Category Archives: Memories

Tubing (Our Camping Experience)

There are several places you can go tubing when camping at Cook Forest State Park. We didn’t really plan ahead, and ended up checking out three places before we actually hit the river.

Take our word for it, make yourself a reservation if you’re skeptical. Or, figure out a way to take your own tubes and get dropped off and picked up. Our first choice would probably be the best place, but we opted out due to long lines and our own impatience. 😉 keep reading

Eggs in a Bag

() As I hinted in the first camping memory post, Missy wowed us with Eggs in a Bag. I know, it sounds really gross and I am sure you are skeptical that this would result in runny eggs and food poisoning, something you don’t want while camping, right? Greg will eat anything, so he supported Missy’s efforts; Tom and I were willing to try, but had back up plans just in case. Oh, thank goodness we trusted her. keep reading

City Mouse and Country Mouse Go Camping

If you have never gone camping, do it. If you have never gone camping with your best friend, do it. A few weeks ago, the City Mouse (me) and Country Mouse (my best friend, Missy) decided to go camping. We’d been camping before as kids with our parents for church camping weekends, but neither of us had ever gone camping “by ourselves” as adults. keep reading

Dr. King’s Speech: In Dad’s Eye’s

Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech. As you know, our family is living that dream. Our dad (Pop Pop) was there for the March on Washington–he and his Dad rode a bus from Harlem to D.C. We asked him some questions about the day, and are so glad to be able to hear his recollection of this moment in our history. He was 24 years old at the time.  keep reading

Deer Lakes Park

Source: Allegheny County Park’s Website

Today, I am sharing a local gem with you, Deer Lakes Park. We’ve been there many times before, but this last trip was an eye opener–there’s a secret playground that is hands-down the best in the area. (Thanks to my co-worker for sharing it with me!) This post will also be posted on South Hills Mom, a blog about kid-friendly resources in Pittsburgh’s South Hills. Head on over and say hello for me, ok? 

My family is no stranger to Deer Lakes Park, an Allegheny County Park in Tarentum. (Okay, technically it’s a lot closer to West Deer than it is to Tarentum, where we live.) We’ve spent hours running around the ponds, searching for frogs and fish, and enjoying this playground:

The playground is just fine, there is a variety of equipment that the kids enjoy, but it’s pretty much just a standard playground. (I’ll admit, the mulch ground cover isn’t my favorite since the four of us typically wear flip flops.) Not shown is a spray park, but we’ve never taken the kids there because when it is open, it is quite busy.

When a co-worker told me about a “hidden” playground out in the picnic grove area, I was excited. When cousin E spent the day with us, we decided it would be the perfect day to burn some extra calories and have a picnic and playdate in the park.

That picture doesn’t do the park justice, but I’ll admit blogging about the day wasn’t at the top of my mind (sorry!). What is behind our picnic table is a park that has a rubberized ground cover, is accessible, and has sections for ages 2-5 and 5-12. Probably not surprising, our accident prone Evan fell while there, but it wasn’t on the rubber, just inches away. If he had fallen on the rubber, he likely would not have skinned his ‘lil knee. By accessible, I mean that you can get the entire way up to the top via a ramp that starts right at ground level. And the age levels are marked off by clear signs:

And the swings are even clearly marked as to what age they are for. We know this, because it helped us determine that Evan is a ‘lil peanut for sure:

Beyond your “standard” swings, slides, and monkey bars, this playground has a rock climbing wall, spiders’ nest, bridge, fun mirrors, telescope, balance beams, “crocodile rock” swinging obstacle, and more. Greg may not have been the best role model and took on the playground as though it were an “American Ninja Warrior” course because the equipment was so fun. Arianna loved being a ‘lil daredevil and climbed to the top of anything and everything she could. E and Evan equally enjoyed the course, too.

While I love the park, I feel that I would have hated it if Evan had been any younger (he’s a small 32 months). There are a few educational tic-tac-toe boards and artwork (like the American Sign Language Alphabet and “hello” in several languages) ; however, there are no parts geared toward under 2, including the swings.

Adults would appreciate the rubberized ground, but there’s not a track nearby. One other thing I didn’t love about it was the porta potty (never fun with a ‘lil one who is usually potty trained but has stress accidents). (To be fair, I think many parks have porta potties.)

All in all, Deer Lakes Park is definitely a gem that we’ll keep in our back pocket for nice days. Sure, it’s a bit out of the way, even for us; however, the kids (and adults) loved it. The ‘lil Burghers definitely give this portion of the park our seal of approval.

Deer Lakes Park, 1090 Bailey Run Road, Tarentum, PA 15084

Navigating to the park wasn’t tough, but if you’re not from the area, it’s not the easiest to find. First, to get to Deer Lakes Park, you’d probably exit 28 at Creighton, then turn to the right and then left at the light by Sheetz. At the next light, Bailey Run Road, turn left and follow it out to a stop sign a few miles in. Take a left, then the park entrance is off on the right about a mile up that road. You’ll see the (original) playground on the right, then about a mile up the road on the left is the entrance to the grove area. Take it all the way back. All the way! At the last grove, down on the right, is THE playground. (Okay, talk about Pittsburgh directions!)

If you’re interested in more photos from our adventure, check out my set on Flickr–there were so many fun moments that I couldn’t include them all in this post.


Relay for Life

Yesterday morning, I wasn’t having the greatest day (and to be honest, it didn’t end all that well, either). As I looked to my left before turning onto the road that would take me to 28, I saw my Pappy Peterson. There he was, on a Conrail train. No, Pappy wasn’t Conrail, he was Union Railroad, but he was there on that train, telling me the day was going to be okay.

Just this afternoon, he reminded me that he is here, again. This time, in the form of bowling thunder over my office building as I was trying to finish the day up. The strikes just kept on coming, he was up there bowling hard. I’d put money that he and George found each other and were having some kind of competition, probably whomever won had to buy the buttermilk, for Pappy, or Diet Coke, for George.


The reminders may not always be cheerful like they were, but those we’ve loved and lost are always with us. Whether it’s coming up on 27 years or only days, they are always there to remind us of their love.

I was reminded of that on Saturday when Greg and I went to the Relay for Life. First, we celebrated Deb, Aaron, Tracy, and Dad (Pop-Pop). Then, as we rounded the track, I sobbed for Wendy, for Pappy McPherson. As many times as we’d hoped and prayed for a cure, they didn’t get one. But, they, are always with me.

Not Just Any Play House


It is a beautiful day here in Pittsburgh, and we took advantage of sprucing up the yard for summer. That includes patio prep and cleaning the toys.

Yesterday, I asked Greg to clean the kids’ play house, but while he is off getting fill dirt, I decided to clean it instead. Why? Because even though he is good at cleaning things and this was an easy honey-do list item, I really don’t think he would put the care into cleaning it like I would. That sounds really mean…but let me explain, okay?

This isn’t just any play house. This is my play house. Greg would clean it the same way I did, heck, maybe even a little cleaner, but he would not put the heart into it that I did. And maybe, just maybe, I really needed the cleansing practice of cleaning this house.

As I cleaned the play house, I thought about what it meant to me. The memories began to flow:
* Pretending the play house was a drive through–and realizing Arianna does this, too.
* Eating my first ever onion rings inside it on the porch of our house at Wall–one of my earliest memories of time with my cousin Richie! (Burger King, too.)
* Watching my brother through the windows when we lived in Brookville.
* Serving as a clubhouse for Elizabeth and I in Wren…and writing names of our crushes using squiggle pens and dot matrix printer paper.
* Watching the house get packed up on moving truck after moving truck from Wren, to Brookville, to Townville, to Ford City. My parents had plenty of yard sales, but they never sold this childhood treasure, keeping it in pristine condition.
* Watching a 9-month-old Arianna poke her head out of it to watch her cousins playing in my parents’ yard.
* My dad bringing it to our first house so Arianna (and now Evan) can enjoy it just as much.

That house is almost 30 years old, but I cannot tell. The only thing “dating” it is the corded phone, which the kids sort of understand. I will be sure we keep it clean and ready for the next adventures. Maybe we will even be able to use it for another generation of Peterson or Willis kids, who knows!

That house sure isn’t just another play house handed down on Craigslist. It has a heart and soul, and deserved the bath it got today.

30 Years Ago

Thirty years ago, Wendy was born. Little did anyone expect that she’d only be on this earth for just shy of 17 years, or that she’d have such a huge impact on the people around her in those short years.

Tonight, I am celebrating for her. While cancer took her away from her earthly home, she lives on in the hearts of those who knew and loved her.

Tears filled my eyes earlier as I remembered taking birthday wishes, cards, and flowers to her grave site 13 years ago, angry that soon I would get to celebrate my 17th birthday, something she’d never get to do. While I am aware that she’s gone, it doesn’t change the pain  or the the fact that I don’t know what she’d be doing if she had survived…but knowing that we got to enjoy a few good years together sure does help.

For Wendy, on her 30th birthday, I wish you all a beautiful day full of love, joy, butterflies, green, *N Sync, and Tweety Bird. Heck, even some Green Bay Packers. Why not. This one’s for you, Wendy. xoxo


While I have you here, consider giving to my goal to raise money for Kids With Cancer. If there is anything I can do to help other families, children, and friends with dealing with cancer, I’d love to. Help me out, please! 

Mysterious Ways

IMG_4225 (Copy)

My parents always reminded me that God works in mysterious ways. They sure were right.

When we took toys to Stuff a Bus in November, we stopped at the Steelers Store first. I found a cute plastic dinosaur that I just knew was going to make some ‘lil kids’ Christmas. See it down there in the bottom left?

Well, my parents picked one up for ‘lil Man and give it to him with his “McStuffins” costume. By far, it was his favorite toy (especially compared to the lantern, no hard feelings, huh?). It seriously made his Christmas.

By the way, if anyone knows the lyrics to the never ending song this thing plays, send them my way. We can’t get the tune out of our heads, but it sure is catchy.