Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Little Einsteins

Presto! Allegro!

The notes of Franz Schubert mixed with the smell of mixed berry muffins are how I’ve started my morning.

School is closed today for a deep disinfection. Yes, on a Tuesday, the illness numbers were just too high yesterday. The approximately 850 kids in our district will get a respite from the onslaught of influenza and stomach flu and respiratory viruses.

We received the word about 5:30pm yesterday. Pre-kids-Jen would have started mentally planning the day. Two-kids-later-Jen acknowledges that whatever I plan is likely to get wrecked, so we’ll set a couple loose goals and wing it.


For instance, pre-kids-Jen and husband thought this would be our “adult bathroom.” We have another bathroom, so this one should be toyless, right?

Pre-kids-Jen enjoyed playing the notes of Schubert on the piano for relaxation. Two-kids-later-Jen gets her classical music via Little Einsteins on Disney Jr.

Honestly, there are some things I miss about pre-kids-Jen. She had time flexibility to go for a run and sleep when sick. Her non-work schedule consisted of weekends away for weddings, friends and spontaneous trips with her husband. She wore heels, matched purses to her outfits, and accessorized with trendy jewelry.

As I sit here smelling muffins baking and listening to cartoons, I realize how much my priorities have changed. I love these two little individuals.


I’m not Mary Poppins. Of course, the process has been frustrating and exhausting! I have not handled all of it selflessly or with grace. If you live near me, you may have heard me loudly telling my kids (ummmm…. yelling) to get in the car. Or perhaps you’ve pulled out of the parking lot and seen me with my head resting on the steering wheel?


It is like being in a rock tumbler. I haven’t lost my identity. Life has tumbled and changed it. I’ve rubbed off some of the sharp spots and my more positive traits are being polished. Slow and steady, one pair of footie jammies and Little Einstein episode at a time, I’m becoming more patient, compassionate, and understanding how deep love can be.

Family · Parenting · Perspective

Family Road Trip to the San Luis Valley

I left Friday for a long road trip to Colorado for my uncle’s memorial. He was a doctor in the San Luis Valley for decades and delivered somewhere around 1000 babies over the years. He loved tie-dye, bright colors, Christmas lights, Halloween costumes, camping, hiking, celebrating, playing with us as kids and in the past 10 years with his grandkids and great nieces and nephews.

Typically a 9-10hr drive, packed into the car with my sisters, mom, dad, and mom’s cousin Jane, we meandered our way across the plains to the foothills and finally to the San Juan mountains. 13 hours later…. we pulled into Del Norte, Colorado.

mtnSeeing the mountains = winning.

Family road trip = winning.

Stellar soundtrack with my very talented musical family = winning.

EXCEPTIONALLY slow food service everywhere we stopped which added 2.5hrs to our road trip = not winning.

Fantastic historic boutique hotel with its own pastry chef providing the morning fare- 5 stars! Gorgeous room and soft bed = winning.

Hotel booked solid- only having a king, 3 people, and only a cot for person #3 = not winning. I took the first night on the cot. Multiple people commented on how tired I looked Saturday. My sister took the second night. She declared it Satan’s cot and told me I was too gracious about it the previous night. It gave her false hope.

Getting to see my cousins, aunts, uncles, and mom’s side of the family = winning.

Being able to reminisce, share memories of my uncle, and truly celebrate his life = winning. — At the end of my life, I hope people are celebrating the love, kindness and grace that I try to live with daily. Sad? Yes but definitely a life worth living!

Meeting an interesting woman at the coffee table in the hotel early on Saturday morning who practices small animal (cats specifically) veterinary medicine in Hong Kong but originally hails from South Africa and is taking 5 days to take in the scenic drives of southwest Colorado before a cat conference in Denver = winning.

I know that was a HUGE run-on sentence, but she was fascinating. We discussed different cultures and how it reflects on pet ownership, politics (respectfully) in South Africa & USA, how to put gas in a vehicle in the US (not full service as in SA), and my obese, “big boned” 15 year old, 18lb house cat who blew out a knee six months ago. Conversation with her was a spectacular way to start my day. <– I do officially strike up a conversation with almost EVERYONE I meet (Uber, coffee shop, etc) if they appear receptive after a “good morning.”

Ending the day with pizza (non-dairy sandwich for me), catching up with cousins, some intense games of pitch, and s’mores on the campfire = winning.

My family is fantastic. For all our distance, differences, and a long time-lapse between visits (close to two decades for some), they are MY family.

Missing my daughter’s cheer camp performance = not winning.

Being told by 5 different people, each in a different circumstance, that my children have “been a handful,” “kept them quite busy :(” and “are not behaving on the school bus.” All while I’m away for this memorial service… = not winning.

This was dealt with yesterday upon my return home. I did not react in a “winning” fashion. Not mom of the year. However, I do think we will see better behaviors, better choices, and hopefully less sibling nit-picking for a little while.

We packed up early Sunday morning. It was 18 degrees F!!! (Can you picture how big my eyeballs are right now!!!) So cold, or shall I say brisk with the wind coming down off the mountains!!!

Our road trip back was a bit more subdued, but did still involve a lot of singing to my DJ Jazzy Jen skills. Everyone was tired – notice the prevalence of glasses instead of contacts. My dad actually let my sister drive my vehicle = winning.

I am blessed to have the loving, supportive family I have. Nobody was forced to get out and walk on our l-o-n-g drives to and from. We did have the running joke that cousin Jane was out if we found some good antiques. All in good fun! We love cousin Jane!

Every family, every trip, every story has its bumps and curves. It’s winning and not winning moments. Fortunately, we pull together for these bumps and hold on tight for the sharp curves. If you ever get the opportunity to load up and take an adults-only family road trip, I highly recommend it!

Faith · Family · Parenting · Perspective

Spring Break

Spring Break Recap:

  • Yesteryday was the end of spring break. Kids back on normal schedule this week. Can I get an amen??? I  prayed for my crew Sunday morning at church as we ended the week. Tensions were high. Ears were turned off. I wanted to end the break on a positive and not as the chaos that ensued trying to get out the door for the morning service.
  • Achieved laundry success!!! First time this working mother has put away all the laundry since January. We switched out sizes for my two growing littles and put EVERYTHING away. If you’ve read my writing before, you’ll know that I always choose time with my kids over a spotless, orderly house. I call our house clean but functional. The easiest ball to drop is putting away the clean laundry…
  • Rehashing all the fun we did have over the last week. Even though both parents had to work, I was able to adjust my work schedule for a few days so we could do some fun things with cousins and get in our 6m dental appointments.
My strawberry-blonde with her tasselled fedora and a double chocolate pound cake. Mommy daughter half day getaway.
  • Deer shed hunting. Male whitetail deer drop their antlers each spring. They literally fall off their heads. As a family, we walked a few pastures yesterday searching for them. Found 4 – all of them left side. To date, we’ve collected 20 total over the last few years – 18 are lefts. That’s a strange statistic. Nature is unpredictable, gorgeous, peaceful, and the fresh air is invigorating.
Dirt road walk with my crew, the nephews, and my sister.
  • We celebrated our friend’s birth of a new baby girl into a family of all boys with pizza and a visit. The kids also enjoyed a cousin’s birthday party while we were at our annual personal tax appointment.

And finally to close it out…

  • I hugged my husband and told him that I love him more than any argument we could ever have.
  • I hugged my children and told them they are important to me and I love them.
Love · Perspective · Uncategorized

The Scientist – Dating my Husband

One of my favorite songs the past few weeks is “The Scientist” by Coldplay. It came out over a decade ago, but recently it caught my ear. It’s easy to sing. I enjoy the minor tones. And I love the message that I take from it:

Come up to meet you, tell you I’m sorry
You don’t know how lovely you are

I had to find you
Tell you I need you
Tell you I set you apart

Tell me your secrets
And ask me your questions
Oh, let’s go back to the start

I’m not sure if I’m taking the written message the right way, but to me it’s all about making that connection. Making the EFFORT to make that connection

Running in circles
Coming up tails
Heads on a science apart

Nobody said it was easy
It’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard

We’ve been together since 2000. My oh my. That does seem like ages ago.

I was starting my senior year of high school. He was starting his sophomore year of college. Our dates consisted of Messenger chats and him coming back to my high school for my sporting events and a few hours of time together after they were done.

I did go on a date with someone else in college. I wanted to test the waters. See if I wanted to keep doing the long-term thing or date other people. It was a resounding “I don’t want to date anyone else” moment by the end of that night. I knew how good I had it. My husband was and is a keeper.

Fast forward almost 17 years. We’ve been married for 11.5 years. We’ve grown up and learned strengths, weaknesses, and held each other when it hurt. There’ve been fights and  frustration. Moments where a drive alone was necessary.

I was just guessing
At numbers and figures
Pulling the puzzles apart
Questions of science
Science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heart
Tell me you love me
Come back and haunt me
Oh, and I rush to the start

And we keep coming back together to figure it all out.

Dating each other is important. Me giggling on the couch. The way he laughs when something funny catches him off-guard. Real time together. Snippets of time in the kitchen alone without the kids. Flirting. That arm slipping around me while I’m washing the dishes after dinner.

Asking those questions that neither of us really want to, but know we need to. Then working through the answer.

Raising our children together.

Running in circles
Chasing our tails
Coming back as we are

Nobody said it was easy
Oh, it’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard

I’m going back to the start

I don’t want this to sound like we are struggling. We are deeply happy. But to stay that way, we have to keep going back to how we connected. To keep that passion and interest in each other- Ask what he’s reading. Give a little pat as I pass by. Keep dating each other.

Keep going back to the start.



Faith · Family · Parenting · Perspective

The lesson in the purple tiara

Bad decisions.

It seems to be a week of them for my six, almost seven year old little guy. This is a transition year where he needs to be more responsible but is still testing the waters of just about everything. Some weeks are smoother than others.

Yesterday morning, in the midst of the morning school rush, he decided to shred his 4yr old sister’s purple feathered tiara with scissors. He then hid the stem, but couldn’t get all the fluff collected before I walked into the kitchen to find him standing amidst the floating purple fuzz.


All I could do in that moment was tell him I was disappointed in his choice to destroy something that didn’t belong to him. As a move towards reconciliation with his sister, he  let her take one of his stuffed animals for her show-and-tell that day. Then out the door to the car we went.

I am firm with my children that I love them always and everywhere – even when they do naughty things. On the flip side, as parents, we don’t let them get away with much if we are aware of it happening. They both have loving, empathetic hearts so they seem to truly understand the “why” after causing the hard feeling but are definitely not yet able to consistently see the action- reaction connection.

*Flashback* I don’t specifically remember these younger years of my life, but I certainly know I made poor, horrible, terrible, no good, very bad decisions. In 34 years, you could probably go around the earth a few hundred times if you lined up all my bad decisions end-to-end on a written piece of paper.

I know I carried the guilt for some of these choices around for a long time.

There have been intense prayers and moments of quiet meditation reflecting on my stupid decisions. Tears, guilt, shame, and anxiety. I’ve been there. It isn’t like I have many deep dark horrible secrets. Most of my bad choices were obvious and at least, semi-public. It’s more like you start digging a little hole and eventually all your little shovels of dirt end up making something bigger when they are all put together.

And then I realized something…

I’ve already been forgiven for these bad choices. I’ve owned up to most of them to the other person and most importantly to God. He already knew. He was just waiting for me to acknowledge where I’ve fallen. He allowed Jesus to come and pick me back up.

 And in all of this reflection – I’ve realized that the one person who keeps harping on things that happened in my younger years IS ME. It’s just me.

I need to keep forgiving myself. Just like I forgive my kids when they make bad choices and in turn, they forgive each other, I need to remember that I have a loving God who forgives me. I need to remember that patient grace that is extended to me and extend it on them.

They will learn just as they did yesterday with the purple tiara incident. “Life is a lively process of becoming.”- MacArthur

Psalm 103  is a beautiful psalm about forgiveness and love.

Family · Love

5 Languages of Love

For those that read my post “Pioneer Women & Valentines” this is a bit of the backstory and, er, ummm, an explanation to explain a bit more about myself and my marriage.

Recently, my amazing younger sister (by 15 months), a dear college friend, and I took a girls day. We drove to the nearest true city an hour away and honestly had ZERO pressing plans for the day. Each of us had one different place to run an optional errand, but other than those 15 minutes of chores, our day was wide open. Do you have any idea how bizarre that feels to not have a purpose or a list of to-do’s for a trip to town?

We met halfway there and carpooled – hmm that term makes me sound like a fuddy duddy – let’s say ROADTRIPPED the rest of the way together. Man, have our conversation topics changed a bit since college! We got on the topic of how our hubbies felt about not having a purpose for driving all the way to S-town. It morphed into the Bible Study that PTad and her hubs are doing at their church. The 5 Love Languages. Have you heard of it? She encouraged us through our giggles to take the quiz with our husbands and compare results. More laughing ensued. The day was refreshing and awesome. PTad is one of those rare friends distance and life doesn’t rip apart. She has the joyful spirit that conversation when separated by weeks or sometimes even a month or two is smoothly picked right back up.

Back to the 5 Love Languages — I took advantage of 15 minutes at work a few weeks ago to take the quiz. I was surprised by my results. After I took the quiz, I requested Jon do it too. Also, surprising results.

The quiz has 5 different “love languages” that exist when interacting with your significant other. Words of Affirmation uses words to affirm or support another. Acts of Service are actions that seem to speak louder than words to support another. Receiving Gifts is pretty self explanatory: feeling loved by receiving items. Quality Time is giving undivided attention to your significant other. Physical Touch is receiving or giving an appropriate touch at the right time.

So my spouse thought, as did I, that physical touch would score off the charts for him. WRONG. There is more to touching than just intimacy. Hugs, hand holding, a hand on his shoulder are a few examples. As he took the quiz, he made sure to clarify that there wouldn’t be any extra hugs regardless of the quiz results. (I come from a very huggy family. We touch. We hug when we meet. We give kisses on the cheek when we leave a family function. Him, not so much. It has been a teachable thing in our marriage.)

I was a bit astonished when he said both options were ridiculous on one of the questions. Option 1 was something about going to the grocery store for your sig other. Option 2 was getting a pat on the back or something similar. Why would going to the store to help really be important? “For real!” was my reply. The glowing option for me would be going to the store. That would be huge! It would be like coming home to have the laundry (my arch nemesis) folded and put away. Acts of Service was something mid-range for me, but lower for him.

My lowest score – a 1 on a scale of 1-12 – was in Receiving Gifts. Other than for a few holidays, I consider physical items to just be stuff. If I want or need something, I will request it. As my husband knows, I don’t do that very often. Otherwise, I’m fine. A card or handwritten scrawl on a sticky note is good enough for me. Just verbal words of “I Love You” or “I know the kids stress you out, but I know you are doing the best you can” are an instant uplift. You guessed it – Words of Affirmation are a mid-range score for me.

What we both scored our highest on was Quality Time. We crave that time together. Just a dinner out without kids is important to us. Even an activity with kids is important for our family functionality. Taking that time to be a family, be a couple, be a person is imperative.

Marriage is a constantly evolving journey with natural highs and lows. Our journey pre-marriage was 5 awesome spontaneous college-filled years. Our voyage pre-children, post wedding was 5 more years of joy, travel, socializing, and whim. Traveling through life with two children has been a new chapter of learning by doing, loving, and adapting. We give thanks for our blessings and trials.


You can find more about the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman here:


Like – In Love – Love

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. After being bombarded online by “Turn Casual into Couple” articles, I think maybe a little re-evaluation is in order.

**I should preface the following read with saying that I fully understand everyone comes from different circumstances. Understandable. This is from my perspective and experiences. I made mistakes in date choices. That one date in college my best friend and roommate-at-the-time will never let me live down? Yes. Did it. What I’m bumbling through is a moment of acceptance. Love yourself first so you can wholly love another. (Not in a narcissistic way.)


My first “boyfriend” was a little boy a year older than me – 2nd grade. We exchanged notes during recess. I broke up with  him. He told me when I played soccer he could see under my skirt when I kicked the ball. Yep – that relationship was over. Gross. Even when I think back on that, it really is creepy.

The next “boyfriend” had the audacity to mail me a letter over the summer like a pen pal. Remember pen pals and how fun it was to receive a letter in the mail? Awesome. That relationship was over when he actually CALLED me on the phone. Seriously, in 4th grade (circa 1990ish), who calls someone? O-V-E-R.

By late middle school, I liked this boy and he liked me. I sat at a high school basketball game next to him with my friend pasted to one side of us and his friend pasted to the other. He gave me a candy bar and tried to hold my hand. That relationship was over too.


Still without a First Kiss AND feeling perfectly fine with that.

Are you sensing a level of innocence here? I was raised by two loving parents who emphasized a few important things without ever saying a pointed word about it to me. My body was private. Signs of affection were reserved for someone you REALLY care about. And the big one – LIKE, IN LOVE, and LOVE are 3 different things.

Why is this such a difficult concept? It was for me too! Like many other things, I want to place at least part of the blame on celebrities. Whether they are truly party to it or not, the media flashes their revolving trysts all over like it is how a successful relationship should work. They meet, are in love, making babies, and then hate each other all in a matter of months.

I like to call this the celebrity “playing house” problem. I like you therefore I want you around. I want you around and enjoy all the fun we have. I must be in love with you. Let’s move in together! A few days, weeks, months, or even years of life like this — OOPS! My “in-love” status must be wearing off. You annoy me. Must not have really been love. And as a celebrity, it is splashed all over the news. Things are quiet until KAZAM! New relationship. Same pattern.

Love is so much more than playing house and enjoying dinner together. Taking a cue from the Bible, Love is Patient, Kind, Not Proud, Not Boastful. It is about the other person. Everything about the other person. Loving yourself enough to love another is not easy. Love is inspired and inspirational. It is also a give and take. You both must be love as a verb and a noun. It is physical, emotional, and spiritual. Love is hard to define.


To keep it simple and sum it up, 15yrs of experiencing and observing as a teen, twenty-something, and teacher in 10 thoughts:

1) The fun of liking or dating a boy is absolutely nowhere as romantic in reality as it is in the movies or books. My spouse is my best friend and I can still say this statement is true. We laugh, argue, make up, and live. There still aren’t the number of flowers or jewelry as the movies suggest.

2) Some boys are like bad peanut M&M’s. Sweet on the outside, but when you get a little deeper, they cause that awful look on your face, in your heart, and sometimes all the way to your soul. Get rid of them. Quickly.

3) Be the stronger person. Be your own advocate.  Your significant other should raise you up and enjoy you for you.

4) If your sister or best friend wants to smack him, think twice, three, or four times about that date!

5) Laugh. Then laugh some more. If you aren’t at least giggling, think twice about your choices. Trust me on this one. Dated one that made me cry – a lot. Dated and married one that makes me laugh daily, even after disagreeing.

6) Don’t be in such a hurry to mature. At 31, what I wouldn’t give to go back to silly girl talks and dancing in my friend’s living room to Gwen Stefani.

7) You don’t need to play house to keep the right guy. Respect yourself. Either he will respect you or he won’t. If he doesn’t, he wasn’t the “right guy.” A long-term relationship needs some sort of commitment.

8) Parents. Are you crazy? What are you thinking letting your child watch a movie with a date with the door closed? Guarantee their hands are NOT being kept to themselves.

9) Parents, pt2: Meet the love-interest. Keep an open line of communication with your child. If he/she won’t talk to you about at least some of the relationship  *warning sirens.*

10) Put yourself out there. For the first time in my life, I offered a guy my phone number after meeting through mutual friends. I remember thinking, I’ve never done this before. Should I? I ended up marrying him 5 years later.

I’m no expert on love, but I have seen both the highs and lows. I’ve made bad choices. We all have. We must keep on liking, blooming in love, and loving.

first dance sepia (2)