Thirteen.  Thirteen years ago, I was holding a newborn...my first born...in awe of God's gift to us.  I studied him up and down.  I unwrapped his blanket over and over to just look again at those tiny little feet.  I watched his chest rise and fall while he was sleeping and still couldn't believe he was mine.  I held him to my chest and shook my head at the thought that he was all squished into the little space that used to block my view of my feet.  It was love at first sight, and from the very moment he arrived, I was hooked.  You share your birthday with the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross and this day you were pleased that the annual Marian Mass in which you helped serve, fell on your day.  "I'm so special, that there is a Mass attended by thousands of people on my birthday", you joked. 

This is your normal morning expression.  :)

Thirteen years ago!  I am almost at a loss of words right now.  Six beautiful siblings later and I honestly feel like it was really just yesterday! 

Breakfast in bed.

Dear Jakob,
You're a teenager.  You're taller than me.  Your voice is deeper than mine.  You're probably stronger than me.  You weigh....do I dare go there?  You weigh what I wish I did.  :)  You're thirteen!  A teenager!  Do you know what that means?  It means that the next 4-6 years will be miserable.  You won't like me.  You won't listen to me.  You won't want to be seen with me.  You won't want to have anything to do with me.  You will be difficult and obstinate, and these years won't go by fast enough.  That is according to the world.  If you haven't noticed, we're not always too big on what the world thinks or expects.  I anticipate just the opposite for all of those notions.  Yes, even the difficult and obstinate one! 

Even though you all drive each other crazy, your sibling were still very excited to make and give you things for your special day.  Benjamin couldn't find an envelope, so he duck taped your card inside a piece of paper.  Jon wrapped up a piece of beef jerky in a big box.  Mattie, Joe and Millie drew and colored picturs for you.  Joshua left his gift for you lingering in the air for you to find when you walked by...I guess that's what brothers do?

I'm not dreading this time, rather looking forward to it.  You are growing up into a fine young man and I am extremely proud of you.  When you were born, I was afraid I wouldn't know how to handle the next milestone, but we've done just fine.  I worry, and I'm sure that is not going to become less.  I don't worry about how I will love you though.  That just seems to come naturally, even when things are less than perfect.  You are like me more than you probably even could imagine and that just may see us through from butting heads to really seeing eye to eye on things. 
Your school treats...Little Debbie snacks stacked and fashioned into a layered cake, but much less messy and easy to share. 

You are smart and bright.  You are confident and courageous.  You are talented and gifted.  You are funny and determined and adventurous and capable.  You are strong and you are compassionate. You are high strung and level-headed.   I know we'll have some challenges ahead of us.  I'm fairly confident that is where the notion of "having a teenager is a burden" comes from.  I know that because God is at the top of both of our priority lists, that we'll weather the storms that may blow through. 

Your birthday cake...per your request!  You told me that "dump trucks are all the rage for 13 year old boys"
I enjoy watching you play baseball and football.  I pretty much enjoy watching you accomplish anything.  I enjoy having more grown up conversations, although you haven't yet outgrown asking every hypothetical question you can muster up.  You're sure to always have the last word about just about everything.  You're a hard worker, especially when the task is something you enjoy.  You tend to enjoy physical outdoor work the most, especially if it involves getting to drive the truck.  As an 8th grader, you are 5'8" tall and weigh 145 pounds.  You share a room with two of your brothers.  You wear a size 11 1/2 shoe.  You sing in the choir, play the organ at daily Mass sometimes, help with CCD and are on the bake sale committe.  You enjoy the challenge of Algebra and are drawn to anything involving drafting and building.  You're selling pop at the Husker games for a profit of $0.30 a bottle, but I think you're mostly there for the excitement of just being at a Husker game.  The little bit of extra cash (after your 60% to savings and tithing) is just a bonus. You enjoy the priveleges of being the oldest, but not always the responsibilities.  You would choose hanging out with extended family over going to a dance (right now), but definitely enjoy being right in the middle of whatever social event is going on.  Reading this now, you may wonder why in the world I would need to remind you of that...reading this when you're 23 or 33, you'll smile as you remember.  

The real reason you wanted a dump truck cake is because that is what you had for your 1st birthday, although a little different.  You really wanted the chocolate donut tires and the candy in the back!
 I've never had a teenager before, and you always get to introduce us to the next phase.  I'm sure I will find myself praying a lot as I find myself letting go a little more.  I'm sure we'll question much and make mistakes along the way.  I am so grateful that God choose me to be your mom.  You are my favorite Jakob in the whole wide world.  I love you.  Happy birthday.