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.

Finding Some Silence

Being an introvert, I need some quiet time on a regular basis to recharge my batteries.  My kids don’t know from quiet.  My younger two are so extroverted that they practically have others orbiting them on a regular basis.  Little Brother, in particular, needs near-constant company.  And when his friends are here and it’s quiet, that’s usually not a good thing either.

Between the radio (loud enough to be heard throughout the house), the TV (at a competing decibel level) and the general kid chatter–or bickering–I feel like I’m being assaulted by noise constantly.

I’m not getting to daily Mass like I’d like to (and like I do on average of 4 days a week during the school year), and that doesn’t help.  It’s hard to listen to my favorite radio show, The Catholics Next Door, because I don’t want to add one more sound source to the sensory overload I’m experiencing.  It’s like the lyrics from that Harry Nilsson song, “Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me.”

And when everyone’s outside, I relish the silence for as long as I can get it.

At Catholicmom.com, Sarah Reinhard brought up the topic of summer parenting.  I mentioned in the comments that with my desk in the middle of the house, in the living room, I run into a lot of sound overload (and a lot of interruptions.)  I’ve been contemplating a way to find some space elsewhere in the house where I can work in quiet.

This afternoon, I got it all figured out and Middle Sister did the heavy moving.  I’ve got a bookcase full of books emptied out all over the bed, so I have to get those put away, but there’s a small desk in my room near a window that has a backyard view.  It’s not going to be my primary work space.  But when things get Just Too Loud here in the heart of my home, it’s good to know that I’ve got a spot where I can (temporarily) retreat.

I can run, but I can’t hide.  I can’t stay up there all day, tempting though it may be.  That won’t do my family any good.  Besides, I’m not so sure I want to be working in the same room where I sleep.  We’ll see how it goes.  If nothing else, I’ll have sorted through all these books–and that’s not a bad thing either.

Letter Perfect

The kids are on notice.

That stack below the sign contains 6 towels that have been left here over the course of the summer.  I don’t launder them anymore–I just hang them on the line, fold them, and pile them next to the Lost & Found basket that contains someone’s bug spray, someone’s swim goggles, someone’s sunglasses.  When kids come over here I interrogate them about whose towels these are.  No one knows–but the teenagers use them anyway (ewwwwwwwww).

I wonder if any of these towels will miraculously find a home in the days to come, or if the ManageMOM will get to dispose of them as she sees fit?

The Kool-Aid Mom Lays Down the Law

Over the weekend, TheDad and the Big Kids opened the backyard pool for the summer. It’s not warm enough to swim, but the Street Urchins who hang around with Little Brother have already been showing up at the door in their swimsuits, towels in hand. (I’m guessing they remember my ironclad rule from last summer: no towel, no swim.)

That’s not the only rule I’m going to have to enforce, however. This mom is really tired of people leaving stuff around for me to pick up. They’re all old enough to clean up after themselves. And if they won’t bother to get their friends to clean up, then they can clean up after their friends as well.

And then there’s the whole “availability” issue. When people are in the pool, I have to supervise. Even if they know how to swim. Even though I really don’t swim well at all. Having a pool brings a huge amount of responsibility with it. I’m not a fan of the Street Urchins’ tactic of “arrive home from school, change into swimsuit, and show up at my house.” So…my red light/green light sign has gone back on the front door.

This sign has been around since Little Brother and Adventure Boy were preschoolers. I took one of those foam door hanger things and drew 3 circles on each side. On one side, I colored in the top circle red. In the other 2 circles I wrote “Play Later.” Then on the flip side, I colored the bottom circle green and wrote “Friends Welcome.” Even pre-readers get the idea. (Little Brother is not authorized to change the sign without my permission.)

I don’t want to be unwelcoming, but neither do I want to be the entire neighborhood’s maid, lifeguard, and free babysitter. A few limits are a good thing.

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?

Going Underground

We got some new furniture for the living room last week. I’ve been getting used to it (translation: I’ve been falling asleep in the new love seat a lot). But what has taken even more getting used to is the fact that my desk no longer fits into the living room.

Middle Sister, you see, talked me into investing in a “chair and a half” which is about the size of the old love seat. Plus we got a love seat and a couch. There’s lots of seating in that room now, which is great. But there’s no room for my desk.

That’s OK, in a way…I like that the living room seems less cluttered without my desk. But putting it in the family room means that I am right in the middle of all the action–rather than close to the action, where I can see and hear it, but not in a spot where Nerf basketballs regularly rebound off my laptop screen (note to self: close laptop when not in use).

Summer’s coming–two kids are already out of school and Little Brother only has three half-days left. I’m not yet used to having kids at home during the day–and the combination of one child who leaves the radio on in one room and the TV on in another, which happens to be the room I’m in, and another child’s musical experimentation with a homemade didgeridoo is making me crazy. I can hardly wait to add an eight-year-old boy, who’s in motion so much that he’s blurry in nearly every picture he poses for, to the mix.

I’m jealous of Barb’s “teacher’s meetings” at Panera. I think I’m going to have to work in one of those every week or so. Middle Sister can babysit, since Big Brother starts work on Monday. (What are the odds that he’ll be taking that didgeridoo with him?)

We have an empty desk in the basement that my husband was going to use for his home business. He doesn’t use it–ever. So I may be taking my laptop downstairs, at least to get my work done (see “Blogging for Coupons” in the sidebar). I’ll see how that goes.