Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Wee Shots:::Big Message

Wee shots is something I'd really like to share with everyone. It's the result of a lot of hard and inspired work. My involvement in it was marginal, but even marginal involvement in this case means I spent a significant amount of time on it.

Wee Shots came about as an idea, in the then YES Project office of Save the Children in Glasgow: making very short little films of what poverty means to children who grow up in deprived areas and using these views of children to explain what Save the Children's UK work is all about.

The idea inspired colleagues across the UK, and eventually got the sign off for a first programme of direct work with children and young people within our newly focussed work on child poverty in the UK. Almost a year after the initial conception of the idea as a local project, you can now view wee shots from across the UK: 4 groups of young people came together for one week each and explored the issue of child poverty in their area, making a one minute film each. These wee shots were pulled together to a national film. Now the national film is admittedly a bit disjointed because the groups of children and young people came up with lots of different ideas and styles and the whole point of the work was that everything was owned by the young people: their ideas, their views, their script, their storyboard, their editing, they approved, they made the films, rather than us creating a script to which to work. So watch the regional wee shots too, because those are the pieces that the young people actually created.

In practice, one film company (urban croft, don't you just love that name?) worked with a group of primary aged children in Glasgow, then went straight to Bradford, Oldham and London for a week each to work with older young people. 4 weeks of full on work, followed by the editorial process and further meetings with the groups. I was only involved with the Glasgow part of the project, an amazing experience with an enthusiastic and fun crowd.

National Film:

Glasgow Film:

And feel free to go to youtube to see the other wee shots from Bradford, Oldham and London.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Blogger Luncheon Monday

We've been treated. Courtesy of Pizza Express and a pizza with a hole in it. Now, I'm not easily overexcited of any freebies, but this one was good stuff: blog about the new pizza light (leggera it would be in Italian) and you get vouchers to invite bloggers near you for a free meal at your local Pizza Express.

We managed to just about squeeze it into September, when it had to take place. So, this Glasgow bank holiday Monday, there were slugs on the refrigerator, mindful mums, southside yarns and we all synchronized us with some babies in one Glasgow pizza house to have lovely food, a great blether and were able to put faces to names, and more importantly, to words.

Now, did anyone else found it a rather interesting experience to be chatting to folk they'd never met but knew more about than most of your casual friends? Having never been on a blind date or met virtual friends in real life before, I found it quite thrilling and a tad disconcerting, in a strangely pleasant way. Time flew by which must mean we had a great time, and I almost missed an appointment and turned up late to pick up Cubling from the childminder, but I wouldn't let a great day end in stress and took it easy - and made both just in time.

So thank you Pizza Express for this getting us into gear for a Scottish Parent Blogger meetup and the nice food to go with it and I can't wait to see everyone again soon - maybe at some east coast venue next so that Edinburgh/Fife bloggers can join in too.

Oh, and the leggera pizza is rather lovely too and on Facebook you can get an offer voucher for 2 pizzas for 10 quid apparently.

And I promise sincerely that tomorrow I will finally tell you all about what it was like to walk on fire!

Monday, 28 September 2009

weekend in pictures: here comes autumn

We've been oh so busy. Thursday to Friday noon in Clackmannan, braving the outside world twice, painting, playing with water, climbing, baking. Then straight to North Ayrshire for a night camping on a colleague's farm, to give a proper goodbye to 3 amazing colleagues who are the last in a way too long list of recent redundancies. Cubling was manically and frantically excited, the kind of excitement that is impossible to control, about seeing animals, sleeping in a tent (a first), a pumpkin head, combine harvesters, tractors, mud, kittens, massive dogs, cosy fires, a trampoline tent, cutting logs with an axe, lighting a real pyre. Next visit to another Ayrshire town to see granny and grampa, a shopping spree, finally crash landing in bed. It was all good. Particularly last night's sleep to recover from it all and Cubling's boundless energy.

I have a pile of blogposts to come, more than making up for my recent silence, but to start off with, here's our weekend in pictures:

Cubling dressing up as Mr Kickeriki
Guess who was the first up in the morning?

Making leaf prints with collected leaves. Cubling got really into this, while her cousin is more into letters and numbers, so he counted up to 100 and demanded the numbers to be painted one by one. He's only 2 3/4...
Making (and eating) fairy cakes
Too many cooks spoil the broth? Rubbish. And who has climbed onto the table again, licked the butter tub, stole some dough and tested what would happen to an egg if you dropped it from the table, while her cousin patiently mixes the ingredients to a soft dough?

The attack of the one-eyed killer kitten.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

I back!

In the words of Cubling, we're back from 4 amazing and very different days. Updates will be forthcoming, in the meantime Cubling would like to share her amazing discovery: Look, mummy! Tombliboos' house!!! Indeed, don't you think?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

She sleeps like a baby

Here I sit, with a glass of wine, at home, relaxed, blogging. I've just seen a friend out who had visited for a few hours, after a lovely chat. It's close to my bedtime and I'm looking forward to a nice night's sleep, to be up again in the morning for a busy day at work.

A scenario which only a year ago would have been an impossibility. Wind back even two years, and you would see a nervous wreck, who endured the torture of being woken every. single. hour. during the night.

How did I get here? What did I do right? Especially when all the books told me I was doing it wrong? If I hadn't got a PhD yet, I'd have one now. A PhD in baby sleep. I know it all, I've been through the worst, read the books and flung them against the wall to spit on them and throw shoes at them. And here I am, alive and above all, with all the night sleep I can ask for. I know about controlled crying, cry it out, feed to sleep, baby whisperers and every trick in the magic box of getting baby who will not sleep to sleep. My pride is unspeakable: My 2 1/2 year old (today) sleeps through the night, from 8pm to 7pm and also gives me a daily present, the best present ever, of a two hour nap. I am one happy mummy.

Cubling is a spirited baby. Spirited babies are hard to soothe, very active, don't nap well, hard to get off to dreamland, like to be carried, cry a lot and long, are strong willed, and have more than the fair share of personality. There were moments where I was close to despair, where I seriously questioned if I'd done the right thing wanting to have a child or if I was creating more suffering than joy.

My baby cried a lot. She cried in the pram. She cried between feeds. She cried when tired. She cried when not bounced. She did not take a dummy, a bottle, a finger. She only ever settled when on the breast or when held. I dreaded going out for walks because without fault, she would not nap but scream the park down. She would not nap when moving, she would not nap when still, she would not nap for more than 30 minutes. There was no doubt, her inability to nap meant over stimulation and yet less sleep and more crying. We had entered the vicious circle of the spirited baby.

Nights were reasonably ok. After 2am that is. Before that we had to endure either a feeding marathon or 7 hours of screaming. Once she did sleep, she would wake every 3 hours for a feed and fall asleep over it, and as long as she did that, I functioned. But then there were teeth and she would not give me 3 hours spells of sleep. I trialled the theory of 3: 2x3 hours of sleep - bliss, 1x3 hours of sleep, I'll get through the day if it's less than 3 nights in a row. less than 1x3 hours of sleep or 3 night of only 1x3hours of sleep and I was close to acts of aggression.

There were low points. Once, I phoned Crysis. I was in tears of despair, shaking with panic and sleep deprivation. Once, when a month of hourly wakings at night time had turned me into some person I didn't know, I deposited Cubling in a different room, as if that would make her stop crying. I was close to shaking my beautiful beloved baby. Really close. I did shout at her. 3 times I think. I'm not proud of this, but it did help and above all - it prevented me from shaking her, it got rid of all the frustration which needed some outlet. Strangely it also stopped her crying, and she strangely didn't look bothered by it.

Until finally, after all else had failed, a desperate forum post of mine brought the solution: an electric swing. I put Cubling into it and within seconds, she was asleep. She started to nap 3 times a day, 3 precious hours (one nap was even 1 1/2 hours!) where I could recharge my batteries. I finally threw out all books - all they did was tell me NOT TO EVER USE AN ELECTRIC SWING BECAUSE IT'S EVIL!!!

It's not. It's great. It worked.
And I weaned her off it at 6 months, replacing it with the buggy, where she napped until she was almost 2.

Night times were still hard going. Cubling was teething incessantly and the only thing that would calm her to get me my magic 3 hours of sleep was mummy milk. We did try to wean her off night feeds but with each tooth or illness, a week's effort was gone, something we couldn't keep up while working. So I waited for 20 teeth to come through and on the eve of number 20 saying hello, at 17 months, the night of no more mummy milk was neigh.

Within 2 weeks, she slept through regularly, until 5.30 or 6am, which was followed by another few hours after an early morning feed, the most beautiful, relaxing, cuddly, blissful feed you can imagine. There was nothing like snuggling up with Cubling in the early hours and knowing that she would sleep for another 3 hours, at my side. I was in the land of maternal bliss.

Maybe I should have weaned her off night feeds early, I don't know. All I know is that controlled crying, pick up put down, patting and humming, singing and shuggling, hugging and cuddling, touching and stroking, dummy, fennel tea and bottle DID NOT WORK. They made things worse if anything. The only tools I had were an electric swing/buggy during the day and my boobs during the night. Between them, we managed to stay sane.

Cubling slept for the first time for more than 5 hours at a time at 9 months 3 weeks. She started to sleep through regularly at 17 months. Even then, it took me an hour to send her off to dreamland at night time. The books told me I created a bad habbit and she'd be a bad sleeper for life.

Well look at her now, please would you: light out, not a whimper until the following morning when I actually have to wake her. I'm only sleep deprived because I can't stop blogging, tweeting or checking my emails, because I want to knit yet another row or watch a film.

So if anyone tells you this or that is best or the only way, handle with care, you're baby may not agree. Go with the flow. Give everything a go. See what works for you and be proud of it. Don't worry about so called habits. You can change any habit later when you're not so tired.

Above all, please believe me, if your baby is a bad napper/sleeper, it doesn't mean she will always be. There is a lot of light at the end of the tunnel.

I'll be off to bed then. Good night.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

EA Sports Active Personal Trainer Review

A good little while ago, I was sent the EA Sports Active Personal Trainer to review, a fitness programme for the Nintendo Wii which can also make use of the Wii Balance Board. It came just at the right time, when I'd started my attempt to shift a stone of weight and above all, get back into some form of exercise, well over 2 years post baby. My exercise regime, and weight loss, are currently on hold because there's only so many hours in the day. However, I had a really good shot at the product.

I used to be reasonably fit and I have a tendency to, well, overdo it. In the sense that if I do exercise, I want to get sweating and get the most out of it. The Wii Fit was getting boring, so I was delighted with the opportunity to test the EA Sports Active, it was a welcome change of scene on the TV screen.

The programme comes with a leg strap and a resistance band, and you will need a nunchuck for it. It's also useful to read the instructions and get an introduction to each individual exercise (I couldn't be bothered just wanting to start exercising and had a few interruptions as a consequence).

The actual programme offers a range of preset exercise sessions, ranging from easy to hard, 15-45 minutes. Alternatively, you can embark on the 30 challenge (which I did and then didn't complete) or make up your own exercise sessions.

What I liked about it was that it's reasonably customizable. For instance, you can choose at any workout whether or not you want to use the Wii Balance Board for your workout. To be honest, I find the Balance Board rather cumbersome so while I tried it, what with having to change between it, the resistance band and the nunchuck either in the leg strap or in the hand - to make things simpler and quicker, I preferred to use the EA Sports Active without the Board.

Once you get to know the different activities, it's great fun to make up your own exercise session, with all your favourite activities. I also liked the range of exercises - as someone who has absolutely no knowledge of baseball/cricket, I utterly enjoyed the baseball exercises. The resistance band allows you to make muscle toning exercises as hard as you like. There is an almost endless list of different exercises, covering both muscle toning and aerobic exercises. Another feature I liked was that there was an option to change the music and that the music in general didn't get repetitive. Of course, I'd be in heaven if I could actually use my own music somehow but clearly this is not something I'd ever expect in such a game. Another feature I liked was the calorie count - I find this more motivating than anything else. A final plus is the fact that at the start of each session you can pick the intensity of the workout.

The personal trainer got a bit on my nerves at times. I'm not one who enjoys constant praise, I'd rather get on with it. Having said that, it's not as bad as the Wii Fit trainer. Some exercises took me a while to get right, such as the inline skating (once I got it, it was great fun though). I never got the fast highkicks and honestly believe that they just don't work. The dance exercises were rather pointless, a bit of waving but no real exercise - just as well they never lasted long. The resistance band lost its resistence a little bit over time, and it also occasionally flopped out of it's holder - not a big drawback but annoying when it happens in the middle of an exercise. During an sessions, especially if it's the 30 day challenge, there is no indication of length of the session. This is a bit of an inconvenience if Mr Cartside asks me when I'm done and I get it wrong because today's session is about twice as long as yesterday's and he has to miss his favourite TV programme.

The 30 day challenge is a good idea, however, it would work better if it could be personalised to one's own calendar. The theory is that there's 2 days of workout, one rest day. Now, my life doesn't work according to a preset fitness game schedule. While I realised that you can do an exercise day even on rest days, you can't pre set the 30 day challenge calendar according to your own diary.

The most annoying drawback for me was that if a session of the 30 day challenge finished after midnight, it didn't count for the previous day. It upset me no end, having just done the hard 40 min workout and then seeing it come up as a missed day in the calendar. Little things like that get to me, you know. The 30 day challenge also offers a lifestyle questionnaire which I found very motivating - I did actually drink more water and eat more vegetables knowing that it would get me extra points. I'm that fickle.

In comparison to the Wii Fit I enjoyed the greater range of exercises, the greater customization, and the fact you can actually do a 30-45 minutes exercise session without interruptions or having to navigate in the menu. All in all, the EA Personal Trainer is definitely value for money. I would use it regularly and it really worked for me, with a reasonable combination of muscle workouts and aerobic exercise that did get me sweating and a good bit fitter, all in the comfort of your own home.

Shame it's got to be sent back really. To be honest, I don't want to know who'll be getting my review set as a second hand product - there was quite a lot of sweat lost and absorbed in it. Not so sure if the future owner will appreciate it...

Friday, 18 September 2009

5 tags, 2 memes, 10 memories, 35 answers, 2x5 blogs

I've been tagged by three lovely bloggers all at once to do the Great Read/happy memories tag and really lagging behind with actually posting it. Thank you Really Rachel, Being a Mummy and someone else (sorry, forgot! and very embarrassed I did) I've got real mummy reasons for not passing this on timely, having re-entered the land of sleep deprivation and utter lack of me time. And it's only partly to do with my sweet niece, mostly Cubling has decided to wake up to 5 times a night and shout for mummy, daddy or simply scream the house down. Which doesn't come appreciated when you're trying to give another new mummy some hours of sleep (and of course Cubling doesn't wake when her baby cousin is awake, but in between times!). Add to that busy busy work schedule, managing the redecoration of my old flat (which has been on the market unsold for 15 months), spending 4 days a week at my sister in law's house to help her around the house and keeping the 3 kids between us straight while she's recovering from her c-section, and you can imagine that there is very little time for anything other. So lots of mental posts, little real posts. All I can do is fit in the occasional row of knitting. And even that is slow. And after this paragraph, my head is even dizzier.

The thing is, I'm kind of brain dead. Do I have memories? I suppose I do. Just hard to gather them in the sleepy and thomping head of mine.

I wish to share beautiful memories. Yet nothing is pure happiness in the Cartside home at the moment. The memories I collect at the moment, which is all I can think about when I think "memories" are those of my late brother-in-law. There were some fabulous memories, but I'm appalled at how few clear memories there are. Our brain works in strange ways. There are photos of shared days with me in it, yet I don't remember the occasion. Sometimes it takes a focussed chat and the memory will come back, in a dimmer lightbulb moment, a tentative light being switched on ever so slowly. There are not enough of these chats because they still hurt a lot.

It seems my memory is no better than rubbish. So the memories I do have, I treasure even more. And I try to remember more, because memories can't be taken away as easy as a life. He lives on in our hearts and minds and this is why I want to share 10 beautiful memories of my brother-in-law.

-Before Christmas, he showed Cubling the installations in the McRobert Arts Centre, and we watched "Little Light".
-His happiness on this day, his pride in his son as he read the Gruffalo to him in the car while we were still chatting outside
-My memory of him pushing Cubling and her cousin in a wheelbarrow and the delightful screams of joy they uttered
-His chat to me after his son was born, reassuring the then very heavily pregnant me that even a c-section isn't all that bad (which I so needed, my sister in law's first c-section scared me endlessly, as she too would have done everything for a natural birth)
-His first visit to our flat after Cubling was born and my first walk through the park
-Throwing autumn leaves over our two buggies in Queen's Park
-Him cooking me up a quick and oh so tasty meal before setting off home
-Testing out the Wii one lazy afternoon
-The near explosion of his home brewed ginger beer upon opening
-Testing him on his single malt whisky knowledge (he claimed he could always tell a single malt from a blend). I'd bought him a whisky. He said it was definitely a single malt. It was a blend. I teased him about this for ages.

And I pass this on to five deserving bloggers:
Piglet - Our Adventure in Parenthood
Slugs on the Refridgerator
Lost in Translation
Yummy Mammy
Spanglish Baby

Next is yet another tag, Who's the Mummy kindly passed this on to me. This one is short and sweet with one word answers only!

Where is your mobile phone? pocket
Your hair? brunette?
Mother? dead
Father? far
Your Favourite Food: chocolate
Your Dream Last Night: none
Your Favourite Drink: Bailey's
Your Dream/Goal: happiness
What room are you in? living
Your hobby: many
Your fear: spiders
Where do you want to be in 6 years: home
Where were you last night: friend's
Something that you aren't: witty
Muffins: Blueberry
Where did you grow up? Germany
Last thing you did: blog
What are you wearing: jeans
Your TV: black
Your pets: bugs
Friends: lifeline
Your life: full
Your mood: stressed
Missing someone: mum
Vehicle: car
Something you're not wearing: make-up
Your favourite store: etsy
Your favourite colour: mauve
When was the last time you laughed: today
When was the last time you cried? yesterday
Your best friend: there
One place you go to over and over: Dublin
One person who emails you regularly: boss
Favourite place to eat: Thai

The rules say that I need to pass this on to five worthy bloggers, oh, I hear you running far and wide, but you can't hide from my public tag!
Intrepidly Bilingual
Metropolitan Mum
Noble Savage
Perfectly Happy Mum
Muddling Along Mummy

Finally, while I was trying to complete this post, Maternal Tales form the South Coast bestowed the Great Read Award upon me for a forth time - I'm blushing now with all this kindness from so many fellow bloggers. Thank you all so much!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Can I do better?

(photo credit: Strohballen/haybales by Peter Heilmann via Flickr)
This is the week where I decided that I'm a tad inconsistent when it comes to sticking to OPOL (that's one parent one language to the uninitiated amongst you, the method we are told to use for successfully fostering bilingualism in our children). Not that this is a new realisation. There are so many situations which I class as exceptions and considering that there's no way that Cubling won't know that I speak English reasonably well, she'd better be able to use German in spite of the easier route of speaking English to me.

All well until you spend a lovely evening with your friend who has a child exactly the same age, the same language combination, and the little rascal speaks fluent German. Which is not something I can say about Cubling. Competition is a great motivator. Of course of course I hasten to add that I'm not in this for a competition. Yet admittedly there was some sort of a realisation that maybe, just maybe, we could be doing better.

After all, our exceptions are becoming the rule. I'm at a disadvantage to start with, thanks to my 4 day working week. When it comes to language, Cubling is exposed to English only on 4 days of the week (minimal German exposure because hubby does most of the morning and evening activities). The weekends are usually spent with my sister in law her children, and whenever I address both toddlers, or my sister in law, or hubby, or grandparents - guess what, it's English. How often in a day do I mistakenly address Cubling in English? I truly try not to, but life is complicated and my mind runs in English. It's an effort speaking German. A pain in the Popo.

Then there's combine harvesters. Two toddlers obsessed with them (and there are a good few kicking about in Clackmannanshire) and not an hour goes by without some chat about the fabulous combine harvesters. They don't have to be combine harvesters, it's the principle that counts: I have not the foggiest idea what the German word would be. Do I bother looking it up in a dictionary? Hm, not really. So thanks for A, who did look it up. So as of today, Cubling has a new word in her vocabulary:


So, our conversation today on the one hour drive to the wee county went something like this:

Cubling: Where combine harvester is?
Me: Ich weiss nicht. Wir muessen die Augen aufhalten und den Maehdrescher finden.
Cubling: Where is Maehdrescher?
Hiding? Bushes?
Me: Nein, der vesteckt sich nicht in den Bueschen. Entweder ist er auf dem Feld oder in der Scheune.
Maehdrescher! Are you?
Mama, say Maehdrescher!
Maehdrescher, Mami, say Maehdrescher!
Maehdrescher cut grass, back Heuballen (combine harvester cuts the grass and out of the back come hay bales)
I not like Combine Harvester. Is funny.
I Angst Maehdrescher hab it.
I no want see it Maehdrescher.
Me: Okay, dann suchen wir eben keinen Maehdrescher.

Note: funny = scary (what a philosophical thought behind that equation) and Cubling is now telling me to say words in German rather than English, copying my "kannst du Maehdrescher sagen?"

We've also had our first false friend in German, proving that interferences work in both ways and that bilingual kids embrace the easier language either way. Thus, pointing to a kite, Cubling said this was a dragon, quite clearly transferring the German concept of Drachen (which denotes both kite and dragon) to English. How I delighted in this that other parents would see as a mistake. To me it showed that German is active in her thought processes even when speaking English.

One month of insisting that she speaks German to me so far has yielded some more German utterances, always second to the initial English utterance. And a very bored mummy who is rather sick of constantly saying "auf Deutsch bitte" and interrupting any natural conversation. As in, I enjoy chatting to my wee girl, but now I'm a teacher, always with secondary motives. Not a nice feeling. Yet I know that if I don't insist now, all the effort would have been in vain.

I still struggle with bedtime books, particularly because there's significant and inconsolable protest if I refuse to read the Gruffalo or Harry McLary because they're Daddy books.

What works well is singing German songs. Hampelmann, Ein Vogel wollte Hochzeit feiern and Gruen sind alle meine Kleider are the longstanding favourites. Then there's a 4 day trip to Germany ahead of us which may work wonders to the reluctant toddler speech.

Above all I'm green with envy that toddler friend is doing so much better.
Maybe competition is the best motivator after all. Whatever works. I'll be saying "Was sagst du? Auf Deutsch bitte!" a few more times then.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Free lunch anyone?

I'm not one easily excited about the freebie offers that some of us mummy bloggers get, and clearly it's not why I blog. However, I really liked the idea about the Leggera Bloggers Lunch. Basically, you get a free Pizza Express lunch in September, by posting about this marketing initiative (which I hereby do) and tagging the bloggers who you would invite for lunch.

A free lunch and getting to meet fellow bloggers? Sounds pretty good to me. Especially because the only bloggers I know are those who were friends first and only became bloggers later. So I'm rather excited to meet some of the people behind the blogs I read. Plus I've got an inkling that this may be the start to a Scottish Parent Blogger meet up. Because we're really all very jealous about all the lovely get togethers that the southern mum and dads get.

The date, time and venue are set: Monday 28th September, 2pm in Glasgow. Venue will be confirmed directly to participants (I don't like to publish my exact whereabouts on the internet). You can come with or without kids - obviously it's easier to chat without kids but kids are very welcome too!

I'd like to tag:

Laura who blogs at Synchronization of us

Jules who can be found blogging on South Side Yarns and for whom it would be rather a feat to make it I'm sure with little I.

Kat who blogs on Slugs on the Refrigerator

Siobhan who has Two in There and we'd be delighted if she manages to make it through in spite of the closeness to her due date

Ali who blogs on Mindful Mum

In case she can make it, even if a bit late: Melaina aka Transatlantic Blonde

And I'd also like to tag Little Mummy, Feeding Five for Fifty, Snapdragon Garden, Hullaballo, Half Mum Half Biscuit in case they are free.

If you're about Glasgow on 28th September, a blogger and wish to join in, hands up and let me know in the comment box or send me an email and I'll tag you too.
Let me know if you're in (you can email me, contact me through twitter or leave a comment) because I need to know numbers soon for the lunch vouchers.

And the plan is to meet again a few months later maybe in Edinburgh to give the east coasters a fair chance too. Any sponsors wanting to pay our food bill ;) ?

weekend in pictures: what toddlers love to do

Cartside is busy and sleep deprived, so to keep you entertained, here are some pictures capturing what toddlers do, and some clouds assembling over the Ochils to set the scene. If you want to read stuff, please go to the Best of British Mummy Bloggers Carnival over at New Mummy where you will find 41 excellent posts to enjoy.

Broadcast will be resumed soon.

toddlers love to swing

toddlers love to take peas out of a pod

toddlers love to make Mr Potato Head

Toddlers love to climb

Friday, 11 September 2009

just making sure

Thanks to A Mother's Secret, I'm looking back in time a bit, about 3 years or so, when I was pregnant with Cubling. Living in Scotland, or Glasgow to be precise because the NHS doesn't work the same across Scotland, there is only one ultra sound scan on offer for the length of pregnancy (apparently it'll change in December or so when even Glasgow will offer 2 scans - bring it on!). It should be the 12 week dating scan, but usually it's scheduled between week 15 and 17, depending on how quickly you get referred after finding out you're pregnant. If you see a GP the day after conception, you might actually get this scan in week 12 scan. Don't worry that your pregnancy test won't tell you you've conceived, nobody will actually check anyway.

However, I found out I was pregnant when in Germany, then went on honeymoon and only got referred in week 8 or 9, and my scan was scheduled for week 17. I sneaked in a scan in Germany though at 8 week (can't help but abuse the German system - I was prepared to pay for it because really I'm not covered for any but emergency health treatment there, but because it's more hassle than worth the money, the nice obs never charged me...). I was furious and negotiated. It was a tough phone call, I listed all the reasons why 17 weeks was just too late for me: my pregnancy was a suspected twin pregnancy, I was about to change jobs and wouldn't have done this if it had indeed been a twin pregnancy, I'm over 35, I wants it just gimme it my precious. Eventually after much huffing and puffing, I got a scan in for what I believed to be week 12. My main concern was to get a nuchal fold screening, which you can only do between weeks 11 and 14, as an older first time mum this was important to me.

Of course they didn't do the nuchal fold anyway as this is not offered on the NHS in Glasgow. Boo.

I was all worries during the pregnancy. I expected to miscarry, I expected to have a Downs baby, I expected all kinds of things. A later scan was important to me, I didn't crave the monthly scans offered in Germany, but a 20 week scan to check the baby was sort of ok would have been nice. So I scheduled in a sneaky trip to Germany, remembering my lovely obs there who didn't mind my health tourism, and got an extra (and free!) scan at 23 or so weeks.

To be honest, I was also deperate to find out if it was a boy or girl. My reasoning was utterly fickle and I'm really rather ashamed of it. Thing is, I wanted a girl. I tried not to say it, I tried to hide it, to not care about it, but at the end of the day, it was true. Now, I didn't want to be disappointed on my little Cubling's birthday, can you imagine, all drama, baby gets delivered and I wait for the magic announcement and it's going to be "It's a boy!" and my reaction would be one of, ah, never mind? Nonono, I wanted to be prepared and get used to the idea. Hubby was ok with wanting to find out too. Again, in Scotland, even if I'd had a later scan, they wouldn't have told me the sex.

So, a proper health tourist (to be fair, I was very prepared to pay!), I got another scan and asked for the sex of the baby. It was a shame that hubby couldn't be there, I took my dad instead to be there with me. The obs was looking here, looking there, taking measurements, telling me the head and chest were big (they are not and even a throw away comment like that had me worried again) and then he showed me where I could see that this little baby was a... GIRL!!!! I couldn't see it, I didn't care, I was overjoyed! It was a dream come true, my little girl, and there was no denying that I was immensely pleased, still feeling a tad guilty about it all.

Somehow, I still didn't quite fully believe it and when Cubling was born and nobody announced her sex, I stupidly asked while being stitched up if she was indeed a girl. I got some rather confused glances, of course she is, you knew it was a girl, so why are you asking? Just making sure. Just making sure.

Would I want to find out again? I don't think I'd be bothered next time around, but curiosity may still get the better of me.

Feel free to shoot me for fickleness in the comments box below ;)

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Catching up on rather a lot of things all at once and does anyone know what this vegetable is?

I've had a really busy week, so here's just a brief ketchup of a few bits and bobs, in the absence of time to finish off any of the "real" blogposts waiting to be written. I haven't even managed to read the blogs in my reader, that is saying something, so sorry for lack of comments etc.

A Hat in Time: 37 Hats to Knit and Crochet still has no Lulu book option (as in real book - not ebook) due to a mad week at work, but you can get the ebook and preorder the limited edition print run - please go to To recap - it's a personal project, fundraiser for Save the Children so please let everyone know about it and buy lots of copies for yourself, your knitting friends etc.

There's really exciting stuff happening at work, all about creating a webcommunity for our new Inspiring Change programme, and I'm giddy with excitement. Inspiring Change is all about working with groups of young people and parents (and partner organisations) who are affected by poverty to identify a possibility/opportunity for positive changes to their own lives and that of their communities - and facilitate making that change. We've started work with one group and lots more are planned. It's all very busy though, and what with this being a UK wide programme, I spend a lot of time on telecoms with colleagues across the UK. And soon I may even meet them in person, in Belfast and London - haven't been to either city in ages so really looking forward to the trips too. Not that I'll do much apart from sit in a different office, mind you.

As I was hit by the housing market and can't get rid of my bachelorette flat, it's being renovated at the moment. Supposedly it was to be done by today, but to be honest, I've yet to met a decorator/joiner/plumber who finishes work in time, so never expected it to be all done. It's a bit tricky - I'm not sure if to rent the flat out again (September is ideal for finding tenants) or really push the sale. If it's on the market for a while, I'll be absolutely skinned. If I rent it out, it's hassle and who knows what the next tenants will be like (but at least I'll be able to pay my two mortgages...).

I've had almost no time for anything but work and looking after toddlers/babies and associated housework. My weight loss/exercise attempts are put on hold. I'm too stressed to cut out cake and chocolate, and simply have no time to even think about exercise. There will be time for that again, but it's not now.

Did I tell you that I came home to a brown bin the other day? This is true telepathy because I had planned to contact Glasgow city council about brown bins for garden waste. The link on the website wasn't working so I never got around to it. Then out of the blue, there it is, my very own brown bin. I'm pleased and then I'm not so pleased. Thing is, we now have 3 big bins in our tiny weeny terraced house garden, taking up rather a lot of space. They never get filled and really, we could share one between at least two neighbours, if not three.

Finally, here's a summary of my gardening success with raised beds and generally using every available space in my tiny garden for veggies: My herbs and lettuce did really well, they were a success truly. As to tomatoes - let's do better. I only got two handfuls of cherry tomatoes out of nine plants, the tomatoes are green mostly (although I've been given a fab tip to get them red: wrap them in newspaper and store them in a warm place, like a drawer, the oven after use and they will turn red. They do, I've tried it!). Next year I've got to get a sunnier spot, support them, make sure to take out the side shoots early and consistently. I didn't do any of this, so the yield was rather pathetic (tasty though!). My trial of whether expensive or cheap grow bags work better resulted in the cheap ones yielding more tomatoes, but the big ones creating bigger plants, not sure what the meaning of that would be.
Next year, I'll double my efforts with 2 raised beds, once I've stolen a bit more of Alloa compost... Oh, I also got a few courgettes which were more of a marrow and this item which looks interesting. If you know what it is, please tell me. Better even, what can I do with it? Is it edible? If you know, pray tell me!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Cracks, hindsight and voluntary exile

(photo credit: Kyknoord via

Sometimes I wonder if I had known what I know now, would I have done things differently, made different decisions. Of course it's futile to indulge in what-ifs, what with the benefit of hindsight and all that. And yet.

I've always been fascinated by languages and other countries. As a consequence, teenage me, from the age of 15, took every opportunity to travel. It coincided with asserting my independence - and travel, learning languages, plus to a certain extent music and literature, both linked to the countries I was crazy about, became synonymous with developing my independent self. It was part something that is aptly called "Abnabelung" in German, the process of cutting the umbilical cord. In my case it was more than just independence of my rather controlling parents, it was also about establishing my identity amonst my peers, gaining confidence as a not so confident, slightly overweight teenager who was always at the edge of being bullied.

Travel, and even spending significant periods of time abroad wasn't just great fun, it also made me special, and offered an opportunity to meet people who met me without preconceptions, a new start, a new me, free from the loathed and untrue load of the reputation my peers back home had not so kindly created for me (it wasn't that bad a reputation, but none the less loathed good and proper).

Every time I returned, I longed for the next trip abroad. I worked my backside off to scrape the money together for the next trip, too proud to ask my parents for a penny to support my passion. There were youth exchanges, paying guest stays, school trips, a year as an au pair split between two countries, years abroad from uni, assistant teacherships and then, when I had enough of seeing new countries and really wanted to either settle in Ireland or go home, destiny brought me to Glasgow as a Lektor. This is where I met my beloved, the rest is history. While I didn't choose Glasgow (Glasgow quite definitely chose me), I did choose expat life.

My parents had never been supportive of this passion of mine, or of my stay abroad. For my part, I don't see much difference in living in another town in Germany or abroad, and in fact I may see more of my family than many. Yet the cracks that started to appear as soon as I got married, thus cementing my life abroad, are widening. And I'm at a loss at how to mend them or at least keep them from breaking the fabric apart. A good relationship with some disagreements is now threatening to take a turn for the worse, all efforts on my part at worst failing, at best misunderstood. My life no longer has the flexibility to accommodate the expectations and demands made by my family, or rather, part of my family, because part of the problem is that there is more of family now and still only the same me. It is like forces tearing at me, with me trying to stretch to square the circle, and failing miserably.

Would I make the choice to live abroad again? Would I exchange all the good times I had, the sense of belonging I only experienced abroad, for a game of happy families that cannot be guaranteed to even exist? To be honest, I don't know. What I do know is that it pains me immensely to watch the currents of life make us drift further apart. That I wouldn't want to put the same strains on my husband, say, in a move to Germany. That I would definitely think again and not take my voluntary exile as lightly as I did at the time.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Bibliotherapy Q & A

I'm taking up Nobel Savage's general tag on the bibliotherapy Q & A because I need some therapy to keep my mind off my sore throat (ah, there's that moan again, I really do hate tonsillitis with a passion!), plus dealing with one tantruming toddler, one newborn and one energetic toddler has kind of shut my thought circuits off and I can't seem to get blog posts beyond the half written stage at the moment.

Q. How would you describe your current reading habits?

A. I read lots of blogs, research papers and news items for work, plus about one novel and one non-fiction at a time. Add to that books on various aspects of parenting / bilingualism which I usually skim read. Of course, I also read lots of toddler books.

Q. In a bookshop, do you tend to find yourself in the fiction or the non-fiction department?

A. Both really, I go through almost every aisle.

Q. What novels and authors have you loved in the past?

A. Where can I start? Isabel Allende as a teenager, Flann O'Brien at uni, lots of Irish fiction, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Sebastian Barry, Jose Maria Arguedas, oh, poetry. I love poetry, particularly Emily Dickinson, Seamus Heaney, W B Yeats, but lots of other poets too. More recently: Umberto Eco, Colm Toibin, Chris Cleave, Anne Enright. I'm sure I forgot some really important names.

Q. Did books feature largely in your childhood?

A. Yes, I was a real bookworm, I read everything from the local library, fiction and non-fiction in equal measures.

Q. Where do you read?

A. In bed, on the sofa, when travelling without child: on trains and planes. During lunch breaks in the office. In the garden.

Q. Why do you read?

A. Hard to say, I just like it. I like the empathy for fictional characters, the ability to relate to characters that have little in common with me, or if they have common characteristics, to reflect on my own experience from an outside view. I also enjoy to learn new things, the way language can let you get carried away, the rhythm and beauty of words, the images of new worlds that are created in my head, the suspense of a good crime novel, the lightbulb moment of a thought well captured in a poem.

Q. What do you most hope to get out of a novel?

A. To be emotionally captivated by it

Q. Do you like the challenge of a big fat tome or do you prefer something slim?

A. These days I mostly only dare start a slim book. Some of my favourites are big tomes though.

Q. Do you always finish the books you start?

A. Almost always. A book has to really annoy me before I don't finish it. I almost gave up on A. S. Byatt's Possession at page 150, thankfully a friend said it was one of her favourite reads and I kept going. Now I'm loving it and can't wait to finish it (and forgot it at home this weekend, doh).

Q. If there were such a thing as a perfect novel for you, what would it be like?

A. I like different things in a novel. I enjoy well researched historical novels that give a real insight into the time they are about. I also enjoy well written crime stories that are about more than just crime. I also enjoy novels that introduce me to an unknown country / culture. Other novels inspire me because of their social commentary or philosophical explorations. I wouldn't expect all of this to be in one novel though.


Q. How old are you?

A. 38

Q. Are you single, co-habiting, married, divorced? Do you have kids?

A. Married with one child (2 1/2)

Q. What do you do for a living?

A. I work 4 days a week for an international children's charity developing programmes and projects with children, young people and their families aimed at ending child poverty in the UK. I used to teach at university.

Q. What is preoccupying you at the moment?

A. My extended family, my charity project (A Hat in Time)

Q. Are there any personal dramas currently occurring in your life?

A. I don't like the term drama because it's almost a bit belittling. My brother in law died unexpectedly just over 8 months ago and my sister in law has just had their second child so I'm spending all my non-working time with them at the moment, helping them through this very difficult and demanding time.

Q. What are your passions?

A. Justice/human rights, reading, writing, photography, blogging, knitting, travel (not doing any of that at the moment) sometimes gardening, making things and having little projects

Q. What is missing from your life?

A. Time to relax, time for myself, time for my friends, travel to new places (I only travel to Germany to see my father now), time to go out.

Q. Where would you like to be in your life in 10 years’ time?

A. I never find it easy to answer such a question. I would like to continue having a fullfilling job while having maybe a bit more time for my family and friends. Still looking for the ideal balance.

The unsaid

There are things that remain unsaid. Somehow, they still make it to my ear in strange ways because words travel nonetheless. Truth is, I often don't mind what is said about me yet not said to me. I think I stopped caring when I hit 25. More than this, I don't actually mind if some of the unsaid were actually talked about. With me, that is.

The thing is, the reason for the unsaid is that people are actually well meaning and don't want to offend. Just that the offence usually comes from those who are not well meaning or of those who are ignorant, very rarely from real friends or those whose intention we know to be good. And if the intention is good, even the odd faux pas is fine surely? I hope it is because I'm guilty of many a faux pas.

Apparently, people have been asking if it makes me broody holding my baby niece and spending so much time with her. Implied, of course, is the question about a little sister or brother for Cubling, which to be fair, is only a reasonable question to be asked considering Cubling is 2 1/2 years. Number 2s are popping all over the place. Now, I kind of expected that the fact that I had a miscarriage about 3 and a bit months ago would make it glaringly obvious that we were indeed trying for another baby. I didn't count with the fact that the "news" of my miscarriage didn't travel. This is rather surprising considering I did not make a secret out of it, and in fact shared it even openly on this blog. I assumed that I'd made it clear that I didn't mind people knowing. And when I say people, I also assumed that this would mainly be mutual friends, family - after all, who else would be interested?

However, I found that again and again, people don't know. And to be honest, I'm past even wanting to talk about it, or tell people. It's gone, past, we've moved on. What bothers me is that there is a reluctance to raise the topic of further children with me as if it was a bad omen, something that was better not talked about in case it jinxed something.

Maybe it's a tiny cultural difference and just not talked about in the UK, because with my German friends in Germany, there's no question that this gets raised and talked about. Or my friends here aren't close enough here, which would worry me a bit more, as much as I value my German friends, I need close friends right here right now too.

For me, there's no taboo in talking about having babies, even if there was a problem. In fact, it's only through talking that I know there is no problem, that what is happening to me is pretty average.

So, does watching over a sleeping beauty of a girl make me feel broody? Not an inch more than I already am. She is a very special girl to me and always will be, but she isn't mine and that's all there is to it. What I mean with that is that I do not have even remotely motherly feelings for her. And with many of my friends pregnant, two of the even with an EDD almost matching the one I would have had, this does not make me envious either.

And am I broody? Of course I am. But that's perfectly ok, right? Nothing to be embarrassed about, and should we actually experience an issue with fertility, that too is nothing to be embarrassed about. It's all part of life, for better or worse and at the end of the day I won't forget how amazingly lucky I am to have the ever surprising bundle of energy that is Cubling, and all the fabulous people around me, many of whom unfortunately I haven't been able to spend as much time with as I would like to.

And yes, approaching yet another birthday (relax my friends, it's still almost 2 months), and the big four Oh looming next year, I am worried. As many would be. And I'm trying hard not to regret the time spent waiting to try for number 2. And here's where my niece is rather helpful: angel baby as she is, she does remind me of how hard a time we had with Cubling not sleeping through until 17 months, the relentless feeding and crying marathons, and my sleep deprivation doing awful stuff to me. I wasn't a happy or confident mummy for the first year. I know I couldn't do one insomniac toddler AND pregnancy induced tiredness without damage to me, my marriage or the kids. Or two insomniac kids (I don't even want to think of that possibility). Because of my age maybe, or because of my constitution. Whichever, the waiting was right for us. If it means that this is it, so be it. However, one thing's for sure, I've definitely got a bit to go before giving up ;)

Thursday, 3 September 2009

While I'm feeling rotten, please read my guest blog post

No more to say. I've moaned enough. To keep you entertained, check out these:
Here's a guest post I wrote earlier for Spanglish Baby.
I've also done some toy reviews on The Great Toy Guide.
Off to bed now, where's my hot toddy?

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

bleary eyed yet proudly presenting...

A Hat in Time!
37 hats to knit and crochet, a book sold in aid of Save the Children and celebrating the international children's charity 90th anniversity.

For now available as an ebook, at £5. I will also make it available as an on demand book on Lulu, and buy an Amazon distribution license.
Head over to A Hat in Time for more details, or buy directly here.

And now I definitely need a lunch break. Phew.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

weekend in pictures: brambling

At the weekend I introduced Cubling to one of my favourite Scottish August/September activities.
Unfortunately, my father-in-law had been there first and our yield was, hm, well, pathetic.
It's the thought that counts.
You can find 10 things to do with brambles and recipies at Thames Valley Mums Blog.
Happy brambling!

And this fortnight's British Mummy Bloggers Carnival is on over at Clareybabbling.



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