I am still not tired of the snow, though I may be standing alone in this opinion by the time winter is over. I enjoy the falling snow and I actually enjoy shoveling. This is largely because I don’t have to go many places and my daily life isn’t negatively impacted by the white stuff, so I’m throwing no shade at those who dislike it.
I do feel horrible for those who suffered during the snow storm in Texas this month. In fact, I didn’t really share much of my excitement about our own snow here because I felt that would be insensitive. We had our share of anxiety during it as we were caring for neighbors who were sick with COVID… they had to call an ambulance twice, during the biggest storm NYC has gotten in the past five years, with 16 inches falling in a 24 hour period.
Matt walked to work in a literal blizzard, and also to the pharmacy a few times for our neighbor, as the doctors were trying everything they could to keep her from having to go to the ER, something she eventually had to do.
MTA doesn’t shut down very often….
Our house during the snow storm!
Of course, we had FUN, too.
I love watching Anna go full-steam ahead into the snow!
I post this video with permission.
Sledding! The first video shows you just how steep was the hill that Anna and Parker were sledding. This video makes me laugh at just how hard it was for them to get back up this hill. There’s no way I would have tried that hill!
Another few storms came later in Feb… I’ll share that later!
For the past three years Anna has known what kind of birthday she wants to have months before her actual birthday. So far once she’s set it in her mind, she hasn’t changed it.
She enjoyed turning four with Olaf and decided to turn five with him as well.
We met her best buddy because she is the little sister of Parker’s best buddy here at Fort Hamilton. When preschool started we were thrilled that they were in the same class! They were the only family we had over for Anna’s birthday party and once the festivities were over, Parker headed to their house to play and the little sister stayed here until long after dinner.
I’m used to much larger parties and though I scaled much of it back we still had food leftover! We snacked on fresh cut veggies for days!
Anna has absolutely loved the playdough her friend brought her and plays with it about every other day. She wears the Brown Ballerina shirt from Miss Kayla at least twice a week! And we plan to go to FAO Schwarz soon to buy new Tonies with the money sent by grandparents.
We miss those with whom we’ve celebrated in past years and pray that next year we will be able to celebrate on a larger scale. Our family loves parties!
I have never met a little girl like Anna-girl. She is so full of life and energy that we find ourselves constantly amazed by her.
We are never bored.
She has an appetite that is comparable to her big brothers’ and enjoys almost almost everything. She needs to move her body all day, thus the trampoline in her room. Anna is the smartest thing and we’re told that by all who interact with her. (We take it for granted because we’re with her all the time, but her teacher and those who volunteer with the kids at our church tell us frequently.) She’s blunt and not really concerned too much about being overheard, so we’re working on asking questions about confusing situations once we are alone, but I guess that’s a normal five-year-old skill. She has a heart for the homeless of the city and is not afraid to walk up to them and give them a granola bar, which we carry with us for this purpose. You should see the smiles she gets from those on the receiving end.
Anna loves the water… she would swim in the pool right now if they let her. “Play baths” are sufficient in the meantime. Some of her favorite foods include:
granola-bar apple-sauce sandwich (another Anna original);
pretty much any dinner I make;
pretty much any lunch they serve at school (they comment on her good appetite);
oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon;
cucumbers with ketchup, (I’m not joking.);
She drinks water exclusively (by mom’s choice) though she will never turn down a little of brothers’ spicy drinks if offered!
Anna knows all her letters and can spell some things, though I have not taught her this skill. It’s actually something she taught herself… and as far as I know, MOMMY was her first word besides her name that she spelled. She counts like a pro and is doing basic mental math as we play.
Speaking of playing… she has now taken to playing “Ticket to Ride” with us, picking the color cards, paying for her tickets using the color cards, and placing the trains on the tracks. I do the strategy for her, and she really holds her own! Before long she’ll have that game figured out and I’ll have more competition.
Anna adores her school and her teachers. They fill her with so much joy. I think I’ve said it before, she may be the one Hamrick Kid who asks to go to “real school” and I’m preparing myself for that possibility. Might break my heart, but then again, seeing her interact with those teachers and her classmates every day is perfect. We’ll see…
Per Hamrick Household Rules, nap time is still at thing around here. Mommy needs it more than anyone, though I never nap. I use that time to do whatever task needs done. Sometimes it’s lesson planning, grading, cleaning, prepping for dinner, getting groceries. Today, though, I watched the last episode of On Pointe and played a new-to-me form of solitaire. (I recently listened to Episode 293 of Don’t Mom Alone which really gave me permission to take occasional days like this. I thrive off of and love productivity but every now and then a good solitaire session is refreshing.) During that time Anna is in her room playing with her books or toys, jumping on the trampoline or singing along with her Tonies.
SPEAKING OF TONIES!! PLEASE CHECK THESE OUT! If you want your kid to have access to stories and songs but don’t want them to have a CD player or a device with a screen, a TonieBox is the way to go. I wish they had a referral system because I’d be all on that!
If you think you may be interested in one of these, use my link! I may be able to earn more Tonies!
She got a TonieBox and six Tonies for Christmas. One of them is a “creative” which allows me to put my own songs or stories on it. I put the “Days of the Week” and “Months of the Year” song on it, as well as my voice saying, “Your birthday is January 23rd, Carson’s is…” and so on, so she can start learning all of our birthdays. I also sang the two bedtime songs she loves. Best idea ever and it’s Anna-proof!
For her Fifth Birthday she’s chosen to repeat the Olaf theme, which is fitting, as she was born during a snowstorm. Per COVID regs we are only having one family over to celebrate, a vast difference from last year’s Olaf Birthday. The little girl in their family is in Anna’s class at school, so they already share germs. HAHA! Also, the brothers play together frequently. They’re sort of in our “COVID bubble” if you will.
I’m going to close now, as nap time is almost over (sometimes I blog during nap time) but I do not want to fly past this day (I’m writing this the day before her birthday… the day Mama Kim went into labor). I remember this vividly because we were in Virginia just waiting for Anna to make her appearance. You can read my post about waiting for her here. I just want to recognize this day. A child’s birthday is always a big deal and a child is never born with out a woman giving birth. We generally celebrate the child who was born and the past year they’ve lived, and rightfully so, but there’s a mama there, too, who was there for the nine months as well as labor and delivery. She matters so very much to our family. She’s not just Anna’s “birth” mother. She’s her first mother, and we use that language because it indicates the order… Kimberly was the first mama, I was the second one. But the first didn’t get erased by the second. I have five children. The first wasn’t erased by the second. The second wasn’t erased by the third and so on. Mama Kim is and always will be Mama Kim. Anna’s mom. Anna has two moms and on this, “go to the hospital” day, I remember and honor Mama Kim.
I finally got to use my childhood ice skating lessons!
Sunday Matt and I took the littles ice skating at the most iconic skating rink in the world (not a data-driven fact). It was everything I had hoped for – it definitely met my expectations.
Parker had the most determination I’ve ever seen in him. Skating did not get easier for him as time passed and falling never felt good, but he got up every single time and kept on going. Even when I asked him twice if he would like to go sit with Matt he said no and kept on trying his best. (Matt was watching from the sidelines because I didn’t buy a ticket for him… he needs to NOT be broken right now with a calendar full of work trips coming up. He was disappointed but he survived.)
We got our skates on and there was no looking back. No time to teach them any technique. In fact, I couldn’t remember the technique to tell them so we just played it by ear. A few laps around the rink and I was able to recall some of the tips and tricks I had been taught when I was younger than Parker. I was not graceful for a single minute but I was able to skate forward, backward, and use three different footing techniques to assist the kids when necessary. Oh, and I was able to stay upright when flailing arms grabbed at me for support.
About the fourth lap Anna was pretty much on her own. We had declined the Penguin skate-assistant because it was an additional $25 and I’m so glad we did! My philosophy is similar to the life vest… I want a non-swimmer to be in the water as often as possible without the vest to learn how to swim. (Obviously, there are times life vests are necessary and very useful tools… but they can delay the skill of learning to swim.)
Anna would not have done nearly as well if she were trying to push around that penguin! She really wanted one, though. But as I watched the other moms have to help their kids (most older than Anna) move the thing I was reassured that we had made the right choice.
So, please forgive my shaky filming, the constantly moving camera, and me laughing at my kids in this five minute video from Rockefeller Rink.
We were right there so we had to go into FAO Schwarz.
I’m not normally one to pick a word for the year but when I started using Power Sheets by Cultivate What MattersI decided I could give it a try.
Last year’s word (entrust) came to me so clearly and I knew it was the right word for 2020. I’m surprised I didn’t write a blog post about it. “Entrust” fit every one of my goals for last year and while I can’t say I lived up to the word in every way, I did use it to keep on track. In my role as a wife and mother, in my job as a teacher, in my responsibilities as a leader of small groups (before COVID ended those), and in my purpose for writing Once You See Racism. I was entrusted with children, roles, and words to share and I really wanted do my best in each area.
When it came time to think about my word for 2021 I was pretty sure I wouldn’t find one as perfectly suited to this year’s goals as last year’s. I seriously had low expectations. One of the days I sat down to work through my Power Sheets Planning pages I jotted down a word and then decided to follow the directions and flip back through the previous pages to see if anything stood out. The purpose of that is to see if something from what I had written stood out, but after turning only two pages a printed word stood out to me as if it were lit from beneath.
In my mind I was thinking of the noun: Flourish – ornament; adornment;
One of my main goals this year is to find 40 healthy meals that match my health goals AND that the whole family not only tolerates, but enjoys. Learning to cook in a way that is very different from my Southern Roots is a huge challenge and I am a little intimidated at the thought of changing our entire meal rotation. (I had mastered about 30 dishes that were amazingly tasty and I felt confident serving to guests. Main problem is that they were not healthy at all and were not helping me achieve my health goals.)
So when I first saw “flourish” I thought of flourishing healthy meals to taste great so that we’re HAPPY to eat them – finding ways to make dinner enjoyable without heavy sauces and tons of cheese. (I love both.) Flourish – a spice, a nice touch, something to make an otherwise boring meal attractive.
When I read the definition of the world I actually teared up.
Flourish: to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as a result of a particularly favorable environment.
Even in the verb form flourish matches my goal! And it matched all of my goals that I’ve set for this year. And so, once again, this non-word-of-the-year person has found a word that can easily be applied to all of the goals she set. I printed out a list of all the instances of the word in scripture and every day I plan to look up the next instance and read how this word is used in each context.
Synonyms: succeed, prosper, thrive.
And as if that didn’t prove to me that the word was perfect, on January 5th the Bible Recap Reading plan had Job 6-9 scheduled and on my printed list I was supposed to look up verse 8:7!
And though your beginning was small, your future would flourish. (In most translations the word is prosper.)
I stopped writing this blog post and set it aside for a few days because we’ve started school and I have other obligations. Two days after I saw my word in Job chapter 8, I read Job 14-16 using the Bible Recap and when I went to find the next instance of flourish from my own printed list, it was once again from the same scriptures I had read a few minutes before.
At least there is hope for a tree: if it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old yet at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth shoots like a plant.
It was another confirmation that I had selected the word that I need to focus on. Only God could orchestrate that my word of the year (on I list I printed out) be found in the same scriptures the Bible Recap scheduled for those days’ readings. That’s no coincidence, and so I will focus on flourishing this year, whatever that looks like.
That last scripture also gave me a bit of hope for our country. I am very angry at what people did at the Capitol last week and disgusted that Christians are in any way defending those behaviors. I’m baffled that anyone could compare what those people did (their reasons) to the protests that occurred this summer (and their reasons). Not. The. Same.
I don’t condone rioting or looting in any form but one group did so out of years of mistreatment, even to the point of having the mistreatment videoed and visible for the entire world only to have the perpetrators let-off without punishment… the other group did so because their candidate didn’t win an election. (An election that was proven well over a dozen times to not have been rigged or stolen.)
So… Christians… do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Base your behaviors on that. And… not speaking of our nation or our country, not speaking of our flag, but of those who profess Christ (who loves across all nationalities), “at least there is hope for a tree: if it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail. Its roots may grow old yet at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth shoots like a plant.” I don’t believe for a second that Christianity is at risk… not from outside attack. But I do worry that Christians and those who profess Christ but don’t do justice, love mercy, or walk humbly with their God will damage the message of Christ in the ears of those who most need to hear that message.
Well, that went sideways. That was not where I meant to go with my Word of the Year post. It was supposed to be all happy and “look how cool that my verses were in the Bible reading plan I picked…” But I can’t ignore what is going on, and I can’t not speak up. It is my responsibility.
If you pick a word for the year, I pray you find one that speaks to your heart and every time you see it you are reminded that God is thinking of you. That’s what I take away from my experience this year, picking out my word. He’s thinking of me. And… He’s talking to me.
I wanted the word FLOURISH written with a flourish but when I googled “flourish + image” I got a lot of beautiful flourishes like the ones above! Oh well! I tried!
I really wanted a picture of our kids with the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge for our Christmas card, and I wanted it at sunset because we have absolutely loved having access to nightly displays of beauty. Our photographer, Jana Whitter, hit it out of the ballpark.
Check out the slider feature… what went on the card versus what didn’t.
Indoor dining is still closed so every now and then you’ll find the Hamrick family eating on the steps of some random building.
When you have the entire train to yourself and it stops for some undisclosed reason, you can get your wiggles out by running laps.
We went to the city as a family to hit three main place: the Christmas Store in Little Italy, The Elf Bridge, and the Rockefeller Tree.
2020 Ornament purchased at the Christmas store in Little Italy. (That particular store was only special to us because Matt and I had visited it when we went on a date in that area. We figured it’d be a good place to find our annual ornament.)
We found the Elf Bridge!
Our first view of the tree fully decorated and lit:
New York City is dressed beautifully for Christmas:
Totally random, but Anna messed up my phone… she somehow got my Memoji stuck and I couldn’t answer a call or hang up.
More randomness: Spotify let me know that I was one of Hamilton’s top 9% listeners this year and that my most-played song was from Frozen II… no surprises there.
If you’re four and you get new jammies, you do a dance:
One thing I love about Christmas season is sending and receiving Christmas cards. I send almost 300 each year. Excessive, I know. I try to cull them each year but I simply can’t. I enjoyed lighting the advent candle while addressing them.
We pray that 2021 is an amazing year for your family! ~The Hamricks
Before I start in on the cuteness, I just want to give a shout-out to Liberty Church: Brooklyn. On Sunday the 20th we had our last in-person church service of 2020 and the entire thing, start to finish, was wonderful. It may have been the sweetest Christmas service I’ve attended. I’m going to go back and watch it before the new year. It was so touching. Watch here: Liberty Church, Brooklyn, Sunday Dec 20, 2020.
Matt has been playing with the worship team:
Gingerbread Houses are not my thing. That’s what Grammy’s are for, however, since COVID is keeping us apart I figured I’d step in and give it a try. When we started, I had a bad feeling… I didn’t think they were going to hold together, but they did! They’re still going strong, except for the gumdrops on the roof. (Anna has been sneaking them!)
Horsey Kisses – I can’t even believe how cute this is! Enjoy!
Anna’s favorite toy in FAO Schwarz is a tiny piano I mention here and here. This is the toy Anna runs to every time we go to that store. I researched for a few hours, trying to decide if that toy piano was worth the price and found so many options online that I honestly got overwhelmed. Someone suggested buying a used, full-size piano so that she’d learn to play on a real one, and the rest of us could enjoy it as well. I looked for quite some time on Facebook Marketplace and found a number of them we could afford and easily transport (in the Truckster) but again, got overwhelmed and quit.
A few days ago I saw a post on our neighborhood page for a free piano and I jumped on it! We shoveled the snow out of our driveway and drove two-tenths of a mile to the next set of town houses, loaded that bad boy up, and brought it home. It fits perfectly under our bar and we have had a blast playing it. It needs tuning and has two sticky keys, but it was free!
I can’t wait to figure out what kind of piano lessons we will do. If you have suggestions, I’ll take them! Outschool? MasterClass?
Anyway, here’s our new (to us) piano!
We might have gone back to see the tree one more time… Actually, we were there to go to FAO Schwarz again, and it afforded us a really good view! We got a gift for Anna “from Madison” and when we gave it to her Anna asked, “How did Madi get to FAO Schwarz?!?” Bless.
Before heading home we ate dinner at our favorite pizza place and then walked to Macy’s on 34th St. Look how pretty the Empire State Building looks all lit up for Christmas!
The Hamricks are snow-lovers! We watched the clock on the day we were supposed to get snow and were not disappointed. Only 20 minutes after they called for it to begin, the white stuff started falling. I took a photo of the same spot every 45 minutes and I’ll spare you the slideshow that contains all of the pictures, here is a quick run-through.
We simply couldn’t wait for accumulation to get out and play so we headed out early! That evening Parker went sledding with his friends and you can see just how much snow we were getting by that point.
The next day Parker took us back to the same place he and his friends had played. If you watch to the end you can see ME sled!
And more sledding:
More snow fun:
Kids playing in the snow:
Why, yes, I can parallel park the Truckster in the snow. (But I did pass up several spots that had deep snow because, you know… rear-wheel drive.)
I was itching to see the city blanketed in snow. It was pretty magical and offered a memory I’ll treasure. Matt and I went to see the tree and the Saks Light Display before going to Central Park for a horse-drawn carriage ride. (We’re packing in a lot of the touristy things for two reasons: we still have stars in our eyes… “WE CAN’T BELIEVE WE LIVE HERE!” and because next year we are hoping the crowds are crazy and that we’ll be glad we took advantage of a sleepier NYC.)
Here is a video of the strange set-up of the tree-viewing area set up this way because of COVID.
We strolled up 5th Ave to look at the window displays:
Next Matt and I were off to Central Park.
Passing the Elf Bridge with snow!
We love snow! We love NY in the snow! We love Christmastime with snow!
Christmas Eve was extra special because we got to visit friends! Real people in real time and in their home!
To be fair, they’re in our COVID-bubble already, so we weren’t doing anything reckless. Anna goes to preschool with their daughter five days a week, so they share all the germs. What the girls bring home WE get, so we are pretty sure we were as safe as we could get!
Anyway, this was the first time our families had done anything together inside and we had a blast. The kids played together and ate cheese pizza and the moms talked for a few hours. So refreshing! So normal feeling.
That evening our family participated in the online Candlelight Service with only one minor melting-wax mishap.
Just outside of post is a neighborhood famous for its Christmas decorations: Dyker Heights. We drove around and enjoyed looking at them but to be completely honest, we kept wondering if we were in the right place. When we think of “Christmas decorations” we think of McAdenville, literally called “Christmas Town, USA.” Or we think of BLORA, in Killeen, Texas. (Do a quick google for Blora Nature in Lights… it’s a fun, 30 minute drive-through light display. Such a fun tradition!)
We got home and watched part of Polar Express and then went to bed. In previous years I could “set up” before I went to bed, but those years are long gone. If I do that, my kids, who stay up later than me, would see all their treats. So I wake up before them… not a hard thing to do with three teens and a 10-year-old who follows their sleeping habits.
Christmas morning traditions:
We read the story in Luke and then sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.
I always put wrapping paper up for them to burst through. The first thing they do is go though their stockings and then Parker doles out the gifts, which we open one at a time. The older you are, the fewer you tend to have. (Opting for one larger gift or cash itself.)
Thanks to Tracy (for the elf bag idea and German goodies) and Audrey (for the treats from Germany)! Hayden loved his Trader Joe’s Maple Syrup and Oreo flavored popcorn, which he ate while we opened gifts.
This year I videoed most of the morning on my phone and took very few photos, something I’m regretting but it is what it is. I’ll export a few frames from the videos to show some moments, but you can imagine that it was much like most years. Fun opening gifts, seeing what siblings got each other, and few surprises, since our family is not a “gifts” love-language family. Carson may be, as he had a surprise for each of his siblings… fortunately, he was also surprised by a gift he didn’t expect. There’s a funny story there: Amazon delivered something here for a previous tenant and when we called them they said we could keep the item and they’d reissue a new one to the person who actually ordered it.
Matt and I assumed it was a laptop from the brand of the item and figured that since Carson was in need of a new computer for graduation, he could have that one! WIN WIN! (He had other gifts to equal the other kids’ gifts… this was over and above… since he needed it anyway and it was free to us.) Anyway, when he opened it we were all surprised to see that it wasn’t, in fact, a computer, but a gaming screen!
A really nice, expensive, and FUN gaming screen, but still… not a computer!
We laughed so hard! And we had some ‘splainin’ to do.
Main gifts: Matt – desktop amp Jen – the two white decorations on the piano and silver earrings from Matt, Alexa (my personal assistant who hasn’t figured out how to pick Anna up from school), and the “This is Us” picture from my mom. Hayden – thermal printer for tattooing. Carson – a gamer-screen (not a laptop). Bailey – Exhale – a program for music production. Parker – LOTS of Legos. Anna – Toniebox (If you have a little one, these are amazing!!)
Below is a video of our Christmas morning. It was such a joy and we had a blast. I only regret that I didn’t make Bailey move from where he sat, because he was behind me almost the whole time!
It’s almost 11 minutes long so there will be very few of you who will even want to watch, but I want to be able to find the highlights later – and one day my kids will want to easily find them. This journal is for them as much as for me.
COVID didn’t interfere at all with our Christmas, as this is how we typically spend our Christmas. We’ve pretty much always spent our Christmas “just us,” even before we joined the Army.
We are thinking of and praying for those whose Christmases were vastly different and not by their choice.
This post was written on 1-1-2021 and is being backdated to Christmas Day, 2020.
Today was the “Dress Pick-up” day for our little ballerina.
The USOMetropolitanNY teamed with Bronxville Ballet to offer mil-kids ballet lessons over the past couple of months. Anna has LOVED these lessons and looked so adorable doing them.
I loved watching this!
Today I figured I’d stop by and grab the dress on my way home from the commissary (had to prep for the big snow storm we’re about to get!!) and when I walked in I saw none other than THE BALLET INSTRUCTOR!
I had a bit of a moment when I fan-girled, then said that I had to go get Anna. I had to let her see her teacher in person! Anna’s rest time ended early, she dressed in her ballet (play) clothes and, as we were getting in the car, Matt walked up. I told him to get in the car, that we were going on a surprise adventure.
We walked in the building (and took off Anna’s coat) and I pointed to her teacher.
You can see Anna’s posture… not quite sure she was seeing things right!
Thank you, USO Metropolitan New York and Bronxville Ballet! What a highlight during a challenging season!