Rate My Park – Summer Series Part 2

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An Earnest Experience in Erie County Pennsylvania

All summer long, Fridays will be designated to exploring parks in Erie County PA and rating them!  The Earnest Littles and I are having a blast park hopping and seeing what is out there!  Each post will give a final rating out of 10 for the overall park and then we will break down the categories.  For each park we are looking at equipment, cleanliness, bathroom options, parent spots and picnic facilities.

Please note, the opinions given in this post/rating are our opinions alone and do not speak for the parks, the townships or anyone else.  Our intent is to give a glimpse of our experience and how much we, as a family liked the park.

Greene Township Playground, 9333 Tate Road, Erie PA 16509

Overall Rating 9.75/10.  Wow!! This playground is amazing.  The play structures are huge and numerous, there is a side designed for children 5-12 years old, and 3-5 years old – perfect for our kiddos who range from 4-12 years – and it was mainly all fenced in.  There was so much to do we felt like if we left too soon, we would miss out on all the fun.  The running, laughter and joyous screams were aplenty as many families had made use of this incredible playground while we were there.  There is a massive amount of green space offering gorgeous panoramic views of baseball diamonds, football fields and what appears to be wooded/forested areas.  There is also the Paradise trail that is a ½ mile paved path which goes out to the vast green space behind the playground.  This park we HIGHLY recommend, if you go to any parks this summer, make sure you make it here!

Equipment:  The playground is massive.  I am not sure that I can fully describe it and ensure I have included all the adventure that is available.  On the 5–12-year-old side there is a massive climb structure/climber complete with a walking bridge (that lead to another climber that resembled a gazebo/playhouse), wall climbing, monkey bars, four slides (large covered twirling slide that what the height of the structure, one small one at the first level; and three slides side by side about halfway up the structure, that offered different textures/shapes for sliding experiences).  This is where we lose the 0.25 in the rating, the three slides are bumpy and all three of my kids said they did not enjoy 2/3 slides that are side by side since the ride down was slightly rough.  The ground cover on this side was wooden mulch/wood chips.  The swings were plentiful with six belt swings, one large swinging saucer and an inclusive swing on the 12-5-year-old side, then there were three bucket swings including one that was a parent-child swing on the 3–5-year-old side.

The 3-5-year-old side had a mini merry-go-round, and numerous play/climbing structures that resembled playhouses, a boat (which has an appropriately sized slide), a tractor, and a train.  There was so much to keep little feet busy and to discover from a percussion stand to large displays of braille letters (lower and upper case) and numbers.  The ground cover on this side was the manufactured rubber intact flooring (not the rubber pieces). 

All in all – this park was fully enjoyed from the 4-year-old to the 12-year-old.  In the picture of them, my 7-year-old gave a sideways thumb for the rough slide experience.

Cleanliness:  The park was very clean, there are plenty of trash cans located all over the park that allows for easy access and helps to keep it clean.  The equipment itself is kept up well, with natural wear from use it was pleasantly clean as well.

Bathrooms:  There is a decent bathroom building available for use (it was open when we were at the park).  It was fully stocked with toilet paper and soap at the sinks.  They appear to have at least two toilets per restroom (Men’s or Women’s) both equipped with a handicap option.  However, we did not see a change table option for itty bitty ones.

Parent Spots: There are numerous of benches located right by the playground, a few even had shade from some nearby trees.  The benches were located all around the playground equipment as well, lots of options – some had natural tree shade and on the 3–5-year-old side, there were benches with pergolas above them.

Picnic Facilities: Two large pavilions (one was smaller) with many wooden picnic tables fully.

Stay tuned for our next review.  Live in Erie County?  Have you been to this park?  What are your thoughts?

Enjoy the Wow, Earnest Advice from Daniel Tiger

I am not sure about you but two main shows watched in the earnest home are Mister Roger’s Neighborhood and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, at least once a day. I have to admit, watching Mister Rogers with my children strikes such a nostalgic cord especially when our family values line up so perfectly with his. Needless to say, we are big big fans. A current song that is sung here is “Groo-own ups come back,” since separation anxiety is alive and well with our littlest one. If you watch Daniel Tiger, you know the tune. 🙂 Matter of fact, you may have sung it out loud just now – no worries, I did too. I get it.

Well this weekend came to a chaotic end with the craziness that is caused by the dreaded Spring Forward time change. The earnest littles did not fall asleep until 1.5 hours passed their normal bedtime, which is something we rarely have to deal with. Our kids are typically in bed by 8 and sleeping by 8:30, I truly cannot complain about my children and their sleep since they go down and stay down from 10-11 hours…”hashtag blessed,” and I know it!

This weekend was something different, something we were not quite prepared for. The struggle, the exhaustion only amplified by the time change. Earnest Dad and I have this unspoken agreement where we alternate who gets up with kids while the other gets to snooze a little longer. This Sunday morning was my day and 5:04 am my alarm clock toddler came-a-calling. (Which was actually 4:04 am real time lol). I was exhausted, but somehow we pulled them together and made it to church with ten minutes to spare! It was intense and busy – but it worked out.

Before church, I sat on the couch in the dark at 5:30 am hoping my little guy and I could nap a little before church; when he started singing and calling out “Mama, Dada” just to hear his voice echo, I knew we were up for good. Trying to keep us from waking the whole household I turned on the trusty show that is, Daniel Tiger. As I am snuggled up with my squishy little guy and wishing he would take a snooze so I could catch some Z’s Daniel Tiger threw this song at me. “Enjoy the wow that’s happening now.” Instantly my mama heart was convicted – it was true, I needed to enjoy the wow that was happening now. In comparison, Daniel Tiger’s ice treat was melting while he was wishing he could try all the other ice flavors and he was missing the chance to enjoy the flavor he currently had. Where, here I was sitting with my precious last baby whilst wishing for a moment of extra rest.

It is all about perspective mamas, it makes all the difference and I hear that all the time but it is in these moments when I need to hear it again and again. Trying to see the day is so imperative versus trying to seize the day, or wishing and hoping for different days ahead. I do not want to miss one single delicious moment with my children especially while I still have one home with me. Our last few hours of the day when all of us have eaten dinner together in the crazy tailspin that happens from full little bellies; the early dark hours of the morning that give way to the coziest snuggles; the laughter that comes when I catch splashes from the bathtub; the songs being sung in our loudest voices as we drive; and the sleepy prayers we say together before we say goodnight…please Lord let me hold on to these moments just a little bit longer.

Maybe take a moment today to breathe and then look at the small blessings before you; I am slowly learning that not everything has to be perfect before I can enjoy it!

x. earnest mom.

Earnestly Seeing the Moment. The Overwhelming Moments of a SAHM.

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Let me set the scene, it is after dinner and usually the dishes wait until after the kids go to bed…or sometimes until the following morning. Anyway, it is after dinner, we have full bellies, family conversations have ended and next we watch a show or two then start bedtime routines. We head into the TV room, earnest dad kicks up his feet the in recliner and I am in my usual corner of the sectional. All of the sudden I cannot breathe – all three earnest littles are on top of me. Literally two on my lap and another snuggled so close next to me it almost hurts! To be honest, I get overwhelmed.

I am the type of person who likes her own space, I am a snuggler but after being home with the kids all day while earnest dad works – my love tank is full. I am ready for the littles to be all over daddy and let this mama breathe. I look over to earnest dad, reclined, relaxed and maybe even dozing a bit and I get overwhelmed.

There are times in the day, when the kids are running and screaming, fighting and crying, trying to pull me away from cooking dinner to “watch this” or they are too quiet and in a massive panic I rush in to see what is going on. In these moments I am desperate for earnest dad to walk through the door so I can pee alone or at least without children crying and banging down the door. Again, I find myself feeling overwhelmed.

That chaotic hour between home from school and dinner time, when I have to focus of chopping, boiling, tossing and cooking (food not my kids lol) are sometimes the craziest moments of the day. I have to be mom, tutor, playmate, personal chef, or heaven forbid the business phone rings and I have to toss all my hats off to wear the self employed secretary and scheduling hat. I am trying to keep it all together and sound professional, I get overwhelmed.

A few nights ago, kiddos all tucked up in bed and earnest dad working on his reports I was able to sit with my book and some tea, then I started reflecting on my day. It is such an incredible, blessed, exhausting, confidence testing, love never ending, over the top kind of ride, this wild ride that is motherhood. As I sat in my peace, my quiet, my still I start to already miss those squishy little feet tucked under my thigh, the warmth of the toddler and preschool bodies resting heavily on my lap and the arms of love intertwined on my arm as my nine year old lays his head on my shoulder. I got overwhelmed, I missed them and my love for then made me want to cry. My perspective shifted and I remembered the line from the brilliant Lisa Jo Baker’s latest book The Middle Matters,

“I am not asking you to seize the day, just to make sure you actually see it.” – The Middle Matters

So many times I allow the sense of overwhelm take over and I cannot wait to get out of the moments I am in. I cannot wait until, the kids are settled, sleeping, older, quieter or even gone to school. I realize I waste so much of my current moments getting sucked into wishing for different times and I completely forget to see the precious and delicious moments I am currently in.

As we get older we look back on the ‘good ol’times’ with nostalgia and desire to go back. Right now, today I am in the good old days I will look back on, (Hopefully when I am surrounded by my grandchildren and reminding myself they get to go home with their parents, lol). Nonetheless I needed to get out of the rut of longing for a different time and see the moments I am in, before I miss them altogether.

I have the amazing privilege to stay home with my little ones and I have started to make that effort to start earnestly seeing the moments laid before me. It is okay to feel a bit overwhelmed from time to time, but I am working diligently to stop wishing for something different and start finding joy in the moment I am in. Being present is one of the best gifts I can give my children and I know I have a lot more I can give.

x. earnest mom.

It’s Happy Here. An Earnest Anecdote.

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“It’s happy here!” My oldest earnest little cried out amongst the laughter at the dinner table. As we all laughed together trying our best “dad” jokes, my heart leapt when I heard those words.

As a mom, I am constantly bombarded by the world, social media, parenting books telling me who and what I should be. That is all well and good I know, I do glean what works in our earnest home; but there are times I cannot help but look to those picture perfect Pinterest-Insta-Worthy pictures and compare.

Maybe if we did more crafts.

Maybe if we did more alphabet practicing.

Maybe if we played more sports.

Maybe if we ate more organic.

Maybe if I was more, more, more!

It is sometimes overwhelming to try and be more than I could ever be and in those moments, those self-doubt enemy of my peace moments, I need to tell myself “I am ENOUGH.” And when I cannot voice it to myself, the Lord does through my kids.

“It’s happy here.” Just three words but oh, the weight they carry. My children do not look to me and think “I wish you were more (fill in blank).” No, they run to me with huge open arms, squeeze me so tight sometimes I lose my breathe. It is incredible how they see the world – happy. They love me, as I am, whether my hair is combed or not, whether there are boogers on my shirt or not, whether I am perfect or not. Which I will tell you reader, the latter I am most definitely not.

“It’s happy here” is now my mama-motto. (Seriously, I had vinyl stickers made up and stuck to my kitchen door!) Remembering no matter what, in our home, or wherever we are together, it is happy here.

I do not know what it is in your home that will make you want to shout out “It’s happy here!” as my eldest did, but I charge you to find it. Seek it. Welcome that happiness with open arms, do not let the “picture perfect” ideals take away the happy time you have together. These sweet, sticky and delicious summers fly by in a flash. Find your happy, and keep it there. Sometimes, just ten minutes of happy a day can change the entire year; that is 3,600 minutes of happy in one year. You got this mamas, one day at a time, let’s look around and find moments that cry out “it’s happy here.”

x. em.

Earnest Bedtimes + the 5 Stages of Grief.

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A slightly comical look at our bedtime routine, remember what may work for one family may not for another. Glean what you may and enjoy!

Typically these two things are not correlated, well not formally but I have come to discover that every single night my children (particularly my darling sweet middle child) experience ALL five stages of grief at bedtime. Here is a typical night at the earnest household, where both earnest dad and I are usually home as we try our best to have dinner as a family and visit together before bedtime.

Stage one: Denial.

Picture it: dinner is done, the kiddos are finishing homework, or chores; then we like to enjoy a show on Netflix before bedtime starts. So we are usually all snuggled up in the living room together and around 7:20 pm I announce “5 minutes and it is time to start potty and brushing teeth.” The reaction: my 9 year old instantly bolts from the couch in disbelief to check the clock in the kitchen; my 4 year old laments, “whaaaaat?! We have just had dinner, it is not time for bedtime yet.” And my 16 month old yells out “teeeeeeth” (he is just excited to brush his teeth). This first stage usually last about 2-3 minutes before the next stage hits.

Stage two: Anger.

Earnest dad or I typically reply to the confusion, “yes, we have about five minutes and then we need to start brushing teeth and going to bed.” My 9 year old, “ugh, why can’t I stay up????” And he may or may not be stomping or dropping to the floor. My 4 year old, “what?! Bedtime?! No!!!” Followed by her loud, tear-filled cry and hugs. My 16 month old, “teeeeth.” He is still excited to brush his teeth.

Stage three: Bargaining.

My 9 year old calms and slyly sits down next to me and asks the following in a hushed voice, “mom, can I stay up just a little bit later tonight? Please? Just a little.” My 4 year old, wiping tears and calming down, “wait” sniffle, sniffle, “can we watch just one more episode?” And my 16 month old, he has gotten up walked to the bathroom and is waiting for someone to open the door to hand him his toothbrush.

Stage four: Depression.

Here we get full on tears, and earnest dad and I stay firm. “Okay guys, time is up let’s go potty and get our teeth brushed.” All kids sadly get up, turn off the TV and head to the bathroom where the chaos of toothpaste, toothbrushes, potty time scheduling and a quick diaper change for the littlest happens. Then boom, we are all walking upstairs together and this is where the final stage sets in.

Stage five: Acceptance.

Kids are calm, I am usually with our 4 year old daughter and earnest dad takes the boys to their room. I tuck her in, we read a book, say prayers, give kisses and back scratches and, as I wind up her musical unicorn jewelry box she turns to me and says: “mama, what we doing tomorrow?” We review the plans for the next day and as I walk out of her room I get one final “night mama, I love you.” As I close her door I hear the same events taking place in the boys’ room. Their love tanks are full and, my earnest heart is overflowing.

By 8:00 pm all three are in bed, where they stay all night. And since realizing this routine they experience every night before bed, I am able to know just what to expect. There is so much joy in that, I find our bedtimes even in the 5 stages are smooth and fun. By the time we are heading upstairs the tears have turned to giggles, the cries have turned to ‘I love you’s’ and the one goal earnest dad and I try to meet every night in our marriage is being met with our children: never go to bed angry.

I know I am comparing parts of our night with the stages of grief, but when you are little and every day is the ‘best day ever,’ why would you want it to end? I am so blessed by this predictable, earnest little event we have every night; it is in this routine we all find the comfort we need to sleep peacefully in our earnest little home. Let me know what your bedtime routine looks like? What works for you, and do your children experience any of the 5 Stages of Grief before bed??

x. earnest mom.

Motherhood: A wild and incredibly blessed ride!

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Wild and blessed, two words that can describe exactly where I am right now.

I am always shocked when I hear the words: ” I do not know how you do it” or “how do you get anything done in a day?” Honestly, I never feel like I hit the mark, I rarely feel like I have gotten anything done in a day and sometimes the only gage I have that I’ve accomplished something is by my husband’s reaction when he come in the door.

Seriously, as a stay at home mom to an 8, 4 and 1 year old my time feels like it is spent assessing risk factors from wild toddler antics, throwing snacks out like candy at a parade and refereeing disputes over claims of “bad words being said, walking passed someone too fast or slow, and simply not agreeing on the next show to watch on Netflix.” And yes, my children watch Netflix, I mean yeah, I could totally parent without screen time – I could also churn my own butter but let’s not get too crazy now.

Friends have told me how I seem to have it all together and that my kids are so lucky. I am here to tell you, looks are deceiving. There are days when I get up before my children, make the coffee and have laundry and dishes running before 9:00 am. Those days are rare. To be honest that happened once last week. The rest of the week looked more like me walking out of the bathroom to my two oldest using a half a stick of butter in each hand from the fridge to butter their toast because there was not any softened butter available. No kidding, this was last Wednesday and I chose to look at the fact that not only did they make their own snack, but they did as a team! Yay, MOM WIN!!! Another day I turn around from loading the dishwasher to my one year old eating a burnt waffle he took from the garbage. Perfection?! NO WAY, but like I said I am wildly blessed by this.

In my days as a stay at home mom I have learned to let go and let live. My children are growing so fast, right before my eyes and if I do not stop all of my busyness I will miss on theirs. My house is not always tidy, some days my sink of full of dishes and there have even been times that we have run out of clean laundry; but my kids are loved, happy, fed and safe. Those four elements are a language of love for this mama’s heart, and perspective is everything. My home may be messy but we have a place to live, my sink may have dishes but we have food to eat and laundry may be dirty but we have clothes to wear. My kids may be loud but they have a voice, they may be busy but their have a love of life to live. Pretty soon, in a blink, my kids will be on their own; the house will be perfectly clean and too quiet, and I will miss these wild and blessed days.

I know that I am in no way a perfect mom, but I know I have been made perfectly by God to grow these tiny humans He has given me. I hope that when I fall short I can give them an opportunity to see humility and compassion; when I make mistakes I can help them learn to forgive; and when I hold them, they feel what true love is. I am mothering the best way I know how, I know that the best of me as imperfect as I am is exactly what they need. By this mere fact, I am able to forgive myself the moments when they eat from the trash or use way too much butter, and find joy no matter what. This is us, this is our little life and our little home is massive in love, for truly we are wildly blessed.

Mamas, no matter what season you are in, please know you are perfect just as you are. I love the saying “to the world you are just a mom, but to your children you are the world.” Our little ones have this amazing God-given power to love us mamas unconditionally, let us too start loving ourselves unconditionally too. Doing our best everyday is the best we can for them, and even when we totally fail, guess what?! They will be right there, still loving us.

You are seen, you are loved and you are everything to those little eyes that look to you every morning. You are just what your family needs. Be wild and blessed, the days are long but the years are short.

x. earnest mom.

But I Don’t Like It! Earnest Mom Chats about Picky Eating.

If you don’t have one…you’re bound to one day encounter the ‘picky eater’ and when you do, your parental patience will be put to the test. As a recovered picky eater, I earnestly look for new ways to prevent or tackle this issue. I was recently a part of a Twitter Party discussion, hosted by Happy Family Brands and featuring the expertise of Dietician and food lover, Amy Marlow. Here are some tips that were featured during this chat, which have helped in the earnest household and I hope can help in yours.  Just remember that according to Ms. Marlow, picky eating is 50% biology and 50% experience.

1. Infancy is prime time for introducing a food, just be sure to never pressure baby to eat and look for signs of solid food readiness (such as showing interest in table food or mommy’s food, baby is willing to chew and baby no longer pushes food out of their mouth). Remember this is the best time to offer a variety of colors, flavors and textures!

2.  Don’t give up.  Most of us give up offering a refused food after three or four times and we decide that they do not like the food.  Food refusal can depend on many factors, temperature, mood of child and even the time of day.  Be sure to offer foods ten to fifteen times before deciding your child does not like it.  Just keep trying!

3.  Have children (toddler and older) assist in grocery shopping such as choosing fruits and vegetables, that way when they are home they will be more prone to eating the foods they have chosen.  If this method is successful maybe do a challenge of one new fruit or vegetable that the family tries together each week.  That way your child will be exposed to more flavors and textures (healthy ones if they are fruits or veggies), and mom and dad will be trying them too so it’s a communal effort from the whole family.

4.  If your child is showing tendencies toward being a picky eater, do not offer high sugar, high calorie and low nutrient options.  If you are going to offer alternatives stick to healthy ones.  It will be better and healthier for both parents and child in the long run.

5.  Have a rule at the dinner table, often times “I don’t like it” is heard before a child even tries their meal.  Make a rule that everyone must try one bite of everything on their plate before they decide they do not like it.  As hard as it may be, be patient during this process and support your child if they are at least trying the foods you are offering.

6.  Never do any of these:

  • Use foods as a reward, using sweets or other unhealthy treats as a reward for finishing dinner or eating something they do not care for can actually undermine the healthy examples that you are working so hard to have for your child.
  • Label your child a picky eater.  One hundred percent of the time, children who are told they are picky, will be picky.
  • Never hide vegetables in your food.  I mean, go ahead and disguise them or make them taste better, but never intentionally “trick” your child into eating something.  Even though they do not know that a food may be present in their food, be honest with your child, tell them what they are eating.  This approach allows children to recognize and appreciate the many forms and flavors that foods can bring to a variety of dishes.  On a whole, earnest mom would insist that we do not lie to our children.

Like I said, as a recovered picky child and I would earnestly urge parents to not give up! There are still some foods that I am just not a fan of (corn or peas on their own, oh and Jello) but I once read that our taste buds actually change all of the time.  So I am always willing to try, and we do the same with earnest boy (he has inherited my texture dislikes like Jello) and we get him to try foods he does not like about every month or so.  Slowly but surely his palette is growing quite rapidly.  So all you earnest moms and dads out there, be patient, set the example and help your children enjoy food!  Below I have also attached a great nutrition guide link from Happy Family Brands to help!

x.

earnest mom

Happy Family Nutrition Guides