Playing Dress-up

During my first pregnancy we were not sure of the baby’s gender.  Not because we were cool enough to want to be surprised but because the baby would NOT cooperate during the ultrasound.  We couldn’t afford a second one so we waited until “it” was born.  However, I just had a feeling it was a girl and the first words I said when our midwife said, “It’s a boy” was, “It IS?!?”  And then, of course, I was as happy as I could be and have loved being a boy-mom to all four of our sons.  I always hoped we’d have a girl but not instead of any of these boys.  Boys are awesome.  (Smelly, but awesome.)

So when we found out Anna was going to be a girl (early on, but after we had decided we were “in” no matter what the gender of the child), I was ecstatic.  All the things that I’d dreamed of doing with a daughter were going to come true.  Dresses and bows, pink things, baby dolls, mani/pedis, a wedding, and the special mother-daughter relationship I share with my own mom.  (Somehow I don’t see my sons sitting in nail salons with me getting our toes done.  What I can see, and enjoy very much, is sitting in a coffee shop or book store with them.  That’s our kind of fun.)

This post is a flashback of the past almost-15 months of playing dress-up with our little girl.

Some pictures have probably been featured on the blog before, but some are probably new.  Some of you will recognize outfits that were on loan to us or gifts.  Those are all the more special.

Enjoy!  (I certainly enjoyed going back through all the pictures!)

(ALSO:  I would like to know which way you prefer to view the pictures.  In slideshows, in collages, or independently. I’ve included a poll for those who are willing to vote.  It’s only one question. Take survey here.)

This purple outfit was the one Mama K brought to the hospital and put Anna in… it is the most special outfit we have.

 

Court date outfit and the outfit she wore when she met the NC Family.

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See the pink onesie peeking out of the blanket?  This was the onesie I bought in August of 2015, just after we decided it was time to start the adoption process. It hung in our laundry room for months, even after we decided we weren’t going to be able to pursue the normal method of adoption.  It was a daily bitter-sweet reminder of what we longed for but weren’t sure we’d ever get to enjoy. Anna wore this on the ride home from Virginia and in the picture below we were sitting in the rocking chair in her room for the very first time.  (She is also wearing a pair of pajamas that one of the big boys wore.)

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The outfit that started it all

IMG_9477Casual-comfy every-day outfits:

I was dedicated in this dress:_JEN8300

Holiday outfits:

Bathing Beauty:

Minnie Mouse:

Princess Dress Slideshow:

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Happy Hamrick Day!!

 

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Now that you’ve viewed all the pictures in their various formats, which do you prefer?

Take survey here.

Enjoy your week!
~j

Posted in adoption, family | 2 Comments

My favorite place in Texas.

Dallas?  San Antonio? Weirdo-Austin?

None of those places.  We have traveled to many areas in this huge state and have seen most of the “must-see” locations on the travel websites and none of those are at the top of my list.  I enjoy those places just fine, but the destination at the top of my list is not on any of those websites:  Camp Eagle in RockSprings, Texas.

The Fort Hood youth group, Bob’s Diner, attends camp there three times a year: twice to serve the camp staff and once as campers.

Anna has now been twice and here are some pictures of our time there, along with a description of the activities depicted.

Service Project, February 2015

Camp Eagle Feb 2015

Hayden and Parker

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Carson clearing brush

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Bailey sorting wood

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Parker winning at gaga-ball.

Camp Eagle Feb 2015

The view from the top of the Megazip 3000. (I rode this!)

 

Summer Camp, June 2015

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Gaga-ball

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This place is gorgeous.

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Hayden.

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Hayden repelling.

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Parker playing archery tag

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Hayden and Bailey on the Super-swing.

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Working together to fill a drum with water… the drum had several large holes cut in the sides.

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Bailey at the mine.


Service Project, October 2015

(Bailey and I worked very hard on Day 1 and that evening Bailey’s throat hurt.  By the second day his throat was so bad he and I had to leave for home.  He officially had Strep throat.)

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Carson on the Megazip.

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Hayden on the Megazip (left).

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Parker helping clear a path.


Service Project, February 2016

Our family wasn’t able to attend this service project because we were in Virginia meeting our littlest family member!

Summer Camp, June 2016

The bigs went to camp without us for the first time.  I wasn’t sad for them to go without me… I was sad I couldn’t go.  I really do love this place.

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Hayden arriving at camp.

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Bailey canoeing.

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Carson and Bailey doing something… interesting.

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Hayden-selfie with brothers in the background.

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Service Project, November 2016

Anna’s first time at Camp Eagle:

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Kitchen staff (cleaning the floor-mats).

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Hauling brush.

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Archery Tag

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Archery Tag

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Boys climbing trees.

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Father/son moment. 

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There was always a crowd around Anna.

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Anna has her favorites.

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Just after a diaper change the crowd came back from working on their projects. 🙂

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DADDY!!

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The views.

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So beautiful.

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40 is looking pretty good!

 

Matt has made it!  He’s 40!  He’s earned each one of those years and has done so gracefully.  I didn’t plan a surprise party or an over-the-hill themed event, but opted to have an adult-only dinner at a nearby restaurant followed by some time at the house with families included.

We started his birthday with a family tv show, which turned out to be not-so-family-friendly.  Warning:  there are two television shows called “The Librarians.” One stars Noah Wiley and THAT is the one you want to watch with your family. The other, well, let’s just say that it isn’t quite so appropriate. As in, scrambling to find the remote to make it stop for the love of all that is holy.  We will not be watching the plural version with our without the kids!

After the show we dug in to some serious spring cleaning.  We haven’t had a weekend in months to do this and it was time.  One goal was to Anna-proof the living room… we are tired of having to tell her not to touch certain things.  This area should be a place where she feels comfortable, too, so we moved a few tables out: tables that held tissues, books, and were the docking stations for laptops.  We replaced those tables with her kitchen set.  In the process we swept and mopped under the couches, washed the windows, etc.  For my organization-loving husband, it was a pretty good way to start the day.

We then moved to the garage.  We rearranged a few things to make way for the new bikes we bought last weekend and found several things to donate to the youth yard sale coming up later this month.  This task was a big undertaking but one that was needed.

Finally, the crew moved upstairs and we began a deep-clean of the bedrooms.  Under beds, in closets, etc.  I removed the toys from Anna’s toy box that were Parker’s (little boy toys) and set some in storage for the grandkids.  The rest are heading to the yard sale!  In the toy box I placed all the Little People sets we had saved “for the grandkids” but are now getting used by our daughter!  (That is still so fun to say!)

It was most definitely a work-day but Matt actually said that it was a good feeling to have so much accomplished!  I knew it would be.

Now on to the fun part!

After Matt got his run in, he and I went to HEB to pick out his cake.  Wouldn’t you know it? They only had girl cakes!  It’s a good thing his birthday is on April Fool’s Day and it’s a good thing he has a great sense of humor.

We dropped the cake off at the house and headed straight for Giovanni’s in Copperas Cove.  Friends had already started arriving and we enjoyed over two hours of dining and chatting.  The food was great and the fellowship sweet, even if we missed several friends who couldn’t be there.

The after-dinner-party was at our house and kids from each family arrived making the house feel festive, as they always do.  I gave Matt his gifts and then we had cake, ice cream, and lots of red-dye #4.  While we chatted the North Carolina Tarheels played and kept Matt on the edge of his seat.  Kids played a 2-hour long game of four-square, rode scooters in the dark, and chased Anna around.  That little one stayed up until 10:30!  She was a champ!

The Tarheels won and Matt was thrilled.  He now has plans for Monday evening which include watching the Tarheels in the Championship game.

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I was very excited to give him the gifts I selected this year.  I am not a good gift-giver so when I find something I think Matt will love, I am thrilled.  This year Matt received several sweet cards, an ode from a friend (truly hilarious!),  a new Yetti mug, and from me, a T-shirt blanket made from special tees he’s had for a few years, the Chaplain Crest flag, and the entire Bible with apocrypha in a 5-set volume, formatted as normal books: no chapter headings, foot notes, etc.  It’s made for enjoyment-reading, not studying.

Here are a few pictures from the night.  They’re not great but, I’m trying to get over my perfectionist-issue.  I spent the evening with friends and family, and didn’t take enough pictures… again.

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Backing up; catching up.

So I have decided to attempt something:  I’m going to back up and catch up.  The blog, I mean.  I’m not a perfectionist in many areas, but in chronology, I pretty much want it perfect.  So the idea of blogging out of order drives me nuts.  That little bit of perfectionism is causing me to simply not blog and that has begun to bother me more than the idea of having my blog posts out of order.

So, I’m going to fix it.

I’m going to try to blog once a week and these posts will be short snippets of the past few months.  Few pictures, and most likely all iPhone shots instead of good ones… another blogging-perfectionism-issue I need to get over.

Just wanted to put this here because then I’ll feel like I have accountability.  I’m hoping I can post every Monday morning, giving me the weekend to work on it.

So, stay tuned!  I miss having our lives documented on a regular basis… it’s time I prioritize it again, even if imperfectly.

Blessings!
~j

Somebody likes selfies.

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14 months!

I watched a few adoption videos this week that were not related to anyone I know… I got so engrossed in them that before I snapped back into my reality I felt the old pang of sadness that I used to get when I thought adoption wasn’t a possibility for our family. Within a few milliseconds I realized that we had in fact already adopted!  That this is our reality and we are living in the beautiful-messy world that we have always had a heart for.

Anna is brilliant.  She is learning new words every day and is up to about 20 that she can say, though not all are associated with an object. (Hot and cold, for example, she repeats after us but we’re not sure she knows what they mean.)  She can do lots of signs and typically says the word while she signs it (though she hasn’t said milk she has a very cute full-body dance to go along with the traditional sign for milk).

She enjoys eating bananas which must be enjoyed on the same day as some type of prune dish… I’ll leave that for you to figure out.  Let’s just say that there are troubles in diaper-land if she has one without the other. Anna loves water.  Wa-wer.

This child is a climber.  We’ve had to purchase an indoor slide for her in an attempt to keep her off the tv stand.  Since we bought it 10 days ago she’s only attempted to scale the tv stand one time since.  I’d say that’s a success!  She also enjoys the swing we bought her… we got a pink one just because we can!

Our princess is a ham and knows how to please a crowd.  People still stop us in stores to ohh-and-ahh over her.  Our dentist’s administration staff adores her and loves to watch the bigs with her.  (Benchmark Family Dental will schedule all five of us on the same day so we rotate out of two different hygienists’ chairs.)  During the time I’m back getting a cleaning, some of the brothers are in the lobby watching her.  I had to go back today for two fillings (I know… I know.  At least none of the kids had cavities).  The hygienist and the office staff stopped me before I left to tell me how awesome the kids are and how much they adored watching the boys with her.  They said they could see the genuine love they have for Anna… they watched them without them knowing.  Makes me proud of them for being good to Anna, and it warms my heart that others can see in public what I see in private.

Anna is leaving the stage of putting everything in her mouth.  She used to put everything in there… now we’re down to only a few things a day.  This is giving me great joy because now I can sit out in the back yard and let her roam freely.  Only once has she eaten a clod of dirt.  That’s a success, people.

The pictures below are from just a few minutes ago.  She became interested in my computer so I thought I’d grab a picture… and at that same time she decided to grab my computer! (You can see my hand trying to save this blog post in the second image!  Oh, and please disregard the messy hair.  She hasn’t left the house today and it’s very windy out right now.)

She is still a great sleeper.  She does need her paci given back to her once a night or so, but doesn’t wake fully… she’s got us  wrapped around her little finger.  We never did that with the boys, but don’t tell them.  (Actually, it’s our fault from the start.  We never let the boys have pacifiers in the crib because we didn’t want to start that habit but with Anna, for some reason we were not able to say no.  She loved her paci from the first and since we had that week or so we weren’t sure everything was going to turn out the way it did, we didn’t want to do anything too drastic.  So, she wanted that paci, she got it!  One positive… it seems as if she uses it less during the day than the boys did so I guess it’s a trade-off.  One we’re happy to make.)

Mama Kim and I are still communicating weekly, for the most part.  It fluctuates between weekly and every-other-week.  I hope to be able to visit her in the summer when the kids and I drive to the east coast.  I am so blessed by our relationship… so glad she’s willing to stay connected with us.

I have at least 45 other blog posts floating around in my mind but I am going to leave this one as-is.  I’ll add a few pictures below and write some more posts later.  I’ll close my blog by asking you to keep us informed if you know someone who is considering placing the child she’s carrying for adoption.  I have two great families who are waiting to adopt and I would LOVE to share their stories with anyone who would be interested in considering them.

Blessings!
~Jennifer

Here are some other sweet pictures from the past month.

This is the reason we have a slide inside now.

First time in piggy tails.

She got herself into the drawer I was cleaning out… and ultimately, she got herself back out.

First time in a swing.

First time on a skateboard.

 

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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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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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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 | 6 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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