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 fascinating 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!



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Five Minute Sugar Scrub

My crafty girl, Haley, and I did a fun little project today that I wanted to share with you. We made a sugar hand and foot scrub. It was so easy and fun. She has a much longer attention span for crafty projects than I do, so this five minute project was perfect for me!

Sugar Hand and Foot Scrub

Mix together:
1 part coconut oil
3 parts raw sugar
several drops of essential oil of your choice (we used orange, it smells divine!)

We used a recycled jam jar. To spruce it up a bit we used some leftover spray paint from Haley's room makeover on the lid. We also added a chalkboard label that we cut out of chalkboard contact paper. Have you discovered chalkboard contact paper yet? It is super fun!

So, if you know us personally, please disregard this post because you will most likely receive this as a gift from us in the next six months!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Our Last Week Together...

PaPa had once told Jane Jane that he wanted his last days to be spent with Haley and Harrison. How could we have known that this beautiful week in May would be our last week with him? PaPa and Jane Jane, what my kids affectionately call their grandparents or my in-laws, came to spend the first week of summer break and celebrate Haley's ninth birthday with us. They rolled into town from Ohio, a car full of fun gifts for the kids and Jane Jane's famous canned pickles and apple sauce, just as the kids were finishing their last day of school. They loved watching Harrison play and interact with his school friends on the beautiful tree-covered playground of our wonderful school. PaPa had been especially pleased with our decision to put the children in this private Christian school this year. He told Matt something that I would never forget when we were weighing the cost of the school, he said something along the lines of "it's okay to sacrifice for your kids". This was his chance to see the school in person and the wonderful historic building and setting didn't disappoint. 

We loaded up the car with backpacks for the last time this school year and headed to our favorite thai restaurant to begin our time together. This began a lovely week of beautiful weather filled with eating at great restaurants, lots of porch sitting, celebrating a not-so-little girl's birthday, playing at parks, a trip to Ft. Worth to visit friends and enjoy their garden, watching Harrison play tee-ball and Matt coach, taking a tour of Dallas, shopping, and visiting a local nursery. We really couldn't have asked for better weather or a more relaxing time.

PaPa let Haley paint his head with face paints!
The last night of their visit we watched Harrison play tee ball and both sets of grandparents were in attendance, I snapped a quick picture saying it's not often that we have all of the grandparents together. We went to the Dairy Queen enjoyed some ice cream and a few good laughs.

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing at our house, I noticed how Haley snuggled right up to PaPa on the couch and thought to myself how comfortable and loved she must feel with him. That is one thing no one could question, he had a great love for his grandchildren and Matt being an only child meant that Haley and Harrison had his complete love and attention.

The next morning Jane Jane, PaPa, Matt and the kids went to the new coffee shop in town and enjoyed some sweets and then said their tearful goodbyes while I attended a "Trim Healthy Mama" meeting. I would miss Matt and my Mom's calls just two hours later as I sat with my phone on silence and blissfully unaware of the trouble that lay ahead. It would be a heart attack just two hours down the road that would take him away so quickly, a shock so hard to comprehend. Haley when told that PaPa had a heart attack and needed to get in the car quickly had the foresight to grab her Bible. Through her tears she found a page that led her to verses when you feel sad. Psalm 34:18 provided all of us with comfort through the next difficult days.

This was only a little over two weeks ago so this is all still very raw, perhaps too raw for a blogpost. But, I want to remember, my kids to remember the gift of our last week together. We know that PaPa is with our Lord. Harrison figures he might be having interesting conversations with Abraham Lincoln. The kids, my mom and I made a random exit the day after Harrison made this comment at dinner on our drive to Ohio and found ourselves at Abraham Lincoln's birthplace. It was a beautiful setting that our road weary, sad bodies needed. 

Of course, it was a sad week in Ohio, but it was not without its sweet times. Like spending time with cousins who live in Maine and we hadn't seen in three years.

My sweet husband has handled everything with such courage, strength, and grace, I am beyond blessed to be his wife.

I'm also so proud of the courage and grace Jane Jane has shown in having to say goodbye to the love of her life. And, I certainly couldn't have made it through the last two weeks without my Mom's support in making the trip to Ohio with the kids and me. 

We're thankful that the end of this life really only begins your real life, but it's still tough even with that hope. We are so thankful for the many people who have prayed for us and reached out to us over the last two weeks. God has blessed us with some truly great friends and your prayers have been felt.

PaPa you will be missed...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Summer Reading Incentives

As an effort to be more intentional and keep the children growing academically this summer, I've decided to have incentives for reading. I found this awesome idea on Pinterest and created a "bookworm" for Haley. She will fill in a segment with the title of each book she reads. As an almost nine-year-old her books are chapter books that will take her around a week to read. When she reaches a green segment, she will remove the cover to reveal her prize. I tried to be fairly thoughtful in the prizes, but I don't want to give too much away and spoil surprises for her! A couple of the prizes are actual "things" but I tried to focus on experiences like one on one time with mommy or daddy doing something fun. I hope I've found a few things that will be a real reward! 

Since Harrison is a beginning reader, I needed something a little different for him. He will read one book per sitting, so I needed more squares. I decided on a "Candy Land" theme for him since he is so motivated by food! He will move the game piece as he finishes a book. I'm thinking I will get some dried fruit sticks for Harrison to have after he reads since he is such a "foodie" and more reluctant to sit and read aloud. Maybe I'll make some popsicles and ice cream as well for an after reading treat. I did make some prizes for him which are located under the red smiley faces. I tried to keep to the same premise as Haley's prizes of a couple of "things" but mainly experiences while making them unique from her prizes.

I also plan to do plenty of read alouds with both kids. After all, I enjoy that time so much as well! Here is a post I wrote on reading great literature with my kids. Haley and I just finished this incredible book about the life of Gladys Aylward. I cannot recommend this book enough, her story is absolutely incredible!