The Battle of Organization is Always Waging

I’m somewhat embarrassed to share this but as always helping others trumps any amount of embarrassment. Why embarrassed? I seem kinda’ crazy with a storage room full of diaper boxes right? Well trying to keep 5 children clothed without buying new items for each one saves me time on getting rid of them as well as time and money replacing them when the next child needs it. Growing up in a large family I remember “hand-me-downs” and may have grumbled about it but don’t recall being traumatized by it. (Eventually as I got older I know I owned clothing purchased just for me.) When the kids are little not only do they not care if it’s hand-me-down clothing but sometimes they even enjoy it! My kids love getting something from an older sibling and the oldest thinks it is pretty cool to see tiny outfits on his little brothers that used to be his. He often says, “Man-I was that small!?!”

So over the past 10 years I have tried totes, bins, boxes, baskets, etc. but it has been a struggle to keep the clothing organized in such a manner that I can 1-locate it, 2-find the appropriate size, 3-keep adding to it. After moving too many times to recall at the moment and having various spaces for storage of said items I think I finally have it down to a science. Clothing Storage

This is one size of my storage area (Yes, I said MY as my husband has a different room to store his military uniforms and other items because he and I are not on the same wavelength when it comes to keeping things organized). This started with my lovely hubby installing some inexpensive plastic shelving units and as you may notice lots of diaper boxes.

When I first started this process I tried to use plastic storage bins but had difficultly stacking them (they crack and sometimes break) and their sizes tend to differ not to mention they can be costly. I switched over to boxes when my children started using Luvs diapers but as we transitioned back to other brands I kept using whatever diaper boxes I had because they worked and they were free. They stack nicely and aren’t too large to become heavy.

For some time I wished that Luvs would leave a nice empty spot on the size of their boxes so one might be able to write right on the box but somehow I don’t think a diaper company cares about the re-use-ability of their products box. I had to settle for making my own labeling system so I use either mailing labels or post-it notes and of course my favorite sharpie marker. (who doens’t love a sharpie??) labeling

I have them sectioned off with girls clothing on the far left and the boys on the right with some overflow area next to boxes of shoes. I also decided to add some hanging area for some heavier winter coats and such by using a shower rod which works pretty well.

I have a large laundry basket I keep in my laundry room specifically labeled for clothing to go in storage so when I do the laundry I can just grab the items that are too small and toss them in. When I find time (albeit it isn’t often) I can haul that basket to the basement and place those clothes in the right box according to size. At that time or when one of the kiddos needs bigger clothes I just grab the box(es) I need and bring up the clothing.

It’s a bit of work to get started but once you get a system down it can be a life-saver in both time and money.

Happy hand-me-downs my friends 🙂

DIY Wedding Style

Spring is fast approaching and I am certain will bring with it many weddings and or wedding planning. With weddings on the horizon I thought I’d share some trials and tribulations I experienced during the last wedding season.

The bride and groom were looking for a creative way to showcase the table assignments and a few tables at the reception. They wanted something that could bring the décor together and be very functional. After searching the internet and getting feedback from them on what they desired the decision was made to make giant framed chalk boards. Here is where the ‘fun’ begins….

The Final Products

The Final Products

DIY Wedding Style

I started with a trip (okay MANY, MANY trips) to Hobby Lobby and was able to snag VERY large frames on clearance and a couple smaller ones as well. I also picked up small wooden squares and dowels. I found ribbons that matched the wedding colors at the Dollar Store. (I was totally surprised). I had to go to a number of Menard’s before finding the chalk paint I needed and also got flat black spray paint. After trying a few different places I found thin pieces of wood for the back of the frames.

I think I found the twine at Michael’s and wood glue as well. The hardest item to find was the chalk markers which I ended up getting at JoAnn’s Fabrics.

1-Painted all of the frames with the flat black spray paint including the dowels

2-Painted all of the flat pieces of wood with the chalk paint

3-Drilled holes in the small wooden squares

4-Painted the small wooden squares with the chalk paint

5-With the help of my Father-in-law I got the wood cut to attach to the frames

6-Using the pneumatic nail gun I stapled the backs to the frames…

7-Measured, cut and glued the dowels in place to divide the large frames into 9 sections each. (one section per table)…

Power tool girls

Power tool girls

IMG_1572

Paint & Glue

IMG_1607

Divided into sections

IMG_1612

Demonstration of size

Final Product

Table assignments

IMG_1980

Poem to describe the table names

IMG_1979

Head table

IMG_1576

Name banner

8-Used a few of the chalk markers to write on the boards (they require water and a rag to erase and don’t wipe off like chalk does while still giving the look of chalk)…

9-Strung the letters with the twine & wrote on them…

10-Dressed up the frames with the ribbons as well as some pine cones collected from nature…

Tips to pass along…

  • Everything I read said not to try this as it takes too much time and money. I agree. It’s way more time than anyone would want to put in. I am not kidding when I say it took all summer to complete for a fall wedding. You had better be well paid for this kind of work or really love the people you are making it for. If you are the bride I do NOT recommend taking this on!!!
  • Chalk markers are great but don’t wipe clean from chalk paint. Apparently only actual chalk boards.
  • Chalk paint is not cheap
  • Large frames are expensive
  • Last but not least-Hand written items take a long time
  • Changes happen….spelling, guest list, etc.

If you are tackling a wedding DIY-Good Luck 🙂















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. 🙂

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.

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.

The Stink Eye in the Store….

Calling All Mommies! (And Daddy’s too)

Have you ever been in public and people don’t like what you are doing, not-doing, or saying to your kids? Have you ever received the ‘Stink Eye’ from a stranger? We’ll I have and frankly it sucks!

Yes-I have 5 children. I love all of them and although it’s more children than most people have these days I feel we are an average family. That is until we find ourselves in a store or somewhere out in public when people look at us like we are a large family you’d see on a reality TV show.

Recently I took the kids shopping with me. Before we even arrived at the store I prepped them about why we were shopping and what was on our list. We barely got into the store and they were already asking for things they wanted. I repeatedly told them “NO” which worked well for everyone except my 4 year old. He continued to push me on this issue and even came to the register in tears. While I would love to make his smile and give him the moon I think part of my job as a parent is to help him see that we can’t have everything we want right this minute. So after repeatedly being told, “No” he decided it was time to have a temper-tantrum. Kicking, crying, stomping, etc. he pitched a fit and people glared. I bent down and had a word with him about how he was choosing to show his frustration and he was okay until we reached the next store. This is when things got ugly…Although we now had Daddy with us there were 3 crying Menne children in our company. The baby was tired, the toddler was sick of the stroller and the 4 year old was again upset because we wouldn’t let him get a toy he wanted. Enter more glares and cue the stink eye. Yup, I got the stink eye from a number of people who were apparently annoyed with my children’s noisiness.

I don’t apologize for choosing NOT to give in to the demands of a 4-year old. I am sorry they cry sometimes and I honestly do my best to avoid taking them to stores when I know they’ll be crabby. The way people look at me you’d think I was doing bodily harm to my children. Come on people-Give me a break! Please refrain from using the stink eye! I much prefer a “I’ve been there” or an “I completely understand.”

Faith in the fast lane…

We are all so busy these days. Whether it’s career, family, or just life in general it seems we are going 100mph in 3 directions all at once.  If you are anything like me finding time for yourself can be challenging. As a mother of 5 between family, work, and volunteering it can be very difficult to squeeze in time to nurture my faith. No matter how fast are lives go I feel it is still very important to find time for faith. If you can’t find time, then you’ll just have to make time.

So how do we find or make time for faith in a fast-paced life? I don’t claim to have the perfect solution but this is what has been working well for me.

  1. A devotional. I have seen devotionals in bookstores and have even received one as a gift but didn’t pick them up right away. After cracking one open I soon learned it was a great way for me to get my daily dose of the bible as well as a practical example or message for me to think about throughout my day. I’ve tried reading right before bed, or first thing in the morning.  I gave up trying to have a routine and have since gone with whenever I have time in the day. My devotional has put on many miles being tossed into my purse or briefcase so I am ready whenever I have a few minutes to read. Rather than check my facebook or twitter I simply read the scripture on my smartphone and 1-page devotional message for that day. There are many different devotionals out there. I am recently finished one for women by Jill Briscoe and love it. Now my husband and I are reading a couples devotional book together each evening. I am confident you can find a devotional that works for you.
  1. Prayer beads*. I was raised Catholic but never learned how to use a rosary so when this concept of prayer beads was first presented to me I was skeptical. After trying it out I discovered how easy it was and how helpful it was for me to structure my prayer. I have 2 of these; 1 is meant for adults and 1 for children. I tend to use the children’s version. I have them on a key-chain ring and they hang in my car. Rather than listening to the radio or talking on the phone I hold my prayer beads and pray on my way to work each morning.
  1. Schedule Bible Time. It doesn’t always work well with our schedule but I try very hard to fit in bible time in the evenings with the kids. We usually do a “bath, book, bedtime” type of routine so one evening a week I replace book with bible. This has worked very well with the kids especially after they each got their own bible and bible case to carry it in. They love gathering on the floor with me to read together. Although they each have their own bible appropriate for their age we are still able to all read and discuss the same stories. It is so much fun to hear the kids explain to one another the various stories and talk about what they feel the bible is telling them.

*Prayer Beads: You can find beads to make this at your local craft store. I cannot take credit for this as I learned all about it from a pastor at a local church.

Happy Face Bead-This bead prompts you to talk with God about the joys of our lives, the things we love about God and the things we are thankful for that make us happy.

Blue Bead-This bead represents the things in life that make us sad or things we wish we hadn’t done. A time to talk to God for forgiveness.

Flower or Animal Bead-This bead represents the amazing natural world God created. The plants, animals, etc that we love.

Star Bead-This bead is for the ‘star person’ in our prayer life for the day. If you told someone you’d pray for them or someone you feel needs prayers that day.

Heart Bead-This bead is for the people we love…friends, family, teachers, coaches…and even the people in the world we haven’t met yet.

Things my kids say continued….

The “eeyaa’s”

We’ve all been there. Kids are sleeping soundly, you’ve had a little time to get some things done and now you are off to dreamland yourself. All of the sudden you are awake and hearing “Mommy” or “Daddy!”

We may hear “Moooom” or “Daaaaaaaaaaad.”  Sometimes even “Mommy” or “Daddy.” At some point our oldest decided he couldn’t holler loud enough and he put his own spin on “Mom” or “Dad.” He started bellowing  “Dadddeeeyaaaaa.” Occasionally we’d hear a “Mommmeeeeya.” (for whatever reason the kids seem to want Daddy at night).

We caught onto the “ee-ya” addition but didn’t think too much of it. We asked why he does it and he said “Mom and Dad are just too short to yell. I need a longer name and adding “ee-ya” works well.”

Now that our youngest is in the ‘chatty-patty’ phase of life I have noticed he too has adopted this “ee-ya” stuff. He now yells any and all of his siblings names with the ‘eeya’ ending. At 22 months he’s already figured out that it’s effective In getting the work out.

The End & Amen

My youngest 2 seem to really catch on to prayers and as soon as they could speak said, “Amen” at the end of prayers. So much so and so loudly that at gatherings such as a recent beautiful wedding they say it so loud that everyone can hear them. It’s not a bad thing, just funny when a 22 month old can out “Amen” an adult. The funny part is they have understood it to mean closure to something so when we finish reading books at storytime they both end books with a boasting “Amen” rather than “The End.” A funny and cute trait they’ve picked up along the way.

Pimple in Your Eye

I just love to listen to my older 2 converse about all kinds of things. The other day they were talking about how their bodies work and one said to the other, “What is that dot in your eye?” The response was very matter-of-fact, “It’s your pimple silly!” I had to laugh and clear up their confusion and let them know it’s a pupil not a pimple.

My Life at 100mp

While talking with a few friends recently the statement: “There is no grass growing under your feet” was directed at me. I laughed and said, “No.” I really didn’t think much of it at the time but as I was driving home I pondered how fast-pasted my life really is. Why it is that way and how in the world I keep up with the break-neck pace.

My husband and I have ALWAYS lived our lives (or at least our life together) at 100mph. We seemed to have taken the multi-tasking idea to another level, either that or we are practically nuts and want to test the limits of our sanity. We’ve never really done things one at a time. Maybe that is where I get my “go big or go home” attitude….so does that mean I can blame the craziness on my husband then? LOL. Nah, I have always subscribed to the philosophy of “why put off tomorrow what you can do today.” Abe Lincoln I think….

So back to the topic of this post. Why so fast? Not really sure. Why just get married or just graduate? Why not graduate, get married, fix-up a house and have a baby all at the same time? Probably because it IS as challenging as it sounds. Every year when I compose our annual Christmas letter we reflect upon the past year’s events and it always seems like a crazy amount. I guess we have become accustomed to it. In the past 10 years: 5 moves, 3 college degrees, 4 babies, 2 homes built, numerous jobs, races, triathlons, and of course the many activities of the children. Yeesh!

Somehow in there we manage to squeeze in family time, church, family bible time, time for hobbies (golf, scrapping, photography, sewing, running, rollerblading, biking, fast-pitch). How we do it all is beyond me. Well, I guess I might have at least a clue.

  1. Faith. I have faith in myelf, my husband and our family. With God all things are possible. There is no task to large to tackle.
  2. Less sleep. I never sleep-in like in my early 20’s and don’t have time for naps.
  3. Lists. Who doesn’t love lists..ok, so maybe just me. But writing it down makes me feel soo much more at-ease and organized about it all. (And who doesn’t love crossing things out on a to do list???)
  4. Motivation & Persistence. Having the motivation to get started and the persistence to keep it going is imperative.
  5. Realistic expectations. Being realistic about our expectations for taking on such crazy tasks. We understand and accept we cannot do it all or at least not all in one day. (I admit that I have the supermom or superwoman complex. I prefer to do it myself rather than ask for help but knowing that there is help and being able to ask for it is a good plan and something I am working on.)

My grandmother who walked very fast even at the end of her years said she did so because she was afraid she’d tip over if she slowed down. That may be the same for me. If I slow down I may nap, fall asleep and miss the life I have been blessed with.

I plan to continue to keep running after my dreams, chasing my giggling children, walking hand-in-hand with my husband and doing everything I can do still get the daily chores done.

So Yes, grass doesn’t grow under these feet and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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. 🙂