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!

Bible Journaling Class THIS Saturday!

Hi!  I have been quite MIA around these parts, but there is just too much going on to keep up with lately.  Leo has doctors’ appointments almost every weekday and I feel like I’m seeing how grief has taken quite the toll on my own body so this has left not much time to sit down and write…or for much else.  We’re pretty much all doctors, all the time right now.  #sucko

We do only have a couple of appointments this week so I’m hoping to write a little more, even if it’s lame-o random things, I just like to sit and write when I can.  I did want to stop in quickly today and share about a Bible jounaling class I will be teaching locally this Saturday morning.  I really meant to share before now, but my brain and body are shot, so, meh!  You can CLICK HERE to get all the details.

Very honestly I have not read my Bible nor journaled in my Bible for a very, very long time.  I don’t really have a lot of words to say about that or even know how to try and explain it, but I’m still figuring things out and that’s okay.  I do think this class is good and valuable if you are someone who likes to be creative and wants a different approach to the whole Bible journaling craze.  I never was able to retain scripture until I started reading the Bible through this creative approach and I was shocked at how it made me love reading the Bible and helped me retain it in a way I was never able to before.

If you are interested in taking the class, but cannot attend, you can purchase my full online class HERE.  All money from the class right now is going toward our ever growing pile of medical bills.  Whoop whoop!

 Okay, that’s it for today.  Just wanted to make sure I shared with you about this Saturday’s class.  Hope to see some of you there!

8 Things

1. These two.  Gosh, these two.  Aunt Jen and Winter.  They are insanely sweet and Winter knows she will always get all the love and attention and tic tacs from her Aunt Jennifer Lee who’s her namesake.  I love watching them love each other…it’s quite sweet!

2. He’ll be 10 tomorrow.  Another Kelley kid moving into double digits and we seriously love watching Hudson grow and change and be his full self.  He is funny and kind.  He is strong and empathic.  He is a lover and a fighter.  He often comes over and gives me random hugs and reminds me yet again I am the luckiest.  Quit growing man child.

3. For Amon there is nothing much better than his friends.  He thrives on time with them.  Then when his bestie also has a Power Ranger’s suit, his mind is blown.  Watching these three play and run and pose was simply amazing.

Bonus:  When I caught on camera Amon accidentally hitting Winter in the face while trying to rise into an eagle pose.  Hahahahahaha.  🙂

4.  We keep a basket of Everett’s photos on our coffee table.  Everyone looks through them all the time.  They are well loved and a lot of them are bent and worn and sticky.  Sometimes the photos are moved around the house.  Lately Amon has been pulling photos from the basket and sitting them around him while he plays.  I will forever be grateful for how all our children remember Everett and keep his sweet memory alive.

5. The sky renews my hope.  Over and over again.

6.  They make me want to be a better person.  They push me to look beyond myself.  They remind me daily of what truly matters.  They take my mind from grief and push it towards joy.  They make me laugh all the time and drive me bonkers.  They are my greatest honor.

7.  Last weekend was Josh Kelley’s birthday.  He is my most favorite human being on the planet.  Josh is humble and hilarious.  He is constantly picking us up when we are down, he pulls us out into the sunshine on days when we want to hide away and he makes us laugh crazy hard.  I am beyond thankful for his kind, witty and strong self.  We’re the luckiest to have him as ours.

8.  And just a little over 6 years ago…the day before Josh’s birthday…we sent Amon into surgery to have his broken little heart repaired.  We handed him over to Dr. Christian and her team and held onto hope like crazy.  Dr Christian gave Josh the greatest birthday gift that year.  After almost a month in the hospital we finally walked out with Amon and his beautifully patched up heart in our arms and that will never ever be lost on us.  I have the deepest gratitude for this boy and his incredibly special heart.

Around Here

Hudson and Solomon are dreaming up their own Youtube channel which they have fondly named Dude Almost Perfect…not infringing on any copyright laws at all. 🙂  They’ve been filming their videos and they’ve designed their logo.  Hudson made a rough draft and then got their cousin Meiya to do the final draft on a cardboard skateboard cutout.  Fiesta with a baseball bat riding a skateboard and I love it.  I love how they want to incorporate little pieces of Everett in so many things they do.

I am loving the tween time with Harper.  She is funny and fun and kind and creative and not too cool for her parents.  Recently she and some friends covered our entire sidewalk in the most amazing colorful designs.  Sidewalk chalk forever.

While I’m declaring some things for forever, I’ll add licking beaters forever!!!!  Leo on the counter with a beater of cookie dough = love forever and ever and ever!  The end.

I was playing UNO with Amon and Winter the other afternoon and snapped this photo.  I feel like it truly embodies what life is like with the 3 of them…such an accurate depiction. 🙂  Smiles and chaos and excitement and screaming and some angst.

When Leo falls asleep at the table Josh Kelley and I always try to be ready…with our cameras.  When he finally jolted back awake he was left with crumbs stuck to his forehead.  He makes me heart sing in a bazillion different ways.

Fall is officially upon us and we are very much ready for it. We’re thrilled to see the heat and humidity disappear and the cooler temps and fallen leaves and Walmart mums and pumpkin shaped candy corn and Peppermint Patties appear in their place.  It’s my favorite season and I couldn’t be much more excited about it.  Let’s do this Fall!

  It’s been dreary and raining all week.  We’ve only had 2 doctors appointments which is amazing feeling.  We dropped one specialist for Leo, but then added an additional one this week.  Meh.  He is working so hard and we could not be more proud of his hard work and resilience.  With a chill-ish week Leo and I have gotten our legit snuggle on, spent time with Meredith, made birthday plans for Hudson, baked banana bread and cookies, watched the new This Is Us (OH MY GAH!!!!) and then hashed it all out with Leah, scheduled more doctor’s appointments and then snuggled some more.  Crazy thankful for this time with him…not a minute of it is lost on me.

When Things Suck

I know it’s Tuesday, but this week has already been heavy and hard.  Yesterday straight up sucked!!!  Like shit city.  I let life suck the joy and will right out of me.  I feel like we just stay in this state of hard and exhaustion is our normal now.  It feels like things are getting harder before they will get better and that’s life…I get it…things could be worse.  This morning I woke up after a really hard, long night.  Leo was acting off and Josh and I we’re sure something serious was going on.  One of the hardest things about Everett’s death is that I think about one of my kids dying every single day.  And not because I worry…I’m not a worrier at all, but because now we visit one of our children in the cemetery… that’s our reality.  There is so much of this life that is out of our hands and when your child dies it’s this GIANT reminder of just how little control you actually have so death crosses my mind about at least one of our children

I’m determined today will be better.  What little control I actually have I’m fully extending today to keep myself afloat.  I’ve made myself keep moving through the tears.  I’ve eaten some chocolate.  I made a smoothie.  I stared at Leo all googly eyed.  I finally paid some medical bills.  I took a shower.  I’m drinking lots of water.  I’m eating good foods.  Great music is blaring all day long.  And now I’m sitting down to write.  I’m choosing joy because when I examine things more closely how could I not.

Today I’m picking out things I’m crazy thankful for…the deep and shallow…because gratitude in the midst of sorrow is empowering and meaningful and life giving and can pull you from the darkness.

I’m thankful for trusted people who can directly connect with my kids in ways I cannot.  I will never be everything they need…which is insanely hard because I want to be everything they need…and we have kiddos with hard beginnings and more trauma and loss than most of us will see in a lifetime.  When I see special connections with others outside of Josh Kelley and myself I am grateful in a whole new kind of way.  After our last party, I noticed this sweet little drawing Aunt Becky had done, I snapped a picture and smiled deep.  Gratitude for all the little and big ways others love and connect with our kids.

Josh snapped this photo of Leo and me and I love it.  Not the best lighting and I’m not looking my finest, but that look in my eyes is one I love and recognize…one of love and pure smittenness and honor to mother these amazing kiddos.  I’ll tell my kids for all their lives, Josh and I are the luckiest and all 7 of them are my greatest honor and privilege.

Our journal project is helping keep my creativeness from completely disappearing.  Even on days when I don’t journal I’m at least thinking about it…what words to choose, what mediums to use, layouts, how to make whatever happen, etc.  I know I’m a creative person, but I’ve felt lost the majority of the past 2 years and I’m just holding on hoping it doesn’t fizzle out.  These journal projects are keeping the flicker from snuffing out.

(You can see more about this group journal project on my Instagram story highlights.)

I’ve been wanting to give Harper and Winter’s room a little facelift and once Winter’s adoption was final it was the perfect time to do so.  Maybe on the shallow side, but I’m thankful for their sweet space.  Their sisterly love and their Everett rainbow love.  For cripsy white and pops of bright color and bright open windows to let the light in on the darkest of days.

This past Saturday was the heart walk in Nashville.  We have tried to go every year since watching it out Amon’s hosptital window while he recovered from his open heart surgery in 2012.  This year we had soccer games so Leo and I picked up a heart ballon for each of our brave heart warriors on Friday afternoon to represent for Saturday.

Saturday morning as I watched Amon run his little heart out I was overcome with such immense gratitude for his life and Everett’s and Leo’s.  Overcome with gratitude for all their specialists and doctors and surgeons who have chosen hope for each of them.  I really wanted to go to the heart walk this year.  With losing Everett and Leo being home I wanted to be there to walk and represent 3 of the bravest boys I know, but instead I cheered Amon on.  I watched him run up and down the field going as hard as he could.  His heart isn’t perfect, but it serves him well.  He has to self regulate and he’ll need another surgery at some point, but Amon gives it 110% and nothing seems to slow him down.  Crazy grateful for our 3 heart guys and the way they have battled and fought.

And I’m thankful for how far Leo has come and each day we have together.  It’s hard because he has now been with us longer than Everett was with us.  It seems broken and crazy and unfair.  And yet, I’m grateful for every second and all the leaps and bounds he’s taken to bond and attach and trust us as his forever family.  He now has a whopping 7 specialists…which is insane feeling, but we’re working and fighting every day for answers and the best for Leo.  We want the answers he deserves and we’ll fight like hell for them.  Leo is joy!  He loves so big and he has seriously changed so much and we all just beam with pride over his life and his love and his fight.  Gah, we adore him.

(April 2018)

(September 2018)