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Group 'MOPS' up beautiful mess

MOPS members Jennifer Donahue, Dawn Greening and Alison Kleist attended a MOPS meeting. (Submitted photos)1 / 2
MOPS members performed a service project last year and posed for a photo with their children. MOPS moms pictured (from left) are Sarah Johnson, Brenda Carstedt, Sarah Aust, Krista Majerus, Wendy Larson, Alicia Bangston, Jennifer Smith, Kim Majerus, Kayla Barber, Sue Kimball, Lindsey Koskie, Melissa Barbey, Mandy Richter, Missi Abel and Dana Sykora.2 / 2

This September, with school starting, River Falls children are heading back to school, learning new things, meeting new friends, and seeing familiar faces. Some of their moms are also getting set to learn new things, make new friends and see some familiar faces.

The River Falls Mothers of Preschool Students (MOPS) group is planning its first official meeting of the school year. The group aims to give moms a chance to connect with other moms, for socialization, advice and an ecumenical sharing of faith, for those that choose to participate.

"My favorite part of the group is just meeting all the other moms," said MOPS leadership committee member Shauna Knott. "When you become a mom, your relationships change a little bit.... it's just nice to be able to connect with different moms who have the same interests and the same goals that you do."

MOPS is an international organization created by eight moms in February 1973 in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Pam Yelkin started a local chapter of the organization in River Falls in February 1994 because she believed River Falls needed a group for mothers.

River Falls MOPS meets 9:15-11:15 a.m. the first and third Tuesday of every month at First Covenant Church, 1374 N. Main Street, during the school year. Mothers who have at least one child that is under first grade can join MOPS. Knott said there are other groups through the MOPS international organization for mothers whose children are older.

The first MOPS meeting of the year is scheduled for next Tuesday, Sept. 17.

Meetings typically start with about 15 minutes for moms to chat over snacks, and for children to be moved into childcare rooms -- childcare is available for $5 per meeting -- then a speaker usually begins speaking around 9:30 or 9:45. The speakers usually present on subjects that relate to child care, such as a lesson by local blogger Jamie Shultz on making healthy lunches for kids on Oct.1.

Other meetings this year will include a lesson in holiday hairstyles, and learning about having mother and child "date" nights.

Each meeting wraps up with 15 minutes of prayer time. The mothers separate into groups to pray. The moms that choose not to participate can sit and chat during the prayer time.

While prayer is not required, for Agrimson it is a very important part of MOPS meetings.

"My faith is pretty central to my life, so having that as another connection point to my friendships outside of my family and church family is always nice," Agrimson said.

In addition to learning about parenting from the speakers, the MOPS moms learn from each other.

"There's just certain experiences you have at different stages of life, that it's helpful to have somebody else give you advice or led you a shoulder if you're struggling," Agrimson said. "There's always that shared life experience piece that you don't' always get if you're with somebody at a different stage."

Knott said the group has helped her through difficult stages with her children, 3-year-old Zoe and 9-month-old Garrett, including the birth of a new child and adding a sibling to the family, as well as dealing with the loss of Knott's father-in-law.

She said the best advice she has gotten from the group is to simply enjoy every moment with her children.

"The kids grow up so fast," Knott said, "just to really savor those moments, even in the midst of all the chaos."

MOPS also does at least one service project each year. This November, the group will be making and delivering fleece tie blankets to residents of the Lutheran Home, 640 N Main St.

The group will also do a service project in spring, plans for which, Agrimson said, are still in the works.

MOPS international provides resources for the MOPS groups around the world, including a curriculum of lessons for MOPS moms to learn through the year, as well as ideas for speakers to bring in for each lesson.

Knott said local MOPS groups build on the curriculum handed out by MOPS International with local speakers etc.

MOPS International also creates a theme for each year, around which the curriculum is organised. This year's theme is "A Beautiful Mess."

"The theme reminds moms that beauty can come out of their difficult spots," Knott said. "We all have messes -- how many dishes are in the sink... It reminds you that the most important thing is the kids."

"There will always be time for the messes after we learn what's important: The family, the children," she said.

MOPS does offer occasional activities for mothers who work full time and can't make it to Tuesday morning meetings, such as a moms' night out, but MOPS members are mostly mothers who work part time, have a flexible full-time schedule or stay at home, Knott said.

For more information, contact River Falls MOPS at 715-426-2640, or visit

For the full story, please see the Sept. 12 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048