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. 

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Ta-Dah!

Despite the various challenges of work/family getting in the way of getting stuff done I only went and did it and baked a cake for the twins. And it wasn’t even a Pinterest fail!

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But I didn’t do it last night. Teflon Man made it home at 1.20am – exactly what epics were his cinema club watching?! Or did he end up next-door afterwards for a cheeky episode of Breaking Bad…or two?! There was no way on Earth I was going to drive to the supermarket at that time of night and then bake a cake.

No, I made it this evening. After a full day at work and whilst simultaneously preparing* a party tea. (*Ok, so that mostly involved decanting bits of prosciutto and pre-prepped salad into bowls that weren’t made of plastic, but still I had to the defend the smorgasbord against cat attack when no one came to my aid.)

And then Teflon Man had the audacity to make some snarky comment that made me want to rip his head off and drop-kick it out through the patio doors.

But Eve and Indy seemed to appreciate it. Which is what counts.

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Happy Birthday, girls!

I’d feel pretty damn invincible…if only I wasn’t so utterly knackered!

A Cake Debate: To Bake or Not?

Ok, I have a dilemma. It’s late: 10.37pm to be exact. (How the f**k did that happen? Seriously!) Tomorrow is Eve and Indy’s birthday.

Plans for said birthday are a ‘party tea’ (ie nibbly bits and pieces en famille, rather than any actual party) and cake. I was thinking something like this:

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Mmm, right? They might be leaving their teen years behind, but are you ever too old for a cake surrounded by KitKats? I think not!

However, I don’t actually have all of the ingredients into make even the cake part (thanks, Eve, for using all the flour for Oscar’s cake at the weekend). So,if I’m to make it tonight I’ve got to drive out of town to the late-night supermarket (ugh!), hope that no one steals my parking space in the street (otherwise double ugh!) and then bake the cake.

A fool’s errand, I know! Who wants to be baking a cake licking a bowl of cake batter at midnight? (Ok, I do – in my world there’s never a wrong time for cake batter; don’t judge me.)

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And the thing is, if I don’t do it tonight I’m at work all day tomorrow (just as I have been today). I won’t get in until nearly six, later if I stop off on the way home to buy sausage rolls and prosciutto ham, etc, and I’ll then have to bake the cake, let it cool, decorate it, etc. at that rate we might be lucky to eat it before midnight tomorrow night!

Oh, and added to the issue Teflon Man is out at his precious cinema club (double bill tonight, folks!), so technically I’m the responsible adult. (Although the kids are asleep and Grandy, Eve and her boyfriend are in, so if I did go out you don’t have to call social services.) But still, I’d feel bad. But maybe that’s just the eternal nag of Mum Guilt.

I suppose the other option is to just buy a cake. But that seems like a waste of cash when all I need is flour. Plus, you don’t get to lick cake batter off the spoon with a ready-made cake!

I can’t decide. I’ll go and do the laundry and check that the out-of-town late-night supermarket is still open.

Goddam days only having 24 hours in them though. It’s all time’s fault. Yep, I blame time and commitments. But not The Commitments. God, I loved that film soundtrack. And possibly The Midnight Hour is quite appropriate.

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Teflon Man Comes Good

Remember last year when I wanted a Pandora bracelet for my birthday but instead got this:

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(I may have mentioned it a couple of times.)

Well, Teflon Man has upped his game. And in a good way.

Not only did he take me out for the best meal of my life last night…

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…he also got me the exact watch I was lusting after…

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(Daniel Wellington: tick. St Andrews model: tick. In rose gold: tick)

and he found his way to the Pandora store with Boo to buy her present for me. (Generosity charm also pictured above.)

10/10, Teflon Man. I’m impressed.

Why Having a January Birthday is Harsh…

This one’s in honour of my fellow blogging Aquarians The Dancing Professor at trophos.wordpress.com and Claire at Lifeloveanddirtydishes.

1) It’s cold. And going out means going out into the cold, when rather sitting inside in the warm would be the go-to option. (Except, my house is cold also. But the cold makes me miserable and I don’t want to be miserable on my birthday.)

2) Plus, unless you’re a teenager or from Newcastle, it means you’re going to need a coat. Which then means carrying it around all night, which, frankly, is just a pain in the arse.

3) It’s possibly also rainy, which is not good for the hair on a night out. And you just know you’re going to leave your umbrella in a taxi.

4) As for snow: pffft. It snowed on my 30th birthday. I did go spectacularly arse-over-tit. Whilst carrying my birthday cake. Most of the time I love snow (or, at least, the thought of snow). But on my birthday it’s evil and not my friend.

5) Nice restaurants offer seasonal menus, which in January features such in-season delights as kale and Savoy cabbage. Firstly, such greens taste like old socks and secondly, I’m already feeling older than I’d like without a menu that encourages farting like an old woman.

6) Everyone’s still suffering from a post-Christmas hangover. Whether they’re physically hungover and having a dry January or financially, having maxed out the plastic over the festive season, asking friends to sacrifice all that frugality in favour of a night out can seem like a big ask.

7) The January sales don’t offer the best gift-buying options. Things you didn’t get at Christmas are now being handed over in gift bags and you know full well that they had 70% off. But the shops still aren’t offering normal goods, so what are you gonna do?

However…

Reasons it’s GREAT to have a January birthday:

1) Everywhere has central heating rather than sodding air-con.

2) It’s an excuse to buy a new coat. The furry one I bought for my night out on Saturday was particularly lush.

3) It doesn’t always rain…

4) …Or snow. My 21st was just unlucky.

5) Body fat helps protect against the cold. Bring on dessert!

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6) Abstinence is boring! You’re literally doing your friends a favour by giving them an excuse to break all the bleak January rules. Anyone who wants to be a killjoy can just stay away from the celebrations. Or be the designated driver. Either way you’re onto a winner.

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7) You can get your party gear in the sales too! So why buy one coat when you can have two? Plus new shoes!

8) Friends are ace whatever time of year and celebrating is always fun.

To be fair, I’ve just had the best weekend! Dinner and cocktails with some fantastic friends last night…

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…and then a BAFTA exhibition and 2 Michelin-starred dinner with Teflon Man in London today.

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Which takes the edge off the bleakness of winter, as well as the whole getting older thing, to be fair.

Claire and DP, I hope you’ve had equally fabulous birthdays!

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