7QT: Summer of the Street Urchins


The 7 Quick Takes today are hosted at an alternate site while the usual hostess is on vacation, so THANK YOU to Kathryn at Team Whitaker for stepping in as a substitute!

Little Brother, age 12, has a pack of friends whom I have nicknamed The Street Urchins. Middle Sister thinks that’s mean, but I just call ’em like I see ’em. There are four Street Urchins on this block. Three of them live in divided households (one lives with his grandparents, so he splits things three ways). The fourth’s parents own a restaurant, so he seems to be left to his own devices as often as the others, who could be here for several hours, spanning two mealtimes, without any adult looking for them.

I don’t mind if the Street Urchins play at my house or swim in my pool, but I do insist on some house rules, and yesterday things got pretty rocky in that department, and I told them all to go outside or go home. I might have raised my voice. (Sorry, not sorry.)

I don’t put up with their nonsense because I don’t want these guys, in 4 years, to be the ones binge-drinking at someone’s house party and destroying property/mistreating others. Looking into those faces yesterday, I could see where this could happen. I’m not their parent, but if they’re at my house, they’re playing by my rules.

Without further ado, here are the 7 things I expect from visiting Street Urchins.


RESPECT THE ADULTS. Say hello when you arrive and goodbye when you leave. I deserve to know who is in my house/yard/pool. If I provided a snack or a meal, thank me for that. Don’t rant because the pizza isn’t from your preferred source.


RESPECT THE OTHER KIDS. You are too old to tattle-tale over nothing, and that’s not a nice way to treat your friends.


RESPECT MY HOME. Don’t throw things in the house. (That goes double for the pieces of the remote control that you tossed behind the couch.) Put away what you take out. My pantry is not your pantry.


RESPECT MY TIME. You live on this block. If you want to swim in my pool, bring your own towel. I am not your laundress.


RESPECT MY HOSPITALITY. If you want a snack, ask. If you have a snack, clean up your mess.


RESPECT YOUR OWN GROWNUPS. If they call here or show up here and tell you it’s time to leave, do not make them wait until you play one more round of a video game.


RESPECT MY POOL. Have fun but swim safely. Don’t climb on the sides. Check in with me before you swim and before you leave.

Sometimes it does take a village to raise a child, when that child’s own personal adults don’t take responsibility. These children are in my village, and when they play here, they’ll play by the same rules my own kids must follow.

Deer in the Headlights Meets Dinner for 100

Today’s project: ¬†sending a long email to 100 people (at least half of whom I’ve never met) to beg them to donate some food for 7 nights of dinners for 100.

I’m not a professional fundraiser. I’m a Stage Mother. And I do this because I really get behind the high school’s tradition of feeding the cast, crew, orchestra and staff of the spring musical during Tech Week each year.

This van is fully loaded and on the way to one of last year’s Tech Week Dinners.

It’s good for the kids. They get camaraderie, lots of laughs, and a good meal before a grueling rehearsal.

It’s good for the staff. They know the kids will be at rehearsal on time, since they’re required to eat dinner together beforehand.

It’s good for the parents. They know their kids won’t be crossing the state highway that fronts the school to get hoagies or chicken nuggets for their dinner. They don’t have to give their kids dinner money for those 7 rehearsal days. By my estimate, they’re saving at least $50.

Nobody wants the job I’ve taken on, but I love it. There are 3 parts to the job:

  • Plan the menu and figure out how much food will be needed each day
  • Beg for donations
  • Show up and get those dinners on the table

That last is where the deer in the headlights comes in. When 4:00 rolls around and dinner is in an hour, you get that 30 minutes of panic when you wonder if all the donated food is going to show up, and whether all the people who said they’d help will show up, and you run around like a crazy person making 5 gallons of lemonade, baking tater tots and plugging in extension cords for the crockpots of taco meat and having people who never signed up to bring food show up with 100 more meatballs…

But the kids are unfailingly beyond appreciative. They thank us when they show up, when we fill their plates, and before they leave. Some of them come back through the line to say how much they liked something we served that night.

It’s worth every moment of hard work and every panic attack.

And GO!

To Be Fair

I don’t want to paint all 15-year-olds with the same broad brush.  I arrived home from an errand today to find Middle Sister and two friends (one girl, one guy) in the pool.  TheDad told me that when the visitors arrived, they came in (without being asked) to say hello before swimming.

We had some grilled hamburgers, baked beans and salad for dinner.  The teens ate, talked, laughed, and then bused their own dishes without being asked–politely checking with me to see where I wanted them to put the dirty plates.  Before leaving, they both thanked us for the meal and the swim.

Visitors like THOSE are welcome anytime.

Martha, Martha, Martha

Ever since this past weekend, I’ve been thinking about Martha. On Saturday morning’s retreat, our deacon/retreat director/fellow Secular Franciscan asked us to consider the “Mary and Martha” story, since St. Martha’s feast is this week. An interesting discussion resulted. Our wise-beyond-her-91-years senior member, whose name actually IS Martha, reminded everyone that while Jesus criticized Martha in that famous story, Martha was the one who showed so much faith and trust when she approached Jesus after her brother died.

That led me to think about Jesus’ criticism of Martha. Read the story carefully. Many times people assume that this story meant that everyone should just drop everything they’re doing and sit down at the feet of Jesus. That’s pretty unrealistic, and that’s not what Jesus told Martha to do. The problem he had with Martha was not with the fact that she was doing the kitchen work. He was an honored guest, a good friend, and someone had to get dinner on the table! Jesus didn’t criticize Martha for cooking instead of visiting. Instead, his words were, “You are anxious about many things.”

It wasn’t a problem that Martha was cooking for her guests. The problem was that she was stressing out about it.

I sure can relate to that.  My whole family has been subjected to my “white tornado moments” when I panic about having the house clean or the meal cooked before we have guests or (even worse) a big party.  I’m not pleasant to be around, that’s for sure.

So today I will try to listen to the words of Jesus and be a little less anxious.  Anxiety, after all, cancels out hospitality.

Mary, her sister, might have chosen “the better part,” but Martha’s the one who ultimately became a saint. Go figure.

Saint Martha, pray for us that we might serve Jesus better. Help us to overcome our distractions and worries to listen to his words and be present to him this day.

The Kool-Aid Mom and the Kid Magnet

So here we are, 10 days into summer vacation for Little Brother, 17 for Middle Sister, and 6 business days into summer job for Big Brother.

Summer’s getting old already, I have to say.

TheDad is home from work this week and the big project has been the installation of an above-ground swimming pool, AKA Kid Magnet.

That makes me the Kool-Aid Mom.

The pool’s not quite up and running just yet; we need electricity for the filter and the ladder is not assembled completely. But already the neighborhood kids are looking to swim.

One of the eighth-grade Boy Scouts who hangs around here in the hopes that one of Middle Sister’s friends will visit has already threatened promised that he’d be here swimming often. Oh, joy. Between the pool, the fire pit, and the never-ending supply of eighth-grade girls, there’s plenty to attract those Boy Scouts.

And then there are the Three Musketeers who live down the street, whose number includes Adventure Boy. I imagine that once the pool opens, they’ll be here with nothing but a bathing suit (no shoes, no shirt, no towel) and expect to stay the day. Every day. If I let them swim on nice days, can I ask them to stay home when it rains?

Advice on a pool-rules policy would be most welcome. (I’ve already decided that if you live on this block and you show up without a towel, you can go home and get it.) Of course, invited nonswimmers need to bring their own parent and flotation devices.

I like that my kids are playing here and they want to invite their friends over. But the under-18 crowd needs to be supervised (the 14-year-olds even more so than the 8-year-olds, for different reasons) and that can be plenty exhausting.

How many more weeks until school starts?

Open House

Just this week a new website for Faith and Family magazine launched. It has the magazine content plus a great blog section. And all the articles allow comments, just like your favorite blogs. I was pleasantly surprised that this site has information for parents with kids of all ages–not just babies and toddlers.

An article that really caught my attention was Open House by Tammy Darling. This article explores the benefits of opening your home as the “hangout” for your teen’s friends.

I’ve experienced these benefits firsthand in the past couple of years. Big Brother’s school is walking distance for us (about one mile away) but it attracts students from 25 miles away or more. We wish that all his friends lived in our zip code or even in our area code, but that’s not going to happen. So it’s been nice to have the “go-to” house when the teens have a couple of hours to kill after school before it’s time for stage crew or some other activity. Usually they walk here, eat, hang around (loudly), eat, and then I ride them back to school. We get to know Big Brother’s friends and their interests. We feed them pizza and Dr. Pepper. We allow Big Brother to have sleepovers (guys only) and toss the kids pillows, blankets and the air mattresses used at Boy Scout camp so they can get as comfortable as possible on the floor, and we don’t grumble when we trip over their huge feet as we pass by.

We’re comforted to know that our son has chosen some great kids as his friends. They’re loud, but they’re funny and smart and usually polite. They’ve definitely influenced Little Brother’s musical tastes (most 6-year-olds don’t favor Freebird) but they cheerfully put up with him and even include him in their video games.

So we’re happy to allow Big Brother to bring his friends here. We’re happy to allow Middle Sister to have friends over too, and that might expand once she gets to high school. Nothing beats having your kids invite their friends into your home, where you can get to know them.