A Call To Action for PA Voters on Childcare

This post is sponsored in partnership with The Motherhood to share information on this important issue.

I went to college for Occupational Therapy. I’ve been working in the field for about 20 years. Because I’m a working mother, my 2 oldest children were in child care full-time until they started school. We were blessed to find great childcare centers with caring people that we grew up with. Because of having great childcare locally, my kids flourished socially. It made the transition to four year old kindergarten pretty seamless. Both of my parents worked, so did the majority of our family and friends so a childcare was our option.

By the time I had my 3rd son, I was in a position to be able to cut down to part-time. My husband and I were able to work our schedules around each other so as not to rely on childcare centers or other people. With the cost of an infant in childcare full-time and having 2 kids in after school care I did the math. I actually would make more money to cut down to part-time and work opposite shift of my husband so someone was always home.

I realized, when my youngest son was around 4 years old that he was having difficulty socializing with other kids and painfully shy. I worried about him starting school. So I delayed his K4 start and found a 4 year old pre-school that was only half a day 3 days a week. I felt like it would be a great way to get his feet wet and start socially with his peers. He graduated that 4 year old preschool and has been thriving in school ever since. In fact he’s now in 6th grade, he qualified for the regional history bee and geography bee happening in 2 weeks. I’m so proud of him.

I’m so thankful that those fantastic places and resources were available to me. But I’ve recently learned that there is a childcare crisis in Pennsylvania. Working families are having trouble finding childcare.

Some of the most concerning statistics I read from a March 2022 survey conducted by partners of the Start Strong PA campaign include:

● Nearly 32,500 children currently sit on waiting lists.
● Over 30,000 more children could be served if programs were fully staffed.
● 91% of respondents reported staffing shortages in childcare programs.
● 92% of respondents reported recruiting challenges for childcare.
● Programs need to fill nearly 7,000 open child care positions.

I wanted to start my daughter in a 3 year old preschool program that was half a day 2 days a week. It was one of the few 3 year old preschool programs in our area but there were a waitlist. If I didn’t get on the list months in advance the chances of my child getting in were slim to none. We didn’t get in but I made sure I got things taken care of for 4 yr old kindergarten. That was 6 years ago and the situations are not getting better for today’s parents looking for early childhood education.

So what is causing the childcare issues in PA?

Low wages are driving the child care staffing crisis.
● The average child care teacher makes less than $11 an hour.
● Child care pay is so low that 50% of child care professionals qualify to receive
government benefits.
● The average child care teacher lives in poverty at nearly twice the rate of Pennsylvania
workers in general.
● Programs are unable to compete with rising wages and benefits offered by companies
requiring less specialized skills.
● Child care teachers with degrees can find higher pay and benefits working in the K-12
school system.
● The average child care teacher is paid 22% less than teachers with similar degrees
working in school district Kindergarten classrooms.

The cost of some daycare, pre-schools, and montessori programs can make it out of reach for some working families too. While you can find programs that offer families with more than one child, discounts. It’s not always enough. There are great early childhood programs out there like Headstart and Pre-K counts that can help. But many Pennsylvanians agree, we need more funding. 60% of Pennsylvanians to be more exact.

Most families aren’t aware how much government funding and policymaking affects their early learning options.

When the Children Matter Action Fund ran focus groups with families prior to the onset of this project, many participants knew that subsidies come from the government, but beyond that, most were unaware of other policy decisions that affect their early learning experience. The takeaway: decisions made by politicians in Harrisburg will determine the accessibility and affordability of early learning options in PA.

Both providers and families want to be more politically engaged around these issues, but might not know where to start.


Childcare Voters do not endorse candidates, but they let people know what candidates say about early learning issues and provide a ton of content in the Facebook group and email list. The Child Care Voter project, from their research, is really the first-of-its-kind civic movement based around child care and early learning. This movement is gaining momentum already and, for people already involved, feels very exciting and empowering!

Childcare funding and access is important to so many people. I saw the value and need myself. Now that my kids are years into school I want to make sure others have access to childcare and early childhood education. I want to make sure my future grandkids have access to it.

Primary elections are May 17. Read up on this important issue before you vote!

Join me on the Childcare Voters facebook page

Will you become a childcare voter?

A Few Fun Gift Ideas for Teens and Pre-teens That are Budget Friendly

Teens can be hard to buy for, especially if they’re not your child. Teenagers are exploring their own styles, like/dislikes, they still want to have fun but don’t want childish things.

As a mom of 3 teenage boys and aunt to a 14 year old niece, here are some fun ideas for teens. Some may appeal to boys more, some may appeal to girls more, and some have more universal appeal.

Shashibo Shape Shifting Box – Price Point = $20-$25

These cubes fascinated me the first first times I saw ads and video on them. I looked up youtube videos on them and I was convinced that I had to get one for each of my kids and my one son’s girlfriend.

The idea of the Shasibo is it’s a puzzle cube. Each with a different theme: Confetti, Moon, Elements, etc. etc. you open up the cube and it immediately starts changing shapes. It comes with a guide to help you create different shapes. The puzzle part is trying to create the shapes and eventually trying to get it back into a cube which doesn’t seem to be an easy feat.

One of the popular things right now is fidget toys. The Shasibo, while a puzzle cube also is being used as a fidget toy. These cubes are just about the same size as a rubics cube. They have been and and out of stock and many retailers with some designs being harder to find than others. The Confetti seems to be a popular one.

Where to find Shashibo Shape Shifting Box

Color Fusion Nail Polish Maker – Price Point $25 – $50

This one would be more geared toward the pre-teens. The Make It Real Color Fusion Nail Polish Maker allows you to create over 200 custom shades of nail polish! Download the app for color matching technology and create a color to match that favorite dress!

It comes with everything needed and has enough supplies for up to 120 manicures or pedicures.

Where to Find Color Fusion Nail Polish Maker

Mini Over the Door Basketball Hoop – Price Point $10 – $40

I don’t know any kids that doesn’t love shooting baskets in a mini basketball hoop. I have one and all 4 of my kids ages 8 – 19 play together. They play games like HORSE, 21, and challenging each other to make shots. These hoops fit easily over any door with a provided hook and most, if not all of them, come with a mini basketball. Some even come with a hand pump for the mini basketballs.

I know the price point is pretty wide but that’s because there are so many to choose from depending on your budget and how sturdy of a basketball hoop you’re hoping for. Some even have extra things like LED scoring or glow in the dark features.

Waterproof mini bluetooth speaker – Price Point = $15 – $50

But my kids/niece/nephew/grandchild already has a bluetooth speaker. Yea so do my kids but, the mini waterproof speakers are great for a few reasons but I highly recommend getting one with a clip rather than a string.

My one son got one when he was around 13 or 14 years old. He would clip it to his backpack to take with him while riding his bike so he could listen to music. He’d take it to the basketball court or volleyball courts when hanging with his friends. He used it in the shower. He took it to the pool. And it’s all good because it’s waterproof, travel-friendly, and reasonably priced.

In fact, my husband liked the one my son had so I got him one for Christmas a few years ago. He likes to use it in the shower or when we go to the beach.

Downfall is the teen your gifting it to would need to have a smartphone to get the most use out of it. It can be used with a laptop, tablet or other bluetooth device but for grab and go purposes, a smartphone is best.

Amazon has a big selection. You can find them priced anywhere from $12 – $75. Some examples I’d consider buying my own kids would be:

Pixicade Mobile Game Maker

I saw this as part of a virtual holiday toy expo a couple months ago. I knew I had to get one for my 12 year old. This is great for any kids who is either: Into video games, loves creating, wants to be a game designer someday, or loves their tech.

Pixicade allows your pre-teen/teen to create their own video game of sorts. You purchase a Pixicade kit. It comes with game templates, quick start guide, 2 QR codes to download the app (added value so you can buy 1 kit for two kids if you want), high quality markers, stickers.

There are two different kits Pixicade which is $19.99. Your pre-teen or teen can create up to 1200 games. Pixicade Plus $29.99 allows them to create up to 2000 games and comes with extra stickers, more game templates, and an extra set of markers.

Interesting story, it was created by a husband and wife team. The wife is an educator, illustrator and art teacher. The husband is a software engineer. They wanted to make it fun and educational. Encourage kids creative thinking and problem solving skills.

The kid you’re gifting it to does need access to a smart phone or tablet though to be able to play.

Where to buy Pixicade

I would also check stores locally. I actually saw some at my local Giant Eagle about a week or so ago.

Honorable Mention – Dribble Up

So I like this idea but there’s two thing holding me back from giving it an all-in recommendation.

DribbleUp has smart soccer balls, smart basketballs, and other smart active devices. I think the basketball and soccer ball are great for kids that are all in on those sports. You use an app, scan your smart ball, and run though dribbling, kicking, traps, and other drills using the app. It helps kids hone in their skills, increase stamina, improve skills, and increase confidence. They can take live or on-demand classes with trainers.

So what is holding me back? Well right now they’re on sale which puts them at $50 for the soccer ball and $60 for the basketball on sale. Not too bad on sale but if they’re not on sale they’re around $99. The second thing holding me back is that the app has a $9.99 monthly fee. I also feel it would be a more personalized gift for the teen that’s all about soccer or basketball depending on which one you choose.

Here’s a DribbleUp Youtube video on the smart basketball to get an idea what it does

Where to buy DribbleUp

DribbleUp website

This post does contain affiliate links. I will earn a small commission from some links in this post from sales made through them. Prices in this post are up to date as of the time of this post. Other stores may have certain items but I only included links in which they were in stock at the time of this post.

Black Friday Sale: Blender Free Smoothies 40% OFF!

This time of year, it is so easy to not stay on track with our healthy eating. There are cookies, candies, and indulgent drinks around every corner including some that are only out for the holidays. (Oh man do I love me a chesnut praline latte from Starbucks).

When you’re cooking holiday meals, decorating, shopping, wrapping, writing out holiday cards, etc sometimes meal prepping goes to the wayside and quick meals on-the-go take their place. I mean, I get it, we can’t do everything!

If you’re determined to stay on track and need an easy way to do it, check out Evive blender-free smoothies!

Evive Nutrition1

I know, it took me a minutes to wrap my head around blender free smoothies. But Evive makes it easy.

Healthy food made easy >> Evive Blender-free Smoothies

You can get a box shipped directly to you. You can choose a box of 15 or 25. You get to choose your flavors and how many of each too. When you’re ready to enjoy just pop the cubes into a cup, add your liquid of choice and allow the cubes to melt, and voila! it’s ready to enjoy. A much quieter alternative than running a blender in the morning and less time consuming then chopping and prepping fruits and veggies right?

You stopped by my little blog and took the time to read this. Thank you. So you won’t pay full price either! I won’t allow it. You can save 40% off your first box during the Evive Black Friday sale with code: BF40

The Black Friday coupon code expires 11/30/21 so grab those savings (and healthy smoothies) while you can!

This post does contain affiliate links. I will earn a small commission from sales made through my links

Dirt Devil Endura Max XL Review

I received the Dirt Devil Endura Max XL at no cost review through Bzzagent. I decided to write a review on my blog about this particular vacuum because I really have a lot to say about it.

I want to start by saying, I’ve gone through over my fair share of vacuums. I’ve tried everything from higher end pricier vacuums like Dyson to budget friendly Walmart specials. I’ve mostly bought brand new vacuums but I did roll the dice on a few refurbs. Vacuums never seem to last more than a year or 2 for us no matter the style, price, or brand. We are a family of 6 with 3 cats. I run a robot vacuum daily and run an upright vacuum at least twice a week, sometime more. I do that because the robot vacuum just doesn’t get all the tighter areas and corners. I’ve also tried two different brands robot vacuums for the record. So I feel like I have a good comparison and can give a fair judgment on a vacuum.

So I received the Dirt Devil Endura Max XL in the mail. I unbox the vacuum and find my owner’s manual and set up info. I’ve set up quite a few vacuums. I found this one to be just a little confusing. Instead of the hose being one piece it’s actually two pieces. The written instructions for setup are minimal and the pictures are black and white and not very detailed. The pictures make it seem like the hose is all one piece but of course it’s not. I tried looking up youtube videos but to no avail. I finally figured out where it should go and I was ready to use the vacuum.

After the slight confusion with the set up, I also noticed that the materials used for the suction tube, hose, and suction tube release button were a pretty cheap plastic. It does not seem like it will be very durable. Especially in my house which is apparently hard on vacuums.

So I turn the vacuum on and, oh my goodness, it is absolutely the loudest vacuum I’ve ever owned. Even my husband was complaining about the noise. This vacuum also vibrates much more than I’m used to with other vacuums I’ve owned. I found myself not wanting to run the vacuum after the kids go to bed (which is usually the time I like to do it. I’m a night owl.) I also don’t want to run this vacuum in the mornings because my husband works night shift and I don’t want to wake him up.

So is there any good news Ang?

Yes, I can’t say I should just throw the whole vacuum away. The suction does appear to be pretty good. I had no issue vacuuming up popcorn, getting crumbs out of corners in the kitchen or vacuuming up cat hair. It’s really light weight for the size of the vacuum so it’s not a burden to carry it upstairs.

It’s multi-surface with different surface settings. I had no issues using it on my tile floors in my kitchen, hardwood floors in the living room, or carpeting in the bedrooms. It came with a couple attachments which were easy to apply and use on my furniture.

The canister works much like any other canister vacuum I’ve owned. Easy to open and empty the contents of the canister. Easy to replace the filter when needed.

The power cord length, I would say, is sufficient. I’ve had vacuums with longer cords, I’ve had vacuums with shorter cords. If I was wishing, I’d have the cord be another 3 feet longer or so but this part isn’t a deal breaker for me.

In Summary

If the noise isn’t an issue for you, you need a light-weight vacuum, and you’re not hard on vacuums like my family is then this would probably work out for you. It does the job.

Depending on the site, this vacuum is being listed with a retail price of $90 – $96. Had I paid that price out of pocket for this vacuum I would have been very disappointed. I don’t see myself using this vacuum much in my house especially since I have other options available. I think this will be one that I send off with one of my older boys to college or to their first place to get them started.

Juice Drinkers! This Online Community Is For YOU! Earn Rewards Too!

This post is a sponsored post.

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