Magic Kingdom & Hollywood Studies 2021

Split party! By day 5 we had already done all four of the parks and I knew the bigs would want to go back to Hollywood Studios and I knew that there were things at Magic Kingdom that Anna wouldn’t get to do on the first day at Magic Kingdom. And so, we split.

We hit the high-demand rides, Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh, during the early Magic Hours as well as It’s a Small World, while we were in that neighborhood.

The Dumbo ride isn’t new but the playground is.

Anna loved The Barnstormer (we rode it three times in a row!) and Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. She pointed out the shells embedded in the concrete.

We saw Buzz again! (After we rode Space Mountain!!)


Anna and I did all the fun stuff and then had a last snack before heading to the room.

The bigs had spent the day at Hollywood Studios.

Matt, Anna, and I took a long, snuggly nap when we got back to the room.

I really wanted to see the fireworks display and none of the boys really wanted to. I didn’t mind that, and took just Anna back to Magic Kingdom. Before we settled in a spot to wait for the fireworks we went to ride Big Thunder Mountain.

The castle was showing off!

Originally posted on 12-27-21 but backdating to 12-5-21.

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Epcot 2021

Before our trip I researched the brand-new ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and how to have the best chances of riding it. Based on what I read, my expectations of getting in the virtual queue were very low. Because it’s so new and demand for the ride is so high, and because it’s in a corner of Epcot with very limited space, they don’t have stand-by as an option. Meaning, you can’t just go get in line and wait your turn. You must log into the app and get in a virtual line (queue), then arrive at the ride during your time window.

One website I read suggested having everyone in your group with a smart phone download the app, log into the main account, and be ready to start requesting a spot at 0659 the day you are going to Epcot. And so, I woke my people and had them ready to start trying for a spot in line a few minutes ahead of time.

Five phones ready, and Matt was able to get us a spot!! At exactly 0700 Matt yelled, “I got it!” and in my excitement I yelled, “YOU DID NOT!!!” I woke Anna and I didn’t even care! I was so excited!

Throughout the day I kept an eye on our arrival time. It’s crazy: so many people were trying to get in the virtual queue that we were group 37 and our call time was after 12 noon. You can see why I really didn’t expect we’d be able to get a spot.

This is how we walked around most of the time: in a cloud of bubbles.

Disregard what I was saying… just showing you the bubble cloud.

To make use of our early entry we headed straight for Test Track. Gotta say, the first half of the ride didn’t impress me much… and then it kicked into high gear! If I hadn’t had other plans for the day I would have ridden it a few more times.

Anna is between Matt and me.

Frozen Ever After

This ride was really cute and it was neat to be in the home of Anna and Elsa.

Epcot Countries

I loved seeing the different countries in Epcot. The last time I was there was the week before we moved to Germany the first time. This was even more fun, having been to many of the countries represented. Venice, Italy was done so well!

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure

When it was time for our Boarding Group to show up we made our way to France. This was a fun 4-D ride in the same kind of car as Mickey’s Runaway Railway. It was really impressive! At one point we were under an oven and we could feel the heat!

Later in the day we saw Remy near the entrance to the ride … we hate the rest of the family didn’t get to see him but they had already headed back to the room.


We saw several in Epcot!


We ate lunch “in China.” Really good food!

Parker and I had the duck.
Whose idea was it to give the 5yo cotton candy?!?


Of all the characters and princesses Anna saw all week, Mickey was only one she got all flabbergasted over. It was the CUTEST THING!


Nemo and friends…you never know what a 5-year-old will say in a room where the fish are interacting them! It was a really cute show!

It was late but we (the three of us left by this time) rode Spaceship Earth, inside the Epcot Ball.

Our trip was coming to an end but we had one more fun day ahead. Hollywood Studios for the boys and Magic Kingdom for the girls! Home and to bed…

Originally posted on 12-27-21 but backdating to 12-4-21.

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Animal Kingdom 2021

I have two words for you: Mount Everest.

Such a fun rollercoaster! That was where we headed first and we were able to ride it multiple times in a row! (Matt, Anna, and I rode it twice, everyone else rode it three times). Those early Magic Hours were awesome!

I’m writing this at 30000 feet while flying to visit a friend and I had such a hard time not laughing out loud at these pictures! So thankful for the Memory Maker Pass!

After her second time Anna was DONE.

A friendly person offered to take our picture! Finally, one that’s not a selfie! And what a background!

The Dinosaur Ride

This ride was really neat and there was a moment that really caught us all off guard!

Walking around:


The last thing I requested of my boys was the Safari. The wait was pretty long but the Safari was a memory I wanted them to have with Anna. It will be a very short time before they move out and I want Carson and Bailey to be able to talk about this with her, as she loves animals so much. Again, they were really good sports. 

Winter Extras

Lovely day! 

Originally posted on 12-20-21 but backdating to 12-3-21.

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Hollywood Studios 2021

My bigs are such good big brothers. We had two different strategies could employ:
1. Divide and conquer… with the guys going one way (Star Wars or Rock N’ Rollercoaster) and the girls going the other (to Toy Story Land). Or…
2. Stay together for Toy Story Land today and the boys hit those other rides on Day 5.

They wanted to see Anna in Toy Story Land and so we utilized Early Magic Hours to get in line for the Slinky ride, which now Anna declares is her favorite memory of the entire trip. (Which recently shifted from the night Ashley {Bailey’s girlfriend} spent with her in our hotel. Poor Ashley. Demoted by a slinky-dog.)

Toy Story Land

Early in line and it was already a 30 minute wait!

Bailey paired with Anna, Carson with Parker, and Matt and I rode together.


Now to Toy Story Mania

Those big brothers, though…

Mickey’s Runaway Railway – the show just before you board the ride was AMAZING! One of the biggest surprises of the adults’ trip, for sure.

How they work without tracks… incredible.

We planned to take our stroller but realized an hour outside of NYC that we had left it behind. Thankfully Nana’s friend, Linda, had one she was willing to loan us. Even though Anna is definitely able to walk all day and is fast enough to keep up with us, having a stroller was 100% worth the effort of keeping up with it. It allowed us to keep drinks and snacks in the bottom (instead of in a backpack) and gave her a seat anywhere we were. (And when she did get tired, we didn’t have to carry her or listen to whining. Not that any of my kids whine… but you know…)

At this point in the day we split into three groups. I have no clue where the teens went, but Matt and Parker went to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Anna and I went to watch Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage. I cried during three events on our trip… this was the first. Sure, I saw this in 2009 with Matt and the boys, but I always dreamed of having a little girl to do things like this with. It was as magical as I had dreamed it would be.

Anna and I also had a few other experiences during the day while the boys were off doing their own things.

  1. We saw the reindeer, Santa, and SNOW!

2. We saw Anna and Elsa, and OLAF!!

3. And we got to meet DOC, Vampirina, and Fancy Nancy!

I apologize for my ear-piercing voice at the end but I was excited! Anna wanted to tell Doc McStuffins that she dressed up as her for Halloween for three years, but she chickened out and asked me to do so. I had to quit recording so I could chat with Doc… (I am so glad we didn’t wait another year to go to Disney! The Pixie Dust is still in effect!)

4. And finally… Anna got to DANCE and play with music, bubbles, Vampirina, Doc McStuffins, and Mickey Mouse!


One tip I would like to share is to use the Disney Experience App to order food. Here’s an example of how it is to our benefit at Catalina Eddie’s (and at many other quick-serve restaurants).

There were to walk-up windows open. The far left was for those waiting in line to order. The far right was for mobile orders.

What we tended to do was figure out what/where we wanted to eat about an hour before. Then, we’d place an order, select a pick-up arrival time window, and pay for the food on the app. During the time window we had selected we would walk up to the restaurant, click “I’m here,” at which point they’d actually begin preparing our food. By the time we found a table our food was ready. People in the order-line had to wait forever and we were done eating by the time they got their food.

Only downside… you can’t quite tell the scale of the food you are buying: For a treat, I got Parker and Anna each a cookie… only to find out at pick-up they were the size of Anna’s face!

Needless to say, they shared one and Matt and I shared the other.

Parker took his picture with the Tower of Terror not sure he was willing to ride it. He was very nervous about this. But in the end, he braved it!


Matt and Parker rode the Rock N’ Rollercoaster. It’s a family favorite and the only ride we rode that Anna wasn’t tall enough to ride.

Later in the day Parker and I were able to ride it together but for some reason, the Photo Pass didn’t send me the pictures.

One of the most impressive things I saw while we were there was this Lightening McQueen! He is SO REALISTIC! (Pixie dust works on moms, too!)

As we were leaving we saw Minnie Mouse!!

Originally posted on 12-19-21 but backdating to 12-2-21.

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Magic Kingdom 2021

From Buzz to Elena, and Belle to the Seven Dwarves, this day was perfect!

Staying on Disney Property gave us early entry, which we made use of each day. I had a strategy for the parks which included going straight to the most popular rides so that we made sure to get to ride that. (This is also the strategy of every other Disney Resort guest, so walking toward these rides is like being in a herd of cattle!) Later in the day the lines for those rides can exceed 90 minutes so we wanted to eliminate that as much as possible.

Waiting for our bus to Magic Kingdom.
On the bus and on the way to see MICKEY!

Even the walk into the park built our anticipation. Cast members were on the sides of the streets waving to all of us as we made our way toward the castle, which has a new look for its 50th Birthday.

Cinderella’s Castle all dressed up for the 50th Birthday Celebration

At Magic Kingdom we headed straight for Space Mountain, not sure how Anna would enjoy it. Carson has never been a fan of rollercoasters but he has grown into enjoying them.

Waiting in line! We spent every morning together as a family, then the two teens branched off on their own and the rest of us hung together.

Here’s Anna about to board her first rollercoaster.

Anna was very excited to meet Buzz Lightyear. He was on stage and she ran up to him just in time to see him ending his time with the kids. Bailey caught up to us and I yelled, “One more picture, Buzz?!?” and he turned around and waved!!

Bailey and Buzz in 2021
Bailey and Buzz in 2009

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Can you spot Anna?

Dumbo is a classic ride that I really wanted Parker and Anna to ride. I was pregnant with Parker the last time we were there and he rode it but doesn’t really remember it! I am sure it was underwhelming for my 11-year-old son but he can now say he’s done it!

Parker is in the Dumbo elephant just above my head. He’s wearing a red shirt.
Brilliant: A playground inside the line area for Dumbo! We didn’t do that today but planned to come back specifically so Anna could play on the playground on Day 5.

Anna noticed that the sidewalks outside the Dumbo ride had peanuts embedded in the ground. (She later noticed that there were sea-shells embedded in the ground around the Under the Sea ride. I love that Disney-level appreciation to detail.)

Magic Bands

This was the first time we have used Magic Bands. They worked out beautifully! The kids were able to get their own lunches from whatever restaurants they wanted without me having to be there. I am pleased (and not a little shocked) to report that no one lost a Magic Band the entire week!

Anna had an Olaf band and Parker had Stitch.
Tomorrowland Speedway. You can see Anna and Matt in the blue car, Parker alone in the red car, and I was alone in my car. Parker was underwhelmed.
Just bouncing and excited…

Memory Maker Photo Pass

With Christmas money from my parents I splurged on the photo pass! I loved it! We had photographers take our pictures as often as we could (without waiting in any really long lines) and I love that the cameras on rides automatically (for the most part) snatched pictures of my kids, even when I wasn’t with them.

The sun was BRUTAL! (Sadly, I know this photographer got pictures of just Parker and Anna but those didn’t get uploaded to our account.)

Big Thunder Mountain

The bigs were off on their own for lunch while we did a few more things with Parker and Anna. However, Parker really wanted to ride Big Thunder Mountain with Carson and Bailey. So, we gave him general directions and sent him on his way. He caught up to them and they rode that together. After the Princess Processional (below) we also rode Big Thunder Mountain. Anna is such a champ!

The Royal Princess Processional

As we made our way to Big Thunder Mountain we were pleasantly surprised by this mini-parade. This was a moment to remember for us. It was “the” moment she saw the princesses and was first dusted with Pixie Dust… I am so glad I was videoing her instead of the parade!

Something surprising to me was just who made Anna feel the most enchantment. I would have thought Belle, as she and I love Belle and the Beast. But she was absolutely enamored by Elena!! (And on another day, by Vamperina, a show she really doesn’t even watch!)

Pixie Dust enchanted my girl!

Splash Mountain

Oddly enough, this was the ride I was the most anxious about. I hate the drops on all roller coasters and for some reason this one looked massive. I had to practice some deep breathing on the ride. Anna hung in there like a champ and impressed us all over again with her bravery!

I felt the way Anna looked.
The ascent…

The following video is while we were still on the ride. (Side note: I am looking forward to Disney re-theming this ride. If you don’t agree with me, just keep that to yourself. I’m not about “canceling” history, and that’s not what re-theming the ride will do. It will just put an end to the glorification of a part of our past that is abhorrent and will be a step toward recognizing that some of the things we have depicted in films have done a grave injustice to an entire people. Read a bit about the re-theming of this ride here.)

Be Our Guest

My prince and me.

I booked this dinner reservation as early as I possibly could. Then I read a few reviews that said it wasn’t really worth the price (which is a high). I almost cancelled out of a desire to be responsible but then decided that it was the one experience on this trip that was for me. Not for my kids. For me. I wanted to experience it with Anna, as I finally have a little girl to do these things with. (Carson and Bailey had finished everything in this park that they wanted to do and didn’t want to wait around for the dinner reservation so they headed back to the hotel. I didn’t have my feelings hurt at all. I promised that I would let them know what I really wanted them to do with us. My dream come true was to eat in this castle with my prince and with Parker and Anna. I think Parker would have been just as happy to head to the hotel but at this point in the day he was with us and I really thought it would be a good memory for him. He was such a good sport, even when he wasn’t thrilled with the first lobster bisque.)

My only disappointment was that, though I had booked our table in the ballroom, they seated us in the Rose Gallery. Looking back I wish I had said something and waited for a table in the ballroom, but the way they called our name and walked us around the castle, I didn’t know where they were seating us until we were in the Rose Gallery and they were putting us at the table. By then I didn’t want to make a scene… but now I kind of wish I had told them my preferences. Anyway, we don’t have great photos from the evening but it was magical and will be a great memory I’ll treasure! (I really did my best to be in the moment as much as possible, which I knew even then would cost me some great photo opportunities.)

This is where I wish we had been seated.
Matt was a good sport!
“THE” rose!

The first course was Lobster Bisque for Matt, Parker, and myself, and Anna had a fruit and cheese platter.

I didn’t take photos of our actual meal but Anna got Mac and cheese and the rest of us got filet mignon. For dessert Anna got a white chocolate “Chip” which she got to paint before eating. The rest of us got a dessert trio which included the gray stuff. It’s delicious!

Our dinner reservations were for 4:10, which was the best I could get. I tried to get a more traditional dinner hour but those reservations booked up within minutes. In the end, I was very thankful for the time of our reservations! We were hungry enough to eat, but done with our meal early enough to get to our room at a decent hour. In fact, we planned to go straight to the room but we saw the Seven Dwarves ride and knew that Parker and Matt wouldn’t be back to ride that any other time, so we decided to brave the hour-long wait.

IT WAS SO WORTH IT! It may have been my favorite ride of all!

Check out our faces on this ride! I really do hate Carson and Bailey didn’t get a chance to ride this!

And then it was time to go to our room. Part of the Memory Maker Photo Pass included a few professional shots, so here are two beautiful ones.

Good night, Mickey!

Leaving Magic Kingdom was easier because I knew that Anna and I would be back on Day 5 to hit some of the rides we didn’t want to force the bigs to ride. There is just no way to do it all in one day!

We got back to the room and the bigs were excited to hear all about the second half of Anna’s day!

Originally posted on 12-18-21 but backdating to 12-1-21.

Posted in brothers/boys, family, parker, travel | 1 Comment

๐ŸŽ‰Disney World 2021๐ŸŽ‰

Magical and near perfect are the two words I’d used to describe our trip.

I made a vow to stay off my phone as much as possible, which meant not posting daily updates. I knew that meant I’d miss out on the annual FB memories popping up on the exact dates, but I really wanted to be as in the moment as possible.

We chose this time in our lives because Anna is at the perfect age to enjoy the magic as well as many of the attractions but she absolutely blew us away with her courage! We had no idea if she’d like roller coasters as we haven’t taken her to an amusement park since she was three.
Spoiler alert: she loves them!

I began planning in March and made plans for this trip based on our typical homeschooling lifestyle. We do not do Florida in the summer. No, thank you! We prefer to take our big trips when everyone else is in school to minimize the crowds as much as possible (and increase the chances of riding more rides), so the dates I picked allowed us to go when the weather was nice in Florida, the parks had already changed to Christmas wonderland, and the crowds would be as light as possible.

When we decided to put Anna and Parker in school this year I called about changing dates and that was a no-go, so I spent a few weeks freaking out over how to tell their teachers and fearing their reaction. I even had a good friend who is a NYC teacher proof my letter. I took her edits and hit sent, dreading the responses. Surprisingly, both teachers were excited for my kids and wished us well, encouraged us to have fun and let us know that they’d help us with missed work.

As I write, both kids still have some assignments to catch up on but we are so thankful that they didn’t have to battle negative comments from their teachers in addition to make-up work. We have definitely made the right choice for this year and absolutely love their teachers.

Due to COVID we had to make reservations to the parks so I planned our itinerary long ago:
Day 1: Magic Kingdom (December 1, 2021)
Day 2: Hollywood Studios (December 2, 2021)
Day 3: Animal Kingdom (December 3, 2021)
Day 4: Epcot (December 4, 2021)
Day 5: Boys go back to Hollywood Studios and girls to back to Magic Kingdom (December 5, 2021)

We did Thanksgiving in a unique way this year, which I will write about soon! We left for Disney the very next day, with a very special stop in NC for “Christmas with family.” We knew we wouldn’t be able to be in NC for Christmas so we enjoyed our Hyatt traditions a little early.

Our Itinerary:
11/26: 7 Hamricks left NY for NC.
11/29: 5 Hamricks drove to FL; Hayden flew back to NY to work; Carson flew to TX surprise his girlfriend for her birthday; Bailey’s girlfriend met us at our Disney All-Stars Music* Resort to hang out. We ate at Cici’s and played miniature golf.
11/30: 6 Hamricks moved from the Disney All-Stars Music Resort to Saratoga Springs Villa. Carson flew from TX to FL to join us for our Disney Vacation. Matt and I had a dinner date with two amazing women at Disney Springs. (We let the kids fend for themselves using their Magic Bands to pay.)
12/1-5: The PARKS!!
12/6: We picked up Bailey’s girlfriend and 6 Hamricks +1 drove from FL for NC.
12/7: Matt flew to Fort Bragg for work and 5 Hamricks +1 drove from NC to NY.
12/9: Matt flew back home

(12/11: And to continue the fun, Hayden’s best friend drove in yesterday and Carson’s girlfriend flew in last night. As I write we have 10 people in the house! Full house, full heart!)

(*We had two different hotels because I made our original plans to arrive in Florida on the 30th and start our park days the next day. Later I thought better of that and wanted a buffer day to relax and get settled… also, just in case we had car trouble on the way down… this gave us a sense of peace, knowing we had some built-in buffer-time. Our travel agent was able to get us on-property for the same price we would have paid in an off-property hotel.)

And so now for pictures of our journey TO the most magical place on earth!

Monday morning, leaving Nana and Papa’s for Disney World!

Let’s DO THIS!

We stayed at Disney’s All-Stars Music Resort for the first night. The outside was very cute, but obviously a discount motel-type place. However, inside the room was lovely. Very high quality with two full bathrooms! The living room had two full-sized Murphy beds.

All-Stars Music

Killing time between checking out of the All-Stars and checking into Saratoga Springs. We ate Cici’s Pizza for nostalgia then played miniature golf. (The kids loved this so much we repeated this event later in the week… They had Disney, but also loved a cheap buffet and mini-golf!)

At one point we dropped Bailey and Ashley off at her house to visit with Ashley’s family while the rest of us went to Wal-mart for the grocery run and to buy some warm-weather clothes for Anna. It was hot and Anna was having none of that. We had already donated her summer clothes because they were not needed in NYC anymore! We found one pair of shorts and one tee-shirt which we washed every night. Gotta do what you gotta do.

Checking into our Saratoga Springs Villa. This room was the most beautiful and comfortable hotel set-up we’ve ever had. I wish I had taken the time to do a video walkthrough before we brought all of our stuff inside but we had groceries and six people eager to get out of the car and spread out. Here’s a link to a great walk-through that, while watching, gave me all sorts of warm fuzzies and brought back all the memories. I also found a second, slightly more detailed, video walk-through.

For dinner, Matt and I met with two amazing women at a Disney Springs restaurant. Such a special time.

That night we had a scare… Anna started vomiting around 10 PM and did so three times before midnight. I messaged a friend in Germany (I knew she’d be up and willing to pray) because we really didn’t want to have to miss out on all the fun… Magic Kingdom was the next day! (To finish out this story, she woke up fine, never had a fever, and we never missed a single thing. One night she had a meltdown (had to have her take deep-breaths to calm herself down) and there was another weird out-of-character episode she had which I can’t recall at the moment. At the time I attributed it to the over-stimulation and excitement of the trip, but the day we got home she said something weird. “Mom, I have two teeth coming down.” Sure enough, she cut two molars while we were at Disney! So glad we didn’t have to miss out on our park days, though I was at least comforted by the fact that we had purchased travel insurance just in case.)

Originally posted on 12-13-21, but backdating to 11-30-21.

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NYC Marathon

I have known for weeks that this event was happening. We’ve been getting notifications about road closures and the best places to watch the runners, but I dismissed them because I wasn’t all that interested.

And then Sunday happened!

My family and I headed to our train station a little earlier than usual to give us plenty of time to find a parking spot, as we knew many local roads were going to be blocked off. We found a spot only a couple of blocks away and walked to our station… which we found completely blocked off and protected.

I had not paid any attention to the route the runners were going to take, but it turns out they were to run right by our train stop! So cool!!

Our train stop totally blocked.

We took our train to church and I gave Anna the option of walking to church above ground or under… she chose above. So glad she did! We walked up straight into a party! It was so much fun!

Watching the start of the race at Mile 8.

We happened to be there for the first runners to pass us. You’ll see police, then the official time car, then the Professional Women’s Open Division! I was shocked that we had walked up at such a perfect time!

I didn’t take a picture of it but I saw two runners coming toward us with an entourage of 10-15 bicycling police officers. The people next to me knew who it was: Alexi Pappas, Olympian and Actor. SO COOL!! (I wish I had taken pics!) And the man she was running with was an Italian runner named Vito whom she met at the 5K mark… they ran the rest of the race together! (Info found on her Instagram.) Below are a few screenshots from her Instagram page.

I’m fairly certain this was taken in Bay Ridge. I recognize the Christmas decorations over the street…
(If not in Bay Ridge, don’t spoil it for me.)

In the photo below, notice how empty the street is. Later in this post you can watch a video of this street full of runners. The picture was taken at 9:30 am, and the video was taken around noon.

Mile 8 at 9:30 am. Only the professional women had run past here at that time.
They used dump trucks full of sand as protection. No one my age has forgotten the Boston Marathon tragedy.

We went to church and let the race continue on without us. When we came out the party had amplified as now the big pack of runners were passing by mile 8.

Parker looking fly…

The guy in the Puma sweatshirt stopped Parker, told him how amazing he looked, and gave him a Puma cinch bag. He gave Anna a XL tee… she was not amused.

We begrudgingly left the party and headed back home…

Only to find, as we came back up out of the train station at home, that the party was still going on!

Anna was very concerned about the women hanging out of the window in the clip below.

That was fun. The whole experience was a blast! I’m glad we saw what we did! How cool that the race started in Staten Island, just across our bridge on Fort Wadsworth, then ran right past our bagel shop and train station, and then, a few miles away, past where we go to church! So exciting! The feeling of joy in the air was palpable. I think NYC needed that.

Below are three images taken by Todd Heisler/The New York Times. In the first image you can see the big white building to the right of the bridge… that’s where we live. That building is the Brooklyn VA which 0.2 miles from my house… now you see why we call the Verrazzano “our” bridge.

In the second picture, note the curvature of the bridge. Makes me queasy!

Written on 11-12-21 and backdating to 11-7-21

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October 2021 – Recap

I am becoming the queen of the recap… I haven’t been blogging as often as possible and yet I still want to capture these memories as I go! Recapping, it is. And I’m allowing grace for myself…

Anna has no problem with getting dirty. She loves to play in the mud with friends.

Matt and I joined our Community Group at a seafood restaurant in Red Hook. The place was fun, the company friendly, and the views… amazing. We walked along the water after dinner and took a picture of the restaurant. It’s lit up like a Christmas tree! And no iPhone can do justice to Lady Liberty in the dark… but she was right there.

One of my first tasks as a stay-at-home-mom-with-kids-in-school was to convert the living room closet into a space for Anna’s art and such. She LOVES it. I did this over a month ago and it has stayed just as clean and useful as it was on day 1!

Anna kept giving me cheesy smiles, but her hair was on point on picture day!

I had a lunch date with a girlfriend and we went to the Dandy Lion. The food was so good and the new friendship refreshing.

Matt was invited to speak briefly at church about the act of giving and tithe. Here’s his speaking debut at Liberty Downtown Brooklyn. (He’s been on stage for many months playing in the band.)

We (I) made a rookie mistake and took directions to the wrong place one night of our Community group so instead of a group dinner at a Polish restaurant (which I was VERY MUCH looking forward to) Matt and I ended up on an impromptu date just the two of us… and a full moon.

Fall is my time of year and Anna and I decided we’d make it an annual experience to go to every couple of weeks to watch the trees change color and Rockefeller Center convert into a winter wonderland. Our first trip was in October and we’re looking forward to our second trip soon.

I got to volunteer at Anna’s school, escorting the K&1 classes to the main building to pick pumpkins! It was so hard to take a picture with only Anna in it! This is the best I got.

Our housing complex recently got brand new back decks, and along with those decks came a new cement platform at the bottom. I snapped a picture to show a neighbor up the street what the finished product looked like as her deck was just getting started.

It’s funny that I took that picture – I had no idea it would become the “Before” in a series…

Before Anna : AfterAnna

Anna’s first time on a motorcycle (was actually in September but who cares about timelines and consistency… ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿผโ€โ™€๏ธ)

The trees have not impressed me this year. They are changing very slowly, and not nearly as bright as they were last year.

Written on 11-13-21 and backdated to 10-30-21

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Finding Home.

They say it takes six months to feel at home at your new duty station… I have always found that to be true and it was the case here at Fort Hamilton. By six months we had our favorite pizza delivery place (which is different from our favorite place to get a slice), knew where to get the best vegetables (not the commissary), and how to navigate around the city without getting lost. It felt like home and we were glad to be here.

But lately I’ve noticed a new layer of feeling at home. Here are the ways:

I have friends.

Guy friends for sure, but I’m specifically talking about girlfriends. People to go get pedicures with; People to meet for coffee (who are always up for coffee and are okay with whatever mood I show up in). People who bring me apple butter, apple jam, and apple butter because it is their favorite season, too! (Oh. My. Word… so good… so good!)

I have go-to spots to take friends:

The above photo gallery reveals a few. Below, a picture I took Thursday night after having dinner there with another friend. I had eaten at Time Out Market, which has many restaurants. That night, though I had had Fornino’s Funghi Misti Pizza… the only pizza I’ve ever craved. I also have a favorite Greek place, Something Greek in Bay Ridge.

Breathtaking views of this city from Time Out Market.

I have already had to start saying goodbye to loved ones…

Not just friends, but those I’ve welcomed into my heart as family. I don’t want to go into it but my Covid-Bubble-Buddy PCSed and took Anna’s BFF with her. Then, our pastors felt called to another church on the opposite coast, and another set of church leaders happened to feel called to minister in another state, as well. I use “called” very seriously. I believe these callings were from God and were in His timing, but we miss them very, very much.

We’ve gone to the same vacation spot two autumns in a row.

Catskills 2020 on the left, Catskills 2021 on the right:

I have a favorite building…

…and I will go to great lengths to see this building and will crane my neck to get a glimpse when driving, walking, riding… I pretty much love seeing the Empire State Building and every time I do I think to myself, “I can’t believe I live here.” (I will even suffer through sessions with a less-than-stellar therapist because her office happens to be across the street! Yes, I have a therapist. Yes, I selected her due to her location. And yes, I’m continuing to go to her because of her location. And maybe also because it takes a while to know if someone is a good fit or not and I think I owe her at least a few more visits before calling it quits.)

Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she wonderful?

I have a favorite bridge…

…and which one is probably no surprise to anyone. The Brooklyn Bridge… and this was a picture taken on another coffee date with a friend.

Those are some of the reasons I am feeling more and more at home here. It took a bit longer to get to this point simply because of Covid, but things are progressing just fine and I know that when I leave here I’ll take it pretty rough. I miss parts of everywhere we’ve lived and people at each stop along the way. I’m thankful for this life we’re living and the amazing people we welcome into our family as we travel this journey.

Posted in family, friends, military, moving, NYC/Brooklyn | 2 Comments

Three weeks in…

So, the kids have completed three weeks of school and the short version is, they’re doing great. In fact, we all are.

I’ve wondered many times over the past 15 years if I’d have a crisis of identity when my tenure as a homeschooling mom came to an end, not sure who I’d be without that label. I’ve wondered what I’d do with all my time.

I really thought I’d grieve when it was time to put away the books, whether it was by sending my kids to school or by graduating the last one, but I haven’t grieved at all. I’ve pretty much grieved all I care to grieve this year, just with the challenges our family has faced. (It’s been a rough one…) Those challenges definitely put things into perspective, and I believe that has helped me adjust to these changes so well. (Things are much better lately, just as a side-note.)

We haven’t regretted our decision to send Parker and Anna to our local public school for a minute. They are doing really well and have adjusted to the changes. They come home from school tired but not weary. I was most worried about homework because I have a professional opinion that homework is mostly unnecessary. So far I’ve been okay with what they’ve been brining home. I do not look forward to the day when I find it absurd… but I will have to remind myself that the reasons we decided to send them to school are worth some of the headaches. So far, that has been true. If I had to guess, I’d say they will stay in school as long as we’re assigned to Fort Hamilton, and then we’ll assess the situation when we move to a new location with a different set of offerings regarding homeschool community. By then, they may prefer to stay in school and as we always say, “kid-by-kid and year-by-year.” Based on how I know these two kids, Parker may prefer to homeschool high school if we have a strong homeschool community but Anna may prefer to stay in a classroom setting either way.

So far I’ve found plenty of ways to fill my days:

PWOC (Bible Study), a pedicure, coffee dates (plural), IKEA trip, 35 miles of running, multiple doctor appointments for things I’ve been neglecting the past few months, and I’ve made several dozen cupcakes for different people. I’ve had so much to do that I’ve decided to highlight a day each week as a reminder to schedule nothing. (I literally took a purple highlighter and outlined one day each week in October.)

We homeschooling moms tend to watch that yellow bus go by and wonder what school-moms do with all that time! We (teasingly…longingly…) envision bubble baths, Hallmark movie days, plenty of time to figure out dinner, and a house that is spotless because there aren’t people there making it dirty all day long! I’m bound and determined to make some of that happen! I will say, the house is staying a little cleaner, even though I do still have three people home during the day depending on the bigs’ work schedules.

Riding the bus

One major change in all of this is riding the bus. The first week of school our kids weren’t scheduled to ride the bus because they were new students. We were told it could take three days or three weeks to get things squared away so we were prepared for the long-haul. Fortunately it only took five. That first week we walked the mile to school and then I either walked home or went for my run. Once the bus situation was settled we began figuring out that routine.

They missed each other!

Tomorrow (Monday) is one of my “purple days.” I have a few household tasks I want to do, including decorating for fall – I’m really late on that this year! But I’m also wanting to do one of those activities I always assumed public-school moms do… so, your suggestions are welcome!

Posted in family, homeschooling, Motherhood Musing, NYC/Brooklyn, parker | 2 Comments