Love Thy Neighbor or Move?

We moved to a new home in May.  Sometimes the commute gets to me as my 12 miles can take what seems forever in traffic... and we haven't even had our first snowfall yet.  Our old house was only 3 miles from work, and close to everything. Close to the mall, the grocery store, our church, the playground at the park, kayaking on the river, beaches and hiking during the summer.  Yet it was also close to the neighbor's yard, where there were couches thrown outside for us to visually enjoy for months on end.  Anytime someone would get evicted or have a domestic dispute, they would lob their mattresses, couches, dressers, etc. in our side yard to let sit forever and/or bust them up with sledgehammer.  Things chucked outside as their earthly trash bin: barcalounger, footrest, fridge, microwave, Christmas trees, grill, aquarium, bed, set of drawers, A BOAT, nightstands, sporting equipment, helmet, big metal fan, heater vent tubing, shelves, under-the-bed set of drawers, pillows, rugs, mattress and box springs, hacked up entertainment system, bags of trash, and the ever-continuous pile of dog poop that never got picked up.  While 2 months post-partum, I had to clean up 13 piles of their dog's excrement in our yard, and I was not very in love with our neighbors.  I do not miss that at the new place.

Rustic view out our side window to the neighbor's constant refuse.

Now we have neighbors who kindly ask if it's okay to mow a piece of our front yard with their ride-a-mower since they used to mow it for the previous owners and it's no trouble at all.  Our old neighbor's idea of yard beautification differed from our new neighbors.  The old neighbors' attitude reflected also in their choice of common vernacular as they constantly used the "f" word at their infant, which is just not acceptable.  When the snow melted, they had 22 baby toys/pack-n-plays/furniture pieces in the side yard.  When they moved out, we were beyond excited... until neighbors with similar habits moved in and formed what could have been construed as a meth lab.  Other neighbors used to pull into our drive-way and deal drugs.  They would actually exchange pills and cash as the boys and I watched.  At the new place, we occasionally hear a loud atv run up the street; that's about it.  At the old place we heard police yell "freeze" as they pointed guns at a one-legged man with an aluminum leg who had been a criminal at large found living in the house next to us with a family who had a baby and toddler.  Just what we want living next to us.  And as much as we tried to love our neighbors and waited 8 solid years for the "up and coming neighborhood" to up and get better, we finally decided to move out.  After our house sold, we found out the shack next to us had just been purchased by a registered sex offender.  Got out of there just in time.

The Wells Family happy inside the old house- maybe just don't go outside.

Now we have a sweet little haven over 6.5 wooded acres where my hammock spans a gully and a stream running through the forest side of our yard.  At the old house, we had mucky, standing water where the boys would poke sticks in the mud.  They called this fishing.  And next to this puddle of gloom sat an ancient rickety shack that looked like a garage; but that garage was surprisingly a 2-bedroom home 8-9 people lived in and rotated every few months as they'd run out of money or run from the law, etc.  Classy.  And speaking of garage-like structures, I am enthralled to have my first actual garage now.  Before, we had a driveway under a tree that continually tossed branches at our cars to forcefully dent them.  But it was basically our only major tree so we very well couldn't cut it down on our .17 acre lot or we would have no shade.  And we couldn't build a garage there as then we would have no yard for the boys to play in.  What a quagmire. 

Boys playing along the natural stream among all the trees in our new yard.

The new neighbors made us homemade chocolate chip cookies and delivered them with a promise that our kids could make as much noise as they pleased because they love the youthful sounds of toddlers.  Well, all right then.  We are all about little kids playing and enjoying themselves, so glad to know they like the noise of new kids on the block.  Then I thought back to the first full day in our OLD house after all the helpful friends and rented U-Haul had gone, and that gave me some clue as to the rampant nature of kids in that neighborhood.  I remember looking outside at our backyard at the happy little blonde boy playing back there with his toys.  But wait a minute... we didn't have any little blonde boys of our own yet, so who was this boy thinking he lived here?  I opened up the backdoor and asked if I could help him with anything and he said, "Nope."  Let's try that again... "Umm, hon, this isn't your backyard, can I ask what you're doin'?"  No response.  Second day home, same scenario but different kid.  Third day, I hear something going up and down our driveway, to the back of our house and down again.  It's a skateboarding teen and another little kid just hanging out like they own our space.  Again, I pop my head out and say somewhat bewilderedly, "Can I help you?"  The kids were like "Nah, we're good."  So I try again, "I live here so I was wondering why you are skateboarding at my house."  They respond with, "You live here?" and eventually went on their way.  Over the 8 years we lived there, we had teens we didn't know hanging out on our porch, another neighborhood kid repeatedly sneaking into our yard to snap our small trees in half and beat our cars with them, and another group I helplessly watched walk by and hit our "For Sale" sign with a baseball bat.  This old house with all of its 1920's charm could not sell fast enough to get us into a new space.

Old house, though lovely, was just in the wrong neighborhood.

So every time I miss the convenience of living so close to all the inner-city amenities, I have to think what's best for the boys.  Sure I miss the gorgeous hardwood floors and close proximity to everything, but to have them growing up in an environment like that was not the best situation.  When I miss the 8 minute commute, I must focus on the fact that we have a real garden to go home to that boasted tomatoes, kale, beans, and cucumbers aplenty.  Attempted gardens at the prior place were devoured by the 4 skunks living under our shed who enjoyed spraying our chihuahuas.  Granted our 22 wild turkeys and several roaming deer at the new place did eat a handful of blackberries, but we still were able to harvest hundreds of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries in spite of our wild animal friends.  I know every house and location has their pros and cons, and I fully believe that moving here was the right decision.  So I am going to attempt to enjoy my winter commute so that I can fully enjoy the house we now have and the safety that comes with it.

Boys posing by our garden.  I think we'll live here forever.

Our new house in the fall... such pretty leaf colors abounding.




My son has his first girlfriend.  He's 4.5.  I didn't have my first boyfriend until I checked a "yes or no" box in 5th grade.  And even then I didn't want to commit to a 10-yr old boy nicknamed Cricket so I added a "maybe" box and checked it... a girl's gotta keep a little mystery.  But again, I was 10- my son is not quite 5.  Yet this is actually a good thing for him, because if he has a girlfriend, it means he has a FRIEND!  Knowing his propensity to not relate to other kids, I never thought I would see the day.  I dropped him and his brother off for their half day of preschool today and I stayed for a few minutes to settle Everett who was being the cutest little koala cling-on you ever did see.  In that time I witnessed Tristan holding hands with another blonde-haired, blue-eyed cutie pie, skipping and jumping around the preschool room grinning from ear to ear.  I admit I had tears.  Good tears.

For the boy whose social skills rivaled that of a pet rock, my 4 year old has come a long way.  I have often blogged about some of our mis/adventures with other parents who ask why he looks so catatonic when other kids try to talk to him.  He would panic anytime someone would even whisper in his direction... it's part of his anxiety, part sensory related as he developed a fear of any and everything at a young age.  Don't quite know why God wired him that way, but He has his reasons.  To increase his social skills, we prayed about putting him in preschool last year when he was 3.  We really debated because we thought 3 was so early for school, and shouldn't they just play to learn?  Turns out some kids need that extra boost and need to be taught HOW to play and HOW to interact, and my son is one of them. 

To help him further acquire some of those necessary social skills we enrolled him in a 3:1 kid to teacher ratio classroom and it's the perfect environment for him.  He even has a "Comfort Teacher" whom he can run to anytime he can't handle a situation or certain emotions.  I don't know about you, but I could use a "Comfort Teacher" in my life.  Maybe at work or when I have to make tough decisions.  Perhaps a "Designated Hugger" at most people's offices would help adults through the work day.

Anyway, all that is to say how amazed I continue to be at how far my Little Guy has come.  To know he is now struttin' around his preschool with a girlfriend on his arm just makes me smile.  Not like he's a player, but to see him interacting with another child just warms a mama's heart to the core.  We all need a friend in life, and I am so glad to see Tristan is learning the skills to make a friend.  Whether or not he can keep her if she tries to borrow one of his "Paw Patrol" stickers is another story, but for the time being I am just elated at knowing someone cares for hanging out with my son.


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