Sunday, 28 February 2010

Time to watch and listen

We had one amazing weekend with Cubling. At the end of it I'm exhausted as well as anxious about the week ahead, yet it was so worth it. I'm anxious because Cubling will be starting nursery and I have no idea how she will settle. She is a confident and inquisitive child, yet not comfortable with strangers or groups of children. And we've had a serious tummy ache and diarrhoea episode, including visit to GP and call to NHS 24 without any diagnosis, so I'm blaming it on poo anxiety issues - which makes me worry how she'll deal with it in new surroundings with new people.

For tonight though, I'll enjoy looking back on

::two cousins chasing each other full of delight through the Tramway and Hidden Gardens::

::being chased by orange hands and getting two sets of clothing covered in paint::

::making origami daffodils and failing::

::Cubling's surefooted exploration of trams, trains and buses at the Transport Museum::

::Cubling's utter delight at finding the bear and much more at Kelvingrove Museum::

::shopping in the yellow shop (aka Morrison's) and the disappointment when Cubling realised that the "purple yoghurt" (aka chocolate mousse) had not made it home::

::fishing the poo snake out of the bath (you'll be pleased we didn't take a picture this time, I think we were all a bit too scared of that monster)::

Oh there are pictures of our adventures, but sorry, too tired. Foetus doesn't fancy me sitting at the computer any longer.

Roll on big girl nursery then.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

You know you're really pregnant when...

I'm definitely pregnant this time around. Funny that; I had almost no worries of another miscarriage, because:

- I felt sick as a dog from 6 weeks
- I was so tired that I would have the same sleep hours as my toddler
- I have dark blotches below my mouth
- I have very sore boobs
- I have a few other pregnancy related things that are TMI

None of which I had in the pregnancy I miscarried. So while I was moaning that I really had enough of this stupid all day sickness that made yet another holiday a misery (how do I always manage to fit the worst of 1st trimester pregnancy into a rare holiday? First honeymoon, now our first holiday as a family), I rejoiced in it being a good sign.

But really hormones, you may give me a break now. I'm officially 2nd trimester now and would like to get on with things. For example, I have a couple of hats to knit, one already very late, and lots more for this baby who will need lots of warm stuff for his/her first winter. It's no good that I collapse at 8pm until the following day. I can do the sickness, I hat this tiredness with a passion. I mean, if I can't even pick up my knitting needles, something is seriously wrong. I've been tagged in the blogosphere, and have lots of posts in my head, lots of lovely photos to share, yet no energy to do so. I'm pleased if I can even get the energy to switch on the TV (I often don't). And yes, I know that lots of people get it much worse than me. So I'm not really complaining, just saying.

I'm guessing this one must be a boy, because with Cubling, I wasn't sick or tired beyond 10 weeks.

I'm pleased to say though that this baby is a real gig goer. So far, it's bred on a diet of


as well as:

and provided we find a babysitter, this will be next taste of seriously good music:

For tonight though, my bed is calling yet again.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

1 in 150

I'm not one who likes statistics.
Especially when it comes to medical ones. Maybe it's because they disregard the individual, the way that every individual case of an illness, a risk etc is different, and statistics are averaging and will not necessarily apply to you.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a letter from the hospital inviting me to discuss screening options for Down's Syndrome as my age means that I have an increased risk of carrying a baby with Down's Syndrome. The letter threw me into emotional turmoil. I really didn't know what to do. Should I have tests? What then? Would I have a termination? What's the point of tests if I wouldn't have a termination? To be prepared? Can you really be prepared?

Many of my friends have had amnios. Others have refused all tests. Here in my NHS area, a nuchal translucency test is not offered, and the blood test in itself is pretty useless to really assess your risk of carrying a baby with Down's Syndrome. I considered having a nuchal fold scan privately, at least with the combined non-invasive tests there is a better assessment of risk which would then maybe help the decision to have an amnio or not.

Yet this plan didn't answer the real question: would I actually ever agree to have an amnio, considering the 1 in 100 risk of miscarriage it carries? And what would I do if the result was positive for Down's Syndrome.?

I'm not a person who copes easily. I like to be in control. I know I'd be overwhelmed by having to care for a disabled child, it would throw my life into turmoil. I wouldn't choose that life. Then the realisation came that life has taught me that there is ultimately no control over what happens. There's a lot you can't prepare for, so why is so much emphasis put on preparing or testing for Down's Syndrome? Maybe because you can? Was I not considering invasive tests because I'd been invited to discuss them, when before I had thought about it but would not have requested one?

I did go to the appointment that was offered. There wasn't much information that I didn't already know, but I do like to speak to people, it makes my mind clearer. Apparently, my risk of carrying a child with Down's is 1 in 150. When the risk of miscarriage was explained to me (which I knew), I burst into tears. Instinctively I knew that this is not a risk I am prepared to take. 1 in 100. It doesn't sound much. It was the same risk that my mother's operation carried. And she passed away. 1 in 100 is one in a hundred too many for me.

What I did instead is read up on Down's Syndrome and chat to some people online who have a child with Down's Syndrome. It made it real but also less frightening. Again, 1 in 150 is a real possibility and I'm not going to brush this away light heartedly.

Statistics also tell me that 93% of pregnant women who know they carry a child with Down's Syndrome have a termination. That number too is a powerful statement, one that doesn't let me brush away worries lightly. Because I'm sure that a termination doesn't come lightly for anyone behind the statistics.

My name is still down for blood tests. This may sound odd, because after all, if I'm not prepared to have invasive tests, why would I want any tests? Well, last time the blood tests came back good, and it really and truly made me stop my constant worries. That official label of having a low risk pregnancy, a label I could look at every day in my notes, was priceless. And don't blame me for hoping for it this time.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Wordless Tuesday: Look at this beauty

Tiddler at 12 weeks 4 days (which proves fertility monitoring was a waste of time and effort as my count was a full week less). We are unspeakably happy.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

How hard can it be?

Raising a child bilingually is hard work. What I really mean is that it's much harder work than I'd ever have imagined when I set out on this journey in a rather naive mindset. There are those well meaning (?) half strangers who comment on how German has to be my daughters mother tongue because it's her mother's tongue. Wrong. You're so wrong.

Let's get real and analyse language exposure: Mummy speaks to Cubling in German. Mummy speaks to almost everyone else in English in the presence of Cubling. Daddy speaks English to Cubling. Mummy speaks English to Daddy. Childminder speaks English to Cubling. All her friends, granny and grampa, auntie and cousin speak English to Cubling. Yes, I do have German friends but because already most of Cubling's utterances are English (and even what passes as German to her still consists at least 60% of English words) even those German friends, who could speak German to her, often end up switching to English. Why? Because we're all living here and English is all our language of habit. Even my own dad and his partner, both hardly able to speak English, end up using English when speaking to her. It's driving me bonkers.

So, exposure to German is limited to direct communication from mummy to Cubling with very little else. We have some German language DVDs but because her TV exposure at the childminder is rather considerable, we don't tend to put them on a lot. This will change once she's at nursery in a few week's time.

The idea of letting her play with other bilingual children backfires because they just end up speaking English to each other. I don't blame them, if I can't get German adults who know about my intention to increase exposure to German to consistently speak German to her even if she answers back in English, how can I expect this of toddlers?

There are other reasons beside the lack of results why this whole endeavour is wearing me down. What bothers me most is that I find it difficult to keep up speaking German to her. My mindset is English. It's not my mother tongue, but I've always loved the language and I'm so used to speaking it at home, at work, in any context that it's an effort sticking to German. Raising a child bilingually to me is work. I feel like a teacher most times, as if family time is becoming an extension of work. Of course, parenting is "work" and whether we are trying to set a good expample with behaviour or speaking a second language, it is an effort. An effort which we know will be worth it in the end.

I keep thinking back of my time as an au-pair in Spain, where my job was to teach a 4-year old Spanish boy German. I played with him for 5 hours a day, he spoke Spanish, I repeated it in German and tried to engage him in a conversation - mostly without success. I really felt I wasn't making any progress and that he didn't listen to me. Yet at the end of the 6 months, suddenly, his German grammar improved and there was feedback from the German nursery that he'd progressed significantly. So I know that language development can be jumpy and takes, above all, a lot of patience.

And yet, had I known it would be so hard, I wonder if I'd ever embarked on this adventure. Now that it's been such an effort, there's no way I'm going to give up on it.

To connect with other parents who are raising bilingual children or to read about bilingualism, join the mailing list or check out the monthly bilingual carnival.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

I hope it's just a phase...

Today, on our way to Queens Park's glasshouse (which is more than that, it has a reptile zoo and a soft play area to offer and is a rather popular location to any southsider in Glasgow who has kids), there was much talk about THE LION. In fact, there are two. One on top of the monument that remembers the Battle of Langside (where Mary Queen of Scots lost, the site of the battle is a mere 200 metres from where I live). That's nice and very tall as Cubling would say, so we're cool. The second one is a different story. It's a massive plastic head of a lion, with teeth painted on it and all, just at the entrance of the beloved glasshouse.

There were tears today. Screams of fear. Cubling had said something about keeping her eyes shut as she'd walk past it (clever girl) and hiding behind mummy (good idea, I'll fight the lion should he dare to even move towards you an inch). All the plans went to shreds of course.

It took us three attempts to pass the lion. After that she was fine, and had just one more panic incident when she spotted an iguana rather closer to her than expected. After saying "I love Leguane!" - consistency is not her strong point.

My worry is that this phase has been going on for a bit and it's not getting much better. We cannot read the Gruffalo or watch the amazing BBC production. Well, I and Mr Cartside did because we love the Gruffalo, but that's after Cubling's bedtime because "I no want see him!!!! He eat me!!!!"

Sometimes, she wakes up screaming and tells me of a monster coming to eat her. During our holidays, the monster was hiding in volcanic rocks, in the gap between her bed and the wardrobe, or recently in the wall of the train station. Monsters everywhere. It's all about sharp teeth, being eaten and sometimes about diggers coming to get her or the whole car.

Then there was a dinosaur at her friend's house. Admittedly, it was big, and when a button was pressed, it moved its head rather realistically and flashed red lights across its back. But it's still not massive, doesn't move, and can be wrestled down by any toddler. However, I had to ask for it to be taken away, shame really because I'm rather partial to dinosaurs and would have loved to play with it.

Obviously we do all the reassuring you can imagine. The lion is not real, just painted. He is nice and not hungry at all. The teeth are ridiculously soft. The gruffalo is thick and the mouse is clever and doesn't get eaten - that's the point of the story, isn't it???? But no. My girl is scared of rather a lot.

So for now The Gruffalo remains unread. Even before having children, I was so looking forward to reading the Gruffalo to them, and now the book is sitting rejected on the shelf. I never thought it would come to this.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Inspiring Change

I'm still in the middle of organising car seats and travel cots for next week's residential. Maybe some of you guys out there are interested in finding out a bit more about my day job. Well, the new and shiny programme I'm involved in is called "Inspiring Change", which is linked to Save the Children's work on ending child poverty in the UK. Child poverty in the UK? I hear some say in disbelief. Yes, we are a very rich nation, but according to government statistics, between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 children in the UK grow up in poverty, and 1 in 10 even in severe and persistent poverty. Why? Well, partly because in the UK the difference between the very rich and the very poor is massive, it's an unequal society that doesn't redistribute wealth. Of course there are other reasons - what matters though is that growing up in poverty means that children have lower educational outcomes, poorer health, less ambitions, and generally perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

Our Inspiring Change programme works with groups of young people or parents who live in deprived areas. We facilitate workshops that identify an issue that affects the people in the group and that they can agree to work on as a group. The group then explores the root causes for the issue, its effects, and potential solutions. They pick a short project that will make a real difference in relation to the issue for them and for their communities, and we help them plan the project, and implement it. This is only a drop in the ocean of course, but we will be scaling up the number of groups we work with across the UK in the next 2 years and we also hope to link them through a web community, and create vblogs and podcasts where they share their experiences with the general public, thus creating campaigns and public support for their change ideas and projects. This way, we hope, the drop will stir the waters and become a wave which will lead to change on a bigger scale. The programme works on many levels, empowering those we work with (we hope) and giving them a voice through a big charity like us, and inspiring the general public by sharing the journey of the groups and picking campaign calls from some of the groups for national campaigns, thus creating more support generally for ending child poverty in the UK.

It's exciting and also extremely ambitious. The idea is to work with a range of groups, clustered in some areas. So we try to work with younger children, teenagers, parents and carers. My biggest piece of work at the moment is that with a group of young parents (who incidentally aren't that young, and mature beyond their age anyway, but I guess they are in the sense that they all had their children before they were 20 - at least I think that's the case). It's a fab group and they really pinpoint lots of issues, it'll be hard to pick one project from all the ideas they have. I'm quite passionate about this particular piece of work because it links in very well with my previous work for the same organisation, when I worked on access to Pre5 services for asylum seeking children. Of course, as you can imagine, preschool education and childcare is not just a professional interest of mine, and it's great when you can actually draw on your own real life experiences as well within your work remit.

So, all exciting stuff. I'll be spending a few days (and nights) with 11 youngish mums and 12 children, plus some staff and new volunteers. All my blogging action will be for the Inspiring Change webcommunity (which is private and for participants only, sorry) so yet again it will be rather quiet on this page. Please bear with me and don't desert me my lovely readers, I know I haven't been good at posting recently, but normal service will resume after the residential.

Monday, 8 February 2010

things that aren't in my job description but should be

One of the reasons I'm not blogging a lot at the moment is that I'm a rather busy bee at work. I'm planning a residential for a group of young mums and their kids - that's 12 adults and 13 children between 0 and 8. It's all happening next week and we're all rather excited. It also made me realise how rubbish my job description really is, because none of the things I'm doing at the moment ever made it into it:

- ordering food online
- creating meal plans that actually get eaten. The food, not the meal plan of course
- sourcing free or cheap car seats because mini bus / community transport companies for some reason do not have child car seats
- going to the launderette to wash piles of sleeping bags
- ringing the bells of friends to get a loan of travel cots
- browsing the net for party games that'll keep 0-25 year olds entertained

On top of all this practical stuff I had a rather philosophical day but I'm far too busy to share my deep thoughts today. Looking at the pattern of things, it may get lost in the buzz of things. Nevermind.

My happy thought for the day: Cubling does not have the chickenpox. Relax. Everything else will fall into place.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Groundhog Day

I've just googled my own blog. You see, Cubling had the chickenpox some time ago and I just fancied reading that post again:

No, I didn't change my blogroll yet, that's because my run of the evening went something like this: tidy chaos left by Cubling. switch on a machine that washes stuff. Hang up laundry. Stop to listen to Cubling scream her heart out and wonder why she does that and breathe again when cry turns to snores. switch on laptop and read my favourite blogs. Check email. Curse the laptop for being so flipping slow. Look at symptoms and images for chickenpox. That's because now that Cubling is just back at childminder after having had measles, she has a body full of big ugly spots that look vaguely like chickenpox. Not wanting to bother GP with yet another emergency appointment or my boss with yet another absence, I decide on web diagnosis. So this is what chickenpox look like:

pretty disgusting. Cubling has something that looks similar apart from the blister on the top. Her spots don't look disgusting, even if I admit they aren't pretty. And since every image I've seen has those blisters, and she hasn't got (m)any, and because she isn't scratching the spots, and because she only has about 25 250 on the whole of her body, with little change for better or the worse, I've the doctor has officially decided that she doesn't have has chickenpox and will go to the childminder tomorrow and meet up with her pals on Friday stay in isolation until further notice.
C'mon, it would be pretty unlikely to finish off the measles with chickenpox? Or is there a disease that starts with 3.5 days of 40 degree fever, develops into an all body rash that starts behind the ears and the hairline, uncannily resembling measles, before it develops biggish spots that seem to accumulate around the eye and the bum?
Why that reminiscing? Because I could have written the bit about the spots not having blisters today. Again I've been trailing online photos of chickenpox, symptoms and general information on the virus. Thing is, Cubling had it bad when she was 14 months. She had a decent temperature for 3 days, then 10 days of the pox, to the books. Now, she had a few hours of a raised temperature, loss of appetite, mouth ulcers, sore throat, and just as she was getting better and I could get more than 20 mins of sleep at a time (and boy was I needing it), those spots appear. Call it deja vu. I've also already visited 2 people with 4 kids, who've all not had the pox, and feel incredibly guilty now that I'm not so sure anymore that it's definitely not what I didn't think it was a year and a half ago. Nevermind having taken Cubling to the childminder in spite of her illness (because I'm having the three most important work weeks of the year right now and really can't afford to stay at home) and probably infecting the other 5 kids.


I so hope I'm right this time and it's not the chicken pox. If it is, can someone please clone me for two weeks?

Monday, 1 February 2010

Where's the Potty? From Windelbaby to Klokoenig

There's been a topic which I've been clearly avoiding. An update on our potty training efforts. To recap, we started potty training at the start of the Christmas holidays, where I had 10 days at home to get to some sort of a success stage, plus one week on holiday (which turned out to be two weeks).

By the time we boarded our 4 1/2 hour flight to Lanzarote, Cubling was back in nappies. In spite of going cold turkey and nappy free, we only managed to direct wee and poo into the potty if we caught it when it was coming. No real success, instead an increasingly upset toddler who feared to see her poo or pee and really didn't fancy sitting on potty or toilet.

So we backed off. We tried a couple of nappy free days in Lanzarote, but after two accidents in hotel lobbies and at restaurants, I had enough. Nappies were bought and that was that. What ensued was a constant call to go to the toilet, something like 4 times at each cafe/restaurant. As soon as we got to the toilet, total refusal to sit down on it. When I made her, she got upset. The wee usually happened after 3rd false alarm, in the nappy, and to a cry of upset.

I really felt that above all, she needed reassurance. So I said it was ok to wee and poo in her nappy. She kept telling us every time she did do something and I thought at least she is now aware of what's going on and that that was some sort of success.

Back at work, I updated the childminder and suggested that maybe when she does ask for the toilet, she could take her there, without pressure, and just encourage her ever so slightly. We switched to pull ups (which all the books say is not the way to potty train, but then again a friend of mine did manage to potty train with them, so I decided it's worth a try). I didn't expect much, really.

However, first day at the childminder and surprise, the first real success: Cubling had asked for the toilet and actually done a wee! I was greeted by her announcing this incredible feat and demanding a chocolate. I think I danced a wee dance (no pun intended) and didn't feel at all undermined by the childminder's instant success after our 4 weeks of utter failure.

And so it continued: Each day held a success, some days 3, both at the childminder's and at home. She chooses the toilet, without a seat, and today, hurray, was the first day without a single accident! She's still in nappies and still forgets when she's engrossed in play, and sometimes the way upstairs is a bit far. But in general, she'll say when she needs the toilet and we make it there comfortably. She's even so good at it now that she finds the celebration after each success a bit daft and doesn't partake in it anymore, she just sits, wees, wipes (herself!) and gets off. Magic.

So, on Friday, I shall try to dump daytime nappies for good. We even have the childminder's blessing. Wish me luck.



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