before for the next customer, we’ve given it to friends and stuffed them in mailboxes.  Any delivery method goes.

This tradition takes some planning and I always get tons of questions about it, but it’s so worth the extra planning for us.  A friend text me recently and said she was enjoying watching us do our advent to which I replied this is basically how we keep from drowning in this season.  Holidays can be really hard in the grief department so our family needs that extra push.  I also know it can seem a bit overwhelming and not for everyone.  Different strokes, for different folks-4-eva!!!!  I feel like we’re all just doing our best and hanging on tight, so carry on friends.  Do this season the best you can.  Solidarity.

10 Things

1.  Mumford and Sons new album Delta is the best thing to hit my ears in a while.  There’s a line in the song Delta that takes me straight to Everett and the moment when we hold each other again in heaven.  It’s this outstanding, standout proclamation that makes my heart race and allows me to feel Jesus again.  It’s loud and powerful and the moment I heard it chills hit my arms and tears filled my eyes.  I think about what holding him again will feel like all the time.  Sometimes it’s maddening and makes my heart ache so hard it feels as if it will burst.  Sometimes it’s the moment that keeps me going…that longing and knowing that one day, ONE DAY he will be in my arms again and I will feel the weight of his little body against mine.

“But I’ll meet you at the delta

Where the rivers run into the sea

And I’ll meet you at the delta

What’s behind, I can clearly see

But that beyond, that’s beyond me”

2.  Squad goals.  Seriously don’t cross these 3 in a back alley.  Unfortunately Leo did not get the scowl memo. 🙂

3.  Josh Kelley and I had a night out to see the The Oh Hellos with Becky and Andy.  Date nights are pretty rare these days, but this was just what we needed.  Becky and Andy are always a delight for us.  They lay it all out there…the fun, the conversation, the food, the truth, the gritty and the good.  Totally some of our faves.

4.  Hudson and Leo.  Leo and Hudson.  Leo always has a relapse in the sleep department after he’s been put to sleep.  He had another heart procedure just a bit ago and has been slowly working the anasthesia out of his system again.  We thought he’d bounced back much quicker this time only to find out he’d been crawling in bed with Hudson in the middle of the night.  Hudson is such a champ and loves his little brother so well…even through exhaustion.

5.  We are beginning to see Leo play more and more.  Amon and Winter help pull out his play and imagination more every day.  Watching them bond and engage and play their little hearts out is beyond amazing.

6.  I saw Tru-Colour bandaids at Target recently and then like magic some appeared in our mailbox to try out.  They are such awesome bandaids.  They are durable and such good quality and they match darker skin tones so well.  Such an impeccable product and so thankful we got a chance to try them out.

7.  I am a massive fan of mint and chocolate so when I saw this new M&M flavor at Target I could not pass them up.  I actually opened them in my car before I left the parking lot and devoured them.  The mint, the chocolate and the crisp is perfection.

8.  Days with Leo are a gift.  Josh says I’m Leo’s bestie.  He makes my achey heart feel joy and he is such a good snuggler.  We work and run errands and play and do laundry and bake cookies and fix dinner and do all the therapies and doctor’s appointments and I could not think of a better way to spend my days.

9.  These two are beyond smitten with one another.  Josh is a softy for his girls and he and Winter are pretty dang cute together.  She asks him almost every single evening when he gets home, “How was your day dad?” and he instantly melts.  She’s beyond mindful of him and I know that makes Josh feel so seen. Winter, stirring hearts since 2014.

10.  It’s puzzle season in the Kelley household.  When the Christmas decorations come out so do the puzzles.  Everyone gets in on the puzzle action.  I always smile when I see one of the kids getting in some puzzle work before they head off to school in the morning.  Tis’ the season.

The Holidays

I am behind in blogging and documenting our family so I’m going to try and do a little catching up over the next week.  In November we did quite a bit of celebrating.  My 36th birthday kicked November off.  Leo had occupational and sensory therapy that day so we spent most of our mid-morning and afternoon doing all the therapy things.  He is such a joy to spend my days with.

The birthday person in our house gets to plan all things accordingly for their special day.  Icees were a must after school…per our usual Friday ritual…and homemade pizza for dinner.

And just this moment I realized I’ve never shared my favorite homemade pizza recipe.  YOU GUYS!!!  It’s amazing and it must be cut into strips VS triangles.  Just do it.

*Naan bread (I get ours at Kroger and I broil it longer because I like crispy crust)

*Sriracha Aioli Sauce (3/4ish C plain greek yogurt, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 TB lemon -I leave this out when I don’t have a lemon on hand & it’s still crazy delish- 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 TB sriracha and a few pinches of cayenne pepper)

*THIS leftover chicken (I make this earlier in the week for taco/nacho night & then use the leftovers again for pizza night)

*Bacon

*Pizza cheese

Totally my fave!!!  My friend Ashley was quite appalled I still had not chosen a birthday dessert on my birthday and urged me to pick some sort of cake.  She convinced me cake it always the way to go on a birthday.  This is why she is my best friend.  I ended up making myself a rainbow funfetti cake and it was perfection straight out of the fridge.  I did insist on adding 36 candles which resulted in a full on blazing birthday cake. 🙂   I’m constantly reminding myself of how full my hands and heart are because my instinct is to remember the void of Everett missing…it’s the first thing I see in photos and traditions and our life.

I received some fun rainbow mail from family and friends which is always a lovely surprise.  Jen, Campbell and I went to see The Hate U Give.  Jen and I read the book…which was phenomenal, like absolutely phenomenal.  I was afraid the movie wouldn’t live up to it, but the movie was amazing too.  A must see for everyone.  Just incredible and taught me so much all over again as a while privileged person.  Go see it!

Jen, Marcie and I celebrate again with dinner at Cabana.  It was delicious and we were seriously the only people there.  We still haven’t figured out why, but our server brought out a yummy birthday dessert for us to share and we did not turn him away.

Ashley, Alissa, Leah and I all have birthdays in November and December so we decided to celebrate all together at Uncle Julios with some killer Mexican food and a chocolate piñata.  Yes, yes you did read that correctly.  A chocolate piñata.  It was filled with strawberries, chocolate empanadas and mini churros.  It was insanely good.  One of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

(Please take note of my “OH MY LORT” hand on my chest upon seeing the dreamy chocolate piñata.)

Next up for celebrating was our sweet Alicia.  She was turning the big 18 shortly after my birthday and when 18 rolls around a party is definitely in order.  What I love about Alicea is she chose appetizers for her main dish 🙂 and iced sugar cookies and more funfetti cake for dessert.  A girl absolutely after my own food loving heart.  And on your birthday, ask and you shall receive is always my moto.

Thanksgiving was weird this year.  I just felt all the feelings all day long plus it’s pretty much my least favorite holiday ever.  We spent a chill morning at home with cinnamon rolls and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade before heading over to Josh’s parents house.  We rarely buy the newspaper so it was pretty funny watching and listening as Josh read the kids their horoscopes.  Hahahahaha.

I’m not a big fan of Thanksgiving food at all, but Leo was completely won over by it.  Dude loves to eat and devoured an adult size plate of all the foods.  He passed on dessert…literally left his cookie sitting there…but ate all the green beans and turkey and ham and rolls and Mac n cheese and rice and squash and and and…what a little adorable weirdo.  🙂

 The rest of the day was spent hanging out.  The kids played their hearts out.  I went to visit Amanda and Toby at the hospital for a bit.  There were board games and football games and more food.  I missed Everett a lot.  I thought about him constantly.  Holidays all feel so weird now and I’m not quite sure what to do with all those feelings yet.

And now Christmas is upon us.  Josh Kelley LOVES this time of year so all our Christmas decorations were up before Thanksgiving even rolled through.  We put on Elf, ate fruity candy canes, played Christmas music and decorated all we can in our little house.  Leo broke an ornament right off the bat and we issued our “we don’t want bleeding feet” warning to all those barefeet running around our house.

I always love watching the kids pull out their own ornament boxes.  I love listening to them recount memories associated with each ornament.  This year we all hung up Everett’s different ornaments and his new one.  I get each kiddo a new ornament every year representative of some part of that year and Everett is no different.  This year we had an artist pallet, a pencil, a rubix cube, a rhino, a rainbow Christmas tree, a rainbow snowflake and a banana ornament.  We all miss Everett so much and so we fill our life and our space with reminders of him.  He is carried deep in our hearts and is always on our minds.  I so wish I could put better words to those feelings.

I had forgotten, but last year I wrote Winter a letter after Christmas and tucked it away in her ornament box.  She found it and asked about what it was.  I read it to her and cried.  My words were laced with so much hope and here she was this strong, resilient Kelley girl bringing so much spunk and laughter and fire to our family still.  I had hoped for a different outcome for Winter…I really had…but I can never fully express the honor I carry in being her mother.  She’s our Winter…the forever season all our hearts needed.

So here we are in this season that’s suppose to be so full of joy and light and hope and fun and we find ourselves fighting to find those feelings.  It’s been a struggle and every one of us feels the weight of this season.  We have kids in tears often about their brother.  We have kids who are plagued with worry.  We have kiddos who struggle with sad moments at school.  We have kids still asking questions so advanced in thinking we have no idea how to answer.  This is grief.  This is the flailing about in open, rough, wavey waters when you cannot remember how to swim grief.  So we grab on tight to one another…doing our best to lift each other up instead of pushing each other under the waves.  We remind each other we’re here…we’re in it together…we’re not planning on going anywhere…we’re going to make it.