(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.
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.
One 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.
If 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.
We’re winding up the school year for The Kid, which means that his schedule is crazy and I’ve got 7th-grade boys here at all hours. It’s hot, so they want to swim. Which brings me to my first Small Success.
Today when the boys showed up wearing swimsuits but carrying nothing but their cell phones, I calmly asked them if they’d brought towels. “I’m not in charge of your laundry, guys,” I told them. (There is a bin of long-lost towels that I washed and folded, and it’s on the porch, and they know where it is, but I think they raided that over the weekend and I am NOT spending my summer supervising them AND providing refreshments AND doing their laundry.) I might even need to count it as an extra success since I did not yell.
My second Small Success: I went to the gym this morning. 30 minutes on the treadmill. That’s all I have time for before the whole get-The-Kid-out-the-door-for-school routine unless I want to wake up at a really obscene hour, and I think 5:15 is crazy enough. But 30 minutes is way better than 0 minutes.
I have to admit that much as I resist exercising, I feel way better for the whole rest of the day when I make the effort to get to the gym in the morning.
My third Small Success: I am roasting a chicken right now without heating up my whole house. I have a turkey roaster that I keep on our enclosed back porch all year ’round. And Oven Stuffers were on sale this week.
This week has felt like an uphill battle–nothing big, just a bunch of small annoyances conspiring to move me from cranky to anxious to impossible to be around in a single afternoon. Most of these are not things I have much control over, and sometimes rolling with it can be exhausting.
Case in point: we’re having the deck for our above-ground pool replaced because it was unsafe. The new deck promises to be super-sturdy and long-lasting. The building process is even longer-lasting. This means that there are building materials and tools and a builder in the backyard, so no one can play back there (or use the pool. And the weather’s hot.)
So when the Street Urchins come to play, they’re in the house, making noise and leaving a mess. I’m trying to walk that fine line between welcoming the boys into the house and allowing them to walk all over me. On Sunday morning, after several of them had slept over, I announced that they needed to clean up the family room (it was totally trashed) and then I went out to the back porch, where I heard:
“You have to vacuum, because you were throwing breath mints.”
The boys know where I keep the soda, and The Kid does bring out snacks (and sometimes a kid will come here eating something, but that’s just his, which I find odd…) and yesterday they all had a Fruit Roll-Up and a soda and then, after I laid down the law about not using the backyard where there was wet cement (we all know how that would end, and it wouldn’t be pretty) they went out the front door to play basketball down the street. I went into the family room and found 4 empty soda cans on the table and 5 Fruit Roll-up packages on the table, the couch and the floor, plus one cell phone.
I was livid.
It’s a good thing my neighbor showed up to borrow a jar of salsa right then. She’s very calm, though she told me that there’s no way she could put up with the boys day in and day out like I do. She asked what I was going to have them do about the mess, and I concluded that I might say something when the cell phone’s owner came looking for it.
By the time that happened, I was calmer, so when the Street Urchin came in to pick up his phone, I pointed toward the mess and said, “You guys need to pick up the trash from your snacks.” He didn’t bat an eye, just picked up a couple of cans and wrappers, put them in the trash, grabbed his phone and asked if I wanted him to send the rest of them to clean up the rest of the mess. I did. They did.
One bright moment in all of that: when the boys were still in the house trying to figure out what they could do since our backyard was out of commission, one of them suggested that they play that demonic Charlie game that’s making the rounds of the middle schools. Before I could jump on that, another kid said, “No. We can’t play that game here.”
“No, you can’t. We don’t play Charlie here,” I interjected.
Then they all wanted to know how I knew about Charlie, which left me the opening to tell them that we don’t invite demons into my home. And they were good with that explanation.
And finally, after I don’t know how many weeks of arguing with my computer about the printer, which would come up as “offline” when I tried to print but happily spit out The Kid’s homework assignments from the other computer, I finally nailed down the problem as firewall-related, re-set the setting, and am able to print without sending something to the print queue and then turning off my laptop. In the battle of Barb vs. Printer, I have emerged victorious.
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.