Cowabunga Birthday!

My 5yr old was super excited to have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle party for his 6th Birthday. He really enjoyed checking out all of the cool pictures of other kids parties online to decide what he might like. Honestly I think planning was as fun as the party itself.

As always I try to execute my children’s birthday parties spending as little as possible. I want them to have wonderful memories of their birthdays and I want them to feel special. I just don’t want or don’t feel the need to break the bank in the process. After all, we live on a budget. 🙂

This cowabunga birthday turned out pretty well and did include some DIY. It does take time for those parts but it saves money. Here is what we did..

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I used a photo from the web and inserted it into Microsoft word. If I remember correctly I was able to print four per page. I also opted to do a screen shot and save it as a JPEG so I could email his friends from school as I didn’t have their addresses. (The address & RSVP are cropped out for privacy. They were at the bottom).

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I made the piñata using discarded newspaper & one of those dollar store punch balloons. After it dried I cut a hatch opening, covered it with snipped crepe paper, added the eyes & mouth (construction paper) and then filled it with candy. I did learn the hard way that I should use a small square if cardboard to support the holes where it hangs so it doesn’t break away from the string before the kids bust it open. My hubby helped me with that one,

IMG_6597The kids treat bags were made of green bags I found in the wrapping paper section of the dollar store. I used crepe paper, construction paper & sharpies to give them the ninja turtle look. They contained a ninja turtle cup, stickers & other small green trinkets from the dollar store. They worked well for the kids to put their piñata candy in as well.

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Decorations were pretty basic. Crepe paper is a standard supply for me. (I have a laundry basket full of party supplies organized in large zip bags so I can easily find the colors of balloons or crepe paper I might need). I used balloons, crepe paper, construction paper & sharpies to make Ninja Turtle heads. I found a fun round green decoration at the dollar store and did the same thing to it and hung it above the table. For the birthday sign I used my scrapbook die cutter to cut ovals of 2 sizes, glued them together & used a green sharpie to make them look like turtle shells. I then printed off the letters using a free downloaded Ninja Turtle font. I also snagged all of his Ninja Turtle toys to add to the decorations.

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The food was easy; homemade pizza, green Kool-aide (green slime), and Ninja Turtle fruit & veggie trays. I found green napkins, cups, plates, napkins & plastic table clothes that I had leftover from a previous John Deere party that I was able to use-score!

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The cake was actually made of a batch of cupcakes. It meant a ton of frosting but was so easy to serve. The white frosting was dyed green and I started with chocolate frosting and added dye to make the black frosting.

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My son loved this party. His exact words were, “It was awesome!” The smile on his face was rewarding but I also liked how inexpensive it was to pull-off.

Happy party planning!

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?

Birth Photography

My youngest is 16 months now but I am still catching up on scrapbooking his first year. I have a tone of photos and as I look through them it’s almost overwhelming. I have a few favorites on my phone, ipad, framed, etc. but none of them hold a candle to the ones taken on the day he came into the world. THOSE are the photos I still have on my phone, framed by my bed, and in the nursery. THOSE are the photos I look at almost daily. Birth photos? Daily? Sounds crazy right? Maybe…But I assure you they are ah-mazing! (Here are a few to share via the phenomenal RedBird Hills Photography) When I first heard about the concept of birth photography I was like, “What the heck!?!? Why would I want another person I don’t really know in there watching the crazy, unfiltered me in labor??? Who in their right mind would want to see photos of THAT?” So I did want anyone would do I read up on it and checked out some birth photography websites. I was very impressed by Redbird Hills photography. I read a snippet of a birth story and I looked at photos of 3 strangers bringing their babies into the world and was bawling my eyes out! What she captured with those photos wasn’t just rated G, it was beautiful. I knew right then, I HAD to do this!! As luck would have it I have the bestest hubby in the whole-wide world. He knew I wanted this and despite the cost he booked Redbird Hills. What a guy! She was amazing. She intuitiely knew when to give us privacy but yet was able to capture the whole birth story from laboring to the baby meeting his big sister and brothers. The way we looked at one another, the emotions on our faces when we first saw our baby, seeing the baby so fresh, us bonding and the big kids reactions to the baby-precious memories.

It was also fan-stinkin’-tastic to NOT have to rely on my husband to take photos whilst trying to be there for me through the whole process. He was able to focus on helping me through labor and birth.

I don’t take out the video and watch it but I do look at the birth photos regularly. They remind me of what a miracle birth is, how much love my honey and I have for one another, and how amazing a newborn is. I was skeptical of birth photography when I first learned of it and couldn’t fathom this as a trending thing but I am so glad I checked it out. I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was worth every penny. If you are even thinking about it I encourage you to check it out.

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

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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.

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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 Lego Movie Costumes

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Halloween 2014 we wanted to go for a family costume theme and the kids absolutely LOVE the Lego Movie so it seemed like a great fit.

 

Batman

Wildstyle

Emmett

Badcop

Benny

 

 

 

 

 

My oldest think’s he is a pretty big deal (Batman). My only girl is a mix of emotions and yet not afraid to do her own thing (Wild Style/Lucy). My middle fella is a people pleaser and always happy (Emmett). My little man can be super sweet and then flip on a dime (Bad Cop). My toddler is so one-track-minded “SPACESHIP!!” (Benny). And then my baby, the piece of resistance of course!!. I did my research and found that many others had done DIY Lego costumes before which gave me the courage to give it a try. I took my ‘six-pack’ to the craft store and Menards to gather the supplies and get to it.

Basic Supplies: Concrete form tube, spray paint, rubber cloves, small plastic pot, insulating foam (get the good stuff or it’ll make a horrid mess when cutting), duct tape, craft paints, paint brushes.


Lego Batman1. Lego body:
The base for each costume is a costume. The larger costumes were other boxes which I snagged from the recycle bin. (Diaper boxes work great and with 2 in diapers that boxes were easy to find.) The kids each tried on their boxes and I cut the holes accordingly. We used some tape in various spots to make it more comfy too. I spray painted the boxes out in the yard although I am sure my neighbors thought I was nuts with a line of sprayed boxes. After drying throughly I was ready to paint the details. I found photos online and pictures from the kids Lego movie figurine books to help guide me. Drawing and then painting was a long and tedious step for me. I used lots of duct tape for the costumes whenever possible. Craft paints and Sharpie’s were a lifesaver here as well. I spent more time painting the details than anticipated but the kids reaction to the costumes made it all worth it.

Lego Lucy2. Lego head: The heads for the larger costumes were made from concrete form tubes which I cut into smaller pieces with powertools. (Side note: This wasn’t easy and if I was to do it again, I would have gotten help with this part). I sprayed the tubes yellow first; however, if I was to do this again I’d wait and spray AFTER cutting….lesson learned. The Benny costume was made for a 2 year old so I decided to use a small plastic pot instead. After cutting the tube into 4 pieces I used the tube as a stencil and traced the inside of the tube on the foam so I could get the right sized circle to fill the top of the ‘Lego head.’ After cutting out and then sanding the edge of the foam circles I pushed them into the top of each tube and rounded the edges with duct tape. More spraying took place after taping newspaper cut to fit as to not get black paint on the yellow lego faces.

IMG_00423. Finishing Touches: We added a cape to the batman costume by cutting holes to tie it within. I also used leftover pieces of the foam to create Badcop’s helmet, batman’s ears and Wild Style’s hair. Again,  I used duck tape to round them out and connect them. (Through researching online I read that the foam will basically melt if spray painted. I tested that theory which I found to be correct so I then proceeded to cover all of the foam with duct tape to avoid that problem which  I would say was a success). I totally cheated on the back of Badcop by finding a font that matched. I printed, cut and clued those bad-boys on the box and it worked great. To add to Benny’s spacesuit I  poked holes in 2 empty plastic bottles and affixed them to the back of the box.

Bad Cop BackLego Bad Cop

The kids had fun and won a local costume contest which they were pretty jazzed about. They all thought their costumes were “AWESOME!” If you are thinking of trying a Lego DIY costume-GO FOR IT! There are many people who have made Lego costumes and share their info online which makes this totally manageable.

Benny BackBenny

Still Learning with Baby #6

Baby #6While pregnant with our 6th child I was a bit shocked at how much I still had to learn about pregnancy, babies, etc. As a former FACS teacher and mother of 5 already I felt I had a firm knowledge base but oh-my-word-big-bird there are still some things to learn.  Here are a few things I have found…

  • The post postpartum uterine contractions (you know, the ones that hurt like heck while you are nursing). Those get worse with each baby. And I can confirm this is so true.
  • Just as the postpartum pains are worse so are the pregnancy pains. Those lovely ligament pains as your muscles stretch for the baby…yeah they hurt far worse with each pregnancy. The Braxton Hicks pains may feel a bit stronger too. (I am not a medical professional-just figured this out on my own)
  • Most of the pregnancy websites and apps are focused on first time Moms, etc. That is totally cool with me but trying to search for anything on the 4th, 5th or 6th pregnancy-yeah, I came up empty handed. Unless I wanted to scroll through some discussion threads I couldn’t find anything.  So, I guess it is learning along the way.
  • Some people are mean or just don’t know what to say when discussing your pregnancy status. I have often pondered if I should just lie to people when they ask me if this is my first because good-golly you should see/hear their reactions when I told them, “Nope, it’s my 6th.” In fact when I was pregnant with my 5th I had someone ask me if I had ever considered the impact my large family is having on the environment and if I thought about the carbon footprint I am creating. – I think I would have settled for a ‘congrats’ and left it at that. I certainly wasn’t prepared to respond to such a comment.

On a lighter note there are some funnier tidbits too.

  • My eldest child has been paying attention to each pregnancy. He came to me with a very serious face and began with “Mom I don’t want to sound mean” and proceeded to ask why I don’t just get a big belly. He wanted to know why my butt gets so big too. HILARIOUS! I may have felt bad about his question if he wasn’t so sincere and kind about the way he asked. I laughed and was a bit shocked. I explained how the hormones of pregnancy cause the fat to store up for a variety of reasons. My husband didn’t flinch and said it’s to balance out the weight of my big belly. (Because we don’t want Mom to fall over) Nice huh?
  • We all have heard of memory foam. Well I am convinced our bodies are similar. With each additional pregnancy your body knows just what to do. The baby bump seems to ‘pop’ a bit sooner with each one. I swear this time I peed on a stick and had a baby bump. What does one do when they have a noticeable baby bump at 6-8 weeks??? Working in administration at an elementary school while pregnant with #6 I was in my office usually but when I was with the students they noticed. I tried telling them I had a large burger and fries for lunch…they weren’t buying it. 🙂
  • Also on the note of kids…If I was ever to forget that I was getting bigger I had plenty of kids to remind me. They tell me as if I really didn’t notice! “Mrs. Menne, your belly is really getting big!” It’s pretty funny. Ya just have to laugh.

And finally some “Menne Mama” tidbits

  • I no longer care about what people think about my belly, or my cloths. I wear what is comfortable. SO, I totally broke out the maternity clothes as soon as my regular jeans were a bit tight. Who needs to feel uncomfortable?? Not me!
  • People ask how I am feeling and how my energy level is. HA! With 5 other children I don’t have time to feel ill, or nap, etc. I just keep on truckin’. There are no sick days when it comes to being a mom. Frankly I think if I slow down I may fall asleep. 🙂
  • The stomach flu whilst pregnant absolutely sucks!!! (yes it’s worthy of 3 exclamation points-probably more) I’m sure we can all agree the stomach flu isn’t a fun thing but lemme’ tell ya’ when you are 6 months pregnant holy-moly it’s awful! I swear I was not in control of my body and hurt worse than anything I could have ever imagined.
  • Trust your gut. I am very aware that I don’t know everything but there is something to be said about women’s intuition. If you think something is wrong call your Dr. If you don’t agree with something regarding your pregnancy or child get a second opinion. In the end, trust your instincts. Baby’s don’t come with a manual and you have to do what is right for your child and your family.

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 🙂

Courage, Faith & Public Education


My days can be a blur with all that do. Someone recently asked me why I am always in a hurry and frankly they were right-I am. Well something happened yesterday that made me stop and think. I was something I had never seen before and was absolutely amazing.

While walking through the cafeteria of a traditional public school I saw what I usually see. Lots of children busy moving around getting their lunches and finding a spot to sit. Usually all looking around at what everyone is doing and chatting up a storm as they quickly eat. The tables were really filling up and the noise level was steadily increasing.

praying hands

As I turned to exit the cafeteria I notice a boy (maybe 4th or 5th grade) bow his head and fold his hands in his lap. I stopped and watched. He was surrounded by other boys busily eating and talking, opening their milks, and going about

their usual lunch business. None of their actions affected him. His lips were moving and his eyes were closed. As I watched I did my best to read his lips and then I was certain he was praying. WOW, just wow!

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the public school cafeteria filled with students and staff this boy stopped to pray before breaking bread. I was so unbelievably amazed, impressed and moved. As I walked away the tears welled up in my eyes and my heart sang. There are seeds of faith growing inside the doors of public education. What a courageous boy.

I pondered this event the rest of day. We could all stand to learn from this boy. I imagine his parents have taught him well for him to carry out his faith despite his surroundings. Would we as adults have the courage to do what he did?

Many times we are working hard to share our faith by talking with others, inviting them to attend church with us or come to special events. We may be over thinking it…This boy made me think that is may be more of what people see us do than what we say. Sometimes we say a lot without saying anything at all.