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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Grocery Shopping

There aren’t many things I do these days that don’t make me think about Cayden.  Memories of places we went and things we did together fill my mind almost every minute.  Some things are harder to do than others.  Right now, I think going to the grocery store has to be the hardest thing I do.

Cayden was a helper.  She loved to be my little assistant when we did chores and ran errands.  She always wanted to be apart of every activity.  Many days after work/school, I would pick her up and tell her we were going to the grocery store.  She would get SO excited!  We always went to Kroger because it was close to our house…but mostly because they had the little mini shopping carts that she could push all by herself.  Every time we would pull into the parking lot she would say “Mommy, I want a little cart ok?”
I would hold her tiny had and walk with her through the parking lot into the store.  She would get the little cart out all by herself.  I would then tell her all the things we needed to pick up that day.  She loved to help pick out apples, count them and put them in the bag.  She was the best little assistant shopper.  While shopping, she would always ask for donuts.  So when we went through the bakery area of Kroger, she would stop and pick up a box of the little powdered donut holes.  They were her favorite!  As we would walk through the store to pick up the rest of the things we needed, she would eat a few powered donuts and push her cart.  Her little face would be covered in powdered sugar by the time we go to the check out line 🙂
After we checked out, she would push the cart through the parking lot while I kept busy keeping her from banging the cart into cars.  She would help me take each bag out and put them in the trunk.  When we were all finished, she and I would push the little cart to the cart return area in the parking lot…she loved that part.
Now when I go to the grocery store…I feel like a part of me is missing.  I don’t have a little hand to hold in the parking lot, I get the regular size cart and I don’t pick up any powdered sugar donut holes.  I pick up what I need quietly, I don’t have to tell anyone to stop running or to watch out for other people as they walk by with their carts.  I see other people there, other moms with their kids, and I smile.  Part of me is a little jealous, that they are there with their kids and I don’t have mine.  Part of me is sad, because I miss her and I miss shopping with her.  And then part of me is happy, they look cute pushing their mini cart through the isles or riding in the car cart (which Cayden also enjoyed on occasion).
For now, I try to stay positive.  I try to think about all the fun we had together running little everyday activities.  I like to think that when I go to the grocery store now, she’s there with me, in spirit, helping me pick out everything I need.  I’m thinking me and Brent might even need to  have some powdered sugar donut holes for breakfast soon 😉
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My New Years Thoughts

This New Years Eve I am sad….this upcoming year will be hard.  As I sat and thought about what I want in the new year, what sort of resolutions I might want to make, I of course immediately thought of Cayden.  What kind of person she would have been in 2015 and what kind of person I would be with her.  So, as I look forward, I want to stay positive.  In 2015, I’m going to live the way Cayden would have and in the way she would want me to.

   My first plan is to live life to the fullest.  Cayden was so adorable when you would tell her we were going to run an errand.  I would pick her up from daycare, get her strapped in the car seat and she would say “where we going mommy?”  I would say, “well, do you want to go to the grocery store with mommy?”  And she would scream “YAY!!!!” at the top of her lungs.  The basic, everyday activities that we as adults don’t typically get excited for, and usually dread, were things that Cayden thought were exciting.  From helping me fold clothes to giving Maple a bath, she looked forward to these activities and made them fun.  I looked forward to doing them simply to see the look on her face when I told her she could help me.  This upcoming year, I want to look at life through Cayden’s eyes.  Every day is a gift, and you should cherish the moments you have here and enjoy your life.
   My next plan is to just be myself…to dance like no ones watching.  Anyone who has been around Cayden knows that girl will break it down anytime, anywhere.  She loved to dance, listen to music and sing at the top of her lungs.  She didn’t care who was around or what anyone thought.  When she felt it, she did it.  On vacation this summer we went to Darrell’s restaurant in Manteo for lunch.  The song “Let it Go” came on while we were eating.  Cayden stood up in the booth and belted out every word right there.  Luckily, since we had a toddler, we knew to eat lunch at 2:30 so we wouldn’t disturb others.  When she stood there singing Brent and I could not stop laughing.  She would also shake her booty in the most random places.  While shopping at Sam’s Club one afternoon, a random song came on that she just HAD to dance to.  So while waiting in line to check out, she just danced her little butt off.  Everyone around us was smiling and laughing, throughly entertained by this cute little girl dancing in the check out line.  Cayden wanted anyone who was with her to have fun…no matter where you were or what you were doing.  So for Cayden, this year we need to enjoy ourselves and just do what makes you happy.  Maybe we can take a trip to Sam’s and have a dance party 🙂
   In 2014 there have been a lot of stories in the news regarding hate.  Hating other people because of the color or their skin, or their religion or their personal choices.  I hear these things and then I think about Cayden.  Cayden never once asked me why someone was different.  She never once made a comment about anyone looking different….she just didn’t care!  She loved everyone and everyone who met her fell in love with her.  She was smart and vibrant and gave the best bear hugs.  Cayden didn’t care what you looked like, who you loved, what color you were….whatever.  If you were nice to her, she was nice to you and you were her best friend.  That’s the kind of person I wanted her to grow up and be, open-minded, sweet, loving.  And that’s exactly the person she was.  In Cayden’s honor, I think we should all start thinking a little more like her.  Worry less about why people are different, and just love them for who they are.
   With all the hate in the world, I started to wonder if there were any good people left.  When you listen to all the terrible things going on in the world, you start to feel like there’s no one left who cares.  Losing Cayden is and will always be the hardest thing I will ever have to endure.  Having said that, the love and support that has poured out to us over this last month has been remarkable.  People I barely know, even people I don’t know at all, have sent cards, letters, plants, flowers, gifts, donations; it really has been amazing.  This has shown me that there are still MANY good people in the world, people who will stand by you when you’re down and will support you when you need it most.  Even strangers.  In 2015, I want to be one of these people as well.  Someone who helps others when they need it most.  It is very inspiring.
   As 2014 comes to a close, I want to keep these ideas in mind for the New Year.  Enjoy the little things in life.  Embrace who you truly are. Love each other.  Help those who need it.  Be more like Cadybug ❤
Enjoy the pics below of Cayden loving life 😉
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The Holidays

Christmas is fast approaching.  It’s typically a time of year that I look forward to. I usually love shopping, picking out things that I think are great gifts, decorating and baking.
This year however, is quite different.  Skipping Christmas entirely sounds more like my cup of tea. I miss Cayden right now so much it physically hurts. You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach, like when you hit a big drop on a roller coaster? That’s the feeling I get every time the thought that she’s “actually gone” registers again in my mind.
This year I was looking forward to doing all of the really fun holiday activities with her. I searched on Pinterest for the best Elf on a Shelf ideas.  This year she was finally old enough to really get into Santa and Christmas and asking for presents. I’m sure I was more excited than she was to get to wake up Christmas morning and find the presents she specifically asked for under the tree.
Sadly, she will not have Christmas with us this year.  I didn’t even put up a tree, wrap presents or put any decorations up this year.
On November 22nd Brent and I took her to the Grand Illumination Parade in downtown Norfolk. I’m so very glad we got the opportunity to take her this year.  While we were waiting for the parade to start, someone passed out a list to the children so they could write their name, address and their Christmas wish list down to give to Santa. After the parade we also had tickets to see Santa himself!
Cayden was excited that entire day. She told me over and over again what she was going to ask Santa for. She wanted a pink snake, a guitar, a flute, an Elsa baby doll and a powerwheels car.  She screamed with excitement when I told her Daddy was on his way home and we would be headed to the parade soon.
Below are some pictures from the parade that night. Her holding her list she put together for Santa is one of my favorites.
After the parade that night, Brent and I came home and ordered everything she specifically asked Santa for.  Its been hard in the last couple weeks to call and ask to return these items because we no longer need them.
I know Cayden is in Heaven now, and she wants for nothing.  I’m sure she is up there waiting for Santa and she knows she will get everything she asked for.  I only wish I could be there to see her open her gifts.





Two Weeks Ago…

   Two weeks ago today I lost my baby girl.  There isn’t a second that goes by that I don’t think about her.  I wanted to start a blog because I think writing about how I feel, what goes on in my mind and how I learn to be me in the regular world again will, in some ways, help me cope with this terrible loss.
   Currently, night-time is the worst.  It’s when you have the most time to think.  Think about the fun things you did together, think about what you would be doing right now if she was there with you, think about the night that it happened and what you could have done differently…the thoughts never stop.
   Last night I had a dream that Cayden fell down and hurt her knee and she was crying for me. In my dream I could hear her little voice perfectly, see her little face…everything.  It was so real, it was like she was right there.  I picked her up and she gave me a big hug, and I could feel her wrap her little arms around me like she used to do and squeeze soooo tight.  It felt so real.  When I opened my eyes, I immediately realized it was just a dream, she wasn’t there.  It is moments like that when I cry the most.
   Cayden gave the BEST hugs….I miss her hugs most of all.  She would wrap her arms around your neck so tight and squeeze with all her little might.  I loved it.  I would give anything right now to feel one of those hugs again.  After I would put her to bed at night, she would call my name.  I would ask, “Cayden, what do you need baby?  Its time to go to sleep..” and she would say, “I just need a hug mommy”.  I think that’s why I dream about the hugs.
   I know the memory of Cayden and everything we did together will forever live within my mind and I will cherish them always.  I’m so glad I took so many wonderful pictures and videos of her while she was here with us to look back at and smile when I have a tough day.  I hope that keeping a blog about my memories of her and the special things that make her unique, will help me to remember the little things years down the road.  I also hope that me sharing these little daily memories of her will help other people who were close to Cayden or people who have suffered a loss of any kind, to be able to smile thinking back to a fun memory with the person they miss.
Love you to the moon and back Cadybug ❤