Dear Amy: Next week my sister will be visiting, along with her adult son, his wife, and three children. They will be staying with us for almost a week.
As I plan the menu, I have asked if anyone has any allergies or dislikes, as well as a coffee preference.
My sister is coming two days before her son’s arrival (as they live in different parts of the country) and wants to help with the purchase of groceries.
She has a very detailed list of exactly what they eat when they are at home, including high-sugar, high-caffeine drinks for the oldest, who is 13 (who lives with them half the time and whose mother feeds him high-sugar food and drinks).
I certainly don’t want to put anyone on a diet during their vacation, but also don’t feel it is necessary to provide “Red Mountain Dew” when we always have plenty of other beverages that are healthier and kid-friendly (Gatorade, for example). They also are requesting many other very specific items.
I want to be welcoming, have a great time, and make everyone happy, but is this a typical way to host a family?
We are accustomed to hosting families for cookouts and always provide a variety of healthy and typical summer fun food, so I think they may like our menu if they tried it.
What is your take?
– Humble Hostess
Dear Hostess: As a kind and concerned host, you will do your best to feed your guests, balancing their preferences along with your own. This does not mean that you need to cater to their every request.
When children are present, yes, you will end up stocking some things you don’t normally consume. (I don’t usually eat popsicles, but I try to have them in the freezer when the kids visit.)
When children visit your home by themselves, you will control the menu, but when they visit along with their parents, their parents should take the lead when it comes to feeding them.
Your sister is arriving early, armed with her lengthy food list. You should let her handle and purchase whatever more exotic items are on the family’s list, including whatever atrocious drink the 13-year-old prefers. (Gatorade is not really a healthy substitute for Red Mountain Dew, by the way.)
If the children request something that you don’t have on hand, you can say, “Oh, we don’t normally eat Malted Chocolate Power Puffs for breakfast so I don’t have any in the house, but I can toast a mini-bagel for you.” If this becomes more of an issue, the parents and grandmother are on hand, and you can readily defer to them.
Dear Amy: Recently I let a friend borrow my carpet shampooer and it was given to her in immaculate condition, as I always clean it after using it. She returned it dirty and full of nasty dog hair. She didn’t even attempt to clean it out. She emptied the dirty water, but that was it!
Who does that? Now I have to clean it out and I’m disgusted.
Obviously, I won’t be lending it out again, but I do want to address it.
What can I say without causing a fight?
– Disappointed Lender
Dear Lender: In the future, before lending out something you value, it is helpful to let the person know what your expectations are. With a piece of equipment that might be unfamiliar (I’ve never used one), you should say, “Let me show you how to clean out the inside before you return it. That way you can get all the gunk out.”
At this point, you should say to your friend, “I really wish you had cleaned out the equipment before returning it. ‘Buster’s’ dog hair is everywhere.”
This should not lead to a fight, but an apology.
Dear Amy: “Disappointed” was dealing with a Florida relative who didn’t want to travel North for Christmas Day. Why must we celebrate these occasions on specific days?
When I realized my siblings and daughters-in-loves had standing commitments for Thanksgiving dinner, I created my own celebration.
My “Day After Thanksgiving Dinner” celebrations have been a huge hit with all my family.
After more than six decades of consuming fattening and rich Thanksgiving food, I don’t enjoy eating or cooking it, so I’m free to be creative with my meal.
Plus, airline tickets are much cheaper if you fly on the holiday.
– Apres Celebration
Dear Apres: Great suggestion. Thank you.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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