By Audrey Harman, Contributing Writer
Though Kristina Schnack Kotlus has lived in Prince William her entire life—aside from attending College of the Holy Cross in western Massachusetts—her website www.pwcmoms.com is deﬁnitely “going places.” She was born at Prince William Hospital, graduated from C. D. Hylton High School and chose to raise her family in Lake Ridge.
Kotlus homeschools her three children: a preschooler, a ﬁrst grader and a third grader. When her oldest was two years old, Kotlus began an online events calendar for a playgroup she was involved in. It became very popular with the other parents, who encouraged her to expand the calendar by adding event and venue reviews. She took their advice, and this mix of information and opinion naturally evolved into a blog dedicated to highlighting family-friendly events and activities in the greater Prince William area.
According to Kotlus, her site features the occasional “traditional” blog post and always has local activities to do with children—both the little ones and teens—thus saving other moms from doing the research. Kotlus likes to list free activities so families can focus on their time together and worry less about expenses. Every Friday PWC Moms highlights a local charitable organization and oﬀers prize giveaways. Other favorite topics include seasonal activities and those that oﬀer academic enrichment.
With a high percentage of the Prince William workforce serving in the military or working for the federal government, Kotlus spoke of the constant ﬂux of people moving in and out of the area. Her website allows those recent transplants to quickly plug into the pulse of the community, as well as introducing longtime residents to new activities.
“As a mother of four, it helps to ﬁnd out what is worth my time and money,” said Sheri Suess, a longtime resident of Prince William. “I don’t always have time to ﬁnd out what is going on in our community, but thankfully, Kristina does it for me. I appreciate that. I have tried things based on her blog or attended suggested events. She is the voice of Prince William.”
Kotlus explains that PWC Moms is a way for her to share her love of this community, which she describes as a great place to start a family. “Prince William is great, because you can have it both ways: the experience of D.C. and big-city life, government, politics and business, but also the farms, space between neighbors, and the history,” she said. “There’s less stress [than in the city], you can support local business and you and your kids can just have fun.”
When the site ﬁrst began, Kotlus would post about whatever activities she and her kids were doing. As popularity of the blog grew, she has been fortunate to meet people who facilitate her visits. Business owners, librarians and people aﬃliated with local parks send her information on activity ideas, along with others who may have a “ﬁnger on the pulse of what readers get excited about,” she said.
Kotlus designed the website to be very user-friendly, with plenty of pictures, maps to events and “tags” that categorize past posts. All of the events and activities highlighted on PWC Moms are organized for families to enjoy, and are always kid-friendly. The site also highlights crafts, family safety tips and business reviews. Kotlus says that she is very honest about products and services, even if the company advertises on her site. A disclaimer for potential advertisers reads: “I always reserve the right to share my true experience with users. That means that even if a sponsor provides me with free product, if I’m not happy with it, I’m going to tell you.”
“If she blogged about the experience or product, then I read her write-up,” said Suess. “What I love about Kristina is her absolute honesty. She doesn’t sugarcoat anything so I know I am getting a ‘real’ opinion.”
PWC Moms was voted Best Blog of 2012 by Northern Virginia magazine, and gets 200,000 hits per month. Readers can also stay connected via Facebook, where PWC Moms has over 2,800 “likes” and on Twitter. For Kotlus, her blog success has been a great experience for both her and her family, who get to do activities they might not have been able to otherwise. “We’ve been to Disney on Ice and Ringling Brothers, but my favorite venues and my real purpose and passion are local places for real moms: playgrounds like Fantasy in Lake Ridge, indoor options like House of Bounce in Manassas, and places like Gymboree, Prince William Ice Center and Edgemoor Art Studio,” said Kotlus.
“It’s become way more than I ever thought it would be,” said Kotlus. “I thought it would just be four or ﬁve people from my kids’ playgroup who might use the calendar, but it has surpassed any expectation.”
Kotlus loves for her readers to share their experiences, good or bad. “ere’s just one of me,” she acknowledged. “I can’t be everywhere at once, so I like my readers to share both positive and negative experiences. I might have visited a venue two years ago and it could have changed since then.”
Aside from her busy blog schedule and, of course, keeping her children engaged in local activities, Kotlus also writes for hyperlocal news site www.PotomacLocal.com and our very own Prince William Living. Connect with her at www.pwcmoms.com or www.facebook.com/pwcmoms for the lastest posts and discussions. If you know of a local activity that is family friendly, don’t hesitate to ask Kotlus to post it on her calendar. Fun activities for you and your family are just a click away, and happening right in your own community!
Author Audrey Harman has a BA in English and Spanish fromHollins University and is working towards her MA in Publications Design at the University of Baltimore. She currently resides inWoodbridge and can be reached at aha[email protected].