Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Season

To my dear Kaden Layne...

Ecclesiastes 3:1-6 reads: "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.  A time to be born and a time to die.  A time to plant and a time to harvest.  A time to kill and a time to heal.  A time to tear down and a time to build up.  A time to cry and a time to laugh.  A time to grieve and a time to dance.  A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.  A time to embrace and a time to turn away.  A time to search and a time to quit searching."

It's been seven years since you passed away unexpectedly in your sleep and for a cause still unknown. It seems like forever and yesterday in the same.  Without a doubt it's been the most difficult season in Mommy and Daddy's lives. 

Over the past seven years Mommy and Daddy have thought of you each and every day. There are still moments when Mommy tears up just thinking about that July 10th day.  Glimmers and glimpses of that sad night make their way back to Mommy's memory every once in awhile.  The night we lost you was such a defining moment in our lives. 

For awhile Mommy and Daddy allowed that day to define who we were.  We allowed it to determine our mood, our attitude, our future.  With the birth of Layne and Jack that changed some.  In time, we have seen how God has used this tragic time in our lives to mold our character and deepen our faith. Because of your life and our loss Mommy and Daddy have learned to live for the little things.

Bill Hybels senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois and author of the book Simplify says, "It's important to identify your current season so that, when the season comes to a close, you'll be less likely to cling to it, and more apt to make a graceful exit and step wholeheartedly into the new season that is dawning." For a long time Mommy felt the need to hold on tight to our short time with you. Writing to you each month started out as Mommy's way of feeling close to you.  Having your day, the 10th of each month, was a way for Mommy to reflect on your sweet little life and to remember the little things about you.  It became Mommy's way of healing, too.

Over the years Mommy has been clinging to the grief that losing you brought to our lives.  Because of it Mommy and Daddy have both been changed - a lot for the better.  This season has given us a perspective we never would have gained if it hadn't been for you. In seven years we have learned so much about what really matters.  We thank God for all the lessons your little life has taught us.

Seven years is a long time.  After all these months Mommy's finally ready to make a graceful exit from grief.   We know you live on.  The warmth that comes when we remember you reminds us of that everyday.   It's because of that that Mommy's finally ready to let go of the need to write each month.  After seven years Mommy's ready to step
wholeheartedly into this new season dawning -a season of living having learned so much because of you.

Once a time to look back, now it's a time to look ahead.

Until we meet again my sweet Kaden Layne...

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Wedding

Mommy and Daddy celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary yesterday.  We made plans to take a trip to Destin and spend our first full day celebrating the day we said "I do".  Once your little sister Layne got wind it was a big day, she made sure to make it special. She spent time the night before tucked away in her top bunk making a sweet card.  Every once and again she would ask things like "what letters make /ver/?".  The morning of she even served us chocolate donuts in bed.  Later that night when we had dinner at AJs on the beach, she asked if the waiters might sing "Happy Anniversary" to us. Mommy loves how she loves specials days in our family.

.  .  .

Just a week before our trip to Destin and after years of it collecting dust on Mommy's dresser, Mommy finally buckled down and began to read The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks.  Mommy had borrowed it from your Auntie Keshia ages ago and for some reason it made its way to Mommy's nightstand as a decoration.  Mommy thought well if it was written by Nicholas Sparks, it must be a good read.
.  .  .

Mommy read the story.  It was about a man who admits that after thirty years of marriage the romance once felt between he and his wife had gone away.  With his daughter's upcoming wedding he realizes that, while he's provided well for his family over the years, he and his wife had grown apart.  He is certain that he loves her more deeply now than ever, but notices his wife may not feel the same.  Throughout the story he struggles to find his way back into her heart. Throughout the story they are planning every detail of this event that would mean so much. It's ending was sweet and one that warmed Mommy's heart.

.  .  .

Mommy and Daddy are far from celebrating thirty years and I like to think that we are still as connected today as we were the day we married, but one part in particular stuck with Mommy.

.  .  .

After reading that story Mommy felt thankful to have had a wedding that was everything I could imagine. Mommy thought back to every part and every person who played a special role in our big day.  The early morning drive to Destin shortly after reading the book gave Mommy plenty of quiet time to think back to our big day.

Mommy thought of the six bridesmaids dressed in all white carrying simple bouquets of pink gerber daisies walking down the aisle before me.  Each one picked for a special reason.  My sister, my first and forever friend.  My former roommates and sorority sisters.  My future sister-in-law and my dear friend Sarah.  
.  .  .

Mommy thought of your Uncle Jamie, our minister.  And I imagined him being just as nervous as us since our wedding would be his first. I thought of his perfect words spoken during the ceremony. About marriage being a dance.  But not just a dance for two.  It was important to include God in the center.

Mommy thought of old friends and family who shared in our big day. Great Grandma Brentzel who is no longer with us.  Your cousins, so small then, who are teenagers now.

.  .  .

And Mommy thought of that moment when the string quartet played Cannon in D.  Mommy in my dress and chapel length veil, holding Papaw's arm.  As we walked up the steps from the bridal room and turned the corner Mommy glanced at the light shining through the beautifully stained glass windows nestled into the gray limestone walls.  The aisle was long and red, the church pews full of familiar faces. Mommy took a deep breath realizing it was time.

At that moment the entire church stood.  The violins played the sweet simple melody. Mommy felt a flood of mixed emotions:  anticipation, nervousness. So many emotions: thankful and blessed. It seemed a bit much for everyone to be staring at me.  Mommy blushed and felt my shoulders rise as if to help find a place to hide. As we got halfway down the aisle all Mommy could do was stare at Daddy, his smile so big.
.  .  .

Mommy loved having this quiet time to reminisce on that big day in Mommy and Daddy's lives. Something about it made me think back to what I've heard in church.  About how God looks at his followers like a bridegroom looks at his bride.  It made me think about this scripture I'd heard before and about you.

.  .  .

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4.
.  .  .

Mommy thought about the part that read He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore".  And Mommy thought of you.

Mommy and Daddy may never live long enough to see the coming of Jesus. But it doesn't stop us from wondering what the celebration will be like when we see you again in Heaven. Will the aisle be long?  Will we feel giddy with anticipation?  Will there be loved ones there to help join in the celebration? Mommy just wonders.

.  .  .

Until that day comes, Mommy and Daddy will tend to the details of this life in hopes that we may be prepared to join you and our Heavenly Father.

Love you, miss you sweet girl!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Kaden Harris

The pictures his mommy took during
Teacher Appreciation Week.

For a few years now Mommy has tried to do better with balancing school and home.  It's not always easy.  Often Mommy feels like a novice at both at the end of the day. Patience seems easier to come by at school more so than home on some occasions, but at the end of the day, Mommy feels optimistic that no matter what everyone knows they're loved. Splitting Mommy's time, energy, and passion between school kids and Mommy's own hasn't always been easy.  One way Mommy has been able to do this is by going in to school one night a week after bedtime to play catch-up.

.   .   .

A few months ago Mommy did just that.  After I tucked your little sis Layne in to sleep for the night Mommy slipped on her sketchers and rushed off to school to get a few things done.  Mommy loves having the quiet and being surrounded with school made it easier to think about all the things I needed to get done before the next week.  Somehow this became easier than bringing mounds and mounds of work home each afternoon.  But this Thursday night would be a little different.

After grading some papers, calculating Oh Snap points, filling out reading logs for the week ahead, and who knows what else, Mommy went on to the next item on the to-do list:  Art to Remember.

Art to Remember is a sweet activity students at Mommy's school do each year with the help of the art teacher.  Students draw, color, or paint a picture that would be sent off to a publisher who would then turn it in to keepsakes for a child's family.  Eventually students get the original back and the mugs, magnets, and bags make great gifts.  The most important way to make it look its best is to have it outlined and use lots of color.

On this particular night Mommy had it on her to-do list as a favor to help the art teacher.  Most students from Mommy's class needed more time to finish adding color and outlining.  Mommy had planned for students to finish them the next morning as part of their morning work.  On the back of each picture was the student's first name and to help keep track of which class they were in the art teacher had them write the teacher's last name.

Mommy walked around the quiet of the room with the stack of artwork upside down so as to see the name of the little artist who produced it on the back.  After reading the name on the back Mommy would flip it over to admire the original artwork for a moment, and then place it on the student's desk.  Mommy worked through the stack quickly as there were many other things to do that night. But as Mommy got to one in particular, it stopped me in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes.

Mommy's student added the sunshine to his
picture the next morning.
In the upper left hand corner Mommy's eyes were drawn. There it was.  In pencil, in the precious handwriting of an eight year old, and with the spacing just right so as if it were written to go together, it read your precious name Kaden Harris.  Just like the art teacher had asked, the child wrote his first name and the last name of his teacher.

Tears immediately welled up in Mommy's eyes.  Mommy sighed.  Mommy admired. So this is what your name might have looked like if you had ever been able to grow up Mommy thought.  The tears streamed down. Mommy held that piece of artwork a little longer, gave it a hug, and placed it on the student's desk.

The moment that night was bittersweet.  Mommy loved this moment of thinking about what you might have been like as a second grader.

As time went on Mommy shared this sweet moment with the child's mother, who happened to also be a teacher at Mommy's school. Hoping that it wouldn't come across as bizarre that Mommy would find something sweet in something as simple as a handwritten name, Mommy told the story of your name. Tears welled up again in Mommy's eyes and her's, too.

.   .   .

A few weeks ago Mommy received a precious gift.  Inside a monogrammed bag was the most treasured piece of artwork ever given to Mommy by a student.  Mommy has no idea if this child knows the story behind what makes his art so special to me.  All Mommy knows is that it will be treasured forever.
The artwork is on our fridge next to
Layne's school picture. 

This is the time of year when Mommy gets overwhelmed.  It's usually because of the million and one things that have to be done. This time, though, Mommy is overwhelmed with a grateful heart. Mommy's thankful for your memory, for the blessing of this child in my class, and for his mother who gave me permission to share.

Love you, miss you sweet girl. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Easter Bunny

Hi Sweet Girl.  Easter is this Sunday and tonight Mommy was looking back at your time with us at Easters past.  You were so much fun the year you could walk with the help of your Donna Ma's giant basket.  You were just 15 months old when you first got to hunt for Easter eggs. Mommy remembers the color of the blue in your dress and how it matched your eyes just right.

 Something else that came to mind tonight was your sister Layne's first Easter.  It was a pretty afternoon and the cousins had come.  Layne was too little to walk and didn't care much for the prickly grass, so we put a giant blanket down for her to sit with Millie, Cy, and Cruz.  The four of them tinkered with a few hand toys and carried on in conversation like little ones do.

While the grown-ups doted over the cuteness of the four of them we became quite surprised by an adorable bunny who stopped to pay a visit.  We watched the faces of the little ones but even more so we watched that bunny.  Unlike bunnies we had seen before, this one was not shy or timid or afraid. The bunny lingered for what seemed like minutes.  It looked back and forth at all the kids and even came within feet of Layne who was on the edge of the yellow blanket.  At one point she even stretched her arm out.  It was as if that sweet little bunny was trying to let us know that you wished you could be part of family time that day. That Easter bunny warmed our hearts that day.

Easter continues to be a favorite of Mommy's.  The sweet memories of you, the bunny that day, and most importantly the celebration of Jesus' resurrection.   Who doesn't love the beauty of spring and the newness it brings? God is so good! 

"For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives." ~Romans6:4.

Love you, miss you, and think of you every day my sweet Kaden Layne. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017


Mommy & Daddy in Gatlinburg the weekend we got engaged
in the fall of 2005.
This weekend was a super special one for our family.  We celebrated Daddy's birthday with a surprise party on Friday before heading off to Gatlinburg for the weekend.

Over the years Mommy and Daddy have made many fond memories in Gatlinburg.  That's where Daddy asked Mommy to marry him and where we spent time away during the holidays that first year without you. And even before Mommy and Daddy's time together we each had built memories with our families over the years. It's always been a fun place to go.

This time going was especially symbolic for Mommy.  In November this favorite place of ours was hit by fire thought to be caused by two teens playing with matches. In the end nearly 20,000 acres of beautiful, natural wooded areas burned and twelve people lost their lives because of it.  Even the cabin owned by your Donna Ma and Norm Pa's friends burned.  So many memories were made in that two story cabin during your brother Jack's first two years.  What devastation it was to so many people.

After breakfast this weekend  Mommy, Daddy, Layne, and Jack went on a hunt for something fun to do.  We ventured up the windy road toward the top of the Smoky Mountains on our way to the heart of Gatlinburg.  As we cruised along we began to see signs of the devastation from November.  On one side of the road there were what seemed to be the typical bare trees you would expect to see in the heart of winter.  On the other there were the same, except on one side of many of their trunks you could see the scarring left by the fire. The tops of the trees seemed just fine, but it was hard to tell with everything is bare.  Every now and then you might see a stump of a recently chopped tree.  Even more interesting was the bright green grass that had begun to grow all around.  It was long yet fine in many spots.  Like fresh spring grass it swayed in the cool breeze.  Ironic, I thought.
Mommy & Daddy in Pigeon Forge, near Gatlinburg, in 2008.
Mommy was four months pregnant with you.

As we drove through the mountain Mommy and Daddy talked about how things didn't seem too bad considering all that had happened in November. We realized that the new grass was probably recently planted to disguise the charred remains of the undergrowth. Mommy and Daddy wondered if some trees had somehow been saved, perhaps even protected by their thick bark.  We wondered if some of the trees would be able to make it through and how many might need to be cut down later on.  In the heart of winter with the leaves all gone, everything seemed to look the same.  From a distance there was no easy way to tell what parts had been burned and which were spared.

Seeing all of this reminded Mommy of grief.  The lush green grass made me think of how those of us struggling with grief will sometimes put on a disguise to make others feel like things are fine. The road that split the untouched trees from those with charred trunks reminded me of how life after the loss of someone you love is often defined as before the event and after the event. Seeing some trees with whole sides burned completely from top to bottom and others with just a shadow of black reminded Mommy how grief sometimes consumes our entire life -stealing all the joy and hope and other times just lingers like a rain cloud on a sunny day.

Of course, like many moments we share as a family, I thought of you.  And when I did it began to snow.  The flakes seemed huge and at times were coming down so quickly it made it hard to see the road ahead.  It was neat to watch the green grass become sprinkled with giant flakes of white.  That, too, seemed to remind Mommy of something.  It reminded me that even in the worst kinds of devastation there is beauty to be found.

Layne and her cousin Millie in the mountains in 2015.
Mommy wonders how Gatlinburg will look once it turns spring.  Will the grass take and continue to grow on through the bare spots higher up?  Will the trees, with their charred bark, find strength to make it through?  In years to come will the scars be camouflaged and the beauty be replaced?  Perhaps it will be like grief and take years.  If so, Mommy hopes that one day the people of Gatlinburg will be able to share the story and tell of how they are stronger and better now because of it.

Thinking of them and as always, Sweet Girl, Mommy thinks of you in every way.

Saturday, February 11, 2017


The beautiful flowers Mommy's teacher friends from school sent today.
Overwhelmed seems to be the feeling Mommy has these days.

Overwhelmed by the meetings and appointments on Mommy's calendar.

Overwhelmed by the stack of school work Mommy has yet to grade.

Overwhelmed by the mountain of laundry that's taken over the floor of Mommy's closet.

Overwhelmed by the to-do list Mommy never has time to even write. There's always something that takes priority the moment Mommy has enough peace to think.

Overwhelmed by the mess that clutters Mommy's counter in the kitchen and the floor of our home office.

Overwhelmed by the number of pots Mommy has in the fire of this life at the moment.

Overwhelmed by the bittersweet memories of today, eight years ago, when you were born.

February 11th.  It's on your birthday my sweet Kaden Layne, Mommy is reminded to keep it all in perspective.
Mommy will never forget how beautiful your eyes always were.

On this unusually warm Saturday I'm almost certain Mommy would have been ok being a little more overwhelmed.

A little more overwhelmed deciding which school friends of yours to invite to your birthday party today.

A little more overwhelmed trying to decide on a theme and a place and a cake and all that which comes with putting a party together.

A little more overwhelmed trying to figure out a way to manage three kids instead of two while getting all the food for your party prepared.

A little more overwhelmed trying to keep the house straight before all our guest arrived to celebrate you.

Mommy would be ok with being a little more overwhelmed.

Just the three of us.  We loved being a family with you. 
So today, Mommy won't complain about never having a moment to do what I need to do.  Instead, I will check off the calendar all we accomplished this week and be grateful for the people and opportunities God has placed in Mommy's life.

Today, Mommy won't stress over the house being a complete and total mess.  Instead, I'll admire the toys and books and step over the cars and papers and clothes that clutter our floor and be grateful that I have your brother and sister to make a mess.

Today, Mommy won't get grouchy over spending all day to catch up on laundry.  Instead, I'll carry that load and match all those little socks with a grateful heart. There was a time when that basket wasn't nearly as full.

Today, Mommy is overwhelmed in a good way as we remember and celebrate your life .  The love and compassion extended to our family is so nice.  Messages, prayers, sweet gestures and more! We are so grateful and certain we couldn't get through this day without them.

Happy Birthday to you, our dear Kaden Layne Harris.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Leaning In

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 Mommy and Daddy walked in carrying you all snuggled up in your car seat.  The brick building was grand and beautiful on the outside.  Cornerstones marked the birth of the original building and there was a hint of datedness about it.  Inside, the lobby was shaped like a carousel. Light, primary colored carousel horses were displayed sporadically inside the white wood moldings around the top. And there was a window. Translucent and large enough to fill the entire center of this carousel-shaped room, it brought in the perfect amount of light.  We were greeted by a warm smile from a volunteer and a gift for you.  A pink fleece blanket and a teething ring new in the package.  How nice, I thought.

 As Mommy and Daddy sat down I couldn't help but notice the sign:  Shriner's Hospital for Crippled Children.  Crippled seemed like a strong word, but the more Mommy looked around it was evident that this was a place that was built well before political correctness was a concern.  It's engraved plaques on the wall were proof of that.  Crippled.  

As we sat there waiting to be called back, Mommy noticed family after family come in.  Each had a child who had some type of physical need.  Wheel chairs, crutches, walkers, braces, casts.  As Mommy sat there looking at you asleep in your carseat I couldn't help but think how lucky we were that our situation was temporary.  

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Your first Easter in your Easter dress with your harness underneath.
We knew a little what to expect.  Dr. Knight, your pediatrician, had shared the possibility of you having something called hip dysplasia. Relatively common for girls born breech and also having a family history of it, hip dysplasia, put simply, was an underdevelopment of the hip sockets. The cup that wraps around the ball of your hip hadn't become deep enough.  

During our appointment Dr. Talawalker stretched and rotated your little chubby legs up and down and all around.  An ultrasound was done to see the full scope of your hips and sockets. At the end of his exam he explained that most likely you would grow and develop fine without any treatment, but when you were older you may begin to develop problems with your hips.  His recommended treatment option, a hip harness for six weeks.

Six weeks. When he left the room Mommy and Daddy talked about what would be best.  It was easy to come to a consensus.  Whatever we needed to do to help you live a full life...even if it wouldn't even make a difference until you were in your late thirties! A hip-harness it would be!

The decision would be easy, but reality was a little harder to take in.  The nurse brought in the white felt and velcro contraption.  Straps, belts, booties - it all seemed so complicated.  She showed how the straps fit like overalls and the velcro helped to keep your legs drawn up like a frog.  Her instructions included the requirement that you wear it day and night, only taking it off for baths and for no more than one hour per day. 

Seeing you with it on made it really sink in. How could you be comfortable wearing that every day?  How would we change your diaper, hold you, feed you, strap you in your carseat?  Would you sleep well at night having to wear this? Mommy even worried, Would this change the person you are meant to be? Tears began to well up in Mommy's eyes.   Was this the right decision? 

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You did not mind your hip harness at all!
We were surprised how much you could still
sleep in it! 
Mommy and Daddy took you home and like all parents, we just figured it out.  Truth be told it bothered Mommy way more than it ever bothered you. It made nursing and cuddling super difficult, but it made that one hour a day something to look forward to. Dirty diapers were the worst since your straps were always in the way, but it gave you and Mommy an excuse to go shopping. Since dresses were all that would fit over your harness, dresses were what you wore!  Mommy's favorite was your Easter dress.  

That six weeks seemed to take forever at the time.
Just a few weeks ago Mommy found myself reliving all these memories with you.  The memories were brought back when Mommy had to take Layne in for a follow-up with Dr. Walker.  
Layne at Shriner's just before getting casts.
It wasn't Mommy's first time being there since you.  Mommy had brought Layne in two or three times before because of her toe-walking. You see, your sister loves to walk on her toes. She's done it pretty consistently since she was a little over three.  And while this isn't really a big deal to Mommy (I think she looks pretty graceful on her toes), apparently there could be a problem with her tendons becoming too tight making it difficult for her to walk flat footed.

So we were there.  Sitting in the same lobby Mommy had sat in with you.  Mommy sat watching numerous other moms and dads check-in their children.  That sign reminded me of my first visit with you.  It reminded me, once again, how thankful I felt that our situation with Layne was minor in comparison to some of the other children who were waiting to be seen.  

When we went back, the nurses and doctors did the same things as before.  Mommy went in thinking we would just continue to "watch" how she was doing.  Never did Mommy expect to hear the word casts.

Dr. Walker explained that since Layne can walk on her flat feet but chooses not to, her issue is purely idiopathic - a habit.  To help break her habit,
 Dr. Walker's recommendation was casts on both feet for six weeks.

Layne was beyond excited to get to ride in
 this wheel chair that day!
When Layne heard the news, her eyes grew bright and Mommy could see a little smile coming on.  Of course, what kid of five wouldn't love to have casts, right? Layne thought this would so cool. All Mommy could think of was you.  All the parallels started to come to mind. The same worries, the same questions, the same emotions began to surface. It was all too similar, yet so very different.

That day Mommy walked in holding her hand and walked out carrying her like we had to carry you with your harness.  Awkward, unsure.  A little worried, yet thankful that this was temporary.

Layne has been a good sport about her casts and
 loved that friends and family signed them.
Looking back, Mommy sometimes wishes we hadn't worried with putting you in a harness. After you passed away Mommy found that wadded up ball of velcro and straps that made your harness.  Honestly, it made Mommy mad to think that I lost six weeks of snuggles with you because of that harness. Mommy felt frustrated that we put you through all that so that one day, when you were older, you wouldn't have to worry with bad hips and achy bones.  

Mommy may never understand why things happened as they did.  What I do know is my experience with you and this one with Layne have taught me the importance of leaning in a little more to faith.

Love you, miss you, sweet baby girl...

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I Love You, Goodnight!

It's Christmastime again, Baby Girl.  One of my very favorites is pulling out old pictures of your first Christmas. Some of my favorites were captured by Michelle Carlisle.  Your giant smile and the simple joy in your eyes  are what I always look back on.

After you passed away I worried pictures would never be the same for us.  Our family would always be incomplete without your smily face right in the  mix of things.  It's been interesting for Mommy to see how so much of that has changed.

It was already December last year and Mommy still hadn't had Layne and Jack's Christmas pictures taken.  It was a thought in the back of my mind for weeks, but something I had been putting off, and with it being Jack's first Christmas, I felt even more pressure to get something figured out.  It just so worked out that our family photographer had a last minute opening on a random weeknight to squeeze them in.

"I hope it's ok," she said.  When we got there Mommy's eyes lit up!

"It's perfect," I replied through welled up eyes.

Michelle had scrounged around in her storage area to find the same white feathered tree decorations she used in your Christmas photo session all those years before.  "I tried dusting them off." she said. They looked pretty good to me considering they were over five years old and still in near perfect condition.

As Michelle snapped picture after picture of Layne and Jack so many happy memories of you came flooding back.  No sadness, only joy. Mommy felt so blessed knowing this was an experience you all three had shared.  Looking back, Mommy's so glad all of it worked out as it did.  Little did I know then that our family photographer, the one who captured so many precious images of your first year, would retire this year.

So there they sit.  Side by side on our built in shelving.  It makes it feel a little more like you are altogether.

Fast forward to this year - 2016. Your Donna Ma, or Bobby as all the others know her, wanted to capture a picture of all the grandkids to use for her Christmas card.  She had made them all pajamas with their first initials and coordinating plaids.  It seemed like everything would look picture perfect except there was one thing we needed.  She called Mommy to see if we could come up with a way to include you.  Hmm...how could we do this? We tossed around the idea of using your big bear (the one Santa brought for you on your first Christmas) or a little bear you often cuddled while in your rocking chair, but Mommy wanted to come up with something a little more subtle.  And then it came to me.

On the night you passed away, and every night before when you had stayed with your Donna Ma and Norm Pa,  you heard these words:

I love you like I love blueberry pancakes.
I love you like I love strawberry milkshakes.

I love you like frogs love flies.
I love you like pigs love pies.

I love you like mice love cheese.
I love you like vines love trees.

I love you like windows love blowing.
I love you like plants love growing.

I love you like boots love splashing in puddles.
I love you like bears love kisses and cuddles.

I love you like the moon at night
big and round and warm and bright.

I love you, goodnight. 

All these words were from a book.  Each night when you stayed with your Donna Ma she would read this book to you. At the end, she would take your little chubby finger on that last page and slowly trace around the full moon.  After you passed away, she kept that little  board book on her night stand next to her bed.  As time has passed, she's read that book a million or more times to all the others who've sat in her lap before bedtime. She still does that same thing with their little fingers. And how fitting, Jack will often stretch out his arm in the dark night and with his little finger attempt to trace around that moon that's big and bright.

The little book. What a perfectly subtle way to include your memory.

You're never far from our thoughts and always in our hearts.  I love you, sweet Kaden Layne, goodnight.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Scraps of Time

The first page of your scrapbook features a picture we used on your birth announcement.  

"Mommy, can I make a scrapbook?" Layne looked up at me with the most hopeful expression in her eyes.

Mommy's first thought went to all the supplies that were collecting dust in the basement.  Drawers of stickers and tubs of every colored paper imaginable have been stored in our unfinished basement for years.  On birthdays or the occasional holiday Mommy would rummage through the mess to find a certain color paper or stickers to add to the decorations. It had been so long since Mommy had all that stuff out.

When you were here it was much different.  Mommy had joined a scrapbook club.  Once a month we would meet o put together a special page.  Of course, you were my topic.  Before you, though, it was other things like Mommy & Daddy's wedding. Before that, it was Mommy & Daddy's time dating. When Mommy first started teaching and before life revolved around a family of my own, I kept a scrapbook of my kids from my classes.  Even before scrapbooking was a thing, Mommy created memory books of pictures.  College life and my time in the sorority were some of my firsts. For Mommy, treasure was found in the scraps of paper and the memory captured in a photo.

Mommy has always said that if our house ever caught on fire the first thing I'd grab, besides your brother and sister of course, is those scrapbooks.  To say they are irreplaceable would be an understatement!

After you passed away, for some reason, Mommy lost her passion for scrapbooking.  Mommy tried to start one when Layne was born, but only got through the first 6 months. Poor Jack doesn't even have one at all.  Just like your Aunt Keshia and all Mommy's friends have said, things change so much when you add more babies to the mix.  But Mommy doesn't think it's just that.  It's something else.

This is one quote Mommy found on a piece of velum from all the
scrapbooking supplies I had when you were here.
So when Layne asked me about scrapbooking, my ears perked up!  After Jack went to bed, Mommy and Layne tiptoed downstairs in our pajamas to see what we could find.  After a few minutes, we came back up with a whole drawer full of fancy stickers and delicate add-ons. Foam pieces were about all Mommy could find to make a book, but Layne didn't seem to mind.  She was just excited to see all the options there were!

We sat in front of the dining room windows under the big light.  We flipped through package after package of unopened stickers.  We found cut-outs of letters and booklets of velum.  The theme was all the same.  Many of the colors were too.  Layne picked out a few things she wanted to use and began to work.  That's when Mommy became completely engrossed.

Looking back at some of these quotes now Mommy
knows more deeply how true they each are. 
It was the book of velum overlays that really got to Mommy.  About a half inch think, it had just a few sheets missing.  A few pages had just one or two pieces cut out.  So much was still there. 

Mommy spent some time reading some of the quotes that were printed on each piece.  Just like the stickers and the cut-out letters, the color scheme and theme was the same.  Pink with lots of pastels and all about baby girls. Looking at these reminded Mommy of all the scraps of time we missed out on with you.  There was still so much we should have gotten to do with you before it was all over. So many moments we should have had with you. In Mommy's book, we were far from the end. 

It's completely random times like these, Baby Girl, that Mommy is reminded of all we missed out on when we lost you.  It's the little times like these when things as simple as velum and pink baby bottle stickers take Mommy back to what it was like to have you, what it felt like to lose you, and what it feels like to live on without you.   

Like many other times, Mommy wonders how this little moment of scrapbooking with Layne might have been different if she had her big sister there.  How would this moment between a mommy and her daughter have been different if you were right there with us too?

Love you, miss you, and still think of you every day my sweet Kaden Layne.
Here are a few pictures of some of the pages from your scrapbook. 


This is the last page in your book.  These pictures were taken in April, 2010.
You passed away June, 2010.