Diving Into Year Three..

Diving, swimming – any thoughts of water to help alleviate a humid early start to summer in this small area of Ontario are much welcome thoughts. Diving into new experiences. Diving into life. So many ways to explore that free-fall experience that ends in a splash..or a belly flop. It can go either way.

We’re heading into our third year here in Prince Edward County. Life is slower at times but I have thoroughly enjoyed the stolen moments with my family or on my own (when not driving to the ends of the each nearby towns to get the kids or that one shop I really like), to sitting or doing simply nothing and enjoy the beauty of this area.

Prince Edward County is a rich oasis of agricultural land, water, art, music and people.  There is a laid-back friendliness that we have enjoyed from shop owners, neighbours and strangers just trying to help. It’s the whole area – stemming from Belleville to Trenton to PEC that is quite welcoming. It’s not perfect mind you, but it’s real with little pretence.

The most recent example of this mindset happened when I was fortunate enough to have a story accepted for a local anthology called The County Wave. At the reading, as I tried to ignore my shaking hands and looked out at the crowd, I noticed that the people were attentive and encouraging. No cell phones. Afterwards, as I signed anthologies frankly overwhelmed at the praise, I got to talking with another contributor. He was a fellow former city dweller who now lived almost full-time in The County. He had the following to say,

“You know what I like about this area? When I tell someone here I’m an author, they just simply say, that’s great. Let me know where I can find your stuff. In the big city, the first thing they ask is, should I know you?”

It’s just a slightly different perception out here and I think we like it. Most of the time.

As we enter into our third year here, I still get the odd comment or tears from the kids. They miss their really good friends, our old house was cozy etc. etc. What I think they miss the most is the ability to walk outside your door and instantaneously often have people to talk to, kids to play with a park around the corner. I simply tell them, I do too. But I look at what  we are building here. A place for people to visit for as long as they want. A retreat they (and us) will appreciate as life gets busier and busier and takes our family in all different directions. Somewhere our children and their friends will want to come back to, I hope.

I can’t predict the future, all I can do is keep taking them with me as I explore the area showing them the hidden treasures of Prince Edward County. I hide my smile when they slip up and say they’re glad to be home after a long day out doing a multitude of school related activities. I know they will appreciate the quiet as Mr. L and I do, I also know they like how bright the stars shine at night, maybe not the mosquitos, but the view is worth it.

Or maybe not. Maybe they’ll run away to the city or even back to the place where they began their lives. Perhaps they will room with those friends that they have longed for since and that they have managed to stay in touch with. Who knows.

As a parent, the biggest struggle for me the last two years is the constant in and out between home, town and school. Sure, I did it back in the ‘burbs. What parent doesn’t? But add in kilometres and 30-45 minute trips to get pretty much anywhere including groceries and supplies, it adds up. It has meant that we had to make some changes in how we manage life.

Country Living with Kids vs Suburb Living with Kids When You Have Three or More Kids

  • 1 activity per kid vs multiple activities per kid.
  • Groceries or Fresh Markets once a week vs. going to the grocery store every day.
  • Gas up once a week vs gas up every 2 weeks. (On a good week!)
  • Bundling appointments/life stuff into 1 day a week vs spreading it out over a week.
  • Finding after school care when 1 kid has extracurricular activity vs just popping home for an hour with other kids – especially important for work from home parents who still need to finish up work by end of day and can’t do it while sitting in the playground for an hour watching the other kids.
  • Always, always having snacks and waters on hand vs finding a coffee shop.
  • Downloading multiple podcasts or playlists for those long drives vs listening to the radio.
  • Telling the kids they have each other to play with because playdates (unless arranged) do not happen spontaneously vs going over to someone’s house after school.
  • Riding bikes up and down the driveway/organize an outing vs riding around the block.
  • Backyard vs park
  • And lastly – learning to let your twelve-year-old babysit the younger kids so you don’t have to schlep the entire crew out to every single outing that doesn’t involve them.

The list looks daunting and each of these bullet points race through my head every time I am asked, why did you move? Or – was it worth it?

The simple answer is yes.

The above list is just one way of doing things versus another. I choose to view it as a puzzle to solve – is there a good way to deal with a busy five-person household while living in the country? If we simplify things, then yes. If anything, the best thing to come out of this move  is the reminder that our family should be more mindful about what choices we make as well as how we spend our time and money.

Who do we want to spend time with in our home? What activities do the kids really want to do versus just doing them because they are available? Do I really need to go and buy that item or can I make do with that I have? In the suburbs, it’s easy to overbuy, overspend and over schedule because it’s available. Out here in PEC, you have to take a pause and think, how important is that right now?

So, in the long run I believe this has been an important lesson for our family to learn and one I hope my children will take with them as they enter the teen years and beyond. The ability to pause, reflect for a moment and make a choice versus doing things just because they are easy. Do you have to change your life and move out to the country to do this? No way. This practice can be done anywhere and by anyone. We just had to move out of the ‘burbs to learn it.

In the beginning, that current catch word, mindfulness,  was not the reason I thought we moved here. I will often hesitate, wondering how to phrase my answer to that “why did you move out here,” question. So I blurt out the first answer that pops into my head. I tell people we moved because out here, we got a better value for property. It was the best, honest answer I could form to the constant inquiry. Yes people, we moved to get what we wanted in a family home.

But in retrospect, or at least during the last two years, although that answer was the best that I could discern from this whole experience and was in part, true, another life lesson emerged from the dive. That one about being more mindful of one’s choices. Now that answer only came to mind once I started to reflect back on the last two years and the corresponding shifts our family have undergone. It was an aha moment as you realize what has shifted within your family over a two year period.

Life is busy when you have kids. Downright insane when you have three or more. If we can slow it down, even a little bit, while teaching an important, unstated lesson to our children about mindfulness, well then at this juncture in our lives, I believe we dove into the deep end and made the right move for us.

 

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Achoooo!!!!!

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This past week I have felt the sympathetic looks from many people. Teachers. Friends. Other parents at the bus stop. Random strangers in the stores. These silent pats on the back have kept me going through nearly two weeks of runny noses, coughs, sinus infections, sore throats and a very, very grumpy family. Cold season hit our household like a tsunami. Large waves of kleenex rose up as a tidal wave as the mantra became, “Go get a kleenex to wipe your nose.”   This mom of three is so tired she turned on the television so she could nap for twenty minutes. Soups and chillies were made through a sinus headache in an attempt to battle the colds away. Orange juice and almond milk was poured into glass after glass to lessen the fluids seeping from every nose of nearly every single family member. We have a dad so tired he plods through the house after work still in his untucked button up shirt too exhausted to go upstairs to get changed. 

How do we do it parents? When we are sick ourselves and fighting exhaustion, how do we still manage to put one foot in front of the other to make lunches for the kids (who are lucky that day not to have a fever), go to work, start up a volunteer snack program at an elementary school or simply function when this kind of week hits a household?

We are the soldiers. We may have larangtyis, drink green tea with honey instead of wine (hell, I haven’t even wanted wine for the last two weeks) sit zombie-like under a warm blanket watching whatever is on the television, sleep when we can, pop tylenol to numb the pain of a headache or sore throat, but we get through it. Or so I keep telling myself this week. 

How do I manage when fall colds hit our house? Besides the above already mentioned I try to remember: 

1) At least it’s not the stomach flu. 

2) It’s only 5-10 days. Colds do end. 

3) It is a good excuse to get that hired cleaner in and scrub every surface in the house to get rid of lingering viral intruders. 

4) Water. Water. Water. Make sure everyone is drinking lots of water. Good habit anytime. 

5) The kids think it’s great to get juice every day as it is usually a treat. Super Mom points. 

6) It is kind of nice to sit cuddled with one (or all three kids plus the dog) watching a movie because frankly, we are all too tired to do anything else. 

7) Never run out of kleenexes. Good excuse to hit Costco. 

8) Green tea is better for you than a glass of wine. Instant detox program. 

9) My body needed a break from exercising anyway to heal up from last race. 

10) You can cancel almost everything. No other excuse is needed. Who wants to be around someone with a bad cold anyway? All obligations can be re-scheduled and you actually have free time to write, nap, catch up on tv, read whatever your fancy. 

How do you manage when colds hit an entire household?