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December 13, 2016 0

2016 In Review

By in Uncategorized

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all! Our apologies for being relatively absent on the blog lately. Life has been good, but very busy (as usual).

We are excited to welcome our fourth child to our family soon! Baby Boy is due March 12th, 2017, and with Hallie’s history of birthing our babies a little early, we wouldn’t be surprised if this little guy decided to debut by the end of February.

While Luke (21 months) is not quite old enough to comprehend the changes coming, he certainly seems to understand that mom’s belly is getting big, and he often pats her “tummy” and says “baby”, so we know he has some concept of what’s going on! He has really blossomed over the past 6 months into a very verbal, affectionate, humorous little man who likes to give kisses to his family members and be chased by his big sisters and dad. He enjoys making us all laugh with his funny faces he makes. This fall he and mom have appreciated their Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) class, and he will get to start a tumbling (pre-gymnastics) class with dad soon. Luke is full of life and truly brings joy to his parents and siblings every day.

Mari (four) is loving her first experience of preschool. She goes two mornings a week, and we know she is learning a lot and making new friends. Just the other day, in fact, she surprised us by writing her own name correctly, without asking for any help at all. Mari also adores her Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class, which is a unique religious education program based on the Montessori method and the concept that young children already have a relationship with God and can develop that relationship and understand concepts from, say, the Gospel. Mari is a very smart little girl, but even more importantly, she has a kind and tender heart and a grin that lights up any room. We call her our little “sunshine girl” as she rises early with the sun and is the most “smiley” of our kids, ever since she was a baby.

Genevieve (five and a half) began kindergarten this September at our parish school, Maternity of Mary-St. Andrew. She is doing well adjusting to the new schedule and routines, and has already made many new friends. It’s been so fun watching her develop, especially seeing her practice her reading. She sounds out words on her own and truly seems to enjoy learning. She still loves to color, dance, and play with her siblings, and we know she will have a great time this spring as she and Mari will get to try ballet lessons. (Ssssshhhhh! That’s their main Christmas present.) We love watching our “first baby” grow into a caring girl who bravely tries new things and helps out mom and dad with her little brother and sister. We know she’ll be a great big sister to her baby brother when he is born.

This past year, Hallie has seen an expansion of her postpartum doula care and lactation support business, Better Beginnings, LLC. When she started working as a postpartum doula in 2013, it was just her. She quickly realized she needed a partner to be able to match client demand for scheduling flexibility with her own desire to be home with our kids at least a couple of days per week. She hired a friend and colleague to help her offer services five days a week, and within a year, the doula team has grown to five members rather than just two. She also recently stepped away from a major volunteer role she held for the past two years, as Secretary and then Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for a local non-profit serving women and families in holistic, life-affirming ways. Through this involvement, she learned a lot about starting a non-profit and non-profit management, met many wonderful people, and was humbled by the activism and generosity of the Twin Cities community. She’s happy to be focusing more on family and work for a while, but continues to be active in Genevieve and Mari’s school, as well as our parish mothers group.

Mike is enjoying his second year as President of Risen Christ Catholic School in Minneapolis. The school primarily serves low-income Hispanic students so he is learning a lot about fundraising, grant writing, and working with a Board of Directors. He finds the work of making Catholic education accessible to children living in poverty both challenging and immensely rewarding. In January he finished a three-year program at the University of St. Thomas, receiving his Education Specialist degree and principal licensure. Walking in his first graduation ceremony since high school (having skipped his other two college graduations) was a proud moment the whole family celebrated. Other highlights of the year included testifying in support of school choice at the Minnesota State Capitol, attending the National Catholic Educational Association’s conference in San Diego and visiting Boston for the National Summit On Catholic Schools & Hispanic Families. Each morning he can be found in the basement learning Spanish with Rosetta Stone while exercising on the elliptical.

As a family, we enjoyed our first camping trip in June (tents! hikes! a big storm!) and later that month, Mike and Hallie took a little vacation together in Boston before Mike’s conference. We enjoyed time on Lake Superior’s north shore with Grandma and Grandpa Ashenmacher, and Genevieve got to have her first special road trip with her cousin Anna and Grandma and Grandpa Rogers.

All in all, 2016 has been a good year for us, and we hope it’s been good for you, too! We prepare to celebrate the holidays knowing we are very blessed, and we pray you all find joy and peace as we welcome 2017.

August 7, 2015 0

“This is now.”

By in Genevieve

I’ve been feeling guilty lately for not having written on this blog in months and months. I hope to catch up soon with Genevieve’s birthday post (way late!) and Luke’s birth story (even more late!), but in the meantime, I’m trying to honor the present and accept the demands of the moment. I’m thinking about the ending of Little House in the Big Woods, which we have been reading to Genna each night before bed. Last night, Daddy finished it with her, and here is what it said:

“When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, ‘What are the days of auld lang syne, Pa?’

‘They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,’ Pa said. ‘Go to sleep, now.’

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the fire-light gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, ‘This is now.’

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.”

December 10, 2014 0

Happy Holidays 2014!

By in Family

Happy Advent to everyone! Since this post also serves as part of our holiday cards this year, we also wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year as well!

2015 is going to be a wonderful year for us, as we will welcome a baby boy into our family sometime in late March or early April. But until then, we would like to reflect a bit on the excellent year that 2014 was for our family. We were really bad about keeping up with the blog for most of 2014, so we figured this way we can hit the highlights for you and catch you up to speed.

In January, Hallie officially became certified as a postpartum doula by Doulas of North America. This means I am qualified to provide quality non-medical support for mothers and families after the birth of a new baby. I help moms (and dads) with things like breastfeeding, physical healing, emotional adjustment, learning to care for a newborn, sibling adjustment, family transition, and household management. I provide non-judgmental companionship, guidance, and resources to families in the first days, weeks and months after baby arrives. I absolutely love the work I do with clients, and am honored to have had such a successful first year of official doula work serving families.

In March, we had a blast enjoying a “stay-cation” weekend with Hallie’s parents and brothers. We needed a break from the long, harsh winter cold, so we went to the Sea Life aquarium at the Mall of America and The MN Children’s Museum, among other things.

Mike ended his third year as Principal of a Catholic elementary school on a high note by attending the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) annual conference in Pittsburgh in April. At the conference he presented a session about how school leaders can use iOS to be more productive, a talk that he has given several times since.

In June, we were excited to meet our newest family members: identical twin nephews Elias and Jude! They have been so fun to watch grow and see how darling their huge smiles are. We are still learning how to tell them apart, and can’t believe how big they are now compared to when they were born prematurely. We are so glad to see their whole family doing so well in adjusting to life with twin babies.

In late June, Mike and Hallie took a much-needed (and long overdue) true vacation and actually boarded a plane and went far away to Washington, D.C. for five days. It was our first time on a plane together since our honeymoon four years ago, and we had been saving for this little trip for quite a while. It proved to be well worth it. While we had both been to D.C. before (Hallie in high school and Mike many times as a kid and middle school teacher) we both love the city and wanted to rediscover it together. We were able to visit our good friends Sarah and Chris, who both work for the U.S. State Department and live right in D.C. proper. We stayed with them for a few nights and they showed us a good time out on the town. We also met up with Pat, a friend and mentor of Mike’s. While on our trip, we explored old town Alexandria, VA which is full of charm and history. I love being married to a history buff because we can stop at some nondescript brownstone corner building and he tells me all about what happened there hundreds of years ago and why it’s significant. In the nation’s Capitol, we went to a number of the Smithsonian museums and the Library of Congress, toured the Capital, and rented bikes to more quickly and easily get around the National Mall to see the monuments and memorials. Genevieve and Mari seemed to hardly notice we were gone; they were having so much fun with Grandma and Grandpa (Hallie’s parents). We missed them, of course, but knew it was going to be a while before we had another opportunity to travel together. It was definitely a highlight of the year for us.

A few weeks after getting home, Mike flew to Los Angeles for an education conference while Hallie packed up the girls and headed to northern Wisconsin for a week at a cabin with Hallie’s side of the family. Mike was able to join the family after he returned from the West coast and we had a great time swimming, playing in the sand, playing on the playground, exploring nearby small towns, and just relaxing and enjoying nature together.

In late July, we took a road trip down to Haverhill and Marshalltown, IA where much of Mike’s family gathers for almost-yearly reunions. It’s always a fun time catching up with each other, seeing how the kids have grown, meeting the new babies, and visiting the old stomping grounds that are so special to his Mom’s side of the family.

August and September were busy months for our family, as I was busy with clients and Mike was beginning his fourth year as principal. During this time, Genevieve began preschool (at Mike’s school) and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (a religious education program in the Montessori method). These changes marked the first time our girls were regularly separated from each other. It took them a while to adjust and it was clear they really missed each other when they were apart. Of course, that didn’t last forever, but it was so sweet while it did. Also in September, I completed a 40-hour intensive training to become a certified lactation counselor (CLC), which means I am now able to better support mothers who want to breastfeed, are initiating breastfeeding, or are managing lactation. Naturally, this helps me in my work as a postpartum doula, but also allows me to serve women who may not need the full services of a doula but do need some assistance in their breastfeeding goals or challenges.

As Christmas approaches, we find ourselves full of gratitude for all the blessings we’ve been given this past year. At age 3.5, Genevieve is learning every day and sharing her expanding world with us. She’s an observant, caring big sister and has loved meeting new friends in the last few months. We have no doubt she will be a wonderful big sister to Baby Boy when he arrives. Mari turned two in September and has amazed us with her verbal progression. It seems like every day we hear her say new words and complete sentences. She is our mischievous (sometimes stubborn) one. We’ve loved watching her grow into a big girl and she too seems to be preparing for her new role as big sister.

I have been preparing to teach postpartum preparation and breastfeeding classes starting in January, and am enjoying my work on the volunteer Board of Directors for Guiding Star Twin Cities, a new non-profit serving families in the metro area.

Mike has been keeping a well-read blog on technology and education, and has been a speaker at a number of professional education conferences in the Twin Cities. In January, he starts his third and final year in the University of St. Thomas’ Murray Institute. He will graduate next December with an Ed.S. degree and principal licensure.

2014 was a great year for us, and we hope it was for you too! Here’s to 2015 and all the promise the new year always brings. May you and yours be happy and healthy throughout.

Hallie, Mike, Genevieve, Mari, and Baby Boy

December 3, 2014 0

Recent Firsts

By in Announcement, Family, Genevieve

In the past couple of weeks, Mike and I have been witness to a few “firsts” that have felt significant enough to us to be, well, significant. In no particular order:

  1. I just realized we have not posted anything on our blog yet about the fact that we are expecting our third child. Oopsie-daisy. Sorry about that. Yes! We are having another sweet little one, due in early April (April 8th is the official due date, for those of you who like to know). And here is the “first” in this…IT’S A BOY! We had our 20-week sonogram the week before Thanksgiving and saw definitive evidence of the male sex. I mean definitive.  …We are very excited to meet this little guy when he decides to debut, and can’t wait to see how our family dimension changes and expands as this fifth person grows into it. Welcome, little boy! We already love you so much!
  2. Genevieve and Mari had their first “sleepover” experience, as in, they got to party hardy with little people their own age and didn’t see mom and dad again until late the next morning. This adventure was provided by our generous (and somewhat bafflingly courageous) brother and sister-in-law, and the kids in the scene were our sweet nieces and nephews. It’s no small feat to warmly suggest/offer/invite a two year old and a three year old to spend the night at your house when you already have four little ones of your own under age 4.5. I know. Crazy and awesome at the same time, eh? They got to have pizza for dinner, munchy snacks and hot cocoa during their “movie” (Pooh bear–about 30 minutes long, maybe?), a fancy breakfast, and of course plenty of play time that night and the next morning.

    First cousin sleepover: watching Pooh's adventures

    First cousin sleepover: watching Pooh’s adventures

  3. This also brought a new awareness to Mike and I of the love/hate relationship all parents surely must have with sleepovers. We experienced the joy and freedom of having no (outside the womb) children for a good 19 hours or so, but for the first time in what will likely be many times, we also experienced the crash and burn of the rest of the weekend that results after such frivolity and excitement for our kids. Don’t get me wrong; we did not regret it. Our girls had a great time and so did we. We will be hosting our own sleepover for the cousins soon, too. But it was a glimpse into what it will be like for years to come, and I suddenly had a new appreciation (and apologetic understanding?) for my parents’ times in dealing with me in middle school and high school when I was out too late with friends. Uff da.
  4. Genevieve received her first-ever school pictures. And they are SO CUTE. Obviously, I’m biased when it comes to things like this, but man. That little girl is adorable and I’m not afraid to admit it, people. I definitely teared up a bit when I first saw the photos. I had to resist ordering magnets, mugs, calendars, and t-shirts made with them. Just kidding. Kind of.
  5. Genevieve also made her first “I want ___” statements. As in, “I want you to buy ____ for me!” This was an unfortunate byproduct of mistakenly strolling through the toy area of Target with the girls a couple of weekends ago. We were looking for gifts for other people, and whoops. There was the Frozen aisle. “I want a Princess Elsa dress! And a Princess Elsa wand!” ensued multiple times daily for the next few days. Finally, mom had to bust out another first with which to fire back: “Ok, honey. I heard you. We’ll make sure Santa knows that and maybe you’ll get that for Christmas.”
  6. Yup. Santa has also entered our world now, for real, for the first time. We try to not make a big deal out of it, but I’m not going to lie about the fact that sometimes I have to use that good old “Santa’s watching” leverage when the girls are being particularly assertive in their independence. (Read: “not listening to their parents.”) Two and three year olds disregarding parents’ wishes? Astonishing.
  7. Next week, Genevieve will have her very first school Christmas concert. Preschoolers in their finest holiday garb, singing Christmas songs in front of an audience, and our little girl among them. I don’t know if I will be able to handle it.
November 11, 2014 0

Happy Second Birthday, Mari Bea!

By in Mari, Uncategorized

So, once again, we have fallen off the intended habit of regularly posting (writing)  on our family blog. Apologies. But now it’s time to do some catching up!

On Sunday, September 14th, we celebrated our sweet Mari Beatrice turning two years old. It was a fun birthday party with mostly family and (“god-sister”–or maybe “god-cousin”?) Baby Nora, who we absolutely love to play with whenever we get the chance. For those of you who don’t know, “Baby Nora” is our goddaughter–daughter of Jessica and Leo–and is about the same size as Mari herself, but will likely remain forever titled “Baby Nora” because she was born right at the start of our girls’ baby fever phase, in which they are still active. In fact, every time they play babies, the baby’s name is Baby Nora, and for a while, Mari would tell strangers her name was Nora.

Anyway, our tiny Bea is still tiny. She is growing well but is a bit short, like her mom. Her head continues to be large. Her smile continues to be the most winsome many claim to have ever seen. Her big brown eyes almost always sparkle, and she is finally starting to grow some real hair, which is turning out to be roughly the same color as mom’s. Her good cheer is indelible (she will often grin through her tears) and her affection and excitement about life catching. She has more and more words each week, forming comprehensible sentences now and using vocal expression like a pro. Her favorite phrases lately are, “I can DO it!” and “Ok, I will!” She’s also developed a strong sense of knowing when she doesn’t want to do something, and we have begun to see a glimpse of the other side of our happy girl: she can throw a tantrum and scream in rage with the best of them.

Her liveliness and adventuresome spirit are a joy to watch. Mari, your dad and I love you so, so much and are so proud of the big girl you are becoming. Here’s to another great year growing together!

May 29, 2014 0

My Hair Is Going to the Meeting

By in Genevieve

Sometimes I find myself tuning out the singing and chatter happening in the backseat as I drive. This morning, I tuned in after a few moments, and caught Genna belting out this verse:

“My hair is going to the meeting!

If the meeting don’t work, I don’t work!”

I figured she’s either preparing to be a Jersey mafia wife or a union employee ready to strike. Either way, it cracked me up.

May 25, 2014 0

Happy 3rd Birthday, Genevieve!

By in Genevieve

On May 7th, our Genevieve Dolores turned three. It was a particularly fun “birthday week” (as my family always likes to claim) this time, because Genna is now old enough to understand birthdays and all the fun they bring. She had fun telling anyone who would listen, “My birfday’s coming up!” And at the co-op that Tuesday, she happily proclaimed to the guy behind the deli counter, “Tomorrow is my birfday and I’m going to be FREE!” She was rewarded for her gleeful announcement by receiving a sample of a delicious pickle spear, and her little sis received a cup of sliced green apple.  Sometimes, it pays to be self-centered, I guess.

On her actual birthday, we celebrated with blueberry muffins for breakfast, a trip to the doctor’s office for a check up, and a quick meander at Como Zoo to see the gorillas, specifically. We then enjoyed McDonalds Happy Meals for lunch at our “new” picnic table, and hot dogs, mac and cheese, and peas for supper. All menu choices were invented and approved by the birthday girl herself, of course. We finished the night off with two slices of cake from Cafe Latte that we all shared together. Mom may have had something to do with that menu choice.

The following Saturday, we had a wonderful little party to celebrate with family and a few friends. Genna wanted a balloon-themed party, so we had a bunch of helium balloons floating around (which the child guests seemed to love) and a balloon cake. Really, Mom is not that great of to cake-maker or decorator, so it looked more like a regular cake with some licorice awkwardly placed around it. It required some explanation for the guests to “get it” but it seemed to please folks in the taste department, so who the heck cares? Genna had a blast seeing so many of the faces she loves, and all the fun presents didn’t hurt, either. The two biggest hits for her this year seemed to be the new sets of baby care items she received for her baby doll, and an awesome bike with training wheels. (She is still working on getting the hang of pedaling.) Thank you to everyone who brought gifts for our sweet three year old! We had fun celebrating with all of you, and appreciate your love for our Genevieve.

Genna, your dad and I are so proud of the big girl you are becoming. We’ve been amazed at how you’ve grown, not only physically (you’ve definitely had a height-spurt in the last month or two!) but also socially and cognitively. It’s so fun to converse with you, and to see your little mind expanding each day. We love watching you learn and explore. We admire your big heart and your gentle nature. We feel so blessed to have you in our lives. Happy birthday, Genevieve Dolores!

May 1, 2014 0

The Queen Bea’s Latest

By in Baby Life, Mari

Forgive the ridiculous lapse in posts in recent weeks (ok, let’s be honest: months…months and months!). Needless to say, we’ve been just a bit busy what with a business beginning,  post-master’s degree education continuing, and two energetic young humans to raise. However, I simply cannot let this day go by without recording a couple of the delights our youngest daughter has shared with us lately. To keep it short and sweet, like Mari herself, here goes:

1. This morning as we were preparing to leave the house, her highness simply would not allow me to help her put on her shoes. Even though she’s never once done any part of the process herself, with or without an assist. And they have laces.

Eventually, for fear of being tragically late for work, evil Mom had to step in and get the shoes on her royal yet tiny, pudgy feet amidst enraged shrieks followed by furious sobs. How DARE I help her with something she so desperately wants to accomplish herself but clearly cannot do at all.


2. This afternoon at the park, her majesty had ascended (by herself, I may add) to the top level of the playground’s tower via the staircase. When it was apparent that she was intent upon descending to us groundlings once again, I offered her a hand in what I thought was a gracious bid for the privilege of assisting her. Her highness’ response, with a clear and final wave of that tiny royal hand? “No, Mama.” (Mom backs off.) Certainly, your grace. Pardon my offense.


3. At dinner, we had the gourmet meal of choice: spaghetti noodles garnished with butter and a hint of salt. (We prefer iodized. Sniff. None of that sea salt, but thank you for trying to please us.) Mari, once again and true to current form, resisted all attempts to make life easier. “No, Mom. You may not teach me how to handle long stringy things with a utensil. No, Mom. You may not try to wipe off the grease shampoo I just gave myself. No, Mom. You may not ask me to try aforementioned utensil one more time after I fling it off the table. Again. And again. In the end, Mom, you just need to laugh and remember this as you scoop handfuls of spaghetti noodles out of my bib’s pocket and flop them back into my bowl. Remember that when this bowl was empty, as it finally was, I put it over my face, then slid it up onto my head, and crowned myself.”

Naturally, your grace.

December 16, 2013 0

Getting Taller

By in Genevieve

You know your toddler is getting taller when you start to find odd things in unusual places and realize they were swiped from the kitchen counter, or the middle of the table, where you previously believed items were safe. Today’s surprise? Inside Genevieve’s “Madeline” book bag: a can of tuna and a plastic spoon.

Thankfully, the can was unopened and thus the spoon was unused.

November 14, 2013 1

Walking and Words

By in Mari

Our tiniest sweetie turned 14 months old today. While things are incredibly busy for us right now, I wanted to take just a moment to reflect on how much Mari has grown and changed in just the last two or three months. Perhaps I feel those same old emotions I remember when Genevieve began walking, but seeing Mari leaving babyhood behind is particularly powerful to me right now. Before our eyes, she has transformed from the happy, smiley, relatively sedentary “little bum” she always was, to a small child, bravely exploring her world as she toddles around, concentrating so hard on her balance and destinations. In her thirteenth month, Mari decided it was time to start cruising. Once she got that down, she now seems to be shifting her attention to her words. Though still in the early stages of pronunciation, she has proudly vocalized the words ball, dog, apple, mama, dada, boo (it was recently Halloween, after all), boy, and uh-oh. We are delighted each time her sweet, soft voice utters any little word, and she seems to enjoy talking. She’s still all smiles–unless you try to change her diaper, of course–and she is still so affectionate. From those first 4-week old grins to the big “snug” she gave me this morning, Mari has been such a joy to her dad and I, every single day. Happy 14 months, little toddler!