Sunday, October 11, 2009

Eatin' Good... from the Neighborhood

No one ever tells you that one of the (many!) perks to having a brand new baby is the fabulous meals you're likely to enjoy - especially if you live in a community like ours. When Aidan was born, I was pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of generosity through home-cooked meals that virtual strangers brought to my door, courtesy of our local parents' yahoo group here at the lake. We didn't know a soul here aside from my parents, and I was amazed to learn just how many young, hip, stay-at-home moms were at the lake. Little did I know a few of those "virtual strangers" would become my close friends and comrades in playgroup together. I attended my first playgroup with Aidan when he was one month old, and met Stacy and Melanie, who are still in the group today.

When Leo was born, my playgroup arranged for meals to be delivered to our door, and this time, all I could think was how lucky I was to have such a great group of friends. Now, with the arrival of Pax, the feasting has never been so good! Our playgroup, along with other friends and neighbors have been so generous to us. This house may not look like an Applebee's, but we're eatin' good... [from] the neighborhood, indeed!
Recently a childhood friend emailed me for my thoughts and ideas on transitioning to being a stay at home mom. I still need to write her back, but as I was reflecting over what has made my years at home so enjoyable, one recurring theme is my playgroup. Over the past five years, we have...

-Enjoyed countless hours of play time with our kids - inside each other's homes, at the beach in the summer, at the pool, at the playground, at parks in Charlottesville.
-Participated in cookie swaps and ornament exchanges at Christmastime, plus a book swap for the kids, delivered by none other than Santa Claus himself.
-Celebrated birthdays and holidays together, including the Semi-Annual Carter Halloween Party, a Chinese New Year party with the most authentic Chinese food any of us had ever encountered, and many BBQs and potlucks to celebrate the 4th of July, New Year's, birthdays, and the like.
-Indulged in monthly mom's nights, ranging from casual movie and game nights to feasting at favorite restaurants and summer dinner cruises on the lake. Occasionally, we've even included our hubsters for couples' nights.
-Endured parties like Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, and Southern Living for the sake of one another. (Oh, admit it! Those parties are absolutely something to be endured, unless you're the benefactor of the free goods!!)
-Cooked for each other in a cooking co-op together, making dinner once a week for the 3 other families in the co-op and delivering food to their doors each week - in exchange, we received prepared main dishes 3 days a week. Our families enjoyed each other's cooking, and many new favorite recipes were discovered this way.
-Cooked for each other with the arrival of new family members
-Hosted baby and adoption showers for each other, where we shower the mom with gifts like certificates to the local spa
-Formed an "Activity Swap" for our kids last year when the economy was so terrible. In lieu of Tumble Buddies and Kindermusik, we met at each other's homes where we each took turns developing a structured, hour-long schedule of events for the kids. We each planned according to our strengths and interests, and the results were awesome: we had music classes, arts and crafts classes, physical movement classes, health and nutrition classes, and safety classes - for free.
-Babysat occasionally for each other, informally; we're trying to formalize it now into a babysitting co-op.

Our group has changed considerably over the years as people move away, toddlers and preschoolers become grade schoolers, and other obligations get in the way of playgroup. But the constant that playgroup as a whole has provided me is something that I will be forever grateful for, and the friendships I have formed are ones I cherish in these labor-intensive early years of childrearing - and I know I will continue to cherish in the years to come. Indeed, all the moms I've known from playgroup are women I consider to be my fellow comrades in this highly demanding, unrelenting, exhausting career of Motherhood.

Hooray for playgroup! And hooray for the kindness of our friends and our neighbors, who have fed us well and made us feel so happy and lucky.

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