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Circle Time

Do you know your neighbors? Do you really know them? Growing up, it seemed like we knew all the neighbors on our block. We knew which houses had kids, their names, how old they were, whether they had a Nintendo or good candy left over from Halloween. My parents were friends with their parents and everyone looked out for everyone else's kids and told them off when they needed tellin'.

It's not the same today. Maybe it's because we all move around so much. Partly I think we're just scared of people and we're happy if the only thing we know about our neighbors is that they're not registered sex offenders. Perhaps we're all just a little too busy and lazy to make an effort.

Laylee once asked me, "Why are all the houses in a line? The houses should be in a circle. It would be much more funner that way. We're just not strong enough to skootch them."

Maybe we're not strong enough to skootch them, but there are forces of nature that have the power to bring us all together. When we had our little disaster in December, we met many of the neighbors on our street for the first time and realized there were a ton of awesome people on our block that we'd done little more than wave to on our way down the street. Some we'd never actually seen.

I wondered if they'd ever seen us. I knew they'd heard us. As we helped pick 10 ton trees off each other's houses, we started to form bonds. I decided I liked these strangers living around me but there still weren't enough small people around for my taste.

If you won't be my friend, I'll jam these pretzels in my eyes

Now that my kids are old enough to enjoy spending time with other kids, playdates are no longer simply an excuse for me to hold my baby like a prop while I hang out with my girlfriends. So, I've started using Jedi mind tricks to lure young families into the neighborhood.

Now Laylee and Magoo have people to run around with, blow bubbles at, cry for when I'm mean enough to put them to bed when it's still light out, and run around waving sharp sticks with during neighborhood barbeques when all the grownups want to do is TALK.

Hey! Can Billy come over and play trains?

Tomorrow we even have a neighborhood field trip planned to a place that contains actual tangible fun. So it would seem that I've lured them here only to stuff them in my van and take them somewhere else. It's okay. I'll bring them back when we're done.

But then what should I do? When you live far away from relatives, do you try to make your neighborhood an extension of your family? What do you do to strengthen those bonds?


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