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.
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  • 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

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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
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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 www.niche.com  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 parents.com. 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 ahn.org/NotAlone.

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

* NIH (National Institute on Drug Abuse) https://www.drugabuse.gov/opioid-summariesby-state/pennsylvania-opioid-summary


 

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 almanac.com:

“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 www.plasticfilmrecycling.org 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. 

Embracing Life’s Unexpected Blessings

Big Family

Up until recently, I would have told you that a post-birth diagnosis of Down syndrome was the biggest surprise in my life. I would have said that our son, who is rocking an extra chromosome, was the most unexpected blessing. My world, however, was rocked just a bit more!

I haven’t published new content on this platform in well over a year, and even my personal blog is lacking in new content. Perhaps you might remember my posts about what life is REALLY like with Down syndrome, or my posts about fun activities for kids. I missed blogging so much, but there was a good reason for my absence.

I suppose this is a bit of a re-introduction post before jumping back into my regular content. Two years ago, my family consisted of my husband, a 13 year old son, an 11 year old daughter, a 6 year old daughter, and a 4 year old son. Life has changed so much since then!

Amusement Park Rules for the Summer of 2020. Are you ready?

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It is official!  Amusement parks are giving the public opening dates for this summer’s season.  This gives hope to so many people who have vacation plans, and are excited to finally get out of the house.  Knowing that you will be able to take that vacation almost feels like Christmas morning.  Unfortunately, with these openings come many new rules and regulations that the public will be asked to follow. 

So what can you expect to be different when you go to an amusement park this summer?  From wearing masks, to hand sanitizing stations, to social distancing, it seems like there will be a new normal. 

  1. Before you even enter the park, there may be some type of screening process that you have to pass. Some parks are implementing touch-less temperature checks, some parks are talking about doing GPS-tracking on your phone, and there even has been talk about taking a rapid COVID-19 test prior to entering the parks.  It seems right now that touch-less temperature checks are the popular decision.
  2. Of course, there will be mask wearing. This is something that will be non-negotiable, and many parks will monitor their guest to ensure that they are wearing them.  Asking your child to wear a mask in 90-degree weather is not going to be easy, and it is something I am not looking forward to myself.  Wearing a breathable, light weight mask will be your best options.  What we have been seeing at Life is Better Traveling is that you are required to wear your mask even on the rides including fast paced roller coasters.  Ride where you get wet, they have been allowing you to not wear a mask.  This is a park dependent rule.

    Pixabay Picture
    Picture: Pixabay
  3. Social Distancing. I know we are all tired of hearing this phrase, but social distancing seems to be something that isn’t going away anytime soon.  From what I have been reading, many parks are putting down stickers to show guest exactly where to stand in line for tickets, food, and rides.  Employees will be around to make sure you are on the correct sticker.
  4. Cashless transactions. To help reduce contamination through touching and exchange of money, many parks are asking their guests to use credit cards as much as possible.  I actually like this idea as it doesn’t seem many employees change those gloves after each cash transaction anyway.  I never liked that they took my cash then handed me my food.  I am onboard with this change.

    Pixabay Picture
    Picture by Pixabay
  5. Resting stations. Everyone needs a break from wearing their mask.  The resting stations allow you to enjoy some fresh air without having to wear a mask.   These areas typically have a few chairs and tables far enough apart from one another to help reduce contamination. 
  6. Reservations to get into the park. Many parks are moving to online reservations to even get into the parks.  This is for everyone including season pass holders.  You will need to have a valid ticket and a park reservation to get into the park that day.  This helps with crowd control by limiting the capacity for the day. 
  7. Virtual ride times. Everyone seems to know what a FastPass is, especially if they have been to Walt Disney World®.  Amusement parks may be using apps to give people a time to come back to get onto the ride.  This will help minimize the amount of people waiting in line at any time. 
  8. Hand sanitizing stations. I prefer to wash my hands with soap and water as I feel not all hand sanitizer are made are the same.  Some leave a film that makes my hands seem slimy, so the idea of hand sanitizing every few minutes worries me.  However, this may be the new normal that all guest must hand sanitize prior to getting onto any ride, as well as, stations around the park.
  9. Limited parades and fireworks. I think this is one of the most fun things to see at the end of the night, a fireworks display.  However, it means that large amounts of people are congregating close to each other.  If there are parades or fireworks expect to be escorted to certain areas where there is enough space between people or groups.  Also be prepared that they will cancel these types of shows.

    Pixabay Picture
    Picture by Pixabay
  10. Limited Experiences. My kids love playing games especially the ones where you have to toss the ball.  Disinfecting games may be a bit too much so I am expecting that limited games will be open.  Also, places where you can build-your-own toy may not be open or have limited availability. 

The first amusement park to open was Universal Orlando Resort™.  They implemented many of the aforementioned things and many of their guests said that they didn’t think the process was too bad.  They were fine with touch-less temperature checks, and the social distancing didn’t seem to be a problem as the parks weren’t packed.  They didn’t have a reservation system in place to enter the park, so I am wondering if people are still a bit nervous to venture out with such low numbers.  It may pick-up in the next couple of weeks if the amount of new cases goes down or parents are at the end of their rope and just ready for a getaway.  

If you are planning to go to a theme park this summer, make sure to go to the theme park’s website for the most up-to-date information.   If you plan on going to Walt Disney World®, Disneyland®, or Universal Orlando Resort™, make sure to follow our WDW Travel Planning Made Easy group for the most up-to-date information, help, tips, and tricks.  Afterall, Life is Better Traveling!

LiBT photo
Picture by Pixabay and Life is Better Traveling

The Talk

I have been a mother for 11 years.  I remember the day she was born.  This beautiful baby girl merged into this world, and I was smitten.  Reading all the baby books was a fun learning experience for me, a real big eye opener.  What the baby books never prepared me for was, “the talk”.  You know, the birds and the bees, changing bodies, hormones.  Let me tell you, it has been an absolute challenge. 

I was lucky enough to have 2 girls, so I know how and when their bodies will start to change (duh), and my oldest being 11, is growing quickly, and everything is happening so fast.  If you know me, you know i’m a very outspoken person.  I say what is on my mind at all times, and I really don’t hold back or have a filter, and sometimes, I probably should.  But there is something about this topic that makes me uneasy.  I’m not sure if it’s because I picture my oldest as my little girl, sweet and innocent, and just discovering butterflies, or if it’s because I’m terrified she’s getting older.  Everyone wants their kids to stay little, including me, and this talk will take things to another level.  

I recently purchased a book on Amazon for her to read, in hopes it helps ease the questions she might have to ask.  After a few chapters (i read the book before her) we decided to have a talk.  Things took a turn once we hit the hormone section.  As we talked about it, she kept referring it to her “Hermiones”, you know, the girl from Harry Potter, and that’s when i started to sweat, and the conversation got weird real quick.  

I took a step back to really look at what I was working with.  I didn’t understand why I was having such a hard time talking to her about things that will start happening to her body.  Me being uncomfortable was making her uncomfortable, which was making the situation a crappy one, and that’s something i don’t want.  I always tell my husband I want my girls to come to me with any questions they have, whether it’s about a boy they like, mean girls, or what’s happening with their bodies.  

During the quarantine I thought a lot about how to approach this, and decided I needed to relax and just be myself. I kept reassuring myself there was nothing to be embarrassed about.  We ALL go through this change at some point of our life.  We ended up having a real good talk one day over lunch.  I remember just saying to her, “Hey, so, let’s talk about your body, and what’s happening to it, and if you have questions, don’t be embarrassed, this is a normal part of life and i would hate for you to get caught off guard.”  

That day I felt like a successful parent.  We talked about everything.  Well, not exactly everything, just changes that will happen to her in the next year or so.  It made me feel better to know that she is aware of what is about to happen with her changing body, and she had some pretty good questions for me as well.  I took this as a big win, and have some advice for some parents who might be struggling to find a way to bring it up like I did.  Take a breath, it’s really not as big of a deal as we sometimes make it out to be.  It is inevitable, and you can’t change what’s about to happen, so might as well prepare for it.  Talk to your kids as if you would when you ask them how their day was at school.  I realize now, the more comfortable you are with them about this topic, the more they open us, and tell you how they are feeling as well.  My mom did an outstanding job in that department, and I wish I would have thought how she approached it before I was going off the deep end.  Yes, it’s a little embarrassing, but like i said before, it’s not like we can stop it from happening.  I did leave out the birds and the bees, we haven’t hit that topic yet.  I just want to enjoy the fact that she is still my little girl, and hold on to that for as long as possible.  

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