Merry Christmas – 2022

Welcome to the Hamrick Family Christmas Letter.

We have had an eventful year and I’d love to quickly share our highlights:

Matt now has a full year under his belt as a LTC Chaplain. He has enjoyed being a part of a great team here and has led 12 groups of people through a few different courses. He has completed all his classes for his Doctor of Ministry degree and has been working on his culminating project with hopes to graduate in May 2023. He has really enjoyed playing guitar on the worship team at church.

I, Jennifer, started a job outside the home for the first time in 22 years. I am traveling to local high schools administering the ASVAB. This is “play money”… new shoes, more Broadway shows, and I plan to pay someone to convert all my VHS home videos into usable formats…

Hayden (21) finished his Associate’s Degree in Dec of 2021 and in March of 2022 he moved to Europe on a grand adventure. He spent time in England, Scotland, and Germany. He is back here for a short season with plans to return to Europe in 2023 to continue the adventure. He will be working here on Fort Hamilton in the meantime (mama is happy!!).

Carson (19) learned the skills necessary to gain entry into the Production Assistant world. He would love to work on films or tv and thanks to the time he has spent at NYFA he’s ready to take on some contract jobs. He has near-perfect attendance and GPA.

Bailey (18) has completed 1 of 4 modules of his Sound Engineering diploma at SAE Institute in Chelsea. He also has near-perfect attendance and a perfect GPA. He released his first EP this year – just search for his name anywhere you listen to music. And his girlfriend, Ashley, did the artwork. Proud of them both!

Parker (12) is now the Photography Chair at his school and has been loving his theater classes. He auditioned for the role of Lumiere (Beauty and the Beast) at school and we are waiting for the results. He has made the A Honor Roll every semester. (Gotta say, as a former homeschooling mom, I’m greatly relieved that all of my kids excelled in the schools they entered after being my students!) He has good friends here and enjoys seeing Broadway shows.

Anna (6) is our most outgoing child. She loves school, has great friends there and on post, and enjoys her after-school program. She loves her friends so much that even after being with them from 8:00 am on, she asks almost daily if one can come over to play. She is incredibly smart and we love just being around her.

Official Macy’s Santa

We have a bit of a change coming up in 2023 as Matt has been told (word of mouth) that he will be spending a year away in order to stabilize our family. Though none of us are happy to be apart, all of us know it is absolutely the best thing for us at this time. Your prayers are appreciated as this will probably be hardest on Parker. He knows he’ll have to say goodbye to Hayden again, Bailey will likely move out this year, possibly Carson, and now he also has to prepare himself for a year without Dad.

I am so very curious to know what our 2023 Christmas update will look like. Will there only be three people in the house at that time! Could our NYC family size literally be half what it is today? Quite possibly! But we are at peace. We truly know that in all things God’s hand is visible and we thank Him for His provision, His protection, and His providence.

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A 2022 Look Back.

Time flies when you’re having fun! And I can honestly say that 2022 has been fun!

2021 was the hardest year for the Hamricks and the Lord saw us through. Hayden struggled with a bout of depression that made all other problems in our world seem trivial. Depression is no joke and watching my child go through that was the hardest thing I’ve experienced in my life. And when I say the Lord saw us through, I mean that. I believe we were in NYC for a reason. People we met here at church, in Matt’s job, and on Fort Hamilton prayed us through it and prayed for Hayden fervently, joining with our close friends and family in asking the Lord for healing. It wasn’t immediate and life isn’t perfect for any of us but I want to say that I truly thank the Lord for helping my son through 2021. He’s doing great in his grown-up life and has exceeded my expectations of who he has become as a man. I’m thankful for who he is and thankful beyond words that he feels so much better.

I have had a very full 2022 and haven’t taken the time to write. I’ve missed journaling our adventures and have a few that I really want to talk about (one that you’d never see coming in a million years… one that my people are almost tired of hearing about but I’ll get to that later).

Anyway, in order to retroactively share, I’m going to post this here today, September 2nd, and update it throughout as I go back and post memories. I’ve taken the day in rental office space to focus on this because I need the time away from the house and because I really do find journaling our adventures worth my time and energy.

But first… today I stepped out of my house this morning and it was 66*! PEOPLE! I’ve been waiting for this! The shift from summer to fall! Sure, it’ll be 80* by the end of the day, and I am wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt, but I put on a sweater for the ride to the office. I had to take it off as soon as I got here, and I probably won’t wear it again until next week when the highs are in the upper 70s, but I totally loved wearing a sweater!

PS Also because I got to talk to Hayden for about 30 minutes today and he gave me the okay to share the above, I’m sharing a screenshot of him and Anna video-chatting. Because who doesn’t love a big-bro-little-sis-with-lovies picture!?!?

January 2022

February 2022

March 2022

Posted in About my faith, brothers/boys, depression/blues, family, Motherhood Musing, NYC/Brooklyn | 1 Comment

What’s the big deal about Brittney Johnson!?!

I’m so glad you asked!

She’s the first Black female lead in the role of Glinda on Broadway’s Wicked!

I am very hopeful that by the time Anna is a grown woman we won’t have to make a big deal about this because the arts and education will be more equitable, for now, in 2022, it’s a big deal when a Black female has the lead role!

Brittney Johnson has been in the Wicked ensemble and has been the understudy for Glinda but as of February 14th, 2022, the role was officially hers! Now if she’s not there, someone understudies for her!

I was able to see Wicked several months ago and when I found out that a Black female was to become the lead after February14th I knew I had to make sure Anna saw her in that role. If you’re a long-time reader you may remember when Anna said she wanted to be white so she could be a ballerina. We were ready with books in-hand to show her Black ballerinas – representation matters! She needs to “see herself” on the stage, in books, in her community, and in her classrooms. Taking Anna to Wicked with Brittney Johnson on stage was critical for me, during this season where our family has the privilege to live in the greatest city in the world. The way Broadway goes, you don’t know if the lead will be on stage the night you are there until you are handed your playbill… and I’m sure you can imagine my excitement when I looked at the little slip placed inside and saw that there was no substitution listed for Glinda! OH MY GOODNESS! I was so excited!

We were able to take our friends Jamie and Joy and it was Joy’s first time to see a Broadway production as well. The show was wonderful and the their excitement melded with ours to make it an perfect experience!

{The following information may be boring for some audiences.}

Anna is a bit young for this show as it can be loud and some of the characters are scary. I prepared her in advance by showing her videos of the monkeys getting into make-up and costume. We also went to a small production of Beauty and the Beast before which was a workshop with the actors. The actor who played the Beast was fun and interacted with the kids and said, “In a few minutes you’ll see me on stage and I’ll be dressed in a pretty scary costume, but you’ll know it’s me because you’ll recognize my voice.”

That was stellar! And Anna did recognize his voice and told me so during the performance (sorry to the people around us).

Knowing I wanted Anna to see Wicked I used that experience and the videos of make-up and costumes to prepare her expectations for the scary monkeys.

During Wicked she held my hands and tensed up most at the voice of the Wizard. My prep worked paid off because she enjoyed watching the monkeys and didn’t seem too scared of them.

Anyway, on the way home Anna and I shared Airpods and watched several videos of Brittney Johnson. Two of my favorites include her first night’s curtain call when Lindsay Pearce was so excited for Brittney that she forgot to take her own bow and an interview Playbill did with Brittney. I’ll link to both below but be sure to watch the clip of the first curtain call AND look at the picture on CNN’s article. There are two different links: one for the video and one for the photo. In the CNN link you can watch Brittney’s first entrance in bubbles and her opening line says it all: “It’s good to see me, isn’t it?”

Yes, it is, Brittney! YES, IT IS!

Also, because I know you’re dying to know… Anna does have a favorite number: “What is this feeling.

Click here for link to article.

Brittney Johnson’s smile and the excitement on Lindsay Pearce’s face brought tears to my eyes in this clip:

Interviews of Brittney Johnson on her new role:

‘Wicked’ Star Brittney Johnson: ‘Black History Is Happening Right Now. I Am Living Proof’

How Being an Understudy Prepared ‘Wicked’ Star Brittney Johnson for Her History-Making Role

And now for some pictures and a video from our Girl Date:

1 & 2: On our way to start our GirlDate!
3 & 4: Before the show.
4: With the stage in the background… girl can’t keep that mask on her nose and she was happy to be there, I promise!
5: I videoed Anna clapping and then snatched a quick picture of the cast at their final bow.
6 & 7: Anna waved at the Krispy Kreme guy so he brought her up to the front of the line and gave her a free donut to eat while we waited in line. Krispy Kreme donuts make me this happy, to, baby girl!

Her face when she looks up at me! I think we have a theater-lover.

Posted in Motherhood Musing, NYC/Brooklyn, Racism/Race Issues, travel | 1 Comment

Hamilton and Phantom

I grew up listening to the soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera. It was the first musical I really loved. I saw the Broadway show in Charlotte many years ago but had to take the opportunity to see it in New York!

Dinner before the show at Viv. A great Thai place nearby.

The show was amazing even if Melissa and I were on the literal back row of the Majestic Theater.

Beautiful, iconic chandelier… which I took a picture of because it was beautiful and iconic, but also to show that we were at eye level with the chandelier!

There were bits and pieces of the story that I totally didn’t remember. When you only know the parts that are sung, you really can miss a lot! I enjoyed this show and I especially loved that I was able to go see Emilie Kouatchou, Broadway’s first Black Christine.

I love that Anna can see so many Black female leads on Broadway! Glinda, Christine, several of the Hamilton actresses!

Speaking of Hamilton…

I GOT TO GO! I will admit, I did not enjoy the music back when the boys were really into it. I vividly remember running on Fort Hood, trying to listen to it. I got to the first rap battle and quit. I figured there’d just be some things I wouldn’t enjoy along with the boys.

Fast forward to when Disney released the Broadway version and I was able to listen to the music, read the words, and watch the choreography simultaneously, and it all fell into place for me. I fell in love with the entirety of it.

Then we got orders to New York City and you KNOW I had to see it!

I expected to be a little disappointed that I wasn’t going to be seeing the original cast on stage. I did keep my eyes open to see if any of the OGs were still around and noticed one! Thayne Jasperson is the only OG who has been around continuously!

The cast I saw was phenomenal. Sure, I would have enjoyed seeing the creator of the show on stage but Miguel Cervantes was incredible! I was so very impressed and glad I saw it when I did…. especially since I’ve since learned that the history is not accurate and that the author who wrote the book the musical is based on got a LOT wrong. Oh well. If you want to dig into that, you will find a whole lot to unpack. Knowing how off the history is does take a little of the joy out of the show, but I still rate this as a phenomenal display of talent and genius.

Posted in NYC/Brooklyn | 1 Comment

March 2022 Look Back

Anna is learning to write: Can you tell what she wrote? This sign says “I love you Mommy because you’re the best.”

Cupcakes: I thought these turned out so cute!

Money! The bigs work(ed) at the commissary for tips. I save their cash until they have earned $500 and then I take it to the post office and buy a money order for easy digital depositing. (USAA has no physical branches to deposit cash.)

Girl dates are so fun! This time Melissa and I tried several kinds of pies from Four and Twenty Blackbirds, then took Citibikes from 4th/9th to Prospect Park.

Violin: Anna was given the opportunity to take violin lessons at school this year. Is this not the cutest violin you’ve ever seen??

Anna’s hair: When she’s staying home, sometimes Anna does her own hair, most of the time I do it. She’s getting pretty good.

I did this style…

Leprechaun Day (and a discussion about starting afterschool care). Several of Anna’s friends get off the bus at the CYS building where Anna used to attend preschool. She started asking me if she could go to afterschool with them and at first, I brushed it off. I don’t work, after all! But she kept asking and I couldn’t think of a really good reason to say no. We looked into it and she was able to get in. She was ready that day but didn’t get to start for about a week. I’d say that was the longest week of Anna’s life! (And as I’m writing this on 9-2-22 I can let you know that Anna absolutely LOVED being in afterschool care. She’d sometimes get home and ask if one of her school friends could come over right then! She loves people so much! She ended up doing five weeks of Full-day summer camp at that location and is registered for Afterschool for her first-grade year.)

While they were giving us a tour Anna spotted herself on the Dramatic Play center from her old preschool room.

Third Hand: Anna cracked me up… she heard the clock ticking but noticed there wasn’t a hand moving with the pace of the tick. I told her that it was counting the seconds but there isn’t a second hand on our clock. She got really confused and said, “Yes there is. There’s a first hand and a second hand but no third hand.” Well, she’s not wrong, I guess.

Technically there is a first hand and a second hand… and the hand that is missing is the third hand.

Written on 9-2-22 and backdated to 3-30-22.

Posted in family, NYC/Brooklyn | 1 Comment

Hayden moves to Europe

They hand you a baby in the hospital and forget to tell you that before you know it they’ll be grown and gone. It does go by so fast!

I wrote a three-part series documenting the details of this experience, but they were super sensitive and raw, and also I was trying to be respectful of Hayden’s privacy, so they are password protected. In this post I am sharing just the highlights.

Since time has passed and he’s doing so great, I’m going to look back on that time and share how we managed to get through launching our first baby. And not only into the adult world but overseas!

Hayden has always loved adventure and he spent five and a half very important years of his life in Germany. He made many good friends there and missed Europe when we moved to New York. He and his friend Madi (who lived in New Jersey but he met while we were still in Germany) decided to launch into adulthood all the way across the ocean!

We did a few farewell things for Hayden:

We went to Chuck E Cheese’s.

We went bowling: I loved seeing Hayden taking pictures of his siblings just before he flew.

Our pastor prayed over him in a special prayer time before church started:

We gave lots of hugs and snugs.

The night before…

The morning of I posted this to a very small audience:

We took one last family-of-seven picture.

We all rode to the airport to say our goodbyes in person.

We arrived with five kids and left with four. The “small audience” comment is because I had posted those images privately on my social media.

I stalked his plane and cried when it turned toward Europe. Note the arrows pointing to his plane and to our home. It got real at that moment.

And then he landed… He was reunited with his best friend, his person, and all was right in his world again. I am writing this on 9-2-22 and I got to talk to him for 30 minutes this morning. He’s doing great, rocking the adult life, and about to shift into his third European home since March. His plans are going along very well. He lived in London, England for a while, then in Scotland, and is moving to Germany very soon… What a time to be Hayden!!

I will conclude by saying that I know I was fortunate to have my son (sons, really) stay home a bit past 18. I love having my kids home and I loved every extra day we had with Hayden, but we also know it was the right time for him to launch… and Europe was the right place for him to land. Our hearts miss him very much. Anna even says that looking at pictures of him makes her sad, but we do know he is where he is supposed to be and doing what he is supposed to be doing!

(If you are reading this and happen live in Wiesbaden… Hayden and Madi will be looking for jobs as soon as they land. If you have connections or even an extra spare room or two, let me know! They are hoping to make Germany home for the long term and are willing to accept any help you can offer. And yes, this is the city where Parker was born. Hayden’s going back to the place where we lived three of the most special years of our lives so far!)

Written 9-2-22 and backdated to 3-22-22.

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Protected: March 21-24, 2022

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And one flew the nest…

There’s really no easy way to start this post. I’ve written the first sentence and deleted it many times. How does a mom summarize in a post her experience raising her first child and then preparing to launch him into the wide world? I don’t know! It’s my first time! I’ll let you know how it turns out!

I am writing this six days before Hayden officially launches into adulthood. He is going on a grand adventure that he has been dreaming of for quite some time, and he gets to do this adventure with his best friend. I can’t wait to watch the next stage of the journey unfold for him because I know how hard he’s worked to get to this point. I know the challenges he’s faced and the obstacles he’s overcome and I’m very proud of him.

Many of you are wanting to know exactly what he’s doing and what this grand adventure is but he’s sworn me to secrecy. Someday I’ll see if I can share a bit of his journey once some of his experiences are in hindsight and not in the future. In the meantime, if you want to support him on his journey here’s his Venmo. I’m sure he’d greatly appreciate anything, as he paid for his degree out of pocket and has saved for this trip with very little from us aside from a graduation gift.

We began putting together a Redbubble website from which you could purchase different items with his art but we only got two images uploaded before he flew. If you want to check out what’s there, click here: Art by Hayden Hamrick. Hopefully he’ll find some time to add more designs! He has so many on his iPad but they’re still in layers and need to be converted for uploading. Not sure he will find time while he’s on this grand adventure!

Anyway, back to the nostalgia. All I ever wanted to be was a mama. He made the job so easy and has been a treasure every step of the way. He has grown me and challenged me… he has helped me become more compassionate and I am quite amazed at how much parenting him raised me.

I’ll be honest… I’m kind of numb. People are asking me how I’m doing with this big life change. The best I can describe it is that it’s similar to how a family feels before a deployment. Everyone knows a change is about to happen and, in many ways, all are eager for it to just take place so the anticipation of the goodbye can just be over with. But that also means he’ll be off on his adventure, not home every night for dinner, not there to take Anna on dates or show Parker new styles for his outfits. We need the goodbye over-with but don’t want him gone, if that makes any sense.

I will say, the past week or so things have been really good, though we did go through a rough period where everyone was very short-tempered with each other. I fully believe that was the anxiety and grieving that comes along with the kind of change we are facing. For some reason we hit a peaceful place in the past week and things have been going very smoothly.

I’ve been praying for this kid of mine fervently. He seeks God and is very receptive to the Holy Spirit. We are watching him take his faith as his own, something that every person has to do or their faith will not hold.

I’ve made him promise to text me every day for a few weeks, just until I get used to him not being here. I dread watching Anna come to the realization that we won’t be visiting him every Saturday.

Hayden is a treasure. He has been my treasure for the past (almost) 21 years and now it’s time to let the world experience what a treasure he is. We are praying for God’s protection over him, his body (safety and health), mind, and heart. We are praying that his faith grows exponentially, in ways it can’t while living at home. We are praying for his provision, something he’s confident God will take care of. He’s seen God provide for us so he has every confidence God will do so even when he’s not with us anymore. (Matt and I are, understandably, more tentative in this area due to our financial struggles early on. Hayden has been wise with his money and has paid for everything in cash his whole life, and has graduated debt-free, so he’s entering adulthood with much more wisdom than did his parents… for that we are very thankful!) We are praying for the friends he makes to be a blessing to him and for him to know when to set boundaries with people. Oh my goodness, there are so many things we are praying!

But maybe more than anything else, we are praying that the words spoken over and about him from multiple pastors at our church come to fruition. They have said that Hayden is an evangelist for people who would never listen to people who look like us. Because of who he is and how he expresses who he is, others who also express themselves in unique ways will trust him and be open to hearing about his faith in Jesus… those very people would likely expect me to be judgmental of them or maybe, they would assume that the Jesus I love wouldn’t be open to loving someone like them. Which, of course, is the farthest thing from the truth! The Jesus I love DOES love them as much as He loves every other human on the planet! But they may be more receptive to Hayden than to me.
And for that I pray!

I’ve been praying this song over him since I was in college. I very clearly remember falling in love with this song and listening to it while I made bulletin boards for my Elementary Education classes. I didn’t know for sure at that time if I’d even have a son, but this song really settled deep into my heart.

Cheri Keaggy’s Little Boy on His Knees.

He see’s me in the morning
Lifting him out of bed
The sun comes with little warning
A brand new day’s ahead
To the kitchen for some breakfast
A plate of toasted bread
A cup of milk just as expected
Close your eyes and bow your head

You can thank him for anything you want to
For the flower’s and the trees
And pray, Lord Jesus, make me
A little boy on my knees

He’s Mommy’s little helper
Learning to comb his hair
And loves his baby sister
Though he doesn’t always share
A quarter in the bucket
A memory verse or two
Although he may not know it
He’s beginning to follow you

You can thank him for anything you want to
For your Daddy and for me
And pray, Lord Jesus, make me
A little boy on my knees

Written mid-March, posted 3-23-22

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