Tuesday, 28 April 2009

carnival time!

Tonight is girlie film night in the Cartside house. Cubling is suitable offsky in dreamland. No time to blog, but don't despair, you'll find the best selection of British Mummy Bloggers at today's carnival at Motherhood the Final Frontier, which should keep you entertained for the evening (and more). Check out some funny, serious, interesting and amazing posts and be impressed by the world of British Mummy (and Daddy) blogging.

Now, where's that bottle of wine?

Sunday, 26 April 2009

hab it!

The second baby round has definitely been called. In my first time mummy circles (there are two), the current count of babies no 2s is three, with one heavily pregnant and a few others somewhere between 20 and 30 weeks, and many more trying for no. 2. The 2 year gap seems to be popular, and so today's 2nd birthday party coincided with the first viewing of baby C just a stone throw away from the Cartside home.

Cubling was excited and definitely keen to see a baby. Nothing unusual there, she's always up for anything. She showed due interest for the baby, but also made sure birthday girl was treated appropriately (ok, maybe she shouldn't have helped her blow out the candle quite so much) - she even managed a "happy birthday Spot" directed at her and gave up the present rather than ripping it open herself.

Nothing quite prepared me for her reaction when, after plenty of toddler play and snuggling up to a big girl to get a story read, it was my turn to hold the one week old baby. First some mild display of jealousy (I'm used to that), then she came up, stroking his head, pointing to all facial features, hugging it, kissing it, hugging it about 20 more times, more stroking, asking it to wake up and get up, even to get dressed. Then, the big move. She tried to take the baby herself (and it looked scarily professional), and exclaimed with pure determination: "hab it! hab it!" Not quite believing my ears, I asked if she wanted to hold the baby. She nodded, "O.T." I explained that she was a bit wee for holding a baby. Crying ensued. Not of the furious kind, but with some real sadness in it. "baby home" she said. "Hab it mummy!" Some more prompting and it became clear that Cubling wants to take baby home for keeps. Baby C's mummy asked her if she maybe wanted a brother or sister. Cubling said yes to both options. Not fussy. Actually, just want baby C there, it'll do just fine.

On our way back, when I explained that maybe one day she'd have a baby to look after which would grow in mummy's tummy for quite some time just like the baby growing in her aunty's tummy (answered with general hilarity on Cubling's behalf, what a funny thought that babies live in mummies tummies, that surely must be a joke, even though aunty's tummy is rather big and Cubling couldn't resist giving it a right old tummy tap as she does to fat men in picture books), she turned and pointed back to where we came from: "baby, hab baby?!" followed by running off, back towards baby C's house.

No, not just yet sweetiepie.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

one child - two languages

It's really a very special feeling to hear Cubling speak two languages. It was always a no brainer that she would be brought up bilingually, even if I hadn't been in an obvious bilingual situation. I love languages, always have. When I was a pre schooler, I used to watch a German pre school programme. The jingle at the start was repeated in a different language every time. I loved guessing the language and got good at it, being right most of the time. At primary school, I made my Spanish friend teach me Spanish, and in secondary jumped at the opportunity to learn English, then French and finally, my ever favourite Spanish. My first trip that I picked and went on without my parents was to England at 15. I fell in love with the country, King Arthur, Duran Duran and Nik Kershaw. I went as far as speaking English to my best friend after school just to get more fluent. It was rather bizarre, but I followed it all up with further trips to England, then Ireland, being an au pair in Ireland and Spain, university exchanges, and finally getting a job in Glasgow. On the way I added to my foreign languages and learned some Russian, lots of Irish Gaelic and Latin, Dutch, Catalan and Italian. Turkish and Arabic are on my wish list but for the moment postponed.

Growing up with more than one language, to me, is an incredible asset.

So when Cubling was on the way I read up a bit about bilingualism and raising bilingual children, to get it right. I wasn't impressed with the available literature. There isn't much and even the internet didn't offer much useful information. The accepted recommendation is to either split languages according to person (one person speaks one language, another person speaks the other) or to have one home language and use the other language outside the home.

Both approaches are inappropriate for our circumstances, we don't live in worlds perfect for bilingual language acquisition. My beloved, though able to speak German, isn't proficient enough for us to have German as a home language. While I attempt to speak German to Cubling whenever possible, it is simply not always possible. For instance, my mummy friends are almost exclusively English speaking. When we meet up, Cubling hears me speak English, hears me address other children in English, and often hears me address her in English because I don't want the other mums or children feel excluded. Similarly when we spend the weekends with Cubling's cousin, she hears me speak English to everyone except her. I also don't think it's helpful for her to hear me speak English to my beloved, or indeed to hear me struggle to find the German word for yet another thing that is just not coming back to me.

A Spanish friend of mine in Germany is in a similar situation, in spite all her efforts of speaking Spanish only to her first daughter, encountered resistance because it wasn't useful beyond speaking with mummy. The girl ended up refusing to speak Spanish and telling her mum to stop that nonsense.

Aware of this issue, and after some recommendations from the new Edinburgh based project Bilingualism Matters, I was keen to ensure additional situations where German was used in Cubling's life, to increase exposure to German and her perception of its usefulness. First, I joined the German Kinderclub. The drawback of this club was it's location across the city and the timing of its meetings. It meant that I lost a full Saturday every other week for 2 hours of unstructured play with mostly older kids (who would speak English amongst themselves while mums spoke German amongst themselves - interestingly, it seems that the expat German/Austrian/Swiss is always the woman). There wasn't much meaningful exposure, at least not enough to make this long trip worthwhile. It has to be said though that the celebration of German style festivals is an important aspect of the club and I will stay connected with it.

I also tried to organise a German speaking mum and toddler group closer to home. To be honest, it was ambitious and I got as far as getting the contacts, but not as far as hosting it regularly. Why? Well, I work 4 full days a week, and time is ever short. Weekends are family time for most, and dividing Fridays up between 2 toddler groups and all my friends is bound to fail.

Thankfully, I have a good German friend with a child the same age as Cubling. We see each other regularly so there is at least some non-mummy German input. Not a lot, but much better than nothing. So trips to Germany are important and we decided this time that only Cub
Publish Post
ling and I would go, to ensure that she would get maximum exposure to German. I came back with lots of heavy books and DVDs in my rucksack, in the hope that they'll be more fun than some of the English books and keep Cubling hooked on German. Effectively that means that I'm very generous with letting her watch German TV (while I know that watching TV in itself does not promote language development, the idea is to create a positive association with the weaker language), some may of course call this approach bribery.

If you have any experience of raising bilingual children that you would like to share, please do, I'm keen to hear your stories!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Cubling spricht Deutsch!

It's a rather exciting period as far as Cubling's speaking is concerned. The Easter break and outstanding annual leave took Cubling and me to Germany for a full 12 days. Hubby didn't join us so she ended up experiencing 12 days of almost German only. Interestingly though, some of my friends (all of whom speak fluent English) couldn't resist speaking a few words of English to her, not sure why, maybe to make her feel at home, or to hear her speak English, or maybe because they thought she'd understand them better?

Still, the effect the short holiday had on her language was amazing. Maybe it was because it came at a crucial point in her language development, what with the 2 word phase fully established and occasional 3 word sentences being uttered. She copies words freely, happily cooperates with my approach to acknowledge her English word, give her the German and ask her to repeat it. She loves doing it. And she's good at it. She's starting to distinguish between languages, has an awareness of the same thing having two words and that she should use one with me and the other with those not speaking funny like mummy.

On top of that she knows that a "please" or "bitte" will make mummy happy and get her what she wants, and she is very good at putting on her cutest "please" to dispel any reservations.

She is a confident speaker, even though her active language is still lagging behind many of her pears. If I say that of course I have to mention that my main comparison is that of her cousin who is a linguistic prodigy so I may be wrong, although I guess that at 25 months, it would be normal to expect more than just two 3 word sentences (mummy do that, put it there). Of course this slight dealy is rather normal in bilingual children, and she compensates by fabulous non verbal communication and making her language go very far indeed. There's also lots of singing of nursery rhymes involved, and amazingly she does equally well in both languages.

In both languages her pronunciation is perfect apart from obvious difficult sounds. She's losing some made up words slowly (loulou is now finally often replaced by yoghurt and tata by jacket) but she also uses longer expressions which I simply cannot understand although they sound like perfectly possible words.

It's lovely to hear her finally speak German and to also realise that words which I used months ago and forgot to keep using are not forgotten and make surprise appearances. All the effort of exposing her to as much silly chat as possible finally gets rewarded. She also catches so many snippets of conversation which should tell us to be extra careful with anything we say. She'll catch the word chocolate for sure if we mention it and will make her desire for some of it rather clear. Better not to mention it if there's no intention to let her have some. Hopefully the 12 days will have given her a lasting boost for speaking German and not evaporate in another week's time.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Baby's first year... win a Blurb voucher!

It's been a long time waiting.
There's something about the digital camera age that's not quite right. Before Cubling was born, we bought a digital film camera to capture every milestone of her life inside and outside mummy (no internal videos mind you, just bump shots in case you were wondering). Add to this 2 digital photo cameras and my latest acquisition of a digital SLR. I haven't counted the photos and films but suffice to say we had to buy a good few external hard drives to store them, our latest addition with a terabite capacity which we're rather proud of.

I hardly ever look at the photos, and never at the videos. For Opa Cartside's 70th last year, at least I managed to produce a film on Cubling's first year. It sucked the life blood out of me, between converting formats, finding a suitable software and actually doing it. As for the photos - in regular intervals I got some printed in the attempt of creating the ultimate Baby's First Year book. Whenever I tried to fill the album, the prints weren't complete, not the right size, some blurred though they weren't on file. Cubling's second birthday was fast approaching and still no sign of a Baby's First Year photo album.

Granted, I experimented with some photo creations. Photo calendars have become regular Christmas presents and they are quite good. Photo books similarly were something to be trialled. Often though, no sites where the photos for such books needed uploaded before collating them into projects, photos got lost, projects or photos corrupted, or the upload time meant leaving the computer on various nights in a row. Only to come back to a cancelled transfer due to yet another error. It wasn't working for me.

Enter Blurb. Blurb is an online company specialising in creating books. This includes photo books but also other exciting options such as turning your blog into a book and many other products. The big difference in relation to photo books is that you download their software and create the book on your computer. Only when finished do you have to upload the project to Blurb to get it printed. The advantages are striking: you are in control, no corrupted file, no uploads of photos you end up not using, and a software (BookSmart) which is much easier to use. There are similar providers out there using software and from the research I did, Blurb is very price competitive and offers a wider range of formats. I've only tried out Blurb's own software so can't compare the capabilities and ease of use but I can review it on it's own terms.

On the plus side, BookSmart gives you a wealth of page design templates. In practice this means that you can have anything from one picture to at least 9 on one page, you can add text, arrange any number of picture in many ways, underlay / overlay pictures, create collages and much more. It pays off to take your time and experiment with the many options, to find your own style. There is lots of scope for customising templates, such as adding borders, changing colours etc. To be honest, I didn't use them because I like a plain white background with no curly wurly stuff around it. There are different templates for the cover and the back. You could easily create a decent photobook in a couple of hours but if you want to do your baby's first year book, well, it'll take you longer to get it all just perfect. I spent about 2 weeks worth of evenings on it until it was all just right. And for the special book I chose the biggest format, the best paper, and quite a lot of pages, so that the finished book cost me about 40 pounds (you can easily create a book for much less than this). The result was really impressive - no faults in the production, all photos as expected. The software warns you if a photo doesn't have a sufficient resolution for the size of space you choose. But even the one image that came up with a warning still looks just right. So the software really ensures you don't mess it up. It also indicates which photos are already used in the book, so you can be sure not to have duplications or to forget an unforgettable shot. The preview book function is a great way of checking that all is as you wish, and it's very easy to go back and make changes. In fact, the preview function was very frequently used because it worked rather well. BookSmart also always saves your changes so you are fully protected from any potential computer crash. Not that I had a single crash while creating this massive book.

There is some room for improvement though. I found the navigation through the book while creating it rather cumbersome. The window showing the page template is too big. Often, not all image place holders for the current page were displayed on my screen and there was no scroll bar which made it almost impossible to place photos into location. I also didn't figure out how to browse through pages quickly. Some photo place holder areas are not the same size as photos and while the software makes it easy to move photos into their best position, again it gets difficult if this area is outside of the window. I had to switch between different view options constantly to remedy this problem which was rather annoying. Similarly, it took me some time to understand what constitutes a cover and why it was different from a normal page.

While many advanced features were easily accessible and self explanatory, the central features were a bit tricky to figure out. The software works by loading the images you want to use and placing them into place holders. There is an option to view only the photos in this area of your photos which have not yet been used in the photo book. However, if you do this, you cannot go back to viewing all the photos you had selected for use before. Instead you need to reload them. This is rather annoying if you decide to make changes in the book which involve deleting photos.

It would also have been useful to be able to move pictures between pages. The software only allows you to work on one page, and to add pictures or delete them, not to move them between pages.

Blurb definitely has my thumbs up for value for money, quality of production and stability of software. The BookSmart software would benefit from some basic improvements (size reduction of page view window or addition of scroll bar) and additional features (copying between pages, browsing between pages more easily) and a more comprehensive tutorial (which gives some examples of the basic features), though it's fabulous on the count of customisation and features.

If you would like to try out Blurb yourself, I have one voucher to give away. The value is $40 or 25 pounds, which is more than enough for creating a decent book. Just leave a comment with contact details and the winner will be drawn with the help of a capable 2 year old.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

whistling in the tree tops

It's April. Spring, budding trees, blooming flowers. Well, almost, it's all a bit later up here in Scotland (thankfully I hasten to add as it saves me at least a month of horrible hayfever per year). Time for birdsong and watching nature come out of hibernation. Perfect time for the BBC to launch a new DVD for preschoolers about a community of birds living in a tree: 3rd & Bird.

The series is about a bird community where everyone watches out for one another, and it's aim is to introduce 2-6 year olds to the value of community and the world just outside their own homes. And, the community being birds, there's also an environmental theme to it. The series comes with a rather cute website bursting with activities, games and information on the series. The graphics are just lovely, as is the sound (ok, it did get raised eyebrows from hubby when I couldn't stop playing about and letting Samuel move and whistle for rather long). The child in me couldn't let go of exploring the tree, just flying about purposelessly impersonating a bird character. It's a lovely site, with plenty of entertainment for little ones. My only quibble with the site is that it wakened my curiosity and I was dying to find out when the series runs on Cbeebies and could I find it? No. The products and news pages are still a tad empty, which is probably due to the newness of the series and should hopefully change in time. You can't actually order the new DVD (yet?) and have to rely on winning the competition to get it. I'm also not so sure about the name - is it Third & Bird, 3rd & Bird, 3rd and Bird, Third and Bird? I do get the rhyme but find it a slightly awkward title with so many spelling options plus a bit difficult to make it into my grey matter. Maybe it works better in kids' brains.

As a green voluntary sector gal, the series has my thumbs up for promoting community spirit and environmental awareness and I'm looking forward to actually watching it. The Third & Bird website is above all delightful fun and a treasure chest for mummies, daddies and their babes. Best of all, it stars the world champion of whistling who lends his whistle to the birds.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

bright eyed and bushy tailed

Sometimes the Cartside home is transformed into magic wonderland. Tonight, after a bathing frenzy with her cousin (something she had been looking forward to for the whole duration of her stay in mummy country - as in asking for a bath with her cousin every single day both at naptime and at bedtime, and she sure made sure to have a whale of a time tonight), Cubling dispensed imaginary ice creams from the head board of our bed. Lots of ice cream. I think she gave us about five each.

Earlier in the day we had ventured out into the sudden sunshine and the ever lovely Queen's Park. There were ducks not needing fed (when admiring the view from the flagpole, both toddlers reminded us of our mission ensuring that the grown ups didn't get sidetracked), but nevermind, Cubling was ever so pleased with herself for throwing bread crumbs into the pond. The pond was covered in bread; ducks, swans, seagulls and pigeons letting it swim and disintegrate with full tummies. There was an ice cream van and the delight on her face when we did actually get some was unspeakable. A long session at the swing park prompted her cousin to comment "that was fun!", and yes, fun they had by the bucketloads. What better way to end a day of playing with your favourite cousin than to water the plants with the "tantans" (Giesskanne, or watering can for the anglophones amongst you).

Cubling was frantic with excitement and pleasure, and so was her cousin. Two pairs of sparkling eyes eager to keep going. Hugs and kisses distributed as generously as imaginary ice cream cones.
I'm rather exhausted and rather happy.

Friday, 17 April 2009

introducing: bright and cheerful socks

After lots and lots of knitting for friends and family I realised that there was a time and place for something knitted for my very own self, and that this time and place was now. I found this absolutely beautiful hand spun and hand dyed yarn Mirasol Hacho from Peru which simply caught my eye. Fairly traded it is too, and the colours, well, what can I say. I got two sets of two colours and was lucky that one skein is just about enough for a short sock - just as well I didn't intend to make it a long one!

Opa Cartside (aka my ever practical father) commented on how much work was involved, how long it took to knit just one pair of socks, and just as well I didn't tell him how much the yarn cost. I'm sure many people see life in terms of efficiency and cost effectiveness. Of course these socks are not. These socks are special. They keep my feet snug and warm on cold April evenings in Glasgow, they smile at me with their bright colours and make me feel less tired. They are a splash of colour when I need it, and having made them myself in lots of hours while watching telly, chatting to friends, driving long distances in the car (I wasn't driving while knitting I hasten to add), really, they didn't take any of my precious time. They filled potential boredom with creativity and the great feeling that comes from having made something yourself.

As to being my first socks - I had to wonder why they sell sets of double-pointed needles which are one needle short (I only realised that 5 needles were required - I managed with 4, but 5 would have made it easier). I loved having to just knit and not count so much, the portability and simplicity of these socks. I didn't like the small needles, tight knitting and the slow progress. The heel was done with a technique that apparently is easier than the traditional turning the heel one, and yes, it was rather straight forward. The pattern is available for free in German only (sorry) and the yarn retails at John Lewis - possibly at other places too.

On a different topic, don't forget to pay a visit to this fortnight's British Mummy Bloggers Carnival over at More than Just a Mother. I'm dead chuffed that I'm in it too, above all though there's plenty of good reading gathered over there. And if you haven't entered the book competition yet, you've got another day before I'll draw the lucky winner!

Sunday, 12 April 2009

books!

Anyone who knows me also knows that I love books. Having an active toddler means that I had to reduce my reading time, and the pile of books I want to read is rather impressive. Yet I'm not one to turn down a free book offer, and so I jumped at the chance to review two of Virgin Books new releases this spring. The two books couldn't be more different - the only similarity being that they both deal with becoming a parent.

Charlotte Moerman has been blogging on the buggy blog for quite some time. Her first novel Instructions not Included is an account of her journey to motherhood, and again, and again. Mum to three boys, the novel is a tour de force through the confusion, emotions, and chaos of becoming a mum three times in just three and a half years. It took me about 20 pages to get into - the chronological jumps without explicit explanation initially were a bit hard going for my tired evening brain at times, but once I got used to it they no longer confused. The book became a joy to read, I laughed, cried, and only read it when I was able to take it all in. I took my time because it was worth it. Even Cubling hiding it (it took 2 weeks to find) didn't manage to put me off reading every single page and sentence. Moerman has an obvious gift for writing, and is as able to put across the rawness of emotion as well as a detached perspective with irony, honesty, good humour and a pervading sense of reality. It's a great book for any parent, and if you're a blogger, all the more so especially in case you're eyeing the possibility of getting published. The book doesn't read at all like a blog, which I think is a strength. It clearly managed to jump to a different level and not just being a blog pretending to be a novel. It's a novel in its own right and hopefully will become popular beyond the blogging community. Oh, and the cover artwork is great. Cubling sometimes let me read a page while busily pointing out stuff on it - it doubles as a picture book you see!

And because I really enjoyed the read, I'd like to give you guys the chance to read it yourselves, so if you want to enter the competition for a copy of Charlotte Moermann's Instructions not Included (hard back) book, leave a comment with email contact details. I shall draw the winner by blindly pointing at the screen of comments.

My Bump & Me by Myleene Klass is a different kettle of fish altogether. I hate to give a negative review, but this account of pregnancy is painful. A small chapter per week of being pregnant (fortunately baby came early) runs us through 37 weeks of a tearful and vomitting Myleene, her constant moody behaviour, which leaves you to wonder if she will be able to grow up in time to be a decent mum to a vulnerable baby. Most of the time I just felt like I really did not want to be party to her behaviour towards fiance and colleagues. Neither was her celebrity talk in any way something that would get me hooked. This woman has it easy. She gets everything delivered on a plate, slags off the NHS and goes private, boasts with all the presents she gets for her baby just because she's a celebrity, while she demonstrates a fear of people finding out about her pregnancy due to her celebrity status which is beyond my comprehension. Ok, I'd never heard about her so to me she isn't a celeb, but her attitude sucks big time. So she ends up only talking to other mums or mums to be because she can blather endlessly about her own bump: "It's good manners to look at everyone else's pictures but really you are doing it so you can pull out your own photos to show them off". She means it. She talks like she's the first and only woman ever to have a baby, and of course she gets all the pregnancy niggles that you can think of times a hundred, effectively behaving like a witch (I quote her fiance), all with the excuse of pregnancy. And she thinks it's cool to tell the world about it. Her account is offensive at stages, but my overall feeling was one of boredom and couldn't care less. There is even a claim for medical information - this is so patchy that really it should say so in case some people do actually inform their judgement on her account.

If you're into celebs and looking for a pregnancy account that is actually rather readable, go for Jules Oliver. It's not fabulously written but definitely more readable and written by someone most people will be able to relate to (she sounds nice, you know. And she doesn't bore the head off you. She even had two kids close together and talks about what comes after birth which is kinda more interesting than talking for 200 pages about your bump).

So then, don't forget to leave a comment to enter for a copy of Charlotte Moermann's book. Good luck!

Friday, 10 April 2009

swinging between Germany and Scotland

You know where your home is when you know the way to the next swing park. And you know your home town is no longer that when you don't. So we've been looking for swing parks in the town I used to call my home. Thankfully, my general approach worked rather well - spot the mum with small child, smile and ask. If there's one thing about being a mum that's just amazing it's the ease of making mummy friends. All I wanted to know was the way to the nearest swing park and I end up chatting to a total stranger for the better part of an hour, while Cubling is playing happily with a new found friend who even understands her utterings. That's because it's pretty cool to raise kids bilingually here, even if there aren't two mother-father tongues in the household.

Anyway, swing park found (after ending up in what turned out to be my very own old kindergarten - it took me a while to recognise it but when I did, oh my strange it felt), I pondered how it only takes a glance for me to tell a German swingpark from a Scottish one. As ever, when I embark on comparisons, I haste to add that I don't think one is better than the other, they're just different. German swing parks have lots of sand. Sand pits, wooden climbing constructions in sand. And woodchips. Sometimes even little stones. Cubling loves playing with all three, and spends more time with it than using the actual items positioned for play. She likes it, so I like it. Scottish swing parks are usually built on some plastic bouncy material, safe, easy to maintain, colourful. I don't think I've ever been to one that would have sported a sand pit.

Items on German swingpark:
-wooden constructions for climbing, sometimes with wobbly bridge. Scottish equivalent: metal construction for climbing, usually with built in shoot. I have seen wooden ones in Scotland too.
- Then there's the swing - It's extremely rare to find a baby swing in German swing parks. That's a shame because Cubling likes them. Shoots: usually only one really big one in German swing parks, not so good for under 2s, but so much more fun if your child is over 2. Cubling is over 2.
- Roundabout: They are interestingly different but no way I could describe them.
- Seasaws: German ones are wooden logs, mostly, or some modern concoction. Scottish ones are colourful. Cubling likes both.
- Balancing things: Only in Germany, lots of varieties, Cubling likes them for 2 minutes, so not a great loss in Scotland although pretty fun for those short 2 minutes.

Above all it's the appearance of swing parks that's rather different. German ones seem sprung from the ground with lots of natural materials, while Scottish ones are a feast of colour and look very tidy (unless full of graffiti). I wonder whether there is some ideological undercurrent in this. Germans love their forest, forest kindergardens are very popular and outdoor play is important to the vast majority of parents. Maybe the Scottish approach is functional - ease of maintenance may play a role in the design, or maybe it's more to do with city (Glasgow) versus town (Dormagen)?

One thing is for sure though - the distance to the next swing park is always shorter in Scotland. Not that I mind a nice walk in the beautiful summer sunshine that has been with us so far. And Cubling now asks for "platz" (for Spielplatz, swing park) rather than "nyine" (her world for swing park). If she doesn't ask to see a giraffe - but that's another story, ehm, blog post.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Aren't I fabulous?

There's a rather chuffed Cartside in the house. I've been awarded the fabulous blog, er, award, hurray! It comes from the Being a Mummy, a blog I'm a keen follower of - it's funny, with a definite out of the ordinary sense of humour which really gets me to chuckle. Being a Mummy, aka Zooarchaeologist (I feel brave typing this because I don't think I'll ever be sure how to spell it) is mum to 2 under 2, although older boy must be heading for his big 2 birthday rather soon if I'm not mistaken.

No award without rules, so I'm to link back to the blog which tagged me (tick), name 5 things I'm addicted to and pass it on to blogs I like, linking to them in this post and leaving a comment telling them about the award. It doesn't say how many of the latter, so let's see how many that'll turn out to be.

I'm seriously addicted to chocolate. Always been, always will be. Nothing like it. I could actually live on chocolate. I don't think there are many day in the year when I don't eat chocolate. When pregnant with Cubling, I averaged 3 Mars Delights a day (and through out the scales when they told me I'd put on 20kg during pregnancy - that was at 8 months, no idea how much I actually did put on).

Second to chocolate, the internet. I'm a true blogging and email junkie. I could procrastinate all day reading blogs, honest.

My remaining addictions are relative. I don't need my fix every day. There's one not to be missed on any mummy list, sleep.

Next, there's tea. I love drinking plain old tea. It's even sometimes hot these days although I got rather used to cold tea just after b-day. For all my love of tea I do forget it more than I like, either in the form of boiled water, an unpoured cup in the pot, a poured cup somewhere in the house, or even a poured and then gone cold cup in the microwave after having attempted tea resuscitation and failed (because I forgot it and it's cold again).

Finally, crafting. I need the buzz that making stuff brings. Not every day, but most days, and it doesn't have to be knitting or card making, it can be anything.

And I pass the award on to:

Metropolitan Mum, a reasonably new blog, for great writing that strikes a chord with my own pregnancy story 2 and a bit years ago, just that she's putting it so much more poignantly.

Southside Yarns who has started to post again after a long spell of morning sickness (the latter not on the blog of course!) and I'm glad to see my fellow southsider, fellow knitter, fellow mum and, above all, my friend blogging again.

My all time favourite Soulemama, she's an inspiration, always first on my reader and if you don't know her blog yet, go there immediately.

More than just a Mother who I came across only yesterday and ended up spending all night reading.

And finally, Single Parent Dad because his blog has been very important for me in the past 3-4 months, giving hope that there can be happiness after grief. Which is really not why anyone should read his blog because it's so much more, I absolutely have to add.

That makes 5, the same number as addictions? Looks rather neat to me.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

carnivore army attacks!

I'm beleaguered and close to having to admit defeat. The army bringing me to my knees are of the carnivore type. Me, the only vegetarian in the house. I'm not entirely alone, in the big scheme of things, I have an army of friends. However, they are far away from my castle, strewn across the globe and not partaking in the daily battle of the dining table.

By now, I thought, it should be common knowledge that 5 a day is a good idea whether you're a vegetarian or not. Just that 5 a day seems to be interpreted into 5 meats a day by my entire family, across generations. And they do not take in reason or research, my pointy teacher's finger. No, they say, meat makes you strong and lets you fight big scary monsters.

There is Opa carnivore. He eats two meals a day, both consisting of lots of meat and maybe some fried potatoes, bread, lots of beer and some coffee. Vegetables may be consumed in smallish quantities if cooked in salt and sugar and called carrot, pea or bean. Next is Cubling carnivore. She eats anything that has high salt contents, preferably W├╝rstchen / sausage (she know both words, having her priorities right), chips and fried potatoes. She neither touches veg nor fruit. Attempts at hiding either show varying rates of success. The trick of the hidden carrot behind the potato on the spoon is quickly exposed. The knife of the blender is proving successful for the moment, but only if vegetable sauce created sorrounds some really salty tortellini. Next, meet hubby carnivore. Never one to dismiss a deep fried haggis or black pudding supper (what do you expect if you marry a Scot), he delights in the opportunities of divulging in secret pleasures of meat balls and baked beens that my absence offers.

I'm fighting a losing battle. I'm the cook. For all of them. You should think I'm in charge. I'm not. Cubling crying her eyes out if refused the sausage until she touched a veg, Opa raising his eyebrow when presented with a tasty mediterranean feast. Hubby not present, so currently not adding to the injury but usually at least he eats what I cook and sometimes even claims he likes it. This may be a ploy of course to create an illusion of safety, before the final and lethal blow of the carnivore army.

My health soldiers aren't working. The enemy army seem keen to show that they are healthy even with 0 a day. My food is rejected. Again and again. I feel like throwing it against the picture perfect walls.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

high up in the sky

It felt like the first time in an aeroplane. In her reasonably short life, Cubling has been on aeroplanes a lot. Her passport is evidence of this, her photo taken at about 4 weeks and getting us into trouble at every custom control. I'm joking of course, but it does always bring a much needed smile to stern faces of immigration controllers. Living abroad with one half of the family and friends in one country and the other in the other, plus having accummulated a reasonably international circle of friends unfortunately translates into having a higher carbon footprint than intended. Since Cubling was born, there've been numerous trips to her Opa and to a wedding in France. She should be used to flying by now.

Last night told me that this was not true. Nothing could have prepared me for the excitement which overtook Cubling. Every step of the way - spotting billboards with planes on them, seeing the airport, seeing a plane take off, checking in, security check, passport control, boarding, being seated (for the first time in her very own seat!) and above all, an accelating plane followed by take off. The sea was water, the clouds were snow, she loved the turbulences (unlike me), or screeching for the fun of watching a man in the seat behind snoozing away and later couldn't control her furiously kicking legs with the rush of speed upon landing, as if she had to move them to propel the plane all by herself.

She was so excited that she hardly sleept on the two hour journey by car that followed. And she found it impossible to sleep in her bed afterwards. Her mind must have been reeling and it took us until 2 am to finally both enter dreamland.

Strangely, today, she doesn't seem tired in the least. Unlike Mummy.

It may not have been my first flight with her, but it somehow was her first flight with me.

Friday, 3 April 2009

cry wolf

We had a cry wolf moment today.

You see, Cubling, in her two years of life, has always been rather vocal. As a baby, she was well able to maintain a cry for up to seven hours in spite of maternal and paternal attempts to stop the noise. Later, the crying became winging, which was and still is rather frequent. While she's now able to communicate, if something doesn't happen the way she envisages it INSTANTLY, the wailing starts. She does that when mummy leaves the room for a few seconds. When mummy doesn't pay her 100% of her attention, when she needs to get dressed, her nappy changed, when she wants something impossible, when the idea of swing park is in her mind and mummy tries to explain that it's not such a good idea in the pooring rain. She also screams in her sleep (often) so we've come to be a tad immune to her noise levels. Responsive but with minimal fuss, so as not to encourage it.

So today she was whining again, complaining about "knee sore, up". Now, she always wants carried to the swing park and back, but of course has no problem running about like a cheetah once there. And after running about all day with her cousin and clearly proving her ability to run on this particular day and even to keep up with an older toddler, there was no way I would carry her even a few meters.

We did get home without a monkey sitting on my hip. The whining continued, now for food. With half an hour to dinner time, I tried my best not to succumb to offering snacks. But the wailing became constant and rather counterproductive to mummy's cooking endeavours. Sometimes mummy has good ideas and so she realised that the cooked veg wasn't in the curry yet, so if she was really hungry, she could just as well eat the dreaded veg.

She must have been really hungry, she ate a full plate of veg and potato, followed by the actual meal of fishfingers, and yoghurt. As I undressed her for the bath, a massive, still bleeding knee presented itself.

I felt like a rather bad mummy.

---- some stuff for mummy's records: -----
Cubling's favourite words of the day: Funny! (which she says to a lot of things with a hysterical laughter - she finds absolutely everything funny), No-one! (meaning: no way am I gonna do that). She was also happy to see trees covered in snow (that would be cherry trees in bloom). She's also made a huge progress in her physical abilities. All of a sudden she can climb things that only two weeks ago were way beyond her abilities. And she finally has started saying the proper words for some of her made up words, as well as adding German words. Strangely, she answers the question "how old are you" in German, and the German question in English. Maybe she's just having a laugh though. Her counting has changed from two-three-four-five-eight-nine-ten to one-two-three-four-five-six. If I add seven, she'll continue up to 10 or eleven. So some things seem to have clicked with her, as if a switch was turned.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

scarf for MIL

I seem to feel quite inspired by the nice clean suface of this new blog of mine. Also, spending the evening at my sister in law's, I realised that I left one of 4 knitting needles at home, so I'm stuck for progress on my second sock tonight, so perfect excuse for ... a knitting post.

I'm actually amazed how many individual pieces of knitting I've completed in the past 6 months. I'm not a fast knitter, and I don't knit every evening. It's something that I fit in while watching TV, while visiting family during Cubling's naptime, while in the passenger seat.

So here's something that got completed a tad late for my mother in law, it was meant to be ready for her birthday but I think I was a week or two late. The pattern is very simple, a basic tube scarf in stocking stitch. It couldn't be easier. Just that I didn't manage to join the tube so actually sewed it together. The yarn is the lovely and soft Kidsilk Haze, a very light mohair/silk mix. It's a fabulous yarn to knit with, maybe not for a beginner due to its consistency, but if you love yarns, it is such a joy to let it run through your fingers as you knit. The trick for this particular piece is to knit it with large needles, in this case 5mm, the result is a lacy appearance in spite of the very simple pattern. To make it more exciting, a contrasting fabric longer than the tube is inserted, and the whole scarf is held together by a brooch. Pattern taken from Alternknits, fabric is courtesy of John Lewis and I finally sourced the perfect brooch at Accessorize, after spending various lunch breaks unsuccessfully hunting for a silver brooch.

It's a scarf I'd quite happy do again, for myself it would have to be a different colour but this one is just right for my loving mother in law and hopefully will keep her warm and cosy.

Why some people don't go to their doctor

One of the areas of my work I was interested in is to find out how young people and parents perceive services (public and voluntary) in their communities. While the programme of work that I drew up and presented got rejected on the count of being too expensive and too long (it was about engaging the poorest children and families in Glasgow, building relationships of trust and facilitating a process whereby they would make changes to their lives and communities - the kind of work that does actually take a lot of resources), it was still benefitial to talk to organisations and people.

Here are some of the issues that young people and voluntary sector organisations have come up with:

Accessing health services:
Young people are reluctant to access health services and often only do this in emergencies. This includes antenatal services. The reason they give for this is that their parents only see a GP/go to hospital when very ill, which leads to bad experiences. If you see that you only get out of hospital in a box, you rather avoid hospitals. As to antenatal services, young people are often reluctant to go because they fear being told off for smoking, alcohol consumption and not wanting to breastfeed. There is a real lack of using health services to prevent illness and as health support. So the dentist sees some kids only when all their milk teeth need taken out. Ouch.

Literacy of secondary pupils
In areas of deprivation, there is a high incident of teenagers who are not sufficiently literate. They are very likely to disengage with school (this ranges from truancy to lack of participation and destructive behaviour), have low self esteem, compensate with negative behaviour, not engage in any programmes of further learning or vocational programmes.

Territorialism
A biggie in Glasgow. There are invisible but real boundaries young people will not cross. They are afraid of being attacked if they do, so they won't use services on offer in an area outside of their own. Territorialism is mostly passed on from generation to generation and has a long history. Parents often support territorial behaviour, even if they are critical of gang fighting. In Glasgow, the gangs are often aligned along religious/ethnic lines (Catholic/Protestant, Irish/Scottish).

Parental literacy
Where parental, and specifically, maternal literacy is low, children are exposed much less to books. As a consequence, they are less prepared for school, often a full year behind when they start school. This gap widens rather than narrows (leading to teenage functional illiteracy in the worst case scenario). Parents are less confident to support their children, less likely to engage with school, less likely to read information about services. It seems commonplace that children entering schools have never seen a book, or shared a book with their parents.

Smoking
There is a culture of smoking which makes it very hard for an individual to give up smoking. Smoking is normal behaviour, and smoking cessation programmes are taken up more by more affluent people, and are more successful among more affluent people because they are not in a culture of smoking and aren't exposed to other people smoking as much.

In addition there is a general misconception of what healthy/good food is, the actual effects of alcohol and tobacco consumption. With all the advertising and focus on healthy eating and the dangers of smoking, the media attention binge drinking gets, it raises the question if we fail to communicate to a significant proportion of the population.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Keep the Promise

Did you know that 1 in 3 children in the UK grows up in poverty?

Eleven years ago, the UK Government promised to end child poverty by 2020.
Next year markes the half way point of this promise but levels of child poverty, while decreasing, are not going down enough to reach this target. Additional investment is needed and Save the Children is calling for an investment of £3 billion to meet the half way target by 2010. Considering that a) the UK Government is rather happy to spend much more money on the banking system and b) that the UK is the 5th richest nation, there doesn't seem to be a valid excuse not to invest this extra money.

In the run up to this year's Budget on 22nd April (that's the one where we want to see a £3 billion investment to end child poverty, by redistributing money to families on low income), we've been running workshops at a number of primary and secondary schools. The kids came up with great stuff, even printing money as one solution. It doesn't need a Chancellor to come up with the idea of quantitative easing! The workshops were great fun and we made sure to run them at schools where poverty is likely to be a massive issue, while making sure children were talking about child poverty in general, rather than about being poor. There is a great stigma attached to poverty and nobody wants to be labelled as poor.

We also got around the new rule of not being allowed to work on asylum issues. Well, not really, but to be honest, if in Glasgow and working with schools in the most empoverished communities, these also happen to be the places where asylum seeking families are housed by the city council. Interestingly, they came up with a different definition of poverty: Not having enough money to them means not having water, food, health care / money for medicine and not being able to go to school.

It was good getting back into some real work after lots of navel gazing and restructuring. Campaigning is something I rather enjoy anyway, though it's not in my job description unfortunately. There'll be another few workshops, and I can't wait for even more practical solutions by children and young people that make much more sense most of the time than the politicians' speak.

If on facebook, join the campaign and add your voice! You can also send an ecard to Alistair Darling.

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