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.

 

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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.

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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.

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

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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

 

 

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!

 

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.

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….