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.