PittsburghMom

PittsburghMom is our original, featured blog by Heather Starr Fiedler.  Heather created PittsburghMom in March 2008 and began this journey.  Heather is the mom to two young boys, Matthew (9) and Benjamin (7), a college professor and General Manager of PittsburghMom. She's busy, but not too busy to blog about her sometimes serious, sometimes painful and often humorous thoughts on life and share her favorite Pittsburgh spots for families.

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8 - Pittsburgh Mom Recipes: White Chicken Chili

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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Our Cub Scout pack was having a chili contest recently and I wanted to do something different. I make an ok chili, but it's nothing to write home about. So I knew I wanted to try something new. And I thought a white chili sounded good. After scouring the internet and asking friends, I finally found a recipe I wanted to try, the adapted it to my family's tastes.  It was a huge hit! It received second place in the contest (next to an amazing red chili recipe that went on to win the district-wide chili contest) and several people have since asked me for the recipe. I made it again last night (it's truly the easiest thing EVER, which is right up my alley) and I'm about to have a bowl for lunch.  Enjoy!

 

White Chicken Cream Cheese Chili

1 can beans (original recipe called for black, but I use white and they blend in so the kids don't even know they're there) 
1 can corn 
1 can Rotel, undrained 
1 package ranch dressing mix 
1 tsp cumin 
1 Tbsp chili powder (more or less depending on how spicy your family likes it)
1 tsp onion powder 
1 8 oz package light cream cheese 
2 chicken breasts

Everything goes in a crock pot. No actual cooking necessary! 

Drain and rinse beans. Place chicken at bottom of pot, then pour out whole can of corn (undrained if you want a soupier chili, drain if you want a stew-like chili), rotel, and  beans. Top with seasonings and ranch mix. Stir together. Place cream cheese on top.

Cover with lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Stir cream cheese into chili. Use 2 forks to shred chicken.

Stir together and serve

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Don't Cry Because It's Over...

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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One of my favorite quotes is the Dr. Seuss quote "Don't Cry Because it's Over, Smile Because It Happened".

I'm here today to tell you that times are changing.  As the internet evolves and the way we connect and communicate with one another evolves, we (both myself and my bosses at the Post-Gazette) have come to realize that most of the conversation surrounding Pittsburgh Mom is happening on Facebook, no here on PittsburghMom.com.  So the decision has been made to "turn off the lights" on this site.

While that makes me very sad, I'm also excited about some new ideas and opportunities that the decision opens up for me personally.  While we'll be shutting this site down (effective May 31), we'll keep the Facebook page alive and kicking. I plan to still post there with questions from fellow moms and interesting articles for discussion.  And I'm not "leaving the area", just "moving to a new house".  Instead of writing here, I'll be writing over at my new site, BitsOfTheBurgh.com.  There I will not just write about parenting, but also community engagement, Pittsburgh and health and fitness.  I'd love for you all to come join me there and continue to be a part of my world, because you have been a part of mine for so many years now.

Before we turn off the lights, I'd like to do a "Top 10" of the most popular blog posts as ranked by views.  They are all mostly reviews of great Pittsburgh places. Reading them again made me realize, once again, what a wonderful city we live in.

I'll post one each day for the next week or so.  Let's take a walk down memory lane together.

I can't thank you all enough for being a part of this journey. I started this site when my kids were just babies. And now Matthew is about to turn 10!  You've been there with me through the highs and the lows of parenting and I have always appreciated the support and you "lending an ear".  I hope that I've been of some support and service to you as well.

And I really do hope to see you over at BitsOfTheBurgh.com. I'm not ready to just say goodbye :)

All my love,

Heather

 

 

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10 - Pittsburgh Family Fun goes to Sky Trail

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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Today was the opening day for the new Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail ropes course in the Pittsburgh Mills mall.  We live just a few miles from the mall, so we decided to celebrate the end of our week and try it out. 

The Sky Trail adventure is a two-level ropes course zipline that towers 32 feet above the food court (close your eyes and pretend it's the forest).  The zipline is almost 70 feet in length and seemed to be the hit of the night.  

The line when we arrived was a bit long, but it moved quickly. We went through in stages. First to pay, then to get our harnesses on and then to attach to the course.  It's a two-part attachment that cannot be removed by anyone but the staff member, which was comforting.  

The Sky Trail is for those 48" tall or more, but there is an option for smaller kids.  Kids under 48" can do the Sky Tykes course, which is just a few feet off the ground, for half the price

I did the course along with the kids and we all had a great time.  My critical mistake at the beginning was going straight to the higher level. Not only is it much further from the ground, but the obstacles are harder, often with nothing to hold on to except your own harness.  I chickened out on most of the them and found myself sweaty, shaking and hugging the pole an awful lot.  Once I went down to the lower level and breezed through the "easier" obstacles, I realized that I could indeed cross an obstacle with nothing to hold on to.  So at the end of our time I headed back up and conquered my fears.  There were still a few ropes that I just didn't have the guts to do (single rope tight-wire style with nothing to hold on to), but I did most of them much easier that time. So my advice is to start with the lower level and then work your way up. My other piece of advice is to wear good sturdy shoes. I had loafers on and they weren't ideal. Some sneakers would have been much better.

This was my face pretty much the entire time on the higher level

 

 

The zip line was a huge hit with the kids.  My boys each did it three times. I must admit it was a lot of fun.

The staff was all extremely friendly and helpful and I felt very safe and secure the entire time.  

It's a great way to kill some time indoors when the weather isn't great. And at $14 it isn't too pricey.  We were asked to come down after about 30 minutes, but nobody seemed to be really enforcing that rule, and we were actually up there closer to 45 minutes because we lost track of time. I'm not sure if that's an all-day rule or if it was just because they were closing.

  • The Pittsburgh Mills Sky Trail is open 10 am - 9 pm Monday thru Saturday and 11 am-6 pm on Sunday.
  • The course costs $14 per persona and the Sky Tykes ropes course specifically for kids under 48" tall is $7
  • They offer a 10% off discount for groups of 10 or more
  • It's located inside the Pittsburgh Mills Mall (park by the Cinemark movie theater).  590 Pittsburgh Mills Boulevard, Tarentum, PA  15084
  • Phone 878-302-2377

 

 Additional Photos

 

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Mom and Me Summer Book Club

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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The end of the school year is quickly approaching. I already see the stars in my kids' eyes when they realize that they won't have six hours of school and homework every night. I already wrote about our "unscheduled" summer, so that leaves me with a worry. That we'll fall into a pattern of complete chaos and nothing structured all summer.

My younger son definitely needs some structure in his summer, or else going back to school in the fall will be a nightmare.

I'm hoping to make some sort of schedule that involves just a little bit of academic work all summer.  Obviously we'll do lots of educational type "field trips" to the museums and zoo. But I also want to help them keep up with math and reading.

I was chatting with some friends last week and we all talked about starting a summer book club for us. I know personally there's no better way to get me to read a book than reading it with other people. Then we got the great idea to include the kids. Each age group could have their own book to read and the moms would read a separate book.

I threw the idea out there and lots of friends (both mine and the kids' friends) loved it. So our summer book club was born.  

We'll read three books, one each month this summer. There will be a different book for 2-3 graders, one for 4-5 graders and one for the moms.  Then we'll all get together at the end of the month and have a giant book club playdate.  

The first books we picked (in case anyone wants to play along virtually) were
Eleanor & Park - Moms
The Candymakers - 4-5 Graders
The One and Only Ivan - 2-3 Graders

We are all so excited. The kids have already gotten their books and started reading. They can't wait for our "meeting" so they can talk about it with their friends. It's the love of reading that I've always hoped they'd have.

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Therapy cat

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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My kids both struggle with anxiety, but both in very different ways.  Ben, whom I've written about many times, refuses to admit he has any anxiety issues. But one look at him and his  too-old, too-big clothes, refusal to go to school every Monday or new places, etc. and it's obvious that he has some pretty significant anxiety about change in his world. But he'd never tell you that. 

Matthew, on the other hand, is more of a hypochondriac. He latches on to an idea, a diagnosis, and runs with it.  He's been having some trouble falling asleep at night because he says he feels scared, but he's not sure what he's scared of.  I explained that that feeling is called anxiety and now he's obsessed with the fact that he has anxiety. He'll tell any stranger he meets on the street that he's got anxiety. He's been reading about it and asking lots of questions.  He's particularly scared of noises and is worried about tornadoes. We live near train tracks, so the sound of the train passing by each night puts the fear of God in him because he's worried it's a tornado coming.  We try to reassure him that no tornado is coming, but he can't seem to settle down.

That is, until, the cat decided to start sleeping with him. We've had this cat for two years and he's never really slept with the kids before, but suddenly he's jumping into bed with Matthew ever night and purring so loud that it drowns out the train noise, and every other bump in the night.  It's quite amazing, really. We've started calling him Matthew's "therapy cat" because as soon as the cat snuggles up, Matthew falls right to sleep.

I never really thought about a cat's intuition before, but I'm convinced now that this cat has some special power. And I'm so thankful for him. He really is a special little furball.

Have your pets ever helped your kids through something difficult?

 

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