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The first time I told my daughter to clean up after herself, she laughed at me.

Okay, she was 13 months old, so really she just blinked and toddled away to wreak more havoc on another room of our apartment, but, really, isn’t that the same thing? ?

As she approaches her second birthday, though, I’ve slowly found ways to start teaching her more responsibility through household chores, all with the goal of ultimately showing her that families (and communities) work best when everyone does their part.

It’s important to me that she values not only her place in our family, but also the contributions she can make to the world. For me, that starts with helping to take care of our home. Every child develops differently, so there will be exceptions, of course.

But for us and our home—these 5 chores are helping my daughter learn self-sufficiency and teamwork.

1. Pick up toys.

Don’t be fooled by that wide-eyed deadpan—your toddler knows exactly what you are asking when you tell them to pick up. The trick to starting a habit of tidiness for me is patience. When I ask my daughter to clean up using clear directives (i.e. “Please put your blocks in the bag.” vs. “Pick up the living room!”), there can be no caving if she doesn’t do it right away. I might get her started by picking up two blocks to show her where they go, but from there, I know I have to wait her out.

If she simply refuses, I don’t let it turn into a power struggle. I usually just say, “okay,” and leave the toys where they are. Later, when she asks for a snack or to go outside, I’ll say, “Yes, but first you have to put your blocks in the bag.” She’s almost always willing to do something I want to get something she wants. Plus, there’s no denying the look of pride on her face when she successfully cleans up a mess and we get to celebrate her helpfulness. ?

Pro tip: Baskets are a mama’s best friend. We keep all her toys in open-top baskets and bins to make it easy for her to put everything away when she’s done playing.

2. Wiping up after meals.

After every meal, I hand Vivi a damp washcloth to wipe her face and hands and then I have her use it to wipe down her booster seat. Real talk: She doesn’t always do the best job. But I usually have to follow up with a disinfecting wipe anyway, so for me, this task is more about the principle of, again, learning to contribute to caring for the house. ?

Pro tip: You might feel silly, but I’ve found that singing songs about “this is the way we wipe our face!” can be a huge motivator for reluctant little cleaners.

3. Putting away shoes.

Like most mamas, coming home is often comparable to unloading after a quick jaunt up Everest. I’m usually carrying my overloaded bag, sometimes a car seat, sometimes a lunch box or shopping bags, my keys, and struggling to keep our dog from escaping while we all squeeze through the door. It’s such a help to me that Vivi can take her own shoes off and put them away, and I always make sure to call out what a great helper she is. ?

Pro tip: Designating a specific spot for her shoes has worked wonders. Now she is used to the whole routine of taking her shoes off herself and putting them away in their spot.

4. Helping in the garden.

Recently, we were in Homegoods when Vivi happened upon a small metal watering can that came with gardening gloves and a tiny spade and rake. I decided to capitalize on her love for playing outdoors and brought it home. Since then, it has been a great way to get Vivi involved in caring for our backyard plants. I feel like we get bonus points for this one because it’s also a) teaching her to care for the planet around her and b) teaching her the basics of physical science. *pats self on back* ?

Pro tip: Once our veggies and herbs start growing, I’ll let her pick them with me and help me bring them inside to wash and eat or cook with.

5. Cleaning up her own messes

Toddlers are basically whirling dervishes of mess when they want to be. On any given day, Vivi will dump a basket of laundry, spill the dog’s water and spit a mouthful of string cheese onto the floor. This used to stress me out (“I just folded those!”), but I find the stress is relieved when I turn it into an opportunity to remind Viv that she is part of a family that all pitch in.

Now, when her sippy cup spills onto the floor, I simply hand her a paper towel and say, “Okay, now you wipe up!” She’s usually actually pretty thrilled to perform this “big girl” activity and I’m pretty thrilled I don’t have to break out the mop again. ✨

Pro tip: Next step in my chores plan for this specific task is to ask Vivi to throw her paper towel in the garbage when she’s done.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas


Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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