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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About Jennifer

"Yes, they're all mine." The answer to the question I hear most often.
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4 Responses to Merry Christmas! (2016)

  1. Jenny Hartsock says:

    Hi Jennifer! Although we have never met, I love reading your updates and about your family. Like you, we are also a military family stationed at Fort Hood. I learned about your Blog from Corrie Weather’s Lifegiver Podcast and I loved the info you provided about homeschool. We chose to send our kiddos to Sparta Elementary in Belton but it gave me a different perspective on homeschooling. Thank you for that. We are also a foster family, attempting to adopt a young boy from Kansas. He has been with us for 9 months and the ICPC process here in Texas is very redundant. We are learning as we go. I just wanted to say thank you for your inspirational words and for what you do for precious Anna. WE live in Belton and attend First Baptist Belton and I am hoping to have a lovely speaker come down from Fort Leavenworth, Tracy, to speak to the church here… I will keep you updated if you wish! my email: jenny.k.hartsock@me.com

    • Jennifer says:

      I am so glad you heard that podcast! I hope you couldn’t tell I was fighting a bad cold! I spoke extra sloooowly so I wouldn’t send myself into a coughing fit. At one point, Corie said, “Hey, I need to take a cough break” and I laughed because I, too, desperately needed to cough! We resumed and continued our talk and of course, she edited that out!

      ICPC is a great concept… it stinks in practice. 😦 I really look forward to meeting your little man!

      I would love to get together for coffee sometime. Thanks for stopping by the blog and please do keep me informed on that event you referred to!
      ~Jennifer

  2. Stephanie Bailey says:

    I loved getting caught up on your family. Miss you friend! Maybe after the New Year we can figure out a way to meet up?

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