Valentine Love

I  love my kids and husband more than I can express to you. They are the ones who make me get up in the morning (horizontal children in your bed tend to do that) and the ones who put smiles on my face. I have the deepest love for our children and the man who is my partner.carolineI love that you go to bed with dolls but insist on playing Legos too.

Derek and Caroline in the snowI love what an amazing dad you are to our children.

I love that you two always want to be together and do the same silly things.

caroline - schoolI love how independent and self assured you are.

I love how all three of you can play in the same room with the same activity.

andrew sewingI love that you enjoy crafty things and singing in the shower for all to hear.

alex footballI love that you are passionate about sports and can recall every statistic you’ve read in the newspaper for the last 3 years.

I love that you are always talking on the phone, going through my purse, or playing on the computer – all while smiling.

I love that you are willing to do things for our children that are out of your comfort zone – just because you want to make them smile.

I love that you are always finding ways to have fun together.

I love that you are passionate about animals and your life’s dream is to work at the zoo (at the cash register).

I love what an amazing big brother you are. You are always willing to watch, follow, or play with your brother or sister.

I love how much you love our children and me.

I love that you make us all laugh everyday.

I love that you love each other.

I love that you are my equal for taking care of our children. You are always cleaning, cooking, going to practices, and taking care of us.

I love that you were so proud of yourself for accomplishing this.

I love that you are willing to try new things with your brother just because it interests him.

I love that I get to spend everyday with my family.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Moustaches for the Masses

When looking around blog world I noticed many handmade Valentine’s. I especially liked the idea I found on Cupcakes Kisses n ‘Crumbs and thought my boys would too.

Steps we took to make Valentine Moustaches:

1) Alex found a mustache shape he liked on the Silhouette machine. We played with the size until he was satisfied with “the look.” The machine then cut out 50 moustaches from black card stock.

2) Next I took paint pens and wrote “Happy (Heart) Day!” Alex then wrote his name.

moustache3) Buy a ridiculously huge bag of Dum Dum lollipops since it’s the only bag at Walmart. I’m talking 300 Dum Dums people. I’ll have these for the next two Halloweens. Well, at least till the beginning of March.

4) The tricky part was getting just the right size hold to place our lollipop in. We made the hole by using an awl.

5)  We then simply slid the lollipop on.

Here’s a look at the finished project. Not the best photo. It was bedtime and I thought this was good enough at the time. Probably should have been patient for another photo.The boys were thrilled with the lollipop moustaches and can’t wait to give them to their friends.

Do you have any Valentine’s Day creations or plans?

Preschool Madness

Caroline is going to a school about 45 minutes away from our house. She’s going there because 1) our family loves it and 2) it’s on my way to work so it’s easiest to drop her off there.

Next year though I decided to find something closer to home. Last Monday I took the opportunity to visit 4 different preschools. I toured all the facilities and then ranked them in order of preference. At the end of the tour for my #1 choice, the director mentioned that registration was the following Monday. She said, “The registration starts at 8:30 am but people start lining up at 7:00 am.”

I’ve stood in line for elementary school acceptance for the boys so I knew I could do this for preschool. It seemed a little over the top to me but I wanted to get Caroline into this school. It’s the closest school to our house and my first preference.

The director also mentioned all of the 2 day classes I wanted were filled already. Church members or students who were already enrolled in the school had taken most of the available spots. She mentioned there were only 7 spots left for all the other 2 days classes. Since there were only 7 spots left I decided I better get there early.

I managed to get up on the designated Monday and be out the door by 6:50. I had packed two coats, a hat, gloves, a blanket, a chair, a book, and snacks. I was ready to wait outside in the 35 degree weather if necessary.

Driving there I thought to myself, I will probably see 2 or 3 cars in the parking lot since she said people start lining up at 7. Imagine my surprise when I pulled into the parking lot and saw about 20 cars. “Please tell me all these people are here for an early bible study. Please. Please.”

I walked right into the building, thankful my winter gear was not needed. Immediately upon walking in I noticed the plastic hanging numbers and sign in sheet. The plastic numbers were exactly like ones you might find in a deli or in a dressing room. My number was 21. Are you kidding me? It’s 7:03! How is this possible? I thought she said people start lining up at 7:00. When signing in I also had to put down the time I got there. I glanced up at the person in the coveted #1 spot – she had signed in at 4:53! The next 10 people had gotten there sometime between 5:30 and 6:00.

Where am I? What kind of school is this? I simply googled a list area preschools and got this one. Does having my toddler in this preschool mean she’s connected and will get into the sorority of her choosing? Are we signing up to be in some sort of toddler cult?

I took a seat in the “waiting room” along with 20 of my competitors other parents. I took out my book and pretended to read. What I really did was zone into conversations trying to pick up any bit of information about how old their children could possibly be?

I managed to hear one woman say, “I had hoped to get her in the 3 day a week program but it’s already full.” YES! That program isn’t even offered for my daughter’s age group. Now I’m basically number 20 in line!

I strained my eyes to see the woman’s paperwork sitting on the ground near me. YES! Her kid is younger than mine! But crap, she walked in right after me, I’m still 20.

When I initially walked into the waiting room I noticed two moms with one year olds. I instantly felt sympathy pains for them since I knew their children could go down hill at any moment. One little boy sat on his moms’ lap and didn’t make a sound the entire time. He ate cheerios and looked at a show on her IPhone. On the other hand, the other little boy had already had enough at 7:15. He didn’t care about the books his mom brought. He didn’t care about the toys she tried to distract him with. He didn’t care about the snack she tried to give him. She decided to take him on a walk which seemed to interest him for awhile. Eventually they walked back into the room with a toy truck.

All was well for about 3 minutes. But then he found the sound button. When the button was pressed this hideous screeching sound came from the truck. Each time this offensive noise occurred for roughly 28 seconds.  Okay, maybe it was more like 2 seconds but it seemed much louder. The mom tried to take the toy away from her son but he would not allow it. After several more bursts of sound she looked very flustered. I said to her, “It’s okay, we’re all moms we understand.” What I was thinking was, “B****, turn off that freakin’ toy, it’s 7:30 am.” But my face never betrayed me. I completely came across as a sympathetic mom.

About 8:00 I noticed a shift taking place. Five of the original 20 parents were guys. At 8:00 there appeared to be an official changing of the guard. Wives came in with their hair done, nice clothes, and Starbucks in hand. It was obvious their husbands work was done and they were now in charge. The dads left quickly thrilled to be relieved from their duty. The other moms who hadn’t quite taken so much time on their appearance kept stealing glances at “the new ones.”

I took a quick break around this time to stretch my legs and get a change of scenery. I found two other mothers standing near the entrance so I started to chat them up. I asked how old their kids were (umm, I sincerely cared but YES! I’m number 19 now thanks to a 3 year old), and if they had other suggestions for schools.

One of the moms mentioned she had to run to her car to get her charger, did we mind? There was a sign on the door which read, “Once you have signed in for preschool registration you may not leave the building.” Did I mind? Hmm……what number are you? 27 you say? No, go right on out there. Drive to McDonald’s for all I care. But if you were #14 I would report your rear end so fast for taking a step out that door.”

At 8:29 they announced they were ready to start registering #1-9. Relief, smiles, laughter from those 9 moms.

Moments later #10-19 were called. The rest of us stared longingly at them. “Take us with you,” we all whispered under our breaths.

Then it was time for #20 – 29. So long suckers! Hah! Sucks to be you still in the waiting room.

Caroline received the second to last spot for 2 year olds. I wanted to take a victory lap around the waiting room but decided that might make things a tad awkward come fall.

I was home by 9:00 and back in sweats by 9:15.

Believe you me, I will bring up this experience several times during Caroline’s lifetime. Something along the lines of…..”I remember the time I stood in line at 2 am in the snow to get you into preschool….”

The Mom Song

This woman is brilliant. My friend Jess sent me this video a couple of years ago and I just discovered it again. It makes me smile, chuckle, and nod my head in agreement. I’m pretty sure I’ve said most of what’s in this song. Enjoy!

And her take on Dad’s..

My Husband is One Lucky Guy

My dad loves to give silly t-shirts for Christmas presents.

Over the years we have all had our fair share.

One Christmas my sisters and I each received a shirt that said, “What Happens With the Sisters, Stays With the Sisters.”

Another year Derek received a shirt that said ,”Derek, the Man, the Myth, the Legend.”

Last year my shirt had a wine glass with the phrase, “More book club please.”

But this year my dad found a shirt for me that speaks the truth.

When you see this shirt, you will automatically think, “Yes that’s Jen.”

I am this shirt.

I think you will understand once you see it.

trophy wife shirtHousewives of North Dallas, anyone?

My Super Bowl Victory

My Super Bowl victory has nothing to do with the Packers or the Steelers. My victory is one between man vs. food. Okay, woman vs. food. I’m talking about the ever elusive perfect potato salad. More specifically…my mom’s potato salad. I have dreamed of making it for years.

My mom makes the best potato salad. At every family gathering, whatever time of year, this dish makes an appearance based on popular demand. Now you may have this dish down pat but remember I am not a cook. The prep time, the layering upon layering of ingredients, and the need to chill overnight, were daunting to me.

I was always intimidated. But no more. I have conquered my potato salad fears and come out the victor.

Last year I asked my mom to let me help her make the potato salad so I would learn the process. I watched as she created it layer by layer but I was sure I would never be able to recreate it. I’d like to say I promptly went and tried to make it soon after but that would be a lie. I didn’t even think about attempting it until a few days ago.

For some reason I felt sloppy joes and potato salad would be perfect for Super Bowl Sunday. I bought the ingredients and waited until the kids were in bed on Saturday night. I read the recipe several times. In fact, I read each step several times. I put the finished product into the refrigerator and hoped for the best on Sunday.

As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised with my potato salad. It was good. Really good. After the years of worry and self doubt about tackling this recipe I scored! In fact my husband liked it too. On Super Bowl Sunday I had roughly 6 servings of the potato salad a few scoops of the potato salad with my sloppy joes.

Now I’m going to go through the family cookbook to figure out what recipe to try next!

potato saladDo you have a family recipe you’ve always wanted to master?

Honey Cornbread

So I was sitting in bed last night watching “The Mentalist” when I mentioned to Derek that I didn’t have a post for today yet. Suddenly a topic popped into my head. I announced, “I should share the cornbread and chili recipe we had tonight. Those were good.” Derek responded, “Yes, the cornbread would be a good one to share.


Me thinking.

“Oh I get it. You didn’t like the chili.”

“I’m not saying that. It was good too.”

“Right. I think that was very clever how you phrased it.”


“You are in charge of dinner tomorrow. I’m out.”

So, in light of our conversation I will only be sharing the cornbread recipe. Apparently it’s good enough to share.

Honey Cornbread

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

4 eggs

1/2 cup honey

1 and 1/3 cups milk

2 and 1/3 cups flour

1 and 1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup corn meal

1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream sugar adn butter. Add in eggs, honey, and milk. Mix well.

2. Mix together flour, baking powder, corn meal, and salt. Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Do not over mix. Batter will be lumpy.

3. Pour batter in greased 11 x 14 inch baking pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown. (I cooked mine in a 9 x 13 pan for 28 minutes. I think it could have been taken out a few minutes earlier – just watch it carefully).

Anyone have a tried and true chili recipe?

recipe found at

Closet Redo

My husband turned to me one Friday night several weeks ago and asked what our plans were for the weekend. I looked into his big brown eyes and knew he wanted me to say, “We’re eating out, going to the movies, and relaxing all weekend.” Instead I looked at him and knew I was about to burst his bubble. “I want to demolish the coat closet.”

closet“You mean the new closet in our new house?”

closet“Yes, I hate it. It’s messy. It has no organization and the kids can never find their things.”closet floorSigh. “Okay. Show me what you want to do in the morning.”

Our coat closet had the awful hanging single shelf but not much more. The kids (and I) would end up throwing our coats and bags in their and shutting the door. I think my husband was the only one who actually hung up his coat, hence his inability to see the need to demo the closet.

middle closetOur first step was tearing out the shelf. You can see the left over piece at the top of the above photo. My husband then taped dividing lines about every three feet. I wanted everyone in the family to have their own dedicated space.

After painting the lines (first white and then blue – to have somewhat straight lines), we added hooks.

Each person has 3 lower hooks for items they use on a daily basis…..

5 small hooks to hang hats……

and 3 large hooks again at the very top for items not used daily (soccer bags, etc).

I then painted the kids’ names into the section they chose for themselves.

So far our new closet works perfectly. We bought the hooks new but used paint from another project. A little bit of work that makes a huge change for us.

Any little projects you’ve been thinking about tackling?

Financial Goals Updated

As I mentioned in a previous post, Derek and I have made some financial goals for our family this year. One of the ways I was going to directly help was keeping an eye on the food budget.

January’s goal was to spend $125 less on groceries/eating out a month (compared to 2010 monthly average).

Before I give you the results, here are a few “happennings” concerning eating during the month:

Derek’s birthday dinner, cookie cake for $24.95 (yes, I could have made one, no it would not have been as good), ladies night out for me, kids eat free night at BBQ place, Ben & Jerry’s dessert trip, Double Dip trip for dessert, coffee and breakfast for a friend, several meatless nights, bought diapers and wipes (yes, that’s included in this budget for us), several impromptu visits to CVS for gatorade due to the flu, and we ate out on several occasions.

So…how did we do……..(drum roll here people, work with me)

January 2011 food groceries / eating out budget was $328.35 less than our 2010 monthly average! Yeah for us!

What was the key to our success you might ask? Well, let me tell you. I ignored looks from my husband when I knew he wanted to go out to eat. No, seriously, I think it was our meal planning and cooking some meals ahead of time. It’s always easy to go out to eat when nothing is prepared at home. But if there is a casserole already sitting in the fridge, we’re more likely to go home and eat it.

I used this little form to keep track of all the food purchases. The form actually has 2 months on it. I cut off the top section to keep in my wallet for January and will use the bottom section for February.

It helped me keep a constant watch on what we were spending.

Here’s a peek at our January form filled out.

Thank goodness my birthday is today, February 1st. Just in time for our food budget to be huge. We are going to eat like kings tonight. Who cares if we have beans and toast the rest of the month. OK, maybe not but it’s fun to dream.

Now onto our February goals.

1) February’s goal is to spend $175 less on groceries/eating out a month (compared to 2010 monthly average).

Yes, we were very successful in January, but anything can happen and I’d still like to consider $175 a big achievement in the end.

2) February house goal: anything we buy for the house (decorations or furniture) has to come from money we earned by selling items on craigslist or ebay.

We have several items in our house which I’ve wanted to get rid of and replace for a long time. Sometimes it’s hard to justify getting a new lamp when the one you have works just fine. This goal could be a total disaster but I think it’s worth a shot. Don’t worry, I bought a gallon of paint last weekend so we would at least have a project to work on while we figure out this whole craigslist game.

So that’s what’s new with us in the goals department.

How are you doing with your 2011 goals?