The Anger In It All

I itch to be in this space ALL THE TIME.  Words swirl through my head constantly and my sleep is little, but the world is so heavy and hard right now.  I would love to write in this space every single day because I love to write.  I love to hash out feelings and emotions and thoughts on this keyboard and watch the words fill the page, but even though we are still very much quarantined life feels oddly busy & full and as if there is really no extra time right now.  No time to write.  No time to work.  No time to create.  Just time to survive and make it one day at a time.

I am beyond behind on documenting in this space for our family.  I was looking back at photos of Christmas I never shared in this space…and Ethiopian Christmas and Chinese New Year and Solomon, Winter, Amon, Harper and Leo’s birthdays.  Moving.  Quarantine life.  More grief.  Changes.  All of it sits in my head and the photos on my phone.  I wonder if it’s too late to document it all and then I think, what the hell, why not chat about Christmas in July.  Seems fitting.  Maybe I’ll back track soon.  I’d love for this space to still be a place for our family to look back on and remember memories through photos and words.  I hate for there to be missing pieces.

Still being at home while our state has opened up too soon and a large portion of people are not wearing masks & distancing from each other while our COVID cases are on the rise again is pretty disheartening.  I feel like the world is just extra trainwreck-ish right now.  I hate that wearing a mask is now seen as a political statement.  I hate that not wearing a mask is someone’s “right” as an American.  I wish wearing one was seen as simple as it really is…being kind and protective of ourselves, our family, our neighbors and strangers.  It all feels really sad and embarrassing.  It also really pisses me off as we’re staying home and working really hard to keep our own kiddos and others safe.  This isn’t a political move, it’s a kind human being move.

More deaths of so many men and women in the Black community by police brutality has been crushing.  We’ve always been a family that didn’t shy away from hard and much needed racial conversations, but we have upped our listening, learning and educating big time.  We are committed to raising children who are anti-racist.  We are committed to raising Black and Asian kiddos who are prepared for this world which will inevitably unfairly judge them because of their race and ethnicity.  We’re holding Solomon, Amon and Winter…and our Black community…close and ourselves accountable.  We live in a predominately Black neighborhood and we want to work hard at continually checking our own biases, our own white privilege and continuing our anti-racism education for ourselves, our children, our neighbors and our community.  Our country was literally built on land we stole from one race and on the backs of another race we enslaved.  As a white person, I will never arrive…there will always be work to do…my continuing education is a must.  I live in and with my white privilege every single day…I’m submerged in it…I have to hold myself responsible & accountable and continue working on & in myself and our family first.

June was Pride month and so we also upped our education about the history of the LGBTQ+ community.  We talk very openly about sex, sex education and sexuality in general in our family.  Our goal is always open honest conversations & zero shame, but being intentional about learning together the history and important information for the LGBTQ+ community has not been our strong suit.  Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-24 year-olds and that LGBTQ+ teens and young adults are almost 4 times as likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers?  This is such a staggering statistic that we take very seriously in our home.  We are committed to learning & educating our crew better.  We are committed to creating a safe space where all our welcomed and loved and accepted.

**BTW…The kindergarten teacher in me will always love good kids’ books and use them to help educate and make us better people.**

There has been controversy among the adoption community that rattled my bones and made my heart sink.  A very public disrupted adoption by a famous youtube family was made very public on the internet which had me looking at things from 100 different angles.  I shared my thoughts on it HERE.  And most recently Abby Johnson a big pro-lifer came out and said the most disgustingly wrong things about her biracial son who was adopted and Black fathers while feeding racist lies to those who follow her around like she’s Jesus.  Makes me absolutely sick.  Makes my stomach turn.  And it makes me really really angry.  All of it.  Transracial adoptees deserve better.  The Black community deserves better.

Sidenote:  This is my personal little piece of the internet.  I so love that you are here, but if any of this ticks you off and you decide to leave a hateful comment or try shaming me or a group of people, I will delete the comment.  Since sharing more often over the past few weeks on MY INSTAGRAM page about Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ issues I have lost 500+ followers.  The actual number itself does not upset me.  What’s upsetting is what that number represents.  What that number could represent to Solomon, Amon, Winter, Everett and Leo.  I will never forget after taking our kids to their first BLM rally in 2016 I received phone calls from family members criticizing us and our parenting and the BLM movement in general.  It was the beginning of the end in the best & saddest kind of way.

I keep saying it, but our kids are the real MVPs in all of this.  I cannot imagine processing all they have had to process in their childhood years.  June and July are hard months for our grief and as a family we are doing more anti-racism work together. More conversations.  More literature read apart & together.  More journaling of our thoughts & feelings.  More listening & learning. More checking in with their hearts & minds.  All while still quarantined at home.  It has not been easy.  It has not been without tears, sadness, anger & fights.  We have had both really crappy days and really good days.  They miss their family & friends.  They miss all their favorite summer activities.  They miss hugs and people and in-person conversations.  They miss being out in our community.  They miss Everett.  And yet, they carry on making the best of staying home for the safety of each other, our family, our friends, our neighbors and strangers.  They move forward in their learning of how to stand up for each other and how to be a part of the solution & the healing and not a part of the hurt & hate.  I watch their eyes and hear their words and my oh so cautious hope for change becomes more concrete. My hope is they will each be a piece of the healing and kindness and change our world so desperately needs.  One of my favorite things we have been doing together is working through This Book Is Antiracist.  It’s 20 lessons with activities to go with them.  So so so so good and has created the most meaningful conversations with our kids. Cannot recommend it enough.

I process a lot as I write.  I don’t have a neat and tidy way to wrap this all up.  I’ve been incredibly sad about all the insanely unfair and backwards ways of this world, but now I’m just at a really pissed off point.  I’m angry and honestly, I’m not letting it go anytime soon…and that’s okay.  Even Jesus got pissed off.  What I do with my anger is key.  Where it goes.  What it does.  How it shapes and changes me for the better and carries into this world maybe lighting some fires as it goes.  Sometimes hope comes in the form of a flame lighting the way.  And I desperately want to get this part right.  I desperately want to look back on this time and know I held myself accountable first and got to work.

Where Do I Even Begin

Goodness it has been a while.  Definitely the longest I’ve ever gone without writing in this space since I started this blog back in 2007.  Seriously, I went back and looked.  Longest I’ve ever been away.  Leave it up to a world pandemic to jack everything up!  And I miss writing so much.  I miss documenting and story telling and rambling.  I miss you guys.  I miss it all.

I left off at the end of February when toilet paper wasn’t a rare commodity, school and carpool pickups were still a thing, being around actual human beings was cool and parties weren’t a thing of the past.  Then March hit and our world went nuts and then pretty much caught on fire and burned to the ground. 🙂

I’ll give you a quick recap.  We sold our house and bought a new house and then had to have our entire house packed up and ready to go before we left on a family trip to Ethiopia in early March.  Tornados then hit Nashville right before we left.  While we were in Ethiopia the world went nuts with a pandemic, the last two days of our trip was cancelled due to a Level 4 travel alert issued by the US State Department and then we…along with every other US citizen & green card holder in Ethiopia…rushed to fly out of Addis back to the US…people were literally wearing hazmat suits and full on respirators…like nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced…more on that later.  🙂  We made it home and the next day had our final walk-thru on our new home and finished packing, the next day packed up our house in a Uhaul & celebrated Amon’s 8th birthday and the next day we closed on both houses and moved solo with 6 kiddos in tow all thanks to COVID 19.  I have never been so tired in my entire life.  Jet lag and moving with just Josh and myself was INSANE!!!!  Then school was cancelled forever and ever and ever and Josh has been working from home and I have been feeding and refereeing and schooling all the childrens along with processing sadness, grief & depression.  Oh and ALL OF THIS really rocked Leo’s world so he hasn’t slept in 64 days so we are also zombies.

I know so many of you can relate x 1000 because this pandemic and quarantine has been so hard on so many people for so many many different reasons.  We are 64 days into this thing and I still don’t feel like I have my footing.  I know some of you can relate to this too.  I thought I’d found a routine and then I didn’t.  This has only highlighted my grief like putting a big spotlight on it and quarantine has made me feel pretty alone and isolated.  Everyone misses what we used to call life and we miss our people.  I miss hugs the most!  I’m a total hugger and what I wouldn’t give to squeeze a human not named Josh Kelley, Harper, Hudson, Solomon, Amon, Winter or Leo. 🙂  And with 3 kiddos…2 complex CHDs and 1 with asthma…we’ll be sitting tight for a while longer.  My brain just doesn’t understand how all this shakes out.

When we first got home from Ethiopia we would watch the news every morning.  We were about 2 weeks behind the rest of the US so we went into a bit of a pandemic shock upon returning home.  I mean we only had 2 rolls of toilet paper back at home!!!!!  I made Harper put whatever rolls of toilet paper we had left in our hotel room in Ethiopia in her suitcase to carry home.  We’d heard what we were returning home to, but we didn’t really fully understand it until we were immersed in it.

On our last plane ride home we were 8 of 14 passengers on board.  We closed on our house in our car.  They placed the papers outside their door in a closed envelope with two brand new pens and gloves.  In our car we put on our gloves, signed papers as they went over them via speaker phone, placed the papers back in the envelope & sealed it, then threw away the gloves and pens and placed the envelope back outside the office and returned to our car.  WHAT IN THE ACTUAL WORLD.  Hudson and Winter got strep throat right when we got back and I was for sure they had coronavirus.  Hudson was convinced as well.  My state of anxiety has never been higher.

Shortly after moving I had to get groceries for the first time.  I was so nervous and sweaty.  I also had not thought through how wearing my mask with my glasses and breathing would cause my glasses to remain foggy the entire trip.  I went right when Kroger opened up on a week day morning and by the time I got my groceries there was a long line down the center aisle to check out, but hardly anyone in self check out.  So I took almost $300 worth of groceries through self checkout.  I got called out immediately because I had two 6 packs of toilet paper and didn’t know there was a limit of one per household.  I pleaded my case as a family of 9, but no go.  A kind lady grabbed them out of my cart and bought them for me and insisted I not pay her back.  Her treat.  I cried.  When my total was around $260 my machine froze up.  The kind self checkout cashier tried helping, but alas.  So we started filling my cart with my bagged groceries and she moved me to her own machine.  As she was scanning the last of my produce I dropped an entire container of blueberries all over the floor by one of the exits.  Blueberries everywhere.  At this point I had sweated through my shirt and in my foggy glasses was frantically trying to pick blueberries up off the floor.  I finally paid and left ripping my facemask off in the parking lot and tossing it in a trash can.  As I was loading my car I found two 6 packs of beer I had not paid for hidden under all the bags.  Normally I would have gone back in and paid for them, but I took one look at that beer and then back at the store and then at my sweaty pit stained shirt and said to myself, “No way in hell.”

And that about sums up our quarantine experience so far.  Hahahahaha.  We are staying home and Josh or myself are only going out for groceries or for Leo’s blood draws.  We’re ordering groceries when we can.  And even after 64 days I still get stressed and anxious if I have to go into a store.  Even more so when I have to take Leo out.  He’s the only one who has weekly medical appointments we still have to attend and what I really want to do is stick him in a bubble.  We are doing all the things we are supposed to do, but it was very sobering to hear his cardiologist talk about the precautions we should be taking with our children. Even though Leo’s little heart got a great report I still sat in my car afterwards and just cried.  It feels really heavy and hard and sad right now.  It just feels like a lot.

So I’ll wrap it up with a few numbers.  We’ve taken approximately 1,564 walks/bike rides.  We’ve gone through 822 individual bags of chips, 32 family sized bags of peanut butter M&Ms, 10,000 pieces of bread and Harper has made 170 batches of chocolate chip cookies.  We’ve watched 389 movies and our kids have spent 800,000 hours playing video games or on the iPad watching brainless youtube videos.  We’ve downloaded 65 new educational apps and used 2 of them them twice.  We’ve logged onto 243 zoom calls and I’ve cursed 605,893 times…there’s been a lot of cursing.  And the tears, how do you even keep count of those.  And we’re still here.  Still making it.  Still holding on tight.  Still feeling crazy.  Still waking up each morning baffled by how we got here.  Still angry. Still sad.  Still in awe of the beauty around us.  Still knowing we’re the luckiest.  Still jaded.  Still stubborn hope holders.  And still looking for those bright spots in the darkness because they are always there.

Favorite Things Party

Years ago I heard about a “favorite things” party and ever since I’ve always wanted to host one.  When I was in Kansas in November helping at Christmas Camp Create we all brought 3 of one of our favorite things to have a favorite things party.  So for Camp Create I took 3 bottles of Christmas Spirit essential oil.  We set a $10 limit and it was seriously THE MOST FUN!!!!  You can google how it works!!!  I laughed so hard and loved seeing what everyone brought.  I came home with delicious dutch chocolates & cookies, a silk pillowcase and some awesome new pen sets.  It was a total blast and I knew for sure I wanted to host one in December.

When I got home I set to work and early December a whole bunch of fun ladies gathered in our house with their favorite things and a favorite food dish to share.  Everyone left with 3 different favorite things from someone else, full bellies and faces that ached from smiling and laughing so much.  It was a blast listening to everyone share about their favorite item…where they bought it, price point (ours was $10-$15), why they like the item so much and any other tidbit of information they wanted to throw in there.  It was also great to have a whole bunch of reasonably priced new gift ideas heading into the holiday season.  I walked away with a set of adorable post cards, some crazy good smelling body wash and an adorable zip pouch, holiday napkins & notecards.

I’ve thought about the party so many times since and wanted to share everyone’s items they brought because it was just so good!!

Giant Confetti Cannon from Party City & Jr. Mint Minis:  Not all confetti cannons are created equal.  We’ve used others, but the one from Party City…which I cannot find on Amazon…is THE BEST!!!  The function, the ease of use, the pop, the explosion of confetti and even the color of the confetti.  Yes these things matter to me…I am a bonafide confetti cannon snob.   A little extra fun ensued when the 3 ladies who chose my gift were unwrapping it and I shot off a surprise confetti cannon in our living room just to show everyone how it worked. 🙂  I really love a good party.  Also shocker:  I’m the only person who chose a food item. 🙂  This speak volumes about me.  The Jr. Mint Minis, well, hands down they’re my favorite candy.  Period.  I know, I know, what about the sweettart ropes…yes, even better than those.  Since discovering the minis I haven’t eaten a regular Jr. Mint since.  It’s the perfect dark chocolate to mint ratio and I’m never looking back.

Tennessee Wood Art from a local business:  This was a fun home item and of course everyone at the party was from Tennessee so everyone was all in.  The ladies all oohed and ahhed over it.  I also loved that it came from a local shop in our area.  Keeping it in the community!

TJ Maxx:  How adorable is it when someone’s favorite thing is an actual store because they get great items for a great deal every time so they bring adorable zip pouches, festive holiday napkins and notecards for their gift and you get all 3?!?!?!  Favorite indeed.

Ulta Holiday Lip Gloss Set:  I mean, is there really such a thing as too many lip glosses?!?!  I think not.  Also all I could think was how fun it would be to keep a few for myself and then add them into other fun gifts.  Perfect sharing kind of favorite thing.

(This was an Ulta Holiday Item so no link.)

Belkin Leather Tassel USB Charger:  Incredibly cute and handy as all get out.  I am always looking for my charger chord…perpetually!  Perfect gift for literally anyone.

Invisibobble:  Hair ties that A) Don’t hurt your head after wearing them for hours and B) That don’t crease your hair.  I’ll take 20 please.

Smoothie Body Buttercream:  My SIL Jen swears by this stuff.  I have super dry knuckles in the winter and Winter always has really dry feet & heels so problem solved.  Bonus:  It’s smells so good.

TIJN Blue Blocking Glasses:  The crowd went absolutely wild for this item.  Jealously swept the room and everyone wanted a pair.  I had never heard of blue blocker glasses and recently ordered this exact same pair because I just couldn’t hold off any longer.  My friend Megan brought these and my favorite thing about her gift was how passionate and informative she was about them.  I mean, she made me a full on beleiver.  And they are super adorable.

Anthropologie Volcano Candle & matches:  I heard about this candle from the internets, but had never actually smelled it, but once I smelled it I understood what all the hype was about.  Insane!!!!!  Maybe the best candle I’ve ever smelled.  My friend Becca purchased the small size and paired it with some adorable vintage holiday matches.

Slide View: 1: Capri Blue Volcano Iridescent Jar Candle

Trader Joe’s Felted Wool Garland & Almay Make-up Free Wipes:  I love Trader Joes, but don’t want to actually go into Trader Joes.  It’s what I imagine a hipster apocalypse would be like and I don’t really want to shop for groceries through that kind of end of the world. 😉  But for the a-freakin-dorable felt ball garland I’d totally do it.  And I always need face/makeup/skin tips.  Always.

Clean On Me Body Wash:  I got to use this approximately 2 times before Harper commented on how good I smelled and then the bottle disappeared from my shower and showed up in hers.  Hmmmm, how does that work?!?!  It smells absolutely amazing and clearly is a winner among the young and old.

Pep Talk Postcards by Emily McDowell:  My friend Courtney brought this and she encouraged me to choose her gift because she knew it was literally made for me.  I LOVE MAIL!!!  I love to send it, I love to receive it.  And I deeply love a good postcard.  Our Christmas cards last year were post cards.  I have only a few cards left from this stack and I will 100% be ordering more.


Flair Pens:  Only the best pen around for writing.  Smooth, soft, colorful.  A constant pen choice among me and Harper for doodling, journaling, note taking, letter writing and list making.


Raw Sugar Sugar Scrub:  I love a clean exfoliant so I was a tad jealous I didn’t choose this gift.  We passed it around and smelled it like crazies.  Such a versatile gift…who doesn’t want soft, exfoliated skin?!?!


Native Travel Deodorant & NYX Butter Gloss:  Some of you may remember my detoxing from deodorant and smelling like Taco Bell for 2-3 weeks-ish situation a while back.  Well I’ve started using deodorant every now and then again…like for an important meeting or appointment where I know I might be sweating a bit…and Native is my go to.  Clean and it works.  And a bomb lipgloss.  What can I say?!?

Everyone had so much fun we collectively agreed we’d do a spring one and I am SO SO SO excited about it.  I’ve already been thinking about my spring/summer item.  Here’s to a good party!

Well, It’s Been A Bit

Hi!  2020 has been a whirlwind and has kind of knocked us on out in 100 different ways.  I wanted to sit down and write out meaningful and prolific words, but really I’m just stuck on the same words I’ve shared a million and one times since Everett died…life is weird and wonderful and sad and joyful and hard and lovely.  Every time I think I’ve gained 3 feet on my grief something happens and spins be backwards 6.  It’s this never ending game of grief and life moving on without him.

We’ve pretty much packed the beginning of 2020 out.  Josh Kelley and I have impeccable timing of course.  We came in hot off of Christmas and into Ethiopian Christmas, Chinese New Year, Solomon’s birthday, Winter’s birthday, basketball season, we sold our house, we bought a house and in March we’ll close on all the houses, take an international spring break and celebrate Amon and Harper’s birthdays.  Go big or go home…or go big and go crazy.  It’s bizarre because I’ve never really looked forward to the month of April, but here I am fully anticipating it like it’s Christmas.

2020 has brought up a lot of hurt and sadness I haven’t sat with in a long time.  Apparently when I stuff my feelings down they eventually come spewing back up.  Good to know. 🙂  We’re going to start back to therapy soon which I simultaneously look forward to and dread.  Therapy is hard work.  It requires a lot…time, money, emotions.  I have a lot of feelings about mental health in America.  #1 thing being…we should all have incredible mental health benefits…and yet, they are basically the worst.  I don’t understand it at all.  Taking care of our mental health should not bankrupt someone.  Health insurance companies shouldn’t make it so hard on therapists and counselors to file claims.  Health insurance companies shouldn’t suck!

December was busy and fun and decent.  There were hard moments…I think there will always be.  Everett was apart of us so it feels unnatural to keep living life without him.  There are moments when one of the kids will say, “This doesn’t feel right without him.” or they will get sad right in the middle of something fun and honestly I absolutely LOATHE those moments while I also absolutely LOVE those moments.  I hate they carry this sadness, but I love that they carry him.  In a world where I often feel so out of place because grief and death have stripped me of things others still have, Josh and my kids make me feel normal because they feel all of this too.  They understand how crazy it all is.

For an assignment at school one of our kids had to write about themselves.  When I read this part I cried…

Who feels loved, great and tired.

Who needs family, food and clothes.

Who gives love, respect and kindness.

Who fears loss.

Who would like to see Everest and Heaven.

I sometimes get so wrapped up in my own grief and life I forget how not only did I instantly change the moment Everett’s heart beat it’s last, but so did 7 others humans I adore.  Each of one us instantly became different.  Josh and I can visibly see the difference in our kids’ smiles.  But man, do they love big and they carry him so close in everything they do.  Several of them plan to get “E” tattoos when they are older and I cannot even tell you what those random conversations do for my heart.


Several several months ago I had inquired about some of Everett’s documents I really wanted to have from China.  It felt like a long shot.  It seemed a bit impossible and very unlikely the things we longed for were still out there or if they were that they’d find their way into our hands.  Then one evening in December Mr. Mike our mailman brought the largest cardstock envelope I’ve ever seen to our door.  I anxiously opened it and instantly began to cry.  I was immediately transported back to the moment when the nurse handed me my mom’s belongings in a plastic bag, told me she was sorry, gave me a hug and then I walked off my mom’s hospital floor alone.  I cut open the large plastic bag of Everett’s and began going through all the images and paperwork.  It was hard and sad and also gave us another little piece of our FuShuai we long for every single day.  You can guarantee some of these items will be framed and be apart of our home always.  We’re learning everyday how to weave him into our life without him physically being here.  It sucks and it’s also a privilege.  Gah I miss him.

I know the beginning of a new year usually is marked by re-caps of the previous year and fresh goals for the new one.  In 2019 I read zero books, met zero fitness goals, met zero business goals, I did not read through the Bible…actually only opened it once and only then because of my friend Jess Thompson.  I did not kick any unfavorable habits…in fact I added some…and I only kept one single New Year’s goal all together.  Our time is now forever stamped not by a new year, but by Everett’s death…the time before he died and the time after he died.  That can feel pretty crushing.  2019…year number two…was about surviving and that’s exactly what we did.  Another 365 days to be exact and I’m chalking that up to a win.  We carried each other and we made it another year closer.


Here’s to just trying to do and be a little bit better than last year.  That’s my goal.  Keep white knuckling my jaded hope and just do my best.  Love a little deeper, give a little more, be a little kinder.  And on days when I have a hard time even pulling myself from the bed, I’ll try and see my hope from a different angle.  Spin it a different way and never let go of that persistent, stubborn hope.

It’s good to be back. 🙂

November In A Nutshell

Where has the time gone?!?!  I’m not even fully sure, but if I waited any longer to stop in and type on these keys my head was going to explode.  So I give you November in a nutshell.  One day my children will thank me for this blog. 🙂

We kick off November with our thankful leaves and my birthday.  This year it was accompanied by homemade rainbow potholders.  I have some pretty awesome friends.

Truth time:  I am not a fan of going on field trips.  I literally have to make myself go and sometimes I choose not to make myself go. 🙂  I did however muster up enough energy and umph to join Winter at the pumpkin patch.  After it was all over I was glad I went, but field trips are still not my fave.

Then off to Kansas I went to work Camp Create which really doesn’t feel like work, but fun and an honor and privilege to be there.  To watch Meg and Kimberlee do their thing and hang with friends, old and new…it’s life giving.

Sometimes I love aggressively and Meg caught it on camera. LOL.

I was welcomed home by the best crew and new rainbow lights at the Nashville airport.  Hey brother boy…I see you.

Josh Kelley says it’s not Thanksgiving without our Christmas tree so up went our Christmas tree.

I found much needed encouragement and love from Amon.

Snuggles and Goodwill & Target trips and movies for days and Icees all year long no matter the season and sleeping in and a jumpstart on Christmas.

Winter broke her leg…right at the growth plate…which actually worked out better for her now because it’s not fused together yet.  So she got 3 weeks in a brace with metal rods and we gladly took that.  She was a trooper.

We celebrated and remembered Mom/Grammy with blizzards and me telling them stories about how in love she was and would be with each of them.

Smore making in magic Tennessee fall weather.

Thanksgiving was here in a flash and yet so late.  Our major win this year was that we remembered to change Leo out of his pajamas…unlike last year.  We counted it a really big win.

We saw Frozen 2 and it was everything I’d hoped for and more.  I liked it better than the first one.  Winter and I had a good cry together when Olaf was melting.  She sobbed and I assured her we’d see him again.  And I knew all along this wasn’t really about Olaf.  Sweet girl.

We ended November with Harper’s first concert to see Lizzo and Jon Bellion.  I got extremely sick the day of and Josh Kelley had to step in and take my place.  I hated to miss…like HATED to miss, but was so glad Josh got to experience it with her.  I did get the full run down at midnight over pizza and watching them re-live it all made me love them both even more…which I didn’t know was possible.

And then we barreled into December.  I’m still gathering all my thoughts on it.  I’m still working through the joy and goodness and the grief and sadness.  They are all becoming quite the group together.  So long to another November.  We’re moving another day, week, month, year closer.

Disney 2019

Every two years Josh Kelley’s parents treat the entire family to a trip to Disney.  This year was our third year going.  We do 3 days in the parks and honestly that is our max time we’d like to stay.  It’s just enough and everyone is bonkers exhausted by the time the end of the third day rolls around.

This year we felt a little meh about how Leo would do.  While Leo has a few non-traditional autistic tendencies, he also has some very traditional autistic tendencies which made Disney hard on him.  Leo was very overstimulated most of the time and that made Disney’s disability pass a gift from Jesus Himself.  I cannot imagine Leo having to wait in all those lines all day long.  I feel confident it would have made his Disney experience miserable and even harder than it already was.

While large portions of the world are still figuring out how to best be disability friendly and accommodating I really believe Disney is getting it right in a lot of areas.  Nobody is perfect…nobody…but we truly felt as if Disney World really does desire for their fun and magic to be accessible and enjoyed by all kinds of people and children.

Leading up to the trip Josh and I were not excited at all.  The last time we’d been to Disney was just 2 months after Everett died and looking back we should have just opted out of the trip all together, but we felt like we had to go since Josh’s parents had already paid for the trip.  In hindsight it was an incredibly hard and traumatic trip for our whole little crew.  Yes, Disney can be traumatic.  We were all pushed far past our limits at that moment in time and grief was suffocating and we all cried our eyeballs out to sleep every single night.  We all could not wait to get home.  It wasn’t our best decision.

So we were nervous going into this again.  Disney is supposed to be this magical place for kiddos and when one of your children is missing there will always be an obvious hole.  There will always be a sadness in watching our other children enjoy and relish in something we know Everett should be here doing too.  So we went into this trip with zero expectations and zero agenda other than to just try and have some fun and to keep our humor intact.  Laughter is one of the key components to our life.  It’s vital.  We actually didn’t even schedule our fast passes until a couple of days before our trip and then didn’t even use them all.

We knew there would be fun, but we also went in knowing there would be sadness and hard.  We knew our kids grief might come out in a thousand different ways and that this would likely be a very overwhelming trip for Leo so we kept that information at the forefront of our brains.  Josh and I chose to hold the reigns to this trip very loosely.  We let the kids make more decisions about what we’d actually do there while Josh and I guided.  We carried Leo’s noise cancelling headphones and extra clothes & ziplock bags for him everywhere…accidents were legit in Disney…like so legit and we made sure everyone was hydrated and fed adequately and while we ate all the fun snacks we also carried a hundred more extra more filling snacks along with smaller fun treats like suckers in our backpack.  We recognized our limitations.  We only did one park per day and headed back in the evening for much needed down time to eat dinner, swim, watch movies, play football, etc.  We gave the big kids more freedom and we did a lot of dividing and conquering.  We let the bigs be big and let the littles be little and I’m so glad we approached it from that angle.


It was hard on Leo, but he had fun and everyone had some fun too.  He worked really hard and Disney pushed his limits, but he really did an incredible job.  We got a lot of stares.  We got a lot of off handed, quiet, rude comments.  I had dark moments where I wanted to physically fight people over their treatment or lack there of for Leo.  It all further affirmed one of our deepest desires for Leo and all of our children is acceptance…just as they are…no fixing required.

I shared this on my instagram and it honestly just about wraps up all my feelings about our Disney trip:

“We Magic Kingdomed it up today!  Five things: 1) The Walt Disney World disability pass is legit. Like legit legit and it made going to Disney with kiddos who have disabilities a little easier. Hooray for whoever thought of it.  2) I’d give the Mickey soft pretzel a solid 3 stars.  3) Why do Mickey shaped items taste better than normal shaped items?!?  4) This is Leo’s first time and we worried about how he’d do. He definitely struggled regulating, was overstimulated and I wanted to scream at some other people, but he had so much fun and really did great. Can I just pass out stickers and tees that say, “Staring isn’t caring, asshole.”?!?!  And 5) When you see a kiddo struggling, say kind words or give a gentle smile. Who cares if a 4-year-old slapped you on the butt while waiting in line for Buzzlightyear, take it as a compliment.  During a struggle time for Leo his Aunt Katy said, “He really is doing so well.” And she was 100% right.  He’s killing this trip and deserves to be here just as much as anyone else. Thank you Disney World for putting into place practices that encourage all types of people to enjoy your magic & fun.”

So we came, we partied and we survived another Disney trip.  See you in another 2 years Disney World…I’ll bring my stickers and tees next time. 😉

Kindness Advent 2019

I’m a little late posting this considering it’s December 16th, but we have been in full on Kelley kindness advent mode since December 1st.  Usually we set aside money to make all the things happen that we choose for our kindness advent, but this year, well this year medical bills are beyond legit…and that’s fine…it is what it is…so we decided to show kindness that required no money or that we already had the supplies for around our home.  I thought it was going to be more challenging than it was, but we totally brainstormed a bunch of great kindness activities that fit and we set off.

It has been really fun and great to watch our daily deliberate kindness activities fall into place.  There is still some planning that needed to happen so we did that in November and now it’s been pretty smooth sailing.  We did lose our day #8 and I could not remember what we were supposed to do that day and I couldn’t find our calendar where we mapped it all out at the time so you know, you win some, you lose some.  No worries.

I did find my list and wanted to share it here for future reference so without further ado:

**Send get well cards.  Give high 5s.  Let someone go ahead of you in line.  Write a teacher a kind note.  Draw a picture for a friend.  Make bookmarks and leave them at the library.  Paint wood circles/rocks and leave them around town.  Clean someone’s car.  Give out compliments.  Leave a treat for our garbage collector.  Send mail.  Pass out stickers.  Share Sonic happy hour.  Breakfast drop.  Return shopping carts.  Treat our teachers to a key fob.  Give out hugs.  Leave a treat for our mail carrier.  Donate some of our books to our pediatrician’s office.  Leave encouraging sticky notes on public bathroom mirrors.  Gift an ornament.  Leave chalk art around town.  Bake for our neighbors.  Leave encouraging notes on cars.  Load bubble gum & trinket machines with quarters.**

To accomplish keeping it spending free we did things like save a Sonic gift card our neighbors gifted us and used some of it to treat someone else to Sonic too.  To make bookmarks we used supplies we already had on hand and cut up cereal boxes from our recycling for our base.  We always have a stash of stickers and shared from that.  For our breakfast drop we made banana bread from bad bananas at the end of our week because bad bananas make the best banana bread.  For treats for our garbage collector and mail carrier we baked goodies from the ingredients we already had on hand and wrote kind notes.  We are donating gently used books from our own home library to our pediatrician’s office.  We made the ornaments we are gifting.  And over the past few months every time I see a quarter laying around our house I have tucked it away so we can load the bubble gum and trinket machines.  This year definitely took a little thinking and creativity, but we have all still so enjoyed our kindness advent.

This is our 9th year of doing our kindness advent and every year I have used the same little envelopes.  This year I made a a brand new set since I taught this craft at Camp Create earlier in November.  It was really fun and my heart needed some creativity…and major bonus…I adore our new advent set up.

We are still moving right along and I am documenting daily in my stories over on my instagram.  If you want to follow along head over HERE.

I always think back to the quote that began it all during my first round of deep grief after losing my mom:
“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

Nine years in and it still means just as much, if not more, than it did that very first year.

Holiday Bright Spots

1. Hudson and Solomon’s snuggle ways.  Seriously, like seriously seriously, I hope they do this for their entire lives.  ENTIRE LIVES!!!!

2. Winter and Amon picking out treats at the drugstore.  There is something about watching my kids pick out treats in gas stations and drugstores that I absolutely LOVE!!!  All the choices, all the deliberating.  It’s adorable.

3. Our Toby painting.  Toby painted us a rainbow and I adore it so much I can barely stand it.  It now resides in our kitchen and is a constant reminder of hope…white knuckled, jaded, gorgeous hope.  I’ll never get enough.

4. Hello Panda cookies.  They are the bomb!  So tasty.  So delicious.  A full on Kelley crowd pleaser.  We pick these up at the Asian market, but word on the street is you can get them from Costco or 5 Below.

5. Winter and kindergarten and her learning to write and spell.  The end.

6. Taking down Winter’s hair.  It’s a family affair and it was really sweet when Josh Kelley sent me this picture.  It’s messy and a bit blurry and we’re all fresh awake and still in bed, but I love the 3 Kelley ladies all together.  Harper, Josh and I all jump in and help take down those beautiful braids.  Tuck away memory forever.

7. Middle school photo booths at Halloween that include a fake chainsaw are the literal best!  It still makes me laugh so hard.

8. Halloween chocolate candy cookies are a massive fan favorite in our house.  After Halloween we took our favorite chocolate chip cookie dough recipe…or sub in your own…and the Kelley bigs chopped up all the different chocolate candies…minus any with peanuts because we’ve got a peanut allergy in the house…KitKats, 3 Musketeers, Milky Ways, Twix, Whoppers, Hershey Bars, M&Ms, etc…threw them all in the cookie dough and baked to perfection they will change your life.  Just do it!!!!!

 9. Everett’s beach photos.  I love this child with all of my being.  Miss his squishy face so much.

10. Leo and his obsessive love with his rainbow blankie.  I will let him haul it around wherever he wants.  And also, have all the treats and take all my money.  I’m a sucker.

11. Tennessee winter skies.

12. Hudson’s new pastime of taking a photo of you when you don’t know and then photoshopping it to make you out to be a freaky David Bowie fan/possible serial killer.  When I saw this one, I felt a tad scarred.

13. Leo’s painting of him and his daddy.  OH MY GAH I LOVE THIS CHILD!!!!!

14. The Finding Fred podcast.  I listened to one episode and then binged listened to SEVEN episodes while I sewed 250 key fobs.  I laughed.  I cried.  It is such an amazing podcast.

And 15.  My top two favorite Christmas items:

All the rainbow wrapping paper.  I started buying only rainbow wrapping paper after Everett died and I’ve stuck with it ever since.  So rainbow wrapping for Christmas.

And Pick a Pine Tree book.  Such a sweet adorable book.  My favorite new Christmas book!!!  The cutest illustrations and a crazy sweet story about enjoying the holiday season together with community.  It’s the cutest.