A Farewell to Street Urchins

farewell to street urchins

(Or: What am I going to do with all this root beer?)

We’ve got three 12-packs of root beer in the pantry. I buy it on sale so we’ll have it around when the Street Urchins come over.

But when we came back from vacation last week, we discovered that the neighborhood is down two Urchins. They’ve both moved to other zip codes, their households casualties of what happens when parents are not together.

I worry about the Street Urchins. Four out of five of our neighborhood Urchins don’t live with both of their parents. That’s Situation Normal for them, and it makes me sad. They bounce around from house to house, and sometimes weeks or months go by without them showing up at our front door, hungry for a game of Super Smash Brothers and thirsty for root beer.

They drive me crazy (they’re loud, and they leave a mess, and sometimes it just gets really rowdy in my family room) but I always let them in. Even the day after I discover that they’ve eaten all the Klondike bars.

They’ve spent their adolescence on their own, with no one hunting them down at dinnertime or wondering where they go when they disappear for the better part of a day and evening. And this September, two of them will be starting at new schools in new neighborhoods. In middle school, that’s hard.

This morning, Sarah Reinhard tweeted a prayer for today:

Sarah tweet

Yes, those exasperating Street Urchins are blessings (though they’re never invisible).

They’ll be missed.

And they’ll be held up in prayers. I figure that St. John Bosco is a great patron saint for Street Urchins, so I’m trusting them to his care.

In case they visit the neighborhood again (at least one of them still has a parent living here) I’ll make sure we’ve always got plenty of root beer.

More Things Street Urchins Say

Things Street Urchins Say logo


Urchin 1: “Who said I was going outside?”
Urchin 2: “God did! He invented outside.”

Urchin 1: “I don’t want to go outside! I already broke a window.”

This is true.

For the record, my supersonic ears allowed me to hear that back-porch window shatter as I sat at my desk in the living room, at the complete opposite end of the house, while all the house windows were shut and the air conditioner was running. No one else in the house heard a thing, and they all thought I was nuts as I headed out the back door, yelling, “What did you guys break?”

To his credit, the guilty Urchin immediately admitted that the broken window was his fault and asked to use the phone so he could call his mom about it.

The good news is, nobody got hurt.

The bad news is, I can’t remember who came here and fixed the glass the last time the Urchins broke a window.

Of Street Urchins and Earrings

Things Street Urchins Say logoOne of the Street Urchins has pierced ears. And he wears fairly BIG fake-diamond earrings. (At least, I’m pretty sure they’re fake. If they’re not, then whatever adult gave real diamond earrings to a kid in middle school has more money than brains.)

Hubs has been warning this Urchin, ever since he showed up sporting rapper-worthy ear jewelry, that he can’t wear his earrings in the pool. Earrings and pool liners don’t mix.

The other day when the Street Urchins were here, no one was swimming. The Kid has swimmer’s ear and would rather not swim at all than swim and wear earplugs but not be allowed underwater. So they were playing Kick the Can, which involves lots of hiding in two adjacent backyards.

Suddenly the whole pack of them, minus one, burst through the back door.

“[Earring Urchin] lost his earring!”

“It might be in the pool!”

Wearing only one earring and dripping wet, that last Urchin came inside as I asked what he was doing in the pool with jewelry on.

“I didn’t mean to go in the pool…”

Now, they routinely use the pool and pool deck as hiding spots for Kick the Can, but it’s a little hard to go into the pool without meaning to when the pool is above ground.

I sent the whole crew back outside to search for the earring. Daughter got into the pool because none of them would. Instead, there were four boys muttering excitedly about metal detectors and waving iPhones 6 inches above the grass as they crawled around the yard.

It seems there’s an app for that. Quite a few, in fact.

Whether those apps are real or not is another question (kind of like the Street Urchin’s earrings). This might make a good Science Fair project for the Kid for next year, though. And maybe a good Tech Talk for me.



Things Street Urchins Say

Things Street Urchins Say logoIf you’ve hung around here awhile (especially in the summer) you know that I’ve nicknamed The Kid’s friends the Street Urchins. These guys, for the most part, have gone past free-range and are on their way to feral.

Especially when potato chips are involved.

They’re around a lot, possibly because, as one of them mentioned one time, “You’re the only one who lets us in.”

That may be true. But since I do let them in, and keep the soda and chips stocked, I figure I’m allowed to get some comic relief from some of the things they say. Names are withheld to protect the guilty.

While helping to put the solar cover on the pool: “I can’t do this! I’m not jacked!”

When The Kid’s glucose monitor went missing somewhere in the house., one of the Street Urchins suggested that if he found it, he should get a donut. I told them that if one of them found it, I’d get them ALL donuts. They began ransacking the family room.
Urchin #1: “Come on! We have to pray!”
Urchin #2: “I’m not praying!”
Urchin #1: “Then you’re not getting any donuts!”

Advice given to one of the Urchins’ toddler sisters: “Don’t chew with your mouth full.”

“Because I’m not wearing my lucky underpants, that’s why.”
I don’t even want to know.

“I’m going home for dinner. I have to.”
Good, because I did not invite you to eat here.

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.

If You Take a Street Urchin to the Diner

If you take a Street Urchin to the diner, it is not advisable to order the Mexican Omelet.  (It’s my favorite. Green peppers, onions and Monterey Jack cheese, so says the menu, although in real life it’s more likely to be Cheddar.  Either way, it’s all good.)

So we went to the diner with Little Brother and Adventure Boy. And I ordered the Mexican Omelet, not knowing any better, because it’s my favorite, and it’s never been a problem before.

Then again, we don’t usually take Street Urchins to the diner.

My omelet was delicious, as usual. And then Adventure Boy, Master of All That Is Tactful, looked at it, made a face and said, “EWWWWWWWWWWWWW! That looks like big green BOOGERS!”

Thanks for that.

Everybody: In the Pool!

I don’t know where the Street Urchins summer, but most of them haven’t been around here too much (with the exception of Adventure Boy.)  And despite sending my request for contact information home with each of them, I’d only wound up with home phone numbers for two of the four boys on the block.

One of the other boys showed up here today, when Little Brother and two friends were already in the pool.  I handed him a fresh contact sheet and told him to go get it filled out (and to get a towel), and then he could swim.  He told me that he’d lost the other one, but that his mom thought it was a good idea.  He went back home, but 5 minutes later there he was, jumping into my pool without handing me a paper.

I made him get out of the water and sent him home to get it.

I felt bad about that for about 5 seconds.  I have to protect these kids when they are here, and part of that is knowing how to reach their families in case of emergencies.

He came back with the paper filled out, and without a towel.  Adventure Boy doesn’t have a towel either.  (I told him to go home and change and get a towel, but he decided to just swim in his clothes.)  And while Mean Mom might provide a few chocolate-chip cookies apres-swim, they’re on their own when it comes to towels.

The Lost Boys

What IS it with the kids on this block?

There are four boys on my street who are the same age as Little Brother.  I call them the Street Urchins.  They wind up here a lot, perhaps because I’m the one who lets them in.

They know that if they play at my house, they’ve got to play by my rules.  Street Urchins who drop the f-bomb in my family room get sent home.  That’s me, the Mean Mommy.

This morning, I mentioned to TheDad that last night one of the boys’ moms had come here looking for him about an hour after his sisters picked him up.  That’s when he told me that he’d heard there were marital problems in that household, and this boy might be moving soon.

One of the other boys lives with his mom and older siblings.  His parents have been on-and-off separated for several years now.  His dad, though, stays involved and is a Cub Scout leader.

I don’t really know much about the new kid on the block, other than the fact that his parents just opened their second pizzeria.  He seems to be on his own quite a bit.

And then there’s Adventure Boy, who (like his 3 older siblings) is being raised by his grandparents though his mom lives across town.  Sometimes he goes there.  Sometimes he spends a few hours with his dad, and his grandmother reports that the custody issues aren’t pretty.  He’s been left to his own devices since he was a preschooler.

A week or so ago, two of these boys knocked on my door at 8:20 on a school night, looking to play with Little Brother.  Ten minutes.  That’s all I gave them.  Who lets their kids out at 8:20 on a school night?  Who lets their kids disappear after school, never looking for them until they have a baseball game or soccer practice?  Who doesn’t call their kids home until after 8 (if then)–kids who have been out since 4 or earlier, who haven’t been fed dinner, who haven’t been nagged about homework?

Sometimes I think I should stop calling them the Street Urchins and refer to them as the Lost Boys.

I’ve ranted about these kids again and again and again.  I resent being Mommy to the whole block.  This isn’t what I signed up for.

After yesterday’s Cheese Ball Debacle, in which two of the Street Urchins thought it would be fun to toss Utz cheese balls into each other’s mouths, and then pulverized the ones that missed–all over my back porch–I was more than a little bit hot under the collar.  They come here, make a mess, help themselves to snacks and drinks, make a mess, kick soccer balls at my pool filter and front door, make a mess, and (apparently) never have to go home.  And I resent that.  A lot.

I plan to come down hard on the Street Urchins next time they show up, about the cheese balls.  That is disrespectful to me and to my home, and wasteful of food.  If I’d found the mess before they left, they would have been the ones out on the porch with the ShopVac.  Instead, it was Little Brother.

But after TheDad mentioned that yet another Street Urchin is dealing with problems at home, my heart melted just a little bit.  These kids need what they’re not getting at home, I realized.  None of them is in a situation of his own making.

I was wondering, the other day, if refusing to buy Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Starbucks lattes really does any good.  I’m not convinced that it does.  And while I’m happy to be able to afford the big box of diapers every month that I donate to a local crisis-pregnancy center (and I will continue to do so), that effort is a drop in the bucket.

What I need to do is give where it really counts, and that means giving until it hurts.  That means putting up with the Street Urchins and continuing to remind them that baseballs are not Pool Toys and sending them home when the streetlights go on.  It means welcoming them, but setting (and sticking to) limits.  It means praying for them.  It means doing the right thing even when I don’t feel like it; even when I’m cranky and resentful and feeling put-upon.  Maybe especially then.

Honestly, this may be the most pro-life thing I can do right now.

In your charity today, please offer a prayer (or several) for the Lost Boys.