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. 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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Don't Worry Be Happy

Jack Dean Harris - 21 Months
Sitting on the bench at Grandpa Goose's spot in
Mount Washington, KY.

Hi Sweet Baby Girl,

When Mommy was a little girl some of my favorite memories were spending time with my grandma and grandpa at the lake.  Grandpa Goose was what we all called him. Just like your Papaw loved you, Grandpa Goose loved all of his grand-babies.  When we were little, Grandma Judy and Grandpa Goose would take your Aunt Keshia and me camping. Mommy remembers catching frogs and lizards and seeing Native American "artifacts" on some of our trips.  One trip even inspired Mommy to work on a special talent - touching my tongue to my nose.  Grandpa Goose said that if I could master the art, he would get me a pet lizard.  Mommy worked from Summer to Christmas and sure enough, grandpa was true to his word.  Even though it was just plastic, Mommy loved that lizard.

As we grew older, summer weekends were spent playing on Lake Cumberland. Grandma and Grandpa had a houseboat that was big enough for all of us.  Mommy remembers Grandma Judy making her beef stew with biscuits and us kids spending our time running up and down the steps from the upper deck to the lower chasing one another.  Mommy can still picture Grandpa Goose standing behind the giant wheel of the boat with his arm resting on the frame of the open side door so he could catch the breeze. Playing over the loud speaker, Mommy can still hear it Don't worry, be happy now....

Grandpa Goose ~ Harold Tatum Sr. & Bobby Jack. As a
kid I used to always think Grandpa looked so much like
Santa with his white beard and his round
It was on that beloved houseboat where so many memories were made.  It was also the place we lost our Grandpa Goose to a heart attack.  Overworked from carrying large gas cans of fuel for the Seadoos all of us were to ride that Memorial Day weekend.  Mommy remembers hearing the phone ring that night we got the sad news.

Grandpa Goose was the second person Mommy can remember losing when I was a kid.  Just a few years before him was Bobby Jack.

Mommy's Cousin Bobby Jack Harris
We have a small charm of this picture
we hang next to yours on our Christmas
tree each year.
Bobby Jack was Mommy's cousin.  He was the only grandson at the time and Grandpa sure loved him.  Sadly, he was born with a serious heart defect.    In his short six years on earth, he went through numerous surgeries to repair the wall to separate the chambers of his heart.  In June of 1989, Bobby Jack passed away.

Grandpa Goose loved Bobby Jack so much that when he passed, he was buried right across from Bobby Jack.  His marker is even shaped like a bench so that there would be a spot for loved ones and friends to spend time with them.  A few weeks ago Mommy got the opportunity to share their spots with your little sister and baby brother.  Mommy loved sharing some of these memories with them.

Because of your life and our loss, Mommy has a deeper appreciation of family and loved ones. Because of Grandpa Goose, Mommy often reminds myself Don't worry, be happy.  And because of our faith in Christ, we hope to see all of you again in Heaven one day.

Love you, miss you, think of you and all the others we have lost too soon my sweet Kaden Layne.

In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry, you make it double
Don't worry, be happy
Don't worry, be happy now

Jack Dean named in part after Mommy's
cousin Bobby Jack

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Keeping Quilt

A few weeks ago Mommy had the chance to do something pretty special.  Mommy got the chance to meet children's book author Patricia Polacco.  Mommy has read many of her well-known stories to the children in my classes over the years.  One of my favorites has always been Thunder Cake.  One book that is another favorite for me and many others is called The Keeping Quilt.  

The story illustrates how a little girl's grandmother worked to keep the memories of family close by cutting pieces of fabric from the clothing of relatives left behind in Russia.  The quilt, with it's bright colors, was passed along from mother to daughter for almost a century.  It was used as a tablecloth for family meals, a wedding canopy, and a blanket for new babies.  

During her visit Mommy was able to listen to her tell stories.  I heard her tell the stories of her life as a child and of how that special quilt was used in her family.   She told the best stories.  Ones like your Poppy and Grandma Judy.  Listening to her made me think of you and your special quilt. 

Scraps of cotton from summer dresses and colorful bibs, pieces of soft minky fabric from the scraps of snuggly blankets your Donna Ma made.  Your Aunt Alex took these and created for Mommy and Daddy a keeping quilt of our own.  It turned out beautiful and it is easy to see it was made with a great deal of love. It was less than a year after you passed away.  

Just like in the book The Keeping Quilt, each piece tells a little story, in each piece there is a memory. We have used your quilt as a picnic blanket, a play mat, and a decoration in your sister's room.  Mommy has to be honest, I've been a little protective of it over the years.  Mommy wants it to last a really long time.  One day, when Jack and Layne are old enough to have babies of their own, Mommy hopes to pass it on as a way of keeping you close to them.

We will make a quilt to help us always remember home,” Anna’s mother said. “It will be like having the family in backhome Russia dance around us at night.”  
~From Patricia Polacco's The Keeping Quilt

Love you, miss you, and think of you always Baby Girl.

P.S. Jack & Layne are both asleep right now...tomorrow Mommy will try to snap a picture of them with your keeping quilt.  xoxo

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Never Grow Up

One of Mommy's favorite spots in our whole house is this little wall inside Mommy and Daddy's closet.  What's on it may not seem like much to many.  It's a bit messy, a little inconsistent, and looks to most like scribble scrabble.  But what's on that wall is super precious to me.  It shows a little of Jack and a lot of Layne.  Over time it's become Mommy's favorite.

Jack has grown about four inches
in the last six months!
On that wall are the markings of Layne and Jack.  It shows how much they have grown over the last few months and, for Layne, years. It's Mommy's favorite spot because it's a concrete example of how much they have each grown.  Its pencil markings are reminders of how blessed Mommy is to watch them grow up.   I love seeing their little lines move up and up.

On that wall there's one thing missing.  You.

This time of year Mommy often hears people say they wish time could slow down, that their kids are growing too fast.  While Mommy has those moments too, more often than not, Mommy finds herself excited to see how your little brother and sister are growing up. With each milestone, Mommy sees a little of what it might have been like with you.
Layne has begun to write her
own name next to her
 marks on the wall.

In the weeks after you passed away Mommy filled much of the empty time seeking information.  At first it was answers related to what could have caused you to be taken from us so suddenly and without a cause. As time went on, deep curiosity filled Mommy's mind.  What was it like for you in Heaven?  Would anyone there know your bedtime routine or your tickle spots?  Would anyone be there to make you feel special or would you just be lost in the crowd?  And what Mommy wondered most of all, would you grow up  or stay little?

Everything Mommy learned about Heaven shared how the body is made whole again.  That everything broken would be fixed.  That disease and disability would be gone.  The old would become young again and the pain and suffering felt on earth would forever go away.  But what about the youngest? What about babies?  Would they grow up or would they stay little? Vague and unsure were the answers of most of the authors.

Here you are dancing with your cousin Cy.
Cy's in third grade this year.
This week Mommy started another school year. Mommy can already tell I have a super sweet group of twenty-six seven and eight year olds. They are bright. They are kind. They are fun to watch.  They would have been your classmates, your friends.  As the year begins, it's hard not to wonder which ones of the kids in Mommy's class might have been your good friends. It's hard to watch them play together outside and not wonder where you might have fit in. In some ways, it's hard to even imagine you being that big.
Mommy sure misses this smile. 

Five and a half years.  It makes me sad to even think of all that Mommy may have missed out on.  If Mommy could have it my way I would ask, please baby girl, never grow up.  Stay little.

While the time Mommy had with you may have been short, the love that Mommy feels stretches far greater.

Love you, miss you, think of you always Sweet Baby Girl.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Empty Chairs

My Dear Kaden Layne,

Mommy stood beside the other girls smiling as the picture was taken.  Each of us held up a small charm that we had pulled from the bridal shower cake.  With the ribbon tucked between our fingers, we each held up a different one.  The charm, a gift from the bride.

Mommy's was a tiny silver rocking chair.  The thought of a rocking chair reminded me of grandmas taking it easy on the covered porches of little old towns.  Secretly Mommy wished she had picked a different ribbon to pull.  What would I do with a rocking chair?  How did this little charm say anything about my life at the time?  After all, Mommy had just married Daddy a few years before and we were far from that phase of life.  The dainty charm was tucked safely in the back of my jewelry box.

Ashley & Mike's Wedding ~ June 2008
A few months later it was the big day for this special friend.  For Daddy and Mommy, this would become a pretty special time in our lives as well.  The morning after the bride and groom said their I Do's, Mommy found herself holding a test that said YES!

It had been months of wishing, hoping, dreaming.  Months of disappointment, worry, and even a little grief.  But that three letter word changed it all for Mommy and Daddy.  That was the day Mommy and Daddy will never forget.  That was the day we first learned we would have you!

Over the next few months Mommy and Daddy did the traditional things new expecting parents do. We read.  We planned.  We gloated. We worried. We dreamed of what our little family would be like. When you were born, Mommy and Daddy's hearts felt full.

You at 3 months sitting all by yourself
in Mommy's rocking chair.
That year Mommy got a rocking chair for my birthday and Mother's Day gift from your Donna Ma and Norm Pa. For your first Christmas, your Great Grandma Judy got you a rocking chair of your own.  Your name was embossed on its wood - a tradition started by your great grandma for each new grandbaby.

Your first Christmas at Great Grandma Judy's
with your new rocking chair. 
When you passed away about six months later it was so incredibly hard to see your empty little chair.  It was hard to see everything of yours really. There were so many empty chairs all around us - your high chair, your carseat, even the space in Mommy's grocery cart. Today, there are others -the empty chair at our small kitchen table at breakfast, the empty seat next to your little sister on the roller coaster ride at the kiddie fair, the chair in what might have been your second grade class at Mommy's school. There are empty chairs all around.

Mommy thinks back to all the pictures I have of you in your rocking chair and me in mine.  Those pictures and the tender memories they share are precious to me.  Mommy thinks back to the bittersweet feelings that came when your baby sister began to enjoy the things that were once yours, including those chairs.  I can think of a handful of pictures of her sitting by your window with a smile so big and I can still remember thinking of you.  And now, I can't help but laugh thinking about your adventurous eighteen month old little brother Jack climbing up, cautiously maneuvering to stand big and tall, raising his hands overhead, and squealing with delight! I'm so glad we have those little chairs. Yours still sits by your window in your room.

Your rocking chair still sits by your window in your bedroom.
Such sweet memories of you.
Mommy once heard a sermon from a well-known minister in Louisville.  If Mommy recalls correctly, the sermon was about who you would pick to have dinner with when you got to heaven.  To help illustrate the message the church had a dining room table set up on the stage with different chairs placed around.  One of them was a high chair.  Of course I thought of you. During the message there were references to the people in our families we may have lost over the years.  The overall message focused on the belief that as Christ followers we will see these loved ones again in heaven one day.

When Mommy thinks of that little silver charm I think of your rocking chair and of all the people in my life who have empty chairs too.  That little charm is also a reminder that there will be a day, probably a long time from now when Mommy is old and gray like those little old women on the covered porches.  And one day, there will once again be a rocking chair for you and me to share.

Until then my dear Kaden Layne, I carry you with me...