To the Overwhelmed Stay-At-Home-Mama

I can’t remember the last time I went out in public with my kids and didn’t hear the phrase, “you’ve got your hands full,” at least once. Doesn’t matter if I have all three of my boys or just one, at least one person says it, every single time. And every time I hear it, I think to myself, “do I really look as overwhelmed as I feel?” Every time I hear those words, I get a little pang of Mama guilt for not having my …stuff together. Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever hear “you’ve got your hands full” and you just want to scream, “yes, I do, please help!”

This letter goes out to all the Mamas who are doing their best even if their best doesn’t feel good enough. It goes out to all the Mamas who don’t remember what it feels like NOT to have full hands. It goes out to the Mamas who are so overwhelmed with just keeping their families alive, that they don’t even know what else to do.

From one overwhelmed Mama to another, you are not alone. Whether you’ve just had your fist baby and are realizing that motherhood is way harder than you thought, or you have a full brood of kids and it just seems to get harder with each one; you are not the only Mama out there feeling this way.

It’s ok to be overwhelmed. It’s ok to feel like you’re in over your head. It’s ok to think this stay-at-home-mom gig is not all it’s cracked up to be, because some days it just isn’t. If you get into bed after a crazy day with your kids and think all you’ve accomplished is that everyone is still alive, that is still an accomplishment; you’ve done your best and that’s all you could do. Close your eyes, and let the day go. Tomorrow will be a new day, another chance to try your best.

When you’re feeling completely drained by your kids, your family, your life the best thing you can do is reach out. There are so many moms who have been (or are) in your shoes who can be an awesome support. If you have mom friends, speak up, let them know you’re having a hard time, I can almost guarantee they’ve experienced some of the same feelings before and they would love to offer a hug and a listening ear. If you don’t have mom friends, I highly recommend ignoring all the other things that you think need to get done and finding some, ASAP. Look for a support group for moms in your area, start taking a class, go to a yoga or exercise class – not only would all of those things help you to get out your funk on their own, but they’re great ways to meet other moms in the area and make some friends who have been there, done that and can help you get through the craziness of motherhood, too.

The next time you’re out and hear “you’ve got your hands full,” instead of thinking how quickly you could run away after kicking the stranger, think of all the other moms out there hearing the same words and remember, we’re all in this together. Our hands may be full, our lives may be totally overwhelming, but we’re in this together!

(Please note: for some of us who feel overwhelmed more often than we don’t, the issue may go deeper than just the regular ol’ stay-at-home-mom stress; it could be postpartum depression. This is a very serious condition and should not be ignored. If you think you might have PPD, you should definitely each out to a friend, but also, please reach out to a doctor. There is no shame in asking for help and pretty soon, you’ll start to feel like life isn’t quite so overwhelming.)

Cooking with Kids: 4 Easy Recipes Children Can Make

Kids who learn to prepare food are more likely to eat a varied diet, try new foods and be able to cook competently as adults. They’ll also learn important math concepts and recipes are a great way to practice reading. Cooking with kids might seem a little intimidating at first. You might be worried that they’ll make a mess, or you might be afraid they’ll hurt themselves with knives or using the stove or oven. But part of the process of cooking with kids is teaching them important kitchen safety rules, and with adult supervision and guidance, even toddlers can learn to use a (not too sharp) knife or stir over a low-heat stove. Cooking with kids may be a little messier than cooking alone, but teaching them to clean up after themselves is a very important part of raising responsible, helpful children.

To get you started, here are four easy and healthy recipes that kids can make. Gather some ingredients, some cooking gear, your kids, and some courage and get into the kitchen!

Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs are a great first food for kids to cook; they require just a couple of ingredients and no sharp knives, they cook best over low heat, and they’re very difficult to mess up! You’ll of course want to talk to them about the importance of stove safety before starting, but on low to medium-low, even 3-4 year olds can learn to stir eggs in a pan. Eggs are also a really healthy food, and as your child gets more confident in their cooking skills, you can add other ingredients, too like veggies, cheese or meat.

Healthy no-bake cookies

This healthier spin on no-bake cookies is a really easy treat for kids to try. These cookies don’t require sharp utensils, just mixing over medium heat.

½ cup coconut oil

1 cup natural peanut butter or other nut butter

¾ cup honey

1 tablespoon vanilla

6 tablespoons cocoa powder 

2 ½ cups oats

¼ cup ground flax seeds and/or wheat germ

 

Stir the coconut oil, nut butter and honey over medium heat until melted and smooth, mix in the vanilla and cocoa powder then the oats and flax seed/wheat germ. Drop by the spoonful onto parchment paper and cool.

Fruit salad

Fruit salad is an excellent way to teach knife skills, it’s also a great way to introduce new fruits. Fruit salad is as simple to put together as just picking a few fruits, have your kiddo cut them up and mix them together! They could also mix the fruit into some yogurt for an even tastier treat.

Playdough

This last recipe is not for food, but it sure is a great recipe for kids! Playdough is simple to make and will provide hours of fun!

2 ½ cups water

1 ¼ cups salt

1 ½ tablespoons cream of tarter

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 ½ cups flour

Mix everything together over medium-low heat. Cook until dough at the top starts to look dry. Pinch a piece off, if it’s no longer sticky, it’s ready! Knead in food coloring if desired.

 

Don’t these recipes sound like so much fun to make with your kids? Have you done any cooking with your kids yet? What’s your favorite kid-friendly recipe?

10 Baby Items You Don’t Really Need

Whether you’re trying to save money, save space or just minimize extra “stuff” you don’t really need, there are a few items you might be able to cross off your registry list. Keep in mind that this is just one person’s list of unnecessary baby items, not everyone will agree. But there are plenty of things the baby industry will try to sell you that you just don’t need, read on to see which ones you could say no to.

1. Wipes warmer

Let’s face it, your baby isn’t going to like being cleaned up whether the wipe is warm or cold. A wipes warmer uses up electricity, requires maintenance and pad refills, and can even harbor bacteria or mold. This is one item I never even considered buying.

2. PeePee TeePee

The PeePee TeePee is a little fabric cone to place over your little boy’s boy-bits so that they don’t pee on you while you change their diaper. As a mom of three boys, I am definitely a fan of preventing being peed on, but a baby wipe or little washcloth works just as well! And soon, you’ll learn to be quick enough to keep the pee in the diaper.

3. Fancy crib bedding sets

Crib bedding sets can get very experience! And they’re completely unnecessary. Fluffy blankets, pillows, and crib bumpers are all suffocation hazards for little babies, so you won’t be using any of those things in the crib with the baby for quite a while anyway. Yes, a crib set can be a beautiful addition to a nursery, but a much more practical option is to simply get a couple pretty crib sheets.

4. Shoes

Babies don’t typically start walking until 9-12 months old and until they are steady on their feet, they really don’t need shoes. In fact, it’s best to start with bare feet, socks or soft-soled shoes when babies are just beginning to walk because feeling the ground under their feet will give them a better sense of balance and help them develop their strength and coordination.

5. Bottle warmer

If you’re using bottles, you may indeed need to warm your baby’s bottle – some just prefer them that way. However, a bottle warmer is not really necessary. You can warm the bottle just as easily, and sometimes even faster, in a big mug or measuring cup of warm water.

6. Changing table

The changing table is a pretty useless piece of furniture, if you ask me. It takes up space, costs quite a bit and doesn’t really have a use after the baby phase. You can just as easily use a counter changing pad on top of your baby’s dresser, or even on the floor to change diapers.

7. Special laundry or dish soap

You do want to be careful about the chemicals you use on your baby’s belongings, but special baby laundry and dish soap are usually a lot more expensive! You’d be much better off using natural and/or organic soaps for the whole family.

8. Baby food maker

There are so many options for feeding your baby when they’re ready to eat solids, sometime after six months. If you decide to go the homemade baby puree route, you can just as easily make them in a regular blender or food processor, no need for special baby food making equipment.

9. Multiple baby-holders

Swings, travel swings, bouncy seats, Bumbos, booster seats, Rock N Plays, they’re all just places for your baby to hang out and they take up a lot of space in your home. While it might be good to have one baby-holder, you don’t need a lot of them.

10. Infant car seat

Now this one may be controversial, some parents swear by the infant car seat for convenience’s sake. But a lot of parents find that the seat is awkward and heavy to carry and it is a big expense for something that will only be used for 6-12 months before your baby outgrows it. A much better option is to buy a high quality convertible car seat that will last your baby from birth until at least booster seat age.

 

 

3 Common but Deadly Car Seat Mistakes

A study performed at  Doernbecher Hospital at the Oregon Health and Science University found that 93% of new parents made at least one critical error when installing their baby’s car seat or buckling them into it. Do you want to wait until you’re in a car accident to find out if you’re one of the 93%? This article is not at all meant to place blame or to accuse, but to shed light on mistakes that many people make that could be posing a serious threat to their child’s safety.

There are, unfortunately a lot of mistakes being made with car seats, but here you’ll read the three most common car seat mistakes. These mistakes are very easy to make, but they are also very simple to correct. Every answer for how to correctly install and use your car seat is within the seat’s manual. The most important thing to do to avoid a deadly mistake is to thoroughly read the manual and follow the instructions within. Keep reading to find out the top three common but deadly car seat mistakes. By reading this article, you may be able to discover ways you can keep your child safer.

1. Improper installation

Your car seat’s manual is your best friend here. Every seat is different, but there are several general mistakes people make in regards to installation. The seat should be tightly installed; it should not be able to move more than an inch in any direction at the belt path. You should never use both the seatbelt and the LATCH system at the same time, only use one or the other. The top tether should only be used rear facing unless otherwise indicated in your seat’s manual. No aftermarket products should be used with a car seat as they have not been tested for safety, this includes seat protectors, hanging toys, strap covers, etc. Anything that doesn’t come with the seat should not be attached to the seat while it is installed.

2. Not buckling correctly

The biggest mistakes people make with car seats are in how they buckle their child in – not making the straps tight enough and not putting the chest clip in the right spot. In the event of a crash, loose straps could allow enough movement for the child to be seriously injured or even ejected from the car seat. Car seat straps should be snug as a hug. To ensure that they are tight enough, pinch the straps over the child’s shoulders. Your fingers should glide along the strap, unable to grasp any webbing between your fingers. There is a reason it is called a chest clip, the safest location for it is at chest level where the sternum is strong. Many parents tend to put the chest clip too low over the belly but this is very dangerous! In the event of a crash, the clip would be over soft tissue where it could cause damage to internal organs. Another important part of buckling correctly is not putting anything aside from clothing between the baby and the seat or straps – this means thick blankets and thick coats. Winter coats should never be worn in the car seat as they can compress leading to loose straps which could leave the child at risk of injury or ejection.

3. Moving up too soon

Another big mistake a lot of parents make is moving their child up to the next car seat stage too early. The American Academy of Pediatrics has officially changed their recommendations; they are now agreeing with car seat experts that age two is the bare minimum to safely turn children forward facing. But that is the minimum; best practice is to keep children rear facing until they outgrow the limits of their seat and preferably to 4-5 years old. Up until that age, children’s spines are not fully fused and it can be extremely dangerous for them to be forward facing. Best practice for moving up to a booster goes by maturity – children should be able to sit up properly and keep the seatbelt where it should be for the entire ride. This could be anywhere from the age of 4 to 8. The best way to figure out when a child is ready to be out of a booster is the 5-step test. Does the child sit all the way back in the seat? Do their knees bend comfortably at the edge of the seat? Does the belt cross the shoulder between the neck and arm? Is the lap belt as low as possible, touching the thighs? Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip? If you can answer yes to all of these questions, the child is ready to graduate out of the booster, most kids are 10-12 before they can pass this test.

As you can see, the mistakes commonly made with car seats are easy to make, but simple to fix. By following the directions in your car seat’s manual and keeping up current recommendations, you can be sure your child is safe on every ride in the car.

5 Fun Things to do with Kids 5 and Younger for Under $5

Have you been looking for ways to fill time with your young kids? Maybe you’re a stay at home mom and your kids aren’t in school yet. Or maybe your kiddo has a preschool vacation coming up. Whatever the reason, it can be so much fun to spend time with our young children! While it can be lots of fun to take our kids on outings, going to children’s museums, swimming, out for treats or to the zoo, sometimes these outings can get expensive.

We’ve put together a list of some fun ideas of things you can do with your little ones for less than $5. Most of these activities can be done with things around the house or a quick trip to the dollar store. Read on to see what new fun things you can do with your kids 5 and younger for under $5.

1. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are so much fun and there are a couple of ways you can do them. For a great way to spend a rainy day, make up a list of items your kiddo can find around the house, it’s a good idea to put pictures on the list if your child can’t read yet. Then give them a bag or bucket and let them go to town! If it’s a nice day, you could also make a list of nature items to find and go for a nice walk, or make a list of other things you would see on a walk and make it a photo scavenger hunt.

2. Check your local library

Most libraries have programs for kids like story, and arts and crafts times. It’s also great to just go to the library regularly to pick out new books to read. Reading to your kids is so important and it’s always fun to try out new, fresh stories!

3. Junk art

Open-ended arts and crafts projects are a great way to expand your kiddos imagination! Junk art sounds like a funny name, but the basic idea is to gather up a bunch of random things (think recyclables like bottle caps, string, paper or fabric scraps, etc.), a base (paper, cardboard, etc.) and some glue or tape and let your kids go to town. This type of art, that focuses on the process of creating instead of the end product gives your kids the chance to be as creative as they want and it’s really fun!

4. Bubbles and chalk

The dollar store is a great place to get both bubbles and chalk and there are so many things you can do with both. Teaching your kids to blow bubbles is great for their facial muscles and encouraging them to chase the bubbles is great for their leg and arm muscles and kids just love doing both. With chalk you can draw fun pictures, practice writing or play hopscotch!

5. Make playdough

Playdough is a great way to fill time with kids! Making the playdough together is a really good way to get your kids into the kitchen and learning to cook. Pounding, sculpting and squishing the playdough is also a great sensory experience and many kids will gladly play with dough for a very long time!

What’s your favorite way to fill the time with your little ones?

Preparing for breastfeeding

If you’re expecting your first baby and you’re planning to breastfeed, you might be wondering what you need to do to prepare. You’ve heard about all the benefits of breastfeeding, and you want to give it a try, but you might be worried about how it will go. While most of the “work” of breastfeeding comes after your baby is born, there are a few important ways you can prepare yourself ahead of time.

Read up on the subject

There are so many awesome books and websites dedicated to breastfeeding. Pick out a few that appeal to you and read up. One mistake women sometimes make is not learning about some of the common things that can go wrong with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is awesome, but it’s not always easy. By learning about what can go wrong, you can be prepared in case it does.

Know your local resources

If something should go wrong, which of course we hope it won’t, it’s good to know ahead of time what resources you have in your area. Does your hospital or doctor’s office employ a lactation consultant? Check to see if they are any IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). If not, ask around or search for an IBCLC in your area as they are an invaluable resource if you have trouble nursing. A couple other great resource are La Leche League, Breastfeeding USA Counselors, and other local breastfeeding support groups. There are also many online forums and groups you can join for support.

Inform your doctor

Let your OB/Midwife know that you plan to breastfeed and be sure that they are on board with supporting your efforts. Also, when you’re looking for a pediatrician, be sure to ask about how they support breastfeeding.

Get equipped

As long as everything goes well (which it hopefully will!), breastfeeding doesn’t require a lot of equipment, but it’s important to get a few things to be ready. You’ll definitely want a nursing bra, nursing tank tops are also a great option. To start with while you’re pregnant, you might only want to buy one or two and be sure to go up a cup size or two. After the baby is born, you’ll get a better idea of what size you need and what type of bra is most comfortable. You will also probably want to get some nursing pads. Not every mom leaks, but if you do, you won’t want to be leaking all over yourself! If you plan to go back to work and continue to nurse, you’ll want to get a breast pump. Insurance companies are now required to pay for breast pumps, so contact yours and see what they can do for you! You may also want to get some nipple ointment, lanolin is not the best option, look for something that is made with ingredients that are safe to digest. There are of course lots of other things you could buy to help with breastfeeding, but those are the basic things you are likely to need.

Prepare your body

You may have heard that you need to “toughen up” your nipples to prepare for breastfeeding. Thankfully, this is just an old wives’ tale. The best thing you can do to prepare your body for breastfeeding is to have a healthy pregnancy. Your body will go through plenty of changes throughout pregnancy and during birth to get ready for breastfeeding, you can support these changes by eating a healthy diet and taking your prenatal vitamins, no nipple toughening needed!

If you’re preparing to breastfeed for the first time, what’s wrong thing you want to know more about? If you’ve breastfed before, what’s your best piece of advice for a new mom? By asking questions and/or sharing our knowledge, we all help each other be the best moms we can be!

5 Breastfeeding Failure False Alarms

If you’ve chosen to breastfeed your baby, congratulations! With so many benefits to breastfeeding for both your baby and yourself, you’ve made an awesome choice! Breastfeeding is both beautiful and natural, but unfortunately, it doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. Learning to breastfeed can be hard for some moms, and it can be hard for some babies.

One thing that makes breastfeeding even harder is well-meaning, but misguided advice from people who don’t know what they’re talking about. This advice might come from family members, friends, even nurses and doctors. It is a really sad fact that doctors, even OBGYN’s and pediatricians are not required to take a full course on breastfeeding. This isn’t to say that all breastfeeding advice you receive will be bad, but it’s important to be informed so that you can distinguish good advice from bad.

Below you’ll read 10 ways you might be told you’re failing at breastfeeding, and why each of them is just a false alarm.

1. Your baby lost some weight

A small amount of newborn weight loss is normal. This is especially true if you spent a significant amount of your baby’s birth receiving IV fluids. If your baby loses a few ounces in the first couple of days, don’t worry! If, however, your baby loses more than 10% of their birth weight or continues to lose weight after the first couple of days, it’s time to contact an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) who will advise you on the best way to proceed.

2. Your baby is jaundiced

Jaundice is not a reason to quit breastfeeding, in fact, it’s a reason to breastfeed even more. In order to clear up jaundice and lower bilirubin levels, your baby needs to poop. By giving them breastmilk, the most easily digested food in the world, you’re helping them to clear the poop and the excess bilirubin from their system.

3. You can’t pump much

Pumping output is not an indicator of how much breastmilk you are producing. No pump is as thorough as a baby who nurses efficiently, so you most likely won’t be able to get as much for the pump as your baby would get on their own. Also, many women don’t respond well to pumps at all. You also need to remember that if you are pumping on top of nursing, your baby has already extracted milk, so if you are able to even pump a little bit, you know your body is producing milk.

4. You aren’t engorged and/or you don’t leak

Not all mamas become hugely engorged and not all mamas leak milk. Everyone’s breasts are different and each mom’s breasts respond to milk production in a different way.

5. Breastfeeding hurts

Breastfeeding should not hurt, there may be some discomfort as you get used to having a tiny human sucking on you, day and night, but there should not be pain and bleeding nipples should not be seen as normal. But having painful or bleeding nipples do not mean you are failing, it means you may need some extra support. Call in the IBCLC and she can check to make sure your baby is latching right, help you find a more comfortable position and suggest ways to soothe the pain while you work on those things.

6. You’re not making enough

If anyone tells you that you are not making enough milk, the first thing to do is check with an IBCLC. It is rare that a mom is not capable of producing enough milk, but unfortunately it does happen. However, not being able to produce a full milk supply does not mean you are a failure and it does not mean you have to quit. Every drop of breastmilk your baby gets will provide amazing benefits. If you are worried about not producing enough milk, talk to the IBCLC! If together, you decide that your baby needs more than you can produce, she will help you determine how best to go about supplementing and how to increase or maintain your supply if you choose to do so.

Conclusion

If you are determined to breastfeed, you may have to learn to ignore some advice. It will be important to be informed about what is and isn’t normal in a breastfeeding relationship so you can determine what advice is worth listening to and what isn’t. When all is said and done, the best person to take advice from is an expert on the subject and in this case, that is an IBCLC, so if you have any concerns about how breastfeeding is going, that is who you should reach out to.

Little Kids’ Birthdays: Keep it Simple!

Birthdays are so much fun! No matter how many of them you have, each one is a new and exciting experience. For big kids and some of us grown-ups, a big party and with lots of excitement is the highlight of the day, but for our little ones, the best part of their birthday is getting some extra love and attention from those closest to them. Birthday celebrations for young kids don’t have to be extravagant, they just need to show your kiddo that they’re special!

For your child’s first few birthdays, keeping things simple is easier on you, much less expensive and a lot less overwhelming for them. Babies and toddlers can easily get overwhelmed by too many people and too much attention so keeping the party small is good idea. Read on to find more ideas for planning a simple, fun first, second third or maybe even fourth birthday party for your kiddo.

Pick a theme

Pick something your child is into. For a first birthday, it could be something you like, for toddlers, ask them what their favorite thing is. Some great birthday party themes for little ones are: princesses, balls, cars, teddy bears, puppies, kitties, any movie/show/book that your kiddo particularly likes.

Invite family and maybe a few friends

As mentioned before, too many people can be overwhelming, so keep the guest list small. The general guideline is to invite one friend per year of age. Or you may decide that a family-only party is best, and that’s totally ok! Babies and toddlers love their families! The simplest way to do invitations these days is online either by setting up a Facebook event or using Evite. If you want to go the snail-mail route, most big-box stores sell cute generic-looking invitations, or if you want to go a little fancier, check Etsy for printable invitations that go with your theme, this would add a special touch without being too much work or costing too much money.

Don’t worry about going crazy with decorations

Going overboard with decorations is kind of a waste of time and money. The guests are going to care more about getting to love on your little one than what the space looks like, and your kiddo will be much more interested in their guests, the presents and the food than any amount of streamers and centerpieces. One thing I would suggest is getting a couple of helium balloons – kids love them!

Pick some easy foods & a yummy treat

If the party will be at a meal-time, you generally can’t go wrong with pizza and salad. If you want to keep it even simpler, make the party between meals and just put out a few snacks like a fruit and veggie tray and some chips and dips. The important food item is the cake – this is where it’s ok to go a little overboard, but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult or expensive. Grocery store cakes are yummy and can be ordered in whatever theme you want, or if you want to go a little fancier, go to your local bakery and go crazy!

Skip the favors or go super simple

If you only have adults coming to the party, there’s really no need for party favors. If you’ve invited some kids, you’re still not obligated to give favors, especially since they usually end up in the trash when you give cheapy little party-favor-toys. If you want to give favors, a couple of ideas for things that people would actually want are – sugar cookies (get a cookie cutter that matches your theme) or crayons and a coloring sheet to match your theme.

Sit back and enjoy

If you stick to a simple theme with simple plans, you’ll get to do the most important thing – focus on your kiddo on their special day. Skip the expensive decorations, the huge list of things to do before the party and during the party and just sit back and enjoy your child’s birthday with them, that’s what they really want anyway!

10 Things Your Baby Actually Needs

Making a baby registry can be overwhelming. There are so many products out there that you might think you need, that friends or family or the registry guides might tell you that you really need for your baby. But if you read our previous article, you’ll know that there are many baby items that you don’t really need. Read on to find a list of 10 basic baby items that you really DO need.

1. A car seat

Safety is, of course, the number one priority! A high quality convertible car seat is an excellent investment in your child’s safety. Look for one with high rear facing height and weight limits to keep your child rear facing as long as possible!

2. Diapers and wipes

You’ll want to stock up on lots of diapers and wipes before baby gets here because they sure do use a lot of them! Diapers are a great gift to ask for since they’re fairly inexpensive for people to pick up and they truly are the most useful baby item you’ll get. Be sure to get a variety of sizes, most babies don’t stay in newborn sizes or size ones for very long so you don’t want too many of those.

3. Sleepers and onesies

People love to buy babies clothes, so you really don’t need to register for outfits, dresses and other cutesy clothes. It would be a good idea to register for onesies and sleepers in a variety of sizes, though because those are the most useful pieces of baby clothes you’ll need.

4. A few blankets

You likely won’t need too many blankets since they’re not safe to have in the crib with your baby, but you will want a few. The best kind to get are large muslin swaddle blankets. These can be used to swaddle, tucked in OVER the straps of your baby’s car seat or stroller and are lightweight to be used all year round.

5. Baby carrier

Babies love to be carried and that is totally normal and healthy! There are many options for baby carriers like wraps, slings and soft-structured carriers. It’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time and check some carriers out in person if possible, but a baby carrier is a definite must-have for a baby registry.

6. Stroller

When You Finally Have Time Kill Being a Mother

Smiling mother holding baby

Is your only child or youngest child going off to school this fall? Will you finally have a few free hours during the day and you have no idea what to do with yourself? Don’t worry, here is a list of 35 ways for a Mama to fill her time while her kids are in school.

1. Finally catch up on the laundry mountain

2. Finally catch up on your favorite TV show

3. Stare into space and enjoy the silence

4. Read a book without pictures

5. Listen to whatever music you want

6. Try out your kids’ video games to see what all the fuss is about

7. Stare at your computer/phone for more than 5 minutes without feeling guilty

8. Take a nap

9. Pee by yourself

10. Break the rules – no food in the living room? Ha! Eat your veggies before you get dessert? Not this time!

11. Take an uninterrupted shower

12. Go get a massage or a manicure

13. Go for a walk without a stroller

14. Clean out your car

15. Clean out the kids’ car seats (…scary!)

16. Go for a long drive with the windows open and the music blaring

17. Run errands and enjoy NOT having to buckle the car seat 27 million times

18. Go grocery shopping alone

19. Go shopping for something other than groceries

20. Go to a museum or art exhibit

21. Go the library and don’t visit the kids’ area

22. Meet another (temporarily) child-free friend for coffee

23. Go out for coffee alone

24. Finish your coffee at home before it gets cold and without having to microwave it

25. Join a gym and skip the child care room fees

26. Take a class

27. Get a part time job

28. Make appointments without having to book a babysitter

29. Watch a movie in the middle of the day that has more than one swear word

30. Eat a candy bar without having to either hide it, or share it

31. Pick up a forgotten hobby (think knitting, sewing, word working, etc.)

32. Learn a new hobby

33. Get a pet – they can take up almost as much time as kids

34. Eat your whole lunch without sharing and without having to get up to get someone something

35. Have a lunch date with your husband

36. Do some deep house cleaning

37. Call your mom (everyone should do this more often, anyway)

38. Call a friend whose kids have been in school for a couple of years and rejoice with them

39. Reconnect with a friend you haven’t seen in a while

40. Write a good ol’ fashioned, snail-mail letter

41. Call a friend (with a sense of humor) who’s kids are not in school yet and gloat a little

42. Feel bad, call the friend back and offer to babysit their kids or make them dinner

43. Make important phone calls without having to hide in the bathroom from the kid-noise

44. Finally start organizing the billion and one pictures you’ve taken in your child’s 5 years

45. Decide what’s for dinner before 4 pm

46. Make a healthy and delicious after school snack for your kids

47. Eat the snack yourself and have to remake it for the kids

48. Volunteer at your child’s school because you miss them

49. Show up early for pickup because you ran out of things to do

50. Shed a few tears because you can’t believe your baby is old enough to be in school