Rather Lengthy Randomness

1. Josh’s sister Jen lives just down our street.  Sometimes she comes over and then we party…and by party I mean we usually play games and enjoy cocktails & queso…until crazy late while all the kids sleep.  It never fails that intense, meaningful conversations happen ALWAYS!!!!  It’s seriously one of my most favorite things.

Documenting said intense and meaningful conversations.  One day we will all look back and be so happy I over documented our life here on this little piece of the internet.  One day.  Hahahahahaha.

2.  We have been crazy sick the last 2 weeks and I just can’t figure out why.  It couldn’t be that some of our children sit like this ALL.THE.TIME or that we send 5 kids out into the school world where it’s a germ free for all or that maybe some people in our house are still trying to remember to wash their hands!!!!!!  Nope, definitely not why.

3.  We recently marched in the Women’s March here in Nashville.  I know, I know, I know…here’s where people either cheer or click unfollow.  Hahaha.  I shared a photo that day of our littlest on Instagram with the following words:

“I got teary every time people cheered our kids on…especially our little queen bee with her “strong” sign.  I thought about how there was no way all those people and myself agreed on every single issue in life, but before they encouraged us or our kids they didn’t stop me and say, “Now before I choose love & kindness, can you tell me your stance on immigration, health care, Black Lives Matter, abortion, DACA, LGBQ rights, Trump, etc?” Nope. That didn’t happen. We can choose love and kindness without agreeing on everything. We do not have to be 100% on the same page to stand with one another and love deeply. Today I marched because I believe in the stories & hope that dwell within both my daughters and sons. More than anything I long for them to be kind, loving, generous, compassionate and respectful. And I never want them to doubt the power & bravery that lies within themselves.”

And that was when people got really bold hiding behind their computer screens sending me ugly messages.  And that was when I simply deleted those mean comments.  Let’s all be kind in person, but also on the internet.  I know we can do it.

Let’s also enjoy some cuteness while we’re at it.

By the way, have you seen Wonder Woman?!?!?  If you haven’t, add it to your list right now and watch it asap.  Incredibly good.  I cried maybe 32 times.

Josh’s brother Andy sent me this picture afterwards and it instantly became my favorite photo from the day.  Seriously could not stop laughing.  Oh Josh Kelley, we love you and all your introverted ways.

4.  Marcie and I took a Southern Belle Biscuit Class a couple of weeks ago and YOU GUYS!!!!!  It was insanely fun and eye opening…yes, biscuit making can be eye opening…and well, I totally recommend this to anyone and everyone.  There we’re Nashville people in the class, out of state tourists, men, women, seasoned biscuit makers and newbies to the biscuit world and everyone had THE BEST time!  You might feel like I’m punking you right now, but this is not a drill…it’s legit and amazing and if you take the class you’ll love it!  And this is not sponsored and I wasn’t asked to talk about the class, I just had that much fun learning how, eating and making biscuits.  Marcie actually scored the class on Groupon and we we’re both so giddy afterwards.

5.  Valentines pretty much sucked terribly this year.  Josh Kelley and I had gone out of our way to really try and make it a special, fun day because it seems that every single holiday right now, no matter how big or small, sucks without Everett and our kiddos feel this big time too.  Well, by the end of the day Harper and I had the flu and our littlest had strep.  And there we’re lots of tears from pretty much everyone.  We did however continue on in our tradition of books and beans (jellybeans) for Valentines and one of my all time favorite cookies ever!!!

And the day before Valentines…when Harper and I weren’t feeling like death yet, we both gasped when we saw this card and stopped just to pick it up.  Everett Kelley, goodness do we miss you every single day.  We see you and feel you in everything and everywhere we go.

6.  So we basically just passed flu and strep around for about 2 weeks.  It actually became comical minus the fact that our co-pay went WAY up and that blows with 7 people in the house who are passing around germs and need for real medication.

During our sickness we relied heavily on the Olympics, Gatorade, ramen, popsicles, movies of all varieties and sleep.  Being an adult with the flu was WHOA!!!  One night I told Josh he had to take me to the hospital, instead he loaded everyone up and we went the the Kroger Minute Clinic 🙂  It was crazy and I honestly couldn’t recall much of what happened the first 48 hours.  I sent texts I didn’t remember sending and even made some purchases on Amazon.  What in the world?!?!  Our Amazon cart had like 10 toiletry bags in it…all different…so glad I didn’t make that delusional flu purchase.  On a really just yuck feeling, sad day Hudson gave me this and all was right with the world again.  He’s such a ham with such a funny personality and I just couldn’t love him more.

7.  If you need an awesome marinade for some meats in your life you have to try THIS ONE!  I know, totally weird random thing to share with you, but we’ve used this recipe approximately 57 times and it’s always so good.  We love to use it on steak for some steak fajita bowls…hold the dinner phone.  Crazy good.

And while I’m at it you must must must MAKE THESE too.  Marcie shared the recipe with me and every single person devoured theirs.  Giant crowd pleaser.

And 8.  Sunday we hit the 7 month mark since Everett died.  It was a doozy.  There was some sickness still floating around, the prior week had been so wonky, we’d had to change our Chinese New Year plans, we’d had to postpone some other things and moral was just low.  It’s been raining constantly, but that morning the sun was out.  It was the first time in a long time we’d seen some good solid sunshine so I dragged my body from the bed and we all finally went to the cemetery to hang the solar lanterns we had purchased to hang for Chinese New Year.  The big kids took their bikes and skateboards, Josh’s dad came by with donuts and it ended up being really special.  We’re figuring out our new normal without Everett and that is really hard most days.  Josh and I later talked about how that seemed like just the right way to do the cemetery for us.  No one left crying or really extra down and everyone felt it was nice to be there and to celebrate Everett and such a special holiday with him.

This grief thing is a beast.  Not having our son and brother with us will be something we work through and heal from for a long time.  We’ll always walk with a limp.  I just can’t explain how much we miss him and how we long to be with him, but this visit was our first cemetery visit that wasn’t terrible and actually felt sweet.  Maybe it was the sunshine.  Maybe it was the rainbow lanterns.  Maybe it was the donuts.  Maybe it was the flu 🙂 but maybe it was our first glimpse at some healing.  Whatever it was, we’ll take it.

Solomon is 9!

Each year I try and do a little blog post about our kiddos’ birthdays.  This blog serves as not only a place for me to write, but also as a bit of a scrapbook for our family.  It holds precious memories and often reminds us of things we’ve long forgotten.

At the start of February we celebrated Solomon’s 9th birthday.  How on earth can that be?!?!?  He and Hudson we’re just tiny babies making all kinds of trouble together.  I remember when Solomon came home Harper was a fresh 2-year-old and Hudson was just 9-months-old.  When we would go out to run errands I would carry Hudson since he couldn’t walk yet, wear Solomon in a sling and hold Harper’s hand trying to keep her from making a mad dash into parking lots.  Those we’re the days that felt easier and yet completely chaotic.

Sol has always been the most detail oriented child.  When given the chance to choose meals and desserts and plans his mind goes into over drive and his choices are made so carefully and deliberately, but not before visiting all of his possible options.  Birthdays are at the top of his planning list.  This year Josh Kelley and I had a good laugh after Josh proclaimed he wanted to start doing his birthday like Sol does his.  Go big or go home is definitely his motto.

Solomon is our most adventurous eater and always has been.  Now granted the kid doesn’t like cereal or the crust of bread, but give him all the peppers and onions and exotic foods of the world.  Good food is one of his love languages.  While we we’re in China, Josh and Sol we’re the only ones to try donkey.  Still makes me smile thinking about it.  Nothing scares Solomon off…except Cheerios 🙂

We usually do birthday doors, but since Everett died we actually took a year off of the doors.  We hope to start back up with Hudson’s 10th birthday at the end of this year.  Kind of weird, but in the mean time we have been making up our Letterfolk board for the birthday kid.  It started with Hudson and now it was Solomon’s turn.  Josh and I had fun picking out all the words and character traits that describe our special guy.

For breakfast Solomon requested cinnamon rolls and bacon.  We actually let him pick two dinners…one on his actual birthday and one on the weekend for an extra birthday celebration.  He chose supreme pizza with all the toppings one night and a hot dog bar with all the toppings…again…for the other night.  He wanted my chili, cheese, bacon, peppers, two kinds of jalapeños, ketchup and mustard.  No topping was left unturned.  The hot dog bar was accompanied by “the good chips”…aka BBQ Lays and Spicy Nacho Doritos.  Gah I love this kid.

Solomon is quite the desert man too.  He wanted to look online for a good chocolate dessert and finally landed on this Best Brownie Pie topped with ice-cream.  Well done son!   He also loves iceream and when he couldn’t narrow his iceream dessert choice down he concocted his own.  He asked me to layer my big pan (9×13) with ice-cream sandwiches, then a layer of Oreo ice-cream, followed by a layer of crumbled Oreos and then topped with a layer of whipped cream.  My accomplishments as a mother have now been fulfilled. 🙂

Sol’s a giver so there we’re also candy treats and chex-mix involved for his classmates and all the members of his rhythm squad…aka dance team…aka pep rally leaders…to celebrate as well.  This kid lives it up on his day to say the least.  It’s one of my greatest enjoyments as a mom celebrating them on their special day.

We ate lunch with him at school and when I brought out my phone to take a picture he grinned ear-to-ear.  He really wanted a little point-and-shoot camera for his birthday and Josh Kelley and I made that happen.  Hudson got one for his birthday too so it was quite hilarious watching Hudson video and photograph Sol on his birthday.  These two have a special bond.  They don’t remember life without one another and I couldn’t love it more.  Amon tried honing in on all of Solomon’s birthday action as well and Sol obliged…nevermind Amon stood in the corner sulking while we sang happy birthday during Sol’s birthday breakfast because he was unhappy about the plate he was given.  Kids…hahahahahaha.

When anyone asked him what he wanted for his birthday he told them money.  He has been saving and saving for a Playstation 4 and he was hoping this birthday just might complete his savings.  Sure enough, it did.  Dude saved up all his cash monies and handed every last dollar over to me as I made his purchase VIA the internet.  Josh told him he’d buy him an extra controller, but it had to be just for him.  Wink, wink.  Not sure who’s more excited about his PS4 purchase…Josh or Sol.

Solomon is just quite the kid.  He keeps us on our toes and keeps us thinking.  He is always up for helping and can find anything anyone has misplaced.  He is complicated and resillent and lovable.  He’s beyond special and is likely on his way to being voted The Funniest Kelley.  He can walk on his hands and can almost land his self taught front handspring…he seriously needs to be in a gymnastics class.  He gives amazing hugs and a key to his heart is good food and a glass of milk.  He misses Everett deeply and we’re working together so hard on his healing.  He was the best big brother to him.

His birthday always makes me think extra about his birth family.  I reminded him how so many things I love about him he got directly from them and how much we love and respect we have for them.  When I tucked him in that night I reminded him of how for the longest time when he was tiny instead of saying “I love you” he would say, in the most endearing way, “Happy Christmas”.  I hugged him tight and asked him if he had a good birthday.  He assured me he did.  I hugged his little body once more and he whispered in my ear, “Happy Christmas.”  I laughed.  This is our boy and goodness are we forever greatly to be his parents.  We are simply the luckiest!

Happy 9th birthday Solomon!

6 Months

On January 18th it marked 6 months since Everett went to be with Jesus.  Honestly, I don’t even really like that sentence.  It marked 6 months since he died and our world was flipped in an entirely new direction.  6 months since sadness and pain like we’ve never known laid heavy on our family.

I was really dreading the 6 month mark because now he had been gone longer than he was with us.  Since August of 2016 we had been working to get to him as quickly as we could and in 6 short, fast & furious months we’d done it…we’d reached our boy…so it kind of sucks that it took us 6 months to get to him and it has been 6 months without him…that those time frames now mark us being apart longer than we we’re together.

We feel very tied to Everett’s spot in the cemetery.  I love how his Uncle Andy puts it, “Everett’s special corner of the earth” and that’s how I’ll always refer to his little space under that big tree in the cemetery just down the road.  Josh Kelley was actually out of town on that day so I loaded up all the kids and we went and got a big gold 6 balloon and went for a visit at the cemetery.

Each time I’m there it’s hard…it takes me breath away and spins my stomach into a thousand knots that this is now our reality…what we live with every day…our 3-year-old being dead and his body deep within the earth.  It makes me angry and sad and I just do not understand any part of it for the life of me.  I’ve read words by other mothers who have buried a child and some of them say they don’t like what happened, but they trust it.  I am not there yet.  I can’t say I trust what happened or trust God who let this filter through His hands.  I don’t understand why He didn’t give Everett a miracle…why He didn’t breath life back into his small, weak body or heal his little mind.  I don’t understand the timeframe…I just don’t understand any of it.  I also know God is God and I am not and I’m not owed any explanation of why what happened to Everett did.  It’s just hard and a daily battle.

I still love Jesus, but I’m working on trying to come to a place where I have a better grasp on who He is now sitting on His thrown in heaven while we’re living down here on earth.  Does He still do miracles and heal while in heaven?  I just don’t know.  I’ll be crazy honest in saying I like Him better if He doesn’t…if He’s not healer and miracle worker still…and that He’s just fully aware of what’s going to happen and is flat out broken over it for us and the fact that this world is just shitty which means sometimes really really shitty things just happen.  I don’t like thinking about Him deciding who gets miracles and healing while He decides that some people do not.  It’s extra hard when you are thinking about your little kiddo who was helpless and ultimately looked to you to keep them safe and protect them.  I know we can’t do that all the time, but a large part of parenting in their young years is keeping them safe from harms way.  Hence all the guilt and regret that weighs on Josh Kelley and myself daily.  Weekly Josh and I talk through this again and again rehashing everything…every decision, every question asked, every moment and so on and so on.  It’s a giant circle of questions that just keeps us going in a loop and there’s never much relief.

Prayer is hard too.  I don’t pray much if any right now.  Again, a little brutal truth telling, I just don’t really understand prayer right now.  When friends or family ask for prayer about something I always default to sentences like, “I am hoping for the best” or “I hope you get some relief soon” because I don’t want to straight up lie, but I’m not a praying person right now.  People keep sending us verses and inspirational memes that have all these Bible verses and quotes on them and I feel like I could poke holes in them for days 🙂  We did have faith as small as a mustard seed, we did gather together, we did believe, we did hope, we did follow where God led, we did, we did, we did.  Harper, Hudson and Solomon…especially Hudson…beleived without a shadow of doubt that God would heal Everett…we had faith like a child.  I prayed over Everett’s life from the very moment we saw his sweet face on our computer screen.  I surrendered Him over, I followed all the Biblical text book jazz and still he died.  So I just don’t fully understand prayer right now.  It feels a bit pointless if whatever is going to happen, happens anyways.

And my head knows all the Bible says about prayer and who He is.  I know prayer keeps you in communication with Jesus, I know He likes to hear from us, etc etc, but I also know He knows broken people.  People who are sad and down and in pain and He knows every thought that crosses our minds.  I know He knows deep pain and sadness Himself and I know He’s not going anywhere based on what I think or feel about Him and Biblical practices right now.  Insert wiping sweat from brow emoji 🙂

I struggle in a way I never have with Jesus and the Bible, but one thing I keep holding onto is that God says His power is perfected in my weakness.  As we drove to Shaui’s grave with that giant number 6 balloon floating around in the back seats, I turned the sound up on the radio and sang a little louder than normal,

“And in these ashes I’m stronger still.  You’ll learn to fear my pain, yeah you will.” -Johnny Swim

I keep trying to hold God to His word that He will use our pain and that Satan trembles at the power that is perfected in our weakness.  I know from these ashes we will rise with a limp that will never fade, but stronger and braver than ever before.  We just need some time.

As time has marched on we’ve also been learning more and more about our own personal grief.  The week following Everett’s 6 month anniversary we decided to do some hard firsts in grieving the loss of Everett.  We went through his basket of clothes that have been on our bedroom floor since last January.  With only one dresser and no closet in the boys’ room, Everett got his own basket in our room and he would pick out his little clothes from it each morning.

We also went through all the cards & gifts we’ve received over the past 7 months since we left for Michigan in June.  So many of you have loved on us in such kind and thoughtful ways and we are forever grateful.  I also listened to Hillsong United’s Wonder album again for the first time since Everett died.  It was playing in his hospital room as I held him close and we went to be with Jesus.  Again, that sentence.  I sobbed my guts out so many times that week and it was just a heavy week in general for our whole house.

Everett’s backpack we packed for Michigan is still sitting in the corner of our bedroom.  His flip-flops tucked in the side pocket and things like his favorite sippy cup, pretzels from the airplane and some of his favorite little toys and coloring books packed inside.  We see it everyday and with so many hard firsts we had pushed through that week I thought to myself, “Is it time to go through his backpack too?”  I remember handing his backpack over to Josh’s sister Jen at Mott in Everett’s transition room after a long day of snuggling and being together and our kids and family saying their goodbyes.  When she took it from my hands I immediately felt panicked and burst into tears asking her not to let anyone unpack it.  She assured me she would not let anyone unpack his little bag.  That moment will be one forever etched in my heart.  We ended up not unpacking it and leaving his backpack right where it was in the corner of our room still because it just wasn’t time yet.

Grief is big and heavy and it’s a very finicky process.  We’re learning when to push and when to lay off.  We’re learning when space is needed and when a group hug is in order.  We’re learning sometimes we need a nap and sometimes we need to stay up late listening to one another’s hearts.  We’re learning we need grace in abundance and to keep taking this journey just one day at a time with each day drawing us closer to our boy.  We’re resting in the assurance that Jesus, no matter what we think about Him or feel about Him currently, isn’t going anywhere and that His power is actually being perfected in our deep, hard weaknesses.

Small Art Sale

We recently took down a big wall of art going up our stairs.  We’ve found new homes for most of them, but decided to put a few of them up for sale in MY SHOP.  If you’re interested in any of them, head over HERE and check them out and there are a few sets of stationery on sale still too.  Would love to get those gone!

And if you we’re wondering, we actually went through all our kids art we had kept from the last 10 years, pulled our favorites and tossed the rest in recycling.  It was freeing and felt amazing.  Maybe another post for another time.  Now our favorites are going to adorn our steps…now just have to get some inexpensive frames for them all.  Wish me luck.

Thanks so much.

No Snow Days for Grief

The snow and rain are finally gone here in Tennessee.  The kids we’re off school for 6 days straight + two weekends and then sickness kicked in last week and honestly everyone was ready to get back to school and our normal routine.  One thing we’ve learned about our grief is that routine helps us cope.  It allows us to feel some sense of knowing what is coming even when our grief can quickly derail any day and at any time.  We needed our routine back and although the snow was fun & magical for a short amount of time, it also proved cold and hard and when it all melted away everyone was a bit glad to go back to school and move back into our expected day-in and day-out routine.

The snow even kept Josh Kelley at home for several days and he posted up at our bright yellow table for work each morning.  It was good to have him home with us and the only downside to the snow disappearing was the question from the kids each morning, “Does dad have to go back to work today?”  Everyone loves having him at home.

There was snacking for eternity and cocoa & mini marshmallows from Aunt Jen.  There we’re endless crafts and movie watching galore.  Late nights and long sleepy mornings.

There was ample time for new hobbies taken up and gaming till’ we we’re sure we had killed all their extra little brain cells. 🙂  There was an endless amount of snuggling.

There was playing in the snow, sopping wet mittens, muddy snowy foot prints everywhere and loads of extra laundry for Josh and myself to push through.

And there was grief.  Grief does not get snow days…there is no break from the sadness…there’s no hiding away and not enough movies to watch to diminish our pain and the fact that we thought about Everett and how much he would have loved our ample snow days at home together.  The snow brought a twinge of excitement, but Everett was never off our minds.

On one of our last snow days together with the snow almost gone we all loaded up and drove down the street to his grave.  We wanted a little something special to put out for the New Year and when I saw the colorful strand of stars at Target I knew there was no reason to look any further.  There was just a bit of snow left and lots of mud, but we put out his stars and thought about our brave, strong boy.

So we powered through and made the best of it we could.  We welcomed the snow melting and our routine returning and now we all are thinking about spring, the new life which comes with it and our hearts long for the warm sunshine.  We’re holding onto hope and waiting in anticipation for the newness spring seems to bring with it.

8 Things {Boys Edition}

1. Fresh cuts.  A new barber shop, Fortune & Fadesopened up down the street not too long ago and now Josh Kelley and all the boys can go in for good haircuts.  Josh has long been a Super Cuts kind of guy, but that is no more.  He now gets a legit good haircut every time along with the rest of the Kelley boys.  If you’re local and looking for an awesome barber shop then look no further.

2. Hey Solomon, why don’t you relax a little at the doctor’s officer?!?!  He totally cracks me up.  Keeps us laughing all the time.

3. Hudson is going through lots of grief along with the rest of us.  Most mornings he wakes up feeling really down so when I see that smile it makes my mama’s heart soar.  It’s been so difficult walking each of our kids through losing Everett, but what an honor to be the one there to hold them close, kiss their faces and tell them, “Me too.”

4. To say I love our kids’ teachers is an understatement.  They have loved our children so well during their hardest moments these past 6 months.  They have gone above and beyond and pour so much into each of them.  One of my greatest pleasures is loving on our teachers and school staff right back.  It doesn’t have to be big…a note of encouragement, a quick thank you text, a yummy chocolate bar, a homemade chocolate chip cookie or a pickle jar of flowers.  They deserve all the love and kindness for how they celebrate, love and encourage all their students each day.

5. This guy.  Oh my.  He has all our hearts in such a unique way.  Amon came on the scene when we we’re all deep in grief after losing Mom.  God used him to restore our joy and he has been a wild, wonky, wonderful ball of joy since the beginning.  He also opened our eyes and arms to our sweet heart kiddos.  God used Amon to guide us to Everett and we are forever grateful.  Amon has been experiencing some heart issues lately and we got a mid-year look at his special little ticker.  He has a very leaky valve, but we’re so thankful for another decent report.  Our children’s medical issues have been spotlighted since Everett’s death.  We know we are not promised tomorrow and when you watch one of your children die, it changes you in so many ways as a parent.

6. About 4 years ago we started a new tradition where our children with birthhmamas pick out flowers or a plant in their honor to plant in our yard on Mother’s Day.  It’s become pretty special and something I look forward to witnessing.  I love how they each take such care in what they choose.  It’s a very special time walking among the flowers watching them decide on what to pick out.  Once winter hit, Josh mentioned Everett’s flowers he had chosen on Mother’s Day we’re dying in the cold.  It instantly made me sad.  I desperately wanted to keep those flowers alive.  Next thing I knew Everett’s flowers showed up inside on our warm bathroom floor.  Josh knew and he took it upon himself to keep them alive.  Just a short time later they we’re blooming right in the middle of winter.  I cried at the first bloom I noticed and it has been the sweetest symbol of hope to my heart during this cold, dark winter.

7. I always dreamed of being a mama to a whole bunch of boys and this is one of my top reasons why.  They are crazy fun.  Straight up, uninhibited fun.  And no where is off limits for their fun  They never cease to amaze me, shock me, make me laugh and drive me bonkers.  Bonus:  They give great hugs.

And 8.  Because I just can’t have a boys edition post without our Everett boy.  Another day closer love.  We miss you like crazy.

Everett’s Tree

When Christmas came around it kind of totally sucked.  We really wanted no part of any celebrating and we wanted to sleep through the whole hope-soaked, joyful season.  We weren’t feeling it and all we could think about is Everett…what he would have loved about the whole holiday, how crappy it feels carrying on without him, how we missed out on celebrating Christmas with him.  It all was heavy and weighted and when the season was done with, we breathed a little easier.

It’s interesting how everyone processes grief and loss differently.  For us, it’s important to visit his grave…Everett’s special corner of this earth.  We know he’s not there, but we still feel connected to him there.  It was the place we said our final goodbyes and laid his small body deep within the earth.  It’s where we hung strands of paper hearts cut out by his siblings and cousin and the Chinese lanterns we bought on our trip to China when we became each others…when we saw his sweet face in person for the first time.  This cemetery holds so much of us now and even though all of me loathes that so very much, I also don’t ever want to lose it.

Our dreams and hopes for Everett immediately dissipated the day he died…they died along with him.  They would not come to fruition because our boy wasn’t physically with us anymore.  We we’re left with our memories, the hope of heaven and a grassy spot under a big tree.  We find it important to go there and to decorate and leave little mementos and to talk to him while were there.  For Christmas we decided to buy a tree for Everett’s grave, but it couldn’t be decorated just any old way.  It needed to be special.  It needed to be For Everett, From Us.

I searched the internet over and found the perfect sparkly, rainbow solar lights.  Harper wanted to make ornaments and how appropriate.  Of course his tree needed handmade ornaments by his family.  Josh Kelley talked about how each year from now we’ll pull out his box of ornaments for his graveside tree and my eyes glossed over with tears.

We bought small pinecones and mini pompoms.  We used twine to make hangers and colorful straws to make a big star for the top of his tree.  We also bought cheapo plastic beads and melted them down inside of cookie cutters to make beautiful, glassy color-filled ornaments.  We all might have lost a few brain cells in the process…those fumes we’re legit…but it was well worth it.

The kids loved every minute of it.  It was therapeutic making something for our boy…our FuShuai…our Everett.  It was a mix of deep sadness and deep honor stringing those colorful lights and placing each ornament on his tree just so.  I kept thinking, “How is this our reality?  A Christmas tree for our 3-year-old’s grave.” but I know this is our life now.  The moments of sheer shock are still there, but they are lessening because the longer we are without Everett, the longer reality sinks in deep and cutting.  Even though I’m straight up pissed off our celebrating with Everett now looks like this, I still want to do a really good job at it.

 

As our littlest says all the time, “He’s our boy for always.”  Indeed he is.  I will always include him in the number of children I have.  I will always say his name when asked about my kids’ names.  I will always notice him missing in photos.  I will always hang his stocking up each Christmas.  I will never pass up the opportunity to talk about him.  And I will always celebrate him every chance I get.  My arms and heart will always long for him this side of heaven.  Until then, we will carry on and celebrate and honor his memory any way we can, but especially with all the handmade, rainbow colored goodness.

4 New Shop Faves

Every now and then when I find an item or company I am just absolutely smitten with I like to drop in and share about them here.  I’m always looking to add unique shops to my gift giving toolbox and maybe some of you are too.

Lindsey, from Bottle of Tears, and I finally met in November, but kicked off an internet friendship a little earlier than that.  I gushed my heart out about Lindsey HERE on my post about Guatemala.  If I had all day to talk about how kind Lindsey is that still would not be enough so I’ll make a long story short.  1.  It’s true, Lindsey is crazy kind.  2. Lindsey knows suffering well and she knows how to support those who are suffering, in pain and who are walking through great loss.  3. Lindsey is a gem.  Seriously.  A shiny, amazing gem who has weathered so much…who is still weathering so much, but goodness does she shine.

At this point, I have so many Bottle of Tears items and have given lots of them to friends and family, but right before Christmas Lindsey sent me the Long Arch Teardrop Charm Earrings from her shop and I about died.  They are just perfection.  And gorgeous.  And lightweight.  And when I wear them sometimes they jingle a bit in my ear and I love it so much.  I also have her Vintage Brass Month Adjustable Ring and since the moment it arrived in my mailbox I have worn it every single day since.  Everett was born in July and died in July so I got the July ring.  I had been on the hunt for the perfect little piece of jewelry to wear in honor of him and when I saw this ring I was done.  Instant tears and instantly ordered.  Lindsey’s store is a one-stop-shop for those looking for a special little something for someone in your life who is hurting or suffering or trudging through loss & grief.  Everything is beautiful and thoughtful and not cheesy at all.  Check her out immediately if not sooner.

 

Mercy House Global is an oldie, but a goodie for me.  I haven’t ordered from them in a while, but Harper was looking for a special little something to share with some of her best friends for Valentine’s Day.  When I saw their post about some of their Valentine’s goodies…particularly their Friendship Bracelet Valentines…felt heart made in Kenya filled with colorful friendship bracelets made in the Philippines…it was instant love.  Be still my heart.  When I was a kid I would have eaten this up and since Harper is kind of my mini-me at heart, she asked me to order them and brought me $13 of her cash.  Mercy House has about 1000 amazing items made my women around the world.

From their website:

Mercy House exists to engage, empower and disciple women around the globe in Jesus’ name. Engage those with resources to say yes to the plight of women in poverty. Empower women and teenage mothers around the world through partnerships and sustainable fair trade product development. Disciple women to be lifelong followers of Jesus Christ.

For Christmas Josh Kelley gave me two of the sweetest gifts in honor of Everett and I have absolutely loved both of them.

I take my rings off most mornings and had really been needing a little ring dish to leave them in.  He bought me one of the Monogram Ring Dishes from Prodigal Pottery.  It is absolutely beautiful.

 Prodigal Pottery is made by women who are/have fleeing domestic abuse and homelessness.  Such an amazing shop with amazing hearts behind it.  They have so many gorgeously crafted items and that sweet little gold E gets me every time.

And the last share for today is The Jackie Blanket from Indy Brand.  You guys, just shut the front door and come take a snuggle with me on our couch.  This blanket is insanely colorful and pretty and reminds me of our sweet Everett.  It’s a great size and perfect for several Kelley’s to cuddle under.  So pleased with this gift and it was a must share.  They have so many other cute items, but this was my first Indy Brand item.

One of my goals for 2018 is to try and stop in more often around here.  When I write my head feels clearer…even if it’s just about shops I love.

This year has taken me an adjustment period.  Maybe you’re like me and your goals didn’t kickstart on January 1st.  It’s never too late and despite it being January 22nd, today feels like the perfect time to get started on some of my goals for the New Year.