13 weeks!

I have finally discovered the main reason I have not been writing as often as I did in the past.  My current set-up is quite uncomfortable.  Before, in Germany, I had my computer in the living room where my family congregated.  Here, it’s in my dining room (in the only place we could fit the desk).  In Germany I was able to sit in my recliner while I wrote, so spending a lot of time at the computer wasn’t a problem.  Here, I am sitting in a cheap office chair, and I can’t tolerate more than an hour at a time, and those hours are generally spent doing computer work I have/need to do.

So, I’m in the middle of trying to rearrange my house to fit my computer into that room, but it’s not going to be easy.

All excuses aside, I am going to write this post and give you a brief update on the past few months.  Once I’ve gone back and blogged about each of these events, I’ll come back here and include links to those posts.  For now, I’m just letting you know what’s been going on with the stateside portion of the Hamricks.


As you know, Matt left for Afghanistan in January and we count our ‘weeks’ differently.  I count from Saturdays, because he left our house and I slept alone that Saturday night.  He counts from Sundays since he left US soil on a Sunday!

Since we are at the 13 week mark, I have honored the occasion by titling this post “13 Weeks.”


Also in January I began facilitating two Financial Peace University classes.  This is what I do “for me” during this deployment.  I am absolutely loving these classes and I am working very hard to make sure I can teach it again in the summer or fall.  My morning class has paid off (or saved up) a total of $95,812 and my night class has seen a financial turnaround of $182,503.  Since the class started, people in the two classes combined have made their lives financially better to the tune of $278,315!  All I had to do was  press play on a DVD player!  You KNOW I’m not the one teaching!  I’m just making the DVDs available for people to watch and THEY are doing all the work!

The last Monday in January held a huge surprise for us: a flight to Germany!  We were preparing for a Space-A adventure and had hoped a flight would pop up for us sometime that week, but hadn’t expected it to so suddenly.  The night before I had checked the schedules and there were no flights in the 72-hour forecast.  When I woke up and checked the update forecast, I noticed a flight and been added for THAT DAY.  The boys and I took off on an adventure that allowed us to visit dear friends for three weeks.  This trip healed my heart from its extended grieving over Germany.  I just needed to see it again.  It’s still there.  I can always go back.  That trip left my heart full of precious memories.


See Ramstein?!? That was our destination!


Doesn’t every three-year-old boy want to be awoken by a princess? (My sleeping beast was not in the mood…)

Half of February was spent in Germany, as I just mentioned. It also held my second son’s 11th birthday.  I can’t wait to share the whole story with you about how we ended up where we were, but I’ll tease you a bit by saying we got to spend Carson’s entire birthday with my parents.  It. Was. Perfect.


It was also during this month that Carson began attending Bob’s Diner (Fort Hood’s youth group) with Hayden!  It blows my mind that I have two kids in youth!

During March we celebrated some fun birthdays.
While Carson was celebrated on his birthday with Nana and Papa, he still wanted a “friend” birthday here in Texas.  We had such a great time at that party we pretty much repeated the entire event a few weeks later to celebrate two other Hamrick boys.  Parker turned four, but don’t tell him.  He insists that he’s three still.  He hasn’t decided when he’ll turn four, but it won’t be until at least Christmas.  Bailey turned 10… the third son to enter double digits!  We had a great party celebrating both of them here at the house.  I love that my boys want to be home and want to host here.  They love having people in our home as much as I do!


Our friend Audrey surprised us with a mini-party on Parker’s actual birthday even though we weren’t planning to celebrate until the weekend! No one turned down the cupcakes!


Bailey and Parker designed this cake. Literally. Bailey built the large tree-house and Parker built the “thing” that is in the water… he insisted that it make it on the cake.

I was asked to share a devotion with PWOC and I felt led to share our financial testimony.  It was a great blessing to share my heart and I have heard from several ladies that they’re interested in taking the class if I’m able to offer it again.  If one family becomes debt-free as a result of my sharing our story, it is worth the transparency!  (Oh, and before I stood before the group of women, I talked with Matt to make sure he was okay with it!  Of course he was!  He and I both have a passion to show others how to avoid the mistakes we made and to help others in scary situations find their way out.)

March brought some crazy weather.  While I was down in Austin for the day a huge store blew through and knocked our basketball goal over onto Matt’s Jeep.  Fortunately the only metal to touch his Jeep was the rim of the hoop!  Just a tiny spot of orange!


On the last day of the month I was honored to be able to take photos of a reunion.  I saw a daddy reunited with his children and a husband reunited with his wife.  Matt and I are still so early in our deployment that my heart wasn’t too tender to attend.  I was glad to photograph the family, but more than that, I was honored to be at the event with them.  I loved being a part of their special moment.


My husband was born on the first day of April, but he’s no fool!  He was, however, “April Fooled” because the gift I ordered for him didn’t arrive in time for his birthday.  Or a week after his birthday!  In fact, it didn’t arrive until the 9th!  But he was VERY impressed with my gift-selection, which I’m thrilled about.  I haven’t been able to surprise him in YEARS!
I ordered for him a Lunchbox amp.  It’s about the size of, well, a lunch box.

April has also brought me a great deal of sadness.  I was home during the shooting that took place here at Fort Hood, and I was on lock-down for hours with my children.  I watched the news live along with the rest of the United States.  Honestly, I only felt fearful the first thirty minutes until I felt certain he was on the other side of post.  After the fear dissipated, I was left with apprehension and heartbreak… for the victims, for the shooter, and for his family.

A different kind of sadness: One of my best friends is leaving Texas and moving to the east coast.  I am not ready for her to leave and yet, she is in the middle of a PCS.  Jessica, Owen, and Connor were able to spend a few nights with me on their way out of town, and for that I am incredibly thankful.

This picture was actually taken a few weeks ago (on the morning of Parker's actual birthday) when we spent the night at their house.  I thought it was too funny that his other BFF is trying to wake him just like Kayla did in Germany!

This picture was actually taken a few weeks ago (on the morning of Parker’s actual birthday) when we spent the night at their house. I thought it was too funny that his other BFF is trying to wake him just like Kayla did in Germany!

My mom’s dad, my precious “GramJack” passed away a week ago today, and I was grateful to be able to fly to North Carolina to be with my family as we honored the man he was.  As you know, leaving four children behind is no easy task (emotionally or physically) as there is a great deal of effort in getting them squared away.  However, my precious friend, Audrey, was more than willing to watch my boys for me while I went to NC.  I drove to San Antonio on Tuesday (which was perfect, as Fort Hood was going to be on lock-down on Wednesday for the memorial services for the victims of the shooting).  We arrived pretty late and went straight to bed.  I flew out Wednesday morning and was picked up by my dad’s parents, Grannie and Grandaddy.  I was able to see a few family members that evening.  One of my favorite moments was when my niece came to me as if she knew who I was.  At 18 months, Madison really hasn’t had a lot of time to get to know me, but she still came right to me.  I rewarded her by taking her on a four-wheeler ride!  Her big brother, Mason, is as loving and adorable as ever!
Thursday was the funeral and the emotions of seeing family I haven’t seen in 10 years mixed with the sadness of knowing that I’d never again hear GramJack ask my boys if they were married yet.  (I was asked that question on a regular basis when I was a little girl.  He loved to tease!)

IMG_3880 IMG_3882
Friday I flew back to my babies but arrived so late that I didn’t expect to see any of them…  However, two of my stinkers were still awake at midnight when I got there.  Bailey and Parker met me at the door, and then Parker proceeded to wake Hayden so HE could see me!  I got my loves and then crashed!

We got home yesterday after I finally got to spend a little time visiting with Audrey.  She told me some of the sweet things my boys had said or done and graciously left out the annoying things.  Bless her!

I am looking forward to getting back on our routine tomorrow.  OH!!  About that routine!  I have to share this tiny news with you, and I’ll write more about it later.  (At least I intend to write more later…)  We added a new curriculum to our schooling and I am so very excited about it.  Last night as I was getting ready for bed when Bailey came in and asked me if I would read to them from our school book.  It was a Saturday night.  (That is a clue to those of you who have used this curriculum before.  If you have used it, you’ll probably know which one it is by the fact that Bailey was asking me to read to him!  If you don’t know, stay tuned!  I’m excited to share it with you!)

I want to write more regularly but I haven’t managed to fit it in with our new schedules here in TX.  Sitting in an uncomfortable chair, having a deployed husband, using a more challenging curriculum, and traveling quite a bit is keeping me away.  These are my excuses.  I know full well that we will make time for the things we really want to do, and so I assume that I just don’t want it badly enough to get up early like I did the past few years.  Maybe I’ll work myself back toward that idea.  Until then, at least I got you somewhat caught up!


Posted in About my faith, brothers/boys, Discussing debt, family, friends, germany, homeschooling, military, Texas, travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Dr. Pepper Museum – Waco

Now that I have the big trip to Germany behind me I am able to look back at some of the fun things we’ve already done this year and journal about them.

I mentioned in my Happy New Year post that before Matt deployed, our family ventured north about an hour and a half to Waco, TX, home of the Dr. Pepper Museum.

We really enjoyed looking at all the artifacts in the museum and tasting the samples of Dr. Pepper served by a soda jerk. Bailey loved the taste of Dr. Pepper served this way.  I prefer the current version from a perfectly-balanced modern-day fountain machine.  Hayden and Parker each got a Big Red, which tasted to me like Grenadine (the stuff that you can add to Coke to make homemade Cherry Coke).20140103-152842 After our tour we drove to the actual spot where Dr. Pepper was invented.  How fun!0KHeOJd2RaaUA9tgj9on6w-001About a half-mile away is the Waco Suspension Bridge.  We were told it was a must-see if you’re in Waco.  We had fun!
hGkKQN5GT%GRO41Nk%OOxA After we finished with the fun in Waco we drove a little further north to West, TX.  So far my favorite “Texan” treat has been kolaches, which are actually Czech in origin.  We love them and the very best place to get them is at the Czech Stop.  It was worth driving 20 minutes away from home just to get these before heading back.  (My favorite is the sausage, jalapeño, and cheese!)  MHQC9ZCERliqaosf6G7RlQWhat fun we had on this little adventure!

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Carson is 11 now!

You know you love those cheeks!  (I am aware that I’ve shared these pictures before, But I simply can’t help myself!)

Baby CarsonWhat about these?

Baby CarsonOh, how I miss Baby Carson!  The consolation prize for there being no Baby Carson any longer is that there is a fantastic big-kid Carson now.

I am so proud of him and love to watch him grow, even if he no longer carries around those chubby cheeks nor lets me kiss them!

Carson’s birthday was on February 17th, while we were still on our vacation.  Since we couldn’t invite friends over on that date, we had his party a couple of weeks later.  I’d say he pretty much celebrated for two straight weeks!  Here are some fun pictures of the celebrations and descriptions of what was going on!

This collage is from Carson’s actual birthday.  I surprised him with Krispy Kreme Donuts and his grandparents surprised him by BEING there!  Carson got to FaceTime with Daddy, a very special conversation indeed.27 After we settled in back at home in TX we had a real birthday party with friends included. We all had so much fun seeing our friends after a month apart and Carson loved all the gifts he received.  Do you see a theme?Recently Updated17 And while I figured “Lego” would be the theme, we couldn’t find a bakery to do a Lego cake on such short notice, so he picked a Hobbit cake.
After food, cake, and ice cream, all the kids headed back out side for more fun the the street.  Yes, we’re great parents.  Recently Updated18And you did see Parker wearing Santa pajamas and socks… in the middle of the street.  That’s how he rolls.

Many thanks to our friends who came to celebrate our sweet second son, Carson!

To hear the group sing Happy Birthday, see the video below:


To read a story about Carson’s welcome into this world, click here.

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Eczema, be gone!

I’m impressed.  As in, “I expected good results, but I didn’t expect this,”  kind of impressed.

_JEN2072 Bailey suffers from severe eczema.  In fact, he had a flare-up that was so bad in January that I sent these images to his pediatrician via RelayHealth.  (That’s our favorite way to communicate with our doctors for minor issues like refills and quick medicines that don’t require a visit.  I do my best to avoid going in to see someone if the problem is minor enough.)

KNsZg3PUQzmJmAlEX1TxvQApparently this wasn’t minor in her opinion and she made an urgent visit for us that day. The problem was, she prescribed the same medicines and creams that he’s always had. They are gross, thick lotions, some of which include medicines.  Neither of us like the creams, lotions, or medicines, which leads us to being lax about his skin care once inflammations are under control.

I mentioned Goat Milk Stuff to the doctor and she was very interested.  I can’t wait to take the following images to her.  I believe she’ll be as impressed as I was with the results.

Bailey and I did apply the steroid cream until the open wounds were healed.  Once they were under control we used Vanicream, which is basically a lotion that is free of any additives.  We never had to resort to the bactroban, which was an ointment that was to be used only if his open sores became infected.  (Yes, I know I’m a horrible mother for letting his legs get this bad.  In my defense Bailey wore pants for much of December so I didn’t really see his legs very often.  He didn’t complain much about itching, and it was when he wore shorts on a warm day that I realized how far his eczema had spread.)

The pictures above were taken before any treatment at all.  We used the medicinal cream for one week before we flew to Germany.  We left in such a rush that we left his medicines at home, so he went three weeks with no lotions or creams.

The pictures below were taken after we got back from Germany.  Day 1  was taken before we started using Goat Milk Stuff products.  The two following are on the 7th and 10th days.

20140302-110236 In this picture, notice his ankles.  That’s where he was suffering the most.20140302-111402

When I look at those pictures I can hardly believe the difference.  Bailey is so pleased with his legs and at how “normal” they look.  He was beginning to get self-conscious and was worried about soccer season.

So here’s what we used:

Laundry detergent:  1 Tbsp per load.  I have even given Bailey some towels to consider his own and he washes them with his laundry.  Everything that touches Bailey for now is Goat Milk Stuff related.
Purity Bar:  I have had Bailey switch from using a name-brand men’s body wash to using a goat milk stuff bath soap.
Lotion Stick:  I believe that this is what has made the biggest difference in Bailey’s skin, primarily because we used it multiple times a day!  Think of a chapstick tube, enlarge it, and then change the ingredients from a lip balm to a lotion.  It’s thick, like lip balm, but is for your skin!  Our hands didn’t have to touch it and so we were both willing to apply it to his legs frequently.  And Bailey could do this himself!

I have already placed my order for the larger size (deodorant sized tube) lotion stick for Bailey to use regularly and another small stick for my purse.

I also tried the bath fizzes myself!  (No, I did not share.)  I LOOVED this!  It actually did what the description said:  “The powder reacts when it hits the water producing a “fizzing.”  Adding bath fizzy to your tub fills the bath water with the relaxing scent of lavender essential oil and leaves your skin smoother and softer.”

PJ Podcasts:  Click HERE and a new window will open with an archive of all her podcasts. (I can remember exactly where I was when I first listened to her Test Podcast episode and the first two “real” episodes, including the one on the importance of sleep:  Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, NC, on a Chaplain Family Retreat – running on the treadmill while Matt took the boys swimming.  Each of the following podcasts have been very valuable and have in some way impacted my homeschooling, home management, parenting, and now health plans.  Such a wealth of information and wisdom in these podcasts.

PJ Blogs:  Click HERE and a new window will open on the home page of her blog. There’s a contest going on for a high-value prize!  Check it out!

PJ parents:  Click HERE and a new window will open on the main page of her website that introduces her family.  Here are their philosophies:

We have a very simple philosophy when it comes to parenting and educating our children. It can be summed up as follows:

*  Everything is a God issue and a learning opportunity (including making and selling goat milk soap).
*  Hard work builds character which is an essential ingredient to a successful life.
*  Each of our children are unique individuals with unique strengths and weaknesses and are raised as individuals.
*  The family unit is a team and we all are sometimes called to sacrifice for the team.

For full transparency:
While I run I enjoy listening to podcasts.  After I listened to one of PJ’s podcasts on raising children with multiple intelligences, I contacted PJ and told her our story.  I asked if she’d be interested in having me write a review of her products in exchange for a few samples. She agreed because I am a long-time listener of her podcast and I was thrilled!  I love to write, and I LOVE to share when I find products that have helped my family, so I was thrilled to be able to try this product out and share it with you!  She wasn’t taking much of a risk because she was confident her products would work and that I’d become a repeat customer.  I love a savvy business owner!  While I don’t have an entrepreneurial bone in my body, I am the child of an entrepreneur and I love to read and learn about how businesses work.  So, yes, I got the products in the first image for free, but I have already ordered more of them because I was so pleased with how well they worked for my son!

Posted in About my faith, family | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

That Crazy Wrap Thing

This particular post is very exciting for me!  I’ve never had a guest author so today marks a first for me!

Christy has done such a good job of introducing herself in the following post that I really don’t have to do much other than stop writing so you can get to her content, but let me at least tell you how I know her.

One day when I lived in Germany I saw this really cute young mom at the library with a baby strapped to her back and a few other kids running around.  She introduced herself to me and something inside me said, “Oh, man, I hope she’ll be my friend.”  I loved her quiet spirit.  (Something I don’t have.)

I must have done something right because she did allow me to become her friend and, without question I count her among my closest friends.  Here are a few pictures with notes about some of our fun times together.  I want you to have these images in mind when you read her words…she isn’t just some person I happen to know.  I value her opinions because I know her and I trust her.

Here is our group on my birthday in 2011.  Christy is standing directly beside me.  (She made the “Belle” cake for me since Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie!)  And don’t you just think our babies are the CUTEST?!?
Nov 5, 20111

Here are the four of us in Barcelona – the trip these girls surprised me with for my birthday in 2012.  Christy is on the far left holding her sweet little one (not pictured above because, well, he wasn’t born yet).Park Guell in Barcelona

And here we are in the Wiesbaden Entertainment Center just a couple of weeks ago, when I flew there to surprise Aimee and get hugs from both Aimee and Christy (pictured on the right, but by now I hope you would be able to pick Christy out of these pictures).


Now that I’ve told you how I met Christy, and shown you a three-year span of  our friendship in three pictures, I would like to stop writing and let Christy explain why she’s my guest for the day!

Hi! My name is Christy and I’m a friend of Jennifer’s. I am honored that she’s letting me post on her blog today, and I feel certain she wouldn’t have let me if she didn’t believe in me. Thank you Jennifer!

I’d like to tell you my story.


I’m a military wife, and a homeschooling mom of 4. (Sound familiar? LOL)

My husband is leaving the Army this Spring to attend seminary so he can become a Chaplain. He has a passion for Jesus, and he wants to serve our soldiers by bringing the Holy Spirit to them. When he decided to take this route, I was supportive – but at the same time apprehensive. Because in his going to seminary, it means that we wouldn’t get paid. For THREE YEARS.

Of course, in his unswerving faith, he believed that God would take care of us – and He has. That’s what I want to share with you today.

Last July I started an at-home business with an amazing Christian company called It Works Global. They have a commitment to real, natural, good-for-the-body products. Of course, I love ALL the products, but the most famous and popular one is the skinny wrap. Look what it can do! It works in 45 minutes!!!


Obviously, this is a product that is in high demand. Business is good. SO good. That’s why I’m here to share with you.

I have had many friends over the years that started with network marketing companies, but I never really believed that they could make money. Good money. REAL money. This company is the real deal, because it has an amazing compensation plan and a product that is HOT.


The company pays us distributors SO well, because they are a debt-free company (shout out to Dave Ramsey! Woot!). In fact, they want all of their distributors to be debt free as well, which is why they are offering GOOD bonuses (Get Out Of Debt).


Now, on the verge of our military separation – I have no more worries about money, because I’m making more than enough to support our family. My husband won’t have to juggle work and school at the same time. I can still stay home with the babies and homeschool them, and raise them the way my Lord wants me to.

I love to help people, so I just had to share with you the potential here- think about what this could do for your family, for your finances, and for your children. Prayerfully consider if this is a blessing that you need. I would be happy to walk you through getting started, if you would like to take that walk with me.

If you are interested in the awesome products, I’d be happy to answer your questions about that as well.

You can email me: wrappingchristy@gmail.com

or find me on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wrappingchristy

Wishing you & your family many blessings!


Like I said, I don’t think there’s much I can add to what Christy said other than to share my personal favorite product.

I love the Greens.  I have taken a break from coffee (GASP) and have been able to replace coffee with the greens and not go through massive withdrawals.  I have the greens early in the morning and then before I go for a run.  I don’t know how long I’ll be “off” the joe, but I love that I have something healthful to drink instead.

I love that I can get my kids to drink the greens, too, although I will say the boys prefer to have their greens mixed into grape juice or Gatorade.  I did too, at first, but now I enjoy them straight up!  (Berry all the way!)

I am not a distributor, though I’m sure if I wanted to be, Christy would gladly bring me on!  But I am happy to share what I like about the product and to give my personal recommendation for the greens.  As I use more of the products, I’ll happily give my opinions on those, as well!

Posted in Discussing debt, friends, weight/health | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

4 weeks = (about) 1 month!

It is so great to say that we have one month down!

Sort of… Matt and I count the “weeks” differently.  I count my weeks on Saturdays since he left my house and I first slept alone on a Saturday night.  He counts from the next day, a Sunday, when he flew out of the US.  So yesterday we hit four weeks on my count and today we hit that mark on Matt’s count!  We will be able to say that we have hit a full “calendar” month sometime this week

The past two weeks have been very exciting for the majority of Hamricks.  Not sure if Matt’s life has been very exciting and I can honestly say I am thankful for that.

The boys and I hopped a flight to Germany on January 17th and are enjoying spending time with friends we love in a city we have missed.

I look forward to sitting and taking the time to blog about our adventures, journaling them for our memories but also so Matt can hear more details than he’s getting in our occasional twenty-minute phone conversations.  Funny story:  when he calls me from Afghanistan to the US, we have a perfectly clear line.  However, when he calls me here in Germany, (much closer physically) we have a 4-5 second delay and horrible sound.  (The call routes through the US, apparently.)

He is doing great and is enjoying a little travel  - mainly in Blackhawks.


Once I find myself back in Texas, I’ll write more.  Until then…

Posted in family, friends, germany, military, travel | Leave a comment

S’mores make it all better…

Two weeks!  We made it to the two-week mark!

What a great first week we had!  Though communication with Matt was sporadic, it was frequent enough and I was always glad to receive a message/text/call from him.  Matt scored first-class seats to his destination… sweet ride!  Benefits were space for his long legs and USB outlets to charge his iPad and iPhone.IMG_3232

On our first Sunday at chapel without daddy we had to arrive very early.  Two of my boys served a pancake breakfast with the youth to earn money towards summer camp.  My kids… going to camp!  OH WOW!

Monday we started school after quite a “Christmas break.”  Tuesday was awesome!  I got to teach FPU for the first time in my life!  Matt’s lead it and we’ve gone through it multiple times, but Tuesday morning was the first time I got to introduce the lesson and push play on the DVD player (that’s how simple it is to teach!).  I was brimming with excitement and had a great time.  I had rehearsed what I would say for weeks prior and then the day of, I wasn’t nearly as smooth in real life as I was in my daydreams!  Wednesday was great; Thursday evening I taught my second FPU class… (two simultaneous classes!) and had a great turn-out!  Better than I excepted with 35 participants!

Recently Updated16Friday was fun as I talked with Aimee for 90 minutes.  Such a great way to spend my afternoon.  Saturday welcomed our first deployment gremlin but I kicked it in its teeth! The boys were loaded in the van as we were headed to a friend’s house for a birthday party.  When I turned the key I immediately learned that the van’s battery was dead!  I had everyone switch over to Matt’s Jeep and off we went.  Fun times at the birthday party. The other moms there are also wives of deployed Chaplains.  After the party and several errands, we returned home.  Hayden and I successfully, and quickly, jumped the van off.  I let it run for 30 minutes per a friend’s suggestion, and it has run smoothly ever since!

This may seem like a small feat, but I did it.  I was completely aware that I have next door neighbors who would have helped and another family down the road I could have called on had I needed it, but this time, I am happy to say, “I did it!”  And I taught Hayden in the process.

Begin week 2.  (If you don’t like whining, skip this section.)

Sunday, our second Sunday with out Matt was just fine.  Monday, too.  Tuesday about took me down.  Honestly, the day itself was fine.  PWOC went great!  My class served all the food for 150+ ladies, set up the serving tables and chairs, and there were no definable problems.  There were, however, several stressors that built up in me over the course of Tuesday that zapped every last ounce of early-deployment-adrenaline I was running on.  When a deployment starts, we generally have a good deal of patience and endurance.  Once the adrenaline is gone, we have to learn to get used to working on a normal amount of energy.  (Think: being used to having two cups of coffee each morning and then going cold-turkey to no caffeine… ugly crash…)  I made it through the day fairly gracefully to the outside world but my internal world was shaken and I’m not proud to admit that my boys got to see the expression of my internal frustration.  I may have spoken too harshly; I may have yelled; I may have given them the leftovers after sharing my best with everyone else.  So on top of being stressed, I felt guilt.

Wednesday was a little better than Tuesday; Thursday a little better than Wednesday, and Friday we were almost back on our feet again.  Saturday, today, we have been our ‘normal’ selves.  I do not like being off.  I feel guilty because I know that my kids deserve the best of me and they got the worst.  In my defense, they were definitely not giving me their best, either… but since the week progressively got better, I treated them to a special activity after dinner last night.  (Got the idea from PJ Jonas in this episode.  If you are a regular reader of mine and haven’t listened to her podcast, might I ask why?  She’s very inspiring!!)  I decided to make a memory, and we roasted marshmallows over the stove and then I made S’mores in the microwave.

IMG_3223Indoor S’mores (no fire necessary):

        1. Place a graham cracker on a plate.
        2. Place two pieces of chocolate on the graham cracker.
        3. Cook on high about 20 seconds.
        4. Add marshmallows and microwave 10 more seconds.
        5. Top with the other half of the graham cracker.  YUM!!

Funny:  I thought I had regular sized marshmallows but turns out they were mini!  It worked, but it was interesting!

IMG_3227So, there you have it.  Week 1 was great, week 2 was rough.  But we’re rebounding.

I have had some very precious emails and messages come in this week from people all over the world, some of whom I haven’t heard from in years… their words of encouragement and appreciation for our sacrifice really did help me get through the hardest days last week.  If you want to know how military wives do it, it’s through the grace of God and because people express their support and appreciation.  Anytime you think about sending a note to a military spouse, do it.  It very well may arrive on a day that she is at the bottom of her energy reserves.

As for an update on Matt’s situation, he is doing great.  He is ready to get into a battle rhythm, a good schedule.  He gets to travel to a couple of different destinations throughout the week to see soldiers in more remote places, and this gives him a chance to break up what is potentially a Groundhog-Day-type situation.  He is preaching twice and leading worship for three services on Sundays… the highlights of his week for sure!  He does have a list of needs and wants.  If you what that information, please leave a note in the comments section (or email me).  I’ll give you the list and his address!

Okay!  Tomorrow starts Week 3 for us!  I’m excited to see what this week holds!

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Butterflies vs. moths.

It’s been a week today since Matt headed off to travel and see a new part of this world!  He sent me a picture today that no kidding… reminded me of Colorado!  Well, if you can ignore the concrete barriers!  IMG_3164I’d like to journal our last few days before he headed out…

The last week we basically spent together, sleeping late, staying up late watching episodes of Once Upon a Time, and doing last minute tasks.  (I had Matt change all the filters in the AC vents because they’re on the ceilings… I have no idea how I’ll change those while he’s gone!)  On the date of our casing ceremony the butterflies entered my stomach.  I was recently told that “butterflies” implies I am excited and happy about an upcoming event… I get that… but I don’t know how else to describe the sensation.  It was exactly the same physical reaction one would get if excited about an upcoming event, but without the happiness and “YAY” factor.  Maybe it should be considered “moths.”  They’re not as pretty as butterflies but they’re about the same size…

Anyway, semantics.

As I saw our soldiers in formation, American flag waving proudly, 1-227 colors cased, the moths, if you will, started messing with me.  That feeling really didn’t leave until he was gone 36 hours later.

As I was driving, I had to take deep breaths to still my beating heart.  It wasn’t beating rapidly, but it felt like it was about to beat right out of my chest… I could feel every single beat.  As I was cleaning the kitchen after a meal, the moths would start up and remind me that we only had x-number of hours left as a whole family.  I wasn’t nervous or even overly emotional… but I was experiencing a physical reaction to the fact that my other half was leaving for an extended period of time.

With the countdown going, we planned Matt’s favorite meals for dinners.  That week I made for him:  Tex-Mex Chicken Melts; Steak and Potatoes, Shrek Noodles, and Coconut Shrimp Bake.  The night before his last night we went to Outback, his favorite restaurant in the entire world.  We ate SO much!  We ordered the onion, six meals, and ate more bread than I care to admit.  However, Matt and I both brought home half our meals and ate that for lunch the next day!  (WIN WIN!)

Before we were seated Matt gave each of us a parting gift.


The bigs each got a dog-chain with a scripture verse about courage – Deut 31:6.  This is a special message between these boys and their daddy.  When he sees any scripture about courage he points it out to them.  He’s raising strong men!  For Parker he got a miniature lava lamp with a verse on it.  Parker misses his mini-Christmas tree and cried when we packed it away.  This is why the lava lamp is special to Parker.

Matt gave me a wooden heart that says, “My Love,” from the Christian bookstore and he wrote on the back.  It hangs in the kitchen in my “Brynnley Window.”  (This space is my one “girly” place and where I honor the memory of a sweet baby girl who passed too soon… I pray for her family often.)

IMG_3168The day he left was serene and precious.  Instead of going for a run, Matt and I decided to take the boys to a nearby field to play a game of soccer.  We broke more rules than we followed, one being that parents are allowed to tackle kids… another was that every point we scored was worth three… in the end, I think Matt and I won by 15, or something like that. Basically, we played a silly game and got some nervous energy out, just being together.  After the soccer game – if you can call it that – we let the boys play for a while at the skate park/play ground while Matt and I walked laps and talked.  (Just remembering that day the moths are back…)  We talked about everything; we talked about nothing.  Conversations on “the day” are always interesting.

We headed home and ate a great lunch (remember…  we had Outback leftovers!).  For the boys’ rest time Matt and I also took rest time and spent some much-needed alone together.

When it was time for me to begin dinner, I looked at my family sitting around the table playing a game of Racko, then back at my spotless kitchen.  I didn’t really want to spend the next hour cooking and messing up the kitchen which would then be followed by 20-30 minutes of cleaning the kitchen, all just before my husband left for 9 months.

So, I whispered in Matt’s ear a suggestion that he was fully in favor of:  let’s get something quick at a nearby fast food restaurant and then hit Starbucks for a late night cup of coffee/hot chocolate before going to the hangar.  This let me be a part of the night with my family instead of the cook… something I will get plenty of time being while he’s away.

After a quick dinner we went straight to Starbucks and we all got our drinks… on Parker! He had won a gift card at our unit’s Christmas party for some pretty awesome dance moves!  I’ll have to share those in a later blog post!

We sat there and I saw the look on Matt’s face… he had held off so long! He did a great job of being present with us the previous two weeks instead of leaving mentally before the deployment.  This is a huge deal!  Usually he (and lots of soldiers, apparently) find it easier to separate emotionally and mentally before a long deployment and find it difficult to connect intimately with their family during the past few weeks.  Matt was WITH US the whole time… I started to see him “leave” while we were at Starbucks:

Here are some pictures of those bittersweet moments we had together there:


20140118-114736Parker climbed up on my lap while I was creating this college and started reaching for the computer, pointing at daddy, and whining.  He didn’t say anything… just whined.  Pitiful!

We left Starbucks and the moths were going crazy in my stomach.  We pulled up to the bag-drop area and Matt unloaded his bags and placed them in the mountain of other bags.  After we parked we went inside and a weight lifted.  Honestly, once we walked into that hangar, the mood shifted.  We were not happy to be there, but I can honestly say we were relieved to have made it to that moment.

Matt’s mood changed instantly.  He brightened up.  That look of consternation disappeared and I saw my husband return.  He actually did a few mini-counseling sessions while mingling and I loved letting the boys see their daddy do what he does.

The music played was uplifting and upbeat.  Nothing sappy or depressing!  We got to say hello and give hugs to friends.  The boys got to see that their daddy was going to be with a lot of great people and that all the other kids in the room were also loaning their dads (and some of them, their moms) to the country for a while.  We are not alone!  Recently Updated15

After we sat around and basically twiddled our thumbs for a while Carson went out to the car to get our “in case of emergency” deck of cards.  We play a few rounds of Hill Rummy before we decided it was time for me to take the boys home.  I dropped them off and returned to the hangar to spend the last hour with my husband before he had to load the bus.

I asked him if he wanted me to head out early.  Many soldiers prefer their spouses to leave them there rather than to have to be the one to walk away from them… if that makes any sense…  (if not, I do apologize).  But Matt said he wanted me there to the end… it kept him from having to awkwardly make conversation… there’s my introvert!!

At 10-minutes-to-load-up-time they called for formation.  Last hugs and kisses were given and our brave men and women lined up.  Seeing formations always makes me feel patriotic.  The following picture is only one of our companies.

IMG_3102 IMG_3104

Matt gave me my last kiss and headed over to stand with the unit commander.  It was at this time our COL made his last remarks to his soldiers but more importantly, to the families remaining behind.  He really does a great job of telling us how vital we are to the mission… how much he appreciates what we do for our unit.  I’m glad Matt’s with this team!

He called for Matt to pray and while he did, I snuck out about 15 feet from where I was standing in the above pictures and took a picture of Matt praying.  I was that wife.


I didn’t get to see him again.  After he prayed he walked away, toward that helicopter, and the unit also turned that direction, and Matt was one of the first solders out the door to the busses.  I turned and hugged my friend, lost it for a minute and sobbed into her coat.  But, her husband still had one more kiss to give her, as his bags were at her feet, so I pulled it together, hugged one more friend, and headed out the door.  I didn’t stay to watch the formation fully make its way out of the hangar.

I managed to regain my full composure on my walk in the cool (yes, I said cool) air on the way to my car.  My mom had texted me a few times and I called her as I drove home.  But as I got to a specific spot I looked back to the hangar and realized I could see all the busses.  I pulled over on a side road and parked, turning my hazards on.  I texted Matt and told him to be watching for me.  We were in communication as the busses started moving; as they exited the air field; and then he saw me!  I didn’t get an extra kiss, but he did see me and he got to know I was waving my farewells… Why that matters, I don’t know.  Love isn’t logical, is it?

When I got home I loved on my kids and we handled this well.  Only Carson seemed to be a little teary.  We kept our bedtime routines the same and the week started off very well.

Matt and I argue a little about when the “week mark” hits.  I count Saturdays because I slept alone that night.  He counts Sundays because he left the country on Sunday.  I think it’s all about perspective and that we’re both right!

I will be updating soon how our first week of the deployment went.  I will tell you now, it was really good and I’m chalking that up to the MANY prayers worldwide on our behalf.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!  My family is doing so well right now… thank you!  (Oh, and even Matt sounds great!  He’s settling in and looking forward to getting into a good battle rhythm.)

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He’s turning into his father…

…and that’s a great thing.

When I met his father, I was blown away by the love he demonstrated for his wife. Actually, he called her his “bride.”  26 years of marriage and he still called her his bride.

Matt’s dad died when Matt and I had only been dating nine months.  He died one week after my 18th birthday.  The last time I saw him was my surprise birthday party and I remember that night like it was yesterday.

Matt and I were at his house with his dad and brother.  Matt’s mom came home from work, exhausted because managing a nursing home and running a nursing staff for the nursing home was an exhausting job.  I remember my mother- and father-in-love dancing around the living room and Mike saying something sweet about “his bride.”

My birthday party that night was incredible.  We ate at Quincy’s (best broccoli soup and best yeast rolls in the world) along with many of my friends.  After the festivities I rode with Matt’s family back to my house where they dropped me off.  Mike (Matt’s dad) kissed me on the cheek and it meant a lot.

One of my most treasured photos.  Mike, me, Sybil, and Matt's little brother, Brad.  (He's not so little anymore!)

One of my most treasured photos. Mike, me, Sybil, and Matt’s little brother, Brad. (He’s not so little anymore!)

My 18th birthday party.  Mike is in the far left, beside his bride, Sybil.

My 18th birthday party. Mike is in the far left, beside his bride, Sybil.

That kiss grew to mean a lot more to me a week later when we found out Matt’s dad had passed away in the night.  Matt was staying at my house with my family (it was innocent…we were NOT in the same room!!) because we were attending a Youth Conference that weekend.  My parents woke us both up in the night and drove us to Matt’s house.

When Sybil met us at the door and told us Mike was gone, the first thing I said was, “He won’t be at my wedding.”  The next thing I new I was in the living room… worst night of my life.

We miss that man and the father he was, the father he would have continued to be, and the amazing grandfather he would have been to our four boys.

But, the beautiful thing is that I can see Mike in Matt.  Every day.  In the way he treats me as, not just his wife, but as his bride.  The title of this blog post and the desire to write it came to me while we were running together a few weeks ago.  See, when we walk (or run) on a sidewalk he forces me to the inside edge, as far away from the cars as possible… something he does to protect me, to show me he loves me, and it warms my heart.  It makes me fall in love with him again, every single time.  It reminds me of the love I saw between his parents.  He really is turning into his dad, and that’s such a wonderful thing!IMG_2893 Today was our colors casing ceremony.  It’s military ceremony in which the unit’s flag is cased before they deploy.  In theater the unit uncases the flag and it is flown there during the time in they are deployed.  Before they head back home, they case it again and once back home, it’s uncased.  That means it won’t be long until these solders are doing what they’ve trained for down range.  This means that the butterflies have settled into my stomach and they are causing my heart to beat much more noticeably.  My heart isn’t racing, but I can feel every single pulse.  Almost like it knows that part of it will exist on a different continent for an extended period of time.

Below is a picture of Matt praying during the ceremony.IMG_3031 Here is our beautiful American flag and our unit’s flag, which has already been cased.IMG_3041 And here we are with both of our flags!  Old Glory and 1-227′s cased colors.IMG_3042Matt’s dad doesn’t get to witness the amazing man his son has become.  He doesn’t get to witness the four amazing men we are raising.  But I believe when we are reunited in heaven there will be some amazing words of sheer joy passed from father to son.   This man makes me proud.  This man is turning into his father and in a way that I can honestly say that I prayed for when I witnessed the love between his parents.  I know I am the most blessed woman on the planet.

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Homeschooling littles…

Right now I find myself in a neat position in my career.  I am teaching a middle-schooler, two upper-elementary students, and I have a toddler-turning-preschooler.  To make things VERY interesting, I am spending a great deal of energy researching high school materials so that we enter that critical period with our eyes focused on the goals my children have.

I am sure there will be plenty of posts in the upcoming years about that topic, but for now, I am sharing my personal opinions on teaching littles.


First, a few disclaimers:  (Fellow professional teachers, you might not want to read this…)

  1. I do not place my childrens’ education at the top of my priority list.  In raising my children to adulthood, my main concern is that they become Godly men of character.  I firmly believe that if they have a Godly character they will be good husbands, good fathers, good employees or employers, they will be honest, fair, just, and they will have a love of learning.  People with great character tend to be willing to learn new things because they can honestly admit that they don’t know it all.  SO… if I raise Godly men of character, they will reach adulthood with a willingness to improve their own minds, hearts, and in turn, their eductions and finances will fall into place.
  2. I do not purport that what or how I am teaching my children is the best way or the only way, that children should be taught.  I am, however, confident that I am teaching them the best way I know how to and in a way that I sleep soundly at night knowing that they are getting a well rounded education.   This is not to say that other forms of education are not well rounded… what I am saying here, on my own blog, is that I am comfortable with what I have taught my children and that any kind education they could receive would come with holes.  The holes in my kids’ education might be different from the holes in the educations of children who receive other forms of schooling, and I am perfectly comfortable with that.  (P.J. Jonas of Goat Milk Stuff explains it so well and said it in a way that I can agree with:  teaching our children to think is much more important than getting them to memorize tons of facts.  If you want to see what Henry Ford or Albert Einstein thought about this exact topic, please read the blog post of P.J.’s that I linked to.)
  3. Much of what I liked in the early years has changed.  There are several possible reasons:  either I no longer saw the benefits of that program for my children, the need for them to learn that, or I found another format that better suited my learners.  That doesn’t necessarily make the programs unworthy of being used by someone else, just that we won’t likely use that for “Round Two of Homeschooling Littles” in Jackson Academy.

Now that I have those few disclaimers behind, I want to give my overall philosophy.  I had to write dozens of philosophies in college for my beliefs on education.  I wrote these with the professors in mind, hoping to get a good grade on the project and ultimately in the class.  Now, writing my philosophy on early elementary grades is more based on how I view those years as a homeschooling mom and less on what professionals would want me to say.

I regularly receive requests for my opinion about what curriculum I recommend for preschool.  I want to be very careful here, because I know a lot of people value preschool and the benefits of early education.  What I will say is that I HONESTLY believe preschoolers can learn everything they need in the two simple actions of playing and being read to.  (In case you missed it, that was my philosophy on preschool homeschool.)  Play with your preschooler and they’ll learn.  Read to and with your preschooler and they’ll learn.  I do not think a curriculum is necessary for you to teach your preschooler so I don’t recommend a single one.  That is not to say that there are not great ones out there.  In fact, I’m positive that there are great ones out there.  But I believe that the preschool years are designed for play and exploration and I do not spend a dime on preschool homeschool curriculum.  I also believe that children have 13+ years of school ahead of them and only 5 designated for just being a kid.  I say let them be a KID!

Now, in the interest of full transparency here, all four of my children have gone to preschool for one or two years of their lives.  That sounds so very contradictory to the previous paragraph, and for that I do apologize.  The reasons for each child varied:  When my oldest when to preschool at age 4 it was to prepare him for “real school” which we were going to be utilizing.  We had no intention of homeschooling, and Hayden was so timid that I wanted him to have a year of “practice” to get him ready for the real thing. For Carson and Bailey, they went to preschool four days a week, just in the mornings.  Matt was deployed and this gave me a small break, and a chance to teach Hayden all by himself.  Now, Parker goes to preschool three days a week for three hours, giving me the time to focus on a few subjects that require all of us to concentrate.  (I found that I was letting Parker watch TV during this time and I would rather him be at preschool than at home watching TV.  Sure, I could come up with something for him to do, but honestly, this is right for us for now.)

(Begin shooting flaming arrows now…)

Okay, now to get on to the actual academics:

My philosophy of early elementary education is to cover the basics:

  • Teach them to read (but the age at which a child learns to read is less important than developing his or her love of reading);
  • Teach them math in concrete ways so that later they can understand the abstract mathematical concepts;
  • Teach them that history is the story of people and make it interesting.
  • Science is great, but I’m not a great science teacher… Co-ops would be a great idea for supplementing what I haven’t covered, and replying on occasional unit studies and investigating nature is easier than it might sound at first. (Pinterest can be a great resource for science.)
  • Handwriting is more important than I first thought, but it’s not the main thing.

Having used a variety of curricula for the bigs, here is what I plan to use for Parker when he starts his “official” school years:

READING – Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (Dr. Phyllis Haddox and Elaine Bruner)  I will start with this again.  If I find that he struggles with reading I will then transition from that to what I am using for Bailey:  All About Reading and All About Spelling.  These two programs are fantastic but I honestly believe they are overkill for a child who picks up reading easily.  They are expensive and labor intensive and I do not regret not using them for Hayden and Carson.  Bailey needed it and I am thrilled that these programs exist.  If Parker doesn’t need the additional work, I will not plan to go through these programs with him.  Please listen to this podcast on homeschooling and learning to read!!  It’s a four-part series but it is invaluable!  I am less concerned with my early elementary children mastering the skill of reading and very much concerned with protecting their love of reading and their appreciation for reading as it relates to every single aspect of their lives going forward.  I do not regret letting Bailey take so long to master the skill.  He loves to read and is not embarrassed that he learned later than his peers.  This may be my hill to die on when it comes to homeschooling and I will gladly raise my sword in defense of letting children learn slowly in an attempt to protect their LOVE of reading.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION – Anything to get the heart rate up:  running, soccer, playing outside, tickle fights, “muscling,” riding bikes, jumping jacks, or even a formal Homeschool PE class.

RELIGIOUS EDUCATION – I schedule in that they go to Chapel Sunday School each week. A few of our other subjects are Bible based.  I also includes Bible stories, scripture, character studies, etc.  Parker will also listen to Adventures in Odyssey… this is a staple in our religious education.

MATH – Saxon K –   I love Saxon math and the way it teaches.  If you want to research the programs and decide if you want to stick with it, I would be comfortable recommending Saxon all the way from K-High School.  I chose to go with Teaching Textbooks (TT) for third grade and up because of the ability to let the kids learn for themselves.  I loved that every single problem was explained by the “teachers” and that if my child got any problem wrong, they could go back and view the solution.  Some Math-on-DVD curricula only have the examples explained…TT has every single problem explained.

Okay, here I might veer a little from my I don’t “do” school with preschoolers because I have a little foreknowledge that Teaching Textbooks can be used a year head of schedule. I want to start Parker on the Teaching Textbooks 3 (TT3) when he starts his 2nd grade year.  Because Saxon K is basically “playing” with manipulatives, I know Parker would enjoy it immensely.  We already have it and it’ll only take a few months to cover.  So, I’ll probably start it with him in January before we start his kindergarten year.  I followed this basic schedule with Carson and Bailey and it worked out beautifully. *See note at the bottom about scheduling your years.  Parker’s Math schedule will look like this:

Just before Kindergarten:  Saxon K
Kindergarten:  Saxon 1 and half of Saxon 2
1st Grade: Half of Saxon 2 and Saxon 3
2nd Grade:  TT3
3rd Grade: TT4
4th Grade: GT5…
… and so on…

LIBRARY – We go to the library about every 2 weeks.

PEER INTERACTION AND OUTSIDE AUTHORITY – Laugh if you want, but one of the main critiques of homeschooling is that “the children need social skills.” Okay, so fine. I give my kids opportunities to be “social” and to learn how to behave in public settings. (My thoughts on this are the same as they always have been.  They spend plenty of time in social settings and are proving themselves to be quite socially adept.  I do not worry about Parker being unsocial or unsocialized.)

FAMILY & HOME MANAGEMENT – Chores.  You can always go back and read my first installation on some of these but I believe most of this is common sense.  If you’re at home, your kids have more time to learn basic home economy skills.

SCIENCE – Part of what the kids do for Science is Jonathan Park. (Another radio drama, similar to Adventures in Odyssey.)  It focuses on teaching children what the Bible says about creation and how they can defend what they believe.  And, secondly, I don’t do a lot of science with elementary age children.  I admit this might be a hole in their education. I won’t do a lot with him, but I will research and see more.

SOCIAL STUDIES – Story of the World.  We have all three volumes and we will read through these multiple times until Parker hits 8th grade, at which point I assume I will use SonLight as I am planing to use it for Hayden in 8th grade.  I’ll write back later to share whether I liked SL or not.  The great thing about Story of the World is that all ages can go through it together and everyone in my family LOVES it!

HANDWRITING – Oh, one of my biggest homeschooling mistakes thus far is in the area of handwriting.  To avoid this mistake with Parker I will use Handwriting Without Tears (HWT).  I will work through the entire thing, K-2 since I already bought it for the bigs. (Mat Man, Chalk board, Flip Crayons, Wood Pieces, etc.)  Classically Cursive was good enough for a cursive program, so I’ll use it for Parker as well.

SPELLING – I have never really stuck with a spelling program.  I did a writing program for about two years that suggested that children who read a lot and do a great deal of writing could naturally become good spellers.  Therefore I have never done a formal spelling program.  And, let’s be honest… most of my kids’ work in high school, college, and in their careers will require them to use a computer which, if it’s anything like the one I’m typing this on, will correct their spelling as they go or at the very least, underline mistakes in red. Bailey is getting a more formal spelling education due to his issues, and I highly recommend it for any child who seems to need that additional work.  I mentioned it earlier, but for your ease, I’ll add the link here again for All About Spelling.

*One major thing I would change about or homeschool if I could go back and change anything would be that we would start our years in January and school until October.
Our family has learned that we do NOT like to do school in November or December.  We had to work through one summer in preparation for our big Italy trip and an overseas PCS.  That worked out so well for us.  The following year, we took the summer off to move again (2013 was a killer year) so that put us back on a traditional school schedule.  The way we are going to remedy that this year is to start our next year in May, just after we finish this year.  We will school through the summer and take our “summer” break OCT-DEC.  It works for us.

So, there you have it.  What I believe I will be doing with Parker when we go through the early elementary school years again!
~Jennifer (sitting here trying to avoid flaming darts)

Posted in About my faith, brothers/boys, family, homeschooling, parker | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments