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!

 

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 🙂

Tales from the trenches: The testing debacle

I have no idea where this school is but I like their thinking....

I have no idea where this school is but I like their thinking….

It’s spring, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, (it is snowing in MN) this means testing season is upon us. If you work in schools or are a parent you probably are with me when I say I dread this time of year.

I have dealt with testing in the schools for years and may not enjoy it but have managed to survive it. This year at the elementary level it just seemed to be absolutely horrific.

It started with all online testing. The system was up, then down. They said stop testing, then start testing. Then emails came in stating to test if you aren’t experiencing any problems….We had students who were not able to pause their tests and therefore where clicking just to fill in the bubbles to get to the bottom of the screen to pause the test. We had trouble getting the system to pause for days. We called the help desk, repeatedly (and then some more). Some people who answered seemed to be very empathetic to our situation, others referred it as ‘glitches’ in the system.

Regardless, I want to know how in the world these tests results would be considered valid. We had kids crying and others  so frustrated with the starting, stopping, and issues trying to pause for breaks I just can’t imagine they were in a frame of mind to actually perform on the tests.

To that end, how can it be right to attach funding to tests that should at the very least be considered compromised due to the many MANY technical errors or ‘glitches’ as they called them???

I have witnessed our students tested on the state assessments, the NWEA MAP’s and now the DRA’s all within the last few weeks. Our poor students are tested too much. If only we could put our trust in the educators who already use diagnostic assessments like the NWEA”s and the DRA’s &  not mandate additional tests (which they don’t’ receive the results from for months….)

Students don’t learn anything from tests. They learn from passionate educators who know them and can help guide them through the learning process. I say, step out of the way and let teachers do what they do best-Teach!