Since becoming pregnant, I've noticed a slight onset of homesickness. Maybe it's the hormones, maybe it's the end of the "newlywed stage" or maybe it's because I'm having a hard time aligning my real life of raising a child in Virginia Beach with my visions of raising a child in Central Pennsylvania. Whatever it is, I'm hoping it's only temporary.
As the wife of a Coast Guardsman, or as the really cool people say - "milspouse," I'm faced with a looming future of ... uncertainty. We're fairly certain (as certain as a military couple can be) that we'll remain in the Virginia Beach area for the next two years, but after that we're fairly uncertain as to where we'll be stationed, and after that we've pretty much got no clue! One thing that is clear, unless New Jersey cedes itself and its oceanfront to Pennsylvania, we won't be moving back to our home state for quite some time.
Here are the reasons why I think Central PA is the best place to raise a family:
-- low cost of living - For the amount that we're currently paying in monthly rent, Jon and I could own a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home on 2+ acres with a 2 car garage and gorgeous mountain views. We could also spend about half as much on groceries and utilities.
-- fun activities - This is not the place to move if you're looking for the "city life." But it is more of the lifestyle that I prefer - fishing, floating down the creek or river, picking wild strawberries, hiking and biking in the mountains, ice skating on the neighbor's pond, building forts in the woods, growing fresh vegetables in your garden and catching fireflies on warm summer nights.
-- Three words: Crunchy Corn Bran. I can't seem to find my favorite cereal anywhere else but our old grocery store. If anyone has any intel on this delicious morning dish, do tell! To expand on the list of food I miss most: Middleswarth BBQ chips, hamloaf, whoopie pies, and the Fence's fried fish sandwiches!
-- Surplus Outlet - This is the discount grocery store run by the Amish in a local town. I can get my favorite hair gel here for $.75! Considering how much hair gel I go through each year, that's about a $20 savings! :) Other great deals - Starbucks coffee, brownie mix, shower gel and toilet paper. What can I say, I'm a bargain hunter.
-- In keeping with that theme, I might as well add how much I love Central Pennsylvania Yard Sales!! No where else can compare. Not only do Central PA'ers know how to run a sale, but whole neighborhoods and communities ban together to make it a whole-family event.
-- Traffic ... or lack of. Before I moved to the Philly suburbs, and then on to the Hampton Roads area, I really had no idea what "rush hour" meant. A traffic jam in my hometown is when the Amish buggy is half on the road and everyone has to slow down to pass it. Back home, we used to go on country drives just to relax and enjoy the scenery. Here in VA Beach, the most stressful part of my job is driving to and from work.
-- Four distinct seasons - Currently we live on the beach, or at least one house back from the beach, and we love it. There is nothing like taking our inner-tubes out on the cool ocean after a long day at work in the summers. But it seems that there are only two seasons here, hot summers and chilly winters. Baby J is due in October, one of my favorite months. October makes me think of colorful foliage, crisp clear days, plump pumpkins, bonfires and hayrides. October in Virginia Beach is a toss up, one day it could be 80 degrees and sunny, the next could be 50 degrees and raining. Aside from Fall, Central PA also offers distinct winters with cozy storms and record snow-falls. I LOVE snow, and all the fun activities that come with it - sledding, snowboarding, snowball fights, and ice skating. This is followed by Spring, where the air is a mixture of new blooms, freshly turned sod and all-natural fertilizer. :) Summers are almost as hot as the beach, but don't last quite as long and are full of outdoor activity. I love everything about each of these seasons and the fact that they're constantly changing means there's always something new to look foward to.
-- Finally, and most importantly, family, friends and church. Both of our families are located in Central PA, along with many of our closest friends and our favorite church in the whole world! This is by far what I miss the most, and what/who I hope my kids get to know and love.
Obviously, I'm somewhat partial. But even though I haven't lived in many other locations, PA is definitely the place for me. Internet quizzes would concur. To find your perfect location, check out http://www.findyourspot.com/. Interestingly enough, one of my top 10 locations was the town 10 miles down the road from my parents' house!
I hope that my children can enjoy the same blissful childhood that I experienced growing up in the "in the country". But even if we never move back, at least we know we can send them home for summers at Marmie and Poppa's!