I was very glad to hear that I am not the only one who suffers from Houseguest Awkwardness, where I WANT to help but feel too awkward to offer, or where I DO offer but then mess up what I'm given to do.
You know what I think the problem is, is that it's REALLY HARD to help at someone else's house, but it doesn't SEEM hard. Like, they say, "Oh, um, sure! Why don't you set the table?" That's easy! Even the children can handle THAT. But a guest doesn't know where the dishes are kept, or which set of dishes to use, or whether this is a "napkins under the forks" family or a "napkins in a holder on the table" family, or whether to put out the bread plates.
Or the hostess might say, "Oh, okay, you could get drinks?" But what are the drink choices I'm supposed to offer? And is this a "grab ice cubes with bare hands" family or a "use the cup to scoop up ice" family? Is it a "two ice cubes per glass" family or a "ice cubes up to the brim" family or a "dad hates ice and no one thinks to mention it because it's automatic by now" family?
Or one time, the hostess asked me to tear the lettuce for a salad. And I had always, always, CUT the lettuce. So I didn't even know what she was talking about! And the lettuce was right from her garden, and it was an unfamiliar variety to me---I didn't even know which parts were edible and which parts should be trimmed. Should the thicker, whiter part up the middle of each leaf be included, or removed? And I tore the pieces way too large, so she had to go back and surreptitiously re-tear. Also, she assumed I knew it needed to be washed first.
Or, my mother-in-law asked me to make a pie. MAKE A PIE. I don't, uh. I mean! PIE? And to her it's easy, because she's made that before, but to me it's brand new! So I look like an idiot because it's a frozen crust and a can of filling WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL? But I've never done it before, so of course I bumble around and look like the stupid useless daughter-in-law who can't even handle a convenience pie.
I think the ONLY way for a guest to help is something like, "Oh, great, could you stand here at the stove for me and stir this sauce? It just has to be stirred constantly." The thoughtful hostess could perhaps plan in advance to have something non-essential (water with food coloring and parsley in it, for example) simmering on the stove, to ask the guest to stir.
Gift ideas for an 8-year-old, part 1 of 2 - I have TWO 8-year-olds to buy for, so I’m going to split it up into two posts. Today will be the things we’re getting for Edward. I dislike saying “Gift id...