Friday, September 25, 2015

Happy Birthday Nathan!

Today is one of my favorite people in the world's birthdays. I am thankful to celebrate the amazing person that he is. Thirteen years ago, we came home from the hospital, on his birthday. It was my present to him, his first baby girl, and I have never been able to top it.

Each year though, I have fallen more in love with this man! He is amazing and funny and smart!  A few years ago I wrote a post telling him 35 things I love about him, I just keep adding to it, now we are at 38.

It seems like every year I say it, "This year has been crazy and life even crazier, but there is no one I would rather spend my crazy life with than you, Nathan Jacobs!"

Sometimes I hold my breath, trying to change the rhythm. Breathing on cue; I panic because suddenly, it does not work like it is supposed to. I feel like I am drowning and I can not breathe. Or, I stop blinking and then try to start and it is hard to see because every blink is an effort, and I wonder maybe this is what my life will be like forever, the effort of breathing and blinking. But then in the middle of all my work I realize I am doing it on my own again. This is not a habit or something I learned. It is part of who I am. I am alive; breathing, blinking alive. And somehow or time or where that is what happened to my heart, with you.

If I tried to stop loving you, to start a different rhythm, it would feel awful. Because my heart is not in the habit of loving you. My love for you has become a part of who I am. My love for you is just like breathing and blinking, it is part my living. The kind of love that when things go wrong, I start to panic, because my heart is off. I work to make it right, I try to make my heart beat right. But then, I realize in the midst that my heart is right back to where it is supposed to be. It knows you so completely, the rhythm of you. The past two years have shown this truer than I could have imagined when I wrote this three years ago.

Today I get to celebrate YOU, my love. Your day! Today I get to celebrate what an amazing man I love with all my heart.

In honor of 38 years of life, here are thirty eight things I love about you!

1.That for twenty one days you officially get to be older than me.

2. Your laugh

3. Your smile

4. That you always put our family first.
5. You care about the hearts of our children
6. Your eyes
7. That you can make up something to eat in the kitchen from WHATEVER is available...
8. and that you always let the kids help
9. That you work hard
10. Watching you paint
11. Watching you hold our children for the first time.
12. Watching you hold our children as they have grown.
13. Going for walks with you
14. Going on adventures with you
15. When you make up stories
16. That you always stop for people on the side of the road
17. You do not get mad when I call you just because I need to
18. That you hate to fight as much as I do
19. That you support most of my crazy plans
20. That you go camping with me even though you hate it...
21. That when I realize camping is not as much fun as an adult and whine a lot you still go camping with me again in case it is going to get better.
22. Your heart
23. Your passion for what you believe
24. Your willingness to admit when you are wrong and say sorry
25. Holding your hand
26. Seeing you live your dreams
27. Sharing our dreams with each other
28. That you cry when you think about our kids growing  up
29. Laughing with you
30. Kissing you
31. That I can trust you completely.
32. Playing Ticket to Ride with you....
33. That you understand that I cry when I lose at Ticket to Ride or any game for that matter
34. Your faith
35. Your mind
36. That our hearts break for the very same thing.
37.  That you do not give up
38.  That you fight for things worth fighting for.

I love you and Happy Birthday Nathan!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

She is 13!!!

I have no idea how this happened, but somehow it did, today, she is thirteen.  Suddenly now I am the mom of a teenager. I do not feel old enough to have a teenager. But I also cannot remember what my life was like before I was her mom.

And I have cried many tears the past weeks, remembering holding my sweet girl in my arms. I used to dance around the living room singing softly in her ear, "Dance with me Anastasia Grace and we will go to a faraway place! Oh dance with me Anastasia Grace."  I was so in love, I did not know what to do with myself. I remember someone telling me how much she looked forward to family gatherings when her littles were little, because there were so many arms to hold her babies. And I could not imagine ever wanting anyone to ever hold my girl besides me. My arms were made to be a mother, her mother.

The memories are great, moving to Oregon with my little sweet one month old, to start a grand adventure, that fell apart just months later. She has lived through jobs and job loss, moves and no where to call home, school and more school, and still more moves and even more moves, new friends and friends that moved away. And moving away from friends she cherished. She has handled all that life has brought with such grace, joy and wisdom.

And panic grips me because I want to hold so tight to her. I have not protected her enough. And have I even given her wings to fly? How do I do this? This parenting thing. How do I keep her safe and make her ready?

I love her so much.

She is growing up.

And I am so proud of the young lady she is becoming. She is beautiful and funny, kind and compassionate. She is brave. She has more courage and determination than anyone that I know. She faces her fears head on, and she knows what she wants.

She makes friends wherever she goes, but knows who she is.

I love her more each day.

Happy 13th Birthday my Anastasia Grace!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Birthday Verity!

Tomorrow, my little Verity turns 5!

It seems like we always travel on her birthday, and this year is no different, so she gets the joy of  driving for hours, but it is tradition and she gets to see family.  We try to make it as exciting as possible. We also usually get milkshakes and sing to her in the car.

Four has suited her beautifully. It is hard to imagine the little girl that used to scream for hours at the top of her lungs, could turn into one of the most joyful children in the world. Her stubbornness and spunk drove me close to insanity. I remember dreading giving her a time out, because I knew once it started it would last a minimum of an hour, often up to two. Two hours of screaming and fighting. She wore me out. But she loved just as sweetly. She would listen to me sing or read just one more song or one more book every night.

And then four came and she suddenly became her own person. With some self-control and independence. She is one of my favorite people in the world to spend time with. She is smart and funny and beautiful.

Yesterday she went to the store with me. I told her what we needed. She sat in her seat and said it a few times, then said, "Okay mom, I got it now, I remember everything on our list." And she did, I got three of the four items and asked her if we had it all, she said, "no, we forgot one thing!" And she was right, but it was at a different store :)

She has excelled at gymnastics this year and in her class, they said she acts like a little grown

With all her spunk and craziness she has given me many wonderful memories. Here are a few of my favorites:

Anya asked her if she could just go to bed quiet and easy, her response, "No, because that is just not how my life goes!"

She picks to watch Transformers and Super Hero shows just because she loves her brother David so much and wants to spend time with him.

She and David have a special bond, they have made up a special handshake and today he made her a birthday card that said, "Happy Birthday Verity! I am so happy you are my sister!"

One day at rest time I overheard her giving David "options," "David, these are your options," she said, "You can smell my feet, smell my underwear or smell my socks." David, "I do not like ANY of those options!" Verity, "Well, those are your only options. Pick one."

She uses scare quotes appropriately and frequently refers to Bozhi as her "little" brother. They play together and fight just as well.

She loves to draw and play and swim. She talks more than anyone I know. She has ideas about everything.

I love her and cannot wait to see what five brings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A few thoughts on the past year…

I have said all too cryptically over the past month and year how hard life has been. And I guess I still have to just stay there in the abstract. But, there have been moments when I wanted to shout it, in all its ugliness, I have wanted to point fingers and hurt others because I am hurt. And one of the hard and sad things I learned is that “hurt people, hurt people.” I have wanted to somehow make things better by making things worse for others hoping somehow it would make me feel better. But over months and weeks and days, a lot of that has started to change. And I have looked back on the year.

I wrote my last post on my little boy, it has been a year, and he has come a long way! And honestly, I think we all have.

So here are ten things I have learned this year…some I have been learning for quite a while, but they have really struck home this year.

      1. To remember the good. I heard it on the radio a few months ago. It was this woman talking about when her husband did something that upset her, like coming home from work late, before she reacted she remembered all the good things he had done. She was keeping a record, but of the good things, not the bad, so when it came time to react she stopped and gave grace. I want to keep record of those in my life, to remember the good, to not stop at the mistakes, and to be kind.
     2.   I have learned that what my mom and all moms always say is true, “If you have nothing nice to say, do not say anything at all.” I rarely have walked away from a conversation wishing I had said more, but frequently walked away wishing I had said so much less. I still sometimes write apologies to those I have said too much to, but am doing it a little less as the year moves on.
     3.    There is no one way to be a perfect mom. As soon as I have figured it all out, I have to see I do not have anything really figured out and every day is a day to learn something new or try it another way because it just is not working the way I thought it should or it did last time.
      4.     I have learned that forgiveness is something you might have to wake up and do every. single. day. And sometimes that is discouraging, but it is worth it. And it gets easier with time.

      5.      I have learned that love is a choice, not every day, but some days, and that joy is a choice, not every day, but some days.

      6.      I have learned that being angry is okay. It does not mean the world will fall apart. And in a more scientific way, until I actually say I am angry and deal with it and grief, I will never be okay.
      7.   Nothing is certain. After three job losses that were supposed to be permanent, or I hoped for permanent over the past years. Cancer diagnosis. Moves around the country. And family members that are really sick. I have learned that life is full of uncertainty, and have been reminded that this world is only temporary.

     8.      I read a book this year, The Scent of Holiness, by Constantina Palmer. I learned a lot from it, but one that has stuck with me in these moments, when I want to hear what is happening, to hear gossip, to hear something that takes my mind off me and focuses on how someone else is hurting, it is SO not helpful. And usually all it causes is more hurt and anger. I am learning to wait in those moments, to just wait.

     9.      And I learned I need to listen. I learned that I err on the side of busy and getting done instead of listening. It is often in the second try that I figure it out. But there are hearts and little voices worth hearing, so much more than bathrooms that need cleaning, or emails that need checking.

     10.  I learned what friendship looks like. And unfortunately what it does not look like. But thankfully, there are amazing people in the world who love selflessly and with such compassion. I have been blessed by some of these amazing people who are okay with messy and crying, and who still make me laugh and want the best for me. I want to be like them.

I still have a lot of learning to do and there is a long journey ahead, but I hold onto hope that even in this year, we are being refined and that we will be okay. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Home One Year... You have come a long way baby!

One year ago, on May 7th, 2014, my mom and I were in Eastern Europe picking up a little boy from an orphanage. The responsibility of that was not lost on me. When we traveled five months earlier to meet this little boy, we cried, terrified that we would never be able to meet his needs, they were just too great. But our hearts also knew that he would probably die. He was starving. I have heard many people say we probably saved his life. There was nothing heroic about it though. We just knew we could not stand before our God one day and say we left him there to die. It was more fear than any heroism. When we got there in November it was just a lot of overwhelming, because he was a shell of a person. He sat and stared at his fingers, he rocked and did what we asked, but very unwillingly. We spent about four hours each day just there with him, holding his hand, feeding him a banana, and waiting for the hours to end because it was hard. I hated that it was hard. I hated that I was scared and overwhelmed. But we just knew we had to bring him home. We were told he was fed five meals a day and on medication for an overactive thyroid, that they did everything to make him gain weight, but because he was disabled, he could not gain weight. So, we wondered if it was true, questioned it, but also knew if it was true he at least deserved a family to love him while he lived, because surely no one can live long at twenty pounds. So in faith and fear we stepped forward.

Five months later I went back with my mom. It was in the middle of one of the biggest trials of my life. It seemed in the months and weeks leading up to our pick up trip that we were going to face every obstacle possible. And a year later it has not ended. Sometimes I wonder if it has been a mixed blessing. Because the difficult things that come with adoption have paled in comparison to the rest of my life.

BUT, that day,one year ago, I walked into that orphanage and wondered if he would remember me, his mom. I had told him I would come back. He did not recognize me. But then they told him, "It's your mom, she came to bring you home." His tears stopped. He looked around the room. He climbed off my lap. He went to my backpack, he looked at me, he signed, "more." He remembered me. Every day we came in November we brought a little food, and we taught him the sign for "more." He remembered me and the sign and he backpack and that I brought food! And hope filled me. That empty shell, held a little boy holding on to hope.  This picture shows him right after he signed more and I was giving him his banana. I asked if I could, they said, you are his mom, you can give him what you want. It was so hard to comprehend, the responsibility of taking care of this fragile little boy.  It was a lot for me to wrap my head around.

This is a picture of us leaving the orphanage...

And this is a picture of him the day after we picked him up. I hated this picture, I did not even want to take it because he was just. too. small. But I wanted to remember. He weighed twenty pounds. I believe a lot of that was in his head. I cried when I saw him like this, how can someone be seven years old and weigh twenty pounds, how do you survive. But he did, he survived. 

And now he is THRIVING! It has been one year. He now weighs forty six pounds. He has gained twenty six pounds in one year. He has grown six inches. I had to rubber band eighteen month clothes around his waist, now he fits in size 4T. He is actually a little bit chubby. He has learned some sign language. He is working on talking. He can say mama. We have worked so long for that. He makes many more letter sounds and says, "Ok" "Hi" "Hot" "WOW" and many more "words" that we think we hear. He understands and follows directions. He makes HUGE messes and tries to help clean up. He eats a lot. He laughs and cries. He gets angry and likes to joke around. Just today he chased his four year old sister to tickle her and then hugged her. He is learning to play. He pretends to do school and asks for help on his "lessons." One of his favorite things in the world is church. He loves going to church. His favorite T.V. show is "Good Eats." He says "UGGHH" when I ask him to do something he does not want to do, or covers his ears and says, "NANANANA" so he does not have to hear me. He is working on potty training, and loves to say, "thank you." and give me five when he does something right. He loves to sing, and often "sings" along to songs that are familiar. And when he hears a song he knows he gets really excited! He has opinions about what he wears and his shoes, he loves to wear moon boots even in the heat, I think because they are easy to put on. Whenever he leaves without his brother and sisters, he makes sure to give everyone a hug and kiss goodbye. He hates to be left out. He always wants to be with his family. We are still learning how to be a family, what that looks like. He amazes me and makes me want to pull out my hair almost every day. It is amazing the change of one year!

These were taken just days after coming home...

Home two months...

Home 6 months.....

Home 9 months....

Home 1 Year....

You probably would not even know he was the same kid, the shell of a boy we met in November of 2013, the little boy I met last year who only wanted to eat and sleep. He now hugs and kisses me, tells me "no." and acts like most of my other children. We have a long ways to go. And there is a lot of hard, but he has come a long, long way. And we are so thankful he is our son! 

When we were waiting for him, before ever meeting him, I had a dream about him at 15 years old. He was sitting at our kitchen counter laughing and smiling about something. There are glimpses of that young man now in the Bozhi that I know today! 

I tell him every day how happy I am I get to be his mommy and how happy I am that he is my son! He is a blessing!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy 10th Birthday Karis Rose!

Today my sweet Karis turns 10!

Dear sweet Karis,

Ten years ago you made me a mom again! My sweet Valentine! You came into this world a week early, already doing things on your terms. You have challenged me every day of your life, stretching me to become a better person. Motherhood has a way of doing that, but especially when you are mothering a child so much like yourself. I have learned this year how much like me you are. I see all your struggles and feel them so much because I know exactly how it feels. I know what it is like to want to find out who you are, and have no idea how to do that or figure out who that is. And just to love so much and want to be loved. Your heart is beautiful.

This year you have faced all the changes of our family with grace and a few tears. But mostly just words of encouragement. Encouraging me and letting me know you were okay. You have embraced your new brother with kindness and compassion. You have in many ways found your place in our new home, but in others you are still finding it.

We moved to Kentucky, and you were SO EXCITED to be moving to the Horse Capital of the World. And then we went weeks without seeing a horse and you lamented. But we finally found some lessons. And you have ridden and you are really good at it. You are brave.You have courage to ask for things that I would not think of. You dream big. You have made friends. You love making movies with your siblings. And you love to help with the little kids at church. It is most Sundays that I find you holding a baby in one arm while eating lunch with the other in the basement at church. I love your heart. And I love your smile. You have become more beautiful with each year.

I am SO proud to be your mom. I love you Karis Rose!

Happy Birthday!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Happy Birthday Bozhidar!

Today you turn 8! And we get to celebrate.

For the past week your sisters and brother have told you your birthday is coming. That you will get cake and macaroni and cheese and presents. They have said it so often now, that you get so excited! You clench your hands and shake squealing with delight that your birthday is COMING! And it is finally here. I have no idea if you know what it means. But you DO know that it is a day to celebrate.

There is some sadness in my heart thinking about your birth mom and all the birthdays she has missed. Does she think of you on this day? Does she wonder about you?

I wish I could tell her you are doing amazing!

I would tell her about today. Today you got the iPad. We found you in your bedroom making a movie by. your. self. It was a movie of you showing us your stuffed animals. You then shut the door got your toy computer, looked at the camera and said, "uh-uh." Which we all know means, do not touch this, it is mine! Then David comes bursting through the door and you start laughing hysterically.

And then I would tell her what happened at lunch today. Today, you went in the kitchen, picked out what you wanted, put it on the counter, got a bowl and a pan for me to cook it in and a spoon. When I came into the kitchen you pointed at it, the pan, the bowl and your mouth.

Last year I wrote this post. It was a "Happy Birthday." I missed you.

And this is the picture that we saw two years ago. The one where we said, "He is a Jacobs."

This was our first visit.... you were SO tiny!

I had NO IDEA then what this year would bring. I am kind of thankful. I could not have handled knowing that just in the middle of bringing you home my husband, your dad, would be diagnosed with cancer, we would lose our job and move to a whole different part of the country, and we would continue to wait to see if there is a job for next year. I did not know then, that my entire world would flip upside down and I would have to figure out how to be a good mom to you in the middle of it all.

But you have handled life with us, the unknown and change, every step, you have handled in stride. We have figured it out together, all of us. And you continue to learn and grow. You have amazed me. You make us laugh AND want to pull out our hair every day. You wrestle with your siblings and give them hugs and affection. Just like a brother should.

David says, "The BEST brother ever..."

Nine months ago, all I wanted was for you to learn to play. Now, you play so well. You cook and you pretend. If the kids are playing without you, you have to go find what they are doing. You never want to be left out.

You communicate without words, almost too well. My favorite is when you pretend to look at your watch to say you think it is time to go. I have NO idea where you got it from. None of us wear watches. But you do it. We understand. And it makes me smile every time. You understand everything we say. You are thankful and helpful.

Your laugh is irresistible.

Your favorite thing to do is to pray. And eat!

I am a better person because you are in my world. I am so happy we get to celebrate this birthday with you! You, my sweet boy, are a blessing!

And a  new haircut! Happy 8th Birthday Bozhi! We love you!