Hectic Schedules, Hectic Parents: When Chaos Collides

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by VolunteerSpot and

This is what my "office" looks like most days. 

Madness. This month has been total madness. Between my schedule for work which puts me on the road 3-5 days a week all over Texas and my husband's new position on a county EMS squad two and a half hours away we've been getting very creative with the schedule lately. On a weekly basis my husband, father in law and I sit down to figure out who will be where and as a result who will be watching my youngest two. Throw in a 10 year old going back to school in Oregon, meal trains for friends who are pregnant and having babies, church groups and the discussion of adding preschool or a homeschool group to our plate and I could not be happier have online tools on my side. The more I can do on the go the better.

This may be a sponsored post but I was first introduced to VolunteerSpot a year ago when I moved to Texas. Since then it has been used for numerous activities. This free online tool allows a parent to start a virtual sign up sheet doling out time slots or items needed. Other parents then "claim" shifts and VolunteerSpot will even remind you of what you promised you do.

The best part of all of this? It eliminates the REPLY ALL mess. When I'm driving around Texas for work and I hear my email ding I look at it on my next stop. It is severely irritating when I open it up and it's 9 reply all emails of "Thanks!". With the virtual nature of online sign up everyone can do their thing and log in at a time that's convenient for them without a flooded mailbox. And as a traveling mom I appreciate that ease. From the road I can sign up to bring a meal on a day I'm home, from thousands of miles away I can check in on class parent assignments, and I can start a volunteer sheet for events I'm running.

As if the sanity gained from easily planning and participating from the road aren't enough you can also participate in VolunteerSpot's giant giveaway. The chance to win up to $20,000 in prizes for yourself and your child's school should have you clicking away with glee! Be after school cool with VolunteerSpot and win prizes including gift certificates, Amex cards & Cabot Cheese (Disclosure: I love cheese.). Your school will automatically be entered to win a $1500 in grants.


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.


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!