Dashboard Randomness: Sunrises and Bluebonnets

Today I had a golf tournament for one of the regional associations I’m part of in San Antonio. Usually, when I go to San Antonio I will drive down the night before but I have been on the go so much lately I decided to just wake up early and drive this morning. And, boy, did four o’clock a.m. come early?!?

However, I really enjoyed drive. I got the opportunity to be let my mind wander and through anything and everything. No music. No audiobook audiobook. No podcast. No phone calls.

Just me and the open road, a beautiful sunrise, and miles and miles of beautiful bluebonnets.

The 130 loop around Austin is absolutely gorgeous right now. That might not seem like a logical place to go look at bluebonnets but there are miles of them in the huge median between the north and sound sides of the tollway.

Add to that, this afternoon I got to play golf on a beautiful course with some awesome customers, who made it a blast!

The only thing that would be better would be to be at home tucking my kiddos in tonight because I sure do miss them (and Garen too)! I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too, right?!? Thank goodness for FaceTime!


Mommy Review Monday: Care.com for Finding Childcare

I have excellent babysitters/nannies that help us out.  And, with four kids and both of us traveling for work, boy, do we need it?!?  When I tell people that we have great sitters they typically ask me how I found them.  It’s hard to find good help from word-of-mouth.  If you hear about someone who’s great, guess what?  They’re already busy helping someone else.   Or they’re busy with school or extracurricular activities.

Moms and Dads, the struggle is real….

So here’s how we found our awesome helpers:  We have used Care.com twice now to find regular babysitters/nannies for our litter.  And we’ve been pleased with the result both times- in fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve had our first babysitter that we found there for over two years now.  Time flies when you have good help I guess!

We recently found another babysitter- only because our regulars are getting busier as they “grow up” (they’re nursing students and school and “real jobs” keep them from helping out as much).  The process was good again.

I’ll admit that I was very leery of using Care.com.  It seemed so unthinkable to find a babysitter online.  I mean, they’re your kids!!!  But, like I said above, the struggle was real.  Really real.  We need the help with our work schedules to maintain sanity in our household.

Here’s what I liked about it:

  • You can post a position with exactly what you’re looking for in a sitter from hours to age to experience, etc.  Do you want them to have reliable transportation?  Great.  Add that to your requirements.
  • You can view their profile- not just their photo but also their experience and information.  I sorted through these carefully.  I don’t care what people look like but it is important to have that so that when you meet them, if you want to meet them in a public place, you’ll know who to be looking for.  You can avoid awkwardly walking up to someone in Starbucks and asking if they are so and so there to interview for a babysitting job.
  • You can ask for certain certifications such as CPR and first aid.  This is important to me if I’m going to leave my kids alone with them.  Our sitters are all nursing students, so we feel very comfortable.
  • There is the ability to read and post reviews about the providers.  This is very helpful in seeing what other families’ experiences were.
  • There’s the ability to message on the system with them without giving them your phone number or address, etc.  (See below for the flip side of this too)
  • If you’re interested in Au Pairs as an option, you can look at different companies and some of the Au Pairs that they offer.  We seriously explored this as an option but since we currently don’t want to pay for that level of care when the girls are still in pre-school, which would be an additional cost.  Oh, and our extra bedroom is currently serving as my office too, so that would be something we’d have to work out.  Maybe someday.
  • There’s a good search feature.  That is an obvious must.  As you are reviewing them you can add them to your favorites so you can easily find them later. See below image for these search filters available.

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  • The app is pretty good as well.  If you’re like me, the time in between errands, work, etc. is not at your computer so being able to quickly look at this on your mobile device is very helpful.  You also have the option to get notifications.  I personally hate phone notifications.  My semi-ADHD personallity gets overwhelmed by them so I’ve got them turned off.  It’s nice to have the options should I ever get in a position where I really, really needed help quickly though.

Additional options that I haven’t used but could also be helpful:

  • If you’re looking for child care centers, you can look at them online- although, there aren’t that many reviews online for that so you’d be better off reviewing them on another search engine than this site.  I also would say that there’s a good chance they don’t have all centers on here since it’s likely the center has to pay them to be hosted.
  • Family childcare (what I always called in-home daycare) is an option you may want to explore.  You can view their information, reviews, and whether they’re certified, etc.
  • If you’re in need of someone with experience with special needs, that is something that you can easily search for.
  • They have a search function for senior/elderly care, which is great if you have a family member you may need assistance with.
  • You can pay your babysitters through them.  We don’t do this but if we were having someone full time this might be something we’d look into, so it could be a good feature if that’s what you’re considering.
  • You can schedule them online.  Again, we don’t do that.  I find that texting our sitters works just fine and I feel like it’s more personal.  It’s always nice to have the option I guess though.
  • Do you need housekeeping or other help around the house?  You can post a job or search for candidates on here.
  • Do you need help with your fur babies?  You can get a dog sitter or walker or even someone to feed your pet lizard on here.  Our cat fends for herself while we’re gone most of the time but we’ll be looking into this if we ever go on an extended vacation.
  • Not sure if you feel confident in their record?  You can do background checks on here as a extra precaution.
  • You could put yourself out there as a caregiver/provider as well.  I’ve not tried it but sometimes I feel like, hey, what’s a few more when you have four???  Just kidding but some extra money might be good.

What I would change:

  • I’d love for it to cost less.  This year the subscription was $168.00 without tax.  I’ll admit that I feel as if I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it just finding our gem of a babysitter and knowing that I can find additional help pretty easily, but still…. that’s a lot.  The only good thing about it is that it automatically renews for me yearly so I don’t really have to think about it too much until I’m up for renewal and it shows up on my statement.  I think there are shorter subscriptions but it’s nice to be able to find help all year long and the yearly subscription is the best rate available.
  • I had a hard time getting our sitter’s contact information outside of the site, which doesn’t allow you to share phone numbers.  You can call them through the site but not text.  Please, please correct me if this is “user error” on my part.  I think this is a safety thing but it did make it harder than I’d like.  I had to get her email to have her send me her phone number so I could text her.  (You know us (barely) millennials and younger- we like to text each other rather than actually talk to someone on the phone)

There you go- Care.com- from a busy working mom.  It’s been good to us.  I’d love to hear your tips on finding good sitters/nannies.  What has worked best for you???

ALSO:  For the record- I am NOT getting paid or any discount from Care.com, although if anyone from there is reading this and wants to give me a discount, I’d take it!!!  

Mommy Review Monday: Discount Tire

I drive a lot.  A WHOLE lot.  It’s part of being in sales, covering the state of Texas.  With that, my tires see a lot of wear.  I buy my tires from Discount Tire.  And I’m soooo glad.  Here’s why:

  • You can buy certifications for them and they cover repairs and replacements for the life of the tire.  What does this mean for me?  Well, over the last two weeks I’ve managed to destroy two tires:  one from a screw while driving on a jobsite and one today from what I think was a curb that totally popped up out of nowhere.  Both were replaced and I just had to pay for the $30 to re-insure each of them.Yes, this is the family truckster earlier today.
  • They will do a free air check.  You know how during the winter months your tire pressure warning will come on in your car and you don’t know whether a tire is really low or not?  It happens to me and because there are so many Discount Tires it’s really easy to swing into one.  And if it’s low, they’ll inspect it to make sure there’s nothing wrong.
  • They will rotate your tires for free too.
  • They have amazing customer service.  I have NEVER had a bad experience with anyone that works there.  They are all very kind, fast, and honest.  Today, as I sit here, it’s packed so there’s a wait.  They offered me fresh coffee and water. They told me where the restrooms are without me asking and even told me there’s a QT (gas station that has pretty decent food too) next door. They keep people appraised of their progress. Service with a smile.
  • They’ve got free WiFi, so I’ve got my laptop open and I’ve already gotten quite a bit of work done that I needed to.
  • I’ve yet to be in one where they didn’t keep it clean and neat.  It’s a nice, open layout with comfy chairs.  None of those loveseats that you sometimes get stuck snuggled up next to a perfect stranger.  That’s something you can’t say about all vehicle service places.
  • They have great prices and give you plenty of options for tires- from super fancy to economy.  They will tell you which ones they typically keep in stock, which helps me for cases like this where I am having to replace one.
  • There are a TON of these places.  I realize if you live in a rural area it might not be as easy to take as much advantage of all of the benefits such as the air check and tire rotations.

I honestly don’t have anything bad to say about them.  I am super-thankful for them today as the family wagon and I limped into their parking lot, knowing that they’d get us taken care of.  I’m pretty sure Garen is glad too- especially that I made it here without having to call in backup since even though I know how to change a tire, it’s been a LONG time!

Happy Mommy Review Monday!

And, FYI, I don’t get any kickbacks from these guys…although that would pretty awesome. Ha!

Mommy Review Monday: Faster Than Normal- how to use your ADHD super powers

I’ve never been diagnosed as ADHD, however, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it.  For example, this is the third time I’ve started and stopped writing this blog and I’m only two sentences in.

Or another example:  I’m having a serious conversation about school and discipline with a friend about grounding from TV. I go from that to Netflix to HBO to When is the Next Game of Thrones going to be on to What will John Snow and Calecee’s baby look like (I’m not stopping to look up how to spell her name right or I’ll be on Google for 2 hours reading about who knows what).

Wait, Google….

Wasn’t I supposed to Google something earlier today when Garen and I were talking?  I wonder what Garen is doing now?  Oh yeah, Kate was crying when we talked.  I bet he had a crazy night with the four kiddos with me in Houston.  Wait, the new babysitter started tonight……. Hold up!  How did I get here?  Wasn’t I supposed to be giving examples???

So you get the general idea.  That can happen to me in the middle of a dead serious conversation- like at a doctor’s office or while talking to the school principle.  Seriously, every minute of my life is like this.  But it’s not just that.

I struggle to be on time.  I procrastinate on important things that are overwhelming to me. But on certain tasks that get my attention, I can get things done with super-focus.  There’s a reason my blog is called Chicken Minus Head- because I’m often running around like that, from one thing to another!

I’m NOT saying this to try to get sympathy or to make excuses.  I deal with it and work hard every day to overcome through crazy-weird organization techniques. I’m also a self-proclaimed self improvement junkie.  I listen to a TON of audiobooks and podcasts since I have so much windshield time every week.  One I read a while back is really worth sharing on Mommy Review Monday.  It’s called Faster Than Normal by Peter Shankman.

Faster than Normal

It’s all about how ADHD can actually become your personal super power if you learn how to harness it and use it to your advantage.  It also is very helpful for anyone who has someone that has ADHD in their life and often times doesn’t know how to handle them.

Garen and I both listened to it.  There are times that the author went on about himself a little much and that bothered Garen more than me.  I think he did it to make a point that he didn’t achieve so much despite having ADHD but more to demonstrate that he achieved a lot because he had ADHD.  Look beyond that to get the useful tips.  Plus, the author is pretty hilarious so it was a fun listen. I’m going to start listening to his podcast to see if there are more tips that I can use.

This book is worth the read (or listen) if you’re a parent or teacher of an ADHD so you can learn ways to encourage and coach (and stay sane) or if you’re just a person that likes to get a lot done (even if you don’t have ADHD).

FREE ADHD TIP:  I finally finished this blog by setting my alarm for 10 minute time intervals and didn’t let myself do anything else until I finished it.  Doing that allowed me to get it done MUCH faster.  A lot of folks term this “time blocking.”  During the work week I use it a lot to get things done that I don’t look forward to and sometimes for chores I hate too.  It really works well for me.  I can’t remember if this is in the book or not but this gives you an idea of the kinds of ideas you can get out of it.

Photo Friday: Mr. Chairman, My Dad

My dad doesn’t often read this. And it’s a good thing because he’s a very humble man and may not approve of me bragging on him so much. However, I’m going to brag about him anyway.

Last night he was “inaugurated” as the Chairman (equivalent of President) of the Mason Contractors of America (MCAA). He’s been on the board now for 6 years and will now serve as Chairman for two additional years.

I’m so proud of him and my mom, who supports him every step of the way. They made up the “p” and the “s” of P and S Masonry, a masonry contractor in Central Texas established in 1987. They’ve both been advocates for the masonry and construction industry for the 30+ years they’ve been in business. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with them both in the masonry business and now on the equipment company, Spec Rents, which they established to provide increased safety and productivity to contractors across Texas.

I couldn’t have asked for better mentors and I’m so excited that he now has the opportunity to help continue to promote masonry across the country.

Congratulations to my Dad, Paul Odom, Chairman of MCAA, and to my mom, Susie, the First Lady of Masonry.

With that said Photo Friday consists of photos from the MCAA World of Masonry in Las Vegas. They’re all iPhone photos and none taken by Garen so they many not the best but they captured the moments!

It doesn’t matter how many times I attend the World of Concrete/World of Masonry… I think I’ll always be in awe at the sheer awesomeness of the cool construction products and equipment there is available.  Yes, I’m guilty of being a masonry/construction geek!Pre-banquet photo.  Em, Brian, and I flew out yesterday just to attend the closing banquet and hear Dad make his first speech as Chairman.  Garen was already out there since Oldcastle is a big player in the industry too. It was a great surprise for Dad because he didn’t know we were coming!Here he is: Mr. Chairman. It’s official since it was in the banquet booklet!I’m so proud of this guy!

Here he is with Mike Sutter, the outgoing Chairman of MCAA.  Dad’s had such a great time being his “wingman” over the years!

You can’t forget the First Ladies, Mom (Susie) and Colleen.  Behind every great man is a great woman.  They’ve had such a great two years traveling together.

Before boarding this morning we enjoyed a quick breakfast together as a family, minus Garen who flew American.

Did I mention that the banquet last night was at Fogo de Chao??? I’m pretty sure I ate about 3 lbs of delicious meat and had about 10 of those addicting cheese rolls soooooo I may not lose any weight this week. Totally worth it! And I was glad that I wore my stretch tent dress for the occasion.

It was a fast, furious, and fun trip and I’m so glad I got to go. We’ve got a big weekend with Anna’s dress rehearsal for the Talent Show tonight and the Pinewood Derby tomorrow. Stay tuned next week since I’m sure Garen will get some great photos.

Photo Friday: Colorado- Where the Wild Things Live- Part 1

Garen and I had the MCAA Midyear Meeting in Steamboat, CO in August and we decided to take a few days off before it to go to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Of course, we had a great time and, of course, Garen took some awesome photos. These are only a few because my phone is having technical difficulties (I’m sure it’s not user error).

We got to see a TON of animals in the wild. It was amazing.

Makita Training and Pheasant Hunting in Utah

I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend a training and pheasant hunt in Utah with Makita this weekend.

It was a great time and I got to learn a ton about the Makita tools we carry. I’m still constantly amazed that they have soooo many battery operated tools available.

A few of the coolest I found were:

These would seriously be some awesome gifts if you’re looking for Christmas or birthday gifts for your husbands (or wives- I’d personally love the jackets).

On top of that I shot my first pheasant. These birds are really so beautiful that I almost felt guilty. However, I do have a cooler full of meat that I’m bringing back with me so I don’t feel too bad. I’m still amazed at the way the dogs worked the birds and could point them out like they did. So amazing to watch.

This morning I woke up to snow outside, which was beautiful and pretty unexpected for September.

The lodge, the food, the guides, the dogs, and everything at Pheasant Run Outfitters was outstanding. I definitely recommend it to anyone!