Staying Connected with XFinity (COVID-19 Response)

The world is in a very interesting place in our history. Many of you are probably feeling like this mom is – overwhelmed, overprepared, and underprepared. Together we are facing life trying to stay healthy and safe and at the same time spending much more time at home working and learning. I’m grateful that we’ve been able to stay connected to our family and friends through our internet provider, Comcast. They’ve shared some information with me that is helpful for all of us as we navigate through the reality of life responding to COVID-19.

How We’re Connected with Xfinity

To give you a little glimpse into what is happening day-to-day in the ‘lil Burghers house (not that you probably aren’t doing the same), here’s how we’re relying on our internet provider while the four kids are being schooled at home:

Mom wakes up around 6:00 to start her workday and connect to her client’s VPN. Kids wake up around 8:00, do chores, then connect to their Google classroom, Mo Willems’ doodles, zoo virtual tours, and more throughout the day. Mom is in her home office but has to “drop in” on the dot to check on how things are going because Dad is at work in healthcare. And to be honest? Music or Netflix is always streaming somewhere in the house for much needed brain breaks.

Clearly, this wouldn’t work if we didn’t have reliable internet.

And we’re definitely using more internet than usual with all this activity – check out what our xFi app showed me about our activity on Wednesday (our third day of social distancing with work and school added to the day).

That’s a LOT of work and learning happening and we’re so thankful to stay connected with Xfinity.

Comcast’s response to help keep Americans connected

Comcast has announced their commitment to connecting families over the next 60 days with some important initiatives.

“During this extraordinary time, it is vital that as many Americans as possible stay connected to the internet
– for education, work, and personal health reasons,” said Dave Watson, Comcast Cable Chief Executive
Officer. “Our employees also live and work in virtually every community we serve, and we all share the
same belief that it’s our Company’s responsibility to step up and help out.”

source: Comcast

Here are the policies they have implemented to stand behind this commitment:

  • Xfinity WiFi Free For Everyone: Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country will be available to anyone who needs them for free – including non-Xfinity Internet subscribers. For a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots, visit www.xfinity.com/wifi. Once at a hotspot, consumers should select the “xfinitywifi” network name in the list of available hotspots, and then launch a browser.
  • Pausing Our Data Plan: With so many people working and educating from home, we want our customers to access the internet without thinking about data plans. While the vast majority of our customers do not come close to using 1TB of data in a month, we are pausing our data plans for 60 days giving all customers Unlimited data for no additional charge.
  • No Disconnects or Late Fees: We will not disconnect a customer’s internet service or assess late fees if they contact us and let us know that they can’t pay their bills during this period. Our care teams will be available to offer flexible payment options and can help find other solutions.
  • Internet Essentials Free to New Customers: As announced Monday, it’s even easier for low-income families who live in a Comcast service area to sign-up for Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program. New customers will receive 60 days of complimentary Internet Essentials service, which is normally available to all qualified low-income households for $9.95/month. Additionally, for all new and existing Internet Essentials customers, the speed of the program’s Internet service was increased to 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. That increase will go into effect for no additional fee and it will become the new base speed for the program going forward.
  • News, Information and Educational Content on X1 and Flex: For those with school-age students at home, we’ve created new educational collections for all grade levels in partnership with Common Sense Media. Just say “education” into your X1 or Flex voice remote. To help keep customers informed, we also have created a collection of the most current news and information on Coronavirus. Just say “Coronavirus” into your X1 or Flex voice remote.
  • 24×7 Network Monitoring: Underpinning all of these efforts, Comcast’s technology and engineering teams will continue to work tirelessly to support our network operations. We engineer our network capacity to handle spikes and shifts in usage patterns, and continuously test, monitor and enhance our systems and network to ensure they are ready to support customer usage. Our engineers and technicians staff our network operations centers 24/7 to ensure network performance and reliability. We are monitoring network usage and watching the load on the network both nationally and locally, and to date it is performing well.

For more information and updates from Comcast related to Coronavirus, visit:
http://www.comcastcorporation.com/COVID-19/

A Winter Break: Castaway Bay

We received an overnight stay and waterpark passes to Castaway Bay in exchange for sharing the post below with our readers. All opinions are 100% our own. Read all the way to the bottom to hear how you can enter to win your own #CastawayBayGetaway!

Pittsburgh, we’ve had enough of the snow and cold this year, haven’t we? I know spring is really right around the corner, but I am anxious for everything it brings with it. To help combat the season, we loaded the family up in the van and hit the road for a quick (three-hour) road trip to Sandusky, Ohio for an overnight stay at Castaway Bay.

A Winter Break: Castaway Bay

Because we left on a Friday after work and school, we didn’t get to take full advantage of the resort’s 4:00 PM check-in time, but because the indoor waterpark is open until 10 PM (check their operating hours to plan your visit), we got plenty of time in after dinner and checking in. (You can get your wristbands as early as 8:00 AM on your day of arrival – we’ll definitely do this next time!)

The 38,000-square foot waterpark is fully enclosed (always 82-degrees) and a perfect place to spend a winter break! The theme is a tropical Caribbean one and it flows from the park to the on-site restaurants to the hotel rooms. There are water attractions for all ages – slides, a toddler pool/splash pad, an indoor/outdoor Grotto spa, wave pool, and more.

Wondering where Ava was? Attached to Mama!

The Bigs especially enjoyed the waterslides and water roller coaster. They’ve both grown up so much and had the courage to try every single one. Isla (almost four) stuck to the toddler pool and the shallow waves but did go down two todder friendly slides. Ava (also almost four) is usually pretty confident in the pool felt a bit overwhelmed by the (light) crowds and stuck to mom. (I mention crowds, but it really was not packed at all – she just gets clingy in unfamiliar places.)

Pro Tip: There are lifevests for your ‘lil swimmers. I couldn’t find them at first but look for the boat by the wave pool and there your treasure will be! Arr, matey!

Pro Tip: To get great photos of Castway Bay, you’re going to want a waterproof phone pouch. I recommend this one – just order it with Amazon Prime before your trip! You’ll regret not having your phone for photos and meeting up with the family during your time at the park.

Where to Eat: Castaway Bay

All that swimming and relaxing will make you hungry. Thankfully, there are a few options right on the property for you to get your grub on and the hotel rooms have a refrigerator and microwave! The hotel features a Quaker Steak & Lube, a deli serving Starbucks coffee, breakfast buffet (we gave Mango Mike’s a 6 thumbs up for their pancake bar and visits from Snoopy), and snack shack (right in the waterpark).

Other Experiences at Castaway Bay

Prepare for some time outside of the waterpark – you’ll want the break from riding the waves as tough as that sounds! We used our spacious suite for a nap and a (chilly) peek at the birds on the bay off of the balcony. There is also a game room, souvenier shop, and our favorite spot on the resort, Club Castaway! At Club Castaway you can make your own souvenier (t-shirts, pillowcases, bags), watch movies, play games, or meet Snoopy. It was a great place to just chill and the lighting was amazing even on an overcast day.

Ready for Your OWN #CastawayBayGetaway?

We loved our trip to Sandusky and Castaway Bay and think you would, too! Try to get out there before the winter is over or combine your stay with a trip to nearby Cedar Park. (Castaway Bay is an offical hotel of the park.) For all the details on day passes, hotel stays (with park passes), and more, visit Castaway Bay’s website. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

And speaking of Instagram, let’s get you entered in a GIVEAWAY for a family four-pack of passes to Castaway Bay! To enter, head over to our Instagram and enter to win on this photo. Giveaway will end on March 13, 2019, so act quickly! >> sorry, giveaway closed in 2019. Watch our site for more fun!

Radon Gas: Your Home’s Silent Killer

I received the guest post below from BJ, ‘lil Burghers fan and
head radon professional at Home Radon Pros. He asked if he could share some information regarding the dangers of 
radon gas and the harmful effects it has on families in the Pittsburgh area. Although this post is contains sponsored content, I was interested in sharing this important message with you. All opinions are that of the author.

radon pros

Everyone puts their family’s health as a top priority in their lives. From dieting to exercising, we take many precautions to ensure we can live a long healthy life. Take a look in your home, you probably have multiple smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in order to alert your family of these potential dangers. You probably preach to your older children that drunk driving is dangerous and remind them to be smart and safe when consuming alcohol. But I would bet that you haven’t had your home tested for the number one danger in a home that kills more each year than house fires, carbon monoxide, and drunk driving combined. This danger is an odorless, tasteless, colorless gas called radon. A gas deemed by the surgeon general as a “class A carcinogen” that kills 21,000 people every year. That is one person every 25 minutes in the United States. As the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US, next to cigarette smoking, it is something that you should be concerned about for you and your family’s well-being.

What is Radon and Is My Family Affected?

Radon gas comes from the breakdown of uranium in the soil. It enters your home through small cracks in your basement and travels throughout the rest of your home. Radon is present everywhere, but becomes threatening when it gets trapped in small spaces. As the gas seeps into your basement, the gas condenses putting more particles in a smaller space. Not all homes have high levels, but for us living in Pittsburgh, PA, we have a higher chance of high radon levels in our homes. In fact, 40% of all Pittsburgh homes have radon levels higher than the EPA recommended action level

You or the previous homeowner may have had radon testing conducted in your home when you first moved in, but this doesn’t mean that your levels haven’t changed. Radon levels in your home are constantly changing due to factors such as; changes in the soil conditions beneath your house, home renovations, and weather changes. This means the radon test you had 10 years ago when you first moved in, is far from accurate.

What Can I Do To Keep My Family Safe?

Knowing your homes radon levels, and the health impact it is having on you and your family, is the first step in the direction of keeping your family healthy. Radon testing can be done by radon professionals in a few short days. This will either give you the peace of mind that your home is safe from radon, or give you the direction that you should have a radon system implemented into your home to remove the radon. Both radon testing and radon removal are quick and affordable processes that will not compromise the beauty of your house. The only way to truly know if you and your family are in danger of radon gas, is to have a radon test conducted in your home. The longer you wait, the longer you and your loved ones are exposed to this deadly gas, which puts you all at a greater risk for developing lung cancer.

Home Radon Pros is a Pittsburgh company that focuses on educating families on the dangers of radon gas. We want families in our local communities to be healthy and protected from something that they may not even realize is slowly harming them. We recommend that everyone has their house tested, at least once a year, to ensure that radon gas in your home is not putting your family at risk. Testing is the first step, don’t let you or your family be a statistic in the ever growing number of radon related deaths every year. Call us today at 412-584-0799 to schedule a radon test for $159.99: a small price to pay for the well-being of you and your loved ones. You can also found out more information on our website at www.homeradonpros.com. Mention the ‘lil Burghers blog for $10 off radon testing in your home.

Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center

It is always fun to find something new in a place that is familiar. Greg and I got to take in a date and do just that at the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center while we were vacationing in his hometown of Myrtle Beach. Since Myrtle is a popular travel destination for Burghers, we teamed up with the museum and US Family Guide to tell you more about the experience. (We were provided tickets to this venue in exchange for our honest thoughts. All opinions are 100% our own.)

When you walk into the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center, there is no doubt in your mind that you are about to have an amazing time. If the gigantic King Kong doesn’t scream that, I don’t know what fun is! You can get your photo taken inside King Kong’s arms, we didn’t end up buying our photo and now I have remorse!

First Up: Hollywood Wax Museum

There are three experiences to choose from (but your best deal is to enjoy all three). We started with the Wax Museum because it was right there on the entry level. (Note, all floors are handicapped accessible, but the downstairs experiences are not exactly accessible, more on that later.)

Between two floors you will find many popular stars from movies, music, and pop culture. I encourage you to take photos with the figures and enjoy the prop stations that make selfies and photo shoots super fun. Greg and I had a blast and had the luck to go in the middle of a weekday so had much of the experience to ourselves. (It took us so long to get through that one of the employees joked that they thought they’d lost us!) Take your time, read the stories about the icons, and most of all, have fun!

This isn’t Greg’s street wear, enjoy the props!

ben affleck wax figure
I had no idea Ben Affleck was so tall!

vin diesel wax figure
We’re huge Fast and Furious fans so this…YES.

Reese Witherspoon wax museum
So I am pretty sure her pink heels were something I donated to Goodwill before I moved away. I SO had those shoes!

Once you have gone through all of the figures, take your add on tickets and have some fun downstairs!

Outbreak – Dread the Undead

I have no pictures of this experience (they ask you to turn off your phone) but some funny memories. You see, I am a jumpy person and walking through this zombie outbreak experience definitely was a good level of thrills that made me jump. I mostly laughed, nothing was scary but it was fairly realistic and fun. Would I have done this as an experience by itself, no, but it was definitely worth the laughs.

Parent Tip: Do this one on your own or with your teens. My kids would have been frightened!

Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors

Mirror mazes are super tough! Greg and I were on a mission to save a princess trapped in the mirror maze and if it had been our own kid I think we might have failed. Eek. This was a good level of fun and trickery – we got lost more than once. I wish it was timed so we could have seen how we stacked up against others (because I’m competitive).

Parent Tip: The teens might not enjoy this but your toddlers might be too little and bump into the mirrors. Do this with your elementary/middle school kiddos!

Experience the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center

Located at 21st Avenue North and Highway 17 Bypass, Myrtle Beach’s Hollywood Wax Museum is a can’t miss building – there’s a giant ape climbing on it. My Readers receive $2 OFF ALL ACCESS PASS at the Myrtle Beach Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center when purchased here.

http://www.hollywoodwaxmyrtlebeach.com/tickets/

Myrtle Beach’s Hollywood Wax Museum

Disclaimer: I was provided with information about Myrtle Beach’s Hollywood Wax Museum through US Family Guide in order to write this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

Source: US Family Guide

Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center – Myrtle Beach

If you love to travel with family, I’m willing to bet that Myrtle Beach is on your list. My husband grew up there, we met there, Arianna was born there…so while it holds a special place in our hearts, we truly love vacationing there too.

One of the things that have changed since we left (and last visited) is the introduction of the Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center. US Family Guide sent me some information on this complex and I’m thinking a visit is in order while we’re there:

The Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center is the best value in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. When was the last time you walked the red carpet with an A-List star or stepped into the spotlight with Hollywood royalty? At the Hollywood Wax Museum, you’ll get the chance to pose with your favorites while learning about their pets, pet peeves and accomplishments. Bring your adoring fans (friends & family) for fun photo ops! Are You the Chosen One? Find your way through the hidden corridors and save Princess Hannah in Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors. You’ll need to make your way through 288 potential turns among hundreds of mirrored walls and archways while enjoying other surprises along the way. It’s a modern-day fairy tale, where you’ll get lost and come out smiling! And finally, in Outbreak, you must stop a worldwide viral attack. Chemacorp might mean well with Alpha Strain, but the gene-altering substance turns humans into zombies. Shriek your way through the ransacked lab and rotting basement where zombie infection is rampant and aerosol attacks are unpredictable. Contain your fear? No way!

Located at 21st Avenue North and Highway 17 Bypass, Myrtle Beach’s Hollywood Wax Museum is a can’t miss building – there’s a giant ape climbing on it! Inside you’ll find:

  • Hollywood Wax Museum
  • Hannah’s Maze of Mirrors
  • Outbreak – Dread the Undead

Myrtle Beach's Hollywood Wax Museum

My Readers receive $2 OFF ALL ACCESS PASS at the Myrtle Beach Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center when purchased here.

Have you ever experienced this entertainment center? What did you think? I’m excited to snap a few pictures with my favorite celebs like The Rock…I think I’ll need my latest Half Marathon medal on me though, right?

 

http://www.hollywoodwaxmyrtlebeach.com/tickets/

5 Tips for Working Moms to Survive the Back-to-School Hustle

Disclaimer: This post with tips to survive the back-to-school hustle contains affiliate links. If you click through the links, our site will earn a small commission at no additional charge to you. Thanks for supporting our site!

Yinz. Last week was a complete whirlwind for this working mom. I was away at a work training and came back to realize all the things need to be done to get into the back-to-school hustle. Ava and Isla will be starting next week and the Bigs go back after Labor Day. Time has flown this summer!

Luckily, after reading these tips for working moms to survive the back-to-school hustle, I feel like I am ahead of my mom game. For instance, we already ordered all the clothes online, they just need to make it to the dressers (or the laundry pile in our guest room). And I’m learning to stop saying sorry (at work, too) and know that I won’t be able to be everything to everyone (which yes does sometimes include my kids).

One thing I’m working on in the last few days of summer break is preparing for some moments now by writing my kids notes ahead of time. My hope is that I can just drop them in their backpacks when appropriate.

Check out the guest post below for a few more tips for more on how you can survive the back-to-school hustle then comment which is your favorite OR share your tips!

5 Tips for Working Moms to Survive the Back-to-School Hustle

back-to-school hustle

from Holly Caplan, author

From the moment my daughter got out of school in May to the end of July, was a complete blur. It was a blur of summer camp, work, travel, deadlines, proposals and pool parties.  The fact that she was going back to school in three weeks had not occurred to me. When it did, I panicked. Where did the time go? I frantically realized I had no idea what day school started and had to ask another mom. I got a brisk answer of  “August 20th,” which I like to call the “working mom fail” response. The guilt of not knowing when my child starts 2nd grade and feeling completely overwhelmed set in. Where do I begin? I’ve got to sign her up for fall activities, get a new backpack, lunchbox, some new clothes and also manage my job, meetings, travel and various work expectations. As working moms I think we feel there is no easy way to do all of this and keep a clear head and stay on task, but I have found five great tips for surviving back to school as a working mom:

1.    Order Online:
Spare yourself the hustle of shopping. No need to throw everyone in the car in 100-degree heat to head to your favorite retail super store, fend off the kiddos requests for toys and candy while back-to-school shopping. It is not worth it. Modern technology allows us the ability to order online for backpacks, clothing and supplies. Think of the time and energy you will save by sitting on your couch and checking some boxes and swiping “check out”. This also applies to grocery shopping too, which is becoming more and more common. Download the app for Shipt or Amazon Prime and let them do the grocery shopping for you. Do it a day or two before school starts. The kids can make their requests so they get to put some creativity into their lunchbox choices.  Other positives are that it isn’t expensive to shop online and it saves money because you avoid over-buying in a store.

(Bonus ‘lil Burghers tip? Check out Instacart to save $ and hours on local grocery delivery! Join here and get $10 off your first delivery.)

2.    Let the Laundry Lie:
Where does your laundry lie? Mine sits on a bed in the guest room.
Clean, yet unfolded. But clean. The point here is, let your laundry lie. It is okay to let some things slip during back -to -school time. You will have so much on your plate as it is, don’t let the mundane domestic stuff get to you. Not having every thing completed or accomplished around the house is okay. You will not get a ticket or a fine for letting some things in the household fall behind. Give yourself permission to know that it is okay if you don’t get everything done. It is completely normal, and you will eventually catch up.

Truth: This is what the ‘lil Burghers’ laundry looks like as of today!

3.    Get Your Routine Back:
In the summer our routines are typically off. As I mentioned, it can feel like a complete blur when so much is going on.  Activities, camp and work will run you, instead of you running them. No shock there. Bringing structure and school back into your life can be a struggle, but welcome it because it brings the return of normalcy.  Give yourself a cushion returning to the routine by practicing earlier bedtimes and waking times week before school starts. This will get us parents and kids back on schedule. Also, create a family calendar with upcoming school activities and your work schedule to make sure that all planets are aligned, and if not, this gives you time to create a family management strategy.

Guess that means no more “sleepovers” and flashlight story-reading at 10:00!

4.    Be Guilt Free:
I think the hardest thing about being a working mom during back -to -school is missing school events.  The hallmarks of the beginning of the school year like Fall Festival or Meet the Teacher are big events for the kids. Missing them can make you feel disconnected from their little lives and the guilt can take over. This is also difficult because you miss the chance to meet other parents and classmates at these events. You start to feel like a constant outsider because you are the mom who isn’t around enough. Don’t beat yourself up or hold yourself to an impossible standard. Know that you are doing everything that you can to accommodate both school and work and that you are still present in your kids lives, even when you can’t physically be with them.

5.    Connect with other working moms:
I have a lot of wonderful friends who are stay- at -home moms. They tend to keep me grounded and I rely on them a lot for my sanity.  Working mom friends can be super supportive too because they are most likely experiencing the same emotions and situations. For overall complaining, coping and time management ideas your working mom friends will happily listen and help you.  In addition, their schedules will most likely parallel yours, so for all of those 2:30 play dates you have missed, you can now do play dates on schedules that accommodate the work day. The silver lining here is that you get to solidify strong relationships with other women who will stand by you when you need support.

Managing back-to-school time will never be perfect or fool proof, but working outside of the home can bring on some added stress. It is a balancing act that can cause disruption as you get adjusted to the new school year and schedules. Know that you are not alone, and we are all muddling through it together.

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Holly Caplan is a mom, workplace issues expert, career coach and author. For more information, please visit her website and connect with her on Twitter, @hollymcaplan.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest

My family and I were invited to visit Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest for a weekend in exchange for our honest opinions. All opinions are 100% our own. 

Ah, sweet summertime in Pittsburgh! For me, summers used to include camping in a tent at local campgrounds. Camping holds a special place in my heart (bugs and all) and I am so happy that my family is enjoying continuing the tradition. Truth be told, our stay at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ at Kozy Rest was more “glamping”, but it still got the ‘ol camping bug moving in us. 

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest: Our Stay

Tucked about an hour north of Pittsburgh (straight up Route 8 through Butler) is an adorable and peaceful campground, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest. This campground is award-winning and family-centered and from the moment we drove on the property (in the middle of a storm), we could see why. Check-in started with a greeter, then a speedy key pick-up and an escort down to our cabin. Our guide showed us everything we’d need to know about the amenities of the cabin (like air conditioning) then left us to discover what we might like to do next from the list of activities.

With all those activities, I’ll tell you what we didn’t do – we didn’t check out the WiFi until I was cleaning up the last bits on Sunday morning. The WiFi works, but you’re not going to need it with all of those things to keep you busy – I promise. 

We didn’t arrive in time to check out the Friday night movie, so we decided to settle in and get a “early” bedtime so we could be up and ready to check out the Jump Zone and bikes. Initially, we thought that we’d put the kids in the bedroom (with a single bunk over a double bed and space on the floor for an air mattress), but when we realized how short the loft space was, opted for that to be Ari and Evan’s space.

That might have been our first mistake – they woke up in the 6 AM hour and had us all (and probably everyone else around) awake too. The sun was up, they were too! As you can see, a nap did happen on Saturday afternoon between activities, phew!

Throughout the weekend, we took full advantage of all the free activities listed on that brochure and we basically in “divide and conquer” mode – Greg with the Bigs at things like Gaga Ball (which was new to us, but not the Bigs), the Frog Pond, and bike riding. I took the Twins to dance with “the bears”, check out cartoons, ride the train and fire truck. It was quite the busy time, but we still fit in a swim and lots of time on the bikes.

This video is just the start of all the fun we had! Check out more photos here

Bottom line, we loved it and would really like to get back again this summer. While the cabins are fun and affordable considering all you get, we’d probably tent camp for “the real deal” experience (plus, the shower rooms have A/C!). Greg and I were “good exhausted” by the end of the trip. If there would be any downsides, six people in a “tiny house” is not always the most fun thing (Mama might have lost her mind a few times) and Ava didn’t drink enough water on Saturday and ended up dehydrated. Good reminders to fill those tanks!

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest: The Details

Campers can camp from April to October and enjoy themed weekends (our’s was Kids’ Carnival – check out this video to see some of the fun the whole camp had!) or bump into Yogi Bear™ and Boo Boo™. Camp options include tents, RV’s, yurts, and full-service luxury cabins (like we enjoyed). Sites include electric service, fire rings, and picnic tables. Pets are welcomed on some sites, too!

Amenities at Kozy Rest include laundry, swimming pool, pavilions, church services, and free WiFi. Activities vary based on the themed weekends, but there is a gem mining sluice, bikes to rent (included), Gaga Ball, shuffleboard, a playground, a jump zone, and more. There really is something for everyone to enjoy!

While I loved the paper activities sheet, I also downloaded their app which would alert me 15-minutes before an event was to start. This was super convenient!

One thing we didn’t do was to have Yogi Bear and Boo Boo come for bedtime stories. Personally, I think that would have capped off the second night nicely, but 1) our kids go to bed a little earlier than this (extra) service is offered and 2) until this weekend, Isla had never really wanted anything to do with characters. Next time!

LOVE IT? If you’re ready to get a reservation on your calendar, head over to the Kozy Rest website (pittsburghjellystone.com) and see what option works best for your family.

Hopefully, you can see that camping is a great way to have family fun and make timeless memories. When you make a reservation at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest, all you have to do is make a quick road-trip knowing the rest is waiting for you. 

Connect with Kozy Rest on Facebook and YouTube to see more of the fun that’s in store!

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest: A GIVEAWAY!

Thanks for reading about our experience! As a thank you, Kozy Rest has partnered up with me to giveaway a free two-night stay (up to six people) at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Kozy Rest. This offer includes two free nights Sunday through Thursday through October 31, 2018, subject to availability and excluding holidays. Winner will be announced by June 20. Good luck!

Two Night (weeknight) Stay at Kozy Rest

YOGI BEAR and all related characters and elements © & ™ Hanna-Barbera. (S18)

5 Reasons Pre-School Years Are Prime Time For Learning

Our family has some pretty strong thoughts on the importance of pre-school learning. Both of school-age kids attended pre-k programs, and we’re hoping the twins will start in April. Until then, we’re working on some learning activities at home and in the region. (This post contains affiliate links.)

Pre-School Learning

There is some compelling research about pre-school learning. The years before school age are vital to preparing – as a former teacher, I can attest to this! In our house, we are letting the girls explore toys like the Square Panda and Leap Pad to help with letter and number recognition as a starter.

News & Experts shared the information below with me, supporting our thoughts.

5 Reasons Pre-School Years Are Prime Time For Learning

Much of the discussion about education focuses on the K-12 years, but some early childhood education experts suggest serious learning can start even earlier and pay dividends for the child in years to come.

“Young children have the capacity at a very young age to be academically challenged, and we need to educate them strongly during those years instead of waiting until they are older,” says Alise McGregor, founder of Little Newtons (www.littlenewtons.com), an early education center with locations in Minnesota and Illinois.

“Children’s minds are like sponges when they are very young. Under age 5 is the most important time for development and our best opportunity to set up children for success. If we strongly educate children at a very young age, while their brains are so pliable, by the time they reach kindergarten, their brain capacity is much higher.”

Recent research confirms that the first five years of life are particularly important for the development of the child’s brain. Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child reports that in the first few years, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second, building the brain’s architecture.

This growth of the brain’s network establishes a fertile foundation for learning, thus an opportunity to be better prepared for grade school and beyond, experts say. One analysis of several studies, “Impacts of Early Childhood Education on Medium- and Long-term Education,” showed that children exposed to high-quality pre-kindergarten education performed better academically in later years. Early education also led to higher graduation rates, fewer special education placements and less grade retention.

McGregor suggests five reasons parents should consider ramping up their pre-K child’s education:

• Socialization. Socialization with people other than the child’s family in a safe environment is an essential foundational element. “It’s important to introduce our children to other children and support their transition into their own friendship groups, and the earlier we do this, it helps children overcome shyness and gain self-confidence,” McGregor says.

• Personal experiences. These assist the brain’s organizational development and functioning in many situations, helping children develop learning skills as well as social and emotional abilities. “A good early-education center creates an environment where imagination, love and innovation all come together for a daily adventure,” McGregor says.

• Enthusiasm for Learning. Lessons can be given in a fun and exciting way that will encourage children to be effective learners. “Feeling inspired and excited to learn takes root in preschool,” McGregor says, “and can last a lifetime.”

• Learning respect for others. A fundamental building block for happiness, friendships and success in life starts early by learning how to share, cooperate, take turns and be nice. “By carrying on conversations, following rules, listening, accepting consequences of actions, the child learns early how to start getting along in the world,” McGregor says.

• Resilience. It’s important that early childhood educators and parents work together to develop resilience in children as early as possible. “By creating a consistent and stable environment with clear expectations and predictable consequences, children can develop skills in managing themselves and their emotions,” McGregor says. “They may experience bumps, bruises or losing a game, but this is the foundation for building coping strategies for greater challenges in life.”

“The first five years of life are the most critical,” McGregor says. “It is far easier to train a child than it is to fix a broken adult.”

 

Pre-School Learning in Pittsburgh

Yesterday I participated in a Twitter party for Trying Together, the Pittsburgh region’s advocates for early childhood education. They are committed to collaborating “with early care and education professionals, families, and other individuals to advocate together, partner together, and learn together, to create a future in which caregivers feel valued; children have access to high-quality, early learning environments; and families have the resources they need to support their children’s early childhood experiences”. If you are in the Pittsburgh-area and are passionate about pre-school learning experiences for our ‘lil ones, engage with them on Facebook or Twitter!

We need to remember that children are trying, too — trying to understand their feelings and their world, trying to please the people they love, trying to grow. When grownups and children are trying together, just about anything can be possible.

— Fred Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 1986
What’s your take on pre-school learning?

2017 Christmas Letter

Our Christmas Letter is going digital! And in true Willis style, it’s a few days late but better late than never, right?

Merry Christmas!

2017 has almost come to a close, meaning it is time for our annual Christmas letter. Admittedly, as parents of four kids, the year flew by. All of the kids have grown so much since last Christmas and it’s amazing to watch.

Arianna is in third grade and turned nine in October. In the spring, she finally got to play on the Kittanning Little League’s 7/8 Softball team (and she can’t wait to get started again). She had her last year as a Girl Scout and then joined our church’s M-Pact Girls in the fall. Arianna loves being a big sister, drawing, playing softball, cooking (and watching Top Chef Junior), and reading. She got a guitar for Christmas and hopes to learn how to play it soon!

Evan is in first grade and turned seven in December. He continues to love playing soccer as part of the YMCA’s sports program and also went to a soccer camp over the summer. He is still part of the Royal Rangers at church and is helping raise money to open an Outpost in Kenya. (This boy has a soul on fire!) He loves being the only boy, watching YouTube kids, adventuring with Daddy, and drawing.

Ava turned two in April. She is our wild one, don’t let her sweet looks fool you! We have to keep our eyes on her at all times as she is mischevious and daring, thinking she can hang with the Bigs. Playpens don’t work with her anymore, she knows how to escape! She loves being read to and hates bathtime.

Isla also turned two in April. She has been known to stare at the pretty girl in the mirror and has a certain way she likes to wear her hair clips. Isla thrives as the baby of the family and often acts like she’s the only kiddo. She loves to laugh and draw, sometimes on the couch (oops!).

We still have our two dogs, they’re aging but still playful when they want to be.

Greg starting working for a pharmacy delivery service in July and continues to drive Uber. He stays home with the twins during the day then swaps parenting duties off for the evening. He ran in the Marathon Relay in May and started a new blog series about his adventures exploring nature with the kids, “Wildlife Wednesdays“.

Becky continues to work as a Salesforce Admin for Excel4apps and has the blog, Thirty-One, Monat, and doTerra to keep her extra busy. She continues to do CrossFit at the Y and has some more distance running under her belt (Half Marathon and 10-Miler).

As a family we love going to our church, taking walks on the Rails to Trails (behind our house), and traveling. This year took us back to Wisconsin and Myrtle Beach.

We hope this letter finds you all well and full of health and happiness. Keep up with us here on the blog to see more of what’s going on in our lives.

Merry Christmas!

Love,

The Willis Family (aka ‘lil Burghers)

Advent Gift Scavenger Hunt

*articles may contain affiliate links* Our dear family friend Ash has been given the Love Language of gifting. This Advent season, she has prepared an adorable Advent gift scavenger hunt for her nephew. We couldn’t help but swoon over it and thought you would, too.

Advent Gift Scavenger Hunt

Over the next twenty-four days (starting December 1), use these clues around your house to give your kids small gifts with this Advent gift scavenger hunt. You might opt to do books for all the days or go for treats, movies, or socks. The value of the gift is completely up to you. The point is to get your child reading the clues, using their imagination, and to enjoy a small gift from you!

With clues like “To find today’s fun it’s time to think. Look for the place where you put clothes that stink!”, your kiddos are sure to laugh and remember this new holiday tradition.

Advent Gift Scavenger Hunt

Can you just imagine the joy on your child’s face when they find the daily gift? Because Ash was so awesome, we are definitely tempted to pull this off with one sharable gift for the four kids.

We HIGHLY RECOMMEND scooping up these adorable advent stickers or this stamp set from Amazon to decorate your labels! This double-sided tape is also a great option for sticking the labels to your beautifully wrapped packages.

Advent Gift Scavenger Hunt

To get your copy of this printable for FREE, simply click here (Advent Gift Scavenger Hunt Labels) to download the PDF. If you LOVE this idea but want to customize the clues, you can download the .docx version of this printable here for just $1.00. (We are donating 50% of the profits to charity this Christmas season.)

TIPS:

What fun ways are you celebrating Advent this year?

RULES ON PRINTABLES

The printables on lilburghers are free of charge, however, I do ask that you do not link directly to the PDF file, resell, or use commercially. This is a violation of the terms of the graphics. You may use for personal use as desired.