Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ask Your PA Senator to Support SB501

Today I'm in Harrisburg to visit state senators and ask them to support SB 501. I have already visited my state senator, Randy Vulakovich, at his Shaler office and I know he won't support this bill. His reason? 

"There wouldn't be enough room to store the guns if we took them away from people with a final PFA," he said. 

Really? That's your reason? There's no room to store the guns from people judged to be guilty of domestic violence, so let's just let the violent person keep the guns so the violent person can use them to kill women, children, and first responders. 

I need your help to let elected officials know this is not acceptable. 

I'm here making personal visits. I ask you to make a phone call. Just one phone call. 

  • If your senator are supporting SB501, call your senator and say THANK YOU. (If you can get a meeting to discuss other gun violence bills, let me know.  SB383 is a bad one. I can help.)
  • If your senator hasn't stated a position, ask their position. Maybe get a meeting. (If you can get a meeting, let me know and I'll help!)
  • If your senator opposes SB501, ask why. And let them know you would ask them to consider changing their mind. Again, if you can get a meeting, let me know and I'll help.) 

Friday, May 19, 2017

First Mile

How old were you when you ran your first mile?

Have you ever raced a mile?

I remember running the mile in phys ed and hating it. I remember being mocked for struggling and not knowing how to run.

But then I joined the track team in high school and I learned how to pace myself, to go out hard but not too hard. Soon I was racing the two mile, and then the 5K. I got stronger and smarter. By the end of college, I was running three miles in a row faster than I had ever run one mile.

My oldest has run a mile many times and he runs more than a mile every weekend at soccer. But he raced his first mile in sixth grade earlier in May, and I couldn't have been more proud of him and his hard work.

He asked to practice and ran some miles on the track before his big day. He didn't sprint the first 100 and die. He didn't even sprint the first 400 and die. He went out strong and lap after lap passed people. He kept pushing hard and finished strong and ran a :40 personal record.

My husband and I watched every step around the track, and my proud (fast, experienced runner) husband said, "I can see he has more in him. He can go faster."

To others, that could sound like my husband wasn't impressed by our oldest's performance. But you have to know runners and you have to know parents. Runners always think they can shave a few seconds off their time. And parents think our children are limitless in their abilities.

I hope that he feels that way about himself, too.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Remake Learning Days

Have you heard about Remake Learning Days in Pittsburgh? NO??!! You don't want to miss this. From May 15-26, there will be over 350 events and activities for families happening all over our region. The kick-off is at PNC Park on Monday, May 15 from 3 - 6pm and features activities and refreshments.

Frankly, it's nuts (and bolts) how much stuff is happening during Remake Learning Days. This is from the press release:

  • Across the key themes, there are 89 maker events, 83 arts events, 77 technology events, 40 science events, 30 outdoor learning events, and 27 youth voice events;
  • The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will host 25 events across its branch system, featuring a robot raceway, virtual reality, Labs workshops for teens, the Labsy Awards Art Show and more;
  • Innovative corporations such as Duolingo, Schell Games, Inventionland and TechShop Pittsburgh will host open houses for the public to gain insights into the latest technology and their work;
  • Many museums and arts organizations will host hands-on learning sessions for youth of all ages, including the Heinz History Center, Carnegie Science Center, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Manchester Craftsmen Guild, and more;
  • Across the Pittsburgh region, 29 school districts are hosting showcases and events for Remake
    Learning Days;
  • There will be 45 professional development opportunities across the region for educators to explore “remake learning” on a deeper level. 
There's so much going on it feels a little overwhelming, but I really love the way the website is organized. First, you choose the category or type of activity. Then you can search for a keyword or by ZIP code to find activities near you. Or you can scroll the entire list of offerings displayed pin-board style with eye-catching photos, easy to read headlines and helpful descriptions.

We have a pretty packed schedule, but there is an open house hosted by Schell Games that looks pretty interesting for my family (we love games) and is happening on a day without other activities.

So what Remake Learning Days events will you attend? 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Strengths and Weaknesses

We put up a volleyball net in our yard yesterday. And while fun bookended our family time, right in the middle of the games was competitive drama. A lot comes easy to my boys and when they struggled with this new activity, their egos suffered. They got frustrated. They got angry. They were embarrassed when they messed up. Sports can do that to us.

At least they weren't in gym class. What is it with gym class? Why do people have such horrible experiences in gym class?

  • I mentioned volleyball to a friend, and she mentioned how she hates volleyball thanks to gym class.
  • Another friend told me she got slammed in the face with a ball in high school and everyone laughed. 
  • And I heard another story about someone getting a concussion from kickball in the second grade.
  • My friend's son has gotten hurt more than once in gym class at our elementary school. 

And my personal story, how after struggling to run a mile in gym class, and crying because I could barely breathe, the gym teacher mocked me in front of everyone. Brutal.

But gym teachers aren't all like that. And gym classes aren't all like that. And sports don't just expose our weaknesses. They also show us how tough we really are.

  • My youngest set the kindergarten Pacer test record in gym class while his class cheered him on.
  • My middle son told us about his good friend who set a record lifting weights while her class cheered her on.
  • My oldest also racked up a ton of laps at Pacer and the class cheered him on. 
I'm sure there are other good gym class memories out there. 

What's your worst memory? 
What's your best?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Tough Parenting Question: No Lunch Food

Over the weekend, my oldest called my husband and I "strict." This is the first time he's said that, but he had several examples saved up in his head, so I guess he's been thinking about it for awhile. I wasn't happy that he was upset, but part of me took his comment as a badge of pride.

Here's my tough parenting question.

We were in Columbus, OH all weekend for a soccer tournament. When we returned it was late Sunday night. Monday morning, the oldest ate his Aero bar for breakfast. Then he went to the pantry and could not find his favorite foods. And the complaints started.

No Clif bars. No bunny snacks. No pretzels or tortilla chips. There's nothing to eat.

The youngest then complained about no Go-Go squeeze. No tortilla chips. There's nothing to eat.

(The middle always buys lunch because he doesn't like to pack his lunch. But he also doesn't complain about his lunch.)

I set forth on an epic journey through the pantry and the fridge, recommending ALL of the foods we had. I knew things were bad when the oldest wouldn't even consider white cheddar (he wouldn't even admit it was white cheddar) and tomatoes. Those are two of his favorite foods.

The youngest packed a lunch that consisted only of grain-based carbs.

There is actually a lot of food in our fridge and cupboard. It's just not the food they want. It got so bad that my oldest was rudely saying "NO" before I even finished naming foods. Then the youngest would say "no" in this resigned, pathetic whiny voice to everything I offered.

We have food. There is food to eat. But these kids are too spoiled with their special food choices they are used to having their own special foods. I lost my patience and shouted at them both that if they were hungry, they would eat the food we had.

I want to get some food that I want from the store. So I will eventually grocery shop. But my tough parenting question is this:

  • Should I go grocery shopping and show my kids I won't take revenge on them and will provide food for them even when they are incredible rude? I call this option "the high road."
  • Or do I not grocery shop and remind them that if they would like their family member to take care of them and spend money on their favorite foods, they need to treat me with respect and maybe even offer to help with the grocery shopping? I call this one "eat my revenge."

Monday, April 24, 2017

Our Family's Favorite Board Games

Get ready, fellow board gamers, it's our board game round-up!

Recently my middle son told me one of his favorite holidays was New Year's Eve because our family has a tradition of playing board games all the way until midnight. I love that tradition, too. But we also play board games when we visit my brother's family in St. Louis over Thanksgiving. And when we travel to visit my husband's family in Maryland. And when we have a free weekend afternoon. Or weeknight.

We aren't board game experts, but we enjoy a good game in this house. Actually, many games. We have games stored upstairs and downstairs and in several different rooms. We have games double-stacked on shelves. We need a better way to organize our games.

I took an informal poll of the favorites.

Game Winners


  1. Pandemic
  2. King of New York
  3. Scattergories


  1. Pandemic
  2. Settlers of Catan
  3. King of New York
Oldest Kid:
  1. Apples to Apples Jr.
  2. King of New York
  3. Codenames
Middle Kid:
  1. Pandemic
  2. Cacao/Forbidden Island
  3. Ticket to Ride (even though I never played)
Youngest Kid:
  1. Formula D
  2. Codenames
  3. Pandemic
I know for a fact my youngest's favorite game is actually Codenames, but because I told him I knew that, he had to write it second. 

As you can guess, Pandemic has really infected all of us!! (HAHA). We just got Pandemic Legacy and will be starting that soon.

Sometimes different games rise to the top of our lists for a time, like the weekend we all played Rush Hour and Kaboodle. This past weekend my oldest was hooked on Quoridor. And a few Easters ago, Chicks Go Boom was very hot. 

What are your top three games?

Monday, April 17, 2017

Revolutionary Road Trip Days 4, 5 and 6

Yes, I fell off the daily blogging bandwagon for our Revolutionary Road Trip. We had a quick pace and it was both exhilarating and exhausting. (Read about Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.)

Day 4 - Yorktown

Yorktown might have been the high point of the trip. First, it's a beautiful little town situated on the York River. It's quite near a huge amusement park and Colonial Williamsburg, but we didn't feel the hustle and rush of huge crowds. In fact, we were by ourselves during most of our activities.  There are two main parts of our Yorktown visit. We spent time at the Battlefield and the Yorktown Victory Center, a living history museum, on opposite sides of the town. We loved both. The Victory Center had two wonderful movies. One involved silhouettes (more shadow puppets) but our favorite was a 4D movie we watched twice! It really was 4D and my favorite part was smelling the coffee from the camp.

The Victory Center also had a musket demonstration AND a canon demonstration. Those were impressive. 

But the battlefield had the redoubts conquered by Lafayette and Hamilton. Throw in some muskets and colonial costumes, you've got a road trip winner. 

The boys loved the redoubts so much we visited them the morning of Day 5, too. But like I said, we had a hectic pace so we had to get on the road to Mt. Vernon.

Day 5 - Mt. Vernon

Day 5 was tough. Thanks to northern Virginia traffic, I told myself we would not get to Mt. Vernon after all. I had always thought in the back of my mind we would have to lose some part of the trip, but things had gone so well, my optimism outweighed my realism (as usual). 

What should've been about a 2 hr drive was almost double. 

This day brought me back to reality, but my husband pulled through and Mt. Vernon was open a lot later than we thought!

We got there at 4pm and were able to do a tour of the house, visited both the Slave Memorial and the Tomb, learned about the privy and solved the Mt. Vernon puzzle. We weren't allowed to take photos inside the house so you'll just have to believe me when I say the Bastille Key was huge both historically and physically. 

The 4D movie at the visitor's center was also a delight because my husband and I managed to keep a secret from the kids. During the part about Valley Forge, snow falls on the audience. The kids whispered-screeched and loved it. 

I really was relieved we made it to Mt. Vernon, but I don't think I realized how tired we all were until dinner. After picking another place based on Yelp reviews and crossing my fingers, we parked and headed down a small strip mall sidewalk. 

The youngest asked, "why are there George Washington heads everywhere?"
From somewhere horrible inside me, I snapped, "Figure it out. We're right by Mt. Vernon."

Ugh. Everyone gave me a look. The youngest almost cried. I felt defensive at first, then ashamed. After all, I had been encouraging questions all week. And he's only 7 for crying out loud. What does he know about commercial marketing and planning and design? I apologized. Later I played with his soldiers at dinner and hugged him. A lot. 

Day 6 - Valley Forge

I think my penance for snapping at my curious first grader was forgetting my wonderful contour pillow in Springfield, VA. 

Thankfully, my penance wasn't more bad traffic and we zipped through Washington, DC and Baltimore on our way to Valley Forge outside Philadelphia. Waiting for us were my parents and good friends from college. We met up for lunch and headed to the park. 

I promised the kids more running around in costumes time, and they got their fill. They loved climbing on the canons and running around the cabins. They jumped a creek and some small stone walls. I got to touch the bannister of the house that was George Washington's headquarters and our friend set the spring break 2017 cup and ball record with 10 in a row. 

The boys and our friends finally did the work to become Junior Rangers, just like their proud Mom! 

That night we didn't even hunt for a restaurant. We ate at the hotel, swam in the pool, and collapsed into bed. Our drive home to Pittsburgh was wonderfully fast and we got home safe and sound. 

I feel like I should do some kind of summary. I have no idea how many miles we covered, but we fueled the van up twice. We passed through five states. We watched two 4D movies. We came home with LOTS of souvenirs. We saw plenty of tombs, memorials, canons, statues, paintings, reenactors, and a surprising number of sheep. 

We enjoyed ice cream, cherry candies, Doubletree cookies, cobbler, tiramisu, and I had plenty of coffee. One day I even had grits for lunch and my oldest discovered he loved dipping grilled cheese in cinnamon yogurt. 


Day 4 lunch was at the Yorktown Pub right on the water and dinner was at the Hounds Tale in Williamsburg. We stayed at the our second night at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Williamsburg. Breakfast on Day 5 was our first non-hotel breakfast and we enjoyed a busy meal with college families at Aromas in Williamsburg. Our long Day 5 drive took us through Fredericksburg and we ate at Castiglia's, an Italian place across from the slave auction block. I learned that afterward, and felt a guilty sense of ignorance for eating some caprese salad so unaware of being at the spot where humans had been sold.

Day 5 dinner was at the Rivers Bend Bistro. You'll see George Washington heads around that strip mall. We crashed at the Embassy Suites Springfield and this might have been my favorite night's sleep. We had a door between the sleeping room and living room. Sadly, I did leave my pillow here.

Day 6 we had lunch in King of Prussia. Some of us ate Mission BBQ, while one vegetarian had a salad and yogurt from Honeygrow. We spent the night at the Hilton Garden Inn Valley Forge where staff went above and beyond to get us two connecting rooms (and 2 bathrooms!). We had dinner and breakfast there.

The End

I took lots and lots of notes about the big and little things that happened on this trip. And we made lots and lots of memories. It was a most excellent Revolutionary Road Trip.