Summer So Far

This summer feels heavy and light, fun and overwhelming, easy and hard.  It’s this giant mix of living in a state of grief and constant reminiscing & looking back, feeling like we have to make up for the sucktasticness of last summer, trying to do all the things and have all the fun with Leo and just survive.  I’m feeling it in my heart, mind and body and some days it’s too much and others it’s the push and Vitamin D I need.

So far we’ve visited the Wave Pool at a minimum of twice a week.  It’s our place.  It’s our #1 favorite thing to do.  We always get to see Ms. Ashley and sometimes we throw caution to the wind and don’t pack lunches, indulging in concession stand goodness instead.  Amon has been dying to go down the bigger tube slides for his entire life and this year he still came up short…until today.  We saw my friend Anna there and she was all, “I’ll take you up there.”  And away they went.  I watched from our  towels with the other littles and Solomon.  And turns out Amon hit the mark on his tippy toes and down he went.  Anna had to give him a little pep talk, but once he went down he was a tube slide junkie and couldn’t stop.  Thank you Anna!!!!  He hasn’t stopped talking about it.

Sometimes I have members of my timeout club at the wave pool.  Yep, act like a yahoo and find yourself missing out on some serious pool fun.  It’s bothersome and sad and adorable all rolled into one.

Leo is still sleeping pretty terrible.  We’ve literally tried all the things.  ALL OF THE THINGS.  He will at least take a good nap during the day, but just needs some extra reassurance all throughout the night.  One day he will sleep.  I keep telling myself that surely he won’t go to college waking up 43 times in the night. 🙂  And maybe sleep is overrated or maybe Josh Kelley and I will perish due to sleep deprivation.  Only time will tell.

Josh’s work had a Nashville Sounds night and provided tickets and dinner for everyone.  We pretty much lived it up.  We ate all the foods and sweated it out with the best of them.  A sweet man, we did not know, bought all the kids a baseball helmet full of popcorn and their lives were complete.  Sounds games are a long time favorite of the Kelleys.  They never disappoint.

That night after all the kids were in bed, Josh and I talked about how we’d both had moments during the game where we thought about how Everett never got to go to a game.  This is seriously our lives surrounding big and little moments and everything in between…hashing out his precious little life and death with us.

We’ve still been doctor visiting it up.  Six kids at any doctor’s visit can be semi stressful…shout out to all you parents with 7+ kiddos all piled into doctor’s offices…but watching my big kids do their thing is also really sweet.  None of our kids are perfect and they can fight and annoy and bug with the best of them, but our big kids are typically really good to the littles and I love watching it.

We have regular weekly Sonic dates when our littlest goes to therapy.  While she’s working hard and being brave we all walk next door and sit outside and enjoy a treat.  There’s usually slushies, Cinnasnacks, Sonic blasts, milkshakes and the occasional plain vanilla cone and everyone is quite pleased.  Sometimes someone goes rogue and orders a small fry and we all gasp.

Throw in a whole slew of other random things like grocery shopping and slime making and skateboarding and rollerskating and going to the playground and shooting basketball and Target trips and visiting our library and swimming with friends and reading our faces off and FortNite and movies for days and doing chores and catching fireflies and drawing all the pictures and this is our summer.

It’s been so interesting to watch how the kids, Josh and myself have changed since Everett’s death.  Everyone use to love to go and do and then we became serious homebodies when Everett died.  With summer everyone has moved back into wanting to go, but for only limited amounts of time.  We used to spend hours upon hours at the wave pool and now our trips usually do not span more than 2 hours and they are ready for home.  We planned a vacation this summer, but only for 4 days because we knew even that would be pushing it.

We’re spending lots of time together and trying to soak each other up.  We’re constantly living in last summer while also in this one.  It’s exhausting and nice and painful and sweet.  We’re just doing our thing and moving at our own pace and trying to be okay with it all.

Heart Randomness

I really believed Everett was going to be healed.  There was naturally nervousness and fear, but really and truly I believed he was going to live.  I had even gone so far in my head to when we would finally fly back home to Nashville, Everett in tow, that our friends and family would greet us at the airport because this had been no small victory…hard fought…long hospital stay…heart wrenching ups and downs…every parents nightmare, but Everett had made it.  I could see all our people there waiting for us.  I could see their faces, hear their words and feel their hugs.  Walking off that plane in Nashville with Everett’s hand and foot print molds in my hands instead of my son was one of my lowest moments.  I remember I could not stop the tears as we walked through the airport and saw Josh’s dad standing there all alone waiting on us.  This was so far from how it was supposed to be.  Nothing about this moment was right and it will forever be wedged deep in my heart.  Everett should have lived.

I’m currently reading Barking to the Choir by Gregory Boyle.  I read his other book Tattoos on the Heart several years ago and found myself absolutely stunned and grateful for his writings.  His new book has left me the same.  In this time of my life when I feel utterly misunderstood and so many opinions flying around about me and towards me, this book has been soothing.

“Some things are random and other things are meant to be in our control.  So God is with me when “shit happens” and God is rooting for me when I need to decide things.  And I’m okay with that. I don’t need God to be in charge of my life.  I only need God to be at the center of it.”

“I believe that God protects me from nothing, but sustains me in everything.”

I keep thinking about all these families who are being separated at the border.  I keep thinking about those children and then my own children and their trauma.  I keep thinking about how so much of this flies in the face of what Jesus really longs for from us and really how so much of America’s history does.  We’re not exactly known for treating others as we want to be treated or looking after the poor, the widowed, refugees, the imprisoned, the marginalized, etc.  It all just makes me sad.

THIS ARTICLE is great if you feel overwhelmed, like I do, in how and what you can do to help with parents & children being separated at the border.  I spent a brief part of my morning sending messages to my Governor and Senate & House representatives by texting the word “RESIST” to 50409.  It walks you through the process while letting you share your own words.

I loved this Twitter thread by Marlena Graves:

1) I’ve had Christian ppl tell me that families being separated at the border deserve it because they broke the law. First, some news outlets are reporting that those who merely present themselves to DHS for help/asylum are separated

(2) crossing the border has in the past been a misdemeanor, like a speeding ticket. Imagine if your children/family members/ were taken away from you for a speeding ticket. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

(3) Christians, let’s read our Bibles and consider our experiences. Moses’s mother, Jochabed illegally hid him. The midwives didn’t kill the Hebrew boys like Pharaoh had commanded them to. Jesus “broke the law” by healing on Sunday & eating grain in the fields with his disciples

(4) Christian missionaries break national laws by smuggling Bibles and witnessing to others in countries where it is against the law. Why do those who say “families who break laws by crossing the border get what they deserve” ask for pastors and other missionaries to be released

 It just keeps running through my mind.

The wave pool is our favorite summer place.  It’s not just a fun place for me to take the kids, but it’s weirdly comforting.  All of my children have experienced this place with me during the summer and it holds such fond memories.  I can vividly see Everett here with us.  I hope I always can.  The wave pool evens the playing field.  Which sounds weird, but people of every kind go there.  It’s hot and smothery in Tennessee and the wave pool is a giant pool…it speaks all languages and regards no one as unwelcomed…unless you’re wearing a thong. 😉  It’s the most diverse place for summer fun in Nashville.

And I don’t get a chance to listen to too many podcasts…there are just far too many small humans in my ears ALL THE TIME, but when my friend Sherry told me her and Kami were recording a podcast for the Archibald Project about foster care I knew this would be a MUST LISTEN for me and boy was it.  When the epidsode finally came out I could not escape my family quick enough. 🙂  Please give it a listen.  Kami and Sherry are so poised and wise and kind and honest and I could not love it more.  These are the words we need to here from famillies who have had their children removed and from those foster families stepping in to help not only with the child, but also to cheer on these families who are working so hard towards reunification.  CLICK HERE to listen and be in awe of these brave, strong women who are for each other.


He’s The Same, But I Am Not

Everyday feels like I’m just making it.  At any given moment I can burst into tears…a song playing at the gym at 5am, a memory remembered driving down the road, in the mascara aisle at Kroger, walking into the wave pool for the first time this summer, seeing certain dates on my calendar.  Gushing tears at a moments notice.  Truth is I hate living in this “after Everett died” life.  I miss him so deeply words could never come close to explaining the depth.  I long to hold his little body close one more time.

I remember after we left his body at the hospital for the final time and had to go back to our room just down the hall to get our bags I asked Josh Kelley multiple times, “Should we go see him one more time?”  The finality of that moment makes me cry the hardest, hottest tears because that was it.  That was the last time I would hold my baby on this earth and we weren’t given near enough time together as a family of 8.  I didn’t have near enough snuggles or kisses or time watching him sit on our counter, but would any amount have been enough anyways?!?!  Of course not.

Life is difficult right now…as it is for so many of you.  I feel like I’ve worn out most welcoming mats and that we’ve over talked about Everett to those who wanted to listen.  I think 1000 thoughts to myself daily and sometimes feel like I might burst with insanity, but usually keep them to myself feeling like they are far too much for most.  I see how as a Jesus-loving body we often suck at handling the broken hearted and downtrodden.  It’s made me re-think deep pieces of myself.  When we should be lifting the burdens of the broken and grieving, we often add weight to their already weighed down shoulders.  We make them responsible for how their pain and sadness and loss or how they are handling it makes us feel and we are so quick to tell them so.  We’re also quick to say all the go-to Christiany words even though they just do not fix anything and often sound empty.

I’m putting my religion to the test.  I’m running it through the hot fires of grief and watching my 3-year-old’s heart beat it’s last.  I remember watching the tears of our nurse Matt as he wiped them away with his hand.  I sat there holding Everett’s body in my arms asking Matt over and over if Everett was gone because his heartbeat had become so faint in his neck and his chest was no longer rising and falling.  Watching a small little body who depended on me to keep him safe die in my arms has pushed my thoughts and beliefs and everything I ever thought I really knew to the full on max.  It’s  made me examine and re-examine and re-examine again what I thought I really knew and understood.  I miss my old self, but I also don’t want to be the same as I was.  Sometimes I read my old words and cringe wondering how they made others feel.  I want to be more and I want to be better.  I want to know my suffering really personally and do better when I get the honor of walking with others in their own suffering.

I feel a lot of anger. It’s nice when people tell us they are praying for us, but also in a very respectful I-don’t-want-to-piss-anyone-off-kind-of-way…I’m tired of the “We’re praying for you.”s.  I’m just not sure it changes things for us.  Now does praying change the person doing the praying?  Yep, I can get behind that.  I just don’t think our prayers are going to make God do things.  I’m skeptical if by praying for someone to have a good day we are going to will God to step in and make their day better.  Instead maybe the better comes in knowing someone was thinking about you that day and talking to God about you.  Just call me the skeptic at this point.  It’s also semi exhausting people telling us how we should feel and what we need to do and how we should think.  I’m tired of the loneliness.  I’m tired of others thinking they have even a smiddgen as to what our day-to-day survival looks and feels like without Everett.  What I love is the kindness and gentleness and the empathy and compassion.  Those are the pinholes of light in our darkness.

I’ve been dissecting prayer and hashing it out.  Does it really do anything? Is it meaningful? What’s the real point behind it?  So far I’ve landed on just trying to talk to God more…like a real conversation.  I can’t ask Him for things right now because truthfully I don’t think our prayers persuade Him to do something or not to do something…minus salvation and forgiveness.  And truthfully I like it better that way.  I like just telling Him about my day and things I hope for verses begging Him to do/not to do/allow/not allow whatever to happen.  It makes more sense this way to my brain and heart because then God isn’t some God sitting on His throne appointing miracles to some and snatching miracles from others.  I do not know that kind of God.  Rather it’s like a roll of the dice.  We’ve got one heart kid who lived through surgery and one heart kid who died.  I don’t like thinking God “chose” to let Amon live and “chose” to let Everett die.  What I’d rather think is life is life and sometimes it’s good and some times it is really terrible because our world is fallen.  God rejoices with the good and grieves with the broken, but he’s not picking and choosing based on the amount of prayers, chosen people/not chosen people, who He’s still using, who He’s done with, etc.

I’m trying to dig deep and understand more, knowing full well I’ll never understand it all.  God is still God and I am not.  He owes me approximately zero.  I know He loves us all, I know He loves Everett and I know His ways are not mine.  I remember saying and writing over and over again God would not change based on the outcome of Everett’s surgery and I still believe that.  He is still the exact same God, but I am not the exact same person.  I did the changing and part of me is still grieving that loss too, but I feel like putting to question some of these things I thought I knew and thought were “right” will move me towards more compassion and empathy and love and a more firm hope.  I’m not going to get it all right along the way, but I’m not afraid to ask my questions and to throw out things I thought I knew in exchange for a handful of things I feel fully confident in.  I have no idea how it’s all going to shake out, but I’m here for it and I know God is too.  I’m in for the deep rooted heart change; I’m in for things being flipped upside down.

I think about Everett every single day and how yet again God is using him to change me.  We will never see the extent of the ripples Everett set in to place and just how big and wide they got.  Miss him every single day.

Last Week of School

We’ve been on summer break for over 2 weeks now and it’s been nice to have a little less to do and keep up with.  The last week of school was pretty killer and ran us quite ragged…it was like the last sprint before the finish line.

The kids’ last week of school was a busy one.  So many events going on it made my brain hurt.  On Tuesday alone Amon had his class picnic, Harper had her awards ceremony and Amon had his class program and graduation.  Meredith came in for a quick trip and asked what we were up to that day.  I told her all the kid events going down and she jumped right in.  When Harper saw Meredith she was so confused and thought she came in just for her awards ceremony.  🙂  She rode along for carrider line pickup, ate a quick breakfast for dinner and then off we all went in the pouring rain for Amon’s program and graduation.  What I love so much about Meredith is our chaos seems to phase her zero.  I don’t feel like we’re too much…I’m not nervous we’re stressing her out…I don’t feel judged…and I’m not worried about what she thinks of us.  We just get to be the Kelleys with zero strings or conditions attached.  She’s really good to all 9 of us.

The official last day of school was very exciting for everyone.  We had all been looking froward to this day because we all needed a slower pace, some sunshine and water and some fun.  Last summer consisted of the high of the highs and the low of the lows…majority lows.  Josh Kelley and I feel the need to make this summer really special.

First day of school/Last day of school.  You can see our past photos HERE.  Next year our littlest lady will be thrown in the mix too since she’ll be starting full time pre-school at our elementary school.  5 different classrooms and I have zero idea how we will keep up.  Let’s just not talk about it. Summer forever.

Our littlest lady and Leo spent their last few days just the three of us before it was seven of us EVERY SINGLE DAY, ALL DAY LONG.  Yikes.  We did all the normal things like grocery shop and go to Target.  She mother hens him to absolute death.  We’re working on it. 🙂

We threw our nephew Cooper’s girlfriend Alicea a graduation party.  Alicea is the sweetest!!!!  I mean, she comes in our house and plays with our kids and chats everyone up and eats all the foods and holds her own amongst our wild, loud bunch.  Major props she’s hung around this long, but Cooper is pretty great so maybe he’s the kicker.  It was so fun celebrating her and we’re all so thankful we get to know such an amazing lady!

Alicea’s favorite desserts are brownies, Funfetti cake and anything smores.  So of course we had to have all three.  A party is not a party without plenty of treats.  I made a funfetti cake with rainbow chip icing, THESE brownies which are my all time favorite brownie recipe and THESE smores bars which were crazy easy and absolutely delicious.  If you like smores…make them asap.

 Our first official day of summer was pretty chill.  We watched movies and read books and played outside.  I put up all the kids school clothes and organized our swim basket.  We stayed home in preparation for lots of wave pooling and fun.  Like the calm before the storm except the storm is a really good one. 😉

My friend Emily recommended doing charcuteri dinners and they are now our official weekend dinner of summer.  I mean, you seriously cannot go wrong with any giant combo of this thrown on a big board and set in the middle of your table for the masses to consume.  Ginormous hit.  Like hugely legit.

Bonus:  Josh and I don’t really have to “cook” anything.  Unless by cook you mean throw tons of fun snack foods on a giant cutting board.

And the last thing we squeezed in was a hospital visit.  Alas, these heart kiddos are just special and need extra attention when health things pop up and when a high fever persisted our doctor’s office sent us straight to the ER.  They kept us overnight to rule out an infection in his heart or anything else serious heart related and late afternoon the next day they let us go.

I had approximately 22 emotional breakdowns and I know the majority of the nurses and doctors thought I was some whacked out mom.  I wanted to tell every single one of them about Everett so they would know I was only mid-level crazy and really I was just sad and missed our boy.  The kindest lady did Leo’s EKG in the middle of the night and she knew about Everett and instantly I felt seen and breathed a sigh of relief…like someone really got it and understood.

When it was all said and done every last one of us…kiddos included…felt the weight of this small visit.  It felt big even though it was small.  It threw all of us whirling back into last summer with Everett and it was really hard and sad.  It left Josh and myself wondering how on earth we’ll do this all again on a much bigger and more serious note with Leo.

It took us several days to recover and now we’re in full on summer mode.  Make every bit count.  Have as much fun as we can.  Soak up every ray of sunshine and swim until our hearts burst.  Tan lines for days and empty bottles of sunscreen behind us.  All the fun, special times together plus a gazillion icees and slushies and late night firefly sessions and movies and snacks.  We’ll sleep later.  Like I said, summer forever.

Eleven Things

1. We’ve practically been living at the hospital and doctor’s offices.  Leo has one special little heart and body and getting to the bottom of everything is taking patience and time.  In the meantime, he’s pretty dang cute and snacks make everything better.  Everything.

2.  Leo got his glasses a few weeks ago.  Ummmmm, I’m pretty sure he’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.  He did really well the first few days, but now he’s a glasses tosser. 🙂  I thought at first I had been hoodooed by the optometrist office for paying way too much for “indestructible” glasses, but sure enough they were much needed.

3.  Amon brought me home the sweetest gift from school.  Having three heart warrior sons makes me a total sucker for hearts.  I immediately grabbed a thumb tack and up on the wall this beauty went.  Amon was beyond proud.  Love that boy to smithereens.


4. Speaking of suckers…Harper is a total sucker for Amon.  Has been since the moment she met him in Ethiopia when he was a tiny baby and she hadn’t even started kindergarten yet.  Six years later and he’s still got her wrapped around his adorable finger.

And now Leo’s on the scene and she’s a goner again.  She just can’t help it.  She’s a sucker for all these littles and they love her fiercely right back.

5.  Leo is an amazing sleeper during the day, but come night time, well, sleep is his arch nemesis and apparently he loathes us.  Hahahaha.  If Josh Kelley and I can ever get another date night we are sure to nap during it.  It’s been awhile since we’ve been this tired and we’ve tried every last trick in the book.  We’re crossing all our fingers and toes that one day he’ll get the hang of it and surely he won’t go to college waking up 54 times during the night.

6.  One of my most favorite memories was watching and listening to Everett talk with his Uncle Andy and Aunt Becky in Mandarin.  Watching his face when they started to speak his home language was priceless to us.  Leo has some speech issues, but his facial expressions are the same.  He lights up when they start to talk to him in Mandarin and it’s priceless.  He understands every word they say and I love watching him listen and respond the he can.

7.  10 months came and went.  It sucked.  I feel like these days become more and more painful.  They are often lonely days stuck in our grief.  There are just far too many emotions wrapped up in these days and I find myself thinking back through the past 10 months and all they have held.  I miss my old self, but every day I’m becoming more and more okay with having a hope and love and religion that has been put to the fire and that’s quite rough and messy.  I’m learning to embrace what creates more compassion and love in me.  I’ve felt first hand how those who have suffered tend to and love those suffering around them so well.

8.  I emotionally eat.  Like if I have a bad day you better believe I’m into some chocolate or Cheetos or something crazy tasty.  On the last full week of school I bought these at Target and then opened them IN THE CARRIDER LINE and then devoured them all within days.  Buy them, eat them and thank me later.

9.  Josh Kelley and I haven’t had a date since I can’t even remember.  Our Medication Administration refresher course at 9am on a Saturday morning served as the hottest date we’ve had in a long time.  I did fix my hair, apply makeup and enjoy a mini tube of Pringles DCS provided us with so that was a bonus.

10.  Sundays are now our flag football days.  You will find us at the park with Big Daddy and all the snacks and icees and sweating in the shade and trying to find Leo’s glasses in the grass and cheering our boys on.  It’s always fun and it’s always nice seeing our boys smile and enjoy something they didn’t know they would really like.

And 11.  Leo is the quirkiest, cutest little thing.  He just marches to his own little beat and squats anywhere and everywhere and his hair grows in it’s own natural faux hawk and he always smiles with his entire face.  Sometimes he’s really quiet and we find  him doing something incredibly cute all by himself.  Snacks are his love language and he loves a good cuddle.  He adores the water…give him all the water, all the time.  Pool.  Water table.  Hose pipe.  Bath.  Water bottle.  Sink.  Bird bath.  Any water source will suffice.  We love love love getting to know him and learning more and more about his little personality every single day.

Favorites From China

My phone kind of sucks…I’m sure a lot of you can relate. 🙂  I take a lot of photos and videos so it’s a constant struggle to keep enough space on my phone available.  Recently when cleaning off my phone I went through and picked some of my favorite photos from China.

I snagged this rainbow blanket at a thrift store for $2.  It’s been in our basket of blankets in our living room for a while and has been used 100s of times.  When I started looking to buy Leo his own blanket I realized this was the perfect blanket for him.  Rainbow and already well loved.  I didn’t pack it in our checked bag, but toted it along in my personal bag.  I loved this little visual reminder of Everett.

One of my top favorite plane photos.  These boys.  They kill my heart.  I will never understand how we got so insanely lucky to have them.

In the Los Angeles airport our littlest spotted this rainbow streaming through a sky light and onto the floor nearby.  Every spotting of rainbow anything made me teary and long for our sweet Shuai boy.

More rainbows.  The day we went back to Everett and Leo’s home was also the 9 month anniversary of losing Everett.  One of the very first things we saw when we walked in were these beautiful rainbow pinwheels spinning in the wind.  Instant tears.  We take him everywhere we go.

We had a boys room and girls room while we were in China.  Josh Kelley would send me photos between 4am and 5am every morning of what the boys were up to.  They jet lagged hard.  5am card games almost every morning.  Sometimes Solomon was adorned in a hotel bathrobe. 🙂

Dinners every night together.  Some nights we ate out and sometimes we ate in our room.  This was one of our most favorite places to eat in Zhengzhou.  The food was amazing and the staff were always crazy kind.

Harper keeps us afloat most days.  She is patient and kind and funny and helpful and Josh and I call her our sanity.  She just makes my heart really happy.  I snagged this photo of us shopping one day.  A total favorite.

One of our last photos as a family of 8.  Being able to take all the kids to China with us was such a gift.  It was crazy hard, but I am still so so thankful it came together and actually happened.

The first day we met Leo he would not let go of his Chips Ahoy container.  Even when the cookies were long gone, he held it close.  I love the photos of him sitting with Josh holding his little cookie cup.  What a brave brave boy!

Anyone else pack their bag full of a bunch of smaller bags?!?!?  Just me?!?!  This was basically life in China.  It kept everything straight and more organized and much more manageable.  And that panda bag was a fun find in China.

And my top favorite photo from China…Josh’s photo of Leo face planting off the slide.  I feel like this will be a classic Kelley photo for years and years to come.

I’m really trying to be more consistent with writing in this space because it just makes my head clearer, but then there’s this whole summer thing.  Hoping to be back again sooner than later. 🙂

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day came and went and out of all these holidays lining my calendar like minefields since Everett died, Mother’s Day has been at the top of my dreading list.  The tip top.  Maybe it was the double whammy of my mom having died + Everett dying.  Maybe it was the awkward timeframe of being 10 months out from Everett’s death which feels like no time at all for us, but so much time to outsiders meaning they expect we’re all better and we’re really not.  Maybe it was the social media aspect, but mostly I think it was that this time last year just looked so different…felt so different…was so different.  This time last year Everett had really set into his groove and was talking so much and seriously was the most fun and precious, snacking little guy and now he was gone.  Our family will simply never be the same.

I went into Mother’s Day having already decided that next year I would boycott the entire holiday altogether.  These holidays where we tend to celebrate some and forget others, even in the church, is unsettling.  While some celebrate, others cringe and hold their breath waiting for the day to be over.  These celebratory days can be so painful for so many people for so many different reasons.  People feel forgotten, overlooked, unseen, left out, hurt, sad, angry and sometimes the heaviness of the day is just too much.  Our Christiany words we tend to fling toward the broken won’t fix it and what is most needed is the simple sincerity of an “I’m so sorry” and a love filled reminder that the hurting are remembered and not alone.

I went into this day already thinking how much it was going to suck and the minute I opened my eyes Sunday morning I burst into tears.  This day was a heavy one indeed.  What I didn’t see coming was the sweetness it would hold…how this day would really represent sadness and pain and joy and gratefulness really co-minglingly all together.  It would show me yet again this life can be done living out deep grief and deep joy simulatenously.

There was very little for this day that was a must, but I wanted to be very intentional about it including me staying off all social media for the day.  Aside from that I had a super short list of requests:

1. Cemetery visits for Mom and Everett.

2. Flower shopping for our birth moms.

And 3. A giant coke & cherry mixed Icee.

We headed out to my Mom’s graveside first thing in the morning with Fruit Loops and Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal in tow for breakfast.  I made up a jar of flowers to take with us and loaded milks into a cooler.  Going to her grave is Mother’s Day tradition.  We take a quilt, eat something yummy and the kids run around playing games of tag and hide-n-seek in the cemetery.  Weird?!?  Maybe, but not to the Kelleys.  This is our norm and over the years I have become more and more okay with our kids viewing the cemetery as a place of not only death & sadness, but also of life & joy.

On our way home from Mom’s cemetery we stopped to pick out flowers for all our birthmom’s we honor on Mother’s Day too.  This is a tradition we started several years ago and it has stuck.  Our kiddos with birthmoms pick out any flower or plant they want and we plant them in our yard in their honor.  For our littlest we potted the flowers she picked out and will gift them to her birthmom next time we see her.  This year Harper helped Leo with his selection and Hudson picked out flowers for Everett’s birthmom.  I cried a lot through out the entire day, but this part really got.  I’m insanely grateful to these amazing women who chose life for their children.  They will always be valued and remembered and honored in our house…and not just on Mother’s Day.  Last year sweet Everett stood there holding his little flower.  Josh Kelley noticed it had started to die during the winter season and next thing I knew Josh had moved Everett’s flowers into our warm bathroom and they were blooming in the middle of winter.  They are still going strong.


We ended up eating lunch at home before Josh and the boys headed out to flag football.  I stayed home with everyone else and it was just right.  I was bummed missing the boys’ games, but it was so hot and our littlest and Leo needed naps.  I watched a movie on the couch with the kids and took some time to write.   They played outside in the water and ate popsicles.  When flag football was over I was gifted with a cherry and coke mixed Icee from the Tiger Market…which I swear has the greatest Icee machine around and the Icees are always the perfect consistency.  Icee consistency is a big deal.  Hudson and Solomon also told me how they scored touchdowns just for me on Mother’s Day. 🙂

We ate dinner at home too.  I was totally good with hanging close to home for most of the day, plus my Aunt Peggy’s Bean Burrito recipe for dinner was perfection.  For dessert I chose rainbow sherbet and Sprite at Everett’s grave.  After we finished dinner we headed over to his special place as the sun was headed down and it was the right way to end the day.

I had purchased rainbow flags to hang from the tree in Everett’s area of the cemetery.  I watched Josh Kelley climb up and down his ladder placing flags just so.  I thought about how Josh could easily tell me this was too much work or that I was crazy, but he never has.  He smiles and obliges and never once complains.  He knows this is an outward way I can display my deep love and longing for Everett.

We spread out our quilt and handed out spoons and cups full of rainbow sherbet doused in Sprite.  Everyone ate it all up as the mosquitos ate us up.  The sun was just right.  The moment felt sacred and special and my mind thought how the day had turned out far different than I thought it would.  It hadn’t been all terrible.  I didn’t want to boycott this day next year anymore.  The day had contained some really sweet moments and memories.

I watched as Leo ate every last little drop from his cup and some fell from his spoon onto his leg.  I thought about how lucky I was.  I thought about how much Everett had changed our lives and the lives of so many others.  I thought about how he led us to Leo.  Gratefulness swept over me hard.  All these kiddos from so many different places and with such different stories.  Each of them strong and brave and absolutely unique and incredible in their own way.  They are all loved by so many and honestly I’m just shocked and honored and amazed God would allow me to be their mom.

What I would have given for Everett to be there with us…to hold his little body and hear his little voice and laugh.  It made me cringe and cry at several moments during the day, but I think we’re making him proud.  We all get up each day and take another step closer to seeing him again.  We haven’t given up yet…there’s still hope floating around…and we’re still loving him and one another madly.

2 Weeks Together

We kicked off another week together with the boys’ flag football.  Let me say I am loving this whole flag football thing.  They do everything on Sunday afternoon and nothing during the week.  So practice an hour before the game, then it’s game time, the end.  It was hot and sunny and everyone sunscreened up.  The boys had the best time and it’s always crazy fun watching and cheering them on.

Leo had several big doctor’s appointments…3 to be exact.  There are a lot of different pieces that are going into figuring out the best treatment for his heart and we’re currently working through all of those and letting the specialists do their jobs covering every last detail.  He did amazingly well…minus his eye appointment when they had to dilate his eyes.  Hatred ensued…from the both of us. 🙂  It was hard seeing him trying to process and understand what in the heck was going on, but it ended up being a must because the kiddo needed glasses.

*Spoiler Alert: He’s freakin adorable in his new glasses.*

He was a massive hit at Vandy for one appointment because A) He’s adorable and B) He wore Solomon’s little tiny Preds jersey for their last game at home in the playoffs.  We ended up losing, but Leo was the cutest Preds fan around town.

He played a ton in his water table and little pool.  The kid adores water.  He’s getting more and more tan and eaten up with bug bites by the minute.

It’s crazy fun watching him discover and learn and just be apart of our family.  He found the kids’ magnify glass and was obsessed with it.  We wondered if it made it extra fun due to his little eye sight, but either way, it was adorable watching him walking around looking at everything through it.

We did all our normal weekly things like running errands and grocery shopping and preparing for the end of the school year.  It was a busy one for sure, but he rolled with it.  Pretty sure we’re wearing the kid out.

We went to Hudson, Solomon and Amon’s school for their Friday house party.  There’s music and dance offs and weekly awards for students and teachers and house chants.  I teared up about 22 times.  I love our school.  I love that they love these kiddos and care about building community among them.  It was so incredible to watch it all do down.  Leo and our littlest lived it up and danced their hearts out.

Afterwards we attended the boys’ field day at school.  Our littlest insisted on wearing rainbow ribbons and I totally obliged for that little visual reminder of Everett.  They had the best time.  Leo was crazy obsessed with the bubbles and there might have been a massive fit when I removed him from sitting in the actual bubble bucket.  How dare I?!?!  🙂

The boys all had so much fun with their friends and doing all the fun activities.  They all bounced around from station to station and loved showing off Leo to their sweet friends.

Field day was a weirdly hard day for me.  You wouldn’t think field day would trigger so much sadness and tears, but there I was sobbing my eyeballs out multiple times.  Everett went to field day last year.  It was such a special time and he loved it so much.  During last year’s field day we got the call from our cardiologist that she had finally heard from an amazing surgeon who thought he saw hope for Everett’s heart.  That surgeon ended up being our only chance…the only one who thought he saw a path to hope and healing for Everett.

I remember standing in the shade after I got off the phone with our cardiologist and I read over the letter from our surgeon.  He detailed Everett’s complex heart and body and his huge concerns with the current state of his heart…he needed surgery soon.  I cried under those trees, but also felt this deep sense of relief that such an amazing surgeon saw a way…he saw a path…he chose hope for our son.

All day I just longed so deeply for him.  I just cannot cannot cannot put into words how much we miss him and want him back.  I wanted him with me again.  It’s just not right and certainly not how it’s suppose to be.  It was quite an exhausting day physically for the kids and emotionally for me, so Sonic happy hour was definitely in order.  1/2 price slushies FOREVER!!!

And we took Leo swimming for the first time with his Uncle Andy.  He was really funny and loved the water, but was blue lipped and shivering in no time.  I can’t wait to take him to the wave pool.  I just know he’s going to love it too.

Time out of the pool to warm up always requires snacks with this guy.  Everett was super snacky…my snackiest kid to date, but Leo, well, he takes the award.  He would snack all day long if we let him and he will eat anything.  ANYTHING!  So far we’ve only discovered one food he will not put in his mouth…cooked spinach.  Everything else has been total game.  Best eater in our house.  I love learning about who he is and all these little details that make up who Leo is.

Another week together and another week closer to our Everett.  Mother’s day was right there and it carried heaviness.  I’ll share more, but I’m still working on that post…still figuring out all my thoughts and feelings because it was such a hard, special day.  For now, I’m off to pick up kiddos from their last day of school.  LAST DAY OF SCHOOL PEOPLE.  Summer is officially here.