And the safety.
Let's face it, suburban life with kids roaming free had far more hazards than I was used to. Even internal hazards like the spiral staircase of death in our house. Took one day for Diesel to get a black eye on that. Took a matter of weeks before every member of our family, Ryan and I included, had fallen on those. On the outside, there was the not-so-safety-proof zip line. A ladder was propped up on one end, you held on to an exposed metal bar, put your foot in a rope that hung down that I realized was a hanging noose right in my back yard, and then you dead-ended into a tree. Now let's just say this - the family that we are renting from was far more daring and adventurous than us. (Within days my kids had learned how to get on the roof of our house from the neighbors who knew that the previous kids always did it). They had also grown up that way and were more skilled than my kids. This was all new to us and my kids just weren't particularly adept at this kind of unprotected lifestyle. So as soon as the ladder fell over when one of the neighborhood kids was on the top rung getting to the zip line, we secured that thing down. As soon as a parent got whacked in the head by the exposed metal bar when trying to stop their child from crashing into the tree, we added padded handlebars. I tried to add something to the line to soften the dead end tree impact a bit, and as soon as we saw both of our kids put their heads through the noose, we finally put a swing on the bottom instead. That one took a while to figure out a good option though because we knew it had to be something you could still put one foot in while you held on to the bar, but then it also gave the option for younger kids to just sit in the swing, which has actually broadened the enjoyment.
And then there was a trampoline in the backyard. All the other neighborhood trampolines were in ground. Ours was the only one that was not, nor did it have any pads or a net around it. That made me super anxious. My kids had never even jumped on a trampoline before, let alone with neighbor kids and cousins all joining in at the same time. In fact, within a few weeks, we had this:
BUT. Not how you would think. In an ironic twist, it actually occurred when I made him come in off of the unsafe trampoline to help clean the house and he fell off the stupid couch of all things. And fell is an exaggeration. Like he literally rolled off the couch, about two feet off the floor and broke an arm. Unbelievable. Should have left him on the trampoline.
SO. After months of being here what can I say? Our kids run around outside without me all the time, they jump on the trampoline with no set rules, and anyone rides the zip line anytime with no parental supervision. Have we adjusted? Guess so. :)
Even this kid got in on the action.
Um, and these kids too...
New found skills. My poor apartment-locked children were so deprived they'd hardly learned how to ride bikes. The problem was I had to cart 4 kids over to the park, plus a bike and then abandon the rest in a busy area to try to teach one? Nope, didn't happen very often. Or we would bring stuff and then no one would want to ride it home and I'd have to cart 4 kids, a stroller, and whatever paraphenalia we'd hauled over. So now? Open space!! A backyard! Kids could go outside anytime and it didn't have to be a whole family outing! And the best part - being in the back of a neighborhood with a cul-de-sac out front and a dead end on the garage side. No through traffic! SO NICE!! It made me so happy to be able to sit in the office or the craft room and watch the kids out the front window riding around. Or to be making dinner in the kitchen and watch kids through the window out on the trampoline.
Sports! Other new-found skills include how easy it is to put your kids in any sport you want here and how close and convenient and CHEAP it is. I looked at putting the 3 boys in soccer for 6 weeks at a local community center in Miami and it was going to be almost $600!!! Here? 30 bucks each? Heck yes, sign us up for one of everything.
Even the little guy could get in on toddler classes.
Provo itself. Known as Happy Valley for it's somewhat cheesy innocence and perpetually happy population living somewhat in oblivion from "real life" and the ills that plague the rest of the world (so the stereotype goes at least). I have to say, it doesn't really bother me. Families are good, people are nice and everything is EASY. Just as I had hoped. My kids would be stunned when we would get in the car to go somewhere and within two minutes we would stop and they would say in disbelief, "We're here already???" Yes, anything I need is within seriously 5 minutes. Can I say dollar theater??? Oh how we've missed you. LDS temple? Check. Lessons for the kids, school, shopping, Costco... sooooo close and convenient. Gone are the days of trekking 30 minutes for the kids school, 30 minutes to church or Costco, 4 hours to a temple. So pleasant. Of course gone are the days of my 5 minutes to the beach too, but at least as far as repetitive every day tasks, we're covered. And Provo had just opened an awesome new rec center with great kid pools, playgrounds, activities and workout facilities. We spend lots of our time there.
I can honestly say that at the time we moved out of our building that we had lived in for 5 years in Miami, I knew the name of maybe 1 person in our building. At times we had had 2 other friends and a few people Ryan worked with, but they had moved out and we seriously didn't even know the names of people across the hall. That's just Miami. Well here we have great neighbors, people roaming the neighborhood out on summer evening strolls, and within two days of being here we even had the neighborhood 4th of July party. At our house even, per tradition. :)
(Complete with unleashed fire hydrant in our yard for the kids to run through and all)....
FAMILY!!! Raising our kids with no cousins seemed fine, we saw them when we came in town. It really has been such a nice bonus we realize now to be able to see family, even if it's just once or twice a month.
And being able to have people stay at our house and actually have parties and gatherings at our house!!! And rooms for them to sleep in! That has been a LONG time in coming. My poor mom has spent years of her life on our couch before this I believe.
Also being able to just see people from all our different stages in life is great because everyone comes through Utah at some point so it's great to have the chance to catch up with old friends when they're in town.
Along with the huge yard....
Fruit trees! The yummiest most perfect peaches ever. Ok, the apple tree was kind of a pain in the butt and dropped like a thousand wormy apples we had to finally bribe the kids with money to pick up. But the 1/3 that weren't wormy were quite tasty and made for some good stuff. Perhaps at the price of a little apple over-kill.
Mountains! The views of them right out my windows. And seasons!! (Sometimes conflicting at the same time....) And having a house to decorate for the seasons with window boxes and a front porch...
Now, before I say it is all bliss, let me go back to some of the hard adjustments. Now when I say neighbors, I mean if you were in need, these people would be there for you. And they'll chat with you when you're both out on the street. But as far as being your best friends, that has been a little different. I guess being LDS and living outside of Utah, people in your ward become your family and your best friends. That was my social life, those were the people I would see multiple times a week. Here people were super friendly, waving as they drove into their garage. And then closed it behind them. I kept wondering if no one was inviting me to playgroup or to hang out at their house with them. Maybe they just kept forgetting to invite us over to dinner or they were out of town too much? No, I finally figured out, just no one was doing it. When you invited their kids over to play, the doorbell rang and the van that dropped them off was already half a mile out of your neighborhood by the time you got to the door, the parent excited to have some free babysitting for a while so they could get some stuff done. In Miami if you played with a friend, the parents were there hanging out too. Suddenly my kids had a great social life while I found myself with none.
I had to try to be understanding and give people some credit though (to make myself not feel so bad). Most people have lots of family here and that's who they spend their time with. They don't particularly need friends, nor do they need someone to trade babysitting with or someone to have their back if something comes up. They already have that. Provo also seriously has an abnormally high ratio of children per family. Even compared to LDS people in other places I've lived. I am constantly SHOCKED at how many people I know here with 5, 6, 7 kids. I was feeling so tough with 4! I didn't know that many people were still out there having big families! I felt like a total wimp now moving here with what I felt like was now only 4 kids. So they are busy, they have overachieving, heavily-scheduled children, they probably have a husband in the bishopric and they're just trying to survive, so forget making friends. At least that's what I tried to tell myself. :)
But it was an adjustment. I was used to the Miami scene where there was lots of just hanging out. People always wanted to go out. It's just the way Latins do it. Or young professionals without kids that we hung out with from Ryan's work. When someone said come over for dinner at 6, it meant maybe they'd start warming up the grill at 6:30. You hung out (you had drinks, I realize that's different), you socialized. You sat around and talked. One of the first times we had Ryan's friends over for dinner after we moved here, we seriously looked at our watches and then at each other in slight disbelief and said, "It's 7:30 and everyone is already gone?!" People here are a bit short and to the point. They come, they eat, they leave. They get their kids back to bed or their babysitters off the clock and get on to the next thing they have to do. And forget doing cool birthday parties anymore. In Miami if you had a birthday party the whole family came along, and sometimes the invitation would say 4pm until..... When we would leave at 7pm they would say sadly, "Oh! Don't go so soon next time!" Here it's a chaotic hour of children whose parents pull up in the van and let them jump out, once again glad for the hour of free babysitting. So why would I want to spend time crafting a bunch of cuteness for a bunch of 6 or 8 year old boys who will neither notice or care? I don't. Let's be honest, it's much more fun to make good food and cuteness for the parents who will be sitting around appreciating it, or at least pointing it out to their children. So I won't. I will book an hour at Chuck E. Cheese or some trampoline place like everyone else here does. Have an hour of kid craziness with totally minimal effort or creativity on my part.
With this neighborhood network of children comes other things that hadn't been a factor before. Such as waking up the first two morning here, literally rolling out of bed, walking out my bedroom door, and looking downstairs and seeing a neighbor kid with his nose pressed against the window panes next to the front door. Woah! I had to jump back into my room to process for a minute. I mean, give me some time to wake up here at least! And these kids don't really take no for an answer. As soon as you open the door, before you can even open your mouth, they've made their way up to your toy room or to your freezer to find popsicles.
So this is fun because it's all new for us, but at the same time, I see people having their kids play with friends all the time and I'm not sure how much I want to push that. Not only do I like some space and some control and sanity, but our little family has just always been together and just always been us. My boys don't really go looking for friends all the time because they always have each other. So I'm not so sure how readily I want to push away from that close-knit family unit, especially when I'm sure in a few years they won't care about being with family so much. It's been a real blessing I suppose that we were able to grow so close because all we had was each other.
Ok, another con: um, where did my hair go? I'm looking back at pictures from last summer when we moved here and wondering why the heck my hair is 3 inches shorter when I've maybe trimmed 1/4"??? Dang dry weather. I guess my hair looked fuzzy and long in Miami but it's going to be shorter and damaged from all breaking off here.
So I guess we take the good with the bad and learn how to adapt, just like everywhere else we've lived, but at least it didn't take me 4 years to start liking it here like it did in Miami. That DEFINITELY has to be a plus. :)