Our neighbors for lack of a better term... are quite the hillbillies.
Josh and I kept a relatively low profile when we first moved to Des Moines. We actually met our immediate next-door neighbors the moment we drove into our driveway after the 16-hour trudge through the night from Silver Spring (you can imagine how glamorous that encounter must have been... Aviva with vomit on her pajamas, Josh half-awake stumbling over his own two feet, and me in my bandanna and running eye-liner from two days past). The couple was very nice and even have a little boy around the same age as Aviva and a 7 year old girl. Let's call them the Jones family - and the little girl Natasha. Other than the Jones family, we never really interacted with our neighbors or their children... until recently.
Whenever Josh or I glanced out the window, we always saw Natasha playing with our other neighbor's two kids - a boy (12) and a girl (8). Blond hair and blue eyed, the kids were cute - but we couldn't get over one fact: they NEVER wore shoes or socks. They ran in their yard, on their driveway, in the street, and across the street at the playground... in their bare feet.
I don't know, maybe some people think that's normal. But for my foot-obsessive husband who makes sure we all clip our nails, scrub the bottom of our feet in the shower, and believes that I have bunyans (no, I do not have bunyans) thinks the idea is completely primitive! In fact every time he sees them running around in their bare feet, all he can manage to say is, "I bet their foot is just one big callous." Honestly, it didn't bother me all that much - until the day I realized their hands were as dirty as the bottom of their feet.
We probably would have continued our merry lives without getting to know these kids too well if it wasn't for Aviva who is beyond obsessed with other kids, calling every human being under the age of 20 "baby." So when she screams "BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!" out the window at the school-aged children, we know it's time we brought her out and introduced her to them.
Of course the two girls immediately fell in love with her, especially Desiree (the blond-haired girl. I just have to use her real name because it's so typically Southern!). They love watching Aviva walk in our backyard and on our driveway and they even try to pick her up whenever they can. I use the word "try" because I just can't ignore how dirty their hands are - and sometimes I tell them not to pick her up. My mother in law keeps telling me "dirt won't get her sick, only germs will" but I'm still having trouble allowing dirty hands pick up my princess. What do you want from me?? She's still my first...
Also, forgot to mention, they love me and Josh.
So basically - it was a normal setting - cute kids like cute baby (and cute couple). Wonderful. That is until the weirdness started.
First of all - there are no sense of boundaries. The girls ride their bikes up and down our driveway, across our lawn, and sometimes even into our open garage. Now keep in mind, I lived on one of the frummest blocks in Oak Park where six zillion kids (who don't have TVs) ride their bikes up and down our driveway all day long - but not our lawn! (and not IN our garage!) Our neighbors also leave wrappers and empty potato chip bags on our porch (since we share a porch with the neighbors... hence the duplex). But still, can't they comprehend some sense of space??
Maybe Josh and I were a little too nice to the kids - or maybe just they felt really comfortable around us, but on Rosh Hashana - we actually hit our limit. I left Aviva's stroller outside our closed garage after we came home from Shul. Our garage is manual and not automatic ( I know... HUGE bummer. Honestly didn't even know garages came in manual these days.) - so we can actually open it on shabbos/yom tov. I planned on putting the stroller in the garage after I put Aviva to sleep. Josh and I were sitting in the living room when we suddenly heard a rumbling noise that couldn't have been anything other than.... our garage (and a few giggles). We looked at each other perplexed and Josh (of course) ran outside to see who was possibly intruding into our garage?! The girls then told Josh that they saw our stroller outside and since we always keep our stroller in the garage, they very kindly opened our garage - placed the stroller in it- and shut the garage.
Not to mention the fact that the manual door could have fallen on them (potential law suit) - but where do you come from opening other people's garages?? That is so NOT OKAY!!
If that wasn't enough, about 10 minutes later our doorbell rings (on Rosh Hashana) - and it's Natasha with innocent, pleased eyes handing us two day's worth of mail straight from our mailbox at the foot of our driveway. Maybe the garage opening was a bit annoying - but tampering with someone else's mail is practically a felony! (and in Josh's eyes it's much worse, since he barely trusts me with it!)
Being the great man that my husband is, he rounded up the two girls and explained to them very nicely that (1) - it's one thing if you ride your bikes on our driveway, but you guys cannot open our garage without our permission!! and (2) we understand you were trying to be helpful, but DO NOT EVER GET OUR MAIL AGAIN!! There are private things in there - or you may accidentally drop something important (I know... I get the same speech).
Maybe it was just a bad day in the neighborhood, but we definitely needed to set some ground rules. Watch out Des Moines - the Rosenbloom's are in the hood!
Sometimes, we just don't understand where the parents are. Or worse, we find out that the parents don't care!! Or... the parents don't even know where their kids are!
For example, Friday night Josh and I plopped into bed completely exhausted (Josh got 1.5 hours of sleep the night before because he had a huge biochem exam two days after Rosh Hashana). We were both half-asleep when we started to hear giggles and make out flashing lights coming from our bedroom window. Honestly, we felt like it was some eerie bad dream. Very groggy, we both look out the window and see Christmas lights forming a large square around the tree in our neighbor's backyard with lights in the trees and hanging from the branches. Either Christmas was coming early this year... or the kids were preparing for a children's Mardi Gras! We thought we were imagining it, but we fell asleep that night to flashing lights and 10 year old giggles.
Sure enough the next day, our beloved friends (barefoot and all) are hanging from the trees, playing with the Christmas lights, electric wires, and extension cords. Oh - and Natasha is using a saw to saw down some branches that were in the way... she's 7. I asked what was going on - as if this was a normal occurrence, and the kids told me that they are having a party tonight (just the three of them) with hot dogs, s'mores and beer (for the parents.... or so they say) and they are decorating! OK!! Lovely!! Once again... where are the parents?! do they know their 7 year old kids are playing with wires, saws, and Christmas lights?
So that's pretty much the trouble with our neighbors. I did leave a few details out - like the fact that one of the kid's brothers was suspended from school for bringing knives into the 6th grade, or the fact that the kids asked me if our mezuzah or Josh's yarmulka helped him do witchcraft (Josh LOVED that one - he'll probably use it to scare them away sometime). But all in all, they are sweet, well-intentioned kids. I do let the girls push Aviva in the baby tree swing from time to time. Although I have to keep an eye on them because their definition of "fun" is probably swinging my 18 month old over the entire branch. We'll just have to set the limits as best as we can.
And when they saw Josh building the Sukkah and asked us if they can go in it, I explicitly said ONLY WITH ONE OF US because I can totaly see us walking into the Sukkah finding them in sleeping bags roasting marshmallows in their new "play-house/hut"!