Monday, March 16, 2015

Gifts for your Guests

It’s about this time each year that our vitamin D levels reach annual lows, and we start aching for sunshine. As the mercury peeks over the 50 degree mark I’m itchin’ to start grillin’ with friends!! After six months of winter we need the friendship, the outside perspective, and the laughs that come with hosting friends.

But sometimes it’s hard to feel like the hostess-with-the-mostest when the house has been so…lived in…all winter. May I suggest we rebel against that notion, and consider a few simple gifts we can offer our friends and ourselves.

Gift 1: Sooner Rather Than Later
Photo by David Pickett, License

I’ve been haunted by the words, “Let’s get together soon!” I’ve either offered them or nodded in hearty agreement. But ‘soon’ becomes ‘sometime’ becomes ‘sorry-to-hear-you’re-moving’. Be brave and ask your friends, “How about tonight?”

Gift 2: Simplicity

When your friends answer affirmatively, breathe slowly and repeat these three words: Three. Ingredient. Menu.

·         Popcorn, butter, salt.

·         Graham crackers, chocolate, marshmallows.

·         Biscuits, butter, honey.

·         Milk, coco mix, marshmallows.

·         Crackers, cheese, pepperoni.

·         Coffee, cream, sugar.

It doesn’t have to be dinner. They probably don’t want to give their kids the “polite-bite” speech either. So agree to after-dinner-snack or dessert. If you’re feeling really brave, free up your evenings with a Saturday morning toast buffet: a stack of toast, butter, cinnamon sugar, peanut butter, jam, hazelnut spread. You probably won’t even need to go shopping!

Gift 3: Spot-Clean Only

With all the time you’ll save not shopping and cooking, your first joyful response may be, “Now I’ll spit-shine the house.”

I used to think hospitality was a house-cleaning performance. When company arrived I had to repress the impulse to twirl in my kitchen, swing my arms toward my gleaming countertop, and sing, “Ta-Da!”

Resist that urge.

I once arrived at a tired friend’s house and was greeted with the words, “I didn’t really clean.” And she hadn’t.

Guess what. I wasn’t worried about my boys leaving toys out, because toys were everywhere. I wasn’t worried about crumbs because the floor hadn’t been swept yet. And because I was so mentally unencumbered, we caught up on ten months of life in two hours.

Gift 4: Shoes On

Since you haven’t swept or vacuumed you won’t mind that your guest’s toddler is vehemently opposed to removing her musical, sparkling, light-up, princess shoes at the door. Slip on your flip-flops and allow your friends to forego the fit and discipline.

Sometimes hospitality means breaking the “rules.”

Gift 5: Solo Cups...and plates.

If napkin rings, dessert forks and chargers do not absolutely energize you, use paper. Insulated cups for cocoa, coffee filters for popcorn, paper plates for everything else. You and your guests will be relieved. No broken dishes, no washing, no filling the dishwasher (it’s probably still full anyway). And you’ll have plenty of time to offer the sixth gift to your guest.

Gift 6: Sitting

Sit down. You don’t have to scurry around the kitchen refilling, washing, and wiping. There were only three ingredients, remember? Clean-up comes later. For now, just sit. Listen. Talk. Enjoy your friends.

Gift 7: Smile

When you’re enjoying yourself you naturally smile. Your genuine smile says, “You are delightful! I’m so thankful you braved my mess, my life, my simple hospitality.”

So when your furniture is overturned for the Nerf Gun Apocalypse, Legos are lodged in the carpet, laundry is oozing from closets, and your cupboards lack anything Pinterest-worthy, instigate a tiny little rebellion. Invite the children to the basement “fort,” close the closet door, pop some popcorn and invite those friends into your lived-in life.

And maybe you will both recognize the greatest gift is the gift of each other.

Disclaimer: I recently ran a couple of these gifts through the test lab, namely “Sooner Rather than Later” and “Spot Clean.” I discovered there may be some embarrassing (but hilarious!) consequences.

A few weeks ago each of my boys invited friends over. Even though we are in the middle of a do-it-yourself sheetrock mess, I reminded myself of the “Sooner Rather than Later” gift, and we invited them anyway.

On the way to our house I started thinking I should try to minimize the trauma of my “Spot-Clean”—which in reality was “Not Clean”—and said to our little guests, “Just so you know, we’re in the middle of some construction, and the house is kind of messy.”

Both kids were so polite and parroted those spectacular words: “Oh! It’s ok. It’s fine. Our house is too…” Wow. My kids have super nice friends. I hope they keep hanging out with us.

When we walked into the house, I heard Levi's sweet friend say, “Wow. I didn’t think it would be this bad.”

Sadly, this is not staged.
As you can see, we are still able to walk between the open tool box and space heater.
So there is an honest confirmation on the state of our house. And I had them over anyway.

I originally thought they could all play outside, but it was terribly cold and windy so I sent them to the basement.

Remember that whole Bingo Tumbler Brain conundrum? It always seems to involve laundry. As they descended the stairs, I spied twelve loads of clean laundry still waiting to be folded since…a while ago. I ran downstairs with the boys and started folding while Levi and Friend played Legos nearby.

Suddenly I heard snickering, and Levi whispered, “She hasn’t even noticed.”

Hmmm…noticed what?

I look up to discover that sometime this week, the mounted bucks hanging on the basement walls have had their antlers decorated with various…ummm…undergarments. And with the cluttered chaos, I had never noticed.

So if you should choose to give these unconventional gifts, be forewarned: your children may be the ones enjoying it most.