Mommy's heart for Baby Jacob

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What do you turn to when you are stressed?  When you are sad?  When you are frustrated?  I turn to God and lots of prayer as I have so often during this journey.  I also turn to family and friends.  I like to talk it out.  I've done a lot of that in the last year and a half especially. 

I also turn to those hobbies and passions that I truly love.  Dancing helps.  Writing helps.  So does reading.  I've been an avid reader since I was a child.  I have memories of taking stacks of books to bed nightly...do you remember those school book orders?  They still do them today in fact.  I would take every book from my new order to bed that very night and don't you know I'd have to stay up to read each one. 

Not much has changed for me as far as reading now that I'm older.  I don't always have the time I'd like, but it's something that when I make the time for it, has truly helped me to de-stress, to stop thinking or obsessing or worrying...whether it was worrying about how Jacob's birthday would turn out or stressing over fertility treatment costs.  Stepping into that world that a book can offer you, especially a fiction book, is simply a time of enjoyment and relaxation. 

Well, I hadn't read in a while...I've read short devotionals before bed, I've read blogs from time to time online but I haven't picked up a book in awhile.  With Jacob's birthday and blogging again and our dance practices in the last several weeks, I've been a tad too busy to read much.  Until a new book landed in my mailbox just the other day.  It was the newest book by a wonderful author friend of mine, Janice Hanna Thompson. 

I met Janice in 2010 at a Writing Conference in San Antonio, TX.  She was our keynote speaker for a day and a half-long series of workshops focused on fiction writing.  I found myself loving every minute of her keynote and the sessions that she taught.  I was motivated.  I was inspired by her stories.  I had learned so much.  I bought two of her books that weekend and have been a fan ever since!!  I read her new books as soon as they come out and can't pick a favorite if I had to.

WEDDING BELLES was just the book I needed to enjoy following the emotional and joyful celebration of Jacob's birthday.  I remember hearing Janice talk about her historical research for this book some time back so was excited to see the storyline.  I flipped the book open the other night and found myself hooked by the very first page!  I had no idea that I needed a trip to Estes Park, Colorado...circa 1912...but I did.  I laughed.  I wondered how the characters would find their way out of the chaos.  I felt their joy and their worry.  I felt their sense of peace on the mountain and wanted to go there myself.  And oh yes, I worried about a cow.

I am so pleased to share Janice's interview for her newest release, WEDDING BELLES.  Would you like a chance to win a free autographed copy of the book sent to you by Janice herself?  All you need to do to for a chance to win this book is to leave a comment at the bottom of this page any time between Friday, May 4 - Sunday, May 6.  I will draw one name at random from the comments left on this post at Sunday, 6 PM EST.  Good luck to all of you!  Happy reading!!

WEDDING BELLES Interview with Janice Hanna Thompson

Who (or what) influenced you to become a writer?
From the time I was a little girl, I always had a creative bent. I loved to sing and dance. I got involved with drama in high school and ended up writing a little play, which we performed. In the late 70s my father moved our family to Los Angeles so that he could get into the movie business, (as a producer). He encouraged me to co-author a screenplay, which I did. In fact, I joined the screenwriter’s guild at age 18. Quite an honor! After I got married and had my children, they showed an interest in theater, too, so I ended up directing and writing musicals for Curtain Call CafĂ© (a Christian theater group). From there, my interests spread to books, and I started publishing fiction for the Christian market. I’ve now published over 80 books, everything from inspirational romance to non-fiction devotionals. I would have to say that my father was a huge influence. He passed away in ’06, but did a lot of writing in his lifetime (both screenplays and lyrics to country songs).

Janice, can you tell us about your latest book project?
Yes, I’m so tickled to share the news about my comedic historical, WEDDING BELLES, which released on May 1st. Most of my readers know that I love to write light-hearted tales, and this one is no different!

What is the story behind this book?
I received a call from editor Susan Downs, who shared an idea she had for a series of books titled “Belles and Whistles.” The books in this series, she explained, must be historical, set in the west, with funny, quirky female characters. Because I write romantic comedy, she thought I would be perfect. I quickly put together a proposal for six books and two were picked up right away: WEDDING BELLES and SLEIGH BELLES. I was commissioned to write WEDDING BELLES first and had a blast doing so! The basic premise for the book was developed before I started writing, but something significant happened along the way to change my plans drastically. I needed a sneaky reason for Lottie Sanders (my heroine) to bring a group of women to Estes Park Colorado as potential brides for the town’s men. About a week after I got the contract for this book I went to a local restaurant that happened to be hosting a melodrama during the dinner hour. As I watched the drama take place, I realized this was my answer! Lottie would write and direct a melodrama to raise funds for Parker Lodge (owned by the young man she secretly loves). Out of that came the rest of this fun, melodramatic tale!

Why did you choose to write this book under the name Janice Hanna, instead of Janice Thompson?
Ooh, great question! I write most of my contemporary novels (like the WEDDINGS BY BELLA series) under Thompson and historicals (like the LOVE FINDS YOU books) under Hanna. My maiden name is Hanna, and I love to write under that name to honor my father, who passed away in ’06. I think he would have been very proud of this particular book.

Is there any connection between the WEDDINGS BY BELLA series and this one?
Nope. None whatsoever. Just an interesting coincidence with the titles/names.

What’s the deal with the wedding stories? Why do you write so many books with wedding themes?
My four daughters (all in their late 20s/early 30s) got married within four years of each other. Talk about wedding chaos! At writer’s conferences I’ve been told to “write what you know” and I certainly know weddings. I worked for a short while as a wedding coordinator and have catered many a wedding and/or bridal shower. It just makes sense to keep my writing wedding-themed, as much as possible!

What outside interests do you have?
People might be surprised to hear this, but I bake cakes. Wedding cakes. Shower cakes. Birthday cakes. You name it, I bake it. In fact, I was once asked by a local restaurant to bake cakes for them.

Cute cover! What’s the story behind it?
My heroine, Lottie, is a tomboy. She’s not much for dresses. In fact, she wears pants most of the time. The men in Estes Park make it their mission to get Lottie “gussied up and lookin’ like a lady” as the story progresses. Of course, she’s still pretty attached to her cowgirl boots, so giving those up isn’t an option. I love the cover, because it merges the boots with the wedding dress.

How much research went into this story?
I drove to Estes Park while working on this book. Even though I had been many times before, I needed to see the area again so that I could envision it through Lottie’s eyes. The wonderful people at the Estes Park Museum spent a great deal of time with me, talking about the history of the area and pointing me to just the right research books to write. So, I would like to think I’ve got most of the historical elements right. I added the Stanley Hotel, of course, and the Stanley Steamer. But the setting for my story is Parker Lodge (which is completely fictional). Because I’m passionate about photography, I took dozens of pictures of the area. I particularly enjoy my trek up into Rocky Mountain National Park, where I did my best to absorb all I could about the scenery.

What are some of the most interesting things you found about this subject that you weren’t able to use in the story?
I learned a lot about the health benefits of living in Colorado! Did you know that Freelan Stanley (the man who designed/built the Stanley Hotel) came to Colorado at his doctor’s recommendation because he had tuberculosis? His health improved dramatically while in Estes Park.

What inspired and surprised you while you were writing the book?
I was directly inspired by the team of actors and actresses (here in Texas) who performed the melodrama. That little “spark” of inspiration completely changed the layout of my story and allowed me to tap into one of my strengths: directing. Many people don’t know that I spend part of my time working as a director at a local Christian theater and I love anything and everything about putting on shows.

What do you hope the reader takes away from the story?
Two things: I hope they see Lottie as the precious girl she is. I also hope they learn that perceptions are just that. . .perceptions. They’re not fact. Sometimes we look at situations and think we’ve got them figured out. When we give them a second look (and a third) we realize we were dead wrong.

What is the next project you’re working on?
I’m currently writing a novel titled LET THEM EAT CAKE, which is part of the new WEDDINGS BY DESIGN series from Revell Publishing. Many of my readers know me as the “Bella” author (from the WEDDINGS BY BELLA series). In this new series, readers can catch up with Bella, DJ and the whole gang!

What do you do when you have to get away from the story for a while?
I spend time with my grandbabies. I have six darling grandbabies with number seven on the way.

God has really been moving in your writing life. What do you see on the horizon?
I feel so incredibly blessed at this particular season in my life. I’ve been through several hard things over the past several years, but through it all, God has been right there, walking me through one book project, then another. He has used the writing to bring healing in so many areas, and I’m so grateful for that! I’ve made Ephesians 3:20 – 21 my life verse:  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. God IS able to do so much more than I could ask or think, and He keeps proving that to me. In spite of any weakness on my part (and there’s plenty, trust me), He entrusts me with this gift (writing). I will use it to His glory as long as He allows.

Please give us the first page of the book.

A Reckoning in the Rockies
Estes Park, prepare to be razzle-dazzled! Parker Lodge, located on the beautiful Fall River, continues to offer the best entertainment in town. This month’s event is certainly no exception. Join us this coming Friday evening, April 27, for a rousing performance by local musician Jeb Otis, who will play several well-known ballads and folk tunes on his saw. Otis, who hails from the Estes Valley region, will be appearing at the lodge for one night only, performing before a packed house. C’mon out and share in an evening of fine food, rousing entertainment, and heartfelt fellowship. Front-row seating for the first ten guests to arrive. —Your friends at Parker Lodge
Estes Park, Colorado, 1912
“Jeb Otis says he’s going to jump off Longs Peak and end it all.” “What?” Lottie Sanders looked up from the rippling waters of Fall River into her boss’s worried eyes. “He’s going to end it all? Why-ever would he do that?”

“Oh, you know how he is.” Gilbert Parker plopped down next to her and sighed. “Melodramatic. Always wanting attention. Just like the other men in this town. He’s frustrated because the Widow Baker won’t give him the time of day, so I guess this is how he plans to remedy the problem.”
“He’s going to remedy the problem by taking his life?” Lottie swallowed hard. “Won’t that defeat the purpose?”
“Who knows?” Gilbert offered a little shrug, and a hint of a smile turned up the edges of his lips. “But if it’s any consolation, I reminded him that he’s got a concert coming up this Friday evening, so maybe he’ll wait till after then to do himself in.”
“One can hope.” Lottie thought about the many times Jeb and the other fellas who frequented the lodge had posed such ludicrous threats. How weary she’d grown of their antics. “What’s it going to take to convince Jeb that he and Althea Baker are as different as night from day, anyway?” she asked. “They would make a terrible match. I’m surprised he can’t see that for himself.”
“True.” Gilbert released a sigh. “But I guess it’s true what they say—love is blind.”
“Mm-hmm.” It’s blind, all right.

How can readers find you on the Internet?
Facebook: Janice Hanna Thompson
Twitter: booksbyjanice

Where can readers buy this book?
They can email me for an autographed copy: booksbyjanice@aol.com. They can also purchase online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Christianbook.com

Wow!  Ready to enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Janice's book?  Don't forget to leave a comment below no later than Sunday, May 6 at 6 PM EST.  Thank you for allowing me to share Janice's book with you!

I'll be seeing you soon my friends,

o    Romantic Times Rating:  FOUR STARS!  Hanna’s Belles and Whistles series launch is filled with mayhem, drama and, of course, romance. The characters are engaging, witty and willing to do what they need to get what they want. Hanna’s magical touch ensures the book brims with laughter, charm and style.

SYNOPSIS: Lottie Sanders would do just about anything for the man she secretly loves. When Gilbert Parker suggests they put on a play to draw people to his family’s lodge, he begs Lottie to direct it. Lottie agrees to help, but is also worried if they cannot pull this off, Gilbert and his family will lose the lodge — and she will lose him. When the local single men look at this as an opportunity to catch a bride, they secretly hatch their own drama to win the hearts and hands of the actresses.
Reviewed By: Patsy Glans

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Remembering Jacob's First Birthday--a recap

Sammy's picture of Baby Jacob with angel wings in a heart...

I can't believe it's already been 11 days since Jacob's birthday.  The boys and Alex were finishing up the last of Jacob's cake last night.  That kind of got to me...I knew that we had reached the "end".  The last physical reminder of our birthday celebration of love for our little Jacob in Heaven was being eaten and soon to be cleaned up for good.  I quickly asked Alex to save me a sliver of what was remaining of the cake.  He licked the icing off of the Tigger who had been happily standing guard on the last chunk and set a tiny piece aside for me.  A short while later I found Tigger had fallen onto the floor somehow.  I scooped him up and found myself so grateful that the dogs hadn't found the sugary-scented bouncer first or I would have found him all chewed up.  I don't think I would have reacted well to that.
So it's now just a short week and a half later and you'd almost never knew that we had Jacob's birthday events.  That's totally normal and to be expected of course.  But I'd be lying if I said it didn't bring just a little pang in my heart last night--a tiny pang--but it was there nonetheless.  It was something I noticed and probably only because we were cleaning up the last of the cake.  If Jacob was here, physically here with us, none of this would matter.  I'd put away his birthday gifts, his birthday hats, the Tigger.  I'd toss the remaining cake and throw away the box with the price tag that shows we were overcharged by $8.00 (and that I never bothered to call about because it didn't matter to me).  I'd wash his birthday clothes, more than likely with icing on them, and photograph his gifts for my scrapbook later.  His birthday would be over and life would go back to normal.

But there's something different about holding a birthday celebration for a loved one who is no longer here with you.  There is the anticipation, the planning, the excitement, if you will, of knowing you are doing something special that allows all of your love to freely come out...to be focused on a particular day or activity and to acknowledge it in really special ways.  And then there is the "afterwards".  Everything gets put away.  Things get back to normal.  And normal means going back to your every day routine without that special person in your life.  Jacob is not here physically with us.  Even though we've adjusted to that fact since October 25, 2010, I can't say it's not just a little bit sad to face once again after the several beautiful days leading up to Jacob's birthday and then throughout his birthday weekend.

Jacob's tree in our front yard.  I tied this blue ribbon around the tree a few days after Jacob died.  My original thought was that I would replace it with a new ribbon on his first birthday...but I decided to keep it as is.  We hope to move this fall and only then will I remove it.  Alex tied it tighter at one point in the last several months and it's drooping, but it's still there as a sign of our love for our baby.

I wanted to share a recap of how we celebrated our love for our sweet Jacob over several days...
Friday, April 20, 2012 --Happy First Birthday Jacob!

Of course Friday came much sooner than I would have liked.  I didn't have as much ready as I would have hoped but no surprise there.  With Alex out of town it was just me running the ship so my plate was already pretty full with the boys, the animals and the house...you know, life. 

I did make time to go outside to take Jacob's "birthday" photos.  I had bought flowers at Walmart a day or two prior and tried to arrange a colorful display on my favorite tree stump in the front yard.  I also lugged Jacob's garden angel down the driveway to the stump.  Boy is that thing heavy!!  It normally sits right next to a garden angel that came with the house in a flower bed at the top of the driveway.  My idea of including the angel in these photos was nice, but not so practical without my hubby present to do the lifting!

Here are a few photos showing Jacob's garden angel sitting on the tree stump...

I also put out little garden stakes in the tree stump photos and around Jacob's tree in the front yard.  I had found these stakes months prior on clearance somewhere.  I just knew they would look perfect for something special like this.  It was supposed to rain Friday night so I put them out early and brought everything in before the rain hit.

Animal garden stakes by Jacob's tree (I haven't weeded yet, daffodils still there along with lots of weeds!)

The boys and I sang happy birthday to Jacob at dinner and I worked on Jacob's little birthday display on the table.  It wasn't much...just a few things I had pulled out.  I had bought him a new giraffe.  Don't ask me why but I did.  I just felt like it was something I wanted to do.  This was more expensive than the first giraffe I had bought after my D&C as this little guy plays music.  I also arranged some little angel figurines and a few more small giraffe characters that I pulled out of the boys' toys.  My little "centerpiece" still faces me each day when I sit down at my dining room table.

I know it doesn't sound like much, but just doing those things throughout the day felt special...it made me feel closer to Jacob some how.  I'm glad I took the time to do what I had to.

I had written Jacob's birthday blog post purposely the night before so it would be dated April 20, 2012. I didn't want anything to get in the way of his birthday post being dated on the 20th.  Knowing me and how things go around there, it was highly possible that I could have gotten distracted and not written until later that night.  So throughout the day I checked in to my blog and was able to see how many people were reading it.  Boy did that ever warm my heart!  Thank you so much for your support!

And it wasn't just my blog that I was checking on.  I had posted Jacob's birthday invitation on Facebook so was trying to keep up with acknowledging so many of you who had written the sweetest words to me and for him...when I think back to it now, it just brings tears to my eyes.  Never in a million years would I have ever thought about how important of a role technology would play in something like this in my life.  Facebook allowed my friends and family to connect with me on a day when I so needed it...I read and am still so very grateful for every single post on my wall and on Jacob's birthday page.   It just meant so much to see all of the kind words, the prayers and the love and hugs heading our way on such a special day.  Thank you to everyone who wrote something--even the comments on my blog are something that I truly treasure!

My heart also jumped for joy every time I received a graphic with his name on it.  Graphics have become very popular in the babyloss community.  We all know that we have a limited amount of photos of our baby--some women have none, others only a few ultrasounds and others a box of photos of the short time their child was on earth--but sadly, that's it.  There will be no yearly school photos, photos with Santa or photos to mark special occasions like "first day of school".  So baby name photos are extremely popular and treasured.  And so are graphics which are beautifully designed with words and images of things special to you or your baby.  Here are just a few that I was so thankful to receive.

Aren't they all just so beautiful?  I am so touched that so many people took the time to create such special graphics for me and for Jacob.  I am touched beyond words.  Some of them showed candles that were lit for my little baby...to know that he was thought of and remembered with love all around the world was more than I could have ever imagined.  Thank you to everyone who shared their time, talents and love to make Jacob's birthday so special in this way.  It felt in so many ways like we had a "real" birthday party for him, do you know that?  Even though he wasn't here with us, he had his birthday party and it was so full of love!  That's all I ever wanted.

If all of these wonderful graphics and messages weren't enough, I was surprised by two boxes that came on Friday.  My mom had surprised me with a beautiful jewelry/keepsake box that had a photo frame on top.  In two of the four photo openings she had placed sweet baby giraffe photos.  One of the photos was of a baby giraffe with angel wings!  Did I cry?  YOU BETCHA!  :)  Just something my grandma would say...yes, I most definitely cried...happy tears.  I can't wait to put one of Jacob's ultrasound pictures in one of the openings and a name photo in the other.  And of course I will put a lot of his smaller memory items inside.

The other surprise box was sent by a very dear friend in time for Jacob's last "First".  She sent me a memory box for Jacob and I remember gasping as I pulled out each item in the beautiful blue box. She put so much care and time into everything that she packed for my sweet baby.  I remember grinning from ear to ear while tears camped out on my face. I can't thank her enough for doing this for me.

Saturday, April 21, 2012--The Day After

Something ate Jacob's flowers!  I came out Saturday morning with the dogs and went to check on Jacob's flowers, yes the very ones I had photographed with his baby garden angel the day before and the pink petunias were gone!  Well, the flowers were gone, the remaining green stems and leaves were still there but all of the vibrant pink was gone.  My jaw dropped and then slipped into a frown.  I felt my heart get heavy for a second. I just couldn't believe it.  I had bought those flowers as something cheery for Jacob's birthday...something beautiful. I planned on planting them once the spring warms up soon and whammo...something already got them. 

When I told my mom later that night I said I figured it was a deer since we had so many deer in our neighborhood.  I thought it was odd though. I had a ton of petunias in three different flower beds last summer and none of them were ever touched.  Mom said it may have been a deer who went after my flowers because of it being early spring and there were not a lot of flowers blooming yet to munch on.  Mom also said it could have been a bunny.  We both smiled at that possibility...because of my connections of bunnies and Jacob (giraffes and bunnies...two very opposite animals, I know!).  I felt better after that.

For the rest of the day, I remember feeling sluggish, kind of like I was in a funk.  I didn't do much. I spent some time on the computer sending a graphic to a friend on mine who was celebrating her baby's first birthday in Heaven too.  His name is also Jacob and I wanted to support her however I could that day.  Doing that helped a bit.  Other than that, I just putzed around the house. I think I was just feeling the after effects of Jacob's birthday...all of the "hoopla" was done.  There wasn't anything left to plan.  It was just me and the boys...and quiet.  It was still.  I needed busy but I found that I had to just allow the quiet because other than my "normal" routine, there was nothing else "big" I could do that day.  So, I let the quiet come. 
Sunday, April 22, 2012--Cake Day!

Daddy was home!  After two back-to-back trips, Alex was finally home to be with us and to celebrate the love for our little sweetheart.  His flight was late but I am so grateful that he made it home safely and not any later because I knew how tired he already was. 
I cooked a yummy meal that he really enjoyed.  The boys weren't too in to the Alfredo sauce but since my hubby liked it, I was happy!  With daddy being gone recently, it was like everyone wanted his attention--I wanted to talk with him about Jacob's birthday and all of the sweet support we had gotten, the boys wanted his help transforming their transformers and the dogs (and cat) all wanted to be acknowledged too.  I didn't mind.  This is sometimes the norm for our house.  Lots going on.  We have young children who like to talk and to be heard.  And we have animals who want a rub or a treat if they can get it.  Alex and I usually just laugh...or share a wink when we can.  It's much better than getting frustrated all the time!
I don't remember what happened but somehow our night ran late, probably all of the visiting and catching up we were doing.  We hadn't done Jacob's cake yet and I could tell how tired Alex was.  He was almost falling asleep at the table. I ran to quickly get the birthday hats and cake and he asked if we could celebrate tomorrow instead.  I said, "No..." that we had to celebrate then as I'd been looking forward to this for days now.  The boys had been looking forward to Jacob's birthday cake too.  We had to squeeze it in if we could.  I'm grateful that he understood.

When Alex first came home he left the cake out in the garage.  I went out to get it and cried...the design was just perfect.  Alex told me when he picked it up the woman who was working was the same woman who broke down on the phone with me when I ordered it.  She told him it was hard to make and that she would never forget that cake.  I hope that's a good thing and not a bad thing...I hope she remembers only the love that prompted the cake's design.

I love how the cake turned out!  The Birthday Pooh and Tigger are reminiscent of both Sammy and Benny's First Birthday cakes. The yellow flower cross with the bees was a beautiful touch.  And I told you I'd be adding a giraffe, didn't I?  Found the perfect spot for him!  I think he fits right in! :)

 Here's a close-up of a toy giraffe I found hiding in a toy drawer.  Just kind of shoved his feet straight into the cake.  Benny added a few touches to my "display" in the back of the photo. :)

 Notice this Tigger is on a stand.  Our original birthday Tigger was balancing solely on his tail. Guess they firmed him up through the years.  The birthday Pooh is the same. :)

So with our birthday hats in place and the candle lit, I turned off the dining room lights and we all sang to Jacob--this time as a family.  I found myself glancing up to the ceiling once or twice.  Benny asked if Baby Jacob heard us up in Heaven.  I said that I bet he did!  Sammy helped me blow out Jacob's one candle.

I got the boys and I a piece of cake and we were so ooh-ing and aww-ing all over the place!  Oh my goodness was that cake good!  I am SO glad I picked that bakery...who, you ask?  Kroger's!  Butter creme icing!  If you have a Kroger's near you, I wouldn't pass them up for anything! Boy was that cake good!  (I hate to say this but it was WAY better than Sammy's birthday cake from another store just a month before!  Even Sammy acknowledged it.  My four-year-old Benny noted that it had, "...way more flavor", than Sammy's cake!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - Jacob's birthday balloon launch...finally!

After several days of Jacob's birthday balloons hovering in our dining room, we finally stole a few moments to dash outside to launch them.  Instead of walking down to the park at the end of our street like we did this past October for Jacob's first Angelversary, we stayed in our driveway. 

 Sammy, Benny and Daddy ready for launch!

 Looking up towards Heaven...

 Mommy and the boys looking towards Heaven (I was super casual obviously!)

 Happy First Birthday Jacob...Mommy loves you so much!

 This was our "count-down"...where we said our birthday wishes for Jacob.  :)  Don't you just love the balloons Alex picked out? I was so touched!  He knows I love stars for Jacob...and butterflies.  We had a butterfly, a baby themed balloon, a star and Sponge Bob!  How appropriate and how fun!

 Away they go!

 Just barely cleared the tree!

The wind changed direction suddenly and Alex's star, Benny's butterfly and Sammy's Sponge Bob all sailed safely past the trees and into the sky. 

But not mine!  Mine got stuck! It was the tag I had attached to the end of Jacob's balloon that got caught as it attempted to manuever through some tree branches!  I couldn't believe it. 
I had written this heartfelt note to Jacob and here it was keeping my balloon stuck in the tree...would you believe that it had gotten stuck in Jacob's tree? 

 My balloon stuck at the top right of Jacob's tree...
guess I couldn't have asked for a better tree for it to get stuck in!

I put on a happy face for the boys and said, "Well, maybe Jacob's balloon doesn't want to leave Mommy yet...it wants to stay here for awhile longer."  Benny and Sammy both were concerned that the balloon was stuck and that it wouldn't make it to Heaven.  I was ready to go back into the house and figured that sooner or later the balloon would either free itself or it would just deflate, droop and then hang there for days--a constant reminder of my failed balloon launch.  It was then that Alex came out of the garage with a bag of soccer balls.  He intended to free my balloon and I wondered how pitching soccer balls that high in to the air would turn out.  I kept imagining myself attempting such a feat and saw either soccer balls getting flung into the street or me injuring myself somehow!  After several attempts that had us all cracking up, wouldn't you know that Alex did it???  At first he just nudged the balloon a little higher to the next tree branch up, but then with the next toss he did it.  What perfect aim!  The balloon's "tail" with my heart-note was finally freed and it slowly drifted it's way upward. I joked with Alex that we'd probably find the balloon on the next street over as its helium wasn't the greatest since we'd had the balloons a few days.   At least my balloon was free...just like my love for Jacob is free to soar forever.
 Hubby waiting for the soccer ball to come back down

 Wow!  Finally knocked loose and free!

The wind changed direction again and my balloon followed the same lazy path as Alex's and the boys. 
Can't see it here unfortunately!

I remember hearing Benny's squeals the rest of the night, "The balloons are in Heaven with Baby Jacob, Mommy!  They are in Heaven!  Wow!"  He couldn't see them in the sky anymore.  Who am I to tell him otherwise?  :)  Maybe they really went to Heaven...and just maybe they went that quickly!  Wouldn't that just be the neatest thing someday to see all of the balloons you released for your baby?

And so our lives went back to "normal" after several wonderful days full of love, full of support and full of taking the time to remember our sweet Jacob.  I'm grateful for everything and so grateful too that I returned to my normal active life.  I think having an active schedule kept me busy enough to not worry about the things I didn't get done--so I didn't have giraffe plates or get to do a giraffe craft with the boys...so they haven't made Jacob's birthday pictures yet...so Alex was super tired during our "Happy Birthday" song...so the sky wasn't blue when we released our sluggish balloons...so I forgot to pull out the Pooh plates...so the boys picked Cars hats instead to wear.  So what. 

What was important was the love that I felt, that we all felt during such a special time.  It was truly a birthday party that I will remember always.  It's just so freeing to know that we can include our baby in our lives even though he's gone.  Will I have birthday parties every year for him?  I can't say that for sure.  I'd like to think that we probably will always do something little, maybe not as "planned" as this year's was, but who knows.  I'm allowing myself the freedom and the choice to do what feels right each year.  I will let my heart lead just as I have since the day we found out about Jacob's Trisomy 13 and his fatal diagnosis.  For now, let me just say that I can't wait for next year's birthday. :)  I spotted lots of giraffe birthday decor online that I just might like to order for down the road.  And, since I don't think I can talk the boys into having that theme for their birthdays, I know Jacob will humor Mommy again and go for the spots! :)

I hope all of you know how very much I appreciate you...even the smallest of gestures can have tremendous impact on someone's life.  They surely did mine.  We just never know when we will make a difficult day for someone truly special.  Thank you to everyone who did just that...and way more than you will ever know.  :)

I have been working hard since Jacob's loss to give back to the babyloss community in as many ways as I can.  I'll be sharing more about what I've been doing (and planning) in the next several months.  One way that I'd like to give back is to hold more giveaways on my blog.  I hope you'll check back here on Friday for my next giveaway!  A wonderful author friend of mine is donating an autographed copy of one of her new releases!  To enter, all you will need to do is to comment here on Friday, May 5!   See you soon!

With grateful thoughts of all of you...thank you for making Jacob's First Birthday so special and so memorable.  May your love for those in your life and in your heart soar freely too...

Kim :)