{7 Quick Takes} Thoughts on hospitality, houseguests, and being too nice…

Well, as I said before, I had houseguests these last two weeks…

Sigh.  I wish I could say I was always 100% cheerful and happy to have my in-laws visit.  I wish I could say I was the epitome of hospitality and carried zero resentment that they take over our ground-floor master suite.  I would be lying if I said I did not breathe a giant sigh of relief when their car finally turned out of our driveway this morning.

I feel like a terrible daughter-in-law, wife, and most of all, a terrible Christian because I really don’t relish the bi-yearly visits with my in-laws.  I try to focus on the positive, like I mentioned before.  I am glad they are interested in having a relationship with their grandchildren.  I am glad they come all this way to show us they care about us.  I am happy that Hubby gets to go fishing with his dad, something that both of them miss doing together because of the distance.  But it is an insanely trying two-week period for me.

So, I decided to link up with Kelly this week by offering a few thoughts about having houseguests, being a houseguest, and what hospitality means to me:

ONE

The ancient American College Dictionary on my desk defines “hospitality” as “the reception and entertainment of guest or strangers with liberality and kindness” 1 Peter 4:9 says, “Be hospitable to one another without complaining” and one of the more famous, Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels”

Gaaaah.  I always start to bristle at the thought of having my in-laws as houseguests, but when faced with these definitions and biblical exhortations about hospitality, I always wind up preparing for their visit with a giant buried heap of resentment and a side-order of SuperSize Guilt.  Guilt because I don’t look forward to them coming; guilt because I can’t receive them with open-armed exhilaration; guilt because their visit creates a lot of work and stress for me, with very little return on the investment.

TWO

I think most of my feelings of resentment and guilt lead straight back to my lack of assertiveness.  Particularly when it comes to my extended in-law relationship.  Although our upbringings were similar in the values I believe matter most, many things about our backgrounds were different.  The dynamic of our families of origin is very different.  Hubby’s family just interacts with each other differently than mine does.  That doesn’t mean it is bad, just different.  Hubby’s family doesn’t think a thing of dropping in at a relative’s place with very little notice and then staying a week.  My family is terrified they will wear out their welcome after 3 days.  Hubby’s family is very focused on meals together.  My family is very focused on intellectual conversation.  Hubby’s family has a lot of physical limitations.  My family has a lot of emotional limitations.

Instead of talking about these differences with my in-laws and Hubby, I tend to just clam up and not bring anything up.  I hesitate to request help in the kitchen (they are the ones who love to cook and spend time around the table, not me!) because I think they expect me to be just like them in that regard.  I don’t want to say, “Hey, could you change your visit to the beginning of August instead of the end because the kids are starting school?” because I don’t want to seem like I don’t want them here, it is just easier on me if it is on my terms.  I don’t want to ask them to please not do laundry in our laundry room until I am completely done with my laundry (“could you please not take my laundry out of the dryer still wet so you can put your clothes in?”) but I am horribly afraid I will be viewed as being “inhospitable”.  I don’t want them to not like me, even though I am seething with resentment inside.  I also don’t want Hubby to think I am selfish (a mistake he made earlier in our marriage when referring to my attitude about his family that I have never been able to stop rewinding in my head).

Do I need a 12-Step program to learn to be more assertive?

THREE

So, what really are the responsibilities of a hostess?  As far as I am concerned, it is to provide a comfortable, safe and not unpleasant environment in which to stay.  I am not opposed to providing the bulk of the groceries.  I am not opposed to suggesting fun and entertaining things to do both in- and outside the home.  I am willing to provide my vehicle for their use.  I am happy to let them use our washer and dryer.  I will try my best to be kind, hold conversations, and be helpful.

FOUR

I do not believe I am responsible for:

Providing round-the-clock meals, entertainment, or perpetual conversation.

Cleaning up after everyone as though I am a servant. (Hey, if my kids can take their dirty dishes to the dishwasher, so can you!)

Being tantamount to a car service so you can avoid reading a map to get to a location only you want to go to.

Neglecting my personal daily routine, chores, and responsibilities to focus on my houseguests.

Feeling guilty if you are bored while at my home.

FIVE

Houseguests, realize that you may wear out your welcome within 3 days (like that adage with the fish).  THIS CAN BE AVOIDED if you make an effort to be a Super Awesome Houseguest.

Super Awesome Houseguests (SAHs) keep in mind the following:

Before planning a trip to stay, inquire what time frame works best for the hosts.  If a certain week is better than another, take that into consideration.  Ask if the host has time available to take time off from work.  If not, discuss what the houseguest(s) might do while the host(s) is at work.  Do not rely on the fact that one of the hosts might be a stay at home parent and is, therefore, free to be at your beck and call.

Try to NOT inconvenience your hosts as much as humanly possible.  Consider the Golden Rule, would you want them to come into your home and turn their toilet paper rolls the wrong way.

Ask what you can do to help out.  Sometimes attempting to put dishes away when you don’t know where they go is not helpful.  It might be more of a help for you to keep your hosts’ children entertained while the kitchen gets cleaned up after dinner.  Suggest something you’d like to do (“I’d love to sweep the floor after you’re done clearing the table.  Can you show me where the broom and dust pan are?”) and see if this would be acceptable to your hosts.

Offer to pay for groceries.  Or better yet, on a visit to town, pick up a mega-pack of toilet paper.  Or wine.  Wine and toilet paper go a long way to solidifying your reputation as a SAH.

Don’t complain about their kids keeping you awake.  They are kids.  It’s their house. Your hosts are providing you a place to stay for free.  If you really want, you can go check into a hotel and possibly get a stranger’s kids on the floor above keeping you awake as well.  Or you can just stay home.  The ball is really in your court, people.

Don’t complain about not sleeping well on your hosts’ king-size pillow top mattress that they generously vacated their master suite to allow you to use.  This is just poor manners.

Their way of life might not be your way of life.  But when in Rome, at least try to do as the Romans do.  If your hosts generally get up at 7 and go to bed at 10, it is nice to mirror their schedule somewhat.  Sleeping all day and still being awake when your hosts go to bed just makes for a weird dynamic.  Likewise with toilet seats.  I know it seems anal (pun intended!) but observe whether they normally keep their toilet seats shut or open.  Make sure you leave them that way when you’re done doing your business.  At our house, we always close them (an open toilet seems sort-of obscene to me, don’t know why…) not only for aesthetics but also for safety – we don’t want our toddler falling in!

Ask what your hosts’ plans for the next day are.  Is there something you can do together, or will the host be busy and the guest will need to figure out something to do?  Having a houseguest sitting around being visibly bored while a host is trying to balance the checkbook is surprisingly stressful.  Don’t stress out the host!  Find something to do.  My dad used to always say He who is Bored is Boring.  You’re on vacation!  Make the most of it!  Don’t make your host feel guilty that they aren’t being the Activity Director.  If nothing else, ask if you can help with chores.

A no-brainer: If you make a mess, clean it up.

Send or bring your hosts flowers at the end of your visit to say “thank you!” for opening their home to you

SIX

I guess my goals for next time the in-laws come to visit are to be more assertive about what does and does not work for me.  I tend to be too nice to their faces while being extremely irritated inside.  I don’t think that is what the Saints meant hospitality to be when they described it in the Scriptures.

Also, I think I need to be more vocal about asking for help with the extra housework.  I need to not be afraid to put my father-in-law to work.  He gets really bored (particularly when Hubby is at work all day) and I am hesitant to press him into labor.

I also need to have an honest talk with Hubby about the length and timing of their stay.

SEVEN

Above all, I think I need to meditate more on the Christian meaning of hospitality as well as how to have a heart of charity while not being a doormat.  Any suggestions?  I love my in-laws and I love my Hubby but I need to find a way to not let these visits hurt our respective relationships!

Have a great week!

 

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Oregon {With Pictures!}

Last month we took our first *real* family vacation.  Our trips up until this point consisted of camping weekends and journeys east to visit family in the Midwest.  I decided it was high time we went somewhere that didn’t involve sleeping on the floor at my sister-in-law’s or worrying about whether my kids were extorting too much candy from Grandma.

We settled on Oregon.  It’s close, yet far and different enough from Idaho to be “exotic”.  I wanted the kids to see the ocean.  Hubby wanted to save money by camping.  So we traveled the fabled Columbia River route, traveled by scions such as Lewis & Clark and the Oregon Trail pioneers.  Here are some highlights:

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We like to pretend we are hard-core with t-shirts.

EBR-1: Atomic City, Idaho

En route to Oregon, we stopped at the very first nuclear reactor that has since been decommissioned and turned into a museum.  (Don’t worry, the radiation levels remaining in the building are so low to as not be considered unhealthy for visitors)  It was in operation from 1951 to 1964 and is left largely the same as it was when they moved to a new facility.  They make it fun for the kids to learn about nuclear energy (and what Daddy’s work is all about).

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I always knew the kids were mad scientists…

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In the real world, they usually don’t let kids sit on top of nuclear reactors

The kiddos had fun pretending operate the reactor in the control room, walking on the cell where the nuclear reactor used to be, and seeing how “hot” (radioactive) material was handled with robotic arms through an insulated cell.

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One of the young owls sitting perched outside the museum. Spike said, “They’re scary. I’m freakin’ out!”

Probably the most memorable was seeing a pair of young owlings sitting on the abandoned fighter jet reactor in the parking lot.  They were very still, just looking at us.  I don’t think I have ever seen an owl that close before.

Farewell Bend, Oregon

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Wagon ruts

Just across the border into Oregon is Farewell Bend State Park.  It is a really pretty location, on the banks of the Snake River.  It is known for being the point where the Oregon Trail pioneers said “farewell” to the Snake River (which winds north from here) as their continued their journey west.  You can still see the wagon tracks in the nearby hills.

National Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City, Oregon

I probably date myself a little, but remember that old floppy disk computer game, Oregon Trail?  I loved that game.  Well, this museum is where you learn the reality of what the game was based upon.  They do a good job of helping to re-create the hardships and decisions those emigrants went through to reach the “Eden” of western Oregon.  I left the Center feeling knowing I wouldn’t have had what it took to survive and thrive on the nineteenth century Oregon Trail. Especially since we had only been camping one night and I was already wishing we were staying in hotels!

Bonneville Lock & Dam on the Columbia River

I had wanted to see the Bonneville Dam ever since learning about it in a college history course.  It was initially a New-Deal project that created thousands of jobs.  Now it powers thousands of homes through hydroelectricity.  We were able to tour a powerhouse to learn how it all works, which was cool, but the highlight for Hubby and the kids was the fish ladder.  You are able to view it from above and also from below (through windows) to see how the Pacific salmon and other fish are able to navigate the dam safely to swim upriver.

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Spike and Bellie smell roses, the Bonneville spillway in the background.

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Giant turbines

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Follow the power signs to see where it gets harnessed!

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The fish ladder

Old Columbia River Highway and Waterfalls

We took this road, reading that it was “the scenic route”, which was definitely true, but traffic was so awful I am not sure it was worth it!  Granted, it was a Sunday and there seemed to be lots of weekend Portland visitors, but the road itself is insanely narrow and we had a larger truck with camper insert as well as a trailer, and it was very nerve-wracking for Hubby.  The route is through a gorgeous rain-forest and is dotted with waterfalls every few miles.  We wanted to stop and see one of the more famous ones, Multomah Falls, but there was no safe place to park.  People were parked down the road for a mile or two and walking on the shoulder while cars on the two lane road were trying to avoid hitting pedestrians as well as fellow motorists.  There were NO RVs and there is no way we could have found a place to park with our small trailer.  So we just kept driving.  At one point we were stopped for at least half an hour because pedestrians kept crossing at a crosswalk with no break.  Bottom line: it was pretty, but if we did it again it would be on a weekday morning and we would leave the trailer at the hotel.

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Latourell Falls.  Not as tall, not as impressive, but we found a place to park!

Willamette Valley west of Portland

The highway we took to the coast was littered with fruit stands and pick-your-own flower gardens.  The fertile Willamette valley was where those Oregon Trail pioneers were headed.  There is a long growing season and rich soil.  We stopped at a cut-your-own flower farm and the kids all helped pick the flowers of their choice.  We wound up with a lovely bouquet that became our “camp flowers” throughout the rest of the trip.  We stuck them in a gallon water bottle and proudly put them on our picnic table at each camping site.  We felt so fancy.  Next time Hubby and I will get a babysitter and check out some of the Willamette valley wineries.  Not as well-known as Napa or Sonoma (but just as good) the area has hundreds of small vineyards.

Well, that was the first half of the trip….I will separate this post into two to avoid the length of a short novel!  Stay tuned for more adventures in Oregon!

 

{7 Quick Takes} Weekly Mismash, Vol. 9

A day late on these, but better late than never, right?

Linking up with Kelly et al again…

{ONE}

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Helping me clean the bathroom before Grandma & Grandpa get here.

My in-laws are here.  This is always a little bit tough for me.  I am just so used to my own routine, my own way of doing things and it is challenging to have visitors who come in and “move my cheese” so to speak.  They are good people and they love my kids.  And since my father is no longer around and my mom doesn’t isn’t super-involved with the whole grandmother thing, I appreciate that my children have the regular opportunity to get to know their paternal grandparents.  We live so far away from family that we are not able to see our relatives very often.  I really need to focus on the good, rewarding things about their visit and downplay the frustrations.  Nevertheless, it is hard!

{TWO}

School starts here in a little over a week.  I will have a fourth and first-grader this year.  Where does the time go?  I feel like my summer went way too fast, but we actually did A LOT this vacation.  Of course I always intent to accomplish more – like work inch by inch throughout my storage room decluttering.  Ha, with a curious toddler and boisterous older kids…like that is a realistic goal!

{THREE}

I am going to attempt to do home school preschool for Spike this year.  He could technically go to real-live-preschool because he is three but….*he is not potty trained*.  That, and I have a strong aversion to driving the 1 hour round-trip to a brick and mortar preschool twice a week.  So I am going to see what I can do at home.  I am excited but worried that I will lose my motivation right away.  I attempted the same with piano lessons for my older two and never went more than two weeks!

{FOUR}

And while we’re talking about piano lessons, I should mention I am going to try to jump on the homeschool piano lesson bandwagon again.  I figure if I confess this here, you all might keep me accountable to actually setting a time and sticking to it.  I’ll let you know how both teaching endeavors go.

{FIVE}

broadchurch_cast

Love. This. Mystery.  Broadchurch starring David Tennant is my new favorite Netflix show.  It is a BBC drama-mystery (surprise surprise…I love me some British television) but I just think it is so well-done.  I finished watching the second season and I think both the acting and the writing are superb.  Obviously the content is somewhat disturbing (especially for me, as a mother) in dealing with the murder of a teenage boy, but the complex emotions and relationships between a community are presented so realistically and grittily that I truly was gripped.

{SIX}

Visiting the set of Antiques Roadshow Salt Lake last weekend was fun but we waited in line a long time.  I went to the actual event with Bellie.  I’ll admit, there weren’t many kids there (and, hey, there weren’t many in the under 50 crowd either!) but she did really well.  My great-grandmother’s pocket watch turned out to actually be worth less than I thought it would be, but the appraiser was super-nice and made a point of telling Bellie how lucky she was that one day if she was very lucky, this priceless family treasure (that, monetarily wasn’t worth very much but who cares?)would someday be hers.  I thought it was cute that he involved her in the appraisal.  But no, we did not get selected to appear on camera.  Unless they decide we are cool enough to feature in the “Feedback Booth” section at the end.  Will keep you posted on that one!

{SEVEN}

My baby girl said her first real sentence last week!  She’s barely 19 months old, so I figure that’s pretty OK.  Her big brother fell asleep in the car and she said, “He is seepy”.  Which, aside from the fact she needs to work a little on her enunciation, I believe counts!  I am just loving this age.  She can repeat most of the words we say, although Grandma and Grandpa haven’t been in the same room when she’s said their names.  Both sound kind-of like “Gumpa”…

HAVE a GREAT week!

{7 Quick Takes} Weekly Mishmash, Vol. 8

Hello all!  I am feeling better, after starting a new, supplemental medication…I am feeling more like myself.  I am hoping this will prove to be sustainable for the long-term.

This week has been crazy, per usual!  Join Kelly et al with the link up for more craziness, awesomeness, and excitement!

{ONE}

Swimming!

The kids started swim lessons this week.  I actually only signed Bellie and Spike up for class, Evvie and Junior and I just hang out in another pool while the lessons take place.  Like most children, mine love water and the pool has been one of the most fun activities they have had all summer!

{TWO}

Olympics viewing!

We have a tradition of watching the Olympics as a family, and Junior (especially) is really intrigued.  We are having a blast watching swimming  (and Michael Phelps again making history) and gymnastics. Going to see the Olympics in person someday is definitely on my bucket list.  Hubby and I honeymooned in Greece two months prior to the Athens Olympics in 2004, which was close, but hopefully we can actually attend some events at one in the future!  Ultimately, we aren’t a very “sportive” family, we don’t watch much football or baseball or basketball on TV, but we are really impressed by the historic precedence of the Games and athletic ability of all the athletes.

{THREE}

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Meet Joshua the Bunny, the newest addition to our family!  We adopted Joshua (or “Josh” as the kids call him) from a local rabbit rescue in June.  He is just the sweetest guy, so good with all of the kiddos and really friendly and cuddly.  We had been a rabbit-less household for several years, following the death of 10-year-old Cosimo in 2012.  Cosimo, a little white and brown-spotted dwarf rabbit of some sort, and I had been companions since I got him as a singleton in Duluth, Minnesota when I was young and thought defying the landlord to keep a pet in my apartment despite the rule that NO PETS were ALLOWED made me a rebel.  Cosimo got caught under the radiator one day and we thought he was going to be stuck under there forever, but luckily Hubby (before he was Hubby) came to my rescue and rescued the bunny.  [This is how I knew it was True Love.]

Anyhow, we are all really enjoying Joshua and hope he is having a great time acclimating to our home!

{FOUR}

Da Kilt

I was looking through boxes of keepsakes my mom had saved and discovered a trove of baby and toddler dresses from my youth (cue 1980s music).  Luckily, I think some of the dresses can be seen as “vintage chic” now and Evvie will be able to wear them.  Including this completely awesome kilt ensemble that my parents brought back from a trip to Scotland for me in 1982.  (That’s me pretending to be a Scottish lassie above).  It is still in excellent shape and I am so happy that Evvie will be able to wear it soon!

{FIVE}

100_9366The $60.00 Fire Pit

So, one of the things I had really been wanting was a fire pit so we could sit out in the evenings and just relax.  In June, resourceful Hubby made my dreams a reality by creating this fire pit using mostly stuff we had just lying around and the borrowed skid-steer of a friend for earth-moving.  Ultimately, it only wound up costing us $60 for a welded, forest-service style fire ring.  We have some landscaping to do in terms of plants and mulching, but I am just glad that for now we just have a place to roast marshmallows and drink hot cocoa on cool summer nights.

{SIX}

100_9365Sometimes your oldest son’s bike helmet is missing.  And sometimes, just sometimes, you find it in the fridge next to the beer.

{SEVEN}

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I am heading to Antiques Roadshow Salt Lake City on Saturday!  Super Duper Excited!  (I am a PBS nerd…no other excuse)  I applied for tickets back this spring and they are awarded on a lottery basis…and I was randomly selected.  Obviously not everyone who attends ends up being taped for the show, but ticket-holders do get to have two antique items appraised for free with the Antiques Roadshow team of experts.  I am bringing an antique Elgin pocket watch from 1902 that belonged to my great-great-grandmother.  Hubby wants me to take his 1969 vinyl commemorative recording of the Armstong moon landing.  I am such an history and antique nerd so this should be just like Christmas!

K, all, hope you have a great week!

Depression taking over my life

OK, so I clearly haven’t been on here for awhile.  I have been busy, true, but I wouldn’t be completely honest with you if I didn’t admit that I have been having quite some time keeping the negativity at bay.  There have been a few days-long stretches where I could barely get out of bed.  And I blame myself and heap oodles of self-hatred my way, saying that I should try harder and that I need to ignore my feelings and just be there for my children and my husband.  I feel guilty and awful most of the time, paired with debilitating anxiety.  Hubby, although he tries extremely hard to be understanding and supportive, is understandably frustrated and overwhelmed with dealing with our crazy household (the kids don’t stop) as well as a spouse who wants to check out most of the time.

I don’t exactly know what set it off.  I am feeling overwhelmed with the task of housekeeping and motherhood right now.  I am tired of barely keeping up with the mess and the needs of five other creatures (eight, if you include the pets).  I am exhausted with not being enough.  I crave the delicious feeling of accomplishment – of feeling pride in a job well-done and the satisfaction of being competent at a task.  Motherhood doesn’t offer this emotion….not really, anyhow.  The task of raising a child is never done.  Even when they are adults – they could screw up badly and, as a parent, you will always wonder if that failure of theirs is somehow tied to your failure to feed them organic meat.

When I was younger, unmarried and childless, I was an organizational freak.  I loved having everything neat and tidy, everything in its place.  I thrived on making my space beautiful and having my decor reflect who I was and what I loved.  I think that is why, now that I am part of a household with young children, I become so discouraged with the state of my surroundings.  These surroundings are messy.  They are dirty.  They are disorderly.  They are ugly.  I could spend every second following my children around, yelling at them to pick up, to not take that out, to leave my stuff alone, but that would still probably not achieve my desired goal: to have a beautiful and orderly and calm place to call home 24/7.

Readers will argue that having a home-design-magazine-worthy home is a silly goal while being a SAHM to youngin’s – that they are only young once, and energy and time should be spent playing with them instead of worrying about the amount of mess they make.  I would agree.  But perfectionism and depression are filled with a font of irrational thoughts that don’t make sense and obsessively spin around in your mind making you feel that there really is no point and you might as well give up.

So, this last month I really have.  I have dropped the ball on housework, I have let the kids watch day-long marathons of Netflix, and I have essentially checked out.  Occasionally I have been able to summon enough gumption to cook dinner or do laundry.  I still run the kids to lessons and play-dates and if any of my friends ask I am doing JUST FINE.  But I am locked in a gloom that is very difficult to shake.

We took a family vacation last week and I was able to get outside of myself and just be for a few days, which was nice.  But coming back home was hard, getting back to real life was hard.

I go through something with my medication every two years or so where the normal dosage suddenly just doesn’t cut it anymore.  So I am starting a supplemental medication along with my normal prescription.  I am hoping that there is an improvement.  Generally, I have always felt that before the positive thinking and self-care suggestions my doctor and psychologist have suggested can kick in, there needs to be a biological “jump start” in the form of drugs in order to to be able to move forward.  And I feel like the current dosage is no longer cutting it.  I worry that by the time I am 60 I will be taking such an inordinately large dosage of psychotropic prescription drugs that I will no longer, chemically, be me.  Or that after so many years of taking antidepressants my brain will be severely damaged or I will develop a giant, inoperable tumor thanks to the miracle drugs that have gotten me out of bed and into the land of the living for 40 years.  But I suppose it will have been worth it.  Not living under a constant, debilitating cloud of depression is worth it.  I think.

So that’s what has been going on.  I am hoping to check in more often going forward.  I am hoping I will have happier, more sunny things to write about next time.  I know I will be fine, the sky is not falling, and life is actually beautiful.  I know all of that.  I just need a little help (and prayers) getting to the point where I can really feel it, too.

Thanks.