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.