Andy Versus the Schoolkids (#148)


Andy thought the squirrels were bad -- until the school kids arrived.
Andy Takes Aim

When Andy and I decided to move, we fell in love with a particular area in the South Bay. It had sidewalks and sat under an undeveloped hill.

It was expensive. Out of our budget – until a tiny house across from a middle school went on the market.

Some of the brick landscaping.
Some of the brick landscaping and rose bushes.

The house had a huge backyard and gorgeous brick landscaping, but it didn’t sell immediately – unheard of in the South Bay. Apparently families that wouldn’t mind living next to a school didn’t want to fit into a house under 1200 square feet with only two bedrooms.

We made two offers and were ignored until the owners finally realized we were their only hope. Despite their best efforts to screw us over, the house was eventually ours.

We thought we knew what we were getting into. Before making an offer, Andy actually drove to the house on a school day and watched the morning traffic.

“Those parents are insane,” he reported. “They blow through crosswalks with kids in them. They do K-turns in the middle of the street. They honk at their kids. They honk at the crossing guard. They honk at each other as traffic jams on the four streets leading to the school.”

“So it’s not for us?”

“I didn’t say that. We just have to not go anywhere 20 minutes before school starts. And probably not for 20 minutes when it ends.”

When we moved in, it was summer. The school was empty. The neighborhood was quiet. Many of our neighbors were retired. Most of them were the original owners who had bought their homes fifty years earlier. There were exactly two preschool girls on the block.

It was lovely.

Until school started.

The morning wasn’t bad. 20 minutes of mayhem, followed the sound of an occasional school bell for 7 hours. The noise during school hours was minimal. I barely noticed it as I worked on home improvement projects or writing projects. Insta-parking lot reappeared at 2:50 PM, but when I looked out the kitchen window at 3:10, the cars were gone.

I still heard high-pitched kid voices, though.

I looked out the window of our front door.

Bored middle schoolers battering and picking at flowers.
Bored middle schoolers battering and picking at flowers.

At least twenty kids stood and sat on our front steps.

The six trees that shaded our steps from the hot Los Angeles sun also created enticing hangout spot for tweens.

I couldn’t imagine anything worse than interacting with hormonally unbalanced almost-teens. I was once, very briefly, a substitute teacher. Until fifth grade, the kids were sweet people pleasers. Over sixth grade? Sullen assholes. So I hid in my house and watched as cars picked them up, one by one. My dog Woofie – who longed for a kid of his own – whined relentlessly as they disappeared.

By 3:30, most of them were gone.

I told Andy about it that weekend.

As my husband belongs to the “Get off my lawn” school of thought, he was miffed. “Why are they on our steps? Why don’t they walk home? Why don’t they take the bus?”

“Our school district doesn’t do buses anymore. I guess the parents all drove their kids and the buses were empty and the school district said, ‘fuck it’ and gave up on buses and saved themselves some money.”

“But why are they on OUR steps?”

“Our steps are the nicest on the block. And shady. Just think, it’s like we’re cool with the popular kids now.”

“I don’t wanna be popular,” Andy grumbled. He grumbled louder when he found Doritos bags stuck on to our roses. And when he found a broken sprinkler head the following week, he more than grumbled. He yelled, “It’s those kids! I know it. First they leave trash and now they’re messing with the sprinklers, damn it! This is war!

“How are you going to go to war with these kids when you’re not even around when they’re around?”

“I’m gonna drive them away.”

“Again, how?”

“You’ll see,” he said, marching off to repair the sprinklers.

On Monday afternoon at 3 PM, I heard children screaming. I ran to the window and looked out.

The sprinklers were on. Andy had adjusted the automatic timer.

The usual step-sitters fled with across the street with their backpacks.

Then they returned without their backpacks. Two boys wrestled until one succeeded in shoving the other into the spraying water. Drenched boy retaliated. More kids joined them.

Andy called at 3:05. “Are the sprinklers going off?”


“Hahahaha, did the kids get soaked?”


“Hahahahaha, did they scream and run away?”

“Yep. Then came back with reinforcements.”


“I think we have about thirty kids playing in the sprinklers now.”

“Goddamn it! Shut it down!”

“The sprinklers are your babies. I don’t know how.”

“Hit the rain delay button!”

I hung up and went to the backyard to shut off the sprinklers. The water stopped. The kids let out a collective “awww” of disappointment, and dried themselves in the sun.

That night, Andy came home with many bags of fertilizer. The natural kind. Steer manure, to be exact. He spread it all over our front lawn. Our house smelled like a Kansas stockyard.

The next day, the kids made faces and sat elsewhere.

Andy heard my report with satisfaction and declared victory.

His victory lasted a week. The minute the smell abated, the kids were back.

“I’ll get some more fertilizer,” Andy said.

“You will NOT,” I told him. “I couldn’t open the windows for a week, and it hit ninety degrees and we have no AC.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Of course not. You work in an air-conditioned lab with no windows that simulates the temperature in space.”

“Can’t you just go outside and run the kids off?”

“Me and what army? There are dozens of them. Dozens of obnoxious kids who are dying to flout authority.”

“Take Woofie. He looks scary.”

“Yes, and they should be very afraid OF HIS DROOL. They’d figure out in seconds that they are only in danger of being licked to death.”

“Take Fey.”

“She’s not socialized yet and she’s much more territorial. She might actually bite a skateboarder and then we get sued.”

“Well, they’re still messing with the sprinklers and I don’t know what they’re doing to the brick planters, but some of the bricks are loose.”

I figured it out the next day. Some of the kids stood on the edge of the brick planters. They rocked back and forth.

Next to the brick rockers, a girl plucked the petals off of a budding Princess Elizabeth rose.

Before I had time to gasp, a kid ran up to the porch, put down a skateboard, and hit a 360 as he rattled down my steps.

I yelled, “Are you fucking kidding me!?”

I grabbed Woofie’s collar and marched outside to do battle.

The battle continues in Part II: Autumn and the School Kids

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

24 thoughts on “Andy Versus the Schoolkids (#148)”

  1. I am really eager for Part II and convinced that you won somehow in the end. The schoolkids do seem like a handful. I suppose where they are of that age when trespassing and private property doesn’t mean much to them. Andy’s suggestions are great, though. But it seems the kids have the sense to outsmart him, or just simply be kids and get away with it. I don’t know if taking Woofie out is a good idea…I mean, more friends for Woofie to play with…

    1. You are too darn smart, Mabel. 🙂 As you may see tomorrow.

      Yeah, the kids weren’t deliberately malicious. They just don’t think the consequences through sometimes. Until they are in their twenties.

      Or maybe ever!

  2. You go girl! Perhaps a mountain lion would work. Or a sign that said Caution quarantine: Smallpox in house. Then again the kids probably don’t know what that is but their parents might.

  3. That seller is probably laughing her head off now.

    “Finally some suckers who bought my house. My mistake of 40 years, revoked.”

  4. Oh wow, sounds intense. But why the parents pick up the kids?? Here (Germany and Finland, at least back when I was still in school plus some years later) the kids just walk home or take their bicycles. I think many school even have some rules against parents driving their kids except they live more than 6 miles away without public transportation.
    Anyhow to the next question, why they enter your “area”? At least here pretty much no kid would enter the front yard or similar of any house. Not that we scare them off with guns but well, it is just like that here, resepct for other’s property )

    1. Well, a lot of kids go rushing off to after school activities, like soccer or dance, so the parents pick up the kids directly. Kids don’t walk nearly as much in Los Angles as they might elsewhere, though, or as much as I did when I was a kid.

      Also, parents are paranoid about “child predators.”

      As for why kids feel it is okay to trespass, well, the majority of these kids have minimal supervision because their parents are busy. Plus, in some cultures both child discipline and rules are strict, while others are more “What can I get away with.” America is such a mix of cultures that we have issues that a more homogenous society — like Germany or Japan — won’t have. The Japanese and Muslim parents, for example, will NEVER block my driveway, while the Chinese and entitled white parents do it all the time.

      As far as not walking or sitting on someone’s lawn, maybe if more parents actually took walks with their kids, they could explain the fundamentals of trespassing. But Los Angeles is all about the car.

      1. Well I think Finland is way more homogenous than Germany. I think here in my hometown the percentage of “foreigners” is about 40% with at least 30% being also Muslims. Sure I also see that they have different ideas about rules and stuff but many, at least the ones who live here already for some years or even generations are nearly Germanized 😀
        Anyways, I think many parents are just too paranoid about all kind of things. I know one family here who also try to bring their kids everywhere, disinfect all items at home and and and however still the kids are all the time ill wheras another family is much more relaxed with everything and they seem to have much less trouble as well

        1. Yeah, it’s important to have pets (at least two, that go outside) to introduce kids to all kinds of helpful microbes from dirt, but also to vacuum and mop floors because of the phthalates in mass produced items. So I guess you need the right kinds of dirt for proper gut microbes.

          Parenting is a pretty new thing, actually. I mean, 100 years ago kids worked.

          Wow, I am impressed with Germany’s diversity. Finland? Not so much.

  5. Dang wtf those kids are rude little shits! In Utah that shit would never fly.. at least, when I was in middle school I never thought to play on the lawn of some stranger’s house (much less skateboard on it!). Kids these days, sheesh, back in my day…. we respected other people’s property! (I’m officially old).

    Anyway, I really hope part 2 involves the top photo with Andy and his bow. Does he nerf them off the lawn?

    1. The skateboarder, BTW, was Italian. Go figure.

      I know, this hanging out on other people’s steps is foreign to me. In my day, we played in the street!

      You’ll have to check back tomorrow to see what Andy did — or didn’t! — do. Spoilers! (But he was shooting a squirrel with that nerf bow and arrow.)

  6. Let’s see … These are not the kids who are over-scheduled with soccer, karate, dance, and violin lessons. They’re not overly worried about their homework. They just want to hang out with their friends. So can’t they stay on the school grounds or in a park or in a house or yard where one of them lives? Weird that they would think they could hang out on your steps.

    I can’t wait to find out how you or Andy handled it.

  7. I too am eagerly awaiting the next installment! My family always had neighbourhood kids coming into their yard (as it is full of trees and plants and is an oasis compared to the rest of the derelict yards on the street). Sometimes the kids are ok but mostly they are little troublemaker versions of their troublemaker parents (it’s not the best area!) and have to be constantly chased out.

    1. When my family moved into a new house, none of the houses on the block had fences around the front yard.

      By the time were moved away, EVERY house but ours had one.

      Pretty sure we were the kids in your neighborhood. Kinda feral.

      1. Haha I’ve just read Part II – you are right, many of the kids that found their way into our yard weren’t just looking for a fun hangout, they were often enduring some pretty tough things. Sometimes my mum and stepdad not only ended up pseudo (often grumpy) grandparents of the block but also reluctant (very often grumpy) pseudo parents to some of the parents.

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