Hail to the NO! This mom breaks bad

Posted by on December 26, 2013

They came to me warm and swaddled in a soft cloth looking very similar to the babies in the movie Antz. Click to Tweet!

It was easy to say NO to my children when they couldn’t talk, but I bought them stuff anyway. Then as they get older, they couldn’t understand why I was saying NO; nothing seemed to stop me before. But that was because they started asking for things with a heartbeat. “Can I have a dog/cat/turtle etc, mom PLEASE.” For a while, I showed some restraint. That would be my husband, Mr. Restraint.  He never had a pet. Shocking to me but true.  It was more than the fact that he never had a pet, but he never wanted one either, and he would remind me of that from time to time. In 1988, I married him anyway.

I had dogs growing up. Lots of dogs, and loved them all. We also raised mallard ducks. Early in the marriage, I wondered how I would get my husband to come around to allowing pets, but I figured I’d cross that bridge when I came to it. There’s always tomorrow…I have a little bit of Scarlett  O’Hare in me.


Helen's Haven certified wildlife habitat

It all started innocently enough. Once the kids came along I worked to have enough in the garden to get it certified by the National Wildlife Federation. I figured if my kids couldn’t have pets, I wanted to make sure they had plenty of nature and wildlife around them.


Then in 2005, when they were at camp, I bought a tankful of fish, and surprised them when they came home. My husband didn’t say much about it, then took a shine to them. Today, my husband takes care of the fish.

Then there was Salvo. Our first Salvo came when we rescued a green anole during a time we were on our summer vacation at a State park in South Carolina. We know now, but didn’t know then, we shouldn’t have brought him home, but at the time, we thought we were helping.

The story is fuzzy, and stories often are when kids have time to give thought to their tales before they are told. I’m not sure if Aster found a green anole that was hurt, or if he was trying to catch a green anole and hurt him in the hunt. In any case, we cared for her during rest of our stay, and felt we needed to continue to aid her at home. We bought a reptile pen (like an aquamarine with a meshed lid), and set Salvo up on the kitchen table where she stayed until she went to the big habitat in the sky 4 years later. We even replaced Salvo with 3 more green anoles, all named Salvo. After about a year, with only one left, we let Salvo loose into Helen’s Haven. I often see her in the garden. By the way, not all the family members were keen to had our morning and evening meal with an anole. David, my husband, took care of the anoles–feeding, misting, generally carrying about these sometimes green sometimes grown little lizard-like creatures.


Salvo 2 once freed

In 2007, we entered the world of furred pets. The girls wanted guinea pigs as their Christmas present. At the time Lara Rose was 11 and Lily 8. They really wanted a dog, but that just wasn’t going to happen. We hoped this was a stop-gap. They were cooed for a while, and even cared for, but soon enough no one took care of them, not even David. So that was left to me. I did not enjoy this era. So while they were at camp that following summer, I found homes for Chocolate Chip and the other one, whatever her name was. Whoa! I should have better prepared the kids. They were MAD, sort of.  I reminded them that they were not being cared for (they insist they were.) I told my young-ins  they went to a family with a large farm in the country where they could run around. They actually went to someone’s home and lived in the cage, but I always hear about dogs going to large farms, and thought it made a nice story.


Then the kids began working on us about wanting a dog. There was no way on Earth David would allow us to have a pet dog. NONE! EVER! Never say never…..

We tried to get the kids to accept a cat instead. No way, the wanted a dog. They would take care of it an everything…wink.

Just when I convinced  David  to let the kids have a dog, a cat adopted us. We did all the right things to find her owner. Some of the responses were sad– people hopeful that it was their lost cat and others calling to see if it was so they knew it was in a good home, and wouldn’t have to worry anymore. Aster has taken a particular liking to Sunny. No one takes care of Sunny; she can handler herself just fine, but I and my garden, Helen’s Haven, feeds her. And Sunny is a he, but I can’t get the he/she thing right, so he is always a she….drives my kids nuts.

Sunny is an excellent vole-er and some times burps chipmunk.


In the mean time, we are looking into getting ducks. Our friends in Virginia have Pekin ducks that we took a shine too, but I had mallards growing up so I’m leaning that way.


Lily taking a liken to Pekin ducks


We may also get bees. I’m planning to read up on them this winter, and will probably take a class.  This is Aster learning about bees.


Aster learning about bees. Helen's Haven is thinking about keeping bees


My mom moved to Raleigh in 2006 after a stroke.  She stayed at an assisted care living facility near by. It was some of the best times in our life caring for her, seeing her every day instead of however often we could make it to Virginia for a visit. Around that time, I started wanting chickens, and told the kids so. I told my mom too, but she said, “As if you don’t have enough to do.” Oh how right she was…she was often right.

But the kids wanted a dog, and we really weren’t in the position to care for anything or anyone else between work, school, and life in general. So I told the kids the day will come that we get a dog, but it’s just not today.  That day came in January this 2013.

My life would not be complete with out my Pepper-licous. Geesh, I’m crazy about her. I take care of Pepper which is fine. When the kids were asking for a dog, I was thinking, well get a dog when I have time to take care of one. They come to you with promises that they will care for their pets….

David runs with Pepper, and he has even been know to clean up after her too. Oh, and the kids said I couldn’t get chickens until they had a dog. So I said yes to the dog so I could get chickens…guilt free.  I wanted a dog anyway, and I needed them to get the dog so I could get the chickens. I don’t believe David would have agreed to a dog if it were I along pleading. It took a village of kids to convince him it was time our family got a dog.


pepper by Jayme B


So rock on, Helen, I got chickens. David Spain and Ken Gergle build the coop for me, one we dubbed Tiny Tara. The kids like the chickens and even helped in naming them. Aster named his Breakfast, Lily named hers Fried, Lara Rose wasn’t interested AT ALL so I named mine Aunt Pittypat. I was really hoping I could convince  the kids to go along with the Gone With The Wind theme, but no such luck. Rhettette, Scarlet, Mammy, etc. But that’s OK, I have my chickens. Pepper and I sit with them in the afternoon. We don’t talk much, but we do enjoy our time together.


Tiny Tara in Helen's Haven

Left to right: Fried, Breakfast, Aunt Pittypat

I took to keeping chickens right away. Of everything I’ve taken care of, they are by far the easiest.

I’m pretty much done caring for any more critters. I’m happy with all they we have, and think we will stop right here. The kids think otherwise. @HelenYoest Click to Tweet!

So I am saying Hail to the NO!


Lily asked me the other night if she could have a chinchilla. Yes, that’s right, a chinchilla. She says “It’s free and comes with the cage and everything.” Best part she says. “Chinchillas sleep during the day, so it wouldn’t bother me at work.” I didn’t even attempt to argue that it means it would be up all NIGHT. Instead I just said NO. Several NOs followed until she finally relented.

I don’t feel bad about saying NO, I said yes to everything else. When Lily said with a pleading text, Pllllllleeeeeeeaaaaaassssseeeee, I’ll take care of it. I said, “Bwhahahahahahaha, NO.”

Hail to the NO. Let us love the ones we’re with!





2 Responses to “Hail to the NO! This mom breaks bad”

  1. Looks like your are small scale farming now Helen </;-)

  2. HelenYoest says:

    I hear THAT! lol

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