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.