We came back from vacation Saturday night, went to the grocery store Sunday afternoon, and Eric cleaned while I did some baking. We decided to focus on the big stuff and not stress about the rest. At the end of the night, we counted 40 students at our house. It was awesome. There were moments throughout the night when I just stood back and was filled with delight. I love these kids and it is such a gift to be able to have them at our house. In high school, my parents hosted my friends a lot. They were awesome at making us all feel at home it seemed so natural to them (Instead of going out to dinner one year, 20 of my friends came over and had lasagna before the homecoming dance, making it look like they owned an Italian restaurant and did that sort of thing daily). My parents taught me a lot about entertaining, especially on the fly (due to having a daughter who liked to spring house guests on them - in high school and even college), and here's some tips.
1. Take shoes off at the door. We aren't militant about it, but it sure does help. I'm not a stellar housekeeper. The counters were wiped, and the floors were vacuumed, but I didn't dust or mop before students came in. They didn't notice, and I didn't either. But taking shoes off helps a lot with the aftermath of a good party. Students instantly do it once they see a pile, and adults are welcome to leave theirs on. Here's just a few of the shoes gathered in our door. (One time in high school, my brother tied all of my friends' shoes together when they came over ... that made for an interesting departure!)
2. Keep the food simple. Kids are just as happy with chips, pop, and pizza. I usually make something homemade (in this case, ginger cookies) - because who doesn't love the smell of homemade cookies? My mom always made cookies for us and it was an awesome homemade treat. She also was sure to have a veggie tray and fruit sitting out, and I picked up her cues. We had a veggie tray on Sunday and it was almost demolished. We ordered six large pizzas on Sunday night and called for three more - all were gone.
3. Make people feel welcome. Between my brothers and I, we brought a host of different types of people to my parent's house. My parents were welcoming to every person who walked in, and never judged them. My dad masterfully welcomed everyone, and both my parents seemed relaxed. They never mumbled about loud teenagers, rolled their eyes at us, or got worked up about people trampling through their house. They made sure our home was a place where everyone was welcome, and all could feel comfortable
4. Have fun! Savor the gift of teenagers actually wanting to be at your house, and let them have fun. This is the stuff memories are made of - trust me, I lived it! We try to keep a balance of engaging with students and letting them do their own thing when we're around them. We don't force ourselves into their games or situations, but let them know we're not "too mature" to sit and laugh and play with them.
Looking at these pictures, I'm absolutely convinced we could have fit at least twenty more kids in. Next time! What tips do you have for entertaining teenagers?
One more tip is to start cleaning up as the party is winding down. Don't leave it all for 10 or 11 p.m. when the kids are gone. Since our party was from 6-8, I started cleaning things up around 7:45 and students pitched in to help. By 8:30, there was no clean up left to do, and we could relax for a little bit before the week began.