Sunday, 9 November 2014

A change is as good as a rest

Oh, hi.  It's me - that woman who used to blog about semi amusing domestic catastrophes fairly regularly.  I've been conspicuously absent recently.  Don't worry; I haven't finally become a Domestic Goddess overnight and abandoned you all.  Rest assured, I came home today after a weekend away to a stench so foul and all-pervading that I was convinced that it could only have been caused by some sort of large mammal - perhaps a cow or similar - getting into the house and dying in a particularly warm spot.  Turned out that it was because a bottle of milk fell over in the fridge last week, spilled all over the kitchen floor and oozed under the fridge.  I vaguely remember it happening, and that I sort of dabbed at it with some kitchen roll and had some non-committal thoughts about moving the fridge out to clean underneath it, like a grown up would (but didn't. Do you think I'm Anthea fucking Turner or something?)  Anyway, it had festered all weekend, so Mr Disgrace and I had to pull the fridge out and scrape it all up with a spatula before getting the bleach out, which was a nice end to our romantic weekend away.

So, where have I been, then?  Well, mainly in a twitching heap, under the duvet.  It's virus season here, and the three of us have been tag-teaming each other with germs since Small Disgrace went back to school in September.  The Dreaded Tummy Bug finally took me down a couple of weeks ago, which meant a full week of being flat on my back and a whole world of anxiety freak outs.  Quick re-cap: I have emetophobia and related OCD (oh, yes, hahaha, I have OCD yet still I end up with the whole milk/stench scenario in the above paragraph.  Yes, hilarious.  It's not that sort of OCD, OK?) and this plus constantly germ ridden family, plus stomach bug hell has sent me into dribbling, rocking in the corner territory recently, and it's been no fun.  I even tootled off to the doctors last week to beg for some sweet, sweet Valium to get me through the weekend, because I was supposed to be going to London to speak at Blogfest; the Mumsnet blogging conference.  Longs car journey.  Underground trains.  Hotel rooms.  Crowds.  Telling 400 people how to be a good writer, whilst feeling like a total imposter due to being on a panel made up of fabulous authors and general national treasures.  None of this would phase me usually, but in the midst of a full of crazy OCD freak out, when leaving the house to go to the supermarket is hard enough?  Oh God.  Not how I wanted to spend my weekend.

You know what, though?  I needn't have worried.  Although London is busy and hectic and probably crawling with germs, I forget that I grew up around there, and even though the Tube now reduces me to tears, it still feels like coming home.  And so what if Mr Disgrace had managed to book us into some weird hotel room with no toilet and odd boob-shaped lights on the ceiling?  We still fitted in a couple of giggly meals out and a window shopping conga through Liberty.

And Blogfest?  Well, Blogfest was just great.  I shouldn't be surprised really - it is a Mumsnet event after all, and I do love Mumsnet.  Plus I got to attend as both a speaker and a blogger, so I got the best of both worlds.  I attended some fantastic discussions and sessions, highlights for me being Sarah Vine and Beeban Kidron talking about how technology shapes the way we think during a panel discussion, Francesca Martinez delivering a wonderfully funny and uplifting think bomb about self acceptance, and Lucy Porter's hilarious closing keynote.  I also met the most amusing Elaine Miller, a fellow speaker, who blogs at about broken vulvas, and had a hand knitted fanny bag with her for visual demonstrations.  Anyone who can make stress incontinence funny is worth a click, so do visit her blog.  My panel session went well too, I think.  I felt honoured to be discussing the power of writing with Nick Hornby, Rachel Joyce, Harriet Lane, Lynn Barber and Erica Wagner in front of such an attentive and enthusiastic audience.  The other panel members were such warm, engaging people, and so knowledgeable and talented.  I do hope that between us we inspired the audience to embrace the power of writing - whether they want to write a novel or become a journalist or improve their blog.

After that there was free gin.  So much free gin.  And after that, there was dinner with Mr Disgrace, and a tipsy walk back to the hotel, and a firework display right outside our hotel window that felt like it had been put on just for us.  (Just to be clear, the firework display is not a euphemism for sex.  Lets not give Mr D any ideas above his station).

This morning, we drove home again.  And do you know what?  I didn't take a single Valium, have one wobbly moment or so much as touch my bottle of anti-viral hand gel all weekend.  So bollocks to all those suggestions of treating anxiety and OCD with meditation, relaxing essential oils and time out.  What you really need to do is leave your comfort zone, plough through festering crowds of the Great Unwashed on the Northern Line for a couple of days, and give a talk to four hundred people with five other professionals who are infinitely more credible and successful than you.  That works.  I feel a new career as a psychotherapist beckoning.

TL;DR - Been a bit mental recently, talked at Blogfest this weekend, magically feeling much better.  More posts soon.  Promise.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words. And Vice Versa.

Do you know what one of the best things about having a child is?  Forget unconditional love and having a little mini-me; I'm talking about the really good stuff here.  I am, of course, talking about the fact that once children hit a certain age, they become prolific in the art of Shit Pictures.  Terrible child art is the gift that keeps giving.  They will produce page after page of unintentionally hilarious masterpieces well into their teens, although in my experience, between the ages of 4 and 9 is when you really hit the jackpot.

Having taught small children for some years, I eagerly awaited the time that Small Disgrace would enter the Crap Art phase.  For a long while, it seemed as if it was never going to happen as he shunned pencils and paper well into his fourth year. But suddenly, he started to draw things that resembled things.  They didn't resemble what they were supposed to be in the slightest, but that just made it even better.  I'm going to start this post with three of his classic works for your perusal:

You will have to click to enlarge the photo to get the full effect here.

We have (from left to right):

'Sheep' (2013) An early work that managed to sum up absolutely none of the characteristics of a sheep whatsoever.  Encouraging parents that we are, we pissed ourselves laughing and pointed this out to him.  "ERR, I THINK YOU'LL FIND I'VE REMEMBERED BOTH OF ITS LEGS," our child replied, indignantly.  Yes, that well known breed of two-legged sheep with no bodies.  Top work, son.

'Lightsabers' (2014) Or as I like to call it, 'Colourful selection of dildos with very happy one-legged man'.

'Halloween' (2014) AKA 'Circumcised willy with a face, going "oo"'.

Now, annoyingly, as Small Disgrace is only 5, he has not yet peaked in terms of WTF drawings.  In fact, most of my treasured collection of Crappy Pictures were drawn by kids when they were pupils in my class years ago.  I can't share those with you.  I know, I know, I wish I could, but it would be entirely unethical of me to put them online for your amusement (your own child is fair game, but former pupils - no way).

"If only there was a way to share the joy," I thought.  "If only there was a loophole or a way around the privacy probl...AHA."

Then I remembered:  I am a writer.  It is my job to use words to paint pictures and create imagery.  So, open your minds, flex your imaginations and climb on board for some crazy shit...

Work of Art #1: 'Easter Egg Design by a 7 year old'.
This was from one of those time wasting seasonal lessons that you do when you're two days off the end of term and flagging.  (See also 'design a board game', 'make a poster about healthy eating' etc).  They designed some fantastic Easter eggs, of which this was the true star:
A perfectly shaped Easter egg diagram is centre of the page.  A label tells me that it is made of milk chocolate, but it is difficult to tell as the artist has drawn the foil wrapping on top, which is covered in a tasteful crucifix motif and coloured in red (to represent bloodshed, one can only assume), with a wreath of thorns around the top end.  Next to the egg is a brown splodge with a sad face and some bits pointing outwards.  A labelled arrow points to it, identifying it as one of the sweets from the middle of the egg: "choclit Jezers on the cros filed with caramel (a bit like a Fredo)."
On the plus side - this kid absolutely listened in RS lessons that year.  Top marks.

Work of Art #2: 'My Weekend News by a 5 year old'.
This was from a free writing and drawing exercise book that the children used to scribble stuff in that they felt was newsworthy and wanted to tell me.
A room.  Possibly a bedroom, owing to the vaguely bed-shaped thing in the centre of it.  There is someone in the bed; a boy.  The boy is smiling.  There is a window above the bed with something blue flapping at either side.  The face of what I can only describe as Angry Death stares through the window, much like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.   A thought bubble coming from the head of Angry Death displays a large gun and a sword, potentially covered in blood, although it may just be a red sword that's dripping with...OK, it's definitely covered in blood.  Scrawled across the bottom of the page in the bonkers handwriting of a serial killer, with a lot of smudging and crossing out is "LOOK AT AR CUNTASS."
It transpired that the boy in question and his brother got new curtains for their bedroom that weekend.  And that his lower case Rs had a tendency to look like Ns.  And that he didn't like his brother very much.

Work of Art #3: 'Christmas Scene by a 9 year old'
Two Christmas puddings with boggly eyes are next to each other on a table.  One is on fire, and looking none too happy about it.  The other Christmas pudding is urinating on the burning pudding with its orange and disproportionately large penis.
Yeah.  I have no explanation for this one.

Work of Art #4: 'Christmas Scene by a 6 year old'
It is Christmas Eve.  The sky is dark, and yellow stars twinkle above.  On Earth below, a child peacefully slumbers in a giant ribbed condom, and dreams of a ferret in a wig.  Next to him is a Christmas tree, with an angry fairy on top, who is pulling an expression of utter agony due to the tree being stuck up her bum.  Meanwhile, Father Christmas flies through the air on his sleigh, wearing what appears to be a gimp mask, while Rudolph sprinkles shit out of his arse in all directions with the aid of a conveniently placed propeller. 
This was an entry in a competition to design the official school Christmas card for the year.  It did not win.

Please feel free to share your child's masterpieces - either visually or via the medium of descriptive language.  It's good to share.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Contact Lenses for Children? Really?

A quick disclaimer about this post: I wrote it over the summer, but it has only recently been approved to be published on the blog.  In the meantime, Small Disgrace has started a new school year, and his new teacher really ‘gets’ him – glasses or not.  We are delighted and I'd hate this post to suggest otherwise.

I’m going to hold my hands up here and own up to something that I’d rather not admit to:  I did not take it well when I was told that Small Disgrace needed to wear glasses.  How pathetic is that?  While I’m here, I should probably also point out that I react similarly every time my husband takes him to get his hair cut and he comes back with it all short.  “He looks like a little thuuuuug,” I wail.  “Why don’t you just get one of his ears pierced while you’re at it?”

But glasses don’t make him look like a thug.  And I actually love a man in glasses, so why does it bother me so much?  Well, for a start, I was mortified that I’d never noticed that he had a vision problem.  He could spot an aeroplane when it was the tiniest dot on the horizon and had been able to read from a very young age, so when he spectacularly failed his 3 year eye test, I instantly felt like a terrible parent.  He needs glasses for anything that involves seeing close up, so has to wear them for reading, writing drawing etc.  When he’s at school, he wears them all day. 

I won’t lie:  I hate it.  He just doesn’t look like my little boy with them on.  He has these beautiful, distinctive, enormous blue eyes that are his very best feature.  He also has expressive eyebrows which suggest cheekiness and character.  When he’s wearing his glasses, you can’t see his eyebrows or his eyes properly, and all the character of his face is lost.  It’s not that they don’t suit him, it’s just that he looks nothing like himself when he’s wearing them.

Small Disgrace is one of the smallest children in his class and one of the youngest too.  He’s very well behaved at school and quite quirky, which is brilliant.  But I really didn’t want anything else to set him apart from the others.  Not that children see glasses as geeky these days – we’ve actually found the opposite, with all his friends wanting to try them on and asking if they can have glasses too.  There’s no danger of him getting teased because of them.  But there is a danger of him being treated differently because of them, and I see it happening all the time.  Adults respond differently to him when he’s wearing his glasses.  Last year, I got the impression that his (very nice) teacher didn’t really ‘know’ him.  He seemed pigeon holed as a slightly geeky, quiet, ‘young’ little boy, whereas in reality, he’s outgoing, cheerful, clever, mature beyond his years and mad as a badger.  Without his glasses, he seems to ooze his personality, but when he puts them on, he hides, and I’m getting so worried that he’s going to be perceived as something he’s not for the entire time he’s at school.  I even considered changing his school because it upsets me that my child is treated as someone he’s not.  But I can’t fault any of the staff, and actually, I’ve noticed that his personality appear to change when he puts his glasses on myself, so perhaps they’re just reacting to a character that he ‘becomes’ when he wears them. 

I thought that all of this made me an over sensitive, ridiculous parent, but when I was at Britmums Live recently, I got chatting to TV psychologist, Emma Kenny, who was manning the ACUVUE stand.  She told me a similar story about her son, who needed glasses from the age of 3.  She looked into other options and discovered that contact lenses are a suitable choice for many children.  I was quite surprised as I had never considered that this may be an option.  Her son has been wearing contacts ever since and has never had a problem with them and finds them easy to use.  It’s certainly made me wonder if they could be a good option for Small Disgrace (although from the fuss he kicks up when he has to have eye drops, I’m not yet convinced that he’ll take to something that he has to put on his eyeball…).  And if we try them, and he prefers glasses, then that would be fine – it would be his choice.  I just want what’s best for him – for his eyesight, for his self esteem and for his experience of school. 

I wrote this review while participating in an influencer campaign on behalf of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate

Sunday, 5 October 2014

My son has been sick and I am a crappy mum

So, it's 4am.  About an hour ago, my little boy started throwing up.  By a twist of fate, I was downstairs and well out of the way because I've been ill with the bastard nephew of flu all weekend and woke up feeling rotten so went to get a drink.

Thank God for Mr Disgrace.  Thank God.  He might drive a smarmy git car and be the most nosy neighbour ever and incapable of putting his socks in the washing basket, but the man can deal with puke - I'll give him that.

I cannot deal with puke.  I am emetophobic, which is basically a debilitating phobia of vomit.  I've been emetophobic for 25 years, and while it would be dramatic and untrue to say that it has ruined my life - I do have a lovely husband, much adored son and work doing my favourite thing in the world, after all - I can say with confidence that it has shaped it in a really shitty way.

At my worst, I was underweight and barely ate because I thought I couldn't possibly vomit if I had an empty stomach.  I couldn't leave the house and suffered from many panic attacks per day.  I worked and worked to get through that, and even now, over 10 years on, I feel thankful every time I travel on a bus or go to the supermarket or eat a curry, because I remember how it felt not to be able to do any of that.

When you first tell somebody that you're emetophobic, they don't really understand the implications.  They might just assume that you freak out when you or somebody else vomits, but it's so much worse than that.  They don't understand that it's all day, every day.  You constantly evaluate how you're feeling, how those around you are feeling, what bugs are going around, when you last washed your hands, how clean things are, what risks foods carry.  I know all the norovirus statistics, what to use to clean vomit up (bleach - only bleach. Nothing else works.  Disinfectant might as well be plain water).  I know which schools in the area are currently harbouring which viruses, I know the teeny tiny signs to watch for in my son that suggest that he might be coming down with a tummy bug.  I am always on high alert, never relaxed and constantly running complicated vom-related algorithms through my brain.

I want you to know that I push myself.  I've been through high school, A-levels and university with this.  I have worked as an actress and performed on stage every night with this fear, every single time wanting to stop the performance and run of stage because I was so scared of being sick in front of the audience.  I trained as a primary school teacher because I wanted to do the job so badly, and that meant putting myself in the line of pukey-kid fire every working day.  I got married.  I endured an extremely nauseous pregnancy and had my beloved son even though I knew it meant facing up to this situation on a regular basis.  In recent years, I even started going to the cinema again after 15 years of making excuses to people about why I couldn't go.  I hate the cinema - filthy germ box that it is - but my son loves it, so into the disease ridden pit I go.  I deliberately do these things and more to face my fear and give it the finger as I try to prove that it can shape my life in a shitty fashion, but it cannot take away all of my options.

But then, here I am:  Sitting downstairs and shaking while my stoic husband cuddles my little boy in bed, on puke duty.  I should be able to do this.  I know I should, but I can't.  I'm having CBT for it at the moment and so far it's done bugger all.  Well, maybe slightly more than bugger all actually, as I cleaned up a few vom splashes on the landing and marveled at how well they blended into our disgusting orange landing carpet (really must get a new one at some point) rather than being repelled at the sight.  Oh, and I can now look and piles-o-puke on the street without going into a full on panic meltdown, so maybe all those hours sitting in a doctors room looking at photographs of people throwing up has done something for me after all.  But it's not helped me to do what I want to do - which is to be able to look after my son when he's ill without losing the plot or give him a hug when he's been sick.  If anything, I'm the one that needs the hug.  Don't come too close though - you might have germs.

Monday, 29 September 2014

New Car Causes Marital Strife

Mr Disgrace has a new car.  This is nothing too unusual.  Since I met him 8 years ago, he's had four cars in total.  There was the Polo, which he used to cane along the M6 every day on  a two hour commute, until it started emitting clouds of black,burnt cheese scented smoke and ground to a halt en route to a wedding one day.  Then there was The Mighty Mighty Passat, which was an ugly silver tank of a thing with a previous owner who used to regularly kick it, by the looks of things.  Then some sort of ancient Saab which also broke down spectacularly, and after that a little Honda Jazz; a car so uncool that we were the only people under the age of 60 in the UK ever to own one.  I liked the Jazz.  It was so reassuringly slow.  It never broke down and always got us there and back, and was just the right size for a little family of 3.  Also, nobody ever wanted to steal it.  There you have it: the perfect combination of functionality and crappiness.

The boys say goodbye to the Jazz

So, the other night, he drove his new car home, and he and Small Disgrace were immediately all over it, practically salivating, and bezzing around the Close, music blaring.  I stood on the doorstep, sulking.

"Come on, hop in, lets take it for a drive," said Mr Disgrace.  I reluctantly humphed into the back seat and sat there scowling and pulling my collar up so my mates wouldn't recognize me, in the style of a truculent teenager being dropped off at a party by her dad.

Now, admittedly, it's quite smooth.  And it's got some fancy screen thing that pops up and says things on it (don't know what - I can't drive), and it's very spacious.  But it can fuck off.  Because it's an Audi: An absolutely giant, black Audi A6.  And those, much like big black BMWs, are the mark of the wanker.

Reasons it annoys me:

a) It's longer than our drive.
b) It looks a bit like a hearse.
c) The headlights give it a cross face (yes, this is how I judge cars.  Don't start).
d) There are only 3 of us in our family, and we are all short (yes, husband - short.  Not average height, no matter how much you try to convince me).  We really don't need the extra room.
e) Every time I look out of the window, I keep thinking some cheeky smug git has parked on our drive.
c) It's's just not the sort of car that a family of Disgraces should own.  

Our family is rubbish.  Rubbish.  We are not a power family.  Our child does not go to 4 different extra curricular activities.  Our house is a mess.  Chickens occasionally wander in and out of our lounge, passing comment on Double Your House for Half the Money.  Also, I had to take a calculator to Aldi yesterday to make sure our weekly shop didn't go over 24 quid and bankrupt us, which I don't think makes us nice-car-worthy, does it?  And we generally like pottering along in our "who gives a crap" state.  Don't we?  Don't we, Mr Disgrace?  I thought we did, anyway.

It's just a off-y, I think.  A bit "look at me."  I try to voice this to my husband:

"I just don't think it's really 'us', you know," I say.  "We're not alphas.  We're...we're charmingly eclectic."
"But we're getting better at life and stuff."
"Well, a bit.  But, we're the Disgrace Family.  We're supposed to be disgraceful. Not the owners of the wankermobile.  What next?  An Aga to cook the fish fingers in?  This is not going to be good for blog material."
"Well, frankly darling, you've been scraping the bottom of the barrel for a while, what with the nice new bathroom and our son not being a git since he was two.  Ha - we should probably have another baby just so you've got something to write about."

Thin ice, Mr Disgrace.  And for that, I shall be wearing my frostiest knickers to bed tonight.

He does have a point though.  Small Disgrace is an easy going, well behaved delight to parent (albeit a total weirdo still), our new bathroom is gorgeous, and if you were to look in the kitchen right now, you'd see empty work surfaces and a fully stacked dishwasher.  We seem to have improved without me even noticing.  I feel a bit betrayed to be honest.  I'm still bumbling about, cocking up and muttering about taking down the establishment, while Mr Disgrace has become a proper grown up.  How am I supposed to damn The Man and save The Empire* when my husband is driving a grown up car and wearing head to toe Boden?"

He tells me we're still the same really.  Things haven't really changed that much:  "It's OK babe, we're still a little bit crappy.  Don't worry.  After all, we'll always have the giant ants nest."

True.  we'll always have that.  That is a comfort.

* 90s teen movie reference. If you don't get it, I'm afraid we can no longer be friends.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

When time goes too fast

I was recently sent a link to this video that Fairy have made called The Softest They'll Ever Be:

It didn't quite make me cry, but I'm pretty sure that if the child in the video was a boy, I'd have been inconsolable.  This is because I've just spent several weeks with my baby back at home with me during the school holidays.  I always forget how well we rub along together.  During the holidays when it's just the two of us, we get up to all sorts of adventures.  OK, many of them involve not leaving the house, and quite a few of them involve scraping the chicken poo off the patio whilst wearing our wellies and pyjamas (um, at 2pm. Don't judge), but we still manage to have a lovely time.  I've especially enjoyed all the cuddles that he's still not quite old enough to resent giving me yet.  It reminded me of our time together before he started school - when we'd have adventures in the morning, then cuddle up in bed together for a nap in the afternoons. Errr, I mean, he used to have a nap and I clearly did a lot of housework and balanced the household budget and cleaned the mould off the bath mat and other worthy, housewifely things.  Yes.  Who said anything about sneaky naps?  Not me.  Oh look, isn't that a squirrel?

I do miss those cuddly days that seemed to go on forever (and not always in a good way).  I had PND when my son was a baby, so I don't really look back on the baby years with the same fondness, but I do recall that he would only ever sleep on me during the day, so I spent much of my time reading on the sofa with a warm, cuddly baby snoozing on my chest, and very occasionally, I do wish that I could turn back time just for a little bit to experience that again.  Oh, I do miss my boy while he's at school.  I really really do.  Maybe I should home school him, then I'd get to see him all the time.

At least, that's what I was thinking and feeling until about 3 days before autumn term was due to start when I opened an email from Rory's school informing me that school would be closed for an extra week due to building work being unfinished.  WTF, SCHOOL?  Are you KIDDING ME?? Some of us were on a SLEEPS COUNTDOWN until the start of term, you know.  Are you trying to send us all around the nobbing twist?  There is LEGO all over my MOTHER FLIPPING HOUSE here, OK??

School finally re-started yesterday.  Here's the boy about to set off for his first day in Year 1.  

The Lego is back where it should be, I can crack on with some work in blissful, unadulterated silence and nobody else is eating all the crisps.  Bring on the fudging trumpets.

I still can't wait for my 3.30 cuddle though.

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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Why I am not a fashion and beauty blogger.

It looks loads of fun being a fashion and beauty blogger.  It seems to involve testing out lots of nice smelling face gloop and pretty make-up and being photographed looking gorgeous and wearing nice clothes, many of which you have been sent for free.  Surely even a lazy hot mess housewife like me could get on board with that?  But no.  No no no no no, I can't.  Here's why:

1. Apparently, it's all down to how you accessorize.
I don't even know what that means.  I think it has something to do with putting your shoes on.  I put shoes on every day.  But apparently, a pair of muddy, battered trainers with holes in the soles or the flip flops that half the decorative buttons have fallen off or any other footwear item that is destined only for the bin doesn't count.  Alas.

2. My beauty product reviews would all read like this:
"This moisturiser smells mildly of socks and seems to be bringing me out in a bit of a rash, but I'm still going to use it until it runs out because I can't afford to buy another one yet.  Until then, please squint slightly in my presence so as to give a pleasant, blurred effect to my skin, and try not to inhale through your nose when close to my face."

3. I have no clothes.
Well, obviously I have some clothes.  But since I chucked in my full time job to look after the Small One, I've had no money to spend on clothes.  My wardrobe has got progressively smaller and more comedic over the last 5 years as items have worn out beyond repair and been thrown away.  I am now down to a pair of jeans that are a bit too tight for comfort, several tops, all of which require a different sort of bra underneath to the ones I have left, a few summer dresses and skirts in various states of disrepair and a Very Nice Coat, which makes me look like a tramp who's robbed the cloakroom at Claridge's because I was cold.

4. There are simply not enough bohemian looking walls for me to be photographed against in my area.
Disappointingly, most of the walls in my town are bog standard, which just doesn't cut it in the world of fashion blogging.  There is a row of garages around the corner from my house, which are covered in some pleasingly distressed paint in a very on trend shade of teal.  I have had to pose against this wall for a magazine article I wrote in the past and felt like a right tit with people gawping at me and the photographer.  But anyway, is one bohemian wall really enough?  I think not.  I'd constantly have to Photoshop it to make it a different colour.  And while we're on the subject of Photoshop, I certainly can't be arsed with using it to erase my dark circles or to fake a thigh gap.  Since when was a thigh gap even a thing anyway?  Having one sounds like absolutely no fun and certainly wouldn't tie in with my deep interest in ordering curries and eating muffins.

My one and only foray into hipster wall posing

5. I have terrible hair.
My hair is something to behold.  It manages to combine being very thin with a lot of frizziness.  It will not go straight, but nor will it curl in a sensible fashion.  It basically looks as though someone has sprinkled a bag of pubic hairs over my head and run off laughing.  Picture the reviews:
"Tried new shampoo.  Hair still looks like pubes."
"Was sent sample of conditioner.  Pube-like quality of hair slightly less wiry than usual."
"Serum fail - hair now like moist, oily pubes."
"Wore hat. SCORE."

6. Accidentally dressing like a character from a 1980s sitcom:
One morning, feeling the need to look a bit more put together than usual, I abandoned my jeans and my husband's hoodie for this nice, classic skirt and, I don't know, some sort of plain top, I would assume:

So far so good.

I had to go into town to pick up a couple of things.  It looked a bit breezy outside, so I threw on a nice red mac and a hat and went on my way.

Half way to town, I realized that my hat was a beret, and with the skirt and the red coat, I was possibly looking a tiny bit too French.  And not French in a chic, well groomed sort of way.  More in the stereotypical onion seller sense.  Felt a bit self conscious and embarrassed, but it was too chilly to remove the coat or the beret, so I carried bravely on my way, brazenly ignoring all funny looks directed my way.  I was utterly convinced that I could style it out until I remembered that I needed to buy a baguette.  A fucking baguette.  Walked home brandishing my baguette, dressed like a character from 'Allo 'Allo.

"Pssst.  It is I, LeClerc," said some joker, as I crept past.  Everyone's a bloody comedian these days, aren't they?

So that is why I'm not a fashion and beauty blogger.  Essentially, I'd be crap at it and a complete embarrassment to myself.  Or maybe it would be inspirational for everyone else who's as hopeless at getting dressed as me.  Maybe I should actually set up a blog for it so we can all have a good old laugh at my expense and feel better about ourselves and our bad hair and bog standard walls.  Who's up for it?

Friday, 1 August 2014

Fun Games for Siblings to Play

I've been inspired by this post from Mumsnet about how siblings torture each other this week.  It made me remember my childhood with my little brother, Rob.  It also made me very glad that my son is an only child.

My brother dropped into my happy, civilized world like a scud missile when I was just short of four years old.  Unimpressed is an understatement.  I immediately set about finding ways to be mean to him that might just sneak under my parents radar.  Reading on, you might be forgiven for assuming that I was a troubled, malevolent child, but I wasn't.  I was just a pissed off big sister, and from what I can work out, it was typical sibling behaviour.  Here's some of my best games (and some of my friends best games) to play with a younger sibling.  Enjoy:

1. Spelling - Step 1: Discover that 'shit' is a naughty word that you must never ever say.  Step 2: Immediately spell it out with your one year old brother's alphabet blocks and leave it for your parents to find.  Step 3:  Blame him.  Step 4: Get massive bollocking from parents who, funnily enough, do not believe that their baby is a sweary infant prodigy.  Step 5: Cry in room and write 'Robert is a bum shit' on a bit of paper in teeny, tiny writing and hide it under the carpet, safe in the knowledge that you have still won.

2. Dares - Do this on the first day of the summer holidays while your mum's getting showered and dressed and you're supposed to be watching Why Don't You in your pyjamas.  Start small - "I dare you to put an ice cube in your pants" and the like.  Remember that you are quite safe here as younger brother is only 6 and therefore can't come up with any good dares at all.  Progress to daring him to run outside and wiggle his bare arse at next door.  Then dare him to eat a spoonful of Marmite.  He is 6 and your bitch, so he does it.  Then he vomits copiously.  Half dressed mum is apoplectic with rage and you have to stay indoors all day even though it's sunny out as punishment.

3. Jungle Torture - This one was actually my best friend's sister's game.  She used to use it to torture us when I came round for tea - probably because we were the most irritating pair of children ever to live.  It would involve us walking slowly up the stairs while she gave a running commentary and did bad stuff to us: "It is night time in the jungle," she would say as she turned the lights out.  "look out for the TROPICAL STORM" she shrieked as she emptied jugs of water over our heads.  "The giant spiders want to catch you and eat you..." (cunningly set out sellotape trap in style of cobwebs) And, "YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE ATTACKED BY WILD ANIMALS" she yelled, as she threw armfuls of teddies at us, cackling madly.  Don't know why we didn't just stay downstairs, to be honest.

4. Walkie Talkies - My parents bought Rob and I a walkie talkie set for Christmas one year in the hopes that it might foster a loving sibling bond.  I mainly used mine to inform him that he was a wanker from various hiding places.

5. Car Wars - "MUUUU-UUUUUM, HE'S ON MY SIDE." Surely anyone with more than one child must be familiar with this back seat battle cry on long car journeys?  I took to taking my school ruler with me in the car and measuring out an equal space for each of us, then using it to mark out the dividing line between the spaces.  If his elbow accidentally ventured into my territory, I kneecapped him with the ruler.  Simple concept.  Fun for all.

6. Bike stunts - This one's from my husband:  "Yeah, there was the game where we all used to make our little brothers lie down in the middle of the Close and then we'd try and jump over them on our bikes..."  He also told  me about another game, but it's unprintable.

7. Knightmare - Inspired by the amazing kids TV show of the same name, this is how Robert and I spent many a summer evening:  I'd blindfold him and put a bucket on his head (bucket essential for authenticity) and direct him around the garden.  "Walk forward...sidestep to your left...and again...and again...walk forward...bit more...bit more...(evil grin)...bit more..." until he walked straight into a thorny bush and got all tangled up in it.  Ah, the 1980s.  Such an innocent time.

I do hope you've all been inspired.  Do feel free to leave a comment with your sibling torture games below.  I'll be seeing Rob at Christmas and I'm sure he'd love to play them with me...

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Shiny and New

This week, I've been challenged to come up with a list of things that make me feel brand new.  If you know me well, you'll know that I usually feel that old beats new every time.  I love things with history - houses, clothes, decorative bits and pieces - I like my things second hand, a bit battered and full of links to the past.  But I have to admit that sometimes there are occasions when new beats old.  On with the list:

1. New socks and pants.  Is there a better day in the calendar than New Socks and Pants day?  There is not.  Throwing out all substandard underwear and replacing it with shiny, new stuff is somehow extremely satisfying.  If only every day could be a New Pants Day.

2. A new coat of paint.  Whether it's on your walls or your furniture, it makes a massive difference.  sometimes you want a bold colour change, other times you just want to cover up what has become known as 'child ectoplasm marks' in this house (the tidemark of grubbiness that trails all the way along the wall at child hand height on the stairs).  I finally finished re-painting our kitchen chest of drawers yesterday after a month of paint stripping, sanding and swearing.  Now my friends can enter my kitchen without wondering which filthy squat I sourced my furniture from.  So that's something.

3. New bottle of wine.  Pull out the cork and savour the sound of the first "glug glug glug" as you pour it into your glass.  Need I say more?

3. A new school year.
 There's something about September that's so full of possibilities.  New uniforms, new bookbags, new teachers.  My son has a very promising looking teacher this year.  He's young, male and seems to be a lot of fun from what I've seen, so I have high hopes.  I'm also mildly apprehensive, as my husband and I have discussed at length whether we fancy him or not.  I have visions of Rory turning up on the first day and announcing that "MUMMY SAYS YOU'RE NOT HER TYPE, BUT DADDY RECKONS HE'D BE UP FOR IT IF HE WAS A WOMAN."  This will be karma as I used to get loads of these comments when I was a teacher; "MY DAD RECKONS YOUR BOOBS AREN'T REAL. WHAT DOES HE ACTUALLY MEAN?" possibly being the least appropriate.

4. New stationery.  This goes hand in hand with the new school year.  Who remembers making special trips into town at the end of the summer holidays to buy a new pencil case and a geometry set that you never used?  Better still was the year I did my PGCE.  I needed to buy ten ringbinders as a matter of necessity.  Ten.  Imagine the satisfaction.  Rory is just starting to appreciate the joys of new stationery as he's completely fixated on colouring in at the moment and has got a shiny new set of felt tips, which he's obsessed with keeping in the correct colour order in the packet.

If you are similarly afflicted with a love of new stationery, head over to the brand new Ryman Stationery website to feed your obsession, or tell them what makes you feel #brandnew.

Sponsored Post 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

How to do the summer holidays when you're skint.

It's the last day of the school year today.  I told myself that I'd spend today doing all the little jobs and bits of housework that I won't be able to get done for the next 6 weeks.  Yeah.  Or, I could fanny about on the internet with This Morning on in the background.  I'll leave you to make your own mind up about which option I've gone for.

Now, all over Pinterest and those genuinely good parent blogs with ideas and recipes and nicely groomed children, I've been seeing summer holiday bucket lists for the last few weeks.  They're crammed full of wonderful, fun things to do and places to go to with your kids.  I say that's all very well if you a) have some money and b) you can drive.  I can't drive and a quick check of my bank account reveals that I have approx 50p to get me through to August, and the situation isn't going to improve much after that, lets be honest.  So here's how the boy and I will be spending the summer holidays:

1. Doing housework.  Kid's so bored most of the time that he thinks this is fun.  Or maybe he considers it a novelty because I do so little of it.  Anyway, he likes nothing better than whipping around the furniture with the Mr Sheen and a duster, so he can crack on with that while I make headway with the Pimms.  Yesterday, he followed me outside while I was hanging out the washing.  "If you're a really good boy, I'll show you how to peg out the washing on your own during the summer holidays", I said.  He actually hugged me.  Parenting: I have nailed it.

2. Hanging around various local parks like a pair of hobos.  "I don't care if it's raining. Get on that swing and don't get down until you've enjoyed yourself.  IT'S FREE."

3. Ditto the library.  We will be there, borrowing all the books and scouting for colouring sheets.  And thanking God that the boy is now too old for Rhyme Time, because, lets face it, Rhyme Time is shit.

4. Being in the back garden.  STOP THE PRESS: We have finally had our hazardous patio fixed.  This means that in order to get our moneys worth (because I banned Mr Disgrace from doing it after he ballsed it up last time, and paid someone to do it instead), we are going to be sitting on that fudger until November.

5. Going on nature walks. Why doesn't my child ever want to go on a nature walk?  Why?  I want to do a nature treasure hunt and make a picture out of the stuff we find and complete a tick list of insects and birds and all that jazz.  Whereas Rory's one ambition is to walk to the One Stop Shop and buy a Wham bar and an overpriced Spiderman magazine.  FFS.

6. Walking to the One Stop Shop to buy a Wham bar.  Every Day.

7. Filling in a holiday diary.  In a fit of ill-judged enthusiasm, I spent 2 quid on a scrapbook the other day, so that the small one could record all the wonderful things we're going to do over the summer (such as cleaning the toilet and walking to the One Stop).  This is only going to lead to entries such as this one in his school writing book from October half term:

Translation: "I went to Wetherspoons with Evie."  Because he did go to Wetherspoons with me and his mate, Evie and her mum (for breakfast - it was nice actually).  He also went to the theatre and an art gallery during that half term, but obviously they slipped his mind when writing up his holiday news at school.  And why not?  I mean, is there a more appropriate place to take a child than a budget pub?  Christ.  Add this piece of writing to the various other bits he wrote about me over the year ("my mummy is lovely, she has lipstick", "my mummy lets me wear her make-up" etc) and his teacher obviously has me down as a vapid, looks-obsessed trollop who doesn't let her kid stand in the way of a trip to the pub.  Would not mind but I only own ONE lipstick and it's down to the point where you have to scrape it out with your fingernail to smear it on.

8. Going to Wetherspoons.  Hey, it was such a hit last time, lets do it again.

9. Making stuff from Mister Maker's Giant Box-O-Crap.  None of which will even slightly resemble anything that Mister Maker has ever made.  In fact, most of it will look like a cereal box with one pom pom and a pipecleaner sellotaped on top.  And I will not be allowed to throw any of it out, ever.  Which is great, because what my rubbish house really needs is a load of falling apart yoghurt pot creations strewn all over it.  It will set off the shabby chic theme a treat.

10. Colouring in.  Thank God for colouring in.  Rory's obsessed with it at the moment, and I'm counting on it to get us through the rainy days.  I've been joining in too, and I tell you what - it's saving me a fortune on therapy bills.

Now, just before I go, can I please get a "HELL, YEAH" and a fist bump from the internet?  Because I've made it through the whole of the first school year without my child being late once.  Amazing.  Truly.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

THE TRUTH IS A LEMON MERINGUE: Celebrating Children's Book Week with Heinz

It's Children's Book Week this week, which we're only too happy to celebrate in the Disgrace household.  Mr Disgrace and I love reading and, fortunately, Small Disgrace seems to have inherited our book addiction and is often to be found whizzing through his school reading books or begging for a story.  He's had a bedtime story since he was a baby, and we've been through all the classics from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, through Thomas the Tank Engine (oh, that phase seemed to go on forever. I would happily have dropped a bomb on Tidmouth Sheds by the time it was over) and everything that Julia Donaldson has ever written.  He turned 5 last month and is currently very into Roald Dahl, Michael Rosen and his most recent obsession; the Mr Gum books by Andy Stanton.

We gave him the first book for his birthday and ever since then, not a day goes past without him shouting "THE TRUTH IS A LEMON MERINGUE" at every opportunity.  I only hope his teacher has read the books too, or she's going to think he's a bit strange.

Now, Heinz and Tots100 teamed up to hold a competition for Children's Book Week.  You have to use a tin of Alphabetti Spaghetti to spell out your favourite childrens book quote and photograph it.  Small decided immediately that we would have to spell out 'the truth is a lemon meringue'.  And then he informed me very indignantly that he'd never tried lemon meringue pie, and what was I going to do about this?  This is very remiss of me, as lemon meringue pie was a Sunday pudding staple in my house in the early 80s, so we set out to rectify this immediately.  Aprons on and into the kitchen...

An hour and a half and a lot of stickiness later, we had a perfect lemon meringue pie (thank you very much, flying ants, for holding off while we were baking this masterpiece).  Rory tried a piece and announced that the truth definitely is a lemon meringue.  Just as I suspected.

Then it was time to get elbow deep in Alphabetti Spaghetti while we dug out the letters to make our quote.  Here's what we came up with - what do you think?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

This month I have been mainly...drinking wine, killing ants and dieting. In the rain.

Another summer month down, another step closer to the horrors of autumn and all the viral illnesses that it brings.  Here's what's been going down this month:

1. Going to Britmums Live in London, where I drank the Lindemans stand dry, learnt lots of new blog tricks, none of which I have put into practice because I am lame, and met some fab women.  My new blogger mate, Tanya over at Muma Leary is fabulous.  Check out her blog - she's almost as crap as me and was my partner in wine drinking.  She's one of us.

2. Slaughtering ants.  Still.  STILL THEY COME.  I was moaning about this at work last week and all of my colleagues were bemoaning their ant related issues too.  Then one of them said: "Mind you, *name of town I live in* is well known for its ant problem."

Well, that's just brilliant, isn't it?  Obviously not well known enough to stop me from moving here.  When my husband got a new job 6 years ago, he made me relocate from a town that was well known for its outstanding beauty and being a lovely place to live to...somewhere that's famous for having an ant problem.  Ace.  Marital relations are rather frosty at the moment.

3. Refurbishing a chest of drawers.  ALL MONTH.  Lesson: If you look at an item of furniture in your house and think "ooh, that could do with a bit of a spruce up, I'll just give it a quick sand down and slap a bit of paint on it", do yourself a favour and don't bother.  You will lose an entire month of your life and several nails to sanding and picking paint off it, and it will still look a bit shit when you've finished.  Embrace Scandinavian style and go to Ikea.

4. Attending various school events.  I'm a proper parent now I've been to sports day and a summer fair in the rain.  The small one did me proud and came first in one of his races and second in the other two.  I can only assume that he's been on the old anabolic steroids, as he is not generally known for his sporting ability, and the one time I saw him do some gymnastics after he attended an ill advised extra curricular activity for 6 weeks, I thought I was going to rupture something from laughing.

5. Dieting.  Again.  Because I have all the impulse control of a toddler in a paddling pool filled with pick and mix.  And not the sort of toddler whose mum swears he only eats wholefoods and thinks raisins are sweets.  A normal toddler with a slack mother.  Sigh.  Wine is basically grapes, right?

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Joys and Pitfalls of Having an Only Child

Until I had my son, I'd always assumed that I'd have three children - maybe four if I turned out to be really really good at it.  I was supposed to be infertile, so I'd be adopting them.  Two of them would most likely be twins, because I could totally have handled twins, you know - what with me being a primary school teacher and everything.  Piece of piss.  I would certainly not be having an only child.  No way.  That would be an incredibly selfish thing to do, and it would be one of those spoiled only child brats that you see, or a total weirdo.  Earth mother - that's me.

Then I had Rory, and every single part of the pregnancy, birth and baby phase was so unrelentingly horrible that the thought of doing it all again made me want to whack on a chastity belt.  My body clearly does not like being pregnant or giving birth, and it turns out that even if you've got a PGCE and years of experience of working with children, you can still be a crap parent to a baby.  Especially if the baby doesn't ever knobbing well sleep and decides that it wants to be mobile and climbing things at 5 months old.  My son has ruined babies for me for life; beautiful and hilarious though he was, he was a massive pain in the arse.  And it doesn't matter that everyone tells me that you never get two babies the same - a) I probably would - this is me after all, and b) if I get an angelic baby next time, that probably means that it will be an unholy terror from the age of two.  And my horror baby hit 18 months old and suddenly transformed into a charming, well behaved and entirely reasonable (albeit eccentric) child.  I have no desire to find out what it's like to parent a 'normal' toddler.  No way.  No more babies for me.

Nothing to see here. Just a far too busy and mobile 7 month old baby hell bent on running his mother down with a fire engine.

That makes him an only child.  More than one person has actually sucked in their breath through their teeth like a boiler engineer who's about to tell you that your whole heating system needs replacing when I've mentioned that he's the only one.  How rude.  And also, how presumptuous.  Lets have a quick look at the myths about having an only child.  And lets not forget that I once believed these myths to be true myself:

1. Only children are spoilt.  Mine isn't.  When you just have one child, you can't help but spoil them with love, but he doesn't get bought everything his heart desires, we don't let him do what he wants all the time and we've always made sure that he gets left to his own devices sometimes so he can entertain himself.  He also knows that when my husband and I are talking, he can't just barge in and interrupt.  I've met a lot of spoilt only children (many of whom were still spoilt as adults), but it doesn't have to be that way.  You choose how to parent your child.

2. Only children are rude.  Nope.  Mine is extremely polite and well mannered.  Partly because we've always taught him to have good manners, and partly as a side effect from being the only child in polite adult company most of the time.

3. Only children don't know how to share.  Actually, he's very good at sharing and always offers to share his sweets (or whatever) with my husband and I or his friends.  My theory behind this is that he's never had to fight over anything because he doesn't have any brothers or sisters, so therefore, sharing is a novelty and feels like a nice thing to do rather than something he's resentful of because his siblings are always taking his toys.

4. Only children are lonely.  I think it comes down to personality.  All the adult only children I know who complain that they were lonely as children are natural extroverts and love company.  My husband and I are fairly introverted and both very happy in our own company and don't need to be around other people.  We both have younger brothers and although we love them very much and would never change our upbringings, we both feel that we'd have been perfectly happy as only children as we were very self sufficient and preferred to play by ourselves.  As for Rory, he's begged us not to give him any brothers or sisters ever since he was old enough to vocalise it.  He loves that we're a team of 3.  To quote: "I just love hanging out with you guys".  He has no trouble making friends and socialising, although he's always ready to come home after having a lovely time with his friends because he needs his peace and quiet.  I can relate to that.  

3 is a magic number

Now, I would never ever criticise anybody for having more than one child.  Your family is right for you, whether you choose to have one child or ten, and there are many benefits of having siblings, just as there are many benefits of having none.  Plus there are also a few things about having one child that bother me a little: I do wonder what another child of ours would be like, and I especially grieve a little for the daughter that I'll never have.  Fortunately, a very good friend of mine has an awesome little girl who is now 6 and a total bookworm.  I'm loving buying her all the books that I loved to read when I was her age - the ones that I can tell that Rory isn't going to be interested in - and seeing her discover them.  That helps.  I also feel for him a bit at Christmas time and on holiday (well, I would if we could actually afford to go on holiday) as there are no siblings or other children for him to play with or get over excited with.  He still seems to have a great time, though.  I worry about him being left with all the responsibility for Rich and I when we're old, ill or dying.  And most of all, I worry that something will happen to him and we'll be left as childless parents.  I'm going to have to move along from that one quite swiftly, though, as I start obsessing if I think about it for too long.

And, of course, there is a particular scenario that we would happily do without every weekend.  He's perfectly happy to play by himself up to a point.  And then this happens:

"Can you play He-Man with me, Daddy?"
"Not at the moment, dude."
"But you said you'd play He-Man with me later, and now it's later."
"Yeah.  I'm just doing some work, though.  Go and do some colouring or something."
"But I want to play He-Man."
"Play it by yourself."
"I can't, because who would be Skeletor?  I can't do the Skeletor laugh.  And I need Mummy to be Ram Man."
"Mummy's busy.  She doesn't want to be Ram Man."
"Well, she can be the annoying one, then."
"Yeah, him."
"Mate, we're too busy right now."
"Sigh." *wanders off*
"Er, what?"
"I might stick this Spiderman sticker up my bum."
"Very funny."
"Right up it."
"We probably wouldn't."
"For sticker removal?"
"Yep.  And he'd say 'how did that sticker get there?' and I'd say 'because nobody wanted to play He-Man with me and I was sad', and then he'd tell you off."
"Very creative."
"So, think on."
Mate, I am not playing He-Man at the moment."
"I'm removing my trousers......."

Yeah.  Swings and roundabouts.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Adulthood, Wasps, Ants, Dogtanian and the Hole of Eternal Stench

Yesterday, I was at my 'day job'. I work at a preschool once or twice a week; mainly to keep my hand in education and to earn a few extra pennies, but also because the kids are hysterical and it makes me smile. So, there I was yesterday, giggling with the littlies and doing some top colouring in.  I don't like to boast, but quite honestly, I am a colouring in legend.  My colleague was finding my enthusiasm for my pirate picture to be amusing, so she took it upon herself to do this:

Oh, how we laughed.  But every time I saw it up on the wall, my eye was drawn to the number next to my name.  36.  Thirty bloody six.  I am Lisa and I am 36.  

I can remember my mum being 36.  She was a school secretary with 2.4 well presented children, a smart detached house, a dog and an entire wardrobe full of 'clippy cloppy shoes'.  I am a sweary writer with a ramshackle house, one eccentric 5 year old, two chickens whose one true ambition is to take over the world, and a pair dilapidated of flipflops.  I suck as a grown up.  36 is the sort of age that says "I have arrived as a sensible, mature adult", not "I'm just pretending", which is clearly what my husband and I are doing.

This is neatly summed up by this week's escapades:

Lets start in London, where I was last weekend for the Britmums Live conference:  What do you really want to hear at 9pm on a Friday half way through the month when you're starving, drunk and 3 hours from home, which you have to return to the next day, with very little petrol?  I'm betting that "Um, we've got 40 quid to last us the month" isn't it.  Yet that was what my husband told me.  Excellent.  Adult fail #1. 

I'm going to take a moment here to point out that I have had the Dogtanian theme tune stuck in my head for the entirety of last week.  This is another sign that I possibly haven't improved or matured at all since I was, like, 9.  I have handily provided it below so you can read the rest of the post with the soundtrack that has been in my brain during all of these activities.  You can thank me later:

On to fails #2, #3 and #4: We're back home now.  I've noticed for a couple of weeks that the odd wasp was getting into Rory's room even though all the windows were shut.  The same thing happened a couple of years ago, and it turned out to be down to an enormous wasps nest in the roof.  We didn't work this out until we came home one day to find the bedroom full of hundreds the little fuckers, buzzing angrily and displaying their arse daggers.  This time, I was on to them.  I phoned Richard at work to let him know that his wasp extermination expertise would be required, because, you know, that ended SO WELL last time.  It was about this point that I started to notice a vague eggy smell emanating from the kitchen...or the conservatory...or somewhere.  I took the executive decision to ignore it because I am completely crap at being a responsible adult.  

Firmly closing Rory's door to prevent an influx of flying minions of Satan in the house, I went downstairs congratulating myself on my excellent disaster prevention skills and went through to the kitchen to knock something up for tea out of 3 mouldy carrots and half an onion (no money, remember).  Hmmmm, how did that black patch of stuff get on the ceiling?  Oh, and there's some on the walls.  Wait, what's that moving on the cupboards?  Oh.  The ants are back.  ABANDON CARROTS, ABANDON CARROTS, ANT EMERGENCY.  At this stage, it became obvious that the ants (both normal and flying variety) were spewing out of the cracks between the cupboards like some sort of minibeast lava.  

"AWESOME! Are the ants back?"
"They are indeed. Now where's that insect spray?"
Now imagine an hour and a half of ant homicide with a can of Chemical Evil, a vacuum cleaner, the Dogtanian theme tune on repeat in my head (complete with key change) and a small child hopping excitedly from one foot to the other shouting "BRING ON THE KILLING."  Imagine the carcasses of ants dropping in my hair and down the back of my top.  Imagine the ceiling dripping with ant spray.  Now stretch your imagination to its very limits and imagine that this really isn't as bad as it sounds because - hurrah - it is detracting from the sulphurous stench of doom, which has suddenly reached a whole new level of wrong.

At this point, my friend Claire turned up at the door to drop off a bottle of fake Aldi Pimms, and I could have dry humped her, even though she's a proper grown up who has a tidy house and mint growing in her garden.  Imagine.  Anyway, what a star.

So, I returned to the kitchen to clean up the devastation and bleach everything with a Pimms in my hand.

Richard arrives home, having spent our last 20 quid on wasp busting equipment.  He pulls on his patented Wasp Killing Hoodie, goes up his ladder and does unspeakable things to wasps.  There is an angry buzzing noise and then blissful silence.  He comes downstairs, sweating.

"What's that repugnant smell?" he asks, before I've even had a chance to tell him about the ants.  He eyes my Pimms (second glass) suspiciously.  Obviously I now look like the sort of useless housewife who ignores a fetid stench all day long, doesn't bother making dinner and sits around eating bon bons and drinking.  I mean, obviously I am that kind of housewife, but I do my best not to look like it, plus I had slayed the ants, so I am a little crestfallen.

"I think it might be coming from the conservatory, under the floor," I venture.

At which point, Richard decides to start hacking into the floor and ripping it up.  On the up side, I was right.  On the down side, we now have a massive hole in the conservatory floor and the smell has reached toxic levels.  I do the only sensible thing that I could do at the time:

"Wait, tell me you're not instagramming our festering hole?" shrieks my exasperated husband.  Er, yes.  Yes I am.

He pulls up the drain cover and pokes half heartedly about with a stick.

"What are you doing daddy?" asks our son.
"Trying to see if anything's blocking the drain," replies Richard. "Or maybe something's died under the ground and is rotting and making the smell."
He gives up on the stick and pokes his arm down the drain and has a feel about.


I don't really know where to go from there.  The cause of the smell was never found.  I emptied a load of boiling hot water and bleach down the stink hole, and that seems to have worked, although I fully expect it to be a temporary solution.  We still have a floor-less hole in the conservatory.  I have solved the ant problem by sellotaping up all the cracks between the cupboards, which looks ace, I can tell you.  I fully expect Cox & Cox to start stocking a rustic kitchen accessory range to complement it, such is its charm.  As far as we know, the wasps are all dead.  And we had to chuck away the carrots because I forgot to put them in the fridge while I was ant killing, so they got covered in chemical warfare.  We had toast and Marmite for tea that night.  Dogtanian continues to play in my head.  This never happened to my mother when she was 36.  This never happens to anyone else I know who is 36.  Still, at least I'm really really good at colouring in.

Monday, 23 June 2014

A revolutionary tip to make your house look less crappy.

I know guys.  I know.  This is not the sort of post you've come to expect from me.  But don't stop reading; it's all going to be OK.  I have simply discovered a superb home makeover tip that is completely free, doesn't involve much effort and has made my living room look remarkably less shit.  That's right: remarkably.  Now what sort of terrible person would I be if I didn't share it with the masses? (That's you lot by the way - I've just turned you into 'the masses'. It sounded better than 'the three people who read my blog').

Now, my living room always looks particularly messy.  That could be something to do with the fact that it is particularly messy most of the time.  Yours might look particularly messy too. (PLEASE say it does).  But there is a way to make it look less messy with a swift bit of organisation and not much actual tidying.  For this, you will need a book shelf.  If you don't have a big shelf full of books, you may be able to apply this to a DVD shelf or similar, but really, what are you thinking not having books in your house?  Books are one of the greatest pleasures there are.  All three of us are book obsessed in this household.  Get some books.  Read them.

Our main bookshelf is crammed three books deep on some of the shelves.  Before the makeover, it looked something like this:

Kind of untidy and chaotic.

Now it looks like this:

Loads better, right?

And all I did was remove all the books and put them back on the shelves in a variety of piles and rows until I was happy with the way they looked.  You need to choose a few with pleasingly designed covers to face the front, and you might want to add a couple of trinkets to give the shelf some more interest, but really, that's all there is to it:  A tiny change with huge impact.  Now even when the rest of the room looks like a heap of of the brown stuff, the bookshelf looks perfect and your eye is drawn to it, away from the mess.  It kind of acts like a well made bed in an otherwise messy bedroom.

Give it a try and show me your Before and After pics - I want to see if it makes such a difference to everyone else's rooms.

Incidentally, do you like my hessian dragonfly cushion?

 I made it a few weeks ago and it was the easiest make ever.  If anyone's interested, I'll stick a tutorial for it on at some point. But never fear - I'm not going to turn into a craft/home style blogger.  It's still business as usual here in Disgrace HQ: yesterday I returned from being away for the weekend at a conference.  Within hours of my return, my son was sobbing because he missed the babysitter and one of the chickens climbed on my head and crapped on me.  So.  Yeah.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

I'm Going to Britmums Live

So I thought I'd better join in with this linky thing on the off-chance that maybe one person will see it and know who I am.  Because oh my goodness, it's daunting.

Blog: How to be a Domestic Disgrace.  You know, the one with all the swearing and the gin?  With the fly on the cupcake?  And Dave the OCD Knobhead?  No?  Oh well.
Twitter ID: @LisaJarmin
Height: 5ft 4
Hair: Dark brown, mid length, usually looks like hairstyle of someone who's just been groped in a bush.  (Inaccurate as I have a child. It's been many a year since I was last groped in some shrubbery).
Eyes: Green.
Is this your first blogging conference?  Yes. Oh God, the terror.  
Are you attending both days?  I am.
What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2014?  Um, so I hear Lindemans is a sponsor...
What are you wearing? An interesting and colourful array of bruises, having fallen over yesterday afternoon and really really hurt myself.  I am black and blue, and I had to be looked after by the teachers at my son's school as I nearly passed out when I went to collect him because of the pain.  Oh, the humiliation.  
What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2014? Again, I hear Lindemans is a sponsor...
Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before? No, because I haven't been before either.  Eek.  And now I'm terrified all over again.