Two years and seven months ago we moved to our cute little Midwestern town. Can I tell you now that this is actually the longest we have ever lived in one place in our whole 7 years of marriage? I am quite proud of that!!
Upon arriving to town I was 7 months pregnant with Elliot and didn't know a soul. Before arriving I contacted the Relief Society president of our soon-to-be ward and got a referral from an OB. That referral ended up being a huge blessing. I had seen 2 previous doctors already--1 in PA for Owen's birth and 1 in our old town for Elliot--but this one by far was the most friendly and accommodating, even though it was a group doctor and coming from seeing private doctors this was the best experience I had. For the first time ever, my OB would ask, "What kind of questions do you have for me?" at the end of each appointment instead of a flat "see you in 2 weeks" with no opportunity for questions. I feel so blessed that I have been able to see this same doctor for my current pregnancy. My doctor also has evening appointments, so I have only had to take the kids once!
The library. When we first moved here I was surprised to find how small the library was compared to where we had come from. But after sitting in the children's section for well over an hour and watching my 2 year old be entertained by the train table (while I took care of my newborn) I decided that I loved our new library! Of course my reasons for loving the library has grown as my kids have grown--Owen loves their collection of non-fiction books and isn't afraid to ask the librarian, "Where can I find books about NASCAR?" Also, the smallness of the library allows my 4 year old to play on the iPads (they recently installed iPADs in place of computers at a small open desk in the children's area) while I watch Elliot at the train table. They have puzzles and coloring pages, too. I actually do not take my kids to story time. We have enough on our schedule to worry about, and we just go when we can fit it in.
My son's preschool. I know it is not "the best" when it comes to academics, and our town is big on education, but it has an incredible play gym filled with trampolines, ropes to swing on, foam pits, bars, balls and more (it is a gymnastics place with a preschool)--Owen gets to do this for "gym time" during preschool. It is also a small program--there were only 9 kids in his class last year with 2 teachers, and this year there are 19 kids with 2 or 3 teachers. Because it is a small program and Owen has been attending for over 2 years everyone there knows Owen and Elliot (even though Elliot hasn't been a student). I also love that they have a class for age 2-3...that is what attracted me to the program to begin with (Owen wasn't quite 3 when he started, but it was very much needed). The other thing we have benefited from is summer camp the past 2 summers. It is held 5 days a week but you get to choose if your child goes 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 days a week. I have just done 3 days a week. It is in the morning from 9-12...a big difference from the other day camps in the area that last all day, every day. Also, his preschool teacher is there a few of the days so I would sign him up on the days she was there. I love the consistency of his one teacher who has been with him from the very beginning (there have been other teachers, too that come and go throughout the different preschool classes). The summer camp is for ages 3 and up. They have gym time, do a craft and story, play games, have a slip n' slide day, and eat lunch!
The grocery store. This might seem like a small advantage but to a stay-at-home mom who relies on the town's services to get stuff done this means the world to me. The grocery store that we shop at has 2-seater car carts, and these aren't the kind with the cozy coupe attached at the end of it where the kids scoot their feet along...these kind have the car spot in the very back of the cart so it is totally controlled by me and they can't get out! This store also has a post office, so I have never once had to go to the actual post office (saves me a trip). The customer service people know my kids. I also love the bakery because they give my kids free cookies when we shop there. In the past I have been able to buy Christmas presents, gift cards, and birthday presents there. Last year around Thanksgiving time I asked if they had any freezer-to-oven turkeys...they didn't have any so instead they fixed up a fresh turkey for me...it was stuffed, wrapped in an oven bag, had a timer set in it, and set in 2 layers of foil pans. This was all for the price of a regular turkey. This made my Thanksgiving meal preparation super easy! When Elliot had his birthday last summer I was able to order 2 dozen chocolate donuts with sprinkles, trays of fruit, and a balloon bouquet...I was also able to pick up all of the meat, buns, and drinks. You could say that this grocery store is my one-stop-shop. The employees are super friendly, too..when they see you in the aisles they always say "hello" or "can I help you find anything?" One more thing...I once forgot my credit card and they let me just recite my credit card number when it was time to pay.
The health system. This sounds vague because I'm not being specific about the name of our doctors but my OB also has a pediatric side where I take my kids. This same health provider also has a regular physician's doctor's office (for my husband and for me when I am not pregnant) across the street, and a separate urgent care clinic that is open all day and after hours and on the weekends. It has been a life saver for those times when we are sick, or have broken collar bones or ear infections at inconvenient times. And since the urgent care and the pediatrician and OB all fall under the same health provider, our information is in all the same computer system.
The YMCA. I will admit, this is one arena that was not as good as the last city we lived in. Instead of 2 pools--a warmer rec pool and a cooler lap pool there is just one pool, and since it is used by the high school swim team they keep it nice and cold. Owen has been taking swim lessons there for 2 years and has done really well. There is a lifeguard there who knows Owen by name and always tells him what a great job he is doing. He has always been able to attend swim lessons during the week on a day he doesn't have preschool and in the mornings. Although I really liked the first teacher that he had I still don't think it's terrible that he's had 3 different teachers in 2 years (and we only do swim lessons during the school year). There is one teacher and up to 4 kids, although once Owen was out of level 1 it has never exceeded 2 or 3.
Lake and Recreation Area. This is a treasure just in our own backyard that we discovered after moving into our new house in this town last year. It is just 5 minutes away. There are picnic and play areas (with play equipment) and bike paths that overlook a beautiful lake. Cameron and I have ridden our bikes on trails throughout this area for a date. We had Elliot's birthday party there last summer at one of the pavilions. We have taken family pictures (with my tripod and camera) there twice in the past year. We have also had times where we just picked up dinner and took it down to the lake. There is a beach/sandy area there where the kids can play with the sand and water without going all the way in. There is also camping...but we have only seen campers and trailers...really? What happened to tents? The thing I love about this area is that even though it is only 5 minutes away I feel like we have packed up and gone to a state park hours away. It is surrounded by trees and natural areas and grass/play areas. I love this.
CVS. Okay, really, this sounds so lame. But it is a new store that opened about a year ago. It is big and open and wide and clean and non-cluttered on the inside..and the times that we have been there I have never even had to stand in line because the store is empty! (if and when we do go it is usually on a weekday morning when nobody else is there, hah!)
There are a number of other things...I love our friendly neighbors, our incredibly quiet street (we got really lucky with not living on a "thru" street), the friendships we have made with ward members, and the fun memories that we have been blessed with here in our town. I can truly say that we love where we live!