When to praise the Lord for a broken arm:

…when it leads doctors to notice a tumor that needs to be removed.

This is a post I’ve hesitated to write for a variety of reasons, the first of which being that I don’t want it in writing because then becomes real.

Other reasons for the delay are homeschooling, parenting, teaching FPU, running, sleeping, etc.  Just normal life has kept me from being able to carve out the time to write this.  As it is, I have exactly 30 minutes to start/finish/edit/add photos/and publish this post… bear with me if you find typos or errors.  I’ll gladly correct them if you’ll let me know about them.

Ten days ago Matt took the bigs and two friends to Magnolia Market because it’s Magnolia Market.  Less than thirty minutes after arriving Carson, who was swinging on their massive swings, slipped and fell.

Matt called me and said that Carson had popped his shoulder out of socket and they were going to head home but only after stopping at Common Grounds for a cup of joe to-go.

Matt dropped our friends off at their home, brought Bailey back here, and then took Carson to the ER.  I was home prepping homeschool stuff (all… day… long…) and by late evening I still hadn’t run/walked/moved.  I suited up for a cold walk in the dark and soon after I left Matt called to tell me that the good news was that if Carson’s arm had been out of socket at all, it was back in… they did, however, find a fracture in his humerus.  I walked to the hospital and then walked laps in the parking lot until they were released.  Carson was given a sling, Motrin, and told to call orthopedics first thing Monday morning.

He managed quite well and has found ways to function in spite of the fracture.  (He learned that if he wanted to read he could sit in a certain way and use both arms to hold the book.  Priorities!)

Monday morning we called ortho and were told the first available appointment was Wednesday… so we waited.

Wednesday I sent Matt with Carson to find out if he’d need surgery, to have the bone set, or if we were just going to wait out the healing process.

I didn’t expect to hear the word tumor, cancer, or bone graft.

Thankfully the word cancer was accompanied by the phrase: “99% sure it’s benign.”

In super-laymen’s terms (because that’s the best I can do at this point), Carson has a tumor in his bone that caused his bone to be basically hollow, which is why it broke with such a small fall.

I leave in nine minutes to take him for his MRI.  We will take the disk with the scan’s results to a specialist (hopefully soon – we can’t make an appointment until we have the disk in hand) and he will tell us more.

So yes, I am very thankful for this broken bone.

The orthopedic doctor who saw Carson Wednesday thinks he has seen a case like this before. With that patient, they removed the tumor and replaced it with either a bone graft or bone cement.  The patient was just fine, and that orthopedic doctor has referred us to the same tumor doctor who successfully treated the other patient.  We are praying that it is, in fact, the same kind of situation.

Your prayers are very much appreciated.  We are trusting the 99% guess and feel at peace, though the words are still tough to comprehend.

Since I have only five minutes left I’m going to go back through this and find any obvious typos, add pictures, and post.
Thanks for reading and I’ll update when I know more.

~Jennifer (and family)

The swings:

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Friends posing without Carson… he wasn’t in the picture-taking mood at this point:4friends

 

 

The chauffeur:matttruck

The fracture:img_4814

The dull gray is where the tumor is in his bone… if you look at the bottom 4/5 of his arm it’s a light gray but the top fifth is darker gray.  The darker gray is the tumor.)img_4813

Our guy in a sling…c-in-sling

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Anna’s First Christmas!

Happy New Year!  2017 is going to rock… oh, wait.  My kids are calling it ‘lit.’  Not sure if that means it’s going to be ‘lit’ or if it already is. Oh well.

The new year is here and I hope to be able to write (journal) here more often.

If not, I’ll just continue popping in every few weeks with an update of what we’ve been doing.

For now I’ll just share some of our pictures from this Christmas.  ANNA’S FIRST CHRISTMAS as well as a few sweet stories of the bigs!!

The kids’ big Christmas was placed by their stockings this year.  _jen1186Anna was gifted this beautiful drum set.

You read that right.  See the metal pots and pans in the oven?  Those are cymbals and they are best utilized when banging together or on the kitchen’s tile floor.  As she ages we assume this drum set will convert into a mini-kitchen set.

 

I made a book for Anna that she can hold, all her own.  It tells the story of her adoption in pictures.  (Modeled after Jamie Lee Curtis’ book, “Tell Me Again About The Night I Was Born.”)

Anna loves this little “Violet” dog that says her name.  🙂 _jen1366

Hayden was given an Eno – a hammock that can attach to posts, trees, poles, and he’s already gotten hours of relaxing-time in.  He’s in it in the picture below. img_3733

 

The other three boys were given iPods to replace those we gave them in 2012.

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Bailey surprised Parker with two “rare” Tsum-Tsums that Parker had been looking for forever.  This was one of the sweetest moments of the day.

Most of our morning was spent just together, not taking pictures so these are the best we got.  Parent-gifts were fun but not really picture worthy, or at least, we didn’t take pictures of them on Christmas.  Matt got a nice Invicta watch and I got two cool toys:  An Instant Pot and a personal assistant:  Alexa.  Dude… she makes my life so much easier!  Parker added a Lumière to my Beauty and the Beast Tsum-Tsum collection which Bailey started for me.  I now have: Belle, Beast, Mrs. Pots, and Lumière.

Here is a short overview of our entire Christmas season:

All the grandparents were able to visit.

This is how you decorate for Christmas when you have an 11 month old.img_3424

I got to enjoy one of these yummy treats as we farewelled some of our best friends.  They’re off on new adventures all over the world.  You guys are missed so much! img_0002

Matt and I attended the K-LOVE Christmas concert in San Antonio and Matt got to say hello to Mac Powell… reunited after their last introductions in Iraq.img_3569

Our Annual drive through Blora’s Nature in Lights… this time Matt’s lap was EXTRA full!

We attended the Nutcracker again and enjoyed watching Sarah and Hannah!  img_3468Carson was a stage hand for three performances… Hayden for two.  He was in the audience for one. (Yes, he’s wearing a hand-made wooden bow-tie.)img_3571

15+ years.  I’ve waited 15+ years to have a little girl to dress up!  We adore this Christmas dress as it was originally Miss Kayla’s!

Christmas Eve Service.  (She’s not quiet in church, in case you’re wondering.)  This dress was sent to us from friends we met in Germany.  It got so many compliments. Those feet. I have a little girl who wears tights and patent leather shoes!  AHH!!

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These are our special ornaments from this year.  The top is our official Christmas 2016 ornament. Each of the kids has a framed photo of themselves as our official ornament for their first Christmases.

This post was very much about the events of our Christmas season.  I didn’t write much about the people because the post is already a bit long, but we are so in love with our people.  Our sons are growing into fine young men, with three showing real maturity and high character.  They have chosen amazing friends to spend their free time with… friends I am happy to share my kids with.  We have one who is at an age that we absolutely love and he brings joy to our hearts in these same way he did when he was a little one.  He has a special personality and we are so thankful he’s ours.  And this girl… she has us wrapped around her little finger, rotten in all the best ways.  She makes us smile and she makes us contemplate how to be the best parents for her we can be.  We don’t love her because she’s a girl.  We love her because she’s our child.  But after four boys and the type of fun they bring, we are thrilled to be able to see what the other side of the parenting journey looks like.  It’s full of pink, shiny, bows, dresses, and babies.  We are loving the adventure of raising teens, a fun and chill elementary kid, and a precious baby.  The window is closing on having all of them at home.. we have two more years.  This fact is not lost on me this year and I am treasuring every single moment.

2017 is going to be amazing.

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Merry Christmas! (2016)

It’s cold outside.  No!  REALLY!  It’s 37* IN TEXAS!

I’m in heaven!  The Christmas lights are on, the house is quiet and all is right in the world. At least, in our world.

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A year ago at this time we were anxiously awaiting our daughter.  Anxious both for her health, as we were for each of our babies, and anxious, too, because we were still not 100% sure she would be ours.  We wanted nothing more than for Mama to make the right choice for her and her daughter and yet, we equally wanted that decision to be that we were going to get to raise Anna.

This year there is no anxiety.  This year there is only joy and wonder.  We have a good relationship with Mama and communicate with her often.  She let me know that she’s very happy with her decision and even said to me in person that she couldn’t have picked a better family for Anna.  I simply couldn’t ask for more!

Because Christmas cards have just gone out and some of you may be stopping by to see what’s gone on in the past year I’ll give a brief update on each of us below.  I want to start by saying we give all the glory to God for the things He has done.  We don’t deserve the blessings we have been given and we know that some years are years of sorrow and others are years of joy.  We’ve had both and we praised God in the midst of both.  This year just happens to be one of joy and we want to make sure that we give credit to our Lord.

Now, with that said, here’s what 2016 encompassed:

Matt:
Matt exited “normal Army” and entered the world of “ACS.”  Advance Civilian School.  Basically, he’s still active duty, we still live on post, nothing much has changed for us except that Matt wears “civies” and goes to school instead of going to a unit/brigade.  He’s being trained to be a Family Life Chaplain and in the process he will receive a second Master’s Degree.  He spends 7-10 hours a week counseling soldiers and family members, several hours in classes, and several more hours studying and writing papers.  It’s a full schedule, for sure, but he’s learning a lot.  Our next duty station will be his “utilization tour” during which he will utilize the degree the Army is currently paying for.

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Friends told us that every daddy should have a daughter.  I must say, it’s a beautiful thing to watch Matt and his little girl.  I am so glad that we are blessed with THIS girl… the wait was worth it!

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Matt and I are leading Financial Peace University on Thursday evenings.  We’ve done about 14 classes (some simultaneously) here at Fort Hood and we are so excited for the lives changed.

Jennifer
No joke… this has been my most challenging year as a homeschooling mom.  The ‘mommying’ part hasn’t been so hard… it’s the part where I have to balance the school work for all these kids.  We have a high schooler, two middle schoolers, one 1st grader who learned to read, and an infant.  I totally expected my teaching job to be almost done by the time they entered high school, for them to be totally self-sufficient, but there are many things I still have to do.  I need to figure out a way to streamline this part of my life.

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I’ve stepped out of PWOC completely and, while I miss it dreadfully, it was the perfect choice for this season.

We participated in two co-ops this semester, one of which we quit early (best decision, no regrets) and the other has been a blessing in multiple ways.  I just attended the planning meeting for the upcoming semester.

I’ve joined the Instant Pot culture!  Wow!  Fun and a bit overwhelming!  In addition to the IP culture, we’ve joined the Amazon Echo (AKA: Alexa) culture.  She’s a hoot!

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Hayden
This child of mine is blowing my socks off.  He’s much taller than I am and so much fun to hang out with.  He has a fantastic group of friends here at Fort Hood, friends I do hope will be life-long friends.  He got his permit in May and is a good driver.  I believe he’ll be ready for his license when he turns 16.  He’s an amazing big brother and adores his baby sister (you’ll hear that statement a few more times if you keep reading).

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He and his brothers are still close and mostly enjoy spending time together.  School is going well, even though it’s quite challenging. He loves music.  LOVES. MUSIC.  Spotify Premium has been a huge blessing in his life!  (This is making his father very happy… justifies the monthly fee since there are so many people who want to use it.)  I think daily of the fact that we only have two more school years with Hayden before he graduates.  I can honestly say that I believe he’ll be absolutely ready to enter adulthood when the time comes.

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Carson
Carson is the most helpful person I know.  There are times he sees that I need something done and he will do it for me without me even asking.  He is the best baker in the house and I love his treats.  He is still our most avid reader and Carson really retains what he reads.  Our curriculum focuses on learning through great literature and Carson soaks the information up like a sponge.  Carson is in his last year of middle school… I can’t believe I just wrote that… I’ll have two in high school in the fall!  He’s ready.  I think the mistakes I made in Hayden’s middle school years have taught me what to/not to do, and the rest of the kids will benefit.  (Isn’t that always the case?  We learn from our mistakes we made when raising/teaching the first kid!)

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Carson has taken an interest in drumming and enjoys his lessons.  Before long he will be able to join the worship team at youth.  He’s great with Anna and absolutely adores her.  He’s the best diaper changer we have and he’s absolutely willing to do anything she needs him to do.

 

Bailey
7th grade.  Bailey is halfway through his middle school career and doing very well.  This year marks a life-changing year for Bailey.  He was identified as dyslexic in June, and even still, is right on grade level in all areas.  I believe the main reason he has not fallen behind is because we’ve allowed him to learn at his own pace.  Homeschooling for the win! And a big thanks to TJ for introducing us to the All About Learning curriculum.  The therapist who assessed him looked over the scope and sequence and found that it was a high quality program.  She believes it’s the main reason he’s on target for his grade.  The modifications we are now allowed to use are making life so much easier for Bailey – we are able to assess what he knows, what he comprehends, not just what he’s able to convey through writing.  (I’m sure I owe this topic an entire series of blog posts but as you can imagine, blog-time is limited these days.)

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Bailey and Parker are especially close and Parker misses Bailey anytime his big brother goes somewhere without him.   Bailey adores his baby sister and can hardly stand her cries.  His favorite thing to do is play his ukulele for her.  She adores listening to any kind of music: drums, guitar, ukulele…

Oh, and Bailey is taking drum lessons along with Carson.  Bailey, and Hayden, too, are teaching themselves to play the ukulele.

Parker
This kid learned to read this year!  We started a few times in the past and let the idea go when he showed no interest.  This time it stuck!  We used “How to Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” I taught 99 lessons and on the day of the 100th, we had dentist appointments.  While I was running back and forth between different dental rooms, Carson taught the 100th Lesson.  Bitter sweet!  More sweet than bitter, though. 🙂

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1st grade has been a breeze for Parker – which is good, as I’ve been split between the high schooler, spending extra time with Bailey, and taking care of Anna.

Parker has grown into a fun young man and has made some great friends in the neighborhood.  One of those precious friends is packing to move at this exact moment so I suspect next week will be difficult.  Anytime you think about it, please pray for our military kids.  They say good-bye to more close friends in their childhood than most people do in their entire lives.  I ache at the very thought…

Anna
Anna has had a big year, too!  She was born!  That’s a big deal!  She has traveled across the country and back three times.  Once when we moved here and twice to go see Mama Kim.  She is developing right on target in most areas and ahead of schedule in some.  She is a joy to all who see her and still stops people in their tracks any time we’re out and about.  She literally draws attention to herself with those big, brown eyes, curly hair, and welcoming smile.  She blows kisses, signs please, all done, and out.  She has switched from ‘dada’ to “daddy” and it melts our hearts!

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She enjoys eating just about anything… I haven’t found a food she won’t eat. She sleeps well and is still a passy baby.

Anna attended her first tea party this year.

She adores her big brothers!  She’s the center of our world and we are beyond overjoyed that she’s a part of our family.

First day of school:

Next year
2017 will bring big changes for our family.  We expect to move in December to the place the Army deems best for Matt to utilize his degree.  We have a big trip planned to NC in April to meet our newest nephew/cousin (Matt’s brother, Brad and his wife, Erin, are expecting their first little one).  While there we plan to spend a few days in SC visiting with all our beloved Army families who will be there for C4.  Not exactly sure when but Anna and I will go to Virginia again to see Mama Kim.  Open adoption has proven to be so very special and I highly encourage anyone who has the option to utilize it.  Remember, open adoption can vary quite a bit from family to family.  Ours happens to mean visits as often as possible… I wish we could get there more often than we can.  Texas is a long way from Virginia.

 

If you have read this far, you should get some sort of prize!

Merry Christmas, friends and family, and friends who are family.  I’ll write as many blog posts in 2017 as my life allows.  I don’t feel guilty when I neglect it but I do want to journal as many fun moments as I can… they’re going by all too fast.

 

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Posted in family | 4 Comments

Just a Hamrick Family Update…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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


Anna’s first time down the slide.

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Mommy’s sunshine.img_1365

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

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

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

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The banner says “Anna.”  

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The rain kept our party indoors – close quarters!

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

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

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

August 18th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Embers.

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

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

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

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

November 2015:

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

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

January 2016:
The Hamricks gained a Princess.

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

February:
Normal life!  Our new normal, anyway!

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

 

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

Her foot was still too small for the newborn shoes!

 

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

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

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Our bigs got braces!
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April:

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

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

Our little princess adored being swaddled…

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

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

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

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

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

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

May:
The brothers simply adore their sister!

Smiling pretty!

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

 

Hayden got his Driver’s Permit!

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

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

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

First Independence Day:

Box Day!  This will need its own post!!

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chalk Ridge Falls:

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

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And Hayden helped me with this one:

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Review of Circle, by Disney

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

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

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

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

It was best because:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below are pictures of our last days in Virginia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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COUSINS!!

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Granny and Grandaddy.

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Putting Anna to sleep in the family cradle.

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

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Matt’s Grandma MollieIMG_3720

Uncle Brad and Aunt Erin.

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Steve, Antonia, and Brooke…

The Ramsey Family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

Going to Court – Joy and Sadness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 5:1-5.

 

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