If You Need Us…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eight Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Long Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ten Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Everett’s 5th Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Locals!!!

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

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

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

White bookshelf: H74″ W10″ L30 3/4″

Old metal office desk: H28″ W26″ L54″

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

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

Thank you!!

Thank you guys so much for all the kind words about our Winter girl.  You are truly too kind and we are so grateful she is apart of our family.  I had quite a few questions regarding our post and am going to try and answer some of them over on my Instagram stories today.  Life has just been crazy so I haven’t gotten around to it just yet.

In the mean time, I wanted to share some random things going on in the Kelley house.  I had this really surreal moment when looking through my photos to share when I realized I could share photos of Winter now without that little heart over her sweet face.  She’s so grand and a total trip and funny as all get out and as wild as they come and I love being able to share small pieces of her now.

The kids started back to school a little over 2 weeks ago.  On the agenda this year is 6th, 4th, 4th, 1st and full time Pre-K.  I was a bit stressed thinking through 5 kids being in school full time, 8 different teachers and 2 schools.  We’re finally getting into our rhythm and while I can still have some serious anxiety over balancing it all, everyone is really enjoying their year so far.

Every year at the beginning and end of the school year I take the same photo in the same place and we just add kiddos to the photo when time comes.  It’s always super fun to see how much they have changed.

This year’s school start was pretty rough in the grief department.  The plan was for Everett and Winter to start pre-K together.  They would have been in the same grade and same class…another set of “twins” for our family.  It was really hard and sad watching it all unfold without him.  Winter misses him so much and almost everyday has asked to wear rainbow ribbons in her hair.  She loves school, but cried everyday after school for the first full two weeks about missing her boy.  He should be here with us and that is really hard for all of us.  When my friend Melena gave us cute rainbow donkey piñata pins everyone put them on their backpacks.  It was the sweetest to see as they all headed off on their first day.  We carry him with us always.

Leo did not handle everyone going back to school well.  Hahahahaha.  He’s just recently quit following me around all day whimpering or crying.  Change is hard man.  The first day he was befuddled and sad as to where everyone had gone.  It was really pitiful/cute/hilarious, but we did take a nap together so maybe not a total loss.

We celebrated Amon’s Gotcha Day on the 10th.  We always do something fun as a family and Amon asked to go to Chuck E Cheese.  Pizza and skeeball…yes please!  We also celebrated with donuts for breakfast and double chocolate cupcakes with lots of sprinkles for dessert per his request.  Six years has flown by and I cannot fathom our family without him.  He’s just so much joy.

 

Leo got his first haircut.  Pretty sure Josh has given all the boys their first haircuts.  I can get really sad when I realize all the boys/kids except Everett experienced something.  When something comes along and they’ve all experienced it, well, it feels extra special.  Even if it’s as simple as a haircut.

These three become thicker by the day.  They loves to play together and Leo is really learning how to join in on the fun.  Right now their favorite activity is butt boarding on skateboards. 🙂 A close second, is playing PJ Masks…Winter is especially obsessed.

Josh Kelley and Winter are pretty smitten.  She’s had him since the day they met and she wrapped her little arms around him and patted his back at a tiny 10-months-old. 🙂  She’s been quite the lover since she was a wee one…one of her greatest qualities.

Hudson completed his 5th triathlon a few weeks ago.  Look, if you need a good cry just go to a kids triathlon, sit back and observe.  The tears will come unless you are made of stone.  Watching all these kids, with different physical abilities, work so hard and do their best being cheered on by everyone there…all the tears forever.

 And I’ll end with some of our my most favorite photos of Winter and Everett.  I literally have a 1,214 photos I want to share, but I narrowed it down to just a few…for your sake…not mine. 🙂  And again, thank you so much for all the Winter love.  Means the world.  We’re so glad to have her.

Winter

I’ve thought about the words I would write on this day 1000 times over.  I have spun them every which way and back and have thought about how I would ever give justice to this little piece of our story.  I wanted to write it all out prior to Monday, but I just wasn’t sure how Monday would actually feel when it was all said and done.  So I waited.  And here I sit on a Wednesday afternoon pecking away at these keys because the words were creating such a cloud in my head….the anxiousness to get them all out could wait no longer.

It will be 4 years this October since we became a foster family.  When we decide to foster we looked into several different avenues, but we really wanted to work with a group that would put not only the kids, but their parents as well, at the forefront.  We wanted to work along side people who knew reunification was of top importance and who would fight for it when at all possible and when healthy.  With each group I talked with I asked, “What is your adoption rate?” I know it is just one single statistic, but I felt like it was a really telling one.  In the end we ended up becoming a certified foster family with the state of Tennessee mainly because they had the lowest adoption rate.  We were beyond impressed with the way they valued children and their first families and how reunification was always the goal when possible.

And here’s what I just realized I am doing with the above words…I’m making my case…like I have to prove something or solidify something to you.  It’s my pride and it’s a pretty ugly part of me.  We became a foster family to help keep families together.  Reunification was the goal.  We believe that children in foster care need loving and safe people and places to land, but so do those who are working so hard to get them back.  These parents and relatives and guardians need people cheering them on, encouraging them and stepping into their corner to tell them, “You matter.  You are loved.  You are strong.  You can do this.”  Very honestly, when we realized our girl’s case would move to adoption, I felt like I had failed her and her birth mom.  The goal was reunification and it didn’t happen and I took it very personally.  It was a shot to my pride when I should have put my pride down a long time ago.  One day while talking to my friend Sherry about my feelings of failure she said, “Just because it didn’t end exactly how you planned, does not mean that it ended wrong.”  I immediately jotted it down, taped the small piece of paper in our kitchen and tucked her words away in my heart.

I hardly ever understand how life shakes out.  The past 3 1/2 years we have loved our girl and her birth parents the best we could.  We were never perfect, far from it, but we knew life was better together and that we had to try to give this our very best love.  Monday afternoon was incredibly beautiful and special and bittersweet as we wrapped up the past 43 months and a judge made our newest daughter officially Winter Lee Kelley.  Although we’ve been together since she was a baby, it felt like a fresh start…a redemptive Day 1.

All 7 of our children have joined our family so differently each carrying their own unique story.  I don’t know if I’m getting much right in life, but what I do know is it’s my greatest honor to love my kids, to be their mama and to honor each of their individual stories, beginnings and first families.  They make us better.  They make our life richer.  Josh Kelley and I are not obediant or good people and our children have never been, nor will they ever be, our ministry, charity or good deed.  They are simply our kiddos who we feel so utterly unworthy of.  Once again, Josh and I find ourselves the absolute luckiest.

Winter fully anticipated this day.  I bought her a special dress and she picked out a rainbow cardigan to go with it because it reminded her of Everett.  She has been missing him a lot lately and almost everyday requsts rainbow ribbons in her hair.  The rest of the kids sported a rainbow of some sort as well.  We carry him with us everywhere and I love seeing visual reminders of him.

The kids went to school that morning for a few hours before we picked them all up for our big day.  Before Winter left she asked me to hang flags for her and then instructed me where exactly to hang them. 🙂  Next thing I knew, the kids were in school and I was digging through my basket of banners, flags and buntings to complete her request.  I remember making her name banner for her first birthday.  Insert tears.

After snagging everyone from their schools and getting a quick lunch we headed out.  When we arrived at the courthouse Josh’s parents, Jen and Campbell were waiting on us.  Winter went running as fast as she could to hug their necks.  Winter is named after Josh’s sister, Jennifer Lee, so it felt extra special for Jen to be there.  Winter adores her.

As we waited outside the courtroom our friend Cheyenne came up the stairwell carrying her giant camera and wearing a tank top with little rainbows all over it.  When I saw her all I could think was how undeserving of such a kind friend we are.  Cheyenne had no clue we would all be wearing rainbows, but she remembered Everett on her own and it meant the world to me as his mama.  Cheyenne has photographed our highest highs and deepest, darkest lows.  She is far more than photographer.  She is a dear friend who has chosen to step into the messiest parts of our story and willingly walk along side us.  I could never fully express our gratitude for her kind spirit and insane talent she shares with us and the world.

Right on time they called us into the courtroom.  I teared up instantly and could not hold them in.  They called us forward and our attorney asked questions and I answered them…squeaking out my words in between my tears.  Our judge was kind and moved through his words with grace.  And then just like that, Winter was officially and legally a Kelley…our second daughter…the one we didn’t see coming and didn’t even know we needed, but absolutely did.

   We let her plan out the rest of her special day.  On the way home we all got celebratory icees and she requested Arbys for dinner with little Sprites and wanted to eat in the floor while watching Dolphin Tale.  Dairy Queen was her choice of dessert to which she got an icecream sandwich.  She beamed all day long and told anyone who would listen how she was now Winter Lee Kelley.

I anticipated the day feeling heavy.  Special days are hard without Everett and we all just really miss him.  I also carried a heaviness for Winter…adoption is a mix of sadness and joy, loss and gain.  And sometimes those feelings are just hard to balance out, but Winter went into her day head up, eyes clear and joy oozing from her little body.  She was so joyful about this day which in turn made me even more joyful about it.  Her joy lifted my heaviness.  This day was important to her…this was the permanency she’s longed for and deserved, but at the end of the day the truth I know is that I needed this day as much, if not more, than Winter did.

Winter Kelley, you my love are fierce, strong, resilient and the loudest, wildest, most loving firecracker in the sky.  I’ve never met another child like you and you exhibit so many amazing traits we see in your beautiful birth parents.  You feel all the feels and you share all there is to share and you love with every fiber of your little being.  You have made our family richer indeed.  You are loved by so many and we’re all watching as you change the world one hug and awkwardly too honest comment at a time.  We’re so honored to be your family.  We love you Win!