Til Death Do Us Part

Teflon Man and I celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary last weekend. Twelve years. It was a beautiful day, but I do often regret not choosing a new kitchen instead.

  
But we wouldn’t have celebrated the installation of a new kitchen with a fancy, child-free trip to London, so there’s that. Flash hotel with petal-scattered bed and free champagne. We downed the champers and swept the petals aside…to watch the Olympics (Tom Daley in teeny speedos is all I’m saying). Then a sublime meal in a posh restaurant followed by cocktails in the fancy-pants hotel bar…then a sleepless night due to indigestion! Ah, the romance!

 

After 12 years marriage, the dark is definitely our friend!
 
Sunday morning, our anniversary proper, we exchanged gifts amid the marshmallow-plump duvet. We’ve only ever done cursory gifts for our anniversary mostly in line with the traditional gift list made up by who-knows-who, but which at least offers desperate partners some sort of direction and reminds others that a gift is to be expected!!! (Apart from our third anniversary where the combination of a 9-day-old Boo and a lack of breastfeeding facilities In town meant that I returned home in tears and without a present for TM. But I had just created his child in my body, so I got away with it.)

Some years are harder than others (Year 4: Fruit – a tip: go for a nice, expensive bottle of wine rather than, say, a bunch of bananas) and with the purchase of a bread tin followed by a kitchen knife possibly TM is incrementally buying me the kitchen I could’ve had all those years ago. But this year was easy: silk. I gave TM a tie (which, it turned out, looked suspiciously similar to the ones worn by the waiters at the posh restaurant. I promise I bought it in advance and didn’t haggle with the maitre’d whilst TM was in the gents.) Luckily for TM, I didn’t present it √† la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

 
TM meanwhile bypassed the option of lingerie (always a good move as he’d only be bound to get the size wrong, which would only lead to upset whether too big – ‘he thinks I’m fat’ – or too small – ‘I am fat and he wishes I was thinner. Or he was too busy eyeing up the sales girl when he bought it.’) Instead he chose a Hermes style silk scarf. The sort that sophisticated, mostly French women pull off effortlessly, whilst the rest of us mortals struggle with complicated Pinterest instructions to have even a clue what to do with it.

  
I don’t even know how to fold it into the required shape before tying it. But it least it was impossible to get the size wrong.

Back home though I had a bit of a panic. Optimistically assuming that we’ll still be together for our 13th anniversary, I realised that we had now ticked off the major fallback gifts for men: cotton, leather, wool, and silk – hankies, wallet, socks and tie. Only cuff links remain (seeing shaving cream and aftershave isn’t an option on the list) and silver isn’t for another thirteen years!!!

Next year is lace. It’s going to be a struggle. The gift-giving sector of the market is struggling here. I did a Google search and it isn’t pretty. My retinas are still recovering!!! Don’t even go there!

  
  

But it gets worse. Either the list-makers knew they were scraping the bottom of the barrel when lacy g-strings for men became a thing (seriously DON’T look!) or by 15 years of marriage we’re meant to know our other halves well enough to go it alone. I know my other half well enough to know this is a recipe for disaster!

(Exhibit A: remember this?)

  
From 2020 (after lace, ivory and crystal) my anniversary presents are doomed!

And then it struck me. Marriage can be murder, only with a longer sentence for a single decision and we’ve essentially chosen our cellmate (even if sometimes we wonder what the hell we were thinking!). 

  
In which case, the natural filler for those gift blanks are surely the murder weapons from Cluedo.

  
What woman wouldn’t be pleased to receive a spanner after say, sixteen years of marriage. It seems appropriate if you’ve come to think of your husband as a bit of a tool. Some seem like appropriate gifts already – the candlestick more so than the lead piping perhaps. 

  
And could it be an incentive to treat your partner with more respect than a second/third decade of marriage might engender naturally? ‘Perhaps I won’t call him a “cockwomble” out loud in case he stabs me with the anniversary dagger.’  (But then I don’t live somewhere where handguns are kept in bedside tables as standard, and actually, in those places where they are, altercations still happen but tend not to end well, so maybe not.)

But it’s at least a direction for suggestions until someone decides ‘luxury kitchen upgrade’ deserves to be on the list (which it totally does!). Traditionally anniversary gifts can already be appropriated as murder weapons…and surely it’s not just coincidence that I have Cell Block Tango on perma-loop in my head when TM is around. Isn’t it then a natural progression of gift ideas?

One warning though: once you’ve collected your full set of household items/murder weapons (plus some fine-bone china as we stick with tradition for 20 years of wedded bliss) just beware of any invitations to stately homes to celebrate. Or grab your candlestick and head to the library – all’s fair in love, war and anniversary gifts after all.

  

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The Lazy Parent’s Guide to Sleepover Parties

Boo turned 9 last week. Halfway to adult – gulp! Last year’s party for her 8th was an unbeatable beast of a celebration: we hired Elsa to entertain the kids (and the adults! – just look at my sister’s enchanted face!).

  
It was wonderful, but I was aware that Boo was on the cusp of out-growing childhood parties, so decided we’d go out with a bang.

Knowing that her celebrations would be more low-key this year, I asked Boo what she wanted to do. She uttered back a word that sends chills through your average parent: “I want a sleepover, please, Mummy.”

The twins only had one sleepover. A game of balloon volleyball resulted in a broken lightbulb all over the sleeping bags, more things got broken (including my spirit) and I staked outside the living room door as we hit the small hours becoming increasingly grumpy until they relented and went to sleep. And then they had the audacity to burst into my bedroom demanding birthday presents at the crack of dawn. Before I could utter the words “Never. Again.” as I closed the door on the final devil child/guest the twins turned to me: “We never want another sleepover again.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to second-time round parenting, the ‘been there done that’ card is rendered null and void. I couldn’t deny Boo’s wishes on the grounds of her her sisters’ past misdemeanours. I decided I would take every reasonable step to make it as stress-free as possible. Here’s how you can too:

1) Ignore Pinterest

The thought of having a bunch of tween girls in my house for 17 hours was enough to bring me out in hives. What the heck was I meant to do with them (given that sleep would be limited and all games of balloon volleyball would be banned).

So I did the obvious and looked at Pinterest for inspiration. Except, whaaaat?!?! Indoor tents, glow-in-the-dark facepaint to ruin said tent and manicure stations worthy of my local salon.

  

Then there were helium balloons to be popped on the hour with a surprise activity in each. That would be 17 activities to think of and source…and fund! (AlthoughI’m guessing the 3am balloon would contain the message “GO THE HELL TO SLEEP!!!”)

 
I clicked the exit button before I ended up ordering coordinated pyjamas and decorate-your-own slippers and asked Boo how she wanted to fill her time (without letting her step anywhere near Google for ideas).

We bought Twister and Zootropolis and teeny tiny nail polishes. I got away with buying ¬£5 air beds from Tesco rather than constructing Bedouin tents. Boo was still happy and I was less frazzled/bankrupt. 

2) Invite Conservatively

Whenever I told friends and family that we were having a sleepover in the run up to P-Day they’d wince. “How many have you got coming?” Numbers play a big factor. Each child equates to at least 1.5 times the likelihood of tears. Luckily we only ended up with three guests. 

Time played favourably in our case. Unintentionally, admittedly, I didn’t get round to handing out invites until the day before the end of term. Five children got invited with zero chance of substitution then when people couldn’t come (which is always inevitable when the party’s slap bang in the middle of the holidays). One child couldn’t make it, one child didn’t turn up. #win.

  

3) The Importance of Good Timing, Part 1

Party day and usually I’m up at the crack of dawn to get everything done before the guests arrive and then wanting to cry when my house hasn’t been turned into a magical palace by early afternoon. (Seriously, one year I even bought paint with the intention of making our front door more appealing before the party. The paint still remains in its tin.)

But the joy of the sleepover (there’s a phrase I never thought I’d say!) is that you’ve literally got all day to get ready with no need to invite guests until dusk. Parents are too grateful to be getting a night to themselves to be peturbed that they’ve got their kids all day and you’ve got time to paint the front door if you wish (although I’d advise indulging in a lie-in in preparation for the late night ahead).

4) Do Not Micro-Manage

Only a fool would arrange a sleepover for kids who need a constant stream of activities. The reason Boo loved the idea of a sleepover was that it made her feel all grown-up. (Bless her little tween heart.) But being grown-up is making your decisions  

  
 Make vague plans for some essential sleepover activities (DVD session, manicures, Truth or Dare, pillow fight, ‘midnight’ snack) and then let them crack on at their own pace.

  
Bonus tip if your daughter is in the Brownies: encourage them to use the party as a chance to earn their Hostess badge. They’ll be responsible for invites, activities, feeding and tidying. All you have to do is keep an eye on things (no maxing out your card on Dominos deliveries for midnight feast fulfilment) and sew on a badge once everything’s done. Result! 

5) Lessen the Workload

Think smart when it comes to activities and food. 

Rather than spending the afternoon covering myself in buttercream in order to provide a stack of cupcakes, I let the girls decorate the cakes themselves. Thanks to the judicious supply of sprinkles and popping candy this kept them occupied for two hours! Mind you, it’s going to take months to get every last spilled sprinkle from our dining room carpet. Oh well, it was a sacrifice worth making.

  
Rather than panicking at the last minute that I hadn’t got Boo party ready (or brushed her hair!) I left it for a makeover session. Boo may have emerged looking even messier (the creative nail art vision of 9-year-olds definitely exceeds their dexterity) but I saved myself even more time and effort.

  
And rather than becoming all Monica Gellar OCD over finger sandwiches and sausage rolls I ordered in pizza and fried chicken. Boo loved it – “I feel like a teenager!” – and rather than lift a finger I just had to tap my thumb. 

Laziness in the guise of being a cool mum. What’s not to like?

6) Call It a Night

The given of the sleepover party is that it will be less sleep, more party. The girls were allowed to stay up late.

I hit my limit before they did. With them settled but still awake I headed to bed, telling them where to find me. They did. At 4.15am! Ridding them of a slug that had decided to join in the party wasn’t my idea of fun at that time, but at least I’d managed to catch some zzzzs first.

7) The Importance of Good Timing, Part 2

Do you know who isn’t fun? Sleep-deprived children! (Especially if you’re a sleep-deprived adult.) But do you know whose best at dealing with grumpy, over-tired children? Their parents, who’ve had the benefit of a night off! 

Allow said parents the benefit of a lie-in (their gratitude will know no bounds as they skip to your door high on the effects of an unbroken night’s sleep) and then pack all guests off before the sleep-deprived grumps kick in.

Midday worked well for us. Everyone left whilst they were still happy and it was far enough into the day to crack open a well-deserved bottle of wine without feeling like an alcoholic. 

So we did it! A sleepover with zero tears, tantrums or insurance claims. And for less effort than a normal party! Boo’s already decided she wants another one next year.