An evening with friends: one of my favorite kinds of "family fun"

To me, a big part of “family fun” means hanging out with other families. I’m very fortunate that both of my best friends from high school live here in town, just a few minutes away. Oh yeah, and one of them married my brother. So the three of us – and our spouses and ten combined kids – spend a lot of time together.

Saturday afternoon we decided to throw together an impromptu BBQ party with the three families. We had brats and chicken on hand; Melissa (whom we have always called “Missy” but who would probably like to leave that nickname behind) brought green beans and beer, and Jenna (the one who had the good taste to marry my brother John) bought chips, hot dogs, and wine. I had three pints of blueberries left over from last week’s CSA share, so I decided to make a blueberry crumble (using this microwave recipe from Taste of Home, since it was too hot to use the oven long.) The group of us ate and drank and sat around talking, laughing and listening to music all evening while the kids ran amok.

I tried to take a photo of their high-energy seven-kid-strong dance party, but this is all I got:

Those impromptu gatherings are some of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday. The grown-ups get to hang out and talk while the young cousins and friends have the time of their little lives.

Sure, maybe I should be a little less eager to have people over to my house. After all, I do not have what home-decorating magazines would term “a kitchen perfect for entertaining.”

There are about two total feet of available countertop, made of “not fooling anyone” simulated woodgrain laminate. The appliances don’t match in either color or era (ancient white fridge, new black stove, well-used stainless dishwasher.) The floor…well, let’s not even talk about the floor right now.

The rest of the house has its quirks, too. If our home could tell a story, it would say “Family moved in with great intentions of renovating, ripped out all the trim and tore up the dining-room floor in one week, and then pretty much…stopped.” Okay, so maybe we didn’t completely stop, but we did slow wayyy down after that ambitious, exhausting first month. But we can’t stop living, and having people over to our rough-around-the-edges, half-done house is living itself.

So we do it a lot. Just last weekend my sister Kathreen, her family, and some out-of-town friends came for a day and night. How many weekends of summer are left? You can guess we’ll have almost as many get-togethers.

Hopefully our guests are comfortable enough here. Even if we did accidentally put the new bathroom doorknob on backwards.

Privacy is limited, but you can always lock someone in for kicks!

I dream of one day – maybe when the kids have all flown and my home decorating budget exceeds the (low) double digits – being a truly gracious, Martha Stewart-esque hostess. But for now, I keep my hostessing standards within easy reach.

I figure guests need:

  • Adequate and easy-to-access toilet paper.
  • Hand soap and a clean towel.
  • Something to eat and drink.
  • A chair to sit on.
  • A place to change a baby (with wipes and diapers to borrow in case they forgot the diaper bag at home).
  • Good conversation, good music, and lots of laughter.

Doable on any budget and in almost any home. No, our house isn’t “perfect” for entertaining, and yet, everyone who comes over always seem to stay pretty well entertained.

But I guess it helps to start with good friends.

Jenna and baby Luna to left, Melissa to the right

How did you and your family spend your weekend? I hope it was as imperfectly lovely as mine.

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