Kids say the darndest things!

Kids will be kids

Teenagers may well be every country's finest ambassadors. Care to go for a truism to start your day? In the name of world peace and global inter-connectivity? Then start with kids.

And in that light, here’s my oh-so-self-evident observation, based upon 36 hours of hosting a teenager from Latvia in our hybrid little American homestead.

The bad news is: kids will be kids, the world over. The good news is: kids will be kids, the world over. And ultimately, that is very good news, indeed. In fact, perhaps teenagers are our finest ambassadors on the world stage.

Entertaining house guests

When money is tight, and you’re not at the top of your game, the last thing you want is to entertain a house guest. Especially one from another country, when of course you’d like to represent your own, in the most positive light, while providing an authentic experience.

On the other hand, if you have a house guest who is entertaining, and adds a jolt of energy to the environment, wild and funny conversation around the kitchen table, loves your cooking, and you hear laughter and music into the night – it could be just what the doctor ordered. Maybe not for the physical health, but absolutely, when it comes to mental health!

Spirit booster: smart teen guest + sense of humor

Latvian flag - flying well in our household!  Other than the fact that our Latvian house guest is verrrrrry tall and broad, and I suspect he is a bit cramped in the storage closet guest room, we have just survived Night Two and embarked upon Day Two. Showers were timed reasonably well, warm rolls and juice were heartily consumed, and lunches packed consisting of four sandwiches, assorted fruits, chips and drinks. A roast is defrosting in the kitchen for dinner, and schedules (outings, tennis practice, pick-up times) were semi-coordinated at drop off… (weary woman crosses fingers and toes).

Mix in: unlimited parts raucous laughter around the kitchen table + one very smart, very smart-ass, very good-natured, very verbal guest (exactly our style) – and things really couldn’t be going any better. This somewhat “out there” kid is ideally matched to our not-so-standard Euro-American household. Serendipity? Quite possibly. And hallelujah! European Union Flag (we've got that covered, too).

For the extra work of having a guest (and it most certainly is that), there’s no question that we are a household that thrives on humor and energy. There is also no question that we get that “juice” from a crowd of teens. It’s a spirit booster – to me, and to my son.

Is it a hassle and a half? Sure. Worth it? Absolutely.

Frugal feasts and food fun

Bagels and cream cheese? Well, the bagels got a thumbs up. Cream cheese - not so much. We’ve been introducing our guest to some entertaining foods. We are a family on a budget (make that the UnBudget), like millions of others. Nonetheless, he’s been very anxious to eat “whatever is American” – and he and my son, both, are enjoying the fact that I am cooking constantly (breakfast, dinner, and desserts – daily). Not so easy on me these days, but their pleasure is so clear that I’ll manage.

I imagine our guest expected hamburgers, hot dogs, and frozen pizza (we do eat those things, but not often). He is getting our “usual” cuisine, though certainly not his usual. Among the variety of foods and meals already on the menu, that seem to be appreciated with a certain gusto:

  • Bagels and cream cheese (our guest loved the bagel, was so-so on the cream cheese; my son and I were smirking)
  • Caeser salad – packaged, but with added fresh spinach leaves and ground black pepper (big thumbs up)
  • The All-American Hot Dog will also be on the menu - eventually!

  • Lemon cookies (another big thumbs up; we’ll go chocolate chip next!)
  • Chicken à la Popeye with sautéed potatoes (INHALED in massive quantities, and thankfully it’s a great budget meal)
  • London Broil (coming tonight – mischievous blue Latvian eyes widened when they saw me take it out of the freezer this morning)

I may spring for the French Twist Mini Pecan Pies tonight for dessert – if I’m up to it. I have the ingredients in the house and they don’t take long to prepare. Frankly, the pleasure of kids enjoying what they eat makes it worth the trouble, no matter what.

However – my son doesn’t know it yet, but tomorrow night he’s cooking. I’m guessing it will be omelettes, potatoes, and a veggie.

International programs, international travel

And here lies the beauty of the unknown, of the sublime and the ridiculous – in other words, agreeing to take this kid last minute, considering that we were ill-prepared to do so. This is also the delight of international travel – at any age, and whether you are welcoming an international visitor to your home, or grabbing the passport and heading to another country yourself. American flag (yep, we're there!)

If you are traveling, staying at a bed and breakfast (at the very least) or in someone’s home, the cultural experience will be so much richer. Even a few weeks – for yourself or your teenagers – will open eyes and doors, and make it pretty clear that for all the dissimilarities that exist, human interaction and communication bridge our differences. And kids, especially, are kids. They eat, drink, crack jokes, love to laugh over (exactly the same) ridiculous things – word play and gross-me-out imagery, while remaining wondrously inquisitive and ingenuous. They ask, they observe, they engage. At times they let loose outrageous statements that lead to fascinating discussion.

Recipes for teenage bonding

The fact is, my 16-year old and our guest are bonding over food, music, and humor. They spent hours into the night taking turns at the piano, as well as listening to wild techno music on the computer and YouTube (our Latvian teen had his own rock band when he was 14, 15, 16 years old). They are chuckling constantly. Over what? I couldn’t tell you. But both were teasing me mercilessly on the ride to school. Already. And I loved it.

International travel broadens horizons at any age. (Pass the coffee and a plane ticket to Paris for this weary mum, please.)  As for more specifics – not this morning. I’m pooped! Even if you handed me a ticket to Paris at this moment, I’m not sure I could hop on the subway, then the direct flight, then the metro, and “just do it!” (But if anyone wants to dangle a ticket in front of me, I might leave the teens to fend for themselves, and try… )

Suffice it to say, our house guest has enthralled us already with some of his remarks, and has led us into conversations that are philosophical, linguistic, historical, and hysterical. What could be better than that? Isn’t this exactly the way to transform the world, one individual at a time?

© D A Wolf


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  1. says

    I LOVE this post. What fun! He sounds like he is filling your house up with surprises for all.

    I love that you’re hosting him and that he seems to be a perfect match for you and your family. Enjoy it! When is he going to cook you guys some Latvian food?!? :)

    Oh and Latvia put on a great game against Czech Republic yesterday in the Olympics.

  2. says

    Sounds like a great big jolt of goodness! Good for you for hosting him. And of course, he wants to eat anything American. Live it up. My brother spent two weeks in Sweden when he was a teen. He lived with a family. It happened to be the town butcher – so he got meat every night! And every morning. And every lunch. And… oy. But he had a great time. Hope your Latvian friend enjoys your hospitality.

  3. says

    I’m sorry I haven’t been by lately. I wanted time to be able to express how moved I am by your actions. I’m just so glad that you’ve reaped so many benefits already! I thought about you last night when we were having the #ptchat on raising global kids. Clearly, your kids are not lacking in that dept!

  4. says

    I love it, BLW! Thank you for reminding us that from the mundane can come the extraordinary; that we go through the trouble of cooking and cleaning to fill our hearts with joy, laughter and all the deliciousness that being alive brings. And yes, this is a great way to change the world, shower love, one person at a time.

  5. says

    This is such a fun post. You are a trooper and a great American (!)

    You have to back-off that last remark about Paris. You KNOW no one believes you.

    Keep up the good work. . .


  6. says

    Thrilled to hear that the Latvian is bringing a jolt of energy and good will (along with the inevitable extra household responsibilities). Your wonderful post made me regret once again that I never had the guts to study abroad, but it also reminded me that the hour is not too late: next time our family is able to travel overseas, I hope to remember this advice about endeavoring to stay with a family rather than in a faceless hotel. Remind me?

  7. says

    I’m so glad it’s going well, BLW! I love that he’s learning a thing or two about homemade American meals. Hey, not everyone can afford to have pizza delivery every night!

    And to have gotten these things you didn’t expect: a jolt of energy, a burst of fresh air, interesting conversations, that’s great. You sound re-energized by the visit.

    Go Latvia!

  8. says

    Isn’t this exactly the way to transform the world, one individual at a time?

    Yes, it is. What a wonderful gift you’ve given your family and your guest and his family.

    Once we start to realize that we’re all basically alike, it makes us kinder and more compassionate. So, we transform ourselves, too.

  9. says

    What fun! Glad to hear things are going so well! What a great way to get to know a little about someone else’s life and what a great experience to share both with him and with your kids. Good for you for undertaking it!

  10. Bruno Aleksandrs says

    Yea that Latvian sounds like the necest guy on the planet.
    What bloodgroup whas he? And does he have any rats as pets?

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Yeah. That Latvian was an AWESOME GUY and we miss him. And the dzintars. And the closet has never been the same. Long live Latvia!!


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