December 19 & 20

Christmas time fun is kind of getting the best of my time…which I love…so today I’m covering two days again.  Yesterday we delivered one million and one baked goods, but our kindness advent was aimed at our pediatricians office.  I am constantly reminded of how good we have it with access to health care and amazing doctors on our side.  Our pediatrician’s office is The.Best and loves us all so well and I don’t mind one bit showering them with sugar.

Today we are delivering handmade ornaments.  One thing I hope we convey is that kindness doesn’t have to be expensive.  A lot of times it’s about your thoughtfulness and time.  I bought these craft ornaments for .50 at Hobby Lobby and then let the kids paint them.  Super easy.  Our niece Campbell joined in on the fun.

Tomorrow we are leaving a Redbox rental bucket filled with goodies for someone picking up a movie.

It’s the Saturday before Christmas and this is the time I love.  We’re all just hanging out, watching movies, wrapping presents, eating treats, crafting my last few gifts.  I’ve cleaned the house…shocker.  And I might have spent a little too much time on some chalkboard art.  Festive and bright and hopeful is how my heart is feeling.  Christmas and other holidays can be so hard for lots of people.  I’ve had a few weepy moments myself, but ever since Mom died O Holy Night has been my favorite Christmas song because of the hope and the rejoicing I can have in Jesus even when my heart may be a bit weary.  This is the world.  It can be so dark…so hopeless…so overwhelming…and sometimes I get so weary with how can we help, how can we love more, how can we show the hope in Jesus, how can our family really make a difference.  Sometimes I feel like our love actions are just drops in the ocean…never making much of a difference, but God confirms over and over again to keep loving Him, keep loving others and that those drops are making ripples.  He is working in the smallest and what we may feel is the most mundane love and kindness we can show.  So we keep on and we hold tight to that thrill of hope, choosing to rejoice in the gift of Jesus even when our hearts may be weary along with the rest of the world.  Grateful and humbled He would choose to come for me and every one of you.

Happy Saturday.

December 17 & 18

I have been in bake city the last two days + about a million other things thrown on top, but I love it.  I actually completely forgot to stop in and say hi yesterday.  Our kindness advent was way fun.  We did surprise chalk art in our friends’ drive-way.  Hudson tends to go a little rogue with his drawings…imagine lots of swords and ninjas and light sabers and very intense fight scenes, so I gave them one rule “You must draw something Christmas or winter themed.”  This was helpful.

Today’s kindness advent got changed around a bit and we did something different, but it’s one of those things you just choose to keep between you and those special some ones.  You get it…like the things God puts directly on your heart.

Tomorrow we are delivering bake goods to lots of people, but a whole bunch to our pediatrician’s office.  They are the best and take such good care of all these Kelley kids.

We also class partied it up today which was too much fun.  Amon is already out of MDO so he was in attendance for all the parties.  I was in charge of cupcakes and pinterest for the win on easy festive cupcake toppers.  Pretzel sticks, green candy melts and sprinkles.

I have been baking, baking and more baking.  I wanted to give you the rundown because I found a few slam dunks.  I  am happy to report all the recipes were delicious…minus me slightly burning the gooey butter cake…just slightly…and I did some cutting off of the a-bit-too-brown-pieces.  There may have been a few curse words, but alas, I survived and moved on.

So here’s what was made:  Gooey Butter Cake (an old fave), Sugar Cookie Bars (so good), Puppy Chow Cookies (crazy messy, but just do it), Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Candy (addictive), M&M Bark (hard to cut, but I totally loved this combination), Double Dipped Pretzel Chips (a fave of Josh Kelley), Gooey Butter Cookies (hold the phone, I may have a new favorite.  LOVE the texture and lightness of these), Oreo Cheesecake Cookies (I’ve made these before and they are always a hit), Andes Mint Cookies (another oldy, but goody and super easy) and Nutter Butter Balls (one of my all time favorites and I always use white chocolate).

Let’s discuss Amon while baking today.  All he wanted to do was A) Eat or stick his finger in everything.  *For those receiving baked goods…Amon did not put his finger in your food because that is just gross and kids are way germy.*  B) High-five over and over and over again with oven mitts.  And C) Stand way too close to the mixer.  God love him.

The conversation we had one million times today:

Amon: I eat dat.

Me:  No, were not eating these right now.

Amon: Maybe, morrow?

Me: Probably not tomorrow.

Amon: Maybe, Tooday?

Me:  Sure Amon.  We’ll eat these Tuesday.

I received the sweetest little package in the mail today from a blog reader.  There was the kindest note and then these two ornaments.  After all that baking, it made me tear up.  Thank you so much Ms. Linda…you made me day…and Solomon immediately hung both ornaments on our tree.

And after a quick dinner tonight and some cleaning of our kitchen, everyone put on PJs, got a sweet snack and we did our yearly Christmas lights drive-thru.  After we finished, Josh Kelley said, “Well, it’s officially Christmas.”  It’s what we do.

This was the best picture I could get of the boys and me.  It makes me laugh.

So how was your Thursday?  I am beyond pumped tomorrow is Friday and Christmas vacation has officially started.  Here’s to a grand weekend people!

Happy Thursday!

December 16

Today’s kindness advent was leaving moola on vending machines.  Two things: 1) Vending machines are kind of hard to find these days.  We looked all over until Harper spotted some outside of none other than Kroger.  2) Did you know there are still .35 cent machines?!?!?!  True story.  We found them tonight.  Like the mythological unicorn of vending machines.

Tomorrow we’re doing a little chalk art!

So I have about one thousand thoughts running through my brain.  I’ll let you in on a few of them.

*I’m officially done with all my orders that were needed by Christmas and that feels dang good.  I’m still taking orders, but will not start working on them until after Christmas.  So many orders to share, but for now I’ll just share this 11×14.  I really dig this dog.  And thank you again to everyone who has ordered this year.  I am constantly humbled and so grateful for your orders and to God for having a job I love.

*From now until Christmas I will be baking and making gifts for some family and friends.  I am way pumped.  I made my baking aspirations list and might even go do all my shopping for ingredients tonight before I head to bed.  Crazy excited.

*I always want to try and give people my best.  This doesn’t always happen, but I want to try.  I especially want to bring my A-game when giving to those in need.  Sometimes I hear people say “they’ll appreciate anything” when referring to giving to those less fortunate than themselves.  This kind of makes my skin crawl a bit.  I don’t want to just give “anything”…when we give to those who are in need we are literally giving to Jesus, so I always want to give my very best…treating people how I would want to be treated.

*Amon gets stuck in strange positions each day on a regular basis.  Today.  “Mom, heeeeeelp.”  He also is totally loving watering his Big Daddy and Nene’s tree.  Mr. Kelley, Josh’s dad, is literally like his favorite person on the planet Earth.  It’s kind of ridiculously cute.

*We have an elf.  My mom gave him to us, but we’re seriously the worst elf owners ever.  We can’t even remember his name.  And he hasn’t moved in over a week.  The kids all came to an agreement he has indeed lost his magic.

*The Kelley kids do chores each week and if they do their chores they get there allowance on Saturdays.  This year they decided to purchase presents for each other, but had to use their own money.  This has been crazy fun.  They each went out on their own with their choice of parent.  Josh Kelley got picked twice.  Harper finally threw me a bone and picked me as her date.  She chose Waffle House to eat and there was zero protest on my behalf.  Hello Allstar Breakfast.

*We also give them each a sum of money, but they have to give it away…however they choose.  We’ve talked about all the ways they could give this money generously.  I love hearing their ideas.  Harper made a plan on paper from the very beginning and stuck with it.  She bought books, pencils and bookmarks to take to the children’s hospital where Amon had his surgery.  The boys still go back and forth.  Hudson’s the most fickle.  He’s thinking about giving it all to the Goodlettsville Help Center, buying a goat, splitting it up…1/2 to the GHC and 1/2 for buying toys for kiddos, helping build a well in Swaziland or giving it all to one of his friends at school :)

*I’m happy to report the recommendation for using hydrogen peroxide on our bloody couch worked.  Insert raise the roof hands!

*I saw this recipe for Puppy Chow Cookies on pinterest and literally gasped.  And no, no I do not have food issues.

(photo source)

*And today I went to the dentist and got my temporary crown.  Mother of pearl.  It hurt like dang heck…and dang heck is bad.  I feel as if I have a pretty good tolerance for pain, but what was suppose to be a 30 minute in and out appointment turned into this dude drilling on one tooth for an hour and a half.  He used words & phrases like “cracked tooth”, “leakage”, “this was my challenge for the day”, “wow this is deep” and “death”.  I’m confident I almost died.  He had to numb me THREE different times.  This cannot be normal.  And my mouth is still hurting I just want to punch something.  I may have cried some…when they were out of the room…because I have pride issues and almost thrown up.  I’m a foot shaker so imagine how fast my foot was moving.  And I squeezed my own hand for pain.  I’ve never been an anxious/nervous/fearful dental person, but yep, that’s me now.

Now…to Kroger I go.  Here I come scrumptious ingredients.  Those Puppy Chow cookies are calling my name.  Maybe this is why I have bad teeth.  No way, I still blame pregnancy.

Happy Tuesday.

December 14 & 15

Yesterday our kindness advent was delivery breakfast to someone.  Harper has been sick, so sadly she missed out on this one.  Nothing says Good Morning like donuts and Arbys and coffee.

Today we left a little treat for our mailman.  He’s always super kind to the kids.  Fresh homemade chocolate chip cookies, some thank you notes and a Starbucks card.  He works dang hard.

Tomorrow we are leaving money on some vending machines.

Harper is home sick today and Amon is kind of totally excited about it.  They are the cutest together…they have a really special little love.

Amon Kelley Fun Fact:  He loves to eat on the floor of the kitchen.  He and I usually eat lunch everyday just like this.  For family dinners we eat together at our table, but when Amon is solo you will usually find him right here for meals.  And I oblige because why not.

And how about we end this post with another couch stain conundrum.  Amon strikes again.  This time with a busted nose…his nose on Sol’s hard head…and a bloody trail to follow.  I went with straight cold water, but it didn’t work and now in the light of the morning I want to weep big tears over our precious couch.  Remember…never ever ever again will we purchase a new couch until Amon moves out!

Hope your weekend was grand and your week is off to a magnificent start.  Happy Monday!

December 13

We experienced our first hiccup in our kindness advent yesterday.  We went to a fun Christmas festival at our church last night and thought it would be fun to take polaroids there.  Sadly in the rush and jumble of getting everyone out of the house we completely forgot our polaroid.  Gasp.  And didn’t realize until we were almost there, so we rolled with it because that’s just what you have to do.

The Christmas festivities were super fun.  A sweet young lady did give Hudson a peanut butter cookie.  As he was taking a bite she said something about peanut butter cookies and I from a far yelled out “Nooooooooooooooooo”, ran towards Hudson and smacked the cookie right out of his hand.  So maybe not exactly like that, but there was some mild panic.  Luckily Hudson barely bit into it and then freaked himself…spitting and scraping his tongue and mouth with the sleeve of his shirt.  He didn’t ingest any of it, so all he got was a fat swollen lip.  We hit up the smores station and all was right in his little allergy world.  Pour dude.

Today we handed out Christmas books to kids shopping with their parents at Target and Joanns.  This is Harper’s most favorite.

And tomorrow we are taking breakfast to a family.  We’re thinking donuts and chocolate milk because, yeah, donuts can change the world too.

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.  So far we’ve been pretty chill and productive.  Harper and I got all our Christmas cards ready and in the mailbox today.  I’ve never finished our Christmas cards this quickly…Harper is the best…big kids who love to help are the best!!!

Enjoy the rest of your Saturday!

December 12

This is the picture my friend Brea text me.

Bahahahahahaha.  It still cracks me up…over and over and over again.  And Amon has asked me 1000 times “Where Kistmas go?”  He refers to anything Christmas…anything…lights, decorations, Santa, 7ft tall holiday polar bear, etc as an all inclusive “Kistmas.”

Today for our kindness advent we are taking polaroid pictures of people for them to keep.  And tomorrow we are handing out Christmas books to kiddos shopping with their parents.

And because it’s Friday my brain is totally shot.  So I shall leave you with this little gem: Hudson’s gingerbread man he finished decorating early this morning before heading off to school.  It was a class project.  I blushed.  Then text his teacher along with a picture of the scantily clad gingerbread man.  Josh thinks he was trying to draw lederhosen.  I think this gingerbread man works at Chippendales.  My gingerbread brings all the girls to the yard…

After sending his teacher a text she replied:  “Hahahaha, tears streaming down my eyes right now.  Maybe he is a sumo wrestler??? The good news is-is that I am turning him into an ornament and sending it home in his stocking to go on your tree for years and years to come :)”  I die.  I feel the mask and triple bow ties really class this sting bikini wearing gingerbread man up a bit.

Children are a heritage from the Lord indeed.

Happy Friday.

December 11 {my fave}

Today’s kindness advent was leaving one of those giant Christmas inflatables in someone’s yard.  This was the pure genius that is Josh Kelley.  Welcome to his wonderfully fun mind.  And it was easily one of our most favorites!  I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want a giant inflatable to greet you first thing when you opened your front door?!?!?  We went after school to make our final selection.  After much deliberation and some mild candy cane choking, we decided on a 7ft tall polar bear.  Hudson’s insight pushed us over the top in choosing the bear over Santa because they can leave the bear up longer for winter.  Made sense to the rest of us and an unanimous decision was made.

We decided to do a test run in our living room just to make sure the final drop went smoothly and we knew what to expect.  Not pictured is Amon permanently attached to my leg and terrified of the large friendly polar bear.  And Solomon, I mean, can I really say much more about his ability to nail that creepy face and posture…dude is spot on.  Cracks me up all over every time I look at him.

My friend Melody called just in time and she wanted in on the action.  We swung by Melody’s house to pick her and her son Luke up.  We decided to let the polar bear ride fully inflated around town to our final destination.  Amon’s seat is on the passenger side so when we rolled his window down the wind positioned the bear’s giant face right in his window.  He freaked out yelling, “No, no, no.  Up, up, up.”  He does not like mythical creatures or mascots of any kind.

I soooo wish I had taken a picture of Harper, Hudson and Solomon leaving the house.  They decided to try and disguise themselves…hats, scarfs, sunglasses…totally cracking me up.  Hudson is my cautious child and kept asking “What if they think we’re burglars?” “What if they think we’re trying to rob them?” When we finally got to our friend’s house Harper, Melody and myself were the only ones who ventured close to the house.  Hudson, Solomon and Amon stayed back close to the car with Luke.

We ever so slyly and quietly creeped around the outside of their house, got the polar bear in position and plugged him in.  It was so hilariously wonderful.  We wanted to make sure they couldn’t miss him.

Nothing says Merry Christmas like a 7ft tall festive polar bear.  Totally one of my most favorite things we’ve done.

And tomorrow we are taking polaroid pictures of people shopping together.  Also one of my faves.

Hope your day was awesome and maybe, just maybe you’ll find a giant Christmas inflatable on your front porch tomorrow too!

Happy Thursday Night.

December 10 + Christmas Thoughts

For our kindness advent today we went with donut deliveries.  Amon had his dental crown appointment bright and early this morning, so Josh Kelley took the big kids to school and handed out donuts to our sweet car rider line staff.  I knew Amon would be a ferociously crazy sweet beast since he would be a non-sedated two-year-old getting a crown, so I took donuts to the dental staff as well.  And when the “hot” light is on, come on!

Tomorrow we are gifting someone with the sheer goodness that is a giant Christmas yard inflatable.  This was Josh Kelley’s addition to our list this year and I think it’s going to be one that stays for years to come.

Amon did survive his crown.  He is super strong so I got in quite the arm workout holding him down.  Holy cow is this kid strong.  Our dentist was crazy nice and worked very fast.  And he came out with tokens and bouncy balls and stickers and double balloons.

With December in full swing my mind has been overwhelmed with thoughts about Christmas and what we’ve dubbed the most wonderful time of the year.  I think as we love the community we are in…getting to know their names and stories…and get more involved with different aspects of foster care, my views change and swirl and mix and get jumbled and I have a very hard time sorting them all out and making sense of any of them.  We’ve realized as we get to know the world and develop relationships with the people who normally would have been faceless and just something we gave money to for the holidays, that this is actually not the most wonderful time of the year for a large majority of people.  It is hard and stressful and can be a constant reminder of what is lacking…what they don’t have and what we do have.  A reminder of empty bank accounts, unpaid mortgages, empty pantries and lines drawn.  Of brokenness and simply that this world is not fair.  My heart feels completely overwhelmed when I think about it all…when I think about what God might have intended for this season to resemble.

I don’t know fully what to do about it all.  I don’t know exactly what Christmas should look like, but I know God is stirring our hearts and pushing and leading us towards allowing Christmas to mean so much more…for all year round our lives to be lived differently…to mean so much more.  I don’t want to miss out on His work.  I don’t want to miss out on all He has planned and is planning.  I don’t want to miss out on building relationships with those who fill our neighborhood.  These are His people.  And I want to know them.

We try and keep our Christmas pretty simple…not because it’s right or wrong, but because it’s what our family chooses to do.  We do Santa, but our kids know a lot of families don’t and that’s okay too.  They know moms and dads are the ones who do presents if the kiddos don’t believe.  I like the whimsy and imaginative part of Santa.  We spend about $50 per kid.  It’s easy to let my mind think my kids are missing out or they will feel like they didn’t get a lot, but we’ve been doing 3 gifts since Harper was born and I don’t ever want to convince myself their happiness hangs on pretty boxes or lots of money spent.  And what we spend is plenty for the Kelley kids.  We tend to think we’re not the “rich” people in this world, but compared to the rest of the world, we’re not only rich, but immensely wealthy.  I want our kids to be grateful and see Christmas not just as a time when they receive, but as a time when they give as well.

I want our children to know God is the Creator of the Universe and in a snap of His fingers He can do whatever He would like. He gives us breath and can take it away.  He also loves us fiercely…so much He let His own son be crucified for all of our crappy mistakes.  I want them to understand Christmas is a time to be thankful for the gift of Jesus, but it doesn’t end December 25.  Josh Kelley and I won’t cultivate grateful, humble and thankful hearts in our kids just by doing Christmas like this…or with a kindness advent…it’s a year-round, all day, every day choice to refocus our family again, again and again.  The world gets loud and big and boisterous, so it’s a constant refocussing on what truly matters in this world…loving God and loving people…and telling them about the gift of Jesus.

I don’t have it all figured out.  I feel like every day God shows me something new…some one new…invites me to join Him as He works.  Some days I say yes, but some days I say no.  I’ll never get it all right…I’ll never make the right choices all the time, but I can keep plugging along.  I can keep trying to choose love and kindness and grace and mercy and compassion and show my kids the same.  I can continue to be my awkward self offering just my words and time and some homemade cookies.  I can continue to beg God to diminish my pride, give me Joy in Him and everyday allow me to love Him and His people…the sweet lives all around me.  And pray like crazy our kids can see Christ in the way we live and that not only our Chrimstas  honors Him and brings Him glory, but our whole lives.