I Love Our Open Adoption! {NC – Summer 2017 (Part 5)}

Sunday morning we woke up and enjoyed a lazy (if warm) morning in our room. Around 10 my boys started asking if I could take them to a beach with real waves.  I left Anna with Nana, Papa, and Mason (who wasn’t interested in going to the beach), and drove my eager crew to Virginia Beach. I knew we’d have to stop and get lunch on the way home and, doing the math, I worried we’d be late getting back to our visit with Mama Kim.  I sent her a message and let her know that and asked if she wanted to push the schedule back a little or go on to the hotel and visit with Anna and my mom.  She sent me the sweetest message and told me that she would keep the schedule and play with Anna and that I could take my time.  I am so thankful she is comfortable with my family!

Let me tell you… I am NOT a beach person.  Not even a little bit. I don’t like sand, sun, or salt water.  I don’t like crowds.  I don’t like sweating.  This experience had all of these things.  To top it all off, the water was freezing (76*) so I couldn’t even comfortably get in to cool off.  I had to stand with my feet in the water to maintain some sort of reasonable level of comfort while I counted “1-2-3-4” over and over again.  (I lost one of them for a while which had me in a bit of a panic but he was not missing, just mixed into a large bunch of people.)

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First attempt had Parker gagging with a mouth full of sand.

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Second attempt went much better.

I let them stay as long as they wanted, which turned out to be just about as long as I was okay staying, knowing we still had to go through a drive-through on the way home.  We carried half of the sand on the beach back to our still-crammed-with-stuff van and made for the hotel.

My Panera pick-up was ready within minutes while the food from the boys’ choice of fast food restaurants took over 10 minutes… we sat in the drive-through wondering why in the world it was taking so long… and every moment I was eager to get back to visit with Mama Kim.

Eventually we did make it back and I said a quick “HI” before jumping in the shower to rinse off the salt, sand, and sweat.

We chatted and watched Anna play around for a while. After we had caught up and before Anna got fussy and needed a nap I gave Mama Kim a gift. She unwrapped a small pewter box with “My First Curls” etched in the top. I told her that we had waited until we were with her for Anna’s first hair cut and that we were going to do that right then.

We videoed and took pictures and we all got a lock of Anna’s hair for keepsakes.  This happened to be Anna’s 18-month-birthday.

Please forgive the messy counter tops! We had to keep everything on there so that Anna couldn’t get to it when she was free to run around the hotel room!

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Here’s a good look at Anna’s awesome rat-tail!

We ended up spending most of our time visiting in the dining area of our hotel where the AC was working just fine.  There was a small room that offered a little privacy but with a moving toddler, we were really all over the place.  Anna colored, talked, played with cars, etc.

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Around 6:30 we had a very special visitor:  Anna’s paternal aunt!  We have been so happy having Anna’s mom in the our lives and now we have a direct relative on her dad’s side!  We FaceTimed with Anna’s grandmother and expect to be able to meet her in person in December.  I got permission from Charlene to share these on my blog. Charlene was an absolute joy to spend time with and I look forward to her and Anna having a fun long-term relationship! We have created a special place on Facebook just for Anna’s “first family” where we share pictures, videos, and stories.

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I believe we visited until close to 8:00 pm and, as usual, the goodbyes were gut-wrenching. Thankfully our next visit will be in December which is just around the corner. We shared with them that we are moving to Germany, a difficult conversation to have, and while they are sad, they are excited for Anna to have this experience. I assured them that when I come back to the US to visit, I’ll make sure to visit them.

I long for more people to understand open adoption. I feel like I say this all the time but I do understand that it isn’t possible for some people to have one… these words aren’t directed to those who, for whatever reason, can’t. Sometimes the reason is because the child was adopted from overseas. However, within the United States there are so many cases where open adoption would be possible and, not only that, would be beneficial to the child. Most people who hear that we are in direct contact with Anna’s first family look at me with bulging eyes, wondering why in the world we are doing this. They have believed so many of the myths and horror stories that they can’t imagine a situation where contact could be positive. I hope that by sharing Anna’s story (the little that I am willing to share publicly, and which I share with permission from Mama Kim and anyone else I mention in my blog) will help to turn the tide. I hope people will stop being so afraid of open adoption and will start considering it a true possibility. I have two very close friends who are in the beginning stages of adoption and my heart longs for them to be able to have open ones. I have another friend who has adopted internationally and has done everything in her power to get a message to her child’s parents that their child is safe, well, and that they would love to open a conversation. I find this brave and admirable. They are not using the fact that theirs was an international adoption to wipe their foreheads, say, “Shew, at least we don’t have to worry about that aspect of adoption.” No. They’re seeking and doing everything in their power to offer their child contact with the first family. An adopted child is 100% part of the family who adopts him or her, but that child is also 100% from another family. My 7 year old gets this.  Just a few minutes ago I asked him this question:

“Parker, what was your favorite part about the day we went to the beach. The little beach, not the one with the waves.” His response blew me away… I wasn’t prepared for him to say this and I wrote it immediately so I would get it right. He said, “Seeing my sister’s birth mom ’cause that’s pretty special.  She’s still pretty much her mom.” YES! She is! She is still Anna’s mom! I am her mom. Mama Kim is her mom. Having an open adoption does not make me any less Anna’s mom. I urge anyone who is on the fence to do some deep digging into the facts of open adoption. To research the mental health of adult adoptees who were raised in both open and closed. To begin to see that open is actually becoming the norm, which I think is a good thing. To understand that “open” can range from mailing letters back and forth through the adoption agency to visiting and sharing holidays. I’m going to say something that will sound crass. Once  an adoption is final, the adoptive parents hold all of the power. All of it. You may think, “as they should.”  I don’t look at it that way. I want to understand that legally I do have the final say in what goes on in Anna’s life and I will give my own life to make sure she’s healthy and well taken care of. It also means I will sacrifice what is comfortable to do what is right by her. I firmly believe that having Mama Kim in our lives, that showing her that she has two mommies who adore her, that letting her know the aunts and grandmother who can see their brother and son in her facial features, is a gift that I have the power to give her! I don’t have the power to give her a set of parents in her house who look like her. Neither of us is black so she’s going to stand out when we are in public… she is obviously adopted. But I can give her relationships with people she does resemble. I can give her family members who are black and who can speak to that part of who she is… who can affirm her in that culture. I have the power to do that and I want to. I want to use my “power” in the adoptive relationship in such a way that everyone else feels that they, too, have influence in Anna’s life. I want them to know that they matter to me, to our whole family, and that they matter to Anna. There are differences in her first family and her current family and those differences are to be experienced. I have the “power” to let her experience those. It hurts me to even use the word power. I really don’t like it. I use it here because I’ve read it in the articles written by first-mothers who were promised contact with the child they were placing in an adoptive family’s home only to have that family drop contact altogether. It’s a word that evokes emotion in my heart and keeps me on my toes about updating the group I referred to above.  In fact, I’ll add some pictures this today since it’s been a few days. Recognizing that I have this power and determining to do something to honor Anna’s first-family is my responsibility.  I don’t take that lightly.

If you ever want to talk about what it means to have an open adoption, I am more than happy to have that conversation with you. I honestly believe that ONE person changed  my entire perspective on this topic and I know God put us at Fort Hood at the same time so that the picture below would be a possibility for Anna.  Had I not met Kathie Harris, I may never have given open adoption a thought. I hope that I can be that ONE person for someone else; that I can allow at least one adoptive family to recognize the power they have in the adoption triad and to work toward a healthy version of open adoption for their situation.

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NC – Summer 2017 (Part 4)

We arrived at Nana’s after the trip down memory lane and proceeded to get right on some four-wheelers.  We all rode for quite some time (taking turns since Anna was in the bed and someone needed to be inside with her).  I actually rode the longest, making a few extra laps through the woods.  I always enjoy riding and wish the opportunity was something I could offer the boys more often.  I’m just thankful Nana and Papa have the machines and the awesome property to allow it when we visit.

I did all the prep work for our upcoming trip and we had a relaxing evening.

The next morning we had plans to pack up and leisurely head to Virginia, stopping for the night about halfway so the kids didn’t have to be in the car for six + hours all at one time. However, as happens when you own a business, work duties called and Papa couldn’t leave that day.  We searched for a hotel in VA Beach and found that everything was booked solid.  It was not looking good for us to leave on Friday, which was the goal, as we wanted to wake up and have the majority of Saturday in VA Beach.  The alternative was looking like waking at 0500 and driving a straight shot.  It would do, but it would not be best.

I put out an all-call on Facebook to see if anyone had a place we could stay for the night and, not at all surprisingly, one of our Army Families did!  They were heading out of town and offered their entire house to us!  After a quick swim to get all the wiggles out, we finished last minute packing and got on the road.

I took my five and my nephew Mason, Parker’s best bud.  We only had one scary event when Hayden walked into the bathroom at a random McDonald’s and found a passed-out druggie.  Yep.  That happened.

Fortunately we had already eaten and were heading to the car when that happened… and thankfully I have a strict rule that no kid goes to the bathroom without a big kid.  Hayden reported this to the management and they rushed to take care of it while we rushed to the car.

We made it to our destination and within an hour everyone was settled in for the night. Everyone but Anna.

Anna was NOT tired and would not stay in her pack-n-play.  Nor would she rest quietly in bed with me.  I finally gave up and took her to the couch where we scrolled through FB and looked at cute baby pictures together.  At one point I realized I was very near where another friend lives (a friend from our pre-Army days who is now an Army wife… a friend for whom Matt was honored to fly home from Germany to perform her wedding, a friend whose parents were on the church committee to bring Matt on staff as a youth pastor… a friend of that sort… a life-long and precious friend).  I opened my contacts and clicked on her name, then her address.  Maps pulled this up (street names removed for privacy):

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Asleep on Cody and Tara’s comfy couch.

I messaged her the next morning and she was super gracious to let us come by for a quick hug, and, a great surprise: her parents were in town as she was due with Baby #4 any day! We got to introduce Anna to Mark and Cathy!  Just six days later Candace had Catie Jo, her second beautiful girl!

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Some of my kids were already buckled in and it was a difficult task getting in and out of the van.  They stayed put!

After a short visit the kids and I headed toward VA Beach and on the way I connected with a former-Fort Hood friend of mine, Amy, who was generously passing on some much needed school stuff for Carson.  We met at the NEX just a few hours before the President was to commission the USS Gerald R. Ford.  Amy had met Anna and been a part of her earlier visits to see Mama Kim, so it was great to let her see Anna as a toddler!

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Parker and Mason participating in the Spiderman Jumping Jack challenge.

As we were heading back to the car I received a text from Mama Kim and we decided to meet at a local park just a few minutes later.  It was a park she had visited often as a child. It was very sweet watch her play with Anna at that park.  We chatted some, but mostly we watched Anna climb and walk around.

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My big kids were entertaining themselves skateboarding at the skate park and Parker and Mason played nearby on a larger playground.  We pretty much had the place to ourselves… probably because it was the hottest two days of the summer!  I believe we brought Texas weather with us to Virginia!  After about an hour the bigs came to me and told me that they were literally baking in the metal skate park.  I asked Mama Kim if she wanted to head to the beach and she said she knew of a perfect spot.

We loaded up in the vehicles and she took us to East Beach.  It took a few minutes but I recognized the place from a picture she had sent me earlier this summer.  It was of two hands making a heart with the sun setting in the background on the horizon of the ocean. The hands were her’s and Anna’s biological father.  The text that came with the beautiful picture was:  “So much love from Virginia!”  A second picture came of the two of them, which I treasure.  I got permission to post this version of it to maintain his privacy.

Hearts from Hands – Version 2

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Our time at the beach was so fun!  The water was the perfect temperate and Anna loved it. I am happy that we got to take Anna to the same spot where that picture of her first-parents was taken just a little over a month ago.

Mama Kim and Anna played with the seaweed and, later, Mama Kim told me when that she got to work her manager pointed out that she still had some in her hair!  OOPS!  Saving that for later, I suppose.

Our time at the beach was worth every single grain of sand that followed us around for the next week! We left on cloud nine, excited that we had another day planned with together.

IMG_2753IMG_2757IMG_2758IMG_2760When the kids and I reached the hotel, my parents had just gotten there and were in the process of checking us in.  Perfect timing!  I believe that night was the night Nana ran out for Wendy’s so we could avoid getting all of the kids back in the car.  (Mine had already traveled over 1,600 miles and anytime we could avoid the car it was worth the effort.)

Bonus fact:  the AC in our room didn’t work well so it was pushing 80* in our room the entire time we were there.  It did cool down to 72-ish at night and the hotel sent an employee out to buy a few fans, but our room was not comfortable, in the least.  Fortunately, the indoor pool was fun and offered a bit of reprieve from the heat.  As tired as we were, though, I believe most of us slept very well after such an eventful day!

Our hotel’s pool provided the boys with a lot of fun!

 

The next post will share about Day 2 with Mama Kim.

 

 

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NC – Summer 2017 (Part 3)

We left Grammy’s house and headed back to Nana’s, but we had plenty of time to kill before we needed to be there.  When I got near the exit Matt and I used hundreds of times in our college years to visit one another I asked the boys if they wanted to see the house in which I was raised.  They were all in, which sort of surprised me.  Their enthusiasm made me wish I could remember the location of the single-wide I lived in when I was in Kindergarten and First Grade.  Some of my earliest memories are events that occurred while my family lived on that street.  However, I had no idea where in Charlotte that street was, and my parents were both working and I didn’t want to disturb them.  I was content to show the kids my home church and the house in which I spent most of my growing-up years.

I exited only to find that major changes had been made in the roads and I was brought to a T-intersection.  I have a rule… when in doubt, turn right.  So, I did.  I had no idea where I was so I asked Siri to find “Hickory Grove Baptist Church” and start directions.  Her instructions were to turn left at the next light and I trustingly obeyed.  Within milliseconds a flood of recognition washed over me and I started repeating, “NO WAY!”  The boys were curious as to what was making me sound so shocked and it took me a moment to gather my thoughts in order to catch them up on what I explained in the first paragraph:  “Only five minutes ago I was wishing I could take you to the place I lived when I was in Kindergarten and First Grade.  I had no idea how to find that place so I let the idea go.  When I got off the interstate and the roads rerouted me, I asked Siri for directions to my church, which is one mile from where I grew up.  Her first instruction was to turn left here… now that we’re here I recognize this as the neighborhood in which my family lived when I was five and six!”  We proceeded to my former street and we slowly drove up the hill, snapping pictures discretely.  I still could not believe that I was there… It was incredulous that a freak circumstance directed us STRAIGHT TO IT.

 

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This is not the actual single-wide but this is the lot. I remember being angry that I didn’t learn to read on my first day of Kindergarten.  I felt like my mom had lied to me whens she said I’d learn to read “when I went to school” and that the school had not done its job.  I remember my dad wrapping a piece of jewelry up in a refrigerator box to trick my mom and having a BLAST with that box after the gift-giving was over.  I remember learning to ride my bike on that road.  I remember my mom cutting her knee open and needing stitches.  That was traumatic.  I remember falling out of the top bunk and biting my tongue which bled like the dickens.  (Or was that Josh?)  I remember sticking a fork or some other metal object in a socket in our bedroom and getting shocked. (Or was that Josh?)  I remember walking through the sliding-glass door and busting my face; the glass didn’t break but it was not a fun experience.  (Or was that Josh?)  As you can tell, memories at that age are blurry and are often a conglomeration of the stories having been told over the years.

I told a few of my stories from that era and then we followed Siri’s directions to the church.  I pulled into the parking lot and shared some stories from when I was a tiny one.  I remember being in the nursery and one of my teachers singing, “Elvira” to us.  I remember sitting in the baby-doll crib. I remember snack time; guessing my age at that time was about three.  I told the boys stories about when we broke ground on the “new” sanctuary and how we had huge ropes attached to a bulldozer.  All the church members pulled on the ropes to pull the bulldozer, thus ‘breaking ground’ together.  I’d say a good 50% of my memories from age 3-18 were tied, in some way, to that church.  All great memories.

I retold the story of how Matt proposed to me in the parking lot and about our wedding there.  Good times.

From there we made the long trek (1 mile) to the house in which I was raised.  It was red when I lived there, and the yard was a bit more manicured.  My bedroom window was the far right one.

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Most of my childhood memories were made while we lived in this house.  I pointed out that my kids won’t have the same kind of story that I have: I can take them to “the house I was raised in” while they will have to tell their kids about the time they lived in Colorado, or the times they lived in South Carolina or Germany, or that one really long season of life they lived 4.5 years in Texas.  Neither of our stories is better than the other… just different.

From there, since we had still more time, I took them to my high school.  In years past, none of my kids would have cared about this part of my life but now we have two high schoolers, and one more to join them next year.  I parked in my old parking space and told them a few of my most memorable moments.  (To be honest, most of my high-school memories were either at church or traveling back and forth to see Matt!)  I loved my weight-lifting class; I had the best biology teacher in the world;  My homeroom teacher rocked.  My International Studies education was unique to our school and I’m thankful I was a part of that program.

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And with that my drive down memory lane was over.  Sort of.  Our next stop was to Concord Mills, which wasn’t built until I was in college or round-about, but I do have very sweet memories of taking the three bigs there when they were babies.  I remember the thrill of pushing my first baby in his stroller around the mall, ecstatic that I had finally joined the coveted mom-club.  I loved everything about it… the nursing room, the diaper bags, the stroller, the feeling that I had finally reached the point in life where I was doing what I was put on this planet to do.  I sit here in a Starbucks in Texas amazed that I have now had this incredible blessing five times over; that the first baby I pushed around with such pride is now a sophomore in high school; that he’s approaching the age Matt and I were when we met one another. I have had that same sense of pride with each baby.  With the third was added to the mix I felt like a circus-show at times… people wondered how I got around. I didn’t have a triple-stroller but used my double and carried Bailey.  I got asked every time Carson and Bailey were in the stroller if they were twins.  Nope.  I didn’t get a two-for… I had 18 months of pregnancy to enjoy those two.

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After spending a while in the mall we headed back to Nana’s.  We weren’t going to be there long, as we were to leave the next day for Virginia.  We were there to ride a few four-wheelers, clean the car out (again), wash clothes, and pack up.  The trip had officially hit its whirl-wind phase.

In the last post I said that this post would include pictures of our visit with Mama Kim but the walk down memory lane was too fun to leave out.  (Fun for me, even if not everyone agrees.)  One of these posts will be about our time in Virginia!  We had an amazing time!

 

 

 

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NC – Summer 2017 (Part 2)

After a few days reprieve from the car the kids and I loaded up once more and headed to Belmont to visit with Matt’s side of the family.  We were particularly excited about this part of our trip as we were to meet our newest family member!  Brad (Matt’s brother) and Erin have been together since Bailey was a baby and have recently added their own little boy to our crew.  Lincoln is such a beautiful baby with a calm demeanor.  (And he is SUPER cute!)  We wanted to get to NC to meet him when he was first born but school commitments got in the way.  This introduction was long overdue!

We were happy to get to visit with one set of Matt’s aunts and uncles for dinner, Gail and Jr..  We really appreciated them coming to spend some time with us!  Grammy had prepared a delicious dinner of BBQ and fixin’s.

Brad and Erin had a surprise for us…. they had taken the next day off to spend it with us!  Military families – you know…  You know what a big deal this is.  I only hope that Brad and Erin know how much we appreciate it!  An additional surprise Erin had in store for Grammy was that she had hired a photographer to come to the house to get pictures of Grammy and all her grandchildren.

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Brad and I took all the big kids to see Despicable Me 3 while Grammy and Erin kept the littles at home.  Grammy had the best bubble blower I’ve ever seen – Anna really enjoyed that!

The boys had fun throwing a football and generally spending down-time with Grammy.  (Oh, and eating snacks that she can be counted on to purchase!)


Anna slept like a pro in her pack-n-play even though she had learned how to get out of it. If you tire her out enough she’s happy to go to sleep for nap and bedtime!  We look forward to our next visit with Grammy, Brad, Erin, and Lincoln in December!

The third part of this series will be coming soon and will include our visit with Mama Kim, beach time, and quite possibly the events of our absolutely unbelievable journey home.  (We have met Murphy and we are pretty sure we never want to again.)

In case I don’t get around to it soon, I will state that we are starting our 2017-2018 school year today!  I can’t believe I have an 11th grader! I also can’t believe that I am close to being able to say I homeschooled a kid all the way through K-12!  I NEVER planned on that and remember thinking it was one of the most daunting tasks ever.  I have loved every single year of it!!

Hayden – 11th – Sonlight Core 400
Carson – 9th – Sonlight Core 200
Bailey – 8th – Sonlight Core 100 (second half)
Parker – 2nd – Sonlight Core B
Anna – 18 months – play time!!

Here are more pictures from the photo shoot!

Happy Monday!
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NC – Summer 2017

Last Monday (a week ago) the boys and I were feverishly packing the van to head to NC three days early. We cancelled a few things that were on our calendar for the week so we could get a head start on our long drive. 
Our friends have been moving away slowly but surely over the past year and a half and we had to drive right past one of these sweet families! Of course, that meant we had to stop by and we appreciated the opportunity to rest our heads in their home for the night.


 
The next day was momentous: Chick-Fil-A’s “Dress like a cow” day… We stopped at the nearest Wal-mart and purchased a package of vinyl letters and spelled out two messages on our shirts:
“Eat More Chikn” and “Cow sez moo.”
 
The first CFA we came to was a little out of our way in West Monroe, LA. They were so impressed with our idea that they rang the large cow-bell!
Our second CFA was in another state… Alabama, perhaps? They, too, enjoyed our “costumes” and we ate again, for free!
We stopped at a Barnes and Noble for an hour to let Anna run around and for the boys to buy their souvenirs. (When you’re visiting the state you’re from you really don’t need souvenirs, so a book for each kid is a great way to spend a few dollars.)
 

Our hotel in Alabama had an indoor pool which we made good use of to get our wiggles out and tire us enough for a good night’s sleep. And we did sleep well that night.
 
The next morning we got on the road and, for the first time, made it through Atlanta in a decent amount of time. We were in stand-still traffic for only about 30 minutes. Best time yet!


 
We met up with the Ramsey Family at our old stompin’ grounds: Gardner-Webb University. This is where Anna and I first met and it just so happened that Olivia was attending a Volleyball Camp so in order for us to get to see her, we had to meet there.
 


After some fun catching up we got back on the road. We were excited to eat at a Cook-out after being away from this delectable treat for so long and even more happy about it when we found out Anna and Logan were able join us.
 
We then drove to my parents’ town.  When we were 40 minutes out I called my brother to see if he wanted in on the surprise.
 
We met up at the gas station in their town (yes… I said “the”) and drove to my parents’ house. Their driveway is long and gravel and they know the sound of a car on it so we pulled in just far enough to get out of the street and I sent a few back-to-back texts:

We decided to get a head start:

 
I then sent pictures of every state line we crossed, followed by this one of us with my brother and his family standing in my parents’ driveway: 

We may have thrown them for a bit of a loop as it takes a bit to prepare for a group of six people to come and stay with you for a few weeks, but they rolled with it and we’ve had a blast.
 
Getting there a few days early gave the kids and me some down time before we start the next few legs of our trip… which start today. (More on that later.) Had we left when we originally planned we would have arrived, then had only 48 hours of rest before the busy legs of the trip began.
 
Thursday we spent avoiding the car (we were done with the car!) and riding four-wheelers. 


Friday, more of the same, except the bigs did some yard work for Papa to earn some spending money.

Saturday we had “Christmas in July without the presents.” Mom hosted the family with a BIG Christmas brunch and we ate our family’s traditional foods to our heart’s content.
That afternoon my aunt and uncle on mom’s side came to dinner and it was so nice to introduce Anna to them!

Throughout this entire week Parker and my nephew, Mason, have been inseparable. They are the cutest little things!!  My niece, Madison, has really enjoyed being the “big kid” for a change, feeding Anna and helping out when she can. 


 
Sunday we skipped church to rest. None of us could have made it to church if we wanted to! A friend of ours from way back when I was homeschooled came out to meet my kids and reminisce about old times. Anna adored her and entertained us all with Beverly’s glasses!


A few of the boys took rides on Papa’s new motorcycle and as he was about to put the Harley away for the night, asked if I’d like a ride. The sun was setting, the air was perfect, and I couldn’t turn that offer down! When we got home I glanced at the clock and was absolutely stunned to realize we had been gone an hour. It literally felt like 15 minutes. Time really does fly when you’re having fun!


Monday we took the kids to a park giving Anna her first true moments of freedom since we left home. There really isn’t a good place for her to roam safely here so we have to be right on top of her. 

 (She’s even managed to master escaping from her pack-n-play!) Being at a park and watching her play with dirt and walk where she wanted to walk was so delightful that I hated to end the fun… but the rest of the people (including myself) were hungry… we were breaching hangry. 
We may or may not have eaten Cook-out again (and this wasn’t just the second time… I shall not reveal the accurate number of times we enjoyed their food while on this vacation).
After a run through Wal-mart I got my littles home and resting and made the bigs clean the bonus room (the room that they pretty much take over while we’re here). For the first time this week, Mom, Ashley, and I got to sit and chat with no interruption. These precious moments lasted all of 30 minutes… maybe. And then it was time to get the crew dressed and ready to go swimming!
Last week at our hotel Bailey taught Parker how to dive and Parker’s actually really good!
 
Today we head on the second major part of our journey: the kids and I are leaving this part of NC and heading to visit Daddy’s side of the family. We are very excited to see Grammy again and we simply can’t wait to meet our new cousin Lincoln! We wanted to get here to meet him when he was first born but we simply couldn’t get away in the spring! I can’t wait to see Anna loving on the younger cousin!
 
We have a third part of the journey that begins on Friday: we are heading to Virginia to see Mama Kim and Anna’s half-siblings. There are going to be many hours spent in cars over the next 2 weeks and we know the driving time will be worth the experiences we will have, but we do covet your prayers as we travel.
 
The final leg of our journey takes us back to Matt… we all miss him and wish he were on this trip with us! 

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Help Grow the Adams Family!!

Moms, I bet you’ve met another mom about whom you thought:  “I wish I were as kind as she is.”  Or patient.  Or friendly.  Or gentle.  Pick your adjective.

I have met several of those but I happened to be neighbors with one who matched all of the above all the time.  She, even when tired, even in the middle of a deployment, even when her house was the filled to the brim with neighborhood kids, was kind, patient, friendly, and gentle.  Sometimes you meet people like this and you are positive it’s a facade.  In the case of Breanna Adams, I can assure you, she is all of those things and more.

_JEN8348The best way I can put it is that she is genuine.

This post isn’t just about Breanna, although I relate to her most because we both love our jobs as mom and enjoy homeschooling our kids.  The whole family is precious and I can not begin to tell you how excited I am that they are in the process of adopting a child.

Their marriage is first under God, their kids are next, and their ministry is after these things.  They are a strong family and any child welcomed into their home will be entering a warm, loving, and secure environment.  They love deeply…

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Breanna and I have talked about the fact that their family has always dreamed of adopting someday and I watched them rejoice with our family as we walked through our own adoption adventure.  They supported us in numerous ways – the most special way included prayer as we were in the first stages when things could change in an instant. They prayed for Mama Kim to have peace in her choice to place Anna in our home and those prayers have been answered.  They prayed for Anna to bond instantly with our whole family and she has a unique and rich relationship with each one of us.

They even prayed with us when we knew we wanted to adopt but didn’t think it was possible and the grief was overwhelming.  Let me back up a bit and tell you a very short story from our adoption journey:

In August of 2015 Matt came to me and told me that he felt it was time for us to pursue adoption.  We told the kids about it over dinner at Rosa’s Cafe, called the grandparents to let them know that we were going to start looking into it,  but had told the kids we’d keep this quiet during the first part of our journey.  As we were pulling into the neighborhood our sweet little 5 year old said, “Mommy, will you forgive me if I accidentally tell Samuel?”  I knew we never had a chance of keeping it secret so we quickly went around the neighborhood and told our friends the news – and they rejoiced with us!  A short week later our hearts were broken when the research told us it was not possible to go the normal routes.  I walked down to tell Breanna, and our friend, Heather, happened to be there, too.  I sat on a bench in Breanna’s back yard and I wept.  I wept for the daughter I longed for but could see no way to have.  And my friends grieved with me.  People who sit with you in your grief are treasures on earth!

Of course, you know the end of the story and that just a few months later Matt and I got at text about Mama Kim and the adventure really began.

The night before the boys and I drove to the east coast Breanna, Heather F., Heather W., and their families gathered in our living room and prayed over us, Mama Kim, Anna, our journey… all of it.  And they were waiting on us to return home with our princess so they could squish her!

 

 

 

Over the past 17 months they have enjoyed watching Anna grow… and their hearts have been drawn more and more to adopt.  Just a few weeks after moving from Fort Hood to another duty station, they announced that they are in a rush adoption situation and that they are in need of raising funds as quickly as possible… sounds very similar to our own situation. Our friends, family, and even compete strangers helped us raise $10,000 in just a few months and I am so excited that the Adams’ fundraiser has been going amazingly well.  In just the first few hours they reached the halfway point of their goal.

I would love for you to click HERE to go to their YouCaring website and read their story.  Share from there and consider donating.  They set their goal at $10,000 and that is great.  Ours ended up being $13,000 so if you see the goal has been reached, don’t hesitate to give anyway.

I am so very excited for our friends to welcome this new one into their family.  It is so very exciting and I’m just sad that we aren’t neighbors during this particular part of their journey.

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12998474_10209610053836792_7929574627930270193_nHere’s the bench!  I sat on this bench and told them we were going to adopt… then sat on this bench and wept while I was grieving.  And this picture fills me with a joy immeasurable!  I can’t wait for the Adams Family to have this joy!

IMG_7313Parker and his buddy, Samuel.  IMG_4929

Peter, Breanna, and kids, we are so excited for you!  We can’t wait to meet the newest Adams and we pray that your journey is as smooth as ours.  Thank you for being such great friends and for encouraging us along the way.  Blessings!!

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Camp Eagle ~ Summer 2017

I’ve shared before about my favorite place in Texas, Camp Eagle.  It’s a Christian Adventure Camp that has stolen all of the Hamrick’s hearts.

This summer my three oldest had the opportunity to go serve the staffers for a week and then stay on for another week as campers.

My boys each came home with stories and a few bug bites!

The first week they washed dishes, cleaned the dining room, and cleared trails:

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While all three boys told me the second week (the week they were campers) was great, they unanimously said that the first week was their favorite.  They were serving and serving hard.  Exhausting work.  Hayden wants to go back for a three week serving session this summer but our summer is already almost over.  We don’t have three weeks left for him to go.  (We will be starting school pretty early to be able to finish in time for an overseas move.)

We’re telling him to prepare now in case he wants to buy a plane ticket to serve next summer.  Camp Eagle has stolen our hearts.

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Box Day 2017

Our materials for the upcoming school year have arrived!

I have packed away 2016-2017 and am now happily swimming in plans for next year.

Yesterday we opened our Sonlight Boxes and even Matt was impressed with the book selection for Core 400.

For our upcoming year we are using:

Hayden – Core 400: American Government and Civics

Carson – Core 200: History of the Christian Church

Bailey – Core 100 (part 2):  American History

Parker – Core B/C: World History

Anna – colors, letters, animal sounds, etc. (We don’t do school with our littles until they’re at least five.  We just PLAY!  And read a lot of books.)

Enjoy these photos from Box Day 2017!

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We here at Jackson Academy have above average first graders… Algebra 2!

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Just kidding. That’s for Hayden.

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_JEN2137 (1)_JEN2142 (1)_JEN2181_JEN2151Parker’s real math for the next year._JEN2147_JEN2157_JEN2176_JEN2168_JEN2191

Blessings!

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RFOs in hand…

RFO stands for “request for orders” and that document tells us that the Chief of Chaplains has approved the assignment that we have been given.  In my last post I shared about my trip to New Mexico and the fact that I drove through Fort Bliss (the duty station that I most dread being assigned to).  I mentioned that I was actually quite impressed with it and determined that if I were told we were moving there next, I wouldn’t die.  (Swelter, yes.  Die, no.)

I’ve been “hatin’ on” Texas for over four years now and I finally came around to see that I can do it. I can live in Texas and be happy.  I can endure the heat.  And on the day that I saw my least-desired post and came to a place in my heart that I’d be willing to go there if called, we found out where we’re going!

I had driven for nine or so hours when Matt called.  He asked, “Do you want to know where we’re going?”  I told him to wait.  That I needed a minute.  And I took that minute.

I breathed.  I thought back over the mini-tour of Fort Bliss.

I steadied myself.

Then he read the memo and I almost cried.

Once we knew, we wanted to tell the boys before they found out through the grapevine.  However, they were already at camp and wouldn’t be home for another week.  I am not good at keeping secrets so after sleeping at home on Friday night, Matt, Parker, Anna, and I drove to Camp Eagle to reveal the news to the boys.

We originally had a fun plan in place for the reveal:  each kid picked where they thought or hoped we’d go. Then, we had each of them pick a fast food restaurant.  When we knew our next duty station, rather than just telling them where we were moving, we were going to load up in the Silver Surfer and drive (in a non-direct way, I’m sure) to the restaurant chosen by the boy who had been the closest.

The locations and restaurants chosen were:

  • Hayden: Fort Carson – In & Out
  • Carson: Fort Riley – Chick-Fil-A
  • Bailey: Fort Bragg – McDonalds
  • Parker: Germany – Mission Taco

Since we weren’t going to do the reveal as we had originally planned, Matt and I went by the restaurants selected and got bags* from each.  Inside each of these I placed two items that would give them the location of our next duty station.  (*I had to improvise with Mission Taco’s bag since they don’t have paper bags but use plastic [transparent] bags.

After dinner we took them to a private room in the Dining Hall of Camp Eagle and had each boy stand behind the bag of the restaurant that the had selected.  I videoed the response which I will add at some point.

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Inside each bag I placed a bag of Haribo Gummy Bears and a rock from our front yard that I painted:

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Are you as excited as I am?!?  YEP!  We’re heading to GERMANY!

Stuttgart, Germany to be precise!

We’ve visited friends there before and very much look forward to living there!

I am already beginning work on my Smooth Move notebook.  But here’s the thing.  As absolutely THRILLED as I am about going to Germany (and leaving the Texas heat behind), I am dreading leaving my people and watching my kids say good-bye to their people.  It hurts in places I didn’t even have before I moved here. My heart has grown and stretched and molded to the shape of this place in ways I couldn’t foresee.  So know that while I’m happy beyond words, I am in the process of grieving at the same time.  With every PCS comes blessing and difficulty… for the moment, I’m going to focus on the fun, the excitement, and the fact that I still get an entire summer AND fall school semester with my people here at Fort Hood.

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_JEN2097I couldn’t decide which was my favorite and then I wondered why I needed to pick.  It’s my  blog and I can post two pictures if I want to.

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New Mexico

The past week was full of adventure.  Parker lost his second tooth and is quite proud of his gap!img_1756We drove to San Antonio to say farewell to friends who are like family.  The Byers are on their way to C4 (a six month course for Chaplains at Fort Jackson) and we needed one more get-together before they leave this massive state.  We’ve been so blessed to spend birthdays, race-days, concert days, and Thanksgivings with them.  They truly are like family.

We met at a fantastic splash pad and the kids had a blast together.

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We ate dinner at Mi Tierra, our favorite restaurant in SA.  Fun story… it was the first restaurant at which we with the Byers and we were even seated at the exact same table!

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The dads with the new Texas additions.

Just a cute picture of my Anna.

The bigs headed off to camp, which I will share more about next Monday.  When they headed off, Parker, Anna, and I loaded up the van and headed to visit Aimee and Miss Kayla.  Aimee was driving from CO to AZ to visit family and since we had originally decided to meet halfway somewhere between CO and TX, we decided to have our visit coincide with her trip.  She was going that way anyway so I headed west.  We arrived at our hotel within 20 minutes of each other!  We planned well.

A GIANT Texas match.  (Really this is something to do with burning off natural gas or something…)A new state sign for our family.

 

First hugs and loves between Aimee and Anna.  (Anna was VERY interested in what Parker and Kayla were doing.)

Anna getting snuggles from Miss Kayla (Miss “teeka.”)

We played at a local splash pad for a few hours on our first day, then went to the hotel to rest.  We ate Panda Express for lunch in our room while Anna napped.  That afternoon we played in the hotel pool and then enjoyed the free dinner our hotel offered.  We were more than happy to eat for free!  Staybridge is a fantastic hotel in my opinion.

Anna did NOT enjoy being surprised by the water coming out of this yellow ball.

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Playing a fun game of Make 10.  (Best app for learning how to add to ten I’ve seen!  Thanks, Aimee, for the suggestion!  His score keeps going up each day and he’s very proud of himself.)

Our second day we went to the mall to find a few needed things.  Earrings for Anna (she lost one and has been wearing a mis-matched pair for a few months) and an iPod case for Kayla.  I budgeted $30 for fun stuff on this trip.  We ended up doing free activities so when I saw these ride-on animals that were $5 for a 10 minute ride, I was all in.  The kids really enjoyed them!

No shopping date is complete without a cup of coffee and, when possible, a new state mug!  

After a few days in the pool and some late night chat sessions, it was time to say farewell again.  It was like no time had passed and yet, 18 months have gone by since we last saw each other.  I am honored to be her friend.

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We reentered Texas and set our sights on Fort Bliss.

This is the former home of our friends, the Eastes’.  (Why yes, you do see Krispy Kreme donuts in the reflection of my window.  We don’t have one where we live so we make sure to get some each time drive past one.  Thanks, El Paso, for giving me this sweet treat and for the Military Discount!  Military discounts are so often taken for granted and I, for one, am very appreciative.)

 

As we drove around the post I began to become more and more convinced that should we receive orders to Fort Bliss, one of the most remote CONUS duty stations ever, I would likely survive.  It is the one duty station that I dread more hearing that our next duty station would be Fort Hood.  If we were to get Fort Hood as our next duty station, I would survive because I have quite the amazing set of friends to do life with.  Before I saw Bliss with my own eyes, I was sure I would shrivel up and die.  Afterwards, while texting with Matt via Siri (which is why there is an extra word at the end of my second text), I admitted this fact:

 

The following pictures are taken ON POST.  People…  If you aren’t military these will look like your every day shopping center. Nothing special.  But we never see these kinds of places ON post.  It’s a big deal.  It’s called “Freedom Crossing” and has its own website. Toys R Us, Under Armor, Things Remembered, Dollar Tree, Texas Roadhouse, Dairy Queen… seriously… these stores and the beautiful setting they’ve created did a world for changing my opinion of this remote duty station.

As we continued our journey home Parker and I saw many dust devils.  The camera does NO justice to this particular one.

And just as we entered Copperas Cove, a beautiful sunset.  

We were in the car 12 1/2 hours on Friday: half an hour longer than our drive from Wiesbaden to Camp Darby.  My kids are amazing travelers!

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