Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cloth Diapering Update: 6 Months Strong

We've been cloth diapering Lauren for 6 months! Here's our update:


  • Why just Lauren? Aaron's still in diapers! For some reason, I can't seem to get on the game with Aaron. I don't think it is any one particular reason, perhaps a whole bunch of them...the first being Aaron's poops are GROSS and I just don't want to deal with them. I know that is a cop-out, but whatever.
  • How many diapers do we have now? We have 16 BumGenius 4.0 diapers, 4 FuzziBunz OS, 2 Cow Patties Cloth, and 3 BumGenius Flips. 
  • Why didn't I link to the Flips? I didn't link to the Flips because I don't like them and would not recommend them! They are hard to handle and bunch up and they leak for us.
  • Where did you get your stash? I bought most of them with the exception of winning some! LOTS of places that sell cloth diapers have online giveaways and most of those giveaways have very low numbers of entries...so your chances are good! I won a Bumgenius 4.0 from the #clothdiapers twitter party that happens every Monday night at 9pm (EST). I won a FuzziBunz OS from their #redwhiteandbunz twitter party last week! I won a CowPattiesCloth diaper from a contest on their blog! If you want free diapers, you really should enter the online giveaways both on twitter and on the cloth diaper blogs. You just might have your name drawn!
  • How is it actually going? It's going great. We had a little rough patch awhile back where I just could not get rid of the "stinkies." But I think we've overcome that now. Lauren's diapers wouldn't stink until she peed the first time and then...whoooooweeeee they were Stinkytown, USA. I thought I had tried everything for stripping diapers and I tried Rockin' Green Funk Rock...nothing worked. Finally I talked to FuzziBunz directly and they recommended I try putting the inserts only into the washing machine with 2 Tbsp. of bleach (wow! aggressive, right?) and nothing else, do 2 complete wash cycles and then 1 extra rinse. Then dry in the dryer. It worked! No more stinkies!
  • What diapers do I want to add to our stash? I don't really need any more diapers for Lauren, but if I could try a Knickernappies diaper or a Bumgenius elemental, I would!
  • Didn't I say I had GroBaby diapers? Yes, I did say that awhile back. We still have them. I don't consider them part of our "stash" because we don't use them. I don't like them. They leak. I've decided our two GroBaby diapers will be Lauren's swimming diapers for the summer because I'm not worried that the chlorine will ruin them. Oh well if it does! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New Bedroom...Again

It seems like we just changed the boys' bedroom. Oh wait...we did just change it. For a couple of weeks Ian has been crying and fussing at sleep times because "his bed was too small."

In my opinion, it really wasn't too small for him, but all of his friends' beds (that he has seen) are "big" beds and he started associating "little" beds with being a baby. We decided it was time to upgrade.

Since it was cheaper to buy a bunk bed set (in the long run) and use them as twin beds until we feel Ian is old enough for bunking them, that's what we did.

Here's the new set-up:
(Sorry for the crappy photos.)


Monday, May 23, 2011

'Burgher Thoughts

  • It's hard to keep blogging when my laptop is in laptop purgatory. I have no way to post pictures and typing on the Google netbook is annoying. So there's a lull in posting and I'm sorry. There's no way I'm going to meet my 365 blog posts for this year that I set out to do.
  • It's also hard to regularly blog when the sun is shining and we're spending a lot of time outdoors. It rained for like 15 straight days and now the sun is out. We're trying to soak up every last drop before it starts raining again.
  • We haven't seen any evidence of mice for about a week. We're pretty sure we have controlled the problem, but we remain vigilant.
  • Together with my friend Rebeccah, we threw a surprise baby shower for two other mamas in our playgroup. It was a smashing success...it was a full-on surprise, the food and treats were tasty, the kids played their little legs off. I love surprising friends like that! So.Much.Fun.
  • Lauren is learning to sleep on her own. It's taking a lot longer than toddler sleep training because I have to balance and make judgment calls about middle of the night wakings. Is she hungry or is she in between sleep cycles? The goal was not sleeping through the night, but rather just sleeping in longer stretches. (Longer than 20 minutes at at time, which is what she was doing a week ago.) She's doing way better with naptime and the actual going to bed now, which I call progress.
  • Ian is done with preschool for the summer so we're in game-on summer mode. He has this week and next week "off" before science camp starts. Who wants to play? 
  • I lost my touch at grocery shopping with all three kids. I did it twice last week and it was awful both times. Obviously, because I forgot a bunch of stuff during the first trip and had to go back again. Ian is a monster in the grocery store. I'm seriously contemplating hiring a babysitter on grocery shopping day
  • We went to meet and ride on Thomas the Tank Engine yesterday at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. I'll post about it someday, when I'm able to get the pictures we took off the memory camera...which brings us back to my broken laptop. *sigh*
  • Lauren turned 10 months old yesterday and I didn't blog about it! I guess I should do that:
    • She is 18 pounds 6 ounces.
    • She is pulling up on anything she can get her hands on and can cruise the length of the couch.
    • She started clapping on Saturday.
    • She says: Uh-oh, ouch, look, and book (very appropriate vocab for this family!) with a lot of gibberish thrown in. 
    • She points at things she finds interesting and laughs at her brothers...a lot.
    • She wears 9-12 months size clothes, a lot of dresses, and doesn't like wearing hair bows anymore. 
    • She can crawl, but she still moves in an army slide-crawl most of the time. She's getting really good at going from crawling to sitting and back again. 
    • She is discovering her ability to voice her opinion about things and if you do something she doesn't like, she'll tell you about it!
    • Her favorite foods are pretzels, pears, asparagus, rice, peas (whole, in the pod!) and broccoli.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Best Indoor Playplaces in Pittsburgh

Since it's pretty much 100% chance of RAIN RAIN RAIN in Pittsburgh, here's our list of favorite indoor playplaces:

Restaurants/Fast Food:


  • Big Mac Museum- North Huntington, PA
    • This is hands down, the most fun and cleanest indoor play area at a fast food place that we've ever visited. Of course, it's McDonald's and you have to accept that for what it is. There's a bathroom in the play area so you don't have to pack up your stuff & kids to take your tot to the potty. There is a lot of seating, high chairs, etc. There isn't much of a "toddler/baby" play area here, though, and it is a bit of a hike for some.
  • McDonalds - Rt. 286, Plum, PA. 
    • This McDonald's Playplace is HUGE. It has a 3-story building to house the playground. There is also a toddler/baby play area that is (mostly) separate from the rest of the playground so the babies are a little safer and able to get down. It opens at 10:00am.
  • Chick-fil-A- Monroeville, PA 
    • Better food than a McDonald's in the opinion of most. The play area is really small...just a slide and small climbing area, but it is always clean. The kids love it and nobody is ever scared to go up to the slide. 

"Fun Centers"
  • Wildwood Highlands-Wildwood, PA
    • It can get pricey, but it is a huge, clean, exciting indoor fun center. There is a huge climbing structure and a smaller "under 3" section. There are also games and tickets like a Chuck-e-Cheese.  The food is pretty good (and reasonably priced). Check out the "Preschool Special" if you go on a weekday. Downside: it doesn't open until 11am. 
  • My Little Outback- Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA
  • E2-Greentree, Pittsburgh, PA
    • We just went to E2 for the first time a couple weeks ago. Aside from some bad company (another family there had some bullies in it) we had a great time. There's a pirate ship playground with a slide and climbing wall. TONS of ride-on toys, play kitchen, baby play area, trains, etc. If your kids can't find something to keep them busy, I'd be really surprised! 
Malls:
  • Ross Park Mall
  • South Hills Village
  • Pittsburgh Mills
  • The Mall at Robinson
My problem with mall playgrounds is the germs. I know you'll probably think I'm nuts, but I think they have to be as germy or more germy than the doctor's office. It seems like if we don't wash the kids in hand sanitizer when we're done playing, we end up sick. They're great in a pinch, but if I can swing it, I tend to avoid them. 

What are your favorite indoor spots for the under 5 crowd? I'm not familiar with many in the North Hills, or in the city. I'm always up for a new adventure, though!

Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

To the papa who puts on a happy face for his grandtots in the midst of chaos.

Ian's End-of-the-Year Progress Report

Always makes us proud!


Monday, May 16, 2011

The Great Mouse Hunt of 2011

I can't believe I'm writing this on here.

Two nights ago, as I was sitting here in my chair nursing Lauren, I heard a strange sound somewhere to my right. I asked Roger to investigate and just as he got up to look around, out ran a mouse!

Across our living room floor under the book case. Then across the dining room and down into the heating vent.

We put out D*con poison (in places where there is no chance of the kids getting to it, obviously.) Roger went to the store and got traps at 11:30 at night. We set them and sometime in the night, we caught a mouse.

phew.

We're not so naive to think that we only had one mouse, but it was a relief to have caught it in the trap & to have disposed of it. I sanitized the floors, life got back to normal...

except, not. 


We have lived here for seven years and have never seen any evidence of a rodent of any kind. I have no idea why now (When we have a baby crawling the floors) we would get mice, but it totally grosses me out. I feel like we live in a slum shanty with no sanitation and rodents who are going to eat the baby's toes. I feel like everything in the house is dirty and covered in bacteria. My skin is crawling. I'm jumpy. I have the heebie-jeebies.

I'm totally disgusted.

Last night, as I sat here nursing the baby, another mouse darted under the book shelf from the direction of the dining room. I called to Roger who came flying upstairs just in time to hear the snap of the trap. We got another one. But I'm still grossed out. Completely. It makes me want to cry. And Barf.

So go ahead and tell me I'm not alone... that there are other people in nice, clean houses who have mice too. And tell me what you do to wage war with them. We need all the pointers we can get. Please?

The Great Mouse Hunt of 2011

I can't believe I'm writing this on here.

Two nights ago, as I was sitting here in my chair nursing Lauren, I heard a strange sound somewhere to my right. I asked Roger to investigate and just as he got up to look around, our ran a mouse!

Across our living room floor under the book case. Then across the dining room and down into the heating vent.

We put out D*con poison (in places where there is no chance of the kids getting to it, obviously.) Roger went to the store and got traps at 11:30 at night. We set them and sometime in the night, we caught a mouse.

phew.

We're not so naive to think that we only had one mouse, but it was a relief to have caught it in the trap & to have disposed of it. I sanitized the floors, life got back to normal...

except, not. 


We have lived here for seven years and have never seen any evidence of a rodent of any kind. I have no idea why now (When we have a baby crawling the floors) we would get mice, but it totally grosses me out. I feel like we live in a slum shanty with no sanitation and rodents who are going to eat the baby's toes. I feel like everything in the house is dirty and covered in bacteria. My skin is crawling. I'm jumpy. I have the heebie-jeebies.

I'm totally disgusted.

Last night, as I sat here nursing the baby, another mouse darted under the book shelf from the direction of the dining room. I called to Roger who came flying upstairs just in time to hear the snap of the trap. We got another one. But I'm still grossed out. Completely. It makes me want to cry. And Barf.

So go ahead and tell me I'm not alone... that there are other people in nice, clean houses who have mice too. And tell me what you do to wage war with them. We need all the pointers we can get. Please?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garden 2011

Our first harvest of the season!

Disappearing Comments?

I just noticed a lot of the comments on the blog are missing. What's up with that?!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Conga-Rats

Photobucket

Congratulations to entry #38...

EMILY!

She won the lunchbox set!

Thanks to all who participated! I have several other giveaway ideas so there's more fun on the way!

Following are the pics of the winning drawing! I had to take photos with my phone because my laptop is broken again and I'm stuck with the google netbook again. *sigh* just when things were going really smoothly, too. Darn it!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Best Skin Products for Kids with Sensitive Skin

Somehow I ended up with three kids who have incredibly sensitive skin. Ian started with eczema when he was 6 months old (coincided almost directly with starting solid foods, but we were never able to pinpoint the cause, even with allergy testing.)  Aaron is allergic to eggs and dust mites and both of those allergies cause him to have rampant eczema. Lauren started with the skin rashes about a month ago (8 months). Our kids just have sensitive skin. Sunscreen, regular baby wash, brushing up against grasses/weeds, tomato products directly on their skin... they get rashes.

Here's what we've learned along the way:

1. Vanicream- it's the best all-over-the-body moisturizer. I'm not sure how true it is, but our allergist/asthma doctor told us that anything with lanolin is actually bad for sensitive skin. Vanicream doesn't have lanolin and is also free of a lot of the scary chemicals that are in moisturizers. So after a bath/shower/swimming, slather on the Vanicream. It has really worked wonders on the kids' skin!








2. Burt's Bees baby bubble bath-it seems to be the only bubble bath that doesn't send their skin in to a frenzy. For myself, I use goat milk soap that I buy at the local farmer's market. The more "local" the ingredients it has the better. The stuff I'm using now has Goat milk from Pittsburgh, honey from Slippery Rock, and Oatmeal from central Pennsylvania. It is awesome. I'd use it for the kids too, except they want bubbles!








3. Waleda Baby Shampoo- Not only does it take care of cradle cap, (did you know cradle cap can crop back up on toddlers after clearing up as an infant?) but it also smells nice and doesn't bother their skin. It's also tear-free! It's on the pricey side, but we only use it as shampoo (not body wash, because we use the bubble bath above) and only a couple times each week. Our first (and only so far) bottle is going on almost a year. We're going to need more soon, but that was a good run!







4. California Baby Sunscreen-I know your eyes just bugged out when you saw the price. We used it all summer last year and still had some left in the tube. We really use hats, SPF shirts, and naptime to shelter our skin from the burning sun. That way, we don't have to use much sunscreen.









5. California Baby Bug Repellent Spray- I know it's another expensive one. A little goes a long way, though. With bug spray, I find the times we really need it (Like in Meadville at dusk!) nothing is stopping those buggers. In those cases, we wear long sleeves and pants and spray OFF! onto the clothes only. It's not ideal, but it's better than a thousand mosquito bites on a 2 year old. For the regular stay-away-from-me-annoying-gnats occasions like geocaching or beach bumming, the Califonia Baby stuff does the trick.






For butts? Flander's Diaper Rash Ointment- Be aware! You cannot use this with cloth diapers!!! Flanders is the best butt cream out there for kids in disposable diapers and regular underpants for sore bums. It is great for preventative measures when you kiddo is on antibiotics and/or it's strawberry season. (You know what I'm talking about!) We tried all of the diaper rash creams I was able to get my hands on when Ian was on antibiotics for months for ear infections as an infant. Nothing worked like Flander's!

As far as butt cream for the cloth diapered child, I haven'y really needed it! Lauren's got the least sensitive bum of all the kids (as infants). Really makes you say hmmmm, doesn't it? If she does need a cream on her bum, we either switch to disposable & use Flander's or we use Homestead Baby Balm. And I can say it with 100% confidence that we will never have to buy another little tub of it. A little goes a long way & we don't use it very often!


If you have really stubborn eczema, you can use hydrocortisone cream sparingly. If that doesn't clear up the trouble spots, we have used both Desonide & Mometasone creams by prescription. It only takes one or two applications of the "serious stuff" to clear up the eczema. Once the skin is clear, you can stay hydrated with Vanicream and it will help immensely!

Let me further report that we've tried pretty much every cream marketed for kids/babies and skin rashes. They all show promise at the beginning, but they don't hold up under constant sensitive skin irritation. Mustela, Eucerin, Aquaphor, Cetaphil, Etc. have not worked for us long-term.



What are your favorite baby skin products? Have you used any of the ones we use? What was your experience with them?

You can earn ONE bonus entry into the EasyLunchBoxes giveaway by sharing about your favorite skin products in a comment on this post!

Top Vacations With Toddlers

We haven't been on a ton of vacations since we've had children, but here's my list of my favorite places to take the preschool crowd.


  • Disney World- This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but it has been my favorite vacation with the kids. Ian was a little over 2 1/2 years old when we went to Disney and Aaron was celebrating his first birthday. They (we) had SO.MUCH.FUN. They were small enough to share meals and eat from our plates so we saved some money in that respect, and under 3 so we didn't have to buy them tickets. My first trip to Disney was as an adult and I thought it was the greatest fun. Then I took my kids there and I was blown away by the experience. Disney, if you can swing it, it the best place in the USA to take your preschoolers. 
  • Bethany Beach, Delaware- If you're looking for a beach trip, this was a great one. We stayed in the Cedar Breeze Bed and Breakfast (we've stayed there a couple times now and we love it.) Bethany Beach is a busy little beach town, but family-oriented. There were lots of kids to make friends with and the beach access was good...parking is close to the beaches. It's only 15 minutes from Ocean City, Maryland so you really have the best of both worlds: quiet town & beaches and busy boardwalk.
  • Washington, DC Area- Last spring we visited our friend Kari in Alexandria, VA for a long weekend. We hit the national zoo, attractions in Alexandria, Monticello and a stop in Baltimore to visit friends too! It was fantastic! Ian loved riding the Metro, they loved seeing a different zoo (namely the primates & pandas!) and the wide open spaces at Monticello. We want to make it an annual trip. It's close, lots of things are free there, and we all love it!
  • Panama City Beach, FL- although our trip wasn't the greatest due to cold weather and non-napping kids, I saw great potential in a family vacation in Panama City Beach. The Gulf of Mexico has gentle waves and the beach was wide. Lots of pretty sand to play in (and lots of space to run!) There is a neat children's museum there and the state park was great for finding seashells & playing on the playground. 
  • Great Wolf Lodge- Sandusky, OH- I know this sounds a little hokey to include on a list of major destinations, but we had a great time on our long weekend  to the Great Wolf Lodge! It is designed for children and has tons of activities for the little ones. Story time, a play room, and kiddie pool. Not much in the way of breakables in the rooms and a decent kids menu in the restaurant. There are GWL all over the place, so if you're looking for a weekend vacation, give it a try!
Do you have a favorite child-friendly vacation spot? I'd love to hear about it! We're always looking for new ideas.

You can earn ONE bonus entry into the EasyLunchBoxes giveaway by sharing about your favorite vacations in a comment on this post!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pittsburgh's Best Playgrounds for Young Children

My criteria for a great playground includes:
  1. Visibility. I have to be able to see my kids at all times. I have to be able to see from one side of the playground to the other with minimal obstructions. When you have multiple children running in multiple directions at the same time, you need to be able to keep visual contact easily. 
  2. Containment. It needs to be fully (or mostly) fenced in and protected from the roadway. It doesn't have to be a chain-link fence with a gate. It could be a simple line of shrubs or a post-and-rail fence. Just something to slow down a breakaway toddler long enough for me to catch them.
  3. Safety. It can't have too many high openings or drop-offs. You can't be with every child every second, so I need to be able to play zone defense with the fireman pole or rock climbing wall.
  4. Sun Protection. It needs to be at least partially shaded and/or have a pavilion nearby so we can get out of the sun.
  5. Distance from the Parking Lot. When you have toddlers, you need a quick escape. If you have to walk a mile to get to the playground, you'll have to walk that far back to your vehicle...possibly carrying a screaming child covered in something disgusting. I don't know about you, but I prefer to carry poop or puke covered children for as short a time as possible. 
With those criteria in mind, here's a list of my favorite playgrounds for the four-and-under crowd.

  • Oblock Playground (Plum)-just off of Center Road, it is new, has coushy rubber under the play apparatus, a fence/guard rail, and benches. It's lacking in shade, but they're continually updating it so I'm betting the'll put a pavilion in soon.
  • Universal Park Playground in (Penn Hills)-it has some high stuff, but they are "safe" with high rails and no openings up in the stratosphere. Cushy rubber base. Parking is close and there is shade with a full view of the playground. The downside is there isn't a barrier between the playground and the road.
  • Bartlett Playground (Schenley Park)-A very nice layout, but compact for easy todder-tracking. Parking is not too far and there is a fence. 
  • White Oak Park (McKeesport)-Although the play equipment is older here, there are plenty of things for little ones to do, places to sit, and close parking. There is a fence fully surrounding the playground. 
  • Fern Park (Monroeville)-If you're looking for a shaded playground, this is the one. Not close to the parking lot, however. The equipment is new and very safe. Nothing high here at all. Lots of benches and great visibility!
  • Hawkeye Park (Monroeville)-I think this is my favorite Monroeville playground. It has it all! Close to the parking lot. There are a couple of huge hickory trees shading most of the area and several benches. There is a pavilion nearby (but not right next to it.) You can see the whole play area from the benches and there aren't many (if any) danger areas. There's even a little sand pit to dig in! Hawkeye Park has a paved walking path, too. 
  • Harrison City Municipal Park-Great, new playground with a pavilion right next to it! It isn't very close to the parking lot, but the visibility and safety are excellent.
As far as my least favorites? There are a couple I really don't care for because they make me so nervous. (Too many of my top needs are missing and it gets too stressful for me. I don't like the Castle playground in Highland Park. Visibility is like zilch there because it is a gigantic wooden structure. Although the parking is close, only one side has a fence. When only one side has a fence and it's practically impossible to see the other side of the playground, it's a recipe for stress and worry! I do not like the Blue Slide Playground at Frick Park to the point that I won't ever go there without a helper. There are far too many danger spots and the visibility is terrible. 

Of course, the kids love the playgrounds I don't care for, so we call them "daddy playgrounds." There the ones we only go to when daddy can come with us. Adding an extra set of eyes and ears makes all the difference in parent stress on the playground.

Do you have a favorite playground? If you're from Pittsburgh, can you add to my list? I'd love to know about any other little gems out there so we can try them out!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Red Dress, White Hat

Too sweet not to share!

Vegetable Garden 2011: Progress

Our vegetable garden is coming along! We decided to ditch our flower bed in the front yard and use it for a more productive purpose this year. We dug it up (rocks and mulch about 6 inches deep), filled it with soil, and planted our garden! 

We started about a month ago with our seeds in a little greenhouse. 



So far we have peas, green beans, corn, cilantro, spinach, and carrots growing in our garden. Our pumpkins and  zucchini are growing on the hill in the back yard (where nothing else really is growing) and we will plant tomatoes in another couple weeks when we are certain the threat of frost is gone. It was 35 degrees here 2 nights ago! 

peas

Cilantro (bottom) & Spinach (top)
On our front porch in big green pots we have patio blueberry bushes and strawberries growing. Each has several immature berries that we're watching! 
blueberries
Last year, we had the best time growing our (teeny) garden in containers on the front porch. I can't wait to see the boys' reactions to having an actual garden in our yard! 

Do you have a garden? Are you in an urban, suburban, or rural area? How much space do you dedicate to growing your own foods? Do you buy plants or do you start from seeds? What are your favorite things to grow at home? 

You can earn ONE bonus entry into the EasyLunchBoxes giveaway by sharing about your garden in a comment on this post!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Mother's Hands

Is there anything about yourself that you find strikingly your mother's?

For me, it's my hands. I look down at the ends of my arms and see my mom.

We have working hands. They aren't beautiful. They're rough and tumble. They show evidence of hard work: wrinkles and stalky fingers, short finger nails, maybe even a broken nail or two. If you catch us on the right day, there's probably stains under the nails from cooking or pulling weeds.

My mom is the hardest working woman I know. She does a thousand times more house work than I do. The mother of five children, her hands are constantly moving. She's the epitome of a loving and steadfast parent. (Add that to my dad and you know I've been blessed beyond imagination with the parents I have!) Supportive, caring, smart, hard working, selfless...the list could go on and on.

I love my hands because they remind me of my mother. The kind of wife, mother, grandmother...woman... I can only hope to be.

What part of you reminds you of your mother?

You can earn ONE bonus entry into the EasyLunchBoxes giveaway by answering this question in a comment on this post!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The 5 Best Places In Pittsburgh For Toddlers

Here's a list of my favorite places to take my toddlers:

1. The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium- hands down, no competition. The zoo is my absolute favorite place to take the kids. The only stipulations are we have to arrive no later than 10:00am and leave before nap and it can't be raining. (Too far from the car to walk with soaking wet underwear.) If you go on the weekday in the morning, you will find a quiet zoo with a few other moms/families and young kids. No crowds, no tweenies saying swear words and acting like zoo animals. There are many interesting sights and sounds. The bathrooms are evenly spaced so you can make a quick pit stop at toddler-sized intervals. There are benches and picnic tables for resting and snacking, there are two playgrounds, and many places for the under-three-foot crowd to get up close and see! The path is paved and stroller friendly. (Although, this is Pittsburgh, so you have to deal with hills, but you should be used to that, right?) There are refreshments for purchase (most of the time), but you are also allowed to bring in your own food and drinks. Parking is free. I recommend the family membership for locals. You will get your money's worth and then some. And if you're going- send me a message! 

2.  Round Hill Farm Park- It's just a short drive to this park where you'll find farm animals to look at, playgrounds, ducks to feed, and a splash park! Bring your own lawn chair to sit next to the sprinklers at the spray park. It only has pit toilets and porta-potties, so if that's not your thing, you might want to reconsider. It was not a problem for us last summer. You have to pack your own food and drinks as there is no place to purchase them. All in all though, it's the perfect place to spend a day with your young children!

3. Soergel's Orchard- Located in Wexford. We love all the farms/orchards in our area, but Soergel's has, by far, the best amenities for young children. Not only is there delicious fruits and vegetables, but also a pirate ship to play on, a mini-town to stroll through, a petting zoo, and many other activities. During fruit-picking season, you even get a tractor/wagon ride up through the field to the fruit! I don't recommend going on a weekend if you can avoid it, because of the insane crowds, but on a weekday morning it is delightfully busy with moms (and dads and grandparents) with young children. 

4.  My Little Outback- It's an indoor playground located in Squirrel Hill. It is clean and safe. During the week there are usually only young children there, but the age limit is 7 years old. It isn't insanely expensive and you can bring your own snacks. They do have a coffee shop inside that sells some food, but we've never bought anything there. You do have to run the gauntlet through a toy store front room, but once you're in, it's nothing but fun! It's one of my favorite places in Pittsburgh for a cold, rainy or snowy morning when the kids are climbing the walls at home before 8am. You will have to pay to park, but it isn't an arm or a leg to park in the public lot behind the building. 

5. The Aviary- When we were still Buffalo zoo members, we could go to the Aviary for free and it was wonderful. I've heavily considered buying a membership so we can go as often as we choose. I find their single-day admission a bit hefty for a big family. On the other hand, it's great fun for the kids! You can get up close and personal with a wide variety of birds. Their penguin exhibit is the best I've ever experienced. One morning each week (used to be Wednesdays when we were going) they do Tot Time. A staff member reads a story and then the kids get to have a hands-on experience, like feeding chickens.  Ian loved going to the Aviary during his 2nd & 3rd years! We haven't been there in awhile, but I'm sure we'll be back soon. Parking is by donation. Sometimes we donated, sometimes we didn't.

I didn't write about any outdoor playgrounds intentionally. There are too many to talk about so I am preparing a post on Pittsburgh's best playgrounds. You may have also noticed I did not include the Pittsburgh Children's Museum on my list. It is not one of my favorite things to do with my toddlers. We were members previously and what I learned is that I can't take the kids there by myself and I don't actually think it is very kid-friendly at all...and definitely not worth the admission/membership price. And it's not free to park. 

What are your favorite toddler destinations? (Pittsburgh or elsewhere...I'm always up for new ideas!)

****UPDATE****

I recently learned that My Little Outback has closed and is supposed to be reopening in a different location. Boo! That really stinks because we loved it there! 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Review: EasyLunchBoxes & Giveaway!

If you know us, you know we are constantly on the go. We spend most mornings out and about experiencing our world. When we're out and about, our kids get hungry. When they get hungry, they have tantrums. We don't like buying convenience food so we usually pack our lunch to take with us. (And we eat lunch in the car a lot.

Have you noticed that your children eat better meals when they are prepared in an organized, visually-stimulating way? I have. I've also noticed my children are more adventurous  eaters when we are eating on the go. It's the perfect time to put something like salad or beets on the tray. Chances are they will at least try it, usually eat most of it, and share it with friends!

So without further ado, my choice after much research for an affordable, reusable, healthy, dishwasher safe, compartmented lunch organization system is:

Easy Lunch Boxes!

Photo from EasyLunchBoxes.com

Photo from Easylunchboxes.com

As you can see, it is a set of brightly colored plastic trays with lids. You can also get a cooler bag in a coordinating color. We bought a set trays and a green cooler bag. (Actually, we bought 2 sets and 2 cooler bags since you can only fit 3 trays into one cooler bag, one of the downsides for our family of five...we have to take 2 lunch cooler bags.) With 3 boxes in the cooler, there is room on top for an ice pack, or in our case, some milk or juice cups.




The boxes stack neatly into the cooler bags so they don't spill. They are spill resistant, not spill proof, but so far we haven't had any leaks, even with juicy berries and salad dressing.



The colors are easily identifiable by the children. Of course, Ian has the green one. Aaron picked blue. So Roger and I get to duke it out over the red and orange ones.

They are easy to wash and so far, I haven't even needed to wash them in the dish washer. They come clean with just a little soap and water.

Ian did not want his photo taken

They are small enough for the boys to hold on their laps in the car and still be able to eat. They are large enough to fit 4 or 5 items into the box, especially if you put a fruit cup in next to the ham cubes and shredded cheese (Aaron) or lay a granola bar on top of the salami sandwich (Ian).  The big compartment will hold a sandwich (on oblong shaped bread slices, even, not just regular sandwich bread.) The smaller compartments are perfect for berries, crackers, salad, nuts, dried fruit, etc.



Best of all, the kids really like them. When I pack lunch into these boxes, the kids often want to eat it by 10:30 instead of waiting until lunch time. Apparently, lunch in a cool box with a colored lid is so enticing, they can't wait!

So in the spirit of sharing my find with you, I'm giving away a set of trays and a cooler bag! The winner will choose the cooler bag color.


How To Enter:
Please leave a separate comment for each entry!

Mandatory

**Be/become a public follower of 'Burgher Tots by clicking the follow button in the sidebar. Comment on this post that you are a follower!**

Extra Entries

1.  Go to EasyLunchBoxes and comment here telling me your favorite color cooler bag

2. Blog about this giveaway & comment here with a link to your post

3.  Tweet about this contest including the #BurgherTots hashtag

**Possible BONUS entries on each new post between now and the end of the giveaway! So keep checking back!**

Giveaway ends 5/12/2011 at 8:00pm EST.
Winner will be chosen via random.org, notified, and will have 48 hours to respond.

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT YOU MUST ALSO COMMENT ON THIS POST TO HAVE YOUR ENTRY COUNTED!



This contest is open to USA entries only! (Sorry!)
I purchased the above mentioned product(s) for my personal use & review.
I was in no way compensated by EasyLunchBoxes.Com for this review or giveaway.
I was under no obligation to write a positive review. The views & opinions are purely my own.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Video [games] Killed the Radio Star

A couple years ago we discovered Ian could use our iPhones. He liked using our iPhones and it kept him busy during dinners out, doctors appointments, etc.



Then Ian discovered the Wii. And he loves playing Mario with Roger. He also discovered our Game Boy Advance. He loves playing video games. I think playing video games is fine as long as it isn't the only thing a kid does. I don't mind Ian playing video games, especially if he's doing it at a time when Ian being busy, playing quietly and independently is beneficial to me.



Somewhere along the way he started to abuse the video gaming time and we couldn't really figure out how to stop him from begging and having tantrums about it, but still allow him to play our phones when we were out places. About a week ago it got to a point where I thought it was just out of hand entirely. We basically put an end to the video games until we can figure out how to fix it.

I made coupons so he can earn minutes of playtime, but we haven't tried them out yet.

What do you do about video games and your kids? None at all? Time limits? How do you manage the time limits?

Monday, May 2, 2011

4 year & 9 month well visits

Just updating the record:

Ian is 35 pounds and 40 inches tall.  (40th percentile for both) His vision was good. He's doing great. Had to get 3 vaccinations, shouldn't need any more for awhile!

Lauren is 18 pounds and 27 inches. (25th percentile for both) She's growing great and doing well too. :-)