Teach me to Walk in the Light

Teach me to walk in the light of his love;

Teach me to pray to my Father above;

Teach me to know of the things that are right;

Teach me, teach me to walk in the light.
Come, little child, and together we’ll learn

Of his commandments, that we may return

Home to his presence, to live in his sight 

Always, always to walk in the light.
Father in Heaven, we thank thee this day

For loving guidance to show us the way.

Grateful, we praise thee with songs of delight!

Gladly, gladly we’ll walk in the light.

Music and Lyrics by 

Clara W. McMaster


The Two Sisters

As one can imagine the chores, the dishes and the laundry never ever end around here!  It can feel very overwhelming at times, especially because I do not have the luxury of a nanny anymore since the move to Florida.  I do often try to include the kids in chores to encourage a team effort…

The other day, I was home with the two youngest sisters, Bella and Brandy.  We went for a stroll to the park and had lunch together and finally Brandy settled into her crib for a nap.  This nap time was where I had eagerly planned in my head to catch up on laundry and clean out the three bathrooms.  Right as I walked to go towards the laundry room to fold the clothes, Bella expressed that she wanted to paint. “Oh Bella” I began, “mommy just got Brandy down for her nap and I really need to do the laundry and clean the bathrooms”.  She tilted her head downwards and had a very sad look on her face.  I knew that she had been truly relishing in our time together all morning.  “Oh ok” she said, though clearly disappointed… Then that story of the two sisters Mary and Martha from the Bible popped into my head (as it so very often does).  It stopped me in my tracks.

Mary and Martha were blessed with the opportunity to host a dinner with Jesus. Mary sat at His feet during dinner to take in His every word….While Martha bustled about the house doing chores. At one point, Martha spoke to Jesus as though she was a victim being left with all of the chores while her sister did not contribute. He reminded her that her priorities were misaligned. This story really hits me deep as a busy mother and always reminds me of what is truly important.

In an instant, there was nothing else on Earth that I would rather be doing than painting with our little Bella… What a perfect opportunity to bond!  I steeped myself a cup of tea and we set up a painting spot outside on the sunny deck.  We shared some magical moments painting and creating together as birds chirped in the background…  She painted a watermelon and a pineapple.  For the green stem portion of the pineapple, we decided to get our fingernails dirty.  She dropped the paintbrush and we painted each other’s hands for handprints, which together made the most perfectly spiked topper!

Tell Me a Story

One of the most intimate things that we can do as human beings is share stories and hold space for others as they share stories.  Storytelling is one of the most ancient traditions and holds an integral part of our cultures.  Some stories have been passed on for generations and new stories are always taking shape. 

We have been focusing on sharing stories here at the Cooligan Academy as we continue with encouraging language development.

We are always trying to encourage the magic of reading.

As the oldest sibling, Renzo is a great advocate for a love of reading and he can power through books faster than me!

We absolutely encourage reading books as well as sharing stories with others.

We have been using these “Tell me a story” cards lately to inspire creative storytelling.  But you can get super creative and gather a few items and place them in a bag and pull one out to start creating a story… some items that I have used have been a pink feather, a straw and a rock…. pretty much anything can be used to inspire a creative story… just pull out something and start sharing!

In the last week, we have initiated a very new and exciting storytelling program that has been extraordinarily successful.  Each night, before bed, Pat shares a short biography about an interesting or inspiring person.  He has an incredible memory for details and a deep passion for history, which makes his story telling intriguing for the kids…. and for myself!  So far, we have been gifted with the story of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi and General Douglas MacArthur.  His intense passion and connection to the stories come out as he recalls the details and these moments have been incredibly special for Team Cooligan.  We are very grateful for the contributions that Pat offers to the Academy.

A quote from Ghandi, you must be the change you wish to see in the world.

The fighting pyramid 

I remember in high school a friend of mine was upset that her boyfriend at the time wanted to go away for a weekend.  She was not willing to grant him the permission to go.  I remember the conversation so vividly because the entire situation was very frustrating for me!  I had difficulty being a supportive friend to her.  I just could not wrap my head around why she would not let him go?  At the time, I remember casually saying oh come on, it’s just a harmless weekend of golf!  But she was persistent that she did not want to let him go.  For the most part, I simply bit my tongue on this topic.  Ultimately, the relationship between them ended and they moved on to other partners.  It was sad for me when they split because I really did felt like he was a great catch for her.

Now, I find myself with a husband who has created an entire business empire with his passion…  This comes with many sacrifices though.  Believe me, we have certainly been through our share of challenges, but I truly never want to deter him from pursuing his dreams and reaching his full potential.  I do feel that he feels the same compassion towards me.  After all, free will is a God given right that comes from the Ultimate source of Love.


This is the fourteenth consecutive year for Pat to be in Los Angeles at the Walter Pyramid (aka Fighting Pyramid) for the BJJ Worlds.  

Last year, the birth of Brandy was stressful for him because he did not know if he could go to the tournament until the last couple of days.  Brandy ended up graving us with an early presence and he was able to go.  She was just 24 hours old and he was on a plane to LAX!!  

I was home with a newborn and four other children to care for…  One might think that this is perhaps unfair or strange, but I actually encouraged him to go.  I remember looking into his eyes and feeling the stress that he felt in the situation.  I could see that he was torn but  I knew in my heart that if I honestly said that I needed his help, he would have stayed… for family always comes first.  But I was also aware that the guilt of holding him back would just eat up at me!  So, I mustered up all of my poise and strength and assured him that I could do it… and gladly!

I just splurged on a great weekend with the three girls while the boys enjoyed the tournament.  Brooke and I have found a new passion for jewelry making and the boys continue to hone their passion for the sport of jiujitsu. 

Sure, I have to reel Pat in sometimes to put down his device and connect with me.    If you can practice spending ever present time with one another, then you don’t really need much of it (five minutes even).  It’s a daily practice and a common challenge, but this marriage thing takes work!  And we have a whole Team to guide now!…

Adventures Continue…

This morning, the two boys woke up before the sun to catch a plane to the west coast!  

They met With Pat in LA for the JiuJitsu World Championship!

I am so grateful that the boys are together safe and sound.  This is the Worlds 2017 and our team has several competitors.  This weekend is always sure to spark learning, passion and inspiration to the team!

So, since I’m here with the three girls, it’s all rainbows and unicorns!

We started the day with some shopping at Disney Springs!

A couple of days ago a little Gecko was seen in our van!  Me and the kids tried to get it out, but it was way to fast and slick! Every time we would go in the van for the last 72 hours, we would see him and he would scurry into some crack or crevasse and we eventually just succumbed to the Florida lizard and left him alone. 

Today, when we arrived at Disney Springs, I popped open the stroller and placed Brandy in.  Wouldn’t you know, that little lizard hopped off the visor and right onto Brandy (she didn’t even flinch) and he scurried off to the Disney playground.  Brooke and I giggled that the little guy was just waiting this whole time to be dropped off at Disney!  We laughed at the adventures he might have…

The girls convinced me to purchase a couple of lego sets from the lego store (they totally know that I have a weakness for books and legos)!

We grabbed some Menchies for lunch, at the request of Brooke.. 

Overall, we had a fabulous Girl Day here in Orlando!

First Birthday in Florida!

One year ago we welcomed Brandy Marilyn into this world, and she continues to be an absolute blessing in our lives!  

That was hands down thee best homeschool day that I have ever experienced, as Renzo (at age eight years) was present for the entire birth!

Who would have thought that we would be celebrating her first birthday in a home in Florida!  

I have come to be much more relaxed with birthday celebrations and keeping three simple rules:

One:  Have at least one balloon.  Today, I opted for a single number one shaped balloon!

Two: Have wrapped present(s)… wrapped is the key here and NOT in a bag….Wrapping paper is just wayyyyyy too much fun to tear open!

Three:  Have cake.  It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, but you must have cake to truly call it a party!  It may, or may not be accompanied by cupcakes, but my rule is that there must be a cake!

I had so much fun preparing for Brandy’s first birthday on a budget!  I have had so much luck here finding gems at the consignment stores…

Brandy’s outfit:

Ruffled onesie like new “Baby Gap” on consignment for : $ 3.50

Gold sandals like new on consignment for:  $2.50

Crown (splurge) from a boutique for: $6.00

TOTAL: $12.00

Isn’t it adorable?!

Her gifts included a tea set from Target for $15.00

A Cupcake set from Target for:  $13.00

A two piece doll set that Brooke insisted we purchase for her… still new in box from consignment (splurge): $22.00

And a little wooden pull toy used from consignment for: $6.00

Gifts TOTAL: $56.00

I would have made a cake to save on cost, but then it would have required me to buy a cake pan and supplies… so I splurged and bought the cake for: $30.

This evening, we are headed downtown to Lake Eola where there is an outdoor theatre and the girls’ ballet school is performing tonight…The cost of the Snow White ballet performance is FREE!

So I have managed to pull together a memorable birthday celebration for a grand total of ninety eight dollars!!

I hear that there are going to be a bunch of trendy food trucks lined up around the theatre tonight, so now we have money to spare!  Pat has his eyes set on the Treehouse Truck for a good burger…

Mothers’ Day

Mothers’ Day is a special occasion to me personally…obviously because I am a mother, but also because it is our wedding anniversary.  We chose to get married on Mothers’ Day ten years ago at St.Vincent Hospital in Ottawa.  Pat’s mother Marilyn was terminally ill and we really wanted her to be present, so, after some negotiating and arrangements with the Catholic Diocese, we brought the ceremony to her.  

Our ceremony was very intimate with only six people present, and I would never change a thing.  Today, we continue to keep the anniversary celebrations pretty simple and try to focus on the day to day interactions….because truly marriage takes work!  

Pat and I were separated most of the day as he wrapped up at the tournament in Miami (where the Team did ah-mazing!). Since I am not one to sit around much, I decided to do a little research and see what was going on around Orlando….I decided to take the kids to a nearby butterfly sanctuary!  It was free admission today for mothers at Lukas Nursery’s Butterfly Encounters, so I couldn’t think of a better outing!

We really enjoyed the outing but on the way home, Brandy began a protest that she was “starving”!  I was only five minutes from home, but I was envisioning having to entertain a hungry baby while preparing lunch for five kids…. and since it was Mothers’ Day after all…. I detoured for lunch at Panera Bread!

While I was feeding Brandy, the other four kids went over to the drink station to fill up their cups.  They returned and began devouring lunch as everyone was so hungry after the morning out in the sun.  Suddenly, as I scooped some soup on the spoon for Brandy, I noticed by the corner of my eye that a lady had trekked across the restaurant to our table.  I looked at her and she gently said “excuse me, but I just wanted to tell you about your kids at the drink station”.  A small knot formed in my stomach, as I really did not want this perfect morning to be tainted by a complaint about Rolles mixing seven different drinks at the station, or splashing ice around at people while Bella laughed hysterically!  She continued, “those children were so well behaved, I just had to come and tell you.  Super job!”  Well, I held back tears of gratitude and I thanked her for not only noticing, but to take the time to come over and actually give me that message.  Of course, I was still near tears as I thanked the children for a specatacular Mothers’ Day!

When we returned home, Pat also returned shortly after with some team members.  He very thoughtfully got me an Edible Arrangements fruit bouquet surprise with chocolates!  Pat did some business consulting with the team members and I went out and did a little bit of shopping with the girls… I scored on some birthday surprises for Brandy’s upcoming first birthday!  It will be a “birthday on a budget” and I can’t wait to celebrate in Florida style!

A decade of marriage

Pat and I are celebrating our ten year anniversary of marriage this weekend.  Since Pat will be in Miami for a Jiu Jitsu tournament on Saturday, we decided to celebrate our anniversary  today!

We started the day bright and early with a surprise breakfast at Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Desort.  Ohana means “family” and we couldn’t think of a better way to kick off our anniversary celebration than as a family at one of our favourite places!

We did some wakeboarding, trampoline work, ballet, grocery shopping ….and also threw in some schoolwork!

This evening, we had an amazing young lady come in to watch the kids so that we could enjoy a quiet dinner.    The kids made her a welcome cake with lots and lots of icing and sprinkles.

Of course we wouldn’t leave our kids with a stranger.  This lady was a very special lady that we knew through Coach.  We found an amazing Thai restaurant that was very accomodating to gluten free.  We got a quiet booth and the food was absolutely fresh and delicious.  We are so grateful to be blessed with an evening to reconnect as husband and wife… just as Team Cooligan began!

Getting it done!

I must say that ever since we received our couch, this place really started to feel like home!  Our schedules are filling up and falling into place here quite nicely too.  Pat is still working long hours each day and we still need to get errands done, like grocery shopping.

We still have to find time to get laundry done as it piles up quickly around here!

I managed to find a good price at the consignment shop on a jogging stroller to continue morning runs with my sidekick!

Of course the wakeboarding action is daily here… and the girls are settling in nicely at the Ballet school!  They both squeaked in just in time to get a part in the upcoming Snow White production!

Even though Pat has been extremely preoccupied and busy here, he still manages to serve dinner sometimes… only he rarely cooks when he’s on dinner duty.  Yesterday he found us a nice local pizzeria with the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever tasted at Tomasino’s Pizzeria!

He also lures on Brandy as his best friend with the BJ’s famous pizookie dessert (also offered in gluten free!)

Bella gets in on the Action!

Bella has been asking and begging to try wakeboarding or surfing… so here she goes, at the age of three, for a fun test run with Coach Keenan!

We have been enjoying the weather here and this weekend we hit a Farmers Market and found some really cool things…

A hand filled soy candle with a heavenly coconut lime scent in a pineapple glass!

We also found a local gentleman who is passionate about vanilla!  He makes pure vanilla extract and vanilla powder which is pure ground vanilla beans with no additives… I found out he lives right in our little neighbourhood!

We found other great things like fresh pressed juice, local honey and the most delicious gluten free cookies that I have ever sunk my teeth into!

We are getting the hang of things here in Orlando and settling in quite nicely… each and every morning, I wake up and thank the Lord for another beautiful sun filled day!