Hey Hey Summer Hey

We are officially 20 days into summer break and well, I’m happy to report we are all still alive. ūüôā

If you’ve been around this blog for even a smidgen of time it’s likely you know all about our love for Wave Country. ¬†It’s our favorite summer hang and anyone I talk to about it I encourage to go as well. ¬†It’s our absolute favorite. ¬†Over the years we have shockingly never been to opening day, but this year we woke up and knew our crew needed some fun and sun. ¬†Throughout the past 22 months I can’t tell you the number of times we‚Äôve had to change plans, skip out on events and choose to make a different choice for our family because we knew how down it would make us all feel…how sad it would make our kids. ¬†Sometimes showing up isn’t an option despite our best-laid plans. ¬†Sometimes we just have to do what we can and on that day Wave Country was it.

As we sat around soaking wet, eating concession stand food it just felt good to be back.  This place is special.  All 7 of our babies have been in this place and splashed in this water and I really love that.  Oh how I wish Shuai was with us, but we carry him with us everywhere we go.

In preparation for summer pool time Aunt Jen bought Leo his very own Donna float…it’s true love…plus a plethora of other fun rainbow summer items. ¬†Harper bought herself a giant floppy hat from Target to try and rival her Aunt Jen’s. ¬†I mean, these little to semi-little people just slay me. ¬†And my kind friend Leah saw some other rainbow summer love and knew I needed them. ¬†We know some really good people.

We got two trips to the wave pool under our belt and then on our 6th day of summer Amon broke his arm playing basketball. Morale instantly went from crazy high to crazy low. ¬†We asked about a waterproof cast, but no luck for a wonky break and a full arm cast. ¬†When Amon finally got his permanent cast and they asked him what color he wanted he requested rainbow which made me cry in the casting room. ¬†They couldn’t do rainbow, but let him pick 3 colors instead of the normal 2 option and his day was made.

While we waited on his permanent cast we made do. ¬†Harper decided we’d all listen to a different musician/band every day of summer. ¬†Names were collected and written on little slips of paper and almost every day she draws a new name, posts it in the kitchen and pulls up a Spotify playlist to match. ¬†Beck, Maroon 5, Drake, Tupac, The Police, Post Malone, Tom Petty, DJ Khaled, Panic At The Disco and a few others have graced our ears so far. ¬†We really like her…and yes, the crazy kid loves romaine lettuce leaves.

We also made a movie list of movies we’ve never seen, but wanted to and then checked them all out at the library. ¬†Currently our library won’t let us check any additional movies out until we return more. ūüôā ¬†So far we’ve marked off 9 movies. ¬†I think we will do this every summer now. ¬†The kids love it.

We got to hang with Hannah and Hilliary.  They both knew and loved Everett and Leo before we ever could so they will forever have a special place in our family and hearts.

Bonus: ¬†They are just the kindest and love our kiddos so well. ¬†They are also totally cool with a sketchy pulled together lunch, ice-cream, sidewalk chalk, Winter obsessing over them and wanting to make a coat out of their skin ūüėČ ¬†Amon scaring them 72 times with his new Spiderman mask and Leo getting over stimulated. ¬†Seriously, they’re gems.

Josh Kelley and the bigs went camping at Long Hunter State Park here in Tennessee. ¬†It’s a 6 mile hike in and a 6 mile hike out and they lived to tell about it. ūüôā ¬†They ate all the Ramen and roasted marshmallows and summer sausage and Mambas their camping hearts desired. ¬†They also didn’t sleep much and came home wiped. ¬†Fun was had by all.

Ice-cream and popsicles are always on heavy rotations when the summer months hit. ¬†We were given the best freeze pops ever from Kroger by some friends and now we cannot quit them. ¬†Hudson even started a freeze pop business and rides his bike down to the park on our street and sells them for .50 cents each. ¬†It’s pretty dang cute. ¬†Solomon helped him make his first $1 by purchasing two himself. ūüôā ¬†They are such trip. ¬†The Nestle Push-Pop variety pack has been a massive hit as well.

¬† And summer also has brought on more sleeping pictures…some of which we have deemed Weekend At Bernies-esque. ¬†I’ll never quit taking these.

¬†We’ve finally figured out a way to keep Amon’s cast semi dry so he can still swim and we’re back into our summer groove. ¬†We’re currently on bottle #2 of sun screen and new bathing suits are already fading a bit. ¬†Summer is our complicated feeling jam. ¬†We’ll make it. ¬†We’ll survive. ¬†And everyone will get a tan along the way. ūüôā

10 Things

1. Easter…I know…was like 6 weeks ago, but nevertheless deserves some documenting. ¬†Let me break it down…it was hard and sad and sucked the life from Josh Kelley and myself. ¬†There you have it. ¬†Gritty grief truth…it was pretty craptastic feeling, but we gave it our best go. ¬†The kids had 4 ¬†Easter egg hunts. ¬†We randomly dyed eggs with a cheap dye kit from Walgreens. ¬†They got more candy than they did at Halloween. ¬†I did not go to church. ¬†I cried a lot. ¬†I especially cried when I pulled Everett’s egg carton out with everyone else’s egg cartons. ¬†I can’t bring myself to get rid of it, so I re-tucked it away again to cry over next year. ¬†It was all hard. ¬†I don’t even know what all to say about it because it feels like such a weird holiday to feel devastated on, but I was a wreck. ¬†Oh and Amon ran out of room in his bag during one egg hunt so he grabbed a collection plate. ¬†Alas.

In other news, Leo loved his first Easter. ¬†He was hilariously sad hunting for eggs because A) He cannot move fast due to how winded he gets and he’s not good at running…hello heart defect and physical therapy. ¬†And B) He had to open each egg immediately upon picking it up. ¬†No gathering as many eggs as quickly as possible for Leo. ¬†Nope. ¬†He must know what is in that egg right away and if it’s edible it must be eaten that very moment as well. ¬†Gah, I love him.

And I cannot remember the last time my kids had “Easter clothes”…pretty sure it was when Harper was one and then again in 2012 when a friend of my Mom’s bought Harper, Hudson, Solomon and Amon all Easter outfits.

But Winter did get fresh Easter hair…rainbow beads and all…so maybe that counts for something.

2. Cuties and weirdos.  I love them.

Please Leo, let’s stand closer to the TV so you can see with your glasses propped on your forehead. ūüôā

3. ¬†Leo has this new obsession with wrapping his blankie around him like a legit old lady. ¬†It’s hilarious and a piece of me wants to get him a bunch of cats and hopes he will do this forever. ¬†He loves his blanket, but it’s been amped up a notch lately and it’s pretty fantastically cute. ¬†My favorite moment was when he was casually riding the elevator.

 

4. ¬†Our nephew Cooper graduated and it was this whole emotional thing in my heart. ¬†He’s this full on man child now and he’s kind of the best. ¬†Coop made Josh Kelley and myself an uncle and aunt and he makes us better people. ¬†He is funny and kind and brilliant and he makes this world so much brighter. ¬†Crab kisses and sleepovers at our ‚Äúcompartment‚ÄĚ and adventures and celebrating every small & big thing and rides home from middle school have now been replaced by food and game nights and confetti cannons and hanging with him & his friends and watching him love our kids. He‚Äôs giant and dreamy and forever our Pepe. ¬†Love that guy so much. ¬†Excited to watch him soar.

5. ¬†Leo had the best IEP meeting to end his year. ¬†I was so impressed by his team and all their goals for him. ¬†I walked out feeling so good about this team of educators and specialists who love our boy something fierce. ¬†It was so nice to sit among a team who ALL had his best interest at heart. ¬†Having so many knowledgeable people in our corner…on our kids‚Äô side…deeply wanting what‚Äôs best for him not just now, but in the long run too…and being kind & loving about it all…well, I cried and told them how encouraged I felt. ¬†They know he’s joy and brilliance and magic and we all know how lucky we are to love him. ¬†Afterwards Leo and I went straight to Five Daughters Bakery to celebrate. ¬†A donna was definitely in order.

6. Anyone want to guess how many times I had this pairing during soccer season? ¬†A lot. ¬†That’s how many. ¬†I’ve never been a soft pretzel kind of gal and then my friend Leah told me about Sonic’s new soft pretzel stick and it’s amazing. ¬†So then I tried the ballpark’s soft pretzels and well, it’s a slippery soft pretzel slope and I fell straight down it. ¬†I was legit sad at the last soccer game of the season and not because I wouldn’t watch my kids play organized sports for a brief period of time, but because I wouldn’t be able to get a pretzel. ¬†Hard times.

7.  Come on.  Josh Kelley is such a great dad and Amon Kelley is the cutest human kitty cat on the planet.

8. ¬†Everett & Winter were 7 months apart. ¬†Last week Winter graduated from pre-school & Everett should have been right there beside her. ¬†They were instant besties…minus the first two weeks where Winter made him cry a lot. ¬†Hahaha. ¬†We‚Äôve felt our sadness really heavy lately. ¬†When Winter walked into the gym with her class and saw the giant rainbow arch I saw her audibly gasp and then immediately search the room for my eyes. ¬†We landed on each other…she pointed & smiled and tears instantly were mine. ¬†I hate that he‚Äôs not here. I hate that she didn‚Äôt have him by her side, but the way she loves him even in death takes my breath away. ¬†Forever grateful for their sweet bond. ¬†Forever grateful for the way she carries him with her. ¬†Sometimes grief is just so overwhelming and despite wanting and trying to focus on the joy of Winter finishing pre-K and starting kindergarten, as I watched her I just continued to cry because all I could see was Everett missing and another little heart that misses her big brother.

9. My friend Lindsey from Bottle of Tears sent me her new Terra Cotta Teardrop Seed Bead Earrings. ¬†When Winter saw them she said, “Mom, they look like upside down rainbows.” ¬†And that’s why Lindsey sent them and because she’s crazy kind. ¬†They are my new favorites because they are gorgeous and so light weight I often forget I’m wearing them. ¬†And there are so many other color combos and I’m already thinking about what a great gift these will make.

And 10. ¬†The last day of school was a doozy. ¬†There were a lot of feelings and a lot of tears from a lot of kids. ¬†Next year is a big year for everyone with new schools and Hudson and Solomon starting middle school. ¬†I know they are going to do awesome, but change is still hard and leaving friends is extra extra hard…even if they still live down the street. ūüôā ¬†Grateful for the hope of a new school year in new places with new people to meet and get to know. ¬†Next year we’ll have a 7th grader, 2 5th graders, a 1st grader, ¬†a kindergartener and 1 in pre-k…in 4 different schools…that all start and end at the same time. ¬†Ask me if Josh Kelley and I are crazy…just ask me! ¬†Big big year, but for now we’re welcoming in summer and catching our summer groove.

A lot of change this school year, but mainly just more hair. ūüėČ

August 2018

May 2019

9 Things

1. ¬†I like her. ¬†She is getting so big and growing so tall. ¬†She measures pretty frequently and last time Josh Kelley said I only had about 1 inch on her. ¬†She will likely be taller than me by summer’s end. ¬†Not too long ago she read The Hate U Give and I’m so glad she read it. ¬†If you asked her, she would likely tell you it is her favorite book. ¬†She’s quick to help with the littles…and sometimes quick to be annoyed by them as well. ūüėČ ¬†She’s witty and fun and asks good questions and she’s always up for a Target trip. ¬†She’s had a babysitting job for several months now, music and art are keys to her heart and every morning when she gets up I’m sure she’s aged by at least 3.5 months. ¬†There’s a reason she’s the leader of this Kelley kid pack and life wouldn’t be as bright without her. ¬†Like I said, I like her.

2. ¬†Soccer season has finished up¬†and we were all sad to see it go. ¬†The big kids are really coming into their own on the field and it’s really fun to watch. ¬†Amon goes all out…all the time…and is 100% here for the snacks and the possibility of nachos from the concession stand. ¬†Winter didn’t play this season because she’s 5 and she’s pretty cool with whatever right now, but she still jumped in on Amon’s warm-ups and insisted on wearing cleats a lot. ¬†Leo ate a lot of snacks. ¬†It’s really fun watching them play and we’re all excited about next season.

3. ¬†Solo time with just Leo and I has come to an end with the start of summer and I’m fairly confident he loves it. ¬†His siblings are his favorite. ¬†Also, Josh gave him a haircut and everyone had very strong feelings about it. ¬†I gasped when I saw him. ¬†Like, GASPED.

4. ¬†These 2!!!! ¬†I just can’t. ¬†So much to say. ¬†So much to love. ¬†So much close sitting for their entire lives.

5. ¬†End of the school year brought on ALL THE THINGS!!!! ¬†Teacher appreciation and ice-cream parties and field trips and class picnics and themed fun days and field day and and and. ¬†All on the exact same day, all within 30 minutes of each other Hudson and Solomon had awards, Harper had awards and Winter had her pre-K program and class picnic. ¬†Josh and I decided to divide and conquer. ¬†It was a really long day and I pushed Leo to his absolute max and in turn he slapped a baby. ¬†Literally, SLAPPED A BABY. ¬†It was mortifying and now a hilarious story to tell. ¬†Leo has sensory issues…does sensory therapy…wears compression shirts…plays with all the sensory toys…weighted blanket…THE WORKS…and he was smiling ear-to-ear when he slapped that baby…poor baby never saw it coming. ¬†When he’s tired he can easily get over stimulated and, well, slap babies. ¬†And I don’t even know how to wrap this story up because now I am just sitting here laughing at the hilariousness of it all. ¬†The end.

¬† 6. ¬†We took Harper, Hudson and Solomon to see Kwame Alexander speak and it was AMAZING!!!!! ¬†He is an incredible author…all the kids have read and loved lots of his books. ¬†We made it a whole night with Taco Bell and ice-cream and Josh and I just can’t get over how much fun our big kids are. ¬†And Kwame Alexendar was so so freakin’ good. ¬†We laughed so much. ¬†I cried. ¬†He is such a good storyteller and we all loved it. ¬†If you get a chance to hear him speak, make it happen!

(Hudson might have a mild obsession with Taco Bell.)

Also, I asked Solomon to take our picture and this is what we got. ¬†I mean, he’s a natural. ¬†Making it my profile pic ASAP.

7. ¬†Winter had a wild few months figuring out some heart stuff. ¬†She has a heart murmur which was discovered over a year ago and deemed “innocent”, but recently has been having some issues. ¬†Our cardiologist discovered a small leak and the girl got to rock a heart rate monitor for over a month. ¬†She’s still got 4 circle outlines on her chest and stomach to prove it. ūüôā ¬†In one month’s time we tore through 3 heart monitors…one of which was accidentally dropped into the toilet. ¬†I mean surely this wasn’t the first time a heart rate monitor had fallen off a 5-year-old and into a toilet. ¬†Surely. ¬†We were happy to see the monitor finally go and to get a good report from our cardiologist. ¬†I’ve had the honor of seeing 4 amazing little hearts on the same screen…each one absolutely incredible in its’ own way.

8. ¬†I see rainbows and hearts a lot. ¬†I don’t know if they’ve always been there and I just never noticed them before or if I’m just looking too hard now and therefore see them more often. ¬†Either way, it’s nice to find them in random moments of our days. ¬†Any little reminder of Everett is a good one. ¬†Miss him so much.

And 9. ¬†Sleeping kids…will this ever get old??!??! ¬†I mean, I just really don’t think it will. ¬†For as long as they are falling asleep all adorable and funny like, I will forever photograph them. ¬†Long live sleeping kiddos.

 

Leo Is Four!

At the end of April Leo turned the big 4!!!! ¬†I remember last year just hoping like crazy we’d get to him in time to celebrate his 3rd birthday together and there we were in China 15 days before Leo turned 3 squeezing his little body in our arms. ¬†Once we got home and set to figuring out all of Leo’s medical needs a new goal came on the scene. ¬†From the beginning his cardiology team wanted to get him to his 4th birthday before his next heart surgery. ¬†For an entire year he’s been in and out of the hospital, been to countless doctor’s appointments and specialists. ¬†He’s worked so hard and grown and gained some weight and as his birthday inched closer my heart jumped back and forth.

(^ Josh Kelley gave Leo a hair cut right before his birthday and Harper & I almost died. ^)

I went from, “We’re almost to his 4th birthday…OMG…we’re going to make it!!!” to “We’re almost to his 4th birthday…OMG…surgery is near!!! (Insert tears and vomit.) ¬†So it was a complicated day, as I’m learning every special day is now…really complicated and muli-faceted.

Of course when celebrating Leo we knew donuts would be in order. ¬†I’m not sure if I’ve shared here how Leo calls donuts “Donnas”. ¬†For a while we had no idea who or what Donna was and when we all figured out he was talking about donuts we just cackled. ¬†We’ve created a lot of stories about Leo and Donna and don’t foresee us stopping anytime soon.

He LOVES LOVES LOVES donuts so a donut birthday party was an easy party theme. ¬†He said “Donna” approximately 1,976 times. ¬†He was obsessed with all the donuts and wanted everyone to know. ¬†He also added “poppy” to his vocabulary for party and it was the cutest. ¬†It was the first time we’ve ever really seen him understand the anticipation of something.

Life has never been as full and busy as it is now with Leo and in the hustle & bustle of school and therapies and doctors visits I completely forgot about his party.  Yet again, Amazon saved the day.

We partied hard with family along with all of Leo’s most favorite foods…donuts, candy, noodles, pizza, chicken nuggets, rolls, blueberries, grapes and raw veggies. ¬†I know, what a random spread, but the birthday boy was beyond thrilled. ¬†I mean, you only turn 4 once.

He absolutely beamed the entire day and had so much fun. ¬†When we all sang happy birthday to him I couldn’t even muster out the words because of tears. ¬†He smiled the biggest smile and was just so proud. ¬†Here we all were gathered around in our small dining room singing to this gorgeous boy with a beautifully broken heart. ¬†I felt immense gratitude to not just have celebrated one birthday with Leo, but now two. ¬†Scrambling to celebrate Everett’s birthday with him before he died gave birthdays a deeper sense of importance than ever before. ¬†Celebrating birthdays with my kids will never be lost on me again. ¬†And this year felt joy-filled and also like a heavy brick for what’s to come. ¬†At the end of Leo’s party there was a rainbow and it just kind of took my breath. ¬†Josh hugged me. ¬†Later that night he said, “That rainbow was pretty nice wasn’t it?!?!” ¬†And I agreed. ¬†We miss Everett and no amount of words will ever accurately capture the depth of it.

(^ Blurry picture, but a keeper because of that donut in his cupholder. ^)

For all the love Leo receives, he gives it back 110%. ¬†I’ve never met a more joyful kiddo. ¬†He’s so complicated and a mystery still in so many ways and oh how I wish we knew what all he was thinking, but his joy is what really flattens us right out. ¬†I often find myself just staring at him because he’s just so dreamy.

For Leo’s actual birthday we kept it pretty chill, but started his day off with more donuts and more confetti. ¬†He went to speech therapy and then enjoyed some more noodles for lunch. ¬†He napped. ūüôā ¬†And played with his new toys. ¬†The boys had a soccer game that night so we ate a concession stand dinner and cheered on our guys. ¬†And Leo was happy with it all.

In the end we all agreed…minus Leo…none of us wanted to eat another donut for a long time.

¬†Oh Leo Lion, what a year you have had. ¬†You have worked so hard and you have learned to trust and love us and we are forever changed, yet again, by your love. ¬†You have brought joy and hope. ¬†You have brought laughter and hugs. ¬†You my love are a straight up delight. ¬†With surgery on the horizon, we promise to always choose hope and to never let it go. ¬†You have made us forever hope holders. ¬†We love you Leo Shuai Lin!!!! ¬†Here’s to at least 96 more birthdays.

Mother’s Day: The Shakedown

The entire week leading up to Mother’s Day was pretty crappy. ¬†We are seeing how this season will never be the same for our family again and how each one of us feel the heaviness and loss of Everett ever near. ¬†I thought a lot about how sometimes we’re told to “choose joy” and how sometimes it’s just not that simple. ¬†Heck, I’ve said those words to myself and written them on key fobs and art pieces, but the truth is sometimes it’s not an option to just “choose joy”. ¬†I can still be grateful and look for those bright spots, but sometimes grief is so absolutely thick that there is no just opting out by choosing joy. ¬†Sometimes choosing joy is BS. ¬†Grief and suffering and sadness are real and heavy and they aren’t wrong. ¬†They’re every much a piece of this life as love, joy and peace are. ¬†We’re not broken or messed up or in need of fixing because we’re grieving or sad. ¬†We often send a message to those in the valleys as if they are “wrong” or need to be “fixed” when grief, suffering and sadness are not sins, but threads in life and they deserve their own time and space.

Some days are defeat and some days are wins. ¬†Lately there is no dodging grief and I’m realizing this will forever be apart of my life because Everett is forever apart of my life. ¬†There is nothing natural about burying your child so why do we think people who are missing their babes have this allotted amount of time to fix themselves up and move on. ¬†I will never move on because suggesting that I even can makes Everett this “idea” and not a real live amazing little human who changed all our hearts forever. ¬†He is lasting. ¬†We will carry him forever with us, always.

Due to how wonky and weird and sad our weeks were leading up to Sunday, I took a lot of steps to make sure I was as prepared as possible for the day. ¬†I knew I didn’t want to ball up all my pain and keep it to myself so I tried turning some of it out into the world in the form of art and words and small gifts. ¬†The #1 thing I learned from my Mom’s death was that even when you have no idea what to do for yourself, you can still do for others. ¬†I’ve lost my mom and my son and our family holds a lot of trauma and loss within first families, so all holidays ring in different now, but Mother’s Day weighs extra heavy on our group. ¬†I knew I had to be very pro-active this year so the whole day wouldn’t burn to the ground.

^ Crazy kind gift from my friend Meg ^

Every year we let our kiddos who are adopted pick out flowers to honor and remember their birth mamas. ¬†Winter gives her flowers to her birth mom and we plant all the boys’ flowers in our yard. ¬†I will never forget crying when we thought Everett’s flowers he had picked out had died in a frost shortly after he had died. ¬†The next morning I woke up to find the potted flowers in our warm bathroom. ¬†Josh Kelley was determined to keep them alive and that winter we had coleus flowering in our bathroom floor.

This year we made our flower shopping a mid-week pick me up for our family instead of waiting until Mother’s Day. ¬†We needed something special to do so we roamed around Lowe’s reading about flowers and plants and making special selections for each of our invaluable birth moms. ¬†We picked up another coleus for Everett’s birth mom too. ¬†I think about them all, but often wonder if some how, some way, she know’s he’s gone, but finally whole and healed.

After snagging our flowers, we grabbed icees and dinner at home. ¬†Then we headed to the cemetery with bikes and scooters and footballs and some fresh white flags for Everett’s tree.

THINGS YOU NEVER SEE COMING IN GRIEF:

We try and put up and change out special things in a tree around Everett’s grave pretty often. ¬†It’s this visual therapeutic thing for Josh Kelley and myself and also our kids. ¬†It’s a reminder for us and a way to visually display Everett. ¬†A stranger can’t look at us and know we are different people…know that our son is dead and buried down the street…know that our other children smile differently in pictures now. ¬†These are things we know…no one can just look at us and know there are really 9 of us, instead of 8 now. ¬†We’re often looking for ways to tell the world of Everett and how there is more to our family.

So when it appeared to us Everett’s colorful lanterns we’d last hung in his tree had been cut down, I felt a tad bit of, ummmm, what shall we call it…RAGE! ¬†Hahahahaha. ¬†I wanted to break something. ¬†While there are all sorts of perfectly good, understandable reasons for why they were all gone, my mind immediately went to anger and assumed our cemetery cut them down. ¬†This is how it shook out in my head:

It was a beautiful sunny day with Everett’s colorful lanterns blowing in the perfect April wind. ¬†Then, from the cemetery office the doors swing open with a cloud of smoke and there emerges an old, tall crotchety business man with dark black hair and top hat scowling with full on angry eyebrows. ¬†The beautiful lanterns catch his eye and immediately consume him¬†with rage. ¬†How dare someone love their little boy and display pretty things in his memory. ¬†He hops in his golf cart from hell and rides over as quick as he can…fire shooting from the tail pipe. (Do golf carts even have tail pipes?!?! ūüôā ) ¬†Upon reaching the tree, we does Keanu Reeves moves from the matrix to scale the tree and slices each colorful lantern from it’s limb with a sinister, devilish “Muhuhahahahahahahaha” laugh as each lantern falls to the ground…in slow motion…no less. ¬†It’s official, he may not be a real guy, but he hates us. ¬†And Everett. ¬†And love. ¬†And I want to slash his golf cart tires.

Seriously. ^ THAT IS ME NOW. ^ ¬†After we hung up the recent white flags I’ve been back every day to make sure they are still up. ¬†I even get nervous as we are approaching the exact point where we can see Everett’s tree from the road and breathe a long sigh of relief each time I see the flags are still there. ¬†I’ve even created a whole verbal assault…which I’ve practiced out loud…alone…in my car…I want to let loose on the mythical old, crotchety man who surely cut down all of Everett’s lanterns out of his pure hatred for life and drive to make billions in the cemetery industry. ¬†Once I can escape my crazy-capades, I laugh, but the feelings are still legit and real. ¬†This is just a piece of my grief.

In preparation for Mother’s Day I also went ahead and made a few requests to my crew. ¬†I didn’t want to set anyone up to be my blame for why my day went terribly awry, if it did. ¬†I laid it out:

*Breakfast: Fruit Loops and sausage & biscuits.

*In between breakfast and lunch we must watch Beonce’s Homecoming.

Sidenote: ¬†IT WAS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!! ¬†Like, I can’t even form all my words for it yet, but I cried and laughed and we talked all about Beonce and Jay-Z and their kiddos and black culture and Destiny’s Child and drum lines and step teams and cool-ass shoes and and and. ¬†THE BEST. ¬†THE END.

*Lunch:  Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with all the fixings and white cheddar Cheetos.

*Dessert:  Coke Floats.

*No Video Games, but I will gladly whip you all in a bunch of games of Gotcha basketball outside.

*Visit Everett’s grave. ¬†You do not have to go. ¬†I am totally fine with going alone. ¬†(And that’s what I ended up doing.)

*Please don’t buy me flowers because I already purchased some flowers to share, but please give me all the sweet homemade cards and drawings.

Sidenote: ¬†Big kids are killer. ¬†I commented on how fun a big colorful round beach towel at Target was a few weeks ago and Harper, Hudson and Solomon all went in on it together for me as a Mother’s Day gift. ¬†I was so surprised and really love they remembered I liked it. ¬†Probably doesn’t hurt they have Wave Pool on the brain…especially Harper.

¬†Like I said, super clear. ¬†I’m the only one who can read my mind, so I let them all know what was going down in it. ¬†We also didn’t go to my Mom’s grave this year…first time since she died. ¬†At first, I felt a little weird about it…almost guilty…but then I realized those were silly feelings to have. ¬†I really wanted the day to be easy and chill and removing lots of moving pieces from it, made it just that. ¬†Simple and chill. ¬†And I still love my Mom. ūüôā

We ended the day with leftovers and a few Shark Tank episodes and a new America’s Funniest Home Videos and me demanding everyone not make dumb faces in a photo with me. ¬†Amon still made lots of dumb faces and I got mad at him. ¬†#reallife ¬†I salvaged 2 photos, but I suppose you only need one, so winning.

We remembered and talked of our amazing birth moms and celebrated each one in the ways we can. ¬†I remembered my Mom and Everett and how motherhood looks different and means something different to each individual…even among our little tribe. ¬†It ended up being a pretty decent day. ¬†This morning Amon told me he had a Mother’s Day trick for me. ¬†He had me stand in the kitchen with my eyes closed facing him and then he flung a big plastic snot rocket at my face knocking my glasses off. ¬†I called him a jerk. ¬†Josh leaned in for a kiss and said, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

It’s Been A Minute

It’s officially May and the last day of school is in exactly 15 days. ¬†I started this blog post 6 days ago and that should attest to my head space right now. ūüôā ¬†Life is currently full of¬†all the end of the year school things and soccer and Leo’s therapies and doctors’ appointments. ¬†The wave pool has been mentioned approximately 47 times so far and NO ONE in our family can actually wait in a reasonably expected cool way for it to re-open. ¬†Harper said and I quote, “I just keep thinking about the wave pool. ¬†Sometimes it’s all I can think about.” ¬†Hahahahahahahaha.

Speaking of the wave pool, I recently wrote a family favorites guide to Nashville for MommyShorts. ¬†You can see all our real, legit Nashville favorites HERE. ¬†I’ll let you guess what made the #1 slot.

 Wave Country ,

We can’t quit you. ¬†See you soon summer lover.

Love, The Kelleys

Leo’s birthday was last last Tuesday…more on that later…and now we will not have another birthday until July. ¬†I love celebrating my kiddo’s birthdays, but 5 celebrations in 3 months was hard this year, so we are welcoming the birthday break. ¬†Plus, Leo is the only person who wants to see, let alone eat another donut for quite some time.

I let this small soap boxey rant fly on my Instagram feed after some really frustrating weeks dealing with IEP shenanigans. ¬†Enjoy! ūüôā

“Lately we‚Äôve been swimming in IEP meetings and communication with our school district. I can‚Äôt tell you how much time I‚Äôve spent trying to speak with and finally getting to speak with all the ‚Äúright‚ÄĚ people to get what‚Äôs best for our kiddos with special needs. I adore our public schooling, I adore our teachers, but I do not adore policies & procedures that make zero sense for our children. I do not adore policies & procedures that simply make things easier on our administration. I do not adore policies & procedures that are biased against lower income parents, guardians and whole families who are busting their asses just to provide the basics needs for their kids…who are not afforded the extra time, access & privilege that‚Äôs needed to fight these policies & procedures so their babies can receive the absolute best education which should be easily available to all. It makes my head spin and my heart ache. It‚Äôs overwhelming and disheartening, but we press on. We continue to raise our voices and love on our teachers and beat on those closed doors and remind all kids just how brilliant they are. This is currently the hill I‚Äôll die on. 😂 ¬†There‚Äôs just so much work to be done. And for all you educators who are working relentlessly on behalf of ALL kids, Bravo!!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Thank you for fighting for what‚Äôs really best for our babes. Wish I could buy you all a drink.”

This season is our season of Everett. ¬†It’s the time of the year that holds all our memories of him and so our family has been pretty off the charts in the emotions department. ¬†So I’m doing what any normal mom does and busying myself with all the important things like tracking how many loads of laundry we’ve done this month, figuring out a good combo of oils for a legit insect repellant and working on my group journal project. ¬†Sometimes I’ll do just about anything to avoid the hard right in front of me.

Sidenote:  I found the most amazing beachy hair wave spray.  I sprayed my freshly washed wet hair down with it this morning and I keep catching myself in any mirrory surface because I am loving my beachy wave hair.

Another sidenote: ¬†I quit wearing deoderant about 5 months ago. ¬†This proclamation makes me laugh. ¬†I went through a pretty intense detox stage wear I smelled strongly of Taco Bell, but then my smell kind of neutralized out. ¬†I can still totally stink at the gym, but I really don’t think I’ll ever go back. ¬†Bonus: ¬†I am loving THIS pit spray. ūüôā

Josh Kelley and I went to the Mumford & Sons concert in March. ¬†We had never seen them in concert despite our best efforts in the past. ¬†This time it happened and I’ve never been to a better concert. ¬†It felt holy and spiritual and special. ¬†I cried a lot. ¬†Their album Delta has deep undertones and so many of them remind me of Everett and his sweet life and death. Several of the songs fling me right back into that hospital room holding his whole body in my arms. ¬†It’s moving and melodic and soothing to my heart.

My friend Meredith’s sweet little girl Ember is having surgery tonight in China. ¬†I cannot get them off my mind and heart. ¬†It’s big and it’s hard and it’s all the hope. ¬†You can read Meredith’s words HERE. ¬†Please think of them. ¬†Please carry them close and pray and hope and love along side them. ¬†Wish I could be there. ¬†Wish I could squeeze her neck and buy her all the coffee. ¬†Let’s go Ember girl.

So many things to pour over. ¬†So many combinations or hard and good. ¬†Leo is finally big enough to wear Everett’s clothes and it’s just that…hard and good. ¬†It’s hard to think about the time that’s passed without him. ¬†How he’ll forever be this amazing little 3…almost 4-year-old…and to think about how much he would have changed and grown by now. ¬†And it’s good that Leo is growing bigger and stronger and that Leo is here. ¬†That we’re together and he can wear these scared little clothes Everett lived life in. ¬†Every morning Everett would go to his basket of clothes and pull out what he wanted to wear. ¬†He was so great and we miss him more and more every single day.

 

I hate when I’m away from this space for too long. ¬†I really miss it. ¬†Trying to make the time to write…to keep up…to carry on. ¬†One of my favorite things to do is to sit down and document these moments. ¬†They are all valuable and I just don’t ever want to forget. ¬†Hoping to be back more regularly. ¬†Fingers crossed.

7 & 12 (Birthday Recaps…Again)

Before I dive into detailing Amon and Harper’s birthdays this year…for my own memories sake…I wanted to let you guys know that my “Contact Laura” button has been down for quite some time…years in fact. ¬†I actually received 2 emails last week stating they had reached out prior through the contact form.¬† That dang form has been jacked for quite a long time. ¬†Our life is full and busy, but I really do reply to emails as quickly as I can. ¬†I will not not reply to an email. ¬†Facebook is a different story because I do not have the app and I only hop on quickly to post blogs and then I’m off again. ¬†FB got pretty toxic for me so I closed my personal account a while back and just manage my business page pretty lightly. ¬†In general I could list quite the lengthy list of issues with my blog, but money is sparse for things of this nature and so I carry on documenting this wild life in a banged up wonky space. ¬†Please know email is always the best method of communicating. ¬†pitterpatterart at gmail dot com¬†

Alright, let’s get to it. ¬†Amon and Harper’s birthday are just a few days apart at the end of March and we partied pretty hard this year. ¬†We do not do parties every year and we actually didn’t do any parties for several years and just did a fun family activity with our little family. ¬†This year Amon really wanted to have a party WITH Harper…a little joint party love. ¬†Harper is a complete sucker for him…always has been…I imagine, always will be…so she kindly obliged to a Spiderman party with her 7-year-old brother. ¬†They have had such a unique bond from the very beginning. ¬†They are both smitten over one another. ¬†The other day in the car Amon handed Harper a piece of candy and she smiled at him. ¬†He smiled really big back and said, “Harper, I like when you smile.” ¬†And that about wraps Harper & Amon up.

They each got their separate actual birthdays to pick and plan fun stuff. ¬†For their birthday breakfasts Amon requested donuts and Harper requested waffles and sausage balls. ¬†Sausage balls are seriously one of Harper’s most favorite foods. ¬†One year I asked her what her favorite part of Christmas was and she replied with, “The sausage balls.” ¬†Forget baby Jesus and presents and special time with family and give the girl some sausage.

There were morning surprise confetti cannons for each of them and I must say, Josh Kelley is getting quite good at the surprise factor. ¬†He startled both of them and they never saw it coming even though they knew it was coming. ūüôā ¬†Amon asked for brownies to take to his classmates and Harper requested fun candy bags to share with her class.

Leo and I brought Amon McDonalds to school to surprise him on his birthday. ¬†He was soooooooo excited and it was too fun eating lunch with him and his little friends. ¬†He also requested Zabys’s for dinner and ice-cream sundaes for his birthday dessert and we 100% obliged. ¬†Birthdays are their days when there’s seriously not much we’ll turn down…minus the requests for Disney World or a quick trip to Ethiopia. ūüôā

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fact that Amon and Leo’s glasses are the most expensive headbands Josh Kelley and I have ever purchased. ¬†EVER!!!!

Amon made random present requests for his birthday, but at the top of his list was a Miles Morales Spiderman suit. ¬†Done & done. ¬†Harper pulled her present card and asked for 12 presents on her 12th birthday. ¬†I loved picking out all the fun little gifts and our leader girl felt so loved and seen. ¬†So far Solomon and Harper are the only ones to cash this request in. ¬†Amon said he’s waiting until he turns 32. ¬†Smart boy.

Harper’s birthday fell on a Friday and their party was Saturday at lunch so Friday night cousins and two of Harper’s besties spent the night and then all just stayed for the party the next day. ¬†There was a Chickfila dinner and ice-cream sundaes and all the treats and tween girl fun!!!! ¬†A blast was had by all and we brought in the big 12 in true celebratory fashion.

And then we partied with family and friends. ¬†Pizza and a candy bar and double cakes…funfetti with rainbow layers and a chocolate with cream cheese frosting. ¬†I mean, we partied hard and it was a really sweet day.

 

(A funny family member turned Amon’s 7 and I never even noticed. Ha.)

My favorite part of the entire party was when we sang happy birthday to the both of them.  They beamed and after we finished Josh shot off another confetti cannon right behind them.  It was so funny and super sweet watching their reactions to the confetti and each other.  Just the literal BEST!!!

THESE TWO!!!! ¬†All of our kids love each other really big and unique and they also fight really hard too and love to annoy one another. ¬†We watch as certain special bonds are formed amongst them and it’s so interesting to watch those relationships grow and form. ¬†Harper and Amon definitely have one of those special bonds. ¬†It surprised us zero that Amon wanted a party with Harper and it surprised us zero that Harper was totally okay with it. ¬†They love each other in a very unique-to-them way and it makes my heart melt into a puddle.

Happy birthday Amon & Harper. ¬†The two of you are so special to our family. ¬†You make us all better and you show us every day how to love and be loved. ¬†We’re privileged to watch you both grow and change and we promise to always take this front row seat as such an honor and cheer you on forever. ¬†We will always be on your team! ¬†You two have made us the luckiest yet again.

Favorites {Round 2}

I hadn’t done a favorite post in a while and now I’m back with my second in just a few weeks. ¬†When I really love something I must share and lately I’ve noticed me loving some more fun things.

#1 Ruby’s Rainbow Socks:

Winter’s favorite socks…hands down. ¬†She wears them all the time and often multiple days in a row. ūüôā ¬†$5 from each pair of socks goes to help provide scholarships for students with Down Syndrome to attend college. ¬†Win after win after win.

#2 Meg’s Rainbow Cups:

Come on now. ¬†Meg just knew…she knew we needed this mug in our life. ¬†I remember the text coming through with sample photos and Meg asking me my favorites. ¬†It was like asking me to choose my favorite child. ūüôā All so gorgeous…all so perfectly rainbow perfect. ¬†And while I do not like coffee…I do love ice-cream from a gorgeous mug.

#3 Wood & Oil’s Diffuser Ring:

I kind of want to buy all my friends one of these rings. ¬†You simply drop a few drops of your favorite oils on the porous stone and it’s like carrying around a small diffuser with you all day. ¬†My kids crack me up because they randomly grab my hand and take a good long whiff.

#4 Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds:

We were all stuck like glue to this read/listen. ¬†We spent countless minutes sitting in our driveway waiting to get out of the car because we just had to hear what was going to happen next. ¬†Seriously had us all on the edge of our seats. ¬†Nearing the end of the last chapter, Hudson, Solomon and I all got out of the car walked straight into the house, grabbed the hard copy and read over each others’ shoulders the ending because we could not wait for the next car ride. ¬†Giant GO GET THIS READ!

#5 McDonalds’ Chocolate Dip Cones:

Exactly what I need on some very emotional days. ¬†Dare I say better than Dairy Queen’s…I dare. ¬†So good. ¬†My favorite dipped cone around.

#6 Winter’s Old Navy Scalloped Bathing Suit:

We wear bathing suits out and our kids won’t stop growing. ¬†I snagged this Old Navy bathing suit for Winter and it’s my favorite bathing suit I’ve every purchased in 12 years of purchasing kiddo bathing suits. ¬†Great quality. ¬†Adorable. ¬†And fits just right in all the areas. ¬†Bonus: ¬†Winter looks bomb in mustard yellow.

#7 KOKEBstudio Print:

This shop is full of amazing prints by an insanely talented Ethiopian artist. ¬†Upon discovering her shop I took weeks to make my final selection. ¬†Winter squealed with delight when she saw it…”She has brown skin and hair like mine.” ¬†Double win. ¬†Definitely will be adding more KOKEBstudio prints to our home.

#8 Jamielizabeth Art Earrings: 

Jaimie sent these as a gift and I love them. ¬†Crazy cute. ¬†Crazy light weight. ¬†And the perfect length. ¬†She also did the absolute kindest thing and etched Everett’s name into the back of them. ¬†Cue all the tears and all the style.

#9 Versify Books:

We have snagged some amazing books including The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles¬†…a fun and funny read¬†and The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander …an incredibly important and valuable read for everyone. ¬†Both are written by black authors and illustrated by black illustrators. ¬†Love any books that allow Solomon, Amon and Winter to see themselves in the text. ¬†Bonus: ¬†We are super excited to go hear Kwame Alexander speak in Nashville soon. ¬†He has several chapter books our big kids loved.

And while I’m sharing about some great books, let me thrown in When Charley Met Emma by Amy Webb . ¬†So lovely. So purposefully beautiful. ¬†Needed for everyone.

#10 Sleeping kid pics.

Ha! ¬†Okay that’s not really a purchasable #10, but I will never get over taking photos of my kiddos sleeping. ¬†Leo is our prime napper now, so I have to take them while I can. ¬†Little sleeping beauties.