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 just...it'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 bit...show 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.




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