8 Things

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

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

My Heart

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

True Colors

The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade

The Last Kids on Earth and the Cosmic Beyond

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

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

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

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

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

and

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aunt Jen’s Valentines ^ …swoon

Amon’s waffles ^

Harper’s strawberry slice ^

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

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

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

*Amazon affiliate links

Chinese New Year 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feeling Embarrassingly Honest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The BIG 10! (Again)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Confetti number tutorial via Amanda Evanston )

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

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

14 Things

Because I’m playing catch up, I present to you my longest random things post ever!!!!

1.  These two are ridiculous.  Winter loves Leo so well, but simultaneously knows exactly what to do to tick him off.  Every afternoon when she gets in the car after preschool she asks me, “So how was Leo’s day?  Did he take a good nap?”  And she always brings him home extra fruit from school because she knows how much he loves fruit.

2.  For Campbell’s 16th birthday party we bought a confetti cannon from Party City.  My friend Ashley told me all about it and knew I needed one in my life.  When Campbell walked in our house we shot it off and it was instant joy for everyone.  I felt this deep sense of satisfaction releasing the confetti into the air.  Jen joked that we needed another one for when Cooper and Isaac arrived late soooooo Josh Kelley ran out and bought another confetti cannon mid party.  When Coop and Isaac walked in the front door late for the party we greeted them with what sounds like a small gun shot and another explosion of confetti.  Later in the party Campbell informed me her friend Alison was coming so we did what only totally normal people do and sent Chad out for yet another confetti cannon.  We had never met Alison and she’d never been to our house, but when she opened our front door we shot off another confetti cannon in her direction.  It was hysterical.  I roared with laughter all three times.  I posted all the videos on my Instagram stories because who wouldn’t want to see unsuspecting late party guests get shot with a confetti cannon.

We are still finding confetti despite our best efforts to clean it all up.  That night when the heat kicked on confetti came blowing up out of the two floor vents in our living room.  I died.  I’ve decided I’m going to buy them in bulk now and keep them on hand for those perfect moments.

3.  I’m training him well.  He LOVES when I bake because he knows he gets to sit right by the mixer and wait patiently to lick any leftover batter.  Salmonella isn’t a real thing right?!?!?!  Ha.

4.  These 3 are a total trip together and they can pretty much talk me into most anything.  Chickfila? Sure.  Fill up 700 water balloons?  Why not.  22 cookies?  Sure.  I’m a sucker, what can I say.  Winter is a full 2 years younger and yet the exact same size and she’s very confident she’s their boss.  Amon sometimes has a major hang up with sharing his bestie, but usually ends up caving and graciously widening his little friend circle to include his little sister.  It’s kind of the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

5.  Sunday nights are usually our best kind of nights.  America’s Funniest Home Videos-4-Ever!!!!

6.  Leo is crazy about our basket of Everett’s photos.  Daily he will look through them studying each photo so intently.  I know it seems so improbable, but I swear he remembers Shuai all on his own.  It’s bizarre and weird and outlandish, but the greatest gift to Josh and myself the way Leo talks about him, studies his photos and picks out pictures of him all around our home all on his own.

7.  Harper and I started running together and it’s been the most fun.  Man, I love big kids.  She wants to do a 5k so we found a training schedule and got started.  On our last lap of each run, we race.  So far she has way more wins than I do…the girl is fast.

8.  I love these photos of Harper, Hudson, Solomon and Amon.  Amon was showing off his muscles and Harper was confirming her little brother’s strength.  Hudson went in for a purple nurple (I can’t explain…google at your own risk…you’ve been warned) and right after I quit snapping pictures Harper gave Amon the biggest wedgie I’ve ever seen.  Solomon casually sat their laughing to himself.  Life is good.

9.  Josh was giving Leo a bath the other night and shortly after he brought the bar of soap in and held it up. Then we all roared with laughter and for the rest of the night Leo’s breath smelled like straight up Dove soap.

10.  The last time Winter had her hair done she got to sit under the dryer for the first time.  It was hilarious.  She kept looking around inside the dryer and asking me if I’ve ever done this too.  She is the absolute best at getting her hair done.  Nothing phases the girl and she’s not tender headed at all which works out fantastically for whoever is braiding her hair.

11.  Instagram is my absolute favorite social media.  I’ve long ditched my personal Facebook account, I rarely hit up Twitter and I could never get on board with SnapChat.  Long live Instagram.  I love it because you can also categorize the photos and stories you share with hashtags.  One of my top favorites:  #hudandsol  It’s the sweetest walk down memory lane of these two boys of mine.

12.  I see this photo and my heart swoons and aches.  Missing our Everett boy every single day.

13.  I want to squeeze Leo into a minimum of one million pieces.  I do not feel like this is too much.

14.  And sometimes a moment is just perfection, the lighting is just right and Hudson’s hair is swooped in just the right direction you absolutely must snap a picture.  He was waiting for Josh and Harper to get home from work and school and he was striking standing there all teenager like.  Afterwards I squeezed his giant man body and made him swear to always love me. 🙂

Gratitude Planner

So first of all, that title, “Gratitude Planner”, it’s only because I needed something to title this post.  I don’t call my planner my gratitude planner and never did…I’m not that fancy…and I thought “a planner where I can stay organized and recount things to be grateful for each day” was a tad lengthy.

Back in October I started looking for my 2019 planner.  I have been using a MochiThings planner over the last several years.  They are simple and minimal in size and I can always find one that fits my needs for the coming year.  So of course, I started browsing through their new 2019 planners to find my match.

I try to be honest about grief and since losing Everett I have struggled with gratefulness.  Obviously I have much to be grateful for.  I take a look around our life and there is goodness at every turn and fold, but grief has been incredibly hard and can easily snuff out the good some days.  Not only did we lose our son, but we lost so much more and everyday into this journey reveals more and more of what we lost.  This is really hard.  It’s hard to process and understand and it’s really hard to find other people who understand as well, so we’ve spent a lot of time feeling very isolated and lonely over the past 18 months. All of these things combined together have made me feel a lot bitter and not so grateful.

In several books I have read on grief they specifically wrote about having to be extremely intentional about gratefulness because their sadness and loss was so powerful.  I can totally see this in myself.  When I started looking for a new planner I wanted two things:

1. A planner that showed each month at a glance

And 2. A planner that provided one page for each day, but wasn’t ginormous in size

When I found my planner it was instant love.  Like I knew we were meant to be together.  It’s been sold out for a while now and I’ve heard from others they’ve actually ordered theirs from out of the country and I was going to share my close contenders, but those are all sold out as well.  So here’s the deal, if you want to do this too you don’t need the same planner I have.  Heck, you don’t even need a planner at all.  Grab any old notebook and you’re set.  Simple and easy.

I’d also had my eye on the small HP Sprocket Printer for some time, but needed to right price.  It prints photos directly from your phone in a small 2×3 size with a sticky back.  I ended up using a Target coupon back in November, but Amazon has it for a great price now too.

Here was my game plan to combat my ever growing ass-hatness and work on refining my gratefulness:

In my new daily planner I would write down things I was grateful for every single day and print a photo from the day to join it.  That’s it.

For me, if I wanted to be grateful I needed to practice it.  My new planner started in December so I started in December and set to creating a habit of gratitude.  Every single day I print one…or two…small photos from our day and write out things I am grateful for.  Sometimes I do this at night before I go to bed.  Sometimes I do this right when a moment happens and I know I don’t want to forget it like when I ran over a squirrel accidentally and the whole car went crazy and it ended up providing some much needed laughter thanks to Hudson and Solomon’s quit wit.  Before I even got out of my car I grabbed my planner and jotted the moment of gratefulness down.  The picture doesn’t always match what I’m grateful for because that seems kind of overwhelming, but I do take photos every single day, so I just pick one from our day and add it in.

I have successfully completed 2 months…December and January…and I can honestly say I can feel a difference.  It’s like my brain is being trained to notice even those tiny minute moments I can be grateful for.  Some times my day is terrible…tears, anger, bad parenting, hateful acting parents and kids, the world must be ending kind of terrible and even on those days I can find something to be grateful for like leftover cake or clean underwear.

So there you have it my fancy pants gratitude planner.  It’s giving me all kinds of good life and I imagine it being something I’d grab if our house ever caught on fire.

Good Things

I always have the best of intentions of staying consistent in this space and then life happens.  I cannot believe I used to be able to post here daily.  That seems like such a long time ago.  I had all these well laid plans for posts and writing more often in here with the new year, but as always, life happens and we have to roll with it.  Last week sweet Leo go pretty sick and ended up spending 4 days in the hospital on oxygen to try and give his body the boost it needed to fight some winter germs.  It seems impossible to keep him well considering he just does not have the reserve the rest of us have and having 5 siblings who all go to school and then come home germs in tow.  He’s back home now and we’re trying to settle back into our routine again.

While we were in the hospital with Leo we figured out he was in the same room as Amon was when he had his open heart surgery.  Talk about a flood of memories.  So thankful for this place and cardiac teams who care and love our kiddos deeply.

We ended 2018 on an absolutely exhausted and emotional note with sadness looming and a scary car wreck that left our van totaled.  Not exactly what we had planned.  We had already been kind of dreading 2019 with Leo’s surgery on the horizon and then, as most families with kiddos with special needs, our medical deductibles starting all over and preparing for more bills to start rolling in.  It’s a stressful time so we went into over drive trying to be grateful and hopeful even though we all were feeling quite the opposite.

So we talked ourselves up and I continued on in my gratefulness journey (more on that later) to try and let clearer hearts and minds prevail.  Some days it’s easier to wallow in the sadness, but it takes a different kind of strength to see all the goodness and choose gratefulness in the midst of the hard.

Just after the new year we headed to Montgomery Bell State Park with Andy, Becky, Meiya and Nia.  This has been an on-again, off-again new year’s trip and we were so excited to go again this year…we were not going to let the wrecked van situation stop us.  Our crew loaded up in Josh’s truck and a rental car and headed out.  We knew this time together would do us some good.

We hiked and swam and ate yummy food and watched movies and stayed up late and made smores and talked about things going on in the world.  The kids played in the woods and got wet feet in January temperatures and I thought about Everett almost the whole time.  On our hike one day the kids searched for heart shaped things and I snapped all the photos.  I love how they each knew why we were looking for those hearts…those little reminder of their brother and cousin.  These crazy awesome kids made my own heart feel seen.

January has carried on just like the rest of the world.  We remembered the day we met Winter for the first time 4 years ago.  It’s a hard, weird day because it represents such loss and such gain.  We had different hopes the night she was brought to our house.  All these people who love her had hoped and worked so hard for reunification and it didn’t pan out.  Now we hope and work so hard at our open adoption with her beautiful birth mom.  I watch them when we’re altogether and I feel like the luckiest women alive.  I am in awe of them both and how strong, resilient and incredible they both are.

Hudson and Solomon started basketball this month which was new to them.  It’s been so fun to watch them play a game they both really enjoy.  When they were little we first pushed baseball, but they both had other plans and for us, it was so important to let them lead in this area.  We want all our kids to try different things and find those things they genuinely really love to do.  Basketball has been one of those and I love watching them love it.  It doesn’t hurt one bit that one of their best friends is on their team too.

We’ve celebrated Aunt Jen turning another year younger and wiser. 😉  Jen lives on our street and is our saving grace often.  Whether watching Leo so we can all go to the movies or gathering up Amazon packages so they’re not rained on or picking up Harper to take her to a friends house when we’re in a jam, she always comes bearing a smile and TicTacs.  We also celebrated Campbell turning 16 and Cooper being on the Coming Home Court his senior year.  OMG time please stop.  These two made us an aunt and uncle.  They were our very first nephew and niece.  I have such precious memories wrapped up in them and I love they both still like to come to our house and hang out and rarely turn down an invitation to game night.

Bonus:  Cooper is not embarrassed when we roll up to his high school carrying signs and acting like fools over how much we love him.  And his friends are just as cool with it too.

Please someone send Winter a personality.  She is zero fun. 🙂

Amon and Leo have been making so much progress in overcoming their mountains.  I look at them in absolute wonder.  My pride cannot be contained.  They work so hard and are stretched outside of their comfort zones daily.  It’s not easy to feel different and it’s definitely not easy to feel different and to keep choosing to smile and move forward while working so damn hard.

Amon has been giving it his all in school and I could have sobbed a river when his teacher sent me this photo accompanied by such kind words about our boy.  Then while Amon was working really hard on his sight words he said, “Mrs. Wooley says I’m on fire.” and then he flashed me his wickedly sweet smile.  Knowing he is so loved by her means more than words could ever convey.

And Leo.  I will never get over watching him in all his therapies.  They are the most physically and mentally exhausting moments of his week and he is pushed so hard because we all know he has it in him.  He huffs and puffs and goes all blue lipped through them all while sporting his grin.  Two weeks ago he worked his shape puzzle all by himself and when I asked him what color the yellow paint was he said, “Yell-low” and then I died from pride.  Could not have been more proud of our guy because I know the work he has put in to do those two things.  Nothing is going to stop these two brave heart warriors.  They’ve got more grit and heart than most of us.

Now Solomon’s birthday is around the corner and I cannot believe February is almost here.  January was gone in a blink.  We’ve got so much to be grateful for.  We’ve got so much to sit in awe of.  We’ve got bright spots everywhere and we’re working hard to see every last one of them.  Here’s to all the good things which surround us, capturing each moment and tucking it away at the end of each day to remind us of just how lucky we indeed are.

10 Things

1. Amon, Everett and Leo sleeping will forever be one of my most favorite things.  They are my heart boys…their hearts work hard…and funny fall-asleepers and I’ll document it forever and ever and ever.

And now I present to you my most favorite sleeping photo.  All the little details in the photo just make me smile.  Miss our boy so much.

2. I adore any little reminder of Everett.  Every single one is never lost on me.  Colorful hearts for our colorful heart boy.

3.  When Hudson and Solomon were little they were always on top of one another.  I’m delighted it has yet to wear off.  I hope they are like this when they are 85 years old.  I hope they are always the best of friends and one another’s person.  They have the most unique bond and I adore watching them.

4.  We’ve shockingly had very little sickness this winter season…knock on wood, but when Hudson wasn’t feeling his best and had some sadness I gladly kept that boy at home.  Time with just two of them is so rare.  He ended up with a simple cold and we welcomed the chill time together and quick bounce back.

5.  Winter gets her hair done every two weeks and in between I touch up and tend to it with moisturizing.  She’s usually really amazing while her hair is being done and does not have a tender head at all.  I was looking through photos on my phone the other day and found these jewels she snapped while I was fixing her hair.  It is an absolute shame this girl has zero personality.

6.  Using scissors is in Leo’s Top 5 Favorite Things To Do.  🙂  He will spend such a long amount of time cutting and it’s crazy good for his fine motor skills.  When I create during the day he grabs his scissors and gets to snipping.

7.  I will have spent 96.3% of my life in a car rider line so I snag lots of pictures while we wait together.  On New Year’s Eve we totaled our van.  It was scary and gave our kids a touch of PTSD, but no one was seriously injured.  Currently we have to split everyone up to get them here and there while we wait to get a new vehicle.  I have been taking Harper to school which is normally Josh’s routine, but I have so enjoyed this time with her and Leo.  Carrider line pictures forever.

Again, please pray for Winter’s personality. 🙂

8.  Amon lost his first tooth and we all praised the Lord because the kid was driving us bonkers about it.  He had another tooth coming in already behind it before the first tooth was ever even out.  Then another tooth started coming in behind his second lose tooth.  We wiggled and jiggled and finally Hudson pulled Amon’s second tooth because the new tooth was already over half way in.  Oh the tooth drama, but he’s now two teeth down and cuter than ever.

   9.  Everyone loves selfies with Leo.

And 10.  Winter and Leo really embody my level of exhaustion.  Hahahahahahaha.  I get a good chuckle out of these pictures every time I see them.  May it give us the power to get to the weekend.