Meeting Leo

Crazy long and explanatory post ahead. ūüôā

We actually met Leo…Lin…the day we met Everett. ¬†So on February 27th 2017 we met both of our sons for the first time.

I’ll never forget going back to Everett’s home in Zhengzhou the day we finally met him. ¬†Josh held him close and he refused to get down out of Josh’s arms. ¬†Josh toted him all over his home and he was so quiet and reserved. ¬†Such a big, hard day for such a little guy, but how deeply loved and cared for he was.

That little jacket he’s wearing is still hanging in his locker along with his little shoes in our laundry room. ¬†It takes my breath away when things like this hit my heart. ¬†What I wouldn’t give to hold our boy one more time. ¬†Kiss his face. ¬†Stroke his soft dark hair. ¬†Just feel the weight of his body in my arms. ¬†He was the most precious little thing.

I remember when we walked into his room where he stayed all his nannies we’re sitting on the ground. ¬†One little boy among them instantly lost his mind upon seeing us…crying and screaming…basically terrified of us. ¬†We met Everett’s nannies and nurses and doctors and took photos and chatted. ¬†All the while that one little terrified boy stayed tucked in his nanny’s arms. ¬†He was not letting her put him down and he even made it into my photo I took of their nannies. ¬†That is our Leo, we just didn’t know it yet.

¬† Shortly after Everett died a friend of ours who knew and loved both Everett and Leo sent us some information about Leo. ¬†We thought it was a tad on the crazy side to even consider adopting again so soon after losing Everett, but also, when Everett died time instantly changed. ¬†We knew if there was another child out there who was going to be ours then we didn’t want to spend another day away from him than we had to. ¬†We decided to at least look at Leo’s file, but when all the people and agencies who should have known where his file was could not locate it anywhere, we thought the door had closed and we set back into our new normal of grieving our son and trudging along through life. ¬†End of story, we thought.

On one of my sleepless grief nights, I logged into our agency’s waiting child page and as I scrolled in the dark and I saw his face. ¬†There was Leo. ¬†I thought there was no way it could be him, but turns out it was totally him. ¬†I recognized his face from the younger photos in his file so I went back to all of our pictures in China with Everett and discovered he was the frightned little guy who made it in our nanny photo. ¬†When I went through Everett’s file we were sent from his home, I found photos of them together. ¬†I’ve cried a thousand tears over the fact that Everett and Leo knew one another and that even though Everett isn’t physically with us anymore, every member of our family knew and was loved by Everett.

We then took some time to review his file with our pediatrician and cardiologist and have some good conversations with our social worker and adoption agency. ¬†The rule in place by China said we would need to wait until March of 2018 to start the adoption process and our agency had noticed China was actually making families who had lost a child wait even longer. ¬†This was looking like a hard no from China. ¬†Our social worker Lisa shared that 80% of her thought we would receive a no, but that 20% of her felt like we’d receive a yes…that this was special. ūüôā ¬†We ended up submitting a pre-pre-approval to China asking for special permission to even submit the pre-approval. ¬†To everyone’s shock and surprise China said yes. ¬†Then we had to submit the typical LOI pre-approval paperwork. ¬†We waited and waited and finally heard another yes from China. ¬†Then we set to work moving as quickly as we could to get to our newest boy.

Leo has a complex congenital heart defect. ¬†These heart babes are just larger than life. ¬†He received medical expedites and everything moved pretty quickly. ¬†Our paperwork did get held up several weeks due to the Chinese New Year, but other than that everything was quick and smooth. ¬†While we waited for paperwork to clear we worked at home on getting our littlest a passport, visa and travel approval from the state of Tennessee. ¬†It’s not the easiest of things to take a child who is in foster care out of the county, but we didn’t want to leave her at home. ¬†She needed this trip just as much as the rest of us so we jumped through every last hoop and gathered every last document and court order and copies and signatures and even got in a few smallish fights with the records department at the court house. ūüôā ¬†The last of her paperwork arrived just a week before we left.

While in process we moved through life longing for two little boys who we’re missing from our home. ¬†Leo was born in the year of the sheep, so at Christmas we bought all the sheep ornaments and for Easter the kids got chocolate sheep instead of bunnies or chicks. ¬†We hung Leo and Everett’s stockings in the mix with ours. ¬†We made photo books for Leo to send along with an adorable stuffed sheep and soft teal blanket with a red polka dot L. ¬†Rainbow everything for all the holidays. ¬†We figured out how to weave them into our life without them physically being with us.

We kept this journey to ourselves for almost the entire process…it felt sacred and special and emotionally taxing. ¬†We celebrated milestones along the journey to Leo while also grieving each milestone and stark reality of Everett being gone. ¬†We would start dinners with exciting conversations about Leo and end them with children in tears over Everett. ¬†We bounced between wild emotions and feelings constantly. ¬†There was fear in adopting another child with a CHD. ¬†We now know the reality of one heart warrior son living and one heart warrior son dying. ¬†We carry life and death in our home and the fear lays heavy on our shoulders. ¬†And then some days I felt like the hope of Leo was the only thing pulling us along…keeping us afloat. ¬†He would be our beauty in the ashes. ¬†He was our hope in this deep darkness.

I nested like a mad women and we began the fine dance of living life without one son and starting life with a new son. ¬†It felt weird to prepare Everett’s bed for Leo and nobody wanted to do it. ¬†So we didn’t. ¬†Instead all the boys switched up spots. ¬†Solomon had been sleeping in Everett’s bed for months anyways, but he wanted to be above Leo like he was above Everett. ¬†Everyone switched to a new bed position and Hudson ended up in Everett’s bed. ¬†We left his E’s on the wall and always will…we just added Hudson’s H’s to the mix and it felt more okay than I thought it would.

We still haven’t cleaned out Everett’s locker and I’m not sure if we’ll ever be ready to do that. ¬†His jacket still hangs on the hook inside and the shelf below holds his little shoes. ¬†When I open it I instantly sob. ¬†There was no way I could empty it and make room for Leo’s stuff. ¬†Harper knew where we stood and automatically said she would share lockers with Leo. ¬†Dilemma solved.

Things arose over and over and we just moved through figuring them all out. ¬†We wanted new pictures to send to Leo, but ached to think of how Shuai wouldn’t be in them. ¬†A rainbow wall would have to suffice. ¬†And it did. ¬†Not the way we would have wanted, but it worked and we felt like we we’re honoring him the best we could. ¬†When you are faced with death daily you have to learn to troubleshoot…you’ve got to learn to figure some things out whether you like it or not.

¬†As we got closer and closer to our departure date for China to bring Leo home we continued to weave Everett into everything. ¬†Leo’s blanket is the sweetest rainbow crocheted goodness. ¬†The shirt he’ll wear home is a rainbow heart I sewed for him in honor of his big brother. ¬†We made photo books of Everett to take to all his nannies. ¬†Harper placed the sweetest rainbow heart sticker on her suitcase. ¬†Heart shirts we’re packed and we bought all the kids their own “love” t-shirt just like Everett’s. ¬†We taped up gifts for Chinese government officials with Fiesta Donkey washi tape. ¬†We want to honor him however we can and it can take a million different shapes.

We finally received our travel approval and we would be leaving for China in a mere 11 days. ¬†I told Josh I wish we had given the kids shaken bottles of champaign and goggles when we told them we would officially be leaving. ¬†They we’re the cutest. ¬†Lots of jumping up and down and hugging each other and screaming. ¬†In the midst of it all Hudson walked over and hugged my neck and whispered in my ear, “I am just so happy.”

(Ipod ^ I told our kids they are not allowed to have phones until they are high schoolers.  Muhuhahahaha.)

The night before we left for China we all headed to the cemetery. ¬†We all agreed we wanted to spend our last night there. ¬†We know Everett isn’t there, but it feels nice to all be together in his special little place. ¬†Everyone picked out a fabric of their choice and we made heart flags to put around his spot. ¬†We made one for each family member and put out one China flag for Leo. ¬†We ate ice-cream and the kids played games and Josh and I laid on a quilt on the ground. ¬†We all needed this moment.

When it came time to board our first plane in route for Zhengzhou, China I felt I might vomit.  All the nerves and all the emotions for forever.  We traveled a full 25 hours.

The kids did amazing in flight, but everyone was wiped out, hungry, exhausted and emotional. ¬†Our 5 hour layover in Shanghai contained fighting and tears and at one point I was in a tiny bathroom stall with one of our kids and both of us we’re sobbing. ¬†True story. ¬†Josh said he’d rather have three colonoscopies than to do that travel day again. ¬†Hahahaha.

But we all survived and made it!!! ¬†We’re here and Leo is officially a Kelley…Leo Shuai Lin Kelley…named after his big brother who led the way to him. ¬†He’s been with us since Monday and I have about 1000 more words to say about our time back in China so far, but for now I’ll just end with his scrumptious cuteness.

We are all overly tired, emotions are running hot and Leo is grieving hard, but once again Josh and I have become the luckiest mom and dad all over again.  These kids man, they are our greatest honor.

Thursday’s 10

1. Everett’s Fiesta donkey has been making his way bed to bed to bed since Everett died. ¬†Different kids have been sleeping with him and passing him back and forth and around and around. ¬†Now he’s landed downstairs on our couch. ¬†I noticed Josh Kelley messing with Fiesta’s medical tag Everett’s team gave him because Everett wanted to take Fiesta into surgery with him. ¬†Immediately I thought he was tearing the tag off and I flew into “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!?!?!” mode. ¬†Josh assured me he was just straightening the tag and I sat there thinking how we will likely never take that tag off. ¬†Ever.

2. Amon’s teacher sent me this picture of him from one of their house parties at school. ¬†I die. ¬†Amon is a big fan or masks and costumes so it was zero surprising him wearing their teams eagle mascot head. ¬†Then I found myself considering how great Amon would actually be at being a team’s mascot. ¬†Hahahahahaha. ¬†I mean the kid has definitely got the excitement and dance moves to pull it off.

3.  Then Josh Kelley sent me this picture of Hudson from one of their trips to Walmart.  The stance.  The hands-in-his-pockets.  The slight head tilt.  Can we just have all the animal heads forever please?!?!

4. ¬†Back to Amon…I found him lounging in our bed last night remote in one hand, banana in the other and his little legs crossed. ¬†If only all of the world could relax a bit like Amon. ¬†I feel like we’d all be more chill and better off. ¬†By the way, if we’d let him, Amon would eat approximately 32 bananas every single day. ¬†Throw in some sides of peanut butter and it would be a done deal. ¬†Another by the way, if you have never tried Jiff’s whipped peanut butter you simply have not lived. ¬†Buy it. ¬†Eat it. ¬†Live life fully. ¬†And thank me later.

5. ¬†We made up some sweet little flags for Everett’s grave. ¬†Everyone picked out their own fabric and I was quite smitten with everyone’s choices. ¬†We have these little planned moments so tonight we’ll all go together to the cemetery and place our own little mark of love at our boy’s grave. ¬†We are fully aware he’s not there, but these moments still feel nice and important right now.

6. ¬†Most of my people…just because. ¬†I hope I never get over what an honor it is to be theirs and for them to be mine.

7. ¬†My FIL sent me this picture and I was instantly transported to their teen years. ¬†They are fully into skateboarding now and it’s just too fun to watch them discover and try new things.

DISCLAIMER: Yes, they usually wear helmets.  They forgot them.  No one was injured.

8. ¬†This is Amon’s blankie. ¬†We took it to him the first time we met him in Ethiopia. ¬†It use to have a cute fabric A I stitched on it. ¬†It use to be blue. ¬†It used to smell nice. ¬†It use to resemble a blanket. ¬†Now it’s just the remnants of a beloved little comfort and often smells like butt. ūüôā ¬†I told him I was washing it this morning. ¬†He gave me a disappointed look and asked for it one more time before I tossed into the washing machine. ¬†I handed it over and he nuzzled it all over his face, breathed it in deep and then handed it back. ¬†Gah I love that kid!!

9. ¬†New kitchen art. ¬†Come on summer. ¬†We’re ready for you.

And 10. ¬†I love when our kids share about their feelings. ¬†I have been so surprised with how each child has so internalized Everett’s death. ¬†Each one of them are incredibly different which means different things spark their memories and emotions and feelings. ¬†This morning in the car rider line this song came on over my phone and Hudson shared with me some really special thoughts of his about this song and Everett and our family. ¬†I just listened to him in amazement because I’d listened to that song 100s of times and had never really heard the song the way he heard it. ¬†Then I sobbed in the car rider line. ¬†This will easily be one of my most favorite songs for forever now.

Harper Is 11!

March is a busy birthday month for us and Harper’s birthday comes rolling in right after Amon’s. ¬†It’s fair to say we haven’t been on our best birthday game this year. ¬†Our minds and hearts are full of so many hard things right now…processing and healing and fighting for hope. ¬†It’s hard to keep track of regular day-in and day-out things. ¬†About a week before Harper’s birthday she mentioned how her birthday was coming up and if we could start talking about it. ¬†ūüôā ¬†It still makes me chuckle. ¬†We kind of are just winging everything right now and birthdays are no different. ¬†Let’s all give a round of applause for Amazon and the way they support last minute people everywhere.

This year her birthday fell on a Thursday which also happened to be the last day of school before spring break and rewards day at her school. ¬†Pretty much the ultimate party day!!! ¬†For her celebration she decided to ask her classmates over to eat dinner and cake and play games. ¬†We might have thrown it together, but it worked out just fine and Harper had a blast. ¬†Her birthday always falls right around Easter. ¬†Before she even turned 1-years-old we celebrated 2 Easter’s with her. ¬†Totally an Easter baby and it is completely fitting for her.

Harper is crazy fun and colorful and is always just happy to be here. ¬†She is such a good leader in our family and rolls so well with whatever is happening and understands being flexible in a big family. ¬†We asked and asked about things she may want for her birthday and got nothing from her. ¬†Her response continued to be, “I don’t know what I want. ¬†Just surprise me.” ¬†Gah, I love her!

I drew up a fun little invitation for her classmates and we just copied it on our home printer and she passed them out at school.  She invited all the girls in her class and I was thrilled with how simple it was.  She asked for a waffle tower for breakfast, snickerdoodles to share with her friends at school, our go-to crockpot chicken noodle soup for dinner and our most favorite iced sugar cookies for everyone to decorate after dinner.  Yes, yes, yes and yes.

Aunt Jen and Campbell came over to get in on the cookie decorating action. ¬†I’ve decided the picture below will be our Christmas card next year. ¬†Hahahahaha.

Her party was too fun.  We had pizza, funfetti cupcakes with all the sprinkles and ice-cream.  She wanted to play some fun games so she picked out 6 different ones.  She wrote each activity on a piece of paper, put the piece of paper into a balloon and then blew all the balloons up.  Of course she chose rainbow colored balloons and the girls would pop a balloon and do the activity that was inside together.  They did the cookie face challenge, a silly string fight, peep spoon relay race, jelly bean blowing straw relay, bubble-gum blowing contest and the seran-wrap candy game.

It was really fun watching them all play and interact and have fun together. ¬†One of Harper’s love languages is time spent together so her love thank was filled to the top.

It has been an extremely difficult year for Harper. ¬†Losing Everett knocked the life out of her and throw in starting middle school and moving to a new school building and it’s just been a rough year with hard transitions, but she is so freakin’ strong and has the most amazing little heart. ¬†She has grown and learned and her compassion for others reminds me Everett’s death was not in vain. ¬†While Josh and I are learning to love better so are our kids and Harper has taken this loss of her little brother and tucked it deep into her heart. ¬†We are all becoming braver people and determined to remember every little thing Everett showed us and taught us.

She will be driving solo in 5 years. ¬†She will be an adult and possibly moving out in 7 years. ¬†She’ll be taller than me by this time next year. ¬†It makes me want to grab her and never let go, but it also makes me excited because I really like this girl. ¬†She is a gem and she shines so bright. ¬†The morning of her birthday I hugged her so tight and squeaked out a little “Happy Birthday” through my tears. ¬†I say it a lot and I hope I never stop saying it, but we’re the luckiest parents on the planet.

Harper Kelley, you made us parents! ¬†You are created in God’s image and there are too many lovely things about you to even count. ¬†It’s an honor and privilege to have you in our family. ¬†Thank you for being you and for loving us so well.

Happy 11th birthday!

Ten Things

1. I created again last week and made up a large batch of key fobs for my shop. ¬†It was really nice to have a task, create and complete it. ¬†My uncontrollable at times grief makes these completed tasks feel as though I’ve regained a firmer control again. ¬†It felt crazy good and I’m going to try and make up more again soon.

2. Hudson and Solomon. ¬†Solomon and Hudson. ¬†They don’t remember life without one another and I deeply love their relationship, their brotherhood and friendship. ¬†And their straight up goofy selves.

3.  He still falls asleep wherever and I will forever document it.

PS: ¬†Birthday parties are hard. ūüôā

4. The basketball goals down our street are in high usage currently.  Our driveway is kind of crappy and not basketball goal material, so thank you to our city for making our basketball dreams possible.  Everyone gets in on the action.

5. My MIL has the best yard and the greenest thumb. ¬†Period. ¬†The end. ¬†But not really the end. ūüôā ¬†We can pull up to Josh’s parent’s house and I can walk inside, grab a vase and scissors and a few minutes later have flowers that make my heart swoon. ¬†Flowers can change the world people. ¬†My new motto.

6. We are currently spring breaking hard. ¬†TV every morning. ¬†Fun cereal for breakfast which causes fights instantly when the bottom of the box starts to appear. ¬†Basketball down the street. ¬†Treats mid-day. ¬†Movies and iPad time and PS4 playing. ¬†Card games galore. ¬†Lazy mornings and late nights. ¬†This is how we are rolling. ¬†SB2018…someone get us airbrushed tees. ūüôā

7. ¬†Hey Hudson and Solomon, why don’t you guys sit closer together?!??! ¬†They do this ALL THE TIME and it always makes me smile and never phases them for a second.

8. Easter proved to be a really hard holiday for us. ¬†Last year Everett was searching for eggs and eating all the treats and we were enjoying our first holiday with him together as a family of 8. ¬†He raced through my head all day long along with the days leading up to Easter. ¬†When I went to get out the kids egg cartons we put some treats in for them I broke down hard. ¬†I had put a carton away last year for Everett to paint for this year and there is sat unpainted and waiting on him. ¬†I was so pissed off and just deeply sad buying their little treats this year because I should have been buying them for him too. ¬†He should be here. ¬†He should have been eating candy before breakfast and laughing his best laugh with the rest of his siblings, but he wasn’t and it felt crushing. ¬†I have 1000 other thoughts about Easter this year, but those will have to wait for another time because I haven’t quite figured them all out yet.

9. ¬†This girl. ¬†It’s been a big week for her. ¬†She is simply the fiercest fire cracker around town. ¬†Her love and snuggles are like no other…so is her temper. ūüôā ¬†She is so strong and her little self is a force to be reckoned with. ¬†Gosh, so many people love this child and we’re all the luckiest for knowing and being loved by her.

And 10. ¬†These three. ¬†Our own Big 3! ¬†Just call Josh and me “Jack & Rebecca”. ¬†I’m not sure how we’d survive without them. ¬†Big kids are my total jam and I am loving watching them grow and change and they are at the top of their fun game. ¬†They make me a better person and mom. ¬†They challenge me and change me. ¬†They are easily some of my most favorite people on this planet.

7 Things

1. Our littlest was in her school program recently. ¬†The biggest grin spread across my face when I looked over at Solomon, Hudson and Amon…her big brothers…her own personal paparazzi…as she paraded up on stage to do her thing. ¬†Oh little girl, you are deeply loved and celebrated by so many.

2. One night Hudson dreamed about refrigerators and toilets taking over the world. ¬†The next day was Amon’s birthday party. ¬†I walked through our living room and noticed these signs taped up everywhere. ¬†God love that boy.

3. When Josh’s sister Jen comes over sometimes our nephew and niece, Coop and Campbell, come too. ¬†Those are the best kind of nights. ¬†FortNite has been discovered and when Josh Kelley worked so hard and then got shot down, well, we weren’t sure Campbell would recover. ūüôā

4. My boys.  Everyday I think about how Everett should be amongst them.  I see him missing from every part of our life and most days it feels debilitating.  We have our big three and our little three and now our little three are incomplete which makes our family incomplete.  Everyone in our house feels the weight of him missing.

Hudson and Solomon we’re recently in a school musical. ¬†When they started to sing “For Good” from Wicked Hudson appeared on stage holding a sign that simply read, “Everett.” ¬†And from there I lost it. ¬†He even wrote something about Everett and they flashed it across the big screen. ¬†I was so overcome by the tenderness of the moment I didn’t video or take any photos. ¬†I was so glad my FIL was of clearer mind and snapped some. ¬†These brothers are something fierce and special and will always hold Everett’s place and memory in our family high.

5. These two are thick as thieves.  If Amon had to pick one favorite person in the entire world it would be his Dad.  A close second would be his Big Daddy.  And I have to say, I am totally okay with that!

6. ¬†Harper’s birthday cupcakes had us with all the heart eyes. ¬†All the colors. ¬†All the sprinkles. ¬†And all the yummy delicious Funfetti goodness. ¬†The perfect way to celebrate the big 11!

And 7. ¬†When you’re the youngest boy, but the most competitive boy, sports are hard among your older siblings. ¬†If you lose your pout game might be pretty strong, but it’s also insanely cute.

SIX

Amon turned the big six on Sunday. ¬†The whole family lamented his bigness…minus our littlest. ūüôā ¬† That morning Hudson came over all weary and said, “I think he looks taller this morning.” ¬†I’m afraid Amon will always be seen by us and the big kids as a tiny little thing. ¬†He busted on the seen in full babyness with a beautifully broken heart and won every last one of us over. ¬†We’re full on smitten for forever.

Amon could not have been more excited about his big day. ¬†He had donuts for breakfast…of course…they are his favorite favorite thing.

Amon Kelley Fun Fact: ¬†If we’re letting the kids pick out a treat at the store Amon 9 times out of 10 will choose a roll of those small little Hostess donuts…chocolate or powdered…while the rest of us are picking out all the candies.

Amon has enjoyed donuts on his birthday every single year and I don’t foresee him ever picking anything different. ¬†Dude loves his donuts.

All he wanted for his birthday was a skateboard like the ones Hudson and Solomon purchased.  He asked a million and one times for it.  When the long box arrived he just knew it was his skateboard.  Josh Kelley told him we got him a whistle.  Solomon told him it was a bunch of underwear sewn together.  And Hudson told him it was a port-a-potty.  Hahahahaha.  At one point they all pushed so hard he cried.  Poor guy.

We partied on his actual birthday which was totally fun. ¬†All our family came over for pizza and treats. ¬†Amon LOVES chocolate. ¬†Like deeply and truly loves chocolate. ¬†He asked for chocolate Black Panther cupcakes and all the chocolate candies. ¬†On Kelley birthdays, just about anything goes. ¬†If you can dream it, we’ll try and make it happen. ¬†Amazon to the rescue for Black Panther plastic rings. ¬†He was thrilled.

He literally tore through his presents in 3 minutes flat. ¬†He was like a tiny Flash. ¬†It was quite impressive and when he finished so quickly everyone looked around at each other like, “What just happened?” ¬†And then he raced off adorning Black Panther claws. ¬†Gosh I love him.

I bought Amon this number six sparkler candle and it was absolutely hilarious. ¬†It was sparking everywhere. ¬†Kids we’re ducking and sparks we’re flying and everyone was cracking up. ¬†Amon couldn’t even get close enough to blow it out. ¬†It still makes me laugh thinking about the whole scenario. ¬†Cake and ice-cream followed the sparkler show.

(Solomon ^ Bahahahahahahaha.)

Amon has always loved balloons so we dropped $18 on a whole gaggle of balloons again and he was beyond pumped.  After the party he let go of every last one of them. Our niece Campbell who lives down our street even saw them from her house.  This kid could not have been running anymore hot or have been anymore excited about his day.  He thanked me 100 times and gave me all the hugs and snuggles.

On Monday I ate lunch with the birthday boy. ¬†He couldn’t wait to take a treat to his classmates and his only request were mini Reese’s cups. ¬†I was more than happy with this simple request…the simpler the better. ¬†He passed out two to each classmate and then sat at his seat and probably ate 10 of the leftovers. ¬†Eeek. ¬†I mean, it was his birthday and it’s really hard to resist his sweetness.

This kid. ¬†There are so many things that are deeply wonderful about him. ¬†In our grief following Mom’s death God used him to renew our joy. ¬†He brought light and laughter and hope back into our home and he hasn’t let up yet. ¬†I’ve never seen anyone live with the excitement that Amon does. ¬†His name means “faithful” and that is exactly what God has been in his life and ours. ¬†God uses Amon so often to soothe my weary soul in a very balmy way as I miss Everett and long for him so deeply. ¬†When he curls in next to my body, asks me to rub his head or back and purs just like a cat I smile and breath him in deep. ¬†His spirit and snuggles are like no other.

Happy 6th birthday Amon!  We are beyond honored to be your family!

Friday: 8 Things

I cannot for the life of me escape these numbered posts. ¬†I just can’t. ¬†My brain is maxed out frazzled to even come up with coherent blog post titles, so numbered posts F.O.R.E.V.E.R!!!!! ¬†Let’s begin.

1. Have you seen Black Panther or Wrinkle In Time yet?!?!?!? ¬†If not, please do. ¬†We rarely go to the movies because, cough cough, 7 people costs a lot at the theaters, but I did the unimaginable and went to two movies in two days. ¬†WHAAAATTT?!?!?! ¬†And it was every bit worth it. ¬†Incredible movies…gorgeous movies…thought provoking movies…vital to our society movies. ¬†Harper and I went on a ladies date one night. ¬†Hello Chilis and Wrinkle In Time and snacks. ¬†And then Josh and I took our very own Big 3…thanks Jack and Rebecca…to see Black Panther the next day. ¬†5 stars from everyone.

And yes, semi newish tattoo ^ Got it back at the beginning of November for Everett and could not love it more. ¬†Now I’m the lady with a snake tattoo ūüôā ¬†Bonus: Solomon’s laughing face. ¬†I could seriously kiss his face off.

2. Amon at Jump Rope for heart means my heart almost burst into a 1000 pieces right there on that gym floor. ¬†Watching him jump rope with so much expression and sweat and gusto while knowing what an amazing and brave heart he has beating in his chest…and the journey he’s been on to get to where he is now, well, just scrape my mama’s heart up off the floor. ¬†I teared up approximately 74 times.

3. ¬†I’m looking up more now. ¬†I use to always notice the sky and clouds. ¬†I basically engrained it into our kids’ heads, but then Everett died and I quit looking up…I quit noticing for a while. ¬†Lately my eyes have been drawn upward again. ¬†I’m seeing the beauty in the skies again. ¬†Thank you Kroger and Dollar General parking lots at 5:55am. ¬†You’re doing my heart a solid.

4. I’ve been creating again. ¬†I’ve started small with some requests from friends and frequent customers. ¬†It’s been good and not overwhelming. ¬†I even did some hand-lettering for Harper’s birthday invitations which was fun and nice and quick since we simply photocopied them.

5. ¬†Josh Kelley just doing his thing. ¬†I would be quite lonely and quite extra overwhelmed without him in this grief and in this life. ¬†We’re the luckiest to have him as ours.

6. We changed out our shamrock art for Easter art.  This has been such a sweet and fun thing to do each month.  The kids love it so much and so do I.

7. Need at nap?  Just head to the cemetery.  Easy as that.

And 8. ¬†She calls it her Everett Jacket. ¬†She wears it every day. ¬†She loves it and misses her FuShuai something fierce. ¬†She still cries almost everyday about him being gone. ¬†When she sees his photo on my phone she always says, “See our boy. ¬†I miss that boy.” ¬†She asks the hardest questions and cries the loudest tears. ¬†I had a really hard moment in our doctor’s office last week and broke down crying something awful. ¬†It was just me and her. ¬†She grabbed my face, looked me right in my tear filled eyes and said, “Everybody misses him so much.” and then squeezed my neck. ¬†She makes me feel seen and I am beyond grateful to be the recipient of her love and empathy.

Eight Months

Sunday marked 8 months since Everett’s brave little heart beat it’s last. ¬†It still makes my stomach flip and turn and I find myself walking through each part of what took place that day. ¬†It’s hard, but also feels like it keeps me connected to him. ¬†Goodness what I wouldn’t give for more time with him. ¬†Time instantly changed and makes me aware of every minute and day and I don’t want to waste any amount of it. ¬†I want to use this time so wisely. ¬†It’s all hard and complicated and eye-opening and completely sucks.

Saturday night was really hard. ¬†We could feel it weighing and so could several of our kiddos. ¬†I held one of them extra close while his tears flowed. ¬†We decided Sunday morning we’d get up and head to the cemetery with donuts and bikes and skateboards. ¬†We needed some time. ¬†We’ve only been back to church a handful of times since Everett died. ¬†It makes me sad, but also I just don’t think we’re ready and that’s okay too. ¬†We’ve felt the shame and disappointment from others in the way we’ve handled losing Everett and how we’re still handling it. ¬†We already don’t feel like we’re getting much right currently, so when others share their disappointment it simply piles on. ¬†People who are grieving don’t need that and we’re learning to recognize it and try to dismiss it quickly…some things don’t deserve to take up space in your head.

One thing I find comforting about Jesus right now is He’s everywhere and not limited to certain times and spaces. ¬†Knowing He’s still here and we haven’t run Him off yet eases my weariness a bit. ¬†Church is different for everyone and I’m so grateful God is not limited to a building. ¬†I’m thankful He’s so much more than that. ¬†I’ve been making myself pray again out loud on the way to school each morning with the kids. ¬†I know He’s listening always and not just to my Dear Jesus prayers, but to my pain in the middle of my sleepless nights and my screams of curse words driving in the car and my whispers into my children’s ears when they are so consumed by missing their brother there are no words from them only tears and gasps for breath. ¬†Since He’s God and we are not, He’s limited to nothing. ¬†We can still find Him in the heavy darkness and even in Krispy Kremes on Shuai’s grave.

This has been a lonely and isolating time for our family. ¬†I know He’s teaching us how to love others better in their lowest, hardest moments. ¬†I know He’s teaching us there are no right words. ¬†I know He’s teaching us the power in simply showing up. ¬†What I hope like crazy is when the fog finally lifts these lessons and these feelings stay. ¬†I don’t want to forget the pain because I know it keeps us connected to these insanely vital lessons on loving others.

I feel like I’m in perpetual tunnel vision and can’t see much outside of our own family’s grief right now. Listening and helping each individual in our family grieve and process and move forward no matter how slowly feels like a full time job. ¬†I don’t fully feel like myself. ¬†Some days my doing for others and thinking outside myself is buying snacks for Amon’s kindergarten classroom when they’ve run out or letting a car get over in traffic or asking a friend an inquiring question about themselves or dropping a card in the mail. ¬†It’s not elaborate or big…it’s just something…any little thing to make myself stop thinking about missing Everett and our grief and remember others.

I read this quote the other day by Sarah Bessey:

“The most fearless thing we can do is keep showing up with love and grace and joy in our real right-now lives.”

It hit me hard in a good way. ¬†Her words encouraged my heart. ¬†It made me feel like we’re not doing such a terrible job after all. ¬†Our right-now looks far different than I ever dreamed or imagined or wanted. ¬†What I want is my boy back, but I know God is forging us into braver people. ¬†He’s teaching us that even when things feel terrible and crappy and we feel like we’re not even close to measuring up that there really is no measuring up after all. ¬†What He really wants from us is showing up and loving the best we can “in our real right-now lives”.

He sees and feels our desperate places. ¬†He sees and feels our deepest pain and sadness and loss. ¬†He sees and feels our confusion and anger. ¬†He sees and feels it all and just like He’s done time and time again, He’s there always showing up and always loving us fiercely, not despite ourselves, but because we are fully our broken selves…we are His. ¬†I will never be able to accurately put into words how desperate I feel to hold our Shuai Shuai again, but I know I don’t want to limp through life without having gained the most powerful lessons from our fierce, brave and strong little boy. ¬†Even though we didn’t welcome it and truthfully don’t necessarily want it, God is using our pain and I’m counting on Him to create beauty from our darkest ashes.