Ten Toddler Approved Chores

Toddler Approved Household Chores
As moms we’re good at taking full responsibility for everything—ourselves, our children, our spouse, our home…everything.  I know I find myself feeling overwhelmed at times because I have 5 million things that I think I need to do. 

When I get to this point, I often realize that I’m the one putting all of that on me.  I’m not asking for help when I need it.  I’m not giving myself any grace.  I’m not expecting my family to do things for themselves.

And I’m suffering because of it.

I won’t lie and say that I never feel overwhelmed anymore or that I don’t still mom guilt myself and when I try—and fail—to do everything.  However, I’m making a conscious effort to not hold myself responsible for everybody’s everything.  I’m working on remembering that my family has responsibilities, too, and needs to be held accountable.  It’s helped tremendously.

I know we moms want to do everything for our children, and sometimes we even feel guilty for expecting them to do things.  Or remember that sadness—and pride—you felt and still feel with every shred of independence they acquire?

Well, eventually our precious little angels will need to be self sufficient adults.  I, for one, do not want to do my 25 year-old’s laundry or grocery shopping.

Children can start doing chores and helping out right around the time they start walking.  Starting them young makes it the norm, instead of surprise! you’re thirteen and now I expect you to do all these things I never taught you to do.

When our kids are younger, they even enjoy chores.  Part of this is because they get to be involved with something you’re doing.  So, no, you probably won’t be able to expect your toddler or preschooler to handle most chores on their own.  And, no, it might be as fast as if you just do it yourself.  However, those days will come.

Lay the foundation.  Include even our youngest kids.  Let them know they’re needed and an important part of the family unit, too.  Everyone can contribute and feel proud!  Show your appreciation, thanks, and pride.  Your toddlers will appreciate it.

1. Dishes

Toddlers can help with dishes, but be warned that they really enjoy playing in the water, if you’re a dishwasher-less house, like mine.
  • Load/unload dishwasher
  • Put away dishes
  • Help with rinsing dishes
  • Sorting dishes
Responsibility Kids Quote

2. Laundry

My two year-old loves helping with laundry almost as much as much as she likes playing in the dryer.  Thanks to his early involvement in laundry, my 10 year-old can do the whole laundry routine without me and has been able to for a few years now.
  • Help empty dryer
  • Help load washer
  • Help transfer clothes from washer to dryer
  • Close lids/doors of appliances
  • Pour laundry detergent in
  • Push buttons to start laundry

3. Feeding Pets

Feeding our pets is pretty much the full responsibilty of the kids at my house, with some prompts from mom and dad, occasionally.
  • Pinch of food for fish
  • Scoop dog/cat food into bowl
  • Feed treats to dog

4. Training Pets

If you don’t mind your dog responding to commands from your children, they love being involved in dog training and reinforcement.
  • Helps give commands
  • Helps give rewards/treats when dog follows commands

5. Clean Their Room

This is one of the earliest tasks kids can easily be involved in, and I think it’s really important for them to take care of their own things/space.
  • Pick up their toys
  • Put their laundry in hamper
  • Throw away dirty disposable diapers

6. Wipe Up Spills

I fully encourage and insist that my kids, including my 2 year-old, clean up after themselves.
  • Wipe up spilled liquids
  • Pick up dropped food
Related Post: Kid Approved Jokes

7. Set and/or Clear the Table

If you’re a family who sets the table, you can get your kids involved in that and after dinner clean up, too.
  • Help set table
  • Clear dirty dishes from table
  • Put own dishes in sink/dishwasher
  • Throw away disposable plates/cups
  • Dispose of uneaten food

8. Hand Vacuum

I know some kids are afraid of vacuums but mine love to vacuum and a hand/mini vacuum is the perfect size for children!
  • Vacuum furniture
  • Vacuum crumbs off the floor
  • Vacuum staircase

9. Water Plants

Maybe your kids will have a green thumb.

10. Help Bring In/Put Away Groceries

Depending on their size, age, and maturity, your toddler can help with various grocery tasks.
  • Put away groceries
  • Help carry in lighter groceries
What chores does your toddler or older child do? What age do you start including your kids in household responsibilities?
10 Toddler Approved Chores

3 Cool Products You’ve Never Heard of for Lactating Moms

Products Lactating Moms
We’ve all had that experience where we come across some really cool product but only after it’s useful to us.  That happens to me all the time with kid and baby products, such as when I discovered the Kiinde breast milk storage system!  Lucky me, I keep getting new nieces and nephews so I can buy those things as gifts for them, instead.

Whether you’re breastfeeding or exclusively pumping, there are some really awesome products out there!  Unfortunately, many of them aren’t widely advertised or sold.  I know I’m on my third lactating experience and I’m still finding new products to make it easier/better. 

So, fear not, you don’t have to wish someone told you about that cool, unique product.  I’m going to do just that right now!

1. Freemies—Pump on the Go

Freemies—Pump on the GoFreemie Collection Cups The Only Hands Free and Concealable Breast Pump Milk Collection System
Freemies are a unique breast milk collection system.  They are hands free and concealable.  The cups go in your bra and the system is set up to work with a variety of breast pumps and can be hacked to work with others.  Some women have reported trouble maintaining supply with the Freemies or taking longer to empty, while others just can’t stop raving about how they’re the best product they ever found!

2. Haakaa—An Improved Hand Pump Design

Haakaa—An Improved Hand Pump DesignHaakaa manual breast pump
The Haakaa is a manual breast pump, by definition, but really it’s something different.  You squeeze the body of the Haakaa to form suction on your breast.  You can choose to ‘pump’ it if you want, but I think the Haakaa is ingenious for other reasons. 

Because of the suction many women have had success with using the Haakaa to suction to their breast and catch milk from one breast while nursing from the other.  Also, pumpers have utilized the Haakaa lying down and in bed.  Don’t try the knock offs.  They don’t compare to this awesome device and aren’t worth the minimal money saved.

3. Milkies Milk-Saver—Wearable Breast Milk Catchers

Milkies Milk Saver
The Milkies Milk-Saver is a unique way to avoid wasting or losing breast milk, because we all know every drop counts.  You wear the Milk-Saver and it collects any milk you have from leakage.  It can be used on one breast while you’re nursing on the other or you might even buy two of these bad boys to wear when you might be going a little extra time between pumping.  Although they claim to be discreet, the general consensus is that they’re a little bulky for continuous wear.
Have you tried any of these products?  Do you know of some other super cool, not mainstream product you wish everyone knew about?  Tell me in the comments below!
Cool Products for Breastfeeding

6 Things You Can Do Right Now to Save Money

Save Money Right Now

The need to save money is pretty universal.  Most people, myself included, are always looking for ways to minimize spending, so we can save more.  Drastic changes tend to be harder to commit to and more likely to inspire us to do something crazy in rebellion.  For me, it’s easier to just commit to a few small changes and work my way up.  Here’s six, simple, money saving tips you can implement right now.

1. Turn off the water when brushing your teeth.

Turning off the water when brushing your teeth is a great way to conserve water.  However, it also can save you money!  For a family of four brushing twice a day, turning off the faucet could save them around $50 a year!  Here's a handy chart to help you figure out your possible savings.

Related Post: Homemade Flea Repellant

2. Use less toothpaste or none at all.

Did you know, it might not even be necessary for you to use toothpaste?  And if you are using it, you only need a pea-size amount on your toothbrush.  While this might not save your hundreds of dollars, every penny counts, and I'm sure you'll save a few pennies if you stop being wasteful with toothpaste and cut back to the recommended amounts.

3. Wash clothes with cold water.

Instead of paying the money to heat water to wash your clothes, save that money and wash your clothes with cold water.  Washing in cold water is also great for delicates and stains—such as blood or sweat, which will set if washed in hot water. Money Quote

4. Use a programmable thermostat and use it right!

Inefficient heating and cooling can make a huge difference on your utility bills.  Using a programmable thermostat to lessen the cooling or heating effect while people in the household are sleeping and/or at work or school is a great way to lower your utility bill.

5. Skip or cancel your cable or satellite.

The average cable bill is somewhere around $90 and a similar average for satellite subscribers.  On top of that, bills are only expected to keep rising. I read this great article on cutting the cord the other day, that basically thanks all of the people willing to put up with cable/satellite company B.S. for making their cable-less life even better.

With Netflix ($7.99) a month you can stream tons of television shows and movies. 

If you're dying to watch the newest episodes of your favorite TV series, many are available for purchase (as individual episodes or as a season pass) on Xbox live for very reasonable prices. Going this route, you own them and can watch them anytime, again and again.

Many other options exist, such as Hulu, ChromeCast, Fire TV, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Roku, Vimeo, and Apple TV.  Do a little research, and I'm sure you'll realize you could be saving tons of money!

Related Post: 8 Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund Responsibly

6. Switch to a Prepaid Cell Phone

If you're still with AT&T, Sprint, or some other carrier, you're being robbed.  And I'm not the only one who thinks so.  If you're looking for somewhere to save money, why not kick your phone company to the curb? The downside to prepaid service is you must pay for your phone (full-priced) outright. 

However, you'll probably save $50 (compared to an individual plan) or more a month by switching.  You might even be able to take your phone with you in some cases. In other cases, why not settle for the non-iPhone (or whatever the latest craze is) and get an affordable smart phone while you save for the full cost of the one you really want?

What is something you do to save money?  Do you practice any of these money saving tips?

Save Money Now

How I Pump 50+ Ounces of Breast Milk Daily

Pump Breast Milk
I’m currently working on qualification to become a compensated donor to a milk bank, following my surrogate pregnancy.  It’s a tedious (and very necessary) process of bloodwork, paperwork, etc., not unlike the process of becoming a surrogate—though it’s not quite that long.

When the parents and surrobabe were still stateside, I was pumping milk for the baby.  However, they’ve since returned home and I’m currently just filling my freezer with breast milk and waiting for approval from the milk bank. 

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some tips with you for pumping gobs of breast milk successfully!  Whether you’re an exclusive pumper, exclusively breastfeeding working mom, or just a mom trying to build up her milk supply…these tips can help you pump more milk!
Steps to More Breast Milk

1. Get a good breast pump!

With the majority of insurances being required to cover breast pumps thanks to the ACA, many moms are able to get their hands on a good breast pump for little to no cost to them.  However, insurance coverage varies widely from provider to provider and plan to plan.  And much like insurance, not all breast pumps are created equal.

Having a good breast pump is crucial to success in expressing the maximum amount of breast milk.  Hospital grade breast pumps are often available for rent from your local hospital or Babies R Us, such as the Medela Symphony.  However, this cost can get expensive and is relatively impractical because of their bulk and lack of portability.

A better option is the Medela Pump In Style Advance or, my personal favorite, the Spectra S1.  These are both options that work really well and can be used portably, though the Medela will require a battery pack and/or car adaptor to be used without a plug.  A good breast pump is one that your body responds well to and makes all the difference in your pumping journey!

2. Make sure your flanges fit.

Many women make the mistake of using whatever flanges come with their pump without ever considering that they have other options.  An incorrectly sized flange can have a detrimental effect on your supply because you likely won’t be efficiently emptying your breasts.
Breastshield Sizing Guide MedelaBreast Flange Sizing
These diagrams from Medela are a good starting point for reference, though you might want to visit a lactation consultant or your local La Leche League if you’re having trouble.  The average or standard size breast pump flange only fits about 45% of women.  For Medela shields, that’s a 24mm shield.  I, personally, have to use at least a 27mm shield. Bra size has nothing to do with breast shield size! 

If you’re using a Medela pump, Wal Mart and many other local retailers carry some of the other size shields.  However, you might have to order online for some other pumps or certain sizes.  Sometimes hospitals carry extra sizes, so if you’re in dire need, call your lactation consultant/local hospital.

3. Eat and drink plenty.

In general, nursing moms need around 500 extra calories per day than non nursing women.  Many women see a dramatic drop in milk supply in the event that they start a dramatic calorie reduced diet post partum.  Focus on eating healthy calories and staying hydrated in order to remain healthy and produce lots of milk.

4. Pump often.

If you’re exclusively pumping, then pumping 6 or more times a day is essential—especially in the early weeks and months.  Consistently pumping every 2 to 3 hours is ideal and at least once in the middle of the night.  If I manage to squeeze in 8 or 9 pumps in a day, I usually end the day closer to 60 ounces than 50.

If you’re breastfeeding and pumping, you can try and pump after every feeding or pump one breast while baby is on the other and alternate.  Another option is to add a pump in after the last feeding before bedtime and/or after the first morning feed and consistently pump at those times every day.

5. Power Pumping

If you’re just not happy with where your supply is at or maybe you’ve been a bad pumper, then power pumping is the most effective way to build your supply.  Power pumping consists of an hour long pumping session: 20 minutes pumping, 10 minute break, 10 minutes pumping, 10 minute break, 10 minutes pumping.  You can do this twice a day for as many days as you like and should yield an increase in supply within a day or two.

What tricks do you use to maximize your milk production?  Have you tried any of these tips with success?  Which is your favorite?

Pump More Milk

The Right Way to Freeze Breast Milk

Efficiently Freeze Breast Milk
When I was an exclusive pumper with my first born, I was totally clueless that there was a right and wrong way to freeze breast milk.  My bags were thrown into my freezer in lumps and frozen in all sorts of weird shapes and sizes.

This was so inefficient, but I was so oblivious to it, even though it seems obvious now.  I guess when you’re a new mom, though, it’s easy to overlook the simple things.  We’re so overwhelmed with new, new, new that I totally get why I spent almost a whole year freezing breast milk in ugly lumps.
Also, nobody ever told me any different.

Well, here I am to tell you that there is a right way to freeze breast milk.  It will save your freezer space and maybe even a little bit of your sanity—y’know if you’re a little bit of a perfectionist like me.
Storing Breast Milk

Freeze Breast Milk Flat

This is the right way to freeze breast milk, in my (and many others’) opinion.  If you’re pumping for a milk bank for donation then this is definitely the most efficient way to freeze, seeing as the only other option is bottles.

A tip my sister gave me before the birth of my youngest was to use an empty wipes container to freeze my Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags. They fit perfectly which makes it even better. It's a great alternative to pricey storage solutions that promise the same thing. Why not use something you already have that costs a lot less. 
Breastmilk Store in Wipes Container
However, you can easily freeze breast milk flat without the use of a wipes container.  Now that I’m exclusively pumping for a milk bank post-surrogacy, I simply lay the bags flat on the shelf in my freezer of my fridge.  Another great tip is to freeze between two cookie sheets because then your bags will be flat on both sides.

Breast Milk Cubes

Another option for moms is to freeze breast milk in cubes, like ice cubes.  When I briefly did this, I used Munchkin's Click Lock Fresh Food Freezer Trays, but many other—probably better—options are available.  If I was to do it again, I’d probably use a tray designed for freezing breast milk such as Milkies Milk Tray or a flexible silicone tray such as this one Nuk offers.
Freezing breast milk like this can be convenient as many tray options allow you to freeze in 1 ounce portions, so you can thaw exactly what you need, when you need it.

However, it can also be a real pain to get the cubes out of the tray.  You will need to be mindful of properly storing the breast milk to avoid freezer burn.
Breast Milk Freezing
Proper care of breast milk is important so that the hard work of pumping doesn’t go to waste.  Any mom who’s ever dumped a few ounces of her pumped milk knows that crying over spilled milk is absolutely fine!

How do you store breast milk?  Are you guilty of freezing ugly breast milk lumps at one point, too?