5 Strategies to Prepare for the Week Ahead

The last few months I’ve felt like I’d fallen off the wagon.  You know, the being prepared, having a meal plan, not flying by the seat of my pants bandwagon.  As someone who thrives on routine and deal with some pretty significant cognitive issues on occasion, this is not a good place for me to be.  On top of that, I’m a working mom who desperately needs my weekends to be productive.

Since the start of the year, we’ve battled multiple rounds of sickness and a busy schedule along with a fair dose of laziness on my part.  This had ended me up in a place where I was exhausted (more than usual), my house was a disaster, and we just weren’t eating well.  I had also ended up spending above the norm for the girls to buy school lunches simply because I wasn’t prepared to send one from home.

This past weekend I reached my limit.  My husband took our girls to their sports practice and I stayed at the house waiting on our Internet/TV guy to come and install some new devices.  This gave me HOURS of time to tackle mountains of laundry, declutter, and clean some parts of our house I just hadn’t made time for lately.

Once my house was somewhat clean and picked up, I spent some time prepping for the upcoming week.  Even though I didn’t end the day yesterday with a perfectly clean house or completely empty laundry baskets, it was amazing how great it felt to go to sleep last night ready for my Monday.

There are only a few major areas of our home/schedule that I have to make sure to deal with on the weekend in order to be more prepared for my week.  Some weekends, I bust into Monday with them all done and I feel pretty good about myself.  Sometimes this does not happen because I choose to spend all day Saturday resting, doing something fun with my family, etc.  And that’s okay.

What I have learned, however, is that the more of these that I can get done on the weekend, the smoother my week will go and the less stressed I am about my home.

*This post contains affiliate links*

#1.  Meal Plan/Grocery Shop

I rarely start out a work week without at least some idea of what we’re eating for dinner that week.  On a good week, I’ve got a plan for both breakfast and dinner but my bare minimum is to at least have a list of meals that I can pull from throughout the week.  I write these in their designated spot in my planner and cross them out as we eat them.  I grocery shop once every two weeks so I will usually grocery shop and/or write my grocery list if I’ll be doing that at some point during the week.  For instance, I know that I’ll be getting groceries later on this week so I’ve already made my online grocery order for my Walmart grocery pickup.  Which, by the way, is the best thing EVER!  I literally cannot tell you how much I love making an online order, paying online, and just driving up to my local Walmart and having them load my car.  For FREE, y’all!

#2. Laundry/Lay out a WEEK’s worth of clothes

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fairly particular about how I do laundry.  I generally start laundry on Thursday in an effort to be completely caught up by the time Monday rolls around.  Sometimes I’m more successful at this than others.  For instance, this past weekend I got about 80% of our clothes washed and put away.  I’ve still got a few loads to catch up on and a decent amount of clothes to hang up this afternoon when I get home.  The important this is that it’s a manageable amount.  I also always make sure my kid’s clothes are near the front of my plan of attack for my weekend laundry.  The reason is simple- I want all their clothes clean and put away so they can lay out their clothes for the week.

You’ll notice this isn’t all neat and tidy. Please also note that I totally don’t care that it isn’t. They’re taking responsibility for getting ready and having some control in the process. That’s a win in my book!

We have organizers similar to these in their closet and at some point in the weekend, they pick out five outfits for the week.  I give limited amount of direction on this and as long as it’s weather appropriate and that they don’t look completely ridiculous, I don’t really care what they wear.

Note: Exceptions for picture day.  Well, at least fall picture day.  I’m lucky if I remember when spring picture day is…

#3. Create a master to-do list for the week

On the left side of my planner, I create a master to do list for the week.  This may include household tasks that need to get done at some point, phone calls to make, or things I simply need to remember.  As I go throughout the week, I’ll move these things to an individual day’s task list.  These are things that need to get done at some point during the week but aren’t date-specific.

#4. Fill up the lunch cart

Ah, the IKEA Raskog cart.  It has changed my life forever.  We have three of these in our house and if we had ten more, I’m certain we’d use every.single.one.

I had fallen off my lunch cart system for awhile but am so glad it’s back.  My kids can choose from foods on the cart, pack their lunches, and all I need to add is a sandwich.  (If I’m feeling really industrious, I can make and freeze their sandwiches.  This has not happened in quite some time however…)

#5. Clean out the fridge

Most weekends, a simple fridge clean out and wipe down are enough to make room for prepared lunch foods, meat that may need to thaw for your meal plan, or simply just to let you know if you have any viable leftovers for your Monday lunch at work.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I tend to remember to do this on Sunday afternoon when he’s already cleaned out the trash for the weekend….whoops….

My favorite storage containers– clear and leak-proof!

As you can tell, it doesn’t really take much to get yourself prepared over the weekend for the upcoming work week.  Yes, I also try to clean my house, spend quality time with the family, and do any needed school work over the weekend.  However, I know that if I can do at least a few of these things between Friday afternoon and Sunday night, my week will be much less stressful and we’ll all be happier!

Freezer Food: The Beauty of Pre-Cooked Ingredients

My overall goal when it comes to cooking, cleaning, or organizing is to work smarter but not harder.  As a working mom, there aren’t enough hours in my day to spend loads of time preparing dinner, packing lunches, or making the hundreds of tiny decisions that every mom (working outside or inside the home) makes every day.

My deep freezer is one of my all time favorite purchases that we’ve made since we got married ten years ago and it’s essential for me to work smarter in the kitchen.  During the summer, I spend countless hours filling it with premade casseroles, baked pastas, and other quick meals so we can survive high school football season.  I also use time in the summer and throughout the school year to fill my freezer with pre-cooked ingredients such as cooked ground beef, shredded chicken, etc.

Why do I freeze pre-cooked ingredients instead of a full meal or raw ingredients/meat?

Because it’s faster.

Taco Cups!

If I’m making taco cups for instance like I did the other night- I simply pulled two packages of precooked, frozen meat, thawed it and mixed it with the taco seasoning.  Easy.  The time I saved not having to brown the ground beef could be used to empty the dishwasher, supervise homework, or just simply take a minute to sit in peace and quiet (if that’s really a thing).

While I certainly do still have full meals in my freezer, having the pre cooked meat also gives me flexibility in what I chose to eat.  If I have a two cup container of shredded chicken, I can use that chicken for soups, casseroles, or a number of other meals based on other ingredients that I have on hand or what I feel like eating that particular day.

So what are the best foods to cook and freeze?  Here’s a few of my favorites-

Ground Beef:  An essential in my freezer.  Buy in bulk (I rarely buy less than 2.5 lbs of ground beef at the store), brown in a skillet, drain extra grease, and then freeze in two cup freezer bags.

Shredded Chicken:  Also one of my favorites.  Sometimes I may cook a whole chicken and pull the meat off or I may just boil chicken breasts or thighs and shred.  I also freeze these in two cup containers.

Along with shredded chicken, I’ll also cook up a bunch of seasoned chicken tenders to use for quesadillas or enchiladas.

Pulled Pork:  Buy one (or more) large pork roasts, cook and shred.  I store these in large freezer bags without sauce.  When I get ready to eat it, I’ll thaw and then warm the thawed meat in the slow cooker with my favorite sauce.

Ground Sausage: I usually cook and drain ground sausage to use in casseroles or on homemade pizza.  Depending on what I’m using it for, I’ll usually store them in one cup containers.

Obviously, the greatest benefit is that you can prepare a meal faster but I’ve also discovered that pre cooked meat thaws much quicker than raw meat that I’ve stored in the freezer.  It also makes clean up much easier because I’ve done the browning and draining of the meat already.

Vegetables such as celery, peppers, and onions can also be chopped and frozen.  Be aware that the freezer does change their taste and consistency slightly so I usually only use those in soups or casseroles where I don’t notice it as much.

What are YOUR favorite kitchen hacks?

Favorite Things: February 2018

I don’t know about where you are, but February has flown by in our house!  Between work, school, a family wedding, and SO.MANY.SICK.DAYS we’ve been going non stop since the month started! Here are a few things I’ve loved this month!

*Note:  Amazon affiliate links below.*

Meal Prep/Bento Box Lunch Containers

I bought these initially to cut down on the number of sandwich bags I was sending in my kids’ lunches and to “encourage” me to pack their lunches completely the night before.  I don’t know about you, but I always seem to pack a lunch faster if it’s all in one container instead of 6 different baggies and food containers. It’s probably all psychological manipulation but whatever works, right?  It was working well until my 5 year old decided she didn’t like her sandwich touching ANYTHING else in her lunchbox.

Well, there goes that idea.

Initially, I had thought that I had wasted my money but then I started using it to meal prep for our adult lunches and freeze individual meals.

Now?  They can keep their sandwich bags!  These things are mine! 🙂

They’re easy to open, freeze like a charm and are a great size for the lunch bag I bring to work each day. So far, I haven’t noticed any staining from food and they’re doing great in the dishwasher.  I got the pack of 12 so I had plenty to prep ahead of time.

Fiesta Dishes:

Ten years ago when we got married, we registered for dark green Fiesta dishes from Belk.  Because if you’re from the south, you know that you HAVE to register at Belk or your grandma will either hurt you in person or turn over in her grave.  So, dark green dishes.  Not sure what I was thinking but right after the wedding we exchanged all those dark green dishes for sets of Fiesta dishes in scarlet.

We’ve used them pretty much every single day since then with zero regrets.  I love the red but we have other serving dishes, bowls, and plates in several of their other colors. They’re heavy and big enough for our purposes, they’re my favorite color, and they integrate well with my holiday dishes and my grandmother’s china I use for special occasions.

Love my Fiesta canisters too!

Last week, on a trip to the mountains, we stopped several places with discounted and discontinued Fiesta colors and I was stoked to realize the value these dishes still have.  We will definitely NOT be swapping out our dishes anytime soon!

Paper Mate Flair Pens (But only in Black!)

I love any kind of paper mate flair pen. They’re hands down without a doubt my favorite.  I love using them for both my bullet journal and my new planner but I didn’t always want to use tons of different colors.  Don’t get me wrong- I love using different colors if I’m color coding something.  However, if I’m writing in my planner, I want all the colors the same.  And by the same I mean black.  Yes, I’m weird.  This is no shock to me.

The colored pens always seen to be swiped by little girls who have very important things to write!

Anyway, I loved it when I found this pack of all black Paper Mate Flaire medium tip pens on Amazon last week!

Mrs. Grass soup mix

During the winter, our family eats soup at least 1-2 a week.  Depending on the weather and our schedule, sometimes it’s more.  We used to be able to find these Mrs. Grass brand beef vegetable soup starters in our local grocery store but now I’ve only been able to find them online.  Back in the late fall, we bought this 8 pack of soup mix and enjoyed them throughout the winter!  Add some stew meat with water and the mix to the slow cooker and dinner is served!  Even our girls will eat this soup and that’s saying something!

That’s all for me this month!  What are some of YOUR favorite products right now?

Why I Broke Up with my Bullet Journal

In early January, I wrote about how  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!

Food Storage Container Organization

A few months ago, my eight year old (who is possibly more Type A than I am), informed me that my storage container drawers were too messy and that I “really should do something about it”.

Ouch.

Turns out she was completely right- it was a total disaster.  You’ll notice there are no before pictures here.  It was that bad.  I didn’t want to take a before picture.  I just wanted it fixed.

Whether you’re on “Team Rubbermaid”, “Tupperware is King”,  or “Team Glass-is-the-only-way-to-live”, food storage containers seem to always get out of control and disorganized quickly.

My favorite part of my kitchen are the drawers that are in each cabinet.  Most of our cabinets are average size, but I use these two large ones for all my food storage containers.

The top holds small glass and plastic food storage containers and the bottom holds the larger bowls and plastic containers. I’m not a purist when it comes to material- I have a mixture of plastic and glass in various sizes.

So how do we keep our food storage containers organized?  Here are a few ideas:

Store with the lids on.

Left to Right: Glass containers, Bento boxes, small plastic containers, Tupperware, and tiny Rubbermaid containers

I know this may seen ridiculous but I’ve found it much easier to keep mine organized if I store them with their matching lids ON.

Yes, it technically takes up more space.  However, I’m not spending useless minutes search for that one lid that will fit my container of leftovers. The only things I don’t store with the lid on are my bento box lunch containers because I have so many of them that I use on a daily basis.

Which brings me to my next tip….

GET RID OF THE CONTAINERS YOU DON’T USE.

I’m about to shock some of you with this but you don’t have to keep something just because it came as part of a set.  I promise, it’ll be okay.  I bought a set of vintage Tupperware from an estate sale once and figured out very quickly that I was only going to use 5 of the bowls on a regular basis.  So I got rid of the rest and have been using those five bowls ever since.  Don’t keep it if you don’t use it.  (Now if I could apply that same logic to my closet…)

I’ve found a few different types of containers that work for us for leftovers, lunches, and meal prep- here’s a few of our favorites (contains affiliate links)

  • Glass Lock Food Storage Containers:  Our set is similar to this one but we only have square and rectangle ones.  I use these for everything from leftovers to grownup work lunches.
  • Bento Lunch Box Containers:  I use these for individual freezer portions and school lunches.  They’re great to pack right after dinner for lunches the next day.
  • Round Tupperware:  I use these for soups and stew leftovers.  They’re also great in the freezer.  I bought them from an estate sale but here are some similar ones.
  • Small plastic Containers:  These were originally in the pile for the thrift store but we rescued them when we realized we needed containers for mayo, taco sauce, BBQ sauce, etc.
  • Various larger plastic containers:  In our bottom drawer, we have large mixing bowls, large rectangle containers for big leftovers, and our beloved vintage Tupperware pickle container.

Seriously, you could steal just about anything from my house but leave the Velvetta container and the pickle container alone! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?