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.

Ethiopian Christmas 2019

January 7th is Christmas in Ethiopia and other parts of the world.  Our family hasn’t always celebrated Ethiopian Christmas.  For years I was afraid of doing it wrong or not getting enough right or leaving out really important parts of the celebration.  I didn’t even know how to make Ethiopian food and still don’t.  Then 5 years ago I realized I was being really dumb by letting these things keep us from celebrating such a special holiday in Solomon and Amon’s culture.  We decided to go for it and just do our best.  Now it’s one of our most favorite holidays.

In Ethiopia, they start their celebration off at their places of worship by lighting candles and worshipping together.  We kicked ours off by gathering in our home, thanking everyone briefly for joining us for such a special celebration, lighting candles and then praying over our food and time together.  If I’m the one thanking the group, I always get choked up and fight back tears.  It’s just such an incredibly important and special time for our family and Solomon and Amon love it so much.

Josh Kelley has started trying to figure out some Ethiopian dishes to cook, but again, so shame in our game, so we ordered Ethiopian food from our go-to Ethiopian restaurant GoJo in Nashville.  It was delicious as always and did not disappoint.  We also had fruits and veggies along side our Chickfila nugget tray.  I was a very picky eater as a kiddo, so I always like to have some foods I know kiddos will definitely eat.  No crying over food at our parties!

We always let Solomon and Amon decide on our desserts.  Desserts are not a big piece of Ethiopian culture, but they totally are Kelley culture. 🙂  Solomon LOVES to think about dessert details and make his selections and Amon lended assistance this year.  They went with a rainbow cake…again…and a candy bar with all their favorites…mini Kit-Kats, Twin Snakes, sour gummi bears, mini Reeces, Airhead Bites & Extremes, M&Ms and Skittles.

We always have coffee and popcorn for our coffee ceremony.  I love watching all the kids try coffee and shovel handfuls of popcorn into their mouths.  I am not a coffee drinker, but once a year on Ethiopian Christmas I enjoy a small cup of coffee with my dessert.  This year I sat by Josh with my coffee and cake and we just looked over at each other and I started to cry.  We both knew how much we were missing Everett.  It’s just constant and sometimes it’s really hard to reign in the emotions.  We didn’t get to celebrate an Ethiopian Christmas with him and he would have loved it.  We added pieces of Everett all throughout our night.

A cooler sits in the floor of our kitchen filled with large glass bottle sodas as well.  This is not traditional at all, but it is for our family.  So many sweet and irreplaceable memories of being in Ethiopia with Josh, Solomon, Amon, Harper and Ashely have these glass bottle sodas peppered through out our time there together.  I have such specific memories I cherish so deeply, so we’ll always have them as a sweet reminder and everyone LOVES a big glass bottle soda.

The kids run wild playing and eating all the sweet treats.  We sit around talking and eating and enjoying each other’s company and playing games.  The more the merrier for sure and everyone knows they are more than welcome to bring a friend with them.  There will always be enough and we love sharing a piece of Ethiopian culture with those around us.

Our whole family looks forward to celebrating Solomon and Amon’s rich, beautiful culture on this special day.  We mix Ethiopian culture plus the Kelley spin and get authentic Ethiopian food catered, coffee ceremonies, Chick-fil-A & rainbow cake.  We do us and celebrate the fire out of our gorgeous boys. Traditions are what we make them to be and can be born whenever we’re ready.  Melkam Gena!

December Recap Pt. 2

Last year my friend Kaylyn made Everett the sweetest Fiesta donkey stocking.  This year a new sweet friend Lauren knit Everett a full rainbow stocking and you guys, when I opened it I gasped.  It’s just gorgeous and kind and so thoughtful.  We hung them together and they feel beyond special.  There is nothing quite like knowing others are thinking about him because he never leaves our minds.

Sibling gifts were a huge hit this year.  I know everyone likes their kids and I am no different.  I just really really like them!!!  They make my heart joyful and I adore the little humans they are becoming…not that they do not drive me full on crazy sometimes, but I take immense honor in being their mom…all seven of them.

(Leo wears compression shirts every day to help with his sensory issues and we usually put another shirt over them, but sometimes we just let his inner Steve Jobs run wild.  You’re welcome.)

Christmas Eve was super chill.  We went to Chris and Kim’s house for brunch and played a bunch of fun games.  We headed home to grab Leo’s prescriptions before Walgreens closed for Christmas and then Andy, Becky and the girls came over just to hang out on the random.  Our holiday season is actually really laid back which I completely love.

(It makes me so sad Winter and Amon have zero personality.)

Amon had to use the bathroom and missed the photo op.  We all laughed because technically he’s still in it, just behind that window doing his thing. 🙂

We got super fancy for Christmas Eve dinner and had hotdogs.  Hahahahahahaha.  It still makes me laugh, but it was crazy delish too.  Any other Nathan’s Hot Dog fans out there?!?!

Right after Everett died I told myself I’d only buy varieties of rainbow wrapping paper for the rest of my life. 🙂  This is grief.  It pushes me to make grand and weird proclamations like this all the time, but I’ve got a really good feeling this one is going to stick and I love it.  Christmas is no different.  We look for ways to remember Everett is everything we do and so this is the second Christmas I’ve hunted out rainbow paper for all our wrapping needs.

(Mini paper stockings fashioned from wrapping paper are the perfect cash or gift card holders.)

When Josh Kelley and I were putting out gifts we found the world’s smallest gift to us from Hudson.  It was teeny tiny.  We opened it Christmas morning and it was the funniest drawing of an elf chiseling Josh and I out of big rock.  I don’t even know!!!!!  He’s beyond quirky and I am madly in love with his quirk.  The picture was accompanied by some really kind words.  Made my Christmas.

In our family we do three gifts for each kiddo.  Our big kids don’t believe in Santa anymore, but our littles still fully believe and I love it.  Harper, Hudson and Solomon play along great and help spur on the magic.  We’ve done the 3 gifts thing since Harper was born and it just works for us.  Different strokes, for different folks.  Each kiddo’s presents are wrapped in their own paper and we stick a piece of their wrapping paper in their stocking so they know which three gifts belong to who.  They love going through their stockings and keeping an eye out for their wrapping paper piece.

After a Christmas morning of sausage balls and cinnamon rolls and Fruit Loops and chocolate milk and OJ we headed to Josh’s parents house.  We ate lunch and played games and opened gifts and ate some more and the kids played their ever loven’ hearts out and we played a few more games and ate a little bit more.

And that was that.  It was good and it was fun, but we were all ready to send this holiday season on it’s way.  We did our best.  We gave it what we could, but we miss Everett and sometimes all those feelings are really hard to work through and balance out…for kids and adults.  So until next time Christmas.  Peace out.

December Recap Pt.1

We all had our predictions on what Leo would do upon seeing Santa and Ms. Claus.  I was hoping for the screaming and crying “Get me out of here” moment because those pictures are top notch and bring all the laughs, but the kid loved Santa.  He walked right up, sat on his lap and gave his beard a tug.  Winter’s reaction to Santa coming in was my favorite though.  She squealed with absolute delight and kept asking me to remind her of what Santa’s wife’s name was. 🙂  There weren’t many Christmas requests this year, but Winter did ask for an ornament and I love that was her request to Santa.

We put out Everett’s Christmas tree again.  We pulled out the rainbow lights and all the ornaments we made together last year, decorated his tree and then took it to his grave all together.  This is our normal now.  Everyone knows we go to the cemetery.  They load up bikes and skateboards and scooters and the football and a blanket and they know this is just what we do.  It’s equal parts beautiful and heartbreaking.

Josh Kelley and I found mini gingerbread houses at Target and I never want to go back to the big ones again.  LOVED the little minis and so did the kids.  They all got their own and decorated their own and ate their own.  There was enough for Josh and I to make one too.  His was pretty legit, but we all know who won best gingerbread house award.  Wink, wink, nod.

Josh’s quote for our Christmas.  Hahahahahahaha.  It was so fitting.  We really wanted to add the explicits that follow, but figured we’d let it be a G rated board.  If I could sum up how the Kelley family felt about the holidays this year, this would be it.  Peace out Christmas.

There were approximately 43 spaceships or forts made out of delivery boxes in the month December.

Chalkboard art forever.  #revolvingchalkboard

Special little events here and there were lifters for the kids during this weird feeling season.  Our friend Bekah gave us tickets to the Marvel event and the kids were huge fans.  They had the best time.  Thanks so much Bekah!!!

We went to see the new Grinch movie and to our surprise, we were not big fans.  I think it’s hard to re-make such a classic…especially after Jim Carrey took on the roll of The Grinch.  The new one was not our favorite version.  It was sweet and cute and I teared up at one moment, but it was pretty meh!  Which made me sad because I adore Benedict Cumberbatch…Hello Sherlock and Dr. Strange!!

We Kindness Advented our way through December.  My favorite part is reading all the cards and kind words my kids share with others.  This was Amon’s card to Mr. Allen who helps clean and take care of their school.  I mean, the smile induced by his little words lasted for quite some time.

Hudson, Solomon, Amon and Winter were all in a Christmas play at Josh’s parents church.  Hudson was suppose to be a wiseman, but got sick so Amon left his role as an animal and took on the wiseman position.  Winter was some sort of animal and Solomon was Gabriel.  When I saw this photo of Sol it made my heart swoon.  This boy…geeze…there’s something about him and being caught in this in-between stage of still being a kiddo, but nearing pre-teeness.  He still gives me hugs at random and likes to snuggle and I just could eat his little face off.

Toby was constantly on our minds and hearts.  As we walked Target aisles picking up all our last-week-of-school-before-Christmas-break-and-everyone-has-a-party-and-ten-things-they-have-to-bring-in items we collected his name.  It’s beyond hard to be in the hospital with your child as the world carries on.  We always want them to know they are never far from our thoughts.

Candy canes all December long.  Candy canes from the Christmas parade and school and parties and random candy canes given to us at every single turn and the peppermint sticks I love to buy.  The kids ate peppermint before breakfast far too many mornings.  Merry Christmas indeed.

The kids all buy presents for one another with their own money each year.  This year we waited far too late for shopping, so they drew names and shopped for just one sibling and I hope we never go back.  I loved seeing what they had selected for one another and seeing how excited the giver was to watch the recipient open their gift.  Most of their packages had added rainbows and hearts and I love it so much!!! We talk about Everett every single day and I deeply hope that never changes.

PS: Amon’s “luf you”, well OH MY GAH!!!  We are absolutely the luckiest.


Hi!  It feels like the holidays kind of chewed us up and then spit us back out.  Ha.  Not exactly all candy canes and icicle lights, but just some gritty grief truth.  We all struggled to catch that joyous momentum and we’re pretty glad to see the holidays in our rear view mirror.  I struggled to put words to my feelings so I just stayed away.  Things are settling back down and I’m hoping to play catch up in this space.

In late November sweet Leo had another heart procedure to check out his special little heart and for his team to gain some more wisdom and knowledge on the best way to go about repairing his heart.  We were so hopeful his team would report some amazing new findings which would buy us even more time with our boy before having to send him in for surgery.  His procedure ended much sooner than expected which was a red flag for us and it turned out the work they had done before had not yielded the outcomes they were hoping for so now surgery is on the horizon.

We are disappointed and I felt all vomity in the moment about it all, but then Leo caught RSV, pneumonia and bronchiolitis which got him another visit to the ER right after they let him go home.  All the funk, despite being a bit scary, actually bought us a little more time because he has now proven his body will likely catch other wintery germs so they do not want to attempt his surgery during the winter months.  And we’ll take it.

He healed up and is now on the mend.  We spent the holidays soaking up our first Christmas as a family of 9 and Leo did not disappoint in the excitement department.  We watched our kids in awe, but noticed Everett’s absence at every turn.  It was hard and sad mixed with deep gratefulness.  I whispered in Leo’s ear over and over again, “I’m so glad you are here.”

So surgery is on the horizon and we’ll take every single day before the actual day comes.  I have 1 million feelings about it all and I’m still trying to sift through all my feelings in all the departments including the Jesus one.  It’s easy to look at someone’s story and heave words towards it.  It’s harder to look at someone’s story and just listen and be okay with them not being okay right now.  People who are grieving don’t need to be fixed, they simply need to be loved.  I’m learning more and more about what type of person I want and long to be to others who are suffering.  I’m tucking all the lessons pain and loss are teaching me within my own heart.

The day they released Leo from the hospital after his heart procedure I shared these words on Instagram:

“After a good night with no complications Leo is back at home.  Walking out of that hospital this morning with him in my arms was tear inducing…always will be.  All morning I’ve thought of Amanda and Meredith and sweet Toby and all the others who are fighting so hard along side their babes.  I thought about those who have walked out doors empty handed and I, of course, thought of Everett. 🌈❤️  We do not emerge from ashes unscathed, but deeply scarred.  What we do with our pain and brokenness is important and honestly I hope I never fully lose mine.  It creates compassion and empathy and love where it might not have been otherwise.  It reminds me daily that suffering is real and everywhere and one of the single greatest things I can do as a human is not to run away, but to simply show up the best way I know how and acknowledge others’ pain.  I want to remember my pain, tuck it away deep and learn from all that it has to teach me.”

And although I’d go back in time in an instant to be with Everett again and although I’d give just about anything to see his face, feel the weight of his body against mine and kiss his sweet cheeks again I stand by my words.  I stand by never taking for granted entering a hospital with my kid and walking out with them in my arms.  I stand by taking something from this whole suck ass situation.  We will hold onto hope as if our lives depend on it because it feels as if they really do.  You will find me white knuckling hope with all I’ve got because hope is real and it keeps us afloat.

 PS:  Toby is doing really well…still a long way to go, but the dude is killing it. 🙂