Family life

Creating lasting memories with your kids

Fall is in the air and Jennifer Pinarski reflects on her love for small-town festivals and family bonding.

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Isaac enjoys the view from the top of the Ferris wheel. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

Growing up, there were very few pictures taken of myself or my siblings with our parents. Part of it has to do with the fact that they are divorced, the other is that they were camera shy. Plus, there was that whole annoying have-to-get-the-film-developed issue.

However, there is one picture of me with my mom that I will always cherish. The two of us are on the merry-go-round at the local fall fair. My mom is hiding behind my head, trying to avoid having her photo taken. I, on the other hand, have a smile so big that I’m sure that if you look closely you’ll see red candy apple stuck in my teeth. My hair in the photo is also a wild mess — likely from running and dragging my parents through the midway. I would also beg for loose change to play midway games, just so I could win a goldfish to bring home.

Read more: Fall: 10 facts kids will love >

One of the reasons my husband and I gave up our city life in Winnipeg to move to my hometown in the Kawarthas was the fall fair. It’s sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Yes, the big cities have fairs with enormous rides and more elaborate midways, but they just don’t have the same magic as a small town fair.

Because 2013 was the year of the staycation in our house, my husband and I decided that, just for the weekend, we’d stop saying “no” to our kids when they asked for treats. Ignoring the balance on our bank account when we made a cash withdrawal at the ATM (face it, taking kids to the fair isn’t cheap and our weekend staycation cost $100), we figured it was a small price to pay for this once-a-year experience. Besides, onion rings made at home never taste as good, and have you ever tried to make cotton candy?

Read more: 50 must-do fall activities >

This year was also the first year that our family submitted entries to the Homecrafts. If you’re not familiar with Homecrafts, all of the baking, crafts and photography you see at small town fairs are painstakingly put together by local residents, then judged by a committee. Both children were so excited to work on their entries and I’m proud to say that Isaac and Gillian did all of the work on their own. For the weeks leading up the the fair, our kids traced hands, built Lego, collected rocks, drew pictures and baked their hearts out. They were both so proud of their work, especially Isaac who won first place in the Rice Krispies contest.

Read more: 9 festive fall crafts for school-age kids >

Of course, my favourite memories from this year are those of being on the merry-go-round and Ferris wheel with my kids. This was the first year where both of my children were old enough to go on a few of the rides on their own — or at least without me holding onto them. Being at the top of that Ferris wheel on a perfect fall day with my two children, both of them laughing and smiling and completely awestruck at being so high up in the air, was incredible. I won’t lie, I was a little terrified up there (not sure when they took the seatbelts out of those things!), but that’s part of what makes that memory so vivid.

My biggest wish is that, 30 years from now, I’ll be riding the Ferris wheel with my children again.