Thursday, January 21, 2016

Our Journey to Public Education Part Three

As I'm writing these posts, I'm trying to be completely transparent. I'm pretty sure I broke one of the first unwritten rules that a child learns "never say never". I may have said something along the lines of "we will never go to public school again." Now, I would never look down on anyone for choosing that option, but we were doing something better, or so I thought. Like I said, transparency is not always pretty. I just want you to see how much God had changed my heart when the day I took my children to this new public school, I had the most peace in my heart that I had ever had on a first day of school. To catch up on how we got to this place click here for Part One and here for Part Two.

I will never forget the school's namesake as he stood at the front door and greeted each child as they entered on that first day. He's an older gentleman who's been a "servant hearted" laborer within the district for years. I know this may sound strange to some but the best way that I can describe this man is that he radiates Jesus. This got me thinking that maybe there is something more behind the reason why this school seems so unique.

Since there are basically three different story lines and the story is still being written, I'll start where I began with Harrison. I had a couple of concerns for Harrison starting out on top of the fact that he was going to be so behind his peers with reading. First, he is a homebody and going from three days at school to five was going to be an adjustment and I just wasn't sure how he was going to handle that. Even though he's always made friends easily, I still worried a little that it might be hard at first coming into this new environment. 

Cookies after the first day of school.
As it turned, there was no reason to worry, a lesson I'm afraid I have to keep learning and I know I'm not alone here! Harrison loved walking to school, especially walking our crazy wiener dog, Rosey. That actually helped get him up in the morning. He also seemed to make a friend right away, but in typical Harrison fashion, he could not remember his name. He also discovered that he had been missing something his first two years of school, PE. I'm pretty sure he thought he'd died and gone to heaven with this super fun and creative PE coach and class. Overall, he just seemed to be adjusting better than I could've imagined.

Since Harrison still couldn't tell me a name of any friends at school, I began to get a little concerned that maybe he wasn't making friends. So I set up a little play date at the play ground after school. As we walked to the play ground, no less than five kids yelled "Hi Harrison!" so I didn't worry about that any more!

A few weeks into the school year, he began tutoring with his teacher on reading after school. Although I knew he needed it, I thought it was going to make for a long day and I was hoping he wouldn't rebel against it. One night Harrison asked me "What's tomorrow?". When I replied "It's Tuesday", he said "Yay, that's tutoring day!". This blew me away and I began seeing what an amazing teacher he has been blessed with.

Harrison and his amazing teacher.
Harrison's confidence began growing with reading and one day he proudly told me that he was reading the same as everyone in his class. Although I'm pretty sure that there was some kid tucked away in the corner reading Harry Potter, this wise teacher had set up her classroom in a way that made each student feel successful. This impressed me so much. It also became more and more clear how much she is a champion for each of students celebrating each success along with them.

I have watched Harrison grow so much this year, it has been so neat to see. God has also done something amazing for me, He has shown me that Harrison is learning so much through this process of learning to read. He has learned to work hard at a young age. I've also am seeing more and more of his gifts like with mathematics and how he can tackle the most challenging of Lego builds with ease. I'm so thankful that God directed us as he did, because I cannot imagine Harrison being in the hands of a more determined teacher. I will forever be grateful and we still have another semester to go!  

As far as Haley goes, she has made the transition with such ease. It should come as no surprise that my artsy creative girl loves not having to wear a uniform! As I said before, her teacher is amazing and has actually given her a new love of reading. She's directed Haley to some books that have really inspired her. This teacher clearly sees the gifts in each of her students and that is a gift! Haley especially loves having an on campus library and she naturally enjoys the weekly art class. 

Haley and I at fifth grade camp
Haley has made some super sweet friends, but she is also beginning to navigate the waters socially. I do believe that being in this school has opened up some very important conversations that I'm not sure we would have had if we had stayed at our old school. Haley has been given the opportunity to stick up for a kid who was getting picked on and as far as I can tell she handled the situation with grace. Haley and I also got to attend fifth grade camp. It definitely provided us with some growth opportunities and memories we will never forget. I'm so thankful for how easy the transition has been for her. Now, I'm gearing up and praying for the next big step of moving on to middle school!

As far as for myself, I have gotten involved with the Moms in Prayer group, in fact I am now leading it each week in our home. There is just a special bond when you pray together and I am so thankful to have friends that feel the same way about prayer. We have had some pretty big things to be praying for and it is an honor to be able to do that each week. I've also had the chance to put a prayer request box in the teachers' lounge. We provided a snack bar one day for the teachers which in God's perfect timing happened to be right after a student sadly passed away from cancer. I was so thankful that our group could provide a small amount of comfort for the teachers on such a tough day. I have so much respect for teachers, it's a priviledge to get to support them in this way even if it is "behind the scenes". 

I am now involved with the Good News Club that is meeting this winter for six weeks. It's pretty incredible to be sharing the gospel to 120 kids inside of a public school. I have never felt more that my mission field is right where I live. I think the season is now to be a light right here the community where we have been placed.

I hope that I can be a voice of encouragement if God is calling you or your family into an unknown situation that there really is no better place to be than in his will. That is truly the safest place you can be. This story is still being written, so I hope to write another update again this spring.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Our Journey to Public Education Part Two

The day before school started.
I've heard it said that there is no better place to be than in the will of God. That is exactly what I have experienced in the last few months since we made the decision to leave our small Christian University Model School and begin our journey in a public school. You can read about the events that led to that decision here.

In the previous post, I left off with a real confirmation that God graciously gave me by an unexpected phone call from the instructional specialist at the new school. She generously offered to meet with us that spring and let Harrison read to her. Fortunately, we were using the same diagnostic reading program that they use, therefore she was able to see that he was not at the reading level he needed to be finishing 1st grade. She assured me that he would enter 2nd grade on an intervention program. I had been told that it would be so important for me to be an advocate for Harrison and of course I would do whatever needed to be done. But, it actually seemed like he already had an advocate with her which was truly amazing considering we knew absolutely no one at this new school. I left that meeting with so much peace in my heart once again that we were right where we needed to be.

During the meeting a fifth grade teacher happened to walk through the room and Haley was able to meet her. She was absolutely precious and said something along the lines of "You are going to love fifth grade, we have so much fun!". I thought to myself that she seemed like she would be a great teacher for Haley.

We decided to not be idle during the summer so we hired a tutor to work with Harrison twice weekly over the summer months. But, we didn't hire just any tutor, we hired Haley's fourth grade teacher who is not only an amazing teacher but happened to be getting certified to work specifically with students with dyslexia. I worried that Harrison may not be on board with these sessions, but to my delight he absolutely loved his time with her. She really worked so hard to build his confidence and he was in such a better position to begin 2nd grade. 

As we neared the school year, I was so thankful that Haley already had two super sweet friends at the school. It is a huge difference for a ten-year-old girl walking into a school knowing two girls verses no one. Harrison on the other hand knew no one in his grade. I do think it bothered him a bit, but I reassured him that he had always made friends easily in the past and this would be no different.

Family pic from the beach house.
As summer break wound down, we slipped away to a friend's beach house for a few glorious days and that is where we received the phone calls from their new teachers. Wouldn't you know, Haley ended up in the sweet teacher's class that we met in the spring. I missed both phone calls, but I was so thankful that I was able to call back and reach Harrison's teacher. I connected with her right off the bat and I could tell that she was a very experienced teacher. I had so much peace that both kids were in very capable hands. 

Meet the teacher night happens the week before school begins. It was such an important event for us to get to be in the school once more before the school year began. Haley's classroom was decorated like Hogwarts, it is off the charts cute and creative. There was no doubt in my mind that her young teacher was going to inspire her. Haley was also so pleased to be in the same homeroom as one of the two girls she previously knew. That does a fifth grader's heart good!

Harrison's classroom was super organized and cute as well. I could tell that this teacher would give him the structure he desired. I could also tell right away that he was in capable hands, but I also knew that she had a class full of second graders and a big job to do. Little did I know then just how much she gives to her students, but I'm getting ahead of myself! 

One other exciting thing happened during that event, I found "my people"! I was beyond elated to find out that they have an already established Moms in Prayer group that meets weekly. I cannot tell you how much I loved being involved with a prayer group before and the chance to do it again was so exciting. I also found out that they have an outreach called the Good News Club that meets second semester. It blessed my heart so much to see that these things were already happening within this school. It kind of seemed that we were all finding out place within this new community.

I know I am giving so many details leading up to this school year, but it is so good for me to remember all of the ways God prepared our hearts for the change. I heard something today about being a "grace detective" and that's what this feels like by going back and discovering all of His grace along the way.

Well, it looks like I'll be writing one more post about the actual school year and it's some very good stuff! But, the delivery man just dropped off two Eiffel tower base chairs that need to be assembled, so it's time to nest! {House post coming soon!}

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Our Journey to Public Education Part One

This post has been a long time coming. I have so much to update you on that I'm afraid I'll have to break it up into a couple of posts. I've sat down to write this numerous times, but I just wanted to have a little more time under my belt to offer some perspective. Yes, you read the title right. And if you're thinking that you can't believe it since I've gone on and on about how much we love our University Model School then you are right again.

DISCLAIMER: Before I get into the details of why we made this change, this post is not a why you should or shouldn't educate your child in this way or that. It is a post, however, on why you should follow God on whatever method of education He calls your family to. Our family has now experienced three different education models and I believe that God led us to each one and each was a blessing to our family for the time we were meant to be there.

So, I'll start back in spring of 2015. As you may recall we built a house (ugh, I need to update you on that post coming soon). At the end of our street sits an elementary school. As we found our future home location, I thought, "How wonderful it will be to have a playground and basketball court so close to our house!", never thinking in just a few short months our kids would be enrolled there.

Part of the reason that this post is hard for me to write is that I have to be upfront and tell you that I am part of the reason that the University Model was not working so well for our family. You may recall that I was working at the school last year, which means I was working three days a week and homeschooling the other two days. It's not a secret that I love keeping our home a haven and I struggled with not having a divided heart on home school days. I think having a new home to nest in made this even more of a challenge for me. So, what I mean by that is sitting down with my first grader while he did his school work was really not the first thing that I wanted to do. Of course, I always did and we always got the work done, but I know my attitude could have been better.

Harrison, who has always been an absolute delight, was beginning to really fight me on home school days. What took me quite some time to realize was that Harrison was fighting me for a good reason and it had nothing to do with discipline. He was flat out struggling to learn to read and, by the end of first grade, he was becoming aware of it, too. It broke my heart to hear him call himself terrible on more than one occasion. I was in-over-my-head and God was just beginning to open my eyes to it.

I do want to tell you that I firmly believe that I went wrong in this area. I should have been telling his teacher and the principal how we were struggling on home school days. I have no doubt they could have given me strategies to help. I do believe that it was my pride that kept me from coming forward sooner. So, that's my PSA to all the UMS parents reading this. You are in a partnership, please don't let pride get in the way when things aren't working.

I also became more aware that Harrison really seems to enjoy learning in the school setting much more than the home school setting. He was always happy at school and our relationship was suffering on home school days. One of the main reasons for our choosing of this UMS school was to spend more time with our children and sadly I was hardly spending any time leading Harrison to Jesus. I was mentally exhausted on those home school days.

At the same time, we began hearing absolutely wonderful things about the school down the street. In fact, I had never heard such marvelous things about any school. On home school days, I would see happy children walking home with their parents after school, after such rough days, this certainly got me thinking. However, we loved our school and for so many reasons. We had such wonderful friends and loved so many things about the school that if God was moving us to make this change it certainly wasn't going to be easy.

So, I got down to business with God. I prayed specifically about this situation for weeks and God began opening my eyes. I wrote down everything that God was revealing to me because I knew I was going to need to be reading it again and again as this was not going to be easy at all. You might not know why this would be such a hard decision, but we had previously had a tough season at a public school for one thing. Not to mention, I had put so much weight on being at a school with like-minded parents, students, and teachers that it was very hard for me to let that go. I do believe that God spoke directly to me and, as much as I would like to tell you what He said, I'm not going to. Mainly, because I believe that what He revealed to me was specifically for us and our situation. But, I can tell you that He gave me some great confirmations along the way as only God can do.

As it became more clear that putting Harrison into the elementary school down the street might be a good direction for him, we still had Haley to think about. You might notice that I hadn't mentioned her at all. Haley was thriving and doing amazingly well in fourth grade. Haley was growing and showing such maturity in completing her responsibilities on home school days. She had teachers that inspired her and loved her, not to mention darling friends. Things were going exceptionally well for her and one of her teachers would even be looping up with the class. But, as we began discussing and praying if Haley should go or stay, one thing crossed our minds, if she is going to make the change to public, fifth grade would be better than throwing her into middle school with basically no friends. So, it kind of seemed like we either needed to do it now or never in a sense.

We ultimately let Haley make this decision with our guidance. I think her first reaction was shock when we told her what we were thinking. After all, the end of her 2nd grade year in public was such a bad situation that we pulled her early and home schooled for the last two months of school. As only God can do, He led her and she quickly decided that she wanted to make the change, too. Her words exactly were "I want to be a light in that school". I was so proud of her, how could I say no even though I knew that this could mean that she would grow up faster. Of course, this meant leaving beloved teachers and friends which was still tough no matter what.

We called the new school in the spring and visited the school on a home school day. Of course, it seemed so big from where we were, but a sweet volunteer gave us a tour. Once again, we heard of how much her family loved the school and she happened to have a daughter who was in the same grade as Haley. After we finished the tour, I left my number at the desk to see if someone could call me and tell me a bit about their curriculum. I didn't say anything specific, but I though it might be nice if Haley needed to learn some math or something over the summer to be where the other students were starting the school year. I actually came home and cried after touring the school. I think that I was having to let go of the plans that I had made and embrace the plans that God had for me. His plans are always better as I will learn yet again.

We told our school shortly after of our plans to leave and go in a new direction. This meant that I would be staying home again as well. Overall, the whole school community was absolutely lovely to us as we told them, and I still consider many of the friends I met there to be my closest friends. One of my biggest prayers when we went to that school was for God to give us like-minded friends and He delivered.

Of course, it was still hard to leave and God was so kind to give me a confirmation that could only come from him. As I was sitting at my desk at work one day,  two staff members that I greatly respect and who have been in education for years were chatting with me about Harrison. I know their hearts were in the right place and they were only trying to provide me with wisdom, but basically one in particular told me that we were making a huge mistake. She felt that Harrison would lose a year and fall further behind. She suspected that we were dealing with dyslexia and that he needed to home school and get treated specifically for that for at least a year. I was in tears by the time this conversation ended. Remember how I left my number at the school? Well, that was a couple of weeks ago. Not a minute after they walked away from the desk, the sweetest lady from the new school called me who happened to be the instructional specialist who facilitates all of the testing and intervention for kids with learning issues. My conversation with her was such an amazing confirmation from God that we were on the right track.

So, that is how we came to the decision to enter public schooling this school year, but that is only the beginning of the story and I can't wait to tell you what all has happened! I will say that I have never had more peace taking my children to school the first day. 

You can read Part Two here.

Thanks for stopping by and sorry that I haven't updated you all in so long!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Way Too Long Post About Our Amazing Trip to New York City

When a relative gifts your family with a timeshare and your hubby has earned some free plane tickets from business travel, then a trip is born to New York City. And that is how the adventure began. As I shared with you in a previous post, we decided to surprise our daughter with the trip for her tenth birthday, after all, she had a fascination with the big apple.

(Warning: this may be the longest post I've ever written. I am officially breaking blogging rules by doing this and I don't care, ha. My hope is that someday my kiddos will read this and remember our amazing trip.)

Fortunately for me (the trip planner) I've been to NYC twice and my hubby actually worked in NYC for several years, so we had some familiarity with the city going in. But, every time I sat down with the intentions of planning out our days in the city, I hit a mental road block. After several failed attempts at planning, I decided perhaps we were really supposed to just "go with the flow" and experience the city. 

Matt and I had a date night before the trip and talked about what we really wanted from our time in the city and we both concluded that we didn't want to feel pressured to see everything, we really wanted our kids to just experience the city. But, most importantly, we wanted some serious family bonding.

Now, I can tell you without a doubt, that we had the best family bonding experience exploring New York City. From the hair-raising cab ride from the airport into Manhattan to the crazy chain of events that made us get back to the airport just in time for our flight home. It was a grand and blessed adventure.  


So much of our time in the city meant getting from place to place. During the last school year, Harrison had a section in social studies about public transportation, my, we hit the gamut on this trip. It felt like, planes, trains, automobiles and subways and boats and cabs and lots and lots of walking! But, I have to say, this may be where most of our bonding took place. This is where we had some serious team work, and learned a few lessons along the way. Like the time where Matt swiped the subway card, Harrison proceeded to go in, only for us to realize that we had run out of money on the card. Leaving Harrison in the terminal and the rest of us on the other side! We made Harrison stand right up against the bars, he looked like he was in jail, it was hysterical and a good lesson. From that time forward, I went in first then the kids, then Matt. We also made a plan that ensure no kid would be left on the subway to fend for themselves (a nightmare in this momma's mind) so I got on or off first then the kids and then Matt. It just felt adventurous at times riding the subway and Harrison carried a metro card in his pocket for days after, it was adorable. 

At times taxis were the best option and each time we got on one, man, I regretted it! With a boy who gets car sick and a serious lack of air conditioning in the back seat, not to mention the stop and go traffic, I always had a bag in my hand ready. I'm happy to say he made it on every cab ride without an incident, but it was quite an adventure each ride.

These shoes were made for walkin', and did we! I was very intentional about the shoes we wore for this trip. I looked long and hard for a comfy pair of tennis shoes especially for me with my back and hip issues. I seriously expected to be in some pain with all the walking that we would be doing, but I'm pleased to say, that my back and hips held up amazingly well. One day we walked almost 11 miles and 14 flights of stairs! I was so proud of Harrison keeping up as well. If you are really going to experience the city, then you are going to walk A LOT. I think when I look back on this trip, I will think of my view for most of the time will be Haley holding her daddy's hand right in front of me. Haley and Matt were a team, therefore, the little man and I were a team. It was just a sweet, sweet time walking so many miles with my boy. I loved his observations, like the many times he asked, "you mean people actually live up there?" or his fascination with the fire escapes coming down the sides of buildings. He is at such a sweet and fun age, it was just a blessing to spend that time with him experiences so many new things. 


As I think back on the trip, some of the sweetest moments were spent at a park. Well, of course there is Central Park, what a beautiful place right in the middle of so much action. We entered the park one lovely morning by The Museum of Natural History and walked to Belvedere Castle and then to the sailboat pond. What a beautiful and relaxing morning it was with crisp blue skies a little breeze. Harrison and I were fascinated with the dog walkers, eight dogs on a leash and so perfectly behaved! 

One of my favorite times of the whole trip was spent walking the High Line Park one evening. This park was created where old elevated freight train train tracks once ran. I couldn't picture in my mind before we went how wonderful it could be with the fun benches and lovely landscaping. I can see why it is a favorite place to stroll, even for the locals. After our walk, we picked up some cupcakes at an adorable little bakery and took them back to the hotel.

I love that we spent so much of our time away from the tourist stops and saw the city from a different perspective, really absorbing the feel of what it might be like to live there. We stopped at a neighborhood park and let the kids play for a few minutes in one of pricier areas of the city. I found it fascinating to watch the nannies carrying for the children. It reminded me of a book I enjoyed reading a few years ago called The Nanny Diaries.

Our first night, we went to Madison Square Park, it is a lovely oasis with some interesting sculptures and a dog park. We laughed because Harrison could have spent the entire evening watching the dogs play. We intended to have dinner at the Shake Shack right in the park, but we thought the line was too long and found another place to eat. This was our biggest mistake, ha, apparently the line was actually not that long based on NYC standards. Oh well, I hear we have a Shake Shake coming to the Dallas area, I may yet get my chance. 

A Magical Night:

I'm not going to lie, I may have muttered to myself, as I finally pushed the "buy now" button on the ticketmaster site "this better be good". I mean, I am pretty frugal and spending well over two hundred dollars for Haley and I to see Wicked seemed outrageous. I may or may not have attempted to buy the tickets three times when finally, I said something to myself like "this is not something you get to do everyday, Jennifer, just buy the tickets!" So let's just say, even though I had heard many wonderful things from trusted sources, I still thought there is no way it's going to be worth the amount of money I just spent on this show. 

I'll fully admit I was wrong. It was magical in every sense of the word! Haley and I sat mesmerized the entire time. The story was beautiful. I think as someone who worked for years to achieve a dream, it is always so touching to see people at the top of their "game". I know the many hours dedicated to their craft. And I felt honored to be watching the talented performers. My goodness, Haley looked so precious that night in her dress with some loose curls in her hair. To say she loved it is an understatement and I would have spent twice as much for the amazing evening with her. 

The Gershwin Theatre is only about a block from Time Square, so to add more astonishment to the evening, we walked through Times Square with the lights shining bright, it is something to see. We did selfies in Times Square of course and walked home. As we made the fairly short walk back to our hotel, I may have gotten slightly turned around, when my sweet college friend, who lives in the city texted me to see how we liked the show. Another one of God's provisions and blessings on our trip as she helped us get back to our hotel. 

I'm just going to say, if you get a chance to see Wicked, just do it! FYI for my local friends, I hear it will be in Dallas Spring 2016. 


Of course, you can't go to the big apple and not do any shopping. We spent about half of a day doing a little 5th Avenue shopping. The kiddos had some money to spend from their grandma, so we headed to FAO Schwartz. It turns out it is closing soon, boo. Goodness, we walked around that place forever as Harrison searched for his treasure. It was overwhelming for him to say the least. Then, we happened upon the treasure his heart desired, a station where you build your own remote control car, what! I would guess we ended up spending 100 times as much on this car when it was all said and done, but my goodness, he was so proud of his creation! It was pretty cute and sometimes it is fun to splurge a little, and they get you at every turn from the battery pack to the convenient backpack to carry your car in that they show you at the checkout, ha. 

Although Haley made a valiant effort to find her treasure at the toy store, she had another store in mind and it involves a little blue box. So, our next stop was Tiffany's. We found our way to the silver floor then to the charm area. She poured over the charms for awhile then asked the sales lady for the price of the charms she liked, it turns out most were way out of her price range (no surprise there) except for the infamous "Please return to Tiffany's NYC" charm. So, she bought it and carried that little blue bag around feeling so big! It was pretty cute!

My hubby wanted to do his shopping at UNIQLO which is quite an interesting Japanese clothing store. It is all white with a lot of glass and a modern design, it felt very futuristic to me. I managed to look through my section for about two minutes when the kids and I decided to enjoy one of the fun benches for the rest of our time at the store, they were beat and hungry! If we made one mistake time and again on our trip, we waited a little too long to eat lunch and we all got a little "hangry" and we always weren't by good places to eat so then we ended up settling for something we wouldn't normally choose. So, if I were to do it again, I would have planned our meals a little better. On the bright side, my hubby found some pretty cool clothes that he couldn't have gotten at home.

We did venture out to Chinatown one day, but I would say it really wasn't worth it unless you were wanting to buy a knock off watch or purse. I don't care that much about brand name and I don't really want to support someone making knock offs, so it wasn't for me. But, when I visited NYC in college, I was all about the fake Rolex. On the other hand, it was neat and slightly disgusting to walk by the open fish markets. It was a good taste of another culture for the kids so I am glad we made the trek out there. I also thoroughly enjoyed the walk through SOHO to get there, at least that's where I think we were! I'm so thankful for my hubby's navigating skills, otherwise, we wouldn't have seen nearly as much!

Although we realized the scary proposition of ruining the kids for life after experiencing NYC pizza, we took the chance twice. We met one of my sweet sorority sisters from college for dinner at a neat pizza place right next to where David Letterman used to be (crazy to say "used to be"). We had a great evening with her and it was neat for the kids to be with someone who lives in the city and has ever since college. 

 On Matt's agenda for the trip was to eat at Joe's Pizza. Once again, waiting just a little too long, we made our way there via cab after our fun morning in Central Park. This little dive is a favorite amongst locals especially of the famous type with pictures of famous people eating Joe's Pizza adorning the walls. At some point, Harrison, had decided he doesn't like pizza (how is he my child?). So, he opted to sit out while we chowed down on this fine delicacy. Trying to figure out what to feed the boy, we ended up buying him a street hot dog out of desperation. He took one bite and spit it out on the sidewalk, I thought "oh no, it must be bad!" It turns out his loose tooth came out in the bite, ha! So, Haley found his tooth right there on the sidewalk of New York City while Harrison was spitting blood. I don't think any of us will forget this moment, it was hilarious. 

Meanwhile, the boy still hadn't eaten lunch. There was a Trader Joe's close, so since that is where I normally shop, I thought I'd just pop in there and get him something. Think again, the line wrapped around the entire store, even with 14 registers and it was a random Tuesday at 1:00pm. I never wait in line at our Trader Joe's. It was just another time to realize how different life would be like if you lived there. Don't worry, we did finally find Harrison, our foodie, a decent lunch, ha!

The Statue of Liberty:

 Although, I didn't plan ahead very much, I did buy tickets to take the boat to see the Statue of Liberty ahead of time. When we walked past about a thousand people to get on the boat, I felt like a genius, but I didn't think about the ten thousand people that would be on the island wanting a ride back that we would contend with! We sat on the top of the boat on this warm day and took in the sight of Lady Liberty, it is really a nostalgic feeling to see it from the water. After all, it is still very good to be an American. I purchased pedestal tickets which allowed us access to the pedestal which was plenty high for me. My crew opted to hike the stairs instead of taking the perfectly good elevator. I may have been giving my crew, especially my husband, dirty looks as I huffed and puffed my way up, telling myself once again, "it's time to get back in shape, Jennifer!" I made it in one piece and the view was terrific. We made our way back, purchased our "souvenir Statue of Liberty" bottle of water, then it dawned on me that we would be in quite a line to get back on the boat.

We stood in line amongst tourists from all over the world for a good two hours before we could get back on the boat. I think the collision of cultures and many accents and languages was a eye opening experience for the kids. We finally made it back on the boat. I had full intentions of getting off and touring Ellis Island while I gave the children a history lesson and they hung on every word (dreaming here), but we were so exhausted we didn't dare get off the boat in fear of another line to bare. In hindsight, we might have just stayed on the boat and viewed the statue from the boat, instead getting off and touring Ellis Island where the lines were much shorter. Oh well, who knows, it's still not everyday that you get to stand on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty!  

Well, that was some highlights of our trip in a nutshell (kidding here). It was a grand adventure! Actually, our trip didn't end in the big apple, we took the train and spent a few days in Connecticut. I will leave those adventures to another post. Until then!

Many blessings,

Monday, June 29, 2015

Haley's 10th Birthday Surprise

I am terrible at keeping surprises secret. I mean, if I have a gift to give you that I think you will really like, then it is so hard to keep it to myself, my poor hubby probably hasn't received a gift from me that I didn't give away before.

Friends, I successfully kept the biggest secret from my daughter, Haley, for months and months! Matt and I were planning a trip for her birthday and I didn't spill the beans until the day she turned 10! Way to go me! I wanted to share how we finally did the big reveal...

So, I decided to make up a little scavenger hunt for her to do the morning she turned 10. I wrote a note in cards that were a "this is your life" theme, beginning with how Matt and I met, to my pregnancy with her, to her first birthday and one for each year after. The cards were hidden with something meaningful from that time in her life and each card contained a clue to the surprise.

I slipped away to Target one day, where I wrote out the cards. I have to say, it was emotional writing them. My how ten years can just slip by so fast! 

Haley's lovie since she was one, Piggy, held one of the clues. These two have been through a lot together!

So, the last clue didn't reveal where she would be going. Daddy would be bringing home the last clue at lunch. She had to wait a couple of long hours to find out ... longest two hours of her life, ha ha!

Matt had his stereo blaring "Welcome to New York" by Taylor Swift and Harrison and Matt were holding the banner. She was shocked and excited! 

We actually just got back from our amazing adventure to NYC last night and I can't wait to share our journey with you. It was a most blessed time of family bonding and fun! 

Many Blessings,

Friday, June 12, 2015

Haley's 10 Year Old Dinner, Spa and Crafting Party

Our sweet Haley Ruth turned 10 in May and turning 10 is a big deal, so we did a lot of celebrating! I wanted to share the sweet little party that we hosted for a few of her school friends. We wanted an intimate affair with just a few friends, so we decided on a dinner and spa party with a few crafts thrown in for good measure.

The girls were seated and served their meal of an appetizer, caesar salad, fettuccine and gourmet cupcakes. Haley's younger brother Harrison helped do the serving and I shared some meal etiquette with the girls. I actually think this ended up being the favorite time for all of the girls as they sipped their sparking raspberry lemonade and giggled. It was preciousness! 

Haley, being my crafty girl who is already proficient at using Pinterest, found several crafts for the girls to do. So, we set up a rotation of three crafts and a pedicure after dinner. I set up the flower pot painting outside and I had the other crafts set up on trays ready to go after clearing the dinner table. 

Harrison even got in on the crafting action. I thought it was nice of Haley to let Harrison be included in this girly affair!

For spa treatments, my sister and I gave the girl pedicures with foot soaks in lavender Epson salt. The girls picked their colors and were adorable enjoying their luxurious spa treatments! 

We finished up with face masks and then the girls were off to play. Right now, all of the girls are into "Forever After High" dolls, so they piled on Haley's bed and played with dolls. I love that at ten they still play with dolls. I often ponder that even with how much things have changed, still childhood can remain the same.

We simply tied a ribbon around nail polish and a nail file for the girls' party favor.

I absolutely loved throwing this little party for our sweet girl, but we had another birthday surprise for her that I can't wait to share with you, so check back soon and I'll fill you in!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Where to Start? We've Moved...

So, my last blog post was July of 2014. It is now April of 2015. Where to start. In fact it is just so overwhelming to know where to start that I've just let this blog sit. But, then it occurred to me that I miss this, I miss sharing with you. So, here I am and I still have no idea where to start.

Well, perhaps I'll start with the changes. I am now a working mom, part-time albeit but still working and, friends, that is a huge change. We are no longer living in the cute little house pictured above. We have a brand new home that we built and moved into a little over a month ago. As you can see, there are some big changes that have occurred since July of 2014.

Since this blog is called Simple Home Managing, I should start with our journey to a new home. It had been a dream of ours for quite some time to move to the "bigger" city just south of us, where our kids are in school, where we shop and the location of an adorable downtown and just so many conveniences and even more importantly friends that we wanted to be closer to (yes, that was a very long sentence). In fact, this medium size city was listed as the best place to live in a magazine poll last year and 2nd the year before that. This city would give my husband a super easy commute and we felt would overall improve our lives.

Don't get me wrong, oh how I loved the little house pictured above. Making that little house our haven was a labor of love for me. Yet, I longed to be in another place. I had scoped out for years, and tried to force the move when it wasn't God's timing and He prevented it each time. It is so interesting for me to look back on this because it is so clear to me that He ordered our steps and although it was painful at times to not have have things "my way" I can see now that it was for our good. Even though, it can be so hard to see that at the time.

Things fell into place and just how God has worked in the past with me, things moved fast. God led us to a new development in the perfect location, a ten minute commute for my husband and ten from the school, just five minutes from our closest family friends. We found a floor plan that in so many ways had everything that I loved about our little home, the natural light, the open floor plan, and yet it has more room to entertain, a space for a guest to sleep and dedicated space for our homeschool days, even a bonus space upstairs for a playroom. It.was.perfect.

Now, to sell our house. We spent the next few weeks preparing our little house, which meant painting the outside trim in the hottest month of the year and in Texas that is hot! This would also be right when I began my new job working at the kids school, eliminating my "kid free" time. But, all that said, our little house proved to be a dream home for a nice couple moving to be closer to grandbabies and the house sold in a weekend. 

We had four months from the time until we moved out until the new house would be completed. We put everything into storage except for the bare essentials and my parents graciously let us take over their house. I think I may have done one load of laundry and maybe cooked a meal or two in that whole time, because I have the sweetest servant-hearted mom. My dad also spoiled the kids with chocolate chip pancakes just about every morning. I'm pretty sure that I need to send them on a cruise!

Of course, I couldn't wait to get into our new home and nest! This home has proved to be everything I imagined, a perfect space for our family. Still not too big to maintain, but a great space for us and for friends! We hosted our first family holiday this Sunday for Easter, and it was so nice to have the island to seat the kiddos and more space for family at our table. I've found that people always congregate in the kitchen so the big island and open space are so nice. 

I guess my style for this house is cozy minimalist. It's kid friendly, not pretentious, airy (yes, we like the walls white), with a touch of artsy flair and color. Just like my old home, it will evolve over time. After all, a home is not built in a day. I've included a few iphone pics in the post, so not the best quality, but you get the idea!

The front, I've planted some of my favorite perennials that don't mind the Texas heat, but we do have a lot of hungry bunnies in our neighborhood that are eating up the plants:

The den with the little man watching PBS this morning:

My dream kitchen:

Of course, my little artsy one, Haley, couldn't wait to decorate her Paris inspired room:

Our guest room/office:

The upstairs playroom:

I'll add more pics as I have time, now off to get our schoolwork done! Thanks for stopping by!