"Worth Revisit: Parenting in Public" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom

#WorthRevisit: Parenting in Public

In two days, Tech Week starts at the high school. TheKid is playing Lord Farquaad in the school’s production of “Shrek,” his fourth time participating in the high-school musical–but his first time as an actual high-school student.

Tech Week at this school features Tech Week dinners, coordinated by a group of parents with themes and fun and a good (not fast-food) meal for the entire cast, crew, orchestra and directorial staff. This will be my 6th year helping out with these dinners.

Five years ago, I found myself parenting very publicly at one of these dinners. Cue soundtrack: “Walking on Broken Glass.”

"Worth Revisit: Parenting in Public" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom
Those windows at left rear? The broken glass in question. Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz. All rights reserved.

Little Brother’s not in the play this year, but he’s at Tech Week Dinners with me because there’s no one else at home to watch him at that time. This year, he’s the only grade-school kid there. He eats with the kids, his old buddies from his Munchkin days during Wizard of Oz last spring. He’s even made a few new friends among the students, including one young man who was kicking a soccer ball around with him outside the cafeteria after dinner tonight.

I was helping to put away the drink coolers when we heard a crash. Sure enough, that soccer ball had sailed through one of the cafeteria windows. And all the other parents were watching as I ran to the door, spied my son, and ordered, “Get in here.”

“Get in here,” I heard someone chuckle behind me. (Seriously? You’re going to laugh at me now?) Clearly I was on the stage, with an audience of more than 20 parents and grandparents who were clearly glad not to be in my shoes. So I took it outside, where my little boy and his soccer-playing buddy both assured me that my son wasn’t the guilty party. The young man who’d been playing soccer with him showed me his own feet, trying to convince me that Little Brother’s legs aren’t powerful enough to have kicked the ball through the window. After sending Little Brother to the car to put away the soccer ball, I took off my apron and started picking up the few shards of glass that had fallen outside the building. Did you know that aprons are good for picking up–and holding–broken glass, so you don’t cut your hands while you do that job?

The vice principal is also in charge of stage crew, so before long he was in the cafeteria talking to my son and the high-school boy. Again, lots of parents were watching as I told the vice principal that whether or not Little Brother had kicked it, he had been the one to bring the ball to the dinner, so he should share in the damages. The other student was trying to take all the blame upon himself, and I insisted (and will follow up) that we divide the bill for the glass replacement. Little Brother insisted that he would pay for it with his own money. While a custodian taped cardboard over the broken window, I returned to the kitchen to finish cleaning up. The parents wanted to know if I was OK.

Aside from a few bonus blood-pressure points, I was fine. Actually, I was impressed with the student who tried to deflect the blame from my child, willing to take all of it (including a financial penalty) on himself. I was more annoyed with the parents who said, “You shouldn’t have to pay for that. It’s a cost of doing business.” No. It’s not. My kid was playing soccer against the side of a building–in an area where there were windows. It was an accident waiting to happen and we’re all very lucky that no one got hurt. I was annoyed with myself for not stopping him sooner. I was annoyed with the parents who laughed at my initial reaction, which I found remarkably restrained, considering.

The soccer ball won’t be coming back to Tech Week Dinners. We will pay our half of the glass bill and Little Brother will have to contribute to that. And I can’t help but wish that the parents who seemed to think that Little Brother and I should let a teenage boy shoulder all the blame for this–and the ones who seemed to think that neither soccer player was at fault at all–had taken a page from that teenager’s script.

We parents have our work on display at all times, every time our child leaves the house for the day at school. “By their fruits you shall know them,” after all. I hope that Little Brother learned a lesson or two tonight. I don’t know if the Play Parents did. And if I ever get to meet the parents of a certain teenager, I’ll be sure to tell them that they can be very proud of their son, who politely and immediately claimed and accepted responsibility for his role (and more than his role) in the breaking of that window.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

Small Success: Fleeting Seasons

I looked out the front window Tuesday morning and saw the lilacs beginning to bloom. I’ll enjoy their sight and scent, for about a week. And then they’ll be gone.

It’s important to appreciate the fleeting things while you have them. So I opened the window and savored the lilacs, and got work done while I listened to a mockingbird’s serenade.

File Apr 19, 7 46 48 AMLilac season lasts about as long as Tech Week at the high school (10 days or so). It’s Tech Week right now, and I’m volunteering at the Tech Week Dinners, bringing chicken tacos or salad and croutons, pouring drinks, wiping tables, and marveling at the great kids who participate in the musical. People who think all high-school kids are self-centered need to show up at a Tech Week Dinner. They will see students carrying plates and drinks for someone who has full hands or an arm in a sling. They’ll see students making sure to tell the Dinner Moms that their friend has a track meet and will be arriving late for dinner, and asking if we’d save a plate or two. They’ll watch a student walk through the line with the shyest girl of all and invite her to sit at a table full of friends. They’ll hear students thanking us for the dinner from the second they walk into the cafeteria, as they pass through the line, after they say grace before the meal and again before they head to their 4-hour rehearsal.

leaning tower of beveragesI’ve gotten through the two Tech Week Dinners so far without any panic attacks, so that’s definitely an improvement over previous years. And it’s been nice; I remember quite a few people who ask about my Big Kids and wonder if I missed being the one who organized two weeks of food for 100 people. (No, I don’t miss running it, but I have missed being there.)

This week I also made a small tweak in my work “schedule” (such as it is; I don’t have an assigned schedule. As long as each article at CatholicMom.com is posted at its scheduled time, no one cares what time I work or in what order I do things.) Reworking a few things in my workflow has allowed me to be more efficient, which is a good thing! Yesterday I had to pick up some medical supplies for TheKid yesterday and bundled in a trip (first ever!) to Trader Joe’s where I did not buy everything in sight, so I guess that can count as a success.

Giant sugar cookies with sprinkles (8)cT

And my giant sugar cookies with sprinkles were a huge hit at the school bake sale. I sent in 2 dozen and TheKid reported that only one cookie was left after first lunch.

Small Success dark blue outline 800x800

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes! Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

Small Success Thursday: Let’s Eat!

Small-Success-Thursday-400pxStop by CatholicMom.com where we take a few moments every Thursday to share our small successes from the past week.


tortilla soupI created a new soup recipe in an effort to use up some tomato soup that was left over from Soup & Sandwich Night last week. Waste not, want not!


It’s a beautiful morning and the laundry is hanging on the clothesline. Want a good way to keep your blood pressure down? Put up a clothesline!


zapps honey mustard chipsTech Week Dinners are over! It was a true pleasure to work with the parents of the cast and crew and feed the kids, but I am enjoying the chance to once again cook dinner for my own family. Tonight, I’ll be working on a new original recipe for Honey-Mustard Potato Chip Chicken.

2 out of 3 of my Small Successes for the week have to do with food. I really shouldn’t blog when I’m hungry! Pass the chips.

Feeding the Hungry (and Allergic)

To the mom who was so apologetic about mentioning her daughter’s dairy allergy to me at dinner the other day:

Do not feel as if it is an imposition on me to tell me what I need to know in order to safely feed your daughter.

With a bit of advance notice and an opportunity to bounce ideas around with you, I can come up with safe alternatives. I don’t want you to have to feel like you need to send “special food” with her wherever she goes. (Or, at the very least, when she comes to dinner with us.)

tomato pieIt is both a corporal AND spiritual work of mercy to honor someone’s medical dietary needs.

The corporal part is obvious. I think the spiritual part falls under the category of “comforting the sorrowful.”

When your child has special dietary needs, it’s tough on parents. By comparison, I have it “easy” with a diabetic. We just need nutrition labels and insulin. It’s not that he can’t have something.

I get a lot of “what can he have?” from people who don’t know how diabetes works. That is an opportunity to gently educate (“instruct the ignorant” in a way). I do know that the people who ask me this question are acting on a generous impulse, and I appreciate it. I appreciate even more when they ask first, rather than investing in expensive special foods like sugar-free candies, which are much less diabetic-friendly than people think.

So when I ask what your child can have, I intend to provide that. She’s singled out enough. You have to bring special food for her most, if not all, of the time. I wouldn’t offer to find something that works for her if I wouldn’t gladly do it. I am happy to find a way for her to enjoy the meal that all her friends will be sharing.

(And don’t worry–I left out the Parmesan on the tomato pie.)

Small Success: Midweek Crazy Edition

I’m glad to be linking up again at CatholicMom.com for one of my favorite features:  Small Success Thursday!


It’s been a kind of crazy week. From 3:15 to 7 PM each day I’m at the high school serving dinner to 100 kids. (My poor husband is fending for himself this week.) Little Brother comes along, because he takes the school’s slogan to heart:

you belong here

I am doing what I love this week. The spreadsheet just might kill me, but I’m sorting out drinks and paper plates and condiments and forks and what-goes-where and how-much-we-need and finding creative ways to use leftover food (taco beef from Tuesday is in the freezer, waiting to be part of Monday’s chili) and brainstorming with moms about chili alternatives because not everyone eats chili.


I am managing to be super-flexible this week, which for me is huge. When a few other moms approached me about chili alternatives I didn’t blow a gasket. I was only a tiny bit insulted (mostly embarrassed because I hadn’t thought of that, and my job this week is to be the Mom Who Thinks Of Everything.) Of course, I can only be flexible in this situation because I have been so busy Thinking Of Everything…so we’re going to have Chili/Dog Night on Monday. Hot dogs, 4 kinds of homemade chili, leftover mac & cheese (we had 4 pans too many last night), chips, salad and quesadillas.


I just gained 30 minutes a day. Little Brother had an appointment at CHOP yesterday with his endocrinologist nurse practitioner. She amended his glucose-testing schedule because of the timing of snacks and meals during the school day–so he won’t be testing at lunchtime. This means I can show up at 10 for the test-and-snack-and-argue with the nurse routine (Little Brother, not me) and then be done until 3 when it’s time to pick him up after school. Little Brother will have to see the nurse to get insulin to cover the carbs in his lunch, but I don’t need to be there for that. Overall, they are pleased with his progress–his A1C was 6, which translates into a blood-glucose of 120 on average for the past 3 months.

I had been going to school (at my child’s request) at 10, again at noon, then at 3 to pick him up. That’s a lot of time, a lot of gas, a lot of knowing I had to drop what I was doing soon and get back to school. So I am hugely relieved. I will be there for the 10-AM test because there will be a judgement call involved and he’ll argue for something that is not always the best alternative. I’m kind of the mediator between him and the nurse!

I know how I’ll spend my extra 30 minutes today–exploring the rest of the Small Success posts! Do you have a Small Success to share? Stop over and link up or leave a comment at CatholicMom.com!

It All Comes Together

At 3:30 this afternoon I will walk into an empty high-school cafeteria. I will unload several hundred paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils from my van. I will tie my apron on, check my clipboard, and fill my cup with ice water I won’t get a chance to drink before the ice melts and it turns lukewarm.

At 5 this afternoon, one hundred high-school students will walk into that same cafeteria and find a full dinner, hot and waiting for them. There will be pasta with sauce and cheese, pasta with sauce and without cheese, and pasta with just olive oil. There will be meatballs, salad, and Italian rolls. There will be dessert and beverages. There will be 15 parents and grandparents with smiles on their faces, ready to serve all this food to the cast, crew and orchestra of the spring musical.

After weeks of planning, fighting with my spreadsheet (I have a love-hate relationship–mostly hate–with Excel), several hundred emails and not a little panic, it’s time for Tech Week Dinners.

Over the weekend, I had several parents contact me out of the blue to ask if there were still any holes in the schedule of volunteers or food. I am happy to say that because of these generous people, who had already donated plenty and offered their help, there are no more blank spaces in my spreadsheet.

Organizing an event of this magnitude that relies completely on donations of food and help is a huge exercise in trust. And, every time, it all comes together. And, every time, I am blown away.

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!