Patriotic DIY’s For Summer


Summer is here and independence day is right around the corner. What better time for a couple patriotic DIY’s right?

Patriotic Door Hang

The first one I made to use as a door hang for our front door but it could really be used anywhere. I liked it so much a made a few more as gifts for family.

Patriotic candle

The second DIY craft I made just to add to the table to complement the rustic looking flag bunting we have hanging on our mantle.

letter: I got the letter from Hobby Lobby for about $4. The paints are about $1 each and can be found at most craft stores. I was going for a rustic look so I used country red, uniform blue and white wash. If you are like me you have a drawer filled with various colors from other craft projects. The stars are actually stick on stars from the craft section of Hobby Lobby but I have seen them at other stores as well. They were $2.99 for a bag which was enough to make 3 letters although it depends on how you want to configure yours. I used painters tape to ensure straight lines and again I did have a few rolls of that in a drawer. (I was shocked to discover the kids hadn’t commandeered it yet. It seems kids inevitably find any and all tape in our house…) I added some twine which can be found at the dollar store in the craft aisle.

  1. Draw lines in the upper right hand corner to create a square of sorts.
  2. Paint that square blue & then let dry.
  3. Use painters tape to create vertical stripes.
  4. Paint white stripes in between the painters tape. Be sure to remember the sides as well.
  5. Before the white is dried carefully pull off the tape. (if you wait until it dries it tends to clump and pull the paint off with it…just trust me on this one)
  6. Allow time for the white stripes to fully dry.
  7. Paint the red stripes carefully using a thin brush. It’s easy to fix any mis-haps with the white if need be. Again don’t forget to paint the edges.
  8. After all the paint is dried apply the white stars as you desire. As a DIY Art/Deco project you have free reign to use your artistic desires no need to over analyze the placement of a few stars. 🙂
  9. After everything is completed and dried I wrapped a few pieces of twine/Jute around the line that separates the blue from the red/white stripes. You can tie a knot on the front or hide the knot in the back. Either way looks great.
  10. I choose to hang mine with some burlap ribbon that had stars on it but you can also use the twine/Jut. I think the hanging method depends upon the letter some are more symmetrical and hand easier than others. When I made a letter “C” I used the twine/Jute. I used a regular stapler to attach the ribbon and twine for hanging.
  11. Hang and admire your work. 😉

Candle: The table decor is super simple and super cheap. I already had the glass jars on hand left from table decor I used for a party. They can be found at the dollar store. The candles I used are also from the dollar store but really any candle could be used. The burlap ribbon is from Hobby Lobby and was about $6. The twine/jute is again from the dollar store. The sand is actually from our sandbox but you could also use rocks which are available at the dollar store in the craft aisle. I made two of them to decorate our dinner table.

  1. Measure & cut your ribbon. Make sure you have enough to go around the jar and overlap but.
  2. Measure and cut your twine/Jute with the same idea in mind.
  3. Fold one end of the ribbon and make sure that part is on top when you wrap the ribbon around the jar.
  4. Wrap the twine/jute around the ribbon on the jar and tie to hold the ribbon on. (You could use hot glue here if you wanted too but I tend to reuse items and wanted to be able to remove these in the future.)
  5. Cut a small circle out of cardboard.
  6. Use a lighter to melt a small portion of the bottom of the candle then while still hot gently press it onto the cardboard. This creates a holder of sorts.
  7. Put your candle/cardboard into the car and pour the sand in. The sand will help hold the candle in place.
  8. Enjoy!

Please share your ideas/feedback in the reply section of this post. Happy crafting!

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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!

 

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 🙂

 

 

 

Grocery Shopping for a large family

With such a large family it takes a lot of planning and preparation to feed everyone. I never thought I could get behind a meal planning calendar but for budget’s sake it needed to be done. I had the kids sit down with me and plan a 2 week rotating calendar. We do this in the fall for a winter meals and again in the spring for summer meals. If I or the kids decide a particular meal isn’t working we just change it.
I have the menu on a clip board in the pantry to whomever has the kitchen for their chore that month can get out the ingredients and possibly prep. Under the menu I have the recipes for those meals clipped as well.

imageBelow that clipboard hangs another one. This is the special ‘shopping’ clipboard that has a lovely spreadsheet clipped into it. (Yea, there are probably a few post-it’s on there too so I don’t forget to add things) The spreadsheet includes items we typically buy in alphabetical order as well as a separate list of what I call the ‘target’ items (toothpaste, diapers, etc.). I don’t buy all of those things at Target (after all we are talking cheap) but that seems to sum up the contents of the list for our family budgeting purposes. As we run out of things we can simply mark it on the spreadsheet or add it to the bottom. So each month when we go shopping (yes, it’s a monthly trip) I bring along a clipboard with the items needed highlighted in yellow and as they get tossed into the carts (yup, we require at least 2 carts) I can cross them off with a blue marker.

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I am a BIG FAN of Aldi although most folks think we shop at Sam’s Club or Cosco. The reality is those stores are great for some items but the vast majority of the grocery items are cheaper at Aldi and I can get the family in and out quicker because it’s a smaller store. (They carry all but a couple items on my list it’s just that they don’t carry a bunch of different brands of the same product) What works best for us is bringing 2-3 quarters for carts, 6 laundry baskets and a baby carrier. I can do all the shopping on my own if I put the little one on my back and the toddler in a cart and have one of the older kiddos push the second cart. The Kids are great at helping put items in the cart and have gotten accustomed to how this operation works. We discuss our budget with them and how that whole process works in hopes that they will be fiscally responsible adults. They have fun trying to estimate the cost at the register.

We purchase most of our groceries at Aldi, a few at Walmart and Sam’s club. I try to get most ‘Target’ budget items at the Dollar Store or Walmart. I also LOVE the thrift stores. I have a big selection of thrift stores to shop at and love that I can find treasures at a great price and the little ones can always find a toy of $1 or less.

After pushing 2 or 3 full carts out to the suburban the real fun begins ;). Those laundry baskets I referred to early come into play. I load the groceries up into the baskets in a manner which my hubby calls “Tetrus” but really I just put the cold stuff in 2 baskets, heavy stuff on the bottom and the lighter stuff on top with one basket reserved for chips, breads, etc. This process can be a quick one depending upon the weather and how the kids are behaving. On one occasion I did have a lady sit and watch me load the whole thing because she said she didn’t believe I could fit it all in. (I kinda enjoyed I proving her wrong .)

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When we get home those baskets then get unloaded one at a time placed in a super cool wagon and wheeled up into the kitchen. To get up into the house through the service door I use a ramp my hubby made for the kids to ride their bikes over but it works just fine for my needs. I can get the whole suburban unloaded fairly quickly this way and the organization helps so I can get the cold stuff put away and take my time getting the rest put away.

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I’d love ideas from other large families. How do you do it? Any tips for me?

DIY: 3 bedrooms+6 Kids=Rethinking the beds

With 5 kids, 3 bedrooms and a baby on the way we had to re-think our bed configuration and of course where to put the clothes with less space. We originally had planned to add another bedroom because our floor plan includes a ‘teen room’ and an open area above the main entry. After reviewing the floor plans and looking into the truss situation we starting surfin’ the web for innovative bunk bed options. Once the kids saw how cool the bunk beds could be they decided they really liked that option. In fact THEY preferred to share a room rather than have us make the ‘teen room’ into a bedroom. Apparently they really like that living space to hang out and watch TV (Yes, we are those mean parents that refuse to let them have a TV in their bedrooms).

We found some really cool bunk bed options but some of them were in the $2,500 dollar range. (They do provide free shipping-seriously? As if that would get me to jump on that deal..ha ha ha). We found tons of other DIY’s from other families in the same or similar situation. It was a ton of fun to find many other great blogs to follow :). In the end we decided we would build them ourselves (by that I mean my husband) and that we liked the ‘L’ shaped triple bunks. We found some inexpensive plans online but decided we’d make our own. (My husband was pretty confident I guess). Although he is NOT a carpenter by trade I trusted him to complete this project. He felt some kind of calling to do it as his Dad built his beds and my Dad built mine as a child as well. Must be some type of Daddy right of passage. 😉 I was happy as long as they were strong/sturdy enough to handle 3 boys. I got my way and he used carriage bolts with the 2×4’s and 2×6’s which somehow made me feel better. I was impressed at how sturdy they turned out to be.

Back on the bunk beds…He built each each bed first building them to the measurement of the mattresses. Then we hauled them up to the bedroom and determined the height we preferred for the middle and top bed. Here is what they looked like put together. (although we have since added railing to the side so they don’t roll out of bed and added the same ‘head board’ as shown on the middle bed to the bottom one.)Triple 'L' Bunk Beds

The most impressive part of this whole project was my amazing husband completed it on a drill weekend. Nothing like working all week and then doing some carpentry on the weekend after 2 long days as a soldier. The Red Green show says, “If women don’t find you handsome they should at least find you handy.” I feel blessed because he’s both. ❤

You may be wondering where the other 3 kids will be. We’ll the only girl has her own room (spoiled princess). The baby and our almost 2 year old are in the third room. The crib, changing table and a toddler bed fit nicely. We don’t know the gender of the new baby but are assuming it’s a boy (we have 4 already so odds seem to favor boy). If it turns out to be a girl that will really be interesting. Stay tuned….

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 🙂

Starting our Summer

As an educator I am blessed to have time with my kids during the summer. As an administrator I am still pretty busy for ‘off all summer’ but I do get to spend plenty of time at home just being a Mom which I absolutely love! To start summer for a Type A person like myself it means switching from school calendars to home activities and from hockey practices to library activities, etc.

The first thing I did was get the chore chart all ready for the summer chores the kids do. The next thing I do is figure out a summer schedule. I am okay with being flexible and changing things as needed but I like having a schedule to be sure things like laundry IMG_4441are taken care of and the kids have time carved out for reading books and keeping up with their math skills.

Once the kids and I had determined our summer schedule and talked about the different expectations for summer vs. school year we took a trip to the public library to find out about the summer reading program and any special events. The kids had a great time picking out books and seeing what was in store for the summer reading program. It took no time at all to fill up the calendar with activities, story times, crafts, etc. Summer practically plans itself! 🙂

There are a couple of things we have decided to try as a family this summer that we have not done before and I am excited to see how they go.

1-We hear so much about the 1:1 initiatives but they are typically laptops or iPads….Well the Menne family is taking on a 1:1 technology to reading imitative. The kids were a bit apprehensive at first but so far (a few days into it) it’s going well and they seem to understand in order to earn technology time they have to read. Twice already I have been trying to get their attention where normally they would be zoned out in front of a TV or engrossed in a DS game but I have found them reading. A nice surprise right?

2-I have heard about the toy bin/tote with the chore envelope where parents pick up any toys found on the floor and put them in the bin/tote and in order to get them out the child has to pick a slip from the envelope complete the chore listed on it. The kids are against this idea but I gotta tell yea, I am psyched to put some chores on the list like cleaning up the bathroom floor. (With 4 boys in the house their aim isn’t always great and I could use some help cleaning up the potty area).

I’ll have to post later in the summer my feedback on how those new things go. What summer plans does your family have? How to you keep your family busy during the summer? Or maybe not so busy? (That is tricky too) Do you have any tricks to share or any thoughts on these ideas?