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What with my daughter’s impending third birthday and accompanying Sad Thoughts About Her Birth (which apparently I will never ever ever get over BAH), and the delightful meal pairing of Sleep Issues, I am feeling rather cranky this morning. Here are the current top aggravators:

— Despite producing many many flowers, my tomato plant has only to this point produced one (1) actual tomato. What is the deal?

 

— Today I have to return to the car dealership for a second-in-three-weeks visit that will cost an amount with t0o many zeroes. At least I am prepared for what this session will cost. The last time I was there – for an OIL CHANGE – I ended up sitting in the waiting room for FIVE HOURS.

 

— Due to SOMEONE’S cruel and thoughtless munching on my plants, I have become all too familiar with the smell of Anti-Deer-&-Rabbit spray. I’m sure (I’m not sure; I didn’t look) that the spray is made of something horrendous like badger urine or whatever, so I’m not SURPRISED that it makes me wish my face were pressed up against a sweaty pubescent skunk. But it’s pretty awful, and there’s no way to spray the stuff without smelling it. I’ve tried various methods, like holding my breath (works for maybe 30 seconds which is a sight shorter than the time it takes to circle my yard; induces lightheadedness) or breathing only through my mouth (but then I can TASTE the horrendous smell, which is either worse or just as bad) but nothing works. It just STINKS.

 

And then the spray nozzle DRIPPED and it did so ON MY HAND.

 

And then it turns out that a CARDINAL, and NOT a deer nor a rabbit is picking at my zucchini, so perhaps I didn’t even need the stupid spray in the first place.

AND THEN I spotted THIS, out in the middle of my yard. Sending the finger right back at you, Mother Deer. Sheesh. We are not running a drop-in daycare service for unguents over here, LADY.

Deer.JPG

That white thing the fawns are cozying up to? It’s the remains of a T-ball, broken by an over-zealous at-bat by me or my husband.

 

— Summer, with all its glory, means two things I HATE: 1. flies, in my house, and 2. near-constant STUFF on my floors: grass and dirt and rocks and other detritus of Having Fun Outdoors.

 

 

— I found not one but TWO chips in my favorite blue serving plate. It’s the exact same blue as the ring in my everyday dishes, and it’s perfect for serving grilled zucchini or a pair of pork tenderloins or many other delicious things, and it stands out so nicely among my other serving dishes, which are mostly plain white. But now: two big chips that show the pottery beneath the blue glaze. And, to make matters worse, now I see that TWO of my everyday dinner plates have chips in them. WHO is being so ROUGH with my dishes?! Me, probably, which just makes me feel crankier.

 

 

— Speaking of serving dishes and being cranky: My husband is not as gifted as I am in the realm of Sizing Things Up. So I got out a serving dish the other night for the grilled mushrooms and onions, and – since he was the one grilling them, and watching them shrink – I asked him whether he thought they would fit in the dish. He looked at me like I was utterly CRAZY; I may as well have asked if an ELEPHANT riding a BLUE WHALE would fit into that dish. So I put it away and got a larger dish. Are you surprised to learn that the mushrooms and onions barely filled the bottom third of the larger dish? I was, even though I should know after nearly 15 years of Tupperware containers half-filled with leftovers not to trust him on this subject.

 

 

— Recently I learned that my husband does something COMPLETELY NONSENSICAL. We were seasoning fish fillets for the grill, and I was doing the seasoning and he was doing the turning-of-the-fish, and I oiled the One Side, and then sprinkled salt on each fillet. And then he had me TURN THE FISH OVER so I could salt the other side, BEFORE PEPPERING the first side. How ridiculous is that? You salt and pepper at the SAME TIME. Is our marriage in PERIL?

 

 

— Any time I try to write outside of normal working hours, hours in which my child is at daycare, my child is suddenly and irresistibly attracted to my lap, and her hands are suddenly and irresistibly attracted to my keyboard. She perhaps is less child than cat. Very very adorable and (in this particular instance) very very annoying.

 

 

— There is little more frustrating than asking someone for advice with a problem, and having them make a suggestion that does not work for you, and telling them it doesn’t work for Reasons, and then having them make that suggestion repeatedly. And yet I am having difficulty NOT asking this person, who is having difficulty NOT giving me the advice I reject, so around and around we go in a resentful circle.

 

What’s driving you around Grump Corner this morning?

It is Saturday and I am sitting on the couch with my daughter. We are watching Frozen, after watching many hours of nauseating Nick Jr. shows on demand.

For dinner, she has eaten a bowl of broccoli with cheese, while a plate of chicken dinosaurs and Dr. Praeger’s dinosaur-shaped yam patties languish untouched on her plate; I have eaten a bowl of edamame and three Yam Dinosaurs.

Last night’s clean dishes are still in the dishwasher; today’s lunch and breakfast dishes remain unscrubbed in the sink. My child is not wearing pants.

We did manage to go to swimming lessons this morning, so one of us got some exercise.

We also accomplished a two-hour nap: good for her, and, on a reducing-the-sleep-debt level, for me as well (although naps always make me feel a) wasteful and b) headachy.).

I feel quite guilty at wasting a beautiful, sunny Saturday inside in front of the idiot box. Especially because my poor husband is on call and has been at the hospital for going on 14 hours already. Saving lives and improving people’s quality of life and such. While I can’t even screw up the energy to go for a walk around the block.

Whatevs.

We are in the midst of A Poor Sleep Phase of life, which is not fun. It’s never fun, FYI. Carla is having a very hard time getting to sleep at night. We’ve tried cry it out. We’ve tried moving the bedtime UP and moving it BACK. We’ve tried allowing her to play in her room. We’ve tried sleeping with her. It’s all resulted in roughly the same thing, which is that she falls asleep by 10:15 or so each night. On average. Which means that on the best nights it’s about nine and on the worst nights it’s about 11:30.

We also briefly tried eliminating her nap, in hopes that her sleep needs would increase at night, but that tactic had its own issues: 1.) We can only truly eliminate it on the weekends; her daycare won’t/can’t. So the inconsistency was getting inconsistent results. 2.) I complained about the sleep issue to her pediatrician, and when I told him what we were trying to correct it, looked at me with mild alarm and said, “If she’s still napping, DON’T cut the nap.”

Here is where I feel compelled to go into Great Detail about all the other methods we’ve tried. But I’m too tired and you probably don’t care. Whatever. Sleep issues are a dime a dozen, and what works or doesn’t work for one person may or may not work for another person. This IS a phase that will end EVENTUALLY. It will likely be replaced, at some point, by something worse.

My mother-in-law said cheeringly today that she once read sleep issues of this sort can indicate high intelligence in a child. That sounds right up there with “morning sickness is often an indication of a healthy pregnancy” and “a steep drop in the stock market is a good opportunity to expand your portfolio” and “rain on your wedding day means good luck for your marriage.” They may be true or they may be gentle padding for a rough time, but they don’t make enduring the present unpleasantness less pleasant.

I was comforted for a while that Carla’s current issue has only been affecting the BEGINNING of sleep. Once she falls asleep, she sleeps straight through until seven the next morning. But then – after falling asleep at 11:00 last night – she woke up at about 2:30, bright and ready to play, and didn’t fall back to sleep until 4:17. Ask my eye bags and hamper of half-folded laundry how I know the exact duration of her wakefulness. This reminds me that a few weeks? months? ago, Carla was waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 many mornings and falling back to sleep around six.

And that reminder reminds me that one of the things that’s making this CURRENT issue difficult is that I keep wailing, “But Carla used to be SUCH a Good Sleeper!”

But I don’t know if that’s really TRUE. There was a long period of time where she REFUSED to go to sleep without nursing. And then, when she gave up nursing, she would only go to sleep after a bottle. I seem to recall that the time after she turned two – when we cut her off the bottle cold turkey – was particularly rough in terms of Getting to Sleep. Then, in the past six or eight months, there was a time when she would only fall asleep in OUR bed. And there was another stretch when she woke up in the middle of the night and would only go back to sleep in our bed (which means that she is the only one of the three of us who sleeps; she’s a wiggler and a kicker). If you look at all of those examples – blurry and seen through droopy, half-awake eyes and a fuzzy, sleep-deprived brain – it seems like she’s been in a Poor Sleep Phase more often than not.

Probably it is most accurate to say that there have been Intermittent Periods of Good Sleep. Lasting a few blissful weeks or months. But long enough to give us all a taste of what that feels like. So when the next Poor Sleep phase pops up, it seems especially harsh and hard to deal with.

My mother pointed out that we all know going in that sleep is not something parents have in abundance. The way she said it made it seem matter of fact and also like it would be true for the ENTIRETY of the parent/child relationship. And I’m too tired today to recognize whether what I feel about that concept is resignation or horror.

Every time I wash the towels, I do it first thing in the morning, as I am leaving the house. I grab the towels in the bathroom I share with my husband, which includes a “bath mat” (which seems to me just to be a towel with a different name) and a hand towel alongside the three bath towels, then I grab the towel, bath mat, and hand towel from Carla’s bathroom, then I grab the hand towel from the half-bath downstairs, and the two dishtowels that hang above the sink. I throw everything into either an appropriate laundry bin or into the actual washing machine, set it to wash, and that’s that.

For many years, I did this as I was rushing out the door to work. Usually, Towel Day is a Monday. And Mondays my husband tries to take Carla to daycare. (He doesn’t do procedures Mondays, so his schedule begins later than it does most days.) But I would take those extra minutes of not dropping Carla off to get to work early, in hopes of making up for the days when daycare drop-off went horribly and I got to work a few minutes late.

What I’m saying is, is that I would REMOVE all the towels and begin the washing process. But that was where it ended. Later that evening, if I got to the bathroom first, I’d replace the towels. But sometimes I wouldn’t get there first, and instead it was my husband who would go to wash his hands or bathe our daughter or whatever, and find that all the towels were missing.

My husband has long grumbled about this. Why isn’t there a hand towel in the bathroom? Where is the bath mat? Etc etc etc.

And I have long grumbled back at him: You are perfectly capable of going into the linen closet and getting a fresh towel.

Internet, I went so far as to tell him to GET OVER IT the last time we exchanged grumbles on the subject!

And then I had An Epiphany!

The Missing Bath Towels are to my husband what Unreplaced Toilet Paper/Paper Towels are to me!

Oh, Internet. I am so ashamed! All these years, and I was metaphorically using the last of the toilet paper and leaving an empty cardboard tube for him to find!

And you can bet your sweet patoot that I would NOT be okay with “getting over it” if he left me empty paper towel and toilet paper holders every two weeks for years on end.

Excuse me, as I must prostrate myself at his feet and commence groveling.

What I want to talk about today is having something in your life that is deeply meaningful to one spouse but not the other.

I think this could take various forms. Let’s say you are very religious, and your spouse is not. I imagine that not having the same level of interest in religion could present some difficulties.  You might be thinking, well, that seems like something you should have talked about before you got married. But maybe there wasn’t such a vast distance between you at first; maybe you were a moderately religious person, and accepted that your spouse was an atheist… and only over time did your religion grow in importance to you, while your spouse remained an atheist. While people DO make this work in their marriages, I see how it could be potentially very difficult.

Or maybe when you were first married, you were both politically moderate. But over time, one of you has begun to edge into more conservative territory while the other has become more and more liberal. I cannot continue with this as an example because it’s stressing me out.

So: what about something that sounds less like it might cause a marital crisis?

What if you are really passionate about CrossFit, but your spouse just can’t get too excited about it? Maybe you can get your spouse to do a Paleo cleanse every now and again, but your spouse has no interest in exercising and really doesn’t want to wake up early to go to your CrossFit events and would rather watch Game of Thrones than the CrossFit Games. Even if you have friends who are also in CrossFit, I could see how it could be frustrating if your spouse did not share your interest.

Or what if your dream is to visit all the major league ballparks in America? But your spouse has zero interest in baseball. Your spouse might indulge you by planning vacations in cities  that have major league teams. But maybe your spouse has no interest in touring yet another ballpark, or going to yet another endless baseball game in the full glare of the sun. I can see how it would be lonely to attend a game by yourself, or frustrating to be pushed to do other tourist activities when all you want to do is walk among the bleachers of some historic field, imagining the crack of the ball against the bat, and the roar of the crowd.

I think we can all agree that spouses can and may – and even should – have different interests. And maybe we can agree that it’s important for spouses to respect one another’s interests, even if they don’t understand them or like them. We might also be able to go one step further and say that it would be in the interests of the marriage to at least try to support the other spouse’s interest. And, on the other side of things, for the spouse-with-the-interest to be respectful and understanding of the disinterest on the spouse’s side, and not to press to hard or get too bent out of shape.

My example of this is kind of frivolous, and really only becomes an issue about once a year. But I spend a lot of energy fretting about it and wishing VERY HARD that I could force my husband into not just respecting my interest but into LOVING it as much as I do.

My parents live in the middle of a picturesque forest in a wide valley between two mountain ranges. It is indescribably beautiful, so I will post a photo of it to give you the mere glimmer of an idea.

cropped-holland-lake1.jpg

I didn’t grow up there, in the mountains. But my dad spent summers there as a boy, and so we visited the area every summer. At one point, my parents bought a swath of land and built a little one bed/one bath log cabin powered by a generator, and my whole family would go there for weekends or weeks throughout the summer. There’s a little lake nearby, and my parents have a boat, and we’d water ski or tool around the lake or lie on the dock in the sun. We did lots of hiking, even though hiking isn’t really my jam, we played Scrabble in the evenings, and we spent many, many hours reading in the clear mountain air, with only the sounds of sandhill cranes, the thrum of hummingbirds and industrious bees, and the distant whir of a motor boat to disrupt the pure calm.

But this idyllic beauty comes at a price: My parents’ home is difficult to get to – most of a day of travel from my home. And it’s isolated – there aren’t any bars or movie theaters or malls or really many restaurants you can get to without a long drive.

To me – and to my parents, who live there – these are pros rather than cons.

For my husband, who was born in a city and has lived in a city of one size or another his whole life – at least I think that’s the defining difference between us, here – they seem to be more con than pro.

He goes, without hesitation or complaint. We book our flights each year, and he talks about looking forward to taking a break, and about how nice it will be to see my parents. But I don’t think the idea of being completely off-grid is as appealing to him as it is to me. No cell towers anywhere nearby. No cable television. Nowhere to drive if you get bored (!) by the beautiful scenery, unless you want to spend an hour or more in the car. (We do, now, have electricity; my parents eventually built a two-bed/three-bath home with all the amenities.)

To me, having grown up with this space in my life, it has become synonymous with peace and relaxation. So I just don’t get why my husband doesn’t love it the way I do. I want desperately for him to love it. Not just tolerate it. But to LOVE it, to feel the pull of the tamaracks and Ponderosa pine, to long for the brush of ice-kissed mountain breezes on his face, to ache for the enormous wide-open skies and gleaming silence.

It has recently occurred to me that maybe I am being unreasonable.

If I were to be a passionate marathon runner, I can envision wanting my husband to be supportive of my efforts to get into shape and eat a healthy diet. I can envision wanting my husband to make every effort to attend the actual marathons, to cheer me on and to be there at the finish line. I can even envision myself wanting him to share with me the exhilaration of pushing my body to its limits, and the euphoria of accomplishing such a physically and mentally punishing goal. But I cannot envision asking him to get up at 4:00 each morning and run 10 miles if he doesn’t want to.

I am a writer. Some of what I write is poetry. My husband is supportive of my writing, even proud. He has been to readings with me. He tolerates it when I read him poems from the New Yorker. He has bought me books of poems he thinks I would like. But he does not love poetry, or even like it. I cannot envision asking him to read books of poems just because I love it.

These things seem like reasonable deviations in our interests. So why am I so fixed on trying to get him to love visiting the mountains?

I have gone through stages. The wheedling stage: just try it, please please for me, and maybe you’ll like it! The petulant indifference stage: well, I’m going to have a good time whether you do or not. The placating stage: let’s do exactly what YOU want to do, and maybe you’ll enjoy it more! The frustration stage: there must be something wrong with you; what’s not to like?!?! The despair stage: how can I spend the next fifty years trying to get you to love something you just don’t love? The melodramatic stage: does this incompatibility mean we are destined for divorce?

Maybe the next stage is acceptance. Maybe I have to finally realize that my parents’ magical forest hideaway is just not my husband’s kind of thing. Maybe I will have to get to a point where Carla and I go visit my parents by ourselves, and don’t pressure my husband into making the trek. (Although I don’t necessarily think he’d like THAT; he doesn’t like to be away from me and Carla, for one thing, and he also wants to see my parents.) Maybe I just have to let him support my interest by coming with me, even though it’s not his idea of The Best Time Ever, and allow him to feel slightly bored and slightly uncomfortable. Maybe, over time, he will come to enjoy it more, and maybe I just have to stop pressuring him. Or maybe not. Maybe it just shouldn’t matter. After all, he may not LOVE it, but he Shows Up, and that should count for more than I’ve been counting it. And I guess I have to respect and support that as much as he respects and supports my need to have this kind of retreat in my life.

We are having guests over for dinner in a couple of weeks, and they have some food limitations. It is making meal planning a challenge – but a FUN challenge, because I want to find the correct combination of things that will make it enjoyable for them. The limitations are as follows:

  • One family member has celiac disease and cannot eat gluten.
  • One family member cannot eat milk products.
  • One family member is vegetarian.

I keep thinking of The Perfect Food! and then realizing it is totally not perfect. (Mushroom lasagna! I’ll just use gluten free noodles! Oh wait. Cheese.) The best option I have come up with is a make-your-own-sandwich bar, where we provide lots of meats and cheeses and veggies and breads – and include some gluten-free rolls on a separate plate. But… then again, what might a vegetarian eat on a sandwich? Marinated portabellas? I don’t like sandwiches, so I am not really the best person to plan a sandwich bar, I guess.

Maybe what I am talking myself into is, in fact, a big SALAD bar. Then I can completely skip the bread issue by not having ANY and I can include some chickpeas and kidney beans as proteins for the vegetarian?

But I am learning that gluten is a sneaky bugger, and so I will need to be really careful that none of the dressings have gluten. And now I am thinking, sadly, that maybe children will not be as diggety-down with the salad bar as the adults might be. I can picture my daughter eating a handful of cherry tomatoes and then filling her plate with air. She eats air most days, so it wouldn’t be a big departure but I try not to purposely make food I KNOW she won’t eat.

Okay. So we could… grill hot-dogs and hamburgers and some meat-free burgers or portabella steaks. (I read that hotdogs can have gluten, so I will need to be on the lookout for that.) And have gluten-free buns. And gluten-free-mac-and-cheese for the kids. That seems doable, I suppose. The problem is, always, the weather. Which may or may not cooperate. I would rather have an inside-the-house kind of option, I guess. That also ensures that my husband isn’t stuck at the grill all night.

We could do a taco bar… but we did that the last time we had this family over, and I had black beans as the non-meat protein and even though my vegetarian guest was super gracious and didn’t say ANYTHING, I don’t think it was the most satisfying meal. Plus, I have served tacos the last two times we have hosted people (two separate families, don’t worry) and I am kind of sick of them. I want to flex my hostessing muscles, you know?

I was playing around with the idea of a make-your-own-pizza kind of thing, with gluten-free crust as an option… and providing a bunch of meats and cheeses and vegetables and sauces… But I wonder if the absolutely delicious-sounding-to-ME idea of a rosemary and onion and thin-sliced potato pizza would actually appeal to the dairy-free guest. Plus, the logistics of getting everybody’s pizza into the oven at once or on a rotation that wouldn’t mean half of the people are starving makes me feel a little panicky. Possibly I could make small pizzas for the kids and then two large pizzas for the grown-ups? And both could be vegetarian and dairy free? THAT might be fun!

Then we get to dessert. I am planning to make macarons with jam filling, because they tick all the boxes. And I was thinking about buying a few pints of ice cream (we have a local ice creamery that makes vegan ice cream, which is gluten and dairy free) and having some sprinkles (although around here they are called “jimmies”) and chocolate flakes available. The kids would like that, I think.

I really really like this family. Our kids get along. We have a great time together. And it would be so nice if I could gain some comfort with cooking for them, so we’re not always trying to wrangle our kids at restaurants or having to bring in takeout. And, of course, on the flip side, it would be really nice if they could see me as a TRUSTWORTHY host, who would have things they can ALL eat, things that taste decent and are filling.

I suppose the smart thing would be to just call my friend and ASK HER, but I a) want to figure this out myself and b) don’t want to put her in the situation of being all, “Oh, whatever you do will be fine!” and then not enjoying herself.

So: Do YOU have any experience in making meals for anyone with the above food restrictions? Do you have any experience BEING the person with food restrictions? Do you think my pizza idea is totally crazy? HELP.

We have been having Some Issues with drop off recently, where Carla gets very upset as I try to leave. It breaks my heart and sets the day off on a horrible You Monster, Why Do You Put Your Kid in Daycare start, so we have been testing some strategies to see if we can nip this in the bud.

Today was Day 2 of Strategy: Lovey, wherein Carla brings a small stuffed animal to school that she can hug when she misses me. Day 1 went very well, so I have high hopes.

This morning, one of Carla’s classmates was ALSO having a rough morning. She was crying already when I entered the classroom, and as I was trying to put things in Carla’s cubby (extra shoes, lunchbox, water bottle) while simultaneously saying soothing and cheerful things to Carla, the little girl came up to me, wailing, and held her arms out for a hug.

I mean, who am I to deny a child a hug? I really, really hope that’s not out of bounds. But I think if my daughter was having a rough time and just needed a hug, I would be grateful to another mom for giving her that comfort.

Poor kiddo – a hug did not cut it. And of course, here’s Carla, saying, “That’s MY mommy.” I tried to say calmly to her, “Your friend is having a rough moment, and it’s okay for her to give me a hug” while hugging this poor child. The little girl is now trying to climb on me, she wants to be picked up, but I don’t want to cross any weird parental boundaries, and also Carla is climbing on my other side, so I say gently, “Sweetie, I can’t pick you up, I’m sorry you’re having a rough day, it’s going to be okay.”

This is totally my response to Sad Feelings, by the way, because it is the way I want to be treated when I’m sad. I soothe, I acknowledge, I offer calm reassurances. But I am not good at distracting a child from her feelings. I mean, I have LEARNED how to do that, with Carla. But it didn’t even occur to me in this situation.

Of course, my own anxiety is ramping up at the same time. I’m just trying to get Carla situated so I can leave without her dissolving into tears. Now, in the calm and quiet of my house, I feel like I should have just sat down on the floor, talked with the little girl – at the very least, asked her or Carla what her name was! – and overall been more patient with the situation. Instead, I got more and more frantic, trying to peel the crying child off of me so I can hug my daughter, who is beginning to look more and more upset.

That’s when another mom swooped in. “This isn’t your child?” she asked, and I shook my head. And she took the little girl’s hand (the child was STILL wailing, tears and snot sloshing down her face – this is my NIGHTMARE, that when I leave, Carla cries and cries and cries, rather than stopping as soon as I’m out of sight.) and said brightly, “Have you washed your hands yet? Let’s go do that and then we’ll play with your friends!”

Oh how I want to be that mom. Not only is she a fantastic dresser (today she had on this long floral dress that was breezy and summery and elegant all at once) and not only does she have a super cool haircut, but she was kind and confident and knew exactly what to do.

I barely feel confident with MY OWN child. Let’s be honest: most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing, and even when my stabs in the dark seem to work, I feel like I’m about to tumble over the edge into incompetence at any moment. And when it comes to someone else’s child? Absolutely no idea.

Babies. I can handle babies. Let me hold your baby, feed her, change her diaper. I am good at that. Big kids? Not so much.

This week a nice gentleman from our security service come out to test the security system and replace all the batteries in the window and door sensors. As happens Every Single Time someone comes to my house to provide some sort of service, I spent the entire time he was here in a restless panic of What Is the Right Way to Deal with This?

It begins with the Time Window. I spend the hours before the Time Window fretting about the state of my house, like the air conditioning repairperson is going to care whether there are breakfast dishes in the sink or the cable person will give a second thought to the unwashed laundry on the floor of the closet. (It’s there because SORTING.)

Then, as the Time Window nears, I begin stressing about what I should be doing. I shouldn’t make anything to eat, lest the service person arrive as soon as I have food in my mouth. I shouldn’t start a project, lest I get interrupted. I shouldn’t make a phone call. I shouldn’t work out or take a shower. So I end up kind of pacing around my house, catching up on small housework or straightening things that will neither impress nor dismay the service person. I always have the TV on, to provide background noise.

Once the person arrives, I fret about what to DO while s/he is in my house. Do I follow her around, ostensibly to answer questions? Do I guide her to the appropriate area of the house and then… leave her alone?

If I go the following-around route, do I ask questions to appear as though I care and/or will remember anything about the reason the furnace is making a weird noise?  Do I make inane small talk about the weather or the basketball finals or how it’s summer already and doesn’t time go by so quickly? Do I lurk in the background, trying to assume a helpful air? Do I find something to occupy me near wherever she needs to be?

If I go the leaving-alone route, what do I DO? I have to be available, and I have to be interruptible. Do I pretend to watch TV, while really sitting on the edge of the couch, ready to leap up and address any questions or issues? Do I continue to find small items of housework to tackle, if I even have any left after my pre-appointment fussing?

What level of hospitality is required/expected/necessary/nice? For movers, I have offered water; for the people who recently removed a bunch of junk, I offered soda (which they left behind, presumably because it was diet soda). We have a lot of beer; should I offer beer?

When is a tip required/expected/necessary/nice? I mean, I know a tip is NEVER “required,” but… I think it’s more of a given in some situations than in others. Like, with movers. I automatically build in “get cash for a tip” to my moving preparations. But with the person who replaces your faucet? The person who delivers your mattress? The person who inspects your gutters? The person who sprays for silverfish?

The tipping thing gives me GREAT anxiety. Partly because (except in the instance of movers) I only ever THINK about the tip right before the service person is expected to arrive, so I never have cash on hand (or if I do, it is like, a $50 bill that seems a bit much or a single $1 which seems very stingy). Partly because I just don’t know when a tip would be appreciated-but-not-expected or whether the service person starts bad mouthing my lack of generosity the instant he leaves. Okay, that is uncharitable. It would be worse if the service person left, tipless, and began to worry about whether the lack of tip meant she hadn’t provided great service. UGH.

And yet, one time we had two faucets installed and I planned ahead and tried to tip the very nice, very efficient man who installed the faucets, and he rejected the tip, in a semi-repulsed way that almost seemed like I’d perpetrated a Major Faux Pas or maybe offered him a fistful of dog poo instead of a $10.

And THEN, if you decide a tip is a good idea, HOW MUCH DO YOU TIP? A percentage of the service? A flat $5 per person? Does it depend on the type of service rendered? And, if so, what is the scale?

SO MUCH ANXIETY.

I would appreciate a Handbook that clearly lays out guidelines for all of the above and more.  Once I heard that if the service person is the owner of the company, you don’t tip. But if the service person is an employee, you DO tip. Or maybe the guideline was that if the service person is a contractor, you DO tip, and if an employee, you DON’T. ARRRRGH.

All I know is that Any and Every Time we need some sort of service that requires a person to come to our home, I spend the entire day fretting and fussing and worrying that I am doing the wrong thing. And when the person is in my house, I wander around – following her sometimes, other times leaving her to her work in peace – alternately wondering whether this is the day when I am murdered by a psychopath and agonizing about the tip and using phrases like “everything looking ship-shape?” and “oh goodness, that’s a stumper” and making inane statements about the weather and offering too much information about myself just to fill the air.

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