Foam machine, WHAT?!

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Ok gang, the summer has arrived in south Louisiana and this year, we have something pretty dang amazing to do outside! I am so excited about this new outside toy I can hardly contain it. We bought a FOAM MACHINE!

Every year we put up an Intex pool and we love it. Last year our pool was in pretty bad shape at the end of the season so we tossed it with the intention of replacing it this year, however when it was time to buy one the prices had skyrocketed out of my budget. I was actually pretty sad about this because we play in our pool all summer long and it gets extremely hot outside so having a pool means the kids play outside without arguing. Not having a pool meant the summer was going to be missing our preferred fun activity.

That pouting fest quickly shifted to elation when we stumbled upon this little guy the other day. I knew it was worth a shot at only $180 so I purchased it and hoped for the best. Check it out here.

The entire kit comes in a brightly colored bin for easy storage and its very easy to put together. I didn’t realize it comes with one bottle of foam solution in the kit so I added two more to my cart just in case. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized I had so much extra to last a few extra times.

I put down a tarp for extra slippery sliding and put the whole thing together in about 15 minutes total. We turned it on and held our breath expecting it to almost certainly fall short of our expectations. I should note at this point that I did not read one review before I purchased. That is TOTALLY out of character.

We heard the foam machine start up and within seconds foam was flowing out in giant ribbons of bubbles and it was glorious! We could not believe how much it was producing. My kids were in heaven! When we noticed the machine was no longer making bubbles we shut it off and they played for hours.

The bubble mountain produced from one bottle of solution was taller than me at 5’6″ and took up two tarps. It really was amazing. They ran and slid and “swam” for a couple hours while I sprayed everyone with the hose.

I think going forward we will cut the foam concentrate a bit and make it spread over more play times. It made way more than we needed for the afternoon of fun but for a larger party one bottle would be perfect.

The bubbles floated up in clouds and then after a few hours they were all gone and the yard dried up easily. I let the machine sit in the sun to dry before packing it up and putting it away in the bin.

We can’t wait for more summer fun with the foam machine. This was a total win!

Foam machine in action seconds after turning it on.

My first poke cake – BANANA!

I just made my first poke cake and I have to say I was pretty surprised with how good it actually was! I always thought this fad was overrated but based on my first experience, I will be trying more poke cakes. I made the Pampered Chef Banana Poke Cake. You should definitely give this one a try!

I was looking for some new recipes for dinner to mix into our menu this week in hopes of pulling me out of the cooking rut I’ve been in. Yes, even Pampered Chef’s get into cooking ruts. Luckily though, I have TONS of Pampered Chef cookbooks that have worked time and time again in these moments.

This time however, while I was supposed to be looking for entrées, I stumbled upon this poke cake recipe and decided to give it a shot. I had a couple of bananas that needed to get eaten so it kind of worked out.

I didn’t realize exactly how easy this dessert was going to be until I actually started cooking it and found out the baking method was to microwave it. Yay! Easy and weird! I love a quick AND delicious treat.

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I make a commission but it is not an added cost to you and it supports my family, so THANK YOU!

There are a couple of Pampered Chef tools the recipe calls for because its their recipe but if you don’t have them you could just as easily prepare this using what you have in your kitchen. The RockCrok collection works in the microwave so I followed the recipe as written but it would have been just as delicious to cook this in a cake pan in the oven.

As I mentioned before, this poke cake is banana and I honestly didn’t know what to expect but I think I was expecting something similar to a banana bread. I was surprised when I tried it and found it really is a cake and a delectable one at that.

The other two tools that were handy but not required to make the recipe are the Manual Food Processor and the Whip Cream Maker. Both are extremely versatile and well used in my kitchen. They aren’t “unitaskers” as my husband likes to refer to some of my gadgets that really only do one thing and then just take up space. He even uses the Manual Food Processor almost weekly to make his pico or guacamole. And we never buy ready made whip cream anymore. We’ve seen how good we can make it on our own in under a minute so we skip the aerosol, preservative laden spray kind and make it fresh. Yum!

I was really unsure how this would taste because the recipe calls for cream cheese and that seemed like an odd combination with banana but it really complimented the overall taste of the cake. My recommendation is to make this cake and then chill it for a while before serving. I really enjoyed it cold.

Here is the recipe so please give it a try and let me know what you think! It was moist, slightly sweet, and so easy to put together!

Pampered Chef – BANANA POKE CAKE

INGREDIENTS

  • 24   vanilla wafers
  • 3   bananas, peeled
  • 1 pkg (16.25 oz. or 461 g) white cake mix
  • 1¼ cups (310 mL) milk
  • ⅓ cup (75 mL) vegetable oil
  • 3   eggs
  • 8 oz. (25 g) reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) caramel topping
  • 1 cup (250 mL) heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add 16 of the wafers to the Manual Food Processor and process until finely chopped; remove and set aside. Process 2 of the bananas until they’re smooth. Combine the cake mix, milk, oil, eggs, and banana puree into the Rockcrok® Dutch Oven.
  2. Microwave, covered, on HIGH for 10–12 minutes, or until a Cake Tester & Releaser inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the lid and cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, process half a banana until it’s pureed. Add the cream cheese and process until smooth. Add the caramel and continue to process until well combined.
  4. Poke about 20 holes into the cake with the handle of the Teak Wooden Spoon. Pour the mixture evenly over the top of the cake and spread into the holes.
  5. Add the cream, sugar, and vanilla to the Whipped Cream Maker. Pump the handle until the whipped cream reaches the desired consistency. Reserve ½ cup (125 mL) of the whipped cream and set aside. Add the remaining whipped cream to the top of the cake and spread it to the edges, then sprinkle with the crumbled wafers.
  6. Slice the remaining banana with the Quick Slice. Use the remaining whipped cream to make 8 dollops around the top of the cake. Top the dollops with the remaining banana slices and wafers, and drizzle with caramel.

Yield:

  • 16  servings

Nutrients per serving:

U.S. nutrients per serving: Calories 240, Total Fat 16 g, Saturated Fat 7 g, Cholesterol 70 mg, Sodium 170 mg, Carbohydrate 22 g, Fiber 0 g, Sugars 17 g, Protein 4 g

Horsing around

My kids have started to take horse riding lessons at a local farm our park system manages. This is a dream of my daughter and a surprising win for my son. My daughter wants to try everything. My son is the opposite and wants to try nothing. He is scared of heights and being lifted up. Even as a toddler he would panic when someone picked him up. It has been a delight to watch my daughter fall in love with these horses and try, without fear, to do something she knows nothing about. She is shining so bright right now. And its been a true amazement to watch my son, who is afraid of everything and won’t even let us pick him up to hug him, get on these big animals and walk around by himself. WOW, what a huge moment of growth for both of them!

After our first lesson my husband and I decided we wanted to do it to. We signed up and bought boots. Of course we need boots! 🙂 At the barn there are only two horses who carry heavy people like he and I. One is currently lame, leaving only the one horse for us to take turns riding. Jeremy went first and now it’s my turn and I’m having a moment of perpetual poppycock about it that I’m going to have to write my way out of.

I’m big. I’ve always been big. Falling when you are big is a big deal. Despite the extra cushion I carry, the damage I sustain when falling tends to linger a bit longer than it should. I am terrified of falling off this animal, at this size, and sustaining a real injury. This is where my perpetual poppycock is starting to scare me out of my decision to try this.

My husband jumped right up and had no problem. If he had any fear he certainly ignored it and got on the horse like he intended to. I, on the other hand, have been battling the idea of backing out before our Tuesday lesson to avoid the potential injury and in turn, missing out on all the fun. This is so very typical of me.

I know you are probably thinking, it’s smart to be worried. And you aren’t wrong. It is smart to be worried. My problem with backing out is that it’s what I ALWAYS do. And it’s clear that example is making an impression on my kids. They both comment about how mom can’t do this or that because of how big she is. They don’t say the same things about my husband and that is a result of the example he has set for them.

The thing is, if I am going to be big, I need to be big AND live. If my kids are big one day, I don’t want them to stop living because of it. I want their life to be full of adventures and trying new things. And so I am working through some fears and plan to get on this horse on Tuesday. YIKES, it scares me to think about!

I hope old Hildi, the big black beauty, is up for this challenge. I’m about 40 pounds heavier than my husband but the instructor assures me I’m not the heaviest person to get on a horse. If I am able to do this I hope it is a good example for the kids. Get out of my way perpetual poppycock!

Making peace with mistakes

So I made a mistake. Doesn’t everyone? Or course they do. Humans learn through trial and error, amongst other ways, and that means mistakes will be made. So why is it that when I make a mistake, consciously or otherwise, the pain tends to linger long after the lesson was learned?

Mistakes are nuanced and so I don’t want to imply that when I accidentally buy my kid the wrong toothpaste I shame spiral into a pint of ice cream and punish myself for weeks on end. No, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I am referring to the type of mistake I had somehow convinced myself I was too mature to make, or that I had already done in the past and it would never, ever happen again. These mistakes seem to stick around and stir up trouble.

One example is anger in parenting. Oh, to be the peaceful parent. I had never heard of peaceful parenting until I had two toddlers and was raging at them in angry fits I can only describe as disturbing, to respond to their own angry fits. It was around then that I started to hear friends and peers buzz about a parenting method that was sure to produce balanced, calm, enlightened adults, if only you didn’t yell. Oh dear, I sighed. I am not a peaceful parent. I am the antithesis of a peaceful parent and that could mean I’m ruining my kids.

I would promise myself to do better. I had to be better for them. It was my responsibility to raise people who would be good for the world and not end up on the news for criminal activity. Each and every time I slipped up and yelled, I’d punish myself for days and weeks for failing them. I would carry the weight of the mistake with me for weeks at a time, worrying that they would remember and hate me or that my husband was disappointed in me for yelling at the kids. It was enough to push me right out of my intuitive eating and self care exercises and directly into destructive binging and self shaming.

Mistakes are not something I tend to enjoy but I’m trying to evolve the way I experience them. Maybe its age or all the reading I’ve been doing. Maybe I just don’t want to be so psycho about the way I react to mistakes anymore. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad that I’m seeing there might be another way to learn from mistakes. I don’t want to stop making them because mistakes are the secret ingredient to learning and that is what I want to embrace.

If I’m not willing to make mistakes, it is essentially saying that I’m not willing to try anything new in life and that sounds like the opposite of living to me. I don’t want to settle into life. I want to stir it up! I want to test its limits. I want to take risks. This is my only life and its a one shot, kind of deal, so bring on the mistakes!

I wanted to come up with some ways to help get me into that new way of thinking about mistakes. Winging it seemed like what I’d been doing for the last 40 years so I thought a more organized approach might help with the shift to embracing mistakes and seeking the lessons they teach rather than running from them. I put together some steps I’m going to try and think through when I feel like I’m carrying around the burden of a mistake rather than forming new muscle memory and moving on.

Below is what I came up with. I hope to use these thoughts in some way to keep my reaction from becoming my punishment.

  1. Acknowledge the mistake. Just admit whatever it is out loud, even if it’s just to myself.
  2. Gracefully allow yourself to explain the decisions that led to the mistake without judgement.
  3. Try to do some damage control and apologize to anyone involved. If I’ve done something to someone else, I want to own up to it.
  4. Forgive yourself out loud as if you are talking to someone else. Do this even if the other person does not forgive you.
  5. Do a symbolic task like writing down the mistake and then throwing away the paper. This creates closure.

My hope is that I will find peace with mistakes sooner and this will lead to better mental health. I want to learn from the mistakes but I do not want to be a slave to them.

Middle child, me

I’m a middle child. Pointing this out has become a religion over the years, but I think it holds a lot of explanation to the way I synthesize information. I use the statement, “I’m a middle child”, as a preface in conversations for the slapdash answer someone will get when asking for my opinion, on anything. “What do you think about pizza?”, says so-and-so. “Well, I love it of course! It’s delicious and probably my favorite food! But it’s not good for you. And it has gluten. So many people have trouble with gluten. Maybe I have trouble with gluten. It also costs more than it used to and there are way too many choices of where to order from. How would I pick?”, I say, spiraling into perpetual poppycock.

I don’t consider being a middle child a bad station at all. I am pleased as pickles to be surrounded by love and wouldn’t trade my place for anything. The good part of the sandwich is in between the bread, right? I am just taking some time to explore the way it has molded me into who I am.

Let’s take a minute to “unpack” my middle child excuse and how I think it plays a role in my illusive opinions. I think being a middle child has played a profound role in my chronic perpetual poppycock and inability to have only one opinion on a topic. My biggest struggle with having an opinion is I tend to see both sides of every story. I was born between two very confident siblings who preside over me with dubious influence.

I don’t always agree with both sides but I usually empathize with both. My husband calls me a chronic empath. There is truth to that monicker. It just seems like too much responsibility to pick one opinion and plant my flag in it.

My older sister is an enneagram 8. If you clicked on that link, welcome back from the rabbit hole you almost certainly just fell down. SOOOO, much information and its so interesting! If you didn’t click on that link an enneagram is a personality test that puts you into one of 9 categories based on your responses. It’s fascinating to read the definitions and self diagnose. I’ve always enjoyed doing some haphazard google searches to try and figure myself out.

My sister is the coolest. She has always been someone I looked up to, corny as that sounds. She is smart, successful, stylish, stunning…the list goes on an on! She is a total enneagram 8, like they wrote the definition for her and this has made her someone I listen to, a lot. She knows her opinion and can relay it with ease. In fact, challenging her opinion is something I learned to avoid over the years because she is convicted in hers and I’m incapable of defending one.

My younger brother is equally confident in his own mind. He is one of the most loyal people I’ve ever met. He’s had the same friends since he was a toddler. He’s passionate about organization and cleanliness, and religiously follows a routine of eating and working out to keep in shape. He also knows where he stands on most questions when asked. He can explain his answer with the same ease that my sister can. He is prone to rash decisions but also doesn’t mind changing his mind when he realizes his immediate reaction might have not really been his opinion.

These two people stand in direct contrast to me. I don’t mean to represent myself as a victim by any means. I’m only a victim of my inability to have one singular opinion. The middle child role has taught me to always look in both directions for information. There are two sides to every coin. I think the middle child upbringing, in combination with my perpetual poppycock, has magnified my inability to form opinions but that is exactly why I’m here.

My reason for this blog is try to examine the current way I live and look for ways that I can improve. Having an opinion is something I’d like to work on. It would serve me to be able to answer questions clearly instead of getting stuck in an endless loop of second guessing myself. Breaking the cycle is going to be rewarding work.

Boudin King Cake

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from one of my links, I will make a commission. Thank you in advance! This is not my recipe but is known around Louisiana. I am unsure of the origin but it was told to me by my neighbor.

It’s king cake season in south Louisiana and I’m celebrating to the fullest! Every trip to the grocery store results in a new flavor to try, although the classic cinnamon is my family’s favorite. I’m happy to say that despite this delicious treat being over 100 years old, bakers are still coming up with more amazing versions of it without end in site. Yay for yum!

One thing that is generally true about king cakes is they are of the sweet variety. Cinnamon, praline, zulu, all showcase sugar as the star. And I’m not mad about that one bit. That sweet dough swirled with cinnamon and topped with white icing glaze and green, yellow, and purple sprinkles is a-ok with me! And then I was introduced to a savory king cake and there’s no denying I’ve been ignoring a world of possibilities.

Boudin king cake first crossed my plate at work. A coworker brought one as an entry in an office king cake contest. He won almost unanimously. His was the only savory variety and we cleaned that tray off in minutes. It was a welcomed veer from traditional and I’m excited to say, he share the recipe with me that day and apparently its not the big secret I thought it was. I’ve heard from so many that they’ve been making this exact recipe for years.

Boudin king cake

This king cake can be eaten as a main course with a side salad or veggie and you’d have a delicious, hot meal. Its filling like a sandwich and made with easy ingredients allowing for a quick week night dinner. You can buy it all at the grocery store ready to assemble and cook so yay for delectable and convenient!

You can make this king cake with any kitchenware you own. Making this king cake is fast and easy but I used a few of my favorite go-to kitchen tools from Pampered Chef to show you just how fast and easy it can be when you use these time saver tools. Check it out!

To start your recipe make some bacon. I used my Pampered Chef Small Ridged Baker to make 6 pieces of bacon in the microwave in 3:30 minutes. That’s right, perfect bacon in three and a half minutes. The baker drains the grease for me making the bacon the perfect amount of crisp. This product is actually no longer available through Pampered Chef but you can get it on Amazon and Ebay.

This one stone is used almost daily in my house. I can’t tell you how much time it saves me in the mornings making the kids a hot breakfast. Its a beast and never lets me down.

Crumble or chop the bacon and set aside for after the king cake comes out of the oven. I chopped mine with these salad choppers. Side note, my salad choppers never chop salad. I use them for shredding meat but never chopping lettuce. Ha!

Now it’s time to prep the cheese. Cut a block of pepper jack cheese in planks and set it to the site. I used a 5″ Santuko knife from Pampered Chef and cut on my Flexible cutting mat. The knife is the perfect size for all your cutting and chopping and the blade is fully tonged, meaning that it starts in the handle and is one solid piece so it wont break at the handle like other knives do. These mats come in a set or 3 and available in large and small.

Next you’ll need to prepare the boudin. If you aren’t familiar with boudin its a rice sausage and is so dang delicious. I recommend a spicy boudin if that is available in your store and like a little kick but if not, the regular version is just as good.

Slice along the sausage link vertically just below the skin to remove the casing. You don’t want that to remain on. The sausage will crumble if you do much to it so try to just lightly remove the casing and leave the sausage shape in tack.

Once the casing is remove, slice the sausage link almost all the way through, butterflying it like you would a chicken breast. Place pieces of the pepper jack cheese in the sausage from end to end and press the sausage around like a sandwich so there is sausage all around the cheese.

The baking sheet or stone of your choice is the best place to prepare the dough for the next step. Moving the dough after you’ve put it in the shape is quite difficult so using placing it directly on the baking sheet works perfectly. I also use parchment paper for this recipe to make sure the king cake comes off easily once cooked.

My oven is currently broken so I’m baking my king cake in my Deluxe Air Fryer. I actually didn’t realize mine could be used as a traditional oven until I wanted to make this and realized I couldn’t because of my broken wall oven. Yay for small appliances to the rescue!

Open the crescent rolls and place the individual triangles in a circle on your baking sheet or stone you’ve covered in parchment paper. Take one triangle and place it with the short side on the baking sheet and the long sides point out towards the side of the pan. Then take the other triangles and place them in the same way slightly overlapping the points of the short side so they join. Form them in a ring as you place one on top of the other.

Press the parts of the dough together that are laying on top of each other so they attach and thin out a bit. You want it to cook evenly and not leave a soggy bottom.

Add the boudin and cheese links you prepared and but them on top of the dough ring. Then fold the long points of the dough triangle over the ring and tuck under the inside of the ring.

Now it’s time to bake. Put your ring in a 350 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes. Check it at 12 minutes to see how it’s going. If you notice the top browning too much and the bottom is still soggy, you can put foil over the top of the ring to keep it from browning more and continue cooking until the bottom is done.

Last you need to prepare the toppings. The glaze on our savory boudin king cake is made from delicious Tobasco Red Pepper Jelly. I put a couple of heaping spoonfuls of jelly in a glass prep bowl with a tablespoon of water. Heat it in the microwave until its liquid and able to stir. You’ll need a basting brush to spread over the top of the king cake when it comes out of the oven. I like this silicone basting brush. It’s very easy to clean. And the last topping you need is some sliced green onions. I always have some ready to go so I just grabbed the prep bowl from the frig. Voila!

When the king cake comes out of the oven, glaze it with the jelly and sprinkle liberally with bacon and green onions. Its time to eat!

You will not be disappointed in this warm, spicy, savory, cheesy pastry!!! You can double this recipe and make a larger ring to feed a crowd. It will not go to waste!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Boudin King Cake

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Boudin King Cake is a savory take on the traditional sweet Mardi Gras pastry.



Double the recipe easily to make for a larger crow. While backing, check the king cake around 12 minutes to see if its browning too much on top. If so, cover with an aluminum foil ring to shield the top while it continues to cook the bottom.

Ingredients

  • 2 links of Boudin sausage
  • 8 oz pepper jack cheese sliced into planks
  • 1 can Pilsbury crescent rolls
  • 1 jar red Tobasco Pepper Jelly
  • 6 pieces of bacon
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook bacon according to your liking. Rough chop and set aside.
  2. Slice cheese into planks. You’ll likely need 6-8 planks of the cheese. Set aside.
  3. Gently slice through the casing, lengthwise, of the sausage and remove. Then slice almost through the sausage link, lengthwise again, butterflying it.
  4. Place cheese planks into the cut sausage and close the link like a sandwich to wrap around the cheese.
  5. Open crescent rolls and place onto a baking sheet covered in parchment by placing the short end of each triangle in a circle overlapping to create a ring. The ring will look like a sun with the long ends of the triangles pointing away from the center and the short ends slightly overlapping to join together. See picture. Press the overlapping areas down to thin touching areas and join together.
  6. Place cheese filled, sausage links on the dough in a ring.
  7. Pull long ends of the dough over the top of the sausage link to cover and tuck loose end under the dough in the center of the king cake ring.
  8. Bake for 12-20 minutes. Check for full bake of the bottom of the king cake before you remove. Cover with foil to keep the top from burning if you need to leave it in longer to complete the bake.
  9. While king cake bakes, heat 1/2 cup of pepper jelly with 1 tablespoon of water stirring to combine.
  10. Slice green onions.
  11. When the king cake is done, baste with the pepper jelly, then sprinkle with green onions and bacon.
  12. Eat warm, and enjoy!

Avoiding school night booby traps

If you’ve found yourself in the throes of parenting school aged children and wondered how it happened so quickly, welcome! I am feeling those feelings, momma. I woke up the other day and just struggled to accept that we have made it completely out of baby, toddler, preschool life and moved very securely into school aged. Wow! That was an amazing trip.

I thought about a few key things I’ve learned during the last three years of my kids being in elementary school that I wish I had been told going in. So I decided to share them in case they might be helpful to you!

Whether you are in public or private school, I think these things apply. They are super simple and probably seem silly but it saved my a TON of last minute stress when I finally figured out a plan that seems to get me through these weird moments.

Like I said, this is a quick list of really small preparations you can do as your school year begins, that will save you from last minute store runs after bedtime. Being prepared is key to keeping your cool when you see those colored fliers and fundraiser envelopes in your kids backpack.

$1 bills

The first, and arguably the most helpful, thing I started doing to make life simpler is keeping a couple hundred dollars in $1 bills in my house at all times. And to go a bit further, I also keep rolls of quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies.

If you have kids in public or private school the phrase “death by 1000 cuts” probably feels pretty relatable. No matter if you are paying tuition or not, the schools are constantly soliciting for a dollar here and a quarter there for some fundraiser or another. It’s a necessary part of school funding, it seems, and the asking never stops. There is always a money need, and I am not complaining about that, but the way it is asked is problematic.

Tell me if you know how this story goes. Little Johnnie comes home from school, throws his backpack down, and heads out to play. You go about your busy afternoon of homework director, meal preparer, laundry doer, and sibling referee, as the hours fly by at warp speed. As soon as the little Johnnie’s head hits the pillow for bed, you have a moment to go through his bag to see what the school day produced, and there it is. A bright yellow piece of copy paper with the announcement of “free dress” for $1 plastered across it, shoved into the corner of his backpack, under his lunch box. “Exact change only, no checks or credit cards” in comic sans bold, font size 20, is centered on the paper and your heart sinks. Who, in the heck (%^$&), has cash at home anymore???

It’s now that you realize you have two options. 1. You can take a chance that he will forget about it and not mention anything about free dress, sending him to school in uniform while his peers show up sporting their favorite duds. This is a high risk behavior. Chances are he will totally remember and your morning could blow up before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee. But it is an option so I am acknowledging it. 2. You can throw on your shoes, and likely put back on your bra, to head off to whatever open store you can find and buy a pack of gum to get cash back in $1 bills. And this is oh so commonly the choice we ultimately make, and oftentimes the store was lucky if I actually did remember to put back on the bra. Sad but true.

Here’s the deal folks…we all know we are going to do whatever we can to let little Johnnie participate in free dress. We will do whatever we have to, to pull together that $1 but the problem is, that it isn’t just $1. This is only one of the $1’s that is needed for 72 different activities this month! So this is where my first tip of having a bag of small bills and coins in your cabinet is a total baller move.

Each school year, I make a trip to an actual bank and pull out a cash bag of small bills and coins to avoid all the late night scrounging and stress caused by the endless fundraising involved in educating our kids these days. Do yourself a favor and do this. It makes life so much easier.

Checks

Checks are like dinosaurs. They are mostly extinct with only a couple relics still around. It’s odd when asked to make payment by check but when that request is made, it is usually by our school! This tip is similar to my first tip in that its an uncommon form of payment, that when needed, can be troublesome to come by. So rather than be put in a bind and unable to pay for whatever the school has asked, I always make a point to start the school year with a check, check to make sure I have at least one full book of blanks checks available.

Discovering that you are out of checks the night you need one is never fun. They take time to order and ship in snail mail. Your only other option is to go to your bank or store and get a cashiers check or money order. Neither is convenient and rarely available around bedtime when you commonly discover that you need a check for school TOMORROW.

So add yourself a quick reminder to your calendar to check your check book before the school year starts. Say after me, “Alexa, remind me on August 1st to check my checks”. Now your all set!

Paperclips, staples, tape, rubberbands

Ok, my third tip is uncovering a theme I hadn’t noticed before but I’m realizing how often I must have been burned by these fundraisers, LOL! I can’t tell you how many times I was, by some miracle, able to dig up $2 here or $4 there, in exact change for two kids, and proudly send them off to school with their money, only to be told later that day the money was not attached to the form. Insert head explosion. Cheese and sprinkles you’ve got to be kidding me!!!

Wow, what a total kick to the vagina! I am serious when I tell you that this exact scene happened probably four times a year for each kid in my house. And that is why I finally invested in a supply of various attachment devices to prevent it from ever happening again.

This tip is dedicated to insuring that your efforts in my first 2 points are not wasted. You will need paperclips, staples, tape, rubber bands, envelopes, and plastic baggies, at some point in the year. Trust me. Just go ahead and add them to whatever school supply list you are already shopping from and your year will be off to a good start.

School app, FB page and email

Are you the mom who never seems to know what is going on at school? I am not, but I know many of you. This tip is not to shame you. I totally love you and your carefree ways! I don’t have any problem with dispensing info to people when asked, but I thought it might be helpful to point out some ways I stay “in the know” on school announcements.

Below I’ll tell you about all the forms off communication the school offers but the theme of this section is simple. Sign up for all possible channels of information! Website, email newsletter, apps, FaceBook page, text messages, they, while certainly eclectic and annoying, will keep you up to speed on the life of your little one.

First, the app. If your school has one, download it and turn on notifications. This app and my classroom app are actually the ONLY apps I allow notifications from. We can go into how much I dislike notifications from apps later but this one is actually sending me information I need to keep our school lives organized and prepared so I highly encourage the app and notifications allowed if your school has one.

Our principal and other admin often send important dates, school safety, club announcements, and volunteer request posts in our app. There is a full calendar and options to email or call the school staff from within the app. This is so helpful as a one stop shop for whats happening at school

Another app we have is specific to the classes my kids are in and what assignments they have. Over the years the teachers have changed what they use but Bloom and Remind are the two most recent. Both allow use to see what the kids have due, when tests are scheduled, communicate with the teacher and the other parents in the class, and even organize class parties with the room parents.

Both of these are the biggest resource of information to keep us looped into my kids school lives and prepared for what they need to be successful in their time there. These are a no brainer in my opinion and seem to stay on topic for what they are meant to offer you. That is not the case for my next source though. This one can stray a bit which is why I don’t like it as much.

Most schools have a Facebook page, ours is no exception. Facebook pages are great for being easy to find and bringing everyone linked to the school together for ease of communication. Our school posts lots of announcements and event info, as well as fun photos. The photos are the main reason I visit the Facebook page because that is one thing the apps do not do as well as social media does.

The thing I don’t like about the Facebook page is the commenting. People really like to forget themselves when behind a keyboard and post complaints and rants that aren’t helpful and most of the time just plain hurtful. I think it’s great for parents to have an outlet to communicate and build community but sometimes that privilege is abused and it clouds the good stuff you actually need, like dates, announcements and safety information, from being seen.

Other communication of important events is often sent in email newsletters, text messages and the school website. Make it a point to check those at least once a week. While it would be helpful of your school had a dedicated communication plan, that is usually not the case. Give them a break and do your best to keep up with whats going on.

Making my school nights smooth really helped keep everyone working on what was important and enjoying some fun by avoiding the stress that being unprepared can cause. I hope you will find these tips easy to do and helpful in making your week run a little more efficiently.

Perpetual Poppycock 5

Perpetual poppycock has been getting the last word lately. For the last few weeks every time I sit down to write a few words, my head starts getting in the way of completing the task. I’ve finally reached a point where there are no real roadblocks and plan to post this hodgepodge of a post no matter how incoherent it is just to prove a point that I can do it. I am the boss of me!

I’ve had some breakthroughs during my absence from posting, though. I’ve had a few sessions with a counselor that are teaching thoughtful exercises to gain new perspective. I don’t know if I’ve said this already but I love therapy/counseling. It just peels back the poppycock a bit and quiets the conflicts.

Right now what we are talking about and trying out is actually pretty hard for me. I’m unsure if I’m doing it right and that makes me wonder if it will be helpful but I agree with the hypothesis of the method so I wanted to give it a solid try before asking that we go at it another way.

The idea is that I tune into each of the voices in my thoughts and just be with them asking the conflicting voices to step aside. Once I feel like I have the attention and focus of one of the voices, I try to give it whatever attention it needs.

An example would be a judgmental voice that might be very critical of something I am doing or thinking. This voice might say things like, “you shouldn’t do that because it’s not good for you.” The conflicting voice might say, “you should definitely do that because it gives you a moment of joy so do it all the time, as much as you want.” This internal battle ensues.

The goal here is that once we give some time and attention to each of the voices/thoughts/feelings, they will find some peace and not try to fight amongst themselves in an effort to control my behavior so much.

I’m struggling a bit to know if I’m in the presence of the voice/thought or if I’m just pretending that I am so the exercise will be a success. My therapist understands and isn’t pressuring me to do it this way or that, but if I don’t get the hang of it soon, we will try something else. Just taking the time to-do some self help and investing in myself is enjoyable. I highly encourage it.

Other than that, I’m learning about real estate investing. It has always fascinated me and I want to pull the trigger on it at some point. It scares the bejeezus out of me but I know the long term benefits are real and that is why I will be rolling the dice on it soon.

Ok, I feel I’ve sufficiently beaten the perpetual poppycock here and am going to end this post. Now I can get back to working on another topic that might be interesting to read. I win 🙂

The right therapist makes all the difference

Therapy has proven useful to me at a few key points in my life that needed an extra assist to find my footing. I benefited greatly from putting aside ego and finding the help I needed. Please feel encouraged to do the same if you are doing some mental gymnastics on your own to deal with whatever is on your mind. There is a better way! Finding the right therapist can make a big difference in your experience, so I wanted to share with you a couple of times I researched and found the therapist I needed to move forward. What I found with each use case was that in therapy, one size does not fit all. It is always prudent to shop around.

First a quick background and a reminder…

A reminder: I am not a doctor. I am not offering medical advise. I am sharing my own experience of finding the right therapist for my personal mental health needs. For medical advise you must contact a doctor.

I have a minor in psychology purely because I’ve always been fascinated with people’s psyches. I did not take psych classes in college with the plan of going into the field rather I knew I would do well in them as electives because reading about this stuff really was no chore to me at all. Therefore, after 6 years of college, I graduated with a minor in 3 areas of study, english, history, and psychology. What’s the common denominator? Reading! All three of those studies revolve around reading and that is something I don’t mind doing at all.

Anywho, I wanted to start with pointing out that I have several years of studying psychology at the colligate level under my belt and I still had to be told by a doctor that I was dealing with clinical depression. Sometimes, despite ourselves, we are blind to reality and need profession help. I certainly was. I’m grateful that my primary care physician saw the writing on the wall, as I cried to him in his office telling him I just didn’t feel good but couldn’t figure out why, and sent me to see a psychologist. I was 22.

Finding out I was depressed was shocking to me. That sounds silly but it was. I always considered myself happy, lucky, healthy, loved, etc., so to hear that I was depressed sounded counterintuitive. BUT, it also felt correct. I knew that something was different about the way I’d been behaving and the thoughts I’d been wrestling. It wasn’t my normal moment of sadness or disappointment. It was a long and enduring sadness. I did not want to do anything, go anywhere, see anyone. I was eating constantly to soothe the sadness and that resulted in gaining 100 lbs in one year. That’s right. You can read that again. A hundred pounds in a year and I wasn’t skinny to begin with.

It was like a door was unlocked when my doctor said, “You are suffering from depression and there’s help available”. I could hardly wait to find a therapist and start my journey out of the darkness. I started by calling my insurance to see what it covered and where to look for a therapist. There were 100’s in my area and this is where the shopping begins.

The right therapist makes all the difference in your experience. It is important to take your time and research the psychologists in your area to find one who specializes in what you are dealing with but that is just one thing to consider. You definitely want to see a therapist who treats depression if you are dealing with depression but there will no doubt be several in your area to choose from so the hunt does not stop there. You also need to find someone you are comfortable with and if possible someone who comes recommended by a medical professional or a trusted friend.

I found out quickly that therapists are nuanced just like regular people. I know, crazy right?! What I mean is, therapy involves you talking extensively about personal and private experience. Sometimes you do exercises that unlock memories buried deep down that erupt very primal emotion. Sometimes you have to tell your deepest darkest secrets that solicit worry, fear, shame or guilt. It can be an amazing experience that brings you to a new level of personal inflection and understanding but it is also very revealing and exposes your truth to a total stranger, so doesn’t it make sense that you might feel more comfortable with one person than another just like you do when choosing a mate or friend? What’s my point? Trust and comfort with the person sitting in the chair across from you is critical to allowing these raw and necessary talks to happen.

I “interviewed” three therapist the first time I sought the help of a professional and each psychologist was completely different. It only took one session with each to determine if I would be back but I knew that if I didn’t feel a connection with the therapist, I would not be able to open up or be real with them in our talks. This process was hard. It was emotional. It was time consuming. It took patience, repeated emotional exposure, and endurance. But, boy was it worth it!

Once I found the right therapist, the road to healing was paved and the work could begin. Its not my place to tell you what to look for in your own personal search. Your criteria is likely very different from mine or the person to your left, but I am hoping to highlight that your do not have to settle when you look for mental wellness help. Try another therapist. Ask friends for referrals or read reviews online. Do not settle. This one tip will make a world of difference in your experience. You are worth the work, so do it!

As I mentioned, I’ve sought the help of a therapist a few times in my life. After my first time doing the research to find someone I felt connected with, I felt more confident in the process when I was tasked with doing it again even though I was looking for a different type of help. Depression led me to seeking help the first time and even my second time. However, my most recent time has been to examine my compulsive eating.

The process for finding a new type of therapist was similar but I wanted to bring this up to highlight the point that there are therapist who specialize in different disciplines. This time I started my research online because I was looking for something less general and more specialized. I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for existed so I wanted to start my journey privately and the internet offered an easy way to do that.

The internet helped me find a therapist who worked with people to remove the diet mindset and make peace with food. If you are looking for something very specialized like this, the internet is a great tool to aide you. I tried asking friends and doctors for referrals but due to the highly specialized nature of my topic, they didn’t provide any good leads. My point here is that you might have to do different types of research to find a specialized therapist than you would when looking for one who treats depression or anxiety. And it’s important not be discouraged or give up if one road seems like a dead end.

Again, I am not giving medical advice. That should come from your doctor. I’m only offering you insight into the first steps you might take to find the help you need. My pro tips are to test out several therapists until you find one that you click with and to use different research tools depending on the type of therapy you are looking for. These two things will help set you up for greater success in your therapy.

Nowadays virtual therapist visits can open up even more doors to find even the most specific of mental wellness therapies so don’t let lack of options stand in your way. The world is available online and you deserve the help.

Best of luck and please take the time you need to take care of yourself!

Perpetual Poppycock 4

Dear Perpetual Poppycock,

Its a new year! 2021 is off to a good start and I’m excited to see what it has in store. I am setting my expectations pretty low, but have some pretty exciting goals lined up. I’ve always been one to aim low and always be impressed rather than aim high and always be disappointed. Ha, thats probably another neuroses I need to explore, but for now it serves me so I keep doing it.

Before I launch into my new exciting goals, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank 2020 and bid it farewell. The past year was exceptional on so many levels. The pandemic changed everything and not all of it was for the bad. I finally lived my dream of working from home AND was given the opportunity to homeschool my kids. Both of those tasks were wonderful and I hope, hope, hope to continue them!

We were all forced to slow down and find simple pleasures around us. We connected with neighbors, cherished our loved ones, and found happiness in less. All of this was a very positive experience for me and my family. I rarely felt deprived or punished by the quarantine and only suffered a manageable amount of anxiety as I learned to navigate the new world armed with a mask and sanitizer.

The sad parts of 2020 did not overshadow my grateful heart. I’m alive and my family is healthy. The pandemic, election drama, and unknown economical terrain are not what I will remember most about 2020 but they were the catalyst I needed to clearly see my priorities. Thank you 2020 for the opportunity to live and learn!

Now onto a new day! Here are my 2021 goals in no specific order:

  • Go back to my therapist – I know I need a good bit of help with clearing up my scattered thoughts and perspective so I’m going to invest a little money in my mental health to insure the rest of my goals are given a chance to thrive. Perpetual poppycock is real and tends to roadblock my forward momentum. This one thing will go a long with with making sure I am self aware enough to overcome whatever I do to sabotage those efforts.
  • Keep blogging – I have wanted to blog for a long time. I plan to make this a priority and even launch a couple niche blogs to highlight topics that I’m excited about.
  • Body power up – I love to exercise. It has always been a pleasure and not a chore for me, yet I tend to let it get pushed to the bottom of my list every day. This year I want to keep it towards the top in order to feel better and stronger. Getting the pep back in my step is important to me. And as a small side goal, it would be nice to be able to run 1 mile without stopping.
  • Paying off bad debt – I am within 12 months of paying off my bad debt. This has been a long road to whittle down the 80k of debt we had but its one I’m proud of traveling and have learned A LOT from. This will be one of my niche blogs. Debt and budgeting are a language I’m fluent in and have navigated for years. I want to share all I’ve learned.
  • Cooking videos – Ok, ok, I know I am so late to the game but I LOVE the cooking videos on YouTube and want to make some! This will also be a niche blog and just a fun way for me to share some of my favorite recipes.
  • Launch a product line – I know I’ve already mentioned this but I’ve started a business with my siblings. We have two product ideas we want to bring to the market and this will be the year that happens.

That list gives me the tummy tickles. I’m so excited to get going on all of it. I hope to continue to homeschool my kids for the foreseeable future and continue working from home for the awesome company thats employed me for the last 20 years. I would be so grateful for that.

Wish me luck! 2021 will be a year for the books…or blogs as it were.