Kindness Advent Year #8

It’s that time again for the Kelley family where we make our way through December doing a little something intentionally kind each day leading up to Christmas.  You can read all about how our Kindness Advent came about right after my Mom died in 2011 plus past posts and ideas HERE.

My most favorite grief advice/quote will forever be:

When your burden is heaviest, you can always lighten a little some other burden.  At the times when you cannot see God, there is still open to you this sacred possibility, to show God; for it is the love and kindness of human hearts through which the divine reality comes home to men, whether they name it or not.  Let this thought, then, stay with you:  there may be times when you cannot find help, but there is no time when you cannot give help.  -George S. Merriam

I will carry this quote around for my whole life.

We usually spend November mulling over all our kind ideas we would like to do each day in December, but this year I temporarily lost our advent envelopes and idea cards we’ve made over the years.  And out of sight meant out of mind.  Friday night Josh Kelley found our advent baggie and over dinner we proceeded to come up with all 25 ideas and set our planning into place.

So here is our official kindness list for 2018:

Hand out stickers to kiddos in stores, share breakfast with a family, giveaway candy canes, give a recipe + the ingredients to someone for dinner, ornament delivery, send mail, donuts for our elementary school, surprise chalk art, load bubble gum machines with quarters, giveaway flowers, sticky notes on lockers at school, cards & treats for our funeral home, cards & treats for our pediatrician’s office, Redbox rental bag, surprise a sweet friend, paint wood slices and leave around town, cards & present for our mailman, cards & present for our trash man, thank yous for our janitorial staff, decorate someone’s front door, notes for our favorite gas station worker, leave encouraging notes on cars, buy someone’s lunch, share Sonic happy hour and do some FaceTime caroling.

We’ve already kicked off the 1st, 2nd and 3rd with sharing fun stickers, a yummy breakfast drop and all the Kelley kids (minus Leo) sharing candy canes with their classmates.

Tomorrow we will carry on with our kindness and do our best to carry it through the end of the month.  If you want to follow along daily I’ll be keeping up with it all in my Instagram stories.

Let’s spread some kindness this month!


I really did not intend to stay away this long.  My friend Amanda’s little boy Toby had open heart surgery almost 3 weeks ago and has been working so hard to get off ECMO ever since.  Honestly it just felt weird and yucky and not right to write about all the random things I had in my head when Toby was struggling so hard.  I remember when Everett was at Mott it was bizarre to me to see and read all the things going on in everyone’s lives when what I felt should happen is for the world to halt right where it was.  So I just took a break.  It was some time I needed.

Toby is still on ECMO, but a lesser form.  He is making steps forward, but still needs all our hopes and prayers.  His heart function is good, but his little lungs still need some time.  I think about Toby and his precious family (Amanda & Meredith) every single day.  I so desperately want them to walk out of that hospital all together.  For updates and ways to pray check out Amanda’s IG feed.

(Meredith’s pic ^)

Life has felt weirdly hard and sad lately.  The holiday season is always funky feeling without Everett.  We’ve been carrying on doing our thing the best we can.  Leo and I got to have lunch with Hilliary and Jessica recently which was insanely nice.  Right after we got to Everett in China I will never forget sitting in our Zhengzhou hotel and reading the kindest message from Hilliary.  She had found me on facebook and I sobbed over her loving words for our boy and us.  She’s also the one who shared with us about Leo so we have been deeply connected ever since.  I will hang tight to those who are not afraid to say Everett’s name and ask those tough questions and don’t run from my answers.

I’ve been working some over the past few weeks.  Momentum came from the stack of medical bills we had going on.  Ha.  I suppose that will do it, but it was crazy nice to create and fill MY SHOP twice.  To everyone who purchased items…THANK YOU…we are beyond grateful for your support.  There are a few canvases still available in MY SHOP if anyone is interested or looking for a sweet Christmas gift.   My stationery and Online Bible Journaling Class are on sale as well.

Hudson, Solomon & Amon were in our schools’ Veteran’s Day program this year.  Our elementary school does a program every single year and has for the last 17 years.  I have actually never attended, but with 3 of our boys having parts I knew this was my year.  Amon could not wait for me to watch him sing You’re a Grand Old Flag and Hudson and Solomon had speaking parts as local Navy and Marine soldiers.  There was honor and sweetness and sentiments and cute kids singing and all the tears.

November held World Adoption Day…which kind of feels weird in general.  This year we followed suit with one of my favorite IG feeds Kindred + Co instead of drawing smiley faces on our hands we chose our own personal symbol.  There should be 9 hands in our photo.  Some days the grief and loss that fills each of us and each child’s story out weighs the joy and goodness.  Our kids have experienced great loss and trauma and some days we feel the physical weight of it all.  There are more questions than answers and I wish I could be every answer they need.  So we look for the good…the bright spots…the pinholes of light.  They are always there.  Brave birth parents and brave kids shine the brightest.  Everett’s light carried within ours hearts always.  We may not be smiley faces this year, but we are colorful love.  These 7 kiddos will always be my greatest honor.

I just adore anytime our niece Campbell gets to do everyday normal things with us.  She went with Harper and I to run some errands the other day and she simply makes everything that much more fun.  She makes me excited to have teenagers because I think teenagers are pretty great.  She adds humor and weirdness and enjoyment and laughter to everything. 🙂  Campbell is one of the special ones.

The 20th marked 7 years since we lost my mom.  I still think about her everyday and how she would just be over-the-moon about all her grandkids.  She was an amazing Mom, but she was an outstanding Grammy…I think it was her greatest joy.  I miss her a lot.  I miss having a parent and being someone’s daughter.  Her hugs were top notch and I definitely got my hug skillz from her.  She made you feel seen and special even shortly after meeting her for the first time.  It was her gift and she shared it well.  She taught me the importance of the little things like making birthday desserts for my kids, sending mail, noticing that perfect little something for just that one person, the importance of good ice-cream and that laughter is key.  7 years feels far too long and I often think about her and Everett together.  Miss them both fiercely.

And we’ve been soaking up sweet Leo.  Our days are filled with all his appointments and I will always know it is an honor to advocate and fight for what is best for him and all our kids.  Every day I catch myself staring at him all googly lovey eyed.  I’m so thankful he’s here and each day is an undeserved gift.  He makes us better.

Blogging is out, but it is one of my greatest loves even still.  I hope I’m still sitting here pecking away at these keys long after my hair turns grey.  Thanks again for those of you who are sticking around for my rambles.  Means the world.

6 Months With Leo

I had every intention to post this when it was right at our 6 month marker with Leo, but we’re actually closer to that 7 month marker now.  Alas.  We became family all over again 6 months ago and Leo has indeed brought joy and love to our aching hearts.  6 months ago we all piled into a bustling, busy room quickly scanning for our Leo…our brave hearted lion boy.  It was this beautifully hard moment and trip having done the exact same with Everett just 14 months prior.  We carried Everett in our hearts and looked for rainbows everywhere.

It has been 6 months of working to figure out the most gorgeous mystery that is our Leo Shuai Lin.  We are slowly finally finding out some of the ways to best help him and you better believe we are cheering and championing along side him.  He is the bravest boy and we are insanely proud of him and all his hard work.

Leo currently sees 5 specialists.  I am always thrilled to remove a specialist from our list, but I think we’re going to hold steady at 5 for a while.  Leo does physical, occupational and sensory therapy weekly and we started speech therapy just last week.  While we have been waiting for his speech therapy to get started we are using a wonderful program called GemIIni Learning.  I have been super pleased with it and Leo has picked up extra signs and even started attempting to say more words.

We are doing more sign language than we did with Amon and Leo is like a sponge for it.  The kid is definitely not lacking in his desire to communicate he just needs the tools.  He has about twenty-five signs and we are trying to regularly add to that.  He’s also babbling more which was not the case a few months ago.

His special little heart is always at the forefront of everything we do.  With colder months upon us we see even more so how his heart affects his body.  We’re going in again for another heart procedure soon so his team can try and figure out exactly what he needs and how to best go about it.  Leo does need heart surgery, but right now we are waiting patiently for his team to gather every bit of information they can and hash out all the details and timeframes.

Sleep has been the most consistent issue to his adjustment, but thanks to some cedarwood he’s been sleeping like a champ and we might buy cedarwood stock.  Seriously though, I’m probably going to run cedarwood in his room until he’s an adult.  Also I’m fully aware it might have just been a coincidence he started sleeping on is own, but Josh Kelley and I are not taking any risks.  Cedarwood-4-Ever!

His current favorites:  Driving our Powerwheels car, his backpack, telling everyone in a store “hi” and then “bye”, waving, ALL THE FOODS, treats, his blankie, Josh, all of his siblings, swinging, being outside, Icees, snuggling, bath time, sitting on the counter, vacuuming, looking through Everett’s photos, sneaking to play on the iPad, helping do anything, Elmo and pretty confident I’m his BFF.

My grief for my mom comes and goes still, but lately I’ve been thinking how crazy she would have been over Leo.  I wish so much she’d been able to meet Amon, Everett, Winter & Leo.  I know she would have been nuts for all 4 of them.

Leo has come crazy far in bonding & attachment and trusting & loving us and we’re beyond honored to be his.  No doubt this kid has been deeply loved and cared for his whole life.  We’re forever grateful for each of this unique and amazing families who loved him before we ever could.  I think about his birth parents…especially his birth mom…almost every day.  I long for them to know how loved and cherished he is and that we are doing our best for his special heart.

Leo is joy.  Loads and loads of joy and we absolutely needed him far more than he ever needed us.  I’ll spend my whole life telling anyone who will listen, our kids change us for the better.  They are prized and loved and a gift we did not deserve.  They make us better and will always be my greatest honor.

Nine Things

1. My friend Meredith lost another beautiful babe over the weekend.  When I woke to her text about precious Amos my heart sank.  I’ll never understand our world.  I just do not get it and it’s incredibly hard to process and think through…and I’ve only lost one child.  I cannot imagine losing multiple babies.  And my words are so limited on what I even feel I can say because what do you say!  So I tell her over and over again how sorry I am.  How this isn’t right.  This isn’t how it’s suppose to be.  Sweet Amos should be here and he should be among her other kids.  When I read THIS article about Morning Star’s Little House of Brave, it made me all teary eyed.  It highlights all the brave souls who embody and live and fight for hope.  An important read.

2. Amon has his first loose tooth and we are never going to hear the end of it.  Upon finding the tooth, I promptly took photos of his mouth because I am a sentimental sap and I know soon his smile will be all snaggle toothy and sweet.  Harper has officially lost all her teeth and when they told me I was like, “WHAAATTT?!?!?!”  Time you are a straight up ass hat.

3.  Hudson and Solomon.  Solomon and Hudson.  That’s just the way it’s suppose to be.  We imagine them being old men together and reading the newspaper at Cracker Barrel every Saturday morning.  I absolutely adore them.  And with the introduction to chess their old man game has become stronger.

4. I recently went to an oil class with Jen and Campbell.  I don’t even know who I am anymore you guys. 🙂  Top 2 highlights: 1) Campbell driving us around like we’re old ladies.  And 2) The discovery of the Christmas Spirit oil.  What the actual what?!?!  Have any of you smelled it?!?!  Crazy good.  The lady who taught the class had a room spray in her bathroom made with it and I sprayed my entire body down.  Zero shame.  Then I immediately added it to my order and am anxiously awaiting this little bottle of Christmas heaven to arrive.

5.  Leo is madly in love with his backpack.  He rediscovered it recently and has not quit wearing it.  He says “pack pack” and does the sign for backpack.  It’s maybe the cutest thing ever.  Solomon put some books in it and now he loves it even more.  I know the pressure of the weight feels good to his little body. My favorite comment so far is that it looks like he’s wearing a parachute.  Hahahahaha.  Love that boy to smithereens.

6.  Harper is getting giant.  We are seriously looking into methods of stunting her growth. 🙂  Currently she’s only about 2 inches shorter than me.  We can share shirts and shoes and deodorant and face wash.  Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!  Sometimes I panic on the inside when I look at her and how big she is.  Then she opens her mouth and I remember she’s going to be just fine.  We so enjoy her funny quirky tween personality and I’m feeling like the best is yet to come.

7.  Whelp, apparently I shared something about each of the kids, so I’ll throw Winter in for good measure.  Where do I even start with Ms. Winter?!?!?!  She keeps us laughing constantly…the kid is not lacking in personality AT ALL!!!!!

A few funny Winter sayings:

1) Josh asked her recently what she wanted to be when she grew up.  Straight faced she looked at him and confidently said, “A woman.”

2) All birthdays are “burst days” to Winter.  We laugh that is inevitably how she entered this world.  Winter can only burst onto scenes.  It’s the Winter way.

3) Someone passed gas in our car the other day…they shall remain nameless 🙂 … Winter proclaimed with a twinge of anger in her voice, “Your poots make me want to barf…or die.”

She also hands out compliments like candy on Halloween.  She asks Josh every single day how his day at work was.  And she tells me I’m the best mom ever.  This girl.  What would we do without her.

8.  We’re always looking for Everett reminders.  Always.  Even in chicken nuggets.  Another day closer.

And 9.  Josh Kelley took a fishing trip recently and while we were sad to see him go, we were also so excited for him to go.  Josh gives and gives and gives of himself.  He rarely gets away to do something fun and enjoyable so any chance that crosses his path I push and encourage him to go.  He so deserved a small break and some fun.  Loved him getting time fly fishing with his dad and Andy.  Bonus:  The cute pictures!!!

All Things Fall

It’s been a minute since I’ve been able to sit down and type out some words.  We’ve just been hanging on and trying to soak up this season of slow/full.  Fall is maybe my most favorite time.  Ask me again in the summer when we’re all tan and hanging at the wave pool every chance we get and I might have a different answer.  This time before full on winter hits, feels slow and steady and all balmy…minus all the doctors’ appointments. 🙂  It’s a super low key time for our family…almost zero commitments…soup for dinner like it’s our job…all the seasonal movies and books…a steady flow of baked goods…house shoes officially out and upon my feet shortly after entering the house.

Fall also feels deeply sad because this is the time of year we never got to experience with Everett.  I think about him all the time and the things he would have loved and the things we so desperately wanted to experience with him.  It’s been an unending season of tears and I’m wondering when they will end…when will everything stop feeling so hard without him.  We just keep doing what we can and trying our best to honor his sweet little life and keep his fire burning in our hearts and our home.  This year it looked like rainbow painted pumpkins coupled with our deep love for our FuShuai.

Just within the last week it finally feels like legit fall in Tennessee and the leaves have finally started to turn.  All the kids’ summer clothes have been donated or put away for a younger sibling and all that’s left are all the long sleeves and pants.  You can now regularly find Amon hidden soaking up the heat from our floor vents.  He is our resident cat.  And Leo insists on wearing his coat, hat and backpack almost every time the kid leaves the house.

Winter, Leo, my niece Nia, Aunt Becky and I did our obligatory trip to a pumpkin patch with Winter’s preschool class.  We made the drive, learned how pumpkins grew, saw the animals, took trips down the giant slide and picked our pumpkins before the rain settled in and ushered us all home earlier than we’d planned.  But we did it.  And it made me feel a tad more accomplished than I did when we arrived.

We bought our pumpkins, gutted them and carved them with neighborhood friends.  Winter, Amon and Andrew drew out what their jack-o-lanterns needed to look like and Josh and I set out with knives in hand to make their jack-o-lanter face dreams come true.  Leo stirred up pumpkin guts and then proceeded to fling them all over our table and dining room floor.  Josh washed, dried, salted and baked a giant batch of pumpkin seeds and in two days tops they had all been consumed.

Some costumes were chosen early, some just days before.  I made Harper’s life by finding Leo a small pirate costume so they could be pirates together.  I wish you could have heard her upon seeing him all dressed up.  It’s love with those two…big giant googly-eyed love.  We trunker-treated with friends and family before Halloween even arrived.  The kids played games and ate way too much candy and Winter insisted on waiting through a line of other kids to get her face painted with a rainbow.  And of course she did.  I expect nothing less from her and her love for Everett.

Last year we started a new tradition of a fun dinner Halloween night.  It was our saddest Halloween and we all needed a pick-me-up.  Traditions can be born at anytime and remind us of harder times and pinholes of light in the form of fun paper plates, marshmallow pumpkins and eyeball ice cubes.

 Six kids X a bazillion pieces of candy meant we really didn’t even need to go trick-or-treating, but Josh Kelley insisted our kids still needed to knock on some doors come Halloween.  We drove down our street and parked and then walked or skateboarded down a few neighborhood streets increasing our Halloween candy intake by far too much.  Winter and Amon and the crunching of leaves beneath their fast moving feet led the way.  After one house Winter got emotional and cried about missing Everett.  She then shared with me she thought he would have been the orange or black Power Ranger with her and Amon if he was here with us.  Again with that love.  It’s her most powerful gift.  And with warmer weather surprising us our night ended with sweaty half dressed kiddos and our living room floor covered in their piles of candy.

Promptly after Halloween we took down Halloween decorations and I pulled out the kids Thanksgiving art.  Turkeys and scarecrows.  This past weekend Josh went ahead and put up his twinkle icicle lights on our back porch.  Our calendar is already marked for what weekends the house Christmas lights will go up and then our Christmas tree.  It’s Josh’s most favorite time of the year.  He doesn’t ask for much so we’ll all happily oblige and take part in his Clark Griswold-ness and love every minute of it.

I wanted to say thank you for all the kind comments, emails and texts on my “Where I Am” post.  You guys are always the kindest and I deeply appreciate that.  Essentially this space is like our family scrapbook with a few recipes and cuss words thrown in the mix. 🙂  But it’s always nice to know someone else out there in this wild, beautifully hard world can relate as well.  Please know you have my sincerist gratitude.

Some New Favorites

Last week the kids were on fall break and we fall breaked pretty hard.  There was a lot of chill and not one doctor’s appointment and we had big plans like watching movies, eating all the snacks, going to the zoo and enjoying the newly found Tennessee fall and that about wraps it up.  🙂  It was restful and good.

I like to share here when I find something that is just really great.  A sure fire favorite and I’ve been collecting several for a post.  If I share it in this space it means I genuinely really love a product or company or recipe, etc.  No ads here, just me and my own personal opinion.  Let’s begin.

Blended Designs:  I found this company a while back and started following along on Instagram.  They are amazing.  Representation of all cultures and races is so insanely important and I love what Blended Designs is doing.  I knew they were releasing the “Riley” backpack at some point and Amon has been carrying the same backpack since pre-k 3 and was in need of a new bag.  I waited patiently and the day they released Riley I bought it for Amon.  He was the absolute cutest thing ever receiving it.  It was big giant love and the backpack quality is amazing.  It is thick and durable and I have no doubt it will keep up with Amon’s energy and on-the-go-ness over the years.  A round of applause for Blended Designs.

Canvas People:  We have our photos taken by our friend Cheyenne every year 2-3 times.  It’s just really important to me so I always get on her calendar ahead of time.  We have been working on the entry room to our home since Harper was around 3.  I did not print these all at once, but have one from each photo session with Cheyenne printed and add it to the room.  I get all our canvases printed at Canvas People and I always get an amazing deal by being on their email list.  If you need canvases printed for a cheaper price, but still good quality, they are your peeps!

Lavender, Cedarwood and Thieves:  I rarely talk about it, but we’ve been using oils since around January of this year.  I laugh because desperate times, call for desperate measures.  I was always very anti-oils.  Never say never. 🙂

In January our house was so sad.  Everyone was down and couldn’t seem to pull from the funk.  I started trying everything.  I overhauled our entire house and even bought an oil kit to try and lift the mood of our home.  In the midst of it all I really started seeing the benefit of using some oils, but still recognize that they don’t all work for everyone…not even me.

Leo came home and struggled hard with sleep.  Josh Kelley and I were straight up zombies.  We tried everything known to man to make the kid sleep.  I also oiled the boy up with lavender and 100 different oil blends and still nothing.  He just couldn’t sleep.  I’d pretty much given up and decided he’d at least be sleeping by the time he went to college.  Then I read about cedarwood.  I ordered it, added it to the boys’ diffuser coupled with lavender and thieves and YOU GUYS!!!  Leo slept through the night.  So I kept doing it every night…and still am…and he keeps sleeping through the night.  Now maybe it was a fluke, but in case it isn’t I will be using cedarwood for the rest of our lives. 🙂  In no way do I think this works for everyone, but wanted to share in case there’s someone out there who needs some sleep hope.  I do kind of sell them…I mean, I am a consultant, but don’t push it at all, but if you need some oils I can hook you up or if you have any questions you can email me at pitterpatterart at gmail dot com 

The Grillshack:  Nashville people this ones for you.  My friend Lindsey who runs Bottle of Tears recently asked Leo and I to join her for lunch.  She narrowed it down to a few new burger joints neither of us had tried and we finally landed on The Grillshack!  Oh my freakin’ goodness!!!!  The best burger I’ve had in a while.  The location is kind of crazy.  When you get there you look around and think, “Am I here?!?!”, but the parking is awesome and that’s a huge plus for Nashville.  The seating is cute and simple and the food is unreal.  Total recommendation.

And being with Lindsey topped it off.  I’ll throw in her company Bottle of Tears as a fave too, but it’s been one of mine for a while now…not a newbie.  If you’re looking for a way to comfort a friend, show them you are there in the midst of their darkness or just want to remind a friend you love them her shop literally has it all and everything is ridiculously cool and not cheesy at all.  Check her shop out.  Crazy proud she’s my friend.

Pride Socks + Ruby’s Rainbow:  When I saw that Pride Socks had partnered with Ruby’s Rainbow I knew the Kelley kids needed some new socks.  Rainbows will never not remind us of Everett.  Never.  Ruby’s Rainbow is amazing!!!!  I have fallen completely in love with their vision and desire to help individuals with down syndrome achieve higher education.  An easy follow and you’re sure to be completely smitten.  THESE socks were designed by Ruby herself and of course Harper & Winter needed a pair.  $5 from every pair goes to Ruby’s Rainbow.

Publix Flu Shot:  My friend Amanda shared this little tid bit of flu shot information and I loaded up the kids and headed in for shots right away.  For every flu shot you receive at Publix they will give you a $10 gift card.  They take insurance…I looked up ours on their website before we went…and I went ahead and filled out everyone’s paper I printed from their website ahead of time too.  All Kelley’s got shots…minus Leo because they only do shots for ages 4 and up…and we made $70 off the whole shebang.  Granted two children did semi lose their minds when the nice man reached over the 1/2 partitioned door with their shots loaded and ready to go.  I might have had to wedge them in between my body and the door while holding their arm still.  Hahahahaha.  There was some drama and some tears and when it was over with another family waiting gave me a small round of applause.  Winning.

 The Ministry of Ordinary Places:  My friend Shannan sent me her new book along with a rainbow mug and then I sobbed my eyeballs out.  When anyone remembers Everett it makes me feel lighter even for just a second.  To know we aren’t the only ones thinking of him all the time and trying to keep his little memory alive, well, it’s all the life givingness.  And that’s what her package did for me on a random Saturday.  I’ve been reading through it and have a lot of feelings and want to wait until I completely finish to share, but let’s just say if you aren’t exactly sure of your feelings about God right now…cough, cough…this book is still crazy good.  And it will make you think and breath and it will make you feel less lonely.  Order it and read it and I know you won’t be sorry!

  Bunch O Balloons :  Want to feel like a total kick ass parent or grandparent or aunt or uncle or godparent, whatever it may be.  GET THESE FOR YOUR KIDS!!!

Oh hey kids, want to have a water balloon fight?!?!  Duh!  Let me fill up 770 balloons for you in just a few minutes instead of a week and a half.  Why yes, yes your mom is kick ass.  Thanks for pointing it out.  You’re welcome.

Whoever invented these is surely rolling in all the monies and I for one, am eternally thankful.

Mochi Things’ Daily Planner:  I recently received my 2019 planner and I am dead with delight.  I wanted a planner that not only showed the entire month at a glance, but also had a page for each day and THIS PLANNER had all my dreams rolled into a small, light and compact book.  It’s planner love.  My goal is to print a small 2×3 photo for every day next year and attach it to the day.  At the end of 2019 I’ll have a sweet little memory book of another year in the Kelley home.

And lastly Creamy White Chicken Chili, Bacon Cheeseburger Soup & Chicken Bacon Ranch Casserole: I love when I try a new recipe and it’s an instant new favorite.  Marcie shared these with me and they were crowd pleasers.  They are super delcious and great for fall and winter weather.  They are keto recipes, but our family is not on the keto diet.  For the white chicken chili I actually doubled it the second time I made it because there was zero leftovers the first time around.  We threw in tortilla chips.  The bacon cheeseburger soup is soooooo good and creamy and homey.  And the chicken bacon ranch casserole was devoured.  The second time we put it over a bed of rice to stretch it a bit further.  Crazy delicious new recipes in our meal rotation.  Try these and enjoy!

Sidenote: I subbed almond milk in whenever heavy cream was needed and it totally worked.  Dairy is not Hudson’s friend in large doses so I made cuts where I could.  I also added more broth in places and went lighter on cheese and cream cheese and used a dairy free ranch.  Still crazy delicious!

Where I Am

It’s been almost 15 months since Everett died and every morning I wake up thinking about him and every night I go to sleep thinking about him.  This week I hugged one kiddo while they cried through the sadness of missing him and watched as another one came close and wrapped their arms around the both of us.  With another child I had to have an in-depth conversation about what exactly being “brain dead” means.  I fielded questions about heaven and what heaven may be like for Everett.  I also held a kiddo in my arms as they absolutely sobbed for Everett and their birthparents.

All seven of our children have experienced loss and trauma.  We battle not only grief from losing our son and brother, but also the grief and loss surrounding birth families and beginnings Josh Kelley and I were not present for.  The questions and unknowns are big and hard and I’d give anything to be the answers they need, but I’m not.  So we cry together and we promise them we’re doing the best we can and we talk through all the things and we give lots of hugs and kisses and usually the only time I pray is right there in those desperate moments.  I fling prayers out and tell God I sure hope He’s real because I have no clue what we’re doing or how we’re going to make it.  It’s going to have to be Him.

I miss Everett something fierce.  I cannot even begin to give words to it.  There are none which would accurately encompass or describe the depth of how we miss him and long for him back.  Just today I found myself talking out loud to myself about him as I walked around the house gathering laundry to wash.  I reminded myself of funny things he did and said, I reminded myself Josh Kelley and I made the best decision with the information we had, I reminded myself of the letter from his surgeon explaining the complexity of his case and the urgency and I reminded myself of what a gift 143 days with Everett was and that 6 other beautiful, resilent children are still here.  I’m beginning to undestand that saying Josh and I are the luckiest is actually an understatement.  Our kids make us better and stronger and braver.  They push us forward and we’re so undeserving of them.  They are my greatest honor.

Right now I feel like I’m stuck.  Not only did the world plow forward after Everett died, but it continues to do so when I feel like I’m not going anywhere.  I feel like everyone outside our home is moving forward and we are being left behind.  Grief isolates and makes you feel lonely.  I’ve noticed I’m not as good at conversing with others anymore.  I’ve noticed I care less and less about certain things.  I’ve noticed I’m more okay with staying home and being accepting of the isolation.  I’ve noticed when bridges start to burn I just turn around and walk  away instead of grabbing a bucket of water.  I’m too exhausted…physically, emotionally, mentally and I don’t even know if I can say spiritually, but I’ll throw it in for good measure.  I feel like every day just moving through our day has to be good enough.

We have children with special needs and right now that is taking up so much mental, emotional and physical space.  My head is filled to the brim and anxiety can easily sink in between any of the tiny cracks of space.  We’ve got meetings at school and doctor’s appointments scheduled like crazy.  I’m seeing how grief has taken a major toll on my own body the past 15 months and never in my life have I tried so many over the counter, prescription, alternative healing, hippie voodoo medications in my life.  I just need a medical professional to look me in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry your son died.  This sucks and your body has been put through hell this last year.  It will get better.”

I spend far too much time combing over medical bills and hashing things out with our health insurance and all the billing departments.  I keep thinking how I need to work…how I want to work and create again…and then I wonder when I would actually do so.  Our days are filled and I’m not sure the time or space is actually there, but what I know is that I will never stop advocating and fighting for what our kids need.  It is my privilege to fight on their behalf and to make sure they are receiving all the help and assistance they may need.  They deserve the best…all kiddos do.

Leo has finally started really sleeping through the night again and I am so hesitant to even type those words for fear of jinxing it.  You should hear Josh Kelley and myself try and talk about it without really talking about it.

JK:  Did you sleep okay last night?

Me: Yeah.  Did You?

JK: Yeah.  (Slight shift in his eyes)

Me:  (Semi smirk smile)

The End.

Neither one of us dares not utter many more words than those because we do not want to take that risk and become sleep deprived zombies once again.  Sleeping is nice.

Everyday I try and figure out Everett’s death and always end up sorely disappointed in the fact that I cannot figure it out…yet again.  I just don’t get it.  And I want to.  I want to see the reasons and the whys and then maybe my mind would quit running.  Maybe it would lend more to my healing and yet I know I will likely never know.  And when I think about sending Leo in for surgery it feels absolutely debilitating.  I cannot let my mind sit there longer than a second before I feel my chest tighten, my stomach feel all vomitty and my blood pressure start to sky rocket.  I try and avoid all conversations about it because tears are inevitable.

I guess I just needed to write out some feelings tonight.  It hasn’t been an easy week and grief is never tidy and I really try and be an honest person.  15 months might seem like a long time to some, but for those in the thick, darkness of grief it’s so brief…a blink of the eyes.  It feels like Everett’s death wrecked so much and we’re still trying to figure out how to piece it all back together the best way we can.  Everyday we get up and move forward.  Every day we take it one step at a time trying to simply do the next right thing.  Every day we remind each other of all the goodness in our lives and the brave, strong love our family is full of.  Every day we choose to live in a way that honors sweet Everett’s life and keep his little memory alive.  Everyday we choose hope.  Again and again and again. And that is good enough.

Hudson Is 10!

At the end of September we ushered our second kiddo into double digits.  The big 10 is so sweet and sentimental to me and celebrating Hudson turning this awesome age was a delight.  He had been counting down this day for well over a month.  He created his own calendar countdown and every morning marked each day off as his special day neared.

His birthday fell on a Saturday and was full of cinnamon rolls and bacon for breakfast, Taco Bell for lunch, Icees for a fun afternoon treat and grilled hamburgers and Funfetti cupcakes for dinner.  Some neighborhood friends came over to skateboard, play football and video games and hang out and his day was easily complete.  We broke out the cupcakes and Twin Snakes…google and then eat if you are a person who likes candy…drew on the sidewalk and soaked up a gorgeous day while they were here.

Josh Kelley and Hudson’s birthdays are exactly one week apart.  Last year’s birthdays sucked!  Big time!  Everett dying makes everything feel harder, birthdays included.  This year after we sang happy birthday to Hudson over a pile of cinnamon rolls, he went and sat on the couch with the saddest face.   I asked what was wrong, tears filled his eyes and he said, “I just miss him.”  We talked again about how special days are even harder because we’re all thinking about how Shuai should be here with us.  It’s something we all think about all the time.  I really wanted Josh and Hudson to have some fun this year and they both love to roller skate so we decided to have a skate party in celebration of them both the day following Hudson’s actual birthday.

We made tiny sandwiches, brought in bags of chips, a bowl of fruit and sausage balls and pealed the plastic off a cheap-o veggie tray knowing full well most of it would be leftover. 🙂  Hudson also asked for all the Airhead candies and a Little Debbie Zebra Cake birthday cake.

Insert backstory:  When discussing what kind of desert he would like for the party he asked if I’d heard of Zebra Cakes.  Yes child, yes I have.  Last year in his 3rd grade class his teacher shared Little Debbie Zebra Cakes with the entire class and Hudson said and I quote, “I haven’t quit thinking about how good they were.”  This is my child.  I partially felt mortified I had never provided him with the opportunity to eat a Zebra Cake, but also super thrilled with his choice of crazy easy birthday cake.  When the birthday person is making their food plan I always say, “Ask and you shall receive.” 🙂

It was the most fun birthday party EVER!!!!!  Josh and I actually have no idea what our children did during the 2 hour party.  Where was Leo?  We have no idea.  Hahahahaha.  All we knew is we were wearing roller skates and all of our roller skating memories and fun vibes came coursing back through our bodies and we could not be stopped out on that roller rink.  I’m not sure either one of us have smiled and laughed as much as we did that day since Everett died.  In fact, we declared that our next date night would be at the 21+ adult skate night.  Yes, this is a real thing and Josh and I plan to be in attendance.

The kids had a blast.  Everyone skated and requested their favorite songs and played all the roller skating games you remember for your childhood and ate and laughed and it was the best.  Hudson requested we open zero presents and do not have a planned eating time and half way through the party he asked that we didn’t even sing happy birthday to him for fear of wasting precious skate time.  So we didn’t.  Everyone just ate as they pleased and skated their hearts out.  At the end of the night there was only one lonely Zebra Cake left and as the thought crossed my mind to finally enjoy one for myself, Huson skated through, grabbed the last one and popped it in his mouth.  Happy Birthday Huddy Love!

At school the next day we ate lunch with the birthday boy and shared fun Halloween candies with his classmates.  I sat listening to him and his friends chat it up about skating and Fortnite and all the funny things 9 and 10-year-old boys talk about.  I listened and thought about how fun they are and how great it is that two of those amazing boys’ call me mama.

There are one thousand wonderful things I could say about Hudson.  He’s a thinker and worrier and lover and justice seeker and losing Everett jolted him to his very core.  He has grieved so hard and is still grieving.  He has been forever changed in a way I never wanted for him, but this kid is fierce and strong and his love for his people has forged forward and tears me apart in the most wonderful ways.  He teaches me and grows me and makes me a better person.  He’s just a freakin’ gem.

So happy 10th birthday Hudson Hall!  We’re here just watching in pure amazement as you live your life with such loyal love and bravery.  We’re the luckiest!