Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Series of Unnecessary Events




I posted a bit of a sanctimonious rant on Facebook today. I know, I know.

I know. I tend to do that.

Upon further reflection of the issue I recalled an incident from a few years back and thought I'd share the experience. It's part of what has shaped my inner mother bear.

We were living in our little white rental house, which was a picket fence and stone's throw away from the public elementary school. That elementary school noise was the bane of my existence during those three years of renting there. But on weekends it was delightfully quiet and so we'd skip across the road and play on the playground, which we usually had all to ourselves.

Paxton was a fairly new baby which means Violet was about three, and Eisley somewhere around five. We had the playground all to ourselves that morning for just about 15 minutes before a woman arrived with her two sons, who looked about 6 and 8 if I had to guess. It was obvious they attended school there. Mom was engrossed in talking to someone on her cell phone.

Now, there's not judgement there, not yet. I've gotten looks myself in a Chick-Fil-A if I spend 5 minutes looking at my cellphone while my kids eat. I don't judge other parents when I see them do this because I spend 24/7 with my kids. I homeschool them, I'm with them all the time. I always drop my screen to answer questions immediately. But I have no guilt spending minutes on my phone at lunch if my kids are otherwise involved with lunch/playing/talking to each other. I mean, there are 1,440 minutes in a day. How can you judge a parent by watching them for just 20 of those? But I digress.

All was well and the boys took an interest in my girls who'd been playing on the jungle gym happily. I'm not always a hover mom, but when kids I don't know join mine on a playground, I will hover then, to protect my kids and to protect others from my kids. A little while later, another set of brothers joined us. They were black, which I mention only because it comes up later, you'll see. Their mother and her friend left them to play, and then went to the far side of the school yard where the basketball courts were. They plopped down at a picnic table chat and left their boys to play with their friends.

While my girls were mostly disinterested in the boys, the boys did seem to try and play with my girls. They were polite, I thought, and being nice to my girls. But I still hovered because I don't trust people I don't know. Honestly. I don't. For good reason, I think you'll see.

Now after a while, with white mom still very engaged with her cell phone convo about 15 feet away, I was standing directly below Violet and Eisley--making sure they wouldn't tumble off where the fireman's pole was {how their mama broke her arm when she was 5} when I heard the older white boy say something so shocking my jaw dropped open. Right in front of me, to Violet, he said,

"I'm going to take your diaper off and touch your private parts."

Before I could recover from my shock and sort out whether that legit just came out of his mouth right in front of me {was he having a brain fart, or was he an especially unwise kid?} he said it again! Again, as if he was expecting a response,

"I'm going to take your diaper off and touch  your private parts."

To my three year old. White boys were smiling because they found this all very funny, black boys looked as shocked as I was.

I believe in kindness and gentleness and not losing your cool. Patience is something I've had to work on, as well as my temper. I was a different mom even just a few years ago, however. Plus, I am a mother bear at heart. The quickest way to flip my Jekyl/Hyde switch is to mess with my kids.

Switch was flipped.

I yelled at this boy in my roughest, ugliest bark, "HEY! You don't EVER talk to girls that way!!! Do you understand me!!??!? That is SO inappropriate!!! YOU GOT THAT?!"

And then I swung around, prepared to fight the other mama bear. But she was on her cell phone 15 feet away, conversation ongoing. What the heck?! Okay, NOW I was judging that mom. If a stranger was screaming at my kids a few steps away...I'd hang up the dang phone and probably ask her what her damage was. Through her sunglasses, I couldn't tell if she was looking at us or not, but she certainly was facing our direction. In hindsight, it occurs to me that she might have thought I was yelling at my kids that way. But at the time, it didn't occur to me and I was feeling resentful that she hadn't been there to parent her own kid and so here I was doing it. And not so gently. Either way, it ticked me off that she was totally oblivious.

Switch flipped again.

"Excuse me!"

She pulled the phone away from her ear.

"Do you know what your son just said to my toddler?!" 

I told her. Also I told her how repugnant that was to hear come out of a child's mouth and a few other thoughts. I was livid that anyone would threaten my daughter in such a vile, violating way.

"What? I don't think so, not my son. Did you say that? [Boys shook their head.] No. It must have been those boys."

She pointed at the two black brothers. The boys who'd been disinterested in my kids, clearly wanted to play with their friends more than my girls. The boys who were polite enough to be shocked when their friend made a disgusting, pervy comment. The boys who also happened to be black, they were now falsely and unfairly accused of something despicable by an adult. It hurt me to see. I cringed, maybe visibly, but certainly inwardly as well.

And I could not help but think to myself, Why "must" it have been those boys??? Because they're black? 

I can not tell you if race motivated her accusation because I can't read minds and for all I know it might have been her pathetic response if two white girls were standing there instead, but I did feel it was a hugely inappropriate response. Not only was she calling me a liar, she was unfairly accusing two kids who probably have grown up with at least some form of racial prejudice already. I cannot know what it's like, but I can only imagine I'd be sensitive to false accusations if I also grew up experiencing racism.

I honestly did not know whether it would help those boys or hurt them to hear me counter, "Why?! Because they're black?!" So I didn't. But I had their backs, and I told her I was right there when her precious innocent darling verbally sexually assaulted my toddler. That he said it twice. Right in front of me like some little idiot. {Idiotic indeed, but no name-calling took place in real time. I did not call her son an idiot, although I was thinking it.}

White mom was not as combative as I was and so we left quickly after exchanging a few more pathetic words. Hopefully that little dude will think twice before saying something like that to a girl again. And honestly, that sort of speech is a red flag to me. Either there's been sexual inappropriateness in that kid's life OR he's still curious about the opposite sex and his parents aren't the types to, you know, teach them social manners.

People love to tell me how socially awkward my homeschooled children will be. Right. Well, that's a ill-researched stereotype, first of all. But if sending my kids to public school means they'll be exposed to this sort of unwanted talk from kids on the playground--probably when a teacher is NOT right there to hear it--I'm pretty glad I'm sparing my kids that sort of social experience homeschool critics insist is so important. No thanks!

Now, I know there will be some people just as shocked as I, but there are also who take a "boys will be boys" attitude toward this incident. Kids are curious. It's normal. Blah blah blah.

Well. I disagree. Wholeheartedly.

I say this as someone who, as a teenager, had an adult man basically scream the same thing {in so many words} at me and my mother during a road rage incident. It was awful. One of the worst moments of my life, waiting for that red light to change so we could escape hearing about how he was going to take our pants off and...you don't need to hear the rest. But it still to this day is the #1 worst memory of my entire life.

No. I'm sorry some think so little of boys. Boys are perfectly capable of being taught to control themselves and their words. We insult them with this "boys will be boys" attitude. They are capable of learning and employing self control. We do them no favors by rolling our eyes and shrugging our shoulders when they choose to act like little idiots toward girls. Please. I won't have it. Don't defend it. Not my son.

There've been other incidents too, with boys. And my girls are homeschooled. I'm currently trying to decide whether or not a boy at our homeschool enrichment school on Fridays is crossing the line or not. Hard to say, I'm not there. At best, he can't keep his pinching hands or cheek kisses to himself...I can see how some might think it's endearing when he says he is "going to marry" my daughter. At worst, it's teaching my girls how to expect to be treated and I don't like that.

Good thing they have a good daddy who takes them on daddy-daughter dates and proactively shows them how a man should treat women. I was raised being told that aggression from boys on the schoolyard is how we know boys like us. Don't you agree this is dangerous? To teach girls to expect aggression as a form of fondness?

No. That's pretty messed up when you think of it.

So, today I posted this to Facebook:

I'm preemptively teaching Paxton to keep his hands to himself, his lips off girls cheeks, and that being playfully aggressive toward girls isn't how we show we like them. Because I shouldn't have to--but have been forced to--teach my daughters how to handle unwanted kisses, touches, and that they don't have to put up with being repeatedly pinched by boys who also tell them they want to marry them. It's like some parents WANT their sons to have a run-in with a mama bear or something. 😒 You're not doing him any favors if you don't talk to your son about these things, whether you think your darling is capable of such behavior or not.

I would also like to say, that Violet has insisted for months that she doesn't want to marry, and wants to live with us when she grows up. I said the same thing at her age, so I don't expect her to keep that promise. But I can see how being told by a boy she IS going to marry him one day is bothersome.

We talk to our kids. We talk about private parts. We talk about gentle touching with animals and friends. We talk about keeping our hands to ourselves. We talk about talking about inappropriate topics and how to avoid them. We talk about all these things so as to teach our children, so as to protect them and others. AND YOU SHOULD TOO, with your kids. For everyone's sake.

True social awkwardness doesn't come from homeschooling. It comes from inept parenting.
That's that.

Cheers,
Heather aka Fierce Mama Bear




Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Cadbury Coop & Koi Pond

Hi. What I'm about to show you isn't all pretty...you were warned.

Project Backyard 2017

It's been almost three years since we moved in and Justin built this cute little coop for our chickens. We've had a lot of home projects since then, such as remodeling our main bathroom, but we've set our sights on a new project for 2017. And that would be: making our backyard less...dumpy.

Project Backyard 2017

Seriously, friends, it needs some TLC, our backyard does. In every way. And we have plans and dreams. Or at least, my husband does. Back by our cherry tree, he wants to do a pond this spring. A POND. Which he's done before, actually. Just not for us.

And he wants KOI. For the POND. I'm a little...I don't know...whelmed at the thought of all this. But at least we agree on this: the coop, raised garden beds, and new sod are all a priority over a pond at the moment.

Project Backyard 2017

So Sander, my husband, placed a big order to be delivered with Home Depot this weekend. And it was really upsetting because they were supposed to deliver at 11 a.m. yesterday, and instead they showed up--after a lot of phone calls--at 4:30 p.m.! Also, they delivered round posts, when Sander ordered square posts. Then the post hole digger he purchased broke the moment he tried to use it so we had to return to Home Depot ourselves for a new one.

Are you drunk, Home Depot? Yeesh.

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So we're building a larger run for the chickens. Who barely lay eggs anymore because they're OLD BITTIES! And we've sent for hatching eggs this year so we can hatch our own chickens!! Which means we've also sent away for an incubator. This should be interesting. We're going to have tons of chicks {if they hatch} as we ordered a dozen rare breed hatching eggs and a dozen lavender Orpingtons. We will not keep them all. We'll sell/give away extras or perhaps...send some to a butcher, because in case you don't remember, roosters are sort of hard to get rid of. Which I don't like the idea of, but then our butchered chickens would certainly live better short lives than the ones we buy at King Soopers have, if I'm being honest here. But hopefully by late summer we'll be getting more than an egg a day. Freeloaders...

Project Backyard 2017

It's not just a chicken coop anymore anyway. It's a chicken bunny coop. Maybe we should call it a Cadbury coop? Did you know, it turns out, rabbits can live happily with chickens? They also thrive on chicken feed. A Google showed me that lots of chicken keepers do it. Peter had to be neutered, however, because he considered himself a chicken Casanova. It was...BOCKward! Lel.

Project Backyard 2017

So this weekend was LOVELY weather here in Denver {I hear some folks around the country are getting snow dumps right now?} And so we worked on the ugly yard.

Project Backyard 2017

I even made the kids turn off their Minecraft games and come help. Cheap child labor.

Project Backyard 2017

So while Sander dug post holes and filled them with new posts and cement to create a new, nicer, larger chicken run, the kids and I {mostly just I} built some raised garden beds.

Project Backyard 2017

Because I also spent about $15 on seeds for veg and flora {my British audiobooks have been rubbing off on me} at lame Home Depot and by golly, I plan to get my money's worth this year. In the form of cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce.

Project Backyard 2017

So while it's ugly now, I hope--with some luck, child labor, and stupid Home Depot to supply us--that in a couple months I'll be able to show you a rejuvenated yard. With new green, plush grass because our 1950s yard is compacted, lumpy, and has been obliterated by scratching hens, kids, puppies, and whatnot. With a cleaned up, fixed up little chicken coop. With garden beds teeming with veg and flora, oh ho fancy that, a spiffing proper English garden, yeah? And maybe even...I can't believe I'm saying this but when Sander gets a project in his head he obsesses until it comes to fruition...a KOI POND.

Project Backyard 2017

By jove, but that brown spot could use some jolly good aquatic love now, couldn't it?

Pip pip,
Heather

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Visiting Seattle Again

Washington 2016

Washington 2016

We took an early Saturday morning ferry back to Anacortes. There were islands to behold, sailboats, ferries and majestic mountains. Sadly, the one thing I wanted to see, we did not. I had hoped to see an orca, but most pods have left the area by this time of year.

Washington 2016

It's much less unsettling to take a ferry during daylight hours.

Washington 2016

Fascinating stuff to a landlocked state dweller. The sea air does rude things to my hair, but it is good for my body. I can tell.

Washington 2016

My friend, Meghan, said we should stop for a muffin at The Store in Anacortes. Best muffins ever, she said.

Washington 2016

She was right. And I'm not even much of a muffin person. {Always listen to the locals!}

Washington 2016

We were really excited to see Meghan {my college roommate} and her husband, Ryan, later that day. But we stopped at the most touristy place you can find in Seattle besides the Space Needle.

Washington 2016

Pike Place Market is a MUST when you visit Seattle.

Washington 2016

Seattle, do you know how lucky you are to get these floral bouquets for $8-$15 any time you want? In Denver, these would start at $30 and go up from there.

Washington 2016

Since I was last here, I see they've added ornamental lettuce to their arrangements. I love it!

Washington 2016

Let it be known I'm only posting 1% of the dozens of photos I took of these flowers that day.

Washington 2016

Washington 2016

We also stopped at the first ever Starbucks, right there at Pike Place, where there was a line out the door and down the street a bit. I picked up a You Are Here mug for Pike Place.

Washington 2016

This place, called the Harbor Steps, between two skyscrapers, after dinner at McCormick's, is where Sander proposed to me in September 2002. We were babies back then. But we knew what we wanted and what was inevitable too, so why put off a marriage you know is going to happen? Seattle, you see, is a part of our story.

Washington 2016

Washington 2016

How I wished we could have driven another 40 minutes on I-5 down to Tacoma to see our old stomping grounds and other friends who've moved there, but we were already packing a lot into this trip. The fall colors in Seattle were just as beautiful as they were on Orcas Island.

Washington 2016

We drove to Bellevue and headed into the hills where Meghan and Ryan have a stunning home with equally stunning views.

Washington 2016

You can see downtown Seattle, the Puget Sound, and airplanes and clouds at eye level from their amazing view. Breathtaking! And this photo doesn't do it justice, because the human eye is a much better beholder.

Washington 2016

Washington 2016

Meghan and Ryan showed us around their amazing home, popped open a bottle of wine for us, and then took us to Salty's for dinner. From Salty's, you can see downtown Seattle in all of its nighttime glory from across the sound. Can you spot the Space Needle?

Washington 2016

We could hear seals barking.

Washington 2016

Justin and I thought we'd head back and let Meghan and Ryan get back to their lives, but instead they drove us all around Seattle to see some things up close. I had the best time!

Washington 2016

And I finally got to cross the Fremont Troll off my Seattle bucket list. This guy made an appearance in 10 Things I Hate About You {only my favorite teen movie of the 90s} and I'd wanted to see him ever since. His eye is a hubcap, and he is clutching a VW Beetle he just snatched right off the road under the bridge. Extra creepy points for meeting him at night, am I right?

Washington 2016

Meghan and Ryan, it was really good to see your faces again, and to finally see your lovely house!

Washington 2016

Visiting with them and finally getting to see their gorgeous home was a very sweet ending to a really special trip.

In the morning all we had time for was to rush to the airport in the jukebox on wheels of a car, and grabbed breakfast at Beecher's {another places the locals rave about} for a breakfast sandwich. I was sad to leave, but REALLY EXCITED to see my babies!!!!

Next time you're in Seattle, there's a Beecher's at both Pike Place and the SeaTac Airport.
You're welcome.

Washington 2016

Woohoo! I got a window for the flight back.

Washington 2016

Goodbye, Seattle. We love you. We'll be back, next time with the kids.

Washington 2016

Cheers,
Heather



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