Tag: family

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?



Guest Post: “No More Rehearsals” by Krista Voda, FOX Sports Reporter and New Pittsburgh Mom

And Baby Makes 3!
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

Brand-new Pittsburgh mom Krista Voda returned to work from maternity leave last weekend, and like many of us, hers was a bittersweet decision.  Krista is a network TV reporter for FOX Sports, so her weekend assignment necessitated out-of-state travel and an overnight stay, costing her precious moments with her baby girl.  Read how her weekend went below!


Krista and her beautiful new baby, Emersyn

My “old” life doesn’t exist anymore. I mean, I still remember what it looked like. Happy hours. Pedicures. Last-minute ski trips.

But this life is better … because this life has Emersyn.

I never thought I even wanted kids. I’ve always been too focused on my career.  And so far, that career has taken me pretty far. From interviewing Big Ben on the sidelines to filling in on the DVE morning show to pit reporting at the Daytona 500. But after putting “me” in front of everything for so many years, I was ready for a new, and bigger, purpose.

So, at 35+ (and plus some more!) I’m a first-time mom.

And ironically, I didn’t understand the power of my new title until I had to re-visit my old one last week when I returned from maternity leave.

25 weeks pregnant on pit road, interviewing Jeff Gordan
25 weeks pregnant and interviewing Jeff Gordon

I’m a network TV reporter for FOX Sports. Sometimes I cover the NFL. Most weeks I’m on the NASCAR circuit. In fact, I’m pretty sure running up and down pit road for the majority of three trimesters helped me have a smooth pregnancy, except for when I was interviewing four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, which seemed to be when my little one would start to move around. Perhaps she was telling me at an early age that No. 24 would be her favorite driver?!

My office is in a different state each week. My commute is via airplane. But the last time my suitcase had been out of the closet was the trip to the hospital for Emersyn’s debut. Now, eight weeks later, I was about to make the toughest trip of my life.

(On a side note, for Pittsburgh travelers … the concourse area is really undergoing some changes. The last time I was there, I was 34 weeks pregnant. The airport isn’t the only thing that looked a lot different then!).

Krista and Jimmie Johnson, as he celebrates his victory for the STP Gas Booster 500 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevrolet)
Krista and Jimmie Johnson as he celebrates his victory for the STP Gas Booster 500 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Harold Hinson for Chevrolet)

I know leaving a child is tough no matter what, but I couldn’t yet imagine how I was going to leave mine overnight and for a different time zone.

Well, it was torture. Pulling out of the driveway, waving goodbye to the face I’ve greeted each morning for the past eight weeks nearly broke my heart.

But I know I’m not the first one to have to do it. And with women breaking boundaries every day, I know I won’t be the last.

One way I’ve tried to offset the guilt is by booking the most ridiculous travel itineraries possible. I now take the last flight out and the first flight back. And I’ll drive an extra two hours to a different airport so I can catch a night flight that gets me back at 1 a.m. just so I can be there for my little girl’s 3 a.m. feeding. And now I’m that person who puts a trip inside another trip, just so I can get an extra 24 hours at home.

I have a newfound, and deep, respect for working mothers. Whether you work in your home with your child nearby or you drop your little one off at daycare, we all sacrifice time and risk missing moments. And even though I’m new at this, I’m guessing the guilt and fear over the cost of those choices never really goes away.

Luckily, I have a husband who was able to flex his work schedule for the next month. So as emotionally unbalanced as I am, I can rest assured my daughter is emotionally and physically snug as a bug. She gets to sleep in her crib, wake up in her house and be loved by her daddy.

And Baby Makes 3!
And Baby Makes 3!

So, I should be ok, right? Well, I’m selfish. I want it all.

I also want my daughter to grow up knowing she, too, can have it all, and that means seeing her mother as a strong, self-confident woman who makes a living doing something she loves.

Again, I’m new to this club, but I think working mothers can have it all. We just have to trade in some things from time to time. 

Besides, who needs perfectly painted toes anyway?

Editor’s Note: Krista Voda can be seen next on Saturday, Oct. 26, on FOX Sports 1 hosting the network’s pre-race coverage of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on “NCWTS Setup” at 1 p.m. ET. Anyone trying to locate the channel may log onto http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsports1 and click on the channel locator. In addition, below is a list of FOX Sports 1’s channel locations for major service providers:

DirecTV – Channel 219 (High Definition/Standard Definition)

Dish Network – Channel 150 (HD/SD)

Verizon FiOS – Channel 583 (HD), Channel 83 (SD)

AT&T U-verse – Channel 1652 (HD), Channel 652 (SD)

Family Guide to Indoor Play Spaces in Pittsburgh and Vicinity!

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


Please note: This post has been updated and expanded for 2014. To read this year’s version, click here.

Well, my friends, the inevitable has happened.  I woke up last week to a rainy, chilly Fall day and realized that colder days are just ahead.  Unfortunately, this change in the weather means that I will no longer be able to take my kids to our favorite outdoor play areas as often as I would like. Thankfully, it also means that we get to revisit some of our favorite indoor play spaces instead! To get you all excited for all the family fun to be had in Pittsburgh over the colder months, I created this comprehensive Family Guide to Indoor Play Spaces in Pittsburgh and Vicinity.  I have included information about play spaces geared toward young children in local museums, libraries, shopping venues, as well as stand-alone play spaces.  In some cases, I have also provided details about their costs and locations as well as links to their websites.  I have not included information about hours of operation because these details change frequently.  Although I will do my best to update this post regularly, please note that information about these play spaces may change.


Stand-alone Play Spaces (organized by location):

In my humble opinion, the actual city of Pittsburgh has very few stand-alone play spaces (with the exception of the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library described below).  I think the best indoor play spaces for young children within the city are usually those found in museums and to a lesser extent in the libraries.  In contrast, many of the neighboring communities have stand-alone play spaces as well as play areas found in shopping venues.  Additionally, many have pretty wonderful play spaces in their public libraries.  I have not included places like Gymboree where you must register for classes or become members to use their spaces.


Pittsburgh City

The Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library and Playspace

The Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library (PTLL)

A perennial favorite for us, we have been members at the PTLL for several years now. This volunteer-run facility has toys geared to children up to kindergarten, including a specific enclosed area for babies.  There is also a nice arts area, a kitchen, child-sized seating and highchairs, and lots more.  Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote about it earlier this year. Also, there is a FREE Art Group running now on Thursday mornings!  Plus, they have an extensive collection of toys to borrow (must be a member for this service).

Cost: First visit free, $5/child up to $10/family.  Children under 1 are free.  In addition, membership is available

Location: 5401 Center Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15232


Pittsburgh North

Jump Zone in Allison Park
Jump Zone


A family-owned indoor play space filled with giant inflatables available for Open Play.  We visited this facility several times last Winter after I got a Groupon and my kids loved it!  Bring socks!

Cost: 3 yo and older $9, 2 yo $5, Free under 2

Location: 4025 Alpha Drive, Allison Park PA 15101


Wildwood Highlands

Wildwood Highlands is a massive entertainment complex that includes both outdoor and indoor play opportunities for both little and big kids.  Kiddie City, a 4-level indoor jungle gym with slides, ball pits, and soft mats is specifically geared towards young children.  Bring socks!

Cost: 4 yo and older $5, 2-3 yo $4, 23 months and younger FREE

Location: 2330 Wildwood Road, Hampton Township, PA 15101


Fun Fore All

A large entertainment complex with outdoor and indoor activities.  Includes a large indoor play space for all ages called Ballocity.  Also a separate area for toddlers.

Cost: $5/child/day

Location: 8 Progress Avenue Cranberry Township, PA 16066


Bounce U of Warrendale

A play space filled with giant inflatables.  Offers several different Open Bounce opportunities, including a Preschool Playdate option for children younger than 6.

Cost: $8.95/child; reservations encouraged

Location: 65 Warrendale-Bayne Rd., Warrendale, PA 


Sky Zone

An indoor trampoline park offering open jump, a Foam Zone, 3-D Dodgeball, and a basketball court.  All ages are welcome!


  • 30 minute open jump- $10
  • 60 minute open jump- $13
  • 90 minute open jump- $17
  • 120 minute open jump- $20

Location: Sky Zone Leetsdale, 740 Brickworks Drive, Leetsdale, PA 15056


Pittsburgh South

Gymsport Athletic Center

Gymsport offers Preschool Playtime for children who are preschool-aged or younger.  Children can burn off energy on their large Jungle Gym and other age-appropriate equipment.

Cost: $5/hr

Location: 98 Vanadium Rd, Bldg C in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania (note: website warns that GPS may lead you down the street)


The Seesaw Center

An indoor play space geared toward children up to age kindergarten similar to the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library.

Cost: $5/child/day

Location:  935 Pine Avenue Castle Shannon, PA 15234


Lilliput Towne Center

An indoor play space hosted by Lilliput Play Homes, makers of some of the cutest kid-sized buildings that I have ever seen.  Although I’ve never been to this spot myself, I’ve heard that Lilliput Towne Center is a pretend miniature town that the kids can explore.  Sounds really cool!

Cost: $10 for first child, $6 for siblings, non-walkers free

Location: 4125 Washington Rd, McMurray PA 15317



An interesting spot for young children to practice their fine motor skills through Lego play in the Discovery Center play space.  Snapology just opened a new 5000+ sf space in Mt. Lebanon.  It has lots more than Lego play too!  Features an imagination playground, preschool play area, IPads with Lego games, remote slot car racing, and tons more.

Cost: $8/hr with opportunities to get a discounted rate if you buy multiple hours

Location: 1699 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, PA 15228


Pittsburgh East

Seabase Family Fun Center

A Greensburg family favorite–has 2 large indoor play gyms with tubes, mazes, and slides as well as a specific toddler play area.

Cost: Children 1-13yo $8, Adults FREE

Location: 770 East Pittsburgh Street, Greensburg, PA 15601


Shopping Venue Play Spaces 

I have also included a category for shopping venue play spaces.  At some of these places, parents can actually drop their children off while they do their shopping.  At others, parents must be present.


The small train play area at Station Square
The small train play area at Station Square


Most of the local malls have free play areas where parents must stay with their kids.  I have frequented some of these with my kids and found most of them to be pretty traditional in design.  However, there are a few really creative play spaces, such as the Monroeville Mall’s Play Area modeled after Mister Roger’s Neighborhood of Make Believe. Also, Station Square‘s Freight House Shops has a (very) small train-themed play area with the Station Square Express, a trackless train that winds throughout the building.


Giggles and Smiles

The Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills and the Monroeville Mall also have a play space called Giggles and Smiles.  This is a supervised play area where you can drop your child (aged 3-10) off for up to 3 hours while you explore the mall (or even leave if you want).  If your child is younger than age 3 then you must stay in the play area with them.  Admission rates vary depending on the length of stay and number of children attending.  As an example, if 1 child stays for 1 hour it costs $11/hr.  If 1 child stays for 2 hours it costs $10/hr.  Here’s a link to the pricing chart.


Other Shopping Venue Play Spaces

Eagle’s Nest Child Care at Giant Eagle

Select Giant Eagle locations offer the Eagle’s Nest Child Care option for parents to use while doing their grocery shopping.  You can check your 3+ yo child into these facilities and they can play with a variety of imaginative play items, computers, arts supplies, etc. You MUST remain in the store!


IKEA Smaland Play Area at IKEA Pittsburgh

IKEA Pittsburgh also has a free supervised play area in the entrance lobby for children between the heights of 37″-54″ who are potty-trained.  Kids can play for up to an hour while you shop!  Also, the children’s department in the store has lots of toys available for the kids to play with.  I frequently take my two year old to visit!


E2 Toys 2 Try

A unique toy store focusing on eco-friendly toys that promote creativity and imagination.  Has a special indoor play area where children can test the toys while you shop!

Cost: $8/one child, $14/two siblings, $18/three or more siblings.  Also, opportunities to get discounts if you purchase multiple visits at once

Location: 426 James Street, Bridgeville, Pennsylvania 15017


Fun Buy the Pound

A unique toy store in Sewickley, where children can play and build with the toys.  Then, you can pay for their creations by the pound!

Cost: $2.75/hr, $1.50/half-hour

Location: 406 Beaver Street, Sewickley, PA 15143



We are huge fans of Pittsburgh’s many museums.  In general, we purchase Family Memberships at local museums if we are planning on visiting them more than once per year because it ends up being more cost effective.  Although I wish we could be members at them all, we have definitely had to limit our choices for financial reasons.  Probably the single biggest factor that impacts our decision of whether we purchase a membership at a Museum or not, is the availability of a play space that our children really enjoy.  Here’s my listing of Pittsburgh’s museums with information about their play spaces geared toward young children.


Playing at Waterplay at the Children's Museum
Playing at Waterplay at the Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

The Children’s Museum is an obvious choice for an indoor-type day.  The entire facility is geared toward kids and there are plenty of play spaces for children of all ages and with all sorts of interests.  To give you some examples: my 3 year old daughter loves flexing her creative muscles in both the Studio and the MAKESHOP.  My 2 year old son loves splashing around in the newly renovated Waterplay exhibit (bring an extra set of clothes).  Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote about it when it first opened.

Hours of Operation: Monday-Sunday 10am-5pm

Cost: Adult: $13, Children >2 yo $12, Parking in the museum’s lot is $3 for members and $5 for nonmembers

Location: 10 Children’s Way, Allegheny Square, Pittsburgh, PA  15212


Pretend Farmer's Market at Phipps
Pretend Farmer’s Market at Phipps

Phipps Conservatory

Phipps Conservatory is one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh.  In fact, I love it so much that I actually got married there! Since having kids, it has also become one of my go-to destinations with them.  My kids enjoy exploring the entire facility.  However, they especially enjoy playing in their indoor play space, the Phipps Public Market. It is a pretend Farmer’s Market where the kids can put food into grocery carts and then pretend to check out at a cash register.

Hours of Operation: 9:30-5pm every day except open until 10pm on Friday nights.  Also extended hours during the holidays

Cost: Adults $15, Children $11, Members Free, Free Parking

Location: 700 Frank Curto Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Carnegie Science Center

We have only been to this museum a few times so far, but my kids really enjoyed exploring it.  They especially liked the children’s play area called Exploration Station Jr where they played with the water table, practiced some building, played with balls, and lots more!  In addition, the Miniature Railroad and Village was unbelievable. I could have spent hours exploring this part of the museum!

Hours of Operation: Sunday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm, Saturday- 10 am – 7 pm.  Closed usually during Steelers home games.  Also open later on Friday and Saturdays for Omnimax and Laser Shows and other special programming

Cost: Adults $17.95, Children (3-12) $11.95

Location: One Allegheny Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15212


The Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Carnegie Museum of Natural History (and Art)

Although we are not members of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (yet), we have visited this facility several times. My 3 year old loves exploring the entire museum, but my 2-year old son usually gets himself into trouble by trying to touch priceless artifacts (and everything else).  The Museum does have a specific play area geared toward younger children called Discovery Basecamp.  Unfortunately, the space is pretty small and geared more toward older toddlers and preschoolers.  I will probably wait until my youngest gets a bit older before visiting this museum again.  On a related note: there is no specific children’s play area in the adjoining Carnegie Museum of Art (although they do have the Lozziwurm outside to peruse on a nice day).

Hours of Operation: Tuesday–Saturday: 10–5 p.m, Thursday: 10-8 p.m, Sunday: noon–5 p.m, Hours will change in January

Cost: Members Free, Adults $17.95, Children >3 $11.95, Admission after 4 p.m. on Thursdays is $10 adult and $5 child

Location: 4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213


The National Aviary

Although the National Aviary does not have its own young child-specific play area, it is a still a great place to visit with the little ones.  It is a nice alternative to the Pittsburgh Zoo on a wet, chilly day.

Hours of Operation:  10-5pm

Cost: Members Free, Adults $13, Children $11.  Parking $5 for nonmembers, Parking is free for memberes

Location: 700 Arch Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212


PPG Aquarium

Although the PPG Aquarium does not have its own specific play space for little ones, my kids still love exploring it.  Unfortunately, it does not have its own separate entrance and is located far from the entry gates of the Pittsburgh Zoo at the top of a very large hill.  For this reason, we rarely visit it during the colder, wet months.

Hours of Operation: 9am-5pm in the Fall, but hours change throughout the year

Cost: Entry included in Zoo admission, Members Free, Adults $14, Children $12. Rates change during the winter months

Location: 7340 Butler Street, Pittsburgh PA 15206


Ingenious placement of board books in turtle sandboxes in the middle of the room
A section of the Shaler North Hills Library’s Children Area


I used to be a Carnegie Library junkie when I had my first child.  I dragged her to libraries all over the city for free Mommy & Me-type classes almost every day of the week.  In the process, I had a chance to check out the children’s play areas in them.  Although I have definitely not visited ALL of the city’s libraries, I’ve seen a lot of them.  In my opinion, the Squirrel Hill branch of the Carnegie Library has the best play area for little kids within the city.  They have some toys, puppets, activity cubes, etc.  Also, it’s usually pretty busy with other kids, which makes it more fun!  Also, I’ve heard good things about the Oakmont Carnegie Library, too!

Last year, I ventured outside of the city to visit a community library and discovered the Shaler North Hills Library. My GOD!  This library is incredible.  It blew away all the other city libraries I had visited previously. The Children’s Department is nicely tucked away on the 2nd Floor (away from the mean, grouchy adults who don’t like kids disturbing them).  It has a huge selection of books and audiovisual items as well as TONS of classes for kids.  In addition, it has a WONDERFUL large play space for kids. Plus, since it’s a member of the same library consortium as the Carnegie Libraries, you can return and check out books there.  Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote about it.

Although I have not personally visited the Northland Public Library or the Bethel Park Public Library, I have also heard great things about their children’s play areas as well.


So, there you go!  It’s my comprehensive (I hope!) list of indoor play spaces in Pittsburgh and its neighboring communities.  I really hope you and your little ones have fun exploring some of these this Fall and Winter!  Also, if I have missed anywhere, please comment below and I will add it to the list.


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!

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.

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.






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.



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

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…


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:


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.


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!


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!






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