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So at my daughter’s fifth birthday I had a small group of family and friends over to my house, which is a two-bedroom townhouse in (sigh) Sullivan County. One party guest questioned my husband (while I was out of the room) about when we were going to buy a “real” (cough, back pedal) um “bigger” house. It’s been stuck in my head for awhile now. This is a person that has never been to my house before and although I can appreciate that some people’s filters are a little looser than others, it still stings.

It’s been my goal for some time now to practice the principal of wanting what I have. It’s so easy to get caught in the trap of wanting more, more, more, bigger, and better until you either get spun off the hamster wheel or end up so dizzy you don’t know which direction you’re facing. It is comments like these that sting the most because they focus on the very epicenter of the wheel – “the American Dream,” a.k.a homeownership.

My husband and I bought our townhouse at the ages of 25 and 24 with absolutely no help from anyone. At the time, it was a choice between finding another rental or buying. When all the rentals we looked at fell short of what we wanted, we decided to buy. We bought what we could afford at the time. We had a five-year plan. We would sell after five years and begin our quest again for the elusive “bigger, better” house. Fast forward eight years and we’re crushed in a pitiful economy, and most of the houses for sale in our neighborhood are not moving, so we’ve recommitted to wanting what we have, and remembering all the things we loved when we bought this house- an open concept floor-plan, a small, but manageable backyard, a spacious fully finished basement.

Sure, I get jealous sometimes when I see things in other people’s houses that I wish my house had and it seems that there is no end to the photos on Facebook of friends’ large houses with huge lawns and stainless steel appliances. But I beg you, my friends, to remember that sometimes the “rest of us, you know those of us who rent apartments, own trailers, or townhouses or duplexes,” we who seem to find ourselves “locked out” of the “American dream,” are getting smothered here. There are many sizes and shapes that a “home” comes in, yet we all forget that it’s the family inside that home that makes it one, not the house itself. A house is just an empty vessel without the people who bring it to life.

There are far too many people who are struggling to “survive” the “American dream” these days. They are facing foreclosure on their homes. In some cases it’s because they felt they “deserved” that “American dream” house with the hefty price tag to boot.

Five months ago, the small business I started failed to thrive and I had to pull the plug. I’m now able to stay at home with my kids who are still little (5 and 2 1/2) in large part because we bought our townhouse when we were young and our incomes were smaller. I am able to live the life I want thanks to my smaller and yes, less “ideal” home. But when I hear comments like the one at my daughter’s party, it’s not hard to start to feel smothered all over again. While I want the “ideal” house one day, what I want is the ideal home life. So all I’m asking for friends, is please be kind with your words. We don’t all have to want the same things in this world. We just have to want we need and what we have. The rest is just gravy.

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Greetings, Hudson Valley Parents!  I am a newly minted country mouse, having just moved here from New York City with my husband (known hereafter as Hubby) and daughters (Big One, or Bo, and Little One, or Lo).  To say that this is an adjustment would be stating it mildly, but we love it up here and are so happy to have made the move.

This move of ours is actually a double move. We’re building a brand spanking new house, literally from the ground up. Meanwhile, we’re cooling our heels in a rental for the next few months while our “forever home” is in the works (written in quotation marks to acknowledge our track record of six homes in eleven years and to bow our heads to those who believe we have no understanding of the “forever home” concept. Fair enough.).

Before leaving NYC, we looked into doing a short-term sublet there rather than the double move up here. If staying in Manhattan until the new house was built, Hubby could keep a short commute for a while longer and Bo could stay in her preschool. Yet even with the astronomical budget we had agreed upon as a short-term splurge, and with 15% over our astronomical budget added upon finding nada, we still couldn’t land a two-bedroom apartment for our family of four. Up here, in contrast, we’ve found an updated 5-bedroom house with extensive grounds, open layout, ginormous rooms, and did I mention the pool? Oh and yes, for a rent that is only three-quarters of our original budget.

Granted, we are a bit further afield, even by our new countrified standards; the rental house is a good ten minutes further into the countryside than our home-to-be will be. But the far-flung location does come with a few perks.

Exhibit 1: on our very first evening here, I looked out the window and saw a hot air balloon floating by.

Exhibit 2: we’ve had numerous visits from the creature welcome wagon.

Our first deer sighting was an accident. I looked out on the back deck while cooking dinner and saw a skinny little cat. I called to Hubby to point out the trespasser and he had a much more violent reaction than I expected. Rather than looking at the cat as I had asked (men…sigh), he looked past the deck to the enormous deer eating the foliage in our temporary yard. Pandemonium ensued as we tried to grab both girls and the camera and point them all towards Bambi, who promptly ran back off into the woods.

You experienced Hudson Valley-ers are, no doubt, laughing at me by now.  In the time since this initial deer experience, we’ve learned that this is hardly a rarefied event.  But it sure was exciting that first day.

The next day brought a bunny. Unless it was a squirrel. There was much debate over this at lunch, reminiscent of the scene in Notting Hill in which it is discussed whether one person can resemble both Ringo Starr and Topol, even if Ringo Starr and Topol bear no resemblance to each other. I still say it was a bunny. Bo agrees.

The day after that brought three deer at lunch and two deer at dinner. This time we managed to snap a photo, showing here:

My question: other than the damage caused to both a deer and a car should they meet, are deer dangerous? Is this the first thing I need to freak out about in our new country lives?

Before iPods and TV’s in cars, the passengers’ only source of entertainment was either an Etch-A-Sketch or looking out the window.  In my generation (black and white TV’s were the rage!), we looked out the window.  So, segue to the present.  My daughter is learning to drive and the other day I suggested we drive to the high school, since as a senior, she’d be driving to the school once she got her license.  Might as well practice.  “Which way do I go?” she asked when we reached the intersection near our house.  “What?” I replied.  I was sure I misheard.  “Which way do I turn?”  In total shock, I proceeded to give my daughter the directions to the building she has been attending for the past three and a half years.  Surely, there was a big problem here.  Do I call the doctor?  No, I kept it close, and didn’t tell a soul.

I wonder if this gal knows the way to her high school..

Earbuds and future drivers don’t mix.

Until I was speaking to the very nice lady who runs the driving school she’s attending.  “I have to say this,” I whispered into the phone.  “She didn’t know the way to the high school…should I be worried?” To that, she laughed.

“Mrs. Goff, these kids don’t even know the way to their own house!” Phew.  Was I relieved! But not for long.

“Really,” she explained.  “These kids have their iPods in their ears from day 1, and they aren’t looking where the bus is taking them.  Some of them don’t know how to get to their own house when their lesson is done.”

Holy moly! I thought.  These are the future drivers of America!  We’re going to have a whole new generation of drivers who’ll not only be tempted to text, but will NOT KNOW WHERE THE HECK THEY’RE GOING!  Will they start hesitating at green lights, wondering whether to go left or right?  Will they suddenly stop in the middle of Route 17 when they realize they’ve passed the mall?

“What should I do?” I asked the nice driving instructor lady.  “Insist she take out the earbuds  when she is the car with you, and pay attention to road signs, directions to places.  And ask questions, like, “did you just notice those kids playing over there?”  Things like that.

If you have kids learning to drive, you might have experienced what I did.  And know that you are in good company.

TTYL

October is, by far, my favorite month of the year…  Sweater season gets ushered in by the cooler weather, trees are adorned with colorful leaves, candy apples and cider make their first debut of the year and the Yankees are in the playoffs.

There is no doubting the fact that I’m a sports junkie.  After all, my first word was baseball.  I’m passionate about several things, but baseball and hockey top the list. Major League Baseball has been running the same postseason commercial for the last million or so years… The theme of the advertisement is “you can’t script October,” meaning that anything can happen in playoff baseball.

From Don Larsen’s perfect game, Reggie Jackson’s three homer game to Aaron Boone’s walk-off homerun against the Red Sox (please don’t remind me of the 2001 playoffs)… it’s true, you can’t predict what’s going to happen in baseball. So last night, my boyfriend, Bill, and I went to Game 4 of the ALDS (That’s the “American League Division Series,” for all you Mets fans that aren’t sure what the playoffs are!).

Last night’s game was speeding right along. Neither the Yankees nor the Orioles were doing much offensively. It was a 1-0 Orioles game going into the bottom of the sixth. Luckily, Robinson Cano was able to get the Yankees’ first RBI of the game to tie it up at 1 going into the seventh. At this point it was 10:30pm. I remember looking around and seeing tired faces of moms, dads and school age children.

Eventually the game went into extra innings… 13 of them to be exact.  Not a single person (that I could see) left the game early. It was [almost] reminiscent of the real stadium. Everyone was on their feet each time the Yankees stepped up to the plate.  The one thing, besides the game itself, that stuck out to me was this little boy, who was cheering right along with the best of ‘em the entire game. He couldn’t have been more than 7 years old.

The game ended well after midnight, but there the little boy was, sulking in defeat after the game. He and his parents stayed for the entire game! I wondered how tired the little boy would be at school today.  If he’s as tired as I am, shame on his parents.

That being said, I can’t say that I blame his parents. When I was in school, my parents allowed me to stay up for sporting events. I never really had a “bedtime,” mainly because I loved to sleep.  There were several school days where I was sluggish because I stayed up watching sports the night before, but you know what… I enjoyed myself.

When I was in high school, the Yankees played their first game in Japan. I woke up at some obscure hour in the morning just to watch the game. It was unforgettable, but I thought I was going to die of exhaustion during math class. I always wonder how parents decide when late is too late. If the little boy was at home last night instead of at the game, would his parents have made him go to bed or did they want him to witness legends in the making?

“But mom, it’s only the sixth inning!” What would your response be if your child said this to you on a school night? Personally, I’d let my child stay up to watch the game and bet on him falling asleep on the couch before the final out.

The kiddies have been back in school for about a month now.

Are you already running out of school lunch ideas?

The whole lunch packing process can be a bit stressful. In her latest video, Stacey shares her secret to stress-free school lunches!

Bon appetit!

Stacey Hawkins introduces her new blog, Time Savor Solutions. In the coming weeks, she’ll be sharing great tips, tricks and recipes so you can make the most of every meal without sacrificing time with your family

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