Just a Hamrick Family Update…

This stage of life is much more full than previous stages.  (I refuse to say “busy” because that implies we’ve put too much on our calendar, which we intentionally haven’t).  It’s full because we are in a stage where grades count (high school transcripts), we’ve added a more rigorous writing component to our school day, and homeschooling four kids with a new crawler around the house is always an adventure.  Not to mention that we’ve never participated in co-ops (to avoid the “busy” feel) and this semester we’re in two.  Giving this a trial run!

Because of the above we have decided to step out of soccer and PWOC… both of these things are fantastic and we wish we could fit them in, but we are all grateful for the rest as the evenings belong to us and not the soccer fields!  With two afternoons out of the house for co-ops, we’re grateful that we don’t have a third morning away from home with PWOC and our Saturdays are ours.

We are still involved in Chapel and the boys go to youth group, so we are all growing in our faith, it’s just without PWOC for this season. I totally intend to jump back in at some point.

So when I start to feel bad about all the things I used to do and all the people I want to call and chat with and all the letters I used to write and all the activities I used to participate in, I remind myself that at no other time in my life have I homeschooled a high-schooler, two middle-schoolers, and a first-grader all with a baby in the house.  I’ve never done a co-op, let alone, two!  I’ve never taught a writing-intensive course for three students, and I’ve never had to grade as many writing papers as I do now.  I’m thankful that I am still able to teach FPU but that is about all I have time for in my current stage of life.  And I love it.  Our days don’t go perfectly and we’re still working on a good rhythm (because Anna’s sleep patterns keep changing), but I wouldn’t change anything!

Little-one mastered getting from a lying position to sitting… but it is taking her a while to figure out how to get back down. Sometimes I’ll have to go in 5-6 times to lay her down at nap time.  It has wreaked havoc on her nap schedule.)

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I am beyond proud of my bigs.  They are really doing well in school and I am very pleased with how our first eight weeks of the year have gone.  I am seeing a vast improvement in all three of their writing skills.  I was always afraid to teach writing because it is such a subjective activity.  IEW helps remove some of that, turning it into a more objective activity, and I can see that they are thriving with this method.  In fact, I’m even starting to see them increase their creativity and the “rules” are becoming more natural and fluid.  (Instead of going back to add in the dress-ups, they’re finding themselves writing them in the first draft AND having more than necessary.  The process is working!)

Parker is getting so excited about “reading” by Christmas.  What that means to him is that we will be done with the yellow book (100 Easy Lessons) and he’ll be reading the books on our book shelf.  I have decided that once we finish 100 EL we’ll move into Level 1 All About Reading.  I don’t see any evidence of dyslexia but I do think the program (AAR) will help him be a more fluent reader.

I can’t remember if I shared here that Bailey was identified as dyslexic over the summer.  We had him evaluated and it was apparent… no questions asked.  A few weeks after he was identified we took him to a specialist to have him assessed the CALT therapist was amazed that he is reading on grade level despite the dyslexia.  I showed her the All About Reading materials and she was floored. She was really impressed and attributed his success to the fact that he was never made to feel behind thanks to homeschooling and the AAR program.  It teaches in a methodical way that is proven to follow the steps that dyslexics best learn.  (“Evaluation” determined THAT he is dyslexic and provided him with an official 504 and the “Assessment” determined where he is academically.)  He struggles with handwriting and spelling, but those are much less important than the skill of reading, so he’s way ahead of where the therapist would have expected a person of 12 to be, having not been diagnosed until that age.

Of course, our lives don’t revolve around school, even if we do spend much of our time doing school.  Our lives really revolved around this little princess:

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That is a new face she started making about a month ago and while she rarely does it anymore, for a while it was her standard expression to anything that made her happy. Her curls are really starting to come in and they are absolutely gorgeous!

On August 16th Anna pulled to standing for the first time.  Since then she has taken off and pulls up on everything!  Last night (9-16-16) she actually let go for a split second and stood.

 

The above pictures were taken in our hotel room in Austin.  We made an overnight family fun trip just because we could.  She slept just fine in her hotel crib.  The first day we went to an indoor trampoline park and the second we went to the Austin Aquarium.  Anna loved the Stingrays.

With the products that a little girl requires we needed a bit more shelving.  Matt helped me get her hair-care station set up.  I can grab her bows and other products while she’s sitting on her changing table.  No more carrying her to the other side of the room to find a matching accessory.

 

In August Matt officiated the wedding of a couple of Apache pilots he deployed with in 2014.  I adore this image.  I was going for a fun shot of the table setting and the dancers, but I had no idea until afterward that I captured one of our friends dancing with his daughter.

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Anna at her first wedding with her dad.img_4335When it was time to dance, Matt and Anna had a precious moment.  Below this picture I’ll insert a video.  I had tears streaming down my face as we have waited so long for this little girl.  It really hit me that we have a daughter when I saw them dancing together.  And of course, I was fast forwarding to her wedding day in my mind!

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(Oh, and she was not taking the dance nearly as seriously as I was!!)


Anna’s first time down the slide.

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Mommy’s sunshine.img_1365

In honor of our Adoption process being completed we celebrated with a “Happy Hamrick Day.”  Anna will always have both birth certificates and both Social Security Cards.  She will always have had the last name of her first mom.  It’s a name I want her to be proud of.  I never want to take that away from her, and having a new last name does not in any way change who she is, where she came from, or who her first mom is.  I just want to put that out there so that anyone reading will know that, as happy as we are that our adoption is finalized and that we are celebrating Anna becoming a Hamrick, we honor her first last name and who gave it to her. In addition, she was given the name “Madeline” by Mama Kim and she will carry that with her for her whole life.  Here are a few pictures from the small celebration we had in August.

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Anna and her diaper cake that Logan made for her baby shower back in February. I’ve saved it as a decoration in her room and used it to design the cake for this day.

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The cake in front of the photo album that was given to me at the shower.

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The banner says “Anna.”  

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The rain kept our party indoors – close quarters!

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That smile… or expression… whatever it’s called!

Carson designed the following and let Anna tear the display down.  He didn’t have enough “As” to make Anna’s name at the same time so he came up with a creative workaround in the third image.

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Posted in adoption, brothers/boys, family, homeschooling | 4 Comments

August 18th

This day last year (2015) was an incredibly special one for me.

It is always tied to the sadness that followed five days later, but had the events that occurred on August 18th not happened, I am not sure if we would have Anna in our arms.

Last year on this date I attended a PWOC Facilitator’s training meeting at a chapel just a short distance from my house.  One of our vehicles was in the shop so Matt dropped me off.

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The meeting was great and Mr. Bill (in my opinion, the real-live Mr. Whitaker from Adventures in Odyssey) was our guest speaker.  He challenged us to increase our prayer life and he gave each of us a magnet board to put on our fridge.  He challenged us to keep those  things we wanted to pray for right in front of our faces.

During that meeting I held baby Evelyn.  She was so small and sweet, smelled so good.  And she was wearing pink.  Oh, how I’ve longed to have a girl.  I love my boys.  I love being a boy-mom.  I wouldn’t change a single thing about being mom to these four boys and even before we had Anna, I said the same thing.  “I always wanted a girl but I wouldn’t change that I’m mom to these four for anything in the world.”

Holding Evelyn sparked in me that desire once again.  Our friend, Caron, took a picture and sent it to Matt and me with a simple phrase:  “Pink looks good on Jennifer🙂.”

Matt responded in a way that I thought he was being sarcastic since I was wearing a pink shirt and I called him out on it.  His response was breathtaking.  I showed it to Evelyn’s mom in a way that a middle school girl would have shown a friend a note from a boy who may or may not have indicated that he “liked” her.  I was hopeful but scared to get my heart broken if he didn’t mean what I thought he meant.

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When he picked me up from the meeting he told me that the Lord had been putting adoption in front of him frequently over the past few weeks and he thought it was time we started looking into adoption (again).

I could barely contain my excitement!  I went straight home and before I meant for it to, the words slipped out of my mouth, “Boys… how would you feel if we adopted a girl?”

No hesitation.  They were all in favor.  We told them to keep it quiet for a while and on our way to dinner to celebrate, Parker asked if we were going to get our sister right then.  That sort of broke my heart because I knew were in for quite a wait.

We talked over all the exciting things we may be in store for and called the grandparents to let them know.

On the way home Parker asked me if I’d forgive him if he accidentally told his buddy, Samuel.  I realized that “keeping it quiet” wasn’t going to work.  When we got home I walked down to Samuel’s house and shared the exciting news with Samuel’s mom. Over the next little bit I shared it with a few close friends and they began praying for us.

Here is the pink magnet Mr. Bill gave out that day and what we wrote on it:

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This still hangs on our fridge but I will say that much of it has wiped off!

If you’ve read our story you know that before a week had passed we were devastated that it didn’t seem at all feasible to adopt and I found myself sitting in the same back yard bawling to my friends that we were having to put it out of our hearts… unless God brought a little girl to our door.

My friends grieved with me.  I felt bad in a way that I had bought them along on this emotional roller-coaster.  I sent an email to a few friends explaining our hearts and shared a bit of it on our “announcement blog post.” My friend, Kari, who had sent me a dozen or so emails to help get me started in the research, wrote me back and tried to convince me that she really felt we were supposed to do this and to keep my chin up.  I read that email but it didn’t hold much hope for me.

My family began the grieving process and the process of telling the kids, “pray, but be content with our family as is.”  It was hard when Parker would occasionally ask when we were getting our sister.

Our God had so much in store for us that I couldn’t even imagine how wonderful.  I remember this day last year as a day of sheer excitement and hope.  It’s tinged with the pain I know happened a few days later, but on this side of the journey, with Anna’s adoption finalized 18 days ago, I am in awe at how BIG our God is and how much he has blessed us.

Our sister is the perfect one for us.  God knew… God knew.

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Embers.

Social media is a typically where people show their highlight reels. Here is a bit of my blooper reel (though I wish it were funny):
 
Today it rained in my house.
 
I yelled at the culprit for letting the upstairs bath tub overflow. I might have thrown a fit that could impress any toddler and it wasn’t even because I was mad about the water or the mess or even the carelessness of the child who caused it.
 
I am irritable for a variety of reasons. I hate heat more than most people can understand and it’s been pretty hot here. I’m missing a friend I wish I could share life with; I miss friends who have moved away or I am not near because I moved; friends are preparing to move… things are changing in our world with the changing of Matt’s career and that’s always interesting.  
 
Nothing is wrong. I’m fine. I have the best life I could imagine, and I am so overjoyed at where we are at this point.
 
But at the same time, there are hurts that lie just below the surface, dormant, until something minor flares them.
 
Today the one who caused the rain to fall inside my house greeted my, “Wake up, son” with attitude because he was tired. His abrupt words fanned the glowing embers inside my heart and then when the water started splashing onto the downstairs floor the fires burst from embers to an all-out forest fire.
 
He felt the brunt of my anger, even though those flames weren’t even really for him. I hate I reacted the way I did.
 
As a parent I can’t make up for how I acted but I did apologize. I explained to him why I was so harsh not so I could excuse my behavior, but so that he could learn from my mistake.  I don’t know what to do other than be transparent with my children and apologize when I make a mistake.  I know I need to model good attitudes, and yet the past few weeks, I’ve been modeling irritability… it’s no wonder he greeted me this morning irritably. 
I guess I just needed to get that off my chest.  After the amazing few weeks we’ve had with our daughter turning six months to getting our finalization paper work yesterday, I don’t want anyone to think our lives are perfect.  They are the perfect lives for us, but we struggle and we make bad decisions.  I don’t want to be accused of only showing the positive side, because life isn’t always good and I don’t always feel chipper or positive.  (And when living in Texas, I’m pretty stinking negative in the summer.)
As I sit here with tears just below the surface, I can still feel the heat of those embers, I prepare myself to greet my boys pleasantly when they emerge from their rooms post-rest-time.  (Seven minutes, but who’s counting?)   I can make the decision to speak kindly when I want to bite their heads off.  I can answer their questions with gentleness rather than with anger… even when they repeat the same question I’ve already answered seven times.  (I only have five kids, and one can’t speak yet… why in the world do I hear the same question seven times in a row?!?)
Seven minutes…  I’ve got seven more minutes of quiet…  I think I’ll spend those seven minutes with Jesus.
Posted in family | 6 Comments

9 months –

9 months.  When you hear those words, what do you think of?  I think of the nine months a mother carries her baby during pregnancy.

Today, August 4th, is a special date for us.  Nine months ago today was my birthday and on that date we first heard about Anna.  Instead of being about to pop in this dreadful heat, I am having a blast with a healthy, beautiful, and very outgoing six-1/2-month old.  She is definitely the brightest joy in our lives and we are all totally smitten with her.

I don’t have enough time to give you a very full update of our past six months, but here a few pictures and some memories of the last nine months:

November 2015:

4th – I received a text that rocked our world and gave us hope only a few months after assuming we’d never have our long-dreamed-for little girl.

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December: 
This month was full of planning, organizing, waiting, painting, nail-biting, hoping, and adrenaline.  Christmas was a blur as I could barely focus on anything but the baby girl my arms were aching for and the mom who was about to endure the most difficult thing on the planet… saying good-bye to that little tiny baby.

January 2016:
The Hamricks gained a Princess.

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My heart felt like it was going to explode at any moment.  I remember worrying in January that there would be a major crash when my body finally stopped producing adrenaline 24/7.  I think being in Virginia for so long (5 weeks) helped me to adjust to our new life and to finally believe that this was not a dream!

February:
Normal life!  Our new normal, anyway!

We were given the sweetest “Welcome to the Family” baby shower by friends here in Texas.  Over this month we spent introducing our littlest joy to those we are blessed to do life with and the boys and I got back into the routine of school.

 

March:
Anna’s first Easter, the bigs get braces, and a few other milestones.

Her foot was still too small for the newborn shoes!

 

We purchased “Baby Caroline” to be Anna’s sweet baby friend.  We selected the baby’s skin color to be as close to Anna’s as possible, and also found a few books to add to our collection of books that will show pictures of children with a variety of skin colors.  Our collection has been growing over the years, but this is now an intentional endeavor on our part.   Less than a minute ago Matt texted me a picture of some Doc McStuffins toys.  We’ll be adding girl toys to our collection, and we’ll be extra happy when the toys are little girls with brown skin.

Anna began to outgrow the outfit Mama Kim put on her after she was born.  This is the outfit she handed Anna to me in.  I’ve saved this trinket as a gift to Mama Kim should she ever want it.  This was so baggy on Anna the day she was born and she wore it as often as I could get it on her before she outgrew it.  (And I still took pictures of her in it every few weeks even if I didn’t leave her in it long… it’s a super special outfit.)

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Our bigs got braces!
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April:

Once Anna was able to sit in the Bumbo I had a blast taking pictures.  I certainly haven’t taken nearly enough, nor have I taken as many as I thought I would but I guess that’s what happens when the baby is the fifth!  Other things take precedence to photography… I treasure each picture I have, even the ones with less-than-ideal lighting!

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Matt has always dreamed of having a baby girl with pierced ears so this is what he got for his birthday!IMG_8032

Our little princess adored being swaddled…

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I received this pair of shoes in the mail.  This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is a treasure.  When we first found out about Anna we were in Colorado at a Project Sanctuary retreat for Military Families.  One of the treats Project Sanctuary offers is a family photo shoot.  We had already committed to Mama Kim that if she was comfortable with us being her daughter’s family, we wanted to be!  We asked a few other families in the retreat if we could borrow baby girl clothes for our photo shoot so we could take Adoption Announcement photos.  One sweet family had a session just before ours so they left these shoes with the photographer for us to borrow… Bailey is holding them in our family picture and the photographer took a picture of them on the log as a bonus.  I use it as the cover photo in the secret Facegroup that just Mama and I are in so I see it every day.  And the shoes… well, it’ll be a year before Anna can wear them but they are waiting for her!

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When we took the above picture, I had no idea if we’d ever get to hold the baby girl we were already in love with.  We were excited, but cautiously so.  Now, as I sit here writing with Anna having fun on a special blanket someone made for her, getting a bit of tummy-time, I’m in awe of all that has happened in the past nine months!

In April I was able to fly to Virginia to meet Ryan!  LOOK AT THIS FACE!!  He’s so beautiful. Kari is the one who first texted me about Anna. She heard about Anna because she was talking about her upcoming adoption of Ryan and someone who knows Mama Kim joined the conversation.  What a fun story!  In the collage below you can see that Anna was way more interested in Ryan than he was in her.  Bottom picture is of the five men in our family greeting ANNA when WE got back… yes… they ran straight to her!

My other purpose for going to Virginia was to see Mama Kim.  Our time together was fantastic!  We spent six straight hours sitting in a restaurant just talking and looking at this beautiful baby girl.

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This baby girl is so loved.  I truly believe she is the most loved baby I’ve ever known!  People from all over the world have prayed for her and continue to pray for Mama Kim, as there is a life of healing she will go through.  I spoke with her today to make sure she was fine with me posting these pictures and she is… she is truly an amazing woman and I am thankful that she is a part of our lives.

Anna started getting some curls… and her hair was finally long enough for the occasional bow!  This blue band is my favorite of all time.  In fact, she’s wearing it today!

May:
The brothers simply adore their sister!

Smiling pretty!

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June:
BEACH TIME! We took Anna to the beach for the first time!  Such fun!

 

Hayden got his Driver’s Permit!

Matt’s first Father’s Day as a dad to five and his first as a dad to a daughter.  Anna seems quite pleased with the card she got him!  He seemed pleased with his little girl!

Big news for Matt…his time at DIVARTY ended as he prepared to transition from wearing a uniform every day to wearing civies for 18 months.  This was one of the last days I was technically able to park in this special spot at his office.  He no longer has an office but we’re managing well having him home more often.  As of today (August 4th) he’s almost done with his first set of classes!)  December 2017 he will have a second masters… MSMFT:  Masters in Science:  Marriage and Family Therapy.

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July:
July was a very full month. I’ll try to put as few pictures in here as possible but still show how busy we were. There are two reasons we have more pictures.  We finished up our last school year in June, then the boys went to camp, then we all went to the beach… We started our new school year in July but we are also trying to fit in as many fun actives as possible while our friends are all out of school and while it’s super hot.

First Independence Day:

Box Day!  This will need its own post!!

 

Nana, Papa, and Mason came to visit.  We did so many fun things while they were here that it’ll need its own blog post, too!

We dedicated Anna to the Lord and shared our intent with our chapel family:

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Nana, Papa, and Mason left on a Monday… it was also our first day of school!

I adore the pictures of Anna peeking around at me while I was getting pictures of Parker working his puzzle.

Devil’s Watering Hole.  We went twice… I love that Parker commandeered a complete stranger’s paddle board!

 

Chalk Ridge Falls:

August:
And here is our princess today: our beauty.  The little girl we are so madly in love with.

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And Hayden helped me with this one:

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Review of Circle, by Disney

I have teenagers now.  Somehow that fact surprises me every now and then.

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Facebook is amazing at reminding me that just ‘yesterday’ I had three little boys, only one of those in elementary school, and internet access was not something I worried about them having.  It was just an automatic, obvious, “no.”
Now that they’re becoming more independent and one of them is about to start his second year in high school, I have to admit that internet access is a fairly necessary part of their lives.  But that doesn’t mean I have to or should release access to the entire world-wide-web with no restrictions or guidelines.
When the bigs were littles I got some advice that has stuck with me all along.  Not advice, as much as a way of thining about how and when to allow certain freedoms and privileges into their lives:  Handing the boys unrestricted access to the internet before they are mature enough to handle it is like handing the car keys to our 10-year-old and sending him to the grocery store alone.  In many ways, a 10-year-old is not ready for the responsibility of driving a car.  For one, his legs aren’t quite long enough to reach the pedals and he’s not tall enough to see over the steering wheel adequately.  Added to that, he hasn’t been trained to handle the four-thousand pound vehicle safely.  His brain isn’t ready to predict the actions of other drivers nor is it able to react to mistakes those other drivers might make.  In no way would it be wise for me to hand the keys of my car to my 10 year old and let him go.
I’m currently teaching Driver’s Ed to our 15-year-old and some of the slides we see make me worry that even he isn’t ready to be behind the wheel.  Of course, part of that is because he’s our first to reach this milestone and new adventures are always a bit more nerve-wracking with the first, but also because he’s my baby and he was 5-years-old yesterday… how in the world can he possibly be at this stage in life?!?
I sit beside Hayden during each and every Driver’s Ed lesson and talk about mistakes I’ve made behind the wheel, times my life has been spared by inches… I need to do the same when discussing the internet and the dangers it presents.  Circle allows them the ability to access some of the internet while blocking known dangers, all while Matt and I are able to have the difficult conversations with them that revolve around internet access.
Driving is a privilege, not a right.  It is something that must be earned and that privilege must be handled with care and concern.  I can’t tell you how many times lately I’ve pointed out a driver doing something absolutely stupid and told Hayden, “If I ever see you do that, I’ll take your license away.  You think I won’t be following you around town just to see how you drive?  Think again, buddy!”  With the internet, same thing.
Our rule so far has been that the internet must be used with filters, (we’ve used K-9 Web Protection with so-so results) and if they want to sit and surf, they have to do it in the main living areas with other people in the room. There have been times they’ve seen things that they shouldn’t have, and wouldn’t have had we allowed zero internet access, but I believe we must train our kids in how to handle themselves with access to the internet and what to do when they do run across something inappropriate.
I began seeing ads for “Circle by Disney” a few months ago but it wasn’t until one of my real-life friends “liked” their page on FB that I decided to give it a deeper look.  When I noticed that one of my favorite podcasters had released a review, I put it on my playlist.  After hearing what he and his friends said about it, both the good and the bad, I decided it was worth  my $99.
I made the purchase on Amazon the next day and two days later, it was here.  It was easy enough to set up… you simply plug it in.
The hardest part of setting it up is figuring out which device is which.  I was able to easily find the MAC addresses of each device, but I am sure that this would be a frustration to many people. (If you mostly have Apple products, and have given each product a nick-name, this process will be very easy.  If you have a variety of products, like we do, you may need to hunt the MAC address.  If you need help doing that, a quick search on Google will lead you in the right direction.)
There are many people who have done reviews that are much more thorough than what I have time to offer but here is a brief list of pros/cons and below, I’ll link to the reviews I used to make the decision to purchase.
Pros:
  • I can change settings in the moment.  Originally I had wireless connection turned off until 8 am for each of the kids, then Hayden woke early one morning and wanted to start on his schoolwork.  I was able to change his hours from where I sat while feeding Anna.  He didn’t have to go get the device, I didn’t have to dig around on his device to find the parental settings.  I hate (that’s a bit of an understatement) their Kindle devices, and despise messing with them to alter the settings.  Our level of allowed access changes based on whether we’re on vacation, traveling, weekends, etc. Before Circle I had to get all four boys to bring all their devices, then I had to dig into the parental settings, give their devices back.  Then after the weekend/vacation, gather them all back up and undo the changes.  This process was so time consuming and absolutely maddening.  Now, I can do all of that in about two minutes from my OWN PHONE (which, of course, is an iPhone).
  • I can add in specific websites that are automatically blocked.  Hayden’s English class is online, so I manually added in the website he needs to access.  It’s as easy as clicking on “Custom Filter” and typing in the website’s URL.  Takes seconds to do and then only seconds for it to take effect.
  • The app is user-friendly.  (I’m pretty sure an Apple-minded team developed it.)  It’s pretty and the layers are easy to dig into.
  • I can see at a glance how much time each child has spent online each day, and if I want, which sites they’ve accessed and how long they were there.
  • Unlimited number of devices can be controlled.
  • NEW INFO:  As of May 21, 2016, this can now be controlled on an Android device!
Cons:
  • A few bugs.  Two or three times in the first day or two my app told me there was no Circle on my wireless network.  I found a troubleshooting page on Circle’s website and followed the directions.  Both times the problem was resolved and everything back online within a few minutes.  It hasn’t happened again.
  • Adult settings. Setting up the appropriate filter level for Matt has proven tricky.  So far, I myself haven’t accessed a website that is questionable and I have my level at “adult.”  While Matt hasn’t tried to access anything inappropriate, several times Circle has blocked what he was trying to do.  Instead of working through the problem (and adding the site he was trying to access manually) I changed his filter setting to “none.”  I need to take the time to add in these sites – we all can benefit from these filters.  I admit, this isn’t really a con as much as it is me being lazy.
Other Reviews of Circle:
Overall, I’m very pleased with Circle and I’m glad I bought it.  I am going on two weeks of sickness (sore throat, and as of yesterday, headache) so that means I’m barely able to formulate all my thoughts into coherent paragraphs.  I’ll leave it with what I’ve written:  a few basic reasons for wanting to have Circle in our home, some pros/cons, and links that helped me made the decision to purchase.
Thanks for stopping by!
 (Oh, and I didn’t receive the Circle from Amazon or Disney in exchange for my review.)
Posted in family | 5 Comments

Leaving Virginia.

So, there’s a story about us leaving Virginia…

We know who Anna’s birth father is.  He was in the room when she was born, he held her, he comforted Mama with kind words during the times they spent alone with her, and he was concerned that I learn how to care for Anna’s hair.  He went to court on the date that Anna officially became our daughter but he didn’t want to sign anything.  He never gave a real reason, and this wasn’t a big deal.  Not really.   But it did make our leaving Virginia problematic.  Had he signed we could have left when Anna was about a week old but since he didn’t, we had to wait an extra two weeks.  This was a touch frustrating at the time because we were ready to get home and back to life, but looking back, I have to say I believe it was best that we had to stay longer.

It was best because:

  • We were basically held hostage in Virginia and we were forced to do nothing; to spend time together; to not get back to work or dive back into a normal routine.
  • We were forced to take walks during the days and watch TV in the evenings.
  • We decided not to do school even though we had all of it with us.
  • We were forced to watch the tide rise and fall in the waterway behind the apartment.
  • We were forced to just hold Anna all day long and focus on the seven of us.
  • I really think we needed that extra time and, had we had the option, we wouldn’t have taken it.

Part of the itch to get back was that we wanted to introduce Anna to our friends and family in North Carolina and friends who have become family in Texas.  But for Matt, it was also that he felt very protective of Anna and felt ready to have her home under our own roof.  It seems I nested before she arrived and Matt started the minute she was born.

So, here’s the story of our leaving Virginia.

The Putative Father Registry required that we give the birth father 10 days to come forward with intent to parent.  Anna was born on Saturday the 23rd – during Winter Storm Jonas.  That delayed the registry a little so when our time to leave the apartment came up on the 6th of February, Virginia wasn’t ready to let us leave.

Thankfully, we were able to tack on an extra two nights at the apartment where we were staying so we didn’t have to move to a hotel.  If you remember I mentioned that we found ourselves in the middle of a family battle and were almost evicted from the apartment.  The call to vacate came on Saturday and we had already paid for the next two nights and really didn’t look forward to packing eight of us into hotel rooms. (My mom had come up to stay with us for the weekend.)  Matt was able to talk to the people involved and prove that we had legally rented the place and were given no more trouble.  We settled back in for two days but come Monday morning we had to check out.  There was no option to extend.

We packed a month’s worth of “stuff” into the van, including two extra people and their stuff:  Anna and Matt.  Obviously we didn’t arrive in Virginia with Anna, and Matt didn’t drive across the country with us, he flew.  Needless to say, our van was TIGHT.

We drove around town for a few hours waiting for the call from our attorney that we were released.  No call came.  Around lunch time I called them.  They had still not heard from Richmond that we were free to go.  We were so ready to get on the road to North Carolina.  So. Ready.

We ate at Cook-Out and finally made the decision to drive to the VA/NC border in hopes that our attorney would call while we drove.  No such luck.

We made it to a public park near the border before 5:00 pm and I called once again.  Still no word.  So we sat there and waited.  Worst case scenario we’d get a hotel and stay the night.  I decided to research a little and within five minutes found that ICPC allows children to be taken across state lines “for the purposes of visiting.”  I called our attorney (actually, the paralegal) and told her what I had found.  She told me to forward the link and she’d take it to the attorney.  Almost immediately they called back and released us.  I was sort of annoyed that they hadn’t found this weeks before.  I had no reason to research this until I was stuck at the border with nowhere to go.  Of course, I had to think back to the truth that those extra two weeks of forced relaxing and bonding were a blessing to our family.

We loaded up and headed to Nana and Papa’s house with the excitement of introducing Anna to our families building with each mile.

About an hour after we crossed the state line (secretly watching over our shoulders for the baby police) we got the text that we were officially released!  ICPC Virginia had cleared us!

(The next day our attorney overnighted our packet to the Texas ICPC office.  Texas took only 24 hours to approve us!)

Below are pictures of our last days in Virginia.

Because of our extended stay in Virginia we were able to watch the Superbowl with the Holsingers… and their newest son, Ryan, was wearing his jersey all the way in China!
(The Hamricks were NOT happy with the results of the game, though.)

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Trying to get a good family-of-seven shot! And then, of course, one of the girls.

Looking for a Cook-Out:  We found one and spent a long time in there, waiting for a phone call that never came.  We miss Cook-Out now like we missed Chick-Fil-A while we lived in Germany.

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No sign of the baby police as we crossed the state line.

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Uncle Josh and Aunt Ashley were waiting on us when we got there!  It was really late so we didn’t have the entire family over.  We did have one special guest stop by because they were heading out of town and this was their only chance to see us and meet Anna.  (See next picture.)

Cindy and her son, Kyle, came by that night.  They were leaving to go out of town and we really wanted her to be able to meet Anna.  Cindy and Eddie were my godparents growing up and we love them so much.  Eddie has gone to live with Jesus now and we miss his vibrant personality.

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COUSINS!!

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Granny and Grandaddy.

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Putting Anna to sleep in the family cradle.

Grammy – we spent a day visiting with Grammy and seeing Matt’s side of the family.

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Matt’s Grandma MollieIMG_3720

Uncle Brad and Aunt Erin.

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Steve, Antonia, and Brooke…

The Ramsey Family.

This is “the Anna” we named our daughter after.

And just like that it was time to leave North Carolina.  We only stayed there three full days because we had spent so much of Matt’s leave time in Virginia.  Here’s Anna in her traveling clothes… comfy rules!

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I can hear my dad’s laugh when I see this picture!  He’s going go kill me for posting a picture of this funny face, but I don’t care!  I LOVE IT!  I love to hear him laugh this hard!  He’s holding a sick Parkey.  For some reason, Parker had a few bouts of unexplained stomach cramps while we were on our trip.  The doctor we saw prescribed Zofran, which we gave to him right about this time  He made it through the next two days of driving without any incident, but the hour leading up to our leaving was tough.  (Part of me really wonders if it was the result of having to leaving Nana and Papa… and cousin Mason.)

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My mom was having a really hard time right here.  We made plans sitting in this restaurant to have her out for Mother’s Day… (And as I write this, we are just over 48  hours from her arrival!)

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So this is how a family of seven travels across the country!  Well, at least our family.  It was tight in there, but we made it.

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We stopped at Chick-Fil-A in Greeneville, SC for lunch and ran into a friend from Matt’s youth pastor days, Howie!  Such a small world!

 

 

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Day 1 of travel was spent just trying to get through Atlanta!  I think we drove the same amount of time both days but got two-thirds of the miles covered on the second day.  We raced through Atlanta at a whopping 8 miles an hour.

I’ll share the rest of our journey in the next post.  Thanks for stopping by to read our journal!  It’s so much fun to relive these moments… I’ve enjoyed writing them down.

 

Posted in About my faith, adoption, family, travel | Leave a comment

Going to Court – Joy and Sadness

Referring back to the thoughts I had about wishing I had offered Mama more time in the hospital, I also wish I had offered her more time in the week between going home from the hospital and our court date.  A very large part of me truly was concerned about her and how she would feel when we got together.  We communicated back and forth and decided to  meet the night before we were to go to court.  Cassie’s kiddos were sick so that ruled our her home so we decided to meet at the library on base.

Our visit was really nice, and I enjoyed watching her big kids play and interact with Anna.  Leaving that room was by far the hardest part of the experience for me.  Please don’t think I’m trying to gain sympathy.  I know it may seem like it as I am sharing what was hard for me, but I’m not.  I just want to let you know what I was going through, as this blog is the Hamrick Family journal.  Sharing with you the parts that were hard for me does not in any way undermine which parts were hard for Mama and I am in no way comparing my pain to hers.  That’s her part of this story and she’s a writer, so maybe one day she’ll write from her perspective.  If she does, and if she gives me permission to share it, I’ll happily do so.

With that said, my heart broke a little bit the night we left that room.  Neither of us had any idea when we’d get together again and, unlike the day I left the hospital when we both knew there was another meeting to come, this time we both knew there was not.  (Aside from the official court date.)  Again, I wish I had known then how this was going to turn out and we’d have gotten together more, if she had wanted to.  I can’t say for sure that she would have wanted to… it may have been too hard.

Anyway, when I turned the lights out to leave and it was just me and Anna in the room, I looked back to see if we had left anything and saw the three empty chairs… Cassie’s, mine, and Mama’s, and I lost it.  That was a tough moment.

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I don’t remember much about the rest of that night.

We went to court on the first date the attorney was able to squeeze us in.  Winter Storm Jonas had backed several things up and we thankful she got us in between other adoption hearings she had scheduled.  Anna was six days old and Virginia Law dictates that she had to be at least three days old.

Mama and I arrived at the same time and we parked near each other.  I gave her a gift I had prepared for her… There’s no gift that could ever express what my heart was thinking which was: “Oh, how your heart must be breaking.  How you must just want to get this day over with.  How uncomfortable it must be to be here.”

In the lobby there was some small talk, some waiting, and we were told the kids couldn’t enter the court room with us.  Because this was a big day for our family, I wanted them there.  We were told it wasn’t going to happen.  When they called our names, I looked at the boys about to tell them that we’d be back when we were done and then the attorney waved them all in and said, “Just come on in.”  We were thankful they got to be a part of that moment.

The goings-on in the courtroom were basic, pretty boring, and the biggest thing I can remember is wishing Mama had someone sitting at the table with her.  I wish I could have gone to sit with her!  When the hearing was over we all stepped back in the waiting room and Mama asked to hold Anna.  We were not allowed to have any cameras/phones in the building so we didn’t get any pictures.  And before I knew what was happening, Mama handed Anna to me and was off.  Her heart… oh, mine breaks at the memory.  I don’t even have the right to write these words, simply because I know I don’t have any idea of what that day was like for her.  All I can do is imagine, and often, that’s not even close to what was going on.  So, I’ll leave it there.

Our attorney was allowed to have her phone in the building so she snapped a picture of Matt and me with our daughter just a few minutes after it became official.

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Following our court hearing our family went to lunch with the Holsingers and Cassie and her kids.

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It was there that the realization hit me.  We were her parents.  Not just pretending and hoping… we were her real parents.  The magnitude of that washed over me and I found myself holding back tears right there as we were about to leave the restaurant.  It meant we were technically allowed to make all decisions on her behalf and, of course, all the other millions of other little things that come along with being a parent.

Up until that point we had been holding our breath and, while still had seven days to wait during which Mama could change her mind, this was one major step toward bringing Anna home.  This was a technical step forward in our adoption process.

After lunch we had to pick up a few things and Anna and I rested at Starbucks while Daddy and brothers shopped at the NEX.  As I looked around at the other customers I thought, “I’ve been in Starbucks many times… usually just boring, run-of-the-mill days.  But today I sit here holding my daughter on the day she officially became my daughter.  And all these people around me have no idea where we just came from… what a big day today is.”  I wanted nothing more than to show her to the world and let everyone know just how much I loved her.  But I refrained… because that would have been weird.

She was our daughter, but we were not allowed to leave the state.  Had we crossed the Virginia border we could have been charged with kidnapping!  That’s a no-go.

We spent the next two weeks waiting for the Interstate Compact to clear us.  Virginia gave the birth father two weeks to come forward in case he wanted to parent.  During that two weeks we spent time with the Holsingers and Anna attended her first birthday party!

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We drove to Richmond to meet with Michelle and her gorgeous daughter, Riley.

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Our family took our first “field trip” – to Colonial Williamsburg!

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Lots of time snuggling and feeding our little girl.  Oh, and about that.  Kathie encouraged me to be the only one to feed her for the first six to eight weeks.  It would aid in our attachment and I was pretty strict with it.  It definitely meant plenty of sleep for Matt! I will say, though, that I was the one waking Anna in the middle of the night rather than her waking me.  Having never bottle-fed a baby  I really wanted to make sure she didn’t go too long without eating.  (I’ve given other babies bottles, but I breast fed all my boys, so as far as exclusive bottle-feeding, I was a first-timer.)  I think I was extra careful with her for another reason:  I felt like I owed it to Mama to do my best with her.  To take extra good care of her.  Of course, I took care of my biological babies well, and with tenderness, but there was something extra in my care for Anna… I wanted Mama to know that I was taking good care of her daughter.

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Along with the help of some other amazing women we threw a surprise baby shower for Kari.  Their family was to leave in just 10 days to go meet their new son who was in China.  We were so excited to spend this time celebrating him coming into their family.

I titled this post “Court – Joy and Sadness.”  The big event that occurred, the official step toward having Anna become a part of our family, was going to court.  And on that day and on every other day while we were in Virginia, there was a joy that I could not begin to describe to you.  And there was also a sadness that I wouldn’t want anyone to have to experience.  In a perfect world every baby would be able to stay with its first mama, and when that isn’t possible for whatever reason, hearts are sad.  Six months ago “adoption” was just a happy word to me.  It meant only good things because I could only see what life would look like for my family if we were to be blessed with another child in our home.  Not having lived it, I never really thought much about the other side of the coin.

Now, sitting here, I can see the heartache that is attached to that word, for Mama and for baby, too.  However, I can rejoice in our specific story because I am able to communicate daily with Mama and see that she’s doing well.  While having an open adoption will not make the pain go away, studies are proving that it’s often best for all members of the “adoption triad.”  (New one, huh?  I have learned that I am part of a triad!)  The hole left in Mama’s heart will always be there but I can pray for the Lord to fill it and be her comfort, and I can do small things to aid in her healing… which will help Anna, as well.

So yes, joy and sadness.  Both.  And such is life.  But the scripture from my Quiet Time this morning is so very perfect:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5.

 

Posted in adoption, family | 3 Comments

Anna’s first home (away from home).

From the time Anna was placed in my arms on a Saturday morning till we left the hospital after lunch on Sunday, I felt a very strange tug in my heart.  Please hear me out.

I wanted nothing more than to wrap my arms safely around Anna and ensure that she’d be my sweet little girl forever, but this was no ordinary baby girl.  This was a little girl created with two mommies and her other mommy was down the hallway recovering from delivery… and she was just starting to learn what it was like to not be with the child she was carrying.  My joy was real and it was matched in severity by her pain.  I took Anna to her a few times to nurse and to spend some time together before we left the hospital, but looking back, I wish I had given her more time with Anna.  My friend here who is a few years ahead of me in this open adoption lifestyle encouraged me to offer more time, and I thought I was offering more time, but in retrospect, I didn’t offer enough.

I’ll admit here, it was simply out of fear.  I was afraid that the more time they spent together the more likely she’d change her mind.  And I’ve said all along that if Mama had decided to parent, then this child would at least be with her very-loving birth mother.  That wasn’t really a bad thing, and I knew that.  But my heart wasn’t as strong as my brain and I was protective of her in a way that I didn’t need to be, looking back from where I sit now.  I’d go back and do it differently if I could.  I’d spend time with Mama if I could go back and do it differently.

But you know, we’ve talked very openly about this topic and she doesn’t hold anything against me and I’ve told her I wish I could go back and change some things.  She and I are building an open and honest relationship and I am thankful she has been able to forgive me my mistakes.  We have both said over and over, “Neither of us has done this before… we’re bound to make mistakes.” and thankfully, we are both willing to offer grace for those mistakes.

I share that bit of information for those out there who are considering an open adoption.  I hope it helps you to make the decision to be more generous with the time you have in the hospital… especially if you live a great distance from Mama and getting together frequently will be difficult.

So, about us “going home” away from home.

We loaded up our van and drove to Portsmouth, to the apartment we had rented.

The next few weeks were quite surreal: loving every second with Anna knowing that technically each moment could bring a phone call that ended our time as her parents, but feeling pretty confident that Mama was content with her decision and was not going to change her mind.

The time we spent in Portsmouth was a time for snuggling Anna.  Pretty much every picture we have is of someone holding her.  They’re not fancy pictures, for sure, but they’re treasures!

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Our first time out as a family of seven… off to the mall!

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Smily baby…

Out for a walk with my two littles:

Nana gives her a bath and gets lots of squeezes.  In fact, Nana gets priority when she’s in the house…

Getting some “indirect sunlight” to help with the touch of jaundice she had.

Tummy time, a ride in the car, and first well-visit.

Saying goodbye to Nana and Papa the day after we brought Anna home.  (They have a business to run, after all!)IMG_5663

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Our last picture before leaving our Portsmouth “home.”

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We had a great place to stay while we were in Virginia… there was a little drama at the end: basically, the person who owns the place didn’t know it was being rented out on AirBnB and when he found out [because his realtor wanted to show the place] he wasn’t happy.  It was a bit scary when he told us to vacate or he’d call the police, but Matt straightened everything out and we were able to stay until we were supposed to check out.  Family drama that we were almost caught in the middle of!

At any rate, we loved the location, the house itself, and how close we were to the hospital when Anna decided to be born during Winter Storm Jonas!

 

 

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Meeting the family

In my last post, Love at first sight, I shared in great length and detail the moment Matt and I met Anna.  For the rest of my life that moment will be added into the Most-Important-Moments section of my heart.

Our first moment meeting Anna was very different from our first moments meeting each of our sons, but it was just as special and I’m glad it went exactly as it went.  There are some additional moments and words and memories I’ve tucked away to share with Anna when she is ready to ask questions.

Before we knew it it was time to take our sweet baby girl to meet her family.  She rode in style in the wooden bassinet that would be her bed for the next 30 hours or so.  (Can I just tell you that those 30 hours seemed so long in comparison to a normal 30-hour span of time?)  Everything was in hyper-clarity.  I was trying to drink in every single moment. Every last sound, smell, emotion.  I was very much aware that I was in a unique situation… hanging on the decision a young lady had made while carrying a baby, and now that the baby was here, there was a very painful reality that she could change her mind.  I knew that for the next almost-two-weeks I was holding my child loosely.  I wanted to get all the hugs and snuggles I could and in the back of my mind, preparing for a possible heartbreak.

I want to pause my jaunt down memory lane for a moment.  I said this several times during our adventure but I am not sure I ever said it here.  When I would get worried about Mama changing her mind, I always reminded myself that in a perfect world, no baby would ever be separated from her Mama.  Ever.  And that should Mama change her mind, I could be very thankful that Anna’s Mama was already proving to be a good one to her other children.  I was very thankful that should the worst-case-scenario happen, it would only be worst-case for me and my family.  We would be the ones with the heartbreak.  Little Anna would have the blessing of being raised by her Mama and while there would be difficulties, it didn’t mean truly bad things for her.  I will not go into our birth mother’s story because it isn’t ours to tell, but I will say that she made a wise decision to allow us to parent her child.  She didn’t make this decision from any place other than true love.  I don’t know that I can stress enough that this young woman is my hero.  If you’re tired of hearing it, too bad.  I’ll say it again, I’m sure.

Resuming my jaunt down memory lane:

10:06 am ~ We made our way to the room the hospital had provided us to introduce her to the boys and Nana and Papa.  The nurse in the picture was Mama’s nurse during L&D, Debbie.  The doula who had offered her services as a gift to Mama had so many amazing things to say about this nurse. Debbie was 100% supportive of Mama and every need she had.  The entire staff was very sensitive to our situation and for that, I am eternally grateful.

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Just stepping out Mama’s door.

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I have no idea what this nurse and I talked about but it was serious business, evidently.

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Our precious cargo.

 

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Cassie and Matt chatting. I wonder if they remember what they were talking about.  I’m so thankful she was here for these moments.

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The view from inside my own hospital room. See the bassinet?

I am pretty sure there are no words to describe the next 30 minutes so I’ll just post pictures and write a few thoughts in the captions.

 

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Literally, our first moments as a family of seven.

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Matt holding Anna and the boys can’t get enough.

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Hayden.

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Carson.

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Bailey.

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Parker.

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Nana.

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Papa.

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Kari. (At this time Cassie was was either back in Mama’s room or had gone back home to be with her babies. I hate I missed getting her picture in these moments.)

After a while the room seemed to get smaller and smaller so Papa took the boys out while Matt, Nana, and I stayed behind.  I think they played Laser tag!  My parents have been blessed to be at all five births now… we were very much missing Grammy.  She had had rotator cuff surgery and if you’ve ever known someone who had that surgery, you know that traveling 5+ hours in a car is not a way to spend recovery.  We hated she wasn’t able to be there but we did think of her in these special moments.

Much of the day was spent watching Miss Anna sleep in our arms while the snow fell outside our window.  Winter Storm Jonas had welcomed her into the world… my second child to be born during a major winter event.

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Representing RED TEAM!

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Mommy snuggles!

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Look at this face!

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Once it was quiet we got some rest.

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Eyes! She was awake for a couple of hours… we were pretty impressed with that!

I took Anna to Mama a time or two to nurse and let them have some special time in their room.  Part of me was nervous about that because I was already so in love and knew that nursing was going to make Mama and baby bond, but on the other hand, I was able to see things from a mother’s perspective.  If I were her I’d want to do the same for the baby I had carried.  It was hard on her, (she told me so) but it was also good for her.  It was something she had requested in our first phone conversation on November 8th and I was thankful that she was still interested in doing this.  It was a gift to Anna, as well. (I did a lot of research on this exact situation and everything I read gave me a very strong peace about it.  There are so many benefits to this both physically and emotionally.)

In our hospital, baby’s first bath is delayed 12 hours.  Mama was spending time with Anna at the 12 hour mark so I made sure to tell the nurses not to go in to get Anna at that time.  I didn’t want her time to be interrupted at all.  Matt ran to Chipotle to get dinner for himself, Mom, and me.  I had some good eatin’ in the hospital!

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Nana stayed up until the last minute!

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When Mama texted me to let me know she was ready, I went to her room to get Little Miss.  I took Anna to the nursery so they could give her her first bath.  She was not a fan.Screenshot 2016-03-06 09.41.01.png

During her bath her temperature dropped enough that she needed to stay under the warming lights for 10 minutes or so.  At that time the head nurse came in to let me know that my room was needed for another recovering mother but that they had a new room ready for me.  While I hated to leave Anna for even a second, I was at least able to do so during a time she had to be in the nursery anyway.  Let me tell you, it took me exactly 10 minutes to get all of my stuff moved over (I had pretty much moved into the hospital because I wasn’t sure how long I’d be there).  Thankfully they loaned me a cart so I didn’t have to make the long walk multiple times.  My new room was on the same floor, right by the front desk.  It was the very room our incredible social worker had taken our family into a few days prior when we had gone for our hospital tour.  It hadn’t been used since we were there and I could tell this because the trash can was still empty except for four lollipop wrappers… the wrappers from the lollipops the boys had eaten while we asked the social worker a hundred questions.

When I got back to the nursery from getting our things moved to our new (and much larger room), I found my daughter peacefully resting under the warming lamps.  I got a few pictures while she was dressed in her birthday suit+diaper.

10:00 pm ~ By this time we were pretty much settled into our own room and ready for night-time snuggles.  I turned on the TV and found HGTV and fed my little one.  Feeding a baby formula is a vastly different experience from nursing.  With nursing, I just fed them as long as they wanted to eat every few hours.  With bottle feeding, I had to be very specific about how much she ate.  The nurse gave me very strict advice not to feed her more than 20 ccs on the first day as her stomach was literally the size of a dime.  She said 30 ccs would be fine the next day, 40 the next, and after that she could have as much as she wanted.  This sounded like a plan to me and it worked out beautifully.  I did have to wake her to feed her for the first few nights but at least she would wake to eat… Hayden was such a sleepy baby that feeding him was pretty difficult at first.

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She loved (and still loves) to be swaddled.

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Snuggles before sleeps.

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YAY!

During the night I’d open one of their mini-bottles of formula, feed Anna the appropriate amount and place the partially empty bottle on the food-tray beside me, roll over and go back to sleep.  By the time it was time to feed her again, the used bottle was in the trash can.  That told me the nurses were coming in to see if she was eating well, would notice the bottle, record the amounts Anna was eating, and leave us to sleep.  THAT was pretty nice!  No one taking our BP, temperatures, etc. during the night.  Good sleep!

At 6:00 am the pediatrician came by to see us and told us that we were going to be discharged around lunch time.  I have never been more excited and mixed with dread at the same time.  I hated to leave the hospital with Mama’s new baby, but I so wanted to get Anna to our temporary home and start our new-although-slightly-vacationy-lives.  My parents were in town but only until Monday morning and I wanted them to have some good snuggles before they had to leave.
As this post has already grown to double the length a post should be, I’ll close here.
Thank you so much for your excitement as we live out this amazing journey.  We are truly blessed by such a great community around us.
It still amazes me that only 4 months ago we first heard about Anna (November 4th, 2015).  November 11th we committed to Mama that we were 100% in.  We had spent the past two days researching and were sure we would be able to make it work.  4 months ago.  And we’ve already had this treasure in our arms for 6.5 weeks!  To do this entire process, start to finish, in such a short amount of time is nothing short of a miracle.  This fact amazes me every single day.
Posted in About my faith, adoption, brothers/boys, family | 3 Comments

Love at first sight… meeting Anna.

My last entry shared the emotions of the labor and delivery part of waiting for Anna. Looking back on that night, I can recall thinking several times that she was never going to come.  Having delivered four children myself, that’s pretty much the same feeling you have when you’re the one in labor.

Once my the family arrived, time stood still.  I remember it clearly and the strangest part was that I wasn’t really nervous or emotional.  Part of me wondered if there was something wrong with me… that surely I was supposed to be a basket case, and then the other part would remind me that there were literally hundreds of people praying for me and our entire family at that precise moment.

8:30 am  This is how the boys waited.

 

I remember trying to get them off the floor but Kari told me to let them be.  Good call.  There really wasn’t a lot of space.

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We were communicating with someone in the room and the plan was set for us to walk to Mama’s delivery room at 9:25.  Initially we were pretty sure that Matt wasn’t going to go into the room but was going to wait for me to bring Anna out to the hallway.  While we waited for this moment I remember my mom encouraging Cassie and letting her know how much our entire family appreciated her sacrifices. (I haven’t let you know much about Cassie because that is her story to tell, but let’s just say she has a very young family herself, and had welcomed a few more people into her home for several months.  It was a highly emotional moment and I can only pray that Cassie truly understands the depth of our respect and admiration.)

At some point Cassie headed to the Mama’s room to get a few pictures.  I had been told earlier that morning that a nurse would come get me when it was time.  We waited, and waited, and waited… Finally Matt and I sent Kari to see what the hold up was.  Here are Kari’s words from that moment:

That took what seemed like forever and we thought Cassie or the nurse was going to come tell us when it was time. Nobody came. So you and Matt asked me to go down and check. I made it to those automatic doors to the labor and delivery section and Cassie was headed towards me. I said, “Is she ready?” at the same time Cassie asked me, “Are you guys coming?” I said “We were waiting on you!” She said they needed to get you the bracelet and to hurry! So I spun around, turned the corner and waved frantically to you guys to come. You two strolled like you were going for a walk in the park all chill and calm like. So when you rounded the corner I said, “Walk faster!”  I said they needed to get you that bracelet and then you two picked up the pace.

9:50 am –  The walk to the delivery room was surreal.  I can feel the butterflies all over again.  At this point I was still holding it together.

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We turned onto the floor with the hardwood and as we got closer to her room I could feel the anticipation welling up in my heart.  The nurse led us to her door and I took a deep breath.  I remember saying, “Whew.  Deep breaths,” and at that the nurse asked if I needed a minute.  I thought I was fine, and then I lost it.  I was so thankful Matt was there and I turned and buried my head in his chest.  I was about to meet the little girl we had prayed for for over ten years.  Had we conceived a daughter we wouldn’t have one of the amazing sons we have, nor would we have pursued this adoption.  Because God said “wait” over and over and over we were about to meet the perfect fit for our family.  His Hand in this is so evident and the moment we had waited for was here.IMG_4951IMG_4953

I pulled myself together and left Matt in the hallway.  (Our original conversation with the birth mother indicated that she was not going to feel comfortable having a man in the room.  We both completely respected her wishes.)

I entered the room and found way more people in there than I expected.  Not really sure why I was surprised but it seemed the room was full of people.  Mama holding Anna, the birth father napping in the recliner, Cassie and Kari, the nurse, and maybe more… it’s a bit vague.  My focus was on Mama and baby.

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I saw Anna for the first time.  She was so warm and tiny.  Her face was very round and swollen from a very fast delivery (WAY TO GO, MAMA!) and there was bruising that would go down over the next few days.

These pictures are treasures to me.  I am so thankful Kari and Cassie were there to capture these moments.  I’m excited that Mama gave me permission to use them on the blog!  I made absolutely sure she was okay with it.  I love them so much.  So. Much.

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I was overwhelmed with the idea that I was holding my own child… my own daughter.  I chatted with the mama briefly and cried just a little.  I told her I didn’t think I would cry, and she said she didn’t think she would either, but both of us teared up a little.  I was vaguely aware of other people in the room, but not as aware of them as they were of me. Thinking back, I must have been a sight… I was squishing my daughter and talking to Mama and completely unaware of them.  In fact, I don’t even remember how we ended up getting Matt in the room.  I do remember being pleasantly surprised that he was going to get to come in.  I moved to a spot where he’d have a straight-line to us when he came in the room.

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In this hug I wanted to convey so many thoughts.  How grateful I was; how honored to have been chosen, and how I was not just thinking of our joy but of her pain.  She is my hero.

9:59 amAbout the next few pictures, some are iPhone pictures taken in a fairly dark room. Because they are so special I don’t even care that they are grainy.  I’m including them anyway.

His face.  It had an expression that I can’t describe.  I think he had to have been nervous standing in the hallway but the second he saw her, he was completely swept away.  He was so in love.

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He still makes this face when he sees Anna… and he sees her several times a day!   It’s the face he makes when I dress her in a new outfit, or change her into her pjs, or bring her to him after her bath and have him get her dressed.  I believe he’s quite smitten with this little one.  (But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

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I love Mama’s face in this picture.

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Handing him his daughter.

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I very clearly remember Mama saying, “Awww!  She looks so tiny in his arms!”

He was in love.  I handed her to him and it was over.  The next few minutes I don’t remember very clearly but I do know the nurse, Debbie, told me some very important information as she put the oh-so-important bracelet on my wrist.  That bracelet gave me the right to let Anna room-in with me and the ability to go into the nursery. Without it, I was nothing more than a guest.  With it, I was the other mother…that sounds strange, but it’s a beautiful part of our story.  (And I’m fairly certain that Debbie stayed past shift-change to see this story play out.)IMG_4987

One last snuggle before I took Anna to our room to meet the brothers.  It was really hard to take Anna from this room, but I was really thankful that in just a few hours I’d be taking her back to nurse.

Version 2

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As with all hospitals, babies must be transported through the hallways in a bassinet.  See my white bracelet?  That was my license to drive this bassinet!

In the next post I will share about Matt and me introducing Anna to our family.I am so excited to share this story and pictures of Mama with you because she really is my hero.  I can honestly say that this woman is a woman to be honored for her decision.  I am thankful for her role in our life.  In a unique way, she is and always will be part of our family.

Posted in About my faith, adoption, family | 19 Comments