5 Kid-Friendly Things To Do In The Southern Tier

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

My family lives along the PA/NY border in an incredibly rural town. We are surrounded by hills and mountains which is why our area has been dubbed, “The Endless Mountains”. Coming from the hustle and bustle of South Florida, where everything is practically in your backyard, it can be very difficult for me to find things to do with my daughter that don’t require driving long distances; I’m used to flatland and you don’t find that here. That being said, if you’re ever thinking about making a trip to Central New York or North-Central, PA, here are 5 Kid-Friendly activities you can enjoy with your family:

Farmland Animal Park:

As the warmth of Spring is slowly arising, what better way to get out and enjoy the fresh, farm air than visiting your favorite farm animals. Farmland Animal Park is located in Chemung, NY just over the PA/NY border. Families get to pet the animals, take wagon rides and use the paddle boats. There is also a covered patio with picnic tables for a perfect spot to eat lunch (you can bring your own food) or host birthday parties. My daughter Aubrey and her cousin loved hanging out with the “moo-moos” and you can see the horse liked the snacks she was hiding in her stroller 🙂

A Binghamton Rumble Ponies Game

If you’re a fan of the NY Mets, a fan of baseball itself or, just a fan of ballpark food; the Binghamton Rumble Ponies are for you! This team is part of the NY Mets minor league and they are located right in our backyard; well, essentially. Aubrey got the chance to go last summer with her grandparents and aunts (my family) when they were visiting from Florida and even got to see Tim Tebow (#15); though that was his last season. Make sure to load up on sunscreen, glasses and hats and get out there to watch these boys play ball.

Watkin’s Glen State Park:

Watkins Glen is one of my all-time favorite places to visit throughout the year. It is, generally, fairly busy during mid-late May through the end of Summer as this is when the Gorge Trail is open. While it is the best trail, in my opinion, people flock to the park at this time and it can be quite slippery so wear good shoes. There is also a pool that the family can cool down in after the hike (obviously this is not open year-round). However, the other trails are open all year and can make for some beautiful photos overlooking the gorge. Aubrey wanted to be carried on our hike but she also got to cool of in the picnic area afterward. The first two photos were actually taken on her 1st birthday. It was June, and it was HOT, so I let her splash in one of the shallow sections or the gorge. The last picture is from our visit in December 2015 and just goes to show how pretty it is at all times.

The Cider Mill & Cidermill Stage

Keeping up with the seasonal trend, what better way to celebrate Fall than pictures in a pumpkin patch? The Cider Mill, located in Endicott, NY, is a landmark in the Twin Tiers and provides seasonal produce, candy apples, doughnuts and, of course, apple cider. Not only can you take pictures of your kids among the gourds outside, you can tour the mill and witness the cider in production. The walls are covered in informational text on the mill’s history and process. Season begins the first Thursday in August and runs through December 1st but they also host theater productions all year long at the Cidermill Stage. This can even be a great date spot 😉

Chuck E. Cheese

Call it whatever you want but going outside with a toddler in the Winter is an absolute joke. Here in the Southern Tier we occasionally get snow starting around Halloween and sometimes ending in May. Being a Floridian, that is considered a problem. I honestly haven’t found too many activities to do with my (almost) 2-year old in this area but I can say that good-ole Mr. Cheese does the trick when you’ve been cooped up for, literal, months. Whether Shane Dawson is correct or not (look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about), a couple hours of pizza, arcade games and carousel rides are a God-send in times like these!

What do you like to do with your family throughout the year? Let me know some of your favorite places to visit with kids in your area; maybe one day we will get to check them out!

Finding A Work/Life Balance That Works

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

I recently went through a, sort of, just past quarter-life crisis. I turned 30 at the end of January and, during that time, I developed my 30 Things and 30 Dreams post. Through writing this post I discovered that some of the things I want to accomplish were easily attainable I just needed to create the time and space to achieve them. In reflecting on that, I found an area of my life that I could potentially manage and push myself in a positive direction toward my dreams.

Many people do not know that I went back to work shortly after giving birth to my daughter; like one week after. This is especially shocking considering she spent the first few days of her life in a NICU about 45 mins away from home (I’ll post more on her birth story at another time as it is still very hard to process). We just weren’t in a financial position, and still aren’t, for me to quit my job and stay home. I didn’t start off full-time, I was able to work remotely/from Florida and, I am beyond thankful my boss was so flexible, but it was literally within one week of delivery that I began picking up tasks related to my job and had to spend time away from my little girl. It has been almost two years and that is still one of my biggest “mom guilt” factors. After returning full-time, 6 weeks later, I was able to take her to work with me a few days a week when my mother in-law had to work. When she was about 7 months old, I picked up a new project and I could no longer keep her entertained while also typing up my reports and attending to the needs of my clients; so she began going to another family member’s home those days. Throughout this past year our childcare situations have shifted a few times and she now spends three days with my mother in-law and two days at the babysitter’s. Well, she did.

Remember when I said I needed to create time and space in my life to achieve some of the dreams on my list? Over the past month I have been working four 10hr days so that I can spend all day Friday with my baby who, isn’t a baby anymore. In doing so I’ve been able to make progress on five of my dreams just by freeing up one day.

What My Week Typically Looks Like:

Monday-Thursday: I wake up at 6am to have my coffee, take the dogs out and get ready to leave by 6:30. This is my way of putting dream 24 into action; waking up before my daughter for “me” time. Aubrey is still asleep when I leave so my husband, Tyler, gets her ready for the day and sends her to either my mother in-law or the babysitter before being at his desk (he works from home) by 8am. Most days, he makes the bed sometime before I get home by 5:30, accomplishing dream 18 😉

Friday: Tyler’s alarm goes off at 7am every morning and, generally, Aubrey is still asleep. I get up either way and have coffee or tea and make her breakfast and, before Tyler starts work, I make the bed. The rest of the day is, for the most part, unplanned other than the fact that I know I will do a good clean of the house. I developed a chore chart for Tyler and I, that I will share more on later, which has helped us keep the house clean in a “tidy” sense but Fridays are my days for thorough cleaning. As the weather gets warmer, and I spend more time with this new schedule, I am sure I will find other activities such as catching up with friends and meeting other moms (dream 14). But,so far, we have been coloring, painting, playing with textures, working on letters and having epic toddler temper tantrums…and sometimes mommy tantrums if those are a thing.

The “Weekend”: Now that we have been following our chore chart, and I’ve been doing most of the cleaning on Friday (progress towards maintaining a clean and clutter free home-dream 17), we have the full weekend to enjoy each other’s company and get out of the house. We take turns on who gets to sleep in and I make the bed both days. On Sunday morning I don’t wake up in a “panic” feeling like the weekend has gotten away from me. We are working toward dream 16 (attending church regularly) but the winter ickies have had us down so I am praying for warmer weather and good health soon!

How I Did It:

I will start by saying that I know this schedule isn’t for everyone. I’m beyond thankful that I have a job that is, mostly, very flexible in terms of where and when the work is done. This schedule wouldn’t work if I was still a teacher and I’m aware there are many other jobs where it just does not make sense but, in my case, it did. I’m also very aware that this type of thing isn’t preferable for some but, if you’re interested, this is what I did.

  1. Self Reflection: I started by being honest with myself that I wasn’t happy with my current work situation. This is not to say that I don’t love my job, because I certainly do, there are just components of my job that I am better at than others. I am a people person and I love interacting and doing the case management side of my job; I do not like the documentation side. Giving myself 4 days to document my notes, instead of five, forces me to stay on top of my game and complete them in a timely manner if I want to have my Fridays off.
  2. Planning: I was actually sitting in the parking lot of my Drs. office after my lovely PAP when I thought this through (ladies, this is your reminder to schedule it and don’t skip it). Before moving on to the next step I had to know exactly how this whole idea would play out. How many hours a day did I want to work, if I took off one day; which one would it be? I knew that, at the beginning of the school year, I had originally planned myself to only be at the office on Mondays and Friday but never at a school (I don’t teach but I work with 7 of our local school districts). This meant that I would not be interfering with any of my already scheduled visits for the remainder of the year if I took Fridays off and I would be able to have the whole day with my daughter instead of interrupting nap time if I were to were half days. I also thought about the specific hours I wanted to work. I could still go in at 8 but I wouldn’t get off until 6 and, by the time I got home, she’d be eating dinner without me and getting sleepy and ready for bed. I decided on 7:00-5:00 as Tyler doesn’t get off until 5 anyway (and he works from home remember).
  3. Communication: I talked to my husband about what this would mean for him. Communication is key in a marriage and it is so important to be on the same page and in agreement. As you can see above, my new schedule requires Tyler to get Aubrey ready and off to whoever is providing care for her that day. It isn’t a problem for him to take care of our daughter it is just something I generally did most days, albeit rushed, as I got ready too. I am thankful that he was on board and told me he would support whatever I thought would make things better.
  4. Asking: The final step was to present this idea to the person who had the power to make it happen; my boss. I actually have a great relationship with my boss and I consider her a good friend; I know not everyone has that but it is nice. I am pretty sure she called me while I was in that parking lot and I decided to ask because the plan was fresh in my mind. We discussed the logistics and she said she thought it could be a good idea and, as long as it didn’t interfere with my school visits, she didn’t see why it wouldn’t work. She reminded me that it would be difficult to wake up early if I wasn’t used to it and it could be difficult to stay later when everyone else was leaving at 4:00 so she asked that I do it on a trial basis for the month of March and I could reevaluate it at the end of the month to see how well I was able to manage.

I am happy to say that this plan has been working! It isn’t always perfect as I occasionally need to do something on a Friday but I am able to flex some of those hours throughout the following week. I am thankful that I have been able to find something that allows me to spend more, uninterrupted, time with my daughter and better serve my family. I don’t know if this will be a forever thing but I am willing to keep at it and adjust so it keeps working for me!

Can you relate to any of this? If you can, leave a comment below. If you’ve ever changed your work schedule; why and how did you do it? What have been the results?

❤ Lauren