Thursday, 29 April 2010

Bilingual Carnival April edition

Thanks to my email letting me down, I've sort of missed the bilingual carnival this month. Just for writing and submitting a contribution, luckily my preferred feed reader is still working (though it had 1000+ posts when I returned from holiday) so at least I can tell you all about this month's edition which is happening at Bilingual For Fun.

So while I read through all the fabulous contributions, watch the final election debate, and do some baby baseball tee knitting to keep my emotions level, I'll leave you with a not quite contribution to the bilingual carnival. It's not a proper post, it's not particularly exciting, but I really also want this blog to be a bit of a record of Cubling's life for posterity - and maybe, just maybe, someone finds this mildly interesting. And if not, nevermind.

And by the way, the next bilingual carnival in May will be hosted right here, so please let me have your posts on raising children bilingually to keep up the amazing range of information and experiences that this months carnival has brought together. Email me at blog at (email is working again) or cartside at

So here's my bilingual child at just 3 years, after almost a fortnight in Germany:

  • We have clear signs of code switching.
  • She can now say full sentences in German "Ich moechte kuscheln" (I'd like to cuddle), i.e. personal pronouns now occasionally come out in German (before it was "I want kuscheln")
  • She still focusses on noun and verb to indicate which language she speaks in, so the sentence will be English with verbs and nouns generally in German. She does use many adjectives in German, but less so adverbs: "The Suppe ist too heiss!"  "The Suppe ist ein bisschen too heiss"
  • Her pronunciation is incredibly clear in both languages.
  • She can pronounce English "r" but not the German one.
  • She can't pronounce "th"
  • She makes up words and loves it
  • She really struggles with longer sentences, such as polite questions, leaving out the "can you" at the start in both languages
  • She defaults to English with new people but understood quickly who doesn't understand English and switches accordingly
  • She loves questions. Why/Warum is added to every conversation and is driving me bonkers. What morgen doing? is the first question of the day. What you do today? Is the one that welcomes us home. She will listen to the answer, attentively even if daddy speaks of nomads, as if she knows exactly what he's talking about.
  • She loves role play and telling us what to do in a role play.
  • She still maintains some early toddler mispronunciations (t for k which she very consistently did when younger, now she can say both phonemes but will still say tock on the door, which I think is a mix of knock and klopfen)
  • She translates into both languages: The volcano broke out (from German "ausbrechen") and You missed the Tasche? (you forgot the bag, derived from you're missing the bag)
  • She doesn't seem to understand past tense questions, so when I ask about something she did, she has problems knowing what to say. That's in German, not sure if she has the same difficulty in English.
  • She keeps talking about a friendly plastic spider that she meets at both nurseries, and other mysteries.
  • She makes up the coolest names for her toys.
  • Her mixing of languages makes me mix languages. Maybe I'll end up speaking Cublinglish.
  • She can catch a ball (which clearly has nothing at all to do with being bilingual in case you were wondering)

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

It's the BMB election Carnival!

It's this time of the fortnight again - Best of British Mummy (and Daddy) Blogging Carnival. And to honour the impending elections and what they may have in store for all of us, I'd called for entries that have some connection to the elections. I'm rather hopeful that this carnival will give lots of food for thought and a real insight into what's important to blogging parents in or from the UK. I was rather excited seeing the entries come through and reading about all the different takes on the elections, and I can promise that this carnival brings together anything from a humorous take on politics to serious asks from the MPs-to-be. Maybe it can even give some politicians an idea of what kind of policies parents are asking for?

Unfortunately, in the middle of gathering posts, my email provider has let me down big time. If you emailed me your post between 22nd and 26th April, I may not have received your email. I've tried to let people know but if you have submitted a post and it's not here, please do leave a comment with the link and I'll update the carnival asap to include it. So, I hope you are ready for this slightly different carnival and that you enjoy reading the posts as much as I have!

To start off, 21st Century Mummy criticises the benefit system in Benefits and Little Britain.

Over at It's a Mummy's Life, Holly muses about the elections and whether we can trust politicians well versed in spin.

Heather's election Notes from Lapland raise the issue of who should or shouldn't be allowed to vote, a topic so close to my heart at present that her post inspired me to write my own take on the topic with an added personal manifesto in Can I Vote Please, I even Have a Manifesto!.

The Sardine Tin also ponders the topic of voting in Sign(s) of the Times and wonders whether what we vote should be kept between the ballot box and yourself or be out in the open.

In a bun dance has a manifesto for more interesting elections on offer, especially as she can't see much difference between the main contenders anyway so don't miss her fantasy manifesto!

Muddling Along Mummy takes on the the candidates wives, and pays respect to the one who has decided not to be her husband's campaigning handbag in Perhaps the Greatest campaigning wife is the one who isn't?

Liz at Living with Kids also takes on the politician's wives theme in Behind every great man ... and how the focus on the wives distracts from the policies.

Diary of a (not so) Single Mum gets down to the knitty gritty of why she is a reluctant voter - disillusioned with the confrontational mindset of politicians that have you switch off before you listen to what they actually have to say. She also looks at the policies she agrees and doesn't agree with.

You can read about the issues that really matter to particularly a SAHM at TheMadHouse, including some obvious contradictions in the system. She also has a good few ideas of how things could be improved.

Find out what would happen if Yummy Mummy Flabby Tummy was running the country, and you may find a serious contender for the big 3.

Angels and Urchins reports the proposed new parent salary legislation and the political debate this is causing.

Iota from Not wrong, just different asks the question what kind of associations of the elections for children we are creating and how we may make politics interesting and exciting for children.

If you want to know what politicians need to do to win Kate's at Mum's the world vote, don't tally and head over to read her post on what's important to her particularly in the light of her children's future.

Emily over at Babyrambles shares what she likes about the election debates and how they could be even more exciting for her, and everyone really.

And if you can't wait for an election leaders' debate that is a bit more fun, why not head over to Bringing up Charlie, and you may even be the lucky winner of some fab DVDs.

Fraught Mummy of Brits (no longer) in Bosnia tackles the controversial issue and attitudes towards fully veiled women in the UK in Covered up, where she wonders how it is that more Muslim women cover up completely than in the Muslim country of Bosnia where she lived.

Frances from a parent's guide to the early years foundation stage explores the talk and realities of party policies in relation to the Early Years Foundation Stage in Education, the elections and the Early Years.

And moving on to primary school on a connected topic of pressurising our very young children, Victoria who blogs at It's a Small World After all asks quite rightly why children have to start school so very early in England in Education, Education, Education.

Believe it or not, Jack Straw is Nickie's NBF as she reveals on her blog Typecast, and she's got a photo to prove it! Which reminds me that I've yet to see any candidate canvassing in our area...

If there's one thing MrsW would change, it would be the introduction of Proportional Representation for the elections, have a look why on Clinically Fed Up (and you'll get a wonderful photo in the package too).

London City Mum ponders what politics in a parallel universe may look like. 

Clare Macnaughton wonders whether to vote Tory or not.

And lastly but definitely not leastly Single Parenthood. Tales from the Frontline has a look at Bigotgate and even dares to mention the I-word (that'll be immigration).

As a little addition for the not so politically minded amongst the BMB carnival readers, I've decided to include the entries I received which do not follow the suggested theme. With my email not working I couldn't really inform people and give them a chance to resubmit so I thought it would be better to just include the entries. Mummy has a Headache ponders how her children are copycats in From the Mouth of Babes. Mummy Musings muses about her Return to Work after her maternity leave. All Baby Advice tells us all about Czech Easter Traditions, while Red Ted Art demonstrates some Swedish Easter traditions and let's us get crafty making Swedish Hearts. Finally the Good Life Blog looks at the benefits of baby signing.

If you want to find out more about the Best of British Mummy Bloggers carnival, would like to find out about the schedule, contribute or even want to host it, you can find out all about it here. It was a great experience for me, I found great new blogs I hadn't come across before and the entries were simply inspiring to read.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Some moments from our trip

One of the striking differences between Germany and Scotland was that spring had sprung already. Cubling's excitement about this was rather huge.

Nothing beats the garden of older girls who very soon became her new friends - no question she can climb as high, even on tiptoes.

No trip to Germany is complete without a trip to Cologne Zoo...
...and a chocolate ice cream
Cubling loves to hug and so do I - and she loves to hug my bump
A long journey back home thanks to volcanic ash, but the sunset alone made up for it:
And finally, home sweet home (how amazing is that to be sailing underneath the Forth Road Bridge???):

Can I vote please? I even have a Manifesto!

Since I called for an election themed best of British Mummy (and daddy) Blogging carnival (entries can still be submitted by twitter @cartside, email cartside at and by leaving a comment to this post) it's about high time for my very own take on it.

However, there's a bit of a problem here. I'm not a UK citizen, though I have been resident here for the past 13 years. This means I have no right to vote at Westminster elections. I can still vote at all German elections, but I think it was after 5 years or so of living here, when the adventure was set to become somewhat more permanent, that I didn't feel it was right to vote at German elections. And at the same time I started to feel more strongly about wanting to vote here (I'm allowed to vote at local and Scottish elections). Personally I believe that it's a democratic duty and responsibility to vote - yet the politics I feel strongly about, the politics that affect me and my family, are in a country where I don't have the right to vote. So the question begs if I should change citizenship.

Even writing that sends shivers down my spine. Don't get me wrong, I love this country, enjoy living here and given the choice, in spite of some of my best friends still being in Germany, I would continue living here and probably will. But I'm still German. Changing citizenship just to be able to vote is wrong, yet what defines citizenship more than the right to vote? Heather over at Notes from Lapland has also blogged about this and the debate in the comments sections is more than interesting and I would encourage everyone to have a look.

Add to this the slight oddity that if you hail from a Commonwealth country and are resident in the UK you have the right to vote. Yet if you hail from a European Union country, an alliance that I would see as more relevant in our current day and age, and which accounts for the vast majority of immigration (and emigration) to the UK, you can't. Of course the reasons are historic, but history moves on and shouldn't this be reflected?

I don't suggest an easy answer. For the first few years I lived here, I didn't even want to be able to vote. My stay here didn't seem permanent, I was much more in touch with current affairs in Germany and voted at German elections. Now, for the upcoming elections, this has changed significantly. It happened over time, slowly, until now I feel left out and that something isn't quite right.

Yet I also know how many Germans feel about the right of their own immigrants to vote at their elections. The reluctance of letting people of Turkish decent vote, or stand as candidates, even though they do have German citizenship and are so integrated that they are more German than the Germans. But they will always be Turkish and foreign to a large part of the population. Any call to change the voting system to accommodate long term residency (which often is second or third generation residency) is met by the argument that this could mean that some people can vote in two countries, and that if they want to vote, they can always apply for citizenship. Like me really. And they don't, which I now, more than ever, understand.

So what would be my vote? Well, it's never easy and I'm also partial to proportional representation. There is no party that I fully support which is why I still haven't joined one. In Germany, I was green through and through, here, I choose and pick. My own manifesto would look something like this:

- Adopt the Scandinavian model of early years education. I.e. give parents a full year of paid leave (and that should be paid at a decent proportion of their salary). Then offer subsidised and high quality child care from 1 year, led by paedagogues. Make this system integrated and affordable. For low earners this would mean that the full cost of child care could be covered through subsidies (rather than the 80% maximum that we have now). Make child care cheaper for the second and third child so that women have a real choice if they want to work or not. Enable and encourage fathers to take a proportion of maternity leave.

- Invest in knowledge, technology and promotion of renewable energies and make them accessible to everyone, not just those who own their homes.

- Introduce a more progressive tax system to reduce the ridiculous inequalities in income

- Introduce a living wage that always pays so that there is a real incentive for people to work. At the same time I'm not opposed to a maximum wage (honest, I think it's obscene if people earn more than 100k even though I understand that living costs in London can be high, but maybe they'd be lower if nobody earned that much?)

- Improve tenants rights so that tenants have a better sense of ownership of their home. This would ease the pressure to buy. For example, tenants could be protected so they can't be thrown out of their flats/houses unless there is a significant reason, in return they could be responsible for improvements to the property

- Introduce an integrated public transport system in all cities which is always cheaper than the cost of petrol to undertake the same journey by car. Make cycling more attractive and safer.

- Change the tax and benefit system so that it's easier and people don't lose out on what's due to them.

- Prohibit energy companies to charge a premium that affects those with little disposable income more. Get rid of prepay metres or charging more for the first x units, and less for more.

- Rise to the challenge of reducing our dependency on fossil fuels (this is massive and will gnaw at the heart of our cosy capitalist life styles, yet I believe it's the biggest challenge of all and one we will have to face sooner or later - and if we face it sooner, it may not be so difficult later)

- Use alternatives to prison sentences if these alternatives are proven to be more effective

- Reduce military expenditure, especially on nuclear weapons.

- Introduce an immigration amnesty for anyone who has been resident here for over 5 years and who on the whole abides by the law. Make the asylum system fairer so that anyone with a genuine claim is given refugee status. Particularly change the legislation so that persecution which is specific to women is recognised equal to persecution which is typical for men.

- End the detention for immigration purposes of children. It's wrong to imprison children. It's even more wrong if they haven't committed any crime.

- Promote flexible working hours, part time work for both women and men so that anyone can have an acceptable work - life balance; including at the point of advertising a post (job share should be offered by default)

- Fill the loopholes of tax credits, e.g. where one parent works and the other parent is a student or offer a right to subsidised childcare which depends on family income and work/education status only.

I'm sure I've forgotten rather a lot, but I'll leave it at this because it's more than enough to get started. If you have anything to add, why not blog about it or leave a comment? I'd love to hear about more ideas.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Not be böse mummy! You be happy!

Nothing beats the wisdom of a 3 year old. Like her telling Opa to "drive carefully, mummy's got a baby in her tummy!"

Picture this, Cubling and me stuck in a flat which does not ever see children. There is breakable stuff, no toys to speak off, too many light and other switches, not much to keep a busy toddler, well busy. And her Opa, bless him, doesn't really interact. It's not his thing, there's not much interaction with me, nevermind a three year old who speaks an odd mixture that he hardly understands (partly due to mild hearing loss that doesn't yet call for a hearing aid).

So all day, Cubling hears an endless litany of "no! Don't touch. Leave the cushions on the sofa. Don't run around with scissors in your hand. Drink your juice at the table so the glass won't drop and smash on the tiled floor. No, you can't have more chocolate or Gummibärchen. Leave the rabbit on Opa's bed, he doesn't want it in the living room. Stop jumping on the floor, the neighbours will go mental." This endless litany, as the day progresses and I get increasingly fed up with repeating the same thing over and over again, becomes louder, more forceful, at times even angry. Add to this her endless repeat of questions (Was ist das? Warum?# Where's U.? Where's Opa? Read a story! I press this button. I möchte Mr Maker. I möchte kuscheln. I hungry) and my patience is waning. Thank god for Mr Maker, who is on every weekday in a dubbed version and keeps her happy for 20 precious minutes (like now).

She understands and uses the concept of "later" and "in a wee minute" but ask her to wait even for a little while, and the answer is "come, come, mummy, come. Now!" All the while I constantly attempt to tidy up after her to keep the peace. And she's generally faster creating more mess (to be fair, mess in the eyes of an adult, she's really just trying to find stuff to keep her entertained).

So this morning, she found a box of pegs. She took it, brought it outside to the washing line and started clipping them onto the two items of washing on the line. Seeing with my father's eyes, I told her not to and to put it back. "Not so loud mummy", she said, "don't be böse."*  With her index finger up to make sure I listened, she added "You be happy!" Then her disarming smile. "Give me a kiss" I said, and she came over for the loveliest of kisses and a big hug. And I let her continue the fun which really wasn't doing much harm.

Of course it didn't take long until Opa made sure the box went back to where it lives, not without me asking "warum?"#

*böse translates as something like annoyed, angry.
#warum? = why. Was ist das = what's that?

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Life without aeroplanes

I really appreciated the comments after my outburst (you didn't get the real thing, just the edited blog version...). Apologies for not responding individually, but the internet connection is still very iffy and takes hours for any activity. I'm still rebooking flights in the hope that the European airspace will be reopened, but to be honest, I don't think that will happen any time soon. So to be safe, we're booked on the next available ferry, which is on Wednesday, getting us home for Thursday. At least a ferry means we can sleep rather than having a non-stop journey on an overcrowded train. It's still a journey I'm not looking forward too, imposing a 600 km round trip to the ferry port on my dad, and a worrysome 20 hour ferry journey with a toddler who does have a habbit of running off (fast and suddenly). It's also costing a lot of money which is rather enfuriating after already paying for a very expensive flight to get here.

At the same time I keep booking onto the scheduled flights home in the hope that the airspace may magically open up again. I don't have much hope of that but it would get me home with much less hassle and above all much earlier. Not without less worry though, I'm still not sure if I worry more about losing Cubling on the ferry or crashing due to volcanic ash aeroplane malfunction.

Cubling on the other hand, keeps telling me "Don't worry Mummy". If only I could stop worrying.

Here's the positives:
- Spring has arrived in Germany, with 20 Celsius, sunshine, ice cream and all that.
- Cubling's German is really coming on
- Having more time to spend with my dad (although I have a feeling he's had enough of spending time with us)
- Knowing that I will be home on Thursday at the very latest.
- Having some time to read a book and knit baby stuff (though why did I bring a pattern with page two missing?????)

The negatives:
- Not having a proper computer to feed my habit or at least catch up on some work
- Being in a toy free flat and having to constantly tell Cubling off that Opa's stuff isn't for playing and that he likes it tidy
- Cubling missing her dad (and me too)
- My hayfever (which always comes on much earlier in Germany)
- Feeling that I'm letting down work yet again and the pressure I'll put on myself to make up for it when I get back

It does bring home how much we depend on airtravel and take it for granted. Imagine a life without it. There may not be much imagining to do, I wouldn't be suprised if this will last for a good while yet. Our next flight (and last for a long while) is booked for May, will it happen?

Friday, 16 April 2010

Groundhog day: Stranded again

The volcanos are after me again. Only earlier this year we were stranded in Lanzarote, the volcanic island, due to snow in the UK. Now it's volcanic ash from an Icelandic volcano that has closed down every single airport in Germany. Our flight home has been cancelled and I have no idea when we will be able to travel.

It seems that my ingenious idea for alternative travel, to take the ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle or Rosyth, has been had before and the route is as booked up as the Eurostar (not that I would consider a 12 hour train journey with my rather impatient girl while also 20 weeks pregnant).

I'm hard pushed to see the positives because once again I feel the work pressure on me, the rather large list of urgent to do's waiting for me, my annual leave yet again sifting through my hands like sand. The embarrassment of having to tell my boss that once again my flight has been cancelled and really I'm not making this up. Above all the fear not to manage a very exciting time at work due to lack of time, in my already inflexible work input imposed by childcare hours available and antenatal appointments to be attended. I can't even fricking check my work email or calendar due to this impossible computer I'm on.

And then there's that 20 week scan appointment on Monday morning. It took 3 pregnancies for it to be introduced in Glasgow and now I'll miss it, and judging by the letter that came with it, if you miss your appointment, there's no guarantee it can be rescheduled. And yes, I'm in mad mummy mode, I want to see my baby, ferociously.

Cubling on the other hand loves watching the images of the volcano. Not sure how she'll react if I have to tell her tomorrow that the ferry is fully booked and can't take us, as she was rather looking forward to going on a ship (as long as it wouldn't take her to that scary man made of rock that she saw about a year ago, when we took a small ferry to the island of Cumbrae - oh my does she have a memory!). Tonight on the phone to daddy she told him how she would see him tomorrow, how she was coming home to see him, because she loved him. So much excitement, and I so wish for her that we can still get onto that ferry.

If that fails I'll be stranded for a good few days more. I know there's worse things (like having your house close to the volcano), I know it can all be sorted, the world won't go under and that I'm in good company with even heads of states and even royalty affected as much as I am.  I know I'm making a big fuss and others have much more pressing engagements they now can't attend to. Still, I've had my share and feel rather reluctant about any kind of travel in the future (and of course we do have another trip planned which I now almost wish we hadn't booked, with my luck this year it's not a good omen...).

So here's me, control freak, once again having her steering wheel taken out of her hands. I no like it, as Cubling would say. Can I throw a tantrum please?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

BMB carnival - theme and call for entries

I have the great pleasure to be hosting the next Best of British Mummy and Daddy Blogger Carnival on 27th April. I'm currently on the dodgiest internet connection imaginable and navigating to pages is close to impossible, so no blogging until I'm back in the UK, but do feel free to send me contributions to blog at cartside dot co dot uk (replacing the usual parts of the address with @ and .). The guidelines are that I'm to pick the 25 best entries - but to be  honest, I don't think that I want to make such judgement as it would be biassed towards what I find an interesting read. So I decided that I would set a theme for this carnival, especially as there hasn't been one recently - and I really hope it inspires rather than puts you off.

I'd like to hear your calls to our politicians, candidates and current MPs, from your own perspective - shaped by being a parent. It can be a manifesto, it can be a right moan, an idea for change that politicians could take on, it can focus on a particular theme (such as childcare, tax credits, child benefit, being a single parent etc), it can be your children's views, it can be specific or a collection of random thoughts, anything at all really. I personally would love to see this as an opportunity so close to the general elections to bring together the voices of parents without a specific party line, just steeped in experience and the knowledge of what current policies and practice mean to you.

Oh, it can be funny or serious, I really don't want anyone to be put off by a semi political theme - feel very free to take your own stance on it.

I can't wait to get your contributions, please try to have them in for 26th April noon :)

Thursday, 8 April 2010

We can all make childcare an election topic

The elections have been called, and already I can no longer bear to listen to the radio on my long drive to work. You're looking at an individual highly interested in politics, who has a well grounded belief in the democratic process, the importance of elections. Yet the pre-election time, as for many I suspect, is driving me insane.

Take this newspaper style leaflet that our work-local Labour candidate produced. Real stories of real people. More real stories of real people on the radio, saying something of all politicians being the same and how they won't vote because of that. Then the so accused politicians either mouthing what they think is the voice of the people or telling us how impossible their relevant opponent is.

Boooring. In fact, annoying.

To make things worse, I'm sure immigration will be made an election topic and a whole load of rubbish will be thrown at us uninformed or informed non-voters yet again. Bleurgh.

And then, oh blessed be this day, I read something that made sense. Shame it didn't come from a politician or candidate, but hey, no worries, candidates can actually sign up to it! Imagine, no work for them, just read, be convinced and make it part of your policy calls. Easy.

The Daycare Trust have published an election manifesto of kinds, a childcare charter. It's short enough, plain English, and manages to put into easily understandable words what I've been trying to get straight in my head for a long time indeed. A must read. Go and have a look, honestly. It makes so much sense and there's not a comma I don't agree with. It has clear asks, and makes a strong case why childcare is such an important issue, one that could help reduce child poverty and social inequalities significantly, at a relatively low cost which would pay itself back at least 7 fold in years to come.

It's good of this charter to exist, but its existence won't change the world. So the Daycare Trust is asking you (yes, you!) to contact your local candidates and ask them to sign up to the charter and make it an election topic. I'd much rather have childcare as an election topic than immigration. It would do my ageing heart an awful lot of good. The Daycare Trust is also very nice to us potential/future/willing campaigners by giving us all the tools needed to contact our candidates - a model letter, model questions, an opportunity to join the force and all that.

I'm on board. Are you?

PS in other news: tonight (Thursday 8th April) the second series of How the Other Half Live will be shown on Channel 4 at 9pm. I'm sure the episode will have me in two minds again but there's no doubt that it manages to bring issues around inequalities in the UK to your living room in a very digestible and entertaining format.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

What parents really really want: flexible childcare

There are so many facets to flexible and integrated childcare that I find it almost impossible to find a starting point. How about this one then: For the past four months, I've been working with a group of young parents (aged 18-25) as part of our Inspring Change programme. The idea behind this programme is to work with groups of young people or parents/carers to dream, plan and do: Find a solution for something they identify that holds them back, plan for this solution and implement it. Something that may inspire others to do something similar. Something that maybe even those in power find a good idea and take it on.

So with this particular group it became clear quite early on that we were heading into the direction of flexible childcare. None of the parents are currently in work, some are attempting college courses. All struggle with childcare arrangements. It's a catch 22 situation: If you're out of work, you need a job first to afford childcare, once you have the job, you don't have childcare due to waiting lists and you'll lose your job offer while you're trying to source childcare. Childcare is paid in advance, salary in arrears. Tax credits kick in months later by which time you're at best in debt (wost bankrupt). Childcare may not be available nearby and you need a car (which you can't afford) or you are asked for a deposit for a place that you don't have. Your work may have irregular hours or a shift pattern, none of which is covered by the 8am-6pm childcare provision that you may, just may be able to access.

Sometimes, you just want a break. To go shopping without the toddler hassle. To go to an appointment. To go for a job interview. To take up a get back into work programme that you want to do but that doesn't offer childcare though being aimed at single parents (you what?????? Can someone please tell me who thought this up? Target a training programme at single parents and don't provide childcare? Are they supposed to lock their kids up in the flat or what?). To sleep because your baby never sleeps. You don't actually want full days every day, or one day every week, or whatever the format of provision that the childcare providers currently favour.

So, the young parents have come up with an excellent idea: A drop in creche. A creche on demand. One where you can book a few days ahead, drop off your child(ren) and get on with something important that you have to do. No strings attached. No signing away of your or your child's soul. Just a service that is available to make life a bit easier.

Of course there is funding to think of, and regulations. Yet, there's no harm in trying something out so with the budget the group has they will be running a pilot. From 27/4/10 - 1/5/10 a drop in creche will be running for afternoon sessions. The creche is free but has to be booked in advance. There are some ground rules, but more can-do's than can't-do's. Any user of the creche will be asked for feedback so the group can figure out demand and what works.

Maybe they'll carry it further to establish a social enterprise. Maybe this will be too big to do. What they will do undoubtably is raise awareness of the importance of having a flexible childcare provision locally, one that works with the children and parents alike.

And wouldn't it be nice if there actually was funding to run such a service? A service where parents with little family support would be able to book some hours while they attend an interview, an appointment, go shopping, or get some respite? Actually, why not?

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Weekend in pictures: Easter

We had a very lovely Easter weekend, just that I wasn't enjoying it much with yet another chest infection and the thought that my obviously rubbish immune system may continue to play tricks for the remainder of this pregnancy didn't do my mood much good. I've moaned enough though (and have a feeling I may continue to do so), so instead, here are some snapshots of our weekend to treasure.
Kelburn Castle in bright Mexican graffiti artistery

Collecting seaweed near the Pencil in Largs
Easter egg hunt
And the treasures of the hunt.

Hope you had a lovely Easter too!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Cubling's birth story

Amy over at and 1 more means 4 (or even 5!) is running a birth story carnival, which reminded me that I've never actually written down my full birth story. I've blogged about some aspects of it, specifically how my attempt at Hypnobirthing went, or how my dissatisfaction with how the birth went still was on my mind a year later. Mr. Cartside, much more organised than me, did write the birth story from his perspective, but can't get hold of it right now, so here it goes with my rather selective memory. Just like Amy, I'm addicted to birth stories - I don't think there's anything more amazing than that magical moment of a baby emerging into this world. Yes, I've been religiously watching One Born Every Minute too, and got lots of head shaking from family, friends and colleagues.

Cubling was late. Although this was relative - I had two different due dates (one given my an obs at a 7 week scan in Germany as the 12th of March, one at my 12 week scan in the UK as 8th of March). However, at 41 weeks there was no engagement, no sign of labour. Induction had been offered even at term, as I wasn't feeling well, but when I asked if there was any medical indication, the answer was no, so I politely (and shakingly) declined. I did agree to a stretch and sweep and had three in total, from 41 weeks. Knowing that the risk of stillbirth increases after 42 weeks of gestation, I also booked for induction for 42+1. I was monitored closely to check amniotic fluid levels, blood pressure and if baby was happy, and all was well.

The morning I went for my third sweep, at 42 weeks exactly, I woke up with hardly noticeable regular period type niggles, and I wondered if that could be it. At the hospital, I underwent the now familiar checks - scan, heartrate monitor for 30 mins, sweep. I mentioned the niggles - could these be contractions? They were 15 mins apart, and yes, they did come up on the heart rate/contraction writer. I was elated. The midwife gave me an extra good sweep as she said, and apparently I was already a little bit dilated (head still not engaged), but I can't remember how much.

The rest of the morning I went shopping in a supermarket for all the food that I felt like, made a super tasty lunch, danced a dance with Mr Cartside and we took a few videos to celebrate the end of this rather long pregnancy. Then I lay down on the sofa with my hypnobirthing scripts and went for a nap.

At about 7pm I was woken up by strong period type pains, 5-7 minutes apart. They increased in strength over the next few hours but not in frequency. I used birth ball, TENS, paracetamol and bath to try and make myself comfy, but the pains were bad enough to make me irritable (hubby was trying to finish an assignment for his MSc and I kept shouting for him, I couldn't bear for him not to be with me ALL THE TIME, although there was sweet nothing he could do, and looking back, those contractions were very manageable). I practiced hypnobirthing breathing techniques and really, although it was uncomfortable and I couldn't focus on anything but contractions, it was all very doable.

When contractions were 5 minutes apart I rang labour ward as advised. They told me to stay home. Fair enough, that's what I wanted anyway. Then suddenly, contractions went to 90 seconds apart, much stronger. The kind of shift that made me want to go to hospital without any doubt in my mind. So we got ready. We left just after 4 am, the birds were singing, the first sign of dawn was visible at the horizon. It was a beautiful night. I struggled down the 3 flights of stair between contractions, slowly, without any rush. At 4.30am we arrived at the hospital (I joked that I was a bit early for my induction which was set for 8am). In spite of my very strong and very regular contractions, they doubted if I was a stayer. The initial monitoring and check confirmed I was dilated enough to stay (was it 4 or 6cm? I can't remember) and I was asked if I wanted to labour in the birth pool. Oh the joy, all going to plan then! The pool was run, and I soaked myself in the spacious pool, complete with essential oils. The midwife asked if all was well and if we were happy to be left alone. We were. This was great - no further interference, I was able to snack, drink as I pleased, just Mr Cartside and myself.

At 9 am, the midwife shift changed and the new midwife and a student introduced themselves. They were now staying with us all the time. Contractions were strong and regular, but the water really helped. We had brought CDs and I loved listening and singing along to calming music, interspersed with hypnobirthing scripts. Yes, I was tired, but it was still ok. I hated having to leave the pool for checks for heart rate, especially as the student often didn't manage to find baby's heart beat. I didn't want to talk, but the midwife requested to read my rather long birth plan and took it very seriously. All was going well until my waters broke. This was followed by the most excruciating contraction, the first one that made me scream, and worry. Hubby asked if I knew what had just happened. Indeed I said after I was able to speak again. Because the midwives were not qualified to deliver in water, and for risk of infection, I had to leave the pool after my waters had broke. I could hardly get out, even with the support of three people. My hip, my every bone in my lower body seemed to hurt. I had no control of balance or my own weight, and the intensity of contractions outside the water was unbearable. An examination revealed I was 9cm. I think it was roughly 12 noon at that point. I couldn't get up after the examination. I wanted to, but I couldn't lift myself. My legs were cramping, my bones felt like they were being crushed, I had the image of my baby's head being crushed inside of me. Fear took hold and I lost control. I begged for pain relief, but fearing an epidural, I asked for diamorphie. The midwife tried to delay, she followed my birth plan and tried to talk me out of it, that I was almost there and diamorphine won't do much good now. I insisted.

So I was moved into the delivery room, away from the dimly lit, cosy birth pool room where I had hoped to give birth. I was put on my back. I tried to move on my left side but the pain was too bad. With the diamorphine, I felt sleepy and all I could think was I want to sleep, I don't want any contraction anymore. And contractions slowed down. I liked it. However I had been fully dilated for a while now and things weren't meant to slow down. So I had to be given a drip. I begged to keep the amount minimal, please no more of these horrible contractions. The midwife said that I could push if I wanted to. Yet I didn't know how to push plus hypnobirthing tells you to breathe down, and not to push. I didn't do anything, just wanted to sleep and not be in pain anymore. By now it was 3.30pm (I think - I remember looking at the clock in the delivery room at that time). I'd been fully dilated for 3 hours. I hadn't pushed once. Suddenly the OB was there and waved a c-section consent form in front of me. I panicked, as in - total panic. I screamed. I hyperventilated. 36 years of fear of childbirth came out of me at once and I suddenly realised in this emotional turmoil that all this was about was not to go through what my mother had gone through - severe pre-eclamsia, a c-section, and permanent health issues as a consequence, the hopes of a second child crushed, me an only child, forever loathing a sibling. More than anything, I did not want a c-section. I didn't make any sense to the OB in my drugged state, but Mr Cartside translated calmly what my outburst was about. The OB changed his approached and calmly talked me through the situation, and assured me that they would only do a c-section as a last resort, and try to get Cubling with forceps. However, for the safety of the baby, I had to sign this form and have a spinal.

It took me 5 minutes to sign. My hand shook uncontrollably, I cried, no, sobbed. All I could think of was that I was consenting to something I did not actually consent to. As everyone left to get ready for theatre, I felt devastated. Then suddenly I realised that there was a bit of control I still had. I may not know how to push, but I sure could try. So I pushed with all my might. And pushed. And pushed some more. As I was wheeled into theatre, I felt something move. Encouraged, I pushed again until I had to stop for the spinal to be given. Everyone was in theatre, cheerful and calm, which helped, but I was still panicky. I was terrified that the contractions came too frequently for a window to get the spinal in. But once it was in, oh the bliss of no more pain. Still, they had to give me more gas and air to calm me sufficiently for the procedure, I was a wreck of nerves. I really thought I was going to be cut open. Then, the OB (still there) announced that he could do it with forceps. I felt like dancing on the operating table (if only my legs would have moved!). I didn't feel a thing, Cubling was born at just after 4pm and delivered straight unto my chest as we had requested (as a condition for me signing that consent form). I named her there, in my drugged daze, and luckily Mr Cartside agreed. Not for long though and the time it took to stitch me up (I had had an episiotomy and torn inside too) I felt very vulnerable not being able to see my daughter, not knowing if she was ok. I only knew later that hubby was with her all the time.

I had to spend 3 or 4 hours in recovery, which felt like an eternity. I was starving and incredibly tired. I kept falling asleep with Cubling lying on top of me, scared for her to slide off, but I couldn't keep my eyes open. I tried to get her to feed but she wasn't interested. Mr Cartside had to leave at 8.30pm. That first night, I slept like a log. When Cubling cried a bit, she was taken away as I couldn't get up yet to look after her. She was away from 10pm to 2am, and I remember waking in between and panicking yet again where she was, being reassured by a midwife, and sleeping again.

For a full year I felt that the birth hadn't gone the way I had hoped for. I kept thinking that maybe an epidural would have been wiser than the diamorphine which messed up my mind. Or maybe my mind was messed up by transition and and epidural was out of question because it was too late in the day. I felt that I hadn't given birth because of the instrumental delivery. 3 years on though, those thoughts are gone. I did the best I could and above all I'm glad I didn't have a c-section, which was my real fear. And having witnessed a c-section, I now also know that it isn't that bad - I still wouldn't want it, and do realise how hard the recovery is, but at the end of the day, what counts is that baby and mum are well. With all my expectations for a natural birth, what really affected me was the sense of failure, when really there was none. My sense of failure came from my high expectations, and if there's anything I've learned is that it's better to have realistic expectations, because no birthing mama deserves to feel like a failure for a full year.

I was very pleased with the midwife support - and lucky that the same midwife was with me from 9am to 6pm, that she tried to follow my preferences for birthing. The birth pool was fabulous while I was allowed to stay in it, and for the birth of Tiddler, well, there's a birth pool now as part of many labour rooms and the midwives have had training and can deliver in the pool now! I'll also change my birth plan to request coaching on how to push, and won't exclude the option of an epidural - however I will not ever want to touch that diamorphine again which messed up my head and that of my baby (she didn't feed for 2 full days, and was very sleepy which I blame on it).

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Happy Blogoversary to me!

This is no April Fool, it's been exactly a year today that I started Mummy do that! Somehow, this is an ambivalent landmark (if you can have landmarks relating to time). Thing is, I've been blogging for years, and I do see Mummy do that! as a logical continuation of my original blog, Cartside. There were reasons to change - Cartside had started out as a civil society blog and then, after my daughter was born, I found myself blogging much more about pregnancy, babies, motherhood and all that comes with it. There was a feeling that my blog didn't fit into the platform of the civic society community of civiblog. On technical terms, I was also worried that civiblog might cease to exist as emails didn't get answered and generally there didn't seem to be any humans behind the platform anymore. Another reason to change was that the civiblog community never really was that - all those civic society people were very much caught up in their own very busy spheres and there was no real community to speak of.

I changed to an ostensibly mummy blog because I thought that's what my blog had become, without every intending to letting go of the other stuff that I feel passionate about. I wanted to increase my readership, engage in a debate rather than blog in isolation with hardly any readers or comments. I wanted to make sure that I was on a blogging platform that wouldn't suddenly disappear.

In the past year, I did increase my readership. I was introduced to many more blogs - so many in fact that often I spend all evening reading blogs, rather than getting around to posting myself. I'm a real comment junkie and love the way that almost every post does get some comments (even if not the same number that many other blogs get). I'm not a community junkie - I'm quite happy to engage with just a few bloggers who I value for a variety of, but specific, reasons, and even that is fleetingly because I simply have very little time at my hands (how on earth do some people manage to tweet almost constantly? No way I could ever even think of keeping that up).

The one thing that I struggle with now is that I'm still not entirely comfortable with being part of the mummy blogger community. Muddling Along Mummy eloquently raised the perception of mummy bloggers as something not as valuable, possibly limited to just talking about babies and kids and that really, mummy bloggers all have their own identity, and an impressive breadth of topics they cover. And yet we let ourselves be defined by the term mummy. I try to see the positives - it is a very supportive community, one that anyone would feel comfortable in and I like that. I also appreciate the diversity of this blogging community and never assume that a mummy blogger has nothing more to say than when the first tooth of their firstborn came through. Yet it's a question of balance and after 3 years of being a mummy, most of my posts are not about the fact that I have a child. However, my perspective on life has been influenced by just that fact, so that even if I don't blog about being a mummy, it influences my views, my interests, my passions. Just from a different angle than before.

So, in a way, I wish I hadn't maybe picked a blog title that made it so blooming obvious that this is a mummy blog. I'm still happy with the label, because I do believe that we mummy (and daddy) bloggers can make the label mean so much more than it may currently mean for some people. But having it in the title, well, not so sure if that was a good idea (though I still love the title as such, as it comes straight from the mouth of my little firecracker).

The great thing about the mummy blogger community is that everything is possible, and I still feel this is where I belong. More so anyway than any of the alternatives. So you'll be glad to know that this blog will be continued. Possibly with more mummy stuff anyway, can't really ignore that bump of mine growing and taking on worrying proportions.



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