Thursday, August 14, 2008

How To Be A Good Guest

I debated writing this. I really did. But it's Thursday now, and I'm still irritated so I'll just get it out of my system now.

Last weekend, we hosted people in my house. It started with my husband inviting up his best friend. Every year, his friend comes up to stay with us for a long weekend and they go to the Cubs/Cards series in August and usually pick up a Sox game, too. That's all well and good, other than me being trapped with the wee ones with no relief when I need a break at the end of the week, but it's just one weekend.

Then my husband realized he could get four tickets to Friday's game. So instead of asking if I wanted to go with a friend of mine, he invited up his brother and his brother's girlfriend for the weekend, too. Ok, fine. His brother is pretty independent, and he'd have a car to go to the casino or whatever he wants to do rather than hanging out with me and the wee ones all day long.

A month or so ago, my in-laws called and said they decided they were coming up, too. They didn't ask if it was ok, just announced they were coming. Nothing against my in-laws, but my husband will be doing three baseball games in three days (with Saturday off), and I'm not really up for entertaining you for two full days since your idea of entertainment is sitting on your rears watching tv and eating. I need to do things. And so do the wee ones.

I resolved to find things for them to do like go to the racetrack one day and maybe visit the children's museum. But my husband decided to get baseball tickets to them to Friday's Cub game which would remove them from my responsibility for the majority of that day and only necessitate entertaining after the wee ones were in bed (while my husband and friend and BIL and gf went to the second game of the day).

They all showed up on Thursday while I was still working (from home). And at 4:30, the questions about when they could go to dinner started. Seriously people, I'm working. The more you bug me about when you can go out to eat, the longer it's going to take me to finish what I need to do. Just go without me, and I'll meet up with you later. I'm totally good with that. Nope, had to wait for me.

Then I saw my FIL with his shoes on. In my house, we don't wear shoes. It keeps the floors and the carpeting much cleaner, and there are a lot of things we all step in that I just don't want in my house. My in-laws, on the other hand, wear their shoes everywhere.

When we visit their house, our feet and/or socks are literally black within a half hour of arriving. And our feet stick to the kitchen floor. We've asked my FIL multiple times on previous visits to please take off his shoes in our house. We even bought him a pair of nice slippers to wear if he didn't want just his socks.

Nope. He won't do it. And my husband wouldn't ask him yet again to take off his shoes. In exchange, my husband promised to steam clean all our carpets after his parents left. It has yet to be done. Ten bucks says he doesn't do it before I call out a carpet cleaning company. But really. Have respect for the way people live their lives in their home when you're a visitor.

On Friday night after they got home from the baseball game, just as I was putting the wee ones to bed mind you, they had to turn the tv on. Except our flipper is a bit complex. You have to hit tv in the upper left then power that doesn't actually say power, then input twice, then the cable button and then you can change channels. Me, I see a flipper with 50 (I did just count btw) buttons, I'll wait for my host to turn it on for me.

Not the FIL. He pressed buttons until it was a screen I'd never seen before. When I came down from putting the wee ones to bed, he was still standing there pushing buttons. I gently took it from him and tried to figure out what he'd done. He commenced in providing me with suggestions of what to do. Thanks, I can handle it. I fixed the tv (yay me!) and handed him back the remote while I went upstairs to tend to a wee one asking for water.

And the tv blasted on. And I do mean blasted. As I was giving Mister Man his drink of water, he told me unsolicited that it was too loud for him to sleep. I trooped down the stairs and asked if they could possible turn the tv down a little bit (we have the same issue when we stay in their house with paper thin walls and their tv blasts 24 hours a day and the wee ones can't sleep). He told me that if he turned it down he wouldn't be able to hear anything, so they huffed off into the basement. I then turned it down from 23 down to my normal listening pleasure of 4 so that I wouldn't forget when I turned the tv on the next time.

I also spent the entire weekend walking around the house putting down toilet lids. I never realized how often people go to the bathroom until this weekend. We put the toilet lids down for two reasons. Ok, three. First, we have small children, and I don't want them to have access to potty water. Second, we have cats, and I've seen them access potty water when the lids are left up. Third, I grew up with them down and to me it just looks nicer.

We've also asked people to put them down. I get that it's hard sometimes to remember and change a habit, but don't you eventually notice that the lids are always down when you come into a bathroom? Really, we even got the self closing lids on our toilets so they won't slam when you close them, I swear.

We also recycle in our house. I eventually got tired of picking through the garbage after people and gave up. Apparently southern Illinois doesn't recycle. We both repeatedly asked our guests to just put recycling items on the island and we'd take care of it later, but no such luck. That's just more educational to me than really annoying because I just can't conceive of not recycling, but it makes sense when I think about how hard it is even now for my husband to remember to put things in the recycling bin.

Oh, and if you really want to tick me off, when you visit, be sure to bring lots of your own pop and snacks because we don't have enough in our house. Granted, we don't generally eat or drink those things and so never have them in our house, but I buy them when I know you're coming. You don't have to insult my hostessing buy bringing your own goodies.

But you can really send me over the top if you open up my fridge to put your 38 (I counted when they were gone on Friday) cans of pop in my fridge and promptly announce that I need to buy a second fridge for when I have so many people visiting. I'm sorry, what? I need to spend how much money on an appliance that will never be used except the one or maybe two times a year you retired people deign to visit us? And you really have to put all your pop in the fridge at one time? Can't you put more in as you drink some of it?

Really, I'm happy to make room in my fridge for your stuff. Just ask me. But don't announce (and mean it) that I need to buy a new fridge. And for the record, it took me three minutes to rearrange and then get all their cans into the "full" fridge. Ha!

The best part was Friday afternoon when my husband called me to let me know that my SIL had decided to drive up on Saturday with our neice, too. Wait, what? Because having five people visiting at once in my house wasn't enough? Now you want to add two more uninvited (but still family) guests? Who need places to sleep and food to eat? Okie-dokie! At least that SIL and neice interact with the wee ones and have fun with them, although Little Miss is the shameless favorite, which is sort of hard on Mister Man who can recognize it now.

Fortunately, we had two birthday parties to go to on Saturday, so I had to leave the house at 10am and didn't get home until almost 3:30 with the wee ones. My in-laws declined Arlington because "we've been to the race track once before." Good to know we can't repeat tourist attractions! Instead, they all trooped to Costco and oohed and ahhed over the items in the store and ate them out of samples. And bought the blueberry pomegranate jelly I have that they apparently really liked.

The good news though is that this is the first visit where my FIL hasn't plopped himself down in front of my computer within five minutes of arriving. He's convinced that it needs fixing, and he adds programs and "cleans things up" without asking every time. And every time after he leaves, I have to reinstall Excel because something he does deletes it. This time, my husband must have said something because he showed up with two CDs of programs but so far as I know never turned on the computer!

I felt bad because by 9:45am on Sunday, they were on the road. I did and said nothing to encourage this. But my FIL is someone who hates to get home late. He wants to be on the road and where he's going, so it wasn't me. This, by the way, is why we didn't plan Little Miss's birthday party for last weekend. My in-laws have literally left to go back home a half hour into her birthday party before. As in walking up to me and hugging me good-bye as I'm trying to entertain 30 two year olds. When they had planned to leave the next morning.

I'm going to get up from my couch now. My therapy session is over, and I feel much better. I almost don't even want to post this, but I put so much effort into it, I may as well, right? And I'll be good until the family reunion somewhere down near St Louis on October 6.


Anonymous August 14, 2008 at 8:15 PM  


You are a much nicer person than I am b/c I would have gone ballistic. That is too much to handle from anyone, esp family. 38 cans of soda????? Holy cow! (and what an odd number)

I am totally with you on the shoes thing (we don't do it ourselves, but that is such a respect issue for me) and esp on the toilet lid thing. I hate when people leave the toilet seat up. On the other hand, my SIL apparently feels the need to SLAM down the toilet lid b/c you can hear it from the opposite end of the house. I'm just never happy I guess.

Hope you enjoy your peace and quiet this weekend!

Angela August 14, 2008 at 9:27 PM  

Oh, man. I hear you and I totally feel your pain. Remember my houseguests from a few weeks ago? All family? All hubby's family?? I almost went crazy. It's amazing how many annoying little habits a family can possess, and how quickly it starts to grate when people disrespect your home. I totally hear you. When our visitors came, hubby stayed home for the afternoon that Friday since they were arriving after lunch. When I got home from work at 6:30 there were already wet pool towels laying around everywhere - on my furniture, bedding, carpets...I felt like an instant mom, LOL! Only some of these children should know better! Even hubby had had it by Monday morning, when he came down to find the remains of breakfast (dishes, open milk on the counter, cheerios all over the table and floor, box still open) and no suspects anywhere. Not even their FATHER felt any need to clean up after them. I was sort of shocked, but have decided that I am not taking this quietly next time. Next time, I am going to politely ask him to be responsible for cleaning up after his kids all weekend. GRRRRRRR!!!

Angela August 14, 2008 at 9:28 PM  

Oh yeah (I was reading Shelly's comment above) - don't get me started on how they all slammed every door until the walls rattled. Hello? It's just a regular door. Doesn't require a lot of force to close it. (But at least they closed it...most of the time).

Angie's Spot August 14, 2008 at 10:38 PM  

You are so much nicer than me. This is also probably the reason that no family EVER asks to stay with us. Aha! My plan is working better than I could've expected!

I'm impressed that you keep your cool. I'm not capable. I would've thrown all those people out on their ears. Especially the FIL that dares to mess with the computer. That's sacred territory.

Kori August 15, 2008 at 8:05 AM  

Oh no way. I would ahve told them where the nearest Hotel was as soon as they started disrespecting me, my family and our home.

You are a much nicer person than I could have been.

The Broken Man August 15, 2008 at 8:19 AM  

I just tell them - it's probably mnot polite, but it seems to work! :)

The Broken man

Sydney August 15, 2008 at 10:15 AM  

oh, do I feel you pain! I love your blog... i love that your in Illinois (my home state) I am adding you to my google reader and will definitely be back!

Mabunny August 15, 2008 at 2:54 PM  

OMG Michelle, sorry but that to me would have been the weekend from Hell...I don't mind people staying over or anything, but I know what u mena by its your house , at least follow YOUR rules... I only have my mom and my MIL, so I don't have tons of people coming and staying at one time unless my BFf and her hubby and two kids come. If thats the case then I let them overtake our den, but she helps cook and stuff.
Glad your therapy went well.

Michelle August 15, 2008 at 9:03 PM  

Shelly - I'm assuming they probably drank some of the soda on the way up here or that was all that fit in their cooler or something. Don't ask me on the number.

Angela - Yep, I remember those houseguests. I will say that at least they don't leave their junk laying around. They get that going for them.

Angie - Part of my calm comes from my husband routinely saying things like "I know you hate my family, but (fill in the blank" - and I don't hate them. I really don't. So I have to be a bit overcompensating so my husband doesn't freak. And I was told repeatedly how much I was appreciated this weekend. That helps.

Kori - Now it's sounding like I'm in the minority for just counting down the days. I'm feeling a bit better now -- and better about the fact that I just whined a whole lot!

The Broken Man - I'd go for that theory except that they don't listen and don't get it (see harumphing down the stairs when asked if they could turn the tv down a bit). That and some measure of family peace needs to be retained.

Sydney - Welcome! And thanks -- you're making me blush!

Mabunny - It is easier when it's fewer people. And when it isn't just on my shoulders to entertain (e.g., my husband is in or near the house). But apparently I need to make some room on my therapist's couch!

-Bridget August 15, 2008 at 9:07 PM  

Do we have the same family? I swear these same people were just at my house the week before that!

Irene August 16, 2008 at 7:43 AM  

Oh my. Seriously. I SO feel for you!!!!! I am lucky though, I never have houseguests. My IL's are local and my family would never stay with us. They are only about an hour away and are SUCH homebodies that they could never stand being away from home for any length of time.

I do stay at my parents very VERY occasionally and it is hard. I love them, but we honestly get along SO much better when we are not staying under the same roof. We all went on vacation, again, this year and stayed in one house. I had a good time, but was SO ready to be home, alone, again.

Cookie August 16, 2008 at 9:16 PM  

Yikes! I'm going to make a margarita for you. But if you don't come here to drink it, I may have to take care of it myself!

Gina August 18, 2008 at 12:34 PM  

Of my six (SIX!) sisters-in-law, I have one who is overbearing and likes to just annouce that she is coming over. Luckily, she lives close enough that she can go home at the end of the day.

Michelle August 24, 2008 at 11:15 PM  

Whoops, I'm WAY behind on these. Sorry!

Bridget - It could be. They don't visit that often, so they could just be trolling from innocent to innocent capitalizing on our good will. What do you think?

Irene - Ironically enough, my inlaws are also homebodies -- which is why they left at 9:45am on Sunday. I do like houseguests, but I guess I just like them on my terms?

Cookie - Oooo, I could so go for that margarita, but I'm sure it's long gone. Save one for me when I'm in Seattle in November? :)

Gina - Wow, six SILs? Now that's an insta-family! When she announces that she's coming over, do you ever happen to be not home then? You know, that last minute HAD to go to the grocery store or pool or whathaveyou?

Celestial Fundie August 29, 2008 at 4:03 PM  

Removing shoes is essential to being a good guest in my opinion.

I have an whole blog on the subject of removing shoes in homes: Shoes Off at the Door, Please You might want to take a look.

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