Hayden’s 18! (short version)

Hayden was welcomed into the world by these three amazing grandparents and one waiting for him in eternity.
It just so happens that Hayden enters adulthood with Grammy here in Germany with him. Nana and Papa have a trip on the books so we’ll celebrate all the things with them, later.
For now, I just want to say that raising this young man has been everything I ever dreamed of. I have wanted to be a mom since I knew what a mom was (I had a pretty darn good example). He made mommy-ing look easy, made it a joy, and is truly one of my favorite people on the entire planet.
Hayden, may your day be special, even though we’re kinda-sorta celebrating next week instead of today.
Remember no matter if you’re 8 days, 8 years, 18, 38, or 68, I’ll always be your mama and you’ll always be my baby. No matter what you do, I’ll love you. You can’t earn it and you can’t lose it. It’s just THERE. (But still, no face tats, k?)


Hayden at three days old, just home from the hospital.

The most current photo I have of you… it’s like 90% of the other photos I have of you… with Anna. 🙂 And that’s just another thing I love about you… your love for your sister (and brothers, but in a totally different way!).
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Open-air elevator, Stuttgart {Paternoster}

I’m not going to go into detail about the history and definition of this super-cool elevator, but you can go to this website to get more details.

As guests of Stuttgart it is our duty to go to the Rathaus (city hall) and give this thing a spin!



A video of the paternoster running:

A video of our family taking a ride:

And a video of what it looks like from the inside:



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Swiss Army Knife Museum ~ Victorinox

Switzerland has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. I had a hard time paring down the photos to share.

There aren’t a ton of words for this trip other than fast, wonderful, and pleasant. It was the Truckster’s first official family trip! We have had several trips but due to various things (stomach bugs, work schedules, etc.) not everyone was able to go on those trips.

This trip to Brunnen, Switzerland was great! It was a there-and-back with a night in a hostel so that we didn’t have to do all the driving on one day. I picked a hostel that had gorgeous views in case Anna and I decided to stay there during the time the men were at the knife museum.

We arrived in the evening and had the most warm welcome… Hostel Rotschuo is right on the water and the hostess took to Anna immediately. She even took Anna over the counter to see what it was like to work in the office.  The kids liked the place enough to want to come back in the summer when the water is warm enough to swim in. We slept well, had the place to ourselves (only one other couple was there), and the breakfast was wonderful.

When it came time to go to the knife museum for the men to make their own, personalized Swiss Army Knives, Anna and I tagged along, knowing that we had a fun place to return to if we got bored. The museum was three levels and had plenty to keep us entertained with minimal toddler-wrangling.

The experience was one I highly recommend: special and unique.

I apologize for the quantity of photos… there were so many good ones and in only a short, 24 hour trip!

I’m going to post some of these as slideshows to save on space.

The first set of photos show what we saw when we arrived in Brunnen the night before our museum appointment.

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Before the family woke up I snuck into the breakfast area to get some “Cultivate” time in.


The breakfast room… it was 500 YEARS OLD, people!!!

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Leaving the hostel for our adventure at the Swiss Army Museum. What. a. view.IMG_6625

Around Brunnen…

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Video of Bailey’s name being engraved:

Swiss Army Knife engraving from jennifer Hamrick on Vimeo.




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Easter Preparations: 2019

I’ve never been one to do a lot to prepare for Easter but this year, Bailey and I are reading a book that has given me a view of Jesus that I haven’t seen before. Being raised in a Christian home and having spent almost every Sunday of my life in church, the stories and traditions can become so familiar that I don’t even see them. Please don’t misunderstand me. They never lose their potency or their value, but I can lose the ability to appreciate these things with familiarity. Do you know what I’m talking about?

You know how if you see your child every single day you don’t quite notice their growth on a regular basis? If you force yourself to stop and think you recognize that just a few months ago they weren’t quite at your eye level and now they’re taller than you. You might not notice their growth daily, but when you have them put on a pair of shoes that fit last week that suddenly won’t even come close to going on, their growth is quite evident. {And don’t even get me started at what it does to your heart when you spend a few hours preparing a graduation slideshow, traveling back in time 17+ years… it is at that point that a child’s growth simultaneously thrills your soul and breaks your heart.}

My relationship with Jesus can be that way. Just as I am intimately involved in the lives of each of my children, and I DO focus on the quality and quantity of time I spend with them as individuals, days and weeks go by when I don’t notice certain things about them.

I spend time with Jesus and I love Him more today than I did when I accepted him as my Lord at eight years old, but sometimes His life story can feel just like that: a story. And then I run across something that makes me pause and really think on an aspect of it and in a very specific way. Philip Yancey’s book The Jesus I Never Knew has given me the chance to do that over and over again.


Quick side-note that actually does have something to do with all of this. I love words and the way God speaks to me the most clearly is through words. We just so happened to settle on Sonlight (a literature- rather than textbook-based curriculum) for our high school years, a fact that, in retrospect, makes perfect sense with who I am as an educator and who my students are, as lovers-of-books and stories.  One of the most amazing things we’ve witnessed using this curriculum is how God lines up what He wants us to read and when. Sure, there was logical thought put into the timing and pacing of the lesson plans but no one at Sonlight could have known that we were going to spread Core 200 out over two years and no one could have predicted how long each book would take for me to read to my profoundly dyslexic student… landing us at the passion week in Philip Yancey’s book just a couple of weeks before Easter. It was all in His timing: how long we spent with each book that came before this one and which ones we skipped to end up at this point in time in this particular book.  So, with that said, my side-note leads me to share with you just where we are and what I liked so much about what Mr. Yancey said…

From the Gospels I also learned that, unlike my church, the biblical record slows down rather than speeds up when it gets to the Holy Week. The Gospels, said one early Christian commentator, are chronicles of Jesus’ final week with increasingly longer introductions.

Of the biographies I have read, few devote more than ten percent of their pages to the subject’s death – including the biographies of men like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, who died violent and politically significant deaths. The Gospels, though, devote nearly a third of their length to the climactic last week of Jesus’ life. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John saw death as the central mystery of Jesus. (p. 187)

This was eye-opening for me! I grew up spending much more time per year studying the rest of Jesus life… in fact, I can assure you that of all the hours spent studying Jesus and his life, not even close to 1/3 of those hours were devoted to the Holy Week.

So I decided to slow things down, as well. Rather than read this chapter to Bailey at our normal pace I decided to read each section aloud in the mornings during our read-aloud time, even if it meant we missed reading some of the book we’ve been reading for a few weeks.

On page 188 Mr. Yancey mentions a few different ways he’s spent time in the Word reading through the Holy Week. One seemed just right for this year. The first section of the Holy Week is the “Triumphal Entry.” I read Mr. Yancey’s thoughts on that to the boys and then I read that section aloud from each of the four Gospels. The next day I did the same thing with the Last Supper. It has been my favorite Easter season yet. Today we read through the actual death, burial, and resurrection but we didn’t have time to do all four gospels, just Matthew’s. I believe next week we’ll do each account, one day at a time. Who says we have to have finished reading about Easter before Easter!?!?

So, those are just a few thoughts on my mind about the Reason for the season and below are some of the ways we’ve marked this season in our minds with traditional activities. While I love Christmas so much, I am keenly aware that there is no need for Christmas if we don’t have an Easter. In fact, had Jesus decided to call on angels to rescue Him or had He not been willing to go along with this Plan of redemption, His birth would not have made such an impact. (Not to get into deep theology but Philip Yancey’s take on it would be that had Jesus called down help from heaven and not endured the cross, the end of the world as we know it would have taken place at that point. Heaven would have come down… the “kingdom would descend like a hailstorm” (p. 196). Quite interesting to consider.)

Anyway, I have loved Easter pictures for a long time. Here’s a throwback to 2003 for proof (which happens to be handy because I’ve been preparing Hayden’s graduation slideshow).For Hayden's Graduation Slideshow

Our pictures look a little frillier now!


And because we’re not near our Grammy, I’ve had to step in and do the egg-dying. So, here’s proof that I’ve done my crafty thing for the year.


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Bailey is 15!

Bailey turned fifteen a few weeks ago (March 18) but we celebrated his birthday on the 31st (one family was out of town on his actual birthday weekend, we were out of town the next). He wanted to just hang out, and so that’s what we did. After church we ate lunch at the food court and then came here. The weather was nice so they spent a few hours outside playing a game whose name I do not know, but I think it’s sort of like 4-square.

I love the kids my boys have become friends with and absolutely love having them over. We had pizza for dinner, they rented a movie, and for dessert, Bailey’s request was Grammy’s Heath Bar Delight.

IMG_6723Bailey’s skill on the guitar has grown tremendously in the last year. In fact, sometimes I can’t tell if it’s him playing or Matt! He’s got a good ear and when he has a song he wants to learn, he finds YouTube videos that highlight certain parts. I’m incredibly proud of his dedication to this hobby.

He’s finishing up the 9th grade and we have really dug into Church History this year. Some of the material has been powerful, even for me, and I have thoroughly loved this year’s Sonlight Core (200). We’ve had lots of great discussions over very difficult topics and watching Bailey grow in this way has made me so thankful we have homeschooled throughout. He’s got such a sharp mind and I believe he will use it for good things in his adult life.

Our teen are now 17, 16, and 15. Just a fun little fact. Matt’s birthday was April 1st, Hayden’s is in less than a month and then we get a six-month break from all things birthday!!





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Motherhood Musing: Parker 2 years 4 months

I want to remember all the things. I don’t know if this series will be called Motherhood Musings indefinitely or if I’ll come up with something less wordy, but for now, this is what I’m doing. I’m musing over my years as a mother. I want to spend time with the old videos we have and share them for my own sake, but also for the kids for their own memories.

Yesterday Parker found and plugged in the iPhone I had back when we lived in Germany in 2009-2012. It took a few hours to power up (literally) and when it did he found a treasure trove of old videos from when all the boys were little.

Those videos are treasures, and I knew that long ago. Before I gave that old phone to one of the boys to use as an iPod I had transferred the videos to an external hard drive and during the afternoon of Parker’s ninth birthday I watched a few of the videos. I found a few that melted my heart: the eyes on that little Parker-man! the little tiny voice…

So, I’m sharing a few for you to enjoy. Note: the vast majority of people who visit this site will have no need to watch! You’ll be bored, and that’s fine. I watched this and ate up every second, every turn of Parker’s head, every lifted eyebrow, every mispronounced word.

Nana, Parker does mention you at around the 4:30 mark.

Aimee, Cory, and Miss Kayla, you are also mentioned shortly after that. (Feel free to skip to that point! Or maybe this will help you spend 11 minutes of your freezing-cold, blizzardy spring break!)

This first video is 11 minutes 30 seconds long. The second is shorter, and was the video Parker found on the old iPhone that sparked my afternoon of musing.




Posted in brothers/boys, family, friends, germany, Motherhood Musing, parker, Probably only interesting to the boys' grandparents. | 1 Comment

Parker is 9!

Our fourth son is nine years old today! We have treasured every single one of his days and are so thankful he is in our family.

Parker has the blessing and the challenge of being raised with three teenage brothers. This means sometimes he knocks our socks off with the maturity and depth of what he is thinking and saying… other times he sounds like a teenager and has to be reminded that he’s 9, not 19.  He’s the king of brutally-honest compliments:  “Mom, so, this isn’t my favorite meal, but it’s not horrible.” We sometimes have to remind him that maybe no complement is better than a halfway-negative compliment. All joking aside, he really does speak like a person much older than he is, adding to the old-soul personality he’s always had. I believe he will be a great writer one day.

I love to watch him grow in his relationships with each of his siblings. He is currently rooming with Hayden and they are good together – but he recently said he misses rooming with Bailey and the closer relationship they had when they were roommates. He’s good with Anna, though he’s mastered the big-brother irritation that can evoke an ear-splitting squeal that indicates her displeasure with whatever he’s doing.

Parker has rocked this year of third grade. He just finished Teaching Textbooks 3 and started 4 today. He’s reading chapter books on his own and just today finished the classic,  “Ralph S. Mouse” and got to watch the movie during school hours with his friends, Fin and Charleston! What a cool benefit of homeschooling! He has written several stories this year, using All Things Fun and Fascinating by IEW.

Parker’s faith is growing, as well. Lately he’s been reading a Psalm with us each night and praying. He’s been intentionally trying to trust the Lord when he’s afraid or anxious. It’s a precious thing to witness.

Typically Parker and Bailey celebrate their birthdays together but this year each decided on a friends-only birthday. (They decided this independent of one another! I have been dreading the day when one wanted that but the other still wanted a joint party! God orchestrated it so that this was the year that both wanted separate parties!)

Parker decided to go to Kibungu and we are SO HAPPY to have the Truckster. It allowed me to take Parker, his five friends, and Carson and Bailey to the indoor play place. Oh, and yes… I said Bailey and Carson. The night before Parker’s party he asked me if he could also bring his big brothers. Bless! Of course I said yes, though Hayden and Matt had other errands to attend to. Our Truckster made taking along those two brothers possible.


Kibungu is a huge place and these kids were all over it! I didn’t even get to go around to take pictures of them! Just check it out in the background of the pictures. There is an indoor soccer field, several trampolines, a mountain to climb, go carts, golf, and more. Basically, a good place to wear out a bunch of boys.


Parker’s big present this year was the trip to Kibungu and the skateboard he’s wanted for about six months.


His party theme was “Super Hero” and his cake was pretty awesome. Everything was edible except for the stick inside Thor’s hammer.

And because everyone needs to see how cool this trick is:

Happy Birthday, handsome Parker! We absolutely love being your parents!


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If you can’t handle cuteness, you should definitely not read this post. I just returned to reality to the tune of Team Umizoomi (if you’re blessing my heart, thanks! I need it) after a trip down memory lane.

We started a tradition when Hayden turned three… we took him to Build-a-Bear where he picked a horse and dressed it in a basketball outfit. He named him “Horsey.” And since that time, each of our kids, at age three, have built some type of buddy.

I can’t tell you about those memories without showing you. Oh, be still my heart, and be still, time…



Such a timid little guy.


“Washing” Horsey.






Left to right: Hayden, Carson, Bailey.


Left to right: Carson, Bailey, Hayden


That smile!!



Those eyes…


He took the task of loving on the heart seriously.


All six of us in the shot.

And Anna:

This location is a four-story toy store with a corner dedicated to Build-a-Bear. It took a while for the store to find an employee trained in the Build-a-Bear tradition and who felt comfortable enough speaking English but when they did, they found a great one! She was wonderful with Anna.


Dad and all the brothers watching.


Filling her bear with fluff.


Loving on the heart.

Before we left she one of the Disney Princess dresses. She couldn’t think of a name so we decided on the name of the character whose dress she picked: Clara from the Nutcracker.

Just a few minutes ago I went in to wake Anna and she had Clara in her arms and told me of her dream: that someone was coming in to help her fix Clara’s tutu. Apparently the fact that Clara’s dress was messed up made its way into Anna’s dreams… I fixed the tutu for Anna and she smiled and hugged Clara.

Five precious babies. Five build-a-buddies. We are blessed beyond measure.

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Snow Days! {Feb 2019}

Snow is magical. I love snow. My husband and kids also love snow. While we haven’t had a ton of the white stuff, we have had a enough to play in.

One day I left for a walk with sun shining on the snow beautifully. So beautifully that I stopped and took pictures of a few things on the way out:

Look at the heavy snow on the trees! Look at the blue sky!


And no joke: thirty minutes later I was stuck in a blizzard of hail and snow. I actually stopped a few minutes after the photo above and just watched the clouds roll in. Light snow started falling and I just smiled… and then the hail started and I shortened my walk, going straight back home instead of the long way!!IMG_5802IMG_5803

I’ve been around snow a lot, but the snow that fell on the fourth of January was unlike any I’ve ever seen before. For the first time in my life I saw snow pack… I made a snowball that, when rolled, actually grew.  The term “debt snowball” took on a new meaning to me watching the snowball I made in my two hands grow as Anna and I rolled it on the ground.

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{If you see an error or a large white space below this slideshow, it’s because there is an issue with Vimeo right now. Eventually there will be a video montage below.}


All of our kids had fun in the snow but I only have pictures of Anna. The bigs were all off building a fort with a slide while I followed Anna around. 🙂

I’ve been asking my teens to send pics but they’re slow at it, so their pictures will be added at a later date.

I don’t know where the delicacy snow cream originated, but I do know that I learned how to make it from my dad. He passed down his sweet tooth and so when enough snow falls, I feel the excitement of making this treat for my kids. We actually had enough to supply my family AND the movie night being hosted for a few group of kids upstairs!


This photo makes me laugh… We set a bowl out in hopes that it’d fill up enough to make snow cream. I ended up taking my Instant Pot pot out, filling it up, along with two of these large bowls. We had plenty of snow for our treats. 🙂

Another day we went for our annual well visits, entering with blue skies and upon exit, the largest flakes we’ve ever seen were falling from the sky. Photos simply can’t do them justice. IMG_5851Going for groceries with Daddy!img_5826.jpegThe Truckster enjoying the snow. IMG_5804There were some nights that I wanted to get my walk in and so Anna and I went, in snowsuits and boots, along the frozen paths. Gorgeous.

We really are praying for more snow before the beautiful German spring arrives.

{I wrote this post while on my amazing holiday away at the hotel by myself, and now that February is almost over, I figured I’d better post it. I just asked Siri… it’s 60 degrees outside. It’s been absolutely gorgeous around here and kids have been playing in shorts and tees. I stick by my last statement… I would love one more big snow before the spring comes to stay but I will admit, this taste of it has done a good job at getting me in the mood for spring.}

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Carson is 16!

16 in the US is a pretty big deal for a kid. It can mean freedom in the form of a driver’s license, but for military kids overseas it may feel like just another birthday. Carson turned 16 in February and it brought no new freedoms behind the wheel of a car. I do hate that for my two teens who will celebrate that big milestone here in Germany, but they get to experience other pretty cool things that kids who don’t live overseas can’t do.

Like go to a concert in Köln with your brothers.

Of our teens, Carson likes concerts the least. Weeks before Carson’s birthday Hayden mentioned a concert he wanted to go to in Köln but because he and Matt had so many on the calendar, we said no. At one point, Bailey also asked if we could make that concert happen but again, we said no, partly because it was on a Thursday night and Matt has a job. When in January, out of the blue, Carson asked Matt about that same concert and Matt said no, for the third time, I got an idea. If this was something Carson wanted to do, maybe I could be the parent to take him and his brothers… Matt didn’t have any problem with that plan so I snuck and asked Hayden if that would be something Carson would like for his birthday. He then told me that that group, Bad Suns, is Carson’s favorite, and his bio on Instagram is their lyrics.

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That sealed it for me. This was something fun and unique we could give Carson for his 16th birthday. For Hayden’s 16th, Matt and Hayden took a trip to see John Mayer. Carson decided that a trip to Normandy would be more up his alley so we had already discussed that his “real” 16th birthday gift would be a trip to Normandy once the weather is nicer, so he still has that to look forward to.

We also had a party for him for his friends on his actual birthday, which landed on a Sunday. He chose bowling, dinner at the food court, and then back to our house to hang out. He requested no cake, which hurts my heart a little because I love cake but it was his birthday, so that’s what we did. And also, in keeping with Carson’s personality, I only took  one picture and I snuck it… and one of the kids wasn’t even in it so I won’t post it. I really did try to make this a good birthday for Carson, even though Carson didn’t get to get a driver’s license.

But back to the concert:

The concert being on a work night meant I couldn’t leave Anna and Parker behind, so we loaded the Family Truckster and set off for Köln. The intent was to go straight to the apartment and get settled, then for me to show them the train stop nearest our apartment that they’d get off after the concert. I was planning on also showing them the train stop nearest the concert venue that they’d use to get on after the concert, but as the day went on we realized that wasn’t going to happen. We got there in time for me to drop them off at the door of the venue and drive off. I left my three teens in a foreign city to fend for themselves, and to get themselves to an apartment they’d never been to before.

These teens are amazing!

The concert was great and afterward they found the nearest train station, took the correct train the right direction, got off at the stop nearest the apartment where I was snuggled up with the littles…

(The above photos are Hayden’s.)

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Photo cred: Carson (at least I got it from his Instagram)

About the adventure the littles and I had: Once we dropped the bigs off we drove straight to the apartment only to find that while I had been in transit, the hostess had texted me to say she was heading to night class and would be leaving the key with her sister. So we turned around, drove 10 minutes to get the key, then drove the 10 minutes back to the apartment. We were pretty tired by this point.

Parker and I unloaded all the stuff for the night, using the Germany-wide symbol for, “I know this car is illegally parked and YOU know this car is illegally parked but we’re going to ignore that fact while I unload all the things and then I’ll move:” I put on my flashers. 

In order to safely get everything upstairs I put Anna on my back in the Ergo, and made two trips up the stairs with luggage for all six of us, plus a bag of groceries because I knew those boys were going to be hungry once they got back to the apartment.

Oh, and as far as the Truckster goes… what a nice treat to have so much space to stretch out in for the drive. There was a slight problem (which I discovered before we left but after I had booked the apartment): street parking is a major problem in Köln as in any downtown area*. Our hosts were kind enough to locate a parking garage nearby that was big enough for our vehicle and just a 10 minute commute from there to the apartment. Once we got the Truckster settled for the night, Parker, Anna, and I got on the train and headed back to the apartment to CHILL!

The next morning Bailey and I took the train together to get the Truckster, put on the flashers, loaded the car, and off we headed for home.

Matt and I are excited to watch Carson continue to mature, to start to really think about what he wants to do with his life, and how he plans to pay for college. We are so honored to be Carson’s parents. Maybe turning 16 is anticlimactic for a teen living overseas but for his parents, it was a big deal and we only hope that he knows just how much we love him.

PS: I even picked the apartment based on this Photo: Carson used to love Star Wars!

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*Truckser details:
I learned a trick about picking apartments in/near cities. If I’m going to have to park it 10 minutes away from an apartment in the city, why not just pick an apartment 10 minutes outside of the city that has plenty of street parking?!? It would have been even more convenient as the trains do go outside of the city. I checked the transit maps and realized that we could have picked an apartment a 10 minute ride outside of the city (making no difference to the teens who were riding the train home that night) but I could have parked just outside the apartment, rather than having to also take a train after parking it.

You live and learn! (And yes, the extra room does make it worth it!)

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