When your soldier is away…

This past year was a challenging one for our family a because my husband was away for a few months. I say ‘few’ because it was less than a year but even as I say it I quickly remember how hard those ‘few’ months were. As a mom of 7 (with #8 in the oven) solo parenting was challenging at best. I cried, I gave myself some slack and sometimes I thought I couldn’t do it but somehow we all made it through because…well…we have to.


Now that I am on the other side and my husband and I have had the opportunity to talk about what helped get us through the challenges I have decided it might be helpful to share some insight with others.

By no means is it easy to see your soldier leave but we are proud of him and really enjoy being reunited when Daddy comes home. Our children have learned that Daddy’s military service requires sacrifices from all of us. Here are some tips that really helped us to make the sacrifices a bit more bearable.


Depending upon operational security this may or may not work for everyone but for us it   did and was very successful. My husband would record a short video and send it to me to share with the kids. This is a great way to tell the kids a quick, “Hello, Daddy loves you.” It is also a great opportunity to remind the kids that they too are serving in their own way and that he’s proud of them for working hard at home. He sent videos whenever he could. The great part of technology is the kids could watch them over and over again whenever THEY needed to. When one of the little ones was having a sad day and just wanted daddy they could watch the video until they felt better.  Sometimes he would even include special messages for any of the kids who had anything special that day. I also have to admit this started as videos for the kids but soon included videos just for me which served as great encouragement on the hard days.

2.Daddy Dolls


Daddy Dolls inc. has hug-a-hero dolls and they were an amazing tool for our. These are custom made dolls with a photo of their soldier so they can hug and snuggle them. They are not too expensive ($32.95) and worth every penny. Although we didn’t opt for the recorded message you can add a recording device for $7.95 to record a special message for the child. For my little ones they were happy to carry around Daddy and snuggle with him anytime they wanted to.


3.Countdown Chain

We all know that the military is unpredictable but we can at least estimate how long our soldier may be away. Whether it’s a daily, weekly or monthly countdown it is helpful to tear that piece off. I always felt like I accomplished something.


The kids colored lots of pictures, made many drawings and wrote letters to Daddy. I would collect them in a file and mail them in clumps. The mail isn’t fast but it’s something tangible for the kids to make for him and something for him to hold.


When we did have an opportunity to talk to Daddy it was a struggle. For some kids talking to Daddy made them miss him more for others it was helpful. Sometimes we had a hard day on our end and sometimes Daddy had just endured a very challenging day on his end. Trying to talk to one another without pushing our negative feelings from the day onto the person on the other end of the phone is very hard.


Another extremely difficult part of communication was choice of words. Any time my husband would down-play his role as a soldier or his being away would instantly let the wind out of my sails. For him he was trying to be humble about his service, what he was doing, and did not want to burden me with his stories and stresses during his time away. For me it sort of under minded or made light of the incredible sacrifices the children and I were enduring while he away. Being able to discuss this while he was away improved our communication and helped us during the rest of his time there.


At the end of the day it was our faith that got us through it. We prayed for each other, weprayed together. Once in awhile we were able to FaceTime during a meal so we could do a quasi family meal. Somehow doing those regular daily things as a family made it seem like Daddy wasn’t so far away.

What helps your family get through challenging times? If you are a military family how do you cope with deployments? What tips work well for your family?



Adventures with Daddy!


I know, I know…we all have the best Daddy’s. But really, my children have been blessed with THE Best-est Daddy that ever was. He is the Daddy that say, “I’m NOT babysitting, it’s my own kids!” He’s a cuddler, he reads stories and he loves to put them to bed and snuggle. He has a busy schedule being a student at Bethel University (getting another Master’s degree), the mayor our community, and weekend warrior (soldier in the MN Army National Guard) and working a full-time job. Despite his demanding schedule providing for our family he still makes the time to be there for the kids and today was no exception. He works downtown Minneapolis so he leaves for work before the kids are awake and gets home in time for a late dinner. The kids don’t understand what a commute means and certainly don’t understand rush hour traffic being our town is so small there aren’t even stoplights. So this morning the kids awoke to something fun and very sweet to connect with Daddy today.

Two of the boys ‘friends’ (Donatello the Ninja Turtle & Scott the dog) went to work with Daddy this morning! Mom got texts all morning so the kids could follow along. Every time my phone made a ‘Tweet’ sound they ran to see what Donatello & Scott were up to! It was a big hit.


Crunching the Number$: Our Family Budget

As a large family (and one with a finance guy) a budget it critical. I giggled a bit as I typed that because as with most couples there is a spender and a saver. With us, it happens to be the finance guy who is the spender. Ironic right? Don’t get me wrong there are things on my wish list and I like to buy things too I just hold back more often than he does. We all have our vices. If I’m driving somewhere I have no problem not stopping at gas stations for snacks, etc. even when I’m hungry whereas he will stop for drinks, etc. I on the other hand spend money on stuff for the kids. They are fun to shop for!

The only way to mitigate a financial disaster is being on the same page and both USING the budget. Both of those are equally important. Why? Even if you are both on the same page and agree you need to do something different with your money/spending/earning you both have to actually have a plan and follow it. Also, if you aren’t both actually in agreement on what to do or how to do it you’ll have problems and we all know money problems can wreak havoc on a relationship.

Step 1: Talk, talk and talk some more. What are you both willing to do? Are you willing to give up credit cards? Are you ready to actually look at your finances? Ready to look at and accept the amount of debt you have? Are you willing to move to a cash budget? Are you willing to take the time to create a budget and adjust it each month? Are you willing to USE a budget? Are you willing to discuss spending regularly? These are are all very important pieces and can’t be done quickly. Communication is key. For us we talked about needing to do something for months before we were able to actually make a move and DO something different.

Step 2: Create a budget. After a few years we now have a process that works for us. We have a budget in a spreadsheet format that we discuss each month. (We use something similar to the Dave Ramsey philosophy) We take a look at the calendar to plan for expenses such as birthdays, parties, holidays, special meals, trips, car maintenance, etc. At this time I also put together the shopping list for the month so we have a good idea of how much we need for groceries, etc. This takes time but is a big help for us to know what we need to adjust for that month. We have learned the hard way that if we don’t adjust the budget as needed we won’t follow it. It needs to be reasonable. We start by figuring out the bills that need to be paid such as car payments, house payments, utilities, etc. After that we go through needs/wants. Our categories are not what others may use but they work for us. Grocery (food), Target (Toiletries, cleaning supplies, clothes, etc.) Gas (fuel for auto and lawn care), Eating Out (restaurants, snacks, coffee), Car Repair/Maintenance (oil changes, filters, etc),  Misc. (Birthdays, etc.) These are all categories that have an envelope with cash in them. It’s much more painful to hand over cold hard cash than zip a debit card through a machine. I also feel I pay more attention to the amount I spend when I use cash vs. card.

Step 3: USE IT! The first few months you may be excited about the change or maybe are still needing encouragement….regardless, you need to keep at it. It takes time to get used to it and sometimes you’ll slip up. We are all human and prone to make mistakes. The budget honeymoon phase may wear off and you accidentally use your debit card. It’s okay. It’s just a matter of getting back to it. As I said before, it takes constant communication. Talk with one another about what is challenging and discuss how to mitigate it. For example my husband really struggled with spending money on lunches during the workday. We talked about it and decided bringing lunch would help. He tried brining soups, etc but he still bought afternoon snacks. We talked again and then I started packing lunches for him including snacks and he stopped spending money on eating out and vending machine snacks. Little things like that can make a big difference.

It’s more work to stay within the bounds of the budget but feels good to pay off debt. Slowly, but surely the debt does get paid off and that my friends feels great!

I think my favorite part of our budget and planning is that we are teaching our children financial literacy. We are transparent with our children about how much things cost whether it’s college tuition, clothes, food or trips. It’s not that we want them to ever feel guilty but rather we want them to realize money doesn’t grow on trees it must be earned and that we need to be prudent with how we utilize it. We talk with them about spending, saving and donating money.

Happy budgeting 🙂




Colorful Family Fun in the Form of a 5k

Color Dash My husband is very supportive of all of my races. He has sat in the rain with all of the kids while I participated in a triathlons, he has sat the van with the kids while they napped during races, he has driven the race route of a 10k with the windows down while he and the kids cheered me on. He is such a sweet guy! He has done a tri with me years ago as a team and has done a few 5k’s himself or with the kids and occasionally as a family. the hubby and i

Once again he has shown what an amazing husband and father he can be by participating in a great 5k with the kids and I. He didn’t just participate though, he carried a baby on his back in addition to a child on his hip at multiple times throughout the race. Obviously we had to walk this one with all 7 of us

The Fam

participating and YES, we had a double jogging stroller but they changed their minds as to whether they wanted to ride, run or walk. Regardless of what the kids were thinking my husband was flexible and would pick them up and carry them when they wanted him to. He was such a trooper! trooper

If you ever get a chance to do a color dash it’s a fun 5k. I opted to use a rain cover on the stroller which was a big help to keep the kids clean who didn’t want to get all colored. I used zip-lock bags to keep our cameras clean and brought blankets to cover seats for the ride home. Despite the messy nature of the run it’s really a fun 5k that is a good time for the whole family. A great way to stay active, participate in a race and an event where the whole family can join in.

My Soldier

My husband enlisted in the National Guard when he was 17 long before we met. While dating in college he had his weekend drills where he was gone and as a poor college student I worked so it didn’t affect me as much. (Yes, I did miss him though). There were a few weekends he had to miss out on some big events but I dealt with them as they came up.

Fast forward and we are married and have a baby. I REALLY missed him while he was away and even came to see him when I could with the little one in tow. Being a first time mom with a little one was a bit of a struggle without him but I made it through.

My little soldier 1

Fast forward again and now we  have a large family. He felt the desire to re-enlist & I was very supportive of his decision and even brought the kids to see him swearing in. This time around has been very different from the first. With a larger family it has been more challenging while he is away but I can’t complain because he is not currently deployed. I was scared he would have missed the birth of one of the babies but that didn’t happen, (Thank God). One other large difference is how helpful people have been. Anytime things are crazy and I am flying solo with my crew people have offered to help in a number of ways. This has been amazing and a life saver. I am so thankful to those who step up and offer to help whether it’s holding the door for me when I am coming through with my entourage, helping to carry out groceries or taking my shift to work the penalty box at my son’s hockey game.

It’s hard enough to be a Mom. I can’t be Daddy too nor do I want to be. My husband is an amazing father and all of our children look up to him. He works hard to provide for them during the day, serves his community, serves his country, prays with them at dinner and reads them stories at night.

He is a good Dad, a good soldier and a great man. I miss him terribly when he  is gone but am proud of him for serving and thankful that there are so many men and women willing to sacrifice to serve as well.

Time for scrapping? Yeah right!

Okay so I love to scrap and used to have plenty of time to do it. Obviously as our family has grown my time for scrappin’ (well, any amount of time for myself) has shrunk. I am totally okay with it. One would expect it….Recently I put this to the test but first let’s set the scene.

I am a hockey Mom with 3 of the 5 kiddos playing each season. At the end of the season there is a big event to celebrate the end of the season for the little ones and it includes locker room signs, posters, medals, and lots of food. I volunteered to help make the posters and signs because I know what is expected having made some in the past.

I knew I could carve out some time in the evenings but was expecting it to take quite a bit of time. Enter scrapbookin’ dilemma. Another Mom asked what font I

Screen shot 2013-03-20 at 7.30.16 AM

was planning to use so we could coordinate. I was a bit confused until she explained she has a Cricut. A what?? I guess I had been in the dark. I head heard of such a thing but didn’t know much about them.

After a few google searches, a demonstration from an experienced Cricut user I was pretty convinced I wanted one. (Thank you SC for showing me the super cool Cricut) More time on the web found me one that I wanted on craigslist and a few cartidges on eBay. I contacted the person on craigslist and recieved no response only to find out a the next day that my husband had been texting with her when he saw that I was interested in it. He surprised me with that very contraption! Yes, he can be pretty sweet.

The posters and signs are complete. The Cricut was so slick and easy to use. It really boosted my scrappin’ efficiency. I can honestly say I can get more done with the aid of the Cricut than my old die cut method of letters, etc. (And if you are thrifty you can find a used one pretty inexpensively).

Now if I have 5 min to scrap? Yup-I’ll take it. Thanks for thinking of me sweetie ❤

(FYI: I went with the Cricut Expression so it is small enough to fit on my desk yet and all cartridges work in it. I also purchased two cartridges; Sports Mania and Team Spirit both are great for hockey)

Dreamin’ up a DIY

As a little girl I played barbies, played house, etc. and had all kinds of little girl dreams of what my future husband would be like. They usually involved a knight in shining armor on a white horse or a prince of some sort. I have to admit, I got all I dreamed of an more.

He is so stinkin’ amazing! One of his ‘Menne’ talents have to be his handyman skills. I can be a pretty demanding woman because I tend to like things in what some may refer to as apple-pie-order. (Yes, I will admit to being a control freak). In order to keep things neat and orderly with 5 kids there have been some things I wish for and things I dream up that I don’t even know even exists. Somehow, someway he manages to understand what I am conjuring up and then makes it happen.

After our more recent DIY I decided I should share my ideas and his talents to anyone else who may have similar problems and provide some insight into how we deal with them. – And of course brag about my awesome husband 🙂

Problem #1: Garage Storage

With a large family garage storage 1we have a lot of stuff; bikes, camper, trikes, toys, powerwheels, wagon, strollers, lawn mower, snow-blower, hockey equipt., etc. We have a 3 stall garage and 2 vehicles so one might assume we have enough room. Not so 😦 I prefer that we part the vehicles in the garage and also like storing the camper in the 3rd stall which leaves little space for all of those other things. I wanted a way to hang the bicycles up from the ceiling but yet wanted to be able to reach them on my own. I laughingly asked for a way to magically pull the ceiling down with a rope…We’ll ask and you shall receive because this is what my husband came up with. All of the kids bikes are now within my reach and yet the little kids toys are still able to be stored and taken out for use very easily. I love it! (He also added a shelving system for the kids hockey equipment which saved space as well)

Problem #2: Entry Way

We have a locker system for our family when we enter the house through the garage but places to hang up coats, put on shoes, etc. when guests come has proven to be a challenge. We had a small piece of furniture with had hooks on it and a bench connected to it but it had been moved a few too many times and was broken and really too small for the area. Feeling like the entry way was not a functioning part of our home and without a place for people to take off their shoes without getting water and dirt on the hard floors I decided it entry waywas time for a change. As luck would have it, many stores have specific ‘entry way solutions.’ Who knew?? I guess not me. We’ll, after searching many DIY blogs, articles and stores this is what I dreamed up. A large rug to entry way 2allow for moving with shoes and a place to put them, a bench to sit down and put your shoes on, a place to hang up coats, a shelf, frames and mirror to give it more of a home feel. Of course my husband was able to deliver. After a trip to Ikea & Menards that is.

We removed the trim and inserted storage cubes are from Ikea to serve as a bench. The pillows/cushions didn’t fit perfectly but I decided close enough. The shelf, frames and mirror were also Ikea. The hooks & rug came from Menard’s. The square frame is a shadow box which houses the skeleton keys that were the actual keys from our first house. I now feel this part of the house is really connected to the rest and completes our home.

Eureka & the open road…

For some reason while driving my creative juices flow. I guess when the kids fall asleep in the car and I am left to my own thoughts my mind is free to wander and think of random things. Recently while on my way to pick up the older kids from school I came up with a new app I’d love to have on my iPhone.

I always seem to have ideas for new products or thoughts I’d like to write about at times when I can’t write them down. So why not combine two products or concepts which already exists to fix this problem? With Dragon Speak or some type of dictation software I could get my thoughts recorded/written and then match that up with WordPress and I could write a blog post, schedule and publish it! That would be awesome!

I blame my random ideas on my husband who seems to have a list of business ideas a mile long. I guess thinking up the ideas is the fun part.

But in all seriousness, if anyone out there can make this happen or maybe an app like this is already out there please let me know. 🙂

Decisions, Descisions….

Social media. Gotta love it. Facebookin’ or tweeting it really doesn’t matter. There are so many venues to get your social media fix. My hubby (gotta love him) supports my many avenues of social media. After uploading new photos to my facebook to share with family and friends I changed my profile pic and showed it to him. (Picture the Brady bunch…when they are laying in bed with their lamps on reading…only I have a laptop and he’s got the remote…) I liked the picture, nah, I was PROUD of the picture. After all, I had bribed the crying whining kids with cheese sticks and m&m’s. I had earned that photo gosh darn it! I dressed them all nice and took the time to get myself all ready. Set up the tri-pod….Yeah, I owned that photo! So back to the issue at hand. He says, yeah that is a good picture. (Not the enthusiastic response I was anticipating but we’ll take it). I asked if he liked any to update his profile pic which I teased him about b/c it’s of just him, not the family. He said, “I’ll have to think about it.” Insert my large “umpf” here. I was baffled and laughed at him (followed by a ‘I’m so gonna blog about this’). He said changing his profile pic was a big decisions he needed to sleep on it before making any rash decisions about changing his pic. Seriously?? It’s fb not a billboard!! I love ya honey but man you can be high maintenance. No worries folks, I didn’t hack into in his fb to change his profile pic. I’ll just proceed to milk this one out teasing him every chance I get. 🙂

Love doesn’t keep records….

Somehow my husband and I manage to work together in our professional careers and at home each day. Some people think we are crazy. Maybe we are, we do have 4 kids and both work full time TOGETHER! Yeah, our sanity may be questionable at times but hey, I completed grad school while pregnant and working full time. Nothing is impossible. I think the best part of working together is the opportunity to see one another in another light. I have always known he is great at finances, thinking new ideas and problem solving but watching him in action as the business manager for the non-profit we work for has given me a different perspective on things. The funny thing, is he has said the same thing to me. As a teacher he never had the chance to come observe me teaching but now that our desks are only a matter of a few feet away he gets to see me in my professional capacity. It is truly rewarding to have those you love the most see you doing some of your best work.

The other day at work I told my husband although love doesn’t keep records….could you take my coffee cup to the kitchen as I have done for you many times…..one of our co-workers immediately began laughing out loud. Before my husband could even respond in the back of my mind I thought, if I ask him to do it, he’ll forget and I’ll just be frustrated so just do it now and get it over with. So I left with my cup in hand, my husband bewildered and my co-worker smiling. At the very least I made someone smile.