Friday, September 30, 2016

The day where they get ANOTHER trampoline

Back yard is a funny term, theirs was more like a cross between a jungle and a landfill. The swing set had finally broken that year, and their third trampoline within 5 years had busted, leaving only the empty frame and a large matt strewn about the yard. A large wooden rectangle, standing on its end, was used as the hen house. The mother had tried to move it to a different spot, but the structure was so large and heavy she had only managed to turn it slightly.

Remnants of a wire chicken pen lay just beyond that. None of the wire matched and it was a hodgepodge of scrap wood and wire fence pieces they had collected. Not that it mattered, the chickens always escaped anyway. Poor chickens, there were 5 of them. The children loved those poor things to death. They always brought out food in mom's good kitchen containers....and left them about the yard. A once good teflon pot now scratched from chicken beaks, a glass plate that had, surprisingly, not been broken, cups of every assorted shape and size, and a few, now broken, plastic bowls shining with morning dew.

"Grandpa is HERE!" shout the chorus of children.

"Hi guys! Ready to set up your trampoline?!"

Shouts of 'Sweet!' 'woo hoo!' and 'Alright!!!' ring through the air.

Excitedly they all run outside in their shorts...only to run quickly back in the house complaining of the 'freezing' weather. It was 65 degrees outside. Grandpa laughs and he and their mother begin moving large metal pieces to the back yard. Eventually one or two kids come out to help, but mostly they watch from the windows to keep warm.

"Thank you Daddy, the kids are so excited."

"I'll come back after work and help you set it up this evening"

"Oh, I'm sure the kids will have it done by then." She kisses her father goodbye and returns to the house. The kids are already huddled under a mountain of blankets already watching a cartoon. She wonders if it would be better to let them watch the movie this morning while she gets the kitchen clean, or if she should make them come into the kitchen and clean it. That would take three times longer than doing it herself. Movie wins, sometimes you just have to turn your children off.

The rest of the morning unfolds normally, a few wet pants and a small pile of bread crumbs in the floor. The mom would have loved to get the trampoline set up, but one child was sick and needing to be held. Another child saw the attention and decided they needed mom too. Oh well, holding children isn't a waste of time, they just won't have a trampoline today.

After lunch their Dad comes home from work early. The two little girls excitedly rush to his arms. "How are my beautiful girlies!" They squeeze him affectionately and smother him in kisses. While holding the little ones he leans in and kisses his wife. "Yeah, everyone else went home early, I figured I'll just finish up work from my computer." His wife explains that she has been trying to go outside and put up the trampoline. "Well, how about I spend some time with my little kids and you can help the big boys set up the trampoline."

They begin working, the trampoline was the one her parents had in their yard. Her parents are moving  out to the country and offered their fort and trampoline to the family of 9. The children held up one of the legs while Mom tried to get a piece to match each of the poles on the leg. After a few attempts they figured out the pattern and within 20 minutes they had the whole thing set up.

Now, time to work on that chicken pen.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Day Child Services Came

The young woman stops her car in front of what looks to be a war zone. Used bricks are piled on the front porch and beside it. The bench of a van is sitting next to a broken recliner.....which sits behind a broken washing machine. All crammed on a tiny porch. Bikes are strewn everywhere as she walks up to the house. Kids began to run in and out. Mostly boys with shorts and messy hair, and a very young girl in just her underpants.

"Hi! What are you doing?" asks the child with a dirt smudge over his eye.

"Is your mommy home?" She politely asks?


"Some LADY is here to see you!" says a chorus of voices all at once.

Two chickens walk past and poop on the porch.

"I'm coming! Just a sec." says a voice down the hallway. The front door is left wide open. Toys and clothes, some folded....some wet, litter the hallways from what the young woman can see. "I told you guys we can't play with neighbors today. I'm too....Oh hi." The mom steps out of the hallway and sees the young lady with the clipboard. 'oh dear,' she thinks, 'Another solicitor. I already bought that vacuum when we didn't have the money for it.' "What can I help you with?" she asks.

"Hi, I'm Linda, from child protective services"

"Oh," the mother says unexpectedly but not too surprised. "What can I do for you?"

"We had a grievance call about unsupervised children in the home."

Linda looks as if she has just graduated high school. Trendy boots, and a soft pink scarf around her neck. The mother has a wad of wire in her hands, a old 5k shirt on, and worn jeans. Reluctantly she invites Linda in. Child services hu? Linda only looked old enough to be selling candy bars to earn money for a school trip. The mother kicks aside a few toys and welcomes Linda in the front room, while stepping over mountains of legos. Mismatched couches are pushed into each corner crowding the already tiny room. Linda sits on the one chair without laundry on it.

"As you know I am here because a concerned party thought children weren't being supervised. Here is a copy of your rights as a parent, and if you would just sign this form that says I have given you that information." Linda pauses, and looks around, "How many children do you have?"

"7" the mother replies. Linda's eyes become the size of saucers. "I don't know why someone would have complained. I mean, the older ones are aloud to ride their bikes in the street, but the little ones shouldn't be in front without me. Sometimes I'm doing dishes or laundry and they make their way outside to play with their older brothers, but I'm never busy for more than a few minutes before I go check on them." she pauses, "isn't that normal? Letting your kids ride their bikes on the street?" Linda nods in agreement. The mother looks perplexed. Which neighbor would have called? They know almost everyone on the street. Though there is that one older lady who has yelled at her kids a few times for being in the road when the trash truck was coming.

"Do you mind if we take a walk through the house. I'd like to see where the children sleep." The mother hoped Linda wouldn't ask that. Its the middle of the day and she hadn't been doing any household chores. In her mind she weighed the option of telling her no. Inevitably she was going to see the house. Telling Linda, no, would just mean there was something to hide. Nope, up front and honest is always the best way to go.

"Alright," the mother says, "We are in the middle of construction in the basement, need to go potty.......let me show you upstairs." The little girl in the underwear races to the bathroom and stops short of the door stripping her underwear off before entering. "This is the kitchen, sorry, I've been working on the car today so breakfast hasn't been cleaned up."

It looks as if a cereal blizzard has blown through the kitchen. Half eaten bowls of cereal are on the table, and benches, and spilled on the floor. A large appliance is in the middle of the room. "Again, sorry, we only have a portable dishwasher so we have to hook it up to the sink." The mother moves the dishwasher only to wish she hadn't. Two mashed and brown bananas lay underneath it, smearing when she wheeled it aside. It's too late to put it back in the middle of the room. The mother pushes the dishwasher to the wall and grabs a partially used paper towel off the table to wipe up the mess. Grateful she had done dishes last night. The counters were clear, but after finishing the pots she had decided to go to bed an finish up in the morning. Oh how she lamented that decision today. The little girl comes streaking out of the bathroom with a large smile on her face telling her mother that she "did it." "Oh!" the mother cringes, "Thats great sweety but you need to put your pannies on BEFORE you come out of the bathroom." she helps her daughter regain some small form of modesty and returns the underpants to the child. "Sorry....potty training" can someone so young be in charge of the fate of a veteran mother of 7. Hopefully she is understanding. Time to move down the hallway. A mop lay across the floor. They pass the bathroom where a paint can and a gaggle of used painting supplies are sitting on the counter. "Did you just paint your bathroom?" Linda asks.

"Yes, I just got the second coat on yesterday." Linda peeks in the bathroom. Wet towels are on the floor and bits of paper are scattered about. Children are running back and forth through the house as they pass their mother and Linda.

Room by cluttered room they peak their heads in. There are only three rooms upstairs two beds each in two of the rooms. Both with hardly any of the floor visible. The parents room is also small and covered in laundry. The mother explains that at night two of the boys sleep in the front room, and both the girls, since they are little share a bed. "Its only temporary until we get the leak in the basement fixed."

"MMMMOOOOMM! The chickens are down the street again!"

"Just get some food and call them in the back yard, they'll come back. Come on, let me show you the basement." The make their way down the stairs. the landing is missing and only concrete is beneath the stairs. Linda takes the large step down. The laundry room is down stairs. At least three wide baskets are haphazardly stacked with laundry and 4 more full baskets litter the floor. Construction was obvious. These people needed a bit of help. Water had seeped in through a crack in the wall rendering the basement useless to the large family until it could be fixed.

Linda found out that the family had been working on the basement for months, they just had to take it slow for financial reasons. The husband was his own boss and was still trying to get his business off the ground. Work hours were long and finances were low. But in his few spare moments he was down in the basement doing everything he could to make a few more rooms for his children. Children began to climb down the open stair case to inspect the adults. "Oh no," the mother grabs the 4 year old, "you know this is off limits. Out, out!"

The make their way back to the lego infested living room. "I think this is a pretty closed case," Linda says smiling, "I'll just need the names and ages of your family members and I can close the case file. I can tell you are busy, but I don't have any concerns about your children." She smiles sweetly and they sit down to finish up the paperwork. "Call me if you need anything. My number is on the paperwork I have given you." She gets back into her car that is parked on the street as the kids file outside to grab their scooters. Linda drives off.

"Guys, I need that piece of wire that was in my hand. Anyone know where it is?" The children all shrug and go about there mischief. Trying not to let the whole visit get to her, the mother finds a different pieces of wire to finish tying off a new horn switch to the dashboard of their old car. She finishes the job and proudly walks back towards the house....stepping in chicken poop on the porch.