Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's About Time!

Bloody outrageous. I mean, what exactly have I been doing with myself this past six months since I last posted?

  • Added 'write blog' to my list of weekly 'Things-to-do' approx 26 times.

  • Updated my Facebook status at least 200 times....

  • Wasted around 180+ hours of my life reading celeb news on

  • Eaten Carnie Wilson's body weight in dark chocolate brownies.

  • Rowed with Him Downstairs 58 times.

  • Spent over 185 hours in my car being a Mommy-cab for Cheeky and Monkey.

  • Discovered at least 20 new grey hairs.

  • Tripped over discarded boys shoes too many bloody times to count.

  • Had 48 glorious hours sans kids and husband during a much-needed girlfriends only city break.

  • Celebrated two birthdays. One: mine (not so much cheer, as 'Dammit, I can't be knocking on forties' door already?') and the other: Monkey's. He turned four and forgot how to be civil.

  • Cried several bucket loads of tears over movies/TV shows/my kids/my husband/Idol Gives Back.

  • Written at least 12 big cheques to the local education authority in pre-school fees.

  • Spent more in Gap kids, J Crew kids and Mini Boden than I have in H&M, Banana Republic or Anthropologie for myself. Ever.

  • Removed a yeti's worth of hag/lady-bit hairs from areas it's God's idea of a very cruel joke in which to place a hair follicle.

  • Started having very regular wax appointments.

  • Had (and mostly enjoyed) sex (with Him Downstairs) approx 20 times. (Reason for such a low/high number depending on how you look at it, will become obvious...)

  • Purchased one ovulation kit...

  • Taken two pregnancy tests....

  • Missed six periods.....

  • Gone off sex completely.

  • Having one baby!

Yes, we are due to become a family of five in 13 weeks. Or 15 actually if my previous tardiness in delivering babies is anything to go by.

Am excited and nervous, but mostly knackered. And we haven't even got to the night-feeds stage yet. My night feeds. Usually from month eight, when only a bowl of Weetabix at 3am will do. I desperately need a vacation from my body, but this is one fat suit that won't come off. If anyone has any suggestions about how to feel fabulous whilst knocked up, please P L E A S E, will you share them with me?


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Santa for Hire?

Santa gave me his business card today. Seriously. He slipped it into my palm as my youngest, Monkey, sat upon his knee, telling the big white beard all of his Christmas wishes.

As Monkey gazed adoringly into Mr C's eyes, I looked at the business card he managed to hand me in exchange for my son to climb upon his knee.

'Clowns, magicians, pony rides, Carnival games, train rides....' Gosh, Santa has had to branch out. And however cheeky this little maneuver was, I suppose he did have a captive audience in which to network. Guess the tough economic climate has made even the inhabitants of the North Pole feel the pinch this year eh?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who forgot their party manners?

We drew the short straw when we fell preggers with Cheeky - his birthday is right next door to Christmas. (Yes, that wasn't smart planning. But nothing about becoming a parent goes according to plan does it)?

So, this time of year is the usual craziness with Christmas shopping, but then we throw a birthday into the mix and up shoots the credit card bill.

As no-one is usually around on his actual birthday - his friends all being off visiting family for the holidays, we have his party in early December. And as snow is often on the ground, we tend to hire a venue and do a 'party package' rather than risk letting 20+ little boys loose in house.

Bowling party? Check! Indoor play centre party? Check! So this year we went for a 'Pump It Up' party. Along with nearly all the other five year old boys in his class as it turns out..

Anyway, Pump It Up is one of those inflatable party palaces. All huge slides, bounce houses, padded climbing walls and enough basketball hoops and air hockey tables to wear out a couple dozen over-excitable four and five year olds.

And due to its party venue popularity, it has also felt like my second home lately as for the last five weeks, we have attended a Pump It Up party every weekend. Despite this, Cheeky insisted that this was his venue of choice and bored of it, he was not!

So, off we trotted a couple of days ago, to do the whole fun and cake overload experience. Again.

Obviously, once the 'bounce' part has concluded, the kids' main focus is on the food, cake and the party/goody bags they will take home with them.

The whole gift bag etiquette perplexes me, coming from a childhood where we'd be genuinely excited to leave a party with anything, especially a slice of cake and a balloon. I certainly don't remember ever expecting to be given a goody bag as I waved goodbye. Or was that just me?

These days, I've heard kids exclaim, "Hope we get a good toy," upon entering the birthday party. I was gobsmacked.

When I first lived over here, I made a huge social faux pas by saying to a group of Moms, that I didn't really see the point of the goody bag. That a piece of cake to take home was OK. That surely the children should be pleased to be invited to have some fun sharing the birthday boy/girls day? That only going to get a goody bag, was, actually, rather rude....?

Cue silence.

I quickly learnt that providing a goody bag was essential when hosting a children's birthday party. And some of the ones my boys have been lucky to get, have been spectacularly packed with toys, treats, stickers, cookies etc. And what do my Cheeky and Monkey do?

They tear through the bags, tossing aside any kind of writing instrument or stickers and make for the chocolate or candy that may lurk at the bottom of the bag. And the toy? Well, it depends what it is. One recent goody bag contained Lightning McQueen from the Cars movie, thus that goody bag received the gold star seal of approval. But I've seen others barely touched and I always feel so sorry that a Mom/Mum somewhere put a lot of effort into buying those treats and filling those bags, only for some of it or all of it, to end up in the trash.

So, whenever we've had a party for Cheeky or Monkey, I've tried to chose goody bag treats that I hope will at least be used or played with a little before they end up dumped in a corner. In the summer, at Monkey's birthday party, we gave all the children a skipping/jump rope and a giant bubble stick. So, I decided to do Christmasy stuff for this party. I filled the bags with Christmas cartoon colouring books, chocolate coins, candy canes, Christmas stickers, and a chocolate Santa. No toys. Not to be rude, but the party and cake was already costing over $250 before anything was put into a flipping goody bag...

At the end of the party, I had to stop several guests stampeding the goody bag table, in their eagerness to see what loot they were receiving. Blimey! I would have just let them all at it, except I'd made some of the bags more girl-friendly and some more boy appropriate, so I wanted to ensure the little men in our group didn't go home with My Little Pony or Tinkerbell books. But jeez, if this is what it feels like to be stage-dived at, then thank goodness I'm not a rock star.

As I handed out the bags, two girls started arguing over the contents. Then, of course, they started crying. (Note to self: Give all the girls exactly the same books, unless you want to see World War III break out over who has Minnie Mouse and who has Snow White to colour in.) One boy took his bag from me, looked inside it, pulled a face and promptly gave it back saying, "I don't want this thank you." I was dumbfounded. But at least he was polite about it.

Two children came up to me and asked, "Where's the toy?" I felt like ramming the goody bag down their little necks and only half of them said 'thank you' when they got the bags or left the party.

One little boy actually got up from his seat during the food and asked me when the pizza was coming. I explained that we weren't having pizza.

"But at my party we gave everyone pizza," he said. "And are we having ice cream with the cake?" He wasn't giving up.

"No, it's cake and fruit and there's crisps too if you want them." I replied, trying to get away from this four foot menace.

And when it came to the goody bags, he had something to say about them as well. He tapped me on the arm and told me," At my party, we gave everyone lots of toys in the bags."

"How lovely," I replied. Through gritted teeth.

What I failed to tell him, but perhaps I should have, was that those toys were still rolling around in the back of my car, broken before they made it home and now are unwanted by my children. What a waste of cash that was, I wanted to say. But he was still so busy grumbling about the lack of ice cream, any explanations from me would have fallen on deaf ears. Anyway, what was I thinking, even contemplating explaining myself to a five year old?!

A little later, guests all departed, when I was alone except for the cake crumbs in the party room, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. It was all over for another year. Not quite the post-party feeling I had planned or hoped for...

But the reality of hosting kids parties is starting to chip away at my usually party-happy demeanour. I would be mortified if either of my boys left a do without thanking the hostess for the party and the goody bag, whatever they really thought of the whole event.

On reflection, am sure if I told the mothers of those children who spoke out to me, what their little darlings had said, they'd be mortified. At least I hope they would, but, you never seem to know these days do you?

On the plus side, at least Cheeky and Monkey had a good time and already can't wait for next years birthday party. Me? It'll take me 12 months to get over this one....

pic credit: Fotosearch

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thank You Gobble Gobble

It's Thanksgiving, one of the big American holidays our family has adopted since we moved Stateside. Families all over the country, hop on a plane or do the traditional road-trip to go eat turkey and Pumpkin Pie with their rellies.

We have no rellies here, so we gather with our adoptive families - other local Brits - and split a big bird. The kids have spent the week doing all sorts of Thanksgiving activities and projects at school. The annual Cheeky or Monkey hand print decorated as a turkey comes home and is proudly displayed. Always endorsed with what they are thankful for.

This year, Cheeky's read:

"I am thankful for pizza, my friends, my toys, ice cream. And my family."

We had to laugh. Talk about priorities!

But, it made me think, what am I thankful for? Here's my Top Ten:

1. Him Downstairs. Despite me being a whinging old grot-bags so much of the time, he's still there to give me a hug and the end of the night. Sometimes, I don't deserve him. Sometimes, he doesn't deserve me. His armour doesn't shine, but he's still my Knight.

2. Cheeky and Monkey. They are the love of my life and the challenge of my day.

3. Wine. More specifically, Merlot. (Any brand'll do. I'm classy that way.) My Mare-LOOW. Without it, numbers one and two would be a darn sight harder to cope with and I'd be a fully-paid up member of the Pi**ed Off Parents Club.

4. Chocolate. Chocolate cake. Chocolate bars. (Green & Blacks, Dairy Milk. DefinitelyNot Hershey's. The horror!) Hot chocolate. Chocolate ice cream. Chocolate sauce. Chocolate butter cream icing. Even my favourite throw, to get cosy under is, chocolate coloured. I am an addict and no, I have no intention of getting any therapy.

5. BBC America. Without it, my Televisual recreations would be an overload of over-produced, high gloss, so-called dramas with excess car-chases, guns, and stick-thin women. This doesn't stop me watching them of course. My DVR is full of shows such as Glee, Desperate Housewives, Bones, Brothers & Sisters, The Hills and The City . But not missing out on a touch of fabulous British TV like Mary Queen of Shops, Top Gear, Mistresses, Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, Don't Tell The Bride, How Clean Is Your House and Graham Norton, gives us a slice of home and reminds us just how bl**dy good the Brits are at making TV. (Recently we watched ITV's Doc Martin series 1-3 on DVD back to back. Left me and Him Downstairs yearning for the UK and the chance to take the boys crab fishing at the seaside...)

5. My friends. I don't want to go all Gorgonzola here, but my friends maketh me. The initial strong hold on many UK chums that I had when we first moved here has waned. In some cases this makes me sad, but it is nevertheless, inevitable and understandable. I am thankful that Facebook enables us to keep in contact, but sad that my phone rarely rings with a voice from England on the other end. I try. I phone. But I slack sometimes too. The time difference and the general business of raising one's family does make it hard to have a long chat, so thank gawd I have made some incredible girlfriends in the US. Without these strong, inspiring women in my day-to-day life, I'd be an even grumpier cow!

6. Lululemon athletica yoga pants. After getting majorly fed-up of wearing jeans all the time, my friend introduced me to Lululemon and well, my life hasn't been the same since. Never before has my chocolate inflated derriere looked so toned. And to think, I didn't even have to step inside the gym!

7. Tea. I used to be a PGTips only kinda girl, but moving away from home and not be willing to try alternatives abroad, would have left me gasping for a cuppa. Yes, the day I discovered my nectar of choice in the British section of the supermarket, I practically wept with joy. (Cue the usual strange looks from the locals, because I dared to express my true feelings in public) But tea and the right blend of English Breakfast, is the thing that gets the blood pumping round my veins. I buy it in bulk whenever I go back to England, and when I run out, well, there are other more available brands that I also really enjoy popping in my teapot.

8. Bed socks. I live in Michigan, North America. We get an average of 30-150 inches of snow between November and March. Failing to have thick cosy socks in your drawer is really not an option. I do take them off for sex. Sometimes. In England they'd have been a passion killer. Over here, Him Downstairs is trying to get inside them too.

9. Yola. OMG I have a new BF! She's come into my life very recently and has shaken the dust off and turned my home into a sparkling palace. Yes, after cleaning my own house ever since I left home nearly 18 years ago, I have finally readjusted the family budget to allow Yola into our lives. We couldn't possibly afford to have her every week, but once a month is enough for me. Her idea of clean house is waaay more thorough than mine. This week, I came home to find her washing down the dining room blinds. Something I've been meaning to do for three years. I think I am in love!

10. The 99 cents shirt. I hope you don't think I am a lazy housewife, but I've never been a fan of the iron. Think this has something to do with the fact that one of my part-time jobs during University was to iron for a local family. Daddy was something 'important' in the city and had very specific requests where starch was concerned. Mummy was an astrophysicist and had a fondness for pleated skirts and tea-party collared blouses. Children, one, two and three went to a very posh private school where the uniform trousers had to have a crease down the front and the skirts were kilt style. I hated ironing those flipping skirts.

The one plus of this job was that at least they had a fancy ironing board with a seat, so I could sit and watch TV while tried to avoid burning their clothes. I worked for them twice a week for two years. I came to have a love-hate relationship with the job; I loved the family, but I hated the ironing. So, when Him Downstairs and I began co-habitating I made it clear that he shouldn't expect me to iron anything. Especially shirts. And bless him, seven years on, he knows I wasn't joking. Until about a month ago, he was regularly heard swearing when, just as he was climbing into bed, he realised he hadn't got any ironed work clothes. Then, up he'd get up and crash and bang about downstairs with the ironing board.

I was starting to feel a teeny-weensy bit sorry for him, when I discovered that I could get his shirts laundered and ironed for less than $1 at a local cleaners. Result! It's not even worth switching on the iron for that price. So now, my Prince has a closet full of beautifully ironed and starched shirts and I feel less of a rubbish wife.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To Shout or Not to Shout...?

I had to laugh. The two scenarios couldn't have been more different...

SCENE ONE took place yesterday afternoon.

I'm in the local 'healthy' grocery store with Monkey (son no.2) topping up our meat supplies. I physically recoiled in horror at the price of four measly organic chicken breasts (I've been on budget brand meat lately to economise, but today am all free-range after reading organic propaganda in Good Housekeeping).

I know, WTF am I doing reading Good Housekeeping?

Anyway, this particular store (Trader Joe's for those Stateside) has mini shopping carts (trolleys for those who normally use Tescos) and for that reason, plus they give the kids balloons, have free coffee and nibbles, is why it's the one supermarket you'll often find many Moms/Mums in with their kids. At the same time. Shopping together. Crazy huh?

My little Monkey is a delight to shop there with. He grabs his mini-me trolley and off he goes. All smiles and, "Yes Mummy! Sure Mummy! Let me help Mummy!"

No tantrums. No running off out of sight. No pulling things off displays. And no Mummy whispering punishment threats every two seconds along every aisle.

This is the only store they are allowed to come into with me. Seriously, all other forms of shopping with them leave me frazzled with a munting moustache sweat on my upper lip. Not a good look.

So, with all the free food to placate the little ones, it's rare to see a kid acting up in Trader Joe's. But today, little Cameron was his name and little devil was his game.

My guess is he was about four or five years old. He pushed his little trolley into his Mom's and I saw him try and throw the bananas onto the floor and kick over a display of bread rolls (wholewheat). Hardly lock-him-up-officer behaviour, but obviously his Mom wasn't happy about it.

Instead of the hushed-but-threatening reprimanding I do to my kids, before I break out into fish-wife shouting mode when the behaviour really tips me over the edge, this Mom, (for she truly was a MOM, not a MUM) was all smiles and gentle placation to her tiny terror.

In exactly the voice my pediatrician told me I should use with my children, ie all sweetness, light, positivity and an octave higher than most sane mothers talk, she told her son to, "Honeeey, quit doing that."

He didn't.

She asked him a few more times, smiling and cooing at him all through her saccharin-coated admonishment. She mentioned a 'Time Out'(when he got home). Her son didn't seem to have his listening ears on and still she remained calm. Super Nanny would be proud. The American one. The British one (Jo Frost) definitely would have removed the boy from the store, gone down to his eye level and talked to him in a lot firmer voice.

She's British. We don't do sugar. Except in our tea...

But this Mom was practising the American parenting philosophy of talk-to-them-as-you-would-liked-to-be-spoken-to-yourself. And boy, she was good.

It didn't work though. And I bet she though the vocal sugar bowl out of the window when she was home, behind closed doors.

And therein lies the difference.

Over here, all the tongue-lashing is done in private. I don't believe for a second, these Moms never raise their voices to their kids.

In good old Blighty, you can't move through the shopping centres for Mums shouting at their kids.

I'm not saying I always agree with bawling out your children in public, but boy, it's kind of refreshing to see that you're not alone in the fact that you have shouted at 'darling Timmy'. More than once.

Which makes SCENE TWO all the more gob smacking for me, for the opposite reasons...

A few weeks ago, while I was visiting my family in Spain (yes, it was the best holiday I've had since becoming a Mum. Lots of sun. Lots of sunbathing. Lots of swimming. And, most importantly, lots of babysitting done by the Grandparents).

Anyway, with the kids in tow, Dad and I stopped off at his local supermarket. As Cheeky and Monkey were all sleepy after a hard day building sandcastles, I volunteered to stay in the car with them, while Dad ran into the store.

Sitting in the car park (parking lot) I noticed the Spanish family next to us, loading their groceries into their car.

The Mama, was throwing carrier bags into the boot (trunk) with one hand, while in her other arm was her newborn, whom she was nursing all the while she was unpacking her trolley. She wasn't hiding under a nursing blanket, like the Moms do in America, no. Her breast was out and abut for all to see.

Not so surprising, seeings as everyone in Spain walks around practically naked on the beach, whatever the size of their bikini! I've obviously been living in the States too long, as I found myself offended by some of the sights I saw on the sand.

Then the Papa appears with two other little bambinos, who I'd guess were under six. He's got a fag on. I did have to laugh. The scene hadn't even got going yet, and I was thinking of how many Mom/Mums I know who would have had a corony at the exposed breast and cigarette within 100 miles of the children.

By now, I'm completed hooked on this family and don't care if they can see me gawping at them. The parents get into a row (oh good, it's not just me and Him Downstairs that argue on the food run then). Although I don't speak Spanish, am sure their language is far from biblical. Their kids don't seem to care, they're too busy pushing and shoving each other inside the car.

Mama spots what the kids are doing, comes round to their door and starts yelling at them, presumably to, 'Stop It!' She's whipped the baby off her breast now, and as our cars are parked closer than the US super-size parking spaces I'm used to, I recoil somewhat, as I can practically touch her nipple.

She's oblivious. Good for her. Her concern is her fighting kids, her now screaming baby and her smoking husband, who appears to be engrossed in a magazine he's leaning on the other side of the car reading. (Probably porn eh? So European).

This is getting good.

She plugs the baby onto the other breast. (Oh my, is that a flash of BOTH boobs)?
Then she uses her spare hand to clip both her kids round their heads, whilst she yells at the husband. And the children.

He gets into the car, still smoking. Neither child in the backseat appears to be in a 5point harness car seat. He joins in the yelling. At his wife. And at his kids who are still pulling each others hair in the backseat. And at anyone who'll listen!

Mama, slams all the doors shut, gets into the front passenger seat. Still nursing the baby, still yelling at her family. And they all drive off. Baby on her breat. I may be wrong here, but I didn't notice any seatblets being fastened.

She doesn't care 'what-the-neighbours-might-say' and good for her! Her main concern was what was going on with her family. And she chose to deal with them, her way, regardless of what onlookers might witness, regardless of what 'we' might think.

This may be completely normal parenting in Spain, but you'd never see a scene like that where I live.

And you know what I did? I laughed and I smiled and I thought, 'Good for you Mama!' I may not agree with her approach to safety in the car, but it was so refreshing to see real parenting emotions played out before me, rather than the fake doctor-scripted admonishments that have become all too normal in my world.

I mean really, yelling at your kids in public is hardly parenting crime of the century now is it? And in a world full of strangers, why are we so concerned with what they might think of us?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why my husband is not on my Christmas card list this year...

'Him Downstairs and I have reached a big milestone..,' I blogged in my last post. Me writing away as I was. All on a high after our roamntic interlude.
Didn't bloody last.
Was an unexpected milestone as it turns out.
A milestone surely we're not due to reach for another ten years.
A milestone that has left me peed off.
And upset.
Plus a bit hurt.
And downright surprised actually.
I didn't think he was the sort.

He forgot our anniversary.

We woke up on 'the day' and it was all a little unusually hectic.
I was packing for my trip Spain with Cheeky and Monkey to visit my parents.
Leaving that night. On our anniversary.
Yes, I know.
But, we were having the day together and we'd had the night away the previous weekend, my early anniversary gift to him. So I'd done my bit to make it up.
Anyway, over a cup of tea in the morning sun, together we opened the anniversary cards that'd come in the mail.
Truthfully, I opened them. Oohed and ahhed at the comments, while he gave them his usual mere cursory glance.
Typical bloke.
I didn't give him my card yet.
He didn't give me his card. Yet.

The day wore on and somewhere in it, he said, "Happy anniversary. Got time for a quickie?"
I glanced around me at the bombsite of almost packed suitcases and bottles of suncream and suggested he take his kids to the park instead.
When they got back, I waited for the bunch of flowers and card that would surely appear.
He's bought me flowers every anniversary after all.
No blooms arrived.
I went upstairs, removed his card from its hiding place and wrote a slushy note inside before sealing it and leaving it on his nightstand.
Leaving our room, I noticed a stray receipt on the carpet.
It was for the two Star Wars sticker books he'd got the boys for our journey and a Hallmark card.
'Ah' I thought. 'He did get me a card. Wonder where he's hidden it?'

We bundled the cases and the kids in the car and stopped en route to the airport to have a nice family dinner.
I waited for him to order us a glass of champagne to toast our four long years of marriage.
He ordered coke.
I grumbled about him being as romantic as a fist in your face and ordered two glasses of Prosecco.
For myself.

At the airport, he pulled up to the no-waiting departures drop-off and dumped me, two toddlers, a stroller and three suitcases on the pavement.
"I'm off to park the car. I'll see you in there," he said.
Not a luggage trolley in sight.
He'd completely refused to drop his parents and sister there when they'd left us last month. He chaperoned them all the way to security. And got them a bloody luggage trolley.
By now, he really wasn't up for Husband Of The Year.
But, not wanting to leave my one and only on bad terms, we kissed and hugged goodbye (after I struggled my way through check-in. Solo.)
He gave the boys $20 each for ice creams and I resisted the urge to go off on one about how the dollar wouldn't be much good in Spain and couldn't Daddy have at least got them the right currency as their holiday pocket money...blah, blah, blah.

Fourteen hours, two plane rides, several elevators, a couple of escalators and a car journey later, I plonked my suitcase down in my new bedroom in Spain.
I was excited to unpack it.
'It' was surely nestling somewhere inside.
Under my T-shirts?
Wrapped in my beach towel?
Tucked into the pages of my new Jodi Picoult?
Hang on.
WTF is my anniversary card?
The entire contents of my big suitcase and the kids two mini cases was by now strewn across my Mum's spare room.
No envelope to be found.
I tried to push the prickles at the back of my jet lagged eyes away.
It didn't work.
I sat on the edge of the bed and cried. And cried.
It hit me. The light bulb moment.
This year has become the first anniversary where Him Downstairs got me a big, fat, ugly, Nada. Nowt. NOTHING.

"Thanks for the lovely card," he said, somewhat sheepishly when I phoned to say we'd arrived En Espana safely.
"Glad you liked it. I couldn't find mine..." I said trying not to cry.
"Ah yeah. Sorry about that. I, err, forgot."
" Oh. I saw a receipt though, for a card you bought the day before I flew. The day before our anniversary."
"Oh right, yeah," he says. "I noticed on facebook that it was my cousin Dave's birthday, so I got him a card when I was buying the boys their books."

I almost hung up.


"That's the cousin who never sends you birthday or Christmas cards? I asked, wanting to throw the phone off the hillside in a SATC post dumped-at-the-alter-Carrie Bradshaw moment. " Guess they didn't have anniversary cards in that shop for your wife? Who. NEVER. Forgets. To. Give. You. A. Card. Ever?"

Words failed him at this point.
Me too.
I hung-up.

I'm not 100% on this, but I'm pretty sure I can feel his embarrassment all away across the Atlantic as it laps at my dipped-in-the-Med toes.

What an arse.

Tell me, why are some men so blindingly useless?

pic credit:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Parental Playcation

August. August is wedding anniversary month.

Him Downstairs and I have reached a big milestone. Kind of. It's been four years. (We've moved countries and had two kids in that time. It feels muuucccch longer!) What's the traditional gift for year four? Oh yes. Four years is Fruit or flowers. He'll be pleased. He always buys me flowers anyway on our anniversary, so for the first year ever, he'll have hit the traditional gift nail right on the head. He'll get double points if he throws in a bag of Granny Smith too eh?

We survived our First (Paper) without much of a hitch. He gave me a card, so technically he also hit the jackpot with that one. He got me flowers too. I got him a photo of our boys blown up into a nice frame. I was following the paper trail.

The Second (Cotton) didn't come with sexy cotton undies for either of us. I got flowers again, but that year he took heed and didn't dare get me a crappy bunch from the 7-Eleven. Can't remember now what I got him. Whoops. Dinner out probably.

Third: Leather. I'd totally forgotten about traditional pressies by this point and believe it was a last minute dash to Borders to get him a book token. Terrible I know. And what did he go and get me? He bloody well pulled all the stops out and made me a wedding album on that is the most beautiful picture album I own. He even scanned all the messages from our guest book into it in a very arty fashion. I felt dreadful when I opened it. My gift to him looked supersizededly crap.

But our main tradition with wedding anniversaries is my leaking eyes. You see, as the 19 August dawns, I usually wake up so melancholy that Him Downstairs (HD) is visibly offended. The supposed happiest day of our lives together has me bawling by breakfast and finishing off a box of Kleenex for tea.

I can't help it. I've tried to be chipper, but so far, smiles have been infrequent on that day.

Before you all think I'm madder than a box of frogs, let me explain.

When we got married it was a month before we left the UK. Therefore our wedding was the last big get-together of all our family and friends we would have for, like, ever. It was a great wedding (except for the British summer weather we had: the rain and the more rain that came). But every year when I reflect on that day, I just get all weepy, not because I married HD (though I understand his growing paranoia) but because it makes me think of all my girlfriends back home and our families and how much fun we used to all have together. And how much I miss them all.

I don't help myself. I usually rig up our old portable British TV and whack on the wedding video, so I can feel utterly depressed before bedtime. While I'm sobbing in front of the TV, HD goes and hides the laptop, so I can't then book myself a one way ticket back to England. Our bedroom is hardly a passion palace on anniversary night. More, soggy sheets for all the wrong reasons.

However, for this anniversary, the big t-adaa f o u r t h (!) I am/have turned over a new leaf. Kind of. I have to be honest here. I am actually flying away from him on our wedding anniversary. And taking his children. To Spain. To see their grandparents for three weeks. Ouch. Happy anniversary darling!

Yes, that was his reaction too when I told him what dates I was going away.

But it was so much more expensive to fly the next day, truly. So really, I'm doing him a favour and saving him money by leaving him that particular day. And he loves to save his pennies...

Anyway, to redeem myself and to make up for the past three teary anniversaries, I went all out this weekend to surprise him with a fabulous early anniversary gift.

I took him away.

Without the kids.

To a very fancy hotel.

He waved the boys off at lunchtime on Saturday and spent a while pottering round the house, before I called him. I was outside the beauty salon, where I'd just had my first bikini wax in about five years.

"So, you're still alive then?" he quips down the phone.
"Just. But am not sure it should be as red as it is. It bloody hurt."
"Come home and show me..."

This is exactly the response I was expecting. He's all about wax this, wax that. On me. Wave a bit of wax at his back hair and he runs a mile. He's still babbling on down the phone about did I go for the 'Brazilian' or the 'Playboy,' when I inform him I did neither. Just the 'bare minimum' needed for three weeks in a swimsuit, and, if I could get a word in edge ways I'd like to tell him to pack his bags as I will be home in 20 mins (after the obligatory quick solo jaunt round Gap, J Crew and Banana Republic) to take him off for the night at the swanky Royal Park hotel in town.

What was his response to my surprise announcement?

"Oh right. Cool."

'C o o l'???!!!

I was more speechless than during my bikini wax.

If he'd phoned to tell me he was taking me away to a beautiful hotel for the night, I'd have been jumping up and down, shrieking with excitement. (I don't get out much and HD has never surprised me with an impromptu treat, but if he did, the first thing I'd actually really do is, faint.) But, my point is, for a second there, I wished I hadn't bothered.

The wax had even been booked that particular morning so he had a little extra anniversary present. I would've normally left it until the day before I fly.

Anyway, "Don't sound too excited," I said to him.
"No no," he replies. "I am. I just wasn't expecting it."

Fair point. He was, after all, expecting the anniversary tears. And probably a row. They often go hand in hand when we're meant to be having a highly romantic time together without our children.

So I limped home with red eyebrows (also freshly waxed) to match my red bits and bless him, he'd already packed his tidy whites (FCUK boxers) and had a smile on his face.

Our first stop on the way to the hotel, was a romantic trip to Home Depot (B&Q) to chose paint colours. See, he does know how to show me a good time, doesn't he? He announced he will paint our bedroom while I'm away. I'm a very lucky lady.

Surprisingly, this passed an enjoyable half hour. We held hands and shocker, didn't have a cross word or a moody silence.(Normally part of the course of any shopping trip together.) We also didn't have to chase two small people round the store constantly. Bonus.

There was a minor leak in our love bubble when we then decided to stop off for a sunbathe and swim at the pool. The kids and I are members, HD is not and due to overcrowding, they were not letting any guests in this weekend. Bang went our romantic child-free dip in the pool together.

I was in a grump about this. He was madly suggesting alternative ideas to try and cheer me up (trip to Target aka posh TK Max, anyone?) and avoid any potential arguments lurking around the corner.

But after a tiny moan about the swimming pool, I got over myself and we decided to go check into the hotel early instead.

Wow. Big love bubble of loveliness restored.

What a room.

What bedlinen. I don't think I've ever (knowingly) slept on Egyptian cotton before, but now I am forever converted. "Oh God, I suppose you'll want to go and buy some of these now won't you?" he said. Such a bloke response to the female cooing over sheets.

The heat and humidity had exhausted us, so we made use of the bathroom's amazing shower and fluffy bathrobes, before we settled down to read our books and have an afternoon snooze.

Come on. This is our fourth anniversary, not our honeymoon.

After a couple of hours, where, OK, I did give in to his advances, despite the unattractive post-waxing blotches surrounding my thighs, we felt majorly decadent and ordered chocolate cake on room service.

Trying to look exactly like we'd never ever touched each other when the waiter arrived, I positioned myself with my book and attempted a scholarly rather than slutty expression.

Don't think my ruse worked. The smalltalk the waiter made was cringe worthy, though am sure he has walked into worse than a stray sock leering at him on the floor.

We dressed up for dinner. No splodges of ketchup on our collars. No. We even ironed our outfits.

HD ordered a mangotini and I an Irish coffee on the terrace bar and we savoured every last moment of it being sipped in peace. It was almost like LBC (Life Before Children).

Then I remembered I hadn't told my friend to make sure she got Cheeky up for a midnight wee, so I phoned.

My heart ached for a moment when I heard them giggling and saying, 'Night night' to me in the background, but then the waitress appeared and my need to be me for the evening and not Mummy, overtook me.

We wandered into town, again hand in hand, (it was all getting a bit Mills & Boon) and sat at a pavement cafe, watching the world go by and enjoying our meal. No crayons at the table. No booster seats needed.

We drank Mojitos. The drink we always drank together during Life In London. The drink that got us together. The drink we shared at our wedding breakfast.

It was all going well, and I think my Hubs finally relaxed in the knowledge that this could be the first anniversary with his wife, where she wasn't blowing her nose constantly.

Well oiled by now, we wobbled onto another bar for a couple more retro drinks (Malibu and Orange. Me. Lager. Him) before those Egyptian cotton sheets were a-calling and we made our way back to the hotel. I was up for doing shots back at the bar by now. My drinking glasses well and truly on.

We could hear live music when we got back, so thinking there might be a disco, and what the heck, wasn't it about time we forgot we were mid-thirties and strutted our circa 1991 moves, we followed the music into the bar.

It was more lounge singer than DJ, but still, it'd have been rude to walk straight back out, so we sat down and ordered a drink. The most expensive Baileys we've ever had. (Couldn't afford shots. I had been planning more along the lines of the price of a shot of Mad Dog in Wolverhampton, not a Marc Jacobs keyring.)

Anyway, the end of our evening out was made all the more enjoyable by a newly engaged couple looking like a comedy Anna Nicole Smith and Steve Carrell who slow-danced their way around the bar. HD and I were hoping for a bit of Oasis and Blur, what we got was an earful of the singer's Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston set-list.

I don't think we did a very good job of hiding our laughter at the mismatched couple. Hopefully they thought we were just very happy for them. Ahem.

"She's obviously marrying him for his money," I was blithering on, when HD said, possibly a bit loudly, "And he's marrying her for her tits!"

Taxi for two anyone?

We were pathetically drunk, by now doing our best Mariah sing-alongs at our table. And truly, I didn't care who saw us. I think there was also a very teenage snog somewhere between the bar and the elevator. But, thank God, at least we didn't get up and dance.

We had fun. Loads of fun.

And when we snuggled up in our posh sheets at the end of the night, I knew how lucky I was to have found Him Downstairs, and for once, I wasn't crying about it.

The next morning Mr and Mrs Hangover joined us, but it was worth every Advil. We ordered breakfast in bed (Eggs Benedict and a pot of tea) because we didn't dare face the restaurant in case Big Boobs and her Small Fry were there. We laid-in until 11am and wore our sunglasses as we checked out.

But the biggest surprise of our anniversary weekend ended up being on me, when we got back home. I opened our case to find we'd acquired a few extra 'gifts'. HD had packed us:

2 pairs of towelling hotel slippers
1 toilet roll
1 box of Kleenex
3 hotel monogrammed envelopes
6 sheets of hotel writing paper
1 hotel monogrammed pen
1 mini bottle of L'Occitane shampoo
1 mini bottle of L'Occitane conditioner

He hadn't got me the posh sheets though had he? No. He'd gone for the loo roll. Loo roll! When I scolded him for being so pikey, he said,

"Between you jetting off to Spain and that hotel bill, we can't bloody afford bog roll now can we? Happy anniversary!"

Ahh. Back to reality. Happy anniversary my love. Happy anniversary.
Remind me again, where on those traditional anniversary gift lists, does it say, 'Toilet Paper'?