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.

Kindness Advent Year #8

It’s that time again for the Kelley family where we make our way through December doing a little something intentionally kind each day leading up to Christmas.  You can read all about how our Kindness Advent came about right after my Mom died in 2011 plus past posts and ideas HERE.

My most favorite grief advice/quote will forever be:

When your burden is heaviest, you can always lighten a little some other burden.  At the times when you cannot see God, there is still open to you this sacred possibility, to show God; for it is the love and kindness of human hearts through which the divine reality comes home to men, whether they name it or not.  Let this thought, then, stay with you:  there may be times when you cannot find help, but there is no time when you cannot give help.  -George S. Merriam

I will carry this quote around for my whole life.

We usually spend November mulling over all our kind ideas we would like to do each day in December, but this year I temporarily lost our advent envelopes and idea cards we’ve made over the years.  And out of sight meant out of mind.  Friday night Josh Kelley found our advent baggie and over dinner we proceeded to come up with all 25 ideas and set our planning into place.

So here is our official kindness list for 2018:

Hand out stickers to kiddos in stores, share breakfast with a family, giveaway candy canes, give a recipe + the ingredients to someone for dinner, ornament delivery, send mail, donuts for our elementary school, surprise chalk art, load bubble gum machines with quarters, giveaway flowers, sticky notes on lockers at school, cards & treats for our funeral home, cards & treats for our pediatrician’s office, Redbox rental bag, surprise a sweet friend, paint wood slices and leave around town, cards & present for our mailman, cards & present for our trash man, thank yous for our janitorial staff, decorate someone’s front door, notes for our favorite gas station worker, leave encouraging notes on cars, buy someone’s lunch, share Sonic happy hour and do some FaceTime caroling.

We’ve already kicked off the 1st, 2nd and 3rd with sharing fun stickers, a yummy breakfast drop and all the Kelley kids (minus Leo) sharing candy canes with their classmates.

Tomorrow we will carry on with our kindness and do our best to carry it through the end of the month.  If you want to follow along daily I’ll be keeping up with it all in my Instagram stories.

Let’s spread some kindness this month!

Hi!

I really did not intend to stay away this long.  My friend Amanda’s little boy Toby had open heart surgery almost 3 weeks ago and has been working so hard to get off ECMO ever since.  Honestly it just felt weird and yucky and not right to write about all the random things I had in my head when Toby was struggling so hard.  I remember when Everett was at Mott it was bizarre to me to see and read all the things going on in everyone’s lives when what I felt should happen is for the world to halt right where it was.  So I just took a break.  It was some time I needed.

Toby is still on ECMO, but a lesser form.  He is making steps forward, but still needs all our hopes and prayers.  His heart function is good, but his little lungs still need some time.  I think about Toby and his precious family (Amanda & Meredith) every single day.  I so desperately want them to walk out of that hospital all together.  For updates and ways to pray check out Amanda’s IG feed.

(Meredith’s pic ^)

Life has felt weirdly hard and sad lately.  The holiday season is always funky feeling without Everett.  We’ve been carrying on doing our thing the best we can.  Leo and I got to have lunch with Hilliary and Jessica recently which was insanely nice.  Right after we got to Everett in China I will never forget sitting in our Zhengzhou hotel and reading the kindest message from Hilliary.  She had found me on facebook and I sobbed over her loving words for our boy and us.  She’s also the one who shared with us about Leo so we have been deeply connected ever since.  I will hang tight to those who are not afraid to say Everett’s name and ask those tough questions and don’t run from my answers.

I’ve been working some over the past few weeks.  Momentum came from the stack of medical bills we had going on.  Ha.  I suppose that will do it, but it was crazy nice to create and fill MY SHOP twice.  To everyone who purchased items…THANK YOU…we are beyond grateful for your support.  There are a few canvases still available in MY SHOP if anyone is interested or looking for a sweet Christmas gift.   My stationery and Online Bible Journaling Class are on sale as well.

Hudson, Solomon & Amon were in our schools’ Veteran’s Day program this year.  Our elementary school does a program every single year and has for the last 17 years.  I have actually never attended, but with 3 of our boys having parts I knew this was my year.  Amon could not wait for me to watch him sing You’re a Grand Old Flag and Hudson and Solomon had speaking parts as local Navy and Marine soldiers.  There was honor and sweetness and sentiments and cute kids singing and all the tears.

November held World Adoption Day…which kind of feels weird in general.  This year we followed suit with one of my favorite IG feeds Kindred + Co instead of drawing smiley faces on our hands we chose our own personal symbol.  There should be 9 hands in our photo.  Some days the grief and loss that fills each of us and each child’s story out weighs the joy and goodness.  Our kids have experienced great loss and trauma and some days we feel the physical weight of it all.  There are more questions than answers and I wish I could be every answer they need.  So we look for the good…the bright spots…the pinholes of light.  They are always there.  Brave birth parents and brave kids shine the brightest.  Everett’s light carried within ours hearts always.  We may not be smiley faces this year, but we are colorful love.  These 7 kiddos will always be my greatest honor.

I just adore anytime our niece Campbell gets to do everyday normal things with us.  She went with Harper and I to run some errands the other day and she simply makes everything that much more fun.  She makes me excited to have teenagers because I think teenagers are pretty great.  She adds humor and weirdness and enjoyment and laughter to everything. 🙂  Campbell is one of the special ones.

The 20th marked 7 years since we lost my mom.  I still think about her everyday and how she would just be over-the-moon about all her grandkids.  She was an amazing Mom, but she was an outstanding Grammy…I think it was her greatest joy.  I miss her a lot.  I miss having a parent and being someone’s daughter.  Her hugs were top notch and I definitely got my hug skillz from her.  She made you feel seen and special even shortly after meeting her for the first time.  It was her gift and she shared it well.  She taught me the importance of the little things like making birthday desserts for my kids, sending mail, noticing that perfect little something for just that one person, the importance of good ice-cream and that laughter is key.  7 years feels far too long and I often think about her and Everett together.  Miss them both fiercely.

And we’ve been soaking up sweet Leo.  Our days are filled with all his appointments and I will always know it is an honor to advocate and fight for what is best for him and all our kids.  Every day I catch myself staring at him all googly lovey eyed.  I’m so thankful he’s here and each day is an undeserved gift.  He makes us better.

Blogging is out, but it is one of my greatest loves even still.  I hope I’m still sitting here pecking away at these keys long after my hair turns grey.  Thanks again for those of you who are sticking around for my rambles.  Means the world.

6 Months With Leo

I had every intention to post this when it was right at our 6 month marker with Leo, but we’re actually closer to that 7 month marker now.  Alas.  We became family all over again 6 months ago and Leo has indeed brought joy and love to our aching hearts.  6 months ago we all piled into a bustling, busy room quickly scanning for our Leo…our brave hearted lion boy.  It was this beautifully hard moment and trip having done the exact same with Everett just 14 months prior.  We carried Everett in our hearts and looked for rainbows everywhere.

It has been 6 months of working to figure out the most gorgeous mystery that is our Leo Shuai Lin.  We are slowly finally finding out some of the ways to best help him and you better believe we are cheering and championing along side him.  He is the bravest boy and we are insanely proud of him and all his hard work.

Leo currently sees 5 specialists.  I am always thrilled to remove a specialist from our list, but I think we’re going to hold steady at 5 for a while.  Leo does physical, occupational and sensory therapy weekly and we started speech therapy just last week.  While we have been waiting for his speech therapy to get started we are using a wonderful program called GemIIni Learning.  I have been super pleased with it and Leo has picked up extra signs and even started attempting to say more words.

We are doing more sign language than we did with Amon and Leo is like a sponge for it.  The kid is definitely not lacking in his desire to communicate he just needs the tools.  He has about twenty-five signs and we are trying to regularly add to that.  He’s also babbling more which was not the case a few months ago.

His special little heart is always at the forefront of everything we do.  With colder months upon us we see even more so how his heart affects his body.  We’re going in again for another heart procedure soon so his team can try and figure out exactly what he needs and how to best go about it.  Leo does need heart surgery, but right now we are waiting patiently for his team to gather every bit of information they can and hash out all the details and timeframes.

Sleep has been the most consistent issue to his adjustment, but thanks to some cedarwood he’s been sleeping like a champ and we might buy cedarwood stock.  Seriously though, I’m probably going to run cedarwood in his room until he’s an adult.  Also I’m fully aware it might have just been a coincidence he started sleeping on is own, but Josh Kelley and I are not taking any risks.  Cedarwood-4-Ever!

His current favorites:  Driving our Powerwheels car, his backpack, telling everyone in a store “hi” and then “bye”, waving, ALL THE FOODS, treats, his blankie, Josh, all of his siblings, swinging, being outside, Icees, snuggling, bath time, sitting on the counter, vacuuming, looking through Everett’s photos, sneaking to play on the iPad, helping do anything, Elmo and pretty confident I’m his BFF.

My grief for my mom comes and goes still, but lately I’ve been thinking how crazy she would have been over Leo.  I wish so much she’d been able to meet Amon, Everett, Winter & Leo.  I know she would have been nuts for all 4 of them.

Leo has come crazy far in bonding & attachment and trusting & loving us and we’re beyond honored to be his.  No doubt this kid has been deeply loved and cared for his whole life.  We’re forever grateful for each of this unique and amazing families who loved him before we ever could.  I think about his birth parents…especially his birth mom…almost every day.  I long for them to know how loved and cherished he is and that we are doing our best for his special heart.

Leo is joy.  Loads and loads of joy and we absolutely needed him far more than he ever needed us.  I’ll spend my whole life telling anyone who will listen, our kids change us for the better.  They are prized and loved and a gift we did not deserve.  They make us better and will always be my greatest honor.

Nine Things

1. My friend Meredith lost another beautiful babe over the weekend.  When I woke to her text about precious Amos my heart sank.  I’ll never understand our world.  I just do not get it and it’s incredibly hard to process and think through…and I’ve only lost one child.  I cannot imagine losing multiple babies.  And my words are so limited on what I even feel I can say because what do you say!  So I tell her over and over again how sorry I am.  How this isn’t right.  This isn’t how it’s suppose to be.  Sweet Amos should be here and he should be among her other kids.  When I read THIS article about Morning Star’s Little House of Brave, it made me all teary eyed.  It highlights all the brave souls who embody and live and fight for hope.  An important read.

2. Amon has his first loose tooth and we are never going to hear the end of it.  Upon finding the tooth, I promptly took photos of his mouth because I am a sentimental sap and I know soon his smile will be all snaggle toothy and sweet.  Harper has officially lost all her teeth and when they told me I was like, “WHAAATTT?!?!?!”  Time you are a straight up ass hat.

3.  Hudson and Solomon.  Solomon and Hudson.  That’s just the way it’s suppose to be.  We imagine them being old men together and reading the newspaper at Cracker Barrel every Saturday morning.  I absolutely adore them.  And with the introduction to chess their old man game has become stronger.

4. I recently went to an oil class with Jen and Campbell.  I don’t even know who I am anymore you guys. 🙂  Top 2 highlights: 1) Campbell driving us around like we’re old ladies.  And 2) The discovery of the Christmas Spirit oil.  What the actual what?!?!  Have any of you smelled it?!?!  Crazy good.  The lady who taught the class had a room spray in her bathroom made with it and I sprayed my entire body down.  Zero shame.  Then I immediately added it to my order and am anxiously awaiting this little bottle of Christmas heaven to arrive.

5.  Leo is madly in love with his backpack.  He rediscovered it recently and has not quit wearing it.  He says “pack pack” and does the sign for backpack.  It’s maybe the cutest thing ever.  Solomon put some books in it and now he loves it even more.  I know the pressure of the weight feels good to his little body. My favorite comment so far is that it looks like he’s wearing a parachute.  Hahahahaha.  Love that boy to smithereens.

6.  Harper is getting giant.  We are seriously looking into methods of stunting her growth. 🙂  Currently she’s only about 2 inches shorter than me.  We can share shirts and shoes and deodorant and face wash.  Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!  Sometimes I panic on the inside when I look at her and how big she is.  Then she opens her mouth and I remember she’s going to be just fine.  We so enjoy her funny quirky tween personality and I’m feeling like the best is yet to come.

7.  Whelp, apparently I shared something about each of the kids, so I’ll throw Winter in for good measure.  Where do I even start with Ms. Winter?!?!?!  She keeps us laughing constantly…the kid is not lacking in personality AT ALL!!!!!

A few funny Winter sayings:

1) Josh asked her recently what she wanted to be when she grew up.  Straight faced she looked at him and confidently said, “A woman.”

2) All birthdays are “burst days” to Winter.  We laugh that is inevitably how she entered this world.  Winter can only burst onto scenes.  It’s the Winter way.

3) Someone passed gas in our car the other day…they shall remain nameless 🙂 … Winter proclaimed with a twinge of anger in her voice, “Your poots make me want to barf…or die.”

She also hands out compliments like candy on Halloween.  She asks Josh every single day how his day at work was.  And she tells me I’m the best mom ever.  This girl.  What would we do without her.

8.  We’re always looking for Everett reminders.  Always.  Even in chicken nuggets.  Another day closer.

And 9.  Josh Kelley took a fishing trip recently and while we were sad to see him go, we were also so excited for him to go.  Josh gives and gives and gives of himself.  He rarely gets away to do something fun and enjoyable so any chance that crosses his path I push and encourage him to go.  He so deserved a small break and some fun.  Loved him getting time fly fishing with his dad and Andy.  Bonus:  The cute pictures!!!

All Things Fall

It’s been a minute since I’ve been able to sit down and type out some words.  We’ve just been hanging on and trying to soak up this season of slow/full.  Fall is maybe my most favorite time.  Ask me again in the summer when we’re all tan and hanging at the wave pool every chance we get and I might have a different answer.  This time before full on winter hits, feels slow and steady and all balmy…minus all the doctors’ appointments. 🙂  It’s a super low key time for our family…almost zero commitments…soup for dinner like it’s our job…all the seasonal movies and books…a steady flow of baked goods…house shoes officially out and upon my feet shortly after entering the house.

Fall also feels deeply sad because this is the time of year we never got to experience with Everett.  I think about him all the time and the things he would have loved and the things we so desperately wanted to experience with him.  It’s been an unending season of tears and I’m wondering when they will end…when will everything stop feeling so hard without him.  We just keep doing what we can and trying our best to honor his sweet little life and keep his fire burning in our hearts and our home.  This year it looked like rainbow painted pumpkins coupled with our deep love for our FuShuai.

Just within the last week it finally feels like legit fall in Tennessee and the leaves have finally started to turn.  All the kids’ summer clothes have been donated or put away for a younger sibling and all that’s left are all the long sleeves and pants.  You can now regularly find Amon hidden soaking up the heat from our floor vents.  He is our resident cat.  And Leo insists on wearing his coat, hat and backpack almost every time the kid leaves the house.

Winter, Leo, my niece Nia, Aunt Becky and I did our obligatory trip to a pumpkin patch with Winter’s preschool class.  We made the drive, learned how pumpkins grew, saw the animals, took trips down the giant slide and picked our pumpkins before the rain settled in and ushered us all home earlier than we’d planned.  But we did it.  And it made me feel a tad more accomplished than I did when we arrived.

We bought our pumpkins, gutted them and carved them with neighborhood friends.  Winter, Amon and Andrew drew out what their jack-o-lanterns needed to look like and Josh and I set out with knives in hand to make their jack-o-lanter face dreams come true.  Leo stirred up pumpkin guts and then proceeded to fling them all over our table and dining room floor.  Josh washed, dried, salted and baked a giant batch of pumpkin seeds and in two days tops they had all been consumed.

Some costumes were chosen early, some just days before.  I made Harper’s life by finding Leo a small pirate costume so they could be pirates together.  I wish you could have heard her upon seeing him all dressed up.  It’s love with those two…big giant googly-eyed love.  We trunker-treated with friends and family before Halloween even arrived.  The kids played games and ate way too much candy and Winter insisted on waiting through a line of other kids to get her face painted with a rainbow.  And of course she did.  I expect nothing less from her and her love for Everett.

Last year we started a new tradition of a fun dinner Halloween night.  It was our saddest Halloween and we all needed a pick-me-up.  Traditions can be born at anytime and remind us of harder times and pinholes of light in the form of fun paper plates, marshmallow pumpkins and eyeball ice cubes.

 Six kids X a bazillion pieces of candy meant we really didn’t even need to go trick-or-treating, but Josh Kelley insisted our kids still needed to knock on some doors come Halloween.  We drove down our street and parked and then walked or skateboarded down a few neighborhood streets increasing our Halloween candy intake by far too much.  Winter and Amon and the crunching of leaves beneath their fast moving feet led the way.  After one house Winter got emotional and cried about missing Everett.  She then shared with me she thought he would have been the orange or black Power Ranger with her and Amon if he was here with us.  Again with that love.  It’s her most powerful gift.  And with warmer weather surprising us our night ended with sweaty half dressed kiddos and our living room floor covered in their piles of candy.

Promptly after Halloween we took down Halloween decorations and I pulled out the kids Thanksgiving art.  Turkeys and scarecrows.  This past weekend Josh went ahead and put up his twinkle icicle lights on our back porch.  Our calendar is already marked for what weekends the house Christmas lights will go up and then our Christmas tree.  It’s Josh’s most favorite time of the year.  He doesn’t ask for much so we’ll all happily oblige and take part in his Clark Griswold-ness and love every minute of it.

I wanted to say thank you for all the kind comments, emails and texts on my “Where I Am” post.  You guys are always the kindest and I deeply appreciate that.  Essentially this space is like our family scrapbook with a few recipes and cuss words thrown in the mix. 🙂  But it’s always nice to know someone else out there in this wild, beautifully hard world can relate as well.  Please know you have my sincerist gratitude.