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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Little White Lies

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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My son is a storyteller. We've always known he was our creative one from the earliest days when he would draw on anything that would stand still long enough, including walls, his legs, library books and even my car leather...with a sharpie (that one hurt).

In addition to his artistic drawing ability he also has a very vivid imagination. He is constantly creating his own stories and not only writing them illustrating them as well.  His most often-spoken phrase is "Can I have a piece of paper and a pencil?!"

His teachers tell me that he has a wonderful sense of storytelling and he does great when it's time for them to do narrative essays.

However, we've noticed that this is not always a positive trait. Lately, he seems to be inclined to tell small (or sometimes tall) tales on a daily basis. Most of them are pretty innocuous. For example, yesterday my older son said that he once mistakenly ate a hot ball instead of a gum ball, to which the younger one replied "oh yeah, I do that all the time. That's happened to me lots of times"

I'm pretty sure that's not true. Not even a little bit. I don't believe that he's ever had a hot ball much less "lots of times"

He also seems to make up information and state it as fact. As an example, If we are talking about whales he will begin to spout facts about whales that are not necessarily true but he will swear that they are and that he read them in a book at school or elsewhere. Sometimes he'll even say that he's seen whales "lots of times" (not true).

It's becoming an every day thing.  

I think where we are struggling as parents is went to know when to call him out on his little white lies. Do we correct him every single time and say "no. That's not true. You absolutely did not eat a hot ball, see a whale, do 100 pull ups, dance with Madonna, etc."  Or do we let him have some of his tales and only correct the ones that could potentially be harmful or spread misinformation?

I'm afraid if we correct him we'll be constantly calling him a liar. On the other hand, I don't want him to think it's ok to constantly make things up.

I'm honestly not sure how to handle it or if this is a natural stage of life that he will just grow out of.

Any advice?

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Be My Neighbor Day 2015

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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As the founder of a nonprofit (Play it Forward Pittsburgh) and the Director of a program that helps area nonprofits get media work done that they otherwise could not afford, being a good citizen and serving my community is extremely important to me. And it's even more important that I teach my children about being good neighbors and citizens.

Several months ago, we had a conversation on our Facebook page about what kind of volunteering we do with our children. Many (myself included) expressed a frustration with the lack of good volunteer opportunities that include kids.  The United Way of Allegheny County is trying to change that.

The first step in that initiative is Be My Neighbor Day, happening tomorrow and Sunday, March 21 and 22 all around the city.  Be My Neighbor day is a day filled with fun, free, family-friendly activities designed to "help our neighbors".  Along with the Fred Rogers Company and WQED Pittsburgh, The United Way is sponsoring the event at five area YMCAS. Kids can plant sunflowers, decorate placemats for senior citizens, make snack bags for middle school students, thank a first responder and more.  It's a great way to introduce our kids to the idea of community and giving back.

I'm proud to announce that I'll be partnering with Be My Neighbor Day and doing a "Twitter Takeover" of the United Way's Twitter account. So watch @unitedwaypgh for my updates from the event.

Be My Neighbor Day will be celebrated at five YMCA locations:

Saturday, March 21:
Baierl Family YMCA, 2565 Nicolson Road, Sewickley, Pa. 15143 (1 p.m.- 3 p.m.)
Sampson Family YMCA, 236 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa 15222 (11 a.m. - 1p.m.)
Western Area YMCA, 195 Montour Run Road, Coraopolis, Pa. 15108 (1:30 - 3:30 p.m.)
Thelma Lovette YMCA, 2114 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15219 (9:30 - 11:30 a.m.)

Sunday, March 22:
Penn Hills YMCA, 11817 Frankstown Road, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15235 (12 -2:30 p.m.)

 

Activities for Be My Neighbor Day will include:

  1. Craft projects to benefit the community

  2. YMCA Healthy Kids activities

  3. Sweater Drive (bring a sweater to be donated to a local agency the day of, or prior to, the event)

  4. Daniel Tiger Meet and Greet

  5. And more!

See more at http://bemyneighborday.org/#sthash.wt7fRrYd.dpuf

 

 

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Not allowed to quit

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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He begged me to go skiing for weeks, But then as soon as we got to the top of the hill he begged me to go home.

My nearly 10-year-old son has been wanting to try skiing for a long time now. Every single weekend this winter he begged us to go. Many of his friends key and he was sure that he would love it as much as they did.

We finally found an evening to go a few weeks ago and it turned out not to be as easy as he was expecting it to be. He took his first fall pretty well but immediately upon standing up he fell again. He could not figure out how to get up on his own, which increased his frustration. This began the downward spiral of his skiing experience.

We finally made it to the top of the bunny hill and he started to panic. He got severe anxiety that he was going to fall and hurt himself. He also had some major self-esteem problems and just kept saying how he couldn't do it even though everyone else was doing fine. He would start to go and then immediately start screaming and fall down. He would just lay there and cry.

I tried to show him how to go slow and to stop, but he just kept panicking and falling down.   Eventually he refused to let me show him anything, he started nearly hyperventilating and just begged me to go home. He wanted to take off his skis, walk down the hill and get right back in the car.

I said no

Believe me, I felt like the world's worst mother while I was standing over my crying son telling him to get back up and try it again. I weighed the options in my mind and came to the conclusion that if he could just get the hang of it he would probably love it, but if we gave up right then we would never know.

And so it went. Him crying, me telling him to get back up and try it again, him begging me to go home, me telling him no.

It may seem cold and heartless, even at the time I wasn't sure I was making the right decision. I think it's hard to know how much to push our children. Do we make them ride that roller coaster that they're terrified of but we are pretty sure they will love once they try it? Do we make them go back into the game after they've gotten hit by the ball? Do we make them finish their math homework even though they are struggling?

Eventually he started going down the hill accidentally without the ability to stop, his eyes wild with fear.  But then he got to the bottom and stopped. And didn't fall.  Once he realized that he wasn't going to die, or even to break a bone, something clicked.

He did fall down some more that night but when he did he got right back up and kept going. He ended up absolutely loving skiing and has begged me to go again every single day since that night.

Pushing our children into things they are scared of or fail at at first may not always be the right decision. Last summer I was quite sure my younger son would love a certain roller coaster. We promised him he would love it and insisted he ride with us. I couldn't see his face while the roller coaster was going, but as soon as it stopped he burst into tears and did not stop crying for a solid hour. I think in that situation I made the wrong call and pushed him when I shouldn't have.

The trickiest thing is we never know whether or not to push, it just has to be a gut decision. I typically tend to err on the side of encouraging my kids to do things that might be outside of their comfort zone. We have a rule that you only have to try once, And if you hate it you don't have to do it again anytime soon.

In the case of our skiing expedition I just needed to get him down that mountain one time and not let him give up. And it worked.  Maybe we'll try that roller coaster again this summer...

 

How much do you push your kids to try new or scary things?

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Spring Break Road Trip - Cleveland

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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I have to admit I have some working mom guilt every year around this time. My children have worked hard at school all year and are about to enjoy an entire week (plus a day) off for Spring Break...and I have to work.

If I'm being totally honest, I wish we didn't have an entire week off. It's such a pain. A few days would be fine, but we have a half day on Friday, then the entire week before Easter.  It kills me every year.  

Each year we try to do at least a little something to make the kids feel like it's special for them. For us that generally just means an extended weekend, but we'll try and make it special.

This year we're planning a trip to Cleveland. It's a great road trip destination for us Pittsburghers. It's an easy 90 minute drive with plenty of kid-friendly options.

The family event that we're most excited about this year is the I-X Indoor Amusement Park. The Park is coming to Cleveland March 27-April 19, just in time for Spring Break. It features more than 20 acres of attractions, a Sea Lion show, Roberto the Magnificent Crazy Comedy Stunt Show and the ZuZu Acrobats.

Tickets can be purchased online in advance (or for a few more dollars at the door)

  • $19.99 General Admission (Over 48" in Height) + $1 service fee
  • $17.99 General Admission (Under 48" in Height) + $1 service fee
  • Children 3 and under are FREE

The hours vary but generally the park will be open 11 am - 9 pm most days. Check specific hours before visiting.


 

Another visit we plan to try and fit in is a visit to the Great Lakes Science Center.  We love Science Centers and try to visit them in any city that we can. We just recently visited COSI in Columbus and I'm excited to try Cleveland's science center.

The center is open 10 am - 5 pm most days (except Monday) and 12-5 pm on Sundays.  Admission is $14 for an adult and $12 for youths ages 2-12.  For an extra $9 for adults and $8 for kids, you can get admission to a special exhibit - MythBusters: The Explosive Exhibition.  My kids are HUGE MythBusters fans (and we'll be going to see them when they come to Pittsburgh in April), so this is something that we'd love to see before it's gone. The MythBusters exhibit runs from February 7 - May 3.

Great Lakes Science Center and the Carnegie Science Center are both a member of the ASTC Travel Passport Program so they *should* have reciprocal membership privileges, but call first to make sure

 



If dinosaurs are more your kid's thing, Cleveland is also home to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  The museum, just like the Science Center, is open 10 am - 5 pm. most days except Sunday (12 -5). They are open on Mondays, and have late hours every Wednesday (until 10 pm). Admission is $14 for adults and $10 for kids 3-12.   Much like our Natural History Museum, they host a dinosaur hall, a hands-on interactive area for kids, several traveling exhibits and even a planetarium (for a small extra charge).

Once again, they are a member of ASTC, so if you have a Carnegie Museums membership, admission should be free.

 

 


It's may be a little too cold during our visit to visit the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (but if the weather is nice, it's worth a visit).  The Zoo is open 10 am - 5 pm daily and admission is $13.25 for adults and $9.25 for kids.   The 184 acre zoo is home to over 3,000 animals including one of the largest primate collections in North America.  If you are a Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium member, your admission to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo should be half off.

If it's too cold or rainy to visit the zoo, we may consider a visit to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. The aquarium features 8 galleries and over 50 exhibits takes about an hour to visit and is open 10 am - 5 pm daily.  Admission is $19.95 for adults and $19.95 for kids 2-12.  

 


Of course, there are plenty of other options in Cleveland as well, including the world-famous Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame and the also famous LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The options are endless.  In addition nit's easy to find family-friendly dining and hotel options in and around the Cleveland Area as well (Melt Bar and Grilled is one of our favorites for great grilled cheese sandwiches).  

What ever you choose to do for your spring break, I hope that you enjoy some time with your family exploring new territory, whether it be in another city or right here at home.

 

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Teaching independence is a crime?

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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I was very saddened to read the decision this week that the Maryland couple who let their children walk home from a park alone were found guilty of 'Unsubstantiated Child Neglect".  CPS Finds “Free Range” Parents Responsible for Unsubstantiated Child Neglect.

For those of you not familiar with the story, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv practice "free range parenting" and teach their children independence. After practicing, they allowed their ten and 6-year-old to walk the one-mile home from a local park. While on the walk, the kids were picked up by the police and CPS was called. After a two month investigation, the couple was notified this week that they were found guilty of child neglect.  

While I understand the need to keep our children safe, I also mourn the loss of the days when we could let our children have some freedom. Of course we all remember the freedoms we had as children. We were off and running the minute school let out and didn't come home until the street lights went on.  Gone are those days. And not necessarily because the world has become a more dangerous place, but because, more often than not, other people will judge us for our actions, and call the police on us. 

There have been numerous times recently when my kids have asked to stay in the car while I've run into the store for a quick errand. I almost never let them. Not because I'm worried anything will happen to them but because I'm worried someone will see them and call the police.

There was an interesting chart circulating online yesterday about when it's appropriate to leave your children home alone. There is currently no minimum age in Pennsylvania to leave a child home alone.  Children must be 6 years old to be left in a car alone. So legally, I have every right to leave my kids while I run in to the market for some bread and milk, but that doesn't mean I couldn't and would't get charged with child neglect.  

I know we can't dial back the time machine and go back to the days of street light alarm clocks, but I sure do wish we could trust each other's parenting decisions a bit more and allow our kids to the ability to develop a stronger sense of independence with fearing a call from CPS.

 

 

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