Cat Jacket

I think today is a great day to tell the story of our kitty, Jacket.

Prior to Cayden’s passing, I didn’t have much of an opinion on whether I believed in signs and things of that nature.  I had never personally experienced anything like that.  I’m a believer now…and I 100% believe that Jacket was given to us by Cayden from Heaven.  Here’s why.
The day of Cayden’s funeral was, and will always be, one of the hardest days of my life.  It didn’t even seem real.  I felt like I wasn’t even in my own body.  Looking back, most of the day is a blur.  I don’t recall many details and I’m no quite sure how I even made it through the day without having some sort of meltdown.  It touched my heart to see how many people came to the service and how even people who barely knew us wanted to be there for us during that time.
After the funeral, family and close friends went to the cemetery.  While we were on our way there, my mom’s close group of girlfriends went to my parents house to set up a wonderful spread of food for the family to have after the services.  These ladies did a FABULOUS job and went out of their way to make sure we were taken care of.  While we were at the cemetery, the ladies at the house were working to make sure everything was ready on time.  While filling coolers on the back deck, they noticed a little grey and white cat with a pink nose come up on the deck.  They weren’t sure where she came from but she was hanging around like she belonged there.  As the night went on, and people came to the house, the little cat just hung out with us.  We kept wandering outside to see what she was doing and if she was still there.  She wanted attention, like she knew us.  While we stood out back playing with her, we kept talking about how weird it was that she showed up at my parents house at the exact time we were laying Cayden to rest.  I started to get a feeling, like this little cat didn’t just show up, like she was meant to be there.
For the next 48 hours the cat never left my parents house.  I called my Dad multiple times to ask if she was still there.  My dad asked around to the neighbors to see if she belonged to anyone, no one claimed her.  No matter how many times my parents tried to get her to “go home”, she wouldn’t leave.  In the mean time people could not stop asking about what was going on with the cat.  Everyone that was at my parents house that night just got an overwhelming feeling that the cat meant something.  It was as if no one could get the little cat showing up when she did out of their minds.
I called my Dad one more time and told him, if she is there in the morning when you go to work, I’m keeping her!  I couldn’t shake the feeling that is was meant for us to have her.
Sure enough, when my Dad went to his truck to go to work the next morning, the cat jumped in the truck with him!  At that point, he couldn’t help but think there was something special about her as well.
When I called my Dad that morning to ask him if the cat was at his house still, he told me she was at work with him sleeping, and I should come get her.  So Heather and I jumped in the car and immediately went to pick her up and take her to the vet to get checked out. She’s been hanging out at our house ever since 🙂
We found out she’s a young cat, around a year old.  She loves to play and has a cute little personality.  Jacket follows me everywhere, just like Cadybug did.  When I wake up in the mornings, she’s at the foot of my bed.  When I get dressed and put my makeup on, she hangs out in the room with me, just like Cadybug did.  When I’m having a bad day or I’m crying, thinking about Cayden, Jacket is sitting next to me.
Those first few weeks after Cayden passed were horrible.  My thoughts were consumed with memories and the realization that I would never see her sweet face again.  Rescuing the little stray cat and getting her setup in our house with food and toys and all the things you need when you get a new pet, gave me something to focus on….a purpose.  I believe with all my heart that Cayden sent Jacket to me for that very reason, to help me through a tough time.  Cayden wanted us to know she was there, and wanted to give us a cute little addition to care for.  And come on, the cat has to be from Cayden…..she does, after all, have the cutest little pink nose ❤
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ps…..the bracelets are coming soon.  As soon as they are here I will send info. out about them 🙂

The New Normal

When you first have a baby, getting used to life as a family is challenging.  When it’s just the two of you, you’re able to go to the store when you feel like it, meet up with friends, go out to dinner on a whim…whatever.  Once a baby comes into your life, your normal, everyday routine changes.  Going to the grocery store takes twice as long and you have to bring twice as many things with you to survive 🙂  You can’t really ever go out to dinner, at least not without finding someone to babysit.  As the months go by, you get used to this routine, you start to cherish it.  Time spent at home cuddling with your little one is something you look forward to much more than going out and having wine or adult time with friends. Your priorities change, and the things you enjoy change as well.

Once you start a family, you never think about the opposite happening.  It never crosses your mind that you would go back to being just two people, no one else to think about…with the exception of thinking about retirement when your kids are grown and out of the house.
Finding a “new normal” is something I struggle with everyday.  For over 3 years, my life revolved around Cayden.  What do I need to get for her today?  Where would Cayden have fun going?  What can I do that will get some of her energy out so I can let her nap while I mop the floors?  Whatever the case may be…
Nowadays, I have all this extra time on my hands.  I have the overwhelming need to keep busy and out of the house (staying inside can be quite depressing, and your mind runs away with you).  Brent and I have joined Planet Fitness, and chosen diet and workout plans to keep us busy.  Its something constructive to do that keeps you out and about for at least a couple of hours.
I’m currently working on a new little project in memory of Cayden.  I am looking into some things I can do to help a non-profit group that helps families who deal with the flu.  This organization, Families Fighting Flu,, do work to help spread the news about the signs and dangers of the flu, keep you informed with news regarding the flu season and also help families who grief the loss of a family member from the flu.  I think working with them to raise money in Cayden’s honor is a perfect thing to do to make sure her memory lives on.  It’s also something for me to work on that occupies time and makes me feel good about helping others.
It’s interesting, when you have a small child, you often dream about those moments you get to yourself.  You long to have 1 day running errands without a child attached to you. You look forward to the 2 hours you get with your girlfriends alone while the grandparents babysit.  Time for yourself is so hard to get once you have a baby.  It’s not that you’re a bad parent, but everyone likes a little break every once in a while 🙂  I did and always will cherished my time with Cayden.  I love her to pieces.  I spent weekends doing whatever I knew she would have the most fun doing.  I sacrificed my time for her, to make her happy.  And I, in turn, was never more happy doing so.
Now I have alllllll this free time, and I wish I could give every minute of it back.  I am learning to live again, with the best part of my life missing.  I know I will slowly learn to live in this new normal, and enjoy life as Cayden would want me to.  I hope she’s proud.  I like to think she’s with me on this journey, helping me with each little step…just as she would do if she was right here with me.
Love you baby ❤
***I will be posting some information soon on the blog with a page on how you can purchase #pinkforcadybug bracelets!  All of the proceeds will go to Families Fighting Flu in Cayden’s name. Check out their website for more information. Keep an eye out for the update!

Happy Balentine’s Day ;)

I personally have never been super into Valentine’s day.  I have always celebrated, and, like every woman, have expected a little something that day 🙂  Brent and I have always been pretty subtle though, and it worked for us.

Cayden however….LOVES Valentine’s day ❤  She loved the color scheme, obviously, the treats, the hearts, everything.  This past Valentine’s day, she spent the entire month until St. Patrick’s Day telling every one “Happy Balentine’s Day”.
Last year Brent had to work on Valentine’s day.  It fell on a Friday and he was gone until 9 that night.  He knew his girls would be home together, celebrating a ladies day.  When we got home from work/school that day Brent had left gifts and a balloon on the couch for his favorite people.  Cayden’s face lit up with excitement when she saw that there were surprises for her and mommy on the couch.  My heart filled with joy to see her so happy.  I told her that Daddy was her Valentine and he bought her special gifts because she is so wonderful.
Last year, Valentine’s day was PERFECT.  Cayden wore a cute outfit with a heart on the front, she had a valentine’s party at school and she came home with lots of goodies from her class.
2015 is going to be hard.  It is going to be our “1st” everything without her.  First birthdays, holidays; things just won’t be the same.  Cayden enjoyed holidays and celebrations so much.  She looked forward to the little parties at school with all of her friends.  I would always buy her a special outfit for the day to make her feel special.  She would be so proud when she walked in the door at school to show her teachers and friends what she was wearing.
My friend Nicki said it best when she spoke at Cayden’s funeral.  Although Brent and I had such a short time with her, our time was filled with overwhelming love.  If God gave us the choice to pick Cayden all over again, knowing that she would be with us for just a short time, we would have picked her again and again.  She is such a special gift.
Cayden’s grave is decorated for Valentine’s day…just the way she would like it.  I can see her little face now smiling looking at how pretty it is.  Tomorrow I plan to go visit her and wish my sweet little Valentine a HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY.  I wouldn’t miss a Valentine’s day with her ❤  She will always be my love and my Valentine.
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Happy Birthday Daddy!

This weekend we will be celebrating Brent’s 31st birthday.  As I think about the day, who we will spend it with and where we will go, I can’t help but think about the most important little person that we miss.  Cayden loved a good birthday party. She loved singing Happy Birthday, having lots of her favorite people over and especially eating birthday cake 🙂
For Brent and I, birthdays, milestones and holidays will never be the same again. Although life goes on and we do our best to enjoy each day in Cayden’s memory, a little piece of us will always be missing.  At this time last year, we would have never pictured a birthday party without her.  Cayden made celebrating anything a real treat.  She enjoyed shopping with me at party city to pick up decorations.  She always volunteered to be a helper when it came time to decorate or make treats. Cayden made our lives rich with happiness….and looking back at all the pictures and memories, she still does.
So, Brent doesn’t know it yet, but I think we will be starting a new family tradition this year.  In honor of Cayden and how much she loved birthdays and cake, we will be having a pink dessert in her honor.  I know she will be in Heaven celebrating with us, and she will be soooo excited to see her Daddy eat a pink dessert 😉
Also, for Cayden’s birthday this year we would like to do something very special. May 18th will be Cadybug day.  I would like to take suggestions from everyone for great ideas on how to celebrate and honor our baby.  So follow the blog and leave a message below with fantastic ideas! (obviously its going to HAVE to include a trip to the beach).  Then, on her birthday, I will blog about our May 18th celebration ❤
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“They say that from the instant he lays eyes on her, a father adores his daughter. Whoever she grows up to be, she is always to him that little girl in pigtails. She makes him feel like Christmas. In exchange, he makes a secret promise not to see the awkwardness of her teenage years, the mistakes she makes or the secrets she keeps.” –Everwood

From Aunt Heather with LOVE

I feel greatly honored to be able to write as a guest on Jessica’s blog. I was so excited when she told me she had started one. I truly believe the positive effects from this form of therapy and support. What an amazing tribute to Cayden and her short yet beautiful life.

My name is Heather and I was blessed to become Cayden’s non-biological Auntie. Jessica and I have been best friends since the moment we met in college at Virginia Wesleyan over ten years ago. We’ve shared so many important life moments and events together. Cayden, by far, is my favorite!

In all honesty, after Cayden was born, I was terrified to hold her. I had heard her heart beat and felt her move inside Jessica’s belly. She gripped and held my finger the day she was born, so small yet so strong. But I was beyond scared to pick her up! It was so silly and I still can’t believe myself to this day. I had never held a baby in my life and I was so afraid of breaking my best friends newborn. Two months after Cayden was born, Jessica and Brenton laughing and joking with me, thrust her into my arms…finally! I was so awkward and afraid, but they were so trusting and sure of me. And it was easy! I don’t know what I was so afraid of. She just laid so calm in my stiff arms as we looked at each other.  Looking down at her, I saw so much of my future and life changing in that instant.

After that moment, I could not wait to hold her again. She was the best lil snuggler and would just so casually crawl into my lap at any time…even with both hands full of a giant watermelon slice and her face covered with sticky fruit. But I didn’t care, I loved her in my arms. Before Cayden could really talk, she would simply tug on my pant leg or skirt to be lifted up and held. As she got older, she would sprint towards me and leap into my arms for a very massive (yet tiny because she only weighed about 20 pounds! haha) hug. Anyone who knew Cayden would definitely say her hugs were the absolute best.

I always think back and remember one day in particular. In late November, once the excitement of Thanksgiving was over and Christmas was kicking into gear, Jessica and I talked about doing some fun family Christmas pictures. We dressed up the boys and Cadybug and dragged them out into the cold at dusk to set up for our mediocre photo shoot. After a very successful and rushed session, the five of us head off to our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Taco Loco. We ate and laughed with Cayden being the center of attention and entertaining us as always with her singing and hysterical personality. At one point during all of our silliness, she kept jumping and throwing herself into Jessica’s arms. She would clutch around her neck so tight and kissing all over her face. It was hilarious and so sweet! Then she went around the table and did the same thing with Brenton… jumping in his arms and kissing all over his face. Then Jim. Then myself. 🙂  We laughed in astonishment at how overly affectionate she was being and individually loving on us all.

Once dinner was over, Jessica, Brenton, Cayden and myself walked outside and waited on a bench for Jim to finish inside. As many may know, picture-taking is a constant joy in the Smith household. So as we sat on the bench waiting for Jim, we tried to take a few pictures with Cayden. Shockingly… She wouldn’t let us! NOT until Jim was out there and we were all together! As soon as Jim came outside, we asked some patrons if they wouldn’t mind taking our picture, and we all crammed together for a group “family” picture. You cant help but clearly see the love, happiness, and excitement in every one of our faces in that picture.

We hugged and kissed goodbye, not ever thinking or possibly imagining that would be the last time Jim and I would hug our sweet angel. Looking back now, it’s easy to get caught up in the pain and sorrow of the memory. But instead, we remember how this perfect 3-year-old little girl took her time that night and made sure each one of us knew how much she loved us. The most thoughtful and affectionate actions…from a three-year old. She truly had the purest heart and loved so deeply for those close to her. I miss my sweet bug every minute of the day. I am so grateful for each moment spent with her and the love shared. Cayden has opened my eyes to a greater love I never knew existed and a better way to view life.

So please, slow down. Stop and really see those you love around you. Hug them, kiss them, tell them you love them. So many times we rush out the door or off the phone without those affectionate words or actions. ❤


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A Girls Best Friend <3

The week after Brent and I got back from our honeymoon, our 9 week old Bernese Mountain dog puppy was scheduled to arrive at the airport.  We bought Maple from a breeder in Oklahoma, and the little puppy flew to Virginia to come live with us.  We were so excited! Maple was fluffy and sweet and super cute.  We were newly married and this was our first pet together, so naturally, she was our baby.  She got ALL the attention.

A few years later I got pregnant and was looking forward to Maple meeting her new little sister.  For the first few days after we came home from the hospital with Cayden, Maple stayed at my Mother-in-laws house.  We wanted to take a few days to get used to having a new baby and try to create some sort of routine.  About a week after Cayden was born, Brent went to his mom’s house to pick Maple up and bring her home to meet Cayden. When Maple ran in the house she was bursting with excitement, probably wondering why she had to be gone for so long.
When Maple first encountered Cayden, just about a week old, in Mommy’s arms, she was making those little cooing baby noises.  Maple walked up, sniffed her, and tilted her head to one side…probably thinking, “what is this thing??” Little did Maple or Cayden know at that time, they would soon become best friends.

Watching the 2 of them play together was the cutest thing.  Maple loved Cayden and Cayden adored Maple.  Maple is such a sweet and gentle giant.  Some people may be concerned when a 130 pound dog plays with a 20 pound child….but not in this case. Cayden was in control…and anyone who knew Cayden knows that is 100% true.  Cayden’s favorite chore of the day was to come home from school and feed her puppy.  Maple would allow this small child to sit on her, put jewelry and hair bows all over her, put sunglasses on her face, you name it.  I never once had a concern of Maple getting upset.
In the evenings when Brent would get home from work,  I would hear the door unlock and I would shout out to Cayden and Maple, “Daddy’s home!!”  Those girls would race to the front door to greet him.  They always wanted to see who would be first to get to Daddy. Brent would pick Cayden up and give her a giant hug.  Cayden was so petite, you only needed one hand to hold her, so he would always pet Maple too….so they both got to cuddle Daddy at the same time 🙂
I never knew how important Maple would really be until now.  I love her more knowing she was so sweet and loving to my baby girl.  It makes me feel good to know, that although Cayden was only 3 years old and she was an only child, she did have a sister….a furry one. Someone she could hang with and watch TV, someone to play in the backyard with when she kicked the soccer ball and someone to share her snacks with in the kitchen (no matter how many times I told Cayden not to share her food with Maple). ❤
Sometimes when I’m by myself and I feel sad, I will sit on the couch, scroll through pictures and cry.  Maple will sit in front of me and rest her giant head in my lap.  I know Maple misses Cayden too.  Dogs HAVE to go to Heaven, because I know Cayden will squeal with excitement when she gets to hang out with her best gal pal again.
I couldn’t choose just a few pics, so here is a WIDE assortment of Maple and Cadybug pics, ranging from when she was 2 weeks old, to just 2 weeks before she passed.
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This time last year…

I was feeling nostalgic early this morning and decided to look back in my folder of pictures to see what I was doing this week last year.  As I searched through the images, I smiled. This time last year it was snowing.  Cayden was excited to wake up in her new snowman jammies and see a blanket of white in her front yard.  Looking through the pictures, the feelings that I had on that very day filled my heart.  It was a wonderful day….pretty much perfect actually.  Work and school were canceled.  Cayden and I spent the whole day together.

It was a great time to be snowed in.  I was really working with Cayden to finally get her potty trained for good.  Every time she successfully used the potty, I would cheer loudly and give her a high-five!  I had a basket of little toys next to the toilet that Brent and I had picked up at the dollar store.  Every visit to the potty got her a prize from the basket.
Along with working on that milestone, we made banana bread, blew bubbles (in the house!) and put flowers in the snow.  That girl LOVED to help you in the kitchen.  She would sit on the counter next to me and help me pour in and stir all of the ingredients. Cayden made delicious banana bread.

She is and will always be my best friend.  Spending the whole day just hanging out with her is what I lived for.  I never had more fun than the times that we stayed in and did fun things together.  Cadybug was the best friend a girl could have on lazy days.

This blog will be short and sweet.  I don’t really have much to say.  I guess I never realized how important these random, silly pictures would be one day.  Most of the pictures I took just for fun.  I enjoyed capturing her in all her fun and sweet moments. Take as many pictures of your kids as you can.  When you look back at them, the happy moments will come back every time.
So, I will let the pictures below speak for themselves.  Just looking at them, you will know how much fun we had on that snow day, no words needed 🙂
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