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!

OAMA South 

We got a couch and television today!  Now this place really feels like home!


I fired up the barbecue for dinner and prepared an old favourite “fajitas Friday”!


While I was prepping dinner, the boys were hard at work themselves!


Pat started his business in Ottawa in the basement of our rented townhouse.  I remember it was over a decade ago now, random people would come in and out of the basement to do private Jiu Jitsu lessons with Pat.  Pat had very little money or assets at the time, but he had big dreams.  Eventually, after thorough research, he found investors and opened the first academy.  He lived at that Carling Avenue Academy for the first year and slept on the mats!  Who would have ever thought that he would grow an empire of seven schools, several promotions and business consulting business!  Now here we are in Orlando…only there are no basements in Florida!  We received nine mats today and  have them nicely laid out on the back porch… only time will tell what happens… 


Here is photographs of the very first training session at the Orlando Academy of Martial Arts…

Keeping a FuN and positive outlook…


May the Fourth be with you

I have been soothing a teething baby for the past few days and it has put my gas tank near empty!


Nevertheless, I did put on her Darth Vader pyjamas this evening… as you know what day it is, right?  May the Fourth be with you!  I am really hoping that the force turns in my favour tonight so I can get a good six hours in a row of solid sleep!


We had a busy day of wakeboarding, trampoline work, dance and school and right now I am waiting for Pat to return with dinner.  He got me a delicious treat from a local cafe that I discovered called the Dandelion Cafe.  It is one of the places that are getting to know us, as it is close to Brooke’s dance school and we have gone many times.  Another great find was a health store, similar to Kardish or Natural Food Pantry, called Chamberlin’s.  We have been frequenting this place for treats and the kids love sitting on the stools at the smoothie bar!  We love seeking and suppporting little local gems.  

Magic Hour

The wakeboarders refer to that early morning hour when the lake is calm and undisturbed the magic hour.  The magic hour is when the lake looks like a giant mirror as it is so smooth and calm, without a single ripple.  I teared up when I helped push the team off the shore early this morning.  I stood there holding Brandy in my arms shouting and waving at their smiling faces.  How blessed are we to be able to do this right at our own backyard?!


They also played at the sand bar for a bit before returning home.


Team Cooligan opted for some late afternoon schoolwork because they wanted to hit the OWC as well.  We had lunch there and I got to do some reading with Bella while the other kids shredded.  Brooke and Rolles are really improving at the cable park and Renzo is working a new trick… I’ll try to get a video when he finally lands that baby…

All of this sun and water makes for hungry kids!


We had a nice evening bouncing in the trampoline with our neighbours!  They have three kids as well and seem like a great family!

Girls Day!

We have been on a really good routine of completing our school work early in the day!  This has really resulted in some fun filled days.

I was so happy to wake up to a warm matcha in my good old bowl from home.


Today, the boys and girls split up for the day’s activities…

The boys went with Pat and Mike to their wakeboard lesson then they spent the day at Cape Canaveral to visit the Kennedy Space Centre.  They did a full tour and had a wonderful time!


I took the girls out to Ron Jon Surf shop to get a few goodies!


I signed up the girls at a ballet school here in Orlando because they couldn’t miss a beat on dancing!  Brandy waited patiently with me as the girls danced.


When we returned home, we had a quick dinner and the girls jumped in the trampoline with their pyjamas on to wind down the day.

One little Florida incident we had today was an uninvited house guest…


Brave little Brooke removed the lizard from our house and released it back to the great outdoors…​​

​Sometimes she is braver than I!

Vega’s Home!

What could be nicer than waking up to a beautiful red sunrise reflecting on the lake?…


Perhaps waking up to smoochy kisses from you Malinois after three weeks!!


Pat and Vega made it home this morning in good time with our friend Mike!  I am grateful to God that they got here safe and sound after an overnight drive.  They both bee lined straight to bed and I tried to keep the kids to a dull roar… but it was so exciting… our trampoline arrived!!  The gentleman who came to assemble it was patient enough to let the three oldest kids help him…


We don’t have couches but we have a trampoline!!  This will be a great tool to help the kids with their wakeboarding skills… can we say hello inverts….​​

​I decided it would be best to give Pat and Mike some time to rest, so I took the kids to the OWC for some cable riding.  Me and the younger two chilled out while the oldest rode the cable for two hours.


This was a breakthrough day… I have my Malinois, we have our van, our Vitamix and juicer and even my tea maker and the best stash of teas on Earth!  Can’t wait to have my good old morning matcha tomorrow!