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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Lessons from a full house – Year 3

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

multi-generational family photos

Between December 21st and January 3rd, we hosted up to 31 members of our extended family, including 6 young children between the ages of 3 and 7.

This was our third year in a row to host this much extended family over the holidays. Some live close by, some stayed in a nearby Airbnb, and some stayed under our roof and shared our 2.5 bathrooms.

We cooked, washed dishes, had long talks, looked at pictures, played games, watched movies, played with Legos and toys, went on walks, and visited with the great-grandmas.

What has a house full of company over 3 years of holidays taught us?

What follows is a refresh of the blogs from the past two years:

Stock up before people show up

Two dozen (and sometimes more!) people consume - a lot! So the more you have on hand, the fewer trips you need to make to the store while guests are visiting. Buy in bulk – not just food, but toilet paper, soap, facial tissues, and paper towels.

Plan ahead – do your meal planning in advance, put casseroles in the freezer, and stock up on snacks. Accept help in the kitchen with fixing meals, setting and clearing the table(s), and washing dishes and towels. Use disposable dishware for some meals.

Be flexible with your expectations

Just getting everyone up and dressed and fed can take half the day. When making plans – whether it is an outing or playing a board game - don’t expect everyone in your group to participate in any given activity.

Provide choices and options that match varied preferences. Expect some to not join an outing or event for any number of reasons. Expect young children to have meltdowns when they get overtired and out of their routine. Go with the flow.

Embrace the chaos

Accept that you won’t have a clutter-free house. Extra people mean extra stuff. Do your best to hang up coats and put away toys, but realize that the mess will appear again. Be comfortable with the chaos. When everyone returns home you can soak up the stillness. While the house is full, enjoy the noise.

This year, we determined that two of the big meals would be hosted not at home but in a room at the Delphi Opera House. In the photo, you can see the group gathered for the birthday party and for Christmas dinner. Having an accommodating space can make a huge difference.

Expect illness

This year, several guests arrived with colds and coughs. It is inevitable an illness will be shared and others will come down sick. Thankfully, I did not get sick until the day after hosting a 90th Birthday Party for my mother.

What does this have to do with our communication projects as nutrition professionals?

Be prepared

Make your list and check it twice. Pay attention to both the big picture and the small details. Delegate work and accept help. The recent tip sheet on logistical details is spot on and was put into practice when planning the bigger events.

Stay flexible

Communication is a human activity and humans can be unpredictable. Three-year-olds can have meltdowns and get away with it. Professionals need to remain calm, cool, and collected. See the blog titled “Code word for civility.”

Keep positive

Roadblocks and challenges are inevitable. When they occur, maintain a positive perspective. How you handle the chaos of life speaks volumes about your character. Be known as a professional with a positive attitude.

Will we be repeating a full house during the holidays next year? Only time will tell. Rather than a fourth year of hosting extended family at home, we are discussing taking an immediate family trip to a cabin in the mountains.

“Family: We might not have it all together, but together we have it all.”


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