Size Matters

At least it does when you are small.  Coming back from taking the trash to the dumpster the other day I was struck by the comparison between our neighbor’s truck, and our ‘house’.

Our house is feeling especially small these days with summer looming and the prospect of spending more time together indoors once school is out.  And it seems we will be forced to limit our outdoor activities in our patio area – a 3-foot wide concrete slab that borders the trailer.  Today the park manager told me that the owner (who sadly is not fond of children) has said we either get rid of the toys on the patio or get kicked out of the park.  So I took all the Hot Wheel track to the dumpster, and packed up the cars and my son’s Legos to take them to storage.  We will park my youngest daughter’s bike behind the trailer and the scooter and skateboard will go underneath.   The basketballs have already been banned –  they are stored in a Tupperware container under the trailer and taken out only for team practice. Bouncing them here bothers the older residents.

My son who can spend hours building fanciful Lego cars and other vehicles (along with my oldest daughter who wants to be an architect and builds equally intricate Lego houses) will be sad when they come home tonight, but if you know anything about Legos you know just how many tiny pieces are required to build these creations!  And there are so many specialized pieces –  little figures, windshields, lights, wheels, corners, stairs, windows and doors.  I freely admit the Legos were getting out of control – we have a big table next to the trailer and a couple of boxes of Legos and the kids would spread out and design and construct to their heart’s content.  And they didn’t get cleaned up and put away after each session – no one wanted to just build and dismantle – so they sat out on the table top and a few would get scattered below…  Well, I couldn’t throw them all away but we cannot keep them indoors either as we have NO counter space for Lego creations. So off to storage they go.  Heck, we have no counter space period and the one table becomes a bed nightly!  We gave up an experiment with jigsaw puzzles over Christmas vacation for this very reason – it was just too hard on everyone to take the thing apart each night and start again the next day.

What we really need is MORE space – a bigger RV with bunk beds for the kids, and a little more indoor storage, and some counter space.  I haunt the listings on craigslist and cruise by the park and sell lots in town looking for travel trailers even though I’ve hardly begun to put aside any money for such a purchase.  And I must find some free/inexpensive activities for the kids this summer so we aren’t couped up  in this tiny space for days on end.  Spring break showed me the necessity of that as during those 10 days we started out getting on each other’s nerves, and by the end were driving one another crazy. If we are forced to be together in this space for the 10 weeks of summer we will descend to the point where the majority of our  interactions will be negative.  Like overcrowded rats or the lost boys in The Lord of the Flies, our inner savages will awaken.  And if that happens…it won’t be toys on the patio that get us kicked out of the park!

We are allowed to have the table and a couple of chairs on the patio, and ‘may decorate with potted plants’ if we wish.

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36 Responses to Size Matters

  1. Sarah says:

    Don’t forget about the local library! While your kids aren’t old enough to be left there without you, they are probably old enough to keep themselves entertained there while you get some work done. Also the summer reading program might keep them busy as they read to earn prizes, and there are likely lots of programs going on. I’m a youth/teen services librarian in a small branch library, and even we are CONSTANTLY hopping to keep the kids entertained–magic shows, animal shows, story times, movies, etc. and it’s all free!

    Sometimes there are residency restrictions, but I know that for most of our programs we don’t even ask, we only require registration so that we can have a good idea how many people to plan for.

  2. Rockzann says:

    I am so sorry your trailer management is not kid friendly. I do have a suggestion to help your son with the lego drama. There are lego mats you can find that come in a variety of sizes. My boys have some that look like roads and they can build their buildings on the side and drive the lego cards down the middle. A few are green to look like grass. These are in the 12 X 12 size range and would work with the other suggestion of putting the legos in a container under the trailer. I’m willing to send some to you if you are comfortable enough to tell me how to get them to you. Do your boys like video games? I’ve got some old game boys that are in perfect shape too. My sons would spend hours playing on those and keeping themselves entertained. Is your oldest daughter old enough for a part time job? That would get her out of the trailer for a while and give her a break from the siblings. One last suggestion is to check with the school district, they sometimes have programs for summer that are free or inexpensive. At any rate, good luck! Know that your fans are thinking about you and cheering you on!

  3. Jeez, who’s managing that park, the Grinch? Scrooge? Shame on them. It’ll come back to them, karma always does.

  4. Nota says:

    What about storing the ‘in progress’ projects in tupperware that could be stored under the trailer instead of the tupperware of basketballs (since you said the kids definitely can’t use those). The houses/buildings could go into a rectangular one that’s higher and the track/cars could fit into one of those ‘under bed’ long rectangular tupperwares.

    • That is a great idea – I’ll just have to police the area better so that nothing stays out. I’ll check the thrift store for some boxes. The basketballs stay though- summer league practices start this week with the first game June 12th!

  5. Kathleen says:

    Regal Theaters have a free summer movie festival. It is generally an early movie (around 10am) and not new releases but it is a nice treat for a tight budget…we generally hadn’t seen any of the movies when they were first released so it was perfect for us. Also, each child receives two free games of bowling a week – usually an AMF bowling center.

  6. Deb says:

    How about a road trip? I’m in Seattle, and would love to show your crew the local sites and put you all up for a week or two. Are there any other friends and fans along the way who could make similar offers? Alternatively, how about outsourcing by having your older kids visit friends and relations for a week or so at a time? The highlight of my summer as a kid was when my out of town cousin Judy came to visit for a few weeks.

  7. Grace says:

    For one very big (and financially helpful) idea, check out the local schools’ free lunch programs which are usually handed out in local parks and include kid’s games and activities during the summer. The meals are only for kids, but my grandkids were “wasteful” enough that Grandma got to eat what they didn’t.

    Vacation bible school brings back a lot of memories–our family was Catholic, but my mother got very ecumenical when it came to getting rid of her kids during the summer–my sister and I went to the Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Foursquare Gospel VBS’s. I even won a free week-long, overnight summer camp for memorizing more bible verses than my more fundamentalist peers!

    In my town, there are all kinds of organizations that put on free daycamps, especially for arts, music and sports. Also, all the local pools offer a week of free swimming lessons. And the zoo has free weekly concerts where one can bring along a picnic.

    It took some coordination, but I managed to entertain my grandkids using all the free resources.

    • One of the things I’m looking for in our summer arrangements is the possibility of some free time for myself. I need to continue job hunting and am trying to do some writing (beyond the blog which is one reason I’m not posting as often) and I really need the children to be somewhere else without me in order to accomplish that. I am applying to the Y for camperships for my two youngest kids so they can attend at least a few days a week. That will free up some time for me and give them the chance to play with friends.

      • Rockzann says:

        Just a thought but could your friends Trisha and Ben help out by entertaining the kids while you work? Is there anyone else that you would feel comfortable leaving the kids with for a play date?

      • Claygirlsings says:

        Have you considered signing the children up for Big Brothers/Big Sisters? My husband is a Big Brother for a little boy who doesn’t have a dad at home. It gives him a chance to have a male mentor and also affords some time out of the house giving mom a break.

  8. lucy says:

    I am so sorry about the toy thing. As a mother of seven I know how important toys are for the kids and the mom. Puzzles and legos are some of the best for building creative and intelligent minds. I suppose the park management would prefer them roaming around someone elses neighborhood “looking” for something to do. They should be ashamed of themselves.

  9. Rebecca says:

    Have you made contact with other people who live in small spaces, like RV’s? I know there are a few who do this voluntarily – although they tend to travel rather than park in one home base. They may have ideas and suggestions regarding space saving, how to keep the kids happily occupied, and maybe ways to store and use things like those precious legos without having to be rid of them. One blog I read is — if you haven’t been there you may want to check them out. They’ve got a fantastic blogroll of others who live scaled-down as well, although again, by choice. People who live daily as you do may be the best resource for you at this point.

  10. Sharon says:

    @ Margot – sorry you do sound snarky. Yes there are people all over the world that are suffering more than this family. But this is America. This family is in this situation because of the economic situation in America not because of something they did wrong. They had a house with plenty of room and have been forced into this situation with no options. This is a blog about what is happening to Americans, through no fault of their own, that are being forced out of their homes because of the recession. If you read some of the comments, the Mother said she would be looking into some of the options people told her about. I’m sure that this family will adapt to this latest problem like they have been adapting all along but should they have to?

    • No worries (as our Australian friends say!) – I do appreciate both the reminder to be grateful and the impassioned defense! I do know how much worse some folk have it – we do not shirk from wading in and helping those less fortunate and in that vein have both continued our sponsorship of our foster child in Vietnam, and continue to support our truly homeless friends Tricia and Ben ( I spent 3 hours the other day taking Tricia to appointments and shopping) and try to at least make a difference to a few of the many other homeless people around town, taking them food, and socks and books to read and if we have nothing to offer just stopping to chat and see how they are doing. Nevertheless, I will admit that I am not a Suzy Sunshine at heart, and never have been, and am these days likely to be somewhat irritable, depressed, anxious about our future and just plain middle aged mom tired! I’ve applied for 2 more jobs this week but after 9 months of this I don’t feel the anticipatory lift of spirts I did the first few months. Some days it’s hard to dredge up gratitude!

  11. Della says:

    Gotta clarify this… My “big happy family” fought like cats and dogs a LOT. There are 8 of us kids, 6 girls and 2 boys. Games brought us together in something we could “legitimately” squabble over. I was permanently turned off of some games, because of know-it-all siblings, but not all of them, by any means. With someone reading aloud, we knew we had to cease and desist from fighting, or we’d lose our reader. Sometimes the fighting won out and the reading stopped, but usually we were under the rule of the one reading until they stopped. It might have been the only time we resembled a puppy pile, all leaned together clustered around the reader, and often sitting on each other’s feet to keep them warm. Usually that kind of closeness would end up with fighting.
    Anyway, I guess my point is that big families are rarely as “happy” as they might appear. It’s a learning arena, and love doesn’t just come naturally among many kids. Love is built as well as chosen. Some things done together can provide buffers that make closeness easier to achieve. Sometimes my family still fights like cats and dogs, but we are still close enough to care.
    Not sure if I explained my meaning well. Just thought the happy family thing begged to be re-addressed.

  12. margot says:

    I don’t intend this comment to sound snarky and I hope it’s helpful…perhaps you and your children will feel a lot better if you are able to mentally recalibrate a little and focus on gratitude. Gratitude is a very powerful emotion. In America, it’s so easy to focus on what we think we are lacking and on everyone who has more than us. But, your situation really isn’t that bad if put into perspective. You still have more space and comfort than the vast majority of the world’s population. You are safe, and your basic needs are met – again, more than most of the world’s population. Your children are getting a good, free education – more than what most kids get. And as others have mentioned, instead of focusing in great detail on how limited the space is right outside your home, you could tap into the endless free resources in most communities – parks, playgrounds, hiking trails, recreational programs, etc.

  13. landismom says:

    Good god, that is ridiculous. We have legos everywhere, and a similar dynamic with my son using it as a thing to distract himself from fighting with his sister. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I had to tell him he couldn’t play with them anymore. Sending you guys big hugs and hope that you can find a free place for them to play that is not controlled by the child-unfriendly.

  14. patty says:

    More thoughts…
    You could break up the summer into theme times and really have fun exploring. Have one week be architecture (since the kids love building so much) and go explore the little and big buildings around. Volunteer with habitat for humanity for some hands on experience. Another week could be geography where you do a bit of geocaching/letterboxing. Art, cooking, theater, etc. Each theme could have crafts, drawings, writting, photography, skits, etc integrated. College professors often love talking about their projects so maybe you could ask around and see if an archaeologist has samples that need washing or something. (Networking helps you too) Not school but hands on educational experiences! Having individual projects and goals that then fit together might help. Diary time or is it a journal now or a blog rather! Would be interesting to see how each writes from their view point about similar events. Best wishes!

  15. Caroline says:

    What the heck is wrong with those people in charge of your trailer park?

    I wanted to suggest that you look into churches in your area that have gyms. We live in a small town in the south and our church has a gym and family life center that is open everyday for exercising, playing, and even using tables! 😉 I’m sure in your big city there has got to be a church with a similar arrangement. Our church is open to anyone, regardless of whether they are a member or not. Your kids could build with legos and store their mostly put together creations in a tub for use the next day. They could also play basketball and run around. Don’t forget to look for a Vacation Bible School that they will enjoy. That will be three or four hours in the morning or the evening for a whole week.

    Blessings to you!

  16. Kelly says:

    MAN, you guys can’t catch a break! If you move to another state, do your unemployment benefits evaporate? I know campgrounds here in Pennsylvania aren’t as expensive, and are usually very easygoing when it comes to kids and their stuff. Also, there are usually mobile homes (as opposed to RVs) for sale at $5000 or thereabouts with a lot rent of $300 – $400. Still not ideal, but possibly a little better than what you’re stuck in now.

  17. patty says:

    is sidewalk chalk banned too? Bubbles. Nature hikes (pick up trash as you go) are free and picnics are cheap. Park swings and slides. Would you be comfortable with the kids starting ‘businesses’? My 10 yr old niece is making things and selling them and a neighborhood kid is charging for nail painting (haha). Or if there are so many seniors in the area maybe they have tasks the kids could help with for a tip. Everyone might learn a lot in the process. Learning to cook (and library/grocery trips to learn about food) will be good life skills and there are tons of ‘cheap’ science experiments and craft ideas to be had (online/library). Also look around at volunteer activities that are open to kids which could be fun, educational, personally rewarding and sometimes come with bonus benefits. Yes, getting through the summer will take creativity but with everyone in it together I have faith you’ll do well!

    • One of our problems is that while we have a big family we are not aways a big “happy” family. The kids have very different personalities and don’t always get along well. The enforced togetherness and lack of privacy and our own space leads us all to need to get away from each other at times and that was one thing the legos provided – a nice a chance to be quietly creatively engaged all by ones self and both my oldest daughter and my son used them as that sort of retreat. It also allowed me to be in the RV working at the computer, cooking dinner, or doing other chores while not worrying about them. Our library has a great kids’ space but they will not let kids be there without parents (nor adults without kids) so again it doesn’t allow me to browse through the grownup books and magazines (downstairs) since I have to be with them in the kids’ section.
      Thanks for all the great ideas everyone! I’ll be looking for a puzzle mat! And vacation bible schools!

  18. Jeannette says:

    Gosh and I complained the other day that I have two corners of my living room with buildings made of legos, for this I am sorry. I can’t imagine my grandsons not being able to build with their legos. Praying for some solutions soon to your situation.

  19. Maggie says:

    I wish I could help but I am an almost 70 grandmother and about to be in the same or worse condition than you. I have a small mini-van and may have to figure a way to live in that with no ac, the windows don’t work. It’s already in the mid 80’s here in Florida. My computer kicked the bucket so I have to use the computer at the library. I’m a disabled Vet and still can’t get help. If I could find a place to live I could afford to pay but not much because all I have is a small social security check.

    Food stamps? What a joke for a senior. I applied was approved for $10.00 a month. Yes, that figure is TEN dollars!

    Before I could get them I got another letter that said, “Gee sorry. You make too much money”! If a SS check that is less that $800 a month is too much, who is getting the food stamps.

    So much for those great American dreams eh?

  20. V's Herbie says:

    You don’t have to give up on puzzles!

    Just use a puzzle mat!

    Put some cloth on the table before you begin. Felt is traditional because it holds on to the pieces well, but anything a few inches larger than your puzzle in all dimensions will probably work.

    When it’s time to put the puzzle away, fold the extra cloth over the edges of the puzzle, and roll the whole things around a tube of some sort. I use the center from a roll of wrapping paper. Tie it up with a few bits of string.

    If you like to admire your puzzles once they are done, transfer the whole thing to a poster frame. Instant ever-changing artwork.

  21. Catherine N. says:

    That is awful! I agree with Della about the other games. Here in CT the local Y has summer programs, maybe yours would have something to take the kids to? Also look at library programs. Our library does a lot in the summertime (and during school vacations too).

    I’d definitely look into doing some container gardening with the kids!

  22. maja says:

    Rules rules rules. That’s the problem with caravan parks. It’s funny how people with kids have to accomodate all the people who can’t tolerate them, never the other way around. I hope you find a bigger RV soon.

  23. Meadow says:

    How about “decorating with potted homegrown tomatoes” as one possible summertime activity for the kids?

    Throughout the summer, you get fresh tomatoes every day or every other day, depending; and if your kids are anything like the ones I know, they are keen to see the plants progress, and can track & log the oz. of tomatoes “harvested” as they ripen with a checksheet they create themselves.

    For your consideration!

  24. Ted says:

    Too bad you can’t build the legos on the roof!

    Crabby people need to get a life sometimes.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I think that is a stupid rule – jeez! I wish you could find a more family friendly place…but I know you’ve looked. For some reason, this just really bothers me – poor kids!

  26. Della says:

    Do you have games to play on the patio? My family used to spend many enjoyable hours playing Uno, Skip-bo, Monopoly, Authors, Chinese Checkers, Chess, Boggle, Scrabble, and many more. Those do get boxed up after the playing, normally. Card games and dice games are very small too. We frequently had someone (Mom, or older sister usually) reading aloud to all too. We were money poor, but imagination rich.

  27. Becky R says:

    That is sad. Any possibility of moving to a more family friendly park?
    My boys love legos. And I know how they get everywhere and after all that work my boys usually leave them out too.

  28. Mamie says:

    Those are some CRAPPY rules – major bummer!

    Perhaps construct LEGO potted plants to decorate the patio? ;p

  29. John says:

    No more LEGOs? I love those toys! I love to build stuff with them; I have a big collection of them. More then any of my friends.

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