Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Secret Post Club, the MADS and why we should listen to children

Umph. How rubbish am I getting at blogging. What with not managing to catch up on all my unwritten posts, here I go again muddling them all together into some incoherent mess. Neither the Secret Post Club, nor the MADS, nor the short but poignant video on why we should listen to children deserve this.

So please bear with me and read on, because it's all lovely stuff I have to share!

This is the first month that I've joined the Secret Post Club which the lovely Heather over at Notes from Lapland is organising (and I'm sure that's a part time job) and you wouldn't believe my excitement when I receive the package - I was rarther curious to find out who sent it and naturally what it was. Bare Naked Mummy really hit the nail on the head with a lovely bath pampering set and a fridge magnet sticky note pad, for that pregnancy brain of mine. And for Cubling, she quite enjoys playing with it and colouring in the elephant (it's the shape of elephants). Such a thoughtful present. Sorry for the lack of a photo, I promise improvement!

All last week I've been trying to ignore the MAD Blogger Awards. You see, I really really don't think I deserve any of the categories, plus I'm not exactly someone particularly active in building the mummy blogger community (I just love to read blogs and blog myself), but of course I also have an ego (and not a small one at that) so I knew I'd fret whether I'd be in it or not. And sure enough, when I saw that I didn't even get a single nomination, I was having a massive tantrum a little bit disappointed. Thankfully MrsW from Clinically Fed Up (oh how I envy that blog name!) came to my rescue (and I belief there was only a little bit no coercion involved). Admittedly I also felt a bit guilty for not having submitted my own nominations (who am I to complain not to get nominated when I can't get my act together to nominate people?), and boy was that hard. So many good blogs out there, such a hard call to make. I think it's a fab idea, especially because the MADs have already introduced me to a few blogs that I didn't know yet. So get your nominations in, only a few days to go now, and of course don't forget to nominate me! (Only joking, I'm quite reconciled with the world now and you can save your nominations for the real fab blogs out there).

Lastly, but not leastly, here's a great short film about why we should listen to children a bit more when making decision that affect them. The young people in the film are all members of Save the Children's Global Panel and recently met up in London, bringing together their views and experiences of Save the Children's Programme work across the globe.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Add some sparkle to your life!

I did. Just by setting up a folksy shop for the wonderful, sparkling, beautiful, amazing, shimmering and colourful jewellery that Marlene McAdam continues to come up with. You see, she's a real creative soul, and her jewellery, well, what can I say? I wore tiara, necklace and bracelet made by her for my wedding, and very proudly so, I don't think I could have worn anything more special.

So today, I would like to share Marlene's shop with my lovely readers. Have a look, tweet the shop, add it to your facebook profile or whatever other social networking you may be into. I'd really like to get the message out about her fabulous jewellery. No, this is not a sponsored post, I just genuinely love her stuff.

Not being someone who sells handmade things myself, I'm not sure if folksy or etsy is the way to go, if any of the crafty folk amongst you have any opinions on this, or how else to promote Marlene's shop even, do let me know.

By the way, you can also order custom made items in your favourite colour scheme for the same price as the items presently listed in the shop. Just drop us a line. Ah go on, treat yourself and sparkle a little bit!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Celebrating Now

I'm slowly tapping back into some form of normality. Pregnancy is still making me tired at the end of the day. This translates to half of the posts I've got in my mind not being written, knitting needles being somewhat neglected and my camera not getting the same use as I'd like to. However, I have been doing a bit of all of this as well as managed to celebrate Cubling's birthday in style. What with not having a proper party last year, she got two this year. Imagine 11 toddlers, 3 or so babies and relevant parents at party number one, to be repeated by a slightly lower toddler count (but greater adult count) the following day. Lesson learned: the second round is much easier, practice helps. Still, I'm not sure if I'd recommend having two rather large children's birthday parties on two consecutive days if you're pregnant. Of course, it was all worth it for her, to show her how special she is, even for the overtired whining at the end of both days.

The doll's house was a great success, and has been played with much more than the train tracks. Cubling loves to put the dolls to bed, to wake them, to rearrange the house, to clear the rubbish out (literally decluttering it, something that we need to do ourselves urgently) and she even does bedtime routines for the babies.

She's always been a very physically active girl, with lots of energy, and while I don't know what exactly she gets up to at either the new nursery (which currently has an exercise theme) or the forest kindergarten, but she sure has made another leap in confidence and ability to climb rather worrying heights. Or throw herself down a slide backwards and head first (I recall that as a child, this was beyond what I felt comfortable with. Not at 3 - but ever). While I admire her energy and physical ability, her climbing reduces me to an overprotective mum, I feel my legs go just watching her. She also manages to run off so fast that I have no idea which direction she went to, but fortunately she is reliable in responding when I ask where she is. So far anyway.

We are still being tortured with endless why questions, plus the rather entertaining first question of the day "what morgen doing?" and the question upon return at home "what you do today?" Her world is that of interacting with other people, she'll go up to any stranger and ask for their names, that of energetic play and activity, that of glueing and painting, role playing, singing and sharing books. She has no time for numbers or letters, no concept of counting years (although she does have a concept of quantities), clearly life is much too busy for any of that. And right she is. I still can't see her as a school girl and I'm glad that she still has a fair bit of time before she'll be made to sit on classroom chairs, because thanks to her March birthday, she'll be starting school at 5 1/2. She is exhuberant and excitable, yet also extremely keen on cuddles and kisses. She will say "I liebe dich" again and again in such a sweet voice that it can only melt your heart away. The longer she can enjoy these pleasures of worryfree life, the better.

Outdoor pictures taken at Finlaystone Park which in spite of the hefty entry cost I can only recommend as a day trip destination for any energetic toddler.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Great books to share with kids - in German

One of the fascinating aspects of raising a child bilingually is that you get the double whammy of books. Oh I love children's books, so many styles, so many ideas, so much creativity and imagination in them. There are books I love for the illustrations only, other for the story, then those that have beautiful rhymes, mad storylines, whacky ideas.

It's hard though finding the right books in the weaker language, in our case German. The main problem is that you really only get a feel for a great book if you see it in the bookshop, while we of course rely heavily on getting our German books through online channels as British book stores don't tend to stock German children's books (while German book stores do stock English children's books).

So for the benefit of any other parents out there who want to support their child's German in a bilingual situation outside a German speaking country, here are some of my personal favourites to share with my daughter - or should I say some of her personal favourites?

Right now, Cubling is into jigsaws. So her favourite book is one that combines a lovely story with jigsaw versions of the illustrations. It's the German version of The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The translation is really well done, you wouldn't notice it wasn't a German book to start with, it rhymes beautifully and the book is substantial enough for the jigsaw pieces not to get torn to shreds even when used on a daily basis.

Bobo Siebenschlaefer is no longer our daily book choice, but it has been for a full year. Just as well there are 4 Bobo books by now, otherwise I would have had Bobo coming out of my ears. From before she turned 2, Cubling adored these books. No day would pass when she didn't want at least one story read, if not the whole book. I'm sure she knows them off by heart by now. The illustrations won't draw you in instantly, they are plain, as are the stories. However, because the stories are so everyday and really relate to a toddler's world, they love it. Cubling also enjoys the tapes that go with it, and now that she can work the tape player herself, she can be often found listening to yet another Bobo story.

I personally love "Ich waer' so gerne Zoodirektor" but to be fair, Cubling is only starting to be a fan of it now. I love the style of illustration of the book, as well as the imaginative story, which rhymes and is a reasonable short read. Cubling hasn't really picked this book until recently, although she's always quite enjoyed reading it (when I picked it).

And just to show you that mummy and toddler views on books can be quite different, Cubling loooves "Bagger Billy", a book clearly aimed at the boys' market, a story about a boy and his crane driver dad, who ends up fixing a digger. It couldn't be more boyish. Yet Cubling will regularly insist on this book being read, although we bought it in small format and the story isn't, well, that exciting. It is to her, maybe because half of Scotland currently consists of road works (I'd better not go off a tangent here or I'll still be fuming mad in the morning).

"Der kleine Klokoenig" is the story of a boy who is learning to use the toilet. Of course I had certain motives when that book was bought. However, Cubling rather likes it and while it didn't lead her to copy the perfect loo behaviour, she rather enjoyed the idea of unrolling full rolls of toilet paper. So if you're precious about your loo paper, maybe this isn't the book for you, but Cubling is enchanted by the boys misinterpretation of the loo seat, and has endless fun telling him that it isn't an aeroplane or swim ring, but a loo seat!!!

Another series of books that I didn't think she would like until I was proven wrong is that of Wieso? Weshalb? Warum? Junior (recommended from 2 years). We have one book on the seasons and one on colours, and Cubling loves both. They are factual and interactive with flaps, and brimming with information (which I doubt will be understood by a 2 year old, but at 3, we may be getting there). The books also have a series of CDs to listen to, and while we've tried here and there, I find them still a bit too old for my daughter.

Another favourite has to be Das Monster vom blauen Planeten, an imaginatively illustrated story told from the perspective of an alien boy who catches a "monster", a girl from planet earth. Again I'm not sure if Cubling understands the complex change of perspective, but she sure likes the story and all the detail in the illustration! She is fascinated by the three armed and trioptic aliens and delights in exploring all the details in the images.

A book that has been a great success is a children's song book (Die schoensten Kinderlieder Soundbuch) that Cubling can also press buttons on. It was one she picked herself, off the shelf when I wasn't looking. While I didn't like the idea of those artificial tunes much, but to be fair, she's never learned German songs faster than with this book. She loves matching the buttons with the songs, she enjoys me singing along (which is surprising) and now she will sing herself.

Finally, Ilse Bilse - 12 Dutzend alte Kinderverse is a real treasure. It is such a beautiful book filled to the brim with old rhymes that I can half remember from my childhood. The illustrations are a bit more abstract, yet still appealing to both child and parent. I was initially a bit worried that it may not engage Cubling because the illustrations aren't very bright, but I was wrong. It is a book that is regularly picked and demanded, and mummy is told off if she tries to rush through it and leave out even on single rhyme.

I'm sure there are many more books that can be recommended, those are just the ones that we have AND were a success from age 0-3.

If you would like to buy any of them through, why not consider going through the Mummy's Buchladen link on the top left or by clicking on the Ilse Bilse image?

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Hip hip hurray!

Just for a bit of fun and variety I thought it would be nice if Daddy Cartside would write a post on this very special day.
Happy Birthday! Our wee girl is three today, and I'm falling in love again. I once saw a TV program where the presenter declared that she could determine the adult characteristics of a child at three years. So now I can't stop looking at her; trying to imagine the "big girl" or even adult version. I know I shouldn't; I hope it's a phase. The council nursery sent us home a photo sampler, and she looks so sweet and happy. To be honest, that's because she is! Not that she can't be grumpy too, but overall she loves to laugh and giggle, and delights everyone she meets. As you can imagine, we're very proud and happy too. Where did she come from? Was it really Mummy's tummy? It's all a little bit like magic isn't it?

You know she's learning German, right? Did Mummy Cartside tell you what she said the other day? "I love he." No, she wasn't referring to yours truly, it was the Gruffalo! Well, a tiny cuddly Gruffalo. I seized the initiative and lined it up for our bedtime reading session; and we got through it no problem. Hurray!

In the morning we'll show her her new doll's house, and the train set in the evening. I hope the nursery remember. Will they sing her a song? Give her a card? Make her feel special? I do hope so. Will she know her age at last? She did the other day, but "didn't know" by the evening.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Endless Counting

Does this situation resonate with you? Worry not, you're not alone. 1 in 6 people in Europe may be endlessly counting pennies, i.e. live below the poverty line. Of course poverty in Europe is not as severe as poverty in developing countries, but that doesn't mean it's anything but inacceptable. 2010 marks the European Year for the Eradication of Poverty and Social Exclusion and today, Glasgow hosted its launch.

The event brought together people passionate about ending poverty in the UK, with participants who had either personal experience of living in poverty or who are working hard to alleviate the effects of poverty in our society. Oh, and we displayed the Museum of Poverty there.

It was refreshing how the organisers actually made sure that it was the people attending who had the floor. Yes, there were two panels of experts, but really, they just sat on their podium and listened to what people had to say. And they had to say rather a lot. There's the trials and tribulations of single parents trying to reskill but not getting any childcare support to do so, leaving them in debt at the end of their course. Elderly people who have lived through rough times and would do anything to not have to rely on handouts - if only the state pension would be sufficient. A holiday a year? Not here, one pensioner was proud to have managed to save up for her first holiday in 19 years. There were many stories of people who were caught in limbo - for so many different reasons, the social net has more holes than most people imagine.

A lot of the talk was about the reluctance of both media and politicians to listen to and take on the poverty agenda. Of course it was easy to blame all on the media and politics, as neither were particularly represented at the Glasgow launch. As far as the media is concerned, of course there are journalists who have a real interest in raising awareness of the massive inequalities that are present in the UK, however, reporting on poverty isn't exactly sexy. On the other hand, the stigma attached to living in poverty makes it hard to find people who will share their experiences with the media and in my working life I'm certainly guilty of being very wary of arranging journalists to meet any of the people I work with for fear they may become the "face of poverty", which, let's be honest, isn't something anyone wants to become. Yet it is also a fact that many people across the UK do not know that there is so much poverty around them and that in the majority of cases, those living in poverty are trying extremely hard to get out of poverty but are presented with one barrier after another. It's not their fault, yet the public likes to believe that it is, and that we are all, as individuals, able to determine our lot. Until you lose your job.

Politicians too seemed reluctant to respond to issues raised in relation to poverty in the UK. At the same time of course, this is the moment to raise poverty with candidates across the political party spectrum and make sure that we know where our potential representatives stand in relation to eradicating poverty. It takes numbers though, lots of people who raise this with the candidates to ensure that poverty is not an issue that can be ignored by anyone.

Personally, I like the economic argument. Apparently, the effects of poverty in the UK is costing us 35 billion a year. So if the government invested in the eradication of poverty, for every pound invested they would save £9 in not having to deal with the effects of poverty. Sounds a pretty convincing argument to me. Of course, it's frontloaded and we're in a recession (Scotland still is, unlike England). And the money needs to come from somewhere.

So we have a choice to make. Do we, as a society, worship the right to make vast amounts of money, for the sake of entrepreneurship or do we believe that a restribution of wealth will actually help us all to live better and more fulfilled lives? What are our priorities of investment? Farslane or ending child poverty?

I know where my priorities lie. Do you know yours? Have you told your MP, MSP and those standing in your area yet?

And once you know where you stand and where the politicians that are fighting to represent you stand, please don't throw away your vote. It's the only one you've got, and there's enough people eligible to vote who have or are experiencing poverty and can make their voices heard. And only if everyone does can we really make a difference.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Conversations in bed

We have a lovely habit of Cubling coming through to our bed on mornings where I'm off work. It's the last remnant of our extensive co-sleeping, just that nowadays she won't ever sleep in our bed, but cuddle, chat, tickle and play tent. Or pick up my guitar and change the string tension. Thanks my darling. Yes, we have a guitar in the bedroom. That's because between us, we have a guitar for every room or so, we have to put the things somewhere.

Today we had an interesting conversation. After reminding her that it'll soon be her birthday and that we were going to go to the shop today to get stuff for her party (which in turn meant many tears as she couldn't get why we got stuff for a party but that party wasn't happening today), I asked her what she'd want for a present. "I want Santa to bring me choo choo! Eisenbahn!" comes her reply - a constant for the past few weeks. Then she adds "George play with choo choo. Peppa play yoyo. I want a yoyo from Santa!!!!" Right. Too late now my love. (NB we have never ever watched Peppa Pig at home)

She then goes on to point to my breasts stating that they are for babies to drink milk from. I remind her that she too once had milk from there. She ponders, edging on disbelief. "I want my milk in a cup." she states. "I'm not a baby."

I spent the rest of the day explaining that:
- She'll be three on Tuesday
- Santa only brings presents at Christmas but not for her birthday, that'll be mummy, daddy, auntie, granny and grampa etc
- Her party is not today and no, she can't have the sausages, hats, etc now
- There won't be presents for her cousin and her friends, just for her
- Her party is not today.
- Her party is not today.

Do I need to add that there was many a tear about the fact that we didn't have a party today? I feel rather guilty for having taken her to the shop...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

aardvarks, other pigs, trains, trees, houses and co-sleepers

One of Cubling's favourite books at the moment is Anthony and the Aardvark. I'm not going to particularly recommend it - it's an ok book, but I don't quite understand her infatuation with it, it's not that great. To be honest, I'd never heard of an aardvark before we were given this book. It's one of those nice books that are easy to translate on the read, so it passes as a mummy and daddy book. Tonight, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, an aardvark is not an aardvark in German and that I should look it up for the sake of a decent translation. And I learned that aardvark is an Erdferkel (earth/soil piglet) in German (which again I've never heard of) and that indeed, I need to change my translation. Let's hope Cubling won't object. Because object she does rather a lot at the moment.

On the topic of pigs, yesterday I was finally offered to have my H1N1 jab which I'd put off for the first trimester of pregnancy. It was rather amusing reading though the common side effects, because to be honest, I currently have most of these due to being pregnant. A day later though, I have to admit that my left arm is really quite sore, and as a consequence I slept very badly. Because I slept badly, I have a splitting headache. Because I have a splitting headache I'm short tempered, and yes, I did lose my patience when Cubling timed her poo perfectly while I was cooking after having returned from a longer than usual workday with very little time to cook, eat and do bedtime; and when once again she refused to be cleaned of her poo which once again she had refused to do on the toilet. Of course she more than anything refused to be cleaned by anyone but mummy. Blame it on the swine. I guess at least she didn't hold it in for 3 days this time. No, not the swine. The poo.

Today marked the last official day at the childminder and tomorrow marks the first day in a forest kindergarten. The thermals are out, although I failed to source toddler sized thermal socks and waterproof gloves. The first lunchbox ever is packed and I'm nervous that the promised pack of waterproofs may not be waiting for her. I'm nervous about the finality of it all, the way she still asks to go to a different nursery, the crabbitness at the end of a long day at nursery because she fails to nap. Will I ever get my cheerful girl back in the evenings? Or will there be many days like yesterday, when she was so tired that she cried inconsolably for one hour, and after that still clung to me like velcro with occasional whinging, making any attempt at preparing dinner futile.

In preparation for tiddler, I've got my mind set on the Arms Reach Co-Sleeper. No, this is not a sponsored post, I'm simply keen on having this ridiculously overpriced product. Basically, it allows you to have baby beside you without actually co-sleeping. I'm not opposed to co-sleeping and did so extensively with Cubling, but for the first months I'm also very worried about the safety and I hope that this co-sleeper will be a perfect compromise. Not that I can afford it, but hey, sometimes you get lucky and there's one near me being sold second hand and I'm incredibly excited about this.

I'm also considering Hypnobabies. When I was pregnant with Cubling, I used Hypnobirthing which did wonders in getting me to overcome my overwhelming fear of childbirth. It didn't get rid of the pain as it promises, but considering my attitude change from being mortified at the thought of giving birth to looking forward to the process with excitement and joy was definitely worth it. I'd quite like to try something similar yet different, to see if it could help me go the whole way without intervention this time. If only it wasn't so expensive... So any second hand offers, do let me know.

I've also managed to source a beautiful traditional wooden doll's house which will be Cubling's surprise present. It's full of potential, with both the house and the furniture unpainted, and none of the pink dreaminess of your average ELC et al. wooden doll house. What Cubling really wants, and she's more than clear about it, is a train set. Which of course she'll get - as long as I get my doll's house. Party plans are in full swing, and to make up for lack of party or any sense of wanting to celebrate her birthday last year, this year there shall be two parties.

Finally it's carnival time over at Baby Baby. Grab yourself a cuppa and enjoy.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A Glasgow Tragedy

Last Sunday, a family jumped from the 15th floor of one of Glasgow's Red Road flats. The Russian family were asylum seekers, who had refugee status in Canada but had been refused protection in the UK and had been asked to make arrangements to leave their Red Road flat and return to Canada. This prospect, for whatever reasons, was worse than committing suicide in the early hours of Sunday morning.

This tragic suicide has brought the spotlight onto the blight of asylum seekers in Glasgow and the UK. It's not the first suicide, and to be honest, I'm surprised there aren't more. The situation for asylum seekers in the UK is dire. Imagine, you flee from a country, have left everything behind, job, sometimes family, your friends, your own culture that you know how to navigate in. You arrive in a new country, one you consider to be safe and where you would like to build a future for yourself and your children. In this country, you are denied the right to work, you are denied to choose where you live, you are given a fraction of what is considered to be the basic amount that a person can live on. You are then housed in a strange city, in a flat nobody else wants, on the 15th floor of a building that has the questionable fame of being Europe's highest building for people to reside in. You are under constant threat of being detained and dread that knock on your door which may take you into a prison like environment. You can't travel. Nobody believes your story. You have to proof everything, including your age. You may have to wait for a decision on your case for 7 years, 7 years in which you slowly waste your life away, unable to provide for yourself, because you're not allowed to work or attend full time further education. You cannot afford to do anything, so you feel excluded, isolated. Your mental health, which was scarred from traumatic experiences that you'd hoped to leave behind you, deteriorates in these years of feeling useless and dependent on the goodwill of others.

Then things turn for the worse - the UK government has decided they don't believe you and you are declared a failed asylum seeker. You are asked to leave the country. You could be evicted, forcefully deported, detained indefinitely. Your flat may be raided in the morning, and you may be picked up and deported without being able to pack your suitcase or for your child to say goodbye to her friends at school. However, you can't return home, because you are sure you will come to harm, you may fear to be killed, to be imprisoned, to be tortured, to be disappeared. The fear eats away at you, destroying your peace of mind which you have so carefully tried to piecemeal together. You have become a living ghost. You may have lost your home and your entitlement to benefits, you may have to live on the streets, forever at the mercy of people who offer you a floor to sleep on and food to eat.

You may never be reunited with your child whom you miss so very much.

This is the reality for many people in the UK. Last night's Secret Millionnaire was moved to tears, realising how important it is for the UK to be a safe haven for people, yet how it makes people who have been through circumstances unimaginable to us, people who would have a lot to give to this country, destitute.

Since Sunday, Glasgow has seen a number of demonstrations and actions. The Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees called for candle lit vigils at the Red Road Flats, for demonstrations and protest. Hard hitting questions were asked. There was a lot of anger, anger that I understand and feel too. However, some of the anger, in my view, was misguided. The issue that breaks people is that the system to deal with asylum applications is fraught with injustice, it's complicated, lengthy, and shaped by public opinion. The government is keen to be seen to be tough on asylum, hence making it impossible for asylum seekers to work, hence forced deportation when really and truly it is not safe for many to be returned to their country. There is an assumption of any asylum seeker's case to be disbelieved, which I feel utterly undermines any human relation. There has to be trust for there to be truthfulness and justice.

So years of anger have been directed recently at the owners of some of the flats at Red Road, the YMCA specifically. The YMCA is a charity, a landlord, and they are contracted to provide housing for asylum seekers. They are not the worst housing providers: For example, as they house many asylum seekers in a very confined space, they also organise activities, advice and support for those living in their flats. Where else do you get English classes in your own building? Activities for teenagers? Art and craft classes? General advice to navigate the system and get the best outcome? There is a specific programme of work that the YMCA does which is to support their residents (who are all asylum seekers). They have a no eviction policy, so tenants enjoy better protection than they would if they are housed by for instance the Angel Group. Of course, the Red Road Flats are infamous and considered to be the worst housing available in Glasgow. But still, is it not better to at least be housed nearby people from the same country in similar circumstances, rather to be placed somewhere without local support available, in a nicer flat but without anyone who speaks your language? The latter happened to a woman I know and as much as she liked her new flat, she was so scared of her new environment that she didn't dare leave the house, and didn't send her children to school.

I object to the anger directed at the YMCA, who are trying to make an awful situation bearable. The suicides could just as well have happened in another location. In fact the family had only been resident for 2 months and probably hadn't made much use yet of the support available. It's the system and what it does to people that is to blame, not the housing provider. What worries me about this is that I personally cannot support a march that blames (the wrong party in my view) without engaging in a productive dialogue that may actually lead to change, as much as I deplore the loss of life and the extent of desperation it hints at.

Once again, I feel ambivalent about how some vocal individuals hijack an issue for their own agenda and present it as if it's everyone's agenda. They should know better. It's about the issue, not personal battles or attempts to yet again make it onto the Scottish evening news. Let those who are affected by the horrendous system called asylum speak, or people who are able to actually represent the views of those suffering in this system. Don't (ab)use the tragedy that has occurred at the Red Road Flats for your own cause, thereby distorting it an alienating a great number of people who are actually supportive of the real issues at stake.

And then you will see me at the march, shouting loud and clear.

You can still watch the latest episode of Secret Millionaire on 4OD.
And here are pictures of the march and demo.
Donate money to help the many other destitute people across the country in urgent need. You can give to Refugee Action at

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Transitions: starting nursery

The previous two weeks have marked a big transition for Cubling. She has started nursery. So far, from when I had to return to work (she was 5 months at the time), she was cared for 4 days a week by a childminder. Looking back, it was the right choice. Cubling is a spirited child, which, as a baby, meant that she would have difficulties settling and did not like being separated from me. A walk in the pram? A nightmare. Bouncy chairs? You must be joking. Lying under a play gym? If you want wild screams, go for it. Instead she wanted carried and nursed rather a lot. The thought of putting her into a childcare with various carers for a rather long day just didn't seem right. At least with a childminder, there was one continuous carer, which really worked better for my daughter.

Interestingly, of all my friends who work, there is a clear pattern. If childcare is required for up to 3 full days, parents tend to opt for a nursery. If it's more than that, the choice is often for a childminder. I'm not sure how concious people are of such decisions, but research does show that while nurseries and childminders often have a positive impact on the development of young children, this benefit disappears or is reversed if the child is in care for long hours, particularly if this is at a nursery and the child is younger than 2 years of age.

In fact, from the perspective of a child, nursery has a definite benefit from the age of 3, and this benefit is most pronounced if the child attends half days only. Before the age of 2, research has shown that a one-person childcare setup is generally better for the child than a nursery set-up, with the length of hours spent in childcare having an impact too. The longer hours, the worse the nursery fares. Even if parents don't read the research, there's something intuitive about this.

We did consider to transition Cubling to nursery when she was 2. We even gave the childminder notice. And then we got cold feet, our instincts still told me that we weren't happy for her to spend 10 hours a day, 4 days a week, in a nursery with multiple and changing carers. Yes, she was more settled, and a sociable little girl, but it still felt wrong.

Just before her third birthday, we finally have embarked on the big step. For the past two weeks, she has had settling in days at the local authority nursery where we managed to get a place for her. I was keen for her to go to a city council nursery, mainly because of the better reputation of such centres. However, it was hard getting a space in an all day centre, because the way it works around here is that city council run nurseries usually offer half days only from the age of 3 - which is great for the kids but useless for working parents. So we got a space, but it's for 2 out of the 4 days needed only, and it's miles away, definitely not in walking distance. However, it's a nursery with glowing reports, and with so much good stuff that I value that there was no way we could have said no (and hoped to get a space in the nursery around the corner from us, you know the one where Cubling has been on the waiting list for 2 years now without success).

Of course, the way city council nurseries are set up are with the child in mind. It goes back to what's got the most impact on a child. From the age of three, half days, with an educational focus. This is what's good for our children, but unfortunately this doesn't fit in with a world of work that really doesn't give a shit about pre-fives. And how I felt this last week. Our world of work makes us work 9-5, 5 days a week. If we get part time hours, we can count ourselves very lucky indeed (when I was looking for a job, going part time would have meant a 35-50% drop in wages). For our children, shorter hours are proven to be better, longer hours can lead to behavioural issues and aggression that lasts into adulthood. So it's not actually good for young children to spend 10 hours a day at nursery. Yet it's also been shown that working parents seem to have a positive impact on children. The perfect scenario, I suppose, would be a situation where a parent worked just half days and the child would spend half days at nursery.

Just that this is not what the working world wants, a world that has no interest in what's good or bad for our next generation.

Looking back at the past two weeks, both Mr Cartside and I had to bend ourselves double to accommodate the long settling in process. Cubling, of course, did smashingly. I kept moaning about why it was such a slow process, and why we could not just try full days and see how it goes. Again, I was responding to what work expects of me, which puts me under pressure, and in turn, I put my child under pressure.

Thankfully, I relented and we didn't push it. And all went well. So, as of next week, it'll finally be 2 full days, and we'll also start the second nursery which will be a forest kindergarten. Cubling is so excited by it all, she can't wait to climb trees as she says. I'm not sure if she realises that this means she won't see the childminder very often from now on.

I was close to tears (ok, I'm very hormonal and burst into tears very easily at the moment) when I came to pick her up from nursery and found her enthusiastically playing a sleeping and hopping bunny game with all the other children. This is the girl who usually refuses to partake in group games or photographs, the girl who stands back and does her own thing. There she was, so enthralled in it that she didn't even notice me, so joyously playing the game with the biggest conviction there could be. I'd never seen her like this in a group of children. Something felt very right, even if the hours, to be fair, are still very long for a little girl.

At least I'm satisfied that we've found the right balance in difficult circumstances. Childminder up to 3 years, and now the combination of indoor and outdoor nursery, giving her the opportunity to explore very different worlds, while she can spend time being the active and intense girl that she is. I really hope that we've made the right choices to support her personality without changing it, to let her be herself for as long as possible. She will be going to two excellent nurseries which complement each other, and the time spent at home will give her yet more experiences.

This time, the time seems right to change. And so far, she's taken on the transition in her very own stride: Confident, enthusiastic, strong-willed, and with a very big heart.

(picture: Cubling in the driving seat)

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Different this time

Funny that. While some things are very much like my pregnancy with Cubling, others are different. So yes, I was reasonably relaxed from the word go because nothing resembled the almost 12 weeks of pregnancy that wasn't to be. For example, I had a positive test on the day my period was due (a test I'd only taken for the fun of it, convinced that that month I could not possibly be pregnant). For example, the constant nausea from week 6, the one that made me into a right grump and even stopped my blogging addiction. The tiredness that made me into a person I loathed, unable to get myself up from the sofa, the beach, interact with anyone, be pleasant or do anything at all. Not a nice place to be! Oh please, do understand, I'm not moaning, I'm so so very happy I'm pregnant, just that I didn't like myself very much when the apathy was engulfing me.

However, things are also different. I was tired longer, only now getting my energy back (15 weeks). I'm still nauseaus and smells can get me to retch very easily. It's not to bad, but I didn't have this with Cubling. I can't drink tea most of the time, it makes me feel sick. I get cramps. I wake up in the middle of the night with pins and needles in my arms. My left hip hurts in the evening - just so. I get nose bleeds. I've already got a massive bump (I think) and have to wear maternity clothes.

And I can't bring myself to knit for this baby.

My knitting needles have been highly neglected (as has my camera incidentally). Compare this with both my previous pregnancies - No 1, my passion for knitting was rekindled. No 2, I knit for baby and niece, and never stopped until my beautiful niece was born.

Last night, I started again. Very slowly. I had promised myself to make another mossy jacket for this one, having given the one I'd knit for Button to a very lovely baby. I like this jacket, it's a great and quick knit. Slowly, the rhythm came back. By midnight, I was still knitting. It felt so incredibly good. Not just the knitting, but also the fact that for a whole evening, I'd finally managed to do something I was pleased with, that I'd started to make something again, rather than spend all evening clicking my life away through the internet before collapsing exhausted, with flickering eyes and an undeniable feeling of yet another wasted evening into my bed. That I'd actually been up until midnight.

Even though knitting is still coming back to me slowly, at least I like myself much better for knitting. Maybe, at some point, it'll be more than just knitting.

Maybe I will actually make use of the wonderful books that have made it into my home recently.

Or the wonderful fabric I bought.

Or even the collection of bulbs and seeds sitting in our dining room.

Maybe then I'll even take photos of all this.

I truly can't wait to knit, sew, sow and plant. Yet I still need to kick my arse to do so. I know I'm growing a baby and that my body slows down for a reason. Doesn't mean I like it, I'm an active person and don't like my couch potato version of self.

So, in the practice of positive thinking, last week my energy came back (a bit). I made plans. I cleared the front garden, tidied the back garden. I bought bulbs and fabric. I admired the daffodils peaking out of the ground. I finished a baby hat for baby M. I went for a walk at lunchtime. And I started to knit a cardigan for Tiddler.

Which is more than I did in the whole of the previous 14 weeks.

Monday, 8 March 2010

A Museum of Poverty

Imagine you live in a time in the future where there was no child poverty in the UK.
What would it look like?

Now, because you want to show people what child poverty was like and to make sure those bad times never come back, you're looking for exhibits that represent poverty, to put them into a museum of poverty.
What would you choose?

Save the Children in Scotland worked with groups of children, young people and parents/carers and they've come up with 20 items they would put in a museum of poverty. They were first displayed at the Scottish Parliament last Thursday. We almost missed the launch due to being stuck in traffic (lesson learned about 5 times so far - never think a car gets you from Glasgow to Edinburgh faster than the train, even if everybody says so) for about 3 hours, but we were there in time for the speeches and to even catch a glimpse of the finished exhibition. Of course, I can still have a look because the museum is currently stored in our office before it will go on a grand tour across the country.

So then, what would you put into the Poverty Museum?

Sunday, 7 March 2010


How many chapters does potty training have? I guess I've still got to find out.

Cubling will be three very soon, and last week was her settling week at nursery. Since we started potty training in late December, we've bribed her with going to nursery, insisting she could only go to nursery once she was using the potty/toilet. After a rather unsuccessful start, Cubling did magically decide to want to use the toilet. However, on the behest of the childminder (who goes out a lot and couldn't guarantee a toilet when one was needed), she was still in pull up nappies. Which was fine. Some days, the nappy came home wet. Mostly, it was dry.

Then came the runs. Not in a bad bad way. Cubling is not someone who poos a lot at the best of times - I still remember her every 10-12 days routine when she was a baby, which freaked me out big time. Since we started potty training, she's been holding the poos in. Not too bad, we're not in the realm of constipation, but she was sore and uncomfortable doing the business, and there were tears and the need for big mummy cuddles before the jobby would find its way into the toilet. Three attempts were the norm, usually during dinner - yes, we were back to mummy having to eat cold dinner. I was loving it.

So diarrhoea. Not sure if it was a bug, but considering that both childminder and I came down with it too, it probably was real. I lasted long, but the frequency made any GP laugh. I know my daughter and yes, twice a day, explosive liquid, for her, is diarrhoea. I understood that it was hard making the toilet. I understood that the cramps preceding the explosion were scary and didn't make the toilet attractive. However, I didn't exactly find cleaning up such explosions that would make their way, well, everywhere, attractive either. Remember, I'm pregnant and still rather pukeish, especially when presented with .... Better not think about it.

So, runs have been and gone, we're back to alternate days pooing and a certain degree of holding in. Just that now, she refuses to go anywhere near the toilet when a poo is imminent. I can smell it. She complains of not feeling well hours before the deed. Tummy rubs are requested. As are cuddles. And the poo still goes into the pants.

I can't exactly say that tomorrow there will be no nursery because she's not pooing where she should be pooing. More immediate bribery won't work - yes, she wants the chocolate, badly even, but when given the choice of chocolate if poo in loo, or poo in pants and no chocolate, it's the latter.

So I've tried to get to the bottom of the problem (imagine the following exchange in German):
Me: why are you crying?
C: I no want to do poopoo in the toilet.
Me: why not?
C: I no like it!
Me: why don't you like it (now I feel a lot like her, copying her endless why's)
C: I no like it!
Me: Yes, I know, but why don't you like it?
C: I no like it whoobaaaahhh.
Me: Do you prefer to poo in the nappy?
C: Yes!!!!

Ok. That was rather profound. To summarise, she doesn't like pooing in the toilet. I think it may be sore. I think she may have some fear. I think but I can't be sure.

I've heard that this is a normal stage and will pass. Which leaves me with the question if nappies are on or off for nursery. The staff have said they're happy to deal with accidents, but if I ever get my child back again with dried poo all over her legs and clothes (as happened one day when she was at the childminder) and a nappy rash that makes her scream when touched, I think I'd rather go back to nappies.

However, when asked by fellow mums if I was doing night training yet, I almost sprayed my juice all over the gathered mummy crowd. One step at a time, my loveys. This is not a competition, right?

Perfectly Happy Mum
and Irish Mammy on the Run are potty training right now too. Just in case you are slightly obsessed with the topic like I am at the moment.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Birthday Musings

Today is a special day. It's Guest Post Day! I'm delighted to introduce you to Lindsey from TattieTats, a blog in which she records her random, sometimes quirky, musings concerning parenting, her business, and the day to day adventures of a work at home mom. We have swapped posts for today and without further ado, this is what's been on her mind:

My dear son, Alex, will turn 9 on Sunday. He is celebrating his birthday tonight with a sleepover with four other boys. (Four! What was I thinking?) As I prepare the house for the coming whirlwind of rambunctiousness, I can’t help but think back over the years. My little boy is halfway grown up. The past nine years have passed so quickly. Where in the world have they gone? Will the next nine fly by just as fast?

Last week, Alex asked me if being nine was fun. I replied by saying, “Yes, it is, but you also have more responsibility,” my common canned answer for this sort of question. At the time, I was thinking that he would now be in charge of one more chore, perhaps two. I wasn’t considering the age itself, or the dangers that Alex may face in the moments in which I can’t (or shouldn’t) shelter him.

Yet, as I sit here, enjoying my morning soda as I mentally prepare myself for the day, I realize that Alex faces more dangers the older he gets. All of our children do, really. And, we can’t simply shelter them their entire lives, lest we deprive them of the chance to learn reasoning and develop the ability to make their own decisions and behave responsibly. At what point do we have to let go? I presume that I will always worry about my babies. That’s a mother’s prerogative.

When our babies are young, we wake up at night worrying about crib death. We eagerly take them to the pediatrician to give them immunizations, check their weight, height, and ears. We coddle them and hold hands and tighten their car seats until our faces turn purple with effort. But, what can we do when they’re older? When it is no longer cool or popular for them to hold our hands? When we have to send them off to school, where we can’t stand by ready to protect them if needed? What do we do then?

I suppose we hope that all the lessons we taught our children stick and that they don’t rebel against us. We hope that they choose good friends and we try to stay involved so that we know who those friends are. We pray to God that they will be sheltered from the evil that resides in this world. And, we trust them. We trust that they will make good decisions. We lend an ear when they need to talk. We find balance between childhood and maturity, the place where they are still little and want to be hugged, the longing that they have to spread their wings. We help them find the balance. We love them until it feels like we will explode, and we have faith that everything will turn out okay.

So, as my little boy crosses the halfway point to adulthood, I realize that I don’t have to let him go, not yet. But, I do need to help him learn to fly. I can’t pick him up every time he falls, lest he never learn to take care of himself, buy I can offer encouragement from the sidelines as he develops the skills and knowledge he will need as a man.



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