Why I Broke Up with my Bullet Journal

In early January, I wrote about  I ditched my regular planner after discovering the bullet journal.  From October until a couple of weeks ago, I used my bullet journal faithfully and it worked like a gem.

After the holidays, my school and home schedule started to pick up and I started to notice that my bullet journal wasn’t working quite so well.  I also had noticed some fine motor difficulties from my MS that were making bullet journaling much harder.

Spring semester is always a bear for special education teachers- our paperwork and meetings kick into high gear. School events, rec ball practice for our kids, and other end of the year dates are also seemingly never ending this time of year.

One of the basic elements of the bullet journal is the future log.  Because you’re creating as you go, the future log is where you keep track of events beyond your current month.  As I began to schedule meetings and such several months out, the sheer quantity of what I needed to keep track of just didn’t work for the bullet journal.

Note:   This post is NOT sponsored in any way.  I’m simply passing along information about a product I love!

So I turned to Clever Owl Paper in search of a personalized planner with the elements of the bullet journal I loved with the benefit of a pre-printed planner.  I’ve ordered two other planners from Clever Owl so I knew I was getting a high quality, highly personalized product at a reasonable price.  Their website allowed me to start the planner in March and add three additional months so the planner will keep me through the end of next school year.

Two of my three Clever Owl planners!

I ordered the “My Life Planner” from Clever Owl and added labels for each aspect of my life that I needed to keep track of.  These were each areas that I was previously handwriting in my bullet journal.  I also ordered extra note pages for the end to keep my faculty meeting notes, freezer inventories, and extra lists.

Overall, I took what I loved about my bullet journal and put into a pre-printed personalized planner.  I’m really glad I tried the bullet journal for several months because I think it allowed me to know what worked for me and how to personalize a planner that is the most helpful for me.  Between my fine motor issues and cognitive struggles, having a quality planner is essential for my day to day quality of life.

However, I still LOVE the concept of using a bullet journal.  Your planner/calendar/digital tool should be something that works for you and should help your quality of life  and not make it more difficult.  Creating an organizational tool that does exactly what you need is at the core of bullet journal and I wholeheartedly buy into that.  I’ve simply used an online personalized planner to do for me what all those empty bullet journal pages were previously doing.

One thing I’ve learned is that any tool is only good for the time that it works for you.  Sometimes it’s only a season but knowing when to cut bait and try something new is a skill I’m still learning!

Have  you ever found a great home or organizational tool that only worked for a season?

My freezer challenge is DONE!

*This post contains  affiliate links*

After weeks of eating only from my freezer and pantry, I finally went to the grocery store today!

Back at the beginning of January, my freezer looked like this-

Today it looked more like this-

I still have a little bit of food including several bags of pork tenderloin,  but overall it’s pretty empty! We’ve eaten much better than I originally thought and haven’t had any completely random meals.

I’ll also be making a big batch of apple butter and canning it soon with my bags of frozen apple slices.

The Instant Pot has been helpful for several recipes involving frozen chicken. Two of my favorites were a chicken and noodles recipe and a chicken Parmesan casserole- both were really yummy!

I didn’t save as much as I hoped but still came under well under budget. Most of what I bought this month were breakfast and lunch items- we seem to go through those much quicker than meat and dinner items!

Molasses Cookies for the freezer!
Taco Night
Breakfast for Dinner!

Now that my freezer isn’t empty anymore, I’ll be spending time over the next few weeks filling it with precooked ingredients and whole freezer foods! I’m looking forward to sharing some of the recipes soon!

Happy Grocery Shopping Day!

A Working Mom’s Laundry Routine (and why Thursdays are so important!)

Sometimes we plan for a new habit and struggle to have the self discipline to accomplish it.  For instance, we may need to get up earlier and decide to start setting our alarm for 15 earlier than usual.  Sometimes though we stumble upon a new habit and routine and it just works.  My laundry schedule is kind of like that for me.

As a working mom, most of my housecleaning and laundry chores have to be completed on the weekend.  It stinks but that’s just the reality of it.  I’ll tackle a few easy tasks during the week along with the regular sweeping, dishes, etc but the big things have to wait until the weekend.  The thing is that I’d rather spend quality time with my family on the weekend instead of washing clothes for 2 straight days.  Obviously this is a problem.

Please know that I’m far from a neat freak.  I don’t mop my floors often enough and I have a bad habit of leaving my shoes out for days.  Laundry, (while I don’t love it) I don’t mind it so much as long as I have a plan and feel a sense of accomplishment when its done.   Over the last few months I realized I’ve fallen into a rhythm/routine of doing laundry that has helped tremendously. There are a few specific things I’ve started doing that are helping this working mama not be completely overwhelmed when I’m doing the laundry.

Plan and Prep

So Thursdays.  A few months ago I realized that if I started prepping on Thursday for my weekend cleaning/laundry I’m in a much better frame of mind to get it accomplished.  So on Thursday afternoon, I pull out all the laundry I want to wash over the weekend and separate it into laundry baskets. If I have a line of laundry baskets staring me in the face on Friday morning, I’m much more likely to get a jump start on the task at hand. I also make a weekend to do list before I leave work on Fridays for all the work and home tasks that I need to get done.

My five year old adds her favorite two blankies to the laundry basket every.single.Saturday. 🙂

Order matters

Unless there’s some gigantic stain or mess that requires my immediate attention, I will almost always wash clothes in the same particular order- towels/kitchen linens, kid clothes, my clothes, Bobby’s clothes, and sheets.  There is a very simple reason for this- I start with the easiest and save the ones I don’t like for the end.  Towels and the girls’ clothes are fast and easy to wash, fold, and put away.  I finish those baskets and I’m feeling pretty good about myself.

Note:  I despise washing sheets.  Well, actually, I despise FOLDING sheets.  So I wait until I can’t put it off anymore.  That probably means something bad about my character, but I’ll  worry about that another day.

If I’ve prepped my laundry on Thursday, I will usually start with towels/kitchen linens on Friday morning or afternoon.  I plug through the rest of it in between whatever activities our family has going on that particular weekend.

Decide When to Stop

This is the hardest one for me.  Because I don’t have time during the week, I fight this urge to do ALL the laundry before Sunday night.  I can assure you this is a bad idea.  When I pull out my weekend laundry on Thursday, that’s ALL the laundry I’m doing that weekend.  If I get some unexpected time over the weekend, then I might try to wash the clothes we wore over the weekend, but that’s a rare event.  If I try to have everything clean, I’ll get frustrated and end up with a bunch of clean laundry sitting on my couch until Wednesday.  Since the girls pick out their clothes for the entire week on Sunday, there’s usually no need to wash anything of theirs until the next weekend. (And the grownups have enough clothes to make it through a week too). 🙂

Now if someone has some fantastic weekend cleaning schedule please let me know! (Or a robot that can pick up the shoes I leave behind- my husband would be eternally grateful!)

Sausage Freezer Breakfasts

*Note:  This post contains affiliate links*

A few months ago, I read this post over at The Lazy Genius Collective, one of my favorites blogs.  It really made me think about the how, the what, and the why I feed my people what I do in the mornings.  Now, let me issue this disclaimer:  we do NOT sit down for a hot breakfast every day.  I’m way too lazy for that.

What I do have, however, is face to face time with my kids while they eat.  They eat and we chat while I pack lunches, eat my breakfast, and get them ready to walk out the door.  (Because my husband is AWESOME and takes them to school most mornings, this is our time before they head out)

But I’m lazy.  And I like to sleep.  Which can make breakfast a problem if I want my kids to eat at home and not eat Cheerios off the floor every day.

Freezer breakfasts are one of the things that keeps our mornings on schedule and helps me maintain some sanity during the week.  During the school year, I try to keep a decent amount of frozen breakfast items available for school mornings.  On any given school morning, my family generally has the choice of:

  • Pancakes/Waffles
  • Instant oatmeal packets
  • Cereal/Toast
  • Yogurt/Fruit
  • Sausage Muffins
  • Breakfast burrito pouches
  • Muffins (homemade or from a mix- already cooked and frozen)
  • Store bought freezer breakfast items…(I may or may not have a soft spot in my heart for Jimmy Dean pancakes on a stick- don’t judge!)

I had let my breakfast stash get pretty low recently so I used my unexpected snow days the other week to stock up on two of our favorites breakfast items- sausage muffins and breakfast burritos.  I grabbed two pounds of sausage from the grocery store but the rest of the ingredients were straight from my fridge, freezer, or pantry.

Speaking of breakfast burritos, let me jump on my tortilla soapbox for a moment.

I do NOT like frozen burritos.  By the time I nuke them in the microwave to get the inside warm, the tortilla itself is tough and disgusting.  I had always avoided making burritos for the freezer for this reason.  On a random Pinterest search one day, I came across the idea of freezing only the filling and I gave it a shot soon after.  Game changed, people.  Seriously.

Now I only freeze the filling for my burritos and we LOVE eating them for breakfast.

Another breakfast favorite of ours are sausage muffins.  They’re already cooked when frozen and can be warmed up in under of a minute.

So….onto my freezer breakfast cooking session……

I started by browning and draining two pounds of sausage.

Tip: When draining meat, put it in a strainer on top of a bowl. So much less messy and awkward!  Thanks to my fine motor issues from my MS, I have difficulty handling a large skillet when I need to drain or move food from one place to another.  This little hack helps me out so much!

While the sausage cooled, I washed and diced about 7 potatoes.  I boiled them until they were soft and then put them on a baking sheet to cool.  I also scrambled about 8 eggs (roughly one per packet of filling).  Be sure not to overcook the eggs because they’ll also cook a little bit more when you microwave them later. Add a pound (or roughly two cups cooked) of cooked sausage to the potatoes with the eggs in a separate container.  Let it all cool and add seasonings (salt, pepper, etc) to mixture as your tastes prefer.

(Peppers and onions would also be a great addition to the potato mixture, but the people I feed wouldn’t be so happy about that so I leave that out.)

 

While the burrito mixture is cooling, I moved on to my sausage muffins.  This is so simple that it should be a crime.  Really.

Take a pound of the cooked sausage, four beaten eggs, a cup of Bisquick baking mix, and a cup of cheddar cheese and mix it together.  Fill a greased muffin tin with the mixture and cook at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

The End.

See, I told you it was easy!

While my sausage muffins were cooking, I packaged up my burrito pouches.  I added a spoonful of the potato/sausage mixture to a sandwich bag, put a some of the scrambled eggs on top and topped it with a handful of cheese.  I also roll over the top of the bag so the mixture would freeze in a block shape.

My goal was to package the burritos before the timer went off for the sausage muffins and I even had time to clean up the kitchen before taking them out to cool!  Start to finish, I had both of these recipes ready for the freezer in about an hour.

Both recipes are also incredibly easy to reheat.  The burrito filling needs to be removed from the bag and warmed in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and then added to a warm tortilla. (My husband’s burrito secret is to put a tortilla on top of the filling for the last 20 seconds or so in the microwave.)  We also usually add extra cheese and taco sauce to ours. The sausage muffins take around 45 seconds-1 minute to warm depending on the number of them that you’re reheating.

Hopefully, this inspires you to create some freezer breakfast items for your family!  I promise it’s well worth the time and effort on those weekday mornings!

The MS Chronicles: Cognitive Issues and Multiple Sclerosis

When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years ago, my worst fear was not being able to walk.  I imagined a life of mobility issues, walking canes, and wheelchairs.

The starting line for my first ever Walk MS event

I never expected having to avoid hot summer day or ration my energy to make it through a day. To the pre-diagnosis me, multiple sclerosis was completely a gross motor issue.  Over the years I’ve learned that’s far from real life with this disease.   I’ve learned that if you talk to five people with MS, they’ll have five completely different stories and sets of symptoms. Thankfully, my MS is mild at this point and the chances are high that I’ll continue to live a full and reasonably active life,  for which I’m immensely grateful for.  Even in the past ten years, treatments for MS have become much better and I’m optimistic that will continue.

The symptoms of MS I didn’t expect to deal with were the cognitive impairments that come along with it.   On a daily basis I battle symptoms like forgetfulness, difficulty finding my words when speaking, and my processing speed. I’m a natural planner with very strong Type A personality tendencies.  Those personality traits have been useful as I navigate the cognitive issues that have come along with my disease. 

The good news is that over the years I’ve also developed a couple of strategies that allow me to function both at work and at home without too many issues.

Strategy 1:  WRITE it DOWN!  

There is no way I could live without writing things down.  I need reminders for even the most automated tasks.  (Yet another reason for me to use my bullet journal!)  I write to-do lists for home and work along with making digital and written reminders for phone calls I need to make, emails I need to send, or even questions I need to ask my husband when he gets home.

Crossing the finish line at my first Walk MS with my daughter and husband- a moment I won’t ever forget!

Strategy 2: Give yourself wait time

As a teacher, “wait time” is an important task when we ask a student a question.  Basically, it’s the idea that we don’t demand a response from a student immediately but give them time to process.

It’s also something I have to give myself, especially when someone asks ME a question.  For example, let’s say my husband asks me what time we need to leave to get to a certain event or a student asks me a question about a reading passage.  While that sounds like a simple question to answer (and I probably know the answer), many times my brain simply will not have the words to answer immediately.  It seems like forever but if I simply stop, look at him in the face (or even close my eyes for a second) and process what he’s asking me I can formulate a accurate answer.  Many times those cognitive issues become worse when I get overwhelmed or overstimulated so whatever I can do to calm myself and not get frustrated is always helpful.

Strategy 3:  Give grace (to yourself and those around you)

My forgetfulness is frustrating to me.  It’s also frustrating to those around me.  Give yourself grace when you might use the wrong words and embarrass yourself.  Give grace to those who may get annoyed with you when you do forget something or can’t remember their name. It’s going to happen.  But tomorrow will be a new day.  And new days should always be celebrated!

My Favorite Things- January 2018

January has been a crazy month in our house!  Between sickness and weather school closures/delays, we haven’t had two weeks that were “normal”.  Even in the middle of all the crazy, there have definitely been some things that have kept us happy and sane.  Here’s some current products/apps/random things that I’m loving right now and that are keeping the Ravenscrafts going!

None of these are sponsored (they’re all things I use and love on a weekly basis), but there are some affiliate links below that I may earn a small commission from.

Chick Fil A One App:   

I have a CFA problem. It’s a real addiction.  In fact, I got in my car the other day and this is where Google Maps was predicting I was going.  Note:  I was NOT going there.  Promise.

I’ve loved Chick Fil A for years but right now their app is what’s keeping me coming back so frequently.  I’m earning free treats for ordering and paying from the app AND it reminds me to use my calendar rewards.  And they’re thoughtful, polite, and they bring my food to my table while my kids play.  Win.Win.Win.

Aluminum baking sheets:  A few months ago, I replaced all my cookie sheets with these baking sheets.  I can do everything from roast chicken to bake cookies on these bad boys.

Side story- my mom makes some incredible sausage balls that I frequently will ask her to make for me to take to different occasions where I need an appetizer.  She loved my baking sheets so much that’d she’d make the sausage balls, freeze them, and then come to my house to cook them.  

The pans themselves are great but I also have one of these cooking mats for each pan.  It helps with cleanup and is perfect for baking cookies.

Weighted Blanket:

I got a weighted blanket for Christmas and it has been just as great as I hoped for!  I have some fairly significant nerve pain in my arms and legs and the weighted blanket has helped out so much!  As a special ed teacher, this is something I’ve used many times with children with autism but I’d recently also been reading about the benefits for those with multiple sclerosis.  It’s something I’d also recommend for those with restless legs or anxiety.  While they’re certainly not inexpensive, they’re so worth it!

Pork Tenderloin: My in-laws made A LOT of canned pork tenderloin for Christmas gifts and Bobby and I received not only some canned tenderloin but several bags of sliced frozen pork tenderloin.  Breaded tenderloin sandwiches are one of Bobby’s favorite foods and are much more common at mid-western restaurants.  We breaded and fried our first package of tenderloin from the freezer and it was great!  We’re excited to try out different cooking methods with the remaining tenderloin as we keep going on our freezer and pantry challenge!

Boogie Boards:

I mentioned these boogie boards the other week but I really can’t say enough great things about them.  We were out at a restaurant and my girls were drawing on them and even the waitress couldn’t get over how great they were! (And the girls were thrilled to show her how they worked!) 🙂

They’re not a tablet but a LCD screen e-writer with a stylus that erases with the touch of a button.  I also bought my girls a neoprene sleeve and an extra stylus, and I’m happy that I did.  While I originally bought them for our Christmas road trip, the boards have stayed in my purse and are being used on a daily basis.

That’s all my favorite things for today-what do you use and love right now?

Morning Routines for Working Moms (and that’s all of us)

I hate mornings.  I am not exaggerating- I absolutely despise the early hours of the day.  I’d like to say that my MS is the root cause of that but truth is that I’ve been this way my whole life.  Ask my mom.

I read all these blogs online that tell me that the only way to have a stress free morning with kids is to get up before them and be ready for your day earlier so you can focus on them.  Well, I think that’s just ridiculous.  And for some of us it’s just not feasible or wise.  And while most of what I’m about to say is specifically targeted to working moms, I think there are nuggets of truth in it for any mom.  Because when it gets down to it, we’re all working moms.

So here’s what I really think.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO GET UP INSANELY EARLY TO BE A GOOD MOM.

There. I said it.

I don’t get up more than 15 minutes before my kids.  At 5 and 7, they’re independent enough with clear enough routines that I don’t feel like it’s necessary at this season in our lives.  Of course, when they were younger I had no other option but getting up earlier.  As they got older, I kept trying to force myself to become a super early riser, and it took my husband’s reminder to give myself grace and use my time in the best way for me.  Not just doing what I think I SHOULD be doing as a mom. The key is the routine, not the wake up time.

NOTE:  If getting up early is your thing, then please do your thing.  I wish I was an early morning person.  Unfortunately, I’m a more middle of the afternoon person. 🙂 This routine works for us in part because my husband is able to do school drop off most days and I work less than 1/2 mile from my job.  I have pockets of time at other times during my day instead of just in the morning.

So why do routines matter for a working mom?  Because the less decisions you have to make, the more mental effort you can use to be present with your kids.  Time at home with your kids is a precious commodity for all moms, but especially those of us who work outside of the home.  In my experience, the key for a less stressful morning is to have a plan for what to eat and what to wear.

What to Eat

One thing you need to understand about our family is that we eat a variety of types of foods.  We don’t have any dietary restrictions and we eat a mixture of processed and from scratch foods.  If I focused on making everything from scratch I’d either blow my food budget, eat out all the time, or just go crazy.  Or maybe all three.  Again, I give major props to you moms who get up early AND make all your food from scratch.

I’d also like to be that mom that makes a hot breakfast every morning.  But I’m not.  My solution for that is to provide a variety of  premade breakfast options that can be prepared quickly and will stick with my kids and husband until lunch.  Enter the freezer.  I usually make and freeze things like breakfast casserole muffins, waffles/pancakes, breakfast burrito pouches, and sausage muffins.  Other non freezer options may include oatmeal, cereal, or toast and fruit.  When I wake my girls up, they pick what they’d like for breakfast or I may give them a choice of two depending on what’s in the freezer and pantry.  They get dressed while I make their breakfast.  Multiple premade breakfast options=less decisions for me to make in the morning.  Which is good for all parties involved.

What to Wear

I like to prepare as much as I can for the week on the Saturday and Sunday before.  Even if nothing else gets completed,  my kids will at least pick out their clothes  and I’ll have at least a bare bones meal plan.  For the entire week.  

I used to care if their clothes matched perfectly.  Now?  Not so much.

Are you clothed?

Yes?

Great.  #theend

No, I don’t allow my kids to wear a Darth Vader mask to school. But they’re totally wearing their Alabama gear.

As long as they start on Monday morning with 5 outfit options in their closet, I’m happy.   As long as it’s weather appropriate and it fits, I’m good to go.  Again, the key is not having to make a decision.  They have five different options to pick from so there’s no decision making on my part.

Why routine makes a difference

My children couldn’t be more different in their morning habits.  One is a morning person who operates at normal speeds when completing tasks and the other moves at turtle speed. All.the.time.

How she rolls.

There was a time where I actually took milk in a spill proof cup and handed it to my youngest daughter before I even got her out of bed.  Order matters to her.  The term “hangry”?  That’s ALL her.  She needs food before she can do much of anything.  Fortunately,  she’s much better at that but just simply having a routine wasn’t enough for her.  That routine needs to be in the right order.  That meant that for awhile breakfast was before getting dressed.  Now she’s able to get dressed and then come out for breakfast.  They eat and we talk while I pack lunches or empty the dishwasher. While we don’t have a sit down breakfast of bacon and eggs everyday, we do spend time together each morning in the way that works best for us- and that’s what matters. You may also need change up the routine- seasons change and we need to be willing to change with it.

Moms, don’t feel guilty for doing what works for you and your people.  Are they fed? Clothed? Loved? Are we being the best stewards of the time we have with our kids?  If yes, then way to go.

What are YOUR morning routines- I’d love to hear what works for you!

January Freezer Inventory

Last Valentine’s Day, my husband and I gifted each other with a new deep freezer.  Okay, let’s be truthful.  I got a new deep freezer for Valentine’s Day/our 9th anniversary.  For about 8 years, we had a small chest freezer that could hold a few things but was hard to organize and locate food in a hurry.

So after waiting on them to go on sale for what seemed like FOREVER, we bought a BEAUTIFUL frost freeze upright freezer.  Seriously, I cannot accurately explain to you the level of excitement I had over getting this new freezer.  #adultingisweird

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I absolutely adore meal planning, freezer cooking, and planning ahead.  During football season, I am usually much more organized with my pantry and freezer stash along with having a meal plan.  My husband’s work hours are much more intense and our lives just work better if food isn’t at the top of my “things to worry about” list.  As a working mom with a spouse who works long hours, the fewer decisions I have to make at 5:00 pm, the better.

*Disclosure:  Some of the links below are affiliate links, mean, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase* 

During the off season, especially during the holidays, I usually fall off the meal prep bandwagon. Around this time every year, I have to do an inventory of what I’ve got and eat from the freezer/pantry prior to a big January shopping trip.  During the fall and early winter, I typically do a freezer inventory sheet for each month (or every several months).  With my previous planners, I used the blank pages at the end but it’s become even easier with my bullet journal.

And that’s where I find myself currently.  I have no clue what’s in my freezer and what’s for dinner next week.  It’s been months since I did a big clean out of my freezer and meal planned around what we had on hand.  It’s also been several months since I made an effort to stock my freezer with meals and precooked ingredients.

So, I ventured out into my freezing cold garage this morning and assessed this mess…

Here were a few questions I immediately asked myself when I looked inside the freezer:

1. Why in the world did I buy a Stouffer’s lasagna that big?

2. FOUR bags of hashbrowns?  Really?

Update on #2:  After reading this post, my husband informed me that the reason we have 4 bags of hashbrowns is because two were bought accidentally and have peppers and onions in them and I won’t let him throw them away even though none of us like that kind.  All of which is true. Whoops…

3. The popsicles in the door are left over from summer and literally the only ones left are the flavors no one likes.  And yet I keep them thinking my children’s taste will suddenly change.

4.  Three gallons of sliced frozen apples.  I really need to come up with a plan for that…

Anyway…I digress….back to my freezer inventory…

You might think that taking a written inventory of your freezer is ridiculous.  And it may be ridiculous in your current season of life with the routines you have in place.  Personally, I like knowing what I have in the freezer so I don’t waste food or resort to eating out when I have a perfectly good casserole hiding out in the back of my deep freeze two days before payday. 🙂  Also, my garage is cold and I don’t want to make more trips to the freezer than necessary.

There are also times where I’m using the freezer almost exclusively (i.e:  FOOTBALL SEASON!) and there’s no need to keep an inventory because I’m using it enough to keep track.  (And the garage is warmer then!)

Today my task is to inventory my deep freezer see how many meals I can plan out of what I’ve got.  Here’s what I started with:

This page is just the next empty page in my bullet journal so it’s right in the thick of my January weekly spreads and other notes and lists from this month.  I divide up my inventory around the type of food because it makes it easier to add later on.  I may do another inventory in a couple of weeks or maybe a few months.  Whatever works!

I simply write the item and draw an empty circle next to the food.  Two circles next to “mozzarella cheese” lets me know I have two bags of mozzarella cheese.  As I use them, I put an “x” in the circle.

There are some freezer foods that I don’t include on my inventory page.  Breakfast items and school lunch foods I keep in the small freezer above my refrigerator and access on a daily basis. I really only keep track of long term foods that I may not need to use as frequently

I also did a quick pantry clean out last night to make sure I was using up any food before it expired. When both were finished, I created a list of any meals that I could make completely out of what I have on hand. Then I went on to make a second list of meals I could make but may need to buy 1-2 ingredients.

The whole process took about 20-30 minutes this morning but saved me tons of stress and money over the next few weeks. Our meals for at least the next week will consist of what can come completely from our pantry and freezer stash.  (Note:  after making this meal list on the right, I actually went back and was able to add at least 4-5 new meals)

This time of year I keep very few full meals and frozen casseroles. During the winter and spring, uncooked meats and precooked ingredients such as browned ground beef and cooked shredded chicken are more useful.

I don’t know about any of you, but I am past exhausted when I get home in the afternoons.  Along with all the other things that have to get done in the evenings, it’s so nice to not have to worry about dinner.  I don’t mind cooking- I just want it to be done as simply as possible!

What are your favorite freezer recipes?  Or suggestions with what to do with 4 bags of hashbrowns and three gallons of apples?

A new year….but no new planner?

Y’all….I love planners.  All kinds.  I love the feeling of the empty pages and the new gel pens I always get to go along with them.  I’ve tried all the kinds.  The ones from Walmart that cost a couple of bucks?  Tried ’em and hated ’em.  The personalized ones you order online?  Those were always my fave.  Notice I said were.  Because I have discovered…

…THE BULLET JOURNAL.

Now don’t get me wrong- the last few planners I’d customized online were great.  But there always seemed to be some element of it that just didn’t fit with my life. On top of that, there always seemed to be something missing.  I teach special education so I do LOTS and LOTS of paperwork.  I’m also driven by to do lists both at school and at home.  So when I discovered the bullet journal, it sort of changed my life.  No more am I limited to pre-printed pages telling me what’s important and what I need to prioritize.  Instead these beautiful empty dotted pages allow me to create a planner and organizer for what I need at that particular moment in time.

It’s a planner.  But with SOUL.

I’m currently about 3 months into my first bullet journal but so far have no regrets.  I’ve found so many weekly layout ideas on Pinterest and am tweaking it to be exactly what I need.  Currently, this is the layout I’ve found to be most useful.  I also include a simply monthly layout and a future log in the front. (And it helps my teacher brain keep track of A days and B days which is also super helpful!)

*Disclosure:  Some of the links below are affiliate links, mean, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase*

I use this bullet journal from Amazon.  So far it’s been great and I have no plans to change it anytime soon.  But with any organizational tool, I’ll use this until it stops working for this season in my life.

As I’ve mentioned before, my multiple sclerosis causes difficulty in most areas of my life.  As a result of my MS, my cognitive skills aren’t always on their A-game.  My bullet journal helps me remember, organize, and be as productive as I can be.  It’s not a pretty bullet journal like so many I see online.  There’s no fancy washi tape or handlettering.  I decided I was going to do what worked for me and not worry about anything beyond that.

Each day, I write a to-do list for both school and home as well as my overall goals for the week and a list of 5-7 meals that I can make that week.  I don’t worry about making mistakes or scratching things out when they don’t work.  As with most things, do what works for you!

Here’s a few of my bullet journal supplies that are working for me right now-

  1.  I use this journal and this pen holder.
  2. These are my FAVORITE pens.  While I might not care about fancy designs or decorations, I’m a bit of a pen snob.

 

Any other bullet journal users out there?  What are you favorite planners?

 

 

The MS Chronicles: Living Well with a Chronic Illness

I’m writing this as I sit in the waiting room at my neurologist’s office. It’s a familiar place even though it’s far from the first neurologist I’ve seen. Sitting around me are the usual suspects- the elderly stroke victim being cared for by her adult child, the Parkinson’s patient, or the new patient with chronic pain or migraines who is in obvious misery while filling out mountains of paperwork.

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years ago. It was a long and drawn out process of MRIs and so.many.doctors. It’s a story I may write someday but I feel that so many things have changed from those first weeks and years of battling this invisible illness that in many ways it’s hardly the same disease.

As someone who thrives on predictable routines and structure, multiple sclerosis has been quite the curve ball. In other ways, my type A personality has been a huge benefit in my battle against MS. The longer I travel down this road of chronic illness, the more I realize there are some strategies that you can use to maintain your sanity and keep your life together even when you health is struggling.

1. Ask and accept help

I have control issues.  There.  I said it.  Serious control issues.

It’s not that I mind if someone helps me with my laundry or loads the dishwasher for me.  I’m fine with it as long as they do it the right way.  (Which is course is my way).  Obviously, I realize this is a problem for me and it’s one that still requires that I make very conscious efforts to ask for help.  Life was not meant to be lived alone.  We’re created to live and do life together in a community.  So whether it’s a spouse, your church small group, or your extended family, ask and accept their help graciously.  99% of the time when someone offers help, they’re being genuine and are more than willing to provide what you need.

2. Determine your bare minimum.

I have this bad habit of jumping in over my head when it comes to household tasks.  Of thinking that I absolutely HAVE to do ALL THE THINGS right at that very minute.  The result of that is always the same for me- fatigue, pain, and all those other fun things that MS throws at me when I over do it.

The solution to this for me has been to determine my “bare minimum”- or identifying the least amount of a certain task that needs to be completed.  For example, we just got back from vacation and my laundry piles are insane.  I’m usually a weekend laundry person but this week I’m doing the bare minimum amount of laundry each day to get through.  Trying to tackle all this laundry at one time and start back teaching after break would have been a recipe for disaster.  So far, no one has had to go without clothes and I’ll get them all washed eventually.  Next week I’ll be back to my regular routine but for right now I’m choosing the bare minimum with my laundry.

3. Use routines and schedules to keep things together- even when you’re not.

My girls are 5 and 7 and I’m always amazed at what they’re actually capable of doing.  I wholeheartedly believe that routines and schedules are good for kids anyway but they’re also a huge weight off my shoulder when it comes to the physical demands of running our home.  Routines for getting ready in the morning, cleaning up after mealtime, etc are integral to my sanity and allowing things to keep chugging along even when I don’t feel like it.  And for heaven’t sake, USE YOUR FREEZER!  Even my 7 year old could read the freezer instructions on a casserole if I needed her to.

Don’t get me wrong- these are all parts of my life that are a constant struggle for me.  No one I know would describe me as laid back and easy going.  But sometimes, just sometimes, my Type A personality comes through for me.  And whether you battle multiple sclerosis or just the day to day fatigue of parenting, hopefully these strategies are helpful.

Comment below with your ideas and strategies for keeping it together during tough times!