How We Spring Breaked

Longer school break holidays are always hard for me as a parent.  I’m home all day trying to work from home while also trying not to lose my ever loving mind while also trying to make spring break fun while also trying not the break the bank making spring break fun for 6 kiddos.  Sometimes I wish we could take our kids on amazing vacations and then other times I’m completely content with doing what we do here at home.  It’s this weird push and pull, but at the end of spring break every one was alive and okay and had fun and was ready for school to start back.

We burned through a ton of sidewalk chalk…which isn’t unusual for our crew.  We filled up every last empty spot of concrete and the spring sunshine and wind filled my heart up.  Everett was born in the year of the snake so we drew a big colorful snake along our sidewalk one day.  We weave him into everyday moments all the time.  He is apart of us always.

Some kind friends gifted us with a membership to our zoo last year so we hit up the zoo one day.  The kangaroos were out and about which makes the entire trip worth it.  Also Winter about lost her mind when the spotted leopard ran right in front of her.  And Leo, well, Leo LOVES the zoo.  He is 110% there for the animals.  Also big kids are my favorite.  Harper, Hudson and Solomon all brought their own money to purchase their own fun snacks because I had already said I would not be making those purchases…the zoo fun snacks = expensive for 6 kids.  Big kids forever!

There was time playing with friends and cousins.  Along with trips to the park and our community center for basketball and to our library for books and movies and computer time.  A few Target trips were in order as well to let birthday kids check out possible gift ideas.  Anything to get these smallish humans out of the house and we caught some pretty sweet Tennessee sunsets while we were at it.

There were also plenty of movies and video games and baking cookies and reading and looking for hearts.  There was loads of snuggling and loads of fighting.  Playing nicely and wanting to beat the snot out of one another.  There were moments of sweetness and moments of insanity.  Spring break is completely the best and completely the worst.

There were approximately 5,213 meals and snacks consumed.  Our kids get free breakfast and lunch at school so our weekly grocery budget quadruples on these long holiday breaks.  🙂

(Hudson & Solomon have mastered the breakfast in bed and Josh Kelley and I are not mad at it.)

And we ended spring break with our first family photos of 2019 with our beloved Cheyenne and then Sonic for dinner.  Family photos are actually something I deeply look forward to.  There are zero wardrobe changes, there are lots of bribes and Cheyenne gets done in 30 minutes or less.  I always tell her, “All I need is one good shot.” and yet in that small window of time she works her absolute magic and leaves me breathless and in awe of my people and her ridiculous talent.  When she sent me a preview she pointed out little rainbows that showed up in some of the pictures.  Made me cry and smile.  Gah I miss him.  He should be here.  Everett should be in these photos.  He should be in our arms.

So we made it.  We survived spring break and enjoyed spring break and were also thrilled to see spring break end.  Isn’t that just life?!?!  Until Summer.  See you…not too soon. 😉

Hi!

I started this post last week when we we’re in the middle of a double birthday week.  A friend recently text me and jokingly  asked who’s birthday we were celebrating because this is the time of the year where we have 5 birthdays in 3 months.  Birthday extravaganza.  I feel like I can’t solidify many thoughts lately with all that swirls through my brain on the daily, so, you know, I’m here to just write whatever.

Sundays are when we use up the last of the groceries left in our fridge.  This usually means the last of the weekly eggs and any browning bananas are turned into banana bread, waffles and egg muffins.  I can usually pull off 30-40 waffles and then we bag them up and toss them in the freezer.  The big kids pull them out, throw them on a cookie sheet and broil them in the oven to perfection.  There’s something weirdly satisfying about turning the last of food items into more food which will last us all week.

Watching Josh Kelley & Amon stretch kind of makes my day.  I just think they are the cutest things.  It doesn’t take much these days to make me feel all sappy about my people.

Everett’s Gotcha Day was at the end of February.  It was a pretty sucky day all around, but we did our best to celebrate as always.  Before we reminded the kids about the day being Everett’s special day Hudson came down early and said he felt sad.  I reminded him of how our minds might not remember specific dates, but our bodies do.  Harper was really sad and down so we let her stay home from school.  We pulled ourselves up with sunshine and lunch with Josh and our favorite chocolate caramel bars from Target.

That night we took the kids to see the new How To Train A Dragon movie.  It was FANTASTIC!!!!  To celebrate our special family days we pick something fun to do together as a family.  Everett’s gotcha day is no different…still so much to celebrate in this special boy who changed us all.  The movie was just incredible.  We got treats and popcorn and settled into our seats.  Winter sat by me and before the movie began she started to cry.  I leaned in close and pulled her in.  She said, “It doesn’t feel good without him.”  And then she and I cried together right there in that movie theater.  We held onto each other tight and felt Josh, Harper, Hudson and Solomon’s hands and arms sporadically wrap around us.  She puts into such simple and sweet words what we all are feeling.  None of this feels good without him.  We recovered after a good cry.  Winter snuggled on me during the whole movie and when the lights came up we discovered she’d made herself quite comfortable by raising two arms rests, stretching out, taking her shoes off and catching some Z’s.  Gah, I love her.

We finally got Everett’s colorful lanterns up about a month ago.  The cemetery is always a roll of the dice for our crew.  Sometimes it can be so so good for our hearts and some times it’s like we’ve been knocked 20 steps back.  This visit was a good one.  How can you deeply love and deeply hate a place simultaneously?  I hate that Everett’s life is now represented in things like the cemetery and rainbows and lanterns and Fiesta donkeys…and then I love we have things which are so symbolic of him.  He was such beauty and wisdom and bravery and heart wrapped up in the sweetest little boys body.  I hate this is how our life is now.  We just desperately want him back.

Our cardiologist appointments are always pretty hard days.  You just never know what news your will hear or how Leo will do with all the tests.  I also can never kick Everett from my brain and cry at some point Every.Single.Time.  I adore our cardiac staff.  They are kind and compassionate and love us really well.  At our last appointment I could not stop crying and I kept trying to explain my emotions and feelings away to our cardiologist.  She finally leaned in and said, “You don’t need to try and explain any of this.  You owe me no explanation.”  And then more tears came.  Over the moon thankful for compassionate and empathetic people who love our kids and fight for their little lives.

On a lighter note…will someone please stunt these two boys’ growth and throat punch time for me?!?!  Thanks!

PS:  143 forever.

Amon!  He’s our resident cat and the funniest kid.  He’s weird and quirky and seriously cracks us all up all the time.  And how can one little human have the cutest nose in the literal world!!!!!  Everyone needs an Amon.  Everyone.  Weird kids for president man!

Brothers at therapy make everything better right?!?!  We have been insanely lucky to have the best therapists on the block.  I could sing every single one of their praises.  They make us better.  They make our kids work hard.  They believe in our kids.  And they welcome, not just our child who needs the actual therapy, but our whole family into the process.  People who love their jobs and give so willingly of their talents to others amaze me and make me strive to be a better human.  Heroes are freakin’ everywhere.  We are friends with lots of them.

The sun is out today and I’m about to pick Leo up from speech therapy.  It feels good to have written random words, you can feel spring on your fingertips and I cannot wait to get that “after-speech-therapy-I’m-way-too-excited-to-see-you” hug/”I might bite your shoulder because of my excitement” from Leo.  I know people facing unreally big, hard things today.  Things I could only try and imagine, but there’s this weird wiry thing called hope.  It lingers.  It stays.  And it’s always there swirling around while also digging it’s heals into the ground on our behalf.  Today it feels fresh and real.  I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, but hope is ringing in my ears and heart today.  Some days I shove it deep into my pocket and call this whole thing shit, but not today.  Holding onto hope always.  Clinging to it like our lives depend on it…because they really do.  Here’s to it people.  We’re likely far stronger than we ever imagined.

8 Favorites

I love to share things I really legit love.  I’m not a sponsored blogger so if I share something on here you can bank on me actually using, eating, loving, etc it.  I only share things I really really enjoy.  I haven’t done a favorites post lately so thought this would be fun.

1.  The Pied Piper Creamery:  I adore ice-cream.  It’s easily one of my most favorite treats to eat.  The Pied Piper Creamery is a local ice-cream shop in Nashville.  They make all their ice creams in house and they are phenomenal.  I will never forget the first time I went YEARS ago.  My friend Alissa insisted we go and it was fantastic.  The shop is right down the street from Harper’s middle school and our kids freak when randomly I surprise them with ice-cream after school.  My favorite flavor consists of vanilla ice-cream and chunks of Twix, Butterfinger, Nestle Crunch, Snickers, M&Ms and Reece’s Pieces.  Yeah, it’s amazing!!!!!!!!  Hudson steers clear of dairy, but he loves their fruity sorbets.

2.  Twin Snakes:  These have been an on going candy obsession in our house for a while now.  Every single person LOVES them and I gift them to people all the time because they are so good.  One gummy snake is sweet flavored and the other is sour.  It’s the perfect combo and with flavors like blueberry & blackcurrant they are just so freakin’ tasty.  We get them at Target, Kroger and Walmart.

^ Harper tore her snakes apart and rainbowtized them. ^

3.  Thieves Laundry Soap:  I have always been very anti oils because I just thought there is no way they are really this cure-all people claim them to be.  About 6 months after Everett died I was desperate to try and lift the mood in our house.  DESPERATE, I tell you.  I ordered an oil kit and the rest is kind of history.  I still don’t think they are a cure-all…no way…but I have seen the positive affects of certain oils on our family.  I also don’t believe every oil works on every person.  Lavender didn’t help Amon or Leo sleep, but cedarwood was a different story.  Anyways, I still have meds on hand, but understand oils are just another tool in my toolbox.  So to cut to it I got a free container of Thieves Laundry Soap and I LOVE IT!!!!  I really didn’t think I’d like it better than the homemade kind I’ve been using, but after 2 weeks of laundry and 4 cases of the flu I’m sold.  I also diluted the original bottle turning 1 bottle into 3 so I’m anxious to see how long it lasts because as a family of 9 we do a ton of laundry.  I’ll keep you posted.

4.  Tiny Teardrop Cut Out Necklace:  You know I’m a Bottle of Tears fan…and a Lindsey fan…and when this showed up in our mailbox I gasped.  I LOVE IT!!!  Like haven’t taken it off since I received it.  Lindsey’s entire shop is insanely beautiful and makes walking with your hurting, grieving and sad people easy when you feel like you have no clue what to do.

 

5.  Advocate Like A Mother Tee:  Littlest Warrior is another awesome shop on the inter webs.  I love their IG and their podcast as well.  As a mom of 3 special needs kiddos their content is helpful and encouraging and a reminder we are not alone.  Josh Kelley got me their “Advocate like a mother” tee for my birthday and it’s perfection.  I wear it all the time!!!

 6.  Five Point Pizza:  If you are from Nashville or ever in Nashville please eat Five Points Pizza.  It is hands down our favorite pizza in Nashville.  Favorite, favorite, favorite.  The slices are huge!  Their lunch specials are killer!  Their Mediterranean salad is crazy good!  Their garlic knots…I can’t even!  And they bring the kids pizza dough to play with while we wait for our food!  Just the best pizza in Nashville.

7.  Not having the flu:  In our house anymore. 🙂

8.  And Five Daughter’s Maple Glaze Cronut:  This is not your average donut and therefore it does not have your average price tag.  Definitely a special splurge, but Five Daughter’s maple glaze cronut…croissant + donut…is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.  It’s true.  And while I’m at it let me just go ahead and say their Purist, Chocolate Sea Salt and Vanilla Cream are on that list as well, but if I had to, had to, had to pick just one it would be the maple.  Absolutely outstanding delicious treats and now it’s all I can think about.

FIVE

Winter turned the big 5 at the end of February and I’m just now getting around to documenting it.  Life has been crazy town with a whole bunch of sickness coupled with spring break.  We are all pretty thrilled school starts back today and we can settle back into our normal routine.

Winter turning five felt important and big and special.  We’ve celebrated every birthday with her, but this one was her first as a legal Kelley.  As always we let the birthday kid take the reigns and plan away.  I love letting their minds and imaginations run wild dreaming up their perfect day and Winter did not disappoint.  She has been making birthday requests for at least the last 6 months.  It became an on going joke among our family how Winter was making yet another birthday plan and we were all anxious to see what would make the final cut on her actual birthday.  Josh Kelley and I started taking bets. 🙂

The basics she covered quickly…donuts for breakfast, pizza for lunch and Arbys for dinner.  She was very excited about our new confetti cannon tradition, but we wouldn’t tell her when it would happen.  As soon as she blew out her candles that morning Josh shot it off and it was hysterical.  She didn’t see it coming at all.  We also brought back our birthday door tradition just for Winter.  A rainbow streamer door greeted her first thing on her birthday morning.

The details were much harder for her to nail down.  She chose 1000 different birthday party themes.  Several months ago I bought her a cute brown skinned mermaid at Target and she was smitten.  She’s never seen The Little Mermaid, but it was instant love with this mermaid.  Representation matters and Winter is the perfect example of why.  She notices skin color and hair color all the time.  When she sees a doll or toy or book that reflects her she always tells me in an excited tone, “They have brown skin just like me.”  She notices and I always want to make sure she finds herself in books and movies and toys and in her surroundings and everywhere.  All thanks to that beautiful brown skinned mermaid doll she finally decided on a mermaid party.

I wanted mermaid party supplies that reflected Winter too.  I was bummed to search and search the internet to find very little available.  And then Target went and did it again making the sweetest mermaid party supplies with a brown skinned mermaid.  Winter went crazy upon seeing the fun supplies.  We had a big mermaid balloon too, but it popped before it made it home.  Alas.

Our family gathered along with one of Winter’s favorite neighborhood friends and celebrated our girl.  Her birthmom was unable to make it this year, but we facetimed with her later and Winter spared her no detail and showed her all the fun things she was gifted.

There was pizza and veggies and fruit and candy and cookies and funfetti cake and ice-cream.  She opened presents and played her heart out.  All the laughter and all the fun.  And Josh Kelley stealthfully snuck another confetti cannon into the kitchen and when we finished singing happy birthday to Winter in our dining room he shot it off again scaring most of the adults and a good chunk of the children nearly to death.  I laughed so hard I cried.  He is my favorite dad around.

She was celebrated so well by all those who love her.  Despite yucky rainy weather our people showed up to love on our girl.  And she felt it.  One of Winter’s love languages is time and touch.  Her love tank was filled right up with all the time spent with her and all the snuggles and hugs she received.

For a special birthday snack for her class she asked for chocolate cupcakes and mermaid tale rings.  Thank you Amazon for always having those semi quirky items.  Mermaid tale rings it was.  Anything for the birthday girl.

After everyone left she played with all her fun new toys and we got Arbys for dinner.  As we all ate together Winter found a fry that looked just like a lower case “e” and we all breathed in a deep breath and talked about Everett.  No matter the occasion…no matter how joyful the day is…we are carrying him, missing him and longing for him.  Our grief is always there…maybe not at the forefront of every single special day, but at some point on these extra important days it will come out and we will all recognize it…see it…affirm it in each other.  No matter how alone we feel in our grief some days, we always know we understand each other in our little family.  “Me too.” is exchanged a lot among us and our sadness.

This kid.  I just don’t have all the words for her.  She is the fiercest child I have ever met.  She is strong and fiery and the most loving all rolled into one little human body.  She has experienced so much loss and heartache and yet lends her love to anyone who needs it.  She is loved by so many and I know some of the best parts of her come straight from her beautiful birthparents.  She lacks zero in the self-confidence department and I adore that about her.  She is beautiful and tough and she believes this about herself…I hope she never loses that.  Winter went and made our family better…yet again.

Gosh, we just love her to absolute pieces.  We celebrated the heck out of this kid because she is worth every ounce of celebrating.  Happy 5th birthday Winter Lee!  Thank you for making us the luckiest.

8 Things

1. Valentines has come and gone, but it’s always one of my favorite holidays to celebrate with the kids.  I actually got a stomach bug on Valentines Day this year…come on…nothing’s sexier than puking your guts up for 12 hours straight.  I had planned a fun celebration before I got hit with the bug so Josh Kelley and the kids enjoyed their heart shaped pizza, fun brightly colored bottled sodas and angel food cake with strawberries, whipped cream and heart sprinkles while I stared on in straight jealousy.  I was crazy bummed to miss out.

Every Valentine’s Day I give the kids the same thing…books and beans.  Josh gets them something on his own…usually fun candy and cards.  They love it and I always have fun picking out books for each of them.  This year every book was a hit.  Must reads!!!!!!

My Heart

The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop

True Colors

The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade

The Last Kids on Earth and the Cosmic Beyond

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

2.  Leah, Ashley, Alissa and I also went out the weekend before Valentines for RosePepper’s Galentine’s special…chips, salsa & quesso, a ton of tacos and two pictures of margaritas.  It was Sunday night dinner perfection.  We hit up Jeni’s Ice-cream afterwards too and all was right in the world.  Leah and Alissa are the queens of finding amazing food options and deals…Ashley and I are just along for the ride. 🙂

 3.  If you have not read The Hate U Give I cannot recommend it enough.  I feel like it should be required reading for everyone in middle/high school and all adults.  Such an important piece of literature.  Harper is almost done with it and she has deeply enjoyed the read as well.  It has spurred on many good, much needed conversations.  Author Angie Thomas recently released her second book On The Come Up and came to Nashville on her book tour.  Jen, Campbell, Harper and I snagged up tickets and made it a night out.  We got dinner at The Nashville Farmer’s Market and then headed to hear Angie speak at The War Memorial.

It was so good.  Angie was incredible and bold and honest and I filled a piece of paper in the dark with her words.  Two things she said that struck my heart the hardest:

“There are more books published with animals and trucks as the main character than black kids.  That’s not okay.”

and

“Racism is not an issue for black people to fix because we didn’t create it.”

For me as a white privileged woman, listening and learning from other races, identities and cultures is key.  I will never ever come close to understanding the depth and magnitude of how racism impacted and still impacts others’ lives.  I have immense privilege and I know there is so much work to be done.

4.  Our local elementary school participates in Jump Rope for Heart each February.  As mom to 3 heart warriors, it’s easily one of my most favorite things they do.  Every single year I walk into their gym and want to burst into tears immediately if not sooner.  I always cry watching Amon jump his sweet little heart out.  He feels so seen and recognized because he understands what this is about…his heart & his brothers’ hearts and the research that has changed and will change so much for them.  This year when I left with Leo in my arms, I felt Everett’s absence so heavily.  I was grateful for my role as their mom.  I was a puddle over the way each of my heart boys love.  I was ready for some chocolate and a nap.

5.  I look for pieces of Everett everywhere.  Basically I’m always keeping my eyes peeled for rainbows and hearts and so are our kiddos.  We are not a “Don’t mix the play-doh” kind of family..far too tired for that battle…so when I came upon this giant beautifully mixed rainbow play-dohness I

1) Though of sweet Everett and how he should be playing here with us

and 2) How I’m glad were cool with the mixing of dohs. 🙂

Aunt Jen’s Valentines ^ …swoon

Amon’s waffles ^

Harper’s strawberry slice ^

6.  My girls.  Gosh, do I ever like them.  They are too much fun and a lot of sweet and spicy.  They fight hard and love harder.  Winter knows exactly what to do to push Harper’s buttons and half the time Harper falls for it completely.  Harper also tells her almost daily, “You’re my girl.” and Winter smiles the biggest googly eyed smile back.  They make this family even better.

7.  My new most favorite oil blend.  Smells like straight up spring and I’m 100% here for it.

And 8.  Leo sleeping, Leo in his face masks and Leo in surgical gloves will never ever ever get old.  It just won’t.  It’ can’t.  Leo for president!

*Amazon affiliate links

Chinese New Year 2019

First I wanted to thank you for all the kindness and empathy which was extended after my last post.  I did not share the words to receive encouraging or mean words in response.  I shared them because sometimes I feel like I will explode if I don’t share honestly…like free therapy…and also because I know there is someone else out there feeling the same things.  It’s always nice to know you’re not the only one.  Thank you for sharing your own feelings and thoughts and pieces of your own story.  I do not take it lightly and appreciate your words deeply.

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Josh Kelley’s brother Andy and our sister-in-law Becky have made sure we’ve celebrated Chinese New Year for several years now.  It’s always super fun and a crazy sweet time.  Becky’s food is incredible and I love sitting around making jiaozi with her and other family members.  In 2017 when we knew Everett would be joining our family in just a few weeks, Chinese New Year seemed even more poignant.  I remember specifically my friend Janet was holding a Zumba fundraiser to help us with travel funds to China the afternoon we would be celebrating Chinese New Year.  I raced from the fundraiser to Andy and Becky’s house because I JUST HAD TO BE THERE.  We had a sweet boy in China and I wanted to celebrate his culture so badly with the people who I love and love him.  I wasn’t going to miss it.  That will always be such a special CNY to me.

This year we got a jump on the celebrating.  We also spread things out and have been celebrating longer.  I put up our Chinese lanterns we purchased in China with Everett and Leo.  I hung Everett’s white E and thought about how much he would LOVE this time.  I thought about how different he would be if he were still here with us.  He was such a good talker and picked up English so quickly, but I imagine how insane his communication would have been by now.  All those thoughts are hard.

We had red envelopes ready the morning CNY kicked off.  I have a plethora of envelopes I picked up each time we were in China.  The kids love opening their envelopes and finding cash and hi-chews.  We received the sweetest little package of treats and kind words from our Hilliary.  Hilliary knew and loved both Everett and Leo.  She is immensely special to our family. We also prepared some fun treats and surprises for others around us celebrating such a special celebratory time in the Chinese culture.

I made white chocolate dipped Oreo pigs.  The kid crowd went absolutely wild.  I also made white chocolate and Oreo truffle pigs and dark chocolate and peanut butter truffle pigs.

Sidenote:  I had a terrible cough that would not go away leading up to CNY.  One night I had taken melatonin to help me sleep, but I was still awake coughing my face off.  I remember thinking about Chinese New Year and what I wanted to make for a fun dessert, but I was so groggy and out of it from the melatonin.  The next morning I had an email from Amazon confirming my purchase of a pig silicon pan at 1:50am.  I laughed so hard because I did not recall this AT ALL.  The groggy, melatonin me pushed my hand and made me make pig truffles because I couldn’t return the pig pan even though I had no idea what to do with it.  I was glad it was on $8.  Josh Kelley said he was glad it wasn’t a pool table. 🙂

We made our yearly animal mask to celebrate whatever year it is.  This year we went with a painted pig mask.  The kids LOVE this!!!!  They so look forward to making and wearing and doing funny things in the mask.  Across the board crowd pleaser.

This year we also added paper peonies to our crafting CNY list.  These were so fun and I actually just left the supplies out on our kitchen table for a week or so and let everyone make peonies as they pleased and then they would hang them up or give them away.

We planned out our big Chinese dinner for a Friday night with just our family, but last minute Andy and Becky were available and up for celebrating too.  It was perfect because I had already purchased all the food and Becky really enjoys cooking for others.  I did all the prep work…dicing and cutting and getting recipes ready…and she came in and rocked her insane cooking skills.  We agreed we made the perfect CNY team.  I got to do the part I enjoy and am decent at and Becky got to do the part she loves to do and we all benefitted from eating her amazing dishes.  Bonus:  Andy’s birthday was the day before so some lemon ice-box pie was in order.

Leo ate buckets of Becky’s rice and jiaozi.  I loved watching him and Nia play with water and dumpling wrappers.  I tried to soak up these moments of celebrating our first CNY with Leo.  It feels so special to celebrate this time with him.  Andy brought a fun Chinese game and more CNY paper crafts he does with his students.  One of my favorite moments was looking over and seeing Josh and Andy holding Nia at our kitchen table working on their Chinese calligraphy.  The table was a mess.  There were remnants of Becky’s delicious food everywhere and all I could think is how lucky we are to have them in our lives.  They miss and love Everett so much and that is an immense comfort to our hearts when we fear he will disappear from the memories and minds of others.

It was a culmination of sadness and the most precious, deep kind of joy.  I want Everett here with us and I’m also are crazy grateful we got to celebrate with Leo this year.  It has rained constantly all of February and Josh and Leo wrecked his truck…sigh…so we still haven’t been able to get a latter to put Everett’s lanterns up at the cemetery.  Today the sun is shining and were all hoping it stays and this weekend his colorful lanterns can go up.  We miss him everyday.  So thankful for the way Everett and Leo have added even more goodness to our family.

Feeling Embarrassingly Honest

I imagine so many people are absolutely done with our grief and that is totally okay, but for us, the grief does not end because our love for Everett does not end.  I sit down to write about life and all I want to do is share about Everett and how much we miss him and how grief sucks…how life is so different…how we’re so different without him.

Last night Hudson text us from Josh’s mom’s phone from church.  He was sad about Everett, he didn’t feel good and he wanted to come home.  Josh drove the 10 minutes down the road and picked him up.  I sat with him on the couch and he cried.  This grief is so different than the grief I have over losing my mom.  I was not ready in any shape, form or fashion for any of this.  I didn’t have one freakin’ clue how grief would deeply intersect and intertwine every one of us and change us so drastically.  How it would come in and make us question everything.  How death not only ended Everett’s life here on Earth, but how it would end so many other things for each of us.  I just didn’t know.

Sadness and depression loom.  Some days I get to the end of a day and think, “I know I did something today, but what in the actual world did I really do?!?!”  It’s like a float through some days.  My best days are when I can see what I actually did.  I think about Everett all the time.  I carry guilt and loss and his spirit like it’s my job…and really it feels like the most honored job around…minus the guilt.  We miss him so much.  Words will never ever do that sentence justice.

We’re at 19 months without Everett and the second year has absolutely blown.  It sucks.  I mean, it actually might be worse than the first year because time is for the birds and insulting as all get out.  Time marches on and could care less about my feelings.  Time is a complete asshole. 🙂  Before I go anywhere with people I’m not familiar with I prepare to answer questions.  No matter the crowd I pep talk myself into either being totally honest on where I am or just faking it until I make it.  And then if no one mentions Everett I feel sad.  I went to a party recently where I basically just hung out with Leo for 2 hours and no one mentioned Everett…no one asked how we were holding up…and here’s the kicker, I don’t even know if anyone knew about Everett dying.  Ha!  I’ve tried my best not to put unfair expectations on strangers and people I do actually know, but sometimes you leave a party and cry in your car.  The end.

My body hates grief.  I have never had health issues and then Everett died.  My body carries grief and feels the impact daily. I’ve been sick and injured more than ever before.  I’ve been in physical therapy and had more doctors appointments than I’d care to admit.  I’m almost certain I have cancer in my back…self diagnosed of course…because when my kid died the idea of death took up residence in my mind.  I think about it everyday.  Am I a hypochondriac??  Hmmmmm, I’d say no.  I’m a realist now.  The realist of realists and I am highly aware that death does not skip over anyone and can come without a moments notice and zero heads up.

I’m becoming more grounded on my feelings about Jesus which is nice.  I love Jesus and don’t like Christians.  Hahahaha.  There you have it.  And that’s not an all inclusive sentence obviously, but I feel like I have a very refined eye for the Christians who are just not my type.  And now I am totally cracking myself up sitting here in this McDonald’s parking lot while Leo is in speech therapy…like I’m on the dating scene…”the Christians who are just not my type.”…still laughing.  Anyways.  If only I had $10 for every God loving person who proclaims there longing to win people over for the Lord who has purposefully dodged us out in public, I would have roughly $280.  I have major hangups with Christian jargon…words we so easily fling at the suffering and broken without thought or hesitation.  I struggle with going into the nations to win souls for Christ, but we’re jerkholes to the people in our community.  I struggle with the distance we keep from certain types of people.  I struggle even more with how we think the suffering & grieving, those in need and those who are questioning their very existence need to be fixed instead of just loved.  Just give me all the issues with our Christian community and call me an asshat.  🙂

I don’t like my bitterness and anger and judgementalness, but I do like my fire to think things through and to understand the importance of being okay with others not being okay.  I do like my fire to change who I am.  I’m not the same person I was 19 months ago and I hope I don’t stay the same person I am now.  I want to learn more and more from my pain and sadness and grief and I want it to change me.  I want it to be one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had.  I like knowing how a simple text message or batch of cookies can flip someone’s day.  I’ve been there far too many times and I deeply want to be to others what they have been to me.

Some of our kids go to church with Josh’s parents on Wednesdays or Sundays.  I can’t remember the last time I have been.  I pray out loud sometimes on our way to school in the morning.  I thank God for whatever the weather is and ask Him to make us kind, loving, generous, compassionate and respectful people.  I ask Him to push us towards love.  I don’t pray much on my own, but I do sometimes hash things out with Him.  Sometimes I try and make deals.  Sometimes I just cry.  I was playing a card game with Solomon the other day and thought, “I wonder if he prays on his own.”  It was the most random question that popped into my head and I chose not to even ask him because it felt so awkward to me.  I think how we might be messing our kids up for life.  How I’m sure my Mom’s sisters and family have me on every prayer list imaginable.  How Josh’s family likely has us on every prayer list imaginable.  Just go ahead and put us on your prayer list as well.  🙂  Sometimes I think about how we don’t do family devotions, we don’t memorize or read scripture together, we don’t sing worship songs together very often and I don’t have the answer to even 1/16 of my kids’ questions about religion and why Everett died.  But we carry on doing the best we can trying to make it through each day and not let guilt eat us alive.  We try to love our best and remember God hasn’t gone anywhere and He loves us just as we are.

My mind goes to those who have chosen to really walk this road with us.  I don’t blame those who have bowed out, I mean, we are no cake walk people.  Obviously.  I really really really hope I will choose to walk those hard roads with others, but maybe I will bow out too.  Maybe I will see them as too hard…too messed up…too much work…too doubtful…and flash my peace sign and hit the road.  I really don’t know, but my heart longs to be in it when things go up in smoke.  I want to be the person cheering others on and telling them how much things suck and how whatever happened isn’t how it was meant to be because in this broken world really crappy things happen and it’s not okay.  I long to be there…I long to show up…with a plate of cookies in hand because I am good at making cookies.

I hate how sometimes I get my feelings and emotions about Jesus and Christians living in this world mixed up.  Jesus is so different than us.  I like Jesus.  I think He had it all right.  Most things the Christian world wages war on are the things Jesus would wrap His arms around.  I hate when I feel hurt by Jesus because of what another Christian said or did to me.  I don’t like having to recognize those blurry lines and straighten them out.  And I definitely don’t like thinking about me doing the same to another person.  Makes my stomach turn, but goodness knows I can be just as much of a jerk as anyone else.

I cope with my grief and sadness and pain in all my own ways.  I organize and purge the crap out of our house.  Grief makes me feel out of control and I don’t like that at all.  I like to feel in control and the actual aesthetics of our house is something I can control, so I do.  Josh Kelley and the kids are far used to it.  They don’t even put up a fight and go right along with tossing or donating things they don’t need or want.  I also emotionally eat…specifically ALL THE SWEETS…and bite my fingers nails down to the nub out of pure stress…I’ve done this my whole life.  I don’t get it because I know it makes zero sense, but I think ice-cream will make my problems go away and set my mind at ease.  Geeze.  When I think about Leo having surgery my mind goes into crazy overdrive and fear and anxiety set in.  At that point nothing can stand between me and the bag of chocolate chips trying to hide in our freezer.

I really sat here today and was going to tell you all about the photos in this post.  I was going to write about Chinese New Year and Jump Rope For Heart and Valentines and hearing Angie Thomas speak and how Winter got the cutest heart shaped hair braids.  I was going to write about all those things and then it just wasn’t there.  Sometimes I have to lay out the embarrassingly honest truth I am feeling or I might explode.  Please know I don’t share any of this to hear kind or mean words back.  I share because I know surely to God there has to be another person out there in the midst of their hardships thinking they are the only ones doing and feeling all the crazy things.  You definitely are not the only one.  Solidarity friend.  I know you are doing your best.  I also share because I know we can learn from one another…you and me…and sometimes when a family member or friend are smack dab in the middle of a shit storm we have no clue what to do or say to them.  So I just want to encourage you to show up with whatever you do best and hang tight with them.  We will survive the awkward parts of it and really it will mean the world.

The BIG 10! (Again)

Solomon kicked off our February month by turning the big 10.  He’s our 3rd kid to venture into double digits and it was exciting and fun and a twinge sad.  Three of our babies are no longer in those sweet single digits.  Ahhhh!!!!

Solomon is usually very detailed about the things he likes and wants on his birthday.  The kid usually plans out elaborate desserts and class treats and a fun birthday celebration.  This year he was all about the surprises.  He made zero birthday present requests and really wasn’t sure what he wanted in the first place.  He’s pretty chill when it comes to things like that.  He did remember that for one of our niece’s 10th birthday’s we gave her 10 little presents so that ended up being his only request.

The morning of his birthday he walked down the steps all tired like and when he got to the bottom of the steps we fired off a confetti cannon.  I LOVED IT!  And so did everyone else. It was hilarious and fun and he didn’t see it coming.  We enjoyed sausage and biscuits and a pile of cinnamon rolls with 10 candles.  Hudson and Solomon are different ages only 4 months out of the year…they were happy to get back to being the same age again.

His 10 gifts were a huge hit.  It was fun brainstorming and finding all the different items we thought he’d like…a bag of Hi-Chews, a can of spicy Pringles, paper footballs, a Fortnite tee, Arcade & The Triple T Token book, a counting ball, new headphones, an Ethiopian notebook, a new wallet and Takis socks.  He really loved opening each of them and Amon said he wanted this present idea when he turns 32.  Haha.

I always eat lunch with the birthday kid at school and bring a special snack to share with classmates.  Solomon picked out fun Valentines candies this year and he and Harper took care of all the treat bags.  I LOVE BIG KIDS!!!

Ms. Julie sent him a fun bag full of all his favorite treats too.  Two bags of Takis and the kid was over the moon.  One of Solomon’s love languages is food and especially chips and sodas.  The kid LOVES chips!!!  His day was instantly made even better.  We snagged icees after school and for dinner we did Zaxby’s wings followed up by Dairy Queen for dessert.  His birthday love tank was for sure full and running right over.  Gah, we love this kid!!!

We asked Solomon over and over again what he’d like to do for a birthday celebration.  He could not land on anything and finally went with the surprise route again.  His only request was that it was fun.  Josh Kelley and I schemed and planned.  All the other Kelley children were sent off leaving just Hudson and Solomon and the surprise was on.  Some of their friends started to show up at our house and once everyone was there we sent them on a scavenger hunt Josh and I had planned out.  They went to different places in our house and outside our house and in our neighborhood.  The last clue sent them to laser quest and the little boy crowd went wild.

After laser tag we headed back home for pizza and cake and ice-cream.  I found these awesome Fortnite dancing silhouettes  on Etsy and surprised him with a fun Fortnite cake.  There were presents and nerf guns going off and another surprise confetti cannon that made me laugh until I cried and boys devouring all the pizza and soda and cake and ice-cream their hearts’ desired.

(Confetti number tutorial via Amanda Evanston )

After it was all said and done Solomon said he had so much fun and thanked us for a fun day with his sweet hugs and soft words.  We had pulled off quite the successful surprise for this amazing 10-year-old.  He and Hudson had the best time and it was crazy fun to hang with just them and celebrate Solomon’s sweet life.  I look at him in awe most days.  He has endured more loss and trauma than most of us will ever experience.  He is strong and resilient and kind.  He is quiet and reserved and works hard to express his feelings.  He is a helper and a giver of hugs for no reason at all other than because he loves. you.  He makes our days brighter and funnier and far better than we could have ever imagined.

Happy 10th birthday to our king Solomon.  You are a gift!