Meal Planning for Working Mommas

photoI’m busy, you guys. I hate that word, but I am. From the time I get out of bed in the morning to the time I climb back in 16 hours later, I am on the go. Driving to work, working, emailing, driving home from work, taking care of Reagan, trying to keep my photography business going, all the things. Throw in cleaning up the house and trying to make sure everyone is fed & it’s a full day! I always attempt to make things as easy on myself by planning as many things as possible, and the biggest must-plan thing in our life is our meals. Mostly dinner.

Here are a few tips to help mommas (and daddies) who work make good choices and good meals without too much hassle and spent energy.

1. Have a list of your family’s favorite meals. I keep my list on my phone in the Reminders app. It’s easily accessible, and I can add to it whenever something new comes to me. It’s good to have a place to just pick and choose without too much thought.

2. Grocery lists. Use them. Love them. After you plan what meals you want to have each night, write the ingredients you’ll need to make them. Some things you may already have on hand so you don’t have to buy every single thing. This will help you stay on a budget and focus on what you really need, instead of letting you d etour down the candy aisle for that bag of mini Snicker.

3. Buy commonly used items in bulk. Simple. If you use an ingredient or grocery item a LOT, buy it in bulk! It is one less thing you have to worry about picking up & it’ll save you money. We buy large container of taco seasoning, for instance. We like tacos around here. Like, a lot.

4. Check the weather. Ever want chili when it’s cold? Me too. Sometimes planning meals that work well with the weather will keep things from getting boring or bland. I know I sometimes catch myself making the same things every week, then I have to snap out of it and try something different. Salads or BLTs are great for hot summer nights. Chili or homemade chicken noodle soup are great cold-weather meals.

5. Assign a “night” to specific days. Taco Tuesday.

6. Eat your leftovers. I have a problem with making too much food. It works out because sometimes we just have leftovers for dinner again. Or I’ll at least have lunch for the next day. Money saver and energy saver too.

Do you have any tips for me? Anything that really works for you for meal planning? I am always open to new ideas!

The Disconnect

IMG_5934aI haven’t been feeling very well lately, and honestly, it has worn me down. I have no energy and no drive and would love to lay around all day, but you know, job, kid, husband, life.

I have been making myself rest more, and by rest, I mean, just hang out and do nothing productive. That sounds incredibly lazy and boring, and really, it is. I am not a fan. I am not used to it or built for it, but right now, I think it is what my body needs. Rest. No stress. To relax.

In an effort to fully sink into my rest, I bought a pair of lounge pants. They are made of loose, kinda springy material, perfect for just hanging around on days that I don’t really need to leave the house or have anyone coming over. I like them. I am wearing them right now as a matter of fact. Earlier, in a truly odd SCI moment, where it feels like I am looking down at my life from 10 feet above, I thought “Man, they look really comfortable.” I don’t know if they are. I can’t feel them. I bet they are.

It’s one thing that I find so interesting and weird about my injury. I see feelings. If that doesn’t make sense, let me explain. These pants LOOK comfortable. The material feels soft against my fingers. I like the color, and they are just loose enough to not look sloppy. I know they are comfortable because I see that they are, not feel that they are even though I am wearing them.

When I see runners starting to get out in the spring, when the road is still wet, but it is warm enough to take their mornings jobs, I feel that jelly feeling in my legs. The one that you get when you aren’t sure you can run anymore. I haven’t run in over 15 years, but I see the running, and I feel it. And sometimes, I still try to kick things out of the way. My mind forgets that my legs don’t work.

Our bodies are odd things, and the phantom feelings I have are one of the things that are a blessing and a curse about this injury. Like running. I LOVE that feeling, like I would collapse on the floor if I stood because my legs would be so tired (I totally would still fall but because my legs don’t work, ha), but I also MISS that feeling.

But I wouldn’t trade what I have for any of those things.

52 Weeks Project.

I have done this project for the last few years, and it is one of my favorites. I take a new portrait of Reagan every week, and at the end of the year, I compile them into a book. Its so fun to see how much she grows in a 52-week timeframe.

Week 1.

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Here we go, 2019!

IMG_4771aI always thought that adults were crazy when they said times goes faster when you’re older, but for me, it is the ultimate truth. 2018 flew by.

Looking back through photos of the months, we managed to get some good memories in. From mommy-daughter days eating cookies at the mall to RZR races to trips to the zoo, it was a good year. I can’t wait to make more memories this year.

Reagan at four is my favorite. She grew so much this year. Pre-school was an adjustment, but I am happy that we decided to send her. A good routine has started, and the transition to kindergarten this coming August will be easier. I hope. At least she will know what some of the expectations will be.

Greg was able to work in Emporia for the summer, and then in Denver, but we are keeping our fingers crossed for hail in KC or somewhere close again this year so he can stay at home for most of the year. Businesses that are dependent on the weather are tricky. One year might be slow, and the next year could be crazy busy. It’s just luck of the draw.

Overall, I am ready for a new year, a new start, new goals and intentions. I really want to crush some serious business goals, and I am pumped about the work it is going to take. 2019 is the year I take myself out of my comfort zone. Carrie L. Sunday Photography is going to burst at the seems, I feel it. I chose the word “expand” as my word this year, so here’s to that. Expanding, rowing, believing in myself.

Tips for Quadriplegics to Stay Cool this Summer

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We’re heading out to a family party tonight, and despite the lower-than-normal June weather today, getting overheated is always something that scares me. I have come close a few times to being pretty sick from the heat, and it may not be something that everyone realizes can happen so quickly for someone with an injury like mine.

Spinal cord injuries affect people in very different ways, depending on what level and how severe the injury is. Mine usually leaves me feeling cold, even on the hottest of days.

One commonality among most SCI ,though, is the body’s inability to sweat. The internal thermometer can be damaged (and normally is), which explains why most spinal cord injury survivors are seen wearing jackets in summertime. This is why I sit in front of a space heater in my already-warm office. It can be so hard to feel and stay warm.

The opposite is also true. Summertime heat and humidity can be very uncomfortable and dangerous to persons with SCI. Our inability to control temperature coupled with the inability to sweat can quickly cause heat-related stresses.

1. Drink lots of cool water prior to going out in the heat.

Sometimes drinking lots of water all the time is hard for me. I know it’s good for me in the long run, especially with bladder infections happening what seems to be every other week. Water is especially important though if you are going to be outside.  You’ll stay hydrated and get ahead of the temperature regulation before you’re even out in the heat.

2. Keep a mister with you.

I am sure you have seen them before. It’s basically a water bottle with a fan on it, and let me tell you, it works. It keeps your skin moist when it needs it most, and it is a super inexpensive way of keeping cool.

3. Shade. Shade. Shade. Meds can cause severe sunburn also.

Stay out of the direct sun if you can avoid it. I have made the mistake of spending all afternoon out in the open sun while on antibiotics, and I paid for it for almost a week later. Saying that antibiotics (and some other medications) can increase your risk of sunburn is an understatement. Learn from my mistake.

4.  Wet your clothes.

I don’t mean that you have to be running around dumping bottles of water over your head, but if you are somewhere that you can wear a wet rag around your neck and keep the collar of your shirt damp, go for it. A little bit can make a big difference.

5.  Wear light-colored loose-fitting clothing.

Cotton is best because it’s light and usually loose and can get wet and dry quickly. All the things you want for a hot summer’s day.

We all know that summers can be brutal, especially depending on where you are. Here in Kansas, it gets hot and humid and sticky, and then it rains, which makes it even more hot and humid and sticky.

If at all possible, make sure you have an inside place to hide from the heat, but if that’s not a possibility, take precautions. Take care of yourself and make sure others do the same.

5 Ways to be Productive in a Chaotic Life

pexels-photo-373076.jpegAs a full-time working mom who also runs a growing photography business, I have to find pockets of time throughout my day to complete the tasks that, whether they are big or small, need to be done. It can be so difficult to find the energy and motivation to not spend that time scrolling through social media or playing another level of Candy Crush or watching the latest episode of your show on Netflix or playing Play Doh with Reagan.

I have found a few things that help keep me focused and on task for those times when my mind would wander (and get lost) if I allowed it when I should really be working. They help me focus and knock out goals, even if it is a little at a time.

  1.  Airplane Mode

It’s hard to adjust to being “unplugged” and out of reach sometimes, but it is so good for your productivity, I promise. With no distractions and no notifications dinging at you every time a new comment pops up on Facebook, you can knock out projects faster and of better quality.

    2.  Clean and organize your workspace.

A clear workspace is essential for me. I know there are people who say that they thrive in a messier atmosphere, but it’s been proven that tidier workspaces are good for focus. Plus you don’t have to waste time looking for things that you need if you know that they are where they are supposed to be. Give your stuff a “home” and make sure that the item makes its way back there every time you use it.

   3. Set timers.

Give yourself small increments of time to work. Small deadlines can produce big results because it forces you to work, work, work to get the task done, instead of dawdling around until the motivation hits you.

4. Use unexpected chunks of time.

Take your work with you.  You know that 15 minutes that you spend in the carpool line or the doctor’s office waiting room? Use those moments to work. I know it’s a small amount of time to really get in “the zone,” but those few minutes can add up quickly. I always have a notebook ready whenever I am out and about. Even if you are just brainstorming throughout the day as you run errands, you are doing work

  5. Give yourself a reward when you complete a task.

Good work and behavior is rewarded in a traditional workplace setting, so give yourself little treats as you accomplish some of the things on your to-do list. I tend to use candy as my reward. Skittles or Skor candy bars because they are my favorite. Gimme all the candy!

There are plenty of other ways to increase efficiency and productivity, but it really helps to find what works for your lifestyle. Leave your own tips in the comments!

Dear Reagan,

baby-lips.jpgI am at the library, watching a mom hold a three-month-old baby boy as he sleeps the afternoon away, and I can hardly remember a time when you were so small. Tiny and totally dependent. Just this morning, you put on your cutest 4T outfit with the glittery kitty on the shirt, and the pants were about an inch too short. It seems like you grew into a giant overnight, the minutes ticking away while life stretched your legs.

You are so aware of the world and soak up everything new. Things I didn’t know you heard grown-ups discussing now become questions. “But why?” is something I hear a lot from you these days, questioning many of the instructions I give you and things around us.

You notice the difference now between the things I am able to do, and the things I am not. “But how will you get up those stairs, Momma?”

When you were a baby, I wasn’t sure how we were going to navigate explaining to you my injury, my wheelchair, what I need help with and what I don’t. Really, I was afraid that I would explain it the wrong way and you would be confused. I have never carved out a time to tell you these things like I thought I would have to, so we take them as they come. Now I know, when you have a question, you will ask, and I will answer as simply and best as I can.

Once in a casual conversation, I mentioned walking, and you looked at me in surprise and exclaimed “MOM, you could WALK?” You will never have the privilege of seeing me walk like I did, but most kids don’t have the unique experience of having a mother with a disability either. It has taught you empathy and compassion, and I hope that you can carry that to other kids your age. You teach them, like I try to teach you.

Maybe I am being emotional because you will be having a birthday soon, and I just don’t know how the time has gone by so quickly that we are planning a party for the fourth time. It will be unicorns this year because you are very opinionated about the things you like and dislike these days.

I love you,

forever and ever,

Mommy