Category: Guest Posts

Guest Post: Great Family-Friendly Hikes in Pittsburgh by Caitlin Venczel

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi
George&Guy2
Emerald View Park, Photo by Caitlin Venczel

Caitlin Venczel is the founder of Hike It Baby Pittsburgh, a local baby- and kid-friendly free hiking group that treks all over the city throughout the week. Since I love hiking in the Fall, I asked Caitlin to share her five favorite hiking trails in the city for families. 

By Caitlin Venczel

Looking for family-friendly hiking trails? You’re in luck because I’ve got some great advice – grab your family, go to a trail and start walking – bam! Family-friendly hiking trail. :) In all seriousness, most trails ARE family-friendly.

Don’t be intimidated by super long trails. Get .5 mile in. Do more another day! Maybe a hike has some technical footing? Throw (well, place) your child in a child carrier (some go up to 50lbs!), grab a hiking pole and go hiking! Maybe you feel like because you can’t get a “good” hike in, it’s not worth going at all. Yes, it takes time to get your kiddos ready and get out the door. But getting outdoors, even for a small walk in your local park, can make everyone happier. And the more you do it, the more you’ll love it and the easier it’ll be.

Here are five of my favorite hiking spots to get you started. Interested in finding more? Join me over at Hike it Baby Pittsburgh – a free group dedicated to getting families outside.

Fall hiking at Beechwood Farms, Photo by Nadine Champsi
Fall hiking at Beechwood Farms, Photo by Nadine Champsi

Beechwood Farms in Fox Chapel

This gem of a place offers a unique, natural play area, a pond filled with schools of goldfish and wonderfully maintained trails. The trail around the pond is less than a mile and great for little walkers. Strollers can manage as well but there are some roots to watch out for. There are many other trail options in Beechwood Farms. Grab a map in the visitor center and hike around their five miles of trails!

Fairy Houses, Photo by Nadine Champsi
Fairy Houses, Photo by Nadine Champsi

Tranquil Trail in Frick Park

A favorite of HIB Pittsburgh, this trail is exactly as its name suggests – tranquil. Relatively flat, and with a wide packed gravel & dirt path, this trail is excellent for walkers and strollers alike (though something with shocks is recommended). Expect to find fairy houses in the roots of some of the trees, and have fun tossing fallen sticks and leaves into the creek that follows part of the trail. For more info on the Tranquil Trail and other wonderful trails in Frick Park, check here.

Fred Rogers statue along the North Shore, Photo by Nadine Champsi
Fred Rogers statue along the North Shore, Photo by Nadine Champsi

Three Rivers Heritage Trail

Explore Pittsburgh’s riverfronts! The 24 miles of trails that make up the Three Rivers Heritage Trail are usually paved or hard-packed gravel/dirt paths. You’ll see lots of bikes on this trail – that’s one way to know a trail works for strollers too! There are tons of different segments of this trail and each one offers different views of Pittsburgh.

A favorite of mine is along the North Shore – it passes the Science Center, Heinz Field, the Water Steps, and PNC Park and offers a spectacular view of Downtown. This would be a fun trail to treat as a project. Print a map and mark off the different segments of the trail as you hike them with your family. Once you get them all done, it’s time to celebrate! For more info on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system, check this out.

George & Guy Trail, Photo by Caitlin Venczel
George & Guy Trail, Photo by Caitlin Venczel

Emerald View Park

Looking for a hike that’ll also be a great workout? Have older children that want a destination to hike to? Hike the George & Guy Trail in Emerald View Park. Offering one of the best (maybe THE best) views in the city, the hike along Mt. Washington is absolutely worth it. Though the trail is wide, there are some portions that get a little steep so this hike is best for children out of the darting phase. Also, this trail is not necessarily stroller-friendly, so may be best for older kids or babies in carriers. You can always use a child carrier to contain some of that energy as well ;). This hike offers both an urban and secluded feel – it’s a very special park.

Fall Run Park, Photo by Caitlin Venczel
Fall Run Park, Photo by Caitlin Venczel

Fall Run

The trail along Fall Run travels up a valley bottom crossing several bridges and passing by several waterfalls. One large waterfall waits for you about ¾ of a mile up the trail. This is a great hike for kiddos that might need some extra motivation on the trail because they can count the waterfalls and bridges along the way. If you can time the hike with warm weather, the stream is great for splashing and playing in as it is fairly shallow, with flat rocky sections. There’s also a playground at the trail head in case your little ones still have energy after the hike. Please note: this trail may not be the best for strollers!

Enjoy the trails! And as always, happy hiking!

#PghGBE: Holistic Health Coach. Meditation Encourager. New Mom. Pittsburgh Enthusiast. Propelle Co-Pilot by Emily Levenson

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

This post comes from Emily Levenson of Emily Levenson.com, and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers in honor of April Fool’s Day. You can see my post over on Pittsburgh Taste Buds where I discuss four family-friendly restaurant finds we made over the winter!

Emily Levenson
Emily Levenson

When the swap assignments came out for the Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event and I saw that I would be writing a post the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog, I was super excited. I have been following along for the past year, getting loads of resources for things to do around Pittsburgh with my 11-month old daughter.

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to add to the conversation around where to go and what to do, as we tend to go to the same three places over and over again (Phipps, Trader Joe’s, and friend’s houses for playdates). That’s why I need Nadine!

Thankfully, she asked that I talk about what I do through Propelle, an organization for women entrepreneurs that I co-founded and co-pilot with Kate Stoltzfus.

For those that may not be familiar with Propelle, we support women entrepreneurs in the Pittsburgh region and beyond—both online and off—around business and entrepreneurship. Our community of creative, driven and smart women tell us that Propelle is a place where they find immense support, feel empowered to take on any and all business tasks and connect with an infinite source of inspiration.

The best part? Propelle came into being almost by accident. Though, saying that, I’m not really sure it was an accident. Maybe divine intervention or synchronicity are better words.

From the moment I met co-founder Kate Stoltzfus, I knew she was someone I wanted to partner with. I just didn’t know how. Over lunch one afternoon we came up with the idea for creating opportunities for women entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh to connect. We spent subsequent lunches and coffee dates planning a launch party together to generate buzz.

Close to 100 women showed up at that inaugural event, and we realized we were onto something huge.

We started with organizing networking events. Then we began to offer workshops, a Mastermind group and our VIP Coaching sessions.

Emily and Kate Stolfzus, Photo by Christina Emilie Photography
Emily and Kate Stolfzus, Photo by Christina Emilie Photography

Everything we offer is what Kate and I wished we had for ourselves as we were dipping our toes into the entrepreneurial waters. Most of our friends were following a more traditional career path, and we felt alone in our entrepreneurial pursuits.

We longed for a community where business, creativity and collaboration were celebrated and encouraged. When we didn’t find exactly what we were looking for, we decided to create our own opportunities for this type of connection.

When we were brainstorming ideas on that lunch date, what resonated the most was the idea of working with women to support each other and lift each other up. I think we have each “taken flight” through our partnership and collaboration. We encourage each other to do better, work harder and keep sharing our unique talents with the world.

I also truly believe that the women in our community help to lift us up and keep us motivated to do better and be better in everything we do.

Community means everything.

It’s the very reason Propelle is in existence; it’s our “why.” When we see collaborations, partnerships and friendships form as the result of meeting at a Propelle function, our hearts swell with pride. This is how we define success.

I can’t imagine living in Pittsburgh without this community. These relationships have enriched my life, and for that I’m very grateful.

About Emily: Emily Levenson has been inspiring others since the turn of the century. She has been referred to as a rainbowmaker, a magical mentor and a game changer. Most days, you can find Emily tweeting up a storm (@emilylevenson), blogging about the delicious and healthy foods she creates (emilylevenson.com), playing on Pinterest and Facebooking with the best of them. Emily has been lucky enough to have been featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Pittsburgh Business Times, NEXTPittsburgh and on WTAE-TV.

The following blogs participated in today’s Pittsburgh Great Blogger Exchange:

The AP Collection Beezus Kiddo Pittsburgh Happy Hour Orange Chair Blog In Pursuit of Simple Lucy Quin The Wheezy Runner Pittsburgh is Beautiful Last Minute Panic The Almond Eater A Body of One’s OwnLunges, Long Runs and Lattes Downtown Living Emily Levenson Parmesan Princess Oh Honestly, ErinSole for the Soul Crank Crank Revolution The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog Yum Yum PGH Ya JagoffGardening in High Heels Sean’s Ramblings Pittsburgh Taste Buds The Foodtasters My Blog n’at The Fashionable Eye jelly jars Don’t Forget to Eat Small Town Dad Josh’s World The Steel Trap In Pursuit of Happiness 101 Achievements A Librarian’s Lists and Letters Pennies, Pints, Pittsburgh 30-Something therapy Red Pen Mama Nicky D. Cooks everybody loves you…

Guest Post: “Crohn’s Disease: A Parent’s Perspective” by Mary Amrhein-May

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi
Mary Amrhein-May and her son, Patrick, diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at 7.
Mary Amrhein-May and her son, Patrick, diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at 7

Mary Amrhein-May is a mom and a professional musician. She lives in Bethel Park with her husband Charles, and two sons, Will and Patrick. Professionally, she performs throughout Western Pennsylvania and is a member of the Laurel String Quartet, the Cama Duo, and the Caritas Group. 

My mother often says, “Worrying doesn’t solve anything.”

As a parent of a child with Crohn’s disease, I spend a lot of time worrying. My son Patrick is 12 years old and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease just a few days after his 7th birthday. On that day, our lives changed forever.

Initially, my worries were about the immediate situation:

Why doesn’t he eat much? Why does he curl up in pain when he does eat? Why does he look so tired all the time? Why isn’t he growing?

We were fortunate enough to have an awesome doctor at our initial visit to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. As soon as this doctor walked into the room, his attention was on my son–not me, not the med student–just Patrick. At one point, the doctor turned to me and said, “I think you have a very stoic son….and I think he hurts a lot more than he is telling you.” I saw Patrick melt. It was as if Patrick knew, from this point forward, he did not need to pretend that he was okay anymore.

With help from the doctor, Patrick started to feel better for at least some of the time. My worries became more future-oriented:

Why isn’t he growing? Will this medicine work? When will it stop working? What long term side effects will these drugs cause? When is the next really bad flare coming?

crohns2

One can adapt to living with a certain amount of “What if…” scenarios, but the worry never really goes away…

In the summer of 2011, Patrick’s disease became quite severe and we struggled with decisions regarding more aggressive treatment options. By the end of that summer, Patrick was having trouble finding energy to even get out of bed and needed to be near a bathroom 24 hours a day. We opted for a treatment therapy that involved infusions every 6-8 weeks at Children’s Hospital.

In spite of (or maybe because of) all this worry, I was motivated to find some help. The obvious place to start was to contact the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). Little did I know that when we decided to attend a CCFA information session in April of 2010, that our lives would once more change forever—this time for the better. Within a few minutes after our arrival, I had made a new friend, another parent of a child with Crohn’s. My husband learned about some advocacy efforts of CCFA. Patrick learned about opportunities just for kids with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, including a week-long summer camp. We were suddenly surrounded by compassion and understanding. Later that year, my older son Will learned that he could run races to help raise money for CCFA. Four years later, Will is still running and fundraising.

Recently, we have had quite a bit of good news. Patrick has gone 4 months now without experiencing any symptoms of the disease. He loves school, enjoys the sports of foil fencing and cross country and is enjoying feeling well! He goes to the hospital every six weeks for infusions and is the healthiest he has been in the last five years. Treatment for pediatric Crohn’s disease has changed and improved in the past five years. In fact, in the last several weeks, I have heard two different doctors state that they believe a cure is likely in the near future—perhaps within 10 years!

So while I can still find things to worry about, I’ve managed to replace at least some of it with hope. Hope is a good thing.

 *****

I would like to invite you to join us in our efforts to help fund this cure by sharing information about a CCFA event called Opening Night! on Thursday, November 20th at AMC Loews Theater at the Waterfront. At Opening Night! guests will be able to see the new movie: The Hunger Games – Mockingjay, Part I before it is released to the public. We hope that some of you will consider joining us for this fun event, not only to enjoy the movie, but also help us fund that cure. For information on Opening Night!, call 412-823-8272 or visit: www.ccfa.org/chapters/wpawv/

 *****

Patrick shares his story at the CCFA Women of Distinction Luncheon:

Guest Post: Mothers Must Stand Up for Child Justice by Joanna Huss

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

joannahuss

This is a guest blog post written by local mother, Joanna Huss. Joanna is the mom of Hannah, three, and Michael, one. While her business and livelihood is in running her PR firm, Huss Communications, her passion is helping to end child abuse. She volunteers her time as a member of Allegheny County’s Children, Youth, & Families Advisory Board.

The most amazing sound in the world is the sound of a child’s laugh. On the toughest of days, it enlivens our cores like a magical song. I know you’re like me. You’re busy raising kids and probably working, too. While your heart wants you to give more to causes near and dear, you just don’t have the time. Well, I’m here to tell you there is a great injustice occurring right before our noses that can only get the attention it deserves if we –the amazing, multi-tasking, passionate, and loving mothers– step up.

In 2013 alone, over 90 children in our state died or nearly-died as a result of child abuse.

In our backyards, there was an extremely disturbing case of nothing less than barbarism. Two Ethiopian-born children were abused by their adoptive parents. Their daughter, a little over one, nearly died and has permanent brain damage. Their six-year-old son was starved, among more horrific abuses.

Here’s how Allegheny County’s president judge, Jeffrey Manning, responded. Saying he saw “no malice,” the main perpetrator was slapped on the wrist. She will sleep in jail for 6 months and report home during the day on “work release” so that she can care for her two biological children. No, I’m not making this up. The message this sends to victims and perpetrators is that society just doesn’t care.

But guess what? I know society cares. I know I care. I know you care, and now, it’s time to take a stand for humanity, for common sense, for children who deserve to live in a place where their laugh is fostered and cherished.

Please join me this Friday at 12 noon, Oct. 17 at the courtyard of the Allegheny County Courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh. We will be raising community awareness of this injustice, calling for reforms in our criminal justice system, and holding the perpetrators and judge accountable.

From one busy, passionate, and loving mom to the other –

Joanna Huss

For more information and developments, follow the Facebook page Ordinary Citizens For Children’s Justice.

According to the Center for Children’s Justice, based in Dauphin County, Pa., 400 child abuse fatalities and near-fatalities occurred between 2008 and 2012. About 90 Pennsylvania children died or nearly-died in 2013 from child abuse.  Nearly 80 percent involved a child who was three years of age or younger. Approximately 50 percent of all of the child fatalities, including more than one-third (36%) of the children under age one, lived in a family active with or previously known to the child welfare system. It is widely known that Pennsylvania has one of the narrowest definitions for child abuse and weak sentencing laws for perpetrators.

Guest Post: “The Pittsburgh Staycation is Born” by Miranda Bauer

Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

This guest post is written by Miranda Bauer, a Pittsburgh mother and founder of the PittsburghPass, Pittsburgh’s first discounted Summer Pass to five of our favorite local attractions.

*****

Miranda and her husband, Josh
Miranda and her husband, Josh

About five summers ago, my husband and I decided to take a week’s vacation from our jobs.  Instead of driving for eight hours and spending over $1,500 for our usual beach vacation, we decided to stay “home.”  The decision to stay local created, by far, one of the most enjoyable weeks I have ever spent on “vacation” (a very close second to my honeymoon, spent in Montego Bay, Jamaica).

My husband and I both grew up in Pittsburgh.  However, like many other locals, we often failed to stop and smell the roses regarding the wonderful things that our city had to offer.  We really wanted to spend the week as “tourists” and do all of the things that we thought someone who had never been to Pittsburgh might do.

We visited Kennywood one night (very romantic), went on the Just Ducky Tour another afternoon, strolled through the Zoo the next day, enjoyed a delicious dinner at Silky’s Crow’s Nest (they have fabulous outdoor seating overlooking the Allegheny River Marina), and journeyed to Vanilla Pastry to handpick gourmet cupcakes. The entire experience was AMAZING!

miranda7

Think about it: when most of us East Coasters go on a week-long summer vacation we leave on a Friday or a Saturday and spend a good 1-2 days recovering from the 6-10 hour drive. Then, we return to town the following Saturday (often in the wee hours of Sunday morning), spend the next day readjusting to life, unpacking, doing mounds of laundry, and preparing to get right back to work on Monday. Ever hear the phrase, “I need a vacation from my vacation!”

That year, Josh and I cut these stressful parts of vacation out of the equation.  We made a decision to relax that week, move at a slow pace, put household chores to the wayside, and treat ourselves just like we were on vacation…only we were in the comforts of our own home.  Ironically, we returned to work the following Monday rested, refreshed and happy (our bosses appreciated our staycation theme that year, too).

Miranda and her family at the Pittsburgh Zoo
Miranda and her family at the Pittsburgh Zoo

Fast forward three years and along came motherhood.  At that point, an even newer “Pittsburgh world” opened up to me.  All of the sudden, I was a stay-at-home mom who was often visiting places like  The Children’s Museum,  soaking up the sun at Sandcastle‘s Tad Pool, and exploring lots of neat things at the Carnegie Science Center. That’s when it dawned on me!  Pittsburghers needed a discount ticket package that included a variety of the city’s most classic attractions at one low price!  So, I created PittsburghPass.

At Sandcastle
At Sandcastle

My goal in creating the PittsburghPass is to provide fellow mommies and their loved ones with the opportunity to create lasting memories during a fun and affordable staycation.  If you have not yet planned a summer vacation this season, or simply cannot afford one, I challenge you to take 3-5 days this summer and dedicate it to fun, adventure, and relaxation right here in the ‘Burgh.  Whether you decide to make PittsburghPass a part of this adventure, or not, I can tell you from experience that your staycation will be a surprisingly wonderful and memorable time.

*****

The PittsburghPass gives families the opportunity to buy one-time admission to five favorite local destinations (Sandcastle, Kennywood, the Carnegie Science Center, The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium) at a discounted price ($83.99/person). Purchase available online only until June 7th.  Good until September 2, 2014 (some venues even longer).

Interested in submitting a guest post to the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog? I welcome guest posts by local parents who have unique perspectives on parenting in the city. Please email me at pittsburghmommyblog@gmail.com if you are interested!

 

“My Daughter Demi, Forever 16” by Jodi Cuccia

Jodi and her daughter, Demi
Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

This is a guest post written by a local mother named Jodi Cuccia.  In this post, Jodi bravely shares her deceased daughter’s experience with teen dating violence.  She also wants you, Pittsburgh mothers, to know about an important community resource called the Center for Victims.  If you or somebody you know is experiencing emotional or physical abuse, please share this post!

 *****

Jodi and her daughter, Demi
Jodi and her daughter, Demi

My name is Jodi Cuccia and I live in Monroeville.  I am a single parent with three children: Jake (age 25), Saige (age 19), and Demi (Forever 16).  I want to share our story.

Teen dating violence, or violence of any sort, was not a part of my language, history, or education prior to August 15, 2007. I didn’t know anything about this epidemic–let alone the fact that an abusive boy plagued my own daughter.

demi3

Demi was 15 when she caught the eye of John. I permitted her to hang out with him in our living room.  Occasionally, she was even allowed to go out to eat or to the movies with John.  At the time I had no reason not to like him.  After all, he was her older brother’s friend and I thought I knew him.  But, I was wrong…

Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, warning signs of abuse were everywhere.  For example, Demi started becoming very emotional.  She also started complaining of intense stomach issues.  She even started having anxiety about cheerleading, a sport that she had always loved. In hindsight, these were clear signs of possession, power, control, and isolation.

demi1

As time went on, Demi decided to end the relationship. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that they had broken up OR that I should not have left her alone during that very vulnerable time. John started obsessively texting her, begging to be with her again. She held fast for a long time; however, she eventually allowed him to come over to our house when she was alone.  This is when he brutally stabbed her 16 times.

I remained very numb for the first couple years after Demi’s tragic murder.  The loss of a child, especially to a violent unforeseen homicide, is a tragedy second to none.  My other children also went through an intense grieving process.  We were able to persevere only through God’s Grace, Mercy, and Promises.

I now feel compelled to teach parents, teens, and educators about “Red Flags” that can commonly be mistaken as “normal” or “acceptable” behavior from a dating partner.  If Demi or I would have had this education, she would be here with me today.  I don’t want any other parent to walk this grief journey.

Throughout this horrible tragedy for our family, I was supported by the Center for Victims and I am forever grateful to them. They provided the most amazing support to us, including covering her funeral expenses, in-home therapy for me and my children, and a court advocate that attended the weeklong trial in 2009.  I now work with them in a teen dating violence prevention program called Expect Respect in our local schools.

Since I know there are other parents struggling with violence against their children or themselves, I would like to share information about their services.

*****

jodi6

The Center for Victims is the most comprehensive and inclusive provider of services, advocacy, and education for victims in Allegheny County.  Annually, they assist nearly 15,000 victims and witnesses of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, homicide, and all other crimes!

Their services include:  a 24-hour crisis hotline (1-866-644-2882), emergency domestic violence shelter and housing, crime victim and witness assistance (offender jail release notification, legal and medical advocacy, crisis intervention, therapeutic counseling, options counseling, emergency PFA order assistance, victim’s compensation) as well as restorative justice and mediation programs.

demi4

They also run important teen dating violence prevention programs in our local schools, actively engaging youth with programs such as Expect Respect and Coaching Boys Into Men.

They are also hosting an event, Peace It Together, on Thursday, March 13th.  The event will honor innovative peacemakers who are actively working to end violence and promote peace in our community. All of the proceeds from this event support their prevention work. Please consider attending!

Learn more about Center for Victims in this video:

Also, connect with them on their  Facebook page and Twitter account.

Dating-Beyone-Control-Logo

Please visit the website that Jodi lovingly created in honor of Demi: Dating Beyond Control.  It tells Demi’s story and also provides education about prevention and warning signs of dating violence.  You will also find Dating Beyond Control on Facebook.

 

Guest Post: “The Poetry of Poop” by Allison Mathis

allison2
Nadine Champsi

Nadine Champsi

I am a doctor turned write-at-home-mom who runs the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog and is editor of Kidsburgh. I have two wonderful young children and am happily married. My interests include cooking, green-living, gardening, being in the outdoors, listening to great music, checking out the city's cool art, coming up with creative things to do with my kids, and having as many adventures as I can!
Nadine Champsi

This guest post is written by Allison Mathis.  She is (in no particular order) a marathon-running, vegetarian-eating, haiku-writing, Stay-at-Home mom who currently resides in the North Hills of Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Upon graduating from Johns Hopkins University in 2000 she worked in the television industry (most recently for The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson). She is also a regular contributor to 30secondmom.com.  Her first book, “Stay-at-Poem Mom,” is forthcoming.

*****

allison2

Hello, nice to meet you.  I am excited to be here!

As Moms we need hobbies to nurture our souls and our brains.  Brains.  Half of the time, I feel as though I have left mine with the load of laundry that has been sitting in the dryer for 3 days.  You know, the dryer you keep turning back on so that you don’t have to actually take the laundry out and fold?

A few years ago, when my 2nd child was born, I took up the quirky hobby of haiku writing.  It started simply enough, as an activity to keep me awake while I was nursing her in the middle of the night.  At that time in my life, learning to balance managing a newborn and a toddler, everything I was experiencing:  the sentences that came out of my mouth, the things my toddler did, my lack of personal hygiene,  seemed ridiculous, exhausting and yet funny.  In a crazed, sleep deprived state at 3:30 in the morning, I decided to try to write some haiku.  I soon realized that these absurd moments from my day became distilled quite nicely into a 3 line verse.

allison1

Being fairly new to Pittsburgh at the time I hadn’t quite formed a local social network yet.  I felt isolated.  And cold (it was January).  I shared my poems on Facebook and found the responses to be really gratifying.  It’s always nice to know that you are not alone.  Have you bribed your child with candy to be good at the store?  I have and I wrote a haiku about it.  Has your child smeared poop all over the wall?  Hey, mine too!  Wrote a haiku about that too.  Have you made it all the way to 5pm without brushing your teeth?  Haiku.  Have you had to choose between napping and showering?  Haiku again.  We’ve all been there, right?

We all want to feel connected and I think that’s why I love sharing my experiences through my poems.  A busy mom might not have time to sit down and read a chapter of a book.  A 3 sentence haiku, on the other hand, can bring a quick laugh, a link, a moment of knowing that you are not alone.  For example:  we’ve all been accosted by an overzealous costumed character at a kids restaurant.

 

allison4

 

out to lunch

fun kids restaurants

creepy costumed characters

parents suffer through

 

You’ve been to that restaurant too, right?

We have all been there.  It’s a reoccurring theme in my book and my life!  I vividly remember going to Ross Park Mall one rainy day just to get the kids out of the house.  We plopped down in front of Nordstrom where they have the television sitting area.  I had a latte. The movie “Cars” was playing on a loop. Life was good. My daughter was about 6 months old, and I turned my head for a second.  And then:

allison5 

mouth

you are 6 months old

you look around and wonder

can I chew on that?

 

We’ll just skip past the part where I tell you what “that” was…

At some point, I realized that I had written hundreds of haiku with common themes that emerged.  And the themes became chapters.  In the weeks after my daughter was born the mailman was delivering baby gifts to my front door on an almost daily basis.  I can’t even tell you how many times he caught a glimpse of me nursing my daughter.  I used to be a modest person before I had kids.  And now, there’s an entire chapter of my book entitled “People Who Have Seen Me Breastfeeding”!

 

Hungry Baby

never has there been

a person so thrilled to see

me topless as you

 

Other reoccurring themes in my life (i.e. chapters) include:  “Sleep?”, “Pulling Your Hair Back Is Not the Same as Showering”, and “Reasons We Will Not Be Having Sex Tonight”.  Anyone else out there have those themes in their life too?

But, really, it all comes down to this:

baby

you are normal now

I hope I don’t mess you up

could go either way

 

It’s been an exciting adventure turning my haiku into the book “Stay-at-Poem Mom”!  To learn more about it and how you can read all my haiku, get updates on my project, pre-order a copy of my book  and help me out, please check out http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stayatpoemmom/stay-at-poem-mom-a-haiku-mini-book!

 

Let’s stay in touch!

realalimathis@gmail.com

Twitter @alimathis

read my tips on 30 Second Mom @  www.30secondmom.com/author-alimathis

please support the publication of my book @  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stayatpoemmom/stay-at-poem-mom-a-haiku-mini-book

 

Are you interested in writing a guest post for the Pittsburgh Mommy Blog?  I welcome guest post submissions by Pittsburgh mothers who have an interesting perspective on parenting in the city.  Please email me at pittsburghmommyblog@gmail.com if you would like more information.

%d bloggers like this: