Back to School Tips and Tricks

It is hard to plan for something that is so uncertain. For my sanity I really would like to keep my kids all on the same platform whether that is in class, virtual through our district cyber or homeschooling on our own. So what is the problem you may wonder; what is best for one of my children will not be best for all three of them.

I have 2 middle schoolers who will have more freedom in our district than our elementary school student. And all three of my children have special needs which may not be adequately addressed across all platforms.

As we wait for our district to make final arrangements, we plan for life as usual. If you have been reading this blog for long you know every year my children get a brand new capsule wardrobe this will be the 6th year we are planning there wardrobe this way and it is by far the biggest back to school hack. Here is the link if you need a review. This cuts down on the amount of space you need to store their clothes because there is far less of them and it also cuts down on the amount of laundry. Now don’t get me wrong the kids still wear the same amount of clothes but when they only have x-amount of clothes you tend to keep up on the laundry, which ends up being far more efficient.

Last year, my back to school hack was about healthy lunches, my daughter is allergic to soy which means we have to limit her processes food because soy is hidden everywhere. These tips work just as well if you are keeping your kids home this year or sending them back to school after all they will still need to eat. Here’s the link if you want to review it!

This year’s back to school hack is organization. We have used different systems over the years including mailboxes for important school papers, backpack hooks hanging by the door and a shoe rack. However this year we plan on making a home command center that will put all of these things together. There will be a dry erase calendar, a bulletin board to hold test grades and art work , clip boards for each child which will hold permission slips, to do lists and things that need to go to school, back pack hooks with a cubicle under neath with space for hats gloves and shoes. Keeping everything in one place will help the kids get out the door with little fuss. 

World Breastfeeding Week Should Include Formula


It’s World Breastfeeding Week and I always struggle with how to talk about breastfeeding without alienating Moms who formula feed. I really believe breastfeeding is ideal, but fed is best. And Moms tend to take it ultra personally. But I want to reframe how we view breastfeeding and formula feeding. I want to offer a new perspective that is accepting and supportive and realistic. 

So I pose a question: Who gives their child THE VERY BEST of everything–every.single.thing–100% of the time?
Answer: NOBODY 
Everybody has to make choices. All day. Every day. And in those moments we do the best we can. We don’t strive for perfection in every action we take. 
I want Moms (especially new and expecting Moms) to really look at and understand how much of our lives fall into the categories of “Fine”, “Ok” and “Acceptable”. And we are at peace with it.
Except with breastfeeding vs. formula. There is this black-and-white stigma. No gray area. Either you breastfeed or you formula feed. 
But what about doing BOTH? 
You can do both.
This very viable and realistic option is not talked about enough.
One of the platforms of World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is the worldwide need for more educated lactation consultants and medical practitioners. There are a lot of uneducated or poorly educated and very biased people–medical practitioners–giving women very bad advice about breastfeeding. And even the good practitioners are trained to support women to exclusively breastfeed and caution them that bottle feeding will hurt their baby’s latch and supply. 
When we live so much of our lives in “gray area”, why is it still breastfeeding or formula when it can be breastfeeding and formula?
I did both. 
My baby was not gaining enough weight, I needed to supplement, and I could not pump enough milk to exclusively breastfeed. The lactation consultants were championing me to try to achieve a full supply, regardless how unrealistic it was for me to feed and pump 24/7. The (female) pediatricians were suggesting I should just switch to formula, regardless that I was striving to breastfeed and had a pretty good supply that fell just a few ounces short. I was stressed and felt misunderstood and unsupported from both sides. I had to figure out how to combine breastfeeding and formula feeding with pitifully little guidance or support–everyone was telling me to pick one or the other. 
But I did it. And lots of other mothers have done it. And plenty more would also choose this option–if we helped guide them and support them. 
I’m here to tell you that if you want to breastfeed and you only pump an ounce per day, that doesn’t mean you need to quit. That ounce is valuable. Consider it like you are feeding your baby a vitamin–good things come in small packages. 
I’m also here to tell you that formula is not the enemy. If breastfeeding doesn’t work for you, it’s ok! Your baby is fed and loved. Maybe the trade-off is a less stressed, happier, healthier more present Mama, and that is everything. YOU matter too.
I would love to see more women find a way to breastfeed that works for them. 
I would love for formula feeding mothers to feel that breastfeeding is inclusive of formula. 
I would also love to see new and improved varieties of formula is the US (European formulas are far superior) so that formula feeding Moms have more options. 
We can improve breastfeeding outcomes and work towards increasing the variety and quality of formulas simbiotically. 
These goals are not mutually exclusive–or at least they shouldn’t be. 
World Breastfeeding Week should include formula.

Breaking My Own Rules


I don’t let my kids sleep in my bed.

Stick with me here, I promise this isn’t a discussion on whether or not you should be bed sharing.  I don’t let my kids sleep in my bed for a number of reasons, the top one being that I value sleep, both mine and theirs.  My experience with bed sharing has been that no one ends up getting sleep.  That’s most likely because we aren’t accustomed to sharing a bed.

Last night, I broke that rule.  I was woken up at an ungodly hour by the sound of my oldest son sobbing.  I found him standing on the stairs, trying desperately to find me.  I picked him up, and felt him shaking as his arms wrapped around me tightly. I brought him into my room to try and calm him without waking the entire house.

I’m still not clear on the cause of the middle of the night wake-up, but I suspect a nightmare since all he would say to me was “you weren’t there.”  I just knew that when I moved the slightest muscle he begged me not to send him back to his own bed. 

I don’t consider myself to be a strict parent, but I do believe in having rules and boundaries.  Dinners are eaten at the table, bed times are enforced, and I don’t let my kids sleep in my bed.

How did I end up with a three year old sleeping soundly in my bed last night?  I asked myself this question as I laid very much awake, a tiny face pressed into mine and breathing loudly. 

Firstly, it was because I could tell he needed this.  Something had frightened him, and as a mother I wanted to comfort him.  He fell asleep with his arms wrapped tightly around my neck, his fingers playing with my hair as he drifted off.  He felt safe in my bed, under my covers, and in my arms.  I knew he needed that sense of safety.

The second reason is slightly more selfish.  It’s the same reason I found myself misty eyed as I watched him play in the bathtub that same night.  Both of my kids are growing so quickly.  Three is an amazing age.  Less than a year ago, PJ was a very different kid.  He still spoke in that toddler babble that was often hard to understand.  All of the sudden, his language has exploded, and I find myself having real conversations with him.  We discuss topics like germs (thank you Covid), microscopes, and how babies grow in their mommy’s tummies.  He’s learning to reason, to express his emotions, and to debate his point of view.  He suddenly doesn’t feel like a little kid anymore.  I very rarely have a child sleeping in my arms anymore, and I miss it terribly.

As a divorced mom, I share custody of my kid.  I find it incredibly important that he sees and has a relationship with his dad.  He loves and wants to spend time with his dad, and I never impede that relationship. Still, handing him over to sleep at a house that isn’t mine for a night, or a whole weekend, never stops being painful.  I miss him when he’s not around, and I hate losing time with him. 

Last night, he shouldn’t have been at my house.  I shouldn’t have been giving him a bath, or tucking him into bed, but plans needed to change and as a result I got to spend extra time with him. Ask any other parent who shares custody of their child.  We cherish the time we have, because it always feels so limited.

I don’t let my kids sleep in my bed.  Last night I did, and I have zero regrets. 

Corona Blues

I think every single one of us had our own struggles during COVID lockdown. We each were weathering our own storms within the four walls of our house. I like to think of myself as a pretty happy and positive person. Sure, there are times when I am negative Nancy but not everyone gets that side of me. I save my negatives for the people who will love me at my worst. However, COVID broke me. I don’t know about you but being home all-day, every day took me to a place I never wanted to be. I was never a person who suffered with depression, until my youngest was born. At that point, I had 4 children ages 4 and under. Nathan refused to sleep anywhere but right next to me, he wouldn’t take a bottle, and wouldn’t let anyone but me hold him. I felt so broken, lost, and unseen. 

Fast forward to 4.5 years later : 

  • COVID-19 strikes and I was only leaving my house once a week alone to go to the grocery store, and I was told how glad I should be that I “got a hour alone to myself”
  • I suddenly am teaching three students at home, two of which have an autism diagnoses. 
  • Any therapy that was being received in school, wasn’t happening.
  • We went from having 3 different people in the house a week providing Therapeutic Staff Support and Mobile Therapy Services  to no one in our house and trying to facilitate  services via Zoom
  • My youngest basically was left to himself for the day because it took close to 10 hours to complete school with the other 3.
  • Our school system literally failed us. The program that we used had so many inconsistencies and quirks that it would mark correct answers wrong, and the kids would have to re-do lessons 3 times just to get a passing grade.
  • From March 13th-June 8th my kids didn’t step foot into a store because there was 4 of them and 1 of me and the places where I shopped were limiting how many people to a cart. Obviously, we were over the numbers. 
  • Ron has been working from home since the last week in March, and will be home for the foreseeable future.
  • Our routine was disrupted and rocked to say the least.
  • My job was basically non-existent. Direct Sales is fantastic way for moms to work and be home with their kiddos, but unfortunately there were no home parties happening under the #2020Lockdown

COVID broke me. It wasn’t just about the fact that my children were home, because it was only 3 weeks of having all of them in school all day . It wasn’t just the fact that I was cooking every night, because that was happening before. 

The gym was closed. Schools were closed. Things that I had always been able to do with my kids, we could no longer do. 

I went from being pretty confident in my abilities as a mother to doubting whether I was capable of doing what needed to be done. It was the first birthday in my life  I can remember where I spent almost the whole day crying. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep up. Cooking three meals a day, non-stop laundry, someone constantly calling my name, trying to keep up with just the “required” school- I felt like I could barely keep my head above water. There was no gym in the morning to decompress, no getting a drink with friends after the kids went to bed, no date nights with the hubby, heck even the grocery store with a mask on and trying to follow the proper directions was exhausting. Lets not even talk about the comparison game that was going on behind the scenes where people were posting on social media about how happy they were with their quarantine bodies, how much they loved being home(and how could I not being savoring every moment with my blessed children?!) how supportive their spouse was during this time….the list goes on and on.

One day in May on the way to Aldi, you know during my “me time”, I broke down in tears in my car. I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was having a panic attack. It was as if everything had finally caught up with me and because I was alone, I let it. I remember taking this picture thinking “well good I have my sunglasses on no one will know I was crying” and then I took one with them off, and you could definitely tell. There was no hiding it. 

So here’s my #MomTruth for you all : sometimes you have to let it all hit you. Sometimes we need to stop pretending to be so strong. We all went through something HUGE. Something that is not over, something that will be around for a long time. Something we all have to work through and process in a way that works for each of us and our family.

While our schedule is more lax and we can now get out of the house, things will not be “normal” for quite a while. If we have learned nothing else over the past 4 months, I hope you learned to lower the bar. I hope you learned how to show grace to your kiddos, grace to your spouse and most importantly grace to yourself. These are unprecedented times; and at the end of the day we did the best that we could do. Cut yourself some slack, and spread kindness around like confetti. <3

Open Call for Contributors! Be A Part of the Fastest Growing Website in Pittsburgh

Are you the Next Pittsburgh Mom Collective Team Member?

We are looking to expand our contributor team!

Do you enjoy sharing your story with other moms and love writing? The Pittsburgh Mom Collective Team is growing, and we are looking for fresh, local voices who are passionate about our city and interested in sharing their stories. This is a volunteer position that comes with fun perks!

Interested in becoming a contributor?

Here’s what you need to know:

What you GIVE…

  • Your passion for moms, kids, and the greater Pittsburgh area.
  • Reliability, team spirit, and your own unique, fun perspective.
  • One post per month on the topic of your choice.
  • Your presence, when possible, at PMC events and contributor gatherings, which are designed to be a great time!

What you GET…

  • The opportunity to make new connections, new friendships with other Pittsburgh moms.
  • The opportunity to serve on other PMC Committees and Teams
  • Your photo and bio on the PMC Team page with links to your business, personal blog, and/or social media handles if you choose to share them.
  • Access to our private contributors Facebook group.
  • Access to information and professional development in the areas of writing, blogging, SEO, social media, and event management.
  • The opportunity to test out products and/or services for review as they become available to PMC.
  • Fun! Even if you don’t consider yourself a blogger, writing is therapeutic and awesome.

Interested in joining our team as a contributor?

Fill out the form below no later than Friday, August 14th.

The newest members of the Pittsburgh Mom Collective Team will be announced in the beginning of September!

Toddlers And The Great Bedtime Debacle


T.O.T.S! MOMMY T.O.T.S!  Does this or any other annoying kid show sound familiar to you?  Because at my house before bed this is my life.  Imagine this:  You just put your 4-month-old to bed at 7 pm.  You are excited because you know in exactly 60 minutes that your toddler goes to bed.  You are constantly looking at the clock every 5 minutes to see if the time has flown by since you last checked.  Alas, it has not.  At 7:59 pm you tell your toddler it is bedtime and then all heck breaks loose.  Crying, screaming, whining, JUST ONE MORE MOMMMMMYYYYYY.  And so you give in.  Not because you want to but because you just don’t want to deal with the pain and suffering of putting them to bed.  So, before you know it it’s now 9 pm.  You wanted to watch a quick episode of The Bachelor on demand but now can’t because you are tired from dealing with two kids all day.  How can you fix this? 

  1. Make sure that your bedtime is on target. If you had a full day at Idlewild Park soaking up the sun and your toddler skipped their nap (keep in mind a car nap is “junk sleep” and not restorative at all) odds are they need an earlier bedtime.  With all of the protesting going on before bed you would think I’m crazy.  But at this point, they are overtired and caught that second wind.  Your toddler will still wake at the same time in the morning and be tired the next day.  With that being said the day after any big outing ensure your nap time and bedtime are consistent (no matter how much protesting you get).
  2. Be boring. Yes! Act like you are so tired and you can not entertain them a second longer (really shouldn’t be too hard).  Don’t give in to “I need a snack” or “I need to go to the potty for the 4857 time in 10 minutes”.  Tell your toddler how tired you are and how you are going to bed too.  This will make your toddler think that they are not missing out on anything while they are sleeping.
  3. Keep story time alive at bedtime. Picking out a book and reading to your toddler will not only make them tired it is also a nice way for you to whine down with your toddler also.  If they are still in a crib read to them on a chair or the floor.  If they are in a toddler bed try to get them to lie down.  Keep in mind that you should not lie down with them especially if they need you there to fall asleep.  You want to practice independent sleep not a sleep association.
  4. Stickers work for everything. For my clients, I always recommend a sticker chart.  Toddlers love them (and for my own toddler I enjoy picking them up all over the house…haha) and love to get praise when they have completed a task.  Making a bedtime chart will help your toddler know what is expected of them.  Make the chart colorful and have them help you make it.  It can consist of a bath, PJs, brush teeth, book, bed.  Or add in whatever else you do during your bedtime routine.  Once your toddler has completed all tasks they put a sticker on the chart.  It will make them feel accomplished and will love the praise.

All toddlers are going to stall at some point before bed.  They push their boundaries and love to see how far they can go.  Try not to get frustrated and stick with your routine and things will smooth back out again!

The Lazy Parent’s Guide to Potty Training

Photo by Elly Fairytale from Pexels

Potty training: the toddler rite of passage. For parents, we envision the other side with positives like cute underwear and saving money not buying diapers. But we also dread the thought of training our littles to go on the toilet. Or maybe you’re motivated, and your child is ready to tackle it all at a young age. That’s super! But this post is not for you! This post is for the parents who just aren’t sure where to start, and they think their older toddler is ready for potty training.

Quarantine 2020 mostly sucked, but there was a silver lining: all the extra time at home allowed us to potty train our three-year-old son. He had been intermittently using the bathroom for months, but without an extended time at home, like what we got in March, April, and May, it was hard to really incentivize him to ditch diapers. Plus we didn’t want his teachers at daycare responsible for a ton of pee clothes all the time.

If you’re lazy parents like we were/are, you’ll let your child potty train when they’re ready, not when you think they should be ready or when they hit some milestone, like two or three years old. You won’t buy a potty seat to keep in the living room, because let’s be honest, it’s gross and not really getting them used to the regular toilet anyway. You also won’t buy pull-ups because that still costs money and they’re similar to diapers.

Your goal will be to minimize the number of steps between diaper and underwear, with the least amount of stress for both you and your kid. And if you’re a lazy parent, you might just wait to potty train until it’ll be a matter of days or short weeks, with few (if any) tears, instead of the process taking several months with ups and downs. Lazy parents don’t have any more time in their day for added stress.

All you’ll really need is:

If you’ve got some extra time with your kiddo at home, it could be a great time to potty train. This is what helped us the most:

  • Giving him the choice of diaper or underwear
  • Taking him upstairs to the bathroom every half hour the first week or so, then every hour, and so on
  • Singing songs on the potty or bringing a book to keep him occupied in the beginning
  • Giving him M&Ms
  • Letting him pick his own underwear
  • Lots of positive encouragement, high fives, and fist bumps

And this is what we didn’t do, which also helped immensely:

  • Read potty training books
  • Joined social media groups to chat with other parents about potty training
  • Listened to family members’ opinions on potty training
  • Created sticker charts and prizes
  • Used pullups or a separate potty chair
My son, Gabriel, with some of his new, fun underwear in early April 2020.

Our biggest obstacle was Gabriel not wanting to take a break and pee because he wanted to keep playing. That did lead to some pushback now and then. In the beginning, we did give him one M&M for pee and two M&Ms for Number Two. Sometimes he still asks for them. 9 times out of 10, he wasn’t afraid of using the potty, and the songs and books kept him occupied long enough to do his business. We still had (and continue to have) occasional accidents, but he enjoys going to the bathroom by himself. It’ll be a little bit before he’s potty trained overnight, but we’re not on anyone else’s timeline except his.

This was my first experience with potty training, and even though he could have started sooner, it didn’t take that long once we really got going. He’ll be four in the fall.

The biggest part of being a lazy parent with potty training is that you don’t need a bunch of stuff to do it. Sticker charts are great, but they’re really not our thing. Potty seats might work for some, but to us, it just wasn’t necessary. The lazy approach worked for us because we didn’t really care when he potty trained and we had a lot of extra time at home. He was older when we did this, so he had more control over getting himself to and from the bathroom; that was also key.

So, if you feel like your older toddler will never not be in diapers, or you have a friend whose kid potty-trained much sooner, please don’t stress. It’ll happen. Every kid is different, and toddlers like to do things in their own time. Your situation might be different, but hopefully, this will help you in your own journey to get rid of diapers!

The Panicked Parents Guide To Online and Homeschooling

stock images from Canva
Stock image

As schools begin to post their protocols for the coming year and cases of covid-19 are rising, many parents are looking for alternatives to sending their kids to school.

I’m one of those parents.

As a stay-at-home Mom to a would-be kindergartner, I never thought I’d be faced with the choice of whether or not to send my kid to school. 

But here we are.
I’m privileged to be a stay-at-home parent and our household has vulnerable people, so the choice was clear cut for us–my kid is not physically going to school. We decided to do cyber charter school. It took me awhile to fully accept this because I’ve spent five years preparing for my child’s first day of school, and online schooling was not part of my vision. In order to make my decision I researched and discovered there are A LOT of options for online schooling and homeschooling. 
I was very overwhelmed by all the information I had to digest in my quest to find the best online school for our situation. It was stressful and anxiety-provoking trying to make sense of it all as a person who had zero prior knowledge of alternative schooling. I’m sure a lot of you are currently struggling the same way I did. So I’ve composed a quick tutorial on three methods of alternative schooling with the goal of helping parents understand their options and make the best possible decision for their families. 
The three options I explored are:
1. Cyber charter school 
2. Online school through the school district 
3. Homeschool
Each have their pro’s and con’s, some similarities and some distinct differences. As I see it, the biggest “pro” for all three is that (theoretically) your child’s programming will not change or start/stop due to school closures. I can’t speak for everyone, but for many parents the biggest “con” is that we have to be our child’s teacher, and that is a HARD job. 
I. Cyber Charter Schools
Cyber charter schools are an attractive option for many reasons. They focus specifically on online learning and because they don’t have to devote any resources to things like school buildings, cafeterias, desks, playgrounds, etc. they are able to funnel their resources and offer what I would consider a “concierge” service to students and families. The ones I looked at loan every student a laptop and printer/scanner, free of charge. So if you are a parent who is not able to provide these items for your child, then cyber charter school might be exactly what you need right now. The schools I spoke with also give families a $35 per month stipend to pay for internet service. Any text books or software needed will be provided by the school. Other materials are also often provided, such as art supplies used for projects. 
Beyond the physical resources, cyber charter schools usually offer classes two ways: 
1. Synchronous–where your child logs on and actively participates with their class at set times (more like traditional school). Or…
2. Asynchronous–where your child is required to be logged in for a certain number of hours per day but is not required to participate in classes at set times. 
With either option, students and parents have direct access to teachers and other support staff. Most schools assign “guides” or “coaches” (a concierge of sorts) that check in with students and family at least once per week. The expectation is that families should have all the support they need for the student to be successful; cyber charter schools’ success and merit are entirely dependent on their ability to quickly and effectively address the needs of their students remotely. 
From what I observed, most online charter schools have low-to-moderate student/teacher ratios, some are 13:1 while others might be 20:1. Mind you, with parents flocking to enroll students during covid, I wouldn’t be surprised if classes are bigger than they have been in the past. But you can imagine how much easier it would be for an online school to place a few more students in a virtual class vs. a teacher having to physically make space for and  wrangle several more students in-person.
If your child has special needs, cyber schools should be able to address them. For example: if your child has an existing IEP for speech therapy, then their cyber charter should be able to offer virtual speech therapy. Of course you will need to contact the individual schools to see what their capabilities are and assess if they are able to meet your child’s needs. 
In addition to online learning, cyber charter schools offer students opportunities for social interaction through field trips and various other activities, however, this may be a moot point during quarantine. Something to look at is whether or not a cyber charter school has a base of operations in your area–a charter school where 75% of the student population is on the opposite side of the state will likely not have as many in-person opportunities for you. For the record, cyber charter schools DO require vaccinations and school physicals in order to enroll. 
I was surprised and delighted to learn that students who attend cyber charter school are able to participate in their school district’s extracurricular activities. Meaning that your kids can still play soccer, sing in the choir, or be on the debate team of your home district. 
Personally, I chose cyber charter school for all of the above reasons and in my case, cyber charter school provides a full day of kindergarten programming whereas kindergarten in my district is only half-day. Obviously fall will be our first foray into cyber charter school, but I’m at peace with my decision and very optimistic about the school year ahead. 
You might be wondering where cyber charter schools get their funding. The caveat is that they get their funding from your school district–they take your tax dollars away from your neighborhood school. I would consider this fair, but a negative for people who expect to send their kids back to traditional school after covid blows over. 
Cyber schooling through your school district keeps your tax dollars in the district, which is a concern for parents who want to see their neighborhood schools survive and thrive post-covid. 
II. Cyber schooling through your school district
From what I observed and gleaned from conversations with parents who have done virtual school within their districts, there is a lot less support. The school provides curriculum that is the same as what the student would learn in-person, but they don’t offer much (if anything) in the way of tech support and trouble shooting. They may or may not be able to loan equipment such as laptops to students. It may take awhile to get a response from a teacher via email or phone call, because teacher/student ratios tend to be higher and most of the schools’ resources are invested in in-person instruction. For most school districts virtual learning is a “side gig” and it shows. I wish I could be more positive about virtual school through your neighborhood school, but my take on it is that generally anything a school district can do (online), a cyber charter school can do better. I’m sure this is not always the case though. 
III. Homeschooling
Homeschooling is a whole different ballgame. You really need to have it together to homeschool successfully because there is no one looking over your shoulder. If you’re just trying to muddle through covid then homeschooling is definitely not for you. However, if you are up to the task of finding and/or creating developmentally appropriate curriculum for your kids, then you might be able to pull this off. There are a lot of resources for homeschooling–local groups, national organizations, established teaching styles and curriculum that you can follow, etc. Homeschool gives parents the freedom (nay the responsibility) to create lessons tailored to your kids’ individual style of learning on a schedule that works for your family. 
When a friend told me she intends to homeschool during covid, I balked and asked why in the world she would choose homeschooling over cyber charter school or online in-district. She brought up a VERY valid point and a huge “pro” of choosing homeschool over other options.
stock image canva
She has two young children in different grades–with homeschooling she can teach them the same subject with developmentally appropriate school work tailored to each child. For example, she can teach a unit on amphibians to both kids instead of trying to clone herself to help each of them through completely different classes. Way simpler if you are a parent of multiple school-aged children. 
However, there are costs associated with homeschooling. Parents are responsible for finding curriculum, textbooks, and any supplies they need to run their classroom. You can find some free stuff online, but most of it costs money. You might reasonably expect to spend hundreds of dollars or more per kid. I was under the impression that families received a tax credit for homeschooling. This is FALSE. There are no federal tax credits for homeschooling and only three states offer any form of state tax credit.  You will most definitely have to pay out-of-pocket if you choose to homeschool, so be prepared. 
How do you find out what cyber charter schools are operating in your state? How do you know which online schools are high performing? Where do you find parent reviews? All good questions. Beyond googling “online schools (your state)” or “cyber charter schools (your state)” my best advice is to visit  and use the drop-down to select your state, then select “filters”, scroll down and select “online”. 
To find more information about online schooling options in your district, you’ll need to visit your district’s website.

If you want to explore homeschooling, I highly recommend that you check out this article at It offers a wealth of information and resources.

I recognize there are many moms out there with years of cyber school and homeschool experience under their belts. I admittedly have a lot to learn, but I wanted to share as much as possible in hopes of helping other parents in the trenches. Veteran moms please comment and share any resources, information and insight you have about cyber schooling and homeschooling. We all need ALL the help we can get!

Moms find hope with life-saving perinatal program

Every 15 minutes, a baby in the U.S. is born with symptoms of opioid addiction.*

Every 15 minutes.

That isn’t a problem. That’s an epidemic. And at Allegheny Health Network (AHN), we’re working around the clock to change that.

Through the AHN Perinatal Hope Program, located at AHN Jefferson Hospital and four other locations in western PA, new and expectant moms get the support they need to care for their babies and overcome substance use disorder.

We’re proud to bring you real stories from real moms who have gone through this program. Each one gives you a glimpse into a sensitive time in these moms’ lives — and out of our outmost respect for their privacy — their names have been changed.

These stories are the true tales of heroes who have overcome challenges to better themselves and their families. Take a look.

Kelly discovers her inner strength to be her best self for her daughter.

 “In the back of my head, I was really nervous and judgmental on myself,” says Kelly, a mom of three who struggles with substance use disorder. “Once I got to Jefferson Hospital, I didn’t feel judged at all. No one looked at me as a previous user. They looked at me for the person I am today.”

Kelly had reviewed several programs in the Pittsburgh area before choosing AHN’s Perinatal Hope Program.

“I had heard how good the program was — and my first visit was wonderful. The team greeted us and involved my whole family in the process.”

Kelly lives 45 minutes from Jefferson Hospital, but said the services and support are worth the drive. Dealing with several autoimmune issues, Kelly needed to see a rheumatologist and gastroenterologist during her pregnancy — and the care team coordinated all of her appointments to make it easier.

When it was time to welcome her daughter, Kelly recalls that it was far better than her other deliveries.

“Overall, it was just the best experience. I wasn’t medicated during my delivery, and the team was so calm and loving throughout the process. My midwife was exceptional, talking me through the whole thing and including my family when need be.”  

After delivering her daughter, Kelly received comprehensive care and support from the Jefferson Hospital team. They helped her recover, aided with skin-to-skin cuddling, and consulted on breastfeeding.

“I really recommend the Perinatal Hope Program to anyone who is struggling,” said Kelly. “Recovery is so hard to manage on your own. When I looked at other places, the care stopped at delivery. But not at Jefferson. You get ongoing care and group support. I feel accountable to stay strong.” 

Bridgette thrives with judgement-free support.

After Bridgette’s best friend went through the Perinatal Hope Program, she reached out to get help herself.

“On my first visit, the team really gave me hope. They could sense I was nervous and quickly reassured me.”

When it was time to deliver, Bridgette was in labor for two days. She felt calm in Jefferson Hospital’s roomy birthing suites and the personable, kind, and accommodating staff there.  

“After I delivered, I was exhausted. I didn’t sleep or eat. It all felt a bit overwhelming, but it was comforting to know the midwives were there to help”

Now, Bridgette goes to Perinatal Hope’s support groups every two weeks. The lactation group has helped her with breastfeeding, and she loves that she can be open and honest with the other moms.

“I love it. No one judges me, and the other women are really positive. I don’t feel like I have to hold anything back and can ask any questions I have. It’s a really supportive program for anyone who needs it.” 

Shannon discovers a program with support she can rely on.

“I tried other perinatal programs in the Pittsburgh area, but they didn’t work for me,” Shannon remarked. “Then, I saw positive online reviews for Jefferson’s program, so I checked it out. Everyone was super nice, very welcoming, and not judgmental at all.”

Shannon was able to get all her questions answered, and remembers that “the providers would help with anything I’d ask them for.”

While Shannon did experience preeclampsia — a high-blood-pressure pregnancy complication — she says the midwives at Jefferson Hospital got her through it. The team checked in with her a lot, and her delivery went well. After her daughter arrived, Shannon did experience postpartum depression and turned to the Perinatal Hope program for help.

“The program saved my life. After trying others, I was so happy to stumble upon this one. People actually care about you and don’t judge you at all. They’ve truly helped me in all aspects of my life.”

More on AHN’s Perinatal Hope Program

The Perinatal Hope team is here to do what’s best for moms and babies within a safe, judgement-free space.

With support from POWER — Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery — moms learn within a group setting how to get and stay clean. At the same time, they receive OB-GYN care to monitor their pregnancy. To ease drug withdrawal symptoms, the team can provide medication-assisted treatment or refer moms to a methadone clinic, if needed.

Moms also learn from experts on breastfeeding, infant safety, family planning, and healthy lifestyle choices. And, they’ll be matched with a peer mentor for extra support.


As moms prepare to welcome their little one, they’re in exceptional hands. AHN’s pregnancy and newborn services provide the highest levels of care to mom and baby. After delivering, moms are connected to counseling services, primary care doctors, and pediatricians to keep themselves and their babies healthy.   

Hope begins the moment you ask for help.

 If you, or someone you love, are struggling with substance use disorder and a new or expectant mom, call 412-578-5575 or visit

The Perinatal Hope Program is here to help. No judgement. Promise.

* NIH (National Institute on Drug Abuse)


Can I Recycle That? A Quick Guide to Single Stream Recycling in Pittsburgh

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Last week, our borough distributed new recycling bins for residents, and we were pumped to get a brand new container since our old one had started to crack. (You know you’re getting old when …)

Along with the new recycling bin came instructions on how to place the container at the curb for proper pick-up as well as recycling guidelines. Some of the guidelines seem pretty straightforward, but we were still doing a few incorrectly. Whether your neighborhood provides recycling containers for residents or not, these are handy guidelines for any household in the Pittsburgh area that recycles.

What Can be Recycled?

Four main categories of goods are encouraged to be recycled curbside as often as you’re able to. These include:

  • Plastic bottles, jars, and jugs like empty coffee containers, juice jugs, liquid dish detergent, and others. Containers should be narrow neck labeled #1 and #2 (more on this next).
  • Food and beverage cans in steel, tin, and aluminum. Examples include empty cans of vegetables or fruits.
  • Paper, like brown paper bags, old newspapers and magazines, and non-confidential office paper.
  • Cardboard and paperboard, as long as it’s flattened first.

The first category of plastic bottles mentions #1 and #2 containers. You can find out whether the container meets this guideline by looking for the triangle on the container and the number within in it. Plastics are divided into seven categories but usually only the first two are common household recyclable goods. From

“If you look at the number inside the triangle on your plastic, it will range from one to seven. This will tell you both the type of plastic used and which type is recyclable or even reusable. Many plastic-based products cannot break down and cannot be recycled.”

Photo credit: Old Farmer’s Almanac

Another note about approved containers: make sure to thoroughly rinse or clean empty containers before putting them in recycling. A gallon of milk, for example, should be rinsed out and clean.

Also note that paper put in recycling containers cannot be shredded.

Even if most of the items in your recycling bin are approved, if a box isn’t torn down properly or empty food jars aren’t cleaned, those items go in the garbage anyway. So if you don’t feel like rinsing out your plastic containers, just throw them in the trash instead.  

What Can’t be Recycled?

Chances are, many households have been recycling something the wrong way without even realizing it. The following are off limits:

  • Leftover food – Waste Management’s tip was to compost food waste instead if you still want to reuse it.
  • Plastic bags and film
  • Foam cups and containers, like takeout containers
  • Medical waste, like needles
  • Glass bottles and containers

Additionally, don’t put approved recyclables in plastic bags. Just throw them directly into the recycling container once they’re cleaned (if they need to be cleaned).  

Photo credit: Waste Management.

Other Recycling Sites in Pittsburgh

What about glass containers or plastic bags? If you live within the City of Pittsburgh, go to their recycling website here for a number of locations and list of approved items. Their guidelines are less strict than curbside pickup; for example, cardboard doesn’t have to be flattened and paper can be shredded, and shredded and non-shredded paper can be bagged together. And, just last year, Pittsburgh piloted three standalone glass recycling drop-off centers, which you can read about here in the Post-Gazette.  

Plastic bags can be recycled at any Giant Eagle store or by visiting to find a recycling site near you. To properly dispose of medical waste, you can talk to your doctor or pharmacist about options, and you can also request an approved medical waste box from your trash collector.

Anyone who lives in Allegheny County can find out where the closest recycling site is to them in this resource from the Allegheny County Health Department. You can also visit the website of your local municipality.

You can visit Recycle Right by Waste Management to read more about recycling do’s and don’ts. Be sure to check out their page on a full list of what can and cannot be recycled. They have a handful of downloads for age-based kids’ activities to make recycling fun or to do a project with your kiddos using recycled goods, like cereal boxes for example. This resource of kids’ activities has a ton of stuff to do.

Single stream recycling is easy, but it’s still common to put some of the wrong things in the recycling container, or skip the last step of cleaning or breaking down boxes. Use these guidelines to ensure that what you’re recycling can be reused properly. 

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