The Guests Are Coming! The Guests Are Coming!

by Dawn Smith
                                                                            
                                                                                                       Photo credit: Flickr user Maegan Tintari           
 
My daughter has a children’s book that we read before every major gathering of our family, typically over the holidays. It’s a brilliant kid’s snapshot of the chaos holiday entertaining can be. 
 
In the story, eccentric family members say funny things, bring strange dishes to share, and gobs of kids tear through the house. The main family meal finally arrives and everyone is grateful the family is together and healthy, which is the overall message, of course, ringing in the true meaning of the holidays. 
 
After, however, crazy starts again while digesting turkey and getting ready for bed, which means grown adults in tiny beds, children on the floor in puppy piles, and the early morning goodbyes that begin traffic jams all the way home.
 
Sounds pretty typical of holiday family traditions, right? A lot of work, planning, and exhaustion yielding the heartwarming memories we all crave and appreciate enough to suffer year after year. 
 
The following are a few tricks and tips to add a little more comfort and joy for your guests this year by going the extra mile. Providing personal touches adds extra coziness to ensure a comfortable stay, but also guarantees repeat visits. Plan accordingly!
 
Prepare and Then Prepare Some More

"Lists of lists" is what I say. There will be inevitable mishaps and items forgotten, but life is so much better when you can casually run to the store for extra butter instead of 30 items on a list the day before Christmas dinner.
 
If you hate shopping over the holidays, hello CommiSCARY, take advantage of as many delivery services as possible. The price you pay for service fees are well worth it. 
  • Amazon is a great place to start. Many regions have grocery and or/wine delivery. Cheers! Amazon Prime Pantry gets everyday items like paper towels and cleaning supplies to your door in no time.
  • Midwest and Eastern states can take advantage of Peapod and Giant stores for at-home grocery delivery. 
Be true to yourself and identify cooking and baking strengths and weaknesses. Everyone will appreciate you, your attitude, and your food much more. Terrible cook? Order the whole meal from a restaurant for pick up or head to Whole Foods or other high-end store to purchase their version of a holiday meal. 
 
If you are a bad baker, hey, the same delivery options works well, perhaps even better. Baked goods ship easily. This might be the time introduce a local confection your guests will want to try or import a special dessert they might be missing from their hometown.
 
Military spouses are very resourceful and barter well. If you can’t decorate a holiday table but can make a mean green bean casserole, offer to swap services that can be done or frozen in advance. Or, maybe you hate taking kids to the grocery store, but don’t mind shopping, so strike a deal with a friend who doesn’t mind babysitting but hates hectic trips to the store.
 
Tricks of Your House

If you want your guests to feel at home, then you must provide the firsthand knowledge that only homeowners have. Give them the heads-up to avoid embarrassment but allow them the freedom to live in your home unencumbered. 
  • Wonky toilet that has to be flushed at the precise moment? Let them know so they don’t flood your bathroom. 
  • Give them the alarm code or disable it so they don’t get caught taking a midnight smoke break.
  • Use diplomatic negotiation for heating or air temperatures. It feels bad to have to sneak to bump someone’s AC because you are a sweaty mess.
  • To understand what guests experience in their dedicated space, sleep a night in their room and use their bathroom facilities. You might not realize the hot water is actually scalding.
  • Have the wireless password available. Preemptively change it if is something personal like "myhusbandissohot1234." Ew. Embarrassing for all.
Special Accommodations

Vegetarian, gluten-free, allergic to feathers and dogs, scared of birds and squirrels? (Well, the last two are extreme, but you get the picture.) These are special circumstances that, as the host, you must accommodate. Communication is key. Ask your guests if a health concern must be addressed or if you can alleviate a worry by removing the cat from the dining area. 
 
Pets are a big concern for both the traveling family and the receiving host. Kenneling care is expensive, but sometimes worth the peace of mind a safe place offers. If hosting this year and the home isn’t pet friendly, do a little research to present your guests, before they arrive, with a couple of nearby pet facilities. 
 
Or, if the more pets the merrier, ask what you can do to make the poodle’s stay pleasant as well. Dog items, such as beds and crates, are sometimes difficult to pack, so offer guests the option to borrow items not in use at your house. Safety check: be sure all fences are locked and secured. Losing a pet far from home is devastating. Also knowing the closest pet emergency room is helpful if an issue arises.
 
Lots of clichés sum up how to be a great host or how to be a gracious guest over the holidays. Here are 10, just for fun.
  1. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  2. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
  3. Beggars can't be choosers.
  4. Don't bite the hand that feeds you.
  5. If you can't beat ‘em, join ‘em.
  6. Count your blessings.
  7. Laughter is the best medicine.
  8. That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
  9. A place for everything and everything in its place.
  10. There's no place like home.
For more fun-filled and interesting tidbits about what it’s like to be a military family, check out MilitaryByOwner’s family related blogs and resources for more information.