When Things Suck

I know it’s Tuesday, but this week has already been heavy and hard.  Yesterday straight up sucked!!!  Like shit city.  I let life suck the joy and will right out of me.  I feel like we just stay in this state of hard and exhaustion is our normal now.  It feels like things are getting harder before they will get better and that’s life…I get it…things could be worse.  This morning I woke up after a really hard, long night.  Leo was acting off and Josh and I we’re sure something serious was going on.  One of the hardest things about Everett’s death is that I think about one of my kids dying every single day.  And not because I worry…I’m not a worrier at all, but because now we visit one of our children in the cemetery… that’s our reality.  There is so much of this life that is out of our hands and when your child dies it’s this GIANT reminder of just how little control you actually have so death crosses my mind about at least one of our children every.single.day.

I’m determined today will be better.  What little control I actually have I’m fully extending today to keep myself afloat.  I’ve made myself keep moving through the tears.  I’ve eaten some chocolate.  I made a smoothie.  I stared at Leo all googly eyed.  I finally paid some medical bills.  I took a shower.  I’m drinking lots of water.  I’m eating good foods.  Great music is blaring all day long.  And now I’m sitting down to write.  I’m choosing joy because when I examine things more closely how could I not.

Today I’m picking out things I’m crazy thankful for…the deep and shallow…because gratitude in the midst of sorrow is empowering and meaningful and life giving and can pull you from the darkness.

I’m thankful for trusted people who can directly connect with my kids in ways I cannot.  I will never be everything they need…which is insanely hard because I want to be everything they need…and we have kiddos with hard beginnings and more trauma and loss than most of us will see in a lifetime.  When I see special connections with others outside of Josh Kelley and myself I am grateful in a whole new kind of way.  After our last party, I noticed this sweet little drawing Aunt Becky had done, I snapped a picture and smiled deep.  Gratitude for all the little and big ways others love and connect with our kids.

Josh snapped this photo of Leo and me and I love it.  Not the best lighting and I’m not looking my finest, but that look in my eyes is one I love and recognize…one of love and pure smittenness and honor to mother these amazing kiddos.  I’ll tell my kids for all their lives, Josh and I are the luckiest and all 7 of them are my greatest honor and privilege.

Our journal project is helping keep my creativeness from completely disappearing.  Even on days when I don’t journal I’m at least thinking about it…what words to choose, what mediums to use, layouts, how to make whatever happen, etc.  I know I’m a creative person, but I’ve felt lost the majority of the past 2 years and I’m just holding on hoping it doesn’t fizzle out.  These journal projects are keeping the flicker from snuffing out.

(You can see more about this group journal project on my Instagram story highlights.)

I’ve been wanting to give Harper and Winter’s room a little facelift and once Winter’s adoption was final it was the perfect time to do so.  Maybe on the shallow side, but I’m thankful for their sweet space.  Their sisterly love and their Everett rainbow love.  For cripsy white and pops of bright color and bright open windows to let the light in on the darkest of days.

This past Saturday was the heart walk in Nashville.  We have tried to go every year since watching it out Amon’s hosptital window while he recovered from his open heart surgery in 2012.  This year we had soccer games so Leo and I picked up a heart ballon for each of our brave heart warriors on Friday afternoon to represent for Saturday.

Saturday morning as I watched Amon run his little heart out I was overcome with such immense gratitude for his life and Everett’s and Leo’s.  Overcome with gratitude for all their specialists and doctors and surgeons who have chosen hope for each of them.  I really wanted to go to the heart walk this year.  With losing Everett and Leo being home I wanted to be there to walk and represent 3 of the bravest boys I know, but instead I cheered Amon on.  I watched him run up and down the field going as hard as he could.  His heart isn’t perfect, but it serves him well.  He has to self regulate and he’ll need another surgery at some point, but Amon gives it 110% and nothing seems to slow him down.  Crazy grateful for our 3 heart guys and the way they have battled and fought.

And I’m thankful for how far Leo has come and each day we have together.  It’s hard because he has now been with us longer than Everett was with us.  It seems broken and crazy and unfair.  And yet, I’m grateful for every second and all the leaps and bounds he’s taken to bond and attach and trust us as his forever family.  He now has a whopping 7 specialists…which is insane feeling, but we’re working and fighting every day for answers and the best for Leo.  We want the answers he deserves and we’ll fight like hell for them.  Leo is joy!  He loves so big and he has seriously changed so much and we all just beam with pride over his life and his love and his fight.  Gah, we adore him.

(April 2018)

(September 2018)

Camp Create 2018

Last Tuesday I hopped on a plane and headed to Kansas to hang with two of my most favorite women ever…Kimberlee and Meg!!  They run this crazy amazing Camp Create where women from all over can come and create and learn and rest and eat and feel seen and it is by far one of my most favorites places.  When they ask me to come to the craft house, I’m all, “Ummmmmm, yes, of course.  Are you kidding me??!?!  No brainer.”  It’s the best job EVER!!!!!!

It is fun and relaxed and the ladies create all day long….from morning to late into the night, but they can also sleep late too or take a nap, eat Kimberlee’s most delicious food, shop for amazing junk treasures, share and chat and laugh.  It’s an incredible time all around and the main reason is because  Kimberlee and Meg are legit good, like really really good at hospitality.  They make you feel seen because they choose to really see you.  When you hear there’s room for everyone around the table, they mean it.  I absolutely love that because they are everything they portray on the internet world and even more.  And that is refreshing!!!

The group of ladies who attended this camp were amazing.  They were loud and kind and inclusive of everyone there.  They shared openly and honestly.  They laughed and cried with each other.  It was such a genuinely sweet group of ladies and I was totally honored to be among them and hear pieces of their stories.

On our first night all together, shortly after arriving, my new friend Shelly walked over, hugged my neck and whispered in my ear, “I’ve been wanting to do this for the past year.”  Instant tears in my eyes and gratitude in my heart because there’s nothing like knowing our son is remembered and thought of by others.  Nothing.  And she chose to share that hug and her words with me.

Kimberlee’s food and the creating always top my favorite parts chart.  I loved listening to Megan Wells teach us how to create her funky florals.  I learned so much from Megan on several different levels.  When I picked her up at the airport, that was it, instant friends.  Megan is kind and funny and real and creative and honest.  I loved hearing about their foster journey and her business.  I loved seeing into her heart and felt so honored to get to know her, wash dishes with her, create along side her and eat peanut butter M&Ms by the handfuls with her.

I taught everyone how to create these crazy fun rainbows inspired by Mandi Smethells’ insane creativeness.  I LOVED teaching this and even more so, loved making more of them.  I thought of Everett the whole time.  Creating is a deep part of who I am, but since Everett died it has been  pushed to the side to make room for a whole list of things our kids, Josh and even others need from me.  And it is still pushed to the side to make room.  I know this is a season, but sometimes I feel like I’ve lost my creativeness altogether.  Never in my life have I done anything harder than being there for our children…walking this everyday journey with them…after losing their little brother.  While there’s not another place I’d rather be than helping my kids along this path, hard as hell feels like a light and airy description for a family of 7 grieving altogether.  Having this time at the craft house to create felt sacred and special to me.

When your child dies everything changes and everything gets harder…at least it did for me.  Things that used to be fun and nice aren’t anymore and your relationships with people change and are very different in general as well.  Holidays, special events, trips, work, hobbies, basically everything just feels harder than before and you re-learn how everything is going to work now.  With all those factors I’ve experienced plenty of highs and lows around life events the past 14 months.  I would work them up in my head and then be sorely disappointed and sad about the way they played out.  I’ve learned to try and go in expecting nothing from the actual event or the people I will be surrounded by.  The night and afternoon before leaving for Kansas I had moments of anxiousness and sadness.  Home is my one sure fire safe place so it’s always a bit hard to leave.

Let me tell you, this trip ended up being exactly what I needed.  A little break from the hard of our life.  I told my friend Sherry recently I’m always afraid we’re too much for others…we’re too hard, we’re too jaded, we’re too sad, we’re too loud, there are too many of us, we’ve got too many problems, we’ll eat too much of your food…seriously, all the too muches.  It’s always in the back of mind wondering when a friend or family will realize I’m too much or our family is too much and bail.  Kimberlee and Meg never make me feel like too much.  When Kimberlee tells me I’m her favorite person to feed, besides her husband 🙂 , I believe her and take it has the highest compliment.  They are both dear friends and when we hug, it feels like my Mom’s hugs did.  They have created a safe place for ladies to feel so loved and cared for and that’s exactly what they did for me yet again.

On one particular night at the craft house I missed Everett just so desperately.  Grief is like that and you are not in control of when it decides to show up in super intense waves versus more controllable ones.  I went upstairs and sat in Meg’s bathroom floor and sobbed.  It was one of those moments when I missed him so desperately I felt like my desperation could literally will him back.  I know that might sound nuts or crazy, but it’s my mama’s deep grief.  Desolate, desperate, insane and the most intense of feelings.  I finally picked myself up off the floor, wiped my face off and headed back down.

That night I went to bed really late, hanging and helping out, but still carrying the weight of how much I miss and need my son back.  I moved quietly through our dark room trying not to wake Kimberlee and Megan and in the dark I saw this little gold E sitting on my bedside table.  Meg told me earlier she had something for me and I knew instantly before she’d left that night she had placed that little E on my bedside table.  I held it in my hand, took the deepest breath and felt seen.  I want to do this for others.  I want to be the type of person who knows how the simplest of actions or words can make a persons deepest, loneliest part of their soul feel seen.

When Saturday rolled around the house started packing up and heading out to all their different states and homes.  I was excited to see Josh and the kids, but I truly had such a lovely time.  I left feeling lighter.  I left feeling loved.  I left knowing there are women who want to legitimately be a part of my hard story.  I left knowing I wasn’t too much.  And for all of those reasons, that is why I will head back to the craft house for Kimberlee and Meg’s hugs and friendship any chance I get.

If You Need Us…

The Kelley kids took the past year off from all extra curricular activities.  We all just needed a break and zero commitment after Everett died.  We needed zero strings attached and we needed not to have to be anywhere at a certain time.  Grief keeps you feeling crazy and the last thing we needed was to try and run ourselves ragged with kid activities, so we took a break.

When we started talking about maybe doing sports or something again, Winter mentioned wanting to play soccer and soon everyone wanted to play soccer.  There were a few boys on the fence about soccer or baseball or flag football, but in the end soccer won out.  In my head this was amazing.  Never ever ever has everyone wanted to participate in the same activity and I thought this would make life smooth and easy.  Ummmmm, well, nope.

We didn’t really think how this would mean 5 kids on 4 different teams which meant 4 different practice times 2 times a week and 4 different games every Saturday.  We pretty much live at the park, but also quickly learned we would choose to skip practice when it becomes too much.  We remind everyone this is supposed to be fun…kids soccer is not our life.

Like everything for us, it took a trial run to figure out what we were doing right and wrong in surviving so many Saturday games and week day practices.  This past Saturday ran much smoother now that we’ve got a better handle on things.  Our kids also totally feed off our moods and the first Saturday of games Josh Kelley and I were fried and annoyed and done!

Perfect example:  For Winter’s first game, she literally would not play.  The coach would send her in and she would seriously walk right back off the field.  Then if she actually stayed on the field she would just stand there.  We all sat in the hot heat watching her do absolutely nothing and pretty confident you could see literal steam coming from my head due to my intense anger.

Josh and I had a big talk after our first insane Saturday of soccer games, made some changes to our game plan and the past two Saturdays everyone was in much better moods…including Josh and myself.  For Winter’s game she was a beast on the field.  She scored 3 goals…one a breakaway where she dribbled the ball down the length of the field and scored in the other team’s goal all while the whole crowd was yelling “wrong way” “other way Winter” “turn it around” 🙂 but we counted it because you should have seen her sweet face.  She made a complete 180 and I really think it’s because she could feel that the rest of us were less stressed this time around.

Everyone is enjoying playing and we’re enjoying watching them.  It’s fun seeing them have fun playing a game they really love.  It’s also great seeing their pride in themselves despite winning or losing.  As we walked away from Winter’s game I asked her if she had fun and she said she did.  And then she said, “I feel really proud of myself too.”  And I loved that.  I want them all to enjoy things like this and feel proud of themselves for working hard at something.

So if you need us at any point over the next 2-ish months, you know where we’ll be. 😉

Eight Things

  1. Now that school is back full time Leo and I are together, just the two of us, each day.  It’s kind of crazy the amount of doctors’ appointments we usually have each week, but days when we have no appointments are my absolute favorites.  We get to play and run errands and take naps and bake treats and I want to pause time…or as Amon says “plause” time. 🙂

2. Amon got glasses!!  Dude has some pretty wonky eyes which we were completely unaware of, so glasses and routine eye appointments are now in his life.  He’s seriously the cutest thing.  The first time he put them on he started spelling out all the street signs.  A whole new world.  Now we just have to get him used to wearing them regularly because the guy goes 100 miles an hour and cannot be slowed down by some spectacles.

3. I love our elementary school so much.  The entire school…students, teachers and staff…are all divided up into 4 houses (like teams).  You are in your house as long as you are at the school and they work together through out the school years to earn points, win awards, build community, etc.  It’s really incredibly sweet.  They have house parties on Fridays and for their first house party this year they revealed to all the new kiddos which houses they would be apart of.  Since Winter just started in their preschool program she was apart of the big reveal on house party day.  She ended up being a Tha’rros and could not have been more excited about it…some of her most favorite teachers are Tha’rros-es too.

I wish you could experience everything that is our Winter.  She is hilarious and loud and spunky and fiery as all get out.  She yells “Tha’rros” in this deep man voice and pumps her arms up and down like a wild women.  She’s Super Fan #99. (Name that movie.)  She asked me to paint her face for last Friday’s house party.  We compromised with orange ribbons and orange earrings instead.  I have a feeling she will give the ultimate drunk fan at all sporting events a run for their money.  She came to win.

4. Last Friday we celebrate our nephew Cooper’s 18th birthday and our niece Meiya’s 10th birthday.  They were born on the same day and each year the Kelley family usually does a little something to celebrate.  This year it was with Mexican food and treats and key lime pie.  Two big birthday markers for two of our most favorite people.

5. Splinter removal and snack time at its cutest.  Love these three so much my heart wants to freakin’ explode.

6. Amon has a new friend who lives on our road.  They are the most hilarious together because I am fully confident God gave them the exact same brain.  Watching them play and interact is one of my most favorite favorite things ever.  They both think the other one is the greatest person alive and they want the world to know they are best friends.  Watching them play and pretend in their own little world together is magic.

7. Josh Kelley and I celebrated Winter’s adoption the day after with a datenight.  What?!?!?!  Dates are like rare precious gems excavated from the deep parts of the earth for us. 🙂  It was crazy nice to get out and just breath a little easier.  We ate some killer queso and some okay-ish tacos and drank yummy drinks and watched Ben Folds, Cake and Tall Heights rock out and danced with Jen.  Just the night we needed.

And 8. Does anyone else feel like this at the end of the day?  Asking for a friend.

So Long Summer

Well, it’s official, the end of summer has come for the Kelleys.  The wave pool opened and closed it’s doors yesterday for the last time this summer and now we’re all sad and counting down the days until next summer’s re-opening.

Harper said, “I’m already ready for summer.”  And that about wraps all our feelings up.  Wave pool forever.

I know it might sound silly or weird or like “What?” that we love this place so much, but it holds such fond memories of all our kiddos.  It’s nostalgia at it’s finest.  I remember bringing my wee Kelleys…Harper, Hudson and Solomon.  And then adding Amon.  And then adding Winter.  And then adding Everett.  And then the first time we went after losing Everett.  And then adding Leo.

I’ve laughed and cried in this place.  I’ve watched all my kids play and enjoy the water and soak up the sun and eat on our towels and wear floaties in the same place.  All 7 of our children sat in my lap and went down the smallest water slide.  I’ve seen the joy on each of their faces.  And I just love that.

We’ve gone with friends, run into friends there and met new friends.  It’s the perfect place to spend time with any type of friend.  It’s diverse and fun and everyone feels welcomed.  The giant pool in the hot summer Tennessee days evens the playing field for everyone and we’re all just humans trying to stay cool and survive…we’re all just doing our best.

We’ve seen Ms. Ashley approximately 732 times over the years and Amon’s most favorite memory is when a stray cat had babies in the women’s locker room.  Ashley let him see the kittens anytime he wanted to.  And even though that was like 2 years ago, he still asks her about those kittens.  Ashley is the nicest and always admits she’s not sure what those cats are up to these days.  Other than my kid memories, I love all my Ashley chats while we sat in the shallow water together.  We’ve laughed and shared and talked out a lot of life in that water.  It will never just be a waterpark to me.  Ever.  It’s just so so much more.

On Sunday we went and said our goodbyes.  Until next season beloved wave pool.  You will be missed and thought of and you better believe we’ll be back next year as soon as your doors re-open.  You have our summer love forever.

Ten Things

1. Want to make someone’s day?  Grab an empty jar of any kind…I fancy pickle and salsa jars…fill it with any sort of flowers…I fancy Kroger’s sale flowers…and give it away.  Instant day brightener for anyone of your choice.  Simple and easy and totally effective.

2. I always look at the sky.  Since my kiddos were little tiny things I’ve always pointed out how pretty the sky and clouds are to them.  They are well trained and now point it out to me which is such a great reminder to me of the One who created it all.

3. Cardiologist visits are never easy, but when they are over and done with I’m thrilled to walk out of that office with my boys.  It’s one of the heaviest feeling places to me because I have such vivid memories of Everett and the hardest conversations we’ve ever had to participate in as parents.  I’m so thankful for a crazy amazing staff and a cardiologist who loves all our heart guys so well.

4. I shared this on Instagram the other day after yet another appointment with a specialist.  The appointment did not go well and I was down.  I figured if I was feeing the way I was surely there was another person feeling the exact same.

“Leo currently sees 6 specialists along with his regular pediatrician and eye doctor. Truthfully, keeping up with it all is hard and exhausting. But when I look at him I see absolute perfection and beauty and the brightest joy there is. I’m so honored he’s ours. ❤️

To all of you running your kids here and there and everywhere, to all of you fighting for the best care and answers on behalf of your child, to all of you with bills stacked high and calls to still make to insurance, to all of you who are flat out exhausted and want to run and hide, but are still forging on doing the very best you can….I’m applauding you and cheering you on. You are kicking ass even when you don’t feel like you are. You are brave and strong. You are making a giant difference in this world and you are the luckiest to parent that amazing kiddo of yours. This parent gig is hard as hell, but what an honor we’ve been given. Now if only insurance and all billing departments would get their shit together. And the people said Amen. 😂”

5. Sleeping Leo is one of my most favorite Leos.  I could cuddle him close and watch him sleep all day long.  Definitely one of my most favorite things to photograph too. 🙂

 

6. I’m headed to the Craft House this week and could not be more excited about seeing Meg and Kimberlee again.  They execute hospitality and inclusion like no others.  I’ve been to plenty of events and trips where all we’re supposed to be welcome, but it did not feel that way.  I’ve been a guest, a helper and a teacher at the Craft House and each time I felt the same…included, welcomed and seen.  They are the best at making room at the table for everyone…never an alternative motive…just welcoming love.  I cannot wait to hug their necks.

7. I went down a baby Winter rabbit hole the other afternoon.  It was the sweetest trip down memory lane looking at all her baby pictures.  This girl is really something else.  She brings so much laughter and joy and fire and spunk to our family.  There’s really no other Winter like ours.

8. Is it too early for fall decorations?!?!  I think not.  The wave pool is closing…today is the very last day…tear, all Tennesseans are pretty much over the insane humidity and my kids are already talking about their Halloween costumes.  I broke out our kid leaf art and set our fall and Halloween books out on our cofee table.  Bring on fall…we’re ready for it!

9. These two.  I can’t.  I just cannot.  They make my heart swoon crazy hard.  Harper adores when he crawls in bed with her in the morning.  And I cannot blame her one bit.

And 10.  Just because I simply will never get enough of him.  He is a giant shot of joy.

Everett’s 5th Birthday

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a month now, but never really had all the words I wanted to have.  I still don’t have the words so I figured I’d just share what I can.  Everett’s 5th birthday was July 29th and out of all the big dates lining our calendar this one felt the hardest.  I feel angry that we didn’t get to spend any of his 4th year together and I feel angry we had to bury our son on his 4th birthday so his 5th birthday seemed like an extra kick in the throat.  Lots and lots of anger and tears.  His death feels so senseless.  I cannot, for the life of me, see the point.  We still miss him every single day and it still feels so incredibly fresh and hard and painful.  Even though I know we made the best decision for Everett with all the information we had, it still feels like the worst decision of our lives sending him into surgery.  And there’s nothing we can do about it and there are no amount of words or gestures from others that could ever fix this eternal guilt struggle Josh Kelley and myself carry.  It’s just our reality.

Josh and I talked about 436 different ways to spend his birthday, but honestly, they all felt too hard.  We finally decided just to go to the wave pool with our crew and try and make the most of it.  The morning of his birthday we kicked it off with donuts and anger and it was awful.  Josh and I were pissed at one another.  The kids were crazy.  Everyone was fighting and by 9am I had said all the curse words.

We forged through packing goggles and beach towels and sunscreen and floaties…all the while being angry as hell and mean to one another.  We all loaded up and headed to the wave pool and it felt terrible.  All I wanted to do was bail on the whole day.  I just wanted to be with Everett…that was it.  I just wanted my son back.

When we arrived Josh’s brother Andy and sister Jen were there.  We all headed to go in and as we walked down the big set of steps into the wave pool I saw lots of colorful balloons, brightly colored table cloths and a giant rainbow piñata float.  It still makes me teary just typing the words out.  My friends Ashley and Alissa and their mom Tammy along with all their kiddos were waiting for us with a fun birthday set up.  They even invited other friends and they all started trickling in after we arrived.  I sobbed behind my sunglasses and gave out hugs.  This day sucked, but they made it a little less sucky.

Our kids were beyond excited as their friends started to arrive.  We rode the waves and slides and had a concession stand lunch like no other.  Ashley came walking out with trays full of icees for everyone.  They brought all the yummy foods.  Anna made cupcakes and Leah made sure we had all the right candies and Mr. Kelley brought donuts.  Every kid would leave with a full on sugar rush no doubt.

It was a really sweet time each one of us needed.  We needed to see and feel that we were not forgotten and more importantly that Everett was not forgotten.  We think about him everyday and as the world moves on it’s easy to feel lost and forgotten in the mix.  What our friends did for us might have not felt very big to them, but it was huge for us.  In fact, they flipped the trajectory of our day entirely and for that I am incredibly grateful.

After everyone was completely worn out from fun and swimming and sugar and sunshine we headed home for naps and a chill afternoon.  I made Funfetti cupcakes because I’ll always make my boy some sort of cake on his birthday.  Always.  And Amon and Winter put our piñata float to good use. 🙂

After dinner we headed to the cemetery with cupcakes, bikes, skateboards and scooters in tow.  This place will always be so special to us.  I hope we never stop coming.  I hope eventually it will hold such fond memories that we think of it in great joy instead of great sadness.

We lit candles and blew them out.  I watched as certain kids licked all the icing off first, how some picked at the sprinkles first instead and how some went right in taking a giant bite…as it should be. 🙂

I thought about Everett and what an amazing child he will always be to us.  I wondered about birthdays in heaven…is that even a thing?!?!  I just hope he knows how deeply missed and longed for he is.  I hope he knows how long and wide and high our love is for him.  I hope he can feel our love even in heaven.  And what I hope most, is that when we are finally with him again, that to him, it really was just a blink of the eye before we were together again.

Happy 5th birthday sweet Fu Shuai.  You have changed us forever.  Another day closer love.

Locals!!!

Totally a weird random post today for any local people who might be interested.  We’ve been simplifying and trying to make our home a bit easier and more functional for 8 people living in 1,400 sq feet.  We recently moved some things around and need to get rid of some extra furniture we’ve decided we don’t need anymore.  I’m actually pretty sad to part with most of it, but I also get super stressed with lots of extra things so they must go.

These are for local pickup and each piece is $100.  Priced to sell.  They are in good condition and  mostly older pieces so they are sturdy and heavy and some of the drawers need an extra wiggle to move in and out…nothing an 9-year-old can’t handle though. 😉

Large bluey gray dresser: H44″ W21 1/2″ L42 1/2″

White bookshelf: H74″ W10″ L30 3/4″

Old metal office desk: H28″ W26″ L54″

Old metal school desk: H30″ W29 3/4″ L48″

I don’t have a personal Facebook page anymore so this seemed like the next best option.  If you are interested please shoot me an email at pitterpatterart at gmail dot com  We would love to get these gone as soon as possible.  And feel free to share if you have a friend who might be interested.  🙂