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: https://youtu.be/MBc9CCi9XGU


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.

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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.

1.Videos

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

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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.

4.Letters

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.

5.Communication

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.

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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.

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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.

 

My Menne Favorite Things….

I am not Oprah and certainly don’t claim to be but I like the idea of sharing a list of my favorite things. As a busy Mom I know how important some ‘things’ are and how much they can save time, money and well, my sanity sometimes.

My ‘Menne’ Favorite Things (in no particular order)

  • Magic Erasers Let’s face it..with kids in the house you are going to get a few Picaso’s on your walls every now and then. These things are amazing! I keep a box on hand at all times.
  • Good ol’ fashion Bleach. I have 6 boys so bleaching is a necessity. If you ask any of my children they will tell you “Mommy loves to wash my clothes.” Although I do love being their Mommy and enjoy a clean house that doesn’t mean I enjoy cleaning it and washing clothes all day. I guess they may be looking for a good excuse as to why they decided to use their sleeves as a napkin. I get the generic bleach at the dollar store of target.
  • Any leap product is awesome in my book. The leap videos like The Word Factory and Math Circus are great for learning and entertainment. I am not going to lie, my kids watch TV. If they are going to watch I feel much less guilty if it’s educational and these programs are just right.
  • Carpet Spray is another must have for my home. Kids spill, accidents happen but knowing that I can spray the stain and make it all go away is fantastic! I can carpet spray at the dollar store and that works just as well as the more costly brand name carpet spray.
  • Speaking of accidents…sickness is inevitable. When the bug is going around you never know when or where someone might vomit or well…something might sneak out the other end. 🙂 For all of those incidents I love lysol disinfectant spray. It smells wonderful and provides peace of mind that the germs are being killed.
  • The Perfect Sweeper is a must have right next to my Simplicity vacuum. Our house isn’t a massive soap opera estate but I vacuum it so frequently and got sick of going through so many cheap vacuums we finally went a step up and got the Simplicity and I don’t regret it one bit. To cut down on how often I use the vacuum my hubby bought us a perfect sweeper which is great for the kitchen to get the crumbs and cheerios which find themselves on my floors daily. The perfect sweeper is light and rechargeable and my favorite part….drum roll….You DON’T have to bend over to use a dustpan!! Woo hoo :O
  • Vinegar: This stuff is so under appreciated. It has many uses! Mix vinegar with water for cleaning off the counter, add to the wash for fabric softener, and of course cooking. I buy it at Aldi or in bulk at Sam’s.
  • The Boppy is a must have. It’s great for nursing, tummy time, learning to sit up and of course as a photography prop. The boppy now comes with removable covers to help with cleaning. It’s a great shower gift and worthwhile item to buy for oneself. 🙂
  • The Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper is genius. It’s a crib that attaches to our bed! I can sleep, baby can sleep and when it’s time to nurse I don’t even have to get out of my warm bed. Win-win! AND, it converts to a regular pack-n-play when the baby grows. The Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper is seriously amazing. They sell a mini co-sleeper as well so if you don’t have as much bedroom space you still have options. (full disclosure I bought mine on craigslist because well, I am cheap..i mean thrifty)
  • Born free products are very loved in our house. The babies love the Born Free pacifiers and bottles. I like that they are free of all of those not baby friendly chemicals and the bottle and sippy parts can work together. It makes for an easy transition and helps when washing dishes. They also have teething toys my babies have loved during that phase. I find their products online as well as in Babies-R-Us stores.
  • Huggies lil’ snugglers. Yea, I’ll admit it… I used to swear by pampers but feel as if that mesh fabric on the inside tends to stick to the baby’s bottoms in some weird way. The lil’ snugglers Huggies makes doesn’t do that and still keeps my babies dry. I have made the full conversion from Pampers to Huggies. I also found the Huggies to be a bit cheaper (at Sam’s Club) than Pampers. I also use the Huggies rewards program and love being able to ‘buy’ things with those points since I am buying diapers and wipes anyway. (I have tried to use generic diapers but have ended up with leaking issues and diaper rash problems)
  • My favorite lotion isn’t some scented spendy brand, it’s Goldbond Cream. It’s not greasy, it helps babies skin retain moisture and lasts long enough to keep their skin soft in between baths. (I also like Goldbond Cream for myself)
  • BOB jogging strollers are the best strollers ever. Seriously! No joke! They are also very expensive but so worth every penny. After 5 kids I had finally learned to spend the money to get the best stroller rather than trying to save money and get something that isnt’ exactly what I want or need. The BOB has single and dual options as well as breaks, no breaks, swivel or stationary front tires, etc. Endless options really. I have a BOB duallie and love that I can collapse it down to fit in the back of the van and still feel the kids are safe when it’s opened up. (I don’t have to remove tires, etc.) I can pop it up and clip it together quickly. I use it for running, walking, shopping…It’s more than just a jogging stroller. The tires are inflatable so they go well over various terrain, it has optional cup/snack holders, enough storage for me AND my storage includes a zipper so my phone or keys don’t fall out when running. The canopy is great on the duallie because each child has their own and it can go all the way down to accommodate the fussiest of kiddos. It has great shock absorption so I feel comfortable pushing my little ones when I clip the infant carrier into it. (Also worth mentioning, there are many options for clipping in infant carriers to accommodate all the brands). Living in Minnesota I also opted to purchase a shade/mosquito cover that keeps the babies away from the elements. We purchased ours from REI using our membership discount you can also find them at places like Target and used ones are on craigslist.
  • Bebe au lait: It’s the original hooter hider and I love it. I have 4 or 5 of them and use them regularly. I have one in the stroller, one in the diaper bag and a few around the house. They are so wonderful to be able to cover when needed but I can see baby and baby can see me.
  • Ergo Baby Carriers: I have tried a few different brands and styles throughout my years of babies and have found my Ergo to be the best for babies. I have a larger backpack style for hiking with toddlers but this one is amazing for babies. It’s so comfortable! I love the infant insert for newborns. I use it all the time when they are tiny to get things done around the house and they sleep so nicely in it. As they get bigger they transition well to using the carrier without the insert and then can ride on my back as well. I also got mine at REI with a discount coupon but they are also at Target and vary in price and style.
  • Nissan NV Passenger : When are family was too large to fit in our suburban and we didn’t really wanna drive two suburban’s everywhere we started researching a larger vehicle. We weren’t excited about the standard 16 passenger van so we looked into the Ford and Nissan vans. After reading too many reviews to count and watching many video reviews we test drove both the Nissan and Ford and although there is a large discrepancy in the cost we feel in love with the Nissan. It fits up to 12 people, the seats can move around (and I can even lift them), it comes with a backup camera, it drives like a truck, it has USB outlets and lots of storage. We opted for the 3500 for the larger engine for towing purposes. I love it. Oh, and I forgot to mention-the window on the opposite side of the sliding door opens! It’s great to have that option.

What are your favorite things? There is no such thing as too Menne or too many 😉 so PLEASE SHARE!

 

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.

A Bitty Birthday Bash

My youngest will be turning 1 soon and although with such a big family I feel like there is always a birthday party to plan the big O-N-E is a fav of mine. I found an awesome new place (Minted) to find the cutest birthday invites, party decor & creative themes. To be honest, as I was looking for birthday invites for my little guy I soon found myself completely sidetracked looking at art & room decor. I love vintage, and can easily get sucked into such adorable and creative art…

Eventually I pulled myself back to the task at hand. My mission to find a theme for #6’s first birthday was a success with one small caveat. In the last few years I have really fallen for giraffes. I was hoping to find something that would allow for giraffe inclusion in this bitty birthday bash. Not only did I find one, I found two and love them both. Decisions, decisions…

The first one is the Zoo Menagerie Party Decor

Zoo Menagerie

Then to choose the color of the invites but again I like them both. Such a simple, sweet theme. What’s not to love?

Pink

Orange

And the banner can be personalized?? Yes, please!

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The second one is the Birthday Balloon Fun Party Decor

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The giraffes are just what I was looking for. I think the bright colors and circles make this one look so fun.

Giraffe

Birthday Balloon Fun

So which do I go with? The Zoo Menagerie Party Decor or Birthday Balloon Fun Party Decor? Please share your thoughts. I’d love to hear.

DIY: Organizing closets for 6 kids!?!?!

Preparation for Baby #6 means hauling the baby bins from the basement storage and organizing the baby clothes. This made me somewhat frustrated as ALL of the kids closets and drawers were a mess. We had 2 dressers in each closet for socks, undergarments, pants and shorts. We would hang all of the tops above despite the massive amount of hangers. :/ Trying to put this away was a challenge with so many drawers open and shut. The kids seemed to be constantly breaking the drawers or ‘pushing out’ the bottoms as they stuffed the drawers with the clean clothes. (Laundry day at the Menne house is pretty interesting) I wanted some sort of bins for their clothes but didn’t know how it would work. This is what my hubby came up with.

Closet Organization 1

Each child has a color for their bins and they have 1 bin for each drawer that used to be the dresser. We once again hung up the tops. You’ll notice the shoe storage in the middle. This is my way of keeping sane but I’ll get to that in a minute. Back to the bins, in order to allow the kids to help with putting things away we labeled each bin with words and drawings. It’s hard to see in the second photo but we did our best to draw socks, tights, etc. and then label them with words as well. We used post-it’s and clear contact paper.

Closet Organization 2

Back to the shoe storage bins….At some point on the weekend (when things are less crazy) I take the time with each child to help them pick out 5 outfits for the week including socks and undies and we fill each shoe slot with 1 outfit. This makes mornings much easier on all of us because they know where their clothes are, they match (for the most part) and they have the independence to open the closet and find the outfits on their own.

This project was completed a few months ago and has been going well. I am SO happy with how it all turned out.

How do you keep your kids clothes organized? I’d love to hear your ideas!! Please share 🙂