My form of “labor and delivery.”

We’re adopting which means I did not go through pregnancy this time around.  I missed being pregnant, for the record.  Being half-a-continent away from the baby I was already in love with was difficult.  My biggest fear (other than the mother changing her mind) was that I wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time.

We made it to Virginia on Monday, 18 January and spent the week getting settled in.  On Thursday, 21 January I got to have lunch with Kari.  We enjoyed a leisurely meal at Panera, and then went to her house to visit for a while.  Friday was the most relaxing day we’d had since we got here.  We were snuggling inside because “Snowmageddon” was upon us, thanks to Winter Storm Jonas.  We were fortunate to be in the spot in Virginia that was getting the least amount of snow.  We got just enough snow to make snow cream… 2 tablespoons per person!IMG_5472

We spent the day hanging out.  During lunch I relished the moment when everyone was playing contentedly so much that I snapped a picture.

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When the snow built up enough Parker spent time playing out in it.

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During rest time the bigs watched a movie, Parker went to his room to rest, Matt took a real nap, and I went upstairs to write this blog post about the emotions we’ve experienced going through the adoption process.  As I was sitting there I had this feeling that I needed to shower and get ready but I kept pushing it out of my mind because I felt like I was getting my hopes up… that we were in for a wait.

I should have listened.  At 2:42 p.m., while sitting there wrapped in the memories of the previous two months, I got a text that Mama was being sent from her doctor’s office to the hospital to be induced and I went into hyperdrive.  I had to shower, pack, and still remember to call the people necessary (attorney, adoption agent, etc).

Matt dropped me off at the hospital at 3:47 p.m..  As I walked through the hallway of the bottom floor of the hospital I passed by the chapel.  Knowing I had plenty of time I stopped in, took my way-too-heavy back-pack off, and took a deep breath.  I cried.  I wondered what was about to happen.  I tried to still my heart.  I could feel my face on fire and it wasn’t even hot in there.

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We were pretty sure we were going to be in for a little wait, so Matt took the boys to a movie and then to the mall for dinner while I sat in the waiting room and finished writing the blog post on our adoption emotions.

An hour after I arrived Kari joined me and then Cassie arrived.  We ate dinner downstairs in the cafeteria and then prayed in the chapel together before we returned to the waiting room.

At 8:10 we heard that Mama’s progress was 2.5 centimeters, 60% effaced, and the nurse could feel Anna’s head!  PROGRESS!

My parents began a long drive from NC to VA in a massive snow storm.  Here is one of the roads they had to travel:

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We settled in for a long night and started off with a game of Skip-Bo.  At about 9:15 a nurse came in and told me they had found a room for me and that we were free to spend our time waiting in privacy.

 

IMG_5871 IMG_5497We promptly resumed our game.  (Actually, because of the fear that someone was cheating we started a new round.)

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At around 10:30 Cassie got the word that she was needed at home.  Her husband was working all night and the sitter’s daughter had just gotten sick.  We were all pretty devastated that she had to leave because she had spent almost three months caring for our birth mother and my daughter and she was about to miss the big moment.  As soon as she left, Kari and I spent some good time in prayer for her.  We prayed very specifically that Cassie would know that she was where she was supposed to be.   We asked that God would comfort her and that she would know that He is with her and that he sees her heart and her service. I prayed that God would reward her soon for her sacrifices.

Both Kari and I respect Cassie so much and we really wanted to see God bless her..

After our prayer time Kari and I decided to go get something to eat downstairs.  We had to break up the monotony and there was only one place open in the building.  As we walked down the hallway of the main floor Kari and I were chatting and we spotted a lady walking toward us, drenched.  As she got closer we recognized Cassie!  She had left through the wrong door and then found herself locked out on the complete opposite side of the hospital.  She had to walk around the entire hospital to re-enter… in the pouring rain!

She told me that had she not gotten locked out she would have been in her car on the way home but because of the locked-out-in-the-rain situation she was still at the hospital when she got the call that the sitter felt that everything was okay and that Cassie could stay all night after-all!  We were so excited and we could barely believe it.  We told her that we had JUST PRAYED for her and that we felt this was a direct and immediate answer to prayer!

1:19 am – Mama’s progress was 5.5 centimeters.

2:00 am – We started game of Hill Rummy in the cafeteria until we closed the place up…

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3:30 am – Mama got an epidural and the doula came to visit us for a while during that process.

5:15 am – We were giddy and silly and sleepy.  We played a slightly competitive and highly controversial game of Uno.  Let’s just say it was two against one, and poor Kari lost… to ME!

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5:36 am – Mama’s water broke.  About this time I decided to call Matt and let him know that it was getting closer.

6:15 – Matt, the boys, Nana and Papa arrive.

6:30 – Mama prepares for delivery!

7:08 am – Anna was born but we didn’t hear about it for a little while.

7:42 am –  The doula came into our room with details.  I know she had pictures but I didn’t want to see them.  I wanted my first sight of Anna to be in person.  I did let her read the stats to me and even videoed her giving them. :)

I’m going to save the rest for another post though I think you should be rewarded for making it this far!

While we were in the hospital I ran across this meme on Facebook:

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Again, I know I neither labored nor delivered Anna, and I didn’t have a nurse caring for me directly, but I did have two special people with me during the night waiting for Anna and I will never forget that time.  I would have been quite lonely without them… and it was fitting that the two people with me were the two most directly responsible for bringing Anna into our family.

(And since I mentioned nurses, I want to give a great shoutout to the nurses at the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.  They were very generous and helpful given our situation, and even more important than the way they cared for me was the way they cared for the Mama. From what I understand they were very understanding and sensitive to her needs.  Our attorney had told us prior to admission that this hospital is very adoption-friendly; friendly for both sides of the adoption, and I have to say that they were spot on.  God bless the nurses who work in such a high-stress field.)

Stay tuned for the blog post about our first time meeting our sweet Anna!

Posted in family, friends, About my faith, adoption | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

8 days new.

Hello there, from inside the Hamrick family cocoon.  We are loving our time off, focused on getting to know our precious gift from God.

I have spent very little time online and it’s been nice to have no responsibility outside these four walls, however, our family is beginning to think forward to our real life in Texas.

I am writing a very detailed journal of our 1st week that I will share later but I wanted to give a quick update of our past week (and one day).

Friday 22 January – Mama was induced due to high blood pressure.  The good thing was, during her labor her blood pressure went back down to normal, meaning it wasn’t preeclampsia.  For mama’s sake, I am very thankful!  That meant there was no need to rush Anna out any faster than a normal induction.

Saturday 23 January – 7:08 am, Anna was born.  We met our daughter for the first time at 9:39 am and took her to our own hospital room to meet the brubs and Nana and Papa at 10:08 am.

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Sunday 24 January – Anna was released and we came home to our Portsmouth house, reunited at last!

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Monday 25 January – Daddy and the bigs went to a skate park and Parker, Anna, and I went on a walk around the neighborhood along the water’s edge.  (The place we rented is on the water.)

 

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Tuesday 26 January – Anna had her first well-baby visit. She had only lost one ounce since we left the hospital!  Doing great!

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Wednesday 27 January – Anna got her first at-home bath!  We videoed!  Anna had her newborn photo shoot with a phenomenal photographer!  I will be promoting this lady soon!  I hope her business in this area grows.  It’s so hard for a Military Wife to establish her business at each duty station.

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Thursday 28 January – We stayed home and snuggled until our visit with the mama.  This, for me, was one of the hardest days… I was nervous and sad.  I hurt.  I cried.  And I was the one receiving the gift.  Please, my friends, pray for this young lady who has blessed our family immensely.

 

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Friday 29 January – This was the day that the mother officially signed papers in the presence of a judge saying that we are going to be Anna’s family.  Lots of feelings and emotions, and I’ll write about them sometime, but let me say that it was about two hours later that it hit me: that she was OURS!  That she had officially benergy entrusted to us.  That the mama had made it official and that we were Anna’s forever parents.  Again, my heart breaks at the exact same time that it rejoices!

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30 January – Matt took two boys shopping (some of our kids love to shop as much as he does) and I kept two here.  Anna and I went on a 4.5 mile walk and then we went on our first official date!  Carrabbas was our destination… but then we discovered an 80 minute wait so we redirected to Cook Out!  BBQ sandwiches and Peanut Butter Milkshakes! Our next stop was Barnes and Noble… it wasn’t what we had in mind for our date, but we were together.  Daddy and his girls!

 

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31 January – today.  We’re heading to Richmond to meet with Michelle and Riley.  Matt was Michelle’s youth pastor many moons ago and now she’s a mama!  Can’t wait to get together!

 

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Anna is perfect in every way!  Thanks for your prayers and the love you’ve shown us as we’ve grown our family in this super special way.
~Jennifer

 

 

Posted in adoption, brothers/boys, family, travel | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Welcome Anna Madeline!!

Our adoption journey has definitely hit a milestone: our little girl was born today!

I have been awake for 36 hours now and I have a night with a baby girl ahead of me so I bet this will be shorter than I envisioned it.  I do, however, want to make our formal introductions:

 

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I am waiting a bit before showing her picture publicly so this is the moment we introduced her to our boys.
I would love to tell you the story of her name, Anna Madeline.

Anna was a woman who met baby Jesus at the temple when he was dedicated.  Anna means “God has favored me” or “highly favored of God”
Madeline is a derivative of Magdalene, Mary Magdalene was a devout follower of Jesus in his ministry.  Both women were devout followers of Jesus.

“Anna Madeline”
She is favored by God and a devout follower of Jesus.

We picked Anna after my longest-lasting, best friend.  We chose it long ago but had NO clue what the meaning was until this past Christmas season.

The birth mother picked Madeline.  Said she just always wanted to name a daughter Madeline (after the book character).

We had originally chosen Anna Caroline (Caroline is my mother’s middle name) and when the mother told us she wanted to name the baby I told her I had a name picked out but that I’d be willing to consider her suggestion.  When she said Madeline I almost fainted… that’s Matt’s mother’s middle name!

So we happily changed it to Anna Madeline – which means that she’ll have an “M” middle name like all her brothers!  When I told the mother how cool all of this was she wrote back, “See? It’s meant to be!”

And to close, here is a picture of the person our Anna’s being named after. Isn’t she pretty?!?

Recent picture of David and Anna

Posted in About my faith, adoption, family, marriage | 8 Comments

Adoption Emotions…

All of them.

I think that sums it all up.

I have all of the emotions of pregnancy plus some anxiety that I never had when I was the one carrying the baby.

Being here in Virginia has done so very much to calm all my worries about the mother changing her mind.  While she still reserves that right (for seven days after we go to court for her to sign consent) I feel really confident that she believes in her heart that this is what’s best for Anna.

I have had the pleasure of having two meals with her, the last one was last night and it included my entire family!  I am so glad that she was brave enough to have all of us over because she got to watch my kids with all the other littles who were there:  the ages:  5, 3, 3, 1, and 3 months.  I do hope that seeing my boys with these little ones gave her some sense of what it’ll be like for her child to spend her life with the Hamrick boys.

I read a fantastic blog post by a friend, someone who has walked this path before, and I would love for you to take the time to read it.  There was a section in that…

I pause this blog post because while I was writing I got a very important text.  Mama had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and was being sent to the hospital to be induced.  A shower, rushed packing job, and I’m now sitting in the waiting room of the hospital.  Mama has started Pitocin and we begin the waiting game.  Begin?  I guess we’ve already begun that!  Now we begin the race to the finish line.

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But back to my original post…

There was a great section in my friend’s blog post where she mentioned a moment earlier in her adoption process when she began to dream about what her baby would be like. Read Kathie’s  entire article here:

Somewhere along the journey I began to think about what our child would be like. In adoption, you can choose so much. You can choose the family history, medical issues, color, gender! Choices are power! Control! YES!

NO. No, no, no. For the first time in my life I realized that I didn’t want that power. Choosing the perfect child for us was impossible. How could we possibly know their entire genetic make-up and predict their personality? How could we possibly know what our future held and therefore what kind of baby we needed now? We couldn’t. Ever. But God knew. He knew it all, every detail, even the ones we would never notice. My greatest desire was the perfect baby for us. So I let God have control.

 

I LOVE that.  “Choosing the perfect child for us was impossible.”  YES!  It is!  Only GOD knows which child, out of all the ones needing a family, was the right fit for our family.

And we get to meet her soon!  Maybe today!

Regarding emotions:

I’ve been cautious: especially in the first few weeks before we were super confident that the mama liked us.

I’ve been scared: there was one text in particular that had me worried that someone in her life might want to cause trouble.  Turned out to be nothing, but for all of about 30 seconds my knees were too wobbly to hold my weight.

I’ve been excited: with every baby item that entered my house; the painting of the nursery; the planning of the trip; and finally, the text that meant ‘it’s time.’

I’ve been angry:  there was this one situation with one particular professional in the adoption world that I believe dropped the ball.  For about an hour I thought there was a real chance our adoption process was at risk and I may have let her know about my frustrations.  (Kathie, I know you said not to do this, but it’s too late.  I hadn’t read that blog post yet because it only came out today!)  The work of a few other stellar adoption professionals made everything work out perfectly and after about two days I relaxed.  I had to practice breathing techniques to calm myself down for two days after that!  I had the words of a dear friend that comforted me.  See my next emotion…

I’ve been comforted:  It’s been a long time since I’ve been the one who needed to be comforted.  I tend to be on the side offering the comfort but here are the words that soothed my heart and gave me peace.  A peace that I KNOW was from heaven:

Perhaps this is your labor. You will look back and see them as your own labor pains that will bond you to her even more. Becoming a child’s parent will always be a right of passage and you will feel you earned it. You should have to fight for her- it is what you will expect of the world in order to have access to her heart. Consider that spoken in authority over you in love and in God’s love for you. You are on His team, and that is all He asks of you. Listen for His voice. Fill your moments with worship or silence, and still your heart. He is Good.

I don’t get to bond with Anna through the physical aches and pains of labor.  I can’t look at her and tell her the stories of delivery like I can with my boys, but I have a different sort of labor, and in many ways, this process has been much harder.  Much harder but just as worth it.

I’ve been encouraged:  thousands of texts, emails, messages, and notes on my blog and YouCaring website have encouraged me.  So incredible!  So unspeakably precious to me.

I’ve been blessed: That could mean anything, but in this particular instance I mean with gifts, both tangible and financial.  Friends, family, strangers… you name it.  Blessings have showered on us and made a hard journey much easier!  I couldn’t imagine doing this and adding financial strain on top.  Thank you to those who have given baby things to us, loaned us baby things, and given financially.  Finally, the prayers of those who love Jesus as much as we do have kept us close as a family (even when there were moments of tension).  We are so glad to be bringing Anna into such a wide community of friendship.

I’ve been tense: I might have bitten a few heads off a time or two.  I might have gotten my feelings hurt once when one of the boys misbehaved and talked back to me… I might have sent myself to bed early that night and let everyone else finish the family game night that was in progress.  But as Matt said, all of our emotions were/are running high and it is to be expected.  We recovered and all was well shortly after, and since that evening things have been a little better.  Crying is good, sometimes.

In just a few minutes two friends are going to arrive in this room and I want to be able to be fully present with them so I’m going to close here.  Please know that I will update as soon as possible and that I’m pretty much ignoring texts for now.  I’ll respond on Facebook as time allows.

Thanks for sharing in our journey!  And if you have time, go back and read all of Kathie’s posts from the beginning.  Start HERE at Open Minds Lead to Open Hearts.  I saw the tease on Facebook and ignored it for a few days because it scared me to death.  Here’s what I saw:

This is the first post in a series on open adoption.

Recently when my daughter’s birthmother, via email, asked me to call her immediately because she had something important to tell me, my heart dropped into my stomach and I broke out in a cold sweat.

We adopted my daughter almost six years ago, with the help of an adoption agency. A completely legal, binding adoption. And yet I allowed the terror of losing my daughter to overcome me once again.  (Read more by Kathie B Harris.)

~Jennifer

Posted in About my faith, adoption, family | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

East Coast Fun

The night before I left Texas to drive to North Carolina our friends came over to pray with us.  What a special time that was for me.  I still treasure the words spoken over our journey, our travel-journey and our adoption-journey.  We are so blessed and thankful for these people, and many more at Fort Hood (and beyond) who have prayed for us each step of the way.

I can honestly say my anxiety has shrunk with each mile I got closer to our daughter.  Today, the day before her due date, I am fairly calm.  Every now and then I feel my heart race, but that could be caffeine.  Nah.  I’m positive it’s sheer excitement.  We could be meeting our little girl tomorrow!  At any moment now, and we’re all here together so we’re ready!

Let me recap the last week for my own journaling purposes, but also so that those who aren’t on Facebook can catch up with what’s going on.

Last week we arrived at my parents house and I was able to relax a great deal.  Knowing that we were 5.5 hours driving time from our little girl was fantastic.   My mom had the house still decorated for Christmas.  What a welcome sight!IMG_5360The week at my parents’ house was spent riding four-wheelers, eating at a variety of local restaurants, and spending time with the cousins.  Parker and Mason are very close and I can foresee flying them back and forth for a few weeks each summer when they’re older.  I have a feeling they’ll always be close.  (Regarding the photo below:  why does one of my boys always seem to be “making a face” during group shots?!?)

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We had a mini-Christmas celebration at both Grandparents’ houses:

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I love this picture.  Look in the reflection in the door  of the fireplace:

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Later that night, by the fire:

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And at Grammy’s:

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I received a gift from a friend in NC.  These dolls have Anna’s name on them!

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Monday morning the boys and I loaded up and left NC at about 7:30 with the goal of meeting Matt at the airport at 2:15.  We rejoiced when we passed the Welcome to VA sign!

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At some point along our journey I got a call from the lady our “expectant mom” lives with and she asked if it would be possible for us to move our first meeting to that evening instead of the next morning.  Of course I said YES as I was very eager to meet her, but butterflies found their way to my stomach and I immediately got nervous.  I’ll share about that  event in (some) detail later on, but for now, this is a fly-by of our last few days.

We were welcomed into the state by our friends who connected us to our daughter:  Kari had a homemade coffee cake for us, a freezer meal ready, and some gifts: which I told her I wanted to save until we could sit and  visit… Monday was a very FAST visit on our way to meet our birth mother.  We’re getting together for real tomorrow.

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At our first quick grocery-stop I managed to score some delicious UTZ chips.  Friends in Locust, I actually saw these at your Food Lion so you might want to give them a try!  They’re quite YUMMY!

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Our house was not left in the condition that it should have been left in so I spent the first full morning in the house deep-cleaning.  At 1:30 I quit so that I could shower in time for our 3:00 appointment with our Virginia adoption agent who was to finalize our home study.  That appointment went well.

We stopped back by the house where our “expectant” mom lives and picked up a co-sleeper (that would not fit into the van the night before with a car full of people).  How neat is this?!?

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I got everyone settled at home and went to Wal-mart for a real grocery/home-items run.  I was gone about 2 hours and loaded my cart full.  I could tell I was only shopping for one week as I only had one grocery cart!  Usually I have two!  I sent Matt the following text with the image:

Still want hotdogs?

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It was kind of a joke because there was no way I was going to buy 8 hotdogs for $10, but then he responded: “Sure.”

So I bought them and it wasn’t until later that he looked back at the picture to see why I sent him a picture of the hotdogs… had he noticed the price he would have passed!

 

Today is January 20th.  Anna is due tomorrow!  I find it quite fitting that I plan to have lunch with Kari, the friend who connected me to our daughter, on Anna’s due date.  That is, unless Anna decides to make her arrival between now and then.

My next blog post (or at least the next one I have in my mind to write) will be about my current feelings and what I’m experiencing at this moment.  That’s a whole different side to this.  Today I’ve just jotted down what we’ve done in the past week and some of the logistical aspects of this journey.

FUNDRAISER UPDATE:

We are 97% of the way to our goal!  Only $268 to go!  Our Interstate Compact is covered and now we’re just waiting to hear what other funds will be required by our attorney.  The way that worked is we paid $2500 up front, a retainer fee, and she has been using the funds in that account to do any work on our case.  Once it’s depleted we’ll go online and fill it up with however much more she thinks we’ll need.  Our estimated $10,00 was pretty accurate for the initial adoption fees but we know there are more funds she will need.  Our upcoming funds required will be:

  • three post-placement visits @ $150 each, done by our TX home study lady;
  • the Virginia lady to approve the three visits done by our TX home study lady @ $300(?);
  • the attorney to finalize the adoption once the Virginia lady has approved the home visits (afraid to ask)

Basically, the big stuff is behind us and for that we are very grateful.  Now we’re just ready to hold our baby girl!

 

 

 

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

Hello from the other side…

… of the continent.

As of my last Adoption Update blog post, which I posted about 2 weeks ago, I was planning on leaving on the 12th.  Sometime over the past 10 days or so Matt wondered why I was waiting to leave on a Tuesday and suggested I just leave on Monday.  He didn’t have to coerce me.

Below is our last family picture in our house as a family of six.

 


The boys and I left Texas at 11 am on Monday the 11th and drove halfway to NC.  We had a fantastic trip and the boys were great.  I shared the following funny story on our YouCaring website:

When we travel like this each boy gets to pick the fast food restaurant once along the way.  Hayden picked Sonic for lunch and Carson picked Taco Bell for dinner.  At the end of our dinner (while I was on the phone making our hotel reservations) I noticed that the boys had invented a game:  who can hold themselves up between two of the bolted-down tables the longest.  There was counting involved and, while I knew they had been in the car all day and needed to burn off some energy, I didn’t think the other guest in the place would appreciate this fact.  So I quickly rounded them up and headed outside where I promptly initiated a race from the car to to the end of the sidewalk.  Parker won the first race, but on the way back, he slowed down.  I did, too, but then he yelled, “I’m trying to let you win, mama!!”

We got our wiggles out and made the rest of the drive to our hotel.  I parked in a spot that allowed us the space to get more wiggles out without being in danger of being hit by other vehicles and I initiated another race through the parking lot.  In order to NOT win, I zig-zagged wildly behind Parker as he ran full speed ahead toward our goal.  Hayden and Bailey were on skateboards, Carson was easily beating us other runners.

On the return trip, I ran just as crazily back to the car, and we loaded our arms with our bags and walked to the building.

As we entered the lobby we made eye contact with the hotel desk attendant.  She was smiling broadly and I was pleased with what a warm greeting we were receiving.  It was then that she said, “It was YOU running all through the parking lot, wasn’t it?!?” She pointed at Hayden and said, “I was about to call the cops on you!”  She pointed to a large tv screen with about 10 different camera angles, to include several of the parking lot…

She then said she was kidding, but I couldn’t tell. She was really warm and pleasant but I think it probably took her by surprise to see a van full of people get out in 31* weather, run wildly and skateboard through her parking lot at 9:35 pm.

 

The next morning we woke earlier than expected and got moving.  We stopped in Tuscaloosa to meet a friend for coffee (something we’ve done in the past) and I was able to secure my first “Alabama” Starbucks mug!  They didn’t have them the last time I drove through.

Another quite uneventful day of driving and we finished by arriving at my parent’s house:  1100 miles in 2 days.

 

Dinner at Cook Out! Yum!

 

If mama goes into labor I can be there in 5.5 hours of driving.  I have relaxed a bit with that fact… the chances I’ll make it in time just increased quite a bit.  As far as relaxing, I plan on playing with the boys as much as I can.  We have ridden four-wheelers and I have a game of Ticket to Ride in store for the afternoon. Over the past few weeks I have been quite focused on adoption paperwork (some of it we were told about at the last-minute) and then school, then packing, and then driving.  In just a short time I’ll be pretty focused on a newborn.  I am really going to try to spend these next few days focusing on the boys.  They’re incredible and before their worlds are rocked, I want them to know that I think they’re pretty awesome.

We’re 95% toward our goal and are just so appreciative.  I thank you for every gift and love the thought that we are so close to our financial goal AND to the goal of adding a little girl to our family!

 

 

Posted in family | 1 Comment

Lifegiver Military Spouse Podcast – Corie Weathers

There was this time I sat at home and streamed a pretty cool event on my computer and watched a very special friend of mine become the 2015 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year.

It was a SUPER COOL moment for me and I wasn’t even there!  I wanted to shout in my best “ELF” impersonation, “Corie!! I KNOW her!”

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I had no idea the exciting things in store for Corie when she stood on that stage.  What a great platform for her amazing ministry.  She loves military families and she wants to see marriages strengthened.  What a neat opportunity she has to travel the world (literally!) to encourage our service-members and their families.

Corie also utilizes podcasting to share her heart with us and because she knows I have a heart for homeschooling my boys and a heart for encouraging those around me, she decided she’d have me on.  I love to listen to podcasts because I can do that while I’m running, driving, washing dishes… I rarely get the chance to sit and read blogs or watch vlogs, but I can listen to hours worth of podcasts in the course of a week.

If you are here because you heard that podcast, I want to welcome you to my corner of the interwebs.  This blog is full of my thoughts on my life so I write about my family and what we’re experiencing, whether it’s a PCS, our first day of school, living the military life, adoption, you name it.  If we are living it, I’m writing about it.

I’m putting this picture in because it’s pretty surreal!  (I’m on a podcast!  And look at my handsome man!!)  If I’m not mistaken, the podcast is up tonight for subscribers, and will release for the general public on 15 January.  Here is a link to her podcast website and if you can’t hear mine just yet, click on another one and enjoy!

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Anyway, getting to the reason you’re really here, in Corie’s podcast she asked me about homeschooling in the military.  Some of my main points are:

  • I’m a homeschooling mom however, I don’t want moms whose kids who go to school to feel judged by me.  We can be friends anyway!  I tend to believe that each mother genuinely wants the best for her children and she’ll make the right choice. (And as a former public school teacher, I’m a big fan of teachers!  I know for a fact that the majority of the teachers I know love kids and love seeing those light bulbs come on in their students’ eyes.)
  • We decide year-by-year and kid-by-kid whether homeschooling is right for us.  (None of ours have ever wanted to go to school and all have said they want to graduate from our homeschool.  Thrills my soul!)
  • You do not have to have a degree in education to do this.  Or a degree at all.  There are thousands of resources out there to learn what to do first, though I do believe my degree in Elementary Education has made this much easier for me.
  • Even veteran homeschooling moms change something every year!  If you start and don’t like something, change it!  Sell it on eBay!  Please don’t strap yourself to a curriculum just because you paid for it.  Someone else will likely pay you for it.  Move on to something that you like more.
  • You can homeschool on the cheap!   A fellow blogger and another personal friend of mine has written a blog post about that very topic.  Check her out here.

Homeschooling Resources:

First, if you want to start at the beginning of my blogs about MY homeschool, I wrote a post that compiles many resources.  You can find that HERE.

Secondly, if you want to read about what we’re using in our homeschool right now, you can read that at Homeschooling My Way, Part 3.  (As the “Part 3” indicates, it’s an ever evolving collection of fantastic materials.)

Finally below you will find a quick list of the resources I mentioned in the podcast or some I thought of later.  Whether you are a veteran homeschooler, are thinking about it, or may want to use some of these resources to help in your every-day-life, I’m glad you popped in to say Hi!  (And please note the disclaimer at the bottom of my post.  I have a fun little announcement for those who aren’t my regular visitors.)

  • Homeschooling for the Rest of Us by Sonya Haskins: I read this when I had already been homeschooling five years and I STILL learned a lot.  Not only that, I felt a lot of pressure come off my shoulders after reading that book.  The author has given us a book to give away so be listening or watching for how Corie is going to do the give-away!  Thank you so much, Sonya!
  • Plan To Eat – my favorite way to plan my meals and make my grocery list
  • PJ Jonas’ podcast series on homeschooling.
  • Managers of Their Chores
  • Homeschooling in Real Life – Podcast by husband and wife team, Fletch and Kendra.     H-IRL #24 has a ton of resources!     (Blog and Podcast – I get the podcasts from iTunes)
  • Savvy Homeschool Moms: Secular friends sharing their journeys and experiences in homeschooling:  (Blog and Podcast)
  • Preschoolers and Peace – Homeschooling with Little Ones Underfoot.  Kendra Fletcher
  • Homeschooling for the Rest of Us (find it on Amazon or Christian Book.com)
  • Hello Mornings – An amazing online accountability for all women. Some of the groups are specific to homeschooling.
  • Time4Learning – Amazing – I’ll need to do a whole separate blog on this, but it’ll be a while before I get to it.  For now, I’ll just say that I have my 9th grader using the English I course.  I needed to transfer some of the responsibility off my shoulders.
  • How to teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons – (Find on Amazon)

Disclaimer:

I had high hopes of making this blog post beautiful, exciting, perfect.  But we’re in the process of adopting a little girl and today was supposed to be the day I worked on this post.  At 11:00 this morning I got a call that we have a few more things we need to do before we can make this official, and I literally spent five hours of my day chasing down things I needed to email to our agent.  I lost the time I was going to spend on this post finding our DMV records, scheduling two last face-to-face visits with our home study lady, calling doctors about TB screenings… things I could have had done already had I known they needed to be done.  All of that to say, my friend Corie deserves for my post about our conversation to be much better than this.  Much cleaner, more professional.  But you know what?  She knows me.  She knows my heart, and she knows what my day was like and I think she’ll understand!  And I love her for it.

Corie, you are an inspiration to me and I am so honored to be your friend.  I appreciate all the times you listened to me and I so long for us to be stationed together again.  You have handled the trials military life has thrown at you with such grace, especially your very difficult time at Fort Carson.  You have handled this season as MSOY with grace and poise and I am in awe of you.  Thank you for taking the time to listen to me once again in this podcast interview.  I do hope I don’t sound as nervous as I felt when we were recording!

~j

I’m posting these pictures even though I don’t love them of myself, but they’re the most recent I have of the two of us, and our Matts, together.

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And just because I love you, I want the world to know that you are daily in my thoughts.  Your encouragement is long-lasting.

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Jackson Academy

I have homeschooled my children from the day my oldest entered “kindergarten.”  Because I have homeschooled for more than a couple years, I am frequently asked how we homeschool.

Chances are you have landed here either because you are considering homeschooling and wonder what it looks like from the inside, or you are currently homeschooling and are researching to see if there is something that you might want to change in your plan.

Regardless of your reason for being here, welcome!

What I’m hoping to do is use this page as a place to link to other blog posts I’ve written so you can find what you’re looking for in a really short time frame.  It’s very nice to have you here and welcome to Jackson Academy!

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What is Jackson Academy?

  • It’s the name of our homeschool.  We had no idea we’d do this for such a long time, and we picked a name that was relevant to our lives when we started.  We were stationed at Fort Jackson, and so Jackson Academy sounded great.  It sort of stuck.
  • Does My Homeschool Need a Name?  Written August 2015

What is your philosophy on homeschooling/education/reading?

What curriculum do you use?

  1. I will always keep my most current version of our homeschool right here.  I don’t know how often I’ll update, but I will keep the most current version that I’ve written just below:
    1. Homeschooling My Way #3.  Written in September 2015
  2. Homeschooling My Way #2: Written in September 2010 it was intended to be an addendum to the original.
  3. Homeschooling My Way #1: Written in September 2009 it details every single step of what I was using in grades Kindergarten through Third.

Why do you homeschool?

  • Why we started.  Written May 2011 and it shares a few tidbits about my own educational experiences in homeschooling.  (Yes, I was homeschooled for a while!)

Will you homeschool through to graduation?

What preschool curriculum should I buy?

My child is starting Kindergarten.  How long each day should we be doing school?

  • Please check with your state requirements before taking any of my advice:  Parker and I spend no more than an hour on “formal” school.  There are other things we do throughout the day that, when the time spent on those things are added to our formal schooling time, add up to match any state’s minimum.

What about socialization?

  • Most homeschooling parents are tired of this question, to the point that when you Google the topic you will find very heated articles around this topic.  Basically, my children get out and do real life.  They have to order their own meals at restaurants.  The bigs have their own debit cards and are responsible for purchasing their own clothing… the entire transaction is up to them.  My kids have to sit under the authority of other adults in various settings:  church, youth centers, sports activities, friends’ houses, and around post.  Homeschoolers today actually have to guard against too much socialization as there are so many great activities available.  We have to carefully determine which ones to attend and which to say no to.  (Please don’t ever tell my kids that there are local Lego clubs for homeschoolers.  I can’t add that to our plate!)

Do you have your kids tested every year?

Should we homeschool on the normal school calendar or Jan-Oct?

  • There’s no right answer for that!  Do take into consideration whether you’re going to participate in a co-op or a group of some sort, as they will likely follow a normal schedule.  We loosely follow the school schedule except for one change:  often at the end of a school year we’ll just keep on going.  Sometimes we school through the summer and take Oct-Dec as our “summer” break.  That makes it feel a lot like the Jan-Oct except for on paper:  I just haven’t figured out how to wrap my brain around the transition from one way to the other.
  • 5 Ways to Rock Your Homeschool:  Homeschooling IRL:  This podcast has five great ideas, and one of them is when to start school.
  • The Freedom of Homeschooling: The Mango Times – this is the blog post they were referring to in the Rock Your Homeschool podcast episode.

How do you spend so much time together and still like each other?

  • homeschooling (Nap/rest time!)  Written May 2011
  • more coffee, more chocolate. Some times we don’t like each other. Written June 2o11
  • chores – I dole out chores at the beginning of each year and each child keeps those chores for the full year.  I learned so very much from Managers of their Chores
  • schedules – Managers of their Homes – I don’t need this quiet as much as I did when my three bigs were littles, but it was a lifesaver for a few years, especially after our fourth was born.  I still highly recommend it and know that some of the principles are still in our daily lives even if I don’t use the actual scheduling materials anymore

Do you have a list of resources I should read through?

This list is by no means exhaustive, so please add your suggestions to the comments.  From time to time I hope to update the list.

 

Posted in family, homeschooling | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Adoption musings… (and an update)

I have so many thoughts running through my head regarding adoption that there is simply no way a single blog post can contain them.

I thought I might list a few of them and see where my list takes me. When I write, I am able to work through my thoughts better because I’m required to put those thoughts into sentences that make sense, and that could make sense to someone who happened to read those sentences.

In these thoughts, I do not claim to know what other adoptive parents feel.  Adoption is very situation-specific, and the following thoughts are geared toward ours.

  • Waiting for this adoption to take place is similar to waiting to go into labor only with this I have to rely on a birth mother to tell me she’s in labor and then I have to get myself across the country to try to be there in time.
  • Waiting for this adoption to take place is different because I’m not with the child at all times.  When I was pregnant, I had the moment-by-moment reassurance that the baby was doing well (I could literally feel his presence).  During this experience I wait for a daily note from the mama letting me know that all is well.
  • Waiting for this adoption to take place is similar to waiting for labor and delivery in that there are no absolutes.  Even when carrying a child I had the knowledge that there are times when a mother leaves the hospital without her child.  The chances of that, in my previous pregnancies were very slim.  I had healthy labors, deliveries, and babies.  In this situation, there is no way to put a figure on the chances of bringing baby home.  Not only do we have the health issues to consider (all is well, as of right now) we have a precious birth mother who has a decision to make.  Sure, she’s made it.  She’s determined that this is what’s best for her child.  I’m confident that she won’t change her mind… more confident than Matt is, but that’s because I speak with her daily.  Ultimately, there are no absolutes until after it’s taken place.  There’s no avoiding that.
  • Adoption has two sides:  the pretty side that you see in videos on Facebook.  (Have you seen the one where the children got adoption papers for Christmas!?!  Wow!  Amazing!)  So heartwarming and these are true stories.  But I recently read an article by an adult who was adopted as a child and her thoughts were that people shouldn’t forget that the reason adoption is necessary is because there is a sad or difficult backstory.  My heart breaks for the difficulties our birth mother is facing, and I want it to be known that we are not ignoring that.  On this blog, in this space, I am focusing my writing on our story.  Our side of the story is that the Hamrick Family is hoping to bring home our long-awaited daughter.  I am painfully aware that our story is different from our birth mother’s.  She is a strong woman who will overcome her challenges, but she is going to have a very difficult road ahead of her.  As we celebrate the joyous occasion that we are expecting to occur, please do not think for a single moment that we are discounting her pain or even the challenges every adopted child faces.  It is our goal for adoption to be part of Anna’s story but not what defines her.
  • Adoption is on the hearts of so many people.  I can’t even keep track of how many people in our lives have said, “We’ve talked about adopting for years…”  That makes me so happy!  I can’t wait to watch their families when the time is right for them to welcome a child into their homes.
  • If Anna turns out to be a boy, then we’ll repaint the nursery and select a different name.  It’s been known to happen!  I just thought I’d throw that out there!

Those are some of the thoughts running through my mind right now.

As for an update, we had a fantastic Christmas and I updated our YouCaring Website with the following information.  A teeny-tiny bit of new information follows so if you read this already, scroll to the bottom for the newest info:

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Posted on December 27, 2015 by Jennifer Hamrick

Merry Christmas!

We had a great Christmas spending an amazing three restful days together.

Our birth mother gave me a Christmas gift:  She offered to let me cut the cord!  I don’t expect to be in the room during the delivery so for her to offer this gift… amazing!  I went weak in the knees and tried to restrain my excitement.  What a gift!

Anna got her first gift from Daddy:  A Little People Belle and Friends set!  (There’s a story behind Belle, but that’s for my blog*.  You, here, don’t really need to know all of that!)

We’re under a month!  Baby is due in 26 days and I’m getting anxious to get to Virginia so that I don’t miss the delivery.  (As I said, I won’t be in the room, but I will be waiting until mama calls me in to meet my daughter!)  My original plan was to leave in 22 days but I’m working an angle to try to leave a little earlier.  Arriving only a couple of days before the due date has me a little nervous.

Regarding the fundraiser, we have 46 days left. :)  We are 86% to our goal, and only $211 from having the Interstate Compact covered. “The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is statutory law in all 50 states and U.S. territories.  Before a child born in one state can be taken to another state for the purpose of adoption, both the state where the child was born and the state where the child is going, must give approval.  Every state has a special office to deal with the ICPC.  The ICPC applies in all domestic US adoptions, both private and agency.”

In other news, Parker, our five year old, may have a broken foot.  He jumped off a trampoline and had X-rays done on Wednesday.  They were closed on Thursday and Friday, and obviously over the weekend.  I guess we’ll hear on Monday if it’s actually fractured.  He’s gotten pretty good at crawling around.  If you look at our last “Christmas as a family of six” picture, you’ll see that Matt’s holding Parker with a wrapped foot.

Oh, and because this is all-important in the world we live in, we saw Star Wars yesterday.

And as of today, December 29th, 2015:

Our house is no longer decorated for Christmas.  Parker was incredibly sad about that and attempted to hug the tree as we removed the ornaments.  His foot has still not been diagnosed as we have not heard from the doctor.

Stats:  Anna is due in 22 days, I’ve decided to leave in 14 days, we are only $11 away from having the Interstate Compact paid for, which puts us at 88% toward our goal.

*About Belle:  Matt has called me “Beauty” for many years, and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite movie.  Matt buys little “Belles” for me on a regular basis and I have a collection of them.  Anna now has her own Belle.   (Be still my heart!)

Here is a neat way God is working on multiple fronts simultaneously:

As I mentioned in my YouCaring update, I’ve been itching to leave a little earlier than my original date of Jan 16.

Matt and I have talked about it and I spoke with Kari about it. We came to a tentative decision for me to leave on Tuesday the 12th, arrive at Kari’s on that Friday, and stay with her family until our house is available on the 18th.

Then, two nights ago it hit me: Kari has cats!

I’m allergic to cats and my face would swell shut if I stayed with her.

So, I thought about driving from here on the 12th but staying with my parents until one of two things happen: Mama goes into labor or we reach the 18th, when the house we are renting is available.

I figured it’d be fine with my parents, but I hadn’t asked… then my mom called. Before I even let her tell me why she was calling (except to check on Parker’s foot) I presented my plan. She told me that she and my brother had already come up with that very plan and that’s why she was calling me.

That puts me only 5.5 hours away from our little girl should mama go into labor! If this happens before the 18th, I’ll leave the boys with my parents and head there alone.  They’d bring the boys soon after.  (Matt is going to fly out on the 20th if Anna hasn’t come, and he’ll fly last minute should she decide to come earlier.)

God is so good to work out all the details!

Did you catch that?!?  I leave two weeks from today!!!!  AHH!

Posted in adoption, family, friends, travel | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A diaper bag and an ornament

While the past few days have been fairly quiet on the baby front, we did make our first real purchase for her and we also selected our 2015 Christmas ornament!

Friday through Sunday our family was in Austin so Matt could lead a weekend training session for his soldiers.  We had a great time and I believe the soldiers learned some things while being treated to some time away from post.

Most notable for our family, though, were two major purchases.  One was a diaper bag!

Over the past couple of weeks I have spent considerable time (I’d be embarrassed to reveal the actual amount of time) fiddling with each bag at multiple stores only to pretty much give up.  And then on Friday Matt and I went to baby mecca:  Babies R Us!  They had the bag I was most interested in and in an even prettier print!  After another good chunk of time, my husband convinced me to buy it.

I love it (but I still have the tags on it just in case…).

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Also on our shopping list last weekend was a special 2015 Christmas ornament for our tree.  Each year we pick one that represents the most important thing that happened over the past year.  I’ve blurred out her middle name because we haven’t revealed that, just yet.  :)IMG_4966_2

When thinking about what kind of ornament to buy we thought long and hard about 2015.  Honestly, we can hardly see anything that happened before November 4th.  It was a good year.  A great year, even.  We enjoyed and the year have nothing negative to say about it.  But it changed for us in a major way on November 4th and that is what our hearts are focused on.  Bring on Baby Anna!

Hayden has been trying to get us to buy Anna a pair of shoes for the past month and we just can’t spend that much on shoes!  (Hayden has very expensive taste in shoes.)  When we found these for $6 I finally caved.  CUTE!

When we got home from Austin, Matt and I finalized the nursery.  Matt converted the toddler bed back into a crib and I washed the sheets and added the dust ruffle, which I had to order.

Our Fundraiser is still going strong.  A few facts:

  • We are at 85% of what we had hoped to raise;
  • The fundraiser has 51 days left to run;
  • I leave here in 27 days to try to beat Anna’s arrival (unless I can’t handle it and decide to drive earlier and crash at friends’ houses because the wait is getting to me);
  • Anna is due exactly one month from today;
  • Our fundraiser has been shared 685 times (and it’s been stuck at that for over a week);
  • We have had multiple gifts under $5.  Two gifts over $2,000.  And just about everything in between and we are so honored… so very honored, and we truly want to do the best we can with those gifts.  Every dollar has been spent directly on the actual fees and what we have left over ($2,170.07 at this moment) is set aside for the Interstate Compact, which costs $2,500 (as you know by now because I say it all the time because it absolutely blows my mind that a single document can cost that much… especially when that document is basically a duplicate of a Home Study that both Texas and Virginia have to approve).

Click here to see our Fundraiser and to see if it’s received any more shares… and while you’re there, share it for us!

Merry Christmas!
~Jennifer

(And it just crossed my mind that I updated my Facebook page and our YouCaring page that we had a few days of wondering if baby was going to be arriving early, and I never updated you: my journal and my WordPress friends.  I’ll copy and paste the update here.)

Posted on December 17, 2015 by Jennifer Hamrick

I am very happy to announce that at this moment I am NOT rushing to the airport to head to meet baby early.

The past 36 hours have had me a little on edge:
Our birth mother was exposed to a confirmed case of Fifths Disease and the ER doctor told her she needed to be tested ASAP.  If baby were showing signs of danger, mama would be induced.

I had a few flights picked out and my heart all ready in case the call came that it was “time.”
Mama saw the OB today and was tested, and has been told that as of right now, all is well.  So, I think it’s now time to get my bags packed and a few details tightened up.  It was going to be a “throw everything in a carry-on” kind of trip and I’m really glad that we are on a stand-down and that I can get my bags packed a little more carefully.

One month from today (if all goes according to plan) the boys and I will be arriving in Charlotte to spend the night with family on our last stop along the way to our final destination.  (The kids and I are driving… Matt will fly to meet us there and then ride home with us.)

Can you believe a last-minute flight from here to there is over $600!  So thankful for the generosity of fundraisers so that had this been necessary, we had some set aside.  That money is being saved for the $2500 Interstate Compact Agreement, which we don’t have completely covered by gifts, but we could have made the flight happen.  So, thank you!

I’ve said this before:  if anyone wants a breakdown of where the funds have gone thus far and what we have remaining, feel free to email me. :)  I feel like you deserve transparency!

 

Posted in adoption, family | 2 Comments