Saturday, 24 December 2011

Les the Meerkat: a Photographic Retrospective

Les the Meerkat has been puked on.  So has the festive edition of the Radio Times, my Mason Pearson hairbrush and the majority of the floor, but it's Les who was the real casualty here.  Rory is ill just in time for Christmas and has been throwing up this morning (thank you Father Christmas you utter shit).  We're not sure yet whether it's a dreaded stomach bug that's going to end up taking us all down in time for tomorrow or if it's just caused by the nasty cold/cough/viral misery that he's been ill with all week.  Either way, Les has been vommed on and has had a sad, lonely spin on a high temperature in the washing machine.  He is a changed meerkat ; where once was lovely soft fur, he now has fluffy and matted hair (much like me, Rory and Rich to be honest), his stuffing isn't sitting right and he looks very sorry for himself.  Luckily for Les, this family loves the underdog and I collect waifs and strays like other women collect shoes.  Richard even has a special 'tramp bag' packed and ready to go for next time a tramp knocks on our door in winter and is cold (contents: woolly socks, sleeping bag, jumper).  So newly ugly Les is still going to be loved as much as ever.  What better time for a photo retrospective of the Meerkat himself?

3 month old Rory with newly acquired, glossy coated Les. Love at first sight:

Rory and his best mate in their spy camp:

An impromptu boat trip:

Rory's 1st Birthday. Les looks on with pride:

Three in a bed tent scandal (featuring the imaginatively named Pengy the Penguin):

Face down in a scone for our Domestic Disgrace photoshoot with Hannah Millard:

Today: Puked on, shoved in the washing machine, dried with my hairdryer, moth-eaten and much loved.  All hail Les the Meerkat.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

All I want for Christmas is...

...I don't know.  I don't know what I want for Christmas.  I've been casually ignoring everyone who's asked me for months now and with one week to go I still can't come up with anything.

All I can think is that we need some more wooden spoons because Rory used ours to poke about down a drain.  We need a potato masher too, and our tin opener has seen better days.

But a tin opener, a wooden spoon and a potato masher does not make an acceptable Christmas gift, especially from one's husband.  So I try to dig a bit deeper - what do I really really want?

Oh God, I don't know, but it's ages since we had a new toilet brush.

See what I mean?

Has anybody else become similarly afflicted since having a child?  I don't understand how it's happened but over the last 3 years (because it started the Christmas that I was 15 weeks pregnant) I have paid less and less attention to my own needs and desires and more and more to those of my son, my husband and the running of the household.  I suppose that's somewhat normal, right?  Please let it be normal.

Partly it's because I don't have any money.  Yes, I write and yes, I get paid for it, but I barely get any time to work due to looking after a small person 24/7, so it goes without saying that I can't earn very much, and I'd rather spend what I do earn on making sure that Rory has enough pairs of trousers to keep me from having to do laundry every waking second of my life than anything for me.  I was never very materialistic anyway, and I have always been a low maintenance woman (I've always been far to manically busy to sit in a beauty salon getting my nails done).  I've just become even more so.  I have some standards (clean hair, relatively clean clothes, 2 minute make-up job if I'm planning on going anywhere further than the local shop), but any days of striding along in high heels are long gone and these days I pluck my eyebrows (on the rare occasion that I remember) with a toddler in full war cry hanging off of my leg.

It's started me worrying.  How do you know if you've lost yourself?  How do you know what defines you and do you notice when it's gone?  I like to think that things don't define a person and that I'm still here exactly as I was;  laughing, cocking up on an epic scale several times a week, talking about music with my husband, reading when I get the time, writing, writing, writing, ankle deep in Gordons.  It's just that I only own one pair of slightly holey jeans and all my shoes need re-heeling.  And re-soling.  And generally to be thrown in the bin and incinerated.

Maybe I need a 'thing'.  Women are supposed to have a 'thing' (generally clothes or shoes or cosmetics or something).  I don't have a 'thing'.  I live in trainers because I need to sprint at the speed of light up the crisp aisle in Waitrose on a regular basis to stop my son from creating a storm of fried potato confetti.  I don't know or care what's in fashion and never really have done, and I've made the unhappy discovery that £1.99 moisturiser from Aldi really does the business.  I think my 'thing' used to be nice underwear, but have you tried joining in with Heads Shoulders Knees & Toes at Rhyme Time with the buttons on your suspender belt pinging off in all directions?  It's not to be recommended.

I don't know.  Maybe I should feel the fear and wear the Agent Provocateur under my slummy mummy uniform anyway.  Maybe that's what I need for Christmas.  That and a rotary egg whisk.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Mister Maker, I Want a Word.

We watch a lot of Mister Maker in this household.  This is more to do with the fact that I'd secretly like him to take me roughly over his arts and crafts table than any great interest in toddler art on the part of my son and I, but that doesn't stop us occasionally attempting some of his masterpieces ourselves.

I have issues with Mister Maker though, the main one being that it's easy enough for him to knock up a spectacular looking picture with pipecleaners and gloopy glue - he's about 30.  However, give the same materials to a two year old and you've got what looks like something got enthusiastically squashed and died on the paper and an explosion in Hobbycraft happening in your living room.

Now, I'm not known for my wonderful housekeeping and I am not scared of a bit of mess.  I also never learn, so yesterday I found myself attempting to recreate a Maker Masterpiece with Rory yet again.

We watched the Christmas special with much enthusiasm.  Why is it clearly filmed in July though Mister Maker? Why? We are not fooled by a crappy computer snow graphic and a few paper chains.  We then sat and watched you create a tasteful snow scene on black paper with the use of PVA glue mixed with water, flour and glitter.  "We could do that!" I exclaimed. (I am sick. Really really sick with something that is almost but not quite flu. I'd taken too much Lemsip and Co-Codamol at the time and wasn't thinking rationally).

Off we went.  I did the tricky cutting out bits and Rory did the glueing and the sprinkling of flour and glitter.

Mister Maker, do you have a child?  Because I'm not sure that you're aware of the sheer stupidity of giving a 2 year old flour, glitter and a sieve.  As I said, I am ill and cannot be blamed for my inability to think clearly.  I am blaming you for the layer of sparkly flour that settled all over my ground floor/clothes/hair/stairs/Christmas tree.  Also, why the actual WHY would you suggest mixing water into the glue? This just ensures that it spreads itself over a greater surface area of floor and sofa.  And did you realise that flour and water make a glue like substance when mixed? So basically, when Rory went face down in the lot with a whoop of joy, he created a hybrid of flour, water and PVA glue, which is potentially the stickiest substance known to toddlers. Throw some glitter in why don't you.  It now looks like pixies have ejaculated all over my laminate.

The resulting picture was...well...shite.  And I did most of it.  Damn you.

Next up were some reindeer antlers constructed from brown card and a plastic hair band.  "Mummy - you make that for me," requested my son, so off I went to cut up an Amazon box.  I cut the antlers out - so far so good, but I wasn't paying attention when you explained how to attach them to the hair band - was probably looking at your arse or something - so I used Blu-tack. I'm sure you mentioned Blu-tack.  I was quite impressed with my creation to be honest, but Rory was not.  "I'm not wearing that Mummy, I'll look like a wally," he said.

Fine, I'll wear it.

Wow, I look like the povvo child whose mum couldn't afford to buy a pair of 99p antlers from Asda.  Not cool Mister Maker.

Look at that.  You'd have got given a Chinese burn for less than that at my school.

Sort it out Mister Maker.  Or I'll find somewhere very interesting to stick that pom-pom.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

When Cosy Traditions Go Bad

I see it as one of my duties as a parent to start traditions in my family, particularly at this time of year.  For example, my parents introduced the Ceremonial Fetching of the Christmas Pork Pie to our festivities one year and it stuck.  Also traditional is the flicking of Quality Street wrappers at my mum when she suggests that we might like to accompany her to church on Christmas morning instead of imbibing vast quantities of Bucks Fizz in her absence and mumbling obscenities at whoever suggests going for a walk after Christmas dinner.  It is also imperative that one does not consume a proper breakfast on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. Instead you must eat handfuls of peanuts, Twiglets, sausage rolls, chocolates - anything with no nutritional value that's lying about.

Since we've had Rory, I have introduced a particularly charming tradition.  Every year he is taken to a shop to choose a decoration for our Christmas tree.  They are stored in a tin, he is responsible for putting them up every year and whenever he decides to leave home, he will take his box of decorations and all the memories therein with him.  I am well aware that this would work better had he been a girl as an 18 year old girl is likely to be more impressed with the thought of this than a teenage boy, and I imagine that after about the age of 10 he will be grunting at me to get lost from his stinking teenage boy bedroom whenever the subject of choosing a Christmas decoration is brought up.  For now though it is delightful, and, short of something to do this morning, I decided to take him out to choose his 2011 decoration.

Lets picture the scene in years to come.  The Disgrace family are sitting around the Christmas tree with the decoration box out, looking nostalgically through Rory's tin of decorations:

"Ahhhh, the blue snowman bauble. You were 6 months old the year we bought that.  You pointed at it and smiled so we knew you liked it.  Oh look, a little knitted cat.  You chose that for your second Christmas.  you were obsessed with making cat noises that year and you gave it a kiss in the shop. And the year you were two and a half.  You were so excited by all the lights and Father Christmas coming that year and we went to the special shop in town and you chose....SWEET MOTHER OF FUCK.

Yes, this is what Rory has chosen to represent Christmas 2011. And ALL THE CHRISTMASES THEREAFTER.  Shudder.  Lets have a closer look.

You should know that I am hyperventilating a little bit.  Look at the teeth.  LOOK AT THE TEETH.  Not only that, you pull a string hanging out from up it's chuff and it beats the drum like it's caving someone's head in with a meat mallet.  God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Labour Saving Device Saves My Marriage

I worship at the altar of our dishwasher.  I love the thing.  We've had it less than a year and I can honestly say that I don't know how we managed to avoid the divorce courts without it as our kitchen is of the tiny variety and you only have to heat up a Cup-a-Soup and make a slice of toast to make it look like a bomb's hit it.  Add to this the fact that I Don't Do Washing Up (I used to be a chef and had slaves to do that sort of thing for me) and you have a house full of furry coffee cups and seething resentment. That dishwasher saved my marriage.  When we finally reach the dizzy heights of owning tumble dryer we'll probably hit some form of marital utopian bliss.

I am a housework hating slacker, so any labour saving devices are welcome in my household, but the ultimate device has not yet been invented.  Until now.  I am still in the early stages of drafting this out, and if anyone can make me a prototype I would be pleased to work with you.  I expect these to be on the market by the end of next year, so be patient my friends.  Good things come to those who wait.


Key features:

1. Folds up to convenient shape and size in order to slide easily into the tiny space in the cupboard under the stairs without dislodging the step ladder, barbecue gas cylinder, 6 footballs, 3 odd wellies,  the roll of wallpaper that you've been meaning to put up for 2 years, the Millenium Falcon and the box of conkers that are supposed to ward off spiders and causing the pushchair to concertina open like an unwieldy spring-loaded bastard every time you try and manoeuvre it in and out.

2. Has bodily fluid seeking technology, allowing you to locate a sneaky wee behind a curtain, a blob of baby sick under the sofa or a turd in your slipper immediately.

3. Toddler food tracking device.  Keeps track of whether fish fingers have been eaten or disposed of down the back in the radiator.  No more mystery household fishy smells.

4. Husband sensing technology.  Automatically turns the thermostat down half an hour before he arrives home.  Never argue about the heating bill again.

5. A bit that gets black mould off the rubber bath mat.

6. Writes "IT IS RECYCLING DAY SO REMEMBER TO PUT YOUR BINS OUT" in neon writing in the sky (much like a Death Eater dark mark) for the entire 24 hours before the bin men come.

7. Fascia board salesman alert klaxon.

8. Causes magic stain repellent forcefield to appear around walls and furniture whenever your child has been, for example, poking around in the coal scuttle.

9. 'Mother's Helper' feature - shouts several key phrases on a loop such as " GET DOWN FROM THE WINDOW SILL", "STOP LICKING THE PLUG SOCKETS" and "PLAYMOBIL MEN ARE NOT FOR STICKING UP YOUR BOTTOM" while you're otherwise engaged.

10. Gin dispensing tray with ice cubes.

What do you think?  I'm awaiting my call from Dragon's Den any day now.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Things to do with your child #11 Chocolate Shortbread Stars

Things are getting festive in Disgrace Towers. Well, we've got an Advent Calendar and Mr Disgrace and I are knocking back the mulled wine like there's a world shortage, so I think that counts.

Inspired by the season, I decided to bake cookies with Rory today.  Now, my Christmas cookies are not traditionally Christmassy, but they still count as they're what my mum used to make for me when I was little because I didn't like mince pies or Christmas cake or Christmas pudding (still don't - anything with raisins in should be buried in a big hole).  They're also possibly the easiest thing in the world to make, so ideal for a toddler.  Or so you'd think.  Abandon hope all ye who enter here:

Chocolate Shortbread Stars


150g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
125g butter (at room temperature)
70g caster sugar
Couple of drops of vanilla extract if you're feeling posh

You'll need some star cutters.
Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees C.


1. Set out all your ingredients and equipment in a smug fashion.

2. Sterilise toddler. Failing that, scrub their hands thoroughly. They've more likely than not been dibbling in the potty with them while you were setting everything out on the worktop.  Don't pretend they haven't.

3. Weigh out flour & get toddler to tip it into the bowl. You're supposed to sieve it, but giving a sieve and 150g of flour to a toddler is asking for a snowstorm in the kitchen. Lets save the masochistic tendencies for the bedroom, eh?

4. Sweep up flour from floor where it has just been poured.

5. Repeat step 3 with more vigilance.

6. Add caster sugar and cocoa powder and mix, then add chopped up butter.

7. Get toddler to rub butter into dry ingredients.

8. Remove toy pirate from the mixing bowl.

9. Rub butter into dry ingredients yourself.

8. Get distracted by toddler snorting cocoa powder up nose and sneezing cocoa-y snot into the mixing bowl.

10. Rub remaining butter plus snot into dry ingredients with a couple of drops of vanilla extract.

11. Swear a bit and  get the electric hand mixer out to do it for you.

12. Debate with toddler the wisdom of removing trousers and underpants whilst covered in butter and flour and balancing on a chair in the kitchen.

13. Remove Thomas the Tank Engine pants from mixing bowl where they were thrown during the above tantrum.

14. You should now have a dough.  roll this out and try to interest toddler in cutting star shapes out of it.

15. NO!  NO NO NO.  DON'T EAT THE DOUGH.  Cut STARS out of the dough.  Sweet baby Jesus, get your TONGUE OFF THE GODFORSAKEN COOKIE DOUGH.

16. That's better.

17. Try to calm your inner perfectionist and not twitch at the crappy stars your toddler is cutting out.

18. Give up and let them chuck any old bit of dough on the baking sheet.

19. Have little swig of cooking sherry and put stars in oven for 10 minutes.

18. Hose down toddler.

19. Hose down kitchen.

20. Hose down self.

21. Put power hose on Christmas list for future such activities.

22. Smell burning and rush to oven only to find that toddler has turned the temperature up to 240 degrees.

23. Remove charred chocolate stars/crumbs from oven.

24. Leave to cool.

25. Sprinkle icing sugar on top (see: 'Polishing a Turd' in the dictionary).

Happy Christmas.

I am linking this up to the Gingerbread Snowflakes 2011 Holiday Cookie Swap.  Click the link for lots of delicious recipes and no delinquent small children.

Monday, 28 November 2011

November Photo Scavenger Hunt (Domestic Disgrace Style)

I have lots of friends who like making stuff.  They have beautiful, inspiring blogs packed full of creativity and glorious photographs and tutorials.  Kirst at The Leopard Anchor (one of said lovely blogs) hosts a monthly crafty photo scavenger hunt.  Everyone takes photographs related to a list of words and subjects that she comes up with and she then links to all the participating blogs so that everyone can share in the inspirational beauty that they have captured that month.

Then I decided to join in.  Yeah.  Brace yourself:

1. Inspiration
Our little back garden backs on to a woodland path.  It's really quite beautiful and the view of the late autumn leaves on the trees turning from yellow to orange to red-brown has genuinely inspired me this month, so I decided to take a photo of it for this category.  Balls though.  All the bloody leaves fell off somewhere between the last time I looked out of the window and now.  But can still see an autumnal orange glow can't you?  Yes you can.  It's a horrid orange brick new build estate that sprang up at some point over the summer where once there were rolling fields.  More insipid than inspirational.  Get out of my view.

2. Something I Made
Ooh, I have a valid entry for this one!  I made Rory these PJ bottoms this month from some bargain fabric that I picked up.  He is most impressed with them.  "Look at my funky whales" he says, waving a pyjama clad leg at the postman.  (Who taught him the word 'funky'? It was clearly not me).  It's good that he likes them because I have so much 'funky whale' material left that he'll be wearing homemade whale pyjamas every year until he goes to university at this rate.  Here he is modelling them.  The expression on his face clearly says "do one mother, I am very busy with my stormtroopers and want no part in your latest ridiculous venture".

3. Stripes
My attempt to scale the ironing mountain this morning was scuppered by half the cast of Star Wars congregating on the ironing board.  Notable here are Luke Skywalker and Han Solo engaged in a homo-erotic dry humping frenzy.  That sea killer thing can stay there for good; minutes before I took the photo it was going "RAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH" a lot and biting my leg. I had to break off from ironing my stripy top after a particularly vicious attack which caused me to lose focus and nearly scorch an ewok.

4. Comfort
A nice selection of uppers and downers. I have abandoned my beloved gin for something slightly more festive. It's nearly Christmas, after all.

5. Texture
My newly wrecked bathroom nicely demonstrates a pleasing array of textures.  The Aldi bathroom wipes set this off to perfection.

Click here if you would like to join in with the Crafty Photo Scavenger Hunt next month (and to see some actual lovely photos on some nice blogs that don't have pictures of dead flies on cupcakes as their banners).

Please note that this month it is being hosted by Emma over at The Gift Shed.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Done All Your Christmas Shopping?

Don't be stupid; it's still November.  There's at least another three weeks to go before I pull my finger out of my arse and spend a miserable day twitching in various queues, spending money that I don't have.

However, in the spirit of Christmas and for those of you who are more organised than me, I thought I'd post a little list of links to some of my friends online shops.  It's always nice to line the pockets of independent craftspeople rather than Argos, so have a look and see if they have anything you like.  I'll even include the link to my shop.  Yes, I can sew.  Stop laughing.  I know it doesn't really go with my slummy mummy image, but it's relaxing, it makes me enough pennies to keep Rory in second hand Boden and I was thinking about gin the whole time, I swear.  Just don't tell anyone it's me, OK?  Like Kenickie*, I've got a rep to protect.

Belle & the Bean.  This is me.  Shhhhh.  I sell handmade corsages and hair flowers and do custom orders for wedding and things.

Have a look at Dottery Pottery for ceramic pendants, Christmas decorations, mince pie plates and buttons.  

The Gift Shed is run by Emma who makes hand bound notebooks, trinket boxes and the odd illustration.  I have a couple of her beautiful notebooks, which I imagined I would use for writing when inspiration struck when out and about.  Alas, it has transpired that I mainly use them for shortlisting what we want from the Chinese takeaway on a Friday night, but never mind.

Brittany at Posh Brats makes incredible smelling natural soaps, bath products, body lotions and scrubs.  She's very clever.  She's also got a mouthwatering selection of homemade US cakes and treats for sale at the moment.

Lovely Sarah at Sarah Designs hand paints glass and ceramics in her own distinctive style.  She's great for personalised items and also does pyrography.

Finally, for vintage style jewellery, visit Roses are Red for some unusual pieces.

Happy shopping!

* from Grease, not Lauren Laverne et al.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Something happened to my bathroom.

Something bad.  Something involving my husband and the toilet and what looks like it might have been a pick axe and the mistaken belief that he could replace a broken part without having to call a plumber out.

Pre Something Bad, the bathroom was one of the only rooms in our house of horrors that was acceptable.  We bought the house fairly cheaply four years ago because it had been repossessed.  It was pretty disgusting.  We had no heating for ages, the walls were all smeared with something grey, the ceilings were falling in and somebody had drawn a little smiley face on the bannisters.  The decor was largely orange.  Since then, we have chipped away at bits of it in an attempt to do it up, and we've been slowly getting there.  The bathroom was nothing like the wet room of my dreams.  There was no deep, vintage tin bath or power shower, but it was white, serviceable and completely inoffensive.

Now it looks like rats have gnawed on parts of it and someone has attacked it with a blunt instrument (oh, wait, that actually happened didn't it?) and there are holes everywhere.

Let this serve as a lesson to women everywhere that the answer to "Are you sure you can fix it on your own darling?" is always "NO".  Even if you hear the words "Yes, it's a piece of piss", the answer should still be "NO".  And if after an hour of banging, crashing, mysterious trickling sounds and muttered swear words you happen to shout up the stairs "would you like me to call an emergency plumber out?", the answer should always be "YES", not "No, no, I've almost got it" followed by the sound of several tiles falling off the wall and the hiss of a water pipe gushing forth all over the floor.

This is one of the reasons that I found myself perusing the Natural Stress Relief Medicines section in Boots earlier this week like it was the long lost Woolworths pick and mix counter.  If any of you encounter a similar situation in the future, I recommend Bach's Rescue Remedy.  Only don't bother with the recommended 3 drops on the tongue at times of anxiety - you need to neck the bottle for the best effect.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Mix Tape Monday: A Guilty Pleasure

I'm joining in this meme (have nothing else to say, so might as well).  Go here to find out more if you'd like to join in too.

So, I had to come up with a guilty pleasure for today's theme.  Not too tricky as I'm sure there's a few songs that I like that Rich would happily divorce me for if he knew.  However, I decided that it would be more appropriate for this blog if I chose an appalling track that makes a frequent appearance in our family life:

No need to thank me.  I'm sure you'll all enjoy having that on your internal jukebox for the rest of the week.

This came about many years ago when I first met Richard.  We were new friends at the time.  He was recovering from a broken heart and I had a highly colourful, amusing and somewhat baffling love life.  We were laughing at my latest bewildering romantic encounter.  "I can't believe you're single," he said.  "You really do encounter some oddballs.  I could be so good for you..."  At which point we spontaneously broke into the Minder theme tune.

Turns out he was rather good for me, so I married him.  I'm kind of furious that, having married a music industry geek, the song that reminds us of each other is sung by Dennis Waterman.  These days the three of us dance around the house to it when we need cheering up.  Losers.  

Sunday, 13 November 2011

On the Other Hand...

...after yesterday's whinge-a-thon about the evils of pregnancy, birth and babies, lets take a look at a very important point in favour of having another baby:

You can dress them up in ridiculous outfits and make them wear stupid hats and they can't stop you.

This is seriously brilliant and almost makes nine months of misery and a barbaric labour worthwhile in itself.

Rory was 6 months old for his first Christmas and we made him wear a Christmas pudding hat for the entirety of December, an act that's possibly as close to child abuse as you can get without actually being illegal.  It was pre-meditated and everything.  We didn't just find a laughable hat in a shop and buy it on the spur of the moment.  No.  I made my mum scour the internet for a Christmas pudding hat knitting pattern and then begged her to make it (I can't knit. Get serious).  He looked furious but it was oh so worth it for the 'ahhhh' factor from passing old ladies.

We decided to make him pose in it so we could put a photo of him in with our Christmas cards for family.  This was the result:

See?  Isn't that the cutest thing ever?  Doesn't he look happy to be wearing his novelty Christmas knitwear?

OK, I admit it, getting that photo took around 300 attempts.  This is how he looked in the other 299:

BWAHAHAHAHAAAAAA.  Next stop: reindeer jumper.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Who Stole My Broodiness?

I have never been broody.  I don't really like babies either.  I get very excited when my friends are having them and can't wait to meet them, and mine was very cute (biased?), but in general, they remind me of maggots.  Sorry.  I've got better with them since becoming a mother myself, but they're never going to do it for me, and I never feel the ping of my ovaries that you're supposed to feel when I cuddle a new baby.  Also, they cry a lot and don't sleep enough, and their inability to hold their heads up terrifies me and makes me feel all wobbly and funny.

However, I have recently found myself in this very odd position:

Firstly, My best mummy friend has just had her second baby.  I met Rebecca through NCT classes when we were both pregnant.  One day she came round for coffee, we spent 3 hours laughing hysterically at each other and it became apparent that I had met my mummy soulmate.  Her son was born 11 days after Rory and together we stumbled, whinged, cocked up, swore a lot and drank copious amounts of gin as we picked out way through early motherhood.  The boys have grown and changed in tandem and we've got a bit better at knowing what we're doing.  Then she decided to have baby number two, and while I have been so excited all the way through her pregnancy and since she's had her baby girl, it feels weird - like she's a member of a club that I can't join.  It's like your best friend getting their period before you when you're at school.  Plus, she really knows what she'd doing this time, while I'm still stumbling about blindfolded with my first child.  I know it won't change our relationship, but it's made me have to think about whether I want another child or not.

Secondly, my body wants another baby, but I don't.  It's so strange.  I have a desperate bodily craving to be pregnant, but my brain is shrieking "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO."  As well it might.  And this is why:

1. I don't even know if I can have another baby. 
This is kind of important, right?  I was told I couldn't have children when I was 24.  I was kind of upset for a few months, but decided I'd adopt if I wanted any and disregarded it after a bit.  I can get pregnant, but I miscarry at the drop of a hat after losing a pregnancy many years ago after an accident at work.  There have been a couple of miscarriages since Rory (more due to my laissez faire attitude to contraception than any great desire for a baby), and I can expect more if I ever decide to try to have another child.  I conceived Rory just weeks after discussing hysterectomies with my gynaecologist, and spent the whole pregnancy waiting to lose him, as predicted by the specialists that I saw.  I was in and out of hospital with bleeding for the first 4 months and every time they scanned me, I expected bad news.  That Rory is here at all is quite a miracle.

2. 'Morning' Sickness.
I heaved and retched my way through my pregnancy.  I never once stopped feeling sick and often it was so bad that I couldn't talk because opening my mouth would make me retch.  As I was a teacher at the time, this was no fun.  I often had to leave the room in the middle of taking the register to dry heave over the sink and spent a large proportion of time stealth eating illicit Jaffa Cakes in my stock cupboard because  it was the only thing that would give me 5 minutes of relief.  You know those nylon book bags that children have for school these days?  The smell of those set me off.  Imagine trying to listen to the children in your class read their reading books to you when the smell of their bags makes you want to stick your head down the nearest toilet and never come out.  My mum had hyperemesis when she was pregnant with me, and the only reason I didn't actually vomit was because I have a deep seated phobia of being sick which is so severe that it inhibits vomiting.  (It's a voluntary action, believe it or not).  Hence I can heave until I crack a rib, but nothing comes up and I get no relief from the nausea.  Pleasant.  I can remember lying in bed at about 9 weeks pregnant, unable to even turn my head because I felt so ill, thinking that if anybody had offered me an abortion at that moment, I'd have taken it because I felt like I was being poisoned.

3. My body does not like being pregnant.
I think I'm allergic to it.  As well as wall to wall nausea, my immune system got up and left the building for 9 months.  It just completely ceased to work the moment I got pregnant and didn't start up again until I had Rory.  Again, imagine here that you work in a primary school.  All around you are sneezing, coughing, puking children.  Yes, I came down with every single illness that they brought into school.  And the worst thing about that is that when you're pregnant, you can only take paracetamol.  Usually you can dose up on Lemsip or co-codamol or whatever and struggle through, but when you're pregnant you're left feeling awful.  Now add morning sickness to a hacking cough.  Boke.  I ended up signed off at 18 weeks pregnant until the end of my pregnancy because I was constantly ill.  I can literally remember 2 days of not having a cold or virus or flu during those 18 weeks.

As if that wasn't enough, I lost all the sensation in my hands during the last trimester and woke up with them bent into withered claws every morning.  I retained water like a sponge. I couldn't sleep at night but fell asleep everywhere else during the day.  I got restless leg syndrome.  The only thing I didn't get was the text book mood swings that pregnant ladies are supposed to get.  I never once shrieked at Richard for a stupid reason or burst into tears in a huff.  I felt too rough for such luxuries.

4. Labour
Lets keep it brief.  It lasted 30 hours, it was so painful that I wanted to die, I had heart problems half way through, Rory got stuck and wrenched out with forceps and I bled like a stuck pig.  I have no desire to go there again.

5. Newborns
Ughhhh, their floppy heads.  I can't stand this phase.  As soon as they can hold their heads up and look about and smile and make a few noises, it's not so bad, but I have palpitations at the thought of having to care for something so entirely helpless.  Also, the umbilical stump.  Rancid.  Smells like blue cheese.  The never ending colicky crying.  The walking around and around the room with them trying to calm them down and get them to sleep.  Never ending breast feeding and all the agony that that entails.  Getting up 3 or 4 times a night.  Or simply not sleeping at all.  The loneliness.  Taking an hour to work up to leaving the house.  Baby sick in your knickers.

6. PND
I didn't even get the baby blues after I had Rory.  OK, I was exhausted and traumatised after giving birth and scared and had no idea what I was doing, but I was stoic.  However, when he was about 3 weeks old, OCD kicked in and it all went horribly wrong.  This blog is not the place to go into it on any detail, but I ended up seeing an emergency psychiatrist, being medicated immediately and put on watch with the emergency psychiatric team, who came to visit me twice a day to check that I didn't need to be sectioned.  All because of hormones.  I still take the tablets (I love the tablets.  I'm calmer than I've been in 25 years).  I don't fancy going down that route a second time.

7. It might be twins.
It goes without saying that I am not the sort of person who could handle twins.  Can you imagine Rory and two willing minions?  Jesus.

So that is why my brain and body are disagreeing.  At the moment, my brain is winning by a mile.  "It's worth it in the end though isn't it?" everybody says.  Well, yes, Rory was more than worth it.  He is my amazing little boy and I adore him.  But when it comes to thinking about another child, I can't see beyond the problems that will go before having it.  Not yet.  Maybe not ever.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Should Toilet Humour Be Tolerated?

NO, says this internet source.  Wow.  Of all the internet pages that have ever made me feel like a bad mother (we're into tens of thousands by now), that one is the worst.  Thank you, Rachel Arguelles, head teacher at the Greenhills Learning Center in San Juan for showing me the error of my ways.  I am obviously raising a violent, aggressive meathead.

Lavatorial humour has recently made an early and unwelcome appearance in the Disgrace household.  Bums are deemed hilarious.  Pants even more so.  Any form of bodily fluid practically gets a standing ovation from my son.  This worries me.  He's only two and a half.  If he's cracking poo jokes now, what's he going to be sniggering about in the playground once he starts school?  Fisting?

It's already turning heads (and not in a good way).  On a recent bus journey, I was the proud parent of a delightful little boy who chattered constantly the whole way home, giving an intelligent running commentary on everything he could see out of the window and making full and impressive use of his excellent vocabulary.  two old ladies a couple of seats in front of us kept turning round to look at the angelic child prodigy and were cooing to each other about how lovely he was and how well behaved and how good his language was.  God, I felt smug.

Sensing that Mummy was relaxing into the acceptance that she might actually be a fairly good parent, Rory launched into a recitation of Incy Wincy Spider in a nice clear voice so all the passengers could hear:

"Incy Wincy Spider climbed up water spout
Down came rain and washed spider out.
Out came sun and dried up all rain
And Incy Wincy Spider climbed up Rory's pants.  And I did a trump on him.  And he died."

I know how Incy Wincy Spider felt.  The pensioners were then treated to renditions of "Old MacDonald had a poo" and "The Grand Old Duke of York" (who, allegedly, had ten thousand poos).  The bus stop couldn't come fast enough.

I instantly blamed his father.  He always made a comedy drama out of doing nappy changes, which is probably why Rory finds bodily functions so hilarious.  Because of this, I felt vindicated when they returned home after going out for a walk the other day, Richard looking like he wanted to throttle our son because he'd spent the last 10 minutes shouting "OUT OF THE WAY. My Daddy keeps trumping. He needs to get home and sit on the toilet."  Ha.

But I was forced to confess after hearing him put on what he calls "Mummy's posh voice" and call someone "an insufferable B-A-S-T..." (fortunately his recollection of the word I had spelled out came to a halt at that point because I am 100% sure that it ended in "A-R-D") that although I may not be responsible for bringing toilet humour into Rory's life, I need to keep a tight rein on myself.  Master of inappropriate humour, the over-share and the very silly, I am going to have to keep a lid on the knob jokes from now on. Not to mention the silliness: A couple of days ago, Rory was running at full pelt down the street away from me and looking as though he was going to continue across the road, into the path of oncoming traffic.

"STOP!" I shouted.
"HAMMER TIME!" replied my son, before launching into MC Hammer's scuttling crab dance.

Between us both, we've created a monster:  A silly, poo obsessed, articulate monster.  Maybe we should embrace it.  Maybe we should all take a trip to Greenhills Learning Center in San Juan and crap on Rachel Arguelles' doorstep.

Linking up with Actually Mummy for Wot So Funee?

Monday, 31 October 2011

Child Friendly Restaurant Review: Frankie & Benny's

Lo, what fresh hell is this?

We got caught feeling hungry whilst out of the house with Rory again.  Schoolboy error.  Hence, on Saturday we ended up in a Frankie & Benny's restaurant somewhere in the sprawling metropolis of concrete and drizzle that is Stoke on Trent.

Rory was in a particularly demonic mood which felt quite in keeping with the restaurant, which was decorated for Halloween.  Yes, nothing says 'child friendly' like a load of carved pumpkins stuffed with precariously placed candles in easy poking reach.  And now I come to think of it, nothing quite says 'quality dining' like a huge polystyrene skull looming over your table.  There were children everywhere, at least half of them better behaved than ours, but all of them yelling at the top of their voices and drinking far too much Coke for my liking.  Rat pack music blared above it all and despite Bobby Darin's insistence, I predicted that this was unlikely to be my Magic Moment.

Our waitress was wearing purple contact lenses with slits for pupils, which made her look like Voldemort with cataracts.  Despite this, she was fairly perky and cheerily handed Rory an activity book (aimed at a more sophisticated audience than a 2 year old) and a pencil (sharp, pointy, nearly got shoved in my eye and Richard's nostril  over the course of the meal).  We ordered various fat-making portions of steak and burger type things, including a burger and chips with salad dressing for Rory from the children's menu.  He was overjoyed at this and attacked it with gusto, although most of his gusto was directed at sucking tomato ketchup off of the chips and then posting their soggy potato carcasses down the side of the seats.  At no point did he touch his salad dressing.  I inhaled my burger and congratulated myself on sitting Rory next to Richard, meaning that I was out of the line of fire of most of the hurtled cutlery.

Lots of things got thrown on the floor in a rage: The activity book and pencil, every napkin in the vicinity, various knives, his entire body.  The couple dining next to us stopped finding him cute after the first 10 minutes.  I sympathise with them.  I also stopped finding him cute after the first 10 minutes (of his life). Despite all of this, I couldn't fault the staff (even the waitress with the Voldemort eyes) and they were polite throughout and obviously used to dealing with hyperactive children, and chatted to him as they cleared the plates.

We skipped dessert.  I briefly longed for the days when I could eat a brownie/ice-cream/chocolate sauce stacked thing without gaining any weight whatsoever, then briefly considered having it anyway as a sort of trauma therapy, then realised that the best course of action would be to exit swiftly as my son had just stuffed a napkin into the gaping mouth of a pumpkin and it was in danger of going up in flames.

Matt Monro sang the opening lines of 'Born Free' as we beat a hasty retreat.   I couldn't help thinking that 'Born Feral' might have been more appropriate here.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

"Noise With Dirt On"

Isn't that what someone once referred to boys as?  That sums them up fairly accurately to me.  If you also add "obsessed with anything with wheels", you've just about got them covered.

I'm all for this gender neutral trend for allowing children to play with what they want, wear what they want and generally be how they want to be without enforcing gender stereotypes on them, but what has become apparent to me since having a boy of my own is how he seems genetically programmed to like doing boy things.  He has been boring us about cars and trains ever since he could first point.  He does occasionally give a baby doll a cuddle at playgroup, but that's usually shortly before throwing it on the floor and running it over with a tricycle.  He likes to seek and destroy and take things apart to find out how they work and create mess where you'd think mess couldn't possibly be made and generally be caked from head to foot in noxious substances.

I'd like to say that I don't know what I'd do with a girl, but I do.  I'd do a lot of nice colouring in and twirling and playing with dolls and dressing up and going for walks with a child who would willingly hold my hand and walk next to me and skipping and maybe occasionally go to Rhyme Time with a child who actually likes it - all the things that my friends do with their young girls.  It's a lot more civilised and there's less emphasis on having to spend the whole day exhausting them so that they'll sleep at night.  By contrast, Rory and I can often be found standing by the nearest dual carriageway making racing car noises as we watch the traffic and point out good lorries to each other.  It's a rubbish way to spend your day, but he loves it.

Yesterday, we went to the farm.  We go to the farm quite a lot because there's one just a 20 minute walk from our house.  Going to the farm is brilliant, yes?  You get to see the animals and feed them and stroke them and....sorry, no.  You're wrong.  You can do all those things with a girl.  Here's how it goes for us:

*Rory and I are walking along the road to the farm*

Me: "Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O. And on that farm he had a...."

Rory: "Tractor."

Me: "Well, yes, he probably does have a tractor, but this is a song about animals.  Think about the animals we're going to see at the farm.  Lets try again: And on that farm he had a...."

Rory: "Bat 'beel"

Me: "I'm almost certain that Old MacDonald doesn't have a Batmobile.  Can you think of an animal that he might have?"  And on that farm he had a..."

Rory: "Boogly woogly."

Me: "That's not even a word."

Rory: "I think of an animal."

Me: "OK then.  And on that farm he had a..."

Rory: "Gremlin."

Me: "Whatever."

And so it continues.

We get to the farm.

"Oh, Rory, look at the goats.  Would you like to feed the goats?" I say, hoping that by speaking in a ridiculously over enthusiastic tone of voice, some of it might rub off on him.  But no.  He tells the goats to go away then spots a fork lift truck in the distance and goes running over to stroke it, screeching with joy.  During the rest of our time at the farm, he spots a digger, several tractors, a combine harvester, two trailers and a "very funny pumpkin", all of which he has to inspect at close range.  He goes on the slides and the climbing frames in the adventure playground.  He makes me pay a fiver for an overpriced cake and a drink in the cafe.  He jumps into every available puddle, emerges like a bedraggled swamp monster, then rolls in the hay, creating a primitive wattle and daub effect all over his body that dries and starts to crack as we walk home.  At no point does he give any animal a cursory glance, and when Richard asks him what he did with his day, he looks blankly at him and replies "errrr, played cars?"

Boys are infuriating. I quite want a girl.  I don't think I'd laugh as much but I might at least have an appreciative audience for my animal songs.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

List of Bothersome Things

I used to write these frequently from the age of 15-22ish, only they were entitled "List of Crap Things" and said crap things were usually related to idiotic men (well, boys) and the fact that I had a hole in my tights and was failing Philosophy or whatever.  The idea was that I could tick the items off the list when I'd dealt with them*, thus being able to quantify how much less crappy my life was getting as I went forward.  Of course, by that point, I usually had yet another useless bloke on the go to add to the list and an endless stream of wardrobe malfunctions, so it was all a bit pointless.  These days, I prefer not to dwell so heavily on the negatives in life, and  I realise that I have it pretty good compared to most.  However, a number of irksome things have occurred recently, and I felt that this called for a list:

1. Yesterday, Rory got hold of a bottle of lavender oil and sprinkled half of it all over our bedroom.  The house now stinks of grannies and we are so 'soothed' by the calming aroma that we're floating around the house with our eyes half closed.  It's like Lush have invented a crack den.

2. Rory's toy Cranky Crane from Thomas the Tank Engine appears to have become possessed by evil spirits (not surprising. I've always felt that he has a rather malevolent look on his face) and keeps telling me that I'm a "very reliable engine" in a slight German accent when nobody is near him.  I now fear some sort of Thomas & Friends mass murdery thing occurring at Halloween while we're asleep in our beds.

3. John From Next Door has started his yearly campaign of ABH against the local squirrels and was witnessed throwing a wet sock from his washing line at one a couple of days ago.  I do fret about the squirrels.

4. Rory is eyeing up the autumnal pot pourri speculatively.  This worries me.  He ate a handful last year and it never reappeared at the other end.  One day he's going to end up having emergency surgery to remove 3 mini pine cones, some sticks and a handful of rose petals from his intestines.

5. There have been no less than three fascia board salesmen knocking on my door this week and two cold calls from other fascia board sales people.  I don't even know what a fascia board is. More to the point, I don't care.

6. There's a hole in my tights.  Some things never change.

*Have just realised that this may read as if I bumped off my ex boyfriends to 'deal with them'.  I did not.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Jelly Cat: Revisited

Check it out mo fo's.  Check. It. Out.

That's right my friends, I have reached the pinnacle of motherhood and here I sit on the successful jelly maker throne, laughing manically and dropping little silver cake decorating balls down upon those less fortunate than me.  Suck it up, losers.

After this recent jelly disaster, I was given some jelly making advice by the women at my Thursday evening class.  Apparently, jelly packets lie, and instead of following the instructions and adding cold water to the mix to make it up to 1 pint, the seasoned jelly maker adds enough cold water to take it to just over three quarters of a pint.  What amazed me was that they all seemed to know this and were nodding sagely at these words of wisdom.  It's one of those things that Only Mums Know (there are a lot of these: How to remove mould from a rubber bath mat, what muslin squares are for etc etc).

Now I too have The Knowledge, I am passing it on to you.  Use it well.

My jelly cat is brilliant.  It resembles a cat for a start.  It's firm yet wobbly, it's features are still intact.  You know what?  I might go wild and make up a lime version and mash it all up with a fork to make it look like it's lying on grass.  I could do that, because I'm that skilled now.  Little flowers hand crafted from marzipan and tinted with food colouring to scatter amongst the jelly grass?  Yeah, I could probably make some of those while sprinkling hundreds and thousands on fairy cakes with the other hand and one eye shut.  If I wasn't so tormented by the threat of nut allergies that is.  But I could.  Hell yeah.

Friday, 21 October 2011


I was going to write a new blog post this afternoon, but seeing as Rory has decided that he is not going to have an afternoon sleep, and instead has coloured every available millimetre of his naked body in with a blue felt tip pen (an act which somehow only took him 30 seconds), I'm going to be rather busy. Please send cake and any form of alcohol.  Or hallucinogenics maybe.  I'm not fussy.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Innocent Kids Review

Don't get me started on Smarties.  Several years ago, some moron in their design department decided to do away with the cylindrical tubes and plastic lids and replace them with a rubbish hexagonal design.  Did they consider the impact of this on their customers?  They did not.  You can no longer sneakily remove the lid from your brother's tube and steal all the good colours (orange, green, blue. Red at a push) and replace them with yellows and browns.  There is no more popping the plastic lid off the tube at your dog.  But most importantly - most importantly Nestle, you set of cretinous fools, the youth of today can no longer COLLECT ALL THE PLASTIC TOPS WITH LETTERS ON THEM AND MAKE A PRETEND TYPEWRITER OUT OF THEM.

Thank goodness then for Innocent, who know about the importance of these things.  Rory and I were sent some Innocent kids products to review recently, and before we even address the deliciousness of their smoothies, I must inform you that these guys are a shining beacon of marketing brilliance in a world of retail that doesn't seem to try.  The reason for my joy?  They put 3 alphabet fridge magnets* in their packs of children's smoothies and fruit tubes.  Innocent, I applaud you, nay, worship at your feet.  Thank you for taking up where those eejits at the Smarties HQ left off.  We now have a fridge door full of beautifully designed letters, which have tied in beautifully with Rory's first foray into phonics.  Not only that, the packaging is a miracle of marketing genius, with fun facts and/or educational games or activities printed on the outer side of the boxes, and other activities inside the box (we had a monkey that you can cut out and attach to people to annoy them).  Those of you who are familiar with Innocent will already know that everything on their products is written with humour and personality, and this is much the same on their kids products.  Well done Innocent for knowing your customer base so well, and especially well done on your attention to kiddy friendly detail.  It really does make such a difference.

OK, on to the actual products.  We tested the orange, mango and pineapple smoothies and the strawberry and raspberry fruit tubes.  

The smoothies were an immediate hit with Rory.  He'll eat some fruits but isn't a major fan, and it can be a struggle to get him to eat enough of the stuff, so it was brilliant to be able to give him a smoothie carton knowing that it contained one of his five a day.  He thinks they're delicious and really enjoyed them.  I found them particularly good for breakfast as I could give him a slice of wholemeal toast and a smoothie, knowing that he'd had a fairly nutritious breakfast and was well set up for the day.  He's also a bit of a pain about eating in general (he's too busy to be much bothered about food), so on the odd occasion that he was refusing to stop playing and eat something, I could give him a carton and know that he'd at least had some fruit.  And they are really really tasty.  I should know.  I stole one.  My only request is this:  Please please please make the cartons an easier shape to put the straws in.  I couldn't do it without a struggle and getting smoothie all over the place.  Please, won't somebody think of the cack-handed.

He wasn't as keen on the fruit tubes initially.  They're basically fruit puree in a tube (like those Frube fromage frais things that you can buy, but puree), so brilliant for lunch boxes.  They're easy enough for a child over the age of 5 to open, and the puree gets sucked out of a small hole, so they're unlikely to explode.  They appealed to me because their content is more or less the same as those pouches of fruit that you can get for babies by Ella's Kitchen and Plum, but they need to be refrigerated because they're fresh.  I find this need for refrigeration reassuring.  My non scientific brain doesn't understand why those baby pouches don't need to be refrigerated if they don't contain any preservatives.  I am convinced that it is some kind of magick at work (note spelling: 'magic' = Paul Daniels and co, 'magick' = potential involvement of pixies.  I don't trust pixies).  So, yes, they need to stay in the fridge and I would assume that you'd need some sort of cooling implement to keep them fresh in a lunch box.  

Rory wasn't bothered about them (as he isn't about the baby pouches) until I discovered putting them in the freezer and turning them into ice pops.  After that, he was hanging out at the freezer door demanding them approximately every 20 minutes.  This is an excellent trick for getting fruit into your child, and as freezing them means that they don't go mouldy, I am now quite happy to have a box of them in my freezer for fruity emergencies.  I guess you could also do this with the smoothies by pouring them into ice lolly moulds.

So, there we have it.  Innocent kids products are a resounding success in this household.  Well done that company for making tasty healthy fruity things and knowing that it's the little things that make all the difference. The Domestic Disgrace household salute you.

*Be aware that they state on the packaging that the magnets are not suitable for children under 3.  I am guessing that this is a disclaimer for legal reasons as swallowing magnets can be seriously dangerous and can even cause death.  It's up to you as a parent to decide if you allow your child to have them.

**Disclaimer:  These opinions are my own.  I do not work for Innocent, nor have I been paid for my opinions.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Things To Do With Your Child #10: Bubble Pictures

Who made these 30 years ago?  (or 20 years ago, for those of you who are less decrepit than me).  I remember doing this activity at nursery when I was 3 years old and it's still as awe and wonder inspiring now as it was back in the day.

You Will Need:
Thick paper
Poster Paint (ready mixed or powdered)
Washing Up Liquid
Plastic cups

Risk Assessment:
Please ensure that your child knows the difference between blowing and sucking before attempting this activity.  And even if they do know the difference, how sure are you that they won't drink the paint and washing up liquid mixture?  Rate your certainty out of ten, then halve it and deduct 5 smug points, because we all know that complacency in parenting comes back ten fold IN YOUR FACE.

In plastic cups, mix some paint, some water and some washing up liquid.  No, I don't know how much of each you'll need.  Be serious.  Just wing it.

Place straws in cups and instruct child to blow.  No, blow.  BLOW!  BLOW, YOU SIMPLETON, NOT SUCK.  Oh for the love of Mike, have a glass of water and stop retching.

This will happen:

Then this:


Now grab your sheet of paper and plonk it on top of the bubbles.  

Congratulations; you have spawned an artistic genius.

Now continue in this vein until you start to twitch about the state of the furniture.



* If you add lots of white paint to the mix, you get pretty pastels that show up on black paper.

* You could choose colours that complement the colours scheme in your child's room and frame a couple of the pictures for their walls.  They could even bubble print directly onto a small canvas if you can trust them not to balls it up.