Life is but a puzzle we try to put together…

Piece 1: You Are Here

The new year brings a refreshing new start. It’s like a beautiful blank piece of paper with endless possibilities. For our church that new start comes in the form of a ‘restart.’ We discussed the idea of hitting the ‘restart’ button which included a dialogue about figuring out where you are. It was a pretty vivid visual for me. If I am hiking somewhere and wanna find the top of the mountain I first need look at a map. I need to find where I want to go, where I am and THEN I can determine the best route to take. If I have no idea where I am or cannot find that lovely ‘you are here’ pin then how can I possibly navigate myself to where I want to go? Apply this to your faith journey. If you don’t know where you are how can you find the path? So, we all took this survey asking us various questions to help us take a personal inventory on where we are and help locate ourselves if you will. For me it was like a splash of cold water on my face that was much needed. I was sort of stuck but didn’t realize it. I also didn’t really want to face the fact that I wasn’t opening the Bible enough.

Next came excuses. I never read anymore. As a mom of 8 I am on the go from the minute either a child or my alarm goes of until the kids go to bed. And then some. I have tried to read during the day. Forced myself to sit down at 1pm every day and try to read. Yup, that ended with a nap of sorts which isn’t helpful for anyone in my home. I tried reading before bed, same thing. I decided I needed to change the bucket. Rather than find time to read I found the time to be read to. I opened up the YouTube app on my iphone and searched “dramatic reading of the Bible.” So for the past 4-5 weeks I have been listening to the Bible every day. I just put my phone in my pocket and go about my daily chores listening when I can and pausing when things pop up. I cleaned the kitchen while listening to Genesis, folded laundry to listening to Leviticus, and even listen in the car with the kids. I listen when I can a little each day with no pressure to go faster than I can handle. It’s been interesting to be reminded we are all human, we make mistakes and families are messy-even biblical families. I am enjoying this method of ‘opening’ the Bible daily.

Piece 2: A Word and a Dream

As a mom of little ones I don’t usually get a lot of sleep. Even when I do get a nice bout of sleep it’s usually light sleep and I wake easily. I don’t remember dreams often and sometimes wonder if I even have time for dreams with such little sleep. So when I recently woke up with not memory of a dream, it was VERY vivid and even strange. We were in our van with my husband was driving and the kids in the back. We were navigating road and road filled with twists, turns and crazy construction. At one point I recall looking at my husband thinking “Thank goodness he’s driving because I couldn’t do this!” You see at that moment we were driving straight up a ridiculously steep hill that was filled with construction and we couldn’t see the other side of the slope. I was terrified we wouldn’t make it but he floored and up we went.

I woke up at that moment with the word “Logos” as if it was written on my forehead. At first I thought maybe I was just wrong and it was Legos…after all so many of my boys play Legos. I let it sit for a bit and couldn’t kick Logos. I didn’t know what the word meant and just felt I had to look it up. At that moment the day started and I figured I would look it up later. While in the van with my family I was reminded of the dream and told my husband all about it. He smiled and asked me if I wanted to know what “Logos” means. He said, “it’s Greek for the word.”

Putting the Pieces Together

I am not one to always understand my dreams, I certainly don’t understand all of the Bible but I did feel that this was God’s way of telling me to continue to listen to the Bible and trust in the path is has laid out for me. As a type A control freak letting go isn’t my strong suit but somehow He seems to find subtle ways to remind me to keep on keeping on. It’s was certainly a nice feeling to have a couple pieces put together. 🙂

If you are looking for a nice audio version of The Bible I also like The Story which is available in a variety of places but I have enjoyed it on youtube here:


Mrs. Menne in the Mrs. Minnesota Pageant

I have seen the reality TV shows about pageants and have watched my fair share of Miss America pageants on TV but never really had an interest in pageants. Although they weren’t pageants in high school I was a part of the homecoming court and later ran for Rice County Fair Queen. I didn’t win a crown with either of those but had fun along the way.

Many years later as a mom of 7 spending my days pushing a double stroller and taking care of my kiddos I never thought of myself as pageant material but after reading the local newspaper gave it a second thought. I read about the Mrs. Minnesota International pageant seeking contestants for Mrs. Sibley County and chatted with a friend about it. She thought it wasn’t a crazy idea and even encouraged me to go for it. I researched a bit about the pageant. As cited on their website, “The Mrs. Minnesota International Pageant showcases the many accomplishments of Minnesota’s married women. Her multiple roles of wife, mother, professional and community volunteer are recognized and celebrated.” After reading their website and their mission “To Make a Difference,” I thought it just might be a good fit for me. Although I felt nervous about it I talked to my husband about it and expected him to think it was a bit crazy but he was so incredibly encouraging.


Photo by HMD Photography 

Although my husband was busy preparing to be away for military training he took the time to double check the deadline and supported me in the application process. With the encouragement and support of my friend & my husband I was happy to throw my hat in the ring for a chance to represent the amazing people of Sibley County. I would be proud to represent such caring, strong, hardworking people. We all roll-up our sleeves to help out others, we work together to do what the community needs, we take the time to go the extra mile. My application shared information about me including my husband, family life and what I enjoy spending time on. It also included my message to “Get Involved.” Small towns like the one I live in is successful because so many people step up to help out. It takes the help of everyone to make things happen. Everyone working together is the very reason I love where I live.


Mrs. Sibley County

Weeks later I received an official letter from the pageant director that I was chosen to be Mrs. Sibley County International 2018. I was shocked and excited. I was later presented with a banner and crown and was very honored to represent Sibley County.

Mrs. Sibley County with Crown 2

Photo by HMD Photography

As Mrs. Sibley County International I was also able to be a contestant in the 2019 Mrs. Minnesota International pageant so I quickly began the application process once again. This time around my service platform needed to be a non-profit so I chose one I had a lot of experience with, ‘Choice & Innovation in Public Education.’ I also had to obtain sponsors for my pageant entrance fee. I was nervous about this; however, friends and local businesses were so kind and generous in their support. I quickly raised the money required and began preparing for the pageant.

Mrs. Minnesota Contestant

The Mrs. Minnesota International pageant includes three areas; interview, evening gown, and fitness wear. The interview is 50% of the score whereas evening gown and fitness wear are 25% of the score. I ordered my fitness wear (everyone wears the same fitness wear), found a dress that would fit me (I would be competing 33 weeks pregnant), and read through the packet of information to prepare for the interview. I also created a ‘pitch book.’ The Pitch book is a three-ring binder which includes the contestant application, sponsors, head shot, family photos, resume, volunteer work, newspaper clippings with contestant, the contestant’s platform statement, platform website, personal website & information regarding the current Mrs. Minnesota.

Before I knew it April 28thwas here and my husband and I were heading up to St. Paul to the Mrs. Minnesota International Pageant. Ready or not it was pageant weekend!

The Mrs. Minnesota International Pageant

Friday April 27th

We arrived at the pageant hotel and got checked into our room. Shortly after we headed over to the Wellstone Center for pageant check in at 4pm. We were a bit early but we used the time to meet other contestants. (This pageant also includes Miss Minnesota, Miss Teen Minnesota and Miss Pre-Teen Minnesota.) They collected all paperwork as well as pitch books and volunteer service resumes. My husband and I don’t get dates for dinner with just the two of us so we took advantage of the dinner break to go to a nice restaurant. After dinner, we attended the pageant orientation. It was great to meet everyone had have our questions answered. The pageant director was so kind and all of the staff were amazing. We even had drawings for prizes and each received a lovely ‘swag bag’ which the sweetest items to help us remember this special weekend. After orientation, the rehearsals started at 8pm which gave us a chance to get more comfortable on the stage. We were able to figure out spacing, walks, practice with the microphones, etc. This was when I first got to talk with the other contestants and really get to know them. It was a ton of fun despite the heels. After rehearsals, it was back to the hotel for some rest.

Saturday April 28th

Personal interviews started at 9am but what time your actual interview was depending upon your number drawn. I was with the first group so I got my interview done right

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Photo by                           Paula Preston Photography

away. I was actually pretty excited for this part because I like to talk and am very passionate about my platform. Many people say this is the hardest part of the pageant but I disagree. It’s just a conversation with people.


The interviews were held at our hotel which was really nice. We just had to get up to the correct conference room and we were set. I walked into the room and saw the five judges each at their own area and an empty chair across from each of them. Each of us contestants were instructed walk in order and each stand with our back to the judge we were near. When the judges’ officials instructed to begin, we turned around, sat down, and started our interview with that particular judge. When we had only a minute left, we were told to finish up and then when the time was up we were told “time.” This continued with each judge until we were all done. It went really quickly but then again, I really enjoyed it. I liked getting to know more about the judges and share about my family, my life and my passion for choice and innovation in public education.

After the interviews were finished we went back to the Wellstone Theater for lunch and then rehearsals. This was ‘go time’ meaning we had to bring all of items we needed for the pageant. That meant all luggage, dress bags, etc., because we would be getting ready at the Wellstone Theater. Anyway, the lunch was great. My husband and I were able to set with other contestants and their husbands and talk. We really a great opportunity to get to know them as a couple and share more about us. Around 12:30pm we started rehearsals again.

This bigger rehearsal was fun. We were all getting more comfortable with one another and friendships were blooming. We had time both on-stage and off-stage talking, sharing laughs and learning even more about one another. A portion of this rehearsal also included our husbands which provided lots of entertainment for us. The pageant host, co-host, and coordinators were so much fun. They really made the rehearsals a blast. Who knew rehearsals could be so fun? The fun had to end by 4pm so we could go get

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Photo by                           Paula Preston Photography

ready for the night’s competition.


After rehearsal concluded we all went to the pageant dressing rooms to get ready.  When we arrived at our dressing rooms we found the sweetest gift bags that included snacks and water which I put to use in between my time on stage. After getting hair and make-up done, all dressed and ready it was time. We headed out for some photos before lining up on stage for introductions.

At 6 pm the pageant started. The host and co-host set the

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Photo by                           Paula Preston Photography

stage for a fun night and then we hit the stage. Each contestant gave their introduction and then we went right into the on-stage interviews. We were each given a moment to share about our platform followed by a response to a question specific to our platform. I felt that was the most nerve-wracking part. Not knowing what the question would be and how to answer it within the allotted time. After the interview, we had to rush back to the pageant dressing room to change. While we were getting into our fitness wear the pre-teen, teen & miss contestants were onstage for the fun fashion wear competition. Back to the stage we all went in our


Photo by                           Paula Preston Photography

fitness wear which honestly with me being 33 weeks pregnant was laughable. My baby bump was so big my fitness wear couldn’t even cover it. Regardless I walked the stage with pride workin’ it with my baby belly. (we all wore white tennis shoes which were so comfortable who wouldn’t rock it?!?) Despite the swollen ankles, massive belly and the water retention I felt pretty. After the fitness wear we had a short intermission while we got into our evening gowns and lined up to hit the stage once again. This was particularly fun because this time we were accompanied by our husbands. I loved walking the stage in an evening gown on the arm of my beloved husband. The way he


Photo by                           Paula Preston Photography

looked at me and the little smirks exchanged were memorable. After the evening gown competition, the curtains closed and the husbands took the spotlight for some special interviews. It was such a cool experience to be back stage listening to our husbands respond to questions and interact on stage. We all giggled and even cried happy tears at the various responses. They were all so sweet. After the husband interviews, we were all lined up when the curtains re-opened and it was

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Photo by                                                 Paula Preston Photography

time for the coronation of the winners for Pre-Teen, Teen, Miss and Mrs. The current title holders were given an opportunity to give a farewell speech of sorts. It was fun to hear their insight on their previous year’s endeavors. They announced the 2ndrunner up, first runner up and then the winner for each crown. Afterwards the winners were crowned and the pageant concluded.


After Pageant Awards Reception

Following the pageant, we attended the After Pageant Awards Reception which was pretty neat. It included not only the contests and their spouses but also family and friends. It was the first appearance for the new Pre-Teen, Teen, Miss and Mrs. Minnesota ACS_0032International. They were each introduced and each one spoke very eloquently about their plans for the next year. They were all so excited. The director and other pageant staff spoke about the pageant and gave out special awards. The special awards were:  Amity Award, Community Service Award, Directors Award, Peoples’ ACS_0033Choice Award, Pitch Book Award, Photogenic Award, Team Spirit Award, and Volunteer Service Award. There was also a very special award for one of the husbands, Best Supporting Husband Award. I was happily surprised to receive the Directors Award, Community Spirit Award, and Pitch Book Award. On the other hand, I was not surprised when they announced my husband as the recipient of the Best Supporting Husband Award. He is so sweet and was there for me every minute. He even went so far as to rub my legs with lotion because they were so swollen due to the pregnancy.

As the recipients of special awards were announced photos were taken and we were able to celebrate everyone’s’ accomplishments. We were also able visit with our fellow contestants who were now our friends as well as their families and friends. It was so neat to get to meet their children, parents, etc. We enjoyed cake, shared stories, hugs and took photos. It was a great way to conclude the pageant weekend and kick-start the reign of the newly crowned.

My Thoughts

As we left the Wellstone Center and started the drive home my husband and I ACS_0031shared our thoughts on the weekend and the entire pageant competition. We were both so happy that I did it. It was a wonderful experience! I was nervous about getting sponsorship but the local community responded with such overwhelming support both financially and with such kind words. (I even brought one of the notes I received from a sponsor with me to the pageant.)  Having never been in a true pageant before I didn’t know what to expect but I can say with certainty that the Mrs. Minnesota International Pageant was awesome and exceeded any of my expectations. The director was so sweet and supportive. The staff were all so kind and helpful. I never felt stupid asking questions. The contestants were not only kind they were above and beyond supportive of one another. I recall telling my husband, “I don’t envy the judges. What an incredibly hard decision to make because they are all such deserving women.” I truly never expected to gain such great friendships. These women were all so amazing, talented, strong, compassionate and hard working. I am so very proud to be a part of the pageant sisterhood.




I had such a fun time. It was truly an incredible experience and I am so glad I did it even being so pregnant. Someday my daughter Josephine will have a great story about her first experience with a pageant with Mommy. And her newborn photos with the crown are so special.



Photos by HMD Photography 

I am honored to be Mrs. Sibley County 2018 and am cheering for Minnesota 2018, Valentina Kostenko as she prepares for the upcoming Mrs. International Pageant which takes place July 20th-21stin Charleston, West Virginia.

If you are someone who loves to give back, do community service, volunteer, you should definitely think about this pageant. If you have a charity you are passionate about and would like a platform to help spread the word about it this is the pageant will give you that. If you have ever given pageants a thought you should definitely give this one a try. Maybe you are looking for a new and exciting experience, you wanna try something you have never tried before, then try this! The Mrs. Minnesota International Pageant will not disappoint. If you are interested and would like an application for the 2019 local competition call Pageants Unlimited at (952) 432-6758.

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?


I’m Not Superwoman

The human body is amazing. We ask so much of our bodies forcing it to do so many things…even when our minds tell us we have reached our limits we manage to push beyond that point. Personally I have asked my body to do plenty. I have asked it to be athletic in high school & college for cheer team. Hours of tumbling, stunting, dancing, lifting weights, running, etc. I have asked it to be a flexible and strong not once, not twice, but SEVEN times to carry and deliver my babies. Months of crazy changes inside & out gaining and loosing roughly 70lbs each time. I have asked it to be active for the past 10 years doing sprint triathlons & runs. Swimming, biking, running sometimes pregnant, sometimes not and sometimes so post baby I had to hurry to the finish line to nurse my baby. I have asked it to feed my babies on and off for the past 13 years. Months and months of refueling to produce milk & feed my babies.

Body Changes with Baby #5

Body Changes with Baby #5

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5 Months Post Baby #5

None of this makes me a superhero. It doesn’t even make me supermom. It makes me human.

I have asked it to do so much and always bounces back. How? I move. I’m active with my kids. Being a mom of so many kids I just don’t have time for the gym. I run when I can. I am active with the kids. I push a double stroller up a hill once or twice a day. I pull a bike trailer with kids in it….No magic pill. No special drink. No special diet. No specific program. No gym membership. I just make the effort to be as active as I can.

Body Changes with Baby #6

Body Changes with Baby #6

After baby #2 I started running and competing in sprint tri’s. Since then I have done about 4-5 sprint tri’s each summer and a few 5k races each year. People ask me how I train for these races and I am somewhat embarrassed to admit my response each time is, “I don’t.” It’s the truth. I don’t really train.  I add, “I have kids so I am pretty busy chasing them around. I stay as active as I can.” Honestly, I just do the races with the goal of finishing and of course have fun. It’s not always easy but it can be done. With God, all things are possible. I believe so deeply in this that I completed my first 1/2 marathon while 27 weeks pregnant with baby #7. It was hard. SO hard! I ran when I could and walked when I couldn’t run. The last 2 miles were the most challenging miles I have ever walked in my life. It was all worth it (It was for Team WorldVision). My wonderful hubby was with me every step of the way (ok, so not every step…he took a few of bathroom stops :0). Needless to say I was a sobbing mess of hormones at the finish line so happy to have finished.


Half-Marathon with Baby #7

By body will never again look like it did in my early 20’s and I am okay with that. I have earned plenty of stripes (stretch marks) and have cellulite but feel very thankful my body has been able to carry my babes.

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Amazing Belly Tricks with Baby #6

I am currently beyond the 5 month mark with Baby #7 and am not yet back to my pre-baby weight but I am not worried as I am still nursing. I’ll get there.


Pre Baby #7 & 22 Weeks along with Baby #7


39 Weeks and 2 days with Baby #7 & 4 Weeks Post-Baby #7










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Body Changes with Baby #5

I’m no poster-child for athletes and am certainly no fitness guru. I’m still a rookie when it comes to ALL races. I am just a mom who stays active. I pray my being active helps to teach my children to be active as well.

For any of you out there who struggle to be active and stay active, keep at it! Just get up and move. Walk, jog, run, roll. Whatever you like to do. If you don’t like it you won’t do it so pick something you enjoy. If you like to walk, then walk! If you like to bike, bike. If  rollarblading is more your style then do that. Just get out there and be active.

For with God nothing shall be impossible.-Luke 1:37



The Writings on the Wall

scripture on mirrorBackground: A few years ago my husband and I committed to re-aligning our family to be more spiritually centered. One day we woke up realizing our family priories were out of whack. We were eating on the run (not at the dinner table as a family), we were shuffling back and forth from home to hockey rink (not bible study), we were driving to church separately because one of us had to leave early to get someone to practice (not enjoying fellowship with church friends). We committed to focusing our eyes on the Lord and teaching our children by doing what we would want of and for them. (By the way, not having the kids in Hockey was harder on us than it was on the kids. We missed seeing them on the ice but they loved having their ‘time’ back to play and just be kids).

We have really focused on reading the bible with our kids and to our little ones, daily devotionals for all the kids (even the little ones), talking about what they learn in Sunday school & youth group, participating in church events and following up with family activities from sunday school. We are far more selective on how we spend our time now and guard our family time as it is very precious to us.

The Writings On The Wall

About 5 months ago I listened to a sermon on Deutronomy. Afterwards this particular piece of scripture was weighing heavily on my heart.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[b] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

I really felt called to diligently teach my children the commandments of the Lord. I couldn’t kick the feeling of not screwing this up. How in the world can I follow through with what this scripture is calling us to do?? So I prayed on it and eventually found some clarity. My husband had placed decorative scripture on our walls to help remind us of who we live our lives for and why we do what we do but I still felt called to do more. The kids were given scripture verses to memorize each week and would bring them home printed out on paper to hang up at home why not write them on the walls? So I did. Ok so I didn’t write all over all walls. I used something that we all look at multiple times a day…the mirror!

Each week when the kids received a new scripture for memorization I would write it on the mirror in their bathroom & the mudroom bathroom. I also would select other scripture for a mirror in our entryway and the one in our master bath. These were to help my husband and I as well. It has gone well and the kids have responded well to it. I like that it gives me more time on my devotionals and those that I do with the little ones as well. It’s also nice to provide prompts for discussions on some of them as a family when the kids have questions.

It’s not too much work on my part and it has been pretty successful at the Menne home. You can even find inexpensive dry erase markers at the dollar store. 🙂

If you have any ideas from your families please share! I am certainly not an expert and appreciate other ideas.


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 🙂




Reflections of life…

Being a Mom of many when I go places I do head count, after head count, after head count. Trying to keep my ducks in a row isn’t always easy but I love it. So when we get in the truck to go anywhere I typically do a roll call but it’s really turned into more of a fun thing for the kids. You see our 4 year old can’t just say ‘Here!’ or ‘What?’ like the others. When his names is called instead he has to let us know that his little brother is here, “Peter is here!!” Reflections

One lovely day while we were heading out to grocery shop I did my normal count and roll and briefly looked in the mirror one more time. As I glanced back I saw their beautiful smiling faces. For a moment, all happy and smiling. I immediately thanked God for each of those blessings he has entrusted me with.

I couldn’t get over the reflection in the mirror. It seemed like yesterday I was glancing in the mirror to check my lipstick or make sure my hair was ok. Just one face, me. When I glance in the mirror now I still see part of me but I see so much more. Seeing part of my face yet all of their faces. It’s still me, just a different me. I see me in each of my children and I see me with them.

I feel so blessed even if they aren’t always happy and smiling. I like reflection I now see. It’s bigger than just me.

Courage, Faith & Public Education

My days can be a blur with all that do. Someone recently asked me why I am always in a hurry and frankly they were right-I am. Well something happened yesterday that made me stop and think. I was something I had never seen before and was absolutely amazing.

While walking through the cafeteria of a traditional public school I saw what I usually see. Lots of children busy moving around getting their lunches and finding a spot to sit. Usually all looking around at what everyone is doing and chatting up a storm as they quickly eat. The tables were really filling up and the noise level was steadily increasing.

praying hands

As I turned to exit the cafeteria I notice a boy (maybe 4th or 5th grade) bow his head and fold his hands in his lap. I stopped and watched. He was surrounded by other boys busily eating and talking, opening their milks, and going about

their usual lunch business. None of their actions affected him. His lips were moving and his eyes were closed. As I watched I did my best to read his lips and then I was certain he was praying. WOW, just wow!

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the public school cafeteria filled with students and staff this boy stopped to pray before breaking bread. I was so unbelievably amazed, impressed and moved. As I walked away the tears welled up in my eyes and my heart sang. There are seeds of faith growing inside the doors of public education. What a courageous boy.

I pondered this event the rest of day. We could all stand to learn from this boy. I imagine his parents have taught him well for him to carry out his faith despite his surroundings. Would we as adults have the courage to do what he did?

Many times we are working hard to share our faith by talking with others, inviting them to attend church with us or come to special events. We may be over thinking it…This boy made me think that is may be more of what people see us do than what we say. Sometimes we say a lot without saying anything at all.

Keeping my LARGE family organized

As a working Mom of a large family there are a few things I do to keep my sanity. Often people ask how I do it all and honestly, I don’t know. I just do it. I usually reply with, “I don’t know,” or “I do what I can when I can.” I don’t claim to be supermom or anything like that. I just do the best I can with the time, tools, & talents and Lord has blessed me with. Could I be better? Of course! I try to improve all of the time and seem to find tricks here and there to help me out along the way.

A year ago a relative asked me for advice on how to balance work and home and although I was really excited to share and honored that she would think ask me I was a bit shy about admitting to some of the things I do to keep my big family organized. Running a house with 7 people is a tough job sometimes and I don’t as much sleep as I would like….but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂

So, on with the confessions of a working Mom.

photo(9)  1. Locker System: This keeps everyone’s stuff’ in one spot. Assuming they each put their items away that is. Each child has their own locker with 1 shelf, 4 hooks, a drawer and a spot for their shoes. We keep their Bibles, lunch boxes, helmets, & diaper bags on the shelf. They hang backpacks, coats, etc. on the hooks. Their shoes, boots, and flip-flops on the ledge and their drawers are filled with hats, mittens, scarves, etc. We cut an outdoor rug to go on the ledge to keep the wet shoes and boots from ruining the wood. We also put a long roll of that same outdoor carpet in front of the drawers so they can walk into the house without making a big mess on the floors. photo(11)I’ll admit it took some training to get the kids to each put their stuff away but now they’ve got it.

2. Morning Message & Chore Chart: At school the kids get a morning message every day and they seemed to get accustomed to knowing the date, day of the week, and what’s for dinner type of things so upon their request I added this to the dry erase board which already included a chore chart. Every night I look at what the next day has in store and include that in the morning message so when the kids are going off to the bus they can see what to expect. (It also helps me to remember what is coming up as well). The chore chart came about after deciding making copies of a chore chart was wasting paper. The kids liked how visible the chore chart was as well as the ability to keep tabs on how well they were doing for the week. All it takes is a large dry erase board and some electrical tape and you can make one really easily.

3. Cork cork boardsBoards: Every child seems to have their own calendar of events, newsletters from school, & appointment cards. In order to keep it straight who has what and when I picked up these cork boards from Hobby Lobby so each child could have their own board. The younger kids boards are filled with well baby check ups, notes about when their teeth come in or where they should be developmentally based on their age. The older kids boards have their school lunch calendar, homework reminders, invitations for parties, etc. At times these have been a life-saver for my sanity.

4. Desk Space: With so many kids and some of them sharing room there isn’t a ton of deskspace in their bedrooms for a desk and frankly, we don’t like the idea of the kids working on homework in their rooms. We would much prefer they use computers and the internet in a common area where there are others around to help them when they need and keep them focused on the issue at hand. With so many people using the same desk we needed storage space for their paperwork, folders, pens, etc. Again-Ikea to the rescue. My hubby installed the shelf and other storage items allowing each child to have their own space. I love the chalk circles for notes & reminders as well. I am pretty sure we got those from Target. The giant desk calendar seems a bit much but works great to have a master calendar of our families events & appointments. (I would LOVE for it to be a giant computer monitor or digital frame to show our Google calendar or sync with it but I have yet to find such a product). We also added some plastic storage bins below for art supplies, craft supplies and play-doh. 🙂

5. Laundry: Doing laundry for 7 people can be overwhelming but thanks to the layout of our house the laundry room is on the second level slaundryo it’s much easier to keep up with it. The kids helped me label baskets (Found on clearance at Lowe’s)  so even if they can’t read, they know that the one with the picture of the light-bulb on it is ‘lights’ and so on so they help out by sorting their own laundry. Being the room is so close they frequently help me switch loads when I ask them. The biggest challenge is putting it all away. I have a nice long counter in the laundry room which is lined with bins (again-one for each child) and an equally long rod for hanging their clothes on. Once a week (or when the bins are full) the kids are each given their bins and clothes and we put them away together. I am working hard on getting the older ones trained to put theirs away without just stuffing it in their drawers all willy-nilly.

Yes, I am a control freak and crazy about organization but hey-it works for me. This is by no means the right answer for any other household. After getting over my embarrassment regarding these organizational quirks I decide it’s worth sharing if it might help someone else. I hope this post helps you in some way. 🙂

Kids and the Comments…

I haven’t had a chance to keep up on the cute and funny things my kids have been saying. Amazing how life gets in the way. 😉

My three-year-old sneezed recently aMy Kidsnd then in a panic waving his arms and stomping his feet began to yell and scream at whoever would listen as he demanded a ‘Bless you.’ I was kind of confused but I said, “bless you honey. Would you like a Kleenex?” He got upset and told me, “NO! I need a bless you!!” I explained to him I just gave him one after which he stomped off to the bathroom and got a Kleenex. After a bit of a discussion I figured out the tissue vs Kleenex debate combined with the common phrase of ‘bless you’ after sneezing had really got him confused. When someone sneezes we usually say “Bless you,” and then they get a Kleenex. Sometimes they are referLaurenred to as a tissue which he felt sounded the same as ‘Bless you.’ I got a good laugh out of that one! Too funny.

It must be something about that age because that is the same age my daughter was when she thought I was going to cut up pretty flowers and put them in my mixing bowl when we were baking cookies. I said we needed flour and she was terrified I was going to put a nice flower in there. Now that she is 7 I love to tell her that story.