Friday, 31 December 2010

Stranger danger

She runs up to one of the dad's at the soft play and asks him to build her a house out of the soft shapes. She is enthusiastic, cheerful, full of energy and oh so sociable. While her mummy is entertaining her baby sister, she is entertained by the attention of another child's dad, or mum. Later on, she will wave goodbye before leaving and say "see you again another day!"

She loves people, she trusts them without reservations. She will say hello to everyone passing by her house. Whenever the phone rings, or the doorbell, she absolutely has to say hello, or she'll be engulfed by tearful sadness. She thrives on adult attention and interaction, and connects so easily and charmingly to anyone willing to look at her.

It has been noted that she has no awareness of stranger danger. We, her parents have been advised that they should make her aware of the danger of strangers.

Herein lies the conundrum.

We are asked to destroy her innocence, her unwaivering belief in the goodness of every person. We are asked to instill fear into her.

While I understand why this is a responsible thing to do, I also understand why this is equally an awful thing to do. I remember a teacher of mine who made us explore the meaning of fear. He then continued to ask us for the antithesis of fear. It was trust - and how essential it was that trust was to prevail over fear. It's a lesson I still remember because I saw a lot of truth in it. Like an epiphany I realised how trust conquered fear and made the world a better place to live in.

There is a whole life ahead of her where she will have to decide whom she can or cannot trust. For now, she is protected by us and can rest assured that whomever we trust, she can trust as well. It is a gift. Her innocence and trustworthiness is a reminder of what things could be like in a better world.

And we're meant to make this evaporate into thin air? I cannot, for now, bring myself to doing this.
There's still time isn't there? Can she not be innocent for a little while longer?
Then, how will we know that the time has come to tell her how cruel and evil this world can be?

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The hopeless idealist's plan for 2011

I don't really do New Year's Resolutions, not sure why, but have never done them. However, for this year I thought it would be quite good to make a few plans, or maybe even commitments, so that at the end of the year I can look back and see how I did. No pressure, just to be able to see if I followed the track, got sidetrack or discovered a totally new road. Which would be fine too.

So here are my plans for 2011:

1. Get chickens. Not sure when that'll be, as it depends on a few alterations in our tiny garden. Which means it may or may not happen. Cubling is dead excited about it. And so am I, even if a bit wary of the extra work they may involve and also the fox.

2. Grow more food. I'm nowhere as near to that as I'd hoped to be which is due to the snow. There are 6 berry bushes to be planted, one fruit tree waiting for a permanent hole. Ideally, I'd also like to replace lawn with food growing area. But this may a more long term ambition.

3. Buy less in general. Buy with less packaging. Buy more ethically. Buy more handmade. Avoid plastic

4. Make all greeting cards. Now this is ambitious. I love making cards, but in this card giving land of the UK, that translates to rather a lot of card making.

5.Learn 3 new things (high in the list of contenders are crocheting, basket making and wood turning, but it may be something totally different)

6. Declutter. Difficulty with this one is that it's relative and as much as I try doing it, more clutter appears.

7. Get back to a size 12. Yes I'm shallow. I want to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes. I think I only need to continue breastfeeding and should get there (I'm one of the lucky ones whose weight just drops off magically while breastfeeding)

8. Learn how to use Lightroom. Which would also part fulfills no. 5

9. Reduce my carbon footprint. I'm not saying by how much because I'm a chicken and it's rather difficult. Apparently mine is way over 3 earths (as in, if everyone used as much carbon as I did, we'd need 3 earths, and that's although I'm a vegetarian and trying not to waste too much...) However, I'm doing not so bad as I've reduced my air travel in the past 6 months.

10. If I can find an illustrator, I'd like to create a simple bilingual German/English toddler book. You don't happen to be an illustrator? You see, I've had this idea for a long time but can't draw for the life of me.

Bonus round:
If I'm really ambitious, I'd like to think/set up a social enterprise. I have an idea for it, but probably neither time nor energy.

So there you have it. It's all green for next year, I'm a hopeless idealist but that's just grand by me.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Sit and knit a bit - for the missing women of the world

Did you know that there are 100 million women missing in this world?

When I came across this statistic, I couldn't believe it. The facts tell a different story.
If you take the natural distribution of male/female, there are 100 million women missing from our planet. Why?

Because baby girls are selectively aborted
Because baby girls are killed
Because women are killed
Because women aren't given an education
Because women do not get the same medical care as men
Because women die in childbirth
Because women are trafficked and sexually exploited

And all of this 100 years after International Women's Day was first celebrated on 8 March.

100 years of International Women's Day, one million women missing for every year.

To highlight the inequalities that still exist across the globe and are responsible for 100 Million missing women as well as the continuous gap of women being represented in decision making positions in the government, the workplace and the media, there is a great Scottish based initiative which tries to create a debate and... a massive blanket, with 100 Million knitted stitches; one for every woman missing. The great thing is that everybody can contribute to this, by knitting a simple square measuring 15 x 15 cm (6x6 inches). 100 million stitches is an awful lot though, as little as one stitch per missing woman does sound, so a lot of helping hands are needed.

So then, I challenge you my lovely readers to support this initiative. How? Simple. Sit and knit a bit. Knit a square, or two, or many. Ask your friends and colleagues to do the same. Blog about it. Follow on Facebook or Twitter. Organise a Sit and Knit a Bit evening  - in your home, in a cafe, in a community centre. And while you do all of this, or some of this, remember the 100 million women missing from our world today. There are so many ways to support this, do head over to the website to get inspired.

Please send your completed squares and stories by 8th March 2011 to Jetson and Janssen, c/o Tramway, Albert Drive, Glasgow G41 2PE, garterstitch100@gmail.com. If you blog about it, please come back to this post and add a link to your post in the blog hop below (and the blog hop code to your post, to link them all together).

Are you knitting yet?

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Controlled Crying

Funny how sometimes two very different views on the same topic appear in your reader. A few days ago, Rachel at Really Rachel wrote a post on the blessings of Controlled Crying, while, Analytical Armadillo wrote a post on the curse of Controlled Crying/Crying it out.


Controlled Crying, for those who don't know, is when you put your baby down to sleep and allow her to cry, reassuring her without picking her up while leaving her for increasingly longer periods of time. It's meant to teach babies to self settle and sleep through the night. Crying it out is the same thing without any reassurance.

Attachment Parenting, which promotes responsive parenting, unsurprisingly advocates that controlled crying is not good for the baby. It cites not just parental intuition to support this, but also studies that demonstrate that if a baby's cry is repeatedly or habitually not responded to, this may result in a greater occurrence of depression, ADHD or violent behaviour in the older child and adult. A parent who is always responsive to the needs of the baby (who can only communicate through crying) will support healthy brain development and the outcome is hopefully a balanced person.

This is all nice and well in theory. Most parents try to be as responsive as they can, but we can't always be perfectly responsive. Two examples to illustrate:

Cubling was a "colicky" or "spirited" baby. She cried for hours in the late afternoon, evening and sometimes early night. Often, her crying could not be consoled with anything apart from constant breast feeding. I couldn't constantly breast feed her because I would not have any nipples left to tell the tale, or let her feed on my (nipple) blood (yes it was that bad). Her cry had stamina. She was able to keep herself awake for 12 hours when only 3 months old. She cried so much that I would have done anything to avoid further distress. Controlled crying or crying it out was a definite no no, because I felt she had already cried far too much. However, I did get to the point of sleep deprivation that made me despair. My decision was to try and supplement with formula at 4 1/2 months (which we stopped soon after as she wasn't taking much anyway) as I thought she was hungry. Then we sleep trained through cuddles and without tears at 17 months when she learned to sleep for a minimum of 5 hours without feeds. She eventually slept through at 2 years of age without further "sleep training".

My decision not to do controlled crying was based on feeling that it may tip the balanced which was already pretty bad in relation to amount of crying. I couldn't bear to cause crying on top of the hours she had cried without any cause by me. However, I also got to the point where I was so at the end of the tether that I understand anger towards a baby as well as severe sleep deprivations and its dangers. It may actually make you a short tempered parent which may lead to poor judgement and behaviour.

Second example: So far with Snowflake, while she isn't a great sleeper at night, I've not been severely sleep deprived and don't see a necessity to embark on controlled crying. Her two main problems are an inability to settle in the evenings and that she doesn't travel well on car journeys after night fall (the two may be linked). She does not comfort feed, and while she generally sleeps from 1am to 11.30 am, she wakens hourly to two hourly most nights. We co-sleep and I feed her back to sleep. I'm a good sleeper, and somehow I don't find broken sleep too hard going this time.

Both Cubling and Snowflake cry without me being able to be responsive. This is not in a Controlled Crying setup, but with Cubling it was colic and with Snowflake it's car journeys. With in-laws living an hour's drive away, and good friends in Edinburgh, we've had numerous journeys where Snowflake cried throughout the journey. We have stopped on such journeys, but the bottom line was that as soon as she's in the car seat, she screams and at the end of the day, we have to get from A to B.

Which brings me to my point. Of course we all want to reduce the amount of crying a baby does. But some crying surely must be ok, otherwise we couldn't live our lives, as other people have needs too. Controlled Crying, if it works, only involves a few days of some amount of crying and that's that. Surely that's no worse than us undertaking regular car journeys which cause crying? If 4 days of controlled crying for 1 hour or 30 mins each day means good quality sleep for the baby (which is a benefit for the baby) and the end of sleep deprivation in the parent (let's not underestimate the benefit that has for the baby - I did have violent thoughts and it only takes a slightly less controlled person than me to turn thoughts into actions), this surely is no worse than the car journeys we impose on Snowflake.

Of course, controlled crying may not work for your baby, and I still believe that I would not let a baby cry for 2 hours without picking her up (which is approximately the time I'm sure Cubling would have cried before falling asleep of sheer exhaustion had we done controlled crying). But if it works with relatively small duration of crying, I really don't see how it can be damaging for the developing brain, provided that the parents are responsive otherwise.

Nobody has to go down the route of controlled crying. I've read that for Pants with Names, it didn't work. If I can avoid it, I will. We sleep trained through co-sleeping at 17 months because Cubling had finished teething which messed up any sleep pattern we ever had again and again. It worked in a week without any tears.This is what worked for us, controlled crying is an option that may well be the right solution for others.

My advice to any parent is that patterns and routines can be changed, they are not set in stone and there are many ways of doing it. Pick what's right for you, do some research, be informed and then make a confident attempt at making a change. Chances are it will work. Don't do it because you feel pressurised by other parents or health visitors (mine kept going on about controlled crying). It's ok if your child doesn't sleep through at 24 months. Some take longer than others but will still get there. But if it stresses the living daylights out of you, then maybe you need to try something new.

As Rachel put it, if you can't cope, something has to change. Not just for you, but also the baby. There are two books which I found very helpful on the topic: The No-Cry Sleep Solution, Teach Yourself Baby Sleep, and of course this one: Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer. And if you do cope, there's most likely no need for controlled crying.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Have an idea? Here's money to make it happen!

The Co-operative Community Fund have money to give away.

Yes, you've heard right, someone is giving away money.

 

What you need to do for it? Well, this is what it's all about:

 

The Cooperative are looking for groups of people carrying out positive work in the community. For this, they are running the The Co-operative Community Fund grant scheme, which helps local communities throughout the UK. Thousands of clubs, community groups and local charities have already benefited. The scheme is funded by members of The Co-operative donating some of their share of profits, which is then given away in the form of small grants. This year The Co-operative Members have donated £1.2 million to local community groups across the country. 

To qualify for a grant, projects must:


  • address a community issue, 

  • provide long term benefit to the community, 

  • support co-operative values and principles & 

  • be innovative in its approach

 Groups do not need to have charitable status, so basically anyone can apply.

The grants vary from a minimum of £100 to a maximum of £2,000 and you do not have to be a registered charity to apply for a grant. You can apply by completing the application form which is available on the Cooperative Memebership Fund website.

I think it's an excellent opportunity for anyone to make something happen locally. So what would you do if you had a grant and could make a lasting change? In my workplace, groups of young people have come up with creating a community garden, another group completed a make over of their local youth centre. 

 

Of course, local areas are different and what works in one may well not be the right thing for another. I could imagine a whole range of projects and if I can get my act together, who knows, I may well be applying for a grant. 

For example, I could think of organising a street party for our neighbourhood, a party where people got to know each other a bit better - for ongoing support of each other. You see, we have lots of elderly people living here and I've never been asked for help, though I'd be happy to help when needed. It would be great if everyone in this our small estate felt confident enough to ask for help.And what better way of introducing people than a bit of a party!

Another idea that springs to mind is to organise a monthly skill share happening in a local community hall - where you could learn say sewing, knitting, crocheting, felting, weaving, basket making, seed saving, xyz making, or handy skills around the house. The grant would pay for hall hire, tutor fees and advertising.

 

Then there's different types of playgroups that I think would work well as a positive contribution to the community - the grant could really help the German Kinderclub, maybe even to set up a south Glasgow branch, by paying for hall, toys and craft materials. Or it could pay for organising an outdoors playgroup. It could also pay for setting up a sports group, to get kids more active.

 

Do you have any ideas for your own community? Please do share them in the comments, they may spark off an idea for other readers! And if you do have an idea, go for it, there's nothing stopping you!

 

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Ths a sponsored post for a grant scheme that in my opinion deserves maximum exposure so that anyone with a project idea that would benefit their community is aware of this scheme and can apply.

Cooperative Membership Fund

Cooperative Membership Fund







Sponsored Post

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Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The big freeze or I love snow

So we had some more snow. And once again, the media is full of it. It's rather surreal, I mean, in how many ways can you say that some snow has fallen and discuss the repercussions of the falling of snow?

Enter the British obsession with blaming the "authorities" with incompetence. Heads are rolling in Scotland, made into snowmen I'm sure.

Can we get some facts right?

Firstly, if a considerable amount of snow falls anywhere, it will disrupt transport and it is never a good idea to just ignore it and go about your business as if no snow had fallen. It should be obvious that non-essential journeys (and commuting to work is one of them, as is visiting your auntie as nice as she may be) should not be undertaken.

Secondly, if a considerable amount of snow falls in an area where this is unusual, it is normal that it takes a little while to deal with it. This is not a sign of incompetence. It's logical and thus to be expected. Stay at home if you can. Be patient. Relax. Have a cuppa tea.

Thirdly, if a considerable amount of snow falls in an area where this is unusual you have to wait until the snowfall stops before any action by "the authorities" can be undertaken. Nobody can make snow disappear magically from the roads.Honestly.

Fourthly, all of this applies to any such area. I'm sick of hearing that "Europe" deals with snowfall so much better. Europe doesn't deal with it better. If we have such snowfall in the Rhineland, it causes exactly the same travel chaos. If such snowfall happens in the Alps, where it is normal, and people have snow tyres etc, it's a different story.

Fifthly, the authorities aren't the be all and end all. How about clearing your own bit of pavement/driveway/car top first before you go all mad at "the authorities"?

Sixthly, it is stupid and utterly selfish to panic buy bread. And I know how to bake bread so you can't phase me.

Seventhly, ever thought how stupidly dependant we are on transport? Couldn't this whole snow business be an opportunity to reassess if we really need to commute to work or if there are other ways of doing business? What is an essential journey, and how could we get rid of non essential one not just for the snow, but, like, for good? Oh I'm such a dreamer.

Eighthly, a bit of snow should not be a reason to stop all outdoor play at nursery. Cubling told me that the nursery staff said it's too icy. Too icy me arse. It's perfectly fine and fun. Risk aversion taken more than one step too far, deprivation from some fun snow games more like. A playground only touched by bird footprints. Argh, such a shame.

Ninethly, oh I don't know. Your turn.

Tenthly, I love the snow. Bring it on.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Play it safe

My heart skipped a beat when I saw Cubling, only a few centimetres away from me, trying to climb up a bookcase. Snowflake was just in front of it and I knew what Cubling didn't, that it wasn't secured to the wall. Just imagine what could have happened if I hadn't been right there to interfere.

Cue: screaming mama, big telling off, breath and start again to actually explain the problem. The telling off should have been for us, for not securing our furniture to the walls. We never thought it necessary. Because when Cubling was still small, she wouldn't have been able to pull it over, and we thought that once she's big enough to pull it over, she'd have the sense not to.
Well, I should have known my girl better. It's not that she doesn't get the explanation, just that she's always on the go (run) and forgets. She doesn't usually think before she does, and risk assessment? Well, she's taught that in the forest kindergarten and thank goodness for that, but she is only 3 and doesn't realise that furniture may come towards her.

So how safe are you in your home? We all have stairgates and protect the corners of tables for the toddler days. We do our best, and so do we. Just that there are many dangers we aren't aware of. Yes, I turn the handles of cooking pans away, but then Cubling managed to set off the smoke alarm by playing toasting, and set the microwave on fire by microwaving a pipecleaner in her hat - I tell you, not a good idea, the pipecleaner inflamed in under 10 seconds and the hat was happy to rejoice in the fire - Cubling herself was so shocked that she didn't even need told that playing with the microwave is not a good idea.

Thankfully I've come across an excellent check list for home safety. It is comprehensive and I can only recommend that people head over and have a look to see how safe their homes are for children. After all, accidental injury is one of the biggest cause of death in the UK, with more children dying from accidents in the home than from illness. Children between 0 and 4 years of age are particularly prone to home accidents. Don't delay, check how safe your home is so that you won't have to make use of A&E for an accident. And accident proofing our home is now on our to do list, because we fall short on a number of counts.

There are a few fire safety tips that I've come across which are not listed here - for instance, never let your washing machine/dishwasher run or on stand by when you go to bed as it could start a fire. It is also advisable not to run them while out of the house, for danger of fire and flooding. Another fire safety precaution is to close doors to kitchens, or any doors between kitchen and bedrooms at night time before going to bed. In case of a fire starting in the kitchen (the most likely place if you don't smoke) it means that the fire can't travel to the bedrooms easily.

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This is a sponsored post for which I received payment from Claims Helpline. They provide the excellent check list for home safety that I linked to, I chose to write about it because I believe that it is extremely useful for any parent. If you have additional safety tip, it would be great if you could share them in the comments section.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Knits for calming nerves

Knitting does many things for me, and while we were in hospital it calmed my nerves. There were two projects on my needles: Soulemama's hat of choice, which for once was something just for me. I'm a strange one, in winter, I hardly wear hats, scarves or gloves, for various reasons. As to hats, I hardly find one that I like on me, so knitting this hat for me, even with my favourite yarn (Noro) was definitely a statement.

The pattern is easy, it knits quickly because of the thickness of the yarn, and when it was done, it was, well, far too small. So I unravelled and changed things here and there, I'd cast on an additional 7 stitches anyway because the swatch was already on the small side. I added two extra rows of pattern and 3 extra rows when decreasing.

It may have something to do with getting needle sizes wrong between US and UK sizes, because when I wrote my alterations up on Ravelry, I realised that the pattern there asked for 5.5mm size needles, while I thought it was 4.5mm. That may explain a thing or two. Nevermind, it all came out in the end and I left the hospital wearing a hat I love, which suits my strange head and keeps me warm in this rather unusually cold winter.


Photos taken by Cubling with my favourite toy, which, you know, makes it rather attractive to small hands.


The other project was a remote control holder. Much needed. We have like 4 remote controls and it's doing my head in, they are forever hiding in the toy box. So I picked a thick Shetland grown and spun lambswool yarn and a contrast colour from Alpaca wool and got going. Rather far. It's now sitting in front of me and all I can say is that I don't like it one bit.
The yarn is lovely, but the two yarns don't go together, one knits much thicker than the other.
And the woollen yarn just doesn't speak remote control holder to me. It says more like warm hat for Mr Cartside, or slipper socks. It looks plain wrong in this project.
I haven't yet brought myself to unravelling the whole thing, because I spent many hours knitting it in the hospital, but it's not going anywhere. It's a rubbish remote control holder. It did a rather good job as nerve calmer and tear catcher though. Sometimes something becomes much more important than getting a project finished. So, here's the remote control holder that was my best friend in the lonely hours and has done a good, if unexpected job and is now no longer needed.

So unravelling it will be, if another day when I feel more like letting go.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Review: Vertbaudet

When I was asked if I'd be interested in trying out some clothes for my girls from Vertbaudet's wide range of girl's clothing and baby clothing to review them, I was more than happy to say yes. While so far we've been more or less getting by without buying clothes (between presents and hand me downs), slowly I'm actually starting to shop for children's clothes, and most of the clothes I have bought actually hail from Vertbaudet.

If there's one thing that I've had enough of in my 3 3/4 years of parenting girls, it's the ever present colour of light pink. I never liked it to start with, but it seems to be on every single item of girl's clothing in the UK. And that's where Vertbaudet is different - the retailer is French based and it seems that similar to German clothes outlets, France goes easier on the pink.


Funny then that the items I got sent were pink. Nevermind, at least the shade of pink is different ;) Maybe the people at Vertbaudet thought that this being a UK audience, pink is the safer option? Don't get me wrong though, I got sent two beautiful outfits that I very much like, just that what I like most about Verbaudet is that they are different in their colour choices, with more neutral colours, the classic chic, while their clothes are easy to wear and very practical.

Add to that that if you're subscribed to them you will never be short of amazing special offers to get your clothes a good bit cheaper, which makes the prices very competitive. I also like the nursery furniture that they offer, and some of our recent buys include a clothes hook which I can confirm was the nicest and best value for prettiness I was able to find online. Vertbaudet also sells a wide range of maternity clothing.

The only slight criticism I have is that we get 2 copies paper mailings though we only have one registered account, and I get the offers through my email subscription too. Too much paper waste, even though it is nice to have the catalogue to browse through.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

and the result of the Spanish jury is...

Oh man, what a build up to the hearing test results I got.
This is how it went: nurse does the test. Doesn't comment on it, but says the doctor will see us shortly.

Not a wording I particularly liked.

Thankfully the wait wasn't too long, we were called in by an extremely nice Spanish audiologist. Which kind of distracted me a bit, you see, I love a nice Spanish accent and so I was rather happy to chat away about bilingual kids and what walks of life from Spain make their way to Glasgow in general and in particular, while Cubling took apart an ear model with increasing interest. (mental note: a body model to take apart may be a good birthday present for her)

Eventually it was time to discuss the results.

Cue even more suspense by explaining:
a) why we are having this test (as if I didn't know that my baby had meningitis, pneumococcal at this, which has a 10% risk of death and in survivors, a 10% risk of hearing loss. Did I not already say that I hate medical statistics?)
b) what the ear looks like, what may happen during meningitis to what parts of the ear and how the test works
c) that the scope of the tests is limited but gives a decent indication

To finally be told that Snowflake passed it with flying colours.

And has to come back for a second test in 4 months time just to make sure.

However, the nice Spanish audiologist has no cause for concern.

And just to convince her ever worrying mummy, Snowflake just got a real good fright from a not so loud noise. I forget which, but it was more than obvious that she hears.

Phew. Breath and relax. One down, at least two still to go. But I think I may sleep a bit easier tonight.

Hope and Fear

PS. the bestest Christmas present is of course that Snowflake is home. We really and truly don't need anything but this. I know how lucky we are. I remember how I bargained. Anything just for her to make it through this.

Our meningitis journey is not over. What lies ahead are some tests. First up, a hearing test. I'm worried, nothing new here. I have a bad feeling because so far I've failed to determine beyond doubt that she can in fact hear. There was an incident where she got a fright from a loud noise - but this one was very loud and she also sometimes startles anyway (which is potentially an after effect of meningitis itself - she had those startles from day one of the illness and still gets them when overtired and struggling to nod off). I haven't managed to attract her attention by a noise that she doesn't also see, while she reacts instantly to faces, lights and generally visual stimuli.

So it's with trepidation that I await today's hearing test.

Await if someone heard my bargaining. The "just let her live, we can cope with deafness, we'll just learn sign language, we'll adapt, I'll embrace it if only she lives."
Part of me still thinks it's something we can deal with, that it wouldn't be so bad. The other part now pleads for Snowflake to recover fully. Not for our sake, just for her own. She deserves to experience life to the full.

Second will be a developmental test in 4 months time. I dread it and wish it to happen sooner at the same time. Hope for the all clear, an end to my endless analysing of her behaviour, my constant lookout for signs of issues. Is her difficulty to fall asleep a phase, teething or an after effect? Why is she more irritable than she used to be? How come she doesn't laugh yet? Why will she now not sleep unless she touches me?

To everyone she looks the picture of health, fully recovered. As to me, the mum, whose job it is to worry, whether I likes it or not, I see differences which are minute, yet I see them. Maybe she'll grow out of them, maybe they aren't serious. And yes, maybe she's just teething.

Hope and fear, side by side holding hands.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Present choices - new, second hand, recycled, upcycled

Last year around about this time I pondered consumerism around Christmas, whether a levy of spend is a good idea or not. This year, for the past month, I'd intended to look at the choices we can make for giving, but life kind of got the better of me.

And for all the good intentions I had, I didn't put them into practice because of time constraints, circumstances and something having to give. I'm ok with that. And quite enjoyed some one stop shop (shopping centre) shopping which got me out of the house when spirits were low and made me rather pleased that my worry not to get presents in time was quickly kicked into the very back drawer. And you know what? I think I got rather nice presents that suit their recipients, and will be used - at least I hope.

However, in an ideal world, I'd like to have a handmade and recycled/upcycled Christmas, one where none of the presents given are bought from a chain store. There are so many alternatives. Handmade items from etsy, folksy and other incarnations of the same idea. Local businesses upcycling, just look at Glasgow Wood Recycling's range as a great example. Charities with shops often have a lovely selection of fairtrade or environmentally sound presents - Oxfam, Amnesty International and Save the Children are just some examples.

I've also come across online shops with a difference, such as Gifted People, or some other ethical store like Natural Collection.

It's really the same idea as giving someone the gift of a service, which you could do locally as well. Something like the felt making workshop I gifted myself for my 40th birthday, which in turn supported crafting people passing on their skills, but which also means that I now have a new skill myself, something that's going to be very lasting and not gather dust.

Then of course there is also the possibility of second hand. Now, personally, I have nothing against getting something that is second hand. I'd be very happy with that, as it gives an item a new lease of life rather than going to landfill, and it avoids the making of the same item again, which in my eyes is a waste of limited and precious resources.

The problem is that of course we don't have a culture where giving second hand items is acceptable. Yet. While I'm happy to announce that I'd rather get something second hand than new, would I give a second hand item to friends or family? I'm hypocritical that way and most would be I expect.

There's also the pressure element. Some time ago I announced that I felt there were too many presents going around and it was getting a bit over the top and how about reducing it all and just do less but let it be handmade? The thought behind this not being that we have to all make every present, but to give less, and make or buy handmade. The idea was to reduce the pressure to buy so much, not to add another pressure. But of course, for many, this does result in a new pressure, maybe because it's easier to stick with the shops you know, maybe because handmade takes more time, or if bought, is more expensive.

Personally, I always feel that a present given that is not used is a waste, not of money but of resources. Yes, I do appreciate that it's the thought that counts, but if I give a present that I don't see used, I'd rather not have given it. Look at toys for instance. They're all over the place in our house. Yet Cubling hardly plays with them at all. When I think of the amount of money that goes into them and how better that money could have been used, I get a bit flustered. It's not about my money being wasted, it's about money in general having been wasted, because it could have been spend on something more worthy, as well as resources to make the thing that just sits and doesn't get used.

So in the Christmas spirit, and I know I'm a bit late in throwing this thought into your Christmas shopping, do we really need all that we buy? Would we not be better off being a bit more selective, even offering to friends and family to not gift quite so much? In a time where most of us just buy what we need anyway, what is it we need really? Not another thing, but surely time together, help where we don't manage something ourself. Do you know more ethical shopping outlets that you can share, including handmade and upcycling initiatives? Please do share them in the comments! And finally, could you imagine to give and receive a second hand present?

My plan, again, for next year will be to give handmade, home baked, ethical and maybe even second hand. At least to some extent, because some is always better than none. In this spirit, some of my Christmas shopping did in fact come from some of the places mentioned. I also made some presents. Next time it will be more I hope.

Monday, 13 December 2010

3 months

Snowflake will be 3 months today. It feels like a second birthday after all we've been through. This is what she's up to at the moment:

She loves:
  • her big sister
  • smiling
  • cooing
  • sleeping in the sling
  • arching her head right back
  • being bounced on the exercise ball by daddy
  • sleeping right cuddled into mummy
  • watching mummy from the bouncy chair
  • opening her mouth wide (I think this is her way of laughing, but not quite sure)
  • her traditional wooden playgym, which has entertained at least 4 babes already
She doesn't like:
  • the car seat or car journeys (though things are getting better)
  • the mamaroo for any length of time (sorry)
  • falling asleep (hard to get her to sleep without a wee cry)
  • her cot
  • her pram (unless it's moving)
  • wet or dirty nappies (instant changing is very much required)
  • tummytime
No two babes are the same:
  • She is ok travelling in the pram, while Cubling hated it with a passion
  • She still likes facing mummy in the sling, while Cubling was keen to look out
  • She is breastfed only, Cubling was supplemented with formula from 12 weeks
  • We've not had any problem with breastfeeding (I don't count hourly feeds during the night as a problem, though reserve the right to change my mind about that)
  • She naps during the day. Cubling just got over stimulated and couldn't be convinced to nap.
  • She didn't have colic or unconsolable crying. I even mostly know what's up if she does cry and can remedy it.
  • She's happy to spend some time in bouncy chair or playgym. Cubling needed carried all the time (until we discovered the electric swing...)
  • She refuses to sleep in her cot and will invariably wake at any transfer attempt, while Cubling always started the night in her cot
I still think her smile is the most wonderful thing in the world. She looks more like her big sister every day (though her hair is considerably darker), I can't wait to see how similar and different the two will be - while I also don't want these early days to pass. Time seems to be flying this time around, just imagine, only another 3 months and we'll be doing solids!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Dear so and so - from the Scottish snow

Oh I love the dear so and so's, so here's my take on them:

Dear bin men,

I realise that this weather makes things a bit difficult. However, considering I too have to run errands and manage with my car, it would be ever so pleasant if you could turn up this week because we're really rather drowning in rubbish.

Yours in anticipation


Dear Snowflake,

It's lovely to cuddle with you all the time, and I realise you really needed lots of cuddles when you were ill. It's also great you've got such a healthy appetite. How about we strike a deal and I'm ok for you to feed every hour during the night as long as you let me sleep on my back rather than on my side cuddling you in between feeds? That would do my shoulder and arm a whole lot of good, and I'd also worry much less about rolling on top of you by accident.

You may continue to sleep in the sling during the day. However, have you tried sleeping in your cot or pram yet? It's pretty comfy too. I bought you lovely new mattresses for both. You really don't need to get a fright as soon as I try to lay you onto a mattress.

Your loving mummy


Dear new neighbour,

I'm very  happy to take your delivery of online orders if you're out. Even if it's a massive Amazon package that takes up half of our hall. You are very welcome to pick it up any time soon. Just ring the doorbell.
PS. we tried to deliver it to you but although your lights were on and your storm door was open, you didn't seem to be in.

Your next door neighbour


Dear Cubling,

I know you love to play with me and that I'm your bestest friend. I love you too, a lot actually. But even being your best friend doesn't have to mean you have to trail behind me every minute of the day. You may occasionally play with your toys without mummy's help. It's also really much easier to get Snowflake to sleep if you don't jump up and down beside me (and her) or peek into her cot as she struggles to nod off. In fact, if you left me to do the putting her down for her nap job by myself, I could actually play with you while she's asleep.

It would also be fabulous if you would start feeding yourself soon, aren't you a big girl now at 3 3/4 years of age?

Your bestest but slightly fraught friend, mummy.


Dear vegetable box scheme,

I understand that you may be snowed in. It would be really nice if you could let me know when the next delivery will be - just so we can plan our shopping a bit.

Your hungry customer


Dear loft insulators,

It was rather nice that you let me know of your intention to insulate our loft three weeks ago. We duly cleared the loft as requested. But, pray tell me, where are you?

Yours from underneath a heap of (cold) dust and stuff Cartside

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Hospital Days

In total, we spent about 10 days in hospital.
Days blurred into one another.
There were many tests, and an operation under general anaesthetic. Initially, Snowflake was poked about every two hours. IV medication every 6 hours. It got less as the days progressed.
There was little sleep initially, and lots at the end, when Snowflake was perking up.
A comforting routine between medication, stats, meals, baby sleep, baby feeds, bathtime and X-factor.


I watched the snow descend upon Glasgow from the 7th floor, dancing snowflakes, reluctant to make their way down.
I watched the sun rise and set again.
I read (The Rose of Sebastopol) and almost finished this 400 page book.
I knitted - half a hat and half a remote control holder (I know, I'm getting old).
I watched all the TV programmes I never normally watch, and was amazed to see that they brought a lot of smiles to my face and distracted me from more gloomy thoughts.
Eventually I even switched on my laptop, hitched a lift on an unsecured wireless network, wrote a blog post and above all, logged into my email, my email, my reader and facebook - you won't believe how much I appreciated every well wish. Because, while the hospital routine was reassuring and comforting, it still felt isolating and lonely.


In those hours where it's just you and the sick baby, nothing keeps those worrysome thoughts at bay. Nothing. They escalate, encompass you. There was fear, guilt, anger, grief. And they were raw and hit me hard.

I missed Cubling; never having been separated from her for such a long time. I missed the company of friends. Yet I also appreciated how I was allowed a second babymoon, the present of precious one to one time with Snowflake, being able to be just with her, not having to think about anything but her.

I was grateful not to have to deal with travel chaos, household chores and nursery runs. I appreciated that while emotionally drained, I'd been dealt the easier card in this, while Mr Cartside had to juggle demands of Cubling, work, and house. And he didn't even get to be with Snowflake.

So I was in two minds when offered to leave early rather than to stay the full 14 days. But who in their right minds would choose the hospital over their own bed?

And so we went home.

I can only thank the nurses and doctors at the Yorkhill Royal Hospital for Sick Children for their exceptional attitude, understanding, skills and dedication. They made difficult days as easy as can be.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The day I almost forgot about Nikolaus

Tonight is the eve of Nikolaus. That's Santa Claus, German version (or maybe even European version, methinks Nikolaus is celebrated in quite a few countries in Europe on the 6th December). I think I mentioned before that November/December is a rather busy time for our two cultured home - still, there's no excuse to forget about this rather important fella.

In Germany, children clean their boot and put it out on their doorsteps on the even of 6th December, so that Nikolaus will fill it with goodies. The goodies are nuts and potentially small presents, and yes, there is a definite parallel to the Christmas stocking. The boot in my days was a red plastic one which was only ever used for this purpose, but for want of the Nikolaus boot, we resorted to a pink
wellie, which is considerably smaller. The children have to clean their boot because otherwise Nikolaus won't leave anything in it. Oh, and only good children will get their boot filled, naughty one's get the stick from Knecht Ruprecht, the nemesis of Santa.

So I remembered just in time to tell Cubling that she needed to clean her boot. She was a bit concerned that Nikolaus would come to see her but once assured that he's too busy to actually come into the house, she rushed off to enthusiastically clean her boot. Must remember that trick to get her to clean various other things in the house. Then there's the question if you can trust the neighbours not to steal the filled boot. Then I rushed off to our not so local supermarket to get boot fillers, which was quite an undertaking (feed Snowflake, scrape car, fling Snowflake in snowsuit and car seat, drive, shop, return, just in time for the next feed and bedtime stories, read stories while feeding, reassure there are no monsters or dinosaurs in the house, thank husband for having managed to get Cubling bed ready without tears, get stuff from car, fill boot, put boot back outside, thank heavens Cubling didn't wake during this time, collapse on sofa and be thankful for lucky escape from yet another mummy fail).

All sorted. And on Saturday, she'll meet Nikolaus in person at the Kinderclub; the German playgroup.
It never ceases to amaze me how busy we are these weeks of the year. There really wasn't time for 2 weeks in hospital. Just as well Cubling is too young to notice how improvised things are.
Can't wait to see her face in the morning though!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Could you spot meningitis?

For the first time, I'm experiencing true mummy guilt. Not the "oh she's eaten yet another biscuit and I let her" or "I really should be spending more quality time with my kids" type of guilt, no, this is more hard hitting. When Snowflake fell ill at 4am in the morning, I didn't recognise the signs and waited a full hour before waking Mr Cartside, and another 15 minutes before calling NHS 24. I feel extremely guilty about this, and as much as people tell me that I still reacted quickly and it was caught very early, I'm not sure if I could have ever forgiven myself if the outcome would have been bleaker.I keep thinking that I was even close to not acting at all, tempted to just go back to sleep. I don't dare to think what could have happened if I had.

You see, I didn't recognise the symptoms of meningitis, and didn't think that anything was seriously up with Snowflake. I even considered just to get back to sleep and wait until the morning. I also never thought that it could happen to me, that my baby could fall ill with the illness everyone fears.

So, hand to hard, could you spot the symptoms for meningitis? What would you look for? The thing about meningitis is that every minute counts, so the sooner you act, the better.

The first I noticed was in the evening, when Snowflake was crying a bit more than usual and it took a bit longer to settle her. Nothing too unusual. She also brought up part of a feed, but again, she does that a lot, so I put the crying and vomit down to wind. That was 9 or 10pm. We went to bed at 11pm. At 4am I woke noticing that Snowflake hadn't woken for a feed yet. This was strange but not unusual either, she sometimes goes 5 hours without a feed. I'd woken up because she was making a quiet moany type of sound with every breath. This was definitely strange. I tried to wake her but failed. I went downstairs to express as I felt full and when I came back 20 minutes later, still the same noises. I tried harder to wake her. No success. I took her temperature - a bit higher than normal but well below the 38 mark. I checked for a rash or any sign of illness. I kept trying to wake her without success, eyes would half open and close again. She didn't seem in any discomfort, just unresponsive and difficult to rouse. It was then that I picked up a book and looked up her symptoms. All I could find was that "lethargic" was something that may be serious and it was clear to me that she wasn't just listless, that "lethargic" better described what I saw. At this point I woke Mr Cartside, explained the last hour, what I read and wondered if I should phone NHS 24. We decided it would be the safe thing to do.

Within 5 minutes we were told to go straight to Yorkhill Children's Hospital, A&E. Interestingly, while Snowflake was instantly treated with the right course of action, the initial diagnosis was also not meningitis - because only a couple of symptoms were present. However, it was clear to the medical staff that she was seriously ill.

I now know that difficulty to wake/rouse and the moany noises with every breath are tell tale signs of meningitis and scepticaemia. I also know that pneumococcal meningitis (which is what Snowflake was diagnosed with) is the second most common form and that only one in 10 cases will develop a rash. And I now know that any of the symptoms below can indicate meningitis, and that it doesn't have to be a combination of them.

If there's anything I've learned it's that I thought I would spot meningitis but I didn't. I truly believed that nothing much was wrong with Snowflake. The Meningitis Trust has issued a handy card detailing the symptoms of meningitis and scepticaemia (which are quite similar). I now carry it and urge you to do the same, it could save a life.

Do visit the Meningitis Trust's website, there's a lot of very useful information there and you can order your free symptoms card or even an iphone application. Please don't be caught out like I was.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

First day home

We got out of hospital early. Which was great because it's a good sign. I longed to be out in the snow that I saw fall from my 7th floor viewing point. The reality is always different. The hospital did my routine, between doctor's visit, checks, medication, canteen, and lots of television (x-factor and I'm a celebrity are just perfect for keeping your mind off things) - now at home things are a bit all over the place. Cubling missed me and asked not to go to nursery. When I also realised the effort involved in undigging the snowed in car it just seemed a ridiculous effort to get her to nursery. So I spent the day with the girls, went out in the now with sledge and camera. Not that we ventured far, but enough to be amazed by the snow.


Snowflake is also a bit clingy still and has started teething, so not the happiest camper. Of course that's nothing in comparison to what she has been through, just that two clingy kids make any attempt at carrying on as normal a bit fraught. Our almost picture perfect routine pre-hospital has been truly shaken up. It'll be some time before we're back to normal.

 


All the well wishes are so appreciated, the text messages, blog comments and cards received and read in hospital kept me together, when days blurred into one another and I felt lonely and miles away from my normal life.

I will post about what happened, but not today. Instead, why not have a look at this months bilingual blogging carnival (I don't have a post in it this time for obvious reasons). There's some great posts, and new blogs to discover.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The Most Precious Smile

There are no smiles. Eyes that open up occasionally but look into the distance, unfocussed. Teddy bear plasters that hold the canula in place on her hand, her foot. A theatre frock with farm animals. A baby on an adult stretcher in A&E.

I cling to the things that are the same. Her longing for touch, for the soothing rhythmic suckling. Her feeds are prolonged for comfort until she drifts off to sleep again. It's impossible to lay her down in her cot, she wakes the moment she touches the sheet, aware that she is no longer cradled by me. Two nights spent in the breastfeeding mum's armchair, the only luxury in this hospital room, spent rocking and nursing her to sleep. Then a kind nurse offered to arrange the bedding so she can safely sleep in my visitor bed. We both got some better quality sleep, only to be told off in the morning by the doctor. I'm too fragile to counter her, and she was gentle so I decided to let it go. Still, I can't help but feel that if it hadn't been for having her in my bed in the first place, she may no longer be with us now.
I trace the pattern of veins on her eyelids, the gentle pattern her hair draws on her head. I look at her with an intensity that is spurred by the fear of losing her, the panic that every look at her may be the last, that she may just slip through my fingers.

Tomorrow she'll be 11 weeks. For most of the 10th week of her life I feared she may never make it to 11 weeks.
She did.
She smiles, generously handing it out to everyone. She even giggles. There are no words to describe the preciousness of this smile. I tease it out of her every waking minute.
Her smile is my world.
She's back.



-------------
We are still in hospital for another week so blogging will be suspended while I catch every one of these precious smiles.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Parent engagement - room for improvement

The nursery is trying to engage parents, and it's an interesting experience seen from the other side. Having two hats on is sometimes quite useful, and can be enlightening. It's also awkward - as someone who works in the voluntary sector close to a parental engagement project, you know the theory and policy and practices underlying the attempt to engage with parents. The theory is that educational outcomes improve if parents are engaged in their children's education, especially if this happens in the early years - because parents are their children's main educator and the input of an early years centre/school is minimal in comparison.

So my older daughter's nursery is trying to engage me, alongside with all other parents of course. I'm on maternity leave, so I have time on my hand, an interest in getting a bit involved in the nursery too, which makes me a very easy target. What I'm about to write is not about a specific nursery, it's meant as constructive criticism which could be useful for any early years centre wishing to engage parents in a meaningful way.

My daughter has been attending this nursery for about 9 months now. When I drop her off or pick her up, there is hardly an acknowledgement of my person. There is no feedback volunteered, even when she had displayed separation anxiety in the morning - no reassurance even that she had a good day. Now that she's in the big room, parents are expected to drop off and just leave, they don't enter the room, the staff don't even bid the time of day to either parent or child. The interaction is by newsletter and through a wall which is filled with information on what children have been up to. I'm ok with that, it gives me a fair idea.

So far we had one item of written personalised feedback, which looked rather meaningless to me. We've had no one-to-one feedback (although her key worker in the first room was quite good at informal feedback). A parents evening was scheduled but cancelled. There was a fund day in the summer which was nice and I felt obliged to support it (it also raised funds for the nursery) but I didn't really get anything out of it for me or my child.

Then there are letters sent to me through my daughter. Reminders about sponsorship forms, the toy fund donations - neither of which are donations, which the wording of the letter makes more than clear. In fact the wording seriously pees me off, it's patronising and threatening, as well as disrespectful.

A parent group was offered, on a weekday morning at 10.30am. I was the only parent who turned up. Apparently, the idea was to get feedback from parents. Hm, that was a fail then.

I offered, now that I have a bit of time, to share some of my daughter's culture through exploring German festivities. This was welcomed but instantly I was reminded of all the rules and regulations in relation to child safeguarding (which I know too well, if only they asked me before starting the litany!). I got a general sense of an attitude that is reluctant of exploring new opportunities, where a "we can't" is more easily uttered than a "let's see how we can do this".

Then there's a bookbug week, where parents are invited to read stories with their children in the nursery. I can see where they're coming from, knowing from various primary school teachers that some children start school without ever having seen a book or having heard a story. I went along, to be interrupted while I was reading a book to my daughter (I thought it was about reading books?) to be told how important it is for literacy development to regularly share books and how to incorporate it into a daily routine, a routine which in itself gives security to the child. The tone was patronising, though I also noticed that the nursery teacher wasn't entirely comfortable in her role. All the parents who were there clearly do read books with their children, because if you don't, would you bother coming to this event? If you yourself had low levels of literacy or weren't confident to read books to your children, would you not shy away from such a public display? Would you in fact know about the event, not being able to read the newsletter? Just wondering. It felt daft to be told such basic advice, and I'm sure the other parents felt much the same.

I commend the efforts of the nursery to engage parents, but as it stands, I have a feeling it's not very successful. I suggested to run the parent group just after drop off at 9am so that parents with commitments don't have to lose too much time. But it's not about getting some parents involved in this group - parental engagement is about creating an ease of interaction between nursery staff and parents, which isn't there.

-To start with, I'd recommend to start with a brief exchange with parents at the start and end of their child's day. Be friendly, and get to know the families a little over time.

-Once you know the families, explore real opportunities of exchange and sharing. Think about what parents can add to the education of all the children. Pursue how to do this in a creative way. Don't find excuses why something is too complicated, instead acknowledge the rules but work with them.

-If you want a parents group, explain to parents what the remit of this is, and what they or their child gets out of it. Parents have busy lives and don't want to waste precious time. If you need MY participation to tick YOUR box, I'm likely not to turn up.

-Improve written communication to parents. You see, I may forget the toy fund one month, but I really just need a gentle (even spoken) reminder, not to be told off as if I don't care about my child!

-And as for sponsorship, oh please don't expect me to go around my neighbours to collect money for my child's Christmas present. It's not my neighbours' responsibility or interest. Just tell me what you want off me and I'll pay up, just don't call it sponsorship and give me a form.

-I also don't like giving to charities that I haven't chosen myself, animal charities are already getting enough, why don't you support a children's charity, being a nursery?

-If you knew me a bit better, you'd know that I don't need told about how good sharing books is. Tell me something I don't know, like how to deal with a whinging pre-schooler who won't feed herself. The reading books bit I'm quite good at, it's the other stuff I could need a bit of help with.

-Treat parents as equals who are effective contributors to their children's education, not as people needing educated about how to raise kids.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Decopatch Vase

The presents I like best at Christmas, whether received or given, are those where a lot of thought has gone into and those which are handmade. In an ideal world, and maybe in years to come, I'd like to have a handmade Christmas, where all I give and decorate has been made by me or someone else (i.e. bought on etsy or folksy).

Of course, the reality is that we're all busy and something has to give. I have less time for crafts than ever but I still sneak it in here and there. My approach is to do as much as I can myself (which is rather little), and above all, not to get pressurised into doing more than I can manage, and stick with the stuff that I find easy to do.


Which is why I'd like to share an idea for a handmade present that doesn't take much time or effort, but looks beautiful. The technique goes by the name of decopatch. You will need an item to decorate - any blank surface will do (a plain glass vase, a mirror with a decent sized frame around it, a picture frame, a box, a reused glass jar, anything goes really - Ikea has lovely and cheap basic items that you can decorate, such as vases and mirrors with a decent sized frame that can be decorated), decopatch paper (it's thinner than normal paper), PVC glue, scissors, a paintbrush and decopatch varnish. The last item on the list is the most expensive one but it will last you and make the finished product more durable. It's not essential though.

I get my supplies from Damselfly on Great Western Road in Glasgow, who also run craft classes in decopatch (this is not a sponsored post, and I'm sure you can get supplies through many channels, but I like to support local shops which have done me well).

Cut the decopatch paper into different sized and shaped pieces.
With the paintbrush, apply a layer of glue to the item you want to decorate.
Glue the decopatch paper pieces onto the item, brushing it with the glue. Make sure to overlap, you can also add second and third layers (because you apply glue while brushing the paper flat, further layers will stick). Feel free to add decorations, like a cut out flower from a different decopatch paper, sequins etc.
Let dry for a few hours or overnight.
Apply the decopatch varnish with a brush.
Done. One present ticked. If you can bear to give it away that is.

You can decorate vases:
Mirrors/frames:
Glass jars and make them into candle holders:
Or even your toilet seat. The technique is so simple that pre-schoolers or older children will be able to help.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Chickened out

Well, I chickened out. Last week, I didn't take the girls outdoors on Thursday, even though our destination was just around the corner. There was gale force wind, hail storms, more than saturated ground.

Cubling would have been fine, she has all the gear.

I have not. Let's face it, I'm one of those adults who never learn. I have waterproofs, but they are a) a size or two too small (after 2 babies and little exercise and many cakes in between) and b) even if they weren't, they won't fit over a sling with baby in it. And a pram doesn't go so well in the great outdoors (plus I can't find the adaptors to fit pram onto the carriage anyway - it's been 31/2 years and one house move... so pram is definitely entirely out of use at present).

Worry not, I've got the solution and my eye on a coat that will keep both Snowflake and myself dry and warm when be-slinged. I'm still hoping for a slightly less extreme weather forecast for this Thursday as I won't have this magic piece of garment just yet.

And, let's face it, we spent two days indoors and ended up shouting rather a lot at each other. I lost my cool a few times and didn't like it one bit, and neither did Cubling. The beauty of the outdoors is that kids find stuff to play, they see, talk, comment, play, explore, splash, run, dig, draw, laugh, stop, observe. All by themselves. Indoors, while I'm dealing with baba, Cubling gets bored and demands attention, attention I can't give her all the time. Organising craft activities while also looking after Snowflake - I'm still working on it, but not quite there yet.

You see, going outside is actually making parenting two easy.

:: this post is part of Outdoor Challenge Monday, which is hosted by 5 Orange Potatoes. If you would like to participate, just head over::

Sunday, 14 November 2010

daddies in tummies and babies in cars

Overheard today:
- Which tummy did you go in daddy?
- it was granny's tummy.
- but you're a big boy now!
- yes, I am.
- you're a daddy now!

We spent the day driving to Edinburgh. 50 miles and time and time again, it takes hours. On the way out, it was due to traffic, on the way back, it was due to the little one. Snowflake doesn't like car journeys (understatement of the year); she must be the only baby who doesn't. Today I most definitely feel like avoiding all unnecessary car journeys,. take the train to locations where this is an option, and plead with friends to visit us in the meantime rather than subjecting the four of us to the ordeal of screaming baba. It ain't pretty, y'know.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Oops, how did that happen?

Shoot scheduled posts. I realised yesterday that my title was utterly inappropriate - a post on remembrance day on my daughter's developing memory, big oops. My excuse is that I only get time to write posts occasionally, and I write them by the bulk (err, 2 or 3 at a time if Snowflake sleeps long enough on nursery days) and I didn't realise that it was scheduled to go up on remembrance day.
And yes, we remembered and paid respect, even though Cubling would not be silent for 2 minutes, that IS asking for a bit much. She tried though.

On the topic of oops, how did that happen? - here are my latest knitting endeavours. Well, latest is stretching it a bit. I started the Owlet jumper on our trip to Skye in August, and finally I finished this winter jumper for Cubling.


You may be able to see from the photos that it is on the small side. Far too short, a bit too tight. I knit it following size 4 (or was it even 5?) years... Just as well we have a younger princess waiting to grow into it. Which leaves me without a winter jumper for my big girl. The plan is to knit her another owl - a bit ambitious, maybe I should knit it big enough for next winter. I'm a bit baffled though by her reluctance to even try this one on. She can't possibly already be getting too old for mummy's knits? Does she not know that knitting is groovy???


Continuing on the knitting fails theme, this is a picture of Snowflake in her winter beanie:


Yes, I do swatches.

And this is Snowflake in a cardigan I knitted a while ago, and hurray, it fits:


Ok, everybody refers to her as "he" when she's in it, it may need some pink embroidered flower. Not that I care, I'm so seriously sick of light pink that I think she looks just adorable in this jumper, and I'm so pleased that it fits just perfectly. The knitted cat and mouse come courtesy of J. who also blogged about the lovely gifts she made for Snowflake. And her knits are definitely knitting successes!

PS the Beanie pattern and lots of other fab hats can also be found in A Hat in Time, which is a book I pulled together last year and sell in aid of Save the Children's work. I still have about 20 print copies left, and you can also buy it as a pdf download through Ravelry or Lulu. The book makes a great stocking filler for any knitter ;). To get your print copy, please use the "order copy" tab here, or email me blog at cartside dot co.uk.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

I remember

"I don't wanna go. I don't like fireworks."

I should have listened to my girl. She remembered well the panic Glasgow Green's firework display induced in her last year. Her memory is amazing and goes back not just a year, but in some instances longer. I treasure the things she will remember, and wonder if there always has to be an element of fear.

So Cubling remembers a trip to Cumbrae, when we cycled around the island, and saw a rock resembling a face, which when shouted at, gave us an echo. She remembers it's close to her grandparents, that we took a ship there, that we cycled and that there was also a rock crocodile. She remembers shouting at the face and that it's scary, that she doesn't want to see it again.


Then she remembers the fireworks and made it clear she doesn't want to go again. We went anyway, to a smaller, local display, and she reluctantly agreed to come along (only after we promised that the fireworks weren't going to be as big and as noisy, mummy ones, not daddy ones in her words - can I add that mummy usually shouts louder than daddy?)


So she was happy running about and playing with her light toy, a piece of plastic tat that I reluctantly bought her. Just as well I did, because as soon as the lights went out and the first firework lit the sky with a bang, she burst into tears, panic stricken, seriously distressed. All reassurance was in vain and we had to leave the event. At least the light toy was a pleasant memory to be had of the evening. In her own words, she'll not go back next year, "not when I'm four, but when I go to school" (that'll be 5 then).

Lanterns are ok though, they don't bang. She explained to me before we went that she'll use the lantern to collect leaves - as she did last year. And so she did. Lanterns make perfect leaf containers really. The next day she used the leaves to cook soup. Yummy. Leaf collecting in lanterns, at last a memory that doesn't involve fear. I'm relieved. Delighted too, because it demonstrates how the marking of seasonal festivals provide lasting memories for children and parents, shared memories that will be retold again and again, a bit like I'm strengthening my own memories by blogging about these special moments.


At the end of the parade, Cubling sang at the top of her voice "Mein Licht ist aus, wir geh'n nach Haus'" (my light is off we're going home) and switched off her lantern.

(And I remember it was as difficult to take a decent photo at the St Martin's lantern parade last year...)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Fallen leaves


Today, as the last leaves fell off my tree, I'm still treasuring the colour and beauty it brought me all year. It showed Cubling when spring came, and how autumn transforms the leaves in one last celebration before the long winter. Late last autumn, I planted this tree with Cubling, which was my birthday present from my sister and parents in law, and a year later I say goodbye to the last leaf, gather some for crafting and pressing to make its memory last into the winter, while we await for it to blossom again.

(Photos were taken last week, when it still had a few leaves left)

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A special present - Urban food growing Tuesday

My mummy friends gave me an extra special present - a plum tree.
It doesn't look like much right now, it's autumn after all, but I can't wait to see what it'll look like in the spring.
I've read up all about plum trees and know that this one is a great variety for small spaces and semi shade. So it should grow well. Now I only have to decide whether to plant it in the front or back - probably it'll be the front as it has good soil (though less sunshine) - our back garden is either built up or a lawn, not much potential for growing a tree, even if it's a small one.
4 weeks to go until I can dig!


I've also come across a fab network of food growers in the UK. Definitely worth checking out and joining.
If you grow your own in urban spaces, please add a link to any blog posts about your efforts/experiences in the Linky tool below.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Taking the playgroup outdoors

It was a difficult decision to take a break from my favourite forest kindergarten, where Cubling explored the wilderness of Pollok Country Park on a weekly basis with her good friends and great teachers. However, you only get maternity leave for a year, and as I work almost full time when not on leave, I just want to spend more time with Cubling in this window of opportunity. At the same time my enthusiasm for outdoor learning is undiminished, so the decision to take a break from the forest kindergarten was only made when I found out about Nurture in Nature, an ad hoc group of parents who take their children outdoors twice a week.

It's a great idea and shows what you can do yourself, without an organised childcare setup (and I appreciate that it may only work for non working parents). The group consists of parents who like me value the opportunities that outdoor learning gives to children. And the idea is beautiful in its simplicity. Twice a week, the parents and children meet up at 10am at an outdoor location (which incidentally is also easy to get to by public transport, thus reducing the need for a car) and the children are let loose to play. They play with each other and things they find. There may be some occasional activities that parents initiate, but mostly it's the kids who with their own creativity come up with what they want to do.

A group much to my own liking. It costs nothing, apart from the bus/train fare to the location. Because a parent is present, there's no need to register with the Care Commission or go through any police checks, which means there's no complex administration. The parents just do it. It's effectively taking a playgroup outdoors.

So, from last week, I'm able to offer Cubling (and Snowflake who I take along of course) the joys of the outdoors in company with other children. And as a plus, it's even with mum.

What did we do? Well, we discovered a wood, trees, sticks and the beautiful autumn foliage. We found a swing, logs to balance on, jump off from and sit down on for a picnic lunch. We found a wooden board and built a bridge over a burn, crossed it, and crossed it again. Built the bridge in different locations and balanced it on stones. We then dared to cross the burn on foot. We splashed in extra deep puddles (it's been a rainy week in Scotland), collected sticks and drew in the mud. Cubling got to know new children and told me all about what you can do with leaves, puddles, sticks, logs, water and more. We got very soaked, very cold, very tired and very happy.

:: This post is part of outdoor challenge Monday, which is hosted on 5 Orange Potatoes, where you can read many post on how to incorporate the outdoors in your child's life. You can also sign up to take part.::

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: me-time or a birthday treat or making felt

As a treat for my birthday, Mr Cartside took the girls to the park nearby while I learned how to felt:



Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Normality of Breastfeeding

I live in a place where breastfeeding is the exception rather than the norm. It came as a surprise to me when I was first presented with this fact, about 10 years ago, when a friend of mine had a baby and was the only new mum in the 13 bed ward who was breastfeeding. I also remember being asked in a questionnaire why I chose to breastfeed - and that my reason (because it's the normal way of feeding a newborn) was not an option.

It makes me wonder if the low breastfeeding rates in certain places may be related with formula feeding being perceived as the norm, and if re-establishing breastfeeding as the norm may lead to improved breastfeeding rates.

One example where formula feeding was established as the norm was when someone decided to base the growth charts on formula fed babies. This has since been changed - so this time around, Snowflake is measured against growth charts of breastfed babies (and following her line spot on) while Cubling was measured against formula fed babies (and kept dropping as time went on, giving me a lot of worry if I was doing the right thing). Although these charts gave me worry with Cubling, I never questioned them. But now that I'm more relaxed about weight gain, and can see my own different attitude and how the new chart gives me confidence that things are going well, I realise how crucial this change is. Hopefully it will give confidence to many breastfeeding mums, and more than that, demonstrate that the norm against which baby growth is measured is that of a breastfed baby.

At nursery, Cubling has been learning all about babies. It's been a great theme, just at the right time. She comes home and continues the role play with her favourite teddy (she's not into dolls as such, her teddy is her baby, it's a girl and her name is Snowflakes middle name). She tells me all about why babies cry, that they can't walk yet, that they visited the baby room and how proud she is that she has a real baby at home. She'll change nappies, wipes teddy bums, dresses teddy for bed and outdoors. And she's filling up bottles to give milk to teddy.

Mummy cringes. All my nursing and my daughter at 3 years already fills up bottles (of the breast pump at least, but bottles they are nonetheless).
I cringe even more because when I dropped Cubling off at nursery one day, and Snowflake was crying (I didn't get the timing of feeds right), a nursery teacher passed and asked Cubling if her baby sister needed a bottle.
Bless Cubling, she just retorted by saying "no!" and pointing to her breast.
What it shows though is that at nursery, the message given out to our youngest is that the normality of baby feeding is the bottle (filled with formula, why else would you measure milk?) - possibly out of a false sense of prudishness (I'm guessing). It's an opportunity lost, an opportunity to re-establish the normality of breastfeeding in an area of Glasgow where the rates are bound to be doddling around the 10% mark.

And I'm particularly disappointed because this is a nursery that prides itself in its eco status, it's environmental awareness and does generally so well in these areas. Shouldn't this not also translate into some gentle encouragement of the message that breastfeeding is normal? It's not about promoting breastfeeding, just about treating it as the norm, to which there will always be exceptions.

Have you experienced situations where breastfeeding wasn't/isn't treated as the norm? Should I take this up with the nursery?

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