Neighbors Again

It’s going to be a long summer.

I’ve blogged a few times about the new neighbors in the small rental house across the street. As best I can tell, there seem to be parents and a couple of teen boys who actually live there, but since the menagerie of children changes hourly, I can’t be entirely sure. There are bigs and littles, girls and boys, elementary, middle school, toddlers…

And I’m not a kid person. I don’t hate them, exactly. The old saying is children should be seen and not heard, but I sort of prefer they be neither seen nor heard.

There’s the basketball hoop monopolizing the street, the ball spending more time in our yard due to the slope than on the actual “court,” and the piles of worn plastic toys. There is a hobby horse that looks alarmingly like one I had when I was a kid…and I was born in the 1960s. Pretty sure there’s some sort of consumer safety issue there.

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Now I’ve been treated to bald, shirtless, paunchy guy hanging out in the yard–the father, I’m assuming.

Then a four-person tent appeared in the front yard. Not the side yard, of which there is roughly a half acre, or the back yard. Right in front. Presumably to accommodate kid-overflow. I think the mother does daycare, but who the hell knows?

Now we have a new sight to behold. The other morning I heard an engine and thought, “Yay, they’re mowing their yard.” But it kept going. For a long time. I peeked through the blinds, and thought it was a strange way to mow, going all over the place. Oh, and up and down the street too.

Huh. It’s not a lawnmower at all. Not anymore. Now it is a former lawnmower with the mowing bits removed, serving as an ATV, and kids are driving it around. Which I’m fairly sure isn’t especially safe.

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The giant blue tent would be just out of frame to the right.

The only thing I’m clinging to at this point is they do not have a dog. Because if they had a dog tied in the yard or roaming at large, Steps Would Be Taken.

The summer may be long, but I’m hoping their lease is short.

Good Boundaries Make Good Neighbors

I’m not a people person, but I’m especially not a kid person. The only one I’ve ever cared about was mine, and he’ll be 34 tomorrow, so even that is well in the past. I do not want to hold your baby. I don’t want to hear the cute thing your toddler just did. I am not even remotely interested in your daughter’s dance recital.

However, if your puppy caught a grasshopper, I totally want to hear about that in great detail.

As I mentioned in THIS post and THIS other post, we have new occupants in the rental K1361house across the street, and this is causing me some anxiety. When we moved here four years ago, it was occupied by a 30-something single woman with an elderly dog, and then a couple of young Marines. They were good, quiet, friendly, but boundary-respecting neighbors, and I was okay with that.

A little more than a month ago, people appeared over there. I had a hard time figuring out who the residents were, as the various individuals spotted seemed to vary. But after a month of observation, I’m fairly sure the ones who live there are a woman and two younger-teen boys.

Yes, I realize the “normal” thing to do would be to walk over there to say hello and introduce myself. If you don’t know anything else about me, you should be aware that “normal” is not a word ever used in any way regarding my social skills and interactions, unless it’s prefaced by “ab-“.

My issues come from the numerous other children who are there on a regular basis. The woman must do some sort of daycare, either for relatives or as a business, as two toddlers (maybe more…honestly, kids all kind of look the same to me) are usually present. There are also a boy and a girl of approximately middle school age. Maybe others. I should probably keep some sort of logbook.

This is a lot of kids.

Plastic outdoor toys started to show up in the yard. Then a portable basketball hoop was placed at the end of the street. Our house and theirs are the last on our respective sides of the dead-end street, and I have to admit that’s a pretty good setup for a basketball hoop. What they don’t know, however, is that patch where the road ends is considered overflow parking for our two houses. We only have a small gravel drive in the front of the house, so if you have company, that’s where they go.

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Kid-faces blocked, because even I realize that’s kind of wrong.

Now the truly horrifying part. I’ve noticed these kids, who are definitely school age other than the toddler-types, are present throughout the day. Know what that means? Home school. These other kids who I don’t think live there–it’s only a two-bedroom house–might be part of the home school setup. Maybe she has some sort of cooperative with other families in her church or something. She has a “pray” sticker on her truck, and that seems like the sort of things church families probably do.

I’ve also noticed the boys tend to be out playing basketball at very regular times, suggesting home school “recess.” Our late-great dogs Darwin and Brody would’ve been very upset by this, slinging bark-drool all over the front windows and destroying the blinds. Mozzie and Oliver will take off barking if they hear a distinct noise or kid-related squealing, but other than that are doing pretty well. In fact, I have a feeling Mozzie might actually like kids–much to my dismay–because he’ll sit at the window quietly and watch them play.

I’m generally the tense, curmudgeonly one…but for some reason this basketball hoop is bothering Tom a lot more than I’d expect. The ball bounces into our front yard, and he gets all territorial. I’m supposed to be the territorial one. He’s supposed to be the laid-back, friendly, tolerant one who will chat with the neighbors when they cross paths outside, finding out who they are and letting them know we’re harmless but have definite boundaries. Now I’m finding myself saying things like, “It’s no big deal. They’re not hurting anything,” when I’m more accustomed to saying, “They’re out there…all the damned time.”

I don’t like it. I don’t like any of it. I have this shifting herd of non-adult humans running around out there, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about it. Luckily, the room where I spend 90% of my time is in the back of our house, away from the road.

I’m really, really glad they don’t appear to have a dog, though. A dog running around out there would not be appreciated by my dogs–or by me.

Just Being Neighborly

Unless you’re lucky enough to live deep in the forest, in a converted missile silo, or on an island somewhere, neighbors are a fact of life. Social convention suggests we’re supposed to be…neighborly. But for those of us with social anxiety, a strong preference for hermiting, and a dedicated aversion to anyone encroaching on our territory, “neighborly” has a somewhat different definition.

We lived in our house in Minnesota for 17 years. In that time, I spoke to a few neighbors a handful of times, in instances of extreme necessity. Once, Sprocket escaped the yard, and a neighbor returned him. Another time, a neighbor’s dog went walkabout, and I pointed out where I saw him. And I once spoke to Next Door Neighbor West to apologize for Brody barking him deaf while he worked in his back yard. Turned out he didn’t mind; he just barked back. That was nice. Brody made a friend.

So, basically, I talked to neighbors about dogs.

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No. Just…NO.

Four years ago this week, we moved into this house. I quickly learned southern neighbors are…different. Before we got our fence installed (which is six-foot privacy fence on the front and right side, where there are people, and four-foot chain link on the two woodsy sides), the guy across the street and one house up stopped over to say hello while we were out on the back deck. After a bit, he announced he had to pee and proceeded down to the trees at the back of our yard to do exactly that.

In our yard.

I went in the house and did not go back out.

We’re the last house on a dead end road, so we have nice, quiet neighbors on one side, a rental house directly across from us, and the yard-urinator next to that. I have no idea who else lives on the street. I’m not interested.

The most interaction I’ve had to date was with the quiet couple next door. Two years ago, I was on the deck and Darwin-big-paw was observing me and managed to knock the pole into the sliding door track. I had no phone, all windows and doors were locked, the gates were also locked, and I had a pot of chili on the stove. Oh, and Tom was in Jacksonville, 40 minutes away. So I had no choice but to haul my aging, sedentary ass over the chain link part of the fence into the woods, trek through the neighbors’ side yard, knock on their door, and ask to use their phone to call Tom.

Yeah, that was fun. Anyway…

We’ve been really lucky with the rental so far. When we got here, a nice single woman in her 30s with an older, well-behaved dog lived there. When she moved, it was occupied by two young Marines. They were polite, kept to themselves, looked great mowing the yard, and were well-armed, which was comforting since I’m often home alone. But they moved in the fall, and the house has been vacant.

Now, someone has moved in, and I’m not exactly sure what to make of it. I originally noticed a woman and either two teen boys or one teen boy and a husband. The older-seeming of the males always had a hat on, so I couldn’t get a read on him. But either situation seemed unlikely to inconvenience me in any significant way.

I take my privacy and the tranquility of my domain seriously. Yard-urinator-guy has a lot of grown kids, grandkids, a whole big family that often congregates in the covered gathering area by his house. They’re loud and boisterous, but in a happy way, so as long as the festivities conclude at a reasonable hour, I’m fine.

But these new people…I’m not sure about. I usually only see one vehicle, but after a couple of days I noticed (shudder) children. Like teacup humans up to maybe 4-5 years old. I’m not sure, exactly. I’m not a kid person. These small people seem to come and go, so now I wonder if the woman does some kind of (shudder again) home daycare, either as an income source or for family.

This would not be acceptable for a lot of reasons. Kids make me very, very twitchy. Adults, once you make your boundaries clear, tend to leave you alone. (Pee in my yard, I put up a fence, problem solved.) Kids don’t do that. Plus, they run around outside, yelling and laughing and doing other kid-type things. Yeah, I know, kids have to play. They were inside, but Mom kicked them out because they were making her insane, and now she’s hit the Xanax bottle, the hidden Twinkie stash, and possibly has vodka in a coffee cup. So the kids are outside.

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I’m totally the Dad-bear on the left

I can ignore them. My family room (AKA “my spot”) is in the back of the house. But the Direwolves, not so much. If there are kids riding bikes or playing games or running around, I’m going to be dealing with a lot of barking. And doG forbid the kids take an interest in the dogs, because then I’ll have them sneaking through the woods to the chain link or peeking under the gates in the privacy fence so they can see the doggies.

Yeah, I’m that neighbor. The creepy old lady who looks through the blinds and takes random surveillance photos to text to Tom to get his take on the latest developments. I was going to post a couple of these photos here, but it occurred to me this might be crossing some sort of socially-acceptable–and possibly legal–line. I don’t know. I’m not good at this.

So, eventually, Tom will be outside and see them and go over to talk and see what they’re like. This is his primary neighbor-related duty. People like him. I make people uncomfortable, which is only fair, since they make me even more uncomfortable.

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Oliver and Mozzie occasionally assist with the surveillance

Today, I saw a little purple plastic ride-on car thing in their driveway. This implies outdoor child-related activities. I do not like this. I’m imagining a swing set, maybe a bouncy-house, perhaps even a wading pool, and this is not good. For me.

The good news is I have not yet observed any dogs. My worst fear is someone will move in with several unruly, troublesome, roam-at-large dogs. Nobody else on the street has a fence. A house with resident outside or uncontained dogs would be awful. Mozzie and Oliver would be glued to the front windows, barking themselves into a spit-slinging frenzy. At-large dogs could be exploring our fence, digging under gates, or going to the woods side chain link and harassing my dogs. At which point I shall lose my mind.

For now, it’s a waiting game. I check the situation whenever I pass through the front of the house, but it’s been chilly, so I don’t yet have enough information.

But just in case, anybody know how to build a moat?