Why Catholic school?

School 6

This week, Catholic Schools Week was celebrated across the nation. At the start of the week, Errol and I were asked to speak at Mass about why we send our children to a Catholic school.

It was an interesting time to be asked this question as I had been reflecting about our school, Our Lady of Lourdes, and what a blessing it has been to our children over the past decade. I have been thinking about this because Valon is halfway through his 8th grade year. In four short months, he will leave this incredible school that has been such an important part of his life and our lives.

We have three other children at Lourdes. Isis is in the 6th grade. Daniel is in pre-K and will start kindergarten in the fall. And Patrick will be starting 3-year-old preschool.

Valon and Isis have been at this school since they were the ages of their little brothers. Weren’t they the cutest?

We loved the idea of them going to Catholic school, but I really had no idea how excellent Lourdes would be for them.

We honestly feel they are receiving the best education available in Great Falls. We think the local public schools are excellent, and there’s a good chance that some or maybe all of our kids will go to public high school. But with the smaller class sizes at Lourdes, they have received more one-on-one attention from teachers and other support staff. And, along with the regular curriculum, they have gotten to explore some fun and interesting electives, such as school newspaper, Latin and cooking. Valon is currently in a computer coding class offered through MIT, and he couldn’t be more excited about it since he is looking at computer science as a career. Both Valon and Isis are honor students, and Valon is well prepared for high school and likely will sign up for several AP courses because of the education he has received at Lourdes.

Along with academic excellence, a special component of our school has been the ongoing connection between the older students and the younger students. The older students mentor the younger students in many ways – in the classroom, at weekly school Masses and during recreational activities. This helps our older students learn to be helpful, patient, understanding and compassionate. On the other hand, our younger students look up to the older students with much admiration which, in turn, helps them to try harder and be better.

Our school offers a variety of extra-curricular activities. The kids have participated in sports, such as basketball, football, track and cross-country. The learning environment is safe and loving – it’s apparent how much all of the staff cares about our children. It’s pretty awesome when you walk through your school and every teacher and student you pass knows your kids’ names, even the kids who aren’t full time students yet.

Our school is wonderfully diverse, with children of many different cultures and also varying social backgrounds. Our kids have made friends with some really neat kids, and we have been fortunate to become friends with so many amazing parents and teachers.

And being a Catholic family, it’s very meaningful to us that a loving God is the foundation for all that our kids do at school as well as at home. The kids pray the rosary together on Mondays, they pray before lunches each day, they pray for fellow students and teachers who are going through tough times, and they attend Mass each week. I will never forget the day that Isis was having a tough day at school because Grandma Lila had been put on hospice care. A teacher noticed her sadness and asked her what was going on. After Isis told the teacher about Grandma, the teacher walked down the hall with her to the school’s prayer board and Isis wrote Grandma Lila’s name on a cross and placed it on the board. And they prayed. That was exactly what Isis needed that day, and I will be forever grateful to that teacher for her compassion.

Like I said, this school has been an incredible blessing to our children, more of a blessing than we could have ever guessed. Valon and Isis have grown into really bright, kind, helpful and well-balanced people, and our school and school community deserve much of the credit for this.

We are so thankful to the parish for its continued support, both spiritually and financially (our church subsidizes our school to keep tuition as low as possible so any family can attend). We also are eternally grateful to our families for their continued support of our school and our kids.

Attending Our Lady of Lourdes has been one of the greatest gifts Valon and Isis have ever received, and we are excited for Danny and Patrick to have the same wonderful opportunity. And I hope they grow up to be just like their big brother and sister.



Happy New Year – Big Sky style

Our family tradition is to head to our condo in Big Sky after Christmas to ring in the new year. We arrived Wednesday night and have been having all kinds of fun ever since.

Errol and Valon shredded the hill on Thursday. (Sadly, they didn’t take any selfies for me to share. Why don’t boys do that? At least Valon took this beautiful photo.)

Isis, the boys and I spent the morning playing in the snow – sledding, moving loads of snow with diggers and sipping hot cocoa. 

We also built legos…

… and, when the boys got home, played Valon’s new game “Bears vs. Babies.” Yes, the name sounds terrible. But it’s a ridiculously fun game by the Seattle maker of “Exploding Kittens,” which is another family fave.

Then, yesterday, Isis and I went up to earn our shredding stickers.

(Yes, there were some selfies.)

Someone took Isis’s poles, probably by mistake, while we were having lunch. So we shared my poles for our final run.

Errol brought Danny up to practice on the magic carpet for a bit, so we got to watch him in action, too.

Then we headed back to find our friends had arrived – yay! Enjoyed dinner and more “Bears vs. Babies.” And today and tomorrow will bring more playing in the snow, more games, more laughing, more love.

Such a great way to wrap up a totally awesome year.


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It’s been awhile. Almost a year and a half. Holy cow time is flying by.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – Christmastime! And we have been busy little bees, just like everyone else.

The kids just started their winter break after three AMAZING Christmas programs that couldn’t have kicked off the season better.

Both Valon and Isis play band instruments. Valon plays the bass clarinet, and Isis plays the trombone. They had their concert in early December. Don’t they look snazzy?


Daniel had a very sweet Christmas program where he played the VIP part of Joseph. He was very brave and played his part perfectly up on the big stage with all of us parents watching. I was so proud of him.


And, yesterday, Valon and Isis had their big school production. Since they go to a Catholic school and the program is always about the coming of Christ, it’s always one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. Once again I found myself in tears at the end of the concert as the entire student body – and many parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – sang Silent Night while a small procession of students walked through the gym and formed the Nativity. My Valon led the procession as the Angel Gabriel. It was just perfect. And now I’m starting to cry again.


Ok, time to back up. Way back. Exactly one year ago.

The day before the kids started their winter break last year, I worked my last day at the hospital foundation, where I had spent about 7 years writing stories of giving and receiving. I loved my job, I really did. But my husband and I had decided it was time for me to stop working outside of our home because, with four kids, we had kind of a lot going on. It was a dream come true for me, something I had always wished for.

Of course, I had all sorts of plans when I stopped working. In addition to enjoying more quality time with my children every single day, I was going to write my blog more, start working on other writing projects, start exercising again, catch up on family photo books and baby books, etc. In actuality, I have been enjoying more quality time with the kids. Period. Running them here and there, fitting in naps, cooking and cleaning up, and then cooking and cleaning up more, laundry every day. Let’s just say there’s not a ton of free time. And that’s okay because I’m getting what I wanted most from being home.

I still think I may be able to fit some of these things into the schedule at some point. It’s just been a very busy year. This summer we moved into a new house that we’d spent about a year building. We loved the location and the floor plan, but we didn’t have any idea just how much we’d love our new home. It’s just perfect for us, and we don’t plan to move ever again.

After getting settled in our new house and enjoying some summer fun, it was time to go back to school. This year Valon is an 8th grader and enjoying his last year at the beloved school he’s grown up in. He is the student body Secretary, and proving to be a talented leader. He enjoys running cross country and participating in track events and is kind of a stud at both. He stopped playing basketball this year, which broke my heart a little bit. A lot, actually. But he wants to focus more on other sports… and, of course, keep up with his hefty school workload.

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Isis is in the 6th grade, so it’s her first year in middle school. Like Valon, she’s an honor roll student and just a really great person. She started running cross country this year, and she’s really good too. And she continues to be a basketball star; it’s so fun watching her play. Errol coaches her traveling basketball team and does such a great job with the girls. Isis’s current passion is the Harry Potter series, and we celebrate each book she finishes by watching the movie. (Okay, we all kind of love Harry Potter.)

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Daniel is in pre-K. It’s not preschool. If you call it preschool, he will correct you. He likes school and his “classmates.” And, like his big brother and sister, he is a good student. He’s very proud of the crafts he brings home. In fact, he’s planning to do all sorts of crafts during Christmas break. He’s smart and funny and adventurous and sweet – you should see my drawer of Lego creations that he built, just for me. He just started skiing so we’re going to have a great time watching him progress this season. Errol is coaching him, too. Our kids are so lucky to have the best dad in the world.

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And now for Patrick. Well, his job is to make sure none of us falls asleep and misses this great life. He keeps us on our toes, every minute of every day. He’s got a twinkle in his eye and all kinds of spirit and spunk. He’s busy and kind of naughty, with a tantrum loaded and ready for any given moment (don’t tell Santa). But we are so thankful that God gave him to us.

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Patrick spends most of his time with me, starting around 5 or 530am each day. He’s the worst sleeper of all our children and always gets up really early. He likes to do whatever you are doing at the moment, and his favorite game is bothering Daniel. He is the exact definition of “pesky little brother.” But he’s so much fun!


Unfortunately, he has bad ears like his brothers and sister and suffers with ear infections. About a week ago, he had a second set of ear tubes put in and his adenoids removed. He’s doing well and, hopefully, he will have a healthier winter now.

Good health is what we are most thankful for. Our children and our families all seem to be pretty healthy, and that is probably our best gift this Christmas. We are just so blessed.


And, a moment later…


That’s our Patrick. 🙂


Thank God for him, for all of them


As I was gazing at my birthday boy this morning, falling in love with him all over again, I found myself feeling so thankful that he was given to me. And then I found myself wondering how I was so lucky to get him, someone who is so special and perfect.

I have made many mistakes in my life, so how is it possible that I have been trusted to love him and teach him and love him some more and help him grow into a wonderful person who will make a difference in our world in his own special way?

I wonder this about all four of my children, who have been my teachers since the day they were born and show me how to be better on a daily basis.

Ah, the mysteries of life. Maybe it just boils down to the simple fact that I’m the luckiest mama in the whole wide universe.

Happy birthday to my darling Patrick. It’s going to be so fun celebrating you!


“Look at all my presents!”




“Time to go to Miss Pat’s…”


“…but first I want to visit the daisies.”



“Ok, now I’m ready to ROCK this birthday.”


Oh, Glacier


Is there any place that doesn’t pale in comparison to your beauty?










Thank goodness…

…for city parks. They bring smiles and fun every place we venture to.





Love Deer Lake


Leg two of Holiday Road took us to the Bob and Char Byrne family cabin at Deer Lake, a wonderful place that I haven’t been to in many moons.

We had some fun paddleboarding…



and canoeing…



and boating…








and just havin good times…





The best part was soaking up more time with our Spokane loveys, like the Byrne sisters…


and singing “Oh Danny Boy” with the Dannys…


and hangin with sports celebs, like Dylan Foss…


That’s right, the Tune Squad went undefeated in Hoopfest ’16 and won the championship in their bracket.


Way to represent, Montana!


Jim and Colleen’s girls (who I sadly didn’t get and pictures of) represented as well. Their team won the championship in the co-ed bracket.



Gotta go now, Spokane. See you next time. Xoox

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