Sunday, January 3, 2016

Year End Review...

because I pretty much gave up on blogging this year, and I totally wasn't on the ball about enclosing a Christmas newsletter in with our Christmas card!

Yep, 8 kids! - Pipestone, MN
So here goes....

Paul....decided it was totally within the realm of sanity to take his family of 10 on their first international vacation to a narco-infested country, Mexico.  That's right!  We all got our passports renewed or for the first time, boarded a plane, and flew to Puerto Vallarta for spring break.  We found a house to rent in Gringo Gulch through VRBO.  It was an amazing trip full of fun, relaxation, and family bonding.  Because we just can't get enough of each other, it was a great way to bicker and get frustrated with one another on foreign soil!  Also, he was able to persuade Monica to get her hunting license for deer season.  Paul spent a lot of time with Monica, Lucas, and Gabe setting up the deer stand, checking for tracks, and watching deer habits out on property near Marine on St. Croix.  Although, he didn't get a license or a deer this year, he had a lot of fun with the kids.  Paul also took another small international trip to CANADA! for work.  He drank a Molson and had a lot of fun comparing Toronto to US cities which he confirmed is pretty much the same.

Our view of Puerto Vallarta from the palapa

Tequila Tasting at a plantation before reaching San Sebastian.

Always time for a kiss for the baby!!
Pirate Ship Adventure and beach time at Mahuitas

Grace....decided it was totally within the realm of sanity to go back to school at the U of M.  That's right!  She was checking out PSEO classes for Monica when she stumbled upon a Certificate Program in Interpretation and Translation through the College of Continuing Ed. She's taken 3 classes now and will take 2 more next spring.  She's also been taking on more interpreting jobs working with a colleague from the parish.  She likes the work which is middle ground between medical and legal interpreting in Spanish.  In addition, she's been knitting, managing the kids schedules, and continues to bake cookies every once in a while.  Her side kick, Elizabeth, is always up for a spontaneous lunch and/or shopping date.   Mom also continues to do her book club with the Well Read Mom group.  She debated quitting because of the classes.  However, it's great to have an outlet for reading good books and getting together with her friends!

After landscaping part of the backyard with Lucas.  Yikes!  We were dirty
and sweaty.

We clean up well!  Track & Field Day with Gabe last spring.
Monica....just like her parents decided to test the limits of sanity by taking not one but 2 PSEO classes.  She took Government & English Composition through Northwestern College in St. Paul.  In addition she also is taking Chemistry, Analysis, Spanish 3, and made it into Chamber Choir!  She has also been spending time running between NHS volunteering, concerts & caroling with Chamber Choir, and putting together stuff for the Youth Group core team.  She's a busy girl but still manages to bang around on the piano and decorate cookies with mom.  She spends most afternoons at the library stressing about PSEO and studying for quizzes and tests.  Next semester, she decided to take only one PSEO course, but will be studying for the ACT.  It's hard to believe she's a junior this year.  But all in all she loves being at St. Anthony High School now that......

High School Sisters a Freshman there!  "Mother Hen" as Maria is affectionately called by her squad is always very perky and funny.  She still loves her beagle, Tup, and shares jokes with mom through texts and email.  She finally broke down and bought herself a phone after her summer of soccer reffing with Monica.  She's a very frugal spender and loves to save money by getting others to foot her bills!  She is also part of the youth group keeping everyone in line.  Because she has no problem voicing her opinions even on Instagram, mom encouraged her to join the speech team.  We'll see what speech does for Maria.  If nothing else, she may get her arguments honed for law school!

Confirmation Day!

Monica, Maria, and Milah worked at the State Fair this summer. at St. Charles for her 2nd year in a row as a 7th grader.  She finally has come into her own with a nice group of girlfriends that she loves to hang out with.  She also really took to baking this year when she became too bored and needed something to do.  Now she bakes all the dough for cookie making and keeps everyone's sweet tooth in check with homemade treats.  Molly is constantly checking Cornerstone for her grades and is determined to make the honor roll all year.  So far, so good!  Because the older girls' social calendar is usually jam packed with events, Molly has become mom's shopping buddy in the evenings, after school, and on the weekends!

Molly and Monica on a hike at Lake Shetek State Park near Pipestone, MN.'s sweet loving angel, the apple of her eye, and dad's go to handy partner turned 11 and is in his last year as a 5th grader at Woodcrest Spanish Immersion.  Next year, he will join Molly at St. Charles which he is excited about.  For now, he is a star student and gets along with all his classmates.  Lucas loves to write so he entered one of his essays in a local contest for Flag Day.  He won 1st in the school, 1st in the district, and his essay will now be submitted to state!  For his efforts he won $30 which he added to his coffers after mowing lawns for Grandma all summer landed him a hearty sum.  He is a very hard worker so he decided to take his soccer reffing courses next year so he can ref with the older girls.  He joined dad for hunting this year and is looking forward to taking hunter's safety next year with Gabe.

Soccer Star - Lucas
Gabe....went from spending too much time playing Minecraft to being completely obsessed with Airsoft.  He now wears camo whenever possible which, of course, makes dad very happy.  He took to wearing a hat to school which is, of course, camo.  Mom doesn't help the situation by buying him camo clothing, polar fleece, and backpacks.  He has made very good friends at Woodcrest that he has spent time for playdates and birthday parties.  Gabe continues in the Gifted & Talented program and was awarded a scholarship to attend Summer Academy.  He loves research, history, and the military.  As a motivation, mom has been telling him about St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights.  If he keeps his grades up, maybe he can attend high school there.  Gabe has now made it a personal goal to get to STA.  As a 4th grader at Woodcrest, he has 2 more years at the school before joining Lucas at St. Charles for 6th-8th.  After that, who knows?

Gabe is such an old soul.  He was waxing philosophical on this hike at Pipestone, MN.

Jane....continues to flit around curling her eyelashes and making sure she's always looking on point!  Mom thought it a good idea to focus Jane's energy on doing service in the community by running for Little Miss Columbia Heights.  To all of our surprise, Jane won!  She, of course, thought that was a natural for her.  How could she not win!?  This summer, we attended more parades than we ever care to again and got to know what a "sparkle section" is at the local coronations.  Jane has won the hearts of all the people she has met.  She has also grown considerably in height.  After thoughtful discussion with Jane's endocrinologist, we decided to begin growth hormone injections.  Jane now takes them daily.  We have seen marked growth not only in stature, but also in maturity.  Jane's hands have even grown enabling her to play the violin more easily.  Next January, she will make her first Reconciliation and her First Communion in April.  She's super excited about these huge milestones!
She has grown so much in so many ways.

These two.....Nick and Jane.

Photo Shoot with Maria at Kordiak Park

Nick....started Kindergarten at Woodcrest this fall.  He now joins Jane, Gabe, and Lucas in the drop off and pick up line.  The line helper always marvels at how we efficiently unload and load 4 kids everyday with the largest van in the lot.  We get in and out faster than the smallest cars.  That's efficiency, my friends!  Lucas was reluctant to go to the Spanish school because he didn't speak Spanish.  We all told him he would learn, but he wasn't convinced.  Now, however, he counts, knows his letters and sounds, and sings in Spanish!  He loves his teacher, her assistant, and going to school everyday.  He played soccer this summer but was frustrated at how other kids would try to get the ball away from him.  He would tell his coaches that he would score if those kids would just let him have the ball!

Nick getting suited up at Gabe's Fencing Birthday Party - MN Fencing Club.

Baby Sweetness - Lizzie!
Elizabeth....turned a year in June!  She was mom's latest walker starting at 16 months.  But, hey, who needs to walk when there are people enough to carry you wherever you need to go.  After several attempts to try to get Elizabeth to crawl, she finally went from a butt scooter to walking to crawling.  She's definitely a backwards kid!  She also loves drawing which is so cute, and mommy loves calling her a "little person."  Elizabeth is literally a human stress ball that helps the very stressed older kids to just melt whenever she's around.  They love playing with her, coddling her, and loving her up.  She's definitely got a personality, can be naughty (dunking mom's phone in the toilet!), and snitty (screaming for no reason & running away when you want to get her).  She's also started bringing us a diaper and wipes when she needs to be changed so mom is getting serious about potty training plans after the holidays are over.

Love this man!
All the Girls
I am definitely grateful for so much this Christmas as I look back on 17 years of marriage to Paul.  I think about the home we live in, our city, our parish, our friends, our family, our kids' friends, their schools, and all the beautiful things that surround me everyday; and my heart feels full.  I see the hand of God in our marriage, the kids, and our relationships.  I always feel unworthy of being responsible for all we have.  Who in this world gets to live in a beautiful place, raise 8 amazing kids, and be married to an incredible selfless man?  I never thought I would.  I am so grateful to be Paul's wife and the kids' mother.  For now, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.  There's probably a pile of laundry somewhere that needs to be washed or folded, dishes that need to be cleaned, or someone that needs my help.  I get to do these things.  For all these things, my heart is full, and I am grateful!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Wow, Lots of Stuff Going on Here!

First off, I am now officially a University of Minnesota student.  I'll be taking my final exam tomorrow for my first class toward a Certificate in Interpretation.  My language pair, of course, is Spanish to English.  I am hoping to either certify as a medical or legal interpreter.  I can't believe I'm back in the classroom.  Somehow I feel like I never really left.  With homeschooling and being involved in the kids' academic careers, I've always felt connected to academics.  Now it's just more formal because I'm paying tons of money to sit in a desk!

In other news, Jane was named in June as part of our city's royalty program.  She's so cute and honestly one of my only kids who could actually do good in this role.  Jane is not shy and doesn't think about things too much or at least enough to scare herself out of doing them.  She'll be wearing her tiara and polo this evening at our Night to Unite block party.  I asked her if she's nervous to address everyone with a microphone.  She naturally said, "Of course not!"

Summer is now slowing down a bit.  We have fewer things on the calendar and are looking forward to a couple camping trips and the State Fair.  Blogging hasn't been on the top of my "to do" list so I'm surprised I remember how to do blogging basics!  Thankfully, the platform hasn't changed.  Otherwise, I'd be on another learning curve.  I have enough learning curves I'm on right now!!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

12 in 2014 Wrap Up

Since I didn't do much blogging this year, I was intrigued by Dwija's link up of 12 photos for 2014 recapping the year.  Sounded good to me so here goes....

We had a lot of snow and the coldest temps on record.  I'm talking it was so cold we had almost 10 days of no school and one that was cancelled by the governor to protect the kiddies who have to wait at the bus stops.  Seriously, it was so cold in below 0 weather that your face would hurt if you went outside even to get the mail!!

This ratty boy turned 4 years old this year.  He's actually a pretty neat kid....very affectionate and full of conversation.  He started his second year of preschool in September and definitely gives his teachers a run for their money!

We had 2 Spring Breaks to contend with this year which meant I had to get creative with the field trips.  We made it to the Jackson Street Roundhouse/Train Museum, the History Center, and the Science Museum all in one week!  It was a lot of fun for the boys and Jane.  Maria and Molly didn't get a break from the online school.  Monica's break didn't line up with the boys' and Jane's so she just spent the week resting at home.  Tough life, I know!!

April saw awesome weather and another classic Easter Egg Hunt.  Check out Jane's socks and sandals and those baskets made it yet another year!  The boys and Jane are at the ready to scout out all the eggs in the front yard.  Demolition had not begun yet so it was easier to stay clean in the sloppy spring weather.  Phew!

Gabe made his First Holy Communion this year which was very special.  He made it just before the onslaught of remodeling.  Lucky kid!

Our sweet Elizabeth was born right after the school year was over.  Literally, school was over on a Friday and she was born on Monday morning!  We had the perfect June weather for having a newborn among us.  Grandma came up from Texas and spent a month with us which was awesome.  It was great to have her around to help with the remodeling and baby blues for me.  It was a tough last month of pregnancy and first month with a newborn.  I'm saying now that I'll never do that again, but you all know me too well to believe that!

Monica and Maria were sporting the red, white, and blue at the Italian American Club 4th of July picnic.  Maria has probably until next summer with her braces.  She's looking forward to having a million dollar smile like her older sister!

August saw the end of the remodel!  We gained a larger garage, a wider entryway, an updated look, and a beautiful patio and garden to welcome visitors.  The siding is growing on us as is all the extra space.  To live through a remodel with a newborn is no small task so we are grateful it's all over!

September had everyone except Maria and Molly back to school.  Lucas, Gabe, and Jane went to the Spanish Immersion school and Monica headed back to the high school.  It wasn't until October that I decided to enroll the last homeschool holdouts into our parish school.  So far so good.  Everyone's happy and I have more time for the house, the baby, and Nick.  I also get an occasional nap which is quite welcome!

Lucas turned 10 this year!  My big boy, awesome helper, and handy man hit the double digits with a killer party for him and his friends and brothers at Zero Gravity.  It was a fun time and easy for me and dad to celebrate how wonderful he is.  He deserves it for his go with the flow attitude.  His is such a helper to me at this age.  I hope he knows how much I appreciate all his help and companionship with my many projects!

Paul and I celebrated our 16th Anniversary by going to the Minneapolis Christmas Market.  It was so cold but fun to have spaetzle, Gluwein, strudel, and hot apple cider among all the German booths of ornaments, Nativity scenes, and Christmas stars.  It was magical!

This last month of the year has been fun.  I finally volunteered at the Spanish school for Lucas's class winter party.  I was in charge of pictures for posting to the school site.  We had fun with all the photo props!  
We managed to get all our stockings except Elizabeth's (she didn't have one yet) hung up on the mantle.  I'm glad Maria photographed the mantle because the plan for 2015 is to remodel the family room and kitchen.  The mantle is going and we would like to make a build out over the brick to update the space.
Elizabeth is now 6 months and started sitting a week ago.  She's also eating solids and sleeping through the night!!!  
I also ventured out in 1 degree weather yesterday to take 5 of the kids sledding.  Yes, I'm crazy, but we did have a lot of fun laughing and giggling down the steep, icy hill of hard-pack snow.  
The plan for New Year's Day is skiing at Trollhaugen for the whole family.  It should warm up to 20 degrees so it won't be as bitterly cold as it was sledding.  My hope is to get on the slopes.  We'll see how that goes.  I consider myself a pretty valuable member of our family so being flat on my back with a broken arm or leg doesn't sound too good.  On the upside, I'm super excited to start the 5th season of Downton Abbey.  
Of course, I'm the only one in the house that's excited.  Everyone else is excited about all the numerous electronic devices we've allowed into our home.  Yes, we've succumbed to secular parenting, but we still try to lecture the kids on the evils and perils of social media, online gaming, and the like to which they usually yawn and go back to playing and posting!  Well, you win some....

Happy New Year from Our Home
to Yours!

Friday, November 21, 2014


the last time I blogged was in September?  That's just crazy, but I've been crazy busy with all kinds of life stuff.

First off, I decided to send Maria & Molly to our parish school.  Yep, that's right!  I'm officially not a homeschool mama anymore.  It's hard to believe that I'm not homeschooling, but for now it's all for the better.  Now the 3 oldest girls get on the bus at 7:10AM and ride over to the high school.  Monica gets dropped off and Maria and Molly take a transfer bus to St. Charles.  They love it!!!

The boys and Jane are still at the Spanish Immersion school.  That's working well.  Nick is in his last year of preschool so he'll hopefully be at the SI school with the others next year.

Next, the house was finished up.  I have pics of the unit that we had built for the mudroom.  It's AWESOME!!!!

Each kid has a small cubby that fits their backpack, library books, mittens, papers & anything else that I need them to remember to take to school.  The space for the coats has 12 hooks for all the coats so at least every kid gets one plus dad and me.  There is extra shelving at the top for Costco stuff, extra hats, baskets, dog stuff, etc.  The bottom has laundry baskets for now for extra shoes, sports shoes, and boots.  The extra long runner rug is from LLBean.  It's a waterhog mat that I love!!!  Those mats are the bomb!  

Mike, the builder of this project, added crown moulding at the top of the unit to make the simple design a little more jazzy.  He also made all the shelving adjustable and gave us a little room on every cubby space so that doors can be added later if we want to change the open look.  It's bare bones right now because we are super tight on our budget for the remodel.  He's coming back next Wednesday to add the desk/countertop over the dog's area that will replace the phone desk in the kitchen.  EXCITED!!!!

Next, I found a custom cabinet maker at the State Fair that I had to know more about.  I had Joe Otto of Joe Otto Enterprises come out and do a consult on my kitchen cupboards.  He suggested for starters adding two drawers under the cooktop.

These are faux drawer panels because the original cooktop was too deep for drawers.  And below are the TWO drawers I have in the kitchen for all our eating and cooking utensils.  They are stuffed to the gils!

Here's an overview of the kitchen.

This is Joe Otto.  He has a business in Ham Lake.  He makes custom cabinet inserts and sliders.  Here he has taken the panels off and is getting ready to add the hardware for the new drawers.

These are the boxes/drawers that he made in his shop in Ham Lake.

Drawers are going in!!!!!

And here they are with the panels glued and screwed to the faces of the drawers!!!

I moved in pretty quickly after......

It still looks a bit cluttered, but it's very nice.  I went from 2 drawers to 4 and every drawer feels spacious and roomy.  Things aren't super tight and jammed into spaces.  I love the outcome!!

Next, I have to keep working on the hallway walls going upstairs.  I crazily decided to peel the wallpaper off some months ago.  However, I have so much glue on the walls so I have to wet and scrape it off with a putty knife.  It's quite a job so I try to tackle it a bit at a time.  I can't wait until it's ready to prime and paint those walls.  It will be nice.

Upcoming jobs include:
  • Hallway walls: prep, prime, paint
  • Upgrade kitchen cupboards, make new boxes for broom closet, remove phone desk and upper cupboard
  • Kitchen upgrade....reconfigure layout to remove dividing upper cabinets above dishwasher
  • Brick over grill in family room
  • Add braces over brick in family room and build out shelves and a surround for mounting TV
For the family room, I'm thinking about something like this, but not in white:

Anyway, we're on the 10 year plan for all of these upgrades.  But for now, I'm super happy with all the changes.

I hope all is going well with everyone who usually pops in here to check up on us.  We're all doing well.  The baby is doing awesome.  I'm crocheting another winter hat for her, and I'm getting ready to thaw out the turkeys for Thanksgiving.  Really it's November?  Crazy!!!!  Oh, well, that's life in a big family, well in any family!  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Update on Remodel....End in Sight!

The rest of the siding was put on the front entryway, the front columns were decked out with cedar, and the service door was repainted finally after 3 years!!!  It's amazing how all these little things start to come together to really finish up the project.  My screen door was also installed so we now we get more light in the entryway.  I love the screen door.  It has an internal screen so no more changing out screens or removing glass to clean both sides!!!!  With one quick motion I just pull down the top glass and the screen is right there.  If I don't want the screen, I just push the top glass up and it retracts into the top frame of the door.  AWESOME!!!

I also took out my spirea bushes in front and started working on re-landscaping west of the sidewalk.  I scored sod off Craig's List last Saturday so Paul and I had a date night to pick that up.  I just have to make a little list of the things I've purchased from Craig's List for this remodel.....

  1. Ceramic Floor Tile....a guy had the amount we needed left over from his cabin project so I picked it up for more than 1/2 off retail
  2. Refrigerator....a french door Maytag bought from a retired couple that was downsizing
  3. Stackable Washer & Dryer....bought from a guy who was upgrading his set
  4. Landscape Plants....bought from 3 different people who were thinning out their gardens
  5. Patio set
  6. Sitting Bench....this guy repainted the iron and removed and restained the slats for the's beautiful!
  7. Padded bench for entryway....guy was selling it for his daughter.  It really jazzes up the entryway and gives people a place to sit while putting on or taking off shoes.
  8. Sod....a landscaper had 42 rolls left over from a project.  I picked it up for 50% off retail, and it's just what we needed for the front yard.
I think that's everything.  I'll go back and add things if I remember them!

I also purchased corbels for the decorative piece at the peak of the garage.  I decided to have the builder put 2 corbels at the entryway to match the ones over the garage.  I bought these from Architectural Depot through Amazon.  We went with this type of corbel:

I decided to stain the corbels and the trim around the columns with a cedar stain.  Here's the stain I chose:

The stain color I went with is Cinnamon.

I've also been having lot of fun with the fam....State Fair, Back to School, and a photo shoot.

Jane & Nick posing for a picture at Little Farm Hands.

First Grade

Third Grade

Fourth Grade
I was also contacted by a gal who writes for our local Catholic paper and a few other national publications.  I made cookies for her daughter's baptism probably 3 years ago.  She's doing a piece on Catholic artists for a publication from Couple to Couple League.  I had to fill out a questionnaire and submit photos of my cookies and my self.  Maria received the prestigious title of "family photographer" so she was given the task of photographing me.  I sent the following pic to Christina, and the article will be published in November for their December issue!

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