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6.21.2014

Discover the Forest aka Everybody Poops, Even Raccoons

(I was asked to share this campaign with my readers and was compensated. However, the opinions and the heartfelt poop stories of my childhood in this post are all mine.) 

I was really into poop when I was little. Ahem, I mean scat. I had a field guide poster on my wall. We lived in NH and I'd troll our woods looking for fresh matter to identify. At "Kids College" over the summer of second grade I dissected an owl pellet (technically this would be barf) and pieced together a mouse skeleton. Later living in Vermont on 10 acres I used these "poop detective" skills to identify deer trails and locate where they bedded down. No staring contests though.....

I think what I'm trying to say here is that you should get out and into the outdoors with your kids. Poop and pawprint ID skills are how I learned that a raccoon was eating our garbage and a skunk was hiding under our porch

This summer our wildlife experience will be a little different as it is our first summer here in San Antonio. The girls and my husband are headed to Big Bend National Park soon and I'm sure the How to Put Out a Campfire Snapguide on Discover the Forest will be a big help since the kiddos can't stop talking about s'mores.

After a long day of hiking there is nothing better than s'mores around a campfire so I am finally going to reveal my super secret s'more recipe to the world.

- Put marshmallow on stick.
- Take a square of Hershey's chocolate and shove it against the stick into the middle of the marshmallow.
- Roast the marshmallow.
- Take it off gently and place between two graham crackers with 3 squares of chocolate on each side.

The end result is the ooey gooeyest s'more of all time.

You're welcome.

(Middle of the winter? Never fear- you can make Oven S'mores.)

We have managed to haul the kids into the great outdoors at all ages so head on over to Discover the Forest to find great outdoor attractions in your area. I can't wait to explore my new city!






Join @Cheecker and @kimorlando for a fun Twitter Party all about the great outdoors with the US Forest Service at 1 p.m ET on June 26th.

How Not to Be a Jackass at Starbucks



Spending a lot of time on the road for work pretty much ensures that I find my way into the green machine a few times a week. Between the clean restrooms, free wifi, and the fact that they are all over Texas it's inevitable. And even though I'm cranky that they have gluten in their caramel sauce (sneaky) they do have a gluten-free Zesty Black Bean Chicken Salad that I like. Coffee shops tend to bring out the best and worst in people so I thought I would share 6 ways to NOT be a jackass at Starbucks.

1) Get off your damn phone. You are NOT that important. If you were someone else would be fetching your coffee. When you get up to the register you should be at attention and ready to order. If you are sitting in the cafe you should not be the only person people hear.

2) Sure you may see articles online talking about how to "hack" the system and get your drinks cheaper. Let me just say that if you do #1 more than twice in the same store you are just causing those espresso shots to be decaf from that point on. It's just an asshole move to do that. (Some of the other ideas are not as sketchy.)

3) If you are using the drive thru it is because you are in a hurry, or have kids in the car, or are just too lazy to walk through the door. Or it's Texas and it's too damn hot to get out of the car and walk in, besides the 110 degrees will flatten your hair. Whatever the reason the drive through is not the place to be indecisive. If you've never seen a Starbucks menu before go inside. If you are ordering 8 drinks, go inside. It is not the time to stop and stare for 5 minutes while you decide and people are trapped behind you.

4) Asking someone to watch your stuff and disappearing for an extended period of time. First off you're asking a stranger to watch your laptop. There is a 5 minute grace period on that, it should be a quick bathroom run. I'll give you a grace period of 10 minutes if you're moving your obnoxious cell phone conversation to the sidewalk after I've been giving you stink eye. But true story today a girl asked me to watch her stuff and disappeared for 41 minutes. Seriously? I didn't come to Starbucks to babysit your stuff.

5) Starbucks is not your office. Yes, it has free wifi and is a pleasant place to sit and wile away an hour or four. When you start laying down a protective ring of papers and using extra chairs to sort and staple you've gone too far. It's called a communal table for a reason.

6) I love dogs. I do- I have one and he is often my favorite child but there are some indicators that your dog is not patio-worthy. If he/she is shaking uncontrollably and looks utterly petrified bring it home, if it barks shrilly for 10 minutes anytime anyone walks by within a 10 foot proximity it is not patio appropriate. If it lifts it's leg and urinates on anything (especially another patron) leave. It's not cute, we don't think it's ha-ha funny, and it's cruel to the dog to make them that uncomfortable.

So go forth, caffeinate and make good decisions boys and girls.

1.11.2014

Dear Mom Who is Having Trouble Breastfeeding-


Dear Mom Who is Having Trouble Breastfeeding-

I see your pain and guilt. You ask for advice. How can you succeed? You admit that you feel like a failure, you feel like your not producing, you feel like the baby isn't getting enough. Your nipples are sore to the point where you want to walk around topless so that nothing touches them but then there is a breeze and you want to shriek.

You've tried lactation consultants and Youtube and doctors and nothing seems to be working. Half of your friends rave about breast shields and the other half warn you that breast shields can be a slippery slope and to only try them as a last resort.

So as your last resort you ask everyone you know, you post in online mom groups, you ask questions on breastfeeding forums and all you want to hear is: No matter what happens you are a good mom. You will try your hardest and if it doesn't work out for you you will feed your baby in a way that works for your family, be it formula or donor milk. I am here to tell you that. It will all be okay. I've been there. You are a good mom. You will try your hardest and if breastfeeding doesn't work out for you you will find a way to care for your baby and give him or her the nutrition they need.

With my first he came 5 weeks early. By the time I saw him in the NICU he had already been given a bottle without my permission. He was there for almost a week. I was a mess, who goes home from the hospital without a baby? It was surreal. I got a hospital grade pump and I just didn't get anything. I tried to breastfeed him and he screamed his head off. I got a case of raging mastitis that hospitalized me. The doctor's wanted him on a special high calorie formula and I felt like a double failure because I couldn't breast feed him and because of how expensive it was.

With my second she took to breastfeeding but had trachial malachia (a little flap in her throat) that caused her to chug and feed and then projectile vomit up 3/4 of what she ate. I couldn't keep up with her. I pumped, I breastfed and I supplemented with formula.

And then my third came and all was well. She fed beautifully, when I pumped I yielded actual results and my boss allowed me to bring her to work with me. It was a little slow at the start and a friend offered donor milk which I took and we rounded the initial hump. I finally made it to my one year goal.
So for new worried moms:

1- See a lactation consultant. You owe it to yourself and your baby to try this route. Moms have such a habit of feeling guilty. Seek help from a professional and if you still aren't able to after more time you'll know you gave it your all. If you can't afford a lactation consultant (which a lot of insurance companies cover) go to a local La Leche league meeting.

2- Try not to stress. It sounds impossible, after all you're worried about feeding your baby but stress can interfere with milk production.

3- Drink lots of water. Tons. Buckets. I was horrible at this but it really helps to keep yourself hydrated.

4- Look into galactogogues (foods that increase breast milk production). There are supplements out there, let your friends bring you lactation cookies, eat lots of oatmeal, work fenugreek into your diet and sip tea.

5- If you feel like you have to supplement discuss it with a lactation consultant and if it eases your stress DO IT. I found that after the first time I supplemented my middle daughter I had my most successful pumping session. I felt like there was a weight off my shoulders. In the end it made me more committed to breast feeding because I saw that I could produce.

6- Try a manual pump. Electric pumps seem convenient but sometimes a good manual pump can mimic a baby better and since they are small and portable realistically it will be what your reach for to bring with you the first time you're going to be without baby during a feeding time. I LOVED my Avent manual pump. It was small and I could pack it, breast milk bags, and an ice pack in a little Built lunch sack when I traveled.

7- Using a manual pump for a minute before you latch on your little can help start the flow stronger, especially for lazy little sucklers.

8- Get out. Don't fall into the shame spiral if you decide to use formula. I remember panicking at the thought of going to baby yoga and having to make a bottle in front of all the other breastfeeding moms but don't isolate yourself. In the end moms support other moms and getting out and interacting with other moms will help with stress.

9- Accept help. Let friends come over to sit with baby while you try to pump more or while you take a bath and relax. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby!

Best of luck to you. You can do it!

12.11.2013

Residence Hall Linens Multi-Blogger Giveaway

I'm excited to have been asked to participate in a multi-blogger giveaway by , Tara of Dandy Giveaway. My 9 year old made his Christmas list the other day. At the top of the list- a tuxedo, spray to make his pillow smell good, and 2 packs of underwear. What can I say, the kid is both practical and classy. It feels like a moment ago he was my tiny little preemie and now he's wants a tuxedo. Tomorrow it will be time for college. Maybe I'll just buy his linens now! Know a soon to be college-bound teen- now they can find everything they need all in one stop. Online at Residence Hall Linens! This web store seriously has everything a college student needs so they can focus on the truly important things... like studying. :) Here are just a few of the great looks: 383453_287129441375920_12215886_n   561774_286615438093987_1252681515_n   578125_286606721428192_289871120_n   So if you have a Senior in high school at your house or even one that's about to head off to heading off for winter semester then you now know to direct them to RHL. The linens are also always perfect for home use, too. ;) I'm so every excited to be working with these great blogs to bring you the following fantastically dandy prize! Cori's Cozy CornerIt's Just Me (an ordinary blog), It Mom, Leafy Not Beefy, Merlot Mommy, Me and My Handful, Better in Bulk, Chaos To Creativity, Ramblingstump, Living Through Motherhood, Fun Reviews And Giveaways, STL Motherhood, NYCitified, and Peonies & Poppyseeds!

And now for the giveaway...

One very lucky winner is going to receive a Student Starter Pack from Residence Hall Linens!

PKG_STRT3 6PC_TOW_COT_LLC_THML BED_QX_THML STRT_QX_THML   *Prize package is a $188 value and includes the following:
  • 2 extra-long fitted sheets
  • 2 extra-long flat sheets
  • 2 standard pillow cases
  • 1 extra-fluffy pillow
  • 1 extra-long reversible comforter
  • 1 extra-long quilted mattress pad
  • 2 all-cotton bath towels
  • 2 matching cotton hand towels
  • 2 matching cotton wash cloths
  • 1 extra-long thermal cotton blanket
  • 1 bedside buddy
*Winner's choice on color combination. (Enter on the Rafflecopter below the rules.) RULES: *This giveaway is open to US entries only. *Winner is subject to eligibility verification. *The winner of this giveaway will be drawn no later than the evening of December 16th and will be emailed. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, a new winner will be drawn. *This multi blogger giveaway was sponsored by Residence Hall Linens, but all opinions are strictly my own.   a Rafflecopter giveaway

11.30.2013

Cleaning for the Cure: How to Raise Childhood Cancer Research Funds by Having a Spotless Home

As we celebrate the start of the holiday season I find that there is a lot to be thankful for this year. The girls are happy and healthy, we are making new friends and settling in in Texas, and I actually voluntarily started listening to Christmas carols before Thanksgiving (gasp).

Part of our new life in Texas has been adjusting to new stores (loving HEB), new experiences (Bucce's), and new brands. Walking through our local Walmart we're seeing brands we've never heard of before like Cloralex®, Ensueño®, Pinalen® and Pinol® (all part of AlEn USA). These brands are household names here in Texas and are quickly spreading across the country. As a crazy couponer I brought some Ensueño® Baby home on a great deal and loved the light powder scent it gave to the girls clothes. And then while researching their cleaners online I learned about their local (Houston) roots and philanthropic side.


Thanks to foundations like Curing Children's Cancer Fund (CCCF) and to brands like Cloralex®, Ensueño®, Pinalen® and Pinol® who created the campaign "Clean to Cure™” $25,000 was raised and donated to support some of the country’s leading pediatric cancer researchers.

 My friends know that I would rather read about cleaning on Pinterest than actually clean but I may have to work on that since everytime I cleaned I'd be "cleaning for the cure". Now every time the kids tip over a cup of juice, stain their clothes or draw on the wall and I clean it up I know I'm supporting a company that donated $25,000 to children's cancer research.

* Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I will be receiving some of the listed cleaning products to try out. My opinions are my own.

11.01.2013

Parenting Wins You Won't See on Pinterest



I could post pictures of the elaborate cupcakes I created for my daughter's birthday, the quilt I sewed for a friend's baby, or the doll diapers we made for the girls' baby dolls- but some of the most useful "parenting tips" are wins you won't see on Pinterest. They sure did make life easier though.

diy crib, make your own crib, ways for kids to sleep, mattress on floor
By the 3rd kid in, the girls are wearing "boy" clothes, the boys are wearing pink diapers, and you're napping on the floor just to get some rest. 
The perfect nursery? It's a distant dream.

 I'm pretty sure this is not what Pinterest had in mind when they were talking about DIY dog beds but I'm not sweating it. The major question is why does the slightest noise make her run to sleep in our bed but the dog can muscle her out without waking her? 

toddler bungee cords, toddler chair,
When you don't have your sewing machine handy to whip out a quick child buckle seat that will fit on most chairs, go primitive with a stick and some bungee cords. She thought it was hilarious and we kept her away from the campfire. 


Ahh, the elusive bedtime dance. Does a routine matter? Is the room the right temperature? Shh, no noise or should there be some background noise? And why the heck won't they GO TO SLEEP! I finally found a fix that worked for us.

potty training, potty training tips, potty training rewards
What can I say? I got tired of potty charts, donuts, and stickers. Sharpies are cheap and easy to carry.

hiding veggies in food, things to do with beets, beet recipes,

Having trouble with vegetables? Hide them in "cupcakes". I fed them these for breakfast on days that I needed a few minutes of quiet. I find that days where I start with five minutes of alone coffee time go smoother.

how to clean legos, sanitizing toys, getting rid of germs, cleaning toys after poop in the tub

My sanity improved a bit when I figured out a quick way to clean up toys after snot nosed children and their germs had their way with them. This is also great for when poop happens in the bath tub. What, that's never happened to you? It will. And it will be gross.

And my personal favorite time saving discovery: 

bathtime, popsicle cleanup, messy popsicles

Yup. This idea struck me one day and it is still one of the best ways to buy 30 minutes of quiet. 

What parenting tricks help you keep your marbles? 

10.14.2013

Ch...Ch...Changes!



Life happened over these past few months. In a BIG way. We are now in San Antonio, Texas. (WOW!). This is a huge change from Vermont and I didn't handle the blog transition very well (translation: not at all). We knew we were moving awhile before we could tell anyone and quietly put our house on the market. It sold very quickly. Needing to keep our jobs up until we left, I panicked and stopped blogging lest I reveal our secret.

Then some kind of twisted shame spiral happened where I felt so bad about not writing and keeping up the blog that I actually had trouble coming back to it. Combined with the fact that the kids are home all day everyday I wasn't very motivated.

I've conquered that. My husband starts a job down here tomorrow. Everything is falling into place. So- I'm back!

I'll get back to frequent postings and reenter the land of the blogging.

Thanks to anyone who stuck around!

6.16.2013

Father's Day- Tell it Like it Is



I love Facebook on Father's Day. It's all lovey dovey thanks for being the best Father ever and thank you husband for always running when the baby cried. I call shenanigans! Endless griping followed up by father of the year posts just isn't true. You don't need to paint a rosy picture. Tell it like it is.


To my father: 

Thank you for still going through the drive thru at McDonalds to buy me french fries after I puked on you while sitting on your shoulders in line inside. It took me years to not cringe at this story because I felt bad for still demanding fries after puking. I thought it made me a brat but now that I have kids I understand that it just made me your average two year old.

I also apologize for squeezing that cool glass thing that bubbled up liquid when you held it too hard and then hiding it under a giant pile of printer paper when it broke. I don't know why I was scared to tell you but at the time it felt like a giant issue.

Thank you for supporting me when my first marriage broke up and telling me that I needed to do what was right for me. It was a really hard decision and your opinion was one of my biggest concerns.

Thank you for spoiling the crap out of my kids. I love that they've come to equate you with allowance. One less thing for me to do.

Thank you for letting us leave the kids with you this weekend so that we could go away. The time was desperately needed, as was the sleep (of which I know you're not getting any).

And the only non-thank you...... seriously, they didn't realize the play phone made noise. Did you have to replace the batteries on it when they visited?

To My Father-in-Law:

Thank you for raising my husband to be an amazing man.

Thank you for not judging me when I was going stir crazy on bed rest. Thank you for instead saying, "You want to go out for brunch and go baby shopping? Sitting in a chair is like bed rest right?"

Thank you for always doing the dishes when I cook and making sure our yard looks presentable since we really could care less.

And thank you for buying the girls noisy toys and buying my son knock knock joke books. You knew it would drive me crazy and you did it anyways. Then you shrugged your shoulders and said "That's what grandpa's do." And the kids love you for it.  

To My Husband:

Thank you for getting up with the 1 year old every morning so that I can sleep. I've had some health issues and the ability to sleep the extra hour every morning really makes a difference in how my day goes.

Thank you for allowing my then 3 year old son to enter your life with no questions and showing absolutely no difference in love for him and the two daughters we had later. He thinks the world of you and although I am not impressed by the farting and belching that you have taught him I appreciate your willingness to teach.

I love that our daughter wanted to be you for Halloween and shares the same salty demeanor in the morning pre-juice that you do pre-coffee.





Thank you for randomly smacking my ass and making lewd comments. I've pushed out three babies and I like to feel wanted in an "authentic" not because I have to romantic way.

Thank you for your creative baby-proofing. Not every man knows how to paracord cabinets shut after the baby figures out child locks. And I'm sure you'll find a solution for the stool/door thing soon.














You also really like to let the kids dress themselves. This sometimes peeves me when I am the one heading out with them and they are half in ski gear, half in snorkel outfits. However, it does result in some great photo ops and it makes me laugh.


And of course you may lead the kids into questionable directions nutritionally but you're teaching them life skills right?






In the end one of the reasons I love you the most is how much like my own father you are. You are fiercely protective of your daughters, you have a strange sense of humor, you are a bit of a nerd, and you love your wife. And this Father's Day I love you both. Not only the things you do right but for all of the funny things you've taught me over the years by not following the path of least resistance.




5.12.2013

Complicated Relationship with Mother's Day



It's Mother's Day. According to Facebook and Pinterest I should be basking in the glow of my angelic children enjoying breakfast in bed that they've made assisted by a bumbling and well-meaning husband. Flowers, sticky kisses, and handprint cards are par for the course in this fantasy world. Instead, I will get up, drink coffee, shower, and head into work. Before cursing my employer please know- this was my decision.

You see, I have a complicated relationship with Mother's Day. Growing up we did the traditional "queen for a day" route for my mom. My dad would help us pick out a gift. We'd sign a sappy card and deliver breakfast on a tray. When I had my son I had visions of this same formula being a part of my Sunday in May annually. Except it wasn't. You see I married a man who was a great father but not a great husband (for me).  We separated and due to my job being heavily travel and him living with his parents custody was established primarily with him. Some Mother's Days after that I'd be elated to get a gift in the mail and a phone call. Other Mother's Days I'd be crying in my studio apartment because I hadn't heard from him and how could I be a mother without my child? I wanted to lift him up and get those sticky kisses that other moms got so freely.

I'm happily remarried now and that little boy is a big nine year old who serenaded me on the phone today with "Happy Mother's Day" set to the tune of Happy Birthday. He will also spend today celebrating his stepmother who I appreciate more than she will ever know for providing a comforting maternal figure in his daily life. My two little girls will stop by with their dad and grandpa later to say hi and I will get wet kisses (the baby thinks kiss means lick). But still Mother's Day is not an idyllic holiday. There are those who have lost mothers, women struggling to become pregnant, mothers who have lost babies or grown children, and mothers who don't have their children with them.

Today as I go into my zen place and scoop coffee at the roaster's I will reflect on all the women who have made me who I am today. One is my amazing mother, one was my husband's mother who I never met but who made him the man he is today, and then there are so many others- bosses, teacher's, friends' moms, and  friends who are new moms. The love that we show each other shapes the next generation. Happy Mother's Day, no matter how complicated it may be.