I finally got to use my childhood ice skating lessons!
Sunday Matt and I took the littles ice skating at the most iconic skating rink in the world (not a data-driven fact). It was everything I had hoped for – it definitely met my expectations.
Parker had the most determination I’ve ever seen in him. Skating did not get easier for him as time passed and falling never felt good, but he got up every single time and kept on going. Even when I asked him twice if he would like to go sit with Matt he said no and kept on trying his best. (Matt was watching from the sidelines because I didn’t buy a ticket for him… he needs to NOT be broken right now with a calendar full of work trips coming up. He was disappointed but he survived.)
We got our skates on and there was no looking back. No time to teach them any technique. In fact, I couldn’t remember the technique to tell them so we just played it by ear. A few laps around the rink and I was able to recall some of the tips and tricks I had been taught when I was younger than Parker. I was not graceful for a single minute but I was able to skate forward, backward, and use three different footing techniques to assist the kids when necessary. Oh, and I was able to stay upright when flailing arms grabbed at me for support.
About the fourth lap Anna was pretty much on her own. We had declined the Penguin skate-assistant because it was an additional $25 and I’m so glad we did! My philosophy is similar to the life vest… I want a non-swimmer to be in the water as often as possible without the vest to learn how to swim. (Obviously, there are times life vests are necessary and very useful tools… but they can delay the skill of learning to swim.)
Anna would not have done nearly as well if she were trying to push around that penguin! She really wanted one, though. But as I watched the other moms have to help their kids (most older than Anna) move the thing I was reassured that we had made the right choice.
So, please forgive my shaky filming, the constantly moving camera, and me laughing at my kids in this five minute video from Rockefeller Rink.
We were right there so we had to go into FAO Schwarz.
I’m not normally one to pick a word for the year but when I started using Power Sheets by Cultivate What MattersI decided I could give it a try.
Last year’s word (entrust) came to me so clearly and I knew it was the right word for 2020. I’m surprised I didn’t write a blog post about it. “Entrust” fit every one of my goals for last year and while I can’t say I lived up to the word in every way, I did use it to keep on track. In my role as a wife and mother, in my job as a teacher, in my responsibilities as a leader of small groups (before COVID ended those), and in my purpose for writing Once You See Racism. I was entrusted with children, roles, and words to share and I really wanted do my best in each area.
When it came time to think about my word for 2021 I was pretty sure I wouldn’t find one as perfectly suited to this year’s goals as last year’s. I seriously had low expectations. One of the days I sat down to work through my Power Sheets Planning pages I jotted down a word and then decided to follow the directions and flip back through the previous pages to see if anything stood out. The purpose of that is to see if something from what I had written stood out, but after turning only two pages a printed word stood out to me as if it were lit from beneath.
In my mind I was thinking of the noun: Flourish – ornament; adornment;
One of my main goals this year is to find 40 healthy meals that match my health goals AND that the whole family not only tolerates, but enjoys. Learning to cook in a way that is very different from my Southern Roots is a huge challenge and I am a little intimidated at the thought of changing our entire meal rotation. (I had mastered about 30 dishes that were amazingly tasty and I felt confident serving to guests. Main problem is that they were not healthy at all and were not helping me achieve my health goals.)
So when I first saw “flourish” I thought of flourishing healthy meals to taste great so that we’re HAPPY to eat them – finding ways to make dinner enjoyable without heavy sauces and tons of cheese. (I love both.) Flourish – a spice, a nice touch, something to make an otherwise boring meal attractive.
When I read the definition of the world I actually teared up.
Flourish: to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as a result of a particularly favorable environment.
Even in the verb form flourish matches my goal! And it matched all of my goals that I’ve set for this year. And so, once again, this non-word-of-the-year person has found a word that can easily be applied to all of the goals she set. I printed out a list of all the instances of the word in scripture and every day I plan to look up the next instance and read how this word is used in each context.
Synonyms: succeed, prosper, thrive.
And as if that didn’t prove to me that the word was perfect, on January 5th the Bible Recap Reading plan had Job 6-9 scheduled and on my printed list I was supposed to look up verse 8:7!
And though your beginning was small, your future would flourish. (In most translations the word is prosper.)
I stopped writing this blog post and set it aside for a few days because we’ve started school and I have other obligations. Two days after I saw my word in Job chapter 8, I read Job 14-16 using the Bible Recap and when I went to find the next instance of flourish from my own printed list, it was once again from the same scriptures I had read a few minutes before.
At least there is hope for a tree: if it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old yet at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth shoots like a plant.
It was another confirmation that I had selected the word that I need to focus on. Only God could orchestrate that my word of the year (on I list I printed out) be found in the same scriptures the Bible Recap scheduled for those days’ readings. That’s no coincidence, and so I will focus on flourishing this year, whatever that looks like.
That last scripture also gave me a bit of hope for our country. I am very angry at what people did at the Capitol last week and disgusted that Christians are in any way defending those behaviors. I’m baffled that anyone could compare what those people did (their reasons) to the protests that occurred this summer (and their reasons). Not. The. Same.
I don’t condone rioting or looting in any form but one group did so out of years of mistreatment, even to the point of having the mistreatment videoed and visible for the entire world only to have the perpetrators let-off without punishment… the other group did so because their candidate didn’t win an election. (An election that was proven well over a dozen times to not have been rigged or stolen.)
So… Christians… do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Base your behaviors on that. And… not speaking of our nation or our country, not speaking of our flag, but of those who profess Christ (who loves across all nationalities), “at least there is hope for a tree: if it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old yet at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth shoots like a plant.” I don’t believe for a second that Christianity is at risk… not from outside attack. But I do worry that Christians and those who profess Christ but don’t do justice, love mercy, or walk humbly with their God will damage the message of Christ in the ears of those who most need to hear that message.
Well, that went sideways. That was not where I meant to go with my Word of the Year post. It was supposed to be all happy and “look how cool that my verses were in the Bible reading plan I picked…” But I can’t ignore what is going on, and I can’t not speak up. It is my responsibility.
If you pick a word for the year, I pray you find one that speaks to your heart and every time you see it you are reminded that God is thinking of you. That’s what I take away from my experience this year, picking out my word. He’s thinking of me. And… He’s talking to me.
I wanted the word FLOURISH written with a flourish but when I googled “flourish + image” I got a lot of beautiful flourishes like the ones above! Oh well! I tried!
I really wanted a picture of our kids with the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge for our Christmas card, and I wanted it at sunset because we have absolutely loved having access to nightly displays of beauty. Our photographer, Jana Whitter, hit it out of the ballpark.
Check out the slider feature… what went on the card versus what didn’t.
Indoor dining is still closed so every now and then you’ll find the Hamrick family eating on the steps of some random building.
When you have the entire train to yourself and it stops for some undisclosed reason, you can get your wiggles out by running laps.
We went to the city as a family to hit three main place: the Christmas Store in Little Italy, The Elf Bridge, and the Rockefeller Tree.
2020 Ornament purchased at the Christmas store in Little Italy. (That particular store was only special to us because Matt and I had visited it when we went on a date in that area. We figured it’d be a good place to find our annual ornament.)
We found the Elf Bridge!
Our first view of the tree fully decorated and lit:
New York City is dressed beautifully for Christmas:
Totally random, but Anna messed up my phone… she somehow got my Memoji stuck and I couldn’t answer a call or hang up.
More randomness: Spotify let me know that I was one of Hamilton’s top 9% listeners this year and that my most-played song was from Frozen II… no surprises there.
If you’re four and you get new jammies, you do a dance:
One thing I love about Christmas season is sending and receiving Christmas cards. I send almost 300 each year. Excessive, I know. I try to cull them each year but I simply can’t. I enjoyed lighting the advent candle while addressing them.
We pray that 2021 is an amazing year for your family! ~The Hamricks
Before I start in on the cuteness, I just want to give a shout-out to Liberty Church: Brooklyn. On Sunday the 20th we had our last in-person church service of 2020 and the entire thing, start to finish, was wonderful. It may have been the sweetest Christmas service I’ve attended. I’m going to go back and watch it before the new year. It was so touching. Watch here: Liberty Church, Brooklyn, Sunday Dec 20, 2020.
Matt has been playing with the worship team:
Gingerbread Houses are not my thing. That’s what Grammy’s are for, however, since COVID is keeping us apart I figured I’d step in and give it a try. When we started, I had a bad feeling… I didn’t think they were going to hold together, but they did! They’re still going strong, except for the gumdrops on the roof. (Anna has been sneaking them!)
Horsey Kisses – I can’t even believe how cute this is! Enjoy!
Anna’s favorite toy in FAO Schwarz is a tiny piano I mention here and here. This is the toy Anna runs to every time we go to that store. I researched for a few hours, trying to decide if that toy piano was worth the price and found so many options online that I honestly got overwhelmed. Someone suggested buying a used, full-size piano so that she’d learn to play on a real one, and the rest of us could enjoy it as well. I looked for quite some time on Facebook Marketplace and found a number of them we could afford and easily transport (in the Truckster) but again, got overwhelmed and quit.
A few days ago I saw a post on our neighborhood page for a free piano and I jumped on it! We shoveled the snow out of our driveway and drove two-tenths of a mile to the next set of town houses, loaded that bad boy up, and brought it home. It fits perfectly under our bar and we have had a blast playing it. It needs tuning and has two sticky keys, but it was free!
I can’t wait to figure out what kind of piano lessons we will do. If you have suggestions, I’ll take them! Outschool? MasterClass?
Anyway, here’s our new (to us) piano!
We might have gone back to see the tree one more time… Actually, we were there to go to FAO Schwarz again, and it afforded us a really good view! We got a gift for Anna “from Madison” and when we gave it to her Anna asked, “How did Madi get to FAO Schwarz?!?” Bless.
Before heading home we ate dinner at our favorite pizza place and then walked to Macy’s on 34th St. Look how pretty the Empire State Building looks all lit up for Christmas!
The Hamricks are snow-lovers! We watched the clock on the day we were supposed to get snow and were not disappointed. Only 20 minutes after they called for it to begin, the white stuff started falling. I took a photo of the same spot every 45 minutes and I’ll spare you the slideshow that contains all of the pictures, here is a quick run-through.
We simply couldn’t wait for accumulation to get out and play so we headed out early! That evening Parker went sledding with his friends and you can see just how much snow we were getting by that point.
The next day Parker took us back to the same place he and his friends had played. If you watch to the end you can see ME sled!
And more sledding:
More snow fun:
Kids playing in the snow:
Why, yes, I can parallel park the Truckster in the snow. (But I did pass up several spots that had deep snow because, you know… rear-wheel drive.)
I was itching to see the city blanketed in snow. It was pretty magical and offered a memory I’ll treasure. Matt and I went to see the tree and the Saks Light Display before going to Central Park for a horse-drawn carriage ride. (We’re packing in a lot of the touristy things for two reasons: we still have stars in our eyes… “WE CAN’T BELIEVE WE LIVE HERE!” and because next year we are hoping the crowds are crazy and that we’ll be glad we took advantage of a sleepier NYC.)
Here is a video of the strange set-up of the tree-viewing area set up this way because of COVID.
We strolled up 5th Ave to look at the window displays:
Next Matt and I were off to Central Park.
Passing the Elf Bridge with snow!
We love snow! We love NY in the snow! We love Christmastime with snow!
Christmas Eve was extra special because we got to visit friends! Real people in real time and in their home!
To be fair, they’re in our COVID-bubble already, so we weren’t doing anything reckless. Anna goes to preschool with their daughter five days a week, so they share all the germs. What the girls bring home WE get, so we are pretty sure we were as safe as we could get!
Anyway, this was the first time our families had done anything together inside and we had a blast. The kids played together and ate cheese pizza and the moms talked for a few hours. So refreshing! So normal feeling.
That evening our family participated in the online Candlelight Service with only one minor melting-wax mishap.
Just outside of post is a neighborhood famous for its Christmas decorations: Dyker Heights. We drove around and enjoyed looking at them but to be completely honest, we kept wondering if we were in the right place. When we think of “Christmas decorations” we think of McAdenville, literally called “Christmas Town, USA.” Or we think of BLORA, in Killeen, Texas. (Do a quick google for Blora Nature in Lights… it’s a fun, 30 minute drive-through light display. Such a fun tradition!)
We got home and watched part of Polar Express and then went to bed. In previous years I could “set up” before I went to bed, but those years are long gone. If I do that, my kids, who stay up later than me, would see all their treats. So I wake up before them… not a hard thing to do with three teens and a 10-year-old who follows their sleeping habits.
Christmas morning traditions:
We read the story in Luke and then sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.
I always put wrapping paper up for them to burst through. The first thing they do is go though their stockings and then Parker doles out the gifts, which we open one at a time. The older you are, the fewer you tend to have. (Opting for one larger gift or cash itself.)
Thanks to Tracy (for the elf bag idea and German goodies) and Audrey (for the treats from Germany)! Hayden loved his Trader Joe’s Maple Syrup and Oreo flavored popcorn, which he ate while we opened gifts.
This year I videoed most of the morning on my phone and took very few photos, something I’m regretting but it is what it is. I’ll export a few frames from the videos to show some moments, but you can imagine that it was much like most years. Fun opening gifts, seeing what siblings got each other, and few surprises, since our family is not a “gifts” love-language family. Carson may be, as he had a surprise for each of his siblings… fortunately, he was also surprised by a gift he didn’t expect. There’s a funny story there: Amazon delivered something here for a previous tenant and when we called them they said we could keep the item and they’d reissue a new one to the person who actually ordered it.
Matt and I assumed it was a laptop from the brand of the item and figured that since Carson was in need of a new computer for graduation, he could have that one! WIN WIN! (He had other gifts to equal the other kids’ gifts… this was over and above… since he needed it anyway and it was free to us.) Anyway, when he opened it we were all surprised to see that it wasn’t, in fact, a computer, but a gaming screen!
A really nice, expensive, and FUN gaming screen, but still… not a computer!
We laughed so hard! And we had some ‘splainin’ to do.
Main gifts: Matt – desktop amp Jen – the two white decorations on the piano and silver earrings from Matt, Alexa (my personal assistant who hasn’t figured out how to pick Anna up from school), and the “This is Us” picture from my mom. Hayden – thermal printer for tattooing. Carson – a gamer-screen (not a laptop). Bailey – Exhale – a program for music production. Parker – LOTS of Legos. Anna – Toniebox (If you have a little one, these are amazing!!)
Below is a video of our Christmas morning. It was such a joy and we had a blast. I only regret that I didn’t make Bailey move from where he sat, because he was behind me almost the whole time!
It’s almost 11 minutes long so there will be very few of you who will even want to watch, but I want to be able to find the highlights later – and one day my kids will want to easily find them. This journal is for them as much as for me.
COVID didn’t interfere at all with our Christmas, as this is how we typically spend our Christmas. We’ve pretty much always spent our Christmas “just us,” even before we joined the Army.
We are thinking of and praying for those whose Christmases were vastly different and not by their choice.
This post was written on 1-1-2021 and is being backdated to Christmas Day, 2020.
Today was the “Dress Pick-up” day for our little ballerina.
The USOMetropolitanNY teamed with Bronxville Ballet to offer mil-kids ballet lessons over the past couple of months. Anna has LOVED these lessons and looked so adorable doing them.
I loved watching this!
Today I figured I’d stop by and grab the dress on my way home from the commissary (had to prep for the big snow storm we’re about to get!!) and when I walked in I saw none other than THE BALLET INSTRUCTOR!
I had a bit of a moment when I fan-girled, then said that I had to go get Anna. I had to let her see her teacher in person! Anna’s rest time ended early, she dressed in her ballet (play) clothes and, as we were getting in the car, Matt walked up. I told him to get in the car, that we were going on a surprise adventure.
We walked in the building (and took off Anna’s coat) and I pointed to her teacher.
You can see Anna’s posture… not quite sure she was seeing things right!
Thank you, USO Metropolitan New York and Bronxville Ballet! What a highlight during a challenging season!
This has been a full month and I’ve written a blog post about it (which is password protected, so if you want to read it, just ask and I’ll give it to you – an explanation is included in the post).
Carson got his first grown-up job here on Fort Hamilton at Burger King.
Anna is one of the students participating in the USO’s Ballet lessons offered by Bronxville Ballet! We are so very grateful for the opportunity!
I think Anna is the most beautiful ballerina I’ve ever seen.
Sometimes Anna and I need a girl date…
Of course we went to FAO Schwarz for her to window shop at her own pace and she always comes back to this piano.
Our real purpose for going to Rockefeller Plaza was to see what the tree looked like as it was being decorated. How fun to be able to take a train 20 minutes from church to see it in progress.
Ten days later Matt, Anna, and I went on a date together and saw the progress. It’s such an undertaking!
Funny story about the lighting of this tree: We are truly home now because we’ve had our regular dental appointments. Once you’ve sat in a dentist’s chair and you know you’ve found the right dental team (staff, hygienist, and dentist) you can officially call yourself home. While sitting there the team remembered that that night was the tree lighting – at 9:45. I thought to myself that this would be the year to attend if you’re like me and don’t prefer large crowds. When I brought the idea up to the family, both Hayden and Matt wanted to give it a go, while Carson, Bailey, and Parker wanted to stay home. The was fine by me, as we could put Anna down and head into the city without littles. We left around 9 and arrived to find that it was completely closed to the public!
The site I found the information on clearly stated that it was going to be open to the public starting 3 DEC but I didn’t even read that line. I assumed it’d be open, and read the details that we’d need to know about arriving. (Pretty smart methods of keeping crowds down. I’m actually impressed.)
We didn’t waste the night, though, and enjoyed the decorations and a piece of pizza at our favorite pizza place. We arrived home at midnight and I let my students sleep in! (I slept in!)
Another sign we’re officially “home” now is that I’ve rotated through all of my mugs. I know I’ve talked about this collection before but sharing it on Facebook recently brought up a few questions so I thought I’d answer them here.
I have roughly 90 and I do specifically collect the Starbucks city/country mugs. A few friends have gone to places where Starbucks stores don’t exist and brought me special non-Starbucks mugs from those locations and those are treasures, as well. I don’t have a hard rule that I have to have been to the location – I have some hardcore collector friends who only display the ones from places they’ve personally been, but the ones given to me by friends on their trips are just as special to me as the ones I pick up myself. And I remember the person as I am using the mug.
I got more use out of the mugs before COVID when we often had people over to our house. We open this cabinet and tell guests to pick a mug and it’s aways fun to hear why they picked a certain one.
I keep a list on Evernote so that I can access it wherever I am. I’ve had friends message me from wherever they are and ask, “Do you have a mug from ______?” Even if I’m not home I can check my handy-dandy app and answer them right away.
It’s that time of year again:
Merry Christmas, my friends. I have so much on my heart but I’ll have to unpack that later. For now, I pray you are heathy, safe, and blessed.
I wrote a post on my social media that I want to add here, because it is an accurate snapshot of how I feel at this moment. Anna, walking around in her footy-pajamas, hair in a big fluffy bun, playing with our advent calendar… yes, I’m beyond grateful today.
I will also be writing a few more blog posts to cover the month of November, but most will be password protected because there are some privacy concerns that I’m keeping in mind. If you know me and feel I’d be willing to give you the password, send me a PM/IM/DM or a good-old-fashioned email. I’ll respond as I have time.
(Why write and have it password protected? Because this is my family journal, documenting our family’s journey. I want these documented where I always document our story, but they’re not really stories for public consumption. So… my blog. My rules.)
For now, here is a bit of my life that I am willing to shout from the rooftops:
Another house for Christmas number 25 together. 🏘
It all started in 1995 when we were just 17… by our first Christmas together we were both 18 and were grieving the sudden loss of Matt’s father. We started a tradition then of buying an ornament each year that represents something unique about that year. We have lots of “baby” themed ornaments!
Our first several years as a married couple we had real trees, then a few weeks before he deployed to Iraq we splurged on a fake tree and we’ve been using it ever since. It sheds more than it should (seriously, I don’t know how it’s not bald) but it’s still more full than those we’ve seen in stores this year.
As I put up the extra special ornaments (in a particular order/way – kinda picky about that part) I am drawn back through the years. I know Thanksgiving is over, but I’m so thankful for this life I’ve been given. If given the chance I’d go back and do it all over again, stressors and all. Even if I had to endure the loss, debt, and deployments again, being Matt’s wife and these kids’ mamma every day has been the greatest gift someone could receive. . . . Finding where the tree will go in each new house is a challenge, especially when we already had to downsize the seating for our large family because this living room is smaller than our previous one… and maybe the love seat is in an awkward position, but it fits, the tree is up and lit, and the family is together and healthy. I know there won’t be too many more that all seven of us live under one roof and I’m soaking up the extra time, praying I love my kids well during the short years they’re living with us. . . . November has not been perfect. In fact, there have been some struggles that I won’t share publicly but I add this in here so that I can assure you that my joy is not because of an absence of pain or heartache. My joy is in spite of and through pain and heartache. My joy is not dependent on my circumstances. And in light of the pain/heartache AND happiness, I can say that November has been the best month of the year, by far. . . . This morning as I sit by the tree (in the quiet before the family wakes, listening to Christmas music, and drinking hot coffee), I am all in my feelings.