Tag: children

The Third Child Debate

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
Are we ready for another one?
Are we ready for another one?

As I wrote in my recent post, I have really been missing the personal, confessional quality of my blog’s past. So, I’m bringing it back “home” with this post. What am I thinking about these days?  What’s in my heart of hearts? One Solitary Thing: Baby Urges!  I simply can’t get them off my mind.  I’m ogling babies in the supermarket.  I’m asking random moms at the library to hold their newborns.  I’m even pseudo-nesting in my brain, making arrangements for how in God’s name we are going to fit a third child into our small house and our already full life.

THE THIRD CHILD DEBATE.  Perhaps you know it?

I always “knew” I wanted a big family.  I initially envisioned a family of four.   Two boys.  Two girls. After having my first child, I downsized my vision to a more modest three.  And now that we have two happy, healthy children (a boy and a girl, no less!) I find myself at a crossroads.  Is two enough?  Or do I want to take the plunge and try for another?

Coincidentally (or maybe not), my husband turned to me the other day and asked, “Why would anybody have three children?” I was not surprised by this question.  Although my husband and I are generally sympatico, the Third Child Debate divides us.  You see, my husband is a very rational organism.  He does the math in his head:

Expense + Fatigue = NOT A GOOD IDEA.

And his mind is made up.

But for me, the question is more complicated.  I have a bunch of perfectly logical reasons to be done with having babies.  After all, I put my MD career on hold to stay at home with my kids while they were little.  That’s right–I finished Grade TWENTY TWO of my education and then gave it up to earn ZERO dollars at home.  Other reasons: our kitchen table is too small.  Our cars would be tight.  Not to mention our house.  College tuitions.  Plane tickets.  Weddings.  Etc.

The other side of the debate is harder for me to explain because I fear it’s…well…not entirely rational. There are lots of swirling emotions (possibly hormones?) contributing to this need to have another child.  First off, I can’t shake this feeling that I’m just not done.  Like I’m destined to have another child or something.  Also, now that my son has officially transitioned into toddlerhood (Happy 2nd Birthday, Little Guy!), I find myself really missing (like aching) for a baby again.  What can I say? I’m a baby person.  Plus, I’ve never found anything more rewarding than managing the organized chaos of life with young children.  I love, love, LOVE these adrenaline-filled days.  So of course, I don’t want to give them up.  Finally, that future that I envisioned:  all “Little Women”-esque, filled with my (many) grown children joyously singing Christmas carols around the piano with my husband, while my troupe of adorable grandchildren play by my feet as I cook.  Yeah, I’m not ready to give up that dream, yet….

So the Third Child Debate rages on… Any thoughts?

 

 

Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy: Deena Blumenfeld and Shining Light Prenatal Education

Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy: Deena Blumenfeld
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

In my “Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy” series, I feature different Pittsburgh mothers who have started unique grassroots-type projects within the city. These projects directly benefit the greater good of Pittsburgh and improve the lives of our children, families, and/or other mothers.  The series is my humble effort to create a positive, supportive environment among Pittsburgh mothers.  I hope that it will a) help make these projects a success b) motivate other mothers to help support these projects and c) inspire other mothers to make their own dreams a reality.  An introduction to the series can be found here.

Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy: Deena Blumenfeld
Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy: Deena Blumenfeld (Photography credit: Julianna Zito)

This time in my “Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy” series, I am featuring a Pittsburgh mother named Deena Blumenfeld. Deena is the proud owner of Shining Light Prenatal Education, an educational facility for women (and their families) located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  Through Shining Light, Deena has embraced a commendable mission.  She guides Pittsburgh families through the childbearing years, from the pre-conception phase all the way to parenthood.  I have seen her facility several times while wandering along Butler Street, but was excited to learn more about her project!  Here’s what I discovered (in her own words):

What is Shining Light Prenatal Education?

At Shining Light Prenatal Education we guide women and their families from fertility through pregnancy and childbirth and into early parenthood. We offer classes and workshops to prepare our families for their journey. We also have free community groups to encourage our families to interact and create their own support networks.

Prenatal yoga at Shining Light Prenatal Education
Shining Light Prenatal Education (Photography credit: Laura Petrilla, http://misslphotography.com)

What kinds of programs do you offer to families at Shining Light Prenatal Education?

Our programs are offered by life-stage. We have a fertility program which includes Fertility Yoga for Women, Conscious Conception, a couple’s workshop, nutrition and more. Our pregnancy programs include Prenatal Yoga, Confident Birthing, Breastfeeding Essentials, a refresher childbirth class, Meditations for Labor and a host of other workshops. Our baby programs include Mommy & Me Yoga, Babywearing workshops, Infant Massage, Baby Sign Language and more. We are the only place in the Pittsburgh area that is dedicated to supporting families through their entire journey to parenthood!

MissLPhotography_ShiningLightWEB-17
Shining Light Prenatal Education (Photography credit: Laura Petrilla, http://misslphotography.com)

How does Shining Light Prenatal benefit Pittsburgh families?

As an independent center for education we prepare our families emotionally, intellectually and physically for childbirth and beyond. We believe in continuity of care and creating community. Our core group of instructors offers the same inclusive message for all of our parents – your birth is yours. We support you if you want an epidural; if you need a c-section; if you choose to homebirth, etc. It’s our job to give parents the tools they need to be confident in their choices during childbirth and during parenthood. We pride ourselves on being a resource for all things pregnancy and baby. We have a comprehensive referral list for doctors, midwives, chiropractors, acupuncturists, cloth diapers, doulas, breastfeeding support, and so on. We are the go-to place… and we have fun in our classes!

****

Next, I learned how Deena developed her deep passion for prenatal education.

MissLPhotography_ShiningLightWEB-59
Deena teaching at Shining Light Prenatal Education (Photography credit: Laura Petrilla, http://misslphotography.com)

How did you first develop a passion for prenatal education?

Goodness, that’s a long answer. I’ll try to be brief! I first read Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery when I was 19. That book was the spark that smoldered for years before I got pregnant with my son. He’s now 8. He was supposed to have an all-natural birth at the Midwife Center, but ended up as a transfer for a c-section. If it wasn’t for his c-section, I wouldn’t be sitting at my desk in the front window at Shining Light typing these words. (Love birth stories? Here’s my c-section birth story). I knew I wanted to do it differently when I got pregnant with my daughter. She’s now 4. So, I read and read and read.  I worked my tush off to have a VBAC with her – and I did! (Yep, birth story number 2, my VBAC).  If it wasn’t for my births, I wouldn’t be on my path.

How did you continue to nurture your passion?

I was teaching yoga and I got my prenatal yoga certification. Teaching prenatal yoga allowed me insight into what new mothers really needed – what their questions and concerns were and how to best address them. Their questions were often out of the scope of my practice as a yoga instructor, so I choose to pursue my Lamaze certification. Then my students asked me for more and more classes–for breastfeeding and baby care, for VBAC support and for all kinds of things I couldn’t offer out of my house or other yoga studios.  So the idea of a comprehensive center for the childbearing years was born.  For the full story, click here.

Deena and her 8 year old son
Deena and her 8 year old son

How has your passion been realized through Shining Light Prenatal Education?

After having birth both ways (c-section and all natural), and talking to other women and hearing their birth stories, their triumphs and their regrets; I realized we had to do better for women. Women deserve to have a good birth experience, regardless of the medical interventions they may need. Women deserve to be treated with respect during labor. We deserve to have all of our questions answered. We deserve to be confident in our choices. We have the right to raise our babies as we see best. Birth is truly a transformative experience in a woman’s (and man’s!) life. Women need better than internet advice and a 7-minute appointment with their OB. Shining Light fills these needs. This venue for education and emotional support is a key component to having a good experience with birth and parenthood.

*****

Finally, I learned about Deena and mothering her two little ones…

Deena and her 4 year old daughter
Deena’s children

What is your favorite part of being a mother?

My kids are now 8 and 4. My favorite part of motherhood changes as they grow. When they were babies, I loved breastfeeding and smelling their little heads. I loved watching their development. Now, my 8 year old is an avid reader. I love seeing him enjoy my favorite childhood books. I love seeing his passion for all things mechanical. My 4 yr old is my girly-girl. She bounces out of her ballet class with such joy on her face each week. I love seeing her living freely in her body. She is my Mommy & Me yoga co-teacher. She is my climbing monkey whose imagination is limitless. So, I guess you can say I don’t have just one favorite part.

How do you balance your two different roles: founder of Shining Light and mother to your kids?

Without my husband it wouldn’t be possible. He does bedtime while I teach in the evenings. He is the one who does the fun weekend activities while I am with my students. I get every morning with them. I get my son ready for school and my daughter to ballet and preschool. I am “on duty” during the day, he’s “on duty” in the evenings.” I make sure that at least one weekend a month is free for family time and that we always have Friday nights together. Balance is about continual adjustment and readjustment. We shift and we change. We compromise and we make it work, and it’s all worth it.

*****

After I talked with Deena recently, I really, REALLY wished I had known about Shining Light during my first pregnancy with my daughter.  Like most first-time moms, I don’t think I realized how uniquely wonderful my first pregnancy would be for me.  I had so much time!!  Time to dwell on my excitement about our growing family.  Time to savor the experience of pregnancy.  Time to rest.  Time to eat (and eat and eat)!  I know I would have loved to share this transformative experience with other soon-to-be-parents in Shining Light’s prenatal classes.  Learning about Shining Light also reminded me of the darker side of my first pregnancy.  I was plagued by anticipatory anxiety about A LOT of things:  birth, breastfeeding, my baby’s health, work/life balance, you name it!  Shining Light’s programs would have been a godsend for me as I worked through these worries.

Plus, I really could have used Deena’s influence in my life during this time.  “Why?” you ask. Because she’s…well… Zen.  Deena has a profoundly peaceful vibe about her that instantly put me at ease. Don’t get me wrong!  She’s smart. She’s savvy. She’s even a little sassy.  After all, she has started her own business and is making a success out of it through her own sweat.  However, her personality has a really unique dichotomy.  She is both assertive and mindful.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s the perfect pairing for the person who is guiding women toward their ideal birth experience!

Thank you, Deena, for helping fellow Pittsburghers become the parents that they’ve always wanted to be!

Want to connect with Deena Blumenfeld and Shining Light Prenatal Education?  Here are links to her website, Facebook page, Pinterest page, and Twitter page.

We Welcomed Fall by Going Apple Picking at Simmons Farm!

Deep thoughts in the apple orchard
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
Deep thoughts in her pretend house
Deep thoughts in the apple orchard

Ever since having kids and settling into our cozy nest, the beginning of Autumn has had a strange effect on me.  Essentially, I develop a case of pseudo-Mania that keeps me busy all season long!  It starts with a few unassuming Pinterest boards in late August and explodes into a frenzy of cooking, baking, decorating, crafting, and participating in harvest-related activities with my family.  It’s so much fun!

I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the beginning of the season than visiting an apple orchard with my kids last weekend.  Apple picking has become one of my favorite ways to spend a Fall morning.  In my mind, a trip to an apple orchard is MORE than just an opportunity to collect a ridiculous amount of apples. Ideally, it’s also a sensual experience that temporarily transports me to a more agrarian way of life.  I want to get away from the craziness of the city–the crowds, the noise, the constant parenting paranoia.  I want to breath in crisp, clean rural air while I gaze at the farmland around me. I want to sip a cup of hot, steaming apple cider as I enjoy the peace and quiet.  I want my kids to run freely between rows of trees, safe from the dangers that keep them closer to me when we’re in the city.

Hanging with the chickens
Hanging with the chickens

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy to actually find a farm in the area that hosts apple picking anymore.  I’ve been told that liability concerns have forced many farms to stop allowing it. Luckily, a friend of mine heard about Simmons Farm, a small-ish, family-run farm in the South Hills that still runs Pick-Your-Own-Apples throughout the season.  We decided to check it out last Sunday with a group of friends and their kids.  What a fantastic place!

Simmons Farm is located about 45 minutes from the Highland Park Bridge.  The drive out there is a pleasant one–through the always-picturesque Mount Lebanon and Upper St. Clair.  The farm is buried at the end of a residential street in McMurray, PA.  It definitely feels rural–one of my key requisites for a good apple picking experience!

We got there around 9:30 and poked around the main market area before heading out to the orchards.  The Farm Market has a bakery where we picked up some yummy cinnamon muffins and hot apple cider.  It also has lots of fresh, beautiful-looking produce and a greenhouse.  There is a nearby petting zoo (free) where the kids played with some of their favorite farm animals.  Finally, the farm is hosting its daily Fall Activities with hayrides, cornmazes, slides, etc. nearby; however, we decided not to participate on that particular day so we could focus on apple picking instead.

Eating apples!
Eating apples!

Next, we headed out to the orchards.  On this particular weekend, the most remote orchards were open for public picking so we drove out there and parked right by it.  We bought our bag for apples there (I got a 1/2 bushel-size bag for $17).  Some nice features:  they had a credit card machine right at the orchard and a Porta-Potty for bathroom purposes.  Then we set off toward the long rows of apple trees to do some picking. My thoughts on the experience:

1).  I was very pleased to discover that their apple trees are dwarf-sized so my kids could easily reach the fruit.  Even my youngest really enjoyed the challenge of picking!

2).  It took us MUCH less time to fill up a bag than I had anticipated. Like 10 minutes.  At the most!  It was much less labor-intensive than our prior berry-picking trips.

3).  The most fun part of the experience had NOTHING to do with apple picking.  Instead, it was exploring the orchard with my kids after we had finished picking our crop.  We put our bag of apples down and wandered off to see what we could find.  The kids ran between the rows of apple trees, played hide-and-seek with each other, imagined themselves in pretend “houses” under the apple trees, and safely pushed their limits by running far ahead of me.  Oh–and they ate about 25 apples!

Look what he found in the orchard!
Look what he found in the orchard!

All in all, our trip to Simmons Farm for apple picking was a glowing success! It was picturesque, relaxing, quiet, affordable, and fun for the entire family.  And even though it was a bit of a drive for us, it was definitely worth it. From here on out, we will add it to our yearly Fall traditions (time to Pin it!).  The best part for me:  I really appreciated the “vibe” at this farm.  It was much less gimicky than some of the other farms we have visited.  Don’t get me wrong:  I love the over-the-top Fall Festival craze, too!  But when I go apple-picking, I’m looking for something entirely differently… Now, off to the kitchen for some apple recipes!

****

Simmons Farm is located at 170 Simmons Rd, McMurray PA 15317.  Fall Activities hours: 9am-6:45 M-F and 9am-5:45 Saturday and Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

Children, Death, and our Visit to the Allegheny Cemetery

Walking, walking, and WALKING
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

Recently, my 3 year old developed a morbid fascination with death.  It started after I introduced her to a children’s book: Usborne World History: Ancient World.  This book is filled with interesting pictures of ancient civilizations in it, with a big focus on their burial rituals.  She learned about the mummies and pyramids of Egypt, the skeleton shrine rooms of Catal Huyuk, the kurgan burial mounds of the Scythian world, and lots more.  She loved flipping through the pages and pointing out interesting details in the images to me.  Unfortunately, she also started asking me uncomfortable questions about her own mortality.  This fascination was only heightened by my slip-up the other day.  “What happens to the flowers when Fall comes?” she asked innocently.  “They die,” I said.  Oops.  Her interest grows as autumn approaches….

Walking, walking, and WALKING
The Allegheny Cemetery

When she first developed this new preoccupation, I thought back to my own childhood and asked myself, “How did I first learn about death?”  My admittedly bizarre answer:  visiting cemeteries. When I was a kid, my parents and my maternal grandparents would take us to visit the gravesites of our dead relatives.  My grandparents regaled us with stories of these deceased family members while my sister and I played on the grassy knolls within earshot. I can still remember one very memorable cemetery visit.  My grandparents brought us to their own future burial plots.  My grandfather laid down in the exact spot where he would one day be buried. “This is where I will be when I die,” he told me, “When that time comes, you can always come and visit me here.”

I know my childhood cemetery outings probably seem weird.  However, like all other kids, I was confused, curious, and scared by death.  And these cemetery visits were a real comfort to me.  They showed me that dead people did not just disappear into the vapors.  They had a tangible place where they went.  You could still visit them. You could still talk to them.  You could still love them.

Grave rubbings
Grave rubbings

Unfortunately, we don’t live near any dead family members.  But we DO live near a very large and a very old inner-city cemetery:  The Allegheny Cemetery in Lawrenceville.  And in the interest of putting my daughter’s fears to rest, we spent some time there recently.  We made a morning of it–brought our snacks, wore our sneakers, trekked around the hillsides, and even did some grave rubbings to learn our letters!  In the midst of it all, I also answered some of my daughter’s burning questions about dead people.  Mostly, however, we just enjoyed exploring the beautiful grounds together.  Much to my surprise, it turned out to be a really cool spot to take them.

The cemetery is VAST (300 acres to be precise).  In fact, if you have ever scrutinized a map of Pittsburgh, you will know that it appears as large as some of our biggest inner city parks!  It includes a fountain with a floating wooden swan in it, a pond, a greenhouse, many monuments, and over 15 miles of roadways lined by impressive house-like mausoleums and gravestones. In fact, it fittingly feels like an entire dead city, buried quietly within the heart of Pittsburgh.

Stained glass windows
Stained glass windows

On the morning that we visited, we entered the cemetery by its Butler Street entrance.  We briefly played by the fountain and looked into the greenhouse before getting back into the car and driving over to the Temple of Memories Mausoleum.  We spent a couple of minutes admiring the stained glass windows in the interior of the Mausoleum before setting off along an abandoned, grave-lined street.

Here’s when I discovered the coolest part of visiting the cemetery with my kids.  It was one of the most liberating places that I have ever brought them.  What do I mean? An example to illustrate:  at one point they decided to set off across the grass.  They walked and walked and WALKED until they finally decided of their own volition that it was time to take a rest.  They definitely could have continued walking for the entire day without ever reaching the other edge of the cemetery.  I realized then that they have probably never had that kind of unbridled freedom before.  Usually during our walks, we come across some kind of natural barrier: a street, tall grass, the end of our neighborhood, etc.  Not at the Allegheny Cemetery. It is a veritable Wonderland of perfectly mowed green grass and gently rolling hills.   I could see them perfectly as they ran ahead of me and the kids could explore to their heart’s content without limitation or danger.

Knocking on the front door of a "house"
Knocking on the front door of a “house”

Another cool part of visiting the Allegheny Cemetery:  it afforded them a really unique opportunity to explore a “city” without the inherent dangers of a real one.  What do I mean? In certain parts of the cemetery, the green spaces are intersected by small streets lined by house-like mausoleums that make it look like real city neighborhoods.  Only there are no cars, no strangers, and no neighbors to get annoyed if the kids want to sit on their front steps.  The kids loved walking along the streets.  They even liked climbing the steps and knocking on the front doors of the “houses” without reproach.

Which brings up an important point:  At first, I got a little freaked out by being at the cemetery with my kids.  I wondered if maybe it was disrespectful to let them walk across the grass with the buried souls underneath?  I wondered if maybe it was a little creepy to let them climb up the steps of a mausoleum and knock on the door?  Until I read this quotation on a mausoleum:

“Show me the manner in which a Nation or community cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of their land, and their loyalty to high ideals” -James Gladstone, 19th century British statesmen

Climbing a tree by the fountain
Climbing a tree by the fountain

And I looked around me.  I saw acre upon acre of hillside without a single living soul.  I saw mile upon mile of road, and not a single car passed us while we were there.  And I looked at a nearby gravestone–of a man who had passed away over one hundred years ago at the age of 76. Did anyone still came to visit his grave?  I doubted it.  And I remembered my grandpa, lying on the grass underneath a tree all those years ago.  “You can always come visit me,” he had told me so kindly.  And I looked at my daughter. She could have been me, 25 years ago, happily playing by the graves of long-gone family members who were still very much alive in our hearts.  I realized then that not only was it okay that we were there.  It was right…. 

 

 

 

 

 

Our “Girl’s Day Out” at The Gemini Children’s Theater Production of the Little Mermaid

My daughter and "Aria"
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
"Egg and Spoon" at the Pittsburgh International Children's Festival
“Egg and Spoon” at the Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival

I had my first exposure to the world of children’s theater during last Spring’s Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival.  We saw “Egg and Spoon,” one of the festival’s featured performances.  The experience was completely magical.  The storyline, the props, the music, the characters, EVERYTHING came together into an unforgettable show for both me and my children. Ever since that day, I have vowed to continue bringing my kids to children’s theater performances throughout city.  Unfortunately, I’ve had a long wait…until now!

I recently found out about the Gemini Children’s Theater when a friend alerted me to its new production of the Little Mermaid.  Like lots of other little girls, my daughter loves all the Disney princesses and I knew she would go “ga-ga” about seeing this show.  So, while my husband lounged around on the couch watching football and my son took his (blessed) nap, my daughter and I had a “Girl’s Day Out” at the Little Mermaid!

Checking out the kid-sized picnic table in the lobby
Checking out the kid-sized picnic table in the lobby

We arrived at the theater about 15 minutes early and had a chance to snoop around a bit.  My daughter settled down at the special child-sized picnic table in the front lobby and colored, while I browsed the Theater’s pamphlets.  I discovered that the theater offers acting classes and summer acting camps for children aged 4+.  They also offer birthday party packages.  Although my daughter is still too young (she’s only 3), I will likely sign her up for one of their acting classes eventually.  We also bought some (actually affordable) snacks from their vendor counter and thankfully were allowed to bring them into the show.  Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the show so my pictures of this event are a bit limited :(.

Eagerly anticipating the show!
Eagerly anticipating the show!

 

Originally, I had been a little concerned that my daughter wouldn’t be able to sit still for the entire show.  However, from the moment that it started, she was completely entranced. The storyline almost exactly paralleled Disney’s version, although small details were changed.  For example, Ariel was instead called “Aria” and her hair was blond instead of red (a nuance that my daughter found more than a little disturbing, I must say).  The show was “interactive” in that the kids were invited to come down and dance with the main characters at several points.  Also, there were several children performing in the show, which my daughter really loved.  The show consisted of 2 acts (each just under an hour) with a short intermission in between.  Afterwards, the kids got a chance to talk with the characters in the lobby.  My daughter even got a hug from Aria!

My daughter and "Aria"
My daughter and “Aria”

My impression: I think I’m spoiled after seeing last year’s phenomenal production of “Egg and Spoon.”  In my opinion, the Little Mermaid was less creative than “Egg and Spoon.” However, let me be very clear:  my daughter LOVED it and that’s all that really matters!  In fact, ever since seeing the show, she has been devoting her “naptime” to rearranging a corner of her room into a theater.  She painstakingly lines up her dollhouse figurines into an audience.  She then puts on a “service,” which consists of her leaping around the room, doing yoga moves, and singing like Aria.  It is so damn cute!!

My daughter enjoyed the Little Mermaid so much that I will likely take her back to the Gemini Children’s Theater’s next production:  Sleeping Beauty Holiday at Christmastime!  Also, I am definitely planning on taking her to see the Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater shows this season, including Peter Pan, which opens in just over a month!

Here are some details about the Gemini Children’s Theater and the Little Mermaid:  The theater is located in the “Factory Building” (the same building as the East End Food Coop and Gymkhana) at 7501 Penn Avenue in Point Breeze. Tickets to the Little Mermaid cost $12 and can be purchased online or at the box office.  Show times are at 1pm and 3:30 pm on every Saturday and Sunday until October 6th.  Also, you can purchase special front-row seating for your child so they can get a better view.  Adults are not allowed to sit in this row, but you can buy a seat directly behind them so you can still be close.  I think this show is well suited to children 3+; however, there is a LOT of sitting still so it will obviously be temperament-dependent.

Enjoy!

 

Camping at Raccoon Creek State Park and Tips for doing it with Little Kids

campingtent
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

campingkidsA couple weeks ago, my husband and I embarked on an adventure to Raccoon Creek State Park for a camping trip with our children.  To be honest–we were really, really nervous about the trip.  Although we both loved camping BEFORE we had kids, we had a disastrous camping experience with our first child when she was 1 years old.  She cried (and wailed and sobbed) in our tent for hours before passing out from sheer exhaustion.  Our campground neighbors hated us.  And we hated ourselves for even attempting the trip.

But, we have mild short-term memory problems. And we really, really like camping.  Plus, I love the idea of doing it with my kids.  I imagine that the entire experience is really, really fun for them.  After all, they get to temporarily reframe their lives into a new and much simpler version.  Their house is now a tent.  Their stove is now a campfire.  Their bed is now a sleeping bag.  Plus, they get marshmallows…

campingtent

Anyway, we decided to try another one night camping trip with our kids this summer.  We chose to go to Raccoon Creek State Park for a couple of reasons. First, it’s close.  It’s located near the Pittsburgh airport and only about an hour (with traffic) from where we live.  Plus, there’s plenty of car camping, it’s usually not too full, it’s cheap, there are excellent bathroom facilities with free hot showers, and there’s plenty of stuff to do in the area with kids. Specifically, we really enjoy visiting the swimming pond and hiking trails.

We headed out there on a Friday afternoon. We easily found a campsite, set up our stuff, ate a simple dinner, roasted marshmallows, caught lightning bugs, slept just fine, and took a beautiful hike the next morning.  We were even home by naptime!  As you can see, I’m not going to burden you with all the boring details of our adventures. But, let me say this:  IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!!  I think our years of experience as parents have FINALLY paid off.  This camping trip was WAY better than our first one and here’s why:

campingfire

1.  We waited until our kids were the right age

Specifically, we avoided that No-Man’s-Land between approximately 7 months and 18 months when our children become completely inflexible. The first time we went camping, our daughter was just over a year old.  At this point, she could no longer fall asleep in a baby carrier or stroller at random times during the day.  Instead, she needed her own bed.  She needed a regular naptime during the day and she needed to go to bed by 8pm at the latest.  Unfortunately, our camping trip did not afford her these luxuries.  And it was a disaster. During our recent camping trip, however, my youngest child was almost 2 years old.  He’s definitely more flexible about his schedule now and it made our camping trip much easier.

2.  We waited until the right time of year

When we went camping with our daughter a couple of years ago, we went at the end of June.  In other words, it was basically the Longest Day of the Year.  It didn’t get dark until well after 9pm, which threw my daughter’s schedule off completely.  When we went camping recently, it got dark closer to 8pm.  It definitely helped our kids go to bed at a decent hour.

campinghike

3.  We kept food simple

Last time we went camping, I was intoxicated by the idea of cooking over a campfire.  I marinated beef cubes for shish kabobs for days in advance of our trip.  I painstakingly assembled tinfoil dinners.  I collected interesting ingredients for omelettes the next day.  Although the food was damn good, it created a lot of headaches for us.  We had to bring a huge cooler and stock it full of ice.  We had to bring a ton of cooking supplies.  And preparing the food took much longer than my daughter could tolerate. So this time, we kept it simple.  Very simple.  We brought only a bunch of snack food and fruit, bottled water, hot dogs, a big can of baked beans, and some donuts for breakfast.  The food was easy to prepare when our kids got h-angry.  We didn’t need to bring a ton of cooking supplies.  And we didn’t even need a cooler. Amazing!

campingwalk

4.  We went camping with friends who also have kids

Last time we went camping, we went only with our immediate family.  Unfortunately, it turned out to be a pretty bad idea.  It meant that our daughter had nobody to keep her busy while we tried to deal with the “business” of maintaining a campground (setting up a tent, starting a fire, etc).  This time, our kids had a bunch of other little ones to keep them busy.  It helped give us breathing room to set up our campsite, cook, collect firewood, and RELAX!  Plus, it was more fun!

5.  We maintained familiar sleeping arrangements

Last time we went camping, we smushed ourselves into a small tent and crammed onto an air mattress.  It was uncomfortable for us and unfamiliar to my daughter, who was used to sleeping in her own crib by then.  She ended up staying awake most of the night and none of us get much rest.  So, this time, we got a much larger tent (a 6 person tent).  It had plenty of room to fit a Pack-n-Play, a queen air mattress, and a single air mattress.  By keeping our kids in their familiar sleeping arrangements, it made bedtime way easier for us and we all get a better night’s sleep.  Plus, there was plenty of room to play in the tent, which was so fun for our kids!

*****

Anyway, these are just a few of the tricks we have learned about camping with little ones. They definitely made our recent camping trip much more enjoyable than we originally expected it would be. In fact, we had so much fun that we plan on taking at least one more camping trip to Raccoon Creek before it gets too cold this Fall!

I also hope that our experience might inspire YOU to overcome any apprehension you may have about camping with your children.  Although, it does require a bit of legwork, it is WELL WORTH it! It gives your entire family an opportunity to temporarily embrace a simpler life (yes, I have a pioneer fetish). You can get away from the busyness of city life, reconnect with nature, spend QT with your family, and share some of the simple, but really beautiful parts of childhood with your kids: roasting marshmallows, catching lightning bugs, hearing ghost stories, walking through the woods, and lots more…

Good luck!  And if you have any tips for camping with young children, please feel free to comment below!

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Top Ten Things to do with Kids in the South Hills

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 Jessica, founder of the South Hills Mom Blog.  I have really enjoyed following Jessica’s blog since I discovered it earlier this summer.  As a resident of the Aspinwall area, I don’t get to the South Hills as much as I should!  Jessica has helped me realize that there’s tons of stuff to do there with my family.  I will certainly be visiting it more frequently now!

Hello, Pittsburgh Mommy Blog readers! I am a mom to two very little ones in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. I started my blog, South Hills Mom Blog, to share the kid-friendly resources I find around the South Hills with other families. As a Pittsburgh Mommy Blog reader you may not be familiar with the South Hills (which loosely encompasses all areas south of Pittsburgh), and I know how daunting it is to explore new areas of Pittsburgh with your kids! To help make my neck of the woods a little more visitor-friendly, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten things to do with kids in the South Hills. If you haven’t been here lately I hope something on this list sparks your interest in a different part of town, and if you are a fellow South Hills family I hope I found something that’s new to you!
Top Ten Things to do with Kids in the South Hills
1. Mt. Lebanon Main Park
Toddler/Preschooler areaFor the month of August I committed to featuring a different playground in the South Hills every day on my blog. We found some good ones, we found some bad ones, and we found some amazing ones. My favorite playground in the South Hills is Mt. Lebanon Main Park. Located at the site of the Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center, it’s a unique playground in that it’s much more architectural than your run-of-the-mill playground. A lot of the structures require a bit of thought and creativity to decide how to use them for play. There’s a jungle gym made out of ropes, spinning poles and buckets, and a tilted spinning circle perfect for running on like a hamster on a wheel or riding on like a train. My daughter loves this playground, and a different part of it enchants her every time we visit.
2. The Seesaw Center
The Seesaw Center is an indoor play space for children from infancy through kindergarten age. It’s only open October-April, which makes it the perfect play space for a cool day! The play area is divided into different themed areas, including spaces for babies, reading, puzzles, building, dressing up, and playing with cars. My favorite thing about the Seesaw Center is that my daughter gets to play with so many different kinds of toys, which takes the guesswork out of what I should buy for our home. Without the Seesaw Center I would have never known she had a passion for trains! The rate is $5/child for a day of play, and hours are on their website.
3. Snapology
Who doesn’t love building with blocks??? I know I was excited when my daughter received her first set of Mega Bloks. Snapology features a Discovery Center where kids can explore and build with all different kinds of blocks. Geared for kids ages 1-12, there’s something for everyone at Snapology. You’ll find Legos, Duplos, Zoob building sets, soft blocks, car ramps…even Lego Wii video games. You can even build on the walls! This is one of those “kid” spots where the adults will have as much fun as the little ones. $8/hour to play, with packages available. The Discovery Center is open for play during the day Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 10am-2pm, in the evening on Tuesday and Wednesday 5:30-7:30pm, and on Saturday 12-5:00pm.
4. Gymsport
Gymsport Athletic Center is a gymnastics gym that offers “open gym” times to the public. Monday-Friday, 9am-noon is Preschool Playtime, where children have access to all the kid-friendly parts of the gym. You’ll find zip lines, trampolines, and slides dumping kiddos into foam pits. Kids will be climbing up play structures, rock walls, and foam cushions. They’ll be flipping over bars and crawling through tunnels. Beach balls and hula hoops will keep even the littlest visitors entertained. Gymsport is a great place to burn off some energy and try something new! Preschool Playtime is $5/hour.
5. South Park
South Park is an Allegheny County Park with a lot to offer. In the summer you can cool off at the wave pool or enjoy a performance for kids – by kids – at the Children’s Theater. Kids of all ages enjoy the new black and yellow playground, but there are several other playgrounds scattered around the park, too. In the winter you’ll find an ice skating rink and kids sledding down the hill on the corner of Brownsville and Ridge Roads. In the spring visitors enjoy feeding the ducks and seeing the peacocks and buffalo at the Animal Preserve (this year we got to see a brand new baby buffalo a couple hours after it was born!). South Park is also a favorite spot for runners, as the main road through the park, Corrigan Drive, is flat and has a wide sidewalk. There’s also an exercise trail on a more hilly path in the park. There’s something for everyone at South Park! The Children’s Theater is $2/person over the age of two, the wave pool is $1-$5/person depending on age, ice rink (open seasonally) is $3 for kids, $5 for adults.
6. Round Hill Park
DSC05791Round Hill Park is another Allegheny County Park that features a working exhibit farm, a large playground, and a spray park in the summer. The exhibit farm is open all year, and is a real, working farm with animals and gardens. Kids can see chickens, turkeys, horses, goats, cows, pigs, and sheep in their farm homes. Since it’s a real, working farm, real, working farmers can be seen tending to the animals and gardens. This farm allows kids to get up close and personal with some of their favorite animals. Plus, everything is free!
7. The Montour Trail
If you enjoy walking, running, or biking, you have to check out the Montour Trail! The trail is part of a “rails to trails” project, and when complete will be about 47 miles long (and will be part of a 400 mile trail system called “The Great Allegheny Passage” between Pittsburgh and DC). One of the cool things about this trail is all of the small businesses that have popped up along it to serve the people who use the trail. I enjoy a weekly stroller walk with a friend that starts with an iced latte at Farmhouse Coffee in Peters Township. If you enjoy biking you can rent bikes (including tandem bicycles, kids’ bikes, and kids’ trailers) at The Tandem Connection which is “literally right on the Montour Trail!” (Oh, they have coffee, too!) You’ll pass by playgrounds, cross over bridges, and see rabbits, deer, and squirrels. There’s an access trail to Peterswood Park, that includes an exercise trail if you want an extra challenge. If you enjoy being outside and taking in different surroundings – this is a great choice for you!
8. Lilliput Play Homes
The Victorian play homes made by Lilliput are just gorgeous – I would certainly love a full-sized version! At Lilliput Play Homes in Peters Township children can visit a kid-sized play town, complete with cute little market, post office, fire station, and more. The fee to play is $10 for the first child, $6 for siblings, and non-walkers are free. There are tables to enjoy a snack or picnic lunch, or you could walk over to Panera which is in the same shopping area.
9. Sarris Ice Cream Parloursarris2
Entering the Ice Cream Parlour at Sarris feels like you’ve taken a trip back in time. The styling feels just like what I imagine an ice cream shop felt like back in the sixties! The ice cream is delicious and when you’re done eating you can explore the adjoining store. Check out the castle made of candy and ice cream cones – it’s a work of art!
10. Bethel Park Library
All the South Hills moms I know agree – the Bethel Park Library is the best in the area. The classes they offer are fun and age-appropriate. From “Baby Jam” to “Giggle and Wiggle” to “Mother Goose on the Loose” there’s a class for everyone! You won’t be turned away, but get there early to get a good spot. These classes are PACKED! (I think the last time I went to “Giggle and Wiggle” there were probably 30 kids giggling and wiggling.) There are even afternoon/evening groups for older kids (like the Lego club or Hunger Games book club). If you aren’t there for a class, or want to hang out after a class, the creative play area is pretty extensive, too. A play kitchen, puppets, train table, art corner, and more will keep your kids happy for hours.
So, Pittsburgh Mommy Blog readers, I officially invite you to check out the resources the South Hills has to offer. I hope there’s something on my list that entices you to come visit our neighborhoods!

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