Friday, September 9, 2016

Family Vacation 2016 - Black Hills, SD & Devil's Tower, WY

I'm back-posting here because I'd like to update our adopted seminarian, Br. David.  I figure this is a good way to let him and everyone else know what we've been up to!

August was a busy month!  Monica and I left to Denver August 9 & 10 to visit Colorado State University.  CSU has a Music Therapy program that Monica is interested in.  Out of state tuition is crazy expensive, but who knows what God may have in store.  We were able to take a little trip over to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.  Here are a few shots Monica took with her GoPro.

It was an incredible trip and a bit of a whirlwind, but it was fun to spend some time with my nature girl.  She loved the mountains and is seriously considering CSU.  I wouldn't be surprised if she ended up there.  Monica was definitely in her element.  I also found that CSU has a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) group on campus.  We've had several amazing priests, youth ministers, and speakers go through the Twin Cities that are products of FOCUS so I definitely trust Monica in their hands!

After our 2 days in Denver, Monica returned to MN and I headed to Texas.  I stayed there for a week with TX Grandma cleaning up, helping her with her retirement paperwork, and trying to convince her to come back with me to MN.  It was a long week, but we finally made the 2 day drive back from Texas.  It was a fun road trip.  I'm so glad to have her here!

This was taken on Monica's birthday.  Unfortunately, her classes at Anoka Ramsey
started on August 22nd so she wasn't able to make our family vacation to the Black Hills.
She stayed home with TX Grandma and the dogs instead so she wouldn't miss classes.
We left for the Black Hills on the 20th and drove straight through to our cabin rental near Lead, SD.  We rented through VRBO and stayed at a beautiful cabin with 4 bedrooms that could accommodate up to 14 people.  It was great to have a place to come home to after sightseeing each day.  Here are some of the highlights:

A very windy stop at Chamberlain before crossing the Missouri River into western South Dakota.

A mandatory stop for dinner at Wall Drug....of course!

Girls enjoying the cabin kitchen.  Pretty nice digs, huh?

Trout fishing in Spearfish Creek.

Not even sure where we were!

Side trip to Rochford for trout fishing.

What trip to South Dakota is complete without a visit to Mt. Rushmore?

A side trip to Hot Springs where we also had the privilege of seeing a bison along the road!

Gabe finally was brave enough to try the water slides!

Being the good Mom, I actually fried up the trout the kids caught for one of our dinners.

Picnic lunch at the entrance to Devil's Tower in Wyoming.

Someone took a panorama.  

Prairie dog, mule deer, and Jr. Ranger free cake from the Rangers for the 100th Anniversary
of the National Park Service and free entrance to the park!
It was an incredible family trip.  And, of course, we hit the ground running when we returned by heading straight to the Minnesota Get-Together, the State Fair!  The girls worked the Caramel Apple Booth again, and Paul & I worked a ticket booth at the Midway to raise funds for the Band Boosters. Now we can check that off our bucket lists!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Back to School - 2016

I can't believe I'm actually going to post anything.  Seems with social media there's not much left to say here.  With Instagram and Facebook, I can pretty much update whoever wants to know right from my phone so why come here?  By chance, I received a comment on a post from 2014 when we remodeled our house to put in the mudroom.  I was so drawn in to reading other posts so here I am....blogging again!

The kids were back to school today for another year.  Monica is full time PSEO at Anoka Ramsey Community College taking 3 classes.  She does go back to the local high school for Chamber Choir and Jazz Band.  Today she was home at lunch time and said it felt weird to not have to go up to her locker or see anyone from her grade.  She's slowly easing into what her life will probably be like from next year on when she starts college.  Crazy!!

Maria started her Sophomore year at the local high school.  She doesn't have a first hour so she doesn't have to be there until 8:30AM.  We're still working out her transportation.  For now, the plan is for her to drive in with Paul so she can start logging her driving hours.  Her permit came in the mail today so she now has no excuses not to drive!

Queen's Caramel Apples
Working the booth at the State Fair yet again!

Molly, Lucas, and Gabe started at St. Charles Catholic school.  Molly is our 8th grader, top of the heap, and leader of the pack.  Lucas is a 6th grader....uniforms are new for him as they are for Gabe who is in 5th grade.  Gabe said everyone was nicer than he expected!  What do you expect from Catholic school?!

Jane and Niko were back to Woodcrest Spanish Immersion today.  Jane is in 3rd grade and Niko is in 1st.  They were nervous but excited for their first day.  I braved the rain with Elizabeth to drop them off at their classrooms.  That was exciting!

So it's back to a quieter house with just the dogs, Elizabeth, and Texas Grandma here with me.  It was still a busy day with a Costco run, laundry, and paperwork.  However, I have no classes anymore and work is holding off.  Nice!

Jane and Texas Grandma at the Deep Fried Olive Booth
MN State Fair - 2016

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!
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