Oct 31, 2014

Halloween. Friday. Perfection.

Happy Halloween! It's time for a few Friday Favorites and it can't be Hallowwen without showing y'all my FAVORITE costumes. I've shared these fall carnival photos a few times already, but I can't resist posting them again! I love family costumes (and Casey loves that his "costume" is a comfy t-shirt!). I really hope the twins let me choose their costumes again next year so we can do another family theme. With three little boys I can do all kinds of great themes Three Musketeers, Alvin and the Chipmunks, superheroes, the three stooges, etc)! Earlier this week I shared about favorite costumes I wore as a kid. You can read that here.

 

Because it's just priceless -- full sizes of a few of these...

 

 

And the only photo where you can see the "oh my" shirts...

 

I should be well rested for the festivities tonight because my FAVORITE infant is almost 4 months old and tonight we put him in his crib for the first time. It's 4AM and he is still asleep! So why am I awake writing a blog post? I should be sleeping too! Little man has scooted himself over in the crib so he is RIGHT against the crib rail and I can't see his little face on the baby monitor so I keep going in to check on him. So much for sleeping better when he leaves the room!



 

Even though I won't be particularly well rested, I'll get to the Halloween events in style. I was involved in a very minor fender bender on Tuesday. (We're all okay. It was VERY minor.) But, because I was in an accident at all we have to replace ALL THREE car seats. I was able to reevaluate all of my original car seat research and decide if we wanted the same car seats. I chose to go with the same seats again and three of my FAVORITE car seat, the Clek Foonf, are on the way to my house. I went with a different color this time. It's an exciting life I tell you! (That's an affiliate link. Click it so I can make a few pennies to pay my deductible for this silly accident.)

 

I am driving a rental while my car is repaired and I'm going to turn in any last shred of trendiness, coolness, and dignity I have. This minivan is my FAVORITE. I'm driving a Chrysler Town&Country and I'm loving the electronic sliding doors, the HUGE amount of space behind the third row (way more than my Buick Enclave) and the little touches like the stow and go seats, storage areas, huge number of cup holders, and the moving center console. Our Buick Lease is up in a year and I just might need a minivan. By then I'll be 30, a totally acceptable age for a mom-mobile.




To celebrate my successful dissertation defense, Casey and I went out on Tuesday night. Having a date night was SO FUN and we really need to do it more often. We talked. We laughed. And we reconnected. (Read about my dissertation here. Please. I'd love to share my research!)

 

But my FAVORITE thing? The restaurant we went to offers a lot of paleo foods and they make a dairy free "Nutella" Chocolate Chip Cookie with Almond Ice Cream and Candied Pecans. (They make their Nutella in house so it is dairy free. Which means it isn't really Nutella since that's a brand name but I guess hazelnut spread didn't look as good on the menu.) It was delicious! I was so excited to get a restaurant dessert! I never get restaurant dessert anymore!

 

On Thursday we took pictures with Ian Cole. Their outfits were FABORITES. Cardigans. Tiny hats. Perfection. At home they wore the hats and hammed it up. At the photo session, only James cooperated. We still got a few great shots and I can't wait to share them with y'all!

The boys outfits for photos on Thursday. I'll share the pictures tomorrow. I'm posting from my iPad and they are on the computer.


My very FAVORITE picture from the week is this treasure. I love the moment this captures. Casey is such an amazing Dad and I love the love radiating from this picture!

 

Some other FAVORITE pictures...

Teamwork.
FaceTime with "baba" (PaPa)
Spaghetti Night.
 

Have a safe and fun Halloween tonight friends!

 

 

Also -- don't forget to enter the TWO Crazy Cass Life Giveaways (a $25 gift card to Target and a $120 gift card to Target!)

 

Oct 30, 2014

dissertation disected

Over the past few weeks, I have asked other bloggers to share their passions with y'all. We heard from Nicole about breastmilk donation and service, Teresa on running, and P on raising a premature child.

Today, you are going to hear from me!

In case you live under a rock, on Monday I defended my dissertation. And I passed. I am well on my way to being a doctor. A bit of red tape and paperwork and I will get hooded in December.

My degree is in Public Policy and Political Economy from The University of Texas at Dallas. Public Policy and Political Economy (PPPE) is a lot of words. What it means: Public policy, business, the economy, and politics are all intertwined. A degree in PPPE recognizes those interconnections and emphasizes inter-disciplinary research. This degree is highly analytical and quantitative. (That means I took a lot of statistics classes so I can evaluate data).

My dissertation in entitled "Fringe Knowledge, Fringe Banking, and the Near Poor." At some point I might post a PDF of the whole thing (but first I need to get it all formatted and perfected for submission!) so that all 1 of you who are interested can read it. For today, you get a very, very, very brief summary.

I had three main areas I focused on (obviously. read the title!)

  • Financial Knowledge. Financial knowledge is understanding the key financial terms and concepts needed to function daily. This is not the same thing as financial literacy, which is the ability to utilize knowledge and skills to manage financial resources for a lifetime of financial well-being. In much of the research on this topic being done, authors use the words interchangeably because literacy is hard to quantify. In my research I used quantitative methods (factor analysis if you are a statistics geek like me) to tease out the inputs to financial literacy and then calculated a unified financial literacy variable I could use in models. Graphically, it looked like this:
Directly from my dissertation.
  • Fringe Banking. This is the easiest part to explain. My research looked at the use of fringe banks (also called alternative financial establishments or predatory lenders). Fringe banking refers to any number of different financial services offered by non-traditional financial servicers. These include payday lenders, pawnshops, auto-title lenders, check cashing stores, layaway, refund anticipation loans, rent-to-own shops, etc. The transactions they offer typically involve loans of a few hundred dollars for a short term (weeks or months) with fees, charges, and interest that translate to a high APR (annual percentage rate). This graphic explains the financial bifurcation of fringe banking and mainstream banking.
Directly from my dissertation.
  • The Near Poor. The Near Poor refers to the roughly 54 million American households who make between 100% and 200% of the poverty level ($20,000 to $40,000 for a family of four). These households aren't "poor" as they live above the poverty threshold but they lack a secure financial station. Many near poor households have multiple jobs, live paycheck to paycheck, and are financially stressed. One unexpected expense can leave them desperate for cash.
If there is interest, I will do full posts on each of these topics getting into the interesting nitty gritty!

 

For now, what do these topics have in common? A lot!

 

  • Fringe Banking and the Near Poor. Poor and near poor families are oftentimes cut off from the mainstream banks. Few brick and mortar banks open locations in their neighborhoods and even when banks are available, the near poor rarely qualify for the advertised free checking accounts. This leaves the near poor utilizing non-bank products (Fringe Banks!). This quote says it better than I ever could:
Original Photo Source
 

  • This matters because mainstream banks encourage savings, asset protection, and wealth building. On the other hand, fringe banks assist with subsistence living but do nothing to divert a debt culture. These alternative financial products fill a need and help the poor and near poor with expenses this week and in the present moment. However, they discourage long-term planning and savings.
  • And Financial Literacy. There is a belief in society that individuals who don't maximize their financial resources do not do so because they lack financial literacy. Financial education has become the hot thing for non profit organizations to offer. Offer a few classes on finance and financial decision making and it will stop the use of fringe banking. Right? I'm not so sure. And my dissertation was born.
 

I used four research questions to guide me. In my dissertation, I went question by question all the while building to the final penultimate question.

  1. Are the poor and near-poor equipped to make financial decisions? (Do the users fringe banking products, primarily the poor and near-poor, have the knowledge base to make rational and informed financial decisions?)
  2. What factors influence financial literacy (or illiteracy)?
  3. Are these the same factors that influence financial decision making?
  4. Is the use of the fringe banking system a symptom of financial illiteracy or evidence of financial bifurcation and stratification?
 

After a bunch of fancy models and statistical work I came up with a few conclusions. The most important is this:

The use of fringe banking products is due to a lack of financial literacy and so financial education is needed. BUT fringe banking usage is also due to structural issues in the financial system (lack of access to the mainstream banking sector -- the bifurcation I depicted above) and so increased education and literacy will never eradicate fringe banking. While education might be key, it is not the full solution. Knowing a decision is not in your best financial interest is only helpful if you have alternative choices. It is crucial that policy makers see the limitations of financial education. Financial education leads to improved financial knowledge but cannot lead to improved financial practices (and therefore financial literacy) without access to the mainstream financial market.


     

     

     

     

    The "share your passion" series is going to continue and I would love to feature YOU. What are you passionate about? Could you write a few sentences about why and share that passion with all of us? You don't have to be a blogger to share!

     

     

     

     

    Oct 29, 2014

    You Can Win

    To clear up some confusion....

    Crazy Cass Life currently has TWO giveaways going.



    First -- I am cohosting a new monthly linkup.  We are so excited to meet new bloggers and get to see a spotlight of their work for the month. To celebrate the launch of the giveaway we have a $25 gift card to Target.  You have three days left to enter. For the rest of the details and to enter GO HERE.

    Second -- Facebook is changing their terms of service on November 5 and giveaways are no longer going to allow Likes as a entry method. To celebrate the end of the Facebook Like Giveaway, we're having one!  You can enter to win a $120 gift card to Target. You have five more days to enter (ends 11/4 at 12AM EST). For the rest of the details and to enter GO HERE

    I hope this clears up the confusion!  You have TWO chances to win money to my happy place.






    Signed,

    Dr. Cass (yep. still doing it. still giddy.)

    Oct 28, 2014

    A Milkshake and Soup

    It's a double dose of fun today! It is recipe club and finish this!

     

     

    I'm sharing two awesome dairy free recipes today for Recipe Club with Andrea.

    The first is pretty much the easiest thing ever. I mean ever.




    Maple Pecan Milkshake

    No judgement. When it's 90 degrees out you eat milkshakes in October.

     

    • Combine NadaMoo Maple Pecan "Ice Cream" and Almond Milk in a blender. I do a roughly one to one ratio (but I don't measure). Blend.
    • Pour into fancy cups. Realize you are out of pretty straws so put a way too long tervis straw in your fancy glass and call it a day.
     

     

    This next recipe isn't quite as easy. But it's pretty gosh darn simple. And both boys and my husband approved!

     

    Sweet Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

    When it's 90 outside in October you also eat soup. And pretend it's gorgeous fall weather.

     

    • Combine 1 chopped butternut squash, 2 chopped sweet potatoes, 1 chopped onion and 2 cups chicken broth in your slow cooker.
    • Cook on high for 4ish hours.
    • Use an immersion blender and purée until smooth. Or, be like me. Search for your immersion blender. Don't find it. And in frustration just pour all the ingredients into the Ninja to blend and then pour it back into the crock pot. Whatever works!
    • Add one can of coconut milk, the rest of the box of chicken broth, a few shakes cumin (1/2 tsp maybe), and a handful of shredded coconut. Add a bit of sugar to taste. If your sweet potato was yummy and full of flavor you might not need any. You decide!
    • Cook until it's good and hot. I say this takes at least 30 minutes. Casey likes his soup lukewarm so he thought it was ready after 10.
    • Garnish with coconut and enjoy!
     

    And now let's "finish this!"

    And remember you can join in with the hosts -- Nicole, Lisa, Jen, and Becky -- and answer the simple prompts on your own blog or in the comments below.

     

     

    As a kid, my favorite Halloween costume was in fourth grade when I went as a picnic. My dad built a frame out of wood and then we covered it with a checkered tablecloth and hot glued plates, napkins, fake food, and even little marching ants. Basically every year at Halloween I ask my mom for a picture of the costume. So far, nothing. I'm pretty sure this is because there are and no pictures not because she didn't look. I need to remember to look one of these days when I am at her house just to verify. I really loved creative homemade costumes as a kid. My sister made my costume one year when I was 3(ish) and I was an adorable little mouse. Again. No photo. (Seriously I need to look through the childhood photos at my mom's house!) I'm clearly the third child. No Halloween photos! Two years ago, I went as a skeleton for Halloween. It was cute. If I brought it back this year it would be the scariest costume ever -- five under three? Eeeeek!

    Halloween 2012



    As an adult, I celebrate Hallowen by not celebrating. That's not quite fair. I eat pumpkin spice Oreos and put pumpkins on the porch. I haven't done much any dressing up as an adult. Not my jam. We don't get trick or treaters in our neighborhood which is both devastatingly sad and awesome all at the same time. Our neighborhood shuts down a few streets and does a big block party instead. We have bounce houses, games, hot dogs on the grill, a costume contest, music, etc. It's great that you can walk down and enjoy a dose of Halloween but in our pre-kid years it made it too easy not to participate. This year, I'm into it though. I don't remember ever being this excited about Halloween! I can't wait for my little lion and tiger to enjoy all the fun. We went for the family costume this year --- Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh my! I pretty much die of the adorable. Hopefully on Friday they will let me get a picture all together. Unlikely. But I'll try.

     

    My favorite candy is ?? I'm the weirdo who doesn't know! I like a piece or two of lots of things but candy isn't my weakness. This year I'm hoping for a few smarties, a skittle or two, and maybe a fun dip! I loved fun dip as a kid. When I saw it on a list of dairy free candy it brought back happy memories - and now I want some!

     

    It's Fall. Even if it's 90.

    A full post about my dissertation and my defense is coming later this week, but (in case you aren't following me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook) I passed!

     

    On Friday I wrote that I my dissertation defense was prepped and ready to go so I was going to enjoy my fall weekend. And enjoy we did!

    My cutie pie.
     

    It might have been 90 degrees. But we Fall-ed it up!

    On Friday, I had a doctor appointment in McKinney so the twins stayed with my sister for a bit. Afterwards, my mom, sister and I went to an adorable little pumpkin patch across the street from my sisters neighborhood.

    Tripp had to say "hi" to all of the scarecrows.
    Adorable checkers!
    Lots of tractor riding.
    But don't try and tell the twins they were on a tractor.
    They are convinced it was a truck.
    Hayride fun!
     

    On Saturday, we took the boys to the Lake Highlands Area Early Childhood PTA (LHAECPTA) Halloween Carnival. The boys were ridiculous in their costumes. I mean seriously. So, cute. We played a few games, bounced in the bounce house, and (most importantly) rode the choochoo. Our costumes didn't make it the whole carnival. It was 90 degrees. 9.0. And the boys got too hot.

    Lots of bouncing. And choochoos.
    The boys were a bit overwhelmed when we got there. But some snuggles with Daddy made it better.
    This is also the only photo that shows our awesome "oh my" shirts.
    Family theme costumes forever.
    The Crazy Cass Family!
     

    On Sunday, we got the painted china hutch out of the garage and into the dining room. I'll share photos from the project once I get it all loaded up. (It will be soon - I need to get the china out of our guest room before my mom's wedding in November.) I also got all of my packets, handouts, and notes printed and ready for my defense. When I said I was totally ready on Friday, I lied. I didn't have anything printed yet.

    Getting my bags packed.
    Good luck flowers from the husband.
    Sweet Jiminy bounced while I worked.
     

    A jam packed weekend. An amazing Monday.

     

    Signed,

    Dr. Cass

     

    Yep. I just did that.

     

     

    And just a reminder...

    Oct 27, 2014

    For my Dissertation Defense and a $125 Giveaway

    This morning I prayed. A lot. I'd love for you to pray for me too. Today at 9AM CST I will be standing in a room presenting the culmination of nearly 6 years of work. I will be laying it all on the line. Today I will find out if I pass. By this afternoon, I might be Dr. Cass. I would love your prayers!

    All my things are packed. I'm prepared.

     

    This is the prayer I have been saying all weekend:

     

     

    Heavenly Father,

     

    I know that every good and perfect gift comes from you (James 1:17). I know that it is only because of you that I have made it this far. Today I am going to defend my dissertation, the culmination of all of my hard work, and I know it is only through your grace that I have made it to this point.

     

    So thank you. Thank you for my advisor who has supported me, assisted me, and invested in me. Thank you for my husband who had unconditionally encouraged me and believed in me. Thank you for my mom who was an example of a strong woman who finished her graduate degree even after kids. Thank you for my mother-in-law who has been helping with the boys twice a week this month so I could prepare for my defense presentation. Thank you for my mom who watched the boys in the spring while I finished writing. Thank you to all of my friends and family who have encouraged me, listened to me, and believed in me.

     

    But God, despite all of these encouraging forces, I'm nervous. God, you didn't give me a spirit of fear. You gave me a spirit of power and love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). Help me exercise that spirit. Give me the confidence and self-assurance that I should have as a child in your Kingdom.

     

    Guide my words and my message. Let your spirit and your goodness show in all that I say today. All work to your glory is Kingdom Work. Let my work on financial literacy and my insight into the financial well-being of the near-poor further the knowledge of those working day to day in these fields.

     

    Lift up my spirit. Help me have thick skin today. Let me hear the words from my committee members with a spirit that is open to correction and edits. Let me not be overly-sensitive or take the remarks personally. Help me listen to the council of my committee and use their knowledge to better my work.

     

    God, grant me confidence. Grant me serenity. Grant me peace. Grant me wisdom. Go with me today as I defend my dissertation. Be present in the room and in my words.

     

    Amen.



     

    I will (obviously) be blogging more about my dissertation and how the defense went. I will (obviously) still be talking about this all through the editing phase and the corrections that I'm sure I will need to make. But, I'm not sure exactly WHEN I will do a post on how this morning goes. So, if you are on the edge of your seat waiting for my dissertation defense results, make sure you follow me on Instagram @CrazyCassLife or Facebook.

     

    Do you need an added incentive to follow me? How about $120? Is that incentive enough?


     

    Enter to WIN a $120 Target Giftcard!

    I've teamed up with all of these wonderful ladies to bring you a chance to win $120 Target gift card!

     

    Facebook Like Giveaway
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    Target Giftcard

     

     

     

    Giveaway runs from 10/27 at 12AM EST to 11/4 at 12AM EST. Available to US Residents 18 years and older. No purchase necessary.a Rafflecopter giveaway

     

     

     




    AND don't forget that the October Favorite Post Link Up is still up and running. Go linkup -- and enter to win a $25 gift card.

     

    All sorts of money being handed out here at Crazy Cass Life!!

    And because this post isn't nearly long enough... Today is also the monthly Favorite Thing link up party with Momfessionals. I searched my brain for my favorite thing right now and I'm still really stuck on the #TealPumpkinProject and the adorable foam stickers and pirate patches I bought to pass out on Halloween. I wrote more about the #TealPumpkinProject and what it entails on Friday, so I won't rehash it all again, but this allergy mama is so excited to see this project aging publicity and attention! My favorite thing under $10 this month is any non-food trinket or doodad folks choose to pass out on Halloween. Seeing all these parents who care makes this mama heart happy.


    My tervis is full of pumpkin spice black tea. Yum.


    James is still eating so y'all lucky folks get one more favorite thing... I am adoring the Republic of Tea Pumpkin Spice Black Tea this year. I ordered it from Amazon (obviously) and really love that it sticks right into the Keurig for fast prep in the morning and really tastes pumpkin-y! It's a great morning treat!

    (And if you decide to buy it, please use my link. It is an affiliate link so I earn money pennies if you buy through me.)


     

    Oct 26, 2014

    This Month's Favorite Post and Some Moola

    October Favorite Post of The Month Linkup
    I can't believe it is almost November already. October has been a particularly crazy month in the casa de cass with Tripp's hospital stay, the Ebola threat in our neighborhood, and all of dissertation work (which culminates tomorrow!). The month really has just flown by. We have accomplished a few of the things on our Fall Bucket List, but we have a lot left to do!

    But, before we launch ourselves into November, let's all take a moment and reflect on the awesomeness of October and link up your very favorite post from the month.

    I've teamed up with a few other awesome bloggers to host this link-up. This month's hosts are Ashley from Hello Nature, Lexy from Crazy Cass Life and Nicole from a la Maxfield. Would you like to help host? We have one-time spots available as well as regular host spots. Send an e-mail to Ashley at ashley@hellonatureblog.com for more details!

    This month your hosts have something special for you! We are offering a $25 gift card to Target to one lucky reader! So, link-up and enter!

    My favorite post from October would have to be one foot in front of the other. I was feeling overwhelmed. I was feeling not enough. I was honest about it. I shared my struggle. I shared what was making me feel better. And I am so blessed by the amazing blogging community who responded so positively and reminded me why I blog.

    Now link up your post + enter to win the gift card below!

    TMFP Giveaway - October

     

    Oct 25, 2014

    Time for the Lord?

    I was going to write a post.  Then I spent WAY too much time reading this post about prayer. 

    Amber, an awesome Christian mama who writes posts that really get an the meat of being a Christian mama, asked how you find time for The Lord. 

    Her conclusion: we need to look to Him and find Him in the ordinary. 

    I love this post.  I love this blogger.  I love this twin mama. You should read her blog.

    Oct 24, 2014

    Teal Pumpkins and Other Fall Favorites

    Well hello Friday! You came pretty fast this week! I guess that's what happens when you are SO BUSY. This is it. This weekend is my last chance to tweak and prepare. On Monday I defend my dissertation. On Monday, six years of hard work and research will be judged. On Monday, I will lay it all on the line.

    But for the weekend, I am relaxing. My presentation is done. (It just needs printed). I have practiced. I have timed myself. I am prepared. I am ready. I know my stuff. I intimately know this data and this research. I am passionate about my topic. I am ready to defend. So for the weekend, we relax.

    We'll knock a few things off our Fall List this weekend. Decorate a pumpkin? Go to a football game? Go to a Halloween party? Try on our costumes? Fall is a FAVORITE and I'm so excited to celebrate it again with my littles.

    I'm sticking to a theme for Friday Favorites this week and I'm sharing a FAVORITE IDEA that I've seen gaining a lot of publicity this year and I am really passionate about. As you all know, Davy has a life-threatening milk protein allergy. Things you think of as fun (like handing out treats to all the kids on a playdate) are potentially deadly to him. So Halloween has me very on edge!

    Enter, The Teal Pumpkin Project.



    The Teal Pumpkin project has been ALL over social media this year, but if you haven't clicked on any of the links, I'll fill you in. Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) is helping ALL kids experience a safe, fun Halloween this year by asking families to consider offering a non-food alternative for Trick-or-Treaters. If your house chooses to offer something non-food, paint a pumpkin teal and put it on your porch. Simple right? And if painting a pumpkin is more than you can handle right now, FARE has this handy printable you can put on your door. Really simple!

    The project is getting some backlash because "candy is the point of Halloween," but no one is being forced to participate and even Teal Pumpkin houses can offer options. So if your kid wants candy, they can still get it! But, if your child has allergies, diabetes, a weight issue, celiac, or any other reason to steer clear of the chocolate, this year you will have safe alternatives!

    Our house will be a Teal Pumpkin house for any local friends. I picked up a few little things at Target and we are ready to go. I also picked up a white craft pumpkin to paint teal and then be able to use year after year. It hasn't been painted yet, or believe me I'd be showing it off!

    So, what non-food items do you buy? As I said I shopped the Halloween section at Target and bought cool pirate patches and foam stickers. They also had bouncy balls, spiders, fangs, or erasers.



    No time for Target or the Dollar Store? I'm making it easy with Amazon links (so they can deliver)!

     

     

     

    For more ideas: