Sunday, 31 May 2009

a weekend in pictures...

Sometimes pictures say more than words. Here's a run up of the highlights of this weekend:

Cubling hanging out with pal M. (and their relevant mummies) at the Tramway Hidden Gardens (with plant sale)

My two beauties - Californian Lilac/Skylark and Cubling. Don't they go just perfect together ;)?

Toddler with a mission (and two watering cans)

Filling the paddling pool for the first time ever. Cubling's comment: Cold!

Cubling and her pal N. watering the raised beds.

Cubling squeaking with delight while trying to catch K.'s tail.

After the BBQ with friends and our 3 children, darkness falls and the BBQ doubles as an open fire to keep us warm and cosy into the night


Swinging high at Largs front

Fetching stones out of the bird bath at Granny and Grandpa's

Peeking out from the pond at Granny and Grampa's. One frog and so many tadpoles?

Friday, 29 May 2009

Awards and tagging time!

Can you see the blush on my cheeks? You may think it's caused by today's rather unusual dose of sunshine but no, I've been given three awards in just two days which is just lovely and nice. Thank you so much Emily at Maternal Tales from the South Coast and Midwife Muse for the Lovely Blog Award, and Amy at And 1 More Means Four for the Lemonade Award! A blush on my face is good news, making a nice difference to my recent palish-grey complexion, so I'm doubly pleased!

The Lemonade Award is about gratitude and needs to be passed on to 10 further blogs. Well, I'm very grateful to the above mentioned for thinking of me when giving me an award, to all my subscribers, to all my followers and those regular or irregular readers who haven't subscribed. I'm grateful to anyone who leaves a comment, or sends me an email or picks up the phone after reading a blog post. I'm grateful to the British Mummy Bloggers network for introducing me to so many fabulous blogs. So if you fall into any of these categories, and haven't received the award yet, please do consider yourself awarded!

I received the Lovely Blog award twice and should pass it on to 5 other blogs each. As the award has been making it around the blogosphere a lot I don't think I can physically find 10 blogs who haven't got it yet, so I'll nominate just a few that haven't received it yet.

It also comes with listing 5 current obsessions and 5 pet hates.

Current obsessions:
  • Google reader. I love having most of my favourite blogs accumulated there and being able to see new posts in one place. I haven't quite figured out though why some blogs, when I try to subscribe, don't let me do this.
  • Email. I'm an email junkie.
  • Switching off appliances at the socket where possible to save energy, cost and reduce risk of fire.
  • Finishing the knitted blanket for my new nephew/niece before s/he is born.
  • Skylark/Californian Lilac/Ceanothus thyrsiflorus. I adore the blossoms, can't go past one without stopping in awe.
Current pet hates:
  • Cars parked on pavements without leaving enough space for buggy or wheelchair to get past, so that both have to go out on the road to get past the car, drivers who don't indicate (I'm cheating a bit putting two into one...)
  • Getting a drip needle put into my right hand, just in case. Why oh why do they always have to pick the right hand? And why, if it only takes a minute to put these monsters in, do they do it "just in case"? I'm not exactly going to enter a one minute life or death situation am I? Just look at the state of my hand now, and all for sweet nothing.
  • Texting. I simply do not have the patience for it. Why does anyone text actually, if picking up the phone is sooo much quicker?
  • Sales phone calls at 6pm when I'm rushing to make dinner.
  • Vacuum cleaners that won't pick up fluff or my hair.
And I nominate:
Flavaknits for all that lovely sock knitting and all her great idea for my charity knitting book.

South Side Happenings
for keeping me up to date with all that's going on around me and finding those little gems in the south of Glasgow that I'd love to discover myself (actually, it's a blog I'd always thought about writing but never got around to, so it's fab it exists!).

South Side Yarns to celebrate the big 40 (and yes, J, we'll be garden partying with you), and for the beautiful flowers.

Daddacool for some seriously funny daddy blogging. (I think you've not been awarded this yet?)

And Craftivism rather fittingly for a post on the word "lovely".

I'm rather chuffed I got at least 5 links out of this. Phew.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Sometimes it's amazing how time flies. Here I am presented with a whole week off work and child cared for by the childminder, what an opportunity to catch up on a hundred things. If only. One day spent with contractions, one day spent in hospital, one day spent trying to stand without collapsing back into the horizontal (I'm exaggerating), and on Thursday I'm still wobbly on my feet. If I move to much, I see beautiful stars in front of my eyes, which is rather enjoyable as long as I make sure I'm nowhere near a flight of stairs.

I think this is called taking it easy. You try one thing and see how it goes, feel exhausted, yet hungry for something else. So while I decided that exciting items on my "what could I do on an unexpected day off work without having to race after Cubling"-list such as clothes shopping (and I do need clothes, having gone up 2 dress sizes now since before I got pregnant with Cubling, and worse, one dress size after having lost all my babyflabber, ouch) may have to wait because they involve too much moving, bending over etc which the stars don't like so much.

How about clearing out the wardrobe if I can't go shopping? Away with those size 10 clothes that I'll never fit in again, let's be realistic. One nicely packed bag for the charity shop. Feels good. I feel exhausted. This was harder than expected.

How about sewing? Good idea. You can sit while doing it. So I made these bags from colourful fleece material, ideal for storing away small toys that have a loose connection with one another. Our general wicker basket storing system seems to have limitation, toys that belong together are separated (boohoo I hear them cry at nighttime ever so silently) and smaller items get forever lost at the bottom of the baskets. I got the fabric from a seller on ebay, lovely stuff, and you can get baby blankets, cloth nappy boosters and wipes in the same designs. Or simply buy the fabric and make all of this and more yourself. So here's the finger puppets before and after:

Next, have lunch out with hubby. Nice. You can sit for that too.

Afternoon: raised beds are arriving, so how about some digging and preparing the ground for at least one to be put into place upon arrival. Right, this is stretching things a bit, but it's good to test the limits. So far so good. Can't wait to see Cubling's face when she'll surely climb into them. Lots of gardening waiting to get done, if I'm lucky, Cubling might help me with it. Tomato plants from a colleague who lives on a farm, the catch from a trip to the shopping centre, and oh so many plans for more.

Evening: Knitting while watching yesterday's episode of the Apprentice (which I missed when speaking to a friend to find out all the gory details of D&C's gone wrong. Did I already mention I must be going bonkers?. Why didn't I phone the friend who had a honky dory D&C? Nevermind, it was very good to chat). What's on my needles? Lots of squares, for a cosy baby blanket which will keep Cubling's new cousin warm in the winter. The race is on, 17 squares and 11 weeks to go. In between, baby hats for my pregnant and popping mummy friends, we're kind of all on round 2 now, and the third baby of this round was due last Sunday. There's already bets on whether baby is waiting until after our usual Friday afternoon get together or not.

Early bedtime. Cubling has a phase of sleeping through and in. There's a realistic chance of getting three 8 hour sleep nights in a row. I don't feel reluctant to share this biggest of mummy joys at the danger of receiving jealous mummy wraths at all, because I had to wait a long long time for those sleep through nights.

It was a really lovely day.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Today I would have been 12 weeks pregnant.

Today I would have told my work mates and a lot of other people that I was pregnant.

Today I would have gone to a double hen night in Edinburgh and told my colleagues there why I wasn't drinking the cocktails that we were getting shown how to mix, and how gutted I was not to be able to drink them.

Today I feel the loss stronger than before, but maybe today is the day I can finally say goodbye to this pregnancy. Well, almost, apart from a dreaded scan on Tuesday. I don't think I'll ever forget my due date though. 9th December 09.

Today I'm also looking forward to and preparing for long awaited raised beds coming my way, to become home to my suburban vegetable patch. I'm looking forward to some long awaited sewing and finishing the cardigan I knitted for my winter baby. It will be a lovely present for a winter baby that has passed the 12 week mark two or three weeks ago and is alive and kicking.

Today I enjoyed holding and chatting to a six week old baby and giggled when he possetted on my shoulder. I'm still wearing the top!

Today I was given a lovely award by one of my favourite blogs, Maternal Tales from the South Coast (maybe it was yesterday, but I'm a bit slow catching up), and the amazing Amy of And 1 More Means Four. I'll do my linking duties in another post really soon (not trying to put it off too long Emily!)

Today I promise there'll be more cheerful posts ahead!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Please don't read if you're squeamish

One of the things that's taken up my time is trailing the miscarriage forums in an attempt to find answers of what to expect during a miscarriage - mainly because while I know lots of people who've miscarried, only little information is shared and I was very anxious of what's in store. I'm the kind of person who needs to know to minute detail, to be able to relax a little bit. So I'm posting this for anyone who wishes to know, sparing any gross details!

The answer to my question is of course that there are no hard rules. It's different for each miscarriage. And so is the emotional response. I was doing absolutely fine, only had a few moments of upset when I first felt and knew that things weren't right. After that, I was just fine.

Until I actually miscarried last night. The labour like pain led up to it, it was so bad I had to shout for hubby (whatever he was meant to do, not sure, but I needed someone there with me who I could scream at). Hours of contraction/cramps (literally they were as strong as those I had half way through labour with Cubling) led to two massive contractions at about 8pm with which the gates (cervix?) opened.

I couldn't stop thinking that maybe we shouldn't have watched "There Will Be Blood" the previous night.

I'll spare you the details, suffice to say that I got worried about my blood loss and looked for the little card I'd been given by the Early Pregnancy Assessment Service. It said something about "if you get intense pain or your bleeding increases, contact us". Hm, maybe I should. Actually, maybe I should have contacted them much earlier?

That done, they called me in right away and I spent last night in hospital being monitored, after the worst examination I've ever experienced. Not nice. I'm pleased to say that I seem to cope with the blood loss well physically, but the feeling of passing my baby and the physical side of pain and bleeding seem to have had an emotional affect on me.

I didn't sleep much in hospital, too scared of what might happen. Next morning, a scan to see if I had fully miscarried. I hadn't . There's a blob left which is a tad bigger than it should be for classifying my miscarriage as complete. It made me feel rather angry. You almost did it, blood, pain and tears, but not quite. Nanana nana na.

I was then given the option of having an ERPC (evacuation of retained products of conception, also known as D & C, dilation and curettage) there and then or wait for a week and if the blob was still there, get it done then. Got a run down of risks and what ifs and decided I wanted food and to go home for now. Got breakfast and lunch within an hour of one another (they'd made me fast in case I had to have the ERPC there and then, as it involves a general anethesia), hurray, which made me feel a bit more human again.

Hospital staff were great, really supportive and had lots of time to answer all my questions. I'm worried about the 10% risk of a repeat of last night's experience when the remaining "product of conception" is miscarried. However, the nurse set my mind at peace a little bit by saying that in most likelihood I'd be fine and didn't need an ERPC. Of course there are risks with an ERPC as well, so I think I've made the right decision for now.

There Will Be Hope, Daniel.

PS: This fortnight's British Mummy Bloggers Carnival is on over at I promise that I will do my best. Have a look for a great selection of very different bloggers and their posts.

Monday, 25 May 2009

How I'm feeling now:

  • angry because of the physical pain that goes with miscarrying. It's as painful as early labour just that there's no baby to look forward to
  • exhausted, concentrating on coping with the pain takes a lot of effort
  • tired because I was up with cramps/contractions until 4am, joined by two toddlers who were also awake for some reason, and their relevant parent trying to settle them again (unsuccessfully)
  • accepting, I'm not filled with grief or constant sadness, just occasional wells of emotion
  • fearful of not being able to miscarry naturally. I feel highly uncomfortable with medical interventions and I'm truly scared of the prospect of an operation and general anaesthetic
  • upset when I read other women's stories of recurrent pregnancy loss or miscarriage in their first pregnancy, knowing that it's so much harder for them than for me and my heart really goes out to them
  • reluctant to continue taking folic acid as if the one thing I can do to rebel against this happening is refusing to swallow that pill
  • hopeful that at least the pain may mean that I am fully miscarrying naturally
Did I just say that pain makes me hopeful? I must have gone bonkers.

Thanks for all the good wishes, I'm doing reasonably ok, we're going through loss much bigger than this so at this point in my life, although I'm sad and all of the above, it doesn't throw me off my rails. I do wish for that pain to stop though, thank you very much.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

My feelings when I thought I was pregnant

I had written up some of my feelings of the first 11 weeks of my pregnancy with the intention of posting them when I'd reached the 12 week mark. I don't want to delete them, because for 7 weeks I thought I was pregnant with the sibling Cubling is so keen to have. I'm posting this because the least this little 6 week old blob with no heartbeat which was so desired and welcome into our hearts deserves is some record of existence. This was written at 9 weeks. As will be apparent, I thought a lot about miscarriage, that is due to my family history but also having so many friends who have miscarried, not because I'm paranoid. The post doesn't have an end, because I never got to finish it. I decided to leave it so.

When I was pregnant with Cubling, the first time I got asked the question "Are you pregnant?" I had a proud week count of 20. I did feel that maybe people were cautious. This time around, the first person noticed when I was just 8 weeks. I was flabbergasted, but my trouser buttons told the whole story really. This time around, apart from an expanding waistline even before a positive test, I've not suffered as much from morning sickness. That's a good thing surely, just that with 2 false negative tests, and no other symptoms I was desperate for some indication that I was indeed pregnant and didn't just maybe have a false positive in the third test.

On the same day that the question was posed, I felt rotten with sickness, for the first time it lingered for a full day. Other than that, nothing.

Last time around, I found out I was pregnant when in Germany and before our honeymoon. This delayed the GP booking apointment to week 8 and as a result my 12 week dating scan was scheduled for week 17. As this is the only scan that you get if you live in Glasgow, I was determined that this time around I'd go to the GP as early as possible, to actually get a proper 12 week dating scan.

But somehow I managed to find out that I was pregnant while in Germany again, which resulted in a 2 week delay in seeing the GP. Week 7 it was to be. The booking appointment was rather odd. My normal GP was not there and she was covered by a seemingly retired GP who had seen me before at Christmas but at neither appointment introduced himself by name. He was clearly thrown off his rails when I told him I was pregnant. He didn't quite know what to do, looked at computer, papers on desks as if the answer was to be found there. He asked me (!) if he would need to confirm my pregnancy but discarded the idea (maybe because he didn't have a pregnancy test at hand?). My inability to remember the date of my last period didn't help. He ended up saying he'd refer me to the hospital and that I should make an appointment with the midwife. When I tried the latter I was informed that I can't do that but would have to wait for the first appointment at the hospital. This worries me a bit, last time having the first appointment there meant that I was no longer looked after by the the community midwife clinic but by hospital and GP. I had really hoped for this to be different this time around. GP informed me that the 12 week scan would be around week 13 - 15. I didn't comment, but to be honest, I would like to wait to tell the world about my pregnancy until after the scan, but if I keep expanding at the current rate, my colleagues and boss will surely spot my secret well before then.

The appointment then became a set of rather strange questions that I felt should be asked by a midwife rather than someone not involved in my antenatal care, but nevermind, quite happy to chat about previous pregnancy and birth story. He booked me straight into the Southern General HOspital, homebirth wasn't mentioned. I chose to ignore this, to be honest, at the moment I don't see it as an option, but would have liked to have heard it mentioned.

We told closest family at 5 and 7 weeks. I'm not as desperate to tell anyone else this time around and gladly also much less worried. I remember that the first 12 weeks went so slowly and with constant fear of miscarriage. Somehow I'd assumed just that because my mum had miscarried a few times that I would too, as if it was genetic. This time I don't feel pregnant, I don't think about it all the time and I feel that should I miscarry, there will have been a reason, but that in most likelihood I won't.

Another difference to my first pregnancy is that this time, I don't feel any more tired than normal. I'm unspeakably glad about that. Having said that, I also can't sleep so well, and keep waking up at ungodly hours lying awake in bed. This is quite unlike me and rather unpleasant. Two nights in a row, I only managed to sleep after midnight, to be woken at 2am by Cubling followed by getting her back to sleep, a few kicks in my belly from her lying beside me, only for me to wake again at 6am and not being able to get back to sleep. Two nights of this and I'm knackered. But in spite of this, sleep doesn't come easy.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

11 weeks

First of all, a preliminary note. I'm posting this rather personal entry because it affects mainly me. I know that friends of mine may read this who did or didn't know I was pregnant. While I would prefer to tell everyone in person, this is difficult just now, sorry.

20th May 2009: I'm 11 weeks pregnant. Exactly. One week to go before I can officially relax and tell everyone the good news. When out of the blue, there's blood. Not a lot, but fresh. Strangely, during this pregnancy, I was more relaxed about miscarriages, I didn't worry too much. With one difference: considering the lack of pregnancy symptoms (especially in comparison to my first pregnancy) I never quite felt pregnant. Add to that the knowledge of a thing called missed miscarriage (where baby dies but is not miscarried for a while or not at all) which I didn't have last time around, this was indeed on my mind.

I didn't expect blood.

Of course my Beloved was not at home when it happened. He doesn't go out much, so it was really sod's law. NHS 24 reassured me that at least I wasn't miscarrying just this moment and it could wait until the next morning, that I needed a GP referral to early pregnancy unit as I hadn't had my booking in appointment yet (which is in week 15 of my pregnancy, how about that) and should phone them as soon as their practice opened. So I did. GP gave me the number of the unit, no referral necessary after all. Just that the next appointment was still 27 hours away. Another day and night of worry ahead of me. In a way, that's fine, I know that there's nothing they can do should I miscarry. Of course it would be nicer to have reassurance or certainty earlier, but to be honest, does it matter? I even considered not to phone at all, if it's just for my peace of mind or certainty, it's surely not a medical necessity to be seen by someone.

The internet is a great and terrible thing. I posted on a forum in search of reassurance and got it. Good. Next I researched miscarriage symptoms and was informed that 50% of women who have fresh bleeding in the first trimester will miscarry.

My baby has a 50-50% chance. That is bad. I've lost people on much better odds.

All I can do is wait until tomorrow and try and stay calm and not so guilty about my brisk walk yesterday which I somehow fear is to blame. Or maybe it was Cubling, kissing baby in mummy's tummy goodnight and wanting it out to play with. Maybe baby took the request just a tad too serious.

22nd May. Appointment date. I had more bleeding last night, it stopped overnight though. I was devastated last night, hopeful again this morning. And very reluctant to drive to the hospital. My thoughts were that if I was to get bad news, I'd rather not have them, that I'd rather have uncertainty than bad news.

The appointment went something like this: chat to determine my details and symptoms, nurse/midwife/doctor agreed that it was looking good and that the scan would probably have a good outcome. Next was the scan. Sonographer said something about my bladder being too full, my womb towards the back and not being able to see a baby. Was I sure of my dates? Oh yes. I'm very sure of my dates. At that time I knew something was wrong. They had to perform an internal scan and there it was, a 6 week old embryo with no heartbeat. I looked. I didn't see much, thankfully, just a shade . The staff were very good and professional, handing me tissues and giving me and hubby a private room, above all, giving time before doing any talking. Amidst the frustration and sadness, I have to admit I was incredibly glad that I was not to miscarry an 11 week old foetus, and that none of my actions last week could have caused my baby to die, in spite of the frustration of having thought for so many weeks I was pregnant when the embryo had died even before I told my family about it. I also feel scared of what's to come, and my hope for a second child has dwindled a little bit.

Hubby and I came home to sister in law and two toddlers who gave me massive hugs. I'm so very lucky to have Cubling, and whatever the future has in store, we are so blessed with this amazing little girl who doesn't stop smiling, giggling, laughing and shrieking.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Tiger, where?

Sometimes, a loud "doh!" is the call of the day. Why on earth did I buy a lovely digital camera, when I leave it at home for a full weekend, and we then decide spontaneously to check out what Blair Drummond Safari Park is all about. Doh indeed, because there's nothing that Cubling gets more excited about than vvvewhs! (elephants), giraffes and tigers. As soon as we told her that we'd go to see elephants, she made sure that giraffes, tigers, lions, zebras, monkeys and hippos were also in the equation, stormed to the door to try and put on her shoes and coat, all raring to go.

What can I say other than we had a fabulous day.

The sun was out, we arrived at 10.30am and left at 4.30pm and didn't get to see it all. It's truly a full day out with so much on offer that guarantees a fun day for the whole family. Some of the features of Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park are:
  • A "pet farm": Take that in the widest possible sense because I don't know many people who have llamas or wallabies for pets. There's a wide area with farm animals and some exotic animals where you can walk about and have fun feeding. Cubling loves feeding animals. She strode from one to the next, with a clear mission to make sure every animal would get a bit of food, telling each one of them "all done" and "bye bye" when she was finished. This was usually followed by an all body questioning of "Tiger, where?"

  • An area with exotic animals to look at: On the way to the pet farm, we were already able to admire penguins, meercats, otters and other animals in beautifully arranged habitats. Above all, the enclosures included a glass element of toddler height so that for once, the trip was easy on my back and no lifting was required. And Cubling loved being able to look as long or as short as she liked, taking control of her own experience

  • A sea lion show: well, we saw the sea lions but gave the show a miss this time

  • Exotic animals: giraffe's, zebras, elephants and rhinos are only a walk away and come really rather close to check out those humans. Cubling, in spite of calling for giraffes and elephants, ended up adoring the rhino (whom she consistently called hippo. I don't blame her, it's probably to do with my own confusion of the two words in English, the German terms being much less confusing - and she does get it right in German).

  • A proper safari drive: This is where you drive through an open area with mostly African animals. You can get close to lions, antelopes (interestingly kept in separate enclosures), tigers, camels and much more. The best thing is that you can go through as often as you like.

  • Boat trips: you can either get on a pedalo or on a boat trip to monkey island, where three chimpanzee try to hit the humans with stones. Helpfully the boat passengers are protected by mesh. This was Cubling's first boat trip and she nearly jumped into it.

  • A walk onto lemur land: This is where you can get really close to lemurs. Or rather, where you spend lots of time spotting lemurs on the trees, only to find about 6 of them staring your right into your face, right in front of you. Spooky.

  • Adventure Play Grounds: Lots of climbing on three different big features, aimed at different ages, and surrounded by a massive sand pit, swings and other swing park favourites. A lovely break/addition to all that animal spotting.

  • Fair ground rides: These cost extra and we didn't use them, but they looked lovely and definitely attracted Cubling's attention: "Funnies!"

  • Picnic and barbequeing areas: If you're more organised than us, you can bring your own food and have a proper picnic/BBQ out. If you're not:

  • Restaurants and snack bars will help you out though some of the snack bars offer potentially the worst of Scottish food there is. Luckily we had brought lunch for Cubling so that we only had to feed us with rubbish. Later we discovered restaurants with a much better fare.

  • Shops: Lots of toys and memorabilia for your little ones or the little one in you. They even sold disposable cameras, whoehey!

  • Mascots walking about: Bearman and Linenman as Cubling called them from afar, when getting close to under 10 meters to them, she didn't call them anything, just started to cry in horror at those people in bear/lion costumes.
Oh and there's more that we didn't venture to check out on this visit.

When we paid the entry, we initially thought that it was a bit pricey. However, I never thought we'd have a full day out and such fun. Cubling ran and ran and ran from one attraction to the next. She didn't whinge once (apart from when we said bye bye tiger) which is probably a first, a in a full day without whinging. The Park is set up in such a way that it's absolutely safe for toddlers and they can just run about the way they like. One day without having to shout "careful!", "hold my hand!", "stop!" etc every couple of minutes. On top of that, all attractions are designed with little ones in mind. It makes such a difference when that happens.

One last tip - if you're a bit stingy and don't want to pay for the guidebook, think again. It really helps, at least for your first visit, to have an overview of what's on offer. You'll probably find everything without the book, but you may miss some walking routes or just spend more time wondering how this all works, rather than just enjoying it.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

This is pure appalling

I've blogged a lot about the wrongness of detaining children who have not committed any crime in the UK, without trial or being told how long they will be detained for. This happens in the UK. Yes, you've heard right. Would you like your child to be detained like this? It happens to children whose parents have claimed asylum, fleeing from war, persecution and atrocities in their home countries. The last these children need is being locked up.

Until about a year ago, the process for such detentions was that families were dawn raided and taken from their homes to the nearest detention centre (Dungavel in Scotland, often to be moved on to Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire a few days later because Dungavel, thanks to public outcry at the detention of children, has a policy not to have children stay for more than 72 hours, so instead of releasing them, they get shipped to England now, where they may be detained for as long as the powers to be decide, one case, a single mum with 4 children under 6 who I knew well, was detained for 42 days before being deported). We Weegies didn't like it. There were protests, angry protests, vigils and neighbours hiding those fearing a dawn raid. So they decided about a year ago only to detain families while they sign on at the Home Office Immigration Centre. Which is only a tad better than being subjected to a dawn raid. In practice, this meant that families couldn't pack their bags, were sent to the detention centre with the mere clothes they were wearing.

Meanwhile, an alternative to detention is about to be trialled in Glasgow. This has been called for for a long long time, and finally it's about to start. It involves moving families who have come to the end of their asylum claim to a flat from where they will be removed from the country.

Then, out of the blue, last week saw a return to a dawn raid on a family in Glasgow. Fatou Gaye and her 4 year old, who were detained before, were dawn raided and sent to Dungavel. This is shocking news and utterly unnecessary for a number of reasons, the main one being that she was NOT YET AT THE END OF HER ASYLUM CLAIM. You see, it costs a lot of money to dawn raid and detain someone, and the Home Office can't legally deport her because her rights to claim asylum have not yet been exhausted. It's taxpayers money wasted (give or take 10-20K, talk about MP expenses scandal, that's peanuts compared to the cost of detention). The Unity Centre Glasgow issued the information below, which goes into much needed detail. It makes me sick that this can still happen, after all the effort put into trying to put children's interest first and constructively looking at alternatives to detention of children:

"Even more information is coming out about how Fatou Gaye was detained BEFORE she was given any opportunity to voluntarily return to her country. More questions have to be asked about why Fatou was detained.

Red Sticker or Green Sticker
As many poeple working with asylum seekers in Glasgow will know, the Home Office several months ago introduced a system of putting Red or Green stickers on people's IS96 forms.

These forms, often called "signing letters", are the official documents granting people temporary admission to the UK while their asylum case is considered and warning that they could be detained. The letter also identifies the conditions the person must conform to whilst in the UK, namely, where they must live and when and how often they should report.

When people have been to report over the last few months the Home Ofifce have created consternation by putting little Red or Green stickers on this form. When asked about this, the Home Office have explained that the stickers signify whether someone's case is "Appeal Rights Exhausted" or not ie whether the person has finished apealing their case through the Asylum & Immigration Tribunal. (Usually people can appeal their case twice through the AIT .)

Even if people are Appeal Rights Exhausted however it doesn't mean that their case is completely closed as often people can submit a second, fresh case; alternatively they can apply to the High Court / Court of Session for a Judicial Review; they could have won a reconsideration of their case in the High Court or they may have applied to the Europena Court of Human RIghts in Strasbourg or even the House of Lords. The UKBA, however, would like people to think that their case is closed and finished completely if they become Appeal Rights Exhausted, but they're not.

Fatou had Green sticker
But anyway none of that is relevant because in Fatou Gaye's case, the UKBA officials processing her signing on Tuesday put a GREEN sticker on her IS96 form signifying that on Tuesday, the last time Fatou had any contact with the Home Office before they broke down her door and dragged her and her traumatised son from his bed, the UKBA, explicitly, told Fatou her case WAS STILL GOING and NOT finished.

They are lying when they say they gave Fatou opportunities to return voluntarily, they are lying when they tried to imply that she refused REPEATEDLY not to return. How could she refuse when she didn't even know her case had finished?

Why did they detain Fatou?
More evidence is coming forward that Fatou's detention only weeks (days?) before the Alternatives to Detention project started in Glasgow may have something to do with her collecting evidence to set a precedent showing her son had been traumatised by his experience of detention in the UK. When the Home Office contacted the Glasgow office of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture to see what evidence of his PTSD there was, they were told explicitly that the person they were talking to could not give a medical diagnosis becuase they were not medically qualified to do so, they were also told that such medical evidence would be assessed at Arouna's appointment on 3rd June.

Why didn't the Home Office wait until that assessment was made? Why risk seriously damaging the health of this little boy by detaining him in such a distressing way? Setting such a precedent that showed that her son had been traumatised by his treatment by the Home Office would possibly not just opened the Home Office up to damages for his treatment but possibly every child who has been detained and that such detention, if shown to be damaging, would mean detention of children in the UK would be against the European Convention of Human Rights. "

If you're as outraged as I am, consider writing a letter to the Home Office or Fiona Hyslop. Details can be found here.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

it's been rather sunny...

We're not so used to all of this sun that blessed us recently. After all, we set base in Glasgow, where it rains a lot, and the rest of the time it's overcast at the best of time. On the occasional sunny day, our little south facing conservatory heats up quickly. Usually though, it's a one off hot day and we're happy to come home to a bit of a tropical heatwave when we open the door.

Admittedly, last year (our first summer in our new abode, our first summer with a south facing conservatory), the plants suffered occasionally and still bear the signs of overheating. Nevermind, makes them look a bit more interesting.

Last week though, the sun shone all day for 3 or 4 consecutive days, and Cubling had left about the same number of crayons on the lovely white table which you can admire as a finger painting surface in the header image. Each day, those crayons melted a little bit more, making interesting patterns, until they started finding their way to the floor.

At which point we decided that in spite of the pattern being quite beautiful, it was time to do something about melting crayons. Just that it was too late. They refused to come off the table.

So daddy sprung into action to rescue our priceless Ikea table (I think they retail for about #7, and can someone explain to me why my laptop does not have a pound sign???). His fabulous idea was to take it out onto our garden path slabs and pour boiling water over it. The result is this:

I spare you the images of our garden path slabs.

Not sure what the lesson learned would be. Don't leave crayons in south facing conservatory if sun is forcast? Don't let daddy try and fix molten crayons on a table? Don't pour boiling water onto molten crayons, especially not on garden path slabs? Don't have crayons in the house in summer?

The lesson I'm still looking for is how to actually get rid of the now rather ugly wax on the table. I'm very tempted to just bin it and get a new one. But it does go against my attempt at not throwing stuff away if still in perfect working order. Or should we embrace our ugly, yet rather special Ikea Lack table?

Cubling's comment: "Messy!"

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

what's this?

Here's a little riddle for my dear readers. I have a feeling that the answer is easier to find for the mummies and daddies amongst you. So, the big question is, what is this? And how did this piece of art come about? Answers in the comment box below please.
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Days out: Tollcross Park

One of the most amazing things is that Cubling is now really taking part in life. It happened sometime before her second birthday, this realisation that she now is a very definite person who understands, who has preferences, who can wrap mummy and daddy around her little finger. She can talk, she remembers, she communicates her interests.

So anything we now do is so much more rewarding. She really engages, enjoys and shows us her take on things. Perfect time to start a little series of places to go which are great fun with a toddler. This is the first in hopefully a decent sized series of recommendations for toddler friendly activities. Most will be around about Glasgow, but let's see how far we'll venture in the next few months.

My first installment has to be Tollcross Park, not just because we've been very recently but also because it's becoming my favourite lunchtime hangout (apart from those days where my legs are sore from unaccustomed exercise and I opt for a blog post about selfsame park instead). Located in the heart of Glasgow's East End, it's nothing short of a gem. It's not massive, but big enough to get away from the hustle and noise of the city, it is hilly enough to make even a short job a real workout, and the size is ideal for those 40 minute brisk walks that I've set my mind on to make up for my new car commute to work.

All of that aside, it's fabulous for a day out with children. One of its main attractions is the children's zoo, with all the farm animals you can wish for, a rather tame peacock pair, goslings and even eggs that mrs hen has just laid. Complete with a fun ranger's centre (as in people who work outdoors, not the football team, we're definitely in Celtic land when in Tollcross), it's good for hours of fun. The centre even has drawing activities apart from all the interesting stuff about nature.

The nearby glasshouse can be reached by walking past paddocks of sheep, llamas and highland coos, as well as a beautiful glen walk along a little waterway, with picknick tables and rosegardens next to it. Even if you've forgotten to take your picknick, do not fret, because food is available both at the glasshouse and the also nearby Tollcross leisure centre. While the leisure centre beats the glasshouse for food range and value for money, the glasshouse in itself is an attraction with its tropical plants and above all, a small softplay area.

After all that activity toddler may want to nap in buggy while mummy and daddy go for an extended walk through the lovely park.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Child unfriendly budgets and the tribulations of childcare

I've been trying to get my head around a hook for this post for a wee while. This is because there are a couple of issues, vaguely related but still not necessarily connected. Until you think of it from the perspective of a child friendly society.

All my recent month's work campaigning for an investment into ending child poverty through this year's budget amounted to a waste of time. Well, not really. We ran workshops at schools and it was worthwhile in itself. The budget, however, was a shock to the system. Rather than investing 3 billion, the government invested 140,000 into tax credits, that's an additional £20 a year for each family, so not even targetted at the poorest families. How much did they give the banks again? Remind me. It is clear that real people who are poor are not on this governments agenda.

The tax credit system is beyond my ken anyway. I do not understand how exactly it works, or why, because my beloved is a student and although he has an income that looks like a wage, we are not considered a working family and do not qualify for working parents tax credit or the childcare element of it. We seem to have managed to find a loophole, where income isn't the decisive factor but status. And if a student, apparently you're meant to be able to look after your child full time and not require childcare.

Thankfully, my work runs a childcare voucher scheme and I can save a few pounds that way. And yet, while childcare costs are rocketing in Scotland (where income is lower yet child care cost higher than in London!), the upper limit for claiming a tax free allowance through child care vouchers hasn't risen.

Then there's the issue of actually finding childcare. As I had to return to work when Cubling was only 5 months, I opted for a childminder. It was a good decision. Now that Cubling is 2, I would have liked to have seen her go to nursery. We did a lot of research. One nursery had a place available but was too far away, making her day far too long and reducing time spent with her. Other nurseries didn't feel right, or were so pricey that I didn't see that the benefit outweight the additional cost. Above all, none of these nurseries would commit to a specific starting date.

The nursery economy in Glasgow is mixed and rather complicated. There is statutory provision for 3 and 4 year olds of 12.5 hours per week for 38 weeks a year. I.e. useless for working parents. Most nursery schools will only offer this entitlement as 5 morning or 5 afternoon sessions. Wrap around care (i.e. lunch) is rare. However, you can use a private partnership nursery and claim vouchers for these hours. These partnership nurseries are private but approved and adhere to the same standards as the statutory pre school education curriculum. However, staff are young, inexperienced and often on minimum wage. I've heard that often the kids are not taken outdoors, that they get biscuits as snacks and that there are strict rules on staff which indicate that there is a need for such rules. Also if you have two under 5's, you may not get a place for both at the same nursery (and you can just as well stay at home because there's no way your income will pay for anything but nursery fees).

And because of all of this, Glasgow City Council decided to close a whole bunch of nursery schools this year. The rationale being that the move is towards full day centres (good) and that underused nursery schools were to be merged. The issue is that there were no obvious additional places, so that on the whole, this closure programme was a cut rather than an increase in resources (which full day, bigger centres would make you believe). In some cases it made sense, in most, it didn't. The policy is to ensure affordable all day care from 2 year in buggy pushing distance. The reality? I can't get into an affordable nursery in buggy pushing distance, and my childminder is a 3.5 mile drive away.

I'm fortunate that Cubling is with a childminder who knows the system. While I would have preferred her to go to nursery from the age of 2, realistically, I think I'll get the best deal by keeping her in the current environment. She's on the waiting list for the local nursery school where she can start probably in April after she's turned 3. She will be attending for 5 mornings, 2.5-3 hours each, the childminder will take her there, pick her up and care for her the rest of the time. This way, Cubling will get quality nursery education, even if not the amount I would have hoped for. The childminder knew to put her on the waiting list the week after she turned 2 so it seems that I can reasonably rely on this arrangement to work out.

Secretely though, I still hope for a place in the local full day nursery which doubles as a feeder into Cubling's primary school. It would be so much nicer for her to go there and meet her peers who she will go to school with. It's an educational establishment that offers full day care, a mere 10 minutes walk away, in a new and shiny buidling. Cubling has been on the waiting list for well over a year. Somehow I've got a feeling that she may be on the waiting list well past her first school day.

Oh and today's mummy bloggers carnival is on Being a Mummy, check it out for the best in British Mummy blogging!

project update

Oh, I really need a proper name for my project. Especially now that it's taking shape. I'm still on a steep learning curve mind you.

Thanks to Ravelry, I've now got a number of knitting pattern designers who have offered to donate patterns. Originally, I had posted on the charity knitting forum which gave me ideas but also made me realise that there are very different knitters out there. People who knit for charity are doing this with simple and quick patterns, and aren't excited about a book with new patterns. They also tend to use cheap yarn and do squares for baby blankets or baby hat. This is all nice, but considering that my project involves 90 different patterns and should be sellable, they also gave me constructive criticism, as in what they would and wouldn't buy. For instance, Ravelry has so many free pattern that it's unlikely charity knitters would buy my book. Fair point. It made me think of my market and determined that I really need to keep production costs low in case I fail. I'm not sure it's going to be a massive success, but still think it could be.

Moving over to the Designer forum (apprehensive move, I'm not a designer) was a good step. I got some help from the moderator who introduced me to the concept of Calls for Submissions. Sounds familiar, I once was an academic. Now that I've followed the format, I've got a fair amount of contributions flocking in from designers and my spreadsheet of pattern donations is filling in. I also found out about the world of pattern publications - normally, there would be a theme. I have none, and not sure if that's good or bad. I guess, having a kid's theme or a simplicity theme sells, but as I aim to get 90 patterns, can I be fussy? I know I should be, but can't get myself to limit contributions by a self imposed theme. Then there's the issue of pictures. Of course, I need pictures of the implemented pattern, and I assumed that designers would supply them. Apparently there are lots of options how this works, and for the sake of my time and limited resources, I've gone for requesting patterns with photos, and no help with writing up patterns.

So far I've not gone down the route of asking designers for specific patterns. I'd love to do that, because it would mean that I can actually pick my favourite patterns. However, I'm aware that popular designers must get requests a lot, and not being so well connected with the knitting community, I'm not sure of etiquette. Nevermind the time effort - if I need to contact 3 designers to get one free pattern, that would make 270 emails sent out, each of them involves going through even more patterns/designers on Ravelry (lovely to do, but I do also have other things on my to do list!). That doesn't mean that I won't consider complementing my list with this approach.

So for now, roll on the patterns!

Saturday, 9 May 2009


So far, the terrible twos haven't been terrible really. In fact, Cubling is sweeter than ever and it's getting easier by the day to positively challenge her never ending energy. She's even occasionally been seen to focus her attention for some time on one task. We've been spared full flung tantrums so far, to my utter astonishment: As a so called spirited child, I was prepared for them. But fortunately, while Cubling is strong minded she's also open minded and easily enthused, which makes it easy to distract her and offer alternatives when we do have to say no.

Of course, she still won't hold my hand and will run off when in a china shop, on the road or some other dangerous location. And run off good and proper, so fast and agile that a serious mummy dash is needed. She still throws herself on the floor and giggles in an attempt to escape my iron grip, or hangs herself off the reigns if I opt to use them for a change. Still, now that she can speak, it gets rather simple to tell her not to whine but to tell us what she's after. It doesn't work all the time, and there's still a lot of whining, but it works better each day.

Or so we thought until a new concept entered her mind and vocabulary a couple of days ago. The magic word is self or selbst - as with anything really important to her, she's able to say it in both languages, handy that it's rather similar. Cubling wants to do things herself, thank you very much. She insists on putting on her shoes, her jacket, her nappy, her trousers etc herself. She also insists on brushing her teeth herself, pushing the buggy herself, getting into the car seat herself, buttering the toast herself.

While I'm all for my little girls independence, there's a limit to how much time I want to spend on letting her put on her shoes the wrong side on the right foot five times a day. If the magic demand of "self" is not heeded, hear wrenching crying is bound to ensue.

Of course, the eating business is still not a self area. Instead, we get Mummy do that! very much still. She'll insist on getting fed even fingerfood which she has been able to manage easily for at least a year, and spoons? Well, we do need two spoons at each meal, one for her, one for mummy, but do you think her spoon would ever make the way from bowl to mouth? She can do it, but HER spoon clearly is for stirring, transferring food from bowl to table or to floor, while mummy's spoon has Cubling's mouth written on it.

So independence is self selective. Cubling decides where she wants to be a big girl and where she'll still be the baby. So the last couple of days have been full of arguing, dressing her for outdoors with tears and snot pouring out of her, the closest to a temper tantrum that we've experienced so far, but also full of giggling as she puts on yet another pair of shoes, followed by a broad smile of infinite pride when she does manage to put them on.

Being a two year old has never been easy.

Thursday, 7 May 2009


For a rather long time I've meant to blog about the Transition initiative. It comes under various names, but transition is always part of it. I stumbled across it thanks to a colleague (who's now left us to work for Transition Scotland...) and then again through meeting another very active transitioner at the Common Purpose programme which I'm currently on.

So, what's it about? Well, it's hard to put in a nutshell. It's about people coming together to make positive changes to their lives and environments they live in, in the context of global warming and with the aspiration of lowering carbon emission for a sustainable future. While the carbon reduction aim is the bottom line, Transition initiatives are a holistic approach and all about community empowerment and ownership, about opening your vision to find alternatives to how we live at the moment. These alternatives are always local solutions which are realised by people. People who don't wait for governments to get their bums off their comfy seats, people who've realised that individual change may not be sufficient or limited, and that the way to go is to network and do it together as communities.

In Scotland, there is the overarching but not managing organisation called Transition Scotland.

There are Transition Towns, where a town has decided to change and together reduce their carbon footprint. Based firmly in the UK, some initiatives are international, and the network is growing. Transition is about local change, so the one that's most meaningful to me is the Towards Transition Glasgow forum, which really is more than a forum. Interestingly, when I signed up, there were about 20 members, in just a couple of months, the number has quadrupled. There's lots of information on this site, including very regular blog posts, a wealth of links to local, regional and national organisations and resources, and very practical ideas as to how to connect, how to improve your carbon footprint and so much more. It's given me ideas for my work, and for my garden (I'm rather excitedly waiting for my 2 raised bed from a Glasgow company that make them and other wooden beauties from recycled and reclaimed quality wood). Towards Transition Glasgow is a true treasure, so if you're anywhere near Glasgow, check it out and join it.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

What's in a monster?

We've been monsterised.

It all started with a press photo shoot for the First Mini Monster Marathon, which is a fundraiser for Save the Children and a publicity stunt for First Group, Save the Children's main funder. Cubling is already a face of the Mini Monster Marathon as one of the youngest participants last year (check out the Glasgow page and you can just about spot her in her buggy). The photo shoot was one of these mad ideas and involved a Nessie figure being dragged down the Clyde by boat (what! I hear you say, Nessie can't swim by herself?!) and the sourcing of cute kids to go with it. If you've ever been part of any media training for charities, you'll know that photos of kids have an easier time making it into local papers and if you're charity is about children, well certainly kids must be got.
Just that First staff don't seem to procreate and couldn't come up with any. So it was up to us to bring along our kids. I quite fancied the idea, seeing my colleagues kids for the first time, getting together during work time for a bit of fun at the Clyde. Above all, a welcome opportunity to spend some fun time with Cubling during work hours.

On the way to the photoshoot, I explained all about the monster and that it was called Nessie. As we arrived, Cubling asked "monster?", which soon became a loud shout for "monster!!!" which surely you would have been able to hear in the BBC buildings on the other side of the river. You know that shout? Like she's asking impatiently "monster, where the heck are you, it's about time to got here, I'm peed off waiting for you!" All in one word and it's intonation. Her excitement knew no end when Nessie finally arrived. Including a few attempts to dash right into the water. Unfortunately, the photo shoot took another hour to happen, by which time Cubling was both tired, exhausted from excitement and rather hungry which all made her slightly uncooperative for the photoshoot itself. She never made it in the papers (someone must have failed to realise that she was indeed the cutest child present) which was quite alright in my view. (Oh and I need to add that the Metro didn't even go for any Nessie with cute child photo at all, they just wanted Nessie in front of a Glasgow landmark. How boring.)

Since that day, her world is full of monsters. There's the picture book about the monster from the blue planet, where a (monster) boy named Gobo from a distant planet sets out to catch himself a monster pet (i.e. a little girl) from planet earth, who in turn calls Gobo a monster. If a girl can be a monster, and a funny blue extraterrestial, this opens up a lot of monster opportunities.

So mummy's Mexican t-shirt gets monsterised next. It depicts a lizard which is now suitably called a monster. As is any lizard depicted in books. Or a gecko who usually listens to the name of Eddie. For the last couple of days, our daily trip to the childminder is strewn with monsters of all varieties, usually positioned on billboards.

And really, what is a monster other than something we haven't got a name for yet? And once it's got a name, is it no longer a monster? There I was, concerned that Cubling might develop a fear monsters, when clearly to her monsters are nothing scary at all, rather something amusing, not an incarnation of fear but of one of a sense of discovery. A catch all for beings she identifies and recognises but doesn't yet have a proper name for.

Roll on the monsters!

You can sign up for the Mini Monster Marathon now at a location hopefully near to you and raise money for Save the Children.
(photo credit: James Galloway, Evening Times)

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

what I've been up to

I admire some bloggers. Particularly those with more than one child who manage to blog more frequently than me. I mean, I love blogging, but sometimes, even for as long as a whole week, there's no energy left in me at all. Ok, there were nights with little sleep (which I can only in part blame on Cubling). There was a girlie night in watching Sex in the City (what utter rubbish!) and a fabulous gig by the amazing Duke Special.

Apart from that, I was too tired to blog, knit, make cards for two imminent weddings which I won't be able to attend. Lethargy took over, and all I could manage was browse the internet until my eyes fell shut.

My mind was rather occupied by the flu. Not in the sense that I had it, but the media coverage of the (swine) flu. It seemed clear to me way before the official announcement that something in the reporting wasn't right. As someone who needs to evidence anything I do in my day job, with facts, numbers and analysis, the information didn't add up. Expected, suspected prefixed to infections and deaths in Mexico, and numbers going up then down, to me sent out warning signals that really, nobody seemed to know a thing. I was sceptical of the danger, and didn't quite believe that there was a real threat. Still, better cautious than not. The best thing in my view that came out of the whole pandemic shebang is that antiviral drugs are now available and health services take the flu seriously. I can't see how the pandemic is more of a threat to us than seasonal flu. However, I kid you not, seasonal flu is a threat to us. Especially if health professionals underestimate symptoms reported to them and by negligence cause devastating and unspeakable loss. So, as ever, we interpret big stories from personal perspectives. And all I can say is that it's a good thing we learn about watching flu, and to have a health system on alert. I don't want to go into numbers, but flu kills lots of people every single year. I hope never to have to see the adverts before Christmas again that tell us not to contact the doctor if we have the flu and rather just to get on with it.
And our Christmas will never be the same again.



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