Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Growing food

A good few years back, a friend introduced me to allotments in Glasgow. She took me to her allotment and I fell in love with the idea of growing my own food. My name went on the waiting list, within six months I had an allotment.

I tried. And tried. And tried again, yet every year there was a reason for my endeavours being thwarted. Year one it was the actual plot I had chosen - contaminated, overgrown with plants that were impossible to move. I got a new plot and it was much better, yet I struggled to get anything to grow. Life took over a few times too, I even was in the committee bad books, and when Cubling was born, I tried again, full of ambition. She was having none of it and cried incessantly for the whole duration of each visit to my beloved and neglected patch of land.

I decided to call it a day. Heavy heartedly. We took some wonderful photos of the family before leaving the plot, and the plants went to friends across the city for a second life.

At the same time, we found our home, with the prerequisite of a garden. Not much of a garden, mind you, we live in Glasgow where houses are small and tenement flats are the norm. But we do have a garden, even two, a north facing front and a south facing back garden. Slowly, each year, I've been building up some food growing. Slowly because in our first year, Cubling still was high demand, in our second year, our time was taken up with other things, and now, in our third year, I'm starting to feel rather proud of my patchy gardening attempts. There are two raised beds which arrived exactly a year ago, now filled with cabbages, broccoli, leek, spinach, courgette and pumpkin. There are pots all over the place, sunflowers, berries, potatoes, lettuce. There's still potential for more, still a lot needing done, as every garden, it's a work in progress.

It's also still a work in progress because I'm awfully good at killing off plants. Not quite sure why, but a natural I am not. I can't seem to grow lettuce from seed, and messed up my tatties although I should know better. I don't get why one raised bed does wonderfully while the other doesn't seem to do my plants much good. My berry harvest is rather meagre, and of course I wish I could do something nice to the north facing front garden. So I was delighted when I found out about Urban Roots' Grow More Food course - a free 8 week course for southside residents on food growing and composting (an area where I can only be described as a fail, and not for want of trying). The programme looks rather good and because of the interest in the course, there will be at least one additional course from late July. So if you're a Glasgow South resident and interested in learning more about growing food, how to do it in small and bigger spaces, get in touch with Urban Roots for more information.

Monday, 28 June 2010

A football fan is born

I feel like I live in a strange warp of time and activity. My life is so disjointed that it confuses me. Having spent staring at the screen all my working day today, I can't bear to spend any more time than necessary tonight on it.

Yesterday a new football fan was born. Not that I give an awful lot about football, but usually, during the world cup or similar, I kind of get a little bit into it. Not hugely, but I do like to see a nice match and after the last European Championships in Germany, which I witnessed in Cologne, with the whole melange of ethnicities all putting up Germany flags, and an atmosphere of having a party with all your neighbours, I kind of got ever so slightly patriotic and wishing the German team well. And I like to see goals, and they didn't disappoint me in their first match.

So yesterday, we had an interesting set up at home. Mummy, hopeful for a German win, Daddy, hopeful but doubtful for an English win, and both of us competing in jest for Cubling's support. The first rules of football were explained and interestingly she got the concept of yellow cards for foul play pretty straight away, and understood that you should play fair. Cubling was shouting patriotically "Deutschland Deutschland" and cheered wildly for the first two goals (asking "Deutschland now winnen?") while also wanting the red men to win. Maybe the colour was a bit more appealing? I don't think she understood that 90 minutes had to pass, but thought that whoever scores will be the winner. Later on she refused to go to bed because she wanted to see the blue man with the yellow sticker again. I have a feeling she's the only one he's popular with right now (we're talking about the referee here in case you were wondering, the sticker is the yellow card). It was lovely just enjoying the first football game we ever watched as a family with her, patriotism or not. We had fun, and that made even the match destroying ungiven goal kind of ok. I wonder who she will support in future matches, but above all I hope she'll see how relative such identities are.

Four years ago exactly, we watched the world cup in Germany before and after our wedding. Our friends who celebrated our day with us were from all corners of the world, and together we cheered for every conceivable team, often changing allegiance rather frequently in a single match. Because the great thing about football is that it brings people together for a nice party, at least it does so in my experience. Yes, we want our respective team to win, but it's always as much about coming together, enjoying each other's company in front of the big screen and a cool beer. I like that, and as long as we've got this, even if only in miniature in our family and chatting to the neighbours (who supported Germany for all the wrong reasons), it feels good.

Maybe for the next match, there'll be flags to add to the excitement.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

What do you think? This one, or this one or that one?

How many wraps, slings and carriers can the expectant mum choose from? It's a hard call, even if like me you have tried a good few in the past. Having had the experience of a baby who clearly resented her pram and who was rather partial to being carried (and still is), I was often seen pushing an empty pram while carrying Cubling in her front carrier. In Germany these are only recommended from 6 weeks of age, and while here nobody seems concerned about using them from birth, I was still cautious and tried a wrap with cradle position in the first weeks. The wrap was short, and really it was the only position I could create. Cubling didn't like it, and neither did I.

However, the front carrier worked well - she liked it, never cried, she slept in it, I managed to get to town by public transport and with minimum hassle. It worked so well that I really wondered why I had bought a pram at all (from 12 weeks, Cubling was in her buggy, facing forward, much to my dismay, as I would have preferred to have had eye contact with her).

The only problem with the front carrier was that it did hurt my shoulders and back. And it only lasted until she was about 9 months and got too heavy.

This time, I plan to babywear from the word go, rather than bother with the pram in the first weeks. And I'm looking for the perfect baby carrier. I quickly found out that stretchy wraps are good for newborns but not so good for a heavier toddler, while woven ones last longer but may not be as snug as the stretchy ones. Knowing how I struggled to even get a simple position wrapped around my baby, my main worry is that it would take too long, baby would get fed up before we're even ready to go, I'll get frustrated with it and there's a danger I won't try again. Still, I like the versatility of wraps. Maybe I like the idea but not the practice of it? What I do know is that a short one won't do me, and I failed using one I had before.

Some makes come recommended: There's Didymos, Ellevill Zara (with very lovely designs), Calin Bleu, there's Ellaroo too, to name but a few. As with cloth nappies, the choice is massive and it can be more than confusing when you don't want to buy an expensive item that you then won't use.

For a rather long time, a sewing pattern for a mei tai has been sitting in my pattern box. I like the look of the mei tai, but don't trust myself to sew one that would actually be safe enough for a baby. In a way I also feel that the mei tai is basically the same thing as the front carrier I already have, just a bit nicer.

I'm intrigued though with the idea of having a crossover between a wrap and a mei tai and when PhD in Parenting reviewed it a couple of days ago, my mouth began to water. I love everything about the Hop-Tye, the combination of mei tai ease with the wrap like distribution of weight across your body. Oh and the designs. I love the designs, if it comes to fabric, it has to please my eye.

I've also come across so called sling meets. Basically they offer an opportunity for past, current and future babywearers to come together and exchange experiences, and even try out some of the carriers. I just wish I hadn't missed the last one by a week, but I'm glad Glasgow has a sling meet and it's still in good time before my due date (although I'm partial to getting a carrier that would double for getting Cubling off my shoulders NOW).

I haven't quite made my mind up yet, but I guess you can see where I'm heading. So if you have any experience or recommendations to share, I'd be grateful, and maybe so would others who are confused by choice and lack of experience of actually using a range of baby carriers.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Pregnancy and medical advice

It is hayfever season. We're having a dry spell in Scotland, which makes things rather unbearable. When trailing through pregnancy forums, you wouldn't believe the number of pregnant women complaining about how they aren't allowed to take antihistamines and how badly they are suffering as a consequence.

For some while now, I've been adding my threepence worth of opinion but I'm alone. Ask any GP, pharmacist or midwife and you will be advised against taking any antihistamines. The same goes for nasal sprays, cough medicine, and of course alcohol. With all of these, if you bother to do some research, there is no proven risk to the fetus.

I say this again: there is no proven risk to the fetus if you take certain antihistamines (there are exceptions; but many antihistamines fall into this category), drink alcohol without getting drunk or use nasal sprays.

Yet pregnant women are strongly advised not to take the risk. A risk that hasn't been quantified. A risk that hasn't been investigated because nobody wants to do any research on the unborn life. A risk that may not exist.

And we, the pregnant women of the western world, are happy to follow this medical advise and suffer.

It is not something I take lightly - I've suffered from hayfever since I was 12, and asthma from 27. Thankfully, Scottish flora is kind on me and I only have to suffer a few months, but those months are tough. I can't go out without instant unbearable itching and sneezing. If I didn't take antihistamines, I'd be confined to my home, unable to do anything outdoors. Anything. And then someone tells me that there is an unproven risk to my baby if I take antihistamine for a couple of months and yes, I'd better stay indoors all that time.

Well, you know what? I've chosen to take antihistamines in both my pregnancies. As I've taken nasal spray for some of my now 7 head and chest colds since I had the bfp. When I was told off by my midwife for drinking 1 unit of alcohol a week, I giggled in disbelief (but kept my mouth shut). My pregancy notes actually state that I have been advise to give up drinking. WTF! I'm not drinking. I have a half glass of wine ONCE A WEEK. There's more alcohol in ripe fruit.

Somehow society is going out of its way to tell pregnant women about risks to their babies and their responsibility to eliminate any possible risk, regardless of the reality of the risk or quality of life to the pregnant woman. While real risks are entirely ignored. While listening to Women's Hour it was made more than crystal clear: misuse of alcohol does result in fetal death. Not because the pregnant woman drinks, but because of alcohol triggering violent behaviour towards a pregnant woman: "more fetuses are lost due to male violence against pregnant women". And those statistics are proven. Alcohol consumption in some people leads to violence which poses a real risk to those near to them, including the unborn child. As for fetal alcohol syndrome - in spite of the very restrictive medical advice and women reducing their alcohol intake significantly, the incident of FAS has remained the same over the years. Which indicates that it's only those pregnant women who have an addiction to alcohol (and thus won't/can't stop) who actually harm their baby.

There is no advice given to fathers who have violent tendencies that they shouldn't drink while their partner is pregnant because this could lead to harm to the baby. Instead, it's the women who are restricted in their diet, medicine and alcohol intake to such degrees that it's laughable. All the while being made guilty for every drop of alcohol consumed, for every remedy taken. The pregnant woman has become the property of society in a misguided attempt to protect the unborn life, while society is happy to ignore the real dangers to the unborn and born child.

I'll be off to have a glass a wine then.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Fair is relative

So I just about refrained from watching the budget announcement live. With about an hour delay, some parts of it were already being debated heatedly in my workplace, without the benefit/curse of certain omnipresent political commentators.

What struck me most was the comment that this budget is fair. It's an interesting term, one favoured in the election campaign by Labour, so I couldn't help but find it a bit out of place coming from our new government. I do like the rhetoric of it though, because yes, I believe in fairness for all, so bring it on.

So is it fair? There is of course also an argument about VAT. It's a tax that affects those on less income proportionately higher than those on higher incomes, because there are lots of items you simply have to buy. It is therefore a regressive tax and contributes to the situation in the UK where those on lower income pay a higher proportion of their income on tax than those on high incomes. This is a situation which I personally find appalling. On the other hand, I'm not entirely opposed to having a higher VAT rate for other reasons - mainly to reduce the ridiculous consuming that is going on in our world. Which has nothing to do with fairness of course.

I'm personally not too worried about seeing the Health in Pregnancy Grant go (though I still got it for this pregnancy and of course wouldn't not take it if offered) because I don't see a point in the general grant, which is given out from 25 weeks of pregnancy, when really, if you live unhealthily, it's too late. I also don't think a grant like this changes your diet or health in general. Because it's universal, people who don't need the extra support also get it, so fair enough, let it go.

I was pleased that the budget didn't go as far as getting rid of tax credits for family incomes of over 25K. Above 40k - well, I still think that many families, especially with more than one child under 5, in the 40-50k bracket really struggle to make ends meet, especially if they live in areas where house prices and mortgages are high. The problem is of course the cost of childcare - with £600- £800 per child full time, you need to earn a lot to make your work pay for this. My worry is that the tax credit cut combined with spending cuts in the public sector will translate to even less availability of non - private child care, so that it will hit working families with children really hard.

On the other hand, increasing the tax free allowance will help low income families (and potentially offset some of the tax credit loss for families), but of course it also means extra cash for higher earners and anyone without children. Now don't get me wrong, of course I feel that it's my duty to provide for children and I don't want everything paid for by the state, but because of the cost of childcare, even working parents on middle incomes will struggle to make ends meet. If I compare my lifestyle now with that as a childless person, I can only say that my disposable income has shrunk significantly. I'm in a well paid job, with a salary I never dreamt of when I left uni (admittedly, I was under ambitious), yet even on that salary, as a working parent, you don't go far. So I do see it as fair to have a tax free allowance per child which offsets the massive childcare costs a little bit, so that it's possible to work and have two children under 5 without making a loss. Work should pay for parents too. I don't see why childless people need an increase in tax free allowance. Honestly, I don't. A tax free allowance per child would be cheap to administer and directly offset child care costs incurred for working, thus encouraging parents to work too (which it seems is what all political parties want).

2bn were invested in the poorest families by increasing the child element tax credit to £150 above inflation, and I praise this wholeheartedly. It's not enough, but it's more than Labour did in their last budget. The only problem (see above) is that it's all taken back through the VAT rise... Shame really.

Considering that the VAT increase is going to hit the poorest harder, I would have expected some form of offset by a tax that hits the richest exclusively. However, the top rate tax rate has been fozen (boo) and apparently you don't have to pay tax on your rent income for holiday homes? Excuse me? Why not?

The announced cuts make me worry bad time, but they are hard to assess at this stage. What can be assessed is the ridiculous expectations of lone parents to take up work when their child starts school. For one, there aren't any jobs. For two, if you get a job, it sure won't offer flexible hours so you can be back home to pick up your child from school at 3pm, or take time off during school holidays or endless in service days. There are countless lone parents who want to work but have to give up their job (if they got one) in the summer because they don't have childcare for the holidays.

Finally, child benefit. So it's been frozen for 3 years. Which is not as bad as I thought the announcement might be - I had feared for it to be cut altogether. Still, my disappointment is great because once more, there was an opportunity to target a general benefit. While I appreciate that a universal benefit is easier to administer, I still think that families on high incomes don't really need this benefit if we are talking about necessary cuts. I'd rather see child benefit go up for struggling families and abolished for families with an income of say, over £75,000, than this half measure.

A fair budget then? What do you think?

Monday, 21 June 2010

The bilingual home - our set up and daddy's role

On our bilingual journey I've so far focussed on Cubling and the minority language input, i.e. how her German is coming along. Because, to be fair, that's the difficult bit - her English is blossoming. And in response to Little M. question over at Mummy's Busy World in his bilingual corner, I thought it might be time to look at the bilingual household from the perspective of the non-bilingual member.

And of course I have to clarify from the outset that this is not quite the correct label for Mr Cartside, aka daddy. He is not monolingual - he speaks German though not fluently, but it's great in our little world because it does mean that when I speak German to Cubling, he doesn't feel totally excluded. So how does it all come together? Well, Mr Cartside and I always speak English with one another. No exceptions. I came to this country as a German teacher and I simply refused to perform that job at home as well as at work. So although Mr Cartside was a willing learner, I wasn't a willing teacher, and our pattern of communication is English only.

With Cubling being born, I found it really difficult being consistent with speaking German to her. In a one way communication, it's so easy to slip. I persisted, but it was hard work, especially because I used to be an au pair and all the baby vocabulary in my head was firmly Spanish and English, and definitely not German (e.g. I had to think about the German word for dummy...). But Mr Cartside heard me speak German, simple German. He listened to Cubling starting to speak simple German or a mix. His own assessment is that his German, particularly passive comprehension, has improved significantly - so he got something out of our bilingual household too! And for me, it does actually keep my German reasonably alive: I'm no longer a German teacher and don't get much opportunity to read, speak, write or listen to German, so my bilingual mission for Cubling is good for keeping my own language up too.

Quite early on, Mr Cartside also picked up German children's books. The nice thing about children's books is that they are so simple. Ideal for learning a language, just that normally you wouldn't be seen dead with them. Not so if your excuse is your adorable daughter. So while we do have a general distinction between Mummy and Daddy books, Daddy will sometimes read Mummy books in German, and Mummy will read easy Daddy books in instant translation. Those books are known as Mummy and Daddy books in our home.

Occasionally I will direct German sentences in the context of speaking to Cubling, to Mr Cartside and expect a German or English answer from him. While this may not be strict in terms of OPOL (one parent one language), I think it is useful in demonstrating that we aren't just monolinguals, but we all understand each other's language. It shows another use for German too (and I've also taught her some Spanish when in Spain, and she loves trying it out on people - she definitely gets that people can speak many and different languages).

I still feel that the ideal situation for supporting bilingualism would be if we spoke German at home - that would almost give a 50%/50% input of either language: English at nursery, German at home, English with Daddy, German with Mummy, one parent group English, another German. Where we fall short is the German at home (it's effectively English) and the German parent group which I simply don't have time for.

Our bilingual set up favours English, and English is the community language. OPOL has to be artificial because Cubling hears me speak to almost everyone in English. She knew from the word go that mummy can speak English, so of course she'll not worry too much about addressing me in English. I honestly don't think I can pretend not to understand her if she speaks English to me - she's not daft. I often don't even notice which language she uses. Her bilingualism mirrors how we ourselves favour English over German.

We've considered occasionally if we should introduce something like one hour a day where we speak German in the home, to support the minority language a bit better and provide additional context for the language. This would be particularly useful because I feel that the German input from my side is very biassed towards repetitive instructions, dealing with tired behaviour etc, rather than creative and open. The pitfall of a working mum who mostly sees her child tired at the end of the day. Mr Cartside feels ready for this now, because listening to me speak German to Cubling for over three years now, he feels more confident in the language himself.

And here's a little gem of a misunderstanding: When on an Easter egg treasure hunt, we had to find a coin in a particular room of a historic building. Coin is "Muentze" in German, so I asked Cubling if she could find a "Muentze" anywhere in the room. Excitedly she pointed at a painting with a lady on a horse. My confusion was soon resolved as she exclaimed: "Da is the Muetze!" (There is the hat!) The lady was indeed wearing a hat. Clever girl.

Thanks to Mr Cartside for providing his views on all of this, which I hope I've rendered correctly. If not, feel free to set me right in a comment xxx

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Creatures: sea and air come to land

This weeks The Gallery prompt couldn't have been any more appropriate. During this week we've come across a few creatures which weren't really where they're supposed to abide, much to Cubling's delight. A trip around our block brought us past a plant that had shed ... well, stuff. And that stuff must have been somehow attractive to a buzzing bumblebee (which makes me assume it was old flowers?): So there on the pavement, rather precariously positioned but rather unaware of it's environment other than the orange stuff, we admired a bumblebee:

Next, on our visit to beautiful and very summery Largs, where we met up with some visiting friends, and let our mirror imaged bilingual preschoolers figure out what language to speak, we explored the seafront and came across tons of stranded jellyfish:
The poor jellyfish got a bit battered by the stone throwing toddlers (no harm meant but done) and Cubling has picked up from C. that jellyfish sting and you'd better not touch them. Which makes me wonder how he knew considering that he lives about 300 miles further away from any seashore than we do. It's rare to see so many jellyfish stranded on the stones of the sea shore, and I couldn't stop clicking. Definitely not a day to brave the waters. The kids were excited, not just about jellyfish and the sea, an excitement which I so share, having grown up as an inland soul. It's such a privilege to live just an hour's drive from the coast. I love the way Cubling can explore the seashore and spend hours just looking and finding, and taking home for "basteln":

Saturday, 19 June 2010

I can feel a moan coming over me... oops, here it is.

Once again all the half written posts aren't getting written. Instead, I feel overwhelmed with life in general. Things aren't getting better and the prospect of 11 weeks of pregnancy ahead of me, 7 of them working almost full time, scare me. So what's wrong with me? Well I've already mentioned that I've been diagnosed as anaemic, which is not helping my mood or general feeling of exhaustion, but the real physical strain is that of constant dizziness when coming back up from toddler level. And I'm there a lot, because Cubling has copped on to the fact that I'm not very mobile. What I thought was a pulled muscle or ligament has turned into full blown SPD. I'm slow, but worse than that, every movement makes the pain worse.

So instead of long walks, aquanatal classes, swimming or yoga - even instead of gardening, I sit. And sit. And sit some more. My pain level is so directly related to daily activity that I know punishment is just around the corner. So I try to keep physical activity to a minimum, which isn't always possible, and sometimes I'm simply not prepared to sacrifice every fun activity to this relentless pain.

So today, although I was already sore upon waking from making this nice set of drawers for my crafty stuff which is currently piling up behind the dining room door (made from a very cheap and ugly IKEA unit;

we went to the local farmers market and moved on, via a swing park, to Bungo in the Back Lanes, a fabulous community backlane festival for the whole family, where residents let people into their back yards, sell second hand stuff, crafts, home baking and much more. It's a truly successful initiative, totally community run and simply a great day out. And great it was - such a perfect day for it, lovely sunshine but not too hot, lots of people but not too busy, and I love the way I always run into people for a wee chat. The only draw back was that they didn't get licence to sell alcohol this year, because it was getting too busy and successful and "security" wasn't high enough (as if anyone in Strathbungo was out to steal booze, come on, get serious you spoilsports).

Now I'm paying for the afternoon stroll and probably tomorrow too.
But that's find, I knew what I was doing. What's not so fine is the frustration of wanting to enjoy this summer, my girl before she has to share me, this pregnancy, the magic of it all, of growing a person, and all I can do is moan and wobble. Blooming? Me arse. I feel like snapping at everyone who tells me that I'm looking well (if you read this, please remember next time you see me and just don't) because I know I look horrible, can you not see those massive feet, my hobble walk, my wrinkles of pain inscribed on my face? My undone toenails because already I can't reach? My short temper with Cubling because she takes advantage and tests her boundaries at every opportunity knowing that she's faster than me? The dependency on my beloved, who really does all he can but can't take away the feeling of inadequacy that is slowly but surely taking over?

Above all, the prospect of this pain getting worse (as if it wasn't bad already)  in the weeks to come is doing my head in. I had a different form of SPD last time. I know it gets worse and I got it much earlier this time. How on earth can I give birth like this?

And then I hear from other friends who are struggling for very different reasons and how everyone has their weight to carry and is trying to stay on even keel, and only just about managing (or maybe even not because don't we all try to keep up some appearance of keeping it all together?). I know that this pain at least is temporary, I will get through it, and the main thing is not to let it take over, to take delight in the little things that make me smile or happy.

Just sometimes it's harder than usual.
(Cubling hiding from my camera behind a gingerbread man from the farmers market)

There are some sitting activities though: watching football, knitting and maybe (once I get through the chaos that is my craft corner) even sewing. And then there was another little something that really brightened up my day. Just some words, implicit, not even aimed at me, but so breaking the pattern of communication that I've been extremely worried about recently. Funny how just one positive can break the pattern of negatives.

And that is what makes me hopeful that I'll get through this phase of The Moan.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

All I want is a log fire...

There's something about a log fire, don't you think? Ok, it may be down to hormones, I'm not one to arguing that, especially with my current lack of energy (which incidentally has a diagnosis, yes, it's pregnancy, would you believe it, or rather anaemia which is apparently quite common in pregnant vegetarians, now roll over black pudding).

But truly, don't you think there's nothing cosier than a log fire in your house on a cold and dreich Scottish winter night, especially when you'll be cuddling a newborn? Can you tell that summer hasn't quite arrived yet and I'm thinking of winter? Anyway, to elaborate on my top item of the nesting to do list, I want a log fire. Ideally a wood burning stove. In which I can burn the neighbour's massive tree which is keeping the sun out of our south facing bit of garden half of the 3 days that we have sun (of course I would never do such a thing or harm a tree, but jee, that tree is massive and would keep a log fire going for a winter or two).

My problem is that Glasgow is a Smoke Control Area. Apparently that means that you can't burn wood in the boundaries of Glasgow City Council. I've tried to follow this up but nobody in Glasgow City Council seems to be aware of this legislation or what it means in practice. Which in a way I'm sure means that if I were to burn wood, this would go relatively unnoticed. That's not the point though. What is then, I hear you ask. Well, the point is that wood is a sustainable source of energy - you can grow trees again and again. You can't grow coal (which is the fuel of choice that is smoke free and recommended for open fires in Smoke Control Areas).

It's not all that straight forward, thankfully. What with my fling with the Transition movement coming above me as it does every so often, I was rather agitated by the fact that a sustainable energy source was bad mouthed over a non-sustainable, carbon based resource. Yes, I know that in times gone by smoke from wood and other smoky fuels polluted the Glasgow air, destroyed buildings and killed people. But we're not talking unsafe and extensive burning of wood. I'm thinking along the line of wood stoves in the few houses that do still have an open, rather than a gas, fire. Such as ours. I feel the regulation is outdated and could be changed and I'm almost ready to challenge it. Just that, as I said, it's not that straight forward. Because, on closer inspection, it turns out that there are some wood burning stoves that are exempt (read approved) in relation to Smoke Control Areas. This means you can use them in Glasgow to burn wood. Hurray!

There's not many, so the choice isn't great, and I don't know if the approved stoves come with a hefty price tag. So there's a few points of attack for the Smoke Control Area regulations: get more wood stoves approved (apparently the standards for all are high enough to be exempt, but getting the stamp seems to be laborious or maybe expensive), change the Smoke Control Area regulation to generally allow wood burning stoves and other safe ways of burning wood, or redraw Glasgow City boundaries (we're awfully close to East Renfrewshire where you can burn wood...). Whoppie, I have 3 campaigns in one!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Gallery: Motherhood

It is high time that I join The Gallery - how can you love photography and not take part? So here's my first timely contribution, hope you like the pictures as much as I do. They are very different, almost a ying and yang of motherhood:

There is the intensity of this little person, the intensity with which I discover a new world through her, and she through me, the intensity of this look may stand for it. As it does for the sheer joy we take in each other's company, the amazing discovery that this new relationship means to me. The intensity of emotion, of joy and worry, of love and fear.

Then there's the end of being in control of your actions, the sudden necessity of multitasking (especially if your daughter rather eloquently insists on being held AT ALL TIMES), and the resourcefulness of a mother to fit a bit of non-motherhood stuff around the new full time, nay 24/7, occupation. I like this photo for its sense of flotsam and jetsam, and the simultaneity of feeding, sleeping, holding and reading. An unkempt house, an unkempt mummy. Unkempt yet running with the flow of a new life. The normal chaos of motherhood. I spent many hours like this, feeding until Cubling drifted off to sleep, with my attitude changing from feeling tied to her all the time to seeing those feeding/sleeping hours as an opportunity for some me time (in the form of reading and blogging):

expectant knits

Slowly but surely I'm getting into the knitting groove again. I'm starting to find it increasingly difficult to pick patterns which are gender neutral because this time we are set not to find out if we're having a boy or a girl.

One promise I'd made was to do a second instalment of f.pea's mossy jacket. It's a great knit to get back into things, what with chunky yarn and such a quick process, knit all in one piece that keeps finishing to a minimum. I still messed it up and had to improvise (I messed up at the start - the jacket is knit top down and I didn't increase correctly for the off centre design so I added a bit at the very end as I couldn't be bothered starting from scratch again). It's not perfect because my patching was far from perfect, but I still like it.

I was more successful with my holiday knit. When stranded by the volcanic ash, I managed to almost complete a simple but lovely Baby Baseball T. I love the simple details of a front pocket and the button ridge at the top side.

Finally I knit another version of Woolly Wormhead's Baby I-cord hat, which you can find in A Hat in Time. I don't tire of the pattern because I can do it without thinking and it's great for using up scraps of your favourite yarn which isn't enough for any other project. However, I must try out another hat pattern soon, just for the sake of a change.

There are another two projects on my needles so I'm sure the baby will be kept nice and warm this coming winter. And with a few kitschycoo patterns and fabrics from her fabulous sale coming, there's nothing between me and some sewing. At least that's the plan. It's good to be making things again, even though the process is painstakingly slow. It reminds me how important it is to make things, to keep in balance.

Friday, 11 June 2010

It's a Give Away!

I haven't really done any give-aways on this blog so it's high time I did one don't you think? And because I also haven't really banged the drum recently about my little project baby A Hat in Time, I thought it would be a rather good idea to combine this.

Well, if you don't know already, A Hat in Time brings together 37 hats to knit and crochet and all profits from the sale of the (e-)book go to the vital work of Save the Children. If you've been following the blog, you may remember this project or this one that I've personally been working on, and there's more inspiring stuff going on across the UK and of course globally (the latter is what Save the Children is best known for). The more funds we raise the more we can do, it's as simple as that.

Today I'm giving one print copy of the book away to one lucky winner!!!

So to be entered for this give away, simply do one, some or all of the following:

1. Tweet about A Hat in Time, or retweet this post (make sure you include @cartside in your tweet). Each tweet = 1 entry (maximum of 3 points)
2. Like the A Hat in Time Facebook page = 2 entries
3. Tell your facebook friends about A Hat in Time or this post = 2 entries
4. email your friends/colleagues about A Hat in Time = 2 entries
5. Follow this blog (please leave a comment telling me you've done this - I'm not obsessed with followers and can't tell who is new and who isn't) = 3 entries.
6. Blog about A Hat in Time (feel free to use any info about it that you can find here or here) or this give away = 3 entries (please leave a comment to let me know you've done this.

Clear as mud? The winner will be drawn on 25th June 2010.

And of course you can do all of the above if you just want to support the project and promote the book :) Thank you!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

On gigging: No matter where you go, there you are

Quite possibly this is the last gig I'll go to in a rather long time. It's only right it should be Luka Bloom, whose music I've enjoyed for over 2 decades, and it's been the soundtrack of a good few years of my life. So tonight, I really enjoyed a fabulous gig at Glasgow's Oran Mor, and so did the baby who was jumping about rather a lot...

And while I'm still partial to those earlier songs, this more recent one has a special meaning to me. It's the story of a refugee, but more than that it's about carrying your home in your heart, your centre of balance within you, where ever you are. It's the story of everyone who's left their home, for whatever reason. And it's a story of new connections, unlikely as they might be, and the humanity that underlies everything.

Or, more simply put, this is a nice wee song. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

On nesting

When I was pregnant with Cubling, the much quoted nesting never happened. Or I didn't notice. I was so focused on the birth part of it all, I don't think I even thought much beyond it. Well, I did think beyond it but it was abstract, and the reality had to hit home good and proper before I realised that giving birth was truly, as one midwife said to me, just a day, but being a mother was a life sentence blessing.

In that pregnancy, I did hypnobirthing, pregnancy yoga, relaxation, baths. Basic equipment got bought, we didn't think much of a nursery because we knew we'd move at some stage and if at all, Cubling wouldn't spend much time in a bedroom of her own anyway, so the cot was set up in our bedroom and not really used much (it was moses basket and then co-sleeping for us and we moved when she was 7 months old). We got a travel system, but Cubling was partial to the babycarrier and never liked the pram, so there were many days where I cursed myself for having spent any money on a pram/buggy at all.

This time however, all my focus on birth has gone and it's been replaced by focusing on the time after. Gone are my religious hypnobirthing practice, my plan to involve a doula or maybe even go for a home birth. I'm resigned to whatever will be, will be and don't even worry much about the possibility of placenta previa and a c-section. Don't get me wrong, I would love to have an easier birth this time, I would love to actually push my baby out this time, I would love not to have my belly cut open. But what I'm really thinking of is getting things ready for being a mum of 2. I'm in inner turmoil. I get upset about things that I want to see done not getting done now/instantly/yesterday. I'm angry at myself for being tired in the evening and not moving anything on. I'm disgusted that I sign up to the fabulous Creative Writing Workshop and am so behind with everything that I feel I can never catch up. I despair at the sight of a particular corner in our house, where I've accumulated stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else. I get upset if plans I've made, mental or verbally, are changed. I deplore the current stress level at work - because it makes me so tired in the evening that I'm deflated and good for nothing else. I've become a grump, and I definitely don't like that either.

So I've put together a to do list and keep adding to it. I try to focus on the fact that if Tiddler is as late as Cubling was, I'll have a full 6 weeks of maternity leave before birth to get it all done. Anything I do before that is extra (but how do I long to get it done before my mat leave starts!!!). I do try to enjoy the good weather, and all the nice things that are happening to me (there are lots) and try to switch my ever buzzing gremlin off who keeps telling me what I still need to do and how dare you enjoy yourself when you've got a to do list the length of a dead sea scroll.

Hormones are funny creatures. The are definitely messing me up differently to last time, yet to be truthful, I can't tell for certain which instalment I prefer. And as to hypnobirthing and pregnancy yoga - haven't done either at all so far, and now the classes for latter are fully booked across Glasgow until after my due date (a definite market gap around, but particularly south of the Clyde). Ah well, I've strained my back anyway so it's probably just as well. I'll be the unfittest birthing mama ever. And maybe it's ok not to put myself under the pressure of my own abilities to achieve a natural and drug free birth, learning that reality can be different is a hard lesson, as I've experienced  myself and Muddling Along Mummy has blogged about. As long as I'll get the fire place fixed and can enjoy my babymoon in front of a log fire knitting away I shall be content.

Still life

I've been following Sticky Fingers' Gallery for a while now but never got around to posting for it. This is a very late contribution to week 14 - still life.

I have a new photographic toy: a telefocus lens for my DSLR, as well as a couple of filters. So I've been playing around with it a bit, capturing our bit of still life in May - the growing of our mini garden with strawberries and chives in bloom, and Cubling's favourite "little eggs", quail eggs, with their amazing pattern that makes every egg rather unique. They hail from my colleague's Ayrshire farm, where I now also get our family's freedom eggs from (eggs from freed battery hens, now free to roam in the Ayrshire rain).

And finally, after owning my DSLR for I don't know how many months (maybe even a year) I've explored all the settings. There'll be no more Auto - setting photos from now on. About time I say.

Monday, 7 June 2010

On change

What is change? Well, you wouldn't believe it how many hours of discussion can go into this question. Just come to my office to get a slice of it. It's all very important stuff, because we're trying to deliver a programme that is changing something for the better, and by doing so, inspires change beyond the project that changes something. Is your head buzzing yet?

Over the past two months I've been working with a new group, in an area that according to government statistics ticks the multiple deprivation box. This time it's a group of primary school children who have thought hard about what their change project could be. They had lots of fab ideas. However, the question arose again if their idea actually delivered any real change. So, the kids don't like litter, broken glass and needles on play parks, gang fighting, flooding of play areas, poor housing, noisy neighbours, the setting on fire of bins, and other acts of vandalism.

So what do you do about it?
I give you a pause of thought.
Maybe you have an idea?
What would it be?
Ah go on, play the game!
What would you do about it?


A leaflet. A youtube video. A DVD telling people not to litter, vandalise, set bins on fire xyz.
Now, think again - would that change a thing? Would people magically stop littering and vandalising? No?
So we started again and the children came up with a mission statement:
"We want to replace litter and graffiti with flowers to make our community beautiful and tidy"
And what they can do to achieve this?
Eventually they came up with the idea to plant flowers and other things.

Last week we went to the local garden centre to decide what we want to see planted and how much it would cost. I don't think I've ever seen a bunch of 10 year olds quite so giddy about touching and smelling herbs, identifying plants, getting excited about colours and then absolutely taken in by the existence of ... fruit trees. How brilliant would it be to have fruit trees grow at your school and during break time you could just pick an apple?

After all the struggle and strive to find a project that we can realistically achieve in just 4 sessions, suddenly it all fell into place. We will be planting 3 raised beds (vegetables and flowers), one half barrel plant pot for a herb garden, and an orchard of 10 fruit trees - most of it on school grounds (it's easier to maintain/sustain, the school is supportive, plus the green areas in the school are a bit bare). The group will involve one other class, the eco group at the school and hopefully the nursery staff and children in their project, maybe even some parent volunteers. We'll get some horticultural help from a local organisation, and the planting pots and other supplies will come from Glasgow Wood Recycling, an amazing organisation that combines recycling with skilling up people and making a business out of it. And there'll be some support from Community & Safety Services to make the children more confident in what to do if they witness vandalism, littering or noise pollution.

Of course it's not all easy, there are challenges and barriers as with every project. For example, the soil on the grounds of the school is of very poor quality - it may be a newly built school and look rather lovely, but savings were made on the way that the green areas were constructed, with little soil that becomes muddy in rain and bone dry in sunshine. And because we've got a very tight timescale, what with the schools finishing in June, some much needed support is a bit slow forthcoming. People are a bit reluctant to make too quick a change, so it's about convincing people that it can be done. We've got enthusiasm and creative ideas on our side. Can we do it Bob? Yes we can!

We've taken lots of before images, and clearly want some after ones too. And the youtube video idea? Well, we'll still document what we're up to with our Flip and Wiki, and maybe this too will  help to inspire others to make a positive change. If we can do it in 4 weeks, why can't you?

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Let's hear it for the multilingual kids!

Hello my lovely readers, it's my favourite time of the month, and that can only mean one thing, it's bilingual carnival time! This time we have a few newcomers joining the usual suspects, and as ever a great selection of posts all about raising children bilingually. So I hope that whether or not you raise your children with more than one language, you will enjoy this selection of posts. Hopefully it'll encourage some to start or continue the bilingual journey with their children, or you may get some new ideas how to make the trip that little bit more exciting for yourself and your children.

So sit back, grab a cuppa o una jarra and enjoy the read.

If you're looking for great resources to boost the target (read: minority) language, drop over at Hobo Mama who has the cheater's guide to making up bilingual children's songs. Not cheating at all in my humble opinion, but easy peasy and very effective! It also goes to show that you don't need to be a native speaker to raise your children with two languages.

More resources can be found at Blogging on Bilingualism. Second in the serious of resources is a collection of DVDs in French, and previously I was particularly interested in the first instalment which was all about German resources. If you have any resources for other languages, make sure to head over and you may even be able to do a guest post on the blog!

Intrepidly Bilingual is looking back on her journey so far in Hanging On. Raising children bilingually is unfortunately not necessarily the easy option and sometimes it can be fraught with doubts. In the end though, it can only be worth the effort.

Very Bored in Catalunya also struggles with the raising her boy bilingually. With a slight language delay in his home language, he is now struggling to understand the teachers in his school, but help is at hand to boost his Catalan.

Where Going Havo? is taking a closer look at the relationship between grandparents who are largely monolingual, and bilingualism in Grandparents and the Cost of Bilingualism. It is a post many of us will be able to nod their heads to, when bilingualism is both a link and a place that grandparents can't follow.

Over at Verbosity, Solnushka is all philosophical about the attempt to impose meaning on the protolanguage(s) emerging from Baby's mouth. But don't worry, it's not all that serious stuff, but rather amusing when the parents are trying to get better at deciphering their offspring's utterances.

Fast forward a year or two, and you'll be where my own self is at presently, when our now preschooler is getting a kick out of inventing her own language and finding the power of it all simply hilarious, while mummy and daddy stand by and shake heads.

Mary Yucel Ankara shares her journey of raising two children bilingually in English and Turkish, how she came to the OPOL (one parent one language) approach after much consideration and that language delay is not something to be worried about.

But you don't have to follow the popular OPOL method to give your child a multilingual start, as Elisa's daughter Beli proves in Which language do I speak: Spanglish, Spantian or Crolish? I just love the trilingual mix that comes out of the 22 month old's mouth!

Little M. blogs at Mummy's Busy World and is very proud to be speaking two languages already. It seems Little M. has done his research and can tell you all about why it's so great to be a bilingual tot! And you can now even find a multilingual family corner on the blog, now, how good is that???

Finally, you may encounter unusual things when on a Day at the German Embassy, as BabelKid can tell you. Would you raise your child bilingually if neither of the parent was a native speaker of the "other" language? And would you make sure your child spoke the community language better than you by withholding the parent language? And yet, haven't many of us been there just there (personally I received informal speech training when at primary school to fully eliminate any trace of parental non high German accent and my dad never taught me a word of the rich dialect he grew up with)?

Stop Press: It appears that a submission has escaped my eyes, so here's a late edit to include Losing Language by Mamapoekie, who much like me has to focus in order not to let the community/majority language creep into her life. And how raising children bilingually may help not just to pass on a language, but to also keep it alive for the parent.

If you want to subscribe to all the instalments of the bilingual carnival, look at previous carnivals, contribute to the next one or even offer to host it on your blog, don't forget to stop over at the Bilingual Carnival page over at Bilingual For Fun where you can subscribe to the newsletter and never miss a bilingual carnival again!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Munich for kids

One thing we didn't compromise on our short holiday to Munich was that we wanted to make it a child friendly visit to a big city. Basically, I've had enough of dragging an uncooperative toddler through cities and places within cities that she really didn't want to be. It's stressful for everyone involved. We were keen not to let this happen and to make it a holiday that worked for us all, that was relaxing as well as varied.

And luckily, Munich was game for it. I guess it does help that Munich is a well to do city, a green city and has rather helpful and friendly people in it. Coupled with lots of green spaces and a fabulous public transport system that surprised even someone used to good integrated public transport (in Cologne, not Glasgow, just to be clear), we were winning.

So if you ever fancy a city break with toddlers, Munich is a good choice. Here's what we enjoyed:

1. Olympiapark
A massive park built for the 1972 Olympic Games. Great for walking, picnics, with swing parks and a small beer garden, a little train with a guided tour, ponds, ducks, and good views of the city. You can also go up the Olympia Tower (which is a no no for me as me and heights don't talk) and visit a Sea Life Centre

2. Taxisstrasse Beer Garten
It's a big beer garden with traditional food - but you can also bring your own food. It comes with a play park and is popular with families. Cubling instantly made new friends.

3. Botanical Gardens
We visited them in the pouring rain and were rather thankful for the huge glass house and cafe. The glass house has different rooms for the flora of different countries, even a prehistoric dinosaur room (which was a bit problematic because Cubling thought there were dinosaurs behind the ferns and was rather reluctant to go in). I'm sure the actual gardens are great too, lots of space to walk and beautifully landscaped. The Botanical Gardens are connected to the Nymphenburg Palace and its gardens; where you can find:

4. Museum fuer Mensch und Natur (natural history museum)
A delightful museum about the world, nature and mankind. Cubling particularly enjoyed the quizzes upstairs where you can categorise animals etc (which really is aimed at children who can read and know a lot more, I struggled with some of the quizzes) - as long as there's buttons to press, she's happy. There's something for everyone in this museum, from geological information to dinosaur sceletons, it's all there. And once you're done, you can explore the palace or its gardens (we let Cubling nap after all the museum excitement and enjoyed reading a book in the gardens).

5. A stroll through the shopping precinct and Virtualienmarkt
The great thing about Munich is that its main streets are rather boulevards. They are wide, lined with trees, and in the shopping precinct, they are pedestrianised. So even the city centre doesn't become claustrophobic. There are endless fountains, so our progress was slow as every fountain had to be explored. We visited the Frauenkirche and a fabulous old fashioned toy shop just next to it (note: don't take toddlers in there, it's hard work to keep their quick hands off the toys), before we explored the Virtualienmarkt - a market mainly for food.

6. Englischer Garten and Chinese Tower Beer Garden
The Englischer Garten is apparently the biggest city park in the world. It's definitely big and we only explored part of it. It's beautifully landscaped along a little river, with play parks, lots of fowl, and - can you guess - a beer garden at the Chinese Tower, where you can refresh your batteries after your stroll through the park.

7. Fountains and more fountains, particularly the one at Hohenzollernplatz
There are countless fountains in Munich, but the one Cubling enjoyed best must be the one at Hohenzollernplatz. It's not a location you necessarily have to see, it's just that the fountain is perfect for little people. They can walk on/in it, and have hours of fun.

8. Best Western Apart Hotel
I don't want to advertise a specific hotel, but I have to say we were very pleased with our choice. The hotel is just a tram journey from the centre, next to the Olympiapark and with easy access to the Nymphenburg Palace. The service and breakfast are faultless. Above all, because it's an Apart Hotel, the rooms have a kitchenette/hall area which is separate from the bedroom. This meant that once Cubling was sound asleep, we had a space where we could sit without disturbing her. Also the room was spacious and simply comfortable, just perfect for what we were looking for.

We travelled with Ryanair to Memmingen airport which worked really well. There is a shuttle bus connecting to Munich and the trip was really easy, considering the distance. Direct flight from Scotland to Memmingen, bus trip and  - well, nothing. There. Arrived. A rather stress free trip.

Of course there's probably lots of other stuff that can be done in Munich, but I think we made pretty good choices (with little information, we didn't even bring a guide book) which kept us busy for 6 days and made it possible to combine a bit of sightseeing with meeting up with friends. We took it easy, so you could probably fit in more.

One thing I would warn about though is that restaurants are not necessarily as child friendly/acceptant of toddler behaviour as you might be used to from the UK. We had one rather unpleasant experience where we got the stare and some comments on our parenting style, but in the beer gardens all was very easy going and in general people were very helpful towards us as a family.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin